Every morning when I wake before work, the first thing I do is check the window to see what the weather is like. Today I opened my eyes to see gloomy gray through the curtains. The warm happy feeling I had from a recent trip to Toronto was rapidly fading. The US Postal service has some fancy jingle about “neither sleet nor rain will keep them from…”. Yeah, yeah whatever. I am a bike messenger and although we have relatively the same job, delivering envelopes and parcels, today I wasn’t all chirpy about riding in crappy weather.
I dressed for the possibility of a crappy day, bringing a rain jacket but forgot to wear rain pants. I left home hoping the clouds would pass without dumping their payload. It was only after a few deliveries into the morning when big rain drops began a steady soaking. It might not have been so bad had I ridden my bike with fenders. In my pre-work sulking, I neglected to fix the flat on the front wheel, dooming me to suffer for my lack of earlier action. Instead, I rode my mountain bike that threw the most water upward from the road with every revolution.
By mid-day I was soaked head to toe. I had forgotten to zip my rain jacket to the neck and the vent zippers under the arms. I was collecting water like a sinking submarine. My shoes squished with every pedal stroke or step when walking through buildings. My vacation was definitely over. After acknowledging that the conditions couldn’t get worse, I settled into the misery.
There is an awkwardness about walking around soaking wet. People in buildings repeatedly ask the question, “Is it still raining?” It is a reminder of how you got wet, the water swirling around inside of your shoes and that after the conversation you will return without umbrella into the rain. Since I had resigned myself to suffering in the wet, I trudged through it. My only focus was just keeping my packages dry. When my clothes finally couldn’t hold any more water, the rain stopped. The clouds broke late in the afternoon to reveal warm blue skies.
The misery I expected to endure for the entire day was transforming for the better. As I continued to ride, most of my clothes dried. The temperature increased to something pleaseant in the 70 degree range. My mood elevated knowing I wouldn’t have to ride with wet diaper ass. There is also an unspoken bonding moment when messengers that have endured crappy weather see each other at the end of the day. Chatting with some of the regulars about my recent vacation did even more to raise my spirits.
When the end of my work day arrived I happily began my ride home. At one point I passed a sedan occupying most of a bike lane. I squeezed through the narrow space between the curb and the slowly moving car. With on hand on the handlebars, I ran my other hand across the roof of the car and calmly told the driver through the open moon roof: “I’m right here dude”. I heard a group of pedestrians behind me shout, “You took that pretty good.” I looked back, informing them that I don’t get paid to get upset. They warned me to be safe. Smiling, I told them that’s why I wear my helmet.
Hump day complete, a surprisingly good day despite the ugly start.
An estimated 150,000 people came out the first CicLAvia of the year, on April 21, to enjoy the extended route, which spanned 15 miles from downtown L.A. to Venice. Advisory notices across town helped to build up anticipation in the days preceding the event, promising the increasingly coveted street closures. With a 150 percent increase in attendance, many people were there to experience the open streets event for the first time. While many chose to enjoy to route by foot, skateboard and on rollerskates, bicycles were still the preferred mode of exploring the route; bike shops throughout the city saw a rush of people who wanted to fix up the rusty, dusty bikes they hadn’t touched in years in preparation for the weekend.
“It was a very ambitious route, fifty percent larger than any route we’ve ever done” said Chris Barnes, who is part of the CicLAvia’s team of organizers. “We had a lot more people than we’d anticipated. It seemed like there were a lot more families, a lot more kids.”
On hand to kick off the fun was outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was greeted at Olvera Street—the eastern edge of the route—by hundreds of eager Angelenos, anxious to play in the streets, without the traffic. Citing an accelerated pace of bicycle and public transportation infrastructure development in Los Angeles, Villaraigosa expressed his vision to create a new civic identity.
“Let’s make sure L.A.’s as famous for it’s bikes as it is for its addiction to the single-passenger automobile,” he said. “Because the bike network is growing so fast and Ciclavia is becoming so popular, we’re also making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Our public transit system is finally beginning to connect the dots.
“L.A. is quite literally becoming a car-free destination,” he declared before announcing the launch of a car-free initiative from the board of tourism. The initiative entails more than a dozen car-free itineraries for exploring the city, with a broad range of themes from film landmarks, sites with presidential connections, architecture, beaches, LGBT landmarks, and even a “Geek’s Guide to LA,” all available at discoverlosangeles.com/carfreela.
Villaraigosa said that he hopes CicLAvia grows to happen 12 times a year, with varying routes that explore different parts of the city each month.
“I’m really excited that he wants to make it a more permanent change,” said Barnes.
Since beginning in 2010, CicLAvia has drawn not only L.A. residents, but visitors from neighboring counties and states as well. Shattering the myth that a car is needed to get around L.A. has inspired city officials and community organizers throughout the southwest to establish their own open streets events.
“More than a dozen cities have contacted us,” Villaraigosa said. One of the cities modelling their own events after CicLAvia is San Diego, which will host its first CicloSDias on August 11.
The day brought out a diverse mix of people and organizations to the 15-mile block party, including Daniel Busby’s 8-person banquet table, “A Moveable Feast,” and dozens of freakbikes, including Richie Trimble on his 14.5-foot “StoopidTall,” which turned out to the be the star of the day’s event. Dubbed the “King of CicLAvia” by local media, Trimble and his (stoopid) tall bike had onlookers along the route gasping and smiling as he rode by, flanked by a protective circle of Angelopes helping him navigate his way through the crowded streets.
Because the event requires no registration or admission fee, it is difficult to gauge exactly how many people participated; perhaps the best evidence of growth was that parts of the route were still heavily congested, despite the five added miles. With 30 crossing points to allow for intersecting car traffic, parts of the route came to a standstill at times.
“One thing that I’ve been trying to ask for is modifying the signals so that the cyclists get two cycles,” said Barnes. “It seems like it would be a lot more effective in keeping everyone together.”
Despite the congestion, there was plenty to do and friends to be found the whole way across town–reminding us all to just take the day to enjoy the sun and good company. Two more CicLAvia events are planned for 2013. The next will take a historic route down “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” on June 23 and highlight the cities varied architecture as part of the Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles art initiative.
See more excellent images of Richie’s Stoopidtall bike at Hal Bergman’s photo site.
Looking into the crystal ball that is League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) I see a few very exciting tournaments coming up in May:
First, the Boot Camp Training Weekend for Ladies Army 5 is happening May 4th-5th. This is interesting because of the swingers nature of team selection: everyone puts something familiar into a bowl—three items are drawn out and that’s your team for the first day! The second day is a pull-out bench format: coolers full of beer. Pull out a beer, and everyone who has that brand of delicious PBR is on your team. I gotta say, this sounds like something I could get into.
Next up is Bear Polo 4 out of Fort Meyers that same weekend (May 4th and 5th). This one is a bit more traditional with Swiss rounds the first day and double elim the second. There are literally no comments on the thread for this tournament so far, so I’m guessing the field is still wide open?
And then, on May 10th-12th, is Ladies Army 5. I’m excited by this one for a few reasons: 1, they have done so much promotion for it that I literally feel like it’s the super-FIFA-Olympics, and 2 because I will get to watch polo that weekend from the comfort of the polo war room. This is happening in Burnaby, Canada if you don’t know, and if you don’t know, now you know. Ya know?
The last one I want to talk about is the Knoxville Marble City Open, happening May 11th and 12th. This is the first tourney these folks have put on, and they are equal parts overly-emphatic about explaining rules on the tourney page as they are willing to take suggestions to make it better. There is something magical about going to a first-ever city tourney, and I really think if you’re in the area you should give it a go.
Check out these (and other exciting tourneys) over on the LoBP(ALL HAIL) tournament page.
Next, let’s peek on over at the boards and see what’s what in the world of grown men getting huffy at each other—actually, it’s very far from that in the one posting that I want to talk about over on LoBP. It seems the topic of player licensing came up again and the NAH (specifically, Eric from DC) made it a point to address the complaints and observations in a courteous, careful manner. I have to say that it’s one of the most productive and respectful conversations I’ve seen on the boards in a long time, and I’m excited as to what that says about possible outcomes and resolutions. Check it out here and add into the conversation as long as you a. keep it on topic and b. resist the swelling urge to be a complete jerk. You can be a little bit of a jerk, but don’t go full jerk. Not in public, anyway.
Yes, it’s time to talk about new equipment popping up around the polo-sphere!
Here we have Modifide’s shaft, which, according to Modifide’s Facebook page, was designed with the help of Northern Standard for lightness and the mounting system. I haven’t tried these shafts out so I can’t speak to them in any way, but there you go—I told you. It doesn’t look like they are up for sale yet (as of writing this), but by the looks of things they should be up soon.
Next, Fixcraft’s lifeline dual break pull (which seems to be off the site at the moment, but they still have a post on Facebook about it). This is a way of making many single brake levers into a dual lever. Right now they have a short pull available but will soon have a long pull as well. Seems like a cheap way to customize your polo rig on the fly.
And that’s really all I’ve seen around the interwebs this week—but I think they are enough for now, don’t you?
No, I don’t either. I want more. All the polo equipments.
Finally, I want to discuss what play has been like now that I’ve been using a shaped head (specifically, the Modifide ARC Mallet head). I can bring it all down to three things:
- Ball handling: seems better
- Shooting: not really different
- Hooking: more dangerous to me
Ball Handling: The ARC head’s shape allows me to cup the ball a little bit (without removing the chance for a defender to get it from me) which thereby allows me to look up more during play. I know that the ball is rolling to the center of my mallet because that’s the only place it has to go, and that allows me more predictability in play. That’s kind of great, and I enjoy it very much for that reason alone.
Shooting: I don’t know how the shape could help me shoot, so I don’t really want to bring that up as the reason, but I’m far more accurate with this mallet than I have been with others. It might be the larger flat surface of the shooting end. Regardless, I find myself able to make long-range shots more accurately, scoop more accurately to team-mates, and all around feel better about myself as a person.
Hooking: Gene made this very apparent to me yesterday during pickup: when someone hooks you, you’re hooked for good. The man pretty much hooked my mallet and then rode around me until he decided to let me go. The shape acts as a wedge to another person’s mallet, and that means you’ve really got to work to get free (good if you are trying to stop a play, bad if you’re trying to make one). I suspect this will change as I get used to people trying to hook my mallet, but yesterday it scared me. Scared me real good.
And that’s your update for now. Thanks for reading, and keep the rubber side down.
Cycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.
Road rage attacks are a relatively rare but unfortunate reality of city riding. Brendan goes over why it may be best to not speculate on a motorist’s motives if you’ve been hit and concentrate on the facts of the collision.
Q: So many people seem to be angry behind the wheel. How can I go after a driver after I’ve been the victim of a “road rage” incident?
Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my hometown of Chicago bicyclists and motorists rarely use five fingers to waive at one another. Sad. The mutual animosity that exists between these two sets of travelers is strange really. After all, many of us are both motorists and bicyclists. Yet somehow we seem to forget our other selves while operating one mode of transportation or the other. I suppose it is because while traveling on congested city streets, whether on bike or in a car, we are trying to get somewhere as quickly and easily as possible while sharing a limited resource, usable street space.
Road rage incidents have the potential to turn out much worse for the bicyclist than for the driver. The motorist is, of course, wrapped in a cocoon of metal while the cyclist is not. A few years ago I represented a young bicyclist who was the victim of such an incident. He was riding his bike on the right side of the road in the city when a driver aggressively cut in front of him, nearly causing a collision. The bicyclist, pissed, rode after the vehicle, a red BMW, which eventually encountered slow moving traffic. As he rode by the car, the bicyclist rapped on the vehicle’s passenger window and waved hello with a single finger. That should have been it. However, the driver, now also pissed, sped forward at the bicycle and struck its back wheel causing the young man to fly forward, ass-over-teakettle. His injuries were not very severe, thanks to nothing but dumb luck. Later, he contacted me to represent him against the driver in a personal injury action, which, of course, I did.
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I was in an upward bound elevator yesterday. The doors to the car opened a few floors early. A woman was preparing to enter when a girl’s voice said: “Mommy, no”. The woman looked to me and the lit white up arrow on the door frame. I acknowledged with a nod that the elevator was indeed heading up.
Just then another smaller child, two possibly three years old, with a giggly face surrounded by curls came bounding toward the car as the doors began to close. I do not know if it was because of her short height or slow reaction time, but the sensors failed to stop the doors. I could foresee her getting crushed by the giant hulking metal doors.
Instantly I reacted, leaping forward to grab the doors and prevent a tragedy. The speed at which I lunged shocked the girl. The mother, having the same protective instinct, yanked the girl from the imminent danger of the doors a second later.
The moments earlier happy face turned into a mask of horrified fear. I tried to smile to let her know that everything was fine, but she began sobbing loudly. The doors to the elevator closed. The elevator resumed its slow upward climb. Two floors later I could still hear the muffled wailing of the frightened child as her mother consoled her.
Although the mother thanked me in the moment just after I saved her little girl, it stung just a bit knowing that somewhere that girl may be forever terrified of bicycle messengers or cyclists in general. Damn.