March 24, 2016 § 45 Comments
I rolled out of the apartment and onto Hawthorne, heading downhill towards the Tuesday night training crit that no one takes seriously except everyone.
I was in the right-hand lane as I went through the light. There was a lady in a red hybrid, not a Prius, so don’t go hating on my Prius. She thought to move over into my lane, saw me as she started coming over, and jerked back into her lane.
Then she gunned it (yeah, you can gun a hybrid, B.B. gun anyway), passed me, chopped into my lane, slammed on the brakes, and made a hard right into the Pavilions parking lot. I was pretty pissed almost being mowed down and then re-pissed at having to keep from slamming my face through her rear windshield, so I followed her.
She never noticed me behind her and kept gabbing away, hands free, not only from the phone, but from the steering wheel, too, as she periodically threw up both hands and hollered into her speaker. I followed her past the Pavilions, past the Rite-Aid, past the Starbucks, past the Jamba Juice, down the little driveway, down the ramp, and into the Spectrum parking area. She found a space and whipped in, yakking the whole way.
Her window was halfway down so I pulled up next to her and didn’t start screaming, which is almost a first for me. “Hi,” I said.
She gave me a blank look then remembered who I was. “Hello.” Her face was stiff.
“You almost killed me back there when you swerved in front, cut me off, slammed on the brakes, and turned into the lot while you were talking on the phone.”
“Well,” she said, “you bikers are so hard to see and you are so unpredictable.”
“That’s true, but you saw me when you first tried to change lanes and I was going at the speed of traffic in a straight line.”
“You bikers … ”
“Us bikers are just like you,” I said. “Except in my case; I’m older. And all you have to do is slow down, let me pass by, and then change lanes just like you’d do if you were next to a truck or a bus.”
“But you’re not a truck or a bus.”
“True, but I’m entitled to the protection of the same laws they are.”
She nodded. “Yes, I see that.”
“It might slow you down for a few seconds, but actually it probably won’t.”
She nodded again. “Next time I’ll give you room. I’m really sorry.”
I smiled. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
“Have a nice day,” she said hopefully.
I rode off thinking that I’m not angry enough anymore. Probably time to quit bike racing.
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February 10, 2016 § 71 Comments
What a sanctimonious blowhard. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske wrote this smoking heap of dung for the bicycle rag factory mag VeloNews, admonishing us to obey the law and be model, upstanding bicycle citizens.
The basic premise is that by riding like scofflaws we make cagers hate us and do the greater cycling community a disservice. Then Miss Manners Mionske admonishes us that the madcap, out of control group ride “creates an enormous public-relations problem for us with the general public and with their legislative representatives.”
Bob then reminds us that, “We have a constitutional right to the road, as I established in my book ‘Bicycling & the Law.'” Founding Father Robert Mionske. Who knew?
Finally, we learn that adrenaline-soaked early season group rides in which someone gets hurt can result in *horrors* lawsuits. Having fallen asleep in his torts class for forty years, Professor Mionske belts us with this legal bugaboo: “Individual riders on group rides that have injured pedestrians, other cyclists or caused a motor vehicles to lose control have personally been sued. Because the injured party in these actions can rarely specify who caused their injuries they will name, in their suit, any riders they can identify from the group. Under a different theory of law lawsuits in these cases will also seek to attach legal liability to clubs, shops and even racing teams that are, in some way, affiliated with the group ride.”
In other words, just being the tongue-in-spokes wanker on the tail of the whip can send you to lawsuit hell where the aggrieved plaintiff will take everything you own.
Which leads to a reasonable question: Whose side is this asshole on?
It’s true, bicyclists shouldn’t break the law. Neither, Bob, should cagers. Or anyone, for that matter. That’s why they are called “laws” instead of “personal directives ordained by the Great Dictator.”
It’s not true that cagers hate us because we break the law. If that were true, cagers would hate each other, gun owners, and motorcyclists a million times more. Cagers mow us down with impunity because law enforcement treats dead cyclists as the price of doing business, cf. Milton Olin and hundreds of others.
Cyclists are hated because laws are arbitrarily enforced against us, and cagers know that they can abuse us and harm us and face little in the way of consequences. Mionske’s wholesale distribution of the canard that we are our own worst enemy is like the apologists who used to explain away the evils of segregation by telling people to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
As for the crazed group ride in which every participant is a potential defendant, that is simply untrue. While it’s true that anyone can sue any other person any time for any reason, prevailing is a different matter. And what’s the solution? Stop riding in groups just because one or two yahoos ride like idiots? Newsflash: Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines a group ride as “A conglomeration of idiots on wheels.”
The real solution to bad group behavior is the one that Lawyer Mionske refuses to consider because he himself is so afraid of lawsuits–starting each group ride with a little speech. I’ve seen the guys at BCCC do it every ride. They go over the route, introduce any newcomers, and let people know what’s expected of them. Eventually people get the message and the rides acquire a certain discipline.
The down side is that the person who steps up and gives the speech really does become a potential target, as he could be sued as a “promoter” of the ride. But so what? Are you going to live your life in fear of lawsuits, Bob? And aren’t you a lawyer? And don’t you feel personally responsible for the people you ride with? Are you such a chicken-ass that you can’t do what Mike Norris of our local Wheatgrass Ride does–give a talk each week to warn people about going slow in certain areas and riding with safety in mind?
If every group ride started with a little speech, yes, there would be some incremental increase in litigation risk for the speaker (greatly reduced when the speaker reminds everyone that this is an informal ride, that the speaker isn’t the promoter, and that everyone there voluntarily assumes the risk of catastrophic injury and death), but overall the rides would be much safer. The Nichols Ride in L.A. cries out for this kind of leadership, as do many others.
Instead of blaming cyclists for being victims and exhorting responsible people to avoid group rides because of the risk of litigation, Bob needs to go to Oz, get a pair of courages, and be a leader. Maybe then his status as a former 7-11 rider in the 80’s might actually be something more than a marketing hook.
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February 6, 2016 § 41 Comments
When I am getting off my bike at a coffee shop or lounging around at a coffee shop or standing in line in a coffee shop no one ever asks me anything. My scruffy facial mold and salt-caked dark glasses seem stand-offish, if not downright contagious.
Derek the Destroyer, however, always gets chatted up. He is always clean and clean-shaven. His kit is never caked with salt. He looks like the upstanding member of society that he is, amiable, professional, approachable. In other words, he attracts the nutjobs like patriots to a bird-watching refuge.
Today we had put in some huge hours, about four, doing a total of thirty miles. This is harder than it looks and always involves coffee stops. As we entered our fourth hour we decided to do something I’ve never done in the middle of a bike ride, and neither has he. We swung by the Baskin-Robbins for a double-dip in a fat waffle cone.
As Derek was tying up his horse this lady came up. We were at the PV Mall, where none of the customers work, and most are only vaguely aware of the mechanism by which their bank accounts are regularly replenished.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”
Now the only appropriate answer to such a question is “No.” Firmly. Then you spin on your heel (hard to do in cleats but still necessary) and clip-clop into the ice cream store.
But not Derek. “Sure,” he said.
“Now I don’t mean this to you personally,” she began, which is the passive-aggressive intro to saying something very personal, “but why is it that you cyclists all ride out in the middle of the street?”
I was halfway into the shop but turned around. This was going to be good. “That’s a good question,” Derek said in what appeared to be his opening gambit for a Nobel Peace Prize.
I, on the other hand, was more in search of a Sauron Medallion of War. “It’s a terrible question,” I interjected.
The lady looked at me, concerned that the moldy-faced salty one had chosen her over the peanut butter-chocolate double dip. “A better question would be, ‘Why don’t all you cyclists just go kill yourselves or go get cars because you’re slowing us down for our hot yoga and orgasm workouts.'”
“Don’t mind him,” said Derek, “he’s harmless. Mostly.”
“Or an even better question would be, ‘Why is it that all of you cagers are ignorant of the vehicle code sections that allow us to occupy the lane?'”
“Cyclists really get in the way,” she said plaintively, “and I’m a cyclist, too. I ride my Motobiccany, when I ride it, on the sidewalk or in the bike lane. Why can’t you?”
I thought about giving her an Academie Francaise award for her pronunciation of “Motobecane,” but didn’t think I could spit that far. “Well,” said the diplomat, “it’s often safer in the lane, which is perfectly legal, than on the edge, where cars try to squeeze by on the way to yoga and accidentally kill or maim you by mistake. Those ‘oops’ moments can be really inconvenient when you spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. And of course they scratch up the vehicle’s clearcoat.”
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” I said.
“Okay,” she said.
“This isn’t personally directed at you, but why is it that middle-aged women at the PV mall look like they’re … ”
Derek grabbed me by the elbow. “C’mon Wanky,” he said. “The ice cream is that way.” He turned to the lady, who was imagining the awful ending to my unfinished question. “Have a nice day, ma’am. And share the road.”
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September 14, 2015 § 16 Comments
I hope everyone will take the day off on November 18, 2015, to join me and my friends for a super celebration at the Torrance Courthouse, 8:30 AM, Department 3. It’s going to be awesome!
We will all gather to show our support for Ryan Michael Marco, who is being UNFAIRLY arraigned for violating Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), which reads in pertinent part:
Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
Ol’ Ryan, who I’m sure is a fine, upstanding family man who would never beat his wife for burning the canned chili, will be having an arraignment party as a result of assaulting a local cyclist in PV with his work truck. It is something of a long story, and hardly worth retelling because it happens so often, but in this instance Ol’ Ryan committed his alleged crime in the presence of a peace officer and was ultimately charged for his alleged misdeeds.
Most of the time that a cager tries to kill a cyclist, or when, as in Milton Olin’s case, they actually do, law enforcement looks the other way or gives them a certificate of merit. Sad to say this didn’t happen with Ol’ Ryan, and he’s now staring down the barrel of a felony. The mean old LA Sheriff’s Department at the Lomita Substation has taken the crazy position that you can’t try to run over cyclists for sport. Are they messed up or what?????
You’re probably wondering how you can help this cool dude? How you can show your support? How you can let him know that he’s loved because deep down inside he probably only meant to partially kill the cyclist rather than waste him completely?
Join me and my other cycling buddies for Ol’ Ryan’s arraignment where we can show our moral support as cyclists for poor, misunderstood homicidal cagers who are just having a bit of fun on the way to work. Plus, the city attorney needs to see that we think there’s nothing wrong with trying to kill people who dress up in clown suit underwear while pedaling bicycles, as long as the attempt is all in fun.
After Ol’ Ryan’s arraignment we will hold a candlelight vigil in the parking lot and stomp a ceremonial baby seal to show our moral support for this victim of the judicial system. A collection will also be taken up to pay for his legal defense fund, and we will take this miscarriage of justice all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to!!!!
Thank you and see you there!
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April 11, 2015 § 24 Comments
California state senator Carol Liu’s attempt to mandate helmet usage for cyclists ran into a roadblock when cycling advocates presented nearly uniform opposition to the bill. With the exception of blogger Patrick Brady over at Red Kite Bore, who took a “Doesn’t affect me” stance, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, California Association of Bicycling Organizations, and the California Bicycle Coalition vehemently opposed the bill.
As a result, the helmet law was scrapped and instead morphed into a bill to require that the Department of the Highway Patrol conduct a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use. I heartily applaud this new bill because it clearly seeks to provide a scientific framework around which to base future helmet legislation. Requiring helmets to prevent head injuries is likely crucial to protecting our vulnerable population of cyclists, however, the legislation does not go far enough.
The study should be expanded to include all head injuries in California. A clear understanding of what causes people to injure their heads, if based on hard science, could lead to a revolution in head protection throughout this country, and ideally the world. In addition to requiring helmets for cyclists, a science-based study would almost certainly lead to other areas where the use of helmets would greatly improve the safety of our population.
I propose a “Protecting America” movement that will help expand Senator Liu’s bill to include a study of all head injuries and that will hopefully lead to full-time helmet usage in the following areas:
- Caging: More than 16,000 youth drivers suffer acute head injuries in collisions every year. All cagers in driving school, as well as those in their first five years of driving should be required to wear helmets. Since it is impossible to say whether the caging public at large will at any given time be hit by a youth driver, all drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists should likewise be required to wear helmets. Protecting our youth is our nation’s highest priority.
- Bathing: Over 235,000 people each year get injured while bathing and showering, with a disproportionate number of falls affecting women, youth, and those over age 85. Legislation should be directed to require women and elders to never enter a shower or bath area without full head protection. Since many of the injuries result in hip fractures, particularly for the elderly, Sen. Liu’s study should also include a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of “bathing armor,” i.e. clothing that can be worn while bathing that will protect fragile joints.
- Shitting: Shitters over the age of 65 are particularly prone to injury while getting up and off the toilet. “Injuries getting on and off the toilet are quite high in people 65 and older,” says Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist at the CDC. Research on helmet usage among shitters over age 65 should be included in the bill, with a view towards requiring implementation of shitting helmet standards for the elderly, along with in-home surveillance systems similar to red light cameras that can observe helmetless shitting violations and issue citations.
- Fucking: Although statistics are hard to come by since emergency room patients usually ascribe their injuries during sex to another cause due to embarrassment, head injuries during coitus can be devastating, especially among younger, more adventurous sexual partners who are attempting sex acts on mountain tops, in moving vehicles, or with firearms. By expanding Sen. Liu’s research mandate to include copulation-related injuries, we can get a better handle on the dangers associated with this activity and hopefully come up with legislation that will require fuckers of all ages to be helmeted before, during, and after sex. Elder Californians having sex while sitting on the toilet in the shower should have particular legislation drafted to ensure their safety.
I hope you will join me as I support Sen. Liu in her attempt to make our state, and hopefully our galaxy, a safer place, a galaxy where head injuries will eventually become a thing of the past.
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February 19, 2015 § 43 Comments
State Senator Carol Liu from Pasadena (to that area’s undying shame) has introduced a bill to make helmets mandatory for bicycle riders. Scofflaws will get tagged with a $25 fine, and the police will have something really significant to spend their time doing, finally.
Here is a thoughtful discussion about the issue, but it’ll be a CBR crit without wheelsuckers before I sacrifice eighteen minutes of my life to hear clever people debate stupid things.
Of course the problem with the helmet law is that it doesn’t go far enough. Like lots of well-meaning mommy state legislation, it only protects part of the intended maroon, in this case his or her head. For the law to really work, and I believe it’s important for state and local government to play a role in bike safety (especially when the pepper spraying, handcuff clinking, baton swinging, pistol packing police are involved), the law must completely protect us.
Heavy gloves, joint padding, and full downhill MTB armor are what’s needed to ensure that little kids going to school don’t fall off their bicycles and get a boo-boo on their po-po. In addition, the bill needs to be amended to cover the crucial areas of bike speed and componentry. A statewide bike speed limit of 12-mph should be included, because the faster you pedal your bicycle the more you get hurt when you fall off it for being drunk or stupid or racing or all three.
The 12-mph speed limit would also ensure that most triathletes don’t get dropped in bike races, and would allow the weak and infirm to catch back on after getting shelled on hard climbs.
Bike dangerousness should likewise be addressed with weight restrictions. Heavier bikes have been shown to go slower and to act as excellent self-defense weapons in sketchy neighborhoods. Getting whacked over the head with Strava Jr.’s 2-lb. full carbon rig which is all carbon and made of 100% carbon isn’t nearly as big a deterrent to crime as getting pounded by a 50-lb. steel-and-lead composite frame.
It’s unfortunate that Liu’s bill is such a liuser and that she doesn’t really care about our safety. But there’s another reason to support helmets, body armor, bike speed limits, minimum weights, and materials legislation: Brad House hates it.
Basically, Brad is a libertarian, which means “Let me make the laws.” Brad opposes all laws which are against his personal interest or which haven’t been personally approved by Ron Paul. This is a law that will drive Brad whacky(er). He will rant. He will rave. He will talk graphically about his exploits in and out of the bedroom. He will join political movements, overwhelm social media, and dash hither and yon in those black shorts with the back panels that expired back in ’96, blinding everyone with his hairy, unblinking brown eye. He might even sell his $2 Stetson and move back to California.
Let’s face it. California has gone to shit since Brad’s departure and the only way to make this once-proud state great again is to get Mr. Nuttypants back. Supporting Carol Liu’s law and getting it amended so that we’re completely protected is the way to do it, and by protection I mean mandatory condoms, measles vaccinations, and impact-proof welding goggles for every rider over the age of three is the only way we’ll truly make cycling safe and have Brad to kick around for another year or so.
Our only other option is to enforce existing traffic laws and force cagers to stop running us over.
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April 11, 2014 § 30 Comments
If you don’t know Adam Myerson, he’s a member of the Lost Generation. These were the guys who came of age during the reign of Lance, and unlike Hincapie, Vaughters, Leipheimer, and those who have gone on to profit greatly from their misdeeds, Adam took the Nancy Reagan option. He just said “No.”
Adam and I are friends on Facebook, which is to say that since we’ve never met we’re not friends at all, at least not in the way that I grew up understanding the word. Rather, I lurk when his posts pop up on my feed and I like his approach towards cycling in particular and life in general.
Yesterday he opened up with a simple question. “Is there a medical term for the long term stress caused by being taken within an inch of your life, every day, multiple times a day, for the simple act of riding a bicycle on a public road?”
I glanced at the tail end of the comments and was surprised by the number. I was also surprised by the tenor of at least some. This was pretty much a softball question that any rider could relate to. Nothing is more ubiquitous in road riding than the constant fear of death and mutilation, and no preparation is more essential to the task of cycling than mentally girding yourself for the physical, verbal, and emotional onslaught that is the price we pay for daring to take our legal piece of the pavement.
Blame the victim
Incredibly, at least one commenter (since self-blocked and self-deleted) put the blame, or at least tried to shift it, on Adam. Surely there was something in his riding that precipitated at least some of this hostility?
All hell didn’t so much as break loose as it organized a freedom train.
And although the pro-Adamites greatly outweighed the anti-Adamites, the dialogue quickly assumed the air of a back-and-forth about who follows the rules and who’s a more law-abiding cyclist. All I could think was, “What the hell does that have to do with it?”
The price of pedaling
I know a lot of people who take great pride in their letter-perfect traffic behavior. I’m not one of them. I follow the rules when it’s to my advantage and I break them when they aren’t. I can feel the daggers when I cruise through controlled intersections, and I can hear the honks when some jackass in a giant pick-up vents at my infraction of the moment.
He can kiss my ass, because until the laws are set up to protect me, I’ll keep on surviving, thanks very much. As a reminder of how worthless you are on a bike here in SoCal, Jorge Alvarado’s killer just received the incredible sentence of 90 days in jail. We wouldn’t want to ruin that kid’s life, after all.
Nor am I on a mission to make cagers love me. The ones who accept me, accept me. The ones who hate me, hate me, and the ones who are going to mow me down because they’re texting or drunk or fiddling with the radio, well, I can’t do anything about them anyway. The only ones I care about are the crazies who want to kill me, and they’re not going to be mollified just because I put a foot down.
As Adam said, more or less, why should the price of making a mistake on a bike be death?
Post traumatic jackass syndrome
The unfortunate answer is, “Dude, that’s just how it is.”
But what’s more unfortunate is that his original question was such a good one. What do we call the mental condition of being constantly under assault or threat of assault?
I think PTJS is a good start, and although I can’t really describe its symptoms, I can describe the absence of them. Take the bike path and you’ll see what I mean. Suddenly, the cager exits your mental picture. As you pedal along the path you’re watching for peds and bikes and dogs and kids and skateboards and roller skaters and perhaps also the first thong of spring, but you’re doing it without the constant awareness of whether or not you’re about to receive a 1-ton solid steel enema.
There is a lightness to your grip on the bars and a relaxation of your shoulders and neck. You’re no longer afraid.
There. That’s the thing that riding on the road hangs around your neck no matter how good, how fast, how quick, or how experienced you are. The factor of fear, sometimes slight and sometimes screaming so loudly that you tense up enough to taste your own death, that’s the thing that you take with you when you’re wresting your legal piece of pavement from the jaws of the cagers.
The safety of the bike bath
Of course many riders eschew the beach bike bath in the South Bay because they claim it’s far more dangerous than street. They may be right.
Surfer Dan was pedaling along and prepared to pass Mitzy and Bohunk on their cruiser bikes. “On your left!” he said, loud enough for them to hear but not so close as to startle them.
Mitzy moved over, as she and Bohunk were hogging the whole path, but Bohunk didn’t budge. Dan eased over to pass. “Slow down, asshole!” snarled Bohunk.
Surfer Dan is a pleasant fellow, I suppose. But he’s also a coiled pack of solid muscle, the kind of muscle you get from a lifetime of surfing big waves, and he’s a coiled pack of mental muscle, too. You don’t earn your place in the lineup just because you surf well. You earn it because you can defend it, too.
Playfully, Dan looked at Bohunk, a giant, hairy, stupid creature who oozed ill will. “Please, don’t!” Mitzi begged. This obviously wasn’t Bohunk’s first brawl on the bike path and you could tell he relished the opportunity to beat up another wimp riding around in his underwear.
Dan grinned at Bohunk and said, softly, “Wanna go?”
Bohunk lunged for the bait. “Fuckin-A, you asshole! Let’s go!”
Dan eased his rear tire to within an inch of Bohunk, ready to whack the cretin’s front wheel out from under him in case the guy was crazy enough to try and get into a fist fight over being passed on the bike path. He had no intention of cutting his knuckles on this guy’s teeth. Bohunk reached out his left leg and aimed a mighty kick at Dan’s bike, but Dan easily moved over just as the full thrust of the extended, trunk-like leg fully extended into the open air.
Bohunk lost his balance and splatted hard on his shoulder, bouncing his concrete-like head against its brethren, the asphalt of the bike bath. With a long smearing sound of skin against pavement and sand, the aggressor then fouled the rest of himself up in the still-moving chain and rear wheel.
“Have a nice day!” Dan said, smiling as he rode off.
I’m guessing that he’s not suffering from post-traumatic jackass syndrome as a result.