Archive for January 30, 2010

Today’s ride, on which I was so not invisible, for a change

There are days when I feel like I must be invisible, as one driver after another fails to see me. And too often, tries to drive right through me as if I wasn’t there.

Today was not one of those days.

Not a single car in the bike lane, for as far as you can see. Or ride, for that matter.

In fact, it was just the opposite, as one driver after another noticed my presence on the road, waving me through intersections and patiently waiting for me to pass. And I found myself doing the same, signaling drivers to go ahead, and waving my thanks so often that I felt like a beauty queen in a homecoming parade.

And they waived back in return. Like the guy I gave a small nod to, indicating that he should go ahead and make his turn while I waited at the stop sign. Not only did he notice, but gave me a smile and a wave of thanks as he rolled by.

Even pedestrians got into the act.

Like the guy who stood waiting at a crosswalk on a corner, despite having the green light. Maybe he was waiting for a walk signal that never came. Or maybe he was just waiting.

Either way, he finally began sauntering across just before the light changed, forcing everyone else to wait through the green until he eventually made it to the other side.

“Late start,” I grumbled as he walked by. But instead of getting annoyed, he laughed out loud and gave me a friendly wave for waiting.

Don’t ask me why.

Maybe everyone was just in a good mood. Or maybe the DWP spilled a few cases of Prozac in the city’s drinking water. Except no one drinks tap water in L.A.

Or unfiltered tap water, anyway.

Usually when I ride, I make a point of reminding myself to focus on the hundreds, if not thousands, of drivers who share the road safely, rather than the one or two jerks who don’t.

This time, I didn’t have do that.

Because there weren’t any.

Not one right hook. No left crosses. No close passes, rude gestures, insults, honks or near misses.

The closest I came to any kind of incident was the SUV-driving woman who darted out from a side street when she found a brief gap in traffic, only to spot me directly in her path. So she stopped where she was and waited for me to pass, blocking traffic in both directions until I was safely out of her way.

And yes, I waved my thanks to her, too.

Frankly, I’m grateful to anyone who doesn’t kill me. And unlike yesterday, if there was anyone driving dangerously or illegally, I didn’t notice.

It was a very good day.

Which just goes to show that, yes, we do have them. And more often than you might think.

Even in L.A.

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Jeremy Grant explains how the California Vehicle Code applies to sharing the road, for the benefit of all those on either side who just don’t get it. Here in L.A., 36% of all crashes involve cyclists or pedestrians, yet only 1.2% of Federal transportation funding is spent on bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure locally. The CHP officer who said it’s against the law for a little kid to ride “the wrong way” in a crosswalk tries to explain himself; Damien Newton swiftly and effectively eviscerates his explanation (the comments are good for a laugh, too). The bike-riding jackass who allegedly stole a gold chain off the neck of a 5-year old boy faces charges. Ride your bike to Long Beach next Friday and get 20% off lunch. Lawmakers from my hometown propose a mandatory helmet law for children; the only penalty would be a friendly warning. Maryland is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law — too late to save a popular rider. A lawyer’s take on why Florida is the most dangerous state for cyclists in the U.S. Over three-fourths of Toronto cyclists want separated bike lanes. Biking New Zealand cops offer advice on how to stay safe with idiots like this running around. Yet another risk on the road — your flashing bike lights could trigger a seizure in a passing motorist. Cambridge police give free lights — and tickets — to lightless riders. In the UK, they use cameras to measure the average speed of passing drivers; unfortunately, they put them in the middle of the bikeway. Finally, the Times asks if Long Beach is “the most bike-friendly city in America.” Uh, no.

But they’re sure making Los Angeles look bad.

Today’s missing links

More on Wednesday’s Council meeting to discuss the proposed anti-harassment ordinance. Stephen Box looks at the proposal, along with the discussion of bike sharing and the Transportation Committee’s hearing on raising speed limits, for City Watch. And KNBC covers the proposal, and quotes yours truly.

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Culver City holds a workshop on their new bike plan Saturday from 10 am to 1pm.

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Enci Box, actress, cyclist and too sexy for public radio? Evidently, we should be glad Dr. Alex no longer rides shirtless through Beverly Hills. Dr. Alex also takes the Times to task for failing to search their own archives. GT rides a near-impromptu century in memory of a friend who died in a frightening cycling accident last year. Will Campbell offers proof that some cyclists run red lights and some don’t, and stares down an aggressive idiot driver. Investing in walking and biking could save lives; maybe if all those people would live longer if they’d stop complaining about bikes and start riding one. Some ride out of choice, some ride out of necessity. Touring San Diego by cycle chic. A new study shows hands-free cell phone laws don’t reduce crashes. How to remove a stuck seat or handlebar stem. Creating better bike parking in three two easy steps. Most UK drivers think they’re better than the other drivers on the road. Paris will roll out two-way bikeways this year. Add this to the helmet debate: Pro cyclist Matthias Kessler wasn’t wearing his when he was critically injured in a freak accident after a cat ran across his path. Finally, for those who want to be cycle chic but aren’t willing to give up functionality — or a chamois — Castelli presents an online fashion show.

Evidently, we should be glad there’s such a low turnout in local elections

Back when I was in college, one of my Political Science professors gave a lecture about low voter turnout in the U.S.

He pointed out that far more people turn out to vote in formerly totalitarian countries, because they understand the true value of the freedom we take for granted.

Then he flipped through a few surveys, highlighting the percentages of people who hate blacks, Jews, gays and other assorted minorities. As well as those who believe the moon landing was fake and the Earth is flat.

His point was that a lot of people don’t vote.

And maybe we’re better off for it.

Case in point, the 91 and counting comments that followed the brief story on the Times website about the proposed bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance. The overwhelming majority of which were of the standard “I’ll respect bikes when they (choose one or more of the following): respect the law, stop for red lights and stop signs, signal, stay on the sidewalk, stay off the sidewalk, get out of the lane, get out of my way, get a life, grow a pair, and/or stop wearing those ugly clothes.”

I read ‘em so you won’t have to. You can thank me later.

Take these two, for example, which pretty much sum up the tone of today’s conversation (and yes, I’ve left the spelling and punctuation exactly the way I found it):

Im a fireman. Experience has shown me that SPANDEX AND HEAVY STEEL DONT BELONG ON THE SAME ROAD!!!!!! Common since. Legislation is not going to change physics! Ride at your own risk!

Posted by: Steve | January 28, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Bicyclists are full of it. There are legally obligated to follow the motor vehicle code. However, I see them run stops signs, run redlights, and make sudden lane changes without signaling all the time.

If bicyclists want respect, they need to follow the rules of the road.

Posted by: Stump Barnes | January 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Then there was this one:

Here’s some ideas how to get people to be more vehicle friendly with cyclists;
1.Get cyclists to be more courteous with vehicles & pedestrians
2.Get cyclists to start opeying all driving laws
2. Require all cyclists to install I.D. licence plates on their bike’s so they can be identified when they either break a law, cause an accident, or start somesort of road rage.

Cyclists are known to be rude, obnoxious, law breaking jerks for the most part. They use strong profanity, they spit, they flip you the bird, and they provoke fights, knowing that they can easily get away because they can’t be identified. They seem to have all City Officials on their side, and since they are not wasting gas or polluting the air, they get away with just about anything. What’s it going to take to get Officials to wake up and realize that the root of the problem is the cyclists themselves.

Posted by: Dave Reynolds | January 28, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Dave, have you ever considered that if you’re running into so many rude, obnoxious, swearing, spitting, finger-flipping, fight-provoking, law-breaking jerks, that maybe, just maybe, the cyclists aren’t the problem?

Just a thought.

Anyway, after reading all those comments, I was truly shamed, realizing for the first time what dangerous scofflaws we cyclists must be. And understanding that, yes, these people are right to harass us because we pose such a risk to their two+ tons of glass and steel.

I mean, I might actually dent the bumper and get blood on their shiny paint and stuff.

So when I set out to ride today, I took notice of the drivers around me, hoping to learn from their example how to properly assume my place on the road.

Imagine my surprise.

Three of the first four drivers I saw ran stop signs. Not just a rolling stop, mind you — that’s what the fourth one did — but full blown, not slowing down don’t care if you’re in the way I’m coming through anyway stop sign running.

And for the first 1.83 miles, I didn’t see a single driver use a turn signal — and yes, I did make a note of it, because it was so surprising when someone finally did. And no, he wasn’t the first one to turn or make a lane change.

Far from it.

Then there were these four rocket scientists of the road.

I encountered the first two as I sat waiting at the front of the intersection for a light to change, just to left of the right turn lane. Next to me was a small utility truck, which kept inching forward. So I gestured to the driver, pointing out the “No right turn” sign directly ahead of him. Evidently, though, it doesn’t apply to small utility trucks, because he made his turn anyway.

Then the SUV behind him pulled up to the light. Unlike the previous driver, she waited patiently in the right turn lane until the light changed. Then went straight, nearly forcing me into the car on my left before she cut in front of both of us and sped off down the road.

But not before giving me the finger.

Although, to be fair, that was after I called her a jackass. Which I thought showed remarkable restraint, given the circumstances.

Then there was the driver in the Escalade, who saw me signal to move left into the traffic lane. And responded by speeding up to cut me, forcing me to jam on my brakes to avoid rear-ending the parked car ahead of me. Because there just wasn’t room for a massive Escalade and a bike in the same lane at the same time.

The real winner, though, came when I pulled up behind a car that was stopped at a stop sign, waiting patiently for a woman to cross the road. So the driver behind me crossed the yellow line onto the wrong side of the road, passing us both, then blew through the stop without slowing down — forcing the pedestrian to dodge out of his way.

So yes, I can easily see why all these people think we’re such dangerous, law-flaunting outlaws, undeserving of equal protection from law enforcement, since that right is reserved for real, law-abiding, gas-guzzling Americans.

I take comfort, though, in knowing that most of these self-proclaimed traffic law experts probably won’t be voting in the next election.

Oh, and Dave?

“Licence” is usually spelled with an “s.”

I’ll let you figure out where to put it.

Rosendahl to Council: Car culture ends today

Just two weeks ago, L.A. City Council Member Dennis Zine said he didn’t know if L.A.’s car culture was ever going to change.

Today, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl begged to differ.

In a powerful statement before the full council, Rosendahl said “The culture of the car is going to end now!” He reminded his fellow council members about the harassment cyclists face on the road, as well as the lack of support riders have received from the LAPD in the past. “We’re going to give cyclists the support they should have been getting.”

“This is my pledge to the cycling community.”

L.A. City Hall in January.

The subject at hand, which drew similar support from many of the council members in attendance, was a motion requesting the City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting the harassment of bicyclists.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be business as usual.

The first sign came when Council President Eric Garcetti noted that this matter had already been heard by both the Transportation and Public Safety Committees, which would normally mean no more public comments. But as Damien Newton had predicted, he quickly deferred to Rosendahl’s request to allow the handful of cyclists in the room to speak.

But first, Rosendahl and Public Safety Committee Chair Greig Smith agreed to what Damien called the three-step process, in which LADOT and the City Attorney will work with local cyclists to determine what the ordinance can and should contain, without conflicting with existing state traffic regulations. Then they will report back to both committees before drafting the actual ordinance, which will be subject to final council approval.

Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl addresses the council.

I argued against the extra step, since the City Attorney would, by necessity, determine what can legally be included in the ordinance during the process of drafting it.

But Rosendahl had already made it clear that he wouldn’t allow the process to drag on. He agreed with Smith to hold a joint session of the two committees to consider the recommendations. And pledged to have an ordinance drafted and ready for approval by the end of March.

That’s March of this year, in case you were wondering.

He also reminded the audience about a planned Transportation Committee session scheduled for February 24, in which cyclists will have a chance to speak with new LAPD Chief Beck. This is a chance to change, not just car culture, but that of the LAPD as well, he said, stating that future graduates from the police academy will receive training in bicycle law — including a copy of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

In remarks a little later, Council Member Ed Reyes, co-sponsor of the motion, added that indifference has usually been the best a cyclist could hope for from the LAPD after being harassed or assaulted.

Fellow Transportation Committee member Paul Kortez suggested that it wasn’t enough to defer to the state to address the problem, saying the city needs to find a way to address harassment in its own laws and do whatever it can to put a stop to it. “We need to send a clear message,” he said.

When the floor was opened to comments, a brief parade of cyclists spoke about the problems they’ve faced on the road.

The LACBC's Aurisha Smolarsky offers her comments.

David talked about being harassed on the streets, while Iain told the council about an incident in which he was injured after being harassed by a driver — only to be told that by a police officer that it was his fault because he was riding with traffic.

Siku spoke of an incident in which she was buzzed by a driver, who yelled “Do you want to die?” at the next red light. And Michael, who described himself as a businessman, homeowner and taxpayer, cast it as a civil rights issue, saying he had been harassed by both drivers and the police.

In fact, every cyclist who spoke — including Aurisha of the LACBC, as well as myself — told of being harassed by drivers on the streets of L.A.

Rosendahl concluded the discussion by listing what he believes should constitute harassment under the proposed ordinance, including:

1. Knowingly throwing a projectile or discharge at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle;

2. Threatening any person riding a bicycle verbally or by use of his/her vehicle for the purpose of injuring, frightening or disturbing the person riding the bicycle;

3. Knowingly placing his/her vehicle within 3’ of a bicyclist while passing or following;

4. Making physical contact with a bicyclist from a moving vehicle or the roadway either by physical person or use of an implement;

5. Knowingly placing a person riding a bicycle in concern of immediate physical injury;

6. Knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of physical injury or death to the person riding a bicycle.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Evidently, the council members agreed, voting 13 to 0 to approve the measure.

Afterwards, Eric Garcetti came up to me and offered his personal assurance that he will stay on top of this measure, and use his position as Council President to keep it moving forward.

And we can’t ask for much more than that.

Read more, including a wrap up on the Council’s discussion of the bike sharing proposal, on LA Streetsblog; LAist sums up the bike sharing discussion, as well.

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The Trickster offers an update on New Zealand’s cyber-bully Hummer Driver, who offers a half-hearted apology for threatening to kill cyclists — but only after the police get involved.

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Six cities that could go car free, including one right here in California, courtesy of Curbed LA. Designing better cities for bikes. Mixed results on Portland’s bike boxes. Boston Biker loses it after getting doored by a passenger bailing out in traffic. Virginia is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law. New York cyclists are ticketed for delivering fried dumplings on the sidewalk. The great Hasidim v. hipsters debate goes on, and on — literally, this time. If bike lanes can tame New Dehli’s traffic, just imagine what they could do here. A UK driver is convicted of killing a rider competing in a time trial; as usual, she claims she never saw him. Brits petition the Royal Mail to let posties keep their Pashleys. Disgraced former Spanish cycling boss threatens to dope and tell. An Edinburgh cyclist hits a white van at 20 mph; maybe the driver thought he was a pothole. Finally, a great examination of how to fight biased — or just uninformed — police enforcement. And perhaps the best last line of any bike quote, ever.

Breaking news — Rosendahl calls for extending the Marvin Braude bikeway

Is Bill Rosendahl the biking community’s new BFF?

The 11th District City Council member, who represents most of the Westside, recently sponsored a motion to have the City Attorney’s office draft an ordinance banning harassment of cyclists in Los Angeles — a motion that goes before the full city council on Wednesday.

Now Rosendahl has proposed another motion — apparently seconded CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz — to request federal funding to extend the north end of the beachfront Marvin Braude Bike Path. The extension would add a little less than two miles to the bikeway, from where it currently ends at Temescal Canyon Road to the intersection of Coastline Drive and PCH near the entrance to the Getty Villa.

Aside from adding to one of the area’s most popular and scenic bike routes, this extension could also contribute to the safety of cyclists by providing a way to bypass one of the narrower sections of PCH, where riders are forced to share a lane with drivers often traveling well in excess of 50 mph. And open up the coast highway to countless cyclists who aren’t comfortable taking the lane under those conditions, and now turn back at that point.

Now if Rosendahl could just do something about all the pedestrians on the bike path.

A rising and reviving L.A. River — and a 10th annual ride to celebrate it

Someday it’s gonna rain, someday it’s gonna pour, someday that old dry river, it won’t be dry any more. — Dry River, Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men


Los Angeles tried to kill its river.

Unlike other cities where life revolves around the streams at their hearts, L.A.’s central river has been abused and ignored, and all but forgotten.

Admittedly, it was an act of self-defense, after one too many violent floods. And so they dammed it and tore up the riverbed, straightened its course and lined it with concrete to in an attempt to tame the usually mild and sometimes wild river and transform it into the world’s largest culvert system.

Instead they created a popular movies set, home to key scenes in everything from Grease and Chinatown to Terminator 2 and Transformers. As well as a massive canvas for countless taggers. And the site of odd events and dramatic rescues, human and otherwise, that transfix L.A. nearly every time it rains.

And so the city turned away from it, other than a relative handful of cyclists who continued to ride the bikeway that follows the river channel for much of its lower length. Sometimes holding their nose.

Yet, the river refused to die.

And in a comeback every bit as improbable and unexpected as Robert Downey Jr. or Mickey Roarke — or Jay Leno, for that matter — the L.A. River is slowly coming back to life.

Led largely by groups such as Friends of the Los Angeles River and L.A. Creak Freak’s Joe Linton and associates, efforts are under way to revitalize the river, and extend the bikeway its full length, from the harbor in Long Beach to Canoga Park.

Now one of the key steps in that revitalization, the new park on the site of the former Albion Dairy in Lincoln Heights, is up for review. While the deadline for offering comments online has passed, you can still comment on the plans — and insist on the inclusion of a bikeway paralleling the river —  from 6:30 to 8:30 pm this Thursday at the Downey Recreation Center, 1772 N. Spring Street.

There will also be free refreshments, which should be enough to get the cycling community out.

Speaking of the L.A. River, Joe Linton offers advice on who to call on those not-infrequent occasions when the access gates to the county’s many river-channel bikeways remain locked long after the risk of rushing water has passed.

And no, it’s not Joe. Or Stephen Box. Or even me, for that matter.

Meanwhile, you have a perfect opportunity to explore the L.A. River bikeway for yourself at the recently announced Los Angeles River Ride.

Sponsored by the LACBC — which has been revitalized itself in recent years — the L.A. River Ride is one of the city’s largest and most popular rides. It’s scheduled for Sunday, June 6th, with rides ranging from a 15-mile Family Ride and free Kids Ride to a relatively flat Century. And just about everything in between.

Full information and registration form for the 10th Annual L.A. River Ride are available by clicking here.

From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot of fun.

So maybe this time, you’ll see me there. And vice versa, I hope.

Update: Janette Hoffman emailed to remind me about the role the L.A. River Ride has played in pushing for the revitalization of the river, with a 2006 postcard campaign urging the mayor to complete the bike path — including the recently completed section between Fletcher and Fig, which will be part of this year’s ride. She also met with the Gateway Council of Governments in 2008, resulting in re-striping of the path and removal of graffiti between Maywood and Long Beach.

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California’s car-centric Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) gave a big, fat screw you to cyclists at a meeting in San Diego last week, refusing to allow cyclists to be represented on the committee. The Times looks at the big changes taking place in suddenly bike-friendly Long Beach, yet fails to note the death of a cyclist there just a few weeks ago. Enci Box explains how to make L.A. safe, effective and more enjoyable for cyclists. Damien Newton notes that comments may not be allowed when the Council considers the anti-harassment ordinance tomorrow, but suspects Rosendahl might argue otherwise if a lot of cyclists show up. Dr. Alex argues that speed limit increases should be put on hold at the TranspoComm meeting that follows. The LAPD busts a Downtown bike theft ring selling hot bikes on Craigslist. Living well without a car. A helmetless Pink and husband ride the streets of L.A.; Carson Daley puts on his helmet and sticks his tongue out at photographers on Ocean Blvd. A town in North Carolina considers a clearly well thought-out plan to ban bikes from the bike path. BikeDenver unveils a series of public service announcements to promote bike safety. A look at Carlos Bertonatti, the drunken schmuck musician who kept going after driving over — and killing — a Miami cyclist last week. Kenosha, WI revises their cycling laws after a cyclist is ticketed for drinking from his water bottle. Yet another city gets (legal) sharrows before L.A., this time in New York’s lower Hudson Valley. Bike Radar provides a heads-up for the upcoming Handmade Bike Show and Rocky Mountain Bicycle Fest. A New Hampshire man threatens cyclists, misses his arraignment, and gets a slap on the wrist. Sydney replaces the site of drunken brawls with a hub for cyclists, including outdoor café, bike shop and showers. Hello, is anyone in L.A. listening? Hello? Finally, a Hummer driving cyber bully threatens cyclists in New Zealand — and claims to have already run two off the road — then quickly backs off after riders unmask his identity; thanks to the Trickster for the heads up!

An open letter to the Los Angeles City Council and the cyclists of L.A.

The purpose of government is not to enforce the will of the majority, but to protect the rights of minorities and the most vulnerable members of society.

And on the streets of Los Angeles, the vulnerable minority are the people who ride bicycles.

As was noted in a recent meeting of the Public Safety Committee, Los Angeles is a city dominated by motor vehicle traffic, to the detriment of other legal road users. In fact, Council Member Dennis Zine was quoted on KABC-TV as saying,

I think we are a car culture here in Southern California.  I don’t know if we’re ever going to change that.

Yet the continued livability of this city requires that we do.

Many of this city’s streets are already at or above capacity. Repeated attempts have been made to increase capacity and maximize vehicular throughput, often to the detriment of the surrounding community. Yet these street “improvements” typically result in only short term relief before returning to a state of congestion.

The only viable option is to reduce demand on the streets. We must get people out of their cars by encouraging alternative methods of transportation, such as effective mass transit and bicycling.

Studies have shown that nearly 40% of all trips made in the U.S. are less than 2 miles in length and could easily be done by bike, and that more people would ride bikes if they felt safer on the streets. Yet Council Member Tony Cárdenas recently summed up the attitude of many Angelenos when he said that the city’s streets are so dangerous that he won’t allow his own children to ride on them.

One reason for that fear, in addition to a lack of adequate bicycle infrastructure, is the harassment cyclists face too frequently on city streets.

Most drivers attempt to share the road and operate their vehicles safely. However, virtually any cyclist can tell a tale being harassed by angry drivers, who often lack a knowledge traffic law and the rights of bicyclists, and incorrectly believe that bikes don’t belong on the road or in the traffic lane.

Too often, these driveway vigilantes attempt to take the law into their own hands, and illegally enforce their interpretation of the law by honking or shouting at cyclists, throwing objects at riders, and hitting or pushing riders. In addition, some drivers attempt to use their cars as weapons to threaten, intimidate or injure riders by passing dangerously close to cyclists, intentionally opening car doors into riders, encroaching from behind, deliberately turning across the path of riders or intentionally braking in front of them — as happened in the Mandeville Canyon incident — or purposely striking a cyclist.

Fortunately, you have an opportunity to do something about it.

This Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a resolution requesting that the City Attorney draft an ordinance banning harassment of cyclists in Los Angeles, Council File 09-2895.

I urge the Council Members to approve this measure, without the unnecessary step of requesting that the City Attorney first report back on what can be done by the city without conflicting with state law; any conflicts can be addressed by the City Attorney in drafting an ordinance. I also urge cyclists to contact their council member or appear at the meeting to support this vital resolution.

Other cities have taken similar approaches. Even though traffic law is generally the responsibility of the states, Boise, Idaho and Columbia, Missouri have both passed ordinances banning harassment of cyclists and mandating a minimum three-foot passing distance; San Antonio, Texas is currently considering a similar law.

I would, however, suggest one minor change to the resolution. I request that the City Attorney and LADOT also coordinate with a local bicycling organization, such as the L.A. County Bicycling Coalition, to ensure that the voices of cyclists are heard, and that the final ordinance will truly protect vulnerable road users in Los Angeles.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers

The resolution will be considered by the Los Angeles City Council this Wednesday, January 27; item #22 on the agenda. The meeting will take place starting at 10 am in room 340 of the Downtown City Hall, 200 North Spring Street; a resolution concerning the proposed bike sharing program is also on the agenda (#20, 08-2053).

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A Riverside traffic safety engineer and cycling advocate was injured last month in a deliberate incident reminiscent of the Thompson case. And in a truly heartbreaking story, a grieving mother took her own life late last year — three years after her cyclist son was run down by a car driven by a homeless meth addict.

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Dr. Alex observes that when the other Dr. Thompson returns to L.A. after five years in prison, he may not recognize the city — if cyclists stay involved. Flying Pigeon rides to, and samples the offerings of, the Eagle Rock Brewery this Saturday. Famed framebuilder Dave Moulton takes a look at the recent meeting between bike activists and the LAPD. Witch on a Bicycle returns after a long, computer-failure-imposed absence, with a story of trying to save a driver in a horrific accident. A cyclist wearies of fighting for her place on the road; Yehuda Moon knows the feeling. Photographic evidence: Boulder’s contraflow bike lane, and asking a cop why the bike lane is blocked. Thousands of riders turn out to honor the cyclist killed by an intoxicated musician in Miami last week. Lance finishes 25th in the Tour Down Under, and considers competing in this year’s world championships. Yet another English woman is killed in a collision with a large truck. The head of the historic Wilier Triestina bike racing brand was killed in a head-on collision while cycling on Saturday. Lancashire authorities say watch out for wobbly cyclists. China says it’s time to go back to cycling, while Jakarta’s government calls on citizens to support cycling. LADOT take note: Danish State Railways finds an effective and affordable way to reach Copenhagen cyclists — you know, in case you ever have some good news to tell us. Finally, a seven-year old London cyclist organizes a bike-a-thon in his local park, and raises over $100,000 for earthquake victims in Haiti.

It never rains in California…

This is what greeted us today on a crisp, 42º morning, when the clouds finally cleared after a week of rain.

And yes, that is the Hollywood sign on the hill in the foreground.

Two-wheeled second class citizens on L.A.’s Metro rails

I’ll be honest. I’ve never ridden an L.A. Metro train.

Not the new Gold Line extension, aka La Linea de Oro. Not the Purple subway line, which promises to eventually pass just blocks from my home, giving me easy access to Downtown and the coast — provided they manage to build it within my lifetime.

Or any of the other colors in the system’s pallet, which still resembles a child’s line drawing more than a transportation masterpiece. Although it appears other cities are starting to take notice.

Not that I have anything against trains.

On the contrary, one reason I fell in love with London a few years back was the city’s Tube. As much as locals love to hate it, I enjoyed being able to walk a few blocks, board a train, and be anywhere in the city in just a few minutes.

When I lived in San Diego, I frequently hopped on the trolley rather than slog through that city’s traffic. And I long ago swore off driving in the Bay Area, since virtually any place too far to walk is easily accessible by rail.

But for those of us on the Westside, the trains are just too far away. Just getting to the western terminus of the subway takes me at least a half hour by car or bus. Or fighting my way on bike through some of the city’s most crowded and unforgiving streets.

Which is why I visit Mama’s Hot Tamales far less than I’d like.

And while I admire those who do it on a regular basis, it’s a lot easier to point my bike west and ride the relatively less-cramped routes that lead to the coast.

So I’ve been looking forward to the opening of the Expo Line, which, when it finally opens, will open up whole new vistas of the city that are currently too far or too difficult to visit by bike.

I look forward to the day I can hop on the train and be whisked away to visit my good friend in Altadena, without spending a fortune in gas and risking my life and sanity on the freeway. Or have dinner at El Tepeyac without driving an hour to get there.

And I look forward to taking my bike on the train, and hopping off to explore parts of the greater L.A. area I’ve yet to see on two wheels.

Yet that may not be a viable option, since Metro continues to treat cyclists as second-class citizens. Except instead of being made to sit at the back of the bus, we’re told that no more than two bikes per car are allowed on a train.

Or maybe not at all, at certain times or if the train is crowded.

It’s bad enough for someone like me, who looks forward to riding far flung parts of the city. But it’s a disaster for commuters, for whom a bike provides an effective means of travelling the last mile to or from work, in a city where effective mass transit is still in its infancy. Or for groups or families, who must divide themselves into separate cars — or separate trains.

Or just stay home.

And if you ride a tandem, you’re just screwed. Period.

Now contrast that with more bike-friendly transit systems, where cyclists are actually encouraged to take the train — or even allowed to ride free. Or the more enlightened approach proposed by the LACBC, which advocates accommodating everyone:

Metro must accommodate all users during regular and peak hours, and designate sufficient space for multiple bikes on trains. They must provide publications and clear signage to make it easy for passengers to see where bikes should be placed in train cars and how to enter and exit both trains and stations.

These accommodations can be implemented in multiple ways:

A) A large set aside area for bikes in either the last or first car. This car can also provide flip up seating and room for ADA (ed: Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodations. Hooks and straps can secure bikes to the floors of the train. B) Ample space in each train car for multiple bikes. The same ADA accommodations and bike-securing features can also be present in this scenario.

Instead of actively discouraging bikes on their trains, Metro should encourage cyclists to use the system as frequently as possible. An effective transportation system should offer an alternative to driving that can actually get people out of their cars and reduce pressure on our overcrowded streets.

And just like bikes on the roads, every bike on a train represents one less car on the street.

Which benefits everyone.

………

More on the schmuck aspiring musician who ran down a Miami cyclist on Sunday morning, despite having over 40 traffic violations in the last 12 years. DJ Wheels notes that, as an attorney, his jaw dropped when he read the following section in of the articles above:

In an arrest form affidavit by Miami-Dade police on Wednesday, officers said Bertonatti, who reeked of alcohol and failed a balance test, refused to provide a blood sample after his arrest. Officers and firefighters strapped him down on a fire-rescue board and forcibly took a blood sample as Bertonatti continued to resist, the form said.

………

Culver City’s proposed bike plan is available for review; oddly, Alta Planning doesn’t seem to be involved. Dr. Alex discusses the recent meeting between cyclists and the LAPD, while Stephen Box addresses enforcement double standards in bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. Flying Pigeon introduces Nihola cargo bikes to L.A., and masters the art of shaft-drive bike repair. Next time you ride along Venice Beach, you’ll be even closer to the ocean. Growing tensions between cyclists and drivers in Morgan Hill, CA. A popular Miami man who recycles bikes and gives them away to youngsters is attacked by thugs following an attempted burglary. Twelve ways to reform D.C. area bike laws — including some good suggestions for us. San Antonio takes up the three-foot passing law vetoed by Texas’ governor last year. A bike riding soon-to-be-former talk show host gets a job offer from a Texas bike shop. 9,000 women in the United Kingdom petition for safer streets. Police seek a hit-and-run cyclist in the UK. An 11-year old British girl was killed when she swerved her bike to avoid a holly leaf. A helmet cam-wearing Brit bike blogger gets death threats. Google Street View captures a falling cyclist. A candidate for mayor of Toronto says he’ll tear out bike lanes on major streets, which does not go over well with his fellow cyclists. Finally, an angry driver honks when a cyclist takes the lane — not realizing he’s following a bike cop.

Oops.

Idle thoughts while waiting on the end of the world

We were waiting for the end of the word, waiting for the end of the world. — Elvis Costello

It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya? It pours, man it pours. — Albert Hammond

According to some, the world will be coming to an end in a few years when the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012. Although I recently heard a scientist discussing the subject who said that when his calendar runs out, he just puts up a new one.

But anyone who has been watching the news in Los Angeles this week would conclude that the end times have come a couple years early.

It’s raining.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s rain, for crying out loud.

But seriously, it’s right up there with all the other warning signs of a near-biblical apocalypse: War, famine, pestilence, earthquakes and rain in Los Angeles.

And not just rain, but heavy rain. And hail. And waterspouts.

Or as they called it when I lived in Louisiana, Thursday.

Then there’s another sign that the world as we know it may be coming to an end. Not only did Hizzoner recently say the city has to do more to support cycling, but there may be a chance — a slight chance — that we might actually see Mayor Villaraigoso on a bike.

Strange days, indeed.

So just to be safe, I’ve been holed up in my office all week, working on plans to convert my old bike into the world’s first pedal-powered ark.

Which means now I have to find two of all the local species. Like lawyers, hipsters, artists, gangbangers, actors, agents and Brit ex-pats, et al. Though I may have to build a bigger ark just to fit the massive egos on board.

And cyclists, of course.

And that means pairs of roadies and beach cruisers, commuters, recreational riders, fixie fanatics, hipsters, off-roaders, family cyclists, racers, fast riders, slow riders, Lance Armstrong wannabees, Ridazz, bike activists, LACBCists, eco riders, Critical Massers, license-less immigrants and mandatory-helmet-wearing kids.

Just to name a few.

I gotta sit down.

……….

CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz continues his support of cyclists with an effective letter requesting a better bike plan for his district — definitely worth reading. Cyclists and the LAPD begin the long process of building a better relationship, but it appears to be off to a good start. Enci Box continues her examination of L.A. bikeway systems, noting the failure of the city’s Class III Bike Routes. LACBC presents the Spanish language version of their new Bike Parking Community Resource Guide, available as a free download. Steal a bike, lose your pants. Bob Mionske writes that cyclists continue to pay the price for cell drunk drivers. Mandatory helmet laws for children reduce fatalities, but also discourage riding. Even the Boy Scouts say take the whole lane. Urbana, IL boldly removes parking to add bike lanes. Getting Portland’s mounted police off the saddle and onto bikes would save over $500,000. The drunken asshole driver who killed a cyclist in Miami had over 40 traffic violations in 12 years, but was still on the road. DC area cyclists win one and lose one, as a hit-and-run is investigated as an assault, while riders are stopped by police for being annoying. The Guardian says mudguards are a must, even on your fixie. In L.A., we haven’t even got sharrows yet; in Copenhagen, they get footrests. The UK’s Olympic cycling team gets a Formula One boost from McLaren. Police order British children to wear high visibility clothing at night, or get off their bikes. Finally, over 70 cyclists rode the valley’s Chandler Bikeway last weekend in honor of Drake Holland, a 17-year old Burbank cyclist who died in a fall while walking with friends.

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