Archive for September 30, 2009

Today’s ride, on which I question my cultural identity

Maybe it’s because of my lifelong affinity for the comedy of Mel Brooks and pre-Hannah, pre-Soon Yi Woody Allen.

Or maybe because I’ve long believed that the Catholic faith I was raised with is actually the fourth branch of Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Really Reformed.

It could be due to the 10 years I spent working in the jewelry business, where Yiddish is a second language — which I picked up easily, thanks to the lingering influence of my German-speaking Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother.

Maybe the fault rests with couple rabbis I’ve known, who loved to egg me on because it was so funny to hear Jewish expressions come from such a goyishe punim.

Or it could be I’m just the reincarnation of a Borscht-Belt comic.

But even I was surprised when a car edged out from a side street while I was riding today, and the driver looked directly at me as he pulled out further to block my way entirely. And I heard these words pass my lips as I braked hard to came to a stop just feet from his open window:

“What am I, chopped liver?”

Oy gevalt.


A reader asks if there’s viable route to ride from Santa Clarita to the San Fernando Valley:

I reside in the Santa Clarita valley and I do plan to go on the “Silent Ride” Saturday.  My comment is that there does not appear to be any reasonable way to go from the Santa Clarita valley to the San Fernando valley by bike.  There’s the Old Road and Foothill Blvd.  Both are plagued by little to no shoulder and a number of blind curves.  I’ve seen cyclist on Foothill and I take my hat off to them.  Never on the Old Road between Sierra Highway and Balboa.  Once you get to Balboa things are good.  I assume this would be a L.A. county issue or maybe CALTRANS.  In any event, I wish something could be done about it.  If you have any suggestions or comments that would be great.  Thanks

Any suggestions for him? Or anyone planning to attend the ride, that he could join to ride back to the Valley?


BOLO Alert: Keep your eyes peeled for Joe Linton’s blue Trek, which was stolen last night from in front of an Internet café on Wilshire near Normandie:

So… friends and fellow travelers… be on the lookout for my bike around town… it’s the blue one in the photo (below) – it looks more-or-less like that picture, though it has more stickers and new kinda-bulky black plastic mountain-biker pedals. It’s a big frame (I am 6′3″) light blue Trek, 24-speed, about 3 years old. Bontrager (sp?) black/gray puncture-resistant slick road tires. Lots of stickers – C.I.C.L.E., FoLAR and others. There’s a faded green paper flower and a large Chinese bell on the straight handlebars. There’s a basic black utilitarian rack on the back.

I hereby resolve to lock my bikes really really well in the future.

Be On The Look Out for Joe Linton's blue Trek

Be On the Look Out for Joe Linton's blue Trek


Joe Linton takes over for new daddy Damien on Streetsblog to discuss planned sharrows in Hermosa Beach, and promote the upcoming David Byrne bike round table — and yes, I’m planning to be there. Green LA Girl notes that meetings are being held for four bike plans around the area; just pick your city. Continuing with the color scheme, the Green LA Transportation Working Group defines what Living Streets means. A new group ride rolls through the Eastside. A 65-year old KC cyclist was intentionally hit by an impatient driver. Boston Biker offers advice on how to avoid the door zone when riding in a bike lane; plus advice from Philly on how to pass in one — though you might want to signal and announce you’re passing, as well. Finally, good advice on how to share the road from north of the border.

Today’s post, in which I pause to applaud you

You’d think that I would have gotten good at riding hills when I lived in Colorado.

But pretty much anything east of the Front Range — that long wall of mountains that marks the east face of the Rockies — is about as flat as Kansas. So it wasn’t until I moved to the hills and valleys of San Diego that I really learned how to climb.

Even a simple ride up the coast north of the city meant at least one major climb along the east side of Torrey Pines State Reserve to get back home.

There was a another shorter, but far steeper route through the park, though. And as I developed my skills by hammering up that long sweeping climb outside the park, I promised myself that one day I’d be good enough to take on that other, more challenging route.

So after months of hard effort, it was finally time to give it a try.

I failed. Or more precisely, I made it, but only after the most excruciating climb I’ve ever inflicted on myself.

I cracked about halfway up — hitting that point where it was too much effort to go forward, and any rational solution person would turn back and try again another day.

But I’ve never claimed to be rational.

Maybe it was old-fashioned determination, or just plain old pig-headedness. But I had set a goal and I was going to make it or die trying. And considering the pounding in my chest, the latter seemed like a real possibility at the time.

So I forced myself to turn the cranks just one more time, followed by another. And another.

By the time I was three quarters of the way up, my body was screaming in pain, and every crank of the pedal was harder than the last. Finally, I began to whisper under my breath with every stroke, saying “Don’t quit.”

“Don’t quit.”

“Don’t quit.”

Or I thought I was under my breath, anyway. Because when I finally took that last painful stroke and rose over the crest, about a dozen people standing around at the top broke into a round of applause.

I was embarrassed as hell. So I gave a weak wave — the best I could muster at the moment — and continued on my way, blushing from head to toe as I rode off.

Yet they also made me feel like I’d just won the Tour de France.

Even now, I look back at that with a mixture of embarrassment and pride. Because it took everything I had just to get up that hill. And a group of total strangers not only noticed, but applauded those efforts.

And that feels pretty damn good.

I was thinking about that today beacause Patrick Pascal forwarded a link to the UK’s Guardian’s bike blog, which discusses a series of videos posted online by French prankster Rémi Gaillard. In them, he establishes a faux finish line along a popular cycling route, and treats an unsuspecting cyclist like he’s just won a hard stage on the Tour de France.

I can’t help but smile as I watch. And mentally put myself in the place of that anonymous rider.

In these days, when it feels like we have to fight for every inch of asphalt, and endure the taunts, insults and often painful indignities inflicted on us by a moronic minority of motorists, it feels good to have someone acknowledge the effort we put into it — even if it is just a prank.

Because we do a lot of good.

Every cyclist riding to work or doing errands on their bikes means one less car clogging our streets and fouling our air — something you’d think even the most impatient driver would appreciate.

Despite the frequent calls to register and tax us, we have virtually no impact on the roads. And the cost of cycling infrastructure represents just a minute fraction of overall transportation and road funding.

And everyone who gets out on a bike — not matter why they ride, how far or fast — is doing their part to improve their own health and fitness. Which benefits society in countless ways, measurable and otherwise, from lowering healthcare costs to lifting the mood of our current malaise.

So maybe we do deserve a round of applause.

Not for winning a stage or making it up a hill, but just for being out there pushing pedals when so many others aren’t. When you could be sitting at home packing calories on instead of pounding them off, or out burning fossil fuels instead of carbs.

So next time I see a cyclist fighting her way through traffic or struggling up a hill, I’m going to give her — or him — a thumbs-up. Or maybe break into a spontaneous round of applause.

Because you’re out there making our world a better place.

And what could possibly be wrong with that?


The first review is in on the new bike plan, and not surprisingly, it comes from Stephen Box. And the verdict is: thumbs down. Speaking of which, new bike lanes have finally appeared on Reseda Blvd. Taking Damien’s place on Streetsblog for the day, Stephen also reports on Sunday’s Crenshaw Crush ride. LACBC offers a look at what a 4th Street Bike Boulevard could be. A look at artistic bike racks in Downtown L.A. The latest side-effect of the growing bike community is an increase in bike thefts, as well as parts and accessories. A new iPhone app lets you snap photos of road problems, and forwards them to the appropriate authorities. Kill a cyclist in Arizona, get fined $254. Austin offers a preview of what to expect from David Byrne on Friday. Does it surprise anyone to learn there’s a gender gap in media cycling stories? Minneapolis’ mayor moves forward with plans to make bikes more welcome. Evidently, the fixie fad has officially peaked. Nashville is looking for artists to design new bike racks. Vancouver cyclists ride to say thanks for the bike lanes. The new Welsh bike share program hits a snag the first weekend. Finally, congratulations to Damien and Marybeth — and welcome to the world Samuel Lee Newton. We’ll try to leave it in a little better shape than we found it.

Today’s post, in which I don’t criticize LADOT. Much.

Maybe you missed the cycling community’s response to the release of the full draft of LADOT’s proposed new bike plan.

Yeah, me too.

Aside from a minor pissing match in which Green LA Girl, L.A.’s meiststress of all things ecological, called out Dr. Alex and Bike Girl for their damnable negativity, the plan landed with an overwhelming thud.

It’s not that we’re not interested. As Mikey Wally, who recently completed a coast-to-coast ride of his own points out, most L.A. cyclists are keenly aware of the appalling lack of infrastructure in this city. As well as the risks we take in merely trying to get from here to there on two wheels.

It’s just that A) we weren’t expecting it, considering that it was already six months overdue, and comes months after the much-maligned map that introduced the phrase “currently infeasible” to the local cycling vocabulary; and B) at 212 pages plus appendices, we have no idea what to think about it yet.

It’s going to take a lot more than a single weekend to make heads or tails out of this. And that’s exactly the point Bike Girl and Alex were trying to make.

LADOT’s current timeline gives cyclists and any other interested parties a mere seven weeks from the release of the plan to read, digest and analyze all 212 pages plus appendices, form a considered opinion, and convey that opinion in a reasoned and effective manner. Even less, considering that the first public meeting is scheduled for less than one month from today.

Or we could just do what we usually do, and base our opinions on previous experience. In which case we’d already be readying the torches and pitchforks.

Personally, I think giving us sufficient time to respond is a better option.

But hey, that’s just me.

Then there’s the fact that only four public meetings have been scheduled in a city of nearly 4 million people — which works out to just under 1 million people per meeting.

I hope they’ve reserved a big room.

Then again, they may have considered that. In what could only be read as an attempt to limit public participation, three of the four meetings have been scheduled to begin at 5p — an hour when much of the city is just starting to get off work.

Anyone interested in attending would have to make their way across the city through rush hour traffic to get to the meeting site. And as anyone who has ever attempted it can attest, in riding at rush hour is a contact sport in this city.

And it takes a very, very long time.

The irony here is that if the city had good cycling infrastructure — based on an effective bicycle master plan, of course — there might be more bikes, and fewer cars, on the streets. Which would make it a lot easier to get to one of those meetings.

Another problem is that there are no meetings scheduled in Downtown or East L.A. — despite their large cycling populations, including many for whom a bike is their primary means of transportation. And as Alex points out, the current timeline effectively prohibits any input from any of the city’s 89 Neighborhood Councils, as well.

In fact, a cynical person might suspect that LADOT anticipated a negative response to this plan, and scheduled the number, time and location of these meetings — as well as the short deadline for comments — in a deliberate attempt to limit public input.

Fortunately, I’m not a cynical person, so that never occurred to me.

So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. And ascribe the inadequate public schedule to a well-intentioned, if ill-advised, desire to keep the process from falling any further behind.

However, I will take the advice offered by Alex:

Email West LA Councilman and City Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl and express displeasure with this situation –  I recommend asking for amendment of the deadline to January 4th, 2010.

In fact, I’ll take it one further, and suggest that everyone email their own council member, as well. And demand more time for an effective, reasoned — and reasonable — response.

Meanwhile, I’m marking my calendar for the West L.A. meeting on October 28. And I hope to see a room filled with informed and passionate cyclists.

Torches and pitchforks optional.

No one knows the streets of this city better than the people who ride them. So take a look at the plan, particularly as it affects the areas you ride. And if you have any comments you want to offer, feel free to email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.


Dave Moulton suggests that a more positive attitude can result in a more positive cycling experience. The four most common causes of single bike crashes; not listed is a Connecticut bridge that has repeatedly taken out unsuspecting riders. Columbia, MO’s mayor sets out to set the standard for cycling cities. For once, police offer advice for safe cycling that focuses on drivers as well as cyclists. A Philly reporter asks if cyclists have been given too much of the road, while the St. Louis Post-Dispatch demonstrates just how low journalistic standards have fallen. Tampa Bay cyclists want sharrows. An Indian man is injured in a bike-on-bike collision, then disappears from the hospital without a trace. London cyclists are give the green light to ride the wrong way. After being bitten while riding on the Scottish moors, will Town Mouse transform into a werejackrussel on the next full moon? Finally, thanks to reader TricksterNZ for calling attention to a bad weekend in New Zealand in which two riders were killed — including one in which a driver went through a stop into a group of passing cyclists. As usual, the comments blame the victims.

Santa Clarita to honor fallen cyclist with silent ride

novotny-2Every cycling death is tragic. And unnecessary.

And this year, there have been far too many around here.

Whether it’s a father taking his son on a grand adventure. A local handyman who took up riding after losing part of his vision in an accident. A day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who rode everywhere. A woman police blame for causing her own death by riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. Or a man in Orange County just trying to get home from work.

And then there’s Joseph Novotny.

Like Rod Armas and Jesus Castillo, he was killed by an accused drunk driver who fled the scene — a driver who had already been arrested multiple times, despite being too young to legally drink.

And it was preventable.

His killer was driving with a suspended license, and passing motorists had already reported him to the authorities. But despite their best efforts, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments after he’d plowed his truck into a group of oncoming cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder of the road, and continued down the road.

Four cyclists were injured, two seriously. And Novotny was killed.

It could have been anyone of us.

Adding to the tragedy, he was on one of his first rides with the Santa Clarita Velo Club, having just moved to the area with his wife. Now she, and all those who knew and loved him, have to find a way to go on without him.

Next Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Velo Club are sponsoring a Memorial Ride of Silence in memory of Robert Novotny, and other cyclists who have been killed on the roads.

I’ll let Jeff Wilson explain:

Los Angeles cyclists and Biking in LA readers, we could use your help!

On July 11, 2009, 43 year old cyclist Joseph Novotny was struck and killed by an underaged drunk driver while riding his bike in the Bouquet Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

On October 3, Santa Clarita cyclists will ride silently in memory of Joe Novotny and all other cyclists who have been killed while riding. Please consider joining us to raise awareness of bicyclists and our right to use roads.

The 12 mile ride begins at 8am in Santa Clarita. A Sheriff’s escort will be provided as we ride into Newhall, then Stevenson Ranch, and finally back to Valencia. Most of the route is flat; other parts are somewhat hilly (but brief). Cyclists are asked to ride in silence and at around 12mph.

From Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is just minutes north of the San Fernando Valley. Take Interstate 5 north and exit at Valencia Blvd. Proceed east on Valencia until you reach Citrus Avenue. Turn left on Citrus Avenue. Free parking is available.

Unfortunately, while Metrolink service is available to Santa Clarita, the earliest northbound train will arrive after the ride has started.

I know it’s short notice, and you may have other commitments already. But if you’re planning to ride next weekend, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

Or a better reason.

And please, be careful out there this weekend. I want to see you all back here on Monday.

For more information, contact, or click here to visit the Facebook page.


Submitted for your approval: LADOT has finally released the full draft bicycle plan and scheduled dates and locations for public comment; Bike Girl calls the deadline for comments “infeasible,” while Dr. Alex notes that it excludes input from Neighborhood Councils. Pasadena has a meeting scheduled to discuss its new Bicycle Master Plan. Mark your calendar for the Festival of Rights to protest the illegal exclusion of bikes from the DWP’s annual Holiday Light Festival. We could have had bike lanes on Topanga Boulevard by now, no thanks to the Department of Currently Unfeasible, aka LADOT. L.A.’s leading bike wonk makes the case for making the case for active transportation. The only thing missing from Santa Monica’s new green maintenance facility is bike racks. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a report from the road. An Arizona cyclist was killed riding with a group of other cyclists; he leaves behind a wife and three children, including a newborn. Evidently, cars really do make Americans fat. Proof there’s more than one way to park a bike. I don’t know what’s worse — that they put up speed bumps in a cemetery without warning cyclists, or that a few rude cyclists made it necessary. San Francisco police take a report of harassing a cyclist seriously. Finally, your word for the day is Traumadinejad.


Today’s ride, on which I vow to patent my cloak of invisibility

I’m not exactly a small man.

I stand six-foot-even, sans shoes, with a weight that clocks in on the plus side of 180, give or take. And today I was wearing a bright yellow jersey that just screams for attention. Which is kind of the point.

So it would seem the only reason someone wouldn’t see me is if they just didn’t want to. Yet somehow, three different drivers managed to miss me today.

And just barely, at that.

The first case was a classic right hook, as a driver passed on my left, then immediately cut back in front of me to make a right turn. Fortunately, I’ve learned to anticipate that possibility when a car passes me near a corner, so I was prepared for it.

A quick squeeze on my brakes to drop behind her, followed by a fast spin, and I found myself right next to her open window before she could even finish her turn. The only response I got was a startled look when I sarcastically yelled “Thanks for cutting me off!” before leaving her behind.

A few hours later, just a few miles from home, a driver passed me with less than a foot to spare after I’d taken the lane on a short downhill — nearly forcing me into the back of a parked car. I caught up to her at the base of the hill when she slowed for traffic, and said “You totally cut me off back there!” with all the equanimity I could muster under the circumstances.

Which admittedly wasn’t much.

And why I would revert to Valley-speak when ticked off is like, totally beyond me.

The speed and anger behind her response — “What’s your problem, a**hole!” — suggested she was probably mad before I ever said a word. Though whether at me or someone else, I have no idea.

So we traded insults until she turned off a few blocks later, mine in regard to her driving skills, or the lack thereof, and hers of a far more personal nature.

The last one came directly in front of my building, as I stopped at the stop sign and signaled for a right turn. But just as I started to go, a woman in a minivan pulled up on my left, rolling through the stop and angling right across my path.

Another right hook.

So I yelled until I finally got her attention, and she stopped directly in front of me. I asked — okay, yelled — “What am I, invisible?”, before making my turn and pulling up to my home, as she stared back at me with the sort of uncomprehending gaze I usually see only on sheep.

Not that we have a lot of those in L.A., but still.

Yet I can almost guarantee you that all three went home and complained about what jerks those cyclists are — especially Lance Armstrong wannabee Lycra louts like me.

And I can also pretty much guarantee that not one of them stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, they’d actually done something wrong. Because most people just aren’t wired that way. Cyclists included.

It’s human nature to blame the other person. And yelling certainly doesn’t help matters any, although it’s hard to respond any other way when someone has just threatened your safety, intentionally or not.

So how do we communicate more effectively with drivers, to let them know that they need to drive more carefully around us — let alone how they can accomplish that?

Yelling doesn’t work. Gestures don’t work — at least not the ones we usually employ when threatened with motorized mayhem. A calm conversation can sometimes do the job, but that requires catching the driver long enough to talk.

And remaining that calm is a lot easier said than done.

And it’s not like most drivers read the sort of blogs where we discuss things like this. Although there was one notable exception — someone who seemed like a typical motorhead jerk at first, but turned out to be one of the classiest guys I’ve never met.

It’s also not like all drivers are that bad.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many passed me safely or courteously waved me through an intersection today. It was a hell of a lot more than three, though.

But then, it only takes one bad driver to ruin your day.

Or your life.


We’re down to two candidates to replace Wendy Greuel following yesterday’s election in CD2. The Crenshaw Crush ride rolls this weekend through one of L.A.’s most fascinating and historic neighborhoods. Will Campbell counts bikes; I wonder if he counted himself while he was at it. How to dress for fall cycling — or winter riding here in semi-balmy SoCal — along with five essential tips for fall riding.  A fellow bike blogger compares biking accidents in Boulder, CO and Louisville, KY, and finds Louisville lacking. A writer in Charleston says the rules apply to cyclists, too, while an Aussie writer says we need to know the rules of the road. The Michigan Dept. of Transportation offers training in road design for bicycling; maybe we could send someone next time. Finally, Damien Newton, while waiting (patiently?) for the next Newton, reports that the LAPD is training campus police that riding in a crosswalk is illegal in L.A. Even though it isn’t.

More songs about buildings and bikes: A panel discussion with David Byrne

Byrne-BugI’m not easily impressed.

Especially not when it comes to celebrities.

Maybe it’s because I’ve met more than my share over the years. Then again, maybe that’s why I’ve met more than my share, whether through work, mutual friends, volunteer work or just everyday encounters. In other words, pretty much the way you’d meet anyone else.

And in my experience, the rich and famous are pretty much like anyone else. Except richer. And, uh, more famous.

So that’s exactly how I treat them — like I would anyone else. For the most part, they’ve seemed to appreciate that, though there have been some notable exceptions.

A few have impressed me, though. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rev. Al Green. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. And Gov. John Connally, who was critically wounded in the Kennedy assassination.

I have a feeling David Byrne would be on that list if we ever happened to meet.

Not just because he was the lead singer of one of the most influential and impossible to imitate bands of the 80s. One of the few bands that didn’t sound like anyone else, before or since, and formed a large part of the soundtrack for my blissfully misspent youth.

But also for what he did during and after his tenure in the Talking Heads. Like collaborations that pushed the bounds of music, founding the Luaka Bop record label and promoting the work of musicians from around the world. Along with a simultaneous career as a world-class artist — including a series of New York bike racks designed to subtly capture a sense of the city.

Which is only appropriate, because he’s been riding his own bike throughout New York and around the world for over 30 years — leading to his own unique perspective on urban livability, including his take on our own humble city:

If a city doesn’t have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It’s human nature for us to look at one another— we’re social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.

It’s also lead to Bicycle Diaries, his ironic and insightful observations of the world around him, as seen from behind the handlebars.

And next week, it will lead him to Los Angeles for a panel discussion “examining the bicycle’s role in transforming the urban experience” at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo on Friday, October 2.

Okay, so it’s not free. But the $25 admission — $20 for Library Associates — goes to support free cultural programs at the Central Library downtown.

Also on the panel will be Bicycle Kitchen co-founder Jimmy Lizama, UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup, and Michelle Mowery, Senior Bicycle Coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — the people who introduced the term “currently infeasible” to the world of bike planning.

And if that doesn’t make for an interesting conversation, I don’t know what will.

Stop making sense, indeed.

Bicycle valet services will be provided by the LACBC. For more information or tickets, visit


Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles offers a free lecture on Cycling For Health & Performance Wednesday at 7p. Treehugger notes that it’s illegal to ride a bike in a swimming pool in Baldwin Park. The Cato Institute says D.C.’s new state-of-the-art bike station is just a $4 million bike rack. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition asks why drivers are seldom held accountable for hitting cyclists. The Biker Chicks ask how to avoid a right hook on a group ride. If you’re in Portland tomorrow, here’s your chance to ride naked in a Flaming Lips video. Evidently, Scottish truck drivers actually look out for cyclists. The UK’s Daily Mail complains about Lycra louts who never say thank you, while Cycling England says drivers should be held responsible for cycling accidents. Finally, Catholic Charities brings their message — and breakfast — to Portland’s bikeways; throw in absolution for any gestures I might make on the way, and I’m there.

Bike the vote in CD2

As Stephen Box points out, today could turn out to be one of the most important days in determining the future of cycling in L.A.

That’s because today there’s an election to fill the city council seat recently vacated by former Transportation Committee Wendy Greuel. And whoever is elected to represent the 2nd Council District will have an outsize influence on the council, since many of the members currently on the council are in their final terms — and thanks to the effects of term limits, will soon be more focused on running for their next office than representing the district they currently serve.

Which is not so much a comment on our current council members as it is a comment on a highly flawed system that throws out the good with the bad.

As Box put it:

Los Angeles has a Mayor and a City Council made up of 15 Councilmembers. A significant number of those in office are lame ducks, politicians in their last term who can’t run for reelection. The person who wins the CD2 seat is in a position to set the tone for the next round of candidates who run for the even numbered seats in 2011. That’s seven seats and the person who wins today will be setting the pace for that race. As for today, there are ten candidates and it’s a bit late to try to cover the many issues and the many positions and the many debates and the many forums. Suffice to say that there are two kinds of candidates, those who embrace the Cyclists Bill of Rights and those who don’t.

I’ve written before how cyclists can have an outsized influence on the electoral process. In the CD5 primary, the winner was determined by a total of just 60 votes — votes that could have easily come from the cycling community.

60 votes.

And with 10 candidates in today’s election, this one could easily be closer. Which means that your vote may never mean more than it does today.

You can learn more on Stephen’s blog, where he has video from four of the candidates, and written statements from two more. And over at Streetsblog, Damien Newton has done a great job covering the race from a more general transportation perspective.

But whatever you do, if you live in this Valley district that wraps around the west sides of Glendale and Burbank, from Mulholland to the Verdugo Hills and west to Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks, get out and vote.

Because your vote today could determine how you ride tomorrow.


A cyclist was injured in a collision behind the Orange Curtain. The hit-and-run epidemic has spread to the East Coast. New York cracks down on illegal rental bikes. Boston plans to put more bikes on the street to end its bike unfriendly image. There’s a new shockproof, waterproof bike mount for all you iPhone users. Bike & Brew reaches Kalamazoo. The wife of British gold medalist Bradley Wiggins was hit by a car while riding over the weekend; as usual, the driver claims he just didn’t see her. A ghost bike in Bogota. Finally, ride your bike to the polls when you Bike the Vote in CD2 today — after all, it’s World Carfree Day.

An epidemic of aggressive roadway entitlement

The other day I was riding along one of my favorite routes through the Westside — a quiet, two lane street wide enough that cars can pass, while keeping me comfortably out of the dooring zone.

I came up behind an SUV that was stopped in the traffic lane, waiting to make a left turn onto a side street. A large pickup was stopped behind it; its wheels angled to go around the SUV on the right.

However, the driver appeared to be waiting for me to clear the area first. So I caught his eye in the mirror, nodded my thanks, and was about to ride through the gap when a car came speeding up on my left, blaring his horn for the other vehicles to get the hell out of his way.

Noticing the space I was about to move into, he cut sharply right to go around the other vehicles, forcing me to jam on my brakes. That meant he had to drive in the parking lane, though, and there was no way to complete his move without hitting the park car ahead of him.

So he was stuck right there, next to the pickup. And so was anyone else, since he’d boxed in the pickup in and was blocking my path, as well.

We all had no choice but to sit there until the SUV driver finally found an opening she was comfortable with, and made her left.

The gesture I made left little doubt what I thought of his driving skills. Yet his response surprised me. He merely pointed towards the other two cars, as if that explained everything — suggesting that they were responsible for what he had done, simply because the other drivers were in his way.

Once my path was clear, I rode off, wondering where that sense of entitlement comes from.

It’s not like he’s the only one. I see the same sort of thing just about any time I hit the streets, whether I’m on foot, on my bike or behind the wheel.

A car slows to make a right turn, and the driver behind will honk simply because he has to slow down. A stop light changes to red, and a trailing car zips around the cars ahead to go through the light anyway.

I’ve even seen a driver honk at a little old lady using a walker to cross the street, because she didn’t move fast enough for his satisfaction.

Then there was the truck driver who came to a sudden stop in the traffic lane ahead of me. And when I gestured to ask what was going on, he held out his cell and yelled, “I’m on the phone, a**hole!”

Oh, well that explains it then.

I used to think this was just an L.A. phenomenon. Or maybe the result of so many New York transplants bringing their famous impatience out west with them.

But as I’ve travelled around the country, I’ve seem similar behavior almost everywhere, even on the relatively bucolic streets of my old home town.

Of course, it’s not just drivers.

It’s the same attitude shown by pedestrians who step out in front of oncoming traffic in the middle of a block, expecting drivers to stop for them — even though they’re only a few feet from the next corner or crosswalk.

And the one shown by cyclists who blow through one red light after another, despite the presence of traffic, or who weave through traffic regardless of right-of-way. Even though the law, safety, common courtesy and common sense would seem to dictate otherwise.

I’ve tried to understand. Honestly, I have.

But I just can’t grasp the concept that one person’s convenience outweighs their own safety, as well as that of everyone around them. And it seems to be counterproductive, because it slows the overall flow of traffic as other road users are forced to respond.

So the net effect is that everyone deals with more congestion, more frustration. And more anger.

Maybe you can explain it.

Because I just don’t get it.


The LACBC urges cyclists to urge the governor to sign the bicycle crosswalk and CA bike route bills. A writer for the Washington Post survives a week of biking in L.A. If you’re looking for somewhere to ride, Travelin’ Local offers a list of free days at L.A. museums. An Arizona newspaper applauds a police crackdown on cyclists who ignore traffic rules; evidently, drivers there never break the law. Why do so many drivers assume we think we’re invulnerable, when most cyclists have a keen sense of our vulnerability? The D.C. ghost bikes are gone once again. Yehuda Moon nails news coverage of cycling accidents. Biker Chicks crack down on two-abreast group riders. Town Mouse suggests that more bike lanes could keep us from having to become ninja cyclists. Finally, not bike related, but one the greatest Americans passed away in L.A. last week.

Bikes and politics: Choosing the best candidate in CD2

Maybe you didn’t notice that we have yet another election next week, in L.A.’s 2nd Council District.

However, unlike the recent race in CD 5, I haven’t been involved in this one.

That’s partly due to the overwhelming number of candidates in the race. It was hard enough keeping up with a race with just six candidates, five of whom eventually submitted statements discussing their stands on local bicycling issues — including the eventual winner, Paul Koretz.

And partly due to plain old-fashioned political burnout, after last fall’s election, followed shortly by two elections in CD5 and the race in state Senate District 26, eventually won by Curren Price.

Frankly, by the time it was over, I didn’t want to hear from or about any more candidates. Even if they promised to turn the Santa Monica Freeway into the city’s first bike boulevard.

Fortunately, Damien Newton over at Streetsblog stepped in to pick up the slack.

So far, he’s managed to get responses from seven of the 10 candidates — which I’ve learned is no easy task. Some offered the typical by-the-numbers, guaranteed-not-to-offend anyone answers; yet a surprising number have shown real insight into this city’s many transportation issues.

Most of the candidates oppose the mayor’s plan to trade the city’s parking meters for a bundle of cash and a player to be named later, and oppose the automatic speed limit increases currently mandated by state law — something AB 766, sponsored by one of the candidates for the CD2 seat, would address. Even if some people don’t want to talk about it.

All seven seem to support cycling, as well as other forms of alternative transportation. And all support measures to help keep riders safer on the roads, with varying degrees of insight.

Cycling activist Stephen Box also seems to have made an impression on just about all of them. But then, he has a way of doing that. Just ask Tom LaBonge.

Even if you’re as tired of the endless electoral cycle as I am, though, this election matters.

And your vote matters.

So allow me, briefly, to be obnoxiously self-indulgent and quote something I wrote during the CD5 campaign. Because it’s just as appropriate today, in this election, as it was seven months ago.

One of these people will be the one we turn to when we need to address the lack of cycling infrastructure in this city. He or she will also be responsible, along with the other members of the council, for turning the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights from mere words to meaningful change, as well as addressing the future of transportation — and quality of life — in this city. And by extension, for every city in the surrounding metro area.

This same person will be the one you’ll reach out to whenever you have a problem or concern in this district — and hope that… he or she will actually listen to you, and do something about it.

It matters. Not just for the (2nd) District, but for the 4th, 12th and 15th. And every other district, and for every other cyclist, in the city.

In a race with this many candidates, and the notoriously low voter turnout in this city’s local elections, a single vote could actually make a difference.

Your vote matters. Your support matters.

It all matters.

No really, it does.

So take a moment to click on the links below and read what the candidates have to say. And if you live in CD2, make time to vote on Tuesday.

Assuming there’s a runoff — which is almost guaranteed with so many candidates — I’ll ask the winning candidates to get more specific about cycling issues before the next election.

Because we need to elect people who care about bicycling.

And about making this city a better place. For all of us.

Mary Benson

Chris Essel

Tamar Galatzan

Paul Krekorian

Michael McCue

Frank Sheftel

Zuma Dogg

Not responding as of Sept 17, 2009: Augusto Bisani, Jozef Thomas “Joe” Essavi, Pete Sanchez.

I won’t tell you how to vote. But considering that openness and responsiveness are two of important qualities a council member, failing to respond to Damien’s questionnaire really isn’t a good sign.


Santa Monica’s AltCar Expo will offer an expanded bike section, Oct. 2 &3 at the Civic Auditorium. The Anonymous Cyclist — whose secret identity I know, but you’ll never get it out of me — offers you a chance to write to anything you want about cycling. Anonymously, I assume. Damien drops Santa Monica from Friday’s Park(ing) Day Ride after Santa Monica drops Park(ing) Day. Alex gets the response he expected to his comments about bike theft vigilantes. The Valley gets its first Bike Kitchen/Bikerowave-style co-op. Elisa at Bike Skirt says just let her ride and don’t try to label her. Bob Mionske tells the tale of two young Canadians; one who grew up to be a cyclist, and the former Attorney General who went on to kill him. The Tucson Bike Lawyer says it actually is against the law to kill a cyclist in the bike lane, if they could only get someone to press charges. Finally, a cyclist in my home town is hit by a car; police say charges will depend on the extent of his injuries. Are they suggesting that it’s okay hit one of us, as long as you don’t kill anyone?

A simple proposal to make next week’s LACBC bike count count more

It’s bike count season.

From Nashville to Portland, and various points over, under, around and through. And next week L.A. will have its first count, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

Counting bike riders may not seem like a big deal, but it will provide a baseline number of how many people ride bikes in a normal week – when students are back in school and people are back at work, so it accurately reflects typical riding patterns.

Then next year, we can count again.

That will provide an idea if ridership is going up or down. Which could indicate what effect street conditions are having, whether infrastructure changes are needed and how local laws and policies should be adjusted. In other words, the documentation we need to make things better for cyclists around here.

Unfortunately, I won’t be one of the counters, though I do hope to be among the counted. And I will somehow resist the temptation to ride through the same intersections repeatedly in order to boost the count. After all, a high count might look good now, but it could hurt us down the road.

I do have a suggestion for the LACBC, though.

One of the most common complaints that drivers have about cyclists is that we all run red lights and stop signs.

It’s not true, of course. I stop. And I’m clearly not the only one, since I frequently find other riders waiting right there next to me.

A recent London study found the same thing. Despite similar complaints from UK drivers, researchers for the Road Network & Research Team found that the overwhelming majority of cyclists — 84% — observe stop lights.

Another recent study was cited by a New York organization that calls itself the Coalition Against Rogue Riding — notice the acronym, if you want a little perspective on their perspective.

Their goal is to reign in the “epidemic of scofflaw cycling” and “sense of anarchy” plaguing the city’s streets and sidewalks. Yet the study doesn’t exactly support that:

In May the results a rigorous study conducted in April by the departments of sociology and urban affairs of Hunter College was issued. “Biking Behavior in Midtown” observed 5,275 cyclists at 45 intersections between 14th St. and 59th Sts. and First and Tenth Aves. It was found that nearly 38 percent of observed cyclists did not stop at red lights. Nearly a third did not use a designated bike lane. More than 17 percent were either riding the wrong way, or at various times both with and against traffic.

Sound damning, doesn’t it?

But look at it from another perspective. Nearly 62% did stop for red lights. Over 2/3 used a designated bike lane — and considering the frequent problems riders cite with cars and trucks blocking the bike lanes, it’s amazing that so many were able to ride within the lines. And 83% of riders did ride the right way; impressive in a city with so many one-way streets.

Unfortunately, L.A. cyclists don’t have any similar figures to rebut biased arguments from anti-bike fanatics. But LACBC can do something about that.

Long term, we need to work with a local university to design an effective, in-depth study of riding patterns in the city. But in the meantime, they could easily incorporate a simple study of whether cyclists stop for traffic signals into next week’s bike count.

At any location with a traffic signal or stop sign, in addition to counting bikes, just count how many stop when they should.

All it takes is adding two simple columns to the form. Or pencil in a couple headers in the margin indicating “stopped” and “didn’t stop.” And for each rider you count, just mark down whether they did. Or didn’t.

It might not be a scientific survey. But like the bike count itself, it would be a starting point. And it would tell us that L.A. riders are safer than many people think, or that we have a lot of work to do.

Either way, we’d know more than we do now.


Dr. Alex asks if you’ve considered the consequences before giving that bike thief a beat down. GT shares the story and photos of his recent Eastern Sierra Century. Mavic introduces new magnetic pedals, which may eliminate the need for cleats for some riders. Evidently, Sen. McCain hates transit, while Sen. Coburn merely hates bikes. Instead of getting hit by cars, bike couriers are getting hit by the internet. Illinois considers penalizing drivers who recklessly endanger the health and safety of vulnerable road users, like bicyclists. Bob Mionske questions Ottawa’s recent crackdown on cyclists in response to violent hit-and-run driver. Finally, the State Assembly honors my good friend at Altadenablog for his efforts during the recent fire; couldn’t be more deserved.

%d bloggers like this: