In his latest LA Notebook, Times of London correspondent Chris Ayres tells U.K. readers that he has decided to become a Los Angeles bicycle rider, despite his loathing of that niche of Angeleno.
Thereís something insufferable about their tight, inappropriately bulging shorts; their skinny, hairless legs; and the way they cut between gridlocked traffic and mount the pavement whenever it suits them. Not to mention the unbearable smugness that comes from saving the planet while staying fit at the same time.
I have long comforted myself with the thought that cyclists still need oil from the Middle East to lubricate their chains. And that rush-hour smog still smells better than sweaty Lycra.
Riding a bicycle isnít just a transport decision in Los Angeles, you see. Itís a political statement; an environmental plea; an act of personal courage ó or stupidity, depending on how you look at it. The one advantage of riding a bicycle here is that no one will try to steal it. No self-respecting gang-banger is going to return to Compton on two wheels, wearing trouser clips....
So what convinced me to swap four wheels for two? First came my growing waistline. Next came the tripling of petrol prices. Then, to rub it all in, came a new SUV with a computerised dashboard, which informed me I was consuming one gallon of petrol for every ten miles travelled. The solution to the first problem was easy: join a $200-per-month air-conditioned gym, then drive to it every other day in my $1,000-per-month air-conditioned SUV....So now I am one of them: the few; the brave; the suicidal. We wear helmets, flak vests, leg protectors, hiking boots and buttock pads. We use handlebar bells and hand signals to survive. Hybrid drivers stop and wave as they see me wobbling up the Santa Monica Mountains, sweating like a Marine, with a water bottle in hand.