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Stay Tuned…

August 26, 2010

Ok, so here it’s been three months without a post. What can I say? I’m a lazy bastard. But I’ve also been out of town for one and a half of those months, so I kind of have an excuse. There’s plenty to write about, namely a new Bike Share program in Long Beach, film festivals, a new art museum, et cetera. Be warned however, my next material (providing I even get around to churning it out) may or may not be a travelogue from my recent trip. But I’ll do you the favor of making it relate back to LA somehow. See you soon.

Tale of Two Marches

April 30, 2010

With summer almost here, and the Arizona state government trying desperately to remove any doubt that they’re bats**t crazy, it’s a good day to celebrate that we don’t live one state over. Why not celebrate by sticking it to the man tomorrow at two of LA’s long standing annual traditions: t?

The Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena, sometimes held immediately after the Rose Parade but now being held in May, is a celebration of all things weird. The above video shows a group of circuit benders: people who hack into old electric keyboards to make them beep like R2D2. Good stuff. In the video, the marchers even commute to the parade via the Gold Line.

And Downtown is LA’s annual May Day rally, no doubt to be fueled this time around by disgust with the aforementioned Arizona law. Though these rallies are going on around the world, the downtown rally never fails to showcase LA’s own brand of proud leftism.

So get out there and do something different – hopefully without being arrested.

The Gravel Line: Latest Metro Extension Connects To Empty Pits

April 1, 2010


Photo: CLUI

This story has been out for a few days now, but it’s oddly appropriate that I haven’t had time to get around to writing it until April Fools’ Day. Ah, if only this news were an irritating prank, like our friendly overlords at Google played on the city of Topeka. Alas, it looks like the next train extension to be built after the Expo Line will be to the sparsely populated northern reaches of the San Gabriel Valley – home to more gravel pits than you could ever want.

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit unfair. The Foothill line will also connect to Citrus College, a nest of vociferous supporters of the line. Much as I’m concerned about Metro opting to spend their money on what is for the most part a low density, low ridership corridor, I have to admire how well organized the Foothill Extension movement is. Heading up the foothill extension movement is iwillride.org, with graphics so nice you’ll want to lick your computer screen. And hey, they got 12 people from the SGV to pledge in the comment section to ride it once it’s built. So, we know ridership will be at least 12 – yay! Also, the always-intelligent commenters at Streetsblog seem generally pleased too. With so many apparently satisfied people, maybe this line deserves to potentially stop the badly-needed Purple Line Extension at Westwood, or for that matter, Koreatown.

Aw heck, I’ll give the Gold Line to Citrus a pass. But the idea of it being extended even farther to the Ontario Airport is what really grinds my gears. This will lengthen the line to the point where basic operations will become more difficult, not to mention expensive. The usefulness will be minimal, and furthermore, that area is already served by Metrolink. Why not implement shuttle service between the airport and the nearest metrolink station, thereby saving $300 million dollars? Instead of becoming a light rail to nowhere, the gold line should turn directly south from Citrus to the Covina Metrolink station, thus providing a useful connection for Pasadenans Azusans, and other SGVers heading east on the Metrolink. Otherwise, LA county will end up with an ineffective train line and a huge bill. April Fools, indeed.

Jaime Escalante, A Calculated Appreciation

March 31, 2010

Yesterday marked the death of Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High teacher whose students’ success at AP calculus would became legendary, enshrined in the film Stand and Deliver, as well as on a giant mural in MacArthur Park. While I’m generally resistant to oversimplified, feel-good reductions of historical events and personal stories, I can’t help but be a bit moved by his passing.

Appropriately enough, I first became acquainted with the legacy of Escalante in my high school calculus class; my teacher was not quite at his level of prowess and showing that movie was about the only worthwhile thing I got out of that class. The movie is actually not bad, but of course the most impressive thing about Escalante is that he performed his duties without the thought of a Hollywood deal but to improve the lives of high school kids in his community. Needless to say, there are many other equally dedicated educators around our city who will never have a movie made about their lives. Now is as good a time as any to take a moment to appreciate them.

If only the LAUSD could as well. The death of Escalante comes in the wake of an announcement by superintendent Ramon Cortines that the school year will have to be shortened by one week due to budget shortfalls. This sounds bad, but the alternative is far worse: thousands of layoffs and overcrowded, ineffective classes as a result. Now more than ever – whether it be at Garfield High, in South LA, or anywhere else in the city – we need more Escalantes to fill the gap left by our school system.

Street Summit: Partying is Not Infeasible!!

March 19, 2010

Alas, there has been plenty to blog about this week in Los Angeles, but I have been too busy/lazy to do so. My deepest apologies to my loyal readership base, I shall not be so lax in the near future.

In the meantime, there’s the Street Summit tomorrow!! It is truly an event which merits two exclamation points. At this point, the oft-delayed-on-weekends Blue Line miraculously appears to be running on schedule during the day this weekend, but I’m guessing Metro will nevertheless find a way to f*** things up like they did last year. But there is yet good news: the Street Summit officially sanctioned after party!! Another two exclamation points!! There will be alcohol, bands, dancing, weird outfits, alcohol, and everything else the self-consciously edgy bicycle crowd loves. Naturally, my shaggy ass will be making an appearance, though I’ll have to cope with the late night repairs on the Blue Line back to the down under of Long Beach. C’est le velo, c’est la vie.

Biketastic Weekend in East Hollywood and LB

March 12, 2010

I love me some bike-related events, it is an indisputable fact that bike people are good people. This weekend appears to be a great weekend for bike oriented events throughout the area. The centerpiece is Artcycle, a bike-oriented event celebrating art and culture in E-Ho. I’ll let their website do the explaining:

“Hop on a bike to take a tour of some of East Hollywood’s finest galleries, like Synchronicity, Thinkspace and Junc. Check out New Media Artists, see a show at Sacred Fools, check out or just browse among the dozens of artists and performers displaying their creations at the street scene on Santa Monica Boulevard.

There will be plenty of yummy food and live entertainment, including the exotic salsa dancers of Salsarologo and the gypsy jazz phenomenon of KillSonic. And don’t forget to bring the kids, for arts and crafts, face painting and lots of hands-on fun. Be sure to bring an old T-shirt for a BYO silk screen.

Rad. The festival is being held at Santa Monica and Virgil, just east of the Santa Monica Blvd. Red Line station, between 2 and 10 PM.

There’s also the DownTownShowDown in Long Beach – ironically being held a mile out of Downtown in Bixby Park. It’s basically a fixed gear fest, the centerpiece is a street-messenger style alley race, there’s also a track stand competition and a barbecue. The fun begins at noon. Hey, maybe the fixed gear kids could hold a race that goes up the LA River and ends at Artcycle? Well, there’s always next year.

Also, the following weekend is going to be the much anticipated sequel to last year’s bike summit, which has been redubbed “Street Summit“. It’s going to feature NYC’s Janette Sadik-Kahn, and our own (sorta) hometown hero, Charlie Gandy of the Bike Long Beach department. See ya there!

Open Letter To LB Port Bridge Commision

March 10, 2010

Dear Port Of Long Beach Bridge Commission:

If I’m not mistaken, the Port of Long Beach has something of an interest in becoming “green”, or at least creating an eco-friendly public image. The port has instituted its green port policy while also launching a massive publicity campaign to establish environmental credibility, including billboards, internet ads, and a vast series of pamphlets, newsletters, and videos. This is certainly commendable; the port has traditionally been a large source of pollution throughout the region, making environmental reform a welcome change. However, I fear the port’s latest major undertaking – a replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge – falls short of the port’s noble green goals.

The replacement is planned as a sleek, cable-stayed bridge, the first to be built on the West Coast. It will certainly be pleasant to look at, and is designed to be more efficient in handling truck traffic. But the replacement is lacking a critical feature, one which would greatly increase the environmentally friendliness, accessibility, and overall effectiveness of the bridge: a pathway for bicycles and pedestrians.

Why is there no pedestrian walkway? The revised draft environmental impact report for the replacement bridge offers this line of reasoning:

Terminal Island is an industrial area within the Harbor District where there is currently no residential, retail, or public recreational facilities. Since the closing of the Naval Shipyard and the opening of the Pier T container terminal, there has been low demand from nonmotorized traffic (e.g., pedestrians or bicycles) on Ocean Boulevard over the Gerald Desmond Bridge, despite a patchwork of sidewalks that exist along the roadway. In addition, Terminal Island does not include any designated bicycle route… Both pedestrians and cyclists can utilize the regularly scheduled bus service equipped with bicycle racks provided by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to travel between downtown Long Beach, Terminal Island, and San Pedro. A designated bike route exists to the north of the Port on Anaheim Street at the northern edge of the Harbor District.

Having invested so heavily in a green brand, and ostensibly committed to genuine environmental reform, the port would surely have a great interest in promoting walking and bicycling – two of the most energy efficient forms of transportation. But here we see the port working against walkers and cyclists. It’s true that Terminal Island and the Port complex are difficult to navigate on foot or bicycle, but this is because current conditions are not yet suitable; as the DEIR notes, there is only a “patchwork” network of sidewalks. The existing bike route on Anaheim and LADOT bus service are hardly workable solutions: the bike route is a 3 mile detour between downtown Long Beach and San Pedro, and bus service is infrequent.

The port has been thoughtful enough to supply a proposed “Bike Restrictions/Access” map. This supposed bike access route would involve bikes having to follow a circuitous route, exiting and reentering the road on offramps and then having to travel in the breakdown lane. This is a route that would make even the most hardened road cyclist balk.

What is particularly painful about the replacement bridge’s pathway deficiency is that the current bridge actually includes one. It is far from perfect, but if coupled with further improvements it would be workable. The port is electing to make the situation even worse for cyclists and pedestrians, instead it should be working to reinstate bike and pedestrian access on the bridge, improve it on the other roads in its jurisdiction, and encourage the Port of Los Angeles to do likewise on its bridges and roads.

In San Francisco and Oakland, there is an effort being made to add bike and pedestrian access to the Oakland-Bay Bridge, here we are removing it. Is this something an environmentally conscious port would do? I think not. The Long Beach-San Pedro corridor can be seen as a smaller scale version of the Northern California span: Both are long and traverse industrial port regions, but have dense population and employment centers on either side. But in order for progress to be made, broad improvements in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This will not happen if the port continues on its regressive course to remove pedestrian access from the bridge.

It is my hope that the port will make good on its green aspirations, by including a bicycle/pedestrian pathway on the Gerald Desmond replacement bridge.