Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Cousin Ronnie (Traffic Court)

Back in November out on a little mid week recovery ride I come up to an intersection that I have been through on my bike well over 100 times. It's a particular signalized intersection that is notorious for not detecting bicycles. I know this not only from experience, but also from the design stand point since my company provided the design services for this signal to City of Pleasanton.
The type of detector loops that the city used at that time are not the type that are typically sensitive enough for bicycles to activate.

Naturally, I waited until the intersection was clear and proceeded through the red light with caution.

Enter officer Knowit Awl, who happened to be approaching the intersection several hundred feet behind me as I rolled through. I was 200' beyond the intersection and safely off on my merry way when I hear "you on the bike, stop I want to talk to you" from a loud speaker.
I looked back and saw a black and white stopped at the far side of the intersection. My first thought was to punch it and ditch him through the housing neighborhood, but I was wearing my team kit, and after all it was a recovery day. So I waited for him to arrive and we began a nice chat about bicycle safety.

Officer Knowit Awl felt it pertinent to explain to me from the depth of an unfit belly and Sempre Fi hair cut, the reason he pulled me over. Like I couldn't have figured this out on my own.
After listening to his rant about red lights and bicycle accidents (all of which involved pedestrians on toy bicycles, not actual cyclists), I proceeded to explain my position and the reason for my action. I also proceeded to provide him with the some basics of traffic signal design, operation, and the subtleties of vehicle detection devices.
Note: This is the same officer that at an earlier date and unrelated incident I had to educate on the subtleties of pack riding and why a group of over 40 cyclist might be inclined to not ride single file in a bike lane that is full of glass and construction debris. Another topic covered previously was the stopping distance required for a tandem bike verses and single bike. Officer Knowit Awl was absent the day his physics class covered the topic of The Behavior of Momentum and Mass in Motion and thought it was a good idea to stand directly in front of my wife and I short of the distance we needed to stop without crashing. A CHP friend suggested that we should have just ran into him, but that may have caused severe injury to my wife.

Officer Knowit Awl in a show of appreciation for the service I was attempting to provide rewarded my well delivered lecture on the design and function of traffic signals with a yellow piece of paper and a copy of my autograph. He also informed me that the stop was being audio recorded. Which I responded "good, because I want a copy". You see, Officer Knowit Awl doesn't hear so well and his responses tend to be off topic and not exactly in line with the linear progression of the conversation.

This is where is gets fun:
Following some advice of a long time racer and CHP officer that I know, I filed a Trial by Declaration. I also attempted several times, unsuccessfully, to get my hands on the audio tape of the stop. I was so ready that I had my declaration, complete with 5 x 7 color glossy photographs, pages copied from the Caltrans 2006 Standard Plans, a copy of the City approved traffic signal design for the intersection, and a copy of a City of Dublin traffic signal design illustrating bike loops prepared before the courtesy notice even arrived.
I sent in my Declaration and all items mentioned above, and received a brief letter 30 days later stating "Guilty" with no supporting documentation or explanation.

Now you might be thinking that it's over, but Trial by Declaration does not remove your right to go in front of a judge. So I sent in my request for a Trial De Novo. A court date was granted, and yesterday was that day.

Armed with a little more advice from above mentioned bike racing CHP officer, I went to my court date. What was the advice, you ask? "When the officer starts reading from his green document of the facts of the incident, call out "Objection! The officer is reading from a document that I have not had the chance to examine. I move for a continuance"". You see, as it turns out, that little green piece paper is considered "evidence". Evidence that the defendant has not had the opportunity to examine and do proper discovery on.

Locked, cocked and ready to rock, I had practice yelling "objection" in the mirror. Even visualized myself doing it in court. I went to court early to get a feel for the arena in which I was about to take on this behemoth and watched a few cases and got a good sense of timing for my display. You don't want to yell out "objection" too early, that would be bad.
My case was called and I bit down hard on my tongue waiting for the right moment, I think I even mumbled it a few times but was able to play it off. The moment came, the officer start presenting photos, photo I had not seen. I moved up close to the microphone and in my best Perry Mason meets Cousin Vinny exclaimed "OBJECTION!!!!" "I have never seen these photos before and have not had a chance to examine the photos or the documents the officer is reading from!". My heart pounded, it was beating so hard that I think the whole court room could see my body tremor from each beat. There was a long pause of silence in the court room, I glanced at the officer, his face in shock as he tried to take in the curve ball I had just launched.
The judge awoke from his droning and now had to deal with something unexpected, he had to think for a change.
The judge ordered the bailiff to collect the photos and hand them too me. After some discussion the judge ordered the officer to make copies for me and started to actually look at the case.
He asked "what are all these other photos and documents in this file?". I explained that those were mine and I had provided them when I filed a Trial by Declaration. "Can he do that?", the judge asked completely bewildered and searching the court room for someone who knew what was going on. The officer begrudgingly answered "yes, in traffic court defendants can file a Trial by Declaration". The judge then asked looking at Officer Knowit Awl "what are these other documents, are these your responses and statements to the Declaration?" "Yes they are", the officer answered. Having recovered from my first burst into the court I screamed "OBJECTION!!!" once again and explained that I had no knowledge that those responses existed and had not been provided an opportunity to examine them.
The judge even more bewildered asked the clerk "can he look at these or are they confidential?", the clerk informed the judge that I had the right to copies, but normal procedure is to just send a letter stating "guilty" or "not guilty".
The judge approved my continuance based on all that had happened.

I then informed the judge that I wanted a copy of the audio recording from the traffic stop. "There is an audio recording?" the judge questioned the officer. The officer explained to the judge that Pleasanton PD audio record all of there traffic stops in case of complaints on the officer. I quickly brought to the judges attention that I had requested a copy and was not provided a mechanism in which to attain this evidence. The judge then asked, the now red with frustration, officer if he could provide a copy. The officer promptly explained that they only keep them for 2 weeks then erase the recording if there is no complaint. I quickly interjected stating that the recording was a critical piece of evidence and would validate or invalidate the officer's statements and accuracy of the officer's recollection of the stop. The judge reluctantly agreed.
I then asked, so what do we do the audio if they destroyed it. He suggested that I could file a Motion to Dismiss.
"Great, can we do that now?". The judge stated that it would have to be done in a courtroom in front of the trial judge.
This is the point in which I was confused and asked "isn't this a courtroom?" The judge repeated his previous statement (wanting to just go home as this case was becoming a bit difficult for a red light violation). I looked around to make sure I was where I thought I was and stated "I don't really get into trouble so I may be mistaken, but isn't this a court room and isn't this a trial, and aren't you a judge?".

He told me he was granting the continuance and I would have to make my motion at the next trial. "Understood."

I won the battle, but the war wages on and I know what my next move is.
The fine/bail for the ticket (which has to paid up front under Trial by Declaration) is $361.00.
How much money do you think this has cost the County and City by this point?

I am guessing a lot more than $361.00.

How much Advil do you think that the officer has downed in order to deal with this stress?

Me? Even if I don't get my money back, I have learned a lot about traffic court and how to be the one pulling the strings. Priceless!

Gianni thinks I am going to jail, but I reminded him that there are no laws against being difficult.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gianni's enlightened post (and the Butterfly Effect)

I just read Gianni's post about winners and losers.
I found the timing quite interesting as I am in a state of evaluating many things in my cycling life.
I also found the timing interesting as I just watched The Seven Decisions, a lecture on PBS by Andy Andrews.

The things I am evaluating;
The team and the organization's level of success. I don't mean how many times we get to throw our hands up in victory at some low budget race in Bum Phuck Egypt because we just won a $5.00 T-Shirt (lame!). I am talking about as an organization. Have we created the best possible entity we can create? Is this year the best that can be achieved, or are there changes that can be made to make it better?
You see, I set out to start a team 4 seasons ago because I didn't like the options that were available. Oh, I had plenty of suggestions and ideas, but they were always met with "oh, things don't work that way" kind of resistance. My response is "really? have you tried?". So with the help of a few good folks I wanted to try.
I knew things could be done differently and somehow I found myself reluctantly at the helm of a Borg ship that would soon take on a life of it's own.
So here we are 4 years later and I am questioning how much more there is. Has my vision played out? If not, some new enthusiasm is needed, a catalyst if you will.
Interestingly enough, the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, loosely translated as "God's Breath moving through you".

Other questions include that of what I personally want to get out of cycling, and when I am racing am I making the decisions that positively effect that out come for our team.
You see, I realize I have certain predetermined genetic ability. I am not the fastest sprinter, nor the the best climber, nor the best time trialist. If anything I am extremely mediocre at any of these skills and every once in a great while have a decent day.
I work very hard at it, I suffer like a dog, but the one thing I hate is showing up to a race and watching everything happen and doing nothing. Mostly because I realize that every action we take puts into motion a series of events that are all linked to each other. While I may not win the race, I want to go home knowing I had an effect on, even in some small way, the outcome. I want to go home knowing that had I not been there the result would have been different.
In many things in my life I struggle (by my own demented need for perfection) to achieve greater than mediocrity. Even as guitarist I felt I was mediocre. I can play, and those who are not musicians would be impressed, but I am no Michael Schenker, or Randy Rhoads.

I certainly do not know by Gianni's post if that makes me a winner or a loser, but it certainly gives me something to think about. Perhaps my racing contribution is nothing more than The Butterfly Effect, if so, just maybe if so, that is enough to fulfill my own needs and what I seek out of the sport.

One of the things Andy Andrews says in that lecture mentioned above is "persists without exception" "find a way when there is no way". As these statements apply to my internal question about the team, I ask myself if I have persisted without exception to create something that is my own standards. If not, do I want to persist without exception? If I do, what is the next scene in this play and where does it lead.
The success of the team, and service to it's members is an extremely personal endeavor. One that has me up late at night, and always searching for ways to make things happen or fix problems. It's a rabbit hole I have chosen to go down, and the question now exists "how far down the rabbit hole do I want to go?"

So I leave you with this thought:
The Butterfly Effect states that the movement of a butterfly's wings sets air molecules into motion that in turn set other air molecules into motion and eventually have the potential of causing a tornado on the opposite side of the planet.
Kill the butterflies and Japan lives.

Nome Agusta (pronounced No me Gusta)

P.S. 18 years married, and 22 years together as of today and we are very much in love, probably because we are both equally twisted (together). But after all these years I find her pretty Groovy...and our relationship is the one thing that is beyond mediocre.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Returning to my roots.


This year I have joyously decided to skip Madera Stage Race, if you can call that a stage race.

Instead I am headed for some new adventures and to give the Semi-Slow category a go out at Firestone Mountain Bike race.

With all the road racing I have been committed too the last season and a half, I have missed a part of cycling that I really enjoy.
The thing that gets me going on the Mt. Bike (ever notice I always capitalize Mountain Bike?) is to me it is the purest discipline of the sport. You can bring every aspect of the other disciplines into play. It can be like a time trial where efforts have to be perfectly dosed, there is climbing, handling skills required, and yes in many situations tactics like in road racing must be played out.
Emphasis on skills! You can be the strongest rider by medical numbers, but if you can't corner at speed you will give up a lot of that strength trying to catch back up.

Not so much in the lower categories, but in Expert and above, you have to bring some smarts to the game.

I want me another win at a 24 Hour race, they are epic defined, and those wins are a lasting sweetness.

In 08' I think the road will return to being the training ground for some ass kicking in the dirt. The way it should be.

Nome Out!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Over doing it.

I am think I might be over cooking it a bit. I am tired beyond comprehension, and training today would be pointless. I doubt I am even at 60%.
Perhaps just a good rest week with a little leg stretcher on Thursday.

I am looking forward to this summer though, bike racing here in Nor Cal is getting old, and the courses just don't seem to excite me. The road races are all multi-laps and I am sort of bored with it already. So this summer I am hanging up the silly racing for stupid T-shirts nonsense and going after some new challenges, and a couple of old ones.

1. Climb to Kaiser
2. Mt. Shasta Century

Both of these will be training for LOTOJA, something completely new and challenging for my history book.
The wife and I will be planning a nice 3 or 4 days of rest in Jackson Hole after this beast.
Then it's return to CA for some cross racing action.
Looks like we will be having a couple of Lobsters built up custom. Matching perhaps, his and hers like.

Nome out