On Monday night there was a traffic safety committee meeting held by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. You think committee meetings are boring?
This one wasn’t.
It featured a guy who began by complaining about people taking pictures. The chair told him he was “out of order” which is nice speak for “shut the fuck up” and informed him that it was a public meeting, open to the public, held for the public, and publicly regulated under the Brown Act, which publicly regulates public meetings.
The guy was not mollified by the law because he was part of a contingent who demanded that the city put up signs saying “Bikes Must Ride Single File.” No matter that this isn’t the law, and no matter that the California Vehicle Code doesn’t prohibit riding two abreast, no matter that the committee has given extensive, detailed PowerPoint presentations on CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions, and no matter that the most fundamental principle of statutory construction is that the law permits everything that is not specifically prohibited.
In Rancho Palos Verdes these NIMBYs had come to the meeting to advise what they thought the law should be and to demand that the city put it on a sign. Right? Because after inventing a few new anti-bike provisions for the vehicle code they could follow it with signs that said, “No poor people,” “No Torranceites,” “No San Pedroians,” and of course “No people whose last names end in a vowel.”
It was clear that, having bought a second-hand home with an ugly garage on top of a hill and surrounding the whole faux estate with an iron gate and guard shack, this guy thought that the public meetings were private, too, and no amount of explaining that the meeting was “public” seemed to have any effect on him at all.
Because polysyllabic words and laws and facts kept getting in the way of his opinions, the guy followed up his outburst a few minutes later by showing the middle finger at what appeared to be the committee. When the sheriff’s deputy came over and told him he couldn’t flip off the committee, he told the deputy that he hadn’t been flipping off them, he’d been flipping off … me. For taking pictures.
I hadn’t said a word the entire meeting and when I looked back he threw a fleck of paper at me while raising his middle finger again for emphasis. There I was, back in Third Grade with the classroom bully showing me the finger, throwing spitballs, and daring the teacher to get on with her job. If you think it’s extraordinary that a grown man would go to a public meeting and show his contempt for public participation by flipping people off and flinging flecks of paper at his imagined enemies, you need to come to one of these meetings.
But what’s more extraordinary is that the very people who flipped us off, threw things, and booed Delia Park at the previous meeting when she described the catastrophic injuries of a friend belong to the same anti-bike contingent that opened the meeting with an appeal for civility and made pointed complaints about the militant biker bullies–never mind that not a single cyclist in any public meeting has insulted, attacked, threatened, or made an obscene gesture to anyone ever, and never mind that several cyclists began by thanking the committee for their efforts.
One first-time biker attendee later commented that “I thought you were exaggerating, Seth, but these people really are batshit fucking crazy.”
The discussion point of the meeting was colossally stupid. A handful of NIMBYs on Crest Road were seeking to apply the city’s event permitting ordinance to “organic” groups of ten or more cyclists. Unable to understand the law’s intent–regulation of large events that had a significant impact on the public right of way–these folks yammered on endlessly about how the law should be applied to local, unorganized, organic bike rides.
Under the ingenuous pretense of “safety,” though none of them had consulted any of the cycling groups whose safety is most imperiled in traffic collisions, and after having a prior petition to ban cyclists from the roadway being unceremoniously booted due to its patent illegality, they were now trying to regulate unorganized group bike rides in the hope it would make things somehow more orderly, i.e. get rid of bikes. When I asked one of the NIMBYs whether or not he would attend a free Cycling Savvy course to get educated about the law from the cyclist’s perspective, he told me he was “too busy” because he “had a 16-year-old who was just getting his driver license.”
Well, of course! No responsible father with a new young male driver in the family would possibly be able to make time to go learn the law and safe traffic skills that have to do with cyclists, especially the cyclists who allegedly cause so many traffic problems up on Rancho Palos Verdes Estates Wish We Were Palos Verdes Estates Crest Road.
The details of the ordinance appeared irrelevant to many of the NIMBYs, the main “detail” being no detail at all but rather its most salient feature: The ordinance specifically applies to “organized” events. Speaker after speaker on the cyclists’ side tried in vain to explain to the waxed-in brains of the NIMBYs that THERE IS NO ORGANIZER FOR THE DONUT RIDE. But they either didn’t understand, wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t understand.
It’s true that you can’t fix stupid, but in this case you couldn’t even shut it up. The committee, obviously perplexed by having to deal with something that made no sense at all, referred it for further “study by staff.” This will presumably involve someone sitting in a lawn chair watching groups of cyclists go by at 25 mph and trying to determine if they’re “organized” or “in a group” or “ten or more.” One fool suggested that group riders be required to ride with identifying stickers, a great idea that was used with much success in the late 1930’s.
A cyclist speaker offered the NIMBYs a thousand bucks if they could find the organizer of the Donut Ride, which one of the crazypants asserted was any person who mentioned it on their web site. Kind of like, you know, how you’re an organizer of the Super Bowl when you note on your blog its location, date, time, and the teams who are playing.
Almost three and a half hours later the meeting adjourned, but not before one guy spent several minutes complaining about committee member David Kramer’s “conflict of interest” because in addition to his duties as a committee member he was formerly an officer of Big Orange. We’ll set aside for a minute the fact that nothing on the agenda affects Big Orange as a club at all, another detail that didn’t matter because it so obviously contradicted this guy’s attack.
Lacking any ability to understand that Big Orange doesn’t have a single organized ride in RPV, and unable to do anything other than wave tax returns and Secretary of State filings, this bonehead repeatedly insisted that Kramer “recuse” himself.
Kramer repeated, as he always does, that the committee makes no decisions (ergo there’s nothing to be recused from), that all committee recommendations must be voted on by the city council which has the power to accept, reject or modify anything done by the committee, that the committee acts in a volunteer advisory capacity only, and that his activities as a cyclist have long been public, but the NIMBY didn’t care. All that the NIMBY could grasp is that Kramer is a cyclist, Kramer belongs to Big Orange, therefore Kramer has a conflict of interest. Of course with NIMBY logic, all of the motorists would have to recuse themselves from the committee, too, since no motorist could possibly be expected to be neutral on issues that affected cars. But in an absence of understanding and in a surfeit of ignorance, facts meant little, and one of the NIMBYs assured me outside the building that a lawsuit would be brought to remove Kramer from the committee.
“You’re not going to like that,” he said. I could only hope that he retained a very expensive lawyer with a huge, nonrefundable retainer.
In line with the NIMBY hatred of cyclists on Crest, riders recently reported a white Toyota Corolla buzzing, honking at, and harassing cyclists going up Crest in, surprise, single file. It’s hard to understand what they meant by civility, except perhaps this: Please shut up and go away from RPV.
The next day was Tuesday. I mentally flushed out the cremains of the night before with a good bike ride, one of those organic rides without a leader or promoter that’s been going on for over 30 years, and that evening I was back at another city meeting to witness another series of mindless assaults on cycling. This one was at Palos Verdes Estates.
At the end of the meeting I was accosted by a guy who claimed to be “Frank Ponce” and who “wanted to talk” to me. Imagine a pudgy bully whose hairpiece has been dipped in a bucket of chiGrecian Formula, clad in a two-for-one suit from Men’s Wearhouse, wearing an imitation of a fake Swiss watch and looking like he wanted to kill you.
Then imagine another guy, larger, blobbier, dumber looking (possible? yes!) who was also wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and the caption “This Clown Wants More Signs.”
This clever fellow had discovered a picture that was on my web site and was now going to expose me as an advocate for bike signage. Plus he was going to call me a clown. Unfortunately, Mom’s allowance must have been a bit on the low side because the construction of the sign had the quality you normally associate with a cardboard roof used by a homeless person to cover his shopping cart.
How a person can strap on a homemade sign and duck-waddle around in public while calling someone else a clown is a metaphor for the wholesale absence of reflection, perspective, or self-awareness that the bike haters displayed at every turn. I was waiting for the Sandwich Clown to ask for gas money since Mom had perhaps kicked him off the couch for the evening, the best explanation for him even being out of the house.
Upon leaving the parking lot, Mr. Men’s Wearhouse, still furious that none of the cyclists would engage with him or take him up on his unspoken offers of a duel using tubes of Rogaine, taunted me as I walked by. Rumor has it that the fake watch consortium is going to set the wheels in motion to “revoke my law license.” It will be fascinating to watch the $99 suits tangle with even more words, rules, laws, and procedures, seeing as they still haven’t been able to read and understand CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions. Imagine their surprise when someone tries to draw them a stick-figure diagram of what an anti-SLAPP motion is and what attorney fee sanctions look like.
As I left the parking lot, catcalls ringing in my ears, it occurred to me that there it was again! Third Grade! Another flaccid wanker thinking that no one could possibly resist the idea of jumping into a verbal sewer with him. I kept walking, slightly pleased that with so little effort I’d taken up permanent residence into such a small and sand-filled head. And best of all, I was staying there rent-free.
The PVE City Council meeting itself was something of a clusterfuck. Because the council had seen the large turnout of cyclists in past meetings and been inundated by NIMBY emails complaining about outsiders/flatlanders/transients influencing their special snowflake on the hill, they sought to do an end-run by moving the time from 5:30 to 7:30 in order to conduct a workshop on traffic safety. It was never articulated as such, but the idea seemed to be to wear down the cyclists with an earlier meeting that would cut off speaking times. The plan only half-worked because the fire marshal had to stop people from entering after the room filled to capacity with cyclists.
While the tiny Men’s Wearhouse contingent had vociferously sought to rally the anti-cycling troops for the meeting, the packed-to-capacity council chambers were filled predominantly with cyclists. When asked to stand if they supported BMUFL signage, only a smattering of the 90+ attendees remained seated. If the plan had been to get all the concerned PVE residents out in force, it worked, because the meeting showed what we’ve known all along: Most residents don’t give two ratfucks about five new BMUFL signs and the only ones who oppose them are either still subsidized by Mom or are retired or are woefully underemployed or all three.
The workshop, although ostensibly held to educate the council as to this “complex” issue of four signs, seemed in fact to be Traffic Safety Principles 101 for the Completely Clueless NIMBYs. It was a rehash of many, many presentations I’ve heard in bits and pieces from the city’s traffic engineer, and it was all politespeak for “These BMUFL signs are legal, you dumbshits.”
But the problem was this: If the NIMBYs were so thick-headed that they couldn’t understand CVC 21202(a), and if they were so pig-headed that they refused to recognized the legality of BMUFL, how in the world was the workshop going to educate them about something as complex as “basic principles of traffic engineering”? Their go-to guy was a stooge in a sandwich board and a sub-literate, flabby realtor in a cheap suit whose Linked-In profile picture reminds me of a hubcap thief from the 1920’s. These people were going to be “educated” about engineering and the law?
No. They were not.
It was like having a civil rights lawyer address a group of Trump supporters on the illegality of segregation.
Civil rights lawyer: “Segregation is illegal.”
Trumpers: “But we hate black people.”
CRL: “It’s still illegal.”
Trumpers: “No, it isn’t.”
CRL: “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).”
Trumpers: “Can we change the law just for here? PVE is unique!”
CRL: “No. It’s the supreme law of the land and codified in numerous federal and state laws and the California Constitution.”
Trumpers: “We still hate black people. We still hate integration. We love segregation. We don’t understand why we can’t have it. We grew up with it. And we’ve lived here since 1984.”
The part of the workshop that did work was that it promptly concluded at 7:30, before even a fraction of the cyclists had gotten to speak out in favor of BMUFL signage. This served the city and the NIMBYs’ agenda perfectly: It delayed the decision on the signs even further, it forced the cyclists to come back again (and again and possibly again), and it let the BMUFL advocates know that the city wasn’t going to easily and quickly fold to the recommendations of its own attorney, traffic engineer, safety committee, and what one NIMBY at the last traffic committee meeting referred to as “transients.”
The other part of the workshop that worked out exquisitely for the NIMBYs was that the latter half of the workshop degenerated into “cyclists running stop signs.” No matter how many times the police say they have limited resources, no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations are equal among cars and bikes, and no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations have nothing at all to do with BMUFL signage, once the Dreaded Stop Sign Issue is raised, everything goes running down into the gutter.
It’s as if you convened a meeting to discuss space travel and no one could stop talking about stop signs.
Bike Advocate: “BMUFL signage is legal and saves lives.”
Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”
Bike Advocate: “So do motorists but that’s not the issue.”
Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”
Bike Advocate: “Yes, but today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage.”
Men’s Wearhouse: “Norm is videotaping all the scofflaw bikers running stop signs!”
Bike Advocate: “Yes, we’ve seen samples of the high quality videos made by Mom’s Couch Productions. But today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage, how it’s legal, recommended by the city engineer, and how it saves lives according the the NIH.”
Men’s Wearhouse: “Blobbly Bob is going to make another sandwich board showing bikers running stop signs!”
Bike Advocate: “I hope it’s a wide one.”
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