From Barbarism to Civilization

The members of this primitive tribe devote most of their energy to establishing intra-tribal status rank. Indeed, this appears to be a cultural obsession. To this end, they engage in extreme body and face painting; they send male members out in search of transparent rocks that they mount in the women’s body piercings; and they even go so far as to employ ritual scarification to exaggerate favored physical characteristics. They hold themsleves superior to all adjacent tribes, and their violence to outsiders who must pass through their territory is the stuff of legend.

Nevertheless, these fierce savages are exhibiting signs that they may be amenable to the softening graces of civilisation.

Yes, the City of Beverly Hills has actually begun installing sidewalk bike racks!

Not many, it is true—but, considering the city’s reputation for backwardness, anything is cause for hope. The shopping block of South Beverly Drive between Charlevillle and Gregory, for example, now sports four bike racks. They are not particularly well-placed, being at the ends of the block, where office buildings rather than boutiques and restaurants preside, but they exist. And they are used! The photo above is proof.

They are also not used, as the photo below reveals— in part because they are too few, in part because they are mostly far from attractive destinations.

Let’s compare SoBev to Larchmont Village in ritzy Hancock Park. Larchmont is a buzzing little shopping street in a part of Midtown Los Angeles with possibly even more elevated demographics than SoBev. And Larchmont boasts at least fourteen sidewalk racks, plus a newly-installed bike corral. The result? More shoppers on the sidewalk with fewer cars in the street. There’s no reason SoBev couldn’t replicate the successes of its cousin boulevard just five miles off.

Except, perhaps, the city’s legendary cluelessness. Beverly Hills’s knee-jerk reaction to retail slumps is to provide more subsidized parking…which never works. The city’s coffers are draining in part because of parking subsidies.

Yet studies from all over the world have shown that bike parking produces more retail income per square meter than car parking does.

Sure, bikes may not have as much status as a Lexus or Mercedes—at least not today. But it could be that cars are going the way of the Easter Island statues, and becoming quaint holdovers that warn us of the dangers of paying too much attention to your own pride, and not enough to reality.

Will the tribes of Beverly Hills learn to think beyond the delusions of self-aggrandizement in time to save themselves?

Let’s hope so. Why, it might even become a nice place to visit if they do!

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Avenue 52 Shell Station Robo-Car Wash & Councilman Gil Cedillo vs. The People of Highland Park

The owners of the Shell gas station at 5137 N. Figueroa Street, on the corner of Avenue 52, want to build an automatic car wash. An automatic car wash already exists at a 76 station across Avenue 52. A union hand wash exists directly across the street on North Figueroa Street. Over 1,000 local residents from the immediate area have signed a petition opposed to this, a potential 3rd, car wash at this intersection.

The project is scheduled for another public hearing at the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission on March 11, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. at Ramona Hall located at 4580 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065.

An early City Planning determination (a “Project Permit Compliance Review and an HPOZ Certificate of Compatibility”) approved the project. The neighbors living next door filed an appeal and the project was taken up by the local Area Planning Commission where the findings from the Compliance Review were reversed and the permits were denied.

Following some sort of lobbying effort by a consultant hired by the Shell station owner, Councilman Gil Cedillo had the matter taken from the APC and sent to his council committee on Housing and Land Use. Press and community attention made Cedillo shelve the hearing he’d planned and the matter was officially sent back to the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission for another public hearing, which is set to take place on March 11, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. at Ramona Hall (4850 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065).

The video above is from an interview with Mercedes Vasquez, the grandmother of the family that filed the appeal against the car wash.


Mi nombre es Mercedes Vasquez, yo y mi familia hemos vivido por mas de 45 años en esta casa.

Y yo estoy muy preocupada porque quieren construir un tercer carwash a 5 pies de mi casa.

Y mi, yo tengo un esposo enfermo de demencia y Parkinson’s y la sala y la recamara están muy cerca y esa es la razón por lo que me opongo a construir el tercer carwash.

Porque esos carwash va perjudicar a mi familia, a mi nietos y ya hemos tenido 3 reunions y ahora el senor Cedillo se a puesto a favor del negocio y quiere construir, ayudar al senor construir el carwash

Yo no estoy de acuerdo porque nosotros lo elegimos a el para que nos ayudé a la comunidad no a los negocios.

Poreso yo pido que ustedes, hemos tenido ya 3 reuniones y nosotros y se le negó, al senor construir el carwash.

Y luego fue y busco al señor Cedillo y yo no vello que este bien eso porque el tiene que ver por la comunidad, muchas gracias.


My name is Mercedes Vasquez. My family has lived for more than 45 years in this house.
I am very worried because [the Shell station owner] wants to build a third carwash 5 feet from my house.
My husband is sick and suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Our living room and bedrooms are very close [to where the car wash will be located] and that’s the reason I am opposed to construct the 3rd carwash.
The car wash will harm my family, my grandchildren. We have already had 3 hearings and now Mr. [Gil] Cedillo is in favor of the business and wants to build, help, the man (owner) build the carwash.
I disagree, because we voted for him to help the community not just the businesses.
So, I ask you, we already have had 3 hearings and the request to build the carwash was denied.
Then the owner went and sought out Mr. Cedillo. That is not right because Councilman Cedillo has to look out for the community. Thank you very much.

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NELA Safe after Election; Midtown Still Threatened

Rejoice, NE Los Angeles, Council District 14 is safe for a few more years: José “Safe Streets” Huizar crushed Gloria “Faster Traffic and More Parking Lots” Molina in yesterday’s election. And, though it was officially a primary, since Huizar won over 50% of the vote, there will be no run-off in May. The man who supports safe streets, community health, and local businesses will stay in office till he’s termed out next time. And next time may be five and a half years away, instead of four, since Charter Amendments 1 and 2 both passed as well.

In fact, Huizar won 64% of the vote to Molina’s 24%, which qualifies as not just a landslide but a massive, thundering avalanche of support for a true neighborhood champion. A total of 16,853 residents voted in cd14. You can read more here.

Meanwhile, across town in Council District 4, the election will see a runoff between outgoing windsock Tom LaBonge’s deputy and anointed successor, Carolyn Ramsay, and challenger David Ryu. Ramsay promises great things to safe streets advocates, but the record of the office she managed for LaBonge for so many years doesn’t give me confidence. However, Ryu is an unknown quantity, so we’ll have to start studying up on him and maybe angling for an interview. There will definitely be a runoff in May for this district, and while there’s a slight chance that #BikeLA-favored Tom´s;s O’Grady will pick up enough votes from mail-in and provisional ballots to supplant Ryu—they are only 61 votes apart as of this morning—chances are it will be Ramsay vs. Ryu.

We’ll keep you up on what happens. CD4 has suffered a lot from LaBonge’s obstructionism, so we have a hard choice ahead of us if O’Grady doesn’t make it into the runoff.

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Nobody Rides in LA…

…Except for all the folks that do. Despite improvements, Los Angeles is still a city of largely unfriendly streets—unfriendly to bicycle riders and people walking, to be sure, but also unfriendly to motorists. The principle of “induced demand” has certainly been proven here: we’ve added roads relentlessly for nearly eighty years, and traffic is worse than ever. Even with total vehicle miles driven per year dropping in the US since 2004, we suffer traffic jams. No doubt it’s all those silly nudniks getting into their cars for the two and three mile “journeys” that comprise over half the trips driven in our city.

But folks are getting smarter…at least some of them: more and more Angelenos are beginning to venture out on bicycles to shop, dine, and visit. Just as everyday folks—not just sporty sorts—do in advanced cultures such as Denmark and Holland, countries with healthy, long-lived populations,thriving economies, and well-off middle classes. We could use some of that here, couldn’t we? The health, financial, energy, and land-use efficiencies of more urban cycling would certainly help bring that about.

So maybe the following photos will spark a glimmer of hope in our congregated hearts, in this time of reactionary ranting against bikes specifically and Complete Streets in general. Though why anyone should rant against healthier residents and busier businesses is beyond me…the advantages of streets that entice people to walk and bicycle more is thoroughly proven by now.

When we’ve built it, they do come…as you’ll see below:

The new bike corral on Larchmont Boulevard, in Hancock Park—dented by a car, but still at work (and now repaired):

Sidewalk racks at Midtown’s Paper or Plastik Café:

The ever-busy Trader Joe’s on La Brea and Third, serving Hancock Park and the Miracle Mile:

Just a sweet taste of the future….


Vote or Choke

An election is coming in just a few days, on March 3rd, and, though it’s “just a primary,” it’s an important one. In District 14, we have José Huizar facing off with Gloria Molina, who has been termed-out of her County Supervisor’s seat. Huizar has been consistently supportive of livable streets and local businesses, and since Molina repeatedly puts herself on record as opposing bike infrastructure and being 100% in favor of more and meaner traffic, there’s no contest there…but you should study up on it anyway, so you can talk to your district 14 neighbors. Read about in the LA Times, where Molina proclaims that what downtown really needs is more parking lots, not housing and foot traffic— while Huizar touts road diets and vibrant neighborhoods.

The third candidate, Nadine Diaz, stands little chance of advancing against established heavyweights such as Molina and Huizar, but looks to be a better choice than Molina, who will stop at nothing to choke the streets with more traffic jams, and the air with more smog.

Molina was also pushing heavily for the 710 “Gap Closure” fiasco, which would have brought more traffic, more congestion, and more deadly pollution to the district, as it already does to the unfortunate neighborhoods along its present dreary route. You can read about what the 710 does to the families who live beside it here. In a telling turnabout, Molina, upon hearing how stridently the district’s population opposed the 710 expansion, suddenly claimed to be against it. But then, District 1’s Gil Cedilllo claimed to favor “Copenhagen-style” bike infrastructure when he was pandering to voters—then reverted to type after he was safely elected. He has been a disaster for the our streets and people. I have no faith whatsoever in Molina’s similarly situational “conversion.”

Do we really need another carpetbagger in NELA?

Here’s Bike the Vote’s guide to the primaries: BIKE THE VOTE L.A. VOTER GUIDE – MARCH 2015. Covers the whole region, so you should read it no matter where in the county you are.

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Free Library Comes to Cypress Park

This free library was installed in front of Flying Pigeon LA bike shop and Antigua Coffee House on February 18, 2015; on the corner of Loreto and North Figueroa Street in Cypress Park.

As of this writing there is a boxed set of original Star Wars trilogy VHS tapes. Better get on it!

Tactical Urbanism? DIY? Who cares about labels, let’s just enjoy that our neighbors have invested their time and energy into making this one corner a delightful 25 yards on what can be a rather dismal stroad.

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on February 11, 2015

In this inventory video I walk through the bikes available in the shop this week. From an $1100 Gazelle Basic R7T to our $315 XDS Explorer CT bikes.

There is lots more, of course, but you’ll have to watch the video to find out!

Any questions?

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Exchanging Circles

As I pedaled home from Larchmont last Monday, I took a a bit of a detour through ritzy Hancock Park, since I had to stop at the store on the way home. While I rolled slowly past the mansions and the broad-crowned trees, I came upon a curious sight: a row of idling SUVs at least three blocks long!

It may have been longer, but I couldn’t see the end of it after it wound around a corner.

The line of hulking metal shells took up an entire lane of the residential street, turning it, in effect, into a one-way street for the moment, and trapping the cars parked at the curb. All the drivers slumped in their seats, either pushing their noses into smartphones or simply staring dully through the windshield. It took me a while to figure out what was happening….

It was half-past three, and this was the school pickup line for Third Street Elementary.

Now, although this is, according to their own website, a “high-achieving” school, it is not a magnet school and does not feature any special programs. In other words, almost all the kids are likely to be from the neighborhood—say, within a mile or two.

Easy walking and biking distance…yet there they were, elephantine hordes of nose-to-tail Escalades, Navigators, and Range Rovers. It looked like the parking line for a gangsta rapper convention.

And it clogged and polluted the entire neighborhood. Besides endangering the very kids the parents no doubt felt they were “protecting” by sequestering them in the dark caverns of steel they were driving around.

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old (based on 2001 figures, which are the latest mortality data currently available from the National Center for Health Statistics).”

An example: 2,136 kids under fifteen were killed in car crashes in 2003, most of them (1,591) inside the car, the rest walking (390) or riding bikes (130), with twenty-five poor kids uncategorized, but still killed by motor vehicles.

Not only that, but it’s estimated that, as in Fairfax County, Virginia, 20% of the morning rush hour traffic comprises parents dropping kids off at their local schools.

Given that kids are getting fatter and sicker as well, from simple lack of exercise, you gotta ask whether continuing to prioritize car traffic makes any sense at all. A little dose of Safe Routes to School, along with regular servings of Livable Streets, would go a long way towards exchanging the vicious circle of car dependency and its attendant physical and social ills, for the virtuous circle of healthier kids, less-frantic parenting, safer and calmer neighborhoods, and more efficient use of tax resources.

What’s not to like? Why is there even a debate over this?

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Spoke(n) Art Ride on Saturday, February 14, 2015

Parkour in front of MorYork on Spoke(n) Art Ride. Image: Mikey Wally

Parkour in front of MorYork on Spoke(n) Art Ride. Image: Mikey Wally

Romance? You want romance? Join the Spoke(n) Art Ride this Saturday, February 14, 2015 for a very special Valentine’s Day bike date and tour of art galleries.

Meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) at 6 p.m. The ride departs at 6:30 p.m.

The Spoke(n) Art Ride is a slow-paced, monthly, tour of galleries open for NELAart’s Second Saturday – a special night when area galleries and studios open their doors to the public until the wee hours.

This month we’re piling the Two Buck Chuck and votive candles into the shop cargo bike and holding a special candle-lit make out session in a secure undisclosed location in NELA during the ride. You don’t need a human date, your bicycle will suffice (As always! Hashtag #burn #ohyeah #letsgetiton. Am I right? Or am I right or am I right?)

Don’t have a bike? No problem! Flying Pigeon LA rents single speed beach cruisers with blinkie lights for $20. We have a fleet of bikes – just make sure to show up at or before 6 p.m. to ensure you get a bike! Things get hectic at start time.

For more general information about the ride, please check out the Bike Oven’s Spoke(n) Art page.

This ride is about art, community, the city, conversation, and living the good life without damaging the lives of others. If you want to “get faded” and “mash” – please do go on another bike ride.

We obey major traffic lights on this ride, we are polite to gallery owners and the general public on this ride. Seriously, this is Saturday night, you are free to do as you please. Don’t ruin our fun and we won’t ruin yours.

If you want to keep up with the ride online, or post updates and photos of it using your phone, we will be doing the same! Use the hashtag #spokenart on Twitter and Instagram or spokenart on Flickr and we can all check out your perspective on the night.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Any questions? or just leave a comment below.

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Battered but Unbowed

Even though the car culture commandos have already attacked it, the city’s newest bike corral, in Larchmont Village, stands firm in its campaign to promote health, community, and local prosperity on one of LA’s most charming shopping streets. And not just for cyclists and the owners of the establishments they shop, work, or eat at….

No: when LADOT put this in, one of the corral’s functions would be, they said, to help shield pedestrians in the adjacent crosswalk from the depredations of impatient drivers—and it appears to have taken its knocks doing just that.

The corral could have been placed against the curb, but there was room to site it farther into the street (though not in the traffic lane), tastefully following the angle of the painted lines that were previously the only thing protecting walkers from those many motorists who choose to ignore the crosswalk itself, and the signs and flashing lights that ask them pretty-please not to kill the folks on foot. This is a spot where high-and-mighty drivers would actually swerve around a car that was stopped to let someone cross and zoom through the pedestrian zone heedless of their unmechanized fellows.

Apparently they’re still trying that deadly trick, as first the caution sign protecting the corral, and then the corral itself, were recently rammed by cars. It’s been in place only a month or so.

Nevertheless, the corral, dents and all, was nearly full last Monday when I stopped in at the Village for a yoga class.

I snapped some pix of the noble sentinel and sent them in to LADOT, who said that they had spare parts and would get on the repair right away.

I suggested adding a bollard—one of those heavy-gauge steel pipes set into the asphalt and filled with concrete, such as are used keep drivers from ramming their cars into corner storefronts, which they also do with an appalling lack of self-control. Haven’t heard back on that yet, but it’s good to know that the corral will be tended to, and will keep attracting more customers and neighbors to the friendly little block—and help keep them alive.

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