On a roll with CicLAvia


In late April, some 200,000 people on foot and on cycles — most with two wheels, some with three or four and even one jerry-rigged to be two stories high — swarmed Venice Boulevard, clogging the roadway from downtown Los Angeles to the beach. They came from throughout the city, and they shared the road with grace, even under worse-than-rush-hour conditions. In its seventh incarnation, CicLAvia has truly come of age, its popularity reaching a level that defied even the highest of expectations.  

And so, it will happen again this Sunday, June 23, when the next CicLAvia takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard closed to cars to allow for pedestrians and cyclists to appreciate the shops, vendors and scenery of Los Angeles. Dubbed “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard,” the route will run from One Wilshire, at Wilshire and Grand Avenue downtown, to Fairfax, passing through Koreatown and MacArthur Park. Visitors interested in the history of the boulevard as they pass by can use a guide prepared by Catherine Gudis, an associate history professor at UC Riverside, which be available for free at the various “hubs” along the route. They can also download free podcasts by Edward Lifson, a senior lecturer at the USC School of Architecture, from ciclavia.org. Pedestrian areas at the beginning and end of the route will offer food trucks and activities sponsored by community partners and museums.

CicLAvia is modeled after a similar festival, Ciclovia, in Bogota, Colombia; both are intended to address the problems of traffic congestion and pollution that make it difficult for citizens to fully enjoy their home cities. In the spirit of promoting public space, participation in CicLAvia is free.

At least 100,000 people are expected to attend this weekend’s event, and Aaron Paley, executive director of CicLAvia, says he no longer worries about attracting a minimum number of people to the event, as it is the “largest event of its kind in terms of numbers in the U.S. and Canada.” He did not realize upon starting the project just how great the demand would be. CicLAvia’s success has allowed him to schedule two just two months apart, and he currently is working to make CicLAvia a monthly event, with new locations for in such places as Claremont, West Los Angeles, and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

“Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” will cost $400,000 to $500,000. According to its Web site, ciclavia.org, the nonprofit organization CicLAvia provides 40 percent of the resources for the event through donations from individuals, grants and corporate sponsorships. The city covers the rest of the cost, including such services as police, fire, traffic regulation and sanitation. 

Paley has devoted much of his life to creating and utilizing public space. He is the founder of Yiddishkayt, an organization that attempts to infuse modern life in Los Angeles with Yiddish culture, both to enrich Jewish life in L.A. and to keep Yiddish alive outside of academia. He is also the president of Community Arts Resources, which uses marketing expertise, a database and other outreach methods to assist cultural and arts organizations in attracting a greater number of people to events and festivals. 

“For me … what they have in common is how we as people deal with this city, and how we as Angelenos treat each other and think about each other. Those values are all based on how I was raised as a secular, left-wing, Yiddish-ist Jew in L.A.,” Paley said. “I was raised with a very strong sense of social engagement and a very strong sense that it is important to understand ourselves as Jews within the context of the society we live in.”

This time, he is especially excited for people to experience “the absolute beauty” of Wilshire Boulevard, which he calls “the spine of the city.” And he points to the Jewish architecture along the route, including the iconic Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the Dunes Inn, the latter designed by Jewish architect Sam Reisbord. 

“A great Jewish outing in Los Angeles is to enjoy your city and your neighbors and to fall in love with this city all over again,” Paley said.

For more information on the upcoming CicLAvia, visit www.ciclavia.org.

Cardboard bicycle can change the world, says Israeli inventor


A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world's most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.

Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard.

He told Reuters during a recent demonstration that after much trial and error, his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months.

“I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions. But this was the culmination of a few things that came together. I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard's weak structural points,” Gafni said.

“Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right,” he said.

Cardboard, made of wood pulp, was invented in the 19th century as sturdy packaging for carrying other more valuable objects, it has rarely been considered as raw material for things usually made of much stronger materials, such as metal.

Once the shape has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.

In testing the durability of the treated cardboard, Gafni said he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.

Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal parts, even the brake mechanism and the wheel and pedal bearings will be made of recycled substances, although Gafni said he could not yet reveal those details due to pending patent issues.

“I'm repeatedly surprised at just how strong this material is, it is amazing. Once we are ready to go to production, the bike will have no metal parts at all,” Gafni said.

Cardboard Bike

Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni rides his cardboard bicycle in Moshav Ahituv, Israel, on Sept. 24. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Gafni's workshop, a ramshackle garden shed, is typically the sort of place where legendary inventions are born. It is crammed with tools and bicycle parts and cardboard is strewn everywhere.

One of his first models was a push bike he made as a toy for his young daughter which she is still using months later.

Gafni owns several top-of-the-range bicycles which he said are worth thousands of dollars each, but when his own creation reaches mass production, it should cost no more than about $20 to buy. The cost of materials used are estimated at $9 per unit.

“When we started, a year and a half or two years ago, people laughed at us, but now we are getting at least a dozen e-mails every day asking where they can buy such a bicycle, so this really makes me hopeful that we will succeed,” he said.

A ride of the prototype was quite stiff, but generally no different to other ordinary basic bikes.

“GAME CHANGER”

Nimrod Elmish, Gafni's business partner, said cardboard and other recycled materials could bring a major change in current production norms because grants and rebates would only be given for local production and there would be no financial benefits by making bicycles in cheap labour markets.

“This is a real game-changer. It changes … the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labour markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change,” he said.

Elmish said the cardboard bikes would be made on largely automated production lines and would be supplemented by a workforce comprising pensioners and the disabled.

He said that apart from the social benefits this would provide for all concerned, it would also garner government grants for the manufacturers.

Elmish said the business model they had created meant that rebates for using “green” materials would entirely cancel out production costs and this could allow for bicycles to be given away for free in poor countries.

Producers would reap financial rewards from advertisements such as from multinational companies who would pay for their logo to be part of the frame, he explained.

Cardboard Bike Construction

Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni demonstrates how he makes his cardboard bicycle in his workshop in Moshav Ahituv, Israel, on Sept. 24. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“Because you get a lot of government grants, it brings down the production costs to zero, so the bicycles can be given away for free. We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising,” Elmish explained.

“It could be sold for around $20, because (retailers) have to make a profit … and we think they should not cost any more than that. We will make our money from advertising,” he added.

Elmish said initial production was set to begin in Israel in months on three bicycle models and a wheelchair and they will be available to purchase within a year.

“In six months we will have completed planning the first production lines for an urban bike which will be assisted by an electric motor, a youth bike which will be a 2/3 size model for children in Africa, a balance bike for youngsters learning to ride, and a wheelchair that a non-profit organisation wants to build with our technology for Africa,” he said.

CHEAP AND LIGHT

The bicycles are not only very cheap to make, they are very light and do not need to be adjusted or repaired, the solid tyres that are made of reconstituted rubber from old car tyres will never get a puncture, Elmish said.

“These bikes need no maintenance and no adjustment, a car timing belt is used instead of a chain, and the tyres do not need inflating and can last for 10 years,” he said.

A full-size cardboard bicycle will weigh around 9 kg (about 20 lbs) compared to an average metal bicycle, which weight around 14 kg.

The urban bicycle, similar to London's “Boris bikes” and others worldwide, will have a mounting for a personal electric motor. Commuters would buy one and use it for their journey and then take it home or to work where it could be recharged.

He said that as bicycles would be so cheap, it hardly mattered how long they lasted.

“So you buy one, use it for a year and then you can buy another one, and if it breaks, you can take it back to the factory and recycle it,” he said.

Gafni predicted that in the future, cardboard might even be used in cars and even aircraft “but that is still a way down the road.”

“We are just at the beginning and from here my vision is to see cardboard replacing metals … and countries that right now don't have the money, will be able to benefit from so many uses for this material,” he said.

Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Paul Casciato

Grieving Son bikes from Malibu to New York in vow to end cancer


When Tom Peled’s father died of abdominal cancer in 2011, he channeled his grief into a three-month, 3,000-mile bike ride through six European countries — from Berlin, Germany, to Fisterra, Spain.

Peled, who lives in southern Israel, is now tackling another continent. On July 29, the 24-year-old Peled embarked on another extended bike ride — this time from Malibu to New York.

He also has a different purpose in mind: to eliminate cancer.

“After he passed away, I was in a state of depression,” Peled said, referring to his father, Remy. “After eight years of thinking that [my father] would survive, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next or where to go. Everyone was trying to tell me what to do, and I felt that I needed time for myself, to reconnect.”

He felt that the best way to cope with his emotions was to challenge himself on both a physical and mental level. Biking has always played a significant role in his life, from biking to school as a child to biking the entire length of Israel in 2009 with a friend when he finished his service in the Israeli army. Thus, he decided to challenge himself by spending the summer of 2011 biking across the European continent.

He embarked with no set plans, intending to “just land and let things happen.” He allotted $25 for his daily budget.

“It was amazing seeing that deep inside, people are really good. I just shared myself and my story with people all along the way and people always wanted to help. I never once paid for a place to sleep. People at cafes or in the street would see me and start talking to me. Soon enough, they’d invite me to stay with them for a few nights,” Peled said.

It was exactly this reaction and response from the people he met along the way that motivated Peled to elevate his bike ride to a larger purpose.

“I felt that I needed to take this energy and this love for biking and make something bigger out of it. And with that, I came back to Israel and pushed it forward into what eventually became Bike for the Fight,” Peled said.

This time, Peled will not be riding solo. He will be accompanied by three friends: Roey Peleg, a medic, will ride with Peled; Eran Rozen will drive with the team; and Luca Seres, a film student, will make a documentary of the trip.

Peled’s ultimate goal is to eliminate cancer. He plans on reaching this goal by donating all the money he raises along the way to the Israeli Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), an organization that is solely dedicated to funding and supporting cancer research in Israel for the benefit of Israel and all mankind. Since its inception in 1975, the fund has raised more than $40 million for cancer research in Israel.

“I want to make sure the minds stay in Israel,” Peled said. “Israel has so much potential, but we are always lacking the financing for research, and often our scientists go abroad to research. I was really committed to making sure that the money goes to research and that it goes to Israeli research.”

Peled and his team officially embarked on July 29 when they visited Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, where Peled used to be a counselor.

Both in Israel and Los Angeles, several “kickoff” events were held to send them off and to raise money. To date, Bike for the Fight has raised $40,000, almost half of Peled’s $100,000 goal.

Along the way, Peled will stop in Jewish communities, summer camps and sporting events to share his story and encourage others to join his cause. Thanks to Microsoft, an app has been created allowing people to track the team’s progress and donate. He encourages anyone to accompany him on any part of his trip. The Maccabi World Union, Hillel, the Israeli Embassy and El-Al all have been strategic in supporting, funding and coordinating events for him. Peled even met with both President Shimon Peres and Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, to gain their support.

Although he does not have any clear vision for the future, he knows that he does not want this bike trip to be his last. He wants to do it again and again. Ultimately, he hopes that Bike for the Fight can be the “Livestrong of the Jewish world.”

To learn more about Bike for the Fight, visit their page on Facebook.

Israeli cyclist completes international odyssey


Israeli cyclist Roei “Jinji” Sadan, who has spent the past four years crossing 42 countries on six continents, reached his final destination.

Sadan, 29, arrived at the Sydney Opera House Thursday afternoon on his 27-gear, custom-built, blue-and-white bicycle sporting the Israeli and Australian flags.

It marked the official end of his globetrotting odyssey that spanned some 40,000 miles. Part of the trek was spent as a goodwill ambassador for Israel.

“I’m excited, but it’s also a weird feeling because this is the end,” Sadan said in Sydney.

He was greeted by representatives of the Zionist Council of New South Wales, which has organized an event Sunday to celebrate Sadan’s achievement.

In 2009, during a brief visit home, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein gave Sadan his blessing to be a roving ambassador for Israel. Since then he has spoken to more than 1,500 children as well as given interviews to scores of media outlets about the “real” Israel. Sadan is scheduled to speak to several school and community events while in Sydney.

During his adventure, which cost about $60,000—part of it covered by his sponsor, the Israeli water company Mey Eden—he was held up at gunpoint in Mexico,
bitten by a wild dog in Peru, contracted malaria in Mozambique and hit by a car in Bolivia.

Sadan said he intends to become a motivational speaker and wants to transform his diaries into a book that he hopes will inspire people to follow their dreams.

Next weekend he will fly to Thailand and then on to Jordan before cycling to Jerusalem, where he hopes to be the star attraction at a homecoming event at the
Western Wall.

Bike the Big Apple


Chasidic Williamsburg, Roosevelt Island and Long Island City are easily navigable by bicycle, but given New York’s frenetic pace, you might prefer an expert take you there.

Bronx native Joel Seidenstein stands ready at the handlebars.

After 33 years teaching social studies in the city public schools, Seidenstein launched Bike the Big Apple bicycle tours as a second career. His professional experience and Borscht Belt one-liners make this Teaneck, N.J. resident a charming guide.

On a recent Friday, I joined Seidenstein, a second guide and eight tourists for the “Back to the Old Country — The Ethnic Apple Tour.” For five hours and 18 miles we cycled over bridges and waterways, dodging traffic jams, potholes and hazards by taking “quieter” streets. (This is New York, after all.) It was a great alternative to explore the city’s ethnic diversity and visit one of its most interesting Jewish areas: Williamsburg.

Our tour began on Second Avenue as we picked up our bikes at the Pedal Pusher Bike Shop on the Upper East Side. Equipped with helmets and Velcroed ankle ties to keep pants from getting caught in bike chains, we headed south, single file, to 60th Street. We schlepped our bikes up a flight of stairs and wheeled them on to a massive tram for a ride over the East River. Featured in the smash film “Spider-Man,” this Swiss-made ski tram was installed about 30 years ago. It is one of the few of its kind operating in an urban setting. Surrounded by windows on all sides, the 360-degree view was spectacular.

Within minutes we landed on Roosevelt Island. While we stopped and admired the views, Seidenstein explained how the island evolved into a “city within the city” as a refuge for smallpox victims, the insane and criminals. Once known as Welfare Island, it was filled with institutions and “undesirables” from the bigger city just across the river.

Seidenstein led us on our bikes across the island, pointing out landmarks along the way. When we reached the northern tip of the island facing Hell’s Gate, Gracie Mansion and the Triborough Bridge, Seidenstein read to us from Charles Dickens, who visited the island 150 years ago and described the “ugly nakedness of these houses of hell.”

To leave the island, we pedaled up the 59th Street Bridge to Queens, then past the former Pepsi-Cola plant to Long Island City, where we stopped at a small park at the end of the railroad tracks. With the beautiful backdrop of the city behind him, Seidenstein recalled the history of the neighborhood and how barges met trains delivering goods destined for the city.

As we made our way into the heart of the neighborhood, Seidenstein pointed out the ethnic mix of the area. Examples were everywhere. A Spanish bodega called Los Amigos Deli stood in the shadow of the Italian Manetta Ristorante.

Soon after we were in Greenpoint, a Polish-Russian neighborhood that also has an Islamic presence. Mosques and Orthodox churches stand practically side by side. While the rest of our group, which wasn’t Jewish, went on to eat in a non-kosher Thai restaurant, I continued on to Williamsburg, with the plan that our group would join me there after lunch.

I had a great time exploring this Chasidic neighborhood on bike, meandering down the streets and into a few shops. An estimated 60,000 Satmars call Williamsburg home, and I found myself amid the Sabbath eve bustle. I felt a bit out of place as a modern woman with a bicycle in tow, but knowing that I was soon to be joining their pre-Shabbat rush, I also felt a certain kinship and an appreciation for their traditional way of life and the preservation of many important Jewish values.

When the rest of the tour group rejoined me soon after, Seidenstein asked me to translate Hebrew writing spray-painted on the sidewalk that encouraged the observance of the “holy Shabbos.” As we stood there discussing the Satmar way of life, the local bus rolled by, the words “Williamsburg Trolley” spelled out above the windshield in Hebrew letters.

From Williamsburg we continued onward past a few other sites, including the old Navy Yard, where director Steven Spielberg has purchased property to build a “Hollywood of the East.”

Leaving Brooklyn, the Friday traffic was heavy, but the view of Lower Manhattan was well worth it. Our ascent onto the Brooklyn Bridge was the perfect finale. The expansive skyline unfolded to our left and right. Once we reached the halfway point, Seidenstein wowed us with more historic details about the fascinating construction of this architectural masterpiece.

For more information, call (877) 865-0078 or visit

Spinning Wheels for a Good Cause


 

Some people kiss the soil of Israel when they come to the Holy Land. Last month, Audrey Adler didn’t so much kiss the dirt as inhale it.

Adler and a handful of other Angelenos participated in a charity bike ride for Alyn Children’s Hospital in Jerusalem through some of the toughest terrain Adler has ridden.

A mountain bike racer and triathelete who trains in the Santa Monica Mountains, Adler took the off-road leg of the bike ride from the Negev desert up to the Dead Sea and on to Jerusalem, where 250 yellow-clad riders from around the world swept into the parking lot of Alyn hospital on Oct. 28. This year’s ride raised nearly $1 million for the hospital, which has a new residential wing and rehab center for children with chronic respiratory disease. Christopher Reeve visited the hospital last year and was a supporter.

“When you see these kids you just say, ‘OK, I’ll do whatever you want,'” Adler said. “These are kids who were born with difficulties, kids who were victims of terrorist attacks, kids that just had fluke accidents.”

Adler, a self-described workout maniac who teaches spin classes for women at her home studio, and also leads classes at the Spectrum Club and Sports Club/LA, didn’t let a shattered wrist bone from a snowboarding accident last February stop her from training for the five-day, 240-mile ride (300 miles for the on-road riders). It started at the Ramon Crater in the Negev, traversing dusty desert mountains in 100-degree heat and stifling humidity.

Riders stayed overnight at kibbutz guest houses, and Adler was inspired by visions of men going to minyan at the crack of dawn with tallit and teffilin over their lycra shorts and yellow jerseys.

“It was like I died and went to heaven — that I could ride on a supportive ride that didn’t ride on Shabbos, that catered to my every need with three kosher meals a day, and I was out there with other maniacs like me that were Jewish and Israeli, but total fiends like myself,” Adler said.

This is Adler’s second year riding in the 5-year-old event, and this year she got corporate sponsorship from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, whose Californian and Israeli divisions kicked in $5,000 for her ride. In addition, Coffee Bean donated a 200-gram souvenir canister of coffee to every rider.

Adler also got $5,000 sponsorship from one of her training clients, Richard Crane, a 61-year-old Jewish man who didn’t have much to do with Judaism or Israel until he met Adler.

“I go out with him on weekends on very long bike rides, and I talk to him about Judaism and I explain things,” she said.

Many of her students are shocked when they find out that Adler, a vivacious talker who doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her and has a fashion sense worthy of her other identity as an interior designer, is in fact a 45-year-old Orthodox mother-in-law.

Adler’s husband, Benny (the eponymous Benny of the minyan at Beth Jacob), secretly trained and surprised her by participating in the on-road bike ride for Alyn, in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary.

“A ride like this gives athletics a deeper meaning. It took everything I’ve worked on for years as an athlete and implanted into it a soul and made it whole,” she said. “This took it to a whole other level and I want to focus on turning other people on to it.”

For more information, visit www.alyn.org, or contact Audrey Adler at www.homebodiesworkout.com or homebodies789@sbcglobal.net.