Thursday, October 1, 2015

I am a cyclist

Six years ago, I classified cyclists into four groups. Today I propose a fifth category: the commuter!

Originally, I classified myself under "Lonely Loner Laboring" because I spent time alone on my bicycle. People are buzzing about how Southern California is shifting to a more bicycle-friendly landscape. There are bike lanes and sharrows on more of our roadways. Either I'm connecting with more cyclists, or there are more people out there on bikes now.

Just when I think I'm alone, I look around at a red light and Voilà, there are two more cyclists coming up behind me. I love it. Also, I rarely ride alone now. My dear husband is usually right there with me.

Reflecting on my classification scheme (don't get mad, it's what scientists do!) I realize now that with more diversity in cycling, it's useless to try to fit cyclists into boxes.  Many of us crossover into more than one category.  When I wrote that post, I had just started riding with Riverside Bicycle Club (for three months) and I was upset that folks were peer-pressuring me to ride in spandex.

Wavy Bob
I read a lot of articles from Bicycling magazine, which is great but also tends to push people to buy stuff.  You definitely don't need to buy stuff to ride a bike, with the exception of a bike.  It's also good to have lights, a helmet, and some reflectors.  But other than that, wear what you want!  There are many creative solutions for commuters.
Wavy Stacked Bob
The biggest apprehension I hear from people that are unsure about riding a bike to school or work is that they will mess up their hair or outfit.  That's where a little creativity comes in!  For me, it is easier to maintain a haircut that looks great straight out of a helmet.  When my hair is longer, and in the cooler winter months, I use a silk scarf under my helmet to create a hair-flip.  You're not going to come out of the helmet looking this glam, but a haircut like this can get smooshed under a helmet, dry a little bit smooshed and come out looking wavy and soft.  The longer version is best for winter, covering a little of your neck and ears.  The shorter version is good for summer, to keep your neck cool.

Another hairstyle that worked great for me was a pixie.  Now I understand that this hairstyle may send your boyfriend or husband into a tailspin, but it's not on his head!  You will want to stay cool, but still look cute and then this haircut is for you!  It was great for me when I was doing lots of cycling AND running.  Just enough hair to dump a cup of water on it and cool off, but not a mop of hair to trap the heat in.

Another thing I consider when I commute is not wearing light-colored pants.  I got lots of great colored jeans from Express (and the Goodwill), some of my favorites right now are Gloria Vanderbilt.  Obviously, from the picture you can see that Express jeans are for when I'm leaner and the GV brand is more accommodating to a curvy frame.  I wear tall-ish socks and tuck the bottom of the jeans into the socks (in the Winter) whereas in the summer, I roll up the bottom of the jeans for a capri-style that's a bit cooler for my ankles.  If you get a grease-mark on a dark pair of jeans, it isn't as noticable.  And if someone does notice, just tell them that riding a bike is awesome.   Say proudly, "yeah, I bike to work."

As for shirts, I rock a tank-top as a base layer.  I don't wear a sports bra for commuting, but a regular bra with a camisole-built-in-shelf thingy is a good combination for all-day support.  In hot months, I will wear my reflective vest directly over the tank top and put my work shirt in my backpack.  In cooler months I wear my reflective vest over a button-down shirt.  I don't mess around with safety.  Even though I call these my "dork vests" I feel like it's a seat-belt.  Something that is pro-active.  We saw a guy riding with one of these last night, he had not fastened it in the front, so the vest was billowing around him and it really looked like an angel was flying along with him.  He wasn't even riding fast, but he looked like he was because of his vest flapping.
Summer Safety
Winter Safety

I have written a lot about shoes, and the only thing I will say is that I always tuck in my shoelaces.  The last thing you need when you're riding in traffic is to get your shoelace caught in your chainring in the middle of an intersection.  I've ridden in sandals, sneakers, cycling shoes, and boots.  I've not ridden in high heels (pumps) but that's because I don't really wear those.  Not to say it isn't possible.  The only thing to be wary of is that if you're wearing platforms, you might want to raise your seat up accordingly, or if you're wearing flats (to the point of Barefoot shoes) you may need to lower your seat.

I tried the lifehack called Penny in Your Pants to ride in a skirt.  My commuter friends said it looked like I had balls, so I prefer to ride in a skirt with cycling shorts underneath.  It is fun to ride a bike in a skirt, but doesn't work well in a pencil skirt.  I have some pencil-ish skirts with stretch and a nice slit in the back that can work, but more A-line or even circle skirts work better.  The thing I liked about "Penny in Your Pants" is that you don't have to buy stuff to make it work.  And that's what I love about commuter cycling style.  It's not about the look, but you don't have to look awful.  It's more about creative solutions to adapt to the lifestyle.

However you ride, the important thing is that there are many types of cyclists.  You don't have to fit into a box to call yourself a cyclist.  You don't need a $200 kit.  And if you don't know what a "kit" is, then don't worry about it.  Just ride.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mission Tours

1) Mission Santa Barbara

Could take Amtrak Pacific Surfliner for $29 (bike reservation required at no extra cost),0.pdf
It's a 2.5 mile bike ride to the mission from the station.

2) Mission San Buenaventura

Could take Amtrak Pacific Surfliner for $23 (bike reservation required at no extra cost),0.pdf
It's a 0.3 mile walk to the mission from the station.

3)  Mission San Fernando Rey de España

We could meet at Glendale Metrolink, ride to Van Nuys, bike ~5 miles North to the Mission.  Although it would have to be on a weekday since the Ventura County line doesn't run on weekends.  It would be $10 each way to take Amtrak to Van Nuys, but it is possible, on Pacific Surfliner also.  We could bike it for free (18.5 miles each way with 738 ft of climbing) but it would not be a ride for beginners.  It's easy to find though, up Glenoaks to Hansen Dam, Left on Montague, Right on San Fernando Rd, Left on "Brand" in San Fernando and you'll arrive at the mission (on right) at Brand Park (in Mission Hills).

4) Mission San Gabriel

This is about 11 miles (entirely by bicycle) from the Glendale Metrolink station via York Blvd, South Pasadena and Alhambra. It's only 4 miles from the Metro Gold Line - South Pasadena station.  We could get to the Gold line by taking the Antelope Valley Metrolink to LA Union Station.

5) Mission San Juan Capistrano

From the San Juan Capistrano Metrolink Station it's only a 0.1 mile walk to the Mission.  From Glendale, we would take the Antelope Valley line into LA Union Station and then the Orange County line down to San Juan Capistrano. If we brought bikes, it's only 3.7 miles to Doheny State Beach via the San Juan Creek Trail

6) Mission San Luis Rey

This landmark is in Oceanside, 5-6 miles from the Oceanside Metrolink Station. From the station Turn left onto S Cleveland St, Keep left to stay on San Luis Rey River Trail, Turn right onto Fireside St, Turn left onto Mission Ave and you should see it from there but if not Turn left onto San Luis Rey Ave.  From Glendale, we would take the Antelope Valley line into LA Union Station and then the Orange County line down to Oceanside.  The Metrolink weekend pass ($10 all day) is a better deal than the Amtrak fare, plus you don't need bicycle reservations.

7) Mission San Diego

From the Glendale Metrolink Station, take the Antelope Valley line into LA Union Station and then the Orange County line down to Oceanside. Transfer to a Coaster train and ride south to San Diego - Old Town stop. Take Taylor Street NorthEast around Presidio Park. Taylor turns into Hotel Cir S. After passing Bachman, follow Hotel Cir under the I-8 and then take a right on Camino De La Reina. Travel 2 miles East. Three quick zig-zag: Turn left onto Qualcomm Way, Turn right onto Rio San Diego Dr, Turn left onto Rio Bonito Way, then Slight right onto Friars Rd for 1.1 mile. Take the Mission Village Dr ramp, Turn right onto Mission Village Dr, Turn left onto San Diego Mission Rd and follow that for less than 1 mile. The mission will be on the left at Booth Hill Rd. The COASTER train is $11.00 round trip for 3 zones (Oceanside --> Old Town).

Friday, September 11, 2015

Go Metro

Metro operates four light rail lines (Blue, Green, Gold and Expo). Light rail is similar to a tram, it may operate on or parallel to surface streets, but with a right-of-way.  Metrolink/Amtrak trains are: larger, travel longer distances, have a lower frequency of service, and connect suburbs with urban centers.  Metro light rail trains cover the more urban areas, operate more frequently, have a greater number of stops, and if you are traveling with a bicycle you must stand with it.

My previous post was mainly centered around commuter rail lines (Amtrak/Metrolink/COASTER).  A map of the activities I listed there is shown below, and linked here.

State/National Park Destinations via Commuter Rail
I absolutely love the guide Metro has put together of things to do at (or near) its stations 
The only thing is that many of the destinations marked on there are for shopping or have high cost of admission.

Ideas for Bicycle/Pedestrian Tourism

(1) Lake Balboa (6300 Balboa Bl) is off the Balboa stop on the Orange Line, which is actually a bus.  Riding a bike all the way there is possible, but the subway (red line) to the NoHo station and bus (orange line) to Balboa is also possible.  Maybe we could ride public transportation one way and ride bikes back.

(2) LA County Arboretum (301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007) is off the Gold line at Sierra Madre Villa.  A 2 mile walk East on Foothill Blvd. then South on Baldwin Ave will get you there.  Adults are $9, students with ID are $6.

(3) Norton Simon Museum (411 W Colorado Bl) is off the Gold line at Memorial Park. Less than 1 mile West on Colorado Blvd and $12 will get you in. Admission is free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

There is a cool exhibit at the museum right now that echoes the theme of "National Chemistry Week"
it's called "A Revolution of the Palette" and shows how chemists created colors for artists
The exhibit is on display through January 4th, 2016
(4) Old LA Farmer's Market (every Tuesday from 3PM to 7PM) is off the Gold line at Highland Park. Barbeque pits are available at Sycamore Grove Park (6150 Piedmont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90042).

(5) Historic Downtown Farmer's Market (every Sunday from 9am-2pm) 2 blocks from the Pershing Square station on the Red or Purple line.

(6) Grand Park Farmer's Market (Tuesday from 10am - 2pm) off the Civic Center station of the Red or Purple line.

(7) Hollywood Farmer's Market (Sunday from 8am-1pm) off the Red Line station at Hollywood/Vine.

(8) Central Avenue Farmer's Market (Thursday from 10am-3pm) off the Blue line at Vernon.  Walk West on Vernon to North 2 blocks on Central.
The "National Chemisty Week" theme also deals with the chemistry of natural pigments in foods
(9) Barnsdall Farmer's Market (Monday from 11am-4pm) off the Red line at Vermont/Sunset.  Walk NorthWest to the Barnsdall Art Park.

(10) Watts Healthy Farmer's Market (Saturday from 10am-2pm) is West from the 103rd Street/Watts Towers station of the Blue line.

(11) Mar Vista Farmer's Market (Sundays from 9am-2pm) Grand View at Venice Blvd.  Take the Expo line to Culver City, ride toward the beach (downhill) on Venice Blvd. Market will be on your left. Culver West Alexander Park (4162 Wade St, Los Angeles, CA 90066) has 3 barbeque grills.

(12) The Grove Farmer's Market (6333 W.3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90036) has Pan Pacific Park nearby, which has BBQ pits. Taking the Purple line to Wilshire/Western and biking North on Western, West on 4th St, North on S Cochran Ave, and West on 3rd St will get you there.  The Grove is open 7 days a week.

Destinations via Bus, Bike & Light Rail
(13) Glassell Park Farmer's Market (3150 North San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA 90065) is on Saturdays from 10am-3pm at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center. There is a pretty big park called Ernest E. Debs Regional Park (4235 Monterey Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90032) that has barbeque pits.  From the Glendale Metrolink, you would go down San Fernando Rd and take Eagle Rock Blvd to York Blvd.  Then Ave 50/52 South towards the park entrance.

(14) Burbank Farmer's Market (N 3rd St & E Orange Grove Ave, Burbank, CA 91502) is Saturdays from 8am-12:30pm.

(15) Toluca Lake Farmer's Market (4500 Sancola Ave, Toluca Lake, CA 91602) is open Sunday from 9:30am-2:30pm.

(16) Echo Park Farmer's Market (1125 Logan St, Los Angeles, CA 90026) is Fridays from 3pm-7pm.

(17) Glendale Farmer's Market (Chess Park, 227 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203) Thursdays from 2-7pm.

(18) South Pasadena Farmer's Market (Meridian Ave & El Centro St, Pasadena, CA 91101) off the Gold line at South Pasadena Station. Open Summer Hours Thursday 4-8pm.

Burbank Farmer's Market
(19) Old Pasadena Farmer's Market (E Holly St at Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103) on Sundays from 9am-2pm. Accessible from the Gold line Memorial Park Station.

(20) Montrose Harvest (2300 Honolulu Avenue at Ocean View Boulevard) Sunday from 9am-2pm.

One of our crazy ideas is to take people to a farmer's market to buy produce.  Then we could find a park and set up a camping stove or use publicly available outdoor BBQ grills.  We would have a picnic/cookout with the items purchased at the Farmer's Market.  All of this could be accomplished using public transportation together with bicycles!

National Chemistry Week (NCW) is celebrated the week of Mole Day (10/23/15)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Glendale Active Lifestyle Meetup

Ideas for Bicycle Tourism 

At most California state parks, Day Use Fees are charged for parking only. There is no charge to walk or bike into these parks.

Poppy Reserve
(1) Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536) from the Lancaster Metrolink Station (44812 Sierra Hwy, Lancaster, CA 93534) is a 16-18 mile bike ride, depending on which route one chooses to bike from the station to the park.  Best time to visit is in the spring (March).
Placerita Canyon
(2) Placerita Canyon State Park (19152 Placerita Canyon Rd, Newhall, CA 91321) from the Santa Clarita Metrolink Station (22122 Soledad Canyon Rd, Santa Clarita, CA 91350) 7-10 miles by bicycle, depending on the route from the station to the park.

Santa Susana Pass
(3) Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park (10215-10265 Larwin Ave, Chatsworth, CA 91311) from the Chatsworth Metrolink Station (10046 Old Depot Plaza Rd. Chatsworth, CA 91311) less than 3 miles apart.

Crystal Cove
(4) Crystal Cove State Park (Reef Point Dr, Newport Coast, CA 92657) from the Irvine Metrolink Station (15215 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618) 14-16 miles depending on which route you choose.

San Clemente
(5) San Clemente State Beach (225 Avenida Califia, San Clemente, CA 92672) is 3 miles from the San Clemente Metrolink Station (1850 Avenida Estacion, San Clemente, CA 92672) and 2 miles from San Clemente Pier Metrolink Station (615 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA 92672).

Lake Perris
(6) Lake Perris State Recreation Area (17801 Lake Perris Drive, Perris, CA 92571) is 20-25 miles from the Riverside-La Sierra Metrolink Station (10901 Indiana Ave., Riverside, CA 92503).

(7) Carlsbad State Beach (3901-3915 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008) from the Oceanside Metrolink Station (235 S. Tremont St., Oceanside, CA 92054) is 4 miles.

Torrey Pines
(8) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (12600 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037) is 6 miles from the Solana Beach COASTER train station (105 North Cedros Ave. Solana Beach, CA 92075)

Point Mugu
(9) Point Mugu State Park (9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265) is 12-14 miles from the Oxnard Metrolink station (201 E 4th St, Oxnard, CA 93030).

Emma Wood
(10) Emma Wood State Beach (Park Access Rd at Pacific Coast Hwy, Ventura, CA 93001) is 7-9 miles from the East Ventura Metrolink station (6175 Ventura Blvd., Ventura, CA 93003)

September 26, 2015 is National Public Lands Day.  On this day, the entrance fee to all national parks will be waived! 

(1) Cabrillo National Monument (1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106) from the COASTER train station (1050 Kettner Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101) is 10-13 miles.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Metro's Active Transportation Plan needs your input!

Good advice lasts.  I remember hearing a talk in November of 2008 entitled "Leading Professional and Institutional Change through Subversion, Revolution and Meterology."  The speaker was Debra R. Rolison of the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory. She told us about the Rule of 18, which states that when you take a new research direction, it will take 18 months to get yourself up to speed in the [new] area.

Last week I attended an Open House Workshop about active transportation in the San Fernando Valley. I didn't study transportation planning or urban design in school, so it has taken some time to learn the ins and outs of the transit system here in Southern California.  I will try to explain some of the basics here so that you can take part in the conversation, too.

Metro is the major operator of bus and rail service in Los Angeles County, California.  Metro hosted the first round of Open House Workshops as part of the development of the Active Transportation Strategic Plan.  Active transportation refers to any form of human-powered transportation – walking, cycling, using a wheelchair, in-line skating or skateboarding. There are many ways to engage in active transportation, whether it is walking to the bus stop, or cycling to school/work.

Councils of governments (CoGs—also known as regional councils, regional commissions, regional planning commissions, and planning districts) are regional governing and/or coordinating bodies that exist throughout the United States. The Open House Workshop we attended was co-hosted by Metro and the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments (  The SFVCoG represents parts of Los Angeles County: Burbank, Glendale, San Fernando and Santa Clarita. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the nation's largest metropolitan planning organization, representing six counties, 191 cities and more than 18 million residents.

When we arrived at the open house, there were posters on the perimeter of the room and Metro provided copies of the posters in 8.5" x 11" format.  We scanned them and some are posted here.  The pillars of Metro's Active Transportation Strategic Plan are:
  • Acess to transit
  • Physical activity as an integral part of transit
  • Enhancing safety
  • Promoting clean transit
  • Improving public health
  • Nurturing equitable/sustainable communities
The objectives of the strategic plan are to (1) identify improvements to 661 Metro transit stations (2) create a regionally-integrated active transportation network (3) develop policies that support education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation (4) to propose a funding strategy so that local jurisdictions and community partners can work together with Metro to enhance the overall quality of the transportation network.

The "First Last Mile" concept is used to describe difficulty in getting people from a transportation hub (rail or bus) to their final destination. When people live and work in lower-density suburbs that are not within walking distance to existing public transportation options, transit use is less practical. Population density in suburban areas promotes a reliance on cars, which results in more traffic congestion, pollution, and urban sprawl.  Metro is aiming to help more people access Metro stations more safely and more conveniently, as well as making bus and light rail station improvements.

Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. Complete Streets allow for safe travel by those walking, bicycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods. Complete Streets offer improved safety, health, economic, and environmental outcomes for ALL roadway users.

Every subregion has its own mobility plan.  Metro's responsibility is to weave these together to maximize efficiency and reduce redundancy in planning. Measure R was a ballot measure during the November 2008 elections in Los Angeles County that levied a half-cent sales taxes increase on each dollar of taxable sales for 30 years in order to pay for transportation projects and improvements. There are currently 12 transit and 16 highway projects underway.  Also, 5 rail lines are under construction.

California Senate Bill 743 gives us an opportunity to promote sustainability, improve air quality, reduce city congestion by encouraging car owners to walk or bike instead.  Miguel Nunez emphasized the demand for a bicycle network that can attract a variety of cyclists, by creating safe routes that traverse the LA county subregion.  He noted that active transportation projects can be completed more quickly and at a lower cost than highway improvements.  Metro is looking to maximize their return on investment.  Some ideas: parklets (for pedestrians to stop and rest in the shade), and bikeshare programs (for bike-curious residents that do not currently own bicycles).

Metro has compiled 0.5 mile radius and 3 mile radius "walkshed" data.  One such compilation is shown here.  These data will be publicly available so that cities can use it when applying for grants.  After this, the workshop split into Breakout Sessions: (1) Potential Collaborations and Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Implementation of Active Transportation Plans (2) Regional Network Desire Lines.  Tham Nguyen of Metro encouraged all attendees to take an online survey and share the link.

Metro hopes to answer questions like:

  • What are the gaps in the transit network?
  • What would it take to get residents out of their cars?  

The deadline for responses has been extended to September 30, 2015 so there's still time to participate.  Please share the link with your friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

The first breakout session I went to was about barriers to implementation of active transportion infractructure.  The conclusions boiled down to (1) lack of leadership at the local level (2) lack of oversight at the local level, cities are not held accountable to make proposed changes (3) lack of community support for "road diets" (4) lack of feasability studies, there is a need for data showing that active transportation infractructure actually enhances communities (5) generalized resistance to change at the neighborhood level.  Some of the solutions proposed were: 
  • educate anti-bike lane folks that we're not taking anything away, just using leftover space
  • being "strategic" in the implementation of projects, doing community outreach first
  • call something a "pilot program" so that if it REALLY doesn't work, you can remove it, but people are more willing to be open-minded to change if it's not going to be permanent, when they see how the change improves livability then they won't let you undo it
  • get signatures from the community members (both "for" and "against" projects) compare numbers
  • propose projects as a "bundle," putting cycletracks together with lighting & sidewalks so that residents either get all-or-nothing
  • Metro (or their hired consultants) could attend city council meetings to present proposed projects, as a non-biased community outsider, the data showing decrease in accidents and slowdowns might be more convincing than an angry resident or crazy bike person
  • designate a regional spokesperson who can attest to the improvement in safety, economic development/revitalization, and quality of life for communities with "complete streets"
  • CicLAvia is one of the greatest agents of change because of its transient nature.  It's a demonstration of what protected bike lanes could look like.  It shows businesses how increasing cyclist access actually impacts their bottom line
The second breakout session I went to was about regional network desire lines.  I spoke with Mark Seinen about regional routes from Glendale to Pasadena and Claremont (East), from Glendale to Northridge and Chatsworth (NorthWest), from Glendale to Venice Beach (South), etc.  The Hyperion bridge may not go the way of cyclists, but we marked it as a "Desire Line" anyway.  We noted that certain scenic routes were better candidates for a cycletrack than other more straightforward routes.  Understanding that these plans are for the next 30 years, we heard that there may eventually be a cycletrack along the Ventura County Metrolink rail line that would be a more direct path to CSUN from Glendale.  Of course, we don't know where we'll be living by then so our input was for the greater good of residents from all corners of Los Angeles County.  In retrospect, events like CicLAvia have given us the opportunity to ride throughout the region.  Being dedicated to car-free travel, regardless of the distance, before we really learned how to use the light-rail, gave us insight into desirable regional connectors.  When you bike the landscape, you get to know the landscape.

A second round of workshops will be in Fall-Winter of 2015 and round three will be in Spring 2016.  Since this is a long-term project plan, we may not see immediate action, but it would be good to have a diverse range of community input.  Metro cannot prioritize enhancements to our neighborhoods without feedback from the residents who live and travel through them.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Raymer to Bernson Double Track Project

Stefan Mayer (far right with bicycle) of Northridge claims that he takes the Metrolink to downtown LA.  He spoke at the Raymer to Bernson Double Track Project Community Open House Meeting at Lorne Street Elementary School on August 25, 2015.  In his public comment, he said that when he rides Metrolink he finds himself in an empty train car.  His reasoning for being against the double track project involves his statement that ridership on Metrolink is nowhere near capacity, therefore a second track and an expansion of commuter train schedules is unnecessary.  If you see this man on a Metrolink train car and there are other passengers there, please take a photo.

Many other Northridge residents (who live near the train tracks) spoke out in opposition to the safety improvements to at-grade crossings and upgrades to the Northridge Metrolink station.  Of the 18 residents that spoke at the meeting, Stefan was the only one who admitted to riding the train.  I would encourage all of those residents to read the latest issue of Metrolink Matters where the Woods family of Chatsworth wrote about taking their family to San Juan Capistrano on Metrolink.  The Woods family lives near the Chatsworth Metrolink station and it piqued their curiosity about the regional rail network.

Even though Mr. Woods attended Cal State Northridge, no one in his family had ever taken the train before.  They didn't know how the system worked or how far it traveled.  Once Mr. Woods did a bit of studying, he was impressed by the scope and scale of the Metrolink rail network.  They noted that while they hear loud safety horns when outside the train, from inside the train it is a completely different perspective: cool, quiet, and cozy.  With the exception of Mr. Mayer, I would encourage all residents who live near a Metrolink station to consider actually riding the train.  You may realize that your home's proximity to a commuter hub is actually an asset and not a liability.

My husband and I live 1,320 ft (as the crow flies) from the Metrolink/Amtrak railroad tracks.  The at-grade crossings at Doran St and San Fernando Road and Brazil St and San Fernando Road are less than 1,800 ft away from our house.  Our previous residence in San Diego was only 423 feet from the Amtrak rail line.  We have never had the noise problems Northridge residents described at the Double Track Project Community Open House meeting, although some residents of Northridge charactarized the distance from their homes to the tracks on the order of tens of feet.  Living 2.5 miles from the Glendale Metrolink station is one of the best features of our current home and we would not move to a new house that was not of a similar distance from a major transit hub.

If Metro has agreed to collect noise and vibration data, allow them to survey your property.  Get a quantitative readout of the noise levels from existing rail traffic.  One of your own residents stated that excessive noise was being caused by a track in disrepair, which was repaired within 24 hours of his phone call to Metro explaining the situation.  It's not possible to fight population growth, if you are tired of waiting 4 minutes at rail crossings, your time is not more valuable than anyone else's.  Commuters fill rail cars on the Ventura County line every day.  If you don't believe this, take a look at our photos on bikecar101 and tell me that you can spot an empty rail car.

Stop patting yourselves on the back for gathering an anti-train mob.  Don't tell your children that trains are dangerous ticking time bombs.  Take your children for a ride on the train like the Woods family.  Show your children that it's possible to travel to fun destinations without a car.  Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for persons under the age of 34.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Psychic Benefits of Bicycling

Generally I try to write about scientific topics, or non-scientific topics in a quantitative way.  I'm having trouble finding articles that study the psychic benefits of riding a bicycle compared with other modes of transportation including driving a car, walking, or taking public transportation.  I'm surprised that some economist or ergonomics evaluator has not measured this.

I did find a good article called "Bicycle Blueprint" that articulates the benefits of bicycles:

  • does not operate on electricity or use a combustion engine, therefore it has a smaller (but not zero) carbon footprint, cyclists still have to eat!
  • is quiet and does not contribute to city noise pollution
  • fits neatly into the "door zone" of any street due to its small size, roadsharing is easy!
  • offers mechanical advantage, shoppers can carry goods in a basket or bags, and the weight can be borne by the bike
  • is "human-scale," not some giant metal box on wheels

The article also articulates the benefits of cycling:

  • control over the schedule, no waiting for a bus or train, but there are still stoplights and stop-signs to obey
  • offers some (but not too much) exercise
  • allows the rider to be more interactive with the environment: smells, sounds, sights
Psychic cost is "incurred directly due to emotions that a certain kind of activity engenders." As David Brooks wrote in a NY Times Op-Ed, "The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting." This is known as the commuter's paradox. People think that the time savings associated with driving will provide a greater psychic benefit, when in reality we forget that driving has a great deal of unpredictability and we are disappointed when it takes longer than it should.  Therefore driving has a greater psychic cost than cycling.

Many experiments, albiet some non-scientific ones, have shown that cycling beats driving.

I really liked the calculation in "Bicycle Blueprint" that showed for an equivalent number of calories (or Joules of energy) a cyclist can travel 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and an automobile 100 feet. Even without a quantitative metric for psychic cost/benefit, that's pretty powerful math.