What's your vision of a perfect life, a perfect world? If you're in Los Angeles, you can help make it all happen.

What's your vision of a perfect life, a perfect world?

Mine would have a lot of wonderful requirements, but here are my top five:

1. Health. A pollution-free environment, and healthy people who get lots of fresh air and exercise. If they want it. I would want it.

2. Friends. Lots of relaxed adventures with cool, interesting people

3. Coffee. Lots and lots of caffeine every day. Preferably organic, shade grown, fair trade, and hand-packed by members of an autonomous collective of indigenous transgender people of color who donate a portion of their profits to help underserved communities of dolphins with special needs.

(Okay, maybe I've had too much coffee...)

4. Books. Lots of books. And time to read them. Even if it's just a page, read out loud on a busy street.

5. A healthy dose of silliness. Laughter at my expense is okay. I probably did something to deserve it.

You can help make this vision a reality!

If you're in Los Angeles, you can help make it all happen.

Group bike rides cover most of this. And there's a new one that's having an impact at least twice a month.

This bike ride has an immediate positive impact on your health, and you're reducing pollution by getting around on your own power. You'll meet lots of interesting people, and the ones you're not ready to throttle by the end of the ride will probably become friends.

Still not convinced? Well, there's going to be coffee at the beginning of the ride. Probably more in the middle of the ride. And usually at the end of the ride, unless we drink wine instead. (I guess that should be #6 above)

Nick stocks books on the Street Librarians' Ride

There will be books. In fact, we'll be stocking the free boxes of L.A., providing fine literature for readers all over the city. There will be a dramatic reading at every stop. You can read one too, if you want.

That covers everything on the list except the silliness. But this is the Street Librarians Ride, created by stand-up comedian and journalist Nick Richard. So you should probably be ready for some silliness.

Are you in? We meet on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month. Usually 12:30 at Stories Book Cafe in Echo Park. But check the Facebook page to make sure:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/livebiketalk/events/

The books we leave behind always get picked up, so you know someone is reading them. It's good to know there are still people in L.A. who read books. Let's encourage them. Street Librarians Ride!

The things we'll do to go on a bike ride.

Today the city of Los Angeles closed off several main streets to traffic, leaving it safe for bikers and pedestrians. It's called Ciclavia. I love this day.

Of course, being in Los Angeles, everyone lives spread out far from the center. We commute into the center on buses, trains, maybe even cars, in order to ride our bikes around the city.

Ciclavia was great, but the drama came on the home trip. Imagine thousands of urban cyclists squeezing into a tiny string of subway cars.

We were ready to wait patiently for out turn, but as we worked our way through the crowd towards Union Station, we were told that the Red Line was temporarily closed.

I was outraged for a while. I thought they arbitrarily blocked us off so that instead of dealing with hordes of bikers on a Sunday afternoon, they would have to deal with hordes of bikers a few hours later on a Sunday evening. It didn't seem logical.

It turns out the real issue was a bomb threat.

I didn't wait for the news, though. I met a friend who had her car parked a few miles away, complete with a bike rack on the back. She handed me a spare key with the idea I would ride my bike to her car, and drive back to pick her up.

But when I got there, the car key was useless because she had "The Club" locking the wheel.

For a biking event that ended at 3, I didn't even get home until after 5. Not a disaster, but it got me thinking.

I could have just got on my bike and taken a ride anywhere I wanted today, and avoided the hassles of a group trip. Why do we really ride our bikes?

For me, it has never been about racing or speed. I thought I was just using the bike as a fun way to get around, and save some money along the way. But it turns out I'm willing--even eager--to spend 7 hours of my time to take a 45-minute bike ride if it's part of a big group event.

I had a lot to do this weekend, and doing Cyclavia meant giving up some sleep. But I didn't just ride. I met a professional musician, and talked about wine with a dude from Argentina. I even got a new business idea which may someday provide the means to go on more bike tours.

Biking is a social event, something I hadn't thought about since the last time I went on Midnite Ridazz. That's another reason I ride a bike.

Biking is social, something that can bring strangers together.

 

If you live anywhere in or near Los Angeles, I hope you made it to the Tour de Fat yesterday. Not just because we raised $13,000 for local bike groups, not even for the music. Not even for the beer.

I don't usually post these things. I'm going to get woo-woo and ethereal about bikes here, so be forewarned.

When I moved to L.A. I wasn't expecting to find such a vibrant bike culture. If we had a few thousand bikers who were trying to make it work as a viable form of transportation in a hostile car-dominated environment, that would have been enough. But Los Angeles bikers have gone far beyond this.

Never in any time or place have I seen so much creative energy, such a perfect synthesis of organized cooperation and individual expression. L.A. bikers are evolved beings, at the pinnacle of human greatness.

At the Tour de Fat you kept hearing people say, "take care of your vehicle." And the vehicle is you. This is cosmic, no matter what you believe in.

If you believe in evolution, you're here because a million different lives were lived and destroyed, each one building upon the others. A billion experiments of trial and error, a million things that could have gone wrong but didn't, a thousand possible seeds and eggs that could have united, a hundred generations and the final pinnacle of all this, the only outcome that made it, was you.

If you believe instead in some sort of divine being that brought you into existence, the meaning is the same: You are a miracle. You're here because of extraordinary circumstances, and you're capable of accomplishing unimaginable things.

But most people live their lives in silent desperation, mediocrity, and never break out of their own self-imposed prisons. Not you. Not the bikers.

What I saw yesterday was a thousand people who chose to get around on their own power. A number of brave souls renounced their cars and dared themselves to use their bikes for transportation for a year.

Rarely do you see such a powerful group of energetic, creative, self-reliant souls all together. When you ride a bike, you're taking back your cosmic birthright and affirming your own personal power.

Our planet is in trouble in so many ways, but people are waking up, and in the coming years I think a lot of you are going to discover your own form of greatness.

This is why I'm still optimistic. This is why I choose to take care of my vehicle. This is why I ride.

There are now so many people using their bikes as transportation in Los Angeles that we actually have a parking problem. A number of businesses (notably independent cafes and restaurants) have installed bike parking in front of their doors. I suspect this has been invaluable in helping them survive the recession.

Anyway, I've been wondering whether the owners put up bike racks to attract more bike commuting customers, or whether they did it because many of their customers were bikers already.

Which came first? And could anybody build up their business by showing that they're edgy, forward-looking and ecologically aware by catering more to bike riders?

If you ever ride a bike in L.A., you probably feel the pain of living in the classic car-dominated culture. So this might surprise you. It certainly blew me away.

Los Angeles could be a bicycle-friendly city
Los Angeles could be a bicycle-friendly city

On his Human Transit blog, Jarret Walker listed the top 50 cities with the highest percentage of car-free households. East L.A. made the list, with 21% of households living without the automobile. Even Los Angeles itself was up there, albeit in 49th place, with a car-free density of 16.53%. We beat Seattle!

The reasons don't have much to do with ecological awareness. It's more a combination of poverty, age (Los Angeles was a big city before the riode pf the automobile), and urban density. Still, this just empasizes the opportunity here.

There's always been a weird misconception that the bicycle is a luxury toy for the well-to-do, or a vehicle for the suburbs and the country. But given that poverty and density are compelling obstacles to owning a car for many people, biking just makes more sense. 

There could be a perfect storm brewing over this. Los Angeles has a strong bike culture already, and a bike plan (even if it has many shortcomings) is in place.

With our relatively flat streets and typically good weather (not counting this week), LA should be one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Now there's some political will to make it happen, and statistics to show that it can be done.

Big thumbs up to Matthew Segal for an in depth feature on the LA bike culture. I won't feel like a lone rider in a sea of automobiles for at least a few days now. It almost makes me want to do the next Midnight Ridazz.

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I'm trying to start a beginner's biking group in Los Angeles. If you're here, let me know what you're looking for. I put up a survey here.

If you'd like to be in on this, let me know!

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Last week I posted my first video ever on YouTube. It's about a bike trip up the California coast to visit my mom in Port Hueneme.

Anyway, there's a reason most people bust out laughing when they see it. I keep my helmet on, play up the dorky aspect of biking, and try on purpose to be a nerd.

Because biking is for everybody.

All the bike magazines are filled with pictures of supermodels. Even the non-profits like Adventure Cyclist feature bicyclists who have made it a lifestyle, and tend to be in great shape as a result.

Most of the bicycle media portray cyclists as ultra-healthy athletes, and there is some truth to this.

But it's enough to discourage a lot of "normal" people who would probably like to start riding, but say to themselves, "I'm too old/fat/weak/lazy/ to ride a bike."

But the truth is, you don't have to be an athlete to start biking. If anything, biking is one of the easiest and most fun ways of becoming more athletic. You start to see this happen pretty quickly once you get into it.

I had to start somewhere, we all did, and that's the whole point. You don't have to be an athlete just to start.

I was a nerd, back in the days before it became cool to be a nerd. Then I started bike touring, and my self confidence improved even faster than my physique.

But the quirky geek is still in there, so when I make a video about biking that's the role I'm going to play.

Now I have a request for you. If you're a biker, make a point to encourage people to ride who are especially insecure about their size, weight, or physical ability. Especially if you had to deal with those issues yourself at some point in your life.

If you like to show off, then start making videos. Here's mine:

By the way, if you've ever had an interest in touring Italy by bicycle, check out the touring Italy FAQs page: http://www.bicyclefreedom.com/?page_id=19

If you ride a [tag-tec]bike in Los Angeles[/tag-tec], check out today's article, "On the Mean Streets of L.A."

If you're interested in getting away from this crazy place and you want to [tag-tec]ride your bike in Italy[/tag-tec], be sure to scroll down for more info.