Monday, August 4, 2008

Almost Fell off the Bus

In my quest to become a "green" commuter while staying out of the bicycle unfriendly roads in Los Angeles, I tried riding the bus with my bike today. It seemed like a good idea, ride the bike on the wide flat roads and get on the bus to go over the hill with the narrow roads. The buses here have racks that can carry a couple of bicycles. Well, I never used one of those things but how hard can it be?

I timed my commute, just to see how it compared with mashing my way over the hill. First of all it took me a while to find the bus stop. I found one at the Warner Brother's Studio main gate, turned out that there was another bus stop closer to my usual route but I guess that I never noticed it even though I go past it every day. First leg, DreamWorks Animation in Glendale to Warner Brothers in Burbank, about 20 minutes. Next came the wait at the bus stop, there were a couple of kids there asking me when the bus is coming, (I didn't know but I figured that one should come by every 20 minutes or so) how much does it cost to ride, (didn't know that either, I got a bus pass from work) and how much for a taxi (no help there either)--they got tired of waiting and went off looking for another way to get to their destination. I guess I must have just missed a bus because I had to wait about 30 minutes until the 222 showed up. Getting the bike on the rack was no big deal, I just followed the instructions from the Bike Guide I got from the Metro website. I flashed the pass at the driver and took a seat where I had a clear view out the front windshield so I could keep an eye on my bike. It started out fine but it seemed to sway back and forth a bit more and more each time the bus would brake and accelerate. About halfway into the ride the driver stopped the bus. He was quite visibly angry as he honked his horn and said, "Sir, you bike is about to fall off." I jumped out and sure enough the retaining bar that is supposed to secure the bike in place slipped off the back wheel and it was a miracle that my bike, didn't turn into road kill. I flipped it around and tried the bar on the front wheel and it looked like it would hold a bit better. So much for using the bus to keep from building up a sweat--I worked up more of a sweat than riding over the hill! Total time for the bus ride, 9 minutes. I got off on Cahuenga and Franklin and rode down Cahuenga to Melrose, which was a much better route than Highland with it's narrow traffic lanes and traffic that obeys no speed limits. Last leg, about 28 minutes.

Total commuting time: 1 hour 27 minutes.

That's about 20 minutes longer than biking over the hill and fighting L.A. traffic. Not great, but it's an option when I get off work after dark and want to improve my chances of living through the commute.

All I've got to do to make this work is to figure out how to use those bus bike racks. I think the main problem was the big, heavy, steel, front basket on my bicycle. In fact the Rider's Guide states that:
Tandem bikes or bikes with motors, solid
wheels, large racks, child seats or other
attachments are not allowed.

Oops. I guess I should either remove the basket or get another bicycle just for bus commuting. Hum, that bike my brother gave me could make a cool fixed gear conversion.