Archive for December 31, 2011

Pomona hit-and-run killer arrested, OC Register’s Dan Whiting questioned, and a Westwood pothole fail

The driver who killed Rafael Perez in a Pomona hit-and-run on Wednesday has turned himself in to the police.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 67-year old Chino resident Rodger Allen Karcher walked into the Pomona Police Station around 8 pm Thursday. Police speculated that Karcher turned himself in after hearing media coverage of the collision, in which the victim was dragged half a block under Karcher’s SUV.

The Tribune reports that his SUV was also located, and matched the evidence found at the seen.

Karcher was booked on suspicion of hit-and-run causing death, and was being held on $50,000 bail; arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court.

Yes, that’s a lousy $50,000 for dragging a man half a city block to his death.

And of course, Karcher may — or may not — have been drunk as a skunk when the collision occurred. But if he was, he had plenty of time to sober up in the 26-and-a-half hours before he turned himself in.

Thanks to Opus the Poet for the heads-up.

……..

I’m still hearing from cyclists about David Whiting’s recent columns about bicycling in the Orange County Register.

As I’ve said before, Whiting seems to have his heart in the right place. I have no doubt that he genuinely cares about keeping riders safe, and ending the seemingly eternal conflict between riders and drivers behind the Orange Curtain — one that has contributed to a nearly one a month rate of biking fatalities in the county.

On the other hand, that’s a hell of a lot better than the 21 riders killed on OC streets in 2006, or even the 15 killed the following year.

The problem is that Whiting seems to blame the victims, placing more than our share of responsibility firmly on the helmets and wheels of riders. And interpreting bike laws in an overly conservative manner, including a common misconception that riding two or more abreast is against the law — even though that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the California Vehicle Code.

Mark Loftus, author of the insightful riding website The C-Blog — I particularly like his explanation of why we roadies wear such ridiculous clothes — copied me on an email he sent to Whiting in response to his latest column on bicycling.

I have a quick observation that I was hoping you might see fit to print in the future…

There are several comments from readers included in your piece (referenced above) that go something like this:

  • I saw cyclists doing this (breaking a perceived law).
  • I saw cyclists run this light.
  • I saw a cyclist run that stop sign.
  • I saw cyclists do that.

And then these comments conclude with something akin to:

  • Cyclists should not be allowed on the road.
  • Cyclists should ride on bike paths.

I will not debate the validity of these observations except to say that many comments, on many different websites (not just your article) put out a cyclist “infraction” and it’s not really against the law anyway because the writer apparently doesn’t know/understand the law.

At any rate, why is it, in articles that draw out comments such as these, we don’t see comments also saying:

  • I saw a car driver not stop at a stop sign.
  • I saw a car driver texting while driving.
  • I saw a car driver blocking the whole lane and they wouldn’t let me pass. I had to pass on the shoulder or into oncoming traffic.
  • I saw a car driver run that red light.

And then, these comments could conclude with:

  • Car drivers should not be allowed on the road.

Food for thought, I should think.

Whiting responded positively, indicating that he’s written critically about drivers in the past. And may do so again soon.

Now that’s something I’ll look forward to reading.

……..

Finally, a major Streets Services fail in Westwood.

In the roughly 18 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood, I’ve noticed a repeated problem at the corner of Manning and Ohio Avenues.

A near constant flow of water through the gutter on the west side of the intersection results in a massive recurring pothole undermining the eastbound lane — in fact, you can even see it in this Google satellite photo.

For nearly two decades, I’ve watched as the city would send out a crew to patch the pavement, without ever doing anything about the root cause of the problem. And every time, the patch would only hold for a few months — or in some cases, weeks — before washing out again under the continual barrage of water and traffic.

Never mind that if they figured out where the water was coming from, they might be able to actually solve the problem, and save a fortune in perennial pothole repair.

Maybe they’re finally catching on.

Instead of patching the pothole once again, after doing it yet again just a few months earlier, the city responded by placing warning signs directly over the potholes.

In the middle of the traffic lane.

So instead of investing a few bucks worth of asphalt for yet another temporary fix, they’ve decided to avoid the issue entirely.

And hope drivers manage to avoid the signs placed directly in their path, forcing them to go around by either cutting into the heavily trafficked pedestrian crosswalk on the right. Or cut around the signs on the left by entering the oncoming traffic lane.

Neither of which is a reasonable — or even rational — expectation.

And never mind that the second option places motorists directly in the path of vehicles coming over a blind hill, at an intersection where drivers frequently roll through the stop in all four directions.

And of course, when the inevitable collision occurs, if it hasn’t already, it will be your tax dollars that will pay the city’s share of the damages.

All because some rocket scientist thought putting a warning sign in a traffic lane was a better idea than patching the damn pothole one more time. Let alone finding the problem causing the posthole to keep coming back.

And fixing it.

Best wishes to all for a very healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

Update: Cyclist murdered in Pomona hit-and-run

Evidently, it was just too much to ask.

I’d been hoping that we could somehow manage to make it through this year without another cyclist getting killed. But Wednesday night, those hopes were dashed in a gruesome hit-and-run in rush hour traffic.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the driver was traveling northbound on Towne Ave in Pomona around 5:30 pm — KCBS-2 lists it as precisely 5:29 — when he struck a male cyclist crossing Towne on 6th Street. The green Dodge or Chrysler SUV then continued without stopping, dragging the victim half a block to his death.

The SUV was last seen traveling east on Mission Blvd, with moderate to major front-end damage.

As usual, the rider has not been publicly identified pending notification of next of kin.

And yes, this should be considered a homicide, regardless of who might have originally been at fault. Had the driver stopped at the scene, the victim may or may not have had a chance. But by heartlessly dragging him down the street, the driver undoubtedly — and knowingly — contributed to his death.

And there should be no question of intent. Dragging someone that far without stopping pretty well indicates that, at best, the driver didn’t give a damn whether the victim lived or died.

Anyone with information is urged to call Pomona police at 909/622-1241.

This is the 22nd confirmed traffic-related bike fatality in Los Angeles County this year, and the 67th in the greater Southern California area. This is also the 5th fatal hit-and-run in L.A. County, and 12th in SoCal.

Update: The victim has been identified as 44-year old Gabriel Perez of Pomona; according to KNBC-4, he was riding home from work when he was killed, leaving behind a wife and daughter. 

KNBC captures the heartrending reaction from Perez’ widow.

“I want to ask that person – why didn’t he help at that moment? Why did he leave?” said Patty Cardenas, Perez’ wife. “Maybe there was a chance my husband still be alive.”

Cardenas is now faced with the challenge of telling her 8-year-old daughter about her husband’s death. So far, she’s isolated her from hearing the news.

“Oh what can I say! What can I say! Tell me!” said Cardenas. “He was loving. Loving to his daughter. Right now I don’t know how I am going to tell her about this!”

My heart and prayers go out to Gabriel Perez and all his family and loved ones.

Dahab arraigned, CA cops under no obligation to investigate or report, and Santa left a bunch of links

Catching up on lots of bike and semi-bike related stuff left over from the pre- and post holiday madness.

……..

Cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels attended the arraignment hearing for Christine Dahab, the driver accused in the allegedly drunken/distracted collision that injured 11 or more riders in Culver City last June.

At the arraignment, Dahab’s attorney entered a not guilty plea on her behalf and set a date of January 13, 2012 for a preliminary setting at 8:30am in Dept. 142.

When the issue of setting bail came up the defense attorney suggested the bail NOT be set at the scheduled guideline amount of over 300k and that the court use its discretion in setting bail at an amount between 50-60k, which would be fair considering a number of factors that he says showed that Dahab was not a danger to society nor a flight risk, such as: she has a 7 yr old daughter to care for, she has lived and worked on the Westside of LA her whole life, currently works as a server at a restaurant in Marina Del Rey, the fact that the collision was the result of carelessness and not purposeful intent to harm, she has no prior convictions whatsoever, only had a .07 BAC, police reports indicate that perhaps cyclists were also at fault for being in the roadway and standing under a streetlight that was out.

After a sidebar with the Judge and attorneys, the prosecutor objected citing the numerous serious injuries, the fact that the .07 was recorded hours after the incident occurred and most likely was above the legal limit at the time.  The DA also noted that there were open containers of alcohol in the vehicle as well as empty prescription bottles for medical marijuana and even an empty Yoshinoya cup that also had traces of alcohol in it.  He insisted that the bail be set at the suggested scheduled amount per the guidelines.

Ultimately the judge agreed that bail needed to be set, but not at the amount suggested by defense counsel. So she set it at 100,000. Dahab was taken into custody at the end of the hearing. She had a group of five or six people there with her including what appeared to be a mother and a boyfriend.

Christine Dahab was released after posting a bond on her 100k bail sometime in the early afternoon, according to the Sheriff’s inmate locator page.

Wheels suggests it could take some time for Dahab’s attorney to dig through all the various — and possibly conflicting — reports from the LAPD and CCPD in this case.

So I wouldn’t count on an early resolution.

……..

Meanwhile, Century City bankruptcy attorney and cyclist Stanley E. Goldich sends word that a California court has ruled that police officers are under no obligation to gather information or file a report on a collision — even if they promise the victim they will.

A California Court of appeal ruling relating to a collision between a car and motorcycle on Encinal where the police officer covered up and destroyed the information on the driver of the car who hit the motorcyclist.  The Court held there was no liability because (1) there was no duty to file a report - the CHP Accident Manual requiring filing of a report did not have the force of law, (2) the fact that policeman promised to get the information on the driver and the injured motorcyclist relied on this did not create a special relationship and (3) there was no tort claim for spoliation of evidence because of the immunity of the government.

As Goldich points out, it’s worth knowing that you can’t always rely on the police to get the necessary information following a collision, even if there’s a serious injury.

Actually, it’s kind of scary.

He adds that he stopped at the scene of a recent collision on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica in which a rider in the bike lane was right-hooked by a driver attempting to pull into a parking space.

Since the rider was not seriously injured, the police told Goldich they wouldn’t be filing a report — leaving the cyclist on his own to gather information. And a little too late, since the only witness had already left the scene, and the driver was refusing to admit anything.

Fortunately, the victim had a working GPS which should provide evidence of how the collision occurred. But it’s just another example of how you can’t always count on the police to provide the information you need following a collision.

And it’s up to you to get the driver’s license and insurance information, as well as contact information for any witnesses — even if you’re still confused or in pain following the impact.

……..

A couple of interesting looks at becoming a bike commuter, as L.A. expat Amanda Lipsey relates her journey to a car-free lifestyle and Development Director for Adventure Cycling. And a DC writer says it takes a village.

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Writing for the Wall Street Journal, sportswriter Jason Gay says everyone should get lit this New Years. At least when it comes to biking.

Don’t let anyone tell you that lights aren’t cool. Here’s what’s not cool: ambulance rides.

This easy resolution may save your life, without you even realizing it.

I’ve kind of avoided the Journal since Rupert took over. But as long as Mr. Gay sticks around, I may want to take another look.

……..

Great feature in the new Los Angeles Magazine on UCLA professor and parking rock star Donald Shoup and the high toll automobile parking takes on cities — especially right here in Los Angeles, with more parking per acre Downtown than any other city on earth.

……..

L.A. bike advocate and recent candidate for city council Stephen Box celebrates the holidays as a proud new papa. Cyclists aren’t always the good guys, as a bike rider shoots and kills a man in South L.A. Richard Risemberg criticizes the same crumbling Imperial Highway bike lanes I wrote about last March. A Santa Monica columnist criticizes “arrogant creeps” and “clowns” on “multi-speed bikes” after a bad experience with a jerk on the beachfront bike path. Warner Center envisions new bike and walking paths to connect with the L.A. River. Canoga Park gets more bike racks. Claremont forms a new community bike group, with an inaugural ride Sunday, January 8th; link courtesy of the Claremont Cyclist. Claremont’s Safe Routes to School program will be sponsoring a League of American Bicyclists-approved bike safety training program for adult riders at the end of next month.

An Orange County cyclist was critically injured in a Santa Ana collision Christmas evening. A 12-year old San Diego boy suffers a broken leg when his bike is struck by a hit-and-run driver. San Diego’s Brown Girl in the Lane strikes a chord with readers around the world as she takes Vehicular Cyclists to task, and more than once. Cyclocross comes to Cal State San Marcos next month. Cyclelicious looks at the conflicts between cyclists and the Santa Cruz Sierra Club. San Jose firemen fix up a tricycle to give to a disabled friend.

Bob Mionske takes Californian Governor Jerry Brown to task for endangering cyclists by joining Texas Governor Rick Perry as the only state leaders to veto the three-foot passing law. Apparently, American youth have fallen out of love with the automobile. Bicycling (upper case) offers 101 things they love about bicycling (lower case). Bicycling’s Neil Bedzek says maybe it’s time to hang up his headphones for good. How to straighten steel bike forks. A Minnesota cyclist gets left hooked, then ticketed for improper crossing of a roadway. A New York Councilmember promises a continued crackdown on cyclists next year. Next on your reading table, a new collection of short fiction centered around bikes.

A secret Canadian base trained bicycling spies in WWII. The BBC names reigning world champ Mark Cavendish as their sports personality of the year. Fascinating views of an empty London on Christmas morning. London fails — by a wide margin — to meet their target goals for reducing bike fatalities and serious injuries by half over 1990’s levels. UK stats suggest bike fatalities increase during economic downturns; SoCal figures for this year certainly support that thesis. A new Aussie study suggests Sydney cycling rates could double if mandatory helmet laws were repealed. A Chinese ebike rider survives a direct hit by a speeding truck in a graphic video.

Finally, great advice on what to do if you’re the victim of a collision.

When the police ask if you’re injured, the correct answer is always yes; as the article notes, injuries that aren’t apparent at the scene often show up later. The right response could protect both your health and your legal rights.

The weather promises to be great here in L.A. the next few days; get out on your bike and enjoy it.

A Hi-Viz approach to blaming — and trying to save — the victims

Growing up in Colorado, I quickly learned to wear my brightest attire when venturing into the woods during hunting season, lest someone mistake me for Bambi’s mother.

Not that we look the least bit alike.

But still, there was always the risk that some armed fool might sense movement, raise and fire without first determining just what the hell he was shooting at.

Even riding my bike, I had to worry about hunters mistakenly assuming that deer tend to travel at relatively high speeds on paved roads wearing spandex. And have spoked wheels instead of legs.

Things that should be readily apparent at a glance to even the most sleep deprived, drunken and/or inexperienced idiot with a high-powered hunting rifle. And it never ceases to amaze me just how many of those we’re willing to arm and send out into the world.

But every year, it seemed like one or more people would get shot just because they ventured out into the woods when the beer and blood lust was running high.

And almost without exception, it would be written off as just an accident.

After all, the shooter didn’t mean to kill anyone. Even if the victim would still be alive if the person with the gun had taken just a few more seconds to verify what he was shooting at before pulling the trigger.

Instead, the authorities would inevitably blame the victim for venturing out without high-visibility clothing, even though the hunters themselves were usually in camouflage gear.* Or just being outdoors in the relative wilderness, when anyone with a salt-lick of sense would know they just didn’t belong there.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.

Despite the requirement for a license, and a proliferation of hunter safety classes, it was still up to everyone else to stay the hell out of the hunters’ way, rather than on hunters not to shoot those on two legs instead of four.

After all, they’d suggest, you should know there are people with guns out there. And it’s up to you to stay the hell out of their way.

Or at least make sure they see you if you do.

Sort of like cyclists and pedestrians are expected to do everything short of setting off a thermonuclear device to get a driver’s attention.

No, seriously.

Don’t require drivers to pay attention to what’s in the road directly in front of them. Or improve infrastructure to help keep everyone safe.

No, the standard solution is to put the blame squarely on the potential victim, rather than on the ones capable of causing harm.

Or as former competitive cyclist and current OC attorney David Huntsman put it, it’s like handing out longer skirts to prevent sexual harassment.

It was David who forwarded me a link to a New Zealand story praising a local trucking company for handing out hi-vis vests to cyclists.

The article quotes Tony Gare, general manager of Icon Logistics, discussing a collision one of his drivers had with a dark-attired cyclist, who fortunately was only slightly injured.

“If he had been wearing high-visibility clothing instead, the crash might not have happened.”

There were many cyclists in Dunedin who did not wear the visibility gear, he said.

So Mr Gare bought several hundred high-visibility vests, at a cost of about $50 each, to give away to cyclists.

“If, at the end of the day, it’s going to save someone’s life, it will be worth it.”

Clearly, his heart is in the right place.

Even if his efforts could, perhaps, be better directed by improving training for his drivers, rather than getting local cyclists to dress like people hiking through a high-fire hunting zone.

Huntsman, however, is clearly not one to let a matter such as this lie. So he sent the following email to Mr. Gare.

Mr. Tony Gare
Icon Logistics

 Mr. Gare,

The referenced article came across in my alerts this morning here in California.

First I want to say that the purchase of those reflective vests is a nice gesture.

However, as a logistics firm, isn’t your organization better suited to assess and address the education and habits (and any deficiencies) of truck drivers?  I’m curious to know if your firm has taken any steps in that direction.

Of course it would be helpful if all cyclists and pedestrians dressed in day-glo.  But focusing on that aspect of accident prevention distracts from the other side of the equation – the motorists’ side.

Regards,

David Huntsman

Remarkably, the response came just a few minutes later.

Dear David

Thank you for your email regarding the Hi Vis Vests.

As a company Icon Logistics Ltd  is very proactive in its driver training and all safety matters whether it be on road or off. We have regular Training,  Health and Safety sessions, including those with the local enforcement agencies to keep our staff aware of their responsibilities in operating heavy vehicles.

On this occasion our most senior driver, plus the truck turning into the freight yard failed to see the cyclist because he was indistinguishable from the parked vehicles. This accident occurred on a heavy traffic bypass and an industrial area and as a result of this many of the business in the area have asked for changes in where people can park so turning vehicles have better visibility. While we can’t direct people where to ride, they also must take a degree of responsibility to ensure they can be seen and the choice of roads that they use.

Our General Manger, Tony, has kept in touch with the cyclist, to ensure he has had no further health issues, has replaced his bike and ensured he has the proper reflective clothing.

Regards

Glenda

 Glenda Kempton
Administration Officer

And a few hours later, this came in from Mr. Gare himself.

Hi David

Thanks for your e-mail but as far as training goes in this situation the cyclist was in a heavy transport area with-out any hi-viz and the driver concerned and all of our drivers to this point are well trained and equipped in all aspects of the heavy transport industry

Many Thanks for your response

Kind Regards

Tony Gare
General Manager
Icon Logistics Ltd

Evidently, there’s a punctuation shortage down there in Kiwi land.

But don’t get me wrong.

Like David Huntsman, I appreciate the gesture. Even more when it’s done on a more personal basis, simply because someone cares.

I’m also a firm believer in being as visible as practical, if not as possible. I make a point of riding where I can be seen by everyone else on the road, and lighting myself up like a Christmas tree after dark.

And I’ve learned over the years that what I wear makes a big difference in how well drivers see me. Bright reds, yellows and whites seem to result in far fewer close calls, while an otherwise good bright blue jersey seems to mean dodging cars all day.

I call it my cloak of invisibility because it somehow seems to make me disappear from drivers’ view.

But I draw the line at wearing fluorescent vests to ensure that those who should see me anyway actually do. Let alone that we don’t blend in with parked cars, not one of which I have ever seen that looked even remotely like a bike rider.

There is a point at which drivers must be held accountable for seeing other road users and operating their vehicles safely, without cyclists having to light themselves up with neon signs to point out their position on the road.

Just as hunters have an obligation not to pull the trigger until they know what the hell they’re shooting at.

……..

One quick suggestion for anyone who still hasn’t finished their holiday shopping.

L.A.’s own Pure Fix Cycles offers this very cool $1000 table made with their own Pure Fix Urban Forks and custom wheels, in your choice of frame and wheel colors. Or maybe you’d prefer one of their single speed/fixed gear bikes, starting at just $300 — each of which comes standard with front brakes, as well as optional rear brakes.

After all, if comes down to a choice of brakes or wearing a Hi-Viz vest, I’d rather err on the side of stopping.

*Whenever I see someone dressed in camo, I have to resist the urge to run up and say “I can totally see you, you know.”

Stephanie Segal pleads No Contest in last year’s Agoura Hills death of cyclist James Laing

Jim Laing, photo courtesy of his sister Peggy Laing-Krause

It looks like the Laing family may get closure for Christmas.

I heard from a reliable source Wednesday afternoon that Stephanie Segal has entered a plea of No Contest to both counts in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last year.

That means she is not admitting guilt in the case, but won’t fight the charges, and will accept the court’s judgment in the case.

The judge has already indicated that he intends to impose a sentence of at least nine years in state prison, with formal sentencing to take place in late January of next year.

Laing was riding on in the bike lane on Agoura Hills Road on the afternoon of Saturday, October 23rd of last year, when he was run down from behind by Segal’s car and died at the scene. She fled the scene, and was followed by witnesses to a nearby parking lot, where she was arrested with a blood alcohol content of .26 — over three times the legal limit.

She almost immediately entered a rehab facility, where she spent much of the past year, whether in a genuine attempt to get help, or a callous — and failed — attempt to get leniency from the court.

By all accounts, Segal has refused to take any responsibility for getting drunk and climbing behind the wheel, let alone needlessly taking the life of an innocent human being.

I’m told that her testimony — against the advice of both the court and her own attorney — in the preliminary hearing was contradictory and confusing, backpedalling repeatedly as she attempted to shift the blame and explain away her actions.

Her attorney seemed to be making the case that she hadn’t attempted to flee, but merely continued driving until reaching a safe place to stop.

Right.

Laing’s sister Carolyn also reports that she tried to blame Laing for kicking her Mercedes Benz, which appears to have been a last-ditch effort to push away from her car in a failed attempt to save his own life.

In other words, he saw it coming. And there was nothing he could do.

Somehow, kicking a car in self defense seems to pale when compared to the drunken murder of another person. But Segal still doesn’t seem to get that.

By all accounts, she came off as arrogant and argumentative during her ill-advised testimony; I suspect her attorney strongly advised her to plead guilty to the charges to avoid digging herself in any deeper.

As one person put it to me, failure to do so after her dramatic failure on the stand probably would have been legal malpractice.

Of course, she’s not likely to spend the full term behind bars. The current prison overcrowding problems mean she’s likely to be released long before the nine years are up. And as a non-violent offender, she may even do her time in county jail.

But I wouldn’t count on getting time off for good behavior, either.

We can only hope that she’ll finally grasp the consequences of her actions as she sits in her cell, for however long that may end up being.

But at least the loved ones Jim Laing left behind can finally end this year with the light of a very long and tragic tunnel firmly in sight.

Update: An anonymous comment below indicates that Segal will be required to spend at least 85% of her sentence behind bars due to the nature and severity of her crime, and that the sentencing will take place on January 26th in the Malibu courthouse.

Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Mini Monkey Lights

This seems like an oddly appropriate topic for the first day of Hanukkah.

A couple of months ago, I got an offer from MonkeyLectric inviting me to try out their new Mini Monkey Light.

Their timing was perfect.

I’ve been doing a lot more after dark riding this year as I’ve tried reducing the number of wheels required to attend various meetings by half. Especially since I can ride Downtown from my Westside apartment as fast, if not faster, than I can drive there, with less aggravation and no expensive search for parking at the other end.

And a lot more fun along the way.

The problem was one of safety.

I’m a firm believer in being seen. If I’m going to ride at night, I want to be lit up like a Christmas tree. Or in keeping with today’s theme, a Hanukkah bush.

But finding the side wheel reflectors required under state law has proven virtually impossible. And anyone who actually relies on reflectors to capture the attention of the city’s huge population of texting drivers had better make sure their medical insurance is current.

I had no better luck finding lights to attach to my spokes, as the only one I came up with only managed to stay attached until I hit the first massive pothole. Which, given the state of L.A. streets, was about a half block from home.

Besides, anything named Mini Monkey Light had to be fun. Right?

So I quickly agreed, and sure enough, it arrived just in time for my next Downtown meeting. A meeting my riding partner and I were over half an hour late for, as I struggled to make sense of the cryptic instructions that seemed to be missing a step or two.

But after installing and uninstalling and reinstalling it more than once — okay, more thrice — I finally managed to get it hooked up and working. And soon found my office lit up with an ever-changing series of brightly colored lights.

Since those installation issues delayed our departure, that put us on the road well after dark, providing an immediate test of the Mini Monkey Light.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone else seemed to notice. Drivers gave me a wider than usual berth, perhaps unsure what kind of crazy cyclist would ride with a spinning kaleidoscope lights on his front wheel.

The 10 exceptionally bright LEDs formed an ever-changing pattern of spinning 8-bit graphics, providing a series of blocky patterns that rotated around the wheel if I rode slowly; a solid circular loop pattern if I rode faster. Although that seemed to happen at little higher speed than the company said, becoming a solid loop around 17 – 18 mph, as opposed to the promised 15 mph.

The result for my first 12.5 mile trip using the lights in rush hour traffic, not a single close call. Which is almost unheard of in L.A. traffic, day or night.

Same thing on the way back, as the design of the lights offered increased visibility from virtually any angle — even from the rear. In fact, I found myself choosing to ride caboose, allowing the brilliant cacophony of light to call attention to our petite peloton. Yet not feeling the slightest bit more vulnerable despite the more exposed position.

Not to mention, it was fun.

Okay, a blast.

As I rode, I saw pedestrians, drivers and other riders turn to look, many with just a touch of mirth apparent on their faes. And I found myself having more fun that I have in ages.

Something that seems to be repeated every time I use them.

Surprisingly, even with the heavy battery pack containing three standard AA batteries, it didn’t seem to affect my speed in the slightest. Mounting the battery pack to the wheel hub reduces the effect of the added weight; I found myself easily maintaining my usual cruising speed of 18 – 20 mph with the light installed, and able to sprint at much higher speeds.

And after roughly 20 hours of use, the light is still going strong; the company says the batteries should last up to 40 hours.

Which brings up a few minor complaints, aside from the cryptic instructions.

Mainly the way the light unit is connected.

It’s designed to be attached to the wheel using zip ties — like modern plastic handcuffs — which makes it difficult to remove for daytime riding.

The Mini Monkey Light is most practical for riders who will install it once and leave it there. As opposed to someone like me who mostly rides during the day, and doesn’t want to leave unnecessary lights on the bike when they’re not going to be used.

I found myself attaching the waterproof light and battery pack with the supplied zip ties, then cutting them off the next morning; a wasteful and inconvenient process that quickly went through the handful of zip ties that came with it.

The solution I found was to use twist ties, like you get in the produce department of your local grocery, to attach the light unit. I still haven’t found a viable alternative to zip ties for the battery pack, though, which has to be attached tightly so it will stay in place without slipping around the hub.

That allows me to attach and remove the light unit quickly, though I still have to go through the awkward process of slipping scissors through the spokes to snip the battery pack off the hub.

The other problem is hooking up the wire that connects the two units.

The wires connect via a simple polarized plug-in connection, which can only go in one way. Unfortunately, the connector itself is small and awkward; difficult to manage during the day, and almost impossible fumbling in the dark with cold fingers.

That’s one thing they really need to address before the product starts shipping in February. There’s got to be a more convenient way to hook the wires together. Or at least better indicate how they should connect together.

But other than those relatively minor problems, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. In fact, I may consider getting another one for the back wheel.

It may be overkill in terms of safety.

But it works. And at just under $50, it’s affordable.

And more fun than a barrel full of…

Well, you know.

My apologies to MonkeyLectric — and you — for not getting to this sooner; the last few months have been remarkably hectic. Then again, it would help if drivers would just stop running us over so we could focus on happier subjects more often.

And this time of year especially, be sure to take lights with you during afternoon rides, even if you don’t intend to be out after dark. A simple flat or some other unexpected delay can easily keep you out after dark. 

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One quick legal note.

Dj Wheels reports that Christine Dahab, the allegedly drunk/distracted driver finally charged in the June late night Culver City collision that left a number of riders strewn about the roadway with various injuries — some serious — will be arraigned on Thursday.

The hearing will take place starting at 8:30 am in Department 144 of the Airport courthouse, 11701 La Cienega Blvd, 9th Floor, Case #SA079472.

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Best wishes for a very happy Hanukkah!

Take some time to ride your bike. And pet someone you love.

I started writing this last night.

The plan was to get it online late Saturday night, then move on to another subject I’ve been putting off far too long.

But about halfway through, the Corgi climbed into my lap, and politely suggested that my time might be put to better use petting her than pounding my keypad.

She had a point.

So I set down my work and spent the next hour or so reminding myself that what seems awfully important at the time often isn’t. And nothing is more important than letting loved ones know they are.

Even the furry four-footed ones.

So do yourself a favor. Take a break amid all the hustle and bustle of the season, and the mad rush to wrap things up before the end of the year.

Find a little time to get out on your bike. And remind yourself just why you love it so much.

But before you go, take just a moment to remind everyone you love that you really do love them every bit as much as you do your bike.

Maybe even more, if that’s possible.

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The Ventura County Star, which usually provides great coverage of cycling incidents, finally reports on the December 3rd collision that killed Hollywood writer/producer Carol Schreder.

Yet they remarkably neglect to mention the name of the victim. Or that she died from her injuries.

And to make matters worse, they have their comments disabled for this story, so readers can’t easily correct their inexplicable error.

……..

Welcome back to one of my favorite L.A. bike bloggers. A Times article on the environmental impact of online shopping gives a (very brief) shout out to shopping by bike. Downtown’s green bike lane is more peeling than appealing. Turns out the head of Santa Monica-based electric car manufacturer Coda Automotive is a full-time bike commuter. Maybe he should move to an upcoming SaMo development with plenty of bike parking but none for cars. Neon Tommy says L.A. and Metro are working towards a more bike-friendly city. Zooey Deschanel rides a bike. A 24-year old Baldwin Park cyclist is injured in a drive-by shooting. Long Beach’s biking expats report home from the New Zealand coast.

A homeless Huntington Beach cyclist is convicted of a vile racist attack on a Latina driver. Orange County bike advocate Frank Peters interviews Jeff Miller of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Cyclelicious rebuts the primary argument against the NTSB’s recent recommendation that cell use in cars should be banned entirely. Eighty-nine Imperial Valley children get a bike for Christmas, refurbished by local prison inmates. Sacramento plans to launch an expanded bike share program next year.

A champion Scot skier killed in Oregon last month was riding without lights and a BAC nearly twice the legal limit — and just one point below the driver who killed him. A Tucson cyclist is killed after being hit by a train. Boulder CO organization Community Cycles gives 300 bikes to local children. An Idaho driver is charged with intentionally running a cyclist off the road because he wouldn’t get the hell out of his way. Eight Choctaw children get refurbished bikes courtesy of tribal police. Milwaukee sheriff calls a proposed bike lane on a major bridge the dumbest thing he’s ever heard; a cyclist killed there recently would probably disagree. Didn’t get to this one when it first appeared, as Steve Vance asks if it’s safer to ride without a helmet or drive without a seat belt. Yes, Virginia, you can take your Christmas tree home by bike. Woody Allen says bikes are ruining the Big Apple. Harlem businesses fight a new bike lane, while a 17-year old Harlem cyclist gets killed. A DC police officer, who may have been off duty, runs down a cyclist. A North Carolina driver who killed a cyclist in a hit-and-run collision is returned to jail after being mistakenly released. A 19-year old rider on the Lees-McRae College cycling team is killed when a truck crosses onto the wrong side of the road to hit her head-on; cyclists ride in her honor in her Texas hometown. A Florida man continues his annual tradition by giving away over 800 bikes to local children; starting to notice a theme here?

Turns out carbon bikes have a very big carbon footprint. A high school teacher gets a three-year suspended sentence for killing an elderly cyclist, along with a couple of newly weds — and their dog — after apparently going into diabetic shock. British conservatives say it’s your fault if you get killed; a rash of unanswered fatalities suggest London’s BoJo may not be putting cyclists first, after all. A British Royal Air Force vet rides the full length of the country after recovering from war injuries including breaking nearly every major bone in his body and losing both legs. English adventurer — and U.S. bike victim — James Cracknell finds an alternative way of getting around. Scot time trial legend Graeme Obree sets out to set a new bike world speed record of up to 100 mph. There will be no sanctions for Jeannie Longo despite three missed drug tests. The Schleck brothers make their big screen debut. Aussie cyclists are victims of a Me culture. More on the remarkable recovery of Paralympic cycling champion — and possible Olympic competitor — Monique van der Vorst. South African drivers stake their claim to world’s worst; thanks to Todd Munson for the heads-up. A Singapore driver makes a U-turn to look at his cyclist victim before fleeing the scene.

Finally, more than bikes were racing at this weekend’s very successful CXLA Santa Cross cyclocross races. Maybe if I start the Corgi on a strict training regimen, she might be up to the challenge next year.

Thanks to Brian Black Hodes of Velo Images for the photos, and the afore mentioned Mr. Munson for twisting his arm to let me use them. And be sure to click on the link, if only to check out Hodes’ amazing photos, including a breathtaking shot of L.A.’s own former U.S. Crit champ Rahsaan Bahati.

And best wishes to longtime L.A. bike advocate Kent Strumpell for a full and fast recovery from recent surgery. If you ride anywhere in the L.A. area, you owe Kent a round of thanks for all he does to ensure safer roads and better riding conditions for all of us.

Ghost Bike for Carol Schreder, and a host of happy holiday events on a busy bike weekend

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

Bike Long Beach hosts Bike Saturdays every weekend; ride your bike to participating local shops and business throughout the city to get special offers and discounts.

C.I.C.L.E. hosts the last toy ride of the season with the 4th Annual Toys and Mittens Ride on Saturday, December 17th. The ride kicks off at 10 am at the Burbank Community Serviced Building at 3rd St. and Olive Ave in Burbank, and will collect toys and warm clothing to be distributed to local children and families in need.

Update: How could I have forgotten to mention the CXLA Santa Cross Weekend at the Greek? A full weekend off cyclocross racing in Griffith Park, starting at 9 am this Saturday and Sunday in Vermont Canyon, 2700 Vermont Canyon Road.

A ghost bike will be installed on Sunday, December 18 for Carol Schreder, the Hollywood writer/producer killed while riding on Mulholland Highway earlier this month. The ceremony will take place around 11 am near the intersection of Mulholland and Kanan Road.

Flying Pigeon’s Get Sum Dim Sum ride takes place on Sunday the 18th. Riders meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3714 N. Figueroa ST in Highland Park at 10 am, depart at 10:30; bring money for food. Bikes are available to rent for $20.

Also on Sunday, Walk Bike Glendale will lead a family-friendly holiday ride through the Rossmoyne and Glendale Hills neighborhoods, with a 7 pm stop at the Recess restaurant. The five-mile ride will depart from Nibley Park at 5:30 pm, returning around 8:30.

Tuesday, December 27th, the LACBC returns to Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse for the 3rd Annual Mid-Winter Merriment, 2911 Main Street. Good beer, good friends, bike valet and a portion of all sales goes to support cycling in the great L.A. area. What’s not to like?

Celebrate New Years Eve by riding with BMC cyclist and five-time Olympian George Hincapie at A Ride for Life in Santa Clarita benefitting Children’s Hospital L.A. and the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita. The event will feature rides of 30, 60 and 100 miles, as well as a kid’s ride and family walk; there will also be a “huge” expo with food and activities, and everyone is welcome — even your four-legged friends.

The next LACBC Sunday Funday Ride rolls to the Rose Parade on Sunday, January 2nd, led by board members Alex Amerri and Greg Laemmle; details to follow.

Update on Rush case, Segal takes the stand, and ride with George Hincapie on New Years Eve

Just a few quick notes on a cold L.A. day.

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First up, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels offers an update on yesterday’s preliminary hearing for Dominique and Steven Rush, the daughter and father team accused of first killing 17-year old cyclist Alex Romero (daughter), then covering it up (both).

Today’s hearing was very brief.  A preliminary hearing was scheduled for January 17, 2012 in Dept. 122 Van Nuys Courthouse.  Steven Rush appeared well dressed in a gray suit and sat behind his daughter who was brought out from the holding cells.  Date was selected as a “go date” meaning that barring any unforeseen circumstances or unavailability of key prosecution witnesses, the preliminary hearing will go forward.  German Alex Romero’s family all sat together in the courtroom and listened.

Wheels also notes that he has a good feeling about the prosecutor. So maybe we’ll actually see the sort of justice Alex and his family deserve for a change.

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Next, I received an anonymous report on Tuesday’s hearing for Stephanie Segal, the driver charged in last year’s drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing.

The hearing began with a heated discussion between defense counsel and the judge, who continued to hold fast to his previous insistence on a minimum of 9 years in state prison. According to this source, the word “egregious” was used by the judge several times, making it clear that he was in no mood to be lenient.

The defense attorney responded by calling the primary witnesses in the case, including a driver who followed Segal as she weaved her way from the murder scene. Bizarrely, Segal herself insisted on testifying, against the advice of both her own attorney and the judge, who warned that anything she said would be admissible at the trial and would be considered by the jury.

After hearing a description of her contradictory testimony, it’s starting to sound — to me, at least — like nine years in state prison would actually be a lenient sentence compared to what she might end up with in a jury trial.

We should find out soon, as the judge set a date of December 21st — next Wednesday — for Segal to either take the deal or set a date to go to trial.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Segal still refuses to take responsibility for her actions in killing an innocent cyclist while allegedly weaving drunkenly down the road. And may just be foolish and arrogant enough to fight what appears to be an open and shut case.

I almost hope she does, just so she’ll end up with an even stiffer sentence than the judge is offering.

But for the sake of Laing’s family, we’ll hope she sobers up comes to her senses and accepts a plea next week so they can put this ugly, tragic event behind the before the holidays.

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If you’re looking for something fun to do the morning of New Years Eve, you couldn’t do much better than riding with BMC cyclist and five-time Olympian George Hincapie.

And if you’re looking for one last chance to benefit a couple of good causes before the year ends, the answer would be the same.

Hincapie is the celebrity host of A Ride for Life, a Santa Clarita ride benefitting Children’s Hospital L.A. and the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita. The event will feature rides of 30, 60 and 100 miles, as well as a kid’s ride and family walk; there will also be a “huge” expo with food and activities, and everyone is welcome — even your four-legged friends.

Personally, I’m still trying to find a tandem with an extra-low back end so the Corgi could ride stoker.

But you have to register today to receive a free event technical shirt.

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I can’t resist sharing this seasonal tweet from the late, great Yahuda Moon.

What kind of bike would Jesus ride? The beard and sandals makes you think recumbent, but I think the obvious choice would be a cross bike.

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Hollywood belatedly discovers the tragic cycling death of writer/producer Carol Schreder, as industry paper Variety breaks the news. But still not one word from the major mainstream press.

Possible road diets move forward in Silver Lake, but hit the brakes in Glendale as officials worry about the effect on traffic. Here’s a hint — providing a viable alternative to driving could actually reduce congestion. Meanwhile, The Atlantic Cities looks at L.A.’s green bikeway blues, but other than that, things are just peachy, while LADOT prepares to fill the gap on the Valley’s Chandler Blvd.

Ventura cyclists start an online petition calling on the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) to increase funding for bike and pedestrian projects from 1.3% to 5% to 8%, noting that cyclists and peds make up 21% of all trips — and 25% of all fatalities. Don’t just read it, sign it already. Thanks to @bountybuy for the heads-up.

The Westside COG meets to discuss biking on the Westside, including a possible bike share and ensuring that bikeways that pass through multiple cities actually connect with one another. Beverly Hills bike advocate Mark Elliot deserves credit as a prime mover in getting them to look at the subject.

The Claremont Cyclist defines an epic ride, something we’ve all done at one time or another. And if you haven’t, what the hell are you waiting for?

A Redlands bike thief is busted in a police sting.

Bike Bakersfield is hard at work on the new Kern County bike plan.

Finally,  Seattle driver denies being under the influence before hitting and killing a cyclist — just on a prescription drug to treat opiate addiction, two glasses of champagne, a vodka-based Jeremiah Weed Iced Tea, and a drink called an Adios Motherfucker, containing beer and five types of liquor.

Oh, and smoking a blunt.

But other than that, he was stone-cold sober.

No, really.

My would-be stoker discovers a fear of jolly fat men wearing gloves.

Update: OC Cyclist killed in Lake Forrest hit-and-run identified

It’s happened again.

A heartless killer runs down a cyclist and flees the scene, leaving his or her victim crumpled and bleeding in the street.

This time, it happened in Orange County, as a 47-year old cyclist was hit and killed near the intersection of Serrano Road and Ridge Route Drive in Lake Forest around 10:10 pm last night. The rider, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo suffering from severe head trauma, where he was pronounced dead early this morning.

Police are looking for a white van with possible front-end damage, which was last seen leaving the crash scene northbound on Serrano.

Photos from the scene show a mangled mountain bike with the headlight still glowing long after the crash, a lone sneaker giving mute testament to the fallen rider.

Anyone with information is asked to contact 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227.

This is the 11th traffic-related bicycling fatality in Orange County this year, and the 67th in the greater Southern California area. Of those deaths, 12 have been hit-and-runs, with 2 in Orange County.

That compares with a five-year average of 13 deaths in Orange County each year, and 68 in SoCal; however, it is far above the total of 55 cycling deaths in the SoCal area for the last two years on record.

The only area which has not yet recorded a bike death this year is sparsely populated Imperial County.

Update: LAist reports that the victim was turning onto Serrano from Ridge when he was struck by the van as it travelled north on Serrano. 

Update: KABC-7 identifies the victim as 47-year old Randy Isaacs of Lake Forest.

“He was going to another house down the street three blocks away from us. He had put his daughter to bed, kissed her goodnight and said ‘Jesus loves you and so do I.’ And the next thing we know, we get a call from the hospital that he’s dead,” said Ute Ford, the victim’s mother. 

A spokesperson for the OC Sheriff’s department says that Issacs appeared to be riding on the sidewalk, and rode into the crosswalk where he was hit by the van.

KTLA-5 offers a good video report on the case, which leaves three children without their father just a week before Christmas.

My heart and prayers go out to the Isaacs’ family and loved ones.

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