volunteer


With a rare Friday off from my public safety training schedule, I decided to schedule my third outing since the Glendale Trail Safety Patrol started two weeks ago. I was joined by fellow volunteer Mark Kobayashi and we traversed the distance up Las Flores Motorway, making a stop at Tongva Peak before continuing on to check out the uppermost section of the pretty much abandoned Skyline Motorway. Once there we headed back down the way we came.

The route was 8.55 miles total under absolutely fantastic summer conditions on such a winter’s day.

Last Saturday was the training day scheduled for the freshly minted volunteers of the inaugural class of Glendale’s Trail Safety Patrol program. I was among 17 others who sat in the Glendale Police Department’s Community Room for eight hours to learn about procedures, first aid, protocols, and such.

A reporter from the Glendale News-Press, Brittany Levine, was also in attendance. By far the most engaging segment of the day involved Glendale Police Officer Larry Ballesteros who discussed the best ways to deal with the inevitable “difficult” people we will meet on the trails. He asked for examples and I offered a scenario involving a speeding mountain biker. The ensuing exchange between myself and Ballesteros made it into her article published yesterday introducing the program.

Not being a regular reader of that newspaper, but being a regular reader of Rodger Jacobs, my thanks go to him for finding it and mentioning the article on his blog.

The pilot program set to begin next month rises from the ashes of cutbacks first to the city’s rangers and then to its naturalists program that basically has left Glendale’s 5,000 acres of open space pretty much unmonitored this past couple years.  The Trail Safety Patrol is modeled after the successful Mountain Bike Unit (MBU) program, which I was a member of in 2004-2005. It was during that same period that Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge was considering changes to Griffith Park’s master plan. Much to the joy of equestrians and hikers he ultimately bowed to the pressure they induced and opted to keep the long-standing mountain biking trail ban in place, and in the summer of 2005 I wrote him lengthily asking that he consider implementing an “MBU-Lite” version in Griffith Park, after the jump.

Needless to say LaBonge gave it zero consideration.

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For the CicLAvia fundraiser last Saturday (that I couldn’t attend because I was out walking the Eastside with a buncha cool people) I was invited to submit my timelapse that I made while riding across the event’s route between Boyle Heights and East Hollywood, to be included in a showcase with the immortalizings several other cycling enthusiasts made of the amazing day.

Thus I retooled the version seen by a couple thousand people on YouTube a bit,  employing my meager iMovie skillset to stretch it into a 16×9 format, and add opening and closing credits — I even partnered it with an ambiently surreal soundtrack of my own creating using a sweet little iPhone app called Bloom.

So in case, like me, you weren’t one of the good people in attendance last week, I offer it up for your viewing pleasure here:

I was reminded the day before yesterday that biking isn’t just good for you, it can be good for others, too.

Fast-backward with me to March 2009 when I saw a traffic accident occur at 3rd and Commonwealth (read my post all about it, here) and stopped to be of assistance and come forward as a witness. What was unique about my capacity as that witness is that I later learned that I had conclusive proof who was at fault. With my handlebarcam timelapsing the ride as usual, and me also testing a separate digital recording device on the way in to work that morning I had both audio — and more importantly a physical visual of a definitive moment immediately prior to the impact that determined who was at fault.

At issue was who did and did not have the right of way. Was it the first party westbound on 3rd and making a left to go south on Commonwealth, or was it the second party heading east on 3rd across Commonwealth? The first party, who you hear me talking to shortly after the impact was pretty sure, it was the second party. And frankly, I wasn’t certain he was wrong until I looked at the timelapse later and saw the following two frames (both slightly enlargeable):

In the top frame you see my cam has captured the second party’s car just as its nosed over the crosswalk and into the intersection, and in the bottom frame there’s juuuuusssst a little bit of the rear of the vehicle visible all the way over on the left edge of the frame, a fraction of a second before the collision. What’s also visible is the indisputable fact that the cross street light is red.

When my testimony was taken I told the interviewer that with absolute certainty, the 3rd Street light was not red when the eastbound party entered the intersection and thus had the right of way.

Fast-forward with me to this Monday. I’m sitting at my desk having another of a string  of hellacious days of what will be an hellacious workweek and the phone rings. Is it someone from the office wanting to know why I’m sucking so exceptionally at the moment or is it a telemarketer? Neither. Instead, it’s the son of the elderly couple who were in the Ford sedan pictured above. I’d spoken with him shortly after the accident when he called to thank me for coming to his parents’ assistance, and he was calling again almost two years later at the request of his mom and dad who thought of me now that the case is getting closer to a settlement and asked him to ring me up express their gratitude for me doing something that’s a total given for me: being of help to someone in need.

And in a way they did the same thing for me by reaching out to say thanks. Given how much I’ve been colliding with myself mentally this past few pressurized weeks , I couldn’t’ve asked for a nicer attaboy to brighten my day.

After weeks of counting pollinators as part of my ongoing involvement with the Great Sunflower Project, I thrill with every bee I see. But I have to say, I’d been hoping for a little more variety beyond just honeybees.. Well, that variety arrived with my count including my first carpenter bee — and my timelapse captured its arrival to the flower beautifully (click it for the bigger picture).



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.

I admit it: I can be a tunnel-visioned jerk.

I can look at something as monumental as  the first-ever Los Angeles Bike & Pedestrian Count — the results of which were just recently released by the L.A. County Bike Coalition (LACBC) — and instead of being all ecstatic I wind up getting all grrrr, bogged down in disappointment by a minor matter concerning it… possibly even immaterial to some.

Not to me.

That matter — selfish and meaningless as others might argue that it is — is this: my name’s not found anywhere in the 43-page document.

The work I did is in there from that morning a few months ago when I got up early and left the house at 6:30 a.m. to stand armed with a form, clipboard and pen at the intersection of 8th and La Brea for a couple hours counting the people who passed through on bike or on foot. Later that evening after work I dutifully pedaled out of my way to the LACBC offices downtown to drop the completed data sheets off.

But my name apparently wasn’t worth including — and I’m not alone. None of those of us who did the actual observing and tabulating got a mention. Is it ironic not to be counted for being a counter? Or is it a coincidence? You can always count on me to confuse the two.

The only attention we warranted is the following near the end of the list of recognizees:

Also we want to acknowledge all the count volunteers and office interns who collected, processed and organized the data.

Really LACBC? Wow. Don’t mention it. Seriously.

Now before anyone pulls back on their bow to fling a STFU arrow at me, hold off a sec. Hear me out.

In fairness, no one gets mentioned. Be they a top dog, or a bottom dweller like myself. It’s all anonymous, which is one way to go and I guess is better than just mentioning the executives.

But it should’ve gone the other way.

Especially since there weren’t 12,575 of us out there working in concert to bring this thing to fruition. There were a few hundred of us, tops, whether we were behind desks organizing the whole thing or out on the front lines of this landmark survey marking down whether we saw a pedestrian or cyclist and if they were male or female or were riding on the sidewalk and wearing a helmet or not.

That’s not too many names to fill up four alphabetized columns on a page or two and turn the 43-page PDF into a 44- or 45-page document, but only if someone at the LACBC had understood the importance of recognition and inclusion and demanded that an endeavor as groundbreaking and potentially invaluable and immediately historic — The Inaugural Los Angeles Bike & Pedestrian Count — as this deserved to have everyone involved in any capacity — top to bottom — listed in it. A to Z.

But for whatever reason or excuse that didn’t happen. And if you’re the type of person to defend or be satisfied with such an end result, be it from oversight or after consideration, then fire away, but you’re wasting your ammo.

Because to me, it’s a fail — nothing less then a a double-dog damned and lousy shame slathered in a bucket of half-assed sauce.

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