Atomic Bombshell

Fight the Power

August 10th, 2007

Pasadena City HallI’ve been a Pasadena, California resident since birth, and for the most part I have enjoyed life in the city of roses. We don’t have to look far to find places to play, great shops, tons of diversity, and tasty food.

As a cyclist, I especially enjoy the many bike routes and legendary group rides such as Montrose and the Rose Bowl. Adding to the excitement, it was recently announced that the Amgen Tour of California (one of the premier pro cycling events in the US) will finish with a criterium in our town.

Which is why it was so strange that a week later a new ordinance was passed by the city council to outlaw the peloton. That term refers to a group of cyclists riding together in a free formation, such as you’ll see during any of the grand tours, like the Tour de France. So, let me get this straight: The pro peloton is coming to town, and you want to OUTLAW that style of riding for all the local cycling fans? Brilliant!

The Rose Bowl ride, which happens on Tues & Thurs evenings during daylight savings time, is well known by riders everywhere, and has been going on for over sixty years. The new law that will be placed into effect limits cyclists to riding no more than two abreast. That means a mother, father, and child can’t even ride together, let alone teams. Local cyclists are doing their best to fight for their rights.

Earlier this week I joined them at the weekly city council meeting, to make public statements against the ordinance. The meeting started at 6:30 pm and when they saw that more than forty cyclists had shown up to speak, they pushed off public discussion on the topic. They might have hoped we’d all give up and go home, but most of us were still there when they finally took up the peloton issue at 12:30 am.

Due to the lateness of the hour, they slashed the usual three-minute allotments for personal statements down to 60 seconds. Every single public official on the city council seemed annoyed with our objections, and although one or two tried to pay some lip service to our concerns, they still voted to read the ordinance into law.

Although there’s still hope that ongoing negotiations could delay the adoption of the new rule, group rides in Pasadena could become illegal as soon as November. Nobody seems to care much about that whole “safety in numbers” thing, I guess. Pasadena touts itself as one of the most bike-friendly city in Southern California… What a joke.

Entry Filed under: Outer Spaces


  • 1. soapbox.SUPERSTAR  |  August 10th, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    You need to get a petition going at iPetition and start circulating it in emails.

    Sorry girl!

  • 2. Salena  |  August 10th, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    That’s retarded!

  • 3. Andy  |  August 11th, 2007 at 1:09 am

    How the heck are they ever going to enforce that and who is the cop who is going to try and pull over a cyclist or for that matter 20 or 30 or more cyclists at once? Sounds like one of those stupid laws pushed into effect by some over weight bureaucrat who got stuck behind a group of cyclists on his way to fat burger and couldn’t pass them. I bet the police won’t even remotely enforce it, they have much better things to do.

  • 4. The Bombshell  |  August 13th, 2007 at 7:42 am

    I have no idea. Who gets the ticket when two cyclists are overtaking two other cyclists, and it looks like there’s a forbidden four-wide situation on the road? Is it going to be illegal to pass anybody? What’s going to be really funny is when they post “No Peloton” signs all over the final course of the Amgen Tour of California.

    PS: I’ll be heading back to city hall again tonight.

  • 5. The Bombshell  |  August 14th, 2007 at 8:45 am

    UPDATE: Something amazing and unexpected happened last night. The council did not read the ordinance a second time. They’re going to shelve the concept for a little while and revisit the greater transit plan, meanwhile, regular recreational users and nearby residents of the Rose Bowl are supposed to get a committee together to form recommendations to make the whole area a safer place to play.

  • 6. Friglet  |  August 14th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Yep, that sounds like government alright.

  • 7. Bear  |  August 15th, 2007 at 2:52 am

    Typically I find myself in agreement with you on many of your topics. On this one however I would have to dissent.

    I would like to iterate that there is more than one side to this argument. While it is completely boneheaded of local government to pass such an ordinance right after approving the pro level race to come to town, it is only boneheaded so much as it makes them look contradictory.

    WCSN network broadcasts out of the studio where I work, and covers professional road cycle racing extensively. Both domestically and internationally, these races are on either closed sections of roadways, or have extensive safety precautions taken to insure their integration with other vehicles and pedestrians.

    Even the RAAM (Race Across America) has “a crew vehicle fitted with flashing lights is required to follow closely behind the rider at all times to ensure they are visible.” [excerpt from wikipedia]

    As stated in the ordinance request, the peloton is not outlawed by the law, but merely needs to have a permit system implimented. As with any nonstandard use of a public roadway (parade, street fair) the permit allows for a section to be shut down or cordoned in a way that is safest for everyone involved, and doesn’t provide special privilege to any group of people who are required to obey the rules of the road like anyone else.

    Also as worded, the document is not a proaction but a reaction to cyclists abusing their privilege (not right, mind you) to use the road and ignoring the safety of pedestrians and other vehicles.

    In my own experience I have found this to not be uncommon, including one time where I have personally seen a lead cyclist stop in an intersection to block cross traffic to let the peloton through. Putting aside the complete audacity (and sheer stupidity) of the individual, this is highly illegal, as the intersection was a 4 way stop, and cycles are individual vehicles, not given status as a group.

    The ordinance is actually not required, because as the existing law is written in the state of California, the peloton on public roadways is already illegal (see the sections mentioned: 21100 and 21202 and subsections). This is really just a request to see an exsting law enforced.

    Put another way, you would not want nitro burning tuner set streetracers screaming up and down your streets recklessly, and this, while not as severe, can cause damage and bodily harm if the participants are not following existing laws and guidelines.

    As such, how can you stand against it?

  • 8. Scott  |  August 16th, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Keep us posted on what the outcome is of this.
    I’m curious what they constitute a “peloton”.

  • 9. Jenny  |  August 17th, 2007 at 10:12 am

    That’s retarded. I wonder why they did that.

  • 10. Vorsicht  |  August 18th, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Having been stuck behind the peloton a couple of times, here’s another point of view: The issue is tabled for the moment, but . . . unless the bicycling participants can regulate themselves and keep enough of the road clear that automotive traffic can pass safely, the city is going to take it up again. The bicyclists don’t have a “right” to obstruct a public thoroughfare. Being stuck behind a crowd of folks making leisurely progress on their two-wheelers is pretty annoying for people in cars — especially when a little courtesy and common sense by all parties would allow both the bikes and the autos to share the road.

    I can confirm that those among your fellow velocipedists who militantly ride shoulder to shoulder far enough out to prevent cars from passing, act rude, say bad words, signal with their middle fingers, etc., don’t earn any public relations points for the peloton. Maybe you could bring your skills in that area to bear, work with the participants, encourage the bad actors to behave in a more marketable manner, and we could all live happily ever after.

    The two-abreast restriction evidently didn’t turn y’all on much. What do you think the city council will come up with next? As a certain federal government agency is known to say, “Either you can fix the problem, or we’ll fix it for you; you may not like our solution.”

  • 11. some girl  |  August 21st, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I knew it was too good to be true…

    I think it’s fantastic that you ride. 🙂

  • 12. Peggy  |  August 21st, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    So stupid!!

  • 13. The Bombshell  |  August 24th, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Bear: The ride at the Rose Bowl on Tues & Thurs nights is not a race. It’s not even a criterium. They probably average 25-30 miles per hour. Try driving that pace and tell me how dangerous it feels. I don’t see any cyclists there ignoring the safety of others, but I do see pedestrians endangering themselves and others all the time.

    Vorsicht: Automotive traffic doesn’t need to pass the peloton at the Rose Bowl. The peloton moves at the speed limit. It’s a legal right for cyclists in the state of California to take up as much of the lane as they feel they require. There’s nothing that states that they need to allow room for vehicles to pass. The Rose Bowl has one lane per direction, and two-wheeled traffic has equal rights to those lanes.

  • 14. Vorischt  |  August 28th, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Reply to Bombshell #13: The motorists involved obviously don’t share your opinion that “Automotive traffic doesn’t need to pass the peloton. . . .”

    On the two occasions when I was stuck behind ’em, they were moving well below the speed limit, the width of the group was frequently overflowing into the opposing traffic lane, and a number of the riders were acting like jerks toward the pileup of motorists behind them — which eventually degenerated into a chorus of honking horns, chancy passing on opposite side of the street by a couple of the cars, and an unsafe situation for everyone involved.

    You can cite the fine points of California law (intended to protect bicyclists from mean motorists, not vice-versa) — but you’ve seen what the City Council almost did. The political reality is that, if the peloton-ers keep being obnoxious, the council members will act to get their constituents off their backs. As I suggested earlier, it would probably be better for all involved if the peloton riders embraced the “share the road” concept a little more firmly and thus avoided city rulemaking they’re bound to dislike.

    A voluntary effort to limit the width of the group to three or four abreast, leaving enough room on the left for a car to pass safely, and a little common courtesy, would likely solve the problem.

  • 15. Bear  |  September 3rd, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    [quote=”Bombshell”]The ride at the Rose Bowl on Tues & Thurs nights is not a race. It’s not even a criterium. They probably average 25-30 miles per hour. Try driving that pace and tell me how dangerous it feels. I don’t see any cyclists there ignoring the safety of others, but I do see pedestrians endangering themselves and others all the time.[/quote]

    That’s just it: it’s not a race, or a sanctioned event. And as you say, the law that allows a cyclist to take up as much of the lane as they require deals with each cycle as an individual, not as a group. If cars crowded en masse the way cycling clubs tend to, and there is an accident, everyone driving in that manner would be cited for reckless driving, reckless endangerment, or worse.

    Also, the issue as written is not restricted to the rose bowl area, that is just the example given. Cyclists behaving in the same irresponsible manner are all over the streets of Pasadena every day. Some of the other laws I’ve seen ignored include hand signals (cyclists are required to use hand signals when entering main lanes of traffic, but a good many of the ones I have seen are behaving as if they are racing, and don’t take their hands from the handlebars – they should be cited for that because they can cause accidents); blocking cross lanes of traffic (see my original example) and generally abusing the priviledge of using a public shared environment.

    Perhaps it would belay the more negative outcome you are worried about if the cyclists did organize the regular Rose Bowl rides as a workout, practice, or race, and specifically request that they be allowed to cordone off a lane for that use. Then the problem is addressed, and the measure as presented falls to the wayside (that is until the next time some group of cyclists abuses some other section of road).

    Unfortunately government works like your third grade teacher. If one kid made noise the whole class got punished. I have to agree with Vorischt: If you are so concerned about the freedom to cycle as you would choose, then organize the cyclists involved in peloton style rides to obey rules that they help to make, otherwise government will do what they deem is best for the majority, and the cyclists will be SOL.

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