The gentle hand teaches best

January 15, 2013 § 31 Comments

“Didn’t you see the stop sign?” Dude was pissed.

I’d already dismounted and turned to face him. “Yes, sir. I did.”

He had the flashers going on his Torrance PD squad car and he had one hand on the butt of his pistol, in that casual way cops do to let you know that even though it’s a stop sign violation, they can kill you. “So why didn’t you stop?”

“I run that stop sign every day, Officer. My office is right around the corner. I’m trying to warm up and as you can see it’s pretty much in the middle of the hill there.” The stop sign in question was on Spencer and Earl. “I’ve never stopped for it.”

“You sure didn’t stop today.”

“No, sir. I never do. It’s a terrible habit. I keep telling myself it’s a terrible habit, but I just keep on running it.”

“Didn’t you see all the traffic in the intersection? You blasted through that thing with just a couple of feet to spare behind the fender of the car that was going by. What if he’d braked?”

“I’d have gotten all garfed up, sir.” Dad always taught me that the guy with the gun and the handcuffs and the mace and the radio and riot shotgun gets called “sir” no matter what.

“You cyclists have made our ‘Share the Road’ campaign pretty unpopular, you know?”

“Yes, sir. I’m one of the worst offenders out there.”

“Well, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that what you just did is a moving violation?”

“No, sir, I won’t be.”

“And that it’s going on your record?”

“No, sir.”

“And that it’ll mean points off your license?”

“No, sir. I deserve it.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “You do. May I see your license?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. He took it and went over to the squad car. A small huddle of people from the apartments and the local businesses had come out to see what was up. They were laughing and pointing.

“Hey, pink socks!” one of them yelled. “They finally caught you! About time!”

I nodded in their direction.

“Maybe you’ll use the brakes on that fancy bike starting tomorrow!” called another.

I smiled affably and nodded again.

The cop came out. “Where do you work?”

“Right across from the Scott Robinson.”

“Oh, the law office?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You ought to know better.”

“I do know better, Officer. It’s a bad habit. Kind of like smoking.”

“I’m going to do you a favor, but I’m going to ask for one in return.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to let you off with a warning.”

“Thanks, Officer.”

“And in exchange, you break that bad habit. I want you to promise that you’ll quit running that stop sign. Deal?”

“Yes, sir. Deal.”

We shook hands. The gawkers could see from a distance that I wasn’t getting a ticket and they were bummed.

The next stop was a stoplight, which was green. I punched it, fearing to look back and see if the policeman was following. He’d sent me a strong message. Running stop signs was dangerous. I needed to take a breath and slow down. I thought about the good deed he’d done and about my errant ways. I was a terrible example to others. My continual lawbreaking angered motorists, exasperated cyclists, and was no longer appropriate.

The next stop sign was at Victor. Complete stop.

The next one was at Henrietta. Complete stop.

“Hey,” I thought. “This isn’t so bad.”

The next one was at Edgemere.

Then Wayne.

Then Tomlee.

Then the stoplight at Prospect.

Every single one, a complete stop.

There’s something about following the law that feels good, and I felt it. Playing by the rules. Doing what was right. “I could get used to this feeling,” I told myself.

Once across Prospect, I noted that the jurisdiction had changed to Redondo Beach. No way that Torrance cop would see me here. Plus, with each stop I’d counted up the ones that remained: Including stoplights, there were forty-four full stops between office and home, and I’d only gone through ten of them. At thirty seconds per stop, all this law abiding nonsense would add twenty minutes to my commute, not counting the extra effort of getting the bike going again.

By Esplanade, I’d ratcheted back from full stops to rolling ones.

From Paseo del Playa I took the stop sign full bore and didn’t stop pedaling until I got home, fifteen stop signs later.

I felt kind of guilty.

But the next time I come down that hill leaving the office, I’m coming to a full stop. Because I’m a man of my word.

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§ 31 Responses to The gentle hand teaches best

  • cannibal says:


  • Just Some Guy says:

    Blowing through stopsigns gives angry drivers justification to run us off the roads.

    Like you I know it is wrong. Like you I continue to do it anyway. I only slow. I try to ride through in harmony with a car. Coming to a complete stop slows traffic more than timing it just right. I’m doing them a favor by timing it right. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

    I usually stop at lights, as it’s a good time to practice my track stands.

  • Mike says:

    Some time I will show you my I phone app to get out of a ticket.

  • Jim says:

    Isn’t the key to happiness knowing context? Not really but you make my Buddhist nun sister seen like a demagogue.

  • Patrick says:

    Don’t run stop signs on the Esplanade, Redondo cops won’t give you a break.

  • Deb says:

    Dude, you need to work the book deal. Seriously. This is hilarious!

  • New Girl says:


  • Randy White says:

    As long as you don’t run “THAT” stop sign, you’re golden, right?

    PSA: Per the DMV: “Violation points are assigned to Vehicle Code sections and any other code section, or city or county ordinance, involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Any violation occurring as a pedestrian or a bicyclist has no point assigned. The department may suspend and place on probation, or revoke, the driving privilege of a negligent operator.”

    The key language here is MOTOR VEHICLE. In order to have a traffic ticket assess points against your driving record and/or vehicle insurance you must be ticketed while operating a MOTOR VEHICLE. A Bicycle is not a motor vehicle as per the California Vehicle Code because a bicycle is not “Self Propelled”.

    This is no excuse. It just means that you can run as many traffic controls as you can afford without garnering points on your Driver’s License, in California. More to the point, one could see this as a benevolent donation to the county coffers, a “win-win” as it were; you get to run the stop sign, and the county gets your money.

    • Admin says:

      I totally dig it and see my annual ticket(s) as the cost of doing business. None of my multitudinous tickets have ever shown up on my driving record. PSA greatly appreciated.

  • Albacore says:

    Fireman was pulled over last week by PVPD for running a stop too. He was TTing his way home from a mountain bike ride we just did. I heard the conversation went like this:

    “You know why I pulled you over?”

    “Cause you find me so bitchin?”

    “As a matter of fact,” the cop gruffly said whilst hiding behind his mirrored sunglasses. “I pulled you over for blowing through that stop sign back there. But that is not the issue. I sit here every morning and see these entitled roadie hacks on their expensive plastic bikes blow through stops, take over lanes, and ride around this hill like they own it.”

    “Yes sir,” Fireman said, biting his tongue, waiting to pounce on his Ace card called ‘professional courtesy.’

    “People buzz all over this peninsula, slowing only when they see the decoy car we park near Malaga Cove,” his voice lightened. “They think to themselves, “he only became a cop to carry a gun because he probably has a tiny penis.” Well you know what? The tiny penis ain’t here. It’s on those $6000 Do-Raw-Ace carbon fiber phalluses. But you sir, on a mountain bike, you are a real man. It is good to see that.”

    Fireman thanked him and began to ride off. As he pedaled away he heard the cop yell out, “Ride on Chuck Norris, ride on!”

    Of course, I may have related a detail or two out of context.

    • Admin says:

      There is a time and place to make fun of road cyclists. Please refer to the chart below:

      1. Time: Anytime
      2. Place: Any place

  • Josh says:

    Damn right.
    I like your style.

  • bob peterson says:

    My only advice about running stop signs in PVE is to avoid being the last group rider through or you may receive the loser’s award in the form of a $220 ticket.

    I did this one fine Saturday morning descending VdM. To be fair I actually rolled the stop while other, unnamed riders, bombed through ahead of me, hands on their drops, chins on their Garmins. It was sort of like being the little kid who afraid to run at the candy store heist gets a beating at home while his big brother laughs.

    To add insult the officer took what seemed like 15 minutes making multiple inquiries to Homeland Security and other officials before giving me my prize. I suppose it was necessary so that all of the Wankers climbing out of MC could see what happens to law breaking cyclists in PVE.

    Being a rule follower (well.. most of the time) I paid it. I’m sure the money is put to good use funding important activities like Art Jury inquisitions.

    The lesson for me – stop or slow when solo – attack when in a group.

    • Admin says:

      Name names!

      • bob peterson says:

        I could but with Hollywood moguls, TdF luminaries, and perhaps PVE’s finest reading your blog discretion may be called for here. That said I will dish dirt the next time I see you on the road.

        Until then…

  • Patrick says:

    Hey Wanky,

    I hope you know I was only kidding about the lip prints on the cops ass. Shit, there I go, kissing ass again. 🙂

  • […] Coalition kicks off a series of monthly community bike rides next weekend. Cycling in the South Bay promises to stop for stop signs — well, that one, at least. CLR Effect looks at a cloudless Sunday on two wheels, meanwhile, […]

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