A Perfect CicLAVia?

CicLAVia_June_20133Today’s CicLAVia was, in my opinion, almost perfect. It was always my dream for it (long before it actually got off the ground) to be an event that closed all of Wilshire from Downtown to the beach, to allow the city to celebrate car-free-ness on a regular basis. For me, having Wilshire be the route would make it a core location that meant the city was serious about the event, would mean a lot of participation linking East and West, and perhaps most importantly, would give a lot of room, since Wilshire is a really wide street. Perhaps that it is a long way off to have the whole of Wilshire be used, but they came close to the dream by having a Wilshire one today. The route ran from where Wilshire starts (at Grand) all the way out to LACMA at museum square at Wilshire and Fairfax. I rode it with a friend in the middle of the day and it was a lot of fun. See below for some of the things we did. Also, watch the timelapse video I made (embedded later) which has some fun stills embedded in it as well.

CicLAVia_June_20130You might recall some of the things that I felt the need to mention concerned me after the last CicLAVia. In that post I was most concerned about the narrowness of the route (they only used half of Venice for much of the way) and the fact that the resulting compressed group of people got even more compressed with the numerous traffic stops that there were. It was unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Well, there was not a hint of that here. They had both sides of Wilshire open, and relatively few traffic stops. This meant a lovely free flow of traffic for people of all speeds, ages, and mode of transport. The other main concern I had was that the event did not leave enough time for people to explore the route, leaving a number of people stranded, which is not good for a lot of people who are infrequent riders – they’ve got to get home cycling in traffic that they might not be ready to do yet. Well, today they extended the time by two hours, making it run from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Brilliant. I suspect that helped also with the potential congestion since people participating get spread out over a longer time.

Overall, I must congratulate the organizers for a nearly perfect event. Now if only we can have Wilshire open all the way to the beach for a CicLAVia, I’d be in heaven.

(Actually, just a few weeks ago I did my own all-Wilshire CicLAVia when I was heading to a couple of events at Westwood and Santa Monica. I started out planning to take my bike on the 720 bus but ended up giving up on the whole thing – there was a dreadful 45 minute hole in the schedule that made me horribly late for the first event and too many pushy people fighting to get on when the bus did show up – so I just cycled the whole way. It was a lot of fun, and helped me let off steam…but I’d love to participate in a whole group of LA residents doing it one day…)

So it was great. Having started Downtown and enjoyed the ride West, my companion and I [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia Time Lapse

Here’s a timelapse video of the CicLAVia ride from Sunday 21st April. (I’ve done one for each of the past rides as well, so search on “ciclavia” for them if you wish.) My thoughts about the ride were posted back on the day, and there’s lots of discussion at that post on some of the issues I raised, so go and have a look if you like, and feel free to join in. I did the ride on the Brompton, as usual, and this time I was accompanied by my colleague Krzysztof Pilch, who was riding one as well. We even saw a few others on the way, which was nice.

ciclavia_April_2013_mapThe video is a bit flawed, not the least because at some point the top of my bag started puffing up a bit and blocking part of the view. Also, I’ve not laid on some funky music like the fancy folk do, so it is quite silent. But there it is as a record of most of the 13-15 mile route from Downtown to Venice beach: [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAvia and Festival of Books

Well, I’m exhausted, and so am certainly not going to give you a full report on everything right now. I hope to do another post with my usual time-lapse video of the ride some time later (but soon). They are uploading from my camera right now. All I will give you right now is a shot of the crowds at a typical stop along the route. Also, I will say a few words that will probably get me into trouble.


The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA. And it is not just for all the environmental reasons, to do with energy use, air quality, and so forth. I can go on about those but I won’t. See earlier posts for that sort of thing. It is also because many people get to properly see their city in these events, which is really important. You can’t see it from a car – and I don’t just mean all the buildings and wonderful hidden gems I sometimes talk about, but I mean the other people who live in the city with you. That’s a big deal, and an important one for when it comes to how we all work and live together. I’m also very excited that the organizers tried this cross-city route, linking East and West, getting West side based people involved in the fun. And overall I enjoyed today a lot… I love the event and will keep coming and keep supporting it.


But. Yeah, I’m going to say something negative, but only in the spirit of support for [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia October 2012

Well, it was a lot of fun, once again. There was a huge turn out, and pretty much perfect weather for it (not the extreme heat of a week or two ago, for example). I was not part of a group this time, and so I was able to explore with a fair amount of random abandon this time, starting at MacArthur Park metro stop, heading downtown and then all the way to Exposition Park, where I stopped at USC to print something out at my office (a long report I need to read), then head back up to downtown, through the City Hall (and new Grand Park) area into Chinatown. That got me thinking about baked buns, and so having returned back past City Hall, stopping briefly at Grand Park to look at one of the many places where there were concerts, I made my way to Little Tokyo to this place I like to find red bean buns and had one during a short stop in a square.

It was nice to sit and listen to all the conversations, and look at all the people (in family groups, friend groups, solo, etc) enjoying the city. Just as I was leaving to head to the East LA leg a fellow came over with his two sons (on a bike with a tralier for one of them, if I recall) and asked if I was a scientist. I wondered for a moment what [...] Click to continue reading this post

Now Arriving…!

The new line rocks! I went down there with my Brompton on the earlier side of things, this morning. I took the Red Line and changed seamlessly to the Expo Line at Metro/7th, and it was an excellent ride. I really do think (as I said in the previous post) that this is part of a major transformation for the city. This is a transformation with regards things like energy usage, congestion, community, air quality and all those wonderful things public transport helps with.

Of course, at the outset there is something truly right, to my mind, about being able to easily connect from downtown to Exposition Park and the Science and Natural History Museums, the African American Museum, and of course USC – All major Los Angeles institutions clustered together and now connected back to the newly beating heart of it all. From USC, I can now easily connect to the music center, LA Live, MOCA, any number of my favourite restaurants, bars, cafes, and other places I love downtown, and then float on home on the Red Line, or off to Pasadena or Boyle Heights on the Gold Line. This is so exciting to see come to pass. I’ve been dreaming of trains running along Exposition Boulevard between USC and the Museums and the Rose Garden for many years now, and it is now a reality. Stepping off the train today at the Expo Park/USC stop was just magical.

I recorded some footage of my travels on it today for you and edited it all together into a ten minute film. You can see it in the embed below. Consider it an invitation to [...] Click to continue reading this post

Only Ten Hours…

expo line trainOnly ten hours until the Big Transformation! The Expo line will open to the public at 5:00am tomorrow (Saturday). I think that this first major thrust to the West, connecting downtown to USC, Exposition Park and the Museums, and points West to Culver City, should be truly transformational for not just the locations involved, but the city at large.

I hope it will change minds about what is possible for public transport in Los Angeles in a huge way (the old “it doesn’t go anywhere” complaint will be heard a bit less maybe?), and connect and enrich all the neighborhoods involved. (And yes, on the personal side of things I hope it ends up, in combination with the Red Line, being better than just sitting on the bus all the way. We shall see.)

There’ll be a special schedule for this opening weekend, with the line (free to travel on for the two days) stopping at 7:00pm. I was a bit scared by this for a moment, [...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAVia April 2012

It was a perfect day for cycling, back on April 15th when the 4th CicLAVia took place. (Sorry it took me a while to report on it.) A lot of people turned out, and it was as good as it has ever been! We set of from the HelMel area again and went to Bolye Heights and back, breaking for an excellent lunch at Guisados again. Just like last time. The photo below featuring the 4th Street bridge over the LA River is my favourite single photo of the event this time:

Of course, there’s not just the one photo for you. I took hundreds of other great ones [...] Click to continue reading this post

Carmageddon Reaction

Atlantic Station on Gold Line East LA Branch(Scroll to the end of this post for the funny thing I actually intended to post without my own musings getting in the way…) It has certainly been a huge story, with national and maybe even international attention been given to it. Carmageddon is the name given to the event of the 405 highway being closed for a 10 mile stretch for most of this weekend, for maintenance purposes. People are warning of disaster, complaining, predicting calamities for business, stocking up on food supplies, and so on and so forth. Some people are angry, some are amused, some are confused. For the most part however, people are quietly making sensible plans to adjust their routines or plans to take account of the event. (Er, I’m not sure I’d include flying from Burbank to Long Beach among the sensible plans!*)

I’m sort of struck by the huge impact this is having in people’s minds, and it has raised all sorts of discussions, reflections, and arguments about the reliance on cars that people have, public transport, and so on and so forth. All subjects you’ve maybe read being discussed here over the years. (Search the archives and/or use the search bar to the right.) The clichés about there being “no public transport” in LA is a convenient one for all to use at times (or all the time) when we want to stay in our nice cosy cars and ignore the alternatives and the possibility of making adjustments to include even occasional use of them, but I readily admit that the West side is a lot closer to the standard image of Los Angeles in this regard than points further East (still staying decidedly North-leaning in the discussion of course – the South LA conversation is an interesting one for another time). The density of shops, cafes, and long, desirably walkable stretches with other pedestrians (yes, they do exist in LA) does indeed seem lower over there, and while there is some bus coverage, the lower density makes the flaws of that part of the transport system hurt more, and of course the subway/metro [...] Click to continue reading this post

Lightning in a Bottle

Did you hear yesterday’s Fresh Air? It was very interesting indeed, being, as it was, about a subject that you probably know interests me a lot – electric cars. The guest was Seth Fletcher, and he was talking about electric cars, hybrids, and so forth. Not focusing on far futuristic matters so much as what is possible now (with all the exciting things going on in the market), and where we might go next in terms of the development of the science and technology needed to continue to change our world by moving away from gasoline as our primary energy source for transport. A lot of his focus in on the development of batteries, and he does a good job of explaining [...] Click to continue reading this post

Glimpses of CicLAVia

CicLAvia this weekend was wonderful! Again, just like the inaugural one last year (see my post ciclavia_april_11_cvj_5with lots of pictures) it felt like it was as perfect an event as can be expected. There were droves of people out again enjoying themselves and connecting, plenty of great food, great weather, and lashings of good will.

I focused on hanging out with some friends, and so took fewer pictures this time, but there are a few. To the left is one of my favourites. It has City Hall nicely fragmented in a reflection in the new LAPD headquarters, with cyclists passing by on the route running along 1st street downtown.
[...] Click to continue reading this post

CicLAvia Report

ciclavia2010_4Well, it is not often I get to say this, but Sunday’s CicLAvia event was, for me, completely perfect. It was simply about community, family, and enjoying the streets. It did not have an overtly political or activist vibe to it (as is often the case when you try to do some things a little differently from others in this town, like ride the bus or walk to the grocery store), and I saw a lot more people simply enjoying (and remarking on it out loud) the fact that they were out on the streets of the city than I saw people proclaiming rabid anti-car sentiments, as I’ve seen at bike-centric events before. I think the former feeling will go a lot further in making lasting change than the latter in the long run. There was some political content around, but it was largely confined to the steps of City Hall, where (when I passed) there were endearingly naive chants being led by a bloke with a microphone about “LA saying no to oil!’ and “no to coal!”. Don’t get me wrong – naive is not necessarily used as a derogatory term here. Noble dreams begin with a heavy dose of naivete, I believe. Hope, against the odds, for significant change, and so forth. (I could use the fully decorated version, naïveté, but it looks a bit pretentious to me today…)

So the event was mostly about people getting out there and enjoying the city streets, and sharing their enjoyment by doing it together. I was impressed with the turnout [...] Click to continue reading this post

Off to CicLAvia…

Getting ready to disappear off to explore. the route. Should be fun, although it is a tad too hot a day for it to be perfect for cycling and wandering long in the sun. On the other hand, that will bring a lot of people out to enjoy their Sunday outdoors, I hope, walking, cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, running, etc. [...] Click to continue reading this post

Don’t Forget CicLAvia!

ciclavia_logoThe first CicLAvia is this Sunday! Don’t forget! The sudden Winter weather we’ve been having will have vanished by then, and it will be a lovely day. There’s a seven-mile route of city streets for you to walk, bike, run, etc. Should be fun!

See my description of one I saw in Morelia, Mexico, here. More information on this first LA one here. [...] Click to continue reading this post

Come On LA!

p-2048-1536-5f4d380e-a365-44ad-9eb7-fc7a9f2c2bf3.jpegPerhaps ironically, since I tune into BBC Radio 4 every day when in Los Angeles, I’ve not been listening to it or any other UK radio or news source while here in London at all. So imagine my pleasant surprise on Thursday when I came across what clearly looked like a docking station for bikes (as opposed to super-fancy bike racks, which I thought it was at first)! Sure enough, once I got closer I confirmed it – a bike sharing scheme was starting in London. By the next day I saw some more stations on my walks, and a truck driving along full of the bikes, presumably going to load up the stations. As it turned out, I learned later that the scheme started that very next day, and today I saw several people out riding on them!

I am a little disappointed about one thing. I wanted to try them out and be out there seeing the streets of the city from one of these bikes instead of on foot (as I have been doing a lot in the last several days), but guess what? [...] Click to continue reading this post

Aloe Earth

aloe_flowers_2It is Earth day today, the 40th anniversary, in fact. Have you had it in mind at all? I was pleased, in following the leadership debate that took place today over in the UK, to hear very interesting and serious content in the answers about what the various party leaders were doing on environmental both personally and in terms of policy. Over the years we’ve rapidly come to a point where it’s no longer a trendy or fringy issue in front line politics, but a mainstream one with impact in all aspects of policy.

On the left (click for larger view) is the rather elegant flower (two of them) of one of my several aloe vera plants. They’re quite unexpected and rather lovely I’d say. Several different types of bird have been attracted to them and it is a pleasure to look over at them (and others) and see what birds are settling on [...] Click to continue reading this post

Not Entirely Alone, II

It has been a pleasure to see the large number of bikes in use in London, and particularly pleasing that it is a wide range of types of people using them as well. bikes_londonThere are many things about London that make it feel even more comfortable to me than ever (high prices of everything not being one of them) and the heavy bike use has to be one of them. Things in that department continue to improve over in my home city of Los Angeles, although I think it’ll still be a bit of time before you get bunches of cyclists routinely clustered at the lights waiting for the green, as in the photo on the right.

brompton_londonAlso great to see, sending a shiver of pleasure down my spine each time I’ll admit, has been the huge number of Bromptons in use in London. (See photo left.) I know it is true statistically that they are among the most popular single type of bike here (of any type, folding or non-folding) but it is still great that there are so very many sightings of them as you walk along the street especially at peak times. That’s something that really still has not taken off in LA. I’ve seen fewer than a handful of Bromptons in almost seven years on the streets here, relatively few folding bikes in total, and maybe only twice have I seen someone else using them in combination with the subway (and I remain the only person I’ve ever seen bringing them on to the bus). It [...] Click to continue reading this post

On Science and Politics

No doubt you’ve been aware of the recent debate that has been raging about whether or not the scientific case for climate change has been exaggerated by various scientists, in the light of the content of a long series of emails. It’s all over the news, and so I am sure I don’t need to point to all the news stories, commentaries, and – sad to say – convenient distractions that have been constructed on the basis of them by the climate change deniers, especially those with vested interest in the status quo. (Follow the climategate tag at The Intersection for some of the links, and a sampling of the discussions, and do look at the Nature editorial for example.) This matter, and the debates it has reignited, is of course a major issue in view of the upcoming work to be done by the leaders of the world’s major economies in Copenhagen later this month.

A key point here is to realize that when science intersects with politics – especially the kind of rabid, personal, dirty politics that surrounds the climate change issue – the grey areas that are already present in honest science can get further muddied by the fact that scientists are human beings who don’t always act perfectly in all situations, and whose actions (well emails suggesting certain actions) can also be subject to question (especially when we don’t have all the facts concerning context, etc, on several of the emails which seem very ambiguous to me).

There are two things to keep in mind. The first is that there is a global community of scientists at work here, with so many different approaches, motivations, contexts, data sets, and so forth that have been brought to bear on the matter of climate science. To think that a series of emails from some small subset of them (that may or may not suggest that data have been presented unevenly, for whatever reasons) can undermine a huge body of work and conclusions from an entire worldwide scientific community is to seriously misunderstand what science is about, and how it works. jenga_gameIt is not a tall, tottering late-stage game of jenga, where there’s a danger that at any moment one of the little wooden sticks will wobble and bring the whole game crashing to the ground. Instead, it is a highly interwoven collection of findings, ideas, analysis, and conclusions that are supported by a wide variety of pieces of evidence, all arriving at the same striking picture – Our world is changing fast and our actions are highly relevant to these changes both past, present and future. Instead of a jenga construction, think more of a woven tapestry. Pulling out a few threads changes it a little bit, but it does not make the whole thing unravel and destroy the picture. Or, if you like, think of a pyramid structure, like the lovely Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán in Mexico (image borrowed from here). [...] Click to continue reading this post

They Couldn’t Car Less

As you know (maybe), for environmental (both local and global) and other reasons I’m not a fan of routine unnecessary car trips, and so I walk, bike, and use public transport a lot. My car is mostly only used on the weekend. This sort of declaration usually results in blank stares, subsequent treatment as a leper (or worse, in many LA circles, – poor!!), serious inquiries as to whether I was convicted of DUI, comments that this is impossible in LA, admissions from locals who’ve lived here for umpteen years that they’d no idea that there was a subway (that has changed slightly in the lastmelba_thorn_by_diane_meyer few years… now at least they know, but typically they’ve no idea where the stops are), and so on and so forth. I will admit to getting annoyed when I see announcements for events and locations that go to lots of trouble to give driving and parking instructions and never mention the subway stop or bus lines that might work for some as well. (Right: Artist Melba Thorn, photo by Diane Meyer for an exhibition on the issue, to be discussed below. Ironically, (at the time of writing) the exhibiting gallery also only gives driving and parking directions on their site. Isn’t that rich?)

Anyway…. you know all this from reading the blog. Check the archives for posts and discussions on a variety of aspects. Here’s part of the executive summary of my main point, and then information about a new exhibit follows after: [...] Click to continue reading this post

Summer Reading: Sheril on Science Friday

unscientific_america_book-coverI don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Sheril Kirshenbaum and Chris Mooney have written a book, “Unscientific America” with an excellent discussion about science literacy. You know from reading here that this is a favourite issue of mine (look under categories such as science and society), and by far the primary reason I blog, and do the various other activities I mention such as appearing on TV and radio shows, consulting for film, theatre, TV, etc, contribute to popular level articles, making films, and other things. It is vitally important, if we are a truly democratic society, for all to participate in the conversations we have about science – whether it be about issues to do with medicine, lifestyle, environment, energy, or just for its own sake: it is part of our culture. Sadly, science (and scientists) is still on the margins of the national conversation – people are afraid of it, giggle about how bad they were at it at school and then decouple from the conversation, mostly only pay attention to bleak or incorrect pictures of it in the media and entertainment (or for political gain), and so on and so forth.

What Sheril and Chris are doing in the book is examining the extent to which this [...] Click to continue reading this post

Bikes and the City, 2

blog on a bikeYou’ll notice that I often talk about alternatives to driving everywhere in Los Angeles. Sometimes I talk about bikes (see for example the last post) as part of a range of options. Well, in December last year a student at USC doing a project in journalism (Lauren Lee – she’s at the Annenberg School) did a short report on bikes and the city for her project. (See also some of my posts about this issue, such as here, here, here, and several posts in the list at the bottom of this one). In her research, Lauren found this blog, gave me a call, and I agreed to make a few comments to camera for her as part of her larger report on some of the changes that are happening here in Los Angeles. (She also interviews Adam and Josef Bray-Ali, owners of the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (hey, they have a blog)- a bike that might interest you.)

I should preface it with some remarks of my own. It is a nice report, but she edited out all the things I said that I think get at a central and key point. (To be fair, she was trying to make a two minute report, and I was babbling on enough for a Spike Lee four-part documentary…) I’m not advocating that everyone cycle everywhere they need to get to. Instead, I’m trying to get across the idea that cycling works really well in combination with the public transport system that already exists. One of the reasons people give most often for not using public transport is that the bus or subway stop is not quite close enough to where they want to get to, and/or close enough to their home. Leaving aside the cases where that sometimes this means “more than one block” or “not right next to my garage”, I’m trying to get across the [...] Click to continue reading this post

The Keeling Curve

keeling curveToday on NPR’s Morning Edition they played a piece by Madeline Brand that aired in 2007 about the Keeling curve, and the man behind the curve, Charles David Keeling. As you may know, the Keeling curve (above) is a striking demonstration of the steady increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as measured from one location (on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii) by one very simple method over almost 50 years.

It is a lovely story of dedication and determination that resulted in a simple, striking, [...] Click to continue reading this post

Another Physicist in the House

With more refreshing words about what he thinks science is, and the role science can play in shaping society and steering the country forward, Barack Obama announced several key science posts today. One of them is a physicist by the way. (“Excellent…”, cvj rubs hands together with a gleam in his eye, “…all going according to plan.”)

Here’s a YouTube video of the announcement:

From an AFP piece by Maxim Kniazkov:
[...] Click to continue reading this post

Physics Nobel Prize Winner in the Cabinet

I just learned this* – Steve Chu (Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 – see here) has been nominated as Energy Secretary in the new Obama administration. I find that sort of interesting and exciting. An actual Physicist in charge of energy. And at this crucial time. Story here (for example).


*Thanks Jeff! Click to continue reading this post

Science and the New President

Last week the Guardian did a special podcast about Barack Obama’s science policies, and the challenges that lie ahead for the new administration. It’s actually rather good (at least the parts I’ve heard so far – I’m listening to it in pieces while travelling) and I recommend it. They have lots of guests, many of whom you’ve maybe heard of (Lesley Stone, Martin Rees, Diana Liverman, Chris Mason, P Z Myers, Lawrence Krauss, Martin Barstow), and the issue is explored from several angles, from climate change, through stem cells, to the space program. [...] Click to continue reading this post