Spanglish for Bicicleta: Bika!

Fixie Bika!

I think that maybe bikes have finally arrived in Los Angeles! Of course, they’ve been here all along.

It’s not just that there are so many folks bicycling in our streets – especially Latino L.A. youth on fixies (fixed gear bicycles), but also all kinds of youth, working class immigrants, elderly Korean women, businessmen, environmentalists, moms, hipsters, y mas y mas.

It’s not just that the city is actually beginning to up its game on bike facility implementation and putting some bike lanes in some central city corridors where folks actually ride a lot.

Sometimes I think that bike culture has caught on here not in spite of, but, because of a lack of bike facilities. Maybe our youth look out at the sadly overly car-centric streets and rebel against them.

What I found this week was a new acknowledgement of bicycling in the street language of Los Angeles. It may have been out there for a long time, and I just finally got around to understanding it. It used to be that, in Spanish, bicycle was a four-syllable word: bicicleta (bee-see-CLET-uh.) When we use a word so much, four syllables is just too long. On the streets today, canvassing for CicLAvia (seek-law-VEE-uh), I’ve been hearing Spanish-speakers talk about bikas – singular bika (BUY-kuh.) 

It’s definitely not pure Spanish from Spain – it’s Spanglish from the streets of Los Angeles (Lohs AHN-hell-ess.) It’s kind of halfway between bike and bicicleta… and bicicleta is sometimes shortened to bici (BEE-see) but in L.A. it’s now bika. It reminds me a little of rida and ridazz

Maybe just maybe, bicyclist are reinventing language the way we’re reinventing cities.

I love it.


One thought on “Spanglish for Bicicleta: Bika!

  1. Actually, bika is pretty a pretty common Spanglish term in Mexico. I grew up there and remember referring to my bike as a bika.

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