Small low-income bike shops on the brink, rain breaks Arroyo Seco path again, and no LA streets closed for social distancing

It ain’t necessarily so.

At least not here in Los Angeles. Or parts of it, anyway.

Despite all the talk about a coronavirus bike boom keeping bike shops across the country busy, Peter Flax writes in Bicycling that smaller shops in some of LA’s less prosperous neighborhoods are really hurting.

And yes, that means the predominantly black, Hispanic and immigrant neighborhoods mostly south of the 10 Freeway, along with other area in East LA and the San Fernando Valley.

It is the first Friday of April, 15 days after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other large cities in California—as well as in many other states—bike shops have been classified as essential businesses, a move that has been celebrated by some and derided by others. Some critics have argued that bike shops primarily cater to privileged fitness-oriented hobbyists and that putting shop staff in harm’s way (and risking community spread of disease) to serve recreational riders is unwise. But that assumption renders invisible the thousands of neighborhood shops in cities across the country that serve customers who mostly rely on bicycles to facilitate their livelihoods, customers from some of the most economically vulnerable communities in the U.S.

In LA, for example, Paisano’s and other shops in neighborhoods like Compton and South Los Angeles provide a vital service to people who depend on bicycles to get to and from work. These small businesses are perhaps 15 miles and universe away from LA’s affluent coastal suburbs where bike shops are typically stocked with $300 bib shorts and $10,000 road bikes.

Shops that many of us are familiar with, or at least heard of.

Like the aforementioned Paisano’s, subject of a Steve Lopez column in the LA Times.

And Compton’s Manny’s Bike Shop, home of the legendary Manny Silva, known as the godfather of lowrider bikes.

Along with others you may not know, like Linares Bike Shop, and Filipe’s #2 in Pico Union.

Shops where new bicycles sell for as little as $200, purchased on layaway. And where essential takes on a whole new meaning for people who have no other way to get to work.

Census data indicates that one in eight households in the city of Los Angeles don’t have a car. That figure is considerably higher in a low-income community like South LA.

Consider the neighborhood known as South Park—where Paisano’s is located, as well as another popular shop called Linares. Here the community is 79 percent Latino, 19 percent black, and zero percent white. According to data compiled by the real estate brand Trulia, households in this zip code have only 0.37 vehicles per capita, roughly half the median in LA. And according to an analysis published by the Los Angeles Times, the median household income in South Park is $29,518.

Many customers rely on their neighborhood shops because they don’t have the luxury of doing repair work themselves. “If you have a bad cut, you go to a doctor,” says Tejeda, who notes that most of his customers lack even the most basic tools like pumps and levers. “People bring their bikes here. It’s a trade for a reason.”

According to Flax, though, the owners are scared.

Scared of a virus that could come in undetected, carried in by a careless customer or some other visitor. And perhaps even more scared of losing their employees and businesses to a prolonged economic slump.

When asked how things are really going, Linares looks at his feet for a minute and bites his lower lip. “I’ve started closing the shop earlier now. I’m worried a lot about the business,” he says, pointing to the register. “What we make today is what me and the employees have for the day.”

And this.

When asked how business is going, Ambrosia gets animated as he responds in Spanish. “He says business has gone down a lot because people have no money, no jobs,” Mendoza says, translating before he adds his own commentary. “He is scared to work in the shop now, but he has no choice. He needs money for his house.”

Bike shops like these are the backbone of these neighborhoods and our communities, and need to be saved.

But the question is how.

The people in the local communities can’t do it. Too many are on the bottom rungs of society as it is, and the ones most hurt by the shutdown of so many businesses.

A crowdfunding campaign might make sense. But it would be hard to bring in enough donations to make a difference, and harder still to distribute it equitably to the many shops that so desperately need help right now.

If these businesses were more sophisticated, we could just visit their webpages and buy something, anything. Maybe pay off those layaways, or buy one of those sub-$200 bikes and give it to someone who needs one.

But few even have a website, and fewer still are set up for e-commerce.

As in, none.

So the best solution may be to take your bike in for service if you can, and maybe pick up something while you’re there.

Will that be enough to save these shops, and the countless other small local bike shops that are struggling to survive in these desperate days?

Probably not.

Maybe someone smarter than me has the answer.

Because you might never visit one of these shops. But we’re all going to miss them when they’re gone.

Whether we know it or not.

………

So much for that.

Only two short months after the Arroyo Seco bike path was finally reopened, 13 months after it was damaged by heavy rains, it’s happened again.

Let’s hope they can get it fixed a little faster this time.

………

The Guardian says cities from Berlin to Bogotá are opening new sidewalks, bike paths and bike lanes to provide safer commutes for essential workers, and allow people to exercise while maintaining social distancing.

Case in point, Oakland closed a whopping 74-miles of streets to motor vehicles; things apparently started slowly, but picked up speed as the weekend went on.

And Massachusetts is closing parts of three parkways to expand access for bicyclists and pedestrians.

On the other hand, Los Angeles is closing paths, parks and trails, and just telling bike riders and pedestrians to stay home, while allowing motor vehicles to maintain their near-exclusive hegemony over the newly nearly empty streets.

Streets for All and the LACBC are working to get street closures here. Whether they’ll be successful remains to be seen.

………

This is who we share the roads with.

America’s mostly empty highways meant a team competing in this year’s edition of the very illegal Cannonball run set a new record, making the trip from New York to Los Angeles in less than 27 hours.

At speeds averaging over 100 mph — and topping out at nearly twice that.

Which means that any collision would have been instantly fatal, both to themselves and anyone they had the misfortune of slamming into.

Never mind that the likelihood of a crash increases exponentially with each tick of the speedometer.

Needless to say, the states they pass through don’t look very kindly on the scofflaw race.

………

Today’s theme is babies and bikes.

An Indian man tried to carry his pregnant wife six miles to the hospital on his bicycle after she went into labor; unfortunately, the baby wanted out after three.

Meanwhile, an Indian doctor delivered a baby in more ways than one, rushing the newborn by bike to a nearby hospital after it developed breathing problems following a C-section.

………

Social distancing may mean staying at least six feet away from other people. But no one says you can’t go vertical, rather than horizontal.

………

In case you missed it over the weekend, Saturday Night Live offered a trio of sequestered MasterClasses, including a parody of Tiger King‘s Carole Baskin teaching bicycling.

And denying she killed her husband.

………

Local

The LACBC is maintaining a list of LA-area bike shops that are remaining open during the Covid-19 shutdown. And they’ve started a Bike Match program to connect people with extra or unused bicycles with essential workers who need safe, reliable transportation.

If you’re a lucky winner, you could get your next weed order delivered on a bicycle by Tommy “Tiny” Lister, famous for playing Deebo in the Friday movies.

No, you don’t need a mask to ride your bike in Los Angeles. And neither does your dog.

Five Feet Apart star Cole Sprouse is one of us, riding his bike through the Hollywood Hills, sans mask and skid lid.

Santa Clarita urges everyone to maintain social distancing on the city’s trails, whether you’re walking, running or riding a bike.

 

State

You can keep your vintage bike on ice over the summer, because the Eroica California has been postponed until September.

A 20-year old Delhi man faces felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter charges for allegedly killing Patterson resident Frankie Sanchez as he was riding his bike in Stanislaus County.

 

National

Consumer Reports offers advice on how to stay safe riding your bike when cars aren’t the only danger you face. And takes a look at how your car’s bike rack affects your gas mileage.

Bicycle Retailer questions whether the current mini bike boom will last; Specialized’s founder says yes.

A Wisconsin public radio station offers tips on how to get your bike ready to ride and what to take with you.

Chicago’s mayor says she’s not reopening the city’s lakefront bike path, even if is used by essential workers to get to their jobs.

A 13-year old Boston boy got his stolen bike back after police busted another boy with a long rap sheet riding it.

A pair of North Carolina siblings are pedaling homemade bagels to raise funds for local charities; they deliver the bagels by bike after baking them fresh every morning.

A North Carolina man made it as far as Texas on his planned cross-country ride, blissfully unaware of the coronavirus that would eventually force him to fly back home once he found out.

Former Deadliest Catch star Jerod Sechrist is one of us, attempting to make his getaway by bicycling after allegedly stealing over a thousand bucks worth of electronics from a Florida Ikea — the fifth time he had allegedly stolen from the same store. And yes, they carry electronics. Who knew?

 

International

Road.cc says unless you’re planning on road racing, a gravel bike might be the only bike you’ll need. And they take a look at 21 of the best lightweight, high-performance bike helmets. But don’t recommend which one to buy.

Bike Radar says keep riding your bike to maintain your sanity during the lockdown.

Pink Bike proves once again that pets and bikes just naturally go together.

Everton soccer manager Carlo Ancelotti is taking advantage of the English Premier League shutdown by getting on his bike to rehab his knee and get back in shape.

An English nurse is grateful to the local police, who gave her a spare bike after hers was stolen while she was working, and busted the men who allegedly took it.

Scottish mountain bikers are up in arms after the country’s top medical official tells them to stay home during the pandemic.

A British jerk on a dirt bike taunted an ebike-riding cop who was trying to stop him for violating the country’s lockdown guidelines.

Bicycling says add a trip to Mallorca to your bike bucket list.

An HIV+ Ugandan soccer coach rented a bicycle to deliver HIV and AIDS medication after the country shut down public transportation.

A Canadian cyclist finds himself on lockdown in Nepal, rather than racing in Spain as he’d planned.

 

Competitive Cycling

Just in time for the worldwide pandemic, and the resulting cancellation of virtually everything in the world of bike racing, USA Cycling is putting a new emphasis on wellness.

The Olympic Channel questions whether three-time world champ Peter Sagan can win Olympic gold in 2020That would be no, since the games have been postponed until next year, as the story makes clear.

2018 Tour de France champ Geraint Thomas wants this year’s race to go on as planned, while 2019 champ Egan Bernal is just trying not to think about it. Meanwhile, four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is taking advantage of the coronavirus shutdown to completely recover from the crash that almost ended his cycling career.

Bike Snob’s Eben Weiss says just call off the 2020 Tour de France now, and use the time before next year’s race to create a true women’s Tour de France.

Italy’s pro cyclists remain shutdown by the country’s coronavirus lockdown until May 3rd. Although Italian pro Davide Martinelli found a way to ride and give back at the same time by delivering food and medicine to elderly people in his home village.

Riders for the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team offer their insights on the 124-year old Paris-Roubaix race. None of which will matter until next year, at the very least.

Speaking of Paris-Roubaix, GCN wonders if a gravel bike would do better on the cobbles.

 

Finally…

If you can’t bring people to the church, get on your bike and bring the church to the people. What’s more Easter than a big bunny on a blinged-out BMX bike — unless it’s Easter Bunny stealing a cargo bike?

And seriously, if you’re riding your bike with two outstanding warrants and nearly an ounce of weed, put a damn light on it.

………

Be safe, and stay healthy. And wear a mask, already. 

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