All butthurt and such

September 14, 2013 § 17 Comments

I’m sensitive and timid. When my friends criticize me I get all butthurt, and when cars crawl up my ass at 60 mph, I get scared. That’s normal, right?

I had a long Facebag debate with a dude I admire and respect, a grizzled old opinionated PCH gutter troll who has seen it all and done almost everything that is legal between consenting adults. His take was simple. Ride on PCH in the lane without taking into account other factors, and you’re fucktard stupid. Encourage others to do the same and you have blood on your hands.

My position was just as simple. Ride in the lane and control the lane because it’s safer and it’s legal. I trotted out my arguments, which went like this: Blah, blah, blah. And blah.

Getting from “Blah” to “I’m right and you’re not”

In order to ease the pain and reduce the swelling from the butthurt, I had a few beers. Then I went to Cho Dang and gorged on pork bulgogi, after which I came home and fixed up a honkin’ big bowl of ice cream, inhaled it, and fixed up another one. Butthurt cured!

Somewhere between the kimchi and the bulgogi, it occurred to me that the argument about “how to ride safely on PCH” was a silly one. Maybe, instead of being the alley of death that terrorizes us so, PCH is pretty damned safe. Maybe hardly any cyclists die there when they ride in groups, whether in the lane or in the gutter. Maybe given the number of miles driven, bongs inhaled, vicodin popped, messages texted, cell phones fished out jersey pockets and answered while riding, and miles pedaled, PCH isn’t all that dangerous.

Maybe you’re going to live when you pedal PCH no matter what, simply because most people who drive that stretch of road know it’s shared by cyclists and, more importantly, they don’t want to fuck up their clearcoat with biker splat. Maybe the real issue isn’t “Which method is safer?” but rather “Which one do you like better?” kind of like “Vanilla or chocolate?”

I like smooth and easy

Even if one method is marginally safer than the other, the chance of YOU getting killed on PCH is minimal. If you prefer riding in the gutter and showcasing your amazing glass-and-rock-and-used-dildo avoidance skills, then ride there. If you think nice, clean, smooth, wide roadways with great panoramic views are the bomb, then take the lane. Either way, the traffic on PCH is almost certainly going to steer around you.

If the “almost certainly” gives you heartburn, then you have a third option. Get a medical marijuana prescription, fire up the Netflix, order a pizza, and stay the fuck home. I’ll be out on PCH. In the lane. And enjoying the view.

Water the roots

September 13, 2013 § 5 Comments

Call it the low season, call it the beer season, call it the ‘cross season, call it the off season if you must, but it should also be the season, however briefly, to thank those who’ve spent so much time and energy watering the grass roots of cycling.

SPY Optic

Who pours more energy, more money, more enthusiasm, more style, and more quality product into all of the SoCal cycling disciplines than SPY Optic? No one. Whether they’re funding a new women’s squad, sponsoring ‘cross races, offering up high quality primes, or donating a cooler of beer, SPY has reminded us every single day this year that great things happen when we focus on happy.

Dorothy Wong

If any person defies the physical law that you can’t occupy two different spaces at the same time, it’s Dorothy. She’s a passionate cycling advocate. She’s a tireless race promoter. She’s a dog lover. She’s an advocate for gender equality in sports. And she puts on one hell of a ‘cross race. If thousands of people now look forward to the “on” season of cyclocross from September through February in SoCal, it’s thanks to Dorothy.

Rahsaan Bahati

He’s the only pro I know who thinks that ordinary people on bikes are just as important as the speed freaks. Rahsaan does the local rides, shares his encyclopedic knowledge with the youngsters and the crusty masters wannabes, and does it all with class, style, and impeccable fashion. In addition to his outreach to youth through the Bahati Foundation, Rahsaan has the magic touch of making people want to be better, and he’s touched so many lives it’s almost unbelievable.

Connie Paraskevin

I’ve written about her before, but this woman defines commitment and perseverance. She’s one of the few who sees bike racing as a touchstone for other, more important things in life, not as the end-all, be-all that many coaches hold up as the goal. Connie gives kids skills and experiences that make them better, stronger, healthier people, whether they continue cycling all their lives or turn to something else. She does it quietly, for the pleasure of the result.

PV Bike Chicks

They pick a target, then they hit it. Their target? Getting more women interested in cycling. PV Bike Chicks has grown to become a force on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and environs. They provide encouragement, support, training opportunities, education, and plain old good times to any woman who wants to get out and pedal. Plus, they make a mean carrot cake!

Jim Hannon

He’s a one-man whirlwind powered by his wife Debbie, who has the strength of a thousand Jims. Jim has taken the Beach Cities Cycling Club and ramped it up into an inclusive club that numbers over 500 riders in the South Bay. Jim’s efforts have led to more than 214 miles of dedicated bike routes in the South Bay, and he does it by building consensus, making friends, and never taking his foot off the gas. He shares his knowledge and resources with incredible generosity and makes the roads safer for every single cyclist out there.

Chris Lotts

Some call him stubborn. Some call him funny. Some call him irreverent. Everyone calls him crazy. Now in his 400th year of race promoting, Chris swings the bat a dozen times each year to provide quality, convenient, affordable racing to cyclists in SoCal. He does it with a flare all his own, and he makes no apologies. Quick to take offense, he’s just as quick to kiss and make up. Without Chris and his commitment to local bike racing, we’d have a shit-ton fewer opportunities to race our bikes, and even fewer funny stories.

Greg Seyranian

Big Orange used to just be a masters racing team. It’s now the most inclusive and the largest bike racing club in the South Bay, and it’s all thanks to Greg and his open door policy. No snobbery, no hierarchies, just a welcome and an opportunity to learn how to race your bike. Sure, that ugly little orange thing on his saddle is annoying, especially when it’s riding away from you. Sure, his endless lectures on “tactics” make your eyes roll back in your head like dials on a slot machine. But when you crash out, flat, or get a boo-boo on your butt, Greg’s the guy who will stop and take care of you. And feed you beer.

Robert Efthimos a/k/a Sausage a/k/a C.P.

There’s a reason more and more West Siders are riding in the South Bay now, and the reason is Sausage. He’s one of those people who make riding fun. With hilarious and skilled videos that capture the camaraderie and silliness of bicycling, Robert has a way of making people want some of what he’s got — and what he’s got is kindness, self-deprecation, and a good pair of legs.

Martin Howard and the Long Beach Freddies

Martin and his gang have put on their first full season of grass roots racing at Great Parks and Eldo, and it’s been a huge success. Neither cracked ribs, deflated lungs, or ambulance trips in the middle of 500-mile beatdowns have kept these guys from relentlessly promoting the message of fun and healthy competition on bikes. Hats off to you, after the tube gets taken out of your chest!

Cycling Illustrated

This phenomenal, homegrown cycling publication is the manifestation of extraordinary talent and hard work by guys like BJ Hale, Danny Munson, and the rest of the CI crew. The online and print versions keep us apprised of the news and keep us excited about what’s happening on the bike in SoCal. They do it on a shoestring, but it feels like a major masterpiece, and in between the brushstrokes they also hold down jobs, families, and (allegedly at least) real lives. We owe you.

The Anonymous Ones

They’re the individuals who donate to cycling foundations, who dig into their hip pocket to fund a bike racer, who contribute silently to the bicycling causes about which we all care. They do it without fanfare and in anonymity. Rather than leaving their name on a building, they prefer to leave their mark on a life. I know many of you, and admire you most of all.

Color it

September 12, 2013 § 25 Comments

Okay, huge humiliating admission: We get a magazine called “Money.” I don’t know why it comes to our apartment. I’ve never paid them a dime, but it comes like clockwork, and always with some stupid cover story about how to do the one thing I’ll never be any good at: Taking what I’ve got and making it into more.

Each month it’s like a nasty nag from a surly spouse. “Retire early!” “How to save money on college!” “Stocks that will make you rich!”

To which I say, “Fuck that shit. I gotta go [ride my bike] [check Facebag] [drink some beer].”

This month’s issue got my attention, though. It boldly shouted “Best Places to Live 2013, America’s Top 50 Small Towns.” This got my attention because I think the best place to live in 2013 was also the best place to live in 2012, 2011, etc. In other words, the best place for me to live is the place I’m at, since wishing I was somewhere else is about as satisfying as watching someone else eat chocolate.

I flipped open the mag and skimmed the list of “best places.” It looked funny. Sharon, MA? Louisville, CO? Vienna, VA? Chanhassen, MN? Sherwood, OR? WTF? The whole list was like that, but it wasn’t until I saw Pflugerville, TX (No. 44) that I got it.

You see, Pflugerville is a shithole. It’s north of Austin, and even before Dell it was a sleepy little redneck town of gun nuts, Jesus freaks, and lycra-hating pickup trucks. Oh, and it was white. White, white, white.

Now I understood. The phrase “best towns in America” is, like so many other things, code for “no blacks or Mexicans.” You know, good schools and middle class values, that is, “white people.” To confirm what I already knew, I meandered over to http://www.census.gov. Yup.

Sharon, MA is in Norfolk County. 551,487 white folks, 38,148 black ones.

Louisville, CO is in Boulder County. 257,889 Dog-fearing white people, 2,532 black ones. Place is so white you’ll need two pairs of shades.

Vienna, VA is in Fairfax County. 677,990 white people, 99,218 black ones.

Chanhassen, MN is in Carver County and a portion of Hennepin. 84,450 whites, 1,124 blacks.

And so on down the list. (Pflugerville was 709,814 white, 87,308 black, but as with all the census data, these are county-wide numbers. These “top” towns themselves are much whiter than the county as a whole. So, should I note, is my own RPV, a mostly-white-and-Asian community in the South Bay of LA.)

You get the message without trying very hard. If you want good living in the U.S.A., go to where the white people are.

Bikers of color

One of the things I loved about riding in Houston is one of the things I love about riding in L.A. We got everything. Show up any morning on the NPR and you’ll get your pick of ethnicities. Show up for the Tuesday night Major Motion ride and if you’re white you’ll understand how it feels to be a minority. Do the Mexican 500 in Carson and you’ll be mixing with a whole lot of people who speak Spanish. Asian faces on our rides are commonplace.

Regardless of what you think about race and racism, people from different backgrounds tend to get along better when they spend time together, and more importantly when they depend on each other. There are few things that require more trust than sitting on someone’s wheel at 28 mph in a tightly packed bunch.

As a society we argue a lot about race, but not so much on the bike. When we’re pedaling, we’re just trying to stay upright, to not get dropped, and maybe to whip the rider next to you in the sprint — or even give him a push. Color doesn’t mean as much in the context of cycling together.

When Rodney King said, “Can’t we all just get along?” he voiced a very basic human desire, to put aside the bullshit, accept our differences, and move ahead with the business of living and making a living. It’s what we do on the bike.

I’m sure many of these “best places to live in 2013″ are nice enough towns. But as far as I’m concerned, the best places are the ones where different people can mix, and do. Viva L.A.

Let me tell you how to ride your bike

September 11, 2013 § 42 Comments

So this dude pulled up to me and said, “Can we talk? I have some concerns about the upcoming Sunday ride.”

In my world, “I have concerns” means “I have a problem, and the problem is YOU.” Either that, or it means “I have a problem and I’d like YOU to fix it.” It never means “Here’s some free money” or “Would you please sleep with my beautiful wife for me?”

“Sure, dude. What’s up?” I glanced at his helmet mirror and the giant flappy sign hanging off his saddle that said “Bikes May Take The Full Lane.”

“I’ve got some organizational concerns,” he said.

This was another DefCon 1 word. “Organization” is to my life what “battery acid” is to a rectal probe. “Oh,” I said.

“Yes. I’m concerned that if we have an extremely large group show up on Sunday we will need to instruct them to break into smaller groups for safety.”

“You reckon?”

“Definitely. Our first ‘take the lane’ ride on PCH was 100% successful in forcing vehicles to change lanes prior to overtaking us.”

“Our ride?” I asked.

“Well, your ride,” he corrected himself.

“Dude, that wasn’t ‘my’ ride. That was me riding down PCH and bunch of other people going with me. I don’t own it.”

“Yes, well, my organizational concerns are that if we have too many people it will actually be a problem, so we need to instruct them at the beginning to break into manageable groups and … “

“We?”

“Well, you. I mean, you could tell them … “

We were packed into a tight formation on Vista del Mar as the peloton returned from a modestly-paced Tuesday morning NPR. Signage Dude had been shelled the second the pace picked up, and had been forced to wait for the ride to end in order to get back with the pack. “Dude,” I began. “You see that motherfucker right there?” I pointed to Dawg.

Signage Dude flinched at the obscenity. “Him?”

“Yeah, him. That motherfucker is one of the bad-assedest track racers in the country. He’s also a crit boss and one-man leadout train.”

“What about him?”

“You know what he’s gonna say when you tell him he needs to ride in some special group?”

Signage Dude knew where this was going. “What?”

“If you’re lucky, he’s not gonna say anything. Then he’s just gonna keep riding like he always rides.”

Signage Dude nodded.

“And that motherfucker there. See him?” I pointed to Bull. “That motherfucker rides ten thousand miles a year and breaks dicks as easy as you or I break eggshells. You know when you got your dick broke going up Pershing before we even started going hard?”

“Dick broke?”

“Yeah, dude, dick broke. When your fucking dick was hanging out of your shorts and getting whaled on so hard that it busted up into tiny little pieces and you had to pull over to collect the fragments, remember that? That was Bull taking his first warm-up pull. He had the whole fucking peloton strung out single file for two miles on the first lap. You really gonna tell the Bull that he needs to get in some fucking group to ride his bike?”

“Well … “

“See that motherfucker?” I pointed to Rahsaan.

Signage Dude nodded.

“Motherfucker is the former elite national crit champ. Wins fucking races just by showing up and scaring the shit out of the competition. Dude is such a badass he has a tattoo on his butt that says ‘BAD.’ You gonna tell that motherfucker how to ride?”

“Well,” Signage Dude said. “No one here knows me. I’m new in town. But they know you. So you could tell them.”

“You got the first part right, bro. No one fucking knows you, or rather, they do know you. Every fucking biker on the NPR has taken note of that giant sign and they’re avoiding your ass like the plague. You might as well have a bumper sticker that says ‘Crashtastic Sam’ on it.”

“It’s for the cars.”

“I know it’s for the cars, dude, but the point is no one knows you. You can’t just show up from Minnetonka one day and start telling these motherfuckers how to ride their bikes.”

“But you can … “

“No, dude, I can’t. I’m just a blogger dude who rides his bike. And you know what?”

“What?”

“Most of these motherfuckers are out here for one reason and one reason only.”

“What’s that?”

“This is the one place no one tells them what to do. No old lady saying ‘quit drizzling piss on the toilet rim.’ No psycho boss telling them to ‘get it done yesterday.’ No sagdick husband saying ‘You ride too much.’ Get it? This is where we put our mental illnesses aside for a while and are, you know, free.”

“Yes, but in the name of safety … “

“Fuck safety. If you want to ride your bike safely, take the fucking lane. I do. If you want to gutter bunny it, or ride ten abreast on a busy highway, or unicycle on the freeway, fuck it man, do it. No one gives a rat’s pecker. But the minute you start telling these motherfuckers how to ride, bro, you’re gonna be getting a little push back.”

“Hmmm,” he said.

“We don’t have much in this life,” I continued. “But while we’re on the iron maiden, we’re free. You fuck with that freedom at your peril.”

“I see your point.”

“Good. Glad you’re in town and glad you’re riding with us. See you Sunday, I hope.”

And I meant it.

The finest bike path in Southern California

September 2, 2013 § 97 Comments

Bicyclists are conservative and don’t like change, with good reason. People are always advising you about training, racing, equipment, technique, you name it. Bikers quickly learn that skepticism is their friend. Easy reliance on the suggestions of others is folly.

So when I suggested that we all ride our bicycles out in the middle of the lane on PCH today, the 80+ riders were skeptical, to put it politely. To put it impolitely, they gave me the “You’re outta your fucking mind” look, especially when I explained the plan in detail.

The plan was to take control of the right-hand lane by riding in it. We would not cross the fog line and venture into the guttery shoulder in which the PCH rides always take place. By riding in the lane we would avoid the trash, the holes, the parked cars, the concrete barriers, and the door zone. It would be a steady but totally doable pace of 18-19 mph.

Even though less than 2% of all bike-car collisions are rear-enders, we were all still afraid, particularly since only a handful of the eighty-strong contingent chose to ride in our group. “We support you, dude,” one friend said as he rolled off.

“I’m a gutter bunny, sorry,” said Junkyard.

One after another people defected until we had only seventeen riders. We all felt fearful, but we were also committed to putting theory into practice: By controlling the lane we’d be safer, cars would pass us with wide margins, and the worst we’d have to deal with were honks and curses.

Off they go

We picked a great morning to implement. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and by the time we hit PCH at about 8:15 there weren’t many cars, and none of them were furious yet at having had to spend the day in sweltering in bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic. The weather was perfect.

We started in the lane and it felt deliciously bad, like I was cheating on my wife — it felt so bad, but it felt so good! Of course, what we were doing was perfectly legal, but we’d all been so brainwashed into thinking that the lane was for cars only that the simple act of being there felt wrong, even as the liberation from the slavery of the gutter felt so empowering.

In the first couple of miles we kept waiting for something bad to happen, but the only thing that happened was that cars passed us on the left with tons of room. We could see onesy-twosy riders ahead of us in the gutter getting passed by those same cars with inches to spare.

Then, as we kept going, we began seeing gutter bunnies with flats, a certainty on PCH if you ride the guttery shoulder. We noticed that our bike lane — the “car” lane — was smooth, devoid of detritus, and not pockmarked with holes and cracks. The frantic waving and pointing and shouting, “Hole! Rock! Barrier! Door!” was gone.

Next we saw a moto cop whiz by in the opposite direction. He kept on going. Our first angry beep, and it was a pathetic one, came from … a motorcyclist. We laughed. By the time we got to Cross Creek, seven miles later, we’d been transformed.

PCH was no longer the terrifying alley of death it had been before. It was now our road, too, and we had plenty of room to negotiate it and, most importantly, to enjoy our ride. When have you ever ridden from Temescal to Cross Creek and back while chatting easily the entire way?

Never, I’m guessing, but that’s exactly what we did. The cars passed us, with only a couple of irate honks, and for the entirety of the out-and-back, including stretches of PCH that normally pucker your sphincter tight enough to crap diamonds, we chatted. Not only did we chat, but for the first time ever we enjoyed what is one of the most beautiful views in California, one you never see in the gutter because you’re lasered in the door zone, the bumps, the garbage, and the cars pulling out of garages and highway parking spots, not mention the traffic that’s often buzzing your handlebars with inches to spare.

Note to users: If you try this technique you will notice that off to the right of PCH on the way back into Los Angeles, there is a giant and beautiful blue, shimmering ocean. You’ve never seen it before, but you will once you’re in the lane and not playing Survivor in the Gutter.

Our end game

We got back to the Center of the Known Universe unscathed, with a total of four irate honks and one catcall, from a guy in a convertible going the other direction who yelled at us, “Hey you motherfucking assholes! Get out of the fucking lane!”

We smiled and waved.

But just one group ride isn’t enough. In the name of those who have needlessly died on PCH and other death traps in SoCal, we’re going to be repeating this exercise throughout the winter. We hope that the skeptics and the inveterate gutter bunnies will take a chance and experience the liberation of riding in the real bike lane — not the one filled with crap and potholes and into which texting drivers drift at 60 mph, but the one that is perfectly maintained, that provides a safety buffer from exiting cars and pedestrians, that provides an unparalleled view of the ocean and the hills, and most importantly, that forces cagers to notice us, slow down, and pass us on the left with plenty of room to spare.

It’s an exercise that, if repeated often enough by enough people, will train the PCH cagers, educate them one at a time, to understand that bicycles don’t simply belong in the lane, they are an expected part of the traffic flow and are guaranteed to be there.

To the riders who were brave enough to do something that turned out to be completely uneventful, yet profoundly cathartic precisely because nothing happened, thank you! To those who are unconvinced, I hope that in a few weeks or months you’ll join us for a test run.

It will be the best ride in the finest bike lane you’ve ever had.

A modest proposal

August 31, 2013 § 63 Comments

Dear Friends,

The recent death of Debra Deem is unacceptable. People have asked “How many more?”

My answer is simple: “None.”

The time has come for us to stand together and do something that makes a permanent difference. Not a Facebook campaign, or an Internet petition, or a town meeting, or an angry letter to the city/sheriff/police chief.

The time has come for us to do what is simple and what is right.

The problem

I believe the problem is painfully simple. We are afraid to ride in the lane, where we belong and where we have alegal right to be. We are afraid because we don’t want to get hit, so, paradoxically, we ride on the shoulder or in the gutter, where we are much more likely to get hit.

What’s even worse is that we stop riding on certain roads, confirming the cagers’ claim that no one rides bikes “there,” and further curtailing our presence on the road.

The solution

The solution is simple: Take the lane. It is ours. We belong there. It is safer. It trains cagers to expect us. It forces cagers to acknowledge us. It demands that cagers make a conscious decision: Hit us or slow down and pass.

It’s my firm belief and it’s my experience that they will slow down and pass. If they choose to murder me for exercising my right, so be it. At least they won’t be doing it because they didn’t see me. At least they might get a speeding ticket after I’m dead.

While we’re in the lane, they may curse. They may honk. They may get angry. But we will be safer, and more importantly, we will be making the road safer for everyone else. We will be doing what is our right. We will be taking a stand for the Debras, the Mariselas, and the thousands of others who have been killed for doing nothing other than riding a bicycle.

TPO

On Sunday I’ll be rolling out at 7:00 AM on the Kettle Ride, which leaves from the Manhattan Beach Starbucks. When the ride reaches Temescal Canyon, those who want to go ahead and do the usual ride in the usual way, that is, hugging the shoulder, dodging the rocks and glass and nails and sand and parked cars and behaving like second class citizens in terror of the cars that buzz them and harass them … those folks will go ahead and do their regular ride.

I’ll be taking the lane from Temescal Canyon to Cross Creek, where I belong, where I have a right to be, and where the cagers will have to deal with me as I am: A cyclist obeying the law and exercising his rights to use the open road.

I hope some of you will join me. We will ride single file in the lane. It will not be a fast pace. It will be steady, and it will not waver from its position.

This will be our first step to reclaim for Debra Deem what should have been hers all along: A safe and open and obvious and legal place to ride her bicycle. Once we complete the ride we’ll have a quick debriefing to talk about what worked and how we can continue to encourage actual riders on actual bicycles doing actual rides to reclaim PCH.

If this is succeeds as I hope it will, we can start thinking about how to reclaim the other roads that have turned so much of Southern California into a terror zone for bicyclists.

No more excuses. No more hand-wringing. No more waiting for advocacy groups, the highway department, or city governments to “give us a solution.” No more memorial rides for the innocent. No more lives lost and survivors’ lives wrecked because we were too afraid to do the right thing.

The solution is here.

The solution is now.

The solution is us.

See you there.

For what it’s worth

August 30, 2013 § 28 Comments

Today was the most perfect of days in Southern California. It began with a brisk and punchy pedal on the New Pier Ride, and after the ride we congregated at the Center of the Known Universe and enjoyed coffee … rehashes of the ride … and the joy that comes from soaking in the sun on a perfect August day just a few feet from the shimmering blue Pacific Oean.

When it came time for us to head in to work, we left the bricks reluctantly. The longer we dallied the less time we’d spend in the office, and then it would be Friday of Labor Day weekend, and nothing stops labor dead in its tracks like the Friday of a three-day weekend that exists solely to celebrate the ecstasy of not having to work.

I watched my buddies pedal off as they did their very worst to get into the office by ten.

She can’t see the sunshine now

On Tuesday afternoon Debra Deem was finishing up her workday much like we were starting out ours. She had recently retired from her high stress litigation job and was spending her retirement providing charitable legal services, and devoting herself to the gardens and plants she tended at her home.  Debra had been riding for more than twenty years and was an extremely safety-conscious cyclist. It was just her nature.

Very close to the same stretch of road where two women cyclists were hit and killed by motorists last year, and where a doctor was killed by a teenager in a runaway sports car, Debra was struck on August 27 by a minivan as she approached the intersection of Newport Coast Rd. while heading west on PCH. She died the following day.

I had gotten the news yesterday through Facebook, and though I didn’t know her, I couldn’t help feeling awful as the comments started coming in. Her husband Paul is a well-known cycling coach in Orange County, and has been a fixture in Southern California for decades. He raced the 4k team pursuit in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and won the gold medal in that event in the 1975 Pan Am Games.

I kept thinking about Debra all the way to work, thinking about how one more bicycle rider in Southern California has been killed by another careless driver. And I hate to say the obvious, but it’s just not right.

What is “right”?

In the case of cyclists being killed by cagers, “right” means reducing the risk that slower moving bikes will be hit by inattentive or errant drivers. It is a fact that putting bicyclists in bike lanes or over on the shoulder increases their exposure to careless cagers. It is also a fact that putting bicyclists in the center of the lane decreases accidents.

The down side to this simple solution of “put bikes in the middle of the lane” is also simple: It requires drivers to slow down and pass, and the more cyclists there are on the road, the more it drivers will perceive their progress to be slow, even though the increase in riders means there are fewer cars on the road and there is therefore less congestion, not more.

This perception of being slowed down is everything, and in conjunction with putting cyclists into the middle of traffic, where they belong, we must also have major changes in the way drivers are taught to drive. This includes a meaningful section in driver education classes and on the licensing exam, but it also means continuing education in the form of sharrows, those “bike + arrow” markings that tell cagers and cops that bikes belong in the middle of the lane, not over in the gutter.

The bloody history of Newport Coast Drive

The intersection of PCH and NCD is horrifically dangerous for cyclists, because they have to leave the bike lane and merge with traffic into the right-hand turn lane in order to get onto NCD. Traffic is frequently going full-bore, and even in the best situations it’s dicey.

What’s so outrageous is that at least three people have died on NCD in the last year, and numerous others have been hit and injured. Cars race up the NCD grade so fast that the wind buffets bikes on the side of the road. On notice that the road is deadly, that the traffic mix for bikes and cars must be better controlled, and that drivers treat the open stretch like a testing ground for their sports cars, the city and county have done nothing.

This blind eye, this willful ignorance makes itself known by the absence of stepped up patrols, by no changes to the configurations of the roads and intersections, and by not even a willingness to let the ghost bikes stay in place as a reminder of the ghastly deaths and injuries that have occurred here.

A sharrow might have saved Debra’s life, some simple white striping that costs a few cents. What’s a human life worth? It’s surely worth that.

And when will the death count be enough, these numbers that are real people with real lives, these statistics that leave ragged, gaping, eternally bleeding, unfillable holes in the lives of those who are left behind?

How many will it take?

Cager dic

August 2, 2013 § 23 Comments

As a mutton-chopped, mutton-headed sausage who’s been crammed into lycra that would be over-revealing even if it weren’t three sizes too small, I often have a hard time understanding Cagelish. The way cagers speak is different from us. I’ve provided a cager dictionary to help explain some of their most common phrases.

It’s not in the usual order, but will be if they ever learn to alphabetize.

  1. Busy street: Place where I am currently driving my car. Usage: “Cyclists should never ride on busy streets.”
  2. Obey the traffic laws: Do something that I myself do not. Usage: “I hate those fucking cyclists because they refuse to obey the traffic laws.”
  3. Bicycle: Target. Usage: “There’s a bicycle.”
  4. That bicycle ran a stop sign: First element required in order to prove that cager’s invocation of Stand Your Ground was justified. Usage: “I was justified in using deadly force. I have it on video where that bicycle ran a stop sign.”
  5. Fucking faggot: Male bicycle rider. Usage: “Obey the traffic laws on this busy street you fucking faggot.”
  6. Fucking cunt: Female bicycle rider. Usage: “Obey the traffic laws on this busy street you fucking cunt.”
  7. I didn’t see him: I was texting. Usage: “Did I kill that bicyclist, officer? Oh, wow. I didn’t see him.”
  8. The bicyclist came from nowhere: I was fiddling with my car radio. Usage: “Did I run over and crush that bicyclist’s pelvis, officer? Oh, wow. The bicyclist just came from nowhere.”
  9. Your taxes don’t pay for these roads: You deserve to die. Usage: “Hey, you fucking faggot! Get off this busy street! Your taxes don’t pay for these roads, you asshole!”
  10. Ride on the sidewalk: If you don’t do as I advise  I will kill you. Usage: “Hey, you fucking cunt! Get off this busy street! Ride on the sidewalk!”
  11. Spin bike: What real cyclists do. Usage: “I would never ride on the road. It’s too dangerous. That’s why I love spinning at the spin class on my spin bike.”
  12. Bike path: Pedestrian zone. Usage: “Hey, you fucking faggot! You almost clipped my XXXL wife and twin baby stroller and three kids on leashes and my Irish Wolfhound! Ride on the fucking sidewalk or on the street, asshole!”
  13. Bicycle infrastructure plan: Scribblings of a lunatic. Usage: “I know how we can reduce congestion, clean the air, make people healthier, make them happier, and save money all at once while providing even MORE space for cagers. Let’s develop a bicycle infrastructure plan!”
  14. City council: Bicycle infrastructure plan crematorium. Usage: “Let’s take this bicycle infrastructure plan to the city council.”
  15. Stakeholder meeting: Public gathering where bicycle advocates are burned at the stake. Usage: “Let’s get grass roots consensus on this tiny bike lane on an unused street next to a school to make sure we don’t make any cagers crazier with rage than they already are by holding a stakeholder meeting.”
  16. Car: Means of conveyance guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, somewhere around the Second Amendment, or the Third. Usage: I drive a car.
  17. Parking space: Bike lane. Usage: “There’s a perfect parking space.”
  18. Bicyclist: Terrorist. Usage: “Let’s kill all the bicyclists.”
  19. Police: Lazy public employees who should be ticketing and jailing bicyclists. Usage: “Why don’t the police arrest all those scofflaw bicyclists?”
  20. Gym: Mirrored restaurant. Usage: “I hate bicycling. That’s why I go to the gym.”

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 an 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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