Hot day? Check your bicycle tire pressure

With the non-stop heat we’ve been living with in Los Angeles this September, I’d like to remind everyone to check their tire pressure. Hot weather means that air escapes from bicycle tires faster than it normally would. However, don’t over inflate your tires! All that extra heat combined with too much air in the tire can spell trouble: blow-outs on hot days are not uncommon (a loud boom and a popped inner tube).

Why do bicycle tires lose air anyway?

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Vote to Help GRID’s Traffic Busters Save LA Cycling

As regular readers of this blog may know, I have spent the last four years working with a diverse team of innovators on an advanced harbor freight handling project, one whose ultimate goal is to put as many cargo containers as possible onto railroad trains for transport—not just Union Pacific and BNSF surface trains, but also our own patent-pending all-electric underground shuttle train for local deliveries here in Los Angeles. Most of this freight now goes onto trucks that dominate freeways, jam surface streets, pollute the air, depress public health (especially in poorer communities), and wreak havoc on the roads. GRID, as it is called, would be a big step to the cleaner, healthier, more human-scaled, and more prosperous world that we all dream of.

Minimizing this truck traffic would mean a lot to the bicycle riders of eastern LA County. Although most complaints about port traffic focus on the freeways, all those trucks have to traverse surface streets to get to the freeways, and again to get to the railyards and warehouses where they deliver their loads. And they cause congestion, and even carnage, on those surface streets—the same ones we ride every day. Trucks cause proportionately more crashes than cars, and they are more devastating crashes. Especially for cyclists and pedestrians. As the NHTSA notes, “In 2012, large trucks accounted for 4 percent of all registered vehicles and 9 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled. In 2012, these large trucks accounted for 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.”

Not only that, heavy trucks batter the streets we ride, leaving cracks, heaves, potholes, and shattered asphalt in our path. And cities big and small have to spend ever-growing proportions of ever-diminishing tax revenues to repair those streets, leaving less money in the pot for progressive transportation development. Including, of course, bikeways! As you may know, Portland’s entire bike network has cost less over the last twenty years than a single mile of four-lane freeway in the same city. In effect, every mile of freeway built is an entire bike plan thrown away.

And GRID, if we can get it built (using private money!), would eliminate the need for the expensive and destructive 710 freeway “upgrades” planned by the County—bigger, deadlier freeways that would increase, not reduce, congestion regionwide.

GRID is entered in a competition for one of ten LA2050 grants of $100,000 each. This grant would let us concentrate on funding the CSUN feasibility study we need to convince venture capitalists that GRID would provide a good return on their investments, and so let us move towards actual design and construction. Details on how the grant would help, and on GRID itself, are on our project page at LA2050’s website, where you and your friends can vote for GRID to be one of the ten grant winners. Simply go to the URL below and place your vote! It’s easy and quick, and could kickstart the future of Southern California by helping GRID move that much closer to becoming a reality. (It does require creating an account, but LA2050 has nothing to sell and will not spam you. You can also sign in with your Facebook ID, and you do not have to be in Los Angeles, or even in California, to cast your vote.)

GRID Project at LA2050

If you want to tell your friends, please send them this email-friendly URL:

Votes are accepted only till September 16th, so visit the link today and make your mark for GRID, then tell your friends and colleagues!

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Lighting Enlightenment

There are plenty of good reasons to have a headlamp and taillamp on your bike. In fact, in California, and in most other states and countries, you are required to have a white light on the front of your bicycle if you are riding at night. You are also required to have a red rear reflector, but a lamp plus reflector combination is much better. (And despite what most people assume, a steady lamp is better than a blinky. In fact, blinkies are outlawed in such bike-friendly nations as Holland and Germany. Road-diet NIMBYs aren’t the only ones who cherish unfounded opinions based on, well, nothing….)

Nevertheless, many of us ride without lights even at night. The “ninja cyclist” has become both theme and meme lately, as well as helping boost hospital profits. Although I now run hub dynos and bright, clear light-up-the-road lamps in front, with solid, steady German red LEDs to the rear, I too used to run silent, run dark. That changed on a beautiful moonlit night long ago….

I lived in Echo Park then, and had been visiting a friend of mine who lived in Glendale. He was a musician who kept late hours, so I knew I’d be pedaling home in full darkness…but I also knew that it was the night of the full moon, and I figured our companion planet would light my way home.

I left Glendale and headed towards Griffith Park to see whether Riverside Drive was open at that time of night. And indeed it was. So I pedaled gently along, enjoying the cool night air, perfumed with desert scents, and slipping in and out of the shadows of roadside trees. At one point I startled a small black-and-white cat that was crossing the road; I hadn’t seen it in the shadows. I made some of the silly noises we direct towards friendly animals to soothe them, and rode on.

About half a mile later I came to a stop sign by the turnoff to a picnic ground. As I rolled to a stop, a car pulled up beside me, and one of its four occupants rather ominously rolled down the passenger side window. But, they only wanted to ask directions. While we spoke, a horrible reek enveloped me, and I remember thinking, “Man, that’s some really foul weed they’re smoking; I hope they can drive okay….”

They rolled up the window and went on, and I pedaled onward. Up one hill, down another, and to the stop sign by the turnoff to the miniature train, where I stopped again, to savor the sweetness and quiet of the night.

Only the same foul reek enveloped me as had before. No car nearby, no one at all within eyeshot.

And then I realized: the “cat” had been, in fact, a skunk, and had scored a direct hit on me and my bike.

When I arrived home, I threw away my clothes. Unfortunately, in the neighborhood where I lived, I had to park my bike inside if I wanted to keep it. The place stank for weeks till the skunk essence dried enough to crust over. I did not dare wash the bike.

I bought a set of lights within the week. Well before my next night ride.

It could have been worse than a skunk. It could have been a deep pothole that looked like another tree shadow, or a large rock, or any number of conditions that could have led to a face plant, rather than a stink bath. I got into the habit of running lights at night, since I love to pedal through the hours darkness.

I used to ride that same bike from Echo Park to my office in the Miracle Mile. The building had a walled parking lot patrolled by an armed guard, and I would lock the bike to a hundred-foot-tall lamp standard with the anchor chain I had used to secure my motorcycles back in the day. Despite all that apparent security, someone snuck in, froze the chain, and stole the bike one fine day.

I sincerely hope they tried to wash those little brown spots off the downtube. I really do….

So there’s a double moral to the story: put lights on your bike, and get a good lock. And there’s an intelligent selection of both locks and lamps right here at Flying Pigeon LA. Even dyno lights for those of you who live to ride at night. Come check them all out!

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Riding bikes with kids in LA

The author and co-pilot before setting out for school and work.

The following is adapted from a speech I was asked to give at a bike summit organized a few months back. I get asked about bike riding with kids in LA enough; I figure this might help some people out.

So, riding bikes with kids in LA – is it possible?

Really, just about anyone can:

  • find the equipment
  • physically ride a bike with kids


The troubles you’ll face:

  • obviously, it is physically tough sometimes
  • learning to ride confidently as a solo adult is one thing; learning to ride, and choose routes, confidently BUT also taking into account social factors and perceived risk is something else entirely
  • defining what is “Normal(tm)” and what is “Safe(tm)” is the hardest part of doing this – largely because we exist in families, communities, and a culture that cannot imagine either “Normal” nor “Safe” being affiliated with the idea of riding your kids around on a bike in Los Angeles
  • practical hurdles that DO NOT include rain, snow, fog, traffic, or hills. Real hurdles involving getting sick or injured, air pollution, and the dread winds of the Los Angeles Basin.


For all the adults I know at my kids school, when we had kids, we became many of the following things:
– poorer
– sleep deprived
– stuck being physically inactive driving kids everywhere
– more likely to become overweight
– more likely to become depressed
– more likely to be socially isolated

In most adults lives these turn into a negative feedback loop that spirals towards a defeated and unhealthy middle age and a verifiably grumpy and ill senior citizenry. Poor, tired, and sick – is it worth it to be this “normal”?

Riding your kids around on a bike is like a miracle cure for all of the above. Does it take physical effort? Sure, but that is why it helps make you feel better. Can everybody do it? No, but not everybody can drive a car either – but that doesn’t stop car makers from making and selling fine automobiles and it doesn’t stop governments from building more and wider highways. Riding your kids around on a bike is a sensible thing to do from a personal perspective – it makes you spend less, live better, and spiral towards a healthier happier life. Thrifty, happy, and healthy – it may not be “normal”, but it sure feels a hell of a lot better.

The biggest hurdle you will face is not in finding the right equipment. It is out there now. People like me sell some of it in your city, others will ship it to you from abroad. You can find it used. You can even cobble it together in your garage and still end up with something safe enough and workable.

The biggest hurdle is that you will have to deal with the negative judgements of others. People in your personal life will insist that you have to follow their insane or unrealistic perceptions of safety and normality.

Woe unto the mom or dad bike rider who gets their kids hurt on one of the “rigs”, “contraptions”, or “devices” you may be using.

In my own personal life the stress of injuring myself or my kid really paled in comparison to the always hovering judgement of our entire civilization waiting to crash down on me from above. This pressure radically changed the way I chose routes, dress, and the way I ride my bike and act in public. People who tight rope walk probably get the same flack once they get injured – because outside observers think that what I’m doing is akin to taking my kid 50 feet in the air and balancing her on my shoulders, hovering above oblivion. I don’t see it that way, but most of the people I encounter start talking about what we’re doing as if it were some dire risk (it’s not) we’re taking.

Dealing with the bleak assessments of your competence as a parent and a human being is the harshest thing I’ve had to cope with. Fortunately, the benefits of riding everyday easily make up for this occasional bother, as does the smug feeling I now allow myself to have when we cruise past a long line of very bored and frustrated looking drivers every morning on the way to school – because, no matter what others think of us, I know that we are generally quite happy and healthy doing what we’re doing. I believe that kick starting this virtual financial-health-happiness cycle is what being a mom or a dad cyclist is all about. It is too easy to break free from motordom as a free living, and single, 20 year old. It seems harder when you are in your early 30’s and saddled with kids and the vague sense that you are not allowed to really be happy anymore, that it is time to “get serious”, and be “responsible”. I agree with the seriousness and responsibility parts – but not with the means most people think “serious” and “responsible” we should use to get there.

In short, the emotional and psychological baggage of our civilization will get spilled on your happy bike dream party every once in a while. Steel yourself for that and when the judgement hits just smile and wave (at the grumpy dad with four fat bored kids in the car with him shaking his head at you) or laugh (at the people yelling “You’re a bad dad!” as you cross the train tracks heading into the local farmers market.


“What if it rains?” In LA, outside of God’s 20-year wrath, rain is no bar.

So, what is really going on when you ride your kids to preschool or school every day on a bike? Mostly, a crap ton of normal, grumpy, morning stuff (“For God’s sake, just put your socks on so we can go! Did you pack that form?” etc., etc.). The benefit is that we’re getting the emotional feelings during our commute that we’re just kind of hanging out the whole time and there is no distraction (except for unpleasant street noise or road surfaces) that keeps us from experiencing the totality of each day as humans were meant to.

What else happens? You get stronger. You feel happier. You develop a vocabulary for understanding your neighborhood that goes beyond, “God, this intersection is a nightmare.”

What kills riding your bikes with a kid? We all assume that the things that slow down cars and make conditions difficult for motorists also hold true for everyone else trying to get somewhere in town. We then imagine that bike riding is like being a starving potato farmer in famine-wracked Ireland – a life of woe and privation. Let’s look at what you think is stopping you from bike riding in “tough” conditions:

Rain? Nope. When it rains: put on a rain coat (duh). There is lots of great gear to go with your bike – at this point, someone has dealt with your problem and you just need to do a little Google research to find either the product or advice you need.

Fog? Nah. When it’s foggy: you are already going 10 to 15 mph, just make sure to turn on your blinky lights.

Snow? Pshaw. Snow: cover up and watch for ice. In LA this is a non-factor.

Traffic? Ha ha ha! What a joke! Traffic: LOL. One of the great secrets about bike riding to work everyday is that it is generally going to take you the same amount of time every day. Trucks can jackknife into oncoming traffic and you can still slip around the side on your bike and be on your way.

Hills? Don’t be a wimp/eBikes(!)/maybe move closer to work and school.

What kills it is injury, illness, and air pollution. Oh, and wind!

The toughest times in my life have been when I’ve sustained an injury and couldn’t ride a bike – either a hurt knee from over doing it in a rush on the way home from work, or a strained back from a monster 32 hour drive to Arizona and back. Or that time I got the flu a month back.

Forest fires! Oh my God – forest fires, BBQs, and freeways all need to stop.

Once the calamity of personal injury, illness, or severe air pollution hit you are constrained in cycling. Being injured or sick and driving is sometimes possible (just like on a bike) but is sometimes impossible (just like car driving). There isn’t really a workaround for being sick or injured – it just kind of happens to all of us every now and again. Do your best to prevent it by continuing to be a Billy or Brenda Badass and ride your kid(s) around on your bike – but don’t pretend like you’re an 18 year old captain of the cross country team or cheer squad. You getting injured or sick can be a major setback for your entire spiral of health and happiness. Push it, but don’t push it too hard, physically. Get as much sleep as you can, stay hydrated (in LA, believe me, you need to STAY HYRDATED), moisturize (to show off your healthy body), and try not to eat crappy food that sucks more energy out of you than it gives back. The impact of your diet on your physical output becomes very, very, obvious once routine physical activity is a part of your day to life.

The trouble with air pollution can sort of be worked around by going really slow and getting some air filtration masks if you’re really worried or gung ho about the whole thing.

Wind! Those Santa Anas! The onshore flow! What to do? There are no pills. I recommend writing a letter to the Gods (might as well hit them all up) or just toughening up and living up to your heritage as coming from a long line of badasses worthy of passing on your genes (personified by the giggling kid(s) loaded onto your bike). If you drink, complaining about the wind is a great topic – so it’s not all bad news.

So, in short, yes you can do it. People will incorrectly judge you to be abnormal or unsafe, but you will be happier & healthier, safer too – so foo on them. The real hurdles are getting injured or sick, forest fires and pollution, and not having a full vocabulary to describe how annoying the wind can sometimes be.


Speed vs Flow

Gil Cedillo and other mindless opponents of road diets invariably spout off about the horror of “slowing down drivers.” Of course, slowing down drivers is one of the main goals of a road diet, and the benefits of doing so are manifold and well-documented. A quick look at, say, NYDOT’s analyses of the effects of road diets in that intensely-congested city show not only health and economic benefits; they often reveal that transit times for car users are shorter than before. Yes, if all you want to do is get from A to B faster, and don’t care at all what’s in between, road diets often help you do just that—while opening the street to multiple modes of transportation, and to residents and local merchants as well. These streets now carry more people about, and increase neighborhood cohesion, health, and prosperity. Without impeding the oh-so-important tooth-gnashing, road-raging cut-through speeders that Cedillo seems to think stand with the archangels in the heavenly ranks.

Even when a road diet increases travel time, it’s almost never by more than a minute. On North Figueroa, whose road diet has been blocked by an intransigeant Cedillo, the LADOT’s worst-case scenario showed an increase in travel time of all of forty-five seconds…over five miles…at rush hour.

How can this be? How can driving more slowly get you through town faster? Simple: you aren’t constantly driving yourself into a jam at every red light, as you and your fellows all crowd towards the intersection like hogs at a feeding trough.

To quote the LADOT’s blog post on road diets:

Road diets can improve traffic. Seems a little strange, doesn’t it? When a 4 lane road is below a certain volume of traffic (usually 18,000-20,000 Average Daily Trips – ADT), implementing a road diet can actually make traffic flow more smoothly. Especially on streets that have cars making frequent left turns (like, say, a residential street with plenty of driveways), creating a two-way left turn lane creates a space for turning vehicles that won’t impact moving traffic. Think about it another way: when a left-turning car comes to a stop in 2 lanes of travel, that direction immediately becomes 1 lane of travel. Even worse, cars merging right will snarl traffic even further. A road diet gives that driver a place to turn that won’t impact the free flow of traffic.

On top of that, every person who is encouraged by the bike lanes installed to ride their bike (instead of drive) on local trips around their community means one less car on the road to create congestion.

I’ve seen the futility of high speeds on local streets many times myself. Just yesterday I turned onto Seventh from Broadway to go home from a series of business meetings. The street—which has been road-dieted, in fact— was nearly empty of cars at that time of day. I could see down nearly its entire length from the top of the hill just west of Figueroa. As I climbed that hill, though, I had to move into the mixed traffic lane, as construction had blocked the bike lane. Some typically irritable ignoramus in a town car roared around me and shot ahead…to the next red light, where I caught up with him. When the light turned green, he roared ahead again, unimpeded by any other motor traffic…to the next red light, where I caught up with him. Over and over again, for several miles. And I was tired that day, having already ridden thirty miles in very hot weather and sat through a couple of meetings.

I was eventually passed, though. By another cyclist. So Mr. Town Car was, despite his noise and fury, not going any faster point-to-point than a tired old man on a bicycle.

I enjoyed a similar incident not long ago while I was pedaling along Martel to a farmers’ market. Martel is a narrow residential street that, unfortunately for its denizens, possesses traffic signals at each intersection with a major arterial. Just north of Third, a pudgy gentleman in a black SUV roared around me and zoomed ahead to the next major street…where, of course, I caught to him as he waited for the light. This particular fool was also careering wildly around his fellow drivers, who apparently were not reckless enough for his taste. Nevertheless, I caught up to him repeatedly, all the way from Third Street to Santa Monica Boulevard, where he signaled to turn. There, I tapped on his window and politely informed him that one of his brake lights was burned out. He politely acknowledged the intelligence. Of course I really wanted him to know that his extravagant waste of fuel and nervous energy had gained him not one second over a greybeard on a beat-up old bike.

Do you think they’ll ever get it? Or does driving so much somehow flatten your learning curve, even as it broadens your butt?

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Neighborhood Networks

One of the ills Kar Kultur brings with it is the fragmenting of neighborhoods, as blocks are sundered by wide streets teeming with fast and all too often deadly traffic. People are either coerced into driving by the contrived and complete absence of comfortable and safe alternatives, or they just stay home. And you can’t get to know your neighbors when all you see of each other is a shadowy figure behind the windshield of a speeding car. This inhibits commerce as well, since drivers don’t want to interrupt their momentum to scan the local storefronts. Instead, they just follow their fellow lemmings to the great financial cliff of a distant mall, sucked into the whirlpool of the parking lot to be spit out later, stripped of money and spirit by the sharp-toothed minions of distant corporations.

Building bike lanes, improving sidewalks, and slowing car traffic are not only proven ways to reduce road deaths and injuries of all sorts;they also build cohesive neighborhoods and support the local businesses that provide the majority of jobs in the US, and that return much of the money they earn to the neighborhoods their owners and staff tend also to live in.

Such neighborhood businesses are better at funding government services as well, from administration to schools, parks, libraries, and emergency services, all dependent on tax revenues. The famous “Taco John’s” study is a good quantification of this effect; it shows how even a semi-decrepit pedestrian-oriented block is worth more to the community and the local government in cold hard cash than a glossy automobile-oriented chain store taking up the same amount of space. I strongly recommend this well-written report on the study:

The Cost of Auto Orientation (Update).

Just don’t expect our local ostrich, Gil Cedillo, to dare to read it himself. It might upset his shadowy out-of-district backers if he did so….

Meanwhile, if you want to get a really close view of that corner of NELA known as Eagle Rock, which, unlike Highland Park’s Figueroa corridor, is blessed with bike lanes and traffic calming on its main drag, Colorado Boulevard, here’s a suggestion: get yourself over there on Saturday, August 23rd (the day after tomorrow at posting time), for the Eagle Rock Walking Tour. Put on by Walk Eagle Rock (which also advocates tirelessly for cycling facilities), it will focus on “community and civic engagement. Eagle Rock has a long history of being an active community and it certainly would not be as fantastic as it is today without the efforts of residents taking the time to participate, on all levels, to improve the neighborhood.”

Just the kind of neighborhood network building we need here in Highland/Cypress, to lay the groundwork for the onstreet networks we’re being denied by our so-called local leadership.

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The Perfect City Bike

Once the artisanal-bicycle aficionados got randonnée bikes out of their systems, they turned their attention to the City Bike: the bike made for short commutes, shopping, bar crawls, visting friends, and so forth, all in a relaxed manner regardless of traffic, night, or weather.

Well, although the artisanoids got the randonneuse down pretty well, generally copying the excellent models made by Alex Singer, René Herse, and Goeland during the heyday of randonneuring in France just after World War Two, when they tried their hand at the city bike, all too many of them tried much too hard to improve upon a design that had already been refined, with variations in different countries, for over a hundred years.

After all, city bikes have to take the knocks of being jammed into the corners of trains and elevators, of being locked up anywhere and everywhere, and of being loaded down with anything from groceries to microwaves as they bounce along often-shattered urban avenues.

And they have to do it in all weathers, and very often in traffic. Not everyone can live in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or Assen.

So the Dutch have their stately cruisers, the Brits the three-speed roadsters so beloved of filmmakers, the Japanese their mama-charis.

And the artisanoids have such bizarre concoctions as:

A fender-free, luggageless hipster whip that won the “Best City or Utility Bike” award at NNAHBS 2104, which, you may be amused to learn, asks the bare brake cables to double as levers, thereby raising the possibility of garroting your own fingers during a panic stop.

Or a strange effort that won the Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project’s “Ultimate Urban Utility Bike” award a few weeks ago; it uses shoe brushes for fenders and a snow shovel for a luggage rack.

Both bikes have only minimal lighting as well.

I say, no thanks. Look at the picture at the top of the page again: that is a Miyata “Commuter” model from about thirty years ago, one that could actually serve as a commuter, shopping, or general utility bike. It has fenders, to keep the rain and the much off you; it has a rack to carry things on, and it had lights, as you can see from the generator mount on the fork. In its original form, which you can view here on Flickr, it also sported a front rack for extra capacity, and a chaincase to keep your pantlegs free of grease. And it appears to be a three-speed as well, friendly to the less muscular—or simply more relaxed—amongst us.

This is more akin to an “Ultimate Urban Utility Bike” than either of the above overly-twee concepts, and millions of them are used in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, with similar designs prevalent all over the globe, from India to Africa to Austria and beyond.

The US infatuation with making an impression rather than making an actual bicycle has resulted in such bikes being hard to find here, but companies including as Public, Linus, and Beater do provide very similar but gently modernized versions, and at reasonable prices. (Since the Beater Bikes factory is taking an extended vacation, the Pigeon might be your only chance to pick one up for a while.)

And Flying Pigeon stocks Linus and Beater bikes, as well as genuine Dutch and Danish city and cargo bikes, all of which will carry you, your shopping, and often a friend or a brace of kids all over town in any weather, day or night!

Stop by and check them out. You won’t even have to get on a five-year waiting list to buy one.


Spoke(n) Art Ride on Saturday, August 9, 2014

Join us for another Spoke(n) Art Ride bicycle tour of art galleries in NELA this Saturday, August 9, 2014!

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

The Spoke(n) Art Ride is a slow-paced, free to the public, bicycle tour of artistic expression and events in NELA. It coincides with NELAart’s 2nd Saturday event – when galleries and other venues open their doors to art and community for free each month.

This month’s ride is going to have a live outdoor performance piece of spoken word, a photographic slide show, and son jarocho music (a folk music from Veracruz, Mexico) as part of the show at the Bike Oven, “Moving Target“.

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, with dozens of riders congregating at the shop before we leave.

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

Across the continent, cities of all sizes and characters are moving ahead with “Complete Streets” and bike lane projects, sometimes rudimentary, sometimes quite advanced. Here’s a short list culled from my own Tweets of the last few days:

I had to reach back a whole six days just to skim those entries from my Twitter feed.

And our own Los Angeles?

The last night I sat in on the regular meeting of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, which couldn’t even muster up a quorum, and so could not actually vote on any actions. We did, however, all did hear a litany of woes recited by LADOT’s long-suffering Senior Bicycle coordinator, Michelle Mowery: staffers leaving or transferred and not replaced, organizational malaise among even the usually stolid engineering staff in the face of reactionary politicians, and the very real prospect of losing Highway Safety Improvement Project funds as safety changes such as the North Figueroa road diet are stalled by the knuckle-draggers and reach their deadlines without groundbreakings—a situation that may disqualify the entire city from applying for HSIP funding going forward. The Federal Highway Administration, as you should know, promotes road diets as a “Proven Safety Countermeasure,” though NELA’s unrepresentative Cedillo knows better; he listens instead to his “gut feelings,” or maybe to the outside interests that support him.

Nevertheless, LA is slowly moving on. Ms. Mowery announced that, because of the complications our muddled politicos introduce, LADOT’s Bikeways is going to fund future projects with local money, which would allow more flexible timelines. We won’t get ahead as fast as we could have, and will continue to lag behind not only other major cities but even small towns, but we will make progress as we slog our way past the special interests that own our council members.

There is a saying from Arab culture that I think applies here:

The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

In this case the dogs have nipped at the camels’ heels and slowed them down, but the caravan will still move on.

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The Way of the Armadillo

Well, I’m going to try to get through an entire column without writing NELA’s dreaded C-word…you know, the one that rhymes with “armadillo.”

For those of you not from Texas, let me explain what an armadillo is: it’s a thick-skinned, dull-witted beast whose only recourse when confronted by uncertainty is to roll up into an inert ball and hope its plate-like hide will protect it from whatever it fears. Even when there’s nothing to fear.

Or when it fears the wrong thing. Here in NELA, the real predator is the Speeding Motorist, sinking its fangs into residents, visitors, and businesses alike. Hordes of theses bloodthirsty fiends have been prowling North Figueroa for years, leaving literal blood on the streets and scaring away the street life that York Boulevard has been enjoying since the road diet tamed the animals. Other streets in the region have also undergone their own renaissances, including Spring Street downtown, Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach, and Main in Santa Monica, all by simply slowing down speeders and making room for cyclists, walkers, and humanity in general.

Meanwhile, the numbers for North Fig are grim, as this graphic shows:

And that’s for just one year, 2009. The long-term trend is no better:

The astounding incident just last week, when a speeding SUV flipped nearly in front of the local council office, shows that the beasts will even eat themselves, if no other prey is available.

So it seems to me that our armadillo is truly afraid of the wrong things. In “protecting” us from road diets, he’s insisting we all follow the way of fear itself when confronted with something new and better, and just curl up with our heads up our behinds, hoping no one will bite.

Those of you who are from Texas know better, though. The tarmac there is paved with flattened armadillos, who were protecting themselves the wrong way, against the wrong threat. We’ll all be roadkill, if we follow suit.

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