Two Wheeled Subsidy Dumpster

I once rented a Metro Bike Share bike in downtown Los Angeles and rode it across the city to Venice Beach. Awesome, right? “This is awesome!”, I thought. When I got to Venice, I found out it was NOT awesome. It was expensive and a major hassle. The downtown LA bikes are not allowed to be locked up at the kiosks in Venice, so I had to huff it all the way back downtown – ruining my day and costing me double the trip time, plus I wasn’t able to do anything in Venice because I couldn’t leave the bike unattended anywhere.

Why are private bike share bikes littering the sidewalks, available at the touch of few cell phone menu options, when Metro Bike Share bikes are a supreme pain in the a%% to rent and park?

I will tell you why: Metro Bike Share bikes are not subject to market forces. Metro Bike Share is a subsidy dumpster – a place where good intentions and public money go to die.

The term “subsidy dumpster” was first introduced to me in an essay by John Michael Greer entitled “The Crocodiles of Reality” published in 2014 on his now-defunct site The Archdruid Report.

To paraphrase Greer: a subsidy dumpster is a technology that looks like a viable option so long as nobody pays attention to the economic realities.*

How much money does Metro Bike cost the public? Does the service make money? How many people use it?

According to Metro Board Report, File # 2018-0479, from the Planning and Programming Subcommittee meeting on September 19, 2018, the Metro Bike Share program cost the public, from 2015 to 2018, $22 million.

The revenue generated by Metro Bike Share during that same period? $1.4 million.

Metro’s report notes that “grants”, and “cost reimbursement from partner cities”, offset Metro’s expenses – but that is a cost to the public of $22.2 million for an income of $1.4 million. That is a net cost to the public of $20.8 million from 2015 to 2018.

Up to that point, from 2015 to 2018, Metro Bike Share had provided 520,000 trips.

Each Metro Bike Share trip, then, cost the public an average of $40 while the users paid $2.69 on average.

How many people use private bike and scooter share services in Los Angeles, like Uber, Jump, and others? Really, who cares? They do so at no direct cost to the City nor County of Los Angeles nor do they invoke direct costs to Los Angeles County Metro.

Metro Bike Share ruined my day back in 2020, so this is me returning the favor by exposing it as the subsidy dumpster it truly is.

If you would like to find out more about Metro Bike Share, or any other Metro-related topic, visit Metro’s Legistar database to search through board reports without all the obnoxious pop-up windows and jive web-designer crap getting the way.

Greer explains: “Once the subsidy dumpster gets its funding, it goes through however many twists and turns its promoters can manage before economic realities take their inevitable toll. If the dumpster in question has to compete in the marketplace […] the normal result is a series of messy bankruptcies as soon as the government money runs short. If it can be shielded from the market, preferably by always being almost ready for commercial deployment but never actually quite getting there […] the dumpster can keep on being filled with subsidies for as long as the prospect of an imminent breakthrough can be dangled in front of politicians and the public. Since most people these days consistently mistake technical feasibility for economic viability, there’s no shortage of easy marks for this sort of sales pitch.”

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Hackers steal flyingpigeonla Instagram account

Breaking news! The Flying Pigeon LA instagram account (@flyingpigeonla) has been hacked!

On January 2, 2021 at 4:45 a.m. local time some nefarious hacker on a XioaMi Redmi Note 8 from Al Mashahira, Palestine logged in to the account. I am not sure if any of those details are accurate or even matter – for people that do this kind of thing, it is trivial (apparently) to mask your location and device (“spoofing” your IP address and User Agent).

To the hacker in (maybe) Palestine I say, “Shalom!” and “Good morning.” You can have the account. I believe Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Googles various services are not a good place to spend time or attention.

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MacPorts “Error: Failed to locate” Solution

Two days ago, I tried to update some of the applications installed with MacPorts and got an error that looked like this:

Error: Failed to locate ‘openssl’ in path: ‘/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin’ or at its MacPorts configuration time location, did you move it? Please run `port -v selfupdate’ for details.

I spent a lot of time checking and trying to change several bash “dot files”; i.e. .bash_profile, .profile, and .bashrc to make sure that the path to an existing openssl version was visible to any application running on my system. I also spent time trying to fiddle with the macports.conf file in /opt/local/etc/, with no meaningful results.

None of my changes to my “dot files” had any effect on MacPorts ability to find, in this instance, an existing openssl version on my computer in order to proceed with its updating of installed ports.

I found that the folders MacPorts checks for applications in are not those in the other “dot files” mentioned above. All the “PATH” preferences in my “dot files” were being ignored.

Here is the section of the macports.conf file where the paths MacPorts was checking are listed:

# Colon-delimited list of directories to search for external tools
# (make(1), pkg-config(1), etc.). While installing ports, MacPorts uses
# this list for PATH. Changing this setting is intended for advanced
# users only and is unsupported.
#binpath /opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:/bin:/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin

Finally, after a day and a night of trying, I decided to create a symbolic link from an existing openssl instance on my computer to a folder where MacPorts looks for applications. I did that by executing the following from the terminal:

sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/openssl /opt/local/bin/openssl

This worked, partially. MacPorts downloaded and installed openssl BUT failed to activate the latest version of openssl it had just downloaded because of the presence of the symbolic link I created!

So, I ran the following command to rename the openssl symbolic link I created to “openssl.old”:

sudo mv /opt/local/bin/openssl /opt/local/bin/openssl.old

Next, I ran the following command:

sudo port -f activate openssl

The application was activated and I was able to proceed with all the other updates and upgrades, etc. that I had intended to perform two days ago.

I decided to write this up in case someone else struggled with this type of problem. I saw many examples of this type of issue on StackExchange and other online forums.

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LA Chinatown Hot Tip: Pearl River Deli is Very Good

Pearl River Deli (in the shopping plaza at 727 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012) serves incredibly delicious Cantonese food; it is worth a visit (or, in this time of the COVID-19 quarantine, a take-out or delivery order 626-400-8126).

I was first made aware of this new restaurant by the Fung Brothers. They posted a video on YouTube that will give you the gist of the menu, prices, and an introduction to the dishes being served.

Los Angeles’ Chinatown was first inhabited by people from the Cantonese “Pearl River Delta” region of South East China. The Cantonese language, cuisine, and culture were the starting point for most Americans understanding of what something “Chinese” was. China is a big country, with lots of different ethnic groups and regional variation. The Cantonese that travelled from their homeland to points all over the globe in the 19th Century, as the Qing dynasty was being torn apart, were just one of those groups. As the story of warfare, trade, and politics has developed we here in Los Angeles have seen waves of some of those other groups arrive in the county to blend and mix with the seed our first Cantonese inhabitants.

Cantonese food, in this modern Los Angeles cultural mix, is worthy of having a spotlight focused on it. In an age overflowing with Panda Express (a mainstream fast food style chain selling American Chinese dishes) and Din Tai Fung (sit-down Huiyang cuisine), Cantonese food deserves to be marketed and sold not solely as “Chinese food”, but as a regional cuisine with as much attention to ingredients, preparation, and flavors as possible in the context of the fast-casual paradigm being applied to so many different styles of food in the post-2008 economic collapse.

Since 2008, my brother and I have been to many, many, dim sum restaurants to market our (now closed) bike shop. I sell the Chinese food experience in LA’s Chinatown as a bicycle tour guide to multiple dim sum restaurants. I have spent a lot of time reading about the history of the Chinese here in the United States, and internalizing a sympathetic narrative of Los Angeles’ Cantonese diaspora. I am also married in to a family with half of its members belonging to that very same diaspora.

So, I get it, I may be over selling this place. I am perhaps too invested in wanting to see the food they sell and the culture thrive. All that aside, try to enter with an open mind and let the food speak for itself.

I recommend the Macau Pork Chop bun.

Pearl River Deli located at 727 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Phone orders to: 626-400-8126

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Making Parts for a Gazelle Rear Rack Kickstand

What follows is a story that really doesn’t deserve to be written down. It is a story of searching for a couple of small plastic parts made abroad, and finding or making their replacements with what is available here at home – using labor and tools that far, far, exceed the value of the parts. Perhaps it is an omen of things to come, or perhaps it is a sign of a kind of insanity I suffer from. You be the judge.

Back when I sold bikes, I carried a Dutch brand named “Gazelle”. Their olde tyme bikes were my favorites – especially the “Basic” and “Toer Populair” models. One of my favorite features, on these marvels of late 18th- and early 19th-century manufacturing, were their special rear racks with integrated kick stands. The racks are really neat – to park, you hop off your bike and unclip the integrated stand. It swings down and sweeps under the rear wheel and your bike stands upright – no leaning, no interference with any mounted pannier bags, no blind hunting for the kickstand with your toe. When you want to ride again, you sweep your foot in front of the kickstand and up it comes to your hand. All it takes is a little push and – “click” – the stand is secured in place. Off you go. Like so many Dutch cycling norms, it is elegant – the result of many mechanical geniuses plugging away at the problem of practical cycling for a few decades.

With my shop closed down and a few spare racks sitting in a heap in my garage, I decided to outfit an old Pashley Roadster with one. The rest got recycled for scrap metal (something that I can type and talk about, but suffer greatly when I recall the act itself).

There was a hiccup in my plan – the spare racks were missing their little rubber feet (which kept the kickstand stable when deployed) as well as some sort of strange plastic or rubber clip (which kept the kickstand securely in place when riding around).

Without the rubber feet …

Jeez, I gotta get that kickstand fixed.

… it didn’t take much to tip over the Pashley.

Without the rubber clip … I have no photos, but trust me when when I say there are few things more scary than riding a bike downhill, hitting a small bump, followed by a loud screeching noise with little bits of sparking metal shooting off the back of what you suppose is your rear wheel.

The first order of business was to dream. I dreamt of a trip to Holland. I dreamt of walking into a humble little bike shop and speaking perfect Dutch to the clerk about local politics, the weather, what Los Angeles was like this time of year, and how much of a fan I am about so many Dutch things – like bikes, licorice, their work ethic, and a culture of integrating the best and most useful of what they encounter in other cultures. Oh! I was so worldly! I was so smart! Really, something of a renaissance man.

I woke up to a bike that alternated between falling over when parked and putting on an involuntary 4th of July show when in motion.

After a few months, my dreams bubbled up with the beginning of a solution: I was speaking in (totally phony make believe) Dutch. Dutch is a language. People still speak it. They write it. These parts came from companies that sell these parts with Dutch names. I needed to find these parts using their Dutch names!

For those that haven’t done this before, Google Translate with their Image Search is your best friend. After a few hours, I found the little rubber feet.

The little plastic feet are called “beschermdop klapstandaard”.

This is what the little plastic feet from the factory for the kickstand look like.

The funny little clip is not just a clip. It is a clip with a rivet! The clip and rivet are called “klapstandaard klem” with “pop-nagel”. You have to be sure to include  “Gazelle omafiets” in your search.

Here is the missing kickstand clip with a pop rivet.

I tracked down a few online Dutch cycling parts dealers and saw the parts selling for only a few Euros. Awesome! I love the internet! Click, click, “Add to cart”, click, click, “Input shipping address”, click, “Estimate Shipping”, click … holy sh%^.


I had to look again.


I check some German cycling parts sites.

Holy moly, the shipping was *more* expensive.

Ah jeez, forget it. Just forget it.

My dreams changed. Now I was no longer visiting Holland. I was stuck back home, in Los Angeles. I wasn’t worldly. I wasn’t a Renaissance Man. I was a sucker. I was turning on the tap and no water was coming out. I picked up my phone to call and complain but the battery was drained because the power wasn’t working either. I hopped on my bike to ride to my relatives house but the tires were flat and as I walked down the street with it I was held up by a gang of bandits and sent back home – thirsty, no bike, and grumpy as hell. What the hell happened to the global supply chain?! I ain’t paying no $50 in shipping for some ding dang plastic bits in a bin somewhere in the God forsaken Netherlands!

As time passed, and the sparks flying off the back of the Pashley only got worse, something in my mind clicked. At this point, I had been working as a certified Electrical Trainee for a couple of contractors. I had spent about a month as a maintenance worker in a small fabrication company. A friend had me help as an assistant building custom hand rails. My bicycle repair trade skills, which have a market value somewhere above “sleeping hobo on a sidewalk” and below “guy washing windows at a traffic light” had morphed and changed into “trade apprentice”. The time I had spent hunting for fasteners of various pitches and diameter and thread counts made me a valuable guy to have around from time to time. I knew about hand tools. I knew about their uses. Ditto for power tools.

The idea hit me one day – this kickstand and rear rack is made of metal tubes. Metal tubes have an inner diameter, they have an outer diameter. They are not magic bike parts that require me to use special bike manufacturer-approved mystical unicorn parts to repair. I could make my own, or find something off-the-shelf, and stop with the falling over and the metal sparks.

Out came the vernier calipers.

Based on my measurements, I was able to find some polyethylene plastic feet from McMaster Carr that keep the metal tubes from scratching the ground (or being themselves scratched) and keep water out when the kickstand is not deployed. The replacement part I bought was for tubing with an inner diameter of 0.46″ to 0.57″ with part number #9283K11.

This is the snap-in polyethylene foot I found to replace the Gazelle version.

Hah! The kickstand still shot sparks – but falling over? Only if I kicked it over! Woo hoo! Success.

Okay, now comes the clip; this strange clip. Hmm. The tube the clip attached to got measured. The tube that made up the kickstand got measured. Both tubes were approximately 16mm in diameter, or about .629″. “Not much I can do with that”, I thought. Then I pulled up a fractional drill chart, and looked at the closest thing I had to .629″ in my drill bit case. 0.629″ is really close to 5/8″ (or .625″) – which is a common fractional inch drill size, and a size I had several iterations of in my collection.

What if I bought some kind of plastic material and cut my own dang clip out of it? Perhaps I could use my 5/8″ drill bits to drill the material into a clip shape to snap onto the tubes, and I can figure out how to use what I had to cut the rest of the shape by hand?

McMaster Carr sells all sorts of stuff, including sheets of plastic. For $12 plus shipping and California sales tax, McMaster provided a 6″ x 6″ x 3/4″ thick sheet of Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Polypropylene plastic, in black. It arrived a day after I paid for it online.

McMaster-Carrs UHMW Polyethylene 6″x6″x.75″ sheet to the rescue?

With some image editing software, I created a 1:1 scale image of the part I wanted as viewed from the top.

Wow, this looks like things are going well with the fabrication process!

Once printed, the paper got cut to fit the block of plastic, spray-tacked on with some 3M spray glue and everything went fine after that!

This is fine. Everything is fine.

Hah, yeah right. It took multiple attempts.

UHMW plastic has some wonderful properties – it is impact resistant; it holds up in wet and dry conditions; it also holds up to sunlight rather well. Unfortunately, it is a real pain to cut and machine.

With no router, and no mill, I tried a hand held Dremel rotary tool set to 10,000 to 15,000 RPMs with a milling bit. I could not get through the material.

When the tool was bumped up to 35,000 RPMs it cut great – but left plastic fuzz everywhere and left a horrible finish on the work piece.

It was really, really, difficult to control as well. I am being generous when I say using this tool to cut this plastic was a waste of time.

Harbor freight drill bits and free hand milling with a Dremel? What could go wrong?! Clogged Forstner bit in foreground in this image.

What worked?

To ensure the clip fit the tubes, I drilled two 5/8″ holes where they needed to be. The process was: center punch, counter sink, drill with a 5/8″ Forstner bit until it spins with no chips, counter sink, drill, etc. The Forstner bit had to be hand sharpened with a file to get it in shape to cut plastic. I could have sprung for some brad point drill bits, but I think this is my first and last hand drilled plastic project.

To cut the piece free from the plastic block, I found a good old hacksaw with a 32 TPI blade worked well. Once the piece was free, a utility knife to remove plastic fuzz and carve the edges did the trick.

This homely little plastic clip is almost done.

There is a pop rivet that is supposed to fix the clip in place – a 3/16″ hole is pre-drilled on the kickstand from the factory for just this purpose. First, the 3/16″ hole got drilled in my clip, then a 1/4″ Forstner bit was used to create a countersink for the aluminum pop rivet (3/16″ shaft and a .500 to .625 clamping range). It was not easy to fit the head of my pop rivet tool between the jaw of the clip. I ended up having to snip the remains of the mandrel off the rivet and hand file the nub down with a small round file.

Here it is, all riveted in to place in the parked position.

Here is the kickstand clip in its upright position. Look at that surface finish! Gorgeous.

The clip I made looks like garbage, but it works really well. Any self-respecting bike thief would be turned away after having seen it. That is two wins for the price of one.

To add another win to my ledger I snapped the kickstand up into place and rode around the driveway. I rode down the block. I rode over some bumps. I rode over them some more. No sparks. No screeching. Haha!

I had done it. Oh, not the kickstand. Whatever. The thing works now. Hooray, etc. No, I had fixed *myself* – I had fixed my attitude of helplessness. I had discovered the skills I already had and the materials at hand to do the job, and I had done it. I have will, I have a mind. I have waaaaay too much free time. What would my life, my family’s life, be like if I focused on us the way I focused on this damn bike and its kickstand? It would be nice to pretend that that is exactly what happened. I went for many more bike rides. I continued to solve problems for customers and clients. It took a while to get around to focusing on my family, on my own situation at home.

I barely ride the Pashley anymore. Was the cost and the effort to fix its kickstand worth it? I’ll let you be the judge of that, I have more work to do.

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Bugaboo Stroller Brake Cable Repair

The brass replacement cable end installed and held up next to the other end of the cable.

Years ago, I happened upon the craft of repairing Bowden control cables. A couple of old motorcycle mechanics told me not only was it possible, but they themselves used to do it all the time “back in the day”.

I read up on the topic (i.e. old forum posts online) and found Flanders Cables – retailer of control cable parts and cable soldering supplies.

Bowden control cables are a ubiquitous part of modern civilization. They are in absolutely everything: from baby strollers and bicycles to high end automobiles. When one end of a Bowden control cable snaps off, however, most of us out in consumer-land are out of luck when it comes to finding a replacement.

The supplies I used to effect the repair of the cable.

On bicycles and baby strollers, brake cable inner wires are typically 1.5mm in diameter and made of either stranded galvanized or stranded stainless steel. In case you are wondering, shift cable inner wires are typically 1.2mm in diameter (Campagnolo wires are an exception – 1.1mm in diameter).

There are lots of different types of control cable ends. One of the most common brake cable inner wire ends is the “barrel type”. It looks like a barrel with a hole drilled through the side. These barrels are sized to fit into special grooves in brake levers or other parts of a machine, and so come in a variety of dimensions.

I used Flanders Cable part number 620-2562 as a replacement cable end for this repair.

To heat up the cable end, I used a small tank of propane gas. You can see the torch tip I used in the image above. The flint striker I used to light the torch is in the picture above as well. You need to use the flint striker to light the gas coming out of the torch tip. You have to go very easy on the heat from the torch to avoid changing the temper of the steel wire you are soldering  (too much heat and it will become brittle and thus unusable as a control cable).

Soldering requires some flux (a chemical paste, gel, or liquid that removes oxidation from the metal you are heating up to allow the solder to bond with it). I used some Benzomatic lead free water soluble flux I picked up at the local Home Despot. A little dab inside the pre-drilled hole in cable end worked just fine.

In the image above there is also some 50% tin / 50% lead solid wire. I used this as the solder in the repair.

On the work bench you can also see a blue DASCO PRO steel scratch awl. I used this to gently unwind and peen open the strands at the very tip of the steel wire inserted into the replacement cable end. Doing this prevents the wire from pulling back out of the hole in the cable end.

The needle nose pliers were used to hold the work as I work the scratch awl and to hold the piece as it cooled to inspect it. The brass brush was used to clean off the slag and soot once the solder had cooled.

I made a new control cable for this stroller to go with this repaired cable as a back up in case it breaks again. I still have a small supply of the bulk quantities of control cable wire, housing, ferrules, cable tips, barrel adjusters, and other fittings for bicycle control cable systems.

If you have ever sweated copper you already have 100% of what you need to effect this type of repair (except for the cable end and other small control cable-specific parts – which are easy enough to obtain at bike shops or online). Jewelers can also easily handle this type of work as well.

There is not much value in this sort of fixing and mending other than the good feeling you get from helping a neighbor or family member out. Job done, I suppose.

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Benny Boy Brewery opponents in Lincoln Heights look like bigots

This image was grabbed from a Facebook group of Lincoln Heights residents.

Did you know: if you are white, own a business, but weren’t born in a given Los Angeles neighborhood, people will organize to keep you from opening your doors?

Sounds kind of un-American to me. There are valid reasons to oppose a brewery. The ethnicity and place of birth of the owners are not valid reasons.

I remember people in Artesia trying to make the same argument about immigrants from India opening businesses in their community. I remember people in Monterey Park making the same arguments about Chinese immigrants opening businesses in their community. you should be better than this; we are better than this.

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Fixing My Broken Toaster Oven

My toaster oven broke. First, a buzzing noise. Next, some smoke. Out to the curb it went in the arms of my wife.

I saw it sitting there and thought, “It is already broken, if I take it apart – where is the harm in that?”

I take it down to my workshop. Zip, zip zip – phillips head sheet metal screws come out easy.

Dang, a problem: triangle head screws.

I try all the bits in my inventory. No luck. I look online: wait a week and pay $20 just to open a broken toaster oven?! Heck no.

I look around the shop. I see some 1/4″ square steel rod.

I cut a small section of rod with a 24 thread per inch hacksaw blade. I square up one end with a bastard cut and then a second cut flat file. I apply some Dykem Blue layout fluid to the 6.35mm x 6.35mm square area (1/4″ x 1/4″). I use some accurate Vernier calipers to measure the triangle hole in the screws – about 2mm on each side.

I do some math – I need to scribe a square that is about 2.1mm away from the edges of the rod. Then, I need to scribe a triangle inside that square. I use my little combination square and its scribe to do this.

Next, I use a Dremel with a cut-off wheel to slice along the outside edge of that scribed triangle. Things go badly, but I still manage to get an approximate 2mm triangle cut.

I spend some more time removing about 1/2″ of material to expose this triangular bit. I file down the side of the triangular bit with a square 2nd cut file.

I try the bit out on a stuck screw. The head of the bit shears off.


I use a file to cut down more of the rod using what remains of the sheared off triangular bit as a guide.

I hold the rod in my vise and heat the rod up with some MAPP gas until the tip of the bit is glowing red. Then, I stick the glowing red bit in some motor oil to quench it.

Now, the drill bit digs into the screws without shearing and allows me to remove them. I am in!

Once opened, I spot an obvious problem: the back of the temperature control dial has a badly oxidized jack and lead with evidence of melted insulation. This is common. A little too much oxidation builds up and the resistance to electricity flow increases, the part then warms up beyond its listed specifications and something melts – blam, broken device. Same thing happened to my washing machine.

I remove the back of the temperature control dial. I search for the part using all the marks stamped on the part. No luck.


I use a brass brush to remove all the built up rust on the jack of the control dial. I dig through my old dynamo light wiring kit for a female slide-on connector and heat shrink tube. I find what I am looking for. I cut the end of the wire to get rid of the rusted lead and use some small gauge wire strippers I recently picked up (16 AWG stranded fits) to expose some wire. I use a crimping tool on the slide-on connector and wire. I heat the heat shrink tubing into place.

Dial goes back in. Leads connected to jacks.


I plug it into the workshop power outlet and turn the oven on.

No sparks. No buzzing. Funny smell? No, just burning bread crumbs. The thing works again.


“I regret to inform you that your toaster oven is working again.”

My wife, “I was hoping to get a new one.”


Toaster oven model and make:

Euro-Pro X ™ Toaster Oven Four / Grille-Pain

Model: TO284

Fabrique en Chine

Broken part:

Huahui MR-39 0108 120V/15A

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Two Reasons Bike Advocacy in LA is on the Wane

Bicycling advocacy in Los Angeles is getting smaller and weaker.

“Defend Boyle Heights”, a social justice community group, has pilloried Metro’s bike share. The group sees bike share as a symbol of malevolent socio-economic changes in the area.

The Great Social Justice Awakening

Part of the weakening of bike advocacy in Los Angeles is a function of the take-over of nearly every civic issue or cause by a professional (and sometimes volunteer) class of social justice warriors. This class of people, like those swept up in previous mass religious awakenings in America, are searching for a moral cleansing of public life. As a result, practical problem solving, consensus building, historic fact and context, and measurable outcomes are overlooked. In exchange, this class of people is bestowed with self-righteous rage at whatever or whoever their various enablers point them towards. Our new moral arbiters are not the clergy or conventional religious leaders, but instead a loose confederacy of self-interested actors in the local media, non-profit, or social media sectors. They play a “Name the Racist” game that trivializes the day-to-day outcomes of public policy. Their moral narrative is incoherent as a text or direction for living a good life. Rather, it is driven by that which increases their power to purge. All who oppose them are to be purged from public life and from gainful employment. This type of religious zeal is not healthy when it comes to municipal government.

For example: how can citizens begin to talk about cleaning up a local dog park when, prior to having a public discussion, everyone’s privileges must be checked, language policed, and any descriptions of reality that approach sounding like a stereotype or biased against a “protected group” are not allowed to be admitted into discourse?

Colonial Politics

Another significant reason for Los Angeles’ weakening bike advocacy is this city’s status as a colonial outpost for various industry, union, national and global interest groups – with a political elite that can afford to ignore basic good governance in exchange for a small piece of whatever action those interest groups break off to mostly have their way with the region.

“Today is election day, and neither of the candidates for mayor seems to have noticed that the city he aspires to lead has now become a colony. The aerospace economy is gone. The city’s department stores have passed in and out of bankruptcy. The banks themselves are headquartered in Georgia and Seattle. Our remaining oil company has gone to British Petroleum. The industry of dreams – the making of movies- is owned in Australia, Canada, Japan, and New York. The Times was the last, big corporate presence that mattered by being in Los Angeles. And now, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is what globalization feels like, living in a place where everyone is a colonialist and among the colonized simultaneously.”

  • D.J. Waldie (2004) Where we are now: notes from Los Angeles (p. 35). Santa Monica, CA: Angel City Press.

Villaraigosa Era Overton Window

There was a moment, during the reign of LA’s former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, that bike advocacy sidestepped the byzantine nightmare of interlocked bribes and public relations stunts required to achieve any civic goal in Los Angeles. Those glorious days are gone, but it is worth looking back to compare that era with the current one under mayor Eric Garcetti.

Villaraigosa, prior to becoming a bike-centric mayor, was deemed a “failure” by Los Angeles Magazine and by many public figures as well at the time. His old-fashioned election goals (“fix traffic”, “more cops”, “balanced budgets”) went down in flames just past his election to a second term in office.

Bicycle projects were an easy out to score huge public relations victories doing extremely basic, and cheap, public works that had been planned for decades. Villaraigosa also employed a middle school student body government tactic with the city council: he stacked the council with people that owed their political careers to him. He did this by sending his donors towards his picks for various city council seats.

Former mayor Villaraigosa found a series of fiscally and politically easy wins transforming Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation (LADOT). In the early to mid-2000’s, the department was a car-centric throwback to the early 20th century. After Villaraigosa, it had transitioned into a more-or-less progressive beachhead in city hall for bicycle and pedestrian project planning and implementation.

The value proposition for politicians flipped, however, with mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcetti is a politician completely hamstrung by the complex web of interest groups that have bought a piece of his attention. Their money has kept the city in political stasis; which, despite all the horrific outcomes that stasis entails, at least gives these large interests a predictable landscape to ply their various hustles. Additionally, mayor Garcetti was too preoccupied figuring out his next political move to employ any politically meaningful strategy with members of the council (aside from playing nice in public ceremonies). Garcetti ceded power to the council president, Herb Wesson. Wesson’s own relatively deep donor base and concentration of networked power meant he had no reason to seek cheap and easy public policy wins. Further still, he could call a few of his favorite non-profits and generate whatever positive public relations he needed without resorting to bike lanes and safe crosswalks.

Some politicians still cling to the Villaraigosa play book. Mike Bonin on the Westside and Jose Huizar in Boyle Heights fully engaged the Villaraigosa strategy – seeking easy political wins available using bike projects. However, many on the council, and the mayor himself, saw only headaches, annoyance, or simply hated bicycle projects in general and owed nothing to the bicycling community.

John Buntin, the author of the book “L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City”, once credited L.A.’s byzantine web of corruption as one of the reasons mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel left the city for Las Vegas. He’d had to bribe or blackmail the police commissioners, the city council, and mayor – but also individual station captains and LAPD division heads as well. It was a monumental headache dealing with networks of government officials all fishing for their needs to be met, the story goes, so Bugsy left for Las Vegas.

In a similar way, the money and networking required to move the needle on a civic project in Los Angeles requires more than what the cycling advocacy community can muster. The bike advocacy community is a rag-tag bunch of volunteers allied with one or two local millionaires. That ain’t much in a city packed with billionaires, unions with big campaign budgets and volunteer armies, huge investment funds, and large pools of foreign real estate interests shopping for returns. Similar to colonial governors, our elected leaders in Los Angeles are fine-tuned to pick up any disturbance in the various rackets and hustles these big players need to keep their interests going; while they ignore the day-to-day lives and experiences of normal people under their control.

Examples abound in many domains in Los Angeles where some local elites, or a community group, rises up, gets organized, pushes forward an entirely reasonable and often self-funded, self-directed, well planned, ready to compromise proposal, and is promptly heavily suppressed by their local politician and pilloried in the press. Sometimes the injustice done to these self-appointed advocates is spun as an outrage story in the local TV or radio news, and their project does move forward. More often than not, these nice ideas die painful deaths that forever turn away groups of motivated residents from ever engaging in public life again.

The toxic stew of the social justice religious revival movement and the power that complex webs of  interest groups hold over Los Angeles’ city council and mayor mean one thing for bike projects in Los Angles: they have been, and will likely continue to be, failures.

If we continue to limp forward, wounded by the insanity dominating public discourse, blind to political reality in city hall and, most importantly, ignoring the cold hard facts about bike projects in Los Angeles – the future is not very bright at all for cycling in this town.

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L.A.’s Substandard Bike Projects Lead to Increased Crash Rates

It is time to face the facts: Los Angeles’ 3rd rate, crap-tier, bike projects have been a net negative for public safety.

Two of my personal heroes in the political war to make Los Angeles more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar have made substantial positive impacts on my personal life. The bike projects they have installed have materially helped me get to work, run errands, and generally enjoy life on two wheels.

The bike projects they have overseen, however, are correlated with an increase in the number of reported crashes and injuries in their districts.

David L. Galts graph of reported collisions in council district 14 from 2013 to 2019.

The analysis performed to reach this conclusion was done by David L. Galt and is available as a Google Doc.

Mr. Galt was interviewed by Nick Richert of LA Bike Talk in a podcast reviewing his findings, methodology, and background.


David L. Galts graph of reported collisions in council district 11 from 2013 to 2019.

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