Thursday, October 22, 2009

Work Monster Attacks

BUSINESS PKWY

In an unfortunate bit of timing, right now when so much is going in the world of cycling in Los Angeles, with the Mandeville road rage trial in progress, the LA Bike Plan short comings, and plenty of other things going on, I am super slammed for an extended period at work. This whole job thing pays for my bikes and student loans so I must beckon it's call. I won't be able to contribute much to the discussion of cycling for a little while longer, but in the meantime there are lots of other great blogs and news sources following what's going on. If you aren't already reading some of the other cycling blogs in LA, check out my links in the sidebar.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Get Involved, Discuss The L.A. Bicycle Plan With Peers

Unfortunately I cannot attend this event due to work commitments, but if you want to start getting directly involved in the process to shape the future plans for cycling in Los Angeles I highly recommend getting out to LA City College this weekend [moved to Hollywood Adventist Church, see note below]. The LADOT has it's official public input meetings planned, but this is a meeting just for cyclists to engage with each other and formulate a game plan to shape the L.A. Bicycle Plan into a document worth adopting.

From Westside BikeSide

This Saturday the Bike Writers Collective invites you to change the course of cycling in LA. Join us Saturday, at 1pm at LA City College, adjacent to the Bike Kitchen, to review, discuss, and critique the draft LA Bike Master Plan with your peers (Facebook event). It’s the LA Bike Working Group, and we’ll be working to inform, learn, and focus on the LABMP. I’ll be there, Stephen Box will be there, along with many others to facilitate the discussion. We’ll briefly discuss the plan, and then promptly break into groups to discuss it more energetically.

This is your opportunity to engage in a free for all of ideas. Together we can become better informed and more effective as a community in owning our Bike Plan! Unlike the upcoming community meetings, sponsored by the city, this meeting will focus on no holds barred discussion by cyclists, for cyclists. This is unstructured, knock down, drag out, nitty gritty discussion that will leave you bursting at the seems with ideas and information. Coming out of it we hope to have a more focused, deep, and effective community critique of the plan for the community meetings.

Bring your laptop so that we can look over the plan together. (It’s 600 pages, so we ain’t printing it! SAVE A F*&%ING TREE!)

UPDATE:

We lost LACC but have the Fellowship Hall of the 7th Day Adventist Church on Hollywood Blvd @ Van Ness.

Hollywood Adventist Church, 1711 N. Van Ness Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028

Visit LABikePlan.com for more information.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tragedy On A Bicycle Built For Two

BIKE MEMORIAL  100609 001
Kylie Bruehler at a funeral service to bury her parents, struck by an out of control motorist in San Antonio Texas. Local cyclists form an honor guard. (Photo by Tom Reel/Express-News)

Something about this tragic photo pierced through and really hit me hard even though I've gotten pretty jaded lately. Transportation issues can turn into a mess of statistics, but this puts a very human face on the consequences of reckless driving . This little girl's parents, Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler, two experienced road cyclists, were riding a tandem bicycle together when they were prematurely taken out of this existence together after being dragged 200 feet by a driver who unexpectedly swerved into the shoulder where the couple had been riding. The lost innocence of this girl's face is the reason we simply must fight for and demand safer roads for everyone. No criminal charges have been made against the driver, and the incident was written off as just an accident as most tragedies on the road are.

Where is the accountability, what good are laws, and drivers licenses if in the end the outcome of most crashes are considered blameless accidents without penalty even when clearly one party was at fault. The State of Texas was on the verge of passing a bill with explicit legal protections for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, with common sense measures like defining safe passing distance as some states have already done. After years of work from Texas activists, the bill went through the senate with a landslide 25-6 majority, only to be shot down by veto from Governer Rick Perry. Ugh.

My girlfriend and I are also both experienced cyclists who occasionally tandem ride, and dream of having a nicer tandem suitable for longer travels some day. I could easily put my self into the shoes of that couple, loving life and riding bikes together. In researching more about this story I stumbled across the Twitter account of the mother, who like any serious American cycling enthusiast was following the likes of cycling greats like Lance Armstrong and Levi Liephiemer as I also do myself. Sadly their 7 year old daughter now has to go on without them though I'm sure they'll never be forgotten.

These are human beings on the road out there and even if your out there doing everything right, all it takes is a few seconds of someone else careening unexpectedly off course to change lives forever. I hope we can live to see a day without tragedy like this as a daily occurrence in cities and towns across our country. Whether you ride a bicycle, a motorcycle, drive a car or even just walking across the street, we all can die out there when due care is not taken by all parties.

I first saw this story on the Tucson Bike Lawyer blog with a link to the original news story. More in depth blogging on this incident and the failed vulnerable road user bill by San Antonio local Veronica Flores. The obituary with more details about the couple is posted here.

A trust fund has been set up for 7 year old Kylie Bruehler and donations can be sent to Kylie Bruehler Benefit Fund, c/o 24165 IH-10 West, Ste. 217-270, San Antonio, Texas 78257-1160.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Illegal To Ride, Santa Monica Outlaws Riding Unlicensed Bicycles.

Santa Monica Critical Mass December
(A teenage girl receives a ticket in Santa Monica for not coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign and a warning for riding without a helmet as a minor.)

Some readers may recall there was a debate between cyclists and the City of Los Angeles over the use of a local municipal code on bicycle licensing, primarily a program started long ago for theft deterrence and returning stolen bikes, instead being used as a way for the LAPD to harass cyclists and write citations. After pressure from the cycling community at a series of city council meetings and the one L.A. police station with bike licenses being overwhelmed for license requests they were not prepared to fulfill, a moratorium was put in place to prevent any further issuing of tickets under the law.This summer, the law was taken off the books in Los Angeles.

I have not heard of a specific ticketing incident for riding without a bicycle license in Santa Monica, but I started to research things a little. My interest got peaked when I was walking by a police office in downtown Santa Monica and a flier was posted in the window concerning bicycle licensing. This immediately raised a red flag to me considering the drama that played out over bicycle licensing in Los Angeles. So I started to look it up in the Santa Monica municipal code, a bookmark I keep handy next to the California Vehicle Code.

Santa Monica does have a bicycle licensing law on the books that includes some disturbing details that would seem to be in conflict with the California laws that govern the implementation of local bicycle licensing. I think it is also worth pointing out here that the C.V.C. grants city or county governments the right to establish bicycle licensing, and gives guidelines and certain restrictions for such systems. The C.V.C. does not require bicycle licenses state wide, and does not impose any restrictions of it's own upon bicycle riding without a license unless required by a local government. This is in sharp contrast with the bicycle license page of the Santa Monica government web site (buried under finance) which reads "The State of California requires a bicycle license for any bicycle used on any street." I cannot find anything in the list of laws in the C.V.C. concerning bicycles to back up such a claim. Thus it would appear the Santa Monica government website is lying. To me this suggests the Santa Monica government is passing the buck by implying it is the State that makes this a requirement when in fact it is the city's fault you are required to have a license. The State allows cities to do this, but it does not require that they do.

So what are those disturbing details in the Santa Monica municipal code on Bicycle licensing? How about for starters this statement, "shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars". Wait a minute, in the California Vehicle code it specifically states in C.V.C. Division 16.7 - Registration and Licensing of Bicycles, Section 39011; "No fine imposed for any violation of an ordinance or resolution, which is adopted pursuant to this division, shall exceed ten dollars ($10)". So the state of California says fines for not having a bicycle license in a municipality that require them should not exceed $10, but Santa Monica thinks up to $250 is a suitable amount. I'm not a legal expert, but something seems fishy here.

And it only gets worse from here. The Santa Monica law goes on to say the infraction may also be made a "misdemeanor, which shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars per violation". So a fine of $10 for not having an official sticker on your bike that costs $3 has ballooned to something that could potentially cost you $1000 and show up on your criminal record in Santa Monica. But that's not all folks, you could also get "imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Now we have truly stepped into the world of the absurd. The bicycle licensing law is barely known to anyone, and I'm sure very few of the thousands of cyclists who pour through the town both from within and from popular cycling neighboring areas such as Venice Beach have ever heard of it. Yet nearly all of them, myself included, are law breakers within Santa Monica city limits for not having an official sticker. All those happy people riding home from the Farmers Market with baskets full of fresh vegetables, a bunch of outlaws. Chances are you, my readership, concentrated most heavily in Santa Monica and neighboring areas, are at risk for police harassment at anytime in Santa Monica borders for simply riding a bicycle without a special sticker on it.

Santa Monica Critical Mass December
(Santa Claus receives a ticket for riding too far to left on the roadway. Ticket thrown out in court after a written declaration defense.)

The reality of being detained for lack of a bicycle license is probably very slim. However if an officer doesn't like you for any other reason, maybe you look homeless, maybe an officer thinks you look like an anarchist, maybe he just plain doesn't like you dressing like Santa Claus, the officer could use a bicycling licensing violation as a pretense to detain you in the absence of any legitimate traffic violations. Thus Santa Monica, voted a Bronze "Bicycle Friendly" city by the League of American Cyclists, empowers it's police force with the ability to harass almost any cyclist on the road by making nearly every cyclist in it's borders a criminal.

Bicycle licensing as it currently exists, where it exists, is like a license plate, not a driver license, and has nothing to do with educational requirements or operation of a bicycle. It is simply a means to identify ownership. It is a legal requirement, however there is almost no attempt at communicating this requirement. You don't hear about it at bike shops, you don't hear about it at city events, and you typically won't hear about it existing at all unless you know where to dig as I just started doing.

What is also odd here, is that while punishment is clearly spelled out and quite severe for not having a bicycle license sticker, not having a license plate on a car is treated as a parking ticket if you are away from the vehicle, and a fix it ticket if you are present. This is what I gathered from reading accounts of license plate violations and every article I could find on the topic. I had trouble tracking down specific official information for fines and punishment but I'm guessing a misdemeanor and 6 months jail time are not potential punishments for the lack of of license plate, and yet it is for a bicycle sticker in Santa Monica. According to an LAPD police woman asked about tickets for lack of a license plate on a car it is a $25 fine as a parking ticket and can cost about $100 as a fix it ticket. This is of course backwards considering an automobile license plate is essential in tracking down potentially fatal hit and run drivers, while incidents of bicycles severely injuring or killing others is incredibly rare. Not that a bicycle license could serve much purpose in identification in a hit and run as they are too small to read without close inspection.

There is no useful purpose for bicycle registration apart from a means for the police to return stolen bicycles, a goal somewhat suspect since thieves routinely remove all stickers and may even grind down serial numbers on bicycles. If the fee were raised it could perhaps become a revenue stream for bicycle improvements, but a high fee would discourage ridership, which is already much slimmer than it should be and most progressive city planners recognize the benefits of increased bicycle ridership in lowering congestion and parking demands. Also if the fee were more significant it would become quite taxing for those of us who own multiple bikes (I have 5 bikes at present), which is easier to do than owning multiple cars, especially if you are aren't paying into car ownership. So if the only useful thing about our bicycle license legislation is to return stolen bicycles, which it mostly fails to do and private companies can do better, why is it written to be so punitive to cyclists and a mandatory requirement to ride? It makes no sense any way I look at it, and even if it were effective at returning bicycles it should be a voluntary program.

Considering that the City of Los Angeles tossed it's bicycle license requirement legislation after its ridicules nature was exposed in public forum, this puts Santa Monica as the odd one out in this regard. Santa Monica is relatively small independent municipality surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, and it makes no sense for Santa Monica to be so radically different in this regard. Especially since Santa Monica makes it a point of pride of being bicycle friendly. Empowering the S.M.P.D. with the means to harass almost any cyclist traveling in it's borders with the threat of severe fines or even jail time does not sound very bicycle friendly to me.

This law should be removed from the books, and I intend to contact the City Council on this issue. If it becomes necessary perhaps we can start a petition and gather a presence at a future Council meeting to bring this absurd legislation to light. The success of revoking the bicycle licensing program in L.A. sets a great precedent for scraping it in Santa Monica. My hunch is this law, started in the 70's and last updated in 1995, is probably completely off the radar of most city officials. Antiquated laws sitting around on the books are nothing new, for example Santa Monica's legislation concerning safe operating speeds for mounted horses and other animals. However horseback riding in Santa Monica is something I have never seen, while bicycle travel is thriving component of transportation here. As such, the laws concerning bicycle travel should be up to date, fair, and reasonable. The fact that thousands of people are regularly in violation of the law simply by riding a bicycle in Santa Monica without an official sticker is not an acceptable situation.


Update:
Alex Thompson has added his 2 cents to the matter, and also uncovered an additional C.V.C. that specifies that local bicycle licensing requirements to ride are to apply to residents, however the Santa Monica law is written to apply to everyone. Also handy he includes the appropriate city e-mail addresses if you want to let the city know how you feel about this law.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back To Regular Programming

After a long season of racing road bikes with relatively fruitless results in the standings, but considerable progress in experience and fitness, I want to get back to the occasional blog post. Things are still pretty busy and chaotic for me, but at least I am not getting up at 5:30 am every day for training rides for the time being. I did manage to bang my self up pretty good recently on an off-road ride with a bunch of cyclocross racers, but I'm relatively alright considering and no bones were broken. I couldn't ride for several days and could barely do anything with my right arm, but this guy Lance showed up to do a training ride in L.A. and I just had to get back on the bike.

I have plenty more things to write about, but in the meantime, the LADOT has unleashed the official update of the Los Angeles Bicycle Plan (they dropped the word "Master" from plan) and there is a lot to mull over. My first impressions looking at the map are underwhelming, and Westside BikeSide! and Bike Girl have kicked off the discussion. Expect to hear more reactions to the document featuring the new government bicycle planning buzzword "unfeasible" in the days and weeks ahead. Coming to a public meeting probably not near you if you live on the East side of things and on too short of notice for Neighborhood Councils to participate in the process.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Where is Gary?

I've had tons of material I'd love to write about, and quite a few nearly finished posts, but spare time has been very thin. Increasing demands of my day job working on the video game God of War 3, the closing of the cycling race season and all my training hours, finding time for some anemically thin resemblance of a social life, photography projects, among other things (like watching the Tour De France) has meant taking a break from the blogging.

When I get back to the keyboard, I intend to return refreshed and with a new focus. Perhaps spend some zen time perched over the city after riding up to the peak above the Hollywood sign once more. In the meantime I hope everyone is enjoying their riding, and remember no matter how much cycling news in L.A. can suck sometimes, at least you are not living in Florida. I happened to catch in Bicycling magazine this month that Florida has more cycling deaths per year than California despite having half the population size. In fact there was even one or two stories with some good news for cyclists in L.A. recently. My jaw almost fell off with shock. An L.A. river bike path extension breaks ground, sharrows finally land in L.A. Country thanks to Long Beach, and Metro considers improving transit/cycling connectivity and removing the rush hour ban of bicycles on trains. Apparently the LADOT has also done something right, could the universe be turning inside out? I hope we can continue this momentum.

Southern California has some of the most beautiful weather for cycling on the planet, go enjoy it and if any one honks at you, smile ,wave and just keep on rolling. I'm going to take a cue from BikingInLA and try not flipping off anyone for a while, though he recently broke his bird flipping sobriety. However I will not object to my tandem partner expressing her frustration with motorists if she chooses too and the situation warrants it...

The Tandem

Monday, June 15, 2009

LA City Council Transportation Committee With Bikes On The Agenda

Passing along an action alert from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Big ticket cycling items on the City Council agenda this Wednesday including the LA Bicycle Master Plan, or rather lack of a plan. Anyone who can make it to City Hall for this is strongly encouraged to come voice concerns or even just fill seats to the show power of cyclists as a constituency. The more bodies that keep showing up to these things, the harder it is for the city to ignore us. LACBC message after the innocuous line of separation.




Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Join Us! LA City Big Bike Meeting
To all LACBC members and supporters: We need you!

WHAT: LA City Council Transportation Committee will be having a meeting dedicated to bicycle issues

WHEN: Wednesday, June 17th, 8am. Arrive at 7:45am.

WHERE: LA City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Room 1050

The three most important issues are:

1) LA BIKE PLAN- make some specific public comments about the Bike Plan. Go to www.labikeplan.org for more info

2) LAPD report related to the incidents between motorists and cyclists (related to the incident where the Hummer ran over cyclists)

3) LA Bike License Revival- make public comments to oppose this ineffective and unnecessary proposal

Other items are listed here: http://la.streetsblog.org/2009/06/12/early-wednesday-morning-transportation-committee-has-full-bike-agenda/

Show up at 7:45am to ensure that you get to make public comments. Even if you can talk about your experience as a cyclist, the more diverse and united voices the better. Even if you just want to check it out, please come!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LADOT Set To Legalize Pedicab Service, But With An Absurd Abundance Of Bureaucratic Strings Attached.

(New York City pedicab)

Pedicab service could be coming to Downtown Los Angeles, something many other cities have done with great success in dense downtown regions. Attempts to start pedicabs failed in the past due to lack of regulation, but renewed interest in pedicabs stems from efforts to revitalize downtown. Sounds great, but leave it to the LADOT to taint anything it touches with a clueless detachment from reality and an extra helping of bureaucratic disaster the likes of which Terry Gilliam could barely fathom. Eric Richardson broke the news on Blog Downtown, and I read through the document outlining the LADOT proposed pedicab rules and restrictions, which drones on for 16 pages.


(A look at the inner workings of the LADOT)

The biggest kickers in this document are that both driver and passengers would not only be required to wear helmets in addition to a seat belt, but the driver could be fined $500 dollars for carrying a passenger without a helmet or seat belt for a first time offense. Second offense and it escalates to a $1000 fine. An SUV driver caught speeding while texting on a cell phone, a scenario that is a vehicular manslaughter waiting to happen, would likely get off with less penalty.

No where is there pedicab service with mandatory helmet requirements, including fellow American cities like Austin, New York, and our neighboring San Diego. The other stand out example of bureaucracy gone absolutely amok is the restrictions on pedicab driver dress code. These rules mandate black shoes (no-sandals), collared shirts with sleeves and a belt. Violating the "Failure to present a neat personal appearance" mandate, results in a $25 dollar fine and immediate removal from service. For more details read the Blog Downtown post, and for the real specifics, check out the LADOT document if you can stand to do so without gauging your eyes out.

Looking over this document the only conclusion I can come to is that the LADOT would like pedicab service to become legal again so they can say they tried, but really they would like it to fail so as to not disturb the status quo. I imagine some exuberant entrepreneur setting out to start a pedicab business and being run into the ground by tickets in a matter of days. Your tax dollars hard at work with the LADOT, Moving LA Forward. Hopefully some of the red tape can be cut before this becomes policy, but this is LA, so I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Team Midnight Ridazz, Back In L.A. Tommorow After Riding 545 Miles From S.F.

Los Angeleopes Welcoming Party Arrives
(Los Angelopes arrives to greet the team last year. The mass confusion of cyclists rolling in that were not part of AIDS LifeCycle riding all sorts of freak bikes, lots of hugging and screaming, and confused ALC staff, was priceless.)

As long time readers will recall I headed up the effort to have a Midnight Ridazz team at AIDS LifeCycle last year. It was an epic experience, from the training and planning, to the tons of fund raising and of course the eventual week long ride. We raised over $56,000 last year, and this year with even more riders, and a higher fund raising minimum to ride, this years team has raised over $81,000 in the fight against AIDS. They've been out there all week riding bikes for an average of 80 miles every day, and they return to L.A. tomorrow. If you want to join the welcoming committee, they will be arriving at the V.A. Center in Westwood tomorrow afternoon, and two Midnight Ridazz rides will be converging there, Los Angelopes, and a group meeting at the Bicycle District. Details about the closing ceremony are located here. I'm excited to see everyone come in and hear the stories of how their ride went and which muscles hurt.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
VA Center
11301 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025 [map]

Ceremony Starts At 4, but riders arrive by 3 or earlier if you want to catch roll ins.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gray Days, The Best Time To Ride In Santa Monica

Santa Monica

This weekend was a great time to ride a bike. The overcast, foggy, somewhat chilly and mucky weather along the coast meant most of the aggro beach rush drivers that typically turn all of Santa Monica west of Lincoln into a parking lot for bikes to dodge and maze their way through, stayed at home. Ironically the great weather in Santa Monica is noted as one of the things that makes it an ideal place for cycling, but give me cloudy skies any day if it keeps the aggro drivers away.

Meghan and I rode our tandem around again this weekend, this time for food and shopping. It was remarkable how much more relaxing and chill it was to ride compared to our last experience. No honking, no yelling, no near misses or close calls, just smooth sailing and fun times on our comfy all steel ride with spring loaded seats. On the other end of the spectrum, since I both appreciate the joys of cruising around leisurely, and physical intensity, I also went out for some hill training this weekend. It felt good to be hammering up in the mountain roads again, especially after a forced break due to illness. If you're fast and looking for some good hurt in your legs, the LaGrange Nichols Canyon ride, which I did for the first time this weekend, is one of the most intense club rides around.

Frequently beautiful sunny days are certainly one of the draws to living in Santa Monica, but if you learn to appreciate the serenity that comes with gray, you may find it's a more enjoyable time to ride.

Friday, May 29, 2009

T-Rex Spotted In The Bike Lane On Broadway

T-Rex

A few nights ago I saw something out of the corner of my eye I thought to be a fluke, just my eyes playing tricks on me. It was a gentlemen riding a bike on the opposite side of the street in the bike lane with a birdcage on his rear rack with what appeared to be a small dinosaur inside. Then today after work on my evening commute, around the same time and place, I saw the man roll by again. I looked closer this time, confirming that indeed inside the birdcage on the back of his bike, is a tyrannosaurus rex figure. Why this t-rex rides shotgun on the bike I do not know, but what I do know, is that dinosaurs are awesome. So keep your eyes open and head up when you ride, besides spotting swinging car doors and unsignaled lane changes, you might just see something unique roaming around out there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ride To Santa Monica's Bronze Awarding For "Bicycle Friendliness", This Friday

Faded Bike Lane Text

As I've already made pretty clear in my posts since the announcement that Santa Monica had earned a bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists, I do not believe the city deserves the distinction. However, since it is getting this shiny prize, I would like to be in attendance. If for no other reason, the off chance of getting to talk to city officials about cycling outside the confines of a 2 minute monologue. Or at the very least a chance to rant with other like minded bicycle activist types while politicians pontificate about how awesome they are.

The ride to this little ceremony at City Hall is being put on by the LACBC as part of their Car Free Fridays, and Santa Monica Spoke, a group that has been brewing over the past couple weeks with the intent of becoming a local chapter of the LACBC. Although my general busyness with my real job and being sick lately has gotten in the way of being more directly involved so far, I'm in this new group and will be following it's development. Some cross posting between here and the Santa Monica Spoke blog is likely in the near future.

The ride meets tomorrow, Friday morning, at 8:00am on Pearl St. by the Santa Monica Community College library, across from Sustainable Works, and leaves at 8:10am. Apparently it's leaving at 8:10 sharp, so don't presume this is rolling on bike time. Hope to see you there, and maybe with some nudging and pressure from us in the months and years ahead, Santa Monica may one day actually be worthy of recognition for it's commitment to cycling.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Santa Monica, Home Of Beach Day Traffic Disasters And Near Death Experiences Riding To The Video Store.

Pier Pigeons
(Typical traffic conditions at Downtown Santa Monica intersections)

Meghan and I decided to ride our tandem over to the local video store extraordinaire, Vidiots, to pick up a couple movies for a double feature. Vidiots by the way has a pending issue with the city over their famous window paintings that change seasonally and are full of movie references. They violate some obscure window painting signage law on the books about percentage of window space that is painted, though they have been a landmark here for over a decade. Typical bureaucratic morasses, but if you would like to voice your ire over this, they have a petition in the store.

We decided to take Broadway to Ocean to Pico to be in bike lanes and bus lanes for the majority of the ride. This should have been a relatively uneventful trip, but on a popular beach day sort of weekend, which will increasingly become almost every weekend, it can become a minefield of close encounters of the automobile kind. The better the weather for cycling, the worse the drivers, which makes cycling much more stressful precisely when it should be more pleasant. Ironically if more people rode bikes to the beach and downtown Santa Monica, than we wouldn't have so much traffic, but since so many do drive, and drive like such god damned maniacs, it discourages cycling. It doesn't help that the all the bike lanes dead end as soon as you hit downtown. There are the bus lanes which cyclists are allowed to ride in, but anyone who has seen a busy day in downtown Santa Monica knows that bus lanes are really right turn lanes for motorists and through way lanes for swerving taxis and clueless tourists.

It is not uncommon on busy days Downtown for intersection rules to become optional, and rights of way to become fuzzy guidelines. Motorists stranded in the intersection blocking oncoming traffic and trying to nudge their way through stuffed pedestrian crossings is a common sight. As we approached Ocean, a city worker in a City Of Santa Monica stamped pick up truck decided he was above the rules of the road and skipped out of the backed up Eastbound traffic on Broadway and crossed the double yellow lines to drive the wrong way, barreling right toward us as we moved into the left lane for our turn. We shouted at the driver as I steered us a safe distance away, and he scowled at us and seemed aghast that we dare question his "right" to drive on the wrong side of the road for a short cut. The City of Santa Monica, always setting the example for traffic carnage.

We finally get to Vidiots after some sketchy conditions on Ocean as drivers cut us off to make right turns without signaling and some temporarily parked vehicles in the bike lane. After we picked up our movies we used the nearby pedestrian crossing to get to the other side of Pico, walking the tandem, as this is the easiest way to get going back the other way. Meghan hit the flashing pedestrian button as an extra precaution. As an extra extra precaution when I walk a bike through a crossing I always put the bike on the side facing oncoming traffic as an extra shield. In the case of our monstrous steel tank of a tandem, I couldn't think of a better shield.

Well sure enough some ass hole on a cell phone comes barreling down Pico and slams the brakes just short of a foot from the bike I was about to throw into his car if he went an inch closer. Just as the first driver came to a stop an irate women behind him drove swerving around him, again using the wrong way traffic lane as a shortcut, only to realize she had to stop too because we were trying to use the damn crosswalk. This of course left her stopped on the wrong side of the road. Meghan had already started yelling at the first driver, who sheepishly tried to hide his cell phone when he realized he had been caught red handed. At the end of my fuse for the day I flipped off both of the drivers and was just short of pulling my u-lock. We often talk of cycling rights, but pedestrian rights are just as important and just as violated. Meghan was really jittery, worrying that I could have been hit.

We took Main St. cutting across using the new bike lane by City Hall to skip the carnage on Ocean on our way back to Broadway. The ride back was less eventful, but we were both quite on edge, and quite frankly pissed off at the total disregard for human life that was far too frequent for a simple ride to the video store. A stop at the Co-Op for some snacks calmed our nerves, and we decided to walk the bike home from there instead of ride. Santa Monica does not deserve the Bronze award from the League Of American Bicyclists, and the LAB has lost a lot of creditability in my eyes for how casually they pass these awards around. If they spent some time riding these streets instead of reading what looks nice on paper, they would realize what a farce it is to be awarding Santa Monica.

Santa Monica at this point may be doing a better job than most places in Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is absolutely terrible, so that's not a real basis for comparison. Right now in Santa Monica there is a half-assed commitment to support cycling, until the whole ass is committed, no more shiny awards. Until the city devotes half as many resources as it does to harassing critical mass as it does to ticketing maniac drivers who routinely endanger the lives of cyclists and pedestrians, not to mention other drivers, no more shiny awards. Until an experienced road bike racer with impeccable bike handling skills can feel safe riding in the city, let alone a normal person, no more shinny awards. Until city employees respect the rules of the road, instead of driving like they are the sole owners of the pavement, no more shinny awards.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Class III Bike Routes, A Perfect Example Of Government Patting It Self On The Back For Acomplishing Nothing


Routing is everything when it comes to having a good bike ride, whether that be for leisure, to test the limits of your body, or just trying to get to work in one piece. However, when you start looking for routing information for cycling in L.A., you run into this idea of bicycle route classification. Class I bike routes are things like the Beach Path, or Ballona Creek, completely segregated from automobile use. Class II routes are roads which feature bike lanes (although unfortunately almost always in the door zone). Class III routes are where things get really gray and mushy despite their inviting green color on the Metro and Santa Monica bike maps.

Class III bicycle routes are essentially a road which meets one or more of a few conditions, and has periodically a posted "Share The Road" sign. Usually these routes are through way roads that cut through low traffic residential areas. A road like that makes sense to ride on, a more chill low key pace (usually), and traffic should be light enough drivers can go around safely even if the road is fairly narrow. One such road I ride frequently is 17th north of Wilshire, where it goes from being a class II route with a bike lane to a class III bike route with no bike lane, but though mild paced residential. However, some major boulevards get the distinction of being a bicycle route if they feature lanes which are wide and or a wide shoulder, and of course the little "Share The Road" signs no one notices. The problem here is that several of these major boulevards which are Class III bike routes, are some of the worst roads to ride a bicycle on in all of Los Angeles.

A street with which I have an unfortunately long history of riding, due to it's proximity to where I went to College, is Lincoln Boulevard, a class III bike route. Talk to anyone about riding a bike on Lincoln, and you won't find a single one who enjoys the experience. The drivers are aggro, the wide lanes which in theory make sharing space easier, entice drivers to speed, making close calls a lot more scary, the shoulders are tore the F up, and there are frequent buses. When traffic is backed up, as it often is, the lanes are wide enough to split lanes easily, but you constantly have to watch for unsignaled lane changes and people scooting up along the shoulder to cut around when parked cars are not present. As of this writing, one particular pot hole on the northbound right lane in Marina Del Rey is so wide it takes up more then half the right lane, and is certainly deep enough to wreck some carnage on road bike tires. Sprinkle some broken glass and miscellaneous garbage that settles in the cracked surfaces for good measure.

That is Lincoln Blvd. in a nutshell, I could go on, but you get the idea, and if you've spent much time riding lengths of it you know what I am talking about. One of the problems with accepting this is that are some class III routes which are pleasant to ride, but they all get that same seemingly friendly green line on the bike map as a monstrosity like Lincoln. When the standards for what a class III bike route is varies from chill ride to death traps of every hazard imaginable, the standard is rendered meaningless. A map of bike routes in a city should be something anyone can pick up, from the experienced local, to the clueless tourist, and figure out a decent way to get around.

Another problem with accepting the status of Class III bike routes as they are now, is that it gives city government a number they can point to and ensure everyone, yup they are doing a good job. The city can say we have X number of bike routes and Y numbers bike route miles, and smile and make everything sound swell. The truth is these numbers are padded beyond belief with junk miles, of roads no cyclist would choose to ride unless there were no alternative, or they are hardened by years of road riding and used to abusive conditions. Lincoln Boulevard, Sepulveda, and Olympic, are all epic long roads which are class III bike routes for much of their length, and they all suck terribly for bike riding.

The City of Santa Monica was recently awarded a bronze rating for bicycle friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. While I view Santa Monica as more cycling friendly then just about any other city in LA county, when you look at it from a national level, and especially international level, Santa Monica is hardly up to snuff despite it's "green" image. I give Santa Monica a copper rating for bicycle friendlessness, and the City of L.A. an unrefined piece of rock rating. So how does the League Of American Bicyclists come up with their ratings? Well one of the significant factors is mileage of bicycle routes, and guess what, Lincoln Blvd., which cuts through Santa Monica, pads this number. Lincoln Blvd. should not be allowed to count toward the friendliness of anything, let alone "bicycle friendliness" until such time that it goes through a complete overhaul of road engineering and urban planning.

So maybe before anyone gets too excited by this bronze award, and all the supposed routes for cycling in Santa Monica and LA County, we should take a step back and realize that some bike routes as they exist today are less than worthless when it comes to accommodating cycling. This loose idea of what a cycling route is, also detracts from the bike routes which actually are pleasant to ride, because one cannot always trust the lines on the map. Perhaps if city officials actually rode bikes along some of these streets they might have thought twice about drawing so many green lines.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike To Work Day. Meh.

I posted that photo of a closed bike lane earlier to announce bike to work week primarily as a joke. However in my pursuit of free crap this morning before work, I encountered 2 different places where the Broadway bike lane was in fact closed with signage. The first time was for genuine construction work adjacent the bike lane. However as I approached downtown Santa Monica, the bike lane was blocked all the way across with cones and a sign to announce construction a block and a half away in the right turn lane. It's one of my pet peeves when the bike lane becomes a convenient place to stick signs for things that don't actually block the bike lane.

Already the vibe was bad. But then the kicker was I got to REI too late, apparently they close up Bike to Work promotions right at 9:00, so no dice for any of the many entertainment industry people who start at 10:00ish. So I went even further out of my way to the Santa Monica City Hall pit stop. When I arrived I was informed all the goodie bags were gone, and all that was left was some candy, granola bars, and some baked goods that were surely not vegan (I'm vegan by the way for readers who don't know). So I grabbed a granola bar and went on my way, bitter that I didn't get a blinkie light and bike to work tote bag, and had wasted enough time I was now in a hurry to get to work.

Then I got to work and read the label on the granola bar and realized it contained milk, so I dropped it in the work snack bin for someone else. In a way it shouldn't matter that much that Bike to Work Day was nothing special for me, I don't need an incentive to bike to work, I would do that anyways. However it appeared bike racks at work were no more full than yesterday or last week either, so it seems a poor incentive for anyone else to give it a try either.

We do have a lot of bike commuters here though, and what really got people to try it was a cash incentive for giving up a car parking space at work. So if Metro and the City of Los Angeles, and Santa Monica want to get people on bikes, maybe they should skip the free granola bars and get serious about promoting the seldom practiced, unenforced, California Parking Cash-Out law. Getting a cash incentive program started at my workplace quickly expanded the ranks of bike commuters. The reduction in parking demand has also allowed our company to hire on more staff without having to lease as many extra spaces from neighboring lots as would have otherwise been necessary, an expensive commodity in these parts.

Maybe next year instead of going for a goodie bag, I'll set up my own booth on Broadway. I could hand out fliers with the sort of practical cycling advice that could save one's skin, but that you won't hear from city official types who haven't ridden a bike since they were in middle school in the 70's. I think if we leave bike to work day promotions in the hands of Metro and the cities, it will continue to amount to little, but perhaps if we claim the day as our own and make it something worth celebrating, people might take a little more notice. In any case, I hope your bike to work day went better than mine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Love To Ride

Santa Monica Beach

As much as I gripe and get jaded at times about the politics surrounding cycling and transportation issues, I really do just love to ride my bike, and don't want to lose sight of that. I always bike to work, but less often mentioned is I often ride during my lunch break too, usually just for the fun. I rode down to the pier today on my track bike and just walked around a bit and did some people watching, before pedaling back to work and am now typing this as I eat some veggie stir fry I prepared this morning. It's a beautiful day to ride bike in Santa Monica.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Bike To Work Week

Bike Lane Closed, Sepulveda North

Yes it is that time of year again, Bike To Work Week. That special time when the political forces of Los Angeles, sponsored primarily by Metro, pretend to be supportive of cycling for 5 days, after which they go back to doing 360 days of nothing. I'm biking to work all this week, much like I do every week, apart from the occasional in-line skating to work. On bike to work day, Thursday, if you are a Santa Monician, be sure to grab a bag of free crap at the SM City Hall and or REI. Nothing says support for cycling like bags of free crap and maps that show you how poorly Los Angeles is connected by safe cycling routes (especially when you subtract the Class III routes which are death traps like Lincoln Blvd). I do like the free blinkie lights though, they help increase my visibility along all the crap roads we have. I'm feeling pretty jaded lately.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pics Or It Didn't Happen, Photo Show, AIDS LifeCycle Fundraiser, With Doomies Vegan Catering

Team Giant Condom Ridazz
(Hey look, it's a few of us from last year hanging out
with a giant condom and I'm sporting a beard)


I can't believe so much time has passed, but AIDS LifeCycle, the epic 545 mile, 7 day charity ride from San Fransico to Los Angeles is quickly approaching. I'm not doing the ride again this year, but the Team Midnight Ridazz which we started last year is still going strong with some familiar, and many new faces. It takes a lot of dedication to do this ride, and I hope you'll show them support by contributing what ever you can, every bit counts, and never underestimate the power of 5 bucks when enough people pitch in. The combination of higher fund raising requirement, $3,000 per rider, and a down economy, has made raising money a greater challenge for some than the physical conditioning required.

There is still time left though, and one of the most successful events we had last year, a photography show at the Bike Oven, is happening again this weekend, and it looks like they are trying to out do themselves. I'll have a few photos from last years ride in the show, but I'm anxious to see what the other artists are contributing. This really brought together a lot of folks from the bicycle community last year, and I'm sure it will attract even more people this year thanks to a special guest. In a brilliant move they got Doomies, the currently without a permanent location vegan comfort food establishment, one that many vegan food critiques raved about, to do the catering. Yes that is right, vegan comfort food, it's not that healthy, but it is damn tasty.

Pics Or It Didn't Happen, Images from the LA BIKE SCENE
Saturday, May 9, 2009
7:30pm - 11:30pm
The Bike Oven / Flying Pigeon L.A.
3706-3714 N. Figueroa
Los Angeles, CA

So come check out some photography, chat with the riders, buy some food, buy some art if you like, get a I Bike LA t-shirt, or just hug someone, spread the love.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fighting Mandated Speed Limit Increases, A.B. 766, Safe Streets Legislation

speed kills
(From Think U.K. Ad Campaign)

Some of you may or may not be aware that many streets through out California, ones with radar monitoring, have their speed limits periodically set by an 85th percentile standard, something bike activist and Bike Writers Collective ring leader Stephen Box has made a crusade of fighting. This means that if 85 percent of drivers during a periodic mandatory test window are speeding, than we bump the speed limit up, with no other concerns factored, and no input from the community. Pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, doesn't matter, if 85% of drivers want to drive faster than speed limit goes up.

Of course the speeding is presumed to be a fault of a speed limit set too low, rather then a fault of lack of law enforcement, light signaling or other design issues. I liken this logic to a convenience store that puts candy bars front and center and decides to let stealing candy bars slide even though he knows it is happening. Then when 85% of customers are now stealing candy bars with their other purchases, candy bars are then made free. Except no one dies from stealing candy bars, but speeding is a significant factor in many of the 40,000 annual American deaths by automobile in most years. Speed kills, and yet many roads that cut through heavily residential areas are being slated to be made faster, making illegally fast the new legal. Do you want to ride in a bike lane on a road where right next to you cars can legally go 50 mph? That is already happening in at least one case in the Valley.

However this whole system of logic can be put in check by greater community control over the roads that pass through them, if Paul Krekorian’s AB766 “Safe Streets” bill passes. This law would specifically counter act the automatic raising of speed limits, and give the communities effected a voice and power to define speed limits, instead of letting those passing through to have all the voting power with their gas pedal.

The Boxes, Stephen and Enci Box, are traveling to Sacramento to voice their support for this legislation, and bringing with them letters of support from the community. If you write your concerns about speeding automobiles and support for this bill to SafeStreets@BikeWritersCollective.com, you can add your voice to the chorus.

For more info check out Stephen's page about this whole ordeal, which includes background on this legislation and the speed increase issue with a newsletter sign up. Streetsblog LA also has a write up on the growing support for the bill, which includes the City Council and Mayor of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Inspiration

hemingwayOnBikes
(Art by Wil Freeborn)

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
-Ernest Hemingway

Hummer Incident Update; Council Meeting

I was unable to make it to the L.A. City Council meeting where cyclists brought up their concerns on the renegade hummer incident, but many did, and made their voices and our interests heard. My thanks to all those who could make it out there, if we keep being a thorn in the side of the city, they are going to learn they can't get away with ignoring us. For complete coverage, check out Streetsblog L.A., the go to source for alternative transportation reporting in Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Storm The Bastille To Voice Ire Over Hummer Incident

For those of you who were outraged over the Hummer incident, in which a motorist and cyclist collided and the driver plowed through a group of the cyclist's friends who had attempted to keep everyone at the scene until police arrived, and in the process smashed bikes fleeing the scene, but was caught by the LAPD only to be let go with no charges or citations, now is your chance to do something about it. Storm the Bastille is going to amass cyclists and collectively voice their grievances over this incident, and the general lack of concern the LAPD continues to show in defending cyclists from homicidal motorists. For another update on this story, including a bizarre quote of the offending police officer comparing gun threats to lightsabers, check out Westside Bikeside's follow up.


This is not a unique problem to Los Angeles, police departments across the country routinely show bias in favor or motorists and against cyclists, often regardless of circumstance. This gets exacerbated in public perception of cycling by media reports that often slant even further bias on top of already biased police reports. Reading the book Bicycling And the Law, and following the blogs of various lawyers who have represented both cyclists and motorists revealed to me just how wide spread this problem is.

So if you can get off work, have flexible hours, are a student, or are part of the states growing unemployment numbers, get out there and make some noise tomorrow morning. If you can't make it, write your council person and let them know we won't stand for this, but do try to keep it civil.



Storm the Bastille

Red Line Station
Santa Monica Blvd & Vermont Ave
8:20am
Take the train to NoHo Red Line Station and then ride to

Van Nuys City Hall (L.A. City Council meets here tommorow)
14410 Sylvan St.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Joined That Bird Thing. Twitter.

When I think of twitter, like most any social networking services I think of bloated overloads of mostly useless data, much like the girth of pigeons at the Santa Monica Pier. I know a lot of bloggers use twitter, but I have been skeptical of it. And I rather dislike when I see people at all times of the day on their smart phones typing inane details ad nauseum, of course especially when driving, which can be deadly. I thought I would give twitter a chance though, and I do like that if nothing else, it is by design far more simplistic than the Facebook monster, and MySpace beast, both of which I have stopped looking at all together for the most part. Since I do not have a data plan on my phone, or even text messaging, I feel safe that I will not turn compulsive with it, and would like to keep it focused. If I do not "follow" you, please do not be offended, I want to keep this thing simple unlike my 500 whatever number it is friends on Facebook.

Mainly I want to use it to save time in a way. In the past if something small bothered me, like hey that motorist who cut me off on Broadways really sucks, I might have felt compelled to write a small essay with relevant photos. Now I will use twitter to jot down little things that spring up that I think are relevant to share, and save blog posts for larger ideas or posts where images and detail are more important. We'll see how it goes.

If you like my blog, and want to read my "tweets" too, here is my twitter page where you can read the single cell organism version of my thoughts. For RSS junkies (I know I am) here is the rss feed of my tweets.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My First Catagory 4 Race, Dana Point Grand Prix, A Race Of Dodging Crashes

I was under the impression a move up from the entry racing level Cat 5 to Cat 4 would mean things would get a little faster, but would also be a little safer with less rookie mistakes like poor cornering and unintentional wheel clipping. Well at the Dana Point Grand Prix on Sunday, with a monstrous field size of 130, (Cat 4 is usually a max field size of 75 or 100 for criteriums), and a course with several tight corners, the Cat 4 race turned into a carnage fest. For comparison, the Cat 5 racing at Dana Point was broken into 2 fields of 50.

There were 5! crashes in my race, several of which took down an entire pile of riders. Most of them I witnessed in front of me and had to avoid. One rider rolled the tire off his rim directly in front of me through a corner and wobbled before going down hard. I slammed my brakes and skidded my rear tire briefly, pulling a sharp corner and than accelerating out of the way with my knees poised to hop over the sliding bike on the ground if I had to. Meghan and my friend Eric (who took 5th in Cat 5 field A) were spectating from this corner, and I could sense Meghan's horror at the prospect that I could have gone down too, and the relief that she must have felt as I sped off unscathed. Not long after this I saw a rider take a turn too wide and plow into haystacks at the course edge and riders behind tripped over him creating a big pile up.

3478477911_f3907c3ea7
(An OC sheriff course marshell clocking speeding riders with radar gun, Photo By flickr User twowheelthuc)

Moving up through the pack was extremely difficult with the huge field riding wide and fast, and I took a lot of caution through the turns that were proving to be life threatening. The average pace of the race was humming over 25 mph, and speeds over 30 in some of the longer straights. Most of my field advancement came not through speed or power, but bike handling skills and caution as I managed to avoid every crash and speed up to take advantage of the break ups in the field. In the end, I avoided one last serious crash pile up on the final lap, as a rider careened into the haystacks on the last corner on the outside, while I took the turn on the inside. I pushed on to the finish for 26th place in a field of 130, a field which must surely have been nearly cut in half by the end from riders crashed out or dropped out.

3478542967_75306bb6c7
(Pro Mens Race, Photo By flickr User twowheelthuc)

Apart from the disaster of more near crash experiences in a single race than all my 10 previous races combined, it was a fun day, and we hung around to see the full day of racing. This included a Pro NRC (National Race Calender) race of Womans 1/2 and Mens Pro 1. Full details of these races, won by Rahsaan Bahati of Rock Racing for the men in an explosive drag race field sprint, and Nikki Butterfield of Webcor Builders for the women, can be read over at Velonews. Other note worthy details; Floyd Landis raced in the main event with his Team OUCH, champion mountain bike downhill rider Brian Lopes had a fairly anticlimactic display of daring as he jumped off a cliff (more like a grassy knoll in the adjacent park), there was an In-N-Out truck (sadly no fries), and lots of booths and general activity including a half pipe with some young skate boarders, bmx riders, in-line skaters, and most awkwardly, some razor scooterers.

I'm just glad I am feeling fine today instead of treating flesh wounds. Future note to self, and any other new racers, perhaps it is best to steer clear of Cat 4 crits on short courses with tight streets if the field size is in excess of 100, it's bad news. Broken bones and mangled bicycle components are not worth the rewards at this level.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Breaking News: More Tales Of Gross Injustice By The Police After A Hummer Driver Attacks A Group Of Cyclists. Officer Let's Driver Go.

The forum thread on this topic has gone flying with comments and is hard to follow, but apparently a group of about a dozen cyclists were riding together in Downtown L.A. when a hummer hit a cyclist causing ankle injuries. Others of the group got in front of the vehicle to prevent the driver from getting away, but he plows through anyways smashing several bikes as the riders scatter to avoid being hit. Officer Cho of the LAPD catches the vehicle and the occupants all flee on foot but the driver is wrangled in. However Officer Cho takes the motorists side of the story wholly and sympathizes saying later "If it had been me with my family in that car, I’d have done the same thing, and I carry a gun in my car." The driver of the vehicle is let go with no citations, despite a carnage of wrecked bikes in his path.


This is gross injustice and we should not stand for this. Our safety depends on officers to enforce the law, not let maniacs roam the streets looking for groups of cyclists to smash for their twisted idea of a fun time. Apparently the occupants of the vehicle who later returned alluded to gang connections by telling the cyclists if they talked to the cops they would return "60 crips deep".

More complete coverage on WestSide BikeSide and details continue to emerge on the Midnight Ridazz thread. With stories like this, and a recent story of road cyclists in Ohio being tasered by an officer simply for riding on the road, after being told to get off of it, a not legally justified request made by the officer since they had a right to the road, is it any wonder cyclist and police relations are poor at best and out right seething at worst.

I hope this driver is brought to justice, and the officer demoted, fired, or at the very least reprimanded. It sounds like Los Angeles Critical Mass is going to make some noise at City Hall after stopping at the new ghost bike for a cyclist fatally wounded in Echo Park recently. Cycling activist super hero Stephen Box is also on this issue like peanutbutter on jelly, which make me feel better that something is being done about this. It's getting crazy out there, ride safe, maybe with some legal advice handy and hopefully around witnesses..

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Safe Cycling Tips: Why Santa Monica Bike Lanes Kind Of Suck And How To Ride In Them Safely Anyways

Bike Lane In Gary Vision

Many cyclists, especially ones with less "hardened" experience on the road, often assume that if there is a bike lane, like a driver in a car lane you should ride down the middle of them. Usually the arrow on the ground follows this assumption. However most bike lanes in Los Angeles, and Santa Monica is no exception, place bike lanes with a majority or even the entirety of the bike lane, directly inside what is commonly known as the door zone. This creates the illusion of providing ample space for cyclists, however at any time a latte sipping crack berry typing motorist can swing their door open with out looking, and completely shatter that illusion of space and possibly shatter parts of you if are unable to respond in time.

Car door collisions are a common source of fatalities and serious injury for cyclists. Door impacts come by surprise making them hard to avoid if you are deep within the door zone, and although they lack as much impact as being hit by a moving car, in a worst case scenario being doored can push or knock a cyclist into the path of oncoming traffic that is not expecting a flying cyclist to fall in front of them, which is where the real serious injuries, and worse, occur. In addition to the door problem, you also have to keep an eye out for the sudden dart out without signaling when motorists leave parking spaces, although these are easier to spot. Tell tale clues of a driver about to leave a parking space are brake lights, reverse lights, and the turning of the front wheels, or gasp, they might actually flip the knob so the blinky light can warn others of their intentions, but that is too hard for most people so don't count on it.

In both door hazard and pulling out situations, an important clue mentioned in the comments which I also do my self (and am now retroactively inserting into the post using magic blog powers) is too look for heads through the windows. Although it can be tough to spot in long lines of cars, especially at night and of course vehicles with tinted windows obscure if anyone is inside. I hate tinted windows, even when I was a driver who only occasionaly rode a bike, but that is another rant...



Also be aware of motorists getting ahead of you and then cutting you off from the right, to park or to enter a driveway, known as a "right hook", since no one, I doubt even most police officers are aware of California Vehicle Code 21717, which specifies that automobiles are to merge into a bike lane before turning right, and NOT cut across the bike lane causing an unsuspecting cyclist to t-bone into the car if they are not given enough time to brake or avoid. This is how I got in my first and only accident with an automobile, luckily walking away with only a sprained thumb.

Most conflicts with motorists can be avoided while riding in the bike lane, if you assume the bike lane is actually only a few inches wide and at the far left side just before the normal lane of traffic. You may worry that being that close to the left side might get you hit from behind, but collisions from cars approaching from behind in the same direction are one of the most rare of bike collisions, and tend to be less serious since your momentum is traveling in the same direction. Also motorists can more easily see you riding in that position. In a few cases of exceptionally bad road engineering, where the entire bike lane is inside the door zone of even a compact car, the safest place to ride may actually by outside the bike lane all together.

By law you are obligated to ride in a bike lane where one is provided, but with exceptions for; leaving to make a left turn, avoiding a hazard in the bike lane, or passing another cyclist. To me a car door, even if it is not open at the moment, is a hazard in the bike lane because you can't always anticipate when it will open, and you should never assume a motorist is paying attention to what they are doing. On roads without bike lanes, motorists usually take more caution when opening a car door, because another car could fly by and smash their door, or a bus driver may rip it clean off, something some bus drivers call "catching a door". However since bike lanes tend to be lighter traveled, and the travelers in the bike lane are also lighter, and more squishy, motorists are more likely to not think twice before blindly opening their door since their self preservation is not as threatened. I seriously doubt any malicious intent on the part of most drivers, except perhaps some radio talk show hosts, but ignorance can injure or even kill just the same. A group working to combat this ignorance through web promotion and stickers formed last year called Anti-Dooring, if you are interested in learning more about the issue.

Now before I let you think that I do not appreciate the bike lanes being there, even if they kind of suck, let me explain why I prefer to ride on bike lane routes despite the short comings. Streets with bike lanes usually feel safer to me, particularly in Santa Monica, and I attribute the primary reason for this is more to do with the fact that people use the bike lanes, than any engineering of the bike lane it self. By creating a space that clearly defines that cyclists belong on the road, more people are empowered to ride there, and cyclists who are already comfortable on the road may prefer to ride there. This creates a stream, albeit still small at this point, of cyclists on the same road. Studies have shown in cites around the world, the most influential factor in improved safety for cyclists is more cyclists, since it creates a culture of understanding where motorists become accustomed to bikes being there, and look for their presence. However this sense of safety should not make you complacent, since anyone visiting Santa Monica from somewhere else without regular cycling, or a careless local, could be sitting in that car ahead of you and swing that door.

Santa Monica has also done a few other things right that other areas in Los Angeles have not, to make their bike lanes safer. First of all most bike lane roads in Santa Monica are on streets with only one lane of traffic in both directions, which creates a less competitive and more evenly paced rate of travel for most automobile traffic on the roads. This is also makes it considerably easier for cyclists to get over to left turn lane. Second of all, with a few exceptions, nearly all the bike lanes and routes are not on streets with bus routes. Anyone who rides Sunset Blvd. through Echo Park and vicinity can tell you what a death trap it can be at times riding the bike lane along a road with heavy and frequent bus traffic. By having a bike lane on Broadway, and a Big Blue Bus route instead on Colorado one block over, you eliminate the problem of buses cutting across bike lanes to drop off passengers.

The bike lanes here aren't great, but they are better than nothing, which is unfortunately what most cyclists have to deal with in L.A.. Hopefully future bike lanes or any restriping of existing roads could nudge things a bit more in favor our safety, but if the new bike lane in front of city hall is any indication we will continue to see almost good bike lanes. Maybe someday we can get common sense legislation like Massachusetts has adopted recently to specifically target careless door opening with citations. In any case, ride safe out there, and see you in the bike lane.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Racing Update: Some Shots Of Me In Action, And I'm Cat 4 Now And Stuff

I've sort of been blundering my way through Category 5 (the entry level for men's road racing) with mixed results, so far not breaking lucky number 13th place, which I've gotten twice. I can tell I am getting stronger, but I still have a lot to learn about strategy and properly timing my efforts. I've been discovering what my stronger and weaker points are, and trying to get a little more serious in my training to balance my self out. My top end speed in a sprint is decently quick, but I can't hold it long enough yet to make a break if I go too early, and if I am too conservative I end up in a position with no clear path to blast off in the end. The fairly hilly road race this past weekend revealed I still have a lot of work to do on climbing.

It's all been fun though, and I enjoy pushing my self. I'll keep trying and hopefully I can get some top ten finishes this year, now upgraded as a Category 4 racer, where it actually starts to count for something. I think most people consider it a victory if you get out of Cat 5 without getting in any of the crashes it is known for, which I have been fortunate enough to avoid.

Here are some shots of me in action at the Ontario Easter Sunday Grand Prix:

Me Through The Turn

My Grimace Face

Me Going Off The Front A Bit Too Early

And a bonus special image of Meghan who also raced that weekend in the entry women's category. She was really stoked to hang with the pack for the whole race after being dropped in her first race attempt last year. She has gotten more serious about her training in recent months, and it showed in a world of improvement over where she was at a year ago. Go Meghan! Fwoosh!

Meghan Goes Fwoosh

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bike Lane Warfare In Downtown Santa Monica

not4cars

Recently a stretch of the parallel parking along Broadway in Santa Monica on the eastbound side before reaching Lincoln Blvd was red bagged for no parking. What happened because of this is that without the parked cars taking up space the bike lane suddenly was large enough to fit cars. Since automobiles in traffic dense areas fill any available space like a toxic gas, this meant drivers started using the bike only lane for through way traffic, which is illegal, as they inched and crawled in their gasping efforts to make it to Lincoln Blvd. Even though one block over at Santa Monica Blvd., which is designed for heavy through traffic, they could have got to Lincoln with considerably less congestion.

What this meant for cyclists is that they were forced to split lanes between congested cars with tight space, even though there is supposed to be a bike lane to ride in there separate from the cars. Not surprisingly many cyclists choose the ride on the sidewalk creating a different sort of conflict with pedestrians instead. This pissed me off like I hadn't been pissed in a while. When what little space we do get for dedicated bicycle travel get's violated, I take it personally.

First thing Sunday morning I called the Santa Monica traffic division to report the issue and they said they would send someone out. Later in the afternoon when Meghan and I were riding home from a day at the beach on our tandem, drivers were still abusing the bike lane space by driving right on top of it. As I maneuvered our land ship of a bicycle through the tight spaces and past all the cars, with my keen handling skills, Meghan speaking from the rear seat had a few words with the motorists driving in the bike lane, all floundering in the haphazard molasses of a Santa Monica beach day exodus.

One of the reasons more people don't ride bikes to get around is safety. It is always at the top of the list of reasons why people don't ride. How can we be promoting safe passage for cyclists when motorists drive right over our bike only lanes like it were their own? You don't see bikes taking over the car only lanes on the freeway... well not usually. If the next time I pass through downtown SM via Broadway this is still happening, I have some abandoned cones I've secured and I will begin taking traffic direction into my own hands. This means war.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's Cooking In Long Beach

I came out to the Long Beach Bicycle Festival on April 4th, primarily to watch some criterium bike racing in a proper urban setting. Crits are usually relegated to out of the way industrial centers where not a soul moves on the weekend, and thus cheap permits for race organizers. I would have liked to join in the racing, but they did not have a race for entry level riders. So Meghan and I feeling in a transity mood, took the BBB 3 to the Green Line and finally the Blue Line to downtown Long Beach and walked to the race. It was also of interest to me to see how this event was to dove tail with the efforts to foster better cycling conditions in the LBC.

What made this a lot more notable than most races and bike events I've been to was the scale and scope that went beyond just racing. There were tons of people out to watch, many probably never having been to a bike race, and folks enjoying the food and booths setup along the Promenade. Bike advocates were advocating, my friends from Team Midnight Ridazz who are doing AIDS LifeCycle again were out fundraising. I picked up one of their t-shirts. Similarly to the Brentwood Grand Prix I raced in last year they featured in the middle of all the other races, a few kiddie races. Watching a mixed field of little kids, some of whom are out for blood, others out for a stroll, and on every sort of not made for racing bike, is quite entertaining.

Long Beach Grand Prix, Little Kids Race, To The Starting Line

Watching the Long Beach police and fire department only race was fun, but also rather sad. A core group of riders from the police force and fire department formed a peloton and basically left everyone else in the dust to be lapped multiple times. We took this opportunity to get some lunch at the wonderful little vegan cafe Zephyr, before the main event, the Mens Pro 1/2 race.

Men's Pro 1-2

Watching the pros and semi pro riders race was a whole different animal. They flew through turns and sprinted out of them like a whip. In the straights their tops speeds could be felt as the rush of displaced air fanned out at the crowd like a wave. In addition to break neck speeds, it takes endurance as the pro 1/2 race was the longest duration at 80 minutes. In the final third or so of the race, a 9 man break away formed that grew a respectable gap, and maintained it lap after lap to the finish line through focused paceline formation riding. In the end the break away had to break up to see who would take it, and John Murphy of Team OUCH, took the win with an impressive display of raw power.

The evening wasn't over yet, with a bicycle fashion show following the pro race, and most hilariously City Council tricycle racing following the fashion show. As live music play outside, in the adjacent bar the night's events were closed with Gold Sprints, the experience of which I wrote about earlier. The whole day was quite a lot of action, and I tip my cycling cap to the City of Long Beach for putting on such a top notch event for cycling, which included even more fun the previous night which I did not see. Also of note was a chance to hang out with The Epicurean Cyclist in his homeland and finally meet the woman who appears in all of his touring photos.

Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach City Council Tricycle Racing

Long Beach has been embarking on some ambitious, by L.A. County standards, plans to improve cycling conditions and grow ridership. This includes bicycle boulevards, bike lanes, bike parking, and other improvements. I think Long Beach is a place to watch, and may very well out do Santa Monica in bicycle friendless in the near future, considering the lag induced coma that has been trying to get the LUCE process rolling. This event if nothing else proves Long Beach is putting cycling in the spotlight.



Complete Photo Set On Flickr