Car Free in the City of Cars

Here’s an event that I wish I could make tonight, Friday, June 27, 2008 at 7:30 pm at L.A. Eco-Village (Directions) :

Pascal van den Noort — fresh from the Car Free Cities Conference in Portland gives a slide show and talk on Mobility & The City, where most people live. Pascal is the Amsterdam-based global bicycling advocate and Executive Director of Velo Mondial who does the stunning bike blog at http://velomondial.blogspot.com/ You will hear and see how other challenged cities have moved forward with bicycling infrastructure and the culture to match it. Bring your hardest questions on what is holding LA back from becoming one of the “best cycling cities in the world.” Other websites that Pascal is associated with include: www.velo.info and http://spicycles.velo.info

Fee: $5. No reservations required. More info: Joe Linton 213/220-1608

This talk is sponsored by L.A. Eco-Village in association with: CICLE, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and CRSP in support of the Los Angeles Bike Summit planned for the fall
by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College.

And a special thanks to Joe Linton and everyone at the L.A. Eco-Village for inviting us to speak last night!

Bookin’

Many thanks to all of you who have ordered books from us. We were able to get the books out yesterday via our wondrous Xtracycle with a boost from the US Postal Service. And also, a note to our contributors–thanks and your books are in the mail as well. For those of you thinking of ordering some we have more available!

The kids are all bikin’


Image via Bikeblog

We’ll close out bike to work week with a roundup of the week’s hijinks before we get back to our other obsessions–vegetables and booze.

Mr. Homegrown Evolution delivered a PowerPoint on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative conference. We talked about the pragmatic details of biking in L.A. (hint–route choice!) and pitched the notion of changing our built environment to encourage walking and cycling. Here in Los Angeles, with the majority of bike commuters being poor folks of color, making our city more bikable is a civil rights issue.

For an overview of the bike to work day festivities (which ironically, since they take place in the middle of a weekday, tend to involve mostly the self-employed or unemployed) read Damien Newton’s post on the excellent Streetsblog LA. Elsewhere the fabulous Enci, our actor/cyclist comrade, had another run-in with a particularly angry bus driver and Mikey Wally managed to get banned for life from both Dodger Stadium and CALTRANS headquarters for doing skids on his fixie.

Lastly, the group calling themselves the Crimanimalz released a second freeway cycling video that has now gone around the world thanks to BoingBoing. No doubt, this ride will inspire debate.

More Cargo Bike Porn

In honor of bike to work week another round of cargo bikes, this time with photos courtesy of comrade Colin Bogart, former board president of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. These bikes were part of this February’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Portland. Get our your wallet, because these wheels are spendy.

Here’s a very heavy looking bike for carrying your apples around with. It’s by Black Sheep Bikes of Fort Collins Colorado.

Frances Bike’s bakfiet. Looks to me like a giant colander with wheels.

A very beautiful, retro styled bike by Alternative Needs Transportation.

A bike from Ahearne Cycles.

Looks like the golfing crowd has a “plan b” just in case the shit comes down and there’s no way to charge the carts. Of course by that time we’ll have ripped up the courses to plant food and Tiger will use his swing to wield a scythe.

Cargo Bike Roundup

With May official bike month in the U.S., we’ll begin the festivities with a roundup of cargo bikes and trikes courtesy of Berlin corespondent Steve Rowell. These puppies answer the common objection to biking, “but I’ve got shit to carry!”

We imagine this sturdy old model, pictured above, delivering barrels of sauerkraut, blood sausage and hefeweisen to the local Bier Garten. The bike equivalent of the sturdy old Frau behind the bar at our local German watering hole, the Red Lion. This is Utility with a capital U.

Sadly, Mr. Homegrown Evolution has forgotten every word of his college German, so all we can make out is that this bike represents the Grüne Liga, some sort of environmental organization. Don’t know if this trike is an ad, or if the Grüne Liga uses it to distribute literature or environmentally correct currywurst.

We imagine this bike belongs to some way eurotrashy DJ dude who uses it to shuttle his 100 kilo collection of Eurodisco hits to all the hot Berlin nightclubs. Gotta say that while we dig the European commitment to biking, health care and the environment, it’s their terrible music that keeps us firmly planted in America. If you don’t believe me, spend some time watching this Eurovision song contest clip by way of an example.
Via Facebook, Russell Bell wrote us to ask about the trike pictured above manufactured by a British outfit called Cycles Maximus which Russell wants to use to deliver produce to a local farmer’s market. Go Russell! We had to plead ignorance never having used one of these things, but as long as you don’t have any big hills or angry motorists it should work just fine.

Sadly in our corner of Los Angeles we have both big hills and angry motorists, which is why Homegrown Evolution uses the amazing Xtracycle for our cargo trips since I can’t imagine riding a wide cargo trike in L.A. With the Xtracycle, cargo cinches up tight in the back making for a narrow profile. This allows passage through tight spaces, such as our substandard bike lanes and busy traffic. You pretty much ride it like you would any other regular bike. Surly has recently come out with a sturdy frame/Xtracycle combination.

Local biking comrade Josef Bray-Ali just picked up a Dutch cargo bike called a bakfiet similar to the one pictured above. You can read his review here. A local Los Angeles dealer, bucketbike.com has started importing bakfiets and other European style bikes to America.

We’ve found hauling cargo on a bike to be tremendously enjoyable. It’s an entertaining challenge to see how many ridiculously heavy things you can carry. Sixty pounds of dog food, bags of concrete, soil and many loads of groceries have all traveled on our Xtracyle. It’s allowed us to get rid of one of our cars and save thousands of dollars. While many of the bikes above are on the expensive side, if you replace a car with them you’ll come out way ahead. And again, it’s just plain fun, which is all that really matters.

A Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights Part II

Despite a few last minute grammar and punctuation controversies, the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights is now public at the Bike Writer’s Collective:

CYCLIST’S 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!

We’d like to highlight article 12, “Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.” Take a look at this excerpt from an old film, showing a trip down Market Street in San Francisco circa 1905, the year before the 1906 earthquake and fire:

Most people looking at this film today would probably think that our present day congested, but reasonably orderly, streets have improved, that the chaos of this old street scene has been “cleaned up.” But what has been lost? Our streets in the United States are no longer the living, breathing, admittedly chaotic spaces they once were (Or still are in many parts of the world—witness this video of a present day intersection in India). Instead, the typical U.S. street is a monolithic traffic sewer, a blighted corridor with the only purpose being moving as many cars as fast as possible.

Today, all the pedestrians in this old film would be cited for jaywalking, the cyclists for “impeding traffic”, and the various equestrians and carriages would be harassed by the entitled, luxury car driving hordes. And while San Francisco still has its trolleys, most cities, including Los Angeles, ripped up the tracks in the 1950s.

This unquestioned idea that our streets are for cars not people would be extremely offensive to our founding fathers. Since it costs, on average, $8,000 a year to own and maintain an automobile this discrimination amounts to an unfair tax and worse, an infringement of our right to traverse public space.

This is why we need to assert our rights. This is why we need a Cyclist’s Bill of Rights.

A Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights

Thomas Jefferson, founding father and fixed gear gallery addict.

Biking back from downtown this morning in the poorly designed bike lane on the high speed/high volume traffic sewer that is Sunset Boulevard, I came upon a treacherous bend in the road that I’ve navigated a million times before. Over the past few months our city has seen fit to erase the bike lane markings, dig up the road and then apply asphalt the way a five year old would spread meringue on a pie. Months have gone by and they haven’t bothered to reapply the stripping. The city crew also left gouges of a size perfect for catching bike wheels, and a few slick metal plates to give us two-wheeled fanatics some extra challenges. Despite occasionally losing my temper, I try to view these challenges as a skateboarder would view a bleak modernist office plaza full of railings, concrete benches and staircases–as an opportunity for fun, while keeping in mind Robert Hurst’s, author of the excellent book The Art of Cycling, admonition to “ride with fear and joy.”

But occasionally the indignities tip the balance and my ego makes an ugly appearance. Today, coming around that bend, in addition to the amateur street repair work, I came upon two semi-trucks, one parked the wrong way, with both taking up most of the bike lane. Adding the proverbial cherry on the shit sundae, the film crew these trucks belonged to had placed an unoccupied folding chair in the bike lane, blocking the narrow strip of rough asphalt separating me from all the cell phone wielding SUV monkeys barreling westbound towards their cubicles.

In a moment I’m not particularly proud of, I picked up said folding chair and threw it forcefully on to the sidewalk. Had I been wittier this morning I might have launched into a critique of Hollywood’s inability to make a decent movie, but instead unimaginative expletives were exchanged between me and the craft services chefs disgorging the wrong-way parked semi. If all Hollywood films were directed by Werner Herzog or Goddard I might put up with the occasional dangerous inconvenience, but instead this long winded introduction gives me a chance to push a bold new way to end these indignities: the Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights.

Alex Thompson, over at WestsideBikeSIDE lays out some excellent reasons for this badly needed set of principles. Later this week we’ll put up the complete bill of rights, which we hope will spread beyond the auto-clogged dystopia that is the City of the Angels. In the meantime, wherever you are, take back the streets–they belong to all of us, not just General Motors!

Pedal Like Hell


Thanks to the folks at IlluminateLA for a tip on this human power competition on youtube. We especially like the entry above for the honest admission that our everyday tasks take a lot more energy than we imagine. It’s good to be reminded occasionally of the inescapable laws of thermodynamics, which C.P. Snow summarized as,

1. You cannot win (that is, you cannot get something for nothing, because matter and energy are conserved).

2. You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder; entropy always increases).

3. You cannot get out of the game (because absolute zero is unattainable).

Practically speaking, you’ve gotta pedal like crazy to keep that laptop running.

The Horror

Terrifying photo via Bike Snob NYC
The day began with the discovery that our neighbor’s roommate, practicing the kind of gardening we associate with crazy people and goats, had hacked off half the length of the native grape vine that we had counted on covering an ugly chain link fence. An innocent mistake, but evidence that some folks apparently don’t know what grape vines look like and that they loose their leaves in the winter. So what does this have to do with man bras? Nothing, but both make us cranky.

Our crankiness leaves us at a loss for words, so instead of a lengthy post we offer a few bike related links:

Bike Snob NYC has a nice essay on why cycling is a fringe activity, which may explain why it’s one of the least favorite topics on Homegrown Revolution according to a poll we did last year. Hint: it has something to do with aesthetics. And for the bike fetishists out there, Bike Snob’s deconstructions of Craigslist ads are a great time waster.

Fellow LA Bloggist and committed bike commuter Will Campbell (his mileage indicates that he’s got the Kool-aid in those bottle cages), has smacked down Cato institute stormtrooper Randall O’Toole in an ongoing debate on cycling in the pages of the L.A. Times.

Urban Velo #5 is available for download and it’s free.

Lastly, Commute by Bike has some tips on how to ride in cold weather without opening the wallet for expensive clothing.

Here’s this morning’s Vitus californica desecration (Vitus californication?):