Thursday, December 13, 2007

Return of the Bicycle

Despite much temptation, I refrained from following up about the LA MTA and its bad decisions, despite regular coverage by the national press, local opinions and a rumored LA Weekly article circling about. I am personally waiting for someone more versed in the particulars of LA transit history to weigh in on the matter (I really wish that Mike Davis had a blog).

Anyway, I'm done. As we say in Portuguese, "acabou!" Focusing solely on transit in LA makes me extremely sad, especially when there is increasing evidence that city residents and commuters aren't taking care of their most vulnerable populations. It's enough to ruin my week.

It is for this reason that I present to you, my casual and loyal readers, the return of the swing bike! Not since last winter's rage for fixed-gears has a bike seemed so interesting. Imagine a completely impractical bike made solely for the souther California beach-biking culture! There's no commuting, no going on tour, and definitely no dodging cars in traffic: it's just pure fun. I know too well the importance of fun in promoting bikes within car-saturated SoCal; it was definitely a huge factor in my "bicycle awakening" four years ago. My only hope is that the swing-bikes don't get too disruptive when I take the beach route along PCH, that is if they catch on.

In my temporary locale of Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro a swing bike would be far too impractical. With the plethora of cargo bikes and mountain bikes that I see every day, I couldn't imagine it having a place. (Also, considering the near monopoly that caloi has here, I can't imagine alternative novelty bike such as these becoming popular.)
And with that, I leave you with a swing-bike poppin' a wheelie.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Scooting Across America

One of the things I hope I someday have the guts to try is travel across the U.S. without a car. And, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I present Rucking Across the U.S., a travel-blog of scooting across america on a ruckus scooter. These scooters are way more tough than my Kymco, but they are still pretty small. Thanks to billtron for the link!


On another note, buses in Rio de Janeiro cost more if they are air-conditioned. Today the temperature was well above 38 degrees centigrade. I shelled out some cash to avoid the heat for my research travels around the city. And I was far from the only one. I watched people let empty, non-air conditioned buses pass them by to catch those frescão (air conditioned) buses even if it meant waiting in the heat and standing up the entire ride. Summer in Rio is some serious business.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Car-Free No More?

My car-free status in Los Angeles may be threatened in the somewhat near future. Last night I received an email from my partner that she wants us to buy a Prius after the field portion of her research is done. I honestly don't know when that will be, but it looks like it might be happening before the end of calendar year 2008. This would be a huge change for me, mostly because I would actually be a part of the car-owning masses once again. At the moment the only vehicle under my name is my little scooter, the Kymco People 150.

Partner has a gas-guzzling truck for research purposes that I occasionally use when I visit my parents or when the two of us go on backpacking trips. (Edit: Partner has just informed me that at 25mpg, the truck is not a gas-guzzler. My apologies.) But it isn't my truck (hence the title of this blog!) and it has never felt that way. I don't know how to park it well, I only drive it when I have to, and if I had my druthers I would never have to use it. A car-free existence for me is a happy existence. It is from this perspective that the somewhat imminent purchase of the Prius forces me to pause. Will this be a life-altering purchase? Will I rejoin the LA car-culture once again (complete with regular complaints of traffic, parking, and rising gas prices), or will the Prius maintain the status of the truck: a rarely used necessity mostly for trips that won't suffice on two wheels. I guess we shall see. Maybe I'll rebel and purchase a high-end electric scooter. We shall see.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Sad Decisions from the MTA

It's been a real winner of a year for those who ride the MTA in Los Angeles. First, to pull itself out of a serious financial shortfall (of 100 milliong dollars) that had nothing to do with ridership, the MTA voted to raise the rates of daily and monthly passes. That's right: punish the people who ride the most and who are in the most need of affordable transportation to cover for financial problems.

Then just last week, the LA Times announced that in order to save money on the Metro subways and light-rails, the MTA is––get this––spending more money on unnecessary turnstiles. They first announced such a consideration last week. So sad. As today's LA Times shows, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Those LA residents who have used the turnstile-free train system relished the freedom and ease of paying for your ticket and almost never being questioned during the ride. It is a beautiful openness that reflects the best of Southern California. Apparently the original reason for not using turnstiles was both a matter of safety and an attempt by the city to encourage ridership. This is all based on the fact that it does indeed feel better to ride public transportation when you are trusted to do your part. I would even say it encourages civic pride, something all too absent in Los Angeles.

Overall, I think the most dismaying part of the decision to add turnstiles is that this decision comes at the same time that plans to extend rail access to the west side are in jeopardy due to NIMBY-ism, and two of LA's major east/west thoroughfares are about to become one-way roads. As my sympathetic observer from today's LA Times states:
There is, finally, something dismaying about the plan in purely symbolic terms. This MTA move to close off the transit system comes at a time when politicians are pushing a variety of misguided plans to allow cars to move more freely through the region. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's support for widening the 405, paired with the new proposal to turn Olympic and Pico boulevards into streets that would act as one-way thoroughfares during rush hour, make it clear that shopworn transit strategies more appropriate for 1950s Los Angeles than the 2007 version still have plenty of political currency.

Word. We are in dire need of better transportation planning. Now.