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02/16/2009: "Rain He Stop"
In South Pacific pidgin, "rain he stop" means not that the rain has ended, but that it is continuing; the "stop" refers to "stopping to visit," as the British are wont to say.

Today, the "rain he stop" here in Los Angeles, as a rich gray sky drops steady rain onto...well, I wish I could say "onto our parched soil," but since 70% of the city's surface area is covered with buildings or paved over, the rain he won't stop, but will flow away into our mysterious and elaborate storm drain system and sent away to sweeten the ocean.

Now that the morning squalls have passed, the wind is not so boisterous, and I'd normally be preparing to throw on my Carradice Pro Route rain cape and bicycle out on my Monday chores---but I have a miserable cold, and so I too will "stop" for a while, and enjoy the view of the rain from our second-story window, which nearly fills the west wall of the living room of our little Art Deco apartment. (I've had this damn cold since Thursday night, so rode out on my Monday chores yesterday, when it was clear.)

I love rain, the sight, sound, and smell of it, and the view from the window is soothing till I think too much. Then I see precious water rushing down the gutters towards the drains, and remember the statistic I read about years ago: that in one good three-day February storm here, enough water runs to the sea to supply every house in the county for a year.

The fault for that falls squarely on the sprawl that LA in fact pioneered: the widely-separated houses, one story each, making room by growing wide rather than tall, and the wide roads separating them and leading to them, the total and uncompromising accommodation of the private car as the only fully-supported means of travel here.

Forty to fifty percent of our land area is paved. Yet the car is a supremely inefficient way to travel: in most places, it is more highly subsidized than much-maligned mass transit (often accused of being "socialist" by the Knuckledragger-American community), as even the Texas DOT has to admit. And, as I often point out, roads, ramps, freeways, etc., don't generate property taxes, but do depress property values around them, eating into the budgets of cities, counties, and states from two directions.

The grim aerial photos that accompany my article on cycling in LA in are good if inadequate illustrations of why the rain he don't stop here.

Bicycles, besides being energy-efficient (more so than walking, in fact), requires very little in the way of paving for travel or for parking, and can integrate well with rail or road transit with just modest technical and operational changes. and of course it contributes nothing to global warming, since even though bikes must be made, using heat, over the fifty-year use life of a bike you reduce the calorie requirements of travel so much that I suspect you more than make up for its embedded energy.

In other words, bikes could do more to end our drought than any increase in our ever-wasted rain could manage.

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