Archive for Violence & Crime

Bypassing busy traffic on 7th Street, notes from the LAPD bike task force, and Beverly Hills bike lanes redux

When is a bike lane not a bike lane?

When it’s a traffic lane allowing impatient drivers to bypass backed-up traffic for a whole block, shaving maybe a few seconds off the evening commute.

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A few notes from last week’s meeting with the LAPD’s bike liaisons.

First off, Sgt. Lazlo Sandor has taken over as bike liaison for the West Traffic Division; you’ll find his email address on the Resources page.

As part of Chief Beck’s proclamation that this will be the year of traffic enforcement, the LAPD has transferred a number of officers to work the city’s four traffic divisions. The good news is, the city is now focused on cracking down on dangerous drivers — like the one in the video above, for instance. The bad news is, bike violations are considered traffic offenses as well, so be forewarned.

One of the biggest problems in fixing traffic problems has long been that no one has been tracking bicycling and pedestrians collisions, injuries and fatalities. Which meant no one had a clue just what and where those problems might be, let alone how to solve them. Fortunately, the LAPD is now keeping track of all of the above as part of their Compstat program, requiring traffic officers to appear four times a year to discuss problems in their areas. And the department is tracking the most dangerous intersections for all road users to determine what has to be done to improve safety for everyone.

Last week’s story that Houston police officers were conducting traffic stings to improve safety for the city’s cyclists made news around the world. Which may have come as a surprise to LA officers, who have been doing the same thing for some time without public notice. In fact, LA’s West Traffic Division has conducted nine such stings since the first of the year — eight to enforce bike lane issues and one for stop sign enforcement. A total of 53 people were cited, including both cyclists and drivers; LAPD policy does not allow for selective enforcement, so they’re required to write up any violations they see during a sting, regardless of who commits it.

Finally, they stressed the importance of getting permits in advance for events that will require police participation. When the recent Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race was cancelled at the last minute, the department cancelled the officers who had been scheduled to work the event. Then when it was rescheduled at the last minute as a ride, they had to scramble to get enough officers to work the event on such short notice, and ended up paying out over $10,000 in overtime. While they understood the situation with the Marathon Crash, they ask for a minimum of 28 days advance notice to avoid any issues if you’re planning some sort of event.

On the other hand, if you break the law, they’re happy to show up with little or no notice.

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The subject of bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd through Beverly Hills is back on the council agenda this Tuesday. Except they’re not, but maybe they are. It’s a complicated subject explained well by Better Bike.

Meanwhile, a Beverly Hills homeowner’s association offers their reasons why bike lanes are a bad idea, few if any of which actually hold water.

For instance, someone should tell them that California law requires that drivers merge into bike lanes before making right turns, rather than turning across the lane as they suggest (#2). And surprisingly, blind spots exist on motor vehicles, which can hide the presence of bikes from careless drivers like themselves, whether or not bike lanes exist.

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Finally, this just in as a friend of mine reports an assault while riding home on PCH in Orange County.

I was riding on the super dark stretch of PCH between the oilfield and 10,000 miles of ocean. An empty car was stopped, no blinkers, on the shoulder. With cars coming up behind me at 60mph, the only option is to stop and wait for them to pass, or hike over the shrubs on the slope to the right of the (red) curb.

I take a picture of the car, and an angry guy kicks the driver’s side door open, emerges, and comes at me barking, “What the fuck are you doing?”

I dismount in case I have to run for it and start backing away while he repeatedly demands the camera, which he ain’t gonna get.

Long story short, he ends up throwing me, my bike & my bag (containing the Coolpix he was so interested in, plus my MacBook Air & iPad) into the ice plant.

I’m not injured, but my glasses are still out there because I gave up looking for them when the damn sprinklers came on. Also, I called Hunny PD back, and arranged them to just meet me at work for the report. The officer arrived before me AND TOLD MY COWORKER I HAD BEEN HIT BY A CAR. Boy, was she relieved when I grumped up my boss’s porch stairs with bike on shoulder & no visible injuries.

Lesson: Assume even parked cars are full of ex-convicts who will be violently angry with you for nothing.

I’m scared to check my MacBook.

Update: Chula Vista bike rider killed by drunk driver in stolen car

A drunk driver. A stolen car. A dead cyclist.

A San Diego area bike rider has lost his life at the hands of a criminal apparently too drunk to control the car he stole.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, 29-year old Michael Reyes was traveling westbound on Chula Vista’s East J Street at Dennis Avenue around 4:15 pm Monday when he somehow crossed into oncoming traffic. He hit cyclist head-on before crossing over the sidewalk and crashing into a utility pole.

Reyes allegedly admitted to the police that he had been drinking, and that the silver Nissan Maxima  he was driving had been stolen earlier that afternoon. Inside the car, police found property that appeared to come from other car burglaries.

The 44-year old bike rider, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center where he died.

There was nothing the victim could have done to avoid the collision. He does not appear to have done anything to contribute in any way to his own death, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sharing the same planet with a drunk on a crime spree.

If there is any justice, his killer won’t be back behind the wheel of any car, stolen or otherwise, for a very long time.

This is the 20th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in San Diego County. This is also the fourth cyclist killed in Chula Vista since 2012.

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

Update: The victim has been identified as 44-year old Chula Vista resident David Voight. According to San Diego’s 10News, Voight was a regular bike commuter, and was just eight blocks from his home when he was killed. 

A moving look at local ghost bikes, Pico Blvd cyclist threatened with knife, and your weekend reading list

Ghost bike for Compton victim Pete; photo by Danny Gamboa

Ghost bike photo by Danny Gamboa

I’ve long been a fan of LA Times columnist Steve Lopez.

And not just because he’s been a long standing supporter of safer bicycling, on the mean streets of LA or the seemingly serene Santa Monica bike path.

Today, he offers a moving look at the local ghost bike movement. It’s a must read. And one in which he quotes me extensively, as well as ghost bike builder Anthony Novarro, who lost his own 6-year old bike-riding son, and documentary maker and ghost bike photographer Danny Gamboa.

The comments that follow, not so much.

And while we’re visiting the Times, after writing last year about braving LA traffic as a bike commuter, writer Ben Poston calls it quits after getting right hooked by a pickup; not everyone approves.

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A cyclist says a road raging driver threatened him with a knife for riding on the street on Pico Blvd Friday afternoon.

Hopefully he reported the incident to the police; just brandishing the weapon should be enough for an assault with a deadly weapon charge. It’s bad enough when they threaten us with their cars.

And if he has witnesses to the threat — or other evidence, like an arrest or criminal charge — it could allow him to file suit under the city’s bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance.

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The Amgen Tour of California begins May 11th, with three SoCal stages — Santa Clarita to Mountain High on May 16th, Santa Clarita to Pasadena City Hall on May 17th, and a final Thousand Oaks stage on May 18th that offers four ascents of the famed Rock Store Climb.

The full roster of teams is announced. And for the first time, this year’s race also includes two women’s races; hopefully, a full women’s stage race won’t be far behind. Cycling in the South Bay says you can help that happen.

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The case against the sheriff’s deputy who killed entertainment lawyer Milt Olin on Mulholland Highway last December goes to the DA to determine if charges will be filed.

Meanwhile, a bike rider suffered severe injuries when he was hit from behind in South LA Friday night.

And a Santa Ana man who may have been on a bicycle was the victim of what may have been a gang shooting.

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Great article on the non-spandexed women cyclists and riders of color who make up a large but largely unnoticed part of the LA cycling community. Better Bike says Beverly Hills is making little progress on traffic safety, and may have the most dangerous streets for any city of its size in the state. Writing for Orange 20 Bikes, Rick Risemberg looks at last weekend’s successful Bicycle Commuter Festival and Summit. LA County Supervisor candidate Sheila Kuehl calls for bike valets at Expo stops; I like it, but it will take more than that to win my vote. Streetsblog maps out the upcoming 20 miles of new sharrows recently promised by LADOT. Outside looks at LA’s upcoming NELA Bike-Friendly District. If you’re an early riser, you may still have time to ride for dim sum with Flying Pigeon. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune applauds connecting the Rio Hondo river trail to the El Monte bus station. Redondo Beach will get a new bike sculpture over the bike path.

Cyclelicious offers a look at bike-related bills before the state legislature, including a plan to tax new bike sales to fund bike path repairs and appease motorists who mistakenly claim we don’t pay our way. I don’t feel it’s my place to criticize a guest post on here, but I can always count on others to have my back. San Diego’s North Park — my old neighborhood when I lived down that way — could become a better place to ride a bike. On the other hand, a bike lane could spell the death of the Hillcrest entertainment district by removing up to 91 parking spaces; cause, you know, no one would ever ride a bike to go out or anything. A participant in the recent fatality-marred Tour of Palm Springs looks at the event and finds it lacking. The Man in Black’s daughter offers her blessings to the new Johnny Cash Trail in Folsom.  If you see someone riding your stolen bike, try not brandishing a knife to get it back. A San Francisco Good Samaritan ends up behind bars after attempting to help and injured bike rider; thanks to my friends at the new and improved Altadena Point for the heads-up.

The long forgotten protected bikeway boom of 1905. Even Las Vegas is getting bike friendlier. The next step in better bike infrastructure could be protected intersections for cyclists. A cyclist is seriously injured attempting to ride through a tunnel in Zion National Park. My hometown newspaper says it’s time we all got along on the roads; not getting along may create conflict, but it’s seldom the cause of traffic collisions. Once again a bike wins, beating two buses, a pedestrian and a driver in rush hour traffic, this time in Austin TX. Dallas bike rider brawls with police after being stopped for not wearing a helmet. A Chicago rider says the cycling community can — and must — do better when it comes to including women and treating them fairly. A remarkably big-hearted Indiana family forgives the drunk driver who killed a cyclist. New York’s new mayor pushes for a 25 mph speed limit to save lives; I wonder if LA will ever have the courage to slow drivers down to safer levels.

A British Columbia bike rider is ordered to pay over a quarter million dollars for running down a walker on an off-road trail. British driver gets two years for leaving a cyclist for dead after hitting him at 80 mph; thankfully, the rider survived, but lost an arm. A UK van driver gets a lousy six months for laughing while deliberately attempting to run down a group of cyclists; a rider tells the story from the victims’ perspective. A Brit truck driver walks after claiming he couldn’t stop or swerve to avoid killing a cyclist, so he just ran him over. Amsterdam struggles to accommodate an ever increasing number of bike riders. An Aussie anti-bike group says keep to the right because you own a bike, not a Mack truck.

Finally, adding insult to injury, a Seattle man finds his bike stolen on Valentines Day, with a pile of crap left in its place. No, literally.

And a rider on the Santa Monica bike path has seemingly solved the problem of riding with your best friend.

Dog-Bike-2

Michelle Mowery in the LA Times, the most heartless hit-and-run driver yet, and a Saturday memorial for Milt Olin

The Times’ Patt Morrison interviews LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

It’s a good piece for the most part, with an eye on where we’re going; using Copenhagen as a role model can’t be a bad thing.

Although I have to admit, I cringed in a few places.

Like where she responded to a question about licensing cyclists by correctly addressing the need for better education, without discussing why licensing is a bad idea. Let alone questions about bikes running red lights, without pointing out most riders don’t, and we’re not the only scofflaws on the road.

Others readers I heard from objected to a seemingly flip response to the question of parents who don’t wear helmets even though their children do.

And Morrison brings up the nonexistent traffic jams on 7th Street following the road diet that added bike lanes, with no refutation from Mowery — let alone a tacit admission that it could have resulted in a significant increase in pollution from idling cars.

Right.

Still, she has some good things to say, and it’s a good look at the woman who’s the closest thing this city has to a bike czar.

And who deserves a lot of credit for the changes we’ve seen on the streets in recent years, as the city has done the seemingly impossible by becoming officially bike friendly.

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In the single most horribly heartless report I’ve ever seen, a Florida man drives for two miles after striking a cyclist, with the rider embedded in the car’s rear window. Then after arriving home, he pried the rider out of the glass, and dumped him behind a dumpster to die before hiding his damaged car from his girlfriend.

Fortunately, a landscaping crew found the victim nearly over two hours later, albeit in critical condition with a deep gash in the forehead, nearly severed ear, and spinal injuries that could leave him paralyzed.

Police arrested the driver at a body shop later that same day, as he attempted to get his car fixed before the damage could be discovered.

If there’s any justice, he’ll face an attempted murder charge for deliberately dumping the victim and leaving him to die.

And a very long sentence in a very unpleasant pen.

Wait. Attempted manslaughter? Seriously?

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A memorial will be held for fallen cyclist, entertainment attorney and former Napster CEO Milt Olin at 2 pm this Saturday at the Jim Henson Company Lot, 1416 N. La Brea. The family asks attendees to carpool and RSVP here.

Still no word on the official cause of the collision that took his life, though rumors are rampant that the 16-year veteran sheriff’s deputy behind the wheel was using the patrol car’s laptop computer while he drove.

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The LA Times says the LAPD should focus on riskier behavior than jaywalking; Streetsblog’s Damien Newton offers arguments against the crackdown. Meanwhile, Streetsblog Sahra Suliaman asks for community involvement in the planned Slauson active transportation corridor. Better Bike reviews the recent meeting to remake bike-unfriendly Santa Monica Blvd; there may be hope for Beverly Hills yet, thanks largely to the efforts of Better Bike’s Mark Elliot. Santa Monica hosts an important meeting on the planned MANGo project on Saturday, January 7th. Downey’s new mayor has supported bike lanes since he was eight years old; let hope he still does. Wolfpack Hustle announces the official results of their 2013 race series. As we’ve been telling you, wayfaring signs really are coming to the LA River; no, really. Celebrate the season with the LACBC’s East LA Holiday Bike Parade. A bird-flipping Benz driver threatens to kill a Highland Park cyclist; could be another test case for the city’s anti-harassment ordinance.

Coronado’s temporary bike corrals may not be. Annual National City bike giveaway needs more bikes. Now you can ride the last leg of the Amgen Tour of California just like the real pros. but without the EPO and clenbuterol and stuff. Trek’s John Burke backs plans for a Santa Barbara bike network. San Francisco’s fire department opposes safety measures that could protect cyclists and pedestrians. More green lanes in San Francisco, and a parking protected bike lane. Oakland truck driver fatally drags a cyclist two blocks after hitting her; he may not have known he hit anyone. Sonoma County sting stops people driving away from the courthouse after their licenses have been suspended; wait, you mean the judge was serious about that?

Alta offers advice on how to avoid collisions, and what to do if you don’t. The seven habits of highly effective bike cities. Now you, too, can honk your horn in an obnoxious manner, or not. Drunk ND driver hits a cyclist, then backs up and runs over a pedestrian coming to the rider’s aid. Wisconsin hit-and-run driver who killed a 61-year old bike rider had 13 previous traffic violations in the last four years; so why was he still allowed to drive? Maybe bike lanes aren’t the cause of Buffalo’s traffic congestion. New York’s DOT launches a new campaign against reckless driving. Road raging New York cyclist arrested for bashing in a driver’s window for no apparent reason, if you believe the story. Philadelphia now allows you to tweet about blocked bike lanes, and they’ll actually do something about it. Boston police still won’t identify the officer who killed a cyclist last July. Bikes are the new enemy for misguided conservatives.

Canadian bike safety taught via Legos. UK driver gets six years for killing a cyclist while driving drunk and without a license. Riding a bike cross-county, and with a pig. Riding a London bike share bike up Mt. Ventoux before the rental period expires; then again, Boris Bikes are turning up in Gambia, too. UK bike rider takes the long way home — from South Korea. New German fitness shirt promises to manage your e-bike for you; but if you’re riding an e-bike, why do you need a fitness shirt? Ninety-four percent of Turkish motorists think they’re better drivers than they really are; I suspect that would hold true everywhere. Kolkata bans bikes, or maybe not. Saudi groom rides his bike into his wedding hall on a dare. Gambia cracks down on dangerous cyclists. Aussie world-champion time trialist Michael Rogers claims his positive drug test for clenbuterol resulted from tainted meat; why not, it’s worked before. An Australian concrete company bars a bike path. Road raging Kiwi driver gets 32 months in prison for attacking a triathlete.

Finally, a Missouri woman won’t face charges for fatally running down a bike rider at 82 mph. But her ex-boyfriend will, after flashing a gun and chasing her through the streets; he’s charged with second degree murder in the rider’s death.

Seriously, there are no words.

Thanks to John McBrearty and Rich Alossi for their generous donations to help support this site.

Breaking news — bike rider physically assaulted by motorist in West LA

I’ve received an eye witness report of a bike rider being physically attacked by a motorist this afternoon.

According the report, forwarded to me by attorney David Huntsman, a woman was driving north on Westwood Blvd when she saw another driver get out of his car and attack the rider on the southeast corner of Westwood and Olympic just after noon today. As she described it, the driver came at the rider flailing his arms, while the cyclist yelled at his attacker.

The woman said other people appeared to be calling 911 to report the attack.

Let’s be very clear.

No matter what took place between the two parties to cause the conflict, the motorist committed a crime by striking the rider — as one cop explained to me in a similar case, the driver was at fault as soon as he left his vehicle. He can, and should, be prosecuted if he and his victim can be identified.

This is also would appear to be a perfect case for LA’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which allows bicyclists to sue motorists or others who threaten or attack them while riding. The ordinance allows victims to collect three times actual damages or $1000, whichever is higher; it also allows for the payment of full legal fees to encourage lawyers to take a case that might not otherwise be worth their time.

The problem with the ordinance has always been that it can be difficult to gather the witnesses or other evidence necessary to prove the case. But in this case, it took place in front of multiple witnesses, at least one of whom has already come forward.

If anyone has more information — or if you were the rider involved — contact me; you can find me email address on the About page.

And let’s not forget that this is exactly where an innovative floating bike lane was proposed to reduce or eliminate conflicts between cyclists and drivers — without the loss of a single traffic lane or parking spot.

Yet the lane was vetoed by Westside City Councilmember Paul Koretz at the urging of wealthy homeowners, even though it would have zero negative impact on the Boulevard and the surrounding area.

And would move cyclists out of the way of impatient, and too often, angry drivers, helping to avoid incidents like this.

14-year old bike rider fatally shot, a painful email from the family of a fallen cyclist, and I beg shamelessly

Before we start, several people have asked me lately how they can support the new BikinginLA.

The easy answer is just keep reading, and keep coming back. And keep sending in those news tips, whether in the comments or through the email address on the About page.

But if anyone wants to contribute financially to help support me and my work here, you’ll now find a Donate page on the links at the top of this page. There will be more options for donations, sponsorships and advertising soon, but for the time being, you can contribute directly to my PayPal account.

Please don’t feel pressured or any obligation. Especially this time of year, there are so many demands on your wallet, and so many higher priorities.

But any contribution, in any amount, is greatly appreciate.

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One more bike rider is dead. Yet another young woman will never grow up.

This time, it wasn’t the result of a careless or distracted driver, or even scofflaw cyclist. It was a different kind of violence on our streets that took the life of 14-year old Alicia Gomez, gunned down as she rode her bike in Compton.

Police have described her as a known gang member, and characterized the shooting that took her life at the corner of Elm and Alameda streets as gang-related.

That’s exactly where most of us stop paying attention. Another gang shooting, another homicide in Compton, where 213 people, innocent and otherwise, have been murdered in the city since 2007.

She may have died a gang member, but she also died as one of us.

And more importantly, she died a young woman barely in her teens, who will never be a day older. Another life lost to the violence we continue to tolerate on our streets.

Let’s pray that she’s the last one.

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Every bicycling death is tragic. Every fatality leaves a heartrending hole in the lives of his or her loves ones, and in our world.

Yet some seem to be particularly haunting, a metaphorical ghost bike within our own hearts, remaining long after the news has faded.

For me, the needless death of Donnie McCluskey is one of those.

Maybe it’s because it could have happened to any one of us. He was nothing more than collateral damage in a wreck between a drunk driver and a red light running minivan operator; after the initial impact, the van spun out of control and smashed into McCluskey as he waited at the red light.

If he’d run the light, as so many accuse us all of doing, he might be alive today.

Or maybe it’s because of the online conversations I’ve had with his family from time to time, as they’ve shared the latest updates on his case, or just the pain of his loss in the year and a half since he was taken from them.

It makes me feel like I’ve lost a friend I never knew.

Over the weekend, I heard from his sister Pattie McCluskey-Andre once again, this time to report the final disposition of the case against the driver responsible for Donnie’s death.

With her permission, I’ll share it with you.

Dear Ted,

Re: Donny McCluskey, bicyclist, killed April 18, 2012 in Rancho Mirage while waiting for the light to green.

Final day in court was December 13, 2013.  The DA never lowered or altered the original charges (not sure how much our participation from the start helped). Much to our collective relief, the driver and the judge all seemed to understand the devastation caused by this accident.  My brother was honored with a judge who appreciated that this was a death that was indeed avoidable and gave Donny his day in court.

The driver had lost 80 pounds since the accident; he spoke of his nightmares and his thoughts of Donny every time he entered an intersection. The driver cried during the entire sentencing. His remorse was so complete that he stated that he wished daily that it had been him instead of Donny who was killed.

The judge suspended his driver’s license for a year, placed him on probation for 3 years. He was not given jail time secondary to our family’s request that he perform community service instead, which was also given to him.

Ultimately, there is no closure but the ability to go forward and pay it forward. Drivers need to be held accountable whenever they are negligent and dangerous causing the death of another human. I truly feel the driver in this accident placed a deeper punishment on himself then we would ever impose. My family offers forgiveness to this man so he can forgive himself.

RIP Dear Brother, we love you, we miss you everyday and we will continue to tell your story.

Again, thank you for being the voice of cyclists,

Patti

There’s a lot of pain and a surprising amount of compassion in that email. Let’s hope, now that the case is settled, the family can finally find peace.

And this holiday season, they can remember the joy they shared with him, instead of their loss.

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News of this weekend’s upcoming Route 66 ride promoted Alan Thompson to send word that the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has been working with the Adventure Cycling Association, Caltrans and local advocacy groups to develop a SoCal leg of the planned Bike Route 66. It will follow the path of the legendary highway, giving riders a route from Chicago to LA.

I wonder if my wife would let me ride that one.

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LA County Sheriff’s deputies have now been involved in the deaths of three people in the last week.

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Turns out a new Calgary cycle track not only boosts ridership, but improves the flow of motor vehicle traffic, as well.

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Finally, an Aussie cyclist responds to a roadway dispute by reaching into the driver’s car and riding off with his keys. A Menlo Park rider brings home the family Christmas tree by bike. And there may be a reason the next cyclist you see is smiling and moaning uncontrollably; then again, it’s not exactly a new idea.

 

The more things don’t change, the more they remain the same; LA driver confesses to threatening cyclists

Here's a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog than the people I hired to do it.

Here’s a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog to a private server than the people I hired to do it.

So much for that.

As we left off last week, I promised this blog would be transferred to a private server over the holiday weekend, as the first phase of long-gestating plan to remake it into an advertising-supported website.

Long gestating, indeed. Many species have their babies in a lot less time than this process, which started in August, has taken.

But as you’ll see, either the transfer was done so perfectly that nothing has changed, or nothing has changed.

Smart money is on the latter.

Over the weekend I received an email from the web-hosting service I’d hired to do the transfer that they too lacked the capability to move it to their servers. This, despite sworn assurances from their sales staff that they’d done it many times before, and would have me up and running in a matter of days.

Turns out they hadn’t. And wouldn’t.

But at least I got my money back.

So the transfer is on hold for now. Hopefully, it will get done later this week, by another company that doesn’t have its head so far up it’s own ass knows what it’s doing and is a little more honest about its own abilities.

I’ll let you know more when I do.

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It’s not everyday someone confesses to assault with a deadly weapon on National Public Radio.

But that’s exactly what self-proclaimed life-long LA driver Jackie Burke did in an otherwise positive piece about LA Bike Trains.

The story focused on the founding of the program by New York transplant Nona Varnado, who has become a leader in the local bicycling scene in the short time she’s been here — though I do miss her incredible design work for women cyclists. Along with the success the program has had in helping beginning bike commuters take to the roads.

Not that everyone welcomes new riders to the roads.

Like the aforementioned Ms. Burke, for instance.

“It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes,” says Jackie Burke, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She says bicyclists drive her crazy when she’s in a car and has to slow down for them.

“It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

Let’s start with the fact that neither Burke, nor anyone else, has a right to the roadway, let alone a right to drive unimpeded. And as Niall Huffman points out, bikes aren’t hard to pass — as long as you’re not the kind of sociopath who’s willing to intentionally threaten another human being for the crime of slightly inconveniencing your commute.

Because that’s exactly what Burke has admitted doing.

By her own account, she used her vehicle as a weapon in an attempt to intimidate another person using the roadway in a legal manner. She could, and perhaps should, be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Except that she would undoubtedly deny her own words, which is currently the only evidence against her.

In order for charges to stick, her victim or an independent witness would have to come forward who could testify that Burke threatened the rider with her car, and could place her — or at least her vehicle — at the scene of the crime.

Because a crime is exactly what it was.

Her words also place her in violation of LA’s groundbreaking cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which allows a cyclist to file a civil suit against deliberately threatening drivers. But again, that would require Burke’s victim(s) to come forward, and be able to identify her as the attacker.

Not likely, given the challenge of taking down a license number as a rider struggles not to get run off the road. Let alone over.

Which means, despite her very public confession on national radio, she’s likely going to get away with it. Just like all the other otherwise decent people who somehow turn into blood-thirsty, road-raging sociopaths once they get behind the wheel.

Although the DMV should seriously look into permanently pulling her license. Or at least until she can learn to drive without threatening the lives and safety of complete strangers who have the misfortune of sharing the road with her.

Perhaps more frightening, though, is that Alex Schmidt, the reporter on the piece, didn’t even bother to challenge her comments.

Because attitudes and actions like hers are far too common. And far too accepted in our society.

And if that doesn’t scare the crap out of every American, it should.

Road raging driver mows down cyclist in Palos Verdes

The bike is dead. Fortunately, its rider isn’t.

The Daily Breeze is reporting that a road raging driver deliberately ran down a bicyclist before slamming into a series of cars.

According to the paper, Palos Verdes Estates resident Doug Castile was riding on Via Pacheco around 6:30 pm when he was Jerry Browned by a driver who sideswiped him, then backed up and hit him again when he complained.

Castile said he yelled, “Hey, you just hit me!” The driver of the black car then put it in reverse, backed up behind the bicyclist, pulled forward and pushed the bicyclist into the plants.

“The guy put it in reverse again, backed up, and ran over my bike,” Castile said. “At that point, my feet are clipped in the pedals on my bike. I unclipped my feet and jumped off the bike into the plants and he’s running over my bicycle back and forth.”

The driver, who wasn’t identified in the story, reacted bizarrely when Castile reached reached into his pocket for his cell phone.

“He says, ‘What are you reaching for, a gun?’ It just was so odd to hear that statement. I took my hand out of my pocket. I thought this guy is capable of anything,” Castile said.

At that point, the driver sped off, slamming into an unknown number of parked and moving vehicle before his car finally became disabled on Ganado Drive and Sheriff’s deputies made an arrest.

Castile was able to escape with scrapes, while his $3,000 to $4,000 bike was destroyed.

The paper says police were unsure whether the driver was suffering from a mental condition or committed a deliberate assault.

Unfortunately, anyone can buy a car and get a license, regardless of mental or emotional stability. And in the wrong hands, it can become a weapon.

As we have seen too many times before.

Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up.

Update: The Daily Breeze identifies the driver as 65-year old William Thomas Kelly of Torrance. He’s being held on $30,000 bond on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon; hopefully, more charges — and a much higher bail — will follow soon. 

It’s also worth noting that deputies found Kelly unconscious in his car after it rammed the gates to an FAA facility, which could lead to federal charges. According to the paper, officer’s smelled alcohol on his breath when he was taken into custody — which could make this the fourth time he’s charged with DUI since 1991.

And yet he was still allowed behind the wheel to threaten the lives and safety of others.

Cyclist assaulted on bike path, former Amazon CFO killed in bike crash, confirmation Britel killer paroled

The last thing he remembers is a woman putting her hand on his thigh and pushing his bike over.

Somehow, I missed this story last month, when Jack Bornoff suffered serious injuries after he was pushed off his black and white Schwinn by a pedestrian, as he was passing her on a bike path in Balboa Park.

It happened on August 22nd, a Thursday, around 10 am.

I’ll let him tell the story.

I approached the intersection of Burbank and Balboa on my bike and I was riding in the bike path.  I turned onto Balboa northbound and was confronted by a view of a high density of pedestrians in both the northbound and southbound bicycle lanes, including 2 females pedestrians blocking the northbound lane directly in front of me about 50 ft. ahead.  Immediately, I slowed down.  I noticed 2 pedestrians walking towards me in the southbound lane who were at least 50 feet ahead of the 2 pedestrians in my lane and determined it was perfectly safe to pass on the left with this substantial interval between these pedestrian couples.  As I passed by, the female pedestrian closest to me placed her right hand on my thigh and pushed me.

It wasn’t just a fall. Bornoff landed with enough force to knock him cold, and suffered numerous fractures.

I have no clear memories beyond this for at least the next 10 to 15 minutes.  This incident resulted in numerous fractures of the clavicle, scapula and ribs including damage to my lung.

A month later, he still doesn’t know who attacked him, or why. Or even who might have helped him as he lay injured on the bike path.

If you were there and offered to help, thank you and I regret I don’t remember it.  However, if you were there and witnessed this happen, please come forward and notify LAPD Detective Thornton.  818-374-7792.  Case #9C4-4.   Thank you and be safe.

He plans to be back at that same bike path on Thursday, October 10th between 9:45 am and 10:15 am — exactly seven weeks after the attack — to look for witnesses. And would appreciate some help if anyone wants to join him in passing out flyers.

Or if you find yourself walking or riding in the area some other time, he’s prepared a small flyer you could distribute to people in the area (pdf).

Because it wasn’t just a push. It was a deliberate, dangerous assault that left a man seriously injured.

And it needs to be taken just as seriously.

………

Last night, it was just another tragic story of a bike rider killed in a left hook; a 22-year old driver turning his minivan across the cyclist’s path in San Mateo County.

Today, word broke that the victim has touched the life of virtually anyone who has ever used the internet or ordered something online.

Fifty-year old Joy Covey was one of the founders of Amazon. A woman whose 173 IQ took her from high school dropout to Harvard Business School, and on to become the CFO who helped the company grow from a book-selling website to the world’s dominant internet retail site. As well as leading it through a highly successful IPO in the late ‘90s.

She was working as treasurer of the National Resources Defense Council at the time of her death.

Initial reports indicated she was wearing a helmet. However, I’m told she may have been traveling up to 40 mph as she descended a steep downhill; in a broadside collision at that speed, no bike helmet is likely to offer much benefit.

As the links above show, there’s already been much written about her tragic death, and the immense and needless loss suffered by so many who knew and worked with her.

And it’s true.

Just as it is for the other more than 600 bike riders who will lose their lives on American streets this year, most of whom will never see their names in print.

In life. Or in death.

My deepest sympathy for Joy Covey and her family.

Thanks to Michael McVerry and Ralph Durham for the heads-up.

……..

Finally, last month we reported that Danae Miller, convicted in the drunk and distracted driving death of world-class triathlete Amine Britel, appeared to have been released from prison after serving less than half of her original sentence.

Now the Orange County Register confirms that Miller was paroled on August 15th after serving just 18 months of her original four year sentence.

Unfortunately, most of the story is hidden behind their draconian paywall.

However, I’m told that the story goes on to quote a member of the Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee, as well as the Newport Beach city council member who heads the committee, as expressing their disappointment at the early release.

Get used to it.

California’s prison overcrowding crisis means most people convicted of traffic crimes will serve only a fraction of their sentences. Which means we need to find alternative forms of punishment — let alone rehabilitation, which seldom if ever happens behind bars — if we want to stop the carnage on our streets. Let alone the hit-and-run epidemic.

I’m told that Miller’s family was very supportive of her during the trial. Not in the usual sense denying her obvious guilt, but actually being there and giving a damn while expressing deep and genuine sympathy for her victim’s family and fiancé.

No word on where she is right now. However, there is speculation that she received the relatively light four-year sentence — she could have gotten up to 10 years — in exchange for a commitment from her family to place her in rehab immediately upon her release.

Let’s hope that’s the case.

And let’s hope that Miller, who already had 11 traffic violations on her record when she took Britel’s life, is never allowed behind the wheel of a car again.

Thanks to the OC Register for crediting this site with breaking the story. That wasn’t necessary, but it’s sincerely appreciated.

Now about that paywall…

Valley cyclist’s leg run over by road raging driver; check out Sweet Ride USA and UCLA Bicycle Academy

Let’s catch up on a couple items I haven’t had a chance to mention this week. As well as  frightening news from this week’s commute.

……….

I’ve just gotten word of a violent road rage attack against a cyclist in the Valley Wednesday night.

Road rage driver

The car’s license plate has been blurred to avoid interfering with the investigation

I’ll let the victim, John, tell his story; I’m withholding his last name to protect his privacy and help prevent possible retaliation.

I left my work on Owensmouth in Chatsworth around 5:20 pm Wednesday, riding north towards Lassen. It’s two lanes there; I take up the right lane, since there’s no room and the street is messed up on the shoulder.

A white car passed me very close and very fast. He had to almost immediately slam on his brakes because there were 10 stopped cars in both lanes in front of him. I passed him while he was stopped, then as traffic started moving I was now in front of him again. He started laying on his horn and yelling for me to get out of the road, so I stopped in front of him and asked him what his issue was.

He told me bikes can’t be in the road and I needed to be on the sidewalk. We argued back and forth, then he said he would call the police if I didn’t get out of his way.  I told him to please call the police. He then threatened to come move me himself, so I said go ahead (I’m 6’5” and 300 pounds).

After that, he got back in his car and honked awhile longer. I was trying to explain to him my rights as a cyclist but he would not listen to me. He then drove slowly forward, making contact and slightly pushing my bike. I yelled at him, then he just nailed the gas. He knocked me to the ground and ran over my bike and right leg, then had to stop because there were two cars in front of him at the light.

As I got up, he got out of his car and told me that I am an asshole and I’m the reason people hate cyclists. I took the pic of him and his car about that time.

2013-09-04 18.15.14He then got back in his car, made a left on Lassen and drove off.  I tried to get witnesses from the over 20 people there, but only got two to stop. Then I called 911. My leg looked like I had 2 tennis balls under my skin on my mid and lower shin, as well as a few cuts and both chain and tire marks; after a minute or two it was hard to walk.

They took me to Northridge Hospital. There is a possible fracture of one of the bones in my foot and crush injuries to my leg. I need to see another doctor in a couple days when the swelling goes down, but meanwhile, I can’t really walk because it hurts to put any pressure on my leg. The reporting officer said he went to the guy’s address but he was not answering the door and it appeared his car was in the garage.  Now I guess the case is in limbo between that officer and the detectives.

Hopefully, John will be okay. And hopefully, the police will take this case seriously and get a dangerous driver — one willing to use his car as a weapon — off the streets.

And that’s exactly what the charge should be, assault with a deadly weapon. It doesn’t matter that they were arguing before the impact, any more than it would matter if two men were arguing outside a bar when one took out a gun and shot the other.

But as this case clearly shows, it’s almost always a mistake to stop and argue with an angry driver, no matter how wrong or how much of a jerk he or she may be. Let alone stop in front of them.

I learned that lesson myself. The hard way.

Your best move is to get out of the way, and photograph — or better yet, video — the driver’s actions, and get the names and numbers of any witnesses.

Then let the police deal with it.

On the other hand, this could also be a good test case for LA’s bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance.

Correction: I originally wrote that this incident occurred on Thursday; it actually took place on Wednesday.

………

A few months back, I ran into a guy with a brilliant idea for a web-based video series.

Steve Isaacs told me about Sweet Ride USA, devoted to exploring the sweet side of life by bike.

If you ask me, the only thing that goes better with bikes than dessert is beer. And it’s a lot easier to ride home after a few pastries than it is a handful of beers.

He promised to send me more details. And then… nothing.

At least, until I went online the other day to dig through my email server’s spam filter looking for another message that didn’t get through. And found the one he’d sent me over two months earlier.

Sorry about that, Steve.

For the last few months I’ve been developing a new web series called Sweet Ride USA, about exploring a city by bicycle with friends, seeking out delicious desserts and ultimately burning off every calorie we consume on the ride. It’s a homemade effort, all done with a partner and a bunch of friends donating their time & talent, and we just launched our first episode!

WATCH EPISODE 1 http://bit.ly/srusaep1

The bike culture and its people have been very good to me, and I wanted create a show that would bring viewers into the unique thrill of checking out a city on two wheels and use the sampling of desserts as a universal hook, for the non-biking folks.

The long view for the show is to eventually travel the world and find out what their bike cultures have to teach us… while eating their donuts.

I’d love it if you’d check out the show – http://bit.ly/srusaep1 and if you like it – please subscribe, follow, like or share with your audience.

Steve Isaacs
Facebook Twitter
Check out our Teaser Trailer
http://bit.ly/srusateaser
Subscribe to the Sweet Ride USA YouTube Channel
http://youtube.com/sweetrideusa

………

Former LACBC board member, and UCLA and Cambridge lecturer Dr. Michael Cahn writes about the revival of an erstwhile bike group on the Westwood campus.

There used to be a little group called UCLA Bicycle Academy. We had a blog http://www.bicycleacademy.blogspot.com/ and a monthly lunch appointment, the first Friday every month.

This Friday, 6 September, we will resume this little routine. Donald “High-Price-of-Free-Parking” Shoup is joining us for a little update about campus developments and opportunities.  Do join us for a good start to the new term!  We meet at Lu Valle Commons on Friday 6 September at 12 noon.

………

Finally, Mark Goodley forwards a photo of the Ghost Bike for Debra Deem, killed in a collision while riding in Newport Beach last week.

Beautiful. And just too sad for words.

We can all look forward to the day when the last bike rider killed on our streets is the last bike rider killed on our streets.

Photo by Mark Goodley

Photo by Mark Goodley

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