Bicycle Millennium Interrupted for Bike Month

May is Bike Month, something that always seemed odd to me here in SoCal. There is no defined “biking season” in the Southland, and the concept doesn’t make sense anywhere, really. If the good burghers of Copenhagen can ride to work through February snowstorms, if commuters costumed in goosedown and wool can clackety-clack their studded tires down Minneapolis bikeways in January, why do we in La-La Land have Bike Month? What, it was too cold to ride in December, when it was 80 degrees, or in January when it was 70, or in March, when the headlines read, “Drizzle Batters LA”?

So, while in cities with crappy weather, from Boston to Detroit to the baking heat of Phoenix, people who want to ride just ride, often on nice new bikepaths, here in LA we gear up for the start of a mythical window of opportunity that somehow makes cycling “practical,” in a region where the weather barely changes month to month.

And where what would really make riding practical—ie, more bike lanes and paths, and traffic calming—are dismissed as, oddly, “impractical.” So we keep shoveling money at more car lanes, and watch traffic grow worse and worse. For eighty years, we’ve built more lanes, and watched traffic grow worse. Making more room for bikes instead seems more practical to me….

But, Bike Month events are good PR, much needed in a city whose media and commentariat still devote extraordinary efforts to looking wide-eyed with amazement when some middle-aged cube dweller does something so unheard of as pedaling to work. So, I guess LA does need Bike Month, if only to get a few more folks actually to try riding, and see that it’s not in fact “impractical.”

CicLAvia is the prime force in allowing Regular Folks to try riding on real streets without having to get a prescription for anti-anxiety meds first. The event is patterned after Bogotá’s famous ciclovias, which have been a weekly occurence since the late Seventies, and now liberate 80 miles of that city’s streets every Sunday.

LA’s CicLAvias are (for now) much smaller and far less frequent, but they have a huge effect. And there’s one coming up on May 15th, bringing the love to the Southeast partions of Los Angeles county, including parts of LA proper, Huntington Beach, Lynwood, and South Gate.

There’s also the Bicycle Culture Institute’s LA Bike Fest, coming this Sunday, May 8th, to Grand Park downtown. This is a party, not a ride, but it promises to be one hell of a party, so get your tix now. There will be music, art, and beer! And rides will no doubt form up as the day progresses.

And the Los Angeles County Bicycle coalition has a roster of activities for the month, including Bike to Work Day Pit Stops on May 19th, the “Blessing of the Bicycles” on May 17th, and the Ride of Silence on May 18th, plus outreach, workshops, and more.

Farther west, Santa Monica Spoke lists a number of events, some ongoing, on their calendar; you might get a chance to try out the city’s Breeze bikeshare system while you’re there.

Metro, the county’s transit agency, co-sponsors many of these events, and runs a couple of its own, such as Bike Night at Union Station on May 27th. Check out their main event page at The Source for more.

And, of course, just get out and ride your bike everyday….

Wait— you say you already do?

Of course you do. Because every month is bike month, everywhere!

See you on the road….

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One Comment

  1. davistrain
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Secret World of Bicycles

    Some years ago, I started logging into the LA and SF Streetsblogs, after being linked to them by transit-oriented websites. My main interest is in rail-based transport, especially electric railways, but the Streetsblogs also have a strong representation from the bicycling community. I’ve been a driver of motor vehicles since the 1950’s, and have not used a bike for many years. I have gone through periods where I rode public transit a lot, and have taken a cross country trip that was over 98% rail (Amtrak and local rail systems). Wandering into Streetsblog has been a consciousness-raising experience in seeing how the world looks to our fellow citizens on two wheels. Following are a few comments on how the bike sites look to outsiders:

    A foreign language? One encounters strange terms like sharrows, panniers, velo, CycLAvia, wrenching place, and dooring. “Sharrow” sounds like a farm implement, or a bird; I think the term for words like that is “neologism”. “Pannier”, “velo” and “CycLAvia” sound European, which is a negative thing to many Americans. We’re the people who have yet to embrace the Metric System, we consign soccer to the “minor sports” category and don’t go bananas over the World Cup tournament. “Dooring” (since when is “door” a verb?) turns out to be a serious hazard when cycling along a street with parallel parking—I found that it means being whacked by a suddenly opened driver’s door on a parked car. Then there are bicycle kitchens, which, I’ve found upon seeing a photo of one, look like workshops. Why not call them that? Even “bicycle repair center” makes more sense. “I’ll have one mountain bike over easy, and a fixed-gear, well-done.”

    I’ve read articles on “Practical Cycling”, which is something that must increase if bikes are to be taken seriously. I found that “Practical Cycling” means using bicycles for going to work and running errands, trips that most Americans would do in a motor vehicle. Right now, outsiders look upon bicyclists as a “fringe element”, people who can be categorized thusly:
    Recreational cyclists: The folks we see on weekends forming pelotons (oops, there’s another one of those dadburn furriner words!) of enthusiasts in skin-tight shorts, vividly colored jerseys and weird-looking helmets. Or you’ll see a car or SUV (typically a Volvo or Subaru) with a bicycle or two in a special rack on the roof. Brings to mind horses riding in a horse trailer.
    Mormon missionaries: If you see a pair of young men in dark pants, white shirts and neckties pedaling along on utilitarian bikes, they’re on a “Mission from God” and they aren’t the Blues Brothers.
    Low income workers: Usually from “South of the Border”, these cyclists ride second or third hand bikes, and are probably saving up for (as one writer said) a 1995 Toyota Corolla. I’ve driven through the Salinas Valley, seen the lineup of cars on the edges of the fields being harvested, and noted that some of the farmhands drive newer cars than me.
    Children: One commentator said wryly, “It’s amazing how handing a teenager a driver’s license shuts down that part of the brain that governs bicycling.” This attitude seems to be changing; news reports have indicated that many young people are in no hurry to join the motoring public.
    Dedicated environmentalists: Members of this subset are often vegetarians as well as bicyclists. They live up to their ideals and are certainly worthy of praise and emulation, but typical Americans look upon them as “eccentric tree-huggers”.

    Then there are the “Automobiles are an invention of the Devil” partisans. They refer to streets with lots of cars as “traffic sewers” and from some of their rhetoric, one would think they’d like to see those gas-guzzling, road-hogging fume-belching machines wiped off the face of the earth. If they were running the Hereafter, Henry Ford, Charles Kettering, Walter Chrysler and Alfred P. Sloan would be in the lowest level of the Nether Regions. The problem with this attitude is that it’s not widely held. We can assume that even if most cars disappeared and fuel went to $20 a gallon, government officials and wealthy people would still have THEIR personal vehicles. We would be like third world countries where the “kleptocrats” cruise around in chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benzes while the general populace either walks or jams into rickety buses. And this would be most annoying to the average person who remembered the “good old days when I had my own car and could go anywhere I damn well pleased”. We would be back to the days of 100+ years ago when Woodrow Wilson said something to the effect that nothing can breed thoughts of socialism in this country faster than the rich and privileged racing through our towns in their gas buggies, frightening horses and endangering the citizenry.

3 Trackbacks

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