Traveling in the Rain…L.A. Stories

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When I was in New York last December to meet with the NYC Streetsblog crew, they were working on a post about how the NYCDOT deals with snow and bike lanes.  I chuckled to myself, at least that’s one thing we don’t have to deal with in Los Angeles.

But, every now and then, it does rain.  That we don’t have to deal with wet commutes on a regular basis is both a good and bad thing.  Good, because biking in the rain or waiting for a bus in the lane can be a bad experience and the less we have to deal with it the better.  Bad because people that aren’t used to commuting in bad weather make the road a dangerous place.

While I personally haven’t had any unfortunate run-ins on the road because of weather, it does create challenges for people.  At the Bus Bench, Browne Molyneaux tweeted about some transit issues on her morning commute:

Note to car drivers, when it rains and you see the Blue Line know
they have a hell of a time stopping this train. It is really sliding.

Today I’ve been warned by loved ones that it would be crazy to take my bike to my annual Friday lunch or to go out with friends tonight.  Given that it’s supposed to rain well into the weekend, I ask all of you: is it really that bad to commute in the rain in L.A., and if you have a bad or weird story to share please do so in the comments.

Photo: Carmyarmyofme/Flickr

  • Even though at first it seems fun to ride in the rain, it becomes significantly less fun when you slip on a driveway and fall over, like I did the other week. The pain sets in a few days later. Ouch.

    Beware of slippery sidewalks….

  • I learned yesterday that my cheap plastic fenders don’t do squat. My legs and butt were soaked due to riding through puddles on the street. It wasn’t even raining when I was riding, but after a mile of that, I will now be wearing water-proof rain pants when riding on wet streets.

  • angle

    One obvious point is that a fat-tire commuting bike—if you have one available— will do much better on slippery roads than either a road racing bike or a mountain bike with knobby tires.

    The main issue I struggle with here is that it seems like a waste of money to invest in fenders and raingear when it only rains a handful of times a year. It would be great to hear from anyone that has advice about low-cost solutions to this problem.

  • I think it’s hard to deny that riding in the rain is less pleasant than in the dry… but good god, if Portland can be a bike city, it’s obviously not a show-stopper. I feel a little silly with fenders on my bike here most of the year, but I don’t mind them (unless they start rattling), and they seem to last 3-5 years, which is only a few cents per day, and they’re awfully nice on those rare occasions when it is wet (I use full coverage SKS thermoplastic fenders). Usually the rain here isn’t serious, just a kind of heavy mist, not really requiring raingear. I think the biggest issue is stopping: knowing it takes longer because your brakes are less effective, and knowing that it’s easier to skid, and fearing that car drivers don’t know these things about their own machines.

  • Traveling in the rain just plain sucks. Doesn’t matter what type, driving, biking, public transit. Rain is one of the few things that will get me to drive in to work. I love biking and using public transit, but I have no desire to get sick. Sorry, please don’t hate me for it.

  • I went to school in Santa Barbara – where it completely flooded out the college town adjacent the school every year that it rained.

    To those who complain about riding in the rain I say, “Pish posh”.

    It isn’t that hard at all – you’ve just got to have the right gear. True, functional, fenders save you a great deal of trouble. A good bicycle=frienly rain coat and cap also help a great deal. And of course, a water-proof set of panniers save you from carrying a damp bag on your back.

    One of the best places to get stuff to prepare you for the rain is Orange 20 bike shop by the Bicycle Kitchen.

  • you may laugh but…
    this morning i said to myself “i hope it doesn’t stop raining before i get outside.”

    my commute is about 12 miles from west la to downtown. riding in the rain, like others have said, is just a matter of the right equipment. i disagree, cheap fenders do work. i bought sks fenders for like 20 and they kept me totally dry and clean last night. normally, i would’ve been sporting a gnarly rooster tail with road grime all over me.

    rain pants, and a shell (i would also recommend wool socks) is really all you need. oh, and fenders

    what i wonder about is – what do you folks with glasses do? i wear glasses to see, and had to rock them grandma-librarian style all the way in. they either get fogged up or too rainy to see through.

  • also – one thing for steve k. i think biking in the wind is 10K times worse than the rain. give me a rainy day, any day… over a windy day.

    wind blows.

  • I should clarify: It’s not the fact that my fenders are cheap that makes them non-functional. It’s that they are the ones that came with my cheap folding mountain bike which is an import from China, and the rear fender only extends out about halfway over the top of the wheel. Yesterday’s rear-end-grime soaking clearly demonstrated the value of fenders that fully extend from under the seat to halfway DOWN the wheel.

  • On another subject: I usually leave UCLA on the 761 headed to the valley around 7pm most weekdays. Most of the time the bus is at least 3/4 full (so, maybe 40+ people?). Last night, when I got on at that same time, there were only 6 people on the whole 60′ long bus!

    Seems like there are a lot of people that usually use the bus, but are either able to drive and choose to do that when it rains, or perhaps people leave much earlier when it rains?

    Anyone else notice bus ridership differences when it rains?

  • Alan Thompson

    My 12 mile commute yesterday was remarkably empty, almost surreal.
    I only saw three bicycles and about a dozen joggers on the trail (usually about 50 and hundreds respectively).

  • The rain doesn’t bother me in LA the cars do. Car drivers do also. I tend to not have an umbrella and dress very LA (meaning I almost never have on the proper shoes, I’m partial to the Audrey Hepburn ballet looking slip-on with no socks.)

    Now owing to me not dressing the part for rain, people who drive think I’m insane and feel the need to give me all kinds of commentary “Oh my god it’s raining and you’re not dressed properly.” And really you know water won’t kill you or give you a cold or do anything but get you a little wet. You catch colds from people who are sick not from being wet or cold, though it can lower your immune system and make it easier to catch colds, but if you take the bus regularly you probably have a pretty strong immune system.

    It annoys me that some bus stops don’t have covering, but really its not public transit (it often runs pretty well in the rain owing to fewer people in cars being on the actual street–freeways are a different story— in LA when it rains, since Angelenos are afraid of weather…lol..)but the people who drive like nut jobs owing to there being less traffic and not realizing that their thousands of pounds vehicle won’t stop the same.

    I do notice less people being on the busses and trains when it rains, I don’t know why it is, but I suspect it is that LA thing of people being afraid of weather.

    Though I think some places where the busses run more shitty people probably just don’t feel like dealing with the slow lag times in addition to the rain, though as I stated more often than not when it rains the busses run better not worse.

    Browne

  • mechazawa

    i completely agree with Browne. i took it today and i noticed that the busses ran smoothly. i like riding the bus when it rains for this reason.

  • Will Campbell

    I gambled and won Thursday; the roads were wet on my ride home but I avoided the rainfall. Traffic was also noticeably decreased so it was really an awesome cruise.

    Friday I opted to drive in and I’m glad I did. It was cats ‘n dogs at times in the morning and while it had mostly abated during my trip home, I still felt it was the right call.

    Having said that, should I ever get stuck at work in a downpour, my option is to ride and be home in about an hour and fifteen, or take the 409 bus from Westchester to Union Station and then another across Sunset to Silver Lake — two hours if I’m lucky, more likely around three.

    Fortunately there has only been one night ride in the last year that’s happened, and it was a doozy, Jan. 2008. Horizontal rain, whipping gusty wind, palm fronds falling all over the place. It isn’t pleasant in the slightest, and I got weird looks from anyone stuck in the gridlock I rolled through who I made eye contact with, but if I had to do it again I’ll more often opt to bike it, my rationale being “you can only get so wet.”

  • I’m a bike commuter in Santa Clarita and I have to say when it rains, I bum a car ride from my wife.

    Oh it sucks to ride in the rain. First off, I have rain gear, but my socks get wet. Ever gone to work with wet socks? It’s a terrible feeling.

    I’ve never been able to install the fenders I bought on my bike correctly. My fault, I guess, but I don’t need them that often.

    Mostly though, it’s the drivers who concern me. Many don’t slow down at all. They just act like it’s dry out there, and I have visions of me being splattered on a wall somewhere after a drive loses control.

    Cheers to the guys in Portland, but I’d rather drive on really wet days.

  • jeff said – Ever gone to work with wet socks? It’s a terrible feeling.

    that’s not really an excuse, because the solution is so obvious. you simply leave a few pair of socks at work and change out of your wet ones when you get there.

  • I’ve been riding in to work (and home very late at night) in the rain the last couple days and while I’ve gotten soaked, it’s still the best part of my day (and I have a pretty good job). It IS just water. I brought a change in my bag today, and just pulled on dry clothes. Not a big problem. My commute IS short (about 2 miles pretty safe streets) and I have ordered some waterproof pants and fenders are right at the top of my list. But I don’t know, I guess I just kind of like rough weather, and we don’t get much here in L.A.

    So buck up folks! Get on that bike and get wet!

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