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.