April 27, 2013

An Alternate Route

I had such a good time at last fall's CicLAvia that I considered asking Edith to come visit from NYC during the spring weekend so she could experience it too.

But then six months passed and I forgot, and when Edith attempted to schedule her next visit, her only available weekend just happened to coincide with CicLAvia.


Last fall, they had free bike rentals, but this spring, we'd have to arrange a paid bike rental for her. This hung over me like a dark cloud, as did the inevitability that my own bike would have two flat tires after having sat dormant all winter, locked to the fence in the back.

The route was different this year, too, making its way all the way down Venice Boulevard - a former Venice canal - "to the sea."

At my suggestion, we started at the sea, for easy bike rentals and a reverse route to fight bicycle traffic from Downtown LA. At first, it was smooth sailing.

I wanted to go as far as Alvarado and Venice, to see all the route I hadn't seen before, but it would've been 12 miles one way, 7 or 8 miles more than I did last year round trip. So instead, with Edith in tow, with whom I've biked a minimum of 12 miles before in the past, I set a minimum goal of Venice and La Cienega, a familiar intersection 12.4 miles away from our starting point. At LaCienega, my usual turning point off of Venice, I asked if we could go farther, so I could at least see a bit more of a stretch of boulevard I never drive on.

We made it as far as Airdrome Street, only a few blocks past LaCienega, when I suggested we turn around. We didn't have much time before the streets were going to reopen to traffic. We didn't have much energy left.

And we would have to fight the crowds back to the sea.

On our bike ride back to Venice, we encountered the worst traffic jam I have ever seen in Los Angeles, making me think that alternative transportation is not such a viable alternative, and - after getting hit* by two fellow bicyclists - making me wish for my car. With only one side of the road closed off to vehicular traffic, there were too many bikes vying for their route to the sea. Tricycles competed with unicycles. Fifteen-foot custom bikes competed with tandem bikes, sidecars, and motorbikes. I kept having to look over my shoulder to make sure Edith didn't get left behind.

These were not the open streets of last fall. This was a nightmare.

I blame the popularity of the event, as well as its infrequency, causing such an outpouring of support that a half a boulevard could not handle the demand. I blame multiple municipalities (Los Angeles and Culver City) being unwilling to completely shut down their streets, allowing cross-traffic at too many intersections. I blame a route designated along one half boulevard with no other options.

I hate to see something I love in LA get worse. But things change. People change their minds. Routes vary. We rely on genetic variation and biodiversity for the ultimate success and survival of the species.

But as much as I like trying new things, sometimes I don't like change. If something tastes good, feels good, works well, and makes me happy, why alter it?

[*corrected from typo "bit"]

Related Posts:
Free-Wheeling the Open Streets of LA
Proceed With Caution

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