Bicycle Fixation Weblog

Home » Archives » January 2010 » We Are Traffic!

Saturday, January 30th
We Are Traffic!
Here's a nice little clip made by William Hsu of My Dutch Bike when he was in Amsterdam recently. What's spectacular about it is that there's nothing spectacular about it, in its context. It's just lots and lots of people traveling in bicycle.

No racing, no cruising, just going about life on a misty day. The way it ought to be!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 30 Jan 2010 16:22:44 -0800 [link]  

Friday, January 29th
Sweet Animation with Bicycles
This isn't about bicycles; but it's a sweet little Dutch animation and so bicycles are a natural part of the story. Immensely touching, beautifully done:

"Father and Daughter," by Michael Dudok De Wit: one of the nicest eight minutes you'll have today.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 29 Jan 2010 16:30:10 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, January 28th
Biking & Walking 2010 Report
The Alliance for Biking & Walking has released their 2010 report summarizing the state of bicycling and walking in the US. Some of its conclusions--the benefits of cycling and walking to public health--will be familiar, as will its dreary conclusion that the Federal government shortchanges the most efficient modes of urban transit woefully, directing only 2% of the transportation budget to modes that together comprise 13% of travel mode share. To quote:
In these times of high gas prices, a warming climate, increasing traffic congestion, and expanding waistlines, increasing bicycling and walking are goals that are clearly in the public interest. As this report shows, where bicycling and walking levels are higher, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels are lower. Higher levels of bicycling and walking also coincide with increased bicycle and pedestrian safety and higher levels of physical activity. Increasing bicycling and walking can help solve many of the largest problems facing our nation. As this report indicates, many states and cities are making progress toward promoting safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians, but much more remains to be done.
As you can see from the quote, states and cities with a higher share of cycling and walking also have safer streets, further supporting the concept of "safety in numbers."

Read more, with links to the full version, at the Alliance for Biking and Walking website

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 28 Jan 2010 08:22:46 -0800 [link]  

Monday, January 25th
Between the Storms
After the gales and deluges of last week, the air was sweet and clear for one whole day, and so I left the raingear at home and rode out to--where else?--the Bridge.

I had planned to ride part way on the Ballona Creek Bike Path, but the gates were still closed as there was still a chance of flooding or at least high water. You can see it in its deserted glory below:

Ballona Creek Bike Path

Perhaps building along storm drain channels--since that's what most of Ballona has become--is not the most practical way to establish bike routes.

Perhaps if we'd established more bike routes, and established more light rail lines (or simply kept the ones we used to have), there wouldn't be so damn much pavement in LA that any storm, let alone storms the intensity of last week's, causes the channels to become raging torrents.

But this is what we've got today. Tomorrow may be better, when all the city is at least as crowded with cyclists as the last mile leading to the Bridge was when I took the next photo:

Riders on the Jetty

Today was nearly as clear in the morning, but I had things to do around the 'hood, so I took the Bottecchia out for my run to the farmers' market in Plummer Park and filled a pannier with various greens, then walked the laundry over to the laundromat, and after that rewarded myself by riding the Pseudobecane to Wes Oishi's Soundcycles over on Pico to ruin his productivity for the afternoon.

Tomorrow, to South Pasadena, and I'd better take the rain cape along in case the weather predictions aren't wrong.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 25 Jan 2010 20:34:46 -0800 [link]  

"80 for Haiti" Ride in San Diego Next Month
80 for Haiti BadgeSouthern California cyclists can help the people of Haiti while enjoying a ride through the backcountry of San Diego County by joining in AdventureCORPS' "80 for Haiti" ride--80 miles, $80 entry fee, and all the money goes to aid organization Mercy Corps. From Adventure Corp's press release:
AdventureCORPS, Inc., an athlete-run firm producing some of the world's toughest sports events - including the Badwater Ultramarathon and Furnace Creek 508 races in Death Valley - will host "80 FOR HAITI," a cycling benefit ride for Haiti relief supporting Mercy Corps on Saturday, February 13, 2010. The event will feature an 80-mile ride along Old Hwy 80 in southeastern San Diego County. There will be an $80 entry fee and 100% of the entry fees will go directly to Mercy Corps, one of the most respected relief organizations worldwide. AdventureCORPS will absorb all costs, but food, drink, and support sponsors are being sought.
See details on the AdventureCORPS website.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:39:14 -0800 [link]  

Friday, January 22nd
Treading Water
We waited for it long enough, and it's finally here: the rain! The storms have been rolling in one after the other, with rarely even a day's break between, and by now Portland and Seattle are veritable Saharas by comparison with usually dessicated Los I write, the water in our little street is just overtopping the curb. And as I ride my bike, protected from below by fenders and from above by my British rain cape, I start to think about tires....

Okay, maybe first I think about the perfumes of a thousand ethnic cuisines that drift out of the restaurants I pass on my rides, but eventually--since I write a cycling blog--I think about tires.

I've ridden every day in the rain, sometimes forty miles in a day, sometimes twenty, sometimes just three or four--gotta get things done, after all. Sometimes the rain is a veritable deluge, sometimes a pattering that doesn't even require the cape, and sometimes a light mist--but one thing it always is, is wet. And so are the roads.

Almost all of us belong to an internet affinity group or two or three, and my main one is the iBOB list, descended from the old Bridgestone Owners' Bunch that Rivendell's Grant Petersen founded long ago when the internet was barely more than a few eggheads texting back and forth between university basements. And, as members of such affinity groups often do, we have--ahem--opinions.

And one of the opinions vociferously put forth is that tread on bicycle tires is as useless as tits on a boar.

Now, I've ridden many many miles in the rain, both on slicks and on treaded tires, and in fact I agree with my listpals, and with the various tire companies, that in an ideal world a bicycle tire does not need tread on it to work well in the rain. It is narrow enough--even a fat bicycle tire is narrow enough--that it will cut through any amount of water and find the road beneath.

That is, in Switzerland, or some other place where the roads are steel-drum smooth and the populations' taxes are in part applied to keeping those roads not only smooth but clean enough to dine off of.

However, this is Los Angeles. At the best of times, our roads are scabbed with potholes, cracks, ruts, heaves, loose chunks of asphalt and concrete, and the varied detritus that falls off of shabby pickups and battered dumptrucks.

Add torrential rains, howling winds (up to 80mph this week!), sodden yards, and hundreds of sandstone hills bulging out of the alluvial plain, and you find that the roads become somewhat less perfect than they were in their previous imperfect but at least dry condition. I've encountered: smears of spilled automotive fluids of various sorts, sand, mud, twigs, branches, swathes of mashed leaves ranging from pine needles to the broad hands of sycamores, sodden cardboard, and more.

Not to mention the detour I purposely took through an unpaved alley, just for fun.

Begging my colleagues' pardon, I'd like to say that in this not-quite-ideal world of neglected macadam, you just might want a tire with a nice healthy tread on it, as well as some damned sticky rubber. Because it's usually not just nice smooth road beneath that water....

My Marathons are only 25mm wide, but so far they haven't slipped an inch.

I'm glad I had 'em, because they've given me some beautiful rain rides all this week.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 22 Jan 2010 13:52:32 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, January 21st
Knickers Delayed....
My apologies to all who have pre-ordered the True Black Classic Wool Knickers, but the factory has experienced a severe delay in production. In a way it's good news, as it's occurred because the subcontractors have been flooded with orders as the economy starts to rev back up.

Unfortunately, it means that we will not be able to deliver the knickers ordered up to today until around the 7th of February, or more than two weeks later than we had anticipated.

We have changed the delivery date on the order pages to the 20th of February, and all knickers ordered after yesterday will not be delivered until then. However, I have arranged (through begging, whining, and crying) to have the orders that have come in so far produced ahead of time, so that all of you kind folks who pre-ordered early will not be delayed a full month.

Please accept my profoundest apologies. I hope this will not disappoint anyone too severely.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 21 Jan 2010 13:24:40 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, January 19th
Wool and Water
It's Tuesday, which means I rode out to South Pasadena to visit with Chuck. It was also the day the second in a series of violent rainstorms rolled in, so I got some good gear testing in on the thirty-eight mile round trip.

Not that I was really testing gear; I was just riding and wearing what I wear for rainy-day rides, but it's been so long since there was a real rain here that it felt like a shakedown cruise, though all the stuff was tried-and-true.

The Los Angeles River near Silverlake
The Los Angeles River, near Silverlake, as I crossed it on the way out
The ride out was uneventful, with the rain starting about five miles from Buster's, where I was of course headed; but that was a light rain, so I didn't bother to break out the Carradice rain cape, as the drops were drying as fast they they landed on me. (Wool knickers and wool jersey helped, of course; nothing beats wool in the damp!)

Once I settled in with a cup of tea in hand and Chuck's mug across the table from me, the rain started crashing down in earnest--streaming, slanting, heavy torrents of water, urged on with an occasional thunderboom. The poor Bottecchia sat patiently under it all, with only the Carradice helmet cover protecting its saddle (a gust having blown away the showercap I usually assign to that duty).

We blew hot air at each other for a while, then I got ready to head for home in a hard but steady rain, when I realized something: when you park the bike at the curb, and you know it will rain, it pays to take the rain gear out of the pannier!

Because otherwise you need to walk from the door of the coffeehouse to where the bike is to put it on...and it's already raining.

Live and learn. I got wetter retrieving the rain cape before leaving than I did (at least from the shins up) on the eighteen mile ride home.

Also, about halfway back, I experienced the closest lightning strike of my life--the universe lighted up, and positively savage concussion of thunder followed by less than a second and startled the hell out of me--though I was in a valley and so quite safe.

By the time I got home the rain had backed off to a gentle patter. A quick wipe-down of the bike after hanging the cape to dry, and I was ready for the rest of the afternoon, at home.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 19 Jan 2010 16:51:06 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, January 17th
Sweet Foolishness....
I didn't feel like doing much of anything today, as I've been harassed with family and money matters for months now, and possibly have a touch of flu as well--so I went out for "a short ride this time," as I told Gina. And to bring a little variety into my riding--even though I work mostly at home, my meetings and chores tend to make me a commuter with not one but three rather fixed routes I repeat week after week--I headed north, towards the hills, to noodle around in the little streets of Hollywood and then come home.

Or so I thought. But the hills started looking better the closer I got, so of course...

...I ended up climbing Nichols Canyon on the fixed-wheel Bottecchia and riding the ridgeline of Mulholland to the Sepulveda Pass.

Trying to be clever, I decided I really did remember the cut-off I'd traced on a map that eliminated the short but very steep climb up Woodrow Wilson to Mulholland itself, just before the very end of Nichols.

But either I'd misread the map, or misremembered the street name, for La Cuesta had not one but two pitches much steeper than Woodrow Wilson, and twisty, with shattered pavement thrown in for good measure. Bad enough that I walked about fifty yards total.

But it did let me see the delightful little glen pictured below:

Lost glen off La Cuesta in the Hollywood Hills

Once up on the ridge, the riding was easier, though of course the whole road is a series of rollers--but that means drops as well as climbs, which you don't get on the initial ascent. You also get a bit more company--mostly the usual grimly-silent roadies, though one fellow did give me a cheery "hello" as we passed in opposite directions. And I received a friendly nod from an enormous man on an even more enormous motorcycle, which was nice.

Then of course there are the Big Views that people go up there for, such as the rather Italianate one below:

Looking South from Mulholland Drive

The air was brisk, the road (by now) not more challenging than I could handle, and the fixie's rythmn was easy; it seemed as though no time had passed before I arrived at Sepulveda Pass for the descent into Westwood, whence I went a wee bit farther west to San Vicente, the roadie heaven, where I stopped for a good strong latte and a magnificent almond croissant at Caffe Luxxe.

After a brief chat with Eric and Andreas, the baristas, I found my way to Santa Monica Boulevard and its actually functional bike lanes, which took me to the little street I use to sneak through Beverly Hills and so to the Miracle Mile, where the day began.

Just a nice Sunday ride. And I didn't even need to pull the rain cape out of the pannier...though it's sprinkling now.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 17 Jan 2010 14:10:21 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, January 14th
Women and Wheels
In My Year as a Woman in a City of Bikes, BikePortland's Elly Blue recounts incidents and attitudes that may exemplify why women, who "hold up half the sky," comprise only around 30% of Portland's bike commuters (and less in many other places).

She rightly bemoans how bicycling, seen by early feminists as an essential element in women's liberation, has come to be thought of as a "masculine" activity, one too demanding or dangerous for women, and how male cyclists are often condescending to women riders.

Of course, this merely reflects how men in general are condescending and patronizing towards women riders, and may certainly account for much of the frustration women feel not only in cycling but in society at large. And now, with the growth of religious fundamentalism in both Christian and Muslim cultures, we see more and more oppression of women, be it vernacular or even legal, in the news worldwide--purdah, forced female circumcision, the effective slave status of women in many countries.

When the going gets tough, the pseudo-tough become boors, and start picking on women.

All this is apart from the usual objectification of women that is pretty prevalent on male-written blogs and Flickr accounts, with "cycle chic" sites the world over concentrating on photos of slim twentysomething women in tights and minis....

I design and manufacture "cycle chic" clothing myself, though at present mostly for men, and I certainly like to look at pretty women, but the endless parade of leering photos, often shot on the sly and certainly without model releases in most cases, makes me a bit weary. So does the endless presentation (that Blue also notes) of pink bikes and accessories associated with women riders.

In Los Angeles, my eyeball estimate of practical cyclists (I don't bother with roadies or MTBers, since my interest is in the social and environmental effects of cycling as transport) gives me the impression that here too women comprise about 30% of bike commuters--even though women are a larger proportion of the bicycle advocacy community and form almost the entire staff of the LACBC, our primary advocacy organization.

Maybe it's time for cycling to re-take the heights it held in the 1880s and 1890s, when the "wheel" was a means of escape from male oppression, and not an instrument of it.

Since men tend to be purposely dull-witted about this, women have to speak up more, as their predecessors did in the 19th century: sisters, don't let any bike-shop louts patronize you; patronize (in the more neutral sense of the word) bike shops that employ women and treat them well (for example, the City Bike Workers' Coop in Portland, or Orange 20 here in Los Angeles), and--most of all--get out and ride!

There's not only safety in numbers, but, eventually, respect as well.

It has ever been only solidarity that has successfully beat down oppression.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 14 Jan 2010 09:53:14 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, January 12th
Cheap Fixies Redux
Rode to Hermosa Beach for a meeting Sunday--not that I need much incentive to ride to the beach in Southern California!--and rode to South Pasadena Monday (in stead of my usual Tuesday, because Chuck's schedule had changed this week). About forty miles each time, one a weekend day, one a work day, and two things stood out to me again this week:
  1. How many people were out riding bicycles, not just to promenade but evidently to go someplace.
  2. How many of those many people were riding the notorious Cheap Neon Fixie!
I perhaps am harping on the matter a bit, but I hear so much scorn and derision directed towards those simple Taiwan Specials that I feel compelled to put forth a contrary opinion.

These bikes--these simple little welded frames from all those online retailers whose ads are probably showing right now next to this blog entry--are a Wonderful Thing. People are riding them who would not have thought to ride a bike before. Not only that, people are riding them in part because they are simple--and this represents a huge change in perceptions: for decades, cars, entertainment, housing, all life in the US has been trending towards greater and greater complication and bulk in the name of consumerist status seeking, Indeed, I believe it is this emphasis on display and ostentatious complication that played a part in the decline of the bicycle's status as a mode of transport.

And now people, all sorts of people, from the gritty to the slick, are not only riding bicycles, but riding the simplest possible bicycles, and praising that very simplicity as a status symbol!

It's one thing to say my bicycle (or car, or boat, or whatever) is "better" because it does everything for me, and quite another to say that my fixie is "better" because it burdens me less and expands my capabilities.

A return to self-reliance, to economy, and in many ways to community--fixie riders rambling about at midnight together, in great happy hordes!

This is a portent of Good Things to come--I really think so.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 12 Jan 2010 15:43:06 -0800 [link]  

Friday, January 8th
Bike Parking Matters
I noticed a few weeks ago, while perusing my archives, that one of my first emails ever was part of a correspondence with LADOT's Bicycle Program Coordinator Michelle Mowery (still on the job); it concerned bicycle parking racks.

All these many years later, LA has around 3500 bike racks on public property--but for a city this size, that is sorely inadequate. To make things easier, LADOT will install bike racks for free (on city property only), if the location meets certain design and use criteria.

The problem is that few people are aware of this program. So local advocacy and outreach group City of Lights, in conjunction with the LACBC, has compiled a guide to help velocitizens (and friendly business owners) through this process.

City of Lights began as a program to provide night lighting and other safety equipment to LA's numerous but often invisible Latino bike commuters, and developed the guide while working with the city to install more bike parking in the city's extremely densely-populated Pico-Union neighborhood (which is more crowded than Manhattan). The result is a concise document that will be useful anywhere there are riders needing to park in the City of Los Angeles.

Read about their labors on their blog, or download the guide directly:

Getting More Bike Parking Racks in Your Neighborhood (PDF)

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 13:14:10 -0800 [link]  

Tired Tires....
I'm of two minds about this whimsical collective sculpture saw yesterday at Hel-Mel, while visiting Orange 20 Bikes, one of our local dealers.

Worn Out Bike Tires at Hel-MelMy first thought on seeing that garland of worn-out tires was that really, they ought to be recycled, whether into bags and purses (as is becoming popular lately; see for example Totally Tubular), or into road resurfacing glop, or something.

But then I thought that in this instance, the message was perhaps more important than the matter, at least for now.... After all, what this growing wreath of worn-out treads really signifies is really significant: it affirms just how much more people in Los Angeles are riding their bicycles these days! It seems as though it was only two or three weeks ago that it wasn't there.

I wonder whether perhaps it might serve as a free tire supply for the penurious cyclists, as well, some of the tires having rather a lot of tread left on them. Of course, getting one might be a bit of a chore!

And so I'm glad it's there after all...maybe I'll even add one of my cracked-up Marathons next time I'm in the Bicycle District. I just hope the city doesn't take it down in a misguided (and all too rare, should it happen) fit of tidiness.


A note to those who pick up our RSS feed with aggregators: we were apprised of a date and time error on our previous feed; after several days' collaborative work with the writer of the feed script, we have corrected the time and date presentation to be RFC-822 compliant, so our posts should henceforth show up in proper chronological order in your readers. We apologize for the previous inconvenience.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 08:26:01 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, January 6th
Pre-Order Your Classic Wool Knickers
Heads-up: we have a new run of our Classic Wool Knickers a-sewing right now, and they should be ready for shipment by January 20th.

These are in True Black with a Bronze gusset, understated and elegant, and good tough gabardine as always. Strength and grace combined! Quantities will be limited, as usual, so we have set up a special page for pre-ordering your pair, which puts you first in line for delivery once we get them. (And guarantees we won't run out before you order!)

To see the new colors and place your order, just click here.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 06 Jan 2010 15:25:40 -0800 [link]  

Friday, January 1st
Happy New Year!
The View form Venice PierSo I threw the real camera, the digital SLR, into the pannier when I took off this morning to ride by Mom's and then scurry down to the beach for my traditional New Year's Day photo. (Traditional for the Euro-American New year; the Jewish, Chinese, and occasional Persian New Years we also celebrate are dedicated to eating....)

But when I got to the Venice Pier and rode slowly and politely among the crowds to the seaward end, I found the battery quite thoroughly, yes, you get another Crappy Cellphone Picture!

I did what I could to "fix it in post," and it's not as bad as it could be.

If the number of cyclists I saw this morning is any indication--and I saw everything from full-kit roadies to fixie punx to old couples on those high-bar hybrids--2010 should prove to be a very good year for cycling in Los Angeles and, one hopes, everywhere.

Let's do what we can to make it so. Happy New year!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 01 Jan 2010 14:50:17 -0800 [link]  

Search the Blog Archives

Browse the Archives

Environmental Activism Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

A Few Good Blogs....

Kent Peterson
LADOT Bike Blog
Lovely Bicycle!
Saddle Americana