What is in your bicycle tool bag?

I was fixing a bike at home and thought somebody out there would be interested in seeing what I carry in my bicycle repair tool bag. At the Flying Pigeon LA shop I have a full assortment of tools but out on the road I have found my own idiosyncratic collection of stuff to carry along just in case of a mechanical breakdown.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Carfree Cargo


One of the most diligently-repeated delusions of modern America is that, “You can’t live here without a car.” This phrase is in heavy rotation not only in Los Angeles, the city that invented sprawl, but almost everywhere in the country.

I remember an Internet friend telling a story on a cycling forum ages ago. He lived in upstate New York where he was advised that “You can’t live here without a car” because of the suburban distances and the frigid winters. So, as he was a bit of a wag, he eventually bought an old used car that didn’t even run, parked it in the driveway, and…never drove it. Bicycled everywhere, year-round. But he had the car without which you couldn’t live there.

About fifteen years later he finally sold the old hulk, having let the joke play out long enough. He’s getting older now, but still happily “lives there” carfree.

Other excuses for continued car-addiction (addicts always have a good long list of excuses, as I’m sure you know) include having to buy groceries or carry kids around. Of course cargo bikes do both quite adequately, as the Pigeon Master, Josef, himself proves every day, and they too are becoming popular, despite the “great cost”— about one-tenth the price of a new cheap car. Flying Pigeon has a number of them on the showroom floor, including a glitzy CETMA at the time of this writing, which should easily carry a washing machine should you need to do so.

I myself shopped for years for a family of three using an ordinary bike with those folding grocery panniers hanging on the rear rack (The weekly bag of potatoes was bungie’d onto the top of the rack.). No problem, ever, keeping us fed; in fact, mom and I gained a bit of weight. I’d do two trips a week instead of one—but that was a good thing, or I’d have packed on even more pounds. And the ride was a pleasure in a life otherwise filled with work and chores. Of course I rode to work and chores as well. It made the daily grind more than tolerable.

People are “getting it” more and more. Millennials and their older siblings show themselves uninterested in cars, and their parents are getting tired of wrestling the steering wheel themselves, as traffic gets more frantic even as reflexes slow. In the photo above, you see a premier Complete Streets treatment in Santa Monica, lacking only a physical buffer for the bike lane, but featuring a permanent Sunday bike valet by the Main Street Farmers Market. A cargo bike is being parked while its pilot dedicates himself to some heavy-duty shopping.

In fact, it seems that the world is round, that the Earth does revolve around the sun, and that you can, after all, “live here without a car.” Wherever “here” might be.

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Getting Friendly on the “Friendly Ride”

Last Sunday I broke with my long-ride routines and joined the Friendly Ride,” put on by the Mid-City West Community Council and the New Urbanism Film Festival. It was a neighborhood ride, designed to showcase a proposed micro-network of Neighborhood Greenways in Hollywood and the Miracle Mile. I say “micro-network,” because the ask is for only two streets, one of them already almost devoid of motor traffic. The streets are Rosewood, from just east of La Cienega to Formosa, and Formosa and Alta Vista/Cochran (one of those maddening LA streets that changes its name at random intervals) to Wilshire Boulevard, where the new rush-hour bus/bike lanes are almost done. The chosen stretch of Rosewood is so narrow that cars going opposite directions can barely pass, but of course there’s plenty of room for bike traffic!

Scott Epstein of the MCWCC hosted the ride start, and Taylor Nichols gave a spiel on each proposed treatment at the several stops, while the New Urbanism Film Festival’s Josh Paget distributed maps and flyers showing the suggested (not at this point planned) facilities. These include diverters, roundabouts, active crosswalks, bike boxes, and intersection sharrows, all designed either to shunt through motor traffic off the routes, or to make it possible to cross such difficult streets as Crescent Heights or Third.

There was a moment of unplanned irony as Council Member Paul Koretz explained that he was a “timid cyclist,” who was comfortable riding only on “this kind of infrastructure.” He did not then explain why he’d blocked even a study of “this kind of infrastructure” for Westwood Boulevard not long ago. That moment was followed by yet another, as Carolyn Ramsay fervently expressed her love for Neighborhood Greenways. Ramsay is running in Council District 4 to replace the termed-out Tom LaBonge, whose Chief of Staff she was for years. LaBonge, who also fervently expresses his love for biking infrastructure whenever a camera or microphone is apparent, is the man who blocked the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway, who stands against the Lankershim Boulevard road diet and a bike-friendly Glendale/Hyperion bridge, and who uprooted thirty-three heavily-used bike racks from Larchmont Boulevard not long ago. Ramsay is his anointed successor, which, despite her fine words Sunday, worries me.

But the ride (which neither politico actually pedaled along on) built my hopes back up a little bit. We started and ended in true bikeonomics mode, buying java at Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place, and stuffing our faces with cookies from Milk Jar on Wilshire at the end, with a stop at La Brea Bike Works‘ grand opening along the way.

The two streets show promise; Alta Vista/Cochran especially would provide a vital north/south corridor that should probably continue well south of Wilshire to Washington Boulevard. It would connect bikeways on Fourth and Venice along the way. And Rosewood is a quiet alternative to the narrow lanes on busy Melrose Avenue. Of course, this project is aspirational, and there is no funding yet. But the strong support of the Mid-City West Community Council, which represents a prosperous and densely-populated part of town (ie, one with plenty of voters and political donors) gives it half a chance of getting done. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be because of neighborhood fears, but of LA’s old internal enemy, political timidity.

Let’s hope for the best. Meanwhile, here is a handful of photos:

Taylor Nichols (left) and Josh Paget at the ride start:

Paul Koretz explaining while Scott Epstein looks on:

Carolyn Ramsay emoting while Scott looks on:

Talking with a friendly neighbor at Rosewood and Crescent Heights:

Cookie fest on Wilshire Boulevard:

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on Friday, November 7, 2014

This inventory video shows some of the bikes we carry that are made in places other than China, which is an interesting achievement given just how many bikes sold in the U.S. come from that one country.

First up is a pair of bikes from Detroit Bikes, the A-Type and the B-Type, made in (surprise!) Detroit. These elegant and pared-down city bikes are ideal for commutes and weekend trips in the city or on paved paths.

We’ve got Bromptons in our shop (made in Brentford in London, England) as well as a special extra-small Pedersen (for riders in the 5’0″ to 5’2″ range) with 24-inch wheels.

A couple of 22″ Pashley bicycles (made in Stratford-upom-Avon in England) are right next to a Worksman LGG (made in Queens, NY) commercial delivery bike.

Our cargo bikes from Babboe and CETMA cargo are made in Holland and Marina Del Rey.

Any questions or comments? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Dance of the Dinosaurs

Another election is over, the earth has stopped trembling, and the dinosaurs are licking their wounds as they contemplate their new territories. But while they glare at each other, the furry little fellows scurrying around their feet keep multiplying. Climate change is in the air, and the weather doesn’t look too good for cold-blooded types. The dinosaurs don’t pay it any mind. But at the end of the day, it is the end of their day. Ignorance is bliss, they say—but they forget to point out that it’s bliss for only a very short while.

Most disappointing to me in this local election was Sheila Kuehl’s victory in the race for County Supervisor in the Third District. Kuehl, a former television actor who most notably played the ditzy surfer girl Zelda in the ancient Dobie Gillis series is not a bad person, and there was not all that much substantive difference between her and Bobby Shriver, her opponent. She’s more inclined to support unions, Shriver’s more inclined to support business and development. Unions are a good thing—our country was never so prosperous as in the Fifties, when unions achieved their greatest strength (and when Kuehl herself was coming of age)—but Big Labor has always necessarily been a response to Big Business, and so defined by it. Shriver—who boasted a number of endorsements from labor himself, from the ILWU and the Ironworkers among others—was also involved in healthy development, and showed himself unwilling to sacrifice environmental and community health for mindless growth. In particular, “he fought against a six-lane toll road that would have decimated San Onofre State Beach and Trestles surf break. He won and protected one of our most pristine coastlines. He helped create two state parks near downtown Los Angeles,” and helped clean up the Santa Monica Bay.

Kuehl has doen a great deal of work on social justice issues, enough so that you’d think there had been little to choose between the two, both being, overall, forward-looking persons.

Except that Kuehl is a transportation reactionary.

In answer to a survey that I helped write as a member of an LACBC committee, Kuehl emphasized not once, but twice, that she would support a bikeway only “so long as it doesn’t reduce the total number of lanes available to cars.” In other words: no road diets, no matter that they often increase a street’s motor vehicle capacity and reduce the number and severity of crashes. In a world where driving is helping drive us towards extinction, Kuehl will refuse to consider anything that might restrain unfettered motor vehicle use and make alternatives to the car and its inherent wastefulness more attractive.

Well, she won’t be in office forever. Like NELA’s notorious obfuscator Gil Cedillo, she ran for local office only because she was termed out of Sacramento. Apparently, when the their natural ecosystem goes sour on them, the dinosaurs head south. Maybe she’s educable, and if so, we ought to try to help her evolve. But I fear the windshield perspective may be genetically locked into the modern Mesozoic mindset. We’d probably better find us a handy mammal to run for the Third District office four years from now, when Kuehl defends her seat.

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Spoke(n) Art Ride on Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hot chocolate and pan dulce is the theme for this Saturday’s free-of-charge Spoke(n) Art bicycle tour of art galleries in NELA. Show up at Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 6 p.m.

The slow-paced trek to art galleries leaves at 6:30 p.m. The route is planned just before the ride leaves, but we’re going to stop and have some pan dulce and hot chocolate along the way in a local park.

More information about the ride can be found on the Bike Oven’s Spoke(n) Art Ride page:

http://bikeoven.com/spokenart/

There is a Facebook event for this ride.

Want to rent a bike for the ride? This month we’ve got a few single-speed beach cruisers for rent – $20 each including blinky lights.

Any questions? Email info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Kill ‘Em Already; Can’t You See I’m Waiting?

There’s a new and particularly abhorrent behavior spreading among the scofflaw-motorist community—and I’d say, judging both from statistics and what I see on the streets every day, scofflaws comprise a plurality, if not a small majority, of the motor vehicle operatoros out there.

The scenario plays out thusly:

One of the increasingly-rare law-abiding drivers is waiting to turn right at an intersection. He or she is waiting for the eminently acceptable reason that a fellow human being is crossing the street on foot in front of them, or in the path of their turn. Waiting, in this case, is prescribed not only by law but by that human decency we foolishly, and against all evidence, believe to be the common characteristic of all minkind, and not merely an ideal quality we plan someday to aspire to…at least when others are listening.

So the kindly driver waits.

And the moron behind him lays on the horn, effectively saying, “Kill ‘em already; can’t you see I’m waiting?”

It doesn’t matter—and of course it shouldn’t matter—whether the pedestrian is a vigorous young man or woman, a respected elder hobbling on a cane, or a mother pushing a baby carriage. And in fact it doesn’t matter—to the self-entitled narcissistic apes who have made a sacrament of impatience. They blast the horn anyway. Just yesterday, I saw (and heard) one do it in an effort to cajole the drivers in front of him to plow through a line of schoolchildren crossing Western—with the walk signal in their favor. As seems inevitable now, he was in a luxury SUV.

I guess they feel they really do own the road, though of course they don’t—drivers don’t and never have paid for the vast network of wide multilane roads, freeways, and parking spaces both government and private entities provide for them. I don’t need a wide array of lanes and an aggregate of eight parking spaces allocated to me; I travel by bicycle and transit—and even buses need less road space per passenger than the typical car, which in California operates three-quarters empty. Trains are even more efficient, and subways use almost no surface area at all. Small Parisian-style two-lanes are enough for both foot and bike travel and reasonably-sized delivery trucks. Even on arterials, wide lanes are not for efficiency, but to facilitate speeding. My taxes are higher than they need to be to keep all those bloated roads and curbside parking spaces available for the motorized moochers. And the prices I am charged at markets, stores, and restaurants include the cost of the parking spaces that they provide and that I don’t use. Private parking costs $20,000 to $80,000 dollars per space to build, and occupies land that could be put to far more profitable uses. And while many places charge something for parking, there is no place in Los Angeles that charges the market rent of those spaces to those who actually occupy them.

The horny bastards don’t own the road. They don’t even have a “right” to drive. It has been established for over one hundred years that driving is a revocable privilege, granted on conditions, and has never been a right.

Yet drivers have driven almost all others off the vast public spaces known as our streets.

It’s time that this false entitlement were beaten back. Perhaps we should employ the “broken windows” paradigm, and actually enforce the law that says horns may be blown only to warn of danger. And revoke the driving privilege of repeat offenders.

Save them from themselves, before they turn into hit-and-run murderers…as so many already have.

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The Beat Goes On

Despite all the crabbing and caviling of the knuckledraggers, spewing their spurious warnings of a “war on cars” even as they continue to arrogate all public space, and the lion’s share of tax dollars, while blithely mowing down pedestrians, bike riders, and even other motorists who get in their way…the world is changing. History is, in fact, leaving car culture behind. It isn’t a war; it’s evolution. The dinosaurs are afraid of the monkeys, but it isn’t the monkeys that are killing them off; it’s simply evolution. The human world’s attitude towards transport is maturing.

To shift metaphors as smoothly as a Mercedes shifts gears: homo americanus is getting out of the motorized baby carriage and learning to stand—and travel—on its own two feet. A late bloomer, to be sure; the Dutch and Danes figured it out decades ago. Better late than never.

The photo above is of the Ralphs supermarket on the Miracle Mile. Yes, right along Wilshire Boulevard, a markedly bike-unfriendly street at present. Yet there are five bikes locked to the railings at the eastern entrance to the store’s portico. There’s another bike that I didn’t photograph at the western entrance, and yet another locked to the sidewalk bike rack in front. The riders aren’t lycroids out “training”; they are neighborhood folks stopping by to shop, or who work in the store. It’s actually a minor problem, all those bikes parked there, as hordes of neighbors also walk to this store. The market’s parking lot is underground and matches the footprint of the store; it is never full. The store itself is always full. And that’s in keeping with the years-long trend of Americans driving less. I know you’ve probably seen the charts, but here’s a link for those who haven’t, from Streetsblog.

Down the street one block is the Wilshire Courtyard, an office complex with an outdoor bike corral of its own that is usually close to full, as well as more bike parking in its underground garage. And the sidewalk bike racks all up and down the Mile are pretty generally occupied, especially in front of office buildings.

The beat goes on. The “different drummer” is now setting the pace for change.

Welcome to the future!

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Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, October 19, 2014

Join us at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 19, 2014 for a special outdoor picnic version of our Dim Sum Ride.

The ride departs at 10:30 and returns around 1 p.m.

This month we’re going to take our dim sum to-go (I’m loading up the cargo bike before the ride) and have a picnic along the LA River. $8 per person for the food, the ride is free. Food is meat-based (i.e. not vegetarian and not vegan).

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

RSVP and questions to: info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Shakespeare Nailed It

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the title character, on being appraised of his uncle’s treachery, moans that “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” And so it is, even in the brightly-lighted chambers of our city council, where the media-savvy minions of power put on their smiling faces to assure us that they have only our good in mind—even when that is manifestly untrue.

Sometimes that manifestation is all too bleak, as in the photo above, from Sixth and Burnside, in Tom LaBonge’s CD4. Here in NELA, we are accustomed to blood on the streets resulting from councilmember Gil Cedillo’s steadfast obstruction of a road diet for North Figueroa. He bizarrely claims that “safety concerns” are holding him back from approving what the Federal Highway Administration calls a “proven safety countermeasure,” and so residents keep dying as heartless cut-through drivers keep on speeding. Figueroa should lighten the hearts of the community, not stop them. It doesn’t have to be this way, but, thanks to Gil Cedillo, North Fig remains a deathtrap.

Over in Council District 4, it’s possibly worse. Tom LaBonge intrudes his bulky self into every bike-related photo op anywhere in or near his district, often wearing his signature red sweater to catch the eye (and the cameras). But he has stopped the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway, is trying hard to stop the Lankershim Boulevard road diet, and stands stubbornly against a community-friendly Glendale/Hyperion bridge rebuild.

And now, Sixth Street in the Miracle Mile, a narrow four-lane that impatient scofflaws use as a fast alternative to Wilshire one block away, sometimes hitting speeds of 60 and 70 miles per hour. There are many, many crashes here; I walk or pedal along this street nearly every day, and piles of car parts, clusters of rescue trucks, and even traffic lights tumbled into the roadway by careering Beemers are commonplace. And, unfortunately, deaths and injuries. I live just off Sixth, and came upon the scene in the photo above two days ago.

The woman lying by the car is considered “lucky.” A cop I asked reported that the paramedics thought she would live. But if that’s “lucky” in LaBonge Land, I don’t want to know what “unlucky” gets you, besides an ambulance ride with no need for lights and siren.

Sixth Street was slated to receive a road diet, but—yes, you guessed right!—Tom LaBonge chose to “defer” it. His rationale? Road work on Wilshire might send more traffic onto Sixth. But his presumptions have led him into error: road diets, while they restrain top speeds, often smooth out traffic flow and result in quicker, if calmer, A to B transits of a street.

So our faux-benevolent council members are just imposing their arrogant ignorance on the public they claim to serve.

Shakespeare nailed it again in Macbeth, where he calls life “a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.”

Which describes life—and death—in Cedillo’s and LaBonge’s districts very, very well.

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