Parking Madness

Sample Photo NOT taken on Black Friday

One of the old standbys of the Car Cult zealots is the cry that we can’t put in bike lanes, or wider sidewalks, or Complete streets treatments, if they will remove so much as a single curbside parking spot for cars. Likewise, calls for denser development, especially if accompanied by reduced parking requirements, inspire the usual bug-eyed rage and teeth-baring barks of, “Where will all the cars park?”

Yet, it happens that most parts of most cities have far too much parking, and that parking helps create traffic congestion (through induced demand, especially when it’s offered at below-market pricing, or even free). It also hurts development, making it too expensive for locally-owned businesses to establish themselves and enhance the health, wealth, and happiness of our communities—something corporate malls and bigbox stores simply cannot do (and don’t even want to).

The Pigeon’s own Josef Bray-Ali wrote an important article on this very matter a few years ago, which was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Alas, there it reside behind a paywall; but it’s been excerpted in another article posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council here

The NIMBYs, of course, want nothing more than fully-subsidized parking everywhere they might want to go—rather the attitude a three-year-old holds towards candy. The rest of us are to pay for the sequestration of that land from more productive use, as well as the costs—financial, social, environmental, and medical—that the resulting sprawl imposes on us all.

In regards to commercial establishments, the cry for more parking! is particularly focused: Black Friday—the day after tomorrow, counting from our publication date—is the day when all the parking lots and structures in America fill to overflowing with cars, “proving” that we need those gigantic asphalt wastelands to be reserved from any other use the other 364 days of the year.

The problem with that rationale is that is is so rarely true: most parking lots and structures, even at the most gargantuan of consumerist swamps, America’s declining malls, simply…don’t fill up.

And so, in response to the untested assumption underlying the NIMBY’s Black Friday battle cry, Strong Towns has for several years organized the Black Friday Parking event.

This is what you do to join in:

1) On Black Friday, go to a mall at peak shopping hour.

2) Wander the parking lot, smartphone or camera in hand.

3) When you see swathes of empty parking space—and odds are that you will—snap a picture.

4) Post said picture ot social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking and (preferably) location info.

That’s all it takes. A little dose of reality to help take the edge off the great American delusion about cars and parking.

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We’ll Always Have Paris

The recent attacks by Daesh in Paris were horrifying, but…Paris has seen worse than this. The City of Light was occupied by the Third Reich during World War Two, and survived both the Nazis and the Collaborationists. When I lived all-too-briefly in Paris in 1982, it was undergoing a wave of bombings, shootings, and stabbings related to the conflict between Israel and the various Palestinian factions. It was the first time I saw ordinary cops standing on streetcorners holding submachine guns.

Paris survived, as it survived the Reign of Terror that followed France’s own revolution back in 1789. In that case, the terrorists were all native French.

Paris survived, and it is still the beating heart of enlightened liberalism. As long as it doesn’t let Daesh push it towards becoming a police state, we’ll always have Paris.

But let us not forget that cities all over the Middle East experience similar horrors every week. Unless we stand in solidarity with them as well, there will be no peace.
As others have noted, it is Daesh that the refugees flooding Europe’s borders are running from. Those people are our natural allies. They are not religious zealots; they are liberal Muslims who want to live in a liberal society, a society where people have choices. Daesh is a faction of hierarchical conservatism, often but not always associated with religious fundamentalism. (Mao and Stalin also practiced it.)

What do bikes have to do with all this?

Simply this: the movement to accommodate bicyclists, walkers, and transit users on our streets in an inherently liberal movement. Human-scale development—Complete Streets, Vision Zero, et al— supports personal diversity, small local businesses over corporate chains, and individualized development of neighborhoods. Automobile-centric planning requires standardization of street types, and a homogeneity that supports the economies of scale that corporations depend on.

In the United States, at least, the (hardly) “all-powerful bike lobby” stands for a human-oriented pattern of neighborhood development; the opposition, with its hate-filled rants, represents hierarchical conservatism that is not yet brave enough to resort to overt violence. But don’t the threats of violence towards cyclists, shouted from behind the veils of Facebook, sound much like the actualized promises of terror groups such as Daesh? Isn’t what the NIMBY’s preach nothing but intolerance, the exhortation that we should all be just like them? Or be crushed under their wheels? This is the baby version of “convert or die.”

We are not stopping bullets here on the streets of Los Angeles. (Well, not often.) But we are trying to stop the kind of public behavior that could very well eventually lead to bullets: the kind of minor terrorism that claims a right to run us down if we’re “in the way”—infidels that we are. Stopping that can be our best statement of solidarity with Paris and Beirut: to uphold the liberalism that allows for each to live freely in harmony with her neighbors. In harmony—not in unison.


Join Fig4All in the 71st NELA Holiday Parade on Sunday, December 6, 2015

The 71st Highland Park Holiday Parade is taking place on Sunday, December 6, 2015 and you, yes you, are invited to join the Figueroa For All crew in their parade entry this year!

Join a very special Figueroa For All crew of bicycles, scooters, walkers, strollers, pedicab riders, tall bikes, freak bikes, cargo bikes, heelies, and wild stallions as we celebrate our favorite places to walk, bike, skate, scoot, and play in Highland Park.

When: Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 10 a.m.
Where to meet: 5608 Monte Vista St., Los Angeles, CA 90042 (look for Fig4all signs)
What to wear: green, white, and all that sparkles
What we’re doing: rolling and walking in a big group with decorations showing our favorite places in Highland Park

The parade officially starts at 1 p.m. and we will likely be in the last half of the parade. We’re bringing our kids, you can bring yours too. It will be a fun morning/afternoon of playing, decorating, and hanging out with neighbors and friends.

Facebook Event for the Fig4all entry in the 71st Highland Park Holiday Parade on Sunday December 6, 2015.

Want to get a jump on bike decorating? Pre-Parade Decorating and Poster Making Party on Saturday, December 5, 2015 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 5608 Monte Vista St. 90042. Decorating materials will be available. Bring your creativity and any extra materials.

Facebook Event for the pre-parade decorating party on the Saturday before the parade.

Any questions? Email

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Common Sense Creeping Up on LA

Looks like they’ve got us surrounded, pardner…them pesky Complete Streets are creeping right up to the border of town!

First it was Long Beach, and then Temple City, putting in those outlandish Protected Bike Lanes.

But now they’re hitting closer to home: Santa Monica just opened its first protected bikeway—and they’re threatening that it won’t be their last!

This is a short one, serving just one block of Pico Boulevard, but it helps nanny-state students through a risky stretch between the high school and Main Street—and it also connects a number of significant bikeways already in place: the Main Street bike lanes themselves, the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (aka “MANGo”), and the beachside bike path.

If this kind of dangerous thinking doesn’t stop soon, there’ll be even more happy, healthy people enjoying the streets and spending money in all those local shops and eateries.

What were they thinking?

And they’ll stop at nothing: like I said, another protected bikeway is planned, in this case to connect the coming light rail station to the Pier, the bike lanes and walking paths along Ocean, and the green bike lanes on Broadway.

With all the physical ,social, and economic vitality these so-called “human-speed networks” will provide, Santa Monica ‘ll start to make us look bad up here in LA.

Don’t know what we can do about it…some weirdos have suggested copying Santa Monica’s devious little plan, but that’s just crazy talk…ain’t it?

So I guess we’ll just whine about traffic some more. That’ll show ’em.

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on November 5, 2015

Some neat stuff to show off this week: Yuba Bicycles Cro-Moly Mundo and a Boda Boda; baby-sized helmets from Nutcase; Brompton folding bikes.

Not sure if we’ve introduced Rosie the shop dog yet, but she’s in this video.

Oh yeah, I found a box of clothes in our warehouse and we’re selling it at huge discounts. I made a static web-page if you want to see what we’ve got:

Any questions?

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If you want to be both encouraged and dismayed, here’s a hot-off-the-(virtual)-presses article for you to read:

Oslo invests 0,5 Bn USD on bicycle infrastructure

That’s right: according to this article posted by Spacescape, the consulting firm hired to guide the process, Oslo will invest half a billion dollars in its bike network by 2025.

The goal is to boost cycling from the current 8% mode share, to 16%. Quotes Spacescape: “Oslo’s ambition is to act as a role model, and a driving force, in bicycle planning, as it sees cycling as a key issue within future urban development. The strategy highlights a number of measures that aim to be achieved, and many of these, are based on an increase in the cycling rate; an objective for all municipal departments, not just those working in traffic. The measures are therefore very diverse, from the bike playgrounds, signage and bicycle parking in the right locations, to planning issues like new and developed bike routes that follow the municipality’s future expansion plans. The bicycle network is proposed to increase from 180 km to 510 km.”

And it doesn’t stop there. There’s another billion in investment lined up for after 2025. For a city of around 600,000.

This is, note, Oslo. In Norway. Where, you know, it rains and snows. Where immigrants, mostly from “developing” (ie, poor) countries, have been thronging in.

Norway, as it happens, also made Forbes’s list of the top ten “Best Countries for Business.”

I suppose you’re curious about who is Number One. Well, it ain’t the land of oversized burgers and loudmouthed exceptionalism—no, it’s bike-mad Denmark. The US shuffles in at Number Eighteen…four slots below Slovenia.

In fact, as Tech Insider notes, Oslo plans to make its city center car-free by 2019 . Tech Insider quotes Green Party negotiator Lan Marie Nguyen Berg: “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone.”

That’s the encouraging part.

The dismaying part? It ain’t happening here in Glamourous Los Angeles. Despite some modest efforts—more like reluctant concessions—LA still sees streets as storm drains for speeding metal. Safety be damned, along with communities, local businesses, and of course cyclists and walkers. Fresh blood stains our roadways weekly, while neighborhood commerce struggles, all so the callous and impatient can floor it through our daily lives.

So much for “exceptionalism.” Though as the rest of world moves towards streets for people, not privilege, we’ll truly be exceptional all too soon.

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Choose Your Future

The 2015 My LA2050 Grants Challenge is on right now, with six days left for you to vote. The challenge lets the community—that is, you—to choose ten organizations win $100,000 each to help them realize their projects.

That’s two from each of five categories: making, in LA2050’s words, “Los Angeles become the best place to learn, create, play, connect, and live.”

While there are numbers of projects worth considering, including several that directly support bicycling in our region, there’s one in particular that I want to tout here—one whose benefits to cycling may not be immediately obvious, but which will benefit us in a big way, just indirectly.

That is GRID Logistics Inc, a massive infrastructure proposal to which I’ve devoted countless hours over the last four years.

Its goal: to get almost all the freight containers going into or out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach off of diesel trucks and onto rail cars&mdashusing either standrad surface trains or our own all-electric automated underground rail loop, which would serve the vast network of local distribution centers.

The result would be less air pollution, less noise, and—most important for cyclists and residents of the east county area—far fewer heavy trucks on our freeways and the streets that feed them.

You don’t need a horrific crash such as last night’s in Long Beach to be convinced of that.

So I’m asking you to vote not for some charming (and very valuable) grassroots project whose results will be as visible as they are limited, but to help support a large infrastructure project almost all of which will be invisible—out of sight, out of mind, as it should be.

One that is supported by the Sierra Club, dozens of local grassroots groups, and almost all the major regional unions.

Press the button at Freight Underground at MYLA2059 today. Voting ends at noon on November 3rd. Winning this would give us the bit of bridge funding we need to carry us to the investment phase that will let us build this thing.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are vital to the economic health of the country. Millions of containers per year come into and out of the San Pedro Bay facilities–and all too many of them are trucked along the region’s freeways, to warehouse clusters or out to the major trainyards in the Inland Empire. This traffic clogs freeways, streets, and our children’s lungs alike, and the situation simply must change, radically and soon.

Evolution or revolution? You can have them both. GRID reconfigures currently-available technologies to move freight among ships, trains, trucks, and warehouses in a way that gets products to market faster while taking tens of thousands of diesel trucks off our battered streets and freeways.
The result? Cleaner air, healthier children, faster commutes, and more and better jobs…with less demand on tax dollars as roads are freed from the pounding of heavy trucks.

GRID’s Superdock can interface with standard railroad trains, our all-electric underground Freight Pipeline, and even visionary technologies such as the Hyperloop.
We’re laying the groundwork now, and your vote helps us keep going as we strive towards a healthier, wealthier, and less-congested future. All it takes is one click to change the world.

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“Transparency” Is Not “Invisibility”

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Tamika Butler recently met with Council District 1 representative Gil Cedillo, to discuss the Mobility Plan 2035, which includes Vision Zero, the effort to reduce traffic deaths to nil by 2025. You might have expected sparks to fly: Cedillo has cancelled plans for a road diet along five miles of North Figueroa (plans that were already finished, funded, and approved by the full City Council before Cedillo’s term), and only a few weeks ago he notoriously requested that all: plans for bicycle facilities in his district be cancelled outright. Suffocated in he crib!

Meanwhile, deaths and injuries caused by speeding drivers–most of them hit-and-run drivers as well–continue to coat the streets with blood in Northeast Los Angeles. So indeed, when Ms. Butler, a black queer woman not given to meekness, a public figure who has repeatedly stated her dedication to social equity, and who is executive director of the organization that positions itself as the representative of the county’s cyclists, met with Cedillo, sparks should have flown. And perhaps they did…but we’ll never know. Because both parties’ statements about the meeting relentlessly avoid specifics.

Ms. Butler’s letter, sent out to LACBC members and followers on October 15th, stated merely that she and Cedillo “talked about a number of things, including the recent tragic passing of Mrs. Lugo. We also discussed his policy around housing, homelessness, and active transportation. We talked about community engagement, where his office has fallen short, and where LACBC has fallen short. I will continue to engage him, and I will share what we’re hearing from our members, like you. I will do so with respect, but with a firm determination to ensure that he hears what is important to so many of us living in his district.” She added that she “also left that conversation with a renewed sense of how I must continue to listen.” and then she lobbed an easy pitch to Cedillo, stating that, “As Los Angeles aims toward zero traffic deaths in ten years, we are mindful that increased enforcement could perpetuate injustice without appropriate safeguards or proper prioritization of resources.”

This obviously refers to LAPD’s habit of profiling, but Cedillo jumped on it and transformed it with that old black magic of his, saying in his own letter summing up the meeting, “We had a very positive and productive discussion on shared concerns over public safety on our streets. We will continue to discuss our mutual concerns over Vision Zero and its implementation and the potential adverse social justice impacts.”

So now Vision Zero is tainted with the same brush as gentrification and racial profiling, as another way to oppress poor people? Because that’s what “adverse social justice impacts” generally means. But how would Vison Zero, which aims to eliminate the actual, physical, crushing, killing impact cars have on cyclists and pedestrians–many of whom in District 1 are poor–how does preventing speeding and opening up the streets to transport and access to commerce for all residents, not just speed-addled elitists in cars, how on earth does that constitute an “adverse social justice impact”?

It’s particularly galling to hear such words from Cedillo, over 85% of whose campaign contributions came from outside the district, and who counts a large number of realtors and real estate developers among his supporters. Indeed, my own suspicion is that Mr. Cedillo is prepping the district for a massive dose of gentrification. and social justice impacts be damned.

My Anonymous Contact in NELA, who has lived there since Cedillo was popping zits in the mirror, and who is deeply involved in community issues, including Complete Streets, put it this way: “Tamika tipped her hand with her prioritization of social justice, then expressed concern that a possible mitigation of justice could occur if increased enforcement was not kept in check. CD1 now has a new place to insert the thin end of their crowbar with which to take a stand against what the City Council has approved and everything we have been struggling to achieve for years. They have disregarded everything positive Tamika said about the project being good for justice and are running with the only thing she has any doubt about. Ridiculous.”

If Ms. Butler hasn’t signed an oath of secrecy, she should spell out in specifics what she and Cedillo discussed so productively at the meeting. Bland assurances that all will be well if we behave and just sit on our hands and wait…that won’t cut it any more. We’ve been waiting—and dying—for too long now. Decades of promises have gotten us nothing. It was only when the cycling community all over LA ran out of patience back in 2010 that anything actually happened—when frustrated constituents came together to push the Bicycle Master Plan through the phalanx of obstructionists of that time. That plan has now been subsumed into the Mobility Plan 2035 and Vision Zero, and we want both of those proposals to move forward‐precisely because they support social justice and transportation equity. We’re not going back to the smirking paternalism of the bad old days.

The time for safe streets is now.


NELA to CicLAvia Heart of LA Feeder Ride on Sunday, October 18, 2015

Join us on our merry way to CicLAvia this coming Sunday, October 18, 2015 in the NELA to CicLAvia Feeder Ride! CicLAvia is returning to it’s “Heart of LA” route – Chinatown, Downtown, a little bit of Boyle Heights, and MacArthur Park.

Meet at our shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. We’re leaving for CicLAvia at 8:45 a.m. and heading toward the Chinatown hub.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Kids, cargo bikes, road bikes, tandems, eBikes, come one, come all. No need to make a reservation.

The shop will be open for about 30 minutes before we depart for Chinatown at 8:45 a.m. We’ll be able to inflate tires, do quick bike inspections, sell locks, helmets, water bottles, etc.

What you will need for this ride:

  • a functioning bicycle;
  • extra water;
  • and a smile!

What you will NOT need for this ride:

  • helmet (CA law = 18 and under need one; 18+ do as you please);
  • signed release;
  • reservations (no need to call ahead).

Parking at the shop is available on-street. We have a lovely cafe, Antigua Cultural Coffee House, as a neighbor if you want to get here early and relax before the ride.

The Flying Pigeon LA bike shop is located adjacent the Metro Gold Line between two stations: Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights or Heritage Square. Our address is 3404 N. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

The shop is also conveniently served by the 24-hour 81 bus and 83 bus lines run by Metro.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Any questions?

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CicLAvia Classic Is Back!

CicLAvia‘s coming back to home ground this Sunday, October 18th, with a repeat of the “Heart of LA” edition that started it all.

After wandering to the Miracle Mile, the far West Side, South LA, and Pasadena, and even edging shyly over the hill to NoHo, LA’s Happiest Day will grace the city’s center once again, with the familiar crossed routes linking three historically-important hubs: Chinatown, Hollenbeck Park (itself the heart of Boyle Heights), MacArthur Park, and Grand Park in the Civic Center. Central Avenue, Fourth, Spring, and Seventh are the main roads chosen for this year, and that means, among other delights, the chance to linger high on the Fourth Street bridge, surrounded by swarms of people being quietly joyful as they pedal past views of the river, the booming warehouse district (which can boast few warehouses anymore), LA’s nascent tech hub (the route passes a block or so from the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator), and, of course, the downtown skyline.

Feeder rides so far will be starting from USC, UCLA, the Miracle Mile, the San Gabriel Valley, and Glendale, with more sure to be announced soon. Including, naturally, one from Flying Pigeon LA.

Of course you can just show up any time at any point; ride, walk, or skate as far as you feel like; and drop out at will…or stop for a brew and a bite, which is highly recommended.

And then, since you’re friends of the Mighty Pigeon, dream a bit about when NELA might win a CicLAvia of its own…Fig from the river to York, York from Fig to Occidental College, and all the good purveyors of home-style food and drink, no matter where your home is…it would be six hours of paradise, wouldn’t it?

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