Back to the Future

Last night I sat through a four and a half hour meeting of the Mid-City West Community Council. Sitting for an hour, let alone four, is not my preference, but a few months ago, friends and neighbors urged me to run for the Council’s board, and I finally acceded to their wishes. I indulged in exactly two (2) hours of campaigning, but, much to my dismay, I won anyhow. So there I was, along with thirty-four other board members, and a roomful of contentious neighbors.

Contentious because of, among other things, a proposal to implement a road diet along that deadly part of Sixth Street that runs through the Miracle Mile. Crashes, caused by speeding, swerving cars, are a weekly occurence there; injuries are frequent, and there have been deaths. Neighbors just trying to get home or to the store or the park. A woman was killed standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, her body broken by cars spinning away from yet another collision….

Everyone agrees that cars must be tamed along Sixth, but not everyone agrees on the means. Many people’s immediate reaction to a road diet is to assert that reducing the number of through lanes will “of course” increase congestion. This is not, in fact, true, as dozens, perhaps hundreds, of real-world observations have revealed. But in this sad time of “truthiness,” flat-earth theories are given respect that other hypotheses have had to work for. The evening was long.

But many people, on and off the board, spoke at length about both the mechanics and the benefits of road diets, and in the end…the motion passed!

The board will now send its recommendation to the LADOT and the local council member, David Ryu. Whether he will continue his predecessor LaBonge’s suppression of the road diet remains to be seen.

Yes, continue it: because this is not a new road diet. It was first proposed years ago. LADOT’s analysis and most of its design work have been done. In fact, just about everything has been done except actually doing it. Meanwhile, cars crash, neighbors die, and people at a recent town hall said they’re afraid even to walk along Sixth on the sidewalks!

Maybe, just maybe, Ryu can show some spine and support what will, despite overwhelming local support, be a contentious project. If he caves to the naysayers, in the time-honored way of LA council members, well…the gutters will continue to run with blood in the Miracle Mile.

As one of the other board members put it, “This is a moral issue. People are dying while we argue.”


Spreading the Word

You may know Nick Richert as the producer of the “Bike Talk” podcast, featured on both KPFK And Killradio, but, besides being a regular rider and fervent bike advocate, he is dedicated to literacy. Though himself a man of few words (at least when he’s away from the microphone), he knows and respects the strength in words to spread both information and enlightenment.

Reading is empowerment; it connects you directly to the thoughts of others throughout time and space, in their own words, and your own skill with words lets you judge them without having to depend on someone else to tell you what to think. Dictators throughout history have sought to control access to literature and critical writing. Caesar’s army burned the library at Alexandria in 48BC; Hitler burned books in the last century before he started burning humans; and today, Texas fundamentalists are trying to restrict the range of books allowed to students, lest they pick up habits of critical thinking.

So Nick combines his two passions with the sporadic but relentless Street Libraries Ride, wherein a small group of cyclists pedals from one Little Free Library to another through Silver Lake and East Hollywood, stocking them with books culled from bookstores, public libraries, and their own shelves at home.

“Little Free Libraries,” for those that don’t know, are tiny structures set in front of stores, schools, apartments, and homes, and stuffed with books for neighbors to take. “Take a book, leave a book,” is the motto. There’s one in front of Flying Pigeon LA, which is where Nick usually starts his ride.

I joined the Nick and Jennifer Gill at Stories Books and Café in Echo Park, and Joni Young caught up with us a couple of miles later. We stocked libraries by the Micheltorena School, the Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction, and the LA EcoVillage. The EcoVillage, an “intentional community,” is, in fact, the birthplace of the Bicycle Kitchen, the home of Joe Linton and a couple of dozen other great folks, and the site of all manner of community events, as well as planning sessions for guerilla urbanism. It’s worth checking out.

And it’s worth joining us on a Street Libraries ride! Contact Nick via Bike Talk to get on his mailing list.


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News of the World

Just a few snippets to remind you that Los Angeles really needs your help if it’s going to catch up to the rest of the country and rationalize its transportation system. We desperately need to make it healthier, safer, and more supportive of community…as the following cities have been doing.

In San Francisco, that rich and ultra-liberal ville to our north, a SOMA intersection will be rebuilt to protect walkers and cyclists.

In Pasadena, that stuffy old-money city to the northwest, protected bike lanes are going in on Union Street.

Toronto, in Canada’s Midwest, has hired a data analysis firm to suss out the Bloor Street pilot projecttby looking at what actually happens on the ground, rather than doing a Koretz-style cave to NIMBY’s and refusing even a study….

Across the continent, New York dares to be honest with itself and accept that bike lanes and road diets not only boost safety; they lift up businesses and even smooth motor traffic flow enough that transit times for drivers decrease along with deadly speeding!

East of the Rockies, Denver opens a two-way protected bike lane smack in the middle of downtown for a good long trial run.

LA, not so much. Brave talk, lots of grip-and-grin photo ops, but the roads are still clogged with cars, and few options are made available to let people leave te cage behind.

What can you do ?

  • Go to the meetings announced here and on every other bicycling blog in LA. Let politicians and neighbors know that you support transportation diversity, local community, and local businesses.
  • Take over your own neighborhood council! Elections are usually every two years, and the NCs are a channel you can use to send ideas to your local council member, and to talk with your neighbors about how complete streets would benefit them.
  • Support progressive politicians such as Joe Bray-Ali, owner of Flying Pigeon LA, who is running to replace Gil Cedillo, the man who keeps NELA’s streets running deep with blood.

If you just sit back and moan, you’re helping the NIMBYs win. The future is yours…if you’ll make it.

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Brave New Runaround

Last Sunday i was heading down Venice Boulevard towards Santa Monica when I spotted a teensy little sign indicating that the Expo Line Bike Path ran thataway—diagonally away from Venice along the Expo Line tracks, and pretty much a more direct route to my destination.

Or so it seemed. It started off pretty nice—much of the path indeed looks like the later segment pictured above, with wide lanes, sweeping curves, and usually a walking lane as well.

The trouble is that, as in so much Los Angeles area bicycle infrastructure, the whole thing is rather fragmented. In fact, you might occasionally call it demented. Much of it makes no sense.

For example, the bike path keeps crossing from one side of the Expo Line right of way to the other. You’re pedaling along, happy and free, secure in your brightly-striped domain, when suddenly you come to a cross street, and…the path ends. You glance around, and finally spot a wee white sign with a little arrow pointing left or right. You cross the street and wobble along the sidewalk under the tracks and resume your ride. A mile or so later this happens again. And again. And Again.

Then, at one point, a slightly different sign, with the arrow angled, attempts to inform you that the path has suddenly been dumped onto the adjacent street. It doesn’t do a very good job of it, and so you come upon a barricade of steel pipes beyond which is an inexplicable forty feet of dirt, followed by a sidewalk.

You ride off the curb and into a painted bike lane—no buffer here—and proceed along the tightly-curved side street. The motorists, tempted by the curve into pretending they’re race car drivers, cut deep into the bike lane as they floor it round the turn. There’s no reason to do so; it’s a residential street with a stop sign almost immediately beyond said turn. Quite unpleasant.

Then there’s Cheviot Hills. Oh, the burghers of Cheviot Hills! How they railed against the train itself, and all the eager burglars it would bring! And how much more they hated the bike path—because you know that “those people” love to saddle up a bike when they ks the old lady and head out in the morning to rob, rape, and kill! Also, there were difficulties in fitting a bike path into the deep cut the train would run along. So the bike path detours far out of the way and takes you (if you don’t miss the tiny signs) right through the residential neighborhoods that so feared the influx of bike riders. Brilliant.

But they don’t get too many outside of the spandex set, because the bikeway is routed up and down several quite steep hills.

Part of this may be because, if I may judge from correspondence I’ve viewed, the Exposition Construction Authority didn’t actually want to build a bike path, and had to be badgered into doing so.

At any rate, it’s the same kind of lackadaisical, fragmented bicycle facility we’ve been getting here for decades. Parts of it are truly fine, but as a whole, as a transportation corridor, it doesn’t really work. I hope it does do a little something for local access to the Expo Line, but I gotta tell you, on a bright warm Sunday afternoon, it was nearly deserted.

I deserted it myself, at Gateway, where I picked up the faded old onstreet bike lane that took me into Santa Monica via Ocean Park. That’s when the going got good.


Walking the Vote

Do you support Joe for CD1? Do you believe in “Safe Streets, Strong Neighborhoods”? Do you want to see “Development without Displacement,” increasing housing stock for current residents of the district’s varied neighborhoods as well as newcomers? Do you want to see more local businesses thriving and spending their profits right back in the ‘hood, instead of sending them off to heedless shareholders, as chainstores do?

Then Joe is your choice—but he’s fighting an uphill battle. King Cedillo sits on his mountain of gentrifier cash and laughs at the peasants milling below with their pitchforks and torches. But the vote is a mightier weapon than any pitchfork…when people bother to use it.

It’s not enough to complain about the process: you need to control it to make change! And the control lever hinges on the vote.

If you want humanistic progressivism to win, you’ve got to get out and walk. You have to knock on every door in the district, talk to folks who might not like you, might not trust you, might just shut the door in your face. Cedillo barely squeaked into office last time, and that only because of a deal with third-ranked candidate Rosas (who seems now to regret it), but: he still got in. It’s a numbers game. Your job, if you’re serious about the place where you live or work (or live and work, as many do), is to get Joe’s message out to as many regular folks as possible.

Facebook posts won’t do it—your BFFs pressing the “Like” button under a repost of a news story won’t elect anyone. Twitter won’t do it, despite its undeniable facility for spreading mindless outrage and indignation. Blog posts like this one won’t do it, unless they get to you lace up your kicks and start walking with Joe. If you do one thing today to make your neighborhood great again, it will be to click on over to and volunteeer!

We need people to walk Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, Echo Park, Pico-Union, Filipinotown, and parts of Downtown. If you’ve got strong legs, linguistic skills, and a genuine smile, as well as patience and kindness, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, sling a few bucks Joe’s way. If you can’t do either of those, at least repost this blurb on social media and hope for the best.

The world around you depends on…you. The election is in March. It’s a numbers game. And Joe is counting on you to help him win it.

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Beyond Borders

Joe Bray-Ali’s campaign to replace CD 1’s obstructionist showboater Gil Cedillo would resonate far beyond the district’s gerrymandered borders, and affect far more than a few bike lanes here and there.

The local effect would be huge, of course: those who know Joe know that he’s far more than “the bike guy.” He supports bike lanes, yes, not just because he’s an “avid cyclist,” a characterization the not-so-liberal media loves because its reductionism trivializes anyone it’s applied ot as some sort of addled hobbyist. He supports bike lanes because bicycle travel cleans the air, clears the streets of congestion, improves public health, boosts the receipts of local businesses, and provides travel options that don’t force people to spend their time and money on cars when they may not have much to spare of either.

Support for bike lanes is just one aspect of Joe’s commitment to stronger, healthier neighbors, neighborhoods, and neighborhood businesses. Joe believes in development without displacement, and knows that a mechanical regulatory obsession with lanes and parking makes it nearly impossible to build affordable housing that is in scale with traditional neighborhood architecture. Emphasizing transit, bicycling, and walking results in more, and more-affordable, housing in a city where, despite its image as Ground Zero of Carmageddon, half of all journeys are less that five miles long. More affordable housing and more thriving local businesses together mean fewer people living on the streets. More active transport means healthier children and old folks and lower medical expenses. Slower traffic means better quality of life, less blood on the streets, and busier sidewalk storefronts. Bike lanes are just one technique among many that bring about the benefits of a progressive civic agenda. It’s just that bike lanes can be waved about to scare the unimaginative reactionaries who can’t see through their own windshields to the world beyond and keep them voting for the Dr. Do-nothing who’s currently in the council misrepresenting CD1.

Joe would change all that, and not just in the district: once elected, Joe would help tip the balance of the entire city council towards the more-progressive, more neighborly mindset that LA needs if it’s going to live up to its image as a vibrant, creative city. We need people like Joe in City Hall, because the avid motorists who pack it now have shown themselves incapable of freeing the city from both its literal and its mental gridlocks.

Even if you don’t live in CD1, even if you never visit there, Joe will be fighting for your life. Avidly!

To learn more, and to help thorugh donation, word, or deed, go to:


Tune-Up Time

Maybe you ride to work. Maybe you ride on weekends. Maybe you ride to the bar, or the store, or the coffeehouse, the library, the club. Maybe you ride to All of the Above. You put on the miles, and your bike keeps rolling faithfully over LA’s Thirdworld asphalt, taking care of you while you take care of business.

But you know: it’s just a machine, no matter how soulful it may feel. It needs maintenance. Tire treads grow thin, cables stretch, brake pads wear, bolts shake loose. Soon enough it’s time for a summer tune-up. Bring it in to the Pigeon, and go home with one of the only bikes brought into perfect harmony by the man who could do the same to Council District 1.

Yes, indeed: while “Roadkill Gil” Cedillo does everything he can to make riding a bike harder in the ‘hood—not ot mention walking, raising a kid, or running a small business—Joe Bray-Ali is not just repairing your ride but preparing to repair your whole neighborhood! The pittance you sling his way for a smooth-running velo will go to the campaign, which he’s financing with small donations from everyday people, plus his own sweat and gelt. And your riding will be so much happier once he’s done his magic on your wheels.

Doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’ve got, Joe can handle it. Internal gearing? No problem! Wheels shot to hell? They’ll be heavenly when he’s done! Neighborhood deadly, dull, and poor? Wait till Joe gets into the Council chambers to shakeup and wake up the city’s administration! No more malign neglect for NELA, Westlake, Chinatown., Downtown, Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown, or the rest of long-suffering CD1.

Roll on in. Summer is hot, the days are long, the events are many, and you’re putting in the miles. It’s time for your mid-summer tune-up.

And if your bike’s already in tip-top shape, maybe a modest donation to the campaign is in order. Go to the freshly-refurbed website and browse around. You’ll see what Joe means to make of the mess Cedillo’s leaving him. You can drop a few bucks to the cause right from here.

Keep it rollin’….

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Take Over Your Neighborhood

It’s time to take over your neighborhood…by electing someone who actually gives a damn about the communities of Council District 1. If you live in Pico-Union, Westlake, Historic Filipinotown, Echo Park, Downtown, Chinatown, Elysian Heights, Mt. Washington, Montecito Heights, Lincoln Park, or Silverlake, chances are pretty good that you are in CD1. And chances are even better that you’re feeling some of the malign neglect that the District’s current council member, Gil Cedillo, lavishes on your home. Under Cedillo, safe streets are still a dream obscured by blood, and streets-as-speedways also ensure that traffic zooms right past local businesses on its way to a mall somewhere else. Meanwhile, creeping gentrification has vulture capitalists slouching over shabby alleys waiting for the community to die away, so they can buy off the landlords and pack the back streets with yuppie playpens.

Who you gonna call?

Josef Bray-Ali, that’s who. Former community developer, current activist, small-business owner, a longtime local resident experienced in municipal politics and with a development-without-displacement philosophy, he believes in his neighbors, and has fought for a healthy, safe, and prosperous CD1 for years on end.

And he’s making it easy for you to help: the new website is up, so you can find out about Joe’s past, learn his plans for our common future, and join in the present-day work of making it happen.

The campaign needs volunteers, so who’s Joe gonna call? That’s right: you!

Walk a precinct, hold down a phone bank, make presentations to your neighbors, donate money, and get your friends to pitch in too.

Do you speak Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarain, Cantonese, Korean? Help Joe get the word out.

Are you young and feeling left out of the city’s prosperity in LA’s poorest district? Joe’s young enough to remember how that feels, and has never stopped empowering youth wih his cooperative programs. Help him take it to the next level!

Are you retired, with time on your hands and worries about the future weighing heavy on your heart? Design your own future with Joe!

The City Council is the real political power in LA. Help elect Joe, and you’ll have one of your own in charge.

Here’s the link; the rest is up to you:

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Bikeshare Begins in LA!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in anticipation of LA County’s Metro Bike Share opening (plain beige moniker and all) in downtown. This will be the only bikeshare system in the City of Los Angeles, and it will be technically incompatible with the municipal bikeshsare systems that will operate (or are operating) around and within it in Santa Monica, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and UCLA. Those five systems are interoperable: you can pick up a bike at one city’s dock, and drop it off at another. There will even be Santa Monica and West Hollywood bikeshare docks in LA itself, in Venice, near the Farmers Market, and at a few other spots. Having docks at destinations is doubly important, because the clock stops once you dock the bike, while keeping it too long, even if it is just leaned against your café table, can incur a fee. So interoperabilty makes a certain amount of sense. Even “Smartbike” systems, where all the electronics are on the bike itself, usually require that it be parked within a certain distance of a compatible dock.

Metro, dominated by the City of LA, went its own separate way, but the system is up and running, it does use TAP cards (a big plus), and people have signed up. I’ve seen folks pedaling the big green bikes around, and I’ve noticed regular changes in the disposition of bikes at the massive docking station at Second and Fig, which I pass by several times a week. So far, so good. There are docks at Union Station, Grand Central Market, the Central Library, and near most of the museums and Metro stops downtown, as well as a fair number scattered about the Arts and Fashion districts, the Cleantech Corridor along the river, and in Chinatown (but not on Broadway!). The two downtown libraries don’t have them, and could use them, but maybe they’ll come, Check out the map here.

Will this affect the many bike shops downtown, or in other parts of then county as bikeshare spreads? While some shops in current bikeshare cities claim to have lost business, the fact remains that bikeshare bikes are of limited utility: you can’t ride them for long, and if you could, you wouldn’t want to ride them far, except as a stunt (as has been done). In the long run they will probably habituate more people to think of bicycling for transport, and many of these will eventually buy a bike of their own. Since the long run has not had time to develop yet, we’ll have to wait and see. Many people (such as the notorious BikesnobNYC) use both shared bikes and their own private bikes, and I suspect that over time, bikeshare users will pick up bikes of their own for recreational or distance riding, once they get used to thinking of bikes at all. It’s a low-cost way to try out the World’s Most Efficient Machine.

So go to the Metro Bike Share website, sign up, and give it a try. And let us know what you think!


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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