Sunday, March 4, 2012

What's Shaking?

"I am really starting to get tired of not having a car in LA."

A friend of mine said this the other day, and I gotta say, I only really think about it when it involves local public transportation.

But it's a tired topic of conversation. No matter how many suggestions there are ('move to a central location', 'invest in [some sort of attachment for your bicycle]', 'save up for a cab every so often', and so on), it's all been beaten like a dead, mechanical horse. So until my mood levels from that disappointment, I'm going to fill you in on what's been up lately.

I'm two-ish months from getting my degree and moving on to bigger and better things in the world at large. School should be taking up most of my time - and in all fairness, it is - but let's just say that I haven't been feeling nearly as motivated this semester as I have during ones prior. My head is not at all focused. I blame it on wanting to be done so badly with school. I'm doing an awesome job at looking towards the future, there's that. But my head is so out there that the present is - well, not suffering. But I could always be studying more and be more involved in class discussions. Senioritis, ladies and gentlemen. I have it.

In other news, I suffered a mild sports injury during the holiday season. Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like pulling one's groin. I'll admit I pushed myself hard, having run over 50 miles in a week when I'd only do about half that amount in a regular week. Recovery has involved a lot of patience, but I have also found that riding my bicycle is a great form of exercise. I mean, how obvious has it been since this blog has been in existence? But to be honest, it had become such a commute-oriented thing that enjoying the effects it had on my mind and body had been pushed so far on the backburner that, well, I forgot. It happens. Add a bit of jump rope to the mix, and some weights after a month or so, and it's been working out pretty okay.

But yeah, am still car-less in LA, but for the moment it is okay. As always, it's kept me a little more grounded than usual, a little more focused - which is more important than ever, since graduating with honors is (or should be, heh) my main focus. I am still focused more than ever on getting the word out in a more active way about how vital local bus service is in the Valley more than anything else, but to be honest, things have gotten in the way. I blame senioritis, but only for about another two minutes.

You heard it here first. Be a doll and hold me to it?

Happy cycling~

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When It Rains...

I forgot to bring my bicycle in from the rain. Again. This is the third rain in about two months.

Thankfully, it's getting a much-needed shower; however, what I'm really worried about is its chain. I've heard that taking care to lube it and make sure everything is in working condition (brakes, gears, etc.), my bike should still be in good working order.

I just feel so badly for it. It's cold and wet out there. Interestingly enough, the one time I did bring it into the house, it rained for maybe two hours. Then I was too lazy to take it out for another week or so. When it was awesomely sunny. You know, perfect biking weather. I guess that's how it goes sometimes.

In other news, I've been away due to finishing up my degree in creative writing... gotta love finals week. But my thoughts have not been far away from cycling and transportation, as can be seen on a semi-regular basis via my Twitter profile. In fact, a fair amount of my observations on public transit lately have made to Metro's The Source on Twitter Tuesdays, under their #fail subheading. Not sure if that's such a great thing, but hey, someone's listening. Responding, however, is a totally different story.

I'll be embarking on new life chapters once my degree is obtained, though. Hopefully translating to a new job, a new place of residence, and maybe (maybe?) a car, or scooter, or something to better assist things that take place underneath the umbrella of life. But that is all still at the very least six months away.

My dream, which I don't feel is unattainable, is to move from the Valley to over-the-hill, or close enough to the Red Line on 'this side' of the hill so as to still be connected. But we shall see.

It's never a bad idea to have plans. Ever so distantly paraphrasing/referencing John Lennon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Every Hour, Near the Hour

I live a block away from a busy intersection on Balboa Blvd in the Valley. Balboa Blvd is an artery that services Nordhoff Blvd and Ventura Blvd - one being a major artery to California State University, Northridge; the other being a major, major artery alongside the 101 freeway, to many businesses/restaurants/grocery stores, and of course, Metro itself - rapid bus 750 and local buses 150/240.

My question is this: why does local bus 236/237 run every hour, near the hour? Near the hour is not of importance - why does it run once an hour?

I don't think I need to go into why I'm asking this question. The reason it is being asked should be plain enough.

If you miss the bus or the bus is late, it can prove to be quite a damper on one's day. Very often have I seen and passed by people multiple times within the hour only to see them still standing, waiting for the bus. Who has time to wait 45+ minutes for a bus to arrive? Just in case it wasn't common knowledge, nobody gets their kicks from being stranded.

Balboa isn't the only street to be affected by poor transportation planning. White Oak Ave, another street I lived very close to, is in the same situation. Winnetka Ave and De Soto Ave are also subject to this - there's no bus that even goes up Woodley Ave, at least not along its entire length.

With the exception of Reseda and Van Nuys Blvd, that I am personally experienced with, most streets heading in a north-south direction in the Valley are grossly under-serviced by Metro. (Sepulveda's local bus at least runs slightly consistently, but Metro recently stopped service of its Rapid line.) The east-west direction streets - although not up to par as they should be given the population and the need - are better serviced, but that's not saying much when your connecting bus heading north-south isn't arriving for a while.

Every-hour-service during the day. Does this make sense to anyone? Metro regularly toots its own horn about its frequent service, most of which takes place Downtown. Unfortunately not everyone works, lives, and plays there. And while the Orange, Red, Green, Gold, Purple and Blue Lines are awesome in their own right, with local service lacking, it is laughable to deliver oneself such praise.

Sadly, this is not news.

This is NOT okay.

Who OK'd this?

And how do we fix this?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hard Times

One of the main reasons I ride my bicycle and take the bus instead of going out and buying a car is because, honestly, it's more money than I'd care to spend on insurance, car notes, and gas right now. It's been that way for a while, at least the last five years, but with the stark economic downturn, even more so now.

For the better part of earlier this year, I didn't even buy a monthly bus pass from Metro. That is until my social, professional, and love life increased substantially, much to the appreciation of my self. In addition to covering more events, conducting interviews, etc., et al, I'll be the first to say that having a boyfriend is a really nice way to justify going from one-way fare/transfers to day passes to weekly passes to monthly passes.

But there are times when it's a good idea to think about saving money... you know, at the end of the month close to paying rent; thinking of meals that will last two and three days (hallelujah, Crock Pot and the oven, in general), and I don't know... thinking creatively so as to be able to save for vacations, small impulse buys, day-to-day stuff, and hell, the future.

I've been thinking that in the spirit of incorporating the physical and mental benefits of riding my bicycle, and somewhat monetary benefits of taking the bus (depending on your region), I'm probably going to examine different ways to save money, perhaps make money, and all around still have fun and live well during these difficult times that most everyone (except for the absurdly wealthy) has had to adjust to in the last couple of years, quarters, months, or weeks.

Look for updates along these lines! Thanks again for your support, feedback, and most importantly, for reading.

xoxo

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Top Five Worst Things You Can Do On Your Bike

Sometimes the most obvious of distractions are the ones least considered but when it comes to cycling, walking, or driving, however, eliminating them as best as possible would seem to be a good rule of thumb. Safer, walkable, livable streets - isn't that the goal?

I've composed a list of some things that were on my mind that sort of detract from that idea, whether intended or not. It isn't meant to call anyone out, but it was just something on my mind. Without further adieu:

The Top Five Worst Things You Can Do On Your Bike



1. Text. Last year, Philadelphia banned text messaging while driving, on one's motorcycle, while rollerblading and skateboarding. Lessening the distractions is the way to go, and I'll be the first to admit that when I was nineteen years old I was in an accident in part due to my cell phone. It happens. And when it does, if you're conscious enough to remember the accident, you'll feel like an idiot afterwards.

Also, I've almost been "walked into" by people who walk and text, which has proven more embarrassing for them than for myself.

2. Smoke a cigarette. Everyone has their needs, and needs 'need' to be met. Smoking is a loaded topic of conversation, but I'm going to allow myself a moment to say the following: seeing someone smoke on a cigarette is probably one of the silliest things I've seen (emphasis on "one of the"). Even if done so leisurely, bicycling is a cardiovascular exercise, which means you're using your heart and your lungs to effectively move oxygenated blood through your body. Props to you for being on the bicycle. As a suggestion, if only once out of how many times you find yourself on your bicycle, how about leaving the pack at home, trading it for water so as to enjoy the relatively clean Los Angeles air?

On the note of water...

3. Drink. Bad idea, and by that I mean anything with alcohol content. The last thing you should want while riding your bicycle is a DUI. Despite the ongoing debate as to whether or not bicycles are vehicles, the law in California is stated as such on none other than the website for the Department of Motor Vehicles. At the very least, this would do well to serve as a point of reference as to how bicycles should be operated, in this regard and in general. Bicyclists should adhere to the rules of the road. Even if on the sidewalk (something I don't encourage), you're riding with or alongside traffic in that capacity.

I mean, even pedestrians have to follow the rules of the road unless they would like to be run over. Pedestrians also can get cited for public intoxication. Why would a cyclist be exempt?

4. Tie your shoes. Especially when in motion. I often find myself asking how one even does that, even though I've seen the attempt many times. I'd personally be afraid of getting my lace stuck in the chain, then maybe bucking forward and rolling over myself. But that's probably just me.

5. Take off your sweater/shirt/etc. Actually, removing any article of clothing is probably not advised, especially if you wear glasses. What a mess. I'll extend this to apply to most anything you have to stop everything in order to do. This also goes to applying make-up and maybe eating. A granola bar, not so much. A double bacon cheeseburger, more likely than not.


Obviously some parts of this list are in jest and are fueled by a slightly irked personal opinion through observation, but never via a holier-than-thou mentality. How many times have you asked "why" and never received an answer?

Still, simply put, you'd be surprised at what things have been seen on the road - or maybe you wouldn't. It doesn't begin to cover half of what seems to be seen as exempt behavior merely because one isn't behind a wheel. There is more information out there to support the notion of riding safely and consciously than to support the notion that "I'm on a bicycle, who cares what I do?". The last thing the cycling community needs is another person to view someone as "just another cyclist" thinking they were above riding smart and with decency.

Happy cycling~

Photo via ftlauderdaleinjurylawyerblog.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Car-Lite Lifestyle

I was dorking around on NPR.com and found an interesting interview from a few years back with Chris Balish, author of a book entitled How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, something that I will probably pick up in coming weeks when I'm done reading George Orwell's 1984.

In this interview, I appreciated that the author stressed enough along the lines of living without a car of one's own. Because anywhere you go, a car is going to sometimes be necessary. I mean, why else are there taxis in New York City?

Me, I love taxis, but only based on experiences in New York. Elsewhere, especially in LA, they're far too costly for the average person - a gauge I can understand due to the need versus the accessibility. (How many people have vehicles in NYC/Brooklyn as opposed to Los Angeles? That and everyone's got to make their dollar somehow.) Also, renting a car for the day can be expensive, but thankfully there are by-the-hour options such as Zipcar, for running around on errands or an evening out or something. (The only real con at the moment is that Zipcars aren't really located in or near the Valley, but at least it's proactive enough of a start.)

Also, living close to the Orange or Red Lines can prove to be a good option in a mass transit sense, however dependent upon the proximity of things one likes to do, or must do and everything in between, and the time of day or night in which they are to be done.

Local service would also do well to prove itself a Point A to Point B option. It is, in a lot of respects, but it could be better.

I'm more than aware that I'm beating a dead horse, but whoever's doing transportation planning - in the Valley, in Burbank, in Glendale and beyond - is not taking into account just how many people could benefit from local service seeing a bump in frequency and extended hours. If translated into dollars, making an investment in local service could stand to see Metro not having to cut jobs or lines as drastically as they have previously, and blah blah blah blah....

Suffice it to say, I'm not looking forward to taking 30 pounds of cat litter home from the store sometime tomorrow. I promise I will stop snarking on things soon enough and instead highlight the benefits of reading on the bus (about bicycle repair, perhaps) or the awesomeness of even the slightest headwinds when you haven't done your strength training for the day (or month).

Happy cycling/busing/walking/running for it~

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Local Buses: Part One

The other evening I was on my way home from Northridge when I saw a gentleman sitting on the northwest corner of White Oak and Saticoy waiting for the 239 bus to come. I was rushing home because I was about fifteen minutes late as far as getting ready to have dinner with a friend at a sushi place, which somewhat conveniently, was in the same block I was passing.

The only inconvenient things when my friend and I came back an hour later only to see the same gentleman sitting at the same spot, occasionally getting up and into the street, wondering where the bus was.

It's not rare that I'm in that same position. Sometimes it happens when I'm on Sunset Blvd waiting for the 2 (a line that I praise quite frequently), which can run ten or so minutes late heading west because traffic is awesome. (Very rarely does it run late coming from Beverly Hills.) But even though it's annoying when it happens, at least the 2 runs ever twenty or so minutes.

That said, an amount of local lines in the Valley run every 40-60 minutes midday, with a more than fair percentage of them being north-south buses. I really don't understand the reasoning behind it, and haven't for quite a while. If you've read here recently or at all, you know that I've come to the conclusion that local service needs attention if Metro's apparent goal of reducing fuel emissions and lessening traffic is ever, ever to get off the ground.

I only found out recently that there are local council meetings held in the Valley the first Wednesday of every month. Knowing that it's short notice, I still feel it worth mentioning that one will be held this evening at 6:30 pm at the following address:

Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center
6262 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91406

The intended agenda is highlighted in full here, per Metro.net.

I almost challenge next month for local service to make its way on the agenda, or at the very least, an item not on the agenda open to discussion. Why? It's because the squeaky wheel (or brake, or chain) that gets the grease, gets the lube.

I also challenge that anyone who is affected by local service in the Valley - whether you drive, cycle, walk, or bus it - attend and take in the information, if not join in the topics. And if you're not in the Valley (and if you are) check out and see if there is a meeting you can attend soon. Being informed and having a voice are the strongest tools a person or collective group can have.

Local service in the Valley is not the best, and during rush hour it is far from the worse. Thank goodness for the Orange Line and Rapid lines 741 (Reseda Blvd), 750 (Ventura Blvd), and 761 (Van Nuys Blvd). But what about Topanga Cyn Blvd? Winnetka Blvd? Balboa Blvd? Sepulveda Blvd? Laurel Cyn Blvd? Vineland? These streets heading in the north-south direction are just a few of the streets that benefit from local lines, but not frequently enough to efficiently serve the local areas. There are malls, schools, businesses, recreational facilities, bridges over the hill and accessibility to Metro itself that the having of more efficient local service would greatly benefit the economy. I don't even think the ways need counting. Aside from that, there are homes in which people hope to get to without having to walk three to five miles at the end of a work day.

I don't think I've left much out, and I'm not sure what else can be said at this point.

But if able to attend, whether tonight or next month, I highly encourage it. And if not, make use of Twitter regarding your thoughts and use the #metrolosangeles hashtag. Send an email. Write a letter. Start a blog. Take pictures. Get the grease, get lubed. It's a serious issue and I think it would be pretty cool to see local service boom.