30 September 2008

Design a Bike Rack for Los Angeles!

That would be a great competition, right? Well it's not happening yet. But, New York already did it....and, per the New York Times, here are the 10 finalists.

Neat, aren't they? I wish I had known about this sooner!

I mean, is it too much to ask that the nation's second largest city at least try to be as forward-thinking as its first largest city? I don't think that's too much to ask. I'm just saying.

21 September 2008

CICLE does Downtown LA

Here are some photos from this weekend's Downtown CICLE ride. It was a great event, very well-attended, but not terribly rigorous at only about 5 miles in 3 hours. Personally, I prefer group rides with less talking and more biking, but it was definitely the most well-organized group I've ever seen. Although if we had gone any faster, we may not have seen these amazing historic sites...

The group meets at Union Station

Inside Broadway's Million Dollar Theater

The beautiful Bradbury Building

The Mayan Theater

The Crystal Ballroom at the Millenium Biltmore, where the first Academy Awards were held

18 September 2008

Karma, and another downtown ride

I got honked and yelled at on my bike commute home today by a really angry looking woman in an ugly old car, and I had to smile, because clearly she was just upset that I was saving so much money by not having an auto of my own.* I've also noticed that on the few occasions when I have gotten honked or yelled at, it's always been by women. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad the men aren't yelling, but because I'm a chick that gives other women license to be rude to me? Strange logic. Anyway, I took one for the team and was rewarded just a minute later when a new bike buddy appeared beside me. I'm used to commuting home by my lonesome self, but this fellow grad student on his way home complimented me on my foldy bike, and we then chatted for the next few blocks before we split off. It's kind of fun to have a bike buddy on your commute! Nice to meet you, Jay. ;o)

Speaking of bike happiness, CICLE is hosting a group ride this Saturday, September 20. Meet in front of Union Station at 1 pm, the ride departs at 1:30 pm sharp. Here's the annoucement from their newsletter:

This Saturday's Urban Expeditions Ride
That's Entertainment! Downtown L.A.

Critics agree; Urban Expeditions is "Visually stunning". "Show stopping performances!" "The ride of your life!"

This month's Urban Expeditions' episode, "That's Entertainment! Downtown L.A.", is a tautly wound drama starring Downtown Los Angeles. It airs Saturday, Sept 20th, at 1:00PM at Union Station in Downtown L.A.--don't miss a moment of it.

Downtown L.A. is haggard, gritty and desperate for a comeback. Can she reclaim her place as the queen of L.A., or is she destined to be just another forgotten has-been? From Hollywood film premiers, to famous entertainers who played there, Downtown L.A. played grand hostess to any star-studded event worth its weight in marble and gold leaf.

Take an intimate look inside the life of Downtown's Theater District and her storied past. Flash back to an era of limitless possibilities and an endless parade of stars. Before there was Hollywood, there was Downtown.

What got Charlie Chaplin hot under the collar at the Los Angeles theater? Why was Duke Ellington receiving death threats at the Mayan? From her rise to fame, to her humiliating flops, you'll fall in love with Downtown's indomitable spirit.

C.I.C.L.E. presents you with an all-new family fun episode of Urban Expeditions, sponsored by REI. From Vaudeville, to talkies, to the start of TV, you'll immerse yourself in this edge-of-your-seat story of love, greed and tragedy, plus a little slapstick thrown in for comic relief.

Stay tuned to your favorite L.A. Bicycle Education and Entertainment station--call letters C.I.C.L.E.--for the next airing of Urban Expeditions, the bike ride series that everyone's riding about.

Meet: In front of Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St, L.A.
Time: 1:00 PM. Ride Departs 1:30 PM SHARP
What to bring: Your bike. Children under age 9 should be on a tag-a-long, bike trailer, tandem, or other safe child-carrying device. All participants under 18 must wear a helmet and be escorted by a parent or guardian. Bikes must be in good working order, make sure the brakes stop, tires are to full pressure, and bring lights if riding in dusk or dark conditions. Water and snack are always recommended.
More Information: Call 323.478.0060 or visit, www.cicle.org

I'll be there!

*That's what I always tell myself when drivers yell at me so I don't get upset, freak out and wreck.

15 September 2008

Not giving up on trains

I'm sure it goes without saying that trains are still the safest way to travel. The Governator told you this on Saturday, following the worst train wreck in this country in 15 years. People who ride trains and subways know it too ... you're land-bound, chugging along on a rail, designed to prevent collisions. But sometimes accidents happen. And hearing the news that the wreck may well have been caused by an engineer who missed a red light - because he was texting? really? - makes this no less tragic, but it also makes it seem like a bad dream. It makes me wince. It makes me really worry about people in Los Angeles who, if they are trying to avoid the highway because it's dangerous being on the road with all the crazies who drive while texting, might now be scared away by trains because of engineers who operate thousands of tons of hurtling metal while texting.

I sincerely hope this isn't the case and that when the investigation is completed, we find out that there was a malfunction or something. Nevertheless, it won't bring those people back, and it won't help the people who are still in the hospital and facing months of rehab. I'll definitely get on a train again, but next time, I might head towards the back.

11 September 2008

Subway to the Sea

One component of Measure R, which was mentioned in a post last week, is the Metro Westside Extension, more affectionately known as the "Subway to the Sea." For those of you whom have lived in Los Angeles for a while may remember that the subway was once headed for the sea in the mid-1980's, only to be held up by concerns of drilling through areas with pockets of underground methane.  Last year, that federal moratorium was lifted, allowing the next generation to pursue completion of the project which aims to ease gridlock on the westside.

Last night, the final public hearing in the Alternatives Analysis phase took place in Westwood and I attended the meeting in order to gain a little more insight into the project itself as well as the opportunity that the community has had to comment on the available options. There was a healthy group of approximately 80-100 people present.  The evening started out with an open house, where presentation boards were placed at the perimeter of the room and conversation took place between the public and the Metro staff present.  Following that was a presentation, which is available for download here, followed by a public comment session in which about 20 individuals each had two minutes to state their opinion.  About 85% of those who spoke were in favor of some sort of subway expansion to the westside.

Now, to the subway plan iteslf...

After multiple studies, calculations of ridership, and a series of public hearings, the subway is down to four options.  The first two options are required by the Federal Transportation Administration, which would provide federal matching funds for the project, and include a "No Build" option, which simply looks at how quality of life will be affected if no changes in public transit are taken over the study period (25 years), and a "Transportation Systems Management" option, which looks at how to improve existing bus service.  The final two options are officially known as "Alternative 1," which takes the subway from the existing Purple Line station at Wilshire/Western and extends it straight down Wilshire Boulevard all the way to the ocean in Santa Monica, and "Alternative 11," which takes that same plan and adds an extension headed past the Beverly Center, though West Hollywood, and links up with the Red Line near Hollywood and Highland.

Alternative 1: straight down Wilshire
courtesy of Metro

Alternative 11: with West Hollywood extension
courtesy of Metro

A sizable majority, both of those present at the meeting last night and public feedback gathered from previous public hearings, favor at least getting the Wilshire portion of the subway constructed and proceeding with the West Hollywood extension if there is enough funds remaining.  The main line of the subway would cost approximately $6.1 billion and the West Hollywood extension would cost approximately an additional $3.0 billion. Yes, this seems like a lot of money (and it is), but it is less per mile constructed compared to some recent urban freeway projects, according to Project Manager Dave Mieger.  Right now, that price tag (equivalent to $33 per hour of travel time savings) is slightly above what the FTA requires in order to be eligible for federal matching funds ($30 per hour of travel time savings), but the Metro staff was fairly confident that cost savings could be achieved during the engineering process and that the influx of riders with increased gas prices would help push that figure down closer to $25 per hour of travel time savings, making the project eligible for FTA funding.

For those of us who look for a better way to travel in the Los Angeles area in a more sustainable fashion, this is the public transit project which has and will continue to be the most expensive, yet most visible evidence that Los Angeles is committed to moving past car-only transit.  I highly recommend that you provide your comments on the project here to let the Metro staff and Board of Directors know which of the alternatives you prefer, as the public approval and comment phase is critical before the project can move forward.

Some interesting additional tidbits:
  • North/South connections to the subway are being studied, including the 405 Corridor Study and adding bus service in conjunction with the subway stops, but those are not a part of this particular study.
  • About 22% of the riders that would use the MWE would be coming from the San Gabriel Valley, much to the chagrin of Supervisor Gloria Molina, who has not been in favor of the project or Measure R
  • Ridership on the Red and Purple Lines has grown from 120,000 riders/day in 2006/07 to 153,000 riders/day this summer
  • BART in the Bay Area handles about 322,000 riders/day and would have approximately twice the mileage of the Metro subway system if the Wilshire and West Hollywood lines are constructed, meaning that the Metro system would have about twice the ridership per mile compared to BART.
  • The current ridership models only account for trips back and forth from home to work, but a large amount of traffic is comprised of people headed to meetings or trips social in nature.  Once those "special generators" are factored in, the project will be even more favorable in terms of receiving federal funding.
  • In the 28 years since the first Metro sales tax was passed, the westside has been the only area of the county not to receive rail service.

10 September 2008

Biking for Obama!

For the record, I'm not interested in turning this blog into another political site. There are enough of those already. This blog is meant to be about staying positive, and finding better ways of getting from Point A to Point B. Besides, I'm pretty averse to confrontation, and who knows if my views are shared by the others who post on this blog occasionally anyway.

But, I'd imagine that many of you who ARE interested in alternative forms of transportation are also supporting Barack Obama for President. If not, that's fine too ... this is a free country, after all. But I am, and I wanted to share some photos from a recent event that we had in support of Obama's candidacy.

The event is called "BARACKCYCLE" and it's a once-a-month bike ride, somewhere in Los Angeles, of Obama supporters. The most recent ride began at Hollywood and Highland with a small but enthusiastic group of cyclists. We went from there, to Beverly Hills, to West Hollywood, and back. All in all, we rode 19 miles that day! In the sun! I'm not going to lie, I had a headache for the rest of the day. But it was great fun - a good way to workout, and support our favorite candidate (and bike fan), AND raise awareness of cyclists on the road. Some of those roads were scary, and I never would have ridden on them without my little team of BarackCyclists. But we did pretty good!

If you are a member of BarackObama.com, look for the next BARACKCYCLE by searching for events in the Los Angeles area. We hope to see you there!

08 September 2008

The Big Blue Bus

My best friend lives in Santa Monica, and I live downtown. So for me to get to see her, without a car, is a pretty big hassle, right?


About 90% of the time, when I need to go to Santa Monica, I take the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus. They have an express bus, the aptly named 10 line, that goes from numerous stops in Downtown LA to numerous stops in central Santa Monica. It's a great bus, really ... it's quick, you can put your bike on the front, and it's usually quite timely. Unfortunately it has a limited schedule ... typically service ends by about 8 pm, but it does run on the weekends. And if you go to Santa Monica on the 10 and you miss the last bus, remember that you can always catch the 720 on Wilshire, which goes from one end to the other, pretty much all day and night.

So remember, if the Republic of Santa Monica is your destination ... the Big Blue Bus will get you there. (I wish I had a picture to put here ... suffice it to say that the bus is big, blue, and well, a bus.)

06 September 2008

The debate on bike helmets

I've heard a lot of people talk about why they do, and why they don't, wear helmets when they are riding their bikes. I suggested here a few weeks ago that you should always wear your helmet when riding because, to be frank, if you get hurt and you're not wearing it, people just won't care as much. Whether or not that's valid reasoning is up to you to decide. I wear my helmet all the time because I think that people take me more seriously as a cyclist, and besides, I'm terrified to not wear it when I'm riding on the streets of LA!

So the ever-informative Treehugger has just posted some findings about bike helmets that I think you non-helmet people might want to pay attention to. They say the debate is over, because they have finally found a study that looks at pediatric and adult bicycling deaths before and after passage of a bicycle helmet law. After the bike helmet law went into effect, the death rate was cut in half. Discuss.

03 September 2008

Vote "yes" for public transportation

I can't believe it's September already! We've got some important things to talk about...

It would be irresponsible of me to write a blog about living in a place without a car if I didn't talk about public transportation. And it would be irresponsible of me to talk about public transportation without encouraging you to support it. Today I'm going to discuss some of the transportation issues that voters must decide on this November.

First we have Measure R. Measure R is VERY IMPORTANT to the future of Los Angeles as a city of the 21st century. Basically it's a half-cent sales tax increase which will "fund and expedite rail and traffic issues, including the Subway to the Sea AND Airport, and freeway improvements throughout LA County." Even drivers can get behind that!

There is also the issue of California Prop 1A, aka the "Bullet Train", which is a statewide bond issue and won't raise taxes. Can you imagine getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco faster, safer and cheaper than by plane? I know I can ... I mean, I'm not fond of planes to begin with but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that plane travel is getting to be more expensive and more of a hassle than ever before.

So make sure to vote for public transportation for Los Angeles in November!

*Thanks to Davide for pointing these out to me!*

01 September 2008

Dreaming about my new wheel(s)

I don't know about you guys, but ever since I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics last week, I've been dying to get one of these:

Daily Mail photo found at Mixx

I mean, how cool are these things?!? I guarantee you if I went cruising around town with this monocycle, nobody would give me any trouble at all. Then again, I might cause wrecks, but still ... they are bad-ass, aren't they?

Image credit:Xinhua, found at Beijing Olympic Games

OK, so I probably can't get one of those anywhere, unless I go to China and track them down and bribe someone, or something. In the meantime, I think I may have stumbled upon the set of 4 wheels that I'd like to purchase in the future, if presented with the opportunity to do so again. It's called the Toyota iQ, and although it's clearly not as flashy as the "Beijing monocycle," it's arguably one of the smallest and most fuel-efficient four-passenger cars in the world. And I think it's pretty cute, anyway.

Image courtesy of Treehugger.com

Unfortunately this scrappy little car won't be sold in the U.S. in the near future ... only in Japan and then in Europe early next year. But I think there are a lot of people, like me, who would shell out the relatively meager $13,000 to buy it here in the U.S. I hope so, anyway! Because I want Toyota to bring it here! Click here to read more about the iQ. Alas, I will keep dreaming ...