Archive for Bicycle Safety

Guest Post: Deep data analysis reveals the real causes of LA bike collisions

The key to improving bike safety is understanding how and why collisions occur.

Which has been almost impossible to figure out here in Los Angeles, where no one was keeping track of such vital statistics until recently. Let alone analyzing them.

I tried digging the data out of the statewide SWITRS traffic collision database before giving up, as have others before and since.

Now long-time LA bike advocate Dennis Hindman has dug through data compiled by the Los Angeles Police Department to uncover the causes of collisions — at least as determined by LAPD traffic investigators — with surprising results.

And makes the commonsense suggestion bicycling infrastructure should be installed first where cyclists ride, and collisions occur. At least until we have a fully built-out bicycling network.

I’m sharing the results of Hindman’s investigation, with his permission.

It’s a must read for anyone who cares about bike safety, and ensuring that everyone who goes out on a bike ride comes back home in one piece.

……..

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data results from 2007 through 2013 have a doubling of commuting by bicycle from 0.6% to 1.2%. Los Angeles Police Department reported 1,335 bicycle collisions in 2007 and 2,413 in 2013. That’s a 81% increase. Although the bicycle collisions have significantly increased, the rate of collisions per total number of bicycle riders has no doubt fallen.

I did a totaling of type of collisions in the first 100 pages (about 500 collisions) of the 484 page 2013 bicycle collision report that mentions each collisions individually and found the reported collision type or primary factor in the collisions to be:

  • 220 broadside
  • 110 wrong side (usually got hit by driver turning right)
  • 146 Right of Way auto
  • 70 stop sign
  • 40 improper turn
  • 48 sideswipe
  • 30 head on
  • 22 rear end
  • 10 improper turn
  • 8 too close
  • 5 improper driving
  • 10 lane change
  • 29 unsafe speed (usually unclear when that refers to bicycle or motor vehicle)

I haven’t seen anything in the report that mentions hitting a parked car door. There are several reports about hitting a parked vehicle though. I’ll try to figure out how many times that occurred in the total. Its much less frequent than getting broadsided.

Right of Way auto and broadside I assume would mean a bicycle running a stop sign or running a red light and a motor vehicle that had the right-of-way hitting the bicycle. I have yet to see a collision report state ROW bicycle, although it occasionally mentions ROW pedestrian.

The report does mention collisions when a motor vehicle was making a right-turn as a bicycle was going straight. I’ll try to see how frequently that occurred in relation to all types of collisions. This also seems to be a small proportion compared to the number of broadsides.

A Los Angeles Department of Transportation bikeway traffic engineer recently stated that they do not do treatments for bicycles at intersections. The bike lanes are striped where there are no crossing points for motor vehicles such as driveways, freeway on and off ramps, and cross street intersections.

The MIT Media Lab made a great looking map of all the LAPD reported bicycle collisions for 2012:

http://youarehere.cc/p/bicycle-accidents/losangeles

When I look at that map it seems to me that the bulk of the LADOT resources for bicycling should be concentrated in the areas of the city where the bicycle collisions are densely packed together. That’s also where the most bicycling occurs. If there are few staff members and a very small budget, then why try to install bicycle improvements across the whole city at once. That dilutes the effect by spreading out the improvements so much that they don’t connect into a network of any sort and the quality of the infrastructure won’t be as good because the emphasis is on quantity.

……..

Hindman followed-up with a brief email providing a little additional information and clarification. 

When I mentioned 70 crashes involving a stop sign it should be stop sign or traffic signal. I’m getting better at understanding the abbreviations in the crash data and hopefully I can tabulate the primary collisions factors and collisions types for 2013. I counted 16 bicycle fatalities for 2013.* One pedestrian was killed by a bicycle rider in 2007 and in 2012, but none in 2013. Both of these pedestrians were in their 80’s.

Spot checking the MIT Media Lab results of 54 bicycle crashes for Van Nuys Blvd I noticed that any time the LAPD bicycle crash data mentions Van Nuys as the primary or secondary street it was counted by MIT as a crash on Van Nuys Blvd. I have to assume that all the street crashes mentioned were totaled the same way.

……..

*Editor’s note: My records show 18 bicycling fatalities in the City of Los Angeles in 2013. The discrepancy may be due to one rider killed in a train collision, and another who was walking his bike when he was hit by a car; it’s possible neither was classified as a bike collision in the LAPD stats. Two of the cyclists killed in 2013 died as a result of doorings. 

 

Morning Links: LASD to bar deputy distracted driving before they kill again; successful South LA CicLAvia

About damn time.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department finally proposes cutting back on onboard computer use by their deputies, which would be illegal for anyone other than emergency workers. And for damn good reason.

Unfortunately, it comes too late for Milt Olin, killed by a deputy who was using his to text with another officer when he drifted into the bike lane Olin was riding in one year ago.

Not too surprisingly, the department’s union agues for the need for deputies to keep using their computers while they drive, rather than rely on the radios police officers have used with relative safety for decades.

Evidently, Olin’s death doesn’t mean any more to them than it did the DA’s office.

……..

South LA merchants wonder if CicLAvia would ruin business for the day; experience shows that businesses that reach out to participants thrive, while those who don’t, don’t.

An anonymous donor contributes $400,000 for future events.

Unfortunately, the Times gets it wrong; CicLAvia is not a bike festival, as they suggest, but an open streets event that welcomes anyone without a motor. On the other hand, KABC-7 gets it right, and has the video to prove it.

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Local

Glendale will hold a workshop on Thursday to discuss where to put a bridge connecting Griffith Park and the LA River bike path with the east side of the river.

A bike rider is critically injured in a fall while riding with a group of cyclists on a mountain road above Altadena; he was airlifted to Pasadena for treatment.

CICLE’s next adult bicycling class is scheduled for Sunday, January 18th; that might make the perfect holiday gift for the bike-curious person on your list.

 

State

Two San Francisco cops are convicted of stealing $30,000 from a drug dealer. But it’s okay, one of them planned to use his share to buy a bike.

A San Francisco writer says the new three-foot passing law hasn’t really changed anything.

 

National

Honolulu gets its first cycle track, while residents worry what effect it will have on pedestrians. Maybe they should read this report from People for Bikes.

A Seattle red light camera catches a car and a bike running the light, but only the driver gets a ticket.

The mother of a Boise girl killed while riding her bike in a crosswalk files suit against the local police department for blaming the victim, rather than the operator of the big dangerous machine.

Nice. A new Colorado bike path runs along a reconstructed highway, allowing cyclists to ride 18 miles car-free from Boulder to the Denver area.

A sleepy Iowa town gets rediscovered thanks to a shiny new bridge and bike trail.

A female ex-con New Hampshire bike rider is under arrest for stabbing two women in a road rage incident.

Vermont proposes a statewide bike plan; long past time Caltrans did more than consider it.

Bono wasn’t dressed as a Hassidic Jew when he had his New York bike accident after all; turns out band mate The Edge was just pulling our collective leg.

 

International

Lance says he and his teammates had to cheat if they wanted to compete with other doping teams. Problem is, given the pervasiveness of cheating during the doping era, he’s probably right. And we all believe it’s over, right?

Irish cyclists talk about the problems they face on the road. Sounds like nothing is really different over there than it is here.

The mayor of Paris proposes spending the equivalent of $122 million on bike lanes. And making the city center nearly car-free.

A round-the-world cyclist says Australia is the world’s worst place for bike riders. I’m sure we could nominate a few spots that might compete.

 

Finally…

A Florida man flees by bike after stuffing his pants with stolen meat; I really don’t want to go to his house for dinner. See what it looks like to ride a World Cup cyclocross from a first-person perspective.

And in case you’ve forgotten, this is what it feels like to ride a bike for the first time.

 

Weekend Links: CicLAvia comes to South LA Sunday; new LAPD video says don’t get killed running a stop sign

It doesn’t look like I’m going to make Sunday’s South LA CicLAvia, even though it’s shaping up as possibly the best CicLAvia ever.

So go in my place. Have fun.

And say hello to LA’s historic undiscovered country south of the Santa Monica Freeway.

……..

CicLAvia leads KNBC’s list of things to do this weekend. The South LA community looks forward to their big day on LA’s center stage, while Streetsblog looks at what’s on tap all along the route.

The Militant Angeleno offers his must read guide to the South LA CicLAvia route; seriously, no one knows LA’s history and significant cultural sites better. No, really, click on the damn link, already.

And the new Silverlake Shinola hosts a neighborhood block party to celebrate its Grand Opening just as CicLAvia comes to a close; Angel City Brewery will be there to aid your post ride recovery.

……..

If CicLAvia isn’t in your plans, you can show your respect for a fallen rider killed by an LA sheriff’s deputy — who escaped without even the usual slap on the wrist — with Sunday’s Ceremonial Spin with the family of Milt Olin.

……..

The LAPD introduces a new traffic safety campaign.

Do I really need to mention that the first ad blames bike riders for getting themselves killed — even though none of the 11 cyclists killed in the city this year died as a result of running a stop sign?

……..

Local

The response from drivers to the LA Times’ recent story about bike-involved hit-and-runs is to blame the damn cyclists for getting hit. So evidently, they think running away after running down a cyclist is justified? Now that’s scary.

LA’s new bike lanes are just a step in the right direction towards improving traffic congestion and air quality.

Two LA city councilmembers introduce motions to fix those bad roadway patches that can make a bike ride miserable or take a rider down.

 

State

Calbike comes up with an aggressive agenda for next year, including requiring insurance companies to pay for collisions drivers cause, even if they aren’t directly involved.

The OC Weekly misinterprets the Newport Beach safety crackdown as targeting bad bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, even though the plan is to target all violations that endanger vulnerable users, whoever commits them.

 

National

GoPro is trying to, uh, go pro.

The Women’s Road World Cup will come back to the US next year.

People for Bikes reaches one million riders; you’ll find my name somewhere around the first thousand or so.

Tucson cyclists now enjoy over 1,000 miles of bicycling infrastructure. Although I’m not sure bike routes should count.

St. Paul hopes to catch up with its bike friendly twin city with a comprehensive new bike plan.

Tension still exists between cyclists and drivers in bike friendly Chattanooga. Just like everywhere else.

Orlando cyclists illegally stick to the sidewalk because they’re afraid to ride in the street.

 

International

The BBC says Bolivia’s Death Road has become the hot new route for risk-taking mountain bikers; the photos alone are worth the click.

We’re winning, at least overseas. Bikes are creating more jobs in Europe than carmakers in the US.

Even getting filmed kicking another London rider off his bike into rush hour traffic isn’t good enough for more than a warning.

Sometimes expensive mechanical problems aren’t.

At least we only have to worry about LA drivers. Rome’s bike-riding mayor may have to start taking a limo to the office after his life is threatened by mobsters.

A Helsinki study shows what I’ve always suspected — slower speed limits move traffic more efficiently.

An auto-centric Aussie coroner responds to the death of a cyclist by saying bikes should be banned from the motorway he was riding on, rather than suggesting motorists could conceivably drive more safely.

 

Finally…

At 1,500 an hour, the best way to burn off those holiday calories could be fat biking. Bring your Christmas tree home by bike. Ride inside this winter with your own DIY rollers for just $32.

And in case you were wondering, the AP says Kris Kringle should be spelled with a double S, and Chanukah without the C; meanwhile MAMIL makes the Oxford English Dictionary, along with carne asada and Secret Santa.

 

Morning Links: The Times looks at rising bike hit-and-run rates; and the year’s most inspirational video

You already knew hit-and-runs were a problem for cyclists.

But maybe none of us realized just how bad it’s become.

According to the LA Times, overall injury and fatal hit-and-run rates have actually declined since 2000. Except for those involving bike riders, which have increased a whopping 42% since then.

It’s easy to lay blame for the increase on a rising rate of bicycling over the same period, which has grown 61% since the turn of the century, according to a recent report from the League of American Bicyclists. But the fact that overall rates have gone down while bike-involved hit-and-runs have gone up just raises the question of why so many drivers think it’s okay to leave a bike rider bleeding in the street.

Then again, maybe it’s just that a collision with a bike rider is less likely to leave the driver’s car too damaged to flee than a wreck with another motor vehicle.

Regardless of the reason, nothing will change until the law is changed to make the penalties for hit-and-run greater than the potential reward for running away.

And that won’t happen until someone can get it through our out-of-touch governor’s head that hit-and-run is a serious — and deadly — problem.

Especially for those of us who aren’t protected by a couple tons of glass and steel.

………

The Times piece also notes that an overwhelming 80% of all hit-and-runs go unsolved. And only half of the cases that do get solved result in a conviction.

In other words, drivers have a 90% chance of getting away with it if they hit the gas instead of the brake after a collision. No wonder hit-and-run remains at epidemic proportions.

In addition, the story profiles some of the victims of fleeing drivers — at least, the ones still able to tell their own story, including Paul Livingston, whose story was told here last June.

There’s a great interactive map, as well, that drives home the obscene number of bike-involved hit-and-runs every year, and where you need to be on the lookout for fleeing drivers. Including Long Beach, Santa Monica, DTLA, Van Nuys and North Hollywood — in other words, the places where you’re most likely to find people on bikes.

And the paper offers a video interview with Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt, who barely survived the gruesome hit-and-run that took his leg.

Then again, it’s not just an LA problem, as a Florida paper asks what kind of driver doesn’t stop after hitting someone.

Or more to point, what kind of pond-sucking scum would even consider it?

………

No surprise, as prosecutors have declined to press charges against the South LA bike rider allegedly beaten by cops while being held down after a brief pursuit.

Police had reportedly ordered Clinton Alford to stop while he was riding his bike on the sidewalk along Avalon Blvd, but he kept going because he says they failed to identify themselves as police officers. Then he ran when someone grabbed his bike from behind, which lead to the alleged beating.

Based on the description of events, though, the police appeared to lack probable cause to make the stop, since sidewalk riding is legal in Los Angeles. Which makes everything that followed, including alleged evidence of drug possession and accusations of resisting arrest, inadmissible in court.

Never mind that filing charges would stand in the way of reaching a settlement with the city over the beating.

………

Unbelievable. A Paso Robles cyclist is dead and her riding partner severely injured because the jerk behind the wheel dropped his effing cell phone and bent down to pick it up. Then had to swerve to avoid the stopped car ahead of him, slamming into the riders in the process.

Never mind that using a hand-held phone while driving is illegal in California.

Or that taking your eyes off the road to pick it up is idiotic.

………

Local

CicLAvia offers a narrative guide to Sunday’s event (pdf) from the real voices of South LA.

An Aussie travel writer takes a 32-mile bike tour of LA in — gasp! — a single day.

West Hills’ Spoke N’ Wheel Bicycles bounces back after a summer fire nearly put it out of business.

An important bike route through the UCLA campus is needlessly blocked by construction. And Porta Potties.

Santa Monica sees a dramatic increase in bicycling since 2000, nearly six times the national growth in cycling. And yes, this story is where I got that stat about the 61% increase in bike riding nationwide.

Riding for a great cause. The Midnight Ridazz annual All City Toy Ride takes place on Friday, December 9th. Thanks to James Hawkes for the link. 

The Eastside Bike Club is hosting a family-friendly Slow ES Cool — Cypress Park Ride to explore some of LA’s and the San Gabriel Valley’s beautiful sites and diverse eateries on Saturday, December 13th.

 

State

Riverside police plan to offer a $10,000 reward in the hit-and-run death of fallen rider D’Andre Sutherland.

A San Bernardino man is the victim of a bike-by shooting; he’ll survive, but may have trouble walking for awhile.

Evidently, they’re just a bunch of old softies, as a group of Hell’s Angels — yes, the notorious motorcycle gang — buy up all the bikes at a Fresno Walmart and donate them for needy kids. And not for the first time.

San Jose prepares to ban all bikes on the sidewalk because of a few overly aggressive riders.

The popular East Bay Bike Party has been cancelled for December due to out-of-control and disrespectful riders.

 

National

Evidently, bad research never dies, as the press continues to report on that highly flawed Governors’ report on bike safety.

Rails to Trails offers 10 great bike movie moments.

Your next GoPro could offer overhead shots, as the company is reportedly developing its own line of drones.

A Maine man admits to fatally running down his bike riding friend while driving drunk, after initially claiming he found him lying in a ditch.

New York City cuts the speed limit in Central Park to reign in all those dangerous bikes.

New York police use faulty, or perhaps made-up, data to justify a crackdown on bike riders.

 

International

A Vancouver writer says motorists must take more responsibility for keeping cyclists and pedestrians safe.

An Ottawa paper goes for major click bait, asking their readers whether an idiot on a bike or a moron behind the wheel is worse. How about the idiot editor who approved the piece?

A new association of the top pro cycling teams plans to bring a little more rationality to the sport.

A London writer offers up five mistakes that cancel out even the best bike lights.

London’s mayor Boris considers holding open streets events in the city after seeing similar events in Jakarta. If he thinks that’s impressive, we should invite him to Sunday’s CicLAvia.

Bike cams are being accepted as evidence in cases against Scottish motorists.

An American man and his 12-year old son tour Amsterdam by bike, including the Red Light District.

Caught on video: A Polish rider participating in a bikejoring competition — racing with dogs pulling her bike — is tackled by, not 10 Lords a Leaping, but a leaping herd of deer.

A Chengdu, China bike rider invents an air purifier that fits in a very big backpack.

 

Finally…

Florida cyclists connect through Facebook to get a man’s $5,000 Cannondale back before he even knew it was stolen. Lance just can’t keep away from the sport, as he admits to motorpacing BMC’s Tejay van Garderen.

And they must make ‘em tough Down Under, as a 13-year old boy rides his bike back home after being bitten by a shark.

………

One quick bonus video: Michael Eisenberg forwards what may be the most inspirational video you’ll see this year, featuring former race car champ and champion paracyclist Alex Zarnardi, who lost both legs in a car racing collision.

Seriously, if he can get back on a bike, so can I.

And so can you.

 

74-year old Laguna Woods bike rider dies following collision two weeks ago; OC bike deaths 50% above last year

More bad news on a weekend dedicated to giving thanks.

Sadly, a 74-year old bike rider has died from injuries he received in a Laguna Woods collision just over two weeks ago.

According to NBC-4, the victim was riding on southbound Moulton Parkway near Santa Maria around 5:57 am on Saturday, November 15th, when he was hit by a 2006 Honda Civic. He was transported to a nearby hospital in grave condition.

Now the Orange County Register reports that Cesar Labastida succumbed to his injuries earlier today.

Both sources report that the driver, who has not been publicly identified, stopped to call 911 and render aid, and that police don’t suspect drugs or alcohol played a role.

No information is available on how the collision occurred or who may have been at fault.

The crash is still under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to call traffic investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-425-1860.

This is the 81st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 18th in Orange County; that compares to 12 for all of last year in the county.

My sympathy and prayers for Cesar Labastida and all his loved ones. 

Thanks to Frank Peters for the heads-up.

Monterey Park cyclist killed in right hook earlier this month

Sometimes it takes awhile for bad news to get around.

Earlier this month, a bike rider was seriously injured in a right hook in Monterey Park. Now I’ve received word that she has died of her injuries.

According to the Pasadena Star-News, the victim, identified as 59-year old Ai-Nei Zhou of Monterey Park, was riding in the crosswalk on Garvey Avenue at Orange Avenue when she was hit by a car turning right onto southbound Orange around 3:30 pm on November 15th.

Zhou was hospitalized with serious injuries; the Cyclist Down Facebook page says she died the following day.

The Star-News reports the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police.

It’s not clear from the article which direction Zhou was riding. Presumably, she was riding on the sidewalk when she entered the crosswalk; if she going west she should have been easily visible as she rode towards the driver. However, if she was riding in the opposite direction, drivers often don’t look for bikes on the sidewalk, and don’t anticipate cyclists riding out into the street.

Which does not in any way excuse the driver’s failure to see her or stop in time to avoid her. But it does explain why cyclists have to be extra careful when approaching an intersection from the sidewalk.

Look carefully for any approaching cars, especially from behind, and assume the drivers don’t see you. Then refuse to enter the street until all the cars have stopped for you or passed through the intersection.

This is the 80th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and 31st in LA County; both of those totals are comparable to this time last year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Ai-Nei Zhou and all her friends and family.

Thanks to Carlos Morales for the heads-up. 

 

 

Update: 39-year old salmon cyclist killed in Venice Thanksgiving night

It wasn’t a good Thanksgiving in Venice Thursday evening.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a 39-year old Venice resident was riding the wrong way on South Venice Blvd just east of Speedway when she was struck by a car turning left onto the one-way street from southbound Speedway.

According to the paper, the collision occurred around 5 pm.

Venice 311 reports the victim, who has not been publicly identified pending notification of next of kin, was riding without a headlight shortly after sunset, which occurred at 4:44 pm. The website says she lost balance before being struck, and fell under the car before being dragged roughly 10 feet until the driver was able to stop.

The driver reportedly did not see her riding the wrong direction in the gathering dusk. The visitors from Spain remained at the scene, and immediately called for help.

She was not breathing when firefighters dislodged her from the car, and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The Venice 311 story includes a number of photos from the scene, including shots of the bike with the rear racks full and the contents of the handlebar basket spilling onto the street.

This collision serves as a tragic reminder to always ride with traffic, even on quiet streets; drivers won’t be looking for you coming from the wrong direction.

This is the 79th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 30th in LA County. It’s also the 11th in the City of Los Angeles.

Sadly, those numbers will grow, as I’m aware of one more recent fatality in the County of Los Angeles; more on that Friday.

Update: John Montgomery visited the site and offers his insights in the comments below, questioning why the driver took so long to stop, and observes that, as always, the victim is unable to give her side of the story. And notes that the LAPD has conducted a thorough investigation at the scene. 

Meanwhile, I’ve received some criticism for using the term salmon; Patrick Miller calls it a “condescending slur” to describe a cyclist riding against traffic — and New York’s famed Bike Snob, who some credit with originating the term, agrees.

While he undoubtedly popularized the term, it has been in use by cyclists for some time; I first heard it decades ago, and have been using it in conversation with other riders ever since. That is not to say Bike Snob did not come up with the term on his own; his original use of the term could easily have been the first time he and many others had heard it.

I have never considered it to be condescending or a slur in any way. It is simply an apt description of an act that is both dangerous and illegal, and one of the leading causes of bicycling collisions. 

No offense was intended. If any was taken, I apologize.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and her loved ones. 

Thanks to Joe Ryan and Venice 311 for the heads-up. 

Morning Links: San Diego cyclists get blamed for collisions, and accused Eagleson killer enters not guilty plea

Evidently, it’s our fault.

Mostly, anyway.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, an analysis of San Diego bike crashes since 2011 shows cyclists at fault in nearly 60% of collisions.

Of course, those stats are based on police collision reports. And as the story notes, the results are subject to question.

Their accuracy depends largely on the individual officer’s knowledge and interpretation of bike law, ability to properly investigate bike collisions — especially when the injured cyclist is often unable to give his or her side of the story — and a lack of bias.

The simple fact is that few California police officers receive adequate, let alone in-depth, training in the rights and responsibilities of bike riders, as evidenced by the frequency with which riders are ticketed for things that aren’t actually illegal, such as riding in the traffic lane or two or more abreast.

And none are trained in the unique forensics of bicycle collisions, which differ dramatically from typical automobile crashes.

As for bias, with the exception of bike cops and officers who ride on their own time, most cops see the world from the same windshield perspective as other motorists.

All of which means that stats like this may provide support those who want to write bike riders off as law-breaking scofflaws.

But until we demand better bike training for traffic investigators — and police officers in general — they will have little basis in reality.

………

Local

Not even zoo animals are safe from LA’s hit-and-run drivers, as a big horn sheep is killed after escaping its enclosure, and the jerk behind the wheel just keeps on driving.

Velonews reports on the first day of the CXLA Weekend at the Greek, with victories by Katerina Nash and James Driscoll in the elite races. Cycling Across LA offers video of the race.

A ride will be held on December 7th to honor fallen cyclist Milt Olin, roughly three months after the DA dishonored him by refusing to file charges in the case.

BikeSGV delivers their monthly newsletter filled with upcoming events in the San Gabriel Valley

 

State

Neil Storm Stephany entered a not guilty plea Friday in the alleged intoxicated hit-and-run death of cyclist Shaun Eagleson in Newport Beach last month. Stephany faces a well-deserved murder charge based on a prior DUI conviction.

Short-sighted San Clemente votes not to include bike lanes in a coming reconstruction of Calle Frontera, apparently not realizing that giving people an alternative to driving could reduce traffic.

‘Tis the season: A Pismo Beach man donates 57 bikes to the local sheriff’s department to give away for Christmas.

 

National

Great news from Tucson, as former Rep. Gabby Giffords gets back on her bike three years after the near-fatal shooting.

A road raging Seattle driver faces just three to nine months in jail following her conviction for second-degree assault for intentionally running down a cyclist in a horrific attack.

An allegedly very drunk Chicago bike share rider is critically injured after being hit by two cars.

Turns out that Wolverine-playing song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman is one of us, as he goes for a cold weather ride on the streets of New York.

A father and daughter finish their 4,200 mile trip from Washington to Key West to benefit wounded vets.

 

International

E-bikes are on a roll in Europe, but just starting to catch on in the US.

Bikes will be banned from a bucolic garden bridge over the Thames because they would allegedly spoil the peaceful walking atmosphere. And as we all know, it’s impossible to ride a bike peacefully.

Caught on video: A London cyclist captures a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to be hit by an unseen cab; the footage is evidence in a civil case.

Down Under girls just want to have fun on fixies. That is, if they’re not collecting a menagerie of bikes.

A newborn Aussie baby is safe, thanks to the cyclists who discovered him hidden in a storm drain where he had been abandoned up to five days earlier.

 

Finally…

Turns out rocket powered cyclists are nothing new. British cyclists have a better knowledge of road safety than motorists do; not surprising, since people on bikes are a lot more vulnerable on the roads those who can rely seat belts, air bags and crumple zones.

And a Boston man confronts the thief who’s stealing his bike, and wins.

 

Today’s post, in which I talk pain and what the hell is wrong with me

When I started this website over six years ago, the first decision I made was that it was not about me, but rather, about bicycling. If I did write about myself, it was in the service of a larger point. 

Today, I’m breaking that rule. 

If there’s a larger message to come out of this, I don’t know what it is. 

I have struggled with whether to write this. But I have been open in discussing my diabetes up to this point; to not finish the story seems somehow dishonest.

And it affects my ability to maintain this site and bring you the bike news you’ve come to expect.

So if you’re interested, read on. If not, no hard feelings; feel free to skip it and come back another time.

Either way, we’ll be back to discussing bikes in the next post. And you can find today’s Morning Links here

……..

Let’s talk pain.

As a long-time cyclist, I thought I knew what it meant to suffer.

From the pain of struggling to make it up a tough climb or somehow make it back home when you ran out of gas miles before. To nursing bruised and broken bones and flesh, or debriding a massive case of road rash.

But nothing I’ve been through in 30-plus years of adult riding — or anything that came before — prepared me for what I’ve experienced this past summer, and the months since.

But at least now it has a name.

Diabetic Amyotrophy, to be exact.

Which means I beat the odds once again. First by developing diabetes without any of the usual risk factors other than a family history. Then developing a form of diabetic neuropathy that affects just 1% of adult diabetics.

I should play the lottery more often.

Unlike most medical conditions, it’s easy to point to when it began. According to my calendar, I took my last recreational bike ride in mid-June; my last ride for transportation at the end of July, as the pain started taking over my life and forcing me off my bike.

Surprisingly — both to me and my doctors — it came as I was gaining control over my diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed in April, I had an A1C — the key marker of diabetes, measuring blood sugar levels over a three-month period — of 14.5. A figure that was, quite literally, off the charts, as I discovered recently when I noticed the graph on my doctor’s wall only goes up to 12.5.

In fact, one of my doctors — I have a virtual peloton of physicians these days — said the biggest surprise was I hadn’t ended up in diabetic coma. Or worse.

No wonder I’d felt like crap.

Yet, despite being repeatedly told it would be impossible, I was able to bring my blood sugar back down to normal levels less than three months after my diagnoosis. My most recent A1C was just 5.8 — a level that would be on the high end of the normal range for a non-diabetic.

And through diet and medication alone, without having to go on insulin.

In fact, low blood sugar is a more of a problem these days, as I have to carefully monitor myself to keep from crashing.

As my diabetes improved, though, the pain increased. Until it became the single defining factor affecting my life.

My doctor advised me to just wait it out, guessing that it was my body’s reaction to lowering my blood sugar too far too fast. And that it would simply go away in time.

Instead, it continued to get worse. So I finally got a referral to a physician specializing in diabetes, and was lucky to find one who takes the Sherlock Holmes approach to diagnostics.

As in, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

So we began a months-long journey through a wide range of exotic blood and neurological tests in an attempt to discover what it wasn’t. Including some very scary things.

And once everything else had been considered and dismissed, we were left with this:

Diabetic amyotrophy, also known as proximal diabetic neuropathy, diabetic lumbosacral radiculoplexus neuropathy, and diabetic polyradiculoneuropathy, occurs in patients with diabetes (more likely in those with type II than type I). It usually involves weakness followed by wasting of muscles, and excruciating pain in the muscles of the thigh, hip, and buttocks.

Bingo. Although excruciating is putting it mildly.

What it doesn’t mention, though, is that the pain comes in three distinct flavors.

The first is a constant burning or freezing sensation in my feet, like they’re alternately on fire or encased in a block of ice.

Next comes uncontrollable muscle spasms in my calves and thighs lasting hours at a time, and resulting in a sensation like the lactic acid build-up that follows a hard ride. But many times worse.

Finally, I’m subject to intense, sudden shocks that come with no warning, strong enough to drop a grown man — namely me — to his knees. And striking anywhere from the waist down.

And I do mean anywhere.

Yes, even there.

You know those movies where they torture someone by shocking him with a car battery? My body doesn’t need any help to torture me. I can do that all by myself, without the need for external electricity.

The pain is constant, without relief, ranging from moderate to, by far, the worst pain I’ve ever felt, feared or imagined. Sometimes it’s just one of the three forms, at other times, all three at once.

And it’s worse at night. Much worse.

Which meant I spent most of my summer on the couch; awake all night from the pain, trying, usually unsuccessfully, not to wake my wife in the next room with my muffled cries of pain. Then curled up in a ball all day desperately trying to get the sleep I didn’t get the night before.

Relief, when it finally came, was in the form of a powerful anti-seizure medication used off-label for neuropathic pain. But it would only help for a day or two, at best, as my doctor slowly ratcheted up the dosage.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that it finally reached a level that offered any significant help. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but on a good day, helps bring it down to a more tolerable level.

Not that there are many of those.

Or more precisely, there are bad days, and less bad days.

On better days, I can function almost normally for a few hours, though even just going shopping with my wife is enough to wear me out. Going out on my own, unsupervised, requires cutting back on the amount of medication I take, and accepting the pain that comes with it.

And overdoing it means a relentless bout of pain that can last for days; it took over a week to get it back under control after spending just a few hours at the LACBC’s Firefly Ball recently.

There’s also a fine line between taking enough medication to control the pain and being unable to function. Too little and the pain knocks me on my ass; too much and I’m a virtual zombie until it finally wears off.

And even then, there’s no guarantee it will be enough to overcome the pain.

As a result, I’ve been unable to work, since I can’t commit to being anywhere, or being conscious enough to meet a deadline. Or guarantee that my head will be clear enough to be productive or that the pain won’t drive me back to bed.

Not that I have work to do. In fact, I haven’t worked a single day since the onset of my diabetes towards the end of last year.

Or an hour, for that matter.

It’s also kept me from making the changes I’ve wanted to this website; usually, it’s all I can do just to keep it going every day.

Or almost every day, as you may have noticed. Some days I’m just not up to the simple act of pounding out a new post.

And it’s kept me off my bike for nearly four months. While I’m determined to get back to riding, I don’t know when that will happen. Or if I can ever get back to riding the way I used to.

My life is now centered, not on the things I used to do, but the pills I have to take.

I’m finally starting to accept that.

Up to now, I’ve been fighting to overcome my pain and get back to normal. Now I’ve finally accepted that isn’t going to happen.

This is my new normal.

I have to accept that this is a chronic, and possibly permanent, condition. It may go away on its own someday, just as unexpectedly as it came on. Or it may be something I have to deal with all day, every day, for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that I’m stronger than I thought I was. And I can endure more than I thought was humanly possible.

My challenge now is to find a way to live my life, regardless of what’s going on with my body. What that means, I have no idea.

But I’m looking forward to finding out.

And other people have overcome far worse.

 

Update: Bike rider killed in Santa Ana; 73-year old cyclist gravely injured in Laguna Woods

This was a bad day for bike riders in Orange County.

According to the Orange County Register, a bike rider was killed in a collision with a vehicle in Santa Ana somewhere near the intersection of West 5th Street and North Harbor Blvd.

The New Santa Ana website places the time of the collision around 5:30 pm Saturday, and identifies the victim as an adult male. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both sites report the driver stayed at the scene. No other information is available at this time.

This is the 78th bicyclist killed in Southern California this year, and the 17th in Orange County; that compares with 12 in the county last year. And he’s the third bike rider killed in Santa Ana since the first of the year.

Update: Bill Sellin forwards an email from the Santa Ana police reporting the collision occurred at 300 N. Harbor Blvd. The victim was riding against traffic and attempting to cross the street when he was hit by a car traveling north on Harbor. 

Sadly, police are still attempting to identify the victim. A reminder to always carry some form of identification when you ride. 

Update 2: The Orange County coroner has identified the victim as 69-year old Hassan Davoodiaria. Thanks to Bill Sellin for the information

My deepest sympathy and prayers Hassan Davoodiaria and his loved ones.

Thanks to Natalie and Bill Sellin for the heads-up. 

……..

Meanwhile, KNBC-4 reports a 73-year old bike rider is in grave condition after he was hit by a Honda Civic on southbound Moulton Parkway near Santa Maria in Laguna Woods just before 6 am Saturday morning.

Sound like prayers or good thoughts are in order.

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