Bikin’ in LA

LA Bike path with billboard courtesy of SoapBoxLA

When riding a bike in a city like Los Angeles I’ve come to the realization that it’s best to cultivate a stoic, ninjaesque calm while squeezing betwixt the masses of cell phone wielding Neanderthals piloting their four ton land yachts. Unfortunately, I sometimes lose my temper. But over the past few years since I climbed back on a bike, I’ve discovered that it’s best to brush off the inevitable indignities and pretend all those Neanderthals are rushing off somewhere important like, say, to save a drowning puppy or sing Christmas Carols at a nursing home.

The ethos I try to live by is: on the bike stay calm and enjoy the craziness of it all (it’s like skiing with SUVs, after all), off the bike raise hell. And, as the bike path photo above from über bike activist Stephen Box’s SoapBoxLA blog demonstrates, there’s plenty to raise hell about with Los Angeles’ terminal car-centric design. For me the issue ain’t about bikes–I actually enjoy hauling ass through congested rush hour traffic on two wheels. Instead my off bike ire is more about two questions that, I hope, everyone will care about whether you ride a bike or not:

1. Can children safely walk or ride their bikes to school and thus avoiding becoming fat, Xbox addicted idiots. Or, do they have to go everywhere tethered to mommy and daddy in steel and glass bubbles never learning anything about independence.

2. Can elderly folks safely walk to a market, church, bingo hall without having to get behind the wheel of a car.

In Los Angeles and most of the rest of the country the answer to both of these questions is a big fat, obese NO! However, we’re at a turning point here in L.A. The testifying and lobbying that we in the bike community have been working on has begun to pay off and, I hope, make life for everyone here better.

When folks talk to me about national politics I say, sure you should vote but it’s the local that really matters. It’s by speaking at city council meetings or just writing letters to local officials that we can make the changes to our world that need to be made. In the case of transportation, it doesn’t matter whether you are right, left, libertarian or whatever. We all have the right to safe, inexpensive mobility no matter our age, race or income level. Tell your local officials!

To find out more about what’s been going on in Los Angeles read:

Los Angeles Magazine’s account of the local bike community
The recently revived SoapBoxLA
StreetsblogLA

Camping and Solar Cooking

I’m a big fan of backpacking sufferfests, which often involve a long drive followed by hiking thousand of feet up and over challenging, rocky terrain. The sense of accomplishment and breathtaking scenery is always worth the effort, but something is also to be said for an alternate camping scenario we’ve taken to recently, involving loading up our cargo bike (the amazing Xtracycle) and biking to our destination, all the while carrying almost as much as we would car camping. After rolling into our campground, we’ll spend the weekend kicking back at the campsite, taking it easy and pretty much not going anywhere or doing anything. With the carrying capacity of the cargo bike, we can get fancy with the food and libations, allowing us to skip the usual dehydrated camping chow.

These sittin’ around type of trips, or even a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, are the perfect occasion to deploy a solar cooker. Best of all you can build a solar cooker yourself for pennies out of cardboard and aluminum foil. For some foods, such as rice, it’s actually easier to cook with a solar cooker than it is on a stovetop. Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in the solar panel cooker, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch.

Read the rest at The Cleanest Line via the Patagonia Company.

Bike Porn

As the Bicycle Film Festival wraps up here in Los Angeles I’m reminded of how exciting it is to feel a part of a subculture not yet discovered by the masses. Perhaps $4 a gallon gasoline will bring a few more converts, but I’m not holding my breath. The joy of riding a bike is a far greater incentive than economic necessity. I’d rather crest a steep hill with a sense of accomplishment rather than a winded desperation. The bike film fest is a celebration of an everyday physical virtuosity that will become more important as the crack-like cultural high of fossil fuels proves increasingly expensive and destructive. This is a film fest that sings the body acoustic.

After leaving LA the festival travels to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, Austin, London, Vienna, and beyond. Check the Bike Film Festival calendar to see if it comes to a city near you. Thanks to the wonders of youtube, if you can’t make it to the festival you can watch a lot of the films online. Here’s a few:

Macaframa
“SF’s most talented street track riders.”

Tico Jam 5
BMX bike porn in Costa Rica. I could watch these folks do their thing for hours.

D.I.Y. Emancipation 101
A nice animation about how the bicycle brought freedom to women.

Orange Bikes Take Manhattan
All about a misguided viral marketing campaign from DKNY.

The Way Bobby Sees It
A gripping story about a blind mountain bike rider.

Wolfpack Hustle: The Midnight Drag Race
2nd Street Tunnel single speed and fixed gear drag races in Los Angeles.

Waffle Bike
From the same demented duo who did a nice video about bike thievery in New York a few years ago.

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.