Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bike Girl Gets Wet

Photo by woodmanlroc

After completing a month without driving her car even once, Bike Girl is considering the feasibility of staying car free for the other 11/12's of the year.

When considering situations where Bike Girl would use a car, only a few situations immediately come to mind. The main one being, when it rains.

If Bike Girl wanted volatile weather, she would have moved to a different latitude. But since occasionally it does rain in Southern California, the ever solutions-oriented Bike Girl has found some tips to help her, and her loyal readers, in the event of showers.

1. Get Some Fenders - Bike Girl does not currently own any fenders, but is considering purchasing some. She's told that easy-on, easy-off plastic fenders can be purchased.

2. Avoid Puddles - A puddle can hide a pot hole. In Los Angeles, these road hazards tend to be deep and frequent. Be mindful of the road ahead of you and if a puddle is coming up, safely check for cars and ride around it. Luckily, cyclists don't have to worry about hydroplaning like cars do, because our wheels are so thin.

3. Slow Down - Stopping distance is greatly increased in the rain. Wet brake pads don't grip wet rims very well. Bike Girl has found that pumping her brakes creates some friction which dries them out enough for her to stop more quickly.

4. Get Lights - Bright ones. Bike Girl loves her Night Rider. She also uses two rear red blinkies. Drivers in Southern California can't deal with precipitation. They're even less likely to see you. Put those lights on in the rain, even if it's high noon.

5. Cover Your Seat - Bike Girl parks her bike inside, so this isn't an issue. But if your workplace forces you to park on the street, a bag or shower cap over the saddle can keep your pants from looking like you had an "accident."

6. Mix Your Transit - Taking the train or bus part-way is a good way to be out of the weather. The only problem here is that others will likely do the same. This can cause problems if the bike rack on a bus is full. A frequent Bike Girl commenter loves Folding Bikes. Bike Girl thinks this is one of the times foldies are FTW.

7. Lock Smart - If you lock your bike outside in the rain, arrange the lock so the key-hole points down. That way, water won't collect inside and rust it up.

8. Dress Appropriately - In Copenhagen, cyclists carry umbrellas in the rain. Bike Girl does not think she's coordinated enough for that. She plans to wear her Foul-Weather-Gear and a cycling cap to keep dry.

9. Lube - Lube your chain once the rain stops. It's important.

These of course are only suggestions. Bike Girl has survived riding in the rain without any of these items or taking any of these precautions. Most recently, she may or may not have been seen riding under-dressed on a barely functional rusty bicycle with no stylish umbrella in a different latitude. She is happy to report that she turned out just fine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bike Girl Gets Stood Up

Councilman LaBonge is the one in the tie. Image from Metro

Bike Girl loves bike commuting. But she does not love that the only route between the Universal City/Burbank/Toluca Lake area and Hollywood is via the Cahuenga Pass. At night, the only other road over the mountain that goes through Griffith Park is closed. During the Griffith Park Light Festival, that road is completely closed to cyclists. Metro service stops around 1 a.m. This leaves the Pass as the only option.

Bike Girl has blogged several times about the dangers of this particular road. It's poorly paved, cars routinely exceed the speed limit as they use it as an alternative to the adjacent 101 freeway, and now, Bike Girl counts 34 dead streetlights, creating a black abyss between Barham and the Hollywood Bowl.

Ever the optimist, Bike Girl invited her city councilman to join her on a ride over this pass to see the urgent need for repair of the existing infrastructure. Her councilman, Tom LaBonge, even responded to her request saying he'd be down. He said she only had to name the date.
Bike Girl excitedly named a date, but received no further response from Councilman LaBonge. Just in case, she stood, bicycle leaning against her hip, at the appointed place at the appointed time. But Councilman LaBonge has effectively stood her up.

Thinking her email may have just been buried in his inbox, Bike Girl followed up. But alas, she has received no further correspondence from her councilman.

This was very discouraging to Bike Girl. She truly believed that on some level, Councilman LaBonge really did care about cycling issues. She understands if he feels too unsafe to travel that road. Bike Girl herself is intimidated by it. But since he said he would ride, she feels lied to.

While it should be no surprise to Bike Girl that politicians make promises they do not keep, she genuinely thought in this case, with this supposedly bike-friendly councilman, she could get through. Councilman LaBonge has routinely positioned himself as the Bicycle Councilman. He has even thrown rides with LAPD escorts through his district and purchased ice cream for all who attended.

Councilman LaBonge, if you read this, please note that the invitation is still open. If you still don't want to ride, please at least push repairs and speed enforcement on this stretch of road higher on the priority list. The safety of cyclists in your district depends on it.

Readers, please call and report the street light outages on the stretch of Southbound Cahuenga Boulevard between Barham and the Hollywood Bowl by calling 3-1-1 in the city of L.A., or 1-866-4LACITY outside city limits.
The articles of the Cyclists Bill of Rights that apply to this stretch of road are numbers 1, 5, and 7.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bike Girl Completes Her Car Free Challenge

Photo by Piax LOLed by Knittens

Today was day 30 of Bike Girl’s 30 day car-free pledge. The state of her car attests to that. The pledge was inspired by a challenge from Green L-A girl. On the whole, Bike Girl found that it was extremely easy to not drive for a month.

This is not to say there were no bumps along the way. Notable bumps included Bike Girl’s resistance to getting on a bicycle before 8 a-m for a meeting. This showed Bike Girl that she needs to carefully consider her schedule and priorities. Another time, Bike Girl did a 30 mile training ride one Saturday, and then climbed over the Sepulveda Pass to get to Sherman Oaks for a meeting. On the way she got lost and ended up riding an extra 10 miles, making the whole trip over 50 miles.

But since Bike Girl has gradually been reducing her car trips, the majority of the month was spent as usual. Here are some of the things Bike Girl did to make being car free pretty easy:

1. Get Panniers for your bike - They’re like saddle-bags that go over your rear rack. Bike Girl’s hold a grocery bag each.

2. Mix transit – Bike Girl frequently takes her bike on the bus and Metro train to extend her reach and take a break from riding all over town. For people who frequently utilize the Metro or busses, a folding bike may be a good investment, though Bike Girl has been able to get around with a regular bike.

3. Plan Ahead – Bike Girl doesn’t like to have to carry a bunch of stuff around, even in her stylish Panniers. So she puts together clothes and food for the whole week of work and carts them in on Monday. She brings the dirty clothes and empty Tupperware home on Fridays.

4. Get lights – traveling at night can be intimidating. But thanks to a gift from Bike Girl’s significant other, she has extremely bright lights that allow her to travel safely at night.

Not everyone seems to have enjoyed Bike Girl’s car-free month. Apparently a neighborhood LOLcat has noticed how dusty her car has become. He has written “Wash Me PLZ” on the trunk and the windshield.

As a reward for completing her goal, Bike Girl has decided to thoroughly clean her car and purchase a car cover. She anticipates the car will be covered most of the time. Bike Girl is also planning to take the car for a tune up and ask the mechanic how better to prepare the car for long periods of sitting without being used.

Bike Girl would like to challenge her readers who currently use their cars to go car-lighter. This can start with not using the car one day a week.