Carmaggeddon Day #151: What are you doing here?

On Friday I had to go to Santa Ana for a mediation. If you are unfamiliar with the mediation business, it’s yet another brick in the wall that fences off the courts to ordinary people.

Time was, you had a problem, you couldn’t work it out, you sued, you went to court, a jury heard your problem, rendered a verdict, and everyone went home to groan or gloat. Nowadays going to court has for the most part priced out all but the very richest corporations with the very biggest disputes. Doubt me? Go to a federal courthouse any day and you will enjoy silence and emptiness that is generally only found in deep space.

The not-yet-rich people, because they can’t afford to go to trial and lose, wind up in mediation. Mediation is a private affair. It’s non-binding and if the parties can’t agree at mediation the case lumbers along towards trial.

One of the biggest mediation outfits is Judicate West. They charge several thousand dollars for a couple hours of a mediator shuttling back and forth trying to raise the defendant’s offer and trying to lower the plaintiff’s demand. If you’re okay with a fully private court system that is crazily expensive and further reduces access to the public justice system, Judicate West works just fine.

But what I really can’t stand about them is their bike parking.

On Friday, Day #151 of my carmaggeddon, I had to ride from PV to Santa Ana. It’s not long, only 2.5 hours, but it’s plenty long in the sense that by the time you get there, you’re glad you’re there. Leaving home at 6:05 was very peaceful. The streets were quiet and the air was cool.

Rolling through the middle of Long Beach about an hour later was also pretty nice. Traffic had picked up but when you are bike commuting it’s merely a fact of the road rather than something that impacts you directly. On the bike you still roll to the front of the line no matter how many cars there are. Big parts of PCH in Long Beach have a bike lane stripe, and from 2nd Street, which turns into Westminster–a straight shot all the way to Santa Ana–there is even a fake bike lane that goes along for a couple of miles before it dumps you out, helpless and unprotected and with virtually no warning, into the traffic lane. Great job, bike safety infrastructure advocates!!!

Which I don’t mind because, vehicular cyclist.

I had one car the entire morning beep at me, a tuned Civic. Otherwise, the No. 1 lane on Westminster is wide enough that, when your bike is properly lit, you can troll along with zero problems.

Until, of course, I got to Judicate West, where lawyers pay thousands of dollars to drive up in their Teslas and bargain for their 40% cut of the client’s settlement fee. I rolled up into the little plaza, lights blazing, looking for the bike parking.

An obese and nasty security guard ran out. It’s rare that people run nowadays. They’re generally not fit enough and there’s generally nothing important enough to run for, but a cyclist in the plaza, man, that’s enough to get even the most corpulent and sedentary among us up to a full gallop.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Hey! You! Do you have business here?”

I was wearing a backpack, a white dress shirt, khaki slacks, black shoes, and suspenders. My bike was all sparkly and orange. I’d shaved and had even gotten a haircut in the last couple of months. Did I look that suspicious?

ANSWER: YES. YOU’RE ON A BICYCLE.

“I do have business here, unfortunately,” I said.

He eyed me for a second, sizing up me and my story. “With who?”

“With whom? Judicate West. I’m looking for the bike parking.”

He deflated for a second. It had looked like he’d get to start his day by running off a homeless bike person. “It’s over there,” he waved his hand towards the parking garage.

“Just ‘there’?”

“In the back. Next to the green cage.”

I turned around.

“Hey!” he shouted again. “Get off your bike and walk!”

Because there was no one in the plaza and I might … what? Run into the tree?

I dismounted and entered the garage. At the back was a big fenced in area covered with green netting. Next to it were those horrible front-wheel bike racks, where you can lock your wheel but nothing else so that anyone who knows how to use a quick release can walk off with the rest of the frame and the rear wheel.

Of course since it was Judicate West and no one had ever ridden a bike there before, I was able to lean my bike sideways against the entire rack and loop my cable through wheels and frame. Even this third-class citizenship was pretty good, though, because it was closer to the exit than all but the the reserved “executive” parking spaces.

At the counter on the 16th Floor I had my second best human interaction of the day, the one I love best. The receptionist said, “If you give me your parking ticket I can validate it for you.”

I smiled broadly, right pant leg still rolled up. “No thanks,” I said to the rather full lobby. “I came by bike.”

END


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