Do You Feel a Draft?

A regular topic of discussion in NELA is what to do about rogue councilmember and carpetbagger-in-chief Gil Cedillo. His obstructionism famously keeps Figueroa Street a slaughter alley lined by scattered shops struggling vainly against economic desolation…while José Huizar’s York Boulevard, nurtured by its road diet and bike lanes, thrives. York’s shops and eateries host crowds that often spill out onto the sidewalks, where folks can actually dine, stroll, and window shop without feeling hemmed in by manic traffic. Meanwhile, Cedillo’s Figueroa sees firefighters mopping blood off the streets all too regularly, while his cabal of NIMBY ranters keeps him bloated with the odd turbulent pride of stubbornness.

Although the man has his supporters, the community, by and large, would love to see Cedillo replaced. The man squeaked in by around 800 votes, after a campaign whose promises he discarded like so much used toilet paper once in office. His campaign funds came almost entirely from outside the district, and real-estate developers of the more rapacious sort figured largely in his financing. His tenure in office has been marked by photo ops and “No” votes, though he did add some plastic trash bins to the streets…and now he wants to amend the city’s Mobility Plan 2035 to make it more of a Mobility Plan 1955, at least in CD1.

Clearly, Cedillo is not acting in the best interests of the district, or of the city as a while, and is perhaps in violation of the state’s Complete Streets Act.

But few locals want to run against him and his well-financed machine. The community may have to draft someone…and I won’t be the first to suggest that that someone could be Josef Bray-Ali, publisher of this blog.

True, Bray-Ali has written and said some immoderate things in the last couple of years—an understandable reaction to the betrayals and frustrations imposed on the community by Cedillo (watch this video of Cedillo, while in full prevarication mode, touting “real bike lanes,” Copenhagen-style, as a must for LA—even as he prepared to backstab us). One can understand a few flashes of verbal temper under the circumstances.

More to the point is Bray-Ali’s position in the community: he has lived in CD1 for over ten years, owns a small business on Figueroa, and was even a developer himself—not the sort building outsized megablock monstrosities, but partner in a firm dedicated to intimate, low-impact neighborhood-scale projects. He has even written about parking and development for the Los Angeles Business Journal (unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall).

He is the son of an immigrant, speaks usable if inelegant Spanish, has plenty of contacts at City Hall, and truly cares about the community and all its stakeholders. It would be an uphill battle, but he would be a very good council member, one who would keep the best interests of the district, the city, and the region (which are all, of course, tied together) always in mind. He’s far from being “just a bike guy”—I’d say he knows LA’s municipal code better than most people currently in the administration. Small business, traffic safety, neighborhood health, beneficial development, parking and transportation—Bray-Ali sees them all in the context of community . CD1 could do worse—and has.

Josef, do you feel a draft?

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

First inventory video of 2016!

Highlights: cute dog sleeping in a box; Brompton folding bicycles, a 1955 Rhoson de Lyon touring bike for sale; a Soma Bart kids touring frame; a built Flying Pigeon PA-02 ready to go to a new home; ketchup from Camden’s in Portland; steel flasks with bicycle mounted flask cage; and, what else?! A bunch of other stuff.

NELA Kidical Mass happening this coming Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sycamore Grove Park in Northeast Los Angeles.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com or on El Twitter @flyingpigeonla

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NELA Kidical Mass on Sunday, February 21, 2016

NELA Kidical Massive rolling in September of last year got us inspired to throw this party again.

NELA Kidical Mass is rolling again this coming Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Sycamore Grove Park (4702 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065).

Facebook Event link? Click here and check it out.

Kids, bikes, scooters, hand wagons, skateboards; meet us at Sycamore Grove Park at 11 a.m. We’re going to play on the playground, eat snacks, dance, play, have a rolling wheel rally and bash open a pinata in a celebration of family, community, bikes, and each other.

Meet at the playground by Ramona Hall. No reservations required, nor sign up sheets, nor waivers, nor fees. Bring something to eat (and share!), a picnic blanket to sit on, etc.

Ample street parking available at the park. Two public free lots also available at the park. Gold Line access right across the street from Southwest Museum station. Metro 81 bus access available 24/7 on Figueroa (show up early and camp out!).

There is a Facebook Event post for this party.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com or ask us on Twitter @flyingpigeonla

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Sixth Street Shuffle

Sixth Street, in Mid-City Los Angeles, is, plain and simple, a dangerous street. From Fairfax to Rossmore, it’s four lanes with no center turn lane and few left turn pockets. Motorists use it as an alternative to Wilshire, and, as most of them are typical scofflaws, they speed, swerve, and blow lights with abandon. Several pedestrians have died on that stretch, many people have been injured, light poles are regularly knocked down by out-of-control cars, and it is common to pass by debris fields indicating a recent wreck, all along this stretch. I know; I live on a block abutting Sixth Street and travel it several times a day most days, usually on foot or by bike, sometimes in a car. I have seen bodies lying in the street. I have seen drivers speeding at over seventy on this neighborhood collector.

The city’s’ approach to Sixth Street has been unequivocally hypocritical: a road diet has been planned for it—but only from Fairfax to La Brea. an LADOT engineer I spoke to about this several years ago stated that, east of La Brea, Sixth was “too narrow” for a road diet.

But I noted yesterday during a personal survey of the road that the entire stretch from La Brea to Rossmore forbids parking entirely, thus making that segment of the street effectively wider.

In other words, it would be very easy to install a 4-to-3 road diet with bike lanes on the entire distance from Fairfax to Rossmore, thereby winning the road design trifecta by:

1) Slowing speed-demon drivers with a narrowed lanespace;

2) Moving the numerous left-turning drivers out of the way of through traveller 24/7; and

3) Providing an alternative to driving by making bicycle travel more comfortable through the district.

Road diets, it has so often been shown, often actually increase the average speed of motor traffic on a street, even if incrementally, and vastly increase its throughput of foot and bike traffic. This is no longer a matter of hope or conjecture; it has been measured repeatedly. Average speed is what counts; peak speeds between traffic clots mean nothing—except danger and delay.

So what is happening with Sixth these days? Hah! The road diet has been put on hold because of fears that it the subway construction in Wilshire will send “too much traffic” over to Sixth. Yes, rookie council member David Ryu has wrapped himself in the mantle of term-out Tom LaBonge and declared cars shall be your only god in the MIracle Mile. So he continues to hold back a simple painting project that could add capacity to this deadly street while preventing the carnage that has become typical in my neighborhood.

It’s a damn shame, especially in a city that loudly proclaims its adherence to the principles of Vision Zero.

Perhaps Ryu and the rest of the council’s Neanderthals think that that means zero cyclists on the road and no one ever crossing the street on foot. You could be excused for thinking so, since this malign neglect of Sixth Street is but one more example of LA’s backwards thinking.

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Petition Tennis, Anyone?

As you know from last week’s post, a handful of disaffected residents of NELA set up a semi-secret online petition asking Jos&ecaute; Huizar to rip out the bike lanes on York Boulevard, listing a number of alleged effects they have had on the community—none of which they actually brought about. In case you missed that post, you can read it here. It includes rebuttals of the points the petitioners listed as bike-lane-generated malevolence

What’s particularly interesting, and what exposes the profound ignorance in which our opponents operate, is that they asked for the bike lanes to be removed, but not the road diet. So removing the bike lanes would not add any traffic lanes back onto York.

Of course, adding traffic lanes would only cause more traffic, as the experience of the last eighty years has shown. Even CalTrans—CalTrans!—now acknowledges that sad if counterintuitive fact. And the billions wasted on the Sepulveda Pass widening, which only made traffic worse, simply undergird the futility of equating more lanes with faster traffic.

So, an enterprising and enlightened member of the community put up a counter-petition asking Huizar to keep the bike lanes. As of this writing, it has been graced by 709 signatures, well over twice as many as the leadfoot lunatics’ sneering demand.

If you haven’t yet signed on to support the bike lanes on York (which have reduced collisions while enrichening local businesses), you still have a chance to do so here. Please note in the comments section whether you live, work, or spend money in Highland Park, and, if you will, what particular benefit you gain from the bike lanes on York.

And be civil: leave the snarling to the Neanderthals. They may be scary, but their time has passed.

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The Next Eighty Years

As everyone in NELA who has been awake from the last few years knows, there is a reactionary cabal that has been struggling to keep HIghland Park a sort of preserve for leadfoot drivers—the sort who have been killing and maiming residents on Figueroa Street for years, andwho lately have been accelerating the pace of the bloodshed. Now the car addicts have started a petition on change.org asking CD14 representative José Huizar to remove the bike lanes from York Boulevard. (Note: Sign the counter-petition here.)

They employ what you might call discredited arguments, but which are really just plain lies: that the bike lanes have caused a loss of business (the empty storefronts that existed before bike lanes are now largely occupied, and older businesses such as Huarache Azteca have invested in sprucing up their façades); that “most important,” they slow down emergency response (they don’t; and that they cause traffic backups. What they don’t mention is that collisions of all sorts dropped dramatically thanks to the street’s road diet, which later added bike lanes without reducing mixed traffic lanes further. As for the other intuitive assertions, this UCLA study on the York road diet itself should set your mind at rest. Its conclusions were based on actual data actually gathered on the actual York Boulevard. Not on “gut feelings.”

And what causes traffic backups is too many cars, which are drawn to a street when it has too much lane space. Cars cause congestion; building more lanes makes more room for more cars to cause more congestion. Don’t take my word for it: listen to CalTrans, which now admits that More Roads Mean More Traffic.

In fact, it should be obvious even to the Neanderthals that we have been buildng more and more roads and lanes for eighty years, and traffic has only gotten steadily worse.

So I offer a compromise: for the next eighty years, let’s build nothing but bike lanes and transit lines, and see what happens.

Who knows? We might end up like Denmark, which currently holds the Number 1 spot on Forbes Magazine’s list of best places to do business, as well as being home to the happiest population on this poor beleaguered planet.

All those bike lanes help….

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Riders on the Storm

…Or under the storm, as the case may be. El Niño has arrived, and be glad of it: wet streets are a small price to pay for the grace of rain. I like the saying I saw on a farming site, something to the effect that, “Despite all our progress, our lives depend on six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

No rain = no food. And besides, tha rain is beautiful, even on a bike. Sometimes especially on a bike. When else does LA smell good?

But you have to be prepared.

Oftentimes when it’s raining lightly I don’t even bother with raingear. Why? I have wool clothing (most of it of my own design), and good wool tends to dry out at abut the same rate that it gets wet if the rain’s not too hard. And if wool does become soaked, it’ll still keep you warm. Forget synthetics, and stay far away from cotton. Wear wool in the rain. Get it at Goodwill, or check out Flying Pigeon for some new old stock of my Bicycle Fixation gear. You may actually want it to rain for your next ride!

If it’s raining harder, you will need raingear, and here the poncho or rain cape wins. Yes, the fellow riding through the downpour in the header photo is wearing an overall-type rainsuit, but that’s in Portland. In LA, such gear becomes a mobile sauna. A rain cape is open on the bottom, allowing air to circulate, yet extends over your extended arms to tent your legs. Most capes have hoods or helmet covers, but even better is a sou’wester hat such as used on commercial fishing boats.

But if you use a rain cape—and you shoudl—you’d better have fenders to keep your own wheels from catapulting dirty street water all over you. Again, Flying Pigeon can set you up. I keep my fenders on all year round, because there are always puddles in the street somewhere, and…they aren’t always water.

Finally, lights! LA drivers act like fools in the best of times, and don’t think they’ll stop texting at the wheel just because it’s raining and the wipers don’t work. Light up and make sure they know something’s there in front of them.

Have Flying Pigeon check and set your brakes, air up your tires, replace any worn parts, and of course lube your chain, and you’re set to enjoy an LA you’ve rarely felt before, sweet-smelling and aglow with jewels of reflected lamplight.

And you know you’ll still be able to eat next year….

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Let It Now Be Resolved

New Year’s Day is nearly here: the time when Americans make all sorts of resolutions they know they won’t keep. And since the City of Los Angeles as an administrative entity has not, so far, been very good at keeping to it’s own resolutions—note the modest progress on implementing Complete Streets and Vision Zero, and the roadblocks already being set up in front of Mobility Plan 2035,–I offer a grand resolution absolutely free of charge to City Hall. Hell, even if they don’t ignore it as completely as iI expect, they won’t keep it anyway, so it fits right into the tradition.

“I , the City of Los Angeles, hereby resolve to stop pandering to motorists, and start building a city for people.”

Sounds like more of that “War on Cars” crap, doesn’t it? But the fact is, that the “War on Cars” is a suicidal one waged by cars themselves, who are eternally in each other’s way—and the rest of us, the diverse urban cultures that struggle to live and thrive among our snarl of battlefield streets, are collateral damage.

Listen: even CalTrans now admits that you can’t build your way out of congestion: thanks to induced demand, new lanes, roads, and parking spaces fill up within a very short time. The truth is , that no matter what you do, the intensity of congestion will remain the same, or get worse: absent techniques such as congestion charging, motorists will see roads as a free resource to be exploited to the ultimate limit. In any thriving city, there will always, always, always be the same intensity of congestion in all facilities that permit cars. The way to reduce congestion is to grant less space to cars. There will still be congestion, just less of it.

But there will then be space to allocate to more efficient modes of treavel, such as walking, cycling, and transit, as well as to community space or economic development. Those who do not feel comfortable driving in clots of traffic will have other options that they do not have now—since we have been subjected to an eighty-year automotive jihad designed to force us all to drive everywhere, all the time, forever. A social engineering failure at its worst!

Magic technologies won’t solve the problem: massed ranks of platooning robocars won’t do it, ragged amateur armies of Uber galley slaves won’t do it, feeding electric power from Four Corners into Tesla batteries won’t do it.

Only emulating the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 wlll do it: back then, Mother Nature tore down the Embarcadero Freeway, and San Fran replaced it with a Complete Street comprising just a couple of car lanes, a couple of bike lanes, a trolley line, and big wide sidewalks. And the waterfront suddenly turned into a commercial and community centerpiece!

This is hard to do without tectonic assistance (though many cities are starting to tear down freeways voluntarily), because the congestionnaires are very good at whining loudly to make us all subsidize their predilection for driving three blocks to pick up a bottle of cinnamon whiskey (this week’s slug of choice for the obliterati, who will then ever so fragrantly run us down)….

However, if we wish for Los Angeles to remain a world-class city, we will have to emulate what San Francisco, New York, Paris, Seoul, and other thriving burgs have begun to do, and push back against the insurgence of private cars, an insurgence that crushes our cultures even more effectively than it squashes our neighbors.

LA can do it. LA could do it. All it takes is resolution….

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Is This Really an Issue?

Prominent in the LA Times “Burbank Leader” edition this morning was an article describing an apparently hard-fought compromise allowing cyclists to continue using a seventy-year-old bridge to cross the LA River between Burbank and Griffith Park. The issue? Horseriders preferred to ban cyclists altogether, claiming they “scared the horses.” And cyclists wanted to be able to pedal over the bridge, claiming…well, “I just wanna!”

Burbank’s city council made a mostly good decision: cyclists can use the Mariposa Bridge so long as they walk their bikes across.

Sound oppressive? Well, the bridge is narrow, covered with a layer of soft dirt, and shared with powerful 1500-pound animals. Waling your bike for all o f a hundred and forty feet under those conditions makes sense to me.

I am no apologist for equestrians, though I rode horses a fair bit in the distant past. I suggest that a horse that is afraid of cyclists is a badly-trained horse. Let us look at the history of this precursor to the bicycle: for about 7,000 years, horses have been used in war, including the shooting wars of the last four hundred years. This means that the average horse can be trained to go calmly into a battlefield where guns are blasting, bayonets flashing, bombs exploding, and people screaming in rage and pain. If they can be trained to endure that, they can certainly be trained to see a bicyclists without suffering an immediate and total nervous breakdown. I suspect that equestrians use the “horses are nervous” argument to arrogate trails and other facilites to their personal use. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be walking on some trails, because it “makes horses nervous”! If that’s the case, your horse needs an animal psychiatrist. And anyway, how do you walk up to it to get on and ride?

But cyclists were asking too much here as well. It’s a narrow dirt-covered bridge; judging from the photo in the article, two cyclists would have difficulty crossing paths on it. It makes sense to walk. Especially as there’s not bikeway on the other side, at least not for several hundred yards. A shared-use trail—even if it’s shared only with hikers—is no place to shred.

This should not have been contested territory. The bridge is a public facility with a peculiar configuration that requires some compromises by all users. (Indeed, many hikers are made nervous by gigantic horses on the trails….)

A waste of time and organizational energy. With people dying in the streets, there are more important matters to attend to.

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Enough Said. Enough Dead.

William Matelyan, pedestrian, 84: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 26, 22 July 2014.

José Luna, cyclist, 33: North Figueroa Street and Pasadena Avenue, 26 June 2015.

Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo, pedestrian, 51: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 55, 22 September 2015.

Andres Perez, pedestrian, 17: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 60, 15 December 2015.

Four names, four lives, four deaths. Four more human beings mown down by motor vehicles. Two of them—Mr. Luna and Ms. Espinosa-Lugo—killed in hit-and-run crashes. All of them killed by a defective street design.

North Figueroa Street is overdesigned, built according to principles that made speed the only priority, so that even neighborhood roads are built as if they were highways. It has long been known that such streets kill their users at a high rate; that they induce rather than relieve congestion; that they batter down businesses that live along them. It has long been known, and it is finally beginning to be acknowledged by our turgid civic bureaucracies, that there is a better way. And that one of the best methods available to remake a street so that it serve all users, so that it increase community and business activity, so that it prevent the slaughter of the innocents, is the road diet.

Even the Federal Highway Administration, not known for planning radicalism, acknowledges that road diets, are a “proven safety countermeasure.” The experiences of cities worldwide show that road diets have little if any serious effect on drivetime (and in fact often improve it noticeably), that they reduce crashes, that they boost community. That, especially if they include bike lanes, they improve the business climate.

Even LA’s backwards-looking DOT figured it out, as did the previous iteration of the City Council: so a road diet was approved (unanimously, after extensive community outreach), was designed, was funded. The street was known to be a killer. To quote the LA Times article that recounted Mr. Perez’s death:

A Los Angeles Times analysis identified Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street as a particularly problematic intersection for pedestrians, showing that 13 people were hit, two fatally, from 2002 through 2013. According to the analysis, the intersection ranked among the top 200 of more than 800 intersections identified in L.A. County as problematic.

The analysis also identified four other nearby streets that intersect with Figueroa—York Boulevard, Avenue 59, Avenue 55 and Avenue 41—covering roughly a mile in Highland Park. A total of 73 people were hit and four were killed at the five intersections from 2002 through 2013.

The street, it was agreed, had to be tamed.

Then…well, if you read this blog, you know what happened. Gil Cedillo squeaked into office in District 1 and cancelled it. And he refuses to say why.

Since then, Mr. Matelyan, Mr. Luna, Ms. Espinosa-Lugo, and Mr. Perez have been killed by this deficient street. The death rate has actually increased. And it did not have to be so. One man’s stubbornness has kept North Figueroa a deathtrap.

Mr. Cedillo, to repeat the question asked of the infamous Senator McCarthy in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

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