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.

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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.

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The date is May 9

April 6, 2015 § 63 Comments

One of my buddies has a place up near Paso Robles, and he rides his bike there a fair amount. There isn’t ever any traffic, the roads are scenic, and the weather is nice there year-round. But don’t let the scarcity of cars and the bucolic byways fool you. The three-tooth mouth breathers may not graduate from high school, but they can still use a spray can.

dont_share_the_road

Yesterday as my buddy was pedaling along, minding his own business, a pickup coming in the other direction took the time to slow down, honk, roll down the window, flip him off, and holler in a healthy “Fuck you!” for good measure. There is nothing that reminds you how much you are hated more than people taking the time on a beautiful, uncrowded morning to honk, scream, and flip.

On Saturday morning as we returned from a ride out to Trancas on PCH a motorcyclist did the same thing. We were in Manhattan Beach, the traffic was light, and we approached a signal. The biker happily raised his middle finger and cursed us. There is also a guy who regularly rides his motorized bicycle illegally down the bike path with a surfboard on the side, spitting exhaust fumes as he rattles along. He can invariably be counted on to scream The Greeting and display The Gesture.

And of course a few weeks ago another Deppity Doofus on PCH pulled over a group of Big Orange riders on PCH and punitively ticketed one for not riding in the bike lane. Detail: There is no bike lane on PCH. Still, time and effort and expense will be wasted defending against the targeted police harassment, just as with the forty or so riders in the Conejo Valley who were all ticketed by a cop for running a stop sign that they didn’t all run.

You know, group guilt. It’s the new individual guilt.

On Saturday, May 9, at 9:00 AM I’m going to be at the Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, to protest the continued illegal harassment of cyclists by the LA Sheriff’s Department. The city advised that I should “attend a council meeting instead,” but when I checked the U.S. Constitution there was nothing in it about the Malibu Municipal Code. Feel free to show up and voice your opinion about this.

The City of Malibu has no police force of its own and instead contracts with LASD for police services. The sheriff’s department is responsive to the demands of its employers. Both law enforcement and the entitled bike-haters on PCH need to know that their harassment is as unacceptable as it is offensive.

Anyone who wants to pedal to the city hall can meet me in the parking lot at Temescal Canyon and PCH, at Will Rogers State Park at 8:00 AM. I’ll be riding slowly, safely, and legally, where I belong.

In the lane.

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The enemy among us

March 28, 2015 § 59 Comments

[An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the quote below to Patrick Brady, when in fact it was written by someone else and posted as a guest editorial on Red Kite Prayer, Patrick’s blog. I’ve corrected the mistaken attribution and edited the post accordingly.]

Some people never cease to amaze me. Even so, I was amazed to read this editorial posted on Patrick Brady’s blog, Red Kite Bore. The author thinks that a helmet law in California isn’t worth opposing. Whaaaaaat?

According to the author:

Bike advocate groups might consider what others see when they see us. They see people who run stop signs, weave in and out of traffic, ride in packs, take up a lane, and so on. It’s not a pretty picture. Sure, most of us are wearing helmets as we bend rules and traffic laws, but that’s not what the pissed off drivers see. So when they hear cyclists are opposed to a helmet law, it only furthers their belief that we are selfish, unpredictable and dangerous. Maybe we let this one go. Let the lawmakers and drivers have this one without resistance. We got our 3-foot law in California, we can put up with a helmet law on the books. Pick your battles as they say. This is one fight we can easily walk away from.

Presumably, the editorial is endorsed by Patrick and RKP, as it fits hand-in-glove with the kind of writing for which RKP is infamous. And this one is a real howler, especially the last two sentences, as if Patrick or RKP has ever picked a fight with anyone, anywhere, for the benefit of cyclists. In all of the advocacy I’ve been involved in, I’ve never seen Patrick show up for anything, even when there was free beer and pizza. Never seen him at a council meeting, never seen him on a “Take the Lane” protest ride down PCH, nothing, zip, nada.

So to hear the guy who gave rave reviews to the latest Bell helmet put up a guest post supporting the helmet law speaks volumes. Unfortunately, the author, Mike Hotten, is a friend and an accomplished cyclist. But he’s completely wrong when he thinks that the solution is to “let this one pass.”

But what’s most reprehensible is the description of cyclists and by implication himself as someone who is a complete asshole on the bike. While I wholeheartedly agree that his description fits Patrick, it hardly describes most riders who in terms of numbers are simply people using a bike to get from point A to point B. Even worse is the rationale: People hate us, so let them force us to wear helmets because if we oppose the helmet law they’ll hate us even more. Glad that RKP wasn’t selected to fight for a seat at a lunch counter in Alabama back in the 60’s.

Patrick and the RKP forum are as far from zealous cycling advocacy as it gets. He has zero racing cred, belongs to no club or racing team that I’m aware of, and has never shown his face at any local bike race I’ve ever attended even though he kits out in the fanciest stuff and yet pretends to be a commentator on bike racing. He’s the same guy who gave a descending clinic to new riders at the defunct PV Bicycle Center, and a year later crashed very badly descending Las Flores when he hit a rock or slid out or just fredded his way off into a ditch. Yeah, that Patrick Brady.

My personal experiences with Patrick have been that he is  condescending to  riders who are wearing the wrong stuff, riding the wrong stuff, or don’t know the secret handshake. Of course he’s also the first guy to get shelled when we start climbing, or to get shelled in a hard paceline, is as tough as an under-baked cupcake, and is referred to as “Nancy” behind his back. When people talk about the cliquish, condescending, snooty attitude of road cyclists, the epitome of that stereotype is Patrick Brady.

For this clown’s publication to tell us we should roll over and accept a bad law because they’re too lazy to do anything about it is pathetic. The real problem is properly analyzed by Bike Snob, and it’s analyzed well. Try not to giggle too much at the photos he posted of Patrick as he models his aero goon helmet with the go-faux-pro Assos jersey.

As for the 3-foot law, the article says “we.” I’d love to hear about Patrick’s and RKP’s  particular role in that legislation. And while they’re at it, show us some statistics to demonstrate it’s had any effect on accidents or deaths, any at all.

In short, the helmet law sucks. You should oppose it. And don’t listen to Red Kite Bore when it comes to helmet laws when their sole means of subsistence is the sale of advertising space to people who make bike junk, not limited to helmets.

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Adam, meet Laura

March 17, 2015 § 45 Comments

On July 18, 2014, reserve police officer Laura Weintraub made a “funny” video in which she mocked cyclists and encouraged running them down.

Last week, Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead, a luxury meat purveyor in Sonoma County, published a “funny” rant on his company’s web site that advocated running over cyclists. The blog post has been deleted, but I’ve reproduced it at the bottom of this post.

Adam and Laura, nascent humorists, got a “funny” lesson of their own: The Internet works.

As amazingly stupid as it was for a cop to advocate killing cyclists, it was almost as crazy for Meathead to attack the very people who buy his product. A wag out there in Internetville succinctly described Meathead’s self-made marketing headache thus:

meathead_graphic

The angry cyclist community responded by loading up Adam’s Facebag and Yelp pages with, shall we say, unflattering reviews. And Adam took Laura’s path of contrition, only quicker and more forcefully. He apologized, made the rounds of local bike shops with dick in hand, offered to talk over coffee with anyone, any time, and then rubbed his nose in his own poop and swatted his own ass in a newspaper interview with the Press-Democrat.

Naturally, this wasn’t enough for some people, nor will it ever be. If you have ever been hit by a car, threatened by a cager, or know someone killed by a driver, Meathead’s apology may ring hollow. But there’s a deeper problem than his rant or the fateful lighting that has been loosed from the Internet’s swift sword, and it lies in what seems to be Parks’s real objection to cyclists.

We are in the way.

It’s hard to believe that Meathead or Laura really intended to kill cyclists, and their contrition indicates that even if they did, they certainly don’t want to now. What is even harder to believe is that the roads are filled with motorists actively looking for opportunities to maim and kill. After all, when you kill someone and scratch your car, your insurance rates go up.

Nope, the problem is rooted in the deep human psyche of hating that which is “in the way.” Cyclists on the bike path can be just as bad as cagers. I’ve ridden numerous times with groups, and have seen countless individuals, who would rather swerve, shriek “On your left!” and miss the lady and her baby stroller by inches than grab the brake and pass slowly.

This is the key problem with advocating bike lanes and additional “infrastructure” as a solution to the inherent conflict between cars and bikes. As long as bikes are “supposed” to be in the bike lane, and as long as cagers see a perfectly good path running next to the road, they will be outraged when slower and smaller vehicles are “in their way.”

That wouldn’t be a problem, perhaps, if we could create a completely parallel bicycle roadway system, where every single car travel path had a parallel protected bicycle path. But even the craziest bike infrastructure advocates don’t suggest that such a system is possible. So what we’re left with is a patchwork — bike lanes in congested cities, nothing outside of town or off the major thoroughfares or in the neighborhoods — that reinforces the cagers’ mistaken belief that when we’re in the road we’re in the way, and that the best way to deal with an obstacle is to smash it or run it off the road.

Cager rage is often so intense that it even takes me by surprise. A couple of days ago I had a guy lean out the window and curse me, and he was headed in the opposite direction. I clearly wasn’t holding him up, he was just venting his rage at my audacity, and perhaps vocalizing what those going my direction felt but were too afraid to say.

Satisfying as it is when Meathead’s Yelp review page overfloweth with outrage, it’s much less satisfying when you know that the vast majority of the posters will never lift a finger to actually change motorists’ approach by riding in the lane. We’ve seen over our one-year-plus experiment on PCH here in Los Angeles that repeated, continual use of the travel lane reduces motorist hostility to bikes because they have begun to see us as rightful users of the roadway to be steered around, not as obstacles that don’t belong.

And no matter how many cups of coffee Meathead buys, and no matter how sincerely he regrets shooting his business in the foot, as long as bikes stay huddled on the fog line, timorously trying to stay “out of the way,” the Lauras and the Adams will continue to see us as obstacles that, unfortunately for us, need to be cleared — preferably with the bumper of a 2,000-lb. hurtling chunk of steel.

The best revenge you can get isn’t by tapping on your keyboard. It’s by taking your place in the lane, where you belong.

Here’s Meathead’s piece in all its unvarnished glory. Read it and groan.

As a rule, I don’t like cyclists. There… I said it. Big, sweeping generalization that probably throws some good, law-abiding people under the proverbial bus. Nonetheless, I really hate cyclists. Now, if a bike is your preferred or only method of transportation and you follow some basic rules, I’m not talking about you. If you like to cruise your Beach Cruiser on the bike path or pedal your Schwinn to work using the proper lane and hand signals, more power to you. You ride a bike. I’m talking about a completely different animal.

I’m talking about cyclists. You know the ones I mean. They are usually astride a $10,000 graphite-framed bike that is lighter than a can of beer. Their $500 spandex onesie has more advertisements than a NASCAR driver. How do you know if someone is a cyclist??? Don’t worry… they’ll tell you.

It’s probably more noticeable out here in Small Town USA. In the big city, transportation moves so slow that bicycles make sense. What doesn’t make sense is these entitled fools mucking up a perfectly fine drive on a narrow, two lane back road in the country. While it is a beautiful place to drive, and we are blessed to have our “office” out in the fresh air and sunshine, when we country folk are driving these roads it is generally for work-related purposes. We are trying to get someone or something from point A to point B. Get out of the way!

The rare single cyclist is bad enough. This is usually the newbie that decides he’s going to try out his new steed in “the middle of nowhere so I won’t bother my fellow cyclists”. Usually stopped (as there is nowhere to pull over) going uphill on a blind curve, you can actually feel this one questioning his life’s choices as you lay on the horn to move him into to the ditch and out of the way.

The real menace is the Peloton (hey, you thought I don’t do research???). These are the groups of cyclists that seem to be a combination of a mosh pit and a book club on wheels. Often in matching onesies, they are the most obnoxious and entitled group short of the Kardashians. They feel free to take up the whole lane and have no regard for anything or anyone around them. They take it as a personal affront to their space if they have to move over as they are pedaling fast enough to go 30 MPH on flat ground but are actually losing ground to the hill. And chit chatting like the cast of The View to boot!

So, as usual, I have some suggestions for these Tour de Speedbump contestants. First, anyone not in single file and/or on the right side of the solid white line is fair game. And, on that note, all of them should be required to have license plates and carry insurance (that’s Laura’s demand). That way I would be more apt to call Jonny Law and report them rather than resorting my only other option- running them off the road.

Also, let’s get some kickstands on these expensive scooters. Sure, it will double the weight and cost them precious seconds on their time trial runs. But, at least the rest of us won’t have to trip over them as we walk past the local, hipster juice bar where they are usually splayed like corpses on the sidewalk. I asked a cyclist once why they laid the bike on the ground instead of propped against the wall. The answer was simple… she knew it was going to fall so it was better to lay it on the ground gently so the paint wouldn’t get scratched. I really couldn’t make that up.

There was actually one time when I was driving a truck and 5th-wheel RV, got myself into a spot where I should not have been, and was surrounded by cyclists. I was taking the family to Santa Cruz for a little vacation. I had borrowed the RV, so I was a little nervous as it had been a while since I had towed anything that heavy. Anywhooo, I packed everyone up, punched the address for the KOA we were setting up at in the GPS and headed south on 101.

As we got into San Rafael, the GPS Lady suggested I take the Richmond Bridge. Now, I may not know exactly where to go once I got into Santa Cruz, but I know I’m going through San Francisco and south on 280. Everyone knows that. Here is where I made my first mistake. Rather than just let GPS Lady re-route me, I switched from fastest route to most direct. And across the Golden Gate we went.

As we cruised down 280, GPS Lady woke up and told me to take Sand Hill Rd. Now, here is how technology makes us really stupid sometimes. Like anyone who has been around NorCal for a while (in my case 40+ years) I know that to get to Santa Cruz you take 280 to 17 and go over the hill. Pretty hard to screw that up, right? However, GPS Lady said to take Sand Hill Road. Hey, maybe she knows a short cut! Right turn, Clyde…

It wasn’t until we were firmly on our way up a ONE lane road (path???) that I knew I was really and truly screwed. There was no backing up, as the “road” had tighter turns than a prima ballerina. Going forward was the only option, and it was clearly fraught with peril. Never mind having to stop on the blind corner of a 40% grade to check and see if the truck AND borrowed RV were going to make it between the sheer up cliff on the right and the tree that somehow was growing out of the sheer down cliff on the left. What really told me I was in trouble was the cyclists.

Whether it was the highly tuned athletes flying downhill at us like the last few lines of Space Invaders, or the ones who were passing us going UPHILL, I knew that- in this case- I was the one out of place. You know, as a dad, it’s usually when you are at your most frustrated that your kids won’t stop bickering or your wife wants to discuss feelings. This situation was so tense that the cab of the truck was silent. I’m talking about you coulda heard a mouse peeing on a cotton ball quiet. Everyone was pretty clear that this was not your run of the mill pickle dad had gotten us into.

It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to go about 3 miles. The same guy passed us, and was passed by us, four different times. His language and gestures got more colorful with each passing. Normally, I would have returned fire, but in this case it seemed wiser to just offer an apologetic nod and wave. When we finally reached the summit, and yes summit is the correct word, we made a left on the aptly named “Skyline Boulevard” and got into the left lane of a beautiful, four lane highway. At 35 miles an hour it felt like the Autobahn.

A few lessons can be taken from all of this. Know where you are. I was where I wasn’t supposed to be on that bike path. If you are a cyclist out for a tour of the country, be respectful of those who are trying to get from point A to point B. And technology is only as smart as the guy pushing the buttons. Common sense, or the lack of it, will still generally determine how your day turns out. Women have been after men to ask for directions since the invention of the wheel. Now, thanks to GPS, we don’t have to ask. GPS Lady tells where to go. And just like everything else in life, the women are usually right…

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You can’t fix stupid

March 11, 2015 § 68 Comments

After a battle with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department that lasted well over a year, I thought that we had finally put to rest the harassment of cyclists on PCH north of Temescal Canyon. Our loose coalition of idealists had a three-pronged attack on the harassing citations that the Deppity Doofuses were writing:

  1. Outreach and education for the LASD.
  2. Fight each and every ticket.
  3. Continue riding in the lane where it’s legal to do so.

Of course we had a few secret weapons up our sleeve. We had Dr. Tomato Stain, our sly expert witness who made himself available for detailed measurements and expert testimony at each of the three trials that we won when the harassing deputies didn’t appear. We had the heft of Eric Bruins and the LA County Bicycle Coalition providing expertise and expert testimony. And most importantly, we had the full support of Greg Seyranian and Big Orange. These riders are the ones who refused to be pushed back into the gutter, and who weekly rode their bikes legally in the lane.

They backed up their willingness to ride in the lane by an equal willingness to take time off of work to fight the bogus citations. The tickets stopped, and I went on to other less pressing concerns, such as work and family and cat videos. Until Monday.

That’s when I learned that we do indeed have another Deppity Doofus with a severe case of citation writus reflexia.

A group of Big Orange riders were cruising north bound on PCH, legally riding 2×2 in the right lane. When they got within about half a mile of Cross Creek, they heard the dreaded beep of a short warning siren. It wasn’t clear that it was for them so they kept moving. Then the angry voice of Deppity Doofus told them to get out of the lane. Confused and frustrated, they began to move to what little shoulder there was. As everyone who’s ever ridden this stretch of road knows, there’s no bike lane and nowhere to put your bike except the lane itself unless you want to charge through the glass, rocks, gravel, used condoms, bongs, used dildos, meth paraphernalia, and other necessities for surfing Malibu that are strewn in the gutter.

Deppity Doofus then called out to to one of the riders, “You in the red jersey, pull over!” Red Jersey Rider had been singled out for two obvious reasons, neither of which was justified. First, he was at the back of the group, and like the wounded gazelle at the rear of the herd he was the first one to be dragged down by the throat by the marauding lion. Second, he was wearing a white jersey with cats wearing red Santa hats, a fashion misstep that some would say justifies every persecution. I however, would not.

All of the riders pulled into the parking lot at Aviator Nation, a place that Harrison Ford frequents in between golf course crash landings. There were a few cyclists who passed by, also in the lane, and who continued up the coast. These scofflaws, who were obviously on the lowest step of the gradual cyclist ladder to violent crime that begins with riding in the lane, were ignored by Deppity Doofus and his assistant, Newbie Nukkelnoggin.

When Doofus and Nukkelnoggin got out of the car, the cyclists asked the officers to explain exactly what they had done wrong, aside from the cats in the Santa hats. Some of the riders videotaped the incident while others looked up the section of the California vehicle code that gives cyclists the right to ride in the traffic lane. They offered up facts and even asked about the “Share the Road” sign that was posted on PCH a few hundred yards south. Doofus, uninterested in law or fact and apparently unable to read, rolled up his window when one of the riders approached his vehicle to show him digital documentation of the CVC code section displayed on his phone.

Another rider pulled up additional information on his phone regarding the right to legally use the traffic lane and handed it to Nukkelnoggin, who, after excessive efforts that involved moving his lips while he read, digested the information. He showed it to Doofus but by now it had become a matter of phallus measuratus, and Doofus wasn’t about to back down even though he was wrong on the law, wrong on the facts, and wrong on just about everything. Nukkelnoggin then informed them that their supervisor was coming to the scene from Calabasas.

A fun day in the saddle was thus transformed into a miserable altercation with deputies so bad at their job that they required backup and supervisory reinforcement to evaluate a traffic citation.

When Deppity Doofus finished writing the citation, he approached Santa Cats and told him to sign it. At this point, things got a little hairy. One of the riders asked why Santa Hats had to sign the citation if he didn’t believe that he had done anything wrong. Doofus became irate and started calling the other cyclist a “jackass” and told one of the riders with a video to “Go ahead and film me, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

As they waited for the supervisor to arrive, reinforcements showed up in the form of another deputy who parked next to the other two. It was obviously either a slow day at Malibu or this dangerous gang of cats-in-Santa-hat-sporting-scofflaws was going to need some serious SWAT backup.

The  supervisor finally showed up and he approached the sheriffs first. It didn’t look like Deppity Doofus was pleased. He then began to point his finger at the cyclist who had asked why Santa Hats had to sign the citation. He was livid and the supervisor seemed irritated. When the riders spoke to the supervisor, he was friendly. He shook Santa Hat’s hand and patted him on the back while Doofus and Nukkelnoggin stood quietly and Deppity Reinforcement flanked the group as if he were ready for something to go down, like, you know, in case someone attacked the armed police battalion with a Bonk Breaker or a Gu gel packet.

The supervisor then expounded wrongly on the law, telling the riders that they have the right to take a lane when there’s an obstruction in the bike lane or shoulder, but that they would have to return to the shoulder when said obstruction was gone. Super defined “obstruction” as car doors and other objects. The riders tried to explain the law but he kept saying that there was nothing he could do about it. The ticket had already been written, and he he parted with the sage and helpful advice to “Tell it to the judge.”

On their time, of course.

After an hour and a half, everyone left the scene of this incredibly significant law enforcement incident. The cyclists rode cautiously to Cross Creek then turned around. On the way home, they took the lane because all agreed that their safety was worth more than the price of another citation. They passed the sheriffs on the way home, but Doofus and Nukkelnoggin did nothing, focusing all of their energies on a 12-pack of donuts.

In this instance, the citation was for violation CVC 21208(a), which requires a cyclist to ride in a bike lane when such a lane has been established pursuant to CVC 21207. A quick search of the local roads database shows that this section of road is designated as a Class III Bike Route, otherwise defined as an on-street travel lane shared by bicyclists and other vehicular traffic.

A Class III Bike Route is, of course, a completely different dog from a bike lane established pursuant to CVC 21207. In essence, a Class III Bike Route is a metal sign on the side of the road indicating that there is no bike lane or other separated facility. More importantly for Santa Hats, on its face the citation is void, as Deppity Doofus will be unable to show that there was a bike lane anywhere on PCH, much less at the point where he cited Santa Hats.

In addition to being a wonderful showcase for how ineffective we’ve been at educating the sheriff’s department regarding actual laws, it’s even more disheartening to realize that the ignorance festers at the supervisory level as well despite meetings, encouragement from the captain at the substation, and even ride-alongs with deputies and supervisors to educate them about cyclists’ rights. The behavior of the deputies showed that when push comes to shove, they will push and shove the cyclists rather than back down and admit they are wrong.

Sounds like another case for Dr. Tomato Stain and his crack legal team.

Sigh.

END

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Doing the heavy lifting

March 3, 2015 § 15 Comments

There are people in the Internet world who mainly blab, like me, and people who do the heavy lifting, like Ted Rogers of Biking in LA. In addition to continual bike advocacy, Ted does the tough work of going through news, local and global, to find the stories that are most relevant to LA’s largest and most important population of cyclists: Those who use bicycles for transportation. Ted does much more than aggregate news stories; he also investigates them. With a particular focus on cycling fatalities, Ted’s blog is almost always on the cutting edge of reporting bike fatalities in Southern California, and he tints his reportage with incredible sympathy for the victims and their families.

Ted’s advocacy has teeth, too. Although he’s fiercely partisan he’s also fair, and he never hides facts or twists situations to fit his moods — unlike one $2.99/month South Bay blogger I have in mind. After years of this kind of advocacy, Ted’s words have heft, and as a member of the board of directors of the LA County Bicycle Coalition, he devotes considerable time to action.

Fortunately, I disagree with Ted’s strong support of cycling infrastructure and believe instead that the best path for cycling is enforcement of existing laws that allow us to ride in the roadway. I say “fortunately” because there’s nothing more boring than having to read someone with whom you agree 100%. A little red meat always makes the veggies taste better.

Whether he’s keeping us up to date on which bicycle friendly candidates to support, or spreading the word about yet another cyclist trying to recover from catastrophic injuries, the Biking in LA blog covers the cycling waterfront. And something that tickles me deep down inside is Ted’s ferocious adherence to correct spelling and good grammar. I don’t think I’ve ever found a typo. In sum, his work is fair, it’s fierce, and it’s often fun, making BiLA’s work such an amazing contrast to VeloNews and Bicycling, puffy and ad-bloated rags that couldn’t do an investigative report on their own stool sample.

If Ted’s not on your daily read list, he should be.

END

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