Last week, thousands of planners descended upon our fair city for the 2012 National American Planning Association (APA) Conference here in Los Angeles. Planners from around the country and around the world got to see L.A. shine as the event coincided with CicLAvia, the region’s signature open streets event. LADOT Bike Blog creator and former head writer Christopher Kidd was in town for the festivities and I caught up with him for a friendly chat to see how he’s doing and to get his thoughts on how bicycling in L.A. has changed since he left just a year ago. My conversation with Chris, below the fold.
JoJo: Hey Chris, how have you been?
Chris: Hey, Jojo! I’m doing pretty well. After leaving LADOT and the Bike Blog I moved to Oakland in the SF Bay Area. I first interned a few months with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, where I helped the City of Berkeley pass a Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance modeled on the one you guys have in LA. More recently, I’ve had the good fortune of being hired by Alta Planning + Design, which I consider to be the nation’s preeminent planning firm specializing in active transportation. I work out of their Berkeley office, mostly on bicycle planning and Safe Routes to Schools projects all over Northern California.
JoJo: How often do you still read the blogs here in L.A.?
Chris: I must admit, I read LA blogs every single day. The blogging community in LA is so engaged and committed, and it shows in their writing. I feel like I can still stay totally informed on what’s going on, despite living 500 miles away. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the LADOT Bike Blog, LA Streetsblog, Biking in LA, Bicycle Fixation, Flying Pigeon LA, LA Eco Village, LACBC Blog, Safe Streets Northridge, and Walk Eagle Rock.
JoJo: What have you missed the most about Los Angeles and bicycling in this city?
Chris: What I’ve missed most is the stunningly rich, creative, and diverse bicycle community in LA. From groups like the Real Rydaz and the Ovarian Psychos; collectives like the Bike Oven and Bikerowave; from Midnight Ridazz to the Get Sum Dim Sum ride; City of Lights and Bici Digna; and all the youth out there putting a distinctly LA stamp on bicycle culture, there are amazing things happening in Los Angeles which are truly unique and extremely exciting.
That’s not to say the bay area doesn’t have its own share of bike culture. We’ve got the incredibly fun “Bike Party” phenomenon, amazing groups like Red Bike and Green, and the singular culture of Scraper Bikes. Even so, the depth and breadth of LA bike culture is truly astounding and it’s something that should be celebrated every day.
JoJo: What are some things that you think that L.A. can learn from up north? vice versa?
Chris: One of the things I love in Oakland is what they call the “arterial bike route”. It’s a bicycle-heavy route where there isn’t enough room for a bike lane, but the City still wants to beef up the infrastructure for bicyclists. What they do is stripe a continuous white line on the edge of the parking lane and place sharrows at intervals of less than 250 feet. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, the visual effect is pretty strong. The solid white line keeps parked cars closer to the curb, and gives the impression that the closely spaced sharrows are all a part of the same piece of infrastructure. It totally works; drivers give me a much wider birth when passing and I get tailgated far, far less.
Learning lessons the other way, the Bay Area just took a cue from LA when Berkeley adopted their own Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance. While driver aggression isn’t nearly as much of a problem up here as it is down in LA (sidebar: it’s really, really nice to ride in Oakland & Berkeley. I highly recommend trying it out), I think a lot of cities up here could benefit from a similar ordinance. In fact, I’ve heard rumors that a few other cities in the Bay Area are considering their own ordinance based on the foundation laid by Los Angeles.
JoJo: Did you get the sense that CicLAvia has grown since you last participated? Do you think that it has changed how Angelenos see their streets?
Chris: The most recent CicLAvia was my third, and it still leaves me speechless with joy and wonder. I see CicLAvia as the most transformative public event in the nation right now. It takes every argument you could make in favor of urbanism, livability, public health, complete streets, and active transportation – and subconsciously conveys those arguments to hundreds of thousands of people without saying a word. All people have to do is show up, and it suddenly becomes clear.
People can always split hairs with facts and reports, but you can’t argue with CicLAvia once you’ve seen it in action. Another great thing I noticed about this CicLAvia is how many people were taking it slow. The first CicLAvia I attended had a lot of folks (including me) bombing around as fast as they could. It was understandable, as we’d never had so much open road to ourselves before. But I think that, as peoples’ experience of CicLAvia has matured, they’re more inclined to soak it all in instead of trying to get from one place to another. I doubt I got going faster than 8-9 MPH the whole time I was out there on Sunday, and I loved every second of it.
JoJo: How do you feel about L.A.’s new bike share announcement and what do you think bike share will bring to the city?
Chris: I’m very excited LA is getting a bike share program. With LA, New York City, and Chicago (shout-out to Alta Bike Share!) rolling out or vastly expanding bike share this year, I think we’re at the tipping point of bike share becoming a ubiquitous element in America’s urban landscape. I don’t yet know enough about LA’s forthcoming system or about Bike Nation to make any further comments, but I look forward to learning more over the coming weeks and months.
JoJo: Last but not least, what are your hopes for bicycling in Los Angeles?
Chris: I suppose I have two hopes for bicycling in Los Angeles which are seemingly in conflict. On one hand, I hope that bicycling in Los Angeles becomes so boringly commonplace that people who commute by bicycle no longer actively identify themselves as such. On the other hand, I hope that the bicycle community cultivates and protects the wild, beautiful, and multi-faceted bicycle culture which is unique to Los Angeles. There are so many aspects to LA bike culture that you literally cannot find anywhere else in the nation, and it would be a tragedy to see them subsumed by the “mainstreaming” of bicycling. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, however, and CicLAvia itself serves as a the perfect example of how they can work together.
And if I may, I’d like to give a virtual standing ovation for Jojo Pewsawang. So many blogs out there die after their founder moves on. Jojo didn’t just keep the LADOT Bike Blog going after I left; he took it to a whole new level in activity, outreach, scope, and readership. I can’t express how much pride and joy I feel knowing what good hands the Bike Blog has been in for the past year.
Special thanks to Christopher Kidd for taking the time to answer a few questions for the blog. We here at the LADOT Bike Program wish him continued success in all of his future endeavors.