Archive for July 17, 2010

Friday’s ride, in which I nearly acquire some prime agricultural land

I’ve often dreamed eventually settling down in Southern Colorado.

Maybe somewhere around Spanish Peaks, which is still one of the most beautiful and mysterious places I’ve ever seen. But I’ve always imagined myself living on a ranch.

Not buying the farm like I almost did today.

The funny thing is, I spent about half an hour Thursday evening on the phone with a reporter from the Times discussing whether it’s dangerous to ride on PCH. The point I tried to make was that the problems on PCH aren’t due to cyclists; it’s dangerous, aggressive and inattentive drivers, lax enforcement and a near total lack of infrastructure improvements to make things safer for everyone. Bicyclists included.

Yet what nearly happened to me didn’t happen on busy PCH; it was on Westwood’s relatively placid Ohio Ave, barely a mile from my home.

I was just starting out on my ride when I crossed Westwood Blvd heading west. As I rode, I watched as a driver at the next intersection started to make a left turn off Midvale, then noticed the oncoming traffic on Ohio.

And instead of gunning it to complete his turn and get the hell out of the way, he did exactly the wrong thing.

He froze.

He stopped right where he was, partially blocking the eastbound lane of Ohio. Which meant that the oncoming cars had a choice between stopping safely in front of him or going around him.

Do I really need to tell you which option the first driver took?

So just as I approached the intersection doing about 20 mph, I found myself staring face to face with a Cadillac Escalade driving on the wrong side of the road at over 30 mph, and at a distance of maybe 10 yards.

Which meant that I was less than half a second from becoming a bloody Caddy hood ornament. And at a combined speed of 50 mph, my survivability didn’t look very promising.

It wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference that I was wearing a helmet and riding exactly where I was supposed to be.

And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I had just enough time for that “Oh f***” moment in which I fully grasp the seeming inevitability of my demise, when he suddenly swerved back to the other side, clearing my handlebars by just a few feet. And leaving me riding rubber legged for the next several blocks.

It’s possible that he just didn’t see me. Although how you miss a 6’ tall, 180 pound man in a bright yellow jersey is beyond me.

Then again, maybe he did see me, which is even scarier. Because the total lack of surprise on the driver’s face would suggest that he knew I was there all along — and chose to risk the life of a total stranger just to avoid the minimal inconvenience of braking to avoid another car.

And let’s be very clear.

The danger I faced had nothing to do with being on a bike. Even if I’d been behind the wheel, that big ass truck would have mounted my little car like a dog in heat, most likely removing my head in the process.

Instead, it resulted from a frightened driver who made a mistake, then froze when he should have stepped on the gas. And an overly aggressive driver who chose to swerve dangerously when he should have stopped.

And that’s what makes riding, driving and walking across or along our roads risky, whether it’s on Ohio or PCH.

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Joaquin Rodriguez outsprints Alberto Contador for the finish in stage 12 of the tour de France. Andy Schleck rallies to cut his losses to 10 seconds; the question is how much did it take out of him.

Lance Armstrong is slipping further behind the leaders, but maybe it’s on purpose. Bicycling talks with Contador on video. A day after being bounced from the Tour, Mark Renshaw blames the competition. This was supposed to be Tyler Farrar’s year; instead he drops out 10 stages after breaking his wrist. Life as a TdF rider means learning to love pain; more backstage tidbits from le Tour.

And caption this photo of Tour leader Andy Schleck and his wool-bearing friend to win a $20 gift certificate.

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Click to enlarge

In case you missed yesterday’s list of upcoming events, click here and scroll down to catch up.

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Hell has officially frozen over — L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is photographed riding a bike; no, seriously. Gary says Santa Monica may host its first ciclovia on 10-10-10; maybe it should start at 10:10 am. It looks like L.A.’s best transportation blog may be sticking around after all. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who nearly got nailed recently. Bell unveils new commuter-friendly helmets. The Wall Street Journal continues make itself over into Bicycling Magazine; this time asking if you would commute to work. Three ways to pedal faster. Why it makes no sense to license cyclists. A Georgia driver faces aggravated assault charges after imitating Dr. Christopher Thompson. It looks like Memphis and Toronto will be getting new bike lanes, while Jakarta cyclists demand theirs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy rides a bike. Secret to cycling with traffic #5: signal sensibly. Bike is a four letter word in Halifax. Vancouver residents are up in arms after efforts to create what sounds like a bike boulevard. Copenhagen requests high tech bids to make biking in the city even better, as the rest of the world falls further behind.

Finally, first the NYPD blocks a bike lane, then tickets cyclists for going around them.

Bright shiny new sharrows in Westwood

This morning, I set out on a ride down to Manhattan Beach, rolling right past the future home of sharrows on Westholme Ave.

As has been the case for the past few weeks, a quick glance up and down the street for traffic showed no signs of any new paint. At least none I hadn’t already spotted.

These markings have been on the street for the past week or so.

So imagine my surprise when I rolled back about 3 hours and 45 miles later, and noticed a car slow down to a near stop, evidently confused by the new markings that had suddenly appeared on Westholme.

Seriously, I swear these weren't there this morning.

I stopped to take a look, and sure enough, there were a pair of bright, shiny new sharrows on the street leading up to Wilshire Blvd. And a quick look the other way showed more heading south towards Santa Monica Blvd.

Sharrows to the left, sharrows to the right.

So even though my legs were on their last legs, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ride up as far as Wilshire to check them out.

Even though they were placed in the center of the lane, it seemed appropriate, since the lanes on this section are narrow — and definitely not sharable.

Even placed in the center of the lane, they're just outside the door zone.

Riding up towards Wilshire, I was perfectly comfortable riding on the sharrows, moving to the right to let cars pass when it was safe and appropriate. Coming back, there were no cars parked on the right due to street sweeping restrictions, so I stuck to the parking lane and let the drivers have the traffic lane to themselves.

On the other hand, many of the drivers who went by didn’t seem to know what to make of the strange symbols on the road in front of them. Some slowed down and examined them closely, while others drove onto the other side of the road to go around them — even though there weren’t any bikes, or anything else, in their way.

This driver wasn't the only one who seemed afraid to cross over the strange markings that had appeared without warning.

Then there were others who didn’t seem to notice there was anything different.

Those are the ones I worry about.

That just leaves Abbot Kinney Blvd as the last of the six streets scheduled to get sharrows during the current pilot project. And I just rode there on my way back this afternoon.

So I can safely say there aren’t any there.

Yet.

Cyclist killed in Newport Beach; a full slate of biking events

Forty-three year old Michael William Nine of Santa Ana — some reports indicate he was 47 — was killed in a collision at the intersection of Spyglass Hill Road and Harbor Ridge Drive in Newport Beach Thursday morning.

According to authorities, the collision occurred at 7:47 am as Nine was riding with a group of cyclists headed north on Spyglass Hill. He was traveling at about 30 mph at the head of the group when something caused him to lose control of his bike and slide across the road, where he collided head-on with a southbound truck; he was pronounced dead at Hoag Medical Center.

Some reports indicate that he may have lost control after he swerved to avoid a gardener’s truck, however, other witnesses contradict that version of events. The other riders in the group didn’t see what happened because their view of the collision blocked by a bend in the road.

It was the third fatal bicycling collision in the area in less than a year, which is about three too many.

Prayers and condolences to his family and loved ones.

Update: Jim Lyle pointed me to this comment on the Road Bike Review forum, from a cyclist who says he witnessed the collision:

For those of you that ride in the OC.

Mike Nine an avid cyclist out of Tustin was killed Thursday morning during a training ride in Newport Beach.

He crashed into the back of a stake truck as he tried to avoid the vehicle which was traveling the wrong way on the road and in the path of a group of riders.

The OC news channels have incorrectly reported that the cyclist lost control of his bike causing him to go into oncoming traffic and striking the truck. The news channels have cited that the Newport Police have been unable to determine the reason the cyclist lost control of his bike.

As 1 of the 10 witnesses of this event, I think it is important to set the record straight. Mike did not lose control of his bike and go into oncoming traffic. The truck was going the wrong up a narrow road. This caused the crash. The truck driver’s negligence set this tragedy in motion.

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Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia won his third stage of this year’s Tour de France on Thursday, as teammate Mark Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour for head-butting a rival rider in a bit of argy-bargy that was caught on video during the final sprint.

Got to admit, though, Andy Schleck looks good in yellow. David Millar barely survives one of his worst days ever on a bike in stage nine, while Team RadioShack gets it’s first Tour win in stage 10. And Bicycling says if Lance isn’t going to win this year’s Tour, he should become the first American to claim the last place Lanterne Rouge.

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An open letter from Reed Bates, the Texas cyclist jailed for the crime of riding a bike.

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In upcoming events, tonight (Friday) say goodbye to the LACBC’s much loved and soon to be much missed Dorothy Le at Far Bar in Little Tokyo beginning at 4 pm.

Fortunately, she’s not quite gone yet. This Saturday, Dorothy will join with Madeline and Lauren in hosting the How To’s and Hubs Bike Ride for Ladies and Allies through the gentle streets of Downtown to encourage more women to ride by teaching the how to’s of savvy cycling.

Wombyn’s cycling krew — their spelling, not mine — Ovarian Psychos/Cycles rolls through the Eastside Friday night.

Summer Fix LA kicks off Friday night in Culver City, with events throughout the city all weekend. And I had to learn about this from a website in New York?

Tuesday, July 20, Mia Lehrer + Associates is hosting 5X20/SEED spotlighting the upcoming CicLAvia. Wednesday the 21st, the LACBC holds its monthly board meeting at the Encino Velodrome; the meeting starts at 7 pm, but you’re invited to arrive early to meet the board members — including yours truly — and discuss the bike issues important to you. The L.A. City Planning Department will be hosting their first ever Webinar to discuss the revised draft bike plan on Thursday, July 22nd. And wrap up the week with Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street on Saturday the 24th.

The LACBC is hosting the 2nd Regional Meeting for bike activists from around the region on Wednesday, July 28th.

The First Annual City of Lights Awards Dinner takes place downtown on Thursday, August 12th.

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The LACBC reports that the 10% set aside from Measure R funds for bike and pedestrian projects has been officially confirmed, with $3.27 million available the first year. Ground breaks on Downtown’s new Civic Park, but where’s the Bike Station? Even Berkeley is getting one, already. LADOT is now 2/3 of the way through their sharrows pilot project; not all sharrows are on the streets, though. Flying Pigeon has your new Nihola Danish cargo bike on sale now. The host of Travelin’ Local goes car lite. Dancer a la Mode tries to get a broken-hearted driver to hang up the phone. Patrick Pogan, the now ex-NYPD cop who knocked a Critical Mass cyclist off his bike, walks with no jail time after a conviction for lying about the event; seriously, did you expect anything else? The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the season of biker chic; thanks to George Wolfberg for the link. The FBI says bike theft is on the rise nationwide as car theft is down. TreeHugger reports bike commuters show lower absenteeism and greater productivity than their four-wheeled coworkers. Shop for your next house by bike in KCMO. Missouri’s St. Charles County may not be able to ban bikes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Biking skills can come in handy off the bike, too. This animation clearly shows where to ride in traffic, and why. There’s a certain indisputable logic to this comment about bike parking. London’s bike superhighway hasn’t even opened yet and it’s already torn up for construction. A British driver who shattered a cyclist’s arm is fined £90, while a woman who dropped a cigarette in the street is fined £170. Downhill/four-cross racer Dan Atherton is placed in a halo brace after fracturing two vertebrae when he missed a jump. Next up in Biking Toronto’s 10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic, ride in a straight line, play by the rules and avoid the stoplight squeeze.

Finally, powered pedals are a few cranks closer to reality.

True Grit: clearing a path for beachfront bicyclists

See the sand on the bike path? Me neither.

Notice anything different lately?

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the long-standing problem of sand on the Marvin Braude Bike Path along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice.

Then last week, I shared an email that I sent to County Bicycle Coordinator Abu Yusuf, after discovering that the county is responsible for maintaining the bikeway.

Or most of it, any way.

And I promised to let you know when I received a response. Then again, if you’ve ridden the bike path over the last few days, I probably don’t have to tell you what that response was.

To be honest, I didn’t think they were taking me seriously at first.

This is what local cyclists have had to deal with in recent months.

Mr. Yusuf emailed back, explaining that the bike path gets cleared three times a week, and inspected on a regular basis. And their records showed the maintenance was up to date and it was clear of sand.

So I picked up the phone, and said, as politely as possible, maybe you should take another look at those photos.

I explained that I’ve been riding that bike path for nearly 20 years. And this was the first time it had looked more like a sand trap at Riviera than southern California’s most heavily used bikeway — and stayed that way for over two months.

I was prepared for an argument. But his response surprised me.

As late as Monday, the bike path in Santa Monica looked like this.

Yusuf took my complaints seriously — even though they contradicted what he believed — and offered to meet me in Venice to take a first hand look.

Meanwhile, my original email, which had been circulated through the county maintenance department, seemed to be having an effect.

When I rode the bike path last week, it seemed a little cleaner than it had anytime since the storms of last May. Not yet free from sand, but clearly efforts had been made to clean the sand off in a number of places.

Then I rode it again this past Monday. And it showed even more improvement, though it still had a long way to go.

This is how the same section looked on Tuesday.

So Tuesday morning, I rode out to Venice, this time as a representative of the LACBC, to meet with Yusuf and the county’s other Bicycle Coordinator, Kristofor Norberg. I also asked my friend George Wolfberg to join us, since he’s involved in a number of local and regional community groups and bicycle advisory committees.

What we saw surprised us.

Overnight, following the regularly scheduled Tuesday morning maintenance, the bike path had gone from a sea of sand to an actual, ridable bike path. There were still problems, but the cement was cleaner than it had been in months.

It may not be perfect yet, but the bike path hasn't been this clear in months.

Of course, no pathway along the beach will ever be completely free of sand. Daily ocean breezes blow it onto the path, and every beachgoer who tramps across it drags a little sand with them.

But the difference was night and day.

So the first thing we did when Yusuf and Norberg arrived was to say thank you. Then we took them on a little walk to point out some problems that still remained.

They surprised us, too. Instead of the sterotypical SoCal bureaucrats hell bent on defending their department, we found two very polite and friendly men who were clearly committed to solving problems and finding a way to get things done.

In other words, exactly the kind of public servants our city and county so desperately need these days.

Kristofor Norberg and George Wolfberg examine how much of the bike path has been lost to sand.

We showed them places where a malfunctioning sprinkler system washed out the sand bordering the path, sending it streaming across the bikeway in inch-deep deposits. Along with areas where sand had been allowed to overtake the edges of the path, reducing its usable surface by as much as a foot and a half in places.

We pointed out places where pedestrians walk across the bike path, often without looking — and they showed us where warning signs had been removed or covered with graffiti, and where sweeping equipment had worn off the markings that indicated portions of the path were for bikes only.

And we talked about the problems presented by the odd combination of cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, joggers, pedestrians and Segway jockeys who traverse the path on a daily basis. In fact, we watched as a bike rider nearly had to be restrained after colliding with a skateboarder.

And after a tour that lasted well over an hour, our meeting felt more like four friends working together to solve a problem than a couple of cyclists butting heads against the usual brick wall of local government.

This sign used to say something; now it's just bike parking.

In the end, they committed to follow up with the county maintenance staff to make sure the path stays as clear of sand as possible, and to see what can be done about the problem areas and the streaks of sand the sweepers sometimes leave behind.

They offered to look into additional signage and striping to identify the bike-only portions of the path and warn pedestrians to look out for bikes when they cross the path. They also agreed to ask for bike cops to patrol the path from time to time to try to prevent conflicts before they happen.

And finally, they asked for your help.

If you notice any problems on the bike path or areas where the signage could be improved, Yusuf wants to hear from you; you can email him at ayusuf@dpw.lacounty.gov. Or just send them to me or the LACBC, and we’’ll forward it to him for you.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there are limits to what he can do.

For instance, the county has responsibility for everything on the bike path itself — but anything on either side falls under the jurisdiction of other city or state agencies.

And their jurisdiction ends just north of the new Annenberg Community Beach House, where the city takes over.

Which means we face a whole different set of problems to get that section cleaned.

But at least, this is one clear victory for cyclists.

Clearly, we still have work to do; this is where the city maintained portion of the bike path begins.

Catching up with Le Tour, Box boxes LaBonge, surviving the dreaded death wobble

Overlooking a suddenly sand-free bike path; more on that later Wednesday.

Following a rest day in the Tour de France, it’s clear that Lance wasn’t the only one who took a spill on Sunday; Cadel Evans loses the leaders jersey after trying to ride with a broken arm. Andy Schleck is the one who ends up in it, taking a 41 second lead over chief rival Alberto Contador, as Sandy Casar takes Tuesday’s stage. Then again, maybe they should just give a trophy to anyone who survives to cross the finish line.

Lance shows he may be down but he’s not done. Meanwhile, a New York Grand Jury subpoenas his sponsor Trek, but NPR says his fans are unfazed. And Zeke just doesn’t get the glee some people seemed  to take in his misfortune.

Besides, between the cobbles and fractures and a falling Lance caught on video, this might just be the best Tour de France ever.

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Bike activist extraordinaire Stephen Box announces his candidacy for L.A. City Council, preparing to butt heads against incumbent 4th District Council Member Tom LaBonge; LAist says the reaction has been mixed, but some seem more than open to the idea.

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LACBC explains in graphic detail how to file a report with the LAPD. Walk and ride to a safer 4th Street on July 24th. A sweating Governator bikes the streets of L.A.; maybe it’s time to cut back on the cigars, Arnold. Our streets may have a lot of problems, but at least we don’t have to deal with rumble strips. I’m not the only one who had to deal with a basal cell skin cancer this year; the Springfield Cyclist went in for round two — as he suggests, consider sunscreen your most important safety equipment. A Miami driver is charged with murder after killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run. An insightful response to the standard argument that bicyclists should be licensed. Bicycling is transportation, even if you’re on your way to the airport, or maybe the train. Finding your bike community. The Chicago Bicycle Advocate explains why he runs red lights, saying we are traffic, but we are not cars. More on the anti-bike backlash in bike friendly Colorado. Surprisingly, most drivers really don’t want to kill you. Separated bike lanes are on their way in Vancouver. A controversial Portsmouth bike lane is put on hold. Two Brit riders are badly injured when they’re hit by a truck outside New Orleans.

Finally, the Claremont Cyclist fights to overcome the dreaded death wobble; something I never want to experience again.

A meditation on sharrows and door zones

In search of the Great White Sharrow.

Last week, I found out exactly where the door zone is.

Not that I didn’t know before.

Though now I doubt I’ll ever question it again.

Last month I mentioned that I’d ended up riding the now nearly four week-old sharrows on 4th Street the day they first appeared. And found them not quite to my liking, placing me a little further out into the lane than I felt comfortable with.

After reading that, Gary Kavanagh reminded me about the sharrows that had been placed on Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach since I’d last been down that way.

So I set off to check them out, plotting a route that would take me to the Redondo Pier, then back up to check out Santa Monica’s newly extended bike lanes on Arizona Ave and the new sharrows on 14th Street. And figured I might as well visit the site of the soon-to-come sharrows on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice while I was at it.

Call it my own personal Tour de Sharrows.

As I rode up Abbot Kinney, I took my usual position just inside the lane and just outside the door zone.

A short line of cars passed safely around me, moving across the yellow line to leave a comfortable margin of three to five feet. All except the last car in the line, which failed to follow the example the others had set — and instead buzzed me less than a foot from my left elbow.

At that exact moment, as a car zoomed by just inches to my left, a driver unlocked his parked car and — without ever gazing behind him — threw open his door, missing me by just inches.

That’s when the real meaning of door zone sank in.

If I’d positioned myself even a few inches to the right, I would have been knocked into the car on my left. And where I would have pinballed from there I have no idea.

And no desire to find out.

But it reconfirmed my own instincts, and provided exactly the experience I needed evaluate the sharrows for myself.

When I made it to Hermosa, I paused to take a couple of quick photos. And watched as the drivers zoomed down the street jockeying for position on a busy beach day — despite what it looks like in the photo below — and convincing me that I would have to struggle to hold my lane position. Sharrows or not.

Yet my experience was exactly the opposite.

The start of the Hermosa sharrows, which extend down Hermosa Ave from the bike path.

The sharrows were positioned dead center in the right lane, just as they’d been on 4th Street. But here they were on a four lane street, rather than two. And as I rode down the center of the lane, drivers either followed patiently behind me, or simply moved into the other lane to go around me.

No one honked. No one pressured me or passed too close. And the only driver who followed closer than I liked went around me once he realized I wasn’t going to get out of his way.

In other words, it was probably the most enjoyable experience I’d ever had taking the lane.

I can’t say I felt that way in Santa Monica.

When is a bike lane not a bike lane? When it's a work zone in Santa Monica.

First up was the bike lane on Arizona, in which I rode safely for exactly one block before being forced into the traffic lane by a city work crew. So I took my place in the lane, riding squarely down the middle and holding my place in a line cars until I could move safely back into the bike lane and leave them in my lurch.

As I was for the light to change, I noticed not everyone in Santa Monica like bikes.

When I got to 14th Street, I turned left and resumed my usual place just outside the door zone. For the first few blocks, the lane was wide enough that cars could pass easily on my left. Once it narrowed, I moved a little further into the lane, yet still far enough to the right that drivers could pass with just a little patience by briefly moving onto the other side of the road.

Sharrows on 14th Street are placed exactly in the center of the traffic lane/

That ended once the sharrows started.

Just as on Hermosa Avenue, the sharrows were placed directly in the middle of the traffic lane. But here it was on a two lane street, where drivers would be forced to go all the way onto the other side of the road to go around me.

The drivers behind me clearly had no intention of doing that. And I can’t say I blamed them.

So after awhile, I ignored the markings on the asphalt, and moved back to where I felt more comfortable on the right third of the lane — allowing the drivers behind to go around by briefly crossing over the center of the road, much to their relief. And mine.

It was then that I discovered my own personal sharrow comfort level.

UCLA's sharrows are placed in the right third of the traffic lane.

On roads with two lanes in each direction, I’m perfectly comfortable in the center of the lane, where anyone who wants to pass can simply take the other lane. I don’t have to worry about impatient drivers behind me, or feel like I’m not sharing the road myself.

Even though I’m quite comfortable riding in the center of the lane for short distances or when I’m moving at or near the speed of traffic, I prefer sharrows placed on the right third of the lane when there’s just one lane in each direction. Like the ones that I’ve used when riding through the UCLA campus the past few years.

This marking either means that a sharrow goes here, or your money went that way.

And judging by the placement markings that recently appeared on the street, exactly where it looks like LADOT is planning to place them on Westholme Ave.

It may not be the placement preferred by everyone.

But it keeps me out of the door zone while putting me in control of the lane — without blocking it completely.

And it’s the one I’m most comfortable with.

Casual cycling fans can stop watching the Tour de France now

Stick a fork in Lance.

He’s done for what he says will be his final Tour.

On Saturday’s stage of the Tour de France, Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel reclaimed the yellow jersey after an all-day breakaway, just 11 weeks after fracturing his skull during the Liège-Bastogne- Liège classic. Lance Armstrong lost time but moved up to 14th in the General Classification, while Levi Leipheimer broke into the top 20.

One day later, Levi was in the top 10. And Armstrong’s chances of winning were finished, just 8 stages into the Tour.

After several climbs, Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck outsprinted Samuel Sanchez to cross the finish line in first place, just 10 seconds ahead of a group that included Leipheimer, Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre, along with new leader Cadel Evans, aka Cuddles.

Notably missing was Armstrong, following two crashes and just missing a third, which resulted in numerous cuts and a sore hip and back. After gamely trying to catch up with the leaders, he was spent before he hit the last climb — and his chances of contending virtually finished, nearly 12 minutes back in 61st place.

According to RadioShack Team Manager Bruyneel, “It’s the end of Lance’s aspirations to win the Tour. Everything went wrong.”

Or as Lance himself put it on Twitter,

When it rains it pours I guess. Today was not my day needless to say. Quite banged but gonna hang in here and enjoy my last 2 weeks.

So now Levi is the new flag bearer for RadioShack. And Lance is the Tour’s most overqualified domestique.

In other TdF news, Bicycling interviews the man behind the tour, and Bradley Wiggins’ secret weapon is between his legs.

Meanwhile, fallout from Floyd Landis’ accusations against Lance Armstrong continues to spread, as investigators look to talk with more riders, including close Armstrong associates Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie.

But despite the bad news, some of us still love it.

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Even in bike friendly Colorado, a backlash seems to be building against cyclists. And on the heels of the Black Hawk bike ban, a county in rural Missouri considers banning bikes from any two-lane highway without shoulders; Thanks to Jim Lyle for the link.

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GT gets back on his bike, barely two weeks after suffering a heart attack. The Claremont Cyclist offers a photo tour of the San Gabriel River Trail from the Sante Fe Dam to Seal Beach and back; the upper section looks beautiful, though I could do without the concrete on the lower stretch. The RAAM rider critically injured when he was hit by a distracted driver plans to return to Spain this weekend, despite continued paralysis from the waist down; doctors say he will never recover 100%. A Chicago library on wheels is ordered to stop peddling. A Florida cyclist is killed while chasing after a getaway car carrying thieves who tried to rob his brother. The Wall Street Journal looks at stripped down bikes for rough city rides, and takes a break from covering Landis’ doping allegations to visit the Mecca of bike polo in NYC; thanks to George Wolfberg for forwarding the second link. A British group calls London Mayor Boris Johnson’s strategy to increase cycling fundamentally flawed and lacking in ambition; just weeks before his new bike share program kicks off, it faces a new lawsuit. As London removes guard rails, bike parking disappears too. A cyclist says London’s Critical Mass is just a critical mess these days. Thousands of Brits turn out to celebrate cycling. A tabloid style look at staying fit and feminine by biking. A look at how Flying Pigeon — the one in China, not NELA — is leading that country’s cycling comeback. Seven Singapore cyclists have been killed in just the first 5 months of this year. Two Kiwi cyclists are forced off the road and assaulted by a woman driver and her passenger, who drive off with a $12,000 bike.

Finally, proof some things never change. Consider this photo from Norwalk’s 1952 Bicycle Safety Week; thanks to Brent Bigler for the heads-up.

More Le Tour, upcoming events and enough links to fill your weekend

After winning Thursday’s stage, Mark Cavendish puts a troubling year behind him, then celebrates by winning Friday’s Stage 6 as well. Aussie Robbie McEwen is injured in a crash after the stage is finished when a cameraman blocks his path, and two riders come to blows at the finish.

The Christian Science Monitor explains the meaning of peloton. Backstage news from the Tour, including Contador gives a gift to Lance and that dog is recovering nicely, even if David Millar can’t tell chien from chat. Speaking of Contador, word has it he’s staying with Astana. A little liquid sealant might have saved Lance from that flat on the cobblestones.

And in the inevitable daily doping report, Jan Ullrich’s former mentor admits to organizing doping expeditions for the former TdF winner.

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In upcoming events, the monthly Spoke(n) Art Ride rolls through NELA Saturday evening. The LAPD-escorted Tour LaBonge will be rollin’ on the river on Wednesday; LADOT Bike Blog has a conversation with host and 4th District Council Member Tom LaBonge.

Don’t miss the farewell celebration for the LACBC’s Dorothy Kieu Le on Friday, July 16th starting at 4 pm at the Far Bar in Little Tokyo; I’m not sure if I can make it there, but I promise you she’ll be very missed by everyone who’s had the pleasure of working with her. Or knowing her, for that matter.

Speaking of the LACBC, they’ll be holding the Coalition’s monthly board meeting at the Encino Velodrome on Wednesday the 21st. Like all of the board meetings, it’s open to the public, whether or not you’re a member of the Coalition. The meeting starts at 7 pm, but you’re encouraged to arrive early to meet the board members and discuss whatever issues are important to you.

Mark your calendar for the Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street to promote the proposed 4th Street Bike Boulevard on Saturday, July 24th.

And in one final LACBC note, they’ll be hosting a fundraising dinner on August 12th for the award-winning City of Lights program, bringing mobility and self-reliance to Spanish-speaking riders throughout the L.A. area; tickets are just $35. There’s no website yet, but contact the LACBC for tickets, or just email me at the address on the About BikingInLA page and I’ll forward it to the right people.

………

It figures.

I finally find out there’s a Class 1 bike path next to the 405 Freeway between Church Street and the V.A. that doesn’t show up on any bike maps — when they send out an announcement that it’s closing for the next several months.

………

More Santa Monica sharrows are on their way, this time on 20th between Pico and the Freeway. Courtesy of Curbed LA, a bendable bike that can tie itself to a post. Pedicabs come to Downtown L.A. Thousand Oaks police have issued 176 tickets to cyclists in the last year, most for riding on the wrong side of the street; cyclists in Austin TX can have theirs dismissed by taking a defensive cycling course. Dangerous riding conditions and anger at BP converge at a Bay Area Arco station.

The University of Arizona lights up hazardous poles at night to protect cyclists. A New York cyclist is killed by a garbage truck; police speculate the driver may not know he hit anyone. South New Jersey sees its third cyclist killed in the last 30 days. The problem with vintage bikes is finding and fitting parts; maybe they have that problem recycling discarded bicycles from the local landfill at the state penitentiary. Mississippi police catch the YouTube bike harassers they were looking for. Charleston SC sees a roughly 100% increase in cycling. Just one link missing from a continuous bikeway between Pittsburgh and DC.

An angry driver lets a rider know the road isn’t big enough for both of them; she convinces him he was probably right. For the next month, bikes fly free on JetBlue; maybe you should take one of the world’s most expensive bikes with you. Dave Moulton tells drivers to please just go around him, already. The next time you’re looking for cycling information, check out the new online library of bike safety videos. Great tips for how to have a better experience on your bike — including getting honked at is good because it means the driver sees you. A great new marketing campaign for People for Bikes; I love the ad with the women in pumps. Proper seat adjustment can cure a bad case of bikers butt.

A 7-time cycling medalist returns to this year’s Gay Games in Cologne, Germany. Very cool cycling illustrations from London’s Transport Museum. London’s bike share program is ready to roll. Comparing bike superhighways in London and Copenhagen. Bristol, England is replacing 12 parking spaces with bike corrals; the local paper doesn’t seem to approve. A UK cyclist who overcame a serious spinal condition is killed on a charity ride. Drivers don’t respect cyclists and pedestrians, even in Eritrea. A Vancouver woman asks a columnist for help with her bike-hating husband. The chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia says we were here first, so slow down or keep your damn bike off our shared pathways.

Finally, if I see one more article headlined Bike Safety is a Two Way Street, I’m going to scream. Seriously. I mean it. No, really.

On the other hand, this is funny.

Battling anti-bike bias in the ‘Bu

The tranquility of the beach belies the dangerous conditions and hostility cyclists face getting there.

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.

Not the dangerous, poorly designed highway. Not the near total lack of cycling infrastructure. Not even the deaths of Rod Armas, Scott Bleifer and Stanislav Ionov in recent years.

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.

It’s an attitude exemplified by former council candidate and current Public Safety Committee member Susan Tellem in her recent letter to the editor in the Malibu Times, Bikers be warned.

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.

Update on the dangerously sandy Marvin Braude Bike Path

As you may recall, last week I complained about the long-standing problem of sand on the popular Marvin Braude bike path through Venice and Santa Monica.

I also mentioned contacting a city official to get something done about it, only to get a response saying they weren’t sure who had responsibility for maintaining the pathway.

Bike tires and sand don't mix; maybe L.A. County doesn't get that.

Turns out, I reached out, not just to the wrong department, but the wrong government. Because even though the bike path borders Venice, which is part of the City of Los Angeles, it’s the county that maintains that section of the bike path.

As a result, yesterday afternoon I sent the following email to Abu Yusuf, Bikeway Coordinator for the County of Los Angeles, and cc’d County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents that district.

I’ll let you know when I get a response.

Dear Mr. Yusuf —

I want to reach out to you regarding the sand on the Marvin Braude bike path along Venice beach, since it is my understanding that L.A. County is responsible for maintenance of the path, rather than the City of L.A.; I don’t know if the county also has responsibility for maintaining the pathway through Santa Monica, as well.

As you may be aware, the bike path has been covered with sand since a series of heavy storms back in May. While attempts have been made to remove the sand using a heavy front-loader, that has actually made the situation worse by leaving behind a thin layer of sand that can cause riders to slip and fall.

Even as an experienced bicyclist, I’m forced to slow down and ride carefully when I take this path, especially on the many curves in the Venice section, and I have personally seen a number of bicyclists suffer minor injuries after falling because of the sand on the bike path. It is clearly only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured.

You can see photos on my blog, taken last week, showing the sand covering the bike path by clicking here. I’ve made suggestions as to more effective methods of removing the sand, and I’m sure you can come up with a number of others. But something has to be done; this bike path is one of the prime tourist attractions in Los Angeles County, as well as a vital recreation and transit corridor for local cyclists.

I urge you to look into this matter as quickly as possible, and take whatever steps are necessary to clear the sand off the County-maintained sections of the Marvin Bruade Bike Path — and keep it clear so that the tens of thousands of bicyclists who use this path on a daily basis can ride in safety.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
bikinginla.com

………

Day three of le Tour traveled the legendary cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix, as the teams broke out special gear to handle the rough roads. Norwegian Thor Hushovd won the stage and a non-motor-assisted Fabian Cancellara moved back into the yellow jersey. Losers included Frank Schleck, who is out of the Tour after fracturing his collarbone in three places, and Lance Armstrong, who fell two minutes and 30 seconds back after suffering a flat, noting that his chances of victory have dropped.

Day four was, thankfully for the riders, far less eventful as Alessandro Petacchi wins the stage. Meanwhile, Saxo Bank rider Jens Voigt calls the organizers assassins. Cancellara doesn’t just wear yellow, he rides it as well. And the World Anti-Doping Agency says the drug probe resulting from Floyd Landis’ allegations is “significant.”

………

Two cyclists were injured in separate collisions in Glendale.

On Thursday, a cyclist riding on the sidewalk was struck by a driver who fled the scene; police later arrested 24-year old Akop Arshamian of Sun Valley on suspicion of felony hit-and-run.

In the other incident, a bike rider struck a car from behind on Sunday and did a face plant in the rear windshield. The Glendale News-Press says the rider was tailing the vehicle; reading between the lines, some cyclists might suspect the driver cut off the rider in order to make a right turn.

………

Check out the new video about BiciDigna, the Spanish-language bike co-op developed by the LACBC’s City of Lights program and the Bicycle Kitchen. Gary rides the new sharrows in Santa Monica, while Stephen and Enci Box take the debate over the LADOT sharrows program to the National Committee of Uniform Traffic Control Devices in Chicago. Travelin’ Local takes a lovely spin around Marina del Rey. Bicycle Fixation wishes all those bike-hating drivers who make anonymous comments would just shut up, and seemingly devotes his life to getting a water-filled pothole on 4th Street fixed. More bikes in Big Bear is a good thing. Heaven for bike riders: riding through a car-free Yosemite. A look at car-free spaces around the world. Are blue bike lanes better than black? A small Texas town bans groups of 10 riders or more without a permit. In DC, even NFL players ride bikes. A DC area radio host criticizes cyclists for riding on the road, and doesn’t think they belong off it, either. Would you rather ride in freezing weather or sweltering heat? Having lived in Louisiana and Colorado, I’ll take the heat, thank you. Speaking of Colorado, the Rockies baseball team actively encourages cyclists to ride to the games; any guess when the Dodgers will do the same? Miami-Dade is the deadliest county for cyclists in the nation’s deadliest state. London takes steps to reduces the number and severity of bike collisions with big trucks. When you suck in a fly, do you spit or swallow? Frida Kahlo rides a bike. A positive review for DIY sharrows in British Columbia. Wear your helmet, get a free ice cream. Two men in India are arrested after hitting a cyclist and loading into their van, telling bystanders they’re taking him to the hospital, then dumping him on the side of the road and leaving him to die.

Finally, everybody do The Bike.

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