Guts ‘n Gore Alley: Malibu & PCH

August 25, 2013 § 20 Comments

The City of Malibu has posted an online survey at You can take the survey to let the city know what you think are the most important issues regarding safety improvements to PCH.

Or, you know, you could just do something else.

Let me give you 10 reasons to take a few minutes out of your busy life and complete the survey.

  1. Marisela Echevarria, 36, lost control of her bike on PCH as vehicles passed by, and struck her handlebars on a parked vehicle, causing her to veer into the side of the bus. She was then dragged under the bus and killed when the bus crushed her with its rear wheels. Date of death: 10/13/2012.
  2. Luis Adolfo Olmedo, 53, was struck and killed by a cager on PCH between Encinal Canyon Road and Mullholland Highway. Olmedo had just finished fishing near El Pescador State Beach and was crossing PCH from the shoreline side. Date of death: 2/26/2013.
  3. Sarah Salam, 21, was struck and killed by a cager driving a limo as she attempted to cross PCH after leaving Moonshadows restaurant.
    A burned out streetlight, located steps away from the collision, and other preventable maintenance considerations likely played a role in her death. Date of death: 4/20/2013.
  4. Rodrigo Armas, 45, was struck and killed on PCH by a drunken cager who worked for the City of Malibu. He was participating in an annual organized ride. The cager fled the scene of the accident. Date of death: 7/5/2009.
  5. Christian Armas, 14, was struck by the same drunken cager who killed his father, and sustained injuries to his leg and multiple bone fractures.
    The pair were equipped with regulation lighting for night cycling. Date of injury: 7/5/2009.
  6. Amelia Ordona, 74, was crossing PCH in the early morning to catch a bus on the way home from her job as a caretaker, when she was struck by a hit-and-run cager, then run over by multiple other cars. Most of the cagers who ran over the corpse didn’t bother to stop. Date of death: 3/18/2010.
  7. Emily Shane, 14, was run over on PCH by a distracted cager while she was walking along the side of the road in order to meet a family member at Point Dume Village shopping center. Date of death: April 3, 2010.
  8. Erin Galligan, 29, was was hit from behind while cycling on PCH and dragged to death by a hit-and-run cager in a pickup. Her body was thrown so far from the point of impact that police had to search for her body. Date of death: July 10, 2012.
  9. Numerous other fatalities including two Pepperdine Law School students who were killed in a head-on car-to-car collision with a drunk cager; a tow truck driver killed by another hit-and-run cager while he working on a vehicle, and myriad cyclists and pedestrians who have been seriously injured by cagers in the last ten years on PCH.
  10. You, aged 40-something, were riding down PCH on Sunday morning when a cager drove by so close that you were almost knocked off your bike by his mirror. There was only a narrow three-foot space on the edge of the road, covered with rocks, debris, glass, and cracked pavement, onto which you could veer for safety. You were almost killed, and it ruined your ride.

Although many Malibu residents come across as hateful, vengeful, stingy, selfish, and filled with venom towards bicycle riders, they are a small minority. Most Malibians are just like rich entitled cagers everywhere: They don’t like it when shit gets in their way and slows down their car, whether it’s a slow-moving truck, a traffic jam, a bicycle, or, you know, a corpse in the middle of the highway.

The city recognizes that PCH is a death trap and that they have traffic fatality and injury rates commensurate with a city many, many times larger. This survey is part of a planning process that may — may — eventually ameliorate the toxic combination of crazy-fast speeders and crazy-slow bicycle riders. Rather than gutting up for the next memorial ride to commemorate the life of another bicycle rider killed by a cager in Malibu, please take a few minutes to complete this survey.


South Bay bike commute one year on

April 5, 2012 Comments Off on South Bay bike commute one year on

I started bike commuting in late April of last year. Not to lose weight. Not to be a better citizen of the earth. Not to sneak in some extra miles. And certainly not to enjoy the scenic beauty of Upper Torrance.

Nope, for me it was simple: money.

I calculated that after canceling our cable TV, moving to a small apartment, and reducing use of the Racing Camry (198k miles and counting) from seven days a week to two I would save enough money to pay for one half of one week’s tuition at my eldest son’s fancy East Coast college.

In the process I’ve learned that bike commuting, at least in the South Bay, has all kinds of benefits, as well as the occasional downside or two. First, the downsides…

1. Fatness. Although the average bike commuter loses 15 lbs. in the first year of commuting, I’ve actually gained 15 lbs. This is because I now start my day with breakfast at home and then follow it with a second breakfast at work, usually consisting of a chocolate-covered donut with cream filling (plural) and a small hog trough of oatmeal with heavy cream and butter. Why the extra breakfast? Because nothing makes me hungrier than riding my bike, even when it’s only 9.9 miles one-way.

2. Calamitous exhaustion. When I combine my 19.8-mile commute with the New Pier Ride followed by Telo and the final 1,300-foot climb up Mt. Flail to Chez Wankmeister, it’s, like, almost three hundred miles of riding. This leaves me completely waxed when I get to the office, with scarcely the energy to tap out a 3,500-word blog post before it’s time to saddle up and ride home. Then, once home, all I can do is eat and sleep. Not always in that order.

3. Route learning curvishness. It took a while to figure out the best way to get from Chez Wank to Little Shop of Horrors, and during that time I wound up on some pretty nasty roads. By the time I learned that Hawthorne-all-the-way-there-and-back was quick but laced with death, it could well have been too late.

4. Back door sneakishness. So there I am in my best yellow-and-orange polyester business suit with white shoes and a purple tie, sitting with a client as we discuss some terrible problem. They have confidence in me. They know they’ve hired The Best. Then, if it’s an end-of-the-day appointment, I dash into the men’s room, swap out the subdued business attire for a garish bike kit, and roll pell-mell out of the driveway. Unfortunately, my client has struck up a conversation with someone, and the delay means that we meet…again…except now I’m all shave-leggedy and bike-pedalley and alien-lookity. Professional confidence in their choice of legal counsel vanishes in a poof.

That’s the extent of the downishness. The uppishness is up beyond compare.

Having survived the Hawthorne embrace of death and the Anza doorprize bikelane, I’ve finally found the perfect route, which is down Highridge to GVA. Once you hit GVA it’s Switchin’ To Glide nirvana, just a long, gradually accelerating downhill series of curves until you’re screaming (but not above the speed limit) onto Via del Monte where you barrel at full speed limit up to each stop sign, come to a complete stop and put both feet down, after which you check both ways and then rip the fucking shit out of the hook turn, tucked into a complete suicide chuteless-dropkick out of the plane at 35,000 feet while maintaining all speed limits and ensuring that your bicycle never leans so far over that you can lick the pavement, and then a leg-breaking blast of speed limit up to the next stop sign where you repeat all of the safety maneuvers you’ve been repeating all the way down and then you go flat fucking balls to the wall like a blind banshee out of hell at the speed limit but not one click over until you come ass-hauling down by the library, stop, look both ways, scream through the plaza never exceeding the speed limit while stopping again, and then bomb like a death defying shooting star all the way down to RAT Beach churning and turning and streaking and raging and racing and freefalling like gravity, all the while obeying the California Vehicle Code as applicable to cyclists in all its particulars.

Which is pretty badass.

Stopping to smell the pelicans

Other times, the uppishness is poetic, like this morning. I had dropped down out of the clouds and was easily pedaling along the seawall with the hills of PV behind me, the curvature of the bay in front of me, and the beckoning folds of the Malibu coastline off in the distance. The remains of a nice swell pushed pretty, unridden lines of neatly breaking waves up onto the beach. I got off my bike, leaned it against a bench, and had a sit.

Put there for my enjoyment, and for yours if you were pedaling to work today, were tens of thousands of invisible small fish beneath the surface of the water, just beyond the breaking waves. Brown Pelicans took turns following the schools, dialing in on their prey, folding their wings, extending their aquiline necks until their bills became the needlepoint of a perfect dive into the water, and quickly popping back up to the surface with their catch.

Surely the pelicans are like us, it seemed. Amongst themselves there are the good divers and the mediocre ones, but perhaps no bad ones owing to the minimum standards of competence imposed by survival. Surely they watch each other and critique, or likely even jest at the expense of a friend who went in for fish and came up with nothing more than a bill full of brine. Without a doubt the men vie for attention amidst the females, trying to impress them with the biggest pouch or the tastiest haul. In the same vein the girls must pull away in pairs or smallish groups and remark on the prowess–or lack thereof–of those trying so hard to earn their eye.

Before long, and it was much more before than it was long, perhaps not more than ten minutes, I saddled back up and pushed the pedals through the sunshine, the cool morning air, and the gentle sea breeze, on this, my morning commute, the most beautiful and wondrous and magical and peaceful part of the day.

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