Our group heads out of Downtown Los Angeles

For the last two days I’ve been in Los Angeles on a panel at the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp. You might remember that last year I participated as a boot camper.

Like last year, I managed to convince some LA cyclists to lead me on bike tour of their city. Our ride started shortly after my flight landed. I realized that by the end of the night I had used a car, flown in a plane, car-pooled in an airport shuttle, took a bus, rode a bike, took a train, road a bike again, hopped on a bus again and finally walked a mile. A very multi-modal day

Don Ward, left, Joe Anthony, left back, Johnny Lam, right back, Jennifer Beatty, right middle and Joe Linton talk bike over dinner at drinks.

Jennifer Beatty and Joe Anthony organized the ride this year and secured a bike for me to ride. Both Beatty and Anthony also attended the ride last year. You might recall Anthony from a story about how he is mobilizing cyclists using Twtter. Beatty will actually be in Tucson this weekend and may be interested in riding. Follow her on Twitter.

Joe Linton has been working hard to improve condiditions for cyclists on LA.

This year we were joined by some new faces too.  Joe Linton who is one of LA’s most prominent bicycle advocates and director of CicLAvia.

Don Ward a.k.a ‘Road Block’ is one of the creators of Midnight Ridazz a wildly popular website for LA cyclists to list rides, submit photos and talk about riding in LA. He was also recently named an Advocate of the Year.

And finally we were joined by Johnny Lam a local cyclist who is living car-free in the LA area. Lam, who works in the movie industry, said he started riding when he was invited by co-workers to participate in a triathlon. He started trying to keep up with the group on a mountain bike, but despite that, he had a blast. Eventually he bought a road bike, then a fixie, then a full-on commuter bike. Now, Lam makes his 13-mile commute by bike and train and decided to sell his car. Follow him on Twitter.

We repair a flat on the spare bike only to discover the tire is pretty worn. In the end the tire held and got me around LA. (Photo by Joe Anthony)

The ride got off to a bit of a late start when the spare bike rustled up for me got a flat. Once the new tube was added we realized the old tire was worn out and bulging from the pressure of the tube. With a quick dollar bill boot installed, we rolled to a little bike shop run by a family who spoke very little English. Luckily, Linton spoke Spanish well enough to communicate.

A mechanic at a small little shop works on the tire. The bike shop also sold soccer jerseys and other things you wouldn't expect in a bike shop. In the end they didn't have a tire that would hold, but put a plastic boot inside the tire.

The older bicycle had 27-inch wheels and after a lot of attempts, nothing fit and we left with a better patch and hoped the tire would hold.

We rolled into downtown where Linton took the whole group on a historic tour of downtown LA. We saw Union Station, lots of street art and attempted to get inside the Bradbury Building, but were kept at bar by a security guard.

This photo of Union Station absolutely does not do it justice.

After picking up Ward at Union Station, we returned to Koreatown and took the LA Subway to the Burbank area.

The subway was incredibly busy and the bike barely fit. Unlike Portland’s, trains, there aren’t any specific areas to place bikes when riding the train. Linton and I were constantly trying to move our bikes to get out of the way of other people.

We ride the escalator to the subway platform.
Linton, left, Beatty, middle and Ward wait for the subway.
Since the subway has no dedicated space for bikes, they often end up anywhere they will fit.

Until recently, bikes were not allowed on the trains during the busiest times.

Once we hit Burbank we took a two mile Rails-to-Trails path called the Chandler Bikeway.

The Chandler Bike Path is situated about 10 feet off of the road and is a great route.

We stopped at bike-friendly bar, Tony’s Darts Away, for food and drinks in Burbank. Word is the bar will soon be replacing the closest parking space with a bike corral. That is something I would like to see more businesses in Tucson do.

This is a bike lane in Burbank, which leads to the bar we went to.
Johnny Lam locks his bike to the bikes of the other riders in the group. There were more than a dozen cyclists at the bar.

Following dinner and drinks we took a portion of the LA River Path back into LA.

A couple cyclists from the bar joined up for our ride home on the river path. Unfortunately, at this point is started raining and I had to put the camera away.

A couple things struck me while riding through LA. Like last time, I was actually very impressed with the drivers. I’ve been told that drivers can be pretty awful, but given the lack of bicycle infrastructure and the number of times we were taking up the lane, not a single driver honked or yelled at us. I’m assured they have their share of terrible drivers, though.

Perhaps drivers are more tolerant of cyclists taking the lane because there isn’t anywhere else for them to go. In Tucson, I certainly would have expected to have several negative interactions with motorists.

All the cyclists who rode with us said it wasn’t that hard to ride in LA. They all want it to be better and they all want better infrastructure, but it makes me wonder how critical the infrastructure actually is.

The other thing that struck me is how little traffic there actually was. I think the city has a stigma that it is a place with bumper-to-bumper traffic, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. In actuality, traffic was heavy during rush hour, but by 8 p.m., the traffic was really light and it was pleasant to ride.

I want to thank the cyclists who took the time to show me around their city. I really appreciated it and think that a bike really is the best way to experience a city.

By riding you use all your senses to experience a place. The sights are slower, the smell of the restaurants in Koreatown, the conversations between pedestrians and the feel of the cool air all make for the richest experience possible.

15 thoughts on “Trains, planes, automobiles, buses and BIKES in LA”
  1. Great having you back, Mike!

    All of our L.A. Metro train cars actually do have a space for bikes (/wheelchairs/strollers) in the rear of the car, which are usually very accommodating. They were unusually full that night and most of us couldn’t get to the rear, unfortunately.

  2. Nice write up and I am sorry I missed this ride. Although the policy may be silly, it is against the rules to take you bike on the escalator. Metro says stairs or elevator only. You scofflaw cyclists!

  3. From the post:

    We stopped at bike-friendly bar, Tony’s Darts Away, for food and drinks
    in Burbank. Word is the bar will soon be replacing the closest parking
    space with a bike corral. That is something I would like to see more
    businesses in Tucson do.

    To which I say:

    Attention, Tucson businesses. A fabulous promotional opportunity was just presented, and you didn’t even have to pay a marketing consultant for it. Here’s how you can capitalize on it:

    1. Re-do one of your parking spaces as a bike corral.
    2. Promote the heck out of said corral.
    3. Find cyclists flocking to your place of business. And, get this: Some of them may even do this thing called spending money.

  4. Nice article.  It looks like a MagicShine light on one of the bikes.  How’s it treating you?  I have one as a backup for the annual trips my NiteRider made to the factory on RMA.  The MagicShine was very bright.  Lots of people suggested the fast flash would cause them to have seizures.  It’s reassuring to know they see it.  Now I’m doing a dyno hub and waiting to submit a my battery for the recall notice.  

  5. Nice little story.

    Thing is, if you had gotten over to Avalon you could add ferry to your modes.

  6.  Great write up Mike! Was a pleasure to have you! 

    I’m excited about coming back this weekend and enjoying some infrastructure for a change!

  7.  ….. makes me wonder how critical the infrastructure actually is……
    I think it has very little to do with the desire to ride. It can be instrumental, however, in promoting the habit of riding. The Elvira bike track got kids riding to school; something they always could have done. The track being there provided the extra incentive. I don’t know if they stopped riding to school when the track was destroyed.  The track was likely not there long enough to form the habit. In that case, the desire to ride to school was dependent on infrastructure at the destination rather than route facilities to the school. Ignacio reported on this at the last BAC meeting and I thought it was enlightening.

  8. After moving from LA and living in Phoenix (actually Gilbert) since the 1st of this year, I find that I actually prefer riding in LA. The drivers in Phoenix seem nicer but they are just not as used to encountering bicycles sharing their road space, especially in the humongous intersections they have here.  Especially at nite.

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