Whose Streets? Our Streets!

I had planned to ride the much touted and controversial Crash Marathon Bicycle Ride at 4:30 am. However laziness prevailed and I decided to stay close to home and watch the 29th Annual Los Angeles Marathon in my hood. The City of Los Angeles closed Sunset in Silverlake to vehicular traffic, thereby opening the streets for cyclists, skateboarders, walkers and runners. Due to CicLAvia’s popularity, street closures now become an impromptu open street festival for neighbors to relax, play and meet.

Last year Marathon Crash racers awaiting the start

Last year Marathon Crash racers awaiting the start

I awoke to the sound of helicopters following the core amateur running group. When I walked down to Sunset Boulevard, there were crowds of runners barely moving up the hill on Sunset toward Polka Dot Plaza at Maltman. Neighbors streamed out onto the streets cheering on participants by slapping Dodger Blue plastic inflatable rods together yelling, “Good job! You’re almost up the hill! You can do it!” Others congregated at Morning Nights Cafe in the plaza seated at the plaza’s green tables and chairs. Locals crowded Millie’s Cafe, across Sunset from the plaza, cheering on the marathoners.

Children showed off their skateboarding skills while families from the neighborhood walked and waved as they marched down the middle of Sunset, like they were in a parade and we waved back at them yelling, “Yay! Good job!” While people on bicycles respected the marathoners’ space and rode along side them ringing cowbells to motivate the runners.

Skateboarder and runners enjoying the open streets--what could be better?

Skateboarder and runners enjoying the open streets–what could be better?

Some of my neighbors gathered at Triangle park next to Polka Dot plaza and watched the runners go by. Most of our dogs were off leash because the threat of cars was diminished. My little dog Karma finally got to chase the pigeons without me worrying that she would run into a massive SUV hurriedly trying to make a right turn.

Neighbors enjoy polka dot park on a car free Sunday

Neighbors enjoy polka dot park on a car free Sunday

Karma in Triangle park without a leash

Karma in Triangle park without a leash

This is what open street events do for a community. It makes neighbors meet one another without the metal barrier of the automobile. People crossed Sunset without having to push a beg button and race a 20 seconds cross sign countdown, while running for their lives because of impatient drivers making a left hand turn. There’s no noise or dirty fumes from the relentless parade of cars. Just the voices of children laughing and people talking.

Here are some pictures of today’s open streets festival. I even saw a bakfiet in the wild. A father and his children taking advantage of the wide open streets. I was talking to neighbors when he rode by so I missed that picture. Darn. One of my neighbors, Eric, asked, “Can we cross the street during this thing?” He’s usually in his car and couldn’t see the positive effects on the community. So I responded paraphrasing William Mulholland, “They’re your streets. Take it!”

A virtual cool chocolate cheesecake to all the participants–marathoners and neighbors–from velobakery. Good job everyone!

A cool Chocolate Cheesecake for the win

A cool Chocolate Cheesecake for the win

Neighborhood families parading the route

Neighborhood families parading the route

The LA Marathon attracted a diverse group of runners. LA's bike community can learn from the running community on outreach to people of color.

The LA Marathon attracted a diverse group of runners. LA’s bike community can learn from the running community on outreach to people of color.

A couple enjoying the calm streets

A couple enjoying the calm streets

A man cheers on the runners while a bicyclist joins the route

A man cheers on the runners while a bicyclist joins the route

More runners

More runners

Locals and marathoners walking together
Locals and marathoners walking together

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Active Shopping

Even though I’ve worked as a chef, food shopping is right up there with cleaning the toilet. To get through it, I’d invite friends along hoping they’d distract me from the onerous chore and I could get in and out quickly. It worked….too well. My friends were so successful that I usually forgot what I wanted to buy and had to drive back to the store to pick up one or two items.

 I really needed to change my attitude because it was costing me too much time in return trips, so I started Actively Shopping. Active shopping is simply using your bike or feet to travel to and from the store. Anyone can do it and I guarantee shopping will not be draining, boring or time sapping. All you need is a pair of feet to walk or a bike to roll. You also need to have something that will carry eggs, maple syrup or even a watermelon.  Shopping suddenly became more enjoyable, less stressful and I didn’t forget anything. It was the end of wasted time and return trips.

 Silverlake's Farmers' Market always attracts cyclists

Silverlake’s Farmers’ Market always attracts cyclists

My Saturday began with shopping at Silverlake’s Farmers’ Market. I had to walk my dog, so I made a side trip with Karma my Tibetan Terrier. I managed to buy all of my produce before 9am, worked off some calories and Karma did her business. Three errands down within an hour.

 I had a craving for salmon, which meant a trip downtown to Restaurant Depot. I’ve done this trip several times before on my bike and it’s around seven miles. To make things interesting I decided to check out the new bike lanes on 7th street and try out the lanes on Rampart.

The lanes on Rampart went further than I expected. Usually LA DOT does the minimal like painting a bike lane for three blocks and it connects to nothing. They didn’t skimp this time – I rode nearly to 6th street before the lanes ended.

 That’s where I became confused.

 I made a left onto 7th…no bike lanes. What happened to the bike lanes? I was suddenly in traffic lanes with cars travelling at freeway speeds. The road was the typically neglected LA street and there were no bike lanes even as I rode into downtown. The street ended at Grand and that was when I realized that I was on Wilshire – one of the most miserable boulevards in the City. I finally rode a few blocks onto 7th. The redesign is better than fighting for space with aggressive drivers.

After riding in 80 degree temps for 40 minutes, I was inside what has to be the largest store cooler in Los Angeles – Restaurant Depot’s cold room.

My shopping cart.

My shopping cart

After buying 5 ½ pounds of salmon, I decided to visit my sister in the Toy district. It’s only two miles away. The Toy district is one of the early gentrified areas of downtown. The Toy and Biscuit Lofts are one of the few lofts where they’re owned by residents and not leased. Urban Radish, a new upscale grocery store, recently moved into the hood.

No bike parking here. No wonder there's a lot of cars in the lot.

No bike parking here. No wonder there’s a lot of cars in the lot.

There’s no bike parking because most everyone arrives by car. Some people walk from the neighboring lofts, but I saw most leave the shop and hop in a car.

Kale chips!

Kale chips!

I couldn’t afford to keep a car and shop at this place. $6.75 for roasted kale?! I asked the manager if they planned to have bike parking. Her eyes widened and she said, “Probably next week.” Then she turned and practically ran away. No, I didn’t understand that one either.

My favorite mural. The Bridgestone packing 5 1/2 lbs. of salmon.

My favorite mural. The Bridgestone packing 5 1/2 lbs. of salmon.

I planned to ride back to Silverlake and check out the new lanes through the 2nd street tunnel, but the salmon won out (I couldn’t let it spoil), so I rode another mile to Union Station instead.

Getting tired active shopping? Jump on a train

Getting tired active shopping? Jump on a train

I met a guy on the train who was from Paris. He’d borrowed a friend’s bike to get around LA just like he did in Paris.

Once I started using active shopping I could shop, sight see and get exercise. I felt relaxed and stress free as I rode up the hill to my apartment on my bike with a basket full of salmon.

Dinner--salmon, sweet potato and Thai broccoli

Dinner–salmon, sweet potato and Thai broccoli

The new sexy vegetable is kale. Every high end restaurant, pseudo-nutritionist and farmers’ market touts it as the hot new vegetable that protects us from cancer and our heart from arterial disease, while at the same time maintaining our waistline. Instead of succumbing to the hype and paying $6.75 for roasted kale, you can make the same thing at home from a bunch of kale costing $1.

What you need is 1 bunch of kale

Olive oil

Sea salt

Seasoning of your choice

The first thing you must do is soak kale to remove the sand. You may have to soak it several times by draining the water and filling up the sink to it soak again.

kale soaking

kale soaking

Then spin it dry with a salad spinner. Wrap it in paper towels and put it in the refrigerator for 1 day to dry completely.

Spread kale on a sheet pan and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with your seasoning of choice. I chose hot curry. Sprinkle salt to taste and then mix the kale leaves with your hands to ensure that the oil, seasoning and salt covers each leaf. Set in a preheated oven at 325 degrees and bake until crispy. That’s it.

kale with hot curry seasoning

kale with hot curry seasoning

roasted kale

roasted kale

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Virgil Begins the New Year on a Diet

I travel across Virgil nearly everyday (or as much as my laziness allows) to a workout class. Again I’m trying to start the new year with the obligatory resolutions like ‘lose weight’ and ‘get into shape.’ My desire to work off the holiday’s excess trumps my laziness right now so I decided to ride my bike over to Crossfit Silverlake on Monday. During my “start the new year off right” jaunt, I came upon this on Virgil:

Virgil closed for repaving--Is this the start of the promised new bike lanes?

Virgil closed for repaving–Is this the start of the promised new bike lanes?

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The next day, Tuesday, laziness won out (so much for resolutions) so I didn’t have a chance to see the Virgil’s progress. Wednesday, New Year’s Day, I rode to Crossfit again and they’ve completely paved the road plus dot it with plastic post-its to mark the temporary travel lanes. The construction workers were off enjoying their holiday.

Post-its marking the temporary travel lanes

Post-its marking the temporary travel lanes

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These lanes are a culmination from the community’s demand to remake their streets safer for walkers, joggers, strollers and people riding bicycles. I attended a community outreach meeting several months ago for the proposed bike lanes on Virgil between Santa Monica and Melrose and they are part of City of Los Angeles’s 2010 Bike Plan.

So one week goes by–nothing–no work.

On my second week of good intentions, I’m back riding my bike to my Crossfit class. I’m surprised by a painted middle lane the separates the northbound traffic from the southbound. A turn lane has been added. Looks like a traditional road diet I think to myself. But wait. What’s this? There’s only one northbound lane which is what I expected but there are still two southbound lanes, plus parking on either side of the street. I’m confused by this configuration much like I’m confused my propensity to gain weight so easily over the holidays. Still there are no bike lanes. No paint markings just parked cars where there should be bike lanes.

Northbound's single lane

Northbound’s single lane

Southbound has two lanes

Southbound has two lanes

I miss the morning class the next day and discard my good intentions like the dried up christmas trees I see next to many homeowners’ green trash bins. Instead of beating myself up for missing class I decide to ride over to the evening class.

There are continental crosswalks!

Continental crosswalks at Virgil and Lexington

Continental crosswalks at Virgil and Lexington

After two weeks of waiting for the bike lanes, they finally arrive. These bike lanes connect to the bike lanes that begin at Virgil and Santa Monica on Santa Monica Boulevard to nearly Sunset. They stop abruptly before Sunset Junction. The new Virgil bike lanes also connect to the ones on Myra to Effie.

New lanes on Virgil

New lanes on Virgil

Virgil isn’t the only one starting the new year on a diet, my Crossfit coach decided it would be good to leave our excesses behind with the previous year and start the new year with a Paleo Challenge. For those who have been living in a bomb shelter or the space station, the Paleo diet is now all the rage. Like any band wagon diet, it cuts out a lot of tasty grains and replaces them with lots of meats. It’s suppose to mimic what a caveman and women ate back in the day.

Gone are the kamut flour biscuits now there’s almond flour ones, because cavemen picked almonds off the tree and milled their own flour. Gone is brown rice and in its place–cauliflower rice–because cavewomen were harvesting cauliflower florets, even though their origins are traced to the mediterranean in 600 BC. Why let facts get in the way of a sexy new diet?!

Here’s my Paleo take for breakfast: salmon and cauliflower hash with almond flour biscuits. The salmon croquettes made with almond meal, eggs, onions and jalapeños make up the hash along with the boiled cauliflower. The biscuit is actually a combination of almond and coconut flour.

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salmon and cauliflower hash with an almond flour biscuit in the foreground and kamut flour biscuit background

Oh look. How did that kamut flour biscuit get in the background? That’s not Paleo! I now find diets, no matter how sexy, worthless. I did this Paleo Challenge back in August and lost ZERO pounds, so I don’t subscribe to anymore diets. But I did tell my coach that I would try…

Road diets like Virgil are the prescription a community demands from the excesses of bloated boulevards serving only those driving in cars. However like most diets we never seem to make them go far enough where it becomes a permanent change or lasting solution. If we want real change, it has to begin in our minds and our behaviors. Painting a line of the road doesn’t make permanent lasting change. Nope. That comes by deciding as a community enough of the temporary fixes. Let’s refashion our streets for everyone–walkers, rollers and riders to use safely and securely.

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Unequal Access

 

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never did and it never will.”

–Frederick Douglas

In 1965 African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge to protest for equal access to jobs, housing, citizenship and to be able to move freely throughout the United States without harassment. Just as the Black community in Montgomery, Alabama set the example by using a bridge as a symbol of equal access, the residents of Silverlake and Atwater, at a public meeting in Friendship Auditorium in Los Feliz, demanded equal access to the Hyperion/Glendale Bridge–a bridge that spans the two communities, yet is only safely accessible by an automobile.

For the last 50 years safe access across the Hyperion/Glendale Bridge has been limited to people driving cars. Sidewalks that begin on the Silverlake side of the bridge narrow to a few inches and then finally disappear altogether, leaving walkers stranded between two car travel lanes with the majority of motorists reaching speeds up to 55 mph or more. Bike lanes are none existent, which leaves bicyclists traveling from Atwater to Silverlake with an especially harrowing ride as the bridge rounds a curve and inclines. The motorists come up behind the bicyclist taking the curve at 55 mph or more as they step on the gas to power up the hill.

Every afternoon children from King Middle and Marshall High schools, with mostly brown faces, traverse the bridge on foot from Silverlake toward Atwater. At the public meeting one teenager in a yellow jersey spoke about how frightening it is for him to ride his bike across the bridge to and from school. These young people do not have parents who can leave work and pick them up. Many of their families do not have the luxury of owning a car, period.

Instead of designing the ¼ mile bridge to be accessible, inviting and visually appealing for everyone, the project engineers proposed four-foot gutter shoulders that bicyclists might be able to use,  removed the entire sidewalk on one side of the bridge, while the speeds for motorists will continue to be as designed–55 mph. A crosswalk will only be placed on the north side of the bridge–near the area of Atwater with higher incomes and higher housing prices.

After viewing the proposal and presentation, it was clear to me and to the 45 people who spoke against the design (only three supported it) that this was a design intended for motorists. I had envisioned a bridge with a protected walking path, with a bike lane, with benches to sit on to admire a revitalized Los Angeles River and a bridge where there were two lanes of car traffic that move slowly and safely across the river, allowing everyone access to this historic bridge. Sadly, the City engineers didn’t seem to share that vision.

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The Holy Grail. A design that considers all users. By RAC Design

After the meeting ended my friend Matthew Mooney greeted Mayor Garcetti’s representative Matt Szabo and asked what the next steps would be. Szabo mentioned something to the effect of not wanting to be locked into a bike lane design as well as some nonsense about building the bridge as it is proposed now and adding bike lanes down the line. I stopped listening at that point because to me it was the same platitude that I’ve heard before. The same platitude the African-Americans who struggled for access to the American Dream, who struggled across the Edmund Pettus Bridge had heard for generations:  “Just wait. Change will come. You’ll get your rights in the future.”

The future can be now. Of course the Powers That Be want us to wait, want us to go away so they can have their Federal Funding and complete the bridge for car usage only. We have plenty of bridges in Los Angeles that cater to the motorist–that are automobile arteries. Do we really need another?

Right now, we have the chance to make a positive change for everyone who lives, works and recreates in Silverlake, Atwater and Los Feliz. This Bridge can be a safe destination and portal for all people whether they walk, bike, or drive. We’ve had 50 years favoring one mode of transportation. Let the next 50 years favor all.

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Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing

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That 70’s Show

I’m not a TV watcher, but lately I’ve been watching Columbo and the Sixth Sense, shows from the seventies. I find myself looking at the styles – the clothing, the hair, the makeup – the landscapes, and the skyline of Los Angeles with a feeling of nostalgia. I recently experienced that same feeling at the Hyperion/Glendale Viaduct community meeting while viewing the proposed changes to the Hyperion/Glendale Bridge. I thought I had entered a space-time continuum and traveled to the 70s. All that was missing were the mutton chop sideburns, porn mustaches, bib ties, and wide lapels. 

This wasn’t your typical ask and answer community meeting. Five or six stations had been created with a placard above each station stating its intended purpose –  history, traffic pattern, bike/pedestrian safety, etc. At each station an engineer was present and as I walked to each station, I overheard each of them making excuses as to why there couldn’t be bike lanes.

Then I heard:  “Ladies and gentlemen if you would take your seats and we will now watch a movie about the Glendale Hyperion project.”  The announcement was done in that seventies game-showy voice. At first the people were startled, and then somewhat amused as they took their seats.

MC Game Showy voice in front of the historic preservation station

MC Game Showy voice in front of the historic preservation station

In the beginning of the movie, Mayor Garcetti introduced the project. He was followed by Councilman Tom LaBonge and finally Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. The movie was a short history of the Bridge’s veteran memorial status, and then the lights came on.

Crowd listens to a councilman as he introduces the project

Crowd listens to a councilman as he introduces the project

“Ladies and gentlemen I invite you to go to each station and check out the displays and ask the engineers any questions you have,” said the MC Game-Showy voice. 

In this proposed restoration, there’s a crash barrier, wider car travel lanes, and the removal of the eastbound sidewalk, which would leave a sidewalk only on the westbound side of the bridge. A crosswalk would run only partially across the bridge and there is not one inch of bike infrastructure. This design would only make speeds faster for cars on the bridge and more dangerous for everyone else.  I am frustrated that these engineers continue to use the same road design playbook from the seventies. There is little to no creativity, and no consideration for modern traffic styles.  Yes, there are more cars on the road, but there are also more cyclists and pedestrians.

“Ladies and gentlemen we’ll conclude our meeting by going to each station and taking your comments and questions.”

At this point the MC Game-Showy voice had gone from slightly amusing to annoying. As we walk to the first station, most of the questions and comments are about the bike improvements. However the station is about the historic restoration of the bridge.

 “Does anyone have any question about the restoration? We’ll answer questions about that topic here,” MC Game-Showy voice interrupts, “Now let’s move over to our next station.”

This is the bike/pedestrian station. Engineer Jeff manning the station. Eric Bruins, Policy Director from LACBC, asks why LA’s 2010 Bicycle Plan or the Complete Streets mandate isn’t being followed? Engineer Jeff responds with something to the effect of not having any room. He then adds that, “We’re putting in a pedestrian/bike bridge.”

MC Game-Showy voice asks for a display of hands of who would use the ped/bike bridge. Half the people raise their hands. Now he asks who would continue using the Hyperion Highway bridge. I and the other half of the audience raise our hands. 

We now will have a break from my description of the meeting events for a message from our sponsor–also known as me…..

The problem with the new bike/ped bridge is this:  It’s inaccessible to folks coming from the Silverlake side. Right now, starting from Trader Joes on Hyperion, it takes me six minutes to get across Hyperion Highway’s bridge to Atwater, and it’s basically all downhill. With the proposed changes, I will have to ride my bike to Rowena, make a left, ride a ½ mile to Glendale Blvd., make another left travelling downhill and cross Riverside Dr., and then move onto the Westbound sidewalk on Glendale for another 1 mile. From there I have to dodge the cars crossing the I-5 freeway on-ramp, which are driving at freeway speeds, ride to the entrance of the LA River bike path, ride a ½ mile to the proposed bike/ped bridge, then travel uphill on this span to get to a park or something. My normal six minute ride had now increased to 30-45 minutes

 Like many people. I’m go to Atwater because that’s where the shops are. I do not use the LA River bike path to run errands, because its access points are not easy to reach. Besides it’s not connected to any shops. I use the bike path to recreate in Griffith Park. But if I want the nearest post office, I cross the bridge to Atwater. Dance classes – Atwater.  Restaurants – Atwater.  Bakeries – Atwater. Need to get to Glendale?  You guessed it – you go through Atwater.

LaBonge trying to put a good spin on a otherwise poorly thought out project

LaBonge trying to put a good spin on a otherwise poorly thought out project

Logic dictates that no one is going to use a pedestrian bridge which is out of their way. They and I are going to continue using Hyperion Highway Bridge.

We now return to the meeting….

The audience throws more questions at Engineer Jeff, and he becomes flustered. MC Game-Showy voice sensing the crowd’s frustration and anger intercedes:

“Ladies and gentlemen make sure you give us your comments. That’s how we will know to consider changes. Now we must move to the next station.”

 The next station was about safety. Again the audience starts peppering Engineer Jeff with questions regarding the lack of bike lanes. Alek Bartrosouf, Campaign and Policy Manager for LACBC, made the point that the increased speeds on the bridge made it unsafe for everyone, including those in cars.

Councilman O'Farrell thanking the engineers for their seventies's design

Councilman O’Farrell thanking the engineers for their seventies’s design

“How can you make this a freeway going through our neighborhoods?” asked Don Ward, a community member. As it is, the average speed is 60 mph.”

“Who drives 60 on the bridge?” asked another woman.

 “People drive at least 55 mph now.“ I chime in.

 “What’s the average speed now?” asks Ward.

Engineer Jeff says, “It’s 55 mph.“

 The audience lets out a collective groan.

 “What’s the proposed speed after the restoration?” asks Ward.

 “55 mph,” says Engineer Jeff, his tie askew, shirt disheveled and stomach peering out from under his shirt.

 “Ladies and gentlemen remember to give us your comments. We have to conclude this meeting. There will be time to speak with the engineers after the meeting,” MC Game-Showy voice says quickly as he tries to corral the audience away from Engineer Jeff and toward the last station.

 Most of all the other engineers and elected officials have long since left and I’ve grown tired of this dog and pony show, too.

Many of us went to the kitchen to retrieve our bikes, (Yes, that’s right, the bike parking was in the kitchen), Matthew Mooney, a Silverlake resident says, “And I thought we would have a bike path across the bridge akin to the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“That would take a lot more imagination from the engineers we have here,’ I say, “and it would have to take them out of the 20th century.”

 As we walk out in a line through the auditorium with the white and red lights flashing on our bikes, the remaining engineers clap. I still don’t know what they meant by that.

Some people remember the seventies as an era of the worst fashions – remember the pastel polyester leisure suit – or of the ushering in of the overly processed corporate baked goods, like green-colored jello with canned fruit cocktail and mayonnaise. I thought of an old favorite – the no-bake cookies. They’ve since fallen out of favor and I don’t understand why because they are so easy to make, and they taste delicious. But most importantly you don’t bake them!  Here’s the recipe.

 1/2 Cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine

2 Cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

4 Tbsp cocoa

1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla

3 -3 1/2 Cups dry quick-cooking oats

Put the first four ingredients in a pot and place it on a stovetop burner set to medium heat.  Allow the mixture boil for one minute then remove the pot from the burner and turn off the heat. Stir in the peanut butter until melted and add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Drop tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture onto a sheet pan covered with wax paper. Let cool until set.

 The time it takes to make these cookies is the same amount of time it takes me to get across the Hyperion Highway Bridge now. Why not make the bridge safer for everyone one who uses it? This is a decision that should be as natural and simple as it is to make these cookies.

 These cookies remind me of the seventies which many remember as a simpler time.  Unfortunately, the seventies also ushered in an era of unsafe infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians. It can be fun to look back at what happened in the past – fashion trends we can’t believe we embraced or the foods we were eating or even the politics of the time.  We can laugh about it.  We can learn about it.  We shouldn’t continue to live it.

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Virgil Village Wants Calming

Soup, hot or cold, is the best medicine to calm anyone. A hot chicken soup or minestrone in the winter or a tangy, cold raspberry soup in the summer is just what the doctor ordered. Soup doesn’t have to be made or eaten quickly; you can just relax and savor it. While riding to the Virgil Village Traffic Calming Plan meeting, I had an epiphany: If only drivers would slow down, calm down, there would be fewer collisions between them and pedestrians or bicyclists. When I arrived at the meeting, the community members had already reached that conclusion: Cars move too fast along the Virgil corridor, and we’re not putting up with it anymore.

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Many people arrived on bike to show their support for the propose lanes on Virgil

 Nate Baird, Bicycle Coordinator for LADOT, opened the meeting with a presentation of the new traffic calming on Virgil between Santa Monica and Melrose. The current configuration has parking at the curb, two travel lanes in each direction for cars, and no bike lanes. The new configuration would have parking at the curb, one bike lane in each direction, protecting the parked cars and one travel lane in each direction for cars.

A community member asks poses a questions to Nate and Councilmember O'Farrell

A community member asks poses a questions to Nate and Councilmember O’Farrell

“After studying the traffic impact of this project,” said Baird, “We decided it only has safety benefits. We expect that auto collisions will go down 30-50%. Bicycle and pedestrian collisions with cars will go down 30-50% also.”

Baird explained how, along with the safety benefits, there are social benefits. Since bicycling is on the rise, investment in bike lanes creates a better bike network, which invites new people to ride.  Some of those riders can replace a few of their car trips with a bicycle since many errands are within 3 miles of home.

“Survival rates are higher with reduced speeds plus the bike lane make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, because the traffic is slower,” said Baird.

Then it was time to take questions from the community. I began calming myself from the usual screeds complaining about bike lanes:  No one ever uses them; Bicyclists run stop signs. It’s the usual nonsense that always ends with the same conclusion–don’t take away our car lanes.

The first woman to stand asked about parking, “Will you remove parking on Virgil, because right now it’s hard to find a place to park?”

“No,” said Baird. “In fact there will be more parking because there will no longer be peak travel lanes when the bike lanes come.”

“Why doesn’t the bike lane go up to Fountain?” asks another man.

“There’s nothing stopping us from doing further analysis about extending the bike lanes,” said Baird. “But we want to wait and see how these lanes play out.”

A man who owns a barber shop on Virgil said, “I support the bike lanes, because no one cares about blowing through red lights. I have a business and most of my employees arrive by bike. I want the street safer for them. Can we get more enforcement?”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who arrived from a previous meeting, said, “We’ll request officers to write tickets as soon as we re-stripe the street.”

A woman who owns The Squirrel restaurant said, ”40% of my employees commute by bikes can we get speed bumps on Lockwood?”

O’Farrell replied, “We can look into it.”

Sensing there was no opposition from the community to add bike lanes, residents wanted more and better safety measures – measures that would keep a community safe and were geared towards pedestrians and cyclists, not cars and drivers.

“Can we get green bike lanes?” ask another community member.

“We’re still evaluating them,” said Baird.

“Will there be green bike boxes?” asks another.

“Haven’t planned to have them,” said Baird.

No. They're not guarding Nate from the unruly crowd.

No. They’re not guarding Nate from an unruly crowd.

Then he explained the concept of bike boxes and how they work. Green bike boxes tell the cyclist where to wait while the light is red. The green box is in front of a line of cars. It is designed to prevent a car from making a right hook in front of the bicyclist, thus preventing a collision.

“But we can be more strategic on the crosswalks,” said Baird. “The city now paints continental style crosswalks. You can see them at Santa Monica and Virgil’s intersection.”

O’Farrell sensing there was no opposition asked the audience, “By a show of hands who lives ½ mile from here?”

The majority of hands were raised.

He then appealed to the audience by asking if there was anyone against this project. No hands rose. O’Farrell continued by saying that “If anyone feels intimidated or scared to speak against this project, you can come and talk with me alone after the meeting.”

I don’t know if he had any takers, but it seemed like the community was fed up and tired of drivers speeding and whose only thoughts seemed to be for arriving at their destination as fast as possible, to the exclusion of the safety of anyone in the community.

Realizing that he had no takers who opposed the project, O’Farrell concluded the meeting by saying, ”This is a very pedestrian oriented neighborhood. We want to do anything we can to make the pedestrian experience safer.”

Like the Virgil Village Community wanting to slow the traffic in the corridors surrounding them, there is also a movement in the food community for slowly cooked, real foods. It’s called the Slow Food Movement. One of the slowest and easiest dishes to fix is, you guessed it, soup. With fall’s arrival and fresh ingredients from your local farmers market you can fix any type of soup. However, it’s nothing you have to speed through.

Start by making a vegetable broth. Sauté chopped onions until lightly browned, then add minced garlic and any chopped vegetable you plan to put in your soup. Continue to sauté until they are slightly browned. Then add nine cups of water and any herbs and spices you plan to put in your soup, like oregano, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper. That’s it. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes. Unlike meat-based soups, once vegetables give up their flavor there’s nothing more that you can do.

Now use the broth in whatever soup you plan to make. I made a lentil, vegetable minestrone with spinach.

Lentil minestrone soup with spinach. So good for your soul.

Lentil minestrone soup with spinach. So good for your soul.

Taking life at a slower pace cannot only save your loved one’s or someone else’s life but also your health. Instead of rushing to get to the next processed food drive through–slow down. If that’s impossible for you to do in a car–start riding your bike.

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