Boyonabike!

Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Bike Week Log

Monday, May 12:  Rode to school with my 8th grade daughter, as we do just about every Monday morning for the last year or so.  The ride takes us about 35 minutes, but affords us a nice father-daughter time together, especially when we’re on some of the quieter streets on the route.  The middle portion of the ride is on a busy, moderately high-stress Sierra Madre Blvd between Michillinda and Victory Park, where auto speeds can reach more than 40 mph.  Even though this street has bike lanes, as I’ve argued before, they’re inadequate, and the intersections have right turn lanes that bicyclists must steer around if you’re not turning right.  Right-turn lanes themselves aren’t so bad, but high traffic speeds for right-turning cars are.  A green right-turn arrow at the intersection of S.M. Blvd. and Sierra Madre Villa means cars barreling down the road into the right-turn lane don’t need to slow down.  Clearly this wasn’t designed by anyone who ever walks or rides a bike.  A myopic car-focus on intersection design is the cause of this poor design.  As long as the City of Pasadena’s DOT does not address high-stress streets like this, bicycle mode share in this part of the city will not increase.  The street is plenty wide enough for buffered bike lanes, but the will has been lacking at Pasadena DOT.  Once we get past the high-stress part, though, it is a glorious ride.

After school, my daughter notices that her rear tire is completely flat.  My wife picks her up from school and when she gets home I show her how to inspect her inner tube.  We find no puncture, and reinflate the tire.  Problem is chalked up to (most likely) middle school boys letting the air out of her tire.  Little do they know their little prank enabled my girl to learn how to fix her flat tire.  We had a good laugh and she remains undaunted.

Good news released this day, too.  A new report from the LACBC documented a healthy 7.5% increase in L.A.’s bike ridership since 2011, including big increases on routes with new bike infrastructure.  L.A. is moving in the right direction, thanks to advocacy by groups like LACBC.

Tuesday May 13:  An early day today, with an unexpected multimodal commute disaster that turned out positively.  I’d planned on taking the early bus and get to Cal Poly Pomona in time for a roundtable discussion with University officials and students about how to make the streets around Cal Poly safer for bicyclists.  I take a Metro bus that stops near my house and transfer to a Foothill Transit bus that takes me to Cal Poly for my morning commute.  That way I don’t get sweaty in my work clothes.  I almost always ride my bike back home from the El Monte bus station at the end of the day.  It’s all uphill, but the hour-long ride from El Monte is a good end-of-day workout and de-stresser.

This morning I text message Metro and the bus is supposed to be at my stop in 10 minutes.  It takes me about 4 minutes to ride down to the bus stop from my house and I leave with plenty of time to spare.  However, as I get within about 50 feet of the bus stop, I see my bus fly by.  Today the damn bus is 4 minutes early!  This bus only runs once every half hour, and I really need to get to work early today.  I take off on a sprint after the bus.  There’s a stop about half a mile down the street and if I can catch up, I’ll make it.  About half a block behind the bus, I yell for the passenger at the corner to tell the bus to wait.  I guess she doesn’t hear me and the bus takes off.  There’s a traffic light in another mile … if the bus catches the red light, I just might be able to catch up.  Pedaling furiously, I watch helplessly as the bus sails through the intersection on a green light.  I, on the other hand, catch the red.  Should I ride back home and drive to work?  Hell no.  Since I’ve already gone more than a mile toward the station, I decided to ride the rest of the way to the El Monte station, where I can pick up the Foothill Transit bus (which run every 15 minutes) and avoid being too late.  To my surprise, the ride to EMS is much faster (and less strenuous) than the ride home, because it’s almost all downhill.  Morning traffic is not too heavy, and, while I don’t beat my bus there, I do make it in time to catch a subsequent Foothill Transit bus to Cal Poly and I’m only 15 minutes late to the meeting (rather than 30 minutes late if I’d waited for the next Metro bus).  I also learn that if I miss my Metro bus, I can ride to EMS.  Metro, you let me down today.  My bike didn’t.

Gwen_Bike Week

Wednesday, May 14:  An uneventful multimodal commute today.  Buses were on time and not too crowded.  This afternoon Dr. Gwen Urey and I led a workshop on bicycle safety for students.  About 7 or 8 showed up and it was covered by the student newspaper.  Best part was I got to wear my “Bike Week Volunteer” t-shirt.  Bike culture at Cal Poly Pomona is still small, but I’m impressed and heartened with how it is steadily growing.  Temps in LA were in the low-100s, but I rode home after sunset, had plenty of water, and the ride allowed me to unwind.

Bike2WorkCPP

Thursday, May 15:  Bike to Work Day at Cal Poly Pomona.  Did my regular multimodal commute, but I proudly wore my “One Less Car” T-shirt, which the students loved as I rolled up to the B2W table the University Cycling Coalition had set up.  The students were offering free bagels, coffee, and orange juice to all bike riders, and there was a great feeling of camaraderie among the participants.  It was inspiring to see Rob, one of my colleagues, ride to work from Pasadena, despite the heat.  I know it is a small thing, but it is nice to get a little recognition for doing the right thing when so much of the time our car-centric society is either hostile or indifferent to our existence.

Friday May 16: Stayed home, caught up on work.

DorkySelfie_HB

Saturday May 17:  The only time I used my car this week.  Drove to the beach for an early morning surf session. Afterwards, rode my bike along the beach bike path to Huntington Beach, where I bought a gift certificate for a beach cruiser rental for a friend.

Final thoughts on Bike Week 2014:  Last year during bike week I was feeling thoroughly discouraged.  The death of a student cyclist at Cal Poly and the lack of safe bike infrastructure on the streets around the university seemed to make a mockery of the week’s festivities.  This year, the challenges have not gone away, but I see signs of hope.  A new student-led bike advocacy club at Cal Poly has reinvigorated the discussion of bike infrastructure around the university and two young colleagues of mine, one of whom is in my department and both of whom have offices near mine, regularly ride to work.  The city of Pomona has a new bike plan, and there is renewed discussion of a bike path along a nearby creek that would provide a safe route from the Pomona/Claremont area to campus.  Near my home in the San Gabriel valley, bike advocacy is still small, but it is growing and showing signs of influencing local decision-makers.  Groups like Bike SGV, Move Monrovia, and the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition are organizing and advocating for bike and pedestrian friendly streets.  I now have been certified as a bicycle safety instructor and have found new opportunities to teach bike safety to the next generation.  Finally, I’ve been consciously focusing on the positive in my own life, avoiding the enervating negative energy that can paralyze me as I try to move (literally) in a positive, sustainable direction.

These are reasons to be cautiously optimistic this Bike Week.  The movement continues.

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Just Keep Trying

Jim Shanman of Walk n' Rollers leads a bike safety lesson at Sierra Madre Middle School. At right, volunteer instructor Andrew Fung Yip of BikeSGV looks on.

Jim Shanman of Walk n’ Rollers leads a bike safety lesson at Sierra Madre Middle School. At right, volunteer instructor Andrew Fung Yip of BikeSGV looks on.

I haven’t posted on this blog for a while and it’s time to get back to it.  Partly, my absence has been to the usual things: work, family obligations, the busyness of life.  On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago I’d penned an angry rant about the average suburbanite’s laziness and unwillingness to get their fat asses out of their cars—even for their kids’ sake, but ultimately decided not to post it.  I wrote it at a low point, mostly as therapy.

My frustration stemmed from the low turnout at a bike festival I had put together to provide a free bike skills class at the local middle school.  After busting my tail to put this thing together, the turnout was anemic, and I couldn’t get any parents from the middle school to step up and help boost turnout.  A parent advisor for one of the student clubs who’d agreed to have some students paint a banner to publicize the event completely flaked out on me, and I wound up paying for flyers out of my own pocket.  Other parents to whom I’d appealed to bring their kids were no-shows.  I felt angry.

I’ve decided to look at the bright side, however.  The bike safety event at least provided an opportunity for a small number of students to learn safe bike skills and, while we had more instructors than students, it was still a fun event.  Jim Shanman of Walk n’ Rollers, a Culver City-based organization that puts on such events, and volunteers like Jackson, Nikki, Andrew, and Chris from Bike San Gabriel Valley, a local advocacy organization, put together a great program. The students who did participate really got a lot out of the experience, and I enjoyed watching them gain confidence handling their bikes, learning some basic maintenance and riding safely.  The compliments I got from the local Rotary Club that funded most of the event, the local PD, and  the school principal helped ease the frustration of dealing with apathetic parents.  And, at least there are a couple more kids in town who know how to ride safely and have more confidence doing so.  A follow up email from Jim Shanman lifted my spirits, too.  Really, if anybody wants to put together a youth-oriented bike event, contact Walk n’ Rollers.  They’re terrific.

The morning of the event, when I saw how few kids had brought their bikes to school, I swore I’d never do it again, but I’m at the point where I’m willing to consider trying again.  Maybe getting an earlier start with the local PTA and the student body leaders at the school.  Maybe I’ll take a different approach and make it a community event next year.  At any rate, I’ve decided I’m not going to give up.

It’s going to take a long time to break the stranglehold of the automobile on our suburban culture, but the change is necessary for so many reasons and youth are integral to changing the culture.  Next year, I’ll build on what I’ve learned and the event will be better.  It’s like learning to ride a bike.  If at first you don’t succeed ….

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