First of all, thank you again to the organizers of last Saturday’s Bike Town Beta. That evening was my first time out in a group with other riders, and the whole experience was really empowering.
I met up with a couple of people next to the Bike Kitchen late Saturday afternoon. Taking off was sort of a haphazard affair, what with figuring out who was riding, if we should wait for stragglers, and what route we were going to take out. As it was, we struck out on Santa Monica Blvd. – traffic, but nothing too horrendous, a bike lane in West Hollywood. We cut up to Carmelita once we made it into Beverly Hills and decided to chance Wilshire coming out.
My thought on Wilshire: Friends don’t let friends ride Wilshire. As a hill, it’s not that bad, and traffic isn’t so bad that you’re going to get hit. But as a road, as a physical fact, it’s miserable. It’s absolutely shot, riddled with cracks, potholes and the assorted wreckage of a thousand rush hours. If you have any choice in the matter, don’t ride Wilshire. And if you must (because I feel like I must), take the sidewalk through the country club. Please.
But we made it to Westwood well before most cyclists rolled in – hung out on the edge of UCLA’s campus and talked politics and planning (thanks Mark and Stuart for the conversation) until 6 rolled around. We met the first mass of cyclists coming up from Venice just after 6 and the next fifteen minutes or so we a kind of glorious freedom for me. Like I said, I’ve never really ridden in a big group before, and there was something really exhilirating about being in a mass of people that cars had to recognize as a group and not as individuals (arguments for collective bargaining?).
We rode a couple of laps through Westwood until someone called a halt to find ice cream. From there, people seemed to gather themselves and wander off into the evening. I hung out on the corner at Westwood and Kinross for a little, watching people jump rope, catch up with friends, and make plans for the rest of the evening. I didn’t know much of anyone so stayed on the margins of the whole affair; and it didn’t help that I was planning on leaving before the evening was done anyways.
I hung out there until someone summoned people over the Bertha – which, after a slightly anarchic ride, I learned was a RV – where people gathered again to laugh and plan again for the evening. That was about the time that I skipped out – before Alec’s Red Light Tit Tag, before much of anything really.
In all honesty, I’m not in any position to render any sort of final opinion about the evening. But a conversation I overheard might be a good way to end. I was poking about at the first corner, listening in where I could. What are we doing?, someone asked, Is there a plan? No, someone answered, this is just the beta! But it’s still an open question: Green LA Girl talked about Bike Town as a way of envisioning Los Angeles as a bicycle-centric city, and I’m not sure the event lived up to that. And I think a lot can still be said about what it means to have a bike town. All of that said, thank you again to Alec and everyone else who helped organize the evening.
I’m curious to see what direction Bike Town goes, be it direct action, purchase power, general fun, or some combination of any and all of the fun.
You can find a couple of my first reactions here; but more important to me at the moment is this idea I’m still working with of developing a common map for the cycling community, a way of creating a common well of knowing the roads.