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Sunday, March 28th
Blue and Pink
cahuengapass_032010_small (129k image)"Blue" for the sky today; I took the photo partway up Cahuenga Pass, which I was climbing on my way from the Miracle Mile to Sherman Oaks, where me pappy lives. The heat has not dried out the landscape yet, though we really haven't had enough rain, and I left early enough to avoid the hottest part of the day on both climbs. Post-visit, I wandered through the ranch-house flats of Valley side streets, avoiding the broad and traffic-jammed arterials, with their glaring asphalt and blaring horns, as much as possible, till I got to Sepulveda Pass, which on its northern slope wanders far from the semi-parallel freeway. Everything green here too, and the sweet-tea scent of jasmine blowing over me in soft waves. It may rain next Thursday; let's hope so, as that may be the last for months, and soon the sere summer days will follow in seemingly endless sequence.

Going down the south slope of the pass is much less pleasing: the road clings tightly to the 405, with its ten lanes of screaming frenzy...but soon enough I turned off Sepulveda and again wound mostly through side streets to Brentwood for coffee and a marzipan-rich almond croissant and Caffe de Luxxe, where I know the weekend baristas, Andreas and Eric, great fellows both.

From there one of my usual routes home.

After a rest and a shower, I ran out again for lemons and goat cheese, necessities for a Secret Dessert Gina's making to follow up son Jack's cooking (he treats tonight!). I got out the orange bike and pedaled to the Third Street Farmers Market for the goods, and on the way out saw a very chic young lady, wearing pressed designer jeans, calf-leather high-heeled half boots, a clingy top, and very expensive looking sunglasses...walking like she owned the universe. And she had one pant leg rolled up: rolled up so perfectly that I suspected her valet had done it for her. Waking from the bike rack with oen pant leg rolled up....

And there in the rack--the new row of racks, in fact, put up because more and more folks are riding to shop--there was the only bike she was likely to have ridden: an immaculate, hot pink, gleaming fixie.

Just the kind too many "serious" riders make fun of.

So I say the hell with those serious riders. Touring bikes, sensible hybrids, chunky commuters, none of those got that lady out of her car and onto a bike.

All hail neon fixies! They're doing the job!

As for the alleged "impracticality" of fixies: I rode my two mountain passes this morning a fixed wheel, and I'm an old fart!

Brought home some vegetables my dad gave me too.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 28 Mar 2010 16:47:27 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, March 25th
Round Round Get Around....
We get around....

Trevor Waiting While I lunch at the Sultan RestaurantThough it's usually the Bottecchia that carts me round, today I took Trevor Wong, the Mighty Orange Pseudobecane, whose story I have told in these virtual pages in "The Silk Purse Project." We're running low on some sizes of Classic Wool Knickers, so, having fetched wool over (black and olive are the next run's colors) last week, and having scrounged up some money to pay for sewing, I saddled up this morning to ride downtown and buy things such as elastic, pocket lining, buttons, and so forth. That done (and a little free computer help given to the sewing factory), I realized it was time for lunch, so I decided to seek out the elusive Sultans Restaurant for an Armenian felafel.

Okay, it's not really that elusive, but I always thins it's one block east of where it really is so have to look for it each time. It is, however, a very tiny storefront on a street crowded with very tiny storefronts, but I had to go round the block only once before spotting the faded name on the dingy awning--because inside is some good, cheap, excellent food!

Outside, however, there are no bike racks, no parking meters, and only one pole--which is occupied by the restaurant's own delivery bikes.

So Trevor came in with me, blending in very nicely with the wood paneling and paint.

After that, it was time to head to Highland Park and drop off some knickers at local retailer Flying Pigeon LA, where I had the experience of taking one of Josef's "Governators" (Flying Pigeons reconfigured as homages to the Pashley Guv'nor) round the block a few times. My first Pigeon ride, and not bad!

Now home, showered, and replete with an afternoon chai...and getting ready to head out again, on the Bottecchia this time, for chores at Mom's.

Thank you, bicycles, for making business a pleasure every day!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 25 Mar 2010 16:24:09 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, March 24th
Metro Says the Right Things....
Since there have been a couple of incidents with LA bus driveers being rude or even threatening to cyclists lately, I though I'd throw down the transcript of an exchange I had with metro regarding a stunningly unsafe pass by one of their buses. My original compliant:I had just crossed Alvarado westbound on my bicycle (coming home from a business meeting downtown) when your bus roared past me on the left then cut me off as it dove for the stop by MacArthur Park. I was nearly curbed. Rude and dangerous, and no excuse for it, as he had to stop for passengers anyway so could have waited the three or four seconds that it would have required to let me get past the intersection and bus stop.Metro's reply, which I received only a day later:
We certainly regret the incident described below. Please know it is Metro's policy that if an operator passes a cyclist, they are to slow down and pass with a 3-4-1/2 foot clearance from the cyclist. Also, they are to avoid passing cyclists if they are turning right or making a bus stop within 200 yards of the cyclist.

Clearly, safety is our number one priority and while maintaining schedules are important, there is never an excuse for unsafe vehicle operation. Please know your report is being entered in our complaint database and a copy forwarded to management staff responsible for Line 52. The operator in question will be identified, interviewed and appropriate corrective measures taken.
Let's hope they actually do something--though in Metro's defense, I 'll say that they fully support cycling on the policy level, and have even removed a few seats from each subway car to make room for more bicycles, wheelchairs, and so forth.

But there have been too many incidents involving their drivers, who should be much more professional, including one reported on SoapBoxLA.

And if you've suffered an incident of road rudeness, harassment, or endangerment, you can try Metro's Comments page--which however failed to send in both Safari and Firefox for me, so I used their normal email address:

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 24 Mar 2010 14:44:48 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, March 20th
Lund, Sweden, Where 45% of Residents Cycle for Transport
WAs just rummaging around the BBC website and found this BBC video brief on the town of Lund, Sweden, where 45% of the residents bicycle for transport, and another 15% use transit:

The City Where Bicycles Dominate

(Note: it is preceded by a commercial...BBC is television, after all.)

But, ah!, the incredible lameness of being mainstream media: the narrator feels compelled (and perhaps was compelled) to mention "subsidized transport" rather pointedly, as well as "a lot of" money spent on bicycle infrastructure--but of course he ignores the immense costs of providing vast swathes of asphalt for driving and parking cars...!

Still a positive report in spite of itself. It particularly stresses that the population as well as the politicians are solidly behind transit and cycling, and (somewhat vaguely) suggests Lund as a model for British towns of similar size. (Lund, which by the way was founded in the year 990CE, houses around 77,000 people.)

Particularly galling to us here in the US is the mention of Cambridge, a British town with "only" 27% of the population choosing to cycle...! We should be so lucky....

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 20 Mar 2010 08:28:34 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, March 17th
It's Clean-Up Time!
While it's true that you don't have to wash your woolies very often, you do have to wash them eventually--especially with the weather warming up a bit.

So here's a little plug for Kookaburra Wash (The Product Formerly Known as Woolwash), which we are restocking heavily for the coming season. It's the best thing we've found for washing merino or any other wool, which it reconditions, and it's made from vegetable extracts, so it's easy on the earth both in manufacture and in use. Not to mention that it gets you away from the generally nasty chemicals used in dry cleaning!

We like it enough that we use it for all our laundry, but it is especially kind to wool. You can use it for hand or machine washing (use delicate or preferably woolen cycle for BF's or other brands' wool cycling gear), air-dry flat, and BOB's yer uncle!

Contains lanolin for your wool and tea tree oil to control dust mites, as well as its gentle cleansers. And, according to Kookaburra, it costs you just 69¢ a load in the 16 ounce size (and less if you buy the gallon).

Check it out here.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 17 Mar 2010 13:54:29 -0800 [link]  

One More Step for 4th Street
Last night, we sent fully half of the Bicycle Fixation staff (ie, me) to a meeting of the Mid City West Community Council Transportation Committee, the idea being to beg a letter of support from the council for the LACBC's 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard project.

Pleased to report that the committee approved our request for a letter of support, and will present their resolution to the full council in three weeks at the next meeting.

Then, once the mills of neighborhood committeedom have ground, we will present the case to the various city committees involved (as LACBC has been doing for many months), with letters from various "stakeholders" showing that pretty nearly everybody thinks that a complete streets/bicycle bouelvard treatment is just a dandy idea for 4th Street.

And once those mills have ground, maybe, just maybe, we'll see some smooth pavement, diversion planters, and so forth established along 4th, making the street an effective and attractive bicycle highway for commuters as well as a usable community space for residents and visitors to the various neighborhoods it traverses.

Streets traditionally have been community spaces, and in the most prosperous and humane countries they still are; it's only the recent mad addiction to private autos and hurry as a sacrament that turned them into nothing more than sluiceways for rushing cars.

This will be a good first step to re-establishing the secondary street network of Los Angeles as a place where humanity can flower--and to establishing a human-powered transportation modality that can better everything from personal health to neighborhood security to the condition of the very planet that we live on--all for the cost of a bit of repaving, a few carefully placed planters, and some paint.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 17 Mar 2010 11:03:35 -0800 [link]  

Monday, March 15th
Bicycle Film Festival Call for Entries--Deadline Extended
The Bicycle Film Festival has extended the deadline for film submissions to March 27th, so even if you're still editing, there's still hope! Click on the image below to find out how to submit to the 10th anniversary edition of BFF, and let your work be seen by cyclists in thirty-five cities on five continents!

Bicycle Film Festival 10th Edition Entry Deadline

Or just click here.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 15 Mar 2010 15:20:22 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, March 14th
ArtCycle in East Hollywood
Gina and I rode over to ArtCycle 2010 last night, and had a great time meeting up with folks we knew from the velo-community, looking at bikes and crafts, and just generally relaxing in East Hollywood. Santa Monica Boulevard was closed from Vermont to Hillhurst and given over to human beings and human-scaled technology (except for some overly-loud recorded music pumped outta sound systems that completely overwhelmed the bluegrass band I was trying to hear).

Gina took some pix with her iPhone, and played with the effects settings on a couple of them; here they are to give you a tiny taste of it in case you weren't in LA or couldn't get over there:

Valet Bicycle Parking
Metro provided valet bike parking; the two in the center are ours.

Just Being Together....
Just being together with our kind....

Hanging out amid the booths.

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga and her "chaindelier," a lamp made of old bicycle chains.

We didn't do any of the gallery tours, nor did we sample wares of any of the 20 food trucks lined up there--though we did inspect the menus carefully. With Pure Luck and Scoops only three blocks away, we knew our duty....

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 14 Mar 2010 16:53:55 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, March 13th
Getting Loaded, Amsterdam-Style
Which is a review of, naturally, a bakfiets, or Dutch cargo bike--the kind that can carry a washing machine!

We kept it for several weeks and used it to haul books, framed large-format photos, junk, clothes, and the beautiful Gina herself, over the usual shattered LA roads we live among.

While it has its limitations--it's a cargo hauler, after all--it proved exceedingly useful, especially as I was cleaning a half-century of junk from my mother's house, now that she's moved to an assisted-living facility.

So, read all about it in our review of the Gazelle Cabby.

Includes a little sidebar on the view from the cargo box, by Gina!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 13 Mar 2010 13:20:09 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, March 11th
From the Past....
While I was cleaning out some ancient drawers in my mother's house, I came across this photo of her riding a bicycle--which is astounding on several levels!

Among other things, my mother was very vain about her skin and so did not like to stay outside at all if she could avoid it. Also, she grew up on a ranch in Argentina, and rode horses plenty, but once she came to the US with my father she absolutely eschewed any activity remotely athletic. The truth is, I did not recall she even knew how to ride a bike, nor that she ever had.

But there she is, riding what appears to be the old Steyr three-speed, bought from Sears, which carried me back and forth to junior high school in my mid-teens.

My mother riding my bike, junior high school days

So this image must be some forty-three years old. And it is totally posed; in fact it expresses absolutely nothing about my mother or her life.

The bike was awful. The hub gears had a tendency to slip into a false neutral when I was climbing a hill, causing me to slam my nuts on the top tube, and I switched to derailleur bikes as soon as I could beg one from my dad. (He was an engineer, and could design skyscrapers in his sleep, but adjusting a three-speed hub was not something even to be considered.)

My old man probably took the picture. I wonder what he did to persuade my mother to ride for the camera....

Chances are he suffered for it later, too.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 11 Mar 2010 15:06:58 -0800 [link]  

Monday, March 8th
The Lost Cyclist, by David Herlihy
We have just posted a review of David V. Herlihy's newest book, The Lost Cyclist, an exposé of the mysteries--and political scandal--surrounding the disappearance of round-the-world cyclist Frank Lenz in 1894. A thorough and well-written account by the author of Bicycle: a History; it will be released soon.

Herlihy's story covers the state of bicycle culture at the time, the feats of other contemporary long-distance riders, Lenz's own early history as well as his trip, and the search for his remains, and for justice, by fellow cyclist William Sachtleben.

Mr. Herlihy was kind enough to provide an advance copy of the book to Bicycle Fixation, and we have just posted our review here.

It's not only a ripping good story but an engrossing document of the early days of practical cycling.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 08 Mar 2010 20:15:00 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, March 4th
Birthday Bike Bash Begets Bloated Bellies
The birthday ride I scheduled for last Sunday went beautifully, though not many folks came--not a surprise, considering that I gave only a couple of days' notice. But my dear Gina came along, and my friends Patrick and Charles, and John and Brian would have come but were out of town, and my son would have come but couldn't get out of bed in time.

Nevertheless, miles were pedaled, coffee drunk, croissants eaten, beaches and bright skies admired, and on the home stretch we ended up at Samosa House East at Washington and Overland, an otherwise charmless corner of LA where Vibha's crew whips up the south Indian grub that yer vegetarian editor (and his meat-eating accomplices) dote on all too fondly.

There we are, photographed by Gina courtesy of the little camera's timer (from left to right, that's Patrick, Gina, me, and Charles):

4forsamosas (127k image)

Thirty-five miles, countless calories, and a beautiful day on the roads of Los Angeles. And a slow last leg home with very full bellies....

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 04 Mar 2010 14:10:52 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, March 3rd
New Knickers Finally in Stock!
Well, they're finally here: Bicycle Fixation's latest run of Classic Wool Knickers, now in True Black with a Fresh Bronze gusset.

We were delayed by scheduling issues at our contract factory (only two or three of their subs have the necessary skills for our styles), and then by the pneumonia that struck Martin once he got to our job, but they are finished at last!

We picked them up Monday and shipped all our backorders yesterday, so now we have a nice pile of elegant, understated cycling knickers in a brand-new color combination, ready to ship when you are ready to buy.

Our thanks to all those who pre-ordered, keeping our cashflow healthy during these hard times even though it meant having to wait up to a month for their goods; and we look forward to sending out more knickers to make you happy with the best damn city riding gear you'll ever wear!

Take a look at our new True Black Classic Wool Knickers; we think you'll like them.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 03 Mar 2010 07:05:50 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, March 2nd
What Do You Do When You Get There?
You park your bike, of course...if you can.

Streetsfilms produced a superb short Flash film exploring two new types of bicycle parking in use in Portland, Oregon today: bike corrals, and what they call a "bike oasis."

The corral shown in the clip below replaces parking for two cars with secure on-street parking for twenty-two bikes--and this has resulted in increased businesses for the merchants on that street!

The bike oasis is more complicated to build--it's put on a sidewalk bulb-out--but adds a roof and is easier to keep clean, as well as aesthetically preferable.

However, the corrals, with their luxury of space and better locations, have so far attracted more users, and have been better for local businesses.

Once again, Portland is ahead of the curve in the US, supporting its communities and businesses while other cities batter themselves over the head with ever more asphalt for more and more cars, cars, cars....

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 02 Mar 2010 07:05:43 -0800 [link]  

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