You’re in our way!

June 12, 2013 § 44 Comments

“Oh Dog,” I kept reminding myself as idiot after idiot took the mike. “These are the ones who bothered to show up. These are the smart ones.”

Sitting at the San Pedro town hall meeting at Peck Park a few minutes ago reinforced the truth: The wheels of democracy are turned by those who show up.

It was supposed to be a big showdown between the Pedro Troglodytes Who Hate Bike Lanes and the South Bay Enlightened Bicycle Riding Community, but only half the fight card showed up. As usual, the bicycle riders were too tired from the NPR, or from commuting, or from relaxing at home post-ride with a beer and a bong and a steroid cream rubdown to show up and advocate for something as pedestrian as bike lanes.

Despite the LA County Bike Coalition and lots of other do-gooders’ attempts to rally the troops, the troops sunk deeper into the La-Z-Boy and ceded the field to the true crazies. I mean, hey, why show up to a real meeting with real people when you can post meeting notices on Facebook and show your activism by sharing Jon Stewart takedowns of Dorothy Rabinowitz?

I showed up on my ‘cross bike with a helmet, jeans (pant leg rolled up), Krypto lock and shoulder bag. There were a few other bicycle riders interspersed among the frothing Pedro bike haters, and they all looked as frightened as I felt.

The Pedro outrage at the All Powerful Bicycle Lobby Enterprise

Los Angeles has one of the nation’s most anemic, lame-ass bike plans for a city of its size, but it’s a lot better than nothing and in its own fumbling way the city is trying to expand the plan. So what if implementation won’t finish for another thirty years? 79 will be a great age for me to enjoy a semi-connecting series of bike lanes. Part of the city’s plan involved striping some bike lanes on a couple of streets in San Pedro, a sop to the numerous cyclists and bike commuters who have to daily navigate that city’s bad roads and toxic atmospheric soup.

At the meeting it became clear that, as is almost always the case, the bike lane on Westmont wasn’t actually put there for bicyclists. It was installed as a “traffic calming measure,” which is engineer speak for “getting the lazyfuks in their gas guzzlers to drive 30 mph over the school zone speed limit rather than 50.”

Apparently, the bike lanes on Westmont had their intended effect, which was to slow down morning traffic by the school and also give bicycle riders a short lane in which to feel free and protected before being tossed out again into the sharkpit of Pedro’s bike-hostile streets. However, the sag-ass, droopy-bosom contingent was not amused and they had demanded a public meeting at which they could show they were stupid AND out of shape.

Until this meeting, I thought that all the congenital idiots on the Palos Verdes Peninsula lived in PV Estates and RH Estates, as I’ve attended bike meetings in both city council chambers and been impressed with the general cluelessness, rabid prejudice, and willful ignorance openly showcased by morons in both cities. However, the Pedroites in opposition to the bike lanes showed themselves every bit the match of their richer neighbors when it came to pigheadedness, sloth, and hatred of bicycles.

One fat slob with ankles that were bigger around than my neck kept interrupting the city engineers with catcalls, scornful “harrumphs,” and the kind of drunken public behavior that you expect at Godmother’s but not at a public meeting. Another turdblossom was panting and out of breath simply from the exertion of sitting down. Both took the mike and scored points for the large segment of the population that doesn’t just want to be fat and ill, but that wants you to be that way, too.

The real problem with bike lanes

The Pedroites made clear what the problem with bike lanes was: Bicycles get in their way. The dialogue went like this:

City Engineer: “Bike lanes slow traffic and decrease death and injury.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

City Planner: “Bike lanes increase bicycling which decreases traffic congestion.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

LA County Bike Coalition: “Decreased carbon emissions are part of a state and federal mandate to combat global warming; bicycle riding decreases those emissions.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

Traffic Engineer: “Bike lanes increase ridership which improves air quality and helps meet state and federal clean air requirements.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

Unfortunately, the bike coalition people, traffic engineers, and city staff attempted to accommodate and conciliate with the rabid, stupid Pedroites who hadn’t bothered to read the Bicycle Master Plan but felt qualified to criticize it anyway. As is often the case at town meetings, the desire not to antagonize the local idiots frequently runs afoul of the truth, which in this case was painfully obvious.

Painfully obvious truth: Bike lane opponents were dreadfully fat and sickeningly unfit

The great thing about America used to be that it was okay to be morbidly obese and encourage your children to adopt lifestyles that helped them get quickly on the path to Type 2 Diabetes while they were still in elementary school. I grew up in Texas, where horrible health was and is a matter of pride, and of course I’ve always supported the right of my fellow Americans to be disgustingly fat, even when it means their obesity impinges on me in the neighboring airplane seat. I’ve even supported giving free, nationalized health care to people who intentionally eat themselves into a whole medicopia of obesity-related diseases.

But just as I’ve never tried to encourage any of them to lay off the tater tots or, for Dog’s sake, go ride a bike around the block, I’ve also never supported the right of those people to force their lifestyle on me. They want to die from diabetes or heart disease after a lengthy illness and years spent in an electric cart. I want to die on the hood of a pickup. To each his own, right?

It’s too bad that our society has become, on the one hand, mean and nasty, and on the other hand, afraid to say things that are mean and nasty and true. In the case of the Pedro bike lanes, the cruel truth is that the bike lane opponents were caricatures of anĀ anti-bicycle lobby that is fat, lazy, and hideously out of shape. Their hatred of the bike lanes was nothing more than a reaction to the fact that each bicycle rider was a reminder of their own laziness and sloth. It never dawned on any of the haters that the reason they were overweight wasn’t because of the bike lanes.

“I had to wait five extra minutes to drop off my kids!” wailed one lady whose bosom drooped around her ankles and whose ass-halves looked like they hadn’t been worked since 1982.

“We need to fix potholes, not add bike lanes!” shouted one drunken lardass, whose three chins jiggled so violently that they shook off beads of sweat that had collected in between the folds.

“Bike lanes are dangerous for drivers!” complained one dyspeptic old sow, matted white wig askew on her liver-spotted skull, three stomach folds drooping down like a series of miniblinds, and front-tummy pouch busting so hard up against the zipper on her sweatpants that the little flap of cloth stood straight out from the zipper seam.

One teletubby in front of me stood up, lost his balance, and almost tripped over his own chair because his stomach was so big that he couldn’t see the edge of the seat. “Why weren’t we told about these lanes!” he shouted, even though the engineer had just rattled off half a dozen public meetings in San Pedro at which the whole thing had been discussed and approved by the community.

In other words, the people who were most incensed about the bike lanes were the ones who felt most threatened by the idea that someone could pedal a bike up the moderately steep incline on Westmont without having heart failure. It was personal.

Helping bridge the gap

When it came my turn to speak I praised the bike lanes, praised the bike master plan, and made fun of the people who were so lazy and slothful that rather than make their kids walk or bike the .5 mile to school, they insisted on driving them in a traffic jam. In response to their wailing about the “dangerous” bike lanes, I pointed out that of all the injury cases I’ve handled, I’ve yet to have a driver come in and say, “I was severely injured by a bicyclist who ran over my Suburban.”

I reminded them that they were fat, out of shape, and that like it or not, we bicycle riders had a legal right to use the street and we weren’t going away. They booed and catcalled, and as I left one nasty, droopsy lady accosted me.

“How many kids do you have to carpool?” she shouted.

“None.”

“Well, I have four!”

“You should make the little fuckers walk or bike so they won’t look like you.”

“Are you calling me fat?”

“No. I’m calling you morbidly obese and dumber than a box of hammers. Now get out of my way before your blood pressure and high cholesterol get the better of you.”

With that exchange I left, pleased to have helped more people have positive, enlightened feelings about those of us who bicycle. It’s hard to win friends and influence people, but you can do it if you try.

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§ 44 Responses to You’re in our way!

  • Jon Trimble says:

    We all know you’re smart Seth, but sometimes you let your emotions get the best of you. If you had only planned ahead and brought along 10 dozed Krispy Kreme doughnuts, you might have been able to silence the opposition with a healthy dose of sweet lard.

  • Whoo boy, it must’ve been cathartic to write up this one!

  • Joe Camacho says:

    Your hope for reason and thoughtful dialogue with the general population are commendable. I on the other hand live by “The Masses are Asses!” Too bad there was not a Brooklynite Hasidic Contingent to round out the reasoned debate.

    • Admin says:

      I have no hope for reason and thoughtful dialogue. I just want to make sure that my voice is heard. Democracy has nothing to do with facts, apparently it’s just a shouting match. Most shouts wins. So if we really give a shit, we need to show up and holler louder than the bozos, which is easy to do because they quickly get exhausted by the exertion of hollering, whereas we bicycle types can yell and holler and shout for hours and never crack a sweat while the haters are getting the paddles, the shock cart, and a trip to the ER.

  • Mo'Nilla says:

    Whoever screams loudest and calls the police first…wins. But if it’s any consolation, when these corpulent, red-faced mouth-breathers finally get the government out of their healthcare and pass out from the exertion of steering that Suburban up Westmont- the rest of us get to pick up the tab. Oh wait…we already are.

  • Bill Stone says:

    In America, fact is what you believe and truth is determined by how loudly and often it is shouted and screamed. Charlie Pierce in Idiot America.

    • Admin says:

      Read a great little book that Jr. brought home from college. One of the chapters was “You aren’t entitled to your opinion when your opinion is wrong.”

  • Doug says:

    The drivers couldn’t care less that you are a skinny fragile dude. A bike rider is a reminder that there are people who are not bound to the clock. But they have to rush the kids to school or day care, clock in at work, clock out, and rush to day care in time to avoid a late pickup penalty. Short of a miracle (efficient mass transit) any change only aggravates their time problem.
    Would you let your kids walk to school in San Pedro (in toxic air no less)?

    • Admin says:

      If I had to choose between sitting in 25 minutes of traffic to take the little darlings .5 miles to school, or make them walk, they would walk. My youngest walks to school. My middle has no driver license at age 20. My eldest is a bicycle rider and shares a car (singular) with her bicycle-riding husband, who commutes from Hancock Park to Torrance by bike once a week.

      • Erik says:

        Why do people presuppose that the air inside their car or home is somehow cleaner than the air outside it? In fact, the opposite is more often true.

      • Admin says:

        I’m not 100% sure, but it may be because some people are not very smart.

  • Amsterdam Hammer says:

    WM, I would have loved to see that, especially the last exchange :-)
    Are the bike lanes a go?

  • Chris says:

    Awesome. Things are the same all over. I took a lot of shit for an eerily similar exchange but damn it feels good to call things as they are.

    • Admin says:

      It’s only good when you’re pedaling your bike back home and all the evil people are still screaming at each other and then driving home, enraged, in their coffins.

  • Amsterdam Hammer says:

    Oh, BTW, I biked from work to my sister’s place last night, and back in to work this morning, did not get yelled at, honked at, swerved at and it is 40 miles one way. Fortunately it is in the Netherlands…

    • Admin says:

      Now if only you could get better weather. Oh, wait, with global warming you will! Oh, wait, with global warming the whole country will be 500 feet underwater. Time to raise the dikes!

  • Dave Dixon says:

    Seth,
    I am bike rider/San Pedro resident and my take on Westmont is that it is the wrong battle.. The bike community did not say, take a full lane away from vehicles, but we get bamed for traffic department decisions. I would be happy as a bike riding clam just to have a painted white stripe without the five foot chevron buffer.

    Even my skinny, bike sympathetic wife has a problem with Westmont as a driver.

    9th street and Summerland both have nice bike lanes that don’t provoke the locals.

    If I were a fighter, my fight would be to put a white stripe on every street to make them as common as the center stripe.is to car drivers.
    .

    • Admin says:

      I was amazed at how few Pedro bicycle riders were there. That other riders would prefer to go pound at Telo or “pick other battles” makes sense, but just having a huge cadre of Pedro bicyclists to show up, take the mike, and say that they ride and they want equal street rights would have been huge. But as usual, bicyclists are more comfortable doing keyboard “activism” than showing up and facing down the bullies. Pretty sad.

      I wish they’d abandon all bike lanes and just put sharrows everywhere. We have the right to be there. Anything less than the right to a full lane is losing our right. Why the hell should we give motorists more hegemony? I also don’t care about whether locals are provoked. I’M PROVOKED every time some jackass tries to sideswipe me, flip me off, or tell me I don’t have the right to be in the road. The San Pedro anti-bike locals are just as lame and moronic as their counterparts elsewhere.

  • packmonger says:

    Oh Snap! Lard ass carnage all over the place. I for one have never understood the “Threat” that we pose those poor fattys. Nor have I ever understood the logic behind driving your kid .5 miles to school. My mom lives on Westmont and hasn’t complained once but of course she’s enlightened and intelligent.

  • Dave Dixon says:

    San Pedro is known as the city with the “streets of glass” .I am pretty sure there is a loosely organized bike hating group in my “melting pot”
    small town.

    You are right, Like many other things , my lack of bravery needs work.

    • Admin says:

      Somehow I don’t think that was the final salvo.

    • Erica H Ferro says:

      I agree it must have been cathartic to write that “clever” report of the meeting. You have a vocabulary rich in insulting adjectives. However, I don’t think most San Pedrans are against bikes–they just don’t want to lose two traffic lanes on one street. The people who show up were just as poorly represented as the bikers were–so I hope bikers are not intimidated by the rabid few who are entirely against the lanes or bikers. As you well know, there are rude and inconsiderate people on both sides. We have a traffic problem in San Pedro as well as other localities. It just seems they went overboard in the confusing street markings.

      • Admin says:

        Well, not cathartic as much as it was depressing. And I really didn’t delve too deeply into the insult vocab, more of a “scratch the surface” kind of thing.

        Regardless of what “most” Pedrites are for or against, the mob meeting was packed with haters. What about the douchebags who shouted down the engineer in the beginning? Classy. They may not “represent” Pedro, just as I don’t “represent” bicycle riders, but their voice was the one that came through loud and clear. I hope mine did, too.

        San Pedro doesn’t have a traffic problem. Southern California has a traffic problem, and a massive spike in bike usage and in getting bikes off the sidewalks and into the streets is the best, quickest, safest, cheapest way to tackle it. The problem is that drivers in Pedro never made a single convincing complaint against the lanes. “It slows me down.” That’s it. Hence the title of my post, and my response: I don’t give a damn if I slow you down. You NEED to slow down, and while we’re at it, that 3-second delay that inconveniences the haters is nothing compared to the injuries, deaths, and hit-and-runs that bicycle riders are subject to. I also wanted to point out the irony that the people who were most deadset against doing something that in principle is healthy, were the saggiest, sickest looking dogs in an already motley litter of runts.

        In short, the mob meeting showed the haters for what they are: Lazy people who think they are entitled to a life of convenience even at the expense of my health, my environment, and my completely legal mode of transportation. Rudeness and inconsiderateness have nothing to do with it. I’ll take a rude bastard who can think critically and debate honestly over a simperingly polite person who hews to a bad idea despite the facts and hard evidence.

        My point in the mob meeting, and the one that elicited catcalls of “He’s crazy!” and “Boo!” was that I have a legal right to use the road and I’m going to use it. If the Neanderthals don’t like it, tough. Meetings like this aren’t a place to make friends and influence people; they exist to advocate for your point and do it as effectively as you can.

        [P.S. I have to admit I like your reasonable and thoughtful tone...]

  • jerrywood13 says:

    WE all would be better served if one stayed on point without the acerbic commentary which reveals your loathing of anyone who might disagree. We need enforcement of existing laws Car must pass and give a safe berth just like they do for other cars and motorcycles. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/traffic_lanes.htm
    Governor Schwarzenegger amended the current law.

    http://www.cyclelicio.us/2010/california-law-pass-right/

    While Governor Brown vetoed the 3 foot law

    http://www.cyclelicio.us/2011/brown-veto-3-foot-law/

    I am very pleased that you made the time to attend the San Pedro City council meeting. What we can do right now is find and identify streets that are more conducive to bicycles and let each other cyclist know. 222rd is the best street I have found to get to the Los Angeles river path to Long beach or Montebello or downtown or beyond. I almost got creamed last Thursday going up palos verdes west by calle mayor by a Lexus using a cellphone and it’s a relatively wide part of the road.

    Improving the safety and availability take both sides sharing the road and obeying all traffic laws.

    • Admin says:

      “We”? Dude, I’m not serving anyone. I was one of a handful of bicycle riders who showed up at a mob of bike haters. Where the hell were you? You make great points here on a stupid blog. Why weren’t you making them in the teeth of nasty, mean, spiteful, bike bashing villagers-with-pitchforks?

      Anyway, your points in the main are great ones and I agree with them, but at some point the bicycle riders have got to get off their fucking bikes and make their presence known at these screed-fests. On the way back from the meeting, as I pleasantly coasted down PV North after turning off Western, a guy in a new white BMW passed me going well over 80 mph. The sound boom and wind buffet were incredible, as he passed me within about six feet. I don’t scare easily but that got my attention, let me assure you.

      Why should I not be “acerbic” to these assholes? When’s the last time a bike blew by someone at 80? How many drunk bicycle riders do the cops arrest in LA County compared to drunk drivers? How many cases of vehicular manslaughter by bicycle got prosecuted in the last 100 years here, or anywhere?

      Also, this “obey the law” crap is a red herring. Let bicycle riders break every dogdamned law they want and, like drivers, get cited for it. It’s not a love-in, where we have to behave nicely in order to be “awarded” our rights. We have the legal right to be in the lane and it’s not contingent on how we dress, what we ride, the color of our skin, or whether we blow through stop signs. It’s like telling drivers that in order to use the freeway they really should keep it under 65 so as not to piss off the bicycle riders who might stop them from using it.

      The whole thing reminds me of segregation. “We like Negroes, we just don’t like them here,” or “We’ll have separate but equal facilities for Negroes because, you know, they just don’t mix well with white people,” or “If you Negroes would stop protesting and just be nice then we wouldn’t mind so much if they voted,” or my favorite, “Now we just have to make sure we never break the law so that white people will like us.”

      Crock-o-shit-meter goes off the chart when I hear that stuff.

      We have the right to ride in the street.

      LA County is trying to beef up infrastructure and encourage ridership.

      The Pedro bike haters need to sack up and quit complaining like a whiny bunch of spoiled kids. And the day I drop the sharp language is the day I’ll fold this blog for good.

  • brad bailey says:

    On the hood of a truck? i hope you mean a Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup with Longhorns mounted on the hood!

  • JP says:

    lol….teletubby….

  • Rob says:

    I agree with Jon Trimble. Donuts will work miracles when dealing with fat sloths.

    Well handled on your behalf.

  • baby ark says:

    I went and spoke in support of the lanes and riders in San Pedro. I told as many people as i could about this meeting….people I see riding their bike in town. the problem is, they didn’t know this fight is even happening. every single one of them had no idea! I guess for them, they thought…oh, cool…a new lane, I’m going to ride it…end of story. We have more riders than was represented but I’m certain they didn’t show up because they just don’t realize what has been going on.

  • CB says:

    Were these the troglodytes?

  • CB says:

    Right on! I’ll sock it to ya daddy!

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