Sunday, October 31, 2010

Los Angeles Critical Mass October 2010

Jen takes a spin with the rickshaw on Venice Blvd.

I am still sore from Critical Mass. In celebration of Halloween, I thought it'd be fun to decorate the shopping cart rickshaw I had made for CicLAvia and ride that around, with lights, flags and love. It worked! People were freaking out when I passed them with 10 feet of steel behind me. Drivers and pedestrians alike smiled and appreciated the Cyclists Bill of Rights flag flying proudly above my rig.




Critical Mass started off great but because of a few simple mistakes, ended up neither critical nor massive, but simply a few hundred riders in the bike lane on Venice Blvd. Critical Mass is only as good as the riders, regardless of police presence. By following a few basic tenants, we can keep the ride, safe, fun and most of all MASSIVE.

The major problem with the ride is the people at the front of the mass. They forget to stop at red lights when in front to allow the rest of the ride to “mass up” behind. They actually forget to wait maybe 2-3 signal changes so that all the stragglers that are 3-4 lights behind them have a chance to catch up. The gaps in the mass must be filled. Cars among massers is a big no no and leads to confusion and frustration. The cars stop at red lights, and the massers are left behind.

Since it's mostly young kids with little mass experience at the front, they forget about the 1200 people behind them and ride their hearts out, which, to use tour de france lingo, "explodes the peleton" and fragments the mass. If the riders in the front simply stopped regularly (no matter how slowly they thought they were going, the gaps would always come back together.

Some might blame the police riding with us for fragmenting the mass, but that's too simplistic. They did write tickets for running red lights and for riding without bike lights. (I'd rather see them handing out 99 cent blinkies instead of giving tickets.) I personally saw a few cyclists who were unable to follow the simple instruction to stay to the right of the double yellow line and I have no problem with the police citing cyclists for that. As for running red lights, this is our fault, not the police. If the riders at the front simply slowed down enough for the mass to be tight and continuous, there would be no way for police to enforce red lights against individual riders. The bike cops I spoke to agreed and wished they weren't in the position of having to enforce red lights against cyclists, but that's their job, and we shouldn't harp on them for doing it. We need to be better organized so that there is no way they can cite 1 rider.


Here's my plan for a better Critical Mass!


For Critical Mass to regain it's splendor with 1000+ riders, we're going to need a select group of "CM Deputies" to train riders at the front, keep them riding slow, keep them stopping at red lights and keep them respecting the Dos and Donts of Critical Mass. These deputies should have walkie talkies and be stationed throughout the ride, advising the front when a group gets lost at a red or makes wrong turn. I'd guess we'd only need 3 deputies at the front, 2 at the back and 3 in the middle to pull this off.

Deputies need uniforms, and weapons! Well, not weapons, but tools that convey authority, like patch kits and innertubes and tire irons. They also need lights, bright lights that blink front and rear. They need to look like police from the future, not robocopy but high techy.

So who wants to enroll in Critical Mass Academy? I nominate DancerALaMode, GraphikDeziner, JonTheLam! LosAngelesCM? You in?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taco Tuesday 10/26/10

A flat tire couldn't keep me from making it out to last night's Taco Tuesday "Pasadangerous" Edition. I managed to find the ride heading towards me on Venice just as I turned off La Cienega. I was able to borrow some compressed air from a fellow carrying a floor pump on his back, and for his efforts he received a cold Red Stripe. The night was perfectly calm with warm still air. Downtown at night is always fun, though last night was particularly quiet, perhaps with the Lakers winning the first game of the season. The PBR crew was representing as well as this young man who I saw last weekend riding a unicycle in the freak bike corral at Tour De Fat.




Heading towards City Hall

Parting ways at Union Station

Waiting for the Red Line


Ahh, Home again!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

AAA sent me a letter of lies

AAA Letter of Lies

AAA cares that they're losing longstanding members due to their hostile lobbying against mass transit, pedestrian and cycling projects. Their letter to me only reinforces that this is an organization that has lost it's mind, and is now using obfuscations and lies to hide their true motivation: Pursue private automobile funding at all costs, without regard to urban sprawl, pollution or public safety.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A breath of fresh air on Melrose: Vanessa Bruno's Boutique opens with a Swing!

Our amiga and party maesta Linlee didn't have to twist our arms to make it to Vanessa Bruno's opening celebration on Melrose last week. Swings, champagne, tunes, nice clothes on nice people and a splash of live art were the key ingredients to this bit of Parisian batifoler. So in addition to a British invasion, the French have also established a beach head in Los Angeles. As a native Angeleno, I say to thee, Bienvenue!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inaugural Tour De Fat Carnival comes to Los Angeles


The inaugural Tour De Fat bike festival came to town yesterday, and I couldn't have known what a completely bizarre and wonderful event I was riding into. It turns out beer and bicycles go really well together and the people at Fat Tire Ale know how to throw a proper bicycle themed celebration around their stellar line of tasty suds. There was music, performances, comedy, apple eating contests and people and bikes of all shapes, colors, sizes and decor. If I were to join a traveling circus, this would be it! As the MC so eloquently put it, the Tour De Fat is all about bringing back that childhood sense of awe and wonder you got from dressing up like a freak and riding your bike around the neighborhood.














and on the way home, I stopped to enjoy the many unique sights and sounds on Chinatown:

Is Los Angeles is quietly becoming a mecca for cycling?


See the rest of the photos below:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marketing in the Rain

We had a great morning at the Hollywood Farmers' Market with our friends Mike and Logan

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Friday! Now Register to Vote!

Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot Application
November 2, 2010 General Election

To obtain a vote by mail ballot, click on the seal of the county clerk below to register to vote absentee. This application must be received by the election official no later than Midnight on October 26, 2010.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Accidental Taco Tuesday 10/12/10

I was just minding my own business, watching a game of softball at Pan Pacific Park....

Base Hit

...happily passing the time while waiting for Heather's "girl night" to conclude, when all of a sudden a gaggle of youths rocking colorful fixies rolled up on me. We exchanged pleasantries. I was riding Heather's Trance, and decided to bomb down the root rutted hill to investigate the growing cacophony of voices, hoots and music emanating from the picnic tables below the softball diamond. It turned out Taco Tuesday was taking a rest stop here after a multi-bike pileup caused by the distraction of a pretty woman, or so I heard.

Anyways, it was still early and I relished the idea of getting some exercise with a quick ride in a peloton around town. So I joined Taco Tuesday then and there. My adventure ended many hours later than I intended, but as you can see, it was well worth it.

I met some really skilled bike riders who popped wheelies in unison, Robert and his crew from Pico Rivera riding his great grand father's bike (Motobeccane possibly?) and Justin from Studio City who was riding Will Campbell's bike that he borrowed to ride CicLAvia. It was a nice group of enthusiastic cyclists that were just out to have a fun time.

LAPD paid us a couple visits to ensure we weren't being too disruptive to the businesses we were patronizing. I got thumbs up from every officer I spoke to.

It was nice to ride in a small group that wasn't hard to keep together, that could get away with mischief that LACM can no longer get away with, specifically the Circle of Death at Hollywood and Highland. It was a thrill to do that after so many failed attempts at recent Critical Mass rides.

If you haven't ridden Taco Tuesday, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a spin.

Taco Tuesday departs Crank Mob Park at 9pm every Tuesday evening.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I was there: CicLAvia 10-10-10

CicLAvia was one of the best days I've ever had in Los Angeles. As an avid rider of Critical Mass, it was such a joy to be able to share the unique feeling of community I experience on those rides with a much broader swath of Angelenos! Thank you organizers of CicLAvia and thank you to L.A. Times' Joel Rubin for getting this story right. City leaders take note: there is a great desire to get out of our cars, if you'll give us safe routes to work, school shopping and entertainment throughout the city. Yesterday, we proved we have the "Critical Mass" to warrant agressively redesigning our transit systems to accomodate cycling as a viable transportation option.

I brought a special trailer for CicLAvia to show off a couple products I work with. Woolly Pocket is a vertical gardening container that can decorate your walls as well as your rickshaws! And my rickshaw's arms were long enough hold my STRiDA folding bicycle so I could show it off to other cyclists during the day, including City Council Candidate Stephen Box and his friend from the Los Angeles Police Department!

I was lucky enough to be joined by some old friends including my 81 year old father, who I blame for my 2 wheeled obsession! A big thanks to Chad, who drove my rickshaw all the way to Downtown L.A. I was stoked to meet his girlfriend Shannon, who rode my commuter bike along the route. I also was joined by my old friend Rick who now lives in Santa Barbara. Our firends Justin and Krista brought their beautiful kids, including Avery who rode the whole way! As a reward, she got to ride back on my rickshaw, arguably the best seat in the house!













Friday, October 8, 2010

CicLAvia This Sunday!

L.A.’s East Hollywood ArtCycle & Block Party from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

It's Finally Here! CicLAvia has finally come to Los Angeles. So what now? Other than riding your bikes without worrying about cars, there so much to do on Sunday. Here's a note I just received from Joe Linton, one of the main organizers behind the event:

We hope you're all as excited about CicLAvia as we are! The weather will be perfect! Round up a dozen friends, show up early, ride and walk a lot, have lunch on the route, and have an overall great time. Check; for activities: there are group rides (though you can ride around on your own, too), dodgeball, capoeira, yoga, museums, performances... and just have fun in the streets!

We still need a few more volunteers! Volunteer and receive a free CicLAvia T-shirt! Thanks to everyone who already signed-up. If you'd like to spend a couple hours volunteering - check the shifts and respond to the email listed here:; We do need a few more Route Angel volunteers - folks with basic bike repair skills who will ride the route and fix flats, etc.

Here's a link to a thorough listing of all events you can participate in on Sunday:

On my list of things to do will be to thank Joe and all the hardworking people who made this event possible.

I'll be bringing something special on Sunday. Here's a sneak peek!

Secret CicLAvia Project

After 48 Years, My Family must leave AAA

Robert L. Darbelnet - President and CEO of AAA


I'm beginning to think the man you see above these letters is trying to kill me. As a cyclist that commutes to work, I am constantly fighting to assert my right to the road. I realize that my safety would be better served by improvements to the roadway that benefit cyclists and pedestrians. This man is working against those goals, using OUR MONEY!

Our AAA payments are being spent to lobby against cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and for increasing speed limits in our communities. AAA has an obsessed and myopic focus on promoting a 1950s Eisenhower belief in highway expansion without regard to theories of smart growth, mass transit and combatting urban sprawl. AAA lobbies furiously to make sure that all gas tax revenues go to facilities for cars, trucks and other motor vehicles, instead of transit, bike or ped facilities, even though these projects would result in fewer cars on the road, thus benefiting motorists.

You can read about AAA's battle against "Rails to Trails" program here:

Here's a link to a discussion about AAA's anti bike slant on a bicycling forum:

Rather than reinvent the wheel, allow me to direct you to a post by Gary from Gary Rides Bikes. He has an excellent explanation of the evils of AAA:

Given how little bike and pedestrian trail funding is actually included in the federal budget, making us a target to cut funds reeks of a mode bias agenda. This is hardly the first time AAA has tried to advance automobile interests by trying to kick other modes of travel out of the picture. When D.C. was recently planning bike lanes on famous Pennsylvania Ave., AAA released an op-ed piece calling it a "War on motorists", and actively lobbied against the proposals. Lon Anderson of AAA called this "war" a huge concern for their "80,000 DC AAA members". I don't think most members who only know of AAA as the company that helps change their flats and gives out maps, are aware these kind of lobbying efforts are being done on their behalf.

There is hope! Here's the website run by Better World Club, the sustainable alternative to AAA:

Let's cancel our AAA memberships and instead use this wise, contemporary and responsible company for our roadside assistance needs. Will you join me? My life depends on it!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's Bugging You? ABC 7 gives airtime for all you haters

Dear ABC 7,

As a cyclist in Los Angeles, I fear distracted drivers every time I hit the streets. My first objective is to stay alive. Second is to obey the "Letter" of the law. If I feel my safety is better served by ignoring a traffic signal that doesn't acknowledge my presence, I will. One of a thousand more pertinent stories would be the number of traffic signals that violate CVC Section 21450.5. If the traffic signal ignores me, I will ignore the signal. This is perfectly legal.

That said, I feel sorry for motorists stuck in traffic who are forced to watch a cyclist zoom past them getting a great workout in fresh air, arriving at their destination refreshed and alive, while they accelerate their diabetes, back pain, asthma and heart disease, all the while idling away their money and spewing hydrocarbon laden aerial sewage into our collective mouths. It must be hard to be stuck in a mindset of 'needing' a car to live (or die?) in Los Angeles. Hopefully events like Critical Mass and CicLAvia can work to change that mindset.

I totally agree with SocialHistoryGuy who wrote:
An incomplete and sloppy news story by Carlos Granda about cyclists and motorists sharing the road. Yes, cyclists should obey traffic signals and signs, but the clipped quotes from the lady with the cycling coalition and the "Cyclists can ride in the bike lanes and on the sidewalk but defer to pedestrians" comments make this all about it being cyclists fault/responsibility. Very one-sided sloppy reporting. They showed cyclists performing left turn lane LEGAL riding and traffic lane vehicular riding, but never say an...
I'd also add that the way the story was framed is designed to create an adversarial tension between motorists and cyclists. I actually find that 99.9999% of motorists are very friendly towards me and almost always give up their right of way for me at every intersection controlled by a stop sign. I'd rather they took their right of way because I can predict their movements better that way, but I always wave and thank them regardless.

Carlos, have you run stories about the deadly danger of distracted drivers? I believe @OhaiJoe has some interesting reporting to share in case you're interested. Cyclists running red lights gets people all riled up but isn't the death and tragedy caused by selfish motorists more relevant to our daily lives? Are you bugged by cyclists personally? Or is this a story your editors rammed down your throat? Either way, a relaxing bike ride would do you some good and help you gain perspective on this issue. You could really use it. Let me know if you need to borrow a bike light.

Your friend,

The Engaged Observer