Brave New Runaround

Last Sunday i was heading down Venice Boulevard towards Santa Monica when I spotted a teensy little sign indicating that the Expo Line Bike Path ran thataway—diagonally away from Venice along the Expo Line tracks, and pretty much a more direct route to my destination.

Or so it seemed. It started off pretty nice—much of the path indeed looks like the later segment pictured above, with wide lanes, sweeping curves, and usually a walking lane as well.

The trouble is that, as in so much Los Angeles area bicycle infrastructure, the whole thing is rather fragmented. In fact, you might occasionally call it demented. Much of it makes no sense.

For example, the bike path keeps crossing from one side of the Expo Line right of way to the other. You’re pedaling along, happy and free, secure in your brightly-striped domain, when suddenly you come to a cross street, and…the path ends. You glance around, and finally spot a wee white sign with a little arrow pointing left or right. You cross the street and wobble along the sidewalk under the tracks and resume your ride. A mile or so later this happens again. And again. And Again.

Then, at one point, a slightly different sign, with the arrow angled, attempts to inform you that the path has suddenly been dumped onto the adjacent street. It doesn’t do a very good job of it, and so you come upon a barricade of steel pipes beyond which is an inexplicable forty feet of dirt, followed by a sidewalk.

You ride off the curb and into a painted bike lane—no buffer here—and proceed along the tightly-curved side street. The motorists, tempted by the curve into pretending they’re race car drivers, cut deep into the bike lane as they floor it round the turn. There’s no reason to do so; it’s a residential street with a stop sign almost immediately beyond said turn. Quite unpleasant.

Then there’s Cheviot Hills. Oh, the burghers of Cheviot Hills! How they railed against the train itself, and all the eager burglars it would bring! And how much more they hated the bike path—because you know that “those people” love to saddle up a bike when they ks the old lady and head out in the morning to rob, rape, and kill! Also, there were difficulties in fitting a bike path into the deep cut the train would run along. So the bike path detours far out of the way and takes you (if you don’t miss the tiny signs) right through the residential neighborhoods that so feared the influx of bike riders. Brilliant.

But they don’t get too many outside of the spandex set, because the bikeway is routed up and down several quite steep hills.

Part of this may be because, if I may judge from correspondence I’ve viewed, the Exposition Construction Authority didn’t actually want to build a bike path, and had to be badgered into doing so.

At any rate, it’s the same kind of lackadaisical, fragmented bicycle facility we’ve been getting here for decades. Parts of it are truly fine, but as a whole, as a transportation corridor, it doesn’t really work. I hope it does do a little something for local access to the Expo Line, but I gotta tell you, on a bright warm Sunday afternoon, it was nearly deserted.

I deserted it myself, at Gateway, where I picked up the faded old onstreet bike lane that took me into Santa Monica via Ocean Park. That’s when the going got good.

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Walking the Vote

Do you support Joe for CD1? Do you believe in “Safe Streets, Strong Neighborhoods”? Do you want to see “Development without Displacement,” increasing housing stock for current residents of the district’s varied neighborhoods as well as newcomers? Do you want to see more local businesses thriving and spending their profits right back in the ‘hood, instead of sending them off to heedless shareholders, as chainstores do?

Then Joe is your choice—but he’s fighting an uphill battle. King Cedillo sits on his mountain of gentrifier cash and laughs at the peasants milling below with their pitchforks and torches. But the vote is a mightier weapon than any pitchfork…when people bother to use it.

It’s not enough to complain about the process: you need to control it to make change! And the control lever hinges on the vote.

If you want humanistic progressivism to win, you’ve got to get out and walk. You have to knock on every door in the district, talk to folks who might not like you, might not trust you, might just shut the door in your face. Cedillo barely squeaked into office last time, and that only because of a deal with third-ranked candidate Rosas (who seems now to regret it), but: he still got in. It’s a numbers game. Your job, if you’re serious about the place where you live or work (or live and work, as many do), is to get Joe’s message out to as many regular folks as possible.

Facebook posts won’t do it—your BFFs pressing the “Like” button under a repost of a news story won’t elect anyone. Twitter won’t do it, despite its undeniable facility for spreading mindless outrage and indignation. Blog posts like this one won’t do it, unless they get to you lace up your kicks and start walking with Joe. If you do one thing today to make your neighborhood great again, it will be to click on over to JoeforCD1.com and volunteeer!

We need people to walk Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, Echo Park, Pico-Union, Filipinotown, and parts of Downtown. If you’ve got strong legs, linguistic skills, and a genuine smile, as well as patience and kindness, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, sling a few bucks Joe’s way. If you can’t do either of those, at least repost this blurb on social media and hope for the best.

The world around you depends on…you. The election is in March. It’s a numbers game. And Joe is counting on you to help him win it.

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Beyond Borders

Joe Bray-Ali’s campaign to replace CD 1’s obstructionist showboater Gil Cedillo would resonate far beyond the district’s gerrymandered borders, and affect far more than a few bike lanes here and there.

The local effect would be huge, of course: those who know Joe know that he’s far more than “the bike guy.” He supports bike lanes, yes, not just because he’s an “avid cyclist,” a characterization the not-so-liberal media loves because its reductionism trivializes anyone it’s applied ot as some sort of addled hobbyist. He supports bike lanes because bicycle travel cleans the air, clears the streets of congestion, improves public health, boosts the receipts of local businesses, and provides travel options that don’t force people to spend their time and money on cars when they may not have much to spare of either.

Support for bike lanes is just one aspect of Joe’s commitment to stronger, healthier neighbors, neighborhoods, and neighborhood businesses. Joe believes in development without displacement, and knows that a mechanical regulatory obsession with lanes and parking makes it nearly impossible to build affordable housing that is in scale with traditional neighborhood architecture. Emphasizing transit, bicycling, and walking results in more, and more-affordable, housing in a city where, despite its image as Ground Zero of Carmageddon, half of all journeys are less that five miles long. More affordable housing and more thriving local businesses together mean fewer people living on the streets. More active transport means healthier children and old folks and lower medical expenses. Slower traffic means better quality of life, less blood on the streets, and busier sidewalk storefronts. Bike lanes are just one technique among many that bring about the benefits of a progressive civic agenda. It’s just that bike lanes can be waved about to scare the unimaginative reactionaries who can’t see through their own windshields to the world beyond and keep them voting for the Dr. Do-nothing who’s currently in the council misrepresenting CD1.

Joe would change all that, and not just in the district: once elected, Joe would help tip the balance of the entire city council towards the more-progressive, more neighborly mindset that LA needs if it’s going to live up to its image as a vibrant, creative city. We need people like Joe in City Hall, because the avid motorists who pack it now have shown themselves incapable of freeing the city from both its literal and its mental gridlocks.

Even if you don’t live in CD1, even if you never visit there, Joe will be fighting for your life. Avidly!

To learn more, and to help thorugh donation, word, or deed, go to: http://joe4cd1.com.

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Tune-Up Time

Maybe you ride to work. Maybe you ride on weekends. Maybe you ride to the bar, or the store, or the coffeehouse, the library, the club. Maybe you ride to All of the Above. You put on the miles, and your bike keeps rolling faithfully over LA’s Thirdworld asphalt, taking care of you while you take care of business.

But you know: it’s just a machine, no matter how soulful it may feel. It needs maintenance. Tire treads grow thin, cables stretch, brake pads wear, bolts shake loose. Soon enough it’s time for a summer tune-up. Bring it in to the Pigeon, and go home with one of the only bikes brought into perfect harmony by the man who could do the same to Council District 1.

Yes, indeed: while “Roadkill Gil” Cedillo does everything he can to make riding a bike harder in the ‘hood—not ot mention walking, raising a kid, or running a small business—Joe Bray-Ali is not just repairing your ride but preparing to repair your whole neighborhood! The pittance you sling his way for a smooth-running velo will go to the campaign, which he’s financing with small donations from everyday people, plus his own sweat and gelt. And your riding will be so much happier once he’s done his magic on your wheels.

Doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’ve got, Joe can handle it. Internal gearing? No problem! Wheels shot to hell? They’ll be heavenly when he’s done! Neighborhood deadly, dull, and poor? Wait till Joe gets into the Council chambers to shakeup and wake up the city’s administration! No more malign neglect for NELA, Westlake, Chinatown., Downtown, Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown, or the rest of long-suffering CD1.

Roll on in. Summer is hot, the days are long, the events are many, and you’re putting in the miles. It’s time for your mid-summer tune-up.

And if your bike’s already in tip-top shape, maybe a modest donation to the campaign is in order. Go to the freshly-refurbed website and browse around. You’ll see what Joe means to make of the mess Cedillo’s leaving him. You can drop a few bucks to the cause right from here.

Keep it rollin’….

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Take Over Your Neighborhood

It’s time to take over your neighborhood…by electing someone who actually gives a damn about the communities of Council District 1. If you live in Pico-Union, Westlake, Historic Filipinotown, Echo Park, Downtown, Chinatown, Elysian Heights, Mt. Washington, Montecito Heights, Lincoln Park, or Silverlake, chances are pretty good that you are in CD1. And chances are even better that you’re feeling some of the malign neglect that the District’s current council member, Gil Cedillo, lavishes on your home. Under Cedillo, safe streets are still a dream obscured by blood, and streets-as-speedways also ensure that traffic zooms right past local businesses on its way to a mall somewhere else. Meanwhile, creeping gentrification has vulture capitalists slouching over shabby alleys waiting for the community to die away, so they can buy off the landlords and pack the back streets with yuppie playpens.

Who you gonna call?

Josef Bray-Ali, that’s who. Former community developer, current activist, small-business owner, a longtime local resident experienced in municipal politics and with a development-without-displacement philosophy, he believes in his neighbors, and has fought for a healthy, safe, and prosperous CD1 for years on end.

And he’s making it easy for you to help: the new website is up, so you can find out about Joe’s past, learn his plans for our common future, and join in the present-day work of making it happen.

The campaign needs volunteers, so who’s Joe gonna call? That’s right: you!

Walk a precinct, hold down a phone bank, make presentations to your neighbors, donate money, and get your friends to pitch in too.

Do you speak Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarain, Cantonese, Korean? Help Joe get the word out.

Are you young and feeling left out of the city’s prosperity in LA’s poorest district? Joe’s young enough to remember how that feels, and has never stopped empowering youth wih his cooperative programs. Help him take it to the next level!

Are you retired, with time on your hands and worries about the future weighing heavy on your heart? Design your own future with Joe!

The City Council is the real political power in LA. Help elect Joe, and you’ll have one of your own in charge.

Here’s the link; the rest is up to you:

Joe4CD1.com

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Bikeshare Begins in LA!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in anticipation of LA County’s Metro Bike Share opening (plain beige moniker and all) in downtown. This will be the only bikeshare system in the City of Los Angeles, and it will be technically incompatible with the municipal bikeshsare systems that will operate (or are operating) around and within it in Santa Monica, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and UCLA. Those five systems are interoperable: you can pick up a bike at one city’s dock, and drop it off at another. There will even be Santa Monica and West Hollywood bikeshare docks in LA itself, in Venice, near the Farmers Market, and at a few other spots. Having docks at destinations is doubly important, because the clock stops once you dock the bike, while keeping it too long, even if it is just leaned against your café table, can incur a fee. So interoperabilty makes a certain amount of sense. Even “Smartbike” systems, where all the electronics are on the bike itself, usually require that it be parked within a certain distance of a compatible dock.

Metro, dominated by the City of LA, went its own separate way, but the system is up and running, it does use TAP cards (a big plus), and people have signed up. I’ve seen folks pedaling the big green bikes around, and I’ve noticed regular changes in the disposition of bikes at the massive docking station at Second and Fig, which I pass by several times a week. So far, so good. There are docks at Union Station, Grand Central Market, the Central Library, and near most of the museums and Metro stops downtown, as well as a fair number scattered about the Arts and Fashion districts, the Cleantech Corridor along the river, and in Chinatown (but not on Broadway!). The two downtown libraries don’t have them, and could use them, but maybe they’ll come, Check out the map here.

Will this affect the many bike shops downtown, or in other parts of then county as bikeshare spreads? While some shops in current bikeshare cities claim to have lost business, the fact remains that bikeshare bikes are of limited utility: you can’t ride them for long, and if you could, you wouldn’t want to ride them far, except as a stunt (as has been done). In the long run they will probably habituate more people to think of bicycling for transport, and many of these will eventually buy a bike of their own. Since the long run has not had time to develop yet, we’ll have to wait and see. Many people (such as the notorious BikesnobNYC) use both shared bikes and their own private bikes, and I suspect that over time, bikeshare users will pick up bikes of their own for recreational or distance riding, once they get used to thinking of bikes at all. It’s a low-cost way to try out the World’s Most Efficient Machine.

So go to the Metro Bike Share website, sign up, and give it a try. And let us know what you think!

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Zero to Vision Zero in…Oh, Who Knows?

While Los Angeles recently deployed the usual pomp and fanfare to annouce a commitment to “Vision Zero,” that is to say, zero traffic deaths within the city’s limits by the year 2025, there are many of us who question whether there is any real intent to make it happen.

After all, the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan has been so nibbled away by the sharks of self-interest that you could be forgiven for thinking that Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” about it.

And “Great Streets” has, in implementation so far, revealed itself as a collection of set pieces, token guests tucked away at the table by the kitchen to prove our administration’s great liberality….

Still (to return to our existentialist metaphor), we’ll push the damned rock up that hill et again and see what happens as we near the top. If we can muster the numbers to make this a truly collective battle—a battle, rather than a skirmish—maybe we can make Official Los Angeles hold to its promises.

So, I’m going to ask you to attend a meeting, or a whole heap of meetings. The City has arranged ten meetings, scattered all over town, at which it will present figures, explain its intentions, and ask for “input.” That last part means you can speak up. Be there and mouth off, damn it!

The meetings will take place at area libraries, which you’ll see in the list below. You’re requested to RSVP here. The meetings are on different days, but all begin at 5:30pm. Show up and speak up, but be chill about it. leave the rants to the Teabaggers. Let them know you’re tired of blood in the streets, and that the dizzy sense of entitlement of leadfooted motor addicts howl so loudly to preserve shouldn’t trump our physical survival and neighborhood health.

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
DateBranch Library NameAddress
7/18West Valley Regional Library19036 Vanowen Street Reseda, CA 91335
7/20Pico Union1030 S. Alvarado Street Los Angeles, CA 90006
7/21Alma Reeves10205 Compton Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90002
7/25Frances Howard Goldwyn1623 N. Ivar Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90028
7/26Echo Park1410 W. Temple Street Los Angeles, CA 90026
7/27Panorama City14345 Roscoe Boulevard Panorama City, CA 91402
7/28John Muir1005 W. 64th Street Los Angeles, CA 90044
8/1Jefferson Vassie Wright2211 W. Jefferson Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90018
8/2Palms Rancho Park2920 Overland Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90064
8/3San Pedro931 S. Gaffey Street San Pedro, CA 90731

Here we go again!

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Burning Man Bike Sale July 9 to August 27, 2016

Playa bikes! The best way to get around. Image by Flickr user JahFae.

Playa bikes! The best way to get around. Image by Flickr user JahFae.

Looking for a Burning Man bike before you make the long drive out to the playa?

Look no further than Flying Pigeon LA – where we are selling a fleet of single speed beach cruisers for $150 apiece. Unlike big box retailer bikes, we assemble ours with care, and the bikes themselves have a better set of components than most crummy big box bikes.

What is available at the moment:

These bikes are single speed, comfortable, and cheap enough that you “won’t care if it gets traded away for a massage or left behind”. If you do bring yours back, it is worth it to have a playa bike kicking it in the backyard for when friends come over and you all want to roll out together. A little vinegar/water rinse down after you get back and it should hold up reasonably well.

UPGRAYEDD!

Ain’t that a beautiful thing? A beach cruiser with a Wald 137 basket.

Add a Wald 137 steel basket ($20) w. free installation.

MonkeyLectric Wheel Lights are amazing.

MonkeyLectric Wheel Lights are amazing.

Add MonkeyLectric Lights to one wheel ($25) or both wheels ($50) w. free installation.

Add a bike lock (we’ve got lots to choose from starting at $20 for cheap cable locks).

Any questions? First come, first serve, while supplies last (we have 9 bikes, 10 lights, 20 baskets, and lotsa locks).  info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on July 7, 2016

Hey everyone, it’s time for another Flying Pigeon LA bike shop inventory video!

This was shot on July 7, 2016 to show you a sampling of what we’ve got for sale at the moment.

This time there is even a surprise refurbished 56cm Nishiki we’ve gone over from top to bottom.

There are also a bunch of Firmstrong beach cruisers we’re trying to blow out to clear room in our storage area (for bakfiets, which will be arriving in August).

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Lost and Found: How to Get Your Stolen Bike Back

A few weeks ago, while I was working late in my shop, someone walking by the shop saw my bakfiets cargo bike parked out front and decided to steal it.

The bike was locked to itself using a rear wheel lock – so this enterprising crook had to pick up the 70lbs beast and haul it away on one wheel.

I was so absorbed in my work at the time I ignored the bumping and rattling taking place in front of the shop (my neighbors did too!) only to emerge at 9:30 p.m. and see that my cargo bike was missing.

My First Reaction

My first reaction after I saw my bike was gone was to go on the hunt. I got on another bike, rode around the neighborhood, down into the local freeway on-ramps, bridge overpasses, and camping spots to look for local junkies trying to strip my bike for parts. A Park Tool pedal wrench and a ton of adrenaline were my only weapons.

It was pointless: all the camps I saw from days before had moved on. I didn’t see a soul. Well, I did meet one person: a young man, also on the hunt for his own stolen bike (!). It was a white fixed gear bike, he said. I promised to keep an eye out; I returned to my shop at 10:30 p.m. deeply panicked. A phone call and text message chain later with a couple of friends helped me develop an action plan to get my bike back. I recalled a similar incident with a stolen cargo bike in Venice – my friend Layne Kagay, owner of CETMA Cargo, had one of his hand made cargo bikes stolen. Layne went bananas online, and in person, and has a considerable social network – and after a few days, the thief felt the heat and had a third party return the cargo bike.

The Good News

The good news: I got my bike back the very next day! Why was I able to get it back?

  • First, I had several (many, actually) images of me and the bike.
  • Second, my bike is very, very, unique in my community and I ride it absolutely everywhere – people identify me by my unique bicycle.
  • Third, I own a small business and I’ve run hundreds and hundreds of free community events, rides, meetings, and rallies over the past 10 years. My social network, and social media network, is sizeable and a lot of the people who know and follow me online live very close by.
  • Fourth, I registered the bike online years ago with a detailed description, serial number, and photos on Bike Index and I used this to file a police report the day after the bike was stolen.
  • Last, but not least, I hit the search for my bike *hard* and with every ounce of energy I could muster and would not stop spreading the word until something happened. Online on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook the image I made was retweeted, and re-posted far and wide (from my kids school PTA; to my friends from high school I haven’t seen in years; a national professional bike mechanics association; to many local newsgroups and forums). In person, I got an old busted color printer working and printed a bunch of color images up; slept on the floor of my shop; woke up at the crack of dawn and posted the flyers all over the immediate neighborhood.

Every wino, truck driver, house wife, school kid, friend, acquaintance, OG, hoodlum, abuelita, and random passerby quickly found out that “that bike guy” was looking for his (my) stolen bike.

As with Layne Kagay’s cargo bike, and so many other bikes, the theft was not done by an elite team of bike thieves from a spy thriller. The theft of my bike was a crime of opportunity and was done by a local person stealing from a neighbor – a very common scenario.

The Reunion
The morning after: after filing a police report, heading back from breakfast, I got a phone call from a local guy who says, “Hey man, I know where your bike is at. Meet me at your shop.”

The local guy had gotten a call from some friends late last night, “Hey fool, we got this crazy bike over here. It’s real long like a wheel barrow. XXXXXX stumbled home with it drunk after that party at XXXXXX’s house. Fifty bucks.”

“Dog, I knew it was your bike. Then I saw it blowing up on Instagram and I seen you with your kid on it all the time. So, I can help you get it back.”

“Cool man.” I ran to the cash register, pulled out $100 and slapped it in his hand. “Take me to my bike. I just want my bike.”

A half-mile away, across the Metro tracks, we rolled up to a faded green Craftsman house. The sound of the 110 freeway, the smell of dog poop warming up in the morning sun and dew on the bushes and packed dirt.

“I’ll be right back,” said the local guy.

And back he came: holding the rear end aloft, stumbling down the driveway.

“Hey, so, how do you drive this thing anyway?”

I popped the key in the rear wheel lock and took a quick look at the bike. I got my baby back. 18 hours of hell, but I got my bakfiets back.

I bought the local guy a BMX bike from one of my wholesale connections. He’d never had a new bike before in his adult life, he said, and his fixie had just been stolen a few days before.

My wife and a good friend had followed my Twitter trail and one of them snapped a photo. It’s silly. I look like a goof ball, but that is not me play-acting. I can’t afford another bakfiets, and this machine means more to me than literally every other possession I own. It is how I live my life, how I stay fit, and happy – and I got it back!

“So, you found it?”

“Hey, I heard you found your bike! Awesome!”

“How did you get it back?”

<<¿Le encuentro?>>

Since getting my bike back, the wave of news about its theft has traveled into the phones, computer screens, and minds of thousands of local people. Friends have gotten in touch with me that I’d lost contact with. Strangers who’ve seen me ride by for years have stopped to chat and share their stolen bike story and listen to mine.

A week later, an LAPD cruiser passed by a restaurant I was having lunch in – and stopped to check the bike out! They had an APB in their car about my stolen (and returned!) bike. Word had gotten out. I thanked the officers profusely, showed them evidence I was the owner (their console had my Instagram image on it!), and even filled out a commendation form and mailed it in on their behalf.

I lost a lot of sleep, a month or two off my life due to stress, but I found out the key to getting your bike back isn’t about just registering it and filing a police report: it’s about fighting against the despair of loss; and having a social network that can come through for you the way you have for others.

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