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, To volunteer as a ride marshal, please contact Heidi Zeller at

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.