CVIndependent

Sat05252019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

San Bernardino police recently made national news thanks to a creative operation.

Cops, dressed in plain clothes or as homeless people, walked up to cars stopped at an intersection. The officers held signs, but instead of saying something to the effect of “need food,” the signs said something to the effect of “S.B. Police. I am not homeless. Looking for seatbelt and cell phone violations.”

Of course, many drivers didn’t pay attention—they were busy texting, talking on a phone or even eating.

Those drivers received citations.

The Palm Springs Police Department also recently conducted a creative operation, of sorts, to combat a common Palm Springs crime: bike theft.

In broad daylight, a marked police department bike was placed as bait, in Sunrise Park and in other areas of the city frequented by homeless people and the less fortunate. Of course, plain-clothes cops were on the watch.

During the operation, three people, all Palm Springs residents, were arrested for grand theft: Gilbert Langford, 43; Marcos Gonzalez, 29; and Charles Wunderlich, 30. Langford was also cited for violating parole; Gonzalez was on probation at the time of his arrest; and Wunderlich allegedly had drugs on him.

Bike theft is a growing problem in Palm Springs, according to the police.

“In 2014, 303 bicycles were stolen in the city,” Sgt. Harvey Reed said. “From Jan. 1, 2015, to July 31, 2015, 191 bicycles were stolen in Palm Springs.”

Lt. Mike Kovaleff declined to discuss details of the Bait Bike operation, because “it would jeopardize future details.” So I headed to Sunrise Park, where there are always plenty of folks who use bikes as their only means of transportation. Everyone I spoke to told me they’d heard of the Bait Bike operation. Kenny, a young fellow with a nice bike (who only wanted to use his first name), said he even served time due to Bait Bike.

“Yep, the cops nabbed me at the Circle K, midday, about eight months ago,” he said. “Got six months for a felony, had priors, served about a month and a half.”

Kenny recalls how it went down. “The bike (had) a carbon fiber frame, cost about $1,300. The cops were in a van, watching it all. They got me on the bike.”

Kenny stopped, scratched his head and reluctantly continued. “I was duped! A lady asked me if I wanna buy the bike. I fell for it. It was entrapment!”

Evidently, the judge didn’t buy Kenny’s explanation. As far as entrapment claims regarding Bait Bike, John Hall, the information specialist for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, was not able to comment.

Jose, another young fellow with a cool bike, explained what usually happens to stolen bikes.

“They go on bricks, man! No fool’s selling them to pawn shops; the owners work with cops,” he said. “A ‘hot’ bike is taken apart, and those parts are used to repair other bikes. Bikes are all we got, man!”

Sgt. Reed offered some useful tips on how to protect a bicycle from being stolen. Beyond having a photo of and the serial number for your bike, always lock the rear and front wheels to the frame—as well as the seat.

Most importantly, Sgt. Reed warned: “Never leave your bike unattended or unlocked, even if it's just for a minute.”

Published in Local Issues

It was a big day for 30 children with the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs.

On Friday, July 31, the children received their very own bikes, all of which were gathered during a bike drive that was spearheaded by the City of Palm Springs Office of Sustainability. The children also received a bike lock, a helmet and a safety lesson.

The giveaway came on the heels of a similar donation of more than 60 bikes to children with the Boys and Girls Club of Mecca.

"There is a great need in the Coachella Valley for children's bicycles," said Brett Klein, chair of the Palm Springs Sustainability Commission. "Many families can't afford to provide new bikes to each of their children. We are very proud on how successful this has been over the last couple years. There is no better joy than to see the smile on a child's face when they receive their bike."

In addition to the Office of Sustainability, the bike drive was supported by the Coachella Valley Bicycle Coalition, Hot Purple Energy, Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery, Sun Tran, Incight.org and Hocker Productions. The drive was greatly boosted by a $3,000 donation from Trek Bicycles. The Independent was also a supporter of the drive.

Scroll down to view a gallery from the presentation of bikes to the kids with the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs.

Published in Snapshot

A bike can mean a lot to a kid.

“It comes down to wellness,” said Brett Klein, chair of the Palm Springs Sustainability Coalition. “It also comes down to the ability to get from point A to point B.”

He used a not-so-hypothetical child who lives in the East Valley as an example.

“A kid may need to get to the Boys and Girls Club—and may need to travel three to five miles to get there, at a time when the parents are working,” he said.

This is why the City of Palm Springs Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with the Coachella Valley Bicycle Coalition and Sun Tran, is in the midst of a bicycle drive. The goal: To get more than 100 working, functioning bicycles to kids in need via both the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, and the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, in Mecca.

The drive runs through Saturday, June 20. As of this writing (on Thursday, June 11), Klein said the drive, which kicked off in earnest on June 1, had garnered about half of its goal, boosted in part by a $3,000 donation by Trek Bicycles. He also said a local hotel/resort donated a bunch of old cruisers it had replaced with new bicycles.

Klein said used bicycles are more than welcome—so if you have a bike or two gathering dust in a garage, for example, bring it on down. New bicycles for children of any age are also appreciated, as are donations via cash or check (made out to “City of Palm Springs—Bike Drive”). All donations are tax-deductible, by the way.

The drop-off/donation locations:

• Hot Purple Energy, 810 N. Farrell Drive, Palm Springs

• Palm Springs Cyclery, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs 

• Palm Desert Cyclery, 77750 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert 

• SunLine Transit Agency, 32505 Harry Oliver Trail, Thousand Palms

The kids in need will not only receive the bicycles donated during the drive; they will also all receive a bike lock and a helmet, in addition to a safety lesson.

For more information, visit healthyplanethealthyyoups.com.

Full disclosure: The Coachella Valley Independent is a partner in the bicycle drive. In other words, we’re donating time and space to help spread the word.

Published in Local Issues

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” —attributed to H.G. Wells

When I was a small child, in a little village in Southern Germany, my bike was my golden key to exploration, adventure and new worlds. I lived in Africa between the ages of 5 and 8; I liked to wear turquoise saris and pedal my massive, maroon bike through the dusty fields and back roads. When my family moved to the suburbs of the Eastern U.S., my embarrassing orange-cream-and-white bike got me to town, to the library, to civilization.

Then came that magic age of 16, and the freedom to drive. I could go farther than the library! My bike got dusty in the garage.

Fast-forward a decade. I was 26 and had been living in London for seven years. I had no need for a car (and was too broke to have one, anyway), but was getting sick of public transportation—buses not showing up in the pouring rain, getting onto said buses with seemingly hundreds of others, etc. A good friend of mine, Laura, was using her bike as her primary form of transportation, and she convinced me to give a bike a shot. I got myself a super-cheap bike and began to cycle.

I loved it. The wind, the air, the energy, the rush of being outside and propelling myself forward to the destination! No matter what the weather conditions were, I loved it.

Then I moved to Salton City. When I first moved there, I cycled along State Route 86 between home and my job at the casino—yes, even at night. I was lit up like a Christmas tree—and it got pretty hairy at times along the highway, but it still beat sitting on my behind in a car.

I recently moved into the Coachella Valley proper, and I continue taking my trusty bike (upgraded now with slimmer wheels) out when I can. My bike played a part in my move: I figured I could cycle more and drive less—to work, to the stores, to dance class, to social gatherings, to events, and just for shits and giggles.

But … where is everybody? I do not see many other people who use the bike as a method of getting around—and I wonder why. We live in a fair climate area, with wide avenues, blue skies and acceptable temperatures at least three-quarters of the year. Many bike lanes are in place, yet they are hardly being used.

As for the few cyclists who are out there, there are predominantly two types: the poor, who have no alternative but to cycle (and take the bus); and the rich, who ride in carbon-fibered pedaling packs. Where is everyone else? Why aren’t people beyond those two extremes using bikes to get around Is it fear? Does it take too long to get places? Do people not even consider bikes as a fun and pleasurable alternative/option?

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration’s most recent National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, nationally, only 5 percent of the people interviewed use a bike to commute to work or school.

Granted, some of the local bike lanes are funky—waaaaaay too narrow, half on sidewalks, etc.—and what’s with switching from a cycle lane to being relegated to the sidewalk every other block on Eisenhower Drive? These issues certainly need to be addressed; some cities do better than others. CV Link will benefit the whole community, but that project is still years away. Still, today, there are many bike lanes—and overall, that’s good!

Of course, bike lanes aren’t the only concern; aggressive or inattentive motorists are a huge reason why many people are afraid to cycle. Drivers need to be more educated about sharing the road with cyclists, and should understand what it feels like to be passed too closely by a car. Thank goodness the 3-foot law goes into effect later this year!

Motorists: We bicyclists are not trying to piss you off; we’re just trying to get from here to there. And don’t ever yell at a cyclist to “get the fuck off the road.” We have every right to be on the road. And to those of you who cry out about rule-bending cyclists: Please make sure you are an obedient driver who never speeds, never runs yellow lights, never texts and never breaks any other driving rules. Otherwise, you’re a hypocrite—a hypocrite who can kill me with your vehicle.

Yes, people die while riding their bikes. About 2 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States in 2011 were cyclists. That’s too many people—but far, far more pedestrians and motorists get killed in accidents than bicyclists do.

An enormous positive aspect of cycling is health and happiness. When I drive, especially long distances, I often arrive lethargic and tired. When I cycle, I feel more positive, have more energy, and can concentrate better. I am not the only one who feels this way

Of course, bicycling is not always a viable option; there are often real reasons to take the car. But when there is not a real reason … consider trying bicycling. Your body, your mind, your bank account and your environment will all thank you.

Published in Community Voices