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.


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.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Out of Shape (But Not Really)

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in a while. A couple of friends and I did a forty-mile bicycle ride from Van Nuys, through Burbank, to Cypress Park and back, and to be honest, it was a little brutal. Perhaps it was the heat of the day or my personally not having done hills in a while (not that the hills were particularly grueling), but I just found it strange that for all the running and walking and muscle training I've been doing this year, the ride in itself was a little... tiring.

And it should have been, right? Maybe?

See, I'm not too sure it should have been. Granted I know that exerting oneself in one fashion is completely different than exerting oneself in another. Whether swimming, cycling, running, jogging, doing yoga, pilates, tae kwon do, jiu jitsu, picking up a twenty-five pound package or a small child - simply being athletic does not a Jack or Jill of all athletic trades make.

Maybe I just need a little more training on the bicycle, so to speak. We've done longer rides, in more brutal headwinds, on heavier bicycles - granted, in cooler weather - and for some reason it felt more effortless. But really, in the end, my debating it with myself does nothing other than spin my brain in circles. It was a good ride, we covered a long distance, and there will be more rides to come in the very near future. In the meantime, whether I cover a long distance or not shouldn't be the issue... it's being on the bicycle that 'should be', period - but only because it's important to me.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it's not really worth worrying about something if you're out there actually doing it and really pushing towards, and that one's level of activity really should be aimed towards their individual goals, whether funneled through a hobby (such as cycling or working out) or otherwise.

I love bicycling. It goes without saying that such 'training' in a recreational sense serves to help any aspect of life outside of the recreational realm (as far as making strides in commuting and/or running errands around town). Bring it on, I suppose.

No more whining. I am fabulous. And, frankly, if you're out there working it, so are you.

P.S. The extended LA River Path is most definitely something awesome. Much thanks to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From the Valley to West Hollywood (and Back)

I live in the Valley. My boyfriend lives in West Hollywood.

In this time in getting to know each other, I have learned quite a bit, especially transportation-wise. Transportation is always on my mind, even when I'm stationary, but let's just give it a go anyway:

1) There are three ways to get to West Hollywood, whether by car, bicycle or bus. (a) Take the 405 to the back end of Sunset and head to your destination that way, heading east. (Or, the 761 to the 2.) (b) Take the 101 to Highland, make your way to Sunset, and head to your destination via the boulevard heading west. (Or, the Red Line to Highland, and the 2.) Or, to me, at least, the most direct in the form of (c) taking the 101 or whatever side street of your choosing to Laurel Canyon where it bleeds into Crescent Heights, and head wherever it is you choose, because you're pretty much in the middle of it all. (Or, the 150/240 to the 218, then the 2. Feel free to write this down.)

I have not yet ridden my bicycle from the Valley to over the hill yet, but one of these days, I think I will. Bicycling in the Valley has made me brave and/or ambitious, which, in my vocabulary, can be substituted for crazy.

2) Depending on what you're doing, you don't have to drive much over the hill. Unless you're going to the El Capitan and then to Fred 62 and then maybe The Roxy for a late show, that is. Surprisingly, a lot of people walk and/or cycle in the particular area I'm referring to, so much so that to get in the car is a little strange, unless one is going to work.

3) The local 2 bus is thebomb.com. I've never had to wait more than 20 minutes for it, even on the weekend. And that's a fact. If the north-south buses in the Valley were as considerate, it'd be pretty nifty.

4) It's cool being on an island, as apparently West Hollywood is socially termed. And granted, there is always something going on. But it's nice going somewhere else every so often. I like the Valley, quite a bit. I used to not, but in recent years I learned how nice it is when something has the ability to become your own, or you learn where it lands in the scheme of everything else, geographically or otherwise.

Personally, I love the bicycle paths in the Valley, the hills, the hiking opportunities, the wide streets, the lake and art house theater down the street from my house, the parks and paved streets to run in, on and around, and the In-N-Out a block away... it's silly. It's a bit quieter. But it'll do for the next ten or so months as I finish up this current chapter in life.

And finally,

5) The distance between West Hollywood and the Valley really isn't the end of the world. This is coming from someone who does not drive the distance. I have mentioned before the one time I had been in a car after years of not driving and it felt like I was in a capsule and completely cut off from the world. Not to say that's how it feels to anyone who spends a lot of time driving, but I get not wanting to be behind the wheel. But comparing a convenience to the more time it takes to utilize public transportation is... maybe not silly, but let's just say I'm always open for a debate and/or discussion. On any front. Let's talk gas, insurance and waiting in traffic. Let's talk summer temperatures, and how going Metro takes about three times as long (but there's nothing a book and a fully charged iPod won't do to make it better). But still, even though Orange Line is a walk from my place, as it's always been, in about 25-30 minutes from that point I'm thisclose to being back over the hill, whatever it is I may be doing.

It's not news that I'm planning for a car-lite existence rather soon-ish. Someone on another blog said it best, paraphrased: "I'm not car-free, but I like to pretend that I am." That's always been the goal.

I really do think that's it for now. Collected observations are my favorite.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Local Service Still to Improve

I am really excited at the thought of Metro expanding its rail service. The Orange and Red Lines have been really awesome in the years of their operation, and to be honest, the more the better.

However, the cost going towards the expansion of rail is depleting the function of local service. Let it be said, rail is awesome. But I feel that this is catering to the car culture even more.

Look, and cars are great, too. They definitely serve a purpose, especially since local service is virtually disappearing.

But if we're ever going to be reliable sans cars, or ever really achieve a 'car-optional' culture, local service needs a friggin' chance.

Back in March, The LA Times announced Metro's plans to cut local service in order to better transfer funds to the rail projects. As of June 26, these changes were implemented, which included the discontinuation of weekend lines, the shortening of lines in general, and some schedules have been changed to hourly. And yes, while others were extended or combined, the decrease of service is the most noticeable and is not the first change of its kind in recent months, nor will it be the last.

It almost seems like a moot point to even say anything about this because they are changes that will happen no matter what, in some capacity, at least. But I've always believed that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Hourly service does not cut it. Cutting lines doesn't cut it. Mediocre service doesn't cut it. Rail is awesome, but unless you have a car or are willing to pay exorbitant rates for a taxi, how exactly does one plan to get there?

If it's important enough (read: if it's bothering you enough), say something about it already.

And maybe, maybe in thirty years we'll see less backwards movement.

Photo via The Transit Coalition

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hot Hot Heat

By now, anyone living and breathing in the LA area is looking back on those awesome weeks at the end of May and earlier this month in which it felt like Spring was going to untie its sandals and stick around for a little while longer, and a little while longer at that. There was breeze, 65 degree temps, and a clear view of Downtown LA on a sunny day. Smog? What's that? Summer? Where? Then mid-June hit and that last little bit of Paradise was gone.

Now that Summer has clocked us with its heavy hand, anticipating the worst should be a given when it comes to cycling for purposes commute-oriented or recreational - because the last thing anyone wants to do is collapse of heat stroke. I mean, unless someone out there really gets off on such a thing. No? I thought not.

I've been running a lot lately, and as everyone knows, running and cycling are two entirely different activities. However, I've found that the risk of overheating and testing of the limits of one's body come all to easy in both forms of activity. Generally during the first twenty minutes, I'm fine. It's when the last 25-40 minutes are realized and powered through that, later, it is decided that running earlier in the day would have been a better option.

Would it be all to convenient that said option would always be present; what to do when it isn't?

Exercise of any kind, if you're lucky, will produce sweat, which will cool down your body. But in order to keep that process moving, replacing the water lost is imperative. The first order of business would be to drink more water. Not guzzle; eight ounces of water before the ride is sufficient, then eight to twelve ounces every 20 or so minutes, depending on the length of the ride. My bicycle has two water bottle holders and I always carry something extra in a bag, or a few dollars should I run out and have need to hit a convenience store. Camelbaks and other lightweight-enough fluid packs will also do the trick.

Also, don't forget the electrolytes. Emergen-C is a favorite, but any other will do, as well. I also had a friend who, when visiting Tokyo, was on an excursion in the summer. The humidity was so intense that even the local people wouldn't go out (much). Their guide suggested fruits - packed with nutrients and water - to help with their bodies and heads. So for those long rides, relatively or otherwise, fruit is never a bad idea either. It's plum, peach and nectarine season, right? The juicier, the better.

So just think about it - the last thing anyone wants to do is be out of their natural water stores and a long way from home. And don't think that because its early morning or a warm summer evening that the body is exempt from such care. A one-two punch of listening to your body and prepping it before heading out into the heat of day is the best thing you can do going into these hot summer months.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

CicLAvia 2011 #1, Just Around the Corner

It's just around the corner - and, yes, by "it" I mean the first CicLAvia event of 2011! It will be taking place this Sunday, April 10th from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. I was actually reminded of this a few weeks ago while on Sunset Blvd, having come across this lovely piece of work:

And here's an awesome panoramic stitching from and by a close someone who captured this and thankfully not the dumbstruck look of awe all across my face (click on image to fully view):

From ciclavia.org:

"Inspired by Ciclovía, the original, weekly street closure event in Bogotá, Colombia, CicLAvia opens LA streets to pedestrians and bicyclists, creating a temporary web of public space on which residents of Los Angeles can walk, bike, socialize, celebrate and learn more about their own city. On 4/10/11, 7.5 miles of roadways will temporarily close to car traffic and open for recreational purposes. From Boyle Heights to Downtown, MacArthur Park to East Hollywood, CicLAvia encourages Angelenos to not only make active use of their streets, but to rediscover the roadways and neighborhoods that too often go unnoticed in a car. Help open LA’s streets… take part in the second CicLAvia on 4/10/11."

The first CicLAvia that Los Angeles saw last October was quite an amazing sight and overall experience. I personally had never traveled on such normally busy streets in Los Angeles with as much ease. I had no idea what to expect other than approximately seven miles of streets were to be blocked off for bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, pedestrians, etc - anyone without a car. A purely by-foot/by-manpower experience. I had the best time, an understatement at best, and the high lasted for a number of days afterward. I particularly remember being in front of the Ronald Reagan State Building at 300 S Spring Street and being amazed that I was neither stressed or rushing to get somewhere. The weather was beautiful, and everyone was out with their friends and family - it was a great time to be without a car. For all the simplistic terms of phrase, it doesn't get more simple yet honest than this: I had the best time ever. Read more about it here.

So don't forget, the event is set to take place THIS SUNDAY. Take pictures, bring your friends and family - it's free! Double-task it as a cheap and active date, if you must. My friends and I went Metro but there's plenty of parking as needed (riders, check out the event's map and directions here for information on "bike pooling" and which lines will get you where) Check out ciclavia.org for the route and much, much more information.

Two more CicLAvia events have been confirmed for July 10th and October 10th this year. Until then, get out there on Sunday if you didn't have the opportunity to last year. Join me atop this brilliantly pink cotton candy cloud of a delightful vision sans cars already.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Go Metro, Go Home (Maybe)

Metro Los Angeles has a new phone number that replaced its former number back in December last year. This isn't breaking news, but is still good to know, especially if you have called the number before:

Due to state budget constraints and the recent emergence of the 511 phone number, which provides similar access, Caltrans opted to discontinue the 1.800.COMMUTE number. The cost of operating 1.800.COMMUTE is approximately $800,000 annually. Metro's cost for maintaining the 323.GO.METRO number is estimated at $12,000 annually.

This is also probably why the operating hours of the number (new or old) is and has been and will continue to be from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday for the foreseeable future. Due to state budget constraints, providing salary for someone to provide timetable information during the actual hours of operation is not a workable option at this time.

All right, so I'm being a little snarky. The phone line is definitely a benefit, and it makes complete sense to have its hours of operation coincide with Metro's peak hours of service. But, truth be told, there are more instances than not when a WI-FI hotspot, or even a smart phone/mobile device or whatever else isn't available with which to access Metro.net for inquiries and trip planning, much less a paper timetable. It would just be cool, and yes, convenient to have a means of information when you've missed a bus or experience some other unanticipated situation.

But Metro isn't always about convenience. (Now I'm not being snarky, I swear. I'm straight-faced.) On a related note, Metro.net, its signs and flyers notifying of the number change don't even mention hours of service. I think it's important to know such things.

Just imagine how frustrating it would be to call on a Sunday at 4:32 pm only to find out you've missed operating hours by two minutes, and essentially go find a book or if you're lucky an LA Weekly because you'll be waiting for the bus with no indication of when the next one will be arriving, let alone if it'll take you in the right direction - sorry, but not really; tough noogies; you're SOL, my fellow Angeleno; better luck next time. Why don't you just get a car?

But perhaps that's just me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Speed and Strength

On a bicycle, happiness is measured in a number of ways. For me, it's measured in speed and strength, and often the two come hand in hand.

I ride my bicycle at least four days a week as a form of prostration to the timeclock gods. It used to take thirty minutes and change to get where I need to go in the morning, but lately (sometimes due to enjoying my bed or hot shower for "five more minutes"), I've been rushing. Which is bad. However, I've made lemonade out of said lemon and have managed to train my body to cut out ten minutes of commute time. Which is actually pretty awesome.

During the process, I've found that my lower body is in a lot more good pain than normal; good muscle pain vs. bad muscle strain. Who needs a gym when you've got a bicycle, a commute, and the propensity to sleep in? I can't stress how important the benefit of a strong core and back is when it comes to riding long distances, or any distance in general, and I swear I will make a more concerted effort to leave the house earlier from here on in. But even still? No gym necessary - not for me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Creative Muscle

Poetry. No new formalism views here, no emphasis on rhyme scheme or the like. Just writing. I used to think that poetry wasn't really my thing. Poetry, like narrative writing, isn't easy to write. Both require the extension and flexing of a fine portion of the creative muscle. Like most anything else, practice makes perfect, and in an effort to do so, I figured I'd pick up where I left off - with an open mind and ready to be critiqued my peers and the like.

So this concerns a poem I wrote most recently on assignment, which in my opinion is still in much need of revising. However, the general idea of the poem happens to be about the public transportation system in Los Angeles. Me, I'm just wondering if you can pick up on any references.


your arteries took a while to form
and you were born without bones
but your brain came before you

your heart had been on ice for a century
but the procedure went well. it’s beating
without the aid of machines

your nerve endings reach then recoil
due to bruised pockets of heat
with nowhere yet to go.
that will correct itself on its own

as for the skeleton, there’s a waiting list
another ten years at best

your arteries, metamorphosed into intestine
are pushing out the waste
but you’re sure to get new ones soon

- Lindsey D.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Google Maps Doesn't Like Metro Orange Line Balboa Station

Or so it seems.

The Metro Orange Line Balboa Station is the station I frequent when heading pretty much anywhere over the hill to Hollywood, Culver City, Westwood and beyond. For planning purposes I've utilized Google Maps over Metro's trip planner because in the past it has provided walking and bicycling directions as well as multiple (and I mean multiple) trip options via bus and rail to make it pretty much wherever. Also, I particularly enjoying using my home address and destination as points of reference instead of cross-streets, but that might just be me.

However, the last few trips I've planned via Google Maps in such a manner have seemed to neglect Metro Orange Line Balboa station, instead opting for the station one stop over at Woodley Station, and I'm not exactly sure why. This has made planning more of a cut-and-paste operation than the seamless procedure as it used to be. To be honest, it's not the end of the world. I'm just sitting here wondering why, though.

So my new method of operation is to find out when my connections - if any - are set to arrive so that I can plan my initial bus/train's departure in order to make it without a hitch. Again, it's so not the end of the world, but it's just an extra step that I wasn't used to making... one that I really shouldn't, to be honest.

There's really no more to it than that. Maybe I've been spoiled. Maybe something's up with Google's programming. Maybe I'm just obscenely over-aware, a curse and blessing at best. In either case I was just curious and will work around it. Any kink in the machinery is worth at least a second of reflection - yea, nay?

I really feel like Louis CK should be scolding me for not being happy, though.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Updates to Adventures of a Carless Valley Girl in Los Angeles

So I've been writing here for a while, and I plan to continue writing for a long time. I really want to thank everyone who's been reading and providing feedback - you've been so inspirational and as a result I'm seriously contemplating a major goal shift (at the very least, a side-by-side concerted effort) along the lines of taking more active steps to get the word out about transportation planning in Los Angeles.

On that note, I've been thinking of some changes to make to this blog, which will largely include the addition of photo galleries. One, this will give me more reason to take my camera with me everywhere, and two, I've grown to love Los Angeles so much in the last year. I swear I didn't love it five years ago, but now? There's so much to do, to see, to eat, to experience here. There are so many people and so many stories - I friggin' I love LA. Also, there must be some kind of adventure bug that bites you at some point in life if not merely in your twenties, and I decided I wasn't going to let not having a car get in the way of it. How easily it can be to forget how much room there is to explore. Thankfully, interested parties frequently correct my thinking.

The Metro Red Line goes through LA from North Hollywood to Union Station and back many times a day, and one of its highlights is its stations. What makes them stand out one from the other is their individual artwork and construction. Also, I have a thing for station entrances and exits, their overall construction. In the rare instance that I'm not bounding down the steps to catch the last train, I've been able to stop and admire the artwork, and in many cases I'm surprised that I haven't noticed it before. (Well, not really. Catching the last train is more often than not the highest priority.)

Also, a friend and I were walking around downtown a couple of weeks ago and stumbled upon some artwork on Grand Ave that I swear to some deity took us both by surprise. I demanded he photograph it because, per the rule of 2011 it seems, I forgot my camera at home. If I can locate the photo I will, partly because I'm leaping and making a silly face but that's somewhat besides the point...

...the point being that very soon I will color up the joint with what Los Angeles has to offer in a visual sense, on bicycle, via transit. With this, perhaps the thought that expanding our reaches or at least working towards it with more wide-reaching public transportation (hello, high speed rail proposals and, of course, the Chatsworth Orange Line and Westside subway extenstions), better bikeways and better roads will follow even more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I complain a lot.

Sure, it gets cold and rainy and windy. Sure the bus arrives late or not at all. But really, complaining about it just makes it worse.

Sometimes paying for a monthly Metro pass is a pain in the posterior. Sometimes? It's a little too much to spend every month (in theory, in reality, etc.). I live somewhat close to an Orange Line station, and to be honest I should be grateful for Metro when it is punctual. So complaining about it, although at times completely justified, isn't really necessary.

Sometimes I don't feel like riding my bicycle to the grocery store because the street inclines ever so slightly and I feel every inch of road working my tired body (something often considered after a long day). Although the ride back is somewhat downhill, getting there is the worst part. But complaining about it? Really isn't necessary.

Sometimes people drive like idiots. Sometimes our inner road rage demon gets the better of us - yes, even when on a bicycle. Does it really do anything? (Does a driver revving his engine as he/she passes on the right, expressing his/her general dissatisfaction with a cyclist in the road do anything? ...The answer is no.) Reacting to someone's thoughtless decisions by encouraging your blood pressure to raise really doesn't help anything.

Also, there's that kind of headwind that you can feel, but not see. All of you who ride bicycles regularly know what I'm talking about. I know you technically can't 'see' wind, but you can see it moving street signs, leaves, or the wayward plastic bag. The most annoying headwind the universe can dish up is a wind that outwardly does nothing, but as far as you're concerned, it pushes back, pretty harshly, but in a way that only you can feel and could really use it to your advantage (two words: resistance training). So - you guessed it - complaining about it doesn't help anything.

Unless you've won the lottery recently or you really are making over $100K a year, times are pretty hard for most everyone. And even if they aren't things are annoying and obnoxious and rest on the nerves. The thing is that those things would be annoying and obnoxious and would rest on the nerves whether or not we have the chance to experience it, so if anything, a tweak in perception might, in fact, help where complaining won't. A few suggestions:

If it's cold, rainy and windy, getting on a half-hour earlier bus will allow for traffic and if it's toasty inside, all the better. (If it's an every-hour bus, I apologize. Take it up with Metro. I'm serious. Write a letter.)

Sometimes, I wonder whether or not I really need a monthly Metro pass. Sure, it can be considered a bit of insurance, since until April we're at least guaranteed some sort of precipitation that will bring May flowers. However, since I primarily ride my bicycle during the week and occasionally bus it on weekends, I have found that for the most part getting a monthly pass (at $75/mo. for cut lines and lessened local service) isn't fitting my life right now. $6 for an 'emergency' day pass? $3.00 for a pre-determined to-and-from errand? Rarely (aka never) adds up to the full amount of a monthly pass, at least not the way I've aimed to work it.

Is that the same for everyone? Not at all. The point is examining your personal situation and justifying the expenditure is all you can do. Check to see if you qualify for reduced fares. Carpool, or see if your place of work or school provides a subsidiary of some kind. But whatever you do, make sure to buy a pass of some kind. Per Metro.net, failure to do so (and when caught; I saw a guy in handcuffs for this the other night) "may result in a fine up to $250 and 48 hours community service".

And finally, whenever I don't feel like riding my bicycle at an incline or in a slight headwind that has the gumption to push back, I just count it as the aforementioned resistance training for the day. Birds, meet stone.

Our thoughts stay with us, our minds being the one place we can't and won't ever really escape, not even in sleep. If I could suggest one thing on account of this post (a reminder to myself if ever I've read one) it would be to try to fill one's head with as much positive reinforcement against as many realistic backdrops as possible. And when it comes to dealing with the relative and sometime blatant carelessness of others, it's good to at least try to get along with others in general, because everyone has their day, and for the most part, everyone wants a tomorrow...

That said - glass, half-full. Frown turned upside-down. It is, in fact, possible.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Driving in Such-and-Such a Way is Never a Really Good Idea

I was going to navigate this post in a similar way that I do when things are on my mind and its easiest for me to - and in general, that's in list or general rant format. The thing is that I've already done so, a number of times now, and I'm actually a bit tired of feeling the need to do so.

I understand that people are imperfect, and that there is always something that can be done better to ensure that one is providing a safe road environment for fellow drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Everyone has a momentary lapse of judgement or clarity, of course. But some of us make some unsafe, often simutaneously selfish decisions that contribute to a scary domino effect that can really mess up someone's day.

To be fair on my word to point this out to those who operate cars, this is the most dangerous behavior that I've spotted recently:

-trailing behind cars making left-hand turns, making a left into an intersection that has well gone past your red light

-when making a right-hand turn onto another street, looking for cars coming from the left and not at all into a crosswalk at the right

-not allowing enough room for cyclists to be passed in a safe manner when riding in the road

-not using left and right indicators to signal a lane change or upcoming intended turn

-swinging open the car door into oncoming traffic without checking for cars/bicycles

-pulling out into oncoming traffic without checking for cars/bicycles

-making a right - or, in some cases, a left - when the arrow is, in fact, red (I've seen this at the Orange Line and have seen both a car getting hit and a car just narrowly avoiding getting hit)

-going against traffic lights in general

And in general not heeding certain signs, such as... well, ONE WAY, DO NOT ENTER, and so on. Running stop signs is another big one.

It's easy to forget operating machinery is serious business. Because I ride my bicycle in traffic I find that if I don't ride properly I will only disrupt the flow of traffic. Someone might miss me, but they may also be very annoyed with my behavior. Someone might miss me, and then they'll judge all cyclists by my lack of care. Someone might miss me, but then one day someone might hit me.

Point being is that one thing leads to another leads to another, and if we become too comfortable in the things that we know are not good habits, it will catch up to us one day. The things that we do to prepare for our drive, from the major - keys, gas, insurance - to the just as practical - buckle your seat belt, check your mirrors, stick the key in the ignition, get into reverse, then drive - will mean nothing if we don't forget that the environment in which we maneuver is much bigger than we are. Mess with the balance, and mess up someone's day. Continue to do so, and it's possible that that day will one day be yours.

I hope to never have to make another post like this again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Prologue to the Next

A few weeks ago, my folks lent me their car so I could house-sit for them and still run back and forth between my house and theirs, and so on.

A while ago I admittedly had some issue with driving. It wasn't that I couldn't drive; it was more that I went a little, well, stir-crazy while doing so. I explained this to a friend the other day who also rides her bicycle enough to understand the following: that there is the potential for experiencing slight shock when going from riding one's bicycle for a long time to driving a car. Any change can cause slight waves, no matter how miniscule, this being no exception.

When riding my bicycle, I've found how easy it is to feel an incline or wind applying pressure from either side. You can feel your body pushing limits and getting stronger. You can smell such things as night-blooming jasmine, freshly cut grass and orange blossoms. You can't really experience those things when driving. (Not fully, anyway.) Going from powering a machine with my whole body to powering a machine with the touch of my foot took all the challenge out of it and did a quick number on my psyche, I'll tell you that much. But as usual, I digress.

Considering it's been about two or so years since that happened and that I have driven much more since then, I obviously didn't have that issue this time (although the difference in activity and energy level becomes apparent within a few days). Rather, the ability to drive offered me the opportunity to observe others' driving styles that end up being dangerous not only to themselves, but to others. (Also, happily, it helped me personally see that being an active member of the road - on my bicycle, at least - has made me much more assertive and cautious in general.)

In the last post, I focused on cycling and how important it is to not just consider oneself when on the road, but rather, by having the mindset that what one does can directly effect the other, the road can be a safer place to be for everyone. Along that same vein, the following post will basically make similar points towards drivers who could probably benefit from exercising more caution.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Riding In Such-and-Such a Way Is Never a Really Good Idea

I've been riding my bicycle nearly every day during the week during my commute for as long as I can remember. At the very least, for the last three years. In doing so, I have to speak for and to those who can empathize: sometimes it's hard. When not always noticed by cars, or when dealing with those who can't obey the rules of the road/sidewalk - whether car, motor bike, fellow cyclist or pedestrian - riding with traffic can be a challenge. The best way to combat the already-present difficulty of maneuvering around and with other people is to be the best you can be on the road. Unfortunately, not everyone can do this.

That's why during this post I will present some various scenarios I've observed that you, me, and all of us would do better with and without on our bicycles.

1. Riding on the sidewalk. I understand that sometimes cars will push you off the road and it just gets annoying trying to be assertive and you just can't take it anymore. Well you know what - riding on the sidewalk is still a bad idea. For one, there are driveways and alleyways, which means that one out of five or so times, there will be a car poking its nose from out of the way, and may or may not be going at a reasonable, cautious speed. This is one of the reasons why it is best to stay off of the sidewalk, because you never know who may be looking from left to right for someone to come zooming by on their bicycle.

Another reason to stay off of the sidewalk is the presence of pedestrians. Whether you are going opposite ways or both are headed in the same direction, people don't always know how to immediately response when there is an object heading towards or sharing the space with them. Besides, on a sidewalk, there is the assumption that most activities taking place will be, well, of the walking sort. Also, if there are yards with walkways and gates, keep in mind that the persons entering and exiting may not always be on the lookout for a bicycle headed in their direction. Just assume that they won't be looking for you at all.

If you must be on a sidewalk, the only suggestion given here will to at least go in the same direction as traffic. This way, if a car is entering or exiting at a driveway, they won't be surprised to see you coming from the other direction. That's not their job to do so.

2. Riding against traffic - in the street. This will continue to make me upset. I don't understand why anyone thinks it's a great idea to ride their bicycle facing traffic IN THE STREET. I am actually wondering if I can do an informal interview with riders who do so just to get a few straight answers. There is no logic to riding your bicycle facing traffic in the street unless you are looking to kill yourself. I once saw a guy on a bike riding the wrong way... he made a left onto a street and was in the right-hand lane. He looked surprised when he was met face-to face with a angry horn of a car who was attempting to make a right at the street he had just turned off of.

Unless you want to die, do not, I repeat, do not right against traffic in the street. It is not safe. It is not smart. Be sure that everyone who is watching you do so is screaming "WHAT AN IDIOT; DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!" on the inside. The number of people I've seen doing so lately has increased to a ridiculous amount that it can't not be pointed out anymore. It's dangerous enough doing so on the sidewalk - what really makes you think that doing so in the street is any more practical?

Don't do it. Don't.

3. Riding without a helmet. There are a lot of college kids on bicycles on the CSUN campus, which is great. There's more than enough parking for them, although individual locking-up jobs need improvement, but I digress. This afternoon I visited the campus and counted two out of twenty-two riders who were actually wearing helmets. I was one of those two.

Okay, so a helmet may give you helmet hair and may sit funny sometimes - but just keep in mind that if it's sitting funny, it's not the right helmet for your head. It doesn't mean that you have to go without a helmet, even though the law says that over 18 years of age it it optional. This is somewhat of a sidepoint regarding general safety, as it is more personal. But, personally, I say that if you value your brain, wear a helmet. If you don't, then go on right ahead, business as usual.

4. Weaving in and out between parked cars. While riding in the street, I've noticed that some cyclists ride alongside parked cars, but then move closer to the curb when there aren't parked cars, therefore moving in and out, in and out between cars. However, this defeats the purpose of being seen while riding in the street. Making consistent moves is your best bet when riding your bike with traffic. Therefore, when weaving in and out between cars, you are proving to be inconsistent, unreliable, and more of a unexpected surprise for cars. This advice also goes to the cyclist that rides their bicycle partly on the sidewalk, partly in the street. Choose one or the other (again, preferably the street, out of the door zone).

5. Riding/walking against the light. On the Orange Line bike path, there are buttons that you can press at each intersection so one can cross the street and head to the other section of bike path. Not everyone remembers to press these buttons. As a result, some ride against the lights, which can mean anything from riding into the intersection when a left-turn arrow is green, or when a right-turn arrow on the opposite side is green, whether or not it is on their side of the street. The fact of the matter is - when it's your turn, it's your turn. Otherwise it will suck being the person who gets hit by a car because you are in the wrong. And for every cyclist that does so, it's another bad impression from drivers towards the rest of us.

Which brings me to my conclusion - ride for yourself, first of all, but most importantly, ride for everyone else. Meaning, look out for yourself by looking out for everyone else. Helmet issues aside, it is always a good idea to ride your bicycle with the assumption that not everyone is going to see you. With that in mind, make yourself visible. Be an active member of the road; don't be a distraction. Don't be a danger, to yourself or others. My hope is that these tips will help raise more awareness of one's surroundings, from the novice to even the most cautious, assertive rider.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On the Flyaway and Local Service

I've been back in Los Angeles/the Valley for a week, and it has been a great week. Catching up with friends, celebrating my birthday, and enjoying the warm weather has been an absolute blast.

Having landed at LAX, I took the convenient, reliable and affordably-priced Flyaway to Van Nuys, which is a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. But with two heavy rolling bags and, well, no car, it was a bit of a challenge in figuring how to get home. There were two options, sans car: (1) walk a couple of blocks and take the 163, then walk a bit more to my house; and (2) walk more than a couple of blocks and take the 165, then walk across the street to my house. The real challenge involved more of the idea of walking and then getting my luggage on the bus without pulling my arm out of its socket than actually figuring out how to do it.

Now maybe I over-dramatized it, but I thought it over enough to call my friend Adam and have him pick me up, which was a total relief because I love him and couldn't have been happier to see him. Also jet lag had hit me in the head something fierce and it was really time to be done with the day already.

What's funny is that I heard a lot of people on the Flyway bus calling people - roommates, parents, friends, etc. - to come pick them up from Van Nuys. I was thinking how nice it would be if there was a bus line that made some kind of perimeter route just North, South, East and West on Woodley to other connecting buses. Wouldn't it be a nice thought?

I know that the 169 goes East along Saticoy, South a portion to Sherman Way, then back North on Woodley to Saticoy, continuing East (and naturally in the opposite direction once at the end of the line), which is a great start. But what about a main line along Woodley and in conjunction with perhaps Lindley in some respect, connected by Parthenia and Burbank Blvd? Both North-Southbound streets don't have local buses running much on them, yet there is a major university on one and a service to LAX on the other, among other things such as residences and businesses. It's not an issue of frequency, but at this point an issue of being there at all. In doing so, Metro might be able to service points along major East-Westward streets, which would lead to better efficiency overall to its Orange and Red lines.

I realize I'm rambling. Please let me know whether or not this makes any sense. If you must know (rather, if it wasn't apparent enough already), I think about this kind of thing all the time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

LACBC's First Sunday Funday Ride

Valley folks, direct your ears - or rather your eyes...

This coming Sunday, January 9th, will be the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC)'s first Sunday Funday Ride, which was rained out last weekend, and - get this - it will take place in the Valley! So named the Valley Pride Ride, it will be held at Los Encinos State Park (map) at 12:00 pm. Unfortunately I will not be in attendance, but I can say that I can wholeheartedly get behind these rides, which are slated to take place on the first Sunday of every month.

According to the LACBC electronic mailer:

Beginning in January 2011, on the first Sunday of each month, LACBC Board and Staff will host a group ride for members! Each ride will explore a different corner of LA County and is free to all LACBC members, plus one guest.

January's ride, led by board member Heidi Zeller, will explore the San Fernando Valley!

For more information, please see our Sunday Funday #1: Valley Pride Ride Facebook event.

To RSVP please contact Carol Feucht, carol@la-bike.org. To volunteer as a ride marshal, please contact Heidi Zeller at heidizeller@gmail.com.

A couple of years ago, in the summer months particularly, my friends and I would do Sunday rides around the lake down the street from us. No matter how many people turned out it was always so much fun to see who else was out, to push ourselves and socialize. That the LACBC is bringing its first ride to the Valley is awesome. In my many recent rides to the Burbank area and beyond, I've been able to personally see how accessible LA is with enough will and manpower. (Let's see how I feel after I ride the hilly Sepulveda Blvd., though. I think I'll love it.) I encourage any and all to pass along info about these rides, whether or not you're able to make it every month. This is a great thing for the community, considering overall awareness and what great weather we get here. Also, if you aren't a member already, definitely consider it!

Happy cycling~

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The First Ride of 2011

I am already anticipating it.

I can see it now... the morning of January 11th I'll be excited to pump up my tires, put on my helmet and ride. By the time I hop on and go I'll not have been on my bicycle for over three weeks.

Last year my friends and I had a friendly competition of riding our bicycles 300 miles in the month of January. I'm going to try for it myself, personally, when I get back. 300 miles in three weeks? I think it's possible. If not, then I'll just shoot for the next 30 days.

Also, I'm really looking forward to taking part in my birthday ride. Basically, the morning of my birthday I go for a ride on a favorite route somewhere in the Valley. Whether it's a 25-mile loop to Woodland Hills, Winnetka, Northridge, Van Nuys and back, a hilly 10-mile ride to the Santa Monica Mountains at the Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park (down Reseda Blvd), or a sprint along the Orange Line bikeway - from Encino to Woodland Hills, to NOHO and back - it's a ride that I've done before and therefore a ride I love. I always make sure to give myself this present every year. I am so looking forward to it.

Are there any special or meaningful rides planned for you this year so far? All right, I won't be too hasty - let's start with the first quarter, at least. ;)

Happy new year, indeed.