Officer Discretion

So on my morning bike commute March 10, 2022, I was rolling west on 11th Street approaching Normandie, when I saw in my rear mirror an LAPD patrol car about a half-block behind me. At Mariposa Street, the next intersection, I slowed, cleared it of cross traffic and kept going, after which the officer driving also rolls the intersection,

For the record, this is how I ride, whether or not a police officer is present: Upon approaching an intersection be it a four-way stop or two-way, I slow, clear it from both directions, and if safe keep going. If there are any vehicles either approaching or stopped at the intersection, I will yield the right of way to them. Is it a violation? Yep. The law is clear in that just like any multi-ton motor vehicle I am obligated to come to a full and complete stop at every stop sign before proceeding. Have I been cited for it before? Yep. Is there a chance I’ll be cited for it in the future? Sure. In fact, I was expecting to get cited for it this morning — or at least pulled over and chastised.

Because as you’ll see in the above video from my rear-facing helmet cam, after the aforementioned LAPD cruiser executed the same violation I had done, the officer appears to speed up. Perhaps it was in an attempt to pull along side me and just warn me what a bad bicyclist I was. But stopped vehicles lined up from the red light ahead at Normandie prevented him from coming up next to me as I continued to the limit line, so instead he pulled in directly to a stop behind me while we waited and waited for the green light.

Badge Of Honor

I was quite surprised he didn’t light me up. Maybe it was the cameras on my helmet. Maybe it was the old “Los Angeles Bike Battalion” badge I have pinned to my backpack replete with a black band representing all those cyclists who’ve lost their lives on these streets. Maybe the officer had better things to do than detain and write up some old guy on a bike for executing a completely safe slow-roll through a residential area stop sign. I don’t know why, but he exercised his discretion — as he should have. The light turned green, I continued west on 11th. He turned right on Normandie.

The Irony

For the last month or so I’ve adopted a new bike commute route to/from work that includes a short stretch of Adams Boulevard whose lane configuration between Crenshaw and Fairfax was recently and drastically changed from a four-lane roadway to two, with large and buffered bike lanes added.

This was done as part of the city’s Vision Zero Initiative, with a primary reason being that Adams Boulevard had become one of the most dangerous and deadliest roads in Los Angeles. According to LADOT, Adams saw 59 severe and fatal collisions between 2009 and 2019. From 2012 through 2019, nine people were killed in car crashes there: six pedestrians, a cyclist, and two people in cars.

The new bike lanes are glorious. Super-wide in both directions with additional buffer zones between them and the vehicular lanes, I greeted them with awe, which was quickly tempered by the reality of impatient motorists, now forced to stack up in the oft-backed-up single vehicular lane, who will regularly and fragrantly poach the bike lane to cut past the stack. I know this because it is the rare morning or evening commute when I’m on Adams Boulevard when I don’t witness such violations happening.

Case in point, one of the most egregious, which I encountered on my morning commute of March 2, 2022, at approximately 0735 hours involving the driver of a white Ford F150 truck, California license plate 20234B1, which you can watch in the video footage captured first from my rear-facing camera and next my front-facing helmet camera. In the first video the truck is in the distance behind me in the bike lane but eventually catches up to my position until it’s approximately one car-length behind me. The driver then signals right and merges back into the vehicle lane. The second video shows the driver passing me only to merge closely in front of me back into the bike lane where he continues forward for several more blocks until he’s out of sight.

This is an aggravated violation of California Vehicle Code Section 21209, which states: “Motorists can only drive on a bike lane to: (1) park; (2) enter or leave a roadway; or, (3) prepare for a turn from an intersection. A motorist that unlawfully drives on a bike lane must pay a fine of $238. Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21209 VC will also receive one point on his DMV driving record.”

Still from rear camera video showing California License 20234B1
Still fron helmet cam video showing F150 badge indicating the model of truck.

There’s a bunch of irony in this half-baked implementation of the Vision Zero Initiative. In making this modification of Adams Boulevard theoretically safer, they’ve actually compromised it for pedestrians and cyclists by leaving the bike lane buffered instead of protected. What’s the difference? “Buffered” is just space, usually delineated by paint on the asphalt. “Protected” involves some structure — at the minimum fixed bollards or pylons, at the maximum raised concrete islands — that provides an actual barrier between vehiclular traffic from bike traffic. Obviously with buffered lanes the opportunities for scofflaw motorists — like this one I met this morning, and those I will undoubtedly continue to meet going forward — to poach the bike lane and put others at risk

Which leaves me wondering the city’s thought process. Was raising the lanes to protected status a cost issue? Did they figure that after a couple cyclists or peds get mowed down by violators then they can always come back and upgrade it to a protected form. If so, how very un-Vision Zero of them. In the meantime, I’m not sure what the city expected. It takes away a full lane and expects the motorists who’ve long used that street and now impatiently stuck in all that additional traffic to behave and accept the delay? To NOT get angry and frustrated and make wrong decisions? I’m not excusing these actions, I’m just saying officials’ inaction comes off as either naive or abdicative by those who signed off on the final project.

And speaking of inaction, Lastly, in the interim it would productive if LADOT and LAPD law would organize and coordinate a plan to increase awareness and to attack violators. Increase signage as a preventative meaure a la those found in high-occupancy lanes on freeways And don’t just put a single patrol out there on a random basis issuing tickets for a couple hours, but conduct an actual long-term operation dedicated to making it clear that violators will not be tolerated.

But for right now, they are.

Now Just You Weight A Minute

So after years of not really trying to lose weight — and as a result gaining weight — I’ve turned things around. Slowly.

But first, a brief weight timeline, from the time of my July 2013 graduation from Rio Hondo College Police Academy — coinciding with the lowest I’ve weighed in my adult life: 198 pounds. Of course the climb up from that began almost immediately. Funny how fast you rebound when you completely suddenly top a rigorous physical training schedule, coupled with a complete removal of aaaaall the stressors involved in academy training. Within a couple months I was above 210. Factor in the new stress at that time of a prolonged period of unknown as to whether all that hard work was going to pay off in me getting hired as a humane law enforcement officer for spcaLA, and there was an increased amount of comfort eating going on, to the point when I completed the physical exam as the last hiring hurdle I was at 227.

And all the while rationalizing it because even though it was a gain of roughly 30 pounds in the span of five months, me anywhere below 230 is still nothing to be too upset about.

Trouble is it didn’t stop after the elation of getting the job. Instead, over the ensuing seven years, I just kept going up to the point where in June of 2019 at my next physical, I tipped the scale at 252. Certainly I didn’t take that lying down. A few months earlier I’d purchased an ebike and had recommenced bike commuting to the tune of logging more than 2,600 bike miles in the ensuing 11 months, but ebikes being ebikes all relying on the motor to do most of the work did was keep me at or around that weight, which was frustrating and defeating in its own right.

Then came March 2020 when the pandemic halted everything. Not only was I suddenly not riding at all, but even once the lockdown ended by choice given the levels of infection as well as the overcrowded hospitals I elected not to ride for the next 16 months as an overabundance of caution against taking a spill on my bike or getting hit by a car either of which might leave me laid up in some overloaded ER’s hallway.

Which brings us to my most recent physical in June 2021, where the scale told me my almost entirely sedentary self was now near the heaviest I’d been in my adult life; 262 pounds. My doctor was all WTF. No moreso than me, especially when considering that over the years on that climb up to such a disappointing plateau, I’d made smart, conscientious choices about what I put in my body: I practically eliminated diet soft drinks so prevalent througout my entire life (seriously, I’d consume upwards of four cans of Coke Zero a day), and I followed my wife (though not quite as strictly) as she chose to journey on a path without meat and dairy.

But those healthier diet choices did not automagically translate to a slimmer waistline.

As coincidence would have it, a few days after my physical I got a deeply discounted offer to try Noom, and signed up. For the first several weeks I dove in and was dedicated to reading the daily articles and got a good sense of its philosophy — even moreso I was strict in logging my meals. Eventually I quit the reading, but not the logging, and it’s proven to be the deciding factor in my slow, steady progress downward. There’s just something in the daily tallying of calories that helps me succeed — even though I almost exclusively exceed my calorie allocation by a few hundred every day.

The weight loss has been glacial . My first step on a scale on June 12, 2021, read 258.1, but three days after that I was at 260.8. From there though cumulatively it’s been super slow and steady in the right direction, aided at the beginning of November 2021 by me finally ending the bike ban and getting back into my commuting groove.

A side benefit of adding that physical activity is that I’ve been making a concerted effort to ride powered more by me and less by the bike’s motor. And it’s paid off. I did a 22-mile recreational ride over the weekend, and spent a fair number of miles at the lower pedal-assist levels of 1 and 2, never going above 3. In the past, I would live at level 3 and wouldn’t hesitate to put it on 4 or 5 to flatten out hills,. Now I’m excited and pleased when I don’t.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, it read 231.8, leving me a pound away from a cumulative loss of 30 pounds. The comparison is that I’m only a few pounds of being back to where I was when I got hired. Sure, in this age of diet quackery that promises maximum pounds shed in minimal time with minimal effort, eight months is a “long” time to drop “only” 30, But I’m pleased and proud of the accomplishment, and looking forward to the rest of the slow road to go to reach my goal of 210. I imagine it may take me until June to get there — just in time for my next physical where I will look forward to my doctor saying WTF but in a good way.

And Now A Word About Manzanar

Originally published at Blogging.la, November 13, 2007. Reprinted on this eve of the 80th Anniversary of Executive Order No. 9066.

Coincidental to Jason Burns’ November 9 post in which he referenced Manzanar in response to the disconcerting news of LAPD plans to target map Muslim enclaves in the city, two days later (returning from Death Valley’s Eureka Dunes) my wife Susan and I paid a somber and sobering first visit to the infamous place (on Highway 395 a few miles south of the ironically named town of Independence), referred to all politely as an “internment camp” or a “war relocation center,” or “reception center,” but with eight guard towers erected around the barbed-wired perimeter staffed with military police manning machine guns trained on the 11,000 men, women and children kept here against their will (more than 90% of whom were from the Los Angeles area), I’m in the mood to call it what it was: a prison. One that should forever be remembered as a testament to the freedom-destroying power of fear and an abominable insult to the United States Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees us as citizens of this country. Pardon my righteous indignation.

An American flag installed upon the fence surrounding the cemetery at the Manzanar War Relocation Center with the memorial obelisk at its center. The characters translate to “Monument to Console the Souls of the Dead,” and on the back the characters translate to “August 1943” and “Erected by the Manzanar Japanese.” Of the 150 people who died at Manzanar, most were cremated and 15 were buried here. Nine of those graves were relocated after the war, leaving the remains of six still on the premises.

Out here where I took the above picture it was easy to keep it together. But as I approached the monument and saw an origami necklace draped from one of the the posts with ribbons upon which were handwritten the words “peace” and “forgive” it got a bit tougher. Then along the tiered base of the obelisk were coins and trinkets that had been placed by visitors: pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. A fish hook pushed through a cigarette, a beaded necklace, a ring, a lighter, pebbles, a pine tree twig, a bit of abalone shell… nothing overly dramatic but all of it personal and touching.

From there I moved past each of the remaining rock-ringed grave sites, each festooned with more coins and artifacts, and the last one being one of the smallest. On its headstone were Japanese characters and beneath them it read in English “Baby Jerry Ogata” and that was it. Waterworks time as I wondered if Baby Jerry Ogata might not be dead if he’d not been imprisoned here.

In place of an answer a strange thing happened. From out of nowhere a stiff cold wind like a small freight train destroyed the stillness and slammed into me, kicking up sand into my face as it barreled passed me and Baby Jerry Ogata’s grave. As quick as it arrived it dissipated, leaving me with the odd sensation of being simultaneously cleansed and dirtied. Forgiven and punished.

Everything That Marginalizes City Cycling Boiled Down To One Lousy Intersection On A Wednesday Morning

So. I’ve found a new route to work. It’s lovely. From my house in Silver Lake to the office in Jefferson Park, the only major street I traverse is Adams Boulevard and it, having been recently put on a serious road diet, now sports a fantastic new buffered bike lane.

For those of you who geek out about bike routes, here it is charted:

It’s literally eight-plus miles of easy cruising joy. Not that it is devoid of vehicles (and with them the inevitable percentage of inconsiderate and/or inattentive motorists), but its long stretches of residential two-lane thoroughfares, anchored in the middle east/west by 11th Street and north/south by 6th Avenue, give the route a small-town feel.

Having sung those praises, an incident on Wednesday morning’s ride brought back the reality that no matter how near-perfect the journey, Los Angeles streets are always going to find a way to remind us just how marginalized we pedaling folk continue to be.

Case in point, my stop Wednesday morning at Country Club Drive and Arlington Avenue — all gloriously documented via my don’t-ride-without-it helmetcam.

No green light for you!

Allow me to annotate the video. As shown, I am stopped on Country Club Drive at Arlington Avenue. I’ve even parked myself directly over one of the circular below-asphalt sensors in hopes it will detect my bike. Fat chance. Worse, there are no vehicles waiting with me and those across the street are making rights to head south on Arlington. In short, from the sensors’ point of view, it’s as if I don’t exist.

A few seconds in, you’ll see the crosswalk signal start blinking and counting down. You’ll see the green lights for Arlington turn yellow, and then red. I start to go, but I see the signals across the street from me have stayed red. And when I turn and look at the light on Arlington it’s gone back to green and the cross traffic proceeds. In my highest-pitched indignation voice you’ll hear me screech “What!!?”

In the height of irony (though unseen in the clip), I even got a possibly sympathetic “oh well” arm wave from the driver of the white pickup who saw the whole rip-off unfold. At least I wasn’t completely invisible.

But still, here in Los Angeles, cars rule, everything else drools. Just the idea that the signaling mechanism will take some sort of mulligan is offensive. If the sequence starts it should continue, not about-face to possible dangerous consequences. What if I hadn’t been paying so close attention and just slowly rolled on into the intersection with the presumed right-of-way?

The clip ends with me understanding all too clearly that really my only option to prevent a potential repeat would be to dismount my bike, tromp on over to the blasted, cursed, infernal pedestrian beg button and press it. As you’ll see, boy do I. Hi-yah!

New Addition

We have seen all manner of critter in the course of our years here in Silver Lake a half-block south of Sunset Boulevard: from expected dogs and cats, the latter of which some tame and some feral, to a veritable somewhat unexpected parade of wild things. Be it live or captured on camera in the forms of raccoons, rats, mice, birds, lizards, spiders, insects, squirrels, skunks, opossums and coyotes, we’ve seen and appreciated a whole lotta wildlife for so seriously urban a scape.

Excluded from that extensive list? Rabbit. No Peter. No Bugs. No Ricochet. No Roger. At least not until yesterday afternoon, when our CritterCam at the Frog Pond spied what in all likelihood was a wild cottontail that materialized out of nowhere and was first seen hopping around the north side of the house, and then later in the backyard like it owned the place… much to the chagrin of Terra and Hazel who chased it into the rear shrubbery.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the critters that come calling is never say never.

Here’s the short vid, and a zoomed in still from it: