Archive for February 17, 2012

Are we failing our young bike riders?

I recently received a link to an online story in which a driver threatened to kill cyclists.

Or more precisely, he was afraid that he might.

The link came from David Huntsman, a lawyer and fellow bike advocate from Newport Beach, who was naturally outraged at the writer’s auto-centric windshield perspective.

My name is Nick Scholz, and I’m going to kill you.

Now, I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with you guys. Heaven knows there are few groups more organized or zealous than outdoor bicyclists. Believe me when I tell you that I don’t wish to kill you. I’m not going to narrow my eyes and rev my engine menacingly at you. I don’t count the cyclists I crash into with notches on a special stencil on the side of my car.

Rest assured: if I kill you, it will be by accident.

His argument is that cyclists need to choose.

We can ride on the streets and be treated like other road users. Or we can ride on the sidewalks and be treated like pedestrians.

To the casual observer, it would appear that most of you are positively suicidal. It looks like you have chosen my car to be the Chariot of Fire that whisks you away to the Hereafter. Sadly, that moniker will probably become truer than you could know as your carbon-fiber bicycle gets stuck in my engine chassis at 50 miles per hour.

But, even sadder is the fact that this is not a suicide. Nor a murder. This is merely a tragedy that can  be avoided if only the cyclists will decide whether they are pedestrians or riding a vehicle.

Problem is, he has a point.

Our roads, and the laws that govern them, operate on the principle of predictability of movement. In other words, road users need to know whether other road users are going stop or proceed through the intersection, turn or go straight, and who has the right of way.

That’s why we have stop signs and red lights, are expected to signal, and yield to other road users when they have the right of way and we don’t.

It’s not perfect system.

It doesn’t take into account that cyclists are neither motorists or pedestrians. Or that it doesn’t always make sense for us to stop at stop signs when there is no conflicting traffic or pedestrians.

But it’s the system we have right now. And drivers need to know what we’re going to do in order to avoid a collision, which they don’t want any more than we do.

Even if they don’t always obey the law themselves.

And the consequences can be devastating.

Just this week, two SoCal cyclists were killed after reportedly riding through red lights.

In one case, the rider may have been trying to beat the light, and could have fallen victim to a short yellow on a wide intersection, which didn’t give him a fighting chance to get all the way across the cross street before cross traffic started.

In the other, a young rider on a fixie, apparently with no brakes, rode into a busy intersection without stopping and was hit by two cars in rapid succession.

Let’s be honest.

It’s one thing to roll through a stop sign, just like virtually every driver does. Slow down, look in every direction, and if — and only if — the way is clear, you can usually proceed without posing any unnecessary risk to yourself or anyone else.

Bearing in mind, of course, that you’re still breaking the law.

But red lights are another matter.

I’ve been roundly criticized in the past for criticizing riders for running red lights. But the fact is, there is no rational excuse for failing to stop when required at a signalized intersection.

It’s the law. It makes all of us look bad when one us of doesn’t, as far too many drivers lump everyone on two wheels together and seem to lack sufficient discernment to make the mental calculation that just because one cyclist — or a hundred cyclists — break the law, that doesn’t mean we all do.

Let alone that most of them routinely break the law themselves, even as they swear at us for doing it.

And don’t give me the excuse that it’s safer than waiting at the intersection. I’ve been stopping for red lights for over three decades, and I’m still here.

It’s just a matter of knowing how to do it.

And as this week’s deaths make painfully clear, failing to stop is dangerous as hell.

Not to mention that if you do get hit after going through a stop sign or red light, you lose all liability protection — regardless of what the driver who hit you may or may not have been doing.

Go through a stop, you’re at fault.

Case dismissed.

It may not be fair. The driver could have been drunk or distracted, speeding or breaking the law in some other way. But none of that will matter to a jury.

As far as they’re concerned, you broke the law, it’s your fault. Period.

Some would even go so far as to consider a cyclist who ran a red in traffic suicidal.

And it certainly seems that way at first blush. Even riders who routinely go through reds usually know enough to stop, or at least slow down, when cars are coming.

But what if they don’t?

What if an inexperienced rider gets in over his or her head, trying to make it across a busy intersection he should have stopped at. Or finding himself riding too fast to stop, on a bike with no brakes, when the light changes with too little warning.

Even experienced riders make mistakes. It’s easy to get in over your head, make the wrong decisions in rapidly changing traffic conditions or overestimate your own skills.

It’s even easier for in experienced riders.

It took me years, if not decades, to master the Tao of riding on busy roads. And even then, I still make mistakes; fortunately, I’ve had the skills to get myself out of it.

So far, at least.

Beginning riders don’t.

Unlike when I grew up, there’s no training in bike laws and riding skills in our schools. There’s no official training programs for beginning cyclists, or any other established method of reaching out to young riders to say do this, not that.

Like don’t push the limits and get yourself into a situation you can’t get out of. And maybe it’s not smart to ride with no brakes, even if that is the trendy thing to do these days.

Instead, they learn by emulating their friends, who may have been riding longer, but have no more knowledge of even the most basic traffic laws than they do.

We assume that everyone is familiar with traffic laws because they’ve taken their test and gotten a driver’s license.

But many young riders — and even some older ones — don’t have a license, whether by choice or some other reason. And so they may have no working knowledge of the laws that govern our streets.

I’ve spoken with some who didn’t have a clue that their right to the road is governed by the same laws that restrict motor vehicles.

They actually don’t know that bikes are required to stop for stop signs and red lights, just like cars. That they have to signal their turns, even though many other cyclists and most drivers don’t. Or even that they’re required to use lights at night or to ride with traffic, instead of making their way up the wrong side like salmon on their way to spawn.

And we all know what happens to salmon once they spawn, right?

Because no one ever told them.

They haven’t been taught the laws that govern cycling because no one bothered to do it. And in that, we, as a society and a cycling community, have failed them.

Many motorists think the solution is to license and register cyclists, just like drivers are. I won’t waste your time explaining why that’s not the answer; others have made the same points before, anyway.

Maybe there should be some sort of state or school-sponsored bicycle certification training. Maybe riders should get a discount on car insurance or bike parts if they complete one or more of the League of American Bicyclist’s training classes.

Maybe it’s up to our local cycling groups to step into the breach and offer rider education; the LACBC recently voted to reestablish its Education Committee in an attempt to address this problem.

Or maybe its up to you and me to offer advice, even unsolicited, when we see a rider doing something dangerous. Even though experience says the response will be made with just one finger, or its vocal equivalent.

I don’t have the answer. I just know that we need to find it.

Because right now, too many beginning riders are forced to figure it out for themselves.

And failing.

San Diego cyclist killed; second Southern California fatality in just two days

Another day, another Southern California cycling fatality.

For the second time in just two days, a SoCal cyclist has been killed in a motor vehicle collision, as a 20-year old bike rider died after being hit by two cars on Wednesday.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the cyclist, who has not been publicly identified, was riding north on 61st Street at Imperial Avenue in the Encanto area around 3:05 pm when he hit by an eastbound car and knocked off his bike. He was then run over by a second eastbound vehicle and trapped underneath the car, where he died.

Police report that he ran the red light, and that both drivers remained at the scene and cooperated in the investigation. Comments on the UT story suggest he was riding a fixed-gear bike; no brakes are visible in the photo.

This is the seventh traffic-related cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in San Diego County.

It’s also the second bicycling death in two days in which the rider is accused of going through a red light.

If you don’t learn anything else from reading this, remember this: Yes, you should always stop for every red light. But if you insist on running reds, never, ever go through a light when there are vehicles coming on the cross street.

You might as well be playing Russian roulette.

My deepest sympathy to the victim’s family and friends.

Update: Comments to the UT story indicate the victim was Francisco Porras; one comment identifies him as 17-years old instead of 20. Unfortunately, his Facebook page is private, but it does show him with the same bike shown in the news photos.

According to a comment that appears to have been left by his mother, he was a “lovable, courageous and responsible young man” who took care of his family and planned to enter the Marines after high school.

Breaking News — Cyclist killed in Irvine collision

This is exactly what I was afraid of.

Maybe it was the distraction of Valentines Day. But there was an unusually high number of bicycling collisions reported over the weekend, continuing through this morning. And sooner or later, it’s almost inevitable that one  or more of those collisions will turn out to be life-threatening.

That’s exactly what happened today, as a 28-year old cyclist died as a result of a Tuesday morning collision in Irvine.

According to the Orange County Register, Christian Rhineer of Irvine was hit by a Volvo Sedan at the intersection of Von Karman Avenue and Michelson Drive just before 8 am. He was taken to Western Medical Center with severe injuries, where he died at 6:30 pm.

The 26-year old driver remained at the scene. It was unclear who had the right of way; no one was arrested or cited at the scene.

And yes, the Register notes that the victim was not believed to be wearing a helmet; whether it would have done any good under the circumstances is not clear. Hopefully, we’ll get more details later.

This is the sixth traffic-related cycling fatality so far this year, and the second in Orange County; a third Orange County cyclist died of natural causes after a fall while mountain biking.

My sympathy and prayers for Rhineer and his family and loved ones.

Update: An anonymous source confirms that Rhineer was wearing a helmet at the time of the collision. And thanks to Vinh Nguyen for the heads-up on the Register story.

Update: Comments to the original article in the OC Register from a man who claims to be a witness indicate that Rhineer ran the red light. In addition, he was reportedly wearing headphones, which is against the law in California; a single headphone in one ear is allowed, but not in both while riding.

People who knew Rhineer describe him as a great guy and former Mormon missionary who recently moved to Irvine from Salt Lake City along with his wife.

Bear in mind, though, that witness reports can be wrong, and comments on internet news stories aren’t always true. When I was injured in a road rage collision, a supposed witness lied to the police to make it look like I was at fault — even though the way he described the events was physically impossible.

There’s no reason to suspect that the witness in this case isn’t telling the truth, but take all unconfirmed reports with a grain of salt.

Thanks to ValleyBall1 for the tip.

……..

On a related note, the driver who ran down a 13-year old girl in Santa Ana earlier this month, leaving her bleeding in the street as he fled the scene, has finally turned himself into the police.

According to KABC-7, the family of Arif Abdul Sattar convinced him to turn himself in after seeing news reports, along with his admission that he may have been in a collision.

Don’t expect me to get all teary eyed because he did the right thing. The right thing would have been to stop at the scene and try to help the little girl he nearly killed, rather than run away like a coward before surrendering to the police over a week later  — after retaining an attorney, of course.

Fortunately, his victim, Teresa Pham, is recovering and has been released from the hospital. Let’s hope she continues to improve.

And that the man who put her there gets the justice he so richly deserves.

A fresh new batch of hot bike links to start your week

Grab a cup of joe, limber up your link-clicking finger and settle in for a little Monday morning reading.

The petition drive to get SCAG to increase funding for SoCal bike projects is nearing the deadline; have you signed yet? The Slauson Avenue Public Improvements Taskforce will meet on Wednesday, February 22nd; this is your chance to argue for bike lanes and a more human scale for one of our city’s great boulevards. Cynergy is offering a bike commuting clinic in conjunction with the Santa Monica Bicycle Center. There’s less than six weeks until the 28th Annual Redlands Bicycle Classic. Get ready for 300 miles of epic Death Valley cycling. Family members sue UC Santa Cruz as a killer bike path goes unrepaired. A 64-year old San Simeon man is killed near Cambria; police say he was hit at 60 mph as he stood next to his bike on the side of the highway. Mark your calendar for the first ever Legends Gran Fondo sponsored by the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis. The SF Gate says the U.S. House was wrong to eliminate funding for Safe Routes to Schools, and that the House Transportation Bill was hijacked by Republicans “locked in a pave-and-drill mentality of the 1950s.” Well said.

Drivers work about two hours a day to pay for their cars; cyclists work about 3.5 minutes a day to pay for their bikes. Seattle man gets off a bus, hails a cyclist, punches him in the face and rides off on the other man’s bike. A bike thief is busted by a little cooperative effort by Moots bikes and bike shops in Golden CO and Pittsburgh PA. My old hometown has come full circle in supporting cyclists; I’m still waiting for their call offering me the bike coordinator’s job. A Michigan cyclist is cited for not getting across the intersection before the light changes, even though the driver who hit him admits not seeing the bike directly in front of her. Little 500 teams compete to convert pedal power to electricity. A Texas cyclist argues against bike lanes, citing the dangers posed by cars, doorings & buses; aren’t those the exact reasons to build them? Preserving a historic bridge while making it more fit for humans. The death of his cyclist brother turned a Charleston lawyer into an advocate for bike riders. A South Carolina cyclist is killed as he’s turning his life around.

Cerebral Palsy doesn’t stop this UK man from riding, so what’s your excuse? The head of Scotland Yard’s Road Death Investigation Unit says current penalties for dangerous drivers are too lenient — and killer motorists should face up to life in prison. Advice on avoiding the door zone. A British MP warns about the dangers of Lycra Louts. After breaking our hearts with allegations of doping, tarnished legend Jeannie Longo is set to retire, a few years too late. An Australian Parliament Member wants to triple the fine for dooring. A New Zealand man wants to form a human chain to force participants in the annual World Naked Bike Ride off the road and into the ocean. A New Zealand bike safety advocate says bike helmets aren’t fit for the purpose they’re intended. Tokyo police have issued 10,000 warnings for violating the city’s new cycling regulations.

Finally, Bicycling reminds us about Wham-O’s long lost Wheelie Bar; when I was a kid, everyone had one of these, or wanted one. And the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain offers another of their typically great blog roundups, authored by my favorite London expat Scottish bike blogger.

Your weekend bike links, and a jam-packed calendar of events

First up, let’s get a little business out of the way, since it’s time to take action on the Senate and House transportation bills

The former needs improvement, while the latter must die like the vile Satan-spawned Rosemary’s Baby of transportation bills that it is.

And don’t forget to sign the petition to increase bike and pedestrian funding in Southern California.

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This is why no one f***ing bikes in L.A. Results are in for the BPIT survey to prioritize L.A. bike projects. L.A. City Council holds the line on speed limit increases, at least for now. That planned paint test on the Spring Street green bike lane has been put off for now due to predicted bad weather. L.A. has been invited to apply for Bikes Belong’s Green Lane Project; Rick Risemberg asks if we’ve said yes yet, and if not, why? Streetsblog opens a branch in Boyle Heights. L.A. is holding a series of mobility Think Labs around the city starting in two weeks. Residents discuss planned bike lanes on Aviation in Redondo Beach. Long Beach offers free bike safety clinics. Women on Bikes SoCal kicks off a campaign to double the number of women on, yes, bikes.

Theresa Pham, the 13-year old sixth grader seriously injured in a Santa Ana hit-and-run while riding her bike is showing improvement. A gathering of OC bike luminaries to support the Orange County Bicycle Coalition. Cyclist and attorney David Huntsman considers the anti-bike bias that creeps into our conversations. The San Diego Bicycle Coalition is holding a workshop on best practices for bike advocacy. Advice on biking Santa Barbara. The SF Weekly calls for jail time for the cyclist who hit and killed a woman walking in the crosswalk with her husband. A San Jose man tackles a bike thief being chased by police. A pair of cyclists rescue a UPS driver who went off the road outside Saratoga CA. Lawyer please — a Saratoga attorney claims the victims of a hit-and-run merely fell off their bikes, then conspired to frame his client; this is exactly why some people hate lawyers.

I grew up around Denver’s Gates automotive belt factory; now they’re a leader in carbon fiber belt drives for bikes. A Michigan Congresswoman directs half-a-million dollars for a bike lane on a bridge near her home; should we be happy she supports cycling or angry about the earmark? Bicycling looks at the tragic death of Pennsylvania bike advocate Patrick Ytsma, while Bob Mionske asks if justice was served. Boston’s Bikeyface takes a typically amusing look at how to have a bike date. The only thing that can unite some New Yorkers is their shared hatred of bike lanes. Florida makes it legal to ride with no hands.

Maybe it’s time for a worldwide bike hour. Vancouver starts a new campaign to promote bike and pedestrian safety but continues to blame the victims, while a writer says helmets aren’t the answer. A man in pajamas rescues his own bike from a thief. Blaming cyclists won’t stop us from getting killed, even though it can be safer to break the law sometimes. Then again, why point the finger at cyclists when our streets are full of lawbreakers? A road raging driver deliberately runs down a UK cyclist, while another rider is nearly decapitated by a rope strung across a mountain bike trail. More on the Parisian decision to let cyclists jump red lights. Jan Ullrich is the latest pro cyclist to be found guilty of doping, while French cycling legend Jeannie Longo’s husband made 15 purchases of EPO, supposedly for his personal use. A writer says sport’s war on doping is pointless and ridiculous. Italy’s biggest newspaper backs the Times of London’s bike safety campaign; maybe the Times of Los Angeles should get behind it as well. A New Zealand study suggests the country’s mandatory helmet law has resulted in a 51% reduction in ridership and 53 premature deaths a year; others say bunk.

Finally, when their newly hired head coach took a header over his handlebars in ’79, it paved the way for the Lakers legendary Showtime era.

And Share the Road is nothing new; Shell Oil used it in the 1930’s to tell pedestrians and traffic delaying road users to get the hell out of the way — in other words, the same way many drivers continue to interpret it.

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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.

The Culver City Bicycle Coalition invites you for an easy ride with the city’s mayor at 8 am every Monday, starting at Syd Kronenthal Park, 3459 McManus Ave, at the east end of the Ballona Creek bike path.

Los Angeles hosts the 2012 Para-Cycling World Track Championships this weekend at the L.A Velodrome at the Home Depot Center, 18400 Avalon Blvd in Carson. Events take place all day Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 am; thanks to the Claremont Cyclist for the heads-up.

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with 34th Annual Chinatown Firecracker Ride and Run on Saturday, February 11th (Ride) and Sunday, February 12 (Run). Say you were referred by the LACBC (go ahead, I won’t tell) and they’ll donate $7 to the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, which will provide a bike valet for the event.

The monthly Spoke(n)Art Ride will take place at 6 pm on Saturday, February 11th, departing from the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3714 N. Figueroa ST in Highland Park. Single speed beach cruisers are available to rent for $20.

Out of the Box Events is sponsoring a bicycle-based Venice Valentines Hunt on Saturday the 11th, Sunday the 12th and Tuesday the 14th; cost is $25 per person with some of the funds to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Venice.

The Culver City Bicycle Coalition will host a fundraiser the day after Valentines Day, February 15th, from 4 to 7 pm at Joxer Daly’s, 11168 Washington Blvd.

The Watts Towers will be a popular destination in February as one of L.A.’s favorite cyclists leads a ride to the iconic artworks. Will Campbell’s Watts Happening Ride 2012 will start at 9 am on February 18th at the Happy Foot/Sad Foot at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard & Benton Way in Silver Lake, and explore landmark people, places and events in, to and from South L.A. If you don’t know Will, few people know more unofficial L.A. bikeways or fascinating tidbits and trivia about unexplored corners of the City of Angeles. Highly recommended.

Flying Pigeon will host a reception for Stephen Rea, author of Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling With the Stars on Saturday, February 18th from 7 to 10 pm at 3714 N. Figueroa ST in Highland Park. Vegetarian-friendly food and drink will be available.

The City of Los Angeles will be hosting a series of four Mobility Think Lab Workshops to help solve the city’s mobility problems, on Saturday, February 25th and Saturday, March 3rd in Van Nuys, L.A. and Pacoima.

Saturday, February 25th the Fortune 700 fixed gear stage race will take place at the Rose Bowl, with a team time trial at noon followed by a circuit race at 2 pm; link courtesy of the Claremont Cyclist.

C.I.C.L.E. is hosting a Tweed, Moxie and Mustache Ride — no jokes, please — on Saturday, February 25, from 1 to 4 pm; meet at Burns Park at Van Ness and Beverly Blvd.

The draft bike plan for the County of Los Angeles will face a hearing by the county Board of Supervisors in a public session at 9:30 am on February 28th, in Room 381B of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple Street Downtown.

You’re invited to train with the Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling team at their official winter training camp March 2nd through 4th in Paso Robles; the cost is a mere $3,000.

Sunday, March 4th, there will be a memorial for Carol Schreder, the Hollywood writer/producer killed while riding on Mulholland Highway last December. It will be held at the Aero Theater, 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, starting at noon.

The OC to LA Dream Ride takes place on Sunday, March 4th, riding from El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana to Solidarity Ink in Lincoln Heights to celebrate the passage of the California Dream Act and link the cycling community with the immigrant rights movement.

Also on Sunday the 4th, the LACBC rolls out it’s first Tour de Taste, offering an easy, guided 12 mile bike ride along Ballona Creek, as well as food and drinks from some of the area’s best restaurants. The event kicks off at Media Park at the corner of Culver and Venice Blvds starting at 10 am, with rides departing every hour. Cost is $65 for LACBC members and $95 for non-members, with discounted membership and ticket available for $120 (pro tip — become an LACBC member before the 4th and save $20); all proceeds go to create a more bikable Los Angeles.

If you enjoyed the last CicLAvia, you’ll love the next one on Tax Day, April 15th from 10 am to 3 pm; the route will follow the same expanded course as last October’s.

The first National Bike to School Day is scheduled for May 9th.

Tour de Cure is coming to San Diego on April 21st; or maybe you’d prefer riding in Napa on May 6th. All proceeds go to support the American Diabetes Association.

The Amgen Tour of California brings world-class professional bike racing to the L.A. area on Friday, May 18th from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake; Ontario to Mt. Baldy on Saturday, May 19th; and the final stage from Beverly Hills to L.A. Live in Downtown L.A. on Sunday, May 20th.

L.A.’S favorite fundraising bike ride rolls out on Sunday, June 10th with the 12th Annual L.A. River Ride; this one just keeps getting bigger and better every year. Six different rides, from an easy family ride to a fast, flat century; more details to come.

Zen and the art of road rage

For the second time in the last 10 days, I found myself dealing with a road raging driver Thursday.

I was making a left from Main Street in Venice, after enjoying the relative luxury of the newly installed bike lanes, onto the sharrowed pavement of Abbot Kinney.

For once, I found myself all alone in the turn lane. But after the light turned green, a car came up behind me as I waited for the oncoming traffic to clear so I could make my left.

As I waited, I allowed my bike to drift slowly forward to avoid clipping out of my pedals and putting my foot down. And once the last car passed, I made my turn.

Unfortunately, my forward drift had put me at the far side of the intersection, so my turn ended up on the far side of the roadway, just this side of the right curb. And giving the jerk behind me just enough space to make his turn at the same time, blowing past about a foot from my elbow.

Startled by such a dangerous, jackass move, I yelled out “Hey!”

I was just as startled by his instantaneous anger. “Fuck you!” he yelled. “Get off the road.”

And there it was.

A clear violation of the new anti-harassment ordinance — a threatening action with his car, followed by the verbal implied threat telling me to get off the road. And a dangerous jerk who needed to be taught that we have every bit as much right to the road as angry, auto-centric idiots like him.

All I needed was a license number and witnesses, which wouldn’t have been hard to find on such a busy intersection.

By the time I’d collected myself and regained full control of my bike, he was already 100 yards down the road. But what he didn’t count on was that a very pissed-off cyclist can easily outrun a car on a crowded city street.

So I stood on my pedals, kicked up my cadence and knocked it up a couple gears, and soon found myself steadily gaining on him; within a few blocks I was less than 20 feet off his back bumper as he watched me approach in his rear view mirror.

But just as I was readying my camera to snap a photo of his license plate, he gunned his engine and quickly cut onto the wrong side of the road to bypass the traffic ahead of him, before zipping left down the next side street and rounding left at the next corner.

And like that, he was gone.

I may have shouted a reference to his apparent lack of cajones as, like Monty Python’s Sir Robin, he bravely ran away.

At least I could take comfort in scaring the crap out of a cowardly jerk who’d rather run away after threatening someone than face up to what he’d done.

It was clear that any further attempt to chase him down would be a wasted effort in the tangled warren of narrow streets behind Abbot Kinney. So I rode on, mad as hell, replaying the events in an endless loop in my mind.

And letting that jerk ruin my ride on a perfectly sunny SoCal day.

And that’s when I heard it.

That little voice inside my head, asking “Why are you still carrying him?”

It was a barely remembered story, from a time in my life when I was a steady student of eastern philosophy; these days, I’m less of a student as it has become, simply, a part of me.

When I slow down long enough to remember, that is.

As the story goes, two monks were traveling together when they came to a roaring river, and found a young woman who asked if they could carry her across. Without hesitation, one of the monks lifted her up and carried her across the stream, setting her down on the other side before continuing on their way.

As they walked, though, his partner was troubled, and asked why the other man had carried the woman when their training forbade physical contact with the opposite sex.

“Brother,” the other man replied, “I set her down back at the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

Why indeed.

If I could have done something to fight back against his threatening actions, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. But by then, there was nothing I could do.

He’d threatened me. And gotten away with it.

And there’s just not enough room on my bike to carry another man and the car he rode in on.

So in that moment, I chose to leave it behind and get on with my ride. And my life.

If I see him again, I may make another attempt to bring him to justice. But it was a beautiful day, and I had another 30 miles to go.

And life is too short to carry that anger with me.

A press conference to celebrate bike racing in bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills

A high-end location for a bike race — or a press conference for one.

Maybe it wouldn’t seem as strange to anyone outside the L.A. area.

Yet somehow, I found myself on a sunny SoCal morning in the biking black hole of Beverly Hills, listening to some of this country’s best pro cyclists describe the city’s Tiffanyed streets as the ideal starting point for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

Yes, that Beverly Hills, with not one inch of bike lane within its jewel encrusted borders.

The day's guest stars make their way one very short block up Rodeo Drive.

The Bulgari burgh where West Hollywood and Los Angeles bikeways roll within blocks of its city limits. Then stop almost without warning, leaving riders to fight for road space with Ferraris, Bentleys and massive high-end SUVs of every make and measure.

Not to mention the midrange rentals of countless tourists, and low-end rides of locals just passing through.

A city that hasn’t updated its bike plan since the 1970s. And even then, proposed routing riders through the alleys of the Golden Triangle to keep us from impeding the progress of their many impatient drivers.

To their credit, Beverly Hills has formed an ad hoc committee to finally update that plan. Yet seem to be throwing up so many roadblocks and limitations that the final result is almost guaranteed to fail.

City Manager Jeff Kolin, Tom Danielson, defending champ Chris Horner, David Zabriskie, Patrick Dempsey and some guy with a camera.

Or at least likely result in something of little value to the everyday riders who mostly pass through on their way to somewhere else. Like sharrows on Charleville, which is already a relatively easy road to ride, and where shared lane markings would merely mark the space we already use.

And which wouldn’t have done a damn thing to protect me last week when I nearly did a face plant on the back of an SUV, courtesy of a door-flinging driver.

Yet there they were, biking and Hollywood royalty alike promoting the Tour of California, and announcing the route of this year’s multistage race.

Don’t get me wrong.

The ToC has made great strides in recent years, with last year’s race the most competitive and exciting yet.

And this year’s edition promises to be better yet, as it meanders its way through the late, great Golden State by way of Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Livermore and Bakersfield, et al, with mountaintop finishes on Mt. Baldy and Big Bear Lake.

Amgen Tour of California Executive Director Kristin Bachochin at the podium.

And followed by a final route that will start on Rodeo Drive before following Santa Monica Blvd — where Beverly Hills officials have been dragging their feet on a commitment to make the boulevard bike-friendly when it finally gets a makeover in a few years.

Then it’s up Doheny and off to Hollywood, reverse engineering the route of the L.A. Marathon before winding down to finish at L.A. Live.

As I, and a couple of other cyclists listened to the press conference, surrounded by confused tourists wondering who the hell these spandex-clad celebrities were — though they did seem to recognize Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey — it was hard not to get excited.

After all, what’s not to like about a race that will bring some of the world’s best male pro cyclists — though sadly, still no women — within walking distance of my own home. Even if it is a long walk. And one that leads to an alternate and much richer reality.

Hollywood star, cancer fundraiser, serious cyclist and bike advocate Patrick Dempsey.

And one that would be followed by a race through the same mean streets we all ride on a regular basis. Although it would be more exciting if the Amgen riders had to contend with the same careless, distracted and angry drivers we do.

Now that would be a race.

It’s also long past time that the top women’s racers were allowed to compete on an equal stage alongside the men, just as the late, great Coors Classic did with great success decades earlier.

But it didn’t take long to be reminded that we were in Beverly Hills. And that cyclists aren’t exactly welcome there.

As the press conference was winding down, a gentleman came out of the exclusive haute couture store next to where we were standing, and firmly but politely asked us to move the bikes we’d leaned against the wall since there didn’t seem to be any bike racks around.

According to him, they were blocking the store windows — even though the seats and handlebars barely reached the window’s bottom ledge.

It is Beverly Hills, after all.

And they’re just not that into us.

13-year old girl critically injured in OC hit-and-run; Tour of California press conference in Beverly Hills

A 13-year old girl was critically injured in yet another Southern California hit-and-run when she was run down in a Santa Ana crosswalk on Monday.

She was riding north on Greenville Street when she was hit by a vehicle travelling west on Warner Avenue at 7 p.m. The jackass who hit her — and I use that term advisedly — kept going without making any attempt to stop, leaving it to bystanders to attempt to offer aid and comfort as she lay bleeding in the street.

Do I really need to mention what I think should be done if they ever catch the jerk?

Anyone with information is urge to contact the Santa Ana Police Traffic Division at (714) 245-8214.

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Actor Patrick Dempsey, and pro cyclists Dave Zabriskie and Tom Danielson will hit Beverly Hills Wednesday morning for a press conference for the Amgen Tour of California.

Do I really need to point out the irony the Westside’s least bike-friendly city — with not one inch of bikeway anywhere within the city limits — hosting the nation’s biggest professional race?

No, I didn’t think so.

But maybe Patrick, Dave and the gang will stop by tonight’s Bike Up! LA benefit for the California Bicycle Coalition while they’re in town.

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A road raging driver runs a young L.A. cyclist — and afterwards, says he’s glad he did.

In 1908.

Sad how some things never change.

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Roadblock asks what will it take to create safe streets in L.A. — and offers advice on how to ride safely in the meantime. LACBC’s highly successful City of Lights starts a youth program on the Eastside. Matthew Ruscigno explains how to travel fast and light on your next bike tour. Gary writes about exception bike writer and advocate Elly Blue. LADOT is testing surfaces for the Spring Street green bike lane to find one that will stick around for awhile. Better Bike looks at the laws governing cycling in California, and says you’ve got 30 days to convince the Westside COG to make it more ridable. Learn how to maintain your bike for just $10 in Santa Monica. An unnamed 22-year old Lancaster man is killed while riding without lights in Butte County.

A Santa Rosa runner suffers a broken skull when she turns in front of a passing cyclist who fled the scene; and yes, while it’s up to the runner to make sure the way is clear before turning around, a hit-and-run cyclist is every bit as much of a schmuck as a hit-and-run driver. A Santa Barbara cyclist wants to thank the people who came to her aid — and talk to the driver who failed to see her in the bike lane. Kern County could get a new bike master plan. An Orange County cyclist is awarded a $6 million settlement following a 2009 collision with a John Wayne Airport shuttle bus.

Engineering streets to improve health. Looking at Lance Armstrong as the fallen hero of a Greek tragedy. Biking non-profits are doing well despite the bad economy. An advice columnist explains why cyclists should ride with traffic. Las Vegas’ very own Gran Fondo will start on the Las Vegas Strip the day after Interbike, and offer a ride over the Hoover Dam. Organizers of a Denver century ride drop a requirement that riders reveal their income in order to register; gee, who could possibly object to that? Houston cyclists are being harassed by a man in a black Honda. A Philadelphia driver faces charges for running down a rider while high on drugs — the day after he was arrested following a three-car collision. Dave Moulton’s legendary Fuso frames are about to be born again.

The Telegraph’s London Editor says the vast majority of British cycle lanes are either totally pointless or actively dangerous, but the carnage claimed by some simply isn’t real; meanwhile, a writer for the Evening Standard says he gave up cycling because it was too dangerous — but blames other cyclists, as well as bad streets. A British father uses cycling to fight back from brain cancer; thanks to Ed Cable for the heads-up. London cyclists may get a jump on other traffic at red lights, while Paris cyclists get permission to go through red lights.; thanks to David Huntsman for the link. Odd math, as Alberto Contador is banned for two years but could be back racing by August, which seems somewhat less to me. New Japanese road markings tell bike riders where to go.

Finally, BMC phenom Taylor Phinney has a discussion with his body; evidently, the guy is as funny as he is fast. And I wish I had this T-shirt when I still lived in Colorado.

OC mountain biker dies from heart attack after fall and air rescue

More bad news from Orange County.

This morning I received word that a cyclist died last week while mountain biking on an Orange County trail.

According to the Orange County Register, 52-year old Santa Fe Springs resident Reynaldo Canlas suffered a heart attack either before or after falling while riding in Peters Canyon Park on Monday, January 30th. Despite CPR attempts performed by bystanders, followed by an air rescue by county firefighters, Canlas was declared dead at 2:3o pm a local hospital.

It’s unknown if the fall caused his heart to stop, or if he fell because of the heart attack.

As the woman who forwarded the story to me said, the people who performed CPR may think they failed to save him, but they may have provided precious minutes that gave him a chance, however slight.

And learning how to perform CPR could be the greatest gift you can give your loved ones.

This is the second cycling fatality in Orange County this year, and the sixth in Southern California.

Thanks to Ann for the heads-up.

Update: 3 cyclists hospitalized after Seal Beach DUI hit-and-run; Palms Desert cyclist critically injured

Over the weekend, I heard numerous reports of a bad hit-and-run collision on PCH in the Seal Beach area Saturday morning.

It wasn’t until Sunday night, though, that I received an email from a member of Long Beach’s Lightning Velo bike club confirming that three cyclists participating in the club’s Saturday Social Ride had been sent to the hospital with moderate to serious injuries.

Fortunately, none were life-threatening, and the driver was quickly apprehended; I’m told this was her 2nd DUI offense.

From the reports on our email group – Our ‘C’ group (the slower group) was on Pacific Coast Highway on Saturday, in Seal Beach, near the Taco Surf going into Sunset Beach.  The bike lane is very wide there and our group was riding 2 wide completely in the bike lane. A driver swerved into the bike lane and hit several riders and then swerved back to the left and drove away from the scene. The group got a good description of the car and also had the side mirror in their possession. They reported it to the Seal Beach police, who spread the word and the Huntington Beach police were able to locate the car.  The police went back and got two of our riders to identify the vehicle. The driver failed a sobriety test (This was before 10AM!).

One of the cyclists involved stated today: “The Seal Beach police officer, Joe Garcia, is going to bring me my bike today, which is supposed to be in pretty bad shape. The officer stated that the driver was not only drunk, but she had cocaine and prescription meds in her car to go along with her two felony warrants and the hit and run. The case # is: 12-0246, in case anyone would like it.”

Three of our riders went to the hospital and two stayed overnight.  One reportedly had elbow surgery for a bad break. Another has a severe bruises & road rash all over, sprained elbow & ankle, neck & head trauma, and a concussion. The 3rd has a broken right thumb, hairline fracture of the pelvis, a large hematoma on his right hip, road rash, pain in his neck & back. All in all, they are VERY lucky to be alive.

We are discussing as a club how we can take our concerns to the justice system. This person should be taken off the roads.

It’s long been my belief that every hit-and-run driver should automatically lose their driver’s license — not suspended, but permanently revoked, since they’ve shown themselves unfit to be behind the wheel by failing to observe one of the most basic legal requirements for any driver.

Or any human being, for that matter.

I think any car used in a hit-and-run should be impounded as evidence until a trial is held. If the driver is convicted, the vehicle should be seized by the state and sold, with the proceeds going to the victim.

After all, we don’t let bank robbers keep the gun they used to commit the crime. And California law already allows seizure of a vehicle if it’s used in a drug crime or to solicit a prostitute.

Isn’t a hit-and-run that leaves an innocent person bloodied or dead in the street just a little more serious than asking a hooker for a blow job?

My prayers and best wishes go out to all the cyclists injured in this case; it was a large hematoma that laid me up for three months after the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter, and it was at least that long before my head finally cleared from the effects of the concussion I suffered.

So I know just how serious those injuries can be.

And I wouldn’t wish road rash on my worst enemy.

Update: An anonymous source identifies the driver as Juli Ann Brown. Brown reportedly was convicted of two separate DUI counts in 2003, one for drug use and another for a blood alcohol level greater than .08. In a sign of just how lenient  the courts are in what should be a serious crime, she was sentenced to just 10 days in jail — which as then stayed — 90 days of driving restriction, and fines and restitution. In addition, she was required to attend a nine month alcohol treatment program and a MADD victim impact panel.

In other words, not one day in jail. And she had her license back in just three months.

No wonder people continue to die when the courts refuse to get drunks off the road.

The Seal Beach Police Department is looking for more witnesses; contact Officer Joe Garcia directly at (562) 799-4100, ext. 1649

Update: The Orange County Register reports that Brown, a 46-year old resident of Anchorage, Alaska, has been arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run, suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of narcotics. She was arrested by Huntington Beach police near the intersection of PCH and 17th Street in Huntington Beach. Thanks to Duan Dao for the link.

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In related news, a Palm Desert cyclist was sent to the hospital in critical condition after a collision at Portola Avenue and Frank Sinatra Drive at 11:18 Sunday morning; no other information is available at this time. Also, a San Diego cyclist suffered a serious arm injury when he was hit by an 85-year old driver in a left cross around 1:20 pm Saturday.

And I’ve received an unconfirmed report — from a very reliable source — about a cyclist struck by a hit-and-run around 6 am Friday in Laguna Beach; let me know if you have any information.

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The call for bike safety inspired by the Times of London spreads, with a must-read letter from a business writer for the Independent to UK Transport Minister Mike Penning.

I should say, Mr Penning, I am also a motorist – or at least I was before I was seriously disabled by that tanker. And I can tell you that, as a motorist in London, the thing I’m afraid of is other motorists, not cyclists. That is because other motorists can hurt me even when I’m in a car. And when I’m on a bike, they can kill me.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand paper calls for taking cycleways — and cyclists — seriously.

Cyclists, in particular those who commute, are not obscure oddball hobbyists; they are the trailblazers of a transport future whom we should applaud and accommodate.

And be careful what you wish for — the new call for bike safety could go a little too far.

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After dragging his name through the mud for the past several years, we’ll never know the truth after federal investigators drop their investigation into seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. However, even though US cycling officials welcome the end of the probe, the doping investigation may go on.

But do we really care?

Then again, by the time you read this, we may finally know the outcome of the Contador clembuterol-tainted meat case. Or not.

Update: In a major shock, Alberto Contado has joined Floyd Landis in being stripped of 2010 Tour de France title, and has been banned for two years. Très surpris!

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The Westside Cities Council of Governments wants your opinion on closing gaps in Westside bikeways. Rick Risemberg writes in praise of the new Main Street road diet and bike lanes in Venice, and suggests turning bus benches into bike racks. How can we stop bike thefts when police are doing the stealing? More grants for environmental projects — including bike paths — goes to NorCal than SoCal. Pomona plans a ciclovia of their own.

Frank Peters of cdmCyclist takes a ride up the coast. A San Diego cyclist may never walk again after he was run down by a 76-year old driver who never knew she hit him. Some schmuck fled the scene after running down three girls walking on a Ventura County bike path. Police say 70% of people killed in Petaluma in the last 25 years have died from traffic collisions, and 30% from criminal attacks; evidently, no one ever dies from accidents or other causes in Petaluma.

This year’s Ride the Rockies will travel 442 miles across the Colorado high country through two national parks, five mountain passes and the highest continuous road in the U.S. An Amarillo banker fights bikeway improvements in the city. A Louisville KY family moves two-and-a-half miles to a new home by bike. A Baton Rouge engineer says it’s time to put the brakes on the bicycling movement, and blames a biased liberal press for pushing it; an LSU Ph.D candidate seems a little more rational. Pennsylvania’s Governor signs a four-foot passing bill into law, unlike California’s governor who doesn’t seem to think we deserve three. A 79-year old PA woman gets a whopping $500 fine and six months suspended license for killing a popular Bethlehem bike advocate. A New York writer says it’s time to stop accepting the culture of traffic deaths. Writing in Bicycling, a copy editor for the Washington Post says you can’t trust other people to do the right thing. In a heartbreaking story, a 68-year old South Carolina man is killed while riding a tandem with his wife.

An Ontario study shows you’re three times more likely to have a collision in a roundabout than a signalized intersection — but three times less likely to be injured if you do. Ottawa authorities throw the book at an alleged drunk driver who critically injured a cyclist. Even so, cycling may make you a happier person. Some Japanese cyclists will be forced from the roads and onto a bike path. Eight years later, a daughter complains about the lack of justice in a notorious hit-and-run case that took the life of her father.

Finally, a great photo of a cyclist walking his bike through the weekend blizzard in the plains states.

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