Crossing the color line

April 9, 2018 § 27 Comments

A friend and fellow rider, Ken Vinson, invited me to join the Movement Ride on Saturday. “Sure,” I said. “Where and when?”

“Inglewood, Penuel Cycles, 8:00 AM. Thirty miles, all skill levels, no-drop. Barbecue afterwards.”



Race in America

I’m not talking about the bicycle kind. For those who think our country isn’t divided based on race, maybe you can explain why there were only five or six white people on the Movement Ride, out of 150+ riders.

Inglewood is a few short miles away from where I live in Rancho Palos Verdes, but it might as well be a thousand miles away. I’ve been through it before on a bike, emphasis on the word “through.”

We showed up at George Turner’s bike shop and people were friendly and welcoming. I can’t tell you how many bike rides I’ve been on in my life where no one says hello and where the new person has to “prove himself” in order to be acknowledged. Not here. In a few short minutes I had met a dozen people and run into a dozen more who I already knew, but this time I was in their neighborhood.

If you are a white cyclist you need to go hang out in a black neighborhood with black cyclists. It’s intimidating at first and I felt awkward, aware of looking different. I didn’t have any of the confidence I have on the Donut or the Flog Ride. I was in someone else’s community and I was anxious about it.

I think there’s a phrase for this, something about a shoe and a foot.

It’s just a bike, dude

Ken gave a nice starting speech to the group, which started with about 80 riders but swelled to double that number as we cruised the inner city streets of L.A. The Movement Ride exists to get people together, to use the movement of the bicycle as a movement for people to start trying to make a change in this racially divided country of ours.

Unfortunately, despite having invited over a hundred of his white friends and acquaintances, less than half a dozen showed up. I’d learn throughout the day why that was such a loss, not for my hosts, but for the white cyclists who missed an incredible chance to belong, however briefly, to a black community.

We rolled out from Penuel Cycles and set forth on our ramble through the streets of south central Los Angeles. As soon as the pedals started turning, whatever nervousness I felt evaporated. Perhaps I didn’t feel at home on the streets of Inglewood, but I sure felt at home on my bike.

Real talk

When is the last time a black man talked to you about racism? I was riding next to a guy a few years older than I am, and he recounted leaving L.A. with the Air Force and being stationed in backwater Florida.

“The first morning I went into a donut shop with my crew, I was the only black guy. I was the first one in the shop, everyone else came in after me. There was a register off to the right and another one off to the left. I went to the one on the left, ordered my donuts and coffee and then stood aside. This was 1976, right? The modern era. We all got our donuts, but I was served last.

“We went outside and one of the guys in my crew said, ‘You see, man? That’s how it is in Florida.’

“‘That’s how what is?’ I asked.

“‘You ordered first but you got served last. That’s because you’re black.’

“‘Naw, man,” I said. “I just went to that other register and they filled our orders like that. It didn’t have anything to do with me being black.’

“‘Okay,’ he said.

“The next day we went there to get our donuts and coffee, and I was the first one in, last one served. And we’re standing outside and my friend says, ‘You see? They served you last today and they’ll serve you last every day.’

“While I was standing there trying to not really believe it, this car drives by, it’s seven in the morning, and this guy sticks his head out the window and screams ‘Niggerrrrrr!’ You know, I couldn’t believe it. This was 1976. People didn’t talk that way in Los Angeles. Nobody’s going to drive by in L.A. and scream the n-word at you. That’s how it was, though.

“And I was stationed in the U.K. for seven years and I never heard a racial epithet. People liked me over there, they thought black Americans were cool. But in Florida, that’s the way it was.”

Racism on the bike

When black cyclists ride with white ones, race is usually just beneath the surface. Sometimes it boils over, like it did last Tuesday on the NPR. Sometimes it’s a problem of perception, but often it’s a problem of reality. Some whites react differently to blacks than they do to whites. And although no one likes to ‘fess up and say “I’m a racist,” the fact is that race is still a big problem here, so why should it be magically erased just because we’re on a bicycle?

Answer: It isn’t.

Joining the Movement Ride was an eye-and-mind opening experience. In addition to acutely being aware that I was white and in the minority, I was taken aback by the way motorists treated us. They waved with all five fingers. They honked going the other direction with their thumbs up. A couple of times, young kids on fixies darted out and jumped in with our group, riding wheelies at the front for blocks and blocks.

People at bus stops, and there are a lot of people at bus stops in south central L.A., shouted, whistled, yelled, and hooted encouragement as we whizzed by. At every intersection, Tony and Michael would pull in front and stop traffic with a police whistle while our massive group rolled by.

And you know what? No one got angry. No one cursed. No screaming or honking. The cars just waited until we passed, and then continued on. For them, bikes on the street wasn’t just a normal thing, it was a good thing.

This could never happen in Palos Verdes. You know why? Because so many people here are so fucking mean. And if it was a group of 150 black cyclists, stopping traffic and peacefully riding along the coast? They’d call out every squad car on the force. It made me wonder why the people in Inglewood were so nice to us and the people in PV are so mean. It made me wonder why a black community could be so welcoming to a few white people, but a white community could be so hostile to blacks.

Fear and acceptance

I’m not naive enough to think that truly racist people can be converted with a simple bike ride. But I am convinced that the more white people who experience being in a black community, the better it will be for everyone. Public roads and cycling clubs give us a way to hang out that is natural and normal. Things aren’t forced, and if they get uncomfortable you can always pedal up, drift back, or pedal away.

It’s valuable to get outside of your geographical comfort zones. We’re led to believe that places like Inglewood are dangerous and unsafe for whites, that the “‘hood” is a hostile place. Maybe in some places and at some times of day it is; but on a sunny Saturday morning on your bike, surrounded by pillars of the local community, peacefully enjoying conversation and fellowship, you couldn’t find a safer urban place to ride if you tried.

The initial worry that leads to an eventual feeling of acceptance, or at least an understanding that inside we are all people who want the same basic things, is the first step towards righting a lot of what’s wrong with our society. Making friends means making an effort. Understanding how black people might feel biking through a white community just might require that you spend some time pedaling through a black one.

Barbecue and a few words

When we finished the ride, we celebrated with some of Harry’s Texas barbecue. Harry is from Weatherford and his barbecue puts every other barbecue I’ve ever had in L.A. in the shade. I got to stand up and say a few words, an honor for which I was deeply appreciative.

But in truth I was also really nervous. I’ve never spoken to a 99% black audience before. It’s intimidating, and not just because black communities have no shortage of extraordinary speakers. You don’t want to sound stupid, you don’t want to sound like their stereotype of some fake white dude, you suddenly feel like the impressions you leave people with may affect how they see other people like you. I felt, maybe a little, the way some of the people in my audience may have felt when they were addressing a group of whites.

I got through it without any major gaffes. People clapped warmly, partly because I had the good sense to keep it brief.

We drove home and I thought a lot about how physically being in someone else’s community affects how you see them. Cyclists could all benefit from doing a lot more of that. So could our nation. So could our world.



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Battle of the cowards, Part 3

April 3, 2018 § 11 Comments

On April 10, some voters in Palos Verdes Estates will vote on the dreaded Measure E, a property tax to pay for law enforcement services. The outcome of that vote will determine whether or not the city keeps its police force, or whether it contracts those services out to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. If the measure passes, people worth millions of dollars will have to pay an average ghastly sum of about $900 more taxes per year.

That’s about the cost of a single Ferrari front wheel rim. Ouch!!!

Although the campaign has been pressed in terms of “saving our police department” v. “no new taxes,” it’s really about two horrid policy positions whose true motivations are cloaked and virtually identical. Those who support the tax claim that the city benefits by having Mayberry, RFD homestyle law enforcement. Those who oppose it claim that a contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is a better financial deal.

Both are sort of right, neither is on point, and the obfuscation is intentional.

Back to the basics

You can’t understand the political mechanism of local law enforcement in rich enclaves without understanding why those enclaves were created in the first place. As PV Estate’s foundational documents made clear, the city was created to keep out blacks and non-whites. The demographics of 2018 bear witness to the city’s effectiveness in walling itself off from blacks, although a gradual increase in the number of residents of Asian extraction makes PVE less lily white than it once was.

Although racism was the community’s foundational glue, the modern expression of that racism can no longer be found in legal documents, which have been amended to comport with the U.S. Constitution. This motive remains alive and well, though, in PV Estates’ hatred of “outsiders.” An outsider of course is one who doesn’t own property in PVE, and includes diverse groups such as surfers, cyclists, lawn maintenance workers, and even the police and other civil servants employed by the city. That racism thrives in PV Estates is well documented in this declaration, sworn out under penalty of perjury, by former PVE reserve police officer Benjamin Siounit.

Former PVE police chief Tim Brown in a 1995 interview in The Swell Life, was blunt. In the video, Tim Brown says about Lunada Bay,

People here do not like outsiders in general … I mean, they pay a price to live here. They have beautiful views of the ocean from most of the homes in the city … so they are protective of their community as a whole, surfers or non-surfers … there is a sense of this ownership that’s really connected to their feelings about it.

Law enforcement, whether operated by the city in the form of the PVE police, or by the county in the form of the LA Sheriff’s Department, hews to the city’s fundamental purpose of keeping people out who they designate as outsiders, whether on boards or on bikes. As the voluminous documents regarding this tax measure attest, PV Estates in particular, and the entire peninsula in general, are physically safe places with little violent crime no matter who’s doing the policing.

The problem for peninsula residents today, of course, is that every cyclist and recreational fisherman, not to mention every poor person in California, has the right to enter PVE and enjoy the scenery along places like Bluff Cove regardless of color or place of residence. Therefore, the job of local law enforcement is to make sure that such non-residents exercise their rights of travel and visitation in small numbers and for strictly limited periods of time. The rights of PVE residents, of course, are considerably more expansive, something that visiting surfers and passing cyclists have found out the hard way. So it’s important to understand that at their core there is no disagreement between the opposing parties: Keep out the riff-raff!

There is, however, disagreeableness …

The policy pros and cons of Measure E

The superficial policy choice, it seems, is Andy Griffith v. SWAT. The Andy Griffith supporters are loathe to kick out the cops they have gotten to know over a period of years. At the city council level, the relationship between politicians, administrators, and the police is old-fashioned. It is personal, where everyone knows everyone else, and the cost of Andy Griffith, even to the tune of several million dollars a year, is worth maintaining those human relationships. Underlying that desire to hang onto the police department is the fear that the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, the largest one in the nation with a multi-billion dollar annual budget and paramilitary capabilities, will be too large and too impervious to develop the kind of personal relationships upon which PV Estates residents have become accustomed.

In practical terms, this means being able to direct enforcement arbitrarily, such as a “crackdown” on cyclists who run stop signs, without also enforcing laws against resident drivers who commit the same or worse violations. It means turning a blind eye to violence at Lunada Bay and allowing illegal structures to be built on public property in defiance of state law. And of course it means being the one in the driver’s seat: The police chief serves at the leisure of his bosses, the council and the city manager. The sheriff’s deputies work for someone else entirely and may not be quite as amenable to doing Robert Chapman’s bidding.

The difficulty of squaring the circle was recognized by PVE’s most recent chief of police, Jeff Kepley, who resigned after a four-month unexplained leave of absence, and is but one in a long string of people who have learned the hard way that PV Estates is one tough beat if you want to be chief of police. In short, as this email filed in litigation against the city makes crystal clear, the police in PVE simply cannot reconcile the requirement that they enforce the law with the practical difficulty of enforcing it against the people who hire them.

No amount of funding or taxation can remedy this problem; it’s as old as mankind, and it even has a name: Conflict of interest. Interestingly, none of the people in favor or opposed to the Measure E law enforcement property tax bring this up. There’s no discussion of whether or not the beat deputies of LA Sheriff’s Department will eventually be co-opted in the same manner as the officers on PVE’s police force. To the contrary, supporters of a contract with the sheriff’s department go to great lengths to assure voters that the deputies will provide the same on-the-street, local policing as the PVE police.

Lest anyone think the sheriff’s deputies won’t kiss the residents’ asses, the Bluff Cove front for Robert Chapman even claims that the sheriff’s department will hire “the best and brightest” from the current ranks of the city’s police force. Whether that’s true or not, the clear message is that residents will get the same arbitrary law enforcement and coddling that they “deserve.”

No one seems to think that what PV Estates law enforcement needs is more transparency, more independence from the city council, and more accountability outside the hands of the people to whom they will writing tickets and arresting junior for coke and DUI. Why is that? Because, as noted above, the purpose of policing in PV Estates is primarily to keep people out.

Feels like money

It’s unfortunate that the jobs of the PV Estates police are now likely to depend on an economic analysis, and even more unfortunate that the best analysis has been developed and advocated for by a group called the Palos Verdes Residents for Good Government. Unlike the vitriolic screeds peddled by “Ankur,” and the PVE hate web site, this group has members who actually sign their names to the things they believe in. Moreover, their analysis of Measure E really shows that it makes no financial sense to continue funding the local cop shop.

I won’t re-analyze their analysis, but if dollars are what move you, scroll through their mostly pro “Pros & Cons” and go with L.A. Sheriff’s Department.

Agreement in the guise of a dispute

It’s easy to see how deeply so many PV Estates residents dislike outsiders. All you have to do is scroll any of the Next Door comments about cycling and Big Orange. But it’s difficult to appreciate how profoundly PVE residents hate the other subset of outsiders, which are the people who work for them. This includes domestic workers, lawn care workers, pool care workers, construction workers, and city employees of every kind, including the police.

When I say hate, I don’t necessarily mean the direct, verbal kind, although if you scroll through the emails from Robert Chapman I obtained from a public records request and posted below, you’ll recoil at the disdain, ugliness, and contempt he displays for people who are simply doing their job in a way he disagrees with.

Yet the true measure of how deeply PVE residents despise those who serve them can be seen in the discussions on Next Door and other social media, where the outrage at police workers who make $140,000 a year and up for having a “cushy job” drives the residents insane. No one thinks to ask why having a well paid, safe, easy, not too stressful job is a bad thing. And no one thinks to ask how it is that wealthy retirees and shrub fund managers, people who do little or nothing of substance or value all day long, get off complaining about other people also having a good life.

This is where, oddly, the pro-Measure E and the anti-Measure E forces elide. Staunchly Trumpian, staunchly anti-tax, staunchly in favor of the rich and at war with the poor, PV Estates, at its core, evaluates everyone as either an insider or an outsider.

This is because it’s the good life that the Chapmans, the Jennifer Kings, the angry pro-tax and the angry, anti-tax residents of PVE so deeply begrudge their police and their city employees. Few if any of them can stand the thought that for a few extra hundred dollars a year out of their fat pockets some middle-class guy with a 2-hour commute might have good health insurance, a good job, a secure future, a good retirement, a happy life. The pro-tax advocates will argue about the efficiency of the force in jailing outsiders, and the anti-tax advocates will argue about the shock and awe of LASD, but no one will argue, ever, for the basic decency of having a little bit less so that someone else can have a lot more.

Instead, the Chapmans of PVE double down and triple down on people who they see as the worst kind of sponges, incompetent ne’er do-wells getting fat off the public weal. And it’s this evil, the Trumpian orthodoxy of “Everything for me, nothing for you,” that roils beneath the beautiful coastal scenery of PV Estates, a parsimonious, sanctimonious, jealous, and disgraceful inability to accept that the good life just might possibly, maybe, be good for other human beings, too.

Notes: The links below to Robert Chapman’s correspondence with the city reveal, in my opinion, a truly bad person. It will be impossible for you to digest the volume of these endlessly repetitive diatribes; it’s my personal opinion that the guy has severe problems. Feral cat feeding is a major policing issue? Are you fucking kidding me?

The correspondence is so full of contradictions, silliness, abuse, visions of grandeur, and bizarre claims that you would never be able to catalog the nuttiness of it all. However, here are a few lowlights:

  1. Chapman complains about runaway policing costs, but his type of hysterical, agitated snowflake demands are what drive up the police budget with silly phone calls, emails, and demands that the police come out and investigate a raccoon.
  2. Chapman rails against city manager Tony Dahlerbruch’s salary, the salaries of city staff, and the pay raises for city staff, but simultaneously demands that multiple branches of city government be tied up dealing with his petulance. This is the classic PV Estates resident: I want you to work 90 hours a week dealing with my shit, but I don’t want to pay you for it. I’d say that dealing with Chapman for even ten e-mails entitles you to be the highest paid city manager on earth.
  3. Chapman harps on PV Estate’s “naturally low crime rate” thanks to geography and Torrance PD, i.e. passing on the cost to the taxpayers in a different cities. This is Trumpism at its best–you pay for my border wall.
  4.  One of his rants demands that any replacement chief of police live in PV Estates. This is the same guy who doesn’t want to pay high salaries, as if you can buy a home in PV on $100,000 per year. He also pretends to be some sort of broker for police chief applicants and invites them to submit their applications to his organization for screening. This is crazy as fuck. “Screening by the Coalition”?
  5. Chapman has liaised with Jim Nyman, the former mayor who caused the “problem” in the first place by creating the original parcel tax, although he assures people “We needed the money then!” and compares the city’s addiction to tax money to a kid addicted to cocaine, an analogy that so many PV parents will instantly identify with.
  6. In one email, Chapman claims PV is low-crime due to its “moat,” then switches sides in another email to bike-hating RPV city councilwoman Susan Brooks, asserting that the “crime wave of 2015” is continuing in a lesser form today. This is classic Chapman: say different things to different people and hope they don’t notice the difference because you have to wade through so much awful writing. Sometimes he’s attacking those attacking the Bay Boys, sometimes he’s using the class action lawsuit against the Bay Boys as evidence of police failure. Everyone sucks in Chapman’s world, except for one really cool guy, an “ankur,” to use a very hip word. To me he seems Trumpian in this profound way: Seek to destroy those who disagree, and don’t worry if everything he touches turns to shit.
  7. In another string, Chapman rides so far off the reservation that his horse dies when he hits the issue of license plate citations. His concern about this incredibly serious crime may have stemmed from the time he got cited by a cop, so now he insists that everyone on planet earth feel the same $35 pain he felt. When the police chief tells him that discretion is part of policing, it is like water poured on the surface of the sun.
  8. He is a relentless busybody snooping into construction permits, then complaining about city budgets when planning staff are hired. How is the city supposed to deal with all this whining if they don’t have employees? Chapman never says. Maybe they should just volunteer?
  9. In an email of Aug. 25, he claims that the trailhead coincidentally near his home is a haven for narcotics trafficking, where in an earlier email he claims that the city is safe and the cop jobs are easy. Yes, easy narcotics undercover work. Sign me right up.
  10. Chapman’s very small mind is filled to bustin’ with violations pertaining to illegal fireworks, illegal noise, illegal fires, illegal parties, and of course the Gog & Magog of high crimes & misdemeanors: Illegal parking. Leaping off the ledge into the deepest of deep ends, in one email he compares the situation at Bluff Cove near his home to NYC and Rudy’ Giulani’s “Broken Windows” policing policy. What NYC has in common with Chapman’s neighborhood is probably best left to a very good astrologist, or faith healer, or a Navajo sweat lodge.
  11. In his vein of high crimes & misdemeanors, an Aug. 19 email howls at the moon re: Side-by-side social cycling. I’ve been cycling all my life and have never heard this term. I thought all cycling with another human was social. Maybe he’s contrasting it to time trialing?
  12. The heat in his tiny little cranial kitchen gets unbearable as Chapman, in a June 23, 2016 email notes that PVE is internationally known as a place to break the law. Do we laugh? Cry? Take another fistful of Advil? I dunno.
  13. And there are hundreds and hundreds of pages like this, many documenting his ongoing obsession with barking dogs and a party rental. At one point we see him urging his like-minded neighbors to stage a call-in campaign at five minute intervals, supposedly to pressure the city and the police. Someone needs to gently tell him about “straight to voicemail.”
  14. Chapman reveals his methods in an Oct. 6, 2015 email, discouraging a compatriot from going to an actual meeting, and instead lauding the efficacy of phone calls and emails. Where some may see strategy, I see sloth and his cowering acceptance of reality; namely, going out in public is unpleasant when you have been rude and abusive to so many people.

In all their glory, here are the Chapman emails, replete with clunky prose, veiled threats, childish taunts, and hysterical claims all rolled into a fat slug of PDFs. You will not get far before your head hurts, I promise.








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Crashing the Crash

March 31, 2018 § 6 Comments

One of the craziest and most infamous rides in Los Angeles is the Marathon Crash Ride. It is held in the wee hours of the morning before the L.A. Marathon, when the marshals have closed off the city roads for the run the next day.

Thousands of bikes take over the streets for a few short miles, and it is epic. Joann Zwagerman, friend and Big Orange teammate, led a crew out to the Crash Race for the third year, and was kind enough to share this report:

“This was my third year doing the LA marathon bicycle crash ride. The first year, 2016,  I organized about eight people. It was drizzling, foggy, cold and damp. We were late because we had some mechanicals and the feeder ride we latched onto dropped almost their whole group. We adopted them and towed them to the start. We missed the start and had the entire road to ourselves. The whole experience is seeing the mass. Different people, different ages, and everyone on different types of bikes. We were still blown away by being able to ride eight abreast down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard with not one car around us.

“The second year, 2017, we met at The Kettle in Manhattan Beach and there were about sixteen of us. This year, we were in front of the entire group, dodging fixies and breathing in fumes from the police cars that were pacing us. It was stop-and-go and we didn’t really get to see what I felt this ride was all about, which is the people. Not being able to see the critical mass behind us was a huge missed opportunity. Who cares about being in front unless you’re racing? Not I!

“I had actually decided not to do the Crash Ride this year. Actually, until Friday night, I had forgotten I was organizing a feeder ride to the event. Thank god that someone who doesn’t do social media texted and asked me what the plans were! That is so Franzi Utter, the sweetest, cutest woman ever, asked me to do it again because she missed it last year. How could I say no to that girl and her pretty face? Of course I was in. I put out a Strava event on the FDR Facebook page and we had about twenty-five people show up at 1:00 AM at The Kettle.

“Five people were late and had to chase. All but one of them made the feeder ride and the others met us at the start. JP Seal rode all the way down from Santa Monica and was right on time! Pointy fucking sharp people! I will wait on most rides but not on a ride that leaves at 1:00 AM.

“As we rode down Vista Del Mar, I noticed that a young man, sixteen years old and about my son’s age, had the smallest rear light I had ever seen. As a mother hen, I yelled at him, “Turn your light on!”  Then I got nervous. He reached back and was not keeping a straight line. I told him to please wait until we got to the bridge so as not to crash out fifty people. I yelled at the group to stop at the bridge. “What is your name?” I asked. I have memory issues so I already knew I would never remember his name because it wasn’t Bob or Steve or Jack or any one syllable word. “I will just call you Child,” I told him. “You will be known to me as Child for the rest of the night. Now turn on your tiny little goddamn microscopic light.”

“It was dead, of course, not that it would have made any difference given its tininess. I gave him one of my three honking 100-lumen taillights and felt confident that he had a proper light, as the people behind him were wincing. His dad thanked me and then we were off. I rode behind Child the entire way east and lectured him about the importance of lights, not just at night but also in the day. Justin Okubo, who I also call Child because I have another child his age, told Child II to try and get used to my motherly lectures. He said that I treat him the same way even though he isn’t a child anymore, he is 19! Lol! I told Child II if he promised to ride with this light on in the day, it would be my present to him. So he promised. Hope he’s not a little liar like most 16-year-olds making promises to strangers.

“Funny thing, this year, my new pointy-sharp attitude was not appreciated. We were an hour and a half early! We had no mechanicals, no flats, and a bit of a tailwind. That’s what you get for being on time–you get there early. We ended up waiting in the freezing cold for 1.5 hours. We found a Fatburger with no bathroom and that just wouldn’t do. I and another went searching for a more suitable establishment with flushing privileges. We found a 24-hour Subway that was warm and had bathrooms. We waited there until 3:45 AM. I’m sure they loved us.

“We rolled out and instantly started shivering, and it was going to get even colder as the night went on. Heading towards the start, even before we turned the corner, we could smell the reefer and hear all the people. Over a thousand strong and we were approaching them head-on. It was an amazing sight, one that if you’ve never seen before, you should. It’s not like any other bike ride. Not everyone was in a kit or wearing a helmet, by a long shot. There were so many different kinds of bikes. If I could have taken more photos, I would have, but I can barely drink from my water bottle let alone take pictures while I ride, let alone do it in the midst of a thousand stoned crazy people on bikes.

“This is a ride where I would never not have both hands on the bars at all times. There were all-skill sets and no-skill sets, and they were all mish-mashed together. There were people who were high and reckless, and I didn’t want to be crashed out. Amazingly, I didn’t see a single person die.

“I made the speech beforehand so everyone knew what to expect. If you wanted to ride in the front you were welcome to, but you’d miss the view and all the cool outfits and bikes. If you wanted to ride in the back, you were free to, but there might be carnage. All the points I touched on above were discussed.

“I decided to ride in the middle with my German girl, Franzi. We’d all meet at the end of the ride, and I begged everyone to be careful. Franzi and I had the perfect spot. We saw the sea of critical mass in front of us. We smelt the burning rubber and reefer of fixies going downhill, we saw people dressed in next to nothing while we were wishing for skiwear, and we rode handlebar to handlebar calling out hazards and not letting anyone wheel chop us. It was perfect except for the cold, which hit 40.7 at the low, in other words, it was horrible.

“The marshals seemed to have shortened the course this year; it was over quickly. We regrouped and headed back to the South Bay. We had all planned for breakfast but everyone just wanted to go home and get warm, or at least get to a point where they could feel their teeth again.

“The next day I felt as I had the year before and the year before that. I felt like I had pulled an all-nighter, but instead of having done it at work or over a pile of books, I’d done it on a bike. I was groggy and in a fog most of the day. Will I do it again next year?  I say no right now but I probably will. In 2019, though, I’ll take more photos and wear a puffy coat!”

If you’d like to read the article from LA Weekly last year, here it is:

And if you have some time to kill you can watch this video from Joey Cooney, it’s here:



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Passing it on

March 30, 2018 § 8 Comments

The biggest benefit of having my wife ride is learning that I actually know something about cycling and, more amazingly, that I can teach it. I had a conversation with my friend Nancy Linn the other day, she of the PV Bike Chicks, and we talked about doing a basic skills clinic for a small group of riders. The PV Bike Chicks have been riding on the Hill for almost a decade now, and they are a great example of cyclists who are also wonderful members of the community.

Seven members of the “Early Bird” crew showed up at Malaga Cove Plaza and we dropped down to the parking lot by the church to start our clinic. Our goal was to work on one aspect of riding that Yasuko and I have been working on together, riding even-wheeled or, put negatively, “not half-wheeling.”

Half-wheeling is endemic to cycling; you’d be amazed how few people have ever even heard of it, let alone know what it is, and that includes a lot of “racers.” Yet riding even-wheeled is a critical component of good cycling skills because it teaches a whole bunch of mission-critical skills in a single activity. Even-wheeled riding means:

  • You are forced to use peripheral vision to keep track of your neighbor’s wheel.
  • You are forced to pay attention to someone other than yourself.
  • You are forced to develop the skills of making micro, fine adjustments to position and line.
  • You are forced to ride closer.
  • You are forced to improve your reaction time.

We practiced for about an hour and the results were stupendous. My students learned a lot, but as any teacher will tell you, the mark of a good lesson is whether the teacher learned at least as much as the students.

I did! And to make matters even better, when we finished they graciously gave me a coffee gift card. I think that’s what they call #winning.



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Battle of the cowards, Part 2

March 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

In the right-wing corner we have the good citizens of PV Estates, supporting Measure E and hoping like hell that the community will foot a tax increase allowing the city to keep its police department. In the ultra-right-wing corner we have the Worst Neighbor Ever a/k/a Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr. a/ka/ Ankur, opposing Measure E and hoping like hell that the community will shut down its police department and obtain law enforcement services through an allegedly cheaper contract with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

But who are these two opponents?

The tattle-tale of the tape

It’s my opinion that Chapman is the person behind the Bluff Cove Homeowner’s Association, a “group” whose membership, directors, bylaws, or actual existence as a bona fide HOA I’ve been unable to conclusively determine. It’s certainly not listed as a corporation with the California Secretary of State, however, unincorporated HOA’s are also allowed under California law. The fact that Bluff Cove may simply be a #fakeHOA doesn’t mean that its goals aren’t legitimate. It’s possible that the best option for cyclists riding through PV Estates is the elimination of the police department and having the laws enforced by the sheriff’s department.

Simply because “Ankur” (better yet, “Stinkur) is the World’s Worst Neighbor doesn’t mean he’s wrong about Measure E. In fact, social gadflies all the way back to Socrates have been shunned and put to death for supporting unpopular ideas. As repulsive as Stinkur may be, and even though hiring LASD may be his worst nightmare if it ever comes to pass, his idea should be evaluated on the merits and not rejected out of hand simply because he’s the abominable next door neighbor from the planet Crapulon.

Stinkur’s race resume

At the same time, it pays to know with whom you’re dealing, and Stinkur has left a trail of Internet rubble ten miles wide. By understanding his tactics, mindset, and psychology, everyone benefits.

Let’s start with the basics. What does Chapman do for a living? He buys and sells stocks. Based on the information I’ve been able to glean, he does it very, very well. Although he’s a fourth-string scrub, more of a palm frond fund than a hedge fund compared to his idol Carl Icahn, a fourth-rate scrub lugging dirty jockstraps in the stock market world is still an incredibly smart and successful person. And note this: No one gave Chapman his financial success. He took it.

Among his successes was his assault on Vitesse Semiconductor Corp., where he correctly identified poor management and made activist-investor history by applying pressure on the Vitesse board through the use of the mandatory 13-D filing. This arcane SEC regulatory scrap of paper allows you to attach exhibits, which Chapman did to great effect by writing nasty, insulting letters and appending them to the 13-D form. In the staid world of finance, Chapman’s vituperative, arrogant, and personal attacks made waves. It’s a trait that served him well then, and a style that appears throughout the PV Estates attack web site that sure looks, sounds, and smells like Chapman’s handiwork.

Here are a few samples of Chapman’s filings with the SEC. You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom to read the exhibits, which are copies of letters written by Stinkur. My favorite line in the American Properties Trust filing is where Chapman reports that he was called a “fucking pain in the ass.”

In re: American Communities Property Trust (1)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (2)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (3)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (4)

Unfortunately, Chapman’s graphomania will get the better of you. It will beat you down into a sobbing, convulsing mash of neurons because these are only the tip of the iceberg. By using the SEC’s EDGAR search service you can pull up all of his filings, many of which were under the hilariously named “Chap-Cap” fund, imagery which makes me think of a short, tubby, bald little man waddling around with a stick wearing nothing but a pair of fake leather chaps.

But as satisfying as it is to poke fun at his grammar flubs, extra spacing, commas in the wrong place, run-on sentences, tired cliches, impressively uninventive insults, and generally awful prose, his writing reveals a lot. First, he’s smart. Second, pounding away at the keyboard is more than a tool for berating the PV Estates locals: It’s his job, which means he makes money at it. Third, he succeeded in finance by poking people in the eye. Don’t think for a moment that any amount of abuse, name-calling, or proportionate responses will calm him down. He was born angry and mean, and that’s how he’ll die. Pity the woman he calls wife and the child he calls daughter, is all I can say.

Reading a few paragraphs of Chapman’s indiscriminate spleen, whether directed at the director of a big company or some middle-class working man just trying to get by, you might get the idea that he’s a raging lunatic. Reality check: He’s not raging. This 2017 telephone interview on CNBC investing reveals anything but the timbre of a crazy person. (If you’re wondering why he chose to do the interview by phone, it’s possible that someone told him not to ever show up again in public wearing this thrift-store necktie and floppy garbage sack of a suit.) To the contrary, his cool, collected, informed, and intelligent observations create a trainwreck of contrast if all you’re accustomed to are his volcanic sewage vents on the Internet. And buried in the interview he reveals the working of his psyche: He loves opposing people, but you gotta have sound analysis.

This bodes poorly for the PV Estates denizens trying to keep their police department on life support. Chapman may truly be “Stinkur, the World’s Worst Neighbor.” But if you don’t think he has arrayed a solid and defensible set of facts, you had better redo your homework assignment. Chapman’s analysis of the attempted takeover of Herbalife was spot on, and we can assume he had at least fifty bucks on the line. What makes you think his analysis of Measure E is any less considered?

The qualities that make Chapman a good investor–solitary, introverted, bad people skills, highly mathematical–are ones that make him a flop of a corporate manager. In his brief stint as CEO at EDCI Holdings, he started off with Trumpian grandiosity, bragging that “As CEO, my primary goal is to lead EDCI’s transition into a respected, fairly valued public company by prudently and diligently applying all or part of its approximately $50 million in holding company cash towards the equity component of a small capitalization acquisition.” A couple of months later, the company was liquidating.

What does it all mean for Measure E?

The problem with Chapman’s race resume, of course, is that he has excelled in investing and therefore thinks that his intelligence and judgment automatically transfer into local politics. He may be right. Attack dog methods, smearing opponents, incorrectly citing the law, creating the illusion of organization, and relentlessly pummeling inboxes and chat rooms with thousands and thousands of words could well be what seals the deal. In any municipal tax fight, the winners are usually punishing and loud.

On the other hand, it could well backfire. Chapman writes a lot, but he writes badly. He lacks humility even in parts per trillion, and as soon as he veers away from finance he comes across as more blibber-blabber than savant.

Fortunately, my public records request resulted in hundreds of pages of emails relating to Chapman and Measure D, the predecessor to Measure E. So there’s plenty to analyze. When it comes to paying more taxes for anything, it’s hard to see a snobby enclave like PV Estates assenting to it. But when it comes to living with anything less than on-demand law enforcement against outsiders, especially those who are black, non-white, or poor, it’s equally hard to see PV Estates voting away their cop shop.

Irresistible force, meet immovable object, so pull up a ringside chair. The price of a bag of of popcorn in PV Estates is about to go up.



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Battle of the cowards, Part 1

March 27, 2018 Comments Off on Battle of the cowards, Part 1

Yesterday I was scrolling through the list of web sites that have recently linked to this blog, and I came across an unusual one: It’s not often that the police are designated as an endangered species, a list more often populated by things like democracy, the First Amendment, and equality under the law.

Not very intrigued, I clicked on the link and it took me to an anonymous web site purporting to support the Palos Verdes Estates police department and “Measure E,” the tax measure that PVE residents will vote for or against on April 10, and depending on the outcome, will either re-fund or abolish the city police department and replace it with a policing contract through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

This “PVE Cops Matter” web site lists the bare bones of Measure E and why you should vote for it. A more detailed impartial analysis is here, and the rabid voice against the tax proposal is here. At the end of the day it’s a bunch of almost rich people fighting over how much tax money to spend to keep out the riff-raff, so, whatevs.

But in the early part of the day, or rather the wee hours, it has something to do with democracy, with #fakenews, with Internet trolls, with the cowardice of the almost rich, and of course with cycling.

Cycling first

Almost three years ago the cycling hordes remonstrated with the powers that be in PV Estates and got them to put up a couple of signs stating the law, that cars must give cyclists three feet when passing. This created a backlash of incredible proportions and resulted in the mayor and her city council slapping down any further steps to enhance road safety for vulnerable users.

The fury of the almost rich people was impressive, such that the police were temporarily put on “biker harassment duty,” resulting in many trips down to Torrance courthouse to have bogus tickets dismissed. Over time, though, the unending stream of cyclists and the intensity of the political battle caused most PV Estates residents to shrug and stop caring, finally realizing that cyclists pose zero hazard to their Rage Rovers, and finally grasping that every bike rolling through PV Estates meant one less car.

“Less cars in our city.” This was arithmetic they could understand, and it happened in tandem with a lawsuit against the city, its police force, and several residents alleging all manner of high crimes and misdemeanors in regard to violence at the Lunada Bay surf break. In short, the bikers lost the battle but won the war. The cops no longer harass us, most are downright friendly, and the nastiest residents aren’t much worse than resigned to having healthful, safe outdoor activities in their non-exclusive community.

Little boy chicken

One price for engaging in civic discourse in PV Estates is, unfortunately, the risk that you might incur the wrath of Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr. Early on in the bike battle I heard whispers about this guy, mostly along the lines of “be careful,” and “he is spiteful beyond belief,” and “Bob has the world’s worst baldheaded short man complex.”

It turns out that although the first warning was needless, and the third warning was possibly true, in my opinion Chapman really is the most horrible person in PV Estates. And for an enclave whose mayor and city council hate people for riding bicycles, that’s saying something.

Who is Chapman? That’s a good question, because much of the conflict and fury that I encountered when advocating for safety for vulnerable road users seemed to be fomented by a small group of truly hateful people. After listening to the rumors, I wondered if Chapman were perhaps the Hater-in-Chief, so I made a public records request to the city to find out if he was as nasty as I had heard.

Several hundred dollars and more than a month later, the horribly overtaxed city clerk handed me a disk with all of the documents responsive to my request. Although Chapman’s name had been redacted from many of the documents since they are police incidents, given the fact that the documents were produced in response to a request for “activities or complaints regarding or connected with Robert Chapman,” it is my opinion, and will likely be yours, too, that the person responsible for the great majority of these these complaints is not someone you’d want to ever call “neighbor,” let alone “in-law.”

The police incident reports connected to Chapman are astounding, so I’ve broken them down into three files. Note that these are all public documents and available to anyone willing to make the request and pay the copying fee. They are only current through March, 2017, so if you make your own request you will likely unearth a lot more.

  1. Various incidents, file 1.
  2. Various incidents, file 2.
  3. Various incidents, file 3.

But these records documenting the World’s Worst Neighbor Ever are not all. Chapman is also the ultimate keyboard warrior, a guy who I’ve never seen show up to contest an issue before the city council, but who prefers to flood the world with his opinions via email and, I also believe, anonymous Internet commentary.

In response to my records request, the city also released hundreds of emails from Chapman, many of which bear his name and company logo, and others which use one of his favorite handles, “ankur.” You will get a big laugh when you read the Urban Definition of “ankur,” and try to square it with this bald, squat, middle-aged Internet tough guy holed up in an ugly house as he complains to the police about raccoons.

Many of the emails relate to the hilarious Chapman “assault” case; others relate to his virulent opposition to Measure D, the precursor to Measure E, which he now also opposes and leads the charge against. I’ll post those and an analysis of the Measure E funding bill later in this series.

When chickens battle

One of the hallmarks of cowardice is anonymity, especially when used to tear down others. The Bluff Cove HOA web site as well as the web site dedicated to attacking individual PV residents and cops (since put behind a registration wall), bear great similarity to Chapman’s writing, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that he’s the author.

But The World’s Worst Neighbor is old news in PV Estates, and he is in many ways its most representative resident. Chapman’s hostility to non-residents, his aggressive use of his copious free time to badger opponents, his vindictiveness, his shame at being rich but not super rich, and his belief that the public should be subordinate to his personal wants is what the establishment of places like PV Estates were all about in the first place, with a particular emphasis on the exclusion of blacks and non-whites. So as odious as Chapman is, he’s also a fair representative of the community and its mores, too. The violence at Lunada Bay and the hate crime attack against the Pakistani liquor shop owner in PVE a few years back didn’t germinate in a petri dish of love, acceptance, diversity, and justice.

You need look no farther than the web site opposing him and dedicated to :saving” the PVE police department to find the commonality … this web site is anonymous, too. Apparently when you are outraged and angered in PV Estates, you scurry off to your computer and let ’em have it, anonymously.

Because, you know, that’s how Madison, Hamilton, and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers.



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Hey, you, get offa my cloud

March 22, 2018 Comments Off on Hey, you, get offa my cloud

After writing about e-bikes I remembered that someone had once written me about allowing e-bikers to join a dino bike club. Unlike Sam Nunberg’s drunken inability to remember how to use the “search” function in Outlook, I easily found the email. Here’s what I said:

What follows are my personal opinions. I do not represent you or your club (indeed I don’t even know which club you’re in), and I haven’t done any legal research on this issue. If you are facing real or threatened litigation, you should retain legal counsel versed in non-profit law who can guide you on the proper steps to take. My comments below do not represent legal analysis and should not be relied upon to make any legal decisions. As a consequence, no attorney-client relationship is being created by the personal opinions expressed below, and you should have no expectation of confidentiality or privacy with regard to these communications as they are strictly personal and not based on any type of legal consultation or advice. As you say in your email, you are not seeking legal advice and are asking my personal opinion only.

In general, I think that a club is free to admit or deny membership based on whatever criteria it sets forth in its bylaws. That would include excluding e-bikes or motorized riders. I think that a club’s board could amend its bylaws to state that the organization exists to promote non-motorized, non e-bike, human-powered vehicular travel and that participation in group rides is limited to traditional, human-powered bicycles.

While you can’t stop people from hopping into your group rides since the roads are public, I think you are on pretty solid ground to limit your rides and membership to non-e-bike, non-motorized vehicles.

I think there are serious safety issues involved in mixing vehicle types. Speed and weight are the two most obvious ones, but I think there are fundamental problems concerning people on bike rides getting to compensate for their declining strength by using motors. Why not admit electric mopeds or small-displacement e-motorcycles? Why not admit high-powered wheelchairs, at least on flat roads?

If it were me, I would tell the e-bike riders to go form their own club and to ride with someone else. Failing that, I would leave the group or at least not participate in the mixed rides. I have enough problems staying upright without considering the additional parameters of mixed motorized vehicles posing as bicycles.

That said, e-bikes are an amazing innovation that have gotten tens of thousands of people on bikes. They also are mobility enhancing for older and disabled people. I support them and think they’re great, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ride with one in a mixed group.

No, my opinion hasn’t “evolved”

It drives me crazy when people say their opinions have evolved. They think that somehow the word “evolved” makes it look more reasoned than ‘fessing up to the truth, which is “I was a dumbass and wrong and now I have changed my mind.”

In other words, I was a dumbass and wrong and now I have changed my mind about these two paragraphs:

I think there are serious safety issues involved in mixing vehicle types. Speed and weight are the two most obvious ones, but I think there are fundamental problems concerning people on bike rides getting to compensate for their declining strength by using motors. Why not admit electric mopeds or small-displacement e-motorcycles? Why not admit high-powered wheelchairs, at least on flat roads?

If it were me, I would tell the e-bike riders to go form their own club and to ride with someone else. Failing that, I would leave the group or at least not participate in the mixed rides. I have enough problems staying upright without considering the additional parameters of mixed motorized vehicles posing as bicycles.

Group rides and e-wankers

The whole point behind the hammer ride is to measure testosterone as expressed by who gets dropped. The more people you drop the more you are #winning. The more you get dropped the more you are getting #trumped, i.e. being #pussygrabbed or #weeniegrabbed.

Mixing vehicle types might be a safety issue if one rider had a throttle and was goosing it mid-pack, but such assholes exist on dino bikes as well, riders who chop your wheel, execute dangerous gutter passes, or hook your bars. They are excoriated and ostracized, just as a misbehaving e-biker would be. Otherwise, e-wankers on hammer rides are just that, people who can’t make the bike go fast with their legs so they do it with a motor, convincing themselves that they really did put out the same effort as the 18-year-old with an ftp of 376 watts. This doesn’t make e-wankers dangerous or a “fundamental problem” on the hammer ride. It just makes them lame.

In fact, for years we’ve had the equivalent of an e-wanker on the Donut Ride, a dude who is very fit and fast who hops in mid-ride on one of the climbs and puts scores of people to the sword simply because he’s fresh. He isn’t a safety issue, he’s an ego issue who quickly deflates the carefully nurtured self-perceptions of all the people he passes. As long as your e-bike isn’t dragging a wagon or running handlebars that stick out to Houston, go ahead and hop in with your crazy delusions about fitness and speed.

Why is that okay? Because we’re all delusional in varying degrees and it doesn’t make sense to punish one group of whackos any more than another.

But what about the Flog?

Every Thursday morning there’s a fitness ride that leaves Malaga Cove at 6:35 AM, pointy-sharp. The point of the ride is to do intervals. It is a bastion of #profamateurism, delusion, and efforts so hard that they actually make people vomit.

What about on the Flog? What are we gonna do when some brokedown e-wanker shows up and wins all the sprunts? Dusts us up La Cuesta? Slaughters us on the golf course wall?

We are going to do the same thing we’d do if he or she were on a dino bike. Explain the course, explain the etiquette, explain the safety rules, and ride our fuggin’ bikes. Because not only are more bikes on the street a good thing, but my delusions are too old, too thick, and too impervious to be punctured by your electric motor.



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