Archive for the ‘Road Riding’ Category

Amgen Tour of California Concludes May 23, 2010 in the Conejo Valley

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Route for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California

Route for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California

The Amgen Tour of California, a breathtaking 8-day cycling event covering California from north to south, is staging the final leg of its race in the Conejo Valley. Similar to the Tour de France, the Amgen Tour of California is known as the “greatest professional cycling event in North America.” The Cities of Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake Village have partnered to host Stage Eight of the thrilling race plus related events on Sunday, May 23 2010.

The Course: Beginning at The Oaks Shopping Center in Thousand Oaks, the race moves along Thousand Oaks Boulevard to Hampshire Road and enters into Westlake Village on Lakeview Canyon Road from Townsgate Road. The course continues down Agoura Road passing Westlake Village City Hall and into Agoura Hills. The riders then begin a 20-mile stretch, ascending more than 1,800 feet through the Santa Monica Mountains, including the famous “Rockstore Climb.” The fan-friendly course follows this circuit four times, for a total of 80 miles, giving residents several chances to see the action “up close and personal.”

The Finish Line and a Lifestyle Festival are located on Village Glen Road, near the Hyatt Westlake. Street closures to accommodate the many activities are planned; residents can bike, walk, or shuttle to the festivities with their families.

Organizers forecast large crowds for the entire weekend. Local hotels, shops and restaurants can expect heightened business, and streets will see an increase in foot and cyclist traffic. City officials are working closely with organizers to reduce traffic impacts. Traffic plans and closures will be announced prior to the event, however, delays when traveling in and around the race route area may occur.

This is a fantastic opportunity for people to experience the largest professional cycling event in North America. For more information on the event, including related local activities and a video of the race route, or to volunteer to help with the race, visit

Mexico City bicycle program pedals uphill

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Officials in Mexico’s capital have parked bikes in key areas and, for a fee, made them available to commuters in hopes of making a dent in the city’s aggressive car culture and improving the air.

The Ecobici program parks bikes in key spots in the capital for the use of commuters who pay an annual fee.

From the Los Angeles Times

 Take a vast, teeming megalopolis where the car is king, bicycle paths are few and motorists often seem determined to mow down anyone not tucked behind a steering wheel.

Now try talking residents into pedaling to work every day to help the environment.

That’s the task facing Mexico City officials, who have parked hundreds of bikes in busy neighborhoods in hopes of getting people to avoid cars and instead bicycle to the office, class or a lunch date.

The new project, called Ecobici, is modeled on bike-lending programs in such cities as Barcelona, Spain; Paris; and Copenhagen. Planners hope that by saturating certain Mexico City neighborhoods with the three-speed bikes, they can persuade residents to consider making cycling at least part of their daily commute.

Ecobici users pay a $24 yearly registration fee and get a membership card, which they can swipe across an electronic reader at any station to release a bicycle. Riders have free use for up to 30 minutes and are charged up to $3 an hour for longer intervals.

Yet it’s hard to envision a steeper road for bike commuting than chaotic, smoggy Mexico City, where 4 million vehicles joust for position and — this may sound familiar to Angelenos — many residents view riding the bus or subway as about as likely as space travel.

“A lot of people said, ‘You are crazy; bikes in Mexico City?’ But we have visited a lot of cities around the world that did it with success,” said Martha Delgado, environmental secretary for Mexico City’s government. “We have beautiful weather here. We need to recover space. We need to improve air quality.”

 So far, city officials have placed 1,100 bikes at 85 stations in several busy neighborhoods near downtown. The areas were chosen as promising proving grounds because they boast a mix of residences and businesses.

The sturdy-looking red-and-white bikes, outfitted with a headlight and rack for belongings, also are sprinkled along the city’s premier boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma. The bikes and equipment cost $6 million.

About 2,600 people have signed up, far from the eventual target of 24,000. But use is picking up, officials say.

On a recent day, Ivan Lemale, a 21-year-old student, pedaled one of the city-provided bikes along a tree-shaded boulevard in the La Condesa neighborhood as he headed to an appointment.

Lemale, a self-described environmentalist, said he was among the first to join when the program began in February. He said he has used the service regularly for short trips around the urban center.

Moments earlier, an aggressive taxi driver had nearly plowed into him on the busy avenue. But Lemale was looking on the bright side.

“Bicycles and cars can coexist very well. The only thing is respect,” he said. “That is the solution.”

The idea isn’t fun, but function. Mexico City leaders see bike borrowing as a key link in a public transportation chain that includes the 4-decade-old subway and a 5-year-old express bus system, called Metrobus, which operates on 24 miles of dedicated lanes.

The sprawling capital is too big to pedal from one end to the other on a daily basis. But officials hope commuters use the bikes for the first or last leg of their journeys, making it easier to rely on public transportation rather than driving or taking a taxi.

In a city that adds 250,000 vehicles to the streets each year, the goal of Ecobici is to increase the share of trips people take by bicycle to 5%, from 1% now. Residents make about 30 million trips a day.

Some people complain that the annual fee is too high. And a lack of information has many others scratching their heads over the rows of shiny bicycles that have popped up where coveted parking spaces used to be.

The biggest barrier to turning capitalinos into bike commuters is what cyclists say is the lack of a bicycling culture here. Though plenty of brave souls get around by bike, motorists often treat cyclists — and pedestrians — as irritants. Bike paths don’t always connect with one another and, in the most crowded areas, are often occupied by cars anyway.

Mexico City officials are trying to alter that thinking.

The government of Mayor Marcelo Ebrard clears traffic from Paseo de la Reforma and other thoroughfares Sunday mornings to make room for cyclists and joggers. The nearly 3-year-old recreational program is popular and has given residents a tempting taste of what a cycling life here might feel like.

In addition, authorities recently issued a new traffic code spelling out riders’ right to share lanes with cars and requiring motorists to slow down when passing bicycles. They envision a day when Mexico City — huge, tumultuous and car-centered — hops on a bike to get places.

“If we want to have a future,” said Delgado, the environmental secretary, “we have to open the door to bikes in Mexico City.”

Cyclists take on one of L.A.’s steepest hills

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Climbing Fargo Street in Echo Park is no easy task. One woman tipped over and tumbled into a bush. Other riders used a zig-zag approach.

At a whopping 33% incline, Fargo Street is one of the sharpest grades in L.A. Many never made it to the top. One man climbed the peak 51 times in a day.  

From the Los Angeles Times  

There are people who sprint with the bulls in Spain, and people who plunge into icy oceans on New Year’s Day.  

Then there are the several dozen men and women who gathered in Echo Park on Sunday morning at the bottom of a beastly hill and looked up. Before them stretched Fargo Street, one of the city’s steepest roads.  

The challenge: to climb it. On a bicycle. Without stopping.  

Some tried and failed. Falls were so common that no one blinked when a woman tipped over halfway up the hill and tumbled violently into a bush on the side of the street.  

But many triumphed. More than half of the 105 people who signed up made it to the top, where they were greeted with cheers and dazzling views of Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign.  

Dan Wyman was one of them.  

His chest was still heaving from the ascent when someone asked him, “Why do you do it?”  

Wyman, 58, raised a hand in the air and said he needed a minute to cool down. “Sorry,” he said. “Nausea is overtaking me.”  

A couple of deep breaths later, he explained: “It’s not something you want to subject your body to. But the feeling when you conquer the hill is so special. You know you can do something no one else can do.”  

Wyman has participated in the Fargo Street Hill Climb almost every year since the inaugural event in 1974, when someone bet bicycle enthusiast Darryl LeVesque $100 that he couldn’t make it up Fargo Street.  

In front of a crowd of about 50 members of the Los Angeles Wheelmen bicycle club, LeVesque and his wife, Carol, got onto a tandem bicycle. As they were preparing for their climb, a man on a track bike made a sudden, unplanned run at the hill and cycled to the top.  

LeVesque, 64, who came to watch Sunday’s ride, said he still harbors resentment. “He was some young punk,” he said. “He stole our thunder.”  

The LeVesques hold the record for first tandem duo to make it to the top, and Carol holds the record for the first woman to make the solo ascent. The record for number of climbs made in one day is 101.  

Kent Karnes was this year’s top finisher, with 51 climbs.  

With a grade of 33%, the street is so steep that the Fire Department and car manufacturers are said to test equipment on it.  

Many people make adjustments to their bicycles, putting cogs as big as pie plates on their back wheel, and tiny chain rings on the pedal cranks, LeVesque said. Riding techniques vary. Some go straight up, while others crisscross their way to the top.  

“You’ve got to watch out for the zig-zaggers and for all the looky-loos on the side,” cyclist Hazziz Ali told Andres Morales, a younger cyclist who was considering making a run at the hill. “The biggest obstacles are the other people.  

“You can’t pace yourself,” Ali, 64, told Morales. “This is a sprint.”  

Morales, 32, couldn’t decide whether he should try the climb. He plans to run in the Los Angeles Marathon next week, and he didn’t want to injure himself before that. Besides, he said, looking up at the sharp incline, “it’s intimidating.”  

“Man, people give too much respect to this hill,” Ali told him. “The truth is, it’s about 1% physical and 99% spiritual.”  

“Yeah,” Morales said. “My old coach said it’s not the size of the body but the size of the heart.”  

When Ali pedaled away to warm up for his second ride, Morales said he had decided to bow out. “I think I’m going to skip it,” he said. “I’m going to ride to the beach.”  

At the bottom of the hill, Bruce Bates and his girlfriend sat on a guardrail, smoking cigarettes in the late-morning sun. Bates, whose bare chest was pink from sunburn, took swigs from a bottle of whiskey and loudly heckled the bicyclists.  

He said he had tried to ride the year before. “Halfway up I said, ‘Nope,’ and fell over backward.’ ”  

His girlfriend said she wasn’t crazy enough to attempt the ride.  

“It would take me about three hours to get up the hill,” she said, “and there would be a lot of stopping.”

Report on the 2010 National Bike Summit

Monday, March 15th, 2010

League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit 2010, March 9-11 in Washington, DC.

by Jim Hasenauer

The Summit was a great experience.  700 + advocates, 75+ of whom were mountain bikers attended.  It was intense and exhausting, very well organized, and extremely motivating.  Days went 8 AM-10 PM. 
Here’s the scoop.  Feel free to send questions:
Major announcements included:
1.  Google unveiled its new bike routes on Google Maps.  It’s customizable.  (Point and click on the route to change it to your needs.)  Google wants feedback.  If you’ve got it, click on “report a problem” to suggest routes, correct errors, etc.  They’ll check out your comments and route should be changed in 30 days.  Their algorithms tried to avoid traffic congestion and hills
2.  Bikes Belong announced a new initiative to bring ordinary cyclists to advocacy.  They’re trying to get one million bike advocates signed up.  Take the pledge at
3.  Washington DC announced it was building dedicated bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue.  They will be open by summer.
4  IMBA announced that its 5 year old Memorandum Of Understanding with the National Park Service (NPS) has been renewed for another 5 years.  It promises new pilot projects and a continued commitment to work together.
Bikers of all stripes were there and you can’t imagine a more unified, pro-bike context.  Very exciting.
Over the two days, we had tons of speakers including Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and pro-bike Congressmen Oberstar (MN) and Blumenauer (OR) and great sessions. 
On Wednesday, there were panels all day.  I  attended the “IMBA Track”. 
The first session was on “Youth  Cycling”.  Mike Eubank reported on Valmont Bike Park in City of Boulder.  The Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance raised 1/2 million dollars and they also got a grant from the CO lottery.  While its still under construction, they’re already doing youth cyclocross, after school rides and weekend recreational riding.  They see it as an extension of Safe Routes to School.  All the programs are free for kids.
Dave Secunda has a for profit business Avid4Adventure  that gives kids outdoor experience focusing on mountain biking, rock climbing and kayaking.  He has a contract with 12 school districts for on-campus events and also runs summer camps and family trips.  During peak season he’s got 65 staff.  He says start them young and actually runs programs for pre-schoolers as young as 3, 4 & 5 all the way to high school.
Julie Childer spoke about Trips for Kids DC .  Besides the basic TFK, they run a kids category in the Northern Virginia MTB Race Series. They also run learn to ride & learn to race classes and camps and NPS Interpretive Bike Tours of DC monuments.  Their mission:  “Teaching kids to overcome obstacles on trail and in life.”
Gary Burlanger spoke about the new National Interscholastic Cycling Association.  They hope to have 50 state high school racing by 2020.  Now there is NorCal, SoCal, Colorado, and Washington.  Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas are coming soon.  Others are in the pipeline.  There is great industry support.  I think hs racing is going to take off.  The vision is student athletes (required 3.0 gpa), inclusivity ( a no bench policy-everyone races), family participation, and attention to safety and risk management.  Their “Coach’s Manual” is a rich “how-to”  ($12. @
The Second IMBA session was “Entrepreneurial IMBA”.  Jenn Dice told the sad story of mountain bikers’ relations with the US Forest Service (USFS) in Montana, but it prompted the growth of a 1000 member Montana Mountain Bike Alliance.  She stressed the need of being proactive in developing model trail systems, bike parks, jump parks and pump tracks.
Ben Beamer spoke about the Oakridge Ride Center  They began trying to connect out of town forest trails, but public input stressed connecting those trails to and through town as well.  They were able to secure a $400,000 earmark to build the project.  Their goal is to be the MTB Capital of the northwest.
Ann, an owner of the Bike Lane in DC spoke about what retailers can do to support advocacy.  MORE, the DC IMBA club now has 300 miles of trail and 32 separate place to ride in and near the metro area.  There are 6000 registered users on the MORE site .
Ryan from IMBA pitched the new Chapter Program where clubs will have the opportunity to become IMBA Chapters and will share membership and revenues with IMBA.  IMBA will do the data processing, fulfillment and marketing.  It looks like this year is the big rollout with the World Summit in Augusta, GA the place to get the details
My panel was on the urban transportation/recreation connection.  Jill Van Winkle of IMBA hosted.  I spoke about the LA City Parks process and CORBA’s hard work over several years.  After explaining the current status of the plan, our adversaries’ attempts to thwart us,  and our letter writing campaign to keep mountain bikes in the plan and secure a stronger commitment to mountain biking, I emphasized that all cyclists, regardless of discipline need to work together and support one another.  Most agreed that a mountain bike element in bike plans would become more common.  There are several already including:  Portland, Bend, Flagstaff and Park City.  There are urban mtb trails in Philadelphia, NYC, Seattle, Chattanooga, Albuquerque, Louisville, Bozeman and probably several other places. I emphasized how bikes in urban parks was an important goal for all cyclists and how several of our Summit Political Asks (see below) are intended to improve these opportunities.  Our work was well received
Vivian Neal from Oxford Mississippi talked about how their city connected bike paths to mountain bike trail systems outside town.  They’re now building BMX and cyclocross facilities as well. 
Several audience members spoke about their town’s accomplishments and/or needs. 
This was followed by a plenary session of a panel discussion with several bike advocates and representatives of the Federal Highway Administration talking about reauthorization of the transportation bill.  “Livability” is a key word for the Obama Administration and the Department of Transportation.  Many of our issues are directly related to this goal and the administration is extremely supportive. Highway safety is another important goal and improving the safety of cyclists and pedestrians is high priority.
We then met in our state delegations to review talking points and coordinate our meetings.  CA had about 70+ advocates, riders, retailers, industry.  We had the most representatives of any state.  It was terrific.  A committee led by Jim Haggen-Smit of FATRAC and Dorothy Leu of LACBC put together our assignments. 
The League of American Bicyclists and IMBA had six asks for our meetings with congressional staff.
1.  Ask the representative to co-sponsor HR 4722 The Active Community Transportation Act of 2010 (Blumenauer).  It would appropriate $400 million for grants to local and regional governments (5-15 million each) to create “active transportation networks”. 
2.  Ask the representative to co-sponsor HR 1443  &  S 584  the Complete Streets Act of 2009.  This would require that transportation planners consider all users when planning highway facilities.  20 states including CA already have this as state policy already.  These laws would make it national policy. 
3.  Ask the representative to co-sponsor HR 4021 and  S 1156 Safe Routes to School.  Both bills would expand the highly successful Safe Routes program to include eligibility for high schools.  The Senate bill provides higher funding as well. 
4.  Ask the representative to co-sponsor HR 3734 The Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act which would provide $445 million or urban park and recreation facilities .  The target is facilities for at risk youth in urban areas and these grants would be administered by HUD on a 70-30% federal/local match.  Facilities could include urban trails, bike parks, jump parks etc. 
5.  Ask the representative to support full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund .  This fund goes back to the 1950’s and is authorized to provide up to $900 million for purchase of parkland and building facilities.  For the last 20 years or so, the money has not been fully appropriated and while its supposed to be split between federal agencies and local agencies, recently only the feds have received funding.  The two bills that would provide full funding each have their own problems.  The Senate Bill S 2747  changes the funding formula which not everyone supports. The House bill HR 3534 is a gigantic, controversial energy bill.  We were instructed to push the principle, not the specific bills. 
6.  Protect Public Lands but allow for continued bicycling .  This ask was IMBA’s and there was no particular legislation involved.  We want members of Congress to be alert that when they consider public lands bills, especially those creating Wilderness, they should consider companion designations like National Recreation Areas, National Scenic Areas, National Protection Areas, National Conservation Areas, etc. so that mountain bikers don’t lose trail opportunities. We emphasized our commitment to protecting wild places, but being unfairly hurt when Wilderness is the only designation.
On Thursday, I  had three productive meetings with staff from the offices of Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Henry Waxman and Grace Napolitano.  No staff member made commitments but they were generally supportive on all counts.  Waxman and Napolitano were already co-sponsor of HR 3734.  Napolitano was already a co-sponsor of HR 1443.
During the day, Jenn Dice of IMBA testified before the House Subcommittee on Parks, Forests and Public Lands  and was terrific in explaining how a proposed CO Wilderness Bill (HR 4289) would affect mountain bikers .  She explained that we could support 13 of the 34 proposed areas in the bill, but needed adjustments and consideration in the rest.  She took a very high road, “let’s work together” approach.  At the end of the hearing, Congresswoman DeGette the bill’s sponsor offered to meet with IMBA, go for a ride and  even identified 3 places where she was willing to make changes.  All very positive.
On Thursday night, the California Bicycle Coalition  had a reception for the CA advocates at the Summit.  They are intent on revitalizing the CBC and raised several thousand dollars at the event.
All in all, this was a great event with serious networking, information sharing and the opportunity to really affect pro bike policies on the road and in the dirt. 

Google Maps adds bike routes

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The mapping tool, added after bicyclists petitioned the company, provides turn-by-turn directions and even figures out routes that help cyclists avoid ‘unreasonable exertion.’

From the Los Angeles Times

After a long wait and more than 50,000 signatures on an online petition, cyclists will be happy to know that Google Inc. has finally added bicycle routes to Google Maps.

In Google Maps, users can now find “Bicycling” in the tool’s “Get Directions” drop-down box. After choosing the option, bikers can input two addresses and find the bike route that will get them to their destination. The mapping tool provides turn-by-turn directions and an estimated travel time.

The new Google Maps bicycling feature is available in 150 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. The tool features more than 12,000 bike trails. When users look for directions, the company’s mapping algorithm weights trails more heavily than roads for safety reasons. If cities have bicycle lanes, those are also weighted more heavily than roads without them.

One of the more useful features built into the Google Maps bicycling tool is its power-exertion calculation. According to the company, biking directions “compute the effort [bicyclists] will require and the speed [they will] achieve while going uphill.” Based on those calculations, the tool provides bicyclists with a route that eliminates areas that would require “an unreasonable degree of exertion.”

Google said its tool even keeps bicyclists away from busy intersections and areas where bicyclists would need to brake too often.

The Google Maps bicycling tool is in beta testing, which means it might have some bugs. Google plans to add more routes and trails in coming months.

Physician convicted in bicycle crash case

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

from the Los Angeles Times

A physician accused of deliberately injuring two cyclists by slamming on his car’s brakes on a narrow Brentwood road was convicted Monday of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon and other serious criminal charges.

Dr. Christopher Thompson is handcuffed by L.A. County Sheriffs after being found guilty on all 7 counts. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / November 2, 2009)

Dr. Christopher Thompson, 60, slumped forward and held his face in his hands after the verdicts were announced in a courtroom packed mostly with supporters and cyclists.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Stone, who prosecuted the case, asked for Thompson to be jailed immediately, calling him a flight risk and a safety threat to cyclists.

“There’s not a cyclist in Los Angeles who would feel comfortable with this defendant out on the road after this verdict,” Stone told the court.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington ordered that Thompson be taken into custody. Thompson, wearing a dark blue suit, grimaced and shook his head as a bailiff cuffed his hands behind his back.

The veteran emergency room doctor, who spent more than two decades working at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, was also convicted of battery with serious injury and reckless driving causing injury. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 3.

The three-week trial in the Superior Court’s airport branch was watched closely by bicycle riders around the country, many of whom viewed the case as a test of the justice system’s commitment to protecting cyclists. The July 4, 2008, crash also highlighted simmering tensions between cyclists and motorists on Mandeville Canyon Road, the winding five-mile residential street where the crash took place.

Prosecutors alleged that Thompson stopped his car after passing the two cyclists and shouting at them to ride single file. The cyclists testified that they began maneuvering to ride one after the other when they noticed Thompson’s car approaching fast behind them but that the driver passed dangerously close before abruptly stopping.

Ron Peterson, a coach for USC’s and UCLA’s cycling team, was flung face-first into the rear windshield of the doctor’s red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and lacerating his face. Christian Stoehr, the other cyclist, hurtled to the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.

A police officer testified that Thompson told him soon after the accident that the cyclists had cursed at him and flipped him off, so he slammed on his brakes “to teach them a lesson.”

Thompson testified that he never meant to hurt the riders. He said he and other residents were upset at unsafe cycling along the road, which has become an increasingly popular route for bicycle riders in recent years. But they had struggled to identify problem cyclists.

Thompson told jurors that the riders cursed at him and flipped him off when he yelled at them to ride single file. He stopped his car so that he could take a photo of the cyclists and believed he had left enough room for them.

But prosecutors alleged Thompson had a history of run-ins with bike riders, including a similar episode four months before the 2008 incident, when two cyclists told police that the doctor tried to run them off the road and braked hard in front of them. Neither of the riders was injured.

Outside court, the cyclists in the case said they were relieved at the outcome.

“Our hope is that this brings to light how vulnerable cyclists are out there,” Peterson, 41, told reporters. His face was permanently scarred from the crash and he underwent reconstructive surgery on his nose, which he said remains numb.

Stoehr, 30, said the crash left him unable to work for months and that he rarely rides his bike anymore. Nevertheless, Stoehr said he felt some sympathy for Thompson as he watched the physician being led away in handcuffs.

“It’s sad for both sides,” Stoehr said. “I lost a lot of my time and my life, and he’s losing a lot of his.”