Numbers game

July 31, 2016 § 30 Comments

Numbers matter. In this case, the number of people who were willing to show up in force to advocate for bike safety mattered.

Two days after the Palos Verdes Estates city council voted to plant signs that say “3 Feet–It’s the Law,” we were blown away to see six of these beauties in place along Palos Verdes Drive South, including a giant yellow sign as you enter the feared chute that brings you into the city.

The signs that read “All Cyclists Will Be Killed On Sight” (except for one that they apparently missed) were taken down and donated to the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, where they will be laid cross-hatch to build a fort in mom’s backyard as the “boys” fire pea-shooters at passing cyclists and wave their angry “No Gurls Loud” sign from their treehouse.

You want to know what victory looks like? It looks like this:

You want to know what democracy looks like? It looks like this:

gang7

And do you want to know what good government is called? It’s called Jennifer King, James Vandever, Betty Lin, Jon Rea, James Goodhart, Ronald Buss, Frank Adams, Dave King, Clark Margolf, and Kevin McCarthy.

Of course the cost of these signs has been horrific. Jonathan Tansavadti, John Bacon, as well as a third cyclist killed on the Hill this year were the human sacrifices that it took to finally get some very cheap, basic signage installed that educates cagers about their legal obligation to vulnerable road users. For the families of the three victims, no signage and no progress will diminish their loss. “Sorry your husband/father/son was killed. Here’s a sign” probably doesn’t make it all better now.

And unsurprisingly, there are residents in PVE who have taken to social media to register their outrage that the city has actually put up signs that state the law. Where is the cheering for these steps that educate, that state the law, and that improve the safe use of public roads for everyone, not just the NIMBYs who live there? Hint: Not here.

This small victory does, however, raise the next key points, which are:

  1. These signs are only the beginning.
  2. We’re in for a long, multi-year haul.
  3. This small victory happened because several hundred cyclists took democracy into their own hands.

The PV Peninsula is a cycling destination and has been for decades. The municipalities within its borders have a duty to begin putting together and then implementing a bike safety plan, and they are doing so. But the details of those plans will be fiercely disputed and fought hammer and tong by people like the PVE realtor who said for cyclists who break traffic laws, death is an appropriate “Darwinian” consequence. In order for the small step that PVE has taken to result in BMUFL signage and sharrows, every person who has been involved has to recommit.

That’s a huge ask because the meetings can be long and contentious. Not everyone can devote 10 hours a month to participatory democracy. But the benefit to belonging to a cycling community that is thousands strong is that we don’t need every advocate present every time. We just need to make use of the powerful and dedicated pool that already exists, and make sure that when BMUFL signage, sharrows, and the bike safety plans are being discussed by traffic safety committees and the city council, we are there in force.

None of this would have happened without the leadership of Michael Barraclough, Big Orange, and the people–too numerous to name–who have refused to sit idly by while good people are killed by the laziness and stupidity of a fringe minority of NIMBY residents who want to defy the law. None of it would have happened without responsive and responsible volunteer city politicians and their paid staff who believe that lives really do matter and that public roads really are public.

Time to take a breath, appreciate the progress, and settle in for the long haul. See you soon.

END

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It’s only a cyclist

May 20, 2016 § 75 Comments

The Palos Verdes Peninsula now has three cycling fatalities since March. The most recent person to die on a bicycle was John Bacon, age 68, a guy many of us knew from his old-school, dark green steel Eddy Merckx.

The facts surrounding his death are unclear. Immediately prior to his demise a surveillance camera shot video of a white pickup trailing him very closely. Here’s the pic:

surveillance_tape

The PV Estates Police Department is well known for its aggressive policing of property crimes, which makes sense in this super-rich, highly white, greedily exclusive enclave whose unofficial motto is “Don’t Touch My Shit.” A recent burglary caused law enforcement here to call in a helicopter, with all hands on deck by the police, and they fully cordoned off neighborhood.

Because you know, someone’s jewelry might get stolen.

One on one the officers here are professional and polite, but they take direction from their boss, who takes direction from the City Manager, who takes direction from the City Council, who takes direction from the Don’t Touch My Shitters. And cyclist deaths mean little or nothing to the wretched excuses for human life who run city politics here.

The police put out an all points bulletin for the white pickup and they put up a couple of signs going up and down Granvira Altamira requesting information. That, folks, is what a suspicious death of a cyclist merits in PVE. Two flashing signs.

What do you think they would have done if a couple of kids from Compton had rolled into town and shot someone?

The only real detective work done on the case was by outraged cyclists who identified a truck the following day at a construction site near the death scene that was extremely similar to the one in the video. After phoning in the information to the PV police, the caller waited for forty-five minutes for someone to come.

No one did, and the truck left. Because, donuts and coffee.

Imagine if an upstanding white property owner in PV had been gunned down at Malaga Cove and someone called in a tip that the African-American shooter was a few yards away the following day. It’s easy to imagine the response that would have gotten, and the hailstorm of lead that would have rained down.

Eventually a person did voluntarily appear at the police department for questioning, but he didn’t match the physical description of the person of interest in the APB, who was a heavyset white male. The PV cops decided that due to “minor differences” in the two vehicles, a running board and a tinted window, that it was definitively not the car in question.

Of course these are items that can be quickly added to a car to change its appearance, and there’s no indication that they did a detailed investigation of the front of the truck, which could still have had paint transfers or other evidence of hitting John if that’s in fact what happened. What’s even stranger is that the cyclist who called in the tip later talked to the person who appeared to be the owner of the truck, who was in fact a heavyset white male. It seems that the person who went in for questioning may not have even been the owner of the truck.

Later that day on Friday the 20th, the police put out another bulletin saying that thanks to a phone tip they had finally found the driver of the vehicle they were seeking. The report didn’t say whether it was the same truck that the cyclist had phoned in, and an NBC reporter couldn’t get the PV police to confirm, but it’s hard to imagine who else it could be.

If it turns out that the “person of interest” who has notably not yet been charged or arrested is the owner of the truck called in by the cyclist, it will only underscore what we already know: When it comes to doing police work regarding dead cyclists, the PVE police have more important priorities.

If it turns out to be someone else, it still doesn’t explain the police department’s lethargic response to this epidemic of death on the peninsula. What makes it worse is that after John’s death no less than four cyclists reported being previously buzzed and harassed by a white pickup and driver matching this vehicle’s description. The environment of hostility and hate towards cyclists in Palos Verdes has a parallel with the local surfing gang known as The Bay Boys.

Don’t touch my waves, don’t touch my shit. Even when the ocean and the roads aren’t mine.

Stay tuned …

END

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