Thursday, June 10, 2010

Luck, and Un-luck

I've been working in Beautiful Downtown Burbank this week so I haven't been getting my daily constitutionals on the bike. I miss that. But I know the rest of you early-adopters are out there, building up your quads, reducing your footprints, raising those LDLs, being closer to your community. And hopefully staying clear of the obstacles to a progressive approach to transportation that might do you harm.

Sometimes when I have a near-miss I think, "I was just really lucky...". And other times I think, "I was just really unlucky...". I'm never really sure which it is. I saw this video which takes that to an extreme - the luckiest cyclist in the world, or almost the unluckiest. Either way, someone was looking out for him on this day as he rode to work...

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Bike Commuter's Wet Dream

My brother lives in downtown L.A.  I've been visiting him a lot lately and I was thinking today about riding from Santa Monica, where I live, to downtown L.A. where my brother lives. I thought I'd try Google Maps new bike route finder to see what it came up with.

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The majority of the route it found across town was on Venice Blvd., which I know has some good bike lanes for at least part of it, so it seems like a good enough choice.  It's about a 17-mile route each way which sounds like a nice ride - maybe next weekend or something I'll give it a go.

As I was thinking about navigating the mean streets of L.A. by bike a friend posted this vid on Facebook - kind of an L.A. cross-town cyclist's wet dream.  Maybe I can play it on my iPhone as I ride, imagining a peaceful trip, ticking off the miles as I pedal from neighborhood to neighborhood...

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Step, Baby, Step

In thinking about sustainability and urban design, I'm not sure how change on a massive scale comes about. Catastrophe is certainly an attention-getter, but with the outcomes being pretty unpredictable it's not really the policy tactic of choice.

The oil spill in the Gulf is in that category, but with the "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd somehow using that disaster to further their agenda we are clearly in up-is-down world.  I hear them bleating, "We should drill everywhere so we can be independent of foreign oil but oil is an international commodity and the oil companies are driven by profit not national allegiance so another 2% in the international market doesn't make any difference at all but it's a cudgel to beat Obama with which is a feature not a bug and now that crude is loose in the Louisiana wetlands we can blame him since our followers have no intellectual honesty or memory or honor and it makes us look populist and even though the obvious conclusion of our hysteria about Obama not plugging that hole is regulation of the industry we'll fight that tooth and nail and ask rhetorically why Obama hates America and as soon as the oil-soaked birds are off the front pages we'll be yelling Drill, Baby, Drill again." At least that's the way it sounds to me. Spill, Rinse, Repeat.

So in the face of our society's logic on this front it's hard to see how small, local, good ideas can ever get a foothold and evolve and grow into any real change. Change that is literally essential to our success as a species, a success that is hardly assured.  And Bob Herbert accurately points out that even Obama has some kind of corporate-funded, campaign-financed amnesia about the oil companies historical tendency to be shocked, shocked that something could go horribly wrong.  As John Cole of Balloon Juice often says, "Hoocoodanode". (That Balloon Juice lexicon is some fine reading, "political humor" category.)

Who knows what this latest spill-catastrophe's effects are going to be?  No one, that's who.  As chemical dispersants are ladled generously over the muck an infinite number of toxic bits will find their way into the local environment - and by "local environment" I mean "the ocean and everything it touches".  Eating high on the food-chain seems ill-advised these days - as those carcinogens begin working their way north who knows what fun they are going to have.

But I do see small changes out there, green shoots through the concrete, and they do give me hope. I saw this piece the other day that here in beautiful downtown Santa Monica they are instituting a "Bike@Work" program, that The Argonaut describes thusly:

"Bike@Work, provides city staff access to a fleet of branded city bicycles to ride to local meetings and between city facilities. Eight new and five retrofitted bicycles are available for employees to check out during the day for commutes between city facilities from the Santa Monica Airport to the Santa Monica Pier and other offices around town.

The collaborative effort of the Planning and Community Development Department and the Office of Sustainability and the Environment is intended to help fellow employees bicycle more and drive less, city officials note.

Having more staff ride locally supports the Land Use and Circulation Element’s transportation demand management goals, bicycle awareness and environmental stewardship as well as healthy habits among staff..."

That sounds great to me.  The little acorn that becomes the oak.  You know, baby steps.  

Step, Baby, Step.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Distracted Drivers & Korean Cards

I often profess my guy/policy/cabinet-member crush on Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. I just have never seen someone at his level so proactive in the interests of bike riders and other alternative transportation users. I love that guy.

Below is a vid of LaHood with U.N Sec'y General Ban Ki-Moon announcing the U.N.'s support of a worldwide focus on the dangers of distracted drivers. As cyclists we are well aware of, and vulnerable to, this problem. As mentioned in their announcement, in 2008 in the U.S. six-thousand people were killed in distracted driving crashes, and a half million were injured, many seriously. A distracted driver is 4 times as likely to be in a crash, the same as someone boozed up to the legal limit.

While this vid is not riveting, you will get to see what I think is the longest handshake of all time as LaHood and Ban meet at the beginning of the event (although the photo-op handshake category is extremely competitive). And you can also enjoy the U.N. Sec'y General's stand-up chops, as he drops lines like, "No SMS, is worth an S.O.S.", And, "Don't let using a mobile for a few seconds make you and others immobile for life." Who knew that the Koreans were such cards?

Enjoy...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bike Week L.A.

So it's Bike Week all across the land, and if you haven't noticed boy you must have your head under a rock!  What with everyone leaving their cars at home and the transformation of our urban landscapes into a self-propelled utopia! 

OK, so the transformation is not complete, but it's a start.  And truth is maybe I'm just more aware of it, but there are shifts happening in terms of our country's evolving urban design.  But it's slow, and is completely the result of the dedicated pressure from bike advocates at the local, state and national level.  Mainly local, like the proto-movement to get the new Trader Joe's in Hollywood to include some freaking bike racks.  We just have to keep knocking at that door until people answer.

This week I was going to be downtown anyway so I went early for the Bike Week L.A. downtown ride, and while sparsely attended it was a blast for those of us that showed up.

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There were a bunch of media there, and this family with their kid in the sweet little bike seat.  After a bit of milling around the 50 or so of us set off - a motley crew of office workers, bed-headed urban bike advocates, tenured bike commuters and even a couple 20-something fixers.

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I gotta say, the LAPD was awesome.  Because of our meager numbers, we had about a 1:1 attendee-to-LAPD-bike-cop ratio.  It was insane.  They cleared the way, leap-frogging our group to provide complimentary corking, and generally giving us all a wonderful, if ephemeral, sense of acceptance and worth in the downtown L.A. commuter landscape. 

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Getting to ride these wide-open streets is an amazing feeling.  A sense of what a transformed, "complete streets" L.A. could be like, with more riders and more places safe to ride.

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I had the good fortune to ride behind a young hipster with the skinny jeans and the U-lock in the back pocket, which of course pulled down the skinny jeans giving me an early morning serving of "hipster smile".  I tried to grab a shoot-from-the-hip shot but clearly failed, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  And dude, maybe try a belt.

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We got to ride past some downtown landmarks on our way back to Olvera Street, and our ride-of-joy was over, much too soon. 

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Since I still had a little time to kill I walked into Olvera Street to grab some breakfast.  Another rider was headed there too so we shared a table and chatted over Huevos Rancheros and Machaca.  Some small talk between two people from totally different walks of life about the basics - home, work, etc.  Her name was Isabella, she does concrete finishing at some major L.A. landmarks all around the area, including at City of Hope, where my brother is currently being treated.  Small world, and one made smaller by being out on a bike and not sliding though our community in a car.  I love that about bikes - you're available.  Able to interact with the people that live around you.  I liked this conversation, with this person.  I liked the lack of sentimentality when I shared the difficulties my brother is facing.  Sympathy without pathos.  She seemed like a person who has lived with difficulty and knew that you press on without wallowing.  That was what I saw anyway.

It was time for me to go, heading off to City of Hope, so I offered to pick up the tab.  Times are rough in my family right now.  Not financially, but physically, emotionally, so treating a friendly stranger to breakfast is something I can do.  I figure any greasing of the wheels of karma can't hurt right now and you never know what door brings something good back to you. She handed me her card.

ConcreteDiva

I paid up, and stood to go, off to the hospital, more procedures, more uncertainty.  The Concrete Diva said, "Thank you.  I'll never forget this."  It was a small thing, just a few minutes in a day, and life goes on.  But I won't forget either, about the little ways your life can change when you get out on the street, when you are part of the city we live in.

And who doesn't need a superhero on your side from time to time?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scrapers, Excuses and Reasons for Hope

Man I have been gone a looong time.  But I still see bike stuff I love and maybe I'll pull it together and get this going again.  I started another blog recently out of, I don't know, desperation?  My brother was diagnosed with cancer, and a blog seemed a good way to communicate with friends and family about what is going on.  If you're interested you can find it here

There's so much in the bike world these days that's changing, showing signs of new life.  Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation is really pushing in the right directions.  Local communities making infrastructure investments.  And the seeds of real change in urban planning - seeing that the old model of bedroom communities and private car-dependent lifestyles is not sustainable.  That stuff gives me hope.

I also seem to be seeing a lot of stuff about urban kids and bikes.  Black kids getting on bikes and bringing their style and energy to it.  I think that's great, a breakdown of old boundaries.  I saw this vid tonight that is up that alley.  A beautifully produced piece done by California is a Place, it's about a kid in Oakland that rides Scrapers - tricked out bikes that provide a diversion for kids who could be drawn to less promising pass-times.  Really cool. They have other vids too that I imagine are worth a watch.

Take a look.  I'll post more of this kind of stuff...

Scrapertown from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Angel Face, CM & a Horse

Jared Leto has a band. If I were a gorgeous movie star, screw it, I'd have a band too...

OK, so I met Jared in passing on Fight Club and Panic Room and when he was going to do this video it came my way. Wasn't able to do it but Nicholas Wayman-Harris at our editing company Union Editorial did a great job with it - tons of footage from random sources, but pulled it all together into a whole.

While it may be accused of the usual music video transgressions (I've made them all so I know...) it has some great bike culture/Critical Mass/Mad Max-inspired fashion/nighttime streets-of-LA goodness. That alone makes it worthwhile. So if you have a few minutes, sit back, take a look, listen for Colbert's eagle and revel in some 'Why a horse?' ruminations!

Take it away Angel Face!

Thirty Seconds To Mars - Kings + Queens - HD

30 Seconds to Mars | MySpace Video

Nice work, Jared. Next time, cyclocross! No, bike commuting! No, pennyfarthings!

Nah, I guess you got it right the first time...