Nutria Trappin’ by Bike!

I like to keep up on all the “urban homesteading” trends, but bikesnobnyc beat me to this one: nutria (Myocastor coypus) trapping via bike.

“We then returned with our catch and skinned them, prepared the hides for tanning and butchered the carcass and cooked up a bit of the meat. Most folks seemed pleasantly surprised at the “chicken- like” taste of the meat.”

Read more about it at dellerdesigns.blogspot.com, “Maker of Fine Hats for Town and Country Cyclists.”

They want to ride to school. So they do.

In Orlando Florida, one of the worst places to ride a bike in America, some high school students are taking back the streets:

High School Bike Bus from Keri Caffrey on Vimeo. Via Streetsblog.

Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, elementary and high school groups go on field trips to the auto show:

No doubt our educational dollars were well spent showing the kids the informative educational displays:

I noticed that some of the students at the car show had been given traffic safety pamphlets about how to safely ride bikes. Car companies have been producing pedestrian and bike safety info for years. At the risk of being somewhat conspiratorial, auto industry produced safety materials often carry a hidden message that walking and biking are dangerous, marginal activities. Actually biking to school together like the Florida students as well as walking school buses send a much better message, in my opinion.

The good news is that, in car-centric cities like Orlando and Los Angeles there is a growing awareness that alternative transportation arrangements need to be made quickly. Here in LA we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Thanks to Elon Schoenholz for scoring two free passes to the car show. It’s good to check out how the consensus trance is holding up.

The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors

We’ve reviewed Tamara Dean’s new book The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motorsin this month’s issue of Yes Magazine. As we say in the review, don’t expect to be able to run your plasma screen with a bicycle (a lot of our favorite appliances take a hell of a lot more energy than pedal power can provide), but you will be able to grind grain, press apples, operate a sewing machine, and shell nuts. Dean’s book tells you how to harness human power in clear step-by-step instructions.

Read our complete review here.

Read excerpts from the book on Dean’s website.

Lord of the Flies Inspired Bike Rack

Homegrown Neighbor here. When I saw this unique piece of public art/functional bike rack I just had to stop and take a picture to share.  I was on my way home from the Central Library, where I had checked out some books on Belgian beer for a project I’m working on. I walked up Broadway to catch the bus home, stopping at Grand Central Market on the way. But outside the market I saw this truly strange sculpture with many bikes locked to it. Obviously it was designed to celebrate the market, where meat, produce, spices, nuts and almost any imaginable type of ethnic food can be found. The top is adorned with two pigs’ heads. The corners have fruits and vegetables in them. I think it is kind of grotesque but very eye-catching. I also like that it has  four posts, allowing a lot of well spaced area to lock your bike to.

Bicycles and GPS


So at a time when the whole hipster stripped-down fixed-gear bike phenomenon has just passed its inevitable pop cultural zenith, this post will come across as impossibly nerdy. Yesterday I finally got around to strapping my small handheld GPS unit to the handlebars of my road bike and I can say that this particular combination of 19th century technology and 20th century electronics rocks.

The only sane way to get around Los Angeles and most large American cities on a bike is to find alternate routes: quiet side streets well away from the major arterials. Over the past few years I’ve gotten pretty good at studying a map to find bike friendly streets. I go well out of my way to avoid six lane boulevards, not so much because I think they are more dangerous, but simply because I don’t like getting into altercations with motorists. I’ll zig and zag, hopping from one residential street to another. The problem has been having to print out maps and pull them out of a pocket every few blocks, since I tend to easily forget directions.

My GPS unit (an earlier version of this Garmin handheld with a handlebar mount) and the accompanying software nicely solves this problem. I can use the mapping software to draw a route and load it into the handheld. The GPS unit beeps before I approach a turn and points the way. I generally don’t like anything that distracts from the craziness of our roads, so I’ve never used a cyclometer. I’ve found that the GPS unit actually cuts down on distractions since I don’t have to swivel my head around to figure out where I’m going. I can just pay attention to the road and let those GPS satellites tell me when to make a turn. It’s kinda like the way the military guides in “smart” bombs, except instead of an explosion you get me, a middle-aged eco-blogging dork on a bike.

The next step will be to try the even more incongruous combination of a camel and a GPS, though I’m sure that this high-tech/low-tech combo is being done quite effectively elsewhere in the world. But here in LA, a surly camel might come in handy the next time someone yells, “get off the road!”

We Vote With Our Gas Pedals

Photo by sanbeiji

It’s been my good luck to travel on business to many great cities in Northern Europe. And these cities–Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brugge, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg–have one thing in common: people come first, cars come second. It’s a hassle to drive but a pleasure to walk, bike and take public transit. As a direct result they are desirable places to live and be a tourist. While we could throw many American cities into this list of livable cities–San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Portland, Davis, New York come to mind–I doubt anyone would include my hometown of Los Angeles. LA, while not the worst city in the world, is the poster child for car-centric planning and general ugliness. When I’m away I question the sanity of getting back on the plane to return.

But since I always return I feel compelled to at least try to make the place more livable. Last year I joined with bike activists Stephen Box and Josef Bray-Ali to speak at a Los Angeles City Council transportation subcommittee meeting to oppose a routine bunch of speed limit increases. Here’s how the whole sorry process plays out. First, Detroit sells (or used to sell) insanely over-powered cars that turn soccer moms into NASCAR drivers. To protect the rights of these speed addled motorists, many states, including California, have seen fit to pass “Speed Trap” laws requiring cities to establish a street’s speed limit based on the 85th percentile of average speed in order to use radar or laser enforcement. In other words, as one LA Department of Transportation engineer put it, “we vote with our gas pedals.” So we engineer cars for speed, engineer the streets for speed, and then raise the speed limits to match. If the 85th percentile is 50 mph on a residential street, the city raises the speed limit. If they don’t the cops can’t use radar. Or so they say. One LADOT official said that he’d “raise the limits anyways.”

Thankfully, those of you in California can help change this ridiculous situation.

1. Write a letter to your State representative and urge them to support Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian’s AB766 “Safe Streets” bill which will reform our silly speed trap laws.

2. Box and his wife Enci will be traveling to Sacramento to lobby for this bill. They’d love to have your letters of support to take with them. Email your letter of support to: [email protected]

3. Follow Stephen and Enci’s journey on Twitter, on Facebook, on their blogs at illuminateLA and at SoapBoxLA.

Let’s make our streets safe for our children and senior citizens. Support AB766!

Hummer Driver Runs Down Cyclists LAPD Officer Lets Driver Go

Cellphone Photo by Matt Stilline

In the early morning hours on Friday in downtown Los Angeles a group of around a dozen cyclists were involved in a hit and run incident with a Hummer driver that resulted in minor injuries and three demolished bikes. The driver was pulled over several blocks away by the LAPD only to be let go. Officer Cho came back to speak to the group of cyclists stating, “Get everyone together because I don’t want to say this twice. If anyone says anything I’m gonna walk away and I’m not going to talk to you guys. Based on the evidence right now it looks like the cyclist hit the car, not that the car hit the cyclist.” He added, “if it had been me with my family in that car, I’d have done the same thing, and I carry a gun in my car.”

Read the rest of the ugly details on Westside BikeSIDE! [note: Westside BikeSIDE! seems to be down due to heavy traffic]. Gary Rides Bikes also has the scoop.

Cargo Bikes Rule the World


It’s hard to improve on a design as simple and elegant as the bicycle. It’s a bit like trying to redesign the fork or chopstick. But every once in a while a new idea comes along. We could debate the merits of the spork, but I’d rather focus on the current cargo bike revolution taking place in the workshops of bike builders around the world. One such innovator is Lane Kagay who operates a one man cargo bike/rack operation out of Eugene Oregon called CETMA Cargo. Check out his designs at cetmacargo.com.

Why Lycra is a Bad Idea

Robert Hurst, author of the how-to book on how to ride a bike in the city, The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st-Century America says, “the thought of cyclists pedaling around in their standard everyday garb is heartening. The more riders who do this, the more obvious it will be to the general public that cycling is about straight utility in addition to recreation and exercise, an important point that has yet to penetrate the thick skull of American society.”

We’re all for utility, but how about utility with style? It looks like the Brits are ahead of us in this department with the recent revival of riding tweeds. There’s a Tweed Cycling Club, a funny article in The Chap (pdf), a photogenic London tweed ride, and let’s not forget our stylish American friends Hen Waller (of chicken fame) who operate vélocouture and are also fans of tweed.

As I prepare to step on a train to head to San Francisco with my bike and usual slovenly attire, I only wish the journey could be as stylish and civilized as this old film the folks at the Tweed Cycling Club dug up:

See part II of that film here.