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.