Seven cops and a shoe

August 10, 2015 § 41 Comments


I was riding to the start of the Wheatgrass when I overtook the Wily Greek. The Captain then rolled up behind us. We were exactly on time, 7:59:59, and we could see the group massing in the parking lot at Malaga Cove. The downhill from PV North hits about 40 mph, and there wasn’t a single car on the road. We sped through the stop signs as we’ve done a million, make that a billion times before, and saw a cop waiting for us.


PA: “Pull over now!”

Three chunky $350.00 tickets and a long lecture curing which time two more squad cars were called in and a fourth drove by but was waved on. You never know when three skinny underwear-clad bikers, two eligible for AARP and one who weights 120 lbs. might get dangerous on you.

The first cop lit into Wily. “Didn’t I pull you over last week for the same thing and let you off with a warning?”

“Er, uh, duh,” Wily fuddled.

The cop was pissed and the other two stood back, watching this brief entertainment between donuts. Then we received The Lecture. You should know it by heart. I do.

  1. This is for your own good.
  2. Please stop running stop signs.
  3. We are only concerned about safety.
  4. No one here is picking on cyclists.
  5. Have a nice day.

None of us argued. How could we? We’d been caught red-pedaled, and excuses were only going to make matters worse, such as when Wily pretended not to have seen the 12-by-12 stop sign that was so big it blotted out the morning sun.

I certainly wasn’t going to argue, because Cop No. 3 was the same guy who’d ticketed me for blowing four consecutive stop signs a month ago on Via del Monte, and I was praying he didn’t recognize me. “We had to do 60 to catch you!” he’d said as he furiously scribbled the ticket that day.

We finished our ride and went home, sour.

That afternoon my new New Balance sneakers tore the tongue. It’s a long story, but they replaced my $35 Target shoes that had seen three months of hard wear and had biked across Germany. I’d gone to the Village Runner in Redondo Beach because of a little Internet blurb I read about how it’s better to patronize real running stores. The price of local patronage was $160, and thank dog I had cash left over from my trip and that there had been a place to sit down to keep from fainting.

As I pedaled to the shop I was worried because I’d paid in cash, and had tossed the receipt and the box. If I’d bought them at Target that would have been the end of it.

Then it occurred to me that I should change my ways, really, I should. So I stopped at every stop sign and stop light. Mostly.

The clerk, Francisco, immediately recognized me. “How do you like the shoes?”

“I love them, but they don’t love me.” I showed him the problem.

“We’ll replace them. We have another pair at the Manhattan Beach store. We’ll have them here for you tomorrow.”

“I can ride over there now.”

“Do you have the receipt?”


“Don’t worry–it’s all good.”

As I pedaled up the Five Corners intersection in Hermosa, which took me twelve years to reach even though it was five miles away because I stopped at every stop sign and light, I felt a faint glow of good civic-hood. I had finally become a mostly law-abiding cyclist. It was good to feel the approval of happy cagers as I stopped at each sign.

Then, crammed over into the nonexistent gutter to let a revving engine pass, a punk stuck his head out the window. “Get a fucking car or get off the road, asshole!”

I flipped him off and caught him at the stop sign. “What did you say?” I asked rather warmly.

“You want to pull over and find out?” he asked. “I’ll smash your fucking face in.”

“Yes, I’m pulling over now, in fact, to photograph your rustbox and call 911.”

He sped off, then did a u-turn. “Pull over, fuckhead, I’m parking and coming for you!”

I pulled over and dialed 911. He parked and came storming over with his two friends, who all began threatening and berating me as I spoke to the 911 operator. “Call the fucking police you fucking fuck fuck duh! We’ll tell them exactly what you did you asshole dickhead fucking fuck fuck duh!”

Three MB squad cars squealed up, then a fourth. A lady cop jumped out. The punkster began yapping as I stood several yards away. “Sit on the curb and shut up!” The color drained from all their faces and it got very quiet as she read them the riot act.

The fourth cop asked for my side of the story, which I told him, calmly.

“You did the right thing, sir, calling us and not letting it escalate. What would you like us to do?”

“Can you shoot each one of them in the head?”


“Then an apology would be great.” The punk was led over and he faked the words “I’m sorry,” but they choked him so badly he won’t swallow solid food for a week. Then they sent him on his way, not charging him with misdemeanor assault or with violating the 3-foot law, I suppose because I was just a bicyclist and the only thing that had happened was that I had almost died. I wondered what the punk would have been charged with if he’d intentionally tried to kill one of the cops.

When I got to the shoe store, the manager, Jeff, quickly swapped out my shoes, no questions asked. A better shopping experience I’ve never had. I mused that shopping local was expensive, risky, and fraught with tension.

“But it was worth it,” I told myself as I crawled home, stopping at every single stop sign and stop light, all 154 of them.

Stopping mostly, that is.



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§ 41 Responses to Seven cops and a shoe

  • Brian in VA says:

    Well done Wanky! It’s great when the good guys win!

  • Edwin says:

    there’s a reason there are (almost) no stop signs in the Netherlands. But all their right of way rules may be too complex for US drivers – car drivers that is – cyclist are smart enough.

    • fsethd says:

      US cagers are lazy who know little and care less about actual rules of the road.

      • sibex9591 says:

        Nothing says US Cager like the asshole yesterday who was driving in reverse through a parking lot that had tons of unused spaces so that he could park in the closest spot to the ferry. He parked his boat of a car and got out with a giant penis in his mouth. He didn’t give a shit about anyone in that parking lot.

        99% of all stop sign intersections could function as round-about intersections.

  • Tb says:

    Wait until those moving violations show up on your DMV history and then your auto insurance rates double because they count as points against your “driving” record… I fought with my insurance company and they said it’s the law and there’s nothing they can do about it… Those $300 tickets turn into several thousand paying the higher premiums. The hidden costs of riding.

    • leo_d says:

      If the law was truly about safety then a fine based on the weight and speed of offending vehicle should be employed (physics). A 3 (metric) ton PV SUV rolling a stop at 20mph (9 m/sec) has 121,500 J of kinetic energy.
      an 80kg bike and rider has 3240 J. about 1/38th the SUV.

    • fsethd says:

      In the past they have never appeared on my DMV record, but that is just luck. I know many people who have.

    • Worldchamp says:

      If the ticket explicitly says you were on a bike I’ve been told insurance overlooks it.

    • Tamar T. says:

      I am told there is a place to check on the ticket if this was not a moving vehicle. I have not had that pleasure myself, but this should definitely not count as a moving violation.

      • Tamar T. says:

        I should have said MOTOR vehicle. And added, “yet.”

      • fsethd says:

        No such spot, sadly … however, there’s a lot more to the story, but the best part has to remain under wraps for a while. The mill of justice grinds slowly, but it grinds exceedingly slow.

  • Cory says:

    I’m glad you escaped unscathed. Realize that for misdemeanors not committed in the presence of a police officer, the only way to make an arrest (with a few exceptions such as DUI or carrying a loaded gun in certain areas) is with a private person’s arrest. That is only legally permissible if you (the private person) signs an arrest form and demands charges. The officers could then have legally taken the suspects into custody and handled the booking and reports on your behalf. Since you only asked for an apology, the officers would have been violating state law by making an arrest. I agree that bicyclists are all to often viewed as second class citizens when compared to motorists, but please be fair with your criticism of local law enforcement. You received a prompt response and you were asked what you wanted done. They did exactly what you asked, and did not break the law in doing so.

    • fsethd says:

      You’re right. On the other hand, the police didn’t advise that a private arrest was possible or I would have done it. They behaved professionally in every regard and were apologetic. They also made it clear to the offenders that their behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. I felt like the police immediately believed my version and they backed me up. They also neutralized the intimidation factor instantly.

      The other factor is that I wasn’t hit or hurt. I actually even wondered if the whole thing had even been worth it. Despite its handy addition to the daily blog, standing up for myself was really frustrating.

  • Kris says:

    “We had to do 60 to catch you!” – Haha That almost makes it worth it.

    • fsethd says:

      “We had to do 60 on a twisty residential street endangering lives, including our own, to write a ticket for a stop sign on a street with no traffic.”

  • Martin Ward says:

    So tired of being harassed by drivers. Just ridin’ my bike folks! Seems not a ride goes by without an attempted ” Right Hook” or the always hilarious” Watch This” honk. Yes, some bike guy just ran a stop or slowed you down. No, the infraction does not merit the death penalty.
    Cops in OC are generally cool and any effort to be a good citizen goes a long way with them.
    By the way, best 2.99 I spend each month. Heck , I’d pay 3.25 if it came to that 😉

  • LesB says:

    Did you run into anti-cyclist hostility in Germany? I would hazard a guess that this kind of thing is expressly American.

    In Europe cycling is ingrained, like a tradition. Europeans were embracing the bike wholesale at a time in America when the bike was strictly the domain of kids on Schwinns. When I was a kid in the 50’s any adult on a bike seemed really odd, even without riding in lingerie.

    It seems to me that cyclists in the US are the New Kids in Town. As such, we are supposed to proceed with a degree of humility, by proclamation of social contract.

    • fsethd says:

      I did not run into anything that even remotely approached the daily harassment I encounter here. One or two annoyed drivers who swung very wide to pass. THAT’S IT.

  • Brian says:

    Good to know 911 response can be so timely. least in the south bay. Glad you kept your cool that sounds like quite a hair raiser, especially with several cager’s coming at you.

  • dangerstu says:

    Dude, you have, like totally, all the best experiences, almost like you make half of this stuff up for a blog you write, or, something.

    Anyway to get to the point I’m sorry the officers we’re unable to euthanize the upstanding citizens of the greater Los Angeles population for you, better look, I’m sure you will get the Bastards next time.

    P. S. Like your new kicks, awesome you got great customer service, on the bright side with all this knew found ability to stop, at least you can look cool track-standing in your new capri’s

    All the best from the free world…

    • fsethd says:

      The sad thing is that most days I don’t have to engage the fantastbot at all. And the capris are sooooo cute!

  • North Phil says:

    So that’s what calling 911 gets you in a wealthy area. There’s not a snowball’s chance in the Senate that I’d get a response in my town.

    • fsethd says:

      I felt pretty silly. Enough firepower to take down a riot. Squeaky clean squad cars and officers who hadn’t even had time to sweat. All for a snot-nose with a big mouth … dumb.

  • um says:

    I became a (mostly) law abiding cyclist after riding many Wed. rides with Pete Penseyres who requires his group to stop at all stop signs and red lights (even when we’re in the middle of nowhere with no traffic). It was weird at first – and seemed stupid – but he changed my law-breaking ways. And I appreciate it. It does become habit then it gets under your skin when cyclists blow through stop signs behaving like the cager assholes we all know and hate.

    Pete teaches the bike safety course in Oceanside; something I try to get my racing buddies to take, but of course, they are too experienced for that.

    I like the concept of cyclists being ambassadors for cycling. It’s tough; I still mouth off to cagers (so very unwise and I might never learn even to save my life). But I’m getting better and these days I do my best to ride with friends who follow the rules – it is the new cool.

    • fsethd says:

      There’s nothing wrong with following the rules. And if you break them and get caught you should pay the consequences. But the consequences shouldn’t be death/injury, and the same zeal used to ding you for a stop sign should be used to ding cagers for assault/battery/violating the 3-foot rule, and, yes, running stop signs.

      I will do better. A little. Tomorrow.

      • um says:

        Lots of new “no right on red” here in SD county. Fine? $560 plus traffic class. Trust me; I know and I’ve paid.

        I’ve got a long way to go regarding “engaging” with cagers. It’s a real hazard and I was almost shot in the ‘hood when I escaped by jumping on a bus after being deliberately doored, then followed. Darwin award for me except I’m past breeding age so I don’t count.

      • um says:

        Definitely introduce yourself. I’ve forwarded a few of your posts to him.

        The class is pretty basic but I learned invaluable stuff like riding 5 feet from parked cars. Riding with him is what actually made the difference for me. Nothing like having someone you respect tell you blowing through stop signs is not OK. And a guy who’s done RAAM 12-13 times gets lots of my respect.

    • Les.B. says:

      Disagree. Coming to a complete stop at a sign on a road bike is not the safest alternative.
      Wonder what Pete does when the light won’t change for a bike.

  • nealhe says:

    Hello fsethd-san and All,

    Well ……… (as Jack Benny would say) bicycles are different than motor cars and cyclists often try to preserve momentum by ‘yielding’ rather than putting a foot down at stop signs …. especially when travelling slowly .. which makes us scofflaws … and not ‘vehicular cyclists’.

    As Wiki notes: “The Idaho stop is the common name for a law that allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. It first became law in Idaho in 1982, but has not been adopted elsewhere.[1] A limited form of the law called “Stop as Yield”, that deals only with stop signs, has expanded to parts of Colorado and been considered in several other states. Advocates argue that current law criminalizes normal cycling behavior, and that the Idaho stop makes cycling easier and safer and places the focus where it should be: on yielding the right-of-way.[2] Opponents think it is less safe because it violates the principles of vehicular cycling and makes cyclists less predictable.”

    Since many of us do not want to live (or even visit) Idaho we are stuck with the letter of the law here in California until some brave soul tries to get the ‘Idaho Stop’ under Jerry Brown’s pen.

    Paris is getting with the program though:


    “Cyclists in Paris no longer have to stop at every red traffic light – new rules mean that in certain circumstances they can ignore the signals and keep going. The aim is to make the city’s roads much safer.”

    Maybe you can go to Safe Driving School so the ticket does not affect your auto insurance.



    +1 mph Faster

    • fsethd says:

      “many of us do not want to live (or even viist) Idaho”


      (In between criminally mischief stop sign rollage)

  • […] the cops give Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson a $350 ticket for blowing a stop sign at 40 mph, they come to his rescue when he’s harassed and threatened by a car full of […]

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