Boyonabike!

Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Archive for the tag “Bike Week”

Bike Week 2015

The annual national Bike Week event always provides a good opportunity to reflect on the state of bicycling where I live and ride.  On the one hand, things are moving much too slowly in terms of the implementation of good, bike-friendly infrastructure where I usually commute.  On the other, there are hopeful signs that change is in the air.

Campus bike week events at Cal Poly Pomona, where I teach, highlighted the continuing need for complete streets and improved campus access for bikes, pedestrians, and transit users.  The campus transportation director has yet to embrace bicycling and transit as anything but last resort options and instead is spending more than $41 million on a new parking structure.  Moreover, campus transportation officials were largely absent from the student-organized bike week events.  Nevertheless, the LA County Department of Public Works (DPW) has recently proposed a road diet and protected bike lanes (!) for Temple Ave., a major thoroughfare that runs next to campus. The campus also has a new President and there are signs of a willingness to work with local transit agencies to possibly bring bus service closer to the heart of campus.

Rendering of possible protected bike lanes on Temple Ave between Mt.SAC and Cal Poly Pomona.

Rendering of possible protected bike lanes on Temple Ave between Mt.SAC and Cal Poly Pomona.

 

Bike week at Cal Poly kicked off with a roundtable discussion of alternative transportation visions for Cal Poly.  The discussion was organized by the University Cycling Coalition and included representatives from Foothill Transit, the City of Pomona, the LA County Department of Public Works and LA Co. Dept. of Public Health, advocacy group Bike SGV, Students for Quality Education, Cal Poly’s sustainability coalition, as well as students and faculty from Cal Poly and Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC).

Cal Poly's University Cycling Coalition leads a discussion of alternative transportation during Bike Week.

Cal Poly’s University Cycling Coalition leads a discussion of alternative transportation during Bike Week.

Attendees heard a presentation from students pointing out the desperate need for alternatives to exorbitant parking rates, the university’s lack of action on a bike master plan (called for during last year’s bike week), and marginalization of transit access and transit users.  Despite the university’s own 2007 “Climate Action Plan” (CAP) that calls for reducing single occupancy vehicle use by 30%, the number of students who drive to campus alone has remained at 80% since the report was released.  Clearly, what is needed is leadership that will help this university make good on its commitment to reduce its reliance on the automobile for transit to/from campus.

The major takeaways from the discussion were:

1.  Improve transit access to campus.  Currently, Cal Poly is served by 6 bus lines (2 Metro, 4 Foothill Transit), and working with Foothill Transit to establish a stop for the nearby Silver Streak express bus would make it 7.  What the campus needs is an on-campus bus station that is conveniently located, has shelters and benches, and is well-lit for safety at night.  Bus riders currently stand in the dirt on Temple Ave and wait for buses.  A campus that has $41 million for a new parking garage surely has money for decent campus bus stops.  Students for Quality Education (SQE) is calling for subsidized student bus passes, provided by many other campuses, including neighboring Mt. SAC.

2.  Bike Lanes.  Major streets on and around campus are designed to maximize automobile flow and speed.  As a result, they are dangerous and extremely uncomfortable for cyclists.  The County DPW has a draft plan for protected bike lanes on Temple Ave, a major thoroughfare near campus. The county is seeking the University’s support for the proposed Temple road diet as part of its grant proposal.

3.  A Bike and/or Mobility Master Plan Committee.  Campus activists called for this last year, with nothing to show for it from the previous campus administration.  Without this, we are at the mercy of a car-centric Transportation department.

After the roundtable discussion, students led a rally and march to the campus transportation office to demand more transit, bike, and pedestrian access to campus.  It was inspiring to see students take the initiative on alternative transportation issues.

Cal Poly students call for more transit access, and bikeable, walkable streets near campus.

Cal Poly students call for more transit access, and bikeable, walkable streets near campus.

On Thursday of bike week, the University Cycling Coalition hosted a well attended and stimulating panel discussion on “Cycling and Social Equity,” that featured several big names in the LA cycling advocacy community.  Panelists Tamika Butler (Executive Director of LACBC), Erika Reyes (Ovarian Psyco Cycles), Maria Sipin (Multicultural Communities for Mobility), and Don “Roadblock” Ward (Wolfpack Hustle), all discussed the importance of cycling as a vital part of an equitable transportation system.  Panelists agreed that investment in transit-friendly, bike-friendly, and walkable neighborhoods and streets is a social justice issue and that these investments should not be limited to upscale, or gentrifying communities.  They also urged advocates for alternative transportation to get a seat at the table where transportation decisions are made.  “If you don’t have a seat at the table,” LACBC Director Butler told the audience, “you’re probably on the menu.”

(l to r) Tamika Butler, Erika Reyes, Maria Sipin, and Olivia Offutt discuss Cycling and Social Equity at Cal Poly Pomona.

(l to r) Tamika Butler, Erika Reyes, Maria Sipin, Don Ward, and Olivia Offutt discuss Cycling and Social Equity at Cal Poly Pomona.

 

Not only was I inspired by the energy of the student advocates, I was heartened to see the continued growth of this vibrant movement on campus, even if it is currently being ignored by the University’s transportation officials.  Change is in the air, even if car-centric attitudes remain stubbornly persistent.

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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