Almost Perfect

A few months ago I wrote about the lack of bike racks in El Segundo, whereafter I heard from a friend that the city had in fact finally installed some bike parking. So, last Sunday, when I had a chore in the area, I decided to take a look.

I was actually stopping by the Hyperion sewage treatment plant to drop off some toxic waste, which they collect on weekends: rags and gloves contaminated by mercury, pursuant to a broken thermometer, and a big bag of dead batteries that my t’ai chi teacher had foisted on me when he heard I was headed that way. So, with a pannier full of poisons, I rode out the Ballona Creek bikeway, then pedaled alongside the blue Pacific Ocean (oh, how awful, right?) till I got to Imperial Highway and the complex of buildings that treats the mighty torrent of sewage to which all of us here in LA contribute daily.

Then it was off to El Segundo, a city named after an oil well and trapped between the airport, a gigantic refinery, and the aforementioned sewage plant, the first two of which donate horrid carcinogenic effluvia to the poor little town.

Still, people live, shop, and work there, and ride bikes. So the bike racks are definitely needed. And their placement—along Main Street; I didn’t see any on other roadways—is nearly perfect.

Nearly. El Segundo suffers, oddly, from really well-designed sidewalks, with pleasing brick pavements and lots of plantings, plus handsome benches and other street furniture. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for bike racks, except at the streetcorners and sometimes mid-block, where there are bulb-outs to help walkers cross the road. This shouldn’t be a problem—but sadly it is, at least for now.

It leaves most of the bike racks far from the restaurants and shops that riders (or anyone else) will want to visit. Apparently, the most attractive destinations in ES (it’s different in most other towns) are mid-block, where the bike racks aren’t. And so none of the bikes I saw parked in the little town was locked to a rack.

I am confident this will change as people become used to their existence; right now they may simply be following long-established habits from the days of no racks. But it did seem rather disquieting to see really quite tasteful and very secure racks going unused while bikes leaned against walls or railings or trees….

The one place where the racks were well-placed was, as luck would have it, the El Segundo Brewing Company, proving once again the alliterative affinity of bikes and beer. They were in fact blessed with four racks, instead of the one or two other locations enjoyed.

This may say too much about bike culture in Los Angeles….

In honor of the brewery’s evident support for biking, I sipped one of their concoctions as I lunched at Rock n Brews, an odd but enjoyable pub owned in part by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS and dedicated to rock and roll. The food was pretty good, and they offer dozens of craft beers, with local brews marked on the menu. They also have installed two guitar-shaped bike racks in their parking lot, which are however nearly impossible to lock up to with a mini-lock. Next time I’ll use the brewery’s racks.

The moral of the story is simply that, in bike racks as in real estate, it’s “location, location, location.” People want to park their bikes near where they are going to go. El Segundo’s installations are nearly perfect, but the city’s cyclists will face a modest learning curve.

And at least the mildly suboptimal placement resulted from a pre-existing good, the excellent sidewalks.

Ride out, lock up, have lunch. When the wind’s right it’s a wonderful little Main Street sort of town.

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