A Rare Bird

December 13, 2017 Comments Off on A Rare Bird

I was driving to the Chinese consulate this morning, headed along PV Drive North on the way to the 110 Freeway, when I saw a rare sight, something that was awesome and beautiful and amazing and that made me smile the rest of the day.

It was a sunny morning and the traffic was moderately heavy, the peak point in the morning when moms and a few dads drive their children to school in enormous steel cages. Growing up in Houston, in the morning by the time I had to leave for school my mom had already been at work for an hour, and my dad had two policies with regard to getting to school:

  1. Ride your bike.
  2. If it rains, wear a raincoat.

There was no steel cage option.

That was junior high, of course. In elementary school, some kids rode, but mostly you walked. Some kids lived a mile away; they walked, too. The only kids who got driven were kindergartners, and most of them walked as well. Walking to school you always met up with your classmates, usually at the 7-11 on Renwick and Pine, where we would play a game of pinball or steal a pack of Now-and-Laters.

Walking was also the best way to stand around and wait for the big after school fight of the week, or to loiter until your favorite girl came by and you could pretend you happened to be leaving the school gate the same time as she. Then you could walk home together which was the best.

But now, at least in our neighborhood, everyone drives their kids to school, K-12 industrialized obesity education, with complex pickup/dropoff regimes, huge lines of cars puking exhaust, and the streets snarled. The main reason everyone drives is because letting a kid walk or, dog forbid ride a bike, is too dangerous. Statistics show that 99.759 out of 100 children are run over or kidnapped if they are not driven to school. I remember growing up that no one who walked or rode to school lived past the age of about twelve. Sometimes twenty or thirty kids would vanish or die each day.

Now that I think about it, there was a kid whose mom drove him to school, Karl Ward. Karl and his younger brother, Kurt, would get driven to school in their mom’s Buick station wagon, along with three or four other kids. The Wards lived at the boundary of the school zone and could have biked but they didn’t. Mrs. Ward would fill the car with her sons and a few other kids and drive them; car pooling. I think about Mrs. Ward and that station wagon absolutely jam packed with kids every time I see a massive Rage Rover able to seat seven but carrying a mere single child and a latte consumption organism.

Normally we would have made fun of anyone in junior high school whose mom drove them to school, but not Karl. He was the kid who, the first day of school, the principal stopped in the hall. “Are you going out for football?” Mr. Thompson asked him.

“No, sir,” said Karl, who was big enough and athletic enough to have formed most of the offensive or defensive line.

Mr. Thompson made a face. “Why do you say that, young man? You’re big and strong and perfect for our team.”

“This school has never won anything in football and never will,” Karl said, and continued on. He was right, of course.

Whereas Karl was huge, his little brother Kurt, or “Kurtie,” was short and small. Kurtie was always looking up to Karl, literally and figuratively. Then a few years later in high school I remember seeing this giant dude, about 6’5″, broad as a dump truck, face covered in stubble so thick you couldn’t have cut it with a diamond saw, lurching down the hallway.

“Hi, Seth!” he said in a voice that was lower than a bathyscaphe, the eager, friendly way that a younger kid from junior high talks on his first day of high school to an upperclassman.

I looked for a second before realizing it was Kurtie. “Hey, Kurt,” I said, making a mental note to never, ever call him “Kurtie” again.

Anyway, there I was, driving to the Chinese consulate, and I saw three little kids, maybe fourth or fifth graders, riding their bikes to school.

END

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Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

December 7, 2017 Comments Off on Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

I am an expert conversation killer, having the ability to bring the liveliest discussions to a screeching halt with a few ill-chosen words, or well-chosen ones, such that you could even consider me a mass murderer of happy dialogue, a Ted Bundy in the world of social gatherings. One of the main reasons that conversations in my presence wilt like delicate orchids in a blast furnace has to do with the topics I introduce.

The topics themselves are harmless, just like guns, because after all, topics don’t kill conversations, people kill conversations. For example, it’s conceivable that there are many social groupings that would relish a conversation about learning Chinese, or about medieval European cities, or about the relationship between Croatian and Bosnian and the degree of mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovakian, but that’s like saying there are many foods that go well with Bearnaise sauce … and not knowing that chocolate ice cream isn’t one of them.

Even good friends who like to read and who enjoy a robust chat never take the bait, so what I usually do is end up listening, adding a comment every now and then, and keeping most of my thoughts to myself. This, in fact, is the only reason I’m able to hang onto the admittedly few friends I have; I have the hard-earned wisdom to know when to be silent, and its corollary, the knowledge of when to shut up.

Still, even my mustard gas convo weaponry can’t account for the fact that the moment I mention the word “insurance” a pall goes over the crowd. And I talk about insurance a lot.

It’s not because I sell insurance, but because my job puts me into contact with insurance policies all the time, every day, and what’s worse, it puts me into contact with no insurance policies where there by all rights should have been one. I’ve written about the importance of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and how it can protect you when you are on a bike and you get hit by a car. If you’re unfamiliar with this crucial topic, please read this.

But recently in L.A. I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend: Cyclists who get hit by cars and who themselves have no UM/UIM coverage under their own auto policy because they don’t own a car. More and more people are simply going bipedal or bicycle-only and stepping off the one-man-one-car, an-auto-in-every-pot mentality that made America mildly great and obese and prematurely dead.

For these cyclists and pedestrians, who have no auto insurance and therefore no UM/UIM coverage to protect them when they are victimized by a hit-and-run or uninsured driver, there is actually a very practical solution. But before I get to it, I have to conquer the conversation-slaughtering effect of the word “insurance.”

Why do people hate the word so much that the moment you say it they stop listening, reading, thinking? Why so much odium surrounding a word that’s ostensibly there to protect you? I’ll tell you why: Because insurance is one of those things in life that signifies a negative obligation with no payoff. Sure, if you need it it pays off, it’s insurance, but the connotation is “pay something and get nothing.” So, like trying to sell people a “living will” or “probate services,” you’re pretty much fucked the minute you mention it.

So I figured out a way around it. All along we’ve been calling it the wrong thing. Instead of saying “insurance,” we should be calling it by its real name, which is “lottery ticket.” Now that will get anyone’s attention! Hey, can I sell you a lottery ticket?

Even if you don’t want one, at least you’re listening. And everyone has an opinion on lotteries, and deep down everyone wants a winning ticket. NO ONE WANTS A WINNING INSURANCE POLICY BECAUSE YOU GENERALLY HAVE TO GET MAIMED OR DIE. But everyone wants a lottery ticket because you might get money!!!!!

Therefore, today’s blog post is about getting a Non-Operator Lottery Ticket. These lottery tickets can be purchased even if you don’t own or drive a car or even have a driving license. The way they work is this: You go to a Lottery Ticket Sales Company (formerly known as an insurance company), and tell them you want one of these non-operator lottery tickets. They will sell you tickets which, if you win, will pay up to $500,000 if the driver who hits you is uninsured or underinsured. These lottery tickets are affordable and a must-have if you ride a bicycle and don’t own a car.

Before you go out and purchase a new speedsuit or a pair of rad cycling glasses or some more carbon to go with your 100% carbon that is all carbon, please get yourself one of these non-operator lottery tickets. Because unfortunately, if you ride enough on the streets of Los Angeles, there’s a real good chance you’re going to win.

END

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“These stories are true.”

November 16, 2017 Comments Off on “These stories are true.”

With those words, Louis C.K. validated women everywhere who have come forward with accusations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.

In the world of cycling here’s what those words made up for:

Women in pro cycling who get paid a fraction of their male counterparts; local promoters who only offer women’s races when lobbied intensively by women; local promoters who refuse to offer women’s races; lopsided prize lists at the pro level; lopsided prize lists at the local level; coaches who rape their athletes; coaches who demean their women athletes by calling them fat; advice sausages who lecture women about how to ride; men who have no problem getting dropped by other men but give it 110% to not get dropped by a woman; cycling companies that market to women as an afterthought; cycling media that publishes women’s results as the afterthought of an afterthought; clubs that have lots of women members but no women on the board; racing teams for men only; cycling companies that advertise to men using “sexy” or “racy” women models; national cycling organizations that do little to develop women’s cycling; Olympics that have more men’s cycling events than women’s; men who stalk women cyclists on Strava; men who stalk women cyclists on Facebag; men who make unwanted and uninvited sexual comments to women riders; men who touch women riders without permission or invitation; men who give women cyclists a “helpful push” when it’s not wanted; men who tell women that their races are boring; men who give unsolicited racing and riding advice; teams that make their women racer dance with a male pro because “it’s his birthday” while everyone watches; the women’s national team coach not showing up for his athlete’s pro world road victory because had to “coach some (male) juniors”; women racers having to borrow helmets from men and being told they’d be banned if they didn’t return them; the coach who told his athlete to “go away and have a baby”; male pros telling women to “get over it” regarding sexism; the coach who called his women athletes “bitches” and “sheilas”; teams that changed or sabotaged women’s contract negotiations; management failing to honor specified contract terms; women’s contracts being cancelled without due process; women on pro teams being forced to ride for no pay; women receiving mechanical drivetrains while the men received Di2; team’s non-payment for women’s racing services under the contract; teams that fail to provide women with travel costs, staff, and equipment; teams that charge  women for ‘team services’ to make up for the team’s failure to provide essential services; teams that fine women riders repeatedly for “infractions” of rules with no previous documentation of those rules; teams that fine women for being “fat”; teams that fine women riders for damaging a pair of sponsored carbon wheels in a race-related crash; coaches and teams that emotionally abuse women racers; coaches that employ body-shaming to manipulate vulnerable riders; coaches that body shame women riders as an excuse to fine them; coaches that body shame women riders to create monetary, behavioral or performance repercussions; coaches that employ yelling, tirades and public humiliation against women riders; team managers who demand complete control over women riders by insisting they move into the team house; men who physically abuse women riders; coaches who force their women riders to dope; men who write misogynistic anonymous comments on the Internet …

Yes, Louis C.K.’s words made up for all of that.

Oh, wait.

No, they didn’t.

END

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Bike path crazy pants

November 15, 2017 Comments Off on Bike path crazy pants

Given the spleen that has been vented lately in L.A. regarding bike lanes, I paid close attention to how an integrated, multi-modal transportation network functioned while I was in Vienna. The city is quite small, about 1.5 million people, and it offers easy transport by walking, cars, buses, streetcars, subways, trains, and bikes.

The city’s bike paths are extensive and very well-planned. There is a bike path ring around the inner city, which is actually more like a “D” than a ring, with the straight side being the Donau river. The city’s bike paths follow many of the major streets, are fairly well marked and maintained, and will take you to any part of the city you want to go. In addition to these transportation-oriented bike paths, there are major touring and recreational paths that provide extensive access to large parks and that crisscross the entire country.

Numerous bike shops exist to support recreational and transportation cycling. The city of Vienna offers free City Bikes for trips that last less than an hour, and there are more than 120 pick-up/drop-off bike areas.

Bike paths play a major role in transportation planning. There is a major bridge crossing the Donau that is for bikes only, a completely separate structure that runs parallel to the one for cars. It is pretty boss to ride across that thing and look over at the cagers and think, “Yo, I got a bridge, too!”

After spending ten days riding in the city and its environs, it became abundantly clear that if the goal of this type of bike infrastructure is to provide an integrated, safe, usable, easily understood cycling network, it is, for the most part, a colossal failure. And if this type of bike infrastructure fails so miserably in a small city that has been committed to including bikes in the transportation grid for decades, then I can only conclude that attempts to do this kind of planning in Los Angeles will also fail, only on a larger and more catastrophic and more expensive scale.

As a backdrop to this anecdotal, off-the-pedal critique, I’d like to note that the only time in Vienna and the surrounding countryside I was able to safely and predictably and comfortably get around was when I rode in the lane and behaved the same way that motor vehicles behave. It was necessary to do this because the bike infrastructure always seemed to run out just when you needed it most. This is of course the same experience that anyone on a bike is familiar with in L.A.

Here is what a mature, open-minded, integrated bike path network looks like in one of the most advanced cities in the world:

  1. Haphazard AF. The paths start and stop with no warning. Despite being pretty savvy about the routes after nine days of riding, my wife and I got immediately off-path simply riding from the Waehringer Guertel to downtown the one day we tried the City Bikes, getting lost on about as easy and well-trodden a path as there is.
  2. Massive bike-ped conflict. Although some of the paths were well blocked off from vehicles, they were often side-by-side with pedestrian walkways. In a city that has huge pedestrian traffic, especially the inner city, and where large numbers of those walkers are tourists who have no idea how the bike/ped paths work, there was constant friction between walkers who were on the bike path, and bikers who wound up on the ped path.
  3. Car cut-throughs. The downtown ring is continually bisected by travel lanes for cars to cut through. Each one of these intersections is a potential collision. It also requires much more attentiveness to navigate the constant cross-traffic than it does to simply ride in the traffic lane with the cars.
  4. Inadequate signage. When you construct a completely alternate transportation system of bike paths, you apparently run out of money to sign it properly. Hence I found myself having to stop and look and think often, something that drivers never have to do–and that you wouldn’t have to do if you were biking on the street.
  5. Suburban breakdown. As soon as you got very far out of the main city, the bike paths became few and far between. Out of town they vanished completely. Since ultimately you have to learn how to ride in the street anyway, why bother with having to also learn all of the extra bike path skills and techniques and hazard-avoidance and wayfinding?
  6. Motorist acceptance. The times I rode along Waehringer Guertel and Linke/Rechte Zeile, hugely busy thoroughfares, I had zero problems with car traffic. The lanes are so much narrower than L.A. that there is no option for cars to squeeze by. They have to change lanes. I could tell they didn’t like it, but I only got honked at a couple of times, and had zero punishment passes or close calls. It was much hairier on the inner city bike path ring, as I was constantly afraid of hitting pedestrians.
  7. Extreme gutter bunny. Many of the bike paths are nothing but striped lanes up against an endless row of parked cars, with treacherous streetcar rails on the left, for example. It requires inordinate skill to thread these hazards and would be much easier to simply ride out in the lane. Many of these bike paths are only a couple of feet wide, with high curbs and traffic islands for the streetcars.
  8. False security. The green painted bike paths initially feel safer, but you quickly realize that ped traffic and constant vehicular cross-traffic are omnipresent and lethal. It’s more mentally exhausting to ride the paths than to ride in traffic.
  9. Inefficiency. You have to go much, much slower than you would in the traffic lane. The easy speed of 20-24 mph that you can hold on the guertels would get you or a pedestrian badly hurt on the painted bikeways in the city.
  10. Salmoning. Because the bike lane/bike paths create a separate travel maze, it is often faster to salmon for short distances, and I saw lots of people doing it. It drives the cagers crazy and doesn’t look terribly safe; in any event it encourages lawbreaking.

Of all the bike infrastructure I saw, the only ones that really did anything for me were the bike paths along the river and inside the parks, where there were no cars at all. It was pretty cool to zoom along a wide, well maintained, well paved bike path for mile after mile and to see only other cyclists. But as far as using bike paths as an efficient way to get around, it seems to me that by far the easiest, safest, most easily understood, and best way is simply to use the existing roadways and follow the same rules that the cagers do.

Auf wiedersehen.

END

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Three meetings

October 31, 2017 § 25 Comments

First Meeting

We had just finished the NPR on a brilliant fall day in October 2014, I think. There was a new guy from Arizona, wearing a blue-and-white kit and it was his first Pier Ride and we sat around drinking coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, smalltalking like we always do. You could tell how much he loved the vibe, soaking in the easy conversation as we splayed on the bricks and cast glances over at the cobalt waves.

“You guys doing any more riding after this?” he asked.

“That wasn’t enough for you, huh?” My legs were wrecked.

“No, man, that was crazy hard. But if anybody’s doing more miles I’d love to join.”

Surfer Dan piped up with that smirk of his. “I’m doing a little extra credit but it’s on dirt. Seth’s coming with me.” Dan’s “little extra credit” was always stupid hard.

“Seth doesn’t do dirt,” I assured the guy from Arizona. “And sure as hell not with Surfer Dan.”

“That sounds fun!” the new guy said, so I was roped in even though it sounded awful. Somehow we wound up with five or six other riders; I recall Jon Paris, Christian Quant, and a couple of other suckers following along as Dan took us up the steep trail behind the Malaga Cove library, then onto the road and over to the narrower, steeper, dirt walking path that went up and over a ledge and dumped out onto Via del Monte. Most of us fell over trying to mount the ledge, but not Dan.

The new guy got dropped hard and fell, too. At the top we waited for him and waited for the curses, but we were disappointed when we saw the new guy grinning ear to ear. “That was a blast!” he said, scraped up, covered in dirt, and kit scuffed to shit.

Surfer Dan and I looked at each other. “We got ourselves a live one.”

That was my first ride with Rob Dollar, and it may have been his first bike ride in SoCal. It wasn’t more than his second, that’s for sure. The guy was a densely packed ball of fire and good vibes. He was new to cycling, but a veteran at life. I could tell that his brand of full-gas and crazy was going to fit right in.

Second Meeting

This one happened sometime last year, I think it was in the fall of 2016, at Strand Brewing in Torrance. We were having a going away party for Rob, which was weird. It wasn’t weird that he was going away; people come and go all the time. And it certainly wasn’t weird that Rob was at Strand; he was famous for holding his liquor and a lot of everyone else’s, too. What was weird is that it was a going away party for someone who had, in South Bay terms, only just arrived.

In two short years he become Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, or RMFD, the embodiment of camaraderie and fun and risk and inclusiveness that bike racing is supposed to be about but rarely is. That’s how he introduced himself on the starting line or to a new rider. “Hi, I’m Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar.” And he was.

He formed a hard core rat pack of beginning racers with Kevin Nix, David Wells, Josh Dorfman, Matt Miller, Mathieu Brousseau, Denis Faye, Bader Aqil, Jason Morin, and several other riders whose motto appeared to be “Go fast, go hard, have fun, and make sure the bottle is empty before you go.”

And if Rob was loved by his pals, he was adored by women for his sculpted physique, infectious humor, and for certain angles on his podium photos that more than a few female admirers swore could be seen from Google Earth. There was even a private message chain that certain women shared, providing instant notifications for when Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar’s podium shots were uploaded to Facebook. If you wanted to stop a party in a heartbeat all you had to say was, “Rob Dollar podium” and watch the iPhones come out in the blink of an eye.

I wasn’t part of Rob’s racing crowd, but I always saw his gang and hung with them at the team tent and was privy to the unique friendships that had all coalesced around this one charismatic guy who didn’t to know how to do anything but make friends. In two short years his return to Phoenix sparked an outpouring of people who packed the brewery that afternoon to tell him goodbye. The relationships were genuine and real. Like any human Rob had his flaws, but unlike most of us he was always the first one to apologize and try to do better. And “do better” he always did.

When Rob returned to Phoenix, he stayed a member of Big Orange and joyously greeted his teammates and SoCal friends when they came to Arizona for the Valley of the Sun Stage Race. Rob flew the Big Orange flag as proudly, or more proudly, than he had in Los Angeles. He stayed in touch with his SoCal friends, rode with them when they visited Arizona, and was never the one who let the relationship go flat. And Rob got better as a racer, too, even as he made the same impact on his hometown that he’d made on his adopted one.

None of us thought that goodbye in 2016 was permanent, just a pause in time until he did what he promised to do, which was to return to live and race in the South Bay as soon as he possibly could. I’d say we adopted him but that’s not true. Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar adopted us.

Third Meeting

Last night at 8:00 PM about a hundred of us stood around the surfer statue at Hermosa Beach Pier. We were just outside the circle of light from the bars and activity on a slow Monday night, and a cool breeze blew in off the Pacific. David Wells had constructed a Rube Goldberg contraption with bike forks turned upside-down that held a spinning bike wheel. Each time the wheel slowed, someone stepped out from the circle and gave it a push, keeping the wheel moving.

Rob had been killed the day before descending South Mountain outside Phoenix. A young woman, high on weed and drunk on liquor, had gotten “stuck” behind a “slow moving” cyclist in front of her. I guess “stuck” is what they say when what they mean is “she had to slow down and wait a few seconds.” Sounds more dramatic to use a verb that you associate with glue, or a mire, or quicksand.

Annaleah Dominguez and her friend were in a hurry to get to the overlook and veg out, and she veered out across the double yellow line to pass the cyclist who had slowed her down such that she’d have to wait a few seconds before getting to the place where she could, you know, sit in her car and stare off into space. At that second Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, who was descending from the top, came around the turn and hit her square on at speed. He died instantly, no chance to do anything except, perhaps, wonder if he was going to make it.

We stood in the blackness on the edge of the strand and listened as the witnesses came forward and spoke to the beauty and strength of Rob’s life. The voices were choked and humbled and broken and soft, but we heard every word, in part because we’d each experienced the profound goodness of this amazing and decent man. We didn’t have to hear each other’s words; they’d been playing over and over in our heads since the news first struck.

They’re playing still.

END

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Let’s play smashface

October 25, 2017 § 8 Comments

I don’t get suckered often, but when I do it’s always a big chapeau to the perpetrator. At the very least it solves my problem, for a day, of “What’m I gonna blog about?”

A few months ago I met Jason Hole in the Internet/Facebag way. He lives in Orange County and has a group of riders who coalesce around the slogan “Let’s Play Bikes.” The purpose, so I was told, is for people to get together and “have fun.” The weekly Tuesday ride, which leaves Bill Barber Park in Irvine at 5:45 PM, accommodates a wide variety of interests and abilities.

It’s “only about an hour” and it’s “flat” and it “regroups.”

Of course the above description should have sent screaming, blood-dripped shrieks of alarm raging through my head. “Have fun.” “Flat.” “Regroups.” These are all code words for their antonyms, “miserable AF,” “gnarly climb,” and “good fuggin’ luck, seeyalater or probably never.”

The moist and tasty little worm on the end of the hook was “Why don’t you come down and talk to us about bike safety, and then do the ride with us?”

Bike safety? Hell, yes. And followed with a fun, friendly, flat pedal for an hour or so? Perfection!

So we loaded up Kristie’s battle wagon and hurled ourselves into the teeth of the 405 at 3:15 on a Tuesday, and it was a full-on SoCal traffic porn show, bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper as we limped through the concrete freeway hellhole, saving the environment with our zero emissions bikes by putting them in the back of an 8-cylinder truck that got 8 or 9 feet per gallon. [Cue hypocritical smugness.]

We nervously gazed at the thermometer as we inched along. 107 degrees. And since we’d ridden that morning and had done a decent amount of climbing, we already knew that outside it was drier than C-SPAN.

Once we got to the park and met up with Jason, I noted a few key things. First, it was not only 107 very hot degrees, and it was not only sandpaper dry, but there was a howling, screeching wind. Naturally, I figured we’d be riding into it. But most disturbing? Jason never cracked a smile. Not a grin. Not even a tiny upturned corner of one side of his mouth. Long bike experience told me what I didn’t want to hear: This was going to be all business.

The parking lot filled, I gave my safety talk, and we rolled out, two by two. It’s true there was a wide variety of abilities, but it was also obvious that some of those abilities were decidedly on the upper end of the scale. And as I’d feared, we headed out into the wind. Huge dry, hot winds on an empty stomach and tired legs on unfamiliar roads with utter strangers will begin cracking your will to live immediately, and they did. Sitting second wheel my legs ached, and no matter how I hunkered they hurt. “Please let this end soon,” I prayed to dog. I was afraid to ask how long the ride lasted; it was clearly going to be a lot more than an hour. I didn’t hear anyone chatting. So much for the fun. The wind howled.

Once it got dark and my bottle was empty, and my tongue was sticking to my teeth, and my legs felt like they would fall off, Jason turned to me as we sat on the front together. “There’s a little hill here. You can go hard if you want to get in a workout. We’ll regroup.”

Translation: “I’m going to kick your ass starting here.”

I glanced back and noted that our group was in tatters, a long string of shrapnel-ized blinky lights strung out for as far back as I could see. About that time Jason, who had clearly been waiting for this moment, turned the screws and I went magically from tired to completely on the rivet. The hot, dry air fried and dried my throat so that my breathing sounded more like whooping cough than athletic exertion. The gradual 1-mile climb was into a biting sidewind, so it guttered instantly. At the moment when it felt like things couldn’t get worse, some dude who’d been hiding the entire ride and was fresh as new tea leaves sprinted up the side, leaving everyone in his wake.

I grabbed his wheel, reasoning that with a huge surge like that we must be near the top, but near obviously meant different things to different people. For me, “near” meant “any second now,” but to him it meant “another 500 yards.” He rode me off his wheel and I glanced back to see that even in that short distance the remnants were nothing but little firefly dots behind. Two other riders closed the gap and whizzed by just as we hit the end of the climb, proving the old adage that cycling is a sport of conservation, and the other adage that course knowledge is everything.

The regroup consisted of high speed attacking descents that shelled everyone. Kristie and I wound up alone, thankfully with a tailwind, and one by one passed little patches of people who looked like they’d seen a ghost, or an army of ghosts. We didn’t know the route and guessed our way back to the park. I guess the regroup was going to happen the following week …

We got back around nine, utterly spent, dehydrated, and covered in salt. The bikes were almost too heavy to lift out of the battle wagon. “Wanna play bikes?” Kristie asked.

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

END

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Big City, Bright Lights

October 21, 2017 § 18 Comments

Where you sit in the roadway or the shoulder while pedaling your bike is up to you. I simply hope you’re doing it with a lot of lights.

After the recent smashback here in L.A. from cager trolls and the pitchfork peasants who were enraged that a safer, cleaner, cheaper, sexier, healthier, happier mode of transportation might slow them down fifteen seconds on their one-hour commute, it has become even more evident that cyclists themselves are riven. Lane control advocates shrug at the loss of bike infrastructure; they never wanted it to begin with, beyond sharrows and BMUFL signage. Infrastructure lovers are heartbroken and trying to rally themselves for the next big beating, like kids shuffling into dad’s bedroom knowing he already has the belt off.

I’m happy to report that there’s a solution. We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers. We should stop sharpening our rhetorical sticks, hardening them with fire, and jabbing them into the tender fallacies of those who want more things built in roads to protect bicycles. We should let them go about their business.

In fact, I’m happy to give infrastructure advocates all the rope they want. They can take it out to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Palso Verdes, do their advocacy, show up at meetings and present factual data, but when they do, here’s a pro tip: Don’t do it near any trees with sturdy, low hanging, horizontal limbs. Because when the pitchfork peasants see your bike infrastructure rope, and understand that it’s a threat to the hegemony of their cages, they will know what to do with it.

Rather than poking holes in the infrastructure lovers’ arguments, we should make common cause with them in this way: Tell them, without judging, that while we’re waiting for the amazing infrastructure that will protect us from cagers (for example, the Santa Monica bike path where no one ever gets hurt by other bicycles and where no bicycle has ever run over and seriously injured a pedestrian), we will all take the fuggin’ lane while lit up like Christmas trees. This includes the infrastructure lovers.

bmufl_car

And then, after my cremated ashes have been dispersed by the winds of time, been blown to Jupiter and are circling its outer moon, eventually, I say, when the great infrastructure project is completed such that it has constructed those supremely segregated, superbly striped, sexily signed, perfectly protected, and beautifully barrier-ized bike path/lane/road/highways to cover every alley, every back road, every country lane, every cul-de-sac, every county road, every byway, every dirt road, every highway, every city street, every parking area, and every other possible place where cars and bikes might possibly be at the same place at the same time, then we will be able to have another discussion about whether bike infrastructure is better, safer, preferable, cheaper, more efficient, cheaper to maintain, more popular, and more conducive to expanding cycling than following existing traffic laws and exercising lane control in a lawful manner.

‘Til that happy day when The Infrastructure Saints Go Marchin’ In, however, let’s all take a deep a breath, swallow our ideologies, and take the fuggin’ lane. Lit up like Christmas trees, of course. Mirrors optional.

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