Bicyclists showed up at the Palos Verdes Estates City Council meeting expecting a win. After all, we had everything on our side.
We had facts, law, safety, and a scathing traffic engineer’s report that sliced and diced the arguments of the NIMBYs, the Special Snowflakes on the Hilll, and the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch like so much cheese in a Cuisinart.
We had education, civility, numbers, and a dedication to the process that spoke louder than any overweight, couch-dwelling wanker in a cheap suit whose main method of discourse was diarrhea on antisocial media using various anonymous handles, dynamic IP addressses, and hate mail.
What we didn’t have were the only thing that mattered: Votes.
The city council voted, 4-1, not to install the BMUFL signage that was recommended by their own traffic safety committee, their own traffic engineer, and by everyone who had looked at the issue from the vantage points of fact and law rather than hysterical hatred of “outsiders.”
And if we were surprised, we shouldn’t have been. The difference between politicians and leaders is simple–politicians do what they’re told, leaders exercise judgment to do what is best.
That said, the council deserves credit for already showing leadership on the issue before the NIMBYs turned up the hysteria full blast. Cycists had already won two out of three when the council voted to installl 3-Feet-It’s-the-Law signs over fervent couch potato opposition, and when they voted for a traffic safety master plan in the face of Shannon Zaragosa’s rabid opposition to BMUFL signage. If I’d had her blowing snot bubbles in my face, I might have backed down, too.
And of course the city also had to contend with the advocacy of Garrett Unno, the NIMBY of all NIMBYs. He was effective and did a great job of getting out his message: Delay, do nothing now, what about the residents, let’s wait, we need more information, let’s protect our community and hey, stop signs. The saddest part is that Garrett, an Asian dude, was on the same side of the fence as the racist pigs who sent countless hate comments to this blog, making fun of … Asians.
Thank dog for WordPress spam-blocking, which sends hate mail unread into the e-dumpster, and pity Garrett Unno, who is despised for being Asian and reviled behind his back by racists who sleep on the same side of the couch that he does.
In the short term, it would be silly not to acknowledge that we got badly beaten on a crucial issue, and that it wasn’t even close. The NIMBY-Snowfake-LLBOMC-Racist contingent marshaled their forces, screamed a thousand times louder than their actual numbers, and got what they wanted. I’ve been beaten enough times in enough bike races to know when my ass has been handed to me fair and square, and no matter how contemptible the opposition, they deserve respect for using the democratic process to get what they want.
In the long term, they’ve shown their hand, and it’s a weak one that they are going too play hell holding onto. For starters, the council has couched its opposition to BMUFL signage in terms of cyclists running stop signs. This is great, because it is the epitome of a bad argument: We won’t make the roads safe for cyclists until they stop at stop signs. Stop or die. How nice.
Second, Garrett & Co. has laid down with vile racists who hate them almost as much as they hate cyclists. They will find Mom’s couch to be extremely close quarters. Garrett, shoot me an email and I’ll forward you some of the spew that your friends have to say about those of Asian extraction. These are your pals, pal.
Third, the NIMBY Snowflakes got what they wanted only by virtue of a procedural end-run. The council knew that the residents couldn’t muster the numbers or the commitment of the cyclists, so they created a special “workshop” venue to limit public participation to two hours, screen out non-residents by forcing them to make multiple trips at a time of day when most people are either at work or commuting.
The only time that cyclists had gotten a chance to speak in full, it completely wore down the council. The council figured out that the only way it could win was by silencing dissent, which they did. They also took to heart this moral: Don’t challenge endurance athletes to an endurance event.
This sleight-of-democratic-hand meant that the council wouldn’t have to sit through hours of public testimony and could resolve the whole thing in two brief sessions. And it worked … this time.
The down side to caving in to Unno & Co., and Mr.Men’s Wearhouse is that the city council is about to find out what it means to have every city council meeting attended by 50+ cyclists, each of whom submits a speaking card and speaks his/her full 3-minute allotment about the importance of BMUFL signage.
The other down side to caving to the bike haters and taking a stand on the sanctity of stop signs is that the city council has forced the broader cycling community to recognize the challenge at hand: A vocal minority is going to strip us of our legal right to safely use the roads.
This is a down side–for PVE–of massive proportions because if cyclists realize what’s at stake and actually engage in the democratic processs, it will be the city’s worst nightmare. Every council meeting packed with persistent cyclists who will each get their three minutes, and non-stop meet-ups in PVE where large groups of cyclists will ride single file and stop at every stop sign.
The city is about to find out that its work can be snarled just as effectively as its roads by people who do nothing more radical than obey the letter of the law. You really want every cyclist to stop at every stop sign? Okaaay … but we’re going to need lots of practice.
What’s also funny is that as it crumpled to the forces of evil, the counci somehow forgot how this all came to a head. Yes, it was a protest ride that turned traffic into an unmoving knot and backed traffic up all the way to Torrance. Remember that?
Of course, we’re at risk, too, and the risk is that the rank and file rider says “I don’t care, gotta get the KOM.” To date most of the heavy lifting has been done and most of the attacks have been borne by about fifty people. Some of the biggest clubs on the Hill and in the South Bay have been thinly represented at best.
Moreover, PVE is creating a blueprint for every other community that wants to strip cyclists of their right to use the public roads. Too busy to get involved? Well, you might want to think again because once PVE brings down the axe, they will be followed by RPV and Rolling Hills Estates. Oh, and Malibu. Anybody remember Malibu?
Congratulations to council woman Peterson for doing what’s right, and shame on the others for caving in to expediency, hysteria, and racism.
Still, the ball’s in our court and the NIMBYs are gloating. Who wants to play?
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