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01/31/2014: "Rise Above"
It was a chilly gray morning, and stayed cool all day. I needed to go downtown to pick up a couple of kitchen knives I'd left at Ross Cutlery for sharpening a couple of days ago, so I rode east on Fourth as usual, then mixed up my route by following Sixth all the way to Broadway once Fourth ended. Gina has been taking her kitchen knives there for years—or rather has usually sent me down, since I often pedal through the central city on my weekly rounds. It's a wonderful shop, owned by the same brothers for fifty years or so, and featuring all kinds of edgeware, from kitchen gear to barbering necessities to fighting knives, plus loupes, calipers, and—my favorite!—harmonicas. One of the employees is a cyclist, and we chat vintage bikes in Spanish while I browse or buy.

Today's ride was particularly gratifying, since, despite the weather, there were, as usual, more cyclists than motorists along Fourth—and this time I rode the entire length of the bike route, rather than turning off halfway along. Usually bikes outnumber cars on the western half, and it's about even on the eastern half, but today velos led all the way! Considering how thoroughly deteriorated much of Fourth's road surface is—and even the freshly-paved sections are starting to break up, though it's been well under a year since the blacktopping—this shows not only that cycling's mode share is rising steadily, but that Council Member Tom LaBonge's withdrawal of support for the bicycle-friendly street treatment for Fourth several years ago was just plain foolish. The street has been a bike route for forty years, bike traffic is rising on it week by week, and it is an ideal connector between the near west side and downtown. It needs little more than repaving, and some roundabouts and diverters to filter out the manic speeders who occasionally slop over onto it from Third and Sixth, to become a centerpiece bicycle facility for Los Angeles. And it needs the repaving anyway, as it's rough even for SUVs.

Nevertheless, LA's cyclists steadfastly pedal along it, a silent parade of men and women in fairly even numbers, ranging in age from gamins to grannies.

The joy didn't end when I shunted over to Sixth Street up at Hoover. Sixth is far busier than Fourth, four lanes, and runs along commercial blocks; furthermore, it's surface is also treacherous. Yet nearly every bike rack I saw between Vermont and Figueroa was occupied. Possibly most of the riders found their way there along nearby Seventh, which has very good bike lanes now. In any case, there they were.

Chill air, a definite taint of smog, and LA's usual crush of traffic didn't hold folks back from putting ass on saddle and heading out into the world. Good for them, I say! And good for LA too.

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