Tag Archive for Cycling

Road report from the dark side

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

It’s been a full week since I’ve been on my bike. Worse, I’ve been driving my car to and from work almost every day. Seven out of the last eight working days, in fact.

Yes, it’s true. I’ve gone over to the dark side.

Not that it was my idea, of course. I’d much rather still be working at home, so I can take off for a long lunch and knock off a quick 30 or so miles on the bike. Or maybe 40. Or 50. Especially when the weather is absolutely perfect, like it was last week.

And to make matters worse, the office I’m working in is just south of Ballona Creek, so I can see all the riders headed to and from the beach on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Assuming they don’t get mugged along the way.

But in this economy, I’m just happy to have work after a very slow summer. Besides, it could be worse; I could have been a high-paid investment banker on Wall Street.

All this time in my car has given me an opportunity to observe cycling from the perspective of a driver. And surprisingly, it hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure, there was the cyclist who hadn’t learned how to ride in a straight line yet, and was swerving right and left with every corresponding pedal stroke. As a result, he’d suddenly jerk into traffic, then back out again, back and forth. And yet, every driver somehow managed to avoid him, at least as long as he was within my site.

Or there was the woman riding a single speed cruiser with a big basket on the handlebars, who made a very, very slow speed right turn off a very busy street — and still, somehow, she managed to swerve all the way to the middle of the left lane before completing her turn (that would be the lane nearest the middle of the road, for any Brits reading this).

In the time it took to finish her turn, two cars were also able to make the same right turn behind her. One went into the right lane, safely passing to her right; the other followed her into the left lane, none too pleased from the sound of it. But as near as I could tell before my light changed, she was able to safely, and by all appearances, happily, continue down the road, as far as she could ride from where she was supposed to be without crossing over into oncoming traffic.

But most of the cyclists I’ve seen on my commute have just been people dressed for work or class, riding safely and politely. And most of the drivers I’ve seen have been equally courteous, taking the time to pass each rider safely.

Now, I have no doubt that if I would have talked to one of them, they could have told me about some driver I didn’t see who came too close, or turned right in front of them with no warning; just as I could no doubt find drivers who would complain about some crazy cyclist they encountered.

By and large, though, I’ve been pleased to see just how well cars and bikes have been able to share the road. So maybe this crazy town isn’t as dysfunctional as I thought.

As for me, I’m pleased to report that, even though I’m now a driver myself, I haven’t felt any urge to run a cyclist off the road, or toss a large drink at a rider I pass — or raw vegetables, as seems to be the fashion overseas.

So evidently, it’s not contagious. Or maybe I just haven’t been exposed long enough yet.

 

Tamerlane picks up a thread that began in New York, and transforms it into a meditation on vulnerability, and discusses the ethics of biking. Will Campbell amusingly confronts another cigarette smoking asshat. The S.F. Cycling Examiner describes flipping over the handlebars, without spilling his coffee. CNN discovers Santa Barbara’s former naked cyclist, now baring it all in Oregon. Town Mouse’s novel is soon to be available in paperback, although with the current exchange rate, still out of reach for most of us Yanks. Bike Girl continues going car free, while I go reluctantly bike free.

Yesterday’s ride, in which I emulate Mr. Campbell

I set off yesterday for a long ride, on a route that took me south on Ocean Avenue through Santa Monica.

Thanks to a slight decline, it’s easy to build up speed along there, so I was doing a relatively easy 25 mph as I approached California Ave. Maybe you know it, where the bike lane moves a little to the left, to make room for a right turn lane on the right.

Naturally, I was keeping a close eye on traffic, when I saw a small pickup truck heading north on Ocean drive past the intersection, then make a wide, looping U-turn right in front of me. So I slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision, and watched as she swung all the way across the road, into that right turn lane leading down to the California Incline.

Evidently, waiting in line with all those other cars to make that left at California had been just too much effort for her.

By the time she completed that maneuver, though, the light had changed, and she had to sit there and watch as all those cars who had patiently waited for their chance to turn left — instead of making an illegal U-turn in a vain attempt to speed up the process — went in through in front of her.

So while she sat there at the red light, waiting for the traffic she had tried to skip go by, I found myself rolling up right next to her in the bike lane — and right next to her open driver’s-side window.

Of course, keeping my mouth shut under such circumstances would require more self control than I would ever claim to possess. And certainly more than I’ve demonstrated in the past.

But before I could open my mouth, my mind flashed on Will Campbell’s description of keeping his cool during a confrontation with a driver.

So trying to keep my voice as even as possible, I asked, “Did you even know that I was there?” What I really meant was, did she even care? But I was making a conscious effort to be nice and as non-confrontational as possible.

Her answer was a non-committal “Yeah,” so I pressed my luck. “That’s a very dangerous thing to do when someone is bearing down on you that fast,” I said. “I could have rear-ended you.”

She looked up at me for the first time, and said simply, “Yeah, my bad.”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the heartfelt apology I was hoping for, but under the circumstances, I’ll take it.

Of course, unlike Will, I wasn’t dealing with a young Mustang-driving man hopped up on testosterone — just a young woman who gave every indication of being at least a half-bowl into her day already.

But still, everyone stayed calm. No one got mad. No voices were raised. No one suggested performing any anatomically impossible acts. And no one’s day was ruined, as we both went our separate ways.

So I have to admit it, Will.

You may just be on to something.

 

In today’s news, Streetsblog reports the conventions may not be so bike-unfriendly after all. Gary continues his tales of the recent AIDS LifeCycle ride down the Pacific coast. Will once again stands up to evil doers by riding Ballona Creek. Somehow I missed this post from Alex, in which the L.A.P.D. shows more maturity than the Culver City cops. Bicycle Fixation notes that the privileged set is starting to show a little responsibility, as well. Delaware discovers it’s not easy to build a bike culture in a car-centric state. Yeah, tell me about it. A Pennsylvania congressional candidate campaigns by bike. And finally, a Tampa cyclist pledges to ride a 100 mile Tour de Donut if the Rays clinch a playoff spot. Looks like a safe bet if any Dodger fans who want to join in

Yesterday’s ride, in which I emulate Mr. Campbell

I set off yesterday for a long ride, on a route that took me south on Ocean Avenue through Santa Monica.

Thanks to a slight decline, it’s easy to build up speed along there, so I was doing a relatively easy 25 mph as I approached California Ave. Maybe you know it, where the bike lane moves a little to the left, to make room for a right turn lane on the right.

Naturally, I was keeping a close eye on traffic, when I saw a small pickup truck heading north on Ocean drive past the intersection, then make a wide, looping U-turn right in front of me. So I slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision, and watched as she swung all the way across the road, into that right turn lane leading down to the California Incline.

Evidently, waiting in line with all those other cars to make that left at California had been just too much effort for her.

By the time she completed that maneuver, though, the light had changed, and she had to sit there and watch as all those cars who had patiently waited for their chance to turn left — instead of making an illegal U-turn in a vain attempt to speed up the process — went in through in front of her.

So while she sat there at the red light, waiting for the traffic she had tried to skip go by, I found myself rolling up right next to her in the bike lane — and right next to her open driver’s-side window.

Of course, keeping my mouth shut under such circumstances would require more self control than I would ever claim to possess. And certainly more than I’ve demonstrated in the past.

But before I could open my mouth, my mind flashed on Will Campbell’s description of keeping his cool during a confrontation with a driver.

So trying to keep my voice as even as possible, I asked, “Did you even know that I was there?” What I really meant was, did she even care? But I was making a conscious effort to be nice and as non-confrontational as possible.

Her answer was a non-committal “Yeah,” so I pressed my luck. “That’s a very dangerous thing to do when someone is bearing down on you that fast,” I said. “I could have rear-ended you.”

She looked up at me for the first time, and said simply, “Yeah, my bad.”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the heartfelt apology I was hoping for, but under the circumstances, I’ll take it.

Of course, unlike Will, I wasn’t dealing with a young Mustang-driving man hopped up on testosterone — just a young woman who gave every indication of being at least a half-bowl into her day already.

But still, everyone stayed calm. No one got mad. No voices were raised. No one suggested performing any anatomically impossible acts. And no one’s day was ruined, as we both went our separate ways.

So I have to admit it, Will.

You may just be on to something.

 

In today’s news, Streetsblog reports the conventions may not be so bike-unfriendly after all. Gary continues his tales of the recent AIDS LifeCycle ride down the Pacific coast. Will once again stands up to evil doers by riding Ballona Creek. Somehow I missed this post from Alex, in which the L.A.P.D. shows more maturity than the Culver City cops. Bicycle Fixation notes that the privileged set is starting to show a little responsibility, as well. Delaware discovers it’s not easy to build a bike culture in a car-centric state. Yeah, tell me about it. A Pennsylvania congressional candidate campaigns by bike. And finally, a Tampa cyclist pledges to ride a 100 mile Tour de Donut if the Rays clinch a playoff spot. Looks like a safe bet if any Dodger fans who want to join in

Yesterday’s ride, in which I emulate Mr. Campbell

I set off yesterday for a long ride, on a route that took me south on Ocean Avenue through Santa Monica.

Thanks to a slight decline, it’s easy to build up speed along there, so I was doing a relatively easy 25 mph as I approached California Ave. Maybe you know it, where the bike lane moves a little to the left, to make room for a right turn lane on the right.

Naturally, I was keeping a close eye on traffic, when I saw a small pickup truck heading north on Ocean drive past the intersection, then make a wide, looping U-turn right in front of me. So I slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision, and watched as she swung all the way across the road, into that right turn lane leading down to the California Incline.

Evidently, waiting in line with all those other cars to make that left at California had been just too much effort for her.

By the time she completed that maneuver, though, the light had changed, and she had to sit there and watch as all those cars who had patiently waited for their chance to turn left — instead of making an illegal U-turn in a vain attempt to speed up the process — went in through in front of her.

So while she sat there at the red light, waiting for the traffic she had tried to skip go by, I found myself rolling up right next to her in the bike lane — and right next to her open driver’s-side window.

Of course, keeping my mouth shut under such circumstances would require more self control than I would ever claim to possess. And certainly more than I’ve demonstrated in the past.

But before I could open my mouth, my mind flashed on Will Campbell’s description of keeping his cool during a confrontation with a driver.

So trying to keep my voice as even as possible, I asked, “Did you even know that I was there?” What I really meant was, did she even care? But I was making a conscious effort to be nice and as non-confrontational as possible.

Her answer was a non-committal “Yeah,” so I pressed my luck. “That’s a very dangerous thing to do when someone is bearing down on you that fast,” I said. “I could have rear-ended you.”

She looked up at me for the first time, and said simply, “Yeah, my bad.”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the heartfelt apology I was hoping for, but under the circumstances, I’ll take it.

Of course, unlike Will, I wasn’t dealing with a young Mustang-driving man hopped up on testosterone — just a young woman who gave every indication of being at least a half-bowl into her day already.

But still, everyone stayed calm. No one got mad. No voices were raised. No one suggested performing any anatomically impossible acts. And no one’s day was ruined, as we both went our separate ways.

So I have to admit it, Will.

You may just be on to something.

 

In today’s news, Streetsblog reports the conventions may not be so bike-unfriendly after all. Gary continues his tales of the recent AIDS LifeCycle ride down the Pacific coast. Will once again stands up to evil doers by riding Ballona Creek. Somehow I missed this post from Alex, in which the L.A.P.D. shows more maturity than the Culver City cops. Bicycle Fixation notes that the privileged set is starting to show a little responsibility, as well. Delaware discovers it’s not easy to build a bike culture in a car-centric state. Yeah, tell me about it. A Pennsylvania congressional candidate campaigns by bike. And finally, a Tampa cyclist pledges to ride a 100 mile Tour de Donut if the Rays clinch a playoff spot. Looks like a safe bet if any Dodger fans who want to join in

I’m back

 

This is what I looked like once I left the hospital — and trust me, you don't want to see the other side.

What I looked like when I left the hospital — you don't want to see the other side.

I’ve mentioned on here before that I’ve been struggling to get back into shape after a freak cycling accident last year. But actually, I’ve been working on making two comebacks at the same time.

You see, even though I’ve been a serious rider for some time, there was a period a few years back when I barely rode at all.

First, because my bike was tied up as evidence in a court case for over a year after being hit by a car. Then my father-in-law suffered a stroke, and he needed my help more than I needed to ride. And once he passed away, it was my wife and mother-in-law who needed me.

That lasted until the day I stepped on the scale, and discovered I was carrying 220 pounds on my formerly trim 6’ frame. And I could no longer pass off that ever-expanding waistline as part of the normal aging process.

So out came the bike once again.

I set three goals for myself. First, to ride as well as I did back in my 30s, when I rode 50 miles a day, rain or shine — or sometimes snow, for that matter. Second, to get my weight back down to 175 pounds. And finally, to reduce get my waistline to 32”, as opposed to the way it was at the time, straining the elastic waistbands on my size 36 pants to near the breaking point.

It took a lot of hard work, but by this time last summer, I was riding as well as I ever had. By early September, my weight was down to 175, and I was just one inch away from those 32” pants.

Then last September 12th, I went out for a quick ride. And never made it back home.

Once I got out of the hospital, I was confined to home for nearly a month, and couldn’t exercise — at all — for the next 3-1/2 months. So I sat home and tried not to feel sorry for myself.

And I ate.

By the time the doctors said I could get back on my bike, my weight was back up to 195. I can’t tell you what my waist size was, because I only wore sweats; I couldn’t get pants over that huge lump on my hip.

I started riding again on January 2nd. At first, all I could manage was an easy ride to the beach and back, and maybe a feeble workout at the gym. By March, I was riding twice a week, combined with hitting the gym a couple times a week.

Once spring got here, I added another day of riding — this time working hills once a week. I found a course near my home that took me through Westwood and the UCLA campus, giving me 6 steep hills, as much as a mile long, over the first 4 miles.

That was the one day I dreaded every week. It was pure torture just trying to get up those hills. I often found myself inching up in my granny gears, and having to stop to rest on the way up — then stopping again at the top to catch my breath and let my pounding heart slow down to something resembling normal.

But slowly, after a few months, it started to seem like it got just a little easier each week.

Then this past Thursday, I finally made it up all six hills without stopping, standing on the pedals or shifting down to a lower gear. Or having to pause to catch my breath.

Also, this weekend, I stepped on the scale and found I was back down to 174 pounds. So just on a whim, when we were out shopping, I picked out a pair of size 32 pants and tried them on.

And they fit. A little snug, perhaps, but they fit.

I still have more work to do. I can look in the mirror now, and see that if I can lose another 4 or 5 pounds, I might actually have abs for the first time in a couple decades. And I’m not ready to ride Mandeville Canyon yet, or tag along on a fast ride with the elite riders.

But I’ll get there.

And meanwhile, this is a damn good feeling, and I’m going to enjoy it for awhile.

 

Our own Outdoor Urbanite bikes to the free Thursday concerts on the pier; this week’s show sounds like a winner. CNN finally covers the Mandeville Canyon brake check — only six weeks after it happened. The Christian Science Monitor discusses the new trend towards ciclovias — limiting certain streets on weekends to pedestrian and bike traffic. Even in Redding, cyclists ask drivers to be on the lookoutSan Diego gears up to Bike the Bay; if you’ve never circled the San Diego Bay by bike, it’s a great ride, even for beginners.  LAist turns into biking paparazzo when Woody hits the streets of Beverly Hills, while Miley Cyrus and family ride the streets of Toluca Lake. And finally, a trio of stories from my old pre-Katrina stomping grounds, as a biker describes an idiotic close encounter with a cyclist while driving; Louisiana decides the roads aren’t safe enough for an increase cyclists (having driven them, I can say many aren’t safe for cars, either); and the Times-Picayune lists local cycling getaways, in case anyone’s traveling to the Big Easy. But bring lots of bug spray.

A not-so-brief lesson in social protest.

Let’s spend just one more day discussing the recent crosswalk protest in Santa Monica. Or more precisely, the reasons behind the protest and what can be done about them.

As Alex points out in his post about the crosswalk protest, the Santa Monica CM riders have tried everything they could think of to get the city manager, council members and police to work with them to in finding solutions that would work to everyone’s benefit. The only result was more tickets, and more ham-handed police tactics, as if this was the most important item on their agenda.

So what can be done, if nothing has worked?

Start by thinking like a politician. While there are some elected officials who really do want to do the right thing, what matters most to most pols these days are A) the votes they need to get re-elected, and B) the money they need to get those votes. Yes, it sucks, and yes, we all like to pretend that’s not the case, but that’s the system we’re living with these days. So deal with it, already.

And judging by the reaction, the city is more concerned about the people who complain about Critical Mass, than they are about the votes they might lose from CM riders — many of whom live outside the city.

So that leaves money. If one or more of those C.M. rider have extra-deep pockets, it’s game over. Just make the maximum donation allowed under law to the re-election funds of every council member, and drop a hint that it would be nice if the police backed off a little. Then just wait a reasonable amount of time, and the council will decide that maybe Critical Mass isn’t so bad after all.

On the other hand, no deep pockets means you’ve got to get a little more creative.

Get the public on your side. People love underdogs in this country, and want to support those who are being treated unfairly by government — especially in a left-leaning community like Santa Monica.

So why aren’t the people on the cyclists side here? After all, the cyclists are the victims here, at least in terms of being unfairly — and possibly, illegally — ticketed. (Hint: protests that keep them from getting home to their families don’t usually help.)

Get some publicity. Tell your side of the story to anyone who will listen. Talk about why Critical Mass exists, and why you ride like relatively well-behaved hooligans through the streets of Santa Monica once a month. And tell everyone who’ll listen about how unfair the city is being.

While Santa Monica doesn’t have a local newspaper anymore, this is a story that’s tailor made for one of the alternative weeklies. You might also be able to get someone at the Times interested, such as Steve Hyman at the Bottleneck Blog.

Call every TV station. Call the radio stations and see if anyone will put you on the air to tell your story — especially Santa Monica’s public radio station, KCRW. Go to the 3rd Street Promenade and the Farmer’s Market and pass out handbills explaining the police harassment, and the city’s refusal to meet with you.

In other words, use every opportunity and forum you can think of to get your side of the story out there — without pissing people off at the same time.

Document your ride. Equip as many riders as you can with small digital video recorders. That way, you will have proof of what really happens if the police crack down again. Just remember, though — they can use it for proof, too.

Invite guest riders. Invite the press to ride along, and bring their notebooks and cameras. Let them see for themselves how harmless the ride is — and how heavy-handed the police reaction. If they see you getting tickets for violations that didn’t happen, they’ll report on it. And the public is a lot more likely to believe them than a group of rowdy riders.

Besides, wouldn’t you just love to see Paul Moyer on a Critical Mass ride?

Or invite a celebrity to join in. There’s no shortage of successful actors, musicians, models, etc., around here, and some of them love to ride. In this town, it often takes a lot less than six degrees of separation to find someone who knows them.

Just the presence of someone famous may be enough to get the police to back off. Let’s hope not, though. Because if you get a ticket, chances are, no one will really care. But if someone like that gets a ticket, it’s the lead story on Entertainment Tonight.

Contact the City Attorney. If the police really are acting illegally, the city attorney’s not likely to be very happy about it. And if you don’t get any traction there, go over her head.

Get a good lawyer. This is America, where litigation — or the threat of litigation — trumps all. There’s no shortage of cycling attorney’s around here; you may be able to find one willing to represent you pro bono through one of the cycling clubs, like Velo LaGrange. Or you might be able to get the ACLU or Common Cause interested; if not, they should be able to refer you to someone who will be.

Apply pressure. While a couple hundred CM cyclists probably aren’t enough to get the city’s attention, a couple thousand angry cyclists will — and that’s still just a small fraction of the riders who live in Santa Monica, let alone the tens of thousands who pass through every day.

So start a letter writing campaign. Ask everyone you know — and everyone they know — to write the Santa Monica city government and demand that they work with you to find a solution that will allow CM to go on, without causing undue inconvenience to city residents.

There’s always a comprise, if the city and the riders are motivated to find it.

Or go viral. Start an email campaign explaining your position, and asking people to email the city government. Then send it to every rider you know, and ask them to pass it on to every rider they know, as well as contacting every CM group in the country. When the city starts getting angry emails from Des Moines and Kalamazoo — potentially effecting their tourist trade — they’ll pay attention.

Use economic pressure. Again, if a few hundred CM riders stop shopping in Santa Monica, no one’s going to notice. But if a few thousand riders stop spending money in the city, people will pay attention — and the threat of a boycott is often more effective than the boycott itself.

So start an online petition. Ask people to sign a statement saying that unless the city stops writing illegal tickets and negotiates a reasonable accommodation allowing the rides to continue, they will stop spending any money in Santa Monica. No nightclubs, no restaurants, no (gasp!) Starbucks, no REI, no boutiques on Main or Montana.

Ask them to estimate the amount of money they spend in Santa Monica each week when they sign, as well. When the city sees the amount of money local merchants could lose, and the amount they could lose in taxes, they will pay attention.

And I’ll be one of the first to sign it.

Sometimes, a protest is justified

 

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Let’s go back to Alex Thompson’s report on the recent crosswalk protest in Santa Monica for a bit.

Whether or not you agree with their tactics — and judging by the comments, many don’t — or with Critical Mass in general, the key point to me is what lead up to the protest. Because Alex describes a rising level of frustration, as they repeatedly tried to deal with the local government, but were rebuffed and ignored at every turn.

From city council members who failed to speak to a single cyclist after promising to explore ways to accommodate the Critical Mass rides, to a scheduled meeting with the chief of police — at the urging of the city manager — which lasted all of 30 seconds before the chief excused himself.

Then there’s the matter of the apparent deliberate writing of false tickets by the S.M.P.D. Alex reports that the police issued over 30 tickets for “no light” violations, then repeatedly checked the box indicating that this was not a correctable violation — resulting in a significant increase in the cost of the ticket, from $10 to $100.

Or this, from a recent post on LAist about the latest Santa Monica Critical Mass ride:

“Santa Monica Police Officers were out in full force, riding motorcycles alongside the Santa Monica Critical Mass and citing cyclists for leaving the bike lane (not a violation of the law – CVC 21208), taking control of a traffic lane (not a violation of the law – CVC 21202) and turning left from a left turn lane. (again, not a violation of the law- CVC 22100).”

In other words, the local police were writing tickets for supposed violations that were not against the law. And they wonder why the Crimanimalz felt a need to protest?

Call me crazy, but when the police break the law in order to enforce it, something is seriously wrong.

Now, as a certified Angeleno, I may not live in Santa Monica, but I do spend a lot of time there. More to the point, I also spend a lot of money there — as do many other cyclists, I’m sure.
Which means that we help support the city’s many restaurants, retailers and nightclubs, as well as making a significant contribution to the city coffers.

And while I am not a fan of the tactics employed by Critical Mass — as I’ve said before, I find them counterproductive — I can’t see myself economically supporting a city that would ignore any group of citizens, cyclists or otherwise, who actively reach out for dialogue with city officials. Or who would allow the local police make up their own laws in order to rein in an activity they clearly disagree with.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting a boycott of local businesses. Not yet, anyway.

But the government in Santa Monica needs to wake up, start a dialogue, and stop the heavy handed tactics. And local business owners need to pressure their political leaders to find a way to accommodate everyone who lives in, or does business in, their city — without violating the law themselves.

Maybe the Crimanimalz and S.M. Critical Mass should hire a good lawyer. And start to consider tactics that could be far more effective than delaying traffic for awhile.

 

The Daily News says things aren’t so bad for cyclists in Los Angeles, and getting better. But I wonder if those 1,252 miles of bike routes, lanes and paths in L.A. County they refer to include un-ridable sections like sign for the designated bike route I saw on eastbound Pico at Sepulveda yesterday — which I would only recommend to someone with a death wish.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s bike meister tells Canadians to share the road. But the interesting part of the article in buried inside, where they mention new laws that prohibit “…opening a car door on a cyclist, parking or driving in a bike lane, passing within three feet of a bike, and turning left or right into the path of a cyclist…” with fines ranging from $150 to $500. And a minimum fine of $12,500 and up to a year in jail if careless driving results in the death of a cyclist or pedestrian. When we get laws like that, then our local pols can claim to support cyclist.

And finally, Bike Girl inspires Gary to rhapsodize on locking up.

The nail that stands out, pt. 2

 

Feel free to copy and use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

After I put yesterday’s post online, I went out for a nice, long ride down the coast to Hermosa Beach, enjoying the ride, the sunshine and the bikinis. And those wearing them, of course.

But then, as I was nearing my home, I started kicking myself — mentally anyway; doing it physically would be kind of difficult with my feet locked into my pedals. And after 46 miles on the bike, I’m not sure I would have had the energy, anyway.

Because it occurred to me that in my response to Mr. Rowe’s letter to Rupert Murdoch’s latest acquisition, I failed to address a key point. Consider the penultimate line of his screed:

“…Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions….”

It’s a variation on the same old canard you’ll find on virtually any message board or letters column discussing cycling. Sooner or later, someone will suggest that all cyclists should a) have to study and pass a test, b) have a license, such as a driver’s license, c) have license plates, as Mr. Rowe suggests, and/or d) carry liability insurance.

The catch is, we already do.

You see, in today’s auto-centric society, most cyclists are also drivers. In fact, while I’m sure there must be some, I don’t personally know of a single cyclist over the age of 16 who does not have a driver’s license.

Which means that we have studied the rules of the road, so there is no excuse for any bicyclist not knowing the rules of the road — just as there is no excuse for any driver being unfamiliar with the traffic laws and regulations, including laws regarding cyclists’ right to the road.

We can also be ticketed, just like the operator of any other vehicle — legitimately or not. And while I have no personal knowledge of the subject, I would assume that any ticket received while cycling can result in points against the recipient’s driver’s license, under the provisions of section 21200 of the California Vehicle Code, just as they would for a driver who receives a similar citation.

And as I discovered when I was struck by a car several years ago, car insurance in this state covers the driver, not the vehicle — which means that the driver is covered when operating his or her car, or any other vehicle. Including a bicycle.

In fact, State Farm paid my entire medical bill under the uninsured driver section of my policy. And as my agent explained at the time, any other section of my policy — including liability coverage — would be equally valid, whether I was in my car, driving someone else’s car, or on my bike.

So the problem isn’t one of licensing or liability coverage. It’s just that some cyclists, like some drivers, are jerks. In fact, I’m convinced that people ride their bikes the same way they drive. If someone is a safe driver, he or she will undoubtedly be a safe cyclist, while those who drive like jerks will undoubtedly ride the same way. Just like drivers, they usually get away with it simply because there’s seldom anyone around to enforce the law.

And here in L.A., the cops usually have more important things to do than worry about whether a cyclist blew through a stop sign.

 

Will uses my new favorite word in an attempt to track down the indignorant Mr. Rowe, and sacrifices a chunk of flesh to a man-eating chainring. Next weekend’s Brentwood Gand Prix will reward competitors with a special prize for the Sex and the City crowdA lone cyclist takes to the freeway; as Richard Pryor would say, that _______’s crazy!  A town in Arkansas weighs becoming a LAB-approved bike friendly city. If only our own local cared that much; we’re still waiting for action on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

 

The nail that stands out

I used to work with this one guy, a third-generation Japanese American.

Nice guy. And one day when we were talking, he mentioned a traditional Japanese expression that says it’s the nail that stands out that gets pounded down.

I’ve often thought about that saying, because it so often seems to be true, even in a this country like this that supposedly prizes individuality. It’s the exceptions, the ones who stand out from all the rest, who often draw the harshest response, whether you’re talking about the campus geek in junior high, the neighborhood eccentric or leaders like Dr. King or Bobby Kennedy.

You can even see it now, when a politician can criticized, not for his policies, but for his eloquence and ability to inspire others.

And then there’s the other side of that same coin, where someone tries to demonize some group, in order to justify their own negatives attitudes.

Like cyclists, for instance.

Because some people look at those exceptions — such as cyclists who regularly ignore the law and flaunt both safety and common sense — and somehow assume that all riders are like that. And decide that since that one nail is loose, we all need to be pounded down.

It’s not true, of course. Any more than it’s true that all (insert racist, sexist, ethnic and/or religious slur of your choice here) are alike.

It’s also demonstrably false. Just stand next to a busy street intersection along any popular bike route. You won’t have to watch very long to see that many, if not most of us, stop for red lights and try to stay out of the way of the way of traffic as much as possible.

But these people only seem to see the ones who don’t stop, or take a lane for reasons they can’t, or perhaps don’t want to, comprehend. So they automatically reach for their hammers to pound down every nail, rather than the few that stand out.

Take this recent letter from Graham A. Rowe in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, for instance, in response to their earlier article about the cycling the mean streets of L.A. (I also notice they didn’t print Will Campbell’s response to the article.):

“Bicycle riders believe that they should enjoy all the benefits of both car drivers and pedestrians. They choose to ride both with and against traffic. They obey no traffic signs, never stop at red lights or stop signs. At a red light they decide to become a pedestrian and simply ride across the crossing. They ride on the sidewalk at danger to pedestrians. Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions. Maybe then they would be more careful and get more respect.”

Yes, that’s exactly what we all believe, posts like this from Gary Rides Bikes and yours truly notwithstanding. Never mind that most cyclists don’t do those things, or that riding on the sidewalk is legal in Los Angeles.

You’ll note that he ends by saying that we’ll get more respect when we’re more careful. Despite the fact that drivers are required by law to grant us that respect, just as they would any other vehicle. And despite the fact that the consequences of failing to grant that respect are far greater for us than they are for the driver.

In other words, he’s saying that we’re responsible for the fact that some people refuse to drive safely, and legally, around us. Of course, not everyone who fails to share the road does so out of spite. Some are just unaware of the law, or refuse to believe it when they’re told. And some are just jerks, not unlike some cyclists.

I’ve written about it before, notably here and here, in response to some letters that were recently published in the L.A. Times. And I’m going to keep writing about it.

Because frankly, I’m tired of people trying to pound me down for something I didn’t do.

 

Great article from the U.K. about whether helmets are fashionable for Parisians and Prime Ministers. It also discusses a Dutch idea that assumes the driver is automatically responsible in any collision between a car and a bike. One lesson experienced cyclists learn is to make eye contact with opposing drivers. Cyclists protest unfair tickets in Santa Monica by crossing the street — repeatedly. The Times’ Bottleneck Blog considers what L.A. could be like with a little more foresight from out elected leaders. And finally, both Seattle and supposedly bike-unfriendly New York test the radical concept of turning a few streets over to cyclists and pedestrians.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

When I started riding, cycling was a very small fraternity.

Especially there in the deep South, bikers were very few and far between. Those of us who could ride with any kind of speed, or had the skill and endurance to venture much beyond the city limits were fewer still.

And God help anyone brave enough to don spandex in those days.

As a result, we all got to know each other, by sight, if not by name. If you happened to pass another rider, you said hi, and maybe fell in together for a few miles if you were going the same way. Or at the very least, gave a nod or a wave as you passed by.

If there was another rider waiting next to you at a red light, it was the start of a conversation, and often, a friendship. And if a rider crashed or broke down on the side of the road, you stopped to help. There was a real sense that we were members of a very small and exclusive club, and there were no strangers rolling on two wheels.

Like most fraternities in those days, though, it was virtually all white, and all male.

In fact, I clearly remember where I was the first time I encountered a woman riding in real cycling spandex. I fell instantly in love. And judging by her annoyed reaction when I said hi, I don’t think I was the first one.

But those days are long gone.

In some ways, it’s changed for the better. Now there are many more riders, of every sort, sex, color and ethnicity. And instead of encountering just one or two other riders in a single day, now you can find more than that gathered at a single stoplight.

Unless they decide to run it, of course.

At the same time, though, something valuable has been lost. That sense of brotherhood, of sharing a bond with a rider I’ve never met before, for no other reason than because we ride, is long gone. These days, most cyclists share a red light without ever saying a word, and ride off their separate ways.

Still, I’ll nod when I see another rider who looks like he — or she — knows what they’re doing. Or acknowledge them with that little finger wave that you give without moving your hands off the handlebars. But getting one back?

That’s as rare as woman in riding spandex used to be.

 

Gary Rides Bikes, and offers a must read about peaceful coexistence on the road. Seriously, send the link to every cyclist and driver you know. On the same subject, Bike Girl attempts to educate a driver on the rights of turning left. Will Campbell declares victory over a vanquished bottom bracket. Science Daily and the L.A. Times both report on a study that suggests cutting of your nose to save your penis. And yes, you did read that right. A local advocacy group is offering free bikes to anyone attending Obama’s Democratic coronation in Denver. As if cell phone cyclists weren’t bad enough, now we have to worry about two-wheeled texters. And north of the border, they’re encouraging riders to follow the rules, and wear their helmets.

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