Reality Is So Mean to Liars!

One of the ever-more-threadbare assertions the NIMBYs drag onto the stage every time there’s a discussion of road diets (especially if they dare to include omigod bike lanes!) is the claim that “They will Impede emergency vehicles! They are unsafe! We’re all gonna die!”

Of course, what’s really killing people—and killing far more of them than terrorism worldwide—is cars, and far too many of the emergency vehicles mentioned are on their way to car wrecks.

In any case, it seems that road diets with bike lanes actually provide more room for emergency vehicles. When the sirens howl, the cyclists move over into the parking lane, the cars move into the bike lane, and the firetrucks, cop cars, or ambulances have two half-lanes plus the center left turn lane to themselves, giving even the most extravagant of fire trucks plenty of room.

I actually saw this illustrated for me in real life yesterday. Now, I know real-life experience is much derided these days, especially among the NIMBY-American community, but really, in this world what you see is very often what you get, and this is what I saw&helllip.

I was pedaling along York Boulevard in its much-derided bike lane, when I saw a flutter of red and blue lights, accompanied by the whoops and yelps of a police car’s siren. I dutifully pulled over behind a parked car, and, like magic, all the moving cars pulled into the now-empty bike lane, and stopped. (Well, most of them; some drivers are insistent boneheads who won’t stop even for lights and sirens.) A cop car soared past, moving very very fast.

Two blocks later, it was lights and sirens again, and the cyclists and motorists repeated their dutiful dance. This time two cop cars whooshed past in tandem, again moving really quite fast.

Another block, and a fourth one roared past, howling and blinking, again entirely unimpeded by the existence of bike lanes. (I don’t know what was going on towards the east end of York, but it must have been unpleasant in the extreme.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, over in Hollywood a half-hour later, I was riding west on Santa Monica when I came to the intersection with Vine Street, when I heard—yes, indeed—sirens, and saw the red and blue lights. Only this time, there was no road diet, and there were no bike lanes. Cars filled the road edge to edge, and the cop car got stuck in traffic! Eventually the traffic on the opposite side of the street dribbled far forward enough that the cop could swerve into it and salmon eastwards towards the call—after having been, in fact, impeded…by car traffic.

This was what I saw yesterday on Planet Earth. It might be different where the NIMBYs live…but probably not.


Candidating Game

In all the fuss over the party primaries, it may be easy to forget that there are other elections, more local than even the downticket choices, that may have huge effects on our everyday lives. Who may be president is of obvious importance, as the advances made in economic and social equity, at great cost, during Barack Obama’s turn in office show. Senators also matter a great deal, to the state and to the country at large, and judges can affect the course of history.

But sometimes it is the littlest local races that determine whether our businesses succeed or fail, whether we live under a roof or under a tarp…or whether we live or die when trying to get to work or cross the street to the grocery.

Those of you who have been following this and other progressive transportation blogs in LA know that it is the City Council that has the greatest effect on street safety, local commerce, affordable housing, homelessness, and community spirit. Unfortunately, except in Huizar’s District 14 and a couple of others, the effect has been largely negative. Especially here in Council District 1, which encompasses Highland Park, Chinatown, Pico-Union, much of Echo Park and downtown, and more.

And since you are reading these lines, you probably know that Josef Bray-Ali, owner of Flying Pigeon LA and publisher of this blog, has decided to run against incumbent Gil Cedillo in the election next March.

Trust me, this is huge. City council policies directly affect your economic health, your family’s comfort, your very physical survival. The sad litany of road deaths on Figueroa alone testify to that. The overscale, overpriced developments starting to creep into NELA testify to that. The steadily growing ranks of the newly homeless testify to that.

Josef would work to reverse all that. You who know him know that he is responsiveness personified, even in commercial transactions when it costs him hard cash. You know he is a long-time resident of the District, with no carpetbag stowed in the closet. You know he knows city codes and city policies as few others do. You know he supports local businesses and affordable housing and safe streets, and supports them not only with speeches and photo ops, but with tireless community organizing. You may even know he has a background in community-friendly development. Far from being the “bike lane guy,” Josef is a renaissance man for local politics, and he would be possibly the best city council member of modern times.

But he can’t do it alone. He is not ready to take contributions on any scale yet, but he does need volunteers, or at least competent people willing to work cheap. Accountants, bookkeepers, canvassers, designers, phone crews, more. Go to the temporary website at and send in your name. (You might put a specialty in after your first name if you want.)

Josef will get ahold you when he is ready to rock and roll. The election is in March. We’ll need you soon.

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Almost Perfect Is Not Perfect

South Pasadena—just over the York Boulevard bridge from NELA—recently repaved El Centro Street between Pasadena Avenue and Orange Grove. This street had had a Door Zone Bike Lane before the street work, and the little city that hosts it actually gave it a bit of an upgrade when they repainted the freshly-laid blacktop: they added a buffer.

Not an actual berm or curb, nor even those flexible bollards that motorists seem to take a delight in running down, but a painted buffer. You can see it in the photo above. It’s psychological, not physical protection, but given that people burdened with at least some fragment of intellect are driving all those cars, it’s bound to help a little.

It may even convince the interested-but-concerned potential riders to dare pedaling down a real street, safe behind a squad of stalwart diagonal stripes.

But…it doesn’t seem to. Although the street is pleasant and quiet, the trees lush, the air often sweet, and the separation of cars and bikes firmly established, I rarely see another cyclist on this street, which I ride once or twice a week. And this disuse exposes a philosophical problem that afflicts planning agencies all over the USA: the low-hanging fruit conundrum.

DOTs and planning departments know that city residents by and large want more bicycle infrastructure. They also know that, for the most part, city councils will listen to motorists (whom they see as people like themselves) over cyclists or pedestrians (whom they see as odd and foreign), and will give the planners and engineers grief for giving up, or seeming to give up, road space that “should” go to cars, “to prevent congestion.”

Of course, the nation as a whole has been giving vast swathes of road space to cars for eighty years, and congestion has grown steadily worse, outpacing population growth. The engineers and planners have heard of, and understood, the principle of “induced demand.” They also know that city council members, on the whole, have not heard of it, have no sense of history, know nothing of empiricism, and hold the ultimate power in most cities.

And so they take the easy way out and build a beautiful bike lane on a wide, quiet street somewhere out of the way, hoping that it will be tasty enough of a dog biscuit to stop the whining of their cycling constituents.

But such lanes basically go nowhere—unless, of course, you actually live on that street. But few people live on these low-density, suburban-plan avenues. So there’s little reason to ride along them.

One short block to the north of El Centro you find broad and busy Mission Street. Mission sees lots of traffic—not just cars, delivery vans, and large trucks, but…bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles. Bicycles all day long. With nary a bike lane in sight.

Why is this?

Because Mission is replete with offices, workshops. stores, bars, and restaurants, that’s why. It is full of destinations.

It is where the bike lanes should be. El Centro is quiet and little-trafficked; it’s easy to ride there, bike lanes or not. Mission is busy and needs a bike lane. But doesn’t have one.

An odd irony: the western extension of Mission, which is Pasadena Avenue, does have bike lanes. But it hosts almost no commercial establishments. The eastern extension of El Centro hosts a number of commercial blocks, but, being narrower, it enjoys no bike lanes.

I hate to disparage such an inviting and sincere bike lane as El Centro’s. But, sad to say, it represents a failure of vision—one that is all too typical of transport planning in Los Angeles County.

We could do better. We can do better. The question is, when will we?


Hats, Rings, and You

Well, Flying Pigeon LA’s own Josef Bray-Ali has been modest about it, but the happy fact is that he’s thrown his hat in the ring: he is an official candidate running to replace Gil Cedillo as Council District 1 representative. (And he’s not the only one; Cedillo’s autocratic misrepresentation of his electorate has drawn a number of other candidates to the race, which you can read about in this LA Times article, which also details upcoming races in CD5 and CD7).

Apparently, years of empty promises, blatant lies, and hasty excuses every time blood flows in the gutters yet again have worn out Roadkill Gil’s welcome, which he never really had anyway.

Bray-Ali is an ideal candidate for this district: no carpetbagger he, he lives in NELA because he loves it, and has lived there for ten years without previous thought of running for office. He’s a regular visitor to the downtown portions of CD1 as well, has worked in NELA as a developer—a white-hat developer, not the ones who’ll sow the district with bloated monstrosities that clog the streets around them with more traffic than a thousand road diets could ever manage—and he has operated a small neighborhood business on Figueroa for years. He’s also been a tireless advocate for safe streets, cohesive neighborhoods, and his fellow small business owners.

Most of you reading this will think o fBray-ali as an advocate for bicycling, and that he is; and it is likely that Cedillo will try to paint him as a single-issue candidate. But Josef is far more than a “bike guy,” and the changes he advocates would make the streets safer and more effective for all users, including walkers and drivers: although the four recent deaths on Fig were all on foot or on a bike, the street sees a disproportionate rate of car-on-car violence as well, inflicting injuries and heavy costs on car users.

Here’s an article that shows a broader view of Josef’s interests and experience: Putting Parking in Its Place, by Josef for the Los Angeles Business Journal (subscribers only, I am sorry to say).

And of course, there’s a Twitter feed with links and pix aplenty:, or @joe4cd1.

Support has been building, albeit discreetly, given Cedillo’s vengeful nature, among neighborhood groups in Silver Lake, Highland Park, and elsewhere, and this will not be a symbolic campaign. Josef aims to win…and if he wins, we all win. Even Cedillo’s supporters will be better off with Bray-Ali in the Council.

Well, maybe not all those outside interests who bankrolled his last campaign&helip;.

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NELA Kidical Mass Latino Heritage Pachanga on Saturday, May 28, 2016

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

NELA Kidical Mass is rolling again this coming Saturday, May 28, 2016 from 12:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. at Sycamore Grove Park (4702 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) in conjunction with the Click here to see the Facebook Event for the NELA Kidical Mass

Kids, bikes, scooters, hand wagons, skateboards; meet us at Sycamore Grove Park at 12:30 p.m. We’re going to play on the playground, eat snacks, dance, play, have a rolling wheel rally and bash open a pinata in a celebration of family, community, bikes, and each other.

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

Meet near the bandshell in the park. No reservations required, nor sign up sheets, nor waivers, nor fees. Bring something to eat (and share!), a picnic blanket to sit on, etc.

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

There is a Facebook Event post for this party.

Any questions? or ask us on Twitter @flyingpigeonla

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My Workcycles Bafkiets cargo bike was stolen – AND RETURNED!

Stolen Bakfiets Poster

My bakfiets cargo bike was stolen a few hours ago between 6:35 p.m. 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on May 21, 2016 from right in front of my shop (while I worked inside on a complicated antique bike repair).

I’m still in shock, but thanks to friends who’ve retweeted it, contact me, and shared my posts online, I’ve been able to remember the advice I’ve given people in a similar situation: go hard.

Flyers are going to be printed tomorrow morning and I’m going to be walking the area around the shop posting them up and talking to everyone I come into contact with about this. If you want to join, 9 a.m. at the Flying Pigeon on Sunday, May 22, 2016.

Help me get my bike back!

More details about it here on

Flickr photoset of my bike here:

Stolen Bakfiets Returned

The NELA neighborhood watch came through. An acquaintance haggled with a the guy who stole it, called me up, got the bike back.


Your Fate Is in Their Hands

Your fate is in their hands…at least it is if you ride Sixth Street in the Miracle Mile. I do, nearly every day, and so I had a natural interest in tonight’s “town hall” exploring options for one of the more crash-prone streets in LA. If you follow me at all, you know this is a subject I follow closely.

And since I was just elected to the board of the Mid-city West Community Council, I suppose I have a civic responsibility to attend such meetings. Especially since the board, chaired by Scott Epstein, called this meeting.

The two gentlemen in the Spheerisoidal photo above are Tin Frémaux of the LADOT, and David Somers of City Planning, and they were there to answer questions from the stakeholders who attended. In the past, such meetings seemed almost to draw people holding actual stakes, which they were poised to drive through the heart of any progressive traffic plan anywhere in LA—as well as through the hearts of the messengers. So I went to this meeting feeling almost as much foreboding as must have weighed down Messieurs Frémaux and Somers. In addition, Sarah Dusseault, CD4 Council Member David Ryu’s Chief of Staff, would be in attendance—and the council member has recently shown himself rather indifferent to street safety plans that might compromise driving speeds.

However, the evening did not turn into the typical NIMBY rage-fest. Not even when Frémaux bravely, if with trepidation, proceeded to explain the details and ramifications of the long-proposed (and long-delayed) road diet for Sixth.

The vast majority of attendees favored traffic calming on Sixth through the Miracle Mile, and even seemed gladly accepting of the bike lanes that would accompany it. (Frémaux was quick to explain that the bike lanes were only an extra added attraction that the road diet made possible, but not by any means its prime motivation, oh no!)

In fact, audience members asked for more bike lanes than proposed, and for an extension of the road diet ot the part of Sixth east of La Brea. And for narrower lanes if possible!

And many, many neighbors spoke of how they wouldn’t let their children walk the sidewalks along Sixth street, while not a few admitted that they themselves were scared to use the street.

In other words, it was actually a community meeting about street design that didn’t leave me feeling like I’d just awakened into a dark Russian novel.

Amazing how a corpse or two, piles of broken glass and twisted sheet metal in the gutters every other block, and an inordinate number of cars flying over the sidewalks and into buildings, can open one’s eyes to the real cost of fast driving. (And I am not exaggerating in the first half of that sentence.)

Is LA growing up, at long last? I can hardly believe it myself. But it was a good meeting, and I am proud of my neighbors.

Miracle Mile will finally deserve its name if this keeps up.

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Azor Bakfiets for Sale at Flying Pigeon LA

Two gleaming new Azor bakfiets arrived at our doors on May 12, 2016 and we couldn’t be prouder. One of our owners, Josef, has become a neighborhood personality for using his to ride his daughter around town since 2007.

The bikes are both equipped with internal 8-speed hubs from Shimano, internal brakes, wheel locks, dynamo head and tail lights, as well as Brooks leather saddles and matching grips.

The red bike is a short john, the matte blue is a long john (about 18″ longer).

Both are incredibly well built, beautiful, and fun to ride. Stop by and take one for a test ride!

We’ll have some more, and some electrified models, later in the summer.

Any questions?

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Behold How Good and Pleasant

The full quote goes, “Behold how good and pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity!”

…Which may not even be something to hope for. A lust for” unity” seems to lead to fascism, and whether of left or right doesn’t matter, because it is inherently oppressive. I prefer to think that what would really be good and pleasant would be solidarity: working together towards common goals, while making room for, and use of, the exhilarating diversity of thought and talents in our bustling little communities here in LA.

Sad to say, we don’t even get that, as our (sort of, in one case) elected leaders play us off into factions that fight each other over quibbles and intuitive but usually incorrect gut feelings, while the powers-that-be make their own quiet plans.

That may be changing. For now, CD 1’s Gil Cedillo (who squeaked into office by fewer than 800 votes, and then immediately backstabbed the good folks he’d pandered to in the safe streets community), gets to play tin god in the council chambers, blocking road diets and bike lanes, then grudgingly tolerating a traffic signal or two after enough bodies pile up, while keeping North Figueroa the perfect model of a modern Slaughter Alley. But opposition is rising….

As the LA Times noted a couple of days ago, not one, not two, but three candidates are gearing up to oppose him after what many in NELA hope will be his single term. They are former opponent Jesse Rosas, Miguel Amaya, and our own Josef Bray-Ali, the owner of Flying Pigeon LA, a former white-hat developer, and a tireless advocate for safe streets, local businesses, and a healthy community. Although the Times article characterizes him as a “bicycle advocate,” we all know that he is much more, and that the original road diet plan would have strengthened commerce and neighborhood solidarity and made the street safer for all—cyclists, yes, but walkers and drivers as well.

All Cedillo’s efforts have done is paint the street with blood—literally.

Meanwhile, across town, Paul Koretz is seeing opposition, as Beverly Grove lawyer Jesse Max Creed prepares a run for CD 5. Koretz has been steadfast in blocking bike lanes on Westwood, refusing even to permit an impartial study of the matter—which leads you to wonder what hidden interest he is “protecting” in his busy Westside district. Even Ryan Snyder’s plan for the street, which would have left all car lanes an parking intact, was refused consideration.

Creed is not running on a pro-bike ticket (at least not yet), but there’s a chance he’d be more reasonable than the ever-obdurate Koretz.

So it looks like, with a little bit of solidarity, we might be able to vote a couple of neanderthals out of office, and move in folks who believe it is people, and not traffic jams, that make a city great.

Don’t forget to vote local on March 7th next year!

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Gil Cedillo’s Incompetence Highlighted at Upcoming Press Event, May 12, 2016 at 2 p.m.

Vigil and Protest of conditions on North Figueroa on Septmber 25, 2016

This Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 2 p.m. at Avenue 55 Gil Cedillo is doing a press event that will include: unsuspecting school kids, a phalanx of city staffers, and select media invitees.

Nobody invited to the event will cite the cost of $250,000 for the lights as being equal to the cost of a road diet for the entire street.

Nobody invited will highlight how the other pedestrian deaths at Avenue 26 (William Matelyan in 2014), at Marmion Way (Jose Luna in 2015), and at Avenue 60 (Andres Perez in 2015) all took place in marked cross walks at intersections with traffic lights.

More traffic lights add to the problem of motorists speeding between red lights. More traffic lights mean more traffic. More traffic lights mean that the money that could have been used to improve 2.1 miles of street is now being used to paper over horrible design decisions at one intersection.

If you weren’t invited to Cedillo’s potemkin press event, show up anyway. Tell the story that needs to be told.

It is not okay to feign interest in the very real concerns of people in this community. The street will still have excessive speeding between red lights; it will just have more traffic and pointless waiting in between bouts of unsafe speeding.

Take the time to stop by Avenue 55 on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 2 p.m.!

¡‪#fig4all y #‎chaleconcedillo‬!

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