People have been asking me what I plan to say about Sunday’s CicLAvia to the Sea.
At this point, not much.
As a result of the delay caused by this week’s breaking news, others have already offered the insights I was going to give, and in some cases, better than I would have done.
Like this one for instance, in which a USC professor pretty much took the words right out of my mouth.
No, go ahead and read it.
One of the highlights of any CicLAvia is running into friends along the way.
And this one certainly didn’t disappoint, offering a chance to catch up with former LACBC board member Chet Kostrzewa, who followed up with some insights that might never have occurred to me.
I wanted to pass on some of my own thoughts and observations I made, while teaching basic bike skills to a group of very young riders and watching the inspiring sight of upwards of 150,000 people enjoying taking the street for those few hours. CicLavia has very quickly grown to be an institution, an event to look forward to and count on as an antidote to the traffic fatigue that too many of us endure on a daily basis. As inspirational as CicLavia has become, however, what seems to me to be missing is an inherent motivator in the event that empowers people to see this as a game changer in their lives and not just a rare distraction from the routine on our streets. The sad reality is that starting the next morning and succeeding days until the following CicLavia, River Ride or other bike event, only a very small fraction of those bikes will be getting much new mileage on them.
There are probably as many good reasons to ride regularly and to ride often as there were bicyclists between downtown and Venice yesterday, here is a short list that came to my mind from talking to a variety of bicyclists yesterday:
- All the young riders I coached yesterday were, without exception, excited about riding their bikes and taking the challenge of trying out new skills. Unfortunately, without a broad based bicycle skills curriculum in our schools, such learning opportunities offer only a single snapshot in what should be a gradual and incremental development process. The challenge and opportunity here, would be for the parents of these beginning riders to take on the task of role model and long term coach, guiding their development over an extended period toward becoming fully street smart and confident cyclists. The game changer for these parents is to improve their own skills, such as through a confident cycling class, such as taught by League Certified Instructors (LCIs) from the League of American Bicyclists.
- While teaching beginning cyclists during CicLavia, I had the opportunity to talk to parents and other adults who stopped to comment and, in some cases, ask for tips to improve their own cycling experience. Many of these casual riders were on bikes that were clearly poorly maintained and which did not fit their riders. One woman I spent some time coaching started our conversation by complaining about how physically difficult the ride down Venice Blvd. was for her. It was quickly evident that her immediate problem was that she had no idea how to shift out of the highest gear on her bike. Her total exposure to cycling was to drag her rusting bike out for just one or two days a year and muscle her way through just a few miles in high gear, before calling it quits until the next CicLavia. With a basic tune up and brief lesson on how to use her bike, it would be a small step to an easy game changer. Instead of just dragging the bike out for those very rare occasions, find weekly opportunities to make a bike ride special. Maybe breakfast out on Sunday morning by bike, or a short daily ride as a stress busting habit right after the evening commute home.
- Use technology to facilitate riding and as a feedback tool to improve your riding and fitness level. A basic bike computer provides a wealth of data to measure your results, while providing a tool for setting new goals for improvement. Other technology makes it increasingly easy to insert a bicycle in place of a car in our daily routines. The bus bike racks and increasing number of bike lockers along key transport routes make it easy and economical to start to use a bike for part of all of a commute. Recent bike design technology, such as the highly engineered folding bikes Tern Bicycles was demonstrating at CicLavia make it possible to take your bike with you anywhere. This opens a whole new world of bicycling opportunities, whether as part of a daily routine, or an easy way to enhance a vacation getaway. The game changer here is to realize that technology makes the bicycling experience more flexible, convenient and economical in many scenarios than the typical paradigm of transport being limited to where your car can take you along with a just a few additional blocks you can conveniently walk once you get there.
CicLavia is a fantastic enabler to get rarely used bicycles out of garages and on the road. All most of us need is just a little help and a couple of mental and physical tools to experience a major paradigm shift to move the bicycle from a toy of last resort to become a key tool for enhancing our daily lives. Hopefully a few other of the 150,000 on Venice Blvd yesterday are having similar thoughts tonight and will be changing the urban roadscape in the days and weeks ahead.
Another friend I ran into along the way was someone most readers of this blog should know by now, at least by his bike de plume.
Dj Wheels has been a key contributor here for the past several years, offering legal updates and insights on many of the cases involving bicyclists.
It was Wheels who broke the news that Christine Dahab had pleaded guilty and was going to jail; in fact, he told me she started her 90 day evaluation behind bars on Monday.
And it was Wheels who reported from inside the courtroom in the trial of road raging L.A. bike boogeyman Dr. Christopher Thompson, enabling me to scoop the major media and break the news to the world when he was convicted.
So I’ve long been frustrated that I couldn’t tell you who he really is while a court case he was involved in dragged through the legal system. But Sunday, he let me know the case was finally finished.
And I was free, finally, to reveal his identity.
Granted, it may not be a big secret in some circles of the Los Angeles cycling community, where he has long been a popular member.
But for those who don’t know, allow me to introduce Daniel F. Jimenez, Esq.
Jimenez is one of the few lawyers I know who has made bike law his specialty, rather than just an area of practice. And unlike many lawyers, he doesn’t limit the cases he takes on to potentially high-payout liability lawsuits.
Yes, he takes the cases of injured cyclists on a contingency basis, just like most other lawyers. But he has also represented riders in everything from criminal cases to simple traffic violations, and even defended a rider who collided with a pedestrian and was being sued for the injuries he suffered.
Southern California cyclists are lucky to have a number of excellent bike lawyers; I can personally recommend many of the men and women you’ll find listed over there on the right.
But any time someone asks me for a good lawyer to represent a bike rider, you can bet that Daniel Jimenez will be on the list.
The Times offers a look at CicLAvia and decides it gives L.A. a small town feel, even though some motorists grumble; then again, I’d grumble too if I was stuck in my car when so many Angelenos were out having fun. Many people complained about the bike congestion caused by closing just half of Venice for CicLAvia; outgoing Councilmember Bill Rosendahl says plans are already in the works to repeat CicLAvia to the Sea next year — and this time, with both sides closed to vehicular traffic.
Streetsblog offers a lively discussion of the day, and notes that for some it was more than just fun. For others, it was the smells that were most memorable. Even the Mayor rode on Venice once again, this time without falling down. Leading mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti rode at CicLAvia; if opponent Wendy Gruel was there, I haven’t seen any sign of it yet. Flying Pigeon offers suggestions to make L.A.’s happiest day even better. A road racer does her first CicLAvia and asks WTF just happened? KPCC’s Larry Mantle talks CicLAvia with co-founder and Executive Director Aaron Paley.
Finally, I’m not much on heroes.
But one exception has always been track cyclist and US Bicycle Hall of Fame member Nelson Vails, who captured a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics and helped prove that Americans — and African-Americans — could hold their own at the highest levels of the traditionally white European sport.
So excuse me if I was just a little awed — rather than merely odd, which I freely confess to — when I ran into Eastside bike advocate Carlos Morales, the new owner of Stan’s Bike Shop in Monrovia. And he introduced me to the man sitting next to him in the bike car they rode at CicLAvia.
And if Nelson Vails wants to give a shout out to his friends at Stan’s, far be it from me to say no.