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Monday, May 31st
4th Street, Always 4th Street!
Well, what do you expect? I ride it almost every day, and it is a major bike route here in LA.

So, besides the usual cavernous pothole complex at Hudson, there was a truly classic pothole--that is, one shaped like a large cooking pot and just as deep--one block west of Hudson at June. I went to the Bureau of Street Services' onlline Service Request form and dropped the dime on 'em--but this time including links to snapshots of each pothole.

Fastest response I've ever gotten from them! The potholes are already patched, just four days later....

Unfortunately, they are not very well patched, just a lumpy morass of coldpatch swimming in the eternal streams of lawn overspray and sump-pump effluent that bedevil 4th in that stretch. I doubt they'll last two months, seeing as they're wet 24/7 and that the cars beat up the street pretty bad around there, despite relatively light auto traffic.

So enjoy them while you can. And maybe LACBC will get the 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard approved someday soon, which means both fresh paving and less hammering car traffic on LA's most used bike route...if we're lucky.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 31 May 2010 11:24:42 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 29th
Bike Town? LA?
Just maybe....

Bike Town Beta came to our 'hood today, preceded by a flurry of Tweets and Facebook invites, so after a leisurely home-made brunch cooled by mimosas, we saddled up and headed out.

This edition of BTB targeted the area bounded by La Brea, 3rd Street, Fairfax, and Fountain, where we ride a lot anyway, getting groceries or clothes, eating out, or just rolling the bikes on a sweet evening as we love to do; BTB gave it an overlay of purpose, as we were now representin' for bike love--and hoping to meet a few others who were too.

Before we left Gina said she was dreaming of seeing the side streets as filled with bikes and riders as they are in Portland, where we just spent a week checking out the scene--but even a little slice of LA can be a big place to fill, so we didn't see the streets crowded with riders. We did see more bikes than usual, and we did find the Los Angelopes freak-bike party at Plummer Park, where we met both people we knew, and people we came to know, and where a lotta bike love was coming down:

It's a good start. LA is at heart a timid town despite all its bluster; but with folks like Justino of the Valley Bikery bringing his mom and her bike to mingle among the tattoos, the various revolutionary T-shirts, and the Day-Glo hair, this town can only get better!

Justino & Jeannette

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 29 May 2010 22:50:03 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, May 27th
Portland, Oregon, April 2010
Well, we finally got around to putting up our report on the trip to Portland Gina and I took in April, and cobbled together a little slideshow of some of the pix, mostly of infrastructure.

We fell in love with the little city, and we think they're doing a lot of things all about it right here:

Cycling in Portland, 2010: Both More and Less than Paradise

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 27 May 2010 14:50:11 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 22nd
Riding to the Race
What an odd, lackadaisical day it was today!

Our morning goal was to go to Cafecito Organico, where master fusion tamale maker La Guera Tamalera has been setting up on Saturdays (soon to be Sundays too, apparently). Great, inventive tamales, most of them vegetarian-friendly, done according to recipes tamalera Deborah originally learned in Veracruz, Mexico. Good coffee, too.

While we were lingering there. we decided to go see the Tour of California time trial downtown, and maybe meet up again with the folks we had passed on 4th Street on our way to tamale heaven...they were heading towards the race.

Of course it was too early, so we went to Chinatown first, and loaded up on dim sum and pastries to take with us to the race course, which was only a mile or so away. We settled in right across from the new cathedral on 1st Street--and promptly found the strangers we had passed on 4th, who soon became friends: Patty, Christie, and Richard. The we settled in to watch the race.

I'm not much interested in racing, being myself not very competitive at all, and much more interested in riding on my own, than in watching someone else ride.

And modern bicycle racing, in which the rider is preceded by motorcycles and followed by team cars, sometimes to the point of seeming engulfed in motor vehicles, is actually in a way abhorrent to me, as regular readers here can well imagine! All the more so when you add up the buses, vans, catering trucks, and other support vehicles...I'm guessing those cyclists are using up gasoline at the rate of maybe 2 miles per gallon as they grind around the heavily fenced in and patrolled racecourse. Not much in the spirit of freedom and cleanliness that characterizes the bicycle to me.

The crowd was fun, though. And most pleasing was the realization that hundreds of the spectators had arrive by bicycle, maybe many hundreds.

So, while everyone else was taking pictures of the racers, anonymous in their billboard suits, I...took pictures of the bikes sprawled out on the lawns behind the sidewalks. Here's a couple below:

Tour of California Time Trial

Tour of California time trial

Had a nice, quiet ride home, during which (once more on 4th Street) we met up with Stephen Box and Enci, riding to the Bikeside meeting at Bikerowave, and chatted them up for a few minutes.

Nice end to a meandering day.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 22 May 2010 17:58:41 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 21st
Minor Matters
Funny how the little things can matter sometimes...for weeks now, the saddle on my back up bike, Trevor Wong, has been making a slight snapping sound every time I unweight it, be it to stand on the pedals or just going over a bump.

I found it so annoying that I was avoiding the finally, after trying hard to locate the sound, I gave up, turned the bike over, and sprayed some White Lightning wax lube into the area where the saddle rails fitted into the saddle base--my primary but unconfirmed suspect in this crime of clicking.

Aah...blessed silence! Nothing else has changed, but the bike feels better now.

That's us silly humans, though.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 21 May 2010 17:26:48 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, May 18th
The More Things Change....
The more things changes, goes the old saying, the more they remain the same. While cycling has burgeoned in Los Angeles, advocates and activists have crowded city hall as well as the blogosphere, and we have actually won a small victory or two, such as the promised bike corral in Highland Park, dear old 4th Street is still an insult to the wheels and tendons of every rider who rattles down its shattered surface.

Even though it is a designated bike route, heavily used, that runs in part through one of the toniest neighborhoods in the city.

Nearly two years ago, in Boulevard of Broken Wheels, I complained about the horrible paving on this otherwise wonderful street. Look at the pictures in that article, then switch back to this page and view the slideshow'll see that not much has changed.

I have personally gotten the bureau of Street Services to patch the pothole at Hudson and 4th three times--yet the job is always so poorly done that within three months speeding cars and constant wetness have left it even worse than before. It's now about six inches deep, jagged, and eternally filled with water. The rest of the stretch between Cochran and Arden--little more than a mile--is not much better.

What to do? The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has been promoting the conversion of 4th Street into a bicycle boulevard (which would start, but not end, with repaving); I can think of no better treatment for this street that I have bounced along for nearly twenty years now. See what the LACBC has to say about it, and join in the effort.

It would be a first for LA. But if we have any sense, it wouldn't be the last.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 18 May 2010 21:21:31 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 15th
Stitching the River Ride-Done!
A good bunch of folks showed up for today's Stitching the River Ride, where we traverse all the classic Art Deco bridges over the Los Angeles River between Chinatown's North Broadway on the north and Olympic Boulevard on the south.

We had two tandems and a trail-a-bike along, a few Rivendells, Chuck's "beater" De Rosa (easily the most immaculate bike there), and a variety of other iron, including of course Gina's nickel-plated "Vivian" and my Bottecchia fixie, and (a special treat) Yvonne's rare Hetchins mixte!

After hanging around Chinatown for a while to wait for John, Brian, and Yvonne, who left a bit late, we rolled out for a most pleasurable ride. Below I've mashed together Gina's and my photos in a somewhat primitive Flash slideshow, interspersing pictures of us and our bikes with pictures of the view from the bridges themselves.

We ended with lunch at Via Café, and a stop at Orange 20 on the way home. A great ride through a part of Los Angeles that most residents have never seen....

And there are some more pix, by "Cyclotourist," on his Flickr page, and by Errin V. on his blog.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 15 May 2010 22:44:27 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, May 13th
Cafecito Organico
Cafecito Organico Tower

Cafecito Organico Bike Rack
Click for bigger pix

It's always nice to find a new place to hang out, especially if it's one that serves good coffee and that makes a little room for bikes. All the more so here in Los Angeles, where "bike friendliness" is most often honored in the breach.... On friends John and Brian's recommendation, we detoured from our usual Wednesday morning brew-and-blither meeting place and rode to Cafecito Organico, up on Hoover in the maze of narrow hill roads where Silverlake tails off into the shabby flats east of Vermont.

All fair-trade organic coffee, reasonable prices, and a charming little outpost with a patio off to one side and a couple more tables set up on the parkway. There's what looks to be a home-made but very handy bike rack, and a lot of friendly people enjoying their coffee, each other, and just being alive. One of the owners lives in the LA Ecovillage, the city's longstanding intentional community where both the LACBC and the Bicycle Kitchen were spawned, so it has a sterling heritage.

It's only a few blocks from Orange 20 and the "Bicycle District," and though it's about six miles from Bicycle Fixation Central, we'll definitely be back.

Another conscientiously bike-friendly coffeehouse to add to the list!

(Pix by Gina!)

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 13 May 2010 16:40:33 -0800 [link]  

Park It for Them, and They'll Come
Running an event where you're expecting to see a lot of people arriving by bike--or to which you'd like to encourage them to ride?

Check out our new article by Robert Leone of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, explaining the whys and hows of setting up and operating a bike valet service for event parking:

Park It for Them, and They'll Come

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 13 May 2010 12:43:08 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, May 11th
Fixie Ridin' Fool on a Hill
That's me, that is...I rode the Bottecchia fixie up the hill to Harv's place this morning, to bum a handlebar off him and generally hang out--Harv and I have known each other some 35 years now. Just at the top I saw that the gate to the dirt roads around the transmission towers was open, so I rode out there to see whether there was anything camera-worthy--and I guess this shot qualifies:

Highland Park from Montecito Heights

That's Highland Park down there, and if you look real hard you might see both the Bike Oven, where Harv volunteers, and Flying Pigeon LA, where Bike Oven founder, cargo bike fan, and Grade-A #1 Choice local bike advocate Josef has set up shop.

And it does go to show you that one gear, late middle age, and hills can mix just fine, if yer crazy enough!

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 11 May 2010 17:07:37 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 8th
Chinatown After Dark
The LA Times just published a little article bemoaning the lack of nighttime visitors to our classic Chinatown on North Broadway. Of course they focussed on "lack of parking"--car parking, of course. No imagination, huh?

As a frequent visitor to Chinatown, I'd say that an easy way to get folks in there after dark would be to add some bicycle parking in the square. Presently, there is exactly none--all you can do is try to lock to a bench, grill, or grating, which inevitably puts you in someone's way.

LA's cyclists have a vast and well-developed night life--my son's rides with his groups and buddies often go till 4AM, and almost always go downtown. They get pretty hungry riding around. Crowds of hungry and thirsty cyclists hanging around would certainly inspire bars, cafés, and restaurants, at least, to stay open later. And bike parking is cheap and takes up almost no space.

I'm nearly sixty, and ride everywhere, and would love to spend more of my time and money in Chinatown, which I love, but there's far less bike parking than car parking there. How about making all us hungry cyclists feel welcome? According to the official Chinatown website, there are eleven parking lots or structures within Chinatown--eleven! Give us a place to lock up, too, and we'll be there--and you'll be getting far more bang for your parking buck from cyclists.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 08 May 2010 08:02:09 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 7th
Is Bicycle Fixation a Virus?
I ask because we seem to be spreading...starting this month, we'll be blogging on the urban cycling scene once a week or so at Orange 20, whose brick-and-mortar was our first clothing retailer and which helped create the "Bicycle District" at the corner of Heliotrope and Melrose, now known as "Hel-Mel."

We will not simply be repeating posts from this blog, either, but writing (and photographing) original material with generally a closer-to-home focus specifically for the 20, so...why don't you click on over and see my first post, which hit their website today: A Park in the Walk.

Add 'em to your aggregator. 'Cuz there's no defense against the new urban cycling virus...and there never will be!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 07 May 2010 17:15:37 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, May 6th
Classic Wool Knickers Back in Stock!
Our Classic Wool Knickers are back in stock in sizes 30 to 40 in True Black (with bronze gusset) and in sizes 30 to 36 in Olive (black gusset). The Olive is one of our traditional short runs in a variant color, so will not last; get 'em while you can!

These are 100% wool gabardine for versatility, elegance, and strength, and will keep you comfortable and lookin' good in just about any weather. There is a whole wide world between racer lycra and retro tweed, and our Classic Wool Knickers will have you cycling through it in understated style. You'll find yourself riding more--to work, to stores, to restaurants, to events.

Our customers' testimonials say it all!

Check 'em out: Classic Wool Knickers.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 06 May 2010 12:33:44 -0800 [link]  

Cincinnati Installs First Bike Corral
While LA dithers, it seems that nearly every other US city is forging ahead with innovative and effective bicycle infrastructure, including bike corrals.

To reiterate, a bike corral is simply a rededication of an onstreet car parking slot for bicycle parking: a row of racks is installed, and paint and often bollards are used to set it off and reserve it for bicycles. Thus, twelve cyclists can park where only one or two motorists would have before.

In Los Angeles, we just, after much persuasion and contention, got a motion to install a bike corral in Highland Park. The City Council, bless 'em, approved the motion unanimously, but the hard part may be actually getting it built.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati--yep, rust belt, hard weather, and all--has already installed one, and even brags about it. To wit:
Historically, Cincinnati's bicycle parking has been provided in bike racks on the sidewalk. However, in a growing number of commercial areas the demand for bicycle parking is too much for the sidewalk, and the overabundance of bicycles can block pedestrians' way.

On-street bicycle parking provides many benefits where bicycle-use is high and growing:

  • Businesses: Corrals provide a 12 to 1 customer to parking space ratio and advertise
  • Pedestrians: Corrals clear the sidewalks and serve as de facto curb extensions.
  • People on bicycles: Corrals increase the visibility of bicycling.
  • Motor vehicle drivers: Corrals improve visibility at intersections by eliminating the
    opportunity for larger vehicles to park at street corners.
Our opinion here at BF has always been that safe and abundant bike parking will do more for utility cycling than all the bike lanes you could ever paint. As we've said before, how many people would drive if there were only two parking spaces per square block? The list of cities that provide a reasonable modicum of bike parking, especially through corrals, keeps growing. Let' s hope that LA--the second-largest city in the US--will join that list--and soon.

Read more about Cincinnati's comprehensive bicycle plan.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 06 May 2010 07:40:03 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, May 5th
Stitching the River Ride, 5th Edition
Mark the day on your calendars: Saturday, May 15th, at 11:00AM, we'll be heading off on Bicycle Fixation's fifth Stitching the River Ride.

This is a fairly short but occasionally strenuous ride over the Art Deco bridges of Downtown Los Angeles, including the iconic but threatened 6th Street Bridge. This is always the best attended of our rides, and some of the sights will surprise even downtown regulars!

We'll gather in Chinatown at 10:30 by the statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in the Central Plaza and then ride over the Broadway, 6th Street, Mission, and other classic LA bridges, returning to Chinatown for snacks afterwards.

The ride is a little over twenty miles and mostly flat, but there are some short, steep climbs over some of the bridges and up to the bluffs on the east side of the river. Also, this is a heavy industrial area, so don't bring your most delicate tires!

The Plaza is just around the corner from the Metro Gold Line's Chinatown station, and there are parking structures scattered around Chinatown for those that must drive.

Meet at 10:30, ride at 11:00! This is a social ride on city streets among motorized traffic, and we will follow all California Vehicle Code regulations. We will also stop for photos, interesting buildings, flats, bonks, and regrouping, so don't expect a paceline workout. Do expect a great time!

Here's a map.

Use our comments page if you have any questions--or comments, of course!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 05 May 2010 15:02:18 -0800 [link]  

Lost in Space....
The Southern California Association of Governments (infelicitously known as SCAG) is proposing a series of "improvements" (oh, dangerous word in traffic engineering circles!) to La Cienega Boulevard where it crosses Baldwin Hills.

Naturally, bicycles are left out of it...though in one PDF they ask for comments on bike/ped issues, in another they dismiss the possibility of including any accommodation for the only individual travel mode that would actually reduce the congestion they're concerned about.

The road is horrible: designed as a half-assed freeway, it is wide, and speeds are very high along it. Though this is their excuse for not considering bicycle access, it remains to my mind the very reason to do so, as bicyclists can and do use it, though most uncomfortably.

It is very wide, with many lanes, so there's room; traffic is fast (and usually quite stupid), so there's need.

There is a major family park (Kenneth Hahn) right at the summit, and there were plans for a bike path through this park, which SCAG feels is impractical because the path would have to traverse working oil fields to get there. But why would it? Most of La Cienega in this area is bordered not by homes and businesses but by dirt slopes and shoulders--there would easily be room for bike lanes or even path alongside the worst (fastest) stretches...if there were will.

If the road's going to be reconfigured anyway, it wouldn't cost much to make room for bikes on this, one of only two passes over the Baldwin Hills. (The other is La Brea, which is nearly as bad and considerably steeper and farther east.)

And while we're at it, let's get rid of two traffic lanes and put in a light-rail line, yeah! If you're talking about moving more people, then get serious about it. This would join the Expo Line now being built to the existing Green Line by the airport. Bikes and trains: the truly efficient and clean ways to get around a big place like LA!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 05 May 2010 07:53:21 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, May 4th
Downtown Digestive
So this is what I saw, while I was sitting in Sultan's eating a felafel downtown.... My Bottecchia fixie leaned against the counter just inside the door, and the endless panoply of garment & jewelry district fauna staggering, lurching, and occasionally just plain walking by the big front windows while Arabic-language music videos played on a widescreen near the ceiling.

Bicycles are the universal food delivery system in that crowded sector south of Pershing Square, mostly ridden by immigrants in the diner-employee uniform of heavy shoes, baggy slacks, and button shirt open over a T...but one fellow, a delivery rider for a major purveyor of low-rent pizza, stood out, not only because he wore a helmet, but because said helmet itself wore a neoprene cover emblazoned with his corporate master's logo!

In other words, bicycle delivery has become integrated enough into this company's culture that somewhere in the depths of its bureaucracy someone proposed, argued for, designed, and placed an order for customized helmet covers for their delivery dudes!

I'm not even sure whether I'm pleased or dismayed, but it does mean that commercial utility cycling has moved beyond the fringe, even if in only a smallish way.

I finished my felafel, saddled up, and rode off into the swirl of filthy trucks, shiny cars, stodgy buses, sleek courier fixies, and plodding bebasketed mountain bikes, as well as pedestrians representing every possible shape, color, accent, and degree of wealth and sartorial refinement possible among human beings, and sadly took my leave of LA's ever-lively downtown for a day or two.

I'll be back Thursday, and looking forward to it!

You may be too: I'll be loading my little folding dolly (taken on the bus; haven't sprung for a bike trailer yet) with a fresh load of Classic Wool Knickers to replenish our inventory--some of which are in a sweet new olive brown; watch for them!

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 04 May 2010 17:39:36 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 1st
Everywhere but Home....
LA is our home, so while we're happy that the City Council approved our first bike corral last week, we're a little miffed that a the second-largest city in the US should be so appallingly slow in getting around to supporting urban cyclists with something so basic as parking.

I mean, how much would people drive if there were only one or two parking spots per block, and only, say, four or five in a mall or office tower?

They wouldn't, of course. As Donald Shoup's research has pointed out, free or below-market parking (in concert with highly subsidized roads) provides a huge welfare check to motorists, which induces more driving, which requires more paving and yet more parking, all of which requires yet more tax expenditures, in a vicious circle that is destroying not only the Earth's air and land surface but our human cultures, and our economies. (Not even getting into oil wars here....)

Giving a modest bit of support to cycling (and transit, but that's for another post) helps replace the vicious circle with a virtuous one: community is enhanced, environmental degradation is reduced or even reversed, and people actually shop more effectively by bike than by car, so local economies improve.

Other US cities get it. (Japan and Northern Europe got it thirty years ago.) Portland, of course, which has twenty bike corrals so far, with more on the way; but there are others as well. Here's a short list we culled from Twitter just this morning:
San Francisco
Long Beach
Also, NYC is planning to install a (possibly) 100-bike covered parking lot.

So quit dragging your feet, LA!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 01 May 2010 08:41:49 -0800 [link]  

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