Ride Your Bicycle to Ride Your Bicycle

It will come as no surprise to the readers of the blogs I infest, including this one, that I complain a great deal about The State of Things. The city’s roads, the city council, the LADOT, the incivility of discourse, the agreement among the Windshield Set willfully to ignore the pervasive evidence of Driver Privilege (which, like White Privilege, sets teeth to gnashing among those so privileged every time the subject is so much as mentioned)….

Today is different. Today I feel compelled to celebrate the mere all-suffusing joy of a bike ride along a dedicated path through a beautiful place and time…for we all need a break from the struggle now and then.

Sunday afternoon I headed west, as I usually do, but this day I chose not to visit anybody; I decided simply to ride along the Ballona Creek bikeway to the jetty between Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey and look at the ocean.

Of course, I knew it was springtime—with jasmine sweetening the air all over LA, only the most obtuse would miss it—but I had forgotten that the Ballona Wetlands (saved from development by the concerted efforts of hundreds of ordinary folks like you and me) would be in bloom. And indeed, the world seemed a fabric of bright yellow flowers for miles and miles as I rode. Even my usual weary cynicism was shattered by the sight, on that cool and gray afternoon, so I took a few snapshots, which fill the rest of this page.

All I can say is that sometimes you’ve just got to get out and ride for the sake of your own soul. Do it soon: the bloom won’t last. Take the Expo Line to Culver City and get on the Ballona path and just ride. No need to hammer: the slower you go, the more you’ll enjoy. A little R&R to give you respite from the battle….

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The Good, the Bad, and the Clueless

As Joe Linton reports in Streetsblog LA, downtown’s Los Angeles Street will soon see a protected cycletrack replace the plain-paint bike lanes that connect Union Station and First St.

This is an undeniable Good Thing. I gladly celebrate any upgrade in bicycle facilities in any parts of the city that see, or that could see if they weren’t so daunting, lots of folks going about their business on bikes. It’s not just “One Less Car” any more; it’s well-proven that urban bicycling improves productivity at work, boosts public health, and raises small business income. It also restitches the civic fabric, as people come to view their city as something more than traffic jams, and their fellow denizens as people, not just shadows behind a windshield in the next lane over. Making safe places to ride in through urban areas means that more people will ride—and the various, albeit incomplete, bike lane networks in the central city are showing it to be so. Bikes are everywhere, and their riders are just about anyone.

But LADOT is quoted in Linton’s article as stating that that particular stretch of Los Angeles street was chosen because it was an easy sell: it’s mostly government offices along the route. In other words, it represents a sort of failure of nerve, and one that degrades DOT’s mission of providing access to all. How? Well, while it’s nice that all the bureaucrats can ride more safely to work and back now, and that LA can test yet another cycle track (there are several in town already), Los Angeles Street has absolutely zero accommodation for bikes where it counts, in the Fashion District.

I ran a tiny clothing company for several years, and I still dabble in the rag trade. I have made probably hundreds of trips up and down Los Angeles Street, on foot and by bike, and I can tell you, after a decade of observation, that that street and its neighboring roadways absolutely swarm with bikes. Beaters, cruisers, fixies, road bikes, folders, homemade cargo bikes, just about every damn sort of pedal-powered two-wheeler, all duking it out in mixed traffic all day long. Yet the Los Angeles street bike lanes, now as before, stop at First Street. The Fashion District, where bikes are a significant part of the traffic mix, begins around Third and stretches south to at least Twelfth Street.

Bad, and clueless. Really, we don’t need to “test” cycle tracks: they’ve already been tested, all over the world and in several parts of LA itself. Plenty of data has been published showing that they smooth traffic, boost safety, entice hordes of new riders onto the streets, and are good for business.

We don’t need more “tests.” We need rationalize our roads, because the present arrangement is killing us, directly and indirectly. Another “pilot project” is little more than a delaying tactic, by an agency that’s afraid to do its job.

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on April 16, 2016

This is a long walk through the shop to show off some of the stuff in stock. From shiny vintage Euro-style LED headlights, to the Fairdale skateboard rack attachment, Green Guru cycling bags, Brompton folding bicycles, XDS affordable city bikes, Nutcase helmets, Basil basket, the SOMA Bart kids touring frame, Globber scooters, to an announcement of Kidical Mass happening on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at Sycamore Grove Park in Highland Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Any questions info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Beyond the Bridge

Living in Los Angeles allows one the opportunity to enjoy the full gamut of those peculiar sensations commonly expressed in the abbreviation, “WTF!” (Exclamation point mandated.) From bemusement to indignation to outright incredulity, our great city’s policies and practices seem calculated to inspire consternation. Especially if you should ever set foot, or wheel, on the streets.

I have recently begin employing the handy diagonal made by Second Street from the downtown tunnel to Echo Park. This route, which I have used for different purposes many times in the past, connects the ever-growing bikeg culture of the Central City to that of Echo Park, Silverlake, and East Hollywood. I now use it to get from the Pershing Square Metro stop to “Historic Filipinotown,” where I work part-time. From Hill Street to the Beverly Boulevard overpass there are useful if inelegant bike lanes. True, the ones in the tunnel are buffered by both paint and flexible bollards (some of which, however, have been obliterated), but said lanes are full of trash, mud, and broken glass.This somewhat diminishes the comfort and utility they are allegedly designed to provide.

Nevertheless, they are bike lanes, and they continue to the aforementioned overpass. Where they just stop.

So, after you work your way through the confusion of a five-way intersection under a bridge, you find yourself sharing the road with speeding cars and trucks.

Well, when there are any. It seems that rush hour, lunch hour, any hour, there is not too much traffic here, and much of what there is is pedal-powered.

This lack of traffic is unfortunate, as the wide-open lanes just encourage motorists to speed, which they do, as they always do, with insouciance. (A French word meaning, “Doesn’t give a damn.”)

Bike lanes are vital here, as I see many, many cyclists using the route, which is a natural for velocipedalists. Even in the recent rains, cyclists were out in force. Motorists, not so much.

Still, the street seems geared to the desires of speed demons: waiting for a green light at a cross street will see you aging in place long before you can cross. Pedestrians just give up and chance the traffic by “jaywalking.” Cyclists just grind on up to Echo Park in the battered right margin of the overly-generous lanes. Buzzing incidents are common–they’ve happened to me.

So why no bike lane?

Don’t ask me. Ask LADOT. Email them at bike.program@lacity.org. Maybe they’ll have an answer. Paint’s too expensive, or Cedillo might frown at them, or something like.

It would be nice ot have bike lanes (and reasonable pedestrian crossings) along this natural bike route in a neighborhood where few own cars.

Oh, LA! They don’t call you La-La Land for nothing, do they?

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There Goes The Neighborhood – Elysian Park Wiped Out by Cedillo

This bike shop loves Dodger baseball. Part and parcel of the Dodgers is the voice and personality of announcer Vin Scully. Like Chick Hearn for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, Vin Scully has been a voice that millions of locals associate with memories of years gone by, family, friends, and life in this great metropolis.

Somehow, fighting against the odds, our local city councilman, “Roadkill” Gil Cedillo, has found a way to alienate or insult multiple communities and has brought controversy to what should be a peaceful final year for the retiring Vin Scully. Once again, Cedillo has found a way to use the tools of transportation planners to abuse his power in office.

Let me explain.

Elysian Park is the City of Los Angeles’ oldest park. It is an area marked by many overlapping layers of local history, politics, and transportation systems. It has an identity. It also has a street named, straight-forwardly enough, Elysian Park Avenue.

When Chick Hearn retired from announcing Lakers’ basketball games, a short segment of 11th Street outside the Staples Center was named in his honor. Cross Figueroa Street, and 11th Street gets its name back. For visitors to LA Live, and for Lakers fans, this makes sense. It’s good politics too: nobody on 11th Street has to deal with an address change and politicians involved in the renaming can celebrate a beloved sports personality without controversy.

Contrast that with what “Roadkill” Gil is up to in Elysian Park: renaming a street that identifies a historically significant community with nearly zero local buy-in. Elysian Park residents have asked, at first politely and increasingly in ever louder tones, to please have the councilman, “dedicate a square, intersection or interior stadium road in his honor.”

If you or I would like to have a street name changed, we’d be asked by the city to go door to door and obtain, at minimum, a majority or even a super-majority of property owners and residents signatures on a petition in support of the name change. I was briefly involved in just such an effort in the early 2000’s as a member of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council. Members of the council wanted to change the name of Avenue 43 to Lummis Drive. It was no small task, and their efforts fell short.

One hundred and eight letters were mailed out to residents and property owners located along Elysian Park Avenue soliciting their opinion on the proposed name change. From the Public Works report on the issue:

“Of the letters sent to owners and residents, on February 2, 2016 and February 5, 2016, four responses were received in favor and 12 responses in opposition to the proposed name change.”

Not exactly the type of numbers you’d expect for something that has moved so quickly through city council. 75% of residents polled opposed the street renaming. Cedillo plows ahead.

This is how you break civil society up. This is how you turn a local neighborhood into a pariah community; how you create animosity between the wider community and the local residents. This is text book Gil Cedillo.

Cedillo  has managed to rip up the plans set down by Ed Reyes, his predecessor. Reyes’ plans were building up social capital, connecting people across ethnic and class lines, building a sense of purpose and love for this city that is so famous for its aloof population.

Cedillo’s plan is a road map for how a politician uses his spite and greed as the sole motivation for his governing style. He has tarnished the last year of Vin Scully’s long and storied career by adding his own nasty little twist at the end to it.

Anyone remember sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium (we used to exclusively sit in the “nose bleed” section up top), surrounded by other people playing Vin’s broadcast from a portable radio? Or, running late for the game (most likely stuck in that godawful stadium traffic), or leaving early and clicking on over to that crackly AM radio signal to see how the game was starting off or finishing up? Heck, I remember watching the Dodgers play when I was at home with my dad – he would mute the fancy color TV and turn his beat up clock radio on to listen to Scully talk us through the action.

The people of Los Angeles have one last chance to get it right this Friday, April 8, 2016 in city council. Let’s honor the man who gave us decades of service, saw us through good times and bad.

Let’s have a happy celebration of the best of what Los Angeles can be. Let’s dump Cedillo’s plan; let’s find a way of respecting the history of this small community and Vin Scully too.

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#BikeLA’s Pod Squad Showdown

Let me direct you to Nick Richert’s “”Bike Talk over on KPFK, since there’s Pigeon-related business winding up the latest hour to post: Josef Bray-ali interviews little ol’ me about the book of essays I emitted in 2014, Our Own Day Here, which deals frequently though not exclusively with urban velocipedal mobility, particularly in Los Angeles. The rather sprawling original interview, which lasted nearly forty minutes, was flawlessly edited down to a more-digestible (and less profane) quarter hour by my wife Gina, and comes off rather well. Josef is an excellent interviewer. You can listen to or download the podcast here:

Festivals Mueve Risemberg

Josef and I don’t have the playground to ourselves, of course: the hour begins with Nick Richert interviewing Nona Varnado about the upcoming LA Bike Festival, continues ten minutes later when Nick joins Si Se Mueve for a rundown of their recent NELA ride, and then segues into Josh Paget’s discussion of the New Urbanism Film Festival, which is, like Josh himself, heavily bike-centric. Then, and only then, do you get to here Josef and me. The entire hour is well worth listening to.

Indeed, bike doings are on the rise in Los Angeles, which is rapidly shedding its reputation as Ground Zero of Car Culture. While traffic is still awful, and many streets dreary hells of noise, smoke, and nerves, the city is beginning to realize that the problem is not too few roads, but too many cars. Supporting ways of getting around other than big hulking cars is vital: the way we’ve built the city has for too long coerced the populace into driving, by making every other choice unpleasant or impossible. A strange dictatorship that condemned us all to arbitrary time in solitary is at last beginning to crumble.

Transit is better, cycling is a little better, even walking has hopes of becoming somewhat less daunting, though pedestrianism’s needs actually harder to address than cycling’s.

And the folks interviewed in Nick’s hour are a few among the many helping LA move forward at long last.

Give it a listen. I assure you, you won’t be sorry.

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Readin’ & Ridin’

Well, you missed it, but those of us who did show up—braving a barely-noticeable drizzle and smooth gray skies that made LA look almost like Paris, or would have, if we had been drunk—those of us who did go, had a fine old time.

The occasion was Nick Richert’s Los Angeles Public Street Libraries Ride, an irregular get-together that sees hardy lovers of the the book and the velo riding from Little Free Library to Little Free Library, dropping off various works of literature, and sometimes picking up a stray tome or two for our own cozy shelves at home.

“Little Free Libraries” are a growing phenomenon, now somewhat organized, that inspires regular folks to put up little libraries on a stick in front of their homes or businesses, where their neighbors can drop off or pick up books to read. Here’s Nick’s photo of one in front of a dentist’s office in Larchmont Village:

And Nick is the host of Bike Talk, a “KPFK and Killradio.org podcast” dedicated to—you guessed it—bike talk.

Also with us for the occasion was Joni Yung, peripatetic cyclist extraordinaire, and herself host of yet another podcast, “Yogachat with the Accidental Yogist.”

We met up at Flying Pigeon LA, which hosts a Little Free Library right in front, bothered Josef for a while, then pedaled on to storied Stories, the bookstore café in Echo Park, where Joni met us. Although Nick and I had brought books of our own (including a couple I wrote myself), Stories generously donated a few more to fill our bags, which you see Nick and Joni holding in this snap I made of them:

Then we rode down Sunset to Micheltorena, where we stocked the LFL outside the school there, following that up with a stop at Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction, where another LFL was in dire need of books. From the Junction we rolled west to the EcoVillage (original home of the Bicycle Kitchen), which naturally hosts an LFL, where I fired off the phonecam once more:

Replenishing the Ecovillage’s library required a great deal of standing about and chatting, but finally we tore ourselves away and visited a tiny LFL on Ridgewood, a residential street near Wilton, where Nick grabbed a couple of books for his middle-school kids, and then finally made our way to our last stop, the dentist’s office on Larchmont, where a rather grand Little Free Library waited for our attentions.

An exhausting afternoon of pedaling lazily around the city and gawking at books required that we replenish our own bad selves at Pinches Tacos, indulging in literary discussions (eg bad puns) and good Mexican food.

And we helped disseminate the sort of information that the powers-that-be hope you won’t bother with, in the best data delivery system ever devised to interface with human wetware, the written word.

Join us next time! You say you want a revolution? It starts with words.

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NELA Kidical Mass on Sunday, April 17, 2016

NELA Kidical Massive rolling in September of 2015 (above) was a fun day.


NELA Kidical Mass is rolling again this coming Sunday, April 17, 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.

We’re co-hosting this event with our friends at Si Se Mueve, a community run series of bike rides, hikes, tours, and social events.

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 (one beside Ramona Hall, the other at South Avenue 49). Gold Line access right across the street from Southwest Museum Gold Line station. Metro 81 bus access available 24/7 on Figueroa.

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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Flying Pigeon LA bike shop inventory on March 29, 2016

Lots of help in this version of our shop inventory video!

Also lots of poor camera work, Yepp baby seats, bikes from Brompton, Linus, XDS, Soma, Gazelle, scooters from Globber, bags and baskets from Green Guru and Basil. Heck, there is even a Gitane being sold on consignment.

This video also features some of the more mundane things that we sell and do here that we constantly get asked about. Yes, we have tires and tubes. We fix bikes (all day long!). We even have a custom spoke cutting machine and lots of special tools that allow us to service everything from Ashtabula bottom brackets to zero stack headsets.

It’s not Willy Wonka’s bike factory, but we can get a lot of old clunkers and flashy new whips back on the road again after a spill or a long bout in the garage or side yard.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Reading, Writing, and Revolution

The bicycle is proving itself as an instrument of gentle revolution, helping to change not just how cities are used, but how they are shaped. Bike lanes do more than facilitate low-impact travel; they enrichen businesses and create community where before there was only stress, noise, and smog. More and more people saddle up for city travel every day, often counting on smartphone apps to help them make sense of this new old way of moving. The revolution proceeds apace, and everyone, it seems, is joining in.

But…what if you can’t read?

Sure, some smartphone apps can talk—but can you hear them over the roar of traffic? And blogs, Twitter, event calendars, the lamestream press, thousands of fine magazines online and off with advice and information on everything from fixing your bike to fixing the world—all depend on reading. You won’t get very far in your pleasures and pursuits if your only source of information is YouTube, podcasts, radio, and TV. They’re nice, but they’re a slow way to feed your brain data, and then you’re utterly dependent on memory. And being able to look them up again later.

Besides, only reading is an effective tool for fact-checking. And then, there’s the pleasure of making contact with the whole of literate humanity through fiction and essays. Don’t discount it: tech firms are hiring English majors now because they understand more about how humanity functions than the mere functionaries ever can.

So, you say, Why is Rick blithering on about all this on a blog? If I’m reading it, that means I can read! Right?

That’s right. But…about one in five US residents can’t read, and many more can’t read well enough to do anything except just get by. Native-born people too!

That means that, unless you’re a hermit, you probably know someone who can’t read, or who can barely read.

And I am blithering about all this because I’m now working for the Los Angeles Public Library’s Adult Literacy Program. So if you know someone who has trouble with reading—they may have dropped out of school, they may have been busted and thrown into juvie, they may have grown up in the backwoods; they may be perfectly literate in some other language but not in English—refer them to us.

They’ll receive one-on-one tutoring at no cost. Even the workbooks and other materials will be free of charge. And after a while they’ll be able to join the bigger world that exists behind the printed page.

And maybe themselves become the Thomas Paines of the Bicycle Revolution.

Call, or have your friend call, 213-228-7037. And if they live in Echo Park, have them ask for Extension 70819, or just drop by the Echo Park branch. That’s where I sit, four days a week. I’ll help them myself.

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