I don’t believe in hell, but if I did it would look like a city council meeting. Too many of my finite life minutes have been spent watching (usually) well-intentioned officials get pounded into line by ranting, raving, howling-at-the-moon cagers who truly believe that bicycles are the new cancer.
So I glumly noted the mostly empty parking lot on Monday night, when the Rancho Palos Verdes Traffic Safety Committee held its June meeting to consider local cyclists’ requests that some affirmative action be taken to deal with the killings, the maimings, the assaults, the batteries, the recklessness, and the cager rage that are a regular part of biking here on the idyllic PV Peninsula. Empty parking lots are the sign of the Public Meeting Apocalypse, where you beg cyclists to come and show the city that your own life matters and belongs on the agenda, but at crunch time people are, you know, “busy.”
If public meetings are the tenth circle of hell, busy is the eleventh. This is the circle of hell where everyone has a fierce opinion, a violent Facegag tirade, or an opinionated Twitter feed, but they were all too busy on earth to drag themselves away from the day-after TV interviews of the people who won or lost The Game, with “The Game” being whatever crucial, historic, once-in-a-lifetime sporting event the likes of which will never been seen again until next week. And of course the plaintiff’s lawyers who feast on the riches generated by the carnage of injured and killed cyclists were nowhere to be found.
Imagine my shock when I saw that the TSC meeting chairs were half-full, and when, by the time the meeting began, they were full-full. And not just full-full, but full of cyclists, actual pedal pushers. What in the world was going on?
The meeting opened with committee member David Kramer putting on a 15-minute slide show about the legal and behavioral issues that bicyclists face riding on the hill. He concluded with a series of video clips taken from Greg Seyranian’s video camera which documented the rich variety of road rage, inattentiveness, and unconcern for human life that cagers regulary display towards bicycle people.
Following the presentation, numerous bicycle people approached the lectern and spoke. All were articulate, thoughtful, and messengers for the same idea: The City of Rancho Palos Verdes needs to do something about the violence, lawlessness, danger, and rage that runs amok on the hill.
After each speaker exhausted their three-minute allotment, the committee discussed our concerns and then did what no one expected: They voted unanimously to include the development of a bicycle plan into their 2016 plan of work.
The committee wasn’t bothered by our lack of specifics, by our inability to pin down the costs, or even by our lack of anything more concrete than urging the city to hammer out something that will–
- Educate and train law enforcement
- Educate and train cyclists
- Begin enforcing the law
Chairperson Jessica Vlaco had no issues with the validity of our complaints. Although not a bicycle person, she urged the TSC to move ahead with bike safety and begin the first phase of coming up with a plan. Her kindness and empathy were obvious with every word she spoke.
As the other committee members discussed, one remained silent. James Guerin, at the end, weighed in. “Why reinvent the wheel?” he said. “Let’s review the bicycle plans that have been implemented by our neighbors in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, see what we like, then see what we can implement here. Once we’ve got that underway, let’s think about how we can integrate with Palos Verdes Estates, Torrance, San Pedro, and Los Angeles. If we save one life we’ve done our job.”
The cyclists in the audience did everything but gasp, as Kramer moved that staff formulate a plan which would then be brought back to the TSC, then voted on and sent to the city council for review.
Kramer’s motion was unanimously approved, with members Henry Ott and Yi Hwa Kim joining.
A little planning and participation apparently goes a long way. Thanks to all the people who found a way to attend the meeting and who proved that democracy is run by those who bother to show up.
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