02 December 2009

bikes in cities

I first started biking when I moved to Portland, OR, where I was a student looking to save some dimes. I wanted to pay for transportation exactly once. No fares, no gas, no insurance, no licensing. I bought a bike, & I rode it every day, & I took it in for repairs two times. Once, I broke a spoke. And once, I got a flat.

I didn't know how to repair a flat.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles, & I didn't ride for about six months. But I missed it. If I worked on the weekends, I rode in, to "treat" myself. Then, I started to "treat" myself every day because I could see no reason not to. I learned how to repair a flat, how to adjust my brakes, saddle height, derailleurs, &c., because I had to. My bike started to fall apart all of a sudden, it seemed, because I was riding it much more, & because I had enjoyed startlingly good luck in Portland. I amassed a small bag of tools, which I kept with me at all times.

bike thneed

My fourth (or maybe fifth) group ride in Los Angeles.
Later still, I discovered Midnight Ridazz. It took me about four months after I started riding every day to learn that thousands of other riders were doing the same all throughout the city, the Valley, Orange County, the Westside, the Eastside. Bikes were everywhere, but they had been invisible, even to me. In retrospect, this is almost inconceivable. Riders in Los Angeles are the most tight-knit group of people I've ever come across, anywhere, & the most welcoming. (I was jumped into a bike gang on my third ride, by SP00K.) How did I miss this? Now, I'm (unofficially) a member of three bike gangs. There is no rivalry; we all go to each others' birthday parties.

happy birthday, ridge way
Ridge Way Bike House turns 2.
I don't think bikers in Portland are as galvanized. I figure it's because bikers are as common as the roses that grow untended there. Like their roses, it's just as beautiful a thing, but it's not so very special. In Los Angeles, riding a bike is a strange thing to do. When seeing someone else riding on the road, I look to see if I know them, & often enough I do. If I don't know them, I nod. A tacit acknowledgment that we both know what's up. It's a unifying activity here, whereas in cities where it's more common, it doesn't mean as much.

Another thing: In Los Angeles, riders don't seem to care much about what you ride. I mean, they care — they appreciate a good whip. But I ride with fixed gear riders, geared riders, mountain bikers, BMX tricksters, chopper bike riders, tall bikers, road racers, polo bikers, velodrome rats, & even people who ride recumbents.

Just kidding. Not recumbents.

seatless tall bike!
I rode this bike once. ONCE.

Every day is a custom bike show. Every night is a ride, usually several. Alleycats every weekend. Name a holiday — Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, your birthday, your dad's birthday, Arbor Day. There's a ride that day. Ahh, enthusiasm. It's fucking scintillating.


The Ride with No Name
The Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time
C.R.A.N.K. MOB (The Wonder Year)
Westside Mosey
Midnight Ridazz (official) rides
Wolfpack Hustle
Cub Camp
All those rides that wound up on the beach in the middle of the night, & then there was swimming, & Trouble

Go ride.



mulling it over said...

I moved down here from portland too, and I agree with this post. There are two periods in my life: the time before I discovered Midnight Ridazz and the time after. Every ride is an adventure (for better or worse) and you get to see all these crazy parts of the city that you'd maybe never see otherwise. I know I don't normally go cruising through skid row at 1AM on a friday night :)

Katie O'Shea said...

Portland! Where'd you live? I was on NE 8th, between Failing & Shaver, the Best Named Streets in All of Streetdom.

It's interesting — first off, I thought I was a rider by virtue of riding in Portland. Second, I'm curious how Los Angeles will settle in, once it's clear to policy-writers & city government that this really is a bikable city. Not just bikable but downright awesome for it. Will we get soft? I was soft. Now, I am not soft. Los Angeles has made me tough, & smart, & capable in ways that I was not before. And it has, at the same time, heightened my sense of empathy, which was pretty damned well developed to begin with. Fuck, I love this city.

mulling it over said...

I always liked that part of NE. I was next to Ladd's Addition in SE on 14th and Division.

Did you ever do the Bridge Pedal? That was a blast. The problem with LA is that while I think a lot of the population in PDX really liked cyclists, the car culture here runs so deep that it's much harder to get public support for making the city truly bike friendly. I was actually really happy back when gas was creeping up around $5 per gallon and everyone was starting to seriously look at bike commuting, because if biking really took off in this town and the city started investing in infrastructure it could be really interesting. It would be awesome if LA had something like portland's 40-mile loop. In any case, things will probably come around eventually, there's just too big of a biking scene here and cyclists have a knack for organizing and getting shit done.