Archive for August 23, 2010

Running red lights on PCH: Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Chris Frost speaks out

A couple weeks ago, I met with Malibu Public Safety Commissioners Susan Tellem and Chris Frost, along with LaGrange member and BAC Vice Chair Jay Slater, and a representative from the Sheriff’s Department, to discuss safety issues in the Malibu area.

While there was disagreement on some issues, one thing we all agreed on was the need for cyclists to observe stop lights on PCH. A serious cyclist himself, Frost made a compelling argument that riders who run red lights in that area pose a significant risk to their own safety, as well as needlessly causing problems for other road users.

As a result, I offered to let him write about the issue from his own perspective, as a rider and Public Safety Commissioner. What follows is his comments, presented without input or editing on my part.

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The City of Malibu has been inundated with cyclists who fail to stop for the required red lights on Pacific Coast Hwy. I am a cyclist myself and put in a great many miles out there amongst you. Many of you know me, as I have taken the time to poll you (mostly at the Trancas Starbucks) on your feelings about PCH. I have ridden with many of you, and know you outside of my duties as a Public Safety Commissioner. I have asked you about your riding habits, and from that have culled a pretty good understanding of what goes on out there. This, coupled with what I personally observe and experience, has led me to the following.

The red light issue has reached a level that is causing problems for all cyclists, even those who obey the law. Motorists have developed a kind of tunnel vision that does not differentiate one cyclist from another. That means that the law-abiding rider gets treated pretty much the same as one who continually flaunts the law. So when you get buzzed for no apparent reason, the cause may well be an incident you had no part of.

This is happening much too frequently now, and it has developed into a breeding ground for animosity and worse–injury and death.

No one is so entitled that they are permitted to ignore a red light. And for you top tier riders, this means being a role model, not the cause of an accident. I know firsthand what is like to lose a friend out on this highway; and many of you do as well. It changes the lives of many forever–including the motorist involved. Recently, I have had reports of riders who claim they are time trialing down PCH, and thus will ignore the red lights whenever convenient. I’m not even going to comment on this. These riders know who they are, and they need to change their riding style. This is completely unacceptable, and is looked at by the majority of the cycling community as unacceptable. There are stretches of this highway with no lights that allow you to ride without stopping. If you don’t like stop lights, this might be your alternative.

On the subject of T-intersections (e.g., Busch Dr,  Kanan Rd, Paradise Cove, Malibu Pier, Carbon Cyn, Big Rock): we have all taken liberties with these types of intersections. A whole pack of riders was recently written up at Big Rock for running the red light. This was not the case of the lead riders entering on a yellow, but the whole group blasting through a red. That ticket cost each rider approximately $400. Please take into consideration that the residents east of that light use the red light interval to exit their garages and driveways. If there are riders coming through, the drivers have very little time to see this and react. Reports of near collisions and angry exchanges between the cyclists and drivers have become all too common. I have spoken with these residents, and heard about too many cases of these residents being flipped off and having water sprayed at them. Come on everyone, is this the way we want to be portrayed? A T-intersection with a stop light is the same as any other and carries the same requirements as any other.

So in finishing, please stop at the red lights and stop signs. They are there for a reason. If you want to question why, I will be happy to hear your comments at a Public Safety Commission Meeting. Meetings are held at 6 PM the first Wednesday of each month at the Malibu City Hall. Bring your complaints, and try to have solutions as well. Don’t think of it as someone else’s responsibility. It belongs to all of us.

Please understand that I am a long-time cyclist, and will always stand up for cyclists rights. I am also a big fan of public safety because it benefits everyone, not just the cyclists. You are all ambassadors of our sport and what you do on the highway is viewed by other cyclists, motorists, residents, and–most of all–by the youth who will possibly be riders themselves.  So what kind of impression do you want to leave? Remember you are no more entitled than anyone else. And the responsibility belongs to every cyclist out there.

Please police your own sport. It will lessen the impact of having it policed for us.

Thank You,

Chris Frost
City Of Malibu
Public Safety Commission
Vice-Chair

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The Reseda Blvd bike lanes are nearly finished, while the Wilbur Ave. road diet and bike lanes are threatened. More on Wednesday’s upcoming Streetsblog fundraiser and silent auction, with sponsorship from Ralphs, Trader Joes and my favorite American brewery. Eight members of the oddly, but somewhat appropriately, named Palisades Literary Society bike club follow the Tour de France route through the Pyrenees; thanks to George Wolfberg for the link. From my friends at Altadena blog comes word of a $50 reward for a stolen Schwinn Voyageur. Witnesses say the drunk driver charged with killing a biking German tourist in San Francisco got out of his car, moved the bike out of his way, then switched seats with his girlfriend passenger before fleeing the scene.

Levi Leipheimer wins the Tour of Utah. A study shows cars really do make Americans fat. A Pittsburgh man makes his own bike map to guide even timid cyclists through the city’s busiest areas. An NYC proposal to clear out abandoned bikes threatens to sweep up ghost bikes as well. A ciclovía by any other name, as New York closes down Park Avenue to vehicle traffic. A Missouri driver ignores police traffic directions and kills a caring cyclist during a fund raising ride. An Oklahoma State student gets the beer-inspired idea to ride from Stillwater to Alaska, then actually does it. Framebuilder Dave Moulton opens an online registry for current owners of his classic bikes.

Raúl Alcalá, winner of the 1987 Coors Classic and the Best Young Rider classification in the ’87 Tour de France, caps a remarkable comeback by winning the Mexican time trial championship at age 46; thanks to Claremont Cyclist for the heads-up. In a twist on vulnerable user laws, Japanese courts rule that in principle, pedestrians are not at fault for collisions with cyclists on sidewalks. A cyclist is seriously injured after hitting the back of a parked car; residents blame the road, not the rider. A motorcyclist hits a bicyclist; for a change, it’s the guy on the bike who walks away. Great Britain’s Bikeability cycling proficiency program — and the organization behind it — could be on the chopping block. A British writer discovers Mexico City is surprisingly bike friendly. Join the campaign to keep Pat the Postie on his Pashley. Brit cyclists fight a proposed mandatory helmet law in Northern Ireland. London’s Guardian says there’s a bike niche for everyone. Coke discovers bicycling in Turkish with English subtitles; if the video won’t play, try this link.

Finally, police backup is required to pull an 84-year old great-grandfather out of a British bank to ticket him for riding on the sidewalk; meanwhile, a Salinas cyclist says sidewalks don’t belong to pedestrians. And maybe that gesture is actually a roadway blessing.

Better bike data, bike ramps at the beach and an increasingly crowded calendar

It looks like we may finally get some solid data on bike usage in the L.A. area. Metro CEO Art Leahy announced that Metro and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) have received a Caltrans grant to develop a Bicycle Data Clearinghouse to measure and report bike usage in Los Angeles County.

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After 4th District Council Member Tom LaBonge called on the city to investigate bike friendly staircases, George Wolfberg reminds us that bike ramps were installed in the walkway under PCH at West Channel Road a few years ago, after a request was made to LADOT Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

I should have remembered that, since I use that walkway on a semi-regular basis, though I usually carry my bike.

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LADOT Bike Blog offers detailed coverage of last week’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, and promises to report on future meetings to make up for the dearth of information about the BAC. And he makes a great point about the BAC’s lack of any significant online presence.

I couldn’t agree more that the BAC needs to do a better job of communicating to the public, as well as creating some way for people who can’t make it to the meetings to weigh in on the issues under consideration. And I look forward to his ongoing, and much needed, coverage of the BAC.

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A crowded calendar of upcoming events:

This Saturday, LACBC invites you to hear cellist/singer/songwriter Ben Sollee at the Fold in Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles; Sollee is touring the U.S. by bicycle in his Ditch the Van Tour 2010, sponsored by Adventure Cycling and the League of American Bicyclists.

Chinatown Summer Nights continues in Downtown’s Chinatown District from 5 pm to midnight every Saturday in August, with DJs, food trucks, and cultural and cooking demonstrations, among other activities; free bike valet courtesy of LACBC.

Bikeside Speaks is scheduled for Saturday, August 21st in conjunction with Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles, Specialized and the Disposable Film Festival; speakers include Mike Bower, Gary Kavanagh and CD 4 candidate Stephen Box.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art hosts the Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts, vol. 2, on August 22; the bike tour is full, but other activities include spoke card workshop and a closing party.

This Tuesday at 10 am, LACBC and Midnight Ridazz join L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for a press conference to unveil the new Bike Awareness and Safety Campaign, at 1st and Main Downtown across from the new LAPD building. Cyclists are invited to attend and stay afterwards to help film a new bike safety PSA; email to RSVP, and bring your helmet.

Living Streets invites you to learn about creative pilot projects and share your ideas to transform L.A. streets into people-friendly places, at the RailLA Exhibit at Downtown’s Jewel Box/City National Plaza, 525 S. Flower Street, from 6 to 8:30 pm on Tuesday, August 24.

Streetsblog LA resumes regular publication on Thursday, August 26. The night before, Damien will be hosting a re-launch party and fundraiser starting at 7 pm on Wednesday the 25th at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 11555 National Blvd.

Sunday, August 29th, LACBC hosts a breakfast and brainstorming session for River Ride volunteers; RSVP by email for more information and location.

Make your plans for Parking Day LA on Sept. 17th.

Celebrate the third anniversary of C.R.A.N.K. MOB at C.R.A.N.K.MAS III, 9 pm on Saturday, September 18th and 7 am Sunday, September 19th; costumes mandatory.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at the Grand Opening of Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, October 7th – 9th, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside. A reception will be held from 6 – 10 pm Thursday, October 7th; the exhibition continues through December 31st.

New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat makes its first L.A. stop on Saturday, October 23rd. The following day, Sony sponsors their bikeless Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

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As promised, Metro installs a video camera on their underground bike parking at Union Station. City Watch’s provides the full text of BAC Chair Glenn Bailey’s eloquent statement from the Mayor’s Bike Summit. A cyclist files suite against Santa Barbara County after breaking a hip on an algae-slicked roadway. Mr. and Mrs. Cyclelicious walk into a gang fight, but at least they didn’t ride into a gunfight. The alleged drunk driver who killed a German cyclist in San Francisco pleads not guilty, not surprisingly. Seattle Transit users are about to get nearly 300 new bike parking spaces. PubliCola calls for a vulnerable users law, ASAP. An architectural look at the first Bicycle City currently being built in Columbia, SC. Ex-president George W. Bush and Peloton One sample a Niner 29-incher. John McCain continues to campaign against bike projects, while supporting federal government interference with local transit decisions — isn’t that the opposite of what he says he believes? Levi Leipheimer holds the lead in the Tour of Utah. Lance Armstrong agrees to speak at next year’s High Point College commencement; exactly what message will he send if he’s under indictment like Roger Clemens? A Savannah cyclist says always be ready to yell a warning. CommuteOrlando Blog asks, if you don’t stand up for Reed Bates, who will stand up for you? The New York Times takes a rational look at the city’s recent anti-bike hysteria. A South Dakota cyclist is memorialized with a ghost bike after a head-on collision; the driver was on prescription medication with over 4.5 times the legal blood alcohol level. A driver hits a bike rider and flees the scene; for a change, so does the cyclist. How to master the Bunny Hop. Copenhagenize says where there’s a will, there’s a cycle way. Taking your bike on a plane is easier said than done. The race to design a better urban bike.

Finally, L.A. may have a crooked sharrow, but at least our bike lanes don’t look like they were painted by drunks; maybe they were using a PedalPub.

Run a stop sign, kill a cyclist, flee the scene, get probation

Evidently, life is cheap in the East Valley.

On the morning of September 23rd, 2008, Naira Margaryan blew through a stop sign in her Mercedes Benz, hit a cyclist and fled the scene, leaving Gerado Ramos lingering in a coma for over a year before he finally died of his injuries.

This Tuesday, she was sentenced for her actions.

Correction: The Glendale News Press had said that Margaryan fled the scene; they have since corrected the above story to indicate that she stayed at the scene following the collision.

Not for the jail time that such a crime would seem to call for. Instead she received 700 hours of community service.

And a restricted driver’s license.

I got a stiffer punishment from the ruler-wielding nuns back in catechism class.

Meanwhile, her victim, who authorities found equally responsible for the collision, received the death penalty for the crime of riding his bike on the sidewalk. Which may or may not have been legal in the exact spot where he was struck, given the confusing nature of Glendale’s Municipal Code.

Apparently, riding on the sidewalk is legal anywhere except a business district. But business district is defined so broadly that pretty much any location that isn’t made up exclusively of single family homes would seem to qualify.

CVC 240(c) All churches, apartments, hotels, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings, other than schools, shall be deemed to be business structures.

So one ran a stop sign and killed another human being; the other rode his bike on the sidewalk.

Yeah, those seem like equivalent crimes to me, alright.

But only one of them gets to walk away.

Update: This story has been edited to remove any additional references to hit-and-run, based on the News Press correction.

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L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa provides his own perspective on this week’s Bike Summit on the Huffington Post, and promises to follow-up with answers to the most popular questions on his Google Moderator page. Blogdownton responds that cyclists are looking for progress, not promises, while Bikeside accuses the Mayor of declaring helmet war on cyclists.

And leading Brit bike site Road.cc notes that the Mayor is turning into a cycling evangelist, and things seem to be changing for the better here in L.A.; any story that quotes me can’t be all bad.

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LACBC urges cyclists to write in support of the suddenly threatened bike lanes on Wilbur Avenue in the Valley; the problem is local resistance to a planned road diet to make room for the lanes, not a shortage of roadway paint.

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The Source looks at Wednesday night’s Moving Beyond Cars event, and offers highlights from last week’s Metro Bicycle Roundtable. Streetsblog looks forward to this weekend’s Bikeside Speaks, while Gary offers an updated speaker list. Never thought I’d be envious of a bike route through Claremont, but that’s one pretty ride. Police crack down on Tucson’s Tuesday Night Bike Ride. If a cyclist riding the wrong way hits a jaywalking pedestrian, do they cancel each other out? Bob Mionske says if you buzz pedestrians, you give all of us a bad name. Bicycling looks at the best up-and-coming American riders. The Thin Bike promises to take up less space in your crowded apartment. A Colorado man takes a bat to a $4,800 bike because he’s tired of “old guys…hogging the road;” Dave Moulton asks, was it worth it? From my home town, cyclists say You know me, I ride a bike. Texas cyclist Reed Bates is found guilty of reckless driving for not riding as far right as possible, the judge says whether or not it’s safer to ride in the middle of the lane, it’s still reckless; Andy Clarke explains why the League of American Bicyclists didn’t get involved. What if bike racks could pay for themselves — or maybe even make money? Michigan cyclists raise money to repave a popular riding road. Two Indiana cyclists are killed in separate incidents just hours apart. The most dangerous state for cyclists promotes its new three foot passing law. Anti-bike scaremongering reaches the boiling point in New York, even though collisions between cyclists and pedestrians have dropped by more than half. MIT’s Copenhagen Wheel, capable of turning any bike into an electric-assisted bicycle, wins the U.S. round of the James Dyson Award; the Guardian says it’s too clever for it’s own good. The local bike shop in Altlandsburg, Germany shouldn’t be hard to find. York, England authorities are puzzled by an unexpected surge in bike thefts. Private street rangers plan to crack down on London’s sidewalk riding cyclists. A Brit cyclist deals with sexist idiots by exposing them on her blog, 101 Wankers.

Finally, bounce back from your next hard summer ride with a post-ride recovery beer. Now there’s a cycling supplement program I can support.

For one brief shining moment, détente between cyclist and motorist

Sometimes, it seems like there may actually be hope for these streets.

Just a day after the Mayor called for an end to L.A. car culture at Monday’s Bike Summit, I experienced an unusually positive interaction with a driver. Even if it was next door in Santa Monica.

I’d just crossed over 7th Street, riding in the San Vicente Blvd bike lane on my way to the coast. I was still accelerating, in a section where I usually hit about 25 mph, when an SUV went by on my left and immediately began slowing down.

That often means the driver is about to do something stupid. So I slowed my cadence and feathered my brakes; sure enough, shortly after passing, she cut in front of me and pulled to a stop at the curb.

I braked hard, then rolled to a stop next to her window.

She had a cell phone in her hand, and it quickly became clear that she had done the right thing — although in the wrong way — by pulling to the curb to take her call, rather than break the law against using a handheld phone while driving. Which made me a little more sympathetic than I might have been otherwise.

So when she rolled down her window, I told her as calmly as possible that it was very dangerous to cut in front of me like that, explaining that I could have rear-ended her.

Surprisingly, she wasn’t the least bit defensive. Instead, she listened quietly, then said simply “I’m sorry.”

I continued be saying that what she should have done was to pull in behind me, then move over to the curb only after I was out of the way.

She smiled, and said “Okay, sweetie. I will next time.”

I thanked her and we wished each other well, then she turned her attention back to her call while I continued on my way. And while I can’t speak for her, I left feeling a lot more hopeful about the relationship between cyclists and drivers than I have in a long time.

Although I could have lived without that “sweetie.”

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More on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Bike Summit:

London’s Guardian newspaper observes that the Mayor’s Road to Damascus conversion to bicycle advocacy is proof that God is a cyclist. And they have the good taste to quote yours truly.

LAist says cyclists are excited about 11th District Council Member Bill Rosendahl’s proposal for a three-foot passing law, but not so much about Mayor Villaraigosa’s call for a mandatory helmet law.

Streetsblog notes that helmets are not required for driving and walking, which both result in as much or more risk than bicycling.

Gary predicted this moment over a year ago, but thought he was joking; as usual, his photos are amazing, including a nice B&W shot of the LACBC’s Aurisha Smolarsky and your humble scribe.

The Bike District says the driver’s lack of intent in Villaraigosa’s accident doesn’t absolve him of responsibility.

The Source concludes that cyclists left with a favorable, but wait and see attitude; I’d say that pretty well sums it all up.

Still more Summit links at Streetsblog L.A.

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Gardena is offering a $10,000 reward in the hit-and-run death of pregnant cyclist Jennifer Costlow. Anyone with information should call Investigator Sergio Borbon at (310) 217-6135.

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Tonight, Good sponsors Moving Beyond Cars in celebration of L.A.’s alternative transportation; the event takes place from 7 to 10 pm Downtown at City National Plaza, 525 S. Flower, in conjunction with railLA, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and de LaB.

Also on tonight, the LACBC Board of Directors meets in the mezzanine at 634 Spring Street from 6:45 to 8:45 pm; as always, the meeting is open to the public.

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LADOT Bike Blog’s excellent survey of where it is and isn’t legal to ride on the sidewalk pedals down to the South Bay. LACBC celebrates a successful City of Lights Awards Dinner. Ten reasons for CicLAvia, with ten historic structures you’ll see on the way. The Bus Bench’s Browne Molyneux says one reason more women don’t bike is because they need to be able to pick up the kids. Claremont Cyclist gets results with the trash bins in the bike lane. An Oakland man is under arrest for the hit-and-run death of a bicycling German tourist; the SF Chronicle says it shows the need for better bike lanes.

The NY Times says Google’s bike map service isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. NYPD is cracking down on Upper East Side cyclists. NYC will test a wireless bike share program. Now that New York is mapping pedestrian deaths, I’d suggest watching out for left turning drivers hopped up on testosterone; thanks to George Wolfberg for the links. A driver is arrested for turning a local park into a throughway in a deliberate attempt to run down cyclists; Boston Biker wonders about drivers who go into a rage over a little damage to their cars, but don’t consider the damage they’ll do when they hit someone. Turns out CNN’s Anderson Cooper is one of us, too. Houston’s Metro removes seats for cyclists; maybe L.A. Metro should give ‘em a call. The bare essentials for bike commuting. Firing back at the Seattle Times over negative coverage of a proposed road diet. A 16-year old Chicago boy is killed while riding to visit his mother; his parents say the collision was the result of a police chase. Villaraigosa isn’t the only mayor injured while cycling recently. Three-hundred bicyclists give a rolling send off to a Michigan cyclist who had ridden despite suffering from cerebral palsy. Ten years after being paralyzed from the chest down in a cycling collision, a Colorado cyclist continues to ride.

The reshuffle of the pro bike teams continues as Carlos Sastre opts for a new team. Twenty-three year old former Liquigas rider Gianni Da Ros sees his doping ban cut from 20 years to 4. Just days after L.A.’s Mayor calls for a mandatory helmet law, Aussie researchers call for its repeal, while a Canadian study shows that helmet laws don’t discourage ridership; Cyclelicious interviews one of the study’s authors. Now that’s what I call utility cycling. Cyclists and drivers trade blame in New Zealand; ignore the location and the story could have easily been written here.

Finally, three-hundred bicyclists give a final rolling send off to a Michigan cyclist who rode despite suffering from cerebral palsy, while a Colorado cyclist continues to ride, ten years after being paralyzed from the chest down in a cycling collision.

Orange County cyclist dies two weeks after being hit by an SUV; 3rd area bike death in five days

Irvine cyclist Dan Crain; photo from Orange County Rebel Riders website.

This has been a very bad few days for SoCal cyclists.

Less than a week after pregnant cyclist Jennifer Costlow was killed in Gardena, and just one day after the death of a San Fernando Valley cyclist was announced at the Mayor’s Bike Summit, a 65-year old Irvine man unexpectedly died as a result of injuries he received in a collision on August 3rd.

Dan Crain was riding south on Newport Coast Drive at 6:40 pm when he was hit by a Land Rover merging from the Corona del Mar (73) Freeway.

According to the Orange County Register, Crain was attempting to move over to the farthest right lane when he was struck from behind. Police think Crain looked back at the vehicle, then crossed over in front of it. Witnesses say the driver slammed on the brakes but couldn’t avoid hitting his bike, throwing the rider into the air and onto the pavement.

Corona del Mar Today reports that Crain, a very skilled cyclist, was conscious following the collision and appeared to be on his way to a full recovery when he passed away, apparently due to complications from multiple back surgeries.

A note on the website for the Orange County Rebel Riders bike club describes Dan Crain as a “good friend and wonderful cyclist” with a “complete willingness to help others.” Another writer notes that traffic at the spot where Crain was hit can be travelling at 60 to 65 mph, allowing only 3 or 4 seconds to maneuver safely to avoid drivers exiting the toll road.

Cyclist killed yesterday at Canoga and Sherman Way

At yesterday’s Bike Summit, Mayor Villaraigosa began the meeting with bad news, saying that a cyclist had been killed in the San Fernando Valley earlier that morning.

After scouring the news feeds for the past day without finding any mention of a bike collision — let alone a fatality — I reached out to the LAPD’s bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer for whatever information he might have.

According to Krumer, a Hispanic man in his 20s was riding west on Sherman Way at Canoga Blvd. A truck traveling south on Canoga was preparing to make a left turn onto eastbound Sherman Way. The truck driver had the green light and was waiting for some pedestrians to finish crossing the street.

According to several witnesses, the driver pulled forward once the intersection was clear, just as the rider rode through the red light. Unaware he had hit anyone, the driver continued down the street after running over the cyclist, returning to the scene once he was flagged down several blocks later.

Evidently, the death of a single rider in the valley doesn’t merit a mention in the local media, even when the Mayor himself makes the announcement in a room full of reporters.

But take this as a warning. Red lights exist for a reason.

Bikes are required to stop for red lights in every situation, just as drivers are. While it’s never smart to run a light, it’s especially dangerous when other vehicles are present.

The saddest part is, this tragedy was entirely avoidable.

Yes, the driver should have looked to his left, where he may or may not have seen the rider in time to avoid the collision. But evidently, the cyclist gambled with his own life.

And lost.

Thanks to Sgt. Krumer for the information.

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa meets with cyclists, the world does not come to an end

Maybe he really did hit his head.

Something has to explain the seemingly overnight change in the Mayor’s support of bicycling.

His first four years in office, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa never let the word bicycle pass his lips in public. Or if he did, it occurred outside the hearing of the bike community, leaving many cyclists — myself included — to assume he was anti-bike.

Evidently, we were wrong.

It was just seven months ago that Villaraigosa captured the attention of L.A. cyclists by voicing support for CicLAvia, even if he didn’t actually use the word. And just a month since he stunned the entire city by falling off his bike and shattering his elbow.

No, it wasn’t the fall that shocked us — it was that he was even on a bike.

Former Richard Riordan and longtime bike advocate Alex Baum; all photos courtesy of George Wolfberg.

Now, less than a month later, bicyclists were the invited guests at the Mayor’s first Bike Summit — where he received a pair of training wheels, courtesy of cyclist and former Mayor Richard Riordan and BAC Chairperson Emeritus Alex Baum. And in two short hours, had made an impression, grudgingly perhaps, on a highly skeptical house of roughly 300 bicyclists.

What he said was less important than the mere fact that he stuck around for the full two hours and listened to a long line of cyclists voice their suggestions.

And their complaints.

So instead of the press event some of us feared — though there was a lot of that — it became an actual conversation.

The Mayor started things off by talking about his near-collision and discovery of the possibilities of cycling on last year’s trip to Copenhagen, and quickly morphed into the need to enforce the vehicle code and change the car culture on the streets of L.A.

With a panel that included LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson and Planning Director Michael LoGrande, among others, he addressed complaints ranging from Joe Linton’s remarks about the errors in the bike plan, to Jessica Meaney’s comment that “Roads are for everyone, not just the brave.”

Along with Brent Butterworth’s statement about drivers who think they know traffic law without truly understanding it. “People are driving around with laws in their heads that they made up.”

And please forgive me if I spelled anyone’s name wrong.

BAC Chair Glenn Bailey seemed to sum up the attitudes of audience members when he called on the Mayor and his staff to “safely accommodate bicycles on all streets, in all projects, without exception.”

The Mayor said Los Angeles was committed to building 40 miles of bikeways each year for the next 5 years, and 1600 over the next 25 — even though the city has built only 372 miles of bikeways in the previous 13 years. And responded favorably, but noncommittally, when cyclists asked for a biking equivalent of the Mayor’s 30/10 plan to speed up the pace of transit projects.

The CicLAvia group makes its presentation.

Villaraigosa responded to comments about CicLAvia with a promise to attend, and reiterated his support for a 10% set-aside for from Measure R funds for bike and pedestrian projects. He also said that he will soon film PSAs to promote bicycle safety, safe driving and helmet use, and will encourage local TV stations to play them.

However, he drew a round of boos when he said he’ll ask the state legislature to pass a mandatory helmet law, noting his doctors said he would still be hospitalized if he hadn’t been wearing his at the time of his accident. At least one audience member, BAC Vice Chair Jay Slater, agreed though, noting that the state already has a mandatory helmet law for minors. “Aren’t the brains of those over 18 just as valuable as those under,” he asked?

Mayor Villaraigosa agreed with 11th District Council Member Bill Rosendahl, the only Council Member who spoke — or appeared to be in attendance, for that matter — that they should work for a statewide three foot passing law, as well. Both also seemed to support the City Attorney’s plan for a civil anti-harassment law that would allow cyclists to sue drivers who assault, threaten or harass them, regardless of whether criminal charges are filed.

He assured the audience that his representatives will show up — and stay — for meetings of the city’s own Bicycle Advisory Committee, and that city staff and engineers will attend bike-related meetings when appropriate; if smaller cities like Glendale and Burbank can have staff attend meetings, he said, “so can we.” And that the city will look for opportunities to work with other agencies and jurisdictions to coordinate bicycle programs and capitalize on opportunities for funding.

On the other hand, he said the city had fixed potholes at three times the rate of the previous city administration, but that was going was going to slow down due to L.A.’s budget problems. Even though he acknowledged the risk that presented for riders.

Finally, the Mayor announced that he wanted to meet with cyclists again in a year to evaluate the city’s progress.

So is this the day that the Los Angeles finally turned the corner to become the bike-friendly city it always should have been?

Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong. This was huge, and hugely successful.

But there’s still a lot of work to do. And Mayor Villaraigosa still needs to demonstrate that his support goes beyond mere words and meetings, and will lead to the genuine action and hard choices that will make a difference on our streets and for our safety.

But it’s a start.

After five years in office, the Mayor is finally talking to us.

More importantly, he actually seems to be listening.

The Mayor and other panelists actually seemed to listen, but will it result in real change or more talk?

You can hear my comments about the Bike Summit, along with a brief interview with the Mayor, by downloading the podcast of Monday’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle on 89.3 KPCC.

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At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Villaraigosa said that he’d just received word that a bicyclist had been killed in the San Fernando Valley Monday morning. So far, I haven’t been able to find any information to confirm that report. If you have any information, let me know.

Welcome to the dawn of a new day for L.A. cyclists. Or not.

This could be one of the biggest days in L.A. bicycling. Or just a colossal waste of time.

Monday morning, L.A. cycling’s new BFF, L.A. Mayor Antonio “Bionic Elbow” Villaraigosa, is hosting his quickly arranged Bike Summit at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza.

In just a few short weeks, Villaraigosa has gone from barely mentioning the word bicycle, to actually riding — and falling off — one. And now, according to a story by the Associated Press, he’s become a newly minted advocate of bike safety and cyclists’ rights.

Villaraigosa says the city needs to invest in bicycling infrastructure and focus on traffic safety enforcement to make streets safer for cyclists.

“We also have to have a cultural paradigm shift,” Villaraigosa said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have to recognize that even in the car capital of America, drivers have to share the road.”

The real test, tough, will be what happens in the Metro Board Room on Monday and in the weeks and months that follow.

Hopefully, the Mayor will seize the opportunity to begin a real engagement with the cycling community, show some genuine leadership and start a two-way conversation that will benefit both bicyclists and the community at large.

Or he could turn it into just another press event, pop in to make a brief statement and get his picture taken with cyclists, then duck out to deal with some “unanticipated crisis” or another.

One approach will win him a lot of new friends, yours truly included. And finally set this car-clogged city on a path towards complete streets and greater livability.

The other will leave a roomful of very angry people demanding an end to the sort of lip service that has too long been employed to buy us off for yet another few years.

Because we’re not going to settle for that any more.

Villaraigosa didn’t ask to be cut off by a careless cab driver, making him the unintended poster boy for everything that’s wrong with L.A. bicycling, and giving him a bully pulpit to push for change on our streets.

But it happened, he is and he does.

The question is, what is he going to do with it?

Larry Mantle’s AirTalk program may host a discussion of the Bike Summit after the 11 am conclusion of the Summit on 89.3 KPCC if they can make the necessary arrangements.

………

Wilbur goes on a road diet, and gets bike lanes — along with the long-promised lanes on Reseda Blvd. Finding a faux fur bike on Abbot Kinney. Bicyle Fixation challenges L.A. to sign up for the future of wayfinding. San Francisco challenges Portland and Long Beach to a bike-friendly smackdown. The Times looks at the Black Hawk Co bike ban, where gambling tour buses own the roads and bikes are banished; Chewie offers the city manager’s email address for anyone who wants to weigh in and threaten to do your gambling elsewhere. After Lance pulls out, Levi Leipheimer sets a new record in winning the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Rolling in the vanguard of the vast bicycle conspiracy. A North Carolina newspaper says danger lurks at every turn, and never ride at night; a Michigan lawyer offers much better advice. Bicyclists have to obey the law too, but we can’t control other riders who break it. Then there’s the Alabama driver who says cyclists are the real danger on the road; yeah, we’re the ones who kill nearly 40,000 people every year. A cyclist says helmets aren’t the key to safety, drivers are; a New Zealand study shows head injuries dropped before the mandatory helmet law went into effect. Riding the Continental Divide from Alaska to Argentina, and waking up to guns more than once. Jan Ullrich withdraws from public life, but not because he lost a court case over the Operacion Puerto doping scandal. Purple Harry’s eco-friendly bike floss. A Toronto cyclist dies a month after a solo helmetless collision. Britain’s Cambridge United Football Club installs bike parking to encourage fans to ride to the matches.

Finally, a Brit cyclist moves to a new town and finds himself on trial for riding naked, something his old neighbors evidently didn’t object to, though his ex did.

Your upcoming calendar and weekend links

This week’s upcoming events:

Catch all the grace, guts, grit and glory of the Tour de France when Chasing Legends plays at Cinespace Hollywood Saturday night; credit to Claremont Cyclist for the heads-up.

Chinatown Summer Nights continues in Downtown’s Chinatown District from 5 pm to midnight every Saturday in August, with DJs, food trucks, and cultural and cooking demonstrations, among other activities; free bike valet courtesy of LACBC.

Sunday the 15th, Bikeside LA hosts a meeting to organize a campaign to increase penalties for hit-and-run at Hollywood Adventist Church.

The Mayor’s Bike Summit is scheduled for Monday the 16th from 9 am to 11 am at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza; submit or vote on questions in advance even if you can’t be there in person.

Good sponsors Moving Beyond Cars on Wednesday the 18th to celebrate L.A.’s alternative transportation, in conjunction with railLA, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and de LaB. The event takes place from 7 to 10 pm at City National Plaza, 525 S. Flower, Downtown.

Also on Wednesday, the LACBC Board of Directors meets in the mezzanine at 634 Spring Street from 6:45 to 8:46 pm; as always, the meeting is open to the public.

The next Bikeside Speaks is scheduled for Saturday, August 21st in conjunction with Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles, Specialized and the Disposable Film Festival; speakers include Mike Bower, Gary Kavanagh and CD 4 candidate Stephen Box.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art hosts the Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts, vol. 2, on August 22; the bike tour is full, but other activities include spoke card workshop and a closing party.

Streetsblog LA resumes regular publication on Thursday, August 26. The night before, Damien will be hosting a re-launch party and fundraiser starting at 7 pm on Wednesday the 25th at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 11555 National Blvd; I’m going to do my best to be there.

Make your plans for Parking Day LA on Sept. 17th.

New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat makes its first L.A. stop on Saturday, October 23rd. The following day, Sony sponsors a bikeless, but probably still fun, Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

………

Just two days after cyclists discussed making Metro station stairwells more bike-friendly at Wednesday’s Metro Bicycle Roundtable, 4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge introduces a motion to have city staff study bicycle stairways. Blogdowntown says the city is moving forward on cycling, but challenges remain. Glee’s Heather Morris rides a bike in full cheerleader drag. Two bike thieves are behind bars in Long Beach. A woman drives through a Gilroy crosswalk and kills a cyclist, then blames the agencies who built it. A bicyclist — and his dog — get run over by a regular Tuesday night bike ride in Tucson; needless to say, the riders did not stop. Well, how do you ride in heels? Searchers rescue two cyclists stranded for 12 hours in bad weather in Southwestern Colorado; they can expect a very big bill. Ride a bike without a helmet in Dallas, get searched by police; link courtesy of Cyclelicious, who has almost as many as I do — links, that is. Envisioning an NYC where cyclists aren’t the only ones who cycle. Delaware cyclists and pedestrians get the nation’s second vulnerable users law. A cyclist gets buzzed by an impatient driver; guess which one gets the ticket? Buying a bike can save you money in the long run. Evidently, not paying attention and running down a Spanish RAAM competitor isn’t a crime in Kansas. A cyclist is hit in Key Biscayne; the driver plays the SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You) get out of jail free card. A fatally injured cyclist begs for help from under the SUV that hit him. A three-year fight for justice in a Montreal hit-and-run results in a $430 fine. But that’s better than Britain, where you can kill a cyclist while driving without a license, and get an 8-week curfew and £85 in court costs. New tax rules could threaten the UK’s Cycle to Work plan. Commit a crime, get a free stolen bike courtesy of the local police. Hey, I’m a MAMIL. Even when you try not to take pictures of bikes, they get in the damn picture. Paris, the City of Lights continues to transform into the City of Bikes.

Finally, now that the great bike share conspiracy has been revealed, it’s time to get out your blue UN helmet.

Pregnant bike rider killed in Gardena hit-and-run

The murderous plague of hit-and-runs continues, this time taking the life of a Gardena woman and her unborn baby early this morning.

According to the Daily Breeze, 31-year old Jennifer Costlow was riding with her boyfriend on Normandie Avenue at Gardena Blvd shortly after midnight when she was hit from behind by a dark colored car. The former Riverside Poly High School cheerleader was four months pregnant.

Reports indicate that she was revived at the scene and taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

In a stomach churning coda to the story, the Breeze says that a man believed to be her brother later visited the scene of the collision, and became visibly upset when he found “remnants of the accident, including his sister’s blood on the sidewalk.” Firefighters came to clean it up after the police were notified.

Any witnesses are asked to call the Gardena police at 310/217-6135.

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