Archive for Guest Columns

Guest Post: Provoking, Scaring and Piercing the (Driver’s) Reptile Brain Part 1

Cycling shouldn’t and needn’t be a death sentence

A few years ago, Mark Goodley survived a near fatal collision while riding his bike. 

Since then, he’s made it his mission in life to keep others from suffering the same fate. And has put his background as a product design engineer and a licensed pro racing mechanic to use to study how bike collisions happen, and how to prevent them.

He’s written a few previous posts for this site, including a review of ultra-bright bike taillights — one of the most popular posts ever on here — and the recent Testing to Destruction

Now he offers a detailed examination of how and why ultrabright lights can save the lives of cyclists. 

Including yours.

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SPOILER-ALERT: The secret is slowly getting out that if you (are smart enough to) ride with Ultra Bright Flashing Lights, (sets that are fully charged and meeting a minimum brightness standard) the odds are ridiculously/infinitesimally small, that you will ever be involved in a “hit from behind” injury/fatality accident.1 Wide experience shows that Drivers will keep a very wide berth, and avoid you like the plague.

Now for the inquiring minds that want to know Why?…

Introduction / Abstract

There are over 500,000 cycling injuries accidents in the US every year. An estimated two-thirds (2/3) of the 700 cycling accident fatalities (35,000/year worldwide) are classified as “hit from behind” accidents; where the cyclist had little to no warning. This article focuses on those accidents where the cyclist was defenseless, and did nothing “wrong” (not those killed running red lights, getting run over by trains, etc.).

Most every interviewed driver who killed a cyclist made almost identical statements… “I never saw them”…  As we will see below, this statement is neither untrue, nor a coincidence.

The how and why answers to the “I never saw them” statements are obviously of Great interest, and will be revealed and illustrated in this article… There are scientific and rational explanations for how these statements, repeated (again) by nearly every single (killer) driver are incredibly, both truthful and accurate.

Most importantly, a reliable, affordable, and easy to execute (potential) solution will provide an escape path to avoiding this critical problem. The only real question you will need to answer (to yourself) is: “How much is my/your life worth?”

Let’s assume first that you’re a sane, normal, brain active, and rational cyclist (as opposed to a helmetless macho-man/woman with superhuman immortal powers, invulnerable Kryptonite and 7,500 pound chunks of fast moving steel?) i.e., “You have studied and learned, that man is mortal.” You realize and fully understand that you are responsible for your own welfare (and can’t/won’t “assume” that others will be more concerned about your health and safety, than yourself.)

We might also agree that nothing on this planet is perfect. There are a given percentage of bad drivers that are always going to exist; Whatever their issue, brain dead, blind, deaf, sleep walking, drugged up, distracted, glue sniffing, mentally fatigued, illegal, bleach brained, comatose, and often defensive arrogant @$$%#@holes….

Let’s make the final argument and supposition that the above generality is and will always be true.

That is to say that No amount of DMV/Caltrans fairy dust, driver education, morning coffee, brain transplants, glasses, or better roads will EVER FULLY, and 100% of the time, eliminate Bad drivers from the roads.

Here’s the really scary part. Many of the fatality accidents were caused by “good” drivers as well.   Just as there will Always be bad drivers…. “And it must follow, as the night the day…” there will also be good drivers whom aren’t perfect 100% of the time either.   How can this be? How can good drivers repeatedly kill cyclists, just like bad drivers? Turns out it’s not too hard… Stay tuned below.

To be clear, I have nothing against improving driver-cyclist education; it’s just not reasonable or sane to expect “education” to be a 100% solution, or even close. We need a reliable, sound strategy against bad, and good drivers alike.

This is our not so trivial task… HOW to protect ourselves and cope with this entirely unacceptable situation?   Is “it” beyond our control? If not, What strategies are available to combat the inherent risk to our cycling time on the road?

There is no amount of training or education, that will break through the fatigued, distracted, brain dead, or blind driver; either good or bad. This is just common sense. How are you going to reach any driver behind the wheel on an intellectual or even conscious level if they’re not there already? The answer is obvious and clear. You can’t. It’s Impossible.

Rule #1: IF someone is going to take responsibility for your own Life and Safety, it had better be YOU…it’s Not going come from anywhere else.

We need another tool. One not dependent upon the relative consciousness, awareness, intelligence, clarity, visual ability, or mental (incapacity) state of a driver.

To Reach, Jolt, and SHAKE/WAKE UP EVERY driver, bad and good alike, to our cycling physical presence and location, 100% of the time, we MUST make a HARD strike on an unconscious level. To hope and believe otherwise you might as well self-check yourself into Patton hospital, right now. (link provided below).

Now we are getting closer to an answer. We have to go much lower in the brain, Much, Much lower… Lower than cognitive cerebral conscious awareness.

We have to STRIKE at the lowest, most primitive, and strongest physiologically processes possible. We need to go “for the throat”… Straight to the core Survival Instincts that predate conscious thought. We have to go directly, to the primordial, primitive, primeval, Reptile brain.

Almost 100 years ago, this unconscious REACTION was termed “Fight or Flight” by a scientist named Walter Canon. We need to INCITE this innate, subconscious, uncontrollable visceral reaction that operates entirely outside consciousness and thought.

Getting back to the “good drivers” for a moment… We have to Fully grasp and realize something that none of us wants to admit. Even “good” drivers can entirely miss seeing us and cause accidents. “WHAT?” “WHAT ARE YOU talking about???” “The driver’s Always Wrong…!!!…”… you say….!

We ALL have inherent human perception weaknesses and frailties, regardless of our state of mind while driving.

We have to review and outline a few topics to illustrate the Full extent of this “invisibility cloak” we road cyclists all wear.

First; Human visual Perception and Atmospheric Physics…

  • Lack of our relative movement and perspective; between traffic and the driver. Humans, like most every member of the animal kingdom, detect and identify movement far easier and faster than identifying the source/nature of that movement.  If you’re moving at the same relative speed as the surrounding traffic “pattern”, and or in the same direction, there is every likelihood you will “blend in” and go completely unnoticed; “inside” the driver’s mind, even IF you are clearly in the line of sight and “visible”…
  • Bright, cloudless days, and very dark shadows. Do you know what I’m talking about? No clouds means no diffracted light, no gray areas; only distinct very dark and bright light borders. Do you know the average time it takes for a human eye to fully adapt (Adaptation) from bright light to the dark? Astronomers would knowingly answer 20-30 MINUTES ! So what chance do (any) drivers eyes (the rods) have of making the physiological/chemically time dependent change while driving from a bright daylight area, into a dark shadowed area? The answer is very little, in fact almost none… I rode to the scene of a fatality accident not long ago at the exact time of the accident, two days later. Tall trees on the east, created shadows across ALMOST the whole road. On a cloudless day, like the day of her death, the bright light was blinding, and the shadows, very dark… Seeing into the darkened bike lane line, never mind identifying a cyclist wearing black clothing, was difficult for me. And I was prepared for the physiological/perception drawbacks. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now imagine the shadows cast by buildings, trucks, cars, etc… and you can “see” the problem.
  • Low blinding sun on the horizon. Most all of us have experienced these phenomena. The eyes become overexposed (and overwhelmed) by direct penetrating sunlight that is much brighter in the early morning and late afternoon (due to the reduced atmosphere and scattering). The windshield with inherent flaws creates bright and dark rays making it very, very difficult to see through.
  • Black and dark clothing against black roads… need more be said
  • Dirty or wet windshields and windows – “What is this rusty, dusty, dirty-looking thing over your window? Enough said.
  • Dark tunnels and shadows/overpasses on clear, cloudless, bright days… (see 20-30 minute Eye Adaptation time above). (Remember a decent US Pro cyclist that rode into a dark tunnel,,, without a helmet OR Lights…?… look at how well that turned out…
  • Higher “priority” distractions that forces and takes attention away from road outside (texting/email/phone), sirens, stopping traffic, lane changing trucks, peds, etc.. We will talk about this one in a bit.
  • You photographers/videographers already know where I’m going with this. Our eyes/brains process information pathetically slowly. A VERY SLOW incoming 24 frames per second is fast enough to completely fool our turtle slow brains. Adding to this problem is the ironic placement of our visual cortex at the very rear/back of our brain, the farthest possible position away from our eyes… We (read; drivers included) weren’t designed or meant for quick or efficient processing of visual information.
  • Our minds generally process less than 5% of what the eyes actually see. Again, pathetic but true… Most of the world around us is seen by our eyes, but unnoticed and unprocessed by our minds. I’m not just talking about the ease with which any skilled magician can fool our minds, but in everyday life observations. How much of what is in front of you, do you actually process and remember…? Very little it turns out…. So also for human drivers. Most people are completely (blissfully) unware of the complexity or enormity of the vision comprehension problem.

***

From Discover magazine2:

Vision, of course, is more than recording what meets the eye: it’s the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see. And that happens in the brain. The brain, explains neurobiologist Semir Zeki of the University of London, has to actively construct or invent our visual world. Confronted with an overwhelming barrage of visual information, it must sort out relevant features and make snap judgments about what they mean. It has to guess at the true nature of reality by interpreting a series of clues written in visual shorthand; these clues help distinguish near from far, objects from background, motion in the outside world from motion created by the turn of the head. Assumptions are built into the clues–for example, that near things loom larger, or that lighting comes from above.

The brain must process an immense amount of information as fast as it can, using any shortcuts it can, says Anstis. It has to find a minimum hypothesis to cover a maximum amount of data. So it’s got to use any trick it can. His experiment reveals one of those tricks: We think the brain is programmed to use brightness the way it is in the world. That means shadows are always darker, and light comes from above.

***

Rule #2. While cycling, like it or not, admit it or not, believe it or not… WE ARE often LITERALLY invisible, to bad and good drivers alike, no matter how alert and conscious they may be. Our presence often just doesn’t register in a driver’s mind. Why not?… is the question, this article seeks to answer.

Rule #3. We MUST find a way to unconsciously BE perceived as a THREAT by the driver to be NOTICED within the subconscious REPTILE brain.

The Reptile brain, first and foremost, identifies threats. We must create Relative Movement and/or change our perspective (frame of reference) relative to the driver. For reasons you are probably already aware, but that will soon be explained.

How can we completely bypass the conscious, perceptual, senses which are too often just plain blind, or dozing off asleep at the switch anyway?…

Let’s get back to the interviewed (killer) drivers’ statements. “I never saw them”. (Where I might also add “… until it was too late”)

The police have a very difficult legal problem here assigning fault to the driver. As I learned from personal experience with the police in my own near murder, a driver not “seeing” a cyclist IS (unbelievably) a valid, legal and very frustrating (for cyclists) defense.

Even though every interviewed driver repeated nearly identical statements, it is impossible for anyone to determine whether this was some mental defense mechanism, (a human rationalization/justification, as many have postulated) or in fact, was visually true. In this case, legally it doesn’t matter. And more importantly, in practice it doesn’t matter either. Dead is Dead.

Let’s get to the core of this legal problem. Wouldn’t it be great for cyclists if this invisibility “defense” variable was taken completely out of the equation?!?   It would seem unlikely, and seemingly extremely difficult to make the “invisible” case/claim when blinding lights are flashing from the bike.

Less than a year after my own near death experience, I mentioned that there were three cyclists that were killed in Newport Beach.   Together, they outline and illustrate each of the issues.

One of them a well-known doctor, was riding with her husband on Newport Coast, in dark morning tree shadows, at the wrong time. One of them, a young woman, had made a right hand turn onto Bayside Dr. from PCH (S). A following gardening stake bed truck ran her over. What is dangerous about this corner is that the turn is largely blind due to a wall and large tree. The driver, like all the others claimed to police, “I never saw her”… which may have been true… The police had no legal choice but to accept his statement, and not cite him. But what if the driver had clearly seen her, and been warned of her presence a minute, and half a mile earlier, Before she ever made the turn?… and undeniably reinforced it, after he made his turn behind her? Would the outcome have been different? Statistics say Yes, absolutely.

Most of you have been tracking where I’m going with this… and some are saying to yourself, “No, it’s too much trouble”… or “NO, it’s too expensive”, or “No, I shouldn’t have to worry about something that is clearly the driver’s fault/problem?”…

OK; good enough…. I only have two questions for you, to Ask yourself.

  1. How much is my (your) life worth? Yes, I‘m absolutely serious. How Much is YOUR LIFE WORTH?… to you, your family, your wife, husband, children, parents…? How MUCH? How much is your time worth? IF you’re hit, at the very least, you Will Very likely be missing work, paying medical bills, bike repair bills, be in a LOT of pain, etc… Isn’t it waaay better (AND A LOT CHEAPER) to avoid problems in the first place, than pay for the resulting outcome?
  2. If you lie BLEEDING in the street, dead or seriously injured, does it really matter who was/is right or wrong?… I’d like to ask every, single, dead, fatality victim, OR their family members, IF they REALLY care who was right or wrong?

Having been there myself, I can tell you definitively the short, quick, two lettered variety answer, for a FACT.

So; now that we have a better understanding of the “perception” issues and problems, for you H. Potter fans; What IS our “defense against the dark arts…”(DADA)… “Unconscious” and blind?

 

 

1Roughly 500,000:000002/10 years (about the same as getting hit by lighting)

2http://www.dsh.ca.gov/patton/

 

mark d. goodley

Near Fatality Survivor

Product Design Engineer

USA Cycling Licensed Pro Race Mechanic #325244

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Part 2 here.

 

Guest Post: The Benefits of a Bicycle for Urban Transport

Every now and then — okay, nearly every day — I get a request to write a guest post for this site.

Most turn out to be from marketers hoping to slip in a link to their client’s website. Which are promptly ignored.

But this week, we’ll feature three new guest posts; two from a long-time contributor, and one from a new one.

The first comes from Nik Donovic, who describes himself as a lifelong, if casual, cyclist and new-found fixie enthusiast with a passion for road safety — especially after a driver hit his dad a few months ago.

And yes, before you ask, his father is okay, though it was scary for both of them.

This may be preaching to the choir on here. But it’s worth reading.

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Remember your first bike and how exhilarated you felt when you were finally freed from the confines of the wobbly training wheels? Your first bike is memorable. The polished chrome that was almost blinding in the sun, the smooth curve of the banana seat, and the streamers that whipped around from the end of your handlebars as you rode fast and without a care in the world. Your bike was your main source of transportation from trips to the park, to school, and to your best friend’s house. Jump ahead 20 years and you consider yourself lucky if you’re able to hop on your bicycle to ride to the neighborhood coffee shop on a Saturday morning. Part-time bicycle riders are full of excuses as to why they “don’t have time” to ride: I’ve got groceries to pick up. I don’t have proper riding gear. I’m too tired. I can’t ride THAT far. It’s not safe. I would, but…

 

Are There Any Valid Excuses Not to Ride?

The reasons seems endless, but what’s the point of owning a bicycle if you aren’t going to ride? Sure, bicycling requires a time commitment, but so does sitting in your car while commuting to and from work. While a substantial amount of bicyclists are hitting the streets, more than a decade ago, the majority remains to be strictly recreational riders.

In a 2014 U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report, commissioned by PeopleForBikes, 16,193 adults were surveyed on their bicycle usage. The results revealed that 54% of adults believe that bicycling is a convenient form of transportation, but 48% of adults don’t have access to a bicycle at home and 52% of adults fear being struck by vehicles. 46% of surveyed adults would ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated. Finally, 70% of bicyclists only ride for recreation or leisure while 46% ride to travel to and from school or work.

Although the concerns are reasonable, bicycling is safer and more accessible than people may think. While it’s true that sharing the road with motorists can be dangerous (and a little scary), bicycling is often safer than driving. The National Safety Council reports that for every million cyclists in the US, about 16.5 die each year in comparison to the 19.9 motorist deaths each year.

In regards to the not having access to a bicycle at home, there are several great public bike sharing systems throughout the U.S. in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and San Francisco. Don’t have a bike share system in your town? Check out a local bike shop. You don’t need a top of the line, multiple geared bicycle to get from place to place. So, no more excuses. Just ride.

 

Urban Cycling Leads to Better Health

Maybe you’re only a “weekend rider” because you feel too tired or out of shape to ride a bicycle on a regular basis and maybe the “out of practice” aches and pains keep you from riding more regularly. However, like other forms of exercise, your body gets stronger and healthier with consistent movement. Sure, a sore rear end and tired legs may persist after your first few rides, but over time, you will forget that riding was ever a struggle. Unlike running and other sports, bicycling is a gentle form of exercise, putting less stress on your body and making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities. All the times that you ride, remember how good it feels after you hop off your bike? Your blood is pumping, your endorphins are high, and you might even say, “I can’t wait to ride again.” Don’t make bicycling an “every now and then”, but rather remember how good it feels to ride and use that as your motivation. From heart to lungs, there are so many health benefits related to bicycling.

In addition to all the physical and mental health benefits, a 2012 study conducted in Iowa revealed that bicycling can save a significant amount of money typically allocated to health care. When looking at statistics surrounding the cost of diabetes, breast/colorectal cancers, heart disease and stroke related treatments, recreational and commuter cyclists saved money by simply being more healthy. For instance, in Des Moines, savings from commuter cyclists includes $254,797 and in Johnson County, cyclists are estimated to save $1,018,347 in health care costs each year.

 

Don’t Add to the Urban Congestion

As a recreational bicyclist, you may stick to areas within your cities that have trails and other areas designated for bicyclists. While such areas provide a great opportunity to be “one with nature”, get exercise, and keep cyclists off the road, they aren’t as practical for commuting cyclists. As a commuter, you often need to ride side by side with other vehicles which can feel overwhelming, a little dangerous, and far from “taking your mind off of stress”.

Still, being a commuter cyclist doesn’t need to be stressful. A lot depends on space allocated for cyclists. As a commuter cyclist, you’re doing your part to reduce urban congestion, but you’re only really making a difference if there are bike lanes in place. In “bicycle friendly” cities like Minneapolis, traffic volume increased but was less congested when bicycles had separate lanes.

Here’s an example of bike lanes working correctly: in San Francisco, on busy Valencia Street, vehicle lanes were reduced from four to two and a center lane and two bike lanes were added. As a result, pedestrians were not only 36% safer, but there was a significant increase of bicycle riders by 140%. In the same report released by Smart Growth America, pedestrians and bicyclists combined (about half and half) have reduced congestion by about 30% in the nation’s 100 most congested cities. If bicycle lanes continue to pop up, we can expect the congestion to keep dropping.

 

Human and Physical Infrastructure for Cyclists

From Minneapolis, MN to Austin, TX, big cities are becoming more bicycle friendly, recognizing the importance of less traffic and better health, but most cities can’t be truly bicycle friendly without infrastructures.

 

Physical Infrastructure for Safety and Economic Gain

Biking trails, bicycle lanes, and non-motorized vehicle overpasses are essential for bicycle safety and ease of travel; they make up the physical infrastructure. This infrastructure can help avoid drivers hitting cyclists as opposed to urban roads with no infrastructure. Many cyclists may not realize that the presence of physical infrastructures benefit the economy as well. In cities like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., home values increased the closer they were located to infrastructures like bike pathways. Additionally, businesses located in an area with physical infrastructures for cyclists (such as bike pathways and widened sidewalks) typically see a boost in business. In the study of Valencia Street in San Francisco (as mentioned earlier), businesses on the street saw a significant increase (about 66%) of patronage due to better physical infrastructure for cyclists.

 

No Physical Infrastructure Without Human Infrastructure

Despite the overwhelming need for physical infrastructure, it wouldn’t exist without human infrastructure. Such infrastructure can include biking advocates, bike shop owners, and bicycle riding groups. Without bike shops, to purchase and repair bicycles, the future of the “urban bicyclist” would be limited. By supporting a local bike shop, not only are you supporting the local economy, but you are supporting some of your biggest advocates. Bicycle shop owners and employees have a passion for bicycling. They commute by bicycle, they encourage others to ride, and they have valuable feedback when it comes to planning physical infrastructure. If you want to see an increase of physical infrastructure for cyclists, find a group of bicycle advocates and enthusiasts to join.

In cities across America, we’ve witnessed the increase of urban bicyclists who can ride the city streets more safely thanks to the passions of fellow riders who fought for a better riding environment.

 

Guest Post: Testing to Destruction

It’s one of the most popular posts ever on this site. And I didn’t even write it. 

A review of ultra-bright bike taillights by Mark Goodley continues to draw readers on a daily basis, over two years after it was written.

The survivor of a near fatal collision, Mark has made it his mission in life to keep others from suffering the same fate. And has put his background as a product design engineer and a licensed pro racing mechanic to use to study how bike collisions happen, and how to prevent them.

……..

Common to physicists and engineers is the requirement to test a product and/or design to total destruction. First we test in computer simulations (via FEA, CFD, or Multi-physics) software, Second; by intentionally pushing well beyond the design limits in real world tests, to produce catastrophic failures.

This is how we learn and improve our designs, and develop an understanding between our theoretical software modeling, and it’s correlation to the physical entity/item/product.

How and why this process is highly relevant to understanding and preventing cycling fatalities follows below.

After countless examinations of police reports, interviews, and scouring though all available data, I started a couple plus years ago with a very simple theory.

IF you ride your bike on roads and streets, with (minimum standard/charged) Ultra Bright Lights, you won’t get hit or killed (from behind at least) by a vehicle. (The bio-psycho-physio-logical “whys and how’s” this works is found in separate articles.)

The theory has seemingly held for over 500,000 bicycle-car related accidents, injuries and deaths in the US over a ten year period. Until this past week, I haven’t been able to find a single verified instance (data collection is ongoing) where a cyclist was hit from behind, while flashing Ultra Bright lights. Half a Million Cycling Injuries and Fatalities (without lights) to 0 (ZERO, with lights). 500,000: 000000.

Even if these numbers could be off by one or two accidents, the long term trend is evident, striking, and alarming.

That statistic changed this past week. Two men were killed (reported by bikinginla.com) in unrelated “hit from behind” accidents in the Los Angeles area while likely/evidently riding with lights. Begging the question; what made these two different from all the others? What broke down? Is the theory disproved?

So let’s look at the preliminary facts in each of these two fatalities that “broke” the theory.

  1. Each man was riding his bike shortly before, and long after midnight, between roughly 12:00AM and 3:00 AM.
  2. Each man was riding on high speed streets (one on a freeway off-ramp, the other in twisting and turning Fairfax) streets with car sidewalk parking), both without bike lanes.
  3. Each man was Hispanic and over 45 years old.
  4. Each man may have had (only) one bicycle light on the rear when they were hit.
  5. One man was very possibly killed by a drunk/drugged driver.

This is what we’ll call/term Testing a Theory to Destruction.”

Look at what was necessary to “Break the Theory.” Do you see anything even remotely resembling your riding? NO, of course not. How many of us actually get on our bikes after midnight to take a ride?

You had to have a large number of beyond “Perfect Storm” scenarios in each case to kill these two men. An old pilot axiom is: It’s not the 1st or 2nd mistake that kills you, but the 5th or 6th will.

IF anything, these two (very sad) fatalities PROVE the point. To get hit or injured by a car while riding with Ultra Bright lights, a lot of things have to go wrong, all at the same time.

In Summary; what have we learned?

  1. Don’t ride late at night at all, especially after midnight when even the best of drivers are going to be tired, never mind when drunk-drugged up drivers are going to congregate… after the bars close.
  2. Don’t ride on very dangerous roads that are going to be a problem, even under the best of circumstances.   I personally have known the Fairfax area for many decades… and would never ride a bike on it; at least not willingly. IF you HAVE absolutely no option but to ride these streets, take extra precautions. Ride at safe(r) times, with EXTRA Ultra Bright Lights, Don’t ride in black/dark colors, and Still ride at least 5 feet away from parked cars (to prevent getting doored, which is equally life threatening).
  3. Take up the WHOLE lane if you MUST, until it is Safe to move back over to the right. There are some areas I still will only ride the sidewalk.
  4. Be attentive at all times; DON’T BE TOO PROUD to PULL OVER and STOP your bike and WAIT for traffic to pass before crossing dangerous, high speed areas. ESPECIALLY FREEWAY/Highway ON-OFF RAMPS.
  5. Ride with multiple rear lights, (3) three is preferable to “paint” a clear 3D picture in space for a(ny) driver’s mind to immediately identify your location, bearing, and speed. The best lights can be clearly seen and easily recognized from over 1/2 a mile away!!! (in broad DAYlight).   Distance is Time, Time is Early Warning, Early Warning is allowing a driver time to plan (rather than milliseconds to react) and hence accident avoidance, and That is Life.
  6. 500,000:000002 are still pretty good odds… Especially when Your life is on the line. Play the numbers.
  7. STAY ALIVE! ride ULTRA BRIGHT… DAY and night…

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Stay tuned. We’ll have another post from Mark next week.

 

 

Why Attorneys Tell You To Never Admit Guilt

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

Pocrass Photo 6-15

Immediately after any type of motor vehicle “accident” (bicycle, pedestrian, motorcycle, car), most people have two reactions: 1.) to blame the other person or 2.) to say “I’m sorry; it was my fault.” As a personal injury lawyer, I counsel people to NEVER admit guilt after a crash of any type. Whether you are or are not liable, I guarantee such a statement will come back to bite you in ways you never expected.

The most important reason for not admitting guilt, which is, in legal terms, admitting liability, is because you probably don’t really know the cause of the collision.

Example: We recently had a client who was in a Santa Monica bicycle collision. He came up to a four-way stop and rolled slowly through it, getting halfway through intersection. Meanwhile, an 80-something-year-old woman drove up to the intersection, stopped, and went, hitting our client in the intersection.

During the deposition, the woman insisted that she never saw anyone or anything in the intersection. (I admit, I laughed inside at the insurance company lawyer’s expression.) The insurance company settled for a five-figure settlement.

This was an unusual situation, but the point is, you really don’t know exactly what the complete cause of your bike collision is, and, therefore, who is liable. Yes, you might be partially liable if you do not follow the rules of the road, but there may be extenuating circumstances that contributed to the collision. These could be:

  • Road Design: the road or signage was not designed well, maintained, in disrepair, or missing.
  • Product Liability: your bike or the other vehicle could have defective parts or been repaired, maintained, or manufactured incorrectly.
  • Other Driver: also might not be following the rules of the road.

If any of these conditions exist, your case — even if you are partially liable for the collision — could allow me as your bike lawyer to argue for comparative liability.

California recognizes comparative liability, which states that each party might hold some responsibility for the collision. If your case were to go to trial, the judge or jury decides IF each party is liable for the collision and, if so, what percentage of liability each party is responsible for.

Consider this hypothetical situation: You are riding your bike at night. You have no lights on your bike. As you ride past a parked car, the driver opens his door and you are “doored.” You suffer serious personal injuries and your bike is trashed. The case goes to a jury trial.

The jury decides that because you were riding at night without lights — clearly against the law — you are partially liable for the collision. They may determine that you are 10% responsible and the driver is 90% liable. In that situation, if they awarded you a $100,000 verdict, you would receive $90,000 from the driver’s insurance company rather than the full $100,000.

Once you have admitted guilt at the scene (or in follow up conversations with the other driver’s insurance company), it becomes more difficult for your attorney to argue comparative negligence. It also means that it is more likely that the insurance company will either refuse to settle or low-ball its offer.

Trials are always more expensive in cost and in time than settlements, so if a fair settlement is possible, that is the more desirable route. (Of course you wouldn’t say THAT to an insurance company either because if it thinks you’re not prepared to go to trial you’re back to them either refusing to settle or low-balling their offer. It’s all a chess game with serious consequences for you.)

I have a friend who is a criminal attorney. He once told me the most difficult part of his job is trying to undo what his clients have told the police. As a civil attorney, I understand. It is very difficult to “unring a bell.” So, please, don’t admit liability or guilt. Let us sort that out later.

 

Jim Pocrass TrimmedFor more than 30 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, or visit www.pocrass.com.

 

 

How Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 
Have you ever been asked a question in which the answer seems so obvious that it seems like a trick question? This happened to me recently. A reporter asked me if it were true that, as he was told by a police officer, that you could be ticketed for riding your bike the wrong way in a crosswalk.

The question flabbergasted me. Since when are crosswalks one-directional? Pedestrians walk in crosswalks in both directions. That’s why there are buttons and/or signals on both sides of the street.

Requiring cyclists to only travel with the flow of traffic would lead to absurd results. You would have to cross two streets to go across the street.

The legislature passed Vehicle Code 21650: A bicycle operated on a roadway or a shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway.

Subsection(g) states: This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any shoulder of a highway, on any sidewalk, on any bicycle path within a highway, or along any crosswalk or bicycle path crossing, where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance.

The legislative comments to VC 21650.1 say: That had the Legislature wished to include the term “sidewalk” or “crosswalk” it would have done so.

All of this naturally leads me to opine that for the bicyclist to be in violation of VC 21650.1 (riding the wrong way in traffic), the cyclist would have to be riding in the opposite direction of traffic AND be either a.) on the shoulder of a highway or b.) on a roadway. (Again, assuming there is no local ordinance against riding in a crosswalk.)

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from a woman asking for my help. She was hit by a car while riding her bike across the street in a marked crosswalk. The police claimed the accident was her fault.

The law says it is legal for you to go from the sidewalk – against traffic – and ride into the crosswalk to the other sidewalk.

However, if there is a local ordinance that prohibits riding on the sidewalk, which many cities do, especially in commercial areas, AND the local ordinance specifically states that you may not ride through a crosswalk, then riding in the crosswalk and/or the sidewalk would be illegal. If the local ordinance does not state that you cannot ride on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk, then it is legal.

Vehicle Code 275 defines a crosswalk and does not limit it to pedestrians. Subsection(b) expands crosswalks to include: Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrians crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

Legally riding on the sidewalk – slowly – and looking before entering a crosswalk for other vehicles, especially those making a right or left turn, and looking for pedestrians, should be legal (again, assuming there is no local ordinance restricting you from riding through a crosswalk).

There is even case law that specifically addresses the issue of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk against traffic. In Spriesterbach v. Holland (Case B-240348) the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four, ruled on April 9, 2013 that: . . .because VC 21650.1 requires a bicycle to travel in the same direction as vehicular traffic only when ridden on “a roadway” or the “shoulder of a highway,” it does not by its plain language require bicycles to travel with the flow of traffic when ridden on the sidewalk.

The court continued: Pursuant to Section 21200, (a) persons riding a bicycle. . .upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division. . .except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. . .because 21650.1 governs the direction bicycle travel on a roadway or shoulder. . .it does not by its plain language require bicycles to travel with the flow of traffic when ridden on a “Sidewalk.”

Riding fast through a crosswalk and not stopping to look is very dangerous. A cyclist that rides into a crosswalk at 10+ mph does not give the driver of a vehicle that is turning left or right time to see the cyclist.

I suspect that is why the City of Los Angeles passed L.A. Muni Code 56.15(1): No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle . . .on a sidewalk, bikeway or boardwalk in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. This ordinance gives the police a lot of leeway to determine what is “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

I believe that these topics are good areas for discussion, but legally, I would (and will) argue that, if no local ordinance disallows it, then it is legal to ride in a crosswalk in either direction if it is done safely.

By the way, the answer to the question in the title of this post is that the chicken crossed the road on a bicycle in a crosswalk after stopping and ascertaining that it was safe to ride slowly across the road. But you knew that.

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: Detailed analysis of 2013 bike collisions in the City of Angels

Now the study is complete.

A few weeks ago, long-time LA bike advocate Dennis Hindman wrote a detailed analysis of the city’s bike-involved collisions, based on partial data for the year 2013. 

Now he has finished his analysis of every bike collision listed in the state’s SWITRS traffic collision database last year.

The results are eye opening, and should give insight on how safety efforts should be directed for the greatest impact.

Or better yet, no impact between cyclists and motor vehicles. 

But let’s be clear about one thing.

As impressive as Hindman’s study is, it shouldn’t be up to a single person, or organization, to analyze how collisions occur on our streets. 

It should be the responsibility of our city government. Because if they don’t know how these collisions happen, they have no idea how to prevent them. 

And traffic safety shouldn’t be left to guesswork. 

……..

I have finally completed a list of all the types of 2,421 bicycle involved collisions that were reported by the LAPD in 2013. This was mainly done by just manually counting them. All of these collisions involved injuries.

There were 2,597 pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles and 2,277 for bicyclists (some of the reported 2,421 bicycle collisions for the year did not involve motor vehicles). Eighty of those pedestrian involved collisions were fatalities and fifteen were fatalities for bicyclists. There was one bicyclist collision with a train that was fatal. That brings the total reported collision fatalities for bicyclists reported by the LAPD at 16 for 2013.

Bicyclists riding the wrong way are 569 of the collisions. Drivers turning right were involved in 239 (42%) of these collisions. I did not count all the different ways the collisions occurred in this case since the bicyclists were not traveling in the correct direction. Its rather obvious from the raw data that the main danger when riding the wrong way is motor vehicles turning right.

A bicyclist will sometimes ride through a crosswalk in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. From what I have observed, a motorist turning right will frequently just look to their left to see if a motor vehicle is coming and not to their right before proceeding.

Subtracting the wrong way riders from the total leaves 1,852 bicycle involved collisions.

From experience I know that the vast majority of bicyclists are riding between the parked motor vehicles and the front right quarter panel of moving vehicles. Few are riding directly in front of moving motor vehicles in the middle of the moving lane. Since that’s where most of the bicyclists are riding, then it would make sense that most of the collisions would involve cyclists riding in that position on the road. That does not necessarily mean that it is much more dangerous to be riding this way.

The following information does not include the raw collision data of wrong way bicycle riders.

According to some bicycle riders, the danger of being right hooked by drivers is greatly increased when you ride between the parked vehicles and moving vehicles because drivers are much less likely to see you there compared to riding directly in front of them in the middle of the motor vehicle lane. I counted almost as many collisions for bicyclists with motor vehicles turning left (326), as there were for motor vehicles turning right (337). It would appear that drivers tend to not see the bicyclist when turning in either direction before colliding with them.

Parked cars are also sighted as a major hazard by those advocating riding in the middle of motor vehicle lanes. I counted 155 collisions involving bicyclists and parked motor vehicles. I don’t know how many of these involved doors swinging open in front of the bicyclists.

If that sounds particularly hazardous, there were also 55 bicycle collisions with motor vehicles stopped, 125 sideswipes, 16 collisions involving drivers backing up, 7 drivers slowing and the bicyclist hitting them, 6 improper passes by drivers, 5 drivers parking, 17 unsafe driving speed, 72 rear end collisions, 23 lane changes by drivers and 20 lane changes by a bicyclist. That’s 346 collisions. Well over double the amount of bicycle collisions involving parked motor vehicles.

Another argument against riding to the right of moving vehicles and next to parked vehicles is the danger from cars exiting driveways. There were 78 bicycle involved collisions with motor vehicles entering traffic. I presume those to have mainly occurred due to vehicles pulling away from the curb, exiting driveways and freeway off-ramps. Adding this to the parked vehicle collisions still doesn’t come close to the amount of other types of collisions I mentioned above.

There were also 20 head-on collisions where the direction of travel was either E/W or N/S and 367 collisions where both driver and bicyclist were heading straight (typically intersections) but in different directions (not head-on).

Drivers making a U-turn collided with bicyclists 12 times and 3 U-turns by bicyclists involved a collision with a motor vehicle.

Four collisions involved bicycles passing motorists and 6 were unsafe turns by bicyclists.

Bicyclists entering traffic involved 104 collisions.

Right turns by bicyclists were 25 of the collisions and left turns 47.

LAPD reported 29 pedestrian collisions with bicycles. No pedestrian was killed.

Bicyclists hitting an unknown object, slipping and falling or hitting a pothole involved 39 injury reported collisions.

Bicyclist involved in a collision with another bicyclist was reported 7 times.

There were 12 collisions where the primary factor was unknown.

There was one case where a bicyclist hit the driver and the driver (88 years old) was the only one with an injury and also one collision where the passenger of the vehicle was the only one who had an injury when it involved a bicycle rider.

Lastly, a bicyclist injury occurred from colliding with an animal.

My total count is larger than the 2,421 bicycle involved collisions due to counting such things as entering traffic, turning by bicycles and motorists separately for each collision. Each collision could involve a turn by both bicycle and motorist or entering  traffic and a turn.

The variety of types of collisions reinforces to me that the Dutch safety principle of separation by mass, speed and direction when possible is the way to go to improve safety. Bicycle riders should not be mixed with motor vehicles that have a much greater mass and are going at a much greater average speed than the bicyclist.

Having more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street increases the likelihood of a higher motorist speed, increases the chance of lane change and also increases the possibility that the driver will get distracted by all of the different actions going on around them. That’s why the Dutch national Crow manual for bicycle infrastructure advises to have a cycle track or bike path built if there is more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street.

……..
Hindman followed-up with a look at the bicycling fatalities reported to the state for 2013 in the city of LA.

Here’s a list of the 16 reported bicycle collision fatalities by the LAPD in 2013 and the primary factors for the collisions:

  • 1-bicyclist unsafe speed
  • 1-driver unsafe speed. Both driver and bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-train
  • 2-parked vehicle
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclists headed east. Three bicyclists involved.
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclist headed east.
  • 1-driver headed east/bicyclist headed north.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver moving south/bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed west/bicyclist headed south. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed north/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south. Direction of travel for bicyclist not indicated. Bicyclist 90 years old. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-unknown primary collision factor. Both driver and bicyclist making left turn.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist entering traffic.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist proceeding straight.

This shows some of the wide variables in collisions. A bicyclist cannot avoid all of these situations. A barrier between the bicyclist and driver would decrease the potential for drivers and bicyclist to hit each other when changing lanes, rear-end collisions or merging. Removing the parked vehicles from arterial streets or a buffer between the bicyclist and parked vehicles would reduce some of the conflicts. Different signal phases for bicyclists/pedestrians and drivers at the intersections would decrease the potential conflicts further.

……..

Thanks to Dennis Hindman for caring enough about your safety and mine to assume this responsibility himself.

 

The Danger in Dog Day Afternoons

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

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

Recently, at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House, JJ Hoffman was telling me a story about her daily encounter with dog a couple of years ago. JJ said every day when she was riding to work she’d meet up with this same woman who was walking her dog unleashed.

Every day the dog took after JJ, which set the woman off who would run yelling behind her dog. It got so bad that JJ had the pepper spray out before she got to the street where she’d meet up with the dog. All that dog wanted, JJ said, was a taste of her calf.

JJ really didn’t want to spray the dog, though spraying the owner was tempting, and, luckily for everybody, JJ never actually had to take action.

Like JJ, I really like dogs. The dogs are doing what their instincts tell them to do: to chase prey. Irresponsible dog owners are another matter. They put the cyclist, the dog, and especially themselves in danger.

Bitten by a Dog

In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is at fault. It doesn’t matter if the dog is leashed or not. It doesn’t matter if the owner knew or didn’t know that the dog had a “vicious nature.” California holds owners to “strict liability.” If you are bitten, the owner is liable for your injuries. There is no “free bite” in California.

Collision with or because of a Dog

When a dog begins chasing a cyclist, most cyclists tend to try to outrun the dog. When that happens, the dog’s brain goes into get-the-fleeing-prey mode, and the race is on.

Whether or not you can really outrun the dog, the real danger is in possibly colliding with the dog or colliding with something else because you lose control of the bike or you hit a pot hole or even getting hit by a motor vehicle when swerving or not being able to stop at a light or an intersection.

If you suffer serious personal injuries or your bike is damaged, again, the dog owner can be held liable. Your bicycle accident attorney should be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Compensation for Dog-related Collisions or Bites

The dog owner may be held negligent for:

  • Ineffective control of the dog.
  • Violation of the leash law and other Animal Control Ordinances.
  • Inadequate supervision or management of the dog.
  • Putting the dog in a condition in which the owner could have seen that the dog could cause injury to somebody.

Individual cities also may have their own animal control ordinances. For instance, one city limits the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time and a number of cities consider it a misdemeanor if a dog is tied to a parking meter, sign or bus bench without food or water nearby.

Some cities have ordinances specific to a breed. In Santa Monica a pit bull on public property must be muzzled.

The dog owner may be held responsible for compensating you for:

  • Medical bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, therapists, plastic surgeons, and for prescriptions.
  • Future medical bills to remove scars or to repair disfigurements. If the money for medical care is not recovered at this time, your health insurance might not cover any future medical procedures you need later, calling them “cosmetic.”
  • Time you had to take off from work resulting in lost income.
  • Lost future earnings because of disfigurement or disabilities.
  • Emotional counseling.
  • Pain and suffering.

Of course you can only recover compensation for injuries you suffer and care you actually need.

Hesitations to Holding an Owner Liable

One of the major hesitations a cyclist who is bitten by a dog often has in reporting a dog bite is the fear that the dog will be destroyed. A dog that has no history of biting is rarely “put down.”

The court takes into account the severity of the bite and the number of times it has bitten. It may rule that a dog must be muzzled in public or restrained in a particular way, such as kept behind a certain type of fence of a certain height.

Self-Defense

We all have heard that we have the right to defend ourselves against an attack from another person. What few people realize is that the law says you can defend yourself as much as is necessary to foil the attack. Your defense must be proportionate to the attack, and when the danger is past, so is your right to defend yourself.

This is a common law concept, and there is no explicit statement in common law that this also applies in a dog attack. More and more dog owners are counter-suing for compensation when their dog has been injured either intentionally or through someone else’s negligence.

So if you are going to use self defense, be sure that it is proportionate to the attack and that once the attack is over you stop, similar to how you would defend yourself with a human. That is a legally defensible act, though you could still find yourself in a lawsuit with the dog owner.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that it’s rare to find a bad dog, but bad owners are much too plentiful.

*Sponsored post

 

Guest Post: A view from the courtroom

It’s one of the more heartbreaking cases in recent history.

It was just two days before Christmas last year, when a young Australian man working in Chicago was flying back home for the holidays, leaving his girlfriend of five years behind. Faced with an extended layover at LAX, James Rapley decided to rent a bike on a sunny Sunday morning for a ride along the beach.

He never made his flight home.

Rapley was riding in the uphill bike lane on Temescal Canyon Blvd when he was run down from behind by another young man, who was allegedly under the influence at 9 am, and reportedly admitted to texting behind the wheel when he drifted into the bike lane, taking the Aussie’s life in an instant.

I’ve often wondered what James Rapley’s thoughts were in those last few moments as his life drifted away. Whether he thought of the woman he loved, or the family he would never see again.

Or just wondered why.

Mohammed Kadri, the driver who took his life, was recently charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent volunteered to be in the courtroom for Kadri’s Preliminary Setting on Thursday. Here’s her report.

……..

This morning, Mohammed Kadri was actually present in court. I didn’t see anyone in the tiny courtroom who looks 20 years old, because Kadri is kind of hirsute, so he looks older; the kid probably has a 5 o’clock shadow by noon. He’s not very tall, but his suit fit well, and posture is good and it indicated that he understands the gravity of his situation.

The Deputy DA assigned to the case requested a continuance. The judge asked a little impatiently why they shouldn’t proceed today. The prosecutor stated that she needs time to speak with the victim’s family. (Because what better time than the holidays?!?) The next court date is Friday, January 16th.

Incidentally, the prosecutor is Danette Meyers. She’ll prosecute viciously. The victim impact statements will be absolutely integral to the case, though. Even if the family can only provide written statements.

From the glass elevators at the courthouse, you can see planes coming in to LAX. I looked at those tubes of tin and thought of all the souls on board. James had flown into LAX a day early because he was worried that bad weather would delay his flight home to Australia. I wondered if any of today’s arrivals had chosen an early flight for the same reason, to play it safe so they can get home to their families for the holidays. And then I prayed every single one of them will be on their connecting flights. Because James Rapley never got the chance.

Just as an aside, and I could be wrong, but… In the hallway outside the courtroom, an older guy intercepted Kadri’s lawyer as we (me & the guy who turned out to be the lawyer) reached for the courtroom door at just about the same moment. This older guy may be a relative. Right after Kadri’s appearance, I went into the hallway to type some quick notes on my laptop. This same older guy walked by, very clearly looking down at the screen. I scowled at him and he pivoted away. I think he noticed the LACBC sticker on the front and suspects I’m some agent of theirs. Well, let the defense worry that so many eyes are on them.

I’d love to see Kadri quake beneath the gaze of an angry guardian angel the size of the Bike Coalition.

The Airport courthouse has no bike parking, but the security at the garage entrance suggested locking up to the handicap parking sign. The courthouse is conveniently nestled in the armpit of the 105/405 interchange, and miserable to reach by any way but car. If you look at Google Maps, it’s right there by the Green Line station, but you can’t access it by 116th street (unless you scale two chain link fences, and people clearly do this.) Nope, you have to go down to 120th and head back north. If you’re on a bike on 120th & La Cienega, it’s terrifying to wait in the eastbound left turn lane (whose sensor doesn’t register bikes), because the westbound traffic shooting out from the freeway underpass seems to be COMING RIGHT AT YOU thanks to the wacky angle at the intersection. By the time that oncoming wall of FedEx truck zoomed at me like Jaws, my heart rate was about 160. It’s not much lower right now, what with the rage about how we practically require vehicular manslaughter defendants to arrive at the courthouse by automobile.

……..

After I got her report, I emailed a member of Rapley’s family in Australia to let them know about the January 16th court date.

The response I received broke my heart.

The next court date will be just days after the one year anniversary of his funeral. And six years to the day that he’d been with his girlfriend. 

……..

The ghost bike for James Rapley is still there, 355 days later.

Maybe you’ve seen it at the corner of Temescal and PCH, and wondered who it was for, or stopped to read the inscription.

It’s been maintained all this time by a grieving father from Oxnard, whose own six-year old son was killed while riding his bike. Since then, Anthony Novarro has dedicated his life to remembering other bike riding sons and daughters who have lost theirs.

He stops by every few weeks to clean the site, and remember a young man none of us ever knew.

But all ghost bikes are removed or stolen sooner or later; it’s unusual that one lasts this long.

There’s a discussion currently underway to make the memorial permanent by installing a bike rack in the shape of a bicycle in Rapley’s honor.

So far it hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage.

But its another reminder that James Rapley hasn’t been forgotten in the City of Angels, even if he died a stranger to us all.

……..

Something else that hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage yet is a proposal to build the city’s first parking-protected bike lane on that uphill side of Temescal Canyon where Rapley lost his life.

Such protected bikeways were just approved by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed into law by Governor Brown. This would be the ideal location for one, with no conflicting intersections or cross traffic for nearly mile from PCH to Palisades High School.

Whether it would have saved Rapley’s life at that early hour is impossible to say; there may not have been enough beachgoers parking their cars to form a protective barrier so early on a winter weekend.

But it might help prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

And if there’s a better way to honor someone who needlessly lost his life in the few short hours he spent in our city, I don’t know what that would be.

……..

Update: A comment below from Jeffrey reminds us that a memorial fund in Rapley’s name has raised over $15,000 for Australia’s Amy Gillett Foundation to improve bike safety, with a goal of eliminating bicycling deaths. And it tells his all-too-brief life story, letting us know just who this man we never knew was.

More impressively, his family donated his life insurance and joined with friends to contribute over $250,000 to establish a scholarship at Whitley College for a Rural Student studying either Engineering or Science at Melbourne University.

But more funds are needed to increase the amount of the annual award, and help make a difference in the world that James Rapley never got the chance to make.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

……..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

……..

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

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

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

……..

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

 

Morning Links: Dangerous SaMo corner, LA Calbike board members, East LA man killed in bike dispute

I count on my readers to keep us appraised dangerous situations.

Especially now when health issues continue to keep me off my bike.

For instance, Santa Monica cyclist Bill Jordan writes about a dangerous intersection after seeing a cyclist down Wednesday morning.

Wanted to make you aware of a bike car collision that occurred this morning at the bottom of the 23rd street hill behind the Santa Monica Airport where it intersects Dewey St. Two cars were stopped with multiple police officers on the scene and a crumpled bike in between the two cars.

Samo MapI’m quite familiar with the intersection, as I bike commute 1-2 days per week past it in both directions, and I can safely say it’s the spot I’m most concerned about on every ride. It’s also easily solvable with a little adjustments to traffic flow. As you can see in this crude graphic, evening rush hour traffic backs up 23rd St. (highlighted in red), typically all the way to Ocean Park Blvd.

This encourages people to use the comparatively empty 21st St, and then cut across Dewey, Navy, Marine, or even the alleyway between Navy and Dewey (highlighted in yellow). This would be fine, except drivers rarely remember to check the unimpeded southbound bike lane on 23rd before turning out into the stopped traffic. Since it’s a 3% decline, I often find myself riding the brakes to avoid running broadside into a car that didn’t realize there was more than one lane of traffic they were turning across. It is not surprising at all that the Strava Segment for that downhill section is called “Ocean Park – Rose Kamikaze.”

As for why the traffic backs up, you don’t have to go far to find the solution. The intersection at Rose Avenue and Walgrove has a light that is timed for the morning rush, when a number of people are coming west on Rose Avenue and turning north on Walgrove/23rd. However, that traffic doesn’t exist in the evening, but of course the lights follow the same pattern. This leads to lots of red light time for cars heading southbound on 23rd/Walgove, and creates the three quarter mile backup that encourages the unsafe neighborhood cut-throughs. Obviously with the morning collision the backup wasn’t the problem here, but it does show how unsafe the bike lane there is. Would love to know who could help fix this issue.

I’ve forwarded his email to Cynthia Rose of LACBC neighborhood chapter Santa Monica Spoke.

Any other suggestions for who he should talk to?

Update: I’ve just gotten word that the cyclist involved in this collision was popular LA rider Nate Loyal, who came out on the losing side of a collision with an SUV.

I’m told he was rushed to the hospital with a broken tibia, tibia and collarbone — but thankfully, no head injury. He’s scheduled for surgery today, but expected to be okay.

Best wishes and prayers for full and speedy recovery.

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Calbike gets four new board members, including San Diego’s Elayne Fowler, Silicon Valley’s Janet LaFleur, and our own Dorothy Wong and BikinginLA sponsor Josh Cohen.

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Sad news from Portland, as a beloved recumbent bike shop owner takes her own life, two years after she suffered a severe brain injury in a collision while riding her ‘bent. Thanks to David Wolfberg and Megan Lynch for the heads-up.

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LASD sketch of the suspect

LASD sketch of the suspect

Just heartbreaking. A 76-year old East LA man suffering from dementia was beaten to death last August in a dispute over a bicycle, which did not belong to him.

His killer, identified only as a Hispanic man with a trimmed mustache and beard — which he probably shaved off if he’s seen the news — rode away on the bike.

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Canyon Velo Cycling will host a Remembrance Ride for fallen OC cyclist Sherri Norton, three years after she was killed in a highly disputed collision. Thanks to Jeffrey for the news.

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Local

Mayor Garcetti promises to step up street repaving, and assures Streetsblog the new and improved streets will have the most recent approved designs, including bike lanes and continental crosswalks. Meanwhile, a city council proposal would allow residents to tax themselves to pay for road and sidewalk repairs.

Santa Monica approves the county’s first Smart Bike bike share system.

More on Friday’s planned crackdown by Santa Monica police to improve bike and pedestrian safety; and yes, for a change, they’re targeting drivers as well as cyclists and jaywalkers.

Peloton looks at last Sunday’s Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer competition up some of the city’s — and the nation’s — steepest hills.

 

State

The San Diego Reader looks back at fallen cyclist Udo Heinz and the bus collision that needlessly took his life.

Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place. An El Cajon bike rider suffers serious injuries when he’s collateral damage in a collision between two vehicles.

A San Bernardino bike rider is killed in a pre-dawn shooting.

Santa Barbara police issue nearly 100 citations to drivers and cyclists alike in a crackdown to improve bike safety.

It’s not all bad news, though, as Santa Barbara will build a new bike station at the city’s Transit Station. Thanks again to Megan Lynch for the link.

San Francisco will expand their bike share system while upgrading equipment.

The long-planned Bay Bridge bike path connecting Oakland and San Francisco could be in trouble after authorities choke on a $400 million-plus price tag.

 

National

Wired offers up nine things drivers need to stop saying in the debate over bikes vs cars. To start, we could stop positioning it as bikes vs cars. Or cyclists vs drivers.

A big-hearted, yet anonymous Oklahoma cop buys a boy a new bike after his was stolen.

New York looks at the progress made in the first year of Vision Zero, while Portland moves forward with their plan.

If I rode with a knife like that, I'd probably get more respect from drivers, too

If I rode with a knife like that, I’d probably get more respect from drivers, too

People for Bikes unveils a new bike safety campaign based on popular Pittsburgh series.

Caught on video: Just days after a Boston aggro bike filmmaker survives a brush with a road raging cabbie, he barely survives a right hook in the rain — then wishes the driver a happy Wednesday.

A Philadelphia cyclist intervenes to stop a bike thief, even after the outlaw flashed a gun.

The writer of Brooklyn Spoke explains why he’s opposed to the proposed New York ban on cellphone use while bicycling.

A Florida father files suit against FedEx after a driver kills his bike-riding special needs son; the driver was allegedly looking down while he accelerated, and didn’t even know he’d hit someone.

 

International

Bikes are an economic powerhouse, as Europe’s cycling economy has created 650,000 jobs. And could reach one million in just six years.

Brit cyclists plan a die-in and faux funeral to call attention to the need for safer streets.

Your next bike could be a junk. Literally, as Brit firm specializes in upcycling scrap cars into handmade bicycles.

Dublin is hiring a new cycling czar. Don’t bother applying, I’m taking it.

Germany considers sending convicted dopers to jail for three years, with 10 years for the doctors who help them.

Cycling Weekly looks at a bike that isn’t quite the one the won a stage in the Tour de France in 1959, and offers solutions to embarrassing problems on a bike. Just make sure no one is drafting on you when you break wind; then again, if you’ve got a wheel sucker behind you, it’s a good defense mechanism.

An Aussie councilmember proposes a boxy, so-called “smart helmet that would comply with the country’s mandatory helmet law, while providing a licensing registration number that can be read by road cameras. And it has built-in turn signals, brake light, visor with wiper blade, and offers a warning when the rider gets too close to pedestrians. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

 

Finally…

A Seattle website asks whether a bike rack has been circumcised; looks like it to me. So much for the common argument that no one rides in winter weather.

And fair is fair: A Chicago columnist is incensed that dog owners must carry proof of a license when their dogs go out to poop, but cyclists don’t need one — to ride, not poop. But maybe bike-hating writers should have one to write crap like this.

 

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