Share and Share a Bike

Well, tomorrow (or July 7th, if you’re not reading this on the day I post it), Los Angeles joins the family of cities that offer bikeshare systems. This fraternity includes: megacities such as New York and Chicago (and real megacities such as Huangzhou, with over 65,000 bikes and nearly 3,000 stations, or Mexico City , more modest at around 6,000 bikes and over 400 stations); midsized cities such as Denver with its famous BCycle system; and smaller towns such as College Park, MD, as well as local pioneers Long Beach, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.

Los Angeles, with its typical timidity, is taking a very tentative step into bikeshare (given that bikesharing is an established success worldwide), starting with a claimed 1,000 bikes at 65 stations. Some of the stations are, to my befuddled mind, oddly placed, such as the one depicted in the photo above: this immense station is at the corner of Figueroa and Second, practically at the front door of the ritzy Promenade Towers, which advertises itself as offering “luxury apartments.” There’s not much of anything else around to justify this station, except the Bonaventure hotel two blocks away. I’m not sure what justifies placing the largest bikeshare station I’ve seen in any city I’ve visited in this little-trafficked spot, but there it is.

At least it’s at the crossing of two bike lanes. What most other bikeshare cities share (besides bikes) is connected bikeways. Denver, certainly; I’ve ridden many of its bikeways; New York, famously, thanks to ex-LA planning maven Janette Sadik-Khan; ditto Chicago and even our wee neighbors Santa Monica and Long Beach. (Not so much West Hollywood, but they’re diligently expanding their bikeways network even as I write.)

In LA, as readers of my endless complaints know all too well, bike lanes tend to huddle in lost corners of the city, starting nowhere and obsessively avoiding contact with any other bikelane. This may hold down our bikeshare system’s numbers, as the bikes are intended for people who are not habitual riders, and they tend to prefer clearly marked and connected bicycle networks.

In any case, some of the other bikeshare station locations make more sense than Second and Fig—the Central Library, for example (though there are no bikelanes nearby), Chinatown (ditto), the Fashion District (ditto; the Los Angeles street bike lane stops well before the garment hub), Grand Park (no bike lanes), and some other spots where bike lanes were inadvertently included.

Should you wish to try it out, you can buy a dedicated pass or use your Metro TAP card; apparently some provision for users who have neither will be implemented in August.

Ride it, and let us know what you think. It would be particularly interesting to know how it compares to, say, Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare.

So…as Bill Mulholland said all those years ago, “There it is; take it!”


Carrying the Torch

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a fair chance that you’re carrying the torch for Bernie. He didn’t get enough votes; he won’t be the nominee; he himself has said he’ll be voting for Clinton in the general. But he came close, so close…and the very fact that he did what he did, that his numbers were as good as they were, will drive the Democratic party’s agenda towards progressivism. Maybe even the Republican platform too: Bernie’s electorate has been revealed as a potent force, waiting for a candidate to channel it.

That force is you. And you have a chance to elect one such candidate right here in LA.

That candidate is Josef “Joe” Bray-Ali, proprietor of this blog and the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop. While the incumbent in Council District 1, Gil Cedillo, mouthed support for Bernie, his actions have spoken so much louder than his words, and he is a reactionary, not a progressive.

Joe, however, is the real thing. He’s not carrying the torch for Bernie; he is the torch, and he can light a fire that will illuminate LA’s better future, if he is elected.

Joe is so much more than “the bike guy” that too many people know him as. (If you want the bullet-point rundown of Joe’s strengths and positions, see my post from last week, Push Comes to Shove. The full-on campaign website will be up in a few more days, with a detailed platform, and will of course be announced right here.)

He’s perfect for the district: he’s the son of an immigrant father and a native-born mother; his beautiful wife Susan is also biracial; his daughter has lived her whole life in the district. He’s been a community organizer; he supports human-scale development in a district threatened by gentrification; he supports safe streets in neighborhoods where blood runs in te gutters all too often. And Joe is looking to finance his campaign with contributions from the everyday people of the district, just as Bernie did.

He has a chance. The Green Party became a real force in German by starting small, at the local level—and now Germany is the cleanest industrialized nation of all, as well as one of the richest: just a week or so ago, the entire country ran on 100% renewable energy for over a day, factories and all.

It all starts at the neighborhood level. Contribute what you can to the campaign!

If it’s money you have to give, go to and spill a few bucks for the future.

If it’s time you have more of, go to and sign up.

Bernie’s loss this time around wasn’t the end of the effort. It was only the beginning. Walk the walk, talk the talk, and win big here in CD1. The times, they are a-changin’.

Leave a comment

Push Comes to Shove

Are you ready? Because LA needs you. Josef Bray-Ali’s campaign to replace NELA’s obstructionist council member, Gil Cedillo, is officially on, and we need volunteers.

While the website isn’t done yet (it will be soon), elections have been won and lost for centuries without the Internet. Josef will start walking door-to-door soon, talking to the good folks who make up CD1’s neighborhoods.These neighborhoods are varied in character and demographics, and we need people who are comfortable talking with anyone, poor and rich, old and young, radical, reactionary, or middle-of-the-road. Josef is often thought of as “the bike lane guy,” but that is only a tiny part of his portfolio: there’s so much more to make people aware of. A brief sample:

    He promotes safe streets for all, including drivers
    He stands for transportation diversity that doesn’t trap everyone into driving everywhere all the time
    He stands for intelligent development that increases housing stock without obliterating the character of our neighborhoods
    He stands for strong local businesses providing good jobs and keeping their profits in the community
    He stands for real but compassionate solutions to homelessness
    He stands for investment in community through better parks and schools
    He stands for you

And he needs your help. CD1 includes well-off hill districts, ramshackle flatlands, apartment blocks, light industrial areas, and the hustle and bustle of part of downtown. Residents are every color of the human rainbow, every income level, every gender preference, every shade of political opinion. They speak a plethora of languages, including not just Spanish and English but Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, and more, and the district encompasses parts of Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Echo Park, Downtown, MacArthur Park, Cypress Park, and of course Highland Park. And all of these people in all of these places will be receptive to Josef’s message of “Safe Streets, Strong Neighborhoods.” If they hear it.

So if you can get this message across in any of the languages mentioned above…we need you. Contact the campaign at

We are also accepting donations now, though the website donation page is not quite ready. However, you can simply mail a check to:

Bray-Ali for City Council 2017
3346 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90065.

You MUST include your name, address, and employer, or we’ll have to send the check back uncashed.

Electing Josef could change the balance of power in the council away from NIMBYism and towards the future. Here’s your chance to be in charge of LA’s evolution!

Get in touch.

Leave a comment

Flying Pigeon LA inventory on June 16, 2016

There is a cute dog in this one. Super cute. Watch, then buy stuff! Doggie commands it!

Some Bromptons; books from Microcosm; helmets from Nutcase; bikes from XDS, Gazelle, and Linus. Dynamo hubs, locks, and the aforementioned cute dog.

Leave a comment

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.

1 Comment

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;.

Comments Off on Hats, Rings, and You

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

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

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.

  • Flying Pigeon Logo
    Flying Pigeon LA
    3404 N. Figueroa St.
    Los Angeles, CA 90065
  • Store Hours

      10 a.m. to 6 p.m.