Getting Scared of Biking in Long Beach Now

I have not been biking much these days;  I do it when I can.  Back when I began blogging on this here platform, I was on the bike and Metro almost everyday from the Valley to Long Beach.

I live in Compton now, and my biking range goes all the way to downtown LA, though it's been a while since I've done a ride.  I do not bike as much in Long Beach.

The days of biking are gone for the time being, mostly because of a job.

But even when I get on a bike, I'm not as freewheeling as I used to be.

Maybe I'm getting socialized into fear. 

Maybe I'm getting older.

Maybe I've gotten too sensitive to the stories I occasionally read on BikinginLA.  Stories of
fallen bicyclists and pedestrians, whose names occasionally whir in and out of local news with little fanfare or visible outrage.

Maybe I've lost too much trust in drivers and the social fabrics.   I've read too many stories about bikers in LA on sites like LA Weekly and KPCC, and people not on bikes largely remain brazen and entitled to their cars and retain a largely accusatory attitude towards bicyclists as if there are no bicyclists who drive.

Maybe I've gotten too sensitive to the numbers.  Recently, the Governors Highway Association found that California leads the nation in bicycle deaths.

I know that there is a small chance, a 1 in 4919 chance of getting hit and being killed on a bicycle, which is actually a much smaller chance than dying from a motor vehicle accident.  Death on a bicycle is the 17th most common way to die according to Medline.  Motor vehicle accidents are 8th.  Not that I would rather die by car in car, but at least there are some safety features that might be able to protect me, whereas if I am hit by a car, it's my body exposed and hopefully the damage is minimal.

All this worrying has gotten to me.

I'm ALWAYS looking over my shoulder nowadays, sometimes even when there is a bike lane.

For the first time in my adult biking career last week, I biked a route more on the sidewalk than on the actual street.  Even in the vaunted "most bike-friendly city" in the nation.

The streets that got me shook?  A couple east-west streets.  It would be no big deal for most veteran bicyclists, but if I'm riding it, there are probably lots of people who are also not, and are probably sidewalking it.
  • 7th Street on the way to CSULB, which is bad as a morphs into a 3-lane speedway on the way to the 22 East freeway.
  •  Willow on Signal Hill, which has 3 lanes, an uphill, and a 40 MPH speed limit

How News Media Fosters De-Humanization: A Case Study

First, I genuinely wish the families of Lexi and Lexandra Perez and Andrea Gonzalez prayers, good vibes, and karmic good.  

Rest in peace Lexi, Lexandra, and Andrea. 

I also wish for the same for the man who ran them over and his family.  Most would be understandably mad at him not only for killing, but for also fleeing. 

When these things happen, everyone loses.

Here's to hoping for an evolution into safer streets for everyone.

* * *
It was only a matter of time before they located a driver suspected of killed these three trick-or-treating teenagers in Santa Ana.

While it's good news, I was pretty irked by OC Weekly's coverage of this finding.

I wouldn't doubt any of the claims that OC Weekly is making, but it's their emphases that bother me.  Which emphases?  The ones that do more than identify but also further brand this individual as nothing more than guilty criminal before any investigation or trial has been set. 

As someone interested in Linguistic Anthropology, I always wonder how reporters use words to describe their understanding of a situation.  I definitely believe that their own background influences how they see and ultimately represent the background of a victim or an accused criminal.

I tend to think that media, most of whom are white, would be quicker to label a lower-class black guy with a more crystallized "criminal" branding than they are a lower-class white guy.  Possibly out of intent, more likely out of habit.

The basis of the article is the accused and his "long rap sheet." I must admit that I was a little curious as to who he was.  The OC Weekly dug that up, but they only trotted out his criminal record;  who really was he outside of this criminal record?  We don't know anything about his mom, or the two people he was with.  Why would they let him drive?  We don't get that idea whatsoever, and are not really exposed to any other complexity of his life other than the part of his history that notes his criminality.  

The OC Weekly's emphasis on his "rap sheet" only serves to crystallize and make it seem like what he did was ultimately of a permanent, intentional mindset.  I'm not sure why they decided to make his criminal record a "thing of interest," and focus of an article, rather than as simple background and part of a tragic story.  Though I am referencing a different article in a different city with a different writer, when Nathan Louis Campbell apparently rampaged and ran over those pedestrians with his Dodge Avenger at the Venice boardwalk last August and killed the honeymooning Alice Gruppioni from Italy, even he was not saddled with the broad brush of a menacing "rap sheet", he was simply "once locked up for shoplifting" though the article makes mention of another incident.

I am also bothered by OC Weekly's use of the word "homicide" as one of the labels/tags for this story. It's an accident, a distinction that would be of no consolation to anyone, but quite different than "homicide", which is worth noting for a news source purporting to be objective.  He is being charged for manslaughter and fleeing the scene, not homicide or murder.

OC Weekly's emphasis on the rap sheet, combined with this mug shot of yet another black guy in our faces, and the lack of focus on the victims has definitely stirred reaction.  As of this writing, the OC Weekly has reaped the benefits of this reporting with over 144 comments.

OC Weekly's coverage of this case is what I consider the low, dim end of the spectrum.

In my anecdotal scan of the coverage of other vehicular manslaughters in LA and OC, no one has really cared to splay an accused driver's criminal history or "rap sheet."  It didn't come up for Vanessa Yanez, nor for Gary S. Hunt.

Incidentally, while the OC Weekly has drummed up much comments about Jaquinne Bell, they are also silent about Gary Hunt, a man recently charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving his pick-up truck under the influence on October 21st, rear-ending a car at a stoplight, killing a 10-year old boy named Rafael Israel Ramirez, and injuring three others.  I can't find anything about Mr. Hunt.

OC Weekly is the low, dim contrast to KPCC's coverage, which is also tied into such stories such as how unsafe Santa Ana's streets are in general.

One of KPCC's stories also features a picture of the accused, but it's the second picture after 2 of the 3 girls.

In the story in which they break the news of the accused capture, it's merely a report with only a sentence about prior convictions.  Their initial story got 2 comments.  The latest report has 4, which includes an insightful comment from a veteran LA urban planning commenter about the man's punishment:  taking public transit and biking for the rest of his life.

Live-Tweeting Halloween from West Compton, 2014

Last year, I wrote a little blurb about Halloween in Compton. I saw one comment trolling Compton on the KPCC Facebook page about neighborhoods (here is the article, not the Facebook page though); I decided that I wanted to live-tweet the actual experience of being here in Compton during Halloween. There are a few houses here and there around the Larger Compton area that decked themselves out, but it's definitely not everyone, and was pretty absent. We ourselves didn't look very festive other than a Jack-O-Lantern in front of our house. When it was all said and done by about 9:00 PM, I was able to almost-empty out one Target brand box of 60 fruit snacks that we'd bought from Target. We would give out not one, but two pouches of snacks. We have one full box of Target brand fruit snacks remaining, which we kind of anticipated. That said, here is Halloween in Compton, 2014.
Our first trick-or-treaters were kind of from Compton, though they were picked up and driven in by one of my wife's long-time friends from Wilmington.
There was a lot of down time. I carved a simple jack-o-lantern to signal that yes, indeed, come on in kids, take our candy!

At one point in the night, we heard a bunch of kids, and my wife got mad that I didn't step outside of the house to welcome them in (and ratch up our trick-or-treat totals.) I told her something to the effect of "they'll come if they want to", which caused a micro-argument to ensue
A few weeks prior to Halloween, a couple of contractors installed new city lights on our block. Stories from neighbors said that gangsta kids used to shoot out these lights; as it is we still lack a proper street sign on the street facing Central Avenue.

We got one batch of trick-or-treaters, I suspect that they were the same kids from last year. I wouldn't have known if they were our neighbors. In the back of my I head I was still thinking about KPCC's article and my conversations with teachers about how trick-or-treating was a chance to get to know your neighbors. I blew it. I was more embarrassed at the thought of deploying my deplorable Spanish skills. Within 1 minute or 2, they were gone and I was eavesdropping on their other interactions. They didn't seem to have many after us.
I was tweeting from my phone; I was trying to say that I was disappointed "that I couldn't *say more* than the cliche..." Autocorrect *sigh*

The drought kinda ended, but it was really just ushering in the cold.

Finished the night at around 8:45 AM as I was falling in and out of sleep.
Throughout the night, I kept wondering what would happen if we made Compton an actual destination, and not just a place for people to pass through. What if we had a couple houses devoted to being really scary (and not you're going to be killed scary, but safe-fun scary)? What if we built the stuff that people wanted to see? What if.