Who needs Pescadero?

June 10, 2015 § 55 Comments

Two days ago I ran a little thing about the NCNCA rule that prohibits outsiders, aliens, foreigners, ineligiblers, and anyone south of the Calmason-Caldixon Line from competing in the Elite District Championship Road Race, which is the state championship road race for the State of Northern California, the 51st star sewn onto Old Glory.

I was shocked that my nasty, rude, mean-spirited, offensive, and vitriolic post could possibly upset anyone, but it did, and the unhappy comments poured in, along with a new nickname, “Sparky,” bestowed by one Timothy Burgess, an NCNCA board member, non-racer, and Official Nickname Bestower. He also blessed the comment section with the phrase “penis wagging,” which was frankly a classic. It made me think of a dog, only standing up, sort of.

What was more shocking than the outrage was that anyone in NorCal agreed with me, but apparently two or seven people did. I will have to find out who they are and block them.

After the electrons settled, a couple of things became clear. One, I was wrong about the rule. NCNCA can do whatever they want and no one can stop them. One of the things they want to do — since 2013, as I was told on the phone — is to exclude every P/1/2 rider who doesn’t have “California–NCNCA” listed on their license from competing in their State of Northern California Elite District Championship Road Race, a/k/a the Pescadero RR.

I was wrong because apparently the USAC rule that defines eligibility for state championship road races (US citizen, resident of the state) doesn’t actually mean “state” in the sense of one of the states that makes up the USA. What “state” means, I was told is “racing district” (supporting documentation for this claim was provided by an official who claimed USAC “forgot” to put it in the rule book), which can sometimes be a state but other times can be a “racing district.” There is nothing in the rule book that says this, or that defines a racing district, or that equates such a district with a state, or that says a state championship is an elite district championship, but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that NCNCA does it this way, and as the promoter so eloquently put it, SoCal riders are *NOT* welcome in the P/1/2 race at Pescadero.

So, I was wrong.

But that’s okay because my post was really about something else. It was about actions that depress rider turnout at races, and many commenters focused instead on whether or not the exclusion was fair, or legitimate, or founded on the USAC rules. Let’s punt the point for the sake of discussion and return to my real motivation, which is to have more people race their bikes in road races. The promoter and others pointed out that Pescadero is just one race and that there are many others in NorCal that anyone can enter. One commenter exuberantly claimed there were “hundreds of race days.”

I doubt that there are hundreds of road races in NorCal each season, but perhaps there are. What I doubt strongly more is that a business model based on insulting, abusing, and excluding potential customers is really very much of a business.

Let’s imagine that a grouchy, irate customer with a blog and a leaky prostate wrote a vitriolic letter to Wal-Mart complaining about lousy service and being made to feel unwelcome. Do you think that the customer service department would tell the person that he was *NOT* welcome at that store, but that there were hundreds of other stores to choose from? Would Wal-Mart call the customer a lousy shopper, or a drug user, or suggest that the customer’s mere presence interfered with the shopping of locals from the neighborhood?

Of course not, and Pescadero is no Wal-Mart. The road racing in NorCal has a bit of the mythical about it, at least when viewed from down here in the SoCal ghetto. People speak about the courses, the aggressive racing, the spectacular scenery, and the high caliber of riders in something close to hushed tones. “This,” they say, “is real road racing.” [Disclosure: They say nothing of the sort about the crits.]

Much of it may be hyperbole, or that hard courses are harder when you’re far from home and don’t know the route, but many guys I respect have vouched for the brutality of NorCal road racing–and always in a good way. It is the hard racing that keeps this tiny cadre coming back, the kind of hard racing that lots of people never even aspire to try. To summarize, it is hard, very hard, and filled with hardness. I don’t know for sure, but would not be surprised to find lots of 100% carbon made fully of carbon there as well.

Whether NorCal is better, or less doped than any other –Cal is beside the point. It’s different, and lots of good riders live and race there, and word gets around about the excellence of the road courses. My own attraction to Pescadero was simple. It’s billed as one of the best and most beautiful and most challenging and most flat-fucking-awesome races in a state (the State of Northern California) that is already known for setting the bar high. On a tour a few years back we had lunch in Pescadero. I’d say it was beautiful but that word is much too poor to reflect the place.

Plus, all-around stud Kevin Metcalfe had a very cool race description of the event.

There was another reason to nut up, book a room, and make the drive, which would have started at 7:00 PM on Friday and required another rider to spell me at the wheel. That reason is simple: SoCal doesn’t have anything comparable this late in the season. In fact, Pescadero breaks a six-week road racing drought in the State of Northern California and the State of Southern California. If you want a tough, 75-mile masters road race, that opportunity ended here in Bakersfield back in April.

SoCal’s calendar is of no concern to NorCal, but maybe it should be. Not everyone here wants to race crits every weekend. There are riders who would make the trek north if there was a bit of momentum, and even the addition of five racers in an event can “affect the outcome of the race.” I can see groups from south of the Calmason-Caldixon Line making the trek north, especially as the epicness of the racing gets broader exposure. I even have connections with a bike racing blogger who has been known to trumpet the awesomeness of a venue as loudly as he excoriates poor sandbox behavior, doping, and cycling “advocates” who support helmet laws.

Yet the current nontroversy has trumpeted to one and all that SoCal riders are *NOT* welcome at Pescadero in the P/1/2 race. Sure it’s beautiful, epic, challenging, and unforgettable, but hey, sucks to be you. As Tim Burgess suggested with a twist of either cutting sarcasm or blase stupidity, this sounds like a great opportunity for an enterprising promoter to put on a race!

[Note to Tim: That enterprising promoter is *NOT* welcome John, and the race already exists. It’s called “Pescadero.”]

There is of course the whole issue of why any self-respecting bike racer would want to win a championship jersey against a weaker rather than a stronger field, but as the TV show was called, “Diff’rent Strokes.” In my case, I’m sorry to have missed the race although there was excellent circuit racing in Chula Vista that day and I got an undreamed-of fourth place in the 50’s and a miracle 10th in the 40’s on a tough, windy, hilly course. Had I gone to Pescadero I would have been lucky to have finished.

So, really, who needs Pescadero? Well, I do, but Pescadero obviously doesn’t need me. Yet all is not lost. What’s this place called “Leesville”?

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How to depress race turnout #2 by NCNCA

June 8, 2015 § 143 Comments

The failure of licensed racers to race is the biggest barrier to a thriving sport, but there are other factors. After non-participation, the biggest obstacle in California is the local racing association. The SNCNA and NCNCA seem locked in a deadly competition to see who can strangle the sport the quickest.

I’ve always thought that the northern district was better than the southern one, a misperception that definitely falls into the category of wishful thinking. This past weekend I signed up for the Pescadero Road Race.

I’ve never raced in NorCal because it is too far away, even though their road races are legendary. “NorCal,” people whisper, “is where you find real road racing in California. Not this punk crit SoCal crap.” I wondered what road race could be harder than Punchbowl, or Boulevard, or Castaic, or Vlees Huis, or Tuttle Creek, and decided to find out.

Of course in order to make the trek I’d need company, and Wily, ever eager to do hard road races, agreed to split the $96.00 we’d have to pay at Ye Old Millipede Motel in Redwood City. Two days before liftoff Wily shot me an email. “Dude,” he said, “they won’t let me register.”

“What?”

“It’s their state elite championship race and they only allow district residents to race it.”

“That can’t be right. Every state lets non-residents race, they just can’t compete for the jersey. Anyway, you’re a resident of the state.”

“Nope,” he said, and forwarded me the emails.

Of course the only possible reason to ban non-district elite racers from the race is so that the tiny penis NorCal riders can not only win the jersey but also be first across the line. In our own elite championship race, the SoCal champion got fourth place, being beaten by out-of-state/out-of-district riders. No one cared, of course, least of all the promoter, because the more riders the more competitive the field the better the race’s reputation and the more money.

Wily first inquired as to whether or not he could race. The promoter responded:

Nope. Norcal only. Why not try one of the other 1/2/3 races?

Sounds good, Wily thought, What other race is it he’s referring to? Answer: There isn’t one. This was the promoter’s very clever way of saying Kcuf Ouy.

Wily next took a more analytical approach.

Pursuant to USA Cycling Rule 7J3(b), “State Championships are open to US Citizens and permanent residents (green card).” This plainly entitles me to register and race, as I’m a US citizen and licensed USA Cycling rider. Subsection (d) only gives the Administrator discretion with regard to ineligible riders, which does not apply to me as I am clearly eligible. Subsection (e) only applies to members of the local association, i.e. NorCal, which again, I am not. Can you cite me to any rule or authority that would allow you to prevent me from entering? If not, please confirm that I will be allowed to register and race.

He quickly learned, however, that analysis is useless with idiots. The promoter responded with this gem:

This is an Elite district championship, not state. You must be in the NCNCA district.

It’s a gem because this is not a rule except in the very loose sense of “I’m saying it therefore it is a rule.” Events held under USAC permits must conform to the USAC rule book with regard to all aspects of the race. What’s funnier is that the promoter calls it an “Elite district championship, not state.” There is, of course, no such event.

Other SoCal riders began inquiring and the promoter gave them the same runaround — you can’t race in THIS P/1/2 race but you can race in one of the OTHER 1/2/3 races, unless you don’t qualify because those are all masters races, which means you can’t race ANY of the races.

It’s not up to me to bypass the registration restriction. The flyer publicly states NCNCA only and the officials
expect me to enforce that for the two championship fields. You’re always welcome to come and race another field. If you reg’ed online there is a no refund policy in effect.

My favorite is the last line: If you already paid, Kcuf Ouy.

So now the asshole promoter claimed that it was up to the officials whose rules he was merely enforcing. So Wily pinged the chief poobah. As soon as I saw her 281 area code at the bottom of her email, I knew she was going to be an idiot because that’s the area code for Houston, my hometown.

Wily then tried this tack:

Is there any other rule than the ones you’ve cited that allows you to ban me from entering this race? If there is, please point me to it, as the rule you’ve cited to mentions state championships, an event you now claim that you are not hosting. If there is no other rule and you still won’t allow me to register, please confirm that you won’t allow me to register since it is a 7-hour drive and doesn’t make any sense for me to come up the night before, stay in a hotel, and show up only to be refused entry due to some rule that you claim USAC forgot to put in its rulebook because they somehow forgot that California has two districts, even though there are specific provisions that talk about states with multiple districts.

The promoters should be aware that their flyer constitutes false advertising and, according to an attorney who has reviewed the rule book and the flyer, it is a possible violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act as well.

I and the other SoCal racers who have contacted the promoter are very upset about this arbitrary exclusion from the race. It’s a violation of the USAC rules and it’s also illegal.

Please advise.

Instead, Wily received a response that will go down in history as one of the best pieces of Kcuf Ouy that anyone affiliated with NCNCA has ever sent out. And of course the maroon who sent it has the excellent email handle of papa.mike.bike@gmail.com, which is, you know, so cool.

These championships were once called “district” championships.  USACycling, for reasons of its own, decided that they should be called “state” championships and that is how they are addressed in the rule book.  It is likely that USAC forgot that California is divided in half along with Nevada, so Northern California and Nevada are administered by NCNCA as one state and Southern California and Nevada are administered by SCNCA as another.  Most other Local Associations in the country coincide with state borders.

The dividing line between the two “states” is the line running east-west across California with San Luis Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino Counties to the south, and Monterey, Kings, Tulare, and Inyo Counties to the north.  Clark County Nevada is southern and the rest of Nevada is northern.

Your license states your residence as Palos Verdes which, of course, lies well south of that line, deep in southern Los Angeles County.  That puts you in the “state” administered by SCNCA.

NCNCA has determined that only riders living in its “state” of Northern California and Nevada are allowed to race in its “state” championships, much like other state’s championships are restricted to in-state residents. NCNCA has held NCNCA-only elite championships for many years and this very question has arisen before.  USAC has long stood by NCNCA’s determination.

Rule 7J1. “State Championships are allocated by the Local Associations to race directors based on the criteria that the LA or its administrator shall determine.”

Rule 7J1 puts the race director in the position of having to enforce NCNCA’s ruling even though he would love to have you pay your entry fee and race on the spectacular Pescadero course.

I’m sorry that you will miss out on this great race.

Mike Hardaway
NCNCA Officials’ Committee Chair

The first bit of analysis is priceless. NorCal is excluding SoCal because the USAC rules committee “forgot” about California being divided into two districts. They forgot about it so totally that there is an entire subsection devoted to states with multiple districts, of which there are two: Nevada and California. I will remember this argument the next time I’m in court. “Hey judge, the legislature forgot to put this in the law so I added it for them.”

Then the Hon. Hardaway launches off into crazyland, explaining that since districts are the same as states according to the forgotten rule, you have to determine a rider’s “state of residence” by a fictitious line that divides NorCal and SoCal, kind of like Mason-Dixon. It’s in the forgotten rulebook, look it up.

Then, carried away by his Civil War remembrances, he reminds Wily that Wily is “deep in southern Los Angeles County,” who voted to secede and join the confederacy and is therefore not entitled to the protections of the Union army. Finally, we are directed to Supreme Court precedent, as we are told that USAC has “long stood by NCNCA’s determination.” You can find the text of the decision here:  60 U.S. 393 (1857).

Best of all, Hardaway quotes a rule, 7J1, and then simply invents what it says even though the actual rule, which he goes to the trouble to type out, says nothing of the kind.

In case Wily hadn’t gotten the message, it’s this: KCUF OUY!

The idiot with the Houston area code then piles on with this beaut:

I believe your question about racing Peacadero has been answered based on the rule book, our district boundaries and the race flyer which indicates the Elite 1/2 race is for NCNCA racers as well as the email from Mike Hardaway, the chair of our officials committee where he clarifies how the Nor Cal and So Cal districts are viewed.

Then, with everyone singing from the same page, the promoter decides to dispense with all of the indirect rigamarole and cut to the chase scene:

I have reviewed your communications with the officials and myself as well as several other SCNCA individuals. My decision is SCNCA members are *NOT* welcome to race in any of the elite championship races in 2015 that I promote.

Everyone understand what *NOT* welcome means? It’s the new stealth marketing ploy to get people to drive seven hours and pay nonrefundable entry fees in order to *NOT* race.

So to hell with the rules, to hell with promoting races, to hell with getting more riders to race, and to hell, especially to hell, with everyone who holds a racing license from The State of Southern California as Defined by the Invisible Mason-Dixon Line, in other words, in case you have trouble with all this backwards spelling and convoluted reasoning: FUCK YOU.

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Youthful crotches and shaved cats’ balls

May 21, 2015 § 60 Comments

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but if you want to do it quickly, hop on a triathlete chat forum. A friend sent me this link, which better judgment and common sense urged me not to click, but I am the reason that viruses, trojans, and clickbait always work.

Here it is, I dare you not to click, but be forewarned … it is a lethal computer virus that will infest your hard drive, your soft drive, and your sex drive as it vacuums up all of your personal data and sells your SSN, DOB, and bank accounts to Russian Internet thieves and Oleg Dickov for $2.99.

Clicked yet? Yes?

Then you have seen that an anonymous tri-dork self styled as “Duffy” has written a nasty little diatribe about one of the local West Side heroes who dared to take the lane on PCH while Duffy was hurrying to his cat testicle shaving appointment. Now before we get into the substance of Duffy’s complaint, which is that Our Hero should have been in the bike lane (there isn’t one, as the sheriff can now tell you), let’s all take a minute to appreciate Duffy’s online presence in Ye Olde Tri-dork Chatte Forum, and we might as well begin with his self described occupation as “Murders and Executions.” (Viewable, along with his profile pics, to members only).

So you see, Duffy is funny.

But he has a serious side, too, and since it focuses on vulvas, what better way to proclaim his passion to the world than with a profile picture of a woman’s crotch? Detached from a body or a face, Duffy’s idea of a woman is apparently a vulva in a miniskirt. I’ll take a wild leap here and guess that Duffy is single, and not by choice. Unusually for me, I will take the high road and not post the picture.

“Gosh,” you’re probably thinking as you touch yourself gently, “that’s probably someone who is known to law enforcement.” What you’re probably not thinking is, “There’s the profile picture of someone who is knowledgeable about traffic laws.”

Of course, it’s possible to get the wrong impression, and Duffy spares you that error by using a second profile picture, where he veers from dirty old man to straight up sicko.

Duffy's dream cat

Duffy’s dream cat

By now we have lurched so far down the rat hole of Internet crazy that there’s not much more to add. How can you improve on the headline “Ignorant Pervert Cager-cum-tridork Who Fantasizes Over Shaved Cat Dicks Berates Law Abiding Cyclist”?

Answer: You can’t.

What you can do, though, is briefly scroll through the forum comments, where Duffy, in good company, finds much support for the proposition that cyclists on PCH should ride in the non-existent bike lane and/or in the rubble-filled gutter, or else face getting honked and screamed at by cager cat dick fanciers, and possibly run over, too.

What’s most shocking about the supportive comments is that most have at least three words with more than one syllable, and that “Duhhhh” is used sparingly. Is it really a tri-dork forum?

What’s sad is to see the Helen’s team name dragged through the mud until you realize that these are anonymous Internet trolls who don’t shop at stores, who don’t ride on roads, and whose main pastime is, well, shaved cat dicks. The bright spot, about 26 comments down, is the reasoned voice of Club La Grange’s El Presidente Robert Efthimos, who puts together coherent thoughts, proper punctuation, correct orthography, and effective reasoning to defend the Helen’s rider’s right to take the lane while he diplomatically points out that Duffy is a maroon.

Best of all, El Presidente presents the rider’s side of the story, a rider we all know and highly respect, which gibes exactly with the facts you’d expect: Mr. Cat Dicks began the confrontation by blasting the horn although the rider was legally in the lane coming down from Pepperdine at 42 mph. The aggressor then sped away, and when the rider caught Cat Dicks at the light, the cager began his lecture with The Opening Phrase That Marks You For All Time As An Asshole, i.e. “I’m a cyclist too, but … ”

No, Duffy, you’re not a cyclist. You are in a car harassing cyclists, which makes you a cager. You spend your cage time leaning on a horn, misstating the law you haven’t bothered to learn, and threatening us with death. That makes you not a cyclist, but an enemy, and if the worst you get out of encounters like this is an angry middle finger from a calm and accomplished cyclist, consider yourself lucky and go back to the shaved cat dicks, at least until we turn you in for animal abuse.

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The killing fields

May 14, 2015 § 21 Comments

Alaskan cyclist Jeff Dusenbury was killed on July 19, 2014, by a drunk 17-year-old. Jeff leaves behind his wife of thirty-two years and his adult daughter, Melissa.

The driver who killed him left the scene of the accident and was arrested at home, where a blood test taken there confirmed that she was legally drunk. The DA struck a deal with the defendant to recommend a 3-year sentence, with 2 years suspended. This means that the killer, who is being tried as an adult, will serve only one year in jail. Jeff’s family is demanding open sentencing by the judge after a full presentencing report rather than the current offer, which was made without consulting Jeff’s wife or daughter. Presumably the presentencing report will include information showing that Jeff’s killer had significant addiction issues prior to the act that led to her crushing Jeff and leaving him to die.

Friends of Jeff and cyclists in Anchorage are protesting the DA’s proposed inadequate sentence and ask that you sign their online petition, which is linked here.

I’m personally not much of a fan when it comes to jails. Without systems in place to actually rehabilitate felons, the mentality of “lock ’em up” doesn’t do much more than create the world’s largest inmate population, which we have, and for-profit prison corporations, which we have, and zero incentive to rehabilitate people, which we also have.

So I don’t believe that putting Jeff’s killer in jail for ten years, or a hundred, is going to change anything. I’d much rather see her saddled with a few hundred thousand dollars in non-dischargeable debt that she has to spend the next 10-20 years repaying to Jeff’s widow and daughter. Money won’t bring him back, but the monthly payments made over the course of the next two decades while holding down a job might do more for Jeff’s killer than a stint in jail.

On the other hand, prisons are the typical punishment our society metes out to blacks, Hispanics, and poor people in overwhelming proportions when they get convicted of lawbreaking. And with regard to cyclists, convictions of any type are rare. As a friend pointed out on our protest ride to Malibu, “If you want to kill a person and not get punished, kill them with a car.”

Especially with regard to bikes, killing cyclists and getting a tap on the forehead is simply the cost of doing business for lots of cagers. The idea that a few drinks for an underage driver, a 5,000-lb. pickup, and a dead father/husband/worker are just “how society is these days” sends exactly the wrong message.

Look no further than Milton Olin here in Los Angeles, whose killer had no charges filed against him at all, and you’ll see that the public perception of the value of a cyclist’s life is minimal. Cutting a lame deal with Jeff Dusenbury’s killer and treating her differently from the poor who wind up in the dock is a bad solution.

Like activists who have protested the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, our demand is simple. Stop killing us.

And if we have to cram a few more drunks into jail cells to get the message across, so be it.

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Malibu’s middle finger to cyclists on PCH

May 4, 2015 § 28 Comments

When the Rolling Stones released “Some Girls” in 1978 I was in junior high school. Like most rock lyrics, the title track sounded like “Some girls blahblahblahblah some girls blahblahblah everything I own!” The ratio of blah-to-intelligible-words was about 27-to-one, which meant that I, like most kids, had to hum a lot.

Many years went by and thankfully rock music went with it. However, after moving to California and getting initiated to riding on Pacific Coast Highway I was able to encode one of the mystery lyrics of “Some Girls,” and it was the “blah” after “Let’s go back to blah beach, I’ll give you half, of everything I own.”

There it was, in living color: Zuma Beach. And the reason Mick was going to take the girl back there was to ply her with drugs and then, in the paternity suit/divorce settlement that followed, give her half of everything he owned because California is a community property state.

Even 1/10,000th of everything that Mick Jagger owns in Zuma Beach would be awesome because Zuma is stunningly beautiful. It has great surf. It has eye-popping scenery. The first thongs of spring usually alight here, and the section of PCH that runs through Zuma deposits cyclists onto the doorway of famed canyon climbs like Decker, Encinal, Yerba Buena, and the Beast of the Coast, a/k/a Deer Creek.

PCH also winds its way up to The Rock at Point Mugu, another stunning vista that also happens to mark the turnaround point for most 100-mile PCH sojourns from the South Bay. The stretch of PCH that goes through Zuma Beach is like the rest of PCH after you bust out from Santa Monica. It’s easy and safe and pretty much hassle-free as long as you have the presence of mind to take the lane. The flip side is that being a gutter bunny on PCH is nerve wracking and deadly.

What PCH isn’t, is susceptible to “bicycling infrastructure,” i.e. bike lanes that collect trash that you’re required by law to ride through and that make you fair game for motorists and buses who are only staring straight ahead. PCH is thankfully not susceptible to bike lanes because in most places along PCH to Zuma Beach the highway abuts cliff on the left and streetside parking on the right. There is no place for the misguided to build bike lanes into which cyclists must be corralled.

This is great because the absence of a bike lane really encourages you to take the lane and learn how to ride in it.

The City of Malibu, however, driven by bike-haters, non-cyclist city planners, foolish CALTRANS highway engineers, and I suppose a coterie of cycling “advocates” who are worse than ignorant when it comes to the reality of cycling on PCH, has put in a two-mile bike lane on the southbound section of PCH that goes through Zuma Beach.

For 25 miles in either direction there are no bike lanes and then suddenly, bam, a bike lane. To make things worse the bike lane is jammed up against a two-mile stretch of Zuma Beach streetside parking. All of the Some Girls and all of the Kelly Slaters park here. You don’t know fun until you whiz by a parked van at 22 mph only to have the door thrown open and some stoned dude tumbles out with a 7-foot surfboard. Then he yells at you and tells you to fuck off assuming you aren’t now on the pavement and awaiting a life flight.

After two miles the bike lane ends and you’re back where you started — hopefully in the lane, but more likely crammed over onto the shoulder because the bike lane has primed you to cower and huddle and avoid the passing traffic. This is an easy fear psychosis to fall into because the traffic is passing you at 60 when you’re in the bike lane, unlike when you’re in the travel lane and the approaching traffic slows, changes lanes, and passes you in the No. 1 lane with space and speed to spare.

Even if you’re a bike lane advocate (and I hope you aren’t) this one is complete rubbish unless you live in Zuma Beach. For anyone just passing through, and trust me, like Mick the residents really want you to keep on trucking, the bike lanes are the ultimate in confusion and stupidly incomplete infrastructure.

On May 9 I’ll be protesting the illegal harassment of cyclists by LA Sheriff’s Department at Malibu City Hall on Saturday, 9:00 AM and also complaining about these awful deathtrap bike lanes. I’m leaving the parking lot at Temescal Canyon and PCH at Will Rogers State Park at 8:00 AM-ish and will be riding slowly, safely, and legally — in the lane! I’m leaving the South Bay from the Manhattan Beach Pier at 6:30

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Time to get serious about head injuries

April 11, 2015 § 24 Comments

California state senator Carol Liu’s attempt to mandate helmet usage for cyclists ran into a roadblock when cycling advocates presented nearly uniform opposition to the bill. With the exception of blogger Patrick Brady over at Red Kite Bore, who took a “Doesn’t affect me” stance, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, California Association of Bicycling Organizations, and the California Bicycle Coalition vehemently opposed the bill.

As a result, the helmet law was scrapped and instead morphed into a bill to require that the Department of the Highway Patrol conduct a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use. I heartily applaud this new bill because it clearly seeks to provide a scientific framework around which to base future helmet legislation. Requiring helmets to prevent head injuries is likely crucial to protecting our vulnerable population of cyclists, however, the legislation does not go far enough.

The study should be expanded to include all head injuries in California. A clear understanding of what causes people to injure their heads, if based on hard science, could lead to a revolution in head protection throughout this country, and ideally the world. In addition to requiring helmets for cyclists, a science-based study would almost certainly lead to other areas where the use of helmets would greatly improve the safety of our population.

I propose a “Protecting America” movement that will help expand Senator Liu’s bill to include a study of all head injuries and that will hopefully lead to full-time helmet usage in the following areas:

  1. Caging: More than 16,000 youth drivers suffer acute head injuries in accidents every year. All cagers in driving school, as well as those in their first five years of driving should be required to wear helmets. Since it is impossible to say whether the caging public at large will at any given time be hit by a youth driver, all drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists should likewise be required to wear helmets. Protecting our youth is our nation’s highest priority.
  2. Bathing: Over 235,000 people each year get injured while bathing and showering, with a disproportionate number of falls affecting women, youth, and those over age 85. Legislation should be directed to require women and elders to never enter a shower or bath area without full head protection. Since many of the injuries result in hip fractures, particularly for the elderly, Sen. Liu’s study should also include a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of “bathing armor,” i.e. clothing that can be worn while bathing that will protect fragile joints.
  3. Shitting: Shitters over the age of 65 are particularly prone to injury while getting up and off the toilet. “Injuries getting on and off the toilet are quite high in people 65 and older,” says Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist at the CDC. Research on helmet usage among shitters over age 65 should be included in the bill, with a view towards requiring implementation of shitting helmet standards for the elderly, along with in-home surveillance systems similar to red light cameras that can observe helmetless shitting violations and issue citations.
  4. Fucking: Although statistics are hard to come by since emergency room patients usually ascribe their injuries during sex to another cause due to embarrassment, head injuries during coitus can be devastating, especially among younger, more adventurous sexual partners who are attempting sex acts on mountain tops, in moving vehicles, or with firearms.  By expanding Sen. Liu’s research mandate to include copulation-related injuries, we can get a better handle on the dangers associated with this activity and hopefully come up with legislation that will require fuckers of all ages to be helmeted before, during, and after sex. Elder Californians having sex while sitting on the toilet in the shower should have particular legislation drafted to ensure their safety.

I hope you will join me as I support Sen. Liu in her attempt to make our state, and hopefully our galaxy, a safer place, a galaxy where head injuries will eventually become a thing of the past.

END

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Voice of a hothead

April 9, 2015 § 42 Comments

A few days ago I took Patrick Brady to task for his blog’s terrible stance arguing that cyclists should just accept a mandatory helmet law for California bicyclists. Patrick responded here, and walked a fine line between repudiating the article, “If the goal is really to save lives, mandating helmet use isn’t going to help,” and agreeing with it — “Honestly, in my life, if that law passed, it wouldn’t mean a thing.”

It was a calculated attempt not to take a position and not to get anyone angry so I figured I’d let it go.

Who am I kidding?

A couple of days ago I got a copy of a letter published by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, CABO. It calmly states its opposition to the proposed law. Here’s the letter. It’s a beaut.

Dear Senator Liu:

I regret that I must write on behalf of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABObike.org) in opposition to your bill, SB 192, that “Anyone riding without a helmet could be cited for an infraction and fined up to $25, the same as current law for youth cyclists.”

Bicycle helmets certainly may contribute to safety in a crash or fall, but represent only the final area of protection when all other safety measures fail. We refer to the four levels of safety, focusing on the area’s most likely to prevent injury:

  1. Prevention through following the rules of the road, as defined in the California Vehicle Code and other safety literature. This establishes predictability of actions by motorists and bicyclists.
  2. Deterrence through bicycling best practices for attention, communication, anticipation, road positioning, visibility (e.g., lights and reflectors), and maintenance (primarily effective braking).
  3. Escape through development of skills in bicycling defensively – emergency stops, counter-steering (taught in motorcycle training and required for license).
  4. Survival – Use of safety equipment such as helmets, gloves, etc.

We do applaud and appreciate your concern and do support effective efforts to reduce bicycling collision injuries and fatalities that also promote Active Transportation – healthier, enjoyable, cleaner, and more sustainable travel choices for Californians.

You, as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, may find some of the ideas below worthy of consideration. We offer our support toward implementing ways that would productively provide for better bicycling and traffic safety in general.

  1. Provide Active Transportation instruction and experience curriculum choices – bicycling and walking – as part of K-12 physical education programs.

People bicycling can avoid crashing and collisions with motor vehicles and resulting injuries by learning about and applying appropriate bicycling behaviors. Too many bicycling crashes are the direct result of poor choices by the person bicycling; wrong-way riding against traffic, failure to yield when entering traffic, non-compliance with traffic control signals and signs, etc. A program to provide information about traffic laws and bicycling safe and best practices would be very likely to significantly reduce bicycling collisions, injuries, and fatalities. And, smarter bicycling not only avoids crashes, it provides for personal and community health through reducing trips by motor vehicle.

  1. Provide for the development of a California Highway Patrol approved Bicycling Handbook distributed by and through the same outlets as the DMV Driver, Motorcycle, Senior and other DMV handbook traffic guides.

We have assisted the Department of Motor Vehicles to improve and increase the amount of information about bicycling provided in their publications, including their Driver Handbook. We have recommended that the DMV develop and provide a Bicycling Handbook similar in format to the Motorcycle handbook. They have not yet followed through.

  1. Remove impediments to bicycling related traffic citation diversion programs.

This would allow for cities and counties to implement bicycle citation diversion programs that emphasize an educational curriculum complementing the goals established in #1, above.

  1. Support the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan programs to reduce roadway fatalities; education, enforcement, engineering Complete Streets, emergency response, equity in travel mode choice, and encouraging appropriate behavior in traffic.

Traffic related bicycling collisions involving motor vehicles also result from mistakes and unlawful behavior by motorists. Recently passed legislation encouraging 3’ minimum passing has brought new attention to the responsibilities people have for sharing roadway space. The relatively new roadway markings – Shared Lane Markings, Bikes May Use Full Lane signs, Green-highlighted and “buffered” Bike Lanes; and traffic control devices – bicycle-specific traffic signals, bicycle actuated traffic signals, etc. – are helping us all adapt to the value of increasing the travel mode share for Active Transportation, bicycling and walking.

  1. Modify the Calif. Vehicle Code to define and explain the meaning of the new white pavement markings – Shared Lane Markings, commonly called Sharrows, the new white painted buffers spaces next to Bike Lanes, and the bright green paint meant to highlight Bike Lanes, and the intent of the new and approved regulatory signs that show a bike and the words “May Use Full Lane.” ​    ​

Sharrows mean that that lane is a substandard width lane and cyclists can legally ride anywhere in it. Buffers are to provide space between motorists and bicyclists, and between bicyclists and parked vehicles. Buffers may (and should) be carefully driven into and cross to turn right, to park, or to enter or leave the roadway or Bike Lane.​    ​

Bikes may use full lane signs are to inform motorists that people bicycling may be in the travel lane, and to inform people bicycling that they may ride far enough out into a lane to avoid roadside hazards and discourage close passing by others.

We of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations look forward to hearing about how we might help you to improve safety and ability for everyone. We want everyone to be able to choose to use bicycles for travel and recreation in California.

Jim Baross

​CABO President​

The beauty of this letter is that it correctly prioritizes the steps that the state should take to improve cyclist safety, without denying that helmet use can be a part of such a program. Moreover, it slaps down the idea that, of all the things that need to change to keep cyclists from getting run over, the first one should be a mandatory helmet law.

Moreover, the claim that the law wouldn’t affect him at all is exactly the point. Patrick is not evaluating the law from the perspective of whether other people might be harmed, only whether or not he thinks it would affect him. That’s a cynical way to evaluate legislation if you’re a voice in the cycling community. The proposed law, of course, could profoundly affect Brady, as he ignores the terrible legal ramifications for unhelmeted cyclists who are hit by careless motorists. Who’s to say that one of his family members won’t hop on their bike to run down to the store, unhelmeted, and get clocked by a texting South Bay mother? As I discussed in my earlier post, it’s this shift from 100% liability to comparative fault that can be devastating to a biker, not to mention the fact that it turns the inquiry onto the cyclist who was legally and safely riding down to Von’s for a jug of milk rather than on the careless motorist who mowed the rider down.

Likewise, Brady’s comment that he will be unaffected by the law ignores the point made by criminal defense lawyers that one more law regulating cyclists gives the cops one more reason to pull us over and harass us. If you believe there are problems of unfair targeting by law enforcement now, wait until this law passes.

For the great majority of cyclists, who aren’t “cyclists” at all but rather humans using bicycles to get from place A to place B, and for whom a $250 helmet may exceed the cost of their bike, it’s not as simple as it is for a guy who is in the industry and who never leaves home without his helmet. And even if this law won’t affect high-end users, what about the people who it will? Which means pretty much everyone else.

Without leaning too much harder, responsible voices in the cycling community should oppose this bill and oppose it unequivocally. There’s nothing wrong with changing your position when it involves discarding something bad for something good.

END

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