They really do care about us

July 22, 2016 § 24 Comments

Every once in a while I let my guard down and think positive thoughts. Recently, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes committed to developing a bike master plan through its traffic safety committee. I was at the meeting where that decision was made and it was awesome. Kumbaya and etc. and such.

Then further letting down my guard, the city of Palos Verdes Estates was receptive at the committee level and at the city council level to installing some Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signs. The vote occurs on July 27, so it’s not a done deal, but the process has been positive and invigorating.

Finally, when I was on the verge of recriminating myself as a crusty, distrustful, skeptical old shit and admitting that cagers really aren’t a bad lot, they’re simply people like you and me who happen to choose to lock themselves into inflammable steel boxes rather than pedal freedom machines, I got this happy note:

On Monday one agenda item for the TSC [in Rancho Palos Verdes] to discuss is whether to ban cyclists from the top of Crest Road between Ganado Drive and the domes. The city has received a petition with 100+ signatures from local residents requesting that. I doubt very much that this will pass since it is a public road. The petition claims that the road is unsafe for cyclists and there have been numerous accidents. They also asked if Big Orange has obtained a permit that indemnifies the city from liability. Here is a link to the agenda:

http://rpv.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=rpv_3c7324ce3065f5443cf8d2f7217cd23d.pdf&view=1

 

You have to admit this is pretty awesome. We actually have one hundred people who live in an exclusive neighborhood at the top of a hill overlooking the sea who are so concerned about cyclist safety that they have gotten a petition together to ask the city to appropriate public roads for private use.

You may think, “Hasn’t that been tried before?” and you may wonder “What happens when a group of crazies tries to take public property?”

You may even be surprised that a gang of rich cagers are so consumed with the safety of bicyclists that they’re willing to close public roads to bikes to protect us from ourselves, even though we’re convinced that riding our bicycles instead of riding the couch makes us happier, healthier people and better citizens.

This is one where, unfortunately for cyclists, the cagers are right. The best people to decide how to use a road are the ones who live near it. Having cyclists storm up and down Crest at all hours of the day (by the hundreds, if not thousands), having bikers hither and thither, and most importantly, having pedal pushers getting hurt on a road that is simply too dangerous for them as evidenced by the one or two crashes per year are all excellent justifications for closing a road to a particular type of traffic.

The standard that the residents have enunciated is a good one and makes for sound policy. Let’s review:

  1. Close roads that endanger users.

  2. Require groups who insist on dangerous road use to indemnify cities/counties against lawsuits stemming from injuries that occur there.

I will be attending the Monday, July 25 traffic safety meeting to wholeheartedly support this, and hope you will, too. In addition to closing Crest between Ganado and the radar domes, I will be making the following additional proposals for consideration by the committee using principles 1 & 2 above.

  1. Close the 405, 110, and 91 freeways. These roads see thousands of collisions and hundreds of casualties. To date there have been zero bicycle fatalities on any of these roads, so banning them to cars and opening them to pedestrians and cyclists makes sense and will protect millions of vulnerable cagers.
  2. Require every group of more than two people who use a roadway to buy comprehensive indemnification insurance, with immediate application to FedEx, UPS, and every business with more than two vehicles. Also include every household with more than two vehicles.
  3. Close every road in Rancho Palos Verdes to the type of vehicle that has the larger number of collisions, beginning with Crest Rd. between Ganado and the radar domes.*
  4. Since closure/banning are more desirable than improving conditions to make the roads safer, such as paving dangerous cracks and potholes, putting up Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signage, education, and law enforcement, the city of RPV should apply the closure/banning principle in all of its deliberations:
    • Close the Pacific Ocean.
    • Close the airspace above RPV and preferably the state of California.
    • Close the insane asylum from which the petition signers have obviously escaped.
*Oops! That will mean closing it to cars! Sorry!

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Getting the word out

July 21, 2016 § 4 Comments

Every now and again someone comes up with a great idea to help promote cycling in SoCal. These ideas usually founder because they are a) unprofitable b) unprofitable c) extremely difficult to maintain.

Although it’s too early to proclaim it a financial success, Brian Co has started an ambitious podcast project at socalcyclist.org. This fills a huge void for news and quality information about what’s going on in the SoCal bicycling world. With fourteen episodes since its debut on April 20, the project is going strong.

Better than print, the podcast format lets you download each episode and listen to it when it’s convenient. I spoke with Brian about his idea and he said, “There are no local cycling news podcasts. If you want to listen to a one-hour symposium on disc brakes, sure, that’s being done. But local bike news? Nothing. So I decided that’s what I’d do.”

The results are of astonishingly high quality. Brian uses state of the art recording equipment and he goes all-out to put together programs that will interest anyone who cycles in Southern California.

Best of all, he’s creating a model for every other locality in the world that wants to showcase the very best regarding its cycling community. Give it a listen. You will not regret it!

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Weeding out the grass roots

July 20, 2016 § 17 Comments

There is a new poison in the herbicide arsenal, stronger than Roundup, Banish, Barren, and TK-10 all lumped together, one so nasty and lethal that where it is poured nothing will thrive, nothing will grow, nothing will live.

We started Telo last night with our eyes glued to the fancy winner’s jersey plastered on the back of Smasher, knowing that whatever else happened, it was going to hurt us more than it hurt him, and it would be unendurable. Smasher’s race plan was simple: Smash.

His ultimate goal? Get the winner’s jersey for his teammate Derek the Destroyer, who a couple of weeks ago had officially retired as a profamateur, gained ten pounds, quit training, and places top-five now in every race he enters.

My plan was simple. Follow Smasher’s wheel, also known as Belling the Cat. Destroyer opened Lap 3 with a fierce attack, which I easily followed. All I had to do was go harder than I’ve ever gone in my life, then add ten percent. We were quickly reabsorbed. After following Destroyer around for another lap or so it seemed wise to slip farther back.

We had a large field of broken and hopeless wankers, none of whom had the slightest chance of surviving the carnage that was about to be unleashed. In a flash, just as I had settled back to check my phone and see how much money I’d lost for the day on Chinese real estate stocks, Destroyer went again and took six riders with him.

Being at the back when the winning break rolls is the stupidest feeling in the world. You watch it happen from afar, slack-jawed at your bad judgment, while all of the idiots around you either don’t know what’s happening, don’t care what’s happening, or, like me, pray to dog that someone will take the bit between his teeth and do all of the nasty work dragging you up to the split.

Then I spied Smasher, who was cheerily pedaling along, not the least concerned. “That wanker,” I said to myself. “He totally missed the split.” So I got on his wheel while a few panicked riders took turns trying to organize a chase.

[*Note to non-racers: “Organize a chase” is a fantasy concept that exists in the minds of people who think that a group of people who hate each other will work together for a common cause, cf. Republican National Convention in Cleveland.]

As we rounded Turn 4, I saw Smasher, who is British, arch his lower back slightly, tighten his grip on the drops, and push down harder on the pedals. “This is it, here comes Brexit!” I laughed to myself, jumping hard on the pedals so that I’d already have a head of steam when Smasher launched his bridge.

When Brexit came I was already accelerating, already committed, already fully prepared to follow Nigel Farrage in his destruction of the common European weal–except that I wasn’t. Smasher opened up a bike length, then two, then five, then ten, and then he was a tiny speck far, far ahead as I sagged in no-person’s-land. I don’t know how many watts he expended, but Strava says I was at my max of 253 watts, so he was putting out at least 14,000 or so.

There is a moment in every race that is decisive, which is another way of saying there is a moment in every race when everyone gives up hope, digs into their suitcase of excuses, tries several on until finding one that fits, and then takes comfort in finishing with the other losers in the fourth chase group. I slunk to the back and congratulated myself on having had the wisdom to miss the split and to choose the Wheel That Shall Not Be Followed.

However, the Brexit plot thickened. The other losers back in the EU chase group were unwilling to be losers just yet, and the breakaway lost steam as Scotland insisted it would Screxit from the UK and Scrontinue with the EU. After an eternity of riding at ridiculous speeds through cracks in turns, lapping gassed riders who would jump in, gap me out, then re-explode, after battering into the headwind where each pedal stroke felt like algebra, the incredible happened: Smasher and Boozy P. came back. Brexit was going to be put to a re-vote.

The losers took heart; the remnants of Destroyer’s break were a mere 200 yards away! They had been caught!

Except, since they were still 200 hundred yards away, they hadn’t been.

They dangled.

They teased.

They shed a couple more riders.

They were just within reach, kind of like good interest rates in someone else’s mythical portfolio.

Then, at the key moment in the race, I did what I’m known far and wide for: I cowered and hoped someone else would do for me what I was too lazy to do for myself.

No one did, and the 200 turned to 300. Fortunately, Smasher was still with us, until, of course, he wasn’t. He leaped across the windy gap in Brexit II, caught Destroyer and Steinhafel, and the three of them immediately put an entire half-lap on the twenty remaining losers, all of whom lost.

There was some sprunting for scraps, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch Destroyer pull on his first ever victory tunic, which of course he’d won in retirement. With the Union shattered and the cycling grass roots poisoned with buckets of all-kill herbicide, it was a great way to end the day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been having my new Leather Volt break down, which happily it did.

At least I’m not bitter.

Photos courtesy of Joe Yule!

13710616_10208610449795480_8624447556220940840_o

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Your whole country sucks

July 19, 2016 § 38 Comments

One of my buddies who has been cycling for all of a year has been absolutely ripping legs off on the local group rides, especially anything with a bump in it. He is a friendly guy until the ride gets hard and then suddenly he’s not, ladling out huge, steaming helpings of pain until you slide off the back with your broken ego, having opened your suitcase of courage only to find that mom packed it with wrinkled, ill-fitting, polyester excuses.

So it came as a surprise when he got this message from Thorfinn-Sassquatch, recent winner of a lifetime achievement award from USADA. It appears that my buddy’s conquests on Strava, like his conquests against real people, have popped up on Nick Brandt-Soreasson’s fragile ego radar. To wit:

thorfinn_sassquatch

Perhaps Thorfinn wants to keep tabs on someone whose antics are sending him a barrage of “Uh-oh” emails, or perhaps he thinks he’s found a potential customer for some “supplements.” I hardly have the heart to tell Dopesquatch that he’s barking up the wrong tree.

This is the kind of thing that grabs your attention here in the South Bay, or maybe it’s the masters racer who for years was nothing spectacular and is now on practically every podium in practically every race he enters.

And then on the national stage there are the true asshats like Floyd Landis, a guy whose exploits include:

It all seems a bit surreal, knowing that the Tour is a dope-addled version of pro wrestling for skinny people, and it all seems strangely funny as old fellows pump their bodies with every manner of poison in order to score virtual trinkets and podium hardware that includes free beer, recovery drink mix, candy bars, and socks.

But then you realize what cycling’s dopers have always said is true: This is the bush leagues. Sure, cyclists dope. “Duh,” as they used to say twenty years ago.

But that ain’t nothing compared to Russia, who is on the verge of having all of its teams in all of its sports banned from the Dolympics. According to Canadian law prof Richard McLaren (no relation to the car):

Russia’s “Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.” The FSB is Russia’s federal security service while the CSP is involved in the training of Russian athletes.

In other words, some boring Canadian dude just concluded about Russia’s national sports program what the international diplomatic and journalist world has been saying for years: Putin is a criminal and Russia is a mafia.

Suddenly, sleazebag dope-peddling Floyd and sleazebag stretchy-underwear dope peddling Soreasson and sleazebag Local Masters Racer don’t look so bad. In fact, they look smaller than the average man-package outline as seen on the average bike racer podium. We’re talking super tiny.

Which raises a big question: If the Dolympics are going to start banning entire nations for doping, then what’s the point of the event? No world stage provides a bigger or glitzier showcase for cheating, fake performance, hypocrisy, bribery, and graft. I fear for the future of an event whose moral high points include its attempt to silence free speech regarding China’s occupation of Tibet prior to the Beijing Dolympics, as well as its acceptance of $4.4 million in soft “entertainment” bribes prior to selecting Nagano as the host city in 1998.

More to the point, are we going to take Russian superiority lying down? If the challenge of Sputnik got us to put a man on the moon, maybe it’s time that Russia’s state sponsored doping and “mind boggling levels of corruption” kicked us into high gear as well. What about a steering committee composed of Lance, Floyd, Soreasson, and Rich Meeker, a true Dream Team that can help us figure out what our nation needs to do so that we can level the cheating field?

I’ve even got a slogan in mind: “Making America Great Again” (merchandise made in China, of course). It would be a fantastic motto under which we can promote thievery, chicanery, duplicitous hypocrisy, and self aggrandizement at the expense of the peasants. Can someone check to see if that slogan is already taken?

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Volt dolt

July 18, 2016 § 17 Comments

I hate cars, but they are a necessity (for me), like brushing my teeth (which I also hate). In 2002 I bought a Camry and turned it over to my daughter when she and her husband were looking for a low mileage car that had been lightly driven and was still in excellent cosmetic shape.

It only had 220,000 miles on it and the cracked bumpers and scrapes along both sides gave it a lot of character. They were grateful to be driving in such style and added another 60k commuting from Hollywood to the South Bay for a couple of years in light morning and light evening traffic on the 110 and the 101.

In 2007 I bought a Prius. It has been a great car and we have not driven it hardly at all. I think we only just turned over 180,000 miles which is not all that much. Cosmetically it has a lot of character from bike racing. There are these avant-garde chain paintings throughout the interior that remind me a lot of Kandinsky or Rothko.

Then last week the Camry had a “life event” that involved the thing that does the whatchamacallit and the doodad broke down, too. I am a firm believer in car maintenance and had religiously changed the oil every 30,000 miles whether it needed it or not, so I was surprised to hear from my daughter that the recommended fix was “Get this smoking hunk of shit out of my shop and cart it off to the junkyard.”

I guess they don’t make Toyotas like they used to.

So we figured we would pass on the Prius to the kids since it was practically new and still has a good 10-15 years of life left in it, more if they are regular with the oil like I was with the Camry, but then that put us in the situation of having to get a new car for ourselves.

“Actually we don’t need a car,” I said to Mrs. WM.

“We better be gettin onna new car,” she said.

“You can get a bike and we can commute and walk. It will be great.”

“You can get onna new Prius and not have divorcin’ papers,” she said.

So I called up Derek who is a great bike racer and perfect for helping me buy a new car.

“Yo,” I said. “I need a new car. Can you help me buy one?”

“Sure,” he said. “What kind of car do you want?”

“What kind of car do you have?”

“A Chevy Volt.”

“Then I want a Chevy Volt.”

He paused. “You do? Why?”

“It’s good enough for you, it ought to be good enough for me.”

“You know, our families are kind of different and you might think about …”

I cut him off. “Look, I’m terrible at car buying. You’re great at car buying. I bet you got a smoking deal on your Volt.”

“I did.”

“So I’d rather get your smoking deal on a car that no one can drive than pay double the MSRP on something that everyone loves.”

“Why not figure out what car you actually want and then do a deal?”

“Cars are the enemy,” I said. “The only good car is a dead car.”

“Like the Camry?”

“Like the Camry.”

Derek’s plan was ruthless and simple. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “The worst car salesperson negotiates more deals in a week than you have negotiated your entire life. You will lose. You’re a Cat 6 and they’re stage winners in the Tour. Plus, you’ll be going through their Internet sales department which is a shark tank. They will inhale you. Remember the Rule of Poker.”

“I don’t play poker.”

“If you sit down at the table and can’t immediately identify the sucker, you’re the sucker.”

“This role I know.”

“So you have to turn your ignorance to your advantage. First, log into the Chevy Volt online forum. Read the last several days from the forum dedicated to recent purchases and you will get a good feel for the best prices out there that people are getting. But be careful.”

“Of what?”

“Lots of the posters are lying through their teeth. Read enough of the posts to get a feel for rock bottom v. bloviating bullshit.”

“I’m great at identifying bullshit.”

“You of all people should be.”

“Then what?”

“Then get your Costco discount.”

“My what?”

“Your Costco discount.”

“I’m not a Costco member. That’s a total scam. $55 to save thousands on groceries? Total ripoff.”

“Well, once you join you can request a quote through their car buying program. It will be a couple thousand off whatever the ‘deal’ is that you would get walking in off the street.”

“Really?”

“Really. You pay $55 and save thousands off your car price.”

I did the math, slowly, and it seemed to work. “Then what?”

“Then you take that offer into the dealer who Costco hooks you up with, and you shoot for a couple thousand below that.”

“Shoot for? I always shoot for cheap prices. But I always miss.”

“Exactly. That’s where you play your ‘sucker’ card. You go to the dealer, take a photo of the window sticker and text it to me. I’ll look at all the options–and you want leather seats, no question–and I’ll text you your offering price.”

“And then by the time they sell me the rustproofing and the million mile extended warranty and the fluffy thing that hangs from the rearview mirror it’ll be several thousand dollars higher.”

“No it won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re going in to make a deal and you’re not moving off your price. You’re going to go in and say ‘I don’t want to waste your time and if you can’t do this I totally understand but this is all I can do and if you can make money off that then let’s do a deal but if not I totally understand and you leave.”

“No way.”

“Way.”

“Have you ever done this?”

“Every car I’ve ever bought.”

“And it works?”

“100% of the time, it works 100% of the time.”

I took a breath. “Okay.”

Sure enough, the Volt forum was filled with lies of the worst kind, but also with some numbers that looked good. Then I swallowed hard, joined Costco, filled out the car request, and within minutes had an offer for two 2017 Volts, one cloth and one leather:

chevy_volt.jpg

Then the nice lady called me immediately. “When would you like to come in and test drive your Volt?”

“Monday,” I said, figuring that Monday morning would be slow and they’d be readier to deal than on a Saturday or Sunday.

Before heading in I spoke with Derek. “Remember two things, Wanky,” he said.

“What?”

“1. Leather. 2. Don’t budge.”

Steeled and confident, I strode into the dealer at 11:00 AM. It was cemetery dead. The nice lady came down and whisked me off into the Leather Volt, which she had conveniently parked by the front door in anticipation of my visit. I clandestinely shot the window sticker and sent it to Derek. He immediately pinged me back. “$29,500. Not one penny more. LEATHER ONLY.”

Then things went off the rails because now we were driving. I had thought we’d begin talking pricing and I could give my little speech but nope. Now I was behind the wheel of this very new car and was overwhelmed with its leatherness. As the nice lady went on about how I could use my iPhone and check text messages and do all manner of distracted driving that was impossible in the Prius, I panicked.

“So how do you like it?” she asked.

“I love it,” I blurted out. “It’s freaking awesome.” There, you went and ruined it, I said to myself. Might as well give her your checkbook. Just tell her not one penny over MSRP.

“Oh, yes, it’s a wonderful car. What car are you driving now?”

I had parked the Prius three block away because I was afraid if they saw it they would conclude I was an indigent who couldn’t possibly afford a new car. “A Prius,” I said.

A shadow of concern crossed her face, and in an instant I realized that for a Leather Volt seller, Prius was kryptonite. “How do you like the Prius?”

“Our Prius?” I said. “I hate it.” Dogdammit! I cursed myself again as she regained her calm. The only two cards I had and I’d not only shown them, I’d given them to her.

“Well you will love this Volt,” she said. “When are you going to buy?”

“Today,” I said, totally giving up. Even I knew that you never tell the Leatherperson you’re hot to buy today.

“Well, we can certainly do that.”

But just as the whole thing slipped from my grasp, I had an idea. “Yeah,” I said, “I’m dying to buy a Volt today. In fact that’s kind of the deal I made with my wife.”

“Oh?” Now she was on full alert because the only thing that brings more kryptonite to a deal than the name of the biggest competitor are the words “my wife.”

“Yeah,” I said. “My wife is Japanese and she loves our Prius. That’s kind of our marital problem,” I confided. “She loves that stupid car and I’m sick of it.”

The nice lady sensed something bad was about to happen. “Oh?”

“Yeah. I mean it’s been real solid, 250,000 miles and still on the original battery, real dependable and super cheap to run. We hardly ever put gas in it. But I’m so sick of it so I told my wife ‘Honey, I’m going to go buy a Chevy Volt today,’ and we had a long discussion about the price and stuff and we struck a deal.”

“What deal?”

“I told her that if I could get that Leather Volt at the price we agreed on then I was gonna buy today. But if we couldn’t then we’d go to the Toyota dealership and check out the Priuses. Of course I told her that even if we can’t do a deal today I was still leaning towards the Leather Volt because I want a Leather Volt, but I’d at least do my due diligence and see what they had in the Leather Prius and such.”

There was a moment of silence. It was all so unplanned and natural that it sounded true, and the nice lady, who had great confidence in her ability to close a deal, also had great confidence in Toyota of Torrance’s ability to close a deal because that’s where I’d bought the Prius. She also knew that no deal happens without the wife. “So your wife really likes the Prius?” she tried to sound cheerful.

“Oh, she’s nuts about it. She’s Japanese,” I added for the fourth time, “and it’s kind of a national thing. Pretty weird. She loves anything made by Toyota or Sony. But me, I’m a red-blooded American and I’m ready for a Chevy even though all I’ve ever owned are Toyotas.”

The conversation was pretty desultory all the way back to the dealer. We parked and went in and sat down at the guillotine, a place where in past car purchases by this time I had already stretched and offered my neck to the blade. “Let me get you some numbers,” she said, having regained all her enthusiasm. “We’re going to get you into a Volt today.”

She got up. “Hang on,” I said. “I really appreciate the test drive and I love that car but I don’t want to waste any more of your time. My wife has set a price and it’s my price to do a deal today. I totally understand if you can’t do it and I sure don’t expect you to lose money on the deal. So if you can’t do it just tell me and I’ll save you the aggravation of going back and forth. I’ll probably be back even if we can’t do a deal today anyway. I can’t imagine a Leather Prius feels as nice as that Leather Volt.”

The kryptonite was strong. “What’s the price?”

“$29,500.”

She looked at me. “I might be able to do that in cloth, maybe a little more but it’s not out of the question.”

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “$29,500, leather.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I totally understand.”

“But let me check with my sales manager.”

“Okay.”

She walked off and left me there to discharge big  puddles of sweat into my shoes.

She came back smiling. “We can do it,” she said.

“We can?”

“Yes. $29,999 leather.”

“That’s great!” I said.

“I knew you’d be happy.”

“Can you put that in writing?”

“Of course.” She wrote it down on the sheet.

I stood up. “I’ll see you later this week, hopefully.”

“What do you mean? I thought we were going to do a deal today?”

“Me, too. But I told you my number was $29,500. I mean, $29,999 is so close. I doubt Torrance of Toyota can beat that, especially with the $1,500 state rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit I’ll get with the Volt. Unless they also offer it with the plug-in Prius.”

“I can’t do $29,500 leather.” She was crestfallen.

“Thanks for working so hard.”

“You’re welcome.”

I turned and headed for the door. Just before my feet crossed the plane of the goal line the sales manager came flying out of his office, tackled me at the knees, slammed my head to the ground, and flipped me over. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“Torrance of Toyota,” I said.

“We can do $29,500,” he said.

“Leather?” I asked.

“Leather,” he said.

And we did.

I was pretty happy when I got back home. I parked the Volt in our space, happily thinking about how much money I wasn’t ever going to spend on gasoline again. I hopped out of the car and pulled the charging thingy out of the back, plugged it into the car and uncoiled the cord. The awesome thing about the Leather Volt is that it plugs in a normal electrical socket, same as you’d use for a hair dryer or toaster oven.

That’s when I noticed that we didn’t have an electrical outlet.

After the first few seconds of shock subsided, I immediately began making plans for leaving the state under cover of night, as there was no way I’d ever be able to face Derek, much less Mrs. WM, having bought a plug-in car without first making sure I had a plug.

When it became obvious that even a late night escape wouldn’t work, I called up Alfredo. Alfredo can fix anything. “Yo, Alfredo,” I said. “I bought a car.”

“That’s terrible,” he consoled me. “What kind?”

“A leather plug-in.”

“Volt? Or Prius?”

“Volt.”

“That’s awesome. You’ll never buy gas again.”

“Yeah, but I have a problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t have a socket.”

“You bought the car without first checking to see if you have a place to plug in your plug-in vehicle?”

“Yeah.”

He whistled. “Man, you are a complete moron.”

“Agreed.”

“So I’ll buy the car from you for fifty bucks.”

“Is that my only option?”

“It’s probably your best one. Other option is that I come over tonight around 2:00 AM and do some electrical work in your complex’s parking garage.”

I thought about it. Couple of beers for Alfredo to get the car working or relocation to Alaska. “Deal,” I said.

Next morning the car was charged. And thank you. It runs just fine.

END

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The stubbornness of a good idea

July 16, 2016 § 43 Comments

Few people are as infuriating as John Forester. I’ve never met him but I have read countless of his commentaries on bicycling safety. To call him a thorn in your side is like calling a lobotomy a “minor procedure.”

John is a real old dude and I doubt that he rides a bike much, if at all. I’ve certainly never heard of him showing up on a group ride. That’s kind of weird because all he ever writes about is bikes and bike safety.

Not only that, he has an unparalleled ability to aggravate. When he puts pen to paper, there is an edge to his writing that just pisses you off. I’ve often tried to figure out what that edge is. It’s not the commentaries that sometimes spill over into ad hominem attacks, although that’s part of it. What really gets me is his tone, which is the tone of “STFU, I’m right and I know it, and if you had half a brain, you’d know it, too.” Takes one to know one, I guess.

John was the subject of a hit piece in the Los Angeles Times the other day in which the author announced that John’s philosophy of “vehicular cycling” was officially dead. If you wanted to sum up John’s approach to bicycling in traffic, it’s this: Bike fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

In other words, for us to be safe we don’t need bike lanes or protected cycle tracks or anything other than the roads we currently have, along with a set of equally applied rules. The hit piece essentially says that John got it wrong. The best way to boost ridership is by shunting riders out of traffic and into bikes-only infrastructure. Create a parallel, separate-but-equal system (that conveniently costs billions), and you will have more cyclists and fewer car-bike casualties.

While I loves me a good hit piece, and while John is a super annoying, crotchety old curmudgeon, I don’t loves me a shit piece. And I especially don’t loves me a shit piece when it’s dumping on a super annoying, crotchety old curmudgeonly sonofabitch who happens to be right.

Not simply right, but one-hundred-fucking-percent right. The language may have changed from “vehicular cycling” to “sharrows” and “BMUFL–Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane,” but Forester’s principles are as ironclad and correct as they were when he first proposed them.

Riding off to the edge, stuck in the gutter, dodging trash and glass and cracks and manhole covers and used dildos (yes, Knoll once found a giant pink dildo on PCH) makes cyclists less visible and much more likely to get clipped, right-hooked, rear-ended, or otherwise hurt. John’s principles embody the Savvy Cycling course and they give cyclists control over what happens to them in traffic. Unlike the false perception of safety afforded by bike lanes, BMUFL gives cyclists the real protections of a) being seen, and b) not being treated as inferior road users, but rather as vulnerable ones deserving of special attention and care by bigger, faster, deadlier cars.

In his inimitably annoying way, Forester demolishes the shit piece in the LA Times with diamond hard prose, not a comma out of place, relentless, unapologetic, with the force of an artillery shell hitting a cardboard box. To wit:

“Pitting cars against cyclists” is the first lie. Vehicular cycling holds that motorists and cyclists have equal right to use the roads. Is that pitting cars against cyclists? The logic is all wrong: cars are obviously not motorists. So are the politics; making sure that black people have the same legal rights as white people cannot, justly, be held to be pitting blacks against whites. Besides, the only cycling alternative to advocating legal equality was accepting Motordom’s motorist supremacy policy and its Jim Crow laws that demeaned cyclists. There’s no doubt about it: I stood up for cyclist equality and fought motorist supremacy.

The claim that vehicular cycling had any dominance in American cycling policy at any time in the past is the second lie. At no time, at least since 1925, have cyclists been officially considered equal to motorists, and they were made legally subservient to motorists in the 1944 Uniform Vehicle Code. The idea that American governments had a policy that cyclists were legally equal to motorists is just plain false. If any jurisdiction differed in that, it certainly had insignificant effect. At all times (with maybe some insignificant exception) cyclists were legally inferior to motorists and instructed to be subservient to them.

The argument that American governments supported cyclist equality because they failed to put up money for bikeways is another lie. They failed to fund bikeways because they didn’t care to spend money on bicycling facilities, not because they supported vehicular cycling. While some bikeway advocates make that argument, they fail to produce the official budget arguments stating the support for cyclist equality.

The fact that American governments now fund bikeway construction demonstrates only that America has now decided to fund the bikeways that Motordom has always demanded to instutionalize motor supremacy.

It is correct that the bikeway funding by American governments is now also supported by bicycle advocates in a program designed to accommodate fearful, traffic-incompetent, rules of the road rejecting cyclists with only the maturity of an untrained eight-year-old. That program has won its political battle and is now irreversible. But the political victory does nothing to change the content of the program. What it means is that those of us who reject the emotionalism and anti-science bases of that program have the legal means to refuse its imposition upon us simply because it is trying to unlawfully impose Motordom’s selfish motorist supremacy upon us. Rejecting Motordom and teaching vehicular cycling to all we can reach, and maintaining our legal opposition to Motordom’s motorist supremacy policy, are the two tasks to which we should devote ourselves.

John’s methods have made me a better rider, kept me alive and unhurt longer, taught countless motorists about how to safely deal with cyclists, and inspired thousands of people to ride bikes with confidence and competence.

If the price for that is a cranky old dude yelling at people from his porch and shaking his fist at passing cats, it’s well, well, well worth it.

END

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Adieu, amis

July 14, 2016 § 5 Comments

One bummer thing about cycling is losing good people. Later in August two of the best, nicest people in the South Bay are packing their bags and moving to hell or Michigan.

Eric and Patrizia Richardson made every ride better, and in the leaky prostate crits at Compton, Eric was a regular. Never flashy, often hanging on for dear life with his ankles slapping his spokes, Eric was always good for two or three superman efforts to get you up to the front, help you position in the pack, and most importantly, commiserate with you at race’s end about how much you sucked.

Eric never complained, never talked smack, was a steady wheel and one of those people whose presence in the peloton was a quiet gift except for that time on the way back from the Holiday Ride when he hit some root-buckled pavement in Brentwood and splatted. Thankfully, he was fine.

We’ll miss you two, and hope that your new lives in hell fail miserably and you’re shipped back to sunny SoCal so that we can flog ourselves together again on the NPR.

At the same time we’re losing these two fine people and hell is gaining two great cyclists, we also lost the one and only David Miller. Who is David Miller?

David Miller was the Cat 4 who became a Cat 1 in six months, but who cares about that? What made Dave the man who everyone wanted to be like was his unmatched ability to hammer, recover, hammer some more, drink a keg, hammer some more, keep everyone in stitches with a wit drier than gunpowder, slam another keg, race some more, and post the world’s funniest Facebag comments ever.

He may be a Canadian, he may have returned to Calgary, he may be able to squat my apartment building, but he’ll always be Cat 4 Dave to me.

END

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