Archive for September 22, 2010

Better bike courtesy won’t keep cyclists alive

Note: there were too many important news items today to include in this morning’s post. Come back a little later this morning for news about AAA attacking bike and pedestrian funding, the Mayor calls for a bike friendlier Metro, cyclists urged to ride right at Critical Mass, and a Maryland driver runs over a deer who turned out to be a candidate for Senate.

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Maybe he just doesn’t get it.

Or maybe we’re just not going to convince David Whiting that all the courtesy in the world won’t keep careless, dangerous or distracted drivers from running down even the most polite cyclists, pedestrians and yes, other drivers.

Whiting — the OC Register writer who wrote last week that the solution to the county’s one-a-month rate of bike deaths was for bike clubs to ride single file and stop running red lights and stop signs — now says the answer could be as simple as being more courteous to drivers.

Seriously.

Even though a failure to show the proper deferential politeness hasn’t been a factor in any of the deaths I’m aware of.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in roadway courtesy. I make a point of signaling, and often wave drivers across the intersection in front of me if there’s any question who has the right-of-way. And I do my best to let drivers behind me pass anytime it’s safe to do so.

But not just to be nice.

I’ve learned the hard way that there are few things more dangerous than having a frustrated, angry jerk stuck on your rear wheel. And I’d much rather signal my intentions or let someone else go first than risk any misunderstanding that could result in us both attempting to occupy the same space at the same time.

I’m also a big believer in obeying traffic laws, as well as avoiding unnecessary distractions while I ride. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it keeps me safer on the streets.

But let’s be honest. Bike courtesy wasn’t a factor when nine-year old Nicolas Vela was run over by a monster truck whose driver couldn’t see the little kid riding his bike across the crosswalk directly in front of him.

Nor did it come into play when Donald Murphy was run down by a woman high on prescription medications, who kept driving with his bike still stuck under her car. Or when Alan Earl Miller was killed by a truck that drifted off the roadway while he was riding on the shoulder.

And it certainly wasn’t a factor when a car veered off the road, killing Christy Kirkwood and injuring another rider.

So if Mr. Whiting or anyone else wants to start a campaign to increase courtesy on the streets, count me in. Though I do look forward to the companion campaign, in which drivers are urged to show more courtesy to other road users by passing safely, observing the speed limit, stopping for stop signs, signaling, sobering up before driving, and turning off their cell phones when they get behind the wheel.

But let’s not pretend for one minute that it has one damn thing to do with the tragic and completely unacceptable rate of cyclists killed on the streets of Orange County.

Because it doesn’t.

And pretending it does will only mean more deaths until we stop blaming the victims and address the real problems.

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While we’re in Orange County, the OC Register reports that the senior cyclists cited for riding on the sidewalk — despite a sign saying it was legal to do just that and a cop who seemed to suggest they should— recently had their day in court.

And won.

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Max DeLiema ruled in favor of the two-wheeled scofflaws, delivering a not guilty verdict for both.

“According to the Judge, since there is no signage that directs bicyclist to exit the sidewalk, then the interpretation of the law is that ‘riding your bicycle on the sidewalk’ is OK!” Leslie Smith told us by e-mail. “We have spent three days in court (one for my husband, Duane, to enter a plea of not guilty, one for me to enter a plea of not guilty, then today in court to testify)! Such a waste of taxpayer $$$….”

Now maybe Newport Beach should consider improving their signage.

And maybe the police should offer a well-deserved apology.

Thanks to David Bain for the link.

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Enjoy the confluence of bikes and poetry on L.A.’s Eastside with the Spokes & Words Back to School Ride this Thursday. Flying Pigeon is featured on the Green Jobs California web site. KCRW discusses CicLAvia and biking in LA (no, not me); not surprisingly, the first comment is about how dangerous those darn bicyclists are. Riding a bike while towing a device for riding a bike in place. A Santa Monica council candidate talks local issues, including how to make the city bike friendlier. A look at the Whittier Greenway. San Diego area authorities opt for cheap sealant on a local $10 million bike bridge, which means it will be out of action for the next two weeks. A San Jose cyclist is killed in a apparent hit-and-run. Cyclo-cross comes to Las Vegas this week. Speaking of Vegas, Cyclelicious visits Interbike. An Oregon cyclist is killed trying to beat a train across a crossing. Two Portland cyclists are run down in rapid succession, apparently by the same possibly intentional hit-and-run driver. The New York law that allows cyclists to bring their bikes into their office buildings hasn’t worked as planned. Bicycling as a way of life to reclaim America’s streets. Construction begins on the London 2012 velodrome track. A Labor candidate for London mayor tries to out-bike BoJo. The IMBA joins with component manufacturers to improve European Mountain biking. A Kiwi mother is knocked cold by a hit-and-run cyclist.

Finally, the widow of a man killed by a cyclist last year in NYC gets an apology from the city’s DOT commissioner; no doubt she’s cleared her schedule for the next few weeks to apologize to the relatives of all the cyclists killed by drivers.

And happy World Car-Free Day, a holiday that will no doubt be little noticed on the streets of L.A.

San Diego-area cyclist killed on Sunday

Yet another Southern California cyclist was killed over the weekend.

According to a number of news reports, a 50-year old Poway woman was killed while riding her bike in Carlsbad on Sunday; authorities are withholding her name until relatives can be notified.

The North County Times reports that she was riding north on South Rancho Sante Fe Road with her boyfriend when she attempted to turn left onto Calle Barcelona near the border of Carlsbad and Encinitas.

As she entered the left turn lane, she hit the curb on the center divider and lost control of her bike; in a struggle to regain control, she swerved back into the left through lane where she was hit by an oncoming car. A photo from MSNBC shows that the driver clearly tried to stop but was unable to avoid her; she died at the scene.

In light of the recent debate over the unacceptably high rate of bike deaths in Orange County — more on that later today — she did not run a red light or stop sign and wasn’t riding in a group, well behaved or otherwise. And whether she signaled or was riding side-by-side had nothing to do with this collision.

Not that any death is acceptable, of course.

This time, at least, it seems to be a case of rider error. Police note that drugs or alcohol don’t seem to involved, though no mention is made of whether the driver was distracted or exceeding the speed limit.

This also serves as a reminder that it’s always important be aware of road conditions and the traffic around you, and can be better to let yourself fall than struggle to stay upright and risk getting hit by oncoming cars.

Even when you’re not in full control of your bike, it’s often possible to choose when and where you want to land by shifting your weight in the direction you want to fall.

For instance, had she let herself fall to the left instead of struggling to stay upright, she would have risked going over the narrow median and landing in the path of south bound traffic; if there were no cars coming, that might have been a viable option. Or she could have made herself fall to the right, which probably would have kept her in the left turn lane and out of the way of through traffic.

Either way, she might have ended up hurt.

But chances are, she’d be alive.

It doesn’t do any good to play armchair quarterback and analyze what she should have done. She reacted in the moment, undoubtedly out of instinct and fear.

The point is to train yourself to respond in a conscious and deliberate manner, and maintain as much control over the situation as possible.

Even when you can’t control your bike.

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The Beverly Hills City Council will discuss the reconstruction of Santa Monica Blvd through the city at tonight’s council meeting. This will provide an opportunity for cyclists to argue for bikes of be accommodated in the new plans, and end the current dangerous black hole between the bikeways of West Hollywood and Century City; current plans include consideration of a bike lane in one direction only. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm at Beverly Hills City Hall.

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The Source offers instructions on how to load your bike onto a bus; helpful advice for those of us who haven’t tried it yet. UCLA offers a new Android app for campus bike lockers. Mayor Villaraigosa plans a Wednesday press conference to officially announce CicLAvia. If Long Beach is truly going to be one of the nation’s most bike friendly cities, it has to design bridges that work for everyone. An actor who was about to quit the profession stars in the upcoming movie Peloton as a cyclist who was about to quit the sport. Santa Rosa gets a bike-activated beacon to warn motorists about cyclists on the road ahead of them. Just Another Cyclist jumps into the helmet debate with both feet, offering an all-too-rare cool-headed look at both sides of the question. Sharrows are coming soon to my hometown. A Colorado cyclist pepper sprays two attacking dogs and their owner, who ends up getting a ticket. The biggest bike news in DC since Tony Kornheiser’s infamous anti-bike rant, as the nation’s capitol unveils its long-awaited bike share program. A personal crusade to stop the salmon cyclists. A New York cyclist is killed on an environmental tour in New Brunswick. A beginner’s guide to fast descents. Bike pools allow you to connect with other cyclists who want to share a ride. Both British teenage inmates who busted out by bike are now back in custody. A new study shows Brit cyclists and motorists would rather not share the road, thank you. After a Bangalore bar bouncer collided with cyclist while escaping after punching a cop, the bar owner takes the rider to the hospital and promises to buy him a new bike.

Finally, if you think riding in L.A. traffic is hard, at least it beats riding underwater.

Monday morning links — more bike complaints, Vuelta wraps and youth triumphs in the U.S.

There seems to have been a common theme to online bike stories over the weekend.

As in, some people just don’t seem to like us.

For instance, a Boston writer who took up biking again as an adult criticizes the behavior of his fellow cyclists; while he may have some legitimate complaints, these sound like the rants of a gutter bunny who hasn’t yet learned the rights of cyclists.  Another Massachusetts writer takes a far more objective look at maintaining the delicate balance on the roads.

Then there’s this hopefully there’s this attack from a Victoria BC columnist who blames cyclists for terrorizing all those law-abiding motorists in their Bentleys. Maybe if they stepped out of their multi-ton cars and spent a little time in a more vulnerable road state, they might understand who’s really being terrorized.

In recently bike friendly New York, complaints rise about the rapidly rising number of cyclists and seemingly inevitable conflicts with pedestrians that results. Meanwhile, the patron saint of New York cycling, NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, may be getting a little blowback from a new less than bike friendly boss.

Meanwhile, a Minnesota cyclist responds to bike-baiting columnists in the local paper, while Dave Moulton drives and rides to the letter of the law, Baltimore Spokes uncovers a 13-year old paper in which a psychology professor says road rage is a culturally acquired habit and Portland Tea Partiers complain about bike Nazis initiatives.

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The final mountain stage of this year’s Vuelta features a climb steeper than the legendary Mont Ventoux, as hometown favorite Ezequiel Mosquera wins the stage while Vicenzo Nibali clinches the race. Tyler Farrar wins the final sprint, while Cavendish wins the points championship. Bicycling offers video highlights.

Here in the states, rising star Taylor Phinney edges Levi Leipheimer to win the U.S. time trial championship, while 21-year old Ben King wins the road title and announced he’s the newest member of Team RadioShack. Bicycling says youth was served in a Trek-Livestrong sweep.

And Floyd Landis finds himself banned from the upcoming World Championships, and doesn’t like it.

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Bicycle Fixation offers a detailed guide to bike tires. Gary offers images from the Santa Monica Spoke’s Park(ing) Day site; LAist looks at sites in East Hollywood and Silver Lake. Kate Hudson, her celeb parents and musician boyfriend bike by the Santa Monica Pier. Long Beach’s cycling expats publish Panniers and Peanut Butter, an ebook on bike touring gear and tips with a great title. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says people aren’t dying in distraction crashes, they’re being killed by distracted drivers. A Massachusetts cyclist takes construction blocking the bike lane in stride, saying sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. A look at the popular Minuteman Bikeway. Cycling missionaries and the bike of Mormon. The New York times looks at Critical Mass in Prague. A look at the world’s fastest human-powered bikes; I dare you to try one of this at your next crit. A Brit rider plans to attempt a world speed record on an all-wood bike. Sussez police receive over 20,000 complaints about anti-social drivers.

Finally, Zeke discovers the downside of a cycling tan, returning from the beach with a tricolor complexion. And his L.A.-based biking brother David points us to an attempt to build a bike powered washing machine; as the designated laundry specialist for my household, I think I’ll pass.

Your weekend links: the Vuelta nears completion, volunteers wanted, a busy bikingweek

It’s here.

No, it's not from Specialized, despite the box.

Coming soon, my first ever product review.

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Phillippe Gilbert holds off Tyler Farrar to win stage 19 of the Vuelta; Cavendish looks to cement his points victory over the American sprinter. Fabian Cancellara drops out of the Vuelta just days before the finish, claiming he’s exhausted, and may not compete in next month’s World Championships. The legendary Eagle of Toledo says Gilbert is the one to watch in the Worlds.

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Here’s your chance to make a real difference on local streets as West Hollywood is looking for volunteers to join their new Bicycle Task Force. If you’re looking for a less demanding option, Glendale needs volunteers for next week’s bike count, while Long Beach needs volunteers for their bike count next month.

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Looks like a very busy week in the local bike world:

Bike Talk airs Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Saturday, September 18th, decorate your bike for the Bicycle Beauty Pageant, 8 pm to midnight, at 3191 Casitas in Atwater Village; $10 admission benefits CicLAvia and includes one free beer, free admission and one beer if you enter the pageant.

Also on Saturday the 18th, join the LACBC and Bicidigna for a Vuelta de la Bici Digna, a free ride with the Bicidignarias from MacArthur Park to Pan Pacific Park from noon to three, followed by food and soccer.

Flying Pigeon hosts a fundraiser for bike activist and CD 4 City Council candidate Stephen Box on Saturday the 18th from 7 – 9 pm at 3714 N. Figueroa Street in Highland Park.

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.

On Sunday the 19th, the Los Angeles Wheelmen celebrate their 65th anniversary with century and half-century rides; $5 of the $30 ride fee will go to the LACBC.

LACBC Planning and Advocacy Committee discusses the bike plan on Tuesday, September 21st at Downtown’s Pitfire Pizza.

Hearings for the proposed bike are scheduled for September 29, 30 and October 2, with a noontime Webinar scheduled for Wednesday the 29th; click here for times and locations.

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A look at the invisible riders of Los Angeles. The L.A. bike community’s new BFF hosts a press conference on Wednesday to promote CicLAvia. More on the lawsuit against the Expo Line Bikeway from USC’s Neon Tommy. LABC calls for cyclists to attend the November 3rd sentencing of Angelina Everett in the Ed Magos hit-and-run. Bikeside looks at the upcoming hearings for the new bike plan. UCLA looks to replace their balky bike lockers. Green LA Girl visits the Santa Monica Spoke’s Park(ing) Day park. Even experienced riders can be dangerous idiots. Metro honors Caltech’s bike-to-work and bike-to-school programs. Biking DJ Benny Benassi tours the West Coast on two wheels.

According to a bike-riding member of Fresno’s finest, bike riders are almost always at fault in collisions; yeah, no hint of bias there. Bicycling says American cyclocross is at a crossroads. An angry driver admits he didn’t know the law and apologizes to a cyclist, but won’t shake her hand. Tall girls need cute bikes, too. It only takes a driver two seconds to turn off a cell phone. Changing the lives of addicts and ex-cons through bike therapy; link courtesy of San Diego cyclist and attorney Amanda Benedict.

A Fairbanks AK driver faces felony manslaughter and first-degree assault charges for hitting three teenage cyclists, killing one, after running a red light. An AK college student starts his own campus bike lending program. It might be Kansas, but it looks a lot like the roads I used to ride through the farmlands of Eastern Colorado; maybe now you know why I miss it so much. An Atlanta woman says she’s terrified of her bike, or more precisely, riding it in city traffic. Another day, another case of bike rage as an angry cyclist pulls a knife on driver who cut him off. Did Janette Sadik-Khan’s NYDOT really call cyclists jerks or are they just being overly sensitive?

Not surprisingly, British ORUs — aka, other road users — don’t think highly of bike riders; like “Oi! Cyclist! Get off the road!” for instance. Bikes Belong goes riding bikes with the Dutch. A teenage prison break by bike. More lust-inducing high-end bike porn from Eurobike, along with the new bikes from Cinelli. Coming soon, new ways to be seen on your bike. A British court awards a record-breaking £14 million — $21 million U.S. — to a cyclist permanently injured in a collision. A Zimbabwe boy and his new bicycle, courtesy of World Bicycle Relief. A new world record for circumnavigating the Earth by bike. China’s formerly bike friendly roads take a turn for the worse. Nicosia, Cyprus celebrates No Car Day.

Finally, the best line I’ve seen in months: Q. What’s the difference between an arrogant jerk in an SUV and an arrogant jerk on a bicycle?

A. 4,000 pounds, and not a damn thing else.

Speaking of which, you gotta watch out for those dangerous bicycle gangs.

Best wishes for a blessed Yom Kippur, g’mar chatimah tovah.

Blaming the victims in OC — bad behavior isn’t behind the high rate of bike deaths

You might recall that earlier this week, I linked to a column in the Orange County Register.

A writer for the Orange County Register joins with the OC Wheelmen to challenge other bike clubs to enforce safety rules for their members.

I have to admit, the story bothered me.

In it David Whiting joined with a couple of local OC cycling organizations to call for strict observance of all traffic laws, with riders who don’t risking banishment from the club. And suggested a prohibition against riding side-by-side, even though that’s legal in California — and explicitly allowed under chapter 11-1206 of the Universal Vehicle Code.

Obeying red lights is probably not the deal breaker. But stop signs? As a cyclist, I know many of us figure they don’t apply to us. Wrong.

And single-file pelotons? You might be muttering, “Not going to happen.”

As one man said Wednesday night, cyclists are more visible and safer when riding in a pack. And I might agree.

But I’m also looking at it from a driver’s perspective. Not only do packs block streets, they scare the bejeebers out of drivers.

Simply put, cyclists need to extend courtesy to drivers whenever possible. Swarming a road is not the way.

The reason for that club-level crackdown is to keep cyclists alive, noting that 80 cyclists have died in Orange County over the last 5 years — seven this year alone.

It’s an admirable goal.

Personally, I support anything that will make our chosen form of transportation/recreation safer while supporting our right to the road. And I have no problem with enforcing traffic laws, as long as authorities target dangerous behavior regardless of who commits the violation, and don’t single out cyclists for selective enforcement.

I also recognize that this could go a long way towards improving the image problem cyclists have with the driving public, many of whom see us as reckless scofflaws who needlessly flaunt traffic regulations.

Unlike all those drivers who never speed, text while driving or fail to come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs, of course. And each of whom are no doubt fully versed on the rights of cyclists, and gladly give us the road space to which we’re legally entitled.

I had other things to deal with, though — not the least of which is a bad back that’s kept me off my bike and wacked out on muscle relaxants most of the week.

Not to worry, though. It only hurts when I move.

Or breathe.

But the story continued to lurk in the back of my drug addled mind, until Richard Masoner, author of the excellent Cyclelicious, emailed me yesterday to ask the same question that had been eating at me.

Just how many of those recent deaths resulted from club rides or cyclists blowing through stop signals or riding two abreast?

So I stopped what I was doing, cleared my head, and dug through my files for every OC bike death I could find dating back to December of last year. The results didn’t surprise me, though they might surprise Mr. Whiting.

  • Dan Crain died in August, hit by a car merging at high speed at what appears to be a poorly designed intersection.
  • Michael William Nine died in July while on a club ride; but rather than “swarming the road,” he was leading the group downhill when a gardener’s truck pulled out in front of him on the wrong side of the street.
  • Alan Earl Miller died in May when a driver drifted off the road and struck him while he was riding on the shoulder of the roadway.
  • Annette Ferrin-Rodgers died in April when she was hit by a bus while riding in a crosswalk with no lights on her bike.
  • Jeffery Blum died in March after lingering in a coma since 2007, following a collision in which the driver who hit him — the only witness — blamed Blum for swerving in front of him.
  • Donald Murphy was killed in December when a woman high on prescription meds ran him down as he was riding single file with other riders on the shoulder of the road.
  • Nine-year old Nicolas Vela was killed in December when he was crossing in the crosswalk in front of a monster truck whose driver was too high up to see the kid on a bike directly in front of him.

That’s seven deaths in nine months — none of which involved cyclists running red lights or stop signs, or riding two or more abreast. And only two involving multiple riders or club rides.

I also found three other bike collisions I’d mentioned since last December.

  • An unnamed 16-year old rider was critically injured in March while riding across a Santa Ana street.
  • Patrick Shannon was killed in April, 2009 when he was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver while riding home from work.
  • Fourteen-year old Danny Oates was killed in August, 2007 by a driver high on drugs who was also texting at the time of the crash.

If you see any collision on that list that could have been prevented by observing stop signals or riding single file, you’re doing better than me. And only three — Blum, Ferrin-Rodgers and the unnamed 16-year old — could arguably be blamed on the cyclist.

And that my problem with Whiting’s plan.

While I have no doubt his heart is in the right place, it sounds like another case of saying we have to clean up our act so drivers won’t kill us, rather than placing the blame squarely where it belongs — on dangerous drivers, bad infrastructure and lax enforcement.

And dangerously customized trucks that prevent drivers from seeing bike riding kids right in front of their bumpers.

As Masoner wrote,

I’m sure the monster truck driver was terrified of the little nine year old he crushed on the road.

I’m a big believer in being responsible for my own safety. There are certainly actions we can take to reduce the risk of crashing and dying. We as cyclists should be courteous, and we should share the road by riding legally, but pelotons of cyclists hogging the road and blowing stop signs is not a bike safety issue in Orange County or anywhere else. Will single file riding do anything to prevent cyclist fatalities in Orange County? Should a bike club really suspend membership for rolling a stop sign, which is something that 97% of motorists are also guilty of? Can we also call on the AAA to suspend benefits for their members who are observed violating the rules of the road and not exercising common courtesy on the road?

Whiting promises a Phase II that will focus on driver safety. I’ll look forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, though, let’s agree that cyclists should ride safely and observe the law.

But stop blaming the victims.

And stop pretending that it’s the behavior of bicyclists that puts us at risk.

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After 17 stages of the Vuelta, Nibali found himself back in the red leader’s jersey; the question is, can he keep it? Cavendish claims his third victory in stage 18; the race should be decided on Saturday’s final climb.

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NIMBY residents file a lawsuit to stop the Expo Bikeway. Writing for the Bus Bench, Browne Molyneux says she hasn’t seen the Give Me 3 campaign south of the 10 Freeway, and doesn’t want LADOT’s and the Mayor’s table scraps. Santa Monica Spoke plans a Park(ing) Day park at Swingers on Broadway, complete with bike valet; LADOT Bike Blog looks at Park(ing) Day and Saturday’s Bicycle Beauty Pageant. Speaking of LADOT BB, Bikeside responds to the USC bike ban by taking the poorly paid student intern who reported it to task, rather than the university that did it. Join the LACBC and Bicidigna for a Vuelta de la Bici Digna, a free ride with the Bicidignarias from MacArthur Park to Pan Pacific Park this Saturday from noon to three. Now that texting while driving has been banned, there’s twice as much risk that the driver that hits you will be doing it. Occidental College students should benefit from the improved access provided by the West Valley Greenway Project. Car-less Valley Girl may have to get a new name, but promises not to give up her bike. Will reminisces about living in a city where the destination is always more important than the journey.

The San Francisco Gate takes a look at the Idaho Stop Law, and asks why shouldn’t drivers be able to roll stop signs as well — not that they don’t already; Dave Moulton says it’s one thing to roll through slowly, but blowing through makes us all look bad. A Santa Rosa area cyclist is hospitalized after being sideswiped by a pickup; the driver plays the universal SMIDSY get-out-of-jail-free card.

Bikes Belong and Interbike combine to bring 3.2 miles of bike lanes and a student bike program to the trade show’s soon-to-be-ex-home in Las Vegas. A primer on protecting yourself from the sun while you ride; take it from me, it matters. The fashion world discovers cycle chic at Monday’s Betsey Johnson runway show. A Chicago lawyer suggests buying a non-owners car insurance policy even if you don’t drive. The joys of riding to work — and a little exercise, too. Are you ready for some… High School Mountain Bike Racing? The mean streets of Detroit turn surprisingly bike friendly; losing half a city’s population makes for a lot of empty streets. The perfect lock for anyone who’s looking for a prettier way to secure a bike; personally, I’d use a Brinks truck if I could fit it in my seat pack. A writer questions how it’s possible to go over the handlebars; in my experience, it’s pretty easy if you’re not careful.

A British writer strives to be a MAMIL — in this case, a Middle Aged Mum in Lycra. A driver repeatedly cuts off a cyclist, then throws a drink cup at him — and gets convicted, thanks to the rider’s helmet-cam footage. More debate on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Copenhagen cyclists get the right to turn right on a red.

Finally, an Indiana cyclist discovers the hard way that there’s only one thing more dangerous than texting while driving. And don’t try this at home — a fourteen year old cyclist gets off his bike, climbs on the hood of the car behind him and smashes the windshield, causing $500 damage.

USC officials ban bikes from campus; more enlightened UCLA wins Metro award

You don’t have to go to Blackhawk, Colorado or  St. Charles County, Missouri to find misguided leaders banning — or attempting to ban — bikes.

You only have to go as far as the University of Southern California campus.

Just days after a writer in the school’s Daily Trojan called on university officials to develop a more effective way of dealing with USC’s estimated 10,000 to 15,000 bikes a day, Dr. Charles E. Lane, Associate Senior Vice President for Career and Protective Services, responded in typically kneejerk fashion by banning bikes from the two major pedestrian thoroughfares on campus — one of which is listed as a bike lane on Metro’s new bike map.

It’s not that careless riding isn’t a problem. In fact, in a story about the ban, LADOT Bike Blog reports that a majority of students surveyed claimed to have been hit by a bike two or less times in the past year. Although the same study also shows that a majority of students feel bike congestion on campus is average or not a problem.

But the solution isn’t banning bikes. Especially not by an institution dedicated to higher education.

As LADOT BB and the Daily Trojan both point out, the problem isn’t bikes, or even the high number of bikes on campus. It’s the university’s complete and total failure to do anything to accommodate bikes or educate students on how to ride safely.

But instead of doing something about it — just what part of education don’t they understand? — they respond by banning bikes from a large segment of the school, and asking incoming freshmen to leave their bikes at home.

Then again, this is the same school that ticketed cyclists for riding in the crosswalk — even though that’s legal anywhere it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk.

Like L.A., for instance.

Now contrast USC’s bike ban with archrival UCLA, which actually encourages students and employees to ride to campus, and gives them secure places to park once they get there. Not to mention all the other schools that are busy implementing their own bike share programs, not banning them.

For a school that claims to be a leading educational institution, USC gets an F in transportation planning.

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Congratulations to the far more bike-friendly UCLA Transportation and the UCLA Sustainable Resource Center, who will be honored tonight for their short film Bike-U-mentary.

Directed by Brent Parnell, it looks at Herbie Huff and Mihai Peteu, campus bike commuters active in L.A.’s cycling community, and offers their perspectives on riding to campus and how to get started with bike commuting in the Los Angeles area.

The film will receive a Metro Rideshare Diamond Award at a ceremony this evening.

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The League of American Bicyclists is out with their latest list of Bicycle Friendly Communities.

Davis remains the only city in California to earn Platinum Status, along with Boulder CO and Portland OR. Palo Alto, San Francisco and Stanford University — not USC — remain Gold, while Folsom, the Presidio of San Francisco, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz are Silver. Long Beach and Santa Monica retain the Bronze status, along with Thousand Oaks, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Clarita. Honorable Mention goes to Menlo Park, Merced, North Lake and Palm Desert.

Los Angeles evidently remains in the dishonorable category, despite our Mayor’s Road to Damascus — or in this case, Culver City — conversion to bicycle advocate.

And don’t get me started on those Trojans.

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Joaquin Rodriguez enjoys the red leader’s jersey on Vuelta’s Tuesday rest day, then loses it in a disastrous time trial as Vincenzo Nibali survives a wheel change to claim the lead. And this year’s Tour of Britain turns into absolute carnage.

A new website says Lance Armstrong needs your help to fight doping allegations; isn’t that the approach Floyd Landis took? Meanwhile, Armstrong’s Team RadioShack gets a belated invitation to the Tour of Lombardy.

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Santa Monica’s Agensys development is approved with no bike path, though the City Council did toss in a few bucks to ease the pain. L.A City Council candidate Stephen Box takes current Councilmember Greig Smith for overreacting to complaints about new bike lanes on Wilbur Ave, and LADOT for not doing enough to avoid the problem. LADOT Bike Blog concludes its study of sidewalk riding in Los Angeles County with a look at the eastern San Gabriel Valley; evidently, the Claremont Cyclist is on his own. Streetsblog offers a photo tour of Long Beach’s new Vista Street bike boulevard. Authorities continue to investigate the woman who switched seats with her drunk boyfriend and drove away after he killed a German cyclist in San Francisco. The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning a Distracted Driving Summit on Tuesday the 21st, with online access for those of us at work or home. Time looks at where the transportation stimulus funds went. More women now bike in New York. If an angry driver would murder someone over a speed bump, what would they do over a road diet — or God forbid, a bike boulevard? The inaugural Crooked Roubaix takes riders on dirt roads through the Colorado high country at up to 10,000 feet elevation and temperatures as low as the 20s; hopefully they read these tips on fall riding wear. A Portland school reverses a ban on biking and encourages riding to class. The Guardian asks why a woman on a bike has to deal with sexual comments from jerks. Bike friendly Nottingham has been named England’s least car-dependant city, while Southport offers a bike-friendly escape for vacationing Brits. Rescued by a knight in shiny red overalls with a tire pump. Feast your eyes on the new 2011 Pinarellos and the Canyon Strive enduro bike.

Finally, a new campaign warns London cyclists of the dangers posed by large trucks but may only discourage people from riding, while cyclists launch their own campaign to get dangerous trucks off the streets.

Fighting for a bike-friendly Beverly Hills and a safer Santa Monica Blvd

I’m not a fan of Beverly Hills.

Aside from the over-the-top pretension of Rodeo Drive — where I have yet to see a single bull rider and which I strive to avoid at all cost — I’ve long been angered by the city’s complete and total lack of biking infrastructure.

To the best of my knowledge, Beverly Hills does not currently have a single inch of bike lane within its city limits. Look at any local bike map, and it might as well read Here There Be Dragons, as bike routes disappear without a trace into the undiscovered cycling country of 90210.

And the recently approved bike plan — which I’m told is nothing more than the 1977 plan, repeatedly re-approved with little or no change for over 30 years — calls for placing bike lanes in the alleys of the downtown triangle, lest they remove a single lane of parking or let bikes sully the city’s pristine image.

So when Mark Elliot contacted me recently to include a link to a new group of bicyclists fighting for a more bike-friendly Beverly Hills and to make Santa Monica Boulevard safer for cyclists, he had me at hello.

But instead of merely adding a link, I thought the issue was important enough to let him have the floor today. And ask him explain to you why Beverly Hills needs your help.

And what you can do about it.

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If you’re a two-wheeled veteran of the Southland’s mean streets, you know that we take our life into our hands every time we settle into the saddle for some not-so-good-natured give and take with motorists. Not that it’s always negative; on the best days we can pantomime mutual agreement that all road users are entitled to the blacktop. Whether motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian, the arrangement is that we respect the rules of the road and get where we’re going safely.

Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. Studies show that we not making substantial progress on reducing cyclist deaths and injuries as a result of traffic collisions. If you are a regular rider of the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor through Beverly Hills, you don’t need studies to tell you how dangerous it is to ride this missing piece of the proposed regional bike backbone. Now’s your opportunity to make change: join with Better Bike BH to make Santa Monica Blvd. a bike-friendly through-route connecting the bike lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

Policymakers like to talk about safety, but Santa Monica Boulevard is symptomatic of a broader problem: cyclists are second-class citizens on our roads with possible dire consequences for those who take to two wheels.

According to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration’s analysis, 716 cyclists were killed nationally in 2008 in collisions with an additional 52,000 injured. Two-wheelers were both 2% of all traffic fatalities and 2% of injuries too. Since only one-half of one percent of us mounts a bike regularly for transportation, cyclists seem disproportionately represented among the dead and injured in collisions.

That number killed has not appreciably changed in a decade! Worse, kids under 14 were 11% of those fatalities, but comprised more than one-fifth of all collision injuries in that age group. Now, the good news is that kids 14-and-under fatalities dropped substantially over the decade – falling to near one-third of the 1998 level. The bad news is that overall deaths have not diminished, meaning that older folks are making up a larger proportion of those fatalities.

Consider that the average age of cyclists killed in traffic collisions has marched steadily upward and now is 41 years of age (NHTSA data as of 2008). Even at my ripe old age of 45, I can’t rest easily. While I’m over the statistical hump, I use my bicycle for much of my everyday transportation and ride recreationally, so I’m on the road much more than the average cyclist.

And I am riding roads that are much less-safe than roads nationally. I start and end most of my rides in Beverly Hills where I live. Our fair city is a particularly dangerous place to ride because the population increases by a factor of four when weekday commuters flow in. Key east-west corridors of Wilshire and Olympic accommodate about 25,000 vehicles per day on average – routes so heavily traveled because we are a key piece of the Westside transportation network.

Moreover, Beverly Hills is the Westside’s third largest employment center and it’s growing rapidly. Motorists compete for an increasingly scarce resource – road capacity – and in that mix of harried commuters, older drivers, and notoriously dangerous younger drivers, we cyclists are literally marginalized. We’re pushed to the edge.  Also a hazard are the relatively short blocks and many intersections. Add a dollop of entitlement and a sprinkling of road rage and, well, you see the problem.

Actually you feel the problem. Intimidation and harassment are constant companions on the streets of Beverly Hills (and much of the urban area too). I have to look out for myself because my city’s not looking out for me. There are no bike lanes, share-the-road-markings, or signage that, at a bare minimum, would remind under-educated motorists that I have a right to the road.

I’ve been riding in urban settings for many years and am confident in my own skills, but it is the unpredictability of my encounters with motorists that leave me sometimes shaken. We all have my anecdotal stories, but one of my favorites recalls the driver with whom I shared a long descent down Benedict Canyon. First the driver nearly clipped my leg on a particularly fast stretch, but because of stop lights, he had two more bites at that apple. After the third (!) very close call I took him to task.

Cyclists shouldn’t have to literally argue for their safety. It’s the responsibility of transportation planners, engineers, and law enforcement to ensure that the roads are safe for everyone. Though I’m not necessarily uncomfortable in the vehicle mix, I do wish that my city recognized me and my fellow cyclists as first-class road users.

What can be done? For starters, let’s pick the lowest-hanging fruit. Santa Monica Boulevard is an obstacle course of hazards for the cyclist. Dips, troughs, and moguls force the biker into the left third of the lane, which undermines the laws’ requirement to ride to the right and plunges the cyclist into the path – and ire – of the harried motorist. The corridor receives twice the volume of Wilshire and Olympic (50,000 vehicles per day on average) and would seem to be ideally positioned as a bike-friendly through-route connecting the bike lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

We have an opportunity to offer our vision of a bike-friendly Santa Monica Boulevard because Beverly Hills is about to undertake improvements over the next 2-3 years. Scoping is just now underway, and we want to kick off the process with good ideas and models of success.

How can you make a difference? Join up with the ‘Better Bike BH’ effort to that includes cyclists rather than literally marginalizes them. We hold meetings every Sunday at 4 pm at Peets Coffee (258 S. Beverly Dr.) in Beverly Hills. Join the Google Group to receive meeting notices and follow our progress on the Better Bike BH project wiki. We’ll need your help to put in place the missing piece of the region’s bikeways backbone. With your participation, we can make Beverly Hills safer and more enjoyable for cyclists of all ages, and ensure that alternative transportation users can get where we’re going safely too.

Breaking news: No Contest plea in Ed Magos case

Evidently, there’s a resolution in what has been a sore point for L.A. cyclists for most of this year.

As you may recall, city employee Ed Magos was hit by a Porsche while riding to work on January 6th of this year. The driver allegedly got out of her car, looked at Magos laying in the street, and — ignoring his pleas for help — got back in her car and drove off.

Angelina Everett later stopped at a police station, and reportedly told the officer working the desk that she “might have hit something.”

And in a case of remarkable absurdity, both the DA and City Attorney initially declined to file charges until complaints from cyclists and a new Police Chief caused the CA’s office to reconsider the case. That eventually lead to the filing misdemeanor charges for leaving the scene of a collision resulting in physical injuries (CVC 20001) and property damage (CVC 2002A).

Now frequent contributor Dj Wheels reports that Everett has plead no contest to both counts, with sentencing tentatively scheduled for 1:30 pm on November 3rd.

No other details yet, so we’ll have to see how it turns out. But reading between the lines, it sounds like she reached a plea deal, which probably means a minimal sentence.

Then again, even that would be a lot better than it looked like this case would turn out before the bike community got involved.

Update: I’ve been informed by someone with inside knowledge of this case that no plea deal has been reached. If you’re available to attend the sentencing hearing, a large turnout could have an impact what sentence the judge imposes.

Cyclist killed in San Bernardino hit-and-run; drunk driver kills cyclist in Ramona

It was another bad weekend for Southern California cyclists, with yet another fatal hit-and-run, as well as one more in the seemingly endless list of bike riders killed by drunk drivers.

However, in both cases, the riders may have been at least partially at fault.

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After killing a woman riding a bike, a heartless ex-con stopped for a midnight snack at Jack in the Box before fleeing the scene.

At least, that’s what the police initially thought.

About 12:15 am on Friday, 43-year old Lauretto Jean Romo was riding a mountain bike on Highland Avenue where it meets the 215 Freeway bridge in San Bernardino. According to reports, she was wearing dark clothing and riding west in the eastbound lane — without a light — when she was hit by a dark green vehicle, which then took off.

Romo was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:42 am.

For a change, the stories did not note whether she was wearing a helmet, perhaps recognizing that it wouldn’t have mattered. The car hit with so hard that the bike was broken in half and pieces of the vehicle were found at the scene.

According to the Press Enterprise, police followed a trail of automotive fluid about 200 yards to a nearby Jack in the Box, where surveillance video showed Bobby Joe Jackson, a convicted bank robber out on federal probation, calmly ordering a meal at the drive-through window in a green Honda Civic. Employees reported that he appeared to be intoxicated.

As a result, police put out a bulletin identifying Jackson as the suspect, and asking anyone with information to contact them.

Problem is, it looks like he didn’t do it. San Bernardino police cleared Jackson after he turned himself in on Monday.

Authorities continue to look for a dark green vehicle with front end damage. Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Dave Carlson at 909/384-5664.

The irony is, had the driver remained at the scene, he or she probably would not have been at fault; now the driver faces up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $10.000 for a fatal hit-and-run.

Thanks to DC and reb1 for updates on Monday.

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In a separate incident, a cyclist was killed by a suspected drunk driver in Ramona on Saturday night, about 28 miles northeast of San Diego.

The Ramona Sentinel reports that 54-year old David Bruce Menea was riding west on Main Street near Kalbaugh Street, and attempting to cross the street when he was hit and thrown onto the roadway by an SUV driven by 32-year old Suzanne Nicole Reed.

Meanwhile, the SUV continued into a stop sign, over an embankment and struck a parked car with two people inside, knocking it through the front window of a nearby liquor store.

Even though the driver was arrested for suspicion of DUI, media reports blamed the cyclist for the collision. According to the Sentinel, a CHP officer said that Reed was “unable to avoid the bicycle in front of her,” while other reports indicate that Menea was “illegally crossing” Main when he was struck, with no explanation of exactly what that means or how he may have violated the law.

Then again, it’s easy to blame the cyclist when he’s not alive to tell his side of the story.

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More on Monday’s stage 16 of the Vuelta won by Mikel Nieve; new leader Joaquin Rodriguez says his 33 second lead isn’t enough to survive Wednesday’s time trial.

Luxembourg cyclist Kim Kirchen plans to return to racing, despite suffering a heart attack earlier this year — and with an implanted defibrillator. And local racer Rahsaan Bahati donated a limited edition Cannondale Graffiti Bike to raise funds for World Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities.

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Park(ing) Day prepares to take over the city on Friday, with parking space parks from the Bikerowave and Flying Pigeon; Green LA Girl directs your attention to sites from Santa Monica Spoke and de Lab, as well as the website for Park(ing) Day LA.

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LADOT Bike Blog creates a Google Map showing all the department’s bicycling facility projects completed or underway this year. LACBC reports progress on bike racks in the McArthur Park, Pico Union and Rampart Village areas, and calls on cyclists to support improvements in the new West Hollywood General Plan. A USC writer calls for a real plan to deal with the 10,000 to 15,000 cyclists on campus. Claremont may play host to a stage in next year’s Tour of California. A writer for the Orange County Register joins with the OC Wheelmen to challenge other bike clubs to enforce safety rules for their members. A gutter bunny transforms into safer cyclist. Compared to Singapore, bicycling in Las Vegas isn’t that bad. Who says bikes don’t have turn signals? Biking Cape Cod in the fall. In a doubly tragic event, a driver hits a cyclist after leaving a birthday party — then kills himself after realizing he’d just killed the man who’s birthday he’d been celebrating; link courtesy of Witch on a Bicycle. The cyclist killed by a New York City bus on Saturday after being doored by a driver has been identified as a 23-year old woman who rode her bike everywhere; the driver was charged with unlicensed operation of a vehicle. An Oklahoma driver unexpectedly pleads no contest to first degree manslaughter and DUI for the death of two cyclists last year. The Interbike Trade Expo returns to the Anaheim Convention Center next year, and moves up to August.  Handcrafted fixies will go on display in London next month. More offerings to drool over from Eurobike. including the latest foldies. Brit riders can visit the birthplace of the Titanic in Northern Ireland this weekend. Cyclists wanting to lose weight should cut down on carbs, not cut them out.

Finally, transform your two-wheeled steed into a real one. Well, sort of.

Monday morning links: big news in the Vuelta, fighting bike theft, who’s at fault in collisions?

Vicenzo Nibali of the Liquigas Doimo team takes over the leader jersey in the Vuelta, after overall leader Igor Anton crashes out just 7 km from the finish of stage 14 at an estimated 50 mph; teammate Egoi Martinez also crashed out of the race, causing initial, apparently false, reports they had touched wheels. Rodriguez gets the stage win, while Nico Roche and Frank Schleck move up to fifth and sixth, respectively.

Quickstep’s Carlos Barredo wins Sunday’s stage 15 by over a minute in a solo breakaway up Spain’s most celebrated climb, and one he first rode as a child.

Spoiler alert: skip this line if you recorded Monday’s Vuelta to watch later. There’s a new leader as Nibali cracks in today’s mountainous stage 16; Schleck moves into striking distance, but is it too late?

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Sometimes you just need the right motivation. Travelin’ Local looks forward to this Friday’s Parking Day. A ride up the San Gabriel’s Glendora Mountain Road. Cyclists help rescue a woman trapped in her car. Remembering a jazz musician, father and cyclist killed in a late August hit-and-run. No charges for the teenage driver who killed a cyclist last May when his flip flop got tangled on the gas pedal. Introducing the new Surly Cargo Trailer. A New York woman is killed after being doored by a driver and knocked into the path of a bus; the driver who allegedly caused the collision left the scene to attend a baby shower. A triathlete collides with a car that somehow got onto the bike segment of the course; fortunately, there was a doctor at the scene. Crains says bike storage is the latest must-have apartment amenity. An Ottawa woman faces charges for stealing a car, driving drunk and killing a teenaged cyclist. After a parade of anti-bike mayoral candidates, Toronto finally sees one come out in support of cycling. Bicyclists who ride religiously now have their own church. Brits fight to save Cycling England from being dismantled in government budget cuts. Is $75 too much for a single tube and tire that will never go flat? The makes of a new auto safety device claim it will end car vs bike collisions once and for all. Yeah, right. A bike thief offers advice on how to keep yours from being stolen. Taiwan police arrest a man for bike theft — then pitch in to buy him one. Recycle your old bicycle to benefit people in Third World countries. Cyclists in Sydney refuse to use the new bike lanes, even if they will eventually lead to Russell Crowe’s house. An Aussie cyclist says the extra 10 seconds it takes to pass a bike safely isn’t going to ruin anyone’s life. Budapest’s Critical Mass will be more like critical chaos as riders are directed to ride a route in either direction with no start time or place.

Finally, a study of traffic collisions in Berlin shows that cyclists are responsible for half of all collisions and most biking fatalities, while an Aussie study found drivers responsible for most crashes — and 85% of drivers involved had previous traffic violations on their records.

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