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04/13/2010: "Another Fine Mess...."
This morning I rode through downtown to Montecito Heights, a little hilltop neighborhood above Highland Park, to visit my friend Harv Woien, who volunteers at the Bike Oven and whom I've known for over thirty-five years now. I had a great visit with Harv, talking over old times and new bikes and the crazy people we know...sitting in his bike shed with the door open while birds sang outside and an occasional fence lizard ventured onto the white concrete of the driveway to do pushups. It's always good visiting Harv.

But getting there was difficult. Not because of the hill he lives on, long though it is; the road winds among banks of nasturtiums, ivy, and jasmine this time of year, and the older houses (which is most of them) are as charming as the two or three newer ones are dull. And of course there's a grand view at several of the turns, valleys full of rooftops and roads nestled between spring-greened mountains....

But for some reason traffic around downtown was the worst I've ever seen it in my half-century here: long, turgid lines of humpbacked SUVs, sedans, and buses inching along in dense, chaotic crowds; cars turning suddenly out of a lane and roaring onto side streets or simply down the left turns lanes; mirrors nearly touching, bumpers nearly grazing. Probably the most dangerous ride I've had in years, and thick enough traffic to slow me down considerably. (Though I still got through possibly hours before some of the cars I passed.)

Finally I asked a traffic control officer: ah, it was the Dodgers season opener in the stadium in Elysian Park.

Hah! Elysian Parking Lot is more like it!

It was awful stupid, dirty, sometimes violent, and downright insane. If we had any sense, we'd have a light rail line passing by the stadium on its way from, say, downtown to West Hollywood, as some have suggested. Hell, and a loop of the Gold Line too. Not to mention valet bike parking at the stadium itself, as Wrigley Field just started offering in Chicago.

Or better yet, have the stadium right in the city, instead of off in a half-hidden canyon surrounded by rugged hills and narrow little neighborhood roads. One proposal suggested moving the stadium over by Union Station--a suggestion I endorsed in an editorial over on New Colonist nearly seven years ago.

Of course nothing's happened. The traffic still packs the streets nearly solid for several miles around Chavez Ravine, and the cars lurch along in fits and starts, slower than an old man on a bicycle.

Well, tomorrow we'll be on the Coast Starlight (with our bikes), heading to Portland to check out some better ways to build a city. We'll let you know what we find out.

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