civics


The Beverly Boulevard/1st Street bridge is a bit of an anomaly nowadays, its graceful arc over Glendale Boulevard and 2nd Street seeming like literal and figurative overkill. But from this photo found — you guessed it! — in the LA Public Library digital archive you can see the span once served a more obviously cooperative purpose. Dated September 2, 1942, the image showcases the brand new viaduct about a week or so before the $1-million project was opened to cars.

Back then the city’s train routes were still being accommodated and included in the transportation grid by building auto infrastructure around or over them rather than destroying the rail lines wholesale for the sake of adding vehicular traffic lanes. With the Hollywood Freeway still about 8 years away from its first leg opening up, it’s easy to see the importance of Beverly Boulevard as a major artery getting people to and from the civic center. But if the Red Car hadn’t been there, it’s hard to imagine the city’s engineers going up when they could just carve out the connector at street level.

So over they went, crossing the roads along with the rails leading to and from  the yard in the foreground, which is Belmont Station. The photographer is positioned on the hill above the famed Belmont Tunnel that took cars entirely underground to and from the heart of downtown.

Long after the trains stopped running, the tunnel actually remained accessible to curious urban explorers, film and video crews, graffiti artists and the homeless until some five or six years ago. But the tunnel has been permanently blockaded, and where L.A. commuters once rocked, rolled and rumbled along those rails, now on the yard’s footprint this past couple of years has stood the Belmont Station apartment complex, its facade facing the anachronistic arch that’s liable to strike anyone who considers it as a curiosity, and whose purpose now (to those of us who know it origins) is to serve both highly as a monument to a time when rail ruled, and lowly as a footnote to the transportation history of a Los Angeles that forsaked integrating its multimodal past to instead embrace a short-sighted vision of its automobile-centered future.

In this the day afterward of the disappointing (but not unexpected) result of my traffic court appearance yesterday, I’ve been sullenly grumbly and mumbly pretty much everywhere: at my desk, in the shower, getting dressed, on my bike commute today at work, at the office, in the bathroom, on my bike commute home, and back here at my desk.

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

So far the animals and my beloved wife have been pretty tolerant, but at one point this morning after Susan went to work and while I was getting ready to go I woke the dogs with a start going unannounced from my subsonic grumbly mumblies and ratzafratzins into a sudden and sharp and entirely out-loud Perry Mason-esque admonishment to the judge for failing to fully consider a discrepancy in the officer’s testimony yesterday. Replete with dramatic arm wave and punctuating finger point.

In other words I’ve yet begun to get over yesterday’s courtroom defeat. Surprise: I’m lost in a sea of frustration gambling at the Shoulda-Said table in the Hindsight Casino on the deck of the USS After The Fact. Waitress! Another greyhound — this time with more hound and less grey!

Ohhhhh yeaaaaaaah: I’m dwelling.

Ratza fratzin bratza scratzin.

But there’s hope. In what’s usually a sure sign I’m emerging from my funk, I wrote the following letter to the commissioner who ruled on the case… now if I can just remember his name:

Dear Commissioner,

Given the number of people and cases you encounter on a daily basis I’m certain you won’t remember me or mine, so by way of a reintroduction I was the first to appear before you in the afternoon session of January 11 in an attempt to obtain a dismissal of the citation received in June 2009 from an LAPD officer for my alleged failure to stop at a stop sign while bicycling in Larchmont Village.

While your ruling against me was a disappointment, I appreciated the time you spent questioning us both. Your decision proved my efforts futile, but not a waste as it allowed me to finally submit publicly something I’ve known for the six months that passed since the citation’s issuance: that the officer misrepresented his location at the time and place of my reported violation.

Personally, I thought I presented a pretty compelling argument that cast a reasonable doubt upon the officer’s version of events, but I did so knowing full well that barring a surprise confession by the officer and in the absence of indisputable physical evidence or unimpeachable witness testimony that could have refuted his written and verbal statements as to his purported location, it came down to you having to choose between the word of a civilian and that of a sworn officer of the law. As such, I can understand how it can seem practically your obligation to accept the officer’s testimony over mine.

Since I’m not disputing your choice, what’s the point of this letter? It’s two-fold. First, it’s for closure; to be able to relate to you what I couldn’t after you decided my guilt – out of respect both for the process and for your decision (as well as for the bailiff’s earlier instructions that upon rendering of a verdict defendants must essentially shut up and get out or risk being held in contempt). Second, because as a dedicated and conscientious commuter cyclist – one who travels with consideration and integrity more than 6,500 miles each year across Los Angeles – it is important to promote the positives of my chosen mode of transportation and to defend it against the bias I often encounter. It’s a prejudice seen firsthand not only from many of the civilian motorists I attempt to share the road with in my daily travels but now also by those in positions of authority such as the officer involved. Regardless of the outcome, I had no choice but to appear before you to represent and to argue that I was unfairly and improperly cited. It was all about the principle, not the penalty.

I close with a humble hope. That in the future when you and your fellow commissioners find cyclist defendants with the courage and determination (and trust me it takes both) to stand before you and beside their accusers vying for a respect that seems automatically granted the officers, should they present persuasive statements that call their guilt into question, do endeavor to provide them the full consideration they deserve instead of a rationed version of it. Because the decision you make between accepting their testimony or the officers’ should always be a choice, not a foregone conclusion.

Sincerely,
William Campbell

Given my self-competitive nature, I’d been hoping to top last year’s haul of seven trees, but could only lash down a matching number — albeit with a couple asterisks that make this pick-up “better” than 2008’s.

sevenmore

Asterisk No. 1: Last year the seven trees  included our own — which was one of the reasons I started this silliness of sweeping our neighboring streets for pitched pines. I figured if I’ve gotta go to the recycling center anyway, I might as well pick up any others I see that would otherwise just sit there on the curb decomposing for weeks. This year we decorated our fledgling living tree, so technically there was no reason for me to go much less make the rounds and clean up after my thoughtless neighbors.

Asterisk No. 2: The volume of this year’s catch was far greater than last years, which included a couple dwarf trees.

Thankfully this didn’t take a lotta time. The first three were found in the two blocks south of our house and, the final four were stationed at that popular drop zone on the corner of Bellevue and Silver Lake Boulevard, which is where Susan snapped the picture of me lashing down the last of them.

The really good news is that along the surface street route we took from there to the recycling station at the L.A. Zoo’s parking lot, it was entirely tree-free.

The disappointing news was that upon transfer of our trees to the city employees involved, there was no reward. In past years there were energy efficient lightbulbs, coupons for free mulch, and seedling trees given out. This year. Nothing but a thank you.

But I’m not in this for the freebies. I’m in it because someone’s gotta be and because I take far greater pride in my neighborhood than any of the seven lame tree tossers in my immediate vicinity who don’t.

Small Flickr photo set here.

In the wake of the recent uptick in citations being issued to cyclists on unregistered bikes, my Giant OCR roadie is now legal. After work yesterday I rode it over to LAPD Central Division on 6th Street and Maple in the heart of downtown’s skid row — the only police station* in the entire city that issues bike licenses — and after presenting my ID and completing a short form, I was presented with the two stickers shown above, the blue/silver license and the yellow/white renewal sticker.

What’s extra special is that the license expires at the end of 2010, at which time renewal for another 2-year period is required. I didn’t even bother to ask why the license expires.

But I did ask if I’ll receive renewal notification in the mail.”

“No, you have to come back and renew in person,” I was told.

Lovely. Bureaucratically paleolithic, counter productive and patently ridiculous, but lovely.

And actually I’ll be back down on skid row in person on Thursday evening to register Le Noir, that is, if my trip to the Bike Kitchen tonight to install the new headset and forks goes successfully.

* The only other place bikes can be registered is on the USC campus at the Department of Public Safety office. The university’s Health Sciences Campus near Lincoln Park also hosts a DPS office, but its not clear if bikes can be registered there.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took time out from his busy schedule endorsing Hilary Clinton for president to focus on a dire civic issue: traffic. Yesterday he arrived via a behind-schedule MTA bus to a press conference staged on a downtown bridge over the 110 Freeway and outlined a multi-faceted program designed to get traffic flowing more efficiently. He’s all about: traffic signal syncing; more aggressive ticketing and towing of intersection blockers and illegally parked vehicles; implementing one-way express corridors; public transit; and more. He even gives some love to pedestrians by championing strategic all-way crosswalks at certain key intersections.

And bikes? On that sorely ignored subject the somewhat honorable ‘Tonio Villagarockstar’s said the following (pick one):

A) “I pledge to fully integrate bicycles and other alternate forms of self-propelled transportation — as well as nonnuclear forms of teleportation, and most types of homebrew aircraft and dirigibles — into the future of transportation in Los Angeles. Not as bastard stepchildren who need to be spanked and stuck in a corner for a timeout, but as equal partnters who need to be spanked and stuck into a corner for a timeout!”

B) “Oh yeah, bikes, bicycles… las bicicletas. Las bicicletas fantásticas. Riiiiiight. Muy bueno. Those things. Hmmmm. Jeez. Pffft. Yikes. Tough one! Extremadamente difícilmente! Let me fake as if I give a shit and pretend like I’ll get back to you on that, but really won’t, ‘K?”

C) Absolutely, positively nothing.

The correct answer is C, which in a lot of ways is like B, which leaves those of us enthusiastic and trailblazing urban two-wheelers trucked out to Oversight County and dumped in the reclaimed toxic landfill that is now Bigfatzeroloservilletown. Again.

So of course I wrote him a letter:

Mr. Mayor,

I’ve read through your multi-level plan to reduce traffic congestion, and while I’m impressed that you’re attempting to tackle this pressing matter, I am as equally unimpressed that in all of the options you offer, nowhere and not even once mentioned is the bicycle or efforts that could and should be made to improve its presence on the civic gridscape.

Certainly you could debate that the percentage of bicycle commuters in Los Angeles is insignificant, but that is terrifically shortsighted and short-term oriented.

As a dedicated bike commuter I accumulated more than 3,000 miles across Los Angeles in 2007, in part due to my 26-mile roundtrips between Silver Lake and Westchester at least three times a week. In this first month of 2008 alone I have commuted by bike to work 13 out of 22 working days, which is the equivalent of keeping 13.5 gallons of gasoline out of my gas tank and available for use by you or more urgently Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega — unless he’s recently traded his Hummer in for more a more fuel-efficient and less egregious form of transportation.

But I digress. Bottom line is I am part of a growing segment of the city’s population who have made the choice to rely predominately on two-wheels to get around town, and frankly with the continued lack of a functional city-wide network of bike routes, perpetuated by your silence on the subject I feel discriminated against. You had a long-view opportunity to include bicycles and cycling infrastructure improvements in your plan and you shamefully didn’t. Don’t continue to ignore what is an important component in the future of this city’s transportation solutions.

Regards,
Will Campbell

I won’t waste any time on yesterday’s 7.5-hour interval spent waiting around the jury assembly room at the Stanley Mosk courthouse downtown. The end game is that my services as an eager and willing participant in the judicial process weren’t required and after a 90-minute lunch break spent walking around the adjacent mall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels during noon mass I returned to wait around another hour and a half before being excused.

Oh well. There’s always the next summons.

P9040545.JPG

Photo I took of Mayor Villaraigosa at Lincoln Park autographing a girl’s t-shirt September 4, 2006, during the annual Los Pobladores walk celebrating Los Angeles’ 225th birthday.

About six weeks overdue for a haircut I finally dragged my hairy self over to Tony’s Barbershop on Glendale Boulevard, my regular place for the past four years. When my turn arrived I clambered up into Tony’s chair and told him to take about 10 pounds off the top and a couple off each side.

As he went to work whittling my mop down to a more manageable level I noticed missing from the shelf on the wall opposite his chair the pictures of him and his family with Mayor ‘Tonio that have been up for the past couple years. I started to ask him about them but I realized I didn’t have to. Their absence spoke volumes.

I haven’t felt the need to comment on the mayor and his troubles. Though I’m ashamed of how he’s comported himself so as to make his private life public, I’ve always had issues with him as a politican since his campaign for the office and never bought into him being anything but a power-hungry opportunist who’s pretty much getting by on his looks and charisma — but certainly not anything regarding accomplishments.

Moving beyond the affair itself, media coverage is now looking at the potential long-term negative effects his adulterous relationship might have not only on a second term as mayor but also on his future chances at higher office. I’m jaded enough to look at the re-elections of Schwarzenegger and Duhbya and think that if those two could keep their offices in the face of their shortcomings, a tawdry affair ain’t much of a big thing to overcome in the grand political scheme.

But then to see a reaction like that of my barber Tony eliminating the evidence of his approval and I may be wrong about that. In so unceremoniously divorcing himself from the support and pride he’d previously displayed for Villaraigosa it makes me consider that there may be enough Tonys out there who feel duped and betrayed, and repairing their trust in him will be tough if not impossible no matter how good he looks or how much charisma he projects.

« Previous PageNext Page »