Enough Said. Enough Dead.

William Matelyan, pedestrian, 84: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 26, 22 July 2014.

José Luna, cyclist, 33: North Figueroa Street and Pasadena Avenue, 26 June 2015.

Irma Yolanda Espinoza-Lugo, pedestrian, 51: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 55, 22 September 2015.

Andres Perez, pedestrian, 17: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 60, 15 December 2015.

Four names, four lives, four deaths. Four more human beings mown down by motor vehicles. Two of them—Mr. Luna and Ms. Espinosa-Lugo—killed in hit-and-run crashes. All of them killed by a defective street design.

North Figueroa Street is overdesigned, built according to principles that made speed the only priority, so that even neighborhood roads are built as if they were highways. It has long been known that such streets kill their users at a high rate; that they induce rather than relieve congestion; that they batter down businesses that live along them. It has long been known, and it is finally beginning to be acknowledged by our turgid civic bureaucracies, that there is a better way. And that one of the best methods available to remake a street so that it serve all users, so that it increase community and business activity, so that it prevent the slaughter of the innocents, is the road diet.

Even the Federal Highway Administration, not known for planning radicalism, acknowledges that road diets, are a “proven safety countermeasure.” The experiences of cities worldwide show that road diets have little if any serious effect on drivetime (and in fact often improve it noticeably), that they reduce crashes, that they boost community. That, especially if they include bike lanes, they improve the business climate.

Even LA’s backwards-looking DOT figured it out, as did the previous iteration of the City Council: so a road diet was approved (unanimously, after extensive community outreach), was designed, was funded. The street was known to be a killer. To quote the LA Times article that recounted Mr. Perez’s death:

A Los Angeles Times analysis identified Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street as a particularly problematic intersection for pedestrians, showing that 13 people were hit, two fatally, from 2002 through 2013. According to the analysis, the intersection ranked among the top 200 of more than 800 intersections identified in L.A. County as problematic.

The analysis also identified four other nearby streets that intersect with Figueroa—York Boulevard, Avenue 59, Avenue 55 and Avenue 41—covering roughly a mile in Highland Park. A total of 73 people were hit and four were killed at the five intersections from 2002 through 2013.

The street, it was agreed, had to be tamed.

Then…well, if you read this blog, you know what happened. Gil Cedillo squeaked into office in District 1 and cancelled it. And he refuses to say why.

Since then, Mr. Matelyan, Mr. Luna, Ms. Espinosa-Lugo, and Mr. Perez have been killed by this deficient street. The death rate has actually increased. And it did not have to be so. One man’s stubbornness has kept North Figueroa a deathtrap.

Mr. Cedillo, to repeat the question asked of the infamous Senator McCarthy in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

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Good News, Bad News

Good news for anyone who believes in the future of cities and humanity; bad news for the Neanderthals on the city council who grunt nostalgically for the bad old days of traffic jams, road rage, sprawl, and blood on the streets. (And anyone who believes that road rage is a new phenomenon need only watch the 1950s Disney cartoon, “Motor Mania.” Written at the height of the Car God Cult’s worldwide jihad.)

Yes, somehow Congress managed to vote on and actually pass a transportation bill, known as the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” acronymed down to, of course, the FAST Act. But it’s not so obsessed with speed as those among LA’s city council members who would kill any number of constituents as long as putting the pedal to the metal is still possible between pile-ups. As Next City reports, the act includes language “allowing local governments to use alternative road and street design manuals” (such as the NACTO guide) “in designing federally assisted construction and repair projects.” This amounts to official permission to build Complete Streets with Federal cash.

The FAST Act also contains support for transit, Amtrak, and transit-oriented development. Though the bill has flaws, spelled out in the latter half of the Next City article, overall it represents a genuine step towards healthier, wealthier cities.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports on How Cyclists Are Causing Cities Worldwide To Rethink Bike Safety. In an interview with Fredrik Gertten , director of the film “Bikes vs. Cars,”, HuffPost examines what Gertten learned during his explorations of urban cycling in Los Angeles, São Paulo, and Copenhagen, as well as other cities, As Gertten observes, “It’s not about left or right. It’s not even about having money or not having money. People make the choice: I don’t want to sit in the car. It’s boring, I lose my time, I get fat, I feel unhappy, I feel trapped. On a bike I feel free, I’m more flexible.

“About eight bikes equal a car in space. It’s amazing to see here now in San Francisco, with a traffic light, with 10, 15 bikes waiting for a green light. If that had been 15 cars, that would be a very long line.”

[…]

“If you can make that little equation in your brain, you will start to love bicycles, even if you will never go on a bike. Even if you will be in a car for the rest of your life.”

Let us hope we won’t be, and that soon we’ll live in an LA that makes more room for human culture than for motorized isolation chambers, in our public spaces.

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on December 5, 2015

Wandering around the shop filming what is in stock on Saturday, December 5, 2015.

Some interesting highlights: Ursus Jumbo 80 Double Arm kickstands; Green Guru upcycled bags, panniers, and backpacks; Brompton bikes; XDS bikes; Yuba Boda Boda; Babboe Curve; and some other stuff.

And that Flying Pigeon on the floor in parts beside the handlebars? Yes, I have been procrastinating getting that built for two weeks! Arg!

NELA Holiday Parade with Figueroa For All? Meet at Highland Park Recreation Center, wear green and white, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 6, 2015. We ride for great justice!

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Additive Neglect, Part Deux


I’ve written before about the City of LA’s fire-and-forget policy towards bike infrastructure, and how it throws down a stripe or two and then leaves them to fade away under the scrubbing of thousands of car tires—or ignores tree branches hanging so low over bikeways that riders are forced out into fast traffic.

It may have been as a result of that post that the branches I photographed on the York Boulevard bridge were recently trimmed…though my fervent hope is that the city remained innocently unaware of my rant and simply got around to doing what it should have done weeks earlier, trimming them out of regard for the facility’s users.

In case it’s the less desirable option—that they were responding to a public complaint— i will note another instance of such neglect, this time in the near Westside. You see it in the photo above—a barely-serviceable bike path alongside Jefferson Boulevard between National and Rodeo, overgrown with handsome but misplaced pampas grass that pushes cyclists out into high-speed traffic. The broken glass that litters the lane doesn’t help, and both those conditions should have been addressed long ago as part of a functioning civic administration.

This particular bit of road may belong to LA or to Culver City, or alternately to both—the online maps I could find were not granular enough to let me determine who owns which portion—but in any case, cities have a duty to maintain the ability to travel freely on public roads for all users, not just occupants of motor vehicles, and the malign neglect to which they subject cyclists reveals what our public so-called servants really think of us—if they remember us at all.

Add to that the engineered-to-kill unmarked mixing zones where many bike paths veer across right turn lanes with not even a hint of a marking or sign—see my article on Conflict Zones—and you could be forgiven for thinking that city administrations are acting as collective hit men for a public raging to clear the roads of anything but cars, cars, cars.

Mayors and councils make grand plans left and right, whisper sweet nothings into the future’s ear, but in the end, they’re in bed with the car-addled past they can’t let go of. If there really were an “all-powerful bike lobby,” our bodies, our neighborhoods, and our economies would be much healthier. But we can’t seem to distract our “leaders'” from the chrome tramp that’s got them by the lugnuts….

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Parking Madness


Sample Photo NOT taken on Black Friday

One of the old standbys of the Car Cult zealots is the cry that we can’t put in bike lanes, or wider sidewalks, or Complete streets treatments, if they will remove so much as a single curbside parking spot for cars. Likewise, calls for denser development, especially if accompanied by reduced parking requirements, inspire the usual bug-eyed rage and teeth-baring barks of, “Where will all the cars park?”

Yet, it happens that most parts of most cities have far too much parking, and that parking helps create traffic congestion (through induced demand, especially when it’s offered at below-market pricing, or even free). It also hurts development, making it too expensive for locally-owned businesses to establish themselves and enhance the health, wealth, and happiness of our communities—something corporate malls and bigbox stores simply cannot do (and don’t even want to).

The Pigeon’s own Josef Bray-Ali wrote an important article on this very matter a few years ago, which was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Alas, there it reside behind a paywall; but it’s been excerpted in another article posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council here

The NIMBYs, of course, want nothing more than fully-subsidized parking everywhere they might want to go—rather the attitude a three-year-old holds towards candy. The rest of us are to pay for the sequestration of that land from more productive use, as well as the costs—financial, social, environmental, and medical—that the resulting sprawl imposes on us all.

In regards to commercial establishments, the cry for more parking! is particularly focused: Black Friday—the day after tomorrow, counting from our publication date—is the day when all the parking lots and structures in America fill to overflowing with cars, “proving” that we need those gigantic asphalt wastelands to be reserved from any other use the other 364 days of the year.

The problem with that rationale is that is is so rarely true: most parking lots and structures, even at the most gargantuan of consumerist swamps, America’s declining malls, simply…don’t fill up.

And so, in response to the untested assumption underlying the NIMBY’s Black Friday battle cry, Strong Towns has for several years organized the Black Friday Parking event.

This is what you do to join in:

1) On Black Friday, go to a mall at peak shopping hour.

2) Wander the parking lot, smartphone or camera in hand.

3) When you see swathes of empty parking space—and odds are that you will—snap a picture.

4) Post said picture ot social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking and (preferably) location info.

That’s all it takes. A little dose of reality to help take the edge off the great American delusion about cars and parking.

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We’ll Always Have Paris

The recent attacks by Daesh in Paris were horrifying, but…Paris has seen worse than this. The City of Light was occupied by the Third Reich during World War Two, and survived both the Nazis and the Collaborationists. When I lived all-too-briefly in Paris in 1982, it was undergoing a wave of bombings, shootings, and stabbings related to the conflict between Israel and the various Palestinian factions. It was the first time I saw ordinary cops standing on streetcorners holding submachine guns.

Paris survived, as it survived the Reign of Terror that followed France’s own revolution back in 1789. In that case, the terrorists were all native French.

Paris survived, and it is still the beating heart of enlightened liberalism. As long as it doesn’t let Daesh push it towards becoming a police state, we’ll always have Paris.

But let us not forget that cities all over the Middle East experience similar horrors every week. Unless we stand in solidarity with them as well, there will be no peace.
As others have noted, it is Daesh that the refugees flooding Europe’s borders are running from. Those people are our natural allies. They are not religious zealots; they are liberal Muslims who want to live in a liberal society, a society where people have choices. Daesh is a faction of hierarchical conservatism, often but not always associated with religious fundamentalism. (Mao and Stalin also practiced it.)

What do bikes have to do with all this?

Simply this: the movement to accommodate bicyclists, walkers, and transit users on our streets in an inherently liberal movement. Human-scale development—Complete Streets, Vision Zero, et al— supports personal diversity, small local businesses over corporate chains, and individualized development of neighborhoods. Automobile-centric planning requires standardization of street types, and a homogeneity that supports the economies of scale that corporations depend on.

In the United States, at least, the (hardly) “all-powerful bike lobby” stands for a human-oriented pattern of neighborhood development; the opposition, with its hate-filled rants, represents hierarchical conservatism that is not yet brave enough to resort to overt violence. But don’t the threats of violence towards cyclists, shouted from behind the veils of Facebook, sound much like the actualized promises of terror groups such as Daesh? Isn’t what the NIMBY’s preach nothing but intolerance, the exhortation that we should all be just like them? Or be crushed under their wheels? This is the baby version of “convert or die.”

We are not stopping bullets here on the streets of Los Angeles. (Well, not often.) But we are trying to stop the kind of public behavior that could very well eventually lead to bullets: the kind of minor terrorism that claims a right to run us down if we’re “in the way”—infidels that we are. Stopping that can be our best statement of solidarity with Paris and Beirut: to uphold the liberalism that allows for each to live freely in harmony with her neighbors. In harmony—not in unison.

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Join Fig4All in the 71st NELA Holiday Parade on Sunday, December 6, 2015

The 71st Highland Park Holiday Parade is taking place on Sunday, December 6, 2015 and you, yes you, are invited to join the Figueroa For All crew in their parade entry this year!

Join a very special Figueroa For All crew of bicycles, scooters, walkers, strollers, pedicab riders, tall bikes, freak bikes, cargo bikes, heelies, and wild stallions as we celebrate our favorite places to walk, bike, skate, scoot, and play in Highland Park.

When: Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 10 a.m.
Where to meet: 5608 Monte Vista St., Los Angeles, CA 90042 (look for Fig4all signs)
What to wear: green, white, and all that sparkles
What we’re doing: rolling and walking in a big group with decorations showing our favorite places in Highland Park

The parade officially starts at 1 p.m. and we will likely be in the last half of the parade. We’re bringing our kids, you can bring yours too. It will be a fun morning/afternoon of playing, decorating, and hanging out with neighbors and friends.

Facebook Event for the Fig4all entry in the 71st Highland Park Holiday Parade on Sunday December 6, 2015.

Want to get a jump on bike decorating? Pre-Parade Decorating and Poster Making Party on Saturday, December 5, 2015 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 5608 Monte Vista St. 90042. Decorating materials will be available. Bring your creativity and any extra materials.

Facebook Event for the pre-parade decorating party on the Saturday before the parade.

Any questions? Email info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Common Sense Creeping Up on LA

Looks like they’ve got us surrounded, pardner…them pesky Complete Streets are creeping right up to the border of town!

First it was Long Beach, and then Temple City, putting in those outlandish Protected Bike Lanes.

But now they’re hitting closer to home: Santa Monica just opened its first protected bikeway—and they’re threatening that it won’t be their last!

This is a short one, serving just one block of Pico Boulevard, but it helps nanny-state students through a risky stretch between the high school and Main Street—and it also connects a number of significant bikeways already in place: the Main Street bike lanes themselves, the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (aka “MANGo”), and the beachside bike path.

If this kind of dangerous thinking doesn’t stop soon, there’ll be even more happy, healthy people enjoying the streets and spending money in all those local shops and eateries.

What were they thinking?

And they’ll stop at nothing: like I said, another protected bikeway is planned, in this case to connect the coming light rail station to the Pier, the bike lanes and walking paths along Ocean, and the green bike lanes on Broadway.

With all the physical ,social, and economic vitality these so-called “human-speed networks” will provide, Santa Monica ‘ll start to make us look bad up here in LA.

Don’t know what we can do about it…some weirdos have suggested copying Santa Monica’s devious little plan, but that’s just crazy talk…ain’t it?

So I guess we’ll just whine about traffic some more. That’ll show ’em.

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on November 5, 2015


Some neat stuff to show off this week: Yuba Bicycles Cro-Moly Mundo and a Boda Boda; baby-sized helmets from Nutcase; Brompton folding bikes.

Not sure if we’ve introduced Rosie the shop dog yet, but she’s in this video.

Oh yeah, I found a box of clothes in our warehouse and we’re selling it at huge discounts. I made a static web-page if you want to see what we’ve got:
http://flyingpigeon-la.com/salerack/

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Exceptionalism

If you want to be both encouraged and dismayed, here’s a hot-off-the-(virtual)-presses article for you to read:

Oslo invests 0,5 Bn USD on bicycle infrastructure

That’s right: according to this article posted by Spacescape, the consulting firm hired to guide the process, Oslo will invest half a billion dollars in its bike network by 2025.

The goal is to boost cycling from the current 8% mode share, to 16%. Quotes Spacescape: “Oslo’s ambition is to act as a role model, and a driving force, in bicycle planning, as it sees cycling as a key issue within future urban development. The strategy highlights a number of measures that aim to be achieved, and many of these, are based on an increase in the cycling rate; an objective for all municipal departments, not just those working in traffic. The measures are therefore very diverse, from the bike playgrounds, signage and bicycle parking in the right locations, to planning issues like new and developed bike routes that follow the municipality’s future expansion plans. The bicycle network is proposed to increase from 180 km to 510 km.”

And it doesn’t stop there. There’s another billion in investment lined up for after 2025. For a city of around 600,000.

This is, note, Oslo. In Norway. Where, you know, it rains and snows. Where immigrants, mostly from “developing” (ie, poor) countries, have been thronging in.

Norway, as it happens, also made Forbes’s list of the top ten “Best Countries for Business.”

I suppose you’re curious about who is Number One. Well, it ain’t the land of oversized burgers and loudmouthed exceptionalism—no, it’s bike-mad Denmark. The US shuffles in at Number Eighteen…four slots below Slovenia.

In fact, as Tech Insider notes, Oslo plans to make its city center car-free by 2019 . Tech Insider quotes Green Party negotiator Lan Marie Nguyen Berg: “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone.”

That’s the encouraging part.

The dismaying part? It ain’t happening here in Glamourous Los Angeles. Despite some modest efforts—more like reluctant concessions—LA still sees streets as storm drains for speeding metal. Safety be damned, along with communities, local businesses, and of course cyclists and walkers. Fresh blood stains our roadways weekly, while neighborhood commerce struggles, all so the callous and impatient can floor it through our daily lives.

So much for “exceptionalism.” Though as the rest of world moves towards streets for people, not privilege, we’ll truly be exceptional all too soon.

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