Flying Pigeon LA inventory on January 23, 2015

In this episode I wander around the shop pointing the camera at books we’ve got in the shop from Richard Risemberg, Bikeyface, and a host of books and zines from Microcosm Publishing and Elly Blue.

Bike-wise, there are kids bikes from Firmstrong (the Urban Boy in Glossy Red) and the Flip Flop from Yuba Bikes. There are also some great hybrid bikes and a city bike from Taiwanese manufacturer XDS – starting at $315 these bikes are ideal for someone riding in LA, using transit, and shopping with a bike.

As always, we’ve got some beautiful city bikes from Europe – like the Gazelle Basic R7T on the stage lining the shop wall, and a Pashley Roadster Sovereign 22″ in black as well as one of our own Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycles.

Any questions? Our email address is info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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They Always Say That….


Dutch die-in , Amsterdam, 1970. Courtesy of Roundabouts.

Naturally, Council Member Cedillo’s office claimed that recent street protests had nothing to do with decisions to retract the application for much-unneeded diagonal parking on North Figueroa, and to “consider” a road diet and bike lanes for five blocks of that street. (That’s still a crumb compared to the five miles of safe streets that had been vetted, planned, and funded before Cedillo squeezed into office last year.)

Just as inevitably, local NGO’s also dismissed the standing of a fed-up community that bypasses its high priests and takes its displeasure directly to the powers-that-be.

All three sides of the dispute are profiled in an recent LA Times article written safely after the fact.

But the fact, and the timing of the fact, remains: until the “rabble”—aka Cedillo’s constituents—took to the streets, nothing happened. All the polite engagement and hand-wringing in the world elicited nothing more than blither and doublespeak from the council office on every level. Indeed, from news conferences to neighborhood council meetings, Cedillo put the “diss” into “District.” His primary “engagement” consisted of instructing the peasants from on high, usually through intermediaries, while rarely returning phone calls or emails, answering queries from constituents, or receiving members of the press, mainstream or not. As the Times article notes, “Cedillo would not agree to an interview” even with the largest newspaper west of the Hudson River.

Yet protest, that is, direct engagement that sidesteps the various bureaucratic priesthoods, is labeled, as in the Times article, an “extreme tactic” and “less than productive.”

It has long been thus, from the days of the Magna Carta onwards. Rights are never given; they are taken. America was founded when staid petitioning was ignored by Mad King George, leading to the “extreme tactic” of the Boston Tea Party and, ultimately, an actual war that lasted eleven years. A few years later, the French aristocracy’s “let them eat cake” responses to petitions from the riffraff led to the truly extreme tactic of the Reign of Terror.

More recently, and gently, revered figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. (whose birthday we just celebrated as a national holiday), all led street protests that resulted in more just and representative governance, after decades of nuzzling up to intransigent power-addicts failed to achieve much of anything at all.

In each case, the tactics of angry rabble-rousing and public protests were dismissed as “less than productive,” but it remains that nothing happened till the people expressed themselves directly.

Of course a fragment of local road diet doesn’t fall anywhere near this category of achievement, but then, Gil Cedillo is not Governor-General of India either. Nevertheless, he does need to know that the little empire over which he thinks he reigns belongs not to him but to its people.

And he’s starting to see that now, because the people have spoken.

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Lawless Lincoln Park leaves community wanting

I took a walk through the park on a rainy Sunday and am sad to say it is business as usual at Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a big city with a lot of big city problems. It is financially insolvent. The electorate is apathetic about voting. Sidewalks in the city are 20+ years, and billions of dollars, behind on maintenance.

Add to that list: a Parks and Recreation Department that has a bizarre and dysfunctional management culture – with Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles serving as a sort of poster child for the dysfunction.

The image above captures an unlicensed “boot camp” class being run in the park, with patrons running up a switchback on a hillside. The operator of the boot camp found convenient parking in the middle of the park for his SUV (ignoring both the law and the empty parking lots with 70+ empty spaces this drizzly morning). The bulky gentleman in the foreground has his pitbull running wild, unleashed.

Across the ball fields (and not in this image), one of the public bathrooms has been turned into a hobo apartment building. The gentlemen were taking advantage of the wet weather to wash their clothes in buckets outside their new home/toilets. The pipes on the bathroom sinks have been stolen so they had to wait for the rain, you understand, to get enough water to clean their skivvies. There is always a silver lining in every cloud: a missing door for one of the bathrooms was replaced by one of the men and now serves as a bonus bedroom. He had waited a few months for the Parks department to install a replacement.

A newly restored statue of Florence Nightingale was unveiled last Thursday. Twenty-five yards away a multi-million dollar refurbished walking path around the lake lacks a 4-foot strip of pavement to connect it to the rest of the park – cutting the new path off for those with strollers, wheel chairs, or non-nimble bodies.

The Lincoln Park carousel, housed in a steel-doored prison after a $500,000 restoration, is now permanently closed to the public. The nearby swimming pool, also shuttered, recently had it’s multi-million dollar capital improvement funds raided to make up for cuts in social services programs in last years city budget.

Lincoln Park, if it were in private hands, would be worth tens of millions of dollars. It is perfectly situated for all sorts of productive uses. Instead of seeing the intrinsic value of the parks it owns, the city treats this park (and many others) like a huge liability, throwing money at them to make political problems go away and never taking the time to audit or oversee what has become a crony jobs network for managers at parks and bureaucrats in city hall. I can’t imagine the metrics used by parks managers to describe conditions at Lincoln Park! Acres of lawn mown? Gopher population? There certainly aren’t patron-centric measures in use.

My walk was pleasant enough. The ducks and geese squawked as I passed by, muddy puddles were all around (perfect for splashing). I scuttled across the always dangerous Mission to get home (a street which was has recently become a little less harsh with the subtraction of a car lane and the addition of a substandard bike lane).

So, here is to better days at Lincoln Park. Share your thoughts on how to make things better at this, or any other city park, in the comment section below!

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Five Blocks of Hope

Where there’s life, there’s hope: after turbulent months of protests, meetings, and mutual recrimination, as well as what seems to be a serious educational effort by LADOT, CD1’s bossman, Gil Cedillo, has dropped his plan for diagonal parking on the street, and agreed, according to an LACBC release, to consider bike lanes, a road diet, and other genuine safety measures for the five blocks of North Figueroa Street between Avenues 55 and 60.

It’s about time. The diagonal parking would have been a recipe for chaos on a street that currently encourages reckless speeding, and more car storage is hardly needed in an area whose extensive off-street lots are never full.

What is needed is slower traffic and an increase in the ability of the street to bring people to its restaurants, shops, and offices—something that bicycles and good sidewalks do better than cars. After all, cars don’t buy lunch; people buy lunch—or shoes, or movie tickets, or a beer at end of the day. As I wrote in the Los Angeles Business Journal back in 2009, “Studies in San Francisco and Toronto showed that while merchants believed that 70 percent of their customers came by car, when traffic was counted, it turned out that only 30 percent did so. Cars take up vast amounts of room; a street or structure filled with cooling metal doesn’t always translate into hotter sales. Each car, in real life, represents only one shopper. You can park 12 bicycles in the space of one car.”

So now, five whole blocks of Fig will see the benefits of safer, saner, slower traffic in all modes—if and when the changes actually happen. Will Cedillo call for “more studies” of a street that’s been studied half to death? After all, the community attended dozens of meetings before the City Council (pre-Cedillo) unanimously approved a road diet with bike lanes for the entirety of North Figueroa—a road diet that has been designed and funded and was ready to break ground till Cedillo arbitrarily stopped it.

It’s possible that this is happening only because it coincides with Mayor Garcetti’s “Great Streets” plan for NELA. Of course, the rest of the community will continue to suffer the effects of the bleak speedway North Fig has become, resulting in the death and maiming of residents, and the depression of small business activity, that America has for so long deemed acceptable as the cost of driving.

We know we can do better now. So, let’s be cautiously optimistic, but remain vigilant. As Ronald Reagan once said, in the only utterance of his that I agree with: “Trust…but verify.”

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Sue LADOT to stop ATSAC book burning

What follows is a justification for suing the City of Los Angeles to free up the real-time traffic data that is generated (and then deleted) by the LADOT’s ATSAC system. Anyone with a stake in development, civil engineering, transportation planning, public policy research, the practice of transportation engineering, environmental justice, transit route planning, planning optimal delivery routes in the city, or simply curious about the effects on traffic of a blown fire hydrant last month deserves access to this data.

If you’re a lawyer who’d like to file a law suit to free up the largest trove of transportation data the world has ever known, and which would revolutionize the study and debate around urban mobility and traffic, please email me at info@flyingpigeon-la.com and let’s talk.

If you’d like to work on hiring the above mentioned lawyer and working with a coalition to free this data, email me at info@flyingpigeon-la.com and let’s talk.


ATSAC: Behind the scenes at L.A. Traffic Control from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Los Angeles has spent hundreds of millions since the 1984 Olympics to track car trips, down to the second, using its Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system. The system has grown, one $150,000 intersection integration at a time, to a network of 4,114 (as of January 2012) signalized intersections feeding up-to-the-second car trip data into a bank of computers in a sub-sub-sub-basement under city hall in Downtown Los Angeles.

Including the 400+ intersection cameras associated with the system, ATSAC is quite literally the Rosetta Stone to unlocking the mysteries of modern automobile transportation. No city in the world comes close to our level of fine-grained, digitized, trip data for automobiles.

This system has cost us over $650,000,000 to build out, and has a Proposition C funded maintenance budget of $500,000 each year. In the 2014-2015 budget year it is set to be expanded to the tune of an additional $13,000,000+ from Measure R funds and a few other grant sources.

With this insane amount of investment in data collection, and a panopticon of traffic surveillance footage, you would think that understanding how many car trips are actually generated or destroyed because of land use decisions, parades, street closures, disasters, and other changes in road use would be old hat in city hall discussions.

If you thought that this ATSAC data was being used to fuel fundamental research into how car traffic actually works, or to bring facts into public planning decisions currently dominated by out-dated hypotheses and anecdotes, or to test traffic engineering models from a time before such a system was even considered possible, you would be gravely mistaken.

For fear of unspecified lawsuits, the LADOT’s ATSAC division deletes all their traffic data after 30 days and never stores footage from their 400+ traffic cameras. These cameras are positioned at most of LA’s most congested intersections (good luck with that insurance claim or criminal prosecution after a car crash).

The incredible outlay of public money that has funded this system alone would seem to mandate that the data generated by ATSAC would serve the public interest beyond the narrow interests of those who monitor the computer banks under city hall. Further, the data collected is of a fundamental value to public discourse and debate, to planning decisions, and strikes at the heart of nearly every public discussion in Los Angeles about the state of the city. That this data is deleted is beyond an oversight – it is a civil offense.

We can beg and plead in city hall to an unconcerned city council. The last time the politicians attacked the boys in the ATSAC bunker, two of them went rogue and sabotaged the system (like bank robbers in some crime caper movie) to win concessions for their union. The wayward engineers were dealt with, but the message was clear, “We can break this city if you mess with us.” A council stacked with former state legislators, who’re basically just pay-check collectors uninterested in governing, are not going to mess with these guys.

No, this is a matter for the courts. This ATSAC data counts as public records, and if we have to take the city to court every 30 days to obtain copies of it we darn well should. I can think of a dozen private developers, civil engineering firms, researchers, planning agencies, and plain old neighborhood advocates who would love to have an open-source treasure trove of real-time traffic data to combat the psuedo-science and anecdotes that throw out perfectly good projects or justify terrible projects in this City. This data belongs to us, the people, and it must be freed.

The question is: who is willing to lawyer up enough to help us free it?

Sources:

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Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, January 18, 2015


Join the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop on our first ride of 2015! Meet on Sunday, January 18, 2015 at the shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) at 11 a.m. The ride departs at 11:30 to a local restaurant for brunch and returns around 2 p.m.

The Get Sum Dim Sum ride is free of charge (well, you have to pay for the food!), requires no reservations, and is slow-paced. The point of the ride is to cruise, enjoy good food and good company in this beautiful metropolis. This month we are aiming for Silverlake’s Pine & Crane.

Bring a working bike and some cash (we try to keep it to $12 and under per person when we get dim sum, this month may be more than that).

There is more info on our Shop Rides page here.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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A Tyrant and a Bully

Looks like Emperor Gil Cedillo is at it again, calling his constituents names when they refuse just to kiss his ring and crawl away chastened on hands and knees, over a carpet of broken glass. A few weeks ago safe streets advocates were “bullies”; now they’re “tyrants.”

Yes, CD1’s tyrant-in-chief actually used his bully pulpit to call his constituents’ Constitutionally-guaranteed exercise of the right to “petition for a redress of grievances” a “tyranny of the minority.” Yet their protests are nothing more than an effort to nudge (naked) Emperor Gil into compliance with the California Complete Streets Act and Federal Highway Administration guidelines.

So, anyway, I thought, based on my previous research into Cedillo’s political character, that it would be enlightening to see who else employs the phrase “tyranny of the minority” these days, and to whom they apply it. And, of course, it turns out that Cedillo runs with a rather unsavory crowd in his rhetorical depredations. The phrase is:

•Used by the conservative New American in a polemic against gay rights

•Used in an excellent analysis of interest-group politics by Terry Newell in the Huffington Post, where he argues that a “tyranny of the minority” exists when a special interest manipulates the levers of influence to obstruct processk…much as Cedillo has done to pander to cut-through motorists in Highland Park.

•Used in the ultra-conservative journal, Human Events, in a rant that rails against the ACLU and its like for opposing the establishment of Christianity in government (expressly forbidden by the Constitution), and bemoans the fact that America is becoming more democratic!

As the HuffPost article points out, the real danger the Founders of our government feared was the tyranny of the majority (such as, at present in Los Angeles, the car-crazy fools that suck up all our tax expenditures while killing residents and commerce alike throughout the city), and the oppressions that follow in its wake. Hence the drafters of the Constitution created a system whereby minority groups could exercise their right, as enshrined in that document, to insist they be accommodated by the structures of governance, and integrated into the fabric of society, without being bullied by representatives of majority groupthink.

It is Cedillo, in pandering to the car culture and boss-hog politics that have made such a mess of Los Angeles, of America, and of the world, who is the tyrant in the battle over a Figueroa for All.

Let’s not let him forget that.

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Thule Pack’n’Pedal Racks at Flying Pigeon LA bike shop

In this video, filmed on the last day of 2014 on New Years Eve, I talk about why I love the unfortunately named Thule Pack’n’Pedal rack as compared to traditional wicker baskets.

Thule’s racks are incredible in their ability to work, and work well, on bikes that were never intended to have racks mounted onto them. They are my go-to rack when customers with suspension forks or suspension frames want to do some cross-country touring. They are also excellent when those same customers just want to do some shopping on their suspension-equipped bikes. Fixies are not left out either! Thule’s racks can make a track bike into a grocery getter without having to rely on p-clamps or handlebar mounted metal straps so common on other rack systems.

The Pack’n’Pedal Racks also allow a wheel to be removed without having to fiddle with annoying special mounting hardware down at the quick release skewer. Since the Pack’n’Pedal straps onto the frame or fork independently of the wheel all the worry about welded on eyelets and attachment points fizzles away. What you are left with is a platform for putting in solid work on your bike – touring, trekking, commuting, shopping, you name it.

The accessories for this rack system are heavy duty – well made, but a bit on the pricey side. Some of the bags are also over built to the point of being noticeably heavier than loads of other bike bags on the market. The benefits of this are a sense of security when rolling with your laptop or camera gear in one of the bags. The drawbacks … well, I can’t think of a customer who came back in and asked, “Hey, do you have this bag, but heavier?” Still, I stock a few of Thule’s made-to-fit-perfectly bags. They simply work so well with the racks, I can’t NOT stock them.

Apologies to the cycle chic front basket fans out there. I still love front baskets when they can serve a real practical purpose and not just mash cables and hang on with flimsy leather straps. The Thule Pack’n’Pedal is where it is at if you’ve got a problem bike in your garage that just won’t work with 99% of the cargo carrying accessories on the market.

I keep one or two in stock at the shop – so, stop by with your bike in 2015 and we can outfit your ride for a cargo-carrying new year!

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Shadows of the Past

This last year has been one of disappointment for Council District 1, as our mis-representative Gil Cedillo goes back on promise after promise—especially in his relentless effort to prevent bike lanes from appearing on North Figueroa Street.

All the reasons he gives are demonstrably false—and have been demonstrated to be false many, many, times in this blog and in others. (Here’s but one example, in an article I wrote for our colleagues in East Hollywood.) We have to wonder what brought about his change of heart.

Yes, change of heart, because here is Smilin’ Gil shilling for cyclist votes during his election campaign back in 2013. The video starts at the part where he praises Copenhagen-style bicycle infrastructure and holds it up as a model for Los Angeles:

Great quotes, huh? “The place that really showed me the future…was Denmark…with real bike lanes…not something to ‘share.'”

Quite a change from the petulant bully we have to put up with now.

Of course he’s a politician, and not only a politician, but an LA politician, close kin to “Windsock Tom” LaBonge, ever ready to sacrifice his constituents’ best interests to anyone with big money and influential friends. Both Tom and Gil recently reversed their positions regarding the proposed ban on growing GMO crops or livestock in LA…just days after a biotech lobbyist buttered up the nearly unanimous City Council, who suddenly shot the bill down. Evolution will now remain in corporate hands…and the streets of Highland Park will still be dominated by cut-through speeders, who will crush and kill and then drive on….

My analysis of Gil the Pill’s campaign fund sources hints at why he might so jovially have betrayed us. Keeping the neighborhood property values low for gentrification-minded developers is a likely surmise.

So, as far as 2014 is concerned, good riddance to bad rubbish. We’re stuck with Cedillo for a few more years, but at least we now know where he stands. We know that we can’t trust him, and that we’ll have to work around and against our duplicitous council member, if we’re to enjoy a healthy and safe Northeast Los Angeles in the years to come.

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Deep inside traffic hell on North Figueroa Street

WARNING! EXTREME SARCASM BELOW!


THIS WAS FILMED ON: Monday, MAY 12, 2014 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. from Avenue 50 to Avenue 26 on North Figueroa Street.
8 A.M. EIGHT O’CLOCK ANTEMERIDIAN. PACIFIC STANDARD TIME.

Life is ruined by horrific levels of car congestion on the North Figueroa Street corridor. There is no room for a bike lane, pedestrian amenities, nor any other United Nations scheme. We need to make sure that local residents, students, infants, and the elderly drive, drive, drive!

The situation as it currently stands is the best possible way to design a street. North Figueroa serves everyone’s interests best as a freeway on-ramp alternative.

Riding a bike or walking in the community only adds to the dreaded congestion – and everyone knows that cities are chartered to, first, remove all car congestion and then, maybe after a lot of very important public meetings and studies and such like, to sort of kind of not really take care of basic quality of life issues.

It goes like this: cars, cars, cars, cars, cops, fire protection, cars, cars, schools, cars, and then we get to the discretionary budget.

This perspective is sponsored by Gil Cedillo and Motordom.

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