Monday, November 02, 2009


The current trial of Dr Christopher Thompson has people thinking and writing about bicycling rules and safety, with lots of articles popping up recently in places like Slate and the LA Times. And today, USA Today columnist Chris Woodyard takes on Long Beach's Sharrows on 2nd St, showing everyone who actually knows the area that he is clueless about the whole thing. And last week he did a column generally critical of bicyclists on the roads. And from the comments, it's clear that many people just hate bicyclists -- either they hate the $5000-road-bike-and-Spandex crowd that takes over the roads on the weekends. Or they hate the beat-up-old-Huffy-from-a-yardsale users who either can't afford a car or can't drive a car because they got a DUI and lost their license. Or they haven't got as far as noticing who rides what kind of bike -- all they know is that bicycles are on the roads and making them have to pay attention to the road, and brake and change lanes and other unreasonable things.

So it is an interesting time to start bicycling regularly. I just started a month ago, bicycling 1.5 miles from home to the Long Beach Bikestation, where I valet park my bike (for FREE) and then catch the Blue Line light rail to downtown LA. I have gotten a Bell helmet from Target that fits really well, And I have bought a rear rack, lights, bell and helmet mirror from Bikestation, and have figured out how to hang my backpack and grocery bags, like panniers, from my rear rack. I'm a bicycling fool, I am. With my 1.5 miles to and from the Bikestation, and my little rides to Ralphs and Fresh & Easy.

This isn't really the first time I have used a bicycle as transportation. For a time, I rode my bike 6 miles each way from home to Cal State Fullerton, and then another 4-6 miles to my jobs at the library or Disneyland, then 3-5 miles or so back home. I did this until my dad got an old pickup as a second car and we didn't have to do it any more, unless my sister was using the pickup.

At the time, I was just doing it because it beat the bus, and I had no car. But today, it's a little different. Rather than living in the middle of a suburb built for cars, I am living in Long Beach, with stores and entertainment within easy walking and biking distance. It's actually simpler to ride the bike than drive the car. It's more fun. And I drive my car for work, if I have to travel, or when I drive my daughter to her mom's and do some shopping. That ends up being once or twice a week I'm in the car. Other than that, I don't use it. Which reminds me-- I have to tell my insurance agent so I can get a break on my car insurance.

And another benefit of being in Long Beach is how there's a real bicycling community. There are lots of folks getting around on bikes, there are bike rides and events for bikes (like the 50 mile full-moon ride tonight that I am not doing, although I want to) and a city with a serious desire to make the city more bike-friendly and the dollars to do it. And there are lots of committed activists and enthusiasts to learn from and listen to.

Anyway. Bicycling. Good.

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