Catching up on CicLAvia, Magas on driver/cyclist tension, a nice gesture from Swarzman family

A few random thoughts on Sunday’s second CicLAvia, in no particular order.

• Let’s start with the size queens at KCBS-2, who somehow pegged the number of participants at 130,000 — with no explanation of where they got their figures. From my perspective, the turnout was at least two to three times larger than last October’s, which was estimated at around 100,000.

Let’s put it this way. Last year, it took no more than two light cycles to cross Vermont on 4th; this year, I barely made it through after five. The Alliance for Biking and Walking puts the figure at a far more credible 200,000 to 500,000, but since KCBS said it first, their figure is the one everyone is — mistakenly — quoting.

• Speaking of that backup at Vermont, I finally experienced my first ever bike traffic jam. And for the first time, gridlock brought a smile to my lips.

• As I arrived, I just happened to fall in with a group of riders that included a number of bike cops on my way to the Bicycle District. When I looked up to my left, I just happened to see I was riding next to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; for someone famous for falling off his bike, he seems to have gotten a handle on it. No sign of that Lance guy, though.

Photo courtesy of George Wolfberg

• There were far too many paramedic calls. I passed at least five riders injured seriously enough to require emergency medical attention, along with at least three other paramedic units speeding by under lights and sirens that may or may not have been carrying or rushing to CicLAvia participants.

• At least part of the problem stemmed from the large mass of riders of all abilities; several times I found myself dodging riders who swerved into my path with no warning, or stopped at random. Going forward, there should be a better effort to educate participants on how to ride in large groups — including efforts to slow down the riders who cut through the crowd at dangerously high speeds.

• Note to cyclists: Just because you can ride fast doesn’t mean you should. I cut my usual 18 – 20 mph cruising speed down to 12 mph; not just because it was safer in the massive crowd, but because it allowed me to better enjoy the sights and experiences of the day.

• Another problem was the seemingly unnecessary choke points at streets that remained open for cross traffic, where people were forced into a single lane or two to wait out the red lights. Too often, it resulted in riders struggling to work their way into the suddenly narrowed space where there wasn’t enough room to accommodate the suddenly congested bike traffic. I don’t know what the reasoning was for narrowing the road crossing points, but whatever it was, it didn’t work.

• For an event that was supposed to open up city streets for whatever people wanted to do, there was far too much emphasis on bicycle throughput — just like there’s too much emphasis on moving cars the rest of the time.

Last year’s event saw people sitting in the middle of downtown streets eating lunch or making ornate chalk drawings on the street; this year I found myself following a motorcycle cop who ordered standing people out of the street, and instructed riders to keep right in order to keep people moving — exactly the opposite of what CicLAvia is supposed to be.

Josef Bray-Ali nails it when he complains about the bike bias evident in this year’s first edition of CycLAvia; while I disagree about the need for more choke points from a safety standpoint, I couldn’t agree more with every other word he writes. If this is going to be a bike-only event, let’s move it to the L.A. River bike path and call it River Ride. Update: Damien Newton says we need to make it safe for everyone to come out and play.

• As I rode back from the Bicycle District, I once again found myself riding next to the Mayor. So this time I introduced myself, and thanked him for his recent support of both CicLAvia and bicycling in the City of Angeles. And I soon found myself having a surprisingly candid conversation, which I won’t repeat here. But I will say is, for the first time I got a feeling for who he is as man, rather than as the mayor. And that this is a guy I’d love to have a beer with sometime.

And that’s one of the great things about CicLAvia. It brings the entire city together, and makes us all equal on the streets. There’s no class strata, none of the usual L.A. self-segregation between us and them. Just people joining together to enjoy the city, where you were just as likely to find yourself meeting a high-powered lawyer as a recent immigrant. Or a mayor, or some guy named Lance.

• After awhile, it started to seem like the Mayor was stalking me; every time I thought I’d left him far behind, I’d stop to talk to someone or get something to eat, then turn around and there he’d be in the crowd behind me, or gathered by the water dispenser at the other terminus in Hollenbeck Park. On the other hand, he seemed to enjoy it as well.

• I loved the incredible variety of people and bikes, from beach cruisers that had clearly been removed from the garage for the first time in ages, to children on tricycles, teenagers on bright colored fixies, and spandex-clad riders on high-end racing bikes. Not to mention tall bikes, road skimming recumbents and fabulous foldies, and just about anything and everything in between. And every variety of person onboard.

Photo courtesy of George Wolfberg

• For me, the highlight of the day was witnessing the Biking Circle of Life, when I saw a Spanish-speaking family with a little boy riding on training wheels, his father on a road bike and grandma on an adult three-wheeler. And realized that’s exactly what local activists and advocates are working for.

• However, the highlight of the day came long after I got home, and read the column by the Times’ Sandy Banks talk about riding CicLAvia. And loving it.

I may have criticized her just a little — okay, maybe a lot — after she wrote about her opposition to the Wilbur Avenue road diet. But her new column revealed the open mind I’d long to expect from her. And if she wants to experience the streets of L.A when cars are allowed, I’ll ride with her anytime.

Now we just need to work on that Krikorian guy down in Long Beach.

.………

Nice obituary for Jim Swartzman in yesterday’s L.A. Times. A memorial will be held today at noon at Forest Lawn, and the family asks requests that a donation be sent to the LACBC in lieu of flowers — a very kind and moving gesture to help other riders in their time of grief.

Maybe you’ll join me in observing a moment of silence at noon to remember someone most of us may not have known, and now we’ll never get the chance. And from everything I’ve heard, that sounds like our loss.

.………

Ohio Bike Lawyer Steve Magas — you’ll find him over there on the right — offers an insightful look at the tensions between cyclists and drivers; seriously, this one is definitely worth the click.

.………

Jumping back into the great helmet debate, an Aussie professor of Public Health says mandatory helmet laws are counterproductive and should be repealed. Meanwhile, a NZ study shows helmets reduce the risk of head injury by just 43%, and may increase the risk of neck injury. A Canadian paper says wise cyclists will work to make helmet use unnecessary, but wear one just in case. And like me, leading bike writer Carlton Reid says he’s pro helmet and anti-compulsion — and tired of the media blaming the victim.

.………

Just discovered this great page of best ever cycling quotes.

“People love cycling but hate cyclists.”
Peter Zanzottera, senior consultant at transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave, to Scottish Parliament’s Transport Committee, November 24th 2009

Ned Flanders: “You were bicycling two abreast?”
Homer Simpson: “I wish. We were bicycling to a lake.”
The Simpsons, ‘Dangerous Curves’ (Episode 2005), first broadcast, November 10th 2008

.………

Metro is finally ready to drop restrictions on peak hour cyclists. LACBC announces One Tree Hill’s Austin Nichols — aka @Aus10Nichols — as Grand Marshall for June’s 11th Annual River Ride; meanwhile, river riders are invited to help clean it up. People for Bikes visits Los Angeles to film a PSA. Santa Monica Spoke looks back fondly on CicLAvia, while Orange 20 Bikes notes that some businesses showed a big boost in their Sunday business. Will Campbell offers proof that the world does not collapse when timelapse videographers collide. Bicycle Fixation will lead a Miracle Mile Art Ride on Saturday the 16th. The South Bay Bicycle Coalition hosts an Earth Day fun ride this Saturday. A report on Sunday’s San Diego Gran Fondo. Head north this Sunday for a Full Moon Ride with Bike Bakersfield. Better bike access is coming to downtown Sacramento. Just Another Cyclist says if you’ve got to fall and break a bone, it’s not a bad one to break even if it is kind of cliché; heal fast, my friend. Frank Peters of cdm Cyclist visits biking’s platinum paradise of Boulder, CO.

The web is buzzing with news that Frontier Airlines is dropping their fee for checking a bike. Trek’s CEO argues for continued bike transportation funding. A radical new frame design promises 10 times the vertical flex and 60 times the shock absorption of traditional frames, while retaining the same lateral stiffness and pedaling efficiency. A new bike parking design takes a Ferris Wheel approach. A writer explains why he doesn’t consider himself a cyclist anymore; you may already know my take on that. A Portland man is charged in a dooring hit-and-run. Biking in Heels manages the rare feat of a civil conversation with the driver who just buzzed her, while a writer in the Baltimore Sun says some cyclists and drivers deserve each other.  New York’s embattled Prospect Part West bike lanes get a big boost as over 700 riders turn out for a family ride to show their support. Another planned Brooklyn bike lane bites the dust. A cranky New York cyclist compares riding in Amsterdam to the former New Amsterdam. Competitive Cyclist looks at Lebowskis in wetsuits and competitive pro rankings.

Bike Lane Wars: P.J. O’Rourke and the myth of the pinko cyclist. In 2009, no UK pedestrians were killed by cyclists, while 426 were killed by motorists — so guess which one Parliament considers cracking down on? The Guardian says it won’t help, while the Beeb asks if dangerous cycling is really a problem; nearly 1500 comments later, it appears they struck a chord. Plan Bike offers a nice look at small town European bike infrastructure, and finds it heavenly. Garmin-Cervelo rider Johan Van Summeren takes a surprise victory in the Paris-Roubaix classic, while Fabian Cancelara closes a near two minute gap to take second. Hidden cameras show only 6.9% Melbourne cyclists run red lights, which is inexplicably called “an alarming rate.”  Seven thousand Queensland cyclists were ticketed last year — but 6400 of those were for violating the mandatory helmet law; 96 used there cell phones while riding.

Finally, it’s evidently been a problem for a long time — a Dutch writer complains about pedestrians and parked vehicles blocking the bikeway. In 1906.

And don’t forget tonight’s Bike Night at Westwood’s Hammer Museum, starting at 7 pm at 10899 Wilshire Blvd in Westwood. Free admission, free food, drinks and screenings of the 1986 BMX classic Rad.


5 comments

  1. Joe Linton says:

    A note on the attendance numbers: We (the CicLAvia non-profit)didn’t count on 4.10.11, so it’s not 100% clear – and it was huuuuge!

    On 10.10.10, the LA Times reported 100,000 based on a very very preliminary exuberant guess we made of “40K-100K” – when we actually tallied we think that 10.10.10 was more like 40K-60K… which is massive (though it doesn’t sound quite as good as the exuberant 100K.) On 4.10.11, we didn’t count, so we just don’t know… it seemed to me, personally, like 4.10.11 was 2-3 times bigger than 10.10.10… which would account for the 130K number (which is about triple our 10.10.10 numbers.) Though the 130K didn’t come from us… we don’t know.

  2. grrlyrida says:

    Rough Riders have a nice retrospective on Jim Swarzman too. http://www.xo-1.org/ I didn’t know him but it seemed like he would have been a wonderful person to meet. It’s heart wrenching to see the smiling photos of him and his fiance.

  3. Louie says:

    I’m with you on making CicLavia less bike centric. I’d much rather share the road with pedestrians than cars.

  4. paula says:

    Totally agree with you grrlyrida,but its a nice photo of them two though.

  5. Evan says:

    I don’t know if I’d agree with there being a “bike bias,” but I do agree that there needs to be a greater awareness that CicLAvia is for everyone sharing the road and making it what they will. Which is part of the reason why I’m hesitant to have more overt safety measures like keeping pedestrians and bikes separated, or forcing slower traffic to keep to the right (it’s common-sense, and it’s what I did, but I don’t want to see cops on the road telling people where to be during CicLAvia). I’d hate to see an open streets event like this turned into an anodyne and fully planned event where people can only fit into one role.

    Maybe the July heat will make people go slow next time, maybe more people will speak up if they see someone being a jerk to others…maybe there should be volunteers riding on bikes in with the crowd and interacting with people. I just hope that we don’t ruin a great thing.

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