Bike Lanes and Controversy

A number of months ago, the City of Los Angeles repaved a secondary arterial street near our house*. When they did, they converted this street from being two lanes in each direction, plus parking, into a street with one lane, a bike lane, and parking. Needless to say, this change in the traffic pattern has gotten a number of people upset. Partially, this is because the street was intentionally put on a “road diet”: reduced to one lane in the hopes of creating traffic improvements elsewhere. I bring this up now because Sandy Banks’ column in the LA Times today discusses the issue, believing it is due to the mayor of LA being hit while riding his bike. She complains she never sees bikes on the street, and that complaint is echoed by the City Councilman:

“Wilbur is the wrong street for this kind of improvement,” said Smith, his sarcasm clear. His district office is on Wilbur, at the bike lane’s southern terminus. “I’ve driven that street for 30 years, and I have probably seen a total of 30 bicycles on Wilbur in all that time.”

As someone who lives in the neighborhood affected (I live two blocks from Wilbur Ave, and drive it every day), as well as someone who is biking reguarly for fun and fitness, I think I’m entitled to speak to this controversy.

As a driver, I’ve noticed the increased backups and have been frustrated by them. I miss the ability to go around the moss-backed old farts and folks that don’t know how to drive right :-). But as a biker, I’ve seen the dangers on the streets in the valley. When you attempt to ride across the valley via Lassen St., Nordhoff St., Tampa Ave, or other streets without bike lanes or sharrows, you take your life in your hands. Between the parked cars on the side of the street, the incredibly poor roadbed, and the drivers who like to come up close and blast their horns, it is quite dangerous. Having safe streets for riding, such as Wilbur, makes riding a joy again (although I’m still worried for folks who see the bike lanes as auxilliary lanes and speed through them, without regard for cyclists). As for use, just the other day I saw a large pack of around 50 cyclists using the lanes, and as the news of their existance spreads, I expect to see more use. Of course, no bike lane sees the vehicular traffic of a road.

So, what’s the solution. How do we reach a compromise between the two goals. In this case, I think the answer may be to restrict parking. In that area, there are few houses that actually face out to Wilbur. Restrict street parking in the area, and you can shift the lanes closer to the curb, creating space for an extra lane. What about the residents that need the parking for guests? I think some shared use is possible: perhaps permitting evening and overnight parking; those being the hours that cyclists are less likely to be using the lanes.

That said, the sun is up, and it looks to be a lovely day. I think I should go out and use the lanes 🙂

* For those unfamiliar with the streets in the San Fernando Valley, they are organized in a relatively regular grid. Major streets are about every mile apart (e.g., Balboa, White Oak, Reseda, Tampa, Winnetka), Secondary arterials are between them (e.g., Lindley, Wilbur, Corbin, Mason), and tertiary arterials (e.g., Vanalden) are between those.


News Chum Chex

Today’s lunchtime news chum is a tasty collection of tidbits. Departments include “Changing a Light”, “Dixon Ticonderoga #2”, “The Recovery is Upon Us”, “Grease is the Word”, and “An Ordinary Family, Fuller-Style”:


Transportation Chum

Just after I posted my grabbag chum, the ‘ol RSS reader highlighted a few items of interest to cyclists and map afficianados:

1. The LADOT Bike Blog completed their survey on sidewalk riding in Los Angeles County. This was a 7-part series, looking at the municipal code of each city within the county, to determine if sidewalk riding is legal.

2. The LAIst blog just posted a link to a map that shows all completed and planned bike lanes for 2010 in the City of Los Angeles. Having just ridden across both Parthenia, Nordhoff, and Roscoe, I can attest to the poor conditions in the riding areas of these streets, and it is nice to see a more comprehensive network forming.

3. LA Observed noted that Thomas Brothers Maps has quietly left California. I think the map books are still being sold. What is being referred to is the fact that the offices that produce them have moved to Illinois and India, and by doing it in a series of small RIFs, have avoided triggering California’s layoff notification laws.


I Haz New Bike

As promised, I went out today to test ride bikes. I found one I liked. I bought it.

Now for the longer version.

After services and going out to Abe’s Deli (blech) for lunch with congregation friends, I started on the Bike Trek. The first stop was Bicycle Den in Granada Hills. I described to him what I currently had and what I was looking for, and that I was particularly interested (as he was a Giant dealer) in the Giant Escape. He took a look at me, pronounced me a small frame, and pointed me to a Giant Cypress. I rode it around the parking lot. I didn’t like the feel: I felt I was too close to the handlebars. He indicated he didn’t have anything larger, or anything else to suggest. I took his card, with the Giant a definate maybe.

Next stop was REI. There, the fellow took the time to actually measure me for the frame: indeed, I was a medium (17.8). We talked about the Cannondales for a bit, and I test rode a Quick 4, but on a large frame. I liked the ride (although the seat was hard). I asked if he could find a medium frame. He didn’t have one in stock, and as it was the end of the season, he couldn’t order them. I asked about the Scott Sub 20, and he indicated that the Northridge REI wasn’t a Scott dealer. I tried the Marin Fairfax in the right size frame, but I hated it: the top clips were annoying, and it just wasn’t comfortable. He suggested a Marin Bridgeway, but I wanted more gears.

The third shop was Reseda Bicycles in Reseda. This was the Trek dealer. Again, I described what I was looking for, and that I was interested in the Trek 7000 or FX. He didn’t have the 7000, and suggested either the Trek 7100 or the Trek 7200. I test rode the 7200, and it was perfect: great riding position, comfortable gear changes, comfortable seat, good braking. I asked the different in price between the 7100 and 7200. The 7100 was $419, and the $7200 was $499… but the one I test rode was last year’s model, and was thus $429. I told him sold. I added a rack, lights, trip computer, and lock, and was out the door for just under $580. As I recall, there is a year service included, and I need to come back in a month or so for break-in adjustments.


Looking for Advice: Selecting a New Bicycle

The reaction on the post about what to do with my aging bike appears to be strongly in favor of replacing it. So, I’ve been exploring possible replacements. The world of bicycles has changed drastically from when I last bought a bike in the 1970s. Back then, there were just a few manufacturers (Schwinn, Raleigh, Peuguot, Motobecane). There were just a few styles: the heavier steel road bikes (single or 3-speed) and the derailleurs (10-speeds). So, most of the adult bikes were the 10-speeds, with pull brakes and friction shifting. If you were looking for anything, you were looking for light—aluminum frames and such.

But today, oy, today! There are so many different styles and things to look for. Most of the manufacturers I knew are gone, and the ones that survived are the ones I wouldn’t use (Schwinn, Raleigh, (ahem) Huffy). I have some rough ideas what I want, but I have no idea what the style is called. Basically, I’m looking for a bike with a fair number of gears (to handle the hilly northern part of the San Fernando Valley), a decent suspension and tires (to handle Los Angeles’ poor quality street maintenance), good brakes, and upright riding position with straight handlebars (not the bend-over curved handlebars of the old 10-speeds). I’d like a comfortable seat, and the ability to add a rack.

Given we have an REI membership and they appear to have great prices, I’ve been doing some preliminary triage of what models they have available. The models that appear to be of interest are:

A second-tier possibility at REI is the Cannondale Bad Boy ($589.93). If I consider locally-based companies, I’d add the Giant Suede DX, as Giant is based in Newbery Park, CA—however Giant isn’t carried by REI.

ETA: Looking at the Marin line at REI, some possibilities are the Marin Fairfax ($593.93) or the Marin Lucas Valley ($719.93), although I don’t seem to see as glowing reviews for the Marins, and there are more reports of tire problems.

ETAA: Additional Giant possibilities: Giant Escape 1. Charlie rides a Trek 7000. In addition to REI, look at Bicycle Den on San Fernando Mission in GH (they carry Giant), and Reseda Bicycles on Reseda (they carry Trek)

Once I figure out the most likely models, I plan to go and do some test rides (perhaps Thursday after Rosh Hashana morning services). Once I decide on the model, I’ll probably add front and rear lights, a trip computer, and see if I can move my lock and water-bottle brackets over from my current bike.

So, here’s where I’d like some opinions:

  • Are there any current manufacturers you should recommend? Ones I should avoid?
  • Any comments on the models I’m considering?
  • Any models or particular bikes I should add to the short list?

Thanks in advance for any inputs you can provide.


Color Me Frustrated

Right now, I’m frustrated over my bike. Those who are cyclists—please go over to the LJ article and comment/vote in the poll.

As background, I’m riding an old Peuguot U08 that I got back in my high school days, around 1975. This is an old-style 10-speed with friction shifting, and mostly original equipment. I’ve replaced the seats and handlebars, and the front derailleur is not working. In fact, that’s the source of frustration. The manufacturer of the derailleur is long out of business, and the only source for the true replacement (a Simplex front bottom-pull 26.5 derailleur — perhaps like this) is Ebay. But the Simplex supposedly was made of crappy plastic, so I hunted around and ordered a Sun Tour Cyclone 7000, which was supposedly an equivalent bottom-pull 26.5 front derailleur. I just went down to the bike store to have it installed… only to find I’m lacking a cable stop that no one has (perhaps something like this), and I’d have to figure out how to order it. The general attitude from both shops I visited (CycleWorld and Bicycle Johns) was that the bike was so old and so mediocre to begin with that it really isn’t worth putting the time and effort into it. One option is to just forget about the front derailleur and just treat the bike as a 5-speed, and ride it until it dies.

Now, I could replace the bike. Doing so I would give in to my daughter’s belief that I’m having a mid-life crisis. I would guess a new bike would run $700&ndash$1000 or more: I’d be looking for a 10-speed bike with a comfortable seat primarily for exercise and around town (town being defined as the San Fernando Valley) riding. I’m not looking into competition cycling or true long-haul cycling. I could easily pull the money for the bike from savings; I just hate pulling money from savings and spending large sums on myself.

So, I’m torn on what to do. I’d like some suggestions, either via the poll below or in the comments. Facebook readers: I’m betting you can log in with your Facebook ID to vote in the poll.


Old, But Still Working

[No, I’m not talking about me.]

Today I went to go ride my bike. Alas, I couldn’t: the rear tire was popped off the rim. So I found a nearby shop open on Sunday, confirmed they had reasonably good ratings on yelp, and went over there. It turns out that the tire was fine, but the tube inside was blown, and the wheel itself was bent slightly. So I got a new alloy wheel and new tubes in front and back. This uncovered other problems, such as the rear brakes requiring adjustment due to the new wheel being slightly wider, which led to tension problems due to the old cable. We eventually got things working, but I need to bring the bike back in for new brake pads and cables (the pads are worn, and not gripping the wheel as good as they should).

That’s all in way of background. This is an old bike: a 1970’s era Peugeot 10-speed (originally from Bikecology in Santa Monica—my guess is a 1974 or 1975 UO-8, as illustrated here) with friction gearing. The front derailleur is long broken, and the manufacturer (Simplex) is long out of business. I’d like to replace it, but I’m having trouble figuring out what to search for. Is anyone familiar enough with old bikes to help me figure out the best search terms?

As an aside: The bike was expensive when we got it, and the quality has shown in it’s lasting so long: this was my bike from high school days!


Decision Making

While walking back from a delightful dinner with talonvaki, I got to thinking about how my decisions have changed. As I’ve noted before, I’m at a conference this week in Boston. In the past, when I was at a conference, I would pig out: I’d eat the danish they put out for breakfast (at least 3-4), I’d have a burger and fries at lunch… and don’t get me started on the afternoon snacks — I’d have to try at least one of everything. Dinner would then be heavy. Although I might think about working out, I usually wouldn’t.

This trip? I’ve worked out in some form every day, either in the workout facility or by walking (for example, I couldn’t bring myself to do 30 minutes on the treadmill this morning, so I did an hour walk. I also walked talonvaki home after dinner, which was probably another mile walk round trip, and I plan to try the treadmill again after I finish this post). My meal choices have also changed. I’ve been hitting Starbuck in the morning and getting an oatmeal; all that I eat of the refreshments put out is a nice plate of fruit. I’ve tried to keep lunch healthy; in particular, no fries. For the afternoon break, I’ve been content having one brownie. Dinner has pretty much been the same thing in different restaurants: grilled salmon, steamed veggie, and a starch.

What alien has taken over my brain? When did I start making healthy eating choices on business trips?

Seriously, I was someone who couldn’t commit to exercising or eating right, much as I believed that I could. This March, something just clicked and it’s become easy. I’ve gone from over 220 lbs to probably around 195-193 lbs as of today (my goal is about 180 dressed). I’ve gone from size 42 pants to size 38… and those are large.

I should note: I’m not writing this post to gloat or anything. Rather, I’m just surprised at myself for doing this.

P.S.: We had dinner at The Barking Crab, where I saw the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen—over 10 lbs! talonvaki took a picture; if she doesn’t post it in the comments, I’ll link to it. All I could think, as it was moving around, was “Dead Crustacian Walking….”