Archive for December 11, 2009

Bike counts, toy rides, another near-fatal OC hit-and-run

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

Donald Murphy of Irvine was critically injured in yet another hit-and-run around 6 am Wednesday while riding in the northbound bike lane on Jamboree Road near the intersection with Ford Road in Irvine. According to police, a driver indentified as Patricia Ann Izquieta entered the bike lane he was riding in while making an “unsafe turning maneuver,” striking him and leaving a 300-yard pattern of debris.

That’s three football fields of bike parts strewn along the roadway from the bicycle trapped under her car as she fled the scene.

Izquieta was stopped by police a few blocks later with damage to the windshield and front undercarriage of her car, and is being held in Orange County Jail on $50,000 bond. Police reports indicate that she was not on a cell phone and alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

Witnesses said Murphy was wearing a helmet and riding in a safe and legal manner when struck. A passing driver stopped to give CPR along with one of his riding partners

Murphy was transported to Western Medical Center ­– Santa Ana. The Orange County Register quotes Lt. Rob Morton of the Newport Beach Police as saying “He’s in pretty bad shape.”

Update: Today’s OC Register reports that Murphy died at Western Medical Center on Thursday; there was no comment from the family. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

………

The LACBC finally has preliminary results from the city’s first bike count.

What I find interesting is that only 12% of the riders were female — less than the number of children counted — while 54% of riders weren’t wearing a helmet, 38% were on the sidewalk, and 6% were riding the wrong way.

They also offer an LACBC-centric report on Wednesday’s semi-bike-only Transportation Committee meeting.

……..

There’s no shortage of big hearts in biking community.

But I never fail to be impressed by gull rescuer and stray dog wrangler Will Campbell — although his odd attachment to ‘Bama football does make me wonder sometimes. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that the Midnight Ridazz All-City Toy Ride was his idea, though he gives much of the credit for organizing the first ride to Ridazz co-founder Roadblock.

The ride kicks off tonight — appropriately enough on the first night of Channukah — from various points throughout the city, converging on the Plaza Gazebo on Olvera Street around 10 pm. Riders are asked to bring an unwrapped toy valued at $5 to $25 dollars for free admission to the after party; toys will be donated to the East L.A. Women’s Center.

Click here or visit the Ridazz website for more information.

……..

Recently I included a link to the excellent Bike San Diego website, for a story about a cyclist who was ticketed for passing a short row of stopped vehicles on the left, even though that is not prohibited under California law.

The judge upheld the ticket, convicting Andrew Woolley for violating CVC 21202, despite the fact that his actions were explicitly allowed under the statute. According to the judge, the exceptions allowed under 21202 did not apply, since the speed limit on the road is 35 mph, which he determined was the normal speed of traffic — even though 21202 specifically refers to the speed of traffic “moving in the same direction at that time.”

Writing on Bob Mioske’s website, Rick Bernardi offers a great examination of exactly why the judge was in error, while noting that it sometimes doesn’t make any difference if the law is on your side. And contrasts it with a Utah case, in which a cyclist was cited for doing exactly what the judge in the Woolley case said he should have done.

So let me see if I’ve got this right. You can’t pass on the right, and you can’t pass on the left. Or maybe you’re required to break the law one way in Utah, and another in California. Or the judge is allowed to misapply the law one way in one state, and another in the other.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

You can read the full transcript of the Woolley case here, and see the opening brief to his appeal here.

And buy a copy of Catch 22 — which seems to be the new judicial standard — here.

………

Last week’s Ballona Creek Gateway opening included an announcement of the planned Mar Vista Greenway. Lance commits to two more years. Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt suggests that cyclists should consider the Adopt a Highway model for bike lane maintenance. Cycling fashion dilemma: to wear a day-glo vest or not? Denver re-writes its bike laws to conform with the new state laws; Tucson Bike Lawyer notes that it’s now legal to ride to a bike rack on the sidewalk. The police can’t — or won’t — keep cars out of NYC bike lanes, but maybe a bunch of clowns will. New York’s DIY bike lanes have already been painted over; the alleged artists reportedly will plead not guilty. UPS is making some holiday deliveries by bike. Austin struggles to find consensus on the city’s first bike boulevard. A Utah cyclist is under arrest for groping another rider. London’s Evening Standard reports work has begun on “Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycle-hire scheme;” no bias there, huh? An Indian student is murdered by his friends after buying a new bike. Some friends. Finally, it’s 13 degrees in Chicago, and cyclists are still riding — even if that means riding on studded bike tires.

TranspoComm Chair Rosendahl draws a line in the sand

It hasn’t been easy watching the City Council this past year.

Especially the Transportation Committee.

I’ve watched as council members requested a response from various city agencies on issues ranging from the long-delayed Sharrows pilot project to the LAPD’s flawed response to the Hummer Incident.  Only to see them sit back and accept lame excuses from the people who supposedly work for them — to the point that I’ve wondered who really runs this city.

Sort of like watching someone tease a caged animal that has long ago given up fighting back. And yes, I have seen that, in a less enlightened time and a far less enlightened place; it evokes the same sort of stomach-twisting pity I’ve felt watching our government in action.

Maybe that changed yesterday.

This is how the Transportation Committee chambers looked when the hearing was scheduled to begin

After a seemingly endless delay in the scheduled 2 pm start time that left cyclists wondering if the committee had blown them off — followed by visibly livid committee member Richard Alarcón storming out of the meeting just moments after the members finally arrived and an impromptu hearing on the issue of overnight RV parking in Venice — the nearly bike-only Transportation Committee meeting finally began.

And truncated though it was, it was worth the wait. If only to watch committee Chair Bill Rosendahl get his back up and start demanding answers from the people who work for this city.

Because of the late start, two items — updates on the Sharrows program, which has been delayed to near-infinity, and the proposed bike-sharing program — were dropped entirely.

A third motion to increase the number of bike parking spaces required for new developments was touched on briefly, only because an audience member wanted to comment on it after going out of his way to attend the meeting. Although why it should be limited to new developments is beyond me, when City Hall doesn’t even offer adequate bike space.

This is what passes for bike parking at L.A. City Hall

From the beginning, Rosendahl ran the short-handed meeting with a firm hand. In addition to the Alarcón storm-out, Bernard Parks was missing in action and Tom LaBonge had to leave before the last, and most important, issue was discussed — leaving just Rosendahl and the recently elected 5th district representative Paul Koretz.

When the representatives from LADOT and the Planning department mentioned Federal funding that may be available in connection to the new bike plan, Rosenhdahl asked, “Do we need a resolution to get that? Because I want to get that money.”

He followed up with a list of 12 hard-hitting questions prepared in conjunction with bike activists Stephen Box and Alex Thompson; to be honest, though, the limited responses offered were far less important than the fact that someone was finally starting to ask them.

Bike Coordinator Michele Mowery’s insistence that the plan the city presented was the one that Alta Planning delivered brought audible murmurs of “bullshit” from the audience — or it could have just been me. Her answer may have been technically correct, but very few people actually believe this is the plan that Alta wanted to deliver.

She also was taken to task by audience members for “playing the race card,” suggesting that L.A.’s diversity makes it more challenging to build to a functional bikeway system than it is in a city like Portland — “a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation,” while L.A. is a “very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people.”

Dr. Alex has already written a very hard-hitting response to that; if you haven’t read it, click here and read it now. Well, maybe when you’re done with this. But seriously, read it.

Complementing Rosendahl’s newly newly demonstrated commitment, Koretz was also a pleasant surprise.

Throughout the meeting, he spoke very little, sitting quietly until audience members were making their comments. Then he interrupted briefly to note that he also rides a bike, but isn’t comfortable riding on L.A. city streets. And asked if this plan would allow inexperienced cyclists to get where they want to go.

The overwhelming answer was no.

Rosendahl responded firmly to my comment that all the work spent on this bike plan is a waste of time unless there was a commitment to actually build it — unlike the 1996 plan, which had no apparent use other than as a very large and clumsy paperweight.

He insisted that he will make sure the final plan is built — the first commitment any city official has made to this plan, including the people responsible for it. “There’s been enough talk,” he said. “No more words, it’s time for action.”

That attitude was also in evidence when representatives of the LAPD appeared to update the council on recent cycling cases, including the Hummer Incident, as well as the West L.A. case I wrote about recently — noting that no arrest has been made, but the matter has been referred to the City Attorney for possible charges.

When the respected Commander Greer — recently promoted to Assistant Commander of the Detective Bureau — mentioned that a report has been completed on the Hummer case, but not yet approved, Rosendahl said he wanted a copy prior to the next meeting, approved or not.

And in a huge win for cyclists, Cmmdr. Greer announced that all officers below the rank of Lieutenant will be required to complete a brief online course on riders’ rights and responsibilities, created by a group a bike officers. Rosendahl pushed them to take a step further, insisting that the department needs to create a bike training module for the police academy — something I’ve repeatedly called for on here.

Of course, it wasn’t all good news. The Commander noted that Lt. Andre Dawson, recently appointed by Chief Beck as the point man for cycling complaints, will no longer be involved in the process and asked that cyclists no longer contact him.

However, the committee saved the best for last.

The most important issue of the evening — and yes, by then it was evening — was the proposed anti-harassment ordinance.

After hearing from several cyclists, Koretz said he’d heard a few stories about the problems cyclists face on the roads, but had no idea it was so widespread. With that, he made a motion to forward the proposal on to the Public Safety Committee, which was quickly seconded by Rosendahl — meaning that it carried, since they were the only two members left at that point.

However, it was not quite the win that LAist suggested last night. What passed was merely a proposal requesting that the City Attorneys’ office write such an ordinance, similar to the one that recently became law in Columbia, Missouri. Mowery suggested that it cover such topics as hurling projectiles at cyclists, threats or verbal abuse, using a vehicle to intimidate cyclists, and passing too close to — or buzzing — cyclists.

Its small win, the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and complicated process.

But it’s a win.

And for once, I left with a smile on my face

And without a knot in my stomach.

LA Streetsblog has more on the meeting here; and you can listen to a recording of the meeting here.

……..

Will Campbell has a front road seat to a bike wreck. Paul Krekorian, author of the failed Safe Streets bill, is the city’s newest council member. Sharrows pop up in Glendale — legal ones, this time. Wilshire Boulevard is 75 years old; Flying Pigeon keeps up the fight to make Figueroa bike friendly. The Pigeons are also featured on the VOA’s Persian TV. Bikerowave claims success with their recent swamp meet. Photos of the CalTrain bike car. A Tucson mother fights for a memorial for her cycling son — and politely corrects thoughtless car-head commenters. Copenahgenize reminds us that us that New York’s recently removed bike lane results from a conflict between the Hasids and the Hotties; city hall isn’t denying a deal was made, while Bike Snob suggests maybe cyclists should act like grown-ups. New bike lanes in Philadelphia have resulted in a doubling of bike traffic; just imagine what they could do here. Bikes remain banned from a primary street in De Soto, Kansas; old car-head thinking from a town that shares its name with an old car. A biking Asheville lawyer argues for equilibrium on the roads. Trust the geniuses at MIT to create a combo bike rack/tire pump. A cycling schoolgirl plunges 90 feet into a Scottish gorge and lives to tell the tale. Finally, Brit cyclists are in a tizzy over the bike-hating Mail’s obviously staged photograph, standing in a bikeway to force a cyclist onto the wrong side, then taking — and publishing — a photo of it.

Identifying the real dangerous vehicles on the road

These days, bike licensing seems to rear its ugly head every time the topic of cycling comes up.

Not among cyclists, of course.

But with those members of the four-wheeled, non-riding set who consider cyclists a dangerous menace on the roads. And demand some way to identify scofflaws, so they can be ticketed and prosecuted for the harm they cause to all those law-abiding drivers, who evidently live in constant fear of us.

And yet, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 698 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents nationwide in 2007 — 109 of those in California; the overwhelming majority of those were killed in collisions with motor vehicles.

At the same time, over 40,000 drivers and their passengers were killed in motor vehicle accidents. While no statistics on the subject seem to be available, I suspect the number of those killed by cyclists was somewhere in the neighborhood of zero, give or take.

Talk about blaming the victim.

I was thinking about that because of an email I received the other day. A reader, who asked not to be identified, wrote that he had been the victim of yet another hit-and-run while riding over the weekend.

A Hummer had crossed over into the bike lane he was riding in, striking him with its mirror as it drove with two wheels in the lane. Fortunately, he was able to maintain control and wasn’t seriously injured, even though incidents like that can be extremely dangerous, frequently resulting in serious injuries.

Or worse.

The problem came when he attempted to identify the vehicle so he could report it to the police. Only to discover that, just like all those scofflaw cyclists, the SUV had no license plates of any kind – even though California law clearly requires license plates on both the front and rear of most cars, trucks and SUVs.

The difference being, not only is a Hummer capable of causing serious injury or death, this one had just struck a cyclist and fled the scene.

Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Last April’s infamous Hummer Incident began when an SUV without plates struck a cyclist on a group ride, and the other riders blocked the truck to keep it from leaving, since they had no other way of identifying the driver to the police.

And we all know how that ended.

(For those who don’t, after threatening the cyclists, the driver drove over the bikes blocking his way, continuing until the police stopped him with a bike still lodged under his vehicle. The investigating officer concluded the cyclist was at fault and let the driver go without so much as a warning — then told the cyclists if he had been driving the Hummer, he might have used a gun instead of just driving over their bikes.)

And that’s the problem.

You don’t have to ride, walk or drive these city streets very long to notice that, despite the law, more than a few of the vehicles sharing the road with you have no identifying license plates, front or rear. And more that a few of those seem to be high-end Hummers, Navigators and Escalades.

And it’s not just a problem for cyclists. As my correspondent said in his email,

Its an issue for anyone on the road who wants a little insurance against hit-and-runs, but obviously its a bit more urgent for riders.

We need to be able to identify the dangerous drivers if we’re going to be safe on the road.

And we can’t do that if the laws requiring the display of license plates on the vehicles that actually need them isn’t enforced.

………

Once again, bikes are shut out of the Festival of Lights after opening night. Damien is looking for volunteers to help judge the annual Streetsie Awards. The Eastside Bike Club invites riders — or Ridazz — to join them for the Lincoln Heights Christmas Parade this weekend. A San Diego cyclist gets a ticket for observing CVC21202. Missouri’s Tracy Wilkins is in awe of the Fat Cyclist; evidently, Johan Bruyneel is, too. New York joins the long list of states — not including California — considering a three-foot passing law. Hampshire cyclists are stopped by the police and given hi-viz vests. The perfect gift for cyclists who take the lane. Who was the rocket scientist who put Edinburgh’s new tram tracks parallel to the bikeway? No sentence yet for the Auckland driver who ran down four cyclists. Denmark and Holland are the Galapagos Islands of bicycle culture. Finally, the Orange County Register says it’s time to stop killing cyclists. Or getting killed, for that matter.

Dept. of DIY strikes again and other missing links

Never seems to fail.

The most interesting stories seem to happen when I’m tied up with work, or busy writing something else — like last yesterday’s open letter to 5th District Council Member Paul Koretz.

Photo courtesy of Ubrayj02/Flickr

Which is why I’m late in reporting the latest efforts from the city’s leading producers of biking infrastructure, the Department of DIY. As well as the first sharrows to appear on L.A. streets, at an undisclosed location somewhere in the vicinity the Bike Oven.

The first report — at least, the first one I saw — showed up on the website of the Flying Pigeon bike shop, from whom I stole the above photo. And was soon confirmed on LA Streetsblog.

I’ll let them tell the story, since they got there first and told it best.

But consider this.

In just one weekend, the Department of DIY put in more sharrows than LADOT has (i.e., zero), with more money and years of planning.

And the phenomenon seems to be spreading to New York.

………

Speaking of infrastructure, Richard Risemberg — aka Mr. Bicycle Fixation — urges business people to support the 4th St. Bicycle Boulevard, while Portland and Copenhagen offer innovative new designs. If you missed last weekend’s St. Anne’s Toy Ride, Midnight Ridazz offers the 4th Annual All City Toy Ride this Friday, converging on Downtown from multiple starting points. Altadenablog reports on last weekend’s Tour of Pasadena’s Northern Neighbor, while LA Cycle Chic covers the Black Kids on Bikes’ Freedom Ride. The Daily Breeze reports on the newly formed South Bay Bicycle Coalition. Will Campbell encounters a truly bizarre driver. The big-hearted people at L.A. Greensters transport more than just toys to St. Anne’s. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a 2010 calendar with photos from their tour of the West Coast, while Russ offers a great discussion of the Great Fear. Flying Pigeon offers an end-of-year clearance, while Cynergy Cicles offers a free lecture on Nutrition, Hydration and Recovery Techniques Wednesday night. Levi looks forward to his 4th TofC title. NPR discovers cargo bikes. Evidently, you can transport anything by bike, even a stolen Christmas Tree. Milwaukee considers bowing to existing reality, and making bike licensing optional. Delaware is the latest to consider a three-foot passing law. A history of cycling in the Windy City. This Friday, you can take your bike into your office in New York. The University of Cincinnati may have finished the football season undefeated, but they can’t seem to protect bikes on campus. Next on the list of cycling celebs, a winter-riding Rachel McAdams. A writer in Prague regrets punching out the cabbie who ran them off the road. The Godmother of bicycling promotes designs for women. British cyclists are freedom fighters, not menaces. London police seek a naked cyclist. Finally, tomorrow’s bike-only Transportation Committee meeting — and Rosendahl’s proposed anti-harassment ordinance — makes news across the Atlantic.

An open letter CD5 Council Member Koretz and the Transportation Committee

Council Member Paul Koretz
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 440
Los Angeles, California 90012

Dear Council Member Koretz,

During your race for the Los Angeles City Council, I submitted a series of questions about bicycling issues to your campaign; in your response, you voiced support for bicyclists and for improving bicycle infrastructure in Los Angeles, as well as the need to reform the law in order to better protect cyclists.

In light of this Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting focusing on bicycling issues, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of your support, and call your attention to a few of the items on the agenda:

1) Proposed bicycle anti-harassment ordinance

As you may be aware, cyclists throughout the U.S. face daily harassment simply for exercising their right to ride in a safe and legal manner. Virtually any experienced rider can tell you stories of being yelled at or honked at by motorists, passed in an unsafe manner, having things thrown at them or being forced off the roadway — or in extreme cases, intentionally struck by a motor vehicle.

A number of states, including Massachusetts, Louisiana and Colorado, have recently passed laws to address this problem, as have a handful of cities, including Austin, Texas and Columbia, Missouri. While a similar law should be passed on a statewide level, there is much the city can and should do to address this problem.

Article 1 of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights — which you endorsed — says cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear. Therefore, I strongly urge you to support the proposed anti-harassment ordinance, and encourage you to take an active interest in its drafting to ensure a law that is both effective and enforceable to protect the rights and safety of bicyclists.

2) Report from LAPD on bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists

Many local cyclists have long felt that we don’t receive adequate support from the LAPD. There have been numerous reports of police officers misinterpreting or misapplying existing laws, as well as reports of apparent bias in investigating incidents between bicyclists and motorists; Chief Beck has recently agreed to create a working group to look into these complaints.

Again, this problem is not limited to the City of Los Angeles. Municipalities throughout California and across the nation have struggled with the same problem, which appears to be a result of inadequate training rather than active discrimination against cyclists. In my experience, most officers want to do the right thing, but may lack the training in bicycle law and bike accident investigation necessary to evaluate the situation, interpret the evidence and make qualified decisions.

Fortunately, this is easily rectified. MassBike, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has developed a simple two-hour program intended to serve as a national template for training police officers in bike law, available as a free download or on CD for just $15; this program could be easily modified to reflect local and state regulations. The International Police Mountain Bike Association offers detailed articles on how to investigate accidents involving bicycles, also available as a free download.

Article 3 of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights says that cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement. I urge you to hold the LAPD to their commitment to report back to the Council, accurately and in detail, and encourage the department to improve training for both new and existing officers.

3) Support changes in state law to curtail hit-and-run drivers

Finally, I would like to bring up one item that isn’t on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, but perhaps should be.

This year alone, three local cyclists have been killed by hit-and-run drivers; in each instance, the driver was also suspected of driving under the influence. Just last week, two cyclists were critically injured in collisions in which the driver fled the scene.

As you pointed out in your responses, the problem is that penalties for hit-and-run under state law are far too low:

I also believe that penalties for hit-and-run drivers need to be substantially increased and enforced. It’s a serious crime and the penalties need to be much stiffer for offenders.  I strongly believe that our current system lets drunk drivers off the hook too easily.

Under existing law, it is actually to the driver’s benefit to flee the scene of an accident if he or she has been drinking, as the penalties for drunk driving far outweigh the penalties for hit-and-run. This has to change.

As a member of the City Council and a former member of the state legislature, I strongly encourage you to introduce a motion putting the Transportation Committee and the full L.A. City Council on record as supporting an increase in the mandatory penalties for hit and run, including automatic loss of license and/or forfeiture of the vehicle involved. In addition, I urge you to use your influence with the legislature to get such legislation passed into law.

This meeting is your opportunity put your words in support of cycling into action. And for you, and the other members of the Transportation Committee, to help make the streets of this city safer and fairer, not just for bicyclists, but for everyone who drives, walks or rides in Los Angeles.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
Bikinginla.com

Open comments, round two

Last week’s experiment in opening this space up for your comments worked reasonably well — especially for a holiday weekend — so we’ll try it again this week.

Feel free to start a thread on any subject, as long as it’s even remotely bike related. Bitch about traffic or infrastructure. Pitch an upcoming ride. Sell some parts. Or even complain about yours truly — a perfect for any LADOT or LACBC readers.

Think of it as your own little miniblog. Just be respectful of other users and keep it reasonably family friendly, or your comments will get the boot.

Got it?

Then get to it.

……….

Damien Newton examines the agenda for next week’s bike-only TranspoComm meeting, while LAist unveils the motion calling for a cycling anti-harassment law. L.A. cyclists could crash the first car-only Festival of Lights night (bail money is highly recommended). Hermosa Beach gets Sharrows ahead of schedule, while L.A. still talks about them. The Anonymous Cyclist offers to make your very own hand-crafted spoke-based bike tool. LA Cycle Chic offers a great photo of biking on the beach — in December, no less, in case any non-Angelenos wonder why we live here. Even the Sheriff’s Department suffers from the rash of bike thefts. And in case you were wondering, this is what a bike thief looks like. Police in San Francisco go out of their way to blame the victim. Evidently, drivers in New Jersey just don’t get it. New Yorkers who walk or bike are healthier and saner than those who don’t, while a Hunter College study confirms that Gotham drivers disregard bike lanes. Washington cyclists call for a vulnerable user law, while Missouri considers a three-foot passing law. If you’re going Down Under, be sure to pack your bike. Bob Mionske — aka the Cycling Lawyer — has some competition from this bicycling barrister. Also from Her Majesty’s Realm comes this social network for UK cyclists. The University of Surrey finds cyclists are 20 times more likely to be killed or injured than motorists. Finally, speaking of England, I’m clearing my calendar for Rooney v. Donovan on June 12th.

9-Year old cyclist killed in Anaheim

In yet another heartbreaking incident in a very bad week for SoCal cyclists, a 9-year old boy was killed while riding his bike in Anaheim Thursday afternoon.

In what Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez called “just an ugly, ugly accident,” the child — who has not been publicly identified — was riding home from school on the sidewalk when he was struck.

According to the Orange County Register, he stopped his bike at the intersection of W. Orangewood Avenue and Loara Street and waited to cross; when the driver of a raised Ford pickup truck stopped at the intersection, he rode his bike out into the crosswalk. At the same time, the driver pulled forward, striking the boy.

According to the driver, he never saw the boy, and he was not cited by police. Evidently, California drivers are no longer required to be cautious, alert and aware of their surroundings when behind the wheel.

I’m sure the driver is devastated. Lord knows I would be.

But somehow, I don’t think “Oops” should be a universal Get Out Of Jail Free card for someone who kills another human being. Especially not an innocent child who, by all accounts, was riding in a safe and legal manner.

My heart and prayers go out to his family.

UPDATE: KCBS Channel 2 quotes Sgt. Martinez as saying “We’ve been talking to the driver and there’s no indication that he did anything wrong or illegal.”

The report says the driver was not able to see the cyclist directly in front of him due to the height of the truck. So, a driver can operate an unsafe vehicle — which may or may not be legal, yet which by its very design prevents him from seeing something directly in front of him — and the police are just fine with that.

Am I the only one who’s stomach is turning right now?

And it’s not just cyclists. This has been a very bad week for anyone on the streets not protected by steel and glass.

UPDATE 2: The OC Register has identified the cyclist as Nicholas Vela, a 4th grade student at Alexander J. Stoddard Elementary School.

St. Anne’s Toy Ride, Festival of Lights Bike Night and other bike-related news

A lot of news items have crossed my desk this week, with a number of bike rides and other assorted groups and activities for the cycling set.

Looks like it’s going to be a very busy weekend.

First up, I want to remind you about this Sunday’s easy, family-friendly El Niño (para las niñas) Toy Ride, sponsored by LA Greensters to benefit the children of St. Anne’s. The ride kicks off at 1 pm Sunday, December 6th, from the Red Line Metro Station at Santa Monica and Vermont; just bring a new, unwrapped toy to be delivered to St. Anne’s in time for their annual Christmas party. With your help, no child will go home empty handed.

Tonight is the first night of DWP’s Holiday Lights Festival, the annual event in which only people in cars are usually allowed to inch along a Griffith Park street staring at the light displays, even though state law requires that every street be open to cyclists. However, this year, the opening night — tonight — is a bicycle-only Bike Night, and the festival will be vehicle-free and pedestrian-only from the 4th to the 17th before they kick people out and let cars in.

My contribution to Sunday's Toy Ride

Next up is the dedication of the new ornamental bike path gateways on the Ballona Creek Bikeway at 10 am Friday, December 4th, sponsored by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. The event takes place at the Inglewood Boulevard Bridge over Ballona Creek, and includes a community tree planting and 1.5 mile bike tour of the new gates. RSVPs are recommended but not required; call 323/221-8900. (Thanks to Joe Linton for the heads-up.)

While you’re in the area, you might want to join up with the award-winning Santee Education Complex Debate Team, which is riding down Venice Blvd to Venice High School to deliver trees for planting. The event kicks off at 11 am Friday at Santee High; if you hurry, you’ll have just enough time to get there after the Ballona gate dedication, or you can meet up with them as they ride along Venice. Read more at Illuminate LA and Westside Bikeside.

Later Friday, it’s time to party with the good folks at West L.A.’s Bikerowave bike co-op as they celebrate the inaugural Pedal With Me group ride, sponsored by the United Steps, a non-profit organization dedicated to seeking unique solutions for homelessness. The party starts at 8 pm at the Bikerowave on Venice Blvd in Mar Vista, promising good music, volunteers, bike repair tools and live art. Not to mention a great time.

On Saturday, you have your choice of two group rides. First up is the the Pedal With Me event to address homelessness in Los Angeles, with two rides departing from the Bikerowave beginning at 9 am and 11 am. More details and volunteer opportunities are available on the Bikerowave website.

Also on Saturday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Altadena Sheriff’s Station and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Athletic Association present the 2009 Tour of Altadena Bike Ride from 9 am to 1 pm this Saturday, December 5th. The ride kicks off at 9 am at Bronco Pavillion in Loma Alta Park, with a 10 mile Family Fun Ride or a 12.5 mile Hill Challenge. There is a $10 entry fee, and a $6 barbeque at 11 am; all proceeds benefit the L.A. County Sheriff’s Annual Charitable Giving Campaign.

On Sunday, December 6th, Bikerowave celebrates the holidays with its first ever swap meet, promising good deals on bikes and parts. Coffee, donuts and fruit will be provided; add a little pasta — or maybe beer — and you’ve got the four basic food groups of cyclists. One of the city’s best farmer’s markets will be right across the street, as well. Email stevenhma@gmail.com if you have items you’d like to sell.

And mark your calendar for next Wednesday, when the City Councils Transportation Committee will hold a bicycle-only session beginning at 2 pm at Downtown’s City Hall. Topics will include a report from LAPD on bicycle incidents, the Sharrows pilot project and a proposed anti-harassment ordinance.

Last but not least, not an event but a new cycling group. Thanks again to Joe Linton for letting me know about the newly formed South Bay Bicycle Coalition, which held its first meeting at the Manhattan Beach REI on November 17th with 30 cyclists in attendance. The group was born out of a Manhattan Beach group dedicated to safer cycling; if you’re down in the South Bay, check ‘em out.

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In case you missed it, C.I.C.L.E.’s Joe Linton (yes, the same Joe Linton) was featured on KPCC’s Air Talk program yesterday talking about L.A.’s planned CicLAvia — definitely worth clicking the link to stream the segment or download the podcast. Streetsblog says the LAPD is looking into last weekend’s Critical Mess. Flying Pigeon notes that local cycling craftsmen Greg Townsend and Mr. Jalopy are featured in the current LA Magazine. Bike San Diego interviews local cycling visionary Sky Boyer. Our Missouri cycling reporter is anything but Surly about his new commuter bike. Biking in Heels discusses the important winter-time topic of proper lighting. A great dooring animated video courtesy of Urban Velo. Witch on a Bicycle lets Philadelphia’s knee-jerk leaders have it with both barrels. A debate sponsored by the UK’s Spectator magazine concludes that cyclists are not a menace. Finally, also from the UK — and the Department of Duh — comes a study showing roads should be made safer for cyclists. Anyone who didn’t know that, please raise your hand.

Bicyclist critically injured in North Hollywood hit-and-run

According to KNBC Channel 4, a 40-year old bicyclist was hit and nearly killed Wednesday evening at the intersection of Laurel Canyon Blvd and Archwood street.

A reportedly outraged Det. Bill Bustos contacted the station asking for the public’s help in identifying the driver of a black SUV — possibly a Nissan Pathfinder — who fled the scene after knowingly striking the rider. Anyone who has any information should call Det. Bustos at 818/644-8010.

Update: KABC Channel 7 has a more detailed report online, including video of the crime scene — and yes, it is a crime to leave the scene of a collision, regardless of how it happens or who is at fault.

The incident occurred just after 5 pm as the cyclist attempted to cross Laurel Canyon. Reading between the lines, he may have been in the crosswalk when he was struck. The station reports that drivers in the right lane were stopped, while the vehicle in the left lane continued through the intersection and struck the cyclist at 35 mph, knocking him eight feet into the air.

KABC describes the vehicle as a dark green Jeep Cherokee driven by a Hispanic male with a female passenger; the car should have damage on the front driver’s side.

Reports are unclear on whether the police have identified the victim, or if they are withholding his ID until next-of-kin can be contacted.

However, this is a good time to remind cyclists to always carry ID with you when you ride, including at least one emergency contact number. It’s also a good idea to carry it in more than one place — I keep mine in my bike bag, as well as another folded inside a plastic pouch in my jersey pocket. And this would make a perfect holiday gift for any cyclist on your list.

And for all you drivers out there, when traffic stops ahead or next to you, there may be a reason for it. Never, ever, ever drive past a line of stopped cars until you can see why they stopped.

What to do when the road rages and bumpers bite — part 2

I thought I knew what to do if I was ever in a cycling collision.

I was wrong.

Yesterday I wrote about defusing a road rage incident, based on what I learned as a result of my own run in with a raging driver. A case in which I did just about everything wrong, costing me any chance of a settlement — as well as blowing any shot at a criminal prosecution.

Hopefully, it’s something you’ll never run into. But if you ever find yourself sprawled on the pavement looking up a looming bumper, maybe you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

After all, it’s so much more fun to make your own.

Let the driver leave.

No, seriously. After knocking me to the pavement, the driver who hit me started to flee the scene. So I jumped up and blocked her from driving off until she finally turned off the engine and got out of the car.

Wrong move. Not only did I put myself at risk of getting hit a second time, it might have been better if she had run away. Police usually take a hit-and-run far more seriously than they do a mere traffic accident, even if you say it was road rage. Hopefully, any driver would have enough decency to stick around, but if not, just note the license number and get out of the way.

Don’t move anything until you have to.

First, make sure you’re out of traffic or that someone is directing cars around you. Then ignore the people who tell you to move it, and leave your bike exactly where it is. And try to keep the driver from moving his car, as well.

Both are now evidence, and the relative positions between them could help show what really happened. Move either one before the police tell you to, and you’ve eliminated a key part of the puzzle. Or at the very least, pull out your camera phone and take photos of everything before anyone moves anything. Trust me, you’ll need them once the lawyers get involved.

Shut the hell up.

This isn’t a bike ride anymore; it’s a legal case. Who was at fault has yet to be determined — and you are just as likely to be blamed as the driver who hit you, if not more. So remember that anything you say can, and probably will, be used against you.

In my case, I tried to attract attention and keep the driver from fleeing the scene by yelling that she’d tried to kill me. But someone told the police that I’d threatened to kill her, instead. As a result, they refused to give me her contact information — and threatened me with arrest if I tried.

So make sure everyone else is okay. Exchange information. Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Listen closely if the driver or passengers say anything, and write it down if you can find a pen and paper. But keep your own lips zipped until it’s time to talk with the investigating officer.

You’re the victim. So act like it.

As soon as the driver got out of her car, she screamed that it was my fault for being in her way. So I found myself yelling back to defend myself against my attacker. Or at least, that’s how it felt from my perspective.

But as bystanders began to arrive, what they saw was a grown man yelling at a middle-aged woman — with no knowledge that she had just used her car as a weapon to run me down. So guess which one they felt sorry for?

I’m not suggesting that you lie or exaggerate. But how sympathetic you seem to the bystanders will determine whose side they’re on — and could influence what they tell the police.

Never refuse medical care

The fact is, you probably are hurt. But you may not know it yet, as the adrenalin and endorphins flooding your brain mask any pain.

So when the paramedics ask if you want to go to the hospital, the answer is always yes. The charges the driver may face will depend largely on the severity of your injuries, as will any future settlement you might receive. And the police will take the case more seriously if they know you’ve been injured.

I refused transportation to the hospital, so the official police report said I was uninjured. And that never changed, even after I was diagnosed with a broken arm and permanent vascular damage.

Be prepared for bias

As I waited for the police to arrive, I was surprised to hear bystanders, who had no idea what happened, say it was my fault because those aggressive, arrogant cyclists never obey the law.

But I was shocked to hear similar comments come from the supposedly impartial officer conducting the investigation. Even though I was stopped at a stop sign when she hit me, the driver claimed I’d run the stop sign and fell over while turning onto the cross street. The investigating officer said he believed her because “all you guys run stop signs.”

Expect to explain the evidence

The simple fact is, many, if not most, police officers don’t receive adequate training in investigating bike accidents. So chances are, they may miss or misinterpret key evidence proving who was really at fault.

In my case, the officers didn’t understand that it wasn’t possible to fall to my left while making a high-speed right turn, as the driver had claimed. And they didn’t grasp that the imprint of the chainwheel on my calf could only have occurred if my foot was firmly planted on the ground at the time of impact. So be prepared to walk them through the evidence. But don’t be surprised if they don’t believe you.

Don’t take no for an answer

This was probably the biggest mistake I made. After conducting their investigation, the lead officer said it was a “he said, she said” situation, and let the driver go without a ticket or charges — then tried to intimidate me by saying I could be charged with filing a false police report if I continued to argue with their decision.

It worked.

So I settled for an incomplete and inconclusive police report that virtually eliminated any chance of justice, financial or otherwise. What I should have done — and what you should do in a similar situation — was insist on talking to a supervisor and demanding a fair and unbiased examination of the evidence.

Those of us in Los Angeles have one more option. If you still don’t get satisfaction, you can call Lt. Andre Dawson, who has been appointed by new LAPD Chief Beck to look into complaints from cyclists, at 213/792-3551.

And maybe if enough of us call, things will start to change.

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Bikerowave hosts its first swap meet this Sunday. Jeremy Grant tackles the intro to LA’s Best Bike Plan. Meanwhile, a couple of LAPD officers attempt to tackle Critical Mass. Literally. Metro is still looking for volunteers to conduct an Orange Line bike study, while Damien catches an LADOT worker riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council offers improvements to the new bike plan. Bellflower gets a new 2.3 mile Bike and Pedestrian Path (the name needs a little work, though). Philadelphia papers are up in arms about cyclists, while The N.Y. Times asks if that could mean trouble for Gotham riders. About that 300 miles of new bike lanes new York installed in the last three years — make it 299 now. I don’t recall anything in the Bible about blessed are the bike lane blockers. A Michigan drunk driver who killed a cyclist gets up to two years per beer. A Detroit cycling organization offers effective responses to common arguments against accommodating bikes on the roads. San Francisco gets its first new bike lane in three years. Yet another music video featuring cyclists — naked ones, this time. Attention expat wannabes: London needs more good wrenches. Finally, I thought this cycling psychiatrist was off his rocker when he said those on four wheels have disdain for those on two, and those on two wheels have disdain for those on two legs — until I read this letter from Philadelphia.

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