3 posts

Chicago Alderman Proposes $25 Annual Bike Tax

bikerChicago Alderman Pat Dowell has proposed a plan that bicyclists in the city should pay a $25 annual bike registration fee as a way to raise revenue for the city. Ms. Dowell is hoping this would be an alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed cable television tax hike. She also thinks that all cyclists should be required to take a “rules of the road” safety class. The safety part I can get behind, the tax? Not so much.

As the fee is proposed as just a way of increasing revenue for the city of Chicago and does not directly benefit transportation let alone cycling, I’m not sure it’s a good idea. Even Emanuel doesn’t think so. Continue reading

How to Live in Los Angeles Without a Car

Do you want to know a dirty little secret? I don’t have a car and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been behind the wheel of a car that wasn’t attached to a pole or a track. My sister claims to still have traumatic flashbacks to the time I once drove her car in a parking lot. I don’t know why she let me do that.

But I live in Los Angeles, car city!, have a regular 9 – 6 job and a semi-active social life when I’m not commenting in the IRC about how much I want Chad to be my boyfriend.

How is that possible? (To those of you who live on the east coast, please, just go with this.)

Well, and I’m asking you now to please stifle your laughter and/or incredulous looks—Los Angeles has a pretty sweet public transportation system. Remember, Los Angeles’ sprawl wasn’t built by the car, no matter what people tell you. It was the Red Car that spread LA out. Watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for more on that.

We’ve got trains, light rail, buses and a subway. Because our weather is lovely and our streets are relatively flat in the city-portions, it’s also a great city for bicycling. And if you believe our Mayor, we’re interested in improving the public transportation system we have and have committed money towards doing so.

Location, Location, Location

I live in the central part of Los Angeles near a Red/Purple Line (the subway) stop. It gets me quick access to downtown, Koreatown and Hollywood. I never have to think about parking or valet or any of those other supposed typical Los Angeles experiences.

The best way to choose a place to live that’s convenient to your job, your transportation choices and “necessities” is to research. I like Walk Score for grading the walkability and transit-ability of your new neighborhood. It’s actually how I first ended up picking my post-college apartment. It had the best walk score of the different places I’d looked at. This is also a good thing to do so you don’t end up being the human interest anecdote in an LA Times article about traffic.

Train, Bus, or Rapid

You need to familiarize yourself with the public transportation options in your city. One way to do that is via their website, Google transit, and of course, experience.

Gold Line Chinatown Station from prayitnow's Flickr

I like to explain the way that LA’s transportation system works to n00bs as a series of levels. First, you have the train. This is easy. Everyone likes trains. It appeals to your inner 8 year old. The Gold Line is the cleanest and prettiest, going through Arroyo Seco. The Blue Line carries the most people and goes past and to some really awesome stuff. (Watts Towers, Long Beach.) The Red and Purple are the fastest (and the most underground. Yes, LA has a subway.) The first phase of the Expo Line will theoretically be opening in December and then we will get to visit Culver City, where the set of Cougartown is located.

The next level is the Rapid level. It’s hard to hate a Rapid bus—they’re so fast. These are the Red express buses that have limited numbers of stops. Depending on the route, they can be crowded. The 720 at rush hour going westbound on Wilshire can be a sardine can of attractive professionals commuting from downtown to the Westside.

Metro Rapid 720 Stop, Photo c/o thecourtyard

Lastly, you have the orange regular buses. Depending on the route, you can run into hipsters (the 2 or the 4 going through Echo Park and Silver Lake has a really high concentration of skinny jeans), grandmas, families of five or me. Wave to me. I’m cute. I’ll probably be reading a book, because I can, because I am not driving.

There’s also the DASH. Everyone loves the DASH once they’ve ridden it. This is actually a Los Angeles Department of Transportation system that runs small circular routes throughout the city and costs $0.35. (Full disclosure in the interest of being journalistic-y, I used to work at the LADOT and I cannot say enough good things about paying $0.35 because you just don’t feel like walking the last 3 blocks and it’s right there.)

Bicycling in Los Angeles

CicLAvia 10/10/10 photo by Gary Leonard

I have to admit; I’ve actually gone on only one group ride. I was previously a much more utilitarian bicyclist versus someone active in that community who did all of the fun social stuff like the crazy rides. Since the ride I did with C.I.C.L.E. was the most fun I’ve had fully clothed in months, I definitely am changing my tune on that.

Los Angeles has an incredibly active cycling community. I previously thought they were kind of crazy, but if you ever ride your bike on a lovely sunshine-filled Los Angeles day, you can identify with the kind of crazy that they are. And they have done a lot of good work in the city and county towards recognizing cyclist’s rights, getting safer bike paths and routes (4th Street Bicycle Boulevard!), and better amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians which benefit all residents of a community.

They are also the main force behind the creation of CicLAvia, a car-free festival in Los Angeles that is coming back on April 10th. It’s closing down 7 miles of street in the heart of Los Angeles for people to walk, bike, play and basically interact with their community in a way that is impossible from behind the windshield of a car. It’s also a great way to positively experience neighborhoods people often have negative assumptions about: MacArthur Park and East LA, for example.

So I hope to see all of you LA-based Crasstalkers on the streets this Sunday. Next time, I’ll write a round-up of really great bars/restaurants that are accessible to public transportation. Because remember, if you take the Metro there, and a cab back, you don’t need a designated driver.