Bicycle Fixation Weblog

Home » Archives » February 2011 » Rainy Day Rambles

Friday, February 25th
Rainy Day Rambles
A slow build-up to big rain was predicted for today, but so far it hasn't been too unaccommodating. I had to run down to Palms--probably thirteen or fourteen miles round trip--for a meeting with a lawyer, and I put the rain cape on straightaway. Varying rain, sometimes light, sometimes moderate, all the way. A quick wipe of face and spectacles and a whack or two with the comb, and i was presentable in my dark sweater and Classic Wool Knickers. When I was done, it was raining so lightly I didn't bother with the cape for the ride home. Wool is wonderful that way.

(Of course I had a showercap on the saddle while I was in the office; there was, alas, and all too typically, no covered bike parking. In fact, there was no bike parking at all, but there was a handy bit of ironwork that accommodated my U-lock.)

Pleasant ride; LA is never so sweet-smelling as during rain.

While I was on the outward leg, another fixie rider--a carfree fellow--pulled up alongside and grilled me at some length about the cape. I was, of course, happy to oblige with information and opinions.

Then this afternoon Gina declared that she would just love to ride over to Village Idiot for a beer and a bite. She dressed up a bit in a slim knit skirt and chic Hunter rain boots, saddled up the Milk Runner, her 605B porteurish bike, and off we went. The streets were sopping wet but barely any rain was falling, so on the way out we left the rain capes in the panniers (she doesn't like hers, and indeed I am thinking that I would like to design an improved cape for Bicycle Fixation sometime soon).

On the way back it was raining quite hard, so we caped up for both the run to Susina for dessert, and the run home. The knee coverage the cape gave mostly overlapping the top of the rain boots kept her dry and cozy in spite of a cold and increasing storm.

Quite a pleasant day and evening after all! The rain still falls, making a gentle music in the downspouts, so sleep may be particularly felicitous tonight.

And best of all, it looks as though it will be clear, though perhaps chilly, for Sunday's birthday ride. People in LA tend to be rain wimps, so a clear Sunday will make for a more sociable ride. See you there!

...Just realized I may have been a bit unjust in that last paragraph: the notice for tonight's Mid-Wilshire Critical Mass stated that it was rolling rain or not!

I hope they do. They may just enjoy it more than they anticipate....

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 25 Feb 2011 19:53:00 -0800 [link]  

Paradigm Change
I just posted on our sister publication, The New Colonist, about a game-changing proposal called the "Gabriel River Infrastructure Project," or GRID, that would convert a currently bleak industrial wasteland along the San Gabriel River in eastern Los Angeles County into both an efficient freight, passenger, and utility corridor hidden beneath a riverside greenway featuring parks, bikepaths, and transit-oriented developments.

It would also make the 605 and possibly the 710 freeways redundant, potentially freeing yet more land for intelligent development that could turn at least part of Southern California into a practical cycling paradise--all while employing thousands to build and alter operate the system, while spurring small-business development in the resulting new communities.

Read about it at The New Colonist in Making Freeways Obsolete.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 25 Feb 2011 08:27:57 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, February 23rd
Fourth Street Revisited
If you've been following this blog, or the ones I (among others) write for at Orange 20 Bikes and Flying Pigeon LA, or the blogs at LADOT, LACBC, Streetsblog LA, or various others, or our Twitter feed, you've heard a lot of good news about bicycle doings in Los Angeles. Sharrows, road diets, bike corrals and an active sidewalk parking program, bike plans (much amended, successfully, by the community), enthusiastic politicians, active cycling constituents, positive business attitudes, and a slow limbering up of our turgid city bureaucracy, even in a time of diminishing treasuries.

But on the ground it isn't a velocipedal paradise just yet. Few streets have any accommodation for cyclists beyond an occasional sign or long-faded stripe, and the traffic stream is still intimidating for the inexperienced. LA is very large, and the improvements have been very small, and the relentless barrage of car and truck traffic destroys streets faster than they can be repaired--especially considering the huge shortfall in taxes and fees asked of drivers, who pay only a minuscule portion of the costs their hobby imposes on the polity.

A case in point is my beloved 4th Street. One of the most-used bike routes in LA, and slated to become a "Bicycle Friendly Street" in the new bike plan, it also suffers a degraded paving that would shame a war-torn banana republic--even though it serves one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, where numerous foreign consuls have their homes.

In other words, LA has not addressed the most basic aspect of an urban thoroughfare on 4th Street--its pavement--in anything beyond a manner so slapdash as to be insulting.

Here are some photos that I took a couple of days ago:

4th & Cloverdale (recently "repaired"):

4th & McCadden:

4th & McCadden:

4th & Hudson--the "Hudson River" (recently "repaired"):

Another view of 4th & Hudson:

I just have to hope that the projects outlined in the new Bike Plan (probably to be approved and signed into existence next week) will be built with a little more care and competence than these intersections have seen in the last few decades. The neglect began long before the budget shortfalls, as I know, having traveled this street several times a week for nearly twenty years now.

Los Angeles, we can do better than this!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 23 Feb 2011 08:34:06 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, February 20th
Birthday Ride on Sunday
Next Sunday is my birthday, and I am planning a birthday ride as is my habit. Naturally, you are invited!

So here's the tentative plan:
There will be some hills, but nothing outrageous, and there will be a huge variety of landscape and architecture to gaze upon, including (probably) the LA River seen from the newest section of bike path. We'll be passing through several distinctively different parts of Los Angeles. The food will be good. The pace will be set by a middle-aged man on a fixed-gear.

This being LA, rain will cancel, though I'll take some kind of ride myself anyway. But the weather will probably be dryish and cool enough for a mostly no-sweat ride.

If you're interested, please let me know through our comments page. If there's a biggish turnout I may have to alert the restaurants.

Looking forward to it!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 20 Feb 2011 19:06:07 -0800 [link]  

Offsite blogging IV
Just a heads-up about a couple more posts on my other blogging gigs....

On Orange 20 this week I wonder where LA's second bike corral should go in Build It, and They Will Park, and over at Flying Pigeon LA I talk about Graffiti and Grace in the LA River, as seen from the new bike path.

Both with pix, as usual.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 20 Feb 2011 18:48:37 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, February 19th
LA's First Bike Corral!
Here are a few snaps from yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Highland park, officially opening the first public bike corral in the City of Los Angeles!

Local council member José Huizar gave a very nice speech, in which, besides all the usual civic boilerplate, he noted that plans were afoot to install thirty more corrals ASAP, and that he fervently hoped LA would soon be the "largest bike friendly city in America"--a construction inspired by little Long Beach's claim to be the "most bike friendly city" in the US.

I myself rode to Hel-Mel to meet up with the LACBC contingent and LADOT's Chris Kidd (first photo), and we had a sweet ride following Colin Bogard along a meander of back streets through East Hollywood, Silverlake, Atwater, and Highland Park to the site of the festivities.

The corral is in front of Café de Leche, one of the friendliest coffeehouses I've ever visited (and one that has damned good brew as well); owner Matt Schodorf and his wife were primary sponsors of the corral, and have volunteered to take on the cleaning and maintenance thereof.

LADOT acting boss Amir Sedadi pointed out that the corral cost less than $4,000, while a similar car slot costs up to $30,000 to build; Joe Linton stepped up to clarify that (as the corral occupies a car space), the corral accommodates ten bikes and so parks far more people than the same space can when dedicated to private cars.

In other words, bike parking brings more people to an area by allowing them to arrive in smaller vehicles. Since even in the US most car trips (around 60%) are under five miles, and nearly half (40%) are under two miles, it really doesn't make sense to use cars for them.

So I'm glad to see that LA is finally starting to make sense.

It's nice to have a choice in travel modes, and not be coerced into driving by unconsidered infrastructure.

Okay, some pix:

york_corral_preride (116k image)
At Hel-mel, getting ready to go--Chris Kidd, Alexis Lantz, Colin Bogard, and Carol Feucht

York Bike Corral--LA's First
The corral

Councilmember Huizar
Councilmember Huizar

Matt Schodorf & Wife
Owners of Café de Leche

Josef Bray-Ali
Josef of Flying Pigeon LA--tireless advocate for bikes and community.

Come and get it!

And there's a few more on the Bicycle Fixation Flickr site.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 19 Feb 2011 08:24:06 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, February 17th
San Diego Custom Bike Show Seeks Volunteers
The San Diego Custom Bicycle Show is coming up in early April--and we plan to attend. We missed the last couple, but reports from our friends made us pretty irritated that we didn't go, especially as it's a short train ride down the beautiful pacific coast for us.

In any case, among the sponsors this year is Philadelphia's famed Bilenky Cycle Works (whose homepage presently features a beautiful porteur), and Bina Bilenky s coordinating some of the events. She has asked us to forward a call for volunteers for the fashion show, so here it is:

The San Diego Custom Bicycle Show is looking for energetic, bicycle and fashion loving people to volunteer with the bicycle fashion showcase on Saturday, April 9th. We are also looking for models, hair stylists, and make-up artists. Please contact Bina for more information at

Promises to be a great show!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 17 Feb 2011 17:10:51 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, February 16th
In the Heart of the City
LA River, Frogtown, seen from the bike path
Click to enlarge
Even in the heart of the city, a few short miles from downtown, in a channel lined with old houses, small factories, railyards, and freeways, beauty persists.

This is the much-maligned Los Angeles River, which I rode along yesterday on my way home from South Pasadena. This section of bike path opened only a few weeks ago, and it almost immediately became my preferred route for the return half of my usual Tuesday journey.

It's far from perfect beauty--I cropped the concrete banks out of the picture, and the white flecks you see are styrofoam cups, the debris of drive-through culture--but perfect beauty is far less interesting than that symphonic elegance that "grace under pressure" composes out of a tension of opposites. (Hemingway used the phrase to define courage, but I think it serves admirably to describe as well the persistence of natural harmonies even in a most unnatural setting.)

The river persists, with its lives small and large, from bugs, fish, and birds to the arching trees that grow in the river bottom.

The water table is high here, and the river couldn't be completely paved, so we have these miles of grace, now accessible to almost all by means of the bike path.

It makes a good fast trip as well, faster than the parallel streets, with their intersections and red lights.

The path is far from perfect too: I wrote on the Flying Pigeon LA blog a little while ago to complain that there are no street signs to let you know where on the path you are, except at the biggest boulevards. I suspect that will be corrected eventually.

Meanwhile, it's still a great new path. I wish it went all the way to downtown, and probably it will someday, as well as onward to the path that starts a few miles south of the city center and continues on to Long Beach at the mouth of the river. At least it's another increment in the (very) slow process that began back in the '70s, when the first section of riverside bike path was put in. I'll enjoy it now, while hoping (and working) for more in the near future.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 16 Feb 2011 07:42:41 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, February 13th
Offsite Blogging III
Here we go again...another week, another pair of effusions on Orange 20's and Flying Pigeon's blogs. This time around, I covered Flying Pigeon LA's monthly brewery ride in a post entitled, "It's Not About the Beer....", and then I ranted a bit about LA's either clueless or secretive approach to the "public" meetings of the Bike Plan Implementation Team, which apparently has no members....

Read on!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 13 Feb 2011 17:42:19 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, February 12th
No Comparison
With Los Angeles preparing to install its first public bike corral next week, I figured it was time to pair up these two photos I took recently:

Spatial Efficiency

On the left side you have a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles. occupying some of the most valuable land in the county. The front row, as you can see, has room for about fourteen cars. The space around the cars is bleak and empty, and it's a long way to the nearest building entrance.

On the right you have a bike corral on 3rd Street in downtown Portland. It has room for twenty-four bikes. It's right next to an accommodating sidewalk, and no spot in it is more than a few steps from numerous store entrances. The Main Street feel of this very urban downtown is supported, not destroyed, by accommodating cyclists instead of drivers, and the space delivers more customers per square foot than car parking can ever hope to do.

Just sayin'!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 12 Feb 2011 07:18:57 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, February 8th
Salad Days
Rode up Harv's Hill to visit him today, and the ride reminded me how beautiful that climb is during the SoCal spring--which, in this desert climate, is in mid-winter, since that's when it rains. (By May much of the region's foliage will be a desiccated crackly brown.)

The image below is but a tiny sample of the sweetest mile in North East Los Angeles. I picked this spot not because it outshone all others, but because I wanted to pick nasturtium leaves for the supper we just finished here at Bicycle Fixation HQ.

Nasturtiums on Harv's Hill, Winter 2011

This is a time of year when you want both to ride faster and see what's next, and ride slower to savor what is already beside you. Great ride, and a great visit with my old friend too.


More good news: while riding through Chinatown on the way to Harv's Hill, and on the way to the Garment District on my way back, I saw that LADOT had stenciled bike rack placement markers all up and down Hill and Broadway. As you know, I've been grumping about the lack of bicycle parking in Chinatown for a while now. I raised the issue with LADOT's Oliver Hou, and he promised to review the possibilities for adding racks (there presently being exactly none).

Well, I guess he did: I counted nearly twenty markers for future racks, and I looked at only one side each of Hill and Broadway, as I didn't have time to dismount and count, and couldn't see the stencils on the far sidewalk.

So Chinatown will soon be a little more bicycle-friendly--thank you, Oliver and LADOT!

Now, to get some racks placed inside Central and West plazas, which are apparently not city-owned...I haven't yet been able to find out who does own them, but I'll let you know when I do.

Gung hei fat choi!

And my usual reminder: if you want to call in sidewalk racks for your favorite store, shop, restaurant, or other business in the City of Los Angeles, just go to LADOT's rack request form.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 08 Feb 2011 18:41:56 -0800 [link]  

Monday, February 7th
Offsite Blogging II
Just a heads-up: two more entries this past week on the other blogs I currently infest....

On Orange 20's blog, I write up yesterday's LACBC-sponsored "I Love the Westside Ride," and...

...over at Flying Pigeon LA, I wonder why "The Other Figueroa" seems to be left out of the city's (slowly dawning) complete streets consciousness.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 07 Feb 2011 17:45:24 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, February 2nd
Fool on a Hill
I'm always amused by some folks' constant carping on the "impracticality" of fixed-gear bikes, often with a cry of "what about hills?"

Well, what about them? I haven't ridden a multispeed, or even a coaster, for almost five years now, and regular readers know that I'm up on Mulholland Drive and other crestline roads all the time. I'm no super-athlete, either; I'm just a skinny 58-year-old who's never raced and who assiduously avoids the anaerobic threshhold.

Fixies are fine. There's nothing better for wet weather or heavy traffic, they are fine on hills if you're geared sensibly--and they just plain feel good, so you ride more!

They get you around.

Last Friday I took a quick ride up (and up, and up) to the Griffith Observatory and took a few pictures. I like this one in particular for two reasons:
  1. It shows an area that I love to ride in, and
  2. It dispels the oft-quoted notion that "LA has no hills." (Note that these are the tiny hills; out of view to the left is a range of 8,000 foot mountains.)

Looking towards the Los Angeles River from the Griffith Observatory

You are looking over the Los Feliz area to the rump of Silverlake and the valley where the Los Angeles River flows towards Downtown. Beyond that, running off at an angle, is another valley where the Arroyo Seco runs down from Pasadena, and where one of my retailers, the delightful Flying Pigeon LA, resides, along with my good friend Harv Woien, and the Bike Oven repair coop associated with both of them. I'm riding in this area at least once a week.

By the way, on this day at least the mist was actual mist, not smog.

Nothing against road bikes--I plan to build up an old Eisentraut frame this year for Sunday riding--but for day-to-day velocipedal pleasure, I do love my fixies. Hills and all!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 02 Feb 2011 08:08:10 -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