Bike to Work Week

It’s bike to work week and time to RIDE! That being said, we’re a little disappointed by the iconography our Metropolitan Transit Authority is using to advertise what we otherwise think is a worthwhile cause. It reminds us of an essay by Michael Smith about a poster designed for the equally clueless New York City Department of Transportation.

Our MTA seems to feel that only children should ride bikes–at least that’s the unconscious subtext of the image on the left. The hand-less and foot-less cartoon figures they use, with their small doll-like bodies look like kids. Even though they don’t have faces, they also don’t look particularly happy. Is that because they are going to work (who wants to do that!) or because they are riding a bike in the notoriously bike-unfriendly Los Angeles? The hidden, and I’m sure unintentional message from MTA seems to be, “we’re advertising biking in LA because it makes us look good, but if you actually do it you are a childish dork.”
And speaking of dorks, check out the pained and terrified dude on the cover of the outdated and useless Los Angeles Department of Transportation bikeway guide (click to biggify). Flip to the backside of the map and there’s another copy of this same image, this time occupying fully a third of what could be useful space for tips on how to bike in LA. Like the MTA, the LADOT seems more interested in spending lavishly on curious promotional efforts that simultaneously make it seem like they are doing something while subconsciously discouraging anyone from actually riding a bike. After all, if the kind of middle class folks this map and the bike to work propaganda is aimed at took to the streets in great numbers LADOT would have a problem on their hands given their fondness for building pedestrian and cycling unfriendly high-speed blighted freeways through our neighborhoods.

A tip to the powers that be–first spend your money on making LA more walkable/bikeable and if there are any dead presidents left over for advertising at least try for some sexier imagery. Start with a look at Urban Cyclist–even the old codgers at SurviveLA know these hip kids at are on to something with their free issue #1.

And while we’re not thrilled with the MTA ad campaign, we like some of the festivities planned for this week:

Monday– a free concert by the Ditty Bops and a guest appearance by the ubiquitous greenmeister Ed Begley Jr from 11:30 am to 1pm on the south lawn of city hall.

Tuesday–Blessing of the Bicycles at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Thursday–The Hollywood and Western Pit Stop hosted by illuminateLA who promises voluminous swag and refreshments from 7 am to 10 am followed by barricade storming.

A Bicycle Powered Washing Machine


Homeless Dave’s Bike Powered Washing Machine

Of all the potential bicycle powered applications, other than the primary one of simply gettin’ around, washing machines seem the most practical to us. With the bike powered wash cycle, someday spin class and laundromats could co-locate. In the meantime, if you’ve got the space, a BPWM can also water your garden while giving you a chance to loose a few pounds.

There are a couple of designs floating around the internets, but we like Homeless Dave’s the best because it you don’t need to do any welding or fabrication of special parts. Homeless Dave’s extensive instructions require scavenging a bike, a trainer (we found one in the street, but we’ve also seen them at garage sales and thrift stores), and a top loading machine.

Homeless Dave’s design only does the spin cycle, not the washing, so it will be up to Homegrown Revolution to come up with a design for a full-on bike powered washing machine (we’ll wait for our hated Sears model to die first). When that day comes we’ll post the design and a special soak and spin music mix.

A Homegrown Revolution manifesto by way of a short (true) story.

1. Fitness is part of the urban homesteading thing
So on our daily bike ride to the downtown YMCA we spotted four tires laying by the side of the road.

2. Try to grow as much food as you can
Tires are a great way to grow potatoes–we’ll explain this when we try it ourselves. Meanwhile you can read about doing this, as well as many other uses for old tires in the informative archives of Backwoods Home Magazine.

3. Cargo bikes rule
Later on in the day we decided to go pick up the tires using our handy cargo bike, the Xtracycle. We can’t say enough good things about this invention, though we should note that carrying large car tires on a bicycle looks completely insane.

4. The importance of bike safety
At a signal two hipsters on fixed gear bikes pulled up next to us.

One of the hipsters said, “Too bad you can’t use those tires.”

Homegrown Revolution muttered, crazily, “We’re going to grow things with them.”

“Yeah, you’re going to grow some bud.” responded the hipster and peddled off–note, a fixed gear is much faster than a cruddy mountain bike with an Xtracycle carrying two car tires.

5. First aid training and general preparedness
As we rounded a bend, in front of our local medical marijuana dispensary (oh, the irony) we saw one of the hipsters on the ground tangled up in his bike moaning in pain in the middle of the Sunset Blvd. bike lane and surrounded by shimmering fragments of a car tail light. He had run into the back end of a parked car. Homegrown Revolution stopped and prepared to use our inadequate Red Cross first aid training. Just as we finished saying, “Are you o.k.?” the hipster jumped up.

6. The importance of bike safety part 2
He motioned to one of two attractive women on the sidewalk and said, “It’s your fault, it’s because of you, I was staring at you.” Robert Hurst, in his excellent book The Art of Urban Cycling covers this very problem. Fixed gears, high traffic speeds, poorly designed bike lanes, inattentive motorists, and voyeurism make an especially dangerous cocktail. Stay alert out there folks and read Hurst’s book (read an interview with Hurst here).

7. Karma
The hipsters jumped back on their bikes leaving Homegrown Revolution, the two women, and the security guard at the marijuana dispensary staring at the dented and completely trashed back end of someone’s new Kia. There was a pause as we were all relieved that the hipster was able to walk away from what, judging from the huge dent in the Kia’s trunk, looked like a pretty bad impact. There was another pause as we all realized that he had left the scene without making amends for the damage. The two women looked at me as Homegrown Revolution suggested lamely that, “They [cars] hit us all the time.” There was yet another awkward pause, followed by Homegrown Revolution quickly leaving the scene.

In a moment of vertiginous karma, as we made the turn off of Sunset one of the car tires flopped over causing us to wobble ominously in front of an oncoming SUV. Homegrown Revolution quickly recovered, and even returned through nasty rush hour traffic to get the other two tires.

Tour de Crap

Homegrown Revolution apologizes for yet another scatological post, but we’re delighted to report on the success of the Tour de Crap, a Bike Winter event which featured a tour of the Hyperion Treatment Plant. The photo above shows some intrepid cyclists who have traded their bike hats and helmets for hard hats and hair nets in order to enjoy the sight of a pile of poo soaked condoms in Hyperion’s odoriferous headworks building.

Everybody should have to tour their treatment plant and meet the nice folks who deal, literally, with our own crap. Maybe then people would decide not to lift manhole covers and throw couches and motorcycle frames down the sewer system as happens here in our fair city. Perhaps someday we’ll all take a bigger step and assume responsibility for out own waste as the folks in Scandinavia have done with in-house composting toilets like the Clivus Multrum.

In the meantime people, remember that somebody has got to deal with what you all flush and pour down the drain so please don’t put cooking oil and grease down the sink. Not only is this bad for your own plumbing, but it causes clogs in the city’s lines as well. Also keep your pharmaceuticals out of the toilet–no joke here–we have ocean fish swimming around hopped up on Prozac.

Lastly, should zombies or Al Queda take out Hyperion, learn how to shit in a bucket.

Bike Winter


To our two wheeled brothers and sisters, Bike Winter is upon us! Two weeks of proof that you don’t need a Hummer to get around our ugly town.

We want to draw your attention to one ride in particular that Homegrown Revolution will be participating in, the Tour de Crap. Join us on February 9th as we take a tour of the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant. Learn where your business goes! Details on the Bike Winter website.

Ridin’ On

SurviveLA was stunned into silence late Tuesday night upon hearing about cyclist Jen Diamond’s horrific accident which occurred early Sunday morning. Apparently a driver deliberately ran her down and fled the scene. To add insult to injury, the LAPD dragged its feet on the investigation until calls to Eric Garcetti’s office got the councilman to intervene and get the LAPD to take this crime seriously. Thankfully, Jen is recovering at home and pledging to return to her bike as soon as possible. Read her diary here.

So why do we bring this up on a blog devoted to urban homesteading? SurviveLA believes that the bicycle is the most elegant of all human inventions, and is the single greatest solution to our nation’s transportation mess. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Unlike the automobile, it does not alienate us from each other nor from our environment. As J.B. Jackson put it, “The bicycle had, and still has, a humane, almost classical moderation in the kind of pleasure it offers. It is the kind of machine that a Hellenistic Greek might have invented and ridden. It does no violence to our normal reactions: It does not pretend to free us from our normal environment.”

A bicycle is a great way to save money and true self-sufficiency entails being as economically prudent as possible. We can recommend compact fluorescent bulbs, hand washing clothes and a myriad of other energy saving ideas that will lesson our impact on the environment but at most save a typical household maybe a few hundred dollars a year. On the other hand, getting rid of a car and replacing it with a bike, which we were able to do, can save the typical household an average of between $8,000 and $12,000 a year. We realize that not everyone can get by without a car, and between the two of us here at the SurviveLA compound we still have our junky Sentra, but even if you just replace a few trips with a bike ride, at least you’re getting some exercise and connecting with what it feels like to be a kid again.

So why aren’t more people ditching the car keys? What’s the biggest objection to riding a bike in Los Angeles, and for that matter any big city in America? Overwhelmingly, what we hear from people is that they are afraid to ride in traffic. It’s fear, and frankly hearing of Jen’s ordeal made us want to do what most folks in LA do with their bikes — stash them in the back of the garage and let them collect dust. But Jen, in her weblog about the incident, says

As soon as I am physically capable I will be back on my bike. I can’t wait to feel the wind on my skin and through my hair as I descend through gorgeous Griffith Park. Riding isn’t that dangerous. I just happened to have a twist of fate that intersected me & a maniac. Ride as safely as you can, walk as safely as you can, drive as safely as you can. You can’t stay inside hiding. In my home town a woman was actually run over by a truck in her own house. It drove right through and hit her.
Ride safe, ride strong.

Robert Hurst, author of The Art of Urban Cycling, calculates that driving is twice as deadly per hour of exposure as riding a bike. Still, the risk of injury on a bike is higher, though mostly due to simple falls, not car/bike collisions. But it’s still hard for most people to overcome the fear. To banish those fears we need to force our cities and police departments to make cycling safer. It’s an urban homesteader’s duty to be involved with our communities and a big part of that duty is making our cities more bikable. What a tragedy it is to see people who drive to a gym so that they can ride a stationary bicycle!

Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles does not take cycling seriously. Senator Barbara Boxer speaking at the Mobility 21 summit in Los Angeles last month said,

. . . we should do far more to get people out of their cars.

Complete streets are one example. This means including bike paths, sidewalks, and ramps for the disabled at the beginning of the planning process not treating them as an afterthought.

Let’s face it: This is not just about the future of our roads, but also about the future of our children, who are suffering most from the obesity epidemic in America.

Not so long ago, more than two thirds of children traveled to school by foot or on bicycle. Now it’s less than 10 percent.If we make walking and biking a more practical choice for all ages, we can combat congestion, improve air quality, and promote better health all at the same time.

For too long the LA Department of Transportation has treated cycling and walking as an afterthought, if they thought about them at all. We urge everyone to call, write, fax, or email LA DOT bicycle program coordinator Michelle Mowery to tell her that the deaths and accidents cyclists have suffered in the past few months are unacceptable and that we want complete streets and respect for cyclists and pedestrians. Tell her that we want bike lanes that don’t put us in the door zone and that don’t end before reaching useful destinations. Tell her that we want bicycle boulevards and traffic calming measures to make our trips safer. Tell her that we want bike routes free of dangerous potholes and debris. Tell her that we want the transportation engineers responsible for the bicycle infrastructure to actually ride the things they design not drive them. In short, tell her that we want the things that other more enlightened cities around the country and the world already have. Let’s make LA a great city to live in. Let’s ride.

Michelle Mowery
Bicycle Program Coordinator
City of Los Angeles
Department of Transportation
100 S. Main St., 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Telephone: 213-972-4962
Fax: 213-972-4919
[email protected]

Life Can Be So Car Free

SurviveLA headed out on our Xtracycle sports utility bike yesterday to help the velorutionaries over at C.I.C.L.E. carry swag and propaganda to the new Los Angeles State Historic Park (formerly the Not a Cornfield site) for the first annual happening, Life Can Be So Car Free. We were pretty impressed with our ability to use human power to carry stuff until we were put to shame by one of members of the band Telematique who arrived pulling a bike trailer with a home-welded tall bike!

Speaking of moving stuff with bikes, for those who missed the fantastic Life Can Be So Car Free, here’s a video from groovy Portland that was shown last night.

Secure your Ride Part II

In an earlier post we discussed pro-wrestling scholar and Toronto bike outlaw Nicholas Sammond’s controversial bike locking strategy. Nic wrote us back to say that we got it wrong – he hose clamps his back wheel and locks the front, not the other way around. We stand corrected.

We’ll be looking at some other locking strategies later on. In the meantime this video demonstrates the frustrations of the ever evolving locking strategy problem as well as dissecting the social dynamics of crowds, specifically the fact that the more people who are around the less likely it is for anyone to intervene when something goes wrong: