Archive for November 25, 2008

Looking at the big picture

Call it the curse of an inquisitive mind.

Instead of just enjoying the moment, I have a habit of trying to figure out the big picture, and put it all in perspective.

Take last Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting, for instance. In retrospect, it feels like a watershed moment. But where, exactly, is that water flowing?

Some of it sprang from the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, as the committee members voted to send it to the full City Council, with their recommendation for approval — although they did ask the City Attorney’s office to review it, as they should. Even though the odds of the lawyers keeping their hands off it are comparable to Barack Obama asking George W. Bush to stay on as ambassador to Iraq.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Then there was the unexpected support that cyclists received from the members of the committee. Or at least, unexpected to me, anyway.

Maybe people who had been more involved in this process had some inkling of the support we were about to receive. But based on my previous experiences with city hall, I was surprised, shocked, stunned and stupefied. And those are just the S’s.

In fact, the only thing more shocking was the audience.

A quick look around the room revealed an unexpectedly large turnout of riders, of nearly every possible description.

Old riders and young riders. Slow riders. Bicycle commuters. Fat tire fans and fixie fanatics. Roadies, off-roaders and racers. And everyone in between. About as disparate a group of two-wheelers as you’ll find anywhere, and all united, for once, in demanding their right to the roads of this fair city.

Except, for once, we didn’t have to. Which was probably the most shocking thing of all.

So what does it all mean?

It means we have friends at city hall. Or at the very least, people who understand the value of bicycling in reducing traffic congestion and smog, and are willing to support us in making this a more rideable — and livable — city.

Then again, as the Times’ Steve Hymon suggests, it’s not unusual for politicians to say they support something, as long as they don’t actually have to do anything. And the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights will be nothing more than a lot of pretty words until the city actually turns those concepts into concrete action.

It means that we all owe a big round of thanks to the people who started this process, back when the chances of success were every bit as infinitesimal as that of a black man becoming president, so that the latecomers — like me, for instance — could enjoy the fruits of their success. And take some small pride in jumping on the bandwagon before it crosses the finish line.

And it means I was wrong.

Because despite what Enci had to say following the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake check, I really didn’t believe this city had a bicycling community. That unfortunate incident marked my introduction to the local cycling community; Friday’s meeting offered proof that it really exists as more than just a series of ships that pass in the bikeway.

It’s one thing for cyclists to unite in outrage when someone deliberately assaults our fellow riders — and forces us to confront that fact that it could have been any of us. But it’s quite another for such a widely varied group to come together and sit through a typically bureaucratic committee meeting in support of their rights as riders.

However, as Stephen Box’s latest post makes clear, we still have a long way to go.  It’s clear that the L.A. Department of Transportation’s Bikeway’s Department isn’t exactly on our side, whether due to an abundance of caution or outright opposition to cyclists on the roads. And as we’ve seen, there’s a large segment of the driving public of that doesn’t exactly welcome our presence on the road, either.

So yes, we won this round, and we should feel good about it. But we have a lot more work to do to turn that Bill of Rights into concrete action that ensures our place on the road, as well as the safety of every rider.

Because no one should ever have to risk their life — or sacrifice their rights — just to ride a bike.

And arriving home safely is the most important right of all.

 

San Diego cyclists are up in arms when a ghost bike is removed earlier than promised. As long as we’re talking about L.A.’s getaways, turns out it is possible to do Santa Barbara without a car. Streetsblog L.A.’s Damien Newton interviews C.I.C.L.E.’s new Exec Director. LACBC gets into the t-shirt biz. Lance’s comeback helps kill next year’s Tour de Georgia, while N.Y. cyclists complain police are writing tickets for using the bike lane. An Altadena weather cam catches what looks an awful lot like a UFO. And finally, this is why we live in L.A.

For once, I shut up and let someone else talk

Ever since last Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting, I’ve been filtering my own thoughts in preparation of discussing the subject today.

But then Damien Newton of Streetsblog Los Angeles added a comment to my initial post on the subject. And since not everyone clicks the link to read the comments, I thought for once, I’d just shut up and let someone else do the talking.

So take it away, Damien:

It was pretty awesome to see us pack a board room like that…a hundred cyclists, ready to take part in the process…Unfortunately, we’ll still see a lot of setbacks before we get the kind of changes we want to see, and I hope the enthusiasm stays high.

In the meantime, I wrote up a draft letter on bike licensing that people should feel free to use if they want to get City Council to take up this issue. Rosendahl, LaBonge and Parks all seemed ready to go…

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],


Dear Member of the City Council XXX,

As a committed cyclist, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for respect and concern you showed at last Friday’s committee hearing on bicycling, bicycling infrastructure, and bicyclists rights. During the sometimes heated hearing, you continued to listen to our concerns and questions.

While it is not going to be easy to recreate Los Angeles as a cycling haven, there is one thing that can be done quickly and that is placing a moratorium on the bicycle licensing program. Whether a mandatory program is necessary is a conversation that can’t occur until cyclists are not being harassed for not having a sticker license that is difficult to obtain and not being distributed by the LAPD as they are required to.

Unfortunately, as you saw on Friday, the LAPD doesn’t seem interested in suspending their uneven enforcement of bike licensing even after being confronted on the program several times by Council Members LaBonge, Parks and Rosendahl at last week’s hearing. To that end, we are asking that you not let go of this issue and that you quickly introduce a motion to suspend the program. We understand that Councilman Rosendahl will not be at tomorrow’s hearing, but that doesn’t mean you cannot take action.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you in the future on other bike-related issues.

Sincerely,

X

Just copy, paste and send. Or if you prefer, use Damien’s email as a template, and put it in your own words. But as one who has been an active rabble-rouser over the years, I can tell you that letters and emails like this really do make a difference.

I’ll be back with my own thoughts soon. In the meantime, you can read a recap of the meeting from Stephen Box of the Bike Writer’s Collective — creators of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights (and a big thanks to all of you for your efforts). Or you can listen to Enci’s recording of the meeting here. 

Note: I’m waiving copyright for this post, in case anyone wants to repost Damien’s letter — and I’m sure it would be okay with him, as well. Right, Damien?

Sometimes, not riding is the right thing to do

Just as the weatherman predicted, this turned out to be a beautiful day. A perfect day for riding, in fact — warm, mostly sunny and almost no wind.

In fact, when I stepped outside this morning, every fiber of my being urged me to get on the bike, and not look back until I had at least 30 miles under my belt. Every fiber, that is, except the ones that insisted I belonged here, instead.

Maybe it had something to do with putting my money where my mouth is. Maybe it was a genuine desire to make a difference, or hold our elected officials accountable.

Or maybe I just wanted to meet some of those people I read every day. Like the ones you’ll find over there on the right.

So I rearranged my schedule, put off a couple of work calls, and made it out of here about 15 minutes after the meeting was supposed to start. Then there was the hour drive it took to travel 12 miles from West L.A. to downtown. (Note to L.A. traffic planners: if you really need another reason why we need to put more bikes — and fewer cars — on the roads, I’d say that just about sums it up.)

Combine that with the 15 minutes it took to hike from the parking lot and pass through security, and I got to the 3-hour City Council Transportation Committee meeting about the time it was halfway over. So I’ll let someone who was actually there for the whole thing tell you what happened.

What I saw, though, was surprising enough.

From a room full of cyclists of every possible description, to council members  — like Bill Rosendahl and Wendy Greuel — who actually seemed to give a damn about making this city a better place for bicyclists, not to mention the other people we share the roads with (or with whom we share the roads, if you prefer).

And to be fair, some of the other people who were there had good things to say about Tom LaBonge, who was called away before I arrived, and Bernard Parks, who was largely silent while I was there.

By the time the meeting was over, I was ready to kiss Rosendahl. Though I don’t think either one of us would have particularly enjoyed that.

The speakers from the L.A. Department of Transportation were a different matter. Sharrows have been used successfully in a number of cities for years now — even right here in Los Angeles, on the campus of UCLA. And yet, to hear them talk, you would assume it was some sort of new technology that must be tested in double blind safety studies to prove they won’t explode or turn us into brain-sucking mutant zombies.

And not only could they not figure what streets to put them on, they weren’t even sure if the paint would be too slick to ride on safely. (Note to LADOT: just call UCLA and ask them what the hell they used, since it hasn’t seemed to have killed anyone yet.)

They also weren’t sure sharrows could, or should, be painted on busy streets. (Note to LADOT: we already ride on those streets. We’d just like it to be a little safer, please.)

In the end, though, it turned out to a pretty positive experience — even if it did cost me a good ride.

And all those cyclists I met?

They turned out to be pretty nice people, too.

Yesterday’s ride, in which I make a movie in my mind

FADE IN:

EXTERIOR  OLDER, VERY TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH — LATE AFTERNOON

A man approaches, looking out of place in spandex bike clothes. He reaches for the door, then hesitates, as if expecting lightening to strike.

Nothing happens.

He opens the door and enters.

INTERIOR

The man approaches the confessional, walking awkwardly in his cycling cleats. He enters the dark, narrow booth, kneels and crosses himself.

Kindly FATHER O’MALLEY slides open the confessional window.

BIKINGINLA

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

FATHER O’MALLEY

How long has it been since your last confession?

BIKINGINLA

I’m not sure…I think it was during the Bush administration.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, that’s not too b…

BIKINGINLA

The other Bush.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh.

BIKINGINLA

But since then, I’ve been good. Really. Almost a saint. I hardly ever take the Lord’s name in vain. And like St. Francis, I try to be kind to dumb animals, especially government officials and bicycle traffic planners.

But…I kinda lost it today…

FATHER O’MALLEY

And what was it you did, my son?

BIKINGINLA

I made an obscene gesture, father…a bad one. Three times.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah, now that’s bad. Very bad. And is there a reason why you did it, now…something the boys down at the 57th Precinct might call “mitigating circumstances?”

BIKINGINLA

Well, see, I was riding down the hill on Montana Ave., doing about 25 on my way to the coast. Then without warning, this woman makes a right turn directly in front of me. And instead of going into the traffic lane, she just drives right down the bike lane, and jerks to a stop when she sees a parking place. So I had to jam on my brakes and swing out into traffic to avoid hitting her.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Tsk. Tsk.

BIKINGINLA

A few blocks later, a car pulls out from the curb right in front of me, and sure enough, he drives down the bike lane before stopping to make a right turn and blocks the lane, even though he could have easily moved out of the way — and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Then there was the woman in the minivan… 

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh my.

BIKINGINLA

But at least she honked to let me know she was going to run the red light — after I was already in the intersection.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, it sound like you might’ve had some justification there. So for your penance, say three Hail Mary’s, and attend the City Council Transportation Committee meeting this Friday.

BIKINGINLA

Thank you, father.

BIKINGINLA gets up to leave, then pauses.

BIKINGINLA

Oh, and I voted for Obama, too…

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah well, you know the bishop says I have to condemn you to eternal damnation for that one…‘cause of the baby killing and such.

BIKINGINLA

Yeah.

FATHER O’MALLEY

But…promise you’ll pray for Notre Dame to beat USC next week, and maybe we can knock a few years off that.

BIKINGINLA

Oh. Okay, thanks.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Though I’m not sure all the saints and angels in paradise could pull that miracle off…

FADE TO BLACK

 

L.A.’s Streetsblog cites a report that says cyclists need safer streets, while Damien continues his series of biking issues on the agenda for Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting. And speaking of Streetsblog, they also had a link to a great N.Y. Times article about Britain’s attempt to bail out its own auto industry. A biking blog in my old home town — with one of the best taglines on the interwebs — reports on the sentencing of a drunk driver who killed one cyclist and injured another, and offers a breathtaking photo from a group of fat tire fans who hit the trails at 4:50 am (one look at that photo, and you’ll know why I miss it). And MIT announces a pilot study of a new technology that will allow cyclists to track their rides and automatically exchange information with other riders.

Yesterday’s ride, in which I make a movie in my mind

FADE IN:

EXTERIOR  OLDER, VERY TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH — LATE AFTERNOON

A man approaches, looking out of place in spandex bike clothes. He reaches for the door, then hesitates, as if expecting lightening to strike.

Nothing happens.

He opens the door and enters.

INTERIOR

The man approaches the confessional, walking awkwardly in his cycling cleats. He enters the dark, narrow booth, kneels and crosses himself.

Kindly FATHER O’MALLEY slides open the confessional window.

BIKINGINLA

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

FATHER O’MALLEY

How long has it been since your last confession?

BIKINGINLA

I’m not sure…I think it was during the Bush administration.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, that’s not too b…

BIKINGINLA

The other Bush.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh.

BIKINGINLA

But since then, I’ve been good. Really. Almost a saint. I hardly ever take the Lord’s name in vain. And like St. Francis, I try to be kind to dumb animals, especially government officials and bicycle traffic planners.

But…I kinda lost it today…

FATHER O’MALLEY

And what was it you did, my son?

BIKINGINLA

I made an obscene gesture, father…a bad one. Three times.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah, now that’s bad. Very bad. And is there a reason why you did it, now…something the boys down at the 57th Precinct might call “mitigating circumstances?”

BIKINGINLA

Well, see, I was riding down the hill on Montana Ave., doing about 25 on my way to the coast. Then without warning, this woman makes a right turn directly in front of me. And instead of going into the traffic lane, she just drives right down the bike lane, and jerks to a stop when she sees a parking place. So I had to jam on my brakes and swing out into traffic to avoid hitting her.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Tsk. Tsk.

BIKINGINLA

A few blocks later, a car pulls out from the curb right in front of me, and sure enough, he drives down the bike lane before stopping to make a right turn and blocks the lane, even though he could have easily moved out of the way — and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Then there was the woman in the minivan… 

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh my.

BIKINGINLA

But at least she honked to let me know she was going to run the red light — after I was already in the intersection.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, it sound like you might’ve had some justification there. So for your penance, say three Hail Mary’s, and attend the City Council Transportation Committee meeting this Friday.

BIKINGINLA

Thank you, father.

BIKINGINLA gets up to leave, then pauses.

BIKINGINLA

Oh, and I voted for Obama, too…

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah well, you know the bishop says I have to condemn you to eternal damnation for that one…‘cause of the baby killing and such.

BIKINGINLA

Yeah.

FATHER O’MALLEY

But…promise you’ll pray for Notre Dame to beat USC next week, and maybe we can knock a few years off that.

BIKINGINLA

Oh. Okay, thanks.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Though I’m not sure all the saints and angels in paradise could pull that miracle off…

FADE TO BLACK

 

L.A.’s Streetsblog cites a report that says cyclists need safer streets, while Damien continues his series of biking issues on the agenda for Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting. And speaking of Streetsblog, they also had a link to a great N.Y. Times article about Britain’s attempt to bail out its own auto industry. A biking blog in my old home town — with one of the best taglines on the interwebs — reports on the sentencing of a drunk driver who killed one cyclist and injured another, and offers a breathtaking photo from a group of fat tire fans who hit the trails at 4:50 am (one look at that photo, and you’ll know why I miss it). And MIT announces a pilot study of a new technology that will allow cyclists to track their rides and automatically exchange information with other riders.

Yesterday’s ride, in which I make a movie in my mind

FADE IN:

EXTERIOR  OLDER, VERY TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH — LATE AFTERNOON

A man approaches, looking out of place in spandex bike clothes. He reaches for the door, then hesitates, as if expecting lightening to strike.

Nothing happens.

He opens the door and enters.

INTERIOR

The man approaches the confessional, walking awkwardly in his cycling cleats. He enters the dark, narrow booth, kneels and crosses himself.

Kindly FATHER O’MALLEY slides open the confessional window.

BIKINGINLA

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

FATHER O’MALLEY

How long has it been since your last confession?

BIKINGINLA

I’m not sure…I think it was during the Bush administration.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, that’s not too b…

BIKINGINLA

The other Bush.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh.

BIKINGINLA

But since then, I’ve been good. Really. Almost a saint. I hardly ever take the Lord’s name in vain. And like St. Francis, I try to be kind to dumb animals, especially government officials and bicycle traffic planners.

But…I kinda lost it today…

FATHER O’MALLEY

And what was it you did, my son?

BIKINGINLA

I made an obscene gesture, father…a bad one. Three times.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah, now that’s bad. Very bad. And is there a reason why you did it, now…something the boys down at the 57th Precinct might call “mitigating circumstances?”

BIKINGINLA

Well, see, I was riding down the hill on Montana Ave., doing about 25 on my way to the coast. Then without warning, this woman makes a right turn directly in front of me. And instead of going into the traffic lane, she just drives right down the bike lane, and jerks to a stop when she sees a parking place. So I had to jam on my brakes and swing out into traffic to avoid hitting her.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Tsk. Tsk.

BIKINGINLA

A few blocks later, a car pulls out from the curb right in front of me, and sure enough, he drives down the bike lane before stopping to make a right turn and blocks the lane, even though he could have easily moved out of the way — and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Then there was the woman in the minivan… 

FATHER O’MALLEY

Oh my.

BIKINGINLA

But at least she honked to let me know she was going to run the red light — after I was already in the intersection.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Well, it sound like you might’ve had some justification there. So for your penance, say three Hail Mary’s, and attend the City Council Transportation Committee meeting this Friday.

BIKINGINLA

Thank you, father.

BIKINGINLA gets up to leave, then pauses.

BIKINGINLA

Oh, and I voted for Obama, too…

FATHER O’MALLEY

Ah well, you know the bishop says I have to condemn you to eternal damnation for that one…‘cause of the baby killing and such.

BIKINGINLA

Yeah.

FATHER O’MALLEY

But…promise you’ll pray for Notre Dame to beat USC next week, and maybe we can knock a few years off that.

BIKINGINLA

Oh. Okay, thanks.

FATHER O’MALLEY

Though I’m not sure all the saints and angels in paradise could pull that miracle off…

FADE TO BLACK

 

L.A.’s Streetsblog cites a report that says cyclists need safer streets, while Damien continues his series of biking issues on the agenda for Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting. And speaking of Streetsblog, they also had a link to a great N.Y. Times article about Britain’s attempt to bail out its own auto industry. A biking blog in my old home town — with one of the best taglines on the interwebs — reports on the sentencing of a drunk driver who killed one cyclist and injured another, and offers a breathtaking photo from a group of fat tire fans who hit the trails at 4:50 am (one look at that photo, and you’ll know why I miss it). And MIT announces a pilot study of a new technology that will allow cyclists to track their rides and automatically exchange information with other riders.

The fourth season

There’s a common myth that Los Angeles doesn’t have any seasons. It’s not true, of course.

In fact, we have four distinct seasons here.

There’s summer, which anyone would recognize. Then there’s winter, which most people from more northerly climes might recognize as…well, summer. Highs in the 60s and 70s — even the 90s, at times — broken by periods of intense rain. Well, usually, anyway.

The third season is relatively brief. Instead of spring, we get June Gloom, in which the marine layer spreads over much, if not most, of the city. For somewhere around three to five weeks, we may not see the sun until late afternoon, if at all — those who live near the coast sometimes don’t see it for weeks at a time.

Then there’s fourth season, which falls between summer and winter. Or in other words, right about now.

Fire season, we call it.

It’s the period that follows L.A.’s typically long, dry summer, between the time the rains usually stop in March or April, and before rains start again (hopefully) in November. Which means that all the plants that grew during the previous winter’s rains are now dry as the proverbial bone. Then the Santa Ana winds start, resulting in single-digit humidity and near-hurricane force winds.

So all it takes is a spark. Or a group of careless students. And Southern California goes up in flames once again.

This past week, we had three major fires simultaneously, in Montecito (near Santa Barbara), Sylmar (north of L.A.), and in Northern Orange County.

Normally, unless the fires are somewhere close — like Malibu, for instance — the sea breezes protect the Westside from the smoke, making it seem like any fires are distant events, unrelated to our daily lives.

Not so this time.

Despite major fires on three sides, Saturday morning started out a beautiful day, but by early afternoon, the smoke was drifting up from the Triangle Complex Fire in Orange County. And by evening, the entire city was covered in dense smoke.

By Sunday morning, our entire apartment smelled of smoke, and the normally clear view outside our window looked like a heavy fog, the spire of the Mormon Temple that dominates our western view barely visible just a few blocks away. I was surprised to see a few cyclists out on the road, despite the smoke; I was having enough trouble breathing just walking across the street.

Monday afternoon, the winds shifted, and the air was starting to clear, though you could still smell of smoke everywhere. By this morning, the fires were largely under control, and most of the homeowners were allowed to return home — those who still had homes to return to, that is.

And by late morning, the sea breezes started up again, and the air was fresh and clean once again, so it was possible to get back to normal activities, without fear of what it might be doing to my lungs. Which for me, meant getting on my bike and taking a fast ride down the coast.

The weather was ideal, and the bike path along the beach was nearly deserted, as it often is this time of year. Which is a pity, because fire season can be the perfect time to ride.

Once the smoke clears, anyway.

 

Courtesy of C.I.C.L.E., the Sacramento Bee reminds us we all need to do better out there, drivers and cyclists alike — a thought the local Las Cruces, NM paper echoes. Maybe someone’s trying to tell us something. Gary and Timur remind us about the City Council’s Transportation Committee meeting this Friday to discuss bike-related issues; Streetsblog explores the issues to be discussed, starting here and here. A writer in the Burbank Ledger responds to a recent letter writer who complained about all those damn bikes on the local bikeway. Our local Bike Snob (not the N.Y. version with the readership the rest of us would kill for), discusses the merits of lying non-car bike stickers. And finally, a blogger in Richmond, VA says forget the bike lanes, give us the entire streets.

The gift that just keeps on giving

Fourteen months after my infamous bee encounter on the beach, and I’m still dealing with it.

As I’ve written here before, I’ve managed to recover from my injuries — for the most part, anyway — and after a lot of hard work, managed to get myself back into shape. But a couple of nagging problem just haven’t gone away.

Take my hip, for instance. While it looks nothing like the picture in the second link anymore, there’s still a little discoloration, and some residual swelling that causes occasional pain and/or numbness.

Then there’s my right butt cheek, which seems to have developed a semi-gelatinous, subcutaneous mass that looks and feels like I sat on a catcher’s mitt. After all these years of riding, I may have the deeply dimpled derriere of a Roman gladiator on the left, but alas, not so on the right.

(Think of it as a 10-point buttocal scale, sort of like this: 10 Greek God; 9 Michelangelo’s David; 8 Roman Gladiator … 3 Roman Galley Slave; 2 Catcher’s Mitt; 1 Dom DeLouise.)

I feel kind of like Two-Face, but lower.

So my orthopedist sent me in for yet another MRI last week, which only confirmed my own self-diagnosis. He gave me a steroid shot in my hip to help the swelling, and he’s sending me to physical therapy to see if they can break down the fibrous tissue that’s keeping that ass mass in place.

Meanwhile, I try not to be self-conscious about it. Really, I do.

It’s not all that noticeable when I’m dressed, and my wife is the only one who sees me naked these days. And she usually tries not to laugh, though I sometimes think I catch a suppressed snicker or two.

So I packed my semi-lumpy, bi-polar butt into my skintight spandex cycling shorts and went out for a ride this afternoon.

And I’m sure it was just my imagination that the women I passed on my left turned and smiled, while those on my right quickly looked away.

 

Researchers at Perdue University point out what every Californian already knows — speed limits don’t count if there’s no one around to enforce them. New York imagines what a neighborhood designed for cycling would look like. Seattle cyclists are confused, as the city promotes cycling while the police harass them. The newspaper in New Haven tells cyclists to stay off the damn sidewalk (personally, I love the 3rd comment.) Bike Fixation gets action after losing the local parking meter/bike rack. Gary Reports of Obama’s new Office of Urban Planning, something that could benefit all of us. Finally, my friends at Altadena Blog report the San Gabriel Valley is being targeted by U2 spy planes. Anyone have an explanation?

Lets have a stimulating conversation

There’s been a lot of talk lately about bailing out the Big Three automakers.

And yes, I have no doubt that it will happen. Once again, we’ll reward total incompetence in business management by bailing out the corporate leaders who forgot the painful lessons Detroit learned following the oil embargoes of the 1970s (here and here). Instead, they chose to market massive, socially irresponsible, gas-guzzling vehicles that sold millions of cars while helping to drive up gas prices — until oil prices skyrocketed, and they were stuck with cars no one wanted.

And once again, they find themselves struggling to learn the lessons they should have learned four decades ago.

So Congress will throw yet more money at yet more businesses deemed too large to fail; meanwhile, countless small businesses will go under without so much as a dime offered to help keep them, and their employees, afloat.

Just business as usual.

But what could help those businesses, and with them, the rest of us, is the proposed 2nd stimulus package that is currently under discussion in Washington.

Because this time, instead of mailing out checks to everyone — yeah, that did a lot of good — they’re talking about making a real investment in America’s infrastructure. Something that would actually help create jobs and put people to work, and at the same time, spread the wealth a little as those people spend their new paychecks.

But now it’s up to us to help keep them honest, and make sure that money is spent on something that will make a difference now, not years down the road — like the proposed Subway to the Sea, which even if they started tomorrow, wouldn’t see its first rider for decades.

The L.A. County Bike Coalition has their ideas on how to spend the money. And while it makes a lot of sense, I have my own suggestion.

Spend the money — every penny of it — on fixing bridges and roadways.

Bridges, because we all remember what happened in Minnesota. No one wants to see that kind of devastation repeated, but with hundreds, if not thousands of substandard bridges around the country, there’s a high probability it will if something isn’t done.

Roadways, because no one who rides or drives in Los Angeles has to be told how bad the roads have become. Like the corrugated surface of Pico Blvd between Sepulveda and the 405, which has been badly patched so many times it feels like you’re riding the Oregon Trail in a Conestoga. Or the intersection of Ventura Blvd and Van Nuys, where the bus-burrowed ruts are deep enough to bottom-out a small car like mine. And sometimes do.

Now multiply that by hundreds of thousands of roadways throughout California and around the nation. Roadways that waste time and gas, resulting in longer commutes, higher gas costs and more smog and greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

All it would take is repaving those streets to cut costs, save time and reduce emissions. Not 10 years from now, but in a matter of months. And at the same time, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

And why does this matter to cyclists? Simple.

They could paint new bike lanes on every road in town. But it won’t matter if they’re too rough and rutted to ride.

So write your congressional representative (here’s mine). And tell him or her it’s time to fix the roads.

Now.

Contemplating otherness

After the excitement of election day, I spent most of the past week trying to figure out just what it all meant.

The election of the nation’s first African-American president, followed shortly thereafter by the heart-breaking results on Prop 8. And at the same time, the meaning of bikeism, after a stomach-wrenching report of a deliberate attack on a group of Aussie cyclists.

And contemplating the confluence of these seemingly unrelated events.

It took awhile to penetrate my sluggish grey matter, but it finally sank in that what these events all had in common was the concept of otherness — the objectification of people who are, somehow, found to be different from those judging them.

Just as the people in that car down under saw themselves as somehow different from, and therefore superior to, the “wankers” on their bikes, and so decided they were deserving of death.

Just as 52% of the voters in California saw themselves as somehow different from, and therefore superior to, a minority population, and so decided they were undeserving of equality under the law.

And just as a sizable minority of the population tried to convince Americans that Barrack Obama was a closeted Muslim, and someone who would betray the U.S. to its enemies, and therefore undeserving of being elected president. A canard impressive for its sheer audacity, since it was based on two simultaneous fallacies — first that Obama was/is a Muslim, and second, that there is something inherently wrong with the Islamic faith, rather than a relative handful who profess to follow it.

Fortunately, most Americans had the intelligence to see through the lies; to see the man, rather than the fraudulent image some had tried to create.

If only the voters in California had shown the same insight.

Over the past week, the news has been full of people who said they voted against same-sex marriage because they felt homosexuality — and therefore, gay marriage — was a moral failure, rather than a civil rights issue. Never mind that by voting yes on 8, they condemned gays to second-class status under the state constitution. And no one I know ever chose to be gay, any more than I chose to be white or my next door neighbor choose to be black.

On the other hand, bicycling is a choice, yet one that is protected under the law. And certainly not one which justifies the hatred and violent vigilantism demonstrated by the Australian attack, or by the good doctor’s Mandeville brake check.

What these all have in common is the objectification of another human being. Because it’s hard — if not impossible — to attack other people, physically or otherwise, if you see them as equals. As real human beings, with needs and desires, families and emotions.

But if you can classify them in some way as different from yourself — as an Islamic terroist, a faggot or an arrogant, obnoxious cyclist — you no longer have to show them the courtesy and respect that is the birthright of every human. And then it becomes easy to attack them physically, emotionally, or legally.

Something I’ll try to remember then next time some driver cuts me off or passes too close, and I’m tempted to curse all drivers — a category that includes virtually everyone I know.

Including myself.

 

Gary and Lauren write about some of the No on 8 protests; this one made it almost impossible for me to get home last week, and kept us awake as the helicopters and sirens continued well past midnight. But if that’s why you’re protesting, you can keep me up anytime. Alex writes about last weekend’s RoboRide, while Bike Snob describes his first SoCal Critical Mass — including an unfortunate Raccoon encounter. Around here, even the famous bike — and get hurt; actor James Cromwell was hospitalized over the weekend with a broken collarbone following a weekend bike accident. A Times writer got robbed by another cyclist while riding her bike. According to the LA Creek Freak, the city is finally going to get around to closing some of the gaps in the L.A. River bikeway. Finally, a happy Veteran’s Day to all those who’ve served their country; CNN reports on a Loma Linda vet who was held in a POW camp at Buchenwald.

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