Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Heart My Regional Lifestyle

I'd been invited to attend a meeting of the fledgling Orange County Bicycle Coalition, so I took the Metrolink down to Santa Ana this afternoon.

I consulted with Tustin native Joe Linton about bike routes from the Santa Ana Depot. Here's the route he recommended to old town Tustin:

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It served me well, and I got to the chain pizza place early. I had a hunch that I might be the only transport cyclist in attendance, and that I'd be way outnumbered by middle aged white guys, and ding ding ding! Guess who was the only one who didn't sit in traffic to get there (and definitely came the farthest too).

I listened while the new board discussed bylaws and coordination with bike clubs, and then they graciously listened while I described my work with Latino cyclists in Los Angeles. I was thrilled to find out that they want to develop educational programming for a variety of cyclists in Orange County, recognizing that self-selecting recreational cyclists (or what one guy termed "Lycra geeks") from Irvine did not need further education. Apparently OC has lots of League of American Bicyclists-certified instructors (LCIs), but no demand for classes. We need to find ways to connect vulnerable riders with these resources.

Seriously, I did not know if these folks would be interested in connecting with the many "invisible riders" in OC, and I'm really glad they are. The hard part will be putting programming in place to actually impact the cultural barriers between roadies and working cyclists. Starting a conversation with community advocates in Santa Ana would be a good start, especially in light of the upcoming OCTA service disaster. I'd imagine that many families that will be impacted by those service cuts could also be positively impacted by bicycle programming.

I realized at 7:44 pm that I needed to get back to Santa Ana by 8 pm or have to wait another two hours for the next train to LA, so I started packing up abruptly to get out of there. Multiple nice guys offered me rides to the train station, with others chiming in, "she's carfree." Turns out I like riding my bike! It's not something I lug around for kicks. It's funny when hospitality collides with my commitment to shifting transportation paradigms.

I hauled my ass back down Main Street, knowing full well that I might not make the train. The streets accommodated me nicely, few cars to deal with and few lights at which to wait. Pump pump pumping my legs I zigzagged through the neighborhoods, remembering that I'd have to cross the train tracks after passing Grand. Sure enough, I heard the train wailing as I approached the crossing. I made it over the tracks just before the arms came down, and whipped down the last few blocks to the station.

Of course, from the direction I'd approached the station, I had to get my bike up three flights of stairs, across a pedestrian bridge, and then down another three flights to get on a northbound train. The Pacific Surfliner pulled into the station just as I did, and I lifted my Panasonic high and went for it, tumbling up and then down the stairs past confused disembarking passengers.

Some conductor must have taken pity on my struggling form, because the doors miraculously stayed open until I burst into a coach car and gasped ferociously.

Hooray for regional transit! I know we've got many many many gaps in our system round these parts, but it's damn impressive that with a little help from my two-wheeled friend I can make it from one county seat to another for a meeting and then get home again at a reasonable hour.