Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Crane Suzu Bicycle Bell

I had to get one. I really did.

I had gotten an Incredibell for the loaner bike from my sister, but that one was made for a handlebar with a smaller circumfrence. When I got my new-to-me bike, I discovered that the Incredibell's bracket was too small to fit on my bike's Nitto handlebars. So I simply had to get a new bell.

Had to? Sure. It's the law. Seriously.

Signaling Device Required (10.48.080) No person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk unless it is equipped with a bell, horn or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle, any siren or whistle. (Ord. C-6322 § 2, 1986).

Now, I don't ride on the sidewalk, except that I'm not sure what counts... for instance... the bike path that goes from Belmont Shore downtown along the beach... is that sidewalk? I think it technically may count as sidewalk, and so there you go. Or what about the LA River and San Gabriel Valley River trails? Sidewalk? Or not? Whatever. The law gives me an excuse.

So I got a Crane Suzu brass bell. My bike is mostly black, chrome/silver/lime green. The brass doesn't fit the color scheme. But it shouldn't. It is a gorgeous bell, and the tone is so perfect, and such sustain. It's awesome.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Practical Cycling -- Bike-Friendly Supermarkets

One of the obstacles to more people cycling is really simple -- there aren't places to secure your bike. The city of Long Beach has installed hundreds of bike racks all over the city, and it open to putting up more where there's an identified need from businesses or cyclists. But this only works where a bike rack or two on the street does the trick, which is usually when we're dealing with smaller storefront businesses.

But the biggest non-work-commute trips that people make in their cars, the one that is usually well less than 2 miles each way, the one that could easily be made by bike, aren't trips to cafes and vintage clothing stores and other little storefronts served by bike racks the city can put out. The biggest trips are grocery store visits. And grocery store parking isn't a need that's best met by the city putting up racks on the sidewalk -- the grocery store is usually situated far away from the street. Bike parking needs to be in the form of racks or something similar that are close to the front doors of the supermarket. And the supermarket has to put them up and maintain them.

I am doing a survey of supermarkets in my area of Long Beach, looking for bike parking. Does the supermarket have racks? How many spaces? Does that seem to meet the need during busy hours? The idea is to get a feel for what the average supermarket is doing, first, and then to encourage supermarkets to put down more bike parking.

So far, I've seen some interesting things. Most supermarkets have racks, but often the racks are placed off to the dark, poorly lit side of the storefront, far from the doors. This is important because if the area isn't well-lit, people wont' feel as safe parking there leaving their bike there. And some supermarkets with no racks seem oblivious to how many people bike to the store.

The Superior market on Long Beach Blvd and 10th has no racks, but when I went there a couple nights ago, around 6pm, I counted 6 bikes parked there... they were secured to the shopping cart corral, because that was the only secure piece of thick metal available. The supermarket had recognized this was happening, because they had posted a sign outside in English in the corral area, saying no bike parking. But they hadn't figured out that they needed to provide a bike rack.

And the Ralphs at 4th, which I go to at least weekly via bike, HAS racks, but only space for four bikes. One of the spaces is unusable because the metal is bent together, so it prevents getting bike tires in. And during busy hours after work, there are more than 4 bikes at a time parked there. Plus, the rack is by the door the market closes when it's late. So if you visit Ralphs late at night, you are securing your bike on the side of the store that isn't getting as much foot traffic and is darker... it doesn't feel as safe as the other side. In fact, I've seen people just park their bikes without securing them by the door that IS used at night, rather than secure them by the locked door side.

And Trader Joes at 2nd and PCH - no bike racks. I can't believe it, and I must be wrong and need to go slowly through the whole area and see if I missed them, but I tend to avoid TJs now when on bike and actually go to Whole Foods across the street, because, although they are too expensive and irritating, they HAVE A PLACE TO LOCK BIKES.

Anyway. It's a silly, small thing, in a way, but it's really interesting, and I hope to get info that I can then use to get supermarkets to think of cyclists and do things to accomodate them.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Road Rage Driver sentencing

Story in the LA Times about the sentencing of the doctor who slammed his brakes in front of those cyclists last year.

You can read the whole bunch if you want, but the comments that bothered me the most are those from people who relate their being inconvenienced, basically, by cyclists. The law is that people are supposed to share the road, but many people seem to think that they have a right to drive the speed limit or greater at all times, and that a cyclist in front of them making them slow down is inconsiderate at best, and violating the law at worst. There are calls for cyclists to stay in the bike lanes (which is getting to be like a ghetto) when the streets don't have bike lanes to begin with. So the writers are implicitly saying cyclists don't have the right to be on the streets without bike lanes.

Anyway. I think all the anger and frustration with cyclists isn't really anything to do with cyclists at all. I think it has to do with people being impatient because they overschedule themselves and are always running behind, and thus sensitive to every single perceived obstacle to their progress. So this is the comment I submitted:
  • Some of the most offensive comments on here are from people who THINK they are being reasonable. Several people recount their own stories of being forced to [gasp] slow down [shudder] because of bicyclists in front of them.

    You know, it isn't your personal road, people. You have to share it. You may have conveniently forgotten, but you have had to slow down for other cars many times each week. You have had to slow down for pedestrians. And yes, you have had to slow down for cyclists. And yet you come here and seriously argue that because you have been delayed due to cyclists, that somehow this is a mitigating factor that somehow excuses attempted murder.

    The real problem here is not the cyclist. The real problem is all of you who feel indignant that you are being impeded by cyclists and slow drivers and pedestrians.

    Why don't get your damn schedule in order, and leave with enough time to make it to your destination without speeding and rushing around? That way you won't be driven into paroxysms of rage when you find yourself unable to drive as recklessly as you are accustomed.
    If you can't manage that, then get a driver, take the bus, or [gasp] get on a bike. Just do something so that you don't have such idiotic anger at the prospect of having to share the road.
    Posted by: Yoshiyahu Jan 8, 2010 3:22:29 PM

It's something I am very aware of, now that I don't drive. Sometimes the train is late. But I never stress, because there's no way my work or my family is going to be mad at me for the train being late. It's out of my hands. But when I was driving to work, there was always the feeling that I could make good time, or take shortcuts, or so something to cut the commute time, and all my hard work in being a sneaky and speedy driver could be ruined if I was stuck behind a cyclist. Not that I've ever been stuck behind a cyclist on my freeway commutes, but yeah. I am probably adding years to my life expectancy by taking the train and shedding all the stress from driving and feeling rushed.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bicycling Questions

As I cycle about more, and encounter more bike culture stuff, and think about things more from a cycling perspective, I have questions. Some aren't easily answered. Such as:

1) What's a good way to carry home your drycleaning via your bicycle?

2) Are Ghost Bikes a good idea? Do they do more good than harm?

I can opine on 2. It's the sort of question where I can see both sides. But 1? I have no clue. And I have drycleaning I need to pickup. I can walk it home, but that seems almost as much a copout as driving it home. Driving is easiest. I have the rear hook and hand-hold thingies to put freshly pressed clothes on. Walking is ok, except the wire hangers cut into the hands after a while (it's not that long of a walk, really, but shhh). I want to learn how to carry home drycleaning on a bike, but it's not something my opinion-oriented mind can resolve. Anything practical seems beyond my abilities.