Streetsblog Op/Ed, Lutheran Pastor Talks About Bike Commuting

Editor's note: I'll be away from the computer for a couple of days.  LA Streetsblog will still publish, but will be on a sparse schedule until next Thursday.  In the meantime, enjoy the third (and at this point, last) installment of the SOCAL Voices Series I ran last December.  This piece seemed appropriate coming the week after Bike to Work Week.  Pastor Joshua Elliott McGuffie of St. Andrew's West Los Angeles writes about his experiences as a bike commuter.  This essay first appeared on Street Heat on December 26, 2007.

Since So I'm a bike commuter, or at least I was up until an amateur football match two weeks ago at Pan-Pacific Park, next to the Grove.

Ending up on the wrong end of a tackle, my right foot has now been multiple shades of purple and I've been told by various medical personnel to 'stay off it' for either a) the next few weeks or b) until a leftist is in the White House.

This is troubling to me. First of all because these lovely, cool, clear days are great days to be out on the bike in West LA (the siren song of the Santa Monica Bay Bike Path is so sweet). Secondly, because I now have to rely on my mostly-trusty '79 Mercedes 240d (The Desert Fox) to get around the West Side. This is a hassle for everybody, mostly for my wife, Nicole, who's stuck ferrying me around. From a less narcissistic standpoint though, having to drive around in the car is a hassle because it means needing to participate in the vehicular orgy that is rush hour in Los Angeles and it means needlessly spewing out hydrocarbon exhaust as we putter around Palms/Mar Vista.

First hassle: Rush Hour

Sitting in a miles-long queue of cars kills men's souls. Doesn't matter if it's on the freeway or on surface streets, a mass pneumaticide is going on in the greater Los Angeles area every day. Sure KUSC or KCSN provide calming classical music, sure KPCC will allow you to drown out your sorrows in progressive news and banter, sure KFUO will indulge the insanity you feel after taking 45 minutes to get between Wishire and Olympic on Westwood. But at best, the airwaves are only filling a part of all of us that is dead, killed by the crawling king snake of steel, plastic, and rolling rubber. We need to get cars off the road. More of us need to file onto buses or enjoy the sartorial splendor of whizzing, on the right in the liberated zone between the cars and the curb, past the stopped line of cars on our bicycles.

Second hassle: Exhaust

I like the folks in the Inland Empire as much as the next person. My college roommate was from Yucaipa. I have a colleague in Upland whom I respect. Yet, I feel pangs of guilt when, turning the key and feeling the 2.4 Litres of pure diesel power, the Fox is fired up and CO2, CO, NO2, NO and a host of Particulates warm the cold winter air behind my exhaust pipe. If these various and sundry emissions were to stay in place, I suppose that would be kinda OK. But given the offshore breeze that makes Palms a quasi-Eden, my vehicular refuse will end up as part of the lovely haze that graces the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, and eventually, if conditions are perfect, the Mojave National Preserve. The fine folk and flora and fauna of these locals simply don't need this gift that I have to offer them every time my four-speed performance machine hits the road. Much better would it be, and has it been, for me to bike the 1.5 miles to work and for my wife to walk down to Venice Blvd. to take the bus all the way to CSULA. We find ourselves in the desirable position of living within walking distance of a Trader Joe's, Albertsons, two bars, and a number of restaurants. We live within easy biking distance of a Whole Foods, a Target, and the Westside Pavilion. Really, much of LA live within easy walking or biking distance of much of what we need to live on a week-to-week basis. We just need to start walking and biking more, treating our cars properly, as a guilty pleasure, best used driving up PCH or Angeles Crest Highway on Saturdays!

So, use your legs! Be good stewards of both your body and the earth! I'd pontificate more, but I'm off to practice on my crutches so I can make the walk up the hill on Palms to Sepulveda, so I can bus it to work on Sunday.

Pastor Joshua Elliott-McGuffie, STS, serves St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in West LA.