A Quiet Protest With A Loud Message

The day of the ‘die-in’ was cold and windy; cyclists carried signs, bikes, and bloodied shirts as they made their way on to the grassy knoll at Malaga Cove in Palos Verdes. Around forty cyclists gathered together at 3:55 pm on Tuesday, pulling white, blood-splattered shirts over their head as they began to lay down on the grass.

The day of the ‘die-in’ was cold and windy; cyclists carried signs, bikes, and bloodied shirts as they made their way on to the grassy knoll at Malaga Cove. Around forty cyclists gathered together at 3:55 pm on Tuesday, pulling white, blood-splattered shirts over their head as they began to lay down on the grass. The 8 Palos Verdes officers who had been at the Cove before the protestors got there, encircled the group. The ‘die-in’ protest, organized by local residents and members from groups such as Cyclists for Palos Verdes, Big Orange Cycling and Southern California Bike Safety, was in clear view of automobiles with the knoll being at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive and Via Corta. Short honks sent messages of support to protestors, and there were noticeably less hollering from drivers than the protest ride organized by Michael Barraclough in June.

These protests were a result of the following occurrences in the last year:

  • The death of 3 cyclists in 3 Palos Verdes’ hit and run.
  • City council’s refusal to install “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” – despite recommendations by the Traffic Safety Council.
  • The drivers responsible for killing the cyclists have not been found or held accountable.

Up and down the sidewalks, protesters spread messages with signs. Resident and cyclist Michael Barraclough was the only voice you could hear, proclaiming in a loud clear tone, “Three people were killed on these roads. Three families without fathers this Christmas. Two were AYSO coaches.”

“I don’t win when I get hit by a car” – Allison Vogt

The protest ended at 5:00 pm, and cyclists dispersed for dinner and to prepare for the public city council meeting that started at 7:30 pm. Though the topic of “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs was not on the agenda, children and pedestrian safety when walking to school was, and cyclists like Delia Park, Kristie Fox, Jeff Louie, Andrew Knuckles, Michael Barraclough, and Seth Davidson (among others) made the case to the council (which you can watch below) that safety concerns for cyclists and pedestrians are intertwined.

Michael Barraclough, who’s voice was heard at the protest earlier, presented the following proposition to city council regarding the safety of children walking to school, “We would like to propose us riding around the block in an effort to slow down traffic and save lives,” he continued, “we’d be willing to endanger our lives to save the city $1,200 and to slow down the traffic.”

“You’re time is up, sir.” – Mayor Jennifer King

Additional community members like Desiree Meyers, Chuck Corello, Allison Vogt, Peter Richardson, Patrick Nose, Mario Obeyes, and Kevin Salk also lent their voices in support of the 5 BMUFL signs. One speaker, Tom Duong, reminded the council of an important distinction, “When we came here and said ‘Bikes May Use Full Lanes’ saves lives, we don’t  literally mean the signs will jump out and save lives. We mean they help clarify the laws so people don’t get angry with us when we practice safe riding behavior.”(1:16:54)

Mayor Jennifer King only allowed for 2 minutes per person with a maximum of 25 minutes during the public comments section. Though the speakers were limited in time, they passionately and factually made the call for BMUFL signs.

Ed Note: some of the things that I made note of in Palos Verdes:

  1. On the way to Malaga Cove, driving down Palos Verdes North, we noticed a Pontiac stopped in the middle of the road up ahead. We thought that maybe it was waiting for a pedestrian to pass by, but as we approached, we noticed a driver straining to read the neighborhood street sign. We slowed down and stopped behind him, but he stayed still. After a gentle tap on horn the man proceeded forward, but stopped again a few feet ahead as traffic began to pile up behind us. Taking up half the bike lane, the man driving seemed to pay absolutely no attention to the hazard he was becoming, until eventually he seemed to find the neighborhood he was looking for and turned out of view.
  2. During the protest there were a few cyclists riding around Malaga Cove, sending the message of their right of way to cars. Even as the police stood there and protestors were splayed on the grass in bloodied T-shirts, I saw with my own eyes a car try to speed up and swerve around a cyclist riding on the road. The person driving couldn’t actually accomplish this illegal move because there were too many other cars on the left side of the road; so instead, she sped up, riding right up behind the cyclist, as he rode down the road turning the corner and out of view.
  3. As the protest began to come to a close, a Rolling Hills resident walked up to see what was going on. He asked me if everything was ok and what was the reason for so many police officers as I had been standing on the grass when he walked up. I wasn’t sure how he would respond, but I told him about the protest and the recent deaths. His response was illuminating, “I wouldn’t consider myself a cyclist like these guys, but I have ridden my bike on this roads and I see how dangerous drivers can be towards bicyclists. I hope they get those signs put in.” It was clear that this message wasn’t lost on the locals.

You can follow Seth Davidson’s Cycling in the South Bay for up to date information.

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