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.

END

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