Bikie Girl’s Guide to Bike Commuting

1Bikie Girl recently participated in the Ride In Style Shop, a pop up shop held during Bike Week in Manhattan, and featuring eight indie brands, all providing gear to help city cyclists ride in style. To make it more fun, each brand sponsored an event. Bikie Girl provided a workshop called “Bike Commuting Made Easy”. Here’s a summary of what we covered in the commuting workshop, as well as a glimpse at the different brands featured in our shop.

Getting Started: Keep It Simple

Keep it simple at first. Establish a small goal: to bike to a nearby store for an errand, or to bike home from work one day this week. You will be going through the planning and execution logistics, and perhaps overcoming some trepidation, and that is enough for the first time at it. Make sure you are ready by thinking through the following items to ensure a positive experience. If you are new to city riding, you might start out with recreational social rides led by a local bike advocacy group. Riding with a group can make city riding safer, teach you city riding skills, and introduce you to others who like to ride. It’s also a great way to discover parts of your city you never knew.

AngieMinkah
Social rides and open streets events can be a fun way to get more comfortable with city riding.
Gear: Start With The Basics

If you will ride your own bike, consider taking it to a local bike shop for a tune up and safety check. If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now is the time to learn and practice (you can find tutorials on youtube). The weekend before your first ride, check your ABC’s: A – air in the tires; B – brakes working properly; C – chain is clean and lubed. Re-check these before each ride. It’s normal for your tires to need a little more air, or for your chain to need some cleaning, about once a week or so. Checking these items regularly will also make it easy for you to notice when the brakes are getting worn, or another repair is needed.

StPats04
Commuting by bike share means you don’t have to worry about bike parking and maintenance.

If you will use bike share, go to the web site for your city’s bike share system and familiarize yourself with how it works, what you need to check out a bike, and where the docking stations are for your start and stop points. Download an app to make it easy to find bike share stations while out and about. The Spotcycle app works with most bike share systems.

2017-05-19-19-13-43.jpg
Sawako designs helmets in high style.

lumos-helmet.png
The Lumos Helmet
The basic gear needs include: helmet, lights, and something to carry your stuff. Helmets are available in stylish designs (see those by Sawako), and with lights to signal braking and turning (see the Lumos helmet).

If taking your own bike, you will want to carry a patch kit, extra inner tube, a pump, and bike tools, such as a multi-tool. Keep a quality lock with you, even if you can park the bike inside, as you may need it when stopping for an errand. High quality theft-resistant locks can be heavy, but TiGr offers titanium locks that are strong, light and stylish.

TiGr Mini
TiGr Mini Bike Lock
Gear that makes the commute more pleasant: fenders, a chainguard, a good saddle properly adjusted, a basket and/or rack, phone holder, and a kickstand. Other gear that can be worth the investment: handlebars/bike that support upright riding position, dynamo lights, panniers, platform pedals that work well with street shoes, and a power bank to re-charge your phone or lights. An electric assist bike can be practical if the commute is long and/or hilly. Although electric assist bikes cost significantly more than regular bikes, they are a fraction of the cost of a car, and well worth it if it makes it possible to commute by bike more often or at all. Superpedestrian offers the Copenhagen Wheel, which can turn a regular bike into an electric assist.

The Iconic Red Copenhagen Wheel
I had fun trying out the Copenhagen Wheel at the Ride Home From Work Party in Brooklyn. The Wheel really gives your ride a boost.
Clothing: Go With What Works For You

You are likely able to ride in whatever clothes you wear to work. Exceptions are avoiding or adjusting for long, flowy items that might get caught in the spokes, or dealing with hills, distance, or weather that leaves you too sweaty or wet. You can pin up, anchor, or tie a knot in a long, loose skirt, or use a pant clip or slap band to keep pant legs out of the way. For sweaty situations, you can bring fresh clothes with you and change at work. Some work places offer shower facilities or have a gym close by. Many bike commuters keep extra clothes at work, or bring a week’s worth to the office at a time. You can also keep a kit of toiletries at work to use for freshening up. Consider a small towel, cleansing wipes, deodorant, and a comb or brush.

Bloomers Underneath
Bikie Girl Bloomers can protect your dignity in style.
Experiment with different clothing to find what is most comfortable. Some prefer pants, others prefer the freedom of movement provided by a skirt or dress. Pants can easily wear out from bike riding, so consider a style designed for the durability and flexibility biking requires, such as The Willary’s Core Pant. Skirts and dresses can be combined with a lightweight bike short, tights, or leggings for coverage and/or warmth. If needed, you can wear a padded bike short for the ride in, and switch to regular pants upon arrival. Let the bike shorts air out during the day so they are at least partly refreshed for the ride home.

Willary Pants
The Willary’s Core Pant

Planning Your Route: Map It Out

The best route for biking to work is likely different from the route you would take by car or other means. Most cities provide a map of bike routes, bike paths, and bike-friendly streets. Google maps and other bike routing software can help you figure out a suitable route. Test ride your route on the weekend to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises and to get familiar with your route when there is less traffic on the roads. Keep in mind that occasionally Google maps will direct you to cross a major street without a traffic light. If you get stuck in such a situation, consider taking the sidewalk (walk the bike if sidewalk riding is not legal in your city) to access the nearest crossing with a traffic light.

Carrying Your Stuff: No Sweat

Options for carrying your things include: a messenger bag (make sure it is stable while riding), backpack, basket or panniers. A bag that is against your back will create much more sweating, so many prefer a basket or a pannier that attaches to the rear rack. Po Campo provides a variety of stylish options that include bags that hook on your bike and can also be your professional-looking briefcase or handbag. Rear-mounted bike baskets allow for a more stable weight distribution, while front baskets provide easy access while riding. Your choice will also be influenced by what you need or will have to carry with you upon arrival. Think also about whether your arrangement will be used for shopping or carrying children.

Po Campo Uptown Trunk Bag
Po Campo Uptown Trunk Bag
Staying Safe: Take That Lane

Know your local bike laws. The most important keys to safety relate to being visible and predictable to others and being prepared for the unexpected. Ride with the flow of traffic, and take the lane when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Riding too close to the edge of the lane makes you less visible to motorists and can encourage drivers to pass you too closely. Allow 3-5 feet between you and parked cars to avoid getting doored. Avoid weaving around parked cars, as that can catch motorists by surprise when you re-enter the traffic lane. Be aware of others traveling on foot, bike, or by car. Signal your turns, and use vocals or a bell to let others know you are approaching them to pass or to alert pedestrians. You can increase your skills and confidence by taking a class with your local bike advocacy organization. Click here to see some examples of the skills that will help you handle dicey situations that can arise on city streets.

Vespertine Reflective Vest
Vespertine Reflective Vest
Riding At Night: Be Visible

Wear reflective clothing at night, and use a white light in front and a red light in back. Brands like Vespertine NYC provide stylish reflective vests, jackets, scarves, and dresses. Flashing lights can make it harder for others to gauge distance and are unsafe (to others) as front lights. Lights vary, so be sure you know how effective the lights you have will be. Consider also whether they will require battery replacement or can be recharged. Lights are often stolen from parked bikes, so consider lights you can easily carry with you. Alternatively, dynamo lights whose power is generated by the front wheel and integrated into the bike design are less easy to steal from a parked bike.

Multi-Modal Options: Create A Back-Up Plan

If the distance is too great, one direction is too hilly, or you feel more comfortable knowing you don’t have to ride both ways, look into the options for public transit. Some cities allow bikes on trains, buses, and/or subways, others allow them only during non-commuting hours, or have limited space. Some commuters use public transit for part of their route, or in one direction. Others take public transit (or drive) at the beginning and end of the week to carry clothes and other items for the week, and use the bike in between. These options can also be your back-up in case of weather or an equipment mishap.

Bike Commuters
It’s true: bike commuters have more fun!
Go ahead and give it a try. Keep in mind that it gets easier the more you ride to work, as you will get more comfortable on the bike, discover better routes, and hone your gear logistics. It’s OK to start out as a fair weather cyclist, or to hold off before you start riding at night. Riding in inclement weather or in the dark or every day can be goals to set for the future. You can strive for more as you gain confidence (and the addiction sets in).

And don’t be surprised if you start noticing an extra spring in your step when you arrive at the office!

NYPopUpFav
Can you spot all the Ride In Style gear in this photo?
Advertisements

Sunday Funday Ride: Murals of L.A.

One of my favorite perks of being a dues-paying member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is the monthly Sunday Funday ride series. The first Sunday of each month, they organize and lead a themed social ride, exploring different parts of the Los Angeles area. So far, I have done the Tour of Historic Street Lights ride, part of a Culver City/West L.A. ride, the Northeast L.A. ride, the Exploring Faith Diversity ride, and just this month, the Street Art Ride. Even when we ride through areas with which I’m quite familiar, I end up discovering delightful new things about my city – treats that were sitting there all along; I just hadn’t known about them.

This ride started from The Crafty Pedal, conveniently only a couple miles from my house. I had no idea this little gem was there, on Valencia, just off of the 7th Street bike lane in the MacArthur Park area. The Crafty Pedal describes itself as “friendly, crafty, cozy and contagious. We are craft, art and pedal pedaler,” and as an “Urbanic” craft boutique that shares an adjacent 1,400 Square foot art gallery where they showcase local emerging artists and host monthly speak easy poetry and comedy nights. I will definitely need to return so I can spend some more time checking this place out.

2017-04-02 10.20.36 HDR
It’s fun to browse the delightful combination of art pieces and bike gear.

2017-04-02 10.20.09
The gallery

2017-04-02 10.16.47-1
Bikie Girl Jennifer, standing in front of The Crafty Pedal and looking good in the Bike It Or Not Two Piece Dress from Bikie Girl Bloomers

2017-04-02 10.23.55 HDR-1
Hyeran of LACBC tries to get the riders organized for a group photo before the ride begins.
We rode the 7th Street bike lane into downtown, headed northeast on Main, and followed that all the way through Chinatown. We were a good-sized group, and it was fun to ride though downtown L.A. with so many fellow bicyclists.

2017-04-02 10.45.09
A few of our motley crew.

2017-04-02 11.01.11
Rolling towards City Hall.

2017-04-02 11.10.56
Passing the Chinatown Metro Station.
We checked out a wall that depicted “painters painting painters”, a mural near the Spring Street Bridge, that is best described here.

2017-04-02 11.16.01-1We then worked our way into the Arts District via Little Tokyo, stopping by this recent creation by @colossalmedia:

2017-04-02 11.46.09 HDR-1

We then headed into the garment district to check out the building most of us immediately recognized as the American Apparel factory. Although I’ve passed this building many times, I never noticed the artwork on this side:

2017-04-02 11.59.37 HDR-1
The American Apparel Factory

2017-04-02 12.01.09 HDR
Sunday Funday riders gawk at the American Apparel Building from across the street.
Riding back into downtown, we were treated to the recently-restored “Pope of Broadway” mural at the Victor Clothing Building, as well as more mural action on the building’s other side:

2017-04-02 12.27.10-1
The Pope of Broadway, featuring actor Anthony Quinn

2017-04-02 12.30.45-1
The back side of the Victor Clothing Building
We then took the Spring Street bike lane back to 7th Street, seemingly headed back to the start. I thought the art show was over, but I was mistaken.

2017-04-02 13.03.01-1
Waiting to cross Wilshire Boulevard, on Carondelet. Note the serious tunes set up in the cargo trailer.
We continued to ride on to the west side of MacArthur Park and north a wee bit on Carondelet Street, stopping across the street from Charles White Elementary School. There we were treated to this big mural by Kent Twitchell, a graduate of Otis Art Institute:

2017-04-02 13.04.21

And that was the last stop on the mural ride. Another Sunday Funday indeed.

2017-04-02 14.23.16

More Fun in the Capital

What’s a bicycling patent attorney to do, but keep returning to our nation’s capital? After all, it’s a great bike city, it’s the home of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and it’s a beautiful place filled with buildings to gawk at, and more museums than you can visit in a lifetime (or so it seems).

Usually, I visit D.C. in connection with some sort of intellectual property related business, and the biking just gets worked into that. But every March, bicycling enthusiasts from across the country gather in our nation’s capital to attend the National Bike Summit, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. They aren’t your typical weekend warrior MAMIL* types, either. These are real-honest-to-golly-jeepers transportation cyclists who have an interest in getting more folks turned on to cycling, who see the future of urban planning enhanced by better bicycling infrastructure, who are actual professionals in the realm of bicycle advocacy. In other words, they are saints. And I love them also because they get my product, Bikie Girl Bloomers.

I first heard about the concept of a Bike Summit back in September 2012, just as I was first cooking up my plans for launching Bikie Girl Bloomers. A National Women’s Bicycling Summit was held right here in Southern California, at the Long Beach Convention Center. I didn’t really have any idea what a bike summit was, but knew I had to go to this thing. I loved it. It was so exciting just to be at a place populated with a huge number of other women who loved cycling as much as I do! I met a lot of interesting women, and I was inspired by the speakers, and I knew I just had to really run with my Bikie Girl Bloomers idea.

A few months later, I learned about the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for early March 2013, AND that this would be preceded by a one-day Women’s Cycling Forum, AND the Women’s Forum would feature a Women Bike Pop Up Shop. The Pop Up Shop would be an opportunity to showcase women entrepreneurs whose businesses were inspiring and encouraging more women to embrace bicycling. I had already had my test samples made, revised, and finalized (sort of) for the introductory line of Bikie Girl Bloomers. So the Women Bike Pop Up Shop seemed like the perfect opportunity to debut my new line of skirts and shorts designed to make it fun and easy for women to bike to work.

As it turned out, my first production of bloomers and skirts was still in progress when it came time for the Pop Up Shop. I still went, and I did have some samples to show, and promo cards to hand out. I even had a few hundred 3/4 sleeve boat neck tees imprinted with my logo to sell at the Pop Up Shop. That was a heckuva project (both having them made and figuring out how to get them to D.C.), and I didn’t even end up selling a single tee shirt at the event! But my samples, and the bloomers concept, drew a lot of attention. I even successfully processed my first pre-order! It was a grand and exciting learning adventure. But I digress.

The point is, I’ve been going back to D.C. every March since, as I grow my little enterprise on the side. I love being at the Bike Summit with my bloomers, and I love being around so many people who understand and appreciate my product. So, March 2017 marked my 5th annual trek to D.C. to participate in the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. One new and exciting thing about this year’s visit was that the D.C. Cycling Concierge was offering some guided bike rides around the city to Summit attendees. There was even a free introductory ride planned for the Sunday afternoon before the Summit and Pop Up Shop began, which meant I could actually participate. So I did!

I decided to take up the offer to rent a bike from Bikes to Borrow. I had rented a bike from them when I came to D.C. for my first Bike Summit in 2013. That time, I was joining a special ride held on a very, very chilly (as in, so cold, they had to cut it short) Sunday night for women who’d gathered to celebrate the launch of the League’s Women Bike program. I love the way Sega delivered a bike directly to my hotel, and all I had to do when I was finished with it, was lock it up and let him know where I’d left it. Renting a bike doesn’t get any more convenient than that!

The D.C. Cycling Concierge takes people (alone or in groups) on bike rides around D.C. It’s a great way to see the capital, and he can tailor the ride to different themes or the interests of his guests. For this ride, he wanted to give Summit attendees a preview of some of the places they would be visiting during the Summit. That wasn’t necessarily what I was needing, but this was the ride that best fit my schedule, so that’s why I went. Plus, I love the concept of his business, and was curious to see him in action.

Once I had my bike, which was delivered to the meeting hotel, I met up with the group and off we went, first through Chinatown. I was having fun, and trying to snap photos when I could, and visit with other cyclists along the way, so I confess that I missed much of the informative commentary. I still picked up enough to learn things I’d not yet known after many years of visiting D.C.

2017-03-05 15.18.32

2017-03-05 15.20.26
Looking back at our group, and at the Chinatown Gate in the distance.

It was fun to meet people from all over. I visited for a while with Deana from Montgomery, Alabama, and with Erick from Austin, Texas. There were people from Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, you get the idea!

We rode past Union Station, the Senate Office Buildings, the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and stopped for photos in front of the Capitol Building.

2017-03-05 15.39.51
I don’t think I will ever stop feeling a certain exhilaration at biking past these beautiful government buildings. The barricades that went up after 9/11, in my view, say “bikes welcome; cars, not so much.”
2017-03-05 15.42.57
Dirksen Senate Office Building
2017-03-05 15.46.10
Typical row houses of D.C.
2017-03-05 15.48.51
Friendly bicycling advocates
2017-03-05 15.50.27
Foreground: friendly bicycling advocates; background: Folger Shakespeare Library (that I had to photograph for my step-daughter who read all of Shakespeare’s works before age 12).
2017-03-05 15.53.21
Bike your capital!
2017-03-05 16.03.47
Library of Congress
2017-03-05 16.04.00
United States Supreme Court
2017-03-05 16.25.36
United States Botanic Garden
2017-03-05 16.25.45
That curvaceous building ahead on the left is the National Museum of the American Indian.
2017-03-05 16.26.52
It was a nippy afternoon. My peacoat, cable knit tights, and Smokin’ Hot Flame Bloomers kept me warm.

We made a nice loop back to our meeting hotel. All I had to do was leave my rental bike locked up and text Sega the location so he could pick it up. Easy schmeasy!

DCConciergeRide
Our 4.7 mile route
File Apr 08, 7 20 26 PM
My trusty rental bike from Bikes to Borrow.

The next two days, I was busy with at the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. Although I had to mind the store, I was able to catch part of the Storytelling program put together by Melissa Balmer of Pedal Love. She brought together several women from the Pedal Love Culture & Lifestyle Council, each of whom shared their own story of their bike style. We heard from women of different ages, races, and parts of the country (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Seattle, and New York). It was inspiring to hear such different perspectives, each woman pointing to how they came to love and live their bike lives in their own way, and in their own city. The program was a great example of the power of authentic storytelling.

It was also fun to set up my Pop Up Shop, meet women from all over who stopped by, and get a chance to visit with the other vendors. I especially loved it when a woman would bring a friend over to my garment rack, telling her that she bought some of these bloomers last year and loves them — yeah!! I also love it when men come to my booth, shopping for a wife or girlfriend back home. It’s so sweet!

2017-03-06 07.56.14-1
The Bikie Girl Bloomers Pop Up Shop at the National Bike Summit

I still had an extra day in D.C. after the Pop Up Shop. Andrea of the local Women & Bicycles group had thoughtfully organized a special meet up of the Coffee Club for that Wednesday morning, so that Maria of New York-based Po Campo and I could join in while we were in town. We met at the nearby Buttercream Bake Shop.

2017-03-08 07.43.27 HDR
Buttercream Bake Shop on 9th Street NW

Holy cakes alive: that place is loaded with sweetness! I was overwhelmed on my arrival at the splendid array of tempting delectables to choose from. I succumbed to the call of the cinnascone and paired it with a cinnamon toffee latte, both of which were divine!

2017-03-08 07.49.51
Sinfully delicious Cinnascone and Cinnamon Toffee Latte
2017-03-08 09.41.55-1-1
Maria to my left; Andrea to my right
2017-03-08 08.36.01.jpg
Betsy, Shira, and Andrea

One by one, the others arrived, and five of us enjoyed visiting over coffee and pastries. Afterwards, I walked to the nearest bike share dock to get me a bike for my next adventure. There was just one bike remaining at the dock, but I was unable to get my bike share key to work. I thought at first it was the bike or the dock that wasn’t working, but after walking to two other docks and having the same problem, it finally occurred to me that my key might not be working because the credit card linked to my account had been changed recently due to fraudulent activity. I called Capital Bikeshare and learned that, yes, that is precisely what was preventing my key from working. I was able to log into my account from my phone and update the credit card info, and, voila! My key worked.

Then I noticed the time, and realized I had better get hopping so as not to be late for my reserved entry time to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I was less than a mile away, so it was doable. I was so excited to have been able to land tickets for the recently-opened museum, as I knew that they were hard to come by. To reserve them in advance, you have to book many months in advance, or you can get tickets for the same day by checking the website at 6:30 a.m. I logged on at 6:30 that morning and was able to land a ticket for 11:00 a.m.

2017-03-08 10.56.31
National Museum of African American History and Culture

The museum is very well-designed. There is more than you can see in one day, but to maximize the first visit, I followed the recommendation to begin at the bottom. An elevator takes visitors down to the bottom, and you work your way up through over 500 years of history, starting with the slave ships, the Colonial era, the Antebellum South, the Civil War, various contributions over the years, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, moving through the Jim Crow era, the civil rights movement, and on into the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. There is an interactive display set up as the Woolworth’s lunch counter, where visitors can choose how they would respond to a given scenario, and then see the consequence of that choice. Along the way, figures from politics, sports, and entertainment are profiled. Throughout the exhibits, it is apparent that care was taken to tell the stories in ways that include both ugly truths and beautiful moments throughout our nation’s history. The upper levels of the museum are devoted to thematic exhibits focused on athletics, military, music, film, theater and television. I skimmed through those sections, but took a longer pause at the extraordinary view from the upper levels.

2017-03-08 14.45.35
Looking out over the National Mall from one of the upper levels.
2017-03-08 14.57.02 HDR
Getting back on bikeshare just south of the Museum, near the Washington Monument. I wore a red shirt in honor of International Women’s Day. I also saw people returning from a rally near the White House on my ride back to Chinatown.
2017-03-08 15.16.30-1
Returning my bike to the dock across from this gorgeous church on 8th Street NW

Today’s riding did not add up to more than a couple of miles, but they were quality miles, due to sunny weather and unbeatable urban scenery. I was so glad I had this extra day to see the city before returning home!

*MAMIL = Middle-aged men in lycra.

Coffeeneuring 2016-3.0: Washington, D.C.

Official ride #3: Bullfrog Bagels in Washington, DC

As with the 2015 Challenge, this year’s event coincided with my trip to Washington, DC, for the Annual Meeting of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Thanks to the mercy of Rule #4, I was able to make full use of the opportunity to combine a coffeeneuring ride with a chance to meet up with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club. Andrea was kind enough to schedule a meet up for that Thursday, a day when I didn’t have to be at the conference until 9:00. Of course, the Thursday Coffee Club meets at Eastern Market, and my conference was in Woodley Park, not exactly close by.

But it’s supposed to be a challenge, right?

Bright (okay, not so bright) & early (definitely early) start at the bike share station on Calvert, near Woodley Park

So I mapped out my route and gave myself extra time to walk from my B&B to the nearest bike share station. This meant heading out at 6 a.m., well before the sun comes up. Having come in from the west coast, it feels more like 3 a.m., but I’m tough like that.

img_1225
Heading out through Adams Morgan

Being on a mission made the cool darkness part of the fun. Having to get across town meant using one of my favorite bike lanes – the scenic ride down Pennsylvania Avenue, with the colorful sunrise and the Capital dome before me. Unfortunately, the ride was very rough, as the asphalt has been stripped and the transitions between stripped and unstripped sections, at every intersection, were quite rough. I alternated between taking the lane with car traffic and bumpily working me way along the bike lane.

img_1234
Riding the bike lane that runs down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue

 

It was an exhilarating ride for me. I loved rolling past famous buildings: the National Archives, the Smithsonian along the mall, then onto Constitution Avenue and right alongside the Capitol and the Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court. To do this ride in the early morning, as the sun was rising, felt magical.

Once east of Capitol Hill, I turned south a few blocks to Eastern Market. I found the bike share docking station and walked through the picturesque market area and found my destination, Bullfrog Bagels.

img_1235
Bullfrog Bagels

 

I made it to Bullfrog Bagels on time! I had coffee and a breakfast bagel, and, once I remembered that I needed to look for the group upstairs, joined these lovely women, two of whom visited Los Angeles this past Spring. You can read about the inaugural Women + Bikes + Coffee meet ups with Elisabeth and Andrea, seated across from me here, in this post.

 

Women & Bicycles Coffee Club – Southeast

The only realistic way for me to dash back to the conference hotel in time for the first meeting of the day meant turning this into a multi-modal adventre. So I hopped on a subway at Eastern Market, transfered to the red line, and got back to Woodley Park just in time! It’s amazing how deep beneath the bowels of our nation’s captial one can travel. Here’s my view coming up the loooong escalator back to street level.

Emerging from the red line
My route from Woodley Park to Eastern Market

 

Total mileage: 5.3

Bike: Capital Bikeshare

Destination: Bullfrog Bagels, Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.

Beverage: Coffee with milk

Coffeeneuring 2016-2.0: Heart of L.A.

Official ride #2: The Alchemist Coffee Project & CicLAvia

The Gazelle; ready to roll, CicLAvia style.

When I participate in CicLAvia, I usually like to bring along both of my Nantucket Basket Panniers, one filled with samples of my Bikie Girl Bloomers (never know when I’ll wish I had them with me), and the other with a floral display (just because). This time, I tried adding some Bikie Girl stickers to help advertise, but I think I need a bigger sign.

First things being first, I went straight to my coffee shop: Alchemist Coffee Project. This seemed the perfect choice for today’s coffeeneuring ride, as it was conveniently on my way to the First Unitarian Church, where I wanted to catch the service before joining the CicLAvia fun. I have been curious to try this place, as I often pass it when taking the 7th Street bike lane towards downtown Los Angeles. I was also curious to try this place since noticing it had taken the spot formerly known as the Bourbon Street Cafe, where I had been many times. I have a special place in my heart for Bourbon Street Cafe, as this is where all the first meetings happened back when the plans for Bikie Girl Bloomers were first being hatched.

Alchemist Coffee Project at 7th & Vermont

Once I saw the “New Orleans Cold Brew” on the menu, I knew that had to be my drink. Having recently been to New Orleans, where I was reminded how much I like the taste of chicory coffee, it was a no-brainer. I was quite happy with my choice. Both the drink and my pastry indulgence were delicious.

img_1184
Almond Danish & New Orleans Cold Brew
Cool space features lots of Edison bulbs

The interior was appealing, with plenty of tables and interesting decor.

After church was over, hubby was waiting out front to meet up with me and head for the CicLAvia route. The McArthur Park hub was just a few blocks east on 7th Street.

We followed the route into downtown and onto Broadway. Please note the awesome shirt hubby is wearing. It reads: “I never dreamed I’d end up married to a sexy cycling lady, but here I am, living the dream!” You’ll never guess who got that shirt for him.

Hubby capturing the action on Broadway

We continued along Broadway into Chinatown, where we joined a party for volunteers and supporters of CicLAvia hosted by Blossom Vietnamese Restaurant. The food at Blossom was good – I think we will have to go back and experience the restaurant as regular customers.

From Chinatown, we rode back into the heart of Downtown and parted ways. Hubby headed back toward home, while I took the left turn onto 4th Street to explore the remaining part of the route. Along the way, I encountered the biking photographer, David G., who graciously obliged my request for a photo.

That’s me, sporting my pink zebra bloomers & the drape neck top (also part of the Bikie Girl Bloomers collection).

From the downtown hub, I followed the route over the 4th Street Bridge into Boyle Heights where the final CicLAvia hub was at Mariachi Plaza.

img_1196
The play zone in Boyle Heights
Mariachi Plaza
Mariachi Plaza Hub

Once again, I ran into someone I know. This time, I was getting in positiimg_1215on to take a photo at Mariachi Plaza when I ran into James. We had just met at the New Urbanism Film Festival the weekend before.

I followed the route back toward McArthur Park and on home. Lots of variety packed into a simple coffeeneuring ride!

img_1198

Total mileage: 17.5

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Destination: Alchemist Coffee Project, Koreatown, Los Angeles

Beverage: New Orleans Cold Brew

Coffeeneuring 2016-0.1: Playa Vista

October 9th – Illicit Ride #1: Warming Up with the New Urbanism Film Festival Folks

Last year, a friend I’d met through the wonderful world wide network of all things bike offered me her pass to the New Urbanism Film Festival in which one of her films from the Velo Visionaries series was being shown. Kristin lives in San Francisco, and was unable to make to L.A. for the festival that year. At first, I thought I was just getting a pass to see her film, and when I saw what else was showing at the festival, I bought a ticket to see one of the feature films. Then I decided I wanted to go back and see some more, and was delighted to realize that my pass would get me in to all of the films.

This year, when I saw the 2016 New Urbanism Film Festival was gearing up for the first weekend in October, I knew I had to buy a festival pass. Kristin had two more of her Velo Visionaries films in the festival and was featured in one of the post-film panel discussions. In addition to enjoying films about topics ranging from the community-building that grew out of art projects in the aftermath of an earthquake that devastated the downtown center of Christchurch New Zealand, to following a woman who got rid of her car and explored what it would mean to live car-free in Los Angeles, to discovering the magic of the historic core of Pittsburgh, plus short films about active transportation and urban planning, there was a group BIKE RIDE. So I signed up for the ride to Playa Vista along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

The group heads west on the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

This was also the opening weekend of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. I had thought about trying to squeeze a special coffeeneuring expedition into my already-packed weekend, but it made more sense to squeeze the coffeeneuring into a bike ride I had already planned. I have been aware of the Playa Vista development that sprang up in the methane-rich swamp land between Marina del Rey and Westchester, but had never been inside. I only knew that the development project had a history of controversy and some start-and-stop before the high-density live-and-work area materialized. I was curious to see the inside.

I knew this ride wouldn’t really count toward the coffeeneuring challenge, as organized rides are not permitted (although there appears to be a certain fuzziness to this rule). I decided to embrace this as an opportunity to warm up for the official challenge rides.

Hardly looks like an organized ride, if you ask me.

After a fun jaunt along the Ballona Creek Bike Path, we rode through Playa Vista, passing some contemporary office/work buildings and then entering some very hiply designed residential buildings that made me feel we were riding through a slick brochure. We stopped to gather at a park that had the feel of a town square, sort of.

A park in a central part of Playa Vista.

We had the good fortune to be given an introduction and walking tour by Stefanos Polyzoides, an urban designer who had been involved in the early stages of the development. He described for us the features that make for great cities and communities, including building heights in certain places (such as around a town square), inviting entryways, walkable streets. He explained all the challenges facing the original project, including city rules that required street widths that encouraged speeding cars rather than cultivating community feel that invites pedestrians to stroll. After years of back-and-forth encouraging the developer to consider opportunities for design and planning that would optimize the community created and getting the city on board, the developer ended up selling the land and, much to the chagrin of urban designers, sold it without preserving any requirements for how the parcels would be developed to coordinate the dreamt-of urban utopia. Here’s an article that gives the back story on that.

Some parts of the Playa Vista development are attractive and inviting. (Others, not so much.)

The walking tour was educational. I enjoyed learning about the difference between “starchitects” and “marketects”, and came to appreciate the thought that goes into (or sadly sometimes doesn’t go into) the placement of garage entrances, mechanical vents, parking spaces, and doorways. Playa Vista has many things done right, and sadly, several not so great. At the end of our tour, the group was eager to head on back to Culver City for the final screenings and awards for the film festival. A friend and I were both desperate for a beverage and snack, so we dashed into the nearby Coffee Bean for a quick fix. I had a cafe au lait with hazelnut that I was able to drink during the return trip.

Total mileage: 12.1

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Destination: Coffee Bean, Playa Vista

Beverage: Cafe au Lait with Hazelnut

Rolling With Los Pobladores

Los Pobladores refers to the original settlers of Los Angeles, who founded this fair city in 1781. Every year, to celebrate the birthday of Los Angeles, a contingent joins with descendants of these original settlers and walks the 9-mile route taken in 1781 from the mission in San Gabrial to Olvera Street in what is now downtown Los Angeles. Many walk the route in this annual ritual, while others make the journey by bicycle. This year I joined the group on bicycles.

The pre-ride gathering in front of the San Gabriel Mission

And off we went!
We rolled past some cool places, such as the Ming Ya Buddhist Association along Valley Boulevard.

 

And Lincoln Park.

 

Soon enough, we arrived at El Pueblo, just across the street from Union Station.

 

And we got to watch the final part of the procession.

 

La Plaza United Methodist Church faces El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

 

img_0053
Free bike valet parking was available to us on this street off El Pueblo, just across from the Chinese American Museum – I’ve visited before and highly recommend it.

 

img_0025
Heading to the bike valet, I got to meet Bikie Girl Maria, whom I’d noticed riding in her new Wick-It Black Bloomers.

 

img_0041
A ceremony featured some direct descendants of the original settlers and natives who shared traditional blessings.

 

img_0027
The prayer in the four directions.

 

img_0014
One of the dancers, relaxing after the performance with her companion.

 

img_0031
Smokey Bear was among the attendees observing the hoopla.

 

img_0037
La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles, just across from El Pueblo

 

img_0029
Olvera Street Marketplace

 

img_0022
If you venture down Olvera Street, you will come upon America Tropical Interpretive Center, where you can see the rediscovered Siqueiros mural completed in 1932, now sheltered for conservation and viewable from a special platform.

 

img_0040
Also viewable from above Olvera Street is the beautiful Post Office Terminal Annex Building, which served as the central mail processing facility for Los Angeles from 1940-1989.

 

My complete route for the day, 30 miles total.

This will be remembered as one of my favorite urban cycling adventures.