Jimmy Lizama on the Los Angeles Times, a Covid tour of Downtown L.A.

(Photo by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

This article by Thomas Curwen is called Coronavirus has turned once-bustling downtown L.A. into a ghost town. Can it recover? And it’s structured by following Jimmy as he works as a bike messenger and taking detours into other business and downtown residents. It’s a slice of the life we are living in the middle of a pandemic.

another cautionary tale

so the series on bike theft continues.  here is a recent story from friend/neighbor/co-conspirator Jimmy:

So, from what I hear, this is what happens Now when you steal bikes or bike stuff from messengers or any cyclist in downtown.Word on the street is a couple of high school bike thieves were caught by a messenger in the act of petty larceny, e.g. stealing some commuter’s bike wheel.  Messenger says, “hey what ya doing?” and calls another messenger.  Kids try to act tough, but the amounting messenger population descending upon them like large squawking scavenger birds began to eat away at any courage and conviction they might have had left.
Instead of beating them to bloody pulp and sending them home in their own private ambulance (like the other times that this has happened) these messengers thought better of their opportunity:  they stole back … jeans, dickies, shirts, hats, jewelry, shoes … everything save one sock and two pairs of properly soiled boxers.
The boys exclaimed that they would call the cops and right then and there a Sheriff drove past and kept up driving past with a look of bewilderment, as to say, “these crazy kids these days.”
The boys were sent on their way and one very responsible messenger called one of the boy’s father on the boy’s cell phone, told the father of the whereabouts of his son, his current condition and why it was that he was in that condition.  The father replied with a simple and firm, “Good.”
As for the all the stolen items, they were quickly donated to the needy homeless person who calls downtown home.
If I lose hope with the balance of the universe, which I do from time to time, I must say, it these sweet morsels of serendipity that makes up for a lot of it.
Here’s to non-violence and [hopefully] how effective it can be.

Lube and Sprockets.

Some Good Bicycle News – From Northridge

(My apologies to any L.A. Eco-Village blog readers that don’t yet find themselves way into bicycles. It’s definitely a huge part of our culture here at LAEV. This article is more about an eco-villager bicycling and engaging in bike activism in L.A., than it is about eco-village itself. More eco-village specific articles coming soon!)

City Steamroller Truck Making the New Bike Lanes Nice and Flat

City Steamroller Truck Making the New Bike Lanes Nice and Flat

I had the good fortune of being the first person to ride a new bike lane in my city yesterday. Here’s my overly-long drawn-out first person account, with plenty of blurry cell phone photos, and even talk of what I was reading and eating that day. You can get all the details after the jump. For short version go here.

Continue reading

Some Bicycle Good News – from Korea!

After the theft, I got my #2 bike into good working order after a trip to Orange 20 bike shop. I had a good time riding it yesterday in both Long Beach and Pasadena… so I wanted to shift the focus here at the LAEV blog from bike loss/theft to something more bike-positive.

Former eco-village member Paul Bournhonesque, a good friend of mine whom I miss a log, shot these photos in Seoul, South Korea. They have public bike pumps attached to their bike parking stalls!

Public Bike Parking in Seoul, South Korea

Public Bike Parking in Seoul, South Korea

Note the Heavy Duty Public Bike Pump

Close-Up of the Heavy Duty Public Bike Pump

A Cautionary Tale of My Stolen Bicycle

“The best education is always expensive”
– William Gerhardt (my grandfather)

I emerged late last night – actually early this morning – from an internet cafe on Wilshire Boulevard near Normandie Avenue to see this cut bicycle lock lying in the street:

The cable lock I had been using since 2004

The cable lock I had been using since 2004

I had hoped to see this:

My bike locked properly

My bike (locked properly, in early 2009)

There were some signs that I’d ignored. Earlier this year, Federico (here) and I (here) each blogged about an incident where three eco-villagers had emerged from a movie to find wheels stolen. That night, I felt pretty smug that I always carry around two locks, and that I hadn’t lost any wheels.

Earlier this month, Jimmy Lizama posted an email about a friend’s stolen bike on the eco-village listserve. Alex Thompson posted a couple of blog entries recently about thefts. I should have been on alert.

Yesterday, I took a nap. I had some articles to write for my turn as an actual modestly-paid guest blog writer at L.A. Streetsblog. There were some files that I wanted to use on a PC instead of the (generally wonderful, but now and then incompatible) open source computer where I’ve been working.

I biked out to the internet cafe at around 10:30pm… drank some caffeine and got in a groove writing and didn’t emerge until 3am. I walked home dejected and swearing… and I really don’t swear very often.

So… how did I contribute to this incident? Well… I confess that I locked my bike badly. I did use two locks… but I only locked one – the above cable lock – to the bike rack. The other – a small U-lock – I used to lock the back wheel to the frame. When I arrived, there was another bike locked to the city inverted-U-rack that was perpendicular to the rack, making it very slightly difficult to lock mine properly. My incorrect mental calculus was that I would be in there for an hour or two, and I was right near a subway portal at a pretty busy intersection with lots of pedestrians, so it was ok to just lock it the way I would at a parking meter or other pole. This sort of thing works in front of a restaurant during the day… but, as the results indicate, it’s a bad way to lock a decent bike in the middle of Los Angeles in the middle of the night.

I should have turned the other bike around, so it was parallel to the U-rack, so I would have clear room to secure my bike in two places. This would have taken me all of 20 seconds… but there were a few folks standing and walking around… and I stupidly didn’t want to touch someone else’s bike for the slight fear that they could see me moving it and get upset with me. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that there’s a possibility that the other bike was placed there by thieves deliberately a bad T-angle so as to discourage others from parking correctly.

So… friends and fellow travelers… be on the lookout for my bike around town… it’s the blue one in the photo above – it looks more-or-less like that picture, though it has more stickers and new kinda-bulky black plastic mountain-biker pedals. It’s a big frame (I am 6’3″) light blue Trek, 24-speed, about 3 years old. Bontrager (sp?) black/gray puncture-resistant slick road tires. Lots of stickers – C.I.C.L.E., FoLAR and others. There’s a faded green paper flower and a large Chinese bell on the straight handlebars. There’s a basic black utilitarian rack on the back.

I hereby resolve to lock my bikes really really well in the future.

Jeff Mapes Book-Signing on Saturday May 30th 2pm

Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes (Oregon State University Press, 2009)

Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes (Oregon State University Press, 2009)

Here’s a guest blog by Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities.  Mapes will be speaking at the Los Angeles Eco-Village (117 Bimini Place, Los Angeles CA 90004) on Saturday May 30th at 2pm.  The free talk is hosted by Los Angeles Eco-Village and the CRSP Institute for Urban Eco-Villages.  Did I mention that it’s free?  Though you’ll want to bring money to purchase a copy of Mapes’ book which he’ll gladly sign for you.  Jeff Mapes also appears at 7pm that evening at Flying Pigeon bike shop in Highland Park.

A Vehicle for the Times
by Jeff Mapes 
(Jeff Mapes is senior political reporter for The Oregonian. He has covered Congress, state government, and numerous local, state, and national campaigns. He is also author of the blog Mapes on Politics. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is a longtime bike commuter. This column first appeared in The Infrastructurist)

Accustomed as I am to hearing everyone complain about their economic woes – I do, after all, work in the besieged newspaper industry – it was a pleasant shock to hear from a friend that his bicycle accessory company had its best year ever in 2008.

 Yes, it’s true that those expensive carbon-fiber bikes aren’t exactly flying off the shelves these days as the lycra-clad, ectomorphic road warriors decide that maybe they can live with last year’s model.

But it’s a pretty good business to be selling lights, fenders and even bike bells to people who are hauling their old bikes out of storage or bringing home cheap two-wheelers from Goodwill. Now that dozens of cities around the country are starting to see cycling as a serious form of transportation, it’s become more inviting than it used to be to bike to work, the store or the neighborhood pub.

A lot of folks, of course, started picking up the cycling-for-transportation habit a year ago when gas prices shot up to $4 a gallon and keeping your car parked whenever possible took on new cachet.

Filling up with unleaded is not quite so dear now, but since just about everyone is feeling at least a little poorer now, the bike is taking on a new aura of recession chic. In my home city of Portland, Oregon, I just about keep my little flotilla of bikes going on the $20 a week I save in bus fare – and I don’t even consider driving since downtown parking runs at least $150 a month. A lot of my friends and neighbors are figuring out the same thing: some 8 percent of Portlanders now report that the bike is their primary commute vehicle, according to a survey from the city auditor. Bike traffic over the bridges into downtown has nearly doubled since 2003. Portland is at far end of the [bicycle] bell curve, but several other cities, including New York City, are also reporting measurable increases in cycling.

With the AAA calculating that it costs more than $6,000 to own and operate the smallest sedan for a year, the ability to shed at least one of the two family cars is a big incentive for those in belt tightening mode. So, in a more modest way, is skipping the monthly gym fee in favor of a 20 or 30-minute ride to work. And have you heard that gas prices are headed back up?

But there are also number of other favorable trends at work for cyclists right now, as I describe in my book, Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities. Bicycling advocates piqued the interest of the public health community after obesity cropped up as a big concern in the 1990s. In this decade, concerns about climate change, peak oil, and traffic congestion have all been fodder for advocates to push for new accommodations for bikes on the urban streetscape.

Cyclists first latched onto a serious share of federal money in 1991 with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (or, ISTEA — pronounced “ice tea”). By 2004, more than $400 million was being spent on bicycling and walking projects around the country. After passage of the latest transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU (Don’t even ask what it stands for), projects for bikes and peds just about doubled in value, according to Bikes Belong, the industry’s chief lobby group. I have another friend who is a partner in a company that works with cities on bicycle and pedestrian planning, and she’s in the enviable position of hiring people instead of laying them off.

Happily for her, cycling advocates are expecting another shot of money out of the economic stimulus bill, which includes some $800 million in the Transportation Enhancements program that can be spent on such things as bike lanes, sidewalks and multi-use trails.

The big challenge is the upcoming reauthorization of the surface transportation authorization bill. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), head of the Highways and Transit subcommittee, will get first crack at the bill in the next few months and both are talking about “transformative” legislation that will dramatically raise the amount of money spent on transportation while changing the nation’s priorities. They’ve made headlines talking about the promise of rail transit, both within cities and for long distances. They love the new streetcar systems popping up in cities. And, as I sat in DeFazio’s office last month, he went on at length about his desire to lay the groundwork for a national system of high-speed rail corridors.

What’s less known is that the two are also serious champions of bicycling. Oberstar, who became a serious cyclist to release stress as his first wife succumbed to a long battle with cancer, has made it clear that cycling will be well-treated in the next transportation bill. And cyclists have heard similarly encouraging words from DeFazio, who obtained the money for a nifty bike and pedestrian bridge newly erected over Interstate 5 in the Eugene-Springfield area where he lives. DeFazio keeps a bike in his office and likes to call himself the only former bike mechanic in Congress.

Cycling advocates think they have a friend in President Barack Obama as well. Nearly a year ago, he became the first major presidential candidate to appear at a fundraiser hosted by the bike industry (although, admittedly, agreeing to take campaign cash from a bunch of eager donors is not exactly a tough step for a politician). More importantly, during his short Senate career, Obama won plaudits in the public health community for introducing legislation aimed at forcing government agencies to assess the health impact of their development decisions.
So, as you read the headlines in your economically battered local newspaper about highway and bridge projects costing hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, know that a small slice is steadily making cities better places to live and work – one bike path at a time.

Upcoming Events: Chris Carlsson, Greywater Guerillas

The inimitable Chris Carlsson

The inimitable Chris Carlsson

This Friday, February 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm at Los Angeles Eco-Village presents a talk by Chris Carlson, speaking on topics from his new book Nowtopia:  How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today.  The requested donation is $5 at the door.  Plenty of bike parking.  LA Eco-Village is located at 117 Bimini Place, LA 90004.   Reservations recommended either call 213/738-1254 or email crsp@igc.org

For excerpts from Chris’ book, see this bicycling article at Alternet or this gardening article at the LA Eco-Village Garden Blog.

Greywater Pond - from the Rhizome Collective in Austin Texax

Greywater Pond - from the Rhizome Collective in Austin Texax

And if that wasn’t enough mischief for your short month, on Friday, February 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm, we present the Greywater Guerillas who will teach us all How to Disengage from the Water Grid.  The requested donation is a whopping $10 (though you can pay what you want – no one turned away for lack of funds.)   Reservations required – call 213/738-1254 or email crsp@igc.org

go wheels

oneWheelbikeso last night i went to watch a movie with Joe and Yuki at the vista and when we came out, slightly disappointed by the movie i must say, we had three wheels stolen.  it was like a gradient of good to bad locking practices.  Joe had a U-lock locking the frame and one wheel and an extra cable lock for the other wheel.  i had a U-lock locking my rear wheel in the fashion discussed here by Sheldon Brown and Yuki had her u-lock just locking the frame only.  and in that order Joe had two wheels left, i had one (my bike on the picture), and Yuki none.

sad as it is we all saw it coming.  i have heard rumors of more and more bikes and wheels being stolen in L.A, but had failed to take any further measures.  i’ve been locking my bike in the same fashion for at least four years and this is my first time having a wheel stolen on the street.  i had been trusting that thieves out there where going for the quick releases and not carrying that 15mm wrench you need to steal most of those fixed gear wheelsets.  fixed gear bikes have are increasingly popular and i think that is great.  bikes in Los Angeles are increasingly popular and that is even better  -in fact that is one of those things a lot of people here at the LA Eco-Village have been dedicating ther time and their lives to-  and popularity is desirability.     and with more people desiring bicycles, more bicycles will be stolen.  so our three wheels rolling in the horizon seem to me like a good sign.  a sign that the city is changing for good.  its also a reminder that any change we desire has unintended consequences.  but carrying and extra lock in exchange for more people riding bikes and cleaner air seems like and ok compromise to me.

now,  friend/neighbor/co conspirator Jimmy Lizama pointed that L.A. bike riders have had a recent history of using and displaying ultra fashionable bikes,  from colorful deep V rims to imported keirin frames from japan, and that might be coming to an end as people start favoring practicality.  call it uglyfing of camouflaging your bike, or just getting a beater bike that you will not mourn too much if it gets stolen, L.A. bike owners might start behaving more like riders from other cities like San Francisco or New York or Amsterdam where bike theft (and bike usage) is just part of life.