A close call in DTLA, a biking Hollywood producer gets left off the bus, and get your kicks on Route 66 next Sunday

It could have been so much worse.

Friday night, a high speed chase ended with a dramatic crash at Olympic Blvd and Los Angeles Street in Downtown LA, followed by police fatally shooting the driver for reasons that have yet to be explained.

And all just steps away from a group of bike riders who were nearly collateral damage in the crash, and had a front row seat for everything that followed.

Take a look at the link below — for some reason, I can’t embed the video — and watch carefully just above the geyser where the other car takes out the fire hydrant. (Hint — click on the full screen option for a better view.) You’ll see three bike riders who can count their lucky stars as both cars spun out on either side of them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbDwKspYgiU

Looks like some of the angels this city is named for were looking out for them. Ether that, or they need to buy some lottery tickets for Tuesday’s drawing, because they had to be some of the luckiest people on two wheels.

Thanks to Matt Ruscigno for the heads-up, who says a friend of his was one of those lucky riders.

………

You might be surprised who rides a bike. Or takes it on the bus.

When they can, that is.

It’s been a long-time problem that bike riders can be left stranded on the streets when the two bike racks on the front of Metro buses are full — including a woman who was forced to ride home alone at 4 am on New Years morning a few years back when she wasn’t allowed to take her bike on the bus.

TV producer Michael Binkow gets it.

Despite achieving a level of success that allows many of his peers to travel by limo or luxury car, he chooses to ride his bike to worksites throughout the city. And combine that journey with taking a Metro bus to get through some of the more challenging sections.

Except when full racks leave him stranded on the side of the road, waiting for bus after bus to pass by until one finally has an open space for his bike — even when there’s room for both him and his bike inside.

Here’s an email he sent to Metro on Friday, and cc’d me on.

Dear Ms. Johnson,

My name is Michael Binkow and I’ve been a resident of Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks) for the past 32 years.  I’m a television producer (“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” “1 vs 100,” “Container Wars,” etc.) so my work takes me to various parts of the city.  I’m now in Santa Monica and riding a bike to and from work most everyday.  With (the end of) Daylight Savings Time and ongoing construction on northbound Sepulveda Boulevard through the Sepulveda pass (and no bike lane), I’ve been riding the bus for 3 miles from Church Lane or Getty Center to Skirball Center to continue my ride home.

Here’s the issue—if there are two bicycles on the front of a bus, I’m stuck.  Drivers are “not allowed” to let me on and sometimes I must wait for several buses to pass before there’s an open slot.  By then of course it’s dark and even more dangerous to ride.  I’ve heard it’s a liability issue with potential injury to other passengers.  This is just fair.  One possible solution:  leave it to the driver’s discretion.  If there’s room on the bus and the bike won’t affect other passengers, let us on.  If the bus is too crowded and there’s not enough room, so be it, we’ll have to wait for the next one.

It’s obviously frustrating that those of us trying to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce auto traffic and take advantage of public transportation are discriminated against.

Please do what you can to revise this current policy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Michael Binkow

………

My friends Jon Riddle and Sarah Amelar, authors of Where To Bike Los Angeles, have been hosting a series of rides around the city and nearby environs in conjunction with the LACBC.

Their next ride will explore the legendary Route 66 that reaches its terminus right here in the City of Angels. Or more precisely, in Santa Monica, despite what the song says.

Route 66

When:   Sunday, December 22, 2013

Time:    Meet at 8:30am; ride at 9:00am

Where: Union Station in downtown Los Angeles

Meet in the garden courtyard on the south side of the main concourse of Union Station. Here’s the map.

Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, Main Street of America, or the Will Rogers Highway, is one of our Nation’s first interstate highways. Opened in 1926, it rolls west from Chicago. In our end of the country, it passes through Azusa, Pasadena, downtown L. A., and on to its unofficial terminus at the Pier in Santa Monica. On this tour, we’ll experience a bit of this historic highway by following a bike friendly version of Route 66 (the current official route is on the 101 Freeway from downtown to Hollywood) from Union Station west on Sunset Boulevard, then Fountain Avenue, then Santa Monica Boulevard and a few side streets to the ocean. Along the way, we’ll ride down holiday decorated streets in Silver Lake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. After a short break at the Pier, we’ll meander back to downtown on Main Street, Abbot Kenney, Venice Boulevard, and another Main Street.

Ride Length: 40 miles.

Ride Duration: Approximately 4-5 hours, including stops.

Difficulty: Recommended for intermediate-level riders, aged 16 and up. We’ll be riding on city streets, sometimes in bike lanes and sometimes on bike friendly streets marked with sharrows. Bottom line: be prepared for riding around automobiles on the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Hardly any climbing.

Weather Policy: Torrential rain, snow, earthquake or fierce wind cancels the outing. Otherwise, we ride.

What to bring: A road-worthy bike, extra inner tubes, a patch kit and pump, plenty of drinking water, a pocket snack (such as an energy bar, banana or trail mix), a helmet, proper clothing, and money for refueling at random espresso bars and for post-ride refreshments.

Parking: There’s plenty of inexpensive parking not far from Union Station in Chinatown. Or, save gas and parking coin—ride a Metro train or a bus to the station.

RSVP: Strongly encouraged, via wheretobikela@gmail.com, so we can send you last-minute advisories, particularly about weather.

………

Finally, there’s still time to get into the spirit of the season — assuming you read this before Sunday evening — with the LACBC’s annual Larchmont Holiday Caroling Bike Ride.

 

10 comments

  1. John Lloyd says:

    Many thanks to Michael Binkow for writing to Metro about this important issue for bus-bike commuters. I too have at times been left stranded by a half-empty bus because its bike rack is full. I’m tall and folding bikes do not fit me comfortably, so that’s not an option for me. This is also a safety issue after dark. The relatively simple change of allowing drivers discretion in such cases would make bus-bike commuting a viable option for more commuters. Other solutions would be for Metro to outfit its buses with 3-bike racks, and/or to run buses more frequently, but in the meantime a change in policy is warranted.

  2. There is a state law which governs the permissible length and width of bike racks for the front of buses. How far a bike rack can extends in front of a bus is determined by the length of the body of the bus plus the bus rack. The bumper is not considered part of the body of the bus and so its the bike rack plus the bumper that is measured.

    The Orange Line BRT triple bike racks stick out beyond the body of the bus outside of the measurements that the law permits. There was an exemption made due to the exclusive roadway for the bus.

    There are triple bike racks made by three different manufacturers on the Orange Line buses and all of them exceed the state law. I’ve measured these racks on the Orange Line buses and found that the racks plus the bumper far exceed what would be permitted on public roads.

    There are several brands of full sized wheel folding bikes made. All folding bikes are allowed on LA Metro buses. If you want to reliably take a bike on a bus, then you need to get a folding bike.

    • Joe B says:

      Dennis, this is the second time I’ve seen you claim that state law prohibits triple racks because they stick out too far. I asked you for a reference before and you didn’t provide one. I’ve looked for this law and can’t find it. Would you please either provide a reference, or stop telling people that triple racks are illegal?

      I’d like to see triple racks on all Metro buses, but claiming that they’re illegal really takes the pressure off Metro to fix the problem.

  3. Michael says:

    35400. (a) A vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet.

    (b) This section does not apply to any of the following:

    (8) A bus, when the excess length is caused by a device attached to the rear of the bus designed and used exclusively for the transporting of bicycles. This device may be up to 10 feet in length, if the device, along with any other device permitted pursuant to this section, does not cause the total length of the bus, including any device or load, to exceed 50 feet.

    (9) A bus operated by a public agency or a passenger stage corporation, as defined in Section 226 of the Public Utilities Code, used in transit system service, other than a schoolbus, when the excess length is caused by a folding device attached to the front of the bus which is designed and used exclusively for transporting bicycles. The device, including any bicycles transported thereon, shall be mounted in a manner that does not materially affect efficiency or visibility of vehicle safety equipment, and shall not extend more than 36 inches from the front body of the bus when fully deployed. The handlebars of a bicycle that is transported on a device described in this paragraph shall not extend more than 42 inches from the front of the bus. A device described in this paragraph may not be used on a bus that , exclusive of the device, exceeds 40 feet in length or on a bus having a device attached to the rear of the bus pursuant to paragraph (8) .

    • Joe B says:

      Thank you, Michael, for the reference.

      The code specifies that racks may extend 36 inches from the front of the bus. The Sportworks Trilogy triple rack (for example) measures 30 inches.

      Six inches seems plenty for mounting a rack. But if it isn’t sufficient, Metro should at least indicate their interest in triple racks, publicize their difficulty, and talk to state legislators about increasing the limit an extra inch or two. This is not an insurmountable problem, and Metro should not treat it as such.

      • The front bumper on the 60-foot articulated buses sticks out 9″ from the body of the bus (all of Metro’s buses have bumpers). So, that’s 9″, plus the 30″ for the Sportsworks triple bike rack. That’s a total of 39″. Which exceeds the maximum measurement allowed under the vehicle code.

        LA Metro looked into this after the board of directors made a directive to install triple bike racks. Its the state law that is holding this up, not Metro.

        • Joe B says:

          The problem is, I expect something more out of Metro than “Yeah, we looked into it, it’s unpossible. Next question?”

          How much more space do they need? Are they willing to meet with legislators to work out a proposal that will address the problem? The public can provide the pressure on our legislators, but we need to know what to press for.

          • Another way to help address this problem is to have smaller bumpers installed when there are new bus purchases made. A bike rack should give some protection for the bus in a front-end collision, so this should reduce the need for a bumper that sticks out this far.

            There are several design problems with having three bikes squeezed into the same amount of space as a two bike rack design would use.

            I’ve used the Orange Line triple bike racks hundreds of times over several years and it is frequently difficult to get a bike on or off the rack when more than one bike is on the rack.

            The handlebars of the bike closest to the bus will frequently make contact with the windshield and in some cases cracking the windshield. When it rains, bus drivers will often tape off the rack space closest to the body of the bus to prevent bikes interfering with the windshield wipers.

  4. […] Biking In LA says those are cyclists in the street who narrowly avoided death after a Corvette crashed at Olympic Blvd and Los Angeles Street during a […]

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