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.
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.
Two items caught my eye today. One was Bike Man Dan's blog post about a set of earrings made from recycled bike tubes. The other was an article about two bike-stealing operations that were foiled by the authorities.
The article made me think of horse thieves in the wild west. These criminals often paid with their lives, because a rider had a strong relationship with his or her horse. Stealing it was like kidnapping a pet or a loved one.
Bikes are the same. They're not truly alive, but the relationship between a person and their bike is a lot like the primal bonds that people have had with various animals since the dawn of time.
The recycled bike tube earrings take this to another level. The same way the skin and bones of the buffalo provided clothing, tools, jewelry and probably much much more.
So be kind to that steel frame. It's an archetype. Big Game. Steed. Companion. Man's Best Friend.
Somewhere out there, I wouldn't be surprised to find Urban Shamans communing with the Bicycle Spirit, thanking it for the day's ride.
I noticed something interesting about my mom. When I was growing up she always had arthritis, tendonitis, and all kinds of aches and pains in her arms and shoulders.
That's probably what you'd expect for a single mom with a job that involved hours of sitting and typing. At one point it got so bad that she had to install voice-activated software on her computer. But when she retired a couple of years ago she stumbled upon a cure for chronic pain.
Don't worry, you don't need to buy anything or click on a special link or change your religion. I'll tell you exactly what happened, and how it relates to riding a bike.
About a million years ago when I did my first bike tour up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, I tried to be Superman and I rode up the steep and rolling hills around San Luis Obispo in the highest gear I could handle. By the end of the day all the cartilage in my knees had turned to liquid. My bones ached and my kneecaps were floating in wet, floppy sacks the size of grapefruits.
Oh, to be young again! The next morning a part of me was thinking, "I sh0uld probably take it easy today" but mostly I just wanted to get on the road and keep moving. It hurt, but I was excited about being on the road.
A few miles up past the Hearst castle, I stopped on the beach and saw what looked like a big stack of driftwood-but it was moving. I got closer and realized it was a bunch of sea lions, all piled together and resting in the sand.
This was so exciting I laughed out loud--and then something happened that I can't explain. It was like someone hit the deflate button in my knee joints. The swelling went away, as if the fluid was leaving through an invisible drain, and ten seconds later the soggy grapefruits had turned into tight, healthy knees.
For years after that, I had this theory that when you're really happy and excited about something, then pain and injury become irrelevant--and vanish on their own.
This seems like my mom's situation. Years of sitting in uncomfortable chairs, working her fingers on the keyboard, led to pain and suffering. But then something happened. She started knitting blankets and toys for her grandchildren.
Then when the economy tanked and took her retirement account with it, she went back to work like so many people are doing. She got a job in a shop that sells handmade gifts, and she started knitting hats and stuffed animals to sell in the shop as well.
My mom gets really creative with her knitting, and her stuff moved quickly. She got requests for more, and now she takes orders, sells at craft fairs, and basically--if you didn't get this already--she's spending most of her time sitting in a chair, working her fingers.
But she never complains about arthritis.
So how does this relate to biking? Well first of all, passion and joy and excitement are natural sources of vitality, energy and healing power.
This is why I suspect that riding on a bike trail, and best of all bike touring (or even just exploring your county for a day) will get you in much better shape than riding on a stationary bike in a gym. If bike commuting puts some fun and adventure into your day, going to work will be far less stressful.
In this blog, I'm always talking about getting around on your own power. But this goes a little bit deeper. By tapping into your emotional power, you can improve every aspect of your life.