30 June 2008

Cal. Veh. Code § 21202

I've heard a lot of complaints from people in Los Angeles (ahem, drivers) about "those cyclists....why can't they just ride on the sidewalk? I hate it when they block the lanes on the street." Well, folks, the law states that cyclists are allowed, nay, supposed to ride on the streets, not the sidewalk. And even if some sidewalk cyclists actually feel bad for blocking cars in the street and/or are afraid of all the crazy drivers in Los Angeles, think of it this way; riding on the sidewalk is much more hazardous for bikers than riding in the street. Why, you ask? Well, in the street, cars must yield to bikes, but other than that, bikes act just like cars....we follow the flow of traffic, we obey traffic lights, and we generally stay as far right as possible to stay out of a car's path. On the sidewalk, things get a little crazy....bikes must yield to pedestrians, not to mention avoiding newspaper carts, sidewalk cleaners, merchants, restaurants with sidewalk seating and so on. Bikes on the sidewalk risk getting hit by cars entering or leaving a parking lot, or getting tangled up in a dog's leash. Believe it or not, sidewalks actually have much more maintenance issues than streets which are (usually) smoother....and don't even get me started on the crazy people that might purposely try to mess with you on your bike just for being there. Simply put, cyclists should ride on the street, and drivers need to yield to them.

Listen, I know it's frustrating when you're sitting in your car in bumper to bumper traffic and a bike goes whizzing past you. I used to be in that car. And then I bought my bike. I'm not going to lie, it's liberating, not to mention better for my health and the environment. So, I'm sorry, but until we get our own Superhighway, cyclists will be sharing the road with you. If you have any questions about California state laws regarding bikes (which trump local ordinances, by the way), I encourage you to check out the California Vehicle Code - Bike Relevant Sections, and especially Cal. Veh. Code § 21202, which details a cyclist's operation on the roadway. And SHARE THE ROADS!!!

27 June 2008

Get LA Moving!

I am a big fan of maps, so imagine my delight when, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this site called Get LA Moving, which provides, in detail, a practical plan to expand LA County's Metro Rail network....with a giant map. (The map can be seen below but I encourage you to visit the site for an up-close look) Get LA Moving describes itself as:
"...a grassroots all-volunteer group of citizens who love our great region, but recognize that we must determine and implement solutions to our mobility crisis right now to improve our quality of life. The plan was devised through an open citizen-led dialogue, which continues today."
The group is led by Damien Goodmon, who many people know as the instigator in the fight over the Expo line between Downtown and Culver City. If this movement indicates anything, it's that Mr. Goodmon has done his homework and ultimately, it seems he has good intentions for the longevity of public transit in Los Angeles.

If nothing else, it's a helluva map!

25 June 2008

between the spokes 004: chinese proverbs

photo taken at the bike rikes for the chinatown metro gold stop
very profound.

in other news, yesterday i rode the metro red/purple line for the first time. my office sent me on a mission to rhino model (sorry non-architect readers...it's a modeling software...nothing to do with animals) at the other office we are working on. this seemed like a fine time to explore some new metro territory. all i can say is WOW! the metro red/purple line is all underground, so
a: you feel like you live in new york/europe (your pick)
b: there is something almost rebel like to travel underground in los angeles, like your beating the system and doing something in section rather than plan (again apologies non-architect folk)
c: have you seen the red line stations is los angeles? they all look like discarded sets from 70's sci-fi films (read: before lucasfilms got all digital). i totally recommended checking them out for the sheer awesomeness of brutalist concrete and ambient light. i didn't have my camera with me, but i will share some pics next time i go underground.

so today's lessons:
1: you + bike = -1 car
2: droids and non-droids alike love LA's redline

Worthwhile Wednesday Links

23 June 2008

Bookmark this: an affordable electric scooter that goes above 20 mph

On Friday morning, I was on my bike, on my way to work as usual, when I encountered traffic down the street from my building, which included a few other bikers and a guy on a scooter who smoked me as a traffic light turned green. At the next light, I caught up to him (satisfying, you have to admit), and I moved into the crosswalk as I usually do, when all of the sudden, the scooter dude called out my name. Eh? It turned out to be a friend of mine from undergrad, Davide, who lives just a block south of me. In our brief conversation over the course of the next half block, where Davide was kind enough to slow down for me, he told me about his scooter, that it's electric, that he got it online, that's its Chinese and it works great. Later when I got to work, I looked it up, and lo and behold, the electric R-20 from EVT America does exist - and it goes up to 45 mph! AND it doesn't cost you your first born child to buy it; in fact, according to the web site, its $2499 plus $400 for shipping, which, all told, is cheaper than many new gas-powered scooters. Intrigued, I emailed Davide to ask him about his experience with it, and this is what he had to say:
"it was not the easiest thing, buying a bike, i've never ridden, and it came unworking, so i had to be patient. I got a new controller for it, and actually disassembled it, and did wiring, almost shocked myself.

But its paid off now, i take it to work everyday in Culver city, and have free, clean transportation, and learned a lot about electricity in the process, and met some guys that build their own e-bikes and cars, etc.....

....I would like to take a light rail, when it opens, but until then, i wanted to stop being a tool to oil companies, and this is what i bought."
So there you have it. Who ever thought that not one, but two graduates of UC DAAP would be urban pioneers in the rejuvenated Downtown Los Angeles, trying to lessen our carbon footprint by using alternative transportation. For those of you who think that you couldn't commute by scooter over long distances, well, Davide proves that you can go from Downtown to Culver City and back on an electric scooter - sure he has to take surface roads, but honestly, traffic on the highway is probably terrible at that time anyway. I, for one, am so impressed by Davide's perserverance with his electric scooter, and so encouraged to see that it can be done. I'd like to get one too, but alas, I am a poor grad student, so I'll stick with my motor-free two-wheeler for now.

image of the R-20 courtesy of evtamerica.com

20 June 2008

Cyclists have a long way to go in LA

According to some estimates, there are over 3 million cyclists each year in Los Angeles.* Given that there are so many of us, you'd think we would have an easier time getting around, or that our city would work a little bit harder for us.

Enter yesterday's article from MSNBC and Forbes Traveler about the 10 Most Bike-Friendly Cities in North America. Make sure you read the full article, but for the purposes of our discussion, here's the list.

10. Chicago, IL
9. Minneapolis, MN
8. New York, NY
7. San Francisco, CA
6. Seattle, WA
5. Davis, CA
4. Montreal, Canada
3. San Diego, CA
2. Boulder, CO
1. Portland, OR

image courtesy of msnbc.com

You'll notice that Los Angeles is nowhere near that list. However, there are 3 other California cities that ARE on the list; every other major West Coast city in the US is on the list; San Francisco and Seattle have giant hills; Montreal, Minneapolis, and Chicago are, for all intents and purposes, a frozen tundra for half the year; and then of course there's New York, throbbing with people, taxis, buses, subways and the occasional elephant. My point being, what's the deal here, folks? LA has the perfect climate, and is largely flat, with wide boulevards and streets. Why can't our city be friendlier to cyclists? All of these other cities have major obstacles and much more daunting landscapes, and yet they are all more conducive to biking. Is it really that much to ask to give away some of our precious asphalt to bikes?

Mayor Daley is over in Chicago coming up with a long-term bike initiative called Bike 2015. Meanwhile Mayor Tony just got back from Israel where he gave the Prime Minister a Kobe Bryant jersey. Not that there's anything wrong with Israel or Kobe Bryant (well, that's debatable) but doesn't this city have some pressing transportation issues at hand?!?! I hope I speak for all of us when I say, have some vision, Los Angeles. Give us bike lanes, racks, freeways, and everything in between. I want to be on that list next year!

I mean, we got beat by Boulder. Seriously.

*I don't know where I heard this or even what "each year" means, but I did hear it somewhere. If anyone has a source, I would appreciate it.

19 June 2008

Today is "Dump the Pump Day"

Who knew that such a thing existed? From the article:

Given the average price of gasoline these days, Los Angeles transit officials might have an easier time convincing commuters to get out of their cars and board public transportation Thursday to take part in the third annual National Dump the Pump Day.

The campaign is orchestrated by the American Public Transportation Association, and Southland transit officials are on board encouraging people to take buses or trains for a day.

"Using public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices," said Peggy Delach, president of Foothill Transit's executive board. "I take public transit to work in Los Angeles and I can tell you first-hand that the money saved is significant."

Sounds good to me!

between the spokes 003: one more reason to park the car

from the los angeles times:

"Bush calls for offshore drilling, citing gasoline prices"
read full article here

the intention of this post isn't to procure rabid political debates, but rather point out that everyone's actions do make an impact on the global level. ditching your car in favor of biking or mass transit to make the relatively small commutes that we each make day to day helps to ensure that our gracious mother earth hangs on for a few more years.

los angeles is the quintessential car city, so if you/we can make it without a car here, then we can make it anywhere (yeah, that's right mr. sinatra... new york is so last century). and besides the environmental benefits, have you been on public transportation in this city? one ride alone provides a weeks worth of water cooler conversation fodder...from the bad fashions to the crazies to the friendly strangers...attractive people who ride bikes... in comparison with driving it's just blah blah blah traffic this and blah blah blah gas prices that...conversation more predictable than the ending of the sex and the city movie.

so, if for some reason you hate trees, then at least ride the metro to spark up your coffee talk. just don't make fun of the guy on the huffy on the metro gold around 11 each night. because i will know.

18 June 2008

Wicked Wednesday Links

17 June 2008

The ever growing train population.

Yes, this is the preferred method of transportation these days. With gas prices quickly approaching 5-bucks a gallon, I'm not the only one. UGH.

It used to be that I could leisurely make the 1.5 mile car ride to the park and ride at the Sierra Madre Train Station, park my car where ever I pleased, head down the stairs, walk the over pass (b/c yes, we have to walk over the 210 West to get to the tracks.) and settle in comfortably for my 8:10 am beginning to end-of-the-line daily train adventure.

Well now, it's not so leisurely. Instead, I have to get up a minimum of 30 minutes earlier go through the morning rigor with a swiftness to hop in my car, cut off the stupid slow drivers in Pasadena to get to the same train station, where now, if I am lucky, there is one of TEN parking spots still available at 7:40 in the morning. My adventure is no longer settling, nor is it comfortable.

People are always cramming on the train, by the time we get to the Highland Park station, it's standing room only. I'm always on my laptop working on some design, which also stops me from people watching. (Side note: Did you know that people don't like to be stared at? Well it's not my fault they have no fashion sense.) And as out tracked-trek goes over the freeways, I can't laugh at the commuters anymore... because, oh yes, high gas prices equal less traffic. I guess that means that the comfy places to be are now back on the roads. At least it's getting that way.

Being a green advocate, I appreciate the positive impact this is going to have on the environment, getting all the cars off the road. What I don't appreciate is the lack of etiquette that people have on the train. And, that, my friends is becoming an ever growing problem with the ever growing population of train commuters. Unfortunately, I am not the only one that has realized the economic coup public trans provides. I guess, I'll have to learn to share.

16 June 2008

Bike/Math Nerd

On my way home, I thought it would be fun to nerd out on math a little bit today. Bear with me.

As of today, I've put 720 miles on my bike (I know this because like a true nerd, I have a bike computer). Now that doesn't seem like a lot, I know many people often drive 1000 miles a month easily, but when you consider that my daily commute back and forth to school/work is 7.8 miles total, you'll realize that means approximately 93 daily commutes by bike, or 3 months. So that's cool.

Now let's think about it in terms of driving.

If we were optimistic and said that gas cost an average of $3.50 throughout those 93 days of commuting, we would see that by not driving a car, I've saved a little bit of money. If I were driving a car that got, let's say, 25 miles a gallon (as my old car did); and I went 720 miles; then 720/25 = 28.8 gallons of gas. 28.8 gallons x $3.50 = $100.80. Which means I've saved about $100 in gas money. This would be great if owning a car only meant putting gasoline in it, but as it turns out in Los Angeles, owning a car costs a lot more than just the gas it drinks. Commuting by bike saves way more money in other ways. For instance, the garage behind my apartment building costs $175 a month for parking. A parking pass at school is like, $380 for 3 months or something similar. Insurance would be probably $100 a month, if I was lucky. And what if I was still making car payments? Let's give my metaphorical self a break and pretend like it's paid off. Added up we have the following situation for 3 months....
Parking at home for 3 months: $525
Parking at school for 3 months: $380
Insurance for 3 months: $300
Car payments: $0
Gas: $100
Total: $1,305

Now, the bike:
Parking at home: um, free
Parking at school: still free
Insurance for 3 months: also free (helmet costs $30 though)
Payments: none
Gas: about 400 calories per round-trip commute
Total: $0
So hopefully you get my point. If I bike another 720 miles in the second half of this year, I will have saved myself at least $2,610 for the year than if I was using a car for that commute. And yes, that's assuming that I'm paying a premium for parking, but it's also assuming gas is a lot cheaper than it is now, and it's assuming I'm not going anywhere else besides school. I might be a nerd but I do have a social life! Which equals gas, which equals more money.

One last little math problem and then I'll stop.....an average trip on the Metro costs $1.25. The last, highest gas price I saw was $4.97 a gallon. By my generous calculation, and at (a very optimistic) 25 miles a gallon, that's almost $1 for every 5 miles traveled. Which means you only need to go about 6 miles to get your money's worth out of that Metro ticket. The LA Metro Bus and Rail Trip Planner is less generous...they are saying that the 6-mile trip from my place to my nearest Trader Joe's costs $3.12 in gas! That's a whole bottle of 2-buck Chuck! Each way!

Anyway, my brain is fried. But chew on that for a while ;o)

14 June 2008

The 720 is the place to be

Los Angeles' answer to a (currently) inadequate subway and lightrail system is the Metro Rapid buses that run on most of the city's major streets. The 720 is the Rapid bus that runs East-West along Wilshire Boulevard between Downtown LA and Santa Monica pretty much all day long. And, given that Wilshire intersects with almost all of LA's major North-South streets, it's a very popular route. Below is a picture of one of the 720's "smaller" buses....normally they are those giant double-buses, you know, the kind with the expansion joint in the middle that people can actually sit in? I took a ride on the 720 the other day on one of those giant buses, and it was packed. The drivers on the Rapid buses really know how to speed as well, so even with the traffic on Wilshire in Beverly Hills, I made it cross town in less than 50 minutes. And it's hard to explain, but when you're packed into a bus that tightly with people from every imaginable walk of life barreling down Wilshire Boulevard at 50 miles an hour, you really learn to appreciate your neighbors more.

image courtesy of chaffeeyiu.com

The 720: highly recommended, both for transit, and for neighborly spirit!

11 June 2008


I was initially inspired to start this blog back around May 15, which was Bike to Work Day in Los Angeles County. A slew of people around LA, including a number of my coworkers, participated in the bike ride, and as a result, many of them were treated to breakfast, "swag", and the satisfaction of knowing that they burned calories, not fossil fuels, on their way to work that day.

Well, I apparently got up too late to enjoy all the festivities, and I guess I live too close to work too, because I didn't get any of the perks on my ride to work that day. Which led me to think, "wait a second. I bike to work every week, at least twice a week.....where's my swag?!" Naturally this led to my decision to start a blog, LOL.

lucky bikers got swag on May 15's Bike to Work day - image courtesy of metro.net

This month brought another big Bike to Work Day, this one in Tokyo, Japan, and it's happening today on June 11. In conjunction with today's event, have a look at this gadget that you can put on your bike that keeps track of total hours, average speed, calorie consumption, AND the total CO2 savings made versus car travel for the same distance.

09 June 2008

Bus + Bike = Will Travel

Due to some computer problems (that I don't really want to get into), I've had to visit Culver City several times in the past few weeks, and it looks like I might have to go back. Today, however, I was prepared for any form of transportation, and I took the carbon-free plunge. I biked from USC to Culver City - actually, Motor and National, so the Palms neighborhood - by myself. I had never even visited some of those neighborhoods by car, let alone by bike, so it was an adventure. Between that long trip and the morning commute to school, I actually biked 14.25 miles total today. Have a look at the Google Map below for an overview or the actual map for a close-up of my route. I went this way on the recommendation of a friend who lives in Culver City, and aside from a fairly daunting headwind, the entire route was flat, and the neighborhoods were calm. The first mile or so on 36th Pl. was actually to avoid the nasty construction on Exposition, and it worked well. All of the streets I traveled were either wide enough to accommodate bikes or slow enough so that cars had no trouble going around.

On my way back, I cruised down Motor to Venice, where I picked up the 333 bus back to Downtown LA. The 333 is an express version of the 33, which traverses Venice Boulevard from Main Street in Downtown to the ocean in the west. If you've never taken your bike on a bus, first let me clarify: you don't actually take it on the bus. You put it on a rack on the front of the bus and lock it in with a big "hook" that holds the bike in place, no matter how aggressive your bus driver (trust me I've had plenty). So after biking 14 miles, I was relieved to have the 333 bus option to take me right back to Downtown, even though I had to squeeze on the bus. You would think with rising gas prices and a noticeable uptick in ridership, they would add more buses that could accommodate all those people....I guess these things take time!

08 June 2008

Cyclists vote, too

Barack Obama celebrated his victory in the Democratic primary campaign this weekend by spending time with his family and riding his bike.  Who doesn't like a presidential candidate who knows how to use his bike!?!  I'm just saying.

image courtesy of www.treehugger.com

06 June 2008

Life on the F Dash

One of the easiest ways to get around Downtown LA, and in fact, many other areas of the city, is by using the DASH buses.   You have probably seen a DASH bus around town, even if you didn't realize it....it's just a tad bit shorter than a regular bus, it's blue, and it's usually cruising!  Besides the fact that it's only 25 cents.   I take the F Dash every week at least once but usually more often since I work at and attend USC.  And between that and my bike, I have had some weeks where I've only spent about, oh, $1.50 in transportation costs. 

The DASH bus doesn't just operate Downtown....there are DASH routes all over town, and these are all 25 cents too!  Use the link above and the LA DOT Transit link to the right to find the DASH line that works for you, and save some money!   

05 June 2008

Terrific Thursday Links

04 June 2008

between the spokes 002: that's one sweet ride!

today i thought i would start my post with some images of my sweet ride:

that's right, kiddos. simple.classic.huffy. i've had this 15 speed since i was in middle school. aside from some modifications for comfort (those stock bike seats...oy vey) it's pretty much just the way i got it for my 15th birthday. the point here is you don't need anything fancy to make your way by bike instead of car.

if you need further inspiration, check out this article by andy bowers nobody bikes in la. unless you are driving more than 20 miles somewhere, it would be just as easy (and cheaper) to bike there.

so save your gas money and spend it on a new bike seat!

for those of you already on the prowl and looking to meet some others like yourself, check out the event calender at bikeboom los angeles. it's practically littered with events for fellow bikers like yourselves!

03 June 2008

Los Angeles Metro has a vision...

....and they want YOUR input. Yes, that's right; Los Angeles is planning for our transportation future, and if you pay attention, you can participate in the process. If you've ridden the Metro trains lately you may have noticed a recent ad for this initiative. They are signs that have the word "Imagine" on them, and they implore you to go to www.metro.net/imagine to share your vision for the future of transit in the Southern California region. They even have maps! So go to it.....tell them what you want (and how to pay for it) and maybe your idea will show up on a Metro Map someday.

02 June 2008

between the spokes 001: a bikers perspective

hey lilawac readers!

this NEW exciting series of blog updates comes direct from downtown la/highland park, offering the perspective of someone who owns a car but has recently decided to take to the road on two wheels (with a little help from metro gold)

after a few rides to school (6.5 miles) and a few adjustments to my trusty huffy mountain bike (that's right...huffy) i have found that despite getting to school sweaty, the bike ride is rather enjoyable. and you get to see awesome views of the la river.

but how do you plan your journey you ask? can i google map bike paths? yes! bike metro has made a handy website that allows you to map potential bike paths based on your tolerance of hills, level of riding and if you want to use public transit. my favorite part is when you map your path, it tells you how much money you are saving by not driving, elevation graphs and lots of other cool facts.

summers here, so park the car and get some fresh air!

Beer....now cheaper than gas

image courtesy of structed.com

This sums it up well.

01 June 2008

LA cyclists heart Toronto

photo courtesy of torontoist.com

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the cyclists of Toronto, Canada's Critical Mass. Apparently on their monthly ride two days ago, the 200 or so cyclists spontaneously decided to take an on-ramp - and then took over the entire westbound side of the Gardiner Expressway, like one giant automobile. Said one participant, it wasn't intended to be a huge statement, but more along the lines of, "Here we are. Let's take the Gardiner."

photo courtesy of TObike's Flickr

I'm getting excited just thinking about being on that ride with that group. How absolutely exhilarating it must have been to just follow 200 of your bike buddies onto the highway. And how funny it must have been to be one of the drivers that got stuck behind them....can you imagine someone on their cell phone, calling home to say, "I'm sorry, I'll be late, I'm behind a bike traffic jam"? Absolutely brilliant!

photo courtesy of martinho's Flickr

Don't get me wrong....I know this was illegal. It was as illegal as the much smaller group of brave LA cyclists who have twice taken to the freeways in the past month and a half. But who doesn't think this is awesome? Like organizer Morgan Strauss said in the Santa Monica Daily Press, "In a city ruled by cars, why is it that you can get places faster on bikes?”

Here's some (slightly frightening) video from the LA group's latest ride...

And here's one of the group's members with his very large bike riding onto the freeway. Amazing!

photo courtesy of Alex Thompson's Flickr

Not that I'm encouraging them, or saying you need to ride your bike on the freeway to make a statement....but if you are interested in hanging out with any of these (awesome) people in Los Angeles, check out the Crimanimalz from the freeway ride, Critical Mass Los Angeles, or the very popular local Midnight Ridazz group. Also check out the permanent links about cycling on the right. And don't forget to ride safe!