This Is Why No One F*cking Bikes: Take One

Every time I tell or show people that my main mode of transportation, rain or shine, is a bicycle, people give me some kind of "damn" or "wow" type reaction.

It's like an accomplishment to be a commuting bicyclist. I don't think it should be, particularly, when roads are flat and the weather here in Southern California is almost always ideal, and the city of Long Beach isn't that large (unless you're traveling from North to CSULB or something).

Yet all the concessions made for cars with little for bikes has made biking Long Beach and LA an accomplishment.

I think it's obvious as to why lots of people don't bike in LA:  it's dangerous.

But what does "dangerous" mean, and what does that look like while on a bike?

I can immediately think of narrow bike lanes, the fact that cars moving anywhere from 40-50 mph on LA streets are usually inches within bicyclists, even on streets with "sharrows" or "bike lanes."

For me, "dangerous" while on a bike means I have to think too much about every move I make.

I have to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure some speeding right-lane driver with little concern for my left shoulder doesn't skin me or take my left arm with him.  When I'm on Cahuenga Boulevard en route to Universal Studios, I know I have to pedal quicker and harder if I feel the drivers behind me are pressuring me to go faster or get out of what they think is their god-given birthright to the road. 

In contrast, when I drive, there isn't too much thought about every move I make.  Virtually every street is open to me.  Most drivers (erroneously) think the road belongs to them.

Bicycles have a right to the road.  It is the goddamn mot$#$@#$@ law.

I've said this for a while now, and I'll say it till I'm blue in the face.

But the hard reality is I know that if I bike on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, a street which leads into bike lanes to Cal State Long Beach and below, drivers are still going to tailgate and pressure, and honk at me to get off the road.

Most drivers do not know or probably even care about this, that is until something tragic happens --- usually incidents that happen in silence, least if you don't keep up with this blog.

One Thursday afternoon, I decided to bike from school at Cal State Long Beach to my parents' home in the Valley. I decided to take pictures of all the things that made it tough to bike.

And it began with...

1) Bad to non-existent bike parking.

I began my morning early looking to stop for some food at my local drug store, only to barely find parking for my bike.

Yes, there was a bike rack where I could only lock up one bike wheel. As you can see above, my U-lock, can only wrap around one wheel - I usually use the U-lock to wrap both a wheel and the bike frame. Not going to going to cut it when biking is my main mode of transportation or just in general.

Though the mini-mall in which this Rite Aid was located could proudly say they had one bike rack, it also loses points because shoppers couldn't see whether part of their transportation investment is about to be taken.

I ended up having to use one of those cement poles that my u-lock barely fit around.

2) Holy goddamn narrow ass lanes

The above photos, probably everyone's worst fear when first getting on a bike: facing pressure from drivers:

  • When drivers expecting to go 40 mph are breathing on you and honk at you for going too slow
  • When drivers expecting to go 40 mph overtake you to assert that you don't belong on the road
  • Drivers expecting to take up the full right lane with you just inches away;  it doesn't pay at all to "be nice" on the road as a bicyclist, you have to take the FULL lane 

My mom and my sister, newly minted bicyclists...not happening, unless in a big group.

The above photos taken in North Long Beach and the city of Vernon, where you ride side by side with big rigs.

3) Easy to get lost

Tell me if you can see anything distinctive in this photo.




I ride what is known as the flood channel or the Bike Path from Compton at Del Amo ave to its end in Vernon.

The Bike Path is a bit like a biking freeway. You have two lanes going in either direction, and you must know your exit.

Way back when, the first time I ever rode this "biking freeway", I was actually lucky to be with someone who knew a little something about biking (and that she had a blackberry).

The above is supposed to be the part of the "biking freeway" where the rest of the route goes into San Gabriel, which is not really where you want to go if you want to go towards LA.  You have to exit the "biking freeway", make a left on a narrow sidewalk/bridge, and re-enter the bike path.

Compare this to freeway signage;  my friend Daniel put it best, "they want you to find these things."  Unfortunately it doesn't appear that way when riding the Los Angeles River Bike path.

4) Merging anyone?  Bike lanes that lead into nothing but traffic.

As I was riding through Universal City, I was trying to ride Lankershim Boulevard.  Behind me a rush of traffic.  However, I had to cut through 2 lanes with automobile traffic rushing behind me at 40 MPH in the dark.  It took me a good 2-3 minutes before traffic cleared up for me to merge over to my desired lane.

More tours, more photos, coming, when I have time.

Let's make biking less of an accomplishment, shall we.


joyce said...

Grumble. I commiserate with you. Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to future posts.

Psy said...

I moved down here from the Bay Area, and yep - you definitely showed some fine examples of why biking here is less than optimal.

We just have to keep fighting to make it better!

Leroy Grinchy said...

Fantastic post.

You hit the nail on the head when you speak of biking being dangerous meaning you have to think too much.

I feel that same way in San Diego. I don't mind cycling, and I don't mind looking out for myself, but I do feel that most of the exhaustion from my short, six mile commute is not the hills, but the fact that I have to expend a lot of mental energy to be safe.

I drove the same route in a car, and my driver didn't look out for nearly the same number of things (car doors opening, merges), as I did. She felt that she'd be seen and others would mitigate her problems as longs as she kept her car on the road.

I loved your photo essay. I feel that more people should start taking pics and talking about WHY things suck right now so we have more ammo when people say "careful what you wish for" when we try to make things better.

Thanks for another sane voice.

sns3000 said...

Thank you so much for this insightful piece. It explains perfectly how I can ride 100+ miles/week in this city and still have such a love/hate relationship with the experience.