Notes from underground

September 30, 2016 § 38 Comments

Below are my notes of the anti-bike comments from the RPV meeting on 9/26/16, so you can see the level of discourse, familiarity with the law, and general attitude that a small group of privileged, angry, NIMBY residents who live atop a hill in a gated community have towards cyclists on “their” public streets.

Lady: Atop Crest there isn’t enough space for bikes and motorists. I went to Copenhagen and Stockholm and saw how they handled cycling. They were very cycling friendly.  They have separated bike lanes. These cities are flat so they are conducive to large numbers of bikes getting along well with motorists. And the cyclists don’t even wear helmets! It would be very helpful to have signs on Crest saying “Bikes must ride single file to the right.”

Lady: Let’s elevate the discourse because last time there was name calling and bullying [She made this comment just before one of her compadres started giving the finger to the committee and throwing paper at other attendees]. Let’s work together. Residents are not bike haters, they’re just concerned residents who want to improve safety for all. Safety issues occur when cyclists take over the lane, ride in packs, or ride on the left side of the lane. Residents need to conduct their lives. Another problem is bikes going fast downhill and they’ve fallen over and that’s a hazard. I’m an RPV resident and I support signage for single file, ride to the right, and bikes shouldn’t have access to the lane.

Dude: One of the issues is that I was personally threatened driving home with children in my car when a biker hit my window. I was very frightened and no sheriff was around. Aggressive behavior is bad, we’re saying help us. You will eventually have an altercation with people who are not from this community. It’s the safety issue over and over again. There’s a bike lane and it should be used. Large groups are unsafe. There’s no reason to ride your bike all the way to Crest. This must be implemented for your safety and for our safety. There will be problems. Maybe we should limit the number of cyclists on the road. They have ways of controlling crowds like at Disney. Let’s find out the Disney rules for crowd control.

[Guy shouts at Kramer not to take photos, is told he’s out of order and that photos are legal in a public meeting. Guy flips off Kramer and is admonished by the deputy.]

Lady: It feels intimidating. It shouldn’t be you versus us. I grew up on the Hill and rode my bike downhill once; it’s harrowing and I never did it again. Most riders are experienced but some are old and teetering and I don’t want liability for hurting them. I know too much. I don’t want to hurt someone. It’s not fair. We’re forced to share. It’s big groups from out of town. They’re taking over. You’re supposed to drive to the right. They should be going slower than a car in most areas, in the middle of the lane they will stop everything. It should be single file. This is pure recreation and it’s a hazard and we’re forced to partake. I feel like it should be single file.

Dude: Kramer shouldn’t be on the committee. He has a conflict of interest. That doesn’t make any sense. I heard two stories, one at a party and a friend from Malibu comes here to ride every two weeks. They pay and ride RPV. They like the hills and it’s challenging. Someone’s making money. The city is not collecting permit fees. Traffic has gotten worse from bikers who come from ads in biking groups. On Thursday night after PV High’s open house five bikers were going around the turn. I’m going 45 they’re going 5 mph dressed in black. Police should be there this is safety. It’s not going to work. I would like to see less bicyclists on the road. Sharing should be the same. Obey the DMV.

Lady: We have a growing bike community and everything else, a huge increase in Abalone Cove deaths and severe accidents and visitors don’t know oceans and mountain roads. Hairpin turns. I prepared a huge memo, you’re lucky you didn’t read it. Joggers, beach cruisers and racers, motorcyclists, people with dogs. I gathered evidence and found tremendous mixed use. I used to ride horses here before you were born. Mountain bikers are dangerous and scare horses. We must have a vision for our semi-rural community. These are the pains of social media. Bicyclists camping on our vacant land. I’m thinking we should categorize roads like ski slopes. Some are good for bicyclists and others are not suitable for bicyclists. My son rides with Steve Bauer, a famous cyclist, he knows what he’s doing but those aren’t the people coming into our community.

Dude: Look at all these assault with a deadly weapon reports. By Greg Seyranian. All of the reports were just prior to Kramer’s presentation on traffic safety. Kramer’s phone number is on the tax returns for Big Orange. Kramer is the treasurer. Seyranian is also listed. Look at 2013 Big Orange tax returns. Same Kramer phone, the treasurer, Kramer is more than just a member. He is Big Orange. He’s the agent for service of process. He’s one of the founders, the treasurer. Please recuse yourself as it concerns Big Orange.

Lady: At the last meeting I was shocked there were no reported accidents. I found five specific accident and traffic collision reports. Four were caused by bikes. You need to get all the facts. There is a 3-foot law inconsistency. It’s not possible to comply with the 3-foot law and stay in your own lane. You might better understand our position. I think that there is an agenda and it’s to enact bikes may use full lane curriculum. It’s advertised on Big Orange web site. That agenda needs to be addressed so it doesn’t become part of a campaign. I’m glad you brought up respect. It’s hard to come up and talk in public. It’s discouraging when they’re publicly ridiculed. We are not morons for articulating our concerns. The passive-aggressive commentary is symptomatic of the behavior that raises these conflicts. Please consider all the interests.

Dude: I’ve been living here over 16 years. No choice but to drive the road. Bikes are toys. You know there is a blind spot? We are careful. You get more nervous from bikes. How can we keep distance? We’re waiting until the road is wider then swing by but it’s a dangerous situation. We don’t have a choice but to drive this road. We pay taxes, bikers never pay no taxes, we don’t have a choice but you have a choice to buy a bike and you have a choice to go somewhere else. Please go somewhere else. That’s what we ask you. Avoid the danger. Avoid accidents. Protect their lives. If car and bike hit who’s gonna get more damage? If I want to ride a bike I go to a park. We have no choice but they do.

Dude: Riding the hill on Saturday morning is advertised by Big Orange. They stop at Crest. It seems sponsored. It’s a great opportunity for more policing. Funding through permits to keep bicycles and motorists safe. The ordinance should apply to Big Orange and to all groups who use Crest for training. Kramer should recuse himself because of conflict of interest.

Dude: I’m a resident and runner. I have observed bikers in RHE and RPV, I have seen the number grow enormously. It used to be five or so now there are 35 or 40. Sanitary issues. Treat the Donut Ride as a special event and require a permit. It will put LASD on notice and give them the opportunity to monitor conduct of riders. Many in large groups violate 21202. The city should ensure the safety of the roads. The city is liable if roads are not safe.

Dude: There used to be a sign saying “road unsuitabe for bicycles.” I missed when they made it suitable. You can’t keep up with vehicles. Going downhill maybe you can. I live at the top. Bikers are on the inside line. This is our only road! I don’t know, but if you’re a bike nazi, that’s not getting along.

Lady: There’s been a great increase in bikes, let’s monitor them, I’m all for it. My son and husband are great bicyclists. The bad ones impede traffic, they cause rear ending from their poor riding skills. Many groups are here and more coming. We need to keep this semi-rural environment for us.

Lady: What is an organic ride? It’s Big Orange local rides. The Donut Run and anti-Donut Run. Top ten rides on PV. Groups that are regularly riding as part of an organized situation. We are not wanting to approach adversarially. Residents are raising safety concerns by observed safety incidents on roads not safe for bikes, pedestrians, and motorists need to be addressed and the statute applies and until revisited it should be uniformly applied.

Lady: I’m a Crest resident. I’d like to see us live here safely. How will you enforce the ordinance? This is new and we’ll set parameters. The ordinance is to manage people and it takes money and when the city looks at enforcement, girls walking around isn’t a safety issue, but if we have funding we can intro a pilot program to see what data we have. As we develop guidelines we should look at it. Or if they’re not impinging then the groups shouldn’t be included.

Dude: There’s an impact, let’s look at the impact. Where are the needed rest stops at Marymount? Additional law enforcement to cite motorists and pedestrians. Funding from somewhere. Big Orange can’t say we are not responsible. Girl scouts don’t impact, runners and Sierra Club don’t impact. This is a good time to say let’s try it.

Dude: Certain time too, a certain time. Liability and making sure they have some kind of insurance policy. Whoever posts about the ride is responsible. Clearly it is advertising. Notice for the event shouldn’t be 90 days should be in a week, five days. Hand them a sticker or something or we should have police just designated for that ride. Certain areas should have rest rooms, different containment, stop refresh, and ride in a singe file lane. I’ve driven behind some shaky legs. I disagree about lemonade stands. There’s no liability to us for girl scouts that would apply to that.

Lady: I can understand organic rides. But a lady told me they had time trials going up and down Crest. You can’t relieve yourself in public. I’m sure you’re very good about that Mr. Kramer.



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Double header crazypants

September 29, 2016 § 44 Comments

On Monday night there was a traffic safety committee meeting held by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. You think committee meetings are boring?

This one wasn’t.

It featured a guy who began by complaining about people taking pictures. The chair told him he was “out of order” which is nice speak for “shut the fuck up” and informed him that it was a public meeting, open to the public, held for the public, and publicly regulated under the Brown Act, which publicly regulates public meetings.

The guy was not mollified by the law because he was part of a contingent who demanded that the city put up signs saying “Bikes Must Ride Single File.” No matter that this isn’t the law, and no matter that the California Vehicle Code doesn’t prohibit riding two abreast, no matter that the committee has given extensive, detailed PowerPoint presentations on CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions, and no matter that the most fundamental principle of statutory construction is that the law permits everything that is not specifically prohibited.

In Rancho Palos Verdes these NIMBYs had come to the meeting to advise what they thought the law should be and to demand that the city put it on a sign. Right? Because after inventing a few new anti-bike provisions for the vehicle code they could follow it with signs that said, “No poor people,” “No Torranceites,” “No San Pedroians,” and of course “No people whose last names end in a vowel.”

It was clear that, having bought a second-hand home with an ugly garage on top of a hill and surrounding the whole faux estate with an iron gate and guard shack, this guy thought that the public meetings were private, too, and no amount of explaining that the meeting was “public” seemed to have any effect on him at all.

Because polysyllabic words and laws and facts kept getting in the way of his opinions, the guy followed up his outburst a few minutes later by showing the middle finger at what appeared to be the committee. When the sheriff’s deputy came over and told him he couldn’t flip off the committee, he told the deputy that he hadn’t been flipping off them, he’d been flipping off … me. For taking pictures.

I hadn’t said a word the entire meeting and when I looked back he threw a fleck of paper at me while raising his middle finger again for emphasis. There I was, back in Third Grade with the classroom bully showing me the finger, throwing spitballs, and daring the teacher to get on with her job. If you think it’s extraordinary that a grown man would go to a public meeting and show his contempt for public participation by flipping people off and flinging flecks of paper at his imagined enemies, you need to come to one of these meetings.

But what’s more extraordinary is that the very people who flipped us off, threw things, and booed Delia Park at the previous meeting when she described the catastrophic injuries of a friend belong to the same anti-bike contingent that opened the meeting with an appeal for civility and made pointed complaints about the militant biker bullies–never mind that not a single cyclist in any public meeting has insulted, attacked, threatened, or made an obscene gesture to anyone ever, and never mind that several cyclists began by thanking the committee for their efforts.

One first-time biker attendee later commented that “I thought you were exaggerating, Seth, but these people really are batshit fucking crazy.”

The discussion point of the meeting was colossally stupid. A handful of NIMBYs on Crest Road were seeking to apply the city’s event permitting ordinance to “organic” groups of ten or more cyclists. Unable to understand the law’s intent–regulation of large events that had a significant impact on the public right of way–these folks yammered on endlessly about how the law should be applied to local, unorganized, organic bike rides.

Under the ingenuous pretense of “safety,” though none of them had consulted any of the cycling groups whose safety is most imperiled in traffic collisions, and after having a prior petition to ban cyclists from the roadway being unceremoniously booted due to its patent illegality, they were now trying to regulate unorganized group bike rides in the hope it would make things somehow more orderly, i.e. get rid of bikes. When I asked one of the NIMBYs whether or not he would attend a free Cycling Savvy course to get educated about the law from the cyclist’s perspective, he told me he was “too busy” because he “had a 16-year-old who was just getting his driver license.”

Well, of course! No responsible father with a new young male driver in the family would possibly be able to make time to go learn the law and safe traffic skills that have to do with cyclists, especially the cyclists who allegedly cause so many traffic problems up on Rancho Palos Verdes Estates Wish We Were Palos Verdes Estates Crest Road.

The details of the ordinance appeared irrelevant to many of the NIMBYs, the main “detail” being no detail at all but rather its most salient feature: The ordinance specifically applies to “organized” events. Speaker after speaker on the cyclists’ side tried in vain to explain to the waxed-in brains of the NIMBYs that THERE IS NO ORGANIZER FOR THE DONUT RIDE. But they either didn’t understand, wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t understand.

It’s true that you can’t fix stupid, but in this case you couldn’t even shut it up. The committee, obviously perplexed by having to deal with something that made no sense at all, referred it for further “study by staff.” This will presumably involve someone sitting in a lawn chair watching groups of cyclists go by at 25 mph and trying to determine if they’re “organized” or “in a group” or “ten or more.” One fool suggested that group riders be required to ride with identifying stickers, a great idea that was used with much success in the late 1930’s.

A cyclist speaker offered the NIMBYs a thousand bucks if they could find the organizer of the Donut Ride, which one of the crazypants asserted was any person who mentioned it on their web site. Kind of like, you know, how you’re an organizer of the Super Bowl when you note on your blog its location, date, time, and the teams who are playing.

Almost three and a half hours later the meeting adjourned, but not before one guy spent several minutes complaining about committee member David Kramer’s “conflict of interest” because in addition to his duties as a committee member he was formerly an officer of Big Orange. We’ll set aside for a minute the fact that nothing on the agenda affects Big Orange as a club at all, another detail that didn’t matter because it so obviously contradicted this guy’s attack.

Lacking any ability to understand that Big Orange doesn’t have a single organized ride in RPV, and unable to do anything other than wave tax returns and Secretary of State filings, this bonehead repeatedly insisted that Kramer “recuse” himself.

Kramer repeated, as he always does, that the committee makes no decisions (ergo there’s nothing to be recused from), that all committee recommendations must be voted on by the city council which has the power to accept, reject or modify anything done by the committee, that the committee acts in a volunteer advisory capacity only, and that his activities as a cyclist have long been public, but the NIMBY didn’t care. All that the NIMBY could grasp is that Kramer is a cyclist, Kramer belongs to Big Orange, therefore Kramer has a conflict of interest. Of course with NIMBY logic, all of the motorists would have to recuse themselves from the committee, too, since no motorist could possibly be expected to be neutral on issues that affected cars. But in an absence of understanding and in a surfeit of ignorance, facts meant little, and one of the NIMBYs assured me outside the building that a lawsuit would be brought to remove Kramer from the committee.

“You’re not going to like that,” he said. I could only hope that he retained a very expensive lawyer with a huge, nonrefundable retainer.

In line with the NIMBY hatred of cyclists on Crest, riders recently reported a white Toyota Corolla buzzing, honking at, and harassing cyclists going up Crest in, surprise, single file. It’s hard to understand what they meant by civility, except perhaps this: Please shut up and go away from RPV.

The next day was Tuesday. I mentally flushed out the cremains of the night before with a good bike ride, one of those organic rides without a leader or promoter that’s been going on for over 30 years, and that evening I was back at another city meeting to witness another series of mindless assaults on cycling. This one was at Palos Verdes Estates.

At the end of the meeting I was accosted by a guy who claimed to be “Frank Ponce” and who “wanted to talk” to me. Imagine a pudgy bully whose hairpiece has been dipped in a bucket of chiGrecian Formula, clad in a two-for-one suit from Men’s Wearhouse, wearing an imitation of a fake Swiss watch and looking like he wanted to kill you.

Then imagine another guy, larger, blobbier, dumber looking (possible? yes!) who was also wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and the caption “This Clown Wants More Signs.”

This clever fellow had discovered a picture that was on my web site and was now going to expose me as an advocate for bike signage. Plus he was going to call me a clown. Unfortunately, Mom’s allowance must have been a bit on the low side because the construction of the sign had the quality you normally associate with a cardboard roof used by a homeless person to cover his shopping cart.

How a person can strap on a homemade sign and duck-waddle around in public while calling someone else a clown is a metaphor for the wholesale absence of reflection, perspective, or self-awareness that the bike haters displayed at every turn. I was waiting for the Sandwich Clown to ask for gas money since Mom had perhaps kicked him off the couch for the evening, the best explanation for him even being out of the house.

Upon leaving the parking lot, Mr. Men’s Wearhouse, still furious that none of the cyclists would engage with him or take him up on his unspoken offers of a duel using tubes of Rogaine, taunted me as I walked by. Rumor has it that the fake watch consortium is going to set the wheels in motion to “revoke my law license.” It will be fascinating to watch the $99 suits tangle with even more words, rules, laws, and procedures, seeing as they still haven’t been able to read and understand CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions. Imagine their surprise when someone tries to draw them a stick-figure diagram of what an anti-SLAPP motion is and what attorney fee sanctions look like.

As I left the parking lot, catcalls ringing in my ears, it occurred to me that there it was again! Third Grade! Another flaccid wanker thinking that no one could possibly resist the idea of jumping into a verbal sewer with him. I kept walking, slightly pleased that with so little effort I’d taken up permanent residence into such a small and sand-filled head. And best of all, I was staying there rent-free.

The PVE City Council meeting itself was something of a clusterfuck. Because the council had seen the large turnout of cyclists in past meetings and been inundated by NIMBY emails complaining about outsiders/flatlanders/transients influencing their special snowflake on the hill, they sought to do an end-run by moving the time from 5:30 to 7:30 in order to conduct a workshop on traffic safety. It was never articulated as such, but the idea seemed to be to wear down the cyclists with an earlier meeting that would cut off speaking times. The plan only half-worked because the fire marshal had to stop people from entering after the room filled to capacity with cyclists.

While the tiny Men’s Wearhouse contingent had vociferously sought to rally the anti-cycling troops for the meeting, the packed-to-capacity council chambers were filled predominantly with cyclists. When asked to stand if they supported BMUFL signage, only a smattering of the 90+ attendees remained seated. If the plan had been to get all the concerned PVE residents out in force, it worked, because the meeting showed what we’ve known all along: Most residents don’t give two ratfucks about five new BMUFL signs and the only ones who oppose them are either still subsidized by Mom or are retired or are woefully underemployed or all three.

The workshop, although ostensibly held to educate the council as to this “complex” issue of four signs, seemed in fact to be Traffic Safety Principles 101 for the Completely Clueless NIMBYs. It was a rehash of many, many presentations I’ve heard in bits and pieces from the city’s traffic engineer, and it was all politespeak for “These BMUFL signs are legal, you dumbshits.”

But the problem was this: If the NIMBYs were so thick-headed that they couldn’t understand CVC 21202(a), and if they were so pig-headed that they refused to recognized the legality of BMUFL, how in the world was the workshop going to educate them about something as complex as “basic principles of traffic engineering”? Their go-to guy was a stooge in a sandwich board and a sub-literate, flabby realtor in a cheap suit whose Linked-In profile picture reminds me of a hubcap thief from the 1920’s. These people were going to be “educated” about engineering and the law?

No. They were not.

It was like having a civil rights lawyer address a group of Trump supporters on the illegality of segregation.

Civil rights lawyer: “Segregation is illegal.”

Trumpers: “But we hate black people.”

CRL: “It’s still illegal.”

Trumpers: “No, it isn’t.”

CRL: “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).”

Trumpers: “Can we change the law just for here? PVE is unique!”

CRL: “No. It’s the supreme law of the land and codified in numerous federal and state laws and the California Constitution.”

Trumpers: “We still hate black people. We still hate integration. We love segregation. We don’t understand why we can’t have it. We grew up with it. And we’ve lived here since 1984.”

The part of the workshop that did work was that it promptly concluded at 7:30, before even a fraction of the cyclists had gotten to speak out in favor of BMUFL signage. This served the city and the NIMBYs’ agenda perfectly: It delayed the decision on the signs even further, it forced the cyclists to come back again (and again and possibly again), and it let the BMUFL advocates know that the city wasn’t going to easily and quickly fold to the recommendations of its own attorney, traffic engineer, safety committee, and what one NIMBY at the last traffic committee meeting referred to as “transients.”

The other part of the workshop that worked out exquisitely for the NIMBYs was that the latter half of the workshop degenerated into “cyclists running stop signs.” No matter how many times the police say they have limited resources, no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations are equal among cars and bikes, and no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations have nothing at all to do with BMUFL signage, once the Dreaded Stop Sign Issue is raised, everything goes running down into the gutter.

It’s as if you convened a meeting to discuss space travel and no one could stop talking about stop signs.

Bike Advocate: “BMUFL signage is legal and saves lives.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “So do motorists but that’s not the issue.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, but today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Norm is videotaping all the scofflaw bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, we’ve seen samples of the high quality videos made by Mom’s Couch Productions. But today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage, how it’s legal, recommended by the city engineer, and how it saves lives according the the NIH.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Blobbly Bob is going to make another sandwich board showing bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “I hope it’s a wide one.”



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Sunny day up

September 27, 2016 § 7 Comments

Today was a sunny day.

In the morning I rode my bicycle.

I went on the NPR. It is what some NIMBYs in Rancho Palos Verdes call an “organic ride.” I did not see any pesticides.

Some people went very fast. Roberto, Evens, Steinhafel, Eric A., Head Down James, Davy and etc.

Some people went very slow.

Most people went so-so.

It was a lot of fun.

On the way to the coffee shop Eric flatted. We stopped to help, which means we stood around and cracked jokes.

Then Major Bob flatted. More jokes and etc.

At the coffee shop Major Bob bought me an iced coffee.

I drank it quickly because I was hot.

It tasted really good.

I chatted with Lisa and Michelle and Jay and Matt. They were happy and smiling. Everyone was smiling. No one was mad. We laughed about handcuffs and spitwad battles and the back seat of a cop car.

Then I rode home with some friends. Ramon, Christian, Greg, and I pedaled up the hill.

On Basswood I got a flat.

Greg changed it quickly for me, he is super fast, and a few more jokes were cracked.

I came back to my apartment and took a shower.

Then I ate some eggs.

They were sunny side up, too.



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Wiggins admits doping to negate unfair advantage

September 26, 2016 § 28 Comments

In a revealing tell-all interview surrounding Bradley “Bone-Idle” Wiggins’s use of banned steroids prior to his 2012 Turdy France victory, the cycling star sat down with Cycling in the South Bay to explain his use of triamcinalone leading up to the most important victory of his career.

CitSB: So it looks like the Fancy Bear hackers have nailed you to the floor on this one.

BIW: Not a bit of it.

CitSB: Here you are shooting up a performance enhancing, banned steroid before the only Turdy France you’ve ever won.

BIW: It wasn’t enhancing. It was dehancing.

CitSB: Dehancing?

BIW: Yes.

CitSB: Can you explain?

BIW: I’d love to. Leading up the 2012 Tour I’d won everything. Tour of Romandie, Dauphine, that kiddy race in Manchester where I got the tricycle and 14 Euro gift certificate. I was crushing it.

CitSB: Right.

BIW: So I sits down with Dave and the boys and we says “This is gonna be bone idling wankerdom if I hit the Tour with these legs, I’ll put an hour on the field in the first five minutes.” That’s how good I was going with marginal volcano doping gains. I was better than the rest of those bone idlers by so much. You can ask me mum.

CitSB: Your mum?

BIW: Yeah, that’s right. She’ll tell you how good I was going and all pan y agua, mate. So Brailsford and the boys were like, “Wiggo, you gotta slow down and give the other boys a chance, especially those whiny French bastards.” So we did what we had to do. I’m not ashamed of it.

CitSB: What was that?

BIW: We got on a dehancing program. Took meself a whole slew of steroids to slow meself down.

CitSB: Uh, don’t you mean “speed yourself up”?

BIW: No, mate, you don’t get it, do you? Look here. I’m reading off the label for triamcinalone, just happen to have a couple of vials here: “Not for ophthalmic use. Systemic absorption may produce reversible hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression, manifestations of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperglycemia, and glucosuria; when a large dose of a potent topical steroid is applied to a large surface area or under an occlusive dressing, evaluate periodically for evidence of HPA axis suppression and (Pediaderm TA/Spray) for impairment of thermal homeostasis. Application of more potent steroids, use over large surface areas, prolonged use, and the addition of occlusive dressings may augment systemic absorption. Signs and symptoms of steroid withdrawal may occur (infrequent) requiring supplemental systemic corticosteroids. Pediatric patients may be more susceptible to systemic toxicity. Chronic corticosteroid therapy may interfere w/ the growth and development of children. D/C and institute appropriate therapy if irritation develops. Use appropriate antifungal or antibacterial agent in the presence of dermatological infections; if favorable response does not occur promptly, d/c until infection is controlled. (Cre/Lot/Oint) Withdraw treatment, reduce frequency of application, or substitute to a less potent steroid if HPA axis suppression is noted. (Pediaderm TA/Spray) Withdraw treatment, reduce frequency of application, substitute to a less potent steroid, or use a sequential approach if HPA axis suppression or elevation of body temperature occurs. (Pediaderm TA) Sensitivity reaction may develop to a particular occlusive dressing material or adhesive; a substitute material may be necessary. (Spray) Flammable; avoid heat, flame, or smoking during application.”

And that’s not the half of it. Listen to this: “Causes burning, itching, irritation, dryness, folliculitis, hypertrichosis, acneiform eruptions, hypopigmentation, perioral dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, maceration of the skin, secondary infection, skin atrophy, striae, miliaria.”

Plus, it fucks you up if you’re nursing.

CitSB: That all may be true, but it greatly speeds recovery and enhances performance on the bike, and you took it when you would have needed it most.

BIW: C’mon mate, who are you kidding? Cushing’s syndrome? Glucosuria? It took at least 100 watts off me FTP. Plus, it messed with me lactation. The littl’uns went hungry for over a month.

CitSB: And that’s how you won the Tour?

BIW: You got me word on it, mate. Scout’s honor.



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Collision cost

September 24, 2016 § 39 Comments

Cyclists get hit by cagers every day. They aren’t “accidents.” They are collisions, and they happen for specific reasons. In the case I’m going to tell you about, the collision happened because a drunk guy decided to drive. He smashed into a group of cyclists, changing at least one life forever.

It wasn’t an accident.

The point of this story is three-fold. First, it’s an explicit command for you to check your auto liability insurance and make sure that you have at least $500,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If your carrier won’t let you insure to that amount, change carriers.

Second, it’s a commentary on the trajectory of injury. We see Facebook posts of friends in the hospital, or gory aftermath photos, or black-and-white images of pins and bolts drilled into bone, and then we move on to the next item. It’s difficult to comprehend that after we’ve glanced at the photo, the person is still living with the injury, suffering from it, and in some cases is going to be dealing with it the rest of their life.

But what these injuries often entail is impossible to understand or even empathize with because we don’t really know what the procedures involved are. The trajectory of injury is grisly, gruesome, painful, and life-altering.

Third, this is the story of how one person deals with having her entire life upended as a result of one drunk driver. It’s not an easy story or a saccharine one, and it doesn’t have a happy ending because there is no “ending.” There’s just a story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and moving forward with what you’ve got left.

When Deb Banks was hit on January 30, 2015, at about 3:10 PM, she didn’t feel anything. This is almost always the case in serious car-bike collisions. The victim might feel a bump or a light tap, sometimes nothing at all until she regains consciousness in a ditch, in an emergency room, or days later in a hospital room recovering from surgery.

On the day she was hit, Deb’s initial injuries included a gashed right arm requiring fifteen stitches, a cracked pelvis, and severe road rash that left permanent skid marks on her backside. The big one, though, was a pilon compound fracture of her right tibula and fibula.

The pilon fracture required an external fixator to stabilize the leg and calm the initial trauma before reconstructive surgery. A pilon fracture is one in which the lower ankle, just above the joint, is shattered. Think of a force pushing up through your ankle joint into the lower shin, so the explosive nature is up and out. That’s what a pilon fracture is, and hers was made worse by it also being compound, meaning bones sticking out from the skin.

The problem with these fractures, aside from the obvious pain and the fact that this is a key load-bearing point of the human body, is that they are really tough to heal due to low circulation, lots of broken bone, and the requirement of lots of time to heal. Most people that get these injuries are contractors who fall off a ladder, people in car crashes, or extreme snowboarders and skiers. They are said to be the worst fracture you can have and one of the hardest to heal.

The word “pilon” is derived from the French word pilon (pestle), an instrument used for crushing and pounding and usually used with a mortar. The pilon fracture is often described as an “explosive injuries” and subsequently, as noted in Orthopaedia Main, they have are also described as “explosion fractures.”

Pilon fractures have the worst outcome of all ankle fractures. They’re incredibly significant injuries, and if you look at surveys that try to measure overall function, pilons on average are more detrimental to the patient’s level of function than heart attacks.

On February 13, 2015, Deb had reconstructive surgery. Her doctor spent eight hours in surgery, taking out the external fixator and then adding two long plates and tacking them into place with twenty screws. One rod was twelve inches long, the other was five inches, and it took fifty stitches to hold it all together.

She then went into non-weight bearing mode for three months, after which she began physical therapy to begin working on walking.

Once Deb was able to get on a trainer, she did, and by May she was outside hobbling around in a black boot and riding around town on her mixte. By June she was on the back of a tandem and by August she rode 200km, the “easiest” length for a randonneur. She kept working on this, getting stronger and walking, although still limping, and her long-planned cycling trip to South America was a go.

Deb’s plan was to go to South America and ride from Santiago down the Carretera Austral to the southernmost part of Chile. She was to depart in early November; it was her comeback ride and a much deserved vacation.

Deb left for Chile and rode the Carretera Austral. During the first week, she was walking down a low sloping walkway and her left ankle twisted and instead of trying to use her right one, which was the injured ankle, to hold herself up, she dropped to the ground. The long plate had broken, also breaking more screws.

She was in incredible pain. She had walking hiking sticks and used them as crutches for a week. She started slowly to ride again and the trip, while fantastic, turned out to be a trip that included some cycling, versus a cycling trip.

On December 27, eleven months after being hit, Deb had her third surgery. It took seven hours, out with the old hardware, and in with new versions of the same plan, only this time they added a graft from her right hip that brought new scars and numbness, which she still has, and some stem cells to stimulate growth.

She was upbeat. For sure this was going to do the trick. Most people (over 90%) whose non-union doesn’t mend, end up getting the bones to union with this procedure. It was however the same drill: non weight bearing for three months, then the boot, etc.

She was smarter about this now. She had read a ton of medical articles on this, and at first Deb felt great. She had minimal to no pain and at the three-month marker she waltzed into her doctor’s office with crutches and walked out without the crutches or the boot. The surgeon gave her the go ahead to do PT and to ride, which she carefully began.

“Carefully” meant no clipping into or out of pedals, no standing on pedals, and spinning only. She put flat pedals on her bike and used power straps to keep her clogs on the pedals. “Yes!” she said to herself, “I ride my bike in my clogs! They are comfy, they support my foot and if I need to put my foot down fast, they absorb quite a bit of the impact. In fact, I think I may go to this plan forever!”

Forever, of course, is a real long time when you’ve only just gotten started. In early May, now fifteen months after getting hit by the young drunk who, in the interim, has been sentenced to prison and will spend nine years in jail, Deb has a standard appointment with her surgeon and she’s not feeling as good as she was. She felt like her leg was out of kilter, and it wasn’t holding her anywhere near as well as the two months prior. She told the doc and he took x-rays.

Essentially, if a non-union hasn’t shown signs of union after three months, then the likelihood of it getting to mend go dramatically down, and more than likely the end result will be another non-union. By now Deb was really getting tired of her expertise in orthopedics, more particularly, in her necessity of applying it.

She pushed for a CT scan because the x-rays weren’t conclusively showing whether or not the bones were healing, whereas there’s no arguing with the CT scan. Her doctor agreed, and the bad news hit home, hard. Non-union. Again. He was frustrated and she was beyond bummed.

In June she took every test they could think of to try and find out why the bones weren’t growing back together. Blood tests, CT scans, bone scans revealing the happy news that physiologically she had the bones of 29-year-old, but emotionally the bones of a teenager in full rebellion – “You can’t tell me when to heal!”

She had thyroid tests, a liver panel (Did you know that your liver makes enzymes for bone growth? Right! Why would you want to know that?), etc. She took tests all month long in the run-up to her informal Ph.D. in boneology, and in the end the good news-bad news was that there’s nothing about her chemistry that was preventing the mend.

The next step was going to be terrible. The surgeon put an Iliazov fixator in her hands, a contraption that oozes horror and pain, and asked her to read up on the device and to think about it, because the fixator was in her very immediate future.

Deb took a trip to Colorado to see friends; it’s an annual trip as she lived in Boulder for thirty years, after which she came home and on July 8 she went in for Rebuild No. 3, Surgery No. 5. It was with a lot of trepidation, because after the last surgery she had gotten an infection that required a full surgery on top of that to open the wound and make sure that the infection hadn’t gone to the bone. Such infections can end things permanently.

By now the nurses in the surgery pre-op area knew her by name. They’ve seen her three times, and if there’s anyone you don’t want to know you on a first-name basis, it’s a surgical team. Again, they pulled out all of the old hardware, in with another graft which this time was from a pig, plus stem cells from the left side of her pelvis, plus biomorphenegenetic proteins (bone doping), two days in the hospital completely laid out. It had now been close to two years since she began paying for the driver’s few moments of drunken oblivion, and she knew that her sentence had already been worse than his.

As I write this, her surgery was ten weeks ago, and there’s still no sign of healing. The surgeon’s timeline? The fixator stays until the bone heals, period. When it comes off she has a year of physical therapy. Dr. Google says that you can see signs of recovery for up to two and a half years after the last surgery. Add up all the months and she’s looking at five years of hell with an uncertain outcome.

His timeline? The fixator is on until it heals. Period. And then, when it’s off, finally, looking at a year of PT and getting stronger and riding and gaining strength. The research says that you can see signs of recovery for up to 2.5 years AFTER the LAST surgery. Add that she’s closing in on two years of surgical procedures, she’s expecting this to be close to a 5-year ordeal. Gabriel Ray’s 11 years won’t have this type of hardship attached to it. Too bad.

All of this, however, is nothing more than a physiological chronology, the prison equivalent of marking off days with tally marks on the wall. The real jail sentence has been the collateral life damage, and it’s something that every injured cyclist knows about intimately.

Superficially, Deb can tell you that her new fixator friend is made up of external rings and three 4-inch pins that are drilled into her shin. It requires constant daily care. It hurts all the time. It gets infected. She can’t swim, can’t bike, can barely walk, sleeps with her leg on a foam pad, and can’t sleep under the covers. In other words, her life has completely changed as she’s been thrust into the alt-Universe of the catastrophically injured, i.e. those who carry massive disruptions to their daily life and emotional well-being along with the catastrophic physical injuries.

Business, a/k/a making a living, dinner, meetings, everything collides with the injured leg, they’re no longer compatible. “Can I do this? Laundry used to be easy.” Simple things take on the aura of an uncleaned Augean stable and it’s been like this for two years with no reprieve. Throw in the massive uncertainty with regard to what the future holds and the destabilization is intense.

And of course there is the spiral of declining visions of the possible. “I’ll be back on my bike doing a 500k rando,” has become “I just want to be able to walk.” And when well-meaning people see her pedaling her mixte and say “Thank God you can ride a bike again,” she silently knows that waking trumps riding a bike any day. If she can walk, riding will come as a result. But if the ankle never mends, life today becomes a template for the rest of life, which means dealing with a leg that is permanently disabled.

With this experience comes the other horseman of the apocalypse, depression. Life contracts as you do less, and what used to be natural optimism and a positive outlook becomes a full time job trying to maintain. She watched a TEDx piece about the power of positive thinking and tries to focus on how that process releases dopamine, helping productivity and creativity. But looming behind the depression is the constant, intense pain, and no matter how tough you think you are, you will eventually take pain meds in the evening just to get some relief and to give yourself a breather from the chasm of not being able to keep fighting, without end, a terrible and terribly painful battle.

One unexpected benefit to constantly struggling is empathy. Deb now “gets it” in a profound way. However big her challenges are, she understands and empathizes with people who are in even bigger pain, in even more dire straits with no hope, ever, of recovery.

And of course there are the parallel lives of the people who were also hit that day. She was the first hit of five. The other four are back to their daily activities, cycling all over the world and getting back to their normal lives. She’s the only one still injured, and although she can’t help but occasionally wonder “Why me?” she doesn’t think much about the driver, Gabriel Ray. He’s not on her radar and she doesn’t replay the collision, and perhaps that’s because there’s so little to replay. She felt a tap and woke up in a ditch. Far from dealing with the past, she deals with what’s in front of her, taking care of her leg, running her business, running her life, and getting healed.

It’s not intellectually stimulating and it’s mundane, but it takes all her energy and attention. With regard to the question “Where are you now?” it’s indeterminate, like her injury. Deb will find out where she is once she gets there, but for the moment the new her is more compassionate, and that’s nothing but a positive. When she was hit she was at the top of her cycling game, doing the hardest randonneur rides there were, knocking out four 1,200 km rides in a single year, in the best shape of her life and all at the age of 58.

When you feel like you’re invincible, large and in charge, except that in a few seconds you’re not. She was hit and now she struggles with laundry. Easy, right? One day 1,200 km on a bike. The next day, fighting to wash your socks. But at the same time, she realizes that when you’re on the mountaintop it’s hard to see what’s going on down in the valley. For her, she has a whole new place to learn from, and she’s learning something that in the past has always eluded her, patience. She’s determined and wants to climb the mountain again, but maybe this time she’ll appreciate the trek more than the destination. Maybe.

Little things along the way make life better, too. She has a trainer and is working with him to try and regain some fitness in this limited state. It takes Deb as long to get dressed as it does to do her fifteen-minute workout. One day a woman saw her in the gym and remarked how great it was that she hadn’t given up. It’s true, she realized, she hadn’t and she won’t, and in the process she’s gained compassion for others because now she’s fighting like hell for each bit of progress a minute at a time, unwilling to concede the field to the inertia of not being able to act, to the inertia of the passive tense.

In blots and jots it hits her this way: Just take the parts when you were feeling your worst and string it out for two straight years. That’s where she is and the intoxicating whisper is always at her shoulder: “Just give up,” it says. It’s there because you’re in pain and the pain meds don’t fix it. At the same time, she’s also planning her next 1,600 km ride, and she’s planning it for next June.

Whether it ever happens, the plan is there, and you never hit the target unless you aim for it. She wants to prove that she can come back, that she can do it again, and then maybe she’ll be done with it. It’s occurred to her that cycling for hundreds of miles may not be her thing anymore, but if she does bow out, she’s vowed to do it on her terms, not on the terms of Gabriel Ray. “He doesn’t get to decide how I choose to live my life. He doesn’t.”

[Deb is the owner of Rivet Cycle Works and has chronicled the first year of her recovery here, with photos and a much in-depth picture of her ongoing recovery.]



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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 21: Don’t you dare

September 23, 2016 § 19 Comments

The most fertile or febrile part of your year is here. It’s the time when you can do other things than cycle. You can explore new activities and develop new skills, strengthen your weaknesses and strengthen your strengthiness. You can give your legs, and most importantly, your feeble mind a rest. You can relax a little bit and even try out sports that you’ve always been a bit interested in but have never had the time or energy to squeeze in between your 3-a-day interval workouts.

You can do all of that and more. Don’t.

Specifically, don’t do the following:

  1. Tell me about how you’ve started running. Running is for runners. You are an old worn out shoe of a fake bike racer doper who dribbles pee at night. Running will improve none of that and only hurt your knee. Plus, you will never be a runner. You are a jogger. If you can say, “I’ve taken up jogging in the off  season!” with a straight face, okay, go ahead.
  2. Post gym selfies. The gym is a place where insane cycling delusions go to get pumped up on steroids. Lifting weights only improves your ability to lift weights. Doing squats only helps you squat down better with a chest of drawers on your back. You are not a lifter, you are a weight-obsessed worn out old shoe and lifting even a carton of milk gains useless muscles and hints to your S/O that you might be able to do something useful around the house. Strava Jr. tosses his water bottles, cell phone, and socks at the base of the Switchbacks and whips you like a pissed off wench in a dominatrix show, and he ain’t lifting no weights.
  3. Sign up for yoga. Yoga will help you live a better more fulfilling life, ergo it’s stupid as fuck. Mindfulness is the enemy of the crafty, shrewd, back-stabbing instincts that will allow you dominate the 55+ mid-pack position in every crit finish. And shut up yesterday about flexibility. You should look the same way off the bike as on: hunched, bowbacked, goofy-kneed, crany-necked, and as unsteady on your pegs as a drunken sailor. The more permanently hunched you are in real life, the more aero when they pry apart your arms and legs to set you on the bike.
  4. Hit the pool. You know how many people drowned in pools between 2004 and 2014? 3,536. You know how many people drowned on bikes since the beginning of time? One. And it was a triathlete (of course) who got the order mixed up and biked off into the ocean at Kona.
  5. Base miles. The only thing you had better be doing with the word “base” in it is “freebase.” Bike miles are for hammering. If you don’t hurt, why are you even alive? Rest when you’re dead.
  6. Training camp. If your clubteam has a training camp, change clubteams. Training camp implies a) You haven’t been training and b) You think roasting marshmallows over a burning tire and crapping in a trench is fun. If a), get the hell out of the yoga gym pool, slap it in the big dog and go knock out six consecutive 700-mile weeks that are heavy on sprints, 20-minute threshold efforts, 1-hour time trials, standing starts, and hill repeats. If b), sell your bike and become a scoutmaster.
  7. Cyclocross. Cylocross will leave you exhausted, injured, slow, and in the possession of a bike that’s so bad for riding you have to carry it. The only thing ‘cross has going for it is that it’s fun, and nothing ruins a road season, a road racing mentality, or life in general as thoroughly as fun.
  8. Group rides. These will wreck your season because you will get to know, like, and appreciate your clubteam mates. Nothing sucks away your ability to lie, cheat, betray and crush a person like friendship and empathy. The only acceptable group rides are ones you advertise as “no drop, beginners welcome” and begin at 32 mph into a stiff headwind.

That’s all for now. Gotta go do some intervals. It’s already Sepfuckingtember.



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September 22, 2016 § 29 Comments

After reading a thoughtful article about the benefits of unplugging, shared by a friend who’s recovering from a broken collarbone after crashing on the NPR, I switched everything off last night around 7:00 PM and didn’t turn back on until I woke up, just after five. I woke up without an alarm.

Then today I powered down at 4:30 PM, plowed through thirty more pages of a book that is dense but that, as one friend put it, “Is a hairbrush for the tangled mind.” I did some other etceteras and was looking forward to bed when I realized I couldn’t very well blog on paper.

During those few hours of relative mental calm I reflected on the terrible chain collision that happened on Tuesday’s NPR. A big chunk of asphalt didn’t get called out, one rider hit it, another launched over it but didn’t fall, and a third went down hard. At least five other riders hit the deck. One left in an ambulance with a fractured scapula and broken ribs, another broke a clavicle, and a third suffered a severe concussion.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but none of it resolved a key question. Does the Big Group Fake Race belong on the streets anymore?

Leaving aside for the moment that no one was killed but easily could have been, and leaving aside for the moment that the NPR has been the site of many bad falls, one serious car-bike collision, and at least four huge gang pile-ups … wait, we can’t really leave that aside because that’s pretty much the point.

If the pace is slow, everyone bunches up and it’s sketchy as hell. Then the group is frisky for the sprint and people who shouldn’t be going full-gas in a packed group are. It’s scary.

If the pace is fast, everyone from mid-pack back is gassed and can barely keep their head up. Any irregularity in the road, large rock, or sudden change in speed up ahead can cause the kind of catastrophic chain reaction that we saw on Tuesday.

For a few months we had a police escort, but the powers that be eventually quashed that and now the group is back on its own. At least now everyone stops at red lights.

We all know that riders assume the risk and that when you’re feeling good the risk is worth assuming. It’s when everything goes sideways that you really have to wonder.

  • Why am I here?
  • Why are you here?
  • Are there too many people?
  • Is it time to euthanize this ride and do something else?



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