August 22, 2016 § 39 Comments
There is a guy named Heath Evans. He is a football journalist. I know, that reads like a joke.
Then there is a guy name Peter King. He is a serious sports journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated. Get it? “Serious sports journalist.” Not as funny as football journalist, actually a pretty bad joke.
Then there is a woman named Jenny Vrentas. She doesn’t know how to drive a car or care to learn how. She’s not funny at all.
So what do you get when you put a joke, a bad joke, and a reckless driver on Twitter? You get this:
Both of these tweets are self-explanatory. The football journalist thinks it’s okay to publicly muse about his desire to kill or injure bicyclists.
The serious sports journalist thinks it’s okay to encourage reckless driving, record it, and then “no comment” on it while the flunkette he’s abetted drives in a bike lane.
You could tweet to @nflnetwork, Heath Evan’s employer, which would be awesome. You could also tweet to @SInow, the employer for fun-loving Jenny and Peter. You could do this, not because the NFL or SI would care, but because it might make your anger at these people dissipate a little bit. Maybe.
Of course, verbalizing violence towards people for riding bicycles pairs up nicely with the reality that people in cars kill and maim bicycle riders with impunity. Lives lost, lives wrecked, families ripped apart, children without parents, just because some dick on his way to a football game is in such a hurry that he can’t wait with all the other people patiently sitting in traffic. Gotta get there first to hit the buffet and the booze in the skybox, dude.
A friend of mine was mowed down last Sunday morning by a fellow who fled the scene. The buddy is still in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery. The felon is probably watching the Big Game on TV. “Guy shouldn’t have been in the bike lane,” he’s probably thinking, if he thinks about it at all.
We saw this casual violence here in RPV last Tuesday when a resident lamented the damage that a cyclist’s body and head had done to someone’s windshield, and we see it in various forms, either on the road or in conversation. “Why do you guys ride in the road?” This is politespeak for “Get out of my way because I want to kill you.”
I even had a cyclist after a bike race today come up and say he thought cyclists should be treated as pedestrians. You know, so we can be legally barred from riding on any part of the roadway at all, forever. “Like skateboarders,” he added, for emphasis.
I looked at him for a minute as if he was insane. But he wasn’t. Just like Heath and Peter and Jenny aren’t insane. They simply think your life isn’t worth shit.
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August 18, 2016 § 40 Comments
Some people think that professional athletes are heroes. I don’t. My heroes are people who possess courage. Courage means giving up your personal time to fight for what’s right. The more that’s at stake, the fiercer your opposition, and the more time you give up — time that you’ll never reclaim — the greater the courage.
My heroes are diverse and funny and flawed. They’re battling inner demons that are often a far bigger struggle than the external things they’re fighting for. My heroes don’t wear capes, but lots of them wear Spandex. And my heroes are often tired, rough around the edges, and a few hours shy of a good night’s sleep.
They show up on bicycles, on scooters, in crappy cars. Sometimes their makeup is crooked or their pants sag. But you know what?
My heroes show up.
They showed up on Tuesday night, just like they’ve been showing up for months. Their faces sometimes change, sometimes they’re out of town and another hero stands in, but they keep showing up. When you need them, heroes always show up.
Last night’s heroes were–
They showed up and sat through almost three hours of testimony on behalf of something so non-controversial that it could only be opposed by really tiny people: The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council was voting on a traffic safety committee recommendation to “Explore the creation of a bike safety master plan.”
I guess the idea of exploration frightened a few people. Of the 36 people who spoke on the issue, about ten were anti-cycling RPV residents brimming with anger at bicyclists in general and Big Orange in particular. Some of them screeched that it was a conflict of interest that transportation safety committee member Dave Kramer was an avowed cyclist and Big Orange member. Apparently anyone who cycles has a conflict of interest when it comes to … cycling. Whereas most people would consider that something called “expertise,” it escaped the tiny craniums of the well-groomed trogolodyte who muttered vague threats of lawsuits.
By that reasoning, we kept waiting for for them to declare that transportation committee members who drove cars should also recuse themselves for any matter that dealt with automobiles …
What was strangest of all was that they had come together to ostensibly beseech the council to address “bike safety,” yet not a single NIMBY had ever inquired what an actual bicyclist wanted or recommended, and not a single NIMBY voiced support for a plan that would explore bike safety issues.
They were for “bike safety” in the same way that Western ranchers favor “wolf safety,” i.e. “get rid of the dogdamned things.” The most empathetic speaker of all talked about how an RPV motorist had had to replace her windshield after it was damaged by a cyclist’s body and head. Tragic stuff.
The NIMBY display of anger and entitlement and ignorance of the law was an amazing contrast to the demeanor of the heroes. Here’s the video of the council meeting. Check out the What Do You Mean My Time’s Up Lady at 1:27:30, and the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats at 1:35:37. Then compare it with the tenor of the cyclists. The dude in the Wend Wax Works cap and Big O kit and droopy shorts is obviously sketch.
It was impressive to see how angry and demanding the NIMBYs were to the council members, volunteer officials who got nary a thank-you from the livid residents.
Fortunately, after everyone spoke, the city council voted on the revolutionary step of “exploring the creation of a plan” and unanimously approved it. You could tell that there were people on the council who didn’t think much of bikes, and there was one member who’s a confessed cyclist. But regardless of their individual opinions, the city council put its best foot forward and voted to explore bike safety. Not as gutsy as exploring the Amazon, but given the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats it did take some resolve simply because one of these days he could show up and start yelling at YOUR cat.
This makes two victories for cycling in two communities that have long resisted acknowledging the rights of bicyclists. It takes courage to change, but even more than that, it takes courage to demand it.
I hope these citizen advocates inspire you like they inspire me. As long as we keep showing up, we’ll be heard. Rancho Palos Verdes isn’t anti-cycling, it’s like any community: Anti-change. Most residents don’t mind bicycles and many residents ride them. A lot of the conflict stems from the sad fact that the NIMBYs simply don’t know the law.
The next series of meetings are just around the corner. Hope to see you heroes there.
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August 16, 2016 § 27 Comments
Here’s a quick rundown of things that have happened in the last couple of months:
- Three cyclists killed in PV
- Crazy road rager assaulted a man and his kid for riding their bikes
- Friend #1 got run over on PCH in Malibu
- Friend #2 got terribly injured by hit-and-run in San Diego
- Friend #3 got run over in PV
- Entire club ride narrowly avoided being taken out by road-raging Tesla
- Group of angry NIMBYs tried to ban cyclists from public roads
- Surfer gang member advocated death for cyclists who break traffic laws
- Wealthy citizen compared cyclists to “dog shit”
It’s easy to think that the world has gone crazy. When bicycles are the enemy and cars are the hero, we’ve literally turned the Imperial Stormtroopers into underdogs.
Except, we haven’t.
These same last few months I’ve been riding almost exclusively in PV, ground zero for the bike wars, and I’ve been sticking to some of the most controversial residential areas where opposition to cyclists is supposedly fiercest. What I’ve found is surprising, and it’s this: Most people are friendly.
I make a point of waving and saying hello to everyone I run across. Except for a couple of incredibly sour people for whom death will be a huge relief (for them and for us), people invariably wave back and smile. I’ve stopped and chatted with Mark the Dude with the Two Giant Poodles, and Bob the 80-Year-Old Dude Who Has Run Across America Twice.
What’s more interesting is that I’ve had zero car-bike incidents. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening; video from other cyclists proves otherwise. But by and large, people in PV are fine with bikes, especially when the cyclist is highly visible.
Since I began riding with super powerful daytime front-and-rear lights, I’ve become visible at all times. A 1200-lumen flashing headlamp gets your attention no matter how distracted you are, and a 100-lumen red taillight does the same.
What’s more interesting is that some very low-grade detective work has revealed that the “horde” of bike haters in PV is actually one guy using multiple fake aliases on social media to create the impression that many in the community share his views. The police know his identity, and although he’s noxious, crude, and wants to incite trouble, he’s nothing more than a harmless crank afraid to show his face in public, not to mention a terribly inept surfer.
At their worst, people may be slightly bothered by having to slow down for bikes. But the 99.9% hardly get enraged, and they certainly don’t wish for death and catastrophic injury as the penalty for pedaling a bike. Of course the .1% that do can do incredible damage, and they have.
But most people are on our side, and recently, so are the police. And 99%? The odds could be a lot worse.
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August 12, 2016 § 38 Comments
If you’re one of the 300,000 people who saw this video clip, you can go back to bed now reassured that the Internet did its job.
A few hours after we posted here about the greedy, violent, hostility of Lunada Bay surfers towards outsiders and cyclists, this saggy fellow from Corona del Mar showed that bullies and road ragers in Newport Beach got game, too.
And then Mr. Sagbottom discovered that videos on smart phones can quickly be uploaded to the Internet, which then results in this pathetic, babbling, self-debasing blibber-blabber which seems less an apology than a psychotic CYA self-flagellation tailored to a potential jury pool.
Yes, the Internet did its job, which, lest we ever, ever forget, is to entertain. We got the innocent victim, a cyclist out riding with his son. We got the caricature of a caricature of a caricature of a buffoon — angry, stupid, obese, dentally challenged, thinning hair, waddling, homophobic, and parroting a line from a cowboy movie, so ironic because he’s the opposite of the tough guys in the movie he obviously idolizes. Oh, and he was the perfect cardboard cutout for all that is bad about surfing and surfers, a fellow who is obviously too large and unfit to surf well, if at all, nonetheless pretending to speak for the surfing community.
If nothing else, it gave me pause to think how one asshole claiming to be a surfer can tarnish a whole bunch of people, not unlike the rude cyclist giving the finger to a housewife with a car full of little kids.
Robert Lewis gave every aggrieved cyclist the chance to happily and viciously punch the “like” button on Facebag, and to add a searing comment, piling onto a stinking heap of shit that smokes and smells just fine on its own. And then to watch the Newport Beach Police Department go from “We don’t care about this,” to “We’re taking this seriously and investigating” added a finale that was as unexpected as it was appreciated.
Justice may or may not be done, but Sir Sagbottom will spend a few more sleepless nights wishing he hadn’t made such an ass out of himself.
Entertainment is fun and the Internet delivers it. For that, I’m appreciative.
But for anyone who lives or cycles or cages in the South Bay, there’s a big load of work ahead, because the city of Rancho Palos Verdes has begun work on its bike safety master plan, and it is seeking clubs and cyclists who might be interested in collaborating.
I was gratified beyond words when Chris Rovin, Marvin Campbell, Tom Duong, John Wike, Greg Leibert, Chris Tregillis, Jose Godinez, Craig Eggers, Tara Unverzagt, Delia Park, Geoff Loui, Bob Frank, Mark Maxson, and Jaycee Cary responded within minutes when we reached out for potential volunteers.
They did so without knowing the commitment or even what was involved. What they knew was that it won’t be Internet entertainment. A group of RPV residents has already belittled cyclists as the residents attempt to illegally ban bikes from a public road; one fine fellow compared cyclists to dog shit. What these cyclists know is that it will be hard, it will take time, their asses may go numb from hours of sitting (free chamois cream and Junk Jam for all) and it will stretch their abilities to compromise and find common ground. It will also likely require them to spend actual face time with a bully or two like Mr. Sagbottom.
Thanks for stepping up. It’s not YouTube entertainment with a happy ending in less than 24 hours but it’s going to make cycling a lot more fun for others.
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August 9, 2016 § 34 Comments
The worst thing that can happen to you isn’t being tortured and killed. It’s having that happen to the people you love.
You’d think that no matter how testy things got between the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and cyclists on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there would be a line in the sand that even spoiled, failed, class action defendants wouldn’t cross.
You’d be wrong.
The latest spitball in the classroom melee over the world-shaking, hard to answer question of whether or not it’s okay to kill cyclists with your car was flung by the anonymous goon who maintains a hatesite dedicated to attacking everyone and everything that challenges the white supremacy of the PV Peninsula.
And of course, being a bully and a coward (but I repeat myself), he attacked a child.
Let me back up.
The Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch really is a thing. In a recent Daily Breeze article in which the LBBOMC were sporting afro wigs and blackface on MLK Day, one of the alleged perpetrators was defended by … his mom:
According to the lawsuit, a local surfer named Anthony Beukema wore blackface and an Afro wig to the protest, telling organizer Chris Taloa, “You don’t pay enough taxes to be here.” Beukema could not be reached, but his mother vehemently denied the allegations to a reporter.
In addition to defending the public coastline that they’ve stolen from the people of California, which is right in line with what their soul-brethren in Rancho Palos Verdes Estates are seeking to do with Crest Rd., i.e. convert public roadway to private property so that bikers can’t ride there, the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch have taken up the anti-bike cause on the peninsula as well.
One local realtor has gone on social media sites such as NextDoor and proclaimed that if cyclists get killed when disobeying traffic laws, it’s simply Darwinism at work. It makes you wonder what this must mean for his real estate pitches (“You’ll love this house. Great view, nice pool, friendly neighbors unless your kid’s on a bike then they will kill you.”) A small cadre in PVE have even brought into the cycling discussion such ideas as the Hajnal Line, and have pointedly suggested that that the reason PVE is so nice is because it is so white.
By now you’re probably wondering, “All this over a couple of bike signs?”
Answer: Yes. Oh, yes.
Anyway, at the last two PVE City Council meetings, one of the pro-bike speakers spoke, followed by his 12-year-old daughter. A few short weeks later the kid had become a target, with offensive and false comments posted about her on social media, comments so awful that the NextDoor admin took them down and even (Gasp!) admonished the poster.
So we’ve descended into 21st Century Online Hell, where grown men defendants sleeping on mom’s couch and their enablers are actually targeting children who dare to approach the lectern at a public meeting. And as repugnant as that sounds, well, maybe it’s not.
The first lesson in civics reminds me of this Japanese proverb: The nail that sticks up will get pounded down.
There are no risk-free public lecterns, whether you’re a kid advocating for safe streets or the parents of a soldier killed in the line of combat. Democracy and the defense of free speech mean that in order for good people who stand for justice to be heard, we must also hear the voices of Westboro Baptist Church.
It’s painful on a personal level when a surf gang member of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch attacks your kid (but less painful, perhaps, when you consider MMX’s question, “Have you seen them surf?”), but as a parent and a citizen you’ve already won. Your kid has stood up to the bullies, just like this kid did, and when the Palos Verdes City Council had to take a vote on making the streets safer, they voted to make the streets safer.
Take note of that, Boys on Mom’s Couch: The city council sided with an articulate 12-year-old and rejected the rantings of droopy, failed, defendant old men who are guilty of the worst crime you could ever commit in California, i.e. crappy surfing.
The Kooks on Mom’s Couch were too fearful and outnumbered to show up at the council meeting, and they lost. Their only recourse was to make some ugly videos, spew a little hate, and yell at mom to pick up another tub of ice cream at the Malaga Cove Ranch Market. And a sixer.
We teach our kids that sometimes the right thing is the hard thing, but maybe we’ve lied to them a little bit: The right thing is always the hard thing. The right thing is the Gandhi thing, the MLK thing, the Lincoln thing. It’s the path everyone wants to take until they note it’s overgrown with weeds, and each blade of grass is the serrated edge of a knife.
Like every leader, this kid has made the rank and file who support her dig in. If she’s willing to go to the lectern and advocate for safer streets, the nameless hundreds in her corner are willing to dig in, too, from the elected officials to the police to the Lycra-clad to the overwhelming majority of decent people in PVE who are sickened by these clowns.
Doubt me? Just watch. ‘Cuz three feet, fellas, it’s the law. Even in good old PVE.
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August 6, 2016 § 40 Comments
None of this happened overnight. John Forester got it all started in the 1970s when he laid out the theory behind riding a bike utilizing traffic laws applicable to other vehicles. Communities from Long Beach to Kalamazoo have shared their plans and their experiences with what it takes to change community attitudes towards bikes.
Advocates in LA like Don Ward, Dan Gutierrez, Eric Bruins, and Jim Hannon, and advocates in Michigan like Paul Selden are just a few of the people who have shown the way to cooperating with local government to make roads safer for bikes. The daily drumbeat of advocacy and activism in our local CABO forum relentlessly highlights the solutions to the problems we face.
Most importantly, the people who think the wages of cycling should be death, as enunciated by a local PV realtor recently, and the people who believe that cyclists should be banned and public roads should be privatized, are on the defensive. More to the point, they’re being routed as they stand on an isolated little spit of meanness and greed, heaping hatred on people for pedaling bicycles even as the waves of change gradually eat away at their last sandy redoubt.
The final piece of the puzzle, i.e. acceptance of safe cycling by every community, awaits. It’s not that far off, and the real progenitors for this final change are bike clubs. They are organized, they are community based, they are composed of long-time residents, they are mostly too tired from cycling to scream and yell, and their ass-conditioning means they can outlast any opponent in a city council sitting contest.
Here’s what you and your club have to do to make the revolution complete.
- Take a bike education course like Cycling Savvy that teaches you how to ride a bike in traffic.
- Get your club leaders to take a class.
- Make completion of a cycling in traffic class a condition for leading any club ride or being a board member.
- Ultimately make a cycling in traffic class a requirement for membership in your club.
- Establish a permanent community liaison in your club whose job it is to attend every city council meeting and/or traffic safety committee meeting that deals with anything bike-related. If your club encompasses multiple jurisdictions, establish multiple liaisons.
- Recruit other club members to join your liaisons on an ad hoc basis for various meetings so that there’s always a cycling contingent of 4-5 people to counterbalance the crazies.
- Start using cycling in traffic techniques on all your club rides; don’t back down because a few refuseniks prefer the gutter.
- Begin using cycling in traffic techniques on non-club group rides by discussing with the chain gang bosses beforehand. Cooperation is generally frowned upon in cycling, I know, but this actually matters, almost as much as who’s going to win the imaginary sprunt.
- Sponsor 3-4 cycling in traffic safety classes per year and make them available to the community, which includes law enforcement, local government, and local schools. Think of how much your club members spent on beer in 2016. For a few hundred bucks you could actually save a life or two.
- Make cycling traffic techniques at least as high a priority in every club meeting as the annual club bibs/jersey order. Ridiculous? Perhaps, but possible. Maybe you could lead off with, “We’re going to discuss a new jersey design for ride leaders who’ve taken the education course … “
The prophets are in from the wilderness and the unwashed and somewhat-washed cycling herds are ready to receive the message. Go forth and spread the seed, but spread it as traffic, controlling the lane.
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August 2, 2016 § 33 Comments
I always thought bike clubs were dumb. Why does anyone need an organization to ride a stupid bicycle, drink beer, and pedal around outdoors in your underwear? These things can all be done unaffiliated.
That’s why even though I’ve belonged to many clubs over the years, they’ve been racing clubs that got me a $5 discount on a pair of socks, a couple of free bottles, and the Always Promised But Never Delivered Race Reimbursements At The End Of The Year.
Your club is probably a lot better than the ones I’ve always belonged to, but it’s still dumb. I mean, think how goofy you would look if you went to dinner with your family and everyone was wearing identical clothes. Now multiply it times a hundred, and make it matching underwear worn outside. Really.
Also, you don’t need matching undies to make friends, although I certainly understand that there are situations in which it helps.
My outlook has changed, though. Over the years I’ve noticed that bike clubs really can have a purpose other than underwear coordination. One of those should be education. As I’ve noted before, the Old Ways Have Changed. Cycling is no longer a lunatic fringe activity where a few newbies join each year and are carefully disciplined by grizzled old-timers like Jack and Phil and Jeff who teach you the rules with sharp words.
The newbies are everywhere. They’re in your club. They are swirling around in traffic, mostly oblivious to how badly they can be hurt. Some of them may have even joined a club–your club–under the illusion that they’ll get some friendly instruction. (Note: Screaming “Hold your line!” followed by a wheel chop isn’t instruction.) Often, they assume that the skills they had at age 9, plus SRAM Rred and a bunch of carbon, are all they need to stay alive.
This is of course not true. The full carbon actually makes you go faster, and we all know what happens when you put lots of speed and money and carbon at the fingertips of not much skill and even fewer brains.
Since we can’t scream riding lessons anymore (I’m too old and tired, and the newbies mostly look like they know how to throw a right hook), what’s left is education.
It’s time for your club to assume the position and start teaching, and to do so formally. Why can riders join a club without mandatory training? Why can they join a club without classroom education? Why are we enticing people to be members of a fun activity that really isn’t any fun when you’re experiencing it through a breathing tube?
Our club held its first ever Cycling Savvy class for our members. It was my third time to take the class and I was absolutely electrified by it.
Over forty people showed up on a Saturday afternoon to, yes, learn how to ride a bike. Much pride was swallowed and surprise, much was learned. Following the lead of clubs like BCCC and the Long Beach Freddies, Big Orange has not simply made education available to its members, but it’s started down a path where education will be a requirement for membership. “Life over underwear coordination!” or something like that.
In addition, the club has taken the radical step of offering group ride training on its Sunday rides. This means rides with actual leaders who provide actual instruction based on many of the techniques taught in Cycling Savvy. My personal favorite technique is called “Control from the rear.” Pretty awesome, huh?
Whether you’re a race club, a riding club, or a baby seal club, if you’re pedaling a bike you need skills to survive. Implementing club-wide education doesn’t make you any more of a bike dork (or any less, I should add), but it makes cycling just a tiny bit safer. As Fireman pointed out, “Even if 90% of those dorks don’t get it, all you have to save is one life and suddenly it was all worthwhile.”
Cycling Savvy is offering a free course courtesy of the Orange County Wheelmen on August 4th. In typical cycling planning fashion, I got notice yesterday, but if you can make time for it, and if you belong to a club, and if you think making it home from the ride alive is a good thing, take a couple of hours out of your Thursday and invest it in the future. You can even wear your favorite garish underwear to the meeting if you need chamois time.
It’s something every underwear club in America could benefit from.
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