Friday, December 07, 2007

Samohi Bikes

(click on images to enlarge)

Was a big news day for bikes today, Thursday, December 6, 2007. There was a front page story report about the "Bike To School Day" (at SAMOHI) in the Santa Monica Daily Press, titled "Bike to School day pedals off"(article-PDF). Side note, I noticed that neither the Bike Coalition, nor the Solar Alliance were listed on the SaMoHi Website Club listings(link).

And In the LA Times "Guide" section there was an article about the Midnight Ridazz titled "Midnight Ridazz are bound to keep on riding In the heart of car culture, massive bike rides are hitting the streets. Should you admire them? Scorn them? Or join the pack?"(article).

For those interested, you might want to read about two other SAMOHI students who got covered in the local media for their exploits on two Wheels(article)

If anyone has web links or other contact info for the Solar Alliance or the Bike Coalition(mentioned in the "Bike To School Day Pedals Off"), send to me or post the info in the comments so people who are interested in those groups can connect with them.

It might be alot of fun to have a solar powered electric assist bicycle at one of the future "Bike To School Days". It would show the possibilities of a bicycle that can use human power and power from the sun.

Bike to School day pedals off
BY Melody Hanatani
Santa Monica Daily Press
December 6, 2007

CITY STREETS Throughout his more than three full years of high school, Austin Draper’s mode of transportation to school has slowly evolved from walking to skateboarding to bicycling.

While it seems as though the natural transition in his senior year would be to get behind the wheel of a car, the bicycling enthusiast has no plans of relinquishing the old faithful handlebars.

“It’s funny, because when I do get a ride to school, I’m always late ... because of traffic,” the Samohi student said en route to school Wednesday morning.

Draper was among the approximately 85 students that ditched car rides in favor of a healthy bicycle commute to school on Wednesday as part of Samohi’s first “Bike Day” event, hosted by two student organizations
— the Samohi Solar Alliance and the Bike Coalition.

The purpose of the event was to showcase the feasibility of commuting to school via bicycle, a transportation method that event organizers believe most students don’t see as an option because of the extra
time it could take to beat the bell.

“It’s something (many students) think would take too long to do in the morning,”
said senior Owen Gorman, the president and founder of the Bike Coalition. “They would have to wake up too early and sleep is really important for kids our age.” But the showing of support on Wednesday

BRAKE TIME: The first Bike to School Day attracted more than 80 students to ride their bikes.

could be an indicator that some students might be thinking two wheels are better than four.
The high school’s bike rack area, which normally contains about 30 bicycles on any given day, was packed with more than 90 two-wheelers by the time school started on Wednesday morning.

A handful of those bicycles belonged to faculty, estimated Rachel Horn, one of the co-presidents of the Samohi Solar Alliance.

“It’s daunting until you do it,” said Lulu Mickelson, a co-president of the Samohi Solar Alliance along with Mara McKevitt.

Many of the students involved with the two organizations are avid bike riders, commuting on two wheels almost every day of the week.

Draper, who is a member of both organizations, has been riding his bike to school every day since his junior year, favoring bike ridding because of the environmental and health benefits.

The commute from his house in the Wil-Mont area of town to Samohi — about two miles — takes about 15 to 20 minutes,
depending on the traffic along California Avenue near Lincoln Middle School.

Draper’s daily route to school presents different challenges, from the lack of bike lanes on Lincoln Boulevard, forcing the Samohi student onto the sidewalk, to the absence of traffic signals at the intersections
of Ninth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, keeping the student waiting until the coast is clear to dash down the southbound street.


Still, Draper’s biggest challenge is the occasional honk and scream by impatient motorists that believe the student shouldn’t be acting as a motorist on the road, yelling at him to get off his bike.

“Some people will honk for no reason,” Draper said as he steered onto California Avenue. His determination to ride the bike to school every day seemed to unnerve his parents, who were concerned about their son getting
to and from school safely. After Draper was hit by a motorist at Lincoln Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard about two months ago, he succumbed to his mother’s wishes and finally donned a helmet. Draper
didn’t sustain any injuries in the accident.

But on Wednesday morning, he didn’t have his helmet handy, having left it in his girlfriend’s car the day before. The student opted for a head scarf and seemed to take more precaution in his ride, coming to complete stops at four-way stop signs, even if there weren’t any cars at the intersection. Draper said he now always tries to wear a helmet.

“I’ll be the cool one when my head is protected (in an accident),” he said as he slowed down near Lincoln Middle School.

To Draper, bicycle riding fosters community more than driving, which can be a solitary activity, especially in car-centric Southern California. Draper himself occasionally rides with several of his friends to school.
One of his riding buddies is Gorman, who lives just a few blocks away. Gorman, who founded the Bike Coalition this year, has been riding his bike to school since he was a student at Lincoln Middle School. The ride
from Gorman’s house north of Montana Avenue to Samohi takes about 15 minutes.

Gorman was also involved in two minor car-versus-bicycle accidents, neither of which resulted in injuries. He doesn’t believe the students at Samohi are reluctant to ride their bikes to school because of the
potential dangers. The students just don’t even think of hopping on a bike, he said. “We need events like Bike to School Day to get kids to try it and, hopefully, it will lead to a lifelong positive attitude
toward biking,” Gorman said.

The two organizations hope to make the Bike Day a biannual event, planning to
sponsor another one next semester.

“It’s a promotional day advertising bicycles as an alternative form of transportation that’s not combustion engine,”Horn said.

Midnight Ridazz are bound to keep on riding - In the heart of car culture, massive bike rides are hitting the streets. Should you admire them? Scorn them? Or join the pack?
By Liam Gowing
Los Angeles Times
December 6, 2007

10 p.m. on a dreary, drizzly Friday, and it looks as if it's turning into one of those gridlock-filled evenings for which our city has become sadly infamous.

Traffic along Echo Park Avenue is backed up from the Echo Lake boathouse all the way to the 101. And along this serpentine stretch of road sits an improbable number of idling vehicles -- first dozens, then perhaps 200 or 300 -- all waiting for the light at Sunset Boulevard to offer release. Finally, with a flash of green, they come to life in a synchronized swell, inertia overcome not by petrochemical combustion but by mitochondria and muscle.

It's no ordinary traffic jam, of course. It's Midnight Ridazz, the loose network of bicycle enthusiasts, rogues and hipsters who have helped foment a cultural revolution in L.A. since 2004. Along with Critical Mass -- a multi-city bicycle "event" founded in San Francisco in 1992 to promote cyclists' rights by taking the streets once a month at rush hour -- Midnight Ridazz and its growing diaspora of bicycle clubs have been pushing the envelope of what it means to be traffic, to the delight and fury of residents and officials.

Calling Midnight Ridazz "a reflection of the growing frustration people have with L.A.'s car-only culture," Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti welcomes the challenge of incorporating its constituents onto city streets as a way to reduce car traffic and pollution. He also sees deep sociological significance in the group.

"There's this myth in Los Angeles that we lead solitary lives, but I think that Midnight Ridazz and the other bike groups run counter to that. Los Angeles is a place where you certainly need to be in the know to find out where things are, but once you do, you see as strong and deep a community as anywhere in the United States."

Considering the origins of Midnight Ridazz, the assessment couldn't be more apt.

Conceived by 30-year-old graphic designer Kim Jensen -- known by her outlaw-affecting Ridazz handle, Skull -- during a late-night ride in Cambodia, Midnight Ridazz was inaugurated in L.A. on Feb. 27, 2004, when the Echo Park resident led five like-minded friends on bikes and two on skateboards on a rolling tour of downtown's fountains. A sense of community and an almost liturgical fellowship was immediate, says Jensen, as was a consensus on where to take the nascent bicycle club: "We were all anti-establishment, creative and feeling a need for speed in a nonconformist format. We were really set on keeping it free and totally noncommercial."

In addition to wanting to keep Ridazz events free-spirited, Jensen and company wanted them to be fun. So, in diametrical distinction to the politically charged but leaderless Critical Mass, Jensen set the precedent of promoting festively themed outings late Friday nights, when auto traffic is svelte and mellow, along routes mapped out ahead of time to avoid narrow streets, freeway exits and left turns.

From the get-go, the group's well-planned approach and laid-back execution were a success. Perhaps too much so: "The first ride was planned very well," says one of the original eight Ridazz, a strapping 6-foot-7 30-year-old who goes by the alias Roadblock (he refused to reveal his real name). "It was like, 'Wow, I didn't even know these places existed.' By the third ride, it became a phenomenon."

That's no exaggeration. Although a few dozen cyclists had joined the core group for that third event, the Belmont Tunnel "Mural Ride," hundreds began appearing thereafter. Within a year, the group was regularly pushing 1,000. To accommodate the swelling horde, which could no longer pedal through a single light cycle en masse, Midnight Ridazz felt compelled to adopt an extralegal practice popularized by Critical Mass -- "corking" -- whereby a few lead riders block an intersection so that cyclists who miss the green can stay with the pack.

"When we obey the lights," says Roadblock of the namesake move, "it's even more chaotic because the traffic is just insane for blocks and blocks. I've talked to police officers about it, and they say, 'Yeah, keep it together and just get through.' So that's what we go on."

If the practice was tacitly accepted and even occasionally assisted by the LAPD, it became increasingly unpopular with motorists caught trying to cross the ever-growing throng of cyclists -- or, worse, having to follow it. By summer 2006, things reached a truly critical mass.

"The last ride that I led had 1,400 people," says 32-year-old group leader Monica Howe (a.k.a. Muff). "And it was just an unmanageable mob. There were police incidents. There were fights between bicyclists and motorists. There were guns drawn by civilians.

"It was getting a little scary because people started to suggest that some [stuff] was going to go down eventually and that if anybody needed to be held responsible it was going to be the people organizing. Kim, MaBell [another of the original octet] and I, by that time, were the ones in charge, and we decided to step down and let other people take it where they wanted it to go."

This might well have been nowhere if it weren't for the towering figure of Roadblock, who devised a new approach for Ridazz: No more e-mails or fliers promoting the original second-Friday-of-the-month ride; a wiki-style website on which any member could post his or her own ride theme and itinerary; and an open call for remote Ridazz to start new, smaller franchises in their own neighborhoods.

With a more democratic support base, Midnight Ridazz grew down and out. Dozens of new clubs and rides popped up on the site, including Roadblock's own Wolfpack Hustle, a fast Monday night ride that recently celebrated its first anniversary with a 100-mile "Century Ride" around L.A. And though most of the remaining vanguards left to focus on new ventures, several stayed active in the cycling community, including Jensen and Howe, who became outreach coordinator of the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition.

It's a role that's kept her busy of late, as the proliferation of clubs and group rides in the Southland has led to new conflicts with motorists, municipal officials and law enforcement. Just last month, these issues came to a head in Santa Monica, where police detained and ticketed or arrested dozens of Critical Mass riders for corking intersections as well as a host of minor infractions such as having reflector lights affixed to backpacks rather than fenders.

But none of these issues is on the minds of participants in Midnight Ridazz's aforementioned slog out of bike-friendly Echo Park -- the "Heavy Metal II" ride. Even in the pouring rain, riders are exultant. Pedestrians raise their voices in sympathetic celebration while drivers forced to wait at blocked intersections honk their horns in the funky rhythms of solidarity. Clearly overwhelmed by this onslaught of positive energy, one driver jumps out of her Corvette to express herself in a more personal manner: removing her topto reveal two tokens of support.

As one instructive night with Midnight Ridazz shows, there are plenty of ways to achieve critical mass.

Recommended Links:
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum
- Santa-Monica/West-L.A./Venice critical mass community forum


Anonymous said...

The Solar Alliance and Bike Coalition should be listed on that SaMoHi Link. However, their info is listed on another club directory at the Samohi webside link

Here is what it says there about those groups:

Samohi Bike Coalition - Wednesday/Lunch - Drier/L111 - Gorman - Promote the use of bicycles among Samohi students. Teach bike tips and safety to the community. Have fun.
Samohi Solar Alliance (SSA) - Tuesday/Lunch Rupprecht/H208 - Mickelson/McKevitt - To promote solar power. To raise awareness about energy and solar power.

Gorman said...

Hello, This Owen, other known as "Gorman" in this article. I am the president of the SamoHi Bike Club, thanks for doing this post. Feel free to contact me at

Anonymous said...

Hey, my name is Lulu and I am the co-president of the Samohi Solar Allaince. We would love to have help on our next bike day and you can contact us at

Also we are listed on the Samohi clubs link under "Samohi Solar Alliance."

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