Embarrassed to be seen on an ebike, support for Venice Blvd bike lanes, and Sierra Club backs faux-environmentalist

A quick update before we get started. 

My brother has made it to Kansas a week into his latest cross-country bike ride.

So far, things are running smoothly, despite temperatures in the high 90s. 

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No bias here.

A writer for The Atlantic, who clearly doesn’t get it, says ebikes are monstrosities that need to develop an identity of their own, distinct from bicycles and motorbikes.

Never mind that ebikes open up this wild and wonderful world of bicycling we so love to countless people who couldn’t ride a bike before, or would love to ride one again.

Not to mention countless more who use them as a simple and efficient way to get to work or school. Or do their shopping without having to break out the family SUV.

Or own one, even.

But writer Ian Bogost doesn’t see it that way.

But I’ve been trying to live with one, and brother, I’ve got some bad news. These things are freaks. Portraying e-bikes as a simple, obvious, and inevitable evolution of transportation (or even of bicycling) doesn’t fully explain these strange contraptions. The Venicsame was said of Segways, and then of Bird scooters, and both flamed out spectacularly…

Perhaps my e-bike ambivalence comes in part from the bike’s strange social status. An e-bike isn’t cheap—the least expensive ones are about $1,000, and they go up to $5,000 or more. But the symbolic value one receives in exchange is minimal. Spending five large on a conventional bike would get you a status symbol—you’d come off as a cyclist for sure. For that matter, spending that dough on a Vespa would infuse you with an Aperol-tinged Italianate cool. You’d want to be seen arriving on your moped. But I don’t want anybody seeing me on my e-bike. It’s just kind of embarrassing.

Seriously.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but who honestly gives a rat’s rear about the social cachet of your bicycle, unless you are in fact dropping way too much on a high-end roadie designed to make you faster than your little legs and limited skills would otherwise allow?

You know, kind of like an ebike.

But wait, as they say in informercials, there’s more!

Currently, e-bikes are trapped in the weird smear between pathetic, loser bicycles and pitiable, low-end motorbikes. Especially in America, where bike infrastructure is far less developed than in the small, flat nations of Northern Europe that cycling advocates like to exalt as a model, e-bikes have become kind of a nuisance. Walking the streets of New York City, it now feels just as likely that you might get mowed down by an e-bike as a taxicab. Elsewhere, the narrow protected lanes and greenway trails built for human-powered bikes—already littered with stroller-pushers and joggers—don’t quite scale to the new swiftness of e-bikes. The pathways and roads themselves, perhaps already unsafe at bike speed due to uneven pavement and poor maintenance, feel even more dangerous on a not-quite-motorcycle.

So, no one wants ebikes and there’s no market for them, yet they’re as ubiquitous as taxicabs on New York sidewalks.

Sure, that makes sense.

Never mind that ebikes already outsell electric cars and plug-in hybrids combined in the US.

That would seem to refute the argument that there’s no clear market for them. Let alone that anyone other than him is embarrassed to ride one.

Maybe someone could just tell Mr. Bogost that 2012 called, and wants its hot take back.

Then again, maybe he wouldn’t feel so embarrassed if he was riding Mercedes new $5,800 Formula E-inspired ebike.

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The proposal to expand the protected bike lanes and bus lanes on Venice Blvd seemed to enjoy overwhelming support at yesterday’s virtual meeting, as well as on community surveys.

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Leave it to our local Sierra Club to get it wrong.

As someone who grew up in Colorado, I’d long seen the Sierra Club as a protector of the native environment.

But it didn’t take long after moving to Los Angeles to realize that the LA/Orange County chapter was mired in form of environmental conservatism unbecoming of local politics. And unwilling to upset the automotive hegemony and single-family home applecart to actually advocate for the change we need to save our city.

Let alone the planet.

Which leads to their endorsement of everyone’s favorite faux-environmentalist and termed-out councilmember, who apparently never met a bike lane he liked, or a NIMBY he didn’t.

My old friend Dr. Michael Cahn seems to sum up the sad situation pretty well.

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Hats off to the East Side Riders for working to bring an ebike lending library to the South LA area.

Even if a certain writer for The Atlantic would be embarrassed to be seen on one.

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Beautiful cover art by the late, great French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé.

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More proof you can move anything by bike. Even if it looks like the dog is doing the steering.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

Yet another cord has been strung over a Madison, Wisconsin bike path where it could clothesline an unsuspecting rider; one victim has already been seriously injured crashing into one.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

A Welsh cabbie has been sentenced to two years behind bars for deliberately running over a road raging bike rider who slapped the hood of his car and called him a fat fuck in a dispute over the man’s driving.

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Local

What took so long? Ever since a speeding driver blew through a red light and killed five people in Windsor Hills, along with a pregnant woman’s unborn baby, I’ve wondered when they would get around to claiming she wasn’t conscious leading up to the crash.

Streetsblog’s Joe Linton expounds on yesterday’s comment about the Ventura Blvd bike lane plans, questioning why the city is touting it as a bike safety proposal instead of the parking plan it really is.

 

State 

For the second year in a row, Governor Gavin Newsom killed a bill that would have allowed bike riders to treat stop signs as yields; this time he only had to announce plans to veto the bill to get it pulled by its sponsor. Never mind that it’s safely in use in an ever-growing number of cities and states. Maybe we’ll have to call getting ticketed for rolling a stop “getting Gavined.”

Calbike is looking for a full-time executive director, as well as a part-time individual giving manager. Let me know when that last position gets filled; I know a few individuals I’d be happy to give them.

Carlsbad literally put its money where its figurative mouth is, voting to allocate $2 million to confront a bike safety emergency, after bicycle and ebike injuries doubled over the previous year, and two ebike riders were killed there just one week apart; the funding includes half a million dollars to hire four additional traffic enforcement cops. Thanks to Oceanside bike lawyer and BikinginLA sponsor Richard Duquette for the heads-up; the way things our going in San Diego and Orange counties lately, they need a good bike lawyer down there. Or maybe an army of them.

 

National

Cycling Weekly offers a guide to smooth and efficient shifting, and announces their picks for the best bike bells. Wake me when somebody makes a bike bell that sounds like an old submarine klaxon.

ZDNet suggests where to hide an AirTag on your bike so thieves won’t find it. Apparently assuming that bike thieves don’t know how to Google.

A VeloNews podcast talks with mountain bike icon Gary Fisher, who has remained a force in the bike industry through two cultural revolutions.

An Orem, Utah elementary school is raising funds to teach kindergarten kids how to ride bikes, through the All Kids Bike program.

While LA bike riders struggle to get to SoFi Stadium, Houston is building a bike path to get riders safely to and from the NFL’s NRG Stadium; the city hopes to conclude work in time for the annual rodeo and livestock show in March.

A Minnesota bike rider explores John Prine’s “jungles of East St. Paul.” And makes it look pretty damn good in the process.

This is the cost of traffic violence. A Michigan woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver, just moments after she ran out of her house to aid a bike rider who had just been killed by another motorist.

New York is considering an ebike rebate program that could slash prices 50%, up to a retail cost of $2,200.

The husband of an American diplomat killed riding her bike in Maryland has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support; a crowdfunding campaign has raised nearly $180,000 in just two days to advocate for safer bikeways, more than tripling the original goal.

 

International

The Guardian considers how our language has been colonized by cars, while wondering whether we really want to see the world from a windshield perspective.

Seriously? The Sun questions who was in the right, after a driver plows into a rider practicing stunts on his BMX bike in the middle of a dark street. Is all of the above an option?

No need to cork intersections anymore, with a new device that will let you control the traffic signal for up to 45 seconds at a time.

Road.cc wants to know who drained the color out of road bike tires, and why.

No irony here. A mayoral candidate in Winnipeg, Manitoba had his own bicycle stolen, just 85 minutes after announcing a plan to eliminate bike theft.

There’s a special place in hell for whoever stole a British paramedic’s bike while he was busy saving lives; the victim was riding his bike to save money after the birth of his daughter.

Bike Radar offers ten “weird and wonderful mountain bike throwbacks” from this year’s Malverns Classic in the UK.

 

Competitive Cycling

Aussie Kaden Groves won his first Grand Tour stage in Wednesday’s 11th stage of the Vuelta, while Remco Evenepoel maintained his grip the red leader’s jersey.

Cycling Weekly examines Irish pro Sam Bennett’s return to his winning ways in the opening weekend of the Vuelta.

Over 1,800 riders are expected to turn out for the tenth anniversary of The Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race, founded by former cycling great and Idaho native Rebecca Rusch.

 

Finally…

We may have to deal with distracted LA drivers, but at least we don’t have to ride highways smothered in Alfredo sauce. That feeling when Google Maps directs you to bike lanes that don’t exist.

And with hair like that, who needs a helmet?

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.

2 comments

  1. John says:

    “So, no one wants ebikes and there’s no market for them, yet they’re as ubiquitous as taxicabs on New York sidewalks.

    Sure, that makes sense.”

    Well. We had the Japanese Bike Boom in the 70s/80s and those absolute beauties are still coming out the estate / garage sales. They got bought, ridden for a bit, and then put away. You can have a lot of things bought, the question is whether people will ride them and continue to ride them.

    I think the writer overstates the case but he makes various good points. And I don’t think it’s particularly that he doesn’t get it… he touches on all the arguments for/against e-bikes. He just isn’t convinced.

  2. Lionel Mares says:

    I prefer using my own power to ride a bike! An e-bike is overrated. I encourage people to use their human power, NOT electric power, when riding a bicycle.

    I am disappointed that the Sierra Club voted to “endorse” Paul Koretz. I voted for Kenneth Mejia during the primary election. Even after he stopped talking to me… I still voted for him. Because I am an honest, and loyal person.

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