Our protesters were hotter than yours

July 7, 2016 § 22 Comments

First, thank you Judy Frankel. It was a few hours before the PV Estates Traffic Safety Committee, and we were all hard at work (okay, screwing off on Facebag), trying to figure out our approach for the meeting.

The committee agenda had three recommendations for the city council:

  1. Take down the “Bike Laws Strictly Enforced” signs, burn them, and force the charred ashes down the throats of all the yahoos we’ve caught assaulting cyclists on video.
  2. Put up “3 Feet–It’s the Law” signs that are designed so simply that your cat could read it and your dog could pee on the signpost.
  3. Put up “Share the Road” signs so that irate cagers could scream, “Get over onto the edge you stupid fuggin’ biker! The sign says SHARE!”

We all agreed that #1 was good and #2 was real good. But we thought #3 stank. So Judy Frankel advised us that we needed to come loaded for BMUFL: Bikes May Use Full Lane.

We hustled in a full crew of stinky cyclists, most still clad in their damp chamois, that included Jose Godinez, Sarah Barraclough, James Olsen, Linda Campbell, Matt Miller, Tom Duong, Susan Varee, Joann Zwagerman, Delia Park, Michael Barraclough, Alistair Miller, Greg Seyranian, Pete Richardson, Joey Cooney, Geoffrey Louis, Matt Chartier, JR Rossetti, Kristie Fox, Robert Cisneros, and Wendy Watson.

Before the meeting we had to choose between putting together an organized and well thought out approach or go pound our bikes for a few laps around the Wanky Super Power Loop. By the time we’d done three loops everyone was exhausted and had no energy to do anything except listen dully to our Feared Leader, Michael Claw of the Bear.

“Listen up, fuckers,” he said. “I’m going to make this so simple even a cyclist can understand it. The committee doesn’t decide anything, but it can kill everything. These guys make recommendations for the city council to act on. Piss them off at your peril.”

“What are we supposed to say?” asked one cowering, lycra clad sweatlump.

Claw of the Bear handed out Post-it notes. “I’ve dumbed it down for a First Grader, then dumbed it down again for us,” he said. “There are three points:

“1) Take down bad signs: Good.

“2) Put up 3-foot signs. Good.

“3) Put up “Share the Road” signs: Bad.

“4) Put up BMUFL signs: Good.”

“Er, sir,” protested one cyclist, weakly. “That’s four points.”

“I said four points,” Claw of the Bear shot back. “Four points. Now let’s go!”

We marched into the council chambers and leaned our bikes up against the corridor wall while a couple of riders with rather excitable bowels dashed into the restroom to “rest.” The sound of cracking porcelain rang throughout the council chambers.

The meeting was called to order, the pledge was read, and a few traitors were hung by the neck until dead, after which their bodies were thrown to a pack of wild dogs outside the window.

“Okay, you bastards,” said the committee chair. “Who’s next?”

We all cowered in our seats and pretended that we had simply come to take notes. “Let me tell you sonsofbitches how this meeting is gonna go,” said the committee chair. “First one of you underwear-clad clowns leaves a sweat stain on our expensive city council church pews is gonna hang by the neck until dead. Any questions?”

We had none and the meeting came to order. First off was The Great Parking On PVDW Controversy. Concerned citizens stood up and discussed the incredible importance of this pressing issue while the committee tried to stay awake and the police chief idly spun the cylinder of his .357 to see who was going to get shot first for going over the 3-minute speaking time limit.

After a half hour of avid discussion about the life-or-death parking issue, we moved on to the bike signage item on the agenda. “Okay, you bastards,” said the committee chair. “I know what you all want and let’s get this straight: You ain’t gonna get it. So you might as well shut up and go home now. Plus you all stink to high heaven. Take a bath next time, willya?”

Claw of the Bear was not to be intimidated. “We like #1 and #2, but #3 is dumb. D-U-M-B. The last time I saw something that dumb I was in Texas. So we propose something smart. Put up BMUFL signs.”

“What did you call me?” the committee chair bellowed.

“I didn’t call you anything,” said Claw of the Bear.

“Like hell you didn’t.”

“I just said BMUFL signs.”

“He said it again!” roared the committee chair. Then he turned to the police chief. “Shoot the bastard, willya? He just called me a BMUFL.”

The police chief looked doubtful. “I don’t think he’s worth shooting, sir.”

“Why the hell not?”

“He smells too bad for the wild dogs to eat, so we’d have to bury him out of city funds.”

The chair nodded, grudgingly. “Well, what do the rest of you bastards want?” he said.

One by one we went to the lectern and read our Post-it notes. “Please be nice to us,” we begged. “And give us some BMUFL.”

As each sweaty speaker beseeched the august council, one thing became clear: Our protesters were waaaaay hotter than the parking controversy protesters. The parking lot people were schlumpy, pot-bellied, sag-bottomed, and draped with ill-cut rags that were displeasing to the eye.

Regardless of how dumb we all sounded, it’s hard to argue with smokin’ hot, articulate women in Spandex and tight jeans, especially when, with one flex of the muscled thigh, they could probably crack your skull like a rotten cantaloupe.

Finally one of the committee members, teetering on the edge of a prodigious sleep, made a motion that the committee vote on the recommendations. Only thing was, he changed #3 from “Put up a Dumb Ass Share the Road Sign” to “Put up BMUFL signs.”

The motion passed unanimously.

We cheered. We clapped. We hollered. We hoped we weren’t going to get shot for leaving chain grease stains on the carpet. The BMUFL recommendation was off to the city council, where it would likely be shot down in flames by angry residents who weren’t about to put up profane words like BMUFL in their fine community.

For today, though, a big old democracy had been done, and not just in the men’s room.

END

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More traffic safety committee stuff …

July 5, 2016 § 13 Comments

The Palos Verdes Estates traffic safety committee has its monthly meeting tomorrow, July 6, and bicycling is on the agenda.

The big question is whether the city should take down the punitive “Bicycle Laws Strictly Enforced” signs and replace them with “3-Feet, It’s the Law” and “Share the Road” signs.

Personally, I think they should paper the whole fuggin’ city with “Cagers who harass bikers will be drawn and quartered!” but that may not happen. And I guess it is progress that instead of threatening everyone on two wheels with “strict enforcement,” which frankly sounds like you’re going to be bound with leather straps and beaten by a dominatrix wielding a cat o’ nine tails, the city is going to put up some finger-wagging “3-feet, folks” and some saccharine “Let’s be friends” signs.

Yeah, progress. Because a couple of dozen extra signs are going to change the behavior of motorists in a city that has, for decades, tolerated the violence and illegal shenanigans of the Lunada Bay Boys, none of whom, by the way, are boys, and all of whom are rumored to be saggy, baggy, flabby, middle-aged farts who still live on Mom’s couch.

But I digress.

The good thing about the PVE “Can’t we all just get along by putting up a few signs?” project is that it seems to be accompanied by a realization that bicycle riders need to be taken into account. WOW!!! The agenda even says that the signs are the part of a bike master plan that’s in the works.

It’s the master plan verbiage that should give you hope, and more importantly, a reason to show up at the meeting.

I know it’s late, I know you’re weary, I know your plans don’t include me; but we’ve got tonight babe, so why don’t you stay (at the traffic safety committee meeting)?

C’mon. Please?

END

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Push back hard

June 29, 2016 § 29 Comments

It’s funny how chicken people are. Me included.

When Michael Barraclough proposed a protest ride in the city of Palos Verdes Estates to draw attention to the recent three fatalities on the hill, the failure of the police to ever issue a SINGLE citation for violation of the 3-foot passing law, and the steady stream of violent crimes perpetrated against cyclists, I thought it was a good idea and supported it.

Then one by one the critics popped up and I got scared. A couple of people upped the ante by claiming they were “on the side of the cops” and they cited the protest as “cop bashing,” as did the critics who scolded us for making the problem worse by making cagers hate us even more.

“Is that even possible?” I wondered.

The plan behind the protest ride was to ride single file (“Hey, biker assholes! RIDE SINGLE FILE!”) and to stop at every stop sign by putting a foot down (“Fucking bikers BLOW THROUGH ALL THE STOP SIGNS!). Since the city of PVE has the highest ratio of stop signs per foot of roadway in the galaxy, the short little crazy-x loop Barraclough had sketched out would involve lots of stopping.

Once traffic was backed up to San Diego we would call off the ride, retire to our lairs, feast on joints of mutton and tankards of mead, and then gird our loins for battle with the city council. Many would fall in hand-to-hand trench combat. Many would be impaled on the bayonets of the raging council supporters. Many would be crushed by the massive tummies of the fat PVE trust babies who are the subject of a civil rights class action lawsuit for “Being colossal dicks.”

But with three dead cyclists since March and a reign of terror washing over the peninsula, Barraclough had had enough. Enough was too much, in fact, because his letters, impassioned pleas, and crime reports had resulted in very little change on the part of the city. This was in glaring contrast to the reaction at neighboring Rancho Palos Verdes, where our efforts in front of the traffic safety committee were already reaping rewards.

In the end, the only reason I went is because I had said I would. I was plagued with doubt and resigned to failure. What’s worse, I was being led to the slaughter by a fuggin’ Republican, a dude who knew about as much about nonviolent protest as I know about the bond market. I was also convinced that the turnout would be dismal and imagined four skinny wankers in gaudy underwear protesting social injustice on $15,000 bikes.

So I got there and found out I was wrong. The turnout was phenomenal–the PVE police were there in full force.

On the biker side, there were perhaps fifty or sixty riders. Many I knew, but many I did not. They had heard about the protest and came to make their voices heard in the service of victims they never knew at a place they never rode. I couldn’t help but wonder what the turnout would have been if everyone who actually had a dog in the fight had shown up.

Michael gave a great, rabble-rousing speech. The plan was to be safe, be polite, and to follow the law. This was important because a couple of PV dickbags had already shown up to harass us. Armed with video cameras and enough obnoxiousness to fill a Trump rally, they introduced themselves to me as “Rich people.” Then they did a short, rude interview and wandered over to a corner to shout derisively as the ride began.

What became clear to everyone was that a mere forty bikes obeying the letter of the stop sign law, and riding single file, would turn the traffic in PV into a sticky, tangled nest of knotted pubic hair, which it did. In no time the incoming rush hour traffic backed up all the way to PV Boulevard in Redondo Beach, and that was before even half the riders had exited (one by one in single file, of course) from the parking lot.

We even got the bonus of having a Jeep filled with snarking, snot-nosed, entitled little high school shits cursing and yelling at us as they sat stuck in traffic, the smelting sun baking the fifteen IQ points shared between them.

Once the stoppage hit critical mass, the police stepped in. They manned the intersection with a traffic cop and began moving the cars. After fifteen or twenty minutes they had cleared the intersection. We did one more glory loop and called it a day.

The police were beyond professional. They’d been alerted in advance, they let us have our say, and then they got things moving. At one point a rider fell over and a cop cruiser rushed over to make sure he was okay. The police seemed embarrassed by the lard-assed Rich People on the corner, and the profanities of the snotnosers were captured on video by a TV crew, videographer David Brindon, and others.

Not only were no PV Citizens harmed in the making of the protest, none was made late for a single double-tall soy latte with choco sprinkles, and many got to marvel at Jeff Hazeltine’s surfboard-carrier that was hauling a 300-foot surfboard in his wake. We bikers danced a victory jig and all dispersed except for seven or eight of us, who waited for an hour and a half until the city council meeting began.

Of course with that much time to kill a small group did a quick tour of the Wanky Super Power Loop, a Strava segment that is now more famous than the Stelvio. We returned in time to have coffee at the Ranch Market and to plot our strategy.

Tom’s was the best, of course. “Lasagna,” he said as he stuck his fork in the Ranch Market’s signature carry-out meal. “I’m having lasagna.”

We all agreed that the city would have not comeback to that.

The city council opened the meeting for public comment. The only people who had shown up to address the council and who weren’t addressing an item on the agenda were the cyclists, some of whom (ahem) hadn’t brought a change of clothes and stank like last Thursday’s dumpster and were ringed with enough white powder to start a salt lick. Barraclough, Delia Park, Michelle Landes, Joey Cooney, Jose Godinez, Tom Duong, Geoffrey Louis, and I each went to the lectern and asked the city council to act on the pressing issue of bike safety in PVE and the lack of law enforcement with regard to cager-on-biker crime.

When the last speaker sat down, we got a couple of big surprises.First was Police Chief Kepley. We’d made it clear that he and his department had comported themselves professionally during the protest, and during virtually all of our encounters with the PV cops. Kepley made comments that indicated a clear understanding of the conflict and the issues, and followed it up with an invitation for collaboration between us and them. It was awesome. No recriminations, no victim blaming, and no imperatives to ride single file.

Next, Mayor King and councilman James Goodhart thanked us for coming. What I mean is THEY THANKED US FOR COMING. US. SWEATY BIKER NUTS. THEY THANKED US. WITH THE WORDS “THANK YOU.” SINCERELY.

They acknowledged the issues and promised to begin the planning process that would address the issue of a comprehensive bike plan in PVE, much as we had heard from the traffic safety committee at the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. Goodhart encouraged us to keep showing up and to take our rightful place at the table. He added that the media attention Barraclough had brought to the city was good, and exhorted us to come to the July 6 PVE traffic safety committee meeting, as well as the one in September.

Radically different from other PVE council meetings I’ve attended, there was no “outsider v. locals” vibe and it was clear that the council was disturbed about the deaths and the assaults. If anything, the obnoxious slobs with the video cams helped our cause for this simple reason: When forced to choose between smelly, salt-stained people with kids and grandkids and jobs and real lives, or entitled nasty people filled with beer, the choice was easy.

We left as a group when the council went on to its regularly scheduled business, and outside the building got a chance to speak with one of the sergeants. He acknowledged the issues and it was clear that changes are in the works. He was friendly, professional, and did his best to respond to the pointed questions regarding the department’s failure to ever issue a single 3-foot citation. (Note to world: Don’t get on the hot seat when Delia Park is asking the questions.) Best of all, it was crystal clear that Barraclough’s decision to hold a protest ride was the turning point. The sergeant showed a thorough understanding of the issues and he made the effort to let us know we were being heard.

There’s no way to bring back the dead, but it was hard not come away with the conviction that the PVE police, mayor, and city council are ready and willing to work with us to make sure that this becomes a better, safer, more enjoyable place to ride a bike.

And I hate to say I’m an optimist, but you know what? I kind of am.

END

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World’s stupidyest McDumdum bike lane ever

June 26, 2016 § 52 Comments

Bike lanes are stupidy McDumdum. Sorry, but they are. Here’s why:

  1. They make you harder to see by shoving you over to the side of the road.
  2. They get cagers closer to you than they would be if you used the full lane.

That being said, I understand that bike lanes are a necessary part of life. They not only make incompetent bicycle people feel safe, kind of like science incompetent people think that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking it, but they also provide a reason to spend tax dollars.

Anything that comforts the stupid while simultaneously taxing them is always going to win. Think “Brexit.”

So every time I see a bike lane I accept it. It makes no sense to rage against the machine more than, say, 23 hours and 59 minutes a day, which is my self-imposed limit. However, each time I hop on my bicycle to pedal over to the NPR Sausage Fest and Profamateur Crashmonkey Course, I have to ride in the vicinity of the world’s stupidyest McDumdum bike lane ever invented.

It is mercifully short, but it packs a lot of stupid into its one mile or so of puke green asphalt. Like all bike lanes, it separates bicycles from cars, except of course like all bike lanes, it doesn’t. This bike lane has 38.98 separate driveways that open out onto it, so even though there is a concrete barrier between you and the cars going alongside, every drunk idiot (but I repeat myself) in Redondo Beach (triple redundancy) and every heffalump staggering out of the Cheesecake Factory parking lot has to drive directly across the bike lane thingy.

People get hit as a result, which is okay because:

  1. They are bicycle people.
  2. They are not smearing the actual traffic lanes with their blood and full carbon.

Having a bike lane that requires lots of bicycle people to get hit by cagers is fine; after all, that’s what bike lanes do (and please don’t send me the CalTrans engineering specs telling me that it’s not a bike lane, it’s a bike path, or a cycle track, or a heffalump breeding ground, IDGAF). So this bike lane is average in that regard.

What takes it to its own level of stupidyessnesstiondingerage are the stained, yellow Bicycle People Whackers which are installed every hundred feet or so in the middle of the bike lane. What is a Bicycle People Whacker, you ask? It is a giant yellow plastic pillar that sticks up about eight feet in the air and requires a certain percentage of drunks, children, angry parents, distracted profamateurs, and of course triathletes to whack into it.

You can tell that’s what they are for because each and every BPW is covered from tip to toe with black scuff marks, chain grease, dried blood, and Bernie Sanders bumper stickers. Imagine putting up a few hundred thousand Cager Whackers along the 405 to “slow things down” and “warn the cagers.”

If you are terribly bored and not terribly sober some sunny Saturday afternoon, go down to the bike path and watch the bicycle people run into the BPW’s. Many will fall, none will complain, and all will chalk it up to their own clumsiness.

To make the McDumdum quotient of this piece of bike “infrastructure” even higher, though, the fabulous bicycle-people-hating administrators of Hermosa Beach recently imposed a bike path speed limit of 8 mph. Have you ever gone 8 mph on a bicycle? If so, please leave this blog immediately and don’t come back until you’ve bombed the Switchbacks at 52.

Rather than take out the BPW’s, a city-installed safety hazard that daily knocks people off their bikes, the city set a “safe” bike speed limit that makes virtually everyone a violator. If you can’t make something safer, make everyone a criminal. At least it will increase your tax revenue. What’s even more awesome is that the law is illegal and unenforceable as explained by someone a lot smarter than I am:

Recently, 8 mph speed limit signs were installed on the Class I bike path adjacent to Harbor Blvd. in Redondo Beach.  I question whether that posted  limit is legal. California has three speed laws, basic, statutory, and altered. Under the Basic Speed Law, you may never drive (ride) faster than is safe for current conditions, such as heavy fog, ice on the road, etc.

Prima facie statutory limits (CVC Section 22352) apply when no other limit is posted: 15 mph at uncontrolled intersections and alleyways, and 25 mph applicable to business and residential areas without other posted speed limits, school zones, etc.

Altered speed limits are based on engineering and traffic studies. In the absence of a current E&TS, and current means “within seven years,” altered speed zones are not enforceable. This applies to enforcement using radar or lidar. If you are clocked by pacing, the speed limit may be enforceable, although it’s unlikely the police will use a cop bike to catch speeding cyclists, not least because the average bicycle cop is, uh, well, never mind.

The 85th percentile and E&TS

In California altered “speed limit determinations rely on the premise that a reasonable speed limit is one that conforms to the actual behavior of the majority of drivers; one will be able to select a speed limit that is both reasonable and effective by measuring drivers’ speeds. Speed limits set by E&TS are normally set near the 85th percentile speed. The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the traffic is moving, and statistically represents one standard deviation above the average speed.”  Limits are by law set in 5 mph increments.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, I requested from the City Clerk a copy of the engineering and traffic study used to alter the speed limit on the bike path for the simple reason that municipalities are forbidden from preempting state law with regard to provisions of the vehicle code. To wit: “Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of the Vehicle Code preempt local ordinances on the matters covered by such Code.” See CA Vehicle Code § 21. And unfortunately for the fine folks in Redondo Beach, regulation of bicyclists on conventional roads is not in California’s Vehicle Code to local authorities.

 I was therefore not surprised to learn from the city that the new 8 mph speed limit was not based on any engineering and traffic study, and was even less surprised to learn that the “8 mph” limit was illegal both because it’s not an increment of five and because state law regarding speed limits preempt local yokel bicycle-hating ordinances.

There you have it. Bike lane that exposes bicycle riders to exponentially more deadly cross traffic. Bike lane that was built with devices intended to knock people off their bikes. Bike lane that is regulated with illegal and unenforceable ordinances.

Thank you, Redondo Beach. You really do suck.

END

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Dante’s tenth circle

June 22, 2016 § 35 Comments

I don’t believe in hell, but if I did it would look like a city council meeting. Too many of my finite life minutes have been spent watching (usually) well-intentioned officials get pounded into line by ranting, raving, howling-at-the-moon cagers who truly believe that bicycles are the new cancer.

So I glumly noted the mostly empty parking lot on Monday night, when the Rancho Palos Verdes Traffic Safety Committee held its June meeting to consider local cyclists’ requests that some affirmative action be taken to deal with the killings, the maimings, the assaults, the batteries, the recklessness, and the cager rage that are a regular part of biking here on the idyllic PV Peninsula. Empty parking lots are the sign of the Public Meeting Apocalypse, where you beg cyclists to come and show the city that your own life matters and belongs on the agenda, but at crunch time people are, you know, “busy.”

If public meetings are the tenth circle of hell, busy is the eleventh. This is the circle of hell where everyone has a fierce opinion, a violent Facegag tirade, or an opinionated Twitter feed, but they were all too busy on earth to drag themselves away from the day-after TV interviews of the people who won or lost The Game, with “The Game” being whatever crucial, historic, once-in-a-lifetime sporting event the likes of which will never been seen again until next week. And of course the plaintiff’s lawyers who feast on the riches generated by the carnage of injured and killed cyclists were nowhere to be found.

Imagine my shock when I saw that the TSC meeting chairs were half-full, and when, by the time the meeting began, they were full-full. And not just full-full, but full of cyclists, actual pedal pushers. What in the world was going on?

The meeting opened with committee member David Kramer putting on a 15-minute slide show about the legal and behavioral issues that bicyclists face riding on the hill. He concluded with a series of video clips taken from Greg Seyranian’s video camera which documented the rich variety of road rage, inattentiveness, and unconcern for human life that cagers regulary display towards bicycle people.

Following the presentation, numerous bicycle people approached the lectern and spoke. All were articulate, thoughtful, and messengers for the same idea: The City of Rancho Palos Verdes needs to do something about the violence, lawlessness, danger, and rage that runs amok on the hill.

After each speaker exhausted their three-minute allotment, the committee discussed our concerns and then did what no one expected: They voted unanimously to include the development of a bicycle plan into their 2016 plan of work.

 

The committee wasn’t bothered by our lack of specifics, by our inability to pin down the costs, or even by our lack of anything more concrete than urging the city to hammer out something that will–

  1. Educate and train law enforcement
  2. Educate and train cyclists
  3. Begin enforcing the law

Chairperson Jessica Vlaco had no issues with the validity of our complaints. Although not a bicycle person, she urged the TSC to move ahead with bike safety and begin the first phase of coming up with a plan. Her kindness and empathy were obvious with every word she spoke.

As the other committee members discussed, one remained silent. James Guerin, at the end, weighed in. “Why reinvent the wheel?” he said. “Let’s review the bicycle plans that have been implemented by our neighbors in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, see what we like, then see what we can implement here. Once we’ve got that underway, let’s think about how we can integrate with Palos Verdes Estates, Torrance, San Pedro, and Los Angeles. If we save one life we’ve done our job.”

The cyclists in the audience did everything but gasp, as Kramer moved that staff formulate a plan which would then be brought back to the TSC, then voted on and sent to the city council for review.

Kramer’s motion was unanimously approved, with members Henry Ott and Yi Hwa Kim joining.

A little planning and participation apparently goes a long way. Thanks to all the people who found a way to attend the meeting and who proved that democracy is run by those who bother to show up.

END

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You can change the world, even if it’s only yours

June 14, 2016 § 24 Comments

We’ve all had post-ride arguments about the “safe” way to handle a particular intersection or stretch of road when riding with our group, and perhaps the finest aspect of Facebag is its ability to get various dissonant voices all screaming at each other simultaneously while plodding through the morning email.

These discussions typically degenerate, or lead to nothing because different cyclists have such vastly different perspectives on what constitutes safety. They have different views because for most riders there is no shared platform of ideas about how to ride other than each cyclist’s personal experience.

“I’ve been riding this way since ’84,” “Don’t pull that crap on my ride,” “I never do that,” and “That’s daaaaangerous!” all represent a rejection of shared riding theories and the primacy of personal experience. In other words, people have little to no chance of ever agreeing.

In most fields there are a series of shared practices that form the basis for operating on the road, or in the air, or on the water. The same is true for people who file lawsuits, conduct medical research, build houses, or cook for a living. Only in cycling does each rider make it up as she goes along, blown by the vagaries of the particular group she happens to fall in with.

I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in with a group of cycling instructors who teach bike-in-traffic principles by borrowing from the same practices and ideas used when you teach people how to drive a car. Whether you agree or disagree, sitting through a bicycling class can have a profound effect on the way you cycle. There are different curricula for bicycle riding instruction, but all share a few core elements.

There are lots of reasons that bike instruction hasn’t taken off in SoCal. One is that it’s not mandatory. Another is that people think that because they can ride, they can ride safely in traffic. Another is because people ride for freedom, and what’s more antithetical to freedom than being told how to do something? (Hint: Getting killed or maimed.)

A bike group that operates in what is arguably America’s most challenging group ride environment, the Long Beach Freddies, spurred by the recent deaths and catastrophic injuries of cyclists in the South Bay, paid for and took a course offered by Cycling Savvy, a curriculum that teaches cyclists how to drive in traffic. Spearheaded by Scott Stryker, Bill Holford, Scott Raymond, Bill Harris, and Gil Dodson, the Freddies have begun grappling with the considerable issue of safety that is posed on every one of their M-F group rides.

This is because their route always travels for several miles along extremely congested stretches of Pacific Coast Highway where there is no bike lane, where the shoulder/gutter are filled with debris, pavement irregularities, and where for long sections riders are exposed to the door zone of parked cars. “It’s only a matter of time” was the sentiment that led this performance-oriented Lycra crowd to do the unthinkable: Take bike riding lessons from hairy-legged dorks on cargo bikes.

Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko gave a tremendous presentation filled with facts, laws, video clips, strategies, and advice for how to conquer the fear of cagers and how to turn the roadway into a safe operating space. None of it involved tossing water bottles at offending cagers or the phrase “Fuck you!” The entire gang of speedsters was awestruck by the opening video clip showing Keri Caffrey, a yellow-shirted commuter on flat pedals, totally owning a fast, congested roadway in Orlando by completely controlling the traffic around her.

We all thought the same thing: “If she can do it, why can’t we?”

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Freddies are on the cutting edge of change. One person can’t change the world, but each person can change her world, and in the words of instructor Pete Van Nuys, “When you see things differently, you change the things you see.”

There are multiple levels of change required if cyclists are going to take their rightful place in the transportation network. Some of those changes are legal, some will require cager education, and in some few cases they will require infrastructure. But the one place that change must also occur is among the cyclists themselves. As Brad House loved to say, “I’m not in traffic, I am traffic.”

Taking the time to take a class, think about it, and apply it to your own regular rides will bootstrap safety discussions from “I think therefore it is,” to “This principle suggests that the best choice is [x].” And once you’re educated it’s a tiny step to asking others to take the time to get educated, too.

Shared principles among cyclists for riding in traffic that don’t include flipping off cars? Well, yes.

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Your ride didn’t change anything

June 9, 2016 § 110 Comments

The slaughter of five cyclists by speeding, erratic, and possibly impaired pickup driver Charles Pickett, Jr. in Kalamazoo made international news. For anyone who cycles in Los Angeles, the thought of getting killed by a car is a regular part of the pre-ride routine.

  1. Air the tires.
  2. Fill the water bottle.
  3. Switch on the lights.
  4. Hope you don’t get killed.

Two days after the massacre a ride of silence was held for the victims. It was massive, as this video shows. And for many it was moving. It got posted and re-posted on Facegag, where people saw themselves in place of the victims and got chills. Coulda been you, coulda been me.

I wasn’t moved by the ride of silence. I didn’t feel sadness and I certainly didn’t get goosebumps. What I got was angry. And who was I angry at?

Not at psychopath Pickett. Even if he were drunk or even if he intentionally murdered his victims I wouldn’t be angry at him. He and the psychopaths like him are part of my daily cycling existence and my law practice. They aren’t worth my anger, they aren’t worth ruining my day or especially my ride. I note their existence, give brief thanks that they missed, and continue on. If they’re a defendant, I sue them, and if I can ever get this POS Cycliq Fly12 to work, I’ll report every single case of assault I can record. But they are not worth anger.

Moreover, Pickett has been apprehended, and more incredibly charged with five counts of murder, a trick that the Palos Verdes police can’t manage even with video evidence and at least one hot lead. In the Kalamazoo case, justice will do whatever justice does, and as we know from the the arc of the process here in Los Angeles, it rarely amounts to anything at all. Ask Milt Olin’s family.

You ride, psychopath or inattentive schmo kills you, police shrug, and the moral of the story is that it sucks to be you, dead dude. You should have played golf.

Nope, I was angry at the majority of the people on the ride of silence, and even angrier at the people who named it “Ride of Silence.” The problem isn’t the psychopaths and the drunks, it’s the silence of all the cyclists that enables them. It’s the thousands of people across this country who mournfully get on their bikes and go pedal for a fallen friend and then return to life as usual, never writing an enraged letter to their elected officials, never showing up to demand change at the local level, never even bothering to report the vehicular assaults committed against THEM.

Over the past weeks I’ve tried to encourage people to report the violent crimes committed against them by providing an actual template they can use to file with the police, and several actually have. But many who have been assaulted, either out of fear or apathy or selfishness or all three, have simply gone on about their business, in silence of course. This is not merely silence, it’s killing silence, because until society hears our voices we will continue to be maimed and slaughtered.

At the PV traffic safety committee meeting this month a tiny handful showed up to voice their anger at the murder of John Bacon and the questionable deaths of two other cyclists here in the South Bay. What would that meeting have been like with a hundred raging voices? I’m pretty sure the committee chair wouldn’t have told us to “Back off!” which is how he dealt with one of the speakers.

The same people who are too busy to stop a ride and call the cops, or too busy to leave work early, ditch their family, or drive an extra hour in traffic to raise hell and demand change from the only people who can move the system are the same ones who join sad memorial rides for the dead.

In silence, of course.

I hate to tell you, but your sad silence isn’t bringing anyone back, it isn’t stopping one single psychopath from repeating the crime, and it isn’t changing one damned thing.

The sight of thousands of cyclists who are sad enough to mourn the dead but too fucking lazy to file a police report or attend a city council meeting or write a letter makes me angry.

I hope like hell it makes you angry, too.

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“When it comes to bicycling on public roads, nice guys don’t finish last. They finish dead.” For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog to show your support, but don’t think it’s a substitute for showing up. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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