One from the vaults

November 13, 2015 § 24 Comments

I received this most excellent email from Ira Schaffer on Wednesday, and had to share–with his permission of course!

Thank you for your great writing and thanks for helping me to stay connected to cycling in the South Bay!

I grew up in Palos Verdes and lived there from 1958 to 1976. One day in 1972 I walked from my house to the Peninsula Center, I was fourteen at the time, and noticed a bunch of commotion that was ununusal for an early Sunday morning around Hawthorne and Indian Peak.

I walked up to the corner and at that moment a huge pack of racing cyclists came screaming down Hawthorne and made the turn onto Indian Peak at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour! It turned out to be an Olympic qualifying road race, won by John Howard.

I watched in amazement and knew that I wanted to do the same thing. I began to ride my bike everywhere and joined a local club, the Lomita Bicycle Peddalers, run by Bob Roach in Lomita. His son Tim Roach, one of the top track coaches in American today, was my best friend at Rolling Hills High School. I trained in the hills of PV in the 70’s along with the few other cyclists like Paul Deem, and raced whenever I could.

Back then, as it is now, SoCal was known mostly for crits. I traveled to Encino twice a week to hone my bike handling skills, with Bob Roach usually driving us until Tim and I got our driving licenses, and we raced on Saturday nights at the velodrome and on Sunday. I raced crits mostly, and “competed” as a Junior against guys like the Whitehead brothers, Dave and Mark and of course Gibby Hatton, who had just won the Junior World Championships. The fields on crit raceday for juniors, which was a category aged 14-18, typically had 75-100 racers, and events like the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix drew up to 125 entrants for the Junior field alone.

I raced through the early 80’s and won the Junior State Road Championship in 1976. I attended UCLA and lived with a guy that worked at a shop and with whom I raced. The shop was on Wilshire and called, appropriately enough, Wilshire West Bicycle Shop.

Since the shop was in West LA, the clientele included a bunch of “movie folks.” One day a producer or director or other important person walked into the shop and asked my roommate if he knew anyone who could help a couple of actors learn the ins and outs of how to ride a bike. My roommate agreed. For the next month, Dennis Christopher and Hart Bochner of Breaking Away met us at our apartment in Santa Monica and we helped teach them some of the “ins and outs” of riding. They invited us to continue the training in Indiana, but I would have had to drop out of school, something I didn’t even consider.

I have great memories of riding and racing my bike in Palos Verdes and your writing helps me to connect. My folks still live in PV (89 years old) and I still ride a bit. I raced masters a few years ago in SoCal. I recently moved to the Bay Area and enjoy the riding up here as well. Thanks for your writing and thanks for helping me stay connected.

Ira Schaffer

[Note from Wanky: Actually, Ira, it is we who should thank you for sharing this great piece of SoCal cycling history and, most especially, for your $2.99 monthly subscription! A round of craft water for everyone!]



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, like Ira did! Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

For what it’s worth

August 30, 2013 § 28 Comments

Today was the most perfect of days in Southern California. It began with a brisk and punchy pedal on the New Pier Ride, and after the ride we congregated at the Center of the Known Universe and enjoyed coffee … rehashes of the ride … and the joy that comes from soaking in the sun on a perfect August day just a few feet from the shimmering blue Pacific Oean.

When it came time for us to head in to work, we left the bricks reluctantly. The longer we dallied the less time we’d spend in the office, and then it would be Friday of Labor Day weekend, and nothing stops labor dead in its tracks like the Friday of a three-day weekend that exists solely to celebrate the ecstasy of not having to work.

I watched my buddies pedal off as they did their very worst to get into the office by ten.

She can’t see the sunshine now

On Tuesday afternoon Debra Deem was finishing up her workday much like we were starting out ours. She had recently retired from her high stress litigation job and was spending her retirement providing charitable legal services, and devoting herself to the gardens and plants she tended at her home.  Debra had been riding for more than twenty years and was an extremely safety-conscious cyclist. It was just her nature.

Very close to the same stretch of road where two women cyclists were hit and killed by motorists last year, and where a doctor was killed by a teenager in a runaway sports car, Debra was struck on August 27 by a minivan as she approached the intersection of Newport Coast Rd. while heading west on PCH. She died the following day.

I had gotten the news yesterday through Facebook, and though I didn’t know her, I couldn’t help feeling awful as the comments started coming in. Her husband Paul is a well-known cycling coach in Orange County, and has been a fixture in Southern California for decades. He raced the 4k team pursuit in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and won the gold medal in that event in the 1975 Pan Am Games.

I kept thinking about Debra all the way to work, thinking about how one more bicycle rider in Southern California has been killed by another careless driver. And I hate to say the obvious, but it’s just not right.

What is “right”?

In the case of cyclists being killed by cagers, “right” means reducing the risk that slower moving bikes will be hit by inattentive or errant drivers. It is a fact that putting bicyclists in bike lanes or over on the shoulder increases their exposure to careless cagers. It is also a fact that putting bicyclists in the center of the lane decreases accidents.

The down side to this simple solution of “put bikes in the middle of the lane” is also simple: It requires drivers to slow down and pass, and the more cyclists there are on the road, the more it drivers will perceive their progress to be slow, even though the increase in riders means there are fewer cars on the road and there is therefore less congestion, not more.

This perception of being slowed down is everything, and in conjunction with putting cyclists into the middle of traffic, where they belong, we must also have major changes in the way drivers are taught to drive. This includes a meaningful section in driver education classes and on the licensing exam, but it also means continuing education in the form of sharrows, those “bike + arrow” markings that tell cagers and cops that bikes belong in the middle of the lane, not over in the gutter.

The bloody history of Newport Coast Drive

The intersection of PCH and NCD is horrifically dangerous for cyclists, because they have to leave the bike lane and merge with traffic into the right-hand turn lane in order to get onto NCD. Traffic is frequently going full-bore, and even in the best situations it’s dicey.

What’s so outrageous is that at least three people have died on NCD in the last year, and numerous others have been hit and injured. Cars race up the NCD grade so fast that the wind buffets bikes on the side of the road. On notice that the road is deadly, that the traffic mix for bikes and cars must be better controlled, and that drivers treat the open stretch like a testing ground for their sports cars, the city and county have done nothing.

This blind eye, this willful ignorance makes itself known by the absence of stepped up patrols, by no changes to the configurations of the roads and intersections, and by not even a willingness to let the ghost bikes stay in place as a reminder of the ghastly deaths and injuries that have occurred here.

A sharrow might have saved Debra’s life, some simple white striping that costs a few cents. What’s a human life worth? It’s surely worth that.

And when will the death count be enough, these numbers that are real people with real lives, these statistics that leave ragged, gaping, eternally bleeding, unfillable holes in the lives of those who are left behind?

How many will it take?

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with paul deem at Cycling in the South Bay.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 831 other followers