A little this, a little that — social media bike thieves, a jerk cyclist and a leading blogger dumps on LACBC

They’re getting smarter.

According to an email circulating in the local cycling community, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department has broken up a bike theft ring that used social media to identify what bikes to steal.

The email reported that the suspects would identify bike owners through Facebook, Craigslist and geotagged photos, and exchange emails using a fictitious name and email address. Then they would research their victims and their homes online before driving to their houses at night, breaking in and stealing their bikes.

The thieves used the names Joe Wayne and Mark Silverstein, both using Yahoo accounts. They may have negotiated with their victims about buying a bike or just about riding; victims may have emailed them a photo of their bike before it was stolen.

According to the email, most of the bikes that were recovered have been stripped of their components; however, the Sheriff’s Department has around 40 frames and 100 wheels they hope to return to their owners.

I’m not going to post the name and contact numbers of the Sheriff’s Lieutenant who sent the email online; however, if this story sounds a little too familiar to you, email me at the address on the About page and I’ll send his contact information to you.

Thanks to Eric Bruins and the staff at Geklaw for the heads-up.

………

Mike tips us to the story of a hit-and-run of a different sort, as a volunteer working to help clean up the L.A. River is the victim of a cyclist who failed to stop after crashing into her.

So let’s make this very clear.

If you hit someone while riding your bike, you have just as much of an obligation to stop as anyone else. No matter who’s at fault.

And while it’s called the L.A. River bike path, it’s actually a multi-use trail, like most off-road bike paths in the L.A. area. Which means pedestrians have as much right to be there as you do, whether they’re cleaning up the river or out for a late night stroll.

And whether you like it or not.

Yes, they have an obligation to use the bikeway safely and watch out for other people, whether on two wheels or two feet.

Just like you do.

And anyone who yells at pedestrians to “get off the bike path” — let alone fails to stop after hitting one — is just a jerk.

Meanwhile, the comments offer the usual distasteful back and forth that seems to occur whenever anything involving a cyclist occurs.

As a famous L.A. area resident put it 20 years ago this week, can we all get along?

………

You’re invited to participate in a webcast with pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer at 1:30 pm on Monday, May 7th.

The webcast is open to the public; however, you must have a Ustream profile or log-in using your Twitter account in order to join the live chat, or ask questions using your Facebook account. And if Levi likes your question, you’ll win a limited edition Levi poster from CLIF Bar.

……..

In other upcoming events, this Saturday will see a free Tour de Palmdale Poker Run Fun Bike Ride to celebrate the city’s hosting of the 6th Stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

Riders will meet at Marie Kerr Park, 2723 Rancho Vista, and ride a 30 mile course through the city, picking up a playing card at each stop; the one with the best poker hand at the end of the ride wins. Thanks to Michele Chavez for the tip.

And everyone who rides PCH — or would like to — is invited attend a progress meeting on the design of the Pacific Coast Bike Route Improvements Project between Busch Drive and the western Malibu city limit. The meeting is scheduled for 10 am to noon in the Multi-Purpose Room at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road.

………

Erik Griswald forwards a couple of stories, as a Bay Area TV station goes after those damn law breaking and non-helmet wearing cyclists.

And an 18-year old Chandler AZ cyclist can thank the deity of his choice after he was right hooked by a 69-year old driver while walking his bike across the street — apparently with the light, and most likely in a crosswalk.

Even though he ended up with a broken collarbone and tire marks across his chest — and even though the driver assumed she had just hit the curb and kept going on her way to Famous Footwear — a police spokesperson said it was just a tragic accident, and no charges were likely to be filed.

So lets get this straight.

A woman fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, never even looking in the direction she’s actually turning. Then continues merrily on her way, oblivious to the fact that she’d just literally run over another human being.

And the police say it’s just an oops?

Just thank God you don’t live or ride in Chandler AZ.

………

Santa Maria cyclists are mourning the death of a popular club leader who was run down by an 84-year old driver who failed to negotiate a turn on PCH.

I suppose that will just be an “oops,” too.

………

Thanks to the multiple people who have sent me links to the many, many stories about the Berkeley hit-and-run that was captured by bike cam, leading to the arrest of a typical scumbag ex-con.

There’s really not much left to say about this one.

Except that it offers dramatic evidence that every cyclist should have a bike cam of their very own. I’m starting to consider it every bit as important as lights or a helmet.

After all, while lights can help keep you from getting hit and a helmet could offer some protection if you get hit, a cam could offer proof of what happened if you do get hit. And as this case shows, help catch the driver if he or she flees the scene —as happens in a third of all L.A. collisions.

And it seems to be absolutely necessary to build a case under the city’s still-untested cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which still hasn’t seen its first test case.

Of course, I should talk.

I don’t have one yet myself, thanks to a budget so tight it squeaks. Maybe GoPro or Contour would like to sponsor a poor, lowly bike blogger.

Hey, it could happen. Right?

………

LA/2B and GOOD invite you to imagine your ideal car-free day in L.A.; the winner will receive $500 to make it a reality.

………

Finally, Mikael Colville-Andersen, author of Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic — and arguably the world’s leading bike blogger — takes the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to task for its standard liability waiver for group rides, describing it as a “massive marketing/advocacy FAIL.”

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe Denmark is a far less litigious society that ours. Maybe he just doesn’t understand American legal culture. Or maybe his rabid campaign against bike helmets has led to a little confusion due to one too many falls.

But even so, he should have realized that the waiver form comes from the LACBC’s insurance company and was written by their lawyers, not the coalition’s. And that use of that form is a requirement to even get insurance, without which a non-profit organization such as the LACBC would be unable to host rides, since the legal fallout from a single fall or collision could be enough to wipe out the entire organization.

He’s right, though.

The form could be written a lot better. But that’s a matter to take up with the insurance companies and lawyers, not a non-profit leading the fight for safer streets and improved access for cyclists in L.A. County.

And which just wants to let local cyclists enjoy a simple bike ride.

Without getting sued.

Happy Bike Month!

18 comments

  1. When I started hosting rides, I would have people asking me about “liability issues” all the time, so I developed a method to deal with these concerns. I only did this once but it forever cleansed me of my conerns:

    (1) I demanded everyone in attendance sign a modified copy of one of the City of LA’s “You are going to ride a bike and maybe die, so don’t even think about suing us” waivers

    (2) Before the ride began, I stood in front of everyone and burned the stack of waivers and told everyone they were free to do as they please.

    (3) I then added that if they got hurt we would go through their pockets to take what we could, drag them into the middle of the street, and then call the cops and say we saw them drinking heavily.

    (4) Then I laughed and said, “Just kidding.”

    Maybe if you charge someone to ride a bike on a public bike path you might be worried about getting sued – but that waiver doesn’t do anything but make your insurance adjuster feel safer. It won’t protect you in court, but it fools people into thinking you are all lawyered up if they want to take you to court later.

    You should sign waivers before entering a swimming pool (to protect the pool owner or the people who designed and built it), or before sitting down to watch TV (to protect the TV station or TV manufacturer from suits) – as both of these activities lead to a greater health risk, or risk of death, than cycling on the river path do.

  2. Erik Griswold says:

    I really don’t think Mikael is specifically dumping on LACBC. I think he is trying to highlight a symptom of the massively skewed culture that accepts automobile use despite the costs, while doing nearly everything known to humans to scare us away from doing anything other than sitting on our sofas or sitting in a bucket-seat.

    And as best I know, he hasn’t fallen off of a bicycle in decades. It just doesn’t happen in a city like Copenhagen.

  3. Agreed. You’re a member of the public using a public facility. They can’t say a thing about it if you choose not to wear a helmet or not to pay. After all, as a taxpayer, you’ve already paid to use the road–be it street or bike path.

    They can deny you cookies and badges though. And there’s nothing wrong with pretending you have to pay to ride a public bike path if you just want to help them out.

    When I “lead” my occasional rides, such as “Stitching the River,” I tell people that I am taking a ride and that they are free to ride along if they want. I stress that we are using a public street, and that everyone is responsible for their own safety–and that I will be stopping at all red lights and stop signs, and I won’t chase them down if they zip on ahead. The only two “rules” are “Don’t get hurt,” and “Be polite,” but I have no authority to enforce even those. Also, I don’t charge people to ride along and chat with me.

    It’s a public thoroughfare, and we are the public!

  4. Mark Elliot says:

    I agree that the need for a club waiver is not entirely clear as it is a public street. I ain’t no attorney, but I’d imagine the waiver comes into play if the ride leader leads the group in a way that’s not in accord with the law: through a read light, a stop sign, etc. That might give the injured an opportunity to claim damages.

    The other issue is that waiver itself. It needs to be shorter and to the point. Those qualities don’t preclude legal precision. It is the organization’s responsibility to argue for a better one.

    As there’s more attention focused on the ‘legalese’ these days, let me recall poorly (or overly) worded agreements and how they obscure, rather than clarify, the risks and liability. Banks are an excellent example. For each bank account I’ve opened in the past five years, the bank rep puts before me an agreement that is not entirely clear, or internally contradictory, and/or asks me to acknowledge receipt of documents not offered. (In once case the bank couldn’t produce 2 of the 3 I was to have agreed to read. I walked out.) I waged an 18 month battle with a credit union to get them to revamp their problematic agreement. No dice: it stands because it puts the account holder at a disadvantage.

    Joseph: You don’t need to drag the guy into the street and give the cops a story about drinking, etc. That’s their job!

  5. Mikael has made similar arguments before:

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/04/go-green-go-dutch-go-die.html

    I don’t know what he hopes to accomplish. Waivers are a fact of our culture. No responsible organization or business will hold an event without them. That the language is sometimes overbearing comes at the advice of attorneys, who ask the simple question, “What happens if?” There might be people dissuaded by such language, but by now many of us have become inured to them. We sign without reading. But if Mikael were organizing an even in L.A., he’d have one too. Liability concerns tend to trump philosophical ones.

    • Erik Griswold says:

      How about rewording the waiver so that it doesn’t specifically focus on bicycling? Make it broader, stop referring to cycling as an athletic event (it is a mode of transport), and avoid language that specifically makes bicycling out to be risky when it is no more risky than walking and is less risky than driving a car.

      And don’t forget to include the risk of being hit by a meteorite.

      • Brent says:

        My favorite disclaimer came from skydiving, where I had to read aloud all the risks of injury and death that could happen to me. The reading was videotaped for good measure. It was just about as dire as they come, and included a reference to a case in which the family of a dead parachutist sued and lost because of a similar waiver. Of course, at the end of reading it I marched off to the airplane, to my certain death, and jumped all the same.

        I appreciate your point about referring to cycling as a “mode of transport” and the rest, but I’m not sure how much advocacy one can cram into a waiver, or even how effective it would be.

    • Perhaps comparing the Nissan “Ride Before the Pros” with CicLAvia would be a good illustration, as they use the same (or similar) streets in downtown L.A. For CicLAvia, there’s no waiver required, but the Nissan event has a doozy:

      https://www.raceit.com/register/?event=11806

      CicLAvia is quasi-governmental, supported by the City, which has at least partial protection from lawsuits over injuries on the street. Nissan does not. The waiver becomes prudent.

  6. Erik Griswold says:

    I keep forgetting to point out that in reality, a waiver isn’t going to actually prevent someone from suing a bare-bones organization like LACBC, The fact that LACBC has no money or assets will. Lawyers only chase after entities with cash and property

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re right. However, the real purpose of the waiver isn’t to keep people from suing the LACBC; it’s to ensure the insurance company will pay the claim if one is filed.

  7. Tony says:

    You demonize Michael for having a different approach to you but his is the country where everyone cycles, where helmets are rarely worn but accident and head injury rates are low and cycling is for everyday people not the preserve of lycra clad armoured superheros doing battle with traffic. The USA should get its own house in order before criticizing those who are demonstrably way way ahead of them in the cycling stakes.

    • bikinginla says:

      I think you have it backwards, Tony. I didn’t “demonize” Mikael; he unfairly — and extremely harshly —  criticized the LACBC for something that wasn’t the organization’s fault.

      I agree with you that the U.S. has to get it’s house in order. And one place we have to start is our overly litigious society, where a minor event could lead to a major law suit that could destroy a non-profit such as the LACBC.

      Mikael lives in a far different society where helmets legal disclaimers don’t seem to be necessary. In this country, as it is now, I would contend that both are, and will remain so until we finally get our shit together.

      • Tony says:

        It was you that called him confused and rabid. And all because he said something sensible. Do you really think that a 10 mile casual cycle ride at a modest pace is properly described by “this athletic event is an extreme test of a person’s physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss.”?

        That’s a complete misrepresentation and if they had been my insurers/lawyers I would have taken them to task over it. Because they are basically lying. Its not an athletic event. Its not an extreme test. Its a 10 mile casual bike ride at a modest pace and is within the capability of virtually any person who can ride a bike.

        And LACBC should be criticized for allowing the insurers/lawyers to get away with such nonsense. “They made me do it” is not an acceptable excuse.

        • bikinginla says:

          Oh please. So you think the better alternative is to have no rides at all because they can’t get insurance? LACBC has in the past, and continues, to try to get the waiver form simplified and the over-the-top comments removed.

          However, as long as that’s what the company requires, the Coalition has no choice but to go along with it. Blaming the LACBC for something they have little or no control over is myopically unfair.

          My reference to Mikael as confused was strictly in reference to his criticism of the LACBC; had he criticized the insurance company rather than the Coalition he would have been on target. So yes, I believe he was confused.

          And I think “rabid” is a very mild term for his opposition to all helmets all the time for everyone in every circumstance. If I had listened to his anti-helmet insistence prior to my solo fall a few years back, I would probably be dead or incapacitated right now.

          So what could possibly be wrong with letting people decide for themselves whether or not to wear a helmet, rather than, yes, rabidly opposing all helmet use? I really do think I’m a big enough boy to make that decision for myself, and don’t need Mikael or anyone else to tell me that I have to, or that I can’t, wear one.

          I have absolutely nothing against Mikael. In fact, I follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his Copenhagenize blog. And I agree with him about ignoring the bull and the need to focus on improving our roads and preventing collisions rather than putting the onus for safety on the potential victims.

          But like anyone else he can be wrong at times — and yes, that most certainly includes me. In this particular case, I strongly believe he was, and that my response was far milder than his unfair criticism.

          • Tony says:

            I don’t think its better to have no rides but neither is that necessary. The NIssan ride waiver linked above by Examined Spoke is perfectly fine as a waiver. It doesn’t say this is an extreme sporting event. It just says that you waive certain rights if you want to participate in the event. If Nissan can do it then I am sure LACBC can find an insurance company with a sensible waiver.

            As for Mikael and helmets, yes it definitely should be your decision, although your laws often allow no personal choice in the matter. But just remember that in Denmark very few people wear helmets and in the US most people do. Nevertheless in Denmark the cyclist head injury rate is very low while in the US it is about six times higher. So do you wear helmets because you have head injuries or have head injuries because you wear helmets?

            And based on the many many thousands of cyclists worldwide who have accidents just like yours and survive perfectly well, I doubt very much that you would have been dead or incapacitated.

            • bikinginla says:

              Considering that I was unconscious for several minutes, hospitalized in the ICU with a traumatic brain injury and went into shock twice, I’d suggest you might want to rethink your last paragraph.

              Comparing helmet use in Denmark and the U.S. is comparing apples and oranges. Denmark is a remarkably safe place to ride a bike, and most riders use slow, heavy bikes which are easy to step off from in the event of a fall. Here in the U.S., we don’t have that safe infrastructure — or even good roads — to prevent falls, and most people ride lighter, faster bikes which are difficult, if not impossible, to step off from to prevent falling.

              Using the Denmark experience to say helmets therefore cause injury is specious, at best.

              One final point. Nissan is a multi-billion dollar company with it’s own lawyers, and is probably self-insured for events like this; if not, they have the ability to make demands that the LACBC can’t. The Coalition is a small non-profit that operates on a shoestring budget, which must purchase the insurance it can afford.

              I’m sure there are other insurance companies that have less onerous waiver forms. And if you would care to make a sizable donation to the LACBC, I will suggest that they use that money to buy a policy from one of them. But unless and until that happens, I will gladly sign a ridiculous waiver that I am then free to ignore while I enjoy a pleasant ride in good company.

        • Please come to Los Angeles, start an organization, and put on a ride. We will welcome you. And we will sign whatever waiver you’ll inevitably put in front of us. That is our society.

          For what it’s worth, even the Danes seem to be moving towards waivers for similar events. One might consider them “primitive” — similar to the ones we had twenty or thirty years ago — that exculpated event organizers from liability without specifying risks. Perhaps in future years, they’ll progress to something closer to what the LACBC uses:

          For example, these two event sites, one for running and the other for cycling, both require participants to act at their own risk:

          http://www.parkrun.dk/tilmelding/tilmeldingsformularen

          http://www.aarhus-kobenhavn.dk/Aarhus—Dansk/Tilmelding/Betingelser-for-tilmelding.aspx

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