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


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.


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


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.


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.


"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.

(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

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Car Sales Crashing, Bike Sales Booming

Cars -1 (Reuters)
Bikes +1 (Economist)

The world economy may be going to hell in a handbasket, but that isn't stopping the bike industry. At the Interbike conference in Las Vegas recently, bike creators and distrubters were confidant, and attendance set records. Bike sales are thriving during this era of decline for automobile purchases and reduced driving. This vibes with anecdotal evidence of more bikes on the streets and more people at local bike shops, as observed by my own riding around and numerous other cycling bloggers in various cities.

Time will tell if this trend will continue rolling. I'm sure some will ditch their bikes if gas prices drop low enough. But I am hopeful that this renewed interest in cycling will create some lasting impact on how we think about transportation.