Pity poor Malibu.
Blessed with an idyllic location along the sun-drenched Pacific Coast, the city draws countless visitors, from celebrity hunting tourists to motorists speeding — often literally — along scenic PCH.
It also attracts countless cyclists.
And that, in the eyes of some locals, is the problem.
No, the problem is those bad, bad cyclists who ride side-by-side, running red lights and blowing through stop signs. And keeping wealthy homeowners from being able to back out of their driveways.
Though anyone who has to back out onto a major highway should seriously consider investing a little money to reconfigure their parking situation.
Bleifer and Ionov were killed by a catering truck in September, 2005 when the driver deliberately failed to brake or swerve around them because another person was illegally cooking in the truck’s kitchen area when the truck was in motion. Despite traffic traveling at 50 mph or higher, they were forced to ride in the lane because of an obstacle blocking the shoulder where they’d been riding.
In an astounding display of compassion — or the lack thereof — following the deaths, Malibu Public Safety Committee Chairperson Carol Randall was quoted by the Malibu Times as expressing fears about anything the city might do that could encourage cycling on PCH, “particularly where it is lined by driveways in eastern Malibu.”
“It’s very irresponsible to encourage something that we know is not safe,” she said. “I invite them to try to back out of my garage on any weekend onto PCH.”
Yeah, being able to back out of a driveway certainly trumps bike riders’ right to use the road in a safe and legal manner. Let alone to return home in one piece.
Then again, she wasn’t the only one. Defending Malibu’s unshakable commitment to do virtually nothing, Council Member Pamela Conley Ulich, who claimed to bike on PCH herself, was quoted in the same article as saying:
“The bikers need to work with us,” Conley Ulich said. “They have [a motive] here: they don’t want to die.”
Amazingly, both still hold the same positions within Malibu’s apparently cold-hearted city government.
Of course, it’s hard to work with someone who refuses to work with you. Malibu’s solution to the riders who pass through the city every day has apparently been to ignore them in hopes we’ll go away.
And if that doesn’t work, crack down on bicyclists, rather than the roadway and drivers that put their lives at risk.
As a Malibu Public Safety Commissioner, I have been disturbed by the high number of bicyclists who do not follow the rules of the road. While many do obey the vehicle code, just as many do not. They run red lights, do not stop at stop signs and ride three abreast even though the law is clear about what is safe and what is not. Motorists become frustrated and rude in turn, and this leads to ugly confrontations, not just here in Malibu, but everywhere.
She goes on to say that enforcement is the key. And announces a campaign called Share the Road – Share the Tickets to encourage “the sheriff, CHP and LAPD to ticket cyclists who break the law.”
This is a winning campaign in that everyone will be safer once cyclists realize that laws for them will be enforced. Tickets will decrease and maybe even disappear as the word gets out about enforcement. The biggest payoff? Motorists will be less likely to threaten bike riders and much more willing to “share the road.”
So let me get this straight. In Tellem’s opinion, it’s the fault of bike riders that we’re threatened by motorists.
Yes, cyclists are subject to exactly the same road rules as drivers. We’re required to signal — not that most drivers do — and stop for stop signs — ditto — and red lights. And if not, we can be ticketed, just like drivers.
On the other hand, I don’t recall any case of a motorist being killed by a cyclist in Malibu. And last I heard, drivers are already required to share the road, and under California law threatening another human being is illegal, regardless of motivation or self-justification.
Just ask Dr. Christopher Thompson.
And let’s not forget that it’s a Malibu city employee who’s charged with killing Rod Armas in a drunken hit-and-run last year.
I should also point out that cyclists are legally allowed to take the lane when appropriate, and despite what Tellem writes, there is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits riding side-by-side as long as the riders don’t block traffic. So on a roadway with two or more lanes in each direction, cyclists can legally occupy an entire lane as long as drivers can safely go around them.
Of course, what the law allows and what the police and courts enforce aren’t always the same thing.
Tellem has taken her campaign to Facebook, where she continues to criticize cyclists and misrepresent California law — including the frequently misstated and misunderstood requirement that cyclists ride as far to the right as practicable — while asserting her rights as a private citizen.
…You cannot legally impede traffic on PCH, or ride side by side and you must ride as far right as safely possible. If you get a ticket and come to court in Malibu for any of these infractions, you will lose every time. All I am asking for is safe riding. Stop at red lights and stop signs. As for saying I am “overtly hostile” to bicyclists – please show me proof. Your claim that I should be “investigated” is patently ridiculous as safety comes first. Finally, this site has nothing to do with the City of Malibu or the Commission. Just like you I am entitled to free speech…
Yet as a member of the city government, she has a higher responsibility to be truthful, not just as she sees it, and to protect the rights and safety of all road users.
I’ll leave the final word to John Abbe, in a letter published yesterday in the Malibu Times.
The PCH through Malibu is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in California and cyclists are not the problem. Like it or not, every weekend thousands of cyclists ride PCH to enjoy riding thru the beautiful canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. They all have as much right to the PCH as those driving cars and trucks…
He goes on to cite the cases of Armas, Bleifer and Ionov, as well as Tracey Clark, a 26-year old triathlete killed on PCH in 1990, for whom the Dolphin Fountain at the famed Malibu Country Mart was dedicated.
The truth is that they all were not annoying obstacles to traffic on PCH, or a hindrance to homeowners trying to exit their driveways on PCH. They were all somebody’s husband, somebody’s father, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, somebody’s loved one-lives now gone forever!
And he concludes by quoting from pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie’s website, Yield to Life.
“We all travel life’s roads. I stand before you to ask for your cooperation in providing safe space for cyclists. When you see a cyclist on the road, please, yield to life”.
For the sake of full disclosure, I don’t ride PCH through Malibu anymore, tempting as it might be at times. While I never met Scott Bleifer, I knew his father through his medical practice, and his son’s death struck a little too close to home. As a result, my wife asked me to stop riding on PCH, and I have respected her request. And while Tellem may be biased against bicyclists, she can’t be all bad; she’s the founder of a local Tortoise rescue program along with her husband.
Update: Damien Newton has picked up the subject, and Gary of Gary Rides Bikes has joined in with an exceptionally detailed and insightful examination of Tellem’s Facebook group; Tellem herself has responded on Streetsblog.
Mark Cavendish sprints to victory in Stage 5 of the Tour de France, while the overall standings remain unchanged; no major moves are likely until the riders reach the mountains. More on 4th stage winner Alessandro Petacchi, who won his second stage of the Tour at age 36, which could bode well for another older rider — if he can put up with the heckling.
Rumors of mechanical doping continue to follow the Tour, particularly surrounding current leader Fabian Cancellara’s performance in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix; a German bike shop owner shows how it can be done.
Bike Lawyer Bob Mionske says adding better bike infrastructure helps create more riders, while EcoVelo says more separated bikeways could help beginning riders feel more comfortable. Paris proves it takes more than a bike share program to be bike friendly. And research shows that women prefer off-road paths, bike lanes and streets with low traffic that actually go where they need to go.
Meanwhile, lobbyists for the electronics industry want to preserve the right of distracted drivers to run you off the road.
Damien Newton asks if L.A. cyclists can fix the sharrows study without killing it. Oaklavia reveals what this September’s CicLAvia might look like. A look at last week’s Tour LaBonge, where police handcuffs double as bike locks. Santa Monica is adding 400 bike racks, and has a new bike share program for city employees. If you’ve been suffering from a shortage of seriously cute in your life, check out this 4th of July parade, courtesy of my friends at Altadenablog. ESPN looks at Kristina Ripatti-Pearce, the paralyzed former LAPD officer who just complete the Race Across America (RAAM). A 21-year old Reno area rider is declared brain dead two days after being rear-ended by a Sheriff’s SUV. A Portland rider successfully defuses a road rage situation, ending in a handshake; another close call in Eugene OR ends more the way you’d expect. The Museum of Arts and Design in New York will be hosting Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle through August 15. A biking 4th in Birmingham AL. Mississippi authorities are looking for the victim of a YouTube prank, in which two men in a truck purposed smoked out a cyclist. A new bike lane in York — the old one, not the new one — results in problems on nearby streets. The European Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships come to Haifa, giving a local Israeli rider the hometown advantage. The hit-and-run driver who ran over the son of a former Israel Supreme Court Justice after drinking and smoking hashish faces manslaughter charges.
Finally, when a dangerous bus driver nearly runs a cyclist over, it helps if the cyclist works for the company that runs the buses.