10 Steps to a Revolution

August 6, 2016 § 40 Comments

None of this happened overnight. John Forester got it all started in the 1970s when he laid out the theory behind riding a bike utilizing traffic laws applicable to other vehicles. Communities from Long Beach to Kalamazoo have shared their plans and their experiences with what it takes to change community attitudes towards bikes.

Advocates in LA like Don Ward, Dan Gutierrez, Eric Bruins, and Jim Hannon, and advocates in Michigan like Paul Selden are just a few of the people who have shown the way to cooperating with local government to make roads safer for bikes. The daily drumbeat of advocacy and activism in our local CABO forum relentlessly highlights the solutions to the problems we face.

Most importantly, the people who think the wages of cycling should be death, as enunciated by a local PV realtor recently, and the people who believe that cyclists should be banned and public roads should be privatized, are on the defensive. More to the point, they’re being routed as they stand on an isolated little spit of meanness and greed, heaping hatred on people for pedaling bicycles even as the waves of change gradually eat away at their last sandy redoubt.

The final piece of the puzzle, i.e. acceptance of safe cycling by every community, awaits. It’s not that far off, and the real progenitors for this final change are bike clubs. They are organized, they are community based, they are composed of long-time residents, they are mostly too tired from cycling to scream and yell, and their ass-conditioning means they can outlast any opponent in a city council sitting contest.

Here’s what you and your club have to do to make the revolution complete.

  1. Take a bike education course like Cycling Savvy that teaches you how to ride a bike in traffic.
  2. Get your club leaders to take a class.
  3. Make completion of a cycling in traffic class a condition for leading any club ride or being a board member.
  4. Ultimately make a cycling in traffic class a requirement for membership in your club.
  5. Establish a permanent community liaison in your club whose job it is to attend every city council meeting and/or traffic safety committee meeting that deals with anything bike-related. If your club encompasses multiple jurisdictions, establish multiple liaisons.
  6. Recruit other club members to join your liaisons on an ad hoc basis for various meetings so that there’s always a cycling contingent of 4-5 people to counterbalance the crazies.
  7. Start using cycling in traffic techniques on all your club rides; don’t back down because a few refuseniks prefer the gutter.
  8. Begin using cycling in traffic techniques on non-club group rides by discussing with the chain gang bosses beforehand. Cooperation is generally frowned upon in cycling, I know, but this actually matters, almost as much as who’s going to win the imaginary sprunt.
  9. Sponsor 3-4 cycling in traffic safety classes per year and make them available to the community, which includes law enforcement, local government, and local schools. Think of how much your club members spent on beer in 2016. For a few hundred bucks you could actually save a life or two.
  10. Make cycling traffic techniques at least as high a priority in every club meeting as the annual club bibs/jersey order. Ridiculous? Perhaps, but possible. Maybe you could lead off with, “We’re going to discuss a new jersey design for ride leaders who’ve taken the education course … “

The prophets are in from the wilderness and the unwashed and somewhat-washed cycling herds are ready to receive the message. Go forth and spread the seed, but spread it as traffic, controlling the lane.




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Please don’t fuck with the dork with the dorky socks

July 15, 2012 § 16 Comments

Dorky Sock Dude didn’t know his socks were dorky. What he did know as he raced along the bike path was that he loved the neon yellow jersey with bright purple sleeves that went flashing by in the opposite direction.

“That,” said Dorky Sock Dude to himself, “is the raddest thing I have ever seen. Where can I get one?”

DSD had been cycling for about a year and he was pretty proud of himself. He had a brand new Cannondale. It was bright silver. He had some super rad shifter stuff, Shimano 105 it was called. He had an ultra rad helmet with a little plastic visor that jutted out from it, very pro. And to make it all hang together he had gone out shopping for the best pair of socks he could find, until he found them.

The green and red slashing thunderbolts with orange flames had a black and purple background with some yellow asteroids raining down from the top of the cuff. They made him happy every time he pulled them on. They were tall, they were comfy, they were rad, and they were very, very pro.

Welcome to the friendly cycling community

DSD found out that this rad and uber-hip neon yellow, purple sleeved jersey was worn by a certain South Bay cycling club. It was the biggest club. It was the oldest club. It was the legit-est club. DSD didn’t know or care about any of that, though. He just wanted the jersey, and he wanted to be teammates with the dudes and chicks who wore that cool jersey.

Why? Because biking was fun, because he’d been doing it for a year now and thought he was getting pretty fit, and because anybody who had a jersey that rad must be a pretty cool anybody.

DSD sent in his membership application and before long he got his jersey. He was one happy dude. He laid it out on the bed next to his shorts and socks and gloves and shoes and helmet, with his bike off to the side, and admired the ensemble. Dorky Sock Dude had done sports in college, and he missed being on a team. He felt lucky to have discovered cycling, and even luckier to have learned that there were teams where people could get together to ride and have a good time, and, luckiest of all, that anybody could join.

The next morning he got up, ate breakfast, and put on his biking duds. He looked at himself in the mirror. He didn’t shave his legs like lots of the other bikers he saw, but that’s because he didn’t really understand why shaved legs had anything to do with riding a bike.

DSD had learned that there was a club ride that morning, meeting at 6:30 AM at the Pier. He left his house extra early so he wouldn’t be late. It was a great feeling, and exciting, too. He’d get to meet all of his new teammates and they would show him some cool biking stuff and workout tips and answer some questions that had been bouncing around in his head about cycling and training and fitness and stuff. Mostly stuff.

Nice to see you. Not.

When DSD rolled up to the Pier, there were five or six of his teammates draped nonchalantly on their top tubes, chatting with each other. Dorky Sock Dude was so happy he didn’t know what to do. They looked like they were talking in earnest, so he figured he’d just circle around and then introduce himself. He was wearing the team jersey, and there was no one else in sight, so any minute now they’d nod to him and he’d get to meet his mates.

Nobody said a word to him or even made eye contact. “Wow,” thought DSD “they must be talking about some serious cycling stuff.”

Then, without a word, they clicked in and rolled out. DSD hopped on behind the group, hoping someone would say something, but not knowing how to introduce himself he just sat awkwardly on the back. They were now rolling at a good clip, and occasionally one of the other riders would glance back to see if he was still there.

An unspoken signal was passed, and the riders dropped into single file. Dorky Sock Dude was at the end, and the pace became brutally hard. He knew it was brutally hard because the other guys were breathing loudly, and their bikes seemed to wobble. “This is cool!” thought DSD to himself. “I guess we’re doing intervals now! This is kind of like what we did on the track team in college!”

DSD moved up in the paceline, and when it was his turn he thought, “I better do my turn so they don’t think I’m slacking!” Within seconds the following riders swarmed around him, saying nothing, panting hard, beating furiously at the pedals.

“Wow!” thought DSD. “This is hard! This is great!” He hopped on the end of the train, which only had three of the original six riders left. With each surge DSD came through, got swarmed, sat on, then came through again. Soon there was no one left but DSD and one other guy, lathered in sweat and gagging on his own tongue.

Dorky Sock Dude took one final pull. “I’m pretty darn whipped, but I’ll do this last one if I can.” When he pulled over there was no one behind him. A very small group of five riders was far back in the distance, working together as hard as they could even while DSD continued to pull away. “Shoot!” he said to himself. “I lost my buddies! NOT COOL!”

Your buddies will be happy you waited

The group caught up to Dorky Sock Dude, but no one said a word. Thinking he’d tired, they began the paceline anew. Within minutes DSD was off by himself. “Crap!” he said to himself, doubly angry because he didn’t like to curse, even silently, “I lost my buddies! NOT COOL!”

By the third act in this often-seen play, the teammates gave up. Dorky Sock Dude had legs of steel, and was easily the match, and then some, of their combined efforts. The head rider came up to him. “That Shimano 105 stuff is total crap,” he said.

DSD didn’t know what to say. The next rider pedaled by. “And those socks are dork city. Get some new socks, dude.”

It washed over him. These weren’t his buddies. They’d been trying to ride away from him, but they couldn’t. So now the best they could do was to make fun of his socks and his bike.

To the extent that any of this ever happened, and I can assure that all of the true parts really did, it all took place in the late 1990’s. And if you’ve ridden at all in the South Bay, you’ve met Dorky Sock Dude, otherwise known as Greg Leibert. He’s the one who greets every newcomer with a smile, who encourages every rider regardless of ability, who stops to help you change your flat, who paces you back up to the group, and who, if you race against, almost always finishes in front of you. He’s the guy that everyone else wants to be like, even while he’s tearing you a new asshole.

He’s also the guy who wears tall white socks with the horizontal blue stripes. And the only thing people ask about his footwear nowadays is “Hey, Greg, where can I get a rad pair of socks like that?”

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