Are calculated risks taking the lives of L.A. area cyclists?

Just last week, 30-year old Venice resident Erin Galligan was killed by a hit-and-run driver on PCH in Santa Monica.

A collision that might not have occurred if lights had been installed on the Santa Monica beach bike path to make it a safer and more inviting alternative to remaining on PCH during the construction work for the coastal interceptor sewer project.

We’ll never know why she chose the high-speed traffic of PCH over the dark and secluded bike path, since the only person who could have told us is now tragically silent.

Now another cyclist may have died due to an ill-advised roadway modification touted by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Speculation by cyclists as to the cause of the solo cycling accident that took the life of Willis Veluz-Abraham last Saturday has centered on the rumble strips that were recently installed on Stunt Road, where his collision occurred.

A comment left Monday says the strips have been installed on Piuma, Schuren and Stunt Roads, which, combined with Mulholland Highway and Cold Canyon, form the informal Mulholland Raceway popular with motorcyclists and performance drivers. According to the article on Yaroslavsky’s website, the high-speed motorists who frequent the area pose a risk to everyone on the roadway, while providing a near-constant aggravation to people who live in the area.

After considering other possibilities, the rumble strips were installed to calm these overly aggressive drivers and motorcyclists.

Whether they’ve had any real effect is yet to be determined.

But they may have cost Veluz-Abraham his life.

Yaroslovsky’s article hints at the danger.

The solution is not without its own possible downsides. Although centerline rumble strips have been used successfully in other areas—the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, for example, credited them last year with a 35%-50% reduction in crashes in areas on which they were installed—any change in the road surface can create hazards, especially for bicyclists and motorcyclists (emphasis mine).

In other words, they knew even before these strips were installed that they would pose a risk to bike riders. Yet evidently, made the conscious decision that it was worth risking our lives by deliberately making the roadway more dangerous in an attempt to slow down motorized traffic.

And it looks like that calculated risk came true on Saturday, just months after the first rumble strips were carved into the center dividers.

When the driver of a car, truck or SUV hits a rumble strip, it creates a loud, unpleasant noise and shaking sensation. But when motorcyclists hit them, they can result in shaking bad enough to adversely affect their ability to control their bikes.

And when a bicyclist hits a rumble strip, the effect can be devastating.

Especially since a bicycle rider is only likely to cross the center line when rounding a curve at high speed, and leaning hard into the curve in an attempt to control their bicycle. Combine the high speed and steep angle of the bike with an intentionally uneven road surface, and you have a recipe for disaster, making control of their bikes almost impossible for even the most skilled riders.

Like Willis Veluz-Abraham, for instance.

Something I know from first-hand experience in my more aggressive riding days.

I managed to survive my one and only encounter with center line rumble strips, if just barely, skidding across the road and ending up in the bushes on the opposite shoulder — while thanking God there had been no traffic coming in the opposite direction while I was sliding helpless on the highway.

It looks like Veluz-Abraham may not have been so lucky.

In another comment on Monday, Jeff says he was following him down Stunt Road when the incident occurred.

I was riding behind Willis when this happened and it was truly a tragedy. He was an experienced and cautious rider. He was a true family man and great guy to be around. He was really excited about being out riding that day. From what I saw it looked as though the rumble strip in the middle could have been part of the reason he went off.

…We were going downhill and making a right turn and he went wide and off to the left. There is a deep ravine and some metal beams sticking out of the ground that he struck.

Considering the location of the rumble strips, it’s virtually guaranteed that they played some role in causing Veluz-Abraham to go off the road; if they weren’t the direct cause, they undoubtedly contributed to his inability to regain control as he slid across the roughened pavement.

Depending on how recently he’d ridden that area, he may not have even known they were there, as I’m told that no warning signs were installed after the rumble strips carved into the pavement. And even if he did know they were there, he may not have been aware of the extreme danger they posed to riders such as himself.

Then again, he may have been fully aware of the danger, and simply couldn’t avoid them as he came around the corner too hot, unable to keep from drifting over the center line despite the danger.

Once again, we’ll never know.

But what we do know — what Yaroslavsky’s article makes abundantly clear — is that a conscious decision was make to slow motorized traffic by increasing the danger to everyone else on a popular riding route.

And it clearly illustrates that the safety of cyclists is too often ignored in making decisions that put us at risk.

Thanks to Eric Bruins and J for the link to the Yaroslavsky article.

………

Meanwhile, another comment points out that you can put your money where your heart is in the wake of this needless tragedy.

Willis’ co-workers and friends at Farmers Insurance have established a fund for his Family. Please forward this information to the Biking-Community in Los Angeles who would like to donate.

You can make donations to The Willis Veluz Abraham Fund
Wells Fargo Account #3268012758. You can also make a check out to either Willis Veluz Abraham Fund Or Melissa Abraham Fund

………

San Francisco family photographer Joseph Pascua provides portraits of Willis Veluz-Abraham and his family, while El Cerrito Patch remembers him as a former resident and graduate of the local high school.

The family and girlfriend of Fontana hit-and-run victim Alex Patrick Silva speak directly to the cycling community in calling for safety. A commenter says that police are looking for a black Chrysler sedan in the hit-and-run death of BMX rider Richard Paine in Fullerton.

And ghost bikes were installed Sunday night for Antonio Cortez, Erin Galligan and Willis Veluz-Abraham.

………

Over the years. I’ve seen a lot of comments online from auto-centric drivers who just don’t get it. And inexplicably — and heartlessly — express their misguided anger on stories about fallen riders.

Like this one, for instance.

I am so sorry for the family and friends left behind but It is to dangerous to ride PCH and Malibu canyon on a bicycle, we have minimum speed requirements for a reason, meaning you can get pulled over for going to slow in a car.!!!!! And until we support a bike lane bike’s cannot ride these roads, and think of the poor driver that smacks Capernikus in the malibu tunnel..!!! or on Kanan Road??? Plus some moron made it so the bicycle has the right away on these roads??? Ha? some and I do mean alot of idiots ride next to each other taking a big part of the lane…Hello!!! What part of 4000lbs going 55 do they think won’t hurt???? I think it really needs to be outlawed Sorry…Or we just wait till some big shot get’s killed and then we outlaw it, Let’s do it before or the people that keep us safe are dumber than I all ready think they are…Over and out..

Never mind that California doesn’t have a minimum speed law. Or her mistaken insistence that cyclists have the right of way — or right away, as she puts it — over automotive traffic, as much as we might all enjoy that.

What really takes the cake is the idea that bicycling should be outlawed, not because of any damage we might cause, but because we could be the victims of dangerous drivers like her.

Kind of like outlawing banks because someone might rob them.

Lastly, for her, and every other person who insists on making the same, tired and idiotic old statement, I have been hit by a car.

And I can assure them and everyone else that it hurts like hell.

………

You may recall a few months back that I included a few links to stories about a bike collision involving the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Author Steven Covey was seriously injured in a solo fall in Provo UT, yet seemed to be on the road to recovery when he was released from the hospital a few weeks later.

Now word comes that he died early Monday at a hospital in Idaho, apparently from the residual effects of his injuries.

Or maybe he was never bouncing back at all, as it’s not usual for the family and handlers of celebrities to issue false press releases to hide the severity of their injuries or illnesses from the press and public.

Thanks to Stanley Goldich and Matthew Gomez for the heads-up.

………

The nation’s first bicycling accident and liability policy is now available with a discount through Sustainable Streets. If you’re not already covered by an auto policy, you should quit reading and sign up right now.

It’s okay, I’ll wait.

………

In today’s racing update, Tour de France Riders are poised to make big moves in the final week, while André Greipel could turn out to be a surprise.

Sunday’s stage 14 of the Tour de France is sabotaged by thumbtacks in the roadway; non-cyclists may think it’s just a prank, while bike riders realize just how dangerous it really is; thanks to Cycleliscious for the Central Park link. Pierre Roland says he didn’t get the memo and is sorry he attacked on the tacks, while incidents like this show the downside of letting fans so close.

Team Sky’s Chris Froome is frustrated riding in support of fading 2011 champ Cadel Evans in a race he thinks he could win.

Meanwhile, the women of the Reve Tour, who are preceding the TdF on the same route, continue their tour despite contending with a car and a resulting broken tailbone.

And Thor Hushovd pulls out of the Olympics due to illness.

………

The LACBC introduces Eric Bruins as the coalition’s new Planning and Policy Director, replacing the popular and effective Alexis Lantz, who has moved on to a position with the L.A. County Department of Health. Santa Monica Spoke says a full length Expo Line bikeway is at risk; you can have your say in a meeting this Wednesday evening in Santa Monica. L.A.’s Planning Department will host a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss implementation of the first year of the city’s bike plan. The Caltech Bike Lab is hosting a ride to the Eagle Rock Brewery on Saturday. Two Azusa cyclists are seriously injured in separate crashes; not surprisingly, neither driver is either cited or arrested.

Concluding that the body count on California roadways isn’t high enough, our governor — only the second to veto a three foot passing law — legalizes texting with while driving with hands-free devices; clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a bad idea. Evidently, it wasn’t a good weekend for NorCal cyclists either, as rider dies on Donner Pass, and a renowned Israeli psychologist was killed while riding in Berkeley on Friday when he was hit by a dump truck. And the CHP blames a seriously injured Sonoma cyclist for crossing onto the wrong side of the road, resulting in a head-on collision.

A writer for the Alliance for Biking and Walking explains why every bicyclist, and the riding death of his friend, count. Are cyclists and drivers really locked together in an endless life-and-death struggle? Aspen’s planned bike share program gets delayed for a second year. A writer in my hometown suggests we all add our own biking PSAs in email messages. One of my favorite bike bloggers looks at Denver and Estes Park through a bike rider’s eye. Two Iowa men are arrested for stealing bikes minutes after they’re released from jail. A Tulsa duathlon honors a cyclist killed by a drunk driver. Turns out the New York Post doesn’t just hate biking infrastructure. A New York ad campaign shows how not to encourage women to ride bikes. Just what part of Bikes Can Use Full Lane is unclear to Virginians; link courtesy of Bob Mionske’s bicyclelaw.com.

London’s Mirror asks if bicycling has become the cool way to get around, while the Guardian wonders how Britain became a bicycling nation in just 10 years. Meanwhile, the Evening Standard relates how to remain stylish despite being forced to ride a bike during the upcoming Olympics. An Indian firm pays its employees 1,000 rupees a month to bike to work.

Finally, our streets are turning into a violent Peyton Place, as an off-duty Philadelphia police officer is apparently intentionally run down by his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. And a Santa Rosa woman does her best to run down a motorcyclist before plowing into another car and killing an innocent driver.

7 comments

  1. billdsd says:

    California does have a minimum speed law. It’s CVC 22400, but it doesn’t work the way that Kelly thinks it does. Bicyclists cannot be required to travel at a speed greater than they can reasonably sustain. CVC 22400 tickets against bicyclists are nearly always invalid due to the exceptions for grade and safety.

  2. [...] original here: Are calculated risks taking the lives of L.A. area cyclists? « BikingInLA This entry was posted in Blog Search and tagged bike, chose, dark, died, path, pch, person, [...]

  3. John says:

    I’d hate to do this, but I do have to defend the rumble strips, when used properly. If the curve wasn’t super steep (rated at less than 25-30 MPH), the center rumble strips shouldn’t become a factor to a bicyclist, as they shouldn’t be near them in most cases.

    However, knowing how a lot of the roads are there, I’d be willing to bet that the curve was steep (probably 15-20 MPH). In this case, someone should have realized bicyclists & motorcyclists would easily come near and likely crossing the rumble strip, especially if the said curve is on a down slope. The designer and the agency who installed this is definitely responsible, and should be held liable. My condolensces that it had to take a life for this to be brought to life. Sad…

  4. Jim Lucas says:

    First let me say that I am terribly sorry for the deceased rider and family. Second that I am a seasoned bicyclist and motor cyclist. It seems to me that everyone just has to test the limits and therein may lie the problem. For example, we have speed limits, set by law. It seems that these days everyone considers the speed limits to be at the most suggestions and if I try to obey them many drivers get grossly irritated and express that irritation in various manners. Were these rumble strips on the far side of a double yellow line that indicates that drivers are to stay to the right of them? If so I suggest that both motor vehicle drivers and cyclists stay to the right, obey the law, and avoid the dangerous rumble strips. If the rumble strips are to the right of the centerline, then the family of the cyclist may have a basis for a wrongful death suit Against the authority that ordered the rumble strips installed. The suit will of course not bring back our cyclist, however, it may get the rumble strips removed.

  5. KARL says:

    The coverage of the rumble strips here is well stated and for me the fact that the centerline is where bikes ride to avoid speedhumps seems relevent even if presently inarticulably so. I was astonishingly offended by the car sponsorship of the ironman and there being shown swooping in to swap bikes after the tack attack. Bikes are not car accessories nor dependent upon them. The midnight finishes must be seen to be believed… a kind of grinning delirium from seniors that more then hinted of willpower and positioning them against the mind not giving up but the body doing so scenes shown earlier in the run’s broadcast from prior years i think raises puzzling questions to me-

    BUT the insurance is tantalising but not ready to signup for as none of the details are online at either site. I do not know if the fee is monthly, or annual, or what the $100,000 covers, or any hint of it’s deductible, or how it’s apparenlty available to anyoneo withouto underwriting, or what sort of liability carve out it addresses. This is a very very very very very very very important issue and even the claims that no one else provides this coverage are vague and unlikely correct. Bikes are getting criminalised with the greatest excuse being we dont’ have liability coverage- so if it could be bought even for a dollar or more per day that would be actually breathtaking even though it might quickly become required along with registration etc. and all the innovations stifling that represents.

    ON my to do list though is finding out how disastrous LA’s ‘design/perform’ done deal fiasco is. Finding out how disastrous it is. I fear it’s so disastrous as to be a call to action and am tempted to not investigate for fear of how rough this draft will be on me. Bike share should be ambitious,and when it comes to potential size of this contract, it’s market making. The street lights practically if not made betaled, and basically they seemed obsolete before the first one shipped- and clearly all the bikes used by all bike share programs I’ve seen have not been path breaking as they should be. What sharing vehicles allows is nearly cost no object design of them. Durability is not the only thing- the budget allows for innovation that need not have risk. Rather it should be catalytic- a way of letting ordinary people try out bikes beyond there means to own- like segway rental once allowed, or obviously our present subway madness is practically defined as. A bikeshare program should be allowed to encounter capital costs in excess of that per user of a subway- not under 5% or half a percent perhaps as I guesstimate has been assumed. This is a seed program. I would rather have one tenth as many bikes that would within a few months create a clamor of demand met by other sectors- other then auto’s then just ‘barclay’ like statues be our fate. It need not further marginalise half lane or less vehicles. It should sell them unlike anything ever seen before. Every parking space in some garages have video camera’s- one literally for each space, and every bike should have MULTIPLE hidef video being broadcast as a minumum serving a variety of functions. They should be the result of a design contest that brings cause for cal tech student to be expelled for taking a month off to submit the full ticker the robots to manufacture these bikes need along with the simulations of how quickly they will clear the streets of teh even more expensive alternative. Such entres woudl occur with the confidence that they would not win for precisel ythat reason understanding the scandal such an outcome would have eventually. I am terrified that the bike share roll outs zeal is entirely do to an apparenlty sof ar utterly successful effort to rupture the threat it’s disruptive capacity. I am certain though that there is no risk of delaying a public bike share program counter productively as the private peer to peer etc. market is ripe for launch and can ony be stopped if a public one preemtps it like transit has enabled cars to infect us nearly terminally only because of it’s monopolistically despicable showing. It could accelerate things to invest millions all at once in a fleet, it COULD, but it’s a long shot and if the design of the bikes is not diverse and revolutionary, if they are not utilising of proven belt, unhastled by flat risk, and otherwise excellent unliek the recreational bike profit per customoer instead of market growth model so far we remain doomed. It’s a no brainer for me. WE want bikes ot hit the streets and be seen that really rock. Bikes with windshields, comfortable seats, trafic signal synchronising etc. capacity. They can clear the air, they can stop garage construction currenlty underway, there may not be a more critical month in the prior centurty or next to stop electric cars from denying regain of much of southern california for human use then that in the next few weeks or I fear only days if that left.

    The potential contribution of this program is beyond almost anyones imagination. As a regulator if LA said we want to spend the entire grant for just a tiny fraction of the miles assume- if the bikes got equiped like grocery carts with say just five miles of roadway they would operate on, I’m sure the evidence coudl be brought to me to convince any reasonable persono that was the correct response to the funding level for a proof of concept- for an overnight expelling of cars as the primary tool used in those corridors, much like I kid not the large number of billions spent on just one machine to test theories with not other application. If half th efunding was spent on a study to determnie what 5 miles these bikes could be used on my gutu woudl say I’ve never encoutnered such surprising info more proudly.

    These bikes shoudl be seen as cows in India- sacred, maybe only usable during rush hours, for two hours, twice a day, on five days a week. It must be done right per mile. WE must not fund it at an obscenely low cost per mile compared tothe full cost of cars. If we coudl fund it at 20% I bet the grant would only allow for a dozen bikes.

  6. KARL says:

    if by the year how can it be that half a dozen years is less risky then one champaigne fest?

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  7. Eric B says:

    Add to your calculated risks examples: speed tables on Via del Monte in Palos Verdes. Unlike speed humps, which are more appropriate for public streets, speed tables are sharp and uneven and can easily throw out a rider’s front wheel. In this case the City placed the devices in an area known for speeding cars and bicyclists at the bottom of a steep descent, which is the whole point. Unfortunately for the bicyclist that discovered them the day after installation, the job was incomplete with only the black rubberized speed table installed, but without any warning sign or paint indicating that there was about to be a new 4-inch obstacle ahead in the pre-dawn darkness. Two bicyclists have been sent to the hospital by them that I am aware of, maybe more. Like the rumble strips, a skilled and aware rider can avoid them, but they leave no margin of error for those that make contact.

    This is all the more frustrating because we should be in favor of traffic calming, but it needs to be done in a context sensitive manner and not by shifting all of the risk onto specific user groups.

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