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Tuesday, December 28th
What We've Got So Far
Bike lane on eastboudn Santa Monica Blvd. between Sepulveda and Century CityI snapped this photo Saturday on my way back from Santa Monica, mostly hoping to capture a bit of the fog and mountains in the far distance. Not quite enough telephoto for that, but it is a good depiction of the bike lanes on Santa Monica boulevard between Sepulveda Boulevard and Century City--the eastbound lanes, in this case.

I find these the most comfortable on-street bike lanes in Los Angeles--fast and smooth, with no parked cars to worry about. (Parking is on the frontage road you can see a bit of to the right.) Even though they were an afterthought--two neighborhood activists pushed for them to be included in the redesign of the street a few years ago, and had to fight hard for them--they do provide an effective bike commute corridor through a very busy part of Los Angeles. They also may provide an added impetus to Better Bike Beverly Hills's campaign to add bike lanes through BH's stretch of Santa Monica when it undergoes its own revamp in 2011.

But the picture makes me a bit sad when I look at it now. Because it's one of the finest bits of bicycle infrastructure we have...and it is so slight a grace, after all. You can barely pass a slower rider; a little more bike traffic than it presently gets would jam it up in short order.

The cars of course, get three wide lanes, and move along pretty fast there. Almost a freeway.

But it's a start. The city didn't even consider it at first, the community insisted, the battles were fought and won, the lanes are there, and cyclists are using them.

Let's make 2011 the year of building momentum! We're on the way, but there's still a long way to go.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 28 Dec 2010 11:26:05 -0800 [link]  

Monday, December 27th
LA Bike Blog Roundup and Popular Vote
Although StreetsblogLA has already chosen their own winners in a local bike blog roundup, you can add your voice by choosing alternatives from among an impressive set of blogs in several categories.

We're rather flattered that they included this blog in the list. So, if you want to vote for us (or any of the other fine folks and groups listed there) go to Streetsblog today (December 27th) only and make yourself heard.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 27 Dec 2010 14:10:40 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, December 25th
After the Storm
Distant Snow
Click to enlarge
The clarity of the scene pictured, in this photo I made yesterday, belies the severity of the storms that preceded it. The snow, however, which wasn't there a week ago, tells the tale. Eight inches of rain downtown Los Angeles in just a few days! Yer editor was, as regular readers of this blog know, riding in much of it encased in rain cape and thick sweater. Though I enjoy rain riding most of the time (torrents can be a bit wearying), it is nice to ride with a little less clothing on!

I wasn't the only one out in the wet, but obviously most LA riders, unaccustomed to rain and unequipped for it (few bikes even having fenders), were biding their time till clear weather came and were out in force yesterday.

Still, if we're going to make LA a real cycling city, we have to get used to the rain, rarely though it falls here. It isn't very hard to do--and that's not just my own idiosyncratic opinion: worldwide the cities with the most cycling are often the wettest. Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing. Even here in the US, the top cycling cities are Portland (of course), Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

A lot of my friends went on commuting right through the storms. We'll catch up with those other burgs. After all, it's only water. It isn't even cold when it rains here. Come on, LA, buy some capes and fenders and learn how sweet the city can be on a fresh, wet day!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 25 Dec 2010 19:29:14 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, December 21st
Solstice Spin
This is Tuesday, so I rode to South Pasadena to hang out with Chuck Schmidt at Buster's Coffee for a while. No big deal, except that it was raining the whole time (and still is). Even that would be no big deal, except I live in Los Angeles, where riding a bicycle in the rain is considered heroic.

It's not. It's just riding a bicycle. Even for a thirty-eight mile round trip, it's pretty much the same as riding on a dry day, except that I wear a wind shell or rain cape.

And enjoy it sometimes a little more! The city fresh, the sky gray and mobile, the light shining from wet streets. Good smells. The city all fresh as it rarely is. Dull buildings look forlorn and somehow interesting; lighted windows sing of coziness within. The river running, for a change. The perfume of wet soil and growing leaves.

Even the flat front tire I discovered upon heading for home was no big deal. Swapped tubes and on my way. (But must remember to include tweezers in my toolkit, which would have speeded up the procedure considerably.) It gave me an excuse to visit Josef at Flying Pigeon LA on the way home to pick up a couple of extra tubes. Had a nice chat while I was there.

Went on through Silverlake, where I saw the most fellow rain riders of the day. (Quite a few in my home turf of the Miracle Mile as well.)

Now back at the apartment, and waiting for evening when my son will have dinner with us. A beautiful Winter Solstice.

It should be raining on the Solstice! New life never sprang from dead dry dust.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 21 Dec 2010 15:51:25 -0800 [link]  

Monday, December 20th
Downtown Drizzle
My Bottecchia

Anjac Alley
Click to enlarge
Okay, alliteration be damned, it was not a drizzle but a strong, steady rain I rode through all this morning taking care of business. Up Fourth Street and over to Seventh, my usual route, to deliver three meters of wonderful knit merino to the factory office. (That's where I took the photos of my bike and the adjacent alley).

This wool is for samples of a new cycling-specific T-shirt we're hoping to make in Spring. It will be warm in the cool, cool in the heat, keep the sun off you pretty well, and be tailored so that even riders who prefer an aggressive pose won't find themselves doing the plumber-pants trick, while upright sorts will still be comfy and creaseless. it will be on the snug side, but the hand indicates a lithe stretch to it that will mean pure comfort. Can't wait to try the samples! though with the holidays coming I will probably have to wait till next year. Early next year, of course....

That done, I rode over to East Hollywood to Arax Bakery, a little hole-in-the-wall on santa Monica Boulevard (not far from Orange 20, whom I blog for on Mondays), for some of the most wonderful filled breads in probably several universes. No website for Arax; you'll have to find them on your own.

Back into the rain (under my Carradice Pro Route rain cape, of course), and home, where Gina warmed up some of the Arax goodies and made some of her special recipe hot chocolate...just right for rainy days!

About fifteen or sixteen miles in all. And only my feet, chin, and ears got wet.

If i lived anyplace else, I'd get some rain spats, but our rainy season is so short here, I just put up with wet shoes. No big deal.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 20 Dec 2010 15:21:45 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, December 19th
Caped & Comfy
Just took a quick spin in the rainy darkness for some greens and lemons at the Third Street Farmers Market. The rainfall varied from moderate to moderately hard, the night was rich and dark under heavy clouds, lamps and windows danced reflections on the streaming was a delight!

Cozy in my sweater under the cape, with a few raindrops on my spectacles but nothing that made it hard to see, I was able to feel and smell and hear the rain while staying dry. A dance with the rain! The city is rarely so beautiful.

I was wishing I had an excuse to ride longer...but the kitchen was waiting.

Only three miles or so but it made a hard day happy.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 19 Dec 2010 17:44:03 -0800 [link]  

Fourth Street--the View from Downtown
We have just posted a long interview with Michelle Mowery, the Los Angeles DOT's Bicycle program Coordinator, exploring the history of Fourth Street as a bike route and the local cycling community's hopes that it become our city's first bicycle Boulevard....

To read it now, click here.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 19 Dec 2010 11:02:37 -0800 [link]  

Friday, December 17th
Wet & Woolly
While Portland's suffering the kind of torrential downpours we briefly receive here in SoCal in mid-winter, we're enjoying a bit of "Oregon sunshine." A leaden sky has been dropping mist, drizzle, and light rain since early when I headed out on a ride to the Bridge at the end of Ballona Creek, I packed my rain cape in the pannier--in case the storm got a little more enthusiastic--and decided to see just how well my beloved wool would do under direct exposure to the rain.

Ballona Creek Birds
Click to enlarge
Kit consisted of Bicycle Fixation Wool Knickers and knicker socks on the bottom, a T-shirt under an old Italian navy wool sweater on top, and a James Black Hat covering my bald spot under the helmet. (See all but the sweater here.) An ancient and decidedly un-waterproof wind shell went over the sweater

I'm pleased to say that wool lived up to its "warm when wet" reputation--and that it didn't even get too wet. For most of the ride, the wooly bits dried off at about the same rate that the drizzled dampened them, and once I had generated a bit of my own heat by pedaling I felt entirely comfortable. (My glasses did get speckled, though, but that's just going to happen.)

My Bottecchia
Click to enlarge
Rolled through back streets to one of the gates to the Ballona Creek bike path and headed west. Passed a few other riders on the way, and couldn't help but notice rain stripes up their backs--with fenders on the Bottecchia I didn't have to worry about that. Stopped a couple of times for pictures, and reached the Bridge and the flat grey Pacific in good time. Very few folks around, so I took the photo of my bike and headed back.

Now I was riding into the full force of a cold, hard wind that drove the rain against me with a tiny pattering sound, snickering as it were at my presumption. It was blowing hard enough to slow me down considerably, but despite the cold and the driven rain, I was still comfortable. By the time I arrived at the end of the bike path and returned to city streets, the wind had lessened but the rain had increased. I thought about getting the rain cape out--a rain cape with fenders is about the best way I've found to ride in rain--but figured what the hell, let's take it a little further!

Yes, I got wetter. But...I didn't get colder. And when I got home, wiped down the bike, wiped my face with the handkerchief I always carry, and looked in the stairwell mirror, I saw that I was still presentable, though a little damp. In a coffeehouse, for example, no one would have know that I was wet. (Unless they looked at my shoes!)

So, yeah, next time I will break out the cape much sooner. But this was a 25-mile ride. It's good to know that for shorter utility rides on rainy days, I will often be able to skip the rain gear long as I'm wearing wool

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 17 Dec 2010 16:41:31 -0800 [link]  

Monday, December 13th
Mondrian on 3rd Street
Mondrian in Los AngelesI have absolutely no justification for putting this image up here except that it shows a bicycle being ridden in LA. And that it reminds me of the mature painting style of Piet Mondrian, and Mondrian was Dutch, and the Dutch ride bikes a lot.

It's pretty thin, I know, but I've been a photographer for ages, and I saw this one coming while photographing a nearby building, and so you're going to look at it.

That is, if you click on the image to enlarge it.

Sometimes riding in LA does make you feel as though you're living in an abstract painting, anyway....

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 13 Dec 2010 16:05:16 -0800 [link]  

Friday, December 10th
Out of a Fog
Out of the FogI rode my bicycle just for the hell of it today--no meetings to go to, no shopping to do. But a lot's been going on in family and among the various microbusinesses I run--Bicycle Fixation the clothier, BF the magazine, The New Colonist, our more general sister 'zine, the web design business, and outside journalism. It gets a bit crowded now and then, as you can imagine, and a bike ride helps me relax and puts me back in touch with the real, physical world, its weather and gravity and sights and sounds, and my fellow humans (not to mention members of other species) going about their business in it.

I noticed great crowds of seabirds and crows far up the Ballona Creek channel, and before I could finish wondering what they were doing there, when all the really good eating for birdfolk is at the shore, I ran into the heavy fogbank pictured here.

It was beautiful; distant sounds absorbed and near ones standing out with unforced clarity, the cold seeping seductively through layers of wool and cotton, the ocean splashing lazily under the bridge. Riders materializing out of the thick gray mist and vanishing away without a word. Sweet, quiet, rare....

Ballona CreekA couple of miles back towards home and I was out of the fog, literally and mentally. By the time I came to the truss bridge before Overland, the sun was brilliant again. A stop at Samosa House East for some really very fine curries sounded the perfect grace note to a lazy ride.

Back on the streets now--after the sojourn down the creekside bike path--I watched the shoppers crowd and shuffle nervously in giant cars, edging between lanes and into gutters, getting jammed against the curb, all in a strange sort of nervous slow motion that made it more pathetic than threatening. This frenzy of consumption, accompanied by often startling anger expressed through horn, fist, and shouts among maddened motorists, always puzzles me, seeing that it is claimed to be a celebration of a prophet who repeatedly stressed the themes of nonviolence and voluntary poverty.

Nevertheless, I was out of it; I'll celebrate the Solstice--the real geophysical event that all religions celebrate under different names this time of year--and I'll give a gift to wife Gina and son Jack, because social habits are even harder to break than personal ones, and hearts are all too easy to break, especially at holiday time. I was out of it also because the bicycle teaches calm--the energy you expend is blatantly your own, and you can go only so fast, and it's so pleasant to go slower. And you never ever get stuck in traffic jams!

Now we're off again, into an almost warm and very sweet fall evening, on the bikes. I'm looking forward to it.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 10 Dec 2010 17:38:38 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, December 8th
Stripes & Icons
Had an amusing "Twiversation" between @bicyclefixation and @lacbc yesterday, which I'll copy in below:
Happy #twowheeltuesday! Share your Tuesday bicycling adventures and we'll pass it along.
December 7, 2010 12:26:58 PM PST via web

BicycleFixation @lacbc Rode usual Tue 38 miles round to S. Pasadena to visit Velo Retro & yes, rode the York Bl. sharrows! #twowheeltuesday

Has anyone spent #twowheeltuesday by riding the extended 4th Street Sharrows? We're another step closer to the 4th Street Bike Boulevard!
about 22 hours ago via web

@lacbc "Has anyone spent #twowheeltuesday by riding the extended 4th Street Sharrows? " Of course; it's part of my route to S. Pas.
about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck in reply to lacbc

@BicycleFixation So you get the new 4th Street Sharrows & the new York Blvd. bike lanes in one ride? We're jealous.
about 22 hours ago via web in reply to BicycleFixation
Indeed, I was pleased to enjoy both the new 4th Street sharrows (which I wrote about on this very blog a day or two ago) and the new bike lanes on York Boulevard in Highland Park on the same day.

However, there's no need for jealousy; the stripes and icons will be there for a long time to come, we hope--and besides, they happened to be on the route I usually follow on Tuesdays to visit with Chuck of Vélo Retro fame.

What there is need for is some good sense, as I noticed almost immediate online whining about the placement of the York Boulevard lanes...which are indeed in the door zone.

But this is not as bad as it seems. (That's a polite way of saying, "But so what?") The fact is that there really isn't room to put them anywhere else without eliminating either all curbside parking or the center left turn lane. While I am personally all for eliminating excess car parking, it ain't gonna happen there, and the bike lanes did happen, and I do believe they will improve safety.

How? By legitimizing our presence to the considerable motor traffic on York, that's how. In fact, it seemed to me that cars were giving me a wider berth than usual as I rode that stretch of the boulevard--and I ride it at almost the same time every Tuesday morning almost every week of the year. So these door zone lanes may actually let you ride farther from parked cars by giving you more room on your left!

And the fact is that we know, from numerous studies, that stripes and icons don't increase safety very much by themselves. What they actually do is twofold: they reiterate the (longstanding) legitimacy of our presence on the street, and they gently invite the timid who would might fear riding on unmarked boulevards. And the presence of more riders--the "safety in numbers" effect--does reduce accident rates once a certain small-c small-m critical mass is achieved. As in New York City, where accidents numbers went down as cycling tripled.

I have found motorists leaving more room as they passed me on newly sharrowed streets as well. If people feel less crowded, feel a bit coddled on the streets, more of them will ride more often, and the big safety improvements will then follow.

Comfort matters. Perception creates reality. A stripe won't stop a three-ton car. But acceptance of cycling will sharpen its driver's attentiveness, and it may even tempt him or her to try a bike next time!

So though I've been riding for decades without benefit of stripes or signs, I say, let's have more of them--even thought they really just elaborate the obvious. They do get more folks out on the road on bikes, and that makes all of us safer and happier.

Now, if the city would just install the bike corral that was approved and promised for York Boulevard months ago, all those new-riders-to-come would have someplace to lock their bikes safely while they shopped, sipped, or strolled...but so far no action....

Now, if you really want to get jealous, today I also rode the Spring street bus/bike lanes today--our barely-known precedent for the Wilshire bus/bike lanes to be discussed tomorrow at Metro. Read about it here.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 08 Dec 2010 15:48:52 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, December 4th
End to End!
Glory be, the city of Los Angeles has finally finished applying sharrows to the rest of 4th Street!

Sharrow in Hancock Park
Click image for larger view
It's been only a week or so since I noticed the markings that indicate where sharrows are to go, and now here they are, stenciled down (however sloppily in some cases) with an alacrity we've not come to expect from the bureaucratic machinery of our burg, which seems forever stuck in granny gear.

Thank you, City of Los Angeles, LADOT, Bureau of Street Services, and anyone else who was involved in the momentous project of getting these clever blobs of paint onto the asphalt. Particular thanks to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, who has provided (and will continue to provide) polite but persistent nagging as well as considered enlightenment on matters of bicycle transportation in the nation's second-largest city.

It's a good start. It restates our statutory (and moral and financial) right to the roads, and it helps place less-experienced riders out of the door zone and away from curbside debris. But it is not yet the bicycle boulevard we envision.

Sharrow at Cochran
Click image for larger view
Traffic calming, traffic diverters, bulbouts, and some form of signal at Rossmore and at Highland are still necessary to make 4th a true bicycle boulevard, one that is comfortable for new, inexperienced, very young, or very old riders as well as the numerous commuters that whizz along it nowadays and make it, already, one of the roads most frequented by utility cyclists in the western part of LA. Not to mention strollers, dog walkers, porch sitters, neighborhood kids, and even neighborhood drivers, who will not have to jockey for road space with the massive SUVs that still use 4th as an alternate to Third Street a block away.

But we're getting closer. Fourth now has sharrows all the way from Hoover on the east to Cochran on the west, inviting cyclists of all persuasions to use it for getting to work, to school, to shopping, to visit friends, or just to enjoy a beautiful day.

Next project will be, I hope, rebuilding 4th and Hudson to eliminate the Hudson River, and repaving much of the rest of the western half of 4th Street, which currently resembles nothing so much as a warehouse district back alley--despite running through one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in LA.

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 04 Dec 2010 13:51:53 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, December 1st
Downtown's pretty much always been full of bikes, but more and more keep showing up lately. I've been on jury duty at one of the courthouses there, and riding to and from the Civic Center, or walking around there at lunch, gives me plenty of opportunity to look at bikes of all sorts, which seem to be everywhere.

Not that long ago, messengers would have comprised the bulk of downtown riders, but now they seem a distinct minority. Even the delivery riders on their weary old basket-laden MTBs are outnumbered by commuters and by lots of fixie kids, the latter cruising about in threes and fours.

Not a few of the commuters are also riding fixed, or at least singlespeed.

It's pretty sweet.

It would be sweeter, true, if there were more bike parking, especially secure parking in civic buildings...there isn't any for the courthouse in which I'm serving, so I am sneaking into a building where a colleague works and parking in their racks. But obviously not everyone can do that. And Chinatown, a short ride away and full of great eating, has, I think, zero racks...but I already groused about that on Orange 20's blog a couple of days ago.

Overall, though, it was invigorating to see lots of bikes of all sorts being ridden just to get around downtown.

Let's keep it up!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 01 Dec 2010 18:56:13 -0800 [link]  

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