Saturday, September 30, 2006

Life Can Be So Car-Free

This evening we attended part of the Life Can Be So Car-Free event at the new Los Angeles State Historic Park which is just north of the Chinatown station on the Gold Line. Ideally I would have ridden my bike or taken the bus to this event, but I had to attend a wedding all day today in La Mirada, and the only way I could get there on time was to drive! I figured going by car was better than not going at all.

I got there at around 8 PM after they had just started to show various movies on car-free and car-lite living. There weren't quite as many people there as I thought there would be, but I saw a lot of familiar faces - people that I see on Critical Mass rides.

I found a display at one of the booths pretty interesting. It was a booth for a new program called Roll With It which pairs up people that bike to work and people that want to learn to bike to work. They had a map of LA with pushpins marking the start and end of various peoples' bicycle commutes. Each pair of pushpins was connected by a string of yarn. It was a nice visual display of where the bicycle commuting traffic was concentrated in LA. This gave me the idea that an online application could be written for people to input their commute paths and the aggregate commuting routes could be depicted on Google Maps. Something like this could really give the city of LA an idea about where they should try to improve bicycle conditions. I told one of the Roll With It organizers that I'd see if I could figure out how to do something like this.

A little hungry, I left the event early and headed to Little Tokyo to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants there, Sohoju. Dolsot Bibimbop - yum.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cycling Friendly Cities

This video, Cycling Friendly, showcases cities Copenhagen (Denmark), Amsterdam and Houten (Netherlands), and Bogotá (Colombia) and how they have promoted the use of bicycling over cars for transportation in urban areas. My dream would be for Los Angeles and other American cities to head in that direction.

According to this source, the scenario for Cycling Friendly Cities came from Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, who used the Dutch and Danish policies for urban transport planning as a model to create a social model for his city.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bryce and Zion Mountain Biking Trip

I spent all of last week mountain biking on an Escape Adventures tour. This year I went with a friend of mine on the Bryce and Zion National Parks tour. It was awesome: great trails, great food, amazing scenery, and a fun group of people. There were 8 guests (husband and wife from Toronto, two women from Boston, two men from Denver, me and a friend of mine from LA) and 2 guides (Erik and Nancy).

I had been trying to get in shape for this trip, but even after riding to work every day for the past few weeks, I was still the worst athlete in the group. I had about as much technique as most of the other riders, but I usually wound up finishing rides last due to having less stamina. It was the worst on the first day as I hadn't yet been acclimated to the high elevation. My heart would beat really fast just after peddling uphill for one minute! It definitely got better throughout the week as I adjusted.

I rode my 1996 Trek Singletrack on the trip. As I expected, everyone was telling me I was crazy to ride a "hardtail" (no rear suspension) bike. I have been thinking about buying a bike with full suspension, but the good ones cost around $3000 and I didn't think I was a serious enough mountain biker to spend that much. I borrowed my friend's Santa Cruz Superlight on the last ride which was on slick rock. Riding this dual suspension bike was amazing. I couldn't believe what a difference it made. Suddenly, I was able to ride as well as all the others in the group. It was so smooth compared to my bike. At the end of the trip, the guides gave out awards to each guest. I won The Enlightened One award because they thought I had seen the light when I tried the dual suspension bike and that I was like a totally different rider.

Visiting Bryce and Zion again reminded me how amazing those parks are - especially Zion. I was glad we had a chance to do some hiking in the parks. The Narrows hike is incredible.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sunset Ranch Dinner Ride

For my friend's 40th birthday, a group of 4 of us went to Sunset Ranch to go on one of their famous dinner rides. From their website,
Our most famous event is our Sunset Dinner Ride. It consists of a 90 minute ride through Griffith Park over to Burbank and to the delicious Viva Fresh Mexican Restaurant. After eating a great meal, enjoy a relaxing ride back through the park, under the moon and stars, arriving to the ranch no later then 10:30 pm. All rides are accompanied by an experienced wrangler.
They do these rides every night, but Friday is the only night when you can show up without a reservation. We left work at 3:30 PM so that we'd have a good chance at getting a spot on the ride before it booked up. Fortunately it all worked out and we were able to join the group of about 15 riders for the evening. The ride cost $60 a person + tips for the guides at the end.

This was my second time on a horse, the first being in Big Beara few years ago. I'm not a huge fan of horseback riding, but I'll go with the flow when others want to go. I don't completely trust animals so I get scared since, to me, the horse is the one in control. My horse on this ride was named Mouse. On the way to dinner, he was pretty slow and remained in the back of the group. On the way back, however, he transformed into a mighty mouse and wanted to race toward the front. He also would run up to the butt of another horse and give it a peck which was a cross between a kiss and a bite. Other people on the ride seemed to be getting annoyed at my horse saying "Watch out for the mouse bite!".

To control the horse, you are supposed to kick it to go faster, pull back on the reigns to slow down, and pull the reigns right or left to turn. Mouse obeyed the reigns, but never really responded to the kicking. Maybe I just wasn't kicking hard enough. Mouse would speed up when one of the guides came by making a clicking sound with her mouth.

The ride was a lot of fun and the views from the top of the Hollywood Hills were amazing. At different points we could see LA from downtown to the west side and on the valley side from Glendale to North Hollywood and beyond. The only annoying thing about the ride was that there was a lot of dust being kicked up by the horses. I recommend bringing or buying one of their $2 bandanas to wrap over your mouth so you don't inhale all the dust.

It is amazing how short I felt after dismounting a horse I've been on for 90 minutes. It was really wierd.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Capital of Late Night Biking

The number of regular evening and late-night bike ride opportunities is rapidly increasing in Los Angeles. We have 2 Critical Mass rides, the Midnight Ridazz rides, and as I discovered Friday night, the RIDE-Arc ride.

A few friends and I were coming home from the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride Friday night - going south on Walgrove Ave just north of Venice Blvd. All of a sudden, a whole swarm of cyclists started passing us. We thought that a contingent of the earlier critical mass ride was going for a second spin, although we didn't recognize a lot of the people. A little confused, we asked some people where they were going and what ride they were on. To our surprise, it was a completely separate LA bike ride that meets on the same night as the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride each month. They call their ride RIDE-Arc. According to their website:
RIDE-Arc is a monthly social bicycle ride in the cool evening air with a loose, vaguely referenced Architectural theme, mixed with some Urban Anthropology and your own personal sense of adventure and discovery. Awesome rides, good vibes taking you to places that shape the Los Angeles urban landscape.
Apparently they were on a rare ride on the westside of town. Normally the rides start and end closer to downtown LA. Excited to learn about this group, my friend and I joined them for the next 30 minutes or so as they stopped at the McKinley Residence near Abbott Kinney, walked through the Venice Canals, and visited the giant binoculars on Main St. At each point of interest, the group stops and a person speaks to the group about the architectural significance of the building or house. Pretty cool! What a great idea for a bike ride.

I would like to go on another one of these, but it can be difficult to get to their starting point on the eastside of town. Also, it would be almost impossible to go on the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride and the RIDE-Arc ride in the same night. Anyway, it is nice to know there are so many choices for group bike rides in LA. I hope a few more pop up on the westside.

Do other American cities have this many late night rides?