I rode my bike to the Milt Olin protest ride on Wednesday. It was in Calabasas, a solid two-and-a-half hour pedal from the South Bay. Milt was run over in the bike lane by a cop who was texting on his phone and typing on his mobile computer. The ride was organized to protest the decision by assistant district attorney minion Rosa Alarcon not to file misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the deputy.
Even a slap on the wrist, apparently, was too much to ask.
There was a soul-sapping headwind all the way out the bike path. At CotKU, no one was waiting to join me, understandable since most people at 2:00 PM the Wednesday after Labor Day weekend are working. Coming into Santa Monica the most frightening thing in 32 years of bicycling happened.
I was riding in the bike lane on Main Street, just north of Abbot Kinney, when a Range Rover going the other direction swerved over into my lane. Accelerating to well over 50 mph, the bearded psycho leaned out the window and spit at me. Unfortunately for him, the onrushing wind blew the spit back into his face. Nor could he hop back into his lane because he’d overtaken three cars traveling in his direction, so he went even faster.
When I turned around to shoot the bird, he jerked back into his lane so hard that he almost flipped his car. I imagined the headline: “Cyclist killed en route to memorial ride for killed cyclist.”
Farther along in Santa Monica I stopped at the Ocean Park toilets but no one was waiting there either, so I pedaled on. Ascending Topanga Canyon I was passed by Peppy, the British neo-Cat 4 who regularly drills, grills, and kills on the NPR. “I waited at the Ocean Park toilets,” he said. “Where were you?”
“I didn’t see anyone so I kept going.”
“Um,” he said, exacting his vengeance with a nasty pace all the way up the climb.
We reached the assembly point for the memorial ride. There was a helicopter, as well as news trucks from every major TV station. The assistant district attorney’s decision not to prosecute had outraged the bicycling community. “Rosa Alarcon licks balls!” said one angry cyclist.
We put on arm bands and rolled out at 4:30, heading towards downtown, a mere three hours distant, through the worst traffic in the San Fernando Valley. I only had one water bottle and it was empty. The air in the valley was wretched and loaded with marble-sized particulates. A hacking cough began and we caught every light, hundreds and thousands of them, all the way to downtown. At one point our group split in half when the leaders rolled through a yellow light.
We remnants didn’t know the route and the leaders vanished in the distance. A mad chase ensued, with me and Peppy doing a desperate time trail to bridge and alert the leaders that half the group was four stoplights and twelve light years back. The hacking cough migrated down to the lowest part of my lungs.
In Burbank we were joined by a rider who was wearing a Total Team Sky Outfit And Team Bike. He looked just like Chris Froome except for his backpack, in which he carried a portable, hi-fidelity speaker. It was connected to his iPod, and he blasted us with an endless stream of terrible music, including Elvis, the Beatles, New Age Christian, hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, and jazz fusion. The music was so loud that when it paused between songs the background noise of LA’s rush hour traffic sounded muted, silent, pastoral.
This lasted until 7:30, when we reached the LA County District Attorney’s office. The ride had swelled as we crossed the city, and a candlelight vigil was held in Milt’s honor. Marv, Don, Brendan, and JF had joined the ride after work, and these four South Bay riders, along with me and Peppy, headed back home on Venice Boulevard in the pitch black.
It might as well have been Venice-Roubaix, so cracked and scarred and chug-holed were the roads. We had lights, but speeding along in a pace line they only illuminated the ass of the rider in front. Peppy had bonked and I was dead, even as the fresh South Bay foursome laid down a grueling pace.
JF, who had been noticeably absent from the working end of the paceline, came to the fore at last and put in a mighty turn. Peppy had yet to take a single pull, and I was about to pop. Suddenly JF, forty whole seconds into his effort, shouted out “El Dolor del Estomago! The most famous taco truck in the city!”
Almost taking us all out with a might brake and swerve, JF zoomed into the packed parking lot, where fifty people stood in line for the best of El Dolor’s offerings. Half an hour later we were standing against a trash can, each polishing of a mound of chicken-and-habanero-bean tacos.
Whether it was the energy of the food or the roaring volcano in his bowels, Peppy came to life. Everyone else retreated the other way, towards death, as he dragged us at 30mph down the barely-lit, cratered asphalt of Venice Blvd. After several miles Brendan dropped off, pleading menstrual cramps. Marv spied a blinking light that said “Beer” and vanished. JF, whose idea the taco stop had been, metamorphosed into a rolling effluent pipe.
We all parted ways on the bike path, except for Marv, who had been smart enough to stop when he found an open bar. I made it to Malaga Cove at 9:30 and called my wife to pick me up. I’m sure I’ve felt worse on a bike, but it’s hard to pinpoint when. Then I thought about Milt Olin, struck down in the prime of life, father and husband, killed by a cop who was too lazy to pull over and text.
My exhaustion evaporated and I felt grateful for being alive and angry at the kangaroo court’s cowardice. What happened to this kind and gentle man could happen to any of us, and on the way to the ride, in my case it almost did. Over a 150 people showed up on bikes and crossed the entire city to register their outrage and to demand justice for Milt, justice for every other person who dares risk death simply by riding a bicycle. With only three months left before the statute of limitations tolls, time is running out for the DA to do the right thing.
Won’t you take a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard? The link is here with contact information and sample letters to email the DA. With prime time news coverage on every major news channel, District Attorney Jackie Lacey can be called to account only through the strength of your voice. Please help. Don’t give up.
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