Category Archives: city

Why Occupy Wall Street is a Health Issue Worth Supporting

I do not hide the fact that my profession, public health nutrition, is the direct result of my social justice activism. I was brought up by working class parents who instilled in me the ethics of empathy and consideration of others at all times. Very simple ideas, yet often not followed or just simply ignored. As a teenager I (unknowingly) turned them into a political analysis that quickly led to veganism, environmentalism and radical politics.

In the early 2000’s I was entrenched in the anti-globalization movement and the early anti-war protests. We didn’t ask corporations and the government to be nicer or to kill fewer people. We challenged their right to do so. Often people misunderstand this as not having demands; we did and do, they just may stand outside of what you think is possible. And that’s the point. A radically different world is possible.  Those left of the traditional left are pushing you to dream. Not just in tactics beyond marches, but in how the world can really be.

In public health nearly every issue is one of inequality. There is enough food for everyone, but it is hoarded by corporations to maintain its high expense. There’s enough space for healthy food for everyone, but the farm bill continues to subsidize companies to produce cheap unhealthy foods.  Automobiles dominate our streets not because they are the best choice, but the most profitable.  Cheap and free clinics are only necessary because most healthcare is beyond the means of millions of people.  Public Health exists mostly to address issues of economic inequality! Instead of treating the symptoms, why not address the cause?

So I ask all of you who work in my field to stop for a minute and think about the big picture. I know there are people we want to help right now. I feel it too. But what if we worked to change the system that survives on keeping people poor?

You may feel uncomfortable with this idea. Or going to protests.  You may want more structure. I feel it too.  But we have to move beyond that.  I’ve said before that most of the things worth doing in the world are hard and cause you to sweat. I’d like to add they are also uncomfortable at first. Most people reading my site are okay with discomfort. In fact, we seek it out!

So instead of persuading you to push your comfort physically, today I’m asking you to push yourself politically and support the Occupy Wall St movement.

How do you feel when you watch the footage of cops beating protesters? Or sweatshop workers making our products? Or the story of a widow whose partner died because he couldn’t afford a surgery and didn’t have health insurance? If you have any feeling toward human beings you are mad. Embrace it. Don’t make excuses for the oppressors. Stay mad. Use that anger. Fight back. It’s not useless. You do make a difference. We have power as individuals. And jail isn’t that bad, I’ve been many times.  What are you going to say when ten years from now you are asked what you did to stop the inequality that plagues our society?

Here are some resources to learn more, get involved and stay involved:

Occupy Wall St  main site

Think Occupy Wall St is a Phase? You don’t get it on CNN

The Daily Show take on how the media is wrongly portraying the protests

Sparrow Media Project is raising money to print the demands

On twitter you can follow the hashtag for the main NYC protests at #OWS. Local ones have their own, like #OccupyLA and OccupySD

Remember, you can get involved in a variety of ways. Noam Chomsky wrote that when he was young he didn’t think his time was best spent at protests so he decided to write instead. 40 books later….Or my fellow Swarm! racer just made a vegan breakfast for hundreds of OccupyLA folks this morning. There’s no one to tell you how to get involved, it’s up to you…

If you have good links please post them in the comments!


Filed under city, political

The Big Parade Staircase Walk

Hey everyone! First off, thank you for all of the awesome feedback from our Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson.  We are so excited about episode two, which should be done for tomorrow. Yay! Wait to you see Brian in Death Valley, it is truly amazing.
Today’s post is from an event I did in 2009, called The Big Parade Stair Walk. I am posting it now because 2011’s Big Parade is this weekend. If you are in the Los Angeles area I highly recommend you come out to some or all of this. Did you know there over 100 stairways in the City of Los Angeles that are maintained as travelways? This walk explores them over two days and is full of historical and cultural events within the walk. If you think you know LA well, you need to come to this and see an LA you had no idea existed. I’ll be out there one or both days, come say hello! See the schedule and make your plans.
On the Big Parade
Making the city our own
One stair at a time.
(thanks to Lisa for the haikus)

Photo galleries, thanks to Steve Matsuda, Day 1 and Day 2.


The Big Parade is a 45-mile, 2-day walk that covers over 100 staircases in multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods. Over 250 people walked varying lengths, while a core group of us walked the entire route and camped in the Music Box Steps Park Saturday night. We started in downtown Saturday morning at 7am and finished after 10pm at the Hollywood sign.
When I do an event like this, almost no matter how I describe it, the automatic interpretation is that is a purely physical endeavor. While completing this walk is no easy physical task, that is only a small component. Walking is so humanizing and seeing the sections of this beautiful city that are only accessible by foot was much more of a social and emotional experience.
When we got to the Hollywood sign after 10pm (had been walking since 7am), and looked down on the city we had traversed, I looked at my tired, worn-out friends and felt closer to them than I ever have. I’ve always said that times in our lives where you are fatigued, hungry and just plain worn-out is when you see most clearly. I felt such a love for the people I shared this experience with and for the possibilities available to us when we slow down and see what our environment has to offer us.

Is it political? Is there a campaign? Are we a group? These are some of the questions asked. But really, the whole idea stems from Dan Koeppel’s fascination with these stairs as public access ways. They are technically ‘streets’ and they are there to be used by people. The small budget came from Backpacker magazine, but almost all of the work and effort came from Dan and the people close to him. His love of staircases-and he has many reasons-drew other ambitious, interesting folks to him. No organization or group, board of directors, mission statement, official endorsements, etc, etc…just a love for what traveling by foot means to each of us. There are political, environmental, social and even historical ramifications from our walk, but none are ‘the’ reason we walked.  And that’s the beauty of this!  “Togetherness’ is so cliche and over-used, but this bringing people together- urbanites, explorers, athletes, artists, historians- is what this walk is about in my eyes.

Sunday night we reached the Hollywood sign about 40 hours after the main group had started- the 9 of us who camped out at the Laurel and Hardy park and walked the entire 45-mile route. Literally hundreds of people walked some part of the route, but this core group had been together for the entire 40 hours. But then, as the only person walking home from the Hollywood sign, I had a solitary hour and a half walk. It was nearing midnight, I had pain in my legs, feet and shoulders which made the other pain I was feeling all the more sharp. So many automobiles-closed off metal boxes-hiding people from the joys of feet on the ground exploring and feeling.  It made more angry about our dependence on automobiles not because of the danger they presented to me, but because of what the drivers were missing out on by being trapped in a car so often.

Celebrate, rejoice!
Our feet get us anywhere
Why bother driving?

Physical pain is a pathway to the pain one feels inside. Physical pain brings clarity. And this internal pain that you feel makes its way to the surface. Many of us have set up our lives to avoid both of these pains, but pulling it to the surface can be pure motivation and energy for changing what we see is wrong in the world. It is power!  So I encourage you to explore this pain and use your human-power to change the world. And when it is exposed and you feel vulnerable, know that you are not alone.

Thanks to everyone, Dan Koeppel especially, who helped plan and organize the walk and to those who came out and walked part of it. We are changing this city one step at a time.

 The tech numbers for the nerds!

Mileage: 44.90
Time: 26:48:06
Ascent: 24,188 ft
Descent: 23,340 ft
Ave Pace, Day 1/2: 1.6/1.7 mph


Filed under city, hike, political, road, travel

2011 Feel My Legs I’m a Racer report

The leaders making their way up hill number two, Eldred St.

Photos from Omar’s Flickr page

This year’s Feel My Legs, I’m A Racer will be memorable for two reasons: I put the least amount of work into it I ever have because I was swamped with other stuff and the most people ever showed up!

The morning started off at Golden Saddle Cyclery where part-owner and previous year’s winner Ty invited us over for some pre-race coffee. Hell yeah! Ty passed up defending his title in order to be the first person to race on a single-speed, which he did. Dope.

At 745am I rolled over to the park to a huge pack of cyclists. I love it. It makes me so happy to bring all these cyclists together. Even though apparently I may slightly offended everyone there when in my pre-race talk I said, ‘Wow, so many people here this year. I guess the roadies are less scared to come into the city and the city kids are less scared to race.’  No harm meant! Ha. Back when this race and Swarm! were being conceptualized the idea for both, honestly, was to get more city kids to race and more racers to ride bikes outside of proper racing. This was before Wolfpack Hustle, TRFKAS, BicyKillers, or Cyclones! I guess it’s happening, eh? 82 people rolling out of Silver Lake to ride 10 super hard hills is proof of that.

E-Rock Colton, one of the few veterans of the race out in 2011

Riding to the first hill a roadie who knows famous vegan track racer Jack Lindquist (2006, 2007 2008, 2009 winner) asked, ‘How many people here have raced this before? I can’t seem to find anyone.’ At the first hill while we waited for the scorers to get to the top I asked everyone who had raced previously to race their hand. Only 8 people! 90% first-timers! What does that say?

Shortly thereafter they were racing up Mt Washington, which is one of the most beautiful climbs on the route, if not in all of Los Angeles. It’s also misleading because it is the easiest. Every year a few fixed gear riders make it up….and then they see hill number two- Eldred St- and I never see them again! That’s not totally true, because a guy who I had just met at TRAFKAS, showed up on fixed and rode the first few hills competitively until he broke his cleat. A huge effort to do that. Mt Washington, as awesome as it is, seems to bring the drama! It was the site of the finish being in the wrong place in 2009 and this year someone crashed into Lacy, who was riding my brand-new Moth Attack bike, on the descent. Luckily she is alright, but the rear wheel was taco’d. She was able to ride the rest of the day, but the rim needs to be replaced. The worst part? The kid took off after that. Owell. At least she’s okay.

Jeff playing on the Moth Attack Adventure Bike before some dude collided into Lacy on the descent from the first hill

Eldred Street did it’s usual damage, with it’s 30+ percent grade and loose pavement.  Though the harder it is the more people cheer! There’s nothing like watching someone collapse at the top, get up and turn to cheer on the people behind them struggling to get up there. So good!

Thomas Street was it’s usual trickiness with that gate at the top and all the broken glass. Sorry! And by now it was clear that a young buck from Santa Barbara was owning it. He was unstoppable. There was some super fast people there this year (real roadies who do real races!) and he was proving to be the fastest of the fast. The top Swarm! rider, Jeff Lawler, was fighting to make top five and get points.

Group shot at the top of Thomas Street. It's a great view of DTLA

The halfway point, Echo Park Ave and Chango Coffee, comes so late in the day and it was getting hot. People were getting nervous cause they wanted to make Ciclavia.  We ended up with 42 finishing, better than half, which is a record, but I figure more would have finished if they didn’t skip out to ride CicLAvia with their families.

Micheltorena Street, with it’s wide berth is a crowd favorite. It’s also an ‘up and over hill’ which means spectators, if they want to keep going with us, have to go up the hill. It’s in the middle of Silver Lake, but on a clear day you can see the ocean….

It’s around this point in the day that the roads are getting busier, drivers less friendly and I’m getting hot and dehydrated. And I’m not even racing! At Fargo Street, considered by many to be the steepest paved hill west of the Mississippi, I thought I’d give it a go on foot. I went on the gun and even though I nearly popped about 20 feet from the top, was able to beat all the cyclists up! I also did not have 8 hills in my legs. And I did it barefoot, which I didn’t think anything of until I got a blister! Two minutes of running gave me a blister on each foot. Crazy.

I can't remember her name, but this woman gave it an unbelievable effort and rode a bunch of the hills on fixed...

Finally we rolled down to Riverside Ave, which we had taken to the first hill, to now hit the last: Stadium Way.  It’s after 130pm by now, I thought we’d be done by 12 or 1, and everyone just wants to get done. The kid from Santa Barbara had the win in the bag and everyone else is stoked to have Fargo behind them and an ‘easy’ hill the only thing between them and the coveted Feel My Legs I’m A Racer spoke card (courtesy of Creative Thing, for the second year in a row. Thank you!).

Wearing our new Swarm! jerseys, I speak with Mark and Jesse, the scorers for the day

Afterward we met under a tree in Elysian Park, I handed out the spoke cards and we talked plans to get to CicLAvia. I got SO much positive feedback this year. It leaves me smiling for days how people appreciate the work that goes into this. Not to mention the strangeness of being thanked for putting them through serious suffering. But putting this on is not a solo endeavor, it has been years of route finding with the help of numerous folks, not to mention day-of help from a number of Swarm! riders. Jesse and Mark for being such detailed scorers is crucial. Megan, Sasha, Stacy, Molly and other folks who did sweep and marked turns. The photographers, of course and Creative Thing for making the spoke card. You rule! Thank you so much.


1. Andrew Benson – 44 points
2. Jordan Haggard – 24 points
3. Eric Colton – 16 points
4. Adam Masters – 15 points
5. Jeff Lawler – 10 points
6. Nicholas Humphrey – 8 points
7. Fabian Vazquez – 6 points
8. Ty Hathaway – 5 points
9. Eugene Kim – 4 points
9. Jon Budinoff – 4 points
11. Allen Louie – 3 points

Kyle from ‘Tracko’ was awesome enough to mention the ride, which was then picked up by Prolly, which is probably (!) the first time we’ve gotten a mention outside of Los Angeles. More great  photos at Frank M Burton’s Flickr and Tong Sheng’s Picassa. And baby-maker and graphic designer extraordinaire Chris Cheung found the complete S&M Bikes video for which this ride is named after, on the internet, if you’ve got a bunch of time to spend seeing what BMX was like in 1989…

Thanks again to everyone who came out!


Filed under city, feelmylegs, race

2011 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer update

The 2011 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer meets at Sunset Blvd/Griffth Park Blvd at 745am on Sunday April 10th.


Infamous Eldred Street. Hill number 2. (photos from Shawn Bannon)

Since setting the date for the 2011 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer, I’ve gotten a few questions from people unfamiliar with the event that I want to address.

While there are a few riders ‘racing’ for points, the majority of the people who come out are challenging themselves to the 10 hardest hills I could find in Los Angeles.  We usually get about 50 folks starting, but only 5, maybe 10, actually get any points on the hills.

Obviously being able to climb steep and/or long hills is a requirement to finish this event, but so is a desire to explore neighborhoods and places most people will who live in this great city will never see.  It’s less of a race and more of a group of friends (or soon to be friends!) out for a day of hard riding and exploring.

Is there an entry fee?


Can I ride fixed gear?

I doubt it. We ride together from hill to hill and any gear that you could get up these hills with will be too low to stay with the group. You are welcome to come out and prove me wrong though.

Will I get lost?

No! Well, probably not. We ride as a group from hill to hill at a chill pace. At each hill it will be obvious where to go. At any turns or confusing parts I’ll have chalk and/or a volunteer. We regroup at the top only after the last person has made it up.

How can I prepare?

Familiarize yourself with the route and with the history of the ride. A good start is the write-up from 2010. A good gauge hill is Micheltorena off of Sunset Blvd. Originally it was the finishing hill, but I made some changes a few years ago and now it is number seven. It’s long with steep sections. If you can make it up that comfortably I think you can hang on this ride. Another test is Fargo St, which is a monster of a hill…

Do I get a meal or picnic or something out of this?

I wish. In the past we’ve done everything from pancake breakfasts to full-on picnics. This year we’re going to head over to CicLAvia and probably eat, hang out on the route. There will be a spoke card!

Who puts this on?

My bike club, known as Swarm!. We ride everything from alley cats to international UCI track events. We think the world would be a better place if people rode bikes and ate vegan more often.

My friend wants to watch, can he drive along the course and stop at the hills?

No. Definitely not. We’re going to be on some narrow roads in quiet neighborhoods; I don’t want to add to the car traffic. He can ride a bike along with us and I’ll help navigate the best places to see and how to get around. By the end almost half the people with us are just there to watch and cheer on the riders!

How long is this ride?

I hope to be done between 12 and 1pm.

Why did you stop making fun of Bryan Farhy?

After 5 years of naming vegan events after him over an anti-vegan email, he recently sent me an apology and I’m letting it go. Don’t tell any of my east coast friends that I let  go of a grudge.

Anything I can do to help?

Thanks for asking! I need help getting the word out. Please send this info and links to the pages to your bike club/crew/gang. I also may need some volunteers the day of. Getting up and down the hill may or may not be required. Photography is always appreciated, but again, by bike and not cars.  Get in touch at bikeswarm [at] gmail.


Filed under city, feelmylegs, run

2011 Feel My Legs, I’m A Racer, April 10th 745am

It’s official! This race will be held on Sunday April 10th. It’s the same day as CicLAvia, which we’ll enjoy when we’re done.

Meet at Sunset Blvd and Griffith Park Blvd, where the Farmers Market is on Saturdays at 745am.

If you are unfamiliar, this is a stage ‘race’ on 10 of the hardest hills in Los Angeles. We ride as a group between hills and then each hill is its own race with points awarded for 1st through 5th. We re-group and ride together to the next hill. It’s based on Danny Chew’s Dirty Dozen. Most riders are out there just to accomplish all 10 hills in one day, which is no small feat. The write-up from 2010 has lots of info and links as does the Feel My Legs tab on my site. Please familiarize yourself with the event’s history to get an idea of how fun and challenging it is. I’ll be posting more info in the upcoming weeks!

Previous year’s route, which will likely stay the same:



Filed under city, feelmylegs

Alaska and Los Angeles are both important bike places in this moment

Yo! First off, you know Spring is creeping around the corner by the number of packages on my doorstep today. I need a word that = stokedx10. Since Rapha ruined ‘epic’ I’m running low on descriptors. Back to the goods: stuff from Mountain Hardwear, Princeton Tec, Carousel Designs, and lastly, Niner (via Cranky’s bike shop!!). Word! Hard to imagine I’m only in the 4th week of the semester for teaching. Come on spring break!

Okay, beyond material possessions, I want to report that my friend Aidan Harding is in the Alaskan wilderness right now doing the 1100-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational.  He raced the 350-mile version two years ago, the year it was extra gnarly.  He’s the dude who got 4th overall and 1st single-speed at the 2010 Tour Divide. Only 10 hours off of the single-speed record! Fortunately I got to ride with him last summer before he headed back across the pond. So If you are one of the few people in the world who thinks an 1100-mile mountain bike race in the Alaskan winter is interesting, you can follow his progress online.  Go Aidan! His partner, who is an ultra-distance swimmer, is also regularly updating his website with what she knows.  1100 miles. In the Alaska Wilderness. Sit on that for a minute.

Back in Los Angeles, the City Bicycle Plan passed unanimously at City Hall, despite the complaints of well-to-do horse-people, and was signed by the Mayor today.  On twitter the #LAbikeplan hashcode actually trended in Los Angeles.  Yes, it’s only a plan and implementation will be a challenge, but the Plan has come a really long way. Originally it was a crappy, nearly non-sensical document that used terms like ‘infeasible’ to describe city streets in relation to bicycling. Then activists stepped up and had their own meetings. And made their own plans. Their volunteer work changed the half-million dollar city plan to something useful and, imagine this, even exciting! Props to all of you who put in work (I wrote about their meetings, but never made it to any). The best coverage round-up is actually at the LA DOT Bike Blog and LA Streetsblog’s photo blog.

Back to work for me. It’s winter, when I’m suppose to be working a lot to save money to play a lot in the summer. You know, the same life plan I’ve had since I was 15 and delivered newspapers through the East Coast winter in order to spend the summer traveling and riding BMX. The jobs and bikes have changed, but not much else. Thanks for reading!

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Filed under city, off-road, race

Car-free Commuting Adventure

I’ve postulated that the same reasons I love being car-free: the openness, interactions, realness, risk and adventure; are the same reasons most people don’t want to bike or ride public transit. If it’s hot, I sweat. If the road sucks, I feel every bump. It’s freeing, but also a reality that you can’t easily hide from by rolling up your windows, blasting music or turning on the AC, etc. Probably why people feel so damn safe in their car that they can’t imagine that they nearly killed you (and also why they get bent out of shape when you bang on their car!). This sense of safety may also partially explain why more than 25% of automobiles drivers take off after hitting a cyclist…

Anyway, I’ve got a little story about being car-free and adventure. It started Wednesday night with a super awesome gesture from Jack. Remember the $100 Craigslist Benotto I bought last year? The one I broke the cranks on. I lost a few chainring bolts so I swung by for some new ones. He went up to his elevated workspace and I noticed an exact replica of the Bianchi steel frame I rode for years as a fixed gear, raced 508 with on Team Bonobo and then broke shortly thereafter. He said it was a friend’s and was working on it quickly before he replaced my bolts. I was hanging out with his housemates, we’re all shooting the shit and he’s plucking away on this bike. Then I see him working on the Benotto. Finally. I was getting hungry.

Then he passes down my old, broken Bianchi and I reminisce. Ah, Go Vegan! and Converge stickers. Then he comes down with the other Bianchi that has all the Benotto parts on it! ‘Dude, that bike was sketchy, I couldn’t let you ride it. I thought you’d be stoked on the same bike you had before.’ So stoked!


The 'new' Bianchi with the Benotto components and the old, broken Bianchi. Thanks Jack!



We went and ate at Pure Luck and then I rode it the mile back to my house. Sweet, no more untightenable headset or sketchy, loose cranks! Is this bike now too nice to be my junker commuter?


Thursday- Work, Work, Ride to Airport

I’ve no qualm with packing my days tight. Thursday morning I woke up early to pack for my weekend in SF and was out the door by 830am to teach my 935am class. I ride to the Rapid bus on the new Bianchi. After class I have lunch and then a teacher training for my other job from 1230-330pm. Flight at 530pm, so just under an hour to go the 6 miles to the airport. I’ve ridden to LAX before and had just gotten done telling my co-workers how easy it is.  Earlier I had felt the cog slipping a little, but I thought it was just settling. It looked okay. Then less than a mile away it’s slipping again. A lot. I look closely at the cog and it’s totally stripping the hub! Shit. I was 5 miles from the airport, on the side of the road with a stripped cog. Basically I couldn’t propel the bike forward.

But wait, I have a flip-flop hub! I could just thread it onto the other side and hand tighten it and hope for the best? I give it a go but the locknut won’t fit. There’s nothing to hold the cog tight.


40 minutes to get 5 miles with a broken bike.

My phone says over an hour to walk and do public transit. I call Brian and Jenny, who live 3 miles from the airport, whose house I’ve used to drop my bike off when I’ve flown with the break-away bike and had to go straight to work. Neither are home. So I tighten the cog down on the non-stripped side the best I can. With no lock nut. Basically I can pedal but can’t apply back pressure to slow down or the cog unthreads. It’s too sketchy to ride all the way to the airport, since I can’t stop. If I leave my bike at the Greenline station for the weekend any part not locked would be stolen. I aim for Brian and Jenny’s house. The plan is to hop their fence, leave the bike in the backyard and run to public transit.


25 minutes to get 3 miles

I pull up and knock to see if their houseguest is there. No luck. Then out of nowhere Jenny’s brother Alec rides up! Hey man! As I’m explaining my predicament I get a txt that my flight is delayed 30 minutes. Sweet! We open the garage and weigh my options. Try to fix it? Leave it and go on foot? Then he points to a beaten up beach cruiser. Dude, just take that. Score.


40 minutes to get 3 miles- on a beach cruiser!

Within minutes I’m riding the madness of Century Blvd toward LAX. When I ride I take the lane, comfortably. On a beach cruiser on a sketchy, fast westside road is something else. I actually had people slow down and look at me, not with anger, but perplexity.  I am pedaling frantically while wearing a white button-up, nice jeans and dress shoes with these socks:



As I get close to the airport traffic slows, I wave to the security folks and cruise into Terminal One. I hop the curb and ride straight to the bike rack. Boom. Early. Possibly would have made the original flight time!

So my record stands: I’ve never missed a flight. Sure, I got lucky, but what is luck than just keeping options open and having Faith in Vagueness? Now I just need to figure out how I’m getting to work Tuesday morning…



Filed under city, public trans, travel