Archive for July, 2011

The second time in my life that I biked up and over the Sepulveda Pass was last weekend during my Autocalypse Now Ride. The first time? Waaaay the hell back in 1991. I remember it well because it was a rather epic ride. The woman I was dating at the time had decided to go to the beach in Santa Monica with her daughter, and since I’d already been planning on biking from my apartment in Glendale to a morning softball game in Sherman Oaks, I thought what the hell and decided to bike the rest of the way to the sea.

Think about that for a second: Glendale to Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica. Roughly 31 miles. With a league softball game in the middle. Twenty years ago. Pardon me for crowing a bit about it.

Of course the trek was predicated on my crossed-fingered hope that I would somehow be able to locate my girfriend on the crowded sands somewhere between a pair of predetermined lifeguard stations. If so, I could throw the bike in her trunk for a drive home. If not, it was going to be a long and exhausting ride back to Glendale.

Much to my relief I found her. But that successful conclusion is not the point. The point is that from a bicycling perspective of Sepulveda Boulevard between the two decades that separated my riding it, we’ve come a long way, baby. Both literally and figuratively, with some of it good and some of it leaving a helluva lot to be desired.

When I got on my bike last weekend, the vast majority of the ride from Silver Lake to the top of the Sepulveda Pass was done over a nice mix of Class I bikeways and Class II bike lanes. We had the LA River and Chandler bikeways connected mostly by the Riverside Drive bike lanes. Then the Chandler bike lanes to the Orange Line Bikeway. South of Ventura a bike lane’s been laid down almost to the top. And that bad little bit o’ almost is what I want to focus on.

But before I do, in salute to the good that’s been laid down, let’s remember that in 1991 there was no LA River or Chandler or Orange Line bikeways. There may have been a Riverside Drive bike lane, but there certainly wasn’t a striped lane on Sepulveda.

So I was cheering and marveling all along that first 27 miles from Silver Lake up through Sherman Oaks, but I quit rah-rah’ing just as we were arriving at the three-lane Sepulveda Tunnel when the bike lane abruptly ended, leaving me entering the tunnel with fellow rider Ann past a dark signal light above a Bike sign which hung above an  “In Tunnel” sign (at left, click to enlarge) and wondering what confederacy of dunces decided such an apparently malfunctioning after-thought would suffice in protecting cyclists when they are at their most vulnerable/least visible.

Inside the tunnel I saw there was a sidewalk to our right to desperately bail out to if needed and I reached back to turn on my rear flasher to provide some type of increased visibility. But about midway through when a procession of vehicles (including an MTA bus, several passenger vehicles and a Super Shuttle van) entered the tunnel behind us, I moved to the middle of the No. 2 lane and decided to forsake any coolness by augmenting my rear light with some serious flapping and waving of my arms in hopes my funkily animated silhouette might draw the drivers’ eyes before they were right on top of us. With two southbound lanes all vehicles cleared us smoothly, except the van which somewhat unnervingly got to about 10 feet behind me before it got a chance to change lanes.

Note: It’s distressing times like that when wheeljockeys blithely steering thousands of pounds of steel up my ass  that I wish I had a double-barreled paintball gun with which to level at their heads and splatter their windshields.


Ranger At The Dog Park a video by Wildbell on Flickr.

We’ve changed up our early morning one-mile walk route from around the blocks to a two-mile Silver Lake Dog Park there-and-back, where Ranger has had the entire place to herself and happily enjoys playing longer-range fetch.

I had the excellent company of Ann, Harold, Robert and Thaddeus, a fabulous foursome of fellow cycling enthusiasts, who showed up at the starting point in Silver Lake to join me on the 47-mile trek that set out about 9:45 a.m.

From the left that’s Harold (who did the whole ride on a singlespeed!), me, Ann, Robert and Thaddeus after I led them offroad to check out the Sepulveda Dam spillway, whose vast concrete emptiness served as good prologue to what we would soon find on the Skirball bridge over the 405 :

And here’s the Mulholland bridge demolition in progress:

I still think the city missed a HUGE windfall opportunity to charge $20 for anyone to bikebomb the 405 down into the valley, but maybe that’s just kooky  me and my willingness to sign a waiver absolving all entities of any liability.

Anyway, Thaddeus split off from us at the 405 to ride Mulholland, and Robert bid us adieu at La Brea and Melrose, leaving Ann, Harold and me to make it to the oasis that is Scoops at Bicycle Square where Ann kept on going while Harold and I enjoyed an ice cream reward.

The only bummers encountered had nothing to do with gridlock or road rage — in fact the overall serenity on the streets brought to mind the unexpected and still unsurpassed two weeks of summer games back in 1984. Rather the downers were two flats I suffered (one partial deflation that held up until getting to Santa Monica and Sepulveda; and the second upon leaving Scoops), my iPhone’s otherwise ultra-dependable Cyclemeter route app shutting down inexplicably in Westwood, and my cam’s memory card filling up as we entered Beverly Hills, bringing an abrupt end to the timelapse vid at around the 36th mile.

But those were minor inconveniences to what turned out to be a great day for a ride:

From the indispensable BikinginLA blog comes a call to point an angry finger at the leadership of the Northern and Southern California-based AAAs because of their insistence that Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in the state to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind, is a bad idea.

Look, I understand that an organization has to operate in what it perceives to be the best interests of its membership, but the problem here is that the Automobile Club of Southern California and the California State Automobile Association are lobbying hard about the “detriments” of the potential law without any facts to support their claim.

They insist that SB 910’s three-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers, which could ultimately cause vehicular collisions and result in millions of revenue dollars cumulatively being lost. Yet such a conclusion was submitted basically as a stand-alone statement, with no corroborating evidence. Given that 19 other states have enacted three-foot passing laws, the oldest one on the books being enacted in Wisconsin 38 years ago, you’d think that evidence of extensive confusion and fender benders and untold amounts of money lost would be there… unless it isn’t.

So instead like a schoolyard bully the AAA is standing before our state’s senators and assemblymembers and demand they kill this bill… just because!

So I wrote to CEO Thomas McKernanan of the SoCal AAA (below) and sent the same thing to Paula Downey of the NorCal AAA and I told them how reprehensible and irresponsible they are being and that as a long-time member of their group this is just not the kind of battle that I want my dues financing. And I copied my state assemblyman and senator:

Thomas V. McKernan
Chief Executive Officer
Automobile Club of Southern California
2601 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-3254

Dear Thomas McKernan,

As an otherwise proud and faithful 28-year member of AAA I’m writing to express my concern and disappointment with its opposition to Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in California to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind.

With 40% of adult bicyclists who die in collisions with vehicles being killed by drivers passing them from behind, this is the single largest cause of such deaths. Existing law contributes to this problem by failing to specify how much clearance drivers should give bicyclists. SB 910 provides that specification.

I read that at recent legislative hearings in Sacramento your lobbyists argued SB 910’s 3-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers and cause traffic delays. Yet such a conclusion was submitted without proof. They could not provide any evidence of these consequences in the 19 other states that have enacted three-foot passing laws, including Wisconsin, which enacted its three-foot passing law 38 years ago.

I wouldn’t be surprised if AAA lobbyists were in Madison back then arguing with the same unsubstantiated claims against such a proposal. But it’s a different world now, and for AAA to be willing to sacrifice lives today instead of supporting guidance that will save lives is reprehensible.

As a driver, I take seriously my responsibility to share the road safely with bicyclists and other road users who are particularly vulnerable to vehicle collisions — and I see all too often drivers who don’t. That’s why I support the easy-to-understand direction for drivers provided in SB 910 and why I find AAA’s opposition to SB 910 dangerously irresponsible.

And so I strongly urge you and your organization to reconsider such a narrow-minded position. I assure you, since this is how AAA is opting to spend my dues, I’m strongly reconsidering whether or not to continue as a member, one now substantially less proud and faithful.

William Campbell

cc: California State Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo; State Senator Curren Price


On the occasion of my cousin Margaret’s last day in Los Angeles before flying home to Nashville, I picked her up from my mom’s to show her some sites, and we ended up doing more than I expected:

Watts Towers
Central Avenue Jazz District
Central Library
Disney Concert Hall
Angels Flight
Grand Central Market
Million Dollar Pharmacy
Million Dollar Theater
Bradbury Building
Pershing Square
Biltmore Hotel
Olvera Street
Union Station

We really lucked out in that Disney Hall was offering access to its auditorium since the philharmonic was practicing at the Hollywood Bowl:

We headed south on Grand and caught the Angels Flight back down to Hill Street where we strolled through Grand Central Market to Broadway. After a visit to the awesome botanica-ness of the Million Dollar Pharmacy, we found the gate to the Million Dollar Theater half-up and though I was hesitant to try the lobby doors, Margaret had no reservations and found them unlocked. With the permission of a gentleman stationed near the concession stand we were able to admire the auditorium’s unique circular design.

After that we wandered back to the library via Pershing Square and the Biltmore and made our way to Olvera Street for lunch followed by a walk through of Union Station before getting her back to my mom’s. Awesome!

So KPCC’s Sharon McNary sent out an email yesterday soliciting thoughts from the station’s listeners about the upcoming expectedly cataclysmic shutdown of the 405 Freeway this entire weekend, and one her requests was for respondents to write a headline, haiku, or limerick about the impending doom.

So I tapped out this tribute to motorista angst:

No matter which way you’ll be headin’
You cannot escape Carmegeddon,
To this weekend say “Ciao!”
It’s Autocalypse Now,
Lock the doors and crawl under the beddin’.

While most of the city’s car-addicted will be doing their damnedest to stay as far away from the 405 or any of its ripple effect across the greater Los Angeles-area highways and byways, curiosity over what such an integral motorway looks like completely devoid of its cargo has me plotting a long bike ride to and through the eye of the storm (so to speak) that at this point will be departing from the Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign in Silver Lake (northwest corner of Benton Way and Sunset) Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m., to head up-river, across the valley (involving the Chandler and Orange Line bikeways), then over the Sepulveda Pass and back through the westside to our starting point. Before making the climb up there will be a side trip to the always intriguing Sepulveda Dam spillway.

Charted distance: 46.9 miles