Archive for December 31, 2009

Looking forward to better cycling in 2010. And beyond.

I’m not much on looking back.

I understand it’s a popular activity, especially this time of year, when everyone recites the only Bobby Burns poem they know, even if they never heard of Robert Burns. Or know what the words mean.

A time when many people take a long look at the year’s highlights, or lowlights, as the case may be. And try to wrap the year up in a tidy little bow.

I’m not going to go there.

Sure, it’s been an interesting year, from the Bike Summit and 5th Council District election, through the proposed bike plan and the Good Doctor’s trial and conviction. And a year that’s seen the average daily readership of this blog increase over 500% from this time last year.

For which I sincerely thank you.

But for me, the past is just that. Take a look at what happened, learn whatever you can from it, then leave it behind.

And get on with your life.

Still, I was truly honored today when L.A. Streetsblog recognized this blog for getting the candidates in the CD5 race on record for supporting cycling in L.A. — support that the eventual winner, Council Member Paul Koretz, clearly demonstrated in the recent bike-only Transportation Committee meeting.

Although I have to agree with Streetsblog’s Damien Newton that the job Stephen Box did in getting virtually every candidate in the 2nd District race to endorse the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights was truly amazing. And probably would have gotten my vote, as well.

I was also humbled by a recent comment Joe Linton made on Streetsblog expressing appreciation for my own work on this blog — both because of what he had to say, and because I truly believe Joe has done more than anyone else to promote cycling in Los Angeles and make this a better, more livable city for all of us.

But I’d rather look forward than back. So here are my priorities for the coming year, in no particular order:

Improved police training, so police officers can enforce the law and investigate cycling accidents fairly and without bias — intentional or otherwise. And develop a better, two-way relationship between cyclists and police.

Adoption of an effective Los Angeles bicycle anti-harassment ordinance.

A workable bike plan that has the support of cyclists and city government, and improves upon the still-unimplemented 1996 plan. And more importantly, one that the city is actually committed to building.

Reorganization of the Bikeways department to give it real authority within the LADOT; otherwise moving Bikeways out of LADOT, either under the mayor or to another department that will actually support its efforts.

Adoption of a statewide Bike Safety Bill, including a minimum three-foot passing distance and banning the failure to see a cyclist as a defense for any accident or infraction, along with statewide adoption of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

Reintroduction and passage of AB766, the Safe Streets Bill, which would allow cities to halt the mandatory increase in speed limits on streets where the majority of drivers speed.

Increase the penalties for hit-and-run drivers, including automatic revocation of the driver’s license and seizure of the vehicle for the first offense.

Ensure that every candidate for public office is on the record as to whether or not they support cycling prior to any election.

Educate cyclists and drivers about bicycle law, cyclists’ rights and safe riding practices, as well as how to share the road in a safe and mutually courteous manner.

So what are your cycling priorities for 2010?


Joe Linton notes small improvements on the Arroyo Seco Bike Path (sorry Joe, that’s only two mentions today). A driver in the Valley demonstrates the latest rack for transporting multiple bikes. The Dept. of D.I.Y. provides missing signage for the Bay Area’s first bike box. Bostonist hates fixies and everything they stand for. A rider in America’s most dangerous state for cycling endorses Road ID for reasons that should be obvious. A more in-depth look at turning the streets over to Indonesian cyclists on New Years Eve. UK constables employ decoy bikes to catch thieves red-handed, while Bristol’s city center may be car-free within five years. Finally, that amazing cyclist from the popular You Tube video is about to go Hollywood in a major action film.

Have a Happy New Year! But whatever you do New Years Eve, please do it carefully — I want to see every reader back here again in 2010.

A simple plan to make bikes more visible and increase awareness

Too often, drivers just don’t see us.

For some reason, cyclists riding in a safe and legal manner seem to fly below the conscious awareness of many drivers, to the point that we’re almost invisible. And it doesn’t help that so many drivers are hopelessly distracted behind the wheel.

Unless, of course, a rider happens to break the law — or do something that drivers, or even police officers, may mistakenly think is against the law — in which case, we become all too visible.

Which explains why so many people think that all cyclists run red lights and stop signs, because those are the only ones they notice, rather the ones waiting patiently for the light to change.

So the question is, how do we get the attention of drivers, and get them to notice the cyclists sharing the road with them every day?

On a personal level, I try to be as visible as possible by wearing bright colors and positioning myself where I can be clearly seen, both in the lane and at intersections. And using gestures — no, not that one — and eye contact to ensure that oncoming drivers see me.

Long Beach has tried to approach the problem through improved infrastructure, first with sharrows and now, by installing Southern California’s first bike box. Both not only show cyclists where they should position themselves on the road, but call drivers’ attention to the presence of cyclists and our right to the lane.

Meanwhile, L.A. still hasn’t painted a single sharrow — at least, not a legal one — despite working on it for over five years. But no, seriously, why would any Angeleno cyclist think nothing ever gets done around here, when the city averages a whopping 4.5 miles of new bike lanes a year?

Local cyclist Todd Mumford has another idea.

After getting hit in a left hook collision on his way home from work last summer, Todd began wondering how cyclists could increase visibility and make drivers more aware of us on the streets. And came up with a simple suggestion that could actually have a huge impact — and for once, one that doesn’t involve a car hitting one of us.

His idea, which he calls the See Us Ride Project, is to distribute the same eye-catching bike jersey or t-shirt to cyclists all across the city, using corporate sponsorship to underwrite the costs so they could be available free or, more likely, for a minimal cost.

Each shirt would have an identical saying printed on it, which would make the point that we’re here and need to be seen. He hasn’t worked out just what that should be yet, though he says — and I agree — that it should go beyond the usual “Share the Road” or “Three Feet, Please” messages.

Todd suggests something along the lines of See Us Ride. However, I prefer another thought he had, I Am Not A Target — which not only sends a clear message, but also opens up sponsorship and distribution possibilities with a certain massive retailer.

Then rather than ride together as a group, which would only be seen by a relative handful of people, he suggests that we encourage as many individual cyclists as possible to wear that shirt everywhere they ride for a full week — whether riding to work, on a group ride or just out for a relaxing afternoon on two wheels.

So that everywhere drivers look, they couldn’t help but notice it. And us.

The only change I would make to his idea would be to condense that week into a single day for maximum impact. And to urge every cyclist in town to ride somewhere, anywhere, on that day, wearing that shirt.

I think it’s a great idea. In fact, I’ve already forwarded his email to executives with the LACBC, C.I.C.L.E. and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Because it will take a lot more than Todd’s hard work to pull off something like this.

Then again, maybe some of our newly bike friendly City Council members would like to show their support for the cycling community by taking this on as a community project.

Of course, there’s also no reason this has to be limited to an L.A. effort, either. With the right sponsorship — say, Bikes Belong or Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong, maybe a corporation like Nike, Reebok or yes, Target, or even Lance’s new bike team — this could easily spread across the U.S.

It never hurts to dream big.

All it will take is for some organization to pick up the ball and run with it. Todd Mumford has already done the hard work.

The rest is just details.


L.A. Streetsblog votes for the city’s Liveable Streets Person of the Year. Bike Talk! airs live on Pacifica Radio as I post this; visit the link later to download a podcast of the show. LAist notes that LADOT has failed to provide copies of the proposed bike lane at local libraries, despite promises. LACBC offers a guide to bike parking. Bike friendly Travelin’ Local offers a year end review. Tucson Bike Lawyer points out the difference between police response in Canada and the U.S. The Dept. of D.I.Y. spreads to Portland cross walks. Baltimore gets new shared lanes for bikes and buses. Virginia cyclists want more protection. Licensing bikes and cyclists raises it’s ugly head in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. Another pro cyclist tests positive for a banned substance. Irish bike law begins to catch up with current roadway reality. Israel considers revoking last year’s mandatory helmet law. Yogyakarta, Indonesia turns the streets over to cyclists on New Years Eve. Britain’s government rejects a commonsense plan to protect urban cyclists from large trucks. Finally, personal injury attorney Doug Landau offers his new book, 10 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Bike Injury Case, as a paperback or free download — if you can get the link to work.

Evidently, I’m a hipster from an unhappy home

But I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good; oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood. — Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, The Animals

It’s not just Los Angeles.

All around the country — around the world, in fact — cyclists and biking organizations are fighting for better biking infrastructure. Some insist on separated bikeways where cyclists are safe from careless, distracted or uncaring drivers, and envy those who enjoy a planned, functional system where biking is considered an integral part of the overall transportation plan.

Most of us, though, would gladly settle for a few feet of roadway set off from buzzing traffic by nothing more than a thin strip of paint, on the assumption that something dedicated to cycling is better than nothing.

And nothing is pretty much what we’ve gotten here in Los Angeles.

In fact, since the 1996 bike plan was implemented — the one the currently debated plan is supposed to replace, even though many cyclists consider it a significant step backwards — the city has added an average of just 4.5 miles of bike lanes a year. Not counting the ones frustrated cyclists have painted themselves, of course.

Compare that to New York, which recently added 200 miles of new bike lanes in just three years.

Of course, the excuse reason we’re given is that Los Angeles is too built out and there’s not enough room to add more lanes. Especially not compared to a spacious, low-density and bike friendly community such as New York.

But it’s not enough to simply build bike lanes.

As we learned here over this past summer, we have to defend the ones that have already been built, a lesson New York cyclists have recently learned, as well.

As you may be aware, the city’s cyclists have been up in arms — or off with their tops —  over the removal of a bike lane in New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood, reputedly because the local Hassidic community was offended by the scantily clad cyclists who used it.

Which leads us to this. One of the most astounding demonstrations of sheer, unadulterated ignorance in the guise of offering insight that I’ve ever encountered.

Raanan Geberer, a writer for a local Brooklyn newspaper, lumps those protesting the removal of the bike lane together as “hipsters,” explaining, with some justification, that they were “described in the media as such.” Then after addressing why the Hassidic community was offended — without evidently bothering to talk to any actual Hassidim — he goes on to say this:

One can also understand the anger of the hipsters. By and large, these are people who grew up in unhappy home situations and who have moved to Williamsburg from other parts of the city or the country to “be with their own kind” and live their own unconventional lifestyle. Many, if not most, were teased during their childhood because they were “different,” and fiercely want to defend their hard-fought right to live their lifestyle without interference.

So let me get this straight.

If you’re upset that the bike lane was removed, or that a religious group was apparently allowed to use their influence to dictate the dress and behavior of those outside their group, in violation of the U.S. constitution, you are undoubtedly motivated by an unhappy childhood. Not to mention the desire to be with your own kind and live an “unconventional” lifestyle.

You know, like an irrational desire to conduct radical counter-cultural activities — like riding a bike, for instance — as well as an unreasonable, revolutionary refusal to transport yourself by motor vehicle at all times.

Never mind that many, if not most, of those protesting the lane’s removal may live outside of Williamsburg and use the bike lane, not to get around the neighborhood, but to pass safely through it. Or that it is used — or rather, was — by all kinds of cyclists, some of whom may actually shop at Macy’s and vote Republican on occasion.

Unconventional, indeed.

Of course, while it’s tempting to dismissed this as the isolated ravings of an idiot, the same sort of lazy, biased reporting is found even when writers attempt to dig a little deeper in the story. But it brings up a larger problem, both in terms of infrastructure and acceptance by the larger public.

Too many people see cyclists as a single, homogenous — and often, in their eyes, law-breaking —mass, defined more by their own perceptions than anything remotely grounded in reality. When we’re actually nothing more than a loose collection of individuals trying to get from here to there, each of whom has his or her own reasons for riding and own way of doing it.

Sort of like the great multitude of those behind the wheel, in other words.

And unless we can change those perceptions, we’re going to have a hard time changing things on the streets. Because it’s easy to refuse — or remove — something that only benefits a small group of hipsters, lycra louts, critical massholes or Lance Armstrong wannabees.

But much harder to say no to the guy next door, or the woman who works next to you.


LACBC sponsors their Mid-Winter Merriment tomorrow from 11:30 am to 11 pm at the Library Alehouse, 2911 Main Street in Santa Monica; bike valet available after 5 pm. Stephen Box analyzes why 2009 was the Year of the Bike in Los Angeles. Photos from the successful St. Anne’s Toy Ride. Burbank’s newspaper notes that local bicycling is moving into a new age, and encourages cyclists and pedestrians to keep the pressure on. As of January 1st, seatless bikes will be legal in California, even if Bakfiets break the law in the City of Angels. Presenting the possible Algonquin of Bay Area biking. In New Jersey, a step back for bike parking, cleverly disguised as a step forward. New York considers a three-foot passing law, while Mississippi considers laws requiring safe passing and banning harassment, and Baltimore considers simple solutions like changing the direction of storm grates. Do women owe their emancipation to their bikes? Once again, the Tour of Georgia bites the dust, while the French again investigate Lance Armstrong’s former team. Flashing bike lights are now legal in Ireland; legal passing on the inside is still to come. Refurbished bikes are donated to Liverpool churches. A rally for a bike-friendly Bangladesh. Israeli cyclists fight the mandatory helmet law. New Years celebrants in Adelaide could be saved by cycling paramedics. Finally, poof that not all crime-fighting superheroes wear a cape; some ride a bike, then bravely run away.

The 2nd Annual BikingInLA Holiday Spectacular!



The pier is oddly deserted. All the shops and restaurants, bars and booths are closed, the lights are out; the Ferris Wheel sits dark and silent, a ghostly shadow looms over the beach in the moonlight. The tourists, barkers and buskers are gone. A raggedy man huddles in a doorway, turning his face from the cold night air.

It’s Christmas Eve.

A lone cyclist pedals onto the pier. He rides slowly, savoring a rare moment of quiet and solitude amid the bustle of the city. He pauses next to the carousel; it flickers briefly to life as he gazes into the distance. He doesn’t notice, distracted by a familiar sound off in the distance.


A shadow flits across the moon; he looks up in anticipation, but it’s only a flock of gulls passing by. Yet the sound continues to draw nearer.


A very large man appears in the glow of a street light at the foot of the pier, struggling to pedal his bike with the large red bag stuffed with packages slung over his shoulder. He’s flamboyantly dressed in non-PETA-approved fur, a brilliant red from head to toe. His breathing is heavy, his brow damp, his beard soaked with sweat.

He’s not happy.



He looks up and sees the cyclist standing there.


You again!


Hello Santa. (ADMIRING THE FAT MAN’S BIKE) I see you traded in your Flying Pigeon from last year…


Hmmmph. Damn thing couldn’t really fly.


But still, a Pashley Gunvor is a nice step up.


Yeah, you should like it, kid. It was gonna be yours.




Don’t get excited. I said it was going to be yours. That was before ICE confiscated my sleigh at the border. Freaking bureaucrats. I mean, just because Rudolph has a runny nose doesn’t mean it’s the swine flu.

Now I’ve got just this side of 6.8 billion deliveries to make by morning. And my butt already hurts. I mean, it’s not like I do a lot a riding back home.

A light flickers in the nightclub next to the carousel; as if by magic, we see Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra singing a Christmas song through the window.




No Pashley for me?


Oh, get over it, already. You got plenty of gifts this year.


Yeah, you said that last year.


I can’t help it if you don’t appreciate things, you ungrateful little…


Such as?


Like a Transportation Secretary who supports bikes, for once. You think that just happened on it’s own?




Then there’s the local Transportation Committee that backs biking, and that proposed anti-harassment ordinance. And even Mayor Villaraigosa says he needs to do a better job to support cycling.

Never thought you’d see that, did you?


Yeah, I think the devil had to put on an overcoat that day.


And who do you think got Asst. D.A. Mary Stone assigned to prosecute Dr. Christopher Thompson? And got a sympathetic jury, even if they don’t ride bikes?

You could show a little gratitude, you know.

A window in the restaurant across the pier springs to life; David Bowie and Bing Crosby appear in a holiday scene.




Okay, okay. I am grateful…


About time.


But what about you? What do you want for Christmas?


No one ever asks what I want. It’s always gimme this, gimme that. Nothing for the jolly old fat man…


Okay, so I’m asking.


Hmmmmmm. I want to be able to marry my partner.




Not a lot of difference between jolly and gay, if you ask me. Would’ve thought the red suit would tip people off.


But Mrs. Claus…?


Ever see La Cage aux Folles? Name’s Bernie. Voted the Artic’s best drag performer 14 years in a row.


Got it. Anything else?


Yeah. Remember we’re celebrating the birth of a man who taught peace, understanding, love and forgiveness. So stop using him as an excuse to do just the opposite.

Once again, the nightclub magically comes to life. Inside, we see a young Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band perform their holiday classic.



The conversation draws to a close. The old man climbs back on his bike, winks and starts to pedal away. He pauses as if remembering something, and circles back to the homeless man sleeping in the doorway. He pulls a small package out of his bag and carefully places it under the sleeping man’s arm, then remounts his bike and pedals into the darkness.

The cyclist watches, then reaches into his pack, pulling out his wallet. Inside is a single dollar bill. It’s been a hard year; maybe next year will be better. He hesitates, then removes the bill and tucks it into the man’s hand.


Merry Christmas.

From off in the distance we hear a reply, echoing softly across the deserted beach.


And to all, a good night!




L.A. Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery gets punked with a fake Twitter account. Damien explains why the Festival of Rights matter, and why city officials can’t legally ban cyclists. LACBC reports on last weekend’s Larchmont Village Family Holiday Bike Ride. Sometimes, you wish drivers would just hang up and drive. L.A.’s proposed anti-harassment ordinance is on cyclists’ radar. A local cyclist calls for help, leading to an unlikely run-in with a motorcycle cop. Great rules for respect on the roads; they’ll work just as well for L.A. cyclists as they will in Springfield. A lawyer notes that bike injuries are up in Colorado. Austin cyclists debunk the myth that bike infrastructure will hurt business. From Chicago, a video report on how bikes and buses can share the road. A wish list for better cycling laws in the DC area. A London cyclist shares what has to be one of the world’s worst bike lanes; the Guardian offers other examples that make L.A.’s limited offerings look good. Cycling paramedics save lives in Sheffield. Building bike activism in Bangalore. Britain proposes doubling the penalty for dangerous driving. World Champion Cadel Evans rides onto the scene just moments after a fatal cycling collision. Finally, naked New Zealand cyclists are told to go home and get a helmet.

Best wishes to all for a joyous holiday season, and a better year in 2010.

Today’s blustery day edition of missing links

I wanted to get yesterday’s post online before bed last night, which meant I didn’t have time to include the usual links. And I do have a long, long list of interesting stories to share. So settle in for some serious clicking on today’s pre-holiday blustery day edition of today’s missing links.

Metblogs takes up the outcry over L.A. Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery’s recent comments about our lack of homogeneity — aka playing the race card —  while one of L.A.’s leading political blogs puts her job on deathwatch and Jeremy Grant runs a help-wanted ad for the position.

Following Friday’s protest ride, Stephen Box and Jeremy Grant comment on the anti-bike policies at the Festival of Lights; Stephen got a ticket after the officer struggled to find something to write him up for. Los Angeles Rides author Timur sums up the year with a series of truly breathtaking photos (no bikes but definitely worth a look). The Huffington Post discovers Flying Pigeon’s Dim Sum rides; speaking of which, they’re now the city’s newest Pashley dealer — but no Guvnors, dammit.

A San Diego cyclist is in critical condition after colliding with a semi last week. Blaming the victim: for a change, it’s a driver who gets doored in Santa Cruz, rather than a cyclist. Streetsblog offers a history of San Francisco’s Critical Mass. Paso Robles passes a bike master plan. Glendale makes a serious run for bike friendliness, making safety improvements, painting sharrows and counting bikes — although it sounds like Burbank Councilman David Gordon (see safety improvement link) could stand to hear from a few cyclists.

An update on a Seattle cyclist mysteriously found laying in the street with life-threatening injuries last August. Bob Mionske examines the Philly anti-bike backlash following two pedestrians apparently killed by cyclists. A judge in Portland rules bike lanes — and cyclists’ protection in them — ends at the intersection.

London is ridable if you avoid the bus routes; but Brit drivers complain that cyclists and pedestrians will take advantage of those new 20 mph speed limits by doing crazy things like staying alive. The perfect gift for people who’d like to bike, but don’t want to bother with those annoying frames and handlebars, and furniture for people who truly live cycling.

Finally, in the spirit of the season, countless kids have gotten new bikes in the past few days, courtesy of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the Derek Lewis Foundation, the Butte County, CA Sherriff’s Department, rapper Shawty Lo and defensive end Chauncey Davis of the Atlanta Falcons, and cornerback Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints. Hats off for having their hearts in the right place.


Is it right to pass on the right? Or dangerous and illegal?

It’s a simple syllogism.

Passing on the right is illegal; I pass on the right. Therefore, I break the law.


Okay, so it’s not up there with Socrates’ classic hits, like “All men are mortal.” But that was the gist of a conversation that took place last week, in response to my comments about the recent TRL study showing drivers are responsible for the overwhelming majority of British cycling collisions.

A reader named Doug questioned how closely the British data actually correlates to Los Angeles, which is a fair question. While British drivers complain about the very same cyclist behaviors L.A. drivers do — and vice versa — we have no statistics to back us up.

Primarily because no one has bothered to do an in-depth study of cycling in this city — let alone an analysis of how and why cycling accidents happen and who is at fault.

But more to the point, at least in terms of today’s topic, he also complained about cyclists who run stop signs and red lights. And about riders who pass on the right.

Like I do. And like I often advise other cyclists to do.

Pass on the right, that is — not run red lights.

As Doug put it,

Splitting lines, by both motorcycles and bicycles, is legal in California. However, passing on the right is not, and that is very different. Certainly, a responsible cyclists knows that passing on the right is dangerous and should be avoided.

So who’s right?

From my perspective, you’re almost always better off at the front of an intersection, where you can be seen from every angle, than stopped in the lane behind a line of cars — where drivers coming up from behind may not anticipate the presence of a cyclist, and where you could be hidden from oncoming and cross traffic. And that often means working your way up the right side of the traffic lane.

There are other situations that seem to call for passing on the right, as well. Like riding in heavy traffic, where you can easily ride faster than the speed of the cars next to you. Or when traffic is stopped while you have a clear path ahead.

My justification for doing it is simple. CVC21202 requires that you ride as far to the right as practicable. So unless you’re actually riding in the traffic lane, you’re in a separate lane from the traffic next to you — usually the parking lane or a strip of pavement to the right of the actual traffic lane.

And according to the applicable traffic code, CVC21754, passing on the right is allowed “whenever there is unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.” In other words, if there’s a clear lane of travel wide enough for your bike, it’s legal.

Still not sure?

Look at it this way. Say you’re driving in the right lane on a four lane street, with two lanes of traffic in each direction. The cars in the left lane come to a stop while the lead driver waits to make a left turn. Does that mean you have to stop as well, even though you’re in the next lane? Or if the traffic to your left slows down, do you have to slow as well to avoid passing anyone?

Of course not.

If that happened, traffic would grind to a halt on virtually every street and highway in the country. And since the same laws apply for bikes as for other road users, if it’s legal for drivers, it’s legal for us.

But that was just my opinion — based on nothing more than the rationalizations of a highly opinionated, semi-analytical long-time cyclist. Then I read almost exactly the same arguments on cycling lawyer Bob Mionske’s Bicycle Law website.

But as Rick Bernardi’s column there makes clear, just because something’s legal, that doesn’t mean you may not still get a ticket for it. And you may not win in court, either.

The other question is, is it safe?

Only about as safe as any other maneuver on streets filled with sometimes careless and inattentive drivers.

Some drivers may not check their mirrors and blind spots before moving to the right, never considering that anyone else might want to occupy that same space.

Or operate under the mistaken assumption that it’s illegal for cyclists to pass on the right, and therefore, none would even try. Because, you know, drivers never do anything we think they’re not supposed to do, either.

So you have to be careful.

Keep a close eye on the cars on your left, watching for right turn signals or front wheels turned to the right, as well as cars slowly inching over or drivers turning to look over their shoulders. Always pass on the left side of a right turn lane. And never, ever pass to the right of a car that’s waiting to make a right turn.

But consider this. The recent landmark study of cycling accidents from Fort Collins, Colorado, listed passing on the right as a contributing factor in just one of 354 cycling collisions.


In other words, about 213 less than the number of broadside collisions that occurred as a result of simply riding a bike across an intersection.

And I don’t know anyone who says that just riding across the street is dangerous.

Or illegal.

Today’s ride, on which I get right-hooked by a bus in Bike Friendly Santa Monica

It’s the holiday season.

When the city takes on a festive glow, and visions of sugar plums dance in countless heads, even if no one seems to know what those are anymore. And stressed out, distracted and/or intoxicated drivers hit the road, with the possible presence of cyclists the furthest thing from their minds.

I have no idea if that had anything to do with the problem I ran into today. I only know I arrived home simultaneously mad as hell and thanking God I was in one piece.

It’s not like I wasn’t prepared.

Experience has taught me that driving gets worse the closer we get to the holidays. In fact, the last Friday before Christmas — tomorrow, in other words, or possibly today by the time you read this — is often just this side of a demolition derby as people stumble out of countless office parties and into their cars.

So I wasn’t too surprised when a driver nearly right-hooked me. Or even when a pedestrian stepped right out in front of me without ever looking up, forcing me into a panic stop that ended with his extremely startled face just inches from mine.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the bus driver who cut directly in front of me — apparently on purpose — in what seemed from my perspective like a road rage assault. Then again, maybe she was just an incredibly crappy driver.

I first encountered her as I rode through the commercial district on Montana Avenue in the Bicycle Friendly City of Santa Monica, headed east in the bike lane. One of the city’s Big Blue Buses was loading passengers at a bus stop, then pulled out and cut me off as soon as I started to go around it.

It happens.

I wasn’t happy about it, but that’s almost to be expected. I see buses do the same thing to drivers on a daily basis.

Then a few blocks down the road, I moved ahead of the bus while it waited at a red light, since it was clear the driver was going to pull over at a bus stop just past the light. That put me safely out of its path, and I left the bus and its driver far behind me.

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

A few blocks further down the road, I could feel the bus coming up behind me. By that point, though, the bike lane had ended and the road had narrowed down to a single lane in both directions, with parking on each side. I had already taken the lane, since there wasn’t room for a car to pass safely — and certainly not enough for a bus.

I wasn’t too worried about it, though. While I don’t enjoy having a bus on my ass, I was doing over 20 mph in a 25 mph school zone, so it wasn’t like I was holding anyone up.

Evidently, the driver disagreed.

The moment we cleared the center divider, she gunned her engine and cut around me on the left — way too close for my comfort — then immediately cut back in front of me to pull over to the bus stop in front of the elementary school.

At that distance, stopping was not an option; I would have rear-ended the bus, which would not have been pretty at that speed. So I squeezed my brakes and leaned hard to the left, just clearing the rear bumper of the bus and zooming past; if I’d clipped its bumper, I would have been thrown into oncoming traffic, and probably wouldn’t be here to write this.

Again, not exactly a desirable outcome.

About half a block down the road, I thought better of it, though, and turned back to take down the number of the bus — 3830 — and the route number (3). Then I sat back and waited for the bus pass, somehow managing to keep both my words and fingers to myself.

After all, it wasn’t like she hadn’t known I was there. She’d just followed me for about a block, then sped up to go around me — even though it would have been much smarter to simply wait a few seconds and pull over safely behind me.

Somehow, though, I suspect that my safety was the last thing on her mind. Then again, pulling a stunt like that in school zone suggests she wasn’t too concerned about the kids, either.

I’ve already filed a complaint. And been assured by the very pleasant woman who answered the phone that they take things like this very seriously.

We’ll see.


Update to the recent item about Andrew Wooley, the San Diego cyclist wrongly convicted of violating CVC21202 for passing a short line of cars in the right turn lane on the left, even though he was riding faster than the current speed of traffic.

In a surprising turnaround, the San Diego City Attorney’s office issued a formal position clarifying the law and reversing the undeserved conviction. Bike San Diego discusses the lessons learned, and interviews Wooley about the case — including the frightening revelation that the officer involved visited Wooley’s work and filed a complaint with his boss after Wooley had discussed the case with the officer’s supervisor.


In what may be a sign of the apocalypse, L.A.’s mayor endorses cycling, or at least CicLAvia. Bike Girl offers a cautionary tale about choosing your battles. Burbank adopts a new bike plan that actually connects to other cities. A 30 minute car commute now takes 20 minutes by bike. A 9-year old Thousand Oaks boy is injured in a hit-and-run, while 39-year old Camarillo father is killed in a cycling collision; for a change, the driver stuck around. Conejo Valley volunteers give away 160 refurbished bikes, while Temecula’s Rotary Club gives away 39 shiny new ones this holiday season. Ridership in America’s bike paradise goes down for the first time in five years. Cyclists and drivers fight over Santa Rosa’s first bike boulevard; in Austin, it’s cyclists vs. business people. An innocent Chicago cyclist is killed when caught between road raging drivers. If New York’s South Williamsburg Hasidic community though cyclists were scantily clad before, just wait until this weekend. Arizona cyclists win the right to take the lane on appeal. New Bikes Allowed Use Of Full Lane stickers on sale now – which brings up the new Federal standards for bicycle signage. A Toronto man gets roughly one day in jail for each 3.3 of the 3,000 bikes he stole. British Cycling announces the first 50 members of its new Hall of Fame. Finally, the plot thickens as a cyclist hit by a car containing actress Anne Hathaway may have been a paparazzo intent on getting a photo. No wonder he didn’t stick around.

Car vs. bike: New study says it’s probably not your fault

There’s been an epidemic of serious — and tragic — SoCal hit-and-run collisions lately.

Along with a rush to blame dangerous, law-breaking cyclists for nearly every impact and close call.

Talk about blaming the victim.

That’s why I was fascinated by a recent government sponsored study from Britain, which reached the surprising conclusion that drivers are responsible for the overwhelming majority of serious bicycle collisions. And that only a tiny percentage result from cyclists running red lights or stop signs — despite what you may have read.

Or at least, surprising to many who spend more time behind the wheel than on them.

Conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory for the UK’s Department of Transport, the study found that only 2% of collisions resulting in serious injury were caused, at least in part, by cyclists running red lights and stop signs.

Two percent.

Another 2% resulted from failing to use lights after dark; wearing dark clothing at night was cited as a potential cause in just 2.5% of crashes. In fact, a full 78% of all serious cycling accidents — those resulting in serious injury or death — occurred during daylight hours; 80% were on dry roads in good weather conditions.

So while ninja cyclists may be twice as dangerous as red light runners, even they pale in significance compared to those motoring down the street in their hulking, smoke-belching mechanical behemoths.

According to an article in the Guardian’s bike blog, the study found drivers solely responsible in 60% to 75% of all crashes involving adult riders, and cyclists at fault in just 17% to 25%.

In other words, a driver is three times as likely to be at fault in a cycling collision. And bear in mind that those figures are based on an analysis of official police reports — which are highly unlikely to be biased in favor of cyclists.

While the recent study of cycling collisions from Fort Collins, Colorado, found that broadside collisions were the most common form of cycling accidents, this study concluded that many riders’ greatest fear is justified.

Over 25% percent of urban riders were struck from behind, while 40% of collisions that didn’t occur at an intersection were strike-from-behind collisions. Not surprisingly, in most accidents the cyclist was struck by the front of the vehicle.

And just 3% of serious collisions happened in bike lanes.

Read into that whatever you will.

A few other key points:

  • 83% of serious cycling injuries involved a collision with another vehicle.
  • In cases when drivers were at least partially at fault, 56% failed to “look properly” — in other words, failed to see a cyclist who should have been visible — while 17% turned in a poor manner and another 17% were cited as careless, reckless or in a hurry.
  • When cyclists were found at least partially at fault, 43% failed to look properly, while 20% were entering the street from the sidewalk.
  • Cyclists were more likely to be injured on week days than weekends, and during both morning and evening commute times (6 am – 9 am; 3 pm – 6 pm).
  • Almost two-thirds of serious injuries occurred at or near intersections
  • The severity of injuries increased with the posted speed limit.

That last point brings up the findings of another recent study published in the medical journal BMJ.

Researchers found that reducing the speed limit to 20 mph in certain sections of London resulted in a 41.9% drop in serious injuries and fatalities, including a 17% drop for accidents involving cyclists. And interestingly, the rate of injury did not go up for neighboring streets where the speed limit was not reduced; in fact, it dropped 8% — suggesting that lowering the speed limit may cause people to drive more safely throughout the surrounding area.

Just more proof that passing the Safe Streets Bill, which would have ended California’s absurdist practice of automatically raising speed limits on streets where most drivers speed, isn’t just a good idea.

It’s absolutely necessary.

Of course, some might argue that the UK isn’t the US, and London isn’t L.A. — although the large number of Brit expats in this city offers a reasonable argument to the contrary. And Britain’s largest cycling organization has objected to the TRL’s conclusion that universal helmet use would save 10 to 15 lives in the UK each year.

But conflicts between drivers and cyclists seem to be a worldwide phenomenon, and aside from driving on the wrong side of the road, British drivers — and cyclists — don’t seem to be much different from those in America.

And that’s not always a good thing.

You can download a free PDF of the TRL study by clicking here; registration is required.


Police release photos of a ballsy bike riding bandit who struck across the street from the new LAPD headquarters; maybe he didn’t know what that shiny new building was. Advice on defusing road rage through non-violence. Santa rides a bike throughout Los Angeles this year. LACBC celebrates a successful year of Car-Free Fridays with a Holiday Breakfast Ride this Friday. A Streetsblog reader offers a great suggestion to address cycling safety. A driver who killed an Anchorage, AK cyclist over a year ago while high on drugs is finally charged; evidently, justice delayed ≠ justice denied. Why not turn highways into bikeways? Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get your bike. MIT cyclists get separated bike lanes. Evidently, the Safe Routes to School program really is working to keep children safer. Common causes of bike crashes and how to avoid them. Lance’s new carbon belt-drive single-speed bike. Finally, why is it socially acceptable to threaten cyclists? Why, indeed.

Update on tragedy: North Hollywood hit-and-run victim dies

According to the LAPD, the cyclist injured early this month in a North Hollywood hit-and-run has died.

And the driver who left his broken body laying in the street as he fled the scene is now wanted for murder.

In an assault that reportedly left an experienced police detective outraged, Robert Painter was struck by a dark green or black Jeep Grand Cherokee at approximately 5:10 pm on December 2nd, while riding his bike in the crosswalk where Archwood Street crossed Laurel Canyon Boulevard. According to the LAPD, the impact “launched Painter off his bike into the air,” resulting in severe injuries; the suspect immediately fled without rendering aid.

Paramedics transported painter, a Canadian citizen living in North Hollywood, to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries this past Saturday, December 12 — 10 days after he was struck.

From the LAPD blog:

The driver of the car is described as a male Hispanic 30 to 35 years old with dark hair and dark clothes.  There was also a female passenger who was described as possibly wearing a red coat.  The suspect’s car is said to have collision damage on the front end of the driver’s side.  The suspect’s car was last seen entering an Arco gas station at the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Van Owen Street a block north of where the collision occurred.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Valley Traffic Division Detectives Doug Larkin at (818) 644-8036 or Detective William Bustos at 818-644-8020.  During off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour, toll-free number at1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247).  Callers may also text “Crimes” with a cell phone or log on to and click on Web tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with “LAPD.”  Tipsters may remain anonymous.

The cycling community has tens of thousands more eyes on the street than the police, so keep an eye open when you ride. If you see a vehicle that matches the description, don’t try to stop it; call the police and let them do their job.

And let’s put this son-of-a-bitch behind bars where he belongs.

Santa Clarita hit-and-run killer was high on meth, coke, grass and booze; now faces trial

After Marco Valencia plowed into a group of cyclists on Bouquet Canyon Road last July, he wanted a Sheriff’s Deputy to kill him.

The local Santa Clarita Valley newspaper quotes L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Burrow as testifying that “He told me to shoot him, that his life was over.”

Unfortunately for the riders he hit, the request came a little too late.

By the time Valencia was apprehended after a short chase, Joseph Novotny already lay dead or dying and four other cyclists were injured, two seriously.

L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Allen Ramseyer accused Valencia of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life.” According to Ramseyer, he had a blood alcohol level of .18 — over twice the legal limit of .08 — as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of his arrest.

Despite being under age at the time of his arrest, Valencia already had two prior DUI convictions when he appeared before Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss at the San Fernando Courthouse on Thursday. According to the Signal, Giss determined that there was enough evidence to try Valencia on “13 criminal counts, including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.”

Giss set bail at $1.3 million, with Valencia’s next court appearance scheduled for Christmas Eve.

Somehow, I don’t think he’ll find anything good in his stocking this year — or for the next few decades, for that matter.

And Novotny’s family will have an empty seat at their holiday table this year.

And every year that follows.


A reminder that cyclists aren’t the only vulnerable street users at risk from hit-and-run drivers. Miguel Penayo tried to escape from the scene of a traffic collision in Bell last night after apparently feeling threatened by a group of men, driving directly at them and striking one man. He then struck and killed another man who was leaving a Starbucks — an innocent victim who had nothing to do with the preceding incident — dragging his body beneath the car for “some distance,” according to L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.


For all you Dutch bike and cargo bike fans, Flying Pigeon will soon stock Nihola Cigar Cargo Bikes. Streetsblog offers a bike-focused calendar for the upcoming week. The new plan for the Whittier Narrows calls for more bikeways and bike friendly streets. Stunt cyclist Danny Makaskill demonstrates the skills you need to navigate rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. Charleston, SC looks to calm the conflict between cyclists and drivers. The New York Times magazine endorses the bicycle highway. Missouri considers building a hanging bike bridge over the Mississippi River. Philadelphia cyclists declare victory over the city’s first experiment with a road diet. Among the reasons not to bike to work, you could die — of course, the same argument could be made for not getting out of bed in the morning. Cheap helmets help, but fit matters, too. With the rise in cycling, expect bad press to get worse before it gets better. A UK “thug” is sentenced for killing a man in an argument over borrowing his bike. Apparently, drunk cycling is legal in New Zealand, but I wouldn’t count on it. Philippines cyclists ride for women’s rights. A Brit TV host had his “willy cut ‘half off’” in a childhood biking accident. The rash of bike thefts spreads to Oxford — yet somehow, becomes a reason to crack down on reckless riders. After 75 years, the debate over UK bike lanes goes on…and on…and on… Finally, an OP piece in car-centric L.A.’s leading paper calls on Angelenos to change their thinking and not view streets as exclusively for cars; it didn’t take long for the usual sniping about “traffic laws are for cyclists, too,” to start. Or for someone to suggest it’s all a commie plot.

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