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.

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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?

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