Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Being Assaulted On The Road

Downtown Streets

I was preparing a happy and chipper post to usher in the New Year and talk about what I've been up to during this little break, like tandem riding with my girl and my first time at the velodrome. I thought it would be a nice way to break the ice after my short hiatus from the blogosphere. As the title of this post suggests however, the nice things are put on hold for a bit.

Anyone who has really spent time cycling in this city has either been subject to some form of harassment or knows some one who has. Usually this takes non physical forms, like aggressive honking, buzzing or passing with little room, or shouting obscenities. Less often is the occasional thrown garbage usually with poor aim and thus not physical. Sometimes it's with no real provocation or reason other then being a cyclist on the road.

Well in a rather frightening fashion I encountered some sickening individuals in a car who felt they would get physical with me last night. I had heard stories of cyclists being attacked, usually at dead hours in shady parts of town, but my encounter was at about 10:30 pm on the busy road of Santa Monica Blvd. while going through West Hollywood. Traveling through there is something I do often as I live in Santa Monica and my girlfriend Meghan lives in Hollywood and she gets off work at 11.

I was traveling east bound and went through the intersection of Santa Monica & Fairfax as the light turned green, hustling along as I always do, when a car pulled up beside me scarily close. I thought this was a driver trying to buzz me for a scare, since they surely saw at least one of the 4 (yes 4) tail lights I had on. Then it happened, I saw hands reach out of the rear passenger window and grab my messenger bag. The assailant tugged on the bag hard and I tugged back and amazingly shook him off without losing my balance. I noticed it looked like it was a fully loaded car 4 or 5 people, white or silver 4 door sedan, all males either white or light colored Hispanic.

I screamed fuck at them at the top of my lungs when it sunk in what just happened, and started pedaling at sprinting speed to try and catch the license plate. When I really push it I can get going over 30 mph, but apparently the scream was intense enough they felt compelled to floor it and started weaving between vehicles probably close to the 45-50 mph range. With a series of synchronized greens and light traffic to their advantage all my strength wasn't enough to catch up.

After burning out and giving up the chase, I pondered if they were seriously trying to steal the bag right off my back or just trying to fuck with me because they could. When I got to Meghan's place I discovered yellow sticky gunk, presumably egg, was on the side of my bag. This made it pretty clear to me their intent was to fuck with someone, and I just happened to be the convenient target.

What really had me burning with anger though was that had I not been such a strong cyclist, I easily could have been knocked off balance and fallen in the middle of the road way, which could have led to more serious injury, potentially even death if the following car could not avoid collision. These are people with no qualms about jeopardizing the lives of others because they fucking can, and can get away with it.

I filed a report with the police of West Hollywood, but without a license plate number there is little I can really do. I'm a pretty easy going guy who rarely wishes ill will on others, but I'd be lying if I didn't start envisioning some U-lock justice on their vehicle. I don't know what else to say other then it was really fucking scary and I hope karma catches up with them one of these days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going On Mental Vacation

Santa Bike

I've been debating internally for a little while about this, but I think I need to take an extended mental break. I've been scouring cycling and transit related news feeds like a crack addict and it's not healthy. With my busy full time job, personal photography and even a few small commercial gigs on the side, and writing this blog to top it off, I've been stretching my self too thin. I've not been getting enough sleep and even worse, not riding my bike as much. Yeah I bike everyday, it's my mode of travel, but I used to spend a lot more time riding because riding is something I do for fun too.

So I will be pausing with this blog for a little while, and after some zen reflection will come back more focused. I'm grateful to you the readers for tuning in and I've seen my readership numbers grow quite a deal since I decided to take this blog more seriously. Before this gets too sappy and melodramatic, just keep your feed readers pointed here and I will be back for more in the new year.

Ride on!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Cyclist's Bill Of Rights Biggest Endorsement Yet, The L.A. City Council

BWC1_500px

Today was the vote on the approval of the Cyclists Bill of Rights by the L.A. City Council, and it has passed [LAist]. This does not mean a whole lot technically speaking as this is not a legally binding document, but is rather an affirmation of cyclists rights and a symbolic commitment to our needs and interests. I've heard some ask why this document matters, since it has no legal teeth or guarantee of actions. I feel it is an important first step in getting our political leaders to talk about cycling.

Talk precedes actions, and if we don't get our political leaders talking about us, then there is little hope for action to follow. Although it would have been nice if we were given a heads up on this meeting sooner so we could have organized a turn out like we did for the transportation committee meeting.

The fight for better cycling infrastructure and policy (aka action) will be an ongoing process but at least we've got a little victory in getting the City Council to acknowledge and support this document. For some background on the CBR, created by founding members of the Bike Writers Collective of which I am now a part of, check out the ibikeu wiki page.

So the next time you put the fun between your legs, you can rest assured the L.A. City Council symbolically has got your back.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Big Blue Bus Service Changes

Use Crosswalk

I know many cyclists are also transit users, so I would be remiss to not mention the upcoming community meetings regarding service changes for the Big Blue here in Santa Monica. Basically, smaller transit budgets through out the state means there is not enough money to maintain existing service at current fares. So on the table are service cuts, but also service expansion for more popular routes. The idea is to relocate resources to cut costs but shift some attention to the successful routes.

I would not be opposed to fare increases if it meant maintained or improved service, however for me the bike takes care of most of my transit needs. For those who use the bus everyday, I'm sure fare increase are a more touchy subject, although it is cheaper by a whole 50 cents compared to the MTA. There are only 2 Big Blue Buses I use with any frequency and they are the number 3 for when I need to get to the airport or the Green Line Metro train & the number 10 when I want to get to Downtown & Union Station without the crosstown cycling journey. The 3 would get expanded service under proposed changes, and the 10 would get a small cut in Sunday service.

There are a number of routes on the cutting block however, including some or even all of the little tide local buses. The always informed green LA girl has some more details about the proposed changes over at her blog. So if you have a stake or interest in Big Blue Bus service you should make your voice heard at one of these meetings. Reliable transit service is a critical component of living and promoting a car-free or car-lite lifestyle, and the Big Blue Bus is the lifeblood of transit service in our seaside town. Every bus is a bike bus!.. unless the rack is full, and then you get to choose between wait or ride.


Monday, December 8: 6:00pm–8:00pm
Fairview Library, 2101 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica
Big Blue Bus Line 8 serves this meeting site

Tuesday, December 9: 10:00am-12:00pm
Ken Edwards Center (Room 104), 1527 4th Street, Santa Monica
Big Blue Bus Lines 3, 4, 5, and 9 serve this meeting site

Tuesday, December 9: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Westside Pavilion (Community Room B, 3rd floor)
10850 W. Pico Blvd, (enter Landmark parking structure), Los Angeles
Big Blue Bus Lines 7, 8 and 12 serve this meeting site

Saturday, December 13: 10:00am-12:00pm
SM Main Library (2nd Floor Multi-Purpose Room)
601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
Big Blue Bus Lines 1, 7, 8, and 10 serve this meeting site

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Old Drivers

This may come off a little ranty, but we need to start taking drivers licenses from senior citizens, I mean really. One nearly hit me in a big truck tonight and started grumbling "fucking bikers" with oxygen tubes in his nose and inch thick glasses on. He said he couldn't see me, but anyone who has seen me lately knows I have been packing the latest super flash blinky red LED's of multiple types all going at once and a Niterider MiNewt X2 (I endorse this product because it is awesome, no financial ties) headlight flashing the ground ahead of me.

The problem is seriously impaired reaction time that is often accompanied by failing eye sight in old age, and as such I feel they are not qualified to operate heavy machinery moving too fast for them to react to sudden changes. The death rate per mile traveled for drivers over 85 is four times that of the 30-59 age group [MSN], making them the next most dangerous drivers after the notoriously intoxicated and inexperienced teenage set. It wasn't that long ago an 85 year old driver killed 10 people including an infant, at the Santa Monica Farmers market. All because he thought he was hitting the brake when he floored the gas apparently.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. It's time we said take the test again and if you fail, sorry you are too old to drive now, here's a a discount on bus fare. Maybe with some more grumpy folks on the bus yelling at Metro and leveraging their voting power and retirement money, we might get some real improvements in transit service.

Ride A Bike, Give A Toy

All City Toy Ride
(Stevo at last years All City Toy ride)

Wow it's hard to believe it's almost that time of year again, time to deliver toys on bicycles in mass. In the fledgling state that my blog was in last year I briefly wrote of my experience at last years Midnight Ridazz All City Toy Ride. It's a great event, in which toy packing cyclists from all corners of Los Angeles organize rides to converge at the Olvera Street Plaza. From there they ride to a delivery drop off point for The Alliance for Children's Rights and have F.U.N. at the after party.

Marcus of Funderstorm fame helped lead the West Side contingent last year, directing riders from behind a dolphin mask with a megaphone wearing a Santa hat. I love the holidays.

For more info, check out the ride listing, and note that additional details about satellite rides are likely to be added or changed leading up to the event. Here are the details for the West Side Ridazz:

Friday December 12th
West Los Angeles (Culver City) [route map]
Helms Bakery Parking Lot
Venice Blvd. a block or 2 east from National
Meet at 8pm.
Depart at 8:30pm Sharp!

The meeting time for all rides to converge at Olvera Street for the conglomerated super ride, is 10 PM.


Alternatively, or additionally depending in your dedication to delivering holiday cheer on bikes, C.I.C.L.E. is hosting the next morning, their third annual Toys & Mittens ride in Pasadena. This one is a shorter distance and more family friendly, so if wondering Los Angeles with a bunch of crazy people isn't your thing, you might be more into their event. If you can swing it, why not do both and have ultimate cycling karma.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Impression Of New York City

Statue of Liberty

Getting around New York City for the first time on the recent Bike Kill trip, was an interesting learning experience. First of all, their Metro train system is amazing, and you can really get pretty close to just about anywhere in the city with it. When I first got there, one of the first things on the agenda after getting to Ridazz HQ (the sublet the Midnight Ridazz rented for the trip), was getting to the loft of friends of friends in New Jersey to buy a $20 beater bike to use for the weekend. We took the train to the World Trade Center transit center and got on the PATH to New Jersey.

My NYC Rusty Beater Bike
(My rusty ride at Coney Island)

Once Meghan and I had bikes, the feeling of mobility when combined with the trains and the walkable areas was amazing. Riding over the Brooklyn Bridge led by our New jersey cohorts was breath taking though not without some difficulty in avoiding wayward pedestrians who step into the bike lane while texting on their smart phones.

Riding bikes in the city there is quite a different experience from LA however. It is in some fashions safer but in others just as or more hazardous then LA. For one thing, traffic in some regards is a controlled anarchy. People walk whether it says to walk or not, and drivers frequently turn and change lanes without signaling (something not foreign to LA but it seemed a little more often in NYC). The blocks are much shorter and there are many more one way streets, and for these reasons most local cyclists treat red lights like stops signs and one way streets as suggestions.

This would all mostly seem like suicidal behavior in LA, but in NYC it kind of worked because drivers there are much, much, slower. Drivers expect all this behavior and so drive more cautiously, and if anything, seemed surprised when we would do things like stop at a red and actually wait for it to turn green. Riding there felt sketchy at times, but I never had an SUV flying past me going 50 like I do in LA. The key to survival there regardless of your vehicle or lack of one, is be alert.

There was a pretty expansive network of bike lanes and sharrows. One detail that felt odd at first from being used to always being on the right, is that bike lanes on one way streets were on the left with street parking on the right. This means cars opening their door open their door into car traffic and not cycling traffic, eliminating the door zone hazard for cyclists on those streets. However door zone dangers were plentiful on other streets and with the high number of taxis, it became necessary to be alert to the possibility of being doored from the left by exiting taxi passengers in slow moving traffic, in addition to the usual right by exiting parked drivers.

It was all a little crazy but we adapted and went with the flow. I'll write more about the trip and the insanity that was the infamous Bike Kill in an upcoming post. Alex T., who also went on the trip wrote a great piece looking at some of those traffic flow differences that you can check out here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

San Louis Obispo To Santa Barbara Bike Touring, A Success

I ♥ adventure! It was an absolutely amazing weekend of riding trains, riding bikes, and camping under the stars with my wonderful girlfriend Meghan. More details and photos to come.

My Bianchi Bergamo Fully Loaded

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Going For A Mini Bike Tour Over Thanksgiving Break

My girlfriend and I are going for our first unsupported bike tour with overnight camping this weekend. I'm very excited and can't wait for the adventure. I'll be loading up the commuter bike with gear and making final preparations over the next couple days. We are taking the Amtrak to San Louis Obispo to start our journey. From there we will ride around and eventually make our way down to Santa Barbara, where we will catch the Amtrak back to Downtown Los Angeles.

I hope that you all enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, and put epic amounts of delicious food in your faces. Somewhere I heard someone in regards to cycling say, "Ride to eat, eat to ride". Wise words.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

L.A. Transportation Committee Meeting Aftermath

I wish I could have been there, but from listening to the recording, it sounds like we had quite a crowd in attendance, many of whom spoke eloquently on behalf of cyclists. I was also cracking up at council members referring to Mr. Block, as in Roadblock of Midnight Ridazz. For a more complete write up, check out the post on Streetsblog by Damian Newton, who also spoke at the meeting. To hear the complete meeting, Enci Box has a recording of it over on her blog.

My general impression from listening to the meeting and reading what others had to say, is that we are slowly but surely reaching a paradigm shift in how Los Angeles thinks about transportation. The Cyclists Bill of Rights will go to vote by the council without modification. The LAPD was called out for their handling of the bike licensing issue most cyclists have never even heard of. Los Angeles has had great bicycle master plans in the past, and very little was implemented from them, which does not bode well for the new bicycle master plan, but maybe, just maybe, we have reached a point where we will see action attached to words. At the very least we have their attention now. It will be important to continue this pressure to see results.

Bike L.A., Bike the Planet! Bike Bike Bike!! Ra Ra RA!! GooOOOoo BIKES!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I CAN HAZ BICYCLES INFRASTRUCTURE? (City Council Reminder)

ICanHazBikes1

Don't like the state of cycling conditions in Los Angeles? Then get involved, the meeting tomorrow is a great opportunity to support cycling in L.A., and force the powers that be to see us as a real constituency. This is also a rare opportunity to hear city government devote a big block of time just for bicycle discussion.

There is a great write up by green LA girl that includes links to more information on some of the specific items on the agenda.

Update:

Enci over at Illuminate LA has written up a look at the Bicycle Bill Of Rights on the meeting agenda and how the council would like to revise the document from the version written by the Bike Writers Collective, to weaken some of it's language.

Know Your Enemy


This clip has been around a lot of cycling blogs, but just in case any of my readers missed this, it's good for some laughter tinged with anger at the absurdity. I think it's good to know who our enemies in government are, and that they are willing to use logic and reasoning a 3rd grader would be ashamed of. Who needs .00001% of federal transportation dollars for bicycles when you could build the front door to a nuclear power plant with that money instead?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Motor Mania

I just finished reading Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). The book takes a deep look at the psychology of driving, what's going on up stairs when we are behind the wheel of an automobile. I already thought about cars and traffic from a more analytical perspective, both as a driver (before I got rid of the car), and as a cyclist. I read a lot of transportation blogs, and as you know I write about a lot of transportation issues my self. However, this book still managed to blow my mind, flip ideas I had upside down, and force me to think about things I had never even considered.

I'll write a more complete review of the book soon, but in the mean time I thought I would share Walt Disney's thoughts on our driving culture from 1950.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Represent At The L.A. City Council Transportation Committee Meeting


This Friday, get this, the City of Los Angeles is, gasp, going to talk about bicycles. It is one of those rare opportunities for us to get our input heard at the face to face level, on the development of bicycle infrastructure and policy.

Unfortunately these meetings tend to clash with anyone who works a full time job during the week, so I will likely be unable to attend. However I strongly encourage anyone with a flexible schedule, or are currently unemployed, to go be apart of this. Some of my colleagues from the Bike Writers Collective will be there, and are leading rides to the meeting from two different locations. More details after the innocuous line of separation.




Description Of The Event From Facebook:

Friday, November 21, 2008
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010
200 N. Spring St.

The Transportation Committee of the LA City Council is hosting a bike issue filled committee meeting. Amongst the items is a discussion of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Come out to the meeting and speak in support of the City of LA adopting the Cyclists' Bill of Rights without modification. The Bike Writers Collective wants YOU!!

On the agenda for Friday:

1) Discussion of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights
2) Report on the status of the city's bike licensing program
3) Report on the progress of the Bicycle Master Plan Update
4) Report on the possibility of a bike sharing program in LA
5) Report on Sharrows progress

and some other discussions pertinent to sustainable transportation.

RIDES TO THE MEETING:

WESTSIDE - if the air quality is reasonable, Alex Thompson will lead a ride to the meeting from CRANK MOB PARK (Media Park at Venice and Canfield). It will leave at 11:30am sharp. If you want to ride, be there, and don't be late!

THE CENTER (Hollywood, Korea Town, etc) - Stephen and Enci Box will lead a ride leaving from RED QUARTERS (Santa Monica & Vermont Red Line Station) at Noon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Streetfilms Looks At The Bike Co-Ops of Los Angeles


Integral to the lifeblood of bicycle culture here in L.A. are the bicycle co-ops that allow so many to maintain their bikes on the cheap and learn their own repairs. They also function as important meeting places for cyclists and are generally responsible for spreading awesome.

Streetfilms put together this wonderful video to showcase our cities 3 bicycle co-ops and how they function within the community. It really sums up nicely what it's all about, not just about fixing bikes, but building a community. I encourage everyone to check it out, even if you are already familiar with the bike co-ops.

For those not already familiar, the film will explain the concept better then I ever could, but I'll provide links below to each of their websites.

Bicycle Kitchen: Serving Mid-City on Heliotrope and Melrose.
Bike Oven: Serving Northeast Los Angeles on Figueroa St. just North of Avenue 37.
Bikerowave: Serving the West Side, on Berkeley St. Between Nebraska and Olympic. It's tucked away between the buildings, but I assure you it's there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Is Creating A New Office of Urban Policy

Rooftop View
(Downtown L.A. & 10 Freeway)

It looks like the days of the White House exclusively pandering to the image of small town America and the burbs is at last being put to rest. In your face divisive "big cities are unAmerican" Sarah Palin. Obama, a native to the very bicycle friendly city of Chicago isn't in the white house yet, but he is already thinking about how we move forward to revitalize our urban centers. To this end he has proposed for the first time in American history, a new Office of Urban Policy. Transportation for America's David Goldberg writes, "the office is conceived as something of a supercabinet position that potentially could coordinate policy among the Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, environment, public health and other arenas."

If this plays out how I dare say, "hope" it does, this could become the beginning of an urban renaissance in America. In 1961 urban activist and author Jane Jacobs wrote the still highly relevant book The Life & Death Of Great American Cities, and perhaps now at last, we can finally see some of her ideas for urban revitalization set into motion.

Alternative transit and livable streets advocates are buzzing with excitement (aka nerding out all over their blogs like I am doing right now). A website has sprung up to vote on and propose ideas that will be narrowed down and sent to lobby the Obama administration. I wrote that we create a federal complete streets legislation (stole idea from Streets Blog) to create road guidelines that include all road users (BIKES TOO!!!) to qualify for federal funding benefits. If you want to have your say, or cast votes for the great ideas already floating around, go check it out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

L.A. Bike Photo Pool

Roxy Blue, Rogue Ride After Party
(Roxy Blue, Rogue Ride After Party. By Alex Thompson)

As my regular readers know, I love shooting bicycle photography and I pepper my posts and stories with the pictures I take. But I'm not the only one with a photographic eye documenting the bicycle culture brewing here in Los Angeles. Some forums and galleries exist for sharing L.A. bike photos online, including the incredulously sexy Midnight Ridazz gallery. However there are inherent limitation with such entirely open systems.

Democracy might make a good foundation for governance, but it doesn't necessarily make for good art shows. The moments of brilliance tend to be overwhelmed and buried soon after their flash, and the top rated photos (which can be hacked on Midnight Ridazz), become as much about popularity as it does photography.

So this new photo group, which I hinted at a while back, will be curated by my self and a few other talented photographers of the bicycle. I'd love this to become the place to turn to for quality images of the bike scene in Los Angeles. That means everything; racers, commuters, fixies, fixie hipsters, anti-hipsters, BMX, MTB, freak bikes, bicycle ballet, what ever, just make it look pretty. I'll keep a steady trickle of some of my own favorite work flowing, but I'm really excited to see through the eyes of other contributors. Anyone can join, but keep in mind not every submitted photo will be posted. To the photogs, happy shooting, and to the viewers, I hope you enjoy your eye candy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

National Track Racing Championships

Men's Points Race, First Heat
(Men's Points Race)

This comes from the department of stories I almost finished writing and never got back to, until now. Last month I had the pleasure of watching my first track cycling event. I attended the Saturday October 4th line up of races for the National Track Racing Championships at the ADT Velodrome in the Home Depot Center. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made it out to this event using mixed transit, combining cycling, buses and train hopping.

Sadly the velodrome lacked bike parking for spectators, so Meghan and I attached our bikes to a handicapped sign in the parking lot. Being somewhat annoyed that a place like a velodrome, a holy land of bicycles, did not have bike parking, I exchanged e-mails with the track director later. Apparently the Home Depot Center had moved bike racks that were there before without notification to the track staff. I've been assured they will be moved back before the ADT Center hosts another spectator event. Cyclists who train at the ADT Center can bring their bikes into the in-field of the track. But enough of my cyclist activist ranting...

Women's Match Sprints
(Women's Match Sprint. The Starting Line Stare Of Intimidation.)

Watching the races was really exciting, and I had already caught the bug for watching track after seeing the Olympics this year. After seeing track racing in person, I'm giving serious consideration to learning track riding so I can compete in races next season. I love watching the crazy mind games of the match sprints, and the occasional explosion of energy in a points race when a competitor goes for the coveted 20 point bonus for lapping the field.

Jack of Orange 20 fame was out there in the Men's points race, and the motor paced keirin event. He was riding under the team name Vegan Death Squad, which was hilarious to hear coming out of the announcers mouth.

Track racing is an awesome sport, and I'd love to see it get some resurgence in popularity in the states. It used to be huge here, with packed gambling crowds at velodromes like the one that used to exist at Madison Square Garden. Let's make it happen! That is unless America is okay with the British team winning damn near every international track event, led by super humans like Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy. NASCAR isn't the only game in town for exciting left turns damn it.


Men's Points Race, First Heat


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Transportation Won On Tuesday

transportation

At home, Prop 1A to build the high-speed train from LA to SF has passed, as well as LA County Measure R, which would fund numerous transportation projects including significant expansions to the Metro train network. Measure T here in Santa Monica, which I thought to be misguided, has failed. So every endorsement I made for transportation went the way I had hoped for. I have to say I was especially surprised at the passage of Measure R, since any sales tax measure in CA requires a 2/3 majority. Here in Santa Monica, where transportation issues are on every one's minds, voters approved the measure by nearly 70%.

Numerous alternative transportation measures across the country also swept to victory as well. Suggesting that we may at last as a nation are waking up from our automobile dependent slumber. That doesn't mean our work is done. It will be important to play watch dog to ensure the money is spent well and progress is made efficiently and in our best interests.

In the case of the High-Speed Rail, the opponents of the project are already working to kill it before a single stretch of track gets laid as has been done to similar measures in Florida and Texas in the past. It will also be important to continue applying pressure to our leaders, both locally and at the federal level, to make all transportation issues a priority, not just highway lane expansions. I think we can start by actually counting the movement of people in our cities in studies, instead of the movement of typically single occupant automobiles. Cycling will never be taken seriously if we are not counted in the "success" of road ways.

We won some battles this week, but the war is far from over. I think war is fairly apt comparison here, when considering more Americans die on our roads in a two month period than have died in all Iraqi combat. This is the world we live in, and at the expense of sounding cliche now, it's time for change.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Rally & Spontaneous March Against Proposition 8, The Elimination of Same Sex Marriage.

No On 8

As I'm sure you are already aware now, proposition 8 has narrowly passed in California. A proposition to write discrimination into the State Constitution by explicitly banning same sex marriage. I was saddened by this injustice, and felt deeply sorry for my friends effected by this, and the numerous gay and lesbian cyclists I had the pleasure of meeting through AIDS LifeCycle.

Prop 8 may have passed, but the fight is far from over however. Last night Lorri Jean of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, spoke to a crowd of thousands at a rally in West Hollywood. After her motivational speech she announced another rally scheduled at the Mormon Temple @ 2pm today. I wore my ALC shirt so fellow riders could spot me in the crowd.

No On 8

The mass of people demonstrated afterward in the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente. Not content to sit still in a place blocked of traffic and thus attention, the masses began to move out of the intersection and took the streets marching side by side. It was a powerful night, with moments like marching down the Sunset strip across all lanes of traffic and both sides of the road with shouts demanding for equal rights. Several times during the night at major intersections protesters sat down and blocked traffic in all directions with banners held high.

No On 8

Proposition 8 has not left the movement defeated, if anything it has left it more motivated then ever. With helicopters buzzing overhead, and feeding reports to my girlfriend in radio news from the ground, I felt like I was watching history in the making last night.

No On 8

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted


If you haven't voted yet, in the words of our State's fearless leader, "DO IT NOW!!!"

Or at a time of greater convenience for you. Just make sure you do it! Bike the vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Local Election Endorsements For Transportation

As a resident of Santa Monica, L.A. County and the State of California, I have 3 local propositions to vote on with an impact on transportation issues. This is how I am voting and why.

Prop 1A Graphic Header

Yes on CA Proposition 1A, the California High-Speed Rail project. I've been very excited about this project since I first heard about it years ago when it was struggling to make it to voters due to apathy by the legislature and governor. Well now it's on the ballot, with Schwarzenegger supporting it this time. Voters have a shot at truly modernizing state travel in California. Also some food for thought for cyclists, typically train travel surcharge for packing a bicycle is $5, on a plane it can be more than a hundred due to limited space. For more on my endorsement of Prop1A, check out my on the Trains Are Awesome blog. (Posts Tagged Prop 1A)


measure_r_main_image_001

Yes on L.A. Measure R, the half cent L.A. County sales tax to fund Metro projects over the next 30 years. I listened to an engaging debate on the measure by voices both within the alternative transit community, and though some good points were made on both sides, I am still strongly of the opinion that this is necessary for L.A.'s transportation future. Frankly we are behind every other major metropolitan area in the scope of our alternative transportation system, and I don't foresee this changing anytime soon without an influx of cash to make former pipe dreams like the west side subway a reality.

I see bikes and trains as very complimentary forms of transportation, and I know many cyclists, the ones who actually live near trains, are also frequent train users.
Regrettably there is also a lot of freeway funding in there as well, but train projects are the most prominent. Local return funds will also go to each city in L.A. County to be spent on local road improvements like filling those pot holes we hate so much, and with some lobbying on our parts, hopefully more cycling specific infrastructure improvements.

Especially after my recent trip to New York and getting around by combination of walking, cycling and trains, I realize we need this. It's not without flaws, and there is lots of squabbling over west side versus east side versus south side going on concerning who gets what, even though not that long ago nobody cared who got a train in Los Angeles. Now everyone realizes over reliance on freeways is a disaster. L.A. transportation needs this funding, and if we pass it, we will need to lobby metro and hold them accountable to ensure this money is spent according to plan. Also on Trains Are Awesome, are some of my thoughts concerning Measure R (Posts Tagged Measure R). I want the Subway To The Sea (a.k.a West Side Extension) to happen yesterday, not when I am 50.


Traffic

No on Santa Monica Proposition T, also known as RIFT, the Santa Monica Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic. As mentioned on this blog I oppose this measure for several reasons. At the core it shifts the blame for traffic from excessive automobile use, which is encouraged by our system of subsidies, to blaming commercial activity. I feel this is a wrong headed approach to reducing traffic, and the short sighted measure fails to acknowledge numerous alternatives that could produce more desirable results without the same economic consequences. There is also zero accountability built into the proposition, and no real way to measure it's progress or effects either positively or negatively.

For more detail on my position concerning Prop T, including an alternative idea, check out my blog post here. Interestingly my post on Prop T is now the most viewed page on my entire blog except for the homepage. So people are reading up on these things, and looking beyond mass mailers for alternative voices.

Bike The Vote!

Tomorrow is our day of civic duty to vote. This election is especially important as I have no doubt you've heard. At the local, state, and federal level, who we elect, and the propositions we pass will have an effect on our lives, and even our cycling. There is a growing acknowledgment within congress that alternative transportation options need to be taken more seriously, with cycling infrastructure and public transit components of that. As the car makers get on their knees and beg the government for billions in loans to bail them out of their poor business planning in recent years, we need to capitalize on this moment to pressure our leaders to give other ideas a chance.

This goes beyond who we vote for this election, this means lobbying our leaders to apply pressure and hold their feet to the fire. The automobile groups have been lobbying government with a stranglehold grip ever since they stole the idea of public funding for paved roads from the cyclists movement a century ago. In 2009 the Federal Transportation Budget will be up for renewal, and the highway lobby is already calling for $500,000,000,000 in highway projects. If we keep our mouths shut, then our interests will continue to be ignored. It's time to get loud, and stand up together, and say we are mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Marcus Bear Suit
(Marcus carving out his new Care Bear suit for Bike Kill)

Have a super awesometacular Happy Halloween everyone! I know there is a gazillion parties, rides and other happenings out there this weekend, but ride safe and watch for crazies. I'm riding with my old hockey goalie helmet today, both to highlight the special occasion and to have some full facial protection, Yay! I loved getting weird looks on my morning commute.

Also, with the rainy season finally upon us once more, make sure to take particular care for the increased hazards of cycling in the rain. Bike Girl outlined some great tips for riding in the rain, so you can get wet, and have fun doing it. That sounded a little dirty, though perhaps not quite as suggestive as green LA girl's headline for the same post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Traffic & God

Looking East From 17 St. Bridge Over 10 Freeway

In the Co-Opportunity market during my lunch break today, I over heard an interesting conversation a woman struck up with a man in the produce section. It was of a religious nature, and she professed her confidence that God was watching over her. The immediate examples she provided were how she just got her parking space (not an easy task for the driving crowd at the Co-Op) and how God protects her during near accidents while driving.

This seems to be in line with Tom Vanderbilt's point in the book Traffic that I'm reading right now. That people often perceive traffic conditions as elements outside our control, like the weather, rather than the conglomeration of many human choices.

I found the conversation rather telling of our cultural addiction to automobiles. That in contemplating God's purpose in our lives, searching for parking spaces and fear of traffic accidents come to mind. This incident made me recall the religious prayers at gas stations during this summers peak gas prices.

Automobile drivers aren't the only ones turning to God. Los Angeles and cities across the country have blessing of the bikes events. Typically these events host cyclists in urban areas and motorcyclists in more rural areas. Bikes are blessed in the hope that the rider will be granted safety from other vehicles on the road.

I feel traffic problems are very much a human condition, and as such such can be solved with human ingenuity and cultural change. However, if it is really overseen by a higher power, than may God help us all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Still Alive

bikeKill

I have survived Bike Kill and escaped from New York. It was a whirlwind weekend, so it will take me a bit to readjust to normal life and sort through the flurry of photos. I'll give the full run down soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flying to Bike Kill, Bike Town Beta Reminder, ALC Training Kick Off, & Tour de Ballona

bike kill
(Bike Kill Photo by D. Robert)

Using magical powers that allow me to write from the past and have it appear in the future, you in the present can read this as I am hurtling through the air at New York City. I will be joining other friends from the Midnight Ridazz community flying out, as well as Funderstorm, who rode their bikes out there on an epic journey, and Franz, who is omnipresent. We will be having our West Coast minds blown this Saturday by the fury of East Coast craziness in the infamous event known as Bike Kill. Should I survive, I will write back on this East Coast phenomenon, which may be in it's last year. Of course if there were no pictures it never happened, so the camera will be coming with.

While I'm gone I encourage riders back on the left side of the country to go check out the first Bike Town Beta ride/social experiment. This Saturday night in Westwood.

Writing now from a different point in the past, but closer to the present than the previous writing. It came to my attention, two other note worthy rides are going down this Saturday during the day light hours.

Danny, Meghan & Jared
(Photo from ALC 7)

October 25th is the annual AIDS LifeCycle kick off ride, and Team Midnight Ridazz is organizing a new group with some familiar faces from last year. My friend Ben Hardy has been nominated to lead the crew this time around, and I wish him luck, and better yet, will offer him plenty of advice on the task. I encourage anyone considering ALC to check it out. Even if you are just looking for a well organized training ride and some Cliff Bars, go check it out. Discounted registration for ALC 8 will also be available at the big orange tents. This also brings up the glaring fact that I still haven't blogged the last day of riding from ALC 7, which I will conclude on my return from NY.

fishies

For a much easier and more chill experience, there is also the Tour de Ballona, which has been created to raise the profile and ridership of the Ballona Creek bike path. This path has been the subject of attacks in which cyclists were jumped and had valuables and their bicycle stolen from them. There has been little reaction from law enforcement other than to apparently protect home owners from crime by closing off some of the entrance/exit points, which arguably makes things less safe for a cyclists while unlikely to deter your typical fence jumping bad guy. Utilizing the safety in numbers theory, this ride aims to be one component in making the path a safer place for everyone.

In response to these issues fellow cycling blogger Will Cambell has not been deterred from the path by these thugs, riding Ballona Creek frequently, with time-lapse footage to document the process. A crew of West Siders 50 riders strong went out for a ride on the path as part of Taco Tuesdays. The issue of safety along Ballona Creek has been building for sometime now, and hopefully with action we can turn things around, even if the LAPD has trouble finding the path on a map.



So the Oct. 25 line up of rides back in LA is:

ALC Training Kick Off Ride
7:30AM Meeting 8:30 AM Rolling
Griffith Park & Crystal Springs Drive

Tour de Ballona Creek
11:AM Sawtell/Culver Ballona Path Entrance

Bike Town Beta
6pm-10pm In Westwood Villiage

People talk about what an unfriendly place to bike L.A., which is often reflected in media stories, but they just haven't met the friendly cyclists yet. No where else do you see so much bicycling awesome piled up in the same day, and it's like that almost every weekend. I may be hurtling through the sky at New York City, but I love L.A.!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

NO on Santa Monica Propostion T, also known as RIFT

Traffic

There has been a lot of talk in Santa Monica about this Proposition T, billed as way to reduce traffic in Santa Monica. Also known as RIFT, Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic. It sounds great at first, especially when the proponents leave out the details, which I feel is largely how it got on the ballot in the first place. I first heard of it when a petitioner outside the Co-Op Grocery Market was asking people if they hated and traffic, and if so sign this paper to put . I declined to sign but took home a flier about it. As soon as I read the brief description I already smelled trouble.

The basic premise is the assumption that all commercial activity creates traffic, so lets put a cap on commercial development. However the devil is in the details. What's at work here is moving the blame for traffic congestion from too much automobile dependence to having too much economic activity. Though this prop is billed as anti-traffic, it actually does nothing to address existing traffic problems, and does not address transit issues at all.

This Prop T is misguided and bad on a number of levels, many of which effect cyclists and pedestrians specifically. This measure excludes hospitals, schools, and government buildings, but it makes no distinction between different types of commercial development. It assumes all of it is bad. Mixed use developments, which reduce frequency of car trips by intermingling small businesses integrated into and near residential areas, making them easier to walk and bike to, would be stopped dead in their tracks. Mixed use development and transit oriented developments (building at or near adjacent public transit corridors) are essential components of creating livable cities. This prevention of mixed development runs completely contradictory to the LUCE document the city has been working on with real traffic solutions modeled after the livable streets movement.

Prop T's assumption that all commercial development is bad is short sighted, and fails to grasp the larger issue of movement of people through a city. Traffic in Santa Monica and Los Angeles generally, is fundamentally a problem of too many cars, and as such reducing automobile dependency should be the focus of any attempt to limit traffic. Not some backwards attempt to stunt the economic activity that makes our city so desirable and successful in the first place. This measure also fails to address existing traffic we already have, which also includes trips to non-commercial attractions like our highly popular beaches.

Sunday Before Memorial Day

So Prop T would maybe reduce some car trips to future commercial developments that would be prevented from happening. I have a better idea and one that would effect existing traffic immediately, not some near future maybe scenario. Enforce the Parking Cash-Out law that has been languishing unenforced in our state law since 1992. This law states that businesses which offer subsidized parking real estate by giving their employees free parking are required to offer a rebate for the value of that parking space to any employee who voluntarily gives up their free parking privileges. By offering an incentive for employees and revealing the true cost of these "free" parking spaces, it has the potential to influence workers to consider alternative transit options and car pooling.

I can attest to the power of this parking cash out incentive because I have seen it at work in my own workplace at Sony Computer Entertainment America in Santa Monica. I discovered the law by accident. As I was bike commuting more and more until I no longer used a car at all to go to work, I was still given the shiny reflective seal of approval updated every month for company lot parking privileges. This company lot, shared with other studios was always filled to capacity and would often be valet parked to stuff more cars in there. A company e-mail went out asking that parking spaces that Sony leased from neighboring MTV, be only used by car commuters who drove everyday, due to the cost those additional MTV spots cost the company every month. Then it dawned on me, those parking spaces in this busy business district are worth money. That little reflective card for my car that I never used anymore had untapped economic value.

So I got to thinking, what if Sony offered some kind of program where people who did not need parking spaces could give up their spot in exchange for an incentive, which in turn would relieve parking pressure demands (like the need to lease additional spaces) benefiting the company bottom line. I wrote up a letter to the company HR department, and even included ideas about how car poolers could split cash out incentives. Well as it turns out, all of my ideas were already unenforced state law, crafted by Urban Planning Department Chair Donald Shoup. So SCEA SM adopted the program in compliance with the California's Parking Cash-Out Law, which you can read about on the California EPA's Air Resource Board website.

To get to the point of this story, due to the extremely high value of parking spaces in the immediate area of our company, I now get about an extra $120 a month to not drive a car to work. It didn't take long for this kind of incentive to start influencing behavior. Some part time bike commuters who would occasionally drive became full time bike commuters. Some people who never rode bikes before suddenly embraced it full swing, and would come to my desk to ask bicycle questions.

SCEA SM Bike Racks
(SCEA SM Bike Parking. This photo does not include some who still park their bike at their desk or else where.)

Too many bikes were crowding around cubicles so bike racks were set up under a stair well to comfortably add bike capacity. As more people picked up cycling these racks started filling up. Then when gas prices went up, we suddenly had two bikes racks full everyday and many bikes parked where ever an unused space could be found. The most recent drop in gas prices has not slowed this creeping influence of bicycle commuting driven in part by the parking cash-out.

So if you want to see some immediate results in improving the traffic situation in Santa Monica, or anywhere in California accessible by alternative transit, then demand enforcement of the California's Parking Cash-Out Law. By contrast, Prop T is a non-solution that I feel could in fact make our city worse off, and I hope for it's demise in November.

Links:

Friday, October 10, 2008

We Ride By Night, Art Show

Some other talented folks who document the night cycling scene in L.A. are going to have a show at SiteLA. The opening is tomorrow, so if you can make it out there, show them some love.

weride_big

"A lot of LA’s bike culture happens at night, and a few people have gotten really good at documenting that. This weekend a new photo exhibition called “We Ride By Night - Four Artists View Bike Culture in Los Angeles” will open at SiteLA (2522 Sunset in Silver Lake) and will feature new works by Stephen Roullier, Ashira Siegel, Leslie Caldera and Wendy Peng. The opening is Saturday, October 11th from 6-9pm and the show runs through Nov 1st in case you can’t make it this weekend. "

Thanks to Sean over at LA Metblogs for this posting.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Update On Going Car Free, And Mixed Transit Use

Congratulations to fellow L.A. bike blogger Bike Girl on completing her month long car free challenge. I hope it inspires others to consider living with less car in their life. As I've mentioned, I'm now living completely sans automobile. This has posed no serious issues so far. I had already reduced my driving to almost nothing a few months in advance of making the complete break to sell it, and so I was more then ready.

That doesn't mean I haven't made a few changes. To cut down on my epic cross town bicycle journeys, which can get tiring even for me some times, I have been introducing more mixed transit use into my life. Mixed transit is pretty essential to getting around a city as expansive as Los Angeles without a car. Once you get a grasp on the public transit system, especially with a bike in the mix, it really opens up a lot of car free options.

howBusBikeRacksmall
(How to load a bicycle onto a bus bike rack)

A recent example is my day last Saturday. I rode my bike to catch an early Santa Monica 10 bus to get to downtown L.A. for a photography meet up hosted by Blog Downtown. The 10 Bus is one of my favorite buses so long as you take it at non-peak times (aka, when the 10 freeway is not the suck). It hops onto the 10 Freeway and shoots straight to downtown, skipping all the cities in between with stops only in Santa Monica and Downtown. This is the most direct bus I've ever ridden on.

After wondering around with fellow shutterbugs in Downtown snapping pics like crazy people, I rode my bike to the 7th St. Metro Station to meet my girlfriend, who had got there from Hollywood via the Red Line. Next on the agenda was getting to Carson to watch some elite bicycle racing. We bought Metro day passes and hopped on the Blue Line to the Artesia Blvd stop. From there we biked a couple miles to the ADT Velodrome at the Home Depot Center to watch the National Track Racing Championships.

On The Blue Line
(Meghan On the Metro Blue Line)

After watching epic awesomeness at the Velodrome (a post on that is in the works), we needed to get back to my place in Santa Monica. Going back the same way would be out of the way since we didn't need to go to Downtown. So improvising on knowledge from my college days of living car free across the street from LAX, we took the Blue Line north to the Green Line connection West. We got off at the Green Line Aviation Station, and went down to wait for the Santa Monica 3 bus that would take us north along Lincoln Blvd. Fortunately both bike racks were free since it was the end of the line, and so we loaded our bikes and hopped on board after only a brief wait for the last leg of our public transit.

Sometimes transfer delays can be a real bummer in public transit, and L.A. certainly has a lot of room for improvement. But we lucked out with no more then about 5 minute waits at each of our transit stops during the day. Finally we got off at Pico and Lincoln, and biked the last couple miles back to my place. Thus completed an exciting and full day that took us across many regions of L.A., all without a car and pretty stress free. Bikes + Buses + Trains for the win.

P.S. Thanks for the congratulations on going car free green LA girl.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The First Bike Town Beta


A new idea has evolved out of Critical Mass, and the brain of the brilliant Alec Schwarz. An idea that I think may potentially have a more positive impact on showcasing what's great about cycling than a conventional a conventional Critical Mass. It's called Bike Town Beta, and it is a sort of social experiment on what a town might look like where most people got around on bikes. Much like places such as Copenhagen, except in the middle of Los Angeles.

The idea is to take a small region or playing field so to speak, and invite cyclists in mass to come ride, hang out, frequent the local businesses and socialize. Cycling has the benefit of spontaneity in a way automobiles are lacking. At any time a cyclist can pull over and walk as a pedestrian creating new social and economic interactions, while cars cruise for a parking space. Unlike critical mass, which is a large group of cyclists that keeps together, Bike Town Beta would invite a mass of cyclists to come to a defined area and ride around like bikes were just the normal mode of transportation.

Bike Town Beta #1 will be hosted in Westwood Village by UCLA on Saturday October 25th, from 6pm-10pm. Check out the map to see the starting location, defined boundaries, and points of interest. I can also attest that the vegan food at Native Foods, listed on this map as Bike Town Vege Food, is exceptional. They have delicious vegan pizza, yes you heard me, vegan pizza.


View Larger Map

I will be out of town visiting New York at the time, to see Funderstorm, a musical cyclist duo from Los Angeles. They biked cross country to spread the awesome nation wide. But I encourage cyclists back in L.A. to check out the first Bike Town Beta experiment. I wish I could I be in two places at once so I could be there too.


Bike Town Beta Blog
Bike Town Beta #1 Los Angeles- Westwood Village
Saturday October 25th, 6pm-10pm
Boundaries: Wilshire, Galey, Westwood, and Le Conte