Revelations While Biking "'Hoods" in the Afterhours Darkness

Central Ave from LA to Compton.

My new favorite street that takes me to home sweet home in Compton.

Never was I so relieved than to reach home sweet home in Compton than after a 13 mile bike ride after a 17-hr workday which included a 13-mile bike ride at 5 in the morning.

I rode Central relatively quickly.  At least it felt quick. About an hour to my destination in Leimert Park.

But biking at 5 in the morning in neighborhoods that have long been stigmatized as 'bad' is not everyone's cup of tea.

This leads me to wonder how we can eventually flip that script and make biking it (though not at 5 AM) any willing bicyclist's cup of tea.  Changing the norm of decidedly NOT biking Central into decidedly biking Central.

As I was pondering this in my head, I was wondering a few things:
  • To what extent does darkness or lack of light factor into street design? To what extent does rain factor into street design?  I imagine 'a little bit', but it'd be difficult for the planning department and Public Works to account for every single nook and cranny of every street, especially in as big a city as LA.
  • The idea of bike-friendly one-laned streets is something I've had a conflicted relationship with. As a bicyclist, I do like these streets to pass through, if I know about them.  That "if" is the key.  There are still many neighborhoods I do not know of in LA, even as a "native", and not all of them lead to the street I am going towards;  this means that I am likely to stay on bigger, well-known thoroughfares even though they may not be bike-friendly at all.  For instance, the terrible East-West thoroughfare that is Slauson Ave in South LA.  

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  • Slauson is a four-laned street with cars averaging about 35-40 mph, that parallels an old railroad track, but with virtually no passing room whatsoever for bicycles, which means a bicyclist riding it has to take the right lane.  Its not bad in itself, but factoring in the fact that drivers expect to go 35-40, you're likely to cause tension amongst drivers.  En route to work, I was kind of stuck on that street because I didn't know any better and I don't have a smartphone (and/or) the time to do a quick route map or or anything. 
  • This may upset my progressive friends, but I was looking forward to buying something from Wal-Mart.  That something?  A bike lock.  I needed it by 10 AM, and sure enough I knew Wal-Mart would have it.  Didn't know of any other alternative in the area, though I could've Yelped a bike shop, but those stores usually don't open until later.  
  • Thinking about the lack of light as well as how biking would be exacerbated in inclement weather, I think the next step in improving bike infrastructure for bike commuting would be emergency preparedness or some type of AAA for bikes, where you can call someone or stop somewhere and fix your bike or have someone pick you up, just in case.  I'd hate being stranded anywhere, but I'd like it even less in areas where there's plenty of darkness, a lot of hiding spaces, and potential for people to see you as an "opportunity."

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