This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker on September 1, 2008
The rule is that if you want to be an actor in L.A., you have to have a car – NOT! I have been riding my bike all over town for about 5 years now, and I have been car-free for about two years. Meanwhile, I work on stage productions and films on a regular basis.
How do I get to auditions and to jobs, you probably ask? And what about auditions for which I need to be dressed up in heels and a skirt? What about jobs that require my hair to be styled?
I get there by bike and public transportation. Maybe twice a year I actually use a car.
The last audition I drove to in my car took place about two years ago. It was in Santa Monica at around 2 p.m., and I made it out there in under an hour. Going back home, though, took me over two hours. It was that day that I decided not to drive to auditions anymore. It takes me about an hour to get to Santa Monica on my bike, and it only takes me an hour to get back home. I also save money on parking, gas and all the parking tickets that I used to get.
Sometimes I bike to auditions in heels and a skirt, sometimes I ride to them in boots and a suit. My hair is always up under my helmet or in curlers and, as I told you in my article last month, I always carry my headshots, resumes and other essentials in a messenger bag or in my panniers. Baskets are also nice for carrying stuff, but make sure you secure your bag inside the basket so that nobody can grab it and run, and it doesn’t bounce out of the basket when you hit a pothole.
Two years into riding my bike, I see more and more people like me. I love it, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t know how to ride, how to avoid conflict or how to lock up their bikes. They also don’t know the law, which is a good thing to familiarize yourself with if you’re going to be on the road. Mostly, people who ride bikes need to know that it’s important to ride your bike like you drive your car. That doesn’t mean holding a latte in one hand and your sides in the other. On your bike you have the same rights and the same responsibilities that you do in your car.
How to ride your bike:
1. Ride in the street, not on the sidewalk. Riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous, not just to pedestrians coming out of stores but also to you at every driveway and at every intersection.
2. Ride with the direction of traffic and adhere to all the signals and signs.
3. Get in the left hand turning lane to make a left turn. Ride in the straight moving lane (not in the right turning lane) if you are going straight.
4. Signal your intentions to those behind you and in front of you at all times. Since you don’t have lights to signal with, use your hand and your head. When you are changing direction, always glance back quickly over your shoulder to let the driver behind you know that they need to be cautious around you. Wait for the driver to slow down before you change lanes.
How too avoid conflict:
1. Stay out of the door zone (stay a minimum of four feet away from cars to avoid doors opening on you).
2. If a lane is not wide enough to share with a car and there is no Bike Lane, ride in the middle of lane as if you are a car. Otherwise, drivers might squeeze you into the door zone.
3. Avoid riding in the gutter (you are not visible there and there is too much trash that can flatten your tires or cause you to fall).
4. Have front and back lights on your bike.
5. Don’t zig zag between cars. Ride in a straight line with traffic.
To learn some more about riding your bike, watch this video on illuminateLA.com.
Locking up your bike:
When you arrive at your destination, you will need to lock up your bike. Very few places in Los Angeles have bike parking so sometimes we have to be creative if there are no inverted U-racks. Instead, find a rail, a pole or a tree that is stationary. Make sure that whatever you choose is high enough that your bike can’t be slipped off (parking meters are not ideal unless you have a U-Lock). If possible, find a place to lock your bike where the frame and the front wheel are both protected.
How to lock up your bike:
Note: here the front wheels are not locked, which leaves it vulnerable to theft as well as to tampering.
How NOT to lock up your bike:
Note: Neither the frame nor the front tire is secure here, so the bike can fall and be tampered with.
Note: Same problem here. Your back wheel is vulnerable to theft and your bike could fall over.
Note: Someone could easily steal your front tire!
If there is no bike parking or no safe bike parking anywhere, take your bike inside. For a comprehensive guide on locking up your bike, visit my friends at cicle.org.
Be Clean and Look Good :
When you go to an audition or a job, take your time getting there. You don’t want to arrive sweaty and panting. I don’t use talcum powder because of potential health risks, but I always have baby wipes and deodorant with me. Also, have a hairbrush in your bag to fix your hair and some make-up to freshen up. Here are a few other tips:
1. Carry baby wipes and deodorant.
2. Don’t forget the hairbrush.
3. Put Make-up in your bag as well.
4. Always wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes from the wind.
5. Protect your skin with sun-block. Don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck. Ladies, put plenty of sun-block on your chest.
6. If you sweat a lot, take a change of clothing with you or just ride slow.
Do not fear however. If riding a bike is not for you, check in next month to read about getting around the city via public transportation.
To me cyclists are heroes for leaving very little carbon footprints and for using their own physical means to push them forward for long distances. Riding a bike is addictive. It’s healthy, it’s challenging, it’s liberating and it is economically the best choice for getting around. Riding a bike will make you feel alive, strong and smart. 🙂
Eventually, it will become easier and easier to ride your bike, but it takes some time to get used to it in Los Angeles. If it feels scary at first, try to ride with a friend or participate in some group rides. Los Angeles is a beautiful city to ride in and the weather is always good.
Tips for drivers:
1. Please remember to be cautious around cyclists.
2. Don’t cut bicyclists off. Instead, slow down and wait until it’s safe to make your left or right turn.
3. Don’t honk your horn to “warn” cyclists that you are behind them. You will only spook them and might cause them to swerve.
4. Keep at least three or four feet between you and a cyclist. The draft of a car can cause a cyclist to loose control, and your mirror could clip the cyclist’s bag or handlebar. Unexpected road hazards – car doors, pedestrians, etc. – can only be avoided if there is “wiggle room” for a cyclist.
5. Look for cyclists in your rearview mirror when you open your door to get out or step into the street to get back in.
6. Don’t linger in bike lanes. Bike lanes are considered traffic lanes.
Cyclists are vulnerable and drivers need to use caution around them. They can ride between 10 and 30 miles per hour or more going downhill, so don’t underestimate their speed. Better to be delayed for ten seconds by a cyclist than risk their life and yours.
Have fun riding and exploring the city!