Last month, Stanley E. Goldich, a Century City attorney and member of Velo Club LaGrange, wrote about the road conditions and safety problems on Pacific Coast Highway, based on his own personal experiences riding thousands of miles per year on PCH, as well as climbing the canyons of the Malibu area for over 20 years.
Today, he writes again in response to the recent post by Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Chris Frost, as well as the opinions expressed by fellow Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem in a recent letter to the editor and on a now-deleted Facebook group.
I have not met Chris Frost or Susan Tellum and cannot speak to whether or not they are nice people. However, there is nothing nice or decent about their words and misguided efforts to target cyclists, who almost always are victims and not perpetrators with respect to safety conditions on PCH. I am completely supportive of efforts to educate cyclists about the issues confronting Malibu residents with respect to exiting their driveways and U-turns and their need to be more considerate of these concerns, however the efforts of Tellum and Frost to target cyclists are grounded in fallacious arguments and facts that do not have any evidentiary basis.
1. What is particularly pernicious in the views expressed by Frost and Tellum is the linkage between running of stop signs and lights with the aggression of motorists against cyclists and deaths and serious injuries of cyclists. Frost’s denial is belied by his words: “That means the law abiding rider gets treated pretty much the same as one who continually flaunts the law. So when you get buzzed for no apparent reason, the cause may well be an incident you had no part of. This is happening much too frequently now, and it has developed into a breeding ground for animosity and worse – injury and death.”
2. The contentions that cyclists are a cause of any major safety problems on PCH and their flaunting of the law is a cause of “injury and death” are patently false and flawed justifications to unnecessarily target cyclists instead of other far more significant safety concerns. My prior email that you published detailed the safety problems on PCH including what was identified in the PCH Taskforce Report – nothing Frost alleges is identified in that Report or any other report that I am aware of. The deaths of Debra Goldsmith, Scott Bleifer, Stanislov Ionov and others were acts of careless and reckless drivers and/or unsafe road conditions and were not acts of vengeance. Even the road rage incidents of Dr. Thompson on Mandeville were driven by not wanting cyclists in his neighborhood, not running of lights and stop signs. The suggestion that deliberate acts of violence against cyclists is defensible because of running of lights by scofflaw cyclists is outrageous and targeting cyclists to address such inexcusable actions is hardly an appropriate solution
3. While it is true that cyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists, the circumstances are not the same (or equal). As a cyclist on PCH I get to ride on a shoulder that is not a true lane and deal with all of the dangers resulting from this. I am not surrounded by a steel frame and am virtually always the victim in any truly dangerous situation on the road. Yes, as a general matter cyclists should stop at lights. However, there are times and some lights on PCH where it is unquestionably safer to go thru the light ahead of traffic due to dangerous roadway conditions including inadequate shoulders, lack of space next to parked cars, and cars pulling out requiring the cyclist to move into the right hand traffic lane. Contrary to Frost’s contention, most of the T-intersections do not involve cars making U-turns or trying to pull out (an exception are cars U-turning at Corral). Certainly, cyclists should be considerate of residents/motorists trying to make U-turns or pull out, particularly at lights; however, the primary dangers are motorists making U-turns in front of cyclists and pulling out or turning in front of them.
4. The central reason a minority of motorists and Malibu residents are hostile is because cyclists impede them or they simply don’t want cyclists using the roads period, not because of running of stop signs or our Lycra clothes. Many motorists do not take offense at running of stop signs or lights where the cyclist is not getting in their path (and sometimes trying to avoid doing so) – I regularly get waived thru stop signs by drivers.
5. I am not arguing that I and other cyclists are free to break the law with impunity. My point is simply that the targeting of cyclists is not justified by the fictions advanced and that a much more productive discussion would be trying to understand why cyclists are running the lights and addressing conditions that require cyclists to move out of the shoulder into the right hand lane.
6. Finally, it would be one thing if Frost just argued that cyclists should stop at all lights (and presumably stop signs) to be “ambassadors of our sport.” While I may disagree with singling out bicyclists to be role models (rather than all road users) and whether stopping at all lights is required to be an ambassador of cycling (rather than simply being courteous and considerate), I have no quarrel with Frost promoting this. However, Frost is not leaving things at encouraging what he believes is good bike-riding behavior. Rather, it appears he seeks to misuse his position as a safety commissioner to threaten and punish cyclists who do not comply with his views.
In the comments to his post, Chris Frost invited a number of the people who responded to attend a meeting of the Malibu Public Safety Commission.
As Gary noted today, the next meeting will take place at 6 pm this Wednesday at the Council Chambers at Malibu City Hall, 23815 Stuart Ranch Road.
It’s FLOUT not FLAUNT, okay? It was bad enough in the original, but to quote it and misuse it TWICE is beyond the pale.
Thanks for the correction, Tinker. In Goldich’s defense, he was quoting verbatim; while I was not asked to proof Frost’s original post, I should have caught it the second time around.
Three articles later and the first posting is about grammar? Not only was it the first post, but it was wrong. Flout, as used by Chris, means to “to treat with disdain, scorn, or contempt; scoff at; mock.” (dictionary.com) Flaunt means “to parade or display ostentatiously: to ignore or treat with disdain.” The latter definition of “to ignore or treat with disdain” has become an acceptable use of flaunt, but was not the correct and original use of the word.
Regarding point number one: I’m so glad that someone else sees the offensiveness in the point that Frost was trying to make there. We should obey laws because they are laws and set up for our safety not because of retaliation from other road users. Linking causality between two infractions is extremely dangerous, unnecessary, and completely irrelevant. The law requires all of us to share the road and do so safely. Period.
Frost seems like a decent guy, who is trying to be supportive of bikers. His heart is in the right place, and I do not think he is being deliberately obtuse.
But I don’t understand how he fails to see that the way he has presented the situation is wrong, offensive, and dangerous. Perhaps he is not reading people’s criticisms with an open mind (or not reading them carefully enough), and is instead feeling defensive. But from what I’ve read, it sounds to me like it’s not that he disagrees with us; it’s that he doesn’t have any idea what we are saying.
Anyways, I encourage you all to keep it civil. Flies, honey, vinegar and all that. And remember that Frost is not Tellem and should not be tarred with the same brush.
What also bothers me is that when I told him that I found his reasoning that we should obey the law so as to not provoke drivers offensive, he basically said that if I don’t like what he says then I don’t have to read (to paraphrase).
That’s total BS! America is a democracy or at least tries to be a democracy, and when an elected or appointed official does something or says something that I find offensive or wrong, I’m going to speak up and keep speaking up and doing what I have to do until I implement change. Saying “if you don’t like it then don’t join in the conversation or don’t read my article” is ridiculous. In fact, the American thing to do is to get involved and speak up when you don’t like what public officials are doing and saying.
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