Critiquing the April 2013 CicLAvia

I am no Debbie Downer.  I enjoyed CicLAvia once again, particularly the parts where we passed my old high school and seeing the "StoopidTall" Bike. 

It is truly not just a fun event, but a pretty organized one.  I am amazed at how CicLAvia has been able to garner such support in a short amount of time.  I am amazed at how they get so many to volunteer, not only to just hand out waters or give information but also to fix your bike...for FREE (at least my friend's bike was up and running without him paying)!  

In front of my old high school, Loyola High School, I even ran into an alumnus turned bike lawyer Daniel Jimenez, or DJWheels.  He'd seen me snapping photos and asked me what year I graduated.  Alumni talk ensued.

By My Old High School

I know the event people tries to account for every problem imaginable, and they do a fairly good job.

But there are a few things that were going to nag at me if I didn't post about them:

  • Inaccessibility to those who don't know how to get there.  I have tons of friends who would probably want to have gone, but gave an excuse of not knowing how to get there because of either of the reasons:  1)  no bike  2)  do not know how to get to a place without a car/not knowing public transit.   Possible solutions: 1) advertising more bike rental businesses, "designing" easier ways for people to get bikes to rent.  Realistically, biking in LA is something most people feel like they "go out of their way" to do, rather than something they use to get somewhere. Not too many people are going to strike out on their own after clicking on some link I send them unless I go with them.  2)  More ubiquitous, "social" directions to and from the event through public transit;  I guess this is something I could do on this hurr blog.
  • The Time Window to enjoy CicLAvia was really short.  The streets are blocked off from 10AM-3PM for 14 miles and 100,000+ people going either which way.  I got to the "start" of the event in Downtown LA at 12:00 PM.  Had to fix my friend's bike for about 30 minutes.  Cruised to 2:00, ending up in Culver City before we 'realized' we had to get back.  We made it back down to Hoover St. on Venice, just after the police removed the cones for traffic.  Everyday biking life for me, but the loss of protection probably harrowing to others, and perhaps makes people think about bike safety in ordinary, everyday life. Possible solutions:    If the goal is to get more people bicycling and thinking about it in everyday life, then I think the time period is fine as bicyclists have to "assimilate" with traffic once the event finishes.  But if the goal is to have people enjoy the open spaces and sights of LA without a car, then they need to find a way to extend the event as if it was the LA Marathon or other event. Get more money to stay up longer?  Do a CicLAvia at night?
  • Latest CicLAvia "felt" less multi-modal.  No I didn't count the bicyclists or pedestrians.  The latest event seems to have attracted lots of bicyclists (which does include myself);  when I went to the first one in 2010, there were a lot more runners, skateboarders, moms and dads with carts.  The latest route felt like a mini-cycling race, which I feel is OK if it were just that, but seems to take away from the idea of an open space, as the bicyclists, ironically enough, seem to crowd out other modes of transportation.  Possible Solutions: I am not sure about anything other than path segregations, but that concept seems inimical to the ideas of the free open spaces CicLAvia.

See you all June 23rd

Metro Stories: Aren't You All From the Same Tribe? Story about Bicycle Dys-Unity

The evening Blue Line ride down to Long Beach at around 7 PM. 

I got on at Staples Center, where it appears that there was a Clipper game.  Just biked home from a job I did in the heart of Hollywood.

It was mostly a multi-modal transportation day, rare for me nowadays, where I took my car, train, and bus to meet the commitments of school and work.  I bought an all-day pass so that I could shuffle between LB and LA.  I was kinda grateful that Metro knocked off the extra dollar for the Metro all-day pass because I'd only had a $5 and my TAP card.

However, despite the convenience, earlier I had been seething at the unreliability of Metro timetables, particularly for one of my time-reliant jobs.  The only way to get anywhere on time is to plan and actually be there to travel waaaaaaaaaay in advance.  Earlier this year, when I took the metro early in the morning at 5 AM or so, and there was a 30-minute delay that saw another LA-bound Blue Line train actually pass us.  WTF?  I had been hoping that nothing like that would happen.

I had to wake up at 4:30 so that I could make arrangements to be at the Willow Metro station by 5:25 all to make a 7 AM job in the heart of Hollywood.  5:25 was cutting it a bit close for a Metro ride, but I made it there without incident. Plus, I got to ride in the new cars, ones with a decent amount of bicycle space.

I got to LA at 6:05 and had 7.2 miles to travel;  taking just the car would've been much faster and more direct as it had been the day previous, but I was determined to use my bike. 

So I was rushing earlier in the morning to make it to one job at 7 AM in the heart of Hollywood.  Closest street available to the Westside was Olympic, our former 10th street, which definitely could use a bike lane or two. 

Once the job was done at around 10AM, I made it back to the Santa Monica station for the Red Line ride to the Blue Line and back to Long Beach to drive and carry some cargo with me to the Liberal Arts campus of Long Beach City College on behalf of some students. 

However, I had to be back at that same heart of Hollywood by 3 PM.  I left my bike at the Willow station. Took my car from Willow to LBCC, and then back to the Willow Station by 1:25.  Unhooked my locked bike, I took the Blue Line otra vez, left the Metro Blue Willow station at 1:32, cutting it close again for a Metro ride.  I arrived at the Staples Center stop at 2:20 PM, with just 40 minutes to travel 7.2 miles.  I cut it even closer by bike pedalling at a determined, all-out pace than earlier, and I was able to just make it. 

If people knew what I did part-time living (which friends do), the story would be a bit funnier and a little ironic.  Even more ironic was the witnessing of a car accident in which an old guy in a black cruiser vehicle going South tried to beat a light, with a guy in a BMW convertible trying to make a left turn.  It appeared the old guy was trying to get away as once he crashed into the convertible, he sped up and went up into the curb and into the bushes of a gas station.

But anyway, the evening ride to the Blue Line was supposed to be a relaxing ride home after a long day of multi-modal travelling. There was no bike but mine on the ride home, and as customary on the older Blue Line cars, I would flip my bike on the bike seat, and sit in the back of the train in front of the door where a conductor would be if the car was the head train.  The old cars really suck.  I wonder why we keep them functioning when clearly they offer no room whatsoever for bikes, strollers, or other luggage.

It is mostly a relaxing ride home, so I decided to call Honey Boo Boo.

At around the Green Line stop, there are two bikes that arrive on my car as I'm talking to Honey Boo Boo. 

One is a carbon-framed super-light looking bike owned by a black guy whom I will call Rob, dressed in Northwest rain gear, meaning a jacket and some swishy athletic pants.  He leans his bike against against the opposite door that doesn't open for each stop. 

Rob sits to my left.

The other bike is a ginormous bike, looking like an electric bike with a large side bag.  It was owned by a dapper-looking Indian-looking guy with glasses whom I will call Sami.  Sami had to hold up his humongo of a bike for the duration of the ride and couldn't lean against the conductor's door because my bike had already occupied that leaning space. 

Sami stands up with his bike to my right.

I felt kinda bad and wanted to let Sami sit but I'd been too preoccupied with Honey Boo Boo to do anything.

Earlier on the LA-bound afternoon Blue Line ride, I had tweeted about three different styles of male bicyclists meeting in one train.  One was a fixie owned by a punkish 20-something black guy.  He had stickers all over his bike, some about music and weed-smoking.  Another was a cruiser with stars on it belonging to a 30-something white guy with a  US veterans hat on, a Larry-the-Cable Guy flannel.  Then there was me, the 20-something Asian guy with my worn UCLA Bruins hat, my nondescript grey T-shirt and my aqua-blue Nishiki road bike with stickers from the Sherriff's Department, and one about Decolonization and handle bars wrapped up by a Phillppine Airlines bag grip and a Honda Motorcycle grip.

While the black guy was mostly indifferent to the surroundings and listening to music on his iPod, the white guy seemed to be staring at my "We Run [instead of the word 'run', its a silhouette of an immigrant family running] LA" and all my other stickers about decolonization on my aqua blue Nishiki.  I know this sounds wrong, but based on the way he looked intently at my regalia, I'd imagined that he might be the type to lament about how America has been "lost" to a bunch of minorities as I looked at the rest of the racial and ethnic composition of the early afternoon LA-bound Blue Line train.  There wasn't too much that happened except the white guy knocked my bike over against the punk guy's bike without apologizing or inaudibly doing so. 

To me that was one episode of how the Metro brings different people together.  It was OK, maybe a little tense.

And then again here this evening, again three different male bicyclists on the train.  Me, a black guy I will refer to as Rob, and an Indian-looking guy I will refer to as Sami. It started out innocuous, but then...

After a stop or two, it appeared that Sami holding up his bike was having difficulty keeping his big bike stable.  His front wheel seemed close to banging into the black guy's expensive bike.  I noticed that his knee and leg looked exceptionally skinny and he had a knee brace on it.

Rob with his expensive-looking bike noticed how his bike was getting nudged by the bigger bike.  At first, he helped him turn the Sami's bike to the left.  The terseness with which Rob leapt to his feet and helped him turn the bike seemed to be done aggressively.

Despite that effort, the Sami's bike inadvertently gave the Rob's bike a little nudge.

Sami asked Rob if he could move his bike.

A visibly irate Rob said, "No you've got to move your bike."

Attempting to be proactive, Sami moved forward and tried to move Rob's bike.

"Don't touch my bike, you don't just touch other people's bikes like that!  You know what?  You gotta take that mobile home in the next car!  There's no space for it here!"

"This is a $2000 dollar bike!," said Sami.  "I can't move anywhere else."

Sami's bike hit the Rob's bike again.  I couldn't tell if it was intentional or not.

Rob instantly shot up and moved the Sami's bike away from his bike.  "You can move your mobile home to the other car!"

"I'm going to call security!," cried Sami.

Sami pressed the emergency door button, thinking it was security.

"That's the emergency door, idiot!" said Rob.

 "I ride this train everyday and bicyclists show respect for each other's bikes!"

At this point, I was still on the phone with honey boo boo, but somewhat silent pretending I wasn't listening.  I was looking at all passengers, and they were as stunned and speecheless as I was at this interaction. 

I once learned on a message board that "if there were two kids fighting it would be OK to break it up.  But for two grown men?" I wanted to stop it and bring bicycle unity, but I just kept talking on the cell phone and looking at other people's reactions.

For a good 10 minutes, while I was still on the phone, the two traded mean stares at each other.  I was both physically and symbolically in between the both of them.

Some passengers were smiling in the "oh shit, this is crazy, let's put it on youtube" kind of way.

I was busy talking till I reached the Wardlow station.  Then I hung up the phone.

The conversation resumed.

"I'll have you know that I am a quadriplegic, and I use this bike to get around," said Sami.

The tone might have changed when he said that.

"Well OK, you need to move your bike, he needs to get out," said the black guy probably hearing that I was going to get out on Willow St.

Sami asked me in Spanish, perhaps assuming that my silence was due to the fact that I didn't understand what was being said despite speaking on the phone for the last 30 minutes in English, "Puedes mover tu bicicleta? "

I wasn't too sure why Sami asked me that, but I was getting up to leave anyway.  I helped him move his bike so I could get mine and get ready to leave at the Willow stop.  He responded with a "gracias."

"I wanted to sit down for a while" said Sami.

I felt guilty that I couldn't or didn't do much.

"It's very hard to move this bike without hitting your bike," Sami felt tense.

"OK, what you need to do is just move it here, and sit down and relax."

We arrived at Willow, I told mostly Rob, but also aimed at Sami to have a good night, by which I wanted to mean, have a peaceful, safe night.  Were all bicyclists, we should actually be in solidarity.  As I left, a woman came to help Sami put the bike away.

Once I exited the train, a black guy with an African accent approached me and asked "What happened?"

I explained the story above. 

He asked, "Aren't you guys all supposed to be in solidarity with one another"

I responded, "yeah I thought so."