Or perhaps it was placed in a bottle and thrown into the sea, and then a really big wave caused that bottle to beach itself upon my front lawn. Unlikely of course, but you never know. The world is a big and mysterious place.
But usually people just bring me stuff. All kinds of stuff, actually. It's left under my door mat, stuck in the mailbox, or stuffed into manila envelopes and left behind my screen door. Sometimes it comes in the mail. Just information that people think would be interesting to the folks who read The Tattler.
As a matter of fact, so many Sierra Madre residents have now gotten into the blog spirit that I've had to open up a second storage box just to hold it all. And every time somebody leaves me something another secret gets its wings, and flies into the light. Or at least onto this blog. Which might be the same thing. Or not, depending upon your point of view.
As an experiment (and because I had no idea about what I was going to post this evening), I reached into the very full box and pulled something out. With the idea that whatever it was, that is what I would write about. And what chance placed into my hands was a June 20th, 2011 document from the City of Sierra Madre entitled, "Bicycle Safety Community Outreach."
Here is how this baby kicks out the jams:
Summary: At the request of former Mayor Joe Mosca the Police Department developed a community-based strategy to increase bicycle safety awareness, particularly in the downtown area. The safety plan includes public education, outreach with bicyclists, and enforcement.
Now to me this shows some real promise. Any document including Joe Mosca is usually rich with comedic potential. Couple that with the Police Department versus a horde of bike riding dentists in Euro-logo bumblebee suits with padded seats and you're deep into an authentic Sierra Madre moment. Few doubts should be had, friends.
Analysis: Residents and downtown business owners have continually complained to police about groups of bicyclists running stop signs and committing other traffic violations, particularly along Sierra Madre Blvd. In turn, police increased enforcement, which resulted in complaints from some bicyclists over what they perceive to be overzealous enforcement.
Overzealous enforcement of bicycle rules, overzealous enforcement of car parking regulations, overzealous enforcement of "moving violations?" Yes, that is what they do. All 36 of them. Overzealous enforcement leading to the capture of all those thieves that treat Sierra Madre residences like so many treasure chests perched upside sugar mountains? Not quite as much.
Organized bicyclists have ridden through Sierra Madre on weekend mornings for years. Most travel west on Sierra Madre Blvd. and continue past Michillinda Ave. into Pasadena. The Montrose Cyclists begin their Saturday morning ride in South Pasadena and end up in Sierra Madre in Kersting Court, where they congregate and patronize local businesses.
I do have a solution to this problem. Ban the sale of iced cappuccinos and bottled vitamin water in Sierra Madre to anyone wearing a bumblebee suit and/or padded underwear. I promise you, the entire black and yellow horde will soon migrate down to Foothill Boulevard and congregate in front of the Hastings Ranch Starbucks instead.
Staff researched traffic data from 2006 through May 31, 2011, which revealed the following:
- Officers gave in excess of 113 verbal warnings to bicyclists.
- Officers issued 297 citations to bicyclists.
- The Police Department investigated 8 traffic collisions involving motorist v. bicyclist. The primary violations are running a stop sign and unsafe turning movements.
You hear a lot about how City Staff is overwhelmed with work and can barely complete the vital tasks that keep Sierra Madre from falling into a state of primeval chaos. So why would former Mayor Joe Mosca take up the valuable time of our salaried employees by asking them to tabulate and sort through 113 verbal police warnings to bicyclists? Was the City of Sierra Madre Doorknob Census already completed and they needed another job to do?
Of course, Joe Mosca has also had City Staff work up a report about skateboarders, along with a county Puppy Mill ordinance even though we have never had puppy mills here. This not being Nebraska. Joe's tendencies towards the frivolous seem to have worn a deep groove in this town.
There would be no point in City Staff lining up all of the above carefully detailed problems if those in charge were incapable of providing solutions as well. And here is how these problems were to be solved a month ago:
In response, officers have taken several steps to educate the public about bicycle safety.
- Officers have met with bicyclists in the Kersting Court area to welcome them to Sierra Madre, and let them know that they need to abide by the rules of the road while traversing our community and be considerate of businesses in where (sic) they park their bicycles.
I can't imagine that these were anything but awkward conversations. Most bicyclists spend their time on the road keeping a wary eye out for 14 ton suburban assault vehicles driven by moms on cell phones who are completely distracted by the screaming kids in the back seat. The common perception among bicyclists is that they are far more likely to be the victims in any traffic confrontations. Especially here in Sierra Madre where few accommodations are made for them. Being told otherwise by police officers must have seemed odd.
- Uniformed Sierra Madre police officers have ridden the police bicycles with the bicycle groups as they ride through the city to gain compliance with traffic safety efforts.
Is there any reason why Sierra Madre cannot establish bike lanes? I know when I am out peddling around, most of the surrounding communities do have them. Parked cars along the sides of the streets force bicyclists out into traffic where they become fair game for anyone driving by. A lot of what seems like erratic biking is actually an effort to stay alive.
- Police placed the City's LED message boards placed along Sierra Madre Blvd. with messages encouraging bicyclists to stop at stop signs and obey the rules of the road.
Maybe the instructions should be placed on the stop signs themselves. If they simply said "stop" then maybe people might do just that. As it is now the message is confusing and contradictory. I'm kidding.
- The Police Department has parked marked police cars along problem intersections on Grandview and Sierra Madre Blvd. to alert bicyclists to stop for the stop signs.
OK, so they have been spoken to, instructed by LED message boards, accompanied by officers on bicycles themselves, and have officers in cruisers sit by to help remind them to stop at stop signs. Is there anything more that can be done to assure the people of Sierra Madre that this problem is being taken seriously?
- Officers routinely drive up and down Baldwin Ave., Grandview, and Sierra Madre Boulevard and use their public address loudspeaker(s) to encourage groups of bicyclists to obey the rules of the road. Officers also thank those bicyclists for complying with the laws.
While we certainly owe Mayor Mosca a debt of gratitude for marshaling the resources of this community for something so important, I can't help but wonder if the results stack up favorably next to all of that effort.
Then there is this thought. As bad as running stop signs may be, here is a relatively large amount of reasonably affluent (if colorfully dressed) people coming into town and spending money at our businesses. Which is something some people in town might think is a good thing. So shouldn't we lighten up on the control freak routine a bit, put in bike lanes and bike racks, and generally do all that we can to encourage their commerce here in town?
Most business communities would give their eye teeth for this kind of traffic. Here we treat these people like they're the Hells Angels.
Look at it this way. As far as I can tell all of the above hasn't made one iota of difference in the behavior of the two-wheeled hoard that barrels through town every Saturday morning. So why not do what every other city in Los Angeles County has done and make our streets more biker friendly? Sierra Madre is hardly the safest city around for this kind of activity. Not by a long shot.
Police Officers chasing guys in bumblebee suits around is not the solution. Though it is an accurate reflection of the personality of the individual who initiated it.