Dante’s tenth circle

June 22, 2016 § 35 Comments

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–

  1. Educate and train law enforcement
  2. Educate and train cyclists
  3. 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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§ 35 Responses to Dante’s tenth circle

  • Human life is “The Game”, and apparently it was held last night with a diverse and attentive crowd. Hip, hip, hooray.

  • Brian in VA says:

    Proving, once again, that 90% of being successful in anything is just showing up!

    Well done! Gives me hope we can accomplish something like this in RVA.

  • ErikR says:

    Whew! I pit in my stomach started forming as I read this, because I thought at the end you were going to say, “PSHYCH, that’s not what happened at all!” Glad it worked out so well.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    “Get a lobby” works in theaters large and small.
    When motorcyclists in Texas (Texas) can go to the lege– with a lobby!– and get their MHL repealed (and they did)… get a lobby!

    When was that next meeting scheduled?

  • dangerstu says:

    Nice work Seth! And congrats to everyone who showed up.

  • Paul Sotherland says:

    Well done, Seth & Co. Similar progress is being made here in K’zoo.

  • 1. There’s and old dude named Bernie saying (at the tail-end of a valiant effort) change starts at the grass roots level. Get involved in local politics and keep hammering away.

    2. (disclaimer: I don’t actually know if he said that or not. I just heard something on NPR to that effect and really, why not? If showing up at city council meetings fixes your own neighborhood, that’s pretty good, wouldn’t you say?)

    3. (note: in the interest of full disclosure I should mention here that my own involvement in local politics has been limited to being a paid boo-er at council meetings. Usually paid with beer, some of which payment was advanced prior to the meeting to maybe enhance the boo-ing.)

    4. OK. Glad we got that cleared up. Also glad the story didn’t end with a drunk city council member running over a drunk cycling advocate in the City Hall parking lot. That would have muddied the waters, to say the least.

    Addendum to 4. (point of consideration: is “muddied the waters” an apt metaphor in a cycling blog comment? Perhaps it smacks to much of kayaks or blues music…hmmm…I was going to say “tainted the outcome” but painful experience has taught that one can never use any form of “taint” in a cycling blog comment (or forum) without risking yet further digression and desultory comments from the audience.)

    So anyway, congratulations. I hope this helps.

  • Michelle Landes says:

    Wish I could quote your beautiful words on how the city of PV is a better place with us riding in it ! We bring no trash, we make less cars on the road , and we get in do our ride and leave! Learned a lot !!

  • PeteR says:

    Because I did not read the meeting notice properly, at 7 pm I arrived at Palos Verdes Estates instead of Rancho Palos Verdes city hall. I was surprised to find the parking lot and surrounding streets full of parked cars. Wow, I thought this will be an interesting meeting. A Planning Committee meeting was in progress, the room filled to capacity, impassioned pleas were being made to protest the size of a proposed mansion that would block neighbor’s views. I quickly realized my mistake and took off for Rancho Palos Verdes city hall and was left to wonder how much safer for cyclists PVE would be if the residents cared about others as much as they care about themselves. The meeting at RPV was refreshing, kudos to those who did the hard work.

    • fsethd says:

      Thank you for showing up. Yes, block a view and invite the Wrath of Wealth. Kill a few bicycle people, meh.

    • Mark H says:

      Is the lesson here that you should make sure the meeting is scheduled at the same time as an opponent’s higher priority?

      That city council is shrewd, making sure the aggravating people are at a different meeting.

  • LesB says:

    Would have been there but I missed the notice. Judging by the cyclists who spoke last month at the PVE TSC, there are some convincing speakers in our midst.

  • Ray Wright says:

    Thanks, I needed to smile today.. Great work

  • Allan says:

    I’m sure you aren’t taking a hyperbolic tone for effect, but reading some of your recent entries makes me think you ride with some of the worst drivers, and malicious people on the planet. I live and ride mostly in the SF Bay Area, and though we have our share of dbags behind the wheel, I don’t get nearly the same impression of the drivers up here. Sure, we have our own share of idiots, but it just seems like down where you are, it’s every other driver who is licking his chops at the opportunity to murder a cyclist.

    Is it really that bad?

    • fsethd says:

      That depends on how many ADW’s it takes for you to consider it “bad.” Some would say that a single ADW per week is bad; if it were ADW + firearm the community would be up in arms with only two or three a year. I’ve never ridden much in your area so I can’t really compare. The good thing about having riders file crime reports is that this time next year we will absolutely have a comparison.

  • Thanks for writing this. Very inspiring! I’m working in San Francisco during the week so appreciate the update!

    Sent from my iPhone


  • […] in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson says city council committee meetings are Dante’s tenth circle of hell; but in this case, a successful one, as the Rancho Palos Verdes Traffic Safety Committee votes to […]

  • […] my guard down and think positive thoughts. Recently, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes committed to developing a bike master plan through its traffic safety committee. I was at the meeting where that decision was made and it was […]

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