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Monday, June 28th
A Bike Corral in an Unexpected Place
I've belatedly come to realize that there is a bike corral within the Los Angeles city limits after's just not one that the city itself put up.

farmar_corral (118k image)Here at the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, a somewhat quaint but very real European souk, you might say, where Gina and I go, separately or together, several times a week. It's a short ride from home, and there's a wonderful diversity of food stalls, including Loteria, one of rootsiest Mexican eateries around, and a couple of excellent greengrocers. (There's also the rather plastique chain-store ghetto immediately adjacent, The Grove, but at least it has a reasonably good bookstore.)

Despite its scattering of tourist-trap curio stores, the Farmers Market is a wonderful place to eat, shop, and just hang out, with its hundreds of communal tables crowding a maze of aisles under awnings or even the open air, and it's music on odd evenings every week. It's been a true neighborhood hangout--the closest thing LA has ever had to a real town square--for three-quarters of a century, and I've been going there since I was a little kid.

Sunday we went there to watch Argentina (my homeland) play Mexico in the World Cup, sitting before the flatscreen at one of the open-air bars. After the match, we were unlocking the bikes when I realized that I had never photographed what was, after all, a genuine bike corral, bollards and all!

Bike parking used to be miserable at the place--crappy rimbender racks, impossible to use with a U-lock, and always full (and still in use at other parts of the Market).

But now, a bike corral! One I've been using for months without really noticing anything except how handy it was. So I asked Gina to take an iPhone picture of it.

Now, if we can only get the city to put up hundreds of these things all over town!

To paraphrase, the movie, you, know, LA, if you build them, we will park....

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 28 Jun 2010 11:39:43 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, June 26th
Cops, Kids, Cooperation, and Mass Love
Last night I rode Critical Mass for the first time in a very long time.

For one thing, I believe CM has begun to outlive its mission: regular folks are starting to ride bikes on the street more and more, or at least starting to want to ride while feeling a bit timid about doing so; and despite a lot of problems, drivers seem to me to be beginning to be a little more mature about sharing the road. Statistics bear this out, especially in places that have been very pro-active in supporting bicycle transportation, such as New York City, where accidents rates have gone down while bicycle use has gone way up.

But also I felt that CM was being co-opted by bike brats: giddily aggressive teenagers just bent on making a scene and being noticed, by any means necessary, and of course the rebel-without-a-clue types with their bandanna masks and their furrowed brows. I heard reports from friends who still rode CM that fistfights were breaking out not only between riders and motorists but riders and riders as well; that riders were tagging and shoplifting en route; that bikes were being stolen.

But tonight being the night that the LAPD decided to ride along as participants, with a loud and public promise to be on their best behavior (for the cops have indulged in their own brand of thuggism during numerous masses, not to mention at other times), I decided to go along. Not "to protect and to serve," but to enjoy and observe. Would everyone really behave well? The temptation to provoke, on both sides, might be irresistible.

Well, I am happy to report that both sides resisted, and that the wild youth, the self-conscious rebels, and the cops themselves all behaved like actual human beings for a change, and as far as I could see--and you had to see far indeed to see the whole gigantic crowd!--everyone had fun.

There was even cheering from the sidewalk, and from a lot of cars on the street as well (along with some angry honking, of course, as a thousand or so cyclists oozed slowly through intersections).

There were really too many cops--by some counts sixty on bicycles, fifteen or twenty on motorcycles, and a couple in cars--but no one got badge-heavy.

I think both sides enjoyed a bit of consciousness raising, as we used to say back when.

Whether it will last is quite another question, but I hope so. Both the LAPD brass and at least the older-school bike activist celebrities seem to be honestly in favor of a rapprochement.

I rode along farther than I'd planned, but when the mass passed a couple of blocks from home I peeled off. Here are some snaps from the meetup:

For videos and more pix and paragraphs, see: Streetsblog Los Angeles and BikesideLA. I'm sure more reports will hit the blogosphere soon, so just start searching....

Increase the peace!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 26 Jun 2010 07:50:42 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, June 24th
What a difference a bit of pull makes!

Last night our local city council member led a ride down 4th Street--yep, the very 4th Street I am always harping about in this blog, and which the LACBC is promoting as candidate for LA's first bicycle boulevard.

The council member, Tom La Bonge was there, of course, as was Michelle Mowery, LADOT's bicycle program coordinator, and Dorothy Le from LACBC, who I suspect wedged herself in at the last minute and gave a mini-presentation on the bicycle boulevard concept.

There were a few regular LA bike commuters and "bike culture" types, and a lot of people who looked like they didn't ride too often, but who were attracted by, I guess, the safety-in-numbers feel of a group ride escorted by a couple of bigwigs and a platoon of cops.

Lots of cops, in fact: I think ten on bikes, plus a squad car, plus some nondescript security folks, also on bikes, from various city departments.

We rolled off at a sedate pace, no brisker than any Critical Mass ride I've been on--and we even got corked intersections! Yes, the bike cops corked intersections for us, sounding their squeaky little mini-sirens and waving their hands sternly at puzzled drivers.

It was like Critical Mass, but with gray hair and guns. Quite droll.

Well, it showed off 4th's new sharrows, and it got a few people out on bikes on the street who might not have been willing to try it otherwise. And the speeches were short and very much to the point, which is good.

But official corking! Indeed, what a difference a bit of pull makes!

The cops, in an effort to make nice after last month's debacle, have promised to join tomorrow's Critical Mass ride from Wilshire and Western. I even heard rumors that they'll cork intersections for the lads. I might just go, though I think that Critical mass has really outlived its mission right now. But I really would like to see how the LAPD behaves for a bunch of regular citizens who are mostly young and thought to be "radical," whatever that might mean these days....

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 24 Jun 2010 09:18:23 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, June 20th
Rorschach Test
Parking at the Parking MeterSo what do you see in the photo?

 •An odd velocipedal mishmash of track bike and retrogrouch commuter
 •An updated version of the quintessential British touring fixie
 •A healthy example of clean transportation
 •A violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code SEC. 88.10, which states: It shall be unlawful for any person to attach anything or to allow a bicycle, newsrack or any other article or thing to lean against a parking meter or a parking meter standard.

Indeed, I committed a criminal act when I locked my bike to the parking meter so I could savor the exquisite espresso at Caffe Luxxe, which is on a stretch of San Vicente lying within the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles.

Isn't it time to abolish this stupid provision, which is never enforced anyway? Its only possible use these days might be to give LA's more badge-heavy cops an excuse to harass cyclists, and now that the LAPD's top brass have decided to get all sensitive on us, it may become a useless provision.

Meanwhile, LA claims to be trying oh-so-hard to support and increase the use of bicycles for transportation in the city--but dammit, if you can't safely park your bike when you get where you're going, you're not going to ride it there! And I personally know many enthusiastic cyclists who won't travel by bike to destinations where they can't wheel their rides in with them.

Cars should pay for parking--parking spaces for cars are expensive, and driving already receive gigantic subsidies to help them indulge in their lifestyle choice.(Car and fuel fees and taxes pay for less than half of the cost of just building and maintaining roads and street parking--and that doesn't even count externalized costs such as property and business taxes lost when asphalt replaces homes and commercial properties, air and water pollution mitigation, and so forth.)

In fact, cars are so heavily subsidized that carfree cyclists are made to overpay in general taxes to cover the costs of socialized motoring.

Meanwhile, bikes take up almost no road space, and you can park twelve of them in the space of one car (which typically carries 1.2 riders, on average).

Is it too much to ask that we be allowed a few parking racks? Which would save the city money in the long run, as fewer people drove and roads began lasting longer?

And wouldn't a cheap way to add racks to LA's sidewalk be to retrofit current single-space parking meters to convert them into racks? The pole's already mounted and strong; all it needs is a device such as the "Cyclehoop," which is a sturdy ring that can be retrofitted onto poles and, yes, parking meters to provide instant bike parking.

Oh, yeah, that and a change in the Municipal Code.

Get with it, LA. Support cycling by repealing inane provisions such as 88.10, and get some quick and easy bike parking on our streets!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 20 Jun 2010 13:50:34 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, June 17th
Making a Living....
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Richard Risemberg on Thu, 17 Jun 2010 13:45:52 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, June 13th
Sunday Spin
Rode a fast forty today, straight down Wilshire Boulevard, cracked pavement and all, to the Westside edition of San Vicente (the roadie's heaven, and a street that mysteriously ends at Wilshire in my neighborhood, only to recommence on the other side of Wilshire some ten miles west). From there I noodled down local canyon byways to the beach path and headed south to (of course) The Bridge.

A lot of "serious" riders dislike the beach path because it gets crowded and they can't go fast. I like because it gets crowded and I can't go fast. I went plenty fast along Wilshire and San Vicente, enough to get it out of my system for the morning, and now I wanted to slow down and enjoy the festive people populating the sand, and the quiet Pacific Ocean rippling under the heavy gray skies of LA's notorious June Gloom. (The June Gloom does keep the temperatures down for hammering, though!)

It's nice to slow down sometimes. My own personal opinion is that bicyclists shouldn't seek to emulate the hurry, nervousness, and aggression of asshole motorheads; that is somewhat at odds with the nature of bicycling in cities, I think. If you change the equipment but not the attitude, well, you may not be blowing smoke out of your tailpipe but you're blowing it out your ass in another way, if you'll pardon my French. (BTW why do people use that phrase? I speak French, and it's terrible for swearing; English and especially Spanish are far superior in that reard.)

And I needed to slow down. Running a tiny business with no ad budget in a down economy isn't for the faint of heart, and I do let myself get wound up now and then.

Fortunately, a spot of hammering, followed by a slow cruise down the beach, followed by a half hour at The Bridge, then a brisk but not hard ride home, set things right for a while.

There's so much much of the world you can see from a bicycle saddle than almost any other's a pity to rush past it all. So I don't. At least, not most of the time....

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 13 Jun 2010 13:22:54 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, June 8th
The Girls Are Back in Town....
Maybe LA's doing something right, or maybe 4th Street really is that good a bike route (and one that mightily deserves being made into a bicycle boulevard).

While other cities complain that women on bikes (a sort of "indicator species," as some have put it, for how bike-friendly a town is) tend to hover at one-third to one-quarter the number of male urban cyclists, this morning as I rode about most of the length of 4th around 0930 hours, I passed numerous cyclists--and all of them were women.

I ride 4th Street almost every day, and the presence of women on bikes is almost always notable--usually about the half of the riders I see.

Since during the LACBC's bike count last year, only around 15% of cyclists counted were women, maybe that just says that we really ought to study 4th Street to understand what makes it so desirable as a bike route, even in its present condition, with its terrible surface and with two major uncontrolled intersections.

It's a pretty, tree-lined street that stitches together a number of disparate neighborhoods--and it already sees little car traffic--in part, I suspect, because of those unsignalized intersections. Also, the curves, trees, and hills reduce sight lines, and therefore car speeds.

In effect, making it a bicycle boulevard will refine and perhaps perfect its present character. I think it has a lot to teach us. We need to remake more streets in LA in the image of 4th Street--if not with rerouting (obviously), with proper traffic calming.

Including bicycle infrastructure: see what the New York Times says in this misleadingly-titled article on how bike lanes and street closures have not only boosted cycling and walking in NYC, but smoothed the flow of car traffic as well: Pedestrians, Bicyclists Spar for Space in NYC's New No-Car Zones.

The women of 4th Street may be showing us that LA can find its own way to a rational traffic mix on our often charming side streets.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 20:16:49 -0800 [link]  

Friday, June 4th
The Real Alternative Fuel Vehicle
Gina & Doughnuts
Click for bigger image
The real problem with cars is not just oil, pollution, global warming, and all that; even if they ran on fairy dust, they would still be untenable. The problem with cars is the spatial distortions they require: the vast acreages covered with asphalt for lanes and for parking, the wildernesses and farms destroyed, the watersheds obliterated, the neighborhood crushed for freeways, for ten-lane "streets," for parking garages bigger than the buildings they serve.

...The neighborhoods bisected, the loneliness imposed on people who spend hours a day locked up by themselves in a small box, desperately turning the radio dial or punching the cellphone's buttons in search of faux fellowship.

Fortunately, today celebrates the real alternative fuel for the real alternative fuel vehicle: for today (we are not joking) is...National Doughnut Day!

And that's Gina coming home with a bagful of doughnuts, so we could do our duty as citizens.

Eating doughnuts, riding bikes: the real patriotism!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 04 Jun 2010 14:21:41 -0800 [link]  

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