Come together (right now)

March 11, 2019 § 8 Comments

On Saturday morning we dropped down the hill, quickly hitting 45 mph, each bit of velocity ramping up the cutting edge of the sharp wind that knifed through all the layers I’d carefully amassed. There wasn’t a lot of conversation en route to the 5th MVMNT Ride, but then again with me, there never is.

I’ve been told by people who know that I don’t talk much. It’s not as if there’s anything important or deep going on between my ears, but riding is a great time to shut up. Most of the bad things that can happen on a bike are prevented by silence and observation.

In fact, I recently told a guy who is working hard to improve his cycling that the two most important things are to shut up and watch. When you rode with Fields, you knew to shut up. First, you didn’t want to embarrass yourself. Everyone was listening, and memories were prodigious. Second, people didn’t talk a lot. It’s not that bicycling was serious business, but falling off your bicycle was. Third, there was the Man Code. Men in Texas are taciturn. Period.

Racers, start your vocal cords

Of the many great things about the MVMNT Rides for Friendship, Unity, and Diversity, perhaps the best is the slow speed. Fact: The slower you go, the less serious you are. And the less serious you are, the more you talk. And the more you talk, the more people you meet.

Cycling’s perfect chat zone is between 10 and 13 mph. Anything less than that and you might tip over. Any more than that, falling off starts to hurt.

We had gotten a marvelous break from the rain and cold of the last few months; it was a “chilly” 55, but sunny and windless.

I couldn’t believe how the ride has swollen. The final head count was upwards of 150 riders, and with each ride these events have become, bit by bit, more diverse. A few people even drove over from the West Side to join; a solid 20-mile haul through nasty LA traffic to enjoy conversation, new scenery, and the chance to trample a racial barrier or two.

Choosing space

Everyone who pays attention knows that the USA is a racially segregated nation, and Los Angeles is the poster child for this crime against humanity. Where you live is largely determined by the color of your skin.

Study after study shows that social barriers are reinforced by physical separation, and it makes sense. How can you relate to people with whom you never talk or interact?

With each iteration of this ride, more and more people are accepting the invitation to get out and share physical space with others, to get out of the cycling cocoons in which they normally pedal, and most especially to slow down and talk.

Helmets and pine needles

I didn’t talk with a lot of people, but I did spend most of my chat allotment with Tyra Lindsay, a woman who approached me about my bare head and wanted to know why. An hour later we were still talking … I can’t say I convinced her, but then again I wasn’t trying to.

What I was trying to do was have a conversation, one of those tennis games where you volley an idea, the other person sends it back over the net, and each side does their level best to keep the volley going, no one looking for the kill shot or the crazy topspin or the drop shot over the net.

In the process I learned she was from Alexandria, Louisiana, with lots of family in Marshall, just a few miles from where I spent my summers in the piney woods of East Texas. We shared memories about the smell of the red dirt, the wafting aroma of pine needles crunching beneath our feet, volleying, volleying, until we reached our destination at the Korean Friendship Bell, dismounted, and took in the view.

Afterwards we assembled at The Bike Palace in San Pedro, where we descended like locusts on the donuts and coffee before heading home.

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Get a move[mnt] on!

March 8, 2019 § 2 Comments

Tomorrow is the first MVMNT Ride of 2019.

It leaves at 8:00 AM from 736 East Del Amo Boulevard in Carson, in front of the Buffalo Wild Wings.

The ride will be about four hours long and it will be slow. People will talk. Learn each others’ names. Not sprint for KOMs. Have a good time. Hopefully talk trash, at least a little.

The ride goes to the Korean Bell in San Pedro and finishes at The Bike Palace, where riders will be treated to sugar and caffeine as well as a chance to meet, shake hands with, and kiss the signet ring of JP “Baby Seal,” the legendary cyclist, pillow baby, ex-newsletter-ist, #socmed magician, and most all-round nice guy on earth after the apocalypse.

What is a MVMNT Ride, aside from something that’s missing a bunch of vowels? Glad you asked! It is a ride designed to get people of all ethnicities together, to break down racial barriers, to soften stereotypes, and to realize that we are all human beings who share the same basic, most fundamental and primitive human need of all: TO RIDE OUR FUGGIN’ BIKES!

Hope you can make it, even if it means getting out of your favorite socioeconomic cocoon! Remember, it’s not every day you get to shake hands with a seal.

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Uphill battle

March 7, 2019 § 19 Comments

A jury in Fresno last month awarded two cyclists just under $400,000 for injuries they sustained when they crashed in a bike lane covered with sand and gravel. The jury agreed with the cyclists that the county had a duty to maintain the bike lanes, and that their failure to do so had caused the cyclists to fall.

Photographs showed sand up to seven inches deep, and a massive, 10-foot swath of sand covering the bike lane. The sand ran along the bike path for as much as 100 feet at a stretch.

On the one hand this counts for a victory, since Fresno County will certainly take the condition of its bike lanes a bit more seriously. From another vantage point, though, it illustrates the incredible challenges that cyclists face simply in order to use the public roads.

Bike infrastructure?

There is a lot of debate on the utility of bike lanes. Most people, without analysis, think they are good things, a kind of magical zone created by a stripe of paint that makes cycling safer and that encourages more people to ride.

A minority view, and one I agree with, is that cyclists are safest when treated as normal road users who follow the rules of the road, riding in the lane, without the fake protection of green paint, white lines, or walled-off “protected” bike lanes that are often anything but.

Regardless of which view you espouse, the Fresno case perfectly illustrates why bike infrastructure is far from a panacea, and in many cases is a kind of trap for cyclists, wary or not.

In the Fresno case, if the roadway had been pockmarked with, say, 10′ x 5′ chug holes, no one would doubt that the county had been derelict in its duty to maintain the roadway in a safe condition because such conditions would be obviously hazardous … to cars. But a bike lane covered with sand was only considered a hazard when two people were seriously injured, even though sand is much more deadly to the average cyclist on road tires than a pothole is to the driver of a car.

The point is that “bike infrastructure” takes much more maintenance than if bikes simply rode in the traffic lane, which is almost always in better condition than the adjacent bike lane for two simple reasons. One, it’s used by cars and cars get preferential treatment and therefore better maintained pavement, and two, bike lanes are off to the side of the travel lane and become receptacles for garbage and detritus in the roadway that gets kicked over, blown over, and tossed out by cars.

Anyone who regularly uses any bike lane knows that it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to go out into the travel lane to avoid a hazard, or because the bike lane abruptly comes to an end. And of course venturing out of the bike lane becomes doubly hazardous because the traffic doesn’t expect you to ever leave your white-striped baby crib.

Fighting the king

When a cyclist gets hurt because the city, county, or state has failed to maintain the roadway and has allowed a dangerous condition to exist, the cyclist has an extremely hard fight on his hands to hold the governmental entity accountable. This is because the laws are written so that it’s comparatively much harder to sue the king than to sue his subjects.

In addition to a strict 6-month claims filing deadline, which if you miss almost always will kill your case, you also have to prove that the county knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. In the Fresno case that was a much lower hurdle because county employees used the road daily and the sand in the bike lane was massive.

But in many cases the dangerous condition is something as small as a crack that is merely a bit wider than the 25mm bike tire width; and although maintenance crews are often aware of these cracks, they may neither report nor repair them because they are too small to cause a problem for a car. In other words, juries are sympathetic to giant pot holes but they can be much less so when it comes to evaluating a crack that is only 30 or 40mm wide.

There are a host of other procedural and legal barriers that you have to overcome to hold the city or county liable for their negligence, and on top of that you have to deal with stereotypes and prejudice, the type that defense lawyers love to trot out in a horrific game of victim blaming.

Victim blaming par excellence

In the Fresno case, the county’s attorney tried to poison the jury by telling them that cycling was inherently dangerous. However, defense lawyer David Overstreet’s justification for the cyclists’s injuries was like the ranting of an insane person. “This is not bicycling like maybe you did when you were a child. These are expensive bikes. These are different kinds of cycling that most of us have never done.”

Can you even begin to unpack this gibberish? I can.

  1. This is not really bicycling. So any positive association you had with bikes as a child is irrelevant. Hate them.
  2. Because the bikes cost a lot, the riders are rich. They don’t need the money. They are greedy. Hate them.
  3. Road cycling is different and weird. They dress funny and go fast, so they deserve to ride on unmaintained, hazardous bike lanes. Hate them.

Overstreet also suggested that the cyclists deserved to fall because they were riding close together. In other words, if they had been more spaced out, perhaps they wouldn’t have fallen when their tires hit the seven-inch-deep sand trap.

Whatevs.

Double standard

Here in the South Bay we have a notorious stretch of road on Vista del Mar that is horribly cracked and torn up, and has been for years. in both directions. The times I have emailed the city with photos, they have either denied that the cracks exist or have remedied only the biggest ones, i.e. the cracks that could affect a car or a motorcycle. The plethora of smaller hazards, all of which are potentially lethal to a cyclist, have never been repaired.

I’ve successfully sued the city on behalf of a cyclist injured on Vista del Mar, but it led to only modest repairs in the immediate vicinity of the collision. In other cases that I’ve successfully litigated against cities for failure to maintain the roadway, there rarely seems to be fundamental change to the effect that engineers and maintenance crews realize that roads need to be safe for bikes as well as cars.

Kudos to attorney Doug Gordon for taking on a hard case in a hostile jurisdiction, and helping his clients get some modest compensation for what they suffered.

I wish I could say there’ll be no more cases like that. But with more and more people pushing bike infrastructure as the next holy safety grail, I know there will be.

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Meet the Candidates, Part 5

March 5, 2019 § 2 Comments

As we approach the March 5 municipal election for city council in Palos Verdes Estates, it is time to complete our penetrating analysis of the diverse set of almost exclusively white candidates running for office. It is widely agreed that this municipal election is pivotal in the history of PVE: Will the city remain white and exclusive, or exclusive and white?

We sat down with Kevin McCarthy, the New Jersey native who has worked with LAPD for over 30 years helping keep black and brown people out of wealthy neighborhoods and in jail where they belong. As a second term member of the PVE Traffic Safety Committee, we were especially interested in his stance on the Big Orange Cycling Gang that has been terrorizing the local unicorns.

CitSB: So, what’s a nice Jersey boy like you doing in a toney SoCal enclave like this?

KC: Hey, let’s get one ting straight. I ain’t from Joisey. I’m from Nu Yoak.

CitSB: Oh, right. Sorry about that. Which exit?

KC: Begya pahdon?

CitSB: Inside Jersey joke. Or New York joke. I can’t keep them straight. Which one is famous for its police brutality?

KC: Dat’d be Joisey. Nu Yoak ain’t bad, though.

CitSB: Check. So, we see that you’re really into traffic safety and stuff. What’s your position on cyclists in PV Estates?

KC: I lub ’em.

CitSB: Excuse me?

KC: Youse hoid me, I lub ’em. Bikes, see, dey’s great. Cuts down on da traffic, cuts down on da pollution, dey’s good fuh da viment, see? We need moa bikes heah in owa city. Dis is a small town and small town’s ain’t needin’ no moa cahs, see?

CitSB: Wow, a bike advocate on the PV Estates Traffic Committee? And running for city council? That’s incredible.

KC: Jus kiddin. Fuk da bikes. Youse wanna know what I tink when I sees a bike? I tink, dere’s a crook oughta be inna slammah, see? When I’m da boss o dis town dere ain’t gonna be no bikes nowhea, see? Dat’s how it’s gonna be when I staht callin da shots heah.

CitSB: Okay, so moving on, where are you on white people?

KC: Dey’s numbah one. Lub ’em.

CitSB: Taxes?

KC: Don’t need none o dem taxes, see?

CitSB: Local police force? In your candidate forum video, as one of the senior commanders at LAPD, you make it pretty clear that what’s good for Los Angeles would be horrible for rich white people. Care to expound on that?

KC: LAPD is a huge oaganization, see? PVE is a tiny town, see? See?

CitSB: I see. And finally, what about this photo of you on a horse trampling the lawn?

KC: Oh, dat? Dat’s my hoas, Bessie. Ain’t she a beaut?

CitSB: So you’re quite the equestrian?

KC: Nah, I’m a hoasman.

CitSB: Um, okay. Thanks.

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END

Good-bye, map

February 24, 2019 § 1 Comment

A few years ago I bought two maps, one was a detailed street atlas of Vienna, and the other was a big, fold-out map of Lower Austria. The street atlas I have used every visit. The fold-out map? Never.

But still, I have always brought it with me.

I think the museum would be happy

Since visiting the mini-storage museum exhibit a couple of days ago, I have had one of the displays on continuous loop. It’s the one where the guy without a home says that “Ownership is an outdated concept,” and follows it up with something like “What matters is use, not ownership.”

This was the iron law I laid down in 2012 when we downsized. If a thing had not been used in the past six months, it was thrown away, wherever “away” is.

But this idea that possession is an outdated concept is pretty interesting, especially since we live amidst such a surfeit of things. Do you need to own anything? And if you do, once you pair it with the concept of actual use, how tiny is that universe of possessions going to ultimately be?

The mark of a wonderful museum exhibit is that it leaves you with unfermented ideas bouncing around in your head for days, soaking up juices in the boiling, roiling kneading-trough of thought.

Light travelin’

In my own mind, the lightness of my travels is legendary. Ten days in Europe with one tiny backpack. And I don’t even smell bad yet, much.

But one of my travel companions is that map of Lower Austria, and when I think about leaving it here in the flat for someone who might actually use it, it makes me happysad. Happy because I’ll be going home with one less thing, wherever home is. Sad because while I was here I acquired a book, and back home I have about fifty or maybe sixty unread books, and this will make 51. Or 61.

The solution is to go home and get rid of all the unread books. Most of them have been on the coffee table for 2-3 years. It physically hurts to think of donating away an unread book that I actually plan to read, kind of like tossing a pair of arm warmers that I know I may need for that one day when, after ten cold days in a row and no time to do laundry, I actually need that one pair.

Which leads to another problem, the problem of bicycle clothing and bicycle things.

I have one drawer with all my arm warmers, leg warmers, and similar items. Few of them would ever survive the six-month rule.

And then of course the rhino in the room, my tool bag. Of all the people who don’t use tools, I am he, with ten thumbs and blind.

Oh, and there is the closet shelf with the nine unread Japanese books in the series Sangoku-Shi. And the t-shirt drawer and the extra safety razor.

And the …

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END

It’s not a Viennese flat without a grand piano.

Meet the Candidates, Part 4

February 15, 2019 § 6 Comments

We had to get up extra early to fit into the crazy busy schedule of Victoria Lozzi, Palos Verdes Estates treasurer and city council candidate in the upcoming PV Estates election. But it was worth it!!

CitSB: So what’s the one thing you want voters to take away from this interview?

VL: I’m not Mexican.

CitSB: Excuse me?

VL: You heard me. I’m not Mexican.

CitSB: Uh, could you explain?

VL: My maiden name is McDonald, Scottish, very white. Lozzi is Italian, which a lot of people think isn’t white, but actually it mostly is, Caesar was very white, but anyway it doesn’t matter because I’m white, not Mexican.

CitSB: So this is a major issue for your candidacy?

VL: Of course it is. I used this photo on the PVRRG web site and suddenly everyone on NextDoor is asking if I’m a Mexican just because I have black hair and olive skin. I’m white and I speak ENGLISH ONLY. I can’t speak Mexican, not even three words, not to my maids, my gardener, the contractor’s work crews, the janitorial staff at city hall, English only in this white girl’s house.

CitSB: Gotcha. Let’s move on to some of the other issues if that’s okay? For example, we heard from Michael Kemps about how he fell in love with money, and that is a pretty strong selling point for the voters. How do you position yourself on this issue?

VL: I hate to dis my opponent, I’m sure he’s a nice fellow, but when it comes to loving money there are only two candidates in this election, and I’m one of them. I think about money from the moment I awake til bedtime. You know why?

CitSB: Why?

VL: Because I work at a bank, silly. I’m a banker. And I’m the city treasurer. Money for me is everything. If we want our great city to remain a great city, we have to get control of its finances. Without money there is no city. No art. No literature. No deed restrictions against colored people. No dolphins. Take away money and what do you have? Filthy people living in grass huts mating with their cousins, almost as bad as Torrance. But with money, you know what you have?

CitSB: What?

VL: Sub-Zero. Wolf. Prada. Clever bond trades, sub-prime mortgages, and of course Club Med, not to mention The Four Seasons.

CitSB: By Vivaldi?

VL: What?

CitSB: Nothing. Okay, so with money …

VL: You get to move out of Torrance.

CitSB: Check. Moving on, let’s talk about some of the issues that your opponents have raised, for example Ms. King’s 20-year marriage. How long have you been married?

VL: What does that have to do with anything?

CitSB: And she went to Stanford, whereas you went to Berkeley. I think most people would agree that Berkeley is pretty much third-fiddle to Stanford, and why should the voters go with a candidate who went to school with merely smart people when they could go with a candidate who went to school with people who were smart AND rich AND white?

VL: Well, the rest of my opponents went to schools like Cal State Fullerton, or Mr. McCarthy, who’s from New Jersey where they don’t even go to school as far as I know. So on balance, when you look at how much I love money, I think it puts me on a level with Ms. King, and way above the other candidates.

CitSB: I guess the other big issue is how long you’ve lived in PVE. Everyone who’s ever been subjected to a city council meeting knows that the first thing the angry citizens do is dodder up to the microphone and say, “I moved here in 1827 …” as if that validates the irrational, crazy, bizarre, and batshit crazy statement they’re about to make. That’s really a big deal here. How do you plan to deal with your novelty? Ten years in PVE? That’s like … nothing.

VL: I’d like to point out that even though I have only lived here ten years and money, I really love it here money. It is a wonderful community and money. My children went to high school and money here …

CitSB: But they went to junior high and elementary somewhere else, right?

VL: So? BIG FUCKING DEAL. They went to high school at PV Estates. PV High. Munnnnnny. Munnnnnnnnnnnny!! They are Poseidons through and through!

CitSB: Where did they go to junior high?

VL: None of your business. This interview is so stupid.

CitSB: Torrance?

VL: (Shrieks in a purple rage) Listen here you deadbeat blogger weirdo freak! You call me a Torrancer again and I’ll knock your teeth down your throat!

CitSB: Sorry; that was uncalled for. One last major issue question?

VL: WHAT?

CitSB: 600 Via Gorrion.

VL: (Relaxes) I think that is a non-issue. That house is not the ugliest house in PVE. There are at least three others just as ugly, and one that is uglier. So let’s not pick on those kind Astroturf salesman-type laborers.

CitSB: And of course I have to ask you about the Big Orange biker gang that has been terrorizing the local unicorns.

VL: It’s a complex issue but basically we should kill them.

CitSB: Thank you.

VL: You’re welcome.

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END

Meet the Candidates, Part 3

February 13, 2019 § 2 Comments

After speaking with white city council candidate Michael Kemps, CitSB was privileged to speak to perhaps the most accomplished white member of the city council, former mayor Jennifer King. Finishing up her first term, King was eager to sit down in our tattered living room couch studio and discuss the challenges of an election year stamped by an electorate eager to “throw the bums out and put some new bums in.”

CitSB: First let’s talk about your core values.

JK: Service. I’m about service. We accomplished so much in the first four years, but there’s still so much to do. Together we can make PV Estates the place we all want it to be: Secure, a great place for white families, an area where money can feel safe and grow, but most of all a place …

CitSB: Uh, hate to cut you off, but you said something on your web site that caught my eye. “PVE residents have a great tradition of active participation in City affairs, often expressed through a diversity of viewpoints and strong opinions.” What exactly does that vague non-statement mean?

JK: I think it’s pretty obvious for a non-statement. Our community is white and dedicated to money, but we have a diversity of viewpoints and strong opinions.

CitSB: Could you break that down for me?

JK: This city is rife with spoiled assholes.

CitSB: That’s what I thought you were trying to say. Okay, next, this doozy: “I want to speak for those residents who are interested in preserving and protecting our community instead of dismantling it.” How does one dismantle the community?

JK: Well, there has been a lot of dismantling going on if you had been paying attention.

CitSB: Like what?

JK: They dismantled the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch secret stone treehouse. That was a historic structure. There was a lot of white history there.

CitSB: So in the last PV Estates election, two incumbents got the boot and one has just retired. People seem pretty angry and it must feel like your head is on the chopping block. How are you going to weather this?

JK: It’s important to remember the issue here is money. For example, pensions. Our challenge is to figure out how we can pay paltry salaries while simultaneously working people to death and not having to raise taxes to cover their pensions. It’s a problem faced by white cities everywhere.

CitSB: What’s standing in the way?

JK: State law on one hand, and our residents who really cannot afford to spend any more of their hard-inherited capital gains on retirement for mere police officers and the like.

CitSB: What’s your solution?

JK: We know that if white rich people work together they will always find a way to screw the little guy. Why should this be any different?

CitSB: Good point. I noted that you listed as one of your “background and qualifications” that you’ve been married to Steve Cox for 20 years. Why is that important?

JK: PVE residents need to know I’m not a single working mom, shuttling to some job in Torrance as I try to drop the brats off at school. I’ve been married to Steve for 20 years, and voters want to know that. It has been a loving marriage too, I might add, filled with love.

CitSB: That’s awesome. But do you think the single mom thing is really a big minus here in PVE?

JK: Oh, absolutely. One thing we know about single moms in PVE is that they’re either in too big a hurry to get their makeup on right, or they got a cougar divorce and half of a honking fortune so they are immaculately attired and tearing up the yoga mats at Equinox with the butt floss and the Band-Aid exercise bras. PVE voters need to know that neither one of those women is me, certainly not during the work week.

CitSB: Moving on to your education. You went to Stanford, Stanford, Stanford, and Stanford. Is it fair to say you have strong ties to Stanford?

JK: I think so. The university we attend says everything about us. For example I went to Stanford so I am smart. You went to … ?

CitSB: University of Texas.

JK: So you are dumb. Sorry, make that very dumb.

CitSB: You have a point.

JK: I know. Stanford, remember? Anyway, with my Stanford credentials I am a wildly successful founding partner of the appellate law firm King, Queen, Prince & Dunce. We make money, lots of it, every time we blink. It’s nothing like, for example, being a low-rent ambulance chaser who picks over the bones of injured cyclists, kind of like a jackal or a vulture, only nastier.

CitSB: Hmmm. Let me think about that.

JK: Take your time.

CitSB: So you have taken a stance on the community’s building permit process, you feel that it works?

JK: Nothing is perfect. We will always have those stone-and-wood abortions like that dogforsaken monstrosity at 600 Via Gorrion. But those people were originally from Torrance, and it’s not fair to penalize them for their bad taste. Some people are born without legs and we accommodate them. Some people are born without taste, but with lots of money. We need to accommodate them, too. Just because those folks want to decorate the inside of their home with Astroturf, why judge them? Astroturf is green, like money, and the hash marks are white, like white people. So it kind of fits.

CitSB: One last question. Big Orange biker gang?

JK: I think every agrees that they should be eliminated, we just have differing opinions on how. Some favor execution, of course, and I get that, but I think we could be more humane.

CitSB: How?

JK: Involuntary sterilization program followed by euthanasia if they keep riding. It’s only a matter of time before that Croissant Ride or whatever they call it kills another unicorn.

CitSB: Good luck in fending off the challengers.

JK: Thank you.

CitSB: You’re gonna need it.

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END

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