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Saturday, March 28th
Nice Idea, But....
Friday, after taking care of numerous chores in the morning, I did not go home but pointed the bike southwest towards, of course, the beach. My friend Bill and I usually meet at the Bridge at Playa del Rey on Fridays, watch cyclists ride by, talk over the state of the world, the usual stuff.

This time the Bridge was a wee bit more crowded than usual, in that three separate hordes of "youths" came riding by in what appeared to be an organized (if in name only) ride: kids from around 11 to around 14 years old, all wearing the same T-shirt, with the legend "College Bound" often visible.

Good idea, of course; no quibble with that. No quibble either with getting them on bikes and shepherding them down to the ocean. The kids were a mixed batch: black, white, latino, but all had an inner-city look to them. A good project.

But I wonder whether they were having fun, because it was obvious that no one had put any thought at all into this bike ride, beyond getting a bunch of bikes and some ride monitors.

There was a stiff wind blowing in from the Pacific, and every last rider in the three hordes, "youths" and monitors alike, was sitting bolt upright on an old beach cruiser with handlebars wide enough for the heaviest motorcycle. Parachutes, every one of them, grinding gamely against a headwind....

To make it worse, no one made the slightest effort to fit these bikes to the kids. Every single rider I noticed had the seat far too low for comfort--in some cases well over a foot too low. So there they went, grinding away at the miles, wind in their faces and their knees rising up to their elbows as they rode.

I'm glad kids are resilient, because it couldn't have been too comfortable, not at all. I hope they won't judge cycling by their Friday experience. The judgment might be very grim indeed if they did so.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 28 Mar 2009 17:50:35 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, March 25th
Podcasts at New Colonist
As some of you may know, I also co-edit The New Colonist, an urban sustainability 'zine. New Colonist publisher Eric Miller has begun producing a series of podcasts exploring various aspects of urban living and sustainable development and transport, which includes a series of conversations with meself, and an interview where he asks me about living carfree in Los Angeles.

If you're interested, you can find them on the New Colonist podcast page. If you have iTunes, you can also subscribe to our new podcast series by clicking here, though that link will work only if you have iTunes installed on your machine. (You can download iTunes for free.)

It's a short list now--we started only last month--but it will grow, and you can bet there will be more bicycle-related conversations and interviews in The New Colonist as time goes by.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 25 Mar 2009 21:29:22 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, March 24th
Bicycles in Barcelona, 1908
The below is a wonderful YouTube video photographed from the fronts of trams in Barcelona in 1908. Besides being a sweet tour of the city as it was then, it shows hundreds of bicycles in use--in fact, it appears that bicycles then, as they will again be soon, were the primary means of personal transport in the city.

Of course, people noticed the cameras and hammed it up a bit, but that adds to the fun and the humanity of the depiction.

Notice also that no one seems to have problems with the tracks--a subject of much contention among modern cyclists in cities that are rebuilding their much-needed streetcar systems.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 24 Mar 2009 20:37:19 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, March 21st
Bloor Street Survey: Bike Lanes Good for Businesses
A study in Toronto, reviewing the feasibility of removing parking to make room for bike lanes on that city's Bloor Street, discovered that pedestrians and cyclists not only comprised the majority of visitors to the Annex neighborhood's local merchants, but spent more money per month and per visit than did drivers or transit users.

To read the entire (very long) report in PDF form, see Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking, and Business at the Clean Air Partnership's website.

A quote:
The general finding from this study is that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users account for the bulk of retail spending on Bloor Street West in the Annex neighbourhood. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that efforts to attract more pedestrians and cyclists will have a more positive economic impact on businesses than maintaining the existing parking on the street. On this section of Bloor Street, the existing parking demand can be accommodated by a reduced number of on‐street parking spaces combined with the existing off‐street parking spaces. It is clear that many merchants in the study area do not view on‐street parking as key to their business.
While this will not apply to all areas in all cities, of course, it underscores the importance of not making unwarranted assumptions about the perceived "necessity" to accommodate motoring at all costs for what may turn out, upon inspection, to be spurious economic rationales.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 21 Mar 2009 15:39:15 -0800 [link]  

Friday, March 20th
Town & Country Shorts Coming Soon!

Click image for larger view
Economy be damned, we're going for it! The cloth is being cut, and the factory at 9th and Broadway downtown starts sewing next week.

To reiterate, these will be made of an ultra-tough hemp cloth blended with thread made from recycled polyester beverage bottles. We've been testing the sample for nearly a year, and it's survived thousands of miles of heavy use with only a bit of fading from the intense SoCal sun last summer.

They're comfortable, good-looking, and tough, and feel great on the bike, so be ready to ride far and free through the heat in our Town & Country Shorts!

Just three or four weeks to go, and you'll see them here and at selected retailers.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 20 Mar 2009 21:38:54 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, March 17th
A bipartisan mashup of senators and representatives introduced the "CLEAN TEA" Act on March 11th, hoping to restructure the way the Feds handle transport funding in order to stop favoring cars and trucks as is presently done, to the detriment of our economy, our culture, and our planet. Oregon's wonderful Earl Blumenaur is one of the main sponsors, and so it's fitting that you read the press release in its entirety on his website:


Richard Risemberg on Tue, 17 Mar 2009 06:28:39 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, March 15th
How Much Does Worm Poop Weigh?
worm-gro (72k image)And that's not a frivolous question....

After a few days of being very mildly sick and a pretty tedious day yesterday that kept me up with eldercare problems till well after midnight, I didn't feel up to my usual Sunday ride today. Instead, I rode along with Gina on her ride to the Larchmont farmers' market for our weekly vegetables. This has the advantage of giving me brunch with Gina, of course, as well as a relaxed ride and the chance to help her with some necessary chores. Also, I had to deliver light bulbs to my mother's house near Larchmont.

Put brunch in our bellies and various greens, roots, and other vegetal delights into the pannier I had hooked onto the Tubus, and then saddled up to head for home, when Gina remembered that she needed to pick up some plant food for our balcony garden, so we rode on down to Mordigan's Nursery off Fairfax. While there she saw, of course, a ranunculus she wanted to buy, for which there was room in the pannier on top of the greens.

And then she saw a 22-liter bag of worm castings....

"Castings" is a euphemism. The bag held twenty pounds of worm shit. And I had one pannier (actually a grocery basket) unused on the poor Bottecchia.

In went the ranunculus on one side, after moving the more squashable greens to Gina's messenger bag...and in went the worm shit in the other.

And that's what led to Sunday's official Crappy Cellphone Picture: my poor Bottecchia bearing such an ignominious burden!

If I'd known, I'd have taken the Pseudobecane, not to spare the Bottecchia's tender feelings, but because the orange bike is stiffer and heavier and set up to carry loads.

But the Bot did well, the goods came home, and we spent a quiet afternoon outside together, Gina potting and repotting plants, and me catching up on minor bike maintenance.

A catch-up day, nice and easy. Just what I needed.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 15 Mar 2009 18:15:03 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, March 12th
A Little Sugar for Spring
With the economy sour, we thought we'd throw a little sugar in the pot, so from now till March 31st, 2009, we'll ship all Bicycle Fixation orders for over $50 FREE to anywhere in the USA!

That includes Alaska, Hawaii, etc--any of the fifty states.

This is for inventory on hand only, of course--no "rainchecks."

Free US shipping on every sale over $50.00!

Ride more, drive less, look sharp, and save money!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 12 Mar 2009 15:14:18 -0800 [link]  

Monday, March 9th
Living Car-Free in LA
To go with the crappy cellphone pictures I post here on the BF blog, I participated in a crappy cellphone interview with Eric Miller, the publisher of the New Colonist, about living without a car in Los go to Living Car-Free in LA and turn it up!

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 09 Mar 2009 15:12:21 -0800 [link]  

Registration Row in Oregon
In a classic example of blind befuddlement, three Republican and one Democratic members of Oregon's House of Representatives have offered a bill requiring cyclists to register their bikes under the pretense of giving some of the proceeds towards bike infrastructure. however, it looks like the idea is to contract the process out to a private party, who would skim off one-third of the take.

This is stupid. Bicycle "infrastructure" usually consists of paint stripes. Furthermore, bicycles can and do use the present roads just fine, but, unlike cars they don't wear them out and require expensive repairs. Nor do they require the massive paving for lanes and parking that cars need. Why tax something that takes a burden off the state, while subsidizing the incessant need of car drivers for dressed-up welfare?

(And if you somehow are ignorant enough to believe that driving isn't subsidized, read what good ol' conservative Texas' DOT has to say about that in Do Roads Pay for Themselves?) (quoted in full in CommuteOrlando).

Read all about it on the Bikeportland blog. I weighed in with a comment, of course, but my favorite was number 167, by Lenny Anderson, who said:
Bike registration is fine...but the state should pay the bike owner, not the other way around. $54 every two year is cheap price to pay for less congestion, better air and water, fewer green house gases and healthier people. Bike lanes are just fat fog lines on most state roads anyway.
Limit to one bike per person. A family of four could register four bikes and receive $216 every two years. It would encourage children to ride their bikes to school...50 cents a week or so, could reduce the number of teenage car drivers, the most dangerous to themselves and others. Biking pays.
Incenting desired behaviors that have wide public benefit is nothing new.
Will we ever start making sense in this country?

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 09 Mar 2009 14:42:27 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, March 8th
A Fifty-Mile Spin....
Having had a really awful couple of weeks--business slow in the recession, and a nasty situation developing involving relatives, wills, and an intricacy of contention nearly suitable for a Dickens novel--I really needed a good long happy ride today, going nowhere on no schedule, and I was fortunate enough to get it!

Unfortunately for our readers, that means you get a couple more Crappy Cellphone Pictures...though this time I have an excuse: my good pocket camera has taken to sucking the juice of its batteries even when it's turned off--no doubt feeling jealous of its slatternly telephonic cousin.

But the pix came late in the ride. I left early this morning (though not as early as I'd thought, having ignored the imminence of Daylight Savings Time), and immediately rode the little Bottecchia fixie up the great slope that takes La Brea Avenue over the Baldwin Hills. I was pleased to note that I made decent time and hardly even had to grunt, as I'd not gone up this hill for several months. I was more pleased to note that traffic was light, for though it's a multilane street, it has no intersections between the start of the climb and the summit, so LA drivers naturally treat it as a freeway.

Once over the top and down past the barren field of oilwells, I just followed la Brea (which presently turned into Hawthorne Avenue) straight south through the old-line African-American communities and into the beige blandnesses of Lawndale, Hawthorne, and Torrance, having actually a really nice, relaxed time on the bike. Storefront churches, hair salons, and barbecue joints gave way to Norms and Dennys diners and insurance offices, then to shopping malls and office parks, with car lots punctuating the cultural and racial dialogues of "Greater Los Angeles" as the road marched on.

My goal was the Pacific Coast Highway where it runs between Torrance and the Palos Verdes peninsula, and I reached it without a trace of fatigue,, turned right, and headed to The Beach.

It was maybe four miles to the beach, but I was surprised at how much the light changed in that short distance. It was already a beautiful springlike day inland, but as the Bottecchia and I neared the Pacific, the light became clearer, brighter, yet softer, and the air filled with a clean sweetness that is indescribable but instantly recognizable even the first time you ever taste it in your life. Signs, leaves, buildings, hills, the little clouds that bejeweled that bright pelagic sky, all glowed from within; the air caressed the skin; flashes of the first jasmine flowers startled some thing deep inside you as you merely breathed.

It was a morning that made everything, big or small, quietly significant.

And then I was on the bike path that runs on the very beach.

The waves fell repeatedly to my left, while people strolled and skated an rode and ran along with me. Oftentimes the slower traffic on the bike path (which is not really supposed to be there) is annoying, but today the light made everybody beautiful, and I didn't care. I rolled along lazily, passing the beach cruisers and the Burleys, the striding legs and windblown hair, stopped at the Redondo Beach pier for no reason at all, stopped again a hundred yards farther at the crowded little Kings Harbor marina, stopped here and there just to look at life going on. What my wife would call an Epic Day.

But when I stopped at Hermosa Beach, at the plaza where the pier is rooted to the continent, I stopped to eat!

And there I saw two bikes I had to photograph, and so inflict upon you Crappy Cellphone Pictures. They were two bikes that I would call "practical bikes"--immensely practical bikes, in fact--but the were as unlike each other as any two bikes could be, I think. There they are, below:

The first is a Surly Long-Haul Trucker, done up in full iBOB drag, with Schwalbe Marathon tires, fenders, mudflap, leather bar wrap, leather saddle, front and rear racks, and what looked like either Ostrich or Berthoud panniers--and pulling a child trailer. Stainless steel water bottles too!

The other is a beat up old beach cruiser outfitted with a surfboard carrier. With longboards back in style again, it's possible that that bike has perhaps the more difficult task of the two!

For me, at least, those two bikes added a little exclamation point to the day.

Belly full and pictures snapped, I mounted up again and rode on home, engaging in idle conversation with a fellow rider for several miles, and stopping again for a look at the beach by the powerplant (one of my favorite little bits of local coast) and again at the Bridge at Playa del Rey.

A quick run up Washington Boulevard and I was home, feeling better than I had for many a day.

An epic day, indeed.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 08 Mar 2009 18:54:54 -0800 [link]  

Friday, March 6th
Bikes and the City
Check out our new mini-history of cycling called, "Bikes and the City," uploaded today, where we survey how cities, bicycles, and culture have affected each other over the last 150 years.

Go to Bikes and the City

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 06 Mar 2009 10:04:14 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, March 5th
Classics in Action!
tussle (133k image)
Click image for larger version
Mike B. sent me this photo that someone forwarded to him, curious about the juxtaposition of a tandem cruiser and a hard-charging cyclocrosser--but Mike was more interested in what seems to be a pair of our Bicycle Fixation Classic Knickers that the tandem captain is sporting. (Mike says of the knix that they are his "absolutely favorite pair of cycling attire.")

So I opened the picture in PhotoShop and looked at the metadata, saw that it was shot on December 12th, 2008, and searched for tandem cyclocross action on that date. Voila! Right there on garr1s0n's Flickr photostream was the original photo....

The photog says it was the "Tussle at the Trestle" grass-track cyclocross and general bike madness event in Philadelphia, sponsored by Trophy Bikes, which seems like a worthy shop. Haven't heard back from the rider as to whether he objects to being outed, but I will say that he bought those knickers way back when, and we here are mighty glad to see that they're still kicking!

The present version has stronger cloth, double-stitched seams, and a better-behaved gusset; check them out for yourself: our flagship product, the Classic Wool Knickers.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 05 Mar 2009 19:26:50 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, March 3rd
Is It the Mayor's Birthday?
Is it the mayor's birthday, or just that today the city held an election involving him? Road after road I've ridden the past few weeks has been under repair, even ancient thoroughfares that have not seen a pothole filled in living memory. I've been damned happy I installed those Schwalbe Marathons a couple of months ago, as the ground-down and textured lanes that still await their coating of asphalt would have been mighty uncomfortable on my previous skins. Anyhow, since no stimulus money has come LA's way yet, there must be some local motive. I'd like to think that civic kindness towards road users might be part of it.

Of course, we may have had our little part in it, with our photo essay on the potholes of Fourth Street, which we published last year.

Now, if LA would just get crackin' on those bicycle boulevards we dream of....

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 03 Mar 2009 16:43:32 -0800 [link]  

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