The Bicycles of Larchmont
There's a locally-famous and much-loved little shopping street in Los Angeles called Larchmont Boulevard, sitting right between tony Hancock Park and gritty Hollywood. I grew up a couple of blocks from it, at a time when it was already much-loved but not at all famous, even locally, being a sweet but sleepy little block, populated mostly by dusty boutiques catering to the rich little old ladies who tottered back and forth along it in their shawls and gloves.

Nowadays, the street is much livelier and hipper, and even the little old ladies have styled hair, face lifts, and--at least among the numerous real-estate agents of the streets--a rather sharp-eyed, predatory gleam. The goulash house and fake French café have been replaced by coffeehouses, intimate bistros, a genuine New York pizzeria that kicks ass on most of its brethren that stayed back east, and a real French café, run by actual French folk.

Now, leggy women lope along the crowded sidewalks, blithely battering passersby with their rolled-up yoga mats; tattooed and potbellied film directors crowd the sidewalk tables and loudly laugh over their latest deals; and tattooed but much thinner hipsters slouch over lattes and laptops, with one eye parked on their fixies parked down the street.

If you were in a cynical mood, you could say that it embodies every cliché ever pasted over LA's sunburned visage (except for beach culture, since the beach is fifteen miles away)--but that may be because it's largely populated these days by people who manufacture and feed the cliché to the rest of America for their living.

It's also multi-everything: multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and multi-class, with babies, grannies, boomers, and name-your-somethings mingling among bums and billionaires, clerks and doctors and actors and droning visionaries and and good handful of nearly everything else you find in our broad and busy every shape, size, and temperament, from inner-city skate punks to the kind of well-off gentlemen who dress for breakfast in a three-piece suit.

And a good number of these folks ride in by bicycle. This one short block surrounded mostly by single-family houses boasts close to forty bike racks--thirty-three of them installed just last year, when the parking meters were replaced by pay stations. And they're pretty well used: on any day, especially around midday, you can find a chaotic assortment of bikes, mostly cruisers and hybrids but including: ratty old Bike Boom beaters, slick fixies, MTBs, an occasional Dutch-style bike, and some generally older road bikes. A fair number of baskets, more fenders than you'd suspect at first glance, racks and panniers quite common. Even a Brompton regularly ridden in by a slim and well-dressed fellow of a certain age.

I go there often, on my own business, or my late mother's, or to meet friends, as it's halfway between where I live and where a lot of them live; its town-square atmosphere appeals to nearly everyone. So I've decided to start taking pictures of the bicycles of Larchmont.

Here's a little selection photographed in late summer of 2010.

Text & photos by Richard Risemberg

Photographed on Wednesday, September 1st, around 10:30am, and Saturday, September 4th, around noon, 2010.