A look at Camp Pendleton collision site; a killer driver may be back on the streets three years early

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent took a trip down to San Diego County in the wake of the Camp Pendleton collision that killed Udo Heinz and left fellow rider John Edwards critically injured.

Did you know you’re required to wear a helmet to ride at Pendleton? Learned that the Del Mar gate. So I own a helmet now. (And I want to read Heinz’s autopsy report to see whether his helped any.)

The site of the collision is on a shoulder-less stretch of two lane road, divided with a double yellow, between two guardrails. Signs indicate the bike route, set the maximum speed at 45 mph, and remind cyclists to ride single file. The shoulder completely disappears as the road crosses what appears to be a broad wash; the lanes may be substandard width, but I was too scared to stop to measure, partly because I was going too fast to discern whether there was non-sloping space on the other side of the guardrail to set my bike, and partly because there was just enough traffic to disincline me from stopping (or even slowing) long enough to find out.

The roadway’s in good repair; I didn’t notice any violent bumps or scary surface infrastructure like fissures or moguls. It’s certainly preferable to, say, Wilshire Blvd. This stretch of road is also completely straight, without even the gentlest curve that could possibly impair a driver’s view. The video from the NCTD bus shows absolutely no traffic coming from the opposite direction, although that video makes it seem as if the blind vertical curve ahead is much closer than it is. The hills worried me a lot more than the big vehicles on the road. In fact, the motorists on Pendleton seemed attentive and, frankly, kind of slower than I’d expected, not just in passing but generally. Passing through Oceanside afterwards was unpleasant in comparison.

New infrastructure on PCH stunned me. The stretch through downtown Oceanside is still bike-unfriendly, but going through other towns on the way to Del Mar blew my mind. There’s signage (regulatory & wayfinding), bike lanes, charming bike racks, bulbouts, ped-activated crossings with embedded flashing beacons, and even sharrows. Sharrows! On Highway 101! One town even had a portable message board parked in the median to inform road users what the heck these newfangled sharrows are for.

I crashed the memorial for Udo Conrad Heinz. Attendance was huge (I tried to count, but gave up after several attempts, and have to just estimate “well over two hundred”). Udo’s wife was clearly touched, and his son watched everything somberly with his great big eyes. I spoke very briefly with Susanne Davis, who left a comment on your blog, and she is hoping there will be a push now for a change in legislation to protect vulnerable road users, an Udo’s Law. (Also she mentioned in her comment the friendly attentiveness of the tank drivers at Pendleton, but part of this may be because she’s really attractive.)  The memorial touched everyone, family, friends, neighbors, fellow riders, former colleagues… I’m surprised the guy’s mailman didn’t show (maybe he did?) And the sunset was lovely.

On the return trip, I missed the Coaster because I was taking so many pictures of the aforementioned new infrastructure, so with darkness falling, I decided to catch the bus. I was standing under a lighted street lamp, wearing an extra large ANSI Class III hi-vis reflective vest, and shouldering a chrome bike with two reflective spoke cards. Also my bag, which has a prominent reflective stripe, was sitting on the bus bench next to me. I was almost blinded by the stupid blue-white high-intensity headlights of the approaching NCTD bus, which very clearly wasn’t slowing down or maneuvering towards the curb. I actually had to holler and wave to get the driver to notice me. As I boarded, I apologized sarcastically for my invisibility, and received no response. I’d hate to encounter this oblivious, unapologetic driver while riding.

Very shortly thereafter, the drivers changed shifts at a stop. The first thing the new driver did was wipe the front windows down. There was an amazing difference in visibility. The new driver said that it’s not a requirement for drivers to clean the windows, but it’s something he took upon himself to do as soon as he began driving Route 101, which is the coastal bus, because the sea spray builds up so fast. Sometimes, he said, he’ll even do it mid-route when it’s necessary.

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She also reports that Danae Marie Miller, — the driver convicted of killing Orange County triathlete Amine Britel while allegedly drunk and texting — appears to be out of prison well before her four year sentence is up, with no public explanation.

Danae Marie Miller’s out of prison. There’s no record of her within the California Dep’t of Corrections & Rehabilitation, at any rate. She could have been “realigned” to a county or city jail (not in any of the half-dozen I’ve checked, though.) She could be under monitored house arrest. She could be on unsupervised probation. She could be out there drunk & texting on the roads at this minute. Amine Britel? Still dead.

………

LA’s hit-and-run epidemic hit a horrifying climax this past weekend, as four innocent victims lost their lives to murderous drivers who couldn’t be bothered to stop long enough to save a life in four separate incidents.

Including a 19-year old woman and a three-year old child.

It’s clear that we need to change the law to halt this bloody crime spree. Including making the penalty for hit-and-run equivalent to drunk driving, to remove the incentive to flee the scene if a driver has been drinking.

If the victim dies, the driver should face a murder charge on the assumption that the victim’s life might have been saved if the driver had stopped long enough to render aid or call 911 before fleeing like a coward — let alone lived up to their responsibility as a decent human being.

Yet as the Danae Miller case suggest, the current prison overcrowding crisis means that anyone convicted under such a law is unlikely to serve more than a fraction of their prison term. We need to take steps to insure anyone who flees the scene of a collision loses their privilege to drive for decades.

If not for life.

And the car they used to commit the crime is seized and sold, with the proceeds given to the victim; after all, you don’t give a bank robber back the gun he used.

………

Last chance to help the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition set the city’s priorities for biking and walking.

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The MyFigueroa project is set for final approval, including LA’s first, albeit reduced in scope, cycle tracks, which even AARP approves of. Though someone might want to mention to LADOT that there are space-saving alternatives to creating semi-permeable car-blocking barriers.

And Streetsblog reports you still have to worry whether the long-planned Expo bikeway will survive latest assault from the wealthy homeowners in Cheviot Hills. These are the same people who argued in the past that a bike path would put their homes at risk from bike riding burglars who might try to peddle away with their 60” flat screens.

Just as an aside, I will be guest curating Streetsblog once again tomorrow.

………

Don’t forget tonight’s public meeting to review recommendations to improve safety on PCH in Malibu. If you can’t make it, another meeting will be held on Thursday. This is your chance to stop another serial killer — this time, one of Southern California’s most deadly highways.

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LA traffic would be a lot better if the city’s commuters would follow UCLA’s example. Only 51% of campus employees drive alone, compared to 70% of Los Angeles commuters — and nearly 75% of the university’s students use some form of alternative transportation.

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Finally, anyone into adventure cycling will want to follow the exploits of Reza Pakravan and Steven Pawley, who are just eight days into a planned 100 day, 11,184 mile ride from Nordkapp, Norway to Cape Town, South Africa.

You can keep up with Pakravan and Pawley on Twitter as they make their way across three continents.

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