Zero to Vision Zero in…Oh, Who Knows?

While Los Angeles recently deployed the usual pomp and fanfare to annouce a commitment to “Vision Zero,” that is to say, zero traffic deaths within the city’s limits by the year 2025, there are many of us who question whether there is any real intent to make it happen.

After all, the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan has been so nibbled away by the sharks of self-interest that you could be forgiven for thinking that Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” about it.

And “Great Streets” has, in implementation so far, revealed itself as a collection of set pieces, token guests tucked away at the table by the kitchen to prove our administration’s great liberality….

Still (to return to our existentialist metaphor), we’ll push the damned rock up that hill et again and see what happens as we near the top. If we can muster the numbers to make this a truly collective battle—a battle, rather than a skirmish—maybe we can make Official Los Angeles hold to its promises.

So, I’m going to ask you to attend a meeting, or a whole heap of meetings. The City has arranged ten meetings, scattered all over town, at which it will present figures, explain its intentions, and ask for “input.” That last part means you can speak up. Be there and mouth off, damn it!

The meetings will take place at area libraries, which you’ll see in the list below. You’re requested to RSVP here. The meetings are on different days, but all begin at 5:30pm. Show up and speak up, but be chill about it. leave the rants to the Teabaggers. Let them know you’re tired of blood in the streets, and that the dizzy sense of entitlement of leadfooted motor addicts howl so loudly to preserve shouldn’t trump our physical survival and neighborhood health.

Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
DateBranch Library NameAddress
7/18West Valley Regional Library19036 Vanowen Street Reseda, CA 91335
7/20Pico Union1030 S. Alvarado Street Los Angeles, CA 90006
7/21Alma Reeves10205 Compton Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90002
7/25Frances Howard Goldwyn1623 N. Ivar Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90028
7/26Echo Park1410 W. Temple Street Los Angeles, CA 90026
7/27Panorama City14345 Roscoe Boulevard Panorama City, CA 91402
7/28John Muir1005 W. 64th Street Los Angeles, CA 90044
8/1Jefferson Vassie Wright2211 W. Jefferson Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90018
8/2Palms Rancho Park2920 Overland Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90064
8/3San Pedro931 S. Gaffey Street San Pedro, CA 90731

Here we go again!

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Burning Man Bike Sale July 9 to August 27, 2016

Playa bikes! The best way to get around. Image by Flickr user JahFae.

Playa bikes! The best way to get around. Image by Flickr user JahFae.

Looking for a Burning Man bike before you make the long drive out to the playa?

Look no further than Flying Pigeon LA – where we are selling a fleet of single speed beach cruisers for $150 apiece. Unlike big box retailer bikes, we assemble ours with care, and the bikes themselves have a better set of components than most crummy big box bikes.

What is available at the moment:

These bikes are single speed, comfortable, and cheap enough that you “won’t care if it gets traded away for a massage or left behind”. If you do bring yours back, it is worth it to have a playa bike kicking it in the backyard for when friends come over and you all want to roll out together. A little vinegar/water rinse down after you get back and it should hold up reasonably well.

UPGRAYEDD!

Ain’t that a beautiful thing? A beach cruiser with a Wald 137 basket.

Add a Wald 137 steel basket ($20) w. free installation.

MonkeyLectric Wheel Lights are amazing.

MonkeyLectric Wheel Lights are amazing.

Add MonkeyLectric Lights to one wheel ($25) or both wheels ($50) w. free installation.

Add a bike lock (we’ve got lots to choose from starting at $20 for cheap cable locks).

Any questions? First come, first serve, while supplies last (we have 9 bikes, 10 lights, 20 baskets, and lotsa locks).  info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on July 7, 2016

Hey everyone, it’s time for another Flying Pigeon LA bike shop inventory video!

This was shot on July 7, 2016 to show you a sampling of what we’ve got for sale at the moment.

This time there is even a surprise refurbished 56cm Nishiki we’ve gone over from top to bottom.

There are also a bunch of Firmstrong beach cruisers we’re trying to blow out to clear room in our storage area (for bakfiets, which will be arriving in August).

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Lost and Found: How to Get Your Stolen Bike Back

A few weeks ago, while I was working late in my shop, someone walking by the shop saw my bakfiets cargo bike parked out front and decided to steal it.

The bike was locked to itself using a rear wheel lock – so this enterprising crook had to pick up the 70lbs beast and haul it away on one wheel.

I was so absorbed in my work at the time I ignored the bumping and rattling taking place in front of the shop (my neighbors did too!) only to emerge at 9:30 p.m. and see that my cargo bike was missing.

My First Reaction

My first reaction after I saw my bike was gone was to go on the hunt. I got on another bike, rode around the neighborhood, down into the local freeway on-ramps, bridge overpasses, and camping spots to look for local junkies trying to strip my bike for parts. A Park Tool pedal wrench and a ton of adrenaline were my only weapons.

It was pointless: all the camps I saw from days before had moved on. I didn’t see a soul. Well, I did meet one person: a young man, also on the hunt for his own stolen bike (!). It was a white fixed gear bike, he said. I promised to keep an eye out; I returned to my shop at 10:30 p.m. deeply panicked. A phone call and text message chain later with a couple of friends helped me develop an action plan to get my bike back. I recalled a similar incident with a stolen cargo bike in Venice – my friend Layne Kagay, owner of CETMA Cargo, had one of his hand made cargo bikes stolen. Layne went bananas online, and in person, and has a considerable social network – and after a few days, the thief felt the heat and had a third party return the cargo bike.

The Good News

The good news: I got my bike back the very next day! Why was I able to get it back?

  • First, I had several (many, actually) images of me and the bike.
  • Second, my bike is very, very, unique in my community and I ride it absolutely everywhere – people identify me by my unique bicycle.
  • Third, I own a small business and I’ve run hundreds and hundreds of free community events, rides, meetings, and rallies over the past 10 years. My social network, and social media network, is sizeable and a lot of the people who know and follow me online live very close by.
  • Fourth, I registered the bike online years ago with a detailed description, serial number, and photos on Bike Index and I used this to file a police report the day after the bike was stolen.
  • Last, but not least, I hit the search for my bike *hard* and with every ounce of energy I could muster and would not stop spreading the word until something happened. Online on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook the image I made was retweeted, and re-posted far and wide (from my kids school PTA; to my friends from high school I haven’t seen in years; a national professional bike mechanics association; to many local newsgroups and forums). In person, I got an old busted color printer working and printed a bunch of color images up; slept on the floor of my shop; woke up at the crack of dawn and posted the flyers all over the immediate neighborhood.

Every wino, truck driver, house wife, school kid, friend, acquaintance, OG, hoodlum, abuelita, and random passerby quickly found out that “that bike guy” was looking for his (my) stolen bike.

As with Layne Kagay’s cargo bike, and so many other bikes, the theft was not done by an elite team of bike thieves from a spy thriller. The theft of my bike was a crime of opportunity and was done by a local person stealing from a neighbor – a very common scenario.

The Reunion
The morning after: after filing a police report, heading back from breakfast, I got a phone call from a local guy who says, “Hey man, I know where your bike is at. Meet me at your shop.”

The local guy had gotten a call from some friends late last night, “Hey fool, we got this crazy bike over here. It’s real long like a wheel barrow. XXXXXX stumbled home with it drunk after that party at XXXXXX’s house. Fifty bucks.”

“Dog, I knew it was your bike. Then I saw it blowing up on Instagram and I seen you with your kid on it all the time. So, I can help you get it back.”

“Cool man.” I ran to the cash register, pulled out $100 and slapped it in his hand. “Take me to my bike. I just want my bike.”

A half-mile away, across the Metro tracks, we rolled up to a faded green Craftsman house. The sound of the 110 freeway, the smell of dog poop warming up in the morning sun and dew on the bushes and packed dirt.

“I’ll be right back,” said the local guy.

And back he came: holding the rear end aloft, stumbling down the driveway.

“Hey, so, how do you drive this thing anyway?”

I popped the key in the rear wheel lock and took a quick look at the bike. I got my baby back. 18 hours of hell, but I got my bakfiets back.

I bought the local guy a BMX bike from one of my wholesale connections. He’d never had a new bike before in his adult life, he said, and his fixie had just been stolen a few days before.

My wife and a good friend had followed my Twitter trail and one of them snapped a photo. It’s silly. I look like a goof ball, but that is not me play-acting. I can’t afford another bakfiets, and this machine means more to me than literally every other possession I own. It is how I live my life, how I stay fit, and happy – and I got it back!

“So, you found it?”

“Hey, I heard you found your bike! Awesome!”

“How did you get it back?”

<<¿Le encuentro?>>

Since getting my bike back, the wave of news about its theft has traveled into the phones, computer screens, and minds of thousands of local people. Friends have gotten in touch with me that I’d lost contact with. Strangers who’ve seen me ride by for years have stopped to chat and share their stolen bike story and listen to mine.

A week later, an LAPD cruiser passed by a restaurant I was having lunch in – and stopped to check the bike out! They had an APB in their car about my stolen (and returned!) bike. Word had gotten out. I thanked the officers profusely, showed them evidence I was the owner (their console had my Instagram image on it!), and even filled out a commendation form and mailed it in on their behalf.

I lost a lot of sleep, a month or two off my life due to stress, but I found out the key to getting your bike back isn’t about just registering it and filing a police report: it’s about fighting against the despair of loss; and having a social network that can come through for you the way you have for others.

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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!”

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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 secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/joe4cd1 and spill a few bucks for the future.

If it’s time you have more of, go to joe4cd1.com 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’.

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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 joe4cd1.com/contact/.

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.

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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.

info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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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.

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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 joe4cd1.com and send in your name. (You might put a specialty in after your first name if you want.)

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

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  • Flying Pigeon Logo
    Flying Pigeon LA
    3404 N. Figueroa St.
    Los Angeles, CA 90065
    213-909-8986
    info@flyingpigeon-la.com
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