The sting of defeat

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I winced when I saw a couple of recent tweets by Peter Flax and Ted Rogers acknowledging that their support for the road diets in Playa del Rey and other parts of Los Angeles have been beaten back by the entitled cager class. Peter has written a great article about the fake democracy, fake news, and relentless trolling that has played an outsized role in perverting government on the local level into what it mostly is on the national level: Everything for me, nothing for you, with “me” being the wealthy and “you” being everyone else.

Flax, Rogers, and a whole host of advocates are feeling the pain that South Bay cyclists felt last year when the PV Estates City Council, fueled by the trolling of Garrett Unno and his horrible wife Zoe, the unprincipled rage of bad people like Cynthia Zaragoza, and the anonymous, pseudonymous trolling by Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr., voted to shelve any proactive steps that would make PV safer for vulnerable road users. Flax and Rogers have come to grips with two nasty realities:

  1. The trolls oppose policies that can prevent killing or maiming vulnerable road users.
  2. The trolls see such bloodshed as a reasonable price for their convenience.
  3. The trolling powerfully affects the levers of governmental power.

When the realization hits, it’s devastating. Voting, canvassing, public debate, even modest funding by advocacy groups … all of these things lose to the power of the trolls. The power of a few moderately wealthy, angry trolls who have lots of time on their hands and limitless spleen to vent can galvanize entire voting blocs and can steamroll the needs of the many for the selfish wants of the few. Facts, data, logic, and republican ideals of protecting the weakest in society are laughable concepts that mean nothing when it comes to making transportation decisions regarding bicyclists and pedestrians.

With regard to making LA’s streets safer for vulnerable road users, though, the defeat is largely a function of advocates’ failure use existing law. Road diets, road striping, segregated cycle tracks, and bike lanes are the byproduct of a cyclist-inferiority pathology that has been vigorously promoted by cagers and motordom. Thanks to relentless fearmongering, many cyclists now believe that the only way they can safely use the roadways is by being segregated from it, and their overwhelming fear is of being hit from the rear, even though statistics show that such collisions are a minority of all car-bike collisions.

The bitter truth is this: Whether or not cyclists think that lane control works, road diets and bike infrastructure won’t work in Los Angeles’s angry, white urban areas. White and affluent cagers have shown that they are more than happy to subsidize the perception of speed and efficiency with more pedestrian/cycling deaths. It’s no different from the blase attitude towards the Las Vegas Massacre and Terrorist Attack. Such deaths are the well known, well accepted, and perfectly irrational price that America is more than happy to pay for the unrestricted right to have and use guns. Why should additional dead and maimed vulnerable road users be any different?

Hint: They aren’t.

Unlike the road diets that are never going to happen and the citywide carving out of bike lanes from normal traffic lanes that will never come to pass, lane control uses existing law to empower cyclists and make their activities safer. But empowerment isn’t something that comes and knocks at your door. You have to take it.

This means knowing the circumstances under which you are entitled to take up the full travel lane, when you have to ride as far to the right as practicable, and when you have to pull over to let faster traffic through. Learning these things and pounding them into the heads of cyclists is a task that few advocacy groups want to do because they are so committed to the infrastructure policies that angry cager Angelenos have proven they will never accept. I challenge anyone in LA County Bike Coalition to come to PV Estates or Rancho PV, two of the best cycling destinations in America, and make any headway at all against the evil mayor and her callus henchwankers. To add to the impossibility of positive policies, monstrous and slothful bike hater Zoe Unno now sits on the traffic safety committee. It’s like putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse and giving her a carving knife and gas range to boot.

If bike advocates haven’t gotten the message, they need to listen again: Los Angeles isn’t going to cede an inch of roadway for your exclusive use. So admit defeat and take up arms using existing law: Teach your friends and fellow cyclists, and most importantly teach yourself how to ride safely and legally in the traffic lane. After my years of experience with this technique, I’m confident you’ll find that the water is fine.

Another harsh reality has gradually become clear. As unfair as it may be, and as much of a double standard as it is, we are at a point in cager-bike relations when you have to take care of yourself first. This means lights. If you’re running anything less than two powerful headlamps and anything less than 3-4 powerful lights from the rear at all times, day and night, you are heaping additional risk onto yourself, especially if you are still riding in the gutter or in the door zone. As much as the PV cagers may hate cyclists, the chances are slim that they will kill you intentionally–with the exception, of course, of John Bacon, who appears to have died precisely because of an intentional hit.

In short, the people have spoken: They hate you and don’t care if you die. But at the same time, they don’t want to get your blood on their hood or, even worse, see an increase in their insurance premium. So take the lane. Ride like a Christmas tree. It still beats living on Mom’s couch.

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