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?

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My in Depends Day

July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments

The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.

It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.

If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.

Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.

Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.

EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.

Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.

Well, fuck those people.

By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.

butt_balm

Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.

The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.

It kind of looked like this.

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Oh, I’m so sorry

July 3, 2016 § 27 Comments

I gave up about thirty years ago trying to make people feel better about my 68th place in the parking lot crit. Now I don’t even tell anyone I’m racing, and my family knows better than to ask, “How’d it go?” Still, every now and then a friend of a friend or a friend of a family member gets a whiff of the bike race, and in kindness and curiosity and ignorance they peg me with “How was your race?”

This happened last night at the table. Some friends of the kids had come over for dinner and they had brought their dogs. I love dogs. We were talking about the grandbaby and about how he hadn’t shit for the last couple of days. I’d forgotten how dinner table talk changes with an infant, and a two-day shit hiatus was quite relevant to everyone’s existence because now it was just a matter of when, how much, and who was going to be holding him cooing “He’s SOOOO adorable!” at the moment he uncorked a diaper buster.

In between shit speculation I kept an eye on the dogs, one of whom was doing the Itchy Ass Butt Scoot on our carpet. That’s the thing where the dog drags its butthole over every square inch of the floor with a happy look on its face and dares you to stop him. Of course we lie on the carpet along with the baby, and it was great to see that we were going to have a whole new intestinal biota to build baby’s immune system. I was less thrilled about my own immune system, which was already pretty strong and didn’t need another dog-ass inoculation, but oh, well. Guests and their pets.

About the time the butt scoot wrapped up, the other dog did the Pink Wet Dick Couch Drag. You know this one, it is so cute. The dog lets his giant pink penis flop out on the couch and it just hangs there, leaving a snail trail as he waggles it from side to side. As a man it’s hard not to envy anyone who can simply show the world his engorged sloppy dick and, with a stupid smile, say, “See? That’s my glistening wet dick. How do you like it?”

Of course the guests were total butt-scoot & dick-drag pros, so we all laughed it off with “Aren’t they cute?” and “What a nice penis!” and “Dogshit on my clothes is so DTLA!” and we all pretended that it was totally cool and we continued with dinner. That’s when the guest, who had heard I had been to a bike race, asked The Question That Shall Not Be Asked.

“How was your bike race? I heard you went to a bike race?”

I put down my fork. “It went great, thanks.”

And then The Question That Shall Not Be Asked Even More Than The Other Unaskable One: “Did you win?”

“No.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. How’d you do?”

“I got next to last, I think.”

“Oh, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. I often get that.”

Now the awkwardness really set in. Dog asses on your host’s carpet, no prob. Wet pink dick on the leather couch? Cool, man. But next to last in a bike race? AWKWARD because, now sitting at dinner with a loser.

I tried to explain. “I’ve been losing at bike races for almost forty years.”

That made it even worse. The guests were inconsolable. Even the dog pulled his dick back in. So I explained.

“Look, you know how in football there are two teams?” They perked up at the mention of a real sport.

“Yeah?”

“Well in football there is one winner and one loser, right?”

“Right.”

“In bicycle racing there are 119 dribbling prostates, kind of like your dog there, but only one winner.”

“Yes?”

“So everyone loses except that one guy. Bike racers are losers. That’s all they do is lose. A .500 season in football usually won’t get you into the playoffs. A .300 winning record in bicycling makes you the winningest bike racer of all time.”

“Oh,” they said, their glum responses confirming what they already knew, which is that bicycle racing was really stupid.

“Yeah. So when you win a bike race it’s a big deal, even though it’s some stupid old farts’ race in Compton. There were 119 other idiots who lost and who all have to go home and explain to the guests at the dinner table why they’re losers.”

They stared into the gourmet dinner bowl of beans and rice. “So why do you do it if you never win?” The woman was patting the grandbaby, who had been transferred over to her lap so she could experience the joy of feeding a tiny child. It was the perfect transition from delusional old man loser to bright-future-adorable-little-thing.

“He’s sooooo adorable!” she said.

And on cue, he delivered.

END

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Apple foot motif

July 1, 2016 § 22 Comments

I don’t know why this would make me smile, but it did. Maybe because apple, banana, almonds, and foot on table are the best biking food ever. Yeah, that’s it.

apple_foot9apple_foot8apple_foot7apple_foot6apple_foot5apple_foot4apple_foot3apple_foot2apple_foot1

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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.

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Protest: It’s the American way

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.

For ride details, click here.

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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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 18: Let’s all learn Chinese!

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:

  1. You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
  2. 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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