We are concerned about cyclist safety

September 1, 2016 § 24 Comments

This was the claim of the entitled NIMBYs in Rancho Palos Verdes last month who advocated banning cyclists from public roads. They are a splinter, ALT-Trump group of ultra-socialists, i.e. people who believe the means of production should be subjugated to the wants of the lazy class, and they have their counterpart further down the hill in the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch.

They are concerned about cyclist safety, they say, as they focus on regulating every behavior but their own to achieve their life’s motoring goal, which is to have as much empty pavement in front of them as possible, paid for with other people’s tax money. They are the people who scream incessantly about cyclists who run stop signs but who don’t even know that the 3-foot passing law exists.

My response when they insincerely claim to be concerned about safety? No, you aren’t.

You don’t give a rat’s ass about cyclists, cyclist safety, or anything other than squelching the cognitive dissonance you feel at seeing strangers pedaling happiness machines on “your” roads because inside you are a miserable, envious, unfit, unhappy sack of tax dodges.

You don’t care if people get hit, killed, injured, maimed, terrorized, or traumatized, and you don’t care if the collateral wreckage includes kids who grow up without parents, spouses who spend years or decades caring for the shattered mind and body of a loved one, or individuals who get, in an instant, reduced from active, healthy, productive lives into badly broken, dependent shells.

Fortunately, in a couple of weeks you will have the opportunity to prove me wrong. The same stamping, champing, foaming, finger-pointing lardasses and potbellies who railed against Big Orange at the last Rancho Palos Verdes City Council meeting will have their second of six chances to actually do something about cyclist safety thanks, of course, to Big Orange, the group they so hate for insisting on doing something for cyclist safety that actually includes cyclist input.

On October 8, a Saturday that conflicts with football, pre-football, post-football, and, worst of all for the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, a 2:30 PM start time, which gives them only twelve minutes to put on sandals, roll off the couch, eat some dry Cheerios, and drive to the El Segundo Public Library, a place filled with books, (after filling up with mom’s gas card), yes, on October 8 Big Orange will sponsor its second Cycling Savvy course, taught by none other than Gary Cziko, Dude Who Used To Ride The NPR With A Giant Sign On The Back Of His Bike Saying “Bikes May Use Full Lane.”

That dude.

The Cycling Savvy course teaches bikers how to safely ride their bikes in traffic. But it does something else. It teaches cyclists, who also happen to be cagers most of the time, how to safely drive their 4,000-pound inflammable steel cages in the vicinity of underwear-clad people pedaling happiness machines.

In other words, every worthless Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, and every dishrag-for-a-brain, bike hating NIMBY atop Crest has the opportunity to come and see what real cyclist safety measures look like. What they’ll find is that bike riders are ordinary people who just want to keep pedaling their happiness machines, and what they’ll also get is a sense for is how easy it is to accommodate the underwear-clad class without even being late to check out the shitty surf at the bluffs and key someone’s car who hasn’t yet heard that Lunada Bay doesn’t like you.

Oh, and it’s free, just be sure to get there at 2:00 PM (course begins at 2:30) because seating is limited and the venue will fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Courtesy of Big Orange.

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180 degrees

August 28, 2016 § 44 Comments

It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.

It’s harder to apologize to the people you’ve wronged.

It’s hardest of all to affirmatively do something about it.

The last couple of weeks have seen a slew of attacks on cyclists. Mason Katz, a professional baseball player, used his Twitter account to attack people who ride bicycles and suggest that their mere existence made him contemplate harming them.

mason_katz.jpg

Then there was the woman who I’ll just politely refer to as the Charlotte Nutjob. After assaulting a peaceful group of cyclists she was portrayed in the first news stories as a victim.

mercedes_menace

At least one follow-up story confirmed that she’s actually an idiot. Maybe that makes some people feel better.

And then there was the San Diego Easy Reader story, peddling lies and absurd analyses from the Cato Institute trying to argue that bike planning is irrational and we should spend more time and money helping the poor beleaguered car industry.

 

All of this followed hot on the heels of stories in which Peter King, Sports Illustrated flunky, and his flunkette driver Jenny Vrentas, made a ha-ha-ho-ho joke about driving their cage in the bike lane on the way to a football game, which in turn was contemporaneous with a tweet by NFL Network analyst @HeathEvans 44, which highlighted the irrational rage that so many drivers feel at simply encountering an ordinary bicycle rider “clogging the street,” i.e. “riding lawfully.”

But then the story line changed.

One of my Big Orange club members, Delia Park, reached out to @HeathEvans44 and invited him to come apologize to our club before the Sunday ride. “Sure,” I thought. “Like he’s going to show up at 6:30 AM on  Sunday to get berated by a bunch of old farts in orange underwear.”

“Sure,” @HeathEvans44 responded. “I’d love to.”

“Believe it when I see it,” was my cynical thought.

Yesterday morning at the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks, @HeathEvans44 showed up as promised. Delia, Joann Zwagermann, Greg Leibert, Steve Utter, my youngest son Woodrow, and I were all there.

I had prepped my son about what to expect, prejudiced as I am. “The guy’s going to be some insincere asshat who’s been hassled on social media and probably by his employer to make this right. He’ll be condescending as shit.”

What we found was something so far away from that. @HeathEvans44 was, first and foremost, appalled that he’d tweeted something that condoned violence. He was more than apologetic. His voice, his manner, and his words evinced nothing but regret of the sincerest kind. You got the feeling that here was a guy who was gentle, kind, and who wanted to right a wrong. You know the old saying, “People make mistakes”? Well, they do. What they often don’t do, is apologize for them.

In addition to profoundly apologizing, Heath admitted to not having known the law. He asked forgiveness. He praised cycling as a sport, and he had obvious, unfeigned respect for the riders who were getting ready to roll forth for the day. He was an athlete who respected fitness and athleticism.

As if all that weren’t enough, he agreed that something further needed to be done to help educate the motoring public and to help counteract the gut reaction that many people have when they see a rider “in their way.” In our short pre-ride meeting there was no time to nail down specifics, but he shared his private cell phone and promised to work together with us to help get the word out.

Finally, he stood out at CotKU while iPhones snapped and popped. I’d had no idea that so many cyclists loved football. One rider asked him where he went to college. “Auburn,” he said.

“My daughter goes there,” said the rider, rolling up his sleeve to show an elaborate War Eagles tattoo. Football talk quickly ensured. Far from rushing away as soon as he could, he hung around to chat until the cyclists themselves clicked in and rolled out.

@HeathEvans44’s Twitter tag line is “Don’t dish if you can’t take it.” Pretty admirable to see someone turn a negative into a positive, and be adult enough to reverse course when the initial tack was just plain wrong. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

[EDIT: The original post neglected to mention that this would not have happened without the work of Joann Zwagermann, who helped spotlight the problem and who relentlessly engaged. It also omitted to recognize the work that Matt Miller, also of Big Orange, did to make sure that our efforts were positive, peaceful, and dedicated to rapprochement rather than acrimony and recrimination. Thank you to all.]

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The dogs must be crazy

August 22, 2016 § 39 Comments

There is a guy named Heath Evans. He is a football journalist. I know, that reads like a joke.

Then there is a guy name Peter King. He is a serious sports journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated. Get it? “Serious sports journalist.” Not as funny as football journalist, actually a pretty bad joke.

Then there is a woman named Jenny Vrentas. She doesn’t know how to drive a car or care to learn how. She’s not funny at all.

So what do you get when you put a joke, a bad joke, and a reckless driver on Twitter? You get this:

heathevans

peter_smith_jenny_vrentas

Both of these tweets are self-explanatory. The football journalist thinks it’s okay to publicly muse about his desire to kill or injure bicyclists.

The serious sports journalist thinks it’s okay to encourage reckless driving, record it, and then “no comment” on it while the flunkette he’s abetted drives in a bike lane.

You could tweet to @nflnetwork, Heath Evan’s employer, which would be awesome. You could also tweet to @SInow, the employer for fun-loving Jenny and Peter. You could do this, not because the NFL or SI would care, but because it might make your anger at these people dissipate a little bit. Maybe.

Of course, verbalizing violence towards people for riding bicycles pairs up nicely with the reality that people in cars kill and maim bicycle riders with impunity. Lives lost, lives wrecked, families ripped apart, children without parents, just because some dick on his way to a football game is in such a hurry that he can’t wait with all the other people patiently sitting in traffic. Gotta get there first to hit the buffet and the booze in the skybox, dude.

A friend of mine was mowed down last Sunday morning by a fellow who fled the scene. The buddy is still in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery. The felon is probably watching the Big Game on TV. “Guy shouldn’t have been in the bike lane,” he’s probably thinking, if he thinks about it at all.

*shrug*

We saw this casual violence here in RPV last Tuesday when a resident lamented the damage that a cyclist’s body and head had done to someone’s windshield, and we see it in various forms, either on the road or in conversation. “Why do you guys ride in the road?” This is politespeak for “Get out of my way because I want to kill you.”

I even had a cyclist after a bike race today come up and say he thought cyclists should be treated as pedestrians. You know, so we can be legally barred from riding on any part of the roadway at all, forever. “Like skateboarders,” he added, for emphasis.

I looked at him for a minute as if he was insane. But he wasn’t. Just like Heath and Peter and Jenny aren’t insane. They simply think your life isn’t worth shit.

Because.

You.

Ride.

A.

Bike.

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Greek salad

August 20, 2016 § 29 Comments

I miss Stathis the Wily Greek, and I’m not the only one.

Stathis was like a roman candle. He rose quickly, surpassed everyone, blew up, and then moved on to something else. As strong as he was as a rider, he was a terrible racer, at least to the extent that his results never really aligned with his prodigious physical strength.

I still remember a photo from the Nosco Ride a couple of years ago. Stathis was cresting Deer Creek ahead of some of America’s top pros. He made everything look easy, especially the uphill stuff. By the time he was breathing hard or struggling, you had long been shelled and kicked to the curb.

The best thing about Stathis was the way he took the fun out of it for everyone else. Cycling, unlike running, has a massive delusional component. You can endlessly manipulate the goal posts to feel good about the fact that you suck. This is in fact the business model of Strava.

Not with Stathis. With him, you always sucked. My second-fondest memory of riding a bicycle happened with Stathis. He had dropped the entire Donut Ride and had attacked me at the bottom of Crest. I’d hung on.

We got about a hundred yards past the wall and he drove over to the double yellow line, cutting off any hope of staying out of the crosswind. He looked back and saw I was still there and attacked. I struggled onto his rear wheel. He looked back and attacked again.

It was a look of amusement mixed with contempt. No quarter, no mercy, no adjustment for our age disparity, no respect for effort, just an icy calculation of “Now.”

It was the most deliberate, cool, piercing jettison job I’d ever experienced. He easily rode away. At the top of the radar domes he nodded, barely acknowledging that I was on a bike, and proceeded to crush the rest of the ride.

I savored that flaying for over a year. It’s rare that someone who is both a friend and a cyclist will destroy you so casually and so intentionally. If he’d been a Greek warrior he would have been Achilles.

And Stathis did that to everyone. One friend confided that he had given up the Flog Ride because there was, mathematically, no chance of ever beating Stathis. When the Wily Greek showed up, dreams took flight, the way investments in penny stocks take flight. Away. Forever.

This angered a lot of people because we cyclists cherish our delusions, kind of like Costco shoppers who think they’re superior to Wal-Mart because their conglomerate pays a higher hourly wage to its slaves or because their luxury eyeglass brands are 15% cheaper than at Lenscrafters, as if Wal-Mart, Costco, and Luxottica aren’t different versions of the same terrible thing.

Stathis didn’t allow you those delusions, and for me, reality, always obscured, enhances life the clearer it gets. Embrace death. Embrace the absence of an afterlife. Embrace crazy. Embrace the fact that you will never be good enough to even see Stathis finish. Embrace suckage.

My best day on a bike also involved Stathis, because I beat him on the same stretch of climb about a year later. Maybe he was sick, or tired, or more likely, he wasn’t even awake. Didn’t matter. By destroying and tattering my illusions hundreds of times, my one tiny “first” meant everything. It was stripped of everything except fact. I savor it still.

Now that Stathis has taken up something else, I’ve been riding up to the top of his cul-de-sac street, which I now know is the steepest and longest climb on the peninsula. I keep hoping that one day I’ll get to the end of the road and see him putting on his running shoes or oiling his pogo stick or adjusting the harness on his hang glider, but I never do.

But that’s the benefit of having good memories. They stick around long after the person who gifted them.

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I blame Obama! (and Head Down James)

August 19, 2016 § 13 Comments

In addition to being born in the foreign nation of Kenya and/or Hawai’i and being therefore an ineligible and illegitimate president, in addition to perpetuating the hoax that global warming is caused by humans, in addition to causing 9/11 when he was a state legislator in the Illinois Senate, in addition to being a founding member of ISIS, and in addition to repealing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Consution, I blame Obama for beating me at the Telo training crit, him and Head Down James.

“Surely, Wanky, you don’t mean that.”

“I do.”

“No, no, no. What you mean is that Obama put in place the policies, procedures, funding, and geopolitical landscape that caused you to lose at Telo last Tuesday. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”

“No. I mean what I said. I blame Obama for beating me at Telo. Him and Head Down James. And Pegleg Barrett for hosting the conspiracy on his private server and sending out classified emails to all of Velo Club La Grange to incite them to pile into the team van, drive down to Telo, and smash us into bits.”

“How is that Obama’s fault?”

“Glad you asked!”

It happened like this: There I was, giving a polite and courteous and harmonious speech to the raving NIMBY lunatics in RPV who want to promote bike safety by banning cyclists from public roads, and I was covered in dried spit and snot and sweat and smelled like an old hunks and was shaking from exhaustion and on the verge of collapse because I’d driven straight from Telo to the city council meeting.

Everyone was looking at my slobber in awe and a bit fearful of Zika and etc., but I couldn’t collect my thoughts because of Obama and Head Down James.

Right before the race began, Destroyer had sidled up to me. “You want to win?”

“Of course,” I said, reflecting on my Chevy Volt and therefore a bit suspicious of his as-yet unuttered advice.

“Follow Head Down James.”

“Okay,” I said, having no intention of doing it and fulfilling the first law of bike racing strategy, which is Lie At All Times. I mean, there was no way Head Down James and Obama could stay away from the beginning, and if there’s one thing more certain than that we need to make America great again, it’s that Head Down James was going to attack from the gun, which he did, so why should I follow him in a hopeless attempt?

“Go!” said Destroyer as Head Down James attacked at the beginning.

“Okay!” I said and drifted back.

Head Down James pounded away and won but not before Obama completely messed up the chase. All I really remember is that there was some poor schmo in a Texas Aggies pair of pants and another dude with a green jersey and Texas flag and they got completely shelled and lapped along with all but about seven people, welcome to California and Obama and socialism.

I followed wheels and did zero anything until I found myself in a break with Destroyer and Frenchy Jr. They almost dislocated their elbows trying to get me to take a pull, but with Obama working against me, and Frenchy Jr. being 22, and Destroyer being the champion sprunter, I didn’t see what sense it made for me to do a lick of work plus I’m lazy that way.

Although Big Orange started out with five guys we were Little Orange by the end with everyone but me and Skinny Dave having been shelled and lapped, and Velo Club La Grange only had Surfer Dan left but since Head Down James was up the road all he had to do was wheelsurf, which he did, plus pull me up the group the one time I got dropped which was around the time that Bahati literally tore off a crank arm he was pedaling so hard to bring back Head Down James.

But Obama carried the day with ISIS, and Head Down James closed the deal and got his first Brexit Winner’s Tunic. I can’t wait until Trump is president and implements Making Wanky Great Again and I finally have a chance.

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Heroes

August 18, 2016 § 40 Comments

Some people think that professional athletes are heroes. I don’t. My heroes are people who possess courage. Courage means giving up your personal time to fight for what’s right. The more that’s at stake, the fiercer your opposition, and the more time you give up — time that you’ll never reclaim — the greater the courage.

My heroes are diverse and funny and flawed. They’re battling inner demons that are often a far bigger struggle than the external things they’re fighting for. My heroes don’t wear capes, but lots of them wear Spandex. And my heroes are often tired, rough around the edges, and a few hours shy of a good night’s sleep.

They show up on bicycles, on scooters, in crappy cars. Sometimes their makeup is crooked or their pants sag. But you know what?

My heroes show up.

They showed up on Tuesday night, just like they’ve been showing up for months. Their faces sometimes change, sometimes they’re out of town and another hero stands in, but they keep showing up. When you need them, heroes always show up.

Last night’s heroes were–

Kristie Fox

Michael Barraclough

Joey Cooney

Tom Duong

Craig Eggers

Marvin Campbell

Kevin Nix

John Wike

Geoff Loui

Marc Spivey

Jose Godinez

Allyson Vought

Greg Seyranian

Gary Cziko

Patrick Noll

Jonathan Fredrick

Harry Martinez

Kate Hirrell

Diana Medrano

Joann Zwagermann

Julian Katz

Bruce Wyrwitzke

Tara Unversagt

Jon Simmons

Victor Cooper

Cleave Law

They showed up and sat through almost three hours of testimony on behalf of something so non-controversial that it could only be opposed by really tiny people: The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council was voting on a traffic safety committee recommendation to “Explore the creation of a bike safety master plan.”

I guess the idea of exploration frightened a few people. Of the 36 people who spoke on the issue, about ten were anti-cycling RPV residents brimming with anger at bicyclists in general and Big Orange in particular. Some of them screeched that it was a conflict of interest that transportation safety committee member Dave Kramer was an avowed cyclist and Big Orange member. Apparently anyone who cycles has a conflict of interest when it comes to … cycling. Whereas most people would consider that something called “expertise,” it escaped the tiny craniums of the well-groomed trogolodyte who muttered vague threats of lawsuits.

By that reasoning, we kept waiting for for them to declare that transportation committee members who drove cars should also recuse themselves for any matter that dealt with automobiles …

What was strangest of all was that they had come together to ostensibly beseech the council to address “bike safety,” yet not a single NIMBY had ever inquired what an actual bicyclist wanted or recommended, and not a single NIMBY voiced support for a plan that would explore bike safety issues.

They were for “bike safety” in the same way that Western ranchers favor “wolf safety,” i.e. “get rid of the dogdamned things.” The most empathetic speaker of all talked about how an RPV motorist had had to replace her windshield after it was damaged by a cyclist’s body and head. Tragic stuff.

The NIMBY display of anger and entitlement and ignorance of the law was an amazing contrast to the demeanor of the heroes. Here’s the video of the council meeting. Check out the What Do You Mean My Time’s Up Lady at 1:27:30, and the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats at 1:35:37. Then compare it with the tenor of the cyclists. The dude in the Wend Wax Works cap and Big O kit and droopy shorts is obviously sketch.

It was impressive to see how angry and demanding the NIMBYs were to the council members, volunteer officials who got nary a thank-you from the livid residents.

Fortunately, after everyone spoke, the city council voted on the revolutionary step of “exploring the creation of a plan” and unanimously approved it. You could tell that there were people on the council who didn’t think much of bikes, and there was one member who’s a confessed cyclist. But regardless of their individual opinions, the city council put its best foot forward and voted to explore bike safety. Not as gutsy as exploring the Amazon, but given the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats it did take some resolve simply because one of these days he could show up and start yelling at YOUR cat.

This makes two victories for cycling in two communities that have long resisted acknowledging the rights of bicyclists. It takes courage to change, but even more than that, it takes courage to demand it.

I hope these citizen advocates inspire you like they inspire me. As long as we keep showing up, we’ll be heard. Rancho Palos Verdes isn’t anti-cycling, it’s like any community: Anti-change. Most residents don’t mind bicycles and many residents ride them. A lot of the conflict stems from the sad fact that the NIMBYs simply don’t know the law.

The next series of meetings are just around the corner. Hope to see you heroes there.

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It’s more than just a sprint

August 5, 2016 § 10 Comments

I’ve been riding with Josh for about a year now. We are teammates, but we first met at the Tuttle Creek Road Race out in Nowheresville, CA this February. It was a hard race and neither of us won.

Since that time he’s been an occasional attendee on the Thursday Flog Ride. I won’t bore you with how hard the ride is; I’m sure yours is harder.

One thing is pretty clear, though. Most people do the Flog once, maybe twice, and you never see them again. And another thing. Everyone who’s done it regularly since November has stood on a podium this year.

The ride goes around the PV Golf Course six times. It’s a 6-minute interval, then you descend to the starting point and do another loop. The intervals are hard (redundant) and they’re also strategic because at the top of the loop you sprint. Whatever kind of game you have, this ride improves it.

Last week Josh was making some hard efforts but in all the wrong places. I hate to give advice to anyone other than, “Keep your fuggin’ head up.” My philosophy is that any advice worth knowing can and will be used against me.

However, after one particularly disappointing lap (for Josh), where he had attacked on the first section of the golf course, then gotten caught and dropped, I coached him against my better instincts. “Dude,” I said. “You’re not strong enough to attack there and hold it to the end.”

“But I have to try,” he said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “but don’t try there.”

“Where do I try then?”

“Suck wheel until the last hundred yards then sprint like a bastard.”

“But that’s wheelsucking.”

“Fight the battle with the weapons you have, not the weapons you wish you had.”

This morning the first two Flog laps were, well, hard. EA Sports, Inc. took the first two sprints in typical dominating fashion. On the third lap as we made the right-hander for the final leg to the finish, I looked back. It was just Josh. “He’ll attack about now,” I thought. “Way too early.”

But he didn’t.

With a hundred yards to go I got ready to launch, but no sooner had I clenched the drops than Josh came rocketing by. He didn’t just win it, he owned it.

As we circled in the parking lot waiting for the re-group, he was smiling. “Good job,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “I feel good today.”

END

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