Stan’s Obligatory Blog


For the most part…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:43 pm

I ride my bike to work every day, and I’ve done that for all of the over 18 years I’ve been at my job. And for the most part, Pasadena is a pretty pleasant place to ride. I’ve worked out a route that avoids most of the busy streets, and it’s one that is such that both going in in the morning and coming home in the evening, the last part of the ride is downhill. So it’s pretty good.

Just one minor problem. In recent years, the city has gone to putting vehicle detector loops on most traffic lights in the city. And not all of them work correctly. And since it’s Bike Week in Pasadena, and the city is trying to encourage more people to ride bikes, I need to go on a bit of a rant here.

CVC section 21550.5 says:

(b) Upon the first placement of a traffic-actuated signal or
replacement of the loop detector of a traffic-actuated signal, the
traffic-actuated signal shall, to the extent feasible and in
conformance with professional traffic engineering practice, be
installed and maintained so as to detect lawful bicycle or motorcycle
traffic on the roadway.

I’ve corresponded with the city traffic light maintenance people about this issue, and they’ve gone and adjusted some of the sensors. This has helped in some cases, and the lights will work correctly for a time. But in each case, after about a month, the fixed lights go back to not working correctly.

Looking again at the CVC section 21800, we find:

(d) (1) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.

So this is going to have to be my policy now. For signals that do not function correctly, I’m just going to have to treat them as if they were stop signs.

Just for the record, here are the intersections with lights that I go through on my way to the office:

  • Cooley Pl and Altadena Dr: Signal used to work. It worked from when they put in the detectors in 2003 until last year. I put in a request to fix it in October, 2012. They fixed it, and it stopped working again in April, 2013. It currently does not work. And there is no way to activate the left-turn arrow manually. The button for the ‘walk’ signal only activates the ‘walk’ sign, and it does not trigger the left green arrow. So if there is not a car here to activate the signal, I have no option but to cross illegally.
  • Mountain St and Allen Ave: This used to be on a regular timer, but they changed it a few months ago. Neither direction works for me.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Maple St: The northbound light works correctly. The southbound light never worked in the past. I put in a request to fix it in March, 2013. They adjusted it, and it worked for about a month. It no longer works correctly.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Corson St: The northbound light works correctly. The southbound light has always worked, until the last time they came out to adjust the southbound light above. Now it no longer works.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Walnut St: The detectors at this intersection have never worked for me.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Colorado Blvd: The detectors here do not work, and they never have.
  • Bonnie Ave and Colorado Blvd: The northbound left-turn detectors here work correctly. This is fortunate, since Colorado is a very busy street, and it would be very difficult to cross without the protected left turn. And there is no other way to activate the left-turn arrow.
  • Bonnie Ave and Del Mar Ave: The detectors both north and southbound have never worked at this intersection.
  • San Pasqual St and Hill Ave: This light is still on a regular timer, so it is not a problem.

Now that I wrote it all down, it seems that the list of signals that work correctly is much shorter than the list of ones that do not work.


Anyway, if I get a ticket for running any of these non-functioning lights, I will at least have a record of the issues I’ve filed with the city that I can use to argue that the lights are defective.


Glendale Vistas

Filed under: — stan @ 6:51 pm

This week’s bike club ride was a ‘normal’ ride, in that we just went riding to no place in particular. There was no cultural sightseeing or anything like that this time. It was just a ride around Glendale, and up through the hills there. The most remarkable thing that ever happened on this route was when I broke my cassette back in 2007

It was a very nice day for riding. We headed out and up through La Cañada, and then down through Glendale. We stopped at Paradise Bakery, and I got one of their chocolate eclairs. They have the best eclairs there. Then it was time to ride up some hills.

I got one picture from the apex of the ride, and then we headed down the other side. We rode back by way of La Cañada, which added some more hills. And when I got home, I rode around the block once, just to add another half-mile. It was a nice ride.

40 miles.


Sea monsters and a giant tamale

Filed under: — stan @ 5:03 pm

Today’s bike ride was a sightseeing trip to see some odd landmarks. First was the Laguna de San Gabriel in Vincent Lugo Park, with its sea-monster playground, and second was the giant tamale on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. The tamale is a prime example of programmatic architecture, right up there with Donut Hole and other odd buildings around Los Angeles.

It was a cool and overcast this morning, and the forecast said it might rain a bit later on. We headed south toward San Gabriel. We turned down Wells St to get to Vincent Lugo Park and the Laguna de San Gabriel playground. The last time we went to see this, it was closed for renovation, but it’s open again now. And it comes complete with a sign warning us that the historic playground “predates modern playground standards”. Good to know, I guess. Carla and I got some pictures with the sea creatures on the playground.

Leaving the playground, we continued south, crossing the 60 freeway and coming out on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. There, just down the block was the giant tamale. It was built back in the 1920s, and it was originally a tamale shop. Now it’s half a hair salon and half a dental lab. But it’s still a prime example of odd architecture.

From the tamale, we headed east through Montebello to the Rio Hondo bike path. We went north, over Whittier Narrows Dam. I’d never noticed the sign at the top before. So now we know what the dam is made of, and the slopes of the sides of it. Again, good to know, I guess.

On the San Gabriel River bike path, we came across a bike accident. Another bike club group had had some sort of mishap, and the L.A. County Fire paramedics were on the scene. I’d never thought about it before, but apparently they can get the ambulance on to the bike path. One more thing to put in the “good to know, I guess” file.

Since we’d not done this particular route before, my estimate was that it was going to be about 42 miles when we were done. But by the time we were on top of Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, I could tell it was going to be close to 50 by the time we got back. We rode up the bike path to Encanto Park, and then into Monrovia. We stopped for snacks at Merengue, and then headed home. When I got home, I had 49.4 miles. So I rode around the block a couple times, just to make it:

50 miles.


A ride to nowhere in particular

Filed under: — stan @ 12:53 pm

Today’s bike ride is a route we haven’t done in several years. I call the the Ride to Nowhere in Particular. The route just sort of meanders around, but there are no sightseeing stops or points of interest along the way. About the only unusual thing we saw was the dog skull on Lincoln Ave in Montebello. Still, it was nice day, and a pleasant ride.

46 miles.


CicLAvia to the Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

Today was the latest edition of CicLAvia, and it was the most ambitious yet. They closed down streets all the way from City Hall downtown, out to Venice Beach. It’s not often, or even ever, that we get to ride to the beach from Pasadena, so today was our chance.

We rode downtown by our usual route down Huntington Drive. And once we were there, we picked up the CicLAvia route going south on Main St. The route went west on 7th out to MacArthur Park, and then south a bit to Venice Blvd, and then all the way out to the beach. We got there a bit early, so the route wasn’t officially open yet, but that was good, since it wasn’t crowded. By the time we got out to Culver City, I could feel the cool ocean breeze. That’s nice, since we just don’t get that in Pasadena. We made very good time, and we were at the beach by a little after 10:00.

We rode out as far as we could to get as close to the water as we could on our bikes. Then we stopped for a bit to watch the skateboarders. That reminded me of the documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys“, and how the 1977 drought led to great innovation in skateboarding, since the water shortage meant that there were a lot of empty swimming pools around. It was pretty entertaining watching them.

Heading back, the crowd had grown considerably, and most of the ride back was like Friday evening on the 405. Still, it was a nice day, and we made it back to downtown, and then we headed for home. I’d estimated that the total ride would be about 60 miles, and when I got home, I had 59.4. So I went and rode around the block just to get to 60 miles. It was a fun day.


I’m oddly excited about this

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

I just heard word that the San Diego Towerthon is on again for this June. I did this last year, and I did pretty well, climbing the 25-story building 17 times in 2 hours.

That evening, I was adding it up, and 17 times up the building totals 5,015 feet climbed. And this planted the seed of an idea. I figured out that 18 times up that building would make a vertical mile. I made this a personal goal, and I finally made my vertical mile stair climb at one of the practice sessions at the Aon building last month. And along the way, I managed to convince several other people to do it, too. It’s a deliberately crazy idea, and I’m a bit surprised that it caught on.

So my goal for the Towerthon this year is to do 18 or more times up the building. That totals 432 floors, 5,310 feet, and 9,108 steps.

How hard could it be?

Vertical Mile stair climb


Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Filed under: — stan @ 5:13 pm

The big news of the past week was the passing of Roger Ebert, who, among other things, was the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, in memory of Mr. Ebert, this week’s bike club ride was a trip to Hollywood to visit his star.

We started out from the park, and we rode down through South Pasadena to Highland Park. Going down Figueroa St, we passed Chicken Boy, and then turned off to head for the L.A. River crossing into Silver Lake. We picked up Hollywood Blvd, and rode all the way down the length of it. We passed through the Thai New Year festival in Thai Town, and then into the center of Hollywood.

Mr. Ebert’s star is in a prime location, in front of the El Capitan theater, and across from the famous Chinese Theater. There was some wax on it, since I’d heard that they had had a little candle memorial placed on it for a few days.

From there, we headed south, to Larchmont Village and Noah’s Bagels. The clouds were starting to clear, and it was a nice day to sit outside. For the trip home, we did our usual route across on 2nd St and then into Silver Lake and up Benton Way. It was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.


Well, I really can’t complain…

Filed under: — stan @ 3:48 pm

Today was the “Fight for Air” stair climb put on by the Lung Association. This is my fifth time doing this event. Oddly enough, it never gets any easier. But after all the practice sessions at the building for the last three months, I think I’m about as ready as I’m going to be.

We rode the train downtown, since that’s just so much easier than driving. We got there just a few minutes before it was time to line up. I was in the lead group, given the lucky number 13. We were roughly lined up in order of our finishing times from last year. I’d made up a little card to rubber-band to my arm with floor targets of where I planned on being at each one-minute mark on the way up. I was hoping to do roughly the same time as last year, which was 11:31.

When it was my turn, I trotted into the stairwell and headed up. I managed to stay on schedule up to about the 24th floor or so. Then I started to fall behind a bit. It wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t feel as good as I had at my last practice run on Tuesday. And by 45 or so, I was fully into the “OMG! What the HELL was I thinking when I signed up for this?!?!” mode. And that’s not conducive to doing a good time. Still, I managed to keep going, and I stumbled out onto the roof with a time of 11:45.

At the top, we got the whole West Coast Labels group together for a picture on the roof. I also got a picture with George. He had found a couple of errors in my chart of the staircase, and one evening we walked up together, counting and taking measurements. He has a real eye for detail, and I’m glad that he was able to check out and fix my chart. He was also excited that his time of 11:49 was only four seconds behind mine.

After coming back down, we hung around and visited with everyone I’ve gotten to know in this crazy sport, and I finally walked up the stairs a second time with Jane and Lisa. We did it at a moderate pace, so it was fun. And we still passed lots of people on the way up.

In the end, the day was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I didn’t go as fast as I’d wanted to, or as fast as I think I can. But on the other hand, I came in 20th out of 617 climbers, so I really can’t complain. At least not without looking kind of stupid. So overall, it was an all-right experience.

Full results are here:


My five minutes of fame!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

A couple weeks ago, I went downtown to meet with Evan from KCRW so we could climb the stairs at the Aon building and talk about the sport of competitive stair climbing. The final piece that he made was broadcast yesterday. And here’s the link to the blog posting at KCRW about it, including a Soundcloud link so you can listen to it:


Last practice run

Filed under: — stan @ 9:39 pm

This evening was the my last practice session on the Aon building staircase before the race this Saturday. I wanted to try an experiment, and I made up a little card with targets of where I wanted to be at each one-minute mark in the race. In order to test this out, I had to start from ground level, so tonight I walked down the staircase to the door to start.

Pretty much right away, I was behind schedule. The first section of the staircase is 80 steps, and it has a lot of short flights and turns, so it took longer than a ‘normal’ 80 steps should take. So I was behind schedule by the time I got to my first time point at 6. But I managed to stay about the same amount of time behind schedule the rest of the way up.

My original plan was to try and make it to 55 in about 10 minutes. But when I got close, I was still behind schedule, so thought that wasn’t going to happen. But when I got to 55 and stopped my watch, I’d made it up in just exactly 10 minutes. So that was a pleasant surprise.

After doing the one climb for speed, I walked up three more times just for fun. My friend Briana was there, and she wanted to try for a vertical half-mile, which is four times up the staircase. So I walked up with her the last two times. Climbing stairs really isn’t bad, as long as it’s at a moderate pace and with company.

So I guess I’m ready to race.

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