Or maybe just one truth with two kinds: To bike in Los Angeles requires dealing with cars. There are two kinds:
- The first are the ones who don’t see you. They might be the ones talking on a cell phone, yelling at their kids, tuning their radio, late leaving work and looking to roll a couple stop signs on the side streets because all the arterials are clogged. They might be the ones who nearly right hook you because they can’t be bothered to look over the shoulder. I get mad about these people, but I don’t stay mad. There’s no point, because I realize that it’s not really about me. These drivers are the ones who merge without looking on the freeway, who get stuck in the intersection going the wrong way at red lights. They’re the self-centered ones who treat the rest of the road like so many video game dots and numbers. Out there, but not really enough to worry about. They’re fat and happy in their steel cocoons, coddled in roll cages and crumple zones like so many eggs in cardboard cartons. When they cut me off, I know it’s not about me.
- It’s the second group that piss me off. It’s the second group that sees me pushing it down Westholme, heading south through the last roundabout before swinging left at Santa Monica, riding to catch the green light. It’s the second group with the driver’s side window of their white sedan rolled down and the driver peering through his thin glasses up the road to where I’m bearing down and still thinking it’s a good idea to swing out into traffic because he doesn’t want to get stuck waiting for the cars that are trailing me. It’s the second group of drivers who see me brake, pull up, raise my hands to ask what the fuck, then gun their engine through the light because they know they’re in the wrong and think they can leave me in the dust. It’s these second kind of drivers who think that just because I’m a little fucking cyclist on a dark single-speed that that makes it OK. And do you know what? It’s those second group of drivers who sit in their car waiting to turn right onto Beverly Glen at the red light, one arm dangling a lit cigarette out the window as I pull up to the intersection, then see me roll up to the light beside them.
The moral of the story? Your shit catches up to you.
Coming across Wilshire heading south on Westholme, a gust nearly pushed me into a car. The smell of bruised eucalyptus and dusty pine in the air. There was a headwind as I turned east onto Santa Monica Blvd. and was lucky enough to find a couple folks to tail heading up the hill from Beverly Glen. I didn’t catch either of your names, but thanks for leading the way a little bit. Turned back on my own to roll Charleville. Now home and the world outside full of rush and whisper.
Kind of. My girlfriend would call this something else, but I only like calling someone something if it’s a nice name. That’s not true either. But I have 485 unread items in my Google Reader, two weeks of silence, and my time on the bike has dwindled. Kind of like the workshop at my mom’s house: Full of so much dust, so many cobwebs, so many priceless gems that the prospect of cleaning, filing, and organizing comes to seem a little daunting.
Lots of reasons for all of this not-writing-ness: The rain, then the 920, then the fact that my brakes are wearing down and that worries me, the fact that my wheels need truing, and the inconvenient fact of school.
Though all of that fell away this afternoon: First day back on the bike in what feels like forever (only a week) and it smells like what passes for spring in Los Angeles. Gardeners are watering lawns in Hancock Park, sidewalks smell of wet concrete drying in the sun – to quote a Tom Waits song roughly, a bit like a new coat of paint on a tired old town.
I’d say more soon, but I’ve a little time before I should lift my head from my desk. Safe riding to everybody, and looking forward to reading more soon.
Last night was my first time back on the bike in what feels like forever: Rain Thursday night kept me from trucking my bike home on the bus, and it rained enough on Friday to convince me that riding the bike home that night wouldn’t work either (the beers that evening didn’t help). As for the weekend, washed-light and fleeced clouds that it was, I didn’t make the trek west from Koreatown. So it was only last night that I confronted the thought of getting back on the bike.
And it’s funny: A couple of days waiting for the bus gives you pause. As far as commutes go, mine is a cinch – make my way to Vermont/Wilshire in the morning, pick up the 920, skip into Westwood; sure, riding the bus on the way back east is an experience in itself, but the streets had mostly emptied by the time I got of my last meeting. So the choice: Bike home in the foreign cold or slip on down to throw my bike on the rack of the 720?
Thankfully, I decided to coast on down Westholme – the cold rough against my knuckles, the sudden tearing of my eyes at the wind – and roll my slow way east. I’m glad I did too: The storms have washed the air (or if you want the scientific version, the low front drove a cold front through Southern California leading to less moisture content in the atmosphere and resulting in greater visibility), and the waning moon hung in the sky singing in its slow loping voice. Mostly empty streets tonight, and moments of catching the moonlight through sycamores on pavement, spun silk scored with shadow.
That was reason enough to ride, I suppose. I’m looking forward to tonight (although before that happens – and if you care – Go Heels!).
So what feels like a good while back, I wrote a little bit about bike maps, noting:
Thinking about biking in Los Angeles, one of the biggest things holding the community back is the lack of well-publicized maps. True, the MTA has put together a map of bike lanes around the city (their Metro Bike Map), but one of the things I quickly learned about that map was just how far removed it is from the actual experience of riding the streets. It’s partly the MTA’s myopic bicycling policy, but partly to do with the fact that different roads ride very differently at diffferent times. I’ll ride Western after 9 pm, but I don’t think I’d be caught dead on the street during rush hour. Wilshire between Comstock and Beverly Hills is a crap shoot: Late at night, you don’t have to take the sidewalk, but I can’t bring myself to ride the street during daylight hours.
As happens with a lot of things, however, I haven’t really set out to do what I wanted to do, which was produce a set of maps to help people new to cycling in Los Angeles navigate the city by bike. The Westwood to Koreatown map was a start, but I thought I’d give a stab at putting together some other maps for the sizable number of people that don’t actually commute or ride consistently between Westwood and Koreatown.
Hence this new map for anyone looking to move between Westwood and Mar Vista. It’s very much in its first stages, so if anyone has any suggestions, comments, or concerns, please let me know.
Strange thing about these interwebs: There’s something to the way that they demand noise, chatter, stuff. Mind you, some are better than others about writing intelligently and cogently about the world and life, but I’m not one of them (this being little more than chatter).
But even so: A short ride this afternoon up to Barnsdall Park to read and wonder at people. A breeze in off the water, the washed light of winter, rosemary blossoms nodding to themselves. Green is slowly beginning to drape itself over the hills of Griffith Park, and deep clouds east, out up to the steep ridge of the San Gabriels.
An easy day to bike and smile, shiver at the unexptected chill.
This situation isn’t exactly new, but for anyone who rides 6th between San Vicente and Fairfax, a couple of sinkholes have developed in the right lane. One of them has been pretty well marked for the better part of two weeks. The other one, which to my mind is the more severe of the two, is marked by an orange cone, but isn’t nearly as visible. You’ll come across them if you’re riding east on Sixth between Crescent Heights and Fairfax. For what it’s worth, I’ve gone and updated the map as well.
And one more thought about biking and ethics (or another ethic, another suggestion for a universal): Ride in traffic (Demand it?) like you expect to be seen; plan like you won’t. You might not win the most points with asinine drivers, but I feel like I’ve been safest as a rider on the street in traffic when I demand to be seen by cars.
All joking aside, my 2009 mileage just passed 100 miles somewhere Mid-Wilshire this evening. And, to be fair, Will’s mileage already stands at a healthy 246.771 miles. And finally, my layman’s understanding of a century is that one is supposed to ride it all in one go (I, on the other hand, took 8 rides and just over a week).
But still. It’s cool to see mileage tick upwards.
In other news this evening, Steelhorse LA decided to flyer my bike again (does this mean that you don’t care if I’m not riding a fixie and just look like it sometimes?). And I had to laugh a moment at a battered Toyota Camry that pulled poorly into traffic on Burton Way on my ride home tonight: In the back windshield, a faded sticker read, Proud to be an American. You tell them, my friend.
See, I’m not always the most alert person, and in a way, that’s one of the things I love about riding in the city: You have to be alert. Perhaps you don’t have to be, but in the long run, it pays to be alert.
I caught a drink with some friends this evening in Westwood: One pint later, I got on my bike, found my way onto Lindbrook, followed another biker south onto Selby and then made my way down to Santa Monica Blvd. by way of Manning. Not ideal by any means, but a bit nicer than trying to navigate Westwood in rush hour on something of an empty stomach. I say all this because as I was cruising down Manning in the dark, I heard a weird noise from my front tire. Turning onto Santa Monica, I looked down and saw some strip of paper where there had been no strip of paper.
Strange, thought I.
It was a couple blocks before I hit a light long enough to pull the paper out, but when I did, I found a cryptic note: steelhorsela.blogspot.com come ride! Finished the ride home, looked the site up, realized I locked my bike up next to this one this morning. Mystery note solved.
Moral of the story: Bikes are better than cars because if you hear something wrong, you can usually see what’s wrong. And if you can see what’s wrong with your car, it’s probably so bad that you probably shouldn’t be messing with it anyways.
And what I said last night about drivers in Beverly Hills? I take it back. Maybe being in that city makes people stupid. (Though I should probably know better than to tailgate in stop and go traffic.)
We – imagine a cycling public somewhere in the distance – often spend a lot of time complaining about the behavior of drivers on the road. Granted, there’s often a reason for it (see here and here for two of the most recent), but I thought I’d throw a quick thank you to all those drivers who take time to signal their right turns. There were a handful of you in Beverly Hills tonight, mostly turning south off of Burton Way, and as someone who tends to spend a lot of time in that uncertain space between car doors and the right lane of traffic, it’s a real pleasure to see you planning ahead and making your actions visible to me. You might not even have seen me all that well in the fog, but I saw you.
On a completely unrelated note, if you haven’t read Gary’s first brush with the track, check it out. It sounds like fun.