Cars as Weapons and Worrying About Bike Safety

Maybe it's my age, or maybe it's because I've been getting rear-ended more than I like, but I am increasingly hating driving.

It was only yesterday about say 15 or 16 years ago that I could not wait to get behind the wheel.  Now, it's just draining.

Yesterday, I ran into an old high school classmate in Marina Del Rey who also expressed his hatred for driving LA's freeways.  Though he was wearing a plain LA shirt, he expressed his own desire to move to Colorado or elsewhere.

Traffic can get that bad, and THAT draining.

Yesterday, there were two separate car incidents in two different parts of LA County that strike close to places that I travel through fairly often on bike:  1)  a car crash in Wilmington three blocks from Banning High School on Pacific Coast Highway, and 2) a Suge Knight hit and run in Compton on Central and Rosecrans Avenue at the South LA-ubiquitous burger chain Tam's Burgers.

These incidents underscore a basic fact:  the car can be a very dangerous weapon.  Each of these incidents killed people.

In the first incident, the driver of the car lost control of a car and ended up driving on the wrong side of the road.  They smashed into a rideshare van, which unharmed the van, but instead killed two people driving that car.  According to one of my friends who knew them, that car was souped up and the driver couldn't quite handle it.

In the second 'incident', after arguing on set for the biopic "Straight Outta Compton", Suge Knight followed some guys to the burger joint, ran them over and backed up.  One of the men suffered injuries and the other died.  Suge has been charged with murder.

This is why I'm always looking over my shoulder when I bike --- I just never know when someone is going to lose control of their car, or if someone in their rage is going to use his car to do something harmful.

* * *
Getting Worried about Bike Safety Here

Though Suge Knight's use of the car was probably intentionally directed at pedestrians, I was wondering about bike safety in the neighborhood in general.

Incidentally, I was headed towards Rosecrans and Central on 1/28 and managed to get some video.
I titled the video:  would you let your kids bike this? Or something to that effect.

Why would I title it that?

In less than a month, I'm going to be a dad.  Yep.  Crazy, crazy, crazy ish. 

However, I'm probably not the first ever to come up with an idea or with the sentiment to inspire more bike safety for the sake of their kids.  Apologies to whoever is on the front line and doing the dang deeds.

In the same way that I wondered how I could ensure bicycle safety for my little sister, and my mother, I've been wondering how I'm going to carry the baby while biking.

While Central Avenue in Compton has a bike lane, and I as a lone bicyclist feel somewhat safe, I really wouldn't like the idea of biking with a trailer.

But maybe that's just me being chicken.

* * *

Measuring Bike Safety:  Indicator "Species" Counts

I think part of the reason I would not feel safe is because there's really no protection for my baby and me if something were to happen.  I simply would not want to take any chances.

That in mind, I keep thinking about how our spaces cater to the most vulnerable people.  Most often I don't think they do.  "Vulnerable people" being the elderly, the handicapped, the very young, and women of all ages.

Another confession:  part of my job includes counting pedestrians and bicycles at intersections for engineering companies.  The way we count bikes is pretty basic;  we just count them the way we would count cars with our specific handheld machines. 

While I know that the bike advocacy organizations have been on top of counting every demographic on a bicycle during their own volunteer-run counts, in my field, the work with traffic engineering firms, we often we don't take note of whether they are on the sidewalk, and/or gender.

Why would noting gender be important?

Women simply don't want to be anywhere where they'll be catcalled, harassed, or simply taken advantage of.  It's something as an able-bodied man that I have the privilege of not knowing.

Just as has been posted that the presence of women in a public space indicates a place's safety, I think that line of thinking can be extended to bike infrastructure.  In a closed structure where biking is somewhat more protected, like a bike path, you will see a lot more women.  On any given street, however, if you see anyone, you'll likely see guys.  I think it's important to note just because it can help explain why some use a space, and why some don't.

On occasion, a client will ask us to make a differentiation of pedestrians and bicyclists, and a person counting will note whether they are adults or children, but that's the extent of our classification counts when it comes to bicyclists.

I think some helpful things to start counting:  women on bikes, women pedestrians, bikes with child trailers, bikes on sidewalks vs. bikes on streets, people on wheelchairs (motorized and manual), people on skateboards

In short, I'd hope that engineers in particular start calling for new ways to measure bike safety, and call my company on it so I can keep having a job. 

An Offering for Gangs that Tag - Journalling Compton, Saturday, Jan 24, 2015

I've tried to do this before, last year.

I tried to talk about news in Compton, but I realized that the effort involved in researching news takes away from time spent doing other things.  If there are news stories, I will link them, but only if I hear about them, usually from news consumed from KPCC or local television.

The most I could commit to is to journal about my own experience here.

Every day I'm here Compton. 

West Compton to be exact.

It's home to the point where even after spending whole days in white affluent neighborhoods such as Malibu, Thousand Oaks, or Agoura Hills, it still feels good to see the Food4Less on Rosecrans and Central and being reminded that I'm almost home.

* * *
About gangs.  

I haven't posted a ton about gangs specifically in my posts about Compton, because I'm not "in the know." But the tagging around the area lets us know that they're around.  Otherwise I've been left alone so far --- I don't know how true that would be if I were a middle school kid at one of the schools or a teenager today. 

I think that all across LA County, statistically, gang violence has not been as crazy since the 1990s.

From my readings of the Homicide Report, I think most violence is not "random" unless in the act of robbery.  However, I live with the fear that we could get caught in crossfire.  My saddest thought is that while our families would be in a world of hurt, the outside world that might happen on an obituary would probably dismiss it as another Compton story.


* * *

One Offering for Gangs that Tag

We've been left alone.  I think that's awesome, and pretty much the most I could ask for at the current moment given the chaotic past. 

From what I can see the only thing that doesn't suffer any outward physical neglect are the walls along the street, which are technically not "public space", but public in the sense that they frame the streets on which we walk.

Either the gangs tag them with their symbolic letters and numbers and/or someone whitewashes them.  It's a back-and-forth that doesn't really have any indication of stopping.

On one hand, whenever I see a fresh tag, usually after a rainy day, I really just get tired.  My thoughts are "what the fuck?  And why?"To me it's like shitting where you eat, unless of course you don't live here.  Why would you want to make the place where you live look shitty with your shitty ass tags?

On the other, my more holistic, Anthropological side tries to understand "what the fuck", and "why" --- probably because this activity defines them and establishes their symbolic if not real clout in the neighborhood.  It's something that they've got to keep up, perhaps from tradition --- I don't know I think some traditions need to transform.

I truly wish there was something I could offer these folks that I'd want to actually give away.

That I'm thinking about is basically becoming a Father Greg Boyle, opening up a Homeboy Industries, somewhere here, hooking people up with jobs here and there.  His modus operandi is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job"

If gangsters ever happen on this blog, I don't have jobs or anything to offer at the moment. I just have this.  Please consider:

The Speech:

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost....

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. .....

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!
You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural!
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” - not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite! - The Great Dictator's Speech

Now, Where Can I Get my Cumbia Fix? La Rockola 96.7 FM Is No More!

La Rockola 96.7 has not been for the past 2 months, but I have not noticed, figuring that the Ranchero music that currently dominates the station was just temporary every time I dialed into it.

But no, the Ranchero music is there to stay, for the time being, especially now that it's renamed "La Ranchera 96.7", to my absolute, utter, complete dismay.

 I'm like, really, we need another Ranchero music station?

I wouldn't have noticed this change because: 1) my dial is heavily tilted towards one of the public radio stations (89.3, 89.9, and 90.7) 2) my Spanish language comprehension still sucks 3) I really thought they were just going to play Cumbia eventually.

What the hell was La Rockola 96.7 FM?

La Rockola actually won OC Weekly's Best Radio station in 2012 and was described in the brief bit as "a heady mix of cumbias, salsa, the occasional quebradita and reams of sonidero."

It was a station that I got perfectly as I got on the 105 West and headed towards Santa Ana. Almost every time that I had work in and around Orange County, it would be time to tune into 96.7.

I thought of the station as loaded with Freshness. At least to me. Fresher than what appears to dominate Spanish language radio, which is slow, yawn-inducing male-dominated ballads usually incorporating an accordion.

What did La Rockola play? From what I think I Shazaamed specifically from them (either them or 90.7's lunch time World Music Cafe):


Here's more from their Twitter page and their La Estrella TV Page.

For about 8 years, I have been listening on/off to Spanish language radio in attempt to learn the language. I started off at KLOVE, not really not knowing any better. I even tried listening to Piolin on 101.9 when he was on, but some of my old co-workers, Mexican women, didn't really like him, so I kinda stopped listening to him and just kept with the the KLOVE. I developed a lot more taste and distaste as I've learned more of the language, and eventually moved on to stuff that the younger crowd might listen to like whatever was on what used to be Latino 96.3 and La Estrella 107.1.

I accidentally ran into La Rockola while attempting to find a radio station after 89.3 KPCC cuts after I reach PCH in Santa Monica. Ironically, I discovered that the music from 96.7 FM was not from Malibu, Thousand Oaks or wherever, but was from Orange County --- Santa Ana to be exact.

The discovery of this radio station was not an insignificant discovery as I Shazammed many a lunch hour away whenever I was within range. I never really really liked a lot of Spanish language music (and by "really really liked" I mean would actually seek out the music), till I discovered that station and Canto Tropical Saturdays on 90.7. However, this wasn't the first time I was really disappointed in a Spanish radio station being cut out. I used to listen to 93.9 Exitos after I noticed that one date I went on had put in on there, until it started having (and still appears to be having) its identity issues.

They played lots of pop Spanish, but it kinda beat the KLOVE and La Estrella 107.1 that I had been listening to for my own Spanish immersion.

I really hope that this is temporary and something else comes out. Hasta el proximo episode de Canta Tropical.