So this is how the Lone Ranger feels

November 17, 2009

It was one of those days.

A Monday in the most pejorative sense, from the time I got up this morning. One of those days when the best laid plans work out no better for mice, or at least, we can assume, than they do men — i.e., me.

I spent the morning gazing wistfully out the window as my planned riding time came and went, along with one of the most spectacular mornings we’ve seen in ages.

I finally managed to wrap up my obligations and get out on the road about the same time most of L.A. was making its way back from lunch. Fortunately, the day still had a lot to offer, even as I mentally sliced one leg after another off of my planned route to get back home in time to resume working and make dinner.

Then again, I tend to believe things happen for a reason.  And as I rode through a parking lot along the beach, that reason soon became apparent.

A couple of women cyclists were stopped in the middle of the parking lot, their bikes on the ground, with one wheel in a state of disassemble. So I pulled up next to them and asked if they needed anything; once they assured me everything was under control, I continued on my way.

As I looped around the lot and came back around the other side, though, they flagged me down to see if I had an extra air cartridge. Being the old school type I am, I offered them my pump, instead.

When the tire lever they were using snapped, I loaned them mine. Then when tube they had put on wouldn’t hold air, I reached into my bike bag and pulled out my spare. And when the woman fixing the flat had trouble getting the tire back on the rim, I offered my assistance.

Unfortunately, her problems went far beyond a bad tube; her tire was shot, a section of the rim separated from the bead. So I patched it up as best I could, and we gave her directions to the nearest bike shop.

Meanwhile, I got to enjoy a conversation with a couple of very pleasant riders. There are certainly worse ways to spend a day.

And I was impressed that a couple of other riders stopped to make sure everything was okay. Although the fact that I was in the company of two attractive female cyclists may have had something to do with it.

The one with the flat offered to replace my tube for me. Instead, I suggested that she pass it on to someone else when the opportunity presents itself.

Then we all went our separate ways. Three strangers, one who needed help and two who’d stopped to offer it.

And I rode back home in a far better mood than I had left in.

……….

LACBC urges everyone to attend tomorrow’s Transportation Committee meeting to fight for a share of Measure R funds for bikes and pedestrians. The woman who successfully transformed New York’s bike system will be the Keynote speaker for next year’s bike summit. The County Sherrif’s Department will hold this year’s Tour of Altadena Bike Ride on December 5th. With so much talk about the new bike plan, C.I.C.L.E. offers a workshop on biking infrastructure and creating great places to ride. Damien Newton calls for a bike network to support the new Gold Line extension. Travelin’ Local looks at bike sharing at UC Irvine. Santa Maria considers their own bike master plan. Minneapolis studies the causes of bike/car collisions; failure to yield — for both — tops the list. South Dakota considers a three foot passing law. Coming soon to a theater near you: a bike messenger action thriller. A U.S. group ships thousands of unwanted bikes to developing countries, while the Los Angeles St. Louis Rams donate 275 bikes to local children — including 22 therapeutic bikes for special needs kids. Philadelphia tells rogue cyclists to stop. Even dolls are getting into the Cycle Chic movement. Brits are up in arms over a new guide for bike cops, which among other things, tells them to not to tackle a suspect while still “engaged with the bike.” Also in the UK, complaints about dangerous cyclists on the sidewalks. Finally, U.S. bike thieves are using Craigslist to sell your bike one part at a time, while in Denmark, insurance companies are part of the problem.

And as an aside to our Kiwi correspondent, congratulation on your local footballers qualifying for the World Cup. See you in South Africa (metaphorically speaking, of course, since I’ll be watching on TV).


Have the police responded when you’ve reported a crime?

November 16, 2009

Just a quick question this morning.

Lately I’ve heard 2nd and 3rd-hand reports from cyclists complaining that police officers may have failed to respond appropriately to various incidents involving cyclists, ranging from road rage to reports of stolen bikes. Not a lot complaints, but enough to raise the question of how seriously they may be taking bike-related crimes.

If you’ve had a recent incident in which you tried to file a report with the LAPD or another local police department and they didn’t respond in what you felt was an appropriate manner, let me know. Or if you received a good response, let me know that, as well.

You can respond by leaving a comment here, or email me directly at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.


Lies, damned lies and statistics

November 13, 2009

As Twain – or was it Disraeli? — suggested, statistics can be used to support virtually any argument, valid or not.

And often, both sides of the same argument.

For instance, numerous New York publications and organizations have used a recent Hunter College study to support their contention that cyclists in the city are a bunch of dangerous, out-of-control scofflaws.

They cite statistics showing that 37% of New York cyclists didn’t stop at red lights, while another 28.7% stopped briefly before going through the light. And that 13% rode the wrong way, against the flow of traffic.

Sounds pretty damning.

But look at it another way, and it shows that 63% of cyclists did stop at red lights, and less than half of those continued through after determining it was safe to proceed. And an overwhelming 87% of cyclists did not ride the wrong way, despite the city’s numerous one-way streets.

Statistics.

I relied on them on the AirTalk program the other day to rebut the popular contention that all cyclists run red lights — citing the Hunter College study, as well as studies from London and Melbourne that each showed a compliance rate of well over 80%.

Other studies allowed me to show that cyclists aren’t the only ones who break the law, such as over a third of drivers routinely run stop signs in residential areas and seven out of 10 drivers exceed the speed limit.

Of course, the validity of the statistics depends on the quality of the research. And like Schroedinger’s Cat, the results can depend on the observer.

For instance, a study by the California Highway Patrol showed that cyclists were at fault in 60% of collisions, while research by a Toronto professor said cyclists were at fault less than 10% of the time. Cyclists would argue that the CHP study offers proof of bias in investigating bicycling accidents; drivers would contend that the Toronto professor’s interpretation of the data was biased because he is a cyclist himself.

I’ve often struggled to find valid statistics for cycling in Los Angeles — like how many people in L.A. ride bikes, what routes are most popular, where they would ride if more people felt safer on the streets, what percentage observe stop signals, and how much cyclists contribute to the local economy.

With over 40 universities in Los Angeles County — including a number of world-class research institutes — it should be easy for the LACBC or the LADOT to find one willing to help design and conduct a study that would answer those questions, and countless more. And give us a detailed picture of where we are now and where we need to go.

Of course, some baby steps have been taken. Earlier this year, the LACBC called on volunteers to conduct the city’s first bike count, establishing a baseline we can use to measure further growth in ridership.

Local cyclists are anxiously awaiting the results — some with rapidly diminishing patience, if my emails are any indication.

Now Alexis Lantz, a Master’s student in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning — and an intern with the LACBC — is conducting a cycling survey on behalf of the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative.

It may not give us all the answers we want. But it could provide a good snapshot of how and why we ride.

You can find it by clicking here. Participation is limited to Los Angeles residents over the age of 18, and the deadline is December 15th.

So why not take few moments to complete the survey?

I just did.

………

Westwood is about to get its own Neighborhood Council; could a bikeway through the LA Country Club be far behind? Westwood is also home to a new student bike group, the UCLA Bicycle Coalition. SoCal’s wayfaring bike couple pedal through Yosemite — and they have the breathtaking photos to prove it. Speaking of photos, who knew a Missouri sky could look so good? Now that the Gold Line extension is open, you’ll need a place to park your bike. Maybe you missed Mr. and Mrs. Cindy Crawford riding along the beach last weekend. A Cupertino cyclist is killed in an apparent right hook or left cross. San Francisco wants to know where you ride, and they’ve got just the app to do it. Would stricter penalties help protect vulnerable road users? If you’re riding with an Easton EA30 stem, get off the bike and stop riding now; then again, if you’re riding now, you shouldn’t be reading this. For a change, the Feds want to increase bike and pedestrian funding. Coming soon: your very own I Pay Road Tax jersey. Finally, the most stirring eight minutes of bicycling video you’re likely to see today. And the music’s not bad, either.


Today’s post, in which I don’t recommend which bike to buy

November 12, 2009

In the aftermath of yesterday’s AirTalk program — which you can still hear by downloading the podcast — I received the following comment from Mario:

Really enjoyed your talk today on KPCC. I am mostly a mountain biker and have been thinking about buying a road bike…it is tough riding in paved roads on a mountain bike. So making our roads safer is one of the most important considerations for me in road riding. The second is the selection of a good bike (not too expensive). Would appreciate any advice you may offer on selecting a good road bike for under $2,500.

I wish I could offer an answer. I really do.

But choosing the right bike is a highly personal decision. It depends on how, where and why you intend to ride, what kind of deal you can get, and what feels right between your legs.

For instance, I don’t do a lot of bike commuting. I do most of my work from home, so there’s not a lot of need to ride from my bedroom to the living room. And one reason we chose this overpriced neighborhood is because almost everything we need is within walking distance.

So the overwhelming majority of my biking is recreational, which in my case means riding fast and far.

On the other hand, a lot of it is done on the mean streets of L.A. — which means my bike has to be responsive enough to carve through traffic, and sturdy enough to absorb shocks without making me feel like I’ve been riding a jackhammer all day.

So before you go shopping, make a list of the qualities that are important to you. And let that serve as your roadmap in selecting the right bike.

Another bit of advice is to buy the best frame you can afford. As time goes on, you can upgrade all of the other parts. But your frame will be the backbone of your bike for as long as you own it.

For that price, you can get a good steel or aluminum frame, or an entry level carbon frame. Personally, I don’t like the ride of aluminum frames — or aluminium, for any subjects of the queen who may be reading. Steel tends to be durable and shock-absorbing, and these days, usually weighs a lot less than you might think. Carbon offers light weight and speed; its ride and durability depends a lot on frame construction and geometry.

REI offers a good, simple primer to get you started.

The key is to ride a lot of bikes before you narrow your focus. Visit a bunch of bike shops and ride a variety of brands, types and models to determine what feels right to you.

As you narrow it down, pick two or three bikes that best fit what you’re looking for, and take them for extended test rides under a variety of conditions — fast, slow, cornering, hills, city streets.

I fell in love with my bike based on a quick spin around the shop. But it was only after I bought it that I discovered the handling gets squirrelly at faster speeds in an upright position; I have to ride the drops or risk a wipeout.

On the other hand, once I’m in the drops, it carves corners like a Ginsu knife.

But if I’d taken it on more extensive test ride, I would have known that handling issue before I bought it. And that might have affected my decision.

I’m also a big fan of local bike shops.

It may seem like you’re getting a great deal online, but the service you’ll get from a local dealer before and after the sale can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your bike.

When I walk into my local shop, they know me, they know my bike and they know how I ride. And that makes a big difference. They’ve also gone out of their way to solve any problems I’ve had — from patching it up after the Infamous Beachfront Bee Incident, to replacing broken wheels and sending it back to the factory when the paint blistered.

I can personally recommend Beverly Hills Bike Shop, Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica and any REI location — I’ve been a member for over 20 years.

While Helen’s is popular, I’m not big on their flagship Santa Monica store. However, I’ve found the staff at their I. Martin store to be helpful and knowledgeable, without the attitude. And Chris at the Westwood Helen’s is both a great wrench and a great guy; tell him I sent you.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Orange 20 Bikes. And Josef at Flying Pigeon has an amazing knowledge of bikes from around the world.

That said, if I was shopping on your budget, I’d start by looking at the entry level Trek Madone, though you might have to bargain a little to get it out the door at that price. I’ve ridden Trek almost as long as they’ve been making bikes, and I’ve been lusting after the new Madone since the day it came out.

You also can’t go too wrong with anything from Specialized or Bianchi.

So, readers, what do you think?

If you had $2,500 gathering dust in your bike budget, what would you buy — and where would you buy it?

No offense to any bike shops not named here; my observations are based on my own personal experience here on the Westside. If you think your shop and/or bikes deserve consideration, leave a comment and tell us why.

………

Dr. Alex asks where Councilman Rosendahl has gone now that we need him. Speaking of Flying Pigeon, the next Get Sum Dim Sum Ride rolls out on Sunday. The upcoming Bike ADventure to The End of Civilization doesn’t sound half BAD. Santa Barbara sees more bikes on city streets. Proof that silence is not always golden when it comes to bikes and hybrid vehicles. Colorado’s Department of Transportation puts bikes and pedestrians on equal footing with cars. Evidently, the debate over aggressive cyclists has gone on for over a century. Master framebuilder Dave Moulton says there’s not much difference between a right and a privilege if they can take it away. Note to Idaho bike thieves: don’t mug a cyclist while the police are watching. A great examination from Copenhagenize on how to reach cyclists to change behavior — without discouraging riders. The view from Budapest, where bike shops close for the winter. Maybe this will sound familiar: a British driver is convicted of intentionally striking and seriously injuring a cyclist. Finally, prepare to get pissed off — a former Aussie roads minister says bikes don’t belong on the roads. Maybe that’s why he’s a former minister.


The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights

November 11, 2009

My first exposure to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights came in an online forum.

Someone had posted a comment about it, complaining that cyclists expected drivers to treat them like porcelain dolls.

I had to agree with him. Because that’s exactly the point — if you hit a bicyclist with your car, he or she will break, just like a glass doll. Except the clean-up will be a lot longer, more complicated and more painful for everyone involved.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights doesn’t create any new rights. All it does is gather rights that cyclists — and human beings, for that matter — already enjoy in various forms, under various statutes, and codifies them in a single document.

Created by the Bike Writers Collective — I may have mistakenly said Coalition on today’s AirTalk program — it’s been endorsed by a long line of individuals and elected officials, neighborhood councils and organizations, just a few of whom are shown here. And countless cyclists have requested that it be officially adopted as part of the new L.A. bike plan.

I’m including the full text below, for anyone who heard me mention it on the show.

I’m also including a link to something I wrote earlier, explaining why cyclists do some of the things we do — and one driver’s exceptional response to it. Along with a link to the single best explanation of how to share the road, from a cyclist’s perspective, that I’ve ever seen.

Because really, we all want the same things out on the road.

We want to get where we’re going. And we want to get home safely.

And that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

CYCLISTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmental and traffic congestion solutions; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are, first and foremost, people – with all of the rights and privileges that come from being members of this great society; and

NOW, THEREFORE, WE THE CYCLING COMMUNITY, do hereby claim the following rights:

1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

2) Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.

6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development and design that enable and support safe cycling.

7) Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.

8 ) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations.

10) Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

11) Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment.

12) Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

And further, we claim and assert these rights by taking to the streets and riding our bicycles, all in an expression of our inalienable right to ride!


Today’s post, in which I prepare to talk bikes on KPCC

November 10, 2009

The closest I’ve ever come to being on the radio was when I was a kid, and talked the local late-night DJ into playing Pink Floyd’s classic Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

Which I’m sure had nothing to do with the suspension he received the next day.

That’s about to change.

Wednesday morning, I’m going to be on the AirTalk program, along with LADOT Senior Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, on Pasadena public radio station KPCC.

It’s a sequel to last week’s lively discussion about the Good Doctor’s trial and well-deserved conviction. I’m hoping to correct a number of misconceptions from the original show and the online comments that followed, such as the idea that it’s illegal to ride two-abreast and that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk — or illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

Wrong on all counts.

No, really.

Here’s how they describe the upcoming program:

Topic: PAVEMENT WARS – PART 2: Last week we talked about the assault, battery and mayhem convictions of Dr. Christopher Thompson, who attacked a group of cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road by swerving his car in front of them and jamming on the brakes, seriously injuring two of them. Response to the segment was overwhelming. However, many KPCC listeners raised questions about the laws that govern cyclists. Are cyclists required to yield for passing cars? Are bikes permitted on sidewalks? What are the rights and responsibilities of California cyclists? And what is being done to improve conditions for bikes?

You can tune in from 10:20 to 11 am Wednesday, November 11 at 89.3 FM. If you’re stuck at work or outside their broadcast range, you can connect to the live streaming broadcast on their website at www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk. Or come back later in the day to download a podcast of the program.

It should be a very interesting discussion.

And I promise not to make Larry Mantle do anything that will get him suspended.

………

Stephen Box offers a powerful reminder that the Good Doctor’s conviction is just one case out of many that never get that far. Will Campbell explains why he’ll just go for a bike ride during next year’s Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon. LACBC offers their comments on the new bike plan, while Long Beach is on a mission to become the most bike-friendly community in America. L.A. used to have a state-of-the-art elevated bikeway. Seriously. More great shots from Russ and Laura’s West coast bike tour. Seattle has a new cycling mayor. D.C.’s cycling mayor clogs traffic; or maybe it’s the media trucks who follow looking for a story. Finally, New York added 200 miles of bikeways over the last three years; now bike commuting is up 66% in just two years. Coincidence?


‘ello Guvnor

November 10, 2009

I received an interesting email the other day.

A gentleman by the name of James was writing to say he’s going to be in L.A. next month. I know he’s a gentleman because a) his email was very polite, and b) he was writing from London. And as we all know, Englishmen are gentlemen.

Except for the ones who aren’t, of course.

guvnor ride-or-admireThis particular gentleman, though, is president of the Guvnor Owners Club, an organization dedicated to the extremely cool Pashley Guvnor — or Guv’nor, as the 83 year old manufacturer oddly insists on calling it, to the apparent disdain of virtually everyone not employed by the company.

Featuring a frame hand-built in England — at Stratford–upon-Avon, no less, the proper name for the town that was home to that famous dead poet and playwright — the Guvnor is a steel-framed, single speed bike (a 3 speed model is also available). Its design resurrects a classic bike from 1930’s, called a Path Racer because it was built to race along dirt paths as well as paved roads, making it an ideal bike for today’s pothole-lined city streets.

guvnor goc-2-wpAnd what could be more stylish and urban cycle chic than those white balloon tires and rakishly swept handlebars?

The point of James’ email, though, other than to induce a deep craving for the bike-lust inducing roadster, was to seek out any Guvnor owners in the L.A. area. He’d like to hear from you, and possibly photograph your bike when he’s scheduled to be in town on December 3rd. James is willing to travel wherever you may reside in the greater L.A. area; I’m sure he’d still want to hear from you if you’re not available that day or if you live anywhere in the former colonies.

You can email him at james at guvnorownersclub dot com. Or respond through the comments on here and I’ll make sure he sees it.

Even if you don’t own one, check out his website at www.guvnorownersclub.com, where he offers insights into the joys of owning a Guvnor, as well as a photo-rich travelogue of one of my favorite cities.horse-guards-dark-wp

And if, like me, you’re now dying to ride the genuine article, rumor has it that Orange 20 Bikes has — or at least, had — one, though they haven’t responded to my email asking for confirmation. And Flying Pigeon has taken a stab at transforming their eponymous Chinese bikes into a more affordable faux Guvnor.

Personally, I’m just hoping the company sees this, and ships one over to express their gratitude for the free publicity.

A man can dream, can’t he?

………

In a town where so few people walk, L.A. ranks 3rd in the nation in pedestrian deaths — and in the bottom 10% in spending to make the roads safer. Westside Bikeside shares my biggest complaint about riding through the area’s newest Bike Friendly City. Monsters on Bikes invade Flying Pigeon for a group art show starting Saturday. Maybe they really are out to get us: Police cruisers kill cyclists in San Diego and the D.C. area. The Examiner notes that white people aren’t the only ones who bike. Starting tomorrow, New York requires commercial buildings to provide bike access for any tenant who requests it. Portland authorities credit a rider’s helmet for saving her life when an SUV drove over her head. An introduction to riding in the City of Big Shoulders. Back in my hometown, a man uses bike power to move his entire home — and tow his SUV. The Guardian profiles the cult appeal of Brompton folding bikes. Evidently, L.A. cyclists and drivers aren’t the only ones stuck in traffic. Bogata has a challenger for dumbest bike lane, international edition. London’s Daily Mail calls for increased prosecution of Lycra louts. Finally, in keeping with today’s theme, a classic bit of Brit bike humor, Python style.


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