Describe Your Ride: A car-free, pre-Christmas Highland Park shopping trip

Today’s submission comes from Harv, who relates a quick ride through LA’s Highland Park neighborhood for groceries on the day before Christmas Eve.

He describes himself as a long time LA resident of who began riding for transportation at the tender age of 12, and has been active in the resurgence of bicycle activism since the bike boom of the early 1970s.

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Since I am no longer commuting to my former job in DTLA or my volunteer job in Highland Park, my most frequent repeated ride is for food shopping. A round trip of 5 miles, all hilly, with tricky freeway feeders and a dangerous intersection at Figueroa and Avenue 50. I have been car-free for three years, before then I was car very light for several years. My bike is my only transportation from home, if I want to eat, I have to ride. So let’s get started for an Xmas eve-eve run to the Food for Less in Highland Park.

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It will start with my bolting on my cut-down milk crate to the rack of my grocery bike built for the purpose. A frame low enough to step over when my crate is stacked high with groceries, 1.5 inch street tyres for stability and load bearing, a low enough bottom gear to lug up my moderate hill with 20 pounds of food, 5 pounds of rack/crate, a 5 or 6 pound back pack, and, of course, me. Without the added cargo, I can fly up my hill on one of my single speed bikes with less effort.

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OK, we descend the hill and get within a mile of the market without having to pedal at all. A short run along Griffin Avenue takes us past the playing fields of Montecito Park, which are empty today, but frequently have several ball games going. Continue past the Audubon Center and the north gate of Debs Park which usually has several homeless camps going on behind it, and then the Avenue 52 freeway feeder looms up disturbing the tranquility of the trip thus far. Here, there are I-110 on and off ramps on either side of the parkway. As I pass the first set, I glance to my left to see how many cars are backed up at the end of the off ramp stop sign. All these cars will be turning left into my path. I adjust my speed and position to minimize the conflict and sprint up the short distance to get across the bridge and duck into the residential area which provides refuge. When the I-110 was put in, about 1940, all streets in the grid across the Arroyo to Figueroa were dead-ended except for the freeway feeders such as Avenue 43, 52, and 57. So there is no way I can get across without hitting this feeder traffic.

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To avoid Figueroa and Ave 52, I wiggle through the residential area alluded to and approach the market on Ave 50 but hop onto the sidewalk before the corner to avoid the dreaded right hooking cars into the Mickey Dee’s parking lot. Finally rolling into the F4L lot after clearing the bus passengers and Big Mac gobblers, now only to dodge cars backing out of spaces and errant shopping carts rolling down the slight incline. But finally making it to the front door, I dismount and walk the bike into market, up and down the aisles, putting my purchases into the crate. My bike is my shopping cart. Every store employee knows me (after shopping there for over 20 years) and no one bats an eye.

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The return trip is the reverse, except I have to handle the downhill traffic rushing toward the on ramps on the narrow 2 lane street. I wait patiently for a break in the traffic and bounce down the broken pavement with a glance over my shoulder every few seconds. Most drivers cut me enough slack, but I still have to time myself to not be at the on ramp entrance when someone might right hook me. Then I have to cross the off ramp with similar timing, eye contact, and negotiation. Finally clear of this mayhem, I speed up on the downhill section of Griffin past the homeless encampments, the Audubon, the playing fields and turn left up my hill for the grind to the top. I eat for another week.

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If you’d like to share your ride with us, just send it to the email address on the About BikinginLA page. It can be a rant, rave or anything in between, from a few sentences to a detailed description. Or any other format you think tells the story best, however and wherever you ride.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

One comment

  1. yawfle says:

    The freeway feeder tango… I know that feel.

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