The Year in Lakewood

Been a little more than a year here in Lakewood, the town described by DJ Waldie. 

I describe the lives of my roommates at my other blog.

My block is full of the most visible everyday public employees:  teachers and police.

I don't really hear much about people's business here. 

This despite my landlord being a long-term dweller in the area.  He has lived in his place for 25+ years.  He supports local small businesses (mostly small food eateries) as well as the Walmart closest to us.  He walks the neighborhood with his dog.  He occasionally talks to neighbors.  He can tell me the landmarks that weren't around.  He tells me about the houses on which he has done construction-type jobs. 

But when it comes to news about the area, he can't tell me much that the local news can't.

The biggest local stories in the year and a half that I've been here:
Though it's a small sample and non-scientific at all, it's the news that resonates with me.

It seems that's the only time the littler, non-LA cities ever crack the local news, when something really overwhelmingly negative happens, or when someone famous has connections to an area.  Reminds me of how the City of Bell was all over the news last year for corruption.

There's gotta be some better communication infrastructure in Lakewood that I'm just missing.

Never Liked Lebron James or the Heat, but...

He's a COMMUTING bicyclist, meaning he rides to and from work. 

That he bikes to games is not new news.

It's been reported before by Streetsblog.

But now it appears there's some new media blitz now that he does this with regularity.

The basketball mag SLAM Online is reporting about how biking keeps him in shape.

USA Today is reporting how he *gasps*...rides at night.

Always been a huge NBA follower, and Lebron James is about as a big a star as it gets in the NBA.

But he's never played for any of my teams, so I've never really liked him.  But this, I can't hate the Miami Heat or Lebron James as much as I did before.

Seems that he even got teammate Dwyane Wade and actress Gabrielle Union to join a critical mass.

As far as the bike movement goes, at least they are shining attention on bicycling.  This, using a demographic that does occupy a bit of public attention.  Mega-wealthy young black athletes.   

Usually sports fans on message boards, article comment threads, youtube videos love to either love or criticize this very demographic the most for being disconnected from society and lapping it up in lives of luxury.

I guess that script has changed a bit.  Temporarily.

What Lebron and Dwyane are doing is highly "visible biking."

It's quite a contrast to the days when my favorite player was Michael Jordan, and he would speed off in his small black sports car that is probably super important to people.

Usually, most "visible" bicyclists in America are middle-aged white guys wearing spandex.  "Visible" meaning, they are the demographic thought about most, when people speak about "bicycling" in America.  Inversely, the "invisible" bicyclists would be (usually) Spanish-speaking immigrants on mountain bikes.

Aside from Obama, it's one of the first times in recent memory, I see a high-profile celebrity of color going out of their way to be seen doing this.  So these stories about Lebron James and Dwyane Wade biking are refreshing in that it (temporarily) turns that script upside down.  They are contrarian to the image of the entourage-holding, mega-exclusive, self-important quasi-politicians:  they're actually accessible.

Hopefully more to follow from these guys --- I guess when the playoffs are on, and my childhood favorite Chicago cash cows Bulls, Jeremy Lin's team, and Ben Gordon's team, are probably eliminated, I won't feel as guilty rooting for them.

Analysis of Bike-Related Incidents in Long Beach 2002-2011

A report from Long Beach Bike:

Says that Bicyclists are statistically at fault more of the time over drivers, but drivers are not far behind.

I hope that the following statement doesn't simply reinforce the self-righteousness of those who are compelled to always defend those behind the motor.
According to the Long Beach data about 45% of the bike related accidents in the city are caused by the bicyclist (35% are driver related and 20% undetermined).
An analysis of Long Beach traffic accident data since 2002 has revealed five leading causes that make up more than 80 percent of all automobile-bicycle incidents:
  1.   Bicyclist riding on the wrong side of the road against oncoming traffic;
  2.   Bicyclist making an unpredictable and hazardous move (e.g., darts in front of a moving vehicle);
  3.   Bicyclist running a stop light or stop sign;
  4.   Motorist running a stop light or stop sign; or
  5.   Motorist making a right or left turn in front of a moving bicycle.
"Bicyclists riding on the wrong side":  it would be nice to see the geographical breakdown of these incidents.  I see a ton riding on the wrong side on PCH in West Long Beach.

The fact that "making hazardous road moves" causes many accidents is unfortunate but not surprising;  my philosophy is to make every move "expected" by drivers, which is why I love the 4th Street sign that says "Bikes May Use Full Lane."

But the accidents are not all at the feet of bicyclists.

 There are a substantial amount of accidents actually caused by the driver:
"...over 40% of these accidents are categorized as either Auto Right-of-way violation or Pedestrian Right-of Way violation.  In other words the driver pulled in front of the bicyclists (I’m implying here that when the report refers to pedestrian..they in fact are referring to the bicyclist).  
Another 15% is related to improper turning. And finally 12% is related to running a stop light or stop sign.
The single biggest cause of driver caused accidents is making right turns and in the process cutting of the bicyclist.
So far for me in Long Beach, I've experienced one incident on bike that was the fault of a driver:  getting doored by a stopped pick-up on the driver's-side at an intersection on 4th Street. The driver stopped his car at an intersection, and unexpectedly threw his door open making me swerve left and crash on the road.

'Bike-friendly, eh?' I was thinking.

Nothing really happened to my body or bike.  I didn't get hurt too badly. He did acknowledge it was his fault and asked if I was OK. 

Now what we need is a comparison between Long Beach and LA and another biking hotbed to see how we match up.

List of Key Notes from Tom Vanderbilt's Book Traffic

Just finished Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic:  Why We Drive The Way We Do and What It Says About Us.

I remember wanting to read it when it first came out in 2008.

By happenstance at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance and a bookstore there, I saw it priced for a $1.00.

It has felt like "highway robber"y ever-since.

The book is a page-turner. It's got everything that I've ever thought was needed for solid writing: simple metaphors to describe complex phenomena, references to psychological studies, statistical anomalies, but all packaged in a personal kind of way.

I don't mark up books too much anymore, but I just had to for this, and thought I would entice people to give the ideas a look.  I quoted everything in the notes verbatim with the associated page number.  Bolded emphases are all mine for the sake of easy reading.

Overall, my take on the book:  made me think a lot about the illusion of safety though I wish there was more attention paid to solutions for bicyclists

Metaphors for and Ways to Think About Traffic
  • We think of traffic as an abstraction, a grouping of things rather than a collection of individuals (7)
  • Once humans decided to do anything but walk, once they became traffic, they had to learn a whole new way of getting around and getting along (10)
  • Being in traffic is like being in an online chat room under a pseudonym (27)
  • Our vehicle becomes our self.  You project your body way out in front of a vehicle...We say "Get out of my way," not "get out of my and my car's way." (24)
  • Identity issues seem to trouble the driver alone.  Have you ever noticed how passengers rarely seem to get as worked up about these events as you do?...They do not feel that their identity is bound up with the car. (24)
  • "A modern, urban freeway is a lot like eBay, without reputation scores" - LIor J. Strahilevitz (58)
  • Traffic is a sort of secret window onto the inner heart of a place, a form of cultural expression as vital as language, dress, or music (216).
  • The only place where the little man achieves equality with the big is in heavy traffic.  Only there can he actually overtake (220).
  • The driver's thinking it's wide open.  It's a football mentality ---I've got all my blockers and I can go (71).
  • You hit the brakes for a second, just tap them on the freeway, you can literally track the ripple effect of that action across a two-hundred mile stretch of road, because traffic has a memory.  It's amazing.  It's like a living organism.  - Mission Impossible III (119)
  • Rice has more to do with traffic than you might think.  Many people use water analogies when talking about raffic, because it's a great way to describe concepts like volume and capacity.  One example, used by Benjamin Coifman, an engineering professor at Ohio State University who specializes in traffic, is to think of a bucket of water with an inch-wide hole in the bottom. (122)
  • At places like bottlenecks, however, traffic acts less like water (it does not speed up as highway "channels" narrow, for one) and more like rice:  Cars, like grains, are discrete objects that act in peculiar ways.  Rice is what's called a "granular media," a solid that can act like a liquid.  Sidney Nagel, a physicist at the University of Chicago and an expert in granular materials, uses the analogy of adding a bit of sugar to a spoon.  Pour too much, and the pile collapses.  The sugar flows like a liquid as it collapses, but it's really a group of interacting objects that do not easily interact (123).
Driving-Related Studies, Stats, Realities, Correlations 
  • In a 1982 survey, a majority of drivers found that the majority of other people were "courteous" on the road.  When the same survey was repeated in 1998, the rude drivers outnumbered the courteous (61). 
  • Texas Transportation Institute found that the single most common cause of stress on the highway was "merging difficulties" (64) 
  • A study by a group of Israeli researchers found that drivers committed more traffic violations on familiar routes than on unfamiliar routes (15)
  • One study of pedestrian fatalities by French researchers showed that a significant number were associated with a "change of mode" --- for example, moving from car to foot --- as if the authors speculated, drivers leaving their vehicles still felt a certain invulnerability (20)
  • Studies, as I mentioned earlier in the book, have shown that cars waiting to make left turns against oncoming traffic will accept smaller gaps in which to cross (i.e. more risk) the longer they have been waiting (i.e., as the desire for completing the turn increases).  Thirty seconds seems to be the limit of human patience for left turns 
  • ...a study by Quality Planning Corporation, a San Francisco-based insurance research firm, found doctors to have the second-highest crash risk in an eight-month sample of a million drivers, just after students (whose risk is largely influenced by their young age (258).
  • Studies by geographers have shown that people tend to overestimate distances on routes that are "segmented," versus those where the destination is in sight (147)
  • In the 1960s, as Jane Jacobs described in her classic book The Death and Life of Great American cities, a small group of New Yorkers, including Jacobs herself, began a campaign to close the street cutting through Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village.  Parks were not great places for cars, they suggested...The traffic people predicted mayhem.  What happened was the reverse:  Cars, having lost the best route through the park, decided to stop treating the neighborhood as a shortcut.  Total car traffic dropped ---and both the park and the neighborhood are doing just fine (156).
  • A study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that the second-leading cause of distraction-related crashes (behind fatigue) was "looking at crashes, other roadside incidents, traffic, or other vehicles") (163)
  • Most crashes, after all, happen on dry roads, on clear, sunny days, to sober drivers (185)  
  • The nations that rank as the least corrupt---such countries as Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, and Singapore --- are also the safest places in the world to drive (236).
Traffic Statistics
  • ...commute times have also been expanding.  One of the fastest-growing categories in the last "commuting census" in the United States was that of "extreme commuters," people who spend upward of two hours a day in traffic (moving or otherwise).  Many of these are people pushed farther out by higher home prices, past the billboards that beckon "If you lived here, you'd be home by now," in a phenomenon real estate agents call "drive till you qualify"...In 1969, nearly half of American children walked or biked to school;  now just 16 percent do.  From 1977 to 1995, the number of trips people made on foot dropped by nearly half.  This has given rise to a joke:  In America, a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car (16).  
  • In the 1950s, studies revealed that about 40% of daily trips per capita were "work trips."  Now the nationwide figure is roughly 16%.  It's not that people are making fewer trips to work but they're making so many other kinds of trips.  What kinds of trips?  Taking the kids to school or day care or soccer practice, eating out, picking up dry cleaning.  In 1960 the average American drove 20.64 miles a day.  By 2001, that figure was over 32 miles. (132)
  • In an average year, more people were killed in the United States on Saturday and Sunday from midnight to three a.m. than all those who were killed from midnight to three a.m. the rest of the week (250)
  • More people die in pickups per 100 million vehicles registered than in any other kind of vehicle
  • Intersections are crash magnets---in the United States, 50 percent of all road crashes occur at intersections.  At a four-way intersection, there are a staggering fifty-six potential points of what engineers call "conflict" or the chance for you to run into someone---thirty--two of these places where vehicles can hit vehicles, and twenty-four are spots where vehicles can hit pedestrians.  Roundabouts sharply drop the total number of potential conflicts to sixteen, and, thanks to their central islands (which create what engineers call "deflection"), they eliminate entirely the two most dangerous moves in an intersection:  cross directly through the intersection, often at high speed, and making a left turn. (178).
  • When the urban planner Donald Appleyard surveyed San Francisco in the 1970s, he found that on streets with more road traffic, people had fewer friends and spent less time outside.  In the same way that traffic has been blamed for habitat fragmentation of the wild, cutting off species from foraging areas or reducing the tendency of birds to breed, high traffic helps starve social interaction on human streets (maybe this is how congestion hurts romance).  Somewhat paradoxically, Appleyard found that people who lived on the streets with less traffic (who made more money and were more likely to own their own homes actually created more traffic themselves, while the people who lived on the high-traffic streets were less able to afford cars. The rich in effect, were taxing the poor (160)
  • If you drive an average of 15,500 miles per year, as many Americans do, there is a roughly 1 in 100 chance you'll die in a fatal car crash over a lifetime of 50 years of driving (249)

  • When bicyclists violate a traffic law, research has showed it is because, in the eyes of drivers, they are reckless anarchists;  drivers meanwhile are more likely to view the violation of a traffic law by another driver as somehow being required by the circumstances (23-24).
  • The best thing engineers can do, the thinking has gone, is make it easy.  "You can't violate driver expectation," says Granda. (183)
  • A cyclist, for example, may feel safer riding on the sidewalk instead of the street.  But several studies have found that cyclists are more likely to involved in a crash when riding on the sidewalk.  Why?  Sidewalks, though separated from the road, cross not only driveways but intersections---where most car-bicycle collisions happen.  The driver, having already begun her turn, is likely to expect--and thus to see---a bicyclist emerging from the sidewalk.  The cyclist, feeling safer, may also be less on the lookout for cars (268)
  • Studies have shown that people take longer to leave a parking spot when another driver is waiting (44)
  • The reason people cruise is simple:  They're hunting for a bargain (149)

Communication Problems when Driving
  • Being in a car renders us mostly mute.  Instead of complex vocabularies and subtle shifts in facial expression, the language of traffic is reduced --- necessarily, for reasons of safety and economy ---- to a range of basic signals, formal and informal, that convey only the simplest of meanings...Frustrated by our inability to talk, we gesture violently or honk---a noise the offending driver might misinterpret (21)
  • When a driver is cut off by another driver, the gesture is read as rude, perhaps hostile.  There is no way for the offending driver to indicate that it was anything but rude or hostile (22)
  • It is often impossible to even send a message to the offending driver in the first place.  Yet we still get visibly mad, to an audience of no one.  Katz argues that we are engaging in a kind of theatrical storytelling, inside of our cars, angrily "constructing moral dramas" in which we are the wronged victims --- and the "avenging hero" --- in some traffic epic of larger an effort to create a "new meaning" for the encounter, we will try to find out something after the fact about the driver who wronged us (perhaps speeding up to see them), meanwhile running down a mental list of potential villains (e.g., women, men, teenagers, senior citizens, truck drivers, Democrats, Republicans, "idiots on cell phones," or, if all else fails, simply "idiots") before finding a suitable resolution to the drama (23)
  • This seems like an on-road version of what psychologists call the "fundamental attribution error"....we ascribe the actions of others to who they are...meanwhile we attribute our own actions to how we were forced to act in specific situations (23).
  • The desire to "catch" a green makes drivers speed up at precisely the moment they should be looking for vehicles making oncoming turns or entering the main road from a right tun on red.  The high placement of traffic lights also puts drivers' eyes upward, away from the street and things like the brake lights of the slowing cars they are about to hit.  Then there are the color-blind drivers who cannot make out the red versus green, and the moments when sunlight washes out the light for everyone (179).
Theorizing Drivers
  • People are free to terrorize others on the road because their identity is largely protected.  The road is not a private place, and speeding is not a private act (59).
  • Each safe trip we take reinforces the image of a safe trip (249)
  • So why is Belgium a more dangerous place to drive [than the Netherlands]?  An answer of sorts may be found in another kind of index, one that more or less aligns with the GDP but often diverges in interesting ways:  corruption (235).
  • In traffic, laws are only as good as the norms regarding them (241).
  • When the engineers build something, "[Psychologist Tom] Granda says, 'the question everybody should ask is, What effect will it have on the drivers?  How will the driver react, not only today, but after the driver sees that sign or lane marking over a period of time?  Will they adapt to it? (182)
  • The above-average effect helps explain resistance (in the early stages, at least) to new traffic safety measures, from seat belts to cell phone restrictions...We think stricter laws are a good idea for the people who need them (60).
  • "unintnernalized externalities."  This means that you are not feeling the pain you are causing others.  Two legal scholars at the University [of] California at Berkeley have estimated, for example, that every time a new driver hits the road in California, the total insurance cost for everyone else goes up by more than $2,000.  We do not pay for the various emissions our cars create---to take just one case, the unpaid cost of Los Angeles' legendary haze is about 2.3 cents per mile.  Nor do we pay for he noise we create, estimated by researchers at the University of California, Davis, to be between $5 billion and $10 billion per year. (160)
  • Even if the occupants of cars themselves were safer, he maintained, the increase in car safety had been offset by an increase in the fatality rate of people who did not benefit from the safety features ---pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.  As drivers felt safer, everyone else had reason to feel less safe (264).
Ideas to "Fix" Traffic Problems
  • Most people would prefer to face the danger of the street," he wrote, "rather than the fatigue of getting upstairs."  The woonerven reversed this idea, suggesting that it was people who lived in cities and that cars were merely guests (191).
  • One way of increasing capacity is rerouting demand (169).
  • ...a properly designed roundabout can reduce delays by up to 65 percent over an intersection with traffic signals or stop signs (124) 

Shouts to Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles, like all cities, is essentially a noncooperative network.  Its traffic system is filled with streams of people who desire to move how they want, and where they want, when they want, regardless of what everyone else is doing.  What traffic engineers do is try to simulate, through technology and signs and laws, a cooperative system. (111)
  • No city in the world has more traffic reports or traffic reporters than Los Angeles...(114)

Other Interesting Studies Cited
  • Eye contact greatly increases the chances of gaining cooperation in various experimental games (31) 
  • People who go to traffic court, [legal scholar Tom] Tyler found, are less concerned with the outcome---even when it is a costly ticket or fine---than with the fairness of the process (235)
  • A study by a group of U.S. economists found that women were less likely to engage in hypothetical corruption, that female managers in one country they studied were less likely to engage in actual corruption, and that the countries that rank as least corrupt on the global indices tend to have more women in government (243).
Other Interesting Quotes
  • Here we must remember the old dictum about what keeps a university running smoothly:  'Beer for the students, parking for the faculty, and football for the alumni.' (145)
  • In the first decade of the twentieth century, forty-seven men tried to climb Alaska's Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak.  They had relatively crude equipment and helicopter-assisted rescues were quite frequent, each decade saw the death of dozens of people on the mountain's slopes.  Some kind of adaptation seemed to be occurring:  The knowledge that one could be rescued was either driving climbers to make riskier climbs (something the British climber Joe Simpson has suggested);  or it was bringing less-skilled climbers to the mountain.  The National Park Service's policy of increased safety was not only costing more money, it perversely seemed to be costing more lives --- which had the ironic effect of producing calls for more 'safety' (266)
  • Grimly tally the number of people who have been killed by terrorism in the United States since the State Department began keeping records in the 1960s, and you'll get a total of less than 5,000---roughly the same number, it has been pointed out, as those who have been struck by lightning (271).

2 Hours from West LA to Long Beach

2 Hours.

In 2 Hours, I could drive to Santa Barbara, I could drive to San Diego.

In the Western part of LA, 2 Hours affords you 30 Miles.  A marathon runner could almost keep pace.  A very good one at least.

That 2 hours is what it took me to get from Beverly Hills to Central Long Beach from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM.

I was rushing to make a tutoring appointment from my other job and almost failed miserably.
I had to be there by 3:30 for an hour tutoring session that lasts till 4:30.

The first mistake was using a combination Wilshire Blvd towards UCLA.  The five-lane virtual highway was packed to capacity.  A large number of cars decided to either U-turn or turn on the next available side street.  It took about 15 minutes to get out of Beverly Hills to go from the 8300s to the 11000th block of Wilshire.

2:45.  I've traveled barely 4 miles.

OK, fine, I'll just speed by when I get to the 405.

Trying to get on the 405 S(mistake), I took Santa Monica Blvd.  Traffic never quite eases up.  Another 15 minutes.

3:02.  This is when I realize the impossibility of getting to Central Long Beach in 28 minutes.  That is still 26 miles away.

I think of the hard cover book that I picked up for $1 by Tom Vanderbilt, a book called Traffic. 

As I turn onto the Southbound ramp full of other drivers who'd been waiting. I think constantly of the metaphor he'd used to describe unexplained traffic jams.  That of rush of water having to fit into one tiny hole.

Amidst this glut, I experiment for awhile with techniques from the book, going 30 MPH, trying to maintain a steady space, meanwhile, allowing many drivers to cut into my lane.

It is 3:15 by the time, I reach the Univision sign in Culver City on the 405.  20 miles to go in 15 minutes.  It has taken a solid 45 minutes just to travel 10 miles.

But the impersonality of traffic doesn't care.

My Corolla limps along the highway.  Having gotten only 2 hours of sleep the night before, I get in a few micro-sleeps while my car moves at an elite marathoner runner's pace.

I nod off and wake myself up at different intervals.  I think of how the curves on the freeway are designed to wake drivers up, another insight from Vanderbilt's book.

3:30 slips by unnoticed in my mid-day drowsiness.  I am barely in Lawndale, some 15 miles away from Long Beach.

I eventually pull into the sidewalk, and my clock reads:  5:38.  It's a clock that actually means 4:23 PM, unchanged since Daylight Savings Time and 13 minutes ahead.

Woman Killed on PCH in West Long Beach; Don't Pay Attention Nothing to See!

Yesterday morning, my significant other alerted me to the traffic she experienced on the way to work. 

She'd noted that the traffic going the opposite way towards Wilmington was backed up.  She'd seen someone on the streets bawled up, but she had no clue what had happened.

Turns out a pedestrian was killed on this stretch of PCH.

This as I was reading about the death of a bicyclist on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

First of all, maybe I'm too new to following these bicycling and pedestrian deaths, but it's a really sad event.

Sad that a life has ended because of the careless usage of a high-powered machine, and it appears we may not not know the facts unless someone digs it out.  I wish I could, but I do not have the time or the money to research, just the time to make noise about things that affect me.

Sad because it doesn't appear that anybody will be at fault.

Sad because it doesn't appear that anyone will care. 

Sad that because the victim's death could be easily dismissed she's identified not only as "woman" but with the words "transient" or "homeless."  Somehow its OK and quite "natural" in journalism to mark the victim by their living conditions, especially if they're poor;  conversely it would be 'unnatural' to mark the woman with the car, who hit and killed the victim with "homeful" or "well-monied enough to be driving."

Its a route that I'd taken a few days ago in the wee hours of the morning and have taken it in the dark. I'd taken it just as gas suddenly jumped up 30 cents in So Cal.

This is a super-dangerous part of PCH to bike as I've noted in previous blogs. 


Based on my informal, completely random observations, people are "walking in the streets over there for some reason" usually are hauling some kind of cargo to trade at the recycling center, though 5:40 AM seems a bit early to be moving towards the center.

Morning time on PCH from Wilmington to East Long Beach is dangerous, but you find lots of pedestrians and bicyclists walking on its sidewalks single-file, barely skipping a beat in their strides as they stroll past 16 wheelers trying to speed onto the 710 freeway on-ramps.  What these pedestrians and bicyclists do, I call persistence bicycling and pedestrianism. 

It appears that their destinations are usually about participating in some kind of economic development and exchange and can be roughly divided into the following:  1) Workers headed for some kind of industry work  2)  People hauling cargo via bicycle, shopping cart to a recycling Center  3)  students bicycling, skateboarding, and walking to Cabrillo High School.  Seems like more attention needs to be foisted upon this area.

Responding to Slate's 'Why You Hate Cyclists': Drivers Not Irrational, Simply Don't Expect Bicyclists

It's not because all because drivers are 'irrational.'

What would be "irrational", and by "irrational", I mean 'devoid of sound judgment', would be if drivers did look at these stats of bicycle accidents, deaths day-after-day, and then still continue to drive recklessly.

But fact is, most drivers probably don't see those stats, let alone seek out and mine and monitor the latest bicycle incidents.  In all likelihood, drivers don't care what bicyclists do, just as long as they're out of the way.

The problem is not that too many drivers are 'irrational' or whatever label bicyclists want to plaster upon them, it is simply this:  most drivers, least here in LA simply do not expect bicyclists to be on the streets.  This means that drivers usually do not 'anticipate' bicyclists. 

There's a reason LA is branded as having a 'car culture';  most people expect cars to take them any and everywhere with efficiency.  For example, my folks expect their Honda CRV to take them from the abode in the San Fernando Valley to my mom's job in South LA everyday, back and forth.  My godsis, a new hardcore bicyclist takes her Prius from her house in Highland Park in LA to her job down here in Long Beach.  Even if they don't really like cars, they depend on it as a basic necessity as they travel far from home to job.  The car gets each of them where they need to be, but each of them are more sympathetic to bicyclists.

But not everyone bikes, or knows me or any bicyclist period, and won't approach bicyclists with the same bit of caution and/or sympathy.

Implicit in the expectation of efficient travel is an expectation amongst many that automobiles are the only vehicles with the right of way on the streets, leaving little room for any other modes of transportation.  The resulting tensions between bicyclists and drivers are problems of environmental design and culture, not one of bad decision-making either by bicyclists and/or drivers

Speaking from my lens as a former driver-only still surrounded by tons of people who drive everywhere, most drivers view bicyclists on the street (as opposed to the sidewalks) as nothing more than anomalies.  We are nothing more than "obstacles" for which fast-moving drivers feel the need to speed around.  A lot of the time drivers tell me they aren't sure what to do when a bicyclist is on the street sharing with them.

Drivers do not expect, do not anticipate, and so are not 'prepared' to 'deal' with bicyclists, especially on streets with no large and/or clear street markings.  Now from my own experience as a bicyclist, a lot of drivers will switch to another lane, speed up, and immediately switch back, or speed by me, barely skinning me.  Sometimes, they will add a honk or a yell.  Many times I've been tempted to carry heavy objects in my bag to launch back at many a reckless driver.

Much as I'm tempted to counter a driver's 'emotional' overreaction with my own 'emotional' overreaction, it's a tension continually fueled by roads designed to facilitate automobile traffic only.  It's a tension that will continue to manifest if there aren't changes to the designs of roads.  It's a tension that will continue unless there are large, clear reminders in the form of signage and street markings to drivers that they expect...bicyclists.

When I think of drivers expecting bicyclists to be on the road as a potential big difference-maker, I think to events where streets are closed off to an automobile traffic.  I think of street fairs, Marathons, and triathlons.  People, drivers, bicyclist, expect the streets to close and respect them, allowing for pedestrian and/or bicycle traffic to actually populate what is usually the domain of cars.  Unless really old and/or de-ranged, drivers don't "irrationally" barge through cones or "Road Closed" signs.  Now, that would be irrational.

I think most drivers don't get mad when they know what to expect on the roads;  people can work their way with or around whatever is expected.  That's what I've learned from observing how drivers avoid those street fairs, Marathons, and Triathlons.  I think if you were to do a survey it's largely the unexpected occurrences, against which people don't know how to react, that pisses people off. 

When they know to expect something, it seems like people don't get as entitled, therefore not as mad or as hateful. 

Drivers need to be made to expect bicyclists to be on the road. 

That can be done in a number of ways.  In the short-term it seems it'll be through big group rides, and more people being on the streets.  Maybe we need to create more reasons for people to be on the streets, more ciclavias, runs, street fairs, etc.  Long-term, it needs to be through big signs and street markings, though arguably guerrilla versions of those infrastructural changes can be created.

Brief History of Puvungna: Cal State Long Beach Is a Holy Land

During my time in Long Beach, I've spent a lot of time with Cambodians.  Cambodians number just under 20,000 or so in the City of Long Beach, and 44,000 in LA County.  Most of them came during the 1980s after stays in refugee camps, the result of social fracture and disorganization after the Khmer Rouge regime.  Today, in 2012, we see a new generation of Cambodian-Americans:  Long Beach and other places in the United States is home and whatever environment they've grown up is their adopted "culture."

The very last semester of my classes, however, I took a slight turn away from hanging with the Cambodians.  For a project in media and ethnography, I spent time and energy researching the CSULB Special Collections for who and what used to be on Cal State Long Beach.

Cal State Long Beach is known not just as a University but as the birthplace of the Gabrielino-Tongvan deity Chingishnish. Cal State Long Beach itself erected a sign in the 1970s supporting this legend.  They used this legend in some promotional materials for the school.

The legend of Chingishnish had been first recorded in history by Franciscan missionary Geronimo Boscana in the 1820s, around the time that the California Missions had been losing financial support from Spain to continue on.  When we interviewed her, Cindi Alvitre, one of the leaders of the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe today, said that her grandfather would tell her stories about how he was not told to speak too loudly around the area near Cal State Long Beach, by then, sometime in the 1900s, known as the Bixby Farm, because it was "sacred land."

The legend of Chingishnish has been questioned for a while now, mostly by academics.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Anthropologists were disputing just exactly what the legend of Chingishnish meant:  was he a deity or a historical figure?  John Harrington thought he was a historical figure.  Alfred Kroeber, a big name in early Anthropology, questioned the overall historicity and tradition of the Chingishnish beliefs, stating that their beliefs arose as a response to the growth of the California Missions.  

Long Beach proved to be something of a hot spot for archaeologists from the 1920s onward.  According to a survey in 1993 by Scientific Research Surveys, there are officially 35 archaeological sites in Eastern Long Beach.  Artifacts had been uncovered and verified in the 1950s near what is now the Los Altos Shopping Center, which is known as LAn-270, and at a site called LAn-702 discovered in 1974.  Puvungna has historically been placed at LAn-306 at the top of Bixby Hill on Rancho Los Alamitos.  This is about a mile away from where the big discovery was to be made.

In 1972, a big discovery was made at the Cal State Long Beach campus.  A skeleton was found   where a sprinkler system was being installed next to an organic garden.  This was a site designated by archaeologists as LAn-235 and had already been a point site of interest since 1960 when Kenneth Dixon had uncovered some artifacts.

The Coroner’s office eventually found the skeleton to be “human and of antiquity beyond concern of the Coroner.” Additionally the office found that it was buried in a way consistent with an “ancient burial.” On this basis, Cal State Long Beach Archaeologist Kenneth Dixon registered the site on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

With this new designation of LAn-235 as a Historic Place, the university stopped plans for future development throughout the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s.  They stopped plans to build housing for a president.  On an archaeological site site designated LAn-234, right next to LAn-235 they erected a sign commemorating the historic designation and even featured the legend of Puvungna in their marketing materials.  

In the early 1990s, conflict arose again. Part of the LAn-235 land had been dedicated for use as a community garden since the 1970s.  The Tongva had determined that the community garden was "not in conflict" with its past as a site of religious significance.  However, the university had other plans. The university went public with plans to not only "delete" the community garden but first build a parking lot en route to building a strip mall and housing.  The short documentary Sacred Land, White Man's Laws outlined the conflict.

A lot of the legal conflict seemed to flame out when a new chancellor Robert Maxson scrapped the strip mall plans and promised in 1995 to preserve the land.  He kept his promise till when he left in 2005.  There hasn't been much outward conflict with the incumbent chancellor F. King Alexander who replaced Maxson, but it hasn't been all positive.  In 2007, two professors at CSULB and six tribal members proposed to develop Indigenous Educational Facility on Lot 20 as had been planned in 1978.  The offer has not been declined per se, but there hasn’t been action towards its establishment.

Today, though probably not over, the conflict seems to be contained within the theoretical and the academic world between Archaeologists/Anthropologists.  Matthew Boxt and L.Mark Raab, Archaeologists from Cal State Northridge and hired by Cal State Long Beach to survey the sites, wrote papers criticizing advocates of Puvungna. They opined that ideas of what Puvungna was and is were influenced largely by Anthropological work.  In the vein of Kroeber, they hinted that tradition was sort of fabricated by not those studied, but by those who were doing the studying.  At their worst, they took special aim at CSULB emeritus professor of Anthropology/Archaeology Keith Dixon, saying that he'd invented the idea of there being a village of Puvungna.

Meanwhile, Dixon maintains that very rarely does an archaeological site match up with a purported legendary site and that he was merely following the ethnohistorical evidence. 

The Lives of Cambodian Seniors in the LBC

Every day in LA, I discover something new.  This, as a lifelong LA resident, whose had work and home connections from the SF Valley, the SG Valley, Long Beach, South LA, Central LA, East LA, West LA, hell even mother-effin' Lancaster. 

There are also still towns in here I have had little to no interface with.  Just the other day on a bike round through Paramount Boulevard, it was the cities of Paramount and Downey. Who'd a thunk that there would be a happening place down in Downey?  As I was biking through, I wondered about the histories of people, places, and things there. What strikes me then as had always fascinated me while living in Silver Lake and staring at the rows of houses were the vastly different worlds from unit to unit.

For the past two years, I've been thrown and thrown myself into Long Beach, and in particular people in the more public aspects of the Cambodian community.

Last year at about this time, I was taking an internship class through my Anthropology program. The objective of the class was to learn about the art of grant-writing.  There was an applied twist to it as well:  we would be writing the grant for a group of Cambodian Seniors.

A group of Anthropology students and I, encouraged over and over by professors to fuse work in our classes, had the idea of making a movie about some seniors who worked at a community garden on Martin Luther King Park.  The same Martin Luther King Park featured in pretty much every 90s Long Beach rap hit.  We came up with a short documentary called "Garden without Roots."

Ostensibly our film was about community gardening at Martin Luther King Park and a backyard,  how these gardens form a place of gathering for them, but that they lack space in general. It was quite a challenge for our first film being that we had no experience behind a camera, none of us spoke Khmer, and we needed translators.

What struck me however was not what we eventually produced, but the stories, experience, and wisdom I learned from them absent the camera.

Cliche-sounding, but it was experience and wisdom that I wish would be broadcasted on national network television or hell at the very least, KCET, local television.  That better than reruns and repeats of films in America.

One man in particular I learned a lot from.

Adam, one of the other producers of the film, had originally noticed him on our very first day of shooting as the guy "intensely watering the plants."

One day outside of shooting, I took another friend, a 2nd generation Cambodian-American woman and Anthropologist whom I called "Savagery" one day to come and converse with one of the seniors, a man named Kea Cheng and can be seen in the video.  Savagery was fluent in Khmer and talked a long while with him.

Kea is no stranger to local media, as he's been featured twice in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, once as a social services client who missed his white savior, and the other time as a worker of the very Cambodian Seniors Nutrition program featured in our video. Neither article mentioned much about his personal stories, not that these articles were the appropriate venue for them.

From the conversation Kea had with Savagery, I learned that about the harshness of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from 1975 - 1979 towards him and the tragedies of his life.  He would use human manure to fertilize plants.  If plants weren't watered thoroughly and/or correctly, he would face punishment.  He'd lost many family members, and fairly recently, a son. 

Him talking about this with Savagery, and it being apparently his first time talking to a Cambodian-American, was something that ignited the video documentary project.

As months rolled on, I got to know more about Kea and other seniors.  I'd forged a bound with Kea based on the fact that he would bike everywhere.  We would arrive at the same time on bike and lock up.  We couldn't quite speak to each other as he struggled with English and I struggled with Khmer.   With the help of translators, and his own efforts to speak English, I would later learn about his experience in the military, that he had a few daughters that were doing well in Cambodia.  I learned that he lived in a temple and had struggled with legal and social services in Long Beach, perhaps because of translation issues.

Every morning that we would film, I kept trying to talk in Khmer not to just Kea but everyone in our group.  A Herculean struggle --- I walked with a clipboard of important and circled verbs that I thought I'd use in conversation.

I was the source of much comedy when attempting to use the word for 'rice', I accidentally used the word 'girl.'  What I was trying to ask was whether or not he worked on the rice farm.  In Khmer, t'wer is the verb for "make" and is used interchangeably with the verbs "do" and "work".  Roughly translated I was supposed to ask him, "t'wer s'rai?"  "Did he make rice?"  Instead, I asked him 't'wer s'ray?", "Did he do women?"

The seniors laughed it up.  The way they let me know was when Phannaka, another "senior" in the film, went up to me with a pocketbook Cambodian-English dictionary and showed me the word 'rape' and the word for 'girl.' I was astounded because I thought she was trying to say something important, but she began to laugh in chorus with the other seniors and kept repeating what I said.

I had plenty of moments with them, despite not being able to communicate beyond hellos, and goodbyes with them.  One lady, Um Sath, would always greet me with a smile and an enthusiastic hello.  She probably didn't recognize my name but she knows my face, even as old as she gets.  "How are you today?  She always tells me in her English, "Yah so sa-weet!"  It's a line I love to repeat in my head every time.

You wouldn't know that her story by way of her personality.  Only later while working my grad assistantship at CamCHAP and searching through newspapers, did I learn that she'd lost her husband and children

When we weren't filming at the community gardens anymore, I would visit them at McBride Recreation Center otherwise known as California Recreation Center. one of the elders, Kim, would invite me to sit with her during meal time.  She would give me oranges, or donuts or milk and let the meal people know that I was cool to eat with them.  They all knew I was a poor student and served me as if I was one of their sons.  Being a starving student, I'd eat whatever was served along with them.  They'd pass me their milks and any food that was too American.

I actually did most of my talking with the translators Arun and Serey.

Arun was a former nurse during the regime and was sponsored here to learn English.  He'd also been some kind of actor; I joked that he was the Brad Pitt of our lil documentary.  I didn't think about it at the time but it was an interesting connection I unconsciously made since Brad Pitt actually does have an adopted Cambodian son by way of Angelina Jolie, named Maddox.

Serey, I didn't know much about till chancing upon a Press-Telegram article.  He was always a willing translator, and would always invite me to watch him play ping pong.  I loved how he looked like a gym coach, and it turns out that he was/is.  When Pacquiao fought, he was one of the first few to talk about him.  He would let me know what was going on with Kea, when Kea forgot to send in papers for work authorization. 

As for the Cambodian Seniors Nutrition program itself, I have not visited since May or June.  The last I had heard they were running out of funding from Little Tokyo Service Center in LA.  I'd hoped to check in late July, and it appeared that they were still up and running.

I don't view the people as weak, helpless, passive victims.  These are motherfuckin' survivors who co-own the word "survivors" with anyone who's outlasted a genocide.

 While I was still involved, I thought a lot about how these seniors could be used as assets in the community rather than seen as more people to pay for and account for.  It hit me that they are the expert teachers or gardeners or chefs, just without the title, capital, and prestige bestowed upon them.  Seems like its on us to learn from them.

Biking in LA: An Act of Trusting Strangers

I haven't been as dedicated a bicyclist as I had been the past two years, perhaps because of me now viewing my time as limited and spending most of it in Wilmington.

These days I'm around a lot of people who do not bike to commute, who at best view bicycling as a recreational activity.  My current girlfriend is one of them.

She owns the heaviest, but most stylish cruiser bike ever made.  Its like a 50-pound green bike with sunflowers on it.  It's really only made for beach cruising and nothing more.  We once took it on the back of my Corolla along with my road bike to a (Councilman) Tom Labonge bike ride where she rode a hellish 12 miles struggling to keep pace with a pack that seemed to all have road bikes.  She absolutely refuses the free, lighter mountain bike that my godsister is willing to donate to her.

She is quite terrified of the idea of biking on anywhere but the sidewalk.

Last Labor Day, we decided to bike from her place in East Wilmington to her parents' abode in West Wilmington.  It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time she'd biked in a long while.  She would do this even before she'd met me, but it would be on the sidewalk.

We rode a little bit on the road, I followed her from her back, making sure that if anyone was going to get hit, it would be me. It's a pretty calm ride, if not utterly boring for an LA biking veteran.  Good thing I had my iPhone bumping Paulina Rubio.  Despite taking only residential streets and having the luxury of this self-proclaimed "LA biking veteran" literally watching her back, there were still a few streets on which she clung to and rode the razor thin, crack-laiden sidewalk.

I was thinking of her experience as I rode from East Wilmington to Long Beach today.  Biking this route means biking industry-serving bridges that act as quasi-freeways on Pacific Coast Highway, big rigs, and drivers pressuring me to bike faster or get the hell out of their way.  Along the way along Poly, I passed 2 girls riding the wrong way on the street.

I had three thoughts, which sound a lot more organized as I write them out for you:

1)  I've seen quite a few bicyclists riding the wrong way in Long Beach on busy streets.  My girlfriend told me that "maybe" people rode the wrong way so they could "see the traffic" as opposed to being blind to it from behind.  I thought maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if one day bike lanes were big enough as a street lane and accommodated both directions in one lane on both sides of the street.  I'm not a traffic planner, and I doubt its feasibility given the dependency on automobiles, but it seems like this would do something to make the designs of street more bicycle-friendly.

2)  As all this was swirling in my head, and I kept thinking about the video of that motorist from Brazil running over a bunch of critical mass riders, and how cyclists could continue to be killed without much uproar, I had this thought:  biking and riding with traffic on the street in LA is one activity where you put an immense amount of trust and faith in strangers operating these high speed machines.  "Immense amount" meaning you're trusting a lot of people traveling, trying to get somewhere at their convenience and at an accelerated pace that we've become accustomed to, not to mess with you, your body, your bicycle, or your ability to bicycle.  If you're riding with traffic, you can't see what people with their 2-ton vehicles behind you are doing, which immediately puts your limbs, and life at risk.  It represents too much uncertainty in the crazy social worlds of uncertainty we already have.

I feel like I put too much trust in motorists.  Many times, it seems like doing so doesn't really pay off.

3)  If riding the bike with traffic represents uncertainty, and putting trust and faith in strangers, using the car to commute a short distance is due also in part to not trusting strangers behind the wheel.  When I was doing research for what I thought would be my thesis project, I came across a few LA Times and Press-Telegram articles about how public space in Long Beach was scary for women and children during the 90s:  kids would get jumped at bus stops.  For their safety, one woman would drive around her car 3 blocks to church to avoid walking the sidewalks.

Having and using a car represents a safe, secure, time-conscious way of moving around.  If biking could ever be made safe, secure, and time-conscious, then it would decrease dependence on the car.

Experiencing the LA Public Library Branch in Wilmington, CA

Been going to the Wilmington branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) system a handful of times, the last time being yesterday.

Its utility to me:

Internet, electricity, air conditioning, a place to get work done, and watch people in their oddness --- all for my favorite price --- absolutely FREE. 


1.  Working Wi-Fi.  Per most LAPL libraries, though one in South LA that I'd visited in 2008 didn't have one.  Also had a decent number of power outlets.
2.  It gets crowded when schools let out.  Quite a few want to use the internet.  The homework/copier room though is really empty.
3.  Bonus points for the job announcement boards.  Useful, though I'm not sure of the extent of its usability when the advertised jobs are for super-professional jobs with the City of LA, or City of Long Beach.


1.  No place to nap.  No comfortable chairs

Overall, a treasure in the community that should be expanded given the number of students who pour in after-school.  Noise might bother some people, but I'm glad the space got most of it all right.

Accounts of How 'Ghosttown' in Wilmington 'Got Clean'

When a long-time friend visited me in this part of Wilmington, he noticed that there were so many dogs in the neighborhood. Aggressive dogs held back only by sometimes very low fences, likely remnants of a past riddled with violence and the threat thereof.

For a little over 6 months, I've been a frequent visitor in a part of Wilmington that up until 2007 was full of drug-dealing.  A few times I've left valuable items in the car for a weekend and my car and its contents would remain untouched.  I've heard shootings at least twice, once at a school fair that I was actually at and saw someone react to, and once in some apartment. 

A lifelong resident commented, "you shouldn't be scared to live in your own neighborhood."

She talked about growing up in the West Side of Wilmington near what was known as the "PJs."  Also bad.  How during school, a helicopter would fly overheard during a shooting and tell everyone to run.  She talks about how girls would mess with her and her sisters, despite being out of the loop.

When I talked to a few other people who've lived there, they make it clear that being scared was exactly the situation residents faced.  That was the way of life there.  The accepted reality.

Another lady had a few gangster brothers who would claim streets.  She thought it was stupid because they'd never lived on a certain street they claimed. 

In broad daylight, drug dealers once snuck into their house.  Luckily they didn't steal anything noticeable or valuable.

The same lady talked about how for months she kept calling the police station or letting other people know otherwise what she had been seeing. A couple of neighborhood watch volunteers were actively monitoring the situation;  the lady kept asking them advice of how to handle the situation.  One volunteer said, "just keep calling the station and complaining."  So the lady pressed on.

One time this lady's neighbors had been making so much noise.  There was a lot of ruckus from people coming in and out.  She called the station.  No response.

She asked the volunteer, "why her complaints were not going through."

The volunteer assured her, "they're working on something big, so just be patient."

Weeks later, in the morning, the police had shut down the street she was on.  In sync, an army of police went in raided certain complexes.  Undercover cops as well as FBI agents had been on the case for months buying drugs and mounting evidence against them.  Those doing the deals were then evicted from the houses, the houses were sold quickly, and then "flipped."

"The neighborhood's been pretty relaxed since," said one guy.  "But it's a cycle.  There were periods when it was clean, and periods when it wasn't."

Running the Parks

As I've made my way up and down parks owned by the City of Los Angeles from the South Bay to the Valley, the one thing I like to do in all of them:  run.

Maybe it was Forrest Gump, maybe it's just habit, maybe it's the easiest way (for me) to feel like an athlete, but whatever it is, that's what I do when I'm not supposed to be writing a proposal, article, or thesis/dissertation.

When I lived in Silver Lake, I would lap Bellevue Park's dirt track over and over.

When I moved with my folks to the Valley, I would run the concrete perimeter sidewalk surrounding Panorama City Recreation Center.

Nowadays, you can find me every other day running either the perimeter or the grass at Banning Park in Wilmington.

But none of them compare to the one park I like in particular for running: the Sherman Oaks park.


Because of its sign and map indicating the distance of each running trail.

That's it.

I do use gmap-pedometer to see how much each of my runs (and bikes) are, but having the sign affirming the distance would be a permanent symbol for everyone to know how much is enough for them.

I think something as easy as that signage would create a lot more motivation, and make people perceive a space as "runnable."  You'd probably see a spike of more people outside running, which I wish I could confirm and observe, but at the moment can only propose, till a person or group of people with more clout than me make it happen.

Central Long Beach and those interested in "Building Healthy Communities", perhaps that's something to think about.

Conversation with a Man I Never Met

Rest peacefully, Mr. Willis Veluz-Abraham.

All I knew about you was that you were a bicyclist, UCLA grad, father, and husband to one of my undergrad advisors, Melissa, who served as a reference for me when I got out of UCLA. 

She was and probably still is a bomb advisor, a person in power that I always thought I related to best.  She was always trying to get me to join Kaymanan Ng Lahi.

I'd never met you, but I'd seen you existing in Melissa's picture frames, along with your children.  I looked at you guys and wondered, dang, what race is he?  Arabic?  Black?  Interracial mixing?  Cool!

I was happy for her and trusted her judgment that you were a good man.  I gave an awkward congratulations for your first kid to her over e-mail, and I didn't know you just had your second.

If you can, from wherever you are, I hope you can give Melissa, your kids, your other family members, and commuting and recreational bicyclists the strength to keep keeping on.


Brian J. Delas Armas

The Direction and Trajectory of Long Beach Biking

Went to an update of Long Beach's bike plan yesterday.  Last time it was updated:  the year 2000, 12 years ago.

Obviously, they're moving forward on projects and making a lot of changes in a few areas.

Most of the meeting consisted of the meeting facilitator, Allan Crawford, asking meeting attendees to introduce themselves and why they came to the meeting.  He would then try to tie in whatever people would say to some kind of new innovation.

I was surprised to get a bit of a history lesson.  According to Allan bicyclists were amongst the first advocates for roads in the 1900s.  They apparently didn't want to ride on mud and dirt.  So essentially, our roads were built for bikes. 

The 21st century Southern California finds most of its residents highly dependent on the automobile.  Now, more than ever, according to UCLA Transportation studies.  Over the last 15 years, there has no increase in overall population, but there are increases in overall traffic.  People are deeply immersed, enraptured if not having naturalized the automobile as the only feasible mode of transport

I found it interesting that in the federal budget, bicycling infrastructure received 1% of the funding, but apparently accounted for 12% of all trips.

When Allan stopped talking about history, he was talking about improvements in the physical as well as the social bike infrastructure:
  1. bike sharrows implemented in Belmont Shores, built along with bikeshare to increase the number of trips taken by bike
  2. the separated lanes in downtown Long Beach
  3. bicycling advocacy's apparent partnership with business districts
  4. bike education programs
Additionally, a powerpoint of the Direction of Long Beach biking was printed out.  There are 8 bike infrastructure projects:
  1. Pacific-San Antonio Corridor
  2. Daisy-Myrtle Blvd
  3. 15th Bike Blvd
  4. 6th Bike Blvd
  5. 3rd & Broadway finalization
  6. Bellflower/Clark/Broadway/Del Amo
  7. Queens Way Water Front Path
  8. GD Bridge

What I thought was missing in the described "Direction of Long Beach biking":
  • Not a fan of bike route signage or sharrows.  From an applied design, and real-time user experience, bike sharrows and class 2 "Bike Route" signage, in my humble opinion, do very little to inform drivers that they need to expect bicyclists on a road.  I know because I was one of those drivers who didn't know what the "Bike Route" signs meant till I actually got into bicycle advocacy.  No need for further proof of the ineffectiveness of Bike Route, Class 2 signage than one school weekday riding Pacific Coast Highway from the Blue Line to Cal State Long Beach.
  • The geographical areas gaining these improvements are two rich people areas;  I hardly ever venture in either direction;  unless I'm missing something West Long Beach, an industrial area with plenty of what I will call invisibilized, if not "persistent, resilient" riders who appear to haul a fair amount of goods for exchange, be it used cans or a freezer.
  • Bicycling advocacy's partnership with business districts is good; except for the part where the businesses get mad at the people biking on the sidewalks.  It's neglecting the reality that it's still too damn dangerous to ride the actual streets.
  • Bicycle education is necessary, but I think simple signage directing riders would be even better. 
More to come with each monthly meeting.  September 5, October 3, November 7, and December 5 are the meeting dates.

Key Newspaper Articles for Biking in Long Beach

Interactive Quiz Answers on the Rules of Biking in Long Beach (Press Telegram) 11/7/2010

Bicycling Conditions
  • Mapping out the most dangerous intersections in Long Beach (Press-Telegram) 12/19/2009
  • Bike thieves are on a roll (Press-Telegram) 2/19/2012
Progress on Bicycle Condition Improvement
  • Bike Lane Progress in Downtown (Gazettes) 1/23/2012
  • LA County updates bike plan (Long Beach Post) 2/28/2012
  • San Gabriel Bike Path to Get New Surface (Gazettes) 3/14/2012

Development of Long Beach's Branding as a Bicycle-Friendly City

  • Long Beach receives upgrade to Silver Bicycle Friendly City (Gazettes) 5/26/2012
  • Long Beach rising in the rankings of Friendly-bike cities in America from #23 to #19 (Press-Telegram) 5/28/2012
  • The very recent history of Long Beach being named the "most bicycle-friendly-city in America" (OC Weekly Part 1 ) (OC Weekly Part 2) (OC Weekly Part 3) 5/31/2012

Bicycling and Economic Development

  • Bikestation Long Beach moves to Downtown (Gazettes)  8/25/2011 
  • Opening of Long Beach Cyclery (Gazettes) 12/1/2011
  • Cycling-culture entrepreneurs moving to bike-friendly Long Beach (Press-Telegram) 12/23/2011
  • Opening of Bicycle Stand (Gazettes) 1/17/2012
  • Report on Bike-Friendly Business Districts (Long Beach Business Journal) 1/31/2012
  • Pedaler Society Offering Grocery Delivery Service (Gazettes) 1/27/2012
  • City-wide Discounts for Bicyclists (Long Beach Post) 3/13/2012 
  • Bike Shops in Long Beach (Long Beach Post) 4/23/2012

Events and Group Riders

  • National Center for Biking and Walking Will Have Conference in LB in 2012 (Gazettes) 10/5/2011
  • Bixby Rollers (Gazettes) 10/13/2011
  • Dengue Fever Bikes Through Cambodia Town (Long Beach Post) 9/12/2011
  • Bike for Art's Scavenger Hunt (Gazettes) 3/30/2012
  • Bikefest Tour of Long Beach Brings in Money (Gazettes) 5/3/2012
  • Fourth of July Bike Parade (Gazettes) 7/1/2012
  • Bikes 90800 Giving Juvenile Offenders a Chance (Daily News) 9/30/2004
  • Introduction to Bikestation Long Beach (Press-Telegram) 7/21/2008
  • Long Beach Bicyclists provide education as defense against accidents (Press-Telegram) 12/20/2009
  • Long Beach Bicycle Hub (Long Beach Post) 9/29/2011
  • The beginning of the Women on Bikes Program to increase female ridership (Press-Telegram) 2/8/2012
  • Bike Safety Rodeos (Gazettes) 2/19/2012

Accepted Realities: Bicyclists Being Killed

Nordhoff Avenue in the San Fernando Valley, specifically from Panorama City to Northridge is an actual bike route I used to take on the way to Cal State Northridge.  I would take it often to visit my CSUN friend, usually at night with just one backlight. 

Was never the safest, though at 2 AM the streets are empty. 

Ver Nordhoff en un mapa más grande

What the map won't say also is that Nordhoff Avenue has six lanes going in both directions from North Hills in the East to Northridge to the West.  When I rode this route, I would try to take up one lane.  I was just out there trying to be visible, and very very vulnerable. 

Turns out that a month ago, someone was actually killed in a hit-and-run accident on that very route.  76-year old Paul Albert Helfen was riding his bike at 2 AM in the morning and was struck by a Nissan Sentra.

2 AM definitely is not the best time to be out, but that doesn't mean it's the best time to clip and take someone's life.  The bicyclist that was out there and killed by the Sentra, could've actually been me.

I know that there have been many fatalities for people on bikes as reported by that Biking in LA;  it's tragic.  Every single killing is tragic.  It feels like there's something wrong when in news cycles, public discourse, and just our society and world in general when its easy to dismiss and ultimately forget about the death.  Its an accepted reality;  an incident we just kind of tolerate and take as normal, so that we may move on with our day-to-day lives.  It's like there's an utter disregard for life, usually because we don't know the person, what they were about.

Sometimes reading about fatalities and incidents on BikinginLA is like reading The LA Times Homicide Blog where you just read a bit about the person's life and ensuing tragedy that followed.

The tragedies in the Homicide Blog usually happen to marginalized, invisible people --- brown and black people --- usually somewhere in South LA, between South LA and Long Beach, or somewhere in Boyle Heights, or in the Mid-Upper San Fernando Valley.  Because the tragedy happens to marginalized, invisible people, the issue is marginalized and invisible.  They don't affect me because they don't directly implicate me or any of the categories I have been identified with or that I willingly actively identify with (However, just because I don't belong to those social categories of those marginalized and invisible people shouldn't de-value those lives).

Biking is done by people of all walks of life in every area of LA.  Biking as a means of transportation is marginalized and invisible;  most people travel by automobile or public transportation.  I guess a few things need to happen to curb this accepted reality:

  1. Biking needs to enter the reality and daily living of the majority of the lives of Angelenos.
  2. Ordinary and marginalized people need to become celebrities.  That is, we should know more about their trajectories in life so that readers identify a lot more with these people.  These reports of reports of these deaths need to talk about these people's lives, knowing about who they are, what they went through.
  3. The streets need to become less like "obstacle courses" that people navigate and rush through;  instead, they should become more like destinations in themselves that people can make meaning of and enjoy.  It seems like interactive maps can help with that.
Only then can these deaths can be less of an accepted reality.

Pacific Coast Highway from Long Beach to East Wilmington

The "bike-friendliness" of Long Beach.

The phrase "bike-friendliness" and any positive association with "Long Beach" will remain a big, cruel joke to me until I see some major structural improvement on two streets, namely Anaheim Street and Pacific Coast Highway, two streets I see plenty of bicyclists, though by heavy automobile traffic.

Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) having a bike route sign on it is the biggest joke of them all.

PCH from Cal State Long Beach to the tip of East Wilmington has 3 very dangerous places to bike:  1)  the PCH Roundabout  2)  the bridge from East Long Beach to West Long Beach  3)  the bridge from West Long Beach to Wilmington.

Basically, PCH is very adverse in general to bicycles, but those 3 transition places are even scarier and are the focus of this post.  Visual evidence in the form of videos after the jump.

1)  The PCH Roundabout

Look at the video below and tell me if you think the cars zipping by at 50 mph on the roundabout are concerned about that stupid microscopically-little, utterly insignificant bike route sign.

Somehow, this is a "bike route."

I'm not complaining about this designation as a bike route, but I'm complaining about how this so-called "bike route" is absolutely NOT designed for much biking.  It is a "bike route" in name, but does not represent what I think a "bike route" is in reality, that is safe enough that I could take my mom and sister biking on the route.

The Streets as Obstacle Courses

I recently had an epiphany about road rage and why I, a bicyclist and occasional driver, had it.

Its usually about "limits."

When behind an automobile, I don't speed up and overtake or even bicyclist because I want to compete with them and show them whose boss on the road. 

I speed up because I hate being "limited" by anything in front of me.

It's the same story for a fast-riding recreational bicyclist/driver, and being in his car is where I had this epiphany.  He really hates being limited by anything in front of him, and so whether its his fixie or his stick shift Subaru, he's off to the races.

Urban Adonia used the frame of the "obstacle course" to describe the collective and individual mentality possessed by some automobilers and perhaps some bicyclists on the road.   "Obstacle course" meaning that there are objects in the road automobilers and bicyclists face, and the viewpoint the rushing automobilers and bicyclists adopt is that they must arduously get around them.  This frame is a contrast to the idea of the "livable" or "complete" street, in which speeds of automobiles are not so intimidating, but inviting to the idea of pedestrians walking, and biking is safe, even a preferred mode of travel. 

What makes an "obstacle course" an "obstacle course" is not just the difficulty of manuevering posed by the spatial arrangement of barriers but the expectation held by some entity of getting past those barriers within a certain period of time.

If you're a bicyclist on a four lane-road with little room for a bicycle lane and you're "taking up one lane" (as you're legally allowed to, and should be), you're not permitting automobilers to pass in their expected certain period of time.  If you the automobiler/bicyclist doesn't pass through in the expected period of time, they incur "lost time."  "Lost time" means lost opportunities.  In the context of bicycling, this means that time spent waiting behind a bicyclist and/or actually bicycling yourself means a whole lot of opportunities lost.

Having incurred a reptuation as a fierce bicyclist my 1st year of grad school, my professors would routinely tell me that they would bicycle, but they didn't have the time.  They had kids to take to school, other responsibilities, and commitments to fulfill.  Riding around Long Beach on a bicycle wasn't feasible for them because they didn't have time as a resource or "time on their side."  

If you on the road are not permitting automobiles whether you're on a bike or another automobile, you represent a "limit", "an obstacle". You are a micro-impediment to one driver's freedom, 'freedom' in the context of the road, meaning the ability "to choose" how fast you drive as if it were all a matter of human rights.

If you think about the road as an obstacle course and how fast you drive as a matter of freedom, we the drivers and bicyclists routinely limit each other's freedoms.  We are always in the way of each other's license to go bucwild.

To move beyond the view of the road as an "obstacle course", seems like we have to move to a point on more of our roads where either time isn't stressed and/or the expectation to move at speeds conducive to biking/walking becomes an asset rather than a liability.

The Habitus of Entitlement

The 93 Bus coming from Cal State Long Beach approaches.

7:10 or so at the Library stop.

I scoop up my bag and struggle for my bike.

As I approach the bus, It seems like I've dropped something. A split second later with an ultra-quick survey of the concrete sidewalk, it just sounds like my headphones from my iPod hitting the ground, so I assume I haven't lost anything. I can't really check; there's no time! I've got to still load up my bike, get on, and find my student ID to swipe for my ride home to Lakewood.

I load my bike, with some difficulty lifting the holding latch.

I hastily move in, let one gentleman pass, locate my ID in my pouch, and swipe my ID card.

I survey the seats available, looking for a seat up front to watch my bike. Usually these are the seats facing forward, looking the direction forward.

The only available seats are either in the back of the bus or the three seats at the very front facing the direction sideways open to anyone, but are prioritized for seniors and the handicapped. Of those three seats available, there is a seat occupied by a woman on crutches and she is seated behind the bus driver.

Usually I'd like to give people their space, especially this handicapped woman, and I would have sat on the edge of the third seat, leaving the middle seat open.

Impinging upon that third seat is one guy sitting forward who has his foot up on the leftmost seat facing sideways. A young white man with a crew cut.

I attempt to sit down, expecting that out of common courtesy this young man would remove his foot from the seat and allow me to sit.

Nope. He kept his foot there.

I sit in between the middle chair and the third chair, uncomfortable.

He kept listening to his music on his phone, defying what I thought was common courtesy.

I was tempted to take a picture of his foot with my shnazzy iPhone and post his stupidity on here, but I didn't pull the trigger.

After 5 minutes and some bus stops where my right leg is about to touch his well-rested foot, he reluctantly budges as I hear him sigh, retracting his foot and instead of putting it on the seat, butting it against the side of the seat.

About 5 more minutes later at a stop, after people have gotten off and on, the bus driver from his seat calls out "young man, could you please remove your foot off the chair."

I look around quickly and instantly get happy because it appears he's talking to this white guy.

"Young man, young man..." the bus driver repeats till this guy takes his headphones off and realizes he's being talked to.

"Young man, could you please remove your foot off the chair. Thank you."

I wanted to clap and breathe an air of relief.

The white guy removes his foot, saying "Oh geeze" and reluctantly slumps forward looking like he's ready to bomb or Dylan Klebold the bus full of ethnic people.

I get scared of what this guy might do, as he was slumping forward still, aggressively not allowing enough space for me to sit on that third seat and sitting somewhat still as if focused, ready to premeditate something. It felt like his eyes were burning into me, much in the same way that eyes were burning into me when I got assaulted on the Metro by the schizophrenic.

About 2 minutes later, the bus driver at another stop, walks back to my part of the bus and tells another young man, behind lil Dylan Klebold, this time a black guy to "take his foot off the chair." The young black guy obliges.

Two more minutes later, the next stop comes and lil Dylan Klebold makes his way to exit the bus, but not without giving someone who thanks the bus driver a dirty look.

After he exits the bus, he walks slowly staring back in through the windows. He even looks back inside as if looking for revenge. How dare we take away his foot-resting privileges and try to do something as civil as sitting down.

He vanishes into the night. Once he's out of sight.

The black guy and I exchange a knowing smile and a headshake: WTF was that about.

Video: Cerritos, CA on South Street - Where Regard for Green Forms of Transportation Goes to Die

I had to get brown rice from a Filipino market. Just had to.

None in Lakewood.  Had to go to Cerritos.

No problem.

Left on Paramount with a bike lane.  Just had to worry about making my way across 4 lanes to a bike lane.

Go north on Paramount till I reach South St.

I ride South St. Wide wide street, bike lane in a block.

Maybe one tight area, but mostly smooth sailing.

That is till I reach the Lakewood-Cerritos boundary on the same Street.

A cacaphony of bad and bicycle hazardry ensued.

That nice cushy bike lane devolved into this below:

I was so intimidated by traffic breathing on me that I went on the sidewalk.

And still found it difficult.

Again, continuing the themes in why No One F*cking Bikes of there being little room on streets for bikes, combined with high-speed traffic, and there being virtually no room for bikes on sidewalks.

This Is Why No One F*cking Bikes: Lakewood, CSULB, and the Cambodia Town Strip

The theme of the areas above:  tight sidewalks, tight streets. 

And not the tight as in the good tight, as in the oh-shit-I-can-lose-a-limb-kind of tight.

I think the tightness of the streets combined with sidewalks is just one of those things that make it difficult to bike.

I wish there was simple signage that told drivers to simply expect bicyclists.  Expect, expect, expect.  Acculturate, acculturate, acculturate.  To...biking as a legitimate form of transport on the street.

I've divided this post into 4 sections based on the sections of the city I passed through yesterday:  Lakewood, CSULB, Cambodia Town in Long Beach, and Bixby Knolls.

Here's a map of the spots, I took my shots.

Ver Lakewood, Long Beach en un mapa más grande

Now that I've been commuter-biking for over 3 years now, I've learned the "easy streets" to take.  Easy streets being the streets with a lower volume of traffic, generally, the two-way, residential streets. Unless those easy streets are dark and or bumpy (as in Westwood), to avoid any hassle, I will usually opt for that.

However, most people do not do what I do.  Out of convenience, personal safety, they will take the main, busy streets --- usually riding on sidewalks. 

Inevitably, in Lakewood and Long Beach, bicyclists will run into streets that have no room for bikes at all (less you want to take the lane and have a line of 10 cars breathing on your back at 40 mph), as is the case on Carson Street in Lakewood and Anaheim St. in Central and Eastside Long Beach.


In Lakewood, there's Carson Street, which actually has a bike lane around the Long Beach City College area, but offers not much else to the West of that approaching Lakewood.  To the West of that is a tight sidewalk and 3 lanes for cars to run at least 40-50 mph.

Check out how little room there is for any bicycle to fit;  believe it or not, but this street actually leads into a bike path, though many pedestrians at LBCC do not seem to know what the markings of the bike path mean.

Carson & Obispo, Lakewood, CA