August 30, 2014 § 17 Comments
He was the kid your mom didn’t want you to play with, but you did.
“Dude,” I said as I rolled up to his shop, a small mountain of surfboard shavings piled in the corner. “I gotta be back by 10:30.”
“No problem,” he said. Even for him, 10:30 sounded like a reasonable time to start the day. “What’s going on?”
“I have to get a couple of documents back to clients and they need the drafts by noon.”
“What were you thinking of doing?” He had that smile, and fastened his helmet.
“Santa Monica, then Amalfi, down Sunset and over to Mandeville. That should put me back with a couple of minutes to spare.”
“No problem.” Smile.
In Santa Monica we started up Amalfi. “Hey,” said Surfer Dan. “You ever do Sullivan Ranch?”
“No,” I said.
“Wanna do it? It’s got a little stretch of pretty cool dirt.”
We were on our road bikes. “I don’t care what we do,” I said. “But I gotta be back by 10:30.”
As anyone who doesn’t know Los Angeles will tell you, it’s a concrete jungle. Surfer knows every nook and cranny of the city, and before long, high above the millionaire mansions of Brentwood, we were past a locked gate and climbing a steep dirt trail. “Glad I got these CX 2-mm’s.” I muttered a prayer of thanks to Moonshine, who had given me the tires a few weeks back. I dodged rocks and slogged uphill, barely keeping Dan’s ass in sight. We’d been climbing for miles now, ever since the base of Amalfi at sea level.
“You okay?” asked Surfer, smiling.
“Yeah,” I grunted. “Glad I got this 28-cog on the back, though.” My frame shuddered through another chughole.
A couple of mountain bikers came by, hanging on for dear life and giving us the crazy look. “You can’t do that,” their faces said. “You’re on road bikes.”
We came to another gate. Beyond it was a dirt road that went on forever.
“Wanna keep going?” Surfer ask-smiled.
“Look, man, I don’t care, but … “
“… you gotta be home by 10:30.”
“Let’s keep going, then.”
Now we were far from anything. There was only the sound of our tires crunching the dirt and our frames bouncing along the washboard and my labored breathing as we climbed, climbed, climbed, and Dan chattered on.
A long time later we reached an old deactivated Minute Man ICBM silo. We finally descended to pavement. Our bikes and we were covered from head to toe in dust, which made sense because I’d cleaned my bike that morning.
The road dumped out at Sepulveda and the 405, smack in the center of the worst traffic in America, as magical as if we’d walked through Alice’s looking-glass, from silence and endless green vistas that reached to the glittering sea to the thrum and impatience and sweating frustration of a million cagers locked in their steel coffins.
“How far are we from home?” I asked.
“Two hours if we drill it.”
It was 10:30.
“Let’s go, then.” I grinned at him and he grinned back. We put our heads down and pinned it, me and Trouble.
Of course I ended up being late, but I wasn’t, really.
August 29, 2014 § 12 Comments
This is gonna be short. (That’s what he said.)
On Wednesday, September 3, the LA County Bicycle Coalition is rolling out from the crash site on Mulholland to hand deliver a letter urging the Los Angeles County District Attorney to revisit the decision by assistant D.A. Rosa Alarcon not to file charges against Deputy Andrew Wood for killing cyclist Milton Olin, and to consider prosecuting him for vehicular manslaughter.
I hope you’ll join us for some or all of the route, which is:
- 4:00 p.m. Meet at crash site (around 22532 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, CA 91302)
- 4:15 p.m. Moment of silence
- 4:30 p.m. Start ride
- 6:30 p.m. Leave from the L.A. Zoo parking lot (5333 Zoo Dr, Griffith Park, CA 90027). Other riders can meet up here.
- 7:30-8:00 p.m. Arrive at District Attorney’s office (210 W Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012)
- 8:00 p.m. Candlelight vigil
See more information on the LACBC website: la-bike.org/milt-olin
It will be a slow pace, no-drop ride.
This is a great way to get off the Internet and venture out into the “meatspace,” where real shit happens. Let’s all take a stand for Milton Olin and the other bicyclists who have been killed because some cager decided that texting was more important than watching the road.
This one’s for Milton.
P.S.: While you’re at it, you can sign this petition demanding that the District Attorney file charges.
I’d rather have you pedaling in person, but if you’d prefer to kick in a couple of bucks, well, that’s fine, too. Here’s the link: $2.99 per month to subscribe to this blog and support its randomness and biketivism, which is kind of a bargain. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
August 28, 2014 § 64 Comments
Welcome to America, kids, where justice is for those who wear a badge. Everyone else, your life isn’t worth squat.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney just released its report on the death of Milton Olin, Jr., who was killed by L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood. Olin was riding his bike in a bike lane on Mulholland Drive when Deputy Wood, instead of following the curve of the road, drove straight into the bike lane and spattered Olin all over the pavement.
Deputy Wood was typing a message into his mobile digital computer at the time, responding to a non-emergency query from a fellow officer. Prior to the accident, a witness following Deputy Wood had noticed Olin in the bike lane. After killing Olin, Deputy Wood stated that he never saw Olin and didn’t even remember what he was doing prior to killing him.
With no one to contradict him, Deputy Wood then offered up the explanation that Olin had swerved into his travel lane, claiming that Olin “appeared” to have driven in front of the patrol car. Dead men don’t testify, and neither did Olin.
Deputy Wood, however, had been actively texting up until the time he hit Olin, so it’s no surprise he “didn’t see” him. With nine text messages to and from his wife, beginning at 12:51 PM, the final text message sent by Wood at 1:04 was just before the moment of impact, 1:05. Neither Verizon nor Deputy Wood’s computer record seconds.
If you or I had been texting at the moment we mowed down a cop, we’d be sitting in jail right now awaiting trial on felony charges for second degree murder. Deputy Wood, however, faced no such danger. The district attorney investigated this as misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, but Wood needn’t have worried.
The prosecutor declined to believe the text records showing he was texting at the moment of impact, and instead accepted Wood’s claim that at the time of impact he was typing on his mobile cop computer. This of course shouldn’t absolve Wood from looking at the road, since it was a non-emergent, routine response to another officer asking if he’d finished his earlier run.
Ignoring the fact that one of the witnesses saw Olin, ignoring the fact that Wood was going 3 mph over the speed limit, ignoring the fact that he was texting non-stop leading up to the accident, ignoring the fact that Wood was not responding an emergency, ignoring the gentle curvature of the road, and ignoring the fact that Woods’s claim of Olin “driving in front of him” was self-serving and not in keeping with the road or the experience of the rider, the district attorney declined to file charges. Click here to see the putrid whitewash of a report penned by Assistant D.A. Rosa Alarcon.
Deputy Wood can breathe a sigh of relief while Olin’s family picks up the shattered remnants of their lives. The rest of us should also get the message: Your life is worthless if it’s taken by a cop.
Is this how people feel in Ferguson?
I’m guessing it is.
And really the only question is, “Are we going to take it?”
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August 26, 2014 § 28 Comments
Matthew O’Neill was an extraordinary man living an extraordinary life when he met his death in the most pedestrian of ways. A 16-year-old driving a pickup and hauling a horse trailer struck Matthew from behind, killing him instantly. The driver, son of local politico Abel Maldonado, may have been breaking the law at the time. He was carrying an 18-year-old passenger, even though state law forbids youth drivers to have such passengers unless an adult driver, minimum age 25, is also in the car. For his part, Matthew’s reflectors and lights made him “lit up like a Christmas tree.”
In addition to being one tough guy on a bike — Matthew was riding a 1,200-km randonneuring event at the time he was killed — he was a force for good in the world. Whether advocating for the handicapped in Los Angeles, or advocating as a Ph. D. student working on his degree in special education, or simply mentoring riders who were trying to finish their first 1,000-km “rando,” Matthew lived his life in the service of others.
For his fiancee Jennie Passwater, his parents, his fellow students and teachers at the Gevirtz Graduate School of education, and his cycling buddies, the trade was horrific: The convenience of some careless punk in a pick-up in exchange for the life man who bent his back to make the world a better place. No amount of rational thought will ever make sense of it.
The things that we’ve all become accustomed to as we seek to find a word less frayed and tattered than “tragedy,” are all here. There is a memorial ride on September 7; a memorial service is being planned by the graduate school; and there’s a memorial Twitter account to which you can donate money.
These are all important ways to express your support for his friends and family. But the most important thing you can do is also the hardest: Be a person with a voice.
Here’s what I mean.
Matthew’s parents, his fiancee, his friend Stacey Kline, and some of his rando buddies have decided to use this awful occurrence as an opportunity to do what Matthew would have done: Educate people. And what they need to be educated about is the 3-foot passing law that goes into effect on September 16, 2014, CVC 21760. Had Matthew’s killer given himself adequate room to pass, Matthew would be alive today.
When we think about help and advocacy, especially political change, we think about asking for and making donations. Money is the way we’re taught to express our desire for change. I’ve donated money to all kinds of causes, and have solicited on behalf of others and on behalf of my own pet projects. And while money is important, at best it’s second best.
Because people are more powerful than dollars. That’s why a thousand angry letters to a congressman means more than $10,000 from a lobbyist. It’s why the political system whispers in your ear that your vote doesn’t matter, your voice doesn’t matter, your pen doesn’t matter — all that matters is money, and you don’t have enough of it.
This message of counter-democracy is a lie. One person calling, or writing, or showing up to talk in person is worth a thousand dollars in advertising, or more. Matthew made change in the world as one person, as a person with a voice. He helped people not with donations but with his voice, his mind, his spirit, and his time. He reached out, and there’s reason that “reach out” is such a powerful metaphor: It is a human hand holding another, it is the essence of giving, it is the soul of humanity.
The times that I have seen change happen, it has happened because people dropped what they were doing and went out and made themselves heard. Whether it was Greg Seyranian and Gary Cziko and Ron Peterson riding two-by-two on PCH, or Ralph Abernathy refusing to be silenced, change is at its most powerful when people speak their voice to those who are, by law, paid to listen to it.
Change happens on a personal level too, when you take the time to tell people what you think. In this case, California has a new 3-foot passing law that many cyclists don’t know about, and hardly any drivers are aware of in a state where cagers and the other minions of motordom regularly shout at cyclists to “Ride on the sidewalk!”
Your voice matters, just like Matthew’s did. His friends and family are committed to getting the word out about the 3-foot law, even if it’s one person at a time. You can talk about it with a friend, a co-worker, or another rider. Every voice counts, every person you make aware is a potential saved life. People over money.
August 24, 2014 § 14 Comments
I got invited to hear a band play on Friday. They started at 3:00 PM, which is a perfect time for replacement hip-sters like me. The days when I could sit around until ten o’clock waiting for Foghat to come on and get home at one in the morning? Those days are long gone. What really works now is for the music to start in the afternoon so that I’m in bed by nine.
To make matters better (worse if you’re under 50), the band was a biker band. Not the leather-clad, knife-toting Hell’s Angels type biker band, but rather a mostly clean and wholesome lycra-clad bicyclist band. When I saw Foghat in 1978 at the Houston Coliseum with Marcello, I was in 8th Grade. Marcello was in 8th Grade, too, but not by choice. For some reason the school system thought that the best way to handle a very tough guy and first-class drug dealer was to hold him back year after year so that he wound up in classes with small, hairless, easily frightened kids much younger than him.
Marcello had a deep voice, he shaved, and from the locker room I had visual confirmation that he was what we all aspired to be: A man. I had gotten tickets to the Foghat concert from my brother, who had been grounded for selling drugs, or for stealing the car late one night, or for getting straight “F’s” on his lack-of-progress report.
Marcello would have never gone to the concert with me were it not for the free tickets. I remember my dad dropping us off out front as the long-hairs, freaks, and dope merchants streamed in.
“What kind of band is this, anyway?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I lied.
“Well, have a good time. When should I pick you boys up?”
“Midnight?” I said, praying it didn’t sound like a question.
“That’s pretty late.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m with Marcello.” Marcello nodded and smiled politely.
We got out and he drove off.
The concert, which started at eight, started at nine when Judas Priest came onstage. By then we’d had a solid hour to smoke Marcello’s concert goodies and the haze was so thick we could barely see the stage. Foghat followed and played until midnight. I don’t remember anything about it except that when we got to the car Marcello said, “Snap, man!” and jabbed me in the ribcage when my dad pulled up. Somehow, I snapped.
How times have changed. As I entered the Stag & Lion in the middle of the afternoon, the crowd thickened. My biker pals on stage were completely sober, and the cyclists packed into the bar were sipping at the one beer they would be drinking all day. No one was smoking, of course, as it was a no-smoking establishment and a bar, an impossibility back in the 70’s on a par with squaring the circle.
At three o’clock sharp they started to play, and at five o’clock sharp they stopped. The music was phenomenal, the band was tight, and on top of that the songs were original. In fact, the music was better than any concert I had ever attended during the heyday of 70’s rock and roll — ZZ Topp, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, the Stones, even Foghat. Then I remembered that I’d never actually heard any of the music at any of those concerts, or if I’d heard it, it had been through the 100-yard concrete brain filter that comes from being inside the THC equivalent of an oxygen tent.
“Wow,” I said to Mrs. WM. “Music sounds so great when you can hear it!”
She gave me a funny look and kept sipping her margarita.
My buddy’s biker band laid it down for two solid hours and not a single song was off the “B” side. Afterwards we went out and had dinner. One of our group, Surfer Dan, had ridden down to San Diego from LA, a solid little 100-miler so that he’d be sure to get his ride in before the festivities.
At dinner it was a typical bike racer dinner. Calories were counted, low-cal menu options were selected, and everyone finished in time to hurry home, put on the leg compression devices, and rest up for the big Saturday ride.
The band’s name? HTFU, of course.
I told you they were cyclists.
August 22, 2014 § 30 Comments
Bicycling in Southern California is not always fraught with racial issues. They exist, but cyclists from different backgrounds spend most of their time talking about bikes rather than race.
But even though this topic isn’t addressed much while riding, it sometimes makes its way into the cycling community via current events, which are then “discussed” on fora like Facebag. The discussions follow a familiar pattern. Someone remarks that an action (shooting an unarmed kid in the head) is racist. Then someone says it isn’t. And things go sideways from there.
No resolution is ever reached, it seems. The black person remains convinced that the event in question was racist, and the comments of the white person usually end up coming across as racist as well. The white person denies being racist and gets furious at being called one, even as he suggests reasons why black people are “the way they are” or why they are in “the situation they are in.” For good measure he might say “you people.”
This hurts our cycling community, some of whose most successful and illustrious riders are black, and injects doubt and suspicion into relationships.
I don’t think it has to be this way.
Part of the reason we have such a hard time resolving racial issues is because we — and I mean we white people — are not very good at talking about race. Most white people, whether they believe we live in a racist society or a fair society, when they talk about race they talk about black people. They analyze black communities, they criticize, the explain, they give advice, they compare statistics of blacks versus whites, they talk about black culture, and they may even talk about black history. The worst ones will quote Martin Luther King to try and prove some essentially racist point.
This to me is bizarre for two reasons. First, white people really don’t have anything to contribute to the analysis or understanding of blacks. Whether you think racism is rampant or whether you think this is the most equal country on earth, as a white person you don’t have anything to add about what it means to be black. So when you talk about black behavior, you’re already losing the battle of discussing race. You’re talking about something you’re unqualified to speak on, and you’re talking in way that is offensive to the very people you’re supposedly trying to convince.
As a white person, the thing you should have expertise about is being white. But white people are strangely unable to articulate how their race affects their life. Unlike blacks, who seem keenly aware and articulate when it comes to talking about their black experience, I’ve never heard a white person talk about what it’s like to be white.
So the conversation is terribly one-sided, with blacks talking about their racial experiences, and whites talking about blacks’ racial experiences. It’s ineffective and it’s insulting.
How can you start to understand race as a white person? It’s pretty simple. Ask yourself what kinds of things happen to you because you’re white. Everyone’s experience is different, but here a few that apply to me.
- Because I’m white, I’m not afraid of the police if I’m not breaking the law.
- Because I’m white, people assume I’m a law-abiding citizen.
- Because I’m white, people assume I’m hard-working and smart until I demonstrate otherwise.
- Because I’m white, I can buy or rent a home in almost any place that I can afford one.
- Because I’m white, potential clients trust me.
- Because I’m white, when I lived in Asia I was treated well.
- Because I’m white, when I travel in most of Europe I blend in until I open my mouth.
- Because I’m white, none of my forebears in this country were slaves.
- Because I’m white, my great-great-grandfather was a slaveholder.
- Because I’m white, I’ve always been free to vote and encouraged to do so.
- Because I’m white, no one ever called me a racial epithet.
- Because I’m white, I graduated from a good college and a very good law school.
- Because I’m white, I live in a neighborhood with lots of other whites.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Those things didn’t happen to you just because you’re white. They happened to you for other reasons as well. You worked hard, your parents helped you, you’re financially responsible, etc.”
And you’re right. There are lots of factors that have made my life the way it is, dumb luck being the biggest. But we’re not talking about those things, remember? We’re talking about race, and we’re trying to understand its importance for ourselves. How has it helped us? How has it hurt us? Has it hurt us? How has our racial identity been used to hurt others? Would our daily experience be the same if we weren’t white?
The best explanation of white racial identity I’ve ever seen was the satirical blog, “Stuff White People Like.” It was good because it talked about race from the standpoint of white culture — making fun of it, to be sure, but couching the discussion in terms of what white people think, how they are treated, how they behave. Although much of it was silly, all of it was racial without pretending to talk about what black people like, or how black people are, or worse, how black people should be.
It viewed the world from the satirical perspective of how being white shapes our lives. It was wildly successful because of its rarity. Thinking about our advantages and disadvantages from the lens of being white was out of the box.
Unfortunately, most white people take their race for granted because it’s rarely an issue. Instead, they use “race” to mean “other people’s race.” And when terrible things like Ferguson or Trayvon Martin happen, what’s needed is for all of us to try and understand how our ethnicity plays a role.
Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Apparently not. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
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August 20, 2014 § 4 Comments
For a long time I have been telling LA and Orange County wankers to get off their asses and go do the Swami’s Ride, which leaves every Saturday from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas at 8:05 AM. Finally, a whole bunch of them listened, and last Saturday night as I watched one of the fastest masters racers in America do backflips off a cliff into a swimming pool wearing a thong while a 200-lb. long-haired pig rooted around the pool area and people started taking off most of their clothes and jumping into the pool after drinking a keg of Lost Abbey BWR Ale … what was I saying?
Oh, yeah. So, there I was at Phil’s 40th birthday bash and it turned out that many of the attendees had also taken the Swami’s Challenge and done the ride. Here’s what they had to say:
“Very hard ride.”
“Hardest group ride ever.”
“Hard. That was a hard ride.”
“Man, that was hard.”
And of course, my favorite comment, “Hard.”
So now that everyone from outside North County San Diego agrees with me that yes, the Swami’s Ride is hard, it’s time for me to introduce two painful punches, an old friend and a new one.
The old friend is the SPY Holiday Ride. I blather about it all the time because it, too, is a very hard ride. That’s “hard” as in “very painful and difficult.” As in “You will get shelled.” As in “Not easy.” The next SPY Holiday Ride is on Labor Day. It leaves at 8:00 AM from RIDE Cyclery. There are lots of good reasons to do this ride, but the best one is that most of the fastest riders will be at masters nationals, which means you might not get dropped immediately.
The next-to-best reason is that this ride symbolizes grass roots riding at its best. Beer primes are given away (a case per prime), and it’s the result of a company — SPY Optic — supporting bicycle riding on a community level. You don’t have to race or have a license, just a bike, a pair of legs, and the desire to shrink your ego down a few dozen sizes.
The second punch, and by far the more painful one, is the SPYclocross Series. The series starts on September 20 and has six races. In past years, SoCal cross series races have not qualified for USA Cycling upgrade points, starting positions at nationals, or juice boxes because, money. SPY has stepped up (*note to self: let’s find a better verb. “Jumped up.” “Drunkenly staggered up.” “Raged to the fore like a crazy man with aliens in his undergarments.”) and donated the extortionate, ridiculous, bullshit fees that USAC demands in order to ensure that the grass roots are not only mown as short as possible, but dug up as well.
Whatever. Thanks to SPY the series now “counts,” which is kind of a bummer because I always used the “no staging points for nationals” as my excuse for not going.
The series has everything that the road season doesn’t. Great and exciting venues. Spectators. A minimum of shattered braincases or the likelihood thereof. And although it is not allowed and I will personally report anyone caught drinking it, beer. Fortunately, since there are no craft breweries in San Diego (the site of the first race), sobriety should not be a problem.
Cyclocross is a growing sport, in part because studies show that if you are crappy as a road racer, you will redefine suckery in ‘cross. However, it allows the purchase of new equipment, you never get pulled, it sounds vaguely hipster, and if you take it seriously and train for it you will get to say things like “Ryan Dahl only lapped me twice.”
Swami’s Ride? Holiday Ride? SPYclocross Series? Pick yer poison.