Daily Archives: June 23, 2013

So A Civil Engineer Walks Into a Bike Shop…

Until yesterday, I didn’t have a bike. I had barely even ridden one in nearly 10 years. That’s kind of a cardinal sin if you want to write about urban transportation issues, like saying you’re a track engineer and not knowing what 115 RE means. But with the prospect of yet another CicLAvia slipping by – on LA’s premier boulevard through downtown and Koreatown, no less – I finally got the motivation to get a set of wheels.


A quick explanation is in order. Before moving to LA, I lived in Boston’s North End for 8 years. Despite what you might think, the North End is terrible for biking. The narrow width of the main streets means they’re usually totally jammed with pedestrians and/or cars. So a bike’s speed is irrelevant, and there’s nowhere to lock it up at your destination. The prospect of carrying a bike up and down the spiral stairs to your fourth-floor walkup, where it will take up too much space anyway, is a big deterrent. And anyway, the North End is so walkable that you don’t need a bike anyway. You’re so close to all four of Boston’s rapid transit lines (Silver Line – doesn’t count, never will) that anywhere worth going is easily accessible by walking and rapid transit. I had a bike, and it hung on the wall unused – for 8 years, until, like an idiot, I sold it before I moved to LA, a city where the utility of a bike for traveling mid-range distances quickly reveals itself.


Quick first thoughts:

  • You can’t design good bike infrastructure without riding the road to see how it feels. If the people writing bike plans had to actually ride those routes, we’d have waaaaay less sharrows.
  • I’m glad I didn’t miss another CicLAvia.
  • Biking is yet another way that LA’s undense density is a sneaky strength. Space to keep your bike at your apartment, space to lock it up where you’re going, and a solid variety of attractions on the way.
  • Likewise, there’s a nearly endless supply of boulevards that will work for CicLAvia events. How many cities can say that?
  • Idaho Stop? I see no problem with that.
  • The Westside has a wonderful offset grid of neighborhood streets. There’s no bike lane on Fairfax, so on our way back to Palms, we took Orange Grove, Hayworth, and Hi Point. Enough offset in the grid to deter speeding cut-through traffic, but enough connectivity to make them viable for bikes. This is what we need to be requiring in new developments.


Most of all, though, it was nice to just rediscover how much fun it is to bike, to traverse distance in the city like that. It’s a little like finding yourself on a desert road, where the strengths of a car are apparent, and having fun driving. Now that I finally have a bike, watch out: Imma be cruising the streets of LA making up lost time.