spring cleaning

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.

a break in the clouds

What am I talking about? We don’t have clouds in Los Angeles!

I’ve had my head down in school, but I had to quote something from the article that just went up in the NYT and is probably going to rip through the interwebs like cyclists in traffic. Robert Sullivan, writing about how biking has changed in New York City during the past two decades, writes:

Despite the presence of bike lanes, we see many bikes on the sidewalk, and the bikers riding the wrong way down streets, alarming cabdrivers at the light. For biking to make it to the next level, for bikes to be completely accepted as the viable form of city transportation that they are, bikers must switch sides. They must act like people and stop acting like cars.

This means doing things that we, the bikers of New York, would have laughed at just a few years ago. It means getting a little personal, though not that personal. Acting like people means that we have to do things that we frankly don’t want to do and things that we want cars to do, like slow down.

As far as bikers go, I’ve become a kind of laughingstock because I wait at traffic lights. Recently, as I waited in a bike lane at Atlantic Avenue for a light to change, a woman in her 70s, walking hunched with a cane, approached the crosswalk smiling — until she spotted me. Then she began shouting as I waited behind the crosswalk, “Well, are you going to stop?” I assured her I was waiting. She grimaced. “How do I know you’re not going to go?” she asked.

Hits kind of close to home, no? Sorry I didn’t make it out yesterday for the Bike Summit – nor out for much at all these past couple of weeks – but thanks to everybody who’s been writing and working recently.

updated bike map: mar vista to koreatown

Will made some helpful points about the first version of the bike route between Mar Vista and Koreatown:

I tried Cochran recently going south all the way to Venice. Not bad, but it’s a bit crowded/narrow in parts.

I’ve also used Cochran to 8th to Fairfax to Venice going south (and vice versa going north) and find that a good option.

Redondo and Crescent Heights are still my faves, and thanks for the tip about Wilton. I had a feeling it was bad but I had never ventured much below Wilshire on it.

The interesting part about Redondo coming back north is not to take it all the way up to La Brea, but instead to make a right from Redondo on Edgewood Place and cross La Brea. A couple blocks on the other side Edgewood meets up with Highland and that’s OK to ride, at least up to Wilshire where the cars get crowdy/angry.

It’s funny, looking at that zig-zagging cut through I do between La Cienega and Venice makes it seem like so much extra work, but I’d do just about anything to avoid La Cienega, especially where there are freeway on and off ramps involved.

All good points, and I tried to take a couple of them and update the map a little. You can see it below or find it here.

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?

some thoughts about stops

Stop signs seem to be one of those things that cyclists can never entirely agree about. Of course, you show me a cyclist who stops at every stop sign completely and I’ll show you either a) a cyclist who doesn’t have very far to go or b) someone with a poor memory. For my own part, I run stop signs, but only if there’s no cross traffic. If I see cross traffic, I’ll yield at the intersection only if the other car is there first. If it’s close, I’ve taken to making sure cars see me and then trying to look at the driver when I roll through – I guess, following BikinginLA’s lead (parts 1 and 2), it’s an instance of me trying to control the intersection.

But to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of stop signs – it’s one of the reasons why I much prefer Santa Monica South in Beverly Hills to Charleville (you can see that route here). Even though I have to deal with a lot more traffic, I don’t feel nearly as nervous about meeting up with the fender end of some other car’s casual interpretation of the California roll.

All of that said, I came across an interesting article the other day making the point that all of cyclists’ complaints about stop signs – usually to make the point that we should be able to treat them as yields and not full stops – actually has a firm grounding in physics. Tom Vanderbilt of How We Drive explains:

Take a simple stop sign. For a car driver, a stop sign is a minor inconvenience, merely requiring the driver to shift his foot from gas pedal to brake, perhaps change gears, and, of course, slow down. These annoyances may induce drivers to choose faster routes without stop signs, leaving the stop-signed roads emptier for cyclists. Consequently streets with many stop signs are safer for bicycle riders because they have less traffic. Indeed, formal bike routes typically include traffic-calming devices like barriers, speed bumps, and stop signs to discourage car traffic and slow down those cars that remain. However, a route lined with stop signs is not necessarily desirable for cyclists. While car drivers simply sigh at the delay, bicyclists have a whole lot more at stake when they reach a stop sign.

Noting that riding a street with a lot of stop signs drops a cyclist’s average speed by a little more than 30%, he adds:

While a drop of a few miles per hour may not seem like much to a car driver, think of it this way: the equivalent in a car would be a drop from 60 to 45 mph. Because the extra effort required on California is so frustrating, both physically and psychologically, many cyclists prefer Sacramento to California, despite safety concerns. They ride California, the official bike route, only when traffic on Sacramento gets too scary.

And he ends by just making a fantastic point:

Car drivers say they are confused by the presence of bicycles on the road, and some wish the two-wheelers would just go away. Bicyclists know that cars cause most of their safety concerns. Traffic planners need to find ways to help bikes and cars coexist safely. A good place to begin is by taking the special concerns of bicyclists seriously, and not assuming that they will be served by a system designed for cars. Reducing the number of stop signs on designated bike routes would make bicycle commuting considerably more attractive to potential and current riders. Allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, as some states do, could solve the problems in a different way.

Perhaps cities should buy bikes for their traffic engineers and require that they ride them to work periodically. There’s probably no better way for them to learn what it’s like to ride a bike in traffic than actually to experience its joys and hazards.

Wouldn’t that be great? LA traffic engineers being forced to bike to work.

UPDATE: The Bicycle Librarian has a couple of really helpful links posted in the Legal Research section. Especially helpful is the link to a page of FAQ about Idaho’s Stop Sign Law thingermajigger. It explains:

This law would make it legal for bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs. A cyclist approaching an intersection controlled by a stop sign, would be permitted to roll through the stop sign after yielding the right of way if there are other vehicles at the intersection.

Thanks for the comments!

wolfpack all city II race video

This was put up a couple of days ago by Zachary at SHLA (and he says by way of Leetard at LAFixed) – I didn’t even know they were running this (not that I was planning to go even if I did know about it), but the video is just hypnotic. Really well done, and I’m finding myself at the computer raring to get back in the saddle and go. So compliments to whoever put it together (after ten seconds of sleuthing, Bicykiller).

Wolfpack All City Race 2 from Bicykiller on Vimeo.

I’d include the video here but can’t figure out how to make the code display properly. Take my word for it and go watch the video.

things to remember

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!).