Archive for Guest Columns

Guest post: Letter from St. Louis

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from St. Louis correspondent Karen Karabell. 

While I don’t always agree with her, I’ve found Karen to be one of the most agreeable people to disagree with I’ve ever encountered. In fact, she’s become one of my favorite people, even if we’ve never managed to close the 1,800 some odd miles separating us. 

I do agree that knowing how to ride anywhere, under any circumstances, makes all the difference in both your safety on the streets, and your enjoyment on your bike. And taking a course in bike safety is one of the the fastest and best ways to get there.

……..

The news this summer from Southern California has been thrilling. Three cycling clubs have offered CyclingSavvy to their members. Big Orange is considering making participation in a CyclingSavvy workshop mandatory for membership.

Wow! Before we know it, cyclists everywhere will recognize CyclingSavvy as a quantum leap forward in bicycle education. Bicycle safety instructors throughout the land will retrain themselves to start teaching CyclingSavvy.

A new tagline for selling truly useful bicycle education that changes people’s lives will be: “Got Savvy?”

Is she crazy?

Those who follow the politics of bicycling might think so. Perhaps you’ve heard of CyclingSavvy, but not actually taken the course. Be aware that much of what you’ve heard may be unintentionally inaccurate at best, and even deliberately misleading at worst.

Such are politics! Be that as it may, things are changing, and fast.

I want to introduce you to Shawn Leight, incoming president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The ITE is an international scientific and educational association, with 13,000 members working in more than 90 countries.

I met Shawn through a Facebook post:

facebook-screen-shot

The screen shot excerpted above is after our first IRL meeting.

Shawn and I decided to meet the old-fashioned way. We both live in the St. Louis area. For our first meeting, he suggested lunch. I said no.

I prefer not to sit down with a transportation professional until we’ve done something else together: Ride.

I needed to show Shawn that I was a regular human, not a person reeking with ideological certainty cyclist. It worked! Our ride together allowed us to move beyond the caricatures that permeate discussions about bicycling in America.

Shawn and I rode together in heavy afternoon rush hour traffic. I loved showing him how we cyclists can easily share our existing roadway network, especially when we take advantage of the hallmarks of the U.S. transportation system: Communication, Cooperation, and Courtesy.

On one stretch, I controlled our space on a narrow two-lane road without shoulders. I waved on or held back other drivers as circumstances dictated. We received complete lane changes and zero incivility.

He later told me that I earned his respect when he asked if I’d control an uphill travel lane on a busy St. Louis County arterial road. “Heck no!” I responded.

My visceral response assured him that I was not crazy. But savvy cyclists know that my response could not be as simple as that. It never is when the topic is bicycling.

I told Shawn that I would try to find an alternate route. Failing that, I’d take advantage of the “platoon effect” and ride on the road when it was empty, moving to the shoulder to facilitate passing. On the shoulder I’d be slow and cautious! I would monitor conditions constantly in my rearview mirror, ready to bail if an errant motorist headed my way.

This all becomes second nature when you’re riding on a shoulder, or practicing what we now call “Edge Behavior,” thanks to Dan Gutierrez.

Dan has earned a place in history for creating an easy way to think about bicyclist behaviors. He coined the typology “Pedestrian,” “Edge,” and “Driver” behavior to describe how bicyclists operate their vehicles. Successful bicyclists use all three behaviors to their great advantage. We CyclingSavvy instructors show people how to use each behavior safely and effectively.

cyclist-behavior-spectrum

Unlike any other form of transportation, bicycling is an art. Trains, planes, boats, pedestrians and motorists have fairly standard operating characteristics. But we cyclists have choices.

So many choices! Also: Safety is a product of behavior. This is something that I did not truly appreciate until I got savvy.

Even after I took my first CyclingSavvy workshop, it took me a long time to become a savvy cyclist (but that’s another story).

Before I understood savvy cycling, I was a typical bicyclist, exhibiting what psychologists call “unconscious incompetence.” This is a technical term to describe people who don’t know what they don’t know. The term fit me perfectly when I first went to Florida to check out CyclingSavvy.

I’m not criticizing myself! At the time I simply shared our culture’s prevailing mindset regarding bicycling. Most people are clueless regarding safest and best practices.

Again, it’s not their fault! People don’t know what they don’t know.

So, Smarty Pants, what exactly is it that “most people” don’t know yet about bicycling?

Thank you for asking! I’ll be glad to touch on some salient points:

It is possible to ride safely and easily on any urban street, right now.

In CyclingSavvy we give people the tools to do so. We do a whole lot more than this; I’ll write more about that in a minute.

I’ll never forget my conversation with a prominent local cyclist and former board member of the League of American Bicyclists. I was practically begging her to take even just only the classroom session of CyclingSavvy. She refused. She already was an “expert.” She had nothing to learn, especially not from me and my ilk who dared find issue and speak about safety flaws with the special infrastructure that she so fervently promoted.

The conversation did not go well. She finally yelled at me in frustration.

“Education doesn’t work!”

She was right, based on what she knew. As a League Cycling Instructor, I could not make education “work,” either. That’s why I decided to go to Orlando in 2011 to see what this “savvy cycling” thing was about. The experience set me on a whole new path, mainly because it wasn’t about bicycling.

The biggest thing we do in CyclingSavvy is bust myths.

Myth #1: Rules were created for cars. The rules of the road were created long before automobiles were common. In fact, the rules were created in part because of the behavior of reckless bicyclists, who were injuring people in the road and startling horses pulling carriages.

unrestrained-demon

The guy who created the rules was nothing short of brilliant. He devised something so simple and elegant that it would become—and remains—the basis for the most boring transportation network on Earth.

Nothing wrong with that, right? When the topic is traffic safety, “boring” equals “good.”

Myth #2: When operating a human-powered vehicle on the road, it is not safe to mix with faster, heavier, motorized traffic.

I can see how people believe this. Especially because we regularly see bicyclists do all kinds of crazy shit practice all sorts of behavior. But bicyclists usually get along just fine, however they choose to ride.

Remember, we are talking about bicycling. This is an inherently safe activity. Don’t take my word it. Go be a Salmon Wedgie Ninja on any road you want. You probably will be terrified. Yet you will likely get home unscathed.

Myth #3: We must have special facilities in America to ride safely. Nope. As my colleague John Brooking has observed: Educated cyclists do not need special infrastructure. But safely using special infrastructure requires education.

As a corollary, Myth #3.5: CyclingSavvy opposes special infrastructure for bicyclists. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our job is to show people how to keep themselves safe, wherever they ride.

Myth #4: What is considered “safe” is typically the opposite of safe.

defensive-driving

‘Nuf said with the graphic above.

Myth #5: Cyclists cause delay. Ugh. This idea needs its own PR campaign to be dismantled and abolished.

A successful campaign to kill the myth of delay would lead to the demise of many entertaining YouTube videos, as angry dudes start changing lanes to pass, like everyone else.

It is very easy to change lanes to pass bicyclists. Fat chance passing anyone else on the 405/10.

405-10

I asked my cousin to send me a photo of his favorite traffic-clogged Los Angeles freeway. We have traffic jams here, too, though none that look as deadening as in this scene from LA.

Whenever I see people stuck like this in traffic, I think:

You all are crazy. I’ll haul groceries on my bicycle any day to avoid that.

Myth #6: There will always be antagonism between motorists and cyclists.

This may be the biggest myth that we savvy cyclists bust, day after day after uneventful day.

We busted it again last month in a CyclingSavvy workshop with novices. Check out what happens when we use “driver behavior” on fast and scary roads:

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Nothing.

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Nada.

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Zilch.

Well, that’s not exactly true. We get where we want to go, safely and easily.

I have yet to meet a CyclingSavvy graduate who is not thrilled by the possibilities of being empowered to use a bicycle to go anywhere.

CyclingSavvy has a marketing conundrum. I decided to be frank about this in a classroom session held this summer with Shawn Leight at his engineering offices. Joining him was another transportation professional, a magazine editor, and two “regular folk” able to rearrange their Monday afternoon schedules. Yep, that’s five people. We need 500 in these sessions. Thousands!

As we moved through the presentation, they clearly were impressed. It is impossible not to be. CyclingSavvy uses powerful graphics and video to pack practical information into a fast-paced interactive format.

I was teaching alone, and decided to give myself a break by using two videos from the new (and not yet finished) CyclingSavvy Online. This group was impressed—as is everyone we manage to cajole into attending a session.

I asked them: “This is good information, isn’t it?” They nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

“Yet nobody wants it,” I said, “because they don’t know what it is.”

This isn’t exactly true. There certainly is a buzz among the cognoscenti. Yet with fewer than 100 people in the nation certified to teach, it’s not easy to find a CyclingSavvy workshop. Now we can point them to CyclingSavvy Online, which offers this information to anyone with Internet access.

The early reviews are impressive and encouraging. I recommended CyclingSavvy Online to my sister, who bought a recumbent tricycle this summer.

text-msg-1

I have no doubt that many will find the online course useful. And that others will not believe a word, until they try CyclingSavvy strategies for themselves.

Safe traffic cycling is totally counter-intuitive (see Myth #4). And people are not convinced by argument. People are convinced by experience. The rearview mirror on my helmet convinced me that what we teach are safest and best practices.

We savvy cyclists want everyone to discover what we know: That bicycling can be easy and fun and safe, wherever one chooses to ride.

(Dude, I’m not talking about riding on freeways. Stay. Off. The. Freeway.)

It is a challenge to counter experiences people refuse to let go of. I don’t even waste my breath trying anymore. Still, I am heartbroken each time I am regaled by someone who has tried bicycling on the road, and therefore is certain that it is not safe. By golly, she was riding in a bike lane and some idiot cut across her path and turned right in front of her. She could have been killed!!!

CyclingSavvy Online saved my sister from the terror of that experience.

text-msg-2

She took her recumbent this summer to the Gulf Coast, affectionately known as the Redneck Riviera. She was triumphant as she later described her experience on Perdido Beach Boulevard, the main drag with its commodious bike lanes:

“Because of those videos, I knew that I had to get out of the bike lane before every intersection so that I wouldn’t be right hooked!”

This observation made me think of my conversations with the traffic engineer, Shawn Leight.

He believes everyone should be accommodated; it doesn’t have to be an “either-or” proposition.

“Our transportation system is big enough to have bicycle facilities for those who want to use them and at the same time support bicyclists who prefer to ride as part of traffic,” Shawn said.

I understand Shawn’s perspective. I am grateful that he insists on inclusivity. Other influential engineers and advocates have ignored or dismissed us because we already know how to keep ourselves safe (i.e., the “strong & fearless” hogwash).

What is wrong with EVERYONE knowing how to keep him- or herself safe? Yes, I’m shouting, for a good reason:

BECAUSE of the rise in facilities, our job as bicycle safety educators has become more important than ever.

Mighk Wilson, executive director of the American Bicycling Education Association, has said it best: “We cannot design ourselves out of the need for education.”

Shawn points out that transportation safety for decades has been built upon three Es: Education, Engineering and Enforcement. “We all can accomplish a lot more with engineers and educators working together,” he says.

We savvy cyclists add a few more Es to the list. We frankly want nothing less than to change the culture. We want to make bicycling as easy a choice for everyone as motoring.

i-am-traffic

It is obviously a big conversation, and we’re having it! I cordially invite you to meet Shawn and Mighk—and people from all walks of life who are passionate about the topic—the old-fashioned way this fall in St. Louis.

The ABEA is holding its first national conference, but second confab. The first gathering led to the formation of the ABEA and I Am Traffic.

At I Am Traffic 2 we are building upon our successes and strategizing for the future.

Nothing beats face-to-face conversation…and bike rides, and parties. Let’s have fun getting savvy!

Speaking of which: I’m looking for a marketing genius or two to enroll in a CyclingSavvy workshop. There’s a workshop being held in St. Louis right before IAT2.

The marketing genius will get savvy, and then create the campaign demolishing the myths surrounding safe and easy bicycling. This campaign will cleverly show people how to protect themselves and control their space.

I can’t help but think of the marketing wizards who made “Got Milk” an unforgettable idea.

got-milk_

Got Savvy, anyone?

 

Guest Post: The cost of traffic violence — the daughter of a distracted driving victim speaks out

Last year, an alleged distracted driver plowed into a cyclist in Moorpark, then swerved into motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction, killing them both.

Recently, the daughter of one of those victims asked for the opportunity to tell her story. 

This is what she has to say.

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Hailey Cushman’s Story

My name is Hailey Cushman and I am Jesse Cushman’s only biological child. My dad was killed on September 12th, 2015 on his way home from work from BMW Motorcycles located in Ventura. He was hit head-on on his motorcycle in Moorpark, CA by Rachel Hill, who was later found to have been texting and driving. Hill first hit bicyclist Maciek Malish then over-corrected and swerved to hit my father. Both men were killed on impact but Hill only walked away with scratches. In fact, Hill was caught taking pictures of her injuries and posting them on her Facebook the next day as if the accident was humorous to her. This tragic event happened just 9 days before my 21st birthday (in which I had plans that were immediately cancelled and never rescheduled). Dad was going to be 44 years young in October 2015. He was born in Simi Valley, CA but lived most of his life in Reno, NV, which is where I live. Within a couple days of the accident I was down in Fillmore, CA, where dad currently lived with my grandmother, Jorja, and my stepmother, Julia. Julia and dad married in 2002. When dad moved to Southern California he was brought closer to his biological father, Joe Freas, who lives in Thousand Oaks, CA. Joe and dad were in the process of trying to rekindle their relationship after years of separation.

As a child I was lucky to have never experienced a close death in the family but that aspect has also made losing my father at this age extremely difficult for me. My dad had an exciting, fulfilling and fun life. My dad was Batman! My dad and Julia were heavily involved with cosplay and all things comics. Dad had several Batman suits that were so legit that he was in several professional photo shoots. That year dad and Julia won free tickets to the San Diego Comic Con, which they had been trying to attend for years. Dad and I enjoyed doing a lot together when I would come visit in the summer time; we would go boogie boarding in Malibu, go to Six Flags Magic Mountain several times a month (it was our favorite together), race quads (he raced professionally but he also taught me how to ride and I was too racing at just 5 years old). As a family, we would frequently play video games and board games as they owned a plethora of Monopoly games and superhero video games. We would even get the whole family involved with Rockband and have somebody on each instrument. Another big part of my dad and Julia’s life was motorcycles. They were a part of the local STAR riding chapters where they would do toy drives, poker runs and many other fun rides with the group. My grandma would always worry about dad on his motorcycle because she knew the risks but both dad and Julia were very cautious riders. I guess this proves that no matter how cautious you are in life you can never fully protect yourself from others.

Since I lost my dad my life has changed forever. I’ve had to see more psychiatrists lately for stress, anxiety and depression in order to keep my job and continue my college education (which I am close to finishing). I am so young and I have so much of my life ahead of me but my father will not be able to be there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, be there at the birth of his grandchildren, see me graduate college or buy my first house. The Cushman and Malish family’s lives have forever been changed and will always hurt when we think about this tragic incident. We try to put our minds at ease by thinking about how Rachel Hill will have to live with what she has caused these two families for the rest of her life as well, but unfortunately, we are unable to rely upon the justice system to make her accountable. We have recently been told by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office that Hill may not even receive any jail time but only community service. The Ventura County District Attorney’s office is certainly corrupt. The CHP took 8 months to complete the police report to ensure they had all the information and evidence to create a strong case. The CHP’s recommendation was that Hill should be charged with a felony of two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Within 2 weeks of the Ventura County District Attorney receiving the case they decide that Hill only be charged with a misdemeanor!

Now, I am a smart and educated person. I have been going to school for 16 years (total) and this is not what I was taught in how our justice system operates! When you kill another person due to reckless driving you go to jail! End of story! Rachel Hill is only getting a slap on the wrist for killing TWO innocent people. I spoke with the assistant District Attorney who informed me that they did not have enough evidence to prove gross negligence, even though they had all of Rachel’s text message conversations showing she was texting while driving leading up to the accident. Hill has been able to spend the last 9 months with her family through the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were especially hard times for both the Cushman and Malish families. Now that Father’s Day is less than one week away my heart aches just thinking about that empty feeling I will have now not being able to celebrate it with my dad. No amount of money or punishment on Rachel Hill’s behalf will ever bring my father or Maciek Malish back but it would at least be nice to have a piece of mind knowing that Rachel Hill’s life would be forever affected with jail time, a felony and two counts of manslaughter on her record for the rest of her life the same way that our family will forever be devastated about this loss and injustice. Not a single person I have spoken to agrees with the District Attorney’s decision of a misdemeanor (besides the Hill family). We need to bring attention to this obvious injustice and corruption of our justice system by bringing publicity to this case for both the Cushman and the Malish family in hopes to one day begin to heal from this tragic loss.

From left to right: dad, Julia, grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating mine and Julia's graduation, grandmas birthday and dad and Julia's anniversary.

From left to right: Dad, Julia, Grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating my and Julia’s graduation, grandma’s birthday and Dad and Julia’s anniversary.

Dad and Julia's wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad and Julia’s wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

My favorite picture of dad and I at Disneyland.

My favorite picture of Dad and I at Disneyland.

R.I.P. Jesse Cushman. I love you!

……..

Reducing, let alone eliminating, traffic fatalities will be impossible as long as prosecutors refuse to take even the most egregious cases like this seriously. 

If you’re as angry as I am about this case, contact Ventura County DA Gregory D. Totten, and politely — but firmly — demand that the case be re-filed as a felony.

Hailey, and all the families and loved ones of both victims, deserve better.

As do we all.

Guest Post: Law Enforcement Needs to Understand Traffic Laws

Despite years of effort, we still have a long way to go in educating police officers on the rights of bicyclists. 

It seemed like we had solved the problem, in Los Angeles at least, five years ago when the LAPD worked with bike riders and the City Attorney to clarify the laws governing bicycling, and create a bicycle training module that all street level officers were required to complete.

Yet bicyclists still encounter officers who seem to have missed, or forgotten, that training. And as architect and bike commuter Michael MacDonald learned the hard way, we still haven’t made any progress with the Sheriff’s Department. 

lasd_interaction

By Michael MacDonald

I’m frequently the recipient of harassment, insults, and aggression from drivers who don’t understand that riding on the street is perfectly legal. Commuting by bike around Los Angeles — with little-to-no bike infrastructure within a 5-mile radius of my house, I’ve come to expect the regular rage-fueled driver. And yet as frustrating as this aggression is from the motoring public, it is even more demoralizing to receive similar harassment from law enforcement personnel. Too many officers in Los Angeles aren’t familiar with the fact that a person on a bike is perfectly within their rights to control a travel lane on almost all Los Angeles streets, and that cyclists take the lane for safety.

Before I started riding a bike in Los Angeles, I had thankfully had very few interactions with law enforcement. But then in 2013, I was detained in the back of a Sheriff’s Department squad car because 2 deputies thought that a person riding a bike on the street in Rosemead didn’t look right.

Over the last 2 weeks, motorcycle officers have twice stopped me – for riding in the street, legally.

The first incident was on returning from the wonderful CicLAvia Southeast Cities on May, 15 2016. On my way home by bike, still on a high note from the event, I took Central Avenue. Despite its lack of bike lanes, Central is a critical North/South connector within South L.A. Proposed bike lanes on Central are included in the City’s Mobility Plan 2035, have widespread community support, and are needed to address Central’s horrific safety record. But frustratingly, Councilmember Curren Price has blocked the bike lanes from being installed and is working with Councilmember Paul Koretz to try to get them removed from the Plan, so they won’t even be considered in the future.

While I was waiting at a red light in the rightmost travel lane on Central at 27th Street, an LAPD motorcycle officer approached at a rapid pace and stopped inches from me. He proceeded to aggressively explain, “This isn’t your lane – you can’t ride in the middle.” I have been riding long enough to have nearly memorized California Vehicle Code, not just CVC 21202(a)(3), but 21656, 21760, and 22400 too. I knew he was wrong. And yet his tone and demeanor made it clear this wasn’t a conversation. This was a stern demand with the threat of a ticket seconds away.

As he pulled off, I wasn’t even clear on how he expected me to ride since the lanes on Central are so narrow. I stopped and took some time to compose myself after this demoralizing experience of state-sponsored harassment. Then, I continued to ride in the middle of the lane: where it’s safest when bike lanes aren’t provided, and where California’s Vehicle Code says I have the right to ride.

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10 days later, I was again confronted with a similar situation – but this time I had my helmet camera rolling. During the Tuesday evening rush hour on May 24th, a Sheriff’s deputy pulled up alongside me as I rode in the Wilshire Blvd bus/bike lane through Koreatown (Wilshire & Kingsley). Just as before, the deputy clearly wasn’t familiar with relevant California traffic laws, but still felt the need to tell me what I was doing would not be permitted and that I would receive a ticket if I continued on.

First, as an aside, I will say that these Wilshire bus/bike lanes are so frequently filled with dangerous scofflaw drivers that it’s a tiny bit refreshing to see them actually being patrolled, and I commend Metro/the Sheriff’s Department for efforts to try to speed up the 20 & 720 buses on this route. But this deputy seems to be completely unaware that these lanes are also for the use of people on bikes, just as the lane’s signage says.

Photo of Los Angeles’ peak hour bus/bike lane signage, credit: Marc Caswell

Photo of Los Angeles’ peak hour bus/bike lane signage, credit: Marc Caswell

He started by claiming that cyclists are not permitted to use the bus/bike lane whatsoever. After I pointed out the sign ahead saying, ‘Bikes OK,’ he said that cyclists must ride the curb edge, which is dangerous and without legal basis. Finally, he claimed that cyclists are required to get out of the way of buses. Of course, how people on bikes are supposed to accomplish this feat within this tightly sized lane with no turnouts is a mystery to me.

Just to state the obvious: this deputy is wrong on all counts. First, LADOT has designated these lanes for the use of bicycles and accordingly posted signs stating “Bikes OK.” Second, there is no requirement to ride along the curb as CVC 21202(a)(3) applies, since the lane is too narrow to for a bicycle to be safely be ridden side-by-side with a vehicle, let alone a bus. Metro’s own “Bike Guide” even instructs people on bikes to ride at the center of the lane when proceeding straight. Third, there is no requirement for bikes or slower vehicles to turn-out on a multi-lane roadway. CVC 21656, the law requiring vehicles to turn out, only applies on 2-lane highways – and even then, it only is triggered when there is a queue of 5 vehicles behind.

This isn’t the first time someone has been pulled over by LASD in a bus/bike lane in Los Angeles. In 2014, my friend, Marc Caswell, was wrongly ticketed by a Sheriff’s deputy for legally riding in a bus/bike lane on Sunset Blvd. In the end, the deputy failed to appear at the hearing, so the ticket was dismissed.

But it isn’t just being pulled over. Twice last year, I was aggressively instructed by Sheriff’s deputies to ride up onto the sidewalk to let a bus pass while in the Sunset Boulevard bus/bike lane. And when I called to report Tuesday’s incident on Wilshire, the LASD Watch Commander also appeared to be completely unfamiliar that bikes might be permitted to ride in bus/bike lanes or centered within a lane.

If I have been the recipient of these types of incidents three times in the last year, how many other Angelenos have received the same dangerous misinformation, been ticketed incorrectly, or had an unwarranted traffic stop trigger other policing problems? If we are to look to officers to enforce traffic laws, it seems only reasonable to expect that they would understand the law. And, certainly, we should not accept these officers instructing people to endanger themselves by riding in an unsafe way just to speed up motor vehicle traffic.

……..

It’s obvious to me at this point that LADOT, Metro & the Sheriff’s Department need to sit down and get on the same page about bus/bike lanes and the Vehicle Code. There is a simple fix: Sheriff’s Department deputies, who are acting on Metro’s behalf, need to understand the laws they are sworn to enforce. Since these patrols are funded by Metro, the Agency has the responsibility to ensure that these deputies are performing enforcement in compliance with Metro policies.

The bigger picture is that all L.A. law enforcement needs to step up their game on bikes. I am not suggesting special treatment, just that officers take some time to better understand the laws they enforce. Different departments have made some commendable strides, recognizing that cyclists belong on the street and don’t deserve extra scrutiny beyond that which is applied to motorists. But we are well past the point where any law enforcement officer patrolling L.A. streets has an excuse to not be familiar with the fact that people are allowed to ride bikes in the street and legally afforded options to maintain their own safety.

The City, County, and State all have ambitious goals to increase bicycle commuting to increase public health and reduce greenhouse emissions. To paraphrase a friend of mine: People are not going to be attracted to cycling as long as you need to be a traffic law expert – capable of citing Vehicle Code chapter, line, and verse – just to ride on L.A. streets.

We need law enforcement to get on board. And fast.

……..

South Los Angeles-based architect Michael MacDonald is a frequent bike commuter and a steering committee member of local advocacy group, Bike The Vote L.A. His architectural practice, Studio MMD, provided design for Street Beats, one of 8 project teams awarded by the Mayor’s Great Streets LA challenge grant program to re-envision Los Angeles streets.

Guest Post: CiclaValley invites you to remember fallen riders at next week’s SF Valley Ride of Silence

Ghost bike for Cairo Castaneda in Studio City

Ghost bike for Cairo Castaneda in Studio City

In the past few years, CiclaValley has become one of the leading voices for bike advocacy in the LA area, with a focus on the San Fernando Valley. Today he offers a guest post on next week’s Ride of Silence to remember fallen bike riders.

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Cycling is a community.

It doesn’t matter how fast you ride, what bike you have or how often you do it. You have a connection knowing that your fellow cyclists share the same joys and anxieties as you.

When news breaks that cyclist has lost their life, you can’t help but think about what that person left behind. Family. Friends. Even children. It is a perilous world, but one where we can use these tragedies to teach us how to live.

Last year, I attended my first Ride of Silence in Pasadena. I had no idea what to expect or how many people would be there, I just thought it was important to go to show my dedication to this community.

There were at least one hundred riders on hand, but what was more powerful than our size was the symbolism coming from riding together in absolute silence. Riding down Colorado Blvd., people took notice not only of our large group, but also the message we were sending without any sound.

I knew from that day one year ago that the San Fernando Valley, with over 1.8 million residents, needed a ride of our own. As I continued my preparations for the ride with LACBC, my planning changed when in early April, Cairo Castaneda lost his life in Studio City at an intersection that is very familiar to me. Danny Gamboa of Ghost Bikes came to place the memorial and since that time, people have continued to pay their respects by adding details making it a beautiful shrine.

This ride will now quietly roll by this site.

The goal is to spread the Ride of Silence, not just to the valley, but countywide as well.

Please come out to support our ride in North Hollywood next Wednesday night on May 18th. It meets at the North Hollywood Red Line Station at 6:30 p.m. If you cannot make it out into the valley, Pasadena’s ride will be meeting the same evening at the Rose Bowl, and you’ll also find other rides in Orange County, Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

Cycling is a great community because we care about each other. Let’s show everyone else as well.

……….

CiclaValley mentioned other RoS in Southern California.

You can find all the OC rides on Bill Sellin’s site, including rides in Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Orange and Santa Ana; information on the Oxnard ride can be found here, and Thousand Oaks here.

I’ve long had a vision for a Ride of Silence down Wilshire Blvd from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills. Maybe one day we’ll be able to make it happen.

 

Guest Post: Team LACBC gears up for incredible Northern California adventure with the 2016 Climate Ride

Redwoods_cyclists_lrAfter the excitement of next week’s Bike Week, hundreds of cyclists will converge in Northern California to wrap up Bike Month with this year’s Climate Ride. I invited Marc Horwitz, leader of this year’s LACBC contingent, to explain what it is, and why it matters.

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In the coming weeks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) will be sending its TEAM LACBC up north to participate in Climate Ride California 2016. It’s  an epic 5-day, 330-mile charity ride (May 22-26) that goes through the Redwood Forest and down the stunning Northern California Coast.

The event raises awareness and funds for a variety of beneficiary agencies working on the environment. Better yet, the money generated by TEAM LACBC will help make cycling safer and more accessible for everyone in the L.A. region. The ride itself is a veritable roadie’s bucket list! Highlights include Avenue of the Giants, Leggett Hill, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes Station, the Russian River, Mt. Tam and much more. It all ends with a bang, as the peloton crosses the spectacular Golden Gate into S.F. on Day #5.

Team_LACBC_lrParticipating in Climate Ride is an amazing and life-transforming experience. But it’s also a big commitment. Riders must train and get ready for the physical challenge and procure all the necessary equipment, not to mention meet the minimum $2800 fundraising requirement. It’s a big ask, and you can help! Supporting Team LACBC is easy. Go to our team fundraising page and click the orange “support me” button. Alternatively, you can browse our roster and contribute to an individual rider.

This week, we’re featuring team member Lac Vuong. Hailing from East Hollywood, Lac works for Tern Bicycles as well as for LACBC as a bike valet. This young man is an incredible asset on any group ride, frequently acting as sweep and always assisting riders in distress. As with all members of Team LACBC, Lac is riding on behalf of all of us, so why not show him a little love? Any amount of support will be greatly appreciated.

Training_PV Donut_cliffThough the team is locked in for this year, Climate Ride is something you’ll definitely want to put on your radar for 2017. Membership is open to the public and we can accommodate riders of all levels. With a “no rider left behind” policy, we’ll guide you through each step of the process – from initial sign-up right through the event itself.  Don’t let the fundraising aspect deter you. Nearly everyone who commits to raising the money winds up making it happen. It’s an incredible feeling to be riding with the support of your friends and family!

For more information, browse the Team FAQ Page or contact Marc Horwitz at climateride@la-bike.org. Also connect with Team LACBC on Facebook for news and events, including training ride announcements.

Colin_Hyeran_Carrie_Greg_01_lr

Attorney Solves the Great Mystery of the “No Biking In Crosswalk” Signs

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

USC Crosswalk Sign

Cyclists biking around the University of Southern California may once again be stopped and cited for riding their bikes in a crosswalk.

The officer stopping them, whether they are from the Los Angeles Police Department or USC security, when asked why they are writing a ticket might reference the sign that reads “Walk Bikes In Crosswalk” as the reason for citing the cyclist. What the officer apparently doesn’t know is that there is no such law, regardless of what the signs says.

At the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House a couple of months ago, I met a graduate student who attends USC and who is a cyclist. He told me about this sign at Jefferson and Royal, and a few others like it, near the USC campus. He wanted to know if these signs were accurate and enforceable. A few days later he took and emailed me the accompanying photo.

I knew this wasn’t a question of law as bicycles can be ridden – legally – through crosswalks. So where and how and why was this sign on the street?

We contacted Sgt. Flynn of the LAPD, Central Traffic Division, who said, “I do not know of any California Vehicle Code section that states you can’t ride your bike in a crosswalk.  The only section that someone could be cited for, if it is an official sign, would be CVC 21461(a)vc ‘Official Traffic Sign or Signal-failure of Driver to Obey Regulatory Provisions.’”

So where did this sign come from and why is it still there? What we found out after many, many telephone calls and emails, is that the sign is reflective of old laws that empowered officers to cite bicyclists for not walking their bikes in a crosswalk. But that law was taken off the books in 2006.

This is not a new issue, particularly in the USC neighborhood. In September 2009, the Daily Trojan reported that a task force of LAPD officers and USC security was being put together to regulate safety. This would include sting operations set up at intersections to cite cyclists riding their bikes in crosswalks. Citations could cost up to $250.

On Jan. 12, 2010, four months later, Streetsblog wrote a more extensive article on this same topic called “If You Want to Know Bicycle Law, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol, Part 2.” Streetsblog reported that, as we know, there was no law that stated that cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes in crosswalks. Ten years later, since the 2006 change in the law, we’re still discussing these same issues.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over most traffic devices – signs and signals – in the City of Los Angeles. DOT employees confirmed that this sign is a DOT sign and it was installed by DOT.

LADOT’s Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowrey was one of the people involved in the 2006 modifications of the California Vehicle Code that resulted in the removal of the law that bicycles had to be walked through crosswalks.

When we asked Mowrey about this sign, she told me that whether or not it is reflecting the pre-2006 law, it is a non-standard sign.  Mowrey told us that though the sign doesn’t appear in any Caltrans’ manuals, a black-and-yellow sign, as it is, indicates that it’s a warning sign, not a regulatory sign, which is black-and-white. Citations can be issued only on regulatory black-and-white signs. That’s why speed limit signs are black-and-white and “Share the Road” signs are black-and-yellow.

An LAPD representative said the LAPD was not involved in the signs. We were told their opinion of the sign is that it is a safety recommendation. Our question, then, would be, do LAPD officers know that or are they still ticketing cyclists for disobeying the sign? We don’t have an answer to that question.

We talked to three different people at LADOT about why these signs were up. In essence, they all said that after the law was changed, in 2006, steps were taken to remove signs like these on all city streets. These signs were overlooked, apparently, and it was just an oversight.

Mehrdad Moshskar, LADOT’s central district engineer, was our next stop. We were referred to him to find out how to get the signs removed. Moshskar assured me that all of these signs in that area of town would be removed soon.

People have asked me if I thought the signs originated with USC. I have no idea, and no one knew or was willing to tell me.

The official answer came from Tim Fremaux in the LADOT Bicycle Coordination Department who said, “Anyone can submit any traffic-related request via myladot.lacity.org and it will be reviewed. If DOT approves the request, it will be implemented on our streets.”

There are Traffic Division and Bicycle Liason meetings held on a quarterly basis, which are open to the public. These meetings include representatives from LADOT, USC, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and other public groups. For more information about these meetings, contact Lt. Chris Ramirez at 213-486-6000.

Meanwhile, if anybody goes past Jefferson and Royal, would you email me at info@pocrass.com and let me know if the sign is still up?

 

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

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 Post: Felicia Garcia looks at Councilmember Cedillo’s Opposition to Mobility Plan 2035

Since his election in 2013, CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo has lead the fight against bike lanes in his Northeast LA district, first by halting an already approved road diet on North Figueroa, then by demanding that bikeways planned for his district be removed from the new Mobility Plan.

A casualty of that opposition has been safety for everyone, as North Figueroa remains one of the most dangerous streets in Los Angeles.

Today Fig4All’s Felicia Garcia examines his continued opposition to the safety improvements promised in the Mobility Plan.

………

For over 50 days, a memorial for Yolanda Lugo-Espinoza has stood on N. Figueroa, and donation boxes to help the family cover funeral expenses have adorned the counter of local businesses along the street. However, this tragic fatality seems to be absent from Councilmember Cedillo’s memory, as he continued his opposition Tuesday to a plan that aims to eliminate traffic deaths citywide. N. Figueroa Street was intended to undergo a reconfiguration shortly after Cedillo took office in 2013 that would have resulted in crosswalk improvements and buffered bike lanes but that city-approved and funded safety plan has been single-handedly stalled by District 1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

In a joint Transportation and Planning & Land-Use Management Committee meeting Tuesday to re-examine proposed amendments to the Mobility Plan 2035, Councilmember Cedillo again demonstrated his lack of empathy with the community and those affected by dangerous streets. He is one of 2 council members who has consistently opposed the Mobility Plan. The primary goal of the Plan is to put safety first by eliminating traffic fatalities while encouraging Angelenos to consider alternative means of transportation through adding dedicated bus and bike lanes to the city’s roadways over the next 20 years.

At the initial Mobility Plan 2035 meeting in August, Councilmember Cedillo (whose district includes the Glassell Park, Highland Park and Cypress Park neighborhoods of Northeast LA) attempted to make significant changes to specifics in the Plan. Most notably he requested that the streets in his district meant to be part of the citywide network of protected bike lanes be removed from the Mobility Plan. The Councilman has said his reluctance towards the Plan and his motive for excluding streets in his district is that he must act as “representative for the entirety of …[his] district, not simply 1%”. He refers to anyone who walks, bikes or uses public transportation as the 1%, but in doing so dismisses a large population of his constituents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the MacArthur Park neighborhood of his district boasts one of the highest percentages of commuters who travel by means other than car – a noteworthy 49.2%. For other parts of Cedillo’s district such as Westlake and Chinatown, those commuting without car make up 48.8% and 25%, respectively.

Many of the residents in Cedillo’s district cannot afford the luxury of owning a car, while others simply choose not to drive. Cedillo attempted to give more insight behind his reasoning at the Mobility Plan meeting stating: “A recent poll in the L.A. Times found that traffic is the No. 1 concern of the people, not public safety, not the high cost of living, not cleanliness of the city.” The poll he refers to was an online survey taken by 1,500 LA County residents. Considering the 2013 Census estimates LA County is home to over 10 million people, this survey focused on a tiny portion (around 0.015%) of the population, with the majority (98%) of the surveys conducted in English and exclusively serving those with internet access. Besides the fact that this survey in no way represents the needs of his constituents, he continues to cite it. He also overlooks one of the main purposes of the Mobility Plan, which is to find new ways to deal with the inevitable traffic that comes with a growing population of Angelenos. In insisting that traffic flow is more important than safety, he expresses his disregard for human life while a candle for hit-and-run victim Ms. Lugo-Espinoza still flickers at a memorial less than 2 blocks away from his Highland Park Field Office.

The Council Tuesday concluded the Mobility Plan 2035 meeting with intent to place changes to the Plan up for vote again next week with a full Council. Neighboring Northeast LA Councilmember Huizar is in strong support of the Plan, citing the 43% reduction in traffic collisions on Colorado Boulevard after safety improvements were introduced in 2013 as an example of how the rest of the city could progress. The majority of the City Council supports the Mobility Plan and commend it for its vision and years of exhaustive outreach unmatched in the City’s history. Meanwhile, Councilmember Cedillo remains insistent that he would not like the Plan to move forward until there can be greater “community input,” leaving his constituents at risk and danger as he stalls implementation of critical roadway safety improvements.

………

BikinginLA welcomes guest posts on subjects of interest to bicyclists, particularly in the Los Angeles and Southern California areas. If you’ve written something you’d like to share, or have a topic you’d like to suggest, contact us at the email address on the About page.

Morning Links: LA’s Mobility Plan up for review today, and a call for to join or renew membership in LACBC

The LA Times looks at the city council’s planned revote on the recently passed LA Mobility Plan to stave off a lawsuit filed by Fix the City, the self-appointed guardians of LA’s failed auto-centric transportation system.

It’s worth noting that the story quotes CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo as saying that a recent poll showed traffic, not safety, was the number one concern of LA residents. Even though there have been a number of high-profile traffic deaths in his district since he arbitrarily killed the safety improvements planned for North Figueroa, and attempted to have all bike lanes in his district removed from the plan.

Evidently, the deaths of a few bike riders and pedestrians are a small price to pay to avoid slowing traffic by even a minute or two — and then only at peak hours.

It’s also worth noting that the story begins by describing supporters of the plan as “activists,” rather than just people who want to be able to get where their going safely, and without fear. However they choose to travel.

Yet those who oppose safety improvements are never referred to as car, business or homeowner activists.

And once again, the story fails to correct claims from groups like Fix the City that the plan calls for an increase in congestion and a decrease in air quality and emergency response times. Even though that’s only a worst case scenario in case the plan does nothing to encourage alternative transportation, which is extremely unlikely.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman travels with a group of South LA bike riders protesting Councilmember Curren Price’s plans to exclude the promised Central Avenue bike lanes from the plan.

If you’d like to weigh in on the matter, whether as an activist or just a bike-riding human being, the City Council Planning and Transportation Committees will take up the proposal in a joint session scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon in the council chambers at City Hall.

………

I want to pass along the following message from Ishraq Ali, Membership Manager for the LACBC.

Hi there!

We’re in midst of a Membership Drive at the LA County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC)!

The year 2015 has been one of change and growth for LACBC. To start I’m the new Membership Manager looking to build our presence in LA! I’m excited to come onboard and help LACBC integrate equity into all our programs and prioritize outreach in underserved communities.

We’ve had GREAT success, and the momentum is in our favor to make the LA region a healthy, safe, equitable and fun place to ride a bike. Our advocacy efforts have led to the passage of the Mobility Plan 2035 and the creation of the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance.

Now is a great opportunity for us to grow and strengthen our numbers as we head into 2016.

Support us today and get a special one year complimentary e-subscription to Momentum Magazine! We also have a special limited edition of our #bikeLA members’ shirt!

bikeLA group

Support us at the premium level and represent LACBC with these limited-quantity shirts.

Its through your support that we can continue to do our advocacy, education and community work! Join and support our work today!

If you have questions or thoughts to share, email me at membership@la-bike.org

#bikeLA

Ishraq

Membership Manager

The LACBC is the leading voice for LA’s bicycling community, working with city and county leaders on a daily basis to improve the riding environment for everyone on two wheels.

It’s only through your membership that they have the strength to make all our voices heard.

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Local

Streetsblog pulls back the curtain on pricing for Metro’s coming bikeshare system in DTLA; most commenters seem disappointed that the plan doesn’t offer true integration with the tap card system. Although I’m glad to see there’s a walkup option that doesn’t require advance membership.

CiclaValley takes on the challenge of Sunday’s Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer hill climb.

Breitbart looks at how Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare system will work. Although what the US Department of Transportation has to do with it is beyond me.

Tonight is your last chance to turn out in support of a proposed bike park in the San Gabriel Valley.

 

State

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton talks about Calbike’s legislative report cards with Campaign’s Director Ryan Price.

Santa Barbara’s new draft bike plan is called deeply disappointing, as the city avoids making the hard choices between bikes and cars.

Somehow I missed this story on bike theft at an Oakland BART station, which explains why even a heavy U-lock can be worthless in protecting your bike. Thanks to Gil Solomon for the heads-up.

 

National

Bicycling suggests bike commuters should use Strava to provide data for city planners, and offers advice on how to get back on your bike after having a baby.

Bob Mionske says killer drivers are seldom held accountable, and Vulnerable User Laws can form the middle ground between giving killer drivers a walk and sending them away for years. As if to prove Mionske’s point, a Maryland man won’t face charges for running down a bike rider on the shoulder of a roadway; instead, he got three tickets worth less than $300 each, with a possible two points against his license.

Sixteen female bike industry executives met with federal lawmakers to discuss the transportation bill and other issues facing the bike industry. Nice to have women’s voices represent the traditionally male-dominated bike business for a change.

How Minneapolis is encouraging kids to bike and walk to school.

A political commentator for CNN attempts to lose her fear of bicycling with just her second ride through the streets of Manhattan.

Two Miami men are dead after the driver of a stolen car slams into a bicyclist before the car crashed into a tree and burst into flames.

 

International

VeloNews catches up with the newly retired Jens Voigt, who says he’s leaving pro cycling in good hands.

A writer in Saskatoon says people ride to work even in winter because they’re commuting just like anyone else.

London’s Guardian newspaper unmasks Mexico City’s Peatónito, a cape crusader fighting for pedestrian rights and safety on the traffic-clogged streets.

The Guardian examines fatality stats to determine how bike riders get killed in England and Wales, pointing out that you’re almost as likely to get killed falling off a ladder. The story adds that four pedestrians were killed in collisions with cyclists in the UK in the last year.

Evidently, it’s a Guardian kind of day, as another writer continues the recent theme of windshield-perspective hatchet jobs, portraying even 71-year old bike riders as out to terrify those poor, innocent drivers by being dangerously out of control. Must be strange driving over there if lightless kamikaze hands-free cyclists doing wheelies from all sides is really a problem.

A Welsh cyclist with a long history of substance abuse gets 14 months for threatening two people with a knife while “out of his mind on drink and drugs.” Call me crazy, but it seems like his mode of transportation is the least important part of this story, despite the headline.

Jerusalem police give a new bike to a 13-year old boy who was recently stabbed while riding.

Bike paths are coming to several communities in Dubai, which is on track to add 550 miles of cycle tracks by the end of the decade.

A group of 35 Aussie cyclists are riding through New South Wales to call for the equivalent of a three-foot passing law, including some of the country’s current and past elite riders.

 

Finally…

Apparently, cyclists aren’t the only dopers after all. A simple photo of Beyoncé looking hot while posing with her bike blows up the Internet.

And if you’re going to get high and ride your bike, try to remember to put lights on it first — and don’t assault a deputy when he tries to stop you.

 

Guest Post: BAC member Jonathan Weiss explains California law on riding side-by-side

Riding abreast on Rodeo Drive, without breaking the law

Riding abreast on Rodeo Drive, without breaking the law

One of the most frequently misunderstood laws governing bicycling is the right to ride two or more abreast, both by bicyclists and — especially — law enforcement. Police too often misinterpret the requirement to ride to the right as forbidding riding abreast.

Although law might be the wrong word, since it isn’t even mentioned in state law.

Los Angeles Bicycling Advisory Committee member Jonathan Weiss has done an exceptional job of digging deep into state law to explain when it’s legal, and why.

This should be mandatory reading for every police officer in California.

……….

Side by Side

Admit it – you ride side by side so you can chat. But is it legal? The simplest guidance I can formulate is: Except where local laws forbid it, California law allows riding side by side (by side) where the road is not wide enough or in good enough condition for cars to safely pass bicyclists.

Most states allow side-by-side riding – California law is silent

U.S. National Champion road racer and Olympian (and bicycle lawyer) Bob Mionske reported in his 2010 Bicycling.com article, “Road Rights – Two by Two, How and When to Ride Side by Side,” that 39 states expressly regulate riding side-by-side on a statewide basis.  California was (and is) not one of them.  So, he says, side-by-side riding is implicitly allowed in California – except where localities regulate it.

California’s “ride to the right” law (Vehicle Code section 21202) has been interpreted as barring side-by-side riding

If you know anything about laws applying to bicycling, you’ve probably heard that Vehicle Code section 21202, subdivision (a), requires bicyclists to “ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.“ Section 21202 was (and is) the law governing operation of bicycles on roadways. So, when a Statewide Bicycle Committee (set up by the California Legislature – see note at end) asked the Attorney General his opinion on the legality of side-by-side cycling, he relied on section 21202 to say it was forbidden. (“It is our opinion that section 21202 does preclude bicyclists from legally riding abreast of one another assuming both bicyclists are on the roadway.”) When the Deputy Attorney gave his opinion in 1975, Section 21202 said: “(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) [re one-way streets], every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.” Therefore, bikes could only be side-by-side when passing one another.

The Deputy Attorney General wasn’t unsympathetic to the law’s impracticalities. He concluded by joining in the Committee’s recommendation “that section 21202 be amended to expressly provide that bicyclists are permitted to move to the left when passing a slower moving vehicle, when preparing for a left hand turn, or when seeking to avoid hazards in the roadway.” Indeed, the Bicycle Committee had proposed those amendments and more. They wanted to allow cyclists to “Occupy a full lane to avoid being forced off the roadway when the lane is too narrow for a vehicle to pass safely in the lane, in accordance with CVC Section 21656.”

In 1976, Governor Brown signed a bill adding all of those exceptions to the ride to the right requirements in section 21202.

  • (a)  Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
  • (1)  When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  • (2)  When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  • (3)  When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

The newly added exceptions are discussed below.

The “substandard width lane” exception to the ride to the right law

Even if you knew about the ride to the right law, you may not know about the “substandard width lane” added in 1976. The “substandard width lane” exception means that, where “a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane” – cyclists don’t have to ride to the right. In other words, where there is no room for a car and a bike, the cyclist can (one might say should) take the lane by riding in the center.  (More on that later.)

The “safely side by side” phrase in Vehicle Code section 21202, subdivision (a)(3), was recently clarified by the three foot passing law. Vehicle Code section 21760, subdivision (b), says – “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.” A three foot buffer is how much space a car must leave to be “safely side by side” with a bicycle.

This rider on Westwood Blvd could legally take the lane, and probably should

This rider on Westwood Blvd could legally take the lane, and probably should

Consider, for example, northbound Westwood Boulevard between Pico and Santa Monica Boulevards. The curb lane is 12 feet wide. During morning rush hours, there is no parking in that lane. With a cyclist taking about 3 feet (counting from the curb – to stay off of the concrete gutter pan), and the 3 foot passing law, a 6 foot wide car, that’s the tightest fit possible. But with wider SUVs, buses (8 ½ feet wide), and trucks plying that same space – taking the lane is clearly legal.

The “surface hazards” exception to the ride to the right law

The law also allows straying from the road’s edge when reasonably necessary to avoid “fixed or moving objects” or “surface hazards” “that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge ….”

So, if the road is busted up (like Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills) or has unsafe storm drain catch basins (along the same roadway), then there’s another reason to take the lane.

The “speedy rider” exception to the ride to the right law

Section 21202 only requires cyclists riding “at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic” to stay right. So, since the 1976 amendment, those cyclists who can keep up with traffic may take the lane no matter how wide the road or its condition.

If you’ve legally taken the lane, you can ride side-by-side (by side)

The Statewide Bicycle Committee recommended allowing cyclists to “Travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.”  But that never became law. Therefore, there is still no state law permitting – or limiting – the number of cyclists riding side-by-side. Local entities can (and have) applied their own restrictions. (Under Vehicle Code section 21, most local entities cannot overrule the Vehicle Code.) Locally, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Long Beach, and Irvine (is that local?) allow no more than two abreast riding. No other local cities appear to limit riding two by two – or more. But that doesn’t hold everywhere. In San Anselmo, you must have a license (is that even legal?) and one condition on the license is that “Every person, when operating a bicycle upon a highway, shall ride such bicycle in single file only.”

So, if you’ve legally taken the lane under the substandard lanes, surface hazards, or left turn exceptions, no state law says your pal can’t ride next to you. And, in most cities, you can ride three (or more) abreast.

Please, please, don’t hold up lots of traffic

Sometimes, even after taking the lane, you must pull over. Vehicle Code section 21656 requires slower moving traffic to move over when safe: “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed.”

So, for example, if you head up Benedict Canyon (which is probably substandard in many areas), and if five cars stack up behind you, you would have to pull over.  On the way down, however, you may go about as fast as the cars, so no need to pull over.  This wouldn’t apply on Beverly Hills’ Santa Monica Boulevard, since it’s not a two lane road.

Why ride side by side?

I started off suggesting you might ride side by side to chat. But there are better reasons to do so. The Statewide Bicycling Committee noted them in its report:

It is not unusual for a motorist to attempt to pass a cyclist in the same lane when it is not safe to do so. This often results in the cyclist being forced off the roadway. Cyclists contend that it is safer in a narrow lane to occupy the full lane, thereby causing the motorist to pass in an adjacent lane or to wait until the cyclist moves off the roadway at the first safe and available opportunity In accordance with CVC Section 21656.

Taking the lane (occupying a full lane – as the Committee put it) may be best achieved with the help of friends. Two bicycles are more visible than one, and so forth.

Jonathan Weiss

This article is dedicated to the memory of cycling lawyer and advocate Howard Krepack.

Note: As background, the Statewide Bicycle Committee was formed in accordance with Senate Concurrent Resolution 47.  The Committee was charged with the following responsibilities:

  • To study problems related to bicycling in California.
  • To review the California Vehicle Code and recommend changes which will benefit both bicyclists and motorists.
  • To develop a Model Bicycle Ordinance for use by local jurisdictions.

You can find the Statewide Bicycle Committee report here; the AG’s opinion is at the very end.

………

Thanks to Velo Club La Grange for permission to repost this piece, which originally appeared in the club’s newsletter.

Crappy photos by BikinginLA.

 

Low Speed E-Bikes Given Bicycle Privileges

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

On Oct. 7, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1096 that gives two of the three classes of electric bikes the right to access bike paths and bike lanes. This is the first of its kind of legislation in the country, and it is a sign that e-bikes are coming of age.

AB 1096, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016, divides electric bikes into three classes:

  • Type 1: Pedal-assisted machines with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph
  • Type 2: Throttle-assisted machines with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph;
  • Type 3: Pedal-assisted bikes with a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.

As of 2017, electric bike manufacturers must label e-bikes as a Type 1, 2, or 3. The infographic below by People for Bikes and the California Bicycle Coalition explains the policy more completely.

e-bike-graphic-trimmed

E-bikes are gaining in popularity, and not just with seniors, people with injuries or disabilities, families, and those who have particularly long or uphill commutes. These bikes are quickly going mainstream because they’re fun to ride and adaptable to various conditions.

Though AB 1096 permits various classes of e-bikes to ride in or on various bike paths and lanes (as indicated on the chart above), be aware of where e-bikes still may not be permitted to ride, unless specifically indicated in these areas:

  • Bike paths and roads that are not under federal or state vehicle codes (an example would be a bike path in a county park).
  • Natural surface paths in parks, like mountain bike trails, and open space areas.

Most importantly, counties, cities and other government entities still have the right to regulate e-bikes, just as they have the right to regulate bicycle usage with their domains.

Since we’re discussing e-bikes’ rights and responsibilities under the law, let’s go a little further. In 2001, the United States Congress passed Public Law 107-319. It stated that electric bicycles and tricycles that meet the definition of low-speed electric bicycles are regulated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Act versus mopeds and motorcycles that have the ability to exceed the speed of an electric bicycle. The latter are regulated by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

States then passed their own laws regulating e-bikes. In California, low-speed (up to 20 mph) e-bikes have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle, just as a bicycle does. E-bike riders do not need a driver’s license, license plate or insurance. You must be at least 16 years old to ride an e-bike, and if you are age 17 or younger, you must wear a bicycle helmet.

Now with AB 1096, you can ride an e-bike almost anywhere you can ride a bicycle. But remember, all the traffic laws – from stop signs to traffic signals and to phone and text use and from riding with traffic and having working brakes, handlebars, and lights on your bike – all apply to you on your e-bike.

There are a couple of potential legal issues that I see facing e-bike riders. The most important one in my mind is the issue of insurance. As I said, no insurance is required for an e-bike in California.

I have read online that dealers believe that if your e-bike is stolen, it is likely that your homeowner’s or rental insurance policy would cover the theft. They do suggest that you contact your insurance agent to confirm that.

My apprehension is whether your uninsured motorist insurance would cover you if you are in a collision and the driver of the motor vehicle is either uninsured or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover you if the collision results in serious injuries or a wrongful death. A cyclist riding a bicycle who has a collision is covered by his/her uninsured motorist insurance. Is a cyclist on an e-bike similarly covered?

This is a very important point, and it’s why we always recommend that a cyclist increase his/her uninsured motorist insurance as high as their insurance company will permit. It’s pennies on the dollar and if you’re in a collision, it could mean that you have a much easier time of restarting your life.

Your uninsured motorist insurance kicks in if the driver does not have insurance, if the driver does not have enough insurance to cover the damage he/she caused, or in the event of a hit and run when the driver is not found.

Does your uninsured motorist insurance cover you on an e-bike? I urge you to contact your insurance agency and ask. If they say “yes,” get it in writing!

It is also worth noting that regardless of what type of bike you are riding, it is illegal to ride under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Besides the obvious, I see a potential legal issue here also.

In 1985, California passed Vehicle Code 21200.5, which made cycling (or bicycling) under the influence a CUI rather than a DUI. A CUI is a misdemeanor and it will show up on your record as a conviction. It also carries a $250 fine but no jail time. If the individual is under 21, a CUI conviction can result in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license.

In my mind it is unclear whether riding a Type 1 or a Type 2 e-bike under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol would be categorized as a CUI or a DUI if you were stopped by law enforcement.

Cal. Veh. Code § 231, specifically defines a bicycle as a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one of more wheels. It says that persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code (CUI) specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5.

A moped rider who is under the influence is subject to the drunk driving laws (DUIs). This was decided in 1977 by the California Court of Appeal in People v. Jordan, 75 Cal. App.3d Supp.1. The court specifically stated that because it had a motor it did not fall under the CUI law.

There doesn’t seem to be any law on the books at this time that would remove Type 1 or Type 2 e-bikes from DUI law. My best advice would be to not test the law and to not ride under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (illegal OR prescription drugs).

So the next time you see an e-bike in a bike lane, remember, it, too, has the right to be there.

 

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

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.

 

 

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