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Sunday, August 30th
Happy Birthday, Tullio!
Yesterday was the Tullio Campangolo Birthday Ride of Matt Gorski's Far West Milano Cycling Club--which grand appellation signifies a bunch of vintage bike nuts, mostly from around the Long Beach area, but including a number of out-of towners. It also includes some steel-bike stalwarts such as Brian Bayliss, Peter Johnson, Greg Townsend, painter Joe Bell, and quite a number of others; Bayliss and Bell were in attendance yesterday.

As was I, non-luminary though I am; despite feeling a bit puny after a week-long cold followed by a bout of food poisoning, I dragged my ass down to the garage a little before seven AM and saddled up the Bottecchia for the 35-mile jaunt to the LBC.

Despite the heat wave we're in--99°F every day, with forest fires burning all around--at that hour the sky was clear and the temperature actually quite sweet, and I ambled over to Western Avenue and then south past the barbershops, rib joints, storefront churches, and other older and often colorful architecture to Imperial Highway, which took me east to the river.

As you may know, most of the Los Angeles River is sheathed in concrete and runs a mere trickle through the nine dry months of the year, but there's enough water in it to support gentle regiments of grass-covered islets that, at this time of year, are sprinkled with tiny bright-yellow flowers; and at all times of the year there are scattered townships of ocean birds--pipers, gulls, and more--piping and squawking as they huddle by the channel or wheel about in the vast spaces between the concrete banks. It's a nice ride if you keep an open mind.

The club itself--no dues, no member lists--is as nice a bunch of cycling guys and gals as you'd find anywhere--and Matty lays out a good spread of pastries before, and beer and pizza after, the ride!

There's a bit of irony in all this, in that the ride itself is the least interesting part of the gathering to me--most of it takes place on the Pacific Coast Highway, five to ten lanes wide, always intensely busy, and lined largely with malls and big blocky beachside apartment buildings. We ride deep into north Orange County--Seal, Huntington, and Newport beaches--and there seems to be a high proportion of quite rude frat-boy types living high on daddy's money, and driving imbecilically.

Nevertheless, there's a number of lovely bays and lagoons, and a wetlands, as well as two estuaries and a grand view (when it's clear) of the San Gabriel Mountains far away--where yesterday were visible the towering plumes of the Station fire above La Crescenta. And of course the beach crowd is pretty if not genteel.

Plus, I saw something that I found personally both amusing and heartening, where Huntington crosses PCH: a surly-looking fellow riding a brakeless fixie no-handed back from the beach--with a longboard under his arm!

I left around three, too tuckered from my recent ills to complete the usual century I make of it. I pedaled back to downtown Long Beach and caught the Blue Line Metro train to LA, cutting out some twenty two miles of riding. From the Seventh St./Metro Center station it was an easy six miles home.

A shower, a supper, and then Gina and I strolled to the museum for a look at the Picassos to end the day.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 30 Aug 2009 08:33:21 -0800 [link]  

Monday, August 24th
Bikes & Business
Bicycle Fixation editor Rick Risemberg has an editorial on the economic returns of investment in cycling infrastructure in the Los Angeles Business Journal this week--read it here.

We may have our own version of this up on BF in a few weeks, but for now the LABJ version is available.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 24 Aug 2009 17:24:04 -0800 [link]  

A Dream to Make True
I was riding across Third Street on my way home this morning, and swooping across its lanes as I made my left, I suddenly recalled an idea I'd pondered in a vague way several times before.

Third is not a huge street as streets go in Los Angeles--just another "four-lane" cutting through the 'hoods, one of many dozens in just this part of town.

But it's not really four lanes: add the left turn lanes (which are nearly continuous here) and the parking lanes, and you have a seven-lane street--and it's not even that impressive!

Good wide sidewalks too...I've often thought, what would this street look like in a car-free or car-lite city?

And I realized it would need only two lanes...

Think of it: one twelve-foot lane in each direction would be plenty for:After all, no cars means no parking required--you can park plenty of bikes on the sidewalk, in racks by the curb, without impeding pedestrians. And in busier areas you can run heavy-rail underground--better, where feasible.

We've already seen that cyclists spend more than drivers anyway, as far as streetside commerce is concerned. True, you can't bring a washing machine home on your bike (unless you have a bakfiets)...but you can't do that in your car either; you still need a delivery truck.

So you're down from seven lanes to two...oh, hell, let's call it two and a half, to be fair!

If every "four-lane" street in LA were only two and a half lanes wide, LA might be half its present size! (About 70% of the city's surface is paved for cars.) More efficient, cleaner, less frustrating, more neighborly, richer...all that money and space now wasted on cars, all the water thrown away because it can't soak into the soil, all the endless expense of moving things all those extra miles just because we've made the city "for cars," all the hearts destroyed by inactivity and stress caused directly by driving and its accommodation.


Still, the streets are here....

But they still don't need to be so wide!

Imagine parks along the center of each formerly seven-lane street, or schools, or rows of apartments or small houses, or little businesses, or urban strip farms...there is a wealth of possibilities! A treasure, swamped in asphalt and battered by horns and hard words as traffic hurries ever-slowly through this town.

We can do better. And if we have any sense, we will do better!

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 24 Aug 2009 13:14:45 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, August 20th
The Helmetlock
We have just posted a review of a clever, simple, and well-thought-out product for you helmet wearers out there: a simple device that lets you secure your helmet to your U-lock or cable, or most chains, so you don't have to drag it around with you when your bike is parked.

It's light, cheap, easy to use and to carry, and looks like it'll do the job way better than a loop of the chinstraps will.

Check out our review of The Helmetlock.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 20 Aug 2009 10:01:52 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, August 19th
Viral Riding
Sick as a dog--or perhaps a swine--today, but by making myself take it easy (not hard to do when you're three-quarters dead), I got some riding in and took care of some errands.

About thirty miles' worth, actually. Stopped by the old folks' home to pick up the business card of the doctor who will be taking care of my mom henceforth. (I did not go into a house packed with eighty- and ninety-year-olds while I was writhing with viruses, but had the administrator bring the card to me outside.)

Next stop was delivering a hat and T-shirt to Eric, one of the fellows I'd met at Caffe Luxxe a couple of weeks ago--I go west often enough that I can do a favor now and then. Very nice fellow; we had a good chat out in his little yard, where the seabreeze could blow my germs away.

Then to the Marina del Rey hospital where my mom had been for a bladder infection to clear up a minor matter involving records, after which it was back along Lincoln Boulevard--a horrible street that would drive James Howard Kunstler to new levels of justified rage--to visit the wonderful Yolanda, late of Bikerowave; we chatted over tea, then rode to lunch at Bharat Bazaar, where I had excellent curry and picked up a new box of Assam tea for my morning chai.

A stop at Bill Mendell's place to drop off a printout I'd made for him (his printer is dead), and then home.

Apart from Lincoln, some sweet miles, the Bottecchia light, though not quite as swift, as ever. Virus be damned; a good day's ride at an easy pace.

Followed by collapse, of course.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 19 Aug 2009 20:29:33 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, August 15th
Free Shipping till September 15th!
Times are hard and money's tight, so we're hoping to make it a little easier to get comfortable on your commute and look slick on the street with Bicycle Fixation knickers, shorts, hats, and more...we're making US shipping free for all purchases, no matter how large or how small, till September 15th!

This includes everything form our finest limited edition herringbone knickers to our custom-printed T-shirts...and if the new olive gabardine knickers come in from the factory on time, they'll ship free too!

So get on over to our shopping cart, pick out your favorite duds, and order them in--shipping will be free to anywhere in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 15 Aug 2009 19:43:41 -0800 [link]  

Friday, August 14th
To Live and Ride in LA: Wheel Thieves
Los Angeles cyclists beware, as there is a wheel theft ring operating in the city. They seem to concentrate on fixie wheels but have been taking others as well. So far they've hit Hel-Mel, Wilshire/La Brea, and parts of the Westside.

They stole wheels from one of the baristas at Massimo's twice in two days! The crew spotted them casing another barista's bike a few days ago and chased them off, but one of them dropped his bolt cutters as he ran.

Four Latino guys, around twenty years old; as of last week, one wore his hair dyed green.

So keep your eyes open and your wheels well-locked.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 14 Aug 2009 14:04:07 -0800 [link]  

Asphalt Atrocity
Cyclist Dave Mann compares the America he sees from the saddle with the one he knows from the driver's seat, and finds a strange resonance in the mashup of memories....

Read his story in our sister publication, the New Colonist: Concrete Demesne.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 14 Aug 2009 07:05:48 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, August 9th
Women, Cycling, Color, Wealth, and Lies
Just read an article in the New York Times that wondered why more women don't ride bicycles for transportation. Though the article was a bit thin, I had no beef with it; but some of the witless comments got me going!

I composed a couple of responses to the most egregious ones, and since I don't know whether the moderator is even awake (nothing has been added to the comments for ten or twelve hours), I decided to post them here as well. I do recommend the article, and most of the comments are intelligent. The two below are, how you say, stoopid....

Quoth a pseudonym: Why would an adult ride a bicycle?

And I say:
And why would a grown-up want to ride around in a motorized baby carriage, holding the world hostage to his petulant vanity, when he (or she, of course!) could be getting around in a healthy, clean, and fiscally responsible manner by cycling?
Quoth another brave lad who wouldn't share his last name: Basically, this is a hobby for rich, youngish white guys. There is surely a discrimination suit in there somewhere.

And I say:
Here in LA--and I'll bet it's the same in NYC--Critical Masses and advocacy meetings are full of riders of all ages and both (or more than both) genders, many of whom are poor folks of all colors, and close to half of whom are dark-skinned folks of all income levels.

Even among roadies riding true rich folks' toys, a huge number of LA road riders on carbon wonderbikes are black (though black folk are only about 9% of LA's population); Major Motion is a black (but non exclusive) roadie club that's been riding here for decades.

Even that temple of journalistic obliviousness, Bicycling Magazine, wrote an article years ago about LA's immigrant bike commuter culture, whom bike advocacy and infrastructure both protects and empowers (see "Invisible Riders").

As for women who supposedly aren't riding--well, I see plenty of them on bikes at rush hour, old and young, and every color. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition's brightest lights over the last few months have been named Monica, Aurisha, and Dorothy, and's founders and operators are Liz and Shay; Yolanda helped start Bikrowave. Many of the instructors at the Bicycle Kitchen are women.

Bikestyler Customs, catering to the LA equivalent of the Williamsburg crowd, was run by two black guys.

What the hell are you people talking about when you condemn bicycling as too upper-class and white? Do you even know what you think? Or is NYC really more segregated than LA?

Skid row here travels primarily on bicycles. It's the only vehicle that many poor people can afford. There's an old Russian saying that "Mushrooms are the rich man's luxury and the poor man's food." So with bikes: you can spend $3k on a carbon toy, or you can buy an old Italian frame, as I did, for sixty bucks, and replace a $30k filth-spewing car with it.

Bicycles empower the poor, and get the well-off to mix with their fellow riders and learn a little more about living fairly. They support personal health and urban cleanliness. What are you whiny nagging fools complaining about with your misleading "bikes are elitist" BS? I have to think you have another agenda. Probably keeping the poor (and women) from attaining the freedom, self-reliance, and opportunity that bikes can grant them.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 09 Aug 2009 16:47:04 -0800 [link]  

Is Coffee a Performance-Enhancing Drug?
Who cares--it sure tastes good!

I took a slowish, meandering Sunday ride today, riding through Bev Hills and Century City to Federal Avenue and hence to San Vicente, a wide, smooth road with a wide bike lane that cuts through the tree-shaded environs of hoity-toity Brentwood (hell, that makes three hoity-toity boroughs in just the first half hour of riding!). SV is an easy ride, with little cross traffic and a landscaped median to add yet more trees to the mix. Unfortunately, today it was closed for (of all things for me to complain about!) a bicycle race; fortunately, said race was a criterium and occupied only three blocks. A bit of sidewalk riding got me to the open section of SV, where I began a search for a cofeehouse.

Alas, most of what I came across were chains of the sort where only disposable plastic cups are available, and the primary criterion for employment seems to be the inability to find a better-paying job.So I rode on, disconsolately, till I found an outpost of Caffe Luxxe, whose Eurostyled bike-loving baristas sold me the best cuppa I've had in months--and I get some good coffee here in the Miracle Mile!

That fueled me for an extended meander along the curves and hills of west Sunset to the gray Pacific, the bike path, and the festive crowds...which I rode through on the boardwalk itself, without qualm, as I'd had to dodge plenty of waddlers on the "bikes only" bike path. In any case, on the fixie I can ride at a slower pace than even the most ample of the tourists banging their flipflops on the tarmac.

I did see, to my surprise, an Atala city bike heading the other way, complete with Promenade bars and fenders--something that probably hasn't been made for decades, the kind of bike you see in old Italian moves. Looked pristine, too. Though it might have been a reissue....

Eventually, I stopped at the Bridge, of course, and then a block or two farther on for an early lunch (or was it a late breakfast?) at Bistro du Soleil, who make the best omelette I know of, to fuel me for the twelve-mile jaunt home.

Yes, Eat to ride, ride to eat is my motto!

My only regret was not taking my Look MTB shoes; if I had, I could've locked the Bottecchia up and had a short hike in the canyons as well, as I passed two wildland parks.

No schedule; didn't know whether I'd be out two hours or six. It was nice!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 09 Aug 2009 13:35:39 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, August 8th
Sometimes a Rare Bicycle
City Bike at Massimo's
Click image for larger version
Actually, we have no idea what this is--the headbadge is well corroded--but it belongs to Timo, one of the baristas at BF hangout Massimo's Mudspot. It bears a Favorit coaster brake, made-in-USA Carlisle tires (Carlisle started making bicycle tires shortly after World War I but stopped in 1987), and--truly antique technology--a spoon brake on the front tire!

So we will temporarily agree it may be a Favorit city bike from Czechoslovakia.

Timo found it leaning forlornly against a tree, abandoned, in Kansas City years ago, sold it once (for $25), bought it back, and today rode it to work as his other bike had a flat.

It was just too pathetically charming to pass up, Crappy Cellphone Camera and all.

Maybe we'll hook up with Timo sometime, take the real camera, and do a photo essay on it.

I find these bikes visually attractive...though to tell the truth I've strongly disliked actually riding them. Still, for short runs it would be fun!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 08 Aug 2009 11:50:10 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, August 6th
The Road to a Boulevard....
...To a bicycle boulevard, that is.

I've written about bicycle boulevards a fair bit lately, especially in relation to 4th Street here in LA, so I was glad to pedal nearly its full length after dinner tonight, despite being somewhat weary, to attend a meeting put on by Joe Linton, Dorothy Le, and other good folks from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. We wanted to see what we might do to make 4th Street a genuine bicycle boulevard, rather than just a scenic but rather badly-paved signed bike route.

Now, my feeling lately has been that the term "bicycle boulevard" might not be the best one to use, as it will imply to many people that you are trying to take a street away from drivers to give to cyclists.

Not that I think that's a bad thing, at all! But it's not going to happen soon, especially on a street ill-served by transit. And it's not what a bicycle boulevard is, which is a street that allows through bicycle traffic, but only local motorized traffic, using various filters and traffic calming devices to do so.

For example, cars might be directed off the street by right-turn-only barricades at regular intervals, while gaps would let cyclists through; and bulb-outs, roundabouts, and medians serve to slow all traffic to reasonable speeds.

Since the burgeoning concept of "complete streets" posits protocols that often result in pretty much the same effect, and uses inclusive rather than (seemingly) exclusive language, I'm hoping we'll go with the newer term, especially as it is becoming widespread. However, the rose will still smell as sweet if we can get 4th Street smoothed, calmed, and prettied up under any other name, and that's what we were trying to figure out tonight.

So I ended up volunteering to do a little writing and contact my local community council, for whom I'm doing a small web job now anyway.

I've been riding 4th Street regularly for nearly twenty years now. I hope it's not another twenty before it finally realizes its potential. We'll see what we can do!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 06 Aug 2009 21:13:31 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, August 4th
Makeshift Trailer
Laundry Bike
Click image for larger version
Well, I've always wanted to try a bike trailer, but I didn't expect it would be under such ridiculous circumstances!

We usually follow US tradition of doing our laundry on Mondays, but this week it didn't work out. Now, being hardcore, if I do the laundry, I walk the four blocks to the laundromat, sometimes with gina accompanying. If Gina goes alone, she'll usually drive the Mini Cooper, lately with the Dahon folder in it to do at least her errands carfree while the washers spin or the dryers tumble. Today, though, I was at Buster's, and the Mini's battery was dead, so she took the little photographer's cart we use for laundry in one hand, and Vivian the Nickel-Plated Miyata in the other, and hoofed it over.

I got a cellphone message while I was riding home and detoured to meet here at the laundromat--though she was off on the bike looking for French mayonnaise when I arrived.

In due time she arrived, the clothes dried, and we prepared to leave. I looked at the cart, and at the rather excessive length of fabric used as a drawstring for the laundry bag, and decided to improvise a trailer hitch so I wouldn't have to push my Bottecchia home.

Wasn't sure it would work, but it did! So I had Gina sprint ahead and snap a cellphone camera shot (on her iPhone, much better than my crappy phone) as I went by.

Solid wheels, a cloth hitch, and bungee cords...encouraging! If this was tolerable, a real trailer ought to work quite well, I suspect....

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 04 Aug 2009 16:27:56 -0800 [link]  

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