politics


Four years separating similar results. The colors of the flag I proudly fly have faded. As is the hope that buoyed me back in 2008. But the sense after yesterday’s election I get is that there’s a fresh determination to put politics aside and work together going forward. Operative word: forward. Let’s hope.

On July 14, in response to a post on BikinginLA to contact the Auto Club about its opposition to Senate Bill 910, (which would make it law for motorists to allow at least three feet when passing bicyclists), I wrote to the heads of the Northern and Southern California chapters, the letters of which you can read here.

In the mail yesterday came the following two-page reply from Stephen Finnegan, AAA’s manager of Governement Affairs and Public Policy (both images can be enlarged to readability if clicked):

In a nutshell it’s a restatement of what I knew already to be AAA’s position, with some insight offered into the organization’s initial interest in getting “clarifying amendments” added to the original bill. When those amendments were not included an “oppose unless amended” was the stance taken.

Finnegan also included some companion materials to reinforce a point he made about the Auto Club’s commitment to multi-modality. Unbeknownst to him those pieces did more damage than endearment as they were a slanted feature in Westways magazine that I took letter-writing issue with after reading it last year, and a booklet AAA published, whose first words disagreeably read by this previous 30-mile roundtrip bike commuter are “Bicycling is a great option for shorter trips…” and whose last page features the following image of a road sign showing an aggressive sportscar “sharing” the road by passing the cyclist with decidedly less than three feet between them:

Just as Finnegan wrote that AAA supports the intent of SB 910 but doesn’t think it will be effective in achieving this objective, so do I support the intent of his cordial and informative and timely response, which was ultimately as ineffective.

From the indispensable BikinginLA blog comes a call to point an angry finger at the leadership of the Northern and Southern California-based AAAs because of their insistence that Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in the state to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind, is a bad idea.

Look, I understand that an organization has to operate in what it perceives to be the best interests of its membership, but the problem here is that the Automobile Club of Southern California and the California State Automobile Association are lobbying hard about the “detriments” of the potential law without any facts to support their claim.

They insist that SB 910’s three-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers, which could ultimately cause vehicular collisions and result in millions of revenue dollars cumulatively being lost. Yet such a conclusion was submitted basically as a stand-alone statement, with no corroborating evidence. Given that 19 other states have enacted three-foot passing laws, the oldest one on the books being enacted in Wisconsin 38 years ago, you’d think that evidence of extensive confusion and fender benders and untold amounts of money lost would be there… unless it isn’t.

So instead like a schoolyard bully the AAA is standing before our state’s senators and assemblymembers and demand they kill this bill… just because!

So I wrote to CEO Thomas McKernanan of the SoCal AAA (below) and sent the same thing to Paula Downey of the NorCal AAA and I told them how reprehensible and irresponsible they are being and that as a long-time member of their group this is just not the kind of battle that I want my dues financing. And I copied my state assemblyman and senator:

Thomas V. McKernan
Chief Executive Officer
Automobile Club of Southern California
2601 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-3254

Dear Thomas McKernan,

As an otherwise proud and faithful 28-year member of AAA I’m writing to express my concern and disappointment with its opposition to Senate Bill 910, which would require drivers in California to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing from behind.

With 40% of adult bicyclists who die in collisions with vehicles being killed by drivers passing them from behind, this is the single largest cause of such deaths. Existing law contributes to this problem by failing to specify how much clearance drivers should give bicyclists. SB 910 provides that specification.

I read that at recent legislative hearings in Sacramento your lobbyists argued SB 910’s 3-foot passing provision might confuse and inconvenience drivers and cause traffic delays. Yet such a conclusion was submitted without proof. They could not provide any evidence of these consequences in the 19 other states that have enacted three-foot passing laws, including Wisconsin, which enacted its three-foot passing law 38 years ago.

I wouldn’t be surprised if AAA lobbyists were in Madison back then arguing with the same unsubstantiated claims against such a proposal. But it’s a different world now, and for AAA to be willing to sacrifice lives today instead of supporting guidance that will save lives is reprehensible.

As a driver, I take seriously my responsibility to share the road safely with bicyclists and other road users who are particularly vulnerable to vehicle collisions — and I see all too often drivers who don’t. That’s why I support the easy-to-understand direction for drivers provided in SB 910 and why I find AAA’s opposition to SB 910 dangerously irresponsible.

And so I strongly urge you and your organization to reconsider such a narrow-minded position. I assure you, since this is how AAA is opting to spend my dues, I’m strongly reconsidering whether or not to continue as a member, one now substantially less proud and faithful.

Sincerely,
William Campbell

cc: California State Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo; State Senator Curren Price

 

Whether you ride every chance you get, haven’t in years, or are somewhere in between, we are all bicyclists. As such, please consider answering the California Bicycle Coalition’s call to submit your support for Senate Bill 910 — the 3-Foot Safe Passing Distance Bill — to the following elected representatives in the State Assembly and Senate:

Here’s the email I sent in hopes of reducing harrowing incidents such as the following (I encountered in San Diego) from happening — and thus reducing the leading cause of cycling fatalities:

Hon. Bonnie Lowenthal
Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
State Capitol, Room 3152
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblymember Lowenthal,

As a dedicated bicyclist in Los Angeles I’m writing to express my support for Senate Bill 910, and to urge yours.

Having pedaled thousands of miles over the years all over our state, I’m only all too aware of the dangerous condition existing on California’s streets and roads due to motorists passing me too closely. From trucks crawling by me slowly with less than two feet of space between us to SUVs speeding past with only inches separating me from becoming another statistic, I’ve experienced every variation of this potentially deadly situation.

But regardless of the type of vehicle and how close they are to me, when such an unsafe encroachment occurs, even the slightest change in trajectory by either the motorist or myself could result in the type of collision that is the leading cause of adult bicyclist fatalities in California and the United States.

As I understand it, SB910 modifies existing state law requiring a motorist to maintain an unspecified “safe distance” when passing a bicyclist. The California Driver’s Handbook already recommends three feet of clearance when motorists pass bicyclists. Eighteen other states have enacted similar laws, and by joining them and mandating motorists provide bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing, SB 910 will not only help reduce the number of such deadly collisions, but will help increase the number of cyclists who choose to ride their bikes — whether it’s to work or for recreation.

A specified passing distance provides a more objective and easily understood definition for “safe passing” and gives law enforcement and the courts a more objective basis for enforcing California’s safe passing requirement. Most importantly, it enforces the special responsibility motorists have to share the road safely with more vulnerable road users like bicyclists.

I hope I can count on your support for SB 910.

Sincerely,

William Campbell

CC: Sen. Alan Lowenthal

There is so much post-election noise being generated. Rightfully and at times vibrantly so, but it can be disheartening because while the democrats nurse their wounds and talk about “listening” to the voters and the republicans trumpet their collective victory as a mandate for change, it’s just sounds like so much hooey.

It’s hard to envision any change, at least not the kind that’s constructive and bipartisan. The next two years look like they’re going to devolve into both parties combating each other and pointing at the other side as the “party of no.”

Which leaves me feeling pretty glum and exhausted by and about it all.  And on this the day after I got on a plane and flew to San Antonio for a business trip. Around the corner from my hotel is a little place called The Alamo — a literal shrine to heroes and to liberty. And on that hallowed ground is a plaque featuring a letter from the post’s commander William B Travis. It was a call to arms and a plea for support and assistance, and a defiant refusal to surrender.

Across 175 years, standing before the chapel within which the last defenders were killed by General Santa Anna’s troops, Travis’ powerful words spoke to me directly, moved me deeply and helped dial down the volume of all the post-election hooey by reminding me that despite our political differences, first and foremost we are Americans:

Commandancy of the Alamo

Bejar Fby. 24th 1836

To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world

Fellow citizens & compatriots I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a Surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the wall. I shall never Surrender or retreat.

Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is  receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his
country. Victory or Death

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt

You’ve heard of lines that reach around blocks? Biking past the queue yesterday afternoon on my way home from the office, the line of spectators for yesterday’s Obama visit to USC reached around the entire university. Here’s the section of it I video’d along Jefferson just east of Vermont:

My favorite person out of all of ‘em I passed? This jackass:

Who of course had to be on a bike stoking my belief that USC stands for University of Stoopid Cyclists by deciding it appropriate to simultaneously represent both his age and IQ as I zipped by.

Fun with captions:

ego

In the above image by AP Photographer Richard Vogel of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discussing the city’s new $7-billion budget while backed-up by a squad of Los Angeles City Firefighters now forced by department cuts to do double duty as unpaid bodyguards, Villaraigosa is shown:

  1. Demonstrating how big his ego used to be?
  2. In mid-applause after introducing his new former Miss-USA girlfriend who just happens to be another telejourno like the last one?
  3. Approximating the width of a Class II bike lane while admitting he doesn’t know much about them?
  4. Launching into a rousing rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
  5. Asking for a hug?
  6. Telling an unidentified member of the press “”Now go get yer fuckin’ shinebox!”

Provide answers and other captions in the comments.

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