Archive for Guest Columns

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Civil vs. Criminal Bike Lawsuits: How They Differ

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

Streetsblog LA reported recently on the 3-year and 8-months plea deal that was struck by Wendy Villegas, the drunk driver who struck three bicyclists, resulting in the death of one of them, Andy Garcia, on the bridge on Cesar Chavez Boulevard last Sept. 14. Villegas never even stopped. It is only because a witness followed Villegas and was able to get her license plate number that she was apprehended. When the police booked her at 7:15 a.m., it is reported that she was still intoxicated.

The post talks about the effect of the plea deal on Garcia’s family and friends. How they weren’t consulted about the deal and that their only permitted involvement was that they were allowed to read statements at the sentencing hearing about how Villegas’ actions affected their lives.

I bring this up because it is important for you to understand the differences between a criminal case and a civil case. There is a growing outcry that drivers who commit hit-and-runs should get stiffer penalties. Personally, I agree. However, when you are calling for stiffer penalties, do you mean stiffer criminal or stiffer civil penalties?

A criminal lawsuit is filed by the government (district attorney), not by the person or persons who have suffered at the hands of the accused. The district attorney is acting for the state (read as “society”) and ensuring the stability of society by punishing wrongdoers and deterring them and others from offending.

The hard truth is that you, as the victim or wronged party, are witnesses, at best, in the trial. The criminal case is about the wrongdoer being accused by the state of a criminal offense against society. Punishment for crimes against the state can be incarceration, fines, community service, or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

In a civil suit, the lawsuit is brought by the wronged party (or parties). They are appealing to the court for relief. They are telling the court, “We have been injured because of the negligence or carelessness of the accused.”

The civil court’s response is to give the victim (the plaintiff), the chance to show how the accused (the defendant), harmed them. If the victim can prove they were harmed, then the court’s duty is “to make them whole.” This is usually accomplished by awarding the victim compensation for their injuries.

Before I discuss the issue of compensation making anyone “whole,” I want to talk about one more significant difference between criminal and civil lawsuits.

Everyone is familiar with the “O.J. trial.” O.J. Simpson was found not guilty by a jury for the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in a criminal trial. Yet in the civil jury trial, O.J. was found guilty and was ordered to pay the Brown and Goldman families approximately $40 million.

How did that happen? There are probably numerous reasons, but the prominent reason I want you to know is the differences in “standard of proof” in criminal versus civil trials.

In a criminal trial the “standard of proof” is that the district attorney must convince the judge or every member of the jury that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil trial, the “standard of proof” is that the victim must demonstrate that there is a “preponderance of evidence” that the accused is guilty. It only takes a judge or a majority of jurors to find the accused liable in a civil trial.

In the O.J. example, it is obvious that the jurors in the criminal trial had doubts of O.J.’s guilt, where in the civil trial, the lawyer’s for the families of the victims had to convince the jury that the evidence of guilt was “beyond the balance of probabilities.”

Returning to the issue of compensation of the law making anyone “whole,” everyone knows that money cannot bring back a loved one or heal the catastrophic injuries the victim and their family suffered, or give anyone back the time they have lost due to the wrongdoer’s actions.

Every client I have ever had for whom I obtained a multi-million verdict or settlement has told me that they would give back every penny to have their loved one back or the injury they suffered to never have happened.

In legal terms, “made whole” means through compensation (which is the only currency that is available to the court), to bring the injured party to the place they would have been if they had not been injured by the wrongdoer.  What “making whole” means in a legal sense varies by state laws.

In the Streetsblog post referred to earlier, the families are quoted as saying they are not interested in bringing a civil case. They have no interest in money. I understand, and they should do what is best for them. But never think that the compensation obtained for clients doesn’t matter to them. This isn’t “jackpot justice” as the public relations machines of Big Business and Big Insurance would like you to think.

The compensation allows people who have been injured at no fault of their own – or families who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or carelessness of another – to rebuild their lives. In some cases it has meant being able to adapt a home and car for a wheelchair or for retraining for another career or for paying for quality childcare. It invariably means being able to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for current and future medical care. In some cases the compensation is put in trust for a child’s future use, for college or other advanced education.

Just as importantly, when the wrongdoer is a government entity or a corporation, it sends the only punishment either of those understands: a hit to their bottom line.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need stronger criminal penalties against hit-and-run drivers. I also believe that we need to bring these people to justice in a civil court. It is only when their insurance companies start seeing what these people cost THEM (yes, I know that’s horrible, but that’s how companies work), will the insurance companies start applying their own form of punishments.

I know, after 30 years of representing some of the most wonderful people who never deserved the injuries and losses they suffered, that the compensation mattered to the victim and it punished the wrongdoer. That’s really all the courts can offer us.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*Sponsored Post

 

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Make Sure You’re Protected Before You Need To Be

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

I recently represented a cyclist who was the victim of a hit and run accident that broke almost every bone in his body and caused traumatic brain injuries. The driver of the car turned out to be a 19-year-old woman who was driving drunk. She claimed not to have known that she hit my client, in spite of his leaving nine teeth in her SUV’s back seat.

My client’s medical bills were astronomical and because of the brain injuries, his life would never be same. The compensation my client received from this case would be his primary source of income for the rest of his life. The woman’s insurance company wanted to settle the claim for “policy limits,” which is the maximum amount they are required to compensate a victim of serious personal injuries or even a wrongful death.

Policy limits is how much insurance you bought in a specific category. In California, you are required to carry car insurance of $15,000 per person for bodily injury liability; $30,000 per accident, which covers all persons hurt in one accident; and $5,000 for property damage liability for one accident. It is likely that your insurance policy includes a minimal amount of uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but rarely is it a significant amount.

If you suffer catastrophic personal injuries or a family member is lost in a wrongful death due to a motor vehicle accident (car, bicycle, motorcycle, truck, bus, boat), your damages (medical and economic) could cost hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars.

The person who was negligent is responsible for your damages. (In some cases, negligence may include one or more companies or a public entity like the state or a county, but for the purposes of this article we are focusing on individual drivers.) Their insurance company will cover those damages only to the limits of the individual’s insurance policy.

If the person who caused your accident owns a house or other property, you may be able to recover some monies from them after a long and expensive court process. You might even be able to garnish any money they earn or receive in the future.

But many drivers own nothing – or not enough – to ever come close to compensating you for your injuries or for your lost loved one.  You will be on your own to pay your medical and therapy bills, to subsidize your living expenses either for the short or long-term, to pay childcare expenses, and to replace your destroyed property.

The best way to protect yourself from this disaster is to carry as much uninsured and under-insured auto insurance as your insurance company will permit you to buy. The cost is pennies on the dollar.  The more you have to lose (meaning the more you own or could own in the future), the more uninsured and under-insured auto insurance you should have.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no insurance (and a Los Angeles County sheriff told me recently that in approximately 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents he sees the driver is uninsured). It also kicks in when you reach the maximum the OTHER driver’s insurance will pay. It compensates you for the difference between what the other driver’s policy limit is and the actual compensation you need to recoup from the damages caused by the accident.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance also protects you if you suffer serious personal injuries (or worse) in a hit-and-run accident. With the frightening rise in hit-and-runs, it is critical that you protect yourself.

In my client’s case, I was able to negotiate additional monies from the woman’s family. Though I was able to recover a multi-million dollar settlement for this client, it is still nowhere near what he should have received considering the damages she inflicted on him and for which he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

My hope for you is that you never need to use your uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but I urge you strongly to get as much uninsured and under-insurance auto coverage that your insurance company will allow you to purchase, before you need it.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*sponsored post

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

The Bike Accident Lawyer You Choose

Can Make Or Break Your Case

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Last Sunday we attended the Los Angeles Bicycle Commuter Festival & Summit, which was organized by the Bicycle Culture Institute and its L.A. Bike Trains program. After helping to set up the Pocrass & De Los Reyes booth, I wandered around saying “hello” to old friends and making new ones.

As I was thinking about the many conversations I had with a variety of people at the festival, I was struck by the two things they all seemed to have in common: 1.) they all ride bikes and 2.) every one of them told me they’d been in a bicycle accident at some time in their life.

You wouldn’t think this would be such a revelation to me. After all, as a recreational cyclist, I, too, have been yelled at, “flipped off,” and only avoided a collision (so far), because I was more aware than the motorist was.

As a bike accident lawyer, I have handled hundreds of bike accident cases, which has allowed me to develop a relationship to many people who have suffered life-altering injuries, because of the negligence or carelessness of another. I see their struggle to heal: physically, emotionally and financially. As one of the exhibitors, whose accident left him with numerous pins in his leg and with a limp, said to me Sunday, “You heal, but you’re never the same.”

It’s a peculiarity of human nature that when we meet someone and they tell us their career, we have an urge to tell them our personal experience with their profession. We tell doctors our symptoms. We tell IT people our computer problems. And we tell bike accident lawyers about our bike accident case.

I never mind when people want to tell me about their bike accident case, even if it was resolved years ago. I am, though, very careful of how I respond. After all, I am hearing someone’s perspective, and I haven’t reviewed the case. I don’t want to Monday-morning-quarterback another lawyer.

There have been a few times (one of which happened last Sunday, which was the genesis of this post), that inside I was just shaking my head trying to figure out what the person’s lawyer was thinking. But I’m not going to go into that here.

Instead, I am going to give you the secret code of how to choose a lawyer. And though this information generalizes to all practice areas, I am going to use bike accident lawyers as an example.

Bike Accident Experience: does the lawyer have experience in handling bike accident cases? Just as you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for a heart condition, you don’t want to go to a business attorney for a bike accident.

A bike accident attorney is very familiar with bike accident and motor vehicle law. These laws can be complicated, especially if a bicyclist is hit by a truck and then all sorts of federal or state laws could apply.

Another example is California’s comparative negligence law. This means that the court (or jury) can apply percentages of fault in a motor vehicle accident and a bicycle accident. So even if the cyclist is found to be 10 percent at fault, other entities could be found to be 90 percent at fault, and compensation is proportioned out on that basis.

This is particularly important in terms of liability. If you are hit by a car and the motorist’s policy limit is, for instance, $50,000, then that is all the compensation you could get regardless of the verdict or the settlement.

An experienced bicycle accident attorney knows how to determine if someone else could be partially responsible for the bike accident, in addition to the motorist. Maybe it is a dangerous road or signage is poor and that particular spot has a history of accidents. In those situations, a government entity may be brought into the case.

Verdicts and Settlements: check the attorney’s record of verdicts and settlements in bike accident cases. There are attorneys who have little or no trial experience and automatically settle with insurance companies. This will work to your detriment.

The insurance companies know which lawyers do not want to go – for whatever reason – to court. Lawyers who are known to avoid court give the insurance company license to low ball their offers, which means you may not get the full amount of compensation you deserve and which you may need desperately.

Resources: checking the attorney’s record of verdicts also tells you their experience at trial. Court trials are very difficult. Contrary to popular belief, juries do not automatically lean towards the plaintiff, which is, typically, you. In fact, because of the insurance companies’ decades-long public relations campaign of “jackpot justice,” juries are often prejudiced against people who bring lawsuits.

What evidence is admissible and allowed into “the record,” takes years of learning and skill. Trust me; it is nothing like what you see on television. Trials are a game of rules, and the outcome is often dependent on how well an attorney knows those rules.

But maybe most important for you to know is that going to court takes thousands and thousands – sometimes even more than a million – dollars. Medical experts (doctors) charge between $500 to $1,000 a day. Just filing a complaint with the court is almost $500. All of this money is typically paid for by your bicycle accident lawyer until the case is resolved.

If an attorney does not have the financial resources to fund your case, they may not take your case to trial. Especially in today’s economic climate, insurance companies are refusing to settle (hoping you will go away) or low-balling offers. It is critical that every case be prepared as if it is going to trial.

Today it is not unusual for the insurance company to “settle on the courthouse steps” or while the jury is deliberating. But I can guarantee, if the case was not taken to trial, the cyclist would get nothing or little in settlement in those types of cases.

Affinity with your Lawyer. It is very important that you are comfortable with your bike accident lawyer and with their staff. You will develop a very close relationship with all of these people. You want to make sure that they are there to respond to you in a reasonable amount of time, that they understand your particular needs, and that they explain the legal process in ways you can understand so that you can make informed legal decisions.

I am a great believer in the American justice system. Like most trial lawyers, I have seen justice prevail many more times than I have seen it fail. Yes, it could be improved (better funding for the court system would be the first place to start), but I believe in it. However, the one thing I know absolutely is that the lawyer you choose – for all your legal issues – can make or break your case.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

………

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

*Sponsored post

Guest post: Taking the lane — a CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objection to bike lanes

I’ve often said that I can learn more from those who disagree with me than those who don’t. 

Case in point, today’s guest post from St. Louis CyclingSavvy instructor Karen Karabell. I disagree — strongly — with the idea that it’s riskier to ride in a bike lane than in the flow of traffic, which contradicts both my own experience and most, if not all, of the studies I’ve seen.

So I invited Karen to explain her approach to bicycling, and she graciously agreed, as follows.

………

Oh, the wonders of the Internet, abolishing time and space in nanoseconds!

On this site, Ted Rogers wrote: “A St. Louis cycling instructor claims that bike lanes are dangerous with no evidence to back it up.”

With lightning speed these words made their way to me (that instructor). I was indignant. I never said that bike lanes are dangerous. I said that riding in a bike lane is more dangerous than riding in the flow of traffic. I complained to Ted that he misquoted me.

Exhibiting the generous mark of a mensch, he invited me to write a guest post to clarify.  He wrote: “I personally believe riding in a bike lane is safer and more enjoyable than riding in the traffic lane, and have expressed that opinion many times. It would be good to have someone explain the other side of the debate, and you are clearly very articulate and able to do it without being argumentative—which seems like a rare quality these days.”

Thank you, Ted! Here goes…

1-bus_bike_lane_graphic-500

I cannot count the number of times this image from a Los Angeles Metro Bus has crossed my Facebook feed. “Did you see this?” one friend after another asks.

The vision promoted on the back of this bus is wonderful. “Every lane is a bike lane” is a powerful statement promoting cyclist equality on our public roadways. I am all for that!

My friends know that I am no fan of bike lanes. But before explaining why, I want to make an observation about our fellow road users:

Every second on this planet,

millions of motorists are driving along

and NOT hitting what is right in front of them.

Motorists do not hit what’s in front of them because that is where they are looking. I know. This sounds like a “duh” statement. But consider the illustrations below. The green area represents a motorist’s primary “Cone of Focus”:

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

As speeds go higher, a motorist’s “Cone of Focus” diminishes:

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

Courtesy of Keri Caffrey

As I’m sure is true for all of your readers, I was heartbroken when I learned of the death last December of Milton Olin Jr., the entertainment industry executive who was struck and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol. Milton Olin was riding in a bike lane on Mulholland Highway.

We need to recognize a simple fact about bike lanes. They tend to make the people in them irrelevant to other traffic. When you are not in the way, you are irrelevant. At low speed differentials, irrelevancy might be OK. But at high speed differentials, the slightest motorist error can be devastating.

The speed limit on Mulholland Highway is 50 mph.

The last place a cyclist should be irrelevant is on a high-speed arterial road.

Regarding cyclist positioning on roadways, CyclingSavvy founders Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson made a remarkable discovery.

On roads with good sight lines—typical of most arterial roads—cyclists who control their travel lanes are seen by motorists from 1,280 feet away. Cyclists who ride on the right edge of the road—where most bike lanes are—are not seen by motorists until they are very nearly on top of them—about 140 feet away.

This is profound. We discuss this when we teach CyclingSavvy. The classroom session is incredibly engaging. Our participants soak up the information that we present. They understand exactly what we are talking about regarding traffic patterns and simple-to-learn techniques that make riding a bicycle in traffic very safe.

Most of them, however, don’t believe us—until we take them out on the road and show them.

After a classroom session last summer, a St. Louis newspaper columnist wrote: “The motorists in the training session are the rational, responsible ones. But what about the others—the ones who are speeding, talking on their cell phones and eating French fries, all at the same time?”

I loved that! In every session since, I have brought up his observation. I tell our students: “I would rather give those motorists the opportunity to see me from a quarter-mile away, rather than 140 feet!”

Being “in the way” works. Even the multi-tasking French fry eaters change lanes to pass.

4-How-wide-he-thinks-his-car-is

Last fall one of my favorite arterial roads was put on a “road diet” and striped with bike lanes. Manchester Road in the City of St. Louis used to have two regular travel lanes in each direction. It was easy to ride on. As I controlled the right lane, motorists used the left lane to pass.

Unless motorists are making a right turn, they don’t like to be behind cyclists. Yet I rarely experienced incivility on Manchester, because motorists could see me from many blocks away, and changed lanes well before they got anywhere close to me.

Now, when riding in the new bike lane, many motorists are so close that I could reach out my left arm and touch their cars as they pass. The bike lane places cyclists much closer to motorists than do regular travel lanes.

It is my understanding that in southern California, there are bike lanes that are eight feet wide. I have been told that these wide bike lanes are well marked, so that motorists merge into them well before reaching intersections to make right turns. That sounds lovely! I can envision bike lanes such as these being useful, especially on arterial roads with few intersections or driveways.

But this is not what we have in St. Louis.

The “new” Manchester Road in St. Louis (October 2013)

The “new” Manchester Road in St. Louis (October 2013)

Does this bike lane look encouraging? People who are afraid to ride in traffic don’t want to ride here, either.

Riding in a bike lane requires more cycling skill than riding in travel lanes. That’s why CyclingSavvy can teach novices to ride in regular traffic lanes, even on arterial roads. It’s easier and safer.

No discussion about bike lanes would be complete without reference to “right hooks” and “left crosses”—new phrases in our lexicon, thanks to bike lanes.

The last time I rode in the bike lane on Manchester Road, I was in the way of three right-turning motorists:

  • The first apparently did not see me. She would have right-hooked me, had I not slowed down to let her turn in front of me.
  • The second motorist saw me and stopped in the now-single travel lane, holding up a line of motorists behind him as he waited for me to get through the intersection. I stopped, too, because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He smiled kindly. We shook our heads at each other as he waved me on. I proceeded with caution.
  • I can’t remember the circumstances in which the bike lane put me in the way of the THIRD right-turning motorist. By this time I was disgusted, and emotionally spent. It is exhausting to be on the lookout at every single intersection and driveway when using a bike lane on an urban arterial roadway.

Travel was never this difficult on the “old” Manchester Road.

As cyclists, being in a bike lane increases our workload. We ideally need eyes in the back of our heads to constantly monitor what is happening behind us. I use an excellent helmet-mounted rear view mirror. I would not dare ride in a bike lane without one.

When I am controlling a regular travel lane, I find that I never need to exercise white-knuckle vigilance. Mindfulness, yes. Unfortunately there are a relatively small number of psychopaths and other unsavory types piloting land missiles on our roadways. It may seem counterintuitive, but lane control actually gives cyclists more space and time to deal with these rare encounters.

In a bike lane I have learned to ride at no more than half my normal speed to compensate for potential motorist error. My normal speed isn’t that fast—about 12 to 18 mph, depending on conditions.

This self-enforced slowdown for safety is irritating. I have somewhere to go, too! What makes people think the time of a motorist is more valuable than that of a cyclist?

We cannot ignore the danger of getting “doored,” another terrible feature of many urban bike lanes. Keri Caffrey has done a brilliant job illustrating the reality of space in a typical bike lane:

6-AASHTO-says-but-don't-2

Traffic engineers would not dream of manufacturing conflict between two lanes of motor vehicle traffic by placing a right-turn lane to the left of a through lane. Why is this acceptable when one of the lanes is for bicyclists?

An engineer friend who is painfully aware of the quandary presented by bike lane design argues that municipalities have a responsibility to warn users of their unintended risks, much as the pharmaceutical industry already does regarding the potential side effects of their products.

7-Conflict-zone!

On the bright side, my husband has taught me a great technique. We use bike lanes as “Control & Release” lanes.

“Control & Release” is a CyclingSavvy technique. We teach cyclists how to use lane control as their default position in managing their space on the road. But we also teach them how to determine when it is safe to move right and “release” faster-moving traffic.

How does this work with bike lanes? Because of traffic signalization, motorists tend to travel in platoons. Even the busiest roads have expanses of empty roadway, while motorists sit and wait at traffic lights.

When we are on roads with bike lanes, being aware of the “platoon effect” allows us to use the regular travel lane and ride happily along at our normal speeds. We typically cover a city block or two without having any motor traffic behind us. When a platoon approaches, we move over to the bike lane and go slow, very slow if it’s a door-zone bike lane. It takes only a few seconds for the platoon to pass.

Once they pass, we move back into the travel lane and rock on.

Harold Karabell using the regular travel lane in Buffalo, NY, but moving over to the door-zone bike lane as necessary to release motor traffic behind him (July 2013)

Harold Karabell using the regular travel lane in Buffalo, NY, but moving over to the door-zone bike lane as necessary to release motor traffic behind him (July 2013)

Because bicycling is very safe, accidents are rare, even in bike lanes. But the next time you hear about a motorist hitting a cyclist, pay attention to the details. Where was the cyclist on the roadway? Was the cyclist on the right edge of the road? If he or she wasn’t breaking the law—for example, by riding against traffic, disobeying signals or riding at night without lights—very likely the cyclist was riding near the right edge, where bike lanes are.

We who care about bicycling want more people to choose bicycling, especially for transportation. Half of all U.S. motor trips are less than three miles in distance. This is very easy to traverse by bicycle—usually just as fast and sometimes faster than using a car. Can you imagine the transportation revolution if Americans left their motor vehicles at home and used their bicycles instead for short trips? I for one would feel like I was living in paradise!

But how do we get there? Professor Andy Cline argues that we are making a grave mistake in our attempts to channelize and “segregate” cyclists from motorists. Indeed, as we are reframing U.S. roadways to accommodate bicycling, he warns that we must avoid “surrendering our streets.” This is what we are doing when we ask for cycletracks or special paint markings on the edge of the road.

If we keep asking, we are eventually forced into the bars of our own prison. California is one of eight states that require cyclists to use bike lanes when the lanes are provided.

If we would connect the dots and learn just one thing from the hundreds of bike lane deaths over the last 20 years, it would be this: Attempting to segregate by vehicle type does not work. It just makes transportation more difficult for both cyclists and motorists.

Make no mistake: Bicycles are vehicles. Most states define them as such. Some states define the bicycle as a “device.” But in all 50 states, cyclists are considered drivers.

What excites me is the vision put forth by I Am Traffic. We believe that people will choose bicycling when they feel expected and respected as a normal part of traffic.

9-Deb-&-child

We recognize that we are outliers. We are not waiting for a future in which we hope to receive the respect of the culture. We respect ourselves now. We exercise that self-respect by participating in regular traffic, like any other driver.

Our experience has convinced us that cycling as a regular part of traffic works beautifully.

In a Utopian world this is well and good, a friend likes to say. But what if everybody starts using bicycles in traffic? How will motorists react then?

Our desire for on-road equality has been compared by some to the struggles fought by African Americans, gay people or other maligned minorities seeking acceptance and equality. On only one point does this “civil rights” comparison resonate for me: The prejudicial assertion that cyclists cause delay to other drivers.

Cyclists causing delay is a myth that must die. This pernicious stereotype oppresses us.  It simply is not true. As cyclists traveling solo, with one other person or even in a small group, we are incapable of causing significant delay to other road users.

The truth about on-road delay is just the opposite. Last December Harold and I were in Dallas. As our friends Eliot Landrum and Waco Moore escorted us to dinner, we were caught in one of that city’s routine traffic jams:

Evening rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas (December 2013)

Evening rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas (December 2013)

Lest anyone think that we cyclists were causing delay, I put the kickstand down on my bicycle and walked behind Waco, Harold and Eliot to take a forward-facing photo:

Forward view of rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue

Forward view of rush hour on Oak Lawn Avenue

City lights and welcome company made this evening lovely. Otherwise, this was just another routine ride for cyclists who practice driver behavior.

Motorists delay motorists. The sheer number of motorists is what causes the most delay on our roads. Many things cause momentary delay, such as traffic signals, railroad crossings, and vehicles that make routine stops, like delivery trucks–and city buses.

1-bus_bike_lane_graphic-500

In a snarky moment I remember responding to one Facebook friend: “Thank God every travel lane is not a bike lane!”

Yet this marketing campaign from the City of Angels made my heart soar.

It will be a great day when every cyclist can—without fear or risk of harassment—use any traffic lane that best serves his or her destination.

I envision our existing roadways filled with people using the vehicles that best serve that day’s transportation needs. More often than not, these vehicles will be bicycles—because who needs a two-ton land missile to go to work, or buy a loaf of bread? I envision the people of Amsterdam and Copenhagen flocking to the United States to ask how we did it. How did we get cyclists and motorists to integrate so peacefully and easily on our roads?

We have discovered that when cyclists act as drivers, and when all drivers follow the rules of the road, traffic flows beautifully. This is simple. This is safe. This offers a sustainable and inviting future.

But don’t take my word for it. Come ride with me!

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13 Karen_Karabell_IMG_1858Karen Karabell is a mother, business owner and CyclingSavvy instructor in St. Louis who uses her bicycle year-round for transportation. She is passionate about helping others transform themselves, as she did, from fear of motor vehicle traffic to mastery and enjoyment. 

Metro speaks, but could maybe do a little more listening; New York county official says never ride on two wheels

I tried.

No, really, I did. I blocked out this past Tuesday evening over a week in advance to attend the latest Metro Bike Roundtable at Metro Headquarters.

Then as so often happens, I just couldn’t make it work out on a day when I found myself pulled in too many directions with too many deadlines.

Fortunately, a friend and sometimes contributor was also planning to attend, and graciously agreed to fill in for me at the last minute, though she requested that I keep her name out of it.

Here’s her take on the meeting.

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The so-called “roundtables” aren’t what they used to be. They’re useful, and good at what they are, but they’re nothing like the first exciting year of bike roundtables. Mind you, I’m not whining. The initial roundtables were absolutely instrumental in shaping policies & implementing some terrific changes. Now, though, they’re just lovely informative meetings with a series of brief presentations along with updates on new & ongoing projects.

Significantly, the meetings continue. They haven’t been squelched without reason by Metro or killed by lack of interest. And important people show up. By “important people” I mean “the folks who are generally enthusiastic about bikes & knowledgeable about what’s going on,” if you accept this as a definition. BAC reps, politicians’ staffers, community leaders, lone wolf activists, they were all there. True believers like Lynne Goldsmith (in gorgeous black easy-to-pedal-in boots) & Dave Somers (DCP here representin’, YO!), LACBC & SRTS. And a schlub or two like me. The mix is good, but attendance is a lot smaller than the very first SRO meeting, and it’s really no longer about soliciting input.

I wish to repeat that I’m not in any way criticizing the importance of these meetings, because they’re more than informative. They’d be exponentially more helpful if they allowed for more input from the community, and were followed by a happy hour. No, I’m not joking about the happy hour thing. Shiny happy people talking bikes? For an extra hour? NOT a bad idea. There’s certainly no point in trying to suggest this, or anything, because the roundtable no longer focuses on collecting input.

For example, I would have liked to point out that the new wayfinding signage that allegedly directs riders from the El Monte Transit Station to the San Gabriel River Path is insufficient. Of course, I base this exclusively on the tiny data set of “my repeated failures to locate it.” On the most recent visit, I asked for directions from no fewer than nine people (including two Sheriff’s deputies, four cyclists, the Foothill Transit customer service girl & a security guard), in addition to walking around and getting yelled at/threatened for hovering at the invisible boundaries of off-limits areas. Next time, I’ll attack from the river path, and work my way back. It would have been useful to get this info at the roundtable so I could use it myself and disseminate it, but now I face the added hassle of exploring and then writing a strongly-worded letter to the people who are patting themselves on the back for accomplishing the task of installing invisible signage. Also, when I do eventually find the signs, I will cringe at my own goddamn stupidity, and Metro will never apologize for or even acknowledge their complicity.

The subject of the useless stair rails at the aforementioned transit station came up as well. Metro’s thrown a study together, because in the future they’ll be installing the ramps at other stations. Well, hopefully not the same type of ramp, because as stated, the ones at El Monte suck. There’s just no euphemism. I have dozens of pictures of people giving up and just carrying their bikes, and I feel really bad for the folks who struggle — the ones who really need to use the elevator but attempt, with hope and gallantry, to use the little ramps. These ramps are an expensive kick in the dignity of multi-modal transit users. Incidentally, these rails do not accommodate any of my bikes (all fixes), period. Pedal strike, you know. Which is fine ’cause I feel like a total bad-ass hauling a 19 lb. bike up a couple flights. Not so fine for the guy with bad knees and two full-time jobs and a heavy Walmart “mountain bike” and the added burden of shame for looking like a simpleton who’s too stupid to figure out some self-explanatory stair rails.

Anyway, there was cheerful stuff on the agenda too. Planning for Bike Month is well underway, with the following laid out for Bike Week so far:

  • May 10th: Get Ready and Fix Your Bike!
  • May 11th: Bicycling is for Everyone Celebration!
  • May 12th: Kick-off Bike Week LA
  • May 13th: Blessing of the Bicycles
  • May 14th: Guided Ride Day: Bike Lanes and More!
  • May 15th: Bike to Work Day
  • May 12th-18th: Bike Local

This was copied verbatim, but personally I think they need more exclamation marks. It’s nice to see maintenance/repair clinics on the list, and I’m particularly impatient for more details on the guided rides. “Bike Local” will encourage ridership because everybody likes a discount. Also, on May 3rd, there’ll be a ride in conjunction with Union Station’s 75th anniversary.

The 2014 messaging campaign will be revealed in May, and will build off the success of “Every Lane is a Bike Lane.” (As an aside, I was rolling homeward from Bike Night at the Hammer in a group that included two prominent biketivists when a group of drunks hollered “EVERY LANE IS NOT A BIKE LANE!” at us. So the message definitely reached its intended demographic, though its educational effect is questionable.)

Metro’s already submitted an application for an OTS grant to fund their bicycle safety campaign in 2015.

Metro will continue to sponsor CICLE’s group rides, the next one being Saturday’s Ride for Love (and what nobler reason is there?!) in Watts.

The exciting Open Streets timeline was presented. The final application package was revealed at last month’s Open Streets Program Workshop, and applications are due by March 14th. In June, the Metro Board will make their approvals of recommended events, and in summer, they’ll execute agreements for funding Open Streets events for Fiscal Year 2015. It’s gonna be CicLAvia-a-Go-Go in L.A. County!

And about Bike Share. Last fall, Metro initiated a bike share industry review. Last month, they reported the results of this review to the Board. They’ve identified potential pilot (“Phase 1″) locations, and are preparing to launch an implementation plan. They’ll be reporting back to the Board with an update in April. The identified pilot sites are in downtown LA, Pasadena & Santa Monica, and the program includes future coordination with the City of Long Beach.

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Just a couple other quick notes.

In case you missed it — and I can’t imagine how with the furor that has erupted in the bikeosphere over the past few days — a representative of the Suffolk County NY Legislature responded to a high school student’s urgent pleas for bike safety by telling him to give up and get a car.

The young man’s own mother had been hit by a car, as had four friends. But this auto-centric jerk — and I use the term advisedly — offered little sympathy and no hope for those on two wheels.

I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.

So instead of lifting a finger in his official capacity to make the streets safer for the people he was elected to represent — especially with such an astounding rate of injury — he insists streets are for cars.

And if you don’t like it, tough.

Let’s hope his constituents run him out of office. Hopefully on two wheels.

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As noted the other day, Santa Monica’s city council has unanimously approved the city’s first neighborhood greenway, as well as Safe Routes to School improvements around Santa Monica High School; Santa Monica Next and Santa Monica Lookout offer more information.

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The Voice of America says bike trains beat LA traffic.

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Touring Westwood by complimentary hotel bike.

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The LAPD is cracking down on traffic crime in the Northeast division; now if they could just extend that throughout the city our streets might finally be a little safer.

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San Diego has a new pro-bike, pro-gay Republican — yes, Republican — mayor.

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Nicholas Santiago has reportedly pled guilty in the semi-hit-and-run that took the life of 78-year old Moorpark cyclist Bernie Cooper. Santiago’s car hit Cooper’s bike with so force his body was found in the branches of a nearby tree; he left the scene before returning to take responsibility.

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A Palo Alto columnist looks at the laws governing cyclists. And somehow manages to get it wrong.

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Top South African track cyclist Jeanne Neil was killed after getting trapped between two other riders while competing in a Cape Town keirin race.

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Finally, in case you’ve wondered just why our streets are so dangerous, consider this:

A drunk Portland nanny picks up four kids from school with a BAC over four times the legal limit, pulls to the curb, cries, passes out, hits a bike rider, flees the scene, lets the kids out, passes out again, then fights with paramedics who come to help her. And gets probation and a suspended license — even though it was her third offense.

Too easy to get, too hard to lose.

Update: I knew I forgot something. LADOT announces that the city’s first Bicycle Friendly Business District is coming to Northeast LA. Maybe Westwood can be next, if the local councilmember can be convinced that bikes are good for business.

Guest Column: Bikes Have Rights™*

Today marks the second edition of the new guest column by LA bike lawyer Jim Pocrass. 

Yes, this is a sponsored placement. But he once again offers good advice — this time on how to help if you should come upon a downed rider.

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Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

When You See A Cyclist Down

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Someone in my office came to me recently to tell me that as she was driving home she saw a bike accident. The car that had hit, presumably, the cyclist was parked nearby. There were a few people helping the cyclist, who sat in the middle of the road. She could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles that were on their way.

She said that though she wanted to stop to help, she felt that since there were people at the scene already, it wouldn’t be useful. So she didn’t stop. She asked me if I thought she should’ve stopped.

Upon thinking about the question, I told her I thought she should have. Because we work with so many cyclists who have been in bike accidents, we know what information the cyclist needs if they want to pursue a legal case.

In the immediate aftermath of a bike accident, even the most knowledgeable cyclist is probably shaken and stunned. If the cyclist has suffered serious personal injuries, they may be incapable of collecting the necessary information.

Also, there is no guarantee that the people who stop really know what information the cyclist – or the cyclist’s family – is going to need for legal action. More than likely, the people assisting the fallen cyclist are most concerned, understandably and rightfully, with the cyclist’s injuries.

If you see a cyclist down, of course the first thing to do is to call the police and to get the cyclist emergency medical assistance. If that is being done by others, you can best assist the fallen cyclist by writing down the following information:

  • Time & Place: Notate the time the accident happened as well as the location. You want to include approximate address, the nearest cross street(s), and the city.
  • Vehicle Information: Most importantly, get the license plate number and state. Note: if the cyclist was hit by a truck, you need to get the license plate number of both the cab and the trailer. They may be different. Write down the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle that hit the cyclist.
  • Driver Info: Get the driver’s name, phone, address, email, and driver’s license number (and state). Get the driver’s insurance information, including company and policy number.
  • Witness Info: Get the name, address, phone, and email of any witnesses (including any passengers in the vehicle).
  • Photos: One of the most helpful things you could do for the cyclist is to take pictures with your phone. You want pictures of the bicycle and of the car (multiple views and as close as possible). Then take multiple pictures of the scene of the accident, from numerous angles, as it relates to street signs, lights, corners, and curbs.

Once you have collected this information, write down your contact information, with a brief note that you have witness information and photos, and give it to the fallen cyclist, tuck it into the cyclist’s pocket, or give it to a paramedic to put with the cyclist’s possessions.

The worse the cyclist’s injuries are, the more important this information will be to the cyclist or to the cyclist’s family.

BikeCrashReportBACK r1 (2)You don’t need our help to do this, but we did create a free, wallet-sized guide to carry with you should you have a collision or should you see a fallen cyclist. You can either download a version of it here, or send us an email and include your mailing address and we’ll mail you a hard copy of the guide.

A very experienced cyclist, whose case we are handling, told us that he had one of our guides in his wallet when he had his bike accident, and he was so shaken he never thought about using it.

So let’s help each other and gather the information necessary to strengthen each fallen cyclist’s legal case. If people will not be careful around cyclists because it’s the right and legal thing to do, maybe they will change their behavior when they feel the sting from their pocketbooks.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .
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For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.
 

Guest Column: Bikes Have Rights™*

Today marks the beginning of the new sponsor-supported BikinginLA.

In addition to advertising on this site, our first sponsor, Jim Pocrass of the law firm Pocrass & De Los Reyes, has agreed to write a semi-regular Wednesday column on the legal rights of bicyclists.

After talking bike law with him on several occasions, I can assure you he knows his stuff. In fact, the column below matches my own experience, when a bad police report resulted in the insurance company rejecting my claim when I was injured by a road raging driver.

So I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jim to BikinginLA. And take his advice to heart — if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

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Police Reports: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

I recently took a Malibu bike accident case in which the driver of a motor vehicle made a left turn into the cyclist. The accident happened at dusk; it was not dark out yet. The police report states that the cyclist was cited for “unsafe speed conditions” because he was wearing all black.

Police blaming the cyclist for the accident is not unusual. I don’t think I have ever had a bike accident case – and I have represented hundreds of cyclists – in which the police report did not blame the bicyclist. Nevertheless, it is important that you file a police report if you are in a bike accident.

Though police officers are often biased against cyclists, they usually get the facts of an accident correct. Such details of the accident:  the time, place, weather, what direction each participant was going and where they were located when the accident happened, contact information for witnesses, confirmation of insurance, and any physical evidence at the scene, is usually recorded correctly.

It is the police officer’s conclusion that is typically wrong. Though I would much rather police officers would lose their cyclist bias, filing a police report is still beneficial to your legal case and to your insurance claim because it sets out in writing the basic facts.

Police reports with tainted conclusions may make the handling of your case or insurance claim more difficult, but the police report and the opinions and conclusions of the police officer are not admissible in court. They are all considered hearsay.

The problem comes in when the insurance company reads the police report and accepts the officer’s conclusions. They may refuse to settle your case or offer you much less compensation than which you are entitled. The result is that we have to file a lawsuit, gather evidence, and take the police officer’s deposition to prove the officer was wrong. Frequently it is during or after the deposition stage that the insurance company will offer to settle the case to avoid going to court.

So if you are in a bike collision, file a police report. In quite a few cities – including the City of Los Angeles – if you say you are not injured (and you should NEVER comment on injuries or guilt), a police officer will not come to the scene. In that situation, you need to go to the police station at your earliest opportunity (even sooner than that), and file a police report. Get the facts on the record.

Remember, filing a police report does not mean you have to file a legal case. It can assist you in collecting compensation for damages you incurred in the bike collision and, should you decide to take legal action later, it will be an important tool to give your bike accident lawyer as he is pursuing your case.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

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For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers in America and to Southern California Super Lawyers lists for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

Guest column: Pam Leven’s last ride

I hate wrecks like this.

Not just because a popular local cycling leader died far too early. Or because people I care about have been hurt so deeply by such an unexpected loss.

But also because details in the death of LA Wheelman president Pam Leven last month have been so hard to come by. And what little we knew just didn’t seem to add up.

Like how such an experienced rider could suffer such devastating injuries in what seemed like an everyday collision between two bike riders.

I could only explain it by assuming they had crossed wheels while riding at speed. However, a rider named Ann, who was on the ride with Leven, left a comment claiming Leven was crossing on a green light at 5 mph when she somehow came in contact with another rider and went down with what turned out to be fatal injuries.

I offered to let her explain what she knew about the collision. While she didn’t actually witness it, she knew more about this troubling case than anyone other than the two people involved, one of whom will never tell her side of the story.

Or at least anyone who has yet come forward.

And let’s be very clear.

While she criticizes the prior behavior of the other rider involved, she makes it very clear that she does not know what actually happened in those fateful few moments. And is not blaming either Pam, the other rider or anyone else for what happened.

Though I might point a finger at the slow emergency response time, which has been a chronic problem here in LA.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013.  Pam Leven’s Last Bike Ride

It was our usual Sunday Corner Ride (we start from the corner of Olympic and LaCienega in Los Angeles).  Part of the Los Angeles Wheelmen Bike Club, the Corner Ride starts at 9 AM and is easy going, not a racing ride.  We have some strong and some slow riders.  Usually, the same group rides in the Brentwood Hills, Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica, Griffith Park, or the South Bay.  The rides are between 30 to 50 miles long.  This particular Sunday was one our Newcomer Ride which Pam, an experienced and safe rider, was leading.  As usual, however, there were no “newcomers,” except for a woman who, although a long-time, skilled rider who completed many “double-centuries,” was returning from a long hiatus.

The ride was easygoing and uneventful.  Pam and the newbie were riding together in the back of the group.  Instead of climbing the hills of Beverly Hills and Brentwood, they took a more flat route, but we all pretty much stayed together.  At various places we stopped to wait for slow riders to catch up.  This is our custom and is always insured by our wonderful Corner Ride leader.

When I arrived to the corner of Sunset and Amalfi, most of the riders, including the experienced rider involved in Pam’s accident, crossed Sunset and were waiting on the southwest corner for the rest to catch up.  It was a long light.  Finally the light turned green, and I and another rider crossed the intersection heading south on Amalfi descending the slopped street at about 5 miles an hour.  Not far behind me, Pam was crossing the same intersection riding south on Amalfi at a similar speed.  Suddenly, I thought I heard Pam yell “Oh! Oh!”, and then there was a horrific sound of the crush of metal.  When I stopped and looked back, I saw Pam lying in the middle of the street on the pavement facing downhill.  The other rider involved in the crash, who had a large bruise or road rash on his left cheek, was kneeling at her side calling her name, and squeezing her hand.  She was not responding.  Someone called 911 for help.  Pam was lying on her stomach, her head facing right, and blood was flowing downward from her left ear or mouth, and her arms were resting along the sides of her body.  Her helmet was partially broken, but remained in place on her head.  The few of us gathered around her did not attempt to move her fearing possible neck injury.  As a registered nurse, I noted a strong radial pulse and she was breathing normally.  The paramedics arrived about 12 to 15 minutes later.

I did not see what had happened, but it appeared to me to be an obvious impact, and apparently, no one else witnessed what happened either.  Only the other rider and Pam know what happened, but Pam never regained consciousness and died a few days later.  The kind of “accident” that led to Pam’s death will never be fully understood.  Apparently, there are no guidelines or rules that require any investigation about such accidents.  Even if someone tried to figure out what happened, it would be difficult because someone moved both bikes to the sidewalk.  I did not see Pam’s bike after that, but I did notice that the other rider’s shifters were both facing outward.  Based on what I saw, it is my assumption that as Pam crossed the street they began to ride too close together.  It seems that when both bikes came into contact with each other, the handlebars became interlocked and the bikes came to a sudden stop.  It is possible that his curved handlebars might have hooked on Pam’s straight handlebars.  As they fell, it is quite possible that the other rider, who weighs about 200 pounds, may have fallen on top of Pam, a much smaller woman.  This scenario is suggested by the extent of Pam’s injuries; in addition to skull fractures, she also sustained a shoulder and hip fracture.

(Editor’s Note: It’s also possible that Leven’s bike may have flipped up and over the other bike if the handlebars became locked, which could also explain her injuries.)

If this accident had involved anyone else, I would not feel as angry as I do.  I have been riding with the Corner group for about ten years.  During this time, this rider was known to have a record of reckless riding.  This includes riding too fast and aggressively, riding too close to other riders and cars, listening to music while riding, rude behavior such as flipping off car drivers and verbally antagonizing other riders and belittling slower riders, and encouraging the group to ride ahead and not wait for them.  Last year, he made an unsafe move which caused another club rider to fall off the bike.  Luckily, they were riding along the bike path.  Had the other rider fallen on pavement and not on sand, this rider might have sustained severe facial injuries.  And not long ago, he broke his collarbone when he flew over his handle bars riding too fast downhill and hit a hump on the road.  As president of the Los Angeles Wheelmen, Pam had several discussions with him about his riding etiquette and style, but apparently, this is where it ended.

During a recent club meeting, I was told that the club does not keep an incident record of accidents or unsafe behavior.  I also learned that members of the club had noted that he had been on “good behavior” for some time, and in the end, accidents just happen.  Yes accidents do happen, and bicycling is a dangerous sport.  Riders assume a risk every time they get on their bike.  And in spite of the obvious dangers, we often feel omnipotent on our bikes, some of us ride too fast and ride too close to one another, we engage in conversations, multitask, listen to music while riding, ride on bad roads, and sometime share the roads with careless and impatient drivers, and some riders do not wear a helmet.  Needles to say, we all need to be more careful and pay close attention to our actions and surroundings, and reckless riders should not be allowed to ride with a group.

Pam did a great job as the President of the Los Angeles Wheelmen Bicycling Club.  She encouraged and welcomed new and old riders.  She listened patiently and always had a smile on her face.  She was a thinker, a reader and a writer and volunteered for many community organizations.  She will be missed very much.

As for me, I will not ride with the Los Angeles Wheelmen if any riders I consider reckless show up.  I am rethinking riding my road bike at all.  At home, I have a great stationary bike and with the right music, I get a wonderful workout.  Maybe, I’ll ride my mountain bike instead.  Riding with a friend or two on easy fire roads and trails away from cars and other bike riders might be more prudent.

Maybe I’ll just put my boots back on and start hiking again.

Rail-to-River comes to South LA, important meeting in BH, and e-bikes to help the recently homeless

We finally made it.

As you can see, things look a little different around here.

Which is a clear sign this site finally made the transition to a new server, the first step in transitioning to an advertising supported bike news site.

There are still some bugs to work out, including the fact that links from the old site haven’t followed over to the new one yet, and visitors to the old site aren’t automatically transferred over here.

Meanwhile, the design is just temporary, an attempt to replicate the old look and feel while we work on the cool new site to come.

So bear with me while we work out the bugs, and build a whole new bigger and better BikinginLA.

And thanks to everyone for the kind words of support in recent days.

I’m definitely feeling the love.

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Big news from LA’s undiscovered country south of the I-10.

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has joined with fellow Supervisor Gloria Molina to propose an 8.3 mile rail-to-trail conversion through the heart of South LA.

The proposed Rail-to-River trail would follow Slauson Avenue east from the future Crenshaw/LAX rail station in Inglewood to just north of Washington Blvd near the LA River. Which means that riders will finally have a direct off-road route from the LA River bike path most the way to the beach.

More importantly, bike riders — and potential riders — in one of LA’s most underserved areas will have a safe place to develop their skills and build a healthier lifestyle. And the county will turn an underutilized eyesore into an asset that could help revitalize the area.

What’s not to like?

The first meeting to discuss the trail will take place this Wednesday at the Los Angeles Academy Middle School, 644 E. 56th Street in Los Angeles.

Big thanks to Ridley-Thomas and Molina for bringing this to the table.

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The Cyclist Down Facebook page reports yet another hit-and-run in Downtown LA.

A Cyclist was injured in a Hit & Run early Sunday morning in DTLA.

The cyclist suffered injuries to his wrist and a broke his nose in two places.

The incident occurred around 1 am near 4th & Hill. Cyclist was knock unconscious and does not remember the incident and was transported to a local hospital.

No further details available at this time.

Hopefully, we can find the jerk who left yet another rider bleeding in the street.

In case you have noticed, I effing hate hit-and-run drivers.

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The Biking Grey Hole of Beverly Hills — upgraded from Black Hole thanks to some nice bike lanes on Burton Way — will host a meeting tonight to discuss the planned reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard through the city, including the possibility of bike lanes to fill the gap between lanes in Century City and West Hollywood.

The meeting will take place in the Municipal Gallery on the second floor of the Beverly Hills City Hall, 455 North Rexford Drive starting at 6 pm. If you ride through the city — or would if you felt safer on the streets — you owe it to yourself to be there.

Or at least voice your opinion on the comment page.

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I’m not one to simply repost a press release.

In fact, most never make it any further than the trash bin on my email account.

But I’m going to make an exception this one time. Because not only is the piece unusually well-written, but it tells the tale of a young man determined to make a difference.

And we could use a lot more like him.

bikeshareLOS ANGELES, CA, December 9, 2013 – Formerly homeless residents at two Los Angeles supportive housing projects will soon have wheels to get to jobs and job training, school, interviews, medical appointments, sober meetings, and gatherings with loved ones – courtesy of a teenage Eagle Scout candidate and competitive bicyclist.

Diego Binatena of Boy Scout Troop 927 in Westchester learned that the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), a bicycle advocacy group, was looking for a good home for 20 electric pedal-assist bicycles that were sitting unassembled in a warehouse due to the closure of a bicycle company.

“A bicycle is a terrible thing to waste,” joked Binatena, a Scout since first grade, a bicycle commuter and national-level competitive racing cyclist. More seriously, said the Playa del Rey teenager, he created “Cycle Forward BIKESHARE” as his Eagle Scout Service Project to put the LACBC bicycles to use as transportation for formerly homeless youth and men trying to improve their lives.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Binatena is aware of the effects of poverty and homelessness. His mother, Julie Lansing, is the administrator of a rent-subsidy housing program for low-income families and chronically homeless adults.

“Our dinner table conversations were often about the problems of homelessness and how our family could help with solutions,” said Binatena. “My mother had us participate in food drives, adopt-a-family, and fundraising events. She taught us that everyone who cares about people in need can make a difference in their lives.”

Binatena found his partners and beneficiaries for BIKESHARE at two Los Angeles transitional housing agencies: Jovenes, Inc, in Boyle Heights and PATH La Kretz Villas in East Hollywood. Jovenes focuses on helping at-risk men ages 18-25 years and PATH provides intensive supporting housing for 48 residents.

“Moving around the city is a tremendous challenge for our residents, and this bike sharing program will make a real difference,” said Eric Hubbard, Development Director for Jovenes, Inc.

Be Prepared

Binatena launched his project in September and quickly learned that for his project, the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” required hard work, money and friends. After consulting with bicycle advocates, he set a $25,000 budget for the project. Beyond the bikes donated by the LACBC, valued at $1,000 each, he needed bike racks, safety equipment, locks, commuter bags, and safe-cycling program materials.

With a polished Power Point presentation in hand, Binatena got agenda time at the Westchester/Playa and East Hollywood Neighborhood Councils and the Westchester Rotary Club. He left all three meetings with checks in his pocket. He got donations from the South Bay and Los Angeles Wheelmen Bicycle Clubs and the Southern California Gas Co. He successfully solicited bicycle accessories, and safety equipment from KHS Bicycles, Collision & Injury Dynamics, and Planet Bike. He recruited fellow Scouts and friends to assemble the bicycles and racks.

Three months after project launch, Binatena exceeded his goal: He collected $2,700 in donations and $2,300 worth of bicycle equipment.

“I was not prepared for such a positive reaction from everyone,” he said.

Hard work and persistence are not new to Binatena. Bicycle racing requires planning, preparation and focus – plus countless hours on the bike in training to compete at a high level, he said. After winning the 2013 California Junior State Road Championships and other elite races, he was recruited by the USA Cycling National Team to race in Europe against the best in the world.

When Cycle Forward “BIKESHARE” is rolling at PATH and Jovenes, Binatena will present his service project to the Eagle Board of Review to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve.

………

Finally, maybe you missed the uproar over the weekend about the overly-litigious gang that couldn’t shoot straight, as Specialized threatened to sue a small Canadian bike shop that dared to use the name Roubaix, which Specialized claims to own but really doesn’t.

No offense to local bike shops who carry the brand. But it’s going to be a long time before I’ll be willing to buy anything bearing the Specialized S. Evidently, I’m not the only one.

And no, an apology won’t be enough.

Not this time.

South Bay cyclist victim of a hit-and-walk

One of the primary arguments used to attack bicyclists lately has been the alleged carelessness — or aggressiveness — some bike riders show around pedestrians.

Never mind that a solid  collision between a cyclist and someone on foot is likely to result in injuries to both. And while people can point fingers at a handful of cases where careless riders have seriously injured — or even killed — pedestrians, it is a problem that goes both ways.

As just about anyone who has ever ridden any of Southern California’s beachfront bike paths can attest.

Case in point, this email I received yesterday from frequent South Bay contributor Jim Lyle.

Nine days ago, I was returning home from my morning ride up the coast.  As I navigated the bike path under the Redondo Beach pier, a woman ducked under the chain that separates the bike path from the pedestrian walkway directly in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her and went down, hard.  As I hit the pavement, I heard a “pop” and knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing.  I unclipped and tried to get up, but couldn’t bear any weight on my left leg due to the pain.

Here’s where it gets surreal.  The woman, with a bunch of her friends, did not offer to help me, did not ask if I was OK, or if I was hurt; they simply walked away as if nothing had happened.  Does that qualify as a “hit and walk?”

I was able to pull myself up using the bike to lean on and hobbled to an open area where I had cell phone coverage.  I called a friend who lives near the pier and asked her to come get me.  She arrived, put the bicycle in the truck bed, but I couldn’t get into the cab, it was too high and it hurt too much to move the leg.  I started to go into shock, tunnel vision and losing consciousness.  My friend called 911.  The EMTs arrived, put me on a gurney, and transported me to emergency.  X-rays revealed I had snapped a bone on my femur, but there was no displacement.  They gave me pain meds and crutches and sent me home.  I return to the orthopod in a couple of weeks to make sure there’s been no movement of the bone and I’m on the road to recovery. Otherwise, they’ll have to do surgery.  Meanwhile, I’m moping around the house feeling sorry for myself.  It could have been worse, much, much worse.

As you know, it is illegal (CVC and city ordinances) for pedestrians to use the beach bike path.  There are signs posted and “BIKES ONLY” is painted on the path every few yards.  Because these laws are not enforced, pedestrians, nannies, dog walkers, skaters, illiterates, and scofflaws use the bike path instead of the pedestrian walkway which is often within spitting range.  I always knew this created a dangerous situation for cyclists and pedestrians. And, now, I’m a victim.

In the past, a polite “on your left” or “bikes only, please” would be sufficient.  In future, when I’m back riding, I am no longer going to be very pleasant when I encounter the brain dead idiots who insist on endangering my health.  Police chiefs in the beach cities are going to know my name.  All it would take is a little public education and the occasional ticket to make the beach safe for all users, on two wheels or none.

I’m still fuming about the lack of humanity shown by people.  Surely, they’re in a minority, or are they?

Make no mistake.

Pedestrians are the only class of road users more vulnerable than we are. And we need to go out of our way to protect their safety, especially when riding on sidewalks and through crosswalks, where they should have unquestioned right-of-way.

And yes, I’ve seen cyclists plow through a crowded crosswalk, seemingly oblivious to the harm they may cause. And a Santa Monica cyclist was recently convicted, fairly or not, of assault with a deadly weapon for doing just that.

But as Jim’s email suggests, we aren’t always the problem. And we are just as vulnerable to their carelessness as they are to ours.

One other point.

Had he been able to stop the woman, she could have been held liable for his injuries, just as a bicyclist can be held legally liable for injuring a pedestrian. Or another bike rider, for that matter.

But whether she could be charged with leaving the scene of a collision is a question I can’t answer.

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