Monday, February 15, 2010

A Few Tips For Drivers To Enjoy A Day At The Beach In Sunny Santa Monica

If you want to have a chill relaxing day at the wildly popular beaches of Santa Monica, my best advice to you is to not drive. Just don't do it. I'm not just saying this because I advocate for alternative transportation, I'm saying this for your mental sanity.

Santa Monica Beach

Chances are if you think it is a perfect day to go to the beach, so does everyone else. This Valentines I went out with Meghan for some cycling along the coast from Santa Monica and Malibu and back. As is typical when the weather is perfect after a long spell of cold and gloomy, everyone dumps into the beaches, and the holidays made for extra kindling on the fire. Crossing the 10 freeway bridge at 11th I could see bumper to bumper traffic coming west as far as the eye could see. By early evening on our return, the same level of bumper to bumper traffic was still visible coming West, but then there was even more traffic moving East leaving the beach at the end of the day. All of Santa Monica West of Lincoln, and especially Lincoln Blvd. it self were choked with traffic. Save your self a headache and avoid the mess.

American Cruiser Bike On Bus

Here are a few ways to avoid wanting to punch your self repeatedly in the face and slam your dashboard. Yes the West Side is lacking train transportation, something on it's way to being fixed, but there a number of bus lines that make there way over here too. Yes taking the bus can be slow at times, mainly because our lack of bus lanes and over abundance of cars choking the streets, but while the bus may be slow, it costs next to nothing and frees you from having to deal with the rat race. You can chill out and read a book or just zone out and stare out the window and watch all the suckers honking at each other. Once you get to the beach, there is no spending 20 minutes prowling for a coveted parking space while fighting off other honking competitors, so maybe it's not as slow as you think.

Santa Monica Beach Side Parking

If you're within a 5-10 mile radius of the beach, consider riding a bike. Opt for smaller local streets and you can avoid the chaos of most of the beach going drivers. When traffic gets backed up for blocks, and drivers faces look exasperated and hopeless, you can keep rolling, which is an incredibly liberating feeling. A bike is also a great way to enjoy a day at the beach once you get there, along our beautiful beach bike path. Just don't get in a hurry because joggers and folks with strollers means it's slow going.

Wolfpack All City Race

If you're really far out of the way, and you just can't fathom the string of transit connections it would take to get here, feeling that a car is the only way, than perhaps consider driving part way and mixing transit. If you drive and park close to a direct transit stop or find someplace close enough to bike the rest of the way, you can save your self the worst of the headaches. Getting into the Santa Monica beaches on popular days, the traffic is sort of on an exponential curve, it gets multiple times worse the closer you get, with the absolute worst traffic just a few blocks away once you get past Lincoln Blvd. On peak days, getting a few blocks from Lincoln. Blvd to an open beach side parking spot will take you nearly as long as driving from Downtown LA to Santa Monica.

Also consider that even at times when traffic is not as bad coming in West during a nice beach day, it will almost assuredly be terrible on the trip home. While people trickle into the beaches all day long, nearly everyone leaves at the same time, when the sun is setting. So if you really want to go to the beach and have a relaxing day from beginning to end, driving is almost out of the question. That is unless you're at the beach when it is cold and foggy, which seems to have an amazingly calming effect on West Side traffic.

As a local, I find it simultaneously depressing and rather comical how people get in a furious rage to try and hurry up and go relax. If a gap opens in traffic, people will screech the tires to move up even if stopping suddenly again is a forgone conclusion. I live close enough to the 10 freeway, I can hear it's faint rumble from our balcony, and all afternoon I could hear a cacophony of horn honking, not that it will do anything when traffic is not moving. If you are going to drive, for your own safety and sanity, and the safety and sanity of others, chill out. It's a day at the beach, not your morning commute, no one is going to scold you if you don't pitch your towel on time.

Some Handy Links:
  • Santa Monica Bike Map (Insider Tip: Ignore the fact that Lincoln Blvd. is listed as a bike route, it is the one of the worst streets to ride as a cyclist in Los Angeles County)
  • Metro (Official Website of L.A. public transportation)
  • Big Blue Bus (Official Website of Santa Monica public transit. They are a bit behind the times, and data not yet on Google Transit. However if you use the Metro Trip planner, both Metro and BBB buses are used to calculate routes)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Issuing A Recall Of Defective Motorists

Sepevulda Blvd. Traffic At Rosecrans

While everyone including our DOT commander in chief, Ray LaHood, freak out over defective gas pedals, lets not forget the vast majority of automobile crashes, that result in 40,000 deaths every year, are the result of user error. As the Los Alamos Bikes blog has suggested, when are we going to issue a recall on defective motorists? Perhaps it's time for some reeducation, perhaps it's time to revoke permanently the drivers licenses of numerous repeat offenders. Where is the class action law suit against the United States for years of neglect in road safety efforts compared with other developed nations.

It's shocking how often in this Country you hear of a deadly DUI where the driver had a stacked collection of severe traffic violations, repeat offenses and multiple suspended licenses before they finally killed. Often these people move around to different cities or states with disconnected communication and record keeping, allowing them to keep racking up offense after offense. Such deaths should be easily preventable. This is not to suggest mechanical errors like what Toyota faces should be treated lightly, but if anything is deserving of panic, it is issues such as the sorry state of criminal driver behavior, the broken justice system that keeps these people on the road, and the unsafe design of our infrastructure.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some semblance of normality returns, and a look at riding to Joshua Tree.

Things are finally winding down with work for me right now (after about 3 months of overtime scheduling), so I'd like to get back to the occasional post again. Thanks for staying tuned, I was surprised the number of subscribers continued to grow even as content basically trickled to zero. I think interest in cycling is certainly on the up trend.

The big news for me, is amidst the middle of the craziness I did take a mini vacation to ride to Joshua Tree from San Bernidino with Meghan (LA to San Bernidino via Metrolink). But the really big news is I proposed on our trip, so it's official, we're getting married! The most memorable moments of my life the past 2 years have revolved around us riding bikes together, and I look forward to a lifetime of more adventures on two wheels. Time to start saving for that road tandem we have been dreaming of...

Soon I would like to do a follow up post with more details about our trip and routing for the travel curious. For now, here is some images of our trip to the beautiful desert lands to our East (shot with my new Canon G11) . Once you have a solid base of aerobic fitness, really the only limit to how far you can go on a bike is how much vacation time you have. I'd also like to give a shout out to Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled, who's trip to Joshua Tree a while back inspired ours, and who's writing got us more into this whole self supported bicycle touring thing in the first place.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

The Road Less Traveled

Me And My Bike

Cresting The Climb Into Yucca Valley

Bike Route

Around The Campground

The Proposal

Morning Campsite

Almost There

Santa Fe Depot Train Station In San San Bernardino