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...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ciclovia, CicLAvia & Bogota

I just read an article in the LA Times on a movement here in LA to bring Bogota's "ciclovia" to our sunny streets.

As the article says, "Ciclovia was born in the Colombian city of Bogota 30 years ago. Car-choked and polluted, Bogota's geography and sprawl very much mirrors that of Los Angeles. But every Sunday in Bogota, the city's major avenues are shut down to cars and hundreds of thousands of cyclists take to the streets. CicLAvia wants to replicate that success in Los Angeles - a city not exactly known for being bicycle-friendly."

Good for the folks working to make this happen. They rock.

I hear these stories and I think a) Look what is possible! and b) What the hell is taking us so long?! I mean New York closes down streets in the middle of Manhattan, Bogota closes down streets EVERY SUNDAY, and we have to scrape to get a freaking bike lane that doesn't even make to our downtown area.

We have a long way to go, but you look at these other examples and it's clear that it can be done, and that given LA's natural features - good weather and relative flatness - we are wasting a terrific opportunity.

If they can do it, we can do it.

Dicks, Jerks & Scofflaws

KPCC spent some time on car/bike relations yesterday in response to the conviction of Dr. Dickwad who pulled in front of some bike riders and then slammed on his brakes sending them to the ER as his way of saying, "Pardon me, would you mind fucking off and getting your own damn infrastructure?" Wouldn't it have been ironic if the injured riders got to the ER and Dr. Dickwad was their doctor? Man, that would have sucked. But not as much as picking your missing teeth up off his trunk. I hope the judge drops some science on the good doctor's ass come sentencing day.

Anyway, Larry Mantle covered the car/bike dialog which usually goes something like this:

Bike rider: "We'd like to have some space to ride our bikes to work, school, etc."


I didn't hear the actual show, or the call in, but I'm guessing it started there and ended with both sides behaving badly and getting nowhere. Larry blogged post-show and while his post is basically reasonable he does have some behind-the-wheel bias, such as when he mentioned a rider taking the lane (which is recommended in some situations for safety) saying, "It might be legal, but it's sometimes unnecessary and, in my opinion, rude to needlessly hold up car traffic." Yeah, that's exactly what Dr. Dickwad was thinking too, only he expressed in a less socially acceptable way.

I posted a comment on Larry's blog and since it might be read there by, oh, one person I thought I'd post my comment here too so I could double that readership (Hi, Tom!).

So here it is, my contribution to the comments section:

"One problem here is that many car drivers see a bike rider acting dickishly and then make the leap to 'all bike riders are dicks'. That's not true, by a mile. Clearly from the Mandeville case we see that poor behavior is not limited to bike riders, and when you get a jerk behind the wheel of a car, it's no longer an annoyance, it can be deadly. My feeling is that the guy who rides his bike like a jerk is probably a jerk when he gets in a car, too. So it's not the mode of transport, it's the jerk.

"Cars are awarded the overwhelming majority of infrastructure dollars compared to bikes - it's not even close. You spend much time out there on a bike and you are quickly made to realize that you are second class. You piss people off if you use the sidewalk, and you piss them off if you use the street. (You piss SOME off - most car drivers are really respectful - in my experience) You are forced to go rogue out there - you're really left to fend for yourself. So the fact that bike riders improvise, for convenience or for safety, is to be expected. The roads aren't made for us, the laws aren't based on our impact or our threat to others. So we improvise. Car drivers may see it as lawlessness, but they should try it sometime, you learn to make do however you can.

"That doesn't excuse rudeness. I live by Santa Monica College and I see some true retards out there on bikes, salmoning up the wrong side of the road and blowing through crowded intersections. Obviously Darwin has plans for these scofflaws.

"I think that car drivers should spend a bit of time on a bike - for many reasons. Health, sense of community, and for a little understanding of what we face. We're out there literally 'pulling our own weight', and really don't deserve the intolerance some car drivers send our way. And hey, when they pull into that empty parking space, maybe they could send a little goodwill to those of us who left our car at home."

There. World saved. Crisis averted.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

El Porvenir, Clean Water and Bike Commuting

OK, I’ll get right to the point. El Porvenir is a small, grassroots organization that helps local communities build clean water and sanitation facilities for themselves in the rural areas of Nicaragua. Here's how they get water before El Porvenir gets involved - the women carry it from wherever a source is...

Photo by Patrick Xavier Bresnan

Clean water for people who deserve it - it’s a fundamentally important thing. (They also build washing/shower facilities, healthy cook-stoves and have begun reforestation projects - but it all starts with the water.)

Here's a picture of my Mom and Step-dad about 15 years ago when we went on one of their work trips. My folks were on the board of El Porvenir for many years.

(My folks also dabbled in helping kids over the border into the States to reunite them with their families trapped by INS laws, and protesting things like the School of the Americas - with the arrest record to show for it. They look so innocent, don't they?)

Anyway, if you ever wanted to see your charitable (and tax-deductible) dollar have a direct, tangible, deeply satisfying effect on the lives of others - this is it. Bringing clean water and sanitation facilities to these communities has a life-saving effect on their health, and a profound effect on the lives of the women that are the core of family life. Clean, accessible water and sanitation is a BIG DEAL that we take for granted.

I’ll provide more info below, but here's my brother-can-you-spare-a-dime/bike-related pitch...

We’re having an event at our house on November 6th to provide information about what El Porvenir does (and of course eat and drink and tell stories and goof off). Doors will open at 7, and we'll have a speaker from Nicaragua at about 8:30. We want people who work late (like me) to be able to attend. So there’s that, you are invited to come on the 6th.

If you can’t make it or if you just like additional reasons to part with a little cash, we will be doing our transportation bike riding in November as a fundraiser as well. We ride as a family about 10 miles a day to get to school and work. We are looking for pledges based on our commuting miles in November - probably about 200 miles - rain or shine! You can set a limit to your contribution or do it any way that works for you. Email me with your pledge and I’ll follow up with any more info you need. We’ll love you for it.

Please RSVP to me at bikedate(at)me(dot)com if you plan on coming so we can be ready, and we'll send you the specifics. Also, please come even if you can’t give right now. We mean that, we want to see/meet you and share what El Porvenir does more than anything. You can even just stop by for a drink and then head off to that exclusive Hollywood party that you didn't invite us to!

The bottom line is, this is a great organization. Very low overhead, and your hard-earned dollar will make life better for men, women & kids. It’s that simple. (We set up Quicken to send a small monthly check - that works for us.)

OK, here's a short video about El Porvenir:

Here’s the link to El Porvenir's site.

Friend them on Facebook here!

That's it. We hope to see you on the 6th! RSVP! RSVP! bikedate(at)me(dot)com

Thursday, October 22, 2009

High Fives, Bad Bloggers & Lousy Excuses

OK, I'm the worst blogger ever. Too busy lately. But a friend just sent me this vid and it just makes me smile.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

You think YOU have problems

On Craigslist today:

Cannondale M300 Black - Great shape - $297 (Van Nuys)

Date: 2009-09-12, 5:02PM PDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Rarely used, bought this because I had a DUI, then got a DUI on this #$%& stupid bike - and I don't even drink.
Anyway - black beautiful, a little dirty but a kick ass bike.
Price is $297.62, firm. Cash only. Call Joann at (818) 455-1530

  • Location: Van Nuys
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 1371621324

If anyone knows how to get two DUIs without drinking, well, they should call Joann.

OK, that was my shortest post ever!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Van Jones, bullies & Ocean Park Boulevard

OK, I’ve been working like a madam lately and just haven’t been able to keep up with my invaluable blogging responsibilities. So I’m thinking I’ll start writing shorter, but maybe more frequent posts. I know, I made your day.

Here goes. A speed round of sorts.

First, local Santa Monica bike activist Michael Cahn pointed out a bit in the Santa Monica Daily Press - reactions to an experimental change to the traffic lanes on Ocean Park Boulevard. It went from four lanes (two lanes in each direction) with no left turn lane and parking along the side to the current set up which has two lanes (one lane in each direction) a designated center left turn lane, bike lanes on each side and parking. This area is both a small neighborhood business area, as well as a route for commuters to get from places south of Santa Monica to the freeways or other parts of LA.

As most cyclists are aware, members of the car-driving community are consistently supportive of this kind of traffic calming, quality-of-life-for-neighborhoods change, even if it impacts their desire for unrestricted car-centric civil engineering. They are remarkable in their understanding and enlightened attitudes. It something I love about car drivers - when you ask for some road space for cyclists and pedestrians, they look like this:

Here are a few samples of the comments received by the paper on this issue!

"They should put it back the way it was. All the idiots in charge of traffic in Santa Monica have done nothing but mess it up and make traffic worse than it used to go, because they're idiots and they should all be fired."

And this:

"The head of traffic planning should be sent on a broken tricycle back to New York City.”

And this:

"The people who changed the traffic pattern on Ocean Park Boulevard are idiots.”

And this:

“It should definitely be returned to four lanes. And while you are making changes, would you please get rid of the so-called 'traffic engineers' that have screwed up the already difficult traffic big time in this city. Let the pedestrians and bike riders move to Bermuda, or some other lovely, less populated place to do their thing."

Oh wait, when you ask car drivers to share the road they look like this:

I don’t know exactly what the solutions are to these conflicts. Obviously we are stuck with getting cars from one place to the other for some time, and stuck with their arrogance and sense of entitlement. But adding lanes has been shown to not reduce traffic, it just raises the tipping point where congestion once again becomes unbearable.

The solution definitely lies in support for alternatives to cars, changes in commute distance between homes and work, and a general shift from cars being the bull in our neighborhood china shops.

But sometimes I have little hope. When good people like Van Jones get run out of town by despicable bullies like Glenn Beck, when our health care debate revolves around the existence of death panels, well I wonder if I have the patience to endure the changes this country must make to become a sustainable enterprise.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tron, graft & the Big Time

So to fund my bike expenditures and keep my kids in shoes and cereal I have a day job as a film editor, currently on Tron. So as with all things in life, worlds collide and synchronicity prevails.

To wit, friends have sent photos of a couple Tron-inspired bikes they've come across. They pay homage to varying degrees, and truth is if we fall short in our VFX budget maybe one of these babies could take up the slack. With the right sound effects it just might work.

Here's one found at IGN:

Quite respectable. Modern, minimal. Syd Mead would be proud.

Or this DIY version:

True to the spirit, with the enthusiasm of the hardcore fan.

But this next one falls a little short:


That one might also satisfy the hardcore fan (or even the softcore fan), but it seems to be about 5% loosely-connected Tronware and about 95% Tron Guy wishful thinking. However, at least now I know what those stem pads are for.

Also, today is a major milestone for the Bike Date blog and the entire Bike Date corporate family. We received our very first offer of free bike product to review. Yes, Bike Date is now "Big Time", and obviously this vendor can surmise the soon-to-be-established promotional power of the "Bike Date Bump".

Our accountants are currently looking into the ethical and tax implications of accepting in-kind, quid-pro-quo, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours "review items". Obviously Bike Date's attorneys assure the various interested RICO investigators that graft promotional materials will be handled within the appropriate legal framework.

An honest review of these products will be posted once Bike Date R&D has conducted their thorough testing. Those guys are relentless. I know our readers expect nothing less.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rumors, changeable gears & Trekworld

I’ve been busy this week here at TrekWorld 2010 - amazing stuff. No doubt some memorable new designs and improvements. No doubt.

But there were rumors. There was something else Trek had to share, if only to a few.

And I got lucky.

Except for one blurry photo via BikeHugger, this most elusive protobike almost completely rolled under the radar. But Bike Date got a special viewing of this steampunk monster and I can say with confidence, there is nothing else like it out there in the realm of changeable-gear bicycles.

Consider yourself scooped Main Stream (bike) Media - here it is:

The Hill-Climber. A retro-tastic 3-speed shaft-drive screamer. Check out the solid steel foundation of the Hill-Climber, both breaking and making irrelevant every rule of modern frame design.

Sure the geometry is familiar, and the Shepard Fairey treatment breaks new ground as expected, but this bike’s glory is in the details. Let’s start with that insane drivetrain.

Trek’s work-in-progress promotional materials describe it like this: “a gear ratio of 86-51-36 that helps the rider up the hill, against the wind, and makes riding the bicycle a pleasure at all times.” Then this: “the only bicycle that gives the rider a variation of three gears.” You read that right. Three.

And then they drop the real science: “You shift gears with a small shift lever at the head within easy reach of the rider, AND IT STAYS CHANGED!”

You hear that Dura-Ace? I thought you did.

Bontrager has obviously stepped up their game for this outing with a from-square-one wheelset re-imagining. Fabricated from a top-secret wood-based alloy (no details were divulged, but it smelled like pine) they clearly had the Mavic R-SYS in their sights. Direct hit.

You can tell just by looking at it - pumping out the miles on this A-sym future-orb will be unforgettable. But this two-wheeler is not all “high-tech engineering” this and “exotic formulations” that. At its heart it's a work of art. And I can tell you, riding it makes you an artist.

From the head badge... the crank... the saddle.

Just when it seemed innovation was impossible, Trek simply says, “It’s possible.”

The “Wheeler Extra” saddle comes standard on the H-C. (As an accommodation to the marketplace they included the leather and gel cover seen above with it’s form-fitting “Spongy Wonder” comfort layer. But purists will undoubtedly want to rock it old school with the “Wheeler P2” - the “Pride of the Perineum”):

That ass dais will leave a mark - on your soul...

Much will be written as the Hill-Climber approaches rollout in 2010, but it will always remain an enigma - a nanotech reverberation out of the Industrial Age - the Keyser Söze of bikes. But for the lucky insiders invited to this preview one thing is for sure...

(For more dope on the Hill-Climber go here and buy his book here )

Monday, August 10, 2009

Idaho stops, vulnerable users & Scandinavian porn

Hey everybody! What could possibly be more interesting than a post about bike lanes?

OK... now that it’s just the two of us, I could post a few shots of Scandinavian bike infrastructure porn and let nature take it’s course, but let’s keep that private. But I do dream of such things - actual dedicated roadspace for my two wheels as some kind of payback for the substantial yearly contributions I make to our federal, state and local coffers. I can dream, after all.

Here in Santa Monica we have more bike space than other areas in LA. But it’s still half-baked, considering what a wonderful place this could be for more people to get around by bike.

Here’s one of the issues. From the city’s website there is this 2007 info: “There are 130 miles of arterial streets in Santa Monica. Bike lanes are designated on 13 total miles of roadway. Of these, 3.78 miles of designated bike lanes are on arterial streets. That means less than 3% of Santa Monica’s arterial streets have bike lanes, a figure which falls short of the city's 35% target for 2010.” They even had this graphic:

The good news is that we have some people in our local government that have recognized this state of affairs. The bad news is that even this info overstates the case. We ride 11th Street from our home in the southern part of the city to our kid’s school in the northern part of the city - about 2 1/2 miles each way. Here’s a photo of a representative section of 11th Street:

You can (hopefully) see the bike lane marked from the white car in the upper left and running down to the right. And as you can see the bike lane really only runs in the middle of the block - it ends about 100’ before and after each intersection. So while 11th street is shown by the city to have a bike lane, it really only covers about half that length. You are constantly being dumped back into traffic, and at the busiest parts of the road. So that 13 miles of bike lanes is not even accurate.

We need so many things to change this. “Vulnerable userslaws to protect non-car users of our public space. Livable “Complete streets” to make our streets safe and attractive. “Idaho stop” laws to make regulation fit the reality of riding a bike, not glom us in with laws meant to protect teh public from cars and the people driving them.

And most importantly we need to find a truce between car users, pedestrians and cyclists to make changes that really benefit us all. After all, we're paying for all those roads that treat us riders as an afterthought.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Twitter, Twitlegs & the Twitterati

My bike riding lately has been a bit un-postworthy, just my cruise to work which hardly even raises my heart rate.

Twitter followers of mine would already know that if I stepped up and built this DIY device that would automatically post my heartrate to Twitter. As the reviewer in that link says, “That way should you stop supporting the Iranian revolution, we will all know why.”

And speaking of Twitter, I’ve gone from one-toe-in-the-water skeptic to the cannonball of the convert. I find myself wanting to defend her, like a girlfriend that dresses like a hooker, but I know has a heart of gold.

Painter Natalia Fabia clearly understands...

The short version is, Twitter’s value isn’t in getting a running update on your friend’s heart-rates or what’s on their IPod (in fact I don’t know the people I "follow", except in about two cases). Twitter’s value is in following people far more connected to the outside world than myself, and who in turn connect me.

It’s like a CliffsNotes to the internets. Whether it’s political news from Markos Moulitsas, KagroX, Josh Marshall or Matt Yglesias; bike related posts from Bikejuju, BikeHugger or BikeIntel; insights on photography in the media from BagNewsNotes; random photos from the road from Silversun Pickups; the moving saga of families facing cancer from Pablove or Fat Cyclist; Rob Corddry, Diablo Cody or Jason Linkins pleasingly blackened wit; or Lance Armstrong’s steady stream of, well, what he’s listening to on his IPod.

It really is limitless - like Facebook-friending with a far wider reach. Tweetdeck (a Twitter web-browser of sorts) is now my first stop on the laptop. You need a guide to get started (I'll give you pointers if you're interested) but once you get your Twitlegs, it’s an indispensable tool...

...even if many people still assume it’s too trashy for polite company.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Keywords, Action Wipes & Bikejuju

OK, so the purpose of this post started out simply - to win the free Action Wipes in the Bikejuju contest. Having just linked back to Bikejuju I could stop right there and qualify per the rules of the contest, but who would link back to Bikejuju for only selfish reasons? Why would someone so carelessly break with the long-standing Blogger's Code?

That would be wrong.

So let me say this. I am already an Action Wipes user! Love them - a great product to address the aromatic embarrassment when you say, "Hey! I rode my bike into work today!" And your co-worker says dryly, "I know..." I have two packs sitting right over there on my shelf here at work - got them after Bike Skirt gave them their seal of approval. Now I don't really need any more Action Wipes right now, so if I win I am going to donate them to charity (though I need to discuss the tax implications with my CPA).

So Bikejuju, you might as well start addressing those babies to me here at Bike Date HQ, 'cause there's a stinky armpit out here in CA just waiting to be neutralized by those sweet, sweet Tea Tree oils and other magical salves and poultices.

But here's the thing - the thing that makes makes this post more than just a suck-up to Bikejuju. This contest is what is called (in common parlance) "a cry for help". We bloggers are out here posting, often several times a month, in an act of pure self-sacrifice, expecting nothing in return. Well actually there seems to be one common thing we'd like, and that is some sense of who the hell reads this stuff? This contest is that lonely blogger's cry for help - a quid pro quo: Let Bikejuju know you are out there in a verifiable way, and you can wipe away his sense of isolation and leave a mild-but-tingly eucalyptus scent!

And he is not alone in this. I am able to see how many hits I get a day (anywhere from 40 to 100 believe it or not) and other odd details about the traffic here at Bike Date. Because aside from the random commenter, I would otherwise have no idea. And I learn interesting things. Things like putting the terms "dildo" and "bike" in a post will pump up your blog's traffic.

My inclusion of those terms was innocent enough - I had no idea there actually is a "dildo bike", or how many individuals are out there telling their Google, "I would very much like to see videos of this unusual bike!" (I'm guessing about 40 to 100 a day). From my site's stats, I can see that these folks hail from many far-off places, like Kalamazoo, Michigan; Rapid City, South Dakota; Brisbane, Queensland; Manchester, Michigan; Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; Ajax, Ontario; Corvalis, Oregon and even Efshahan, Iran! The dildo bike diaspora.

From his search keywords I saw that an industrious chap in Minot, North Dakota was wondering how to make a dildo bike, while Deseranto, Canada stood out for searching ‘free bike dildo videos’ - I guess up there in the land of universal health care they think everything should be free...

Here is a graph of recent searches leading to the Bike Date site in order of volume:

So the Giant Suede is currently edging out the others, but as always the various combinations of "bike" and "dildo" are holding steady. I see that "bike with dildo" just barely beat "cute bike seat", and I hope that doesn't mean they may have been sent to the same urls - I doubt that would have ended well.

So here's the real point. Yes, you can cynically link back to Bikejuju to try to steal the Action Wipes from me (and as I said I'll donate them to charity, which I don't expect to be praised for unless you feel strongly about it). But what we really want is a sign, some small sign that you exist, that you care. (No not you , I know what you're here for...)

So if you made it this far, leave a comment. Even just one lone character from among the qwerty choices. Something. Or do I need to offer a free dildo cozy to make it worth your while?

Don't tempt me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gavels, assholes & #twitterrhea

First off, I was watching the Tour de France this morning and saw this spot for AutoZone which should get some kind of Clio for it's disservice-to-mankind and backwards thinking. The storyline is a kid on a bike fixes up an old beater car (with parts from AutoZone, natch...) and ends with the line, "At least now when I go, it's not on my bike!"

Nice going AutoZone and agency-of-record Sponge! And the genius that bought time on the TdF really deserves something special...

OK, just had to mention that.

I've always loved these Bakfiets (European cargo/kid hauling bikes) and not only because they are often shown with some comely Euro-Spokesmodel-Mom in the cockpit. But these bikes with their "kid-forward" design always make me think of that Laurie Anderson song where she delivers this little spoken-word piece:

"After doing these concerts in French, I usually had the temporary illusion that I could actually speak French, but as soon as I walked out on the street, and someone asked me simple directions, I realized I couldn't speak a single word.

"As a result of this inadequacy, I found that the people I had the most rapport with were the babies. And one of the things I noticed about these babies was that they were apparently being used as some kind of traffic testers. Their mothers would be pushing them along in their strollers--and they would come to a busy street with lots of parked cars--and the mother can't see what the traffic is like because of all the parked cars--so she just sort of edges the stroller out into the street and cranes her head out afterwards.

"And the most striking thing about this is the expression on these babies' faces as they sit there in the middle of traffic, stranded, banging those little gavels they've all got. And they can't even speak English."
I think us bike riders can all relate to this feeling, like we are out there on the road as some kind of traffic testers to answer the question, "Just how dangerous is it to ride bikes among the internal combusters?" Well, "quite" is many rider's answer. That and banging our little gavels.

Alex Thompson is spearheading a drive to take back Santa Monica's Bronze award for bike friendliness since he feels that many aspects of riding in Santa Monica aren't Bronze-worthy, and that local riders weren't consulted in the process. I asked him to describe the safety situation in Santa Monica in one to five words and his response was, "Not very safe." He also offered, "Just like Los Angeles" as a backup, which may be more to the point since Los Angeles was not awarded Bronze or Pewter or any other color. They barely got the "Los Angeles" award for bike friendliness, which not only doesn't exist, but it's nothing to brag about and should have been a gimme.

Local officials feel Thompson's approach has a "cutting your nose to spite your face" quality, that local advocates in government should be encouraged for what they do, not reprimanded when they come up short. I'm not sure where I fall on this, but if there is in fact any laurels-resting-upon because of this bronzing, then I'd side with Alex. I know some city council members are fighting the good fight, and hopefully both sides will work to prove their point and we riders will be better off for their efforts.

My experience of bike safety in Santa Monica has been that it depends where you ride. The most dangerous thing I face in my 2-mile commute is getting grease on my pants, while other journeys can be more touch & go. I rode down 23rd/Walgrove the other day (and there are only three crappy choices to ride north/south like that - Centinela, Walgrove or Lincoln) and man that was not a "Bronze" experience (and also only partially in Santa Monica proper). The color that came to mind was more of a crimson, hamburgery shade illuminated by the flashing lights of first responders. The League of American Bicyclists might consider adding a new award - the "Hamburger", though I'm quite aware there already is a Hamburger award, and it was won by Barry M. Brenner in 1999. He looks like he deserved it:

Maybe our streets could be graded based on what you actually experience, like "Verbal abuse", "Close Call" and "Compound Fracture". Lincoln Boulevard has tantalizing "Bike Route" signage, obviously installed by someone with a mischievously dark sense of humor. Or maybe they just had extra signs. Anyway, Lincoln deserves a "Close Call" designation at best.

The oft-heard biker's lament is that people get behind the wheel and become assholes. Or maybe they get in the car that way. But I've found that I've gotten very little grief from the drivers I share the road with. As Markos Moulitsas recently tweeted, “Amazing how most car drivers are nice to cyclists out here, giving right of way when it's theirs, etc. So few assholes, but they do exist." That is actually my experience too, though I've not tweeted as such. But then Markos tweets about everything, to the point I think he may have #twitterrhea. Actual diagnosis is difficult since I just made up the disease. [UPDATE: Apparently this condition was previously identified... Dang, I could taste that Nobel.]

As Markos mentions, drivers often give the right of way even when it's theirs (which I actually find annoying - I like the order of a clear right-of-way etiquette). My feeling is they assume I'm going to ignore all rules of the road (since some highly visible cyclists do in fact ignore all rules of the road) and so they just wave me on. So, my main act of bike advocacy is the five-finger salute - I wave at drivers all the time. Usually as a thank you, or sometimes just to say, "Hey, here I am! Please don't send me to the ER!" Eye-contact is the bike rider's best defense.

I think we riders that try to cooperate with cars on the road need to make our numbers known, highlight our good citizenship, otherwise all people remember is that guy flying through a four-way stop filled with cars, salmoning up the wrong side of the road, and acting like the inevitable near-miss is the car driver's fault. Smart money says those riders are probably dicks when they get behind the wheel, too.

But since the rules and the infrastructure were not made with us in mind, we often are left to improvise. I understand how that need for improvisation combined with a youthful sense of immortality can go all Ornette Coleman without much encouragement. It's wrong, but as Chris Rock said, "I understand..."

In one sense I feel complaining about biking conditions in Santa Monica is like complaining about the breeze and the chill in the air here every evening right when you want to sit out back with a Mojito (a complaint I've often made) - many people from colder/more bike-hostile environs would scoff (actually have scoffed). Still, things could be so much better here.

I believe that making things better for bikes and pedestrians makes for a much better local environment for everyone - commuters, residents and businesses. And here is where I think bike advocacy sometimes gets off track: When we push for things that make life better for bikes, it needs to clearly make life better for pedestrians and cars too - it can't be zero sum. As bike advocates we need something that seems even rarer than a well-spent infrastructure dollar - broad-based community support.

Yes, we need better infrastructure and more of it. But it's ultimately more about a broad culture that is embracing the need for that infrastructure. We need to advocate by example, in growing groups, with increasing visibility, cooperation, practicality, innovation and humor. If the only force pushing for the changes we want is our ragtag band of believers (I love you, man!) we will continue to get what we're getting - the scraps left over after Big Car has taken the good stuff.

What we need to do (while we petition and cajole and influence and demand and all that) is find ways to grow our group. We need a larger constituency. We need non-car transportation, complete streets and livable cities to go mainstream, at least far more mainstream than they currently are. We need a public impression of our movement that is compelling and appealing.

We need more than just current riders - it simply isn't enough. We need to ally ourselves with other groups, some that may even seem like adversaries, and create a broader, positive coalition. It's like the Apollo Alliance - the "environmental" group that has unified previous adversaries (enviros, labor and business, for example) and shown that sustainability is in everyone's self-interest. The Apollo Alliance sets a very good example for us, I think. A movement always has to play to people's self-interest.

Looking at it this way, we need car drivers pushing for our cause, we need pedestrians backing us up, we need business speaking up for our infrastructure requests. If our approach is to go toe-to-toe with these other groups, zero-summing each other, our progress will be... well, what it is now. Meager.

So we have to hold up examples like NYC's Commissioner of the DOT Janette Sadik-Kahn to our representatives and say, "If New York City can do it, if they can turn Broadway into a pedestrian mall, then we have no excuse." Some encouragement, some shame. Some five-finger salutes, some Alex Thompson.

But we need to dump old thinking that hasn't worked, old ideas about who is with us and who is against us, and replace it with a bigger idea. Something broader. More popular. A movement that attracts people, not something they pre-judge and avoid.

When that AutoZone spot doesn't get past the pitch stage, we'll know we're making progress.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Who says bike helmets aren't cute? (Warning: Linkholes will be followed...)

OK, there have been many skirmishes in the helmet-or-no-helmet wars. It's not really a fair fight since the axis of helmet-wearers suffer fewer head injuries and as such live to fight another day, while the helmet-free need constant replacements at the front. You'd think this unfair advantage would be handicapped somehow but since there is no referee, no governing body adjudicating this debate, that attrition is simply the life-threatening head trauma the feel-the-wind-in-their-hair troops will have to bear.

So the debate rages on.

One of the complaints about helmets is their arguably off-the-charts dork factor. Even President Obama, who is generally seen as stylish, always appearing to inhabit a world of easy grace and elegance, can succumb to the fiercely equalizing dork-power that is the bike helmet.

Exhibit A:

This image was received so poorly the NY Times even pulled this out in comparison:

Obviously Obama was able to recover, but I have to wonder if that bike was hurting him image-wise too. Maybe he should have gone this route:

And going back to the original Obama/helmet/fail image, his bike has some attachment on the back - what is that?

I thought long and hard, and my best guess is it's something like this:

Maybe that's some Secret Service requirement? In an emergency they could swoop in and take control of the bike? Maybe it's a towbar with the nuclear football attached? (That could explain why it's cropped out in both photos I've seen - national security.)

Or is it some sad mountain bike fender? But that hardtail Trek would have to suffer an epic bottoming out to need that kind of clearance. And anyway, in that event the problem wouldn't be rear wheel clearance, it would be how to remove the saddle from the President's colon. Simple physics.

Anyway, that's all academic when the fail had already occured up top, though they really didn't have to drag Dukakis into it.

But here's the deal. Where is it written that helmets need to be crafted from 100%, corn-fed dork? Well OK, fair enough - it's written everywhere. But I'm prepared to make a prediction - from this point forward the momentum will change. "Helmet" and "Someone should say something" and "lame" and "King Dorko" and "No thanks, I don't think I'll even go to the prom this year" will no longer be found in the same sentence.

I present you with... Exhibit R (for "Rosemary"):

Game over. Admit it, that helmeted girl is pure win. Check, and Mate.

Next topic.

This brings me to the general issue of bike safety. Some take this issue head on, writing articles with titles like this:

Admirable. Direct. What could be more important? Well, this could be:

Safe and Healthy Bike Seats for Men and Women

They had me at “coccyx pain”:

"We make kids wear helmets and knee pads," Dr. Goldstein said. "But no one thinks about protecting the crotch."

It does seem obvious, but Dr. Goldstein is so right; that point cannot be stressed eoungh. They listed several bike saddles and their relative merits crotch-protecting-wise. But one stood out - "The Spongy Wonder":

“As I finished the research I decided to try the Spongy Wonder. I haven't been biking much lately, so it's hard to tell whether I'll get used to it quickly. I don't suffer from numbness anymore, but I find it hard to signal turns, since I don't feel safe enough to let my hands go of the handle bars. My friend who uses this seat, said that I need a bike with a higher frame, so that I could use my hip to lean on the frame, while I take my hand off the handle bar. He says it works well for him. Time will show.”


OK. The lack of numbness seems to be a net positive. I have experienced near total numbness in my Spongy Wonder area at about mile 18 - figured it probably was saddle-related. So now I have that ironed out. But this part concerned me a bit - "I find it hard to signal turns, since I don't feel safe enough to let my hands go of the handle bars." I think this confirms that a safe seat, even one (purportedly) as safe as the S.W. can't provide a letting-go-of-the-handle-bars-to-signal level of safety. But really, what can?

It makes me think the rider's saddle may not be the primary issue. But the writer got advice: "My friend who uses this seat, said that I need a bike with a higher frame, so that I could use my hip to lean on the frame, while I take my hand off the handle bar. He says it works well for him." I think their friend may have been as high as the frame they were recommending. About this high:

Seriously, I am having great difficulty imagining a riding position that includes hip-on-frame leaning. I mean, how do you do that? I strapped on my Google shoes and trust me, there's nothing...

But when you expose yourself to a post with the tags, "bike, seat, safety, saddle, erectile dysfunction, health, pain, numbness, chafing, prostate" you know you're on shaky ground. Best to saddle up and move on.

So move on I did. And this question caught my eye: "Is it safe to mountain-bike during pregnancy?"

Well? Is it?

One commenter had this sage advice: “I don't think it's the biking itself that is a problem it is the falling.” So true.

Well someone should have told this very masculine looking young lady, who, reliable sources have told me, was most definitely with child:

I won't go into the details, but this experiment did not end well, helmet or no. So this bike safety thing ran far deeper than even I, a regular rider, would have ever thought. I continued to dive down these bottomless linkholes, and here's what came next:

There is More to Bike Safety than a Helmet

Do tell...

"There are many aspects of bike fit that can affect your ability to ride safely. If the title of this article resonates to you, then chances are something has gone awry with your bike riding, or the safety of your current bike fit. Deciding that your health and sexual function are important enough to warrant an improved position on your bike is taking an active step to riding in comfort and peace of mind... When I sit on a standard saddle (a Selle Flite for ex), I can feel the pressure in all the wrong places and it is very uncomfortable for me because I know what is going on physiologically."

OK, my peace of mind was just shot to hell. But after considering the impact of mountain biking on pregnancy and now the impact of my saddle on my very ability to bring about the aforementioned pregnancy... well, I had to go right to the source. So I wrote the author:

"Hello Mr. Kraus,

"I was reading your article about bike seats and sexual issues tonight, with both concern and interest. If the problem is specifically erectile dysfunction, that is clearly not good. I love to ride, but not only the bike (ba-dum-bum - if you know what I mean).

"But I was wondering if ill-fitting bike seats can cause other issues, making actual reproduction less likely? I was reading some other articles about the safety of mountain biking while pregnant, and while they recommended against it, they did not say it would guarantee a child-free lifestyle. [What I neglected to mention in my letter is that I have found wearing a bike helmet to be an extremely reliable form of contraception, since it is then unlikely anyone will have sex with you in the first place.]

"So, my question is, would you consider an ill-fitting bike seat an effective method of birth control? If the answer is yes, you mentioned the Selle Italia Flite, but are there other saddles that would be as effective?

Thank you, Jim"

I got this response:

"Jim, anything that puts pressure on your nerves and arteries that run under your taint is considered a method of birth control. But its pre-birth control..more like booty control. If your stuff doesn't work, then you can't even play."

Damn. Helmets were seeming more and more like a distraction. The issue is taint-trauma, for crissakes. Still, the public is obsessed with helmets. I saw this desperate post:

"Dear Dr. Cory: Are bike helmets safe? Should I wear one?
Stephanie Knock, Massapequa Park, New York"

This whole thing was turning upside down. It started with the debate as to whether riding a bike without a helmet was safe, and now I was finding that the question was actually whether it was safe to ride with a helmet!

Dr. Cory let it all out:

"Dear Stephanie: Yes!"

He went on, but I'll spare you his propaganda and the obvious fact that Dr. Cory is in the pocket of Big Helmet. So I went to the only location I felt I could place my trust - the content related ads in the side bar.

There were three.


"Zero Dork Factor Helmets
Coolest bicycle helmets on Earth from award-winning designer Yakkay"

And this:

"Bell Helmets- Buy Direct
Free Shipping, All Styles & Colors Half Helmets, Moto 8's & More!"

And this:

"Public Sex Offender List
Are Sex Offenders Living In Your Neighborhood? Find Out Now - Free!"

Damn. Clearly there was a relationship between bike safety and sex that simply could not be denied. And it was moving into the criminal arena.

So I have come to this conclusion. If a helmet is to be worn, it needs something of a "helmet-offset". The risks and downsides are just too great. It may be as simple as creating a diversion, a bike that has the firepower to take on the proven fashion-trampling mojo of the helmet. Maybe a ride like this:

Anything less would just be foolhardy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

R.I.P. Pablo

Pablo has been laid to rest. A beautiful memorial Tuesday night, a heartbreaking funeral yesterday. R.I.P. Pablo, and blessings on the family...

This print was presented to the family by Shepard Fairey.

And again, any and all donations to the Pablove Foundation will go to the powerful work being done for children and their familes fighting cancer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Pablove T-shirts available there too. These shirts were sold at a benefit concert a while back - just found they are available at the Pablove site.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A place for Pablo

This blog is usually a place for my love of bikes, and to have a few laughs. Today it's for Pablo and his family.

Grady, Joann, Jeff & Pablo

Pablo is the 6 year- and 6 day-old son of a friend who ended his battle with cancer yesterday. His father Jeff is a committed road rider - this past year he has ridden as a way to focus everything it took to accompany Pablo in that fight. He has shared the deepest parts of that battle in his blog, which has moved and inspired people around the world who have followed the ups and downs of their heroic fight.

But that part is over now, and I wish them all peace.

Yesterday, after Pablo was gone, they took a ride around Silverlake Reservoir - something Pablo loved to do. They did it in his memory, something they'll continue to do as they work through this, bringing Pablo along with them in spirit, with his Elijah-like saddle empty. Not awaiting Pablo's return, but symbolizing how they will continue to carry him with them.

Good-bye Pablo, and blessings on this inspiring family that loves him so.

(If you have a little something to spare you can donate to the Pablove Foundation...)

[UPDATE: Lance's shout out to Pablo and his family...]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What do bike lanes and cozies have in common?

So I went over to The Atlantic for a dose of Sullivan and up popped a promo for another story at their site with the tantalizing title "Bike-Only Roads". Whether it's just an example of "The internets know you better than your mother" targeted marketing or another sign of the coming Cycopalypse I can't say, but they had me at "Bike-Only Roads". (And P.S. I am totally trademarking "Cycopalypse". ™. There, I did it.)

The whole area of bike infrastructure and progressive urban planning can be a daunting and disheartening place, and that's just from my outsider POV - God bless the hardy souls that commit their time and energy in the bowels of city planning. Seriously. Bless them. They are the lonely ones reminding our representatives that riding a bicycle to work shouldn't feel like this:

Sometimes I can have positive, helpful ideas, and sometimes I think as riders we should just claim our right to the road with a more aggressive, neanderthal grip. Imagine if we all rode these through our own Mad Maxian sub/urban jungles?

Now, that would command respect! Nothing screams street-cred like a raging two-wheeled steer-cycle covered with matte-black loufa. Truly an epic ride - a testosterone-fueled cross between this:

and this:

And yes, there's an app for that...

And wow, there's even this, the Wooly Willy Dildo Cozy...

Google can really take you places you don't want to go. [UPDATE: Reader Adrienne saw the above item and tipped me off to a whole world I didn't know existed, including the alarming Yves Saint Laurent Full-Body Knitted Bride-Condom. You think you just happened on a random nugget, only to realize you've stumbled on a Mother Lode:]

Apathy isn't the only reason I haven't fully joined the ranks of the bike advocates (though there are days I could go toe-to-toe with anyone in a bare-knuckles apathy-off). Sometimes I feel that debates about a bike's place in the urban landscape are a perfect storm of zero-sum intractability, it's-always-been-like-this inertia, and well-intentioned promotion of ineffectual ideas. I know, I should be more positive. And then there's my resistance to enthusiastically joining groups that don't precisely mimic my own personality, which I reserve the right to alter at will. So, I've yet to be much of a contribution to the cause.

In my defense, I do have a blog, so I'm not sweating it.

Now clearly some people aren't waiting for stimulus dollars to Copenhagenize their personal Pamplona. Here's a concept for a personal bike lane projector...

Bringing the idea of "wherever you go, there you are" to new illuminated heights. My 2¢ - I think the little bike-rider icon's arm should animate appropriately when the traveling bike lane is not respected. Maybe in LightLane 2.0.

I do have a few ideas knocking around that I hope to develop, allow to evolve and ultimately take out for a public spin - some I've mentioned here before. Such as:

"Ride the Last Mile", or "Dude, Where's Your Car?" - Encouraging commuters to drive the bulk of their normal commute, park a mile or two short of their destination, and ride the last mile. Point being, there has to be a way to get past the perceived (and legitimate) road blocks of distance, dangerous routes and ineffective public transportation (to name a few) that keeps people in their cars, particularly in a sprawling metropolis like L.A. With some promotion of the idea I think we could get a decent number of cars out of dense commercial areas and more bikes taking their place. A little infrastructure - like parking out on the periphery of commercial areas geared to bikers - would help.

My own commute is totally rideable, but I'd love to get someone to try this out and tell me what works, and what doesn't. Any guinea pigs out there? Maybe as a trial balloon we work with the private sector - have people park on the outskirts of town and then ride to Trader Joe's, because it's a well-known fact you'll never find parking at the actual store...

"Make Love, Not War", or "Taking the Road Less Traveled" - Often the thinking seems to be, "Bikes should be part of our transportation mix, so let's cram bike lanes into busy auto-arteries. Problem solved!" Yeah, if the problem is, "How do we make driver's hate bikers with a more blinding, white-hot rage?" I understand the complications, but to me the solution lies somewhere in the next street over - that one that has (almost) zero cars on it!

I know the reason it's car-free is because there aren't lights to traverse major cross streets, or ways of making it past other obstacles like freeways or waterways or whateverways, but clearly that is where the bikes should be. So I say we shouldn't advocate for the running of the bikes amongst the automotive beasts - forcing us riders all up in some Escalade's grille (which is one of the least desirable places for a bike to be...). Let's turn The Road Less Traveled into Where The Bikes Are.

My other half-baked, hair-brained idea is "The Sepulveda Shuttle". A small fleet of ten-person vans towing ten-bike trailers, shuffling back and forth over the Sepulveda Pass from the Valley to the Westside of L.A. and back again, carrying bike commuters who do a bike-shuttle-bike routine, cutting out the daunting ride over the pass, and getting a few more cars off the road. Like I said, half-baked, but I think it's not completely crazy.

Well that's a start. And once I finish implementing all these programs I'll move on to the Holy Grail of cycling...

The No-Pinch Kid's Bike Helmet Buckle...

If you have kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Chariot Corsaire XL - Big enough for my kids, but how about an adult size?

A very big part of our transformation into a bikes-as-transportation family has been the bike trailer. We have 2 kids that we tow across town to school every day -- about a 5-mile round trip. I know... what did they ever do for us?

Plus, the trailer is great for hauling all the groceries and other crap that would be awkward on a bike without the extra square footage, as this gentleman demonstrates:

fail owned pwned pictures
More at Fail Blog

Not that it would have helped Matt Lauer...

It's hard to explain to someone who drives the same route to school that it is not some big sacrifice for us to tow the kids on bikes. We like it. It's less stressful. We don't have to get all up in some Escalade's grille over the last parking space (obviously an Escalade's grille is one place bike riders particularly avoid). We're in better shape than we've ever been, and we don't need to darken the door of a gym. I know, sad -- just think of all the swell times we are missing out on.

But enough of that. On to our new trailer - the Chariot Corsaire XL. (The XL is for eXtra Lovely! I mean, check it out!)

The issue we had in choosing a trailer was the fact that our kids, at 4 and 6, are getting bigger. The thinking in the bike trailer industry seems to be that once kids can ride a bike, there is no more need to tow them (I guess 'Big Trailer' has decided trailers are for entertaining toddlers as opposed to family transportation). But, even though our kids can ride, they aren't ready for a 5-mile trek through the mean streets of Santa Monica. Given our kids' sizes (the older one is about 44" tall), legroom and headroom mattered most.

A bike trailer can haul many moods from A to B.

We actually bought a Burley D'Lite first, but it didn't have the legroom we needed. As I recall, the D'Lite had about 17" of legroom while the Corsaire has about 21" -- a substantial difference.

There are plenty of pockets where you need them, and little ventilation windows the kids can open from inside. We added an extension for our lock that loops around a bar in the trailer, so we can feed our bike lock through it when we need to lock up. This keeps our bike and trailer our bike and trailer, and keeps us from being memorialized on the pages of bikesnobnyc for bike lock fail - unlike the bike owner below:

As bikesnob commented, "Oh yeah. That's not going anywhere."
Seriously if you aren't reading bikesnobnyc, you're missing out on
the discrete charms of bike related sarcasm/snobbery.

The Corsaire tows and rides great. It attaches to the bike with this ball and socket deal. The trailer's movement is totally independent of the bike's, and it's very easy to take on and off. We bought an extra hanger (10 or 15 bucks) that attaches to the quick-release on the rear wheel so we have one on my wife's bike too. (They supply a longer quick-release skewer that you may or may not need.)

The attachment mounts right next to the scars left by
our old trailer's bloodthirsty attaching claw...

The ball slips into the metal cup attached to the bike, then the metal pin slips through the holes to hold the ball in place, and the rubber strap locks the whole package down. There is also a nylon strap that loops around the seat stay to satisfy the Department of Redundancy Department.

It literally takes about 20 seconds to switch from one bike to the other.

The rear wheel suspension on the Corsaire really works - I was surprised how much difference it made. The ride for the kids goes from smooth to bouncy (road-surface depending), but they seem to get a kick out of that. After all, they aren't performing a bris back there...

The suspension can be easily adjusted with the black knob (pictured above) for different weights on each side. There is also a parking brake that attaches to the rear of the trailer, but we left it off to reduce the overall weight a bit. The brake didn't pass the weight-to-usefulness challenge.

There is storage in the back, enough for a couple small kid's backpacks and a few other items. It's a bit of a tight squeeze fitting things in through the opening, but it's roomier inside. The storage area is covered by a flap, and it's pretty rainproof. There's also a pocket in there to stow a bike lock or whatever you don't want smashed.

The cover on the front is also pretty rainproof, though not totally water-tight. But we've ridden across town in a torrential downpour and not much rain made it in - the kids got wet climbing out of it far more than rinding in it. I think there is an actual rain cover available that we might get for next winter if we feel our kids deserve such pampering.

The front cover can either be this plastic cover or it unzips and rolls back to reveal a mesh screen.

The rear flap that covers the storage area can be flipped forward as a sun shade, but we've never actually used it that way. I think the department at Chariot that came up with this had the highest incidence of drug use on the job. Just a guess.

When you roll the rain cover out of the way it gets secured at the top with these stretchy loops - they don't really grab that well (because they can't slip under the rolled-up cover itself) and could be handled better with a Velcro strap or something. A nit-pick.

One other small gripe is the snap buckle that holds the cover down when you close it -- it takes two hands to attach it, so it's a bit of a pain when you're loading kids and getting ready to go. The Burley has a nice D-shaped ring at the end of the strap that hooks over a metal tab on the frame, so it only takes one hand. I've been trying to come up with a DIY version of that, but I haven't yet. Hey Chariot, how about comping me a retrofit when you sort this one out?

I think it can do the usual conversions to joggers and such, but I really don't know. This will be the only mention of "jogging" on these pages. We don't run.

Oh, one other thing: My bike has 26" wheels and it tilts the trailer ever so slightly down in front. My wife's bike has 700s and it's level with those. Any trailer would be the same in this regard.

But all in all, we're really happy with the Corsaire -- we love it and get tons of use out of it, and the kids love it, too. It's built really well - both materials and craftsmanship - this will definitely last for many years out there on the road. One thing, it's love except for the price -- almost $800 taxed and shipped! You read that right. [UPDATE: Just saw an ad for a sale price of $697...] The upside is there were no options that had to be bought separately (like the arm that attaches it to the bike, which with some brands is additional). We wanted something that would fit, and it was seriously the best fit we could find. Maybe they don't sell too many of this model, so they come at a premium? But dang... Eight bills...

So come on, jump on into the Bronze Age. Your cardiologist will hate you for it!