When my lips move, who’s doing the talking?

June 22, 2010

But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself. — Rick Nelson, Garden Party

I really didn’t think I needed to explain this.

I mean, it seems pretty obvious. And I always assumed my readers have sufficient intelligence to grasp the concept.

Then again, you’re not the problem.

So let me make this as clear as possible. I am not a journalist.

I have never worked for a newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station. At least, not since I edited my high school newspaper back in the Dark Ages.

And when I attend a meeting, I’m there to participate, because I think I have something to add to the conversation. Not to sit there silently taking notes.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire journalists. I don’t believe our society or system of government could survive without their under-appreciated and under-paid efforts.

But that’s not what I do.

So anyone who accuses me of violating journalistic ethics might as well accuse me of violating the Hippocratic Oath. Because I’m not a physician, either. Or a hippo, for that matter.

And this is not a news site, even though I link to a few.

What it is, is my opinion.

I may relay news that other people have reported if I think it’s important. Or I may relate something from my own experience, or a story someone has sent me or that I found online to illustrate a larger point. I may even break a story every now and then, as I did last summer.

But always from my own perspective.

That’s not to say that I don’t have my own standards. I always strive to be honest on here and tell you the truth the best I can, as I understand it. I try never to indulge in personal attacks, tempting though it may be at times. I try to be objective, and give you both sides of an argument when I can. And I’ll often link to or write about pieces that challenge my own assumptions, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them.

And I try always, above all, to be fair.

Do I always succeed?

Of course not.

I count on my readers to keep me honest. Just like Chewie did when I had the not-so-brilliant idea of creating the Idiot A**hole of the Month Award. And for which I’m still grateful.

Just like I count on you to catch my mistakes. Show me where I got something wrong, and I’ll fix it. If we disagree, I’ll usually present your argument as well as mine. But never forget that what you’re reading here is my opinion.

Which brings up the other point I want to make today.

I recently became a board member for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. However, that does not mean that I speak for the members and staff of the LACBC, or for the board. Or that they dictate what I say on here.

No one put words in my mouth in the 19 months I wrote this blog before I joined the LACBC, though some tried. And no one has in the months since.

Then again, they don’t need to. The LACBC has a highly competent and effective staff, more than capable of speaking for themselves. So if I support something the group says or does — or that anyone else says or does, for that matter — it’s because it has value.

No more, no less.

And just to clarify, when I wrote about John Fisher recently, for which I was so viciously attacked, not one person within the LACBC contributed a single word or thought to the piece, or reviewed it before it went online. Neither the LACBC nor anyone else vets what I write on here in any way.

If you like it, I get the credit. If you don’t, the blame is mine and mine alone.

As for the other side of the coin, I am just one of several board members. I do not lead the board and I don’t speak for it. Nor do I want to — on either count — whether I’m writing on here or speaking in public.

Anyone who tries to say otherwise has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, and not one iota of fact to base it on.

One more thing.

When I was first approached about joining the LACBC board, I was flattered. And not interested.

While I was impressed with the work Aurisha Smolarski, Allison Mannos and Dorothy Le were doing in fighting for the rights of cyclists in front of the City Council, I had been a semi-regular critic of the organization. And my overall impression of it wasn’t always that favorable.

I was wrong.

As I investigated further, I found an organization committed to meeting the needs of a widely diverse community of cyclists, and making the streets safer for riders of all types. As well as one of the most dedicated and talented staffs, both employees and volunteers, that I’ve encountered in any organization.

And trust me, I’ve encountered a lot of organizations.

But what won me over was when board president Chet Kostrzewa said he considered critics such as myself to be the LACBC’s best friends, because they point out areas that need improvement. He also insisted that, board member or not, I continue to speak my own mind and push them to be a better and more effective organization.

And that I should continue to criticize the LACBC anytime I think it’s necessary.

So far, it hasn’t been.

If and when it is, I’ll let you know.


Interesting stats from London, where over 3,200 people were killed or seriously injured in traffic collisions in 2009 — and that’s an improvement. On the other hand, overall cyclist casualties were up 15%, and 76% of fatalities involved people outside of vehicles, such as cyclists, pedestrians and moped, scooter and motorcycle riders. And the city’s planned bike superhighways will get convex mirrors at intersections to help truck drivers spot cyclists.

Meanwhile, bike deaths in Scotland dropped by nearly half last year.


The Times uncovers the mystery behind the shrine to a dead father on the L.A. River Bike Path. Cyclist Joe Borfo calls for Project Civil Obedience at Friday’s LAPD accompanied Critical Mass. Council Member Tom LaBonge rides the new 4th Street sharrows Wednesday night — your chance to help LACBC lobby for the 4th Street Bike Boulevard. CicLAvia makes it into the latest draft of the city’s proposed bike plan; speaking of which, Oakland hosts Oaklavia this weekend. LADOT Bike Blog offers a great look at the LACBC’s City of Lights program. Texting while biking could soon be illegal. Cordova Street in Pasadena is going on a road diet. A proposed Santa Clara County ordinance threatens to end large group rides entirely. Caution: flying cyclists. Seattle gets its first buffered bike lanes; San Francisco is up next. An alleged drunk driver drags a Chicago bike cop over 30 feet during an attempted stop. A Cincinnati cyclist is killed by a driver who backs up and hits him again. One of the joys of biking is catching the jerks at the next red light. The good news is Tucson police were ticketing speeders; the bad news is, they were stopping them in the bike lane. Good reason to wear a helmet — that could have been his head. Two cyclists save a stranger from armed robbery. Pro cyclist Kim Kirchen emerges from his coma following his heart attack during the Tour of Switzerland, while Bike Radar looks at the upcoming Tour de France. A five-time British Olympic rower is seriously injured in a fall near the end of RAAM. A cyclist dies on Europe’s largest charity bike ride; evidently, so does a marriage. After getting hit by a car, a Canadian cyclist faces a fine for riding on the sidewalk. Your next bike could be a carbon/bamboo singlespeed fixie.

Finally, hats off to former LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti-Pearce, paralyzed from the chest down in an on-duty shooting in 2006, who finished the RAAM ultra-endurance race on Monday along with the other members of her relay team.

Contemplating otherness

November 11, 2008

After the excitement of election day, I spent most of the past week trying to figure out just what it all meant.

The election of the nation’s first African-American president, followed shortly thereafter by the heart-breaking results on Prop 8. And at the same time, the meaning of bikeism, after a stomach-wrenching report of a deliberate attack on a group of Aussie cyclists.

And contemplating the confluence of these seemingly unrelated events.

It took awhile to penetrate my sluggish grey matter, but it finally sank in that what these events all had in common was the concept of otherness — the objectification of people who are, somehow, found to be different from those judging them.

Just as the people in that car down under saw themselves as somehow different from, and therefore superior to, the “wankers” on their bikes, and so decided they were deserving of death.

Just as 52% of the voters in California saw themselves as somehow different from, and therefore superior to, a minority population, and so decided they were undeserving of equality under the law.

And just as a sizable minority of the population tried to convince Americans that Barrack Obama was a closeted Muslim, and someone who would betray the U.S. to its enemies, and therefore undeserving of being elected president. A canard impressive for its sheer audacity, since it was based on two simultaneous fallacies — first that Obama was/is a Muslim, and second, that there is something inherently wrong with the Islamic faith, rather than a relative handful who profess to follow it.

Fortunately, most Americans had the intelligence to see through the lies; to see the man, rather than the fraudulent image some had tried to create.

If only the voters in California had shown the same insight.

Over the past week, the news has been full of people who said they voted against same-sex marriage because they felt homosexuality — and therefore, gay marriage — was a moral failure, rather than a civil rights issue. Never mind that by voting yes on 8, they condemned gays to second-class status under the state constitution. And no one I know ever chose to be gay, any more than I chose to be white or my next door neighbor choose to be black.

On the other hand, bicycling is a choice, yet one that is protected under the law. And certainly not one which justifies the hatred and violent vigilantism demonstrated by the Australian attack, or by the good doctor’s Mandeville brake check.

What these all have in common is the objectification of another human being. Because it’s hard — if not impossible — to attack other people, physically or otherwise, if you see them as equals. As real human beings, with needs and desires, families and emotions.

But if you can classify them in some way as different from yourself — as an Islamic terroist, a faggot or an arrogant, obnoxious cyclist — you no longer have to show them the courtesy and respect that is the birthright of every human. And then it becomes easy to attack them physically, emotionally, or legally.

Something I’ll try to remember then next time some driver cuts me off or passes too close, and I’m tempted to curse all drivers — a category that includes virtually everyone I know.

Including myself.


Gary and Lauren write about some of the No on 8 protests; this one made it almost impossible for me to get home last week, and kept us awake as the helicopters and sirens continued well past midnight. But if that’s why you’re protesting, you can keep me up anytime. Alex writes about last weekend’s RoboRide, while Bike Snob describes his first SoCal Critical Mass — including an unfortunate Raccoon encounter. Around here, even the famous bike — and get hurt; actor James Cromwell was hospitalized over the weekend with a broken collarbone following a weekend bike accident. A Times writer got robbed by another cyclist while riding her bike. According to the LA Creek Freak, the city is finally going to get around to closing some of the gaps in the L.A. River bikeway. Finally, a happy Veteran’s Day to all those who’ve served their country; CNN reports on a Loma Linda vet who was held in a POW camp at Buchenwald.

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

August 26, 2008

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


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