Memorial Day bike links; more on the LAPD’s Critical Mass Takedown

May 31, 2010

More on the LAPD’s Critical Mass Takedown from KCBS Channel 2, KNBC Channel 4 and KTLA Channel 5; not surprising, it’s mostly a rehash of what we’ve already heard. If the story moves forward, it probably won’t be until the press gets back to work on Tuesday.

Cyclists are encouraged to attend Tuesday’s meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee to express their concerns; representatives of the LAPD are expected to be present.

LA City Council’s Bicycle Advisory Committee
Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall
6501 Fountain Ave. (between Cole & Wilcox)
Los Angeles, CA 90028
7 pm

And one day after the Critical Mass Takedown, Bike Town Beta 3 shows what biking in L.A. could be.

UPDATE: As always, Damien Newton is on the case.


Ivan Basso culminates his remarkable comeback from a two year suspension by cementing his victory in the final stage of the Giro D’Itlia; surprising Spaniard David Arroyo holds on for second, as pre-race favorites Cadel Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov and Carlos Sastre fail to bounce back from a devastating breakaway earlier in the race.

When the Tour of California offers competition like that, it will be on it’s way to becoming a great race.

Meanwhile, the comeback of Floyd “I was lying then but I’m totally telling the truth now, seriously” Landis is derailed when he gets dumped by the Bahati Foundation racing team.

So Basso takes his lumps, serves his suspension with dignity and comes back to win the Giro, while Landis fights like hell – knowing he’s lying the whole time – and loses his ride without qualifying for the ToC, let alone the grand tours.

Maybe there’s a lesson there.


There’s a lot to be said for bikes on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. San Diego gets a long overdue update to the city’s bike plan. A Seattle cyclist is knocked off his bike by a passing car, then beaten and robbed as he’s on the ground. Anchorage police foil a bike-riding bank robber’s getaway. Formerly bike-unfriendly Florida doesn’t suck anymore. NPR looks at the Race Across American (or RAAM), the country’s brutal coast-to-coast endurance bike race. A Manchester cyclist is blamed for cutting off a bus, forcing it to brake so sharply that a 78-year old passenger was killed. The price of a cyclist’s life in New Zealand is just $5,000. A rider in Australia joins other strangers in trying to save the life of a fallen cyclist. How to lock your bike to a crappy bike rack. In Copenhagen, when a cyclist inadvertently assaults other riders, he apologizes profusely — and his victims warmly accept it. Time to start preparing your uniform for June’s Naked Bike Ride; I think mine needs to be taken in a little.

Finally, take just a moment amid all the biking, grilling, sun basking and bargain hunting to remember what today’s holiday is all about. And here’s the perfect place to start, where you’ll find more than just a potential shortcut from Westwood to Brentwood, including 14 Medal of Honor winners, 10,000 Civil War vets and over 100 of the famed and too-long forgotten Buffalo Soldiers.

LAPD Critical Mass takedown

May 30, 2010

By now, you’ve probably heard about the heavy-handed police response to Friday’s Critical Mass, which included a protest of the BP oil spill in the gulf. From all descriptions, it was a peaceful, friendly ride until it got to the Hollywood area, where police reacted in force.

I’m on the run this weekend, but in the meantime, here’s the official police statement and links to the story so far.


Los Angeles Police Department Investigates Complaint of Use of Force Against Bicyclist

Los Angeles: Hollywood Area LAPD bike officers are involved in an incident that results in a complaint filed by representatives of the LA biking community.

On May 28, 2010 around 9:30 pm, LAPD Hollywood Area bike unit officers were patrolling the Entertainment District in Hollywood, at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard, just east of Highland Avenue, when a group of bicyclists numbering approximately 400 traveled eastbound on Hollywood Boulevard.

As part of enforcement efforts, LAPD Officers were watching for red light violations, and issuing citations. As Officers attempted to detain several bicyclists, a reported use of force was captured on video.

“In response to what we learned, we immediately launched a full-scale investigation to determine the facts surrounding the events,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. “The Departments Professional Standards Bureau has taken the lead in the inquiry and the Police Commission’s Inspector General has also been made fully aware of the matter.”

Since November 2009, the LAPD Office of Operations has worked closely with representatives of the biking community to improve relations, make the streets safer for bicyclists and discuss and identify issues involving bicyclists that are problematic for the motoring public.

“Our Department takes seriously its obligations and commitment to all members of the community. The Chief of Police and I pledged our strong support to work closely with the bike community and that promise has not wavered. It’s our hope that the relationship we’ve developed with the biking community over the past months will be strengthened even more as we continue to work together to find solutions to difficult circumstances such as these.”

LAPD Internal Affairs Group is investigating this reported use of force incident.


Cyclelicious: LAPD attacks CM cyclists

WeHo Daily: Bike Riders Protest BP, LAPD Takes Some Down; LAPD Launches Investigation of Bike Ride Video Incident

KABC TV-7: LAPD investigating officer excessive force Video – Hollywood police brutality against cyclists

LAist: Caught on Tape: Police Harass Bike Riders During BP Protest Ride; LAPD Launches Investigation of Use of Force Against Cyclists Captured on Video

LA Figa: Caught on Tape: Hollywood LAPD Bash Bicyclists During BP Protest Ride

LA Independent: Video appears to show use of force by LAPD officers during protest ride in Hollywood

Bikeside LA: Hollywood LAPD Assault/Harass Cyclists on LA Critical Mass; Los Angeles Police Protective League – Hollywood bike incident statement; Los Angeles Police Department Investigates Complaint of Use of Force Against Bicyclist

LA Curbed: Cyclists Storm Hollywood, But What’s Going on Here?

LA Times: LAPD to investigate scuffle between officers and BP protestors

Midnight Ridazz: CM Police Brutality

Legman LA: LAPD Confronts Anarcho Cyclists

Misinterpretation of bike safety trumps state law in Pasadena

May 29, 2010

L.A. cyclists are just beginning enjoy a police department committed to fair enforcement of the law and respecting the rights of cyclists.

Unfortunately, riders in other local jurisdictions aren’t always as lucky.

While Pasadena works to become more bicycle friendly, the Pasadena Police Department has clearly failed to grasp the concept.

In an astounding display of the department’s failure to understand either state bicycle laws or basic bike safety, a certified cycling instructor has given up after spending $4000 to fight a ticket for riding too slowly and too far out in the traffic lane in Pasadena.

Riding on a street with narrow traffic lanes, Chris Ziegler took the lane exactly as cyclists are taught to do for their own safety.

Yet the officer — and evidently, the department — seems to believe that “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb” meant riding to the far right regardless of whether Ziegler thought that would put him in jeopardy.

And regardless of whether he was legally entitled to take the lane.

That’s right. In what we can only hope is a horrible misquote, Pasadena Police Lt. Randall Taylor said that the department’s incorrect assessment of bicycle safety trumps the traffic laws of the State of California.

“Someone who has ridden a bike for more than 20 years obviously knows more about bicycling than I do,” he said. “But it comes down to common sense.”

Taylor, who is assigned to the traffic section, said safety may dictate asking cyclist (sic) to do things that run contrary to the law.

“The street may be too narrow and the law might say that he should ride in the middle of the street,” Taylor said. “But here is a 2,000-pound car and you have a 30-pound bike. Do you want to be in the middle of the street where a driver isn’t looking for you?”

Yes, he actually said that the police may require bicyclists to break the law.

Cyclists are taught that we are more visible riding in the lane than hugging the curb, and that riding too far to the right in a substandard lane only encourages drivers to pass in an unsafe manner.

In fact, the California DMV has this to say on the subject:

How Far to the Right?

Ride on the right, but not so far that you might hit the curb. You could lose your balance and fall into traffic. Do not ride too far to the right:

  • When avoiding parked vehicles or road hazards.
  • When a traffic lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.
  • When making a left turn.
  • To avoid conflicts with right-turning vehicles.

Unfortunately, the PPD — and the judges who accepted their misinterpretation of the law in order to uphold the ticket — evidently never read that.

Or simply don’t care whether they violate state law and put cyclists at needless risk if it fits their concept of safety.

So for the time being, you may want to ride in Pasadena at your own risk.


Evidently, the publicity helped this week, as a tipster turns in the 74-year old driver who ran down 22-year old Benjamin Zelman — after the city council increased the reward by $25,0000. Now if they could just put as much emphasis on finding the killers of Robert Painter and Ovidio Morales.


Ivan Basso bounces back from his two-year suspension to take the lead in the Giro D’Italia, coming from 2:27 back gain a :51 advantage. And for a change, a pro cyclist is found innocent of recent doping charges, after former world champ Alessandro Ballan is cleared in an internal investigation by his BMC team.


In this weekend’s rides and other assorted bike activities, Bike Town Beta 3 takes place in and around the Fairfax District. Will takes riders past the high points of historic West Adams, including the site of the infamous Black Dahlia murder. The SoCal Cycle Chic Ride rolls this Sunday for anyone who “rides in normal clothes.”

Wait, you mean spandex isn’t normal?

The California Car-Free Challenge begins next week. And you’re just over a week from the 10th Annual River Ride on Sunday, June 6.


The great sharrows volunteer study begins, with paint on the ground promised in two weeks. Mechanically inclined volunteers wanted for BiciDigna, the community bike repair space sponsored by the LACBC, Bicycle Kitchen and IDEPSCA. L.A. Creek Freak says the answer to future oil needs is more riding, not more drilling. In Pasadena, burglars escape by bike, or try to anyway; thanks to Altadenablog for the heads-up. An Orange County man faces 25 years in prison for keying his neighbor’s car. Cyclelicious says he’ll respect motorists’ privilege to use the roads when they learn to obey the rules; amen, brother. Leave your car at home and pedal your way to the Indy 500. A budget conflict sinks this year’s Tour of Missouri. The Bike League apologizes for mentioning the big, evil retail giant in their newsletter. A Santa Cruz area father is shot at trying to retrieve his son’s stolen bike. Colorado raises the penalties for careless driving resulting in death to a level that will automatically mean loss of driving privileges. New York cyclists get a European-style right-side bike-only left turn lane. A blonde American woman bikes through the Middle East and survives to write a play about it. Cyclists offer their support to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for his support of cycling. A North Carolina man is charged with six counts of felony hit-and-run after plowing into a group of cyclists earlier this month. A look at the bike that won the Giro for Andy Hampsten in ’88. After this week’s dismissal of the Darcy Allan Sheppard, Canadian bike messengers are officially roadkill. A Brit cycling group starts a campaign to keep Posties on their Pashleys.

Finally, Barclays buys the naming rights to London’s new bike share program for £25 million — about $36 million — which should give a hint about how L.A. could finance our long-discussed pilot program if anyone at LADOT or city hall is listening.

Redondo police threaten respectful crackdown on cyclists; Toronto bike-killer goes free

May 27, 2010

Not too long ago, a neighbor of mine came up to me with a question.

Every week, he said, on the same day each week, he’ll sit in heavy Sunset Blvd traffic waiting to make a left turn to drop his daughter off at school. And without fail, he’ll see a large group of cyclists riding east from the Palisades turn right at the same intersection — regardless of whether they have the right of way or the color of the traffic signal.

In fact, he’s had to jam on his brakes in the middle of his left as the leaders of the group blow through the light directly in front of him. Then he sometimes has to sit there through the light cycle, blocking the roadway until the riders clear the intersection.

Is that legal, he asked? Don’t cyclists have to obey the same laws as everyone else?

Uh, no. And yes.

I explained that there are reasons why riders in a peloton will keep going rather than stop, ranging from maintaining their momentum to the added safety of staying bunched together as they make their way through traffic.

But it’s not legal. And it’s hard to explain to angry drivers why they need to share the road when we don’t, at least not from their perspective.

I can offer every argument in my arsenal, from the fact that bikes pose a minute fraction of the risk that cars and other motor vehicles do, to statistics that show that the overwhelming majority of drivers don’t stop for stop signs, either. As well as the fact that most cyclists actually do stop for red lights, and that some cyclists think that going through a light is actually safer than waiting for it to change.

But the conversation usually ends up like this one did. “But I have to stop for red lights and observe the right of way. So why don’t they?”

Clearly, he’s not the only one who asks that question. And some of those end up calling the local police department to complain.

Which seems to be exactly what happened in Redondo Beach.

Jim Lyle recently forwarded me this very politely worded letter from the Redondo Beach Police Department Community Services Unit, which makes it very clear that they are prepared to crack down on cyclists if they think they have to.

Dear Cyclists,

The Redondo Beach Police Department would like to respectfully underline the message of obeying all of the rules pertaining to the California Vehicle Code while cycling through the city.  Increased disregard for stop signs by individual cyclists and by large groups or pelotons at several intersections has resulted in numerous calls to the Department for additional enforcement.  Please work with us in getting the word out to all bicyclists that their compliance will prevent a directed enforcement detail for bicycle violations in the City of Redondo Beach.

We wish you continued enjoyment toward a safe and healthy lifestyle.

Of course, we have every right to expect that they will enforce the rules equally against drivers and cyclists.

For some reason, though, few people seem to notice when drivers slow down without coming to a complete stop, while we seem to stand out if we don’t come to a full stop — even if we slow just as much.

So much for the argument that bikes are hard to see. And fair or not, we’re the ones that people complain about.

So be courteous. Play nice. And stop for red lights and stop signs.

Especially in Redondo Beach.


Charges have been dropped against Michael Bryant, the former Ontario Attorney General who killed a Toronto bike messenger in what appeared to be a deliberate attack last summer.

Despite video showing the victim, Darcy Allen Sheppard, clinging to Bryant’s car moments before his death, prosecutors blamed Sheppard for escalating the events, noting that he was legally intoxicated and had a history of violent confrontations with drivers.

Although how many people would keep their cool after being struck twice while waiting for a red light to change — the second time hard enough to throw him onto the hood of Bryant’s Saab — is subject to debate.

The whole event took less than 30 seconds.

Cycling advocates question whether it was really Sheppard’s temper or Bryant’s political connections that lead to the dismissal, though some say that Sheppard is the wrong kind of hero for cyclists, while others note that Bryant’s career is probably dead in the water now.


The fallout continues from the allegations leveled by admitted doper Floyd Landis, who loses support of his Murietta neighbors, while a bourbon maker demands an apology.

Federal official consider expanding their investigation into other areas — including the possibility of fraud charges — if it can be shown that money from Lance Armstrong’s former team sponsor US Postal Service was used to buy illegal substances. Meanwhile, Lance is running out of time to get in shape for this year’s Tour.


Glendale moves forward with a riverfront park, including a bike/pedestrian bridge connecting to Griffith Park. Evidently, you can’t just make a scraper bike; now there are official rules — and L.A. residents need not apply. A San Francisco judge will consider officially lifting that city’s misguided and unwanted injunction against bike infrastructure. Lose the support of cyclists, and Davis area candidates risk losing an election; that’s exactly where we need to get here in L.A. When leading a ride for beginning cyclists, always carry a 5/8” wrench just in case. A Dallas rider discovers a ‘70s era bike that apparently doesn’t exist, at least as far as Google knows. Also from Dallas, a blow-by-blow account of dodging Hummers and sorority girls on the city streets. Lack of a helmet cannot be used against a cyclist in Illinois courts. Safe cycling is courteous, but not always legal. A report from Holland MI says building more bike paths may mean more cyclists on the roads. How London can cut the rapidly rising rate of bike theft — note that a government program will pay commuters up to half the cost of a new bike. Britain’s Bristol City FC encourages fans to bike to their games; is anyone from the Dodgers or Lakers paying attention? A teenage girl is forced off the road by a speeding car and impaled on a barbed wire fence, as people passing by ignore her pleas for help. Paris plans to double its bike path network, while adding 1,000 bike parking spots. Toronto may be a boneyard of broken cyclists, but city officials don’t give them an inch.

Finally, a Canadian driving instructor offers advice on how cyclists and drivers can get along — and actually gets it right for a change.

A look at vehicular cycling, People for Bikes, and a lot of links

May 26, 2010

If you listen to the most vocal cyclists, you would assume that vehicular cycling was a long-settled issue, and that everyone agrees that bicyclists belong in the traffic lane, operating their bike like any other vehicle.

But as Boston Biker astutely points out, it doesn’t take much observation to realize that the overwhelming majority of cyclists prefer riding in bike lanes. The European countries with the highest percentage of cycling also have the greatest amount of cycling infrastructure, while here in the U.S. — where a lack of infrastructure has virtually demanded a vehicular approach to cycling — the percentage of bike commuters languishes around 1%.

Adding infrastructure also encourages riding, as shown by the dramatic growth in New York cycling after the city tripled the miles of bike lanes on their streets. Whether or not riders are actually safer in a bike lane, they feel safer, and better infrastructure is frequently cited as the #1 factor that would encourage new riders to take up the sport.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. Given the choice, I prefer riding bike lanes and bike paths, but have no problem riding vehicularly when the situation calls for it.

But whether or not you agree with the writer, it’s a well thought out piece. And definitely worth reading.


I’ve been watching People for Bikes with interest lately, ever since the plan was announced at this year’s National Bike Summit back in March.

Formed by Bikes Belong, the bike industry’s leading trade group — and one of the best sources for cycling stats — with the support of several of the nation’s leading bike advocacy groups, People for Bikes has a goal of signing up one million cyclists to create a nationwide voice for cyclists.

By uniting a million voices for bicycling, we will help build a national movement with clout and influence. Our unified message—that bicycling is important and should be promoted—will resonate with leaders, the media and public.

It’s a worthwhile goal, with a pledge I think we can all agree on. And one that I’ve already signed up for.

The Pledge

I am for bikes. I’m for long rides and short rides. I’m for commuting to work, weekend rides, racing, riding to school, or just a quick spin around the block. I believe that no matter how I ride, biking makes me happy and is great for my health, my community and the environment we all share. That is why I am pledging my name in support of a better future for bicycling — one that is safe and fun for everyone. By uniting my voice with a million others, I believe that we can make our world a better place to ride.

But if you need a little further inducement, you have just one more week to sign up and have a chance to win a free Trek Allant that will be given away at the end of this month.


In a little bit of non-cycling news, one of the nation’s leading examples of eco living is closing.

Started by Julia Russel in the 1970s, Eco-Home demonstrates how anyone can live with minimal impact on the environment by retrofitting a 1911 California bungalow to conserve energy and water, and grow food locally, along with other ways to live in a more sustainable manner — including riding your bike for more trips.

Three more tours are still scheduled before it closes; read more on the Eco-Village Blog.


And in one more non-biking item that found its way to my inbox, Sony is sponsoring the nationwide Rock’n’ Roll Marathon Series, starting in San Diego on June 6 and reaching L.A. on October 24. Events include a two-day Health and Fitness Expo and a finish line concert for runners, family and friends.

So where’s the bike tour to go along with it?


In pro doping cycling news, Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso continue their comeback in the Giro D’Italia, as a strong performance in Tuesday’s time trial puts them within striking distance of the leader; today’s relatively easy stage doesn’t change anything.

A silver medal-winning Spanish track cyclist is the latest to test positive for a banned substance. Meanwhile, there may be more shoes to drop in the wake of Floyd Landis’ charges. And a federal investigation could answer once and for all whether Lance Armstrong is clean; international cycling’s governing body claims there’s no conflict of interest despite a $100,000 donation from Armstrong.


Cynergy offers a free lecture on how to use science to get race ready at 6:30p today; hopefully they won’t recommend the Landis technique. Damien Newton looks back at bike week and asks where’s our bike plan, while Stephen Box looks at what follows bike week and notes the success of the LAPD Bike Task Force. Sara Bond speaks about Bikeside Speaks! A call to build a bike corridor from Norwalk to the beach. CHP cracks down on BWI — Biking While Intoxicated. Is San Diego on its way to becoming SoCal’s newest bike Mecca? Tucson Velo explores Los Angeles with the locals. Shock in Arizona as police actually enforce the state’s three foot passing law. Five dollars could help fund a new documentary on ghost bikes. New York spends $15.7 million to complete the last half mile of a riverfront bike superhighway — roughly twice the cost per mile to build the proposed extension of the Marvin Braude Bike Path. WashCycle refutes the so-called facts about bike helmets; WalkBikeJersey objects to the media’s attitude of “wear a bike helmet or die.” Federal standards recommend rumble strips on rural roads, without regard for cyclist safety. The woman rider who made the podium of last year’s Leadville 100 while racing under another woman’s name and number pleads guilty — to trespassing? Cyclelicious points the way to a DC law firm that’s started its own in-house bike share program. DC’s bike sharing plan will see a 900% increase in size, while L.A.’s is still in the talking stage, like everything else. Sometimes the biggest danger cyclists face comes from other cyclists. A guilty verdict for the Portland-area man who intentionally backed his SUV over a cyclist. Cyclists aren’t the only ones who ignore stop signs. Police crack down on Copenhagen cyclists — for one week only. Eight riders are injured as an SUV drives into the peloton during an Irish race. A pocket sized guide to the 100 greatest climbs in Britain.

Finally, I’m packing my bags for South Carolina, as developers plan the nation’s first bike-only community.

Hit-and-run alert — keep your eyes open for an older yellow VW Bug with black convertible top

May 25, 2010

One of the points I’ve been trying to make as part of the LAPD’s Bike Task Force is that cooperation is a two-way street. While we expect the police to observe our rights, we can help the them by putting more eyes on the street, since there are a lot more cyclists than cops in L.A.

Today, they’ve reached out to us for the first time for help in locating an older yellow VW Bug with a black convertible top that struck a valet on La Cienega Blvd last Wednesday night, leaving him in a coma. If you see a car that fits the description, call Officer Hutchings at LAPD West Traffic Division at 213/473-0234.

Forward the information any way you can, by email, Twitter, texting or posting online, and let’s see if we can start putting an end to hit-and-runs in L.A.


Contact: Officer Hutchings
LAPD West Traffic Division
Phone: 213-473-0234

Driver of Yellow Volkswagen Convertible Still on the Run, Hit & Run Victim Remains in Coma at Cedars Sinai Hospital

West Hollywood, CA — May 24, 2010 — Police are still seeking the driver of an older model yellow Volkswagen black top convertible which was involved in a hit & run accident on Wednesday May 19th that left Ben Zelman in a coma with the driver still on the run.  Ben Zelman’s family and friends have been working around the clock to find justice and now desperately needs the public to help find the person that left Ben for dead in the middle of La Cienega Blvd.

The mother of the 22 year old victim has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the conviction of the person who ran over her son while he was working as valet at Koi restaurant on La Cienega Blvd.  The accident occurred at 10:45pm on Wednesday May 19th on La Cienega Blvd. at Melrose Place.  Being such a busy street police and family are confident someone can help crack this case and bring the individual responsible to justice.

If you know anyone who drives an older model yellow Volkswagen black top convertible that has frontal damage or saw the accident you are urged to report this to the Police immediately.  Your report will be kept confidential and you can make an anonymous report.  To make a report or to tip the Police you can call Officer Hutchings of the LAPD West Traffic Division at 213-473-0234 or you can email Officer Hutchings directly at

For information:
Richard Fox
4335 Van Nuys Blvd. #303
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Phone: 818.437.2383

Are we discouraging the people we need to encourage?

May 25, 2010

There was a time when I was a pretty good wrench.

Needless to say, that was before I married a woman who objects to finding greasy bike parts scattered all over the living room.

I took great pride in building my own wheels, carefully lacing the spokes in the traditional interlaced pattern. And twice each year, I would strip my bike down to the frame and rebuilt it; lubing, tightening and aligning every part until it rolled smoothly, in perfect silence.

But it never occurred to me to assemble an odd collection of mismatched parts and build my own bike from the rubber up.

Yet that’s exactly what Amanda is doing.

Even though she’s only been riding for a couple years. And even though she didn’t even know how to fix a bike when she started. In fact, one of her reasons for doing it was to teach herself bike mechanics as she goes along.

The author of Life Without Wheels, Amanda — better known by her online persona, Dancer a la Mode — started riding because she couldn’t afford a car. Then continued because she fell in love with it, joining in on group rides and doing solo centuries and double centuries, as well as commuting to and from both her jobs.

And all that on a bike that’s too big for her.

She needed a new bike, one that actually fit. One that would allow her to ride even longer distances, as well as take up racing, her next two-wheeled challenge.

So she decided to build it herself.

And that’s when the problems began.

She went to the local bicycle co-op in her neighborhood, the Bicycle Kitchen — the city’s first and still most respected co-op — and asked for a little help. And walked out discouraged and empty handed.

I’ll let her explain.

Let me say that I understand the purpose is to teach you how to work on your bike. It’s not a bicycle shop and it’s not a repair shop. I get it. I wasn’t asking for either.

My first off-putting experience was when I came into the Kitchen during ArtCycle. I explained that I wanted to build a bike from scratch as a learning project, but also to ride, and asked what kind of frames they had. Now, based on everything I read, that’s exactly the kind of project you can do at the Bicycle Kitchen, exactly what it’s there for. But the “cook” there just looked at me and said, “well, we don’t sell frames”. I made it clear, again, that I wasn’t looking to buy a bike, I wanted to build one, myself, I would need some direction, but this wasn’t about “buying”. The cook continued to brush me off, so I left with my friends and went back to ArtCycle. My impression was that they just didn’t want to help me. I was very sad and had to wonder what this “community” was really about if these leaders in the community were going to discourage me for some reason or, dare I say, bias of their own.

Maybe there really wasn’t anything they could do. Or maybe they didn’t take her seriously. But either way, instead of trying to find a way to help or encourage her, the person she spoke with turned his back on her — figuratively, if not literally.

Even if they couldn’t do what she asked, someone could have taken the time to guide her by discussing various types of frames, or offered suggestions on where to find a good used frame. Or they could have simply suggested that she come back the next day and talk to someone at Orange 20 Bikes directly across the street.

And then offered to assist her in building her bike once she found one.

But instead of offering encouragement, the answer was simply “we don’t sell frames.” So she walked out the door, empty handed and disappointed.

A lot of people would have quit right there.

But clearly, Amanda isn’t the type to give up. So she went ahead and built it anyway, doing the research on her own to discover what she needed and how to install it. And slowly assembling, not just a bike, but the skills required to build it.

And then it happened again.

So I embarked upon my bike build myself. I went to swapmeets, garage sales, searched online, and compiled used parts for my project over the course of a few months. Every time I talked to people about my search for parts they would say, “oh, you should visit the Bicycle Kitchen.” I had to shake my head sadly and say I’d already tried that. However, as I began to assemble the bike, in my living room on the floor without a bike stand, I realized I needed an integral part to install my shift and brake cables. Last night, on a group ride, we stopped to show an out-of-town guest the Bicycle Kitchen. I went inside, explained that I was building a bike at home, and needed a cable clamp for the downtube. The cook politely showed me a cable clamp but would not give or sell it to me. He said, “We’re not really a bicycle shop. You can bring it here and work on it.” I explained to him that the bicycle was in pieces, I don’t own a car, and I would have to carry it here, which isn’t really an option, because I’m not walking through Hel-Mel and Koreatown at night, carrying my bicycle (and let me be clear, nighttime is the only time I have to work on this project). It’s absolutely ridiculous that he even expected me to. Hello! There have been muggings, and recently cyclists have been held at gunpoint for their bikes in this area! I’m a 30-year-old woman, and while carrying the bike isn’t the problem, I paid good money for all the parts I had to compile, since the Kitchen wouldn’t help me in the first place. I wasn’t trying to use them as a shop. I had a legitimate need, a legitimate situation, and could’ve used a little help. Regardless of my explanation, I was again refused any help and left very angry that I was being told that the only way I could get help was to do something I deemed dangerous.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

This isn’t a criticism of the Bicycle Kitchen. Until I read Amanda’s letter, I’d heard nothing but good things about them. And I wasn’t there either night, so I can’t comment on what really happened, or who was right or wrong.

It’s a reminder that if we really want to build our bicycling community, we need to take a situation like this and turn it into an opportunity to encourage less experienced riders. Whether that means offering advice on how to ride in traffic, how to buy a bike or where to get the parts they need.

And whether we write a blog, work in a bike shop or serve on the board of a biking organization. Or just encounter a rider having a little difficulty on the road.

Not everyone has Amanda’s determination. And it’s a lot easier to give up than to struggle though on your own.

I nearly did the first time I tried to replace a busted wheel.

I couldn’t afford a new one, and the staff at the local bike shop took one look at a beginning rider with no idea what he was doing, and dismissed me on the spot.

They told me that I couldn’t build one of my own. Too hard, too complicated, something only the most experienced riders should even attempt.

So I turned and walked away, deeply discouraged and ready to quit, since I couldn’t ride on one wheel. Then another customer stopped me on my way out the door.

He took the time to explain the different types of rims, helping me select the right ones for my bike, budget and style of riding. Then he helped me find the right spokes, explaining how to lace them and get the tension just right.

It wasn’t his job. But he cared enough to encourage a total stranger.

And over 25 years later, I’m still riding.

And still grateful.


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