Archive for January 19, 2010

Bike cases fill the dockets — Dr. Thompson was just the beginning

As Bob Mionske noted in the Times last week, the Thompson case does not represent a sea change for cyclists.

It was just one case, with unique circumstances. Like driver who admitted trying to “teach them a lesson.” A car with a unique, memorable license plate. And at least three other cyclists who could testify to similar incidents involving the same car, and the same driver.

Not to mention a police department that took it seriously — which isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.

As cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels pointed out recently, while Thompson got 5 years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, Alejandro Hidalgo got just two years for getting drunk and killing Jesus Castillo, then fleeing the scene.

Call me crazy, but on my balance sheet, Intoxication + Death + Running Away outweighs Intent + Injury. Even if it wasn’t the first time.

And that’s just the first of at least 10 other cases involving cyclists working their way through the investigative and legal process in the L.A. area.

Like Teri Hawkins, for instance.

She reportedly ran a stop sign before striking a cyclist, knocking him 30 feet through the air. The 40-year old Simi Valley resident turned herself in to the police 4 days after the hit-and-run collision that resulted in “major injuries” to the 26-year old rider, who has not been publicly identified.

After pleading no contest to hit-and-run with injury (CVC 2001a), her request for probation was denied and she was sentenced to 16 months in state prison last week, with credit for 76 days time served. Hawkins was also ordered to pay restitution, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the San Fernando courthouse.

Wheels notes that turning herself in may have been a mitigating factor in the relatively low sentence — although it should be noted that her conscience seemed to kick in after her car had been located and impounded by the police.

Wheels also provided an update on the status of some of the other cases:

The preliminary setting for Robert Sam Sanchez — the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Christian on PCH in Malibu last June — has been continued for the third time.

Sanchez was arrested shortly after fleeing the collision, which took place near the completion of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200-mile Grand Tour Double Century. The preliminary setting, held prior to a preliminary hearing, is now scheduled for February 11 in the Malibu Courthouse. Sanchez has pled not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Section 191.5a of the California Penal Code) as well as driving under the influence (CVC 23152a) and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury (CVC 20001a).

Rod’s sister-in-law reported last summer that Christian was doing well physically, though making it clear that the family was struggling with his loss. And an acquaintance of Sanchez noted that he was not a bad person, despite a drunken decision to get behind the wheel that has forever changed two families.

Mark Antonio Valencia was high on drugs and alcohol when he mowed down five cyclists in Santa Clarita on the morning of July 11, killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two others. Valencia, who was driving his sister’s car without a license after two prior DUI convictions — as well as multiple arrests for drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing officers — had already been reported to authorities before the collision; unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies couldn’t catch up to him in time.

DJ Wheels reports that Valencia is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the San Fernando courthouse on January 22. Valencia is still being held on $1.3 million bail, charged with 13 criminal counts including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.

In a very personal case, the driver who threatened a group of cyclists, resulting in injuries to Wheel’s new wife, will be arraigned on January 26.

On January 28, the driver accused of injuring local cycling advocate Roadblock in a hit-and-run collision is scheduled for a pretrial hearing.

A February 3 hearing has been scheduled for four men charged with attempting to rob a female cyclist by striking her in the face with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the hit-and-run that sent community leader Ed Magos to the hospital on January 6. Despite driving off and leaving another human splayed on the pavement unable to move, the driver was not arrested when she turned herself in later; no charges have yet been filed.

No word yet on the status of Patricia Ann Izquieta, who was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Donald Murphy in Irvine last month. Or whether any charges will be filed in the death of Gustavo Ramirez in Long Beach on the 5th. It doesn’t sound likely, though, since initial police statements seemed to blame Ramirez; the Press-Telegram reports on last weekend’s ride in his honor.

And there’s still no word of an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Robert Painter, the cyclist killed while riding in a crosswalk in North Hollywood last month. Fittingly, the driver is likely to face murder charges once an arrest is made.

……..

Controversy over plans for a bikeway near JPL. Travelin’ Local maps L.A. by bike. A North County San Diego paper questions whether current criminal penalties are strong enough when cars hit bikes; a drunk cyclist unwittingly volunteers as a test case. Another rider is killed in the nation’s most deadly state for cycling; Transit Miami examines why it happened there. Austin’s planned bike boulevard hits some bumps. Anchorage holds a very frosty bike race. A Colorado town revives the legendary Morgul Bismark stage from the Red Zinger/Coors Classics. German pro Matthias Kessler suffered a serious brain injury after a cat runs in front of his bike. London residents question traffic calming and bikeway plans. Lance has won seven tours; World Champ Cadel Evans says he’s only lost five.  Bikeways to the sailing venues for the 2012 Olympics could use some improvement. Scotland awards over $1.2 million to promote cycling in Edinburgh. The UK promotes child cycling through the new Bike Club. An Indian Nobel Laureate and confirmed cyclist says cars set a bad example, while a Danish politician says bikes are the obvious solution. Finally, the Trickster did indeed say it first — Michael Vink is a rising rider to keep an eye on.

And a woman walks into a bike shop

I’d know that look anywhere

I grew up in Colorado, where men are men and sheep run scared. Or so the saying goes.

In fact, I grew up right in the heart of sheep country. My high school football team was even called — I kid you not — the Lambkins. Not exactly a name to strike fear the heart of opposing teams.

So I know that look.

The same one I saw in the face of the woman driving the BMW this afternoon.

I was cruising down a side street in Brentwood, making my way home from today’s ride when I saw her car waiting at a stop sign up ahead. I watched closely as she looked to her right and waited. And waited.

And waited.

Even though I knew better, I decided to ride past her, since I had the right of way and there was no way of knowing how long she was going to sit there. Besides, she still hadn’t cast a single glance to her left.

But sure enough, that was exactly when she started to turn left — without ever looking my direction.

So I yelled “Look out!” and jammed on my brakes; she hit hers and we both skidded to a stop, ending up with me directly in front of her. And as I looked at her, she gazed back with the same uncomprehending expression I normally associate with wool-wrapped ruminants.

I was tempted to say something, but it was clear it would just be a waste breath. So I shook my head and rode on, leaving her sitting there with that same blank look on her face.

Then there was the earlier incident, as I was just starting my ride, when I pulled away from a stop sign about the same time as an SUV going in the other direction — only to have her brake angrily as I blocked her from making the left she hadn’t signaled for.

Seeing her window open, I shouted, “Turn signal would be nice.”

And as I went by, I heard a woman in the crosswalk next to me say, “Yeah, good luck with that!”

……..

After nearly five years of delays, the Transportation Committee wants to see some progress on getting Sharrows on the street — official ones, this time. Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl wants some answers by next month; LAist says maybe by May; LADOT just says maybe.

………

Mark your calendar as last year’s successful — and fun — Bike Summit turns into this year’s new and improved Street Summit. LAPD asks for cyclists’ help in finding a sexual assault suspect. Will Campbell captures scofflaw pedestrians and a motorized red light runner, and sticks up for his Ballona, assaults and all. Photos from the first 60 days of the new Bikerowave. LACBC looks back on a successful 2009, and looks forward to 2010. The upcoming county bike plan will look at new paths along L.A. rivers and creeks, as well as improving existing bikeways, among others. Council Member Tom LaBonge would rather see bike stations than bike sharing. What do you do when Luckman Plaza won’t let you take your bike up the elevator? Sacramento ranks 4th in the U.S. in bicycle commuting. San Francisco’s Streetsblog looks at the statewide bicycle agenda for 2010. Springfield, MO gets bike lockers. Over a quarter of all traffic accidents collisions are caused by occur while drivers are on cellphones or texting. Boston Biker looks at drivers arguments from a cyclist’s perspective. Yellow Springs, OH cyclists are encouraged to use the whole lane. Manchester’s new bikes on trains policy make Metro’s limitations seem generous. As L.A. considers a three-foot passing distance, Ireland raises the ante to nearly five feet — 4.921259842519685 feet, to be exact. A call for improved biking infrastructure, or any for that matter, in Karachi. Finally, the world’s Top 10 Cycling Cities; oddly, Los Angeles isn’t on the list.

Go figure.

Evidently, parked cars aren’t the only things that block bike lanes

Speaking of blocked bike lanes, as we were the other day, Todd Munford sent this photo showing his typical Friday morning commute on Venice Blvd:

Memorial rides and ghost bike for Gustavo Ramirez tonight and tomorrow

Just a quick reminder about the memorial ride and ghost bike dedication for Gustavo Ramirez. The popular Manhattan Beach REI employee killed when he collided with a semi-truck on East Shoreline Drive in Long Beach last week.

Actually, there will be two rides.

The first will take place tonight, meeting at 8 pm at Lincoln Park in Long Beach, and leaving at 8:30 pm, following one of Gustavo’s favorite routes.

The second will take place tomorrow morning, following the same route and stopping at the memorial. The ride meets at the same location at 8 am, departing at 9 am.

Full details are available on the Midnight Ridazz website for both Friday’s and Saturday’s rides, as well as on the ghostbikes.org website.

Hats off to the Ridazz for organizing these rides and preparing the ghost bike, and deepest sympathies to Gustavo’s family and friends.

Let’s make this the last one we’ll need this year.

L.A. County’s Bike Advisory Committee comes out of the closet

Tuesday, Stephen Box revealed the existence of the county’s newly formed Bicycle Advisory Committee — and their plans to hold the first official meeting in private.

He also provided contact information for the L.A. County Supervisors who appointed most of them, just in case someone might have something to say on the subject. A few hours later, along with a number other people active in the cycling community, I received an email from county Bikeway Coordinator Abu Yusuf inviting one and all to attend its inaugural session tomorrow night.

Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

According to Stephen’s article, the County of Los Angeles BAC — not to be confused with the city BAC chaired by Glenn Bailey — was formed to advise the county on its new bike plan, currently being developed by the highly respected Alta Planning and Design. The same Alta Planning responsible for the much-maligned bike plan currently under consideration in the City of Los Angeles.

Although, to be fair, the assumption in most cycling circles is that Alta wasn’t allowed to do their best work.

To put it mildly.

So now they have another chance to develop a comprehensive Los Angeles bike plan, for one of the few local governments that may actually be more dysfunctional than the City of L.A.

As Stephen Box points out, this plan will only affect unincorporated parts of the county, which are scattered in and around the 88 municipalities within the county. Which means areas as varied as the bay-side former singles paradise of Marina del Rey and East Los Angeles — the real Eastside, on the other side of the L.A. river, now accessible to Westside urban tourists via the Gold Line.

But what’s really needed is an umbrella plan that will coordinate and unite bikeways throughout those 88 communities and countless unincorporated areas that make up the this county of nearly 10 million people. So you can actually start in one city, and ride throughout the county without dealing with the current mishmash of disconnected bike systems.

Or none at all, if you happen to find yourself in bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s agenda, including this one:

Agenda

Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting #1

County of Los Angeles Bicycle Master Plan

January 14, 2009

6:30PM – 8:00pm

Introductions (10 min)

Overview of Bicycle Master Plan Process (15 min)

•    Draft Goals and Objectives of Plan

•     Work Completed to Date

Purpose of BAC (30 minutes)

•     Staff describes intended purpose (e.g., review of deliverables, advise/assist on outreach, etc.)

•     Q&A

Outreach Strategy (20 minutes)

•     Tapping into Existing Meetings and Planning Processes

•     Formal Workshops

o     Locations

o     Potential Dates

o    Meeting Format

Next Steps/Action Items (15 minutes)

•    BAC to provide input on Goals and Objectives by 02/05/2010

•    BAC to provide input on meeting locations and dates by 01/29/2010

Still, it’s a start. And the fact that the county has discovered bicycles is a good thing.

Now let’s see if they can give Alta the freedom LADOT didn’t.

Details — including this nifty chart of bike parking facilities — below.

Building Address Number of Racks
County of Los Angeles Hall of Administration (West Side of building on N Grand Avenue) 500 West Temple Street Los Angeles, CA 2 inverted U racks
Los Angeles County Superior Court (west side of building 110 N Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 2 Inverted U racks
Los Angeles County Superior Court (east side of building) 110 N Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 6 Inverted U racks
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 2 Inverted U racks
Metro Civic Center Station Intersection of Hill Street and 1st Street 6 rack parking spots

This is to inform you that the first Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting for the County’s Bikeway Master Plan has been scheduled for Thursday, January 14th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The meeting details are as follows:

Location: Room 150 – County Hall of Records

320 W. Temple Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Contact: Abu Yusuf, ayusuf@dpw.lacounty.gov, (626) 458-3940

Agenda: See attached agenda.

Parking: Parking is available at the music center located at the corner of Grand and Temple, or at the Cathedral which is right across from the Hall of Administration.  The table below lists some of the bicycle racks in the area.

Transit: Both the Metro Purple Line and Red Line subways are serviced by the Metro Civic Center located at the intersection of 1st Street and Hill Avenue.  Many buses also service this location.  Metro lines 70, 71, 76, 78, 79, 96,378, 439, 442, 485, 487, 489, and Metro Silver Line stop at this location as well as Foothill Transit lines 493, 497, 468, 499, and 699.

Please feel free to inform others who may be interested in attending this meeting.

………

On a related subject, the South Bay Bicycle Coalition is pushing for a regional bike plan throughout the seven-city area to address the problem of disconnected jurisdictions. And a recent study notes that each additional mile of new bike lanes per square mile results in a corresponding 1% increase in bike commuting.

………

Dr. Alex asks why we should adopt a new bike plan if it doesn’t improve on the last one, while Jeremy Grant suggests keeping the Dept. of DIY’s guerilla sharrows in Highland Park. Here’s your chance to become an L.A. Bike Cop. Streetsblog reports on former police officer and Council Member Dennis Zine’s apparent commitment to supporting L.A.’s current car culture, as well as LACBC’s recent success in developing a Bike Parking Resource Guide. The Swedish rapper who beat a Hollywood jazz musician to death for touching his car continues to claim it was self-defense. In an incident reminiscent of the recent hit-and-run murder of Robert Painter, a Morgan Hill woman was charged with manslaughter for the death of a cyclist riding in the crosswalk; writing on BicycleLaw.com, Rick Bernardi examines the complicated legal issues involved. Bernardi also takes up the related subject of whether a crosswalk is part of the highway or an extension of the sidewalk. A solution for crossing busy intersections; I’ll let someone else try it first, thank you. Winter riding tips from GOOD — including the first one, which suggests riding here in SoCal. New York takes another stab at a vulnerable users law. Webster’s word of the year for 2009 is “distracted driving.” Dark clothing at night is risky, whether in Abilene or L.A. A London cyclist uses his helmet cam to catch drivers at their worst, proving it’s not just L.A. after all. Memorial planned for four Welsh cyclists killed in the UK’s worst cycling disaster. Scotts turn down a proposed road tax on cyclists. A UK coroner urges parents to ensure children’s bikes are properly maintained.

Finally, Boise, Idaho passes new three-foot passing and anti-harassment laws, along with a ban on reckless riding, while the LACBC writes about the failure of our own anti-harassment ordinance to get past the Public Safety Committee. Is anyone else embarrassed that towns like Boise and Columbia, Missouri do more to protect their citizens than our own once-great city?

Our government in action: Encouraging drivers to park in bike lanes

It’s against the law to drive in a bike lane. But not, apparently, to park in one.

At least, not here in the late great Golden State.

I found that out this morning as I was reading through the California Driver Handbook, looking for ways it could help educated drivers about the rights of cyclists, and how to drive safely and courteously around bikes. And there it was, on page 26, in the section on Bicycle Lanes.

You may park in a bike lane unless a “No Parking” sign is posted.

Evidently, the DMV thinks drivers should have the right to park here.

That set me off on a daylong search of the California Vehicle Code. And unbelievably, I couldn’t find a single word prohibiting parking in bike lane. Or any specifically permitting it, for that matter.

A Class 1 off-road bike path, yes.

In fact, you’re not allowed to sit, stand, block, park, or otherwise obstruct an off-road bike path in any way. Which would no doubt come as a surprise to the many people who sit, stand, block and otherwise obstruct the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica and Venice.

But while that can be a major pain in the butt when you’re out for a ride, it’s not likely to result in serious injury.

On the other hand, blocking a bike lane could, by forcing cyclists out into the traffic lane where drivers aren’t likely to be looking for them — especially if there’s a bike lane present.

As noted above, there are restrictions against driving in a bike lane, except to turn or park. There are restrictions against parking on a sidewalk, in a crosswalk, within 15 feet of the driveway of a fire station, or next to an obstruction or excavation if it would block a traffic lane.

But parking in the only lane on the street specifically devoted to bikes?

No problem.

Cyclists are actually required to use the bike lane if there’s one available on the street they’re riding, although they are allowed to leave it to pass, turn or avoid an obstruction. Such as a car parked in their way, for instance.

The only good news is, it is against the law to double park. And as Enci points out, most bike lanes in L.A. — and throughout California — run adjacent to the parking lane.

So there actually is a benefit to all those bike lanes that force you to ride in the door zone.

At least it keeps cars from parking there.

Try it yourself. Take a look at the DMV’s list of traffic infractions, and see if you can find a single one for parking in or blocking an on-street bike lane.

Update: Stephen Box, L.A.’s leading bike activist, points out that parking in a bike lane is prohibited in Los Angeles under the city’s Municipal Code, under a revision passed just three years ago — and which was, not surprisingly, opposed by LADOT. There’s also an argument to be made that CVC 21211 prohibits parking in on-street (Class II) bike lanes; however, since it refers specifically to Class I bikeways, that’s a grey area at best. And it does nothing to address a state Drivers Handbook that tells motorists they can park in any bike lane they want, unless there’s signage specifically prohibiting it.

………

The LAPD demonstrates a lack of understanding of state traffic laws; evidently, the California Highway Patrol doesn’t do much better. A reader forwards the webpage for Robert Painter’s ghost bike, the cyclist killed in North Hollywood last month. Stephen Box says words matter when you call traffic motorists and collisions accidents. Bob Mionske writes that the Thompson trial was just one case, not a sea change for cyclists. A local rider recalls his two greatest calamities, as evidence that we have a long way to go. The next Dim Sum Ride kicks off this Sunday. In praise of cheap neon fixies. A new bike mural debuts in Atascadero. A Connecticut writer says Vulnerable Users laws have a downside, too. Who needs headphones when you can turn your helmet into a speaker? You do wear a helmet, right? Is there sexism in cycling? U.S. bicycling trips are up 25% — to a whopping 1% of all trips. Facebook refuses to remove the anti-cycling hate group; that may be okay, though, because cyclists are taking it over. Lance says he can beat Contador; the odds makers beg to differ. An English rider writes in Time about going motor-free for a full year. A Budapest transit strike means opportunity for that city’s cyclists. This beautiful Japanese bike was handcrafted almost entirely in wood. Sometimes, pretty pictures of Scotland in winter are enough. Finally, a hilarious take on a Colorado cycling fail. And Yahuda Moon reminds us that visionary cycling plans start with politics.

From the high of the TranspoComm, to the low of the Public Safety Committee

Last month, cyclists stormed the bike-only Transportation Committee meeting. And left feeling we like were finally getting somewhere.

That was then.

Today, the Public Safety Committee took up the proposed anti-harassment ordinance, and it couldn’t have been more different.

These bikes, and the riders on them, were nowhere to be seen at yesterday's committee meeting.

It started out in front, where the line of bikes that had been chained to the City Hall railings last month were noticeably missing. And continued into the lobby, where the guard at the front desk noted that I was only the 4th visitor to arrive for the meeting.

Aside from LADOT Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery, there were only three people there to speak in support of the measure — Aurisha Smolarski and Allison Mannos from the LACBC, and myself.

As it turned out, we were vastly outnumbered by the four council members. Jan Perry and Tony Cardenas seemed open-minded, although Cardenas commented that it’s so dangerous to bike in L.A. that he won’t let his children ride on the streets.

What does it say about this city when even members of our own government say it’s too dangerous to conduct such a benign and legal activity as riding a bicycle?

However, Cardenas offered to work with us and use his contacts in the state legislature to address some matters on the state level, such as increasing the amount of bike-related content in the state driver’s handbook.

After talking with Aurisha and Allison afterwards, we have every intention of taking him up on his offer. Although, as usual, I intend to push my luck and try to get more bike-related questions on the drivers test, as well.

Dennis Zine, a former police officer, and committee chair Greig Smith were a different matter. Despite their assertions to the contrary, if either of them support cycling, they did a damn good job of hiding it.

When Perry brought up the increasing popularity of late night group rides, Zine shot back “And they break every law in the book.” Which, of course, had nothing to do with the topic of conversation.

Smith also questioned whether there was anything the city could do about banning harassment, since many of these things are already against the law and most traffic laws are regulated by the state. And Zine stressed that no enforcement of such an ordinance would be possible unless a police officer actually saw the infraction.

Sort of like the situation right now, in other words.

As Zach Behrens noted on LAist, Zine made the point that L.A. is now, and probably always will be, a city dominated by car traffic at the expense of other modes of transportation.

To which Aurisha boldy shot back, despite Smith’s repeated attempts to cut her off, that we can’t continue to follow the same old car-centric model. And that this is an opportunity for much needed change.

The end result, though, was that the matter was referred to the City Attorney’s office for a report on what was possible — rather than simply coming back with a recommendation for an ordinance. Or as Damien Newton put it on Streetsblog, adding an unnecessary third step to a simple two-step process.

And blowing an easy chance to support the riding community.

Below is the text of my statement to the committee, taken from my notes:

Good morning. I’m Ted Rogers, and I write the blog Biking In LA.

In 30 years as an adult cyclist in cities across the U.S., Los Angeles is by far the most dangerous city I’ve ever ridden in, due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and a minority of dangerous drivers.

In the short time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve heard from hundreds of cyclists who’ve been harassed and intimidated by drivers. This includes passing too close; lurching towards cyclists; honking to startle or intimidate; throwing objects; touching, pushing or hitting cyclists; and yelling things such as “get off the road.”

These are most likely to happen to less experienced — and therefore, more vulnerable — riders who lack the skills and confidence to assertively take the lane, as well women who may not feel safe on riding less populated side streets alone, and so prefer to ride on busier main streets.

However, it can happen to anyone. Ask any cyclist, and they will have a story to tell about being harassed on the roads; I myself have been a victim of a road rage assault.

At a minimum, this ordinance should ban all forms of harassment; establish a minimum three-foot passing distance; give cyclists unquestioned right-of-way in bike lanes, just as pedestrians enjoy in crosswalks; ban short-stopping, lurching towards or deliberately cutting in front of a cyclist; and require LADOT to educate drivers about the rights of cyclists.

Finally, in conclusion, I would like to read an email that was received by a friend of mine following the Thompson sentencing on Friday.

“I live in L.A. and it really irritates me to see you people riding all over the right hand lane in traffic. I often imagine running you over and speeding away. I think if I ever have the chance to hit one of you on Sepulevda Blvd; you know, that long stretch of road near Skirball Center where it sometimes gets lonely? If I ever have the chance to hit one of you and get away with it — I’m gonna do it.”

KABC Channel 7’s Gene Gleason reported on the committee meeting, including a brief comment from yours truly at the end. And that friend who received the threat was the much-respected Will Campbell.

After the road rage case, a Monday hearing on the anti-harassment ordinance

In sentencing the soon-to-be ex-doctor Christopher Thompson for the road rage assault on two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon, Judge Scott Millington called the case a wake-up call for motorists and cyclists. And said that people on bikes are particularly vulnerable on the streets of L.A.

A few members of the City Council already knew that.

Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl and Ed Reyes, Chair of the Planning and Land-Use Management committee, co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the City Attorney work with LADOT to craft an ordinance that would prohibit harassment of bicyclists in Los Angeles.

A motion in favor of the ordinance was approved by the Transportation Committee last month, with the support of Rosendahl and Paul Koretz (CD5) — the only two members still present when it came up for a vote.

Now it’s scheduled for a hearing before the Public Safety Committee this Monday.

As Dr. Alex Thompson notes on Westside Bikeside, attendance by bicyclists probably isn’t necessary at this point.

On the other hand, this is your chance to take a stand in front of a committee that has yet to demonstrate its support for the bicycling community the way Rosendahl and the Transportation Committee have — and to make your suggestions about what should be included in a new law designed to protect cyclists.

And maybe help make us just a little less vulnerable in the years to come.

The hearing will take place Monday, January 11 at 9:30 am  in room 1010 of the Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. The motion — 09-2895 — is #4 on the agenda.

………

Speaking of the road rage doctor, Bob Mionske offers his own insights on the sentencing, as well as what it really does — and doesn’t — mean for drivers and the cycling community. Including this:

And just as cyclists notice—and remember—the occasional dangerous motorist, it is the occasional rude cyclist that motorists notice and remember. It is these minority of bad actors on the road that lead to much of the resentment towards each other. However, the real issue here is not “scofflaw cyclists,” or “motorists hell-bent on killing cyclists,” it is competition for the limited resource of space on the road. And for that, motorists owe a debt of gratitude to cyclists. First, every cyclist on the road represents one less car contributing to congestion. Yes, sometimes motorists will be slowed for a few seconds, but in the larger picture, those few seconds will be offset by the time they save for every car that is not on the road ahead of them. Second, every cyclist on the road represents one less car consuming gasoline, and one less car contributing to air pollution and climate change. Finally, every cyclist on the road represents less wear and tear on the roads. These are benefits that accrue directly to all motorists in the form of less demand for limited resources, less demand for regulation of driving, and less demand for our limited tax dollars. Instead of attempting to harass cyclists off the road and back into their cars, motorists should be thanking cyclists for the benefits they provide — and they can do that by simply respecting cyclists’ need for a safe space on the road.

And L.A. Eastside, which captures the real eastern section of the city — as opposed to what those too afraid to cross the L.A. River consider the Eastside — notes that it’s one down, and thousands more to goCBS and FoxLA offer coverage, as well.

……….

On the final day to submit comment on the proposed bike plan, LACBC receives strong support for a better bike plan. Travelin’ Local guides you to the best views in Los Angeles. Bicycle Fixation enjoys a used-tire sculpture at Hel-Mel. Long Beach’s cycling expats take a photo tour of Tucson, including the beautiful Bike Church. Bike San Diego reports that carelessly killing a well-lighted, bike lane-riding cyclist isn’t worth a single day in behind bars. But S.D. traffic signals are finally starting to respond to bikes. Philadelphia creates an online system to report bike-related incidents directly to the police. A Wichita rider dies four months after being struck by a hit-and-run driver. Indianapolis adopts a three-foot passing law and gives cyclists exclusive right-of-way in bike lanes; Iowa considers a cycling Bill of Rights. A skinny Lycra-clad columnist for the Orlando Sentinel responds to bike haters. Our forecast may call for rain next week, but things could be worse. Finally, a global campaign is underway to remove the latest bike-hating page on Facebook.

Evil on trial: Perspectives on the Christopher Thompson sentencing

This is not a happy day.

Yes, the Good Doctor got the sentence he deserved, despite what countless apologists have said online today.

But the sad thing is that a man like that, who clearly has so many supporters, committed such a heinous act. And that so many of these supporters don’t get that what he did was wrong.

You see, I don’t hate Christopher Thompson. I don’t even think he’s a bad man. Not that I ever met him.

He’s just a man who did a very bad thing.

That may sound odd, considering the header at the top of this page. But when I first started writing about the Thompson trial, I wanted to grab peoples’ attention and identify any posts on the subject. What I came up with was what you see above.

I thought someone would challenge me, and ask just what I meant by that. But no one ever did. Not even the Times, which mentioned one unnamed blogger who wrote under the headline “Evil on trial.”

So I never explained that it referred to what he did, not who he was.

During the course of the trial, Dr. Christopher Thompson has been variously described as a good husband, a good friend and neighbor, and a skilled, caring physician. I have no doubt that all of those things are true.

But none of that excuses what he did to Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr on July 4th, 2008 in Mandeville Canyon. Or what he tried to do to Patrick Watson and Josh Crosby in an earlier incident, and at least one other incident before that.

Now Peterson has permanent scars, despite plastic surgery, Stoehr has had to recover from his injuries, and the others have to live with the memory of having their lives threatened. And an otherwise good man is facing 5 well-deserved years in prison.

According to cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, who was in the courtroom today, Thompson faced his victims and apologized for his actions, wishing them good health. He claimed that he never wanted to hurt anyone, in a statement that brought tears to the eyes of his many supporters in the courtroom.

The Times quotes Thompson as saying, ” I would like to apologize deeply, profoundly from the bottom of my heart.” He added, “If my incident shows anything it’s that confrontation leads to an escalation of hostilities.”

His father also spoke to the court in support of the Good Doctor. In what Wheels described as a very emotional statement, speaking without notes, he talked about the things his son had done for the surgical community and how he had helped a lot of people. And told how a humiliated Christopher Thompson had to move back into his father’s home in Oklahoma after the incident.

That was offset by statements from three of the cyclists involved, who talked about their injuries, how dangerous it is for cyclists in L.A., and how the punishment should fit the crime. Looking directly at Thompson, Josh Crosby said, “You were upset that we were on your street.”

Judge Scott Millington clearly got the severity of the incident, despite noting that the 270 letters he’d received from cyclists urging a stiff sentence had no bearing on his ruling.

As the Times put it:

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a “wake-up call” to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.

He sentenced Thompson to the minimum 2 year sentence for each of the two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and added three years each for both counts of battery causing serious bodily injury; however, he ordered that those sentences be served concurrently, rather than consecutively.

There were also sentences of 1-year and 90 days for the lesser charges of reckless driving and mayhem; again, he ordered that those be served concurrently with the other sentences for a total of 5 years.

He also ordered Thompson to pay restitution for the cyclists’ medical expenses, with a hearing set for next month. And he revoked the Good Doctor’s drivers license for the remainder of his life.

However, DJ Wheels says that Thompson could be eligible for parole after serving just half his sentence, with the rest served on parole — assuming Thompson doesn’t get into trouble behind bars. And don’t be surprised if state prison authorities consider the Good Doctor an ideal candidate for early release, if plans to reduce prison overcrowding in California are put into effect.

With the felony conviction, loss of his medical license should also be a foregone conclusion — though a number of people in the medical profession have warned that it may not be as clear cut as it seems.

Of course, that does nothing to address the vitriol flying across the internet today. Like this comment that followed a story on the Arizona Star website, from a woman who claimed to be a personal friend of Thompson’s:

Not only were these cyclists COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE but they were traveling five wide on a road that is less than 9 feet across. He has NEVER injured anyone in his entire life and would never intentionally hurt someone…He caused injury to people by complete accident which could have been avoided if they had OBEYED THE RULES of the road while biking. IT IS THAT SIMPLE!!!

DJ Wheels also notes one other fact that puts this case in stomach-turning perspective. Alejandro Hidalgo is scheduled to be sentenced this Monday for the drunk-driving hit-and-run death of Jesus Castillo last April.

His sentence? Two years.

Two years for getting drunk, getting behind the wheel and running down another human being, then running away and leaving a man to die alone in the street.

Meanwhile, Thompson gets five years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, yet remaining at the scene.

What’s wrong with that picture?

In addition to the Times story, you can read additional coverage of the Christopher Thompson sentencing from L.A. Streetsblog, VeloNewsHuffington Post, KNBC Channel 4 and KABC Channel 7.

Breaking news: Dr. Christopher Thompson sentenced to 5 years

According to a report from cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, Dr. Christopher Thompson has just been denied probation and sentenced to five years in prison for deliberately injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on July 4, 2008, as well as threatening two other cyclists in a previous incident.

More details to come.

Update: Damien Newton reports on Streetsblog that Thompson received two years for assault with a deadly weapon, with a three year enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

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