Look! On the sidewalk!! It’s Arrow Man!

No, this is not me trying out a costume for an upcoming group bike ride. This is me during my fourth-annual participation in the L.A. River Ride route marking the morning of June 5, south of Olympic Boulevard on Grande Vista in Boyle Heights. Photographed by my friend and fellow veteran route marker, Steve aka Mr. Rollers.

In past years, our duties involved simply the hanging of signs on various curbside poles outbound and inbound indicating where cyclists were to turn left or right. This year, I guess with hopes of having no riders miss a crucial turn, it was decided by the peeps at the LA County Bike Coalition that we would also lay down arrow stickers in the street to augment the aformentioned signage.

So why exactly am I sporting two sets of four different colored stickers? Very good question. The four colors were representative of the four diffferent ride distances: red for the 36-mile ride; green for the 50; yellow for the 70-miler; and orange for the century. The reason for two of each was simply to increase their visibility.

At the first couple marking spots on our stretch between Hollenbeck Park and the south end of Vernon, they were a royal pain in the ass. They were on giant rolls, not that easy to remove, so multiplying that times four and I had visions of this taking a lot longer than expected. Also factor in the fact that we were kneeling in the roadway to put these down we were also at the mercy of any oncoming traffic and having to wait for that to clear. From the Six Flags school of fun, with 6 being the most fun one can have, I was all ready to award this -5 flags.

Fortunately, by the third stop, I figured out a system. Arranging all the rolls in my backpack I could basically vend them from there, stick them all on me and then once traffic was clear I could get out into the street, slap them down and be done.

Happily that sped things up considerable and by the time noon rolled around, we were done and headed over to Blue Star restaurant for lunch.

BUT! Make no mistake: this was a pain in the ass (or the knees to be more accurate) that I think was a better idea in theory than in practice. For a couple reasons. 1) It’s never a good idea to be standing (or crouching or kneeling) in traffic lanes, either on your own or at the behest of an otherwise well-intentioned and awesome organization. 2) This is litter. Unlike the posted signs, which are taken down after the ride, the only thing that’s going to be removing all these adhesive-backed pieces of brightly colored paper from Griffith Park to Seal Beach and back is time and mother nature, and they’re going to end up stuck to vehicle tires and ultimately in the river and/or bay for as long as they take to biodegrade. 3) Overkill. In the previous nine years that the L.A. River Ride has taken place, participants have been told to balance their reliance on where they’re going not only on the posted signage (which is always at risk of being vandalized/removed) but more importantly on the detailed route sheets with which they are provided. Sure, a percentage of riders missed turns and got separated, but I’m just not sure any reward was worth the previously mentioned risks.

I have no doubt some of those otherwise wandering riders this year benefited from the added route direction visibility. While I’m the type of cyclist who knows where I’m going before I start getting there, even I’d appreciate the extra touch. As such you’ll probably see me dressed up similarly again this time next year, but also with the addition of an accessory I yearned for this time around: kneepads.