Tough race

July 13, 2016 § 31 Comments

This sport is all about endurance. You have to spend a ton of time on your rear end, seated in an uncomfortable position, patiently waiting while all the idiots around you shoot their bullets until the perfect moment comes to stand up, lunge to the front, and make your move.

Sometimes the riders around you will cuss, fart, spit, blow snot rockets, complain, jostle for position, and do everything in their power to grind you down. You have to be patient, even as you too are gradually getting worn down from the exhaustion, the pain, the misery, and the idiocy of the contest.

Over and over you say to yourself, “Why the hell am I here?” and “What’s the friggin’ point?” and “I’m done, I’m going home,” but somehow you grit your teeth and endure the pain, the torture, and each needle of agony as the event slowly grinds on.

But then that moment comes in the city council meeting when it’s your turn and you get up to the lectern and all the clever things you were going to say begin with “Uh,” and “Um,” and your scintillating speech that was going to bring the crowd to its feet dribbles out in a rehash of what the other fifty speakers said and you fall into the Public Speaking Time Warp Dimension, where your three-minute speaker time allotment goes by in what seems like three seconds, whereas for your audience it goes by slower than three years of Chinese water torture.

Last night’s call to arms at the Palos Verdes Estates city council meeting was a complete success. About ninety cyclists absolutely packed the church pews in the council chambers so that it was standing room only. All of the yammerers and complainers and bitchers and email spammers and NextDoor-pitchfork-vigilantes who we feared would show up en mass and shout us down stayed exactly where you’d think Internet trolls would stay: At home, venting more spleen in yet another livid email.

We were also concerned that the Lunada Bay Boys On Mom’s Couch might make a cameo appearance and bombard us with grunts, but then we realized that since the meeting started at 7:30 PM, they’d already be fighting with their younger 40-year-old-ish siblings over who was getting the couch and who was getting the carpet.

What we found instead were the large, mostly washed masses of cyclists who’d tromped in from as far away as the San Fernando Valley and Huntington Beach to give voice to their support for BMUFL (Bikes May Use the Fukkin’ Lane) signage. Of the forty-two people who spoke, only one person didn’t speak in favor of BMUFL.

The outcome of the meeting was straightforward. The council will vote on BMUFL signage on July 26. Our voices have been heard and will be taken into account. The council will likely approve the traffic safety committee’s recommendation to:

  1. Take down the Darth Vader signs ominously saying “Bicycle Laws Strictly Enforced.”
  2. Put up the Luke Skywalker signs saying “3-Feet It’s the Law.”
  3. Send the BMUFL signage recommendation back to committee to decide the actual number and placement of signs.

Although it’s entirely possible that the Lunada Bay Boys On Mom’s Couch and the Internet Troll Commission will show up in force at that meeting because it’s the one at which the actual vote will occur, the council was incredibly receptive to and appreciative of our input, all 4,835.2 minutes of it. Talk about an endurance sportt! The bike blab-a-thon portion ended at 9:30 and the council still hadn’t even reached the main items on its agenda.

None of this would have happened without the incredible leadership of Michael Barraclough and Delia Park. And it certainly wouldn’t have happened without the support of the many cyclists who attended the protest ride and all of the other meetings, proving a key point: The cycling community is so vast that no one has to attend every meeting. We can fill entire council chamber rooms with a mostly new group of people every single time.

The meeting begin with a web site tutorial oriented towards the average PVE resident who apparently is just now learning about the Internet. It’s hard to describe, but think of the Internet as a bunch of computers connected together that can share information. It’s like Bingo without the excitement.

The city has a new web site with lots of links and a content management system which will give employees one more awful task they have to slog through. And although the web site’s only two images were an ocean cliff, presumably to leap from, and an antique Porsche that trust me, you can’t afford, it immediately occurred to me that what that web site is really going to need is a section called “Cycling in the Peninsula,” where the 3-foot law, the BMUFL law, and the mutual obligations of bikers and cagers to follow the traffic laws are set forth.

After learning about web sites and the Internet, the council sank into their chairs for what promised to be a long night of biker blabber. They begged us not to be repetitive and to keep it short, but we just couldn’t resist using that allotment of three minutes and as their looks of resignation turned to despair we soldiered on. If I weren’t an atheist I’d nominate each of those council members and the mayor for sainthood.

The speakers were:

Bruce Steele, lawyer and biker dude.
Diego Binatena, pro cyclist and Eagle Scout in uniform.
Julie Lansing, Scout leader and lifelong cyclist.
Craig Eggers, Big O bulwark and dude who’s been cycling more years than he’s been driving.
Annie Spalding, mom, wife, and non-cyclist who is vitally affected by what happens to cyclists because her husband and son ride.
Bob Spalding, rock of the South Bay, iron-legged Canyon Bob who has never met a flat he couldn’t fix or a rider in distress he wouldn’t stop to help.
Sam Spalding, college student commuter cyclist who compared cycling in Minneapolis and Portland to PVE.
Michael Lewis, lifelong cyclist.
Mike Barraclough, heart and soul of the movement whose speaking time was interrupted by the Shot Clock Controversy when the clerk forgot to start his 3-minute timer and then shaved too many seconds off his speaking time, after which the coach protested, a time-out was called, and on a fast-break to the inside Barraclough stuffed an 0ver-the-rim behind-the-back triple axel forward 4-and-a-half somersault in the Pike postion to score a perfect 10 and win the game in double overtime on penalty kicks.
Trish Botsko, PV Bike Chicks cyclist who spoke eloquently about bike signs and safety.
Mario Obejas, BCCC engineer dude and member of one of the best and biggest clubs in the South Bay.
Jose Godinez, South Bay stalwart and biker dude who has been to almost every meeting.
Eric Bruins, hard core advocate and professional bike dude who talks change and sense and collaboration all at the same time and doesn’t sound insane.
Tom Duong, Flog Ride regular, another you-aint-getting-rid-of-me advocate who has been integral to every meeting and protest.
Cassady Davidson, my awesome daughter who came with her husband Torazo and my grandbaby Rin-chan, who took one look at all the people and did a double-diaper-blast, after which he was unceremoniously removed from the proceedings.
Brian Gee, cyclist and talker dude.
Patrick Noll, German cyclist dude who is more articulate in his second language than I am in my first.
Steve Thorpe, cyclist dude who supports BMUFL, as he should.
Chris Tregillis, winner of the City Council KOM and super articulate talker dude.
Nigel Stewart, biker and talker dude.
Delia Park, how awesome is Delia? That would be “very.” Inspiring, committed, always shows up, keeps the troops in line, and please don’t even think about pissing her off with your dumb comments.
Yasuko Davidson, my cute wife who was too short for the mic and who got in a stiff uppercut to the jaw for BMUFL.
Joey Cooney, another stalwart who has made every meeting, dude rides, is local, and sticks around like badly burnt eggs on the bottom of an iron skillet.
Alan Stoddard, biker talker dude.
Geoffrey and Austin Loui, dad-and-son combo, Geoffrey also makes all the meetings and brings his kids. Start democracy young.
Joann Zwagerman, best speaker with a broken arm and funniest comment about her mom: “Okay, Joann, you’ve proven you can ride a bicycle. Now stop!”
Joel Elliott, conducted an awesome plebescite: “How many of you wankers ride?” [99% of people raised their hands]. “Now, how many of you wankers have been hit?” [98%].
Don Wolfe, drove from Westchester, awesome rider and talker and BWR dude.
Kevin Nix, succinct talker and bike race winner dude.
Jonathan Fredrick, best sense of humor dude whose last name has one “e” and whose last name can get you into trouble if you leave out the “r.”
Wendy Watson, another stalwart, rides better in her 70’s than I did in my 20’s.
Mark Maxson, awesome resident cyclist and talker father PVE dude.
S. Davidson, blah blah blah but at least it was brief.
Vic Cooper, cyclist and talker dude.
Ray Colquhoun, Big O hammer.
Hung Nguyen, dude drove from Huntington Beach and got the sprint jersey as a result.
Carl Frushon, military cancer survivor biker and fundraiser for charitable events dude.
Carlos Jura, cell tower dude and coastal commission complainer dude and bike admonisher dude.
Kristie Fox, only person who brought up science, comparing the British and American models for roadway usage and why the Brits were good and the US sucks, which leads us to ask, “Why do you hate America?”
Denis Faye, only dude to mention a crazy pack of ferrets and cycling in the same sentence.
David Brindon, cameraman and Olympian and world champion cycling dude.

After the lovin‘, the mayor and city council, all of whom stayed awake, thanked us for our input and encouraged us to return on July 26, although inwardly they prayed that if we did show up again we wouldn’t speak endlessly about the same damned thing because, you know, they get it. Police Chief Kepley thanked us for our civility and professionalism, and we adjourned, leaving the council to another several hours of brutal business that had nothing to do with bikes.

Thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend. Thank you to Mayor Jennifer King, you have the patience of Job and the endurance of an Ironman winner. Thank you to council members James Vandever, Betty Lin Peterson, Jon Rea, and James F. Goodhart. It’s local elected officials like you, unpaid except for the gratification you get from bettering your community, who are the bedrock of our democracy.

And democracy really happens when people show up.

END

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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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