Potholes, what are they good for? Absolutely nothin’!

Photo by autumnlight, via Flickr creative commons

Let’s face the facts. The road conditions around much of Los Angeles County STINK.

When it comes to cycling in the region, there’s nothing worse than knowing you’ll inevitably be encountering one of the many potholes, bumps, cracks, and cratered manholes scattered throughout the area. Too often, they tend to ruin a perfectly good ride. Don’t believe me? Try speeding down Wilshire Boulevard on a bicycle, it’ll feel like you’re sitting on a massage chair … from hell.

In my opinion, potholes and cracks are a cyclist’s worst enemy. Not only do they make it dangerous to ride, but they make it stressful as well. They slow us down, force us to swerve left and right in traffic, and can lead to serious injuries and expensive bike repairs.

Imagine such a scenario: One moment you’re riding down a street with nothing but smiles, then KA-BAM! A wide enough crack on the road sucks your front wheel in and the next thing you realize, you’re flapping your arms like a distorted seagull having been launched into the air like a human cannonball. Then, impact. Ouch.

Fellow cyclist Lynn shows the injuries she received (right) after crashing from a pothole (left) on a night group ride.

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Can you park your car in a bike lane?

A car parked on the new Los Angeles St. bike lane. Taken on a Friday morning.

It’s been a little over a week since the installation of the new bike lanes on Los Angeles Street in downtown L.A.

Riding in from Echo Park, I usually take Los Angeles Street to get to work and back home every weekday, and so far the addition of these bike lanes have made my commute slightly more relaxing as I’m not competing for road space with drivers. However, when approaching Union Station before hitting Temple St., there seems to always be a slew of cars parked and stopped right on the bike lane in front of the Police Department building, red curb or not. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this section of the new bike lane clear, as cars are even parked on the lane overnight.

Within the span of three days, I sat in front of the Police Department building for a few hours each day to study how this obstruction was affecting cyclists who were using the new bike lane. During my observation, most cyclists were able to merge back safely into the normal traffic lane with the exception of one cyclist who was almost doored by the owner of one of the parked vehicles, and two cyclists who were almost hit by approaching traffic.

Concerned with cyclists’ safety and frustrated at the parked cars, I had approached an officer a few days ago, who was just walking out from his car to ask why he had parked on a bike lane, to which he responded, “You can go around it. I can park there if I need to.” Was he right? Later that afternoon, I went home to fact-check his statement. According to California’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, it states, “You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.”

Was the officer in a sense not “blocking” a cyclist from continuing on the bike lane? What exactly is “blocking” a cyclist? Does that mean cars can park in bike lanes as long as they leave space for cyclists to turn and continue ahead?

What do you think readers?

Become a more confident cyclist

Photo by marcel maia, via Flickr creative commons

Does the thought of riding a bicycle on city streets during rush hour traffic seem horrifyingly dangerous to you? If so, you’re definitely not alone.

For many Americans today, the fear of riding a bike in traffic is one of the top reasons for choosing not to commute by one. Many first time bike commuters initially have the idea that riding a bike in traffic is more dangerous than driving a car, and find it to be a daunting task. Even I had moments when I would get butterflies in my stomach at the thought of cycling to work, and end up taking the bus instead by talking myself out of it.

“What if a car hits me? It’s much safer to just drive or take the bus, why risk it? The roads are really narrow, and the cars go super fast! Cycling is just too dangerous for me! There’s really no safe place for me to bike around my area.”

A lot of us become paralyzed as we think about such questions and statements as above. And, to make matters worse, we always seem to hear from news outlets about confrontations between cyclists and drivers. Then there are those hit-and-run stories we frequently hear about as well, which further encourages most of us to keep the bikes stored and collecting dust in our garages.

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New Contributor – Jung Gatoona

Hello Source readers,

My name is Jung Gatoona. If you’ve been following this blog since its beginnings, you’ve probably seen my name a few times as I used to write about transit for a different blog, PlusMetro, which is no longer active.

Brief introduction: I’m currently an intern at Metro for its web team and I’ve been asked to write for The Source about the cycling community that’s continually growing in number and strength here in Los Angeles.

These are quite exciting times as people ditch vehicles — even hybrids — for an even greener alternative: the bicycle. It’s amazing to witness the positive commuting behavior changes in this city, as the number of bicycle and transit usage skyrockets in this once car-dominated city.

As a car-free cyclist myself, who vows never to own or drive a motorized vehicle for the rest of his life — and possibly even in the after-life — I’ll share with you my experiences, the adventurous tales, the challenges, and various other cycling related stories that will hopefully place you in the front row seat to L.A.’s exciting world of cycling. I’ll cover life-style topics that will range from how to best deal with aggressive drivers while on the bike, to uncovering various major underground cycling events that happen nightly throughout L.A. I’ll also share with you some helpful tips I’ve picked up from other fellow cyclists over the years on proper bike maintenance and lifestyle choices — tips that will be sure to keep both you and your bike happy.

So stay tuned readers, for the stories are pedaling your way soon.

- Jung

Organizers Plan South L.A. Bike Ride June 17

Members of the Eastside Riders Bicycle Club at May 14 Bike Week L.A. event.

On Sunday, June 17, RideSouthLA is organizing its second official participatory mapping bicycle ride of South Los Angeles. The 10-mile ride will begin at 10 a.m. at the Augustus Hawkins Nature Park and will head south along Metro’s Blue Line, finishing up at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. The approximately four-hour tour will be led by the East Side Riders Bicycle Club.

RideSouthLA is a relatively recent partnership between the Annenberg School of Communication and Trust South LA, an urban land trust and community development organization. Born out of the award-winning mobile voices project, RideSouthLA seeks to become a new platform for interacting with government. Francois Bar, professor of Communication at Annenberg and one of the founders of the group, saw the need for a way to engage with citizens beyond community meetings. RideSouthLA instead invites people to take to their bicycles for what the group has termed “situated engagement.”

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Bike to school event draws former Olympic cyclist to L.A. middle school

Student marvels at the lightweight racing bike owned by former Olympic team cyclist Tony Cruz.

The dust has settled on this year’s Bike Week L.A. May 14-18, but not without a final report on the Bike to School event held at New Designs Charter School – University Campus in Los Angeles on May 18.

The first event of its kind held during the official Bike Week encouraged more student bike riding for health and environmental benefits, as well as relieving auto congestion around school zones.

The event included a meet and greet for students arriving to school on bicycles, a student assembly with guest speakers from Safe Moves, Metro, LADOT, school officials and others who spoke to students on traffic safety and alternative modes of transportation.

Joining the event was former 2000 Olympic cyclist Tony Cruz, who shared his experiences as an Olympic team rider and gave out pointers for riding safely to and from school. The school event was followed by bike safety courses for students during their physical education classes.

Check out Safe Moves’ video of the event, which can be viewed by other L.A. area schools interested in encouraging their students to bicycle to their campus.

The School Bicycle Safety and Transit Education Program is sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Programs are conducted by Safe Moves. Video produced by Safe Moves.

Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition — creating community from Sherman Oaks to downtown Los Angeles

To celebrate Bike Week LA, we’re publishing a Why You Ride series with the winners of the 2012 Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about commuting via bicycle.

Our final Golden Pedal Award winner for this week is Michael Tormey. Michael commutes from Sherman Oaks to downtown Los Angeles on his bicycle. He first began riding to work once or twice a week when raising his kids was making it hard for him to find other time to exercise.

Now he bikes to work almost every day, enjoying the sense of community he gets from meeting people along the way. During the fall and winter, when it gets dark earlier, he even gives “blinker” lights to people he sees riding without bike lights; he estimates he’s given away more than 200 bike lights over the years.

Name: Michael Tormey
Start: Sherman Oaks
End: Downtown Los Angeles
Distance: 14+ miles
Time: 75 to 90 minutes

Photo courtesy of Michael Tormey.

Michael wrote to us:

“My commute takes me through Echo Park, Silver Lake, along Sunset Boulevard, west on Hollywood Boulevard, over Cahuenga Pass and west on Ventura Boulevard to my home. It’s a fun, diverse and colorful commute, and I see and meet all types of riders and bikes.

“On my evening commute in the fall and winter, I’ve always been amazed at the number of cyclists riding without bike lights. For the last three fall and winter seasons, I have been handing out ‘blinkers’ to riders who have no lights. I have probably handed out more than 200 blinkers to fellow riders. I know it might sound weird, but I think I do it for the karma. It just makes me feel good, and makes me feel like a part of the biking community. A big thanks to Lynne Goldsmith at Metro for providing the lights over the years.”

We asked Michael what he enjoys the most about his commute, and he told us:

“Besides the exercise fix, the real enjoyment I get is seeing communities and meeting people along the way. It’s hard to have conversations on the ride, but I really like the sense of community I get from most of my interactions.

“There is the grocer at a mom-and-pop place just before Cahuenga Pass — Oak Crest Market — that always yells out, ‘Have a nice day, sir!’ when he sees me. Sometimes he will run out and give me a rolling high-five.

“The bus drivers — I like to think that over the years a number of them know me now and give me a beep of hello. I have always found them to be a friendly lot. Treat them with respect and they give you respect back. It is a tough job after all — driving in traffic all day!

“And last is a recent experience… I was riding home on Hollywood Boulevard, and all of a sudden a car door opened. I’ve only had a few mishaps over the years, but never gotten ‘doored.’ I reacted with a quick flick of the handlebar and missed getting nailed by a whisker… and fortunately the big truck running next to me in the right lane didn’t run me over either. When I got to the next stoplight, the guy in the truck looked at me. Shaking his head, he grinned and said, ‘Man, I thought you was dead! I never saw anything like it, what a move.’ Then he reached down from the cab and gave me a fist bump. I was smiling the whole way home… and even now as I write this.”

Thanks for making us smile too with your stories, Michael! We’ve sent you a very large box of chocolate-dipped Clif Mojo bars for you to share on your bicycle rides.

Bike Week L.A. shows muscle of growing bicycling community and strong public support

Here is a video from the kick-off of Bike Week L.A. on Monday when officials and bicycling organizations delivered strong public support for an expanding infrastructure throughout Los Angeles County that promotes safety and convenience for cyclists on the road.

Bike Week L.A. events included the popular “Blessing of the Bicycles” at Good Samaritan Hospital on Tuesday, and an Expo/Mid-City Bike Ride that introduced bicycling commuters to the new six miles of parallel bike lanes along the new Expo Line between Culver City and USC on Wednesday. Unofficially, organizers estimated upwards of 4,500 bicycling commuters, cheered on by 97 pit stops throughout Los Angeles County, took to the streets today for “Bike to Work Day.”

Wrapping up Bike Week L.A. May 14-18, Safe Moves, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children on traffic safety, will hold a Bike to School Day event Friday morning at New Designs Charter School-University Park Campus in Los Angeles. The event will include a meet and greet for students arriving to school on bicycles, and a student assembly with guest speakers from Safe Moves, Metro and school officials to speak to students on traffic safety and alternative modes of transportation.

Former 2000 Olympic Team Cyclist Tony Cruz will join officials to encourage more bike riding for health and environmental benefits, as well as relieving auto congestion around school zones. The school event will be followed by six sessions of bike safety courses for students during their physical education classes.

Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition — learning to ride at last

To celebrate Bike Week LA, we’re publishing a Why You Ride series with the winners of the 2012 Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about commuting via bicycle.

Even if you don’t know how to ride a bicycle, cycling can still become a feasible way to get to work! Siobhan Dolan wrote to tell us how, at the age of 30, she learned to ride a bike just so she could commute to work. Now she bikes the 10 miles between Atwater Village and Mid-Wilshire twice a day, in under 45 minutes each way.

Name: Siobhan Dolan
Start: Atwater Village
End: Mid-Wilshire
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 45 minutes

Photo courtesy of Siobhan Dolan.

Siobhan said:

“I am a new bike rider—and when I say new, I mean that you can teach an old dog new tricks, because I just learned how to ride a bike at 30 years old. I learned how to ride because I wanted to commute to work by bicycle. My sole intention was to improve the public welfare by reducing car emissions in our already smoggy city.

“Who knew that I would grow to love it so much? My commute is peaceful. I now see some ‘regulars’ on 4th Street whom I wave to, and my overall quality of life has improved—and all because I chose to ride my bike. It has taught me that I can accomplish anything!”

Thanks, Siobhan, for proving that for those of us who weren’t taught to ride a bike growing up, it’s never too late to learn and even love it. And thank you also for making the air in Los Angeles a little cleaner for everyone! We’ve sent you a box of Clif bars to help you power your commute.

Reminder: free rides for cyclists on Metro today — it's Bike to Work Day

As Metro noted in a recent news release:

On Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 17, Metro will offer free rides to bicyclists on Metro buses and trains throughout Los Angeles County. Culver CityBus, DowneyLINK, Glendale Beeline, LADOT, Montebello Bus Lines, Norwalk Transit, Pasadena ARTS, Santa Clarita Transit and Torrance Transit will also offer free transit rides to bicyclists who use transit for part of their commute. Patrons just need to board with a bicycle or bicycle helmet to ride for free.

Cyclists may bring their bicycles on Metro trains. Metro has removed its peak-hour restrictions for bicycles on rail, which means cyclists may bring their bicycles onboard Metro Rail during all system hours.

On Bike to Work Day, Metro is co-sponsoring more than 80 bicycle pit stops across Los Angeles County with local organizations. Bicyclists are invited to stop by for refreshments and free giveaways at various times of the day. For locations and times, go to www.metro.net/bikeweek.