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Thursday, April 29th
The First Two Letters in "Last" Are "LA"
While we're celebrating a tentative victory for community cycling here in Los Angeles, the rest of the world pulls steadily ahead. Not just Europe, not just Portland and Minneapolis, but even hard-edged no-nonsense New York City--despite a police department that seems to feed vampire-like on cyclist bile--is making real, honest efforts to support and promote transportational cycling.

Last Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve a single bike corral as a pilot project. But LA's DOT has expressed "doubt" that it would actually be built!

Imagine the Department of Traffic dragging its feet on a project that could park 25 customers where only two fit before! (Bike corrals typically replace two curbside parking spot for cars with racks for two dozen bicycles.) This is a no-brainer: more business, less congestion, healthier people, quieter yet more efficient streets...nah, we can't do it.

Meanwhile, here's what I just read on NYC's DOT website:
In response to the ever growing number of cyclists and to promote cycling as a healthy, environmentally-sustainable form of transportation, DOT in coordination with our Coordinated Street Furniture vendor, Cemusa, is installing Bicycle Parking Structures around the City. 20 have been installed to date out of a total of 36. Each shelter contains stainless steel bike racks for eight bikes. The design closely resembles the award-winning Bus Shelter, using the same high-quality materials. The ad panels are used to display the annual NYC Cycling Map and the "Look" Public Service Campaign or other bicycle promotional materials. These structures do more than just provide parking--they send a message that the City encourages cycling.
Okay, these seem to be on the sidewalk, but still: not just racks but covered racks! And they've budgeted for three dozen of these!

Read all about NYC's bike parking programs at NYCDOT's website.

And as if that's not enough, even little Long Beach, on the southern edge of LA County, is ready to build its first bicycle boulevard and and its first bike corral, and has already painted sharrows and bike boxes on some major streets. Play the Streetfilms video below for details:

Damn right I'm jealous!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 29 Apr 2010 15:05:33 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, April 27th
At Last, Something Happened in LA!
At long last, we had a small but significant step forward for Los Angeles cyclists: today, the City Council unanimously approved a motion to install LA's first bike corral!

Bike corral in front of Portland's Stumptown Coffee on Third
In Portland, where there are around twenty already in constant use, this news might be a yawner, but here, where we're accustomed to the city bureaucracy putting most bicycle infrastructure enhancements off to some indefinite future, it counts as a victory.

A bike corral simply takes away a car parking space (street, lot, or structure, but usually street) and replaces it with a grid of bike racks. This means that instead of one or two cars, you can park ten to twenty-four bikes in that spot. This is good for cyclists, good for local merchants, good for pedestrians (the bikes are in the street, not on the sidewalks) and even good for motorists, as many of those who now ride to stores would have driven before; cycling, they take up fewer of the remaining car spaces and, of course, reduce traffic on the roadway.

Now we have to see that it actually get built, in a city famous for inertia, but I'm going to let myself be hopeful.

I'd rather see more good bike parking than more bike lanes. You can ride on the street, but when you get where you're going, if you don't have a fairly safe place to lock your bike, you ain't gonna ride it there! Portland's racks and corrals were pretty heavily used all the time; often Gina and I had to park a ways down from restaurants we were going to--because all the numerous bike racks were taken up. A good problem to have!

Hell, in LA you have to lock up to parking meters--and that's technically illegal. There are only 3500 bike racks for the entire city here. (To be fair, LADOT does install racks when businesses ask for them, though it can take a while.)

So, this small item is big news in our giant town. We can't relax, by any means, but we can be glad....

Thanks to LACBC, CICLE, Josef Bray-Ali, and many many more.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 27 Apr 2010 22:04:30 -0800 [link]  

Monday, April 26th
Parking, Cars, Bikes, Development, and a Crowded World....
Our friend Josef Bray-Ali, ebullient proprietor of Flying Pigeon LA, is also a former developer of the good, community-oriented sort. The Los Angeles Business Journal has just published his article on the benefits--social, environmental, and financial--of reducing the onerous minimum car parking requirements that LA uses inadvertently to enforce sprawl development.

He suggests that allowing developers to swap out car for bike parking to a far greater degree than now permitted would benefit everyone form developers to residents of LA's dense old-line neighborhoods.

Read it here: Putting Parking in Its Place. And pass it on!

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 26 Apr 2010 10:42:48 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, April 25th
Streets of LA
Just as Portland, while wonderful for cycling, is no Amsterdam, so Los Angeles, our home, while tolerable for cycling, is no Portland.

Still, on my rounds today i saw cyclists everywhere--and what was most gratifying is that most of them appears to be heading somewhere. Nothing against roadies riding in big circles to nowhere--I do Sunday rides myself, though on my usual commuter fixie and in my usual clothes--but in big-picture terms, people riding somewhere, instead of clogging up streets, air, and ears with cars, well, that just means a lot more.

And every bike ride is a bike ride to the heart--there is no such thing as "junk miles" if you're pedaling. And folks were riding...swarming in to the farmers' market on Larchmont, rolling around Hollywood, promenading down Vermont to the Los Feliz shops and bookstores, everywhere. Even up at the Griffith Observatory, where I ended up after my meeting in Hollywood, there were (besides roadies seeking the workout of the climb), folks who had ridden up there just to see the view, on non-racing bikes.

Seemed I couldn't go two blocks without seeing a cyclist or two or three on the road, or bikes locked up in front of shops and restaurants.

At Vermont and Fountain, while I waited for the light, a fellow in trousers and button shirt rode across bolt upright on his Flying Pigeon, stately and slow, and moments later two skinny Latino kids on mail-order fixies soared through a left turn in formation, making a visual poetry that is usually reserved for birds, and which they seemed to be feeling inside as well, to judge from their faces.

A beautiful day, made more beautiful for many of us by the kindness of the bicycle.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 25 Apr 2010 14:17:00 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, April 21st
Home Again
We are back from Portland, after a beautiful ride on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, and with many happy memories of that fine city. Keep an eye out for our report on cycling in Portland as we saw it, with lots of photos, plus videos of the train trip (probably on our sister site, The New Colonist), as well as miscellaneous news about our doings there. But give us a week or so to get it all together!

Meanwhile, we are back in business at Bicycle Fixation Clothing, and will resume shipping tomorrow. If you don't see your size, remember that our factory is sewing up a new batch of Classic Wool Knickers right now, and that we have most sizes of Four Season Jerseys and Town & Country Shorts in stock right now, as well as hats and some socks.


Richard Risemberg on Wed, 21 Apr 2010 17:37:26 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, April 18th
Big Circle Day
Sunday, our long-awaited ride with some of the iBOBs to see the longer-distance bike trails around Portland. They are many, and the ones we rode were pretty good: the Esplanade (along the Willamette River), the Springwater Corridor (a former local rail line along a creek), various on-street lanes and paths through Gresham and other towns to the Columbia River, the path along that great river itself, and back to Portland via on-street bike lanes. Except for a really unpleasant area west of the airport--tilt-up warehouses, truck yards, vast malls with huge parking lots, and a plethora of freeway interchanges--most of what we saw was tranquil, green, and--at Edgefield, where we had a most excellent lunch, with beer brewed on the premises--pretty damn tasty!

The Springwater Trail is often idyllic, and still connects dozens of neighborhoods to Portland and each other with a fast as well as scenic trail; our buddies reported that many cyclists commute along it.

So, since it's very late, and we leave tomorrow, I'll just post some snapshots to hold you till we can get a real article on Portland, cycling, and street life up on Bicycle Fixation in a few weeks.

The crew, mostly drawn from the iBOB email forum, but including a British tourist on a Brompton; he heard about our ride through a local bike shop!

A sight to warm the heart: two long-distance bike trails crossing, with a tram line right-of-way in the background.

The path along the Columbia River, with Mt. Hood in the distance.

And that's it for on-the-fly reporting from this tired old editor for this particular trip. Tomorrow we get on the Coast Starlight for the trip back home. More news soon!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 18 Apr 2010 23:58:39 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, April 17th
Clever in Portland
But only, after a stop to visit Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles (during which it finally rained, an intense, clattering downpour, though for only twenty minutes), we rode to visit our Portland retailer, Clever Cycles, sellers of Dutch cruisers, bakfietsen, longtails, and various other commuter and cargo bikes, and some Bicycle Fixation products--including their just-released Belmont Stealth Pantaloons, designed in concert by us and Clever Cycles, and produced in our LA factory out of fine 100% wool.

In their own words:
They are made of the very best wool we could source, in a black gabardine and a slightly lighter-weight charcoal square weave. Think fine business wear material. They are light enough for summer plain, and for Portland's three cooler seasons with long merino underwear underneath.

Black and charcoal, the sum or absence of all color, go with everything, and hide the inevitable bit of grime that may escape from your bike, especially if you're one of those edge-seeking minimalists who ride with an exposed drivetrain. Unlike cotton blacks, the black stays black. Unlike synthetics, it's hard to make it stink, it's silent, it drapes better, it isn't particularly prone to snagging or ripping, and it won't melt too close to a campfire. Dirt, lint, and so on just brush off. Expect weeks of wear between washings.
They are made to the same standards as our flagship Classic Wool Knickers, and have touches specific to Clever Cycles that make them different from our own long pants, which we hope to introduce late this year or early next.

Todd, Martina, and crew have a wonderful, spacious, well-stocked, and friendly store that you really need to visit if you're anywhere near Portland--warm people and an intelligent selection of functional, elegant bikes and gear. Here are some snapshots I took during my visit:

Clever Cycles

Clever Cycles

Clever Cycles

Clever Cycles

Clever Cycles

Another great Portland resource in what is becoming our favorite neighborhood, the South-East quadrant.
A telling little touch that exposes the care Portland takes with bicycle infrastructure: on the Hawthorne bridge, there is a steep run-up to bridge level...and the bike lane on that climb is in fact two bike lanes--so that faster cyclists can safely pass slower or heavily-laden riders!

Someone was thinking...what a concept!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 17 Apr 2010 22:51:57 -0800 [link]  

Both More and Less than Paradise
But every paradise has its serpents, in this case the all-too-numerous freeways snaking through and around Portland like Laocoön's tormentors.... A few short blocks west of the hotel, I came across the 405 freeway, beyond which the density of bike racks diminishes rapidly, the streets become deader, and the businesses--at least where I was--a little shabbier. Stlll much nicer than the same kinds of neighborhoods would be back in LA. But there is no escaping this all-too-familiar sight in Portland:

405 Freeway in Portland

Nevertheless, even in deepest SWPDX, bike routes are well-marked, so cyclists can at least find their way around, even if they can't park safely once they get there:

Bike Route Signs in Portland

This morning, meanwhile, we'll head back out to the lively, good-natured, and bicycle-rich SE for business meetings--and, of course, lunch! Taking the rain gear in case the weather report is actually right this time. Looking forward to Portland's marvelous Willamette River bridges again....

More soon!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 17 Apr 2010 09:10:19 -0800 [link]  

Friday, April 16th
Night in Portland
Esplanade_PDX (67\k image)What a wonderful ride tonight! The photo, from Gina's iPhone, shows the view from the Eastside Esplanade, looking at downtown Portland from the bank of the Willamette River. We had ridden over the Burnside Bridge and into SE Portland for dinner, and were treated to a nearly nonstop parade of cyclists going by our sidewalk table on 28th Avenue--not a major street by any means, nor a bike route. And nearly all the numerous bike racks on both sides of the block were occupied. Rider after rider pedaled by, many of them women, none of them in spandex...just regular folks riding places.

On our way back, Gina, who had borrowed a Brompton on her last visit, took me to the Esplanade, where she shot the photo, and then over the famous Steel Bridge, then back through downtown to our hotel.

Warm, clear, velvet skies, a fine city, a great river, and of the most pleasurable outings I've enjoyed in many, many months....

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 16 Apr 2010 22:46:11 -0800 [link]  

Dreams on the Ground
Our first day in Portland, straight off the train...I myself have not been here in thirty years or so. A brief ride to the hotel, a shower, and we set out on foot to check out our downtown neighborhood (near 11th and Washington).

PDX Bike CorralIndeed, cyclists (and pedestrians) everywhere, and, what makes it possible more than bike lanes, in my opinion, bike parking everywhere--including the bike corral in the photo. Fourteen bikes parked, and Clyde Common (where we had dinner) jam-packed just behind it. Three more bikes in the lobby, too.

A huge and thriving bookstore, Powell's, with more bikes parked under the marquee. Bike lanes all over, with signs at most junctions showing destination neighborhoods. Fairly intelligent routes.

This morning took an early ride along the river and up to 35th in SE; even in this more car-centric quadrant of Portland, bikes, lanes, and racks everywhere.

So, a good start so far.

More to come; stay tuned.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 16 Apr 2010 08:57:02 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, April 15th
On the (Rail) Road....
Blogging from Amtrak's Coast Starlight, winding through a fir-forested plateau just north of Klamath Falls, with the bicycles safely boxed up in the baggage car. We'll be in Portland this afternoon, if all goes well--and the Starlight is running on time, result of a happy lawsuit against the Union Pacific which forced the UP to live up to its original contract in which it agreed to let Amtrak trains have priority in exchange for goodly sums of money for track rent. For forty years or so the UP ignored that requirement, and Amtrak's ran universally late. Today, so far, we are on time, or even ahead of schedule.

And so the afternoon should see us in what is considered America's bicycle paradise. We'll be visiting a retailer of ours (Clever Cycles), seeing to some other business, preparing a write-up of the bicycle scene in the City of Roses, and trying to fit in some visits with friends and a relative--all in four days.

Blogging from the train in the Oregon high country...stay tuned!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 15 Apr 2010 09:21:21 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, April 13th
Another Fine Mess....
This morning I rode through downtown to Montecito Heights, a little hilltop neighborhood above Highland Park, to visit my friend Harv Woien, who volunteers at the Bike Oven and whom I've known for over thirty-five years now. I had a great visit with Harv, talking over old times and new bikes and the crazy people we know...sitting in his bike shed with the door open while birds sang outside and an occasional fence lizard ventured onto the white concrete of the driveway to do pushups. It's always good visiting Harv.

But getting there was difficult. Not because of the hill he lives on, long though it is; the road winds among banks of nasturtiums, ivy, and jasmine this time of year, and the older houses (which is most of them) are as charming as the two or three newer ones are dull. And of course there's a grand view at several of the turns, valleys full of rooftops and roads nestled between spring-greened mountains....

But for some reason traffic around downtown was the worst I've ever seen it in my half-century here: long, turgid lines of humpbacked SUVs, sedans, and buses inching along in dense, chaotic crowds; cars turning suddenly out of a lane and roaring onto side streets or simply down the left turns lanes; mirrors nearly touching, bumpers nearly grazing. Probably the most dangerous ride I've had in years, and thick enough traffic to slow me down considerably. (Though I still got through possibly hours before some of the cars I passed.)

Finally I asked a traffic control officer: ah, it was the Dodgers season opener in the stadium in Elysian Park.

Hah! Elysian Parking Lot is more like it!

It was awful stupid, dirty, sometimes violent, and downright insane. If we had any sense, we'd have a light rail line passing by the stadium on its way from, say, downtown to West Hollywood, as some have suggested. Hell, and a loop of the Gold Line too. Not to mention valet bike parking at the stadium itself, as Wrigley Field just started offering in Chicago.

Or better yet, have the stadium right in the city, instead of off in a half-hidden canyon surrounded by rugged hills and narrow little neighborhood roads. One proposal suggested moving the stadium over by Union Station--a suggestion I endorsed in an editorial over on New Colonist nearly seven years ago.

Of course nothing's happened. The traffic still packs the streets nearly solid for several miles around Chavez Ravine, and the cars lurch along in fits and starts, slower than an old man on a bicycle.

Well, tomorrow we'll be on the Coast Starlight (with our bikes), heading to Portland to check out some better ways to build a city. We'll let you know what we find out.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 13 Apr 2010 21:41:40 -0800 [link]  

Friday, April 9th
Hammerin' to the Hammer....
Last night was "Bike Night" at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, just a couple of blocks from UCLA's main entrance and actually at what is one of the busiest intersections in the world, Wilshire and Westwood, a grinding chaos of nervous sheet metal lumps vying for lane space, but one in which bicycles seem to coexist quite nicely for the most part. The Hammer does this every year, assisted by the LACBC, which also provided the bike valet service--much appreciated in a city with a severe paucity of safe spots to park a bike!

Gina's iPhone video here shows just one small segment of the bike parking--this part was in the museum atrium itself where the event took place--with hundreds of dozens of bikes and hundreds of riders milling around, eating the (free!) vegan food provided, talking, drinking, listening to the bands and DJs, and wandering off upstairs to view the museum's collections--or play ping-pong at the table set up by the giant picture windows overlooking the Westwood street scene!

The big event was going to be a screening of the iconic Pee Wee Herman film, which we passed on. But we much enjoyed the Van Goghs, Gauguins, Rembrandts, Fantin-Latours, et al that we found in one gallery--and the spirit on the floor, with hordes of happy cyclists, friends to meet, and some pretty damn good music playing, was was the food, of course; we rather made pigs of ourselves, I admit....

Below are Gina's iPhone shots of the main party floor and the overflow bike parking in the loading dock--where I couldn't help making the eyeball calculation that a hundred or more bikes were grouped where there might have been room for eight cars, and where we ran into the LACBC's Dorothy Le, who is spearheading the 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard lobbying effort to which yer editor is making a modest contribution.

hammer_01 (161k image)

hammer_02 (128k image)

The ride home, on quiet streets--even Santa Monica Boulevard was quiet last night--and through a soft velvet dusk, was as delightful as the fun and fellowship, and it was a particularly wonderful evening to be riding a bicycle in Los Angeles....

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 09 Apr 2010 07:44:16 -0800 [link]  

Monday, April 5th
New Books Page; Bicycle Kitchen Benefit
We've put up a small books page, linked to our Amazon account so you buy them through the Big A, who gives us a small commission on each sale. It's small, as we're including only books we've actually read, and of course we limit it to works having to do with bicycling or urban design. (We read a great deal, but mostly biography and history these days.) We'll add books as we read them. Check out the current list here.
Bicycle Kitchen 5 Year Party Spoke CardMeanwhile, yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, so time for Chuck Schmidt's Vintage Ride--and this time Gina came along. She's not quite up to the door-to-door I favor, so we took a couple of Metro trains Red Line then Gold Line), chatting up a couple of fellow cyclists on the latter, then enjoyed a tranquil 25-mile loop with the vintage crew.

On the way home we detoured to the Bicycle Kitchen Benefit Barbecue behind Orange 20. You paid five bucks to help celebrate the Kitchen's 5 year anniversary at Hel-Mel--five years of helping riders get on two wheels, and in fact of helping define bike culture in LA.

We bought a couple of home-brewed beers, and Gina had a burger, while yer editor being a vegetarian for the last 44 years confined himself to guacamole and a pastry or two. And we watched the lads and lassie play on their trick bikes while we chatted up our friends under cool gray skies. A nice end to a great day.

We rode home on familiar streets, feeling good in our bones.

Happy Birthday, Bicycle Kitchen! Wishing you many more!

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 05 Apr 2010 17:06:47 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, April 3rd
The Road to Fourth Street
Sometimes it seems that the road to 4th Street is longer than 4th Street itself. Of course I mean the road to a bicycle boulevard there--I project with which I have been marginally helping the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.pothole (92k image)This photo represents a pothole at Hudson and 4th--what local riders call the "Hudson River," because water has been flowing there, and undermining the pavement, continuously for over fifteen years. (As a nearly daily user of 4th for at least that long, I can personally attest to this!)

This hole is jagged, nearly eight inches deep at one point, a good three feet wide, and has been inadequately patched at least three times at my personal instigation, and probably more often than that. Each time, the combination of endless water flow and lurching cars running the stop sign destroys the poorly-done cold patch within three months.

To make it even worse, the constant wetness causes slicker-than-ice algae to grow in the drain channel during the warmer months, and there have been several bike crashes there.

This is on a designated bike route that is one of the most used in LA--as readers of this blog will recall, I often note more cyclists that drivers using it during rush hour.

It is also in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, one where several consuls and other international functionaries live--and receive visitors.

So: fancy-ass neighborhood on international display, heavily-used and officially-designated bike route, history of accidents, prospective bicycle boulevard--and the city can't keep a dangerous hole covered up.

The Bureau of Street Services does try, though Proposition 13 and the something-for-nothing mentality of the rabid anti-taxers has taken its toll on the city's coffers. However, according to the DWP (which I have also contacted regarding the water flow), there is nothing to be done about the underlying problem--which is a high water table from an undergrounded creek that floods the basement of 345 Hudson, whose owners pump the water into the street.

My thought was, why don't they pump it directly into the creek-cum-storm-drain, or, if that is somehow politically infeasible for LA to ask, why doesn't the city install a slot drain across 4th so the water doesn't pool on the surface?

Questions I have actually asked the city, and which have not been answered. The only answer has been the same weary and inadequate cold patch.

I think the best thing is to continue pursuing the Bicycle Boulevard plan with the LACBC. Such a plan would require repaving the entire street, and the extra emphasis on bicycle traffic (which official LA does seem to want to encourage) may spur the powers-that-rather-ineffectually-be to put in a more adequate drain across the intersection, and prevent a few more broken bones.

The city seems to be on a repaving jag in the area, so maybe it will happen!

Read up on the LACBC's project here, and rat out your very own pothole (in LA only) here. They do fix 'em--for a while.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 03 Apr 2010 08:21:50 -0800 [link]  

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