Category Archives: the city

party for a good cause: FRIDAY!

Wanted to throw a quick heads-up announcement for anyone with a free Friday evening. Bikerowave, the bike co-op in Mar Vista staffed by some exceedingly patient people, is throwing a party Friday night (as in tomorrow night) and helping to sponsor a group ride on Saturday morning with the homeless advocacy group United Steps. Here’s the info:

Join us FRIDAY NIGHT — December 4th, 2009 and CELEBRATE the inaugural PEDAL WITH ME group ride!!!!!!

starting @ 8pm

Come by BIKEROWAVE in Mar Vista

12255 Venice Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066


Pedal With Me is a group ride that is being put together to address homelessness. The ride sponsored by United Steps, a non-profit organization seeking unique solutions for homelessness ( )
They are partnered with Bikerowave– a DIY, volunteer-run bike shop in Mar Vista ( ). If you’d like to help out, ride, donate a bike, money or time to this event COME BY FRIDAY NIGHT anytime after 8PM! Or email or call 213-624-7837

9AM & 11AM

There are two rides. One leaves at 9 am and the other leaves at 11 am. If you’d like to help us, the Bikerowave, with getting everyone from point A (The Bikerowave) to point B (Venice Beach, less than 3 miles away) great! We need help getting folks fitted properly to bikes, escorting them safely to the beach for the rally there, and providing a valet service for the bikes. We’d love to see you there helping out.


Check it out if you have a chance (and thanks Lisa for the heads-up!).


two truths about the road

Or maybe just one truth with two kinds: To bike in Los Angeles requires dealing with cars. There are two kinds:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Ride safe.

good things about bikes. and some less good.

First things first: Bikerowave = awesome.

A huge thanks to all of the volunteers working Saturday afternoon and into the evening. If you (faceless readers) haven’t yet been by to check out their space, please make an effort to do so. It’s open, well-lit, welcoming, and all of the volunteers who were helping out on Saturday afternoon were in good spirits (in spite of constantly being called to and fro).

Less awesome: The bike I was working on. I brought in an absolute clunker of a bike – an old Motobecane that had been sitting outside under the porch in Colorado for far too long and had then made the trip to California and spent most of its time sitting in our hallway. Less than awesome. There’s progress on the beast, and it was almost (briefly) rideable. But when I brought it home and inflated the tire a little more, I realized there was a slight issue. If the tire was inflated to the recommended psi (say, about 80), it bulged out seriously on the sidewall, so much so that it wouldn’t spin through the brakes. So I deflated the tire, tried to reseat the bead in the rim, then inflated the tire again. Same problem. Repeat, except this time I removed the tire and spread a little chalk on the inside between the tube and the tire, thinking that the tube might be getting bunched up when inflated. When I inflated the tire again (again, to about 80 psi, though the tire says it takes 90 psi), it seemed fine. I was psyched. Deflate the tire, slipped it back into the bike, tightened down the wheel a little, then pumped up the tire again. Everything seemed gravy, but within about a minute, the tire/tube was bulging back over the rim. I went to deflate the tire again to look at it when the tube (predictably?) popped.

So, as I see it, there are potentially three possible issues:

  1. My pump’s pressure gauge is off and what reads as 80 psi is not actually. Except I don’t this is really the case.
  2. The tire wasn’t properly seated at all and that’s why the tube pushed out on the side. This is maybe more possible, but I don’t think so, because I tried several times to reseat the bead and it seemed to be a consistent issue in the same place.
  3. Something’s fishy with the rim, so that it’s too shallow or something and can’t take the pressure (meaning that even though the new tires recommend 90 psi, the bike itself shouldn’t actually have that pressure.

Anyways, where things are is less than awesome, but I’ll be back by Bikerowave next time I have the opportunity. In the meantime, does anyone have any better advice? Are there things I haven’t tried yet that I should? Should I just get another tube and try to reseat the whole thing without taking the bike back in?

What today felt like

Big Tahoe Waves

Originally uploaded by RickC

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.

there are bike maps…

… and then there are bike maps. By now, you’ve probably already looked at the maps of the City’s forthcoming Bicycle Plan. You’ve probably been following the good work over at Streetsblog (start here and here) and have taken the time to read the comments more fully than I. Maybe you’ve read BikinginLA‘s thoughtful and measured critique. I’m hoping to be able to add one more small voice into the mix, but for the moment, I wanted to point out what maps there are.

My friend Jordan gave another go at building an online map for cyclists (cleverly named the Los Angeles Cycling Map). I encourage you to take a look and give him feedback. I think he’d probably agree that the routes are a bit sketchy at the moment, but one of the things that recommends his effort is his attempt to integrate Twitter into the mix in order to provide some more real-time data about street conditions. I like that.

Also, if you haven’t seen it via LAist or Streetsblog, there’s another bike map being developed that maps out potential cycling trouble spots. It’s called Bikewise, and as Sarah Goodyear suggests in her intro, it’s only going to be as good as the people using it.

I still have a couple of the early maps that I put together, but I haven’t returned to the project in some time. If you’re curious, you can find the original piece I put together here. Some while back, Ubrayj added a thoughtful comment: “Clearly, most cyclists know where they are going – what is lacking is consideration for cyclists in the way the roadway is designed. I don’t want to take away from your idea and effort. I feel that mapping urban bike routes is one part of a broader push to endorse cycling, but that it will not, in and of itself, lead to more cyclists using the roads.”

He has a point (and he also has a map!) – all the maps in the world won’t do much if we don’t see a larger institutional commitment to considering the place of cyclists in the original design of roadways. All the same, it’s encouraging to see the newest efforts to map biking in the city – a note of optimism amid the din.

seen from the bus

In another place, some brief thoughts about riding the bus today. No claims to being anything but about riding the bus this evening, but what riding a bike means touched on some of the things I was trying to say:

And we’ve been talking through Goffman in class today, how Goffman sees the marking of the territories of the self. I don’t remember exactly how he phrases it, but he says something to this effect: That in all of our marking of territories, we’re trying to do both demonstrate our respect for others and establish a kind of regard in others for ourselves. And it’s not as though this is ever a simple process, but I think it’s easier to do in some places than others. What makes the bus such a heartbreaking place is how often you find the incommensurable moments between the territories of others and ourselves. More often than not, it’s something between the bus driver and passengers, some way in which the driver closes out passengers, refuses to open the bus’ doors, makes people feel acutely the sense of not being quite in control. And because I think there’s something to that, some way in which the bus requires us (as passengers, though my escape is always the bike, the recognition or declaration that I could always ride my bike if the press of people got too bad) to accept the fact that we’re on someone else’s time and in someone else’s place.

I don’t think you have to deal with that in the same way when you drive a car (Joan Didion’s quip that what makes Los Angeles unique is that it’s the only city you could drive to buy a hamburger at 3 a.m.). There’s something to the way in which cars become our territories of the self, and the way in which riding the bus forces people to confront the limits of their selves. And that maybe was what made this sight so heartbreaking: This man, when he got off the bus, would rather have walked calmly (be cool on the street, nobody wants to be the person running with your hands full, nobody wants to be seen as that guy) to catch his local transfer, but he would have missed his bus. And so something slipped, he broke into a shuffling run, hands clutching plastic bags of groceries, trying to make his way home.

And back to schoolwork. Thanks to those who commented on the Crank Mob thoughts – I’ve had some more stumbling thoughts kicking around but have yet to find the time to put things together. But best wishes to everyone.

pig latin

Take that for what you will (“No licence on bike,” the ticket read), but I’ve been reading up a little about last Saturday’s Crank Mob, first via Westside BikeSIDE, then Streetsblog, with a couple of the MR forums to boot.

I don’t have much to offer on that ride or on the specifics and particulars of Alex’s case (except to wish him well), but I do still wonder about where bike riding, writing, advocacy, partying, socializing, commuting, and just about anything else you can do on a bike is taking all of us (or even just me). See, one of the things I’ve been attracted to about biking and adding one small and intermittent voice to a world of bike advocacy is the possibility of effecting some small piece of change in a small part of a big city. Hence, maps. And more generally, writing, insisting that I’m a presence – if intermittent these recent weeks – on the road. But there’s this political dimension to riding in Los Angeles that I’ve found really appealing.

And thinking back to the handful of Critical Mass rides that I have been on, there’s something engaging about that program as well, a way of agitating and demonstrating by way of community action. I like that.

But is Crank Mob political? Should it be? That’s what I’m wondering and that’s what I’ve been thinking a little bit about these past couple of days. See, Alex’s post brings up a lot of issues about civil rights – our rights before the law – and the comments bring that out even more: That Alex’s cuffing and citing speaks to a violation of his civil rights (and that may well be the case). But the distinction I’m trying to draw out, arcane as it is, is between our rights as civilians and our rights as subjects.

By civilians, I mean we’re people who live in a civil society, with laws that guarantee us equality before the law, due process, etcetera. By subjects, though, I mean we’re people who come into a particular position of agency by acting according to certain normative codes. Meaning that I come to be a graduate student – to have the powers and responsibilities of a graduate student – by acting like a graduate student. And that’s all well and good, because being a graduate student is a mostly non-threatening activity.

At the same time, what does it mean to be a cyclist? What does it mean to be a cyclist in Los Angeles? And what does it mean to be a cyclist in Los Angeles on a Saturday night with Crank Mob? I don’t know much about group rides, and I know even less about Crank Mob, but my guess is that that ride stands so far outside the pale of most people in Los Angeles that nobody knows what to do with it (and that, I think, is part of its appeal, party on pavement), least of all the police.

Because Crank Mob is a mob, with everything that comes with that: A lack of order, a capacity to act like wild buffalo, an impossibility of containment. A bunch of unruly cars? Herd ’em to the side. But a bunch of unruly bikes? Like herding drunk kittens.

I’m not saying that Alex should have been cited. But I think it’s worth asking – as sometime people on the MR forums are doing – after the sometimes incommensurable encounters between the police and these large group rides. To be a subject – a rider in a Crank Mob affair – is to stand so far from what the police are accustomed to dealing with that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that people are going to be cited for trying to do the right thing.

I guess my question is this: What kind of responsibility does Crank Mob have to become a subject that doesn’t rock the boat too much? Can there be a Crank Mob that isn’t inherently threatening to the police and the communities CM rides through? And what would that Crank Mob look like? Would it even be a Crank Mob?

I dunno, but I think it’s worth asking after the ways in which becoming a biking subject in Los Angeles makes one a little less of an Angeleno citizen. Because to be told I don’t have a bike licence? That’s pig latin.

not biking, water rationing!

So you’d think, what with all the crazy rain that we’ve been having, that we’re totally free and clear from that nasty little thing spelled D-R-O-U-G-H-T, right? (Actually, I don’t know anybody who’d say that we’re not in a drought anymore, but the rain does funny things to my head. I have trouble imagining 75 degrees in January for example, and I’ve been pretending that it’s been this wintry for what feels like months…).

In other news important to just about anybody paying money to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, a vota just went through to impose the city’s first water rationing in more than two decades. Under the terms of the plan, every house and business would get its allotment. Once you go past that allotment, your rates would double.

But what I found most remarkable about the article was their mention that 40 percent of the city’s water consumption comes from outdoor irrigation. 40 percent. Think about that for a moment. All the wide lawns and palm trees that have become That’s So LA (or that’s so lame?), they’re using a water. A lot of it. Kind of makes you stop and think, at least for a moment. Right?

car-free fridays

Via C.I.C.L.E., a quick announcement:

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) has launched a new campaign called “Car-Free Fridays” to encourage both new and experienced riders to commit to using the bicycle as a means to commute to work and to make their shorter trips by bike at least one Friday of the month.

The campaign is aimed to get more people on bikes and to highlight the global and personal benefits of riding a bicycle.  To celebrate the first “Car-Free Friday,” on January 30, LACBC will host a ride, meeting at 8 a.m. at Hollywood/Western Metro Red Line Station and will head downtown, to L.A. City Hall.

The article goes on:

“Car-Free Fridays is great idea that will encourage folks to start and continue bicycling”, comments Ron Milam, of BikeSage. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become a priority for many Angelenos, but it is not always easy to dedicate extra time and money to get to the gym every week.

“According to the British Heart Association, cycling at least three hours a week cuts your risk of heart disease in half compared to those who do not cycle or perform other exercise,” said Marisa K. Bell, MD Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  “Other studies have shown that exercise such as cycling can reduce levels of depression and stress and improve mood and self-esteem.”

Riding a bicycle for just 10 miles a week can save at least $520 a year, shed calories, work to reduce California’s emissions from cars and light trucks which are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. It helps reduce traffic congestion which costs the regional economy $9.3 billion annually

Sure, it’s not what Mihai said on WestsideBIKEside, but I don’t think that’s the point:

Listen, I want you out of shape fools to continue living your American dream and drive whatever vehicle tv ads, your parents, or your peers told you would be an impressive purchase.  I do enjoy the occasional chat with other cyclist life forms while I am commuting, but honestly, it wouldn’t be as cool if I had to share even more road space with new cyclists.

The status quo is just great, fuck bike activism, streetscape improvements, and Safe Routes to School, I want cycling to be slightly dangerous and exciting.   And I want your kids to grow up to be fat, so I can whoop their chubby asses in sports when they grow up and I’m in my late eighties.  Pave your driveways, widen your stank-ass roads, multiply the use of those gas-powered leaf blowers. Let LA burn, Mike Davis-style. I can always fly back to my home planet.

As ever, I’m somewhere in between, but I’ll be on my bike Friday. Will you?

UPDATE (29 january 09): I probably should have been more specific: I’m not actually going to be on my bike at this ride; I suppose I was trying to suggest that I was going to ride tomorrow in the spirit of solidarity with the program and the idea. And I suppose the point of linking to Mihai’s post – as I was thinking on the ride home tonight – was that there are moments when I feel fiercely independent as a biker, and proud of that independence. And then there are moments – like maybe tomorrow – when I’m excited to see more people riding, to see commuting by bike as something other than an isolated and sometimes isolating activity. Or something like that.

reinventing los angeles

So between now and Saturday’s Tour de Ballona, you’re probably thinking there’s absolutely no way to hang out with people interested in alternative transportation in Los Angeles. Actually, you’re probably not, but I couldn’t think of a better way to lead into a plug for the Hammer Museum’s Forum tomorrow night. I mention it here because the program is titled: “Reinventing Los Angeles: Easing Sprawl, Growth, and Gridlock”. As the description reads:

Aside from palm trees and movie stars, Los Angeles also has a reputation for epic traffic congestion, endless suburbs, and smog. Is there a utopian antidote to this dystopian reality? What are the root problems, and how can design address them? Two experts help us envision the path to a livable, sustainable Los Angeles. Stefanos Polyzoides’s career covers the theory and practice of architecture and urban design. He is especially interested in new urbanism, transit-oriented development, mixed use development, and sustainability. He is a partner in the firm Moule & Polyzoides. Kenneth Small is a professor of economics at UC Irvine, and specializes in urban, transportation, an environmental economics. Recent research topics include urban highway congestion and the effects of fuel-efficiency standards, public-transit pricing, and fuel taxes. He served as an editor of the journals Transportation Research and Urban Studies.

It all goes down Tuesday night at 7 p.m. I’d say that I’d see you there, but I’ll be in class until 8 and probably won’t be able to roll down after that. But for anyone who’s able to make it out to the Hammer, I’m curious to hear how the program goes.