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.

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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.

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What a Liuser

February 19, 2015 § 43 Comments

State Senator Carol Liu from Pasadena (to that area’s undying shame) has introduced a bill to make helmets mandatory for bicycle riders. Scofflaws will get tagged with a $25 fine, and the police will have something really significant to spend their time doing, finally.

Here is a thoughtful discussion about the issue, but it’ll be a CBR crit without wheelsuckers before I sacrifice eighteen minutes of my life to hear clever people debate stupid things.

Of course the problem with the helmet law is that it doesn’t go far enough. Like lots of well-meaning mommy state legislation, it only protects part of the intended maroon, in this case his or her head. For the law to really work, and I believe it’s important for state and local government to play a role in bike safety (especially when the pepper spraying, handcuff clinking, baton swinging, pistol packing police are involved), the law must completely protect us.

Heavy gloves, joint padding, and full downhill MTB armor are what’s needed to ensure that little kids going to school don’t fall off their bicycles and get a boo-boo on their po-po. In addition, the bill needs to be amended to cover the crucial areas of bike speed and componentry. A statewide bike speed limit of 12-mph should be included, because the faster you pedal your bicycle the more you get hurt when you fall off it for being drunk or stupid or racing or all three.

The 12-mph speed limit would also ensure that most triathletes don’t get dropped in bike races, and would allow the weak and infirm to catch back on after getting shelled on hard climbs.

Bike dangerousness should likewise be addressed with weight restrictions. Heavier bikes have been shown to go slower and to act as excellent self-defense weapons in sketchy neighborhoods. Getting whacked over the head with Strava Jr.’s 2-lb. full carbon rig which is all carbon and made of 100% carbon isn’t nearly as big a deterrent to crime as getting pounded by a 50-lb. steel-and-lead composite frame.

It’s unfortunate that Liu’s bill is such a liuser and that she doesn’t really care about our safety. But there’s another reason to support helmets, body armor, bike speed limits, minimum weights, and materials legislation: Brad House hates it.

Basically, Brad is a libertarian, which means “Let me make the laws.” Brad opposes all laws which are against his personal interest or which haven’t been personally approved by Ron Paul. This is a law that will drive Brad whacky(er). He will rant. He will rave. He will talk graphically about his exploits in and out of the bedroom. He will join political movements, overwhelm social media, and dash hither and yon in those black shorts with the back panels that expired back in ’96, blinding everyone with his hairy, unblinking brown eye. He might even sell his $2 Stetson and move back to California.

Let’s face it. California has gone to shit since Brad’s departure and the only way to make this once-proud state great again is to get Mr. Nuttypants back. Supporting Carol Liu’s law and getting it amended so that we’re completely protected is the way to do it, and by protection I mean mandatory condoms, measles vaccinations, and impact-proof welding goggles for every rider over the age of three is the only way we’ll truly make cycling safe and have Brad to kick around for another year or so.

Our only other option is to enforce existing traffic laws and force cagers to stop running us over.

Naaaaaah.

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A pox on Knox

January 20, 2015 § 41 Comments

I had been living on the peninsula for a month. The weather was spotless, polished, and shiny like Prez’s cherry ’62 Camaro that he refuses to drive except for that time he almost ran over a skateboarder and three pumps at the Chevron over by the old CBR course when he was showing off with a big ol’ peel out that almost turned into felony manslaughter.

I will never forget that beautiful day, sailing along PV Drive, headed out to the Switchbacks, 65 degrees in February, and not a care in the world, not even that bright red stoplight at Hawthorne, which was nowhere near changing to green at the moment that I whizzed through it. “Heck,” I thought, “there aren’t any cars coming.”

Officer Knox proved me wrong. There was a car coming, and it was his. Flashers going full twirl, he pulled me over, made me sit down on the curb, and wrote me a $350 ticket for my blatant moving violation. It was so unjust, being forced to obey the law and stuff, but one look at Knox and I knew that I’d better shut up, and when I got through shutting up I should probably shut up some more.

He stank of cop.

As the years went by, I learned that LA Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Knox was the biggest delta bravo on the peninsula. In addition to writing tickets to bicycle scofflaws, he wrote tickets to law-abiding cyclists as well. He wrote tickets everywhere, to everyone, all the time. One time he even stuffed and cuffed Roadchamp for having had the temerity to complain while being written up for a non-violation. He wasn’t just a mean bastard, he was a sadistic bully.

So when I read in our local Daily Breeze — a cycling-hating rag that is Motordom’s answer to Fox News — that Knox in Socks was retiring from his duties as hall monitor on the Peninsula, I was euphoric. Of course I’ve forgiven Knox for ticketing me after I ran that red light, but the reason the guy was such a plague is because he was either too stupid to understand the vehicle code as it relates to cyclists (possible), or was an asshole who intentionally harassed cyclists for the fun of it (highly likely).

As recently as November he was still citing cyclists for violating CVC 21202(a) on the Switchbacks because they were not riding as far to the right as practicable even though the law allows them to move over into the lane in order to avoid road debris, hazards, or the dangers of a substandard lane width. For any cyclist who ever got wrongly cited by this boneheaded cretin, his self-congratulatory line in the Daily Sleaze article about being “passionate about traffic safety because I don’t like going to crashes and seeing people that are injured or killed” is complete horseshit.

How do I know?

Because I know what an asshole looks like. Assholes are generally people who justify fucking with other people because they believe in “public safety” or “protecting people from themselves.” Good law enforcement doesn’t involve indiscriminate ticketing, and Knox’s career of writing an average of 14 tickets a day for 31 years proves what cyclists on the Hill knew: If this knuckledragger hadn’t written his quota and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you were getting a ticket. What other kind of person than an asshole would handcuff an angry, tiny little cyclist who was protesting a bogus ticket?

Knox’s incompetence and venal harassment of cyclists wasn’t limited to tickets, though. His hatred of bicycles made itself known in a much more offensive and harmful way: The Knox traffic investigation. This clown was known to twist the facts when investigating a car-bike collision to pin the tail on the cyclist whenever possible. I recall one case where a cyclist had been right-hooked on Hawthorne and Deppity Doofus still managed to find the rider at fault.

This type of bungling and prejudicial investigation made it much harder, time consuming, and costly for injured cyclists to obtain compensation, and reinforced what appeared to be Knox’s own personal world view, that might makes right.

Of course Knox always had plenty of stories with him playing the hero, and I got to see him toot his horn at an RPV traffic committee meeting once. He loved to talk about how he’d chased down someone “doing 120 in a 40,” and in truth he probably did ticket thousands of speeders who deserved it.

But like every other little mini-dictator, he lacked discretion, he misapplied the law, and he justified his crazy zeal for ticketing with indiscriminate enforcement of the law. How badly was he hated? Other police officers in Hermosa have confided to me that the guy was regarded by his peers as a 14-carat asshole. “He’s the only cop out there,” one guy said, “who enjoys ticketing other cops.”

Knox’s boss, Captain Blaine Bolin, was of course extremely proud of his henchman’s work, and called the general hatred and fear people had of this deputy “The Knox Effect.” Of course it’s true that as a result of bad police work and illegal ticketing people were afraid of him, and they probably did drive more carefully. But this shows the incompetent mentality at the top, which thinks that the ends justify the means. With Captain Bolin’s logic, we could get even better results by simply shooting people on the spot. And there’s a reason that Bolin and Knox prefer the “ticket everyone” approach: It’s easy.

What’s hard is to learn the law and apply it properly. What’s hard is to impartially deal with people you may not like. What’s hard is to realize that even though you carry a gun you’re still a public servant, and you work for us. What’s hard is to be a peace officer instead of a chest-thumping bully.

Of course there are excellent deputies out there, and the recent absence of Knox has been noticed. Police work is hard work, but not nearly as hard as mowing lawns, mining coal, or working in a meat packing plant. Plus, if you’re a cop it’s because you signed up for it, so do us all a favor and know the laws you’re paid to fairly apply.

So while RPV and the Lomita substation mourns the loss of a guy who gave other cops a bad name, of an unpleasant jerk who equated harassment with police work, of a pathetic, lonely, mean sonofabitch who instilled fear and loathing instead of respect and appreciation, I can say only this: Good fucking riddance, and I hope that in your retirement you take up bicycling. Because there are a whole lot of people who would love to take you for a little pedal around the Hill.

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I fought the law and the law didn’t show up

January 16, 2015 § 48 Comments

Team Wanker showed up at the Santa Monica Courthouse garbed in its finest clothing and ready to do battle with the machinations of  THE SYSTEM, or, alternatively, to hang out at the Sckubrats across the street and quaff a cup of coffee. This was our third sally into the bowels of bicycle-citation-defense law, and I was gradually coming to the realization that working for free was just as unprofitable as going for a bike ride, only less fun.

For this final inning against the minions of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, we had assembled, if not the Dream Team, then at least the Catnap Team. We had:

Defendant Scotty G.: The victim of a terrible conspiracy to pervert our civil rights, Scotty G. had chosen to take a morning off work and fight the citation for violating CVC 21202(a) even though it would have been easier and cheaper to pay the fine. Scotty had been ticketed for riding in the middle of the lane on PCH with the Big Orange noodlers. Everyone agreed that the reason he’d been served with the ticket is because he was wearing the dark blue Ironfly kit, and stood out like a sore tongue in a French kissing contest when surrounded by all the Orangemen.

Expert Witness Gary Cziko (pronounced “psycho, but not to his face): Gary now holds the record in successful expert witness bicycle defenses, having won every single case in which he was hired to testify — proving that he is well worth the cup of coffee and candy bar that it took to entice him to take a bath and pedal over to court. Hired Gun Psycho had come prepared to testify to the width of the lane and the fact that it could not be safely shared by a bike and vehicle, thereby calling into effect one of the exceptions to California’s “farthest to the right” rule for bikes. This time, sensing an all-out war, he had brushed away all the breadcrumbs, combed most of his hair, and brushed several of his teeth. It was battle time.

Expert Witness Eric Bruins: Strangely an alum of USC, Eric is also batting a thousand in his testimony regarding highway standards, although somewhat less successful in explaining why with the last name of “Bruins” he didn’t go to UCLA. Eric was prepared to testify regarding the applicable width of lanes under accepted lane-width standards, and why those standards were crucial for understanding the inherent unsafety of the lanes on PCH as concerns “FTR” travel by bicycles.

Gritty Lawyer “Wankmeister,” Senior Partner and Chief Janitor at Wanky Law, LLP: I knew this was going to be the toughest trial of my career, and not just because I’d had beans and chili the night before at the all-you-can-eat taco bar and beanerie with Bull. As I sat stewing in the endless traffic on the 405, I thought grimly about the take-no-prisoners, scorched earth tactics I would have to employ in this pitiless cage fight between titans of the law.

Deppity Doofus: Doofus was my adversary, as wily and clever as he was rotund and fond of donuts. With a mind and body honed on three decades of law enforcement along PCH, and almost as many decades spent belly-up to the counter at DK Donuts in Santa Monica, Deppity Doofus would be cagy and hard to trap. He had mostly spelled his own name correctly at the bottom of the citation, which let me know that I was dealing with the best that the sheriff’s department had to offer.

The battle plan

In our two previous court battles, Team Wanky had employed one of the most complex legal strategies ever devised. Known by its code name, JSU, the “Just Show Up” stratagem involved all four of us appearing at the courthouse at the correct time, 8:45 AM.

But that wasn’t all. After appearing, we planned to carefully find our way to Department A, where we would implement Phase II of JSU, in some ways the trickiest part of our defense. One by one we would enter the courtroom. Scotty, Gary, and Eric would all sit down. I, on the other hand, was planning to walk up to the clerk’s desk and check in. This was the linchpin of our strategy — we would then be officially checked in.

After overcoming these incredible hurdles, Phase III would kick in: We would wait for our case to be called. Then, we would wait for the judge to say, “No appearance by Deppity Doofus due to a sale at the Olde Donut Shoppe. Case dismissed.” At that point I was planning to carefully stand up and deliver the most devastating part of my legal defense — I would say, “Thank you, Your Honor,” and we would all stand up and leave.

That, anyway, was the plan.

No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy

Unfortunately, our devastating JSU strategy got derailed early. Although I had allotted thirty minutes for the one-hour drive to Santa Monica, I wound up arriving late. Then, facing complete defeat, I was forced to call Scotty G. and have him implement Phase II using our backup plan. Instead of me going to the desk and checking in, I told him, “Scotty, you go check in.” He was able to walk all the way to the clerk’s desk, give his name, and save the day.

I dashed into the courtroom a few minutes late, still in time to make my closing argument. Quickly, I huddled with Team Wanker and we practiced.

“Okay, Scotty. Get ready to sit down.”

“I’m already sitting,” he said.”

“Good job. Keep it up. Gary, what’s the square root of 5.9?” I asked.

“I have no idea. What difference does it make?”

“Just checking. Good job. Eric, how much spunk water should you drink to make a wart go away when Venus is retrograde to Uranus?”

“What?” he asked.

“Exactly,” I confirmed.

Then I sat down beside my team and waited to attack. Judge Hahn came in and surveyed us, sensing the dismissal battle that was about to take place. “Okay,” he said, “if I call your name it means that the officer who wrote the citation isn’t here, so your case will be dismissed and you can go home.”

He read off a few names, but not a single defendant had a professional team of hired guns like Scotty G. The way that Gary and Eric sat in their chairs and gaped like toads was terrible to behold.

“Scotty G.?” said the judge. “Your case is dismissed.”

I stood, and all eyes in the courtroom turned on my. It was to be my finest hour as I summoned all of my wits to persuade these twelve jurors of the justice of our cause. I paused. You could have sliced the tension with an eructation. “Your honor,” I said.

“Yes?” he answered.

I drew it out, the crowning moment of my legal career, champion of the downtrodden, hero of the oppressed, knowing neither fear nor favor in my prosecution of the things we as Americans cherish most deeply. Then I said it. “Thank you.”

“Samuel Poopinbeck,” said the Judge. “Case dismissed.”

Mr. Poopinbeck made complete mess out of his dismissal and stumbled to the door, only managing to mumble, “Thanks.”

Afterwards we high-fived in the hall, slapped backs and butts, and jogged over to the Sckubrats where I treated everyone to a cup of water. The euphoria was incredible. Scotty G. thanked me for my efforts, and we parted company. We fought the law, and we won.

END

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When being completely lazy isn’t enough

December 15, 2014 § 31 Comments

You might think that Louis Zamperini, Michael Brown, Milton Olin, this weekend’s CBR upgrade crit, and the midterm congressional elections are unrelated.

You’d be wrong.

Louie Zamperini was the poster child for the Greatest Generation, the men and women who fought World War II and made the world safe for democracy. Michael Brown was the unarmed man gunned down by a killer cop. Milton Olin was the bicycle rider mowed down by a deputy who wasn’t paying attention, and who wasn’t even prosecuted. The CBR upgrade crit this weekend was a bicycle race that about a 10% increase in participation from 2013.

There’s a reason that Americans love WW II stories like Louie’s, the story of an Olympic runner from a tumbledown house in Torrance, CA who crashed in the Pacific while flying as a bombardier, survived 47 days in the open ocean on a raft, and then somehow made it through more than two years of torture in various Japanese POW camps. Americans love these stories because World War II is the last time this country did anything good for the world commensurate with our resources and our capacity. Since then our achievements have been defeats in Korea and Vietnam, defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a national government that thinks torture is a good thing. Maybe they need to read Unbroken to remember why it isn’t.

World War II was a war for many things. One of those things was democracy, which is the right to choose our own form of government and to have a voice in the laws that we decide to abide by. Twenty years after the war, almost 50% of Americans voted in congressional midterm elections, a high watermark in modern midterm voter turnout. It’s no coincidence that this happened alongside the civil rights movement, and it’s no coincidence that we more opportunity and more equally distributed wealth than we do today.

Michael Brown was killed and the killer was no-billed by the grand jury. He walked. People responded with riots, protests, and fury. But they didn’t respond with votes. The midterm turnout in 2014, when Americans were outraged enough to riot over our police state, was 36.4 percent, the lowest in 70 years.

Milton Olin’s killer wasn’t prosecuted because the district attorney chose to ignore the evidence and protect a member of the police. She’s an elected official, but doesn’t have to worry because she knows that angry cyclists will vent their fury on Facebook, chat forums, and listservs, but they won’t vote. And she’s right. Less than 30 percent of the electorate bothered to vote.

This weekend’s CBR upgrade crit grew ten percent over last year. Once reason it grew is because various people in the bike racing community did something more effective than jizzing over Strava, or posting sexy bike photos from the latest group ride. They actively encouraged their friends to show up and race.

Is there a lesson here? There is.

The most satisfying thing is to vent, whether it’s by burning a few cars, smashing out a few windows, marching in solidarity while chanting chanty chants, or bashing race promoters because their races are too boring/too expensive/ too far away/ too [fill in your complaint here]. But the most effective thing isn’t always the most satisfying thing, at least not in the beginning.

The most effective thing is voting. It may be hard. There may be huge barriers to doing it. They system may be set up to keep you away from the polls. But you know what? People were willing to die to cast a vote in Afghanistan’s presidential election this year. I’m pretty sure that whatever’s keeping 70% of the electorate from rolling off the couch and signing up for a mail-in ballot isn’t as challenging as the risk of getting your brains blown out by the Taliban.

Bike racing is the same. It’s only by encouraging people to race that they will go race. If we want a robust racing scene, it’s on us. And if we think that a 10% increase is nothing, imagine that 10% compounded every six months or every three, something that’s totally doable if everyone who claims to like racing takes the time to call, prod, and push. In two years’ time we’d have full fields, every category, every race.

That’s the same with voting. I respect the right to march and to voice discontent. Hell, I agree with it. But until we’ve voted, or urged a buddy to come out and race, we haven’t really done anything. Social media protests give the illusion of action, but really they just turn us into one more yammering idiot who’s got all the energy to bitch, and none of the conviction to back it up. A ten percent increase in voter turnout over two or three election cycles would revolutionize this country without firing a shot. But to do it, like encouraging people to go race their bikes, we have to do something more arduous than firing up Facebag and hitting “like.”

The Louie Zamperinis of World War II took action. Maybe we should, too.

END

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