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Cross-Country Lessons: Biking

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Before moving to Long Beach, I was excited to find out that the city was among the most walkable and bike-friendly in the nation. While I don’t currently own a bike, and biking to work isn’t feasible for me, but I believe that streets should be built for everyone: cars, buses, walking pedestrians, and cyclists. “Complete streets” is an important part of fostering the energetic, interconnected communities that make great places to live.

Long Beach is lucky enough to have its own bikestation downtown on the 1st Street Transit Mall. Here, members can park their bikes 24/7, access bike related amenities like air and tune-ups, and get discounts to sales and rentals. The public is also welcome to free parking during business hours.

It was announced earlier this year that St. Louis would be getting it’s own commuter bike station and shop downtown in the 411 building at 10th & Locust.

As the project comes closer to reality, St. Louis is seeing a change from a spread out and auto-dependent region to a more accessible and healthy one. Both the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County have made great strides in the past several years to promote cycling, make roads safer, and develop bicycle trails. This new commuter station will do something very important for cycling in St. Louis: it will show the importance of providing bike-friendly amenities to people other than just cycling enthusiasts and give value to alternative methods of transportation.

I remember reading somewhere last year that in order to make St. Louis more bike-friendly, we need commuters, consumers and neighbors- not cyclists. It should be easy and safe for people to get to work, school, or the store no matter their chosen method of transportation: on a bike, in a car, or on foot.

This is where St. Louis can learn from Long Beach. Based on what I have observed, and October’s disastrous critical mass event, it seems that many people are confused about bicycle laws, and this could be what is driving the generally negative perception the public has toward bikes. If people on bikes knew to stop at stop signs, wait for the light to turn green, stay to the side of the road, and use turn signals, there might not be as many issues or accidents, and most likely, fewer complaints about cyclists. It is the responsibility of both the public and the city to make sure that cycling is safe, effective, and recognized.

If St. Louis’s new Bike station is as successful as it appears it will be, the region will take a giant step in diversifying public amenities and making St. Louis more accessible to all.

Soon, I hope to have a post on the new protected bike lanes in downtown Long Beach.

 

St. Louis Commuter Bikestation on Facebook
Long Beach Bikestation

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What’s so Great About Food Trucks?

December 3, 2010 7 comments

It looks like Los Angeles isn’t alone in trying to figure out what to do with the rising popularity of food trucks, often referred to as lunch trucks, or gourmet food trucks. The long standing tradition of the taco truck – cheap, simple tacos often hawked in working-class neighborhoods – is being joined by everything from pizza to cupcakes to barbecue. These trucks have been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel shows, and showcase a wide variety of meals and desserts. Los Angeles and Orange

Food trucks at South Bay Din-din a go-go in Carson, CA

Counties seem to be ground zero for this trend, as they are home to hundreds of food trucks. St. Louis only recently followed suit with the popular gourmet pizza restaurant Pi operating it’s own truck, which went live earlier this year. Georgina Gustin of the St. Louis Post Dispatch summarizes the new mobile meal experience nicely:

The popularity of food trucks, though, has as much to do with the novelty of the experience and the spontaneous community that pops up when a food truck rolls into town and parks for a couple of hours. After many food truck drivers find their spot, the first thing they do is post their location on social media sites, often Facebook and Twitter, and within minutes customers start trickling out of office buildings for lunch or a snack.

 

In most cases, and especially that of trucks like the Sugar Babies Cupcakery, food trucks are not just selling a food product, they’re selling an experience. Sugar Babies sells miniature cupcakes, delicately decorated in pretty colors, from their bright pink truck. The girls inside wear pink and grey dresses which evoke a 60’s-era look and novelty feel. This type of theme makes the food truck experience seem more special and exciting to a host neighborhood. Anyone can walk to a bakery and get cupcakes, but the Sugar Babies image is something unique and fun, and consequently, marketable.

I’ve spotted a few of the more popular trucks around LA, but I was only recently able to eat from one at a “South Bay Din-din a go-go” food truck meet-up event in Carson.

A Typical Food Truck "Storefront"

With the newfound excitement over “gourmet” or non-traditional trucks, comes plenty of debate points. Is a mobile restaurant fair competition for traditional ones? Are they held to the same health standards? What about parking regulations?

Personally, I think that these newer Food Trucks are a fun way to bring people together around good food. There’s just something exciting about shouting your order into the tiny window of a truck, shelling out a few bucks, and then eating some delicious food outside with other people. This phenomenon is relatively new to St. Louis, as permits for street food vendors are hard to come by, so I may be prone to some newcomer excitement. I recently ate from the Mandoline Grill Truck, and I have to say that I highly recommend the tofu.

I can definitely see however, how my opinion on this whole issue might be very different if I was the owner of a traditional “brick-and-mortar” restaurant. Parking a taco truck in front of a Mexican restaurant or a pizza truck in front of a pizzeria just isn’t a very fair or ethical business practice. On the other hand, these newer trucks provide more dining options in a given area and contrive opportunities for spontaneous neighborhood gatherings.

At times I think, “why would I go out of my way for a Korean BBQ truck when there’s Korean BBQ that people rave about right down the street?” but when the acclaimed Kogi Truck visits Long Beach, my thoughts change to “why get the same Korean BBQ I can get any day when the Kogi Truck is in town?” So maybe I can’t really answer the question “what’s so great?” about these new trucks, but I do recommend that everyone check them out.

At the very least, it’s good to hear that food trucks will soon be subject to the same health codes that any other restaurant must follow. As for parking regulations and competition issues, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. For now, I’ll just enjoy the fun, community, and good food.

 

Sources: Bussiness Week, KPCC, stltoday (Post-Dispatch)

Categories: Food Tags: , , ,