Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Thirteen.

That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.

In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14 this year.

It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an accompanying jump in ridership.

Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.

Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.

Just one problem.

Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.

Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.

And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed out in the street.

Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.

There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.

In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.

It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.

Thirteen.

Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish — was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through another human being.

Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.

And that makes him one of us.

Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13. Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the last two years.

As if that isn’t five too many.

Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.

There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.

And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go — supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.

When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.

But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their hegemony on our streets?

Greene’s piece isn’t bad.

He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.

But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and sisters.

Thirteen.

It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.

And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.

14 comments

  1. Chip says:

    I am a victim of a hit and run in Venice Beach this year in June and survived it! I think it is time for a ride in at city hall and demand changes to our streets and to Law Enforcements attitudes towards Bicyclists!

    • jg says:

      Start lobbying your Assembly Member, State Senator and Governor Brown for a change in the HnR law to equal the punishment for a fatal DIU “accident.” Survivors, like you, are the most powerful advocates for this change.

  2. Rich says:

    Agreed. I’d join.

    And thank you for this blog. I’m glad someone keeps this conversation going.

  3. This IS outrageous! Thank you for writing about it. My husband was victim of a hit and run on Hollywood Blvd years ago (thankfully he was ok, but the thought that a human could hit another human with 2 tons of steel and leave without a thought disgusts me).

  4. boyonabike says:

    Great post, Ted. We definitely need a protest of some kind. Maybe a die-in? Maybe on Westwood Blvd? Just sayin’.

  5. sofort says:

    You write: “There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.”

    A very fine post. I live two time zones east of you and I know nothing of the situation in Los Angeles except what I read in your blog, so please bear with me if I am naive: Would you speculate why there is no demand for action by local advocacy groups?

    • bikinginla says:

      That’s a good question. I suspect it has to do with two things.

      First, there’s a basic lack of awareness that the situation is as bad as it is; while I keep trying to sound the alarm, it hasn’t been picked up by anyone else. We’ve gotten too used to blood on our streets.

      Second, there’s the conflict between alarm and advocacy. If you’re goal is to increase ridership, the last message you want to send is that the streets are unsafe.

      And I don’t want to imply that local advocacy groups aren’t doing anything. The LACBC in particular has been working hard to get more and better bike lanes on the streets to improve safety.

  6. Jay says:

    It’s time for advocacy and activism! I for one would take part.

  7. Opus the Poet says:

    I feel your pain, Ted. Linked.

  8. […] I’m not the only one, either. Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care Sorry […]

  9. Brian says:

    Thanks for the article and for reminding us that we seem to have become complacent about the loss of human life, and these losses are entirely preventable.

  10. Erik G. says:

    Ted,

    What if we add in the number of deaths from adjacent cities and areas that, if Los Angeles were organized like London, would be inside the City of Los Angeles? Culver City, WeHo, Beverly Hills, East L.A. and Santa Monica, etc., are not part of Los Angeles due to quirks in history (and classism/racism), not logical governing.

  11. Jeff says:

    Since there is no real penalty for killing a cyclist – there is no real outcry about sentencing – cause there isn’t any severity for killing someone since their on a bike…..so incredibly sad.

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