Friday, January 21, 2011

Cycling the City of the Angels

Last week I took my Dahon folding bike with me on the Amtrak Coast Starlight to visit Mother Sun and Friend Nancy who lives on “Museum Row” near Wiltshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Mother sun smiled on me every day as I toured the city by bike and the Metro rail system, temperatures ranging in the high 70’s to low 80’s.
Meanwhile Seattle continued to morose under cold, wet gloom.

What? You biked in LA? That’s the ultimate car world not a bike friendly city like Portland or Eugene! It’s true, LA isn’t big on bike lanes. Bikes are an after-thought or perhaps never thought of at all. Yet I found it delightful cycling there.

Wiltshire Blvd. spans the entire city. Many of its sidewalks, ranging up to 25 feet in width, are lined with palm trees, restaurants, stores and businesses. There are few big ugly gaping parking lots in view. An old lady on a bike has no problem, given L.A. ordinances allowing bicycling anywhere, so long as you don’t endanger people or property. Even if you are one of those hot shot speed-o spandex wearing cyclist, no problem. Wiltshire is so wide you almost have to look over the curve of the earth to the opposite side. There are 4-6 lanes for car traffic and parking lanes wide enough for semi’s but occupied mostly by small SOV’s or not at all. There is plenty of room to cycle on the street if that’s your style. And there are many big wide boulevards like that in L.A.

So. I have a suggestion about how the City could significantly reduce its colossal carbon footprint. Put some of those boulevards on road diets. By that I mean just restripe them, making the parking and driving lanes a little narrower. Then paint in bike lanes on either side to of the street. There’s oodles of room for bike lanes on LA streets. Can you imagine, with weather like that (83 degrees in January), how many thousands of commuters would get out of their cars and ride bikes?

On my second morning in LA I bought a camera with a zoom lens but no view finder. I’ve always been shy of new fangled cameras like that. But the store didn’t have any cameras with view finders, so I decided to give this technology a try, taking pictures when blinding reflections on the screen made it impossible to tell what was looking at.

But the result was often amazing when I would just point the thing at something and hope for the best. I took shots of many buildings, parks, murals and statues all over town. I took the Bunker Hill Steps, artwork inside the Central Library, the Flea Market and pedestrian mall fountain on Fairbanks. In Hollywood I shot Roy Rogers and Shirley Temple’s foot prints, costumed movie characters like Bat Man and Spider Man posing on the street. I captured huge wooly mammoths, camels and dire wolf skeletons at Wiltshire’s La Brea Tar Pits, gallery artworks across the street, and much, much more. What surprised me most were shots of famous paintings I took through windows of the LA County Museum of Art. Reflections of buildings blended with the paintings for some serendipitous composition. Building reflections also blend with my photo’s of manikins in a thrift store window on Fairbanks. You would almost think I was a hobby photographer, I had so much fun taking pictures.

See some of them at

Friends are puzzled when I tell them I was willing to spend 4 days getting to LA and back when a plane ride would have taken a only a few hours. But If you want to relax and get away from it all, why not do it on the train? You can wander about, get a snack from the lounge car, have dinner in the diner, or sit in the sunny dome car gazing at breath-taking views of forests, mountains, pasture lands, and waterways.
The best part is the opportunity to catch up on pleasure reading. I read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and David Gutterson’s East of the Mountains with which I would not have found the luxurious time to entertain myself at home. I even did a modicum of writing, (this blog entry for example.)

How’s Whistle Stop coming? Still no permit from the City although I’ve been assured it’s right around the corner.