The Electric Kool-Aid Bicycle Test

January 17, 2014 § 62 Comments

So there I was, minding someone else’s business, the someone being a pudgy hausfrau who had just buzzed me in her double-wide cage, and the business being “How am I gonna call you an unappealing and inconsiderate and rather dangerous person while shrieking four-letter words  with this jersey on that says SPY Cycling Team without you making the connection between a murderously angry bicyclist and the brand of eyewear for which I’m trying to be a good ambassador?”

Good sense and better PR took over at exactly the right time, which was the moment that this dude whizzed by me on a bike. If you’re like me you hate it when someone passes you as if you’d been tied to a stump, had two flat wheels, were pedaling backwards, etc. To make it worse, the dude was wearing sneakers. To make it worsey-worse, he had hairy legs. And to completely let the air out of my gasbag he was sporting a floppy t-shirt, baggy shorts, and no helmet.

Before he disappeared from view I was able to get a good look at his bike and — cue wooden stake being driven through the heart of the vampire — I was able to see that he was hardly breathing. Smiling, actually.

When “going green” means “green with envy.”

At the very last second my ego got its reprieve, because the abnormal surrealism of the whole thing switched to “No wonder he passed me” when I saw his giant rear hub. The dude was riding an electric bicycle. Those things have done in one fell swoop to self-absorbed, Lycra-clad, oh-so-serious-roadies what Colonel Colt did to the plainsman. They didn’t equal the playing field, they almost tipped the dang thing over.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that we have $4,000 electric bikes that can get you around town at 30 mph and you don’t have to pedal if you don’t want to. But hasn’t that vehicle already been invented a long time ago, and wasn’t it called a “motorcycle”? Nor was the dude some handicapped granny who, thanks to this wonderful device, was able to avoid being a shut-in, get a tad of exercise, and avoid being stuck in a nursing home.

No, this dude was young, healthy, grinning, and — as with every other one of these things I’ve ever seen — hardly pedaling at all. It probably sounds heretical, but, like, isn’t the whole point of having a bicycle to actually pedal it? And what, exactly, is “green” about taking a device that runs exclusively on your legs and turning it into a vehicle that you have to plug into the wall?

The real problem with electric bikes

… is their dork factor. Studies show that it is impossible to look cool while seated on a two-wheeled vehicle with one leg hanging lower than the other. This is why the moped failed to catch on, whereas the pink Vespa motor scooter is used by some of the coolest people ever. That one dangling leg makes you look utterly deformed, like having one testicle droop, say, three feet lower than the other. The overly-dangling-testicle-look is made worse when the electric cyclist, who’s no cyclist at all BECAUSE HE’S NOT FUCKING PEDALING, realizes that maximum head protection in the form of a motorcycle helmet is really the smart ticket, and since HE’S NOT FUCKING PEDALING and doesn’t have to worry about the weight, he combines the dangling-testicle look with the ginormous-bulbous-head on a skinny neck and tiny bike frame look.

I know, I know. Motorcycle helmets provide much better protection and he’ll outlive us all. I know. But he’ll still look like a raging idiot.

The other real problem, the “real, real” problem if you will, is the bike path. It takes years and years of practice and strength and fitness and good choice in cycling outfits to pedal your bike at 19 mph down the crowded bike path, maneuvering it so that you can terrify parents, walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, razor-ers, runners, pram-pushers, Segways, and wheelchair occupants as you buzz them in exactly the same way that motorists buzz you. Once you get into the 20 mph range, it goes from “I got this” to “human video game” with no respawns.

You know where I’m going with this. Yep, the guy on his new electric bike whizzing down the bike path at 25 or 30 is gonna kill somebody. Of course, since it’s on the bike path it’s also possible that the victim needs killing, especially that asshole who intentionally kicked a skateboard in front of Douggie and knocked him off his bike. Still, the etiquette issue of hurting innocent people because you don’t know how to drive your bike is a thorny one, made messier by minor rules and regulations and ordinances like vehicular homicide and manslaughter. The barely in control electric bike is showing up more and more on the bike path, and it’s just a matter of time before some unhelmeted clod takes a header and I get to pick through his wallet for spare change while EMS looks to see whether he’s checked the “organ donor” box.

The brown icing on the poopcake

Shortly after being ignominiously dropped by the electric biker, I got to the next intersection I turned right. There was a string of cars in the cross-traffic’s left-hand turn lane. A few cars back were two young boys, maybe thirteen or fourteen, sitting side by side in the turn lane. Their presence and comfort in the lane and their casual attitude on their bikes, combined with their skateboard helmets, was wholly unnatural. I glanced at their hubs, and sure enough, they were riding brand new electric bicycles. The light changed and they glided along with the traffic, barely pedaling.

I’m sure this is a huge improvement over putting kids on regular bikes and making them pedal the dogdamned things and get all sweaty and icky and making their poor lungs and heart and muscles get all tiredy-tired. Those kids are probably also saving the polar bears from the global heating that’s a massive left-wing conspiracy hoax.

But if you don’t mind, please don’t pass me on the danged thing, okay?

The great NPR bike path vs. alleyway controversy

September 26, 2012 § 10 Comments

It’s been simmering for months now.

One group of idiots wants to take the bike path. Another group of idiots wants to take the alleyway.

And today, it all boiled over.

Advocates for the bike path

The bike path has everything going for it. It allows for a slow and measured pace out to the dickstomping grounds of Westchester Parkway. It provides panoramic views of the beauty that is Santa Monica Bay, with Malibu, the mountain peaks, blue skies, and gently breaking waves as a backdrop. It meanders. It is devoid of angry drivers seeking to start their day with a bit of fresh cyclist roadkill. It’s traditional, and it lets you start your day, whether winter, spring, summer, or fall, with a crisp reminder of all that is good and lovely and wonderful about Southern California. If there’s a swell working at El Porto, you may even get to see one of Dan-O’s Danc surfboards shredding the glassy face of a tidy little beach break.

Advocates for the alleyway

The alleyway has nothing going for it. It’s ugly. Cars dart out of garages and cross streets with only inches to spare. Gnarly drainage culverts whack your rims every few hundred yards. The landscape is a gloomy ass-end of homes and condos, blotting out the sky, the sun, the ocean, and the early morning thongage. The occasional pack of grim-face runners will swoop by, looking like runners everywhere look: miserable and in pain.

Like a cheap whore, the alleyway is fast, boneshaking, and gets straight down to the business of going from the Pier to the beatdown in the shortest possible time. At the end of the alleyway, there’s a short jaunt over to Vista del Mar, where the peloton picks up a mashing head of steam, blasts down Mt. Chevron hill, and pounds it hard all the way to the Pershing death launch.

Why would anyone choose the alleyway?

First, because people are sheep, and they will follow where led, even, and especially, to the slaughter. Second, the bike path is often strewn with sand, which creates ickyness inside the links of $250 Campy chains and fancy Chris King freehubs. Third, although the drowsy morning commuters lurching forth pose certain hazards, the bike path features large numbers of the dreaded pathalete, a species of biker/runner/rollerblader/walker/stroller pusher/surfer/skateboarder/razorer who careens along the narrow strip of asphalt, often threatening to bash head-on into the rolling peloton.

Of course, the bike path is luxuriously wondrous for viewing if you’re on the point, but everyone else (except Hockeystick, who’s always got his head turned sideways) has to focus intently on not crashing due to slowing, extremely tight quarters, and the numerous turns that are studded with sand.

But the biggest strike against the bike path is that it’s pleasant and leisurely, so when the nasty reality of the Pershing bump appears, numerous wankers find their kneecaps blown off by the sudden hard surge.

When the voice of the South Bay speaks

…you listen. And this morning, G$ began the ride thus: “Assembled wankers! Today we ride the bike path! It is spoken!”

No one’s voice has the strength of G$’s, and when he pointed his bike down the path, all but six of the massed riders followed. I headed for the alleyway with SBW Eric, Patricia, Canyon Bob, Jens, Pistol Pete, and one or two others. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was trying to fuel a controversy. There’s a difference.

By the time we reached Dockweiler, we could see over onto the bike path from Vista del Mar, and the wankoton was far ahead. Eric and I rolled steady, trying to make up ground, and apparently we succeeded, attested to by his deep gasps and the strings of snot trailing along my upper lip and around my neck. At the Pershing launch site, Canyon Bob sprunted up the hill. Bucks and a handful of others saw us coming and wrongly assumed we were the main group.

Canyon Bob kept mashing, I clung to his wheel, and by World Way ramp at LAX we had a flailaway group that included Chris Stewart, Dan Luzier, Chris Cooke, and four or five others who all died an untimely death by the time we dropped down back onto Pershing. At the turn onto Westchester there were just four of us. The main peloton was far behind and apparently not willing to chase. After a while Dan crawled into the gutter and rolled up in a fetal position. We soldiered on.

One for the record books

Of the many incredible benefits of doing a clusterfuck like the NPR, none surpasses this: If you flail, you can blame it on the lights or on the speeding peloton working together to rein in your heroicism. If you prevail, you can chalk it up to your general greatness and wonderfulability on the bike. Conversely, if you’re in the pack and someone escapes, you can blame it on the lights you had to stop at, or the traffic you had to wait for at the turnarounds, or on the unwillingness of the dawdling peloton to work together to rein in those OTF wankers.

In short, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone, and you can always tell your wife how awesome you were and how everyone else sucked.

Today saw the first time in the history of the NPR that a breakaway stayed away for the entire four laps around the Parkway. The victors chalked it up to their speed, their ability to work together (as Jack from Illinois [not his real name] would say), their canny sense of timing, their hardness into the wind, their incredible ability to endure pain that would destroy mere mortals, and their fancy bicycling outfits.

Grumpy wankers in the peloton saw it differently, as this menu of comments suggests:

Prez: You were off the front the whole time? I thought you had a flat and got dropped.

Black Sheep Squadron: You didn’t win the NPR, dude, you cheated by taking a shorter route.

Hoss: No one bothered to chase. Didn’t you see us soft-pedaling and laughing at you each time you passed on the other side of the Parkway?

Stathis the Wily Greek: We let you have it.

Ol’ Bollix: Dude, you sneaked away on Vista del Mar and hammered before anyone even knew you were gone. Then you ran all the red lights except one, and you only stopped there because of the cop car. Finally, it’s the fuggin’ off season and the only people on the point were the schmoes who use this as their one chance all year to go to the front. What a fuggin’ joke. You guys are a sneaky bunch of cheatbag wanktards.

As I said, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone. Which begs the question, now that the wankoton has seen that a well-timed, well-placed, well-stoplighted breakaway can p*wn the group, when faced with the choice of bike path vs. alleyway on Thursday…

…which one will it be?

Horse people are full of horseshit

February 17, 2012 § 7 Comments

The city of Rolling Hills Estates had a city council meeting on Tuesday night regarding their proposed “bike path” project. Uncle Sam kicked in a mil and some change. The state kicked in another half-mil or so. RHE emptied a couple of jars filled with loose change to come up with the “matching” 200k. Voila–2.6 miles of bike path along PV North, running from Crenshaw over to the border with Palos Verdes Estates.

This is a meeting I wouldn’t have been caught dead at, except that someone sent out an email saying that the horse people at Rolling Hills Estates were opposed to the bike lane. If you’re like me, you were probably wondering “What’s with all these fucking cities on the Hill named ‘Estates’?” And then, if you were like me, you were probably wondering, “Who could possibly oppose a bike lane? And why?” Then, if you were really like me, you figured, “I gotta go see this in person. There’s going to be some funny shit going down.”

The horse people didn’t disappoint.

We’re a rural, equestrian community

The city of Rolling Hills Estates became a municipality in 1957. As their web site says, “…its new citizens were united in their concern over maintaining the community’s rural atmosphere and equestrian lifestyle, characterized by rolling hills, white fences, bridle trails, and vast open spaces.” In other words, even back then they were worried about having blacks, Jews, trailer trash, Mexicans, Asians and other non-horse people infiltrate their community.

The fiction that RHE is a rural community could, of course, only be propagated by people who’ve never actually lived in one. Rural communities are shitholes. The people are poor. They don’t have health insurance or full sets of teeth. They smoke a lot. They drink a lot. They fuck a lot, a positive mitigating factor, but they do it mostly with each other, cf. Hapsburgs and congenital birth defects.

Rural communities are also narrow-minded, stupid places where people who don’t read books make decisions about things that require you to have read lots of books. Rural communities think that contraception is “funny” and that if a “gal” doesn’t want to get pregnant she should hold an aspirin between her legs. Rural communities don’t think it’s funny if you tell them that you can also achieve contraception by ramming aspirin up the man’s penis.

Rural communities hate government and welfare, which is why they are the nation’s largest recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements as a percentage of their population. They call themselves “conservative.” Other people call them “minimum wage employees” and “hypocrites.”

Rural Californians have less access to healthcare, less access to the Internet (so they can’t watch as much porn), and are more likely to have heart attacks, cancer, and/or to be drunks. I learned all this on the Internet, which never lies. Also, rural communities are mean. They hate outsiders, which are generally defined as anyone who doesn’t have grandparents in the cemetery. Most of all, rural communities are defined as thinly populated places stuck out far from civilization that no one in his right mind would live if he didn’t have to.

Is RHE really a rural community? Many of its residents are certainly mean enough. But the fact is that PV North gets over 22,000 cars per day. RHE is butt-up against Torrance and Harbor City, and five minutes from a minor, back country road called Interstate 110, which got 286,000 cars per day…in 1993. Sound rural? Uh, no.

So that leaves us with the horses.

What the fuck is an equestrian community?

Even Google was stumped with this one, so I had to actually sleuth around, make up some stuff, and rely on my background as a Texan and former denizen of the Panhandle, where I never rode any horses. However, my great-grandfather Edward was a real Texas rancher and owned a small spread between Alpine and Fort Davis, and my granddad Frank cowboyed as a young man. Plus, I once did the photography for a guy’s web site that offered surrogate mare embryo implant services. So I figured that standing around for several days watching a guy with his entire arm up a horse’s uterus made me pretty much a horse expert.

Combining these various sources, here is what an “equestrian community” means as it relates to RHE:
–You own several horses but hardly ever ride them.
–You are fat and out of shape.
–You drive everywhere.
–Your daughters ride horses as little girls and ditch the habit once they get a boyfriend.
–Your house smells like horseshit because it’s next to the barn.
–You own a $130,000 horse trailer that you use to trailer your horse instead of riding it.
–Your husband is into “roping,” which is where he sits on a rail fence in Wranglers and boots and gets drunk on beer while you screw the pool guy.
–You don’t want anyone new on the Hill.
–You absolutely hate spandex-wearing cyclists.

Democracy is won by those who show up

The city council and mayor called the meeting to order. The council chambers were packed with about seventy or eighty people. Half were cyclists, many of whom lived on the Hill. The other half were mad: Mad horse people, mad senior citizens, mad taxpayers, mad insane people.

The city manager gave a presentation on the project. It was intelligent. It was clear. It addressed the concerns of pedestrians, hobby cyclists, fast cyclists, horse people, motorists, and tree lovers. Best of all, the project was paid for. We learned that the city had been working on the project for years and years, and that painstaking study had gone into its development. We saw from the their demeanor that the mayor and council members took their jobs with extraordinary seriousness.

And then the freak show began.

The first speaker was Crotchety Bill Snuffins, who had lived in RHE since the invention of dirt, and he remembered how it used to be pretty and quiet and peaceful and bucolic and horsey before cars and airplanes and telephones and radios. His gripe about the project? “At this grave time of financial peril, it is irresponsible to be taking money from the federal government.”

Of course! A patriot! I waited for him to follow up with the statement that he was going to quit cashing his Social Security checks, quit paying for his Depends with Medicare, quit accepting prescription drug Part D discounts, and quit accepting senior citizen discounts at all his favorite shops. But he never said any of that.

Next up came Molly Broadwaddle, who had lived in RHE since the invention of igneous rock, and she remembered how it used to be pretty and quiet and peaceful and bucolic and horsey, back in the days of eohippus and the early Eocene. Her gripe about the project? “I’m VERY concerned about the trees. What will happen to the trees? That’s what I want to know.”

I thought about telling her that the trees would still be able to cycle in the bike lane same as they always had, but kept my mouth shut.

Then we had a run of bike advocates. They were pitifully boring. One of them talked about how this plan balanced competing needs. Another discussed the demographics of cycling on the Hill. A third thanked the council for taking on this great project. A fourth reviewed statistics on bike commuting, weight loss, and property values. A fifth talked about how cycling decreases vehicular traffic and increases air quality. Ted Ernst stood up looking like he was forty, reminded everyone that he was a few months shy of eighty, and talked about the importance of balancing competing needs.

Would the lady in the red plastic garbage bag please shut up?

Finally a horse woman came storming up. She was pissed. She was wearing a giant red outfit that looked like it was made by Hefty. “I came here in 1972,” she proudly proclaimed. “And these bikers are ruining our rural equestrian community! They terrorize us! They swarm by us in big packs! They run stop signs! And you know what else they do? They snarl traffic! Because of them my maid was two and a half hours late! Two and a half hours! Late! This project is terrible!

“And let me tell you something else. Any parent who would let their child ride in one of these bike lanes with all these cars around is crazy. I wouldn’t. It’s dangerous.”

She said a lot of more things with the same inverse relationship of passion to facts, but I couldn’t focus because I was trying to find out where the little bag-ties on her trashbag outfit were. Then I got to wondering who in her household was strong enough to haul her out to the curb, and then what kind of hydraulic arms would it take on the trash truck to get her up over the sides without tipping over…and and as I was wondering, the master of ceremonies said, “Er, next speaker is, um…Mr. Wankmeister?”

I bounded to the podium. “Howdy, folks,” I said in by best Texas twang, knowing how much the country folks in RHE love their rural Texas brethren. “I’m the Wankmeister. My friends call me ‘Wanky,’ or just ‘Fuckhead’ for short. I live up in the apartments on top of the Hill with all the other poor folks and smart Asians and just wanted to come give my blessing to this great project.

“Now I understand that you horse people have done gone and got your Wranglers wedged up too high between your cheeks, but that’s okay. My family was horse people and I know what a hard-headed bunch of bastards you are. I remember when they tried to get my old great-granddaddy to get on the electrical grid back in the 30’s.

“‘What in tarnation’d I want THAT for?’ is what he said. And then they tried to get him to install indoor plumbing so’s he wouldn’t have to shit outdoors in a shed and wipe his ass with a Sears catalog and so that he could maybe bathe more than twice a year. ‘What in tarnation’d I want THAT for?’ is what said then, too.

“Pretty soon they come along and told him that if he’d re-route one of his cattle tracks they’d seal the highway out by the ranch so that every time it rained the damn thing wouldn’t turn into a deathly raging torrent and then a bog that swallowed cars, trucks, and horses whole. ‘What in tarnation’d I want THAT for?’ is how he turned them folks away.

“Thing is, his wife, who wasn’t a horse woman, hated the damned idiot critters, and in fact thought electricity and being able to see after sundown and before sunup was a great idea. So they got it. And she thought that a regular bath without having to haul water 500 yards from the well and heat it over a wood fire was an even better idea. So they got indoor plumbing, too. And you know what? She didn’t give a damn about horses getting swallowed in the bog, but she sure cared about her car. So she gave the okay for the paving project.

“Sooner or later the horse idiots always lose out. And they will on this one, too, thank Dog.”

She who snarls last snarls best

What with the council laughing, and the bikers guffawing, and even a couple of the RHE people who had a sense of humor chuckling a bit, the horse folks were routed. I went out of the chambers to go home and up runs ol’ Pigfarmer lady in the red trashbag. “I’ll tell you why you’re so poor and why we have so much money! Because we SAVE our money!”

Before I could observe that she clearly wasn’t pinching pennies at the all-you-can-wear dessert bar, she dashed back in. So there I was, poor as I’d been when I first showed up, but for all that, maybe a little bit richer than that lady knew, after all.

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