That’s the sound I heard as I was cruising along 4th Street yesterday, headed to speak about freelancing at the Upod Academy hosted by my friend David. As soon as I heard it, I knew what had happened, and I hopped off my bike at the next corner in time to hear the final gasps of air emitting from my tire. My initial response of OMG, a flat! turned quickly to fascination: Oooooh, a flat! After all, it was my first.
After some panicked fiddling, I decided I did not have the time, tools or intelligence to fix my busted tire at that moment, so I chained my bike up to the nearest street sign (which in Hancock Park, is really just part of someone’s extra big lawn) and headed out on foot so I could make it to my speaking engagement. It was a funny feeling: Even though I could have easily taken the bus to begin with, switching up modes like this mid-journey made me a bit disoriented. I needed to get to Venice as fast as I possibly could, and every step needed to be extremely efficient. I started walking south to Wilshire on a multimodal race to my destination—one that could only have been possible with the help of my iPhone.
View Flat day in a larger map
As I waited for the bus on Wilshire, for example, I realized I was only 1.3 miles from Venice Boulevard. I knew this because Nextrip, the awesome GPS-enabled app that I use to see when the next bus is coming, also shows the distance to nearby stations. I use Nextrip to keep tabs on when a bus is arriving, but I’d never used it this way: to help me find an alternate stop when one wait is too long. Instead of waiting the 38 minutes for the bus to come to take me to Venice Boulevard (the LA Triathlon was delaying north-south routes), I realized I could walk to a different stop on Venice in about 30 minutes and catch the 733 from there. Which I did—stumbling across a lovely succulent garden along the way—and arriving at my destination exactly one hour late.
On the way home, I bused back to my bike and walked it up to Melrose, where I loaded it onto the 10 bus. A few minutes later, after a not-at-all-unpleasant day of roundabout routes, I rolled my poor deflated bike into Orange 20. With the help of their friendly staff, I found the reason for my detour. I picked up a better patch kit and an extra tube for next time the street decides to send such a lovely gift my way.
At this point I was truly exhausted, but I needed to make one final stop. Across the street from Orange 20 is Scoops, where giant helpings of Kabocha squash and lemon hefeweizen gelato made the day’s adventures worth it. Next time I’ll be better prepared to fix my own flat myself, but if these episodes always end up like this—enjoying a nice walk on unexpected streets, learning distances between different parts of the city, rewarding myself with ice cream—I hope I blow my tire more often.
Update: Check this out! Reroute.it is an easy way to calculate your transportation choices. When mapping a distance, you can see how the various ways of getting there will impact your body, wallet and planet. Learn how many calories you’ll burn by walking, what a car will cost vs. a bike, and how much time it will take our of your schedule. Then you can make the decision best for you. I’ve already downloaded it and plan to write more about it soon. It’s created by Aaron Ogle and Talin Salway, with design by Pete Fecteau and I found it via Tim O’Reilly.