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.
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June 28, 2016 § 17 Comments
Local cyclist Michael Barraclough has had enough and he’s not going to take it anymore. This morning, Tuesday, June 28, at 5:00 PM, he will begin a ride in the city of Palos Verdes Estates to protest the city’s failure to address cyclists’ concerns about violence.
With three deaths on the peninsula since March, two of which occurred in Palos Verdes Estates, and with assaults occurring on a nearly daily basis, Barraclough has attended council meetings, written letters, and implored the city to take an aggressive approach to protecting those who cycle within the city limits.
The failure of the city to meaningfully engage has led to his call for a protest ride.
Unlike many protests, this one will be based on scrupulous adherence to the California Vehicle Code. Local motorists, many of whom complain that cyclists are scofflaws, will get to see the effects of numerous bicycles in downtown PVE as they stop at every stop sign and stay in a single file. Although single file riding is not required by law, motorists in PVE are fond of shouting “Single file!” at riders as they buzz them in their speeding steel cages.
The ride will make a series of loops through Malaga Cove. Everyone is invited to attend. Following the ride there will be a Palos Verdes Estates City Council meeting, which should be even more fun than the protest ride.
In the words of one rider, “I’ve spent my life to this point sitting idly by while other people advocate for progressive social change. I’m proud to be involved. Every time we throw a leg over our bike, we accept the very real chance that we may not be coming home. It doesn’t have to be that way.
“As the protesters in Ferguson brought attention to the fact that it’s not okay to shoot a child, just because he dressed like a ‘thug,’ let’s let the PVE police know that it’s not acceptable for a motorist to murder a cyclist, just because he dressed like a ‘roadie.’
Three months ago, I lost my best friend Jonathan Tansavatdi because this type of advocacy was too late in coming. Don’t wait until you lose some one you love to step forward and do something about it. If you don’t show up, nothing will happen. If we work together, we can change the world”
Well, well said.
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June 27, 2016 § 20 Comments
Old bicycle racers focus a lot on their physical fitness but don’t pay as much attention to their mental faculties, which decline even faster with consequences even more dire than losing the 55-50 KOM for 225-lb-and-over on the Garbage Can Alley .01 Mile Segment.
Here is a quick test to see if your mind is rotting due to senility:
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
If you answered true, you have memory loss.
Rather than going out and doing a bunch of hill repeats, the best thing to beef up your soggy neurons are brain intervals. What is a brain interval? It is something devilishly, fiendishly difficult that will leave you gasping for air after a mere 2-4 minutes of effort.
The important thing is that you select something you used to be good at rather than something that you always wanted to try but never did. For example, when you are an old dude and you take up math, even though you were always horrible at math, you will quickly give up. So even though the fierce brain interval caused by trying to, say, add up five numbers in a column, will cause a great increase in brain sharpness, you’ll quickly give up by day three and be back to the same old, same old.
If you were one of those people who liked to study foreign languages when you were young back in the 1920’s, my advice is that you study Chinese. Now, a couple of qualifiers: If you’re already Chinese, this won’t help. Also, if you’re not already Chinese and you try to learn Chinese, you’ll sound like a complete fool no matter how many years you study it.
This is because Chinese has tones that completely change a word’s meaning. Problem is, you can’t hear the tones. Only Chinese people can. And while you’re sitting there smiling into your video cam while you do your online lesson with a cute teacher in Shanghai, and you think you’re saying, “I ate a hamburger last night,” because you got the tones all garfed up you’re actually saying, “I licked the dog’s butt last night.”
You’ll never know that, of course, because your teacher is very polite and she doesn’t give two hoots whether you ever learn Chinese or not as long as you keep paying the monthly lesson fee.
Still, even though you will never learn Chinese, it is so terribly hard that you will spend the rest of your life struggling with it and making practically zero progress, so it’s a lot like bike racing. Plus, each time you memorize a kanji (even though you forget it the next day), it will build approximate 200 new synapses. Example: Memorizing the characters 互聯網圖片is the neurological equivalent of growing three new brains.
Perhaps you don’t want to learn Chinese and figure that instead of three new brains you’d be happy learning Spanish, or Russian, or Igbo, and only getting the equivalent of one new brain’s worth of synapses. Regardless, you should visit www.italki.com, a language learning web site that offers instruction for pretty much any language in the world by native speakers at incredibly cheap rates. Its tag line is “Become fluent in any language!” which is of course a complete lie. You can also use the web site to do a free language exchange (these never work, by the way), where you swap a half-hour of conversation with an English learner who already speaks English better than you do, for a half-hour of murdering your target language with the fluency of a cat.
Check it out. You’ll soon be chattering away, and even though no one will understand you, you’ll be synapse-rich and doing crossword puzzles backwards while your bike racing compadres are drooling in the Alzheimer’s ward. If they aren’t already.
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June 26, 2016 § 52 Comments
Bike lanes are stupidy McDumdum. Sorry, but they are. Here’s why:
- They make you harder to see by shoving you over to the side of the road.
- 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:
- They are bicycle people.
- 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.
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June 25, 2016 § 10 Comments
If you want to be a successful profamateur leaky prostate bike racing dope taker, it is crucial that you get a good night’s sleep. For me, that means sleeping on Mrs. WM’s pillow. “You get offa my pillow,” she always says with a forceful kick. “You stinky head.”
Mrs. WM has the best pillow in the world. It is firm but soft, and covered with a crisp cotton pillowcase. Then, to top it off, it is wrapped in a snow-soft gentle towel that is so clean and always smells so fresh that the minute your head touches Mrs. WM’s pillow you drop off into sleepyland.
Wanky’s pillow is a different bike racing pillow altogether. First, no matter how many times you wash it, disinfect it, or plunge it into a bucket of Lime-Plus Flea, Tick & Mange Dip, it smells like an old bike racing pillow. Second, it is kind of sour smelling, like a dirty head, and it’s lumpy, too. Third, some places are soft like a rotten tomato, and others are hard like a piece of brick. No matter where you put your head on it, it’s the wrong place. You wake up in the morning from a hard night of Wanky pillow feeling like your head has been beaten with one of those giant twirling bristle things on the bottom of a street cleaner.
Mrs. WM won’t tell me where she buys her pillow and she certainly won’t buy me one. “You onna ruin it with stinky head,” she says when I beg for one. “Your head touch onna anything, stinky head. Bikin’helmet, stinky head. Bikin’ beanie head thing, stinky head. Baseball cap even though you ain’t playin’ any baseball, stinky head. So why I’m gonna buy you a nice Japanese pillow, smells all good and then stinky head?”
Since Mrs. WM has pretty sharp bedroom elbows and a solid set of 40-grit sandpaper calluses on the soles of her feet to keep away unwanted pillow snatchers, I have to get my pillow on the sly, which means during nap time. On the weekend I will wait until she’s out shopping, then sneak into bed and take a quick catnap of 2-3 hours snuggled up against her pillow. I wrap my head in a towel first to prevent anything from rubbing off and luxuriate in the deepest and best sleep known to man.
So the next time I’m standing on the podium and you wonder what my secret is … now you know.
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June 24, 2016 § 15 Comments
I was at the San Marcos crit several weeks ago retiring from a fabled amateur cycling career that was filled with fables. As I retired before doing the 45+ Grandpa Low T race, I ran into a gal who I will call Ms. J.
Ms. J. had begun bike racing this year and was doing really well. She had made a couple of podiums and already understood the fundamentals of bike racing, fundamentals that to me often seem like math equations that fill a chalkboard (Note: I failed Mrs. Morcom’s Algebra 1 class and had to retake it in summer school in order to graduate from Jane Long Junior High).
As we chatted about bike racing and I picked up from her what useful information I could, I noticed her hands, and how small and lovely they were. When she got to the part where she was going to tell me something that might actually help me win a race, I interrupted her. “Hey,” I said, “I hate being an advice sausage but I’m really old and I’m a grandpa and I can’t help noticing your beautiful hands and I gotta tell you something.”
She paused. “Yes?”
“You gotta wear gloves.”
“Yes. All the time. Long-fingered ones.”
“Because whether you have pretty hands like yours, or ugly old nasty things like mine, it’s super hard to pick your nose without any fingers. And all it takes is one good bicycle falling off incident or getting doored while training and your hands will be all garfed up for good. Ask Charon. He used to be Mr.-Tom-Boonen-Gloves-Are-For-Sissies until he slid 400 yards along the asphalt on his palms.”
She looked at her very lovely hands. “I think I’ll get some, but my race is about to start.” Off she went and got on her podium in one of the hardest races on the calendar and I didn’t see her again.
A few days later I got an email telling me about her race. “That’s great,” I said, “did you get the gloves?”
“Well … ” she replied.
So I went online and got her a pair, like the ones I use, the Giro Somethingorothers. I’ve got a couple of pair and even after years of use they are ragged but still in great condition. They are long-fingered, incredibly comfortable, warm in winter, cool in summer, stylish, and thick enough to save your hands when you need it but thin enough to give you great touch on your bars. I mailed them off, because grandpas hate it when young people dilly-dally around with important stuff like HANDS.
Then a funny thing happened.
There is this woman who rides in the South Bay named Michelle. She’s a great rider, sure, but more than that she’s a great person. Positive, earnest, fun, and always finding the bright side of things. If Michelle’s around you’re going to be in a good mood unless of course you’re Eeyore, which, sad to say, I often am.
I went out to the mailbox and there was a thick mailing envelope. I opened it and inside it was a pair of my very favorite Giro Somethingorothers, only in an even more stylish color than my tan ones. And along with the Somethingorothers, gloves that she had carefully noted on my hands and found the exact make, model, and size for, was a note. This note:
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June 21, 2016 § 10 Comments
I have recently devised the best training loop ever in the history of bicycle riding, called the Wanky Super Power Loop. I also hold the Strava KOM on this fantastic, amazing segment so please don’t bother trying to take it. In fact, since it’s my only KOM I really hope that all of you cyclists in the South Bay will be sure to not try and take it from me, as it would really hurt my feelings a lot, kind of like the time that I set a secret KOM on my home street and showed it to Eric and he went out and took it away from me the next day.
I’m not bitter about that.
Also, I trust that Wanky’s Super Power Loop will remain with me atop the leaderboard at least for the next five or nine years. However, today’s post isn’t (only) to point out how totally I crushed the Wanky Super Power Loop segment, it’s also to gin up recognition for this as, really, the best riding loop anywhere, ever. Why is it so good?
First, it has plenty of elevation but none of it is steep. This means you can use it to clear out your legs after a weekend of racing or eating donuts. It also means that if you want to go racing around as if your power numbers and Strava doodads really matter, you can do that too. In other words, it’s good for slow and it’s good for fast.
Second, it has plenty of shade. Los Angeles is not known for shade, and in the summer of the hottest temperatures ever recorded at the South Pole and an El Nino that has bleached dead hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine coral reefs worldwide, there is a premium on trees (until you need them for a new floor, of course). Wanky’s Super Power Loop lets you pedal in comfort no matter how many people die from heatstroke over in Gardena.
Third, since it runs through a gorgeous and quiet neighborhood on the edge of Palos Verdes Estates, you will piss off all the curmudgeons who think that the street is theirs. Nothing makes a fun ride funner than waving a cheery “Good morning!” to some codger with an impacted stool who just wrote three angry letters to the mayor and donated $5 to the Trump campaign than the sight of a happy bicyclist pedaling down his street.
Best of all, Wanky’s Super Power Loop reprises sections of the infamous Thursday Flog Ride, so while you’re spinning along you can pick out the most judicious place to launch your attack or to chokingly wave “Easy week!” as the peloton rides away.
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