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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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Bike Talk: What Bike Advocacy Needs to Understand about South Central

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“What is the situation in South L.A.?” is the question Colin Bogart, Education Director at the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, posed to launch our discussion of the removal of a 7.2 mile bike lane planned for Central Avenue from the Mobility Plan 2035.

Both Malcolm Harris, Director of Programs and Organizing from TRUST South L.A., and I had to laugh.

“Alright…” I said, “You said an hour? We have an hour…?”

The question was posed half-jokingly, of course.

But, as you will hear over the hour-long conversation that unfolds, understanding the history of South Los Angeles, who comprised the community back in the day (and why), who comprises it now (and why), and what folks’ histories and relationships are with each other, the city, advocates, and law enforcement are all essential to understanding how the area responds to efforts to implement active transportation infrastructure there now. [If the link below doesn’t work, please click here.]

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As both Harris and I argue, too often mobility advocates coming into the community are unfamiliar with the history of the area, the racial, cultural, and socio-economic dynamics that define the community, or the variety of barriers that can constrain mobility there. And the local advocates and actors who do have that knowledge are generally not brought in until way too late in the process – long after planning, design, branding, and engagement around plans are already well underway – limiting their contributions to a rubber-stamp approval.

As a result, mainstream mobility advocates are often unable to speak to members of the community in terms that resonate with those stakeholders’ realities. Worse still, the language used to promote active transportation can be deeply alienating. Narratives about the benefits of bicycling, the extent to which “bikes mean business,” and exhortations for people to see their “streets as sites of recreation” border on insulting in neighborhoods where the presence of bikes signals a lack of resources and a history of insecurity in the public space forced people to look to private spaces to build community.

That disconnect between the approach mainstream advocates tend to take and the lived experiences of people in lower-income communities of color is what helps breed distrust of the city’s intentions. And with new infrastructure seeming to accompany new developments making incursions into historically neglected neighborhoods, both Harris and I explain, it is no wonder the first question we often hear from folks is, “Who is this bike lane really for?”
Read more…

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Ad Nauseum: Energizer Batteries Turn Drab Bikes Into Colorful Motorcycles

Energizer batteries are trying to appeal to consumer ecological consciences by “taking worn out batteries and making them into something strong” in the company’s new EcoAdvanced battery line. What better way to be ecological than to appeal to urban cyclists? In the above commercial, the Energizer Bunny helps out tired riders by turning their bicycles into fantastic motorcycles. Not cool and not eco.

First off, take a look at Energizer’s portrayal of urban bicyclists.

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Cyclists from Engerizer’s eco-battery commercial – Images via YouTube

In the Energizer commercial’s world, there are lots of cyclists, but all their bikes are old and crappy. One bike, at 0:02, has a derailleur but no chain. Few of the bikes actually fit their riders, so the cyclists look cramped and uncomfortable.

Secondly, how does electricity help cyclists? Does transforming a bicycle – a truly environmentally-friendly human-powered vehicle – into a petroleum-burning motorcycle really serve the environment? Do urban cyclists really want to ditch their trusty steeds?

Energizer seems to understand that bicycling and bicyclists sell environmental leadership. For example, see this Energizer “how do you spot a leader?” video at 0:27. Energizer’s commitment to recycling battery materials appears laudable, but why not join with environmental leaders by affirming bicycling? Cyclists are Energizer’s customers. Batteries in bike lights to keep cyclists safe. Why not portray how fun, fast, and free urban cycling can be? Why not celebrate cycle chic by showing stylish bicycles and attractive fashion?

What do you think, readers? Can you come up with an Energizer Bunny commercial treatment that would affirm urban cycling? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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Filed Under: “Do You Need a Patch?”

Ade Neff of the Ride On! bike co-op puts his bike up on the stand at the repair station outside the KAOS Network in Leimert Park as members of Black Kids on Bikes gather for their monthly ride. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Ade Neff of the Ride On! bike co-op puts his bike up on the stand at the repair station outside the KAOS Network in Leimert Park as members of Black Kids on Bikes gather for their monthly ride. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Six months ago he had been hit by a car on Rodeo Road, the young man told me. He was laid up for seventeen days. Now he had a metal rod in his back.

It wasn’t a story that made the news. And it wasn’t a hit-and-run – the driver actually stopped to help the downed cyclist. But it was awful all the same.

It was also the first I had heard about it.

And I only got to hear it because I had stopped to help the young man fix a flat tire on his BMX. I had seen him holding a lighter up to a DIY duct tape patch on an inner tube at the bicycle repair station at Leimert Park’s People St Plaza and figured he could use a hand.

“Do you need a patch?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said, pointing at the tape. “This here’s what we call a ‘ghetto fix.'”

As I pulled the tape off, I saw the tube was pretty torn up – something in the rim had done the damage.

I explained this to him and we checked the rim.

Like on a lot of the second- or third-hand bikes I tend to see lower-income folks riding in the area, the inside of the rim was a hot mess of spiky spoke ends and worn-through rim tape. And information about all the different things he could do to keep his bike in better working order wasn’t going to be much help to him. He rarely had much in the way of disposable cash.

Instead, we used the duct tape patch to cover up some of the sharpest spots inside the rim and got to work trying to make a pair of patches cover the damaged surface of the tube.

The BMX wasn’t his regular bike, he said. That bike had been totaled when he had been hit from behind in that 4 a.m. crash. He had tried suing the driver for his medical expenses, he said, but never saw any of the settlement. He figured the lawyer ended up with the money.

“But, it’s not cheap to get a rod put in your back…?” I ventured.

“Whatever,” he waved, shrugging it off. “It’s done now.”

The bills, he seemed to be indicating, had gone unpaid. And he couldn’t do much about that, even if he wanted to. So he stopped worrying about it.

Usually when I write up an encounter like this for Streetsblog, this is the point at which I segue into a discussion of what this story means in a larger context. And the case of this indigent and occasionally homeless young man is certainly not lacking for larger contexts. Read more…

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Metro Bike-Share Opens July 7, Mobility Advocates Team up for Equity

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Metro Bike Share debuts next week. Photo via Allison Mannos

Southern California’s largest bike-share system, Metro Bike Share, debuts next week!

Metro Bike Share will feature 1,000+ bicycles at 65+ docking stations in downtown Los Angeles. Starting July 7, Metro Bike Share will only be available to pass holders who sign up in advance. On August 1, the bike-share system will open to walk-up customers. The system is expected to expand to Pasadena in 2017, and additional L.A. County locations in the future. Metro Bike Share is operated by the Philadelphia-based vendor Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS).

At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 7, Grand Park will host a bike-share kick-off celebration. The event will feature speakers, free snacks, and music. At the conclusion, riders will hop on bikes and ride to distribute them to bike-share docks throughout the system. Register for the kick-off via Eventbrite; RSVP and share via Facebook event.

Metro's proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s Bike Share cost to users. Image via Metro

Under Metro’s bike-share fare policy, riders can purchase a $20 unlimited Monthly Pass which covers all 30-minute rides with no per-ride cost. Alternately, less frequent system users can purchase a $40 annual Flex Pass, the pay $1.75 per trip. Walk-up use, which begins August 1, costs $3.50 per ride. For low-income riders, students, and seniors, bikes are available for the Flex Pass cost of $1.75 for up to 30 minutes usage, with no $40 annual fee. Correction: student and senior discount fares are approved, but at a later phase, not available initially. Sign up via the Metro Bike Share website.

The first 1000 riders who sign up for Metro Bike Share will receive a special membership kit including commemorative pins and TAP card.

Metro Bike Share will be L.A. County’s first smart-dock system. Existing systems in Long Beach, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and (expected to debut this summer) West Hollywood, are all smart-bike systems. For those who have never used a bike-share docking system, watch Metro’s instructional video for basic instructions.

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Map of bike-share stations in Downtown L.A. Note that this is a screen-shot, for an up-to-date map go to Metro Bike Share’s dynamic system map.

Bike-share docks have been appearing around downtown Los Angeles, and on social media. There are docks every few blocks from Chinatown to Union Station to the Arts District to L.A. Trade Tech College to Staples Center and in between.

One exciting aspect of the new bike-share system is that Metro is working to make it as accessible as possible to low-income riders. In addition to discounted costs for students, seniors, and those of lower-income and TAP card integration, Metro has teamed up with Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) on a $100,000 program to make sure bike-share serves low-income riders. The program is funded by a $75,000 grant from the national Better Bike Share Partnership, with $25,000 in matching funds from Metro.

Generally bike-share systems have not served the mobility needs of very low income people, especially folks who do not have credit cards. MCM’s Maria Sipin states that “MCM recognizes that existing bikeshare systems have not been readily accessible to low-income communities of color, and this system can operate differently. MCM is committed to working with our partners to ensure that low-income communities of color transform this bike share system into one that promotes equity for all.”  Read more…

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How Can L.A. Sheriffs Support Buses and Bikes Sharing Bus-Only Lanes?

Los Angeles bus-only lane signage. The bottom line states "BIKES OK" Photo: Marc Caswell

Los Angeles bus-only lane signage. The bottom line states “BIKES OK” Photo: Marc Caswell

On bus-only lane signage in Los Angeles, there is a little two-word section at the bottom that reads, “BIKES OK.”

Except when they’re not.

On May 24, bicycle commuter Mike MacDonald was riding in the “BIKES OK” peak-hour Wilshire Boulevard bus lanes. As he often does, MacDonald was recording his ride. He was cautioned by an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy who stated, “You gotta let buses get through. This is their lane. You’re not even supposed to be in here right now.” He then instructed MacDonald to “be close to the curb.”

To his credit, the officer did not ticket the cyclist. MacDonald’s encounter is shown on his YouTube video and detailed in his article at Biking in L.A. In 2014, cyclist Marc Caswell had a similiar encounter where he was ticketed by a sheriff on the Sunset bus lane.

MacDonald filed a complaint with Metro, and actually received a response that went all the way to Alex Wiggins, Metro’s new Executive Director of Security, imported from Denver by Metro CEO Phil Washington.

Wiggins met with MacDonald earlier today. In an email to Streetsblog, MacDonald relates the meeting:

Mr. Wiggins wanted to meet on site at the location where I was stopped and scolded by a Sheriff’s Deputy.

On site, Mr. Wiggins explained to me that he supports and instructs Sheriff’s deputies to ticket cyclists who “impede” buses by using the lanes. He refused to discuss or reference any vehicle code basis for his direction to LASD to ticket cyclists using these lanes, saying that, “This is why we have a court system. If you disagree, you can take it up in a court of law.” Mr. Wiggins explained to me that he fully was aware of traffic law with regards to bikes because of his experience as a “bike cop.”

Wiggins followed up with an email to MacDonald that stated:
Read more…

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Metro Not Quite Ready for First/Last Mile Funding for Purple Line Phase 2

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Just when the Metro board was on the verge of adopting a policy to incorporate first/last mile, including bike and walk, connections into “the planning, design, and construction of all [Metro] transit projects,” Metro staff postponed including first/last mile connections to the second phase of Purple Line subway expansion.

The issue before the board was Metro’s new Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]. The ATSP theoretically builds on a number of Metro bike-and-walk-friendly policies, including the agency’s First/Last Mile Strategic Plan and Complete Streets Policy. Livability advocates, with champions on the Metro board prominently including Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, have pushed for Metro to follow up these good-sounding policies with Metro funding commitments to truly get first/last mile facilities on the ground. After the 2014 passage of the Metro Complete Streets Policy, Bonin pushed the agency to follow up with a walk/bike funding plan.

Metro dragged its heels on the funding plan, publishing schedules designed to complete the funding document right after the November sales tax ballot measure. So Metro would finally have a walk/bike funding plan right after it sets the course for the next 50 years of Metro funding.

Pressure from Bonin and others accelerated the schedule for the funding plan, now called the ATSP. Today the Metro board approved its ATSP, a month in advance of June’s planned approval of a sales tax expenditure plan.

The ATSP, similar to the plans that preceded it, also sounds good. There are plenty of graphs and diagrams about how great walking and bicycling are. What is new in the ATSP (page 59) is overall cost estimates for building out a Los Angeles County Active Transportation Network. There is no commitment on Metro’s part to pay these costs, but at least there is an official agency estimate for how much someone should pay to support active transportation.

Accompanying today’s adoption of the ATSP were two multi-part motions regarding Metro implementation:  Read more…

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Bike Hub To Open At Covina Metrolink Station This Thursday

Covina BikeHub is located in the parking lot of the Covina Metrolink Station. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Covina BikeHub is located in the parking lot of the Covina Metrolink Station. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

One thing great about Bike To Work Day is that some cities open bike facilities just in time to lure new folks to try bike-commuting. This year, the city of Covina has done just that. The Covina BikeHub opens for business this Thursday. The new hub is a secure bike-parking facility at the Covina Metrolink Station at 600 North Citrus Avenue. One-year membership is free for riders who sign up in person this month.

Streetsblog got an advance facility tour with Covina Mayor Pro-Tem Jorge Marquez. Marquez expressed his excitement for the new hub, and expressed his interest in Covina attracting and retaining millennials who are less inclined to drive, and more amenable to bicycling, walking, and transit. Marquez is interested in Covina building more transit-oriented development, and hopes to bring bike-share to Covina some day.

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Covina BikeHub has secure parking for 40 bicycles

The Covina BikeHub is operated by BikeHub, the same company that runs the El Monte BikeHub. The look is similar to El Monte, though the Covina version is a simpler model, which does not include the small bike shop on premises. The Covina hub is secure single-room parking facility with space for 40 bicycles. Users need to sign up in advance to obtain a membership that enables one to access the automated door using one’s drivers license or other identification. Hub bike parking access is available 24/7. Members can also access a separate bathroom and washroom located at the east end of the parking lot.

The Covina BikeHub will host its opening day celebration on Bike To Work Day, this Thursday May 19. From 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. hub staff will be on hand to give bilingual Spanish/English tours of the facility. BikeHub is giving free one-year passes with in-person registration. Passes generally cost $5 for seven days, $12 for 30 days, or $60 for one year. To contact BikeHub, check its website or email covina [at] bikehub.com

Additional facility photos after the jump.  Read more…

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Eyes on the “Street”: Mother’s Day at L.A. Bike Fest

A BMX performer jumps over the second tallest bike advocate I know. All six pics: Damien Newton

BMX performer jumps over the second tallest bike advocate I know. Photo: Damien Newton

One day after Long Beach had their Bike Fest, it was Los Angeles’ turn. Missing the backing of an organization similar to Downtown Long Beach, the Bicycle Culture Institute, led by powerhouse Nona Varnado, mustered the volunteers and resources to put on a bicycle-themed party worthy of Los Angeles’ legendary bike culture. The overcast skies and scheduling quirk may have kept the crowd in the hundreds instead of thousands, but the crowd of cyclists had plenty to do, with events varying from creating yarn art on bike spokes to BMX demonstrations.

After the jump are a handful of pictures via social media from Los Angeles Bike Fest, feel free to add links to your media from yesterday or Saturday and we’ll highlight them on Streetsblog LITE. Read more…

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Councilmember Jose Huizar Promotes a More Bikeable Downtown L.A.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar is excited about the future of bicycling in downtown Los Angeles. At a press event yesterday, Huizar took a test spin on one of Metro’s bike-share bikes. SBLA Streetsie-winner Huizar sees bike-share as one key feature of “a snowball effect” virtuous cycle for central Los Angeles: more bikes on the street will trigger more safety-in-numbers, which will prompt more city investment in bikeways, which will lead to even more bicycling.

Metro’s 1000+bike 60+station bike-share system is coming to downtown “this June – though it might slip,” according to Huizar.

Huizar recently announced that protected bike lanes will be coming to downtown’s Spring and Main Streets. These improvements are part of an umbrella “DTLA Forward” initiative for a more walkable, bikeable, livable downtown Los Angeles. DTLA Forward includes these two bikeways, pedestrian head-start signals, green alleys, street trees, and a handful of other worthwhile (but not quite transformative) downtown initiatives, plus a (quite transformative) “Your Downtown L.A. Vision Plan” [PDF]. The Vision Plan, created under the auspices of the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council with support from the So. Cal. Association of Governments (SCAG), calls for all downtown streets to be complete streets.

Spring and Main Street currently feature a couplet of buffered bike lanes. The Spring Street lane was the city’s first (somewhat controversial) green bike lane, and now its first partially-green pavement bike lane. The protected bike lanes are expected to be implemented in late 2016, after a handful of community outreach meetings.  Read more…

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Cycling Without Age Documentary “Finn” Screens Tomorrow

Have you ever wondered what will happen to you when you are too old to bicycle on your own? There is an organization called Cycling Without Age that pushes for “the right to wind in your hair” for people of all ages. Cycling Without Age links volunteers with elders for trips on board “trishaws” – essentially a rear-steering tandem tricycle.

Cycling Without Age - image from the organization's website

Cycling Without Age

This weekend, Angelenos can learn more about Cycling Without Age by enjoying a short documentary entitled “Finn.” The documentary screens at the All Sports L.A. Film Festival at 10 a.m. tomorrow –  Saturday April 16 – at the L.A. Live Regal Cinemas at 1000 W. Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. “Finn” tells the story of an 81-year-old man taking a Cycling Without Age bike tour from Denmark to Norway in 2015. Thanks to a crowdsourced appeal, Finn and his daughter Lis are coming to “Hollywood” for the screening.

The short film is laying the groundwork for a longer documentary “The Grey Escape” which readers can find out more about via its Facebook page.