Alex Baum: A Tribute

Alex Baum, bigger than City Hall

Alex Baum, bigger than City Hall

On March 1st 2015, Los Angeles and the world lost a giant in the world of bicycle advocacy when Alex Baum passed away at 92 years old. A modest man of great integrity, he may have accomplished more in his over 40+ years of bicycle advocacy than all the advocacy groups combined. He never met a bicycle project, program or cause that he didn’t get behind in some way…and his impact was felt worldwide.

Alex was a holocaust survivor. Born in France he grew up in the years right before WWII. He and his brother Marcel were involved with the French Resistance and assisted by guiding allied troops and others back to safety. Eventually captured by the Germans, Alex and his brother were imprisoned in several concentration camps including a Nazi labor camp where he was helping build the V2 rockets and secretly sabotaging them at the same time.

After the war, Alex played on the French National Soccer team before he, his brother and their families immigrated to the United States. Eventually settling in California, Alex built a successful catering business. Alex’s love of cycling was cultivated once again. Originally, Alex and his family played host when stages of the Tour de France came through their home town of Vic‐Sur‐Seille, near Lyon.

Alexis Lantz (LACBC), Steve Messer (CORBA), Mayor Villaragosa, Alex Baum, and Jennifer Klausner (LACBC/CORBA) at the signing of the LA Bike Plan

SIgning of the LA Bike Plan

Alex’s impact can be seen everywhere in Los Angeles County. Early on in his involvement he served on the board of the Encino Velodrome and the United States Cycling Federation (later USA Cycling), and was the first American appointed to the Union Cycliste International. Alex was appointed to the organizing committee for the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He was involved in 7‐11 becoming a sponsor of pro‐cycling in the United States and sponsoring the Olympic Velodrome in Los Agneles. Ahead of his time, Alex helped get women’s cycling introduced into the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Alex was also instrumental in putting together the Tour de California.

Alex chaired and served on the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee for over 30 years. He envisioned the LA River Bike Path and many more bike lanes and routes throughout the region. In 2012 on his 90th birthday they rededicated the bridge over Los Feliz as the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge. Alex was responsible for the LAPD building up a bicycle patrol program and was involved in the funding and acquisition of their first police bikes.

Alex and Jennifer Klausner at CORBA's 25th Anniversary

Alex and Jennifer Klausner at CORBA’s 25th Anniversary

He was a close confidant of Mayor Tom Bradley and many other political, business and important figures…from the police chief to the mayor to county supervisors and studio heads. Everyone loved and respected Alex. Walking through city hall with Alex was like being with a true celebrity. Alex had access (no appointment necessary) to every city council office in city hall.

Alex never rode a mountain bike…but that didn’t stop him from trying to get trails opened in the city of Los Angeles. What was unique about Alex was his willingness to help and to share his contacts for any bicycle project. He would gladly take you “under his wing” through city hall to help expedite or initiate the necessary contacts to get a project through. He adopted CORBA as one of his pet projects and did everything he could to help us with LA City mountain bike access. CORBA awarded Alex the Al Farrell award in 1999, but we could have given it to him many times over for all of his efforts.

There are many stories…Alex he loved to share his stories. Alex’s family hosted Jesse Owens after the 1936 Berlin Olympics when athletes did not get “sponsored” for their travel to and from the games…and athletes of color couldn’t easily get accommodations anywhere. Years later Alex bumped in to Jesse at LAX surrounded by a group of fans and well‐wishers. Alex made his way up and re‐introduced himself to Jesse…and Jesse gave Alex a big hug and broke down in tears remembering what his family had done for him. This was Alex…he was a legend to the legends.

Another great Alex story happened right after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Living in North Hollywood, he went to a local 7‐11 and found the store owner selling water for $20/ gallon as it was in short supply. Alex said something about the ethics of price gouging to the owner, but was told it was none of his business and that he (the owner) could charge whatever he wanted.

Councilman Garcetti (now Mayor), Mayor Villaragosa, Councilman Ed Reyes, LACBC's Jennifer Klausner and Alex Baum

Councilman Garcetti (now Mayor), Mayor Villaragosa, Councilman Ed Reyes, LACBC’s Jennifer Klausner and Alex Baum

Alex did not argue with the owner…he left and went home to call an executive at 7‐11 (remember, he had relationships at the highest level at 7‐11 from his involvement with their sponsorship of cycling). Within a short time, the store owner was back to selling water at the regular price…under threat from 7‐11 management of losing his franchise. Alex was very effective when he set his mind to something.

Above all Alex loved his family and the people he met through cycling…and we loved him. Alex will be missed by many, but his impact will live on and positively affect millions for many years to come.

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