Archive for Guest Columns

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

I tried.

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

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

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

Here’s her take on the meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just a couple other quick notes.

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

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

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

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

And if you don’t like it, tough.

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

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

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The Voice of America says bike trains beat LA traffic.

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Touring Westwood by complimentary hotel bike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too easy to get, too hard to lose.

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

Guest Column: Bikes Have Rights™*

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

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

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Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

When You See A Cyclist Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Column: Bikes Have Rights™*

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest column: Pam Leven’s last ride

I hate wrecks like this.

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

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

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

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

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

Or at least anyone who has yet come forward.

And let’s be very clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We finally made it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m definitely feeling the love.

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

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

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

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

What’s not to like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

No further details available at this time.

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

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

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

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

Or at least voice your opinion on the comment page.

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

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

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

And we could use a lot more like him.

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

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

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

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

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

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

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

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

Be Prepared

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

And no, an apology won’t be enough.

Not this time.

South Bay cyclist victim of a hit-and-walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make no mistake.

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

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

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

One other point.

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

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

Happy anniversary to me, support the Rowena road diet, bike bills move forward, and a hot mess o’links

Maybe somebody should bake me a cake.

Remarkably, it’s been six years since I started this blog, mostly in an effort to blow of steam in response to the city’s unforgiving streets and uncaring leaders.

I had no idea I’d still be writing it over half a decade, 1413 posts and well over a million page views later. Let alone where it would take me.

Or that those mean streets would be a little safer, with bikeways that actually go somewhere, and plans for more. And with more bike riders on them. Along with city and county leaders who actually support them, and us, most of the time.

As opposed to those who say they do.

Back in those dark days, it was hard to find stories about bicycling in the press.

But as you can see from the links below, that’s changed, too.

………

Come out to support the Rowena road diet in a special evaluation meeting—  held just 90 days after its implementation — at 5 pm today at the Silverlake Community Church; nice of them to hold the meeting at a time most people won’t be able to attend.

Let alone demand results when it’s still too early to tell.

………

AB184, which would extend the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases, moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee, while the three-foot passing bill unanimously clears a final committee vote before moving on to the full Senate.

And, based on previous experience, a possible third veto by our bike-unfriendly governor who’s likely to Jerry Brown us once again.

………

Both Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Melissa Balmer of Women on Bikes SoCal politely ask the owners of the Daily News, Daily Breeze, Press-Telegram and Star-News, et al, not to do a hatchet job on us in their Summer of Cycling series.

Based on the tone they’ve set so far, I wouldn’t count on it.

………

The Westside’s incoming and outgoing councilmembers join forces to fix a dangerous intersection on the Expo Line Bikeway, while a groundbreaking ceremony will be held Thursday at 2 pm for the accompanying Westwood Neighborhood Greenway. Flying Pigeon describes Sunday’s Wilshire CicLAvia as a Sea of Tranquility; works for me. Anti-bike bias is preventing a more pedestrian-friendly North Figueroa. Where’s the controversy over the First Street green bike lane; doesn’t Hollywood film in Boyle Heights? L.A.’s much vaunted Bike Nation bikeshare program won’t hit the streets until 2014, at best. Metro profiles a streets maintenance helper who’s biked to work through the mean, truck-laden streets of the City of Commerce for the past 10 years, which trumps anything I’ve done here on the Westside. You’re invited to the 3rd annual South LA, Peace, Love, and Family Ride & Fair 2013 on Saturday, July 6th. A fundraiser will be held for Ride2Recovery to support wounded vets Sunday, July 7th at Gem City Grill in Monrovia. Zócalo Public Square will host a discussion titled Will the Bicycle Kill the Car? at Grand Park on Friday, July 12th; odd that they’d talk about bicycling without inviting any bicycle advocates. Claiming the sun was in his eyes doesn’t absolve a driver for running into a cyclist, after all. Bike SGV will host a Bike Train BBQ and Celebration on Sunday, June 30th. The Pomona Valley Bike Coalition invites you to bike and hike Fish Canyon Falls this Saturday. CLR Effect has had it with salmon cyclists and cell phone talking girls with one hand on the handlebars.

The Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee —NBBMPOC? Would that be pronounced Nubbumpoc? — meets at 5 pm on Monday. The San Diego Velodrome honors fallen cyclist Jackie Drake. San Diego’s Imperial Beach will soon get a bike path adjacent bikeway village. NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan urges bold action to remake the streets of San Francisco. Probably not a good idea to crash into a motorcycle cop making a traffic stop. A planned bike path around Lake Tahoe moves another mile closer to completion. Sure, an Oroville man killed three people with a shotgun and set their bodies on fire in a stolen car, but at least he rode a bike back from the dump site.

The Bike League looks at laws requiring bike riders to use separated bikeways. People for Bikes offers advice for successful group rides. Rutger’s famed bicycling professor John Pucher says riding in Seattle is worse than Manhattan. A Seattle public radio station asks if bikes could be part of the answer in disaster; all I know is, zombies can’t eat your brains if they can’t catch you — or if you’re wearing a bike helmet, for that matter. Turns out my hometown is first runner-up for most bike-friendly city in Colorado; tell ‘em to call me if they ever want to be #1. An Iowa man survives 28 years in the Marine Corps only to be killed riding his bike. A writer bizarrely claims 100-mile group rides represent the Chicago’s craziest bicycling subculture; dude, it’s only crazy if you’ve never done it. A Chicago bike lawyer discusses whether you need insurance when you ride. Maine cyclists decry a pro-motorist bias. Seriously, do we need a stock report on the car brand driven by a hit-and-run driver embedded in a story about his New Jersey bicycling victim’s death? Bike funding is under attack once again, this time in Pennsylvania.

Bicycling is up an estimated 7% worldwide. Trek gets back into big time bike racing, buying the RadioShack-Leopard team for next year, which means we can now pronounce it trek instead of lee-o-pard. Aside from the headline, a Vancouver writer makes some good points about scofflaw cyclists. A sidewalk-riding Canadian cyclist faces hit-and-run charges in the death of a pedestrian. A London writer asks why drivers are in such a hurry to kill bicyclists. In the face of a nearly 20% increase in cycling fatalities over the last five years, it’s time for real government action in Scotland. Bicycling collisions are up an alarming 64% in one Indian state. An enterprising Japanese bike thief auctions bikes off before stealing them back.

Finally, a bike-hating victim-blaming Charleston writer claims you’re more likely to die commuting by bike, so let’s not do anything to make it safer or encourage it; actually, your risk of dying in a car is nearly twice as high on a per hour basis, so maybe we should stop encouraging that, instead. Meanwhile, Toronto police says doorings are like a sunny day.

And there’s nothing like flatting in the hood on the way back from CicLAvia.

Catching up on CicLAvia, bike lawyer Dj Wheels unmasked, and I meet one of my few bike heroes

People have been asking me what I plan to say about Sunday’s CicLAvia to the Sea.

At this point, not much.

As a result of the delay caused by this week’s breaking news, others have already offered the insights I was going to give, and in some cases, better than I would have done.

Like this one for instance, in which a USC professor pretty much took the words right out of my mouth.

No, go ahead and read it.

I’ll wait.

………

One of the highlights of any CicLAvia is running into friends along the way.

And this one certainly didn’t disappoint, offering a chance to catch up with former LACBC board member Chet Kostrzewa, who followed up with some insights that might never have occurred to me.

I wanted to pass on some of my own thoughts and observations I made, while teaching basic bike skills to a group of very young riders and watching the inspiring sight of upwards of 150,000 people enjoying taking the street for those few hours. CicLavia has very quickly grown to be an institution, an event to look forward to and count on as an antidote to the traffic fatigue that too many of us endure on a daily basis. As inspirational as CicLavia has become, however, what seems to me to be missing is an inherent motivator in the event that empowers people to see this as a game changer in their lives and not just a rare distraction from the routine on our streets. The sad reality is that starting the next morning and succeeding days until the following CicLavia, River Ride or other bike event, only a very small fraction of those bikes will be getting much new mileage on them.

There are probably as many good reasons to ride regularly and to ride often as there were bicyclists between downtown and Venice yesterday, here is a short list that came to my mind from talking to a variety of bicyclists yesterday:

  1. All the young riders I coached yesterday were, without exception, excited about riding their bikes and taking the challenge of trying out new skills. Unfortunately, without a broad based bicycle skills curriculum in our schools, such learning opportunities offer only a single snapshot in what should be a gradual and incremental development process. The challenge and opportunity here, would be for the parents of these beginning riders to take on the task of role model and long term coach, guiding their development over an extended period toward becoming fully street smart and confident cyclists. The game changer for these parents is to improve their own skills, such as through a confident cycling class, such as taught by League Certified Instructors (LCIs) from the League of American Bicyclists.
  2. While teaching beginning cyclists during CicLavia, I had the opportunity to talk to parents and other adults who stopped to comment and, in some cases, ask for tips to improve their own cycling experience. Many of these casual riders were on bikes that were clearly poorly maintained and which did not fit their riders. One woman I spent some time coaching started our conversation by complaining about how physically difficult the ride down Venice Blvd. was for her. It was quickly evident that her immediate problem was that she had no idea how to shift out of the highest gear on her bike. Her total exposure to cycling was to drag her rusting bike out for just one or two days a year and muscle her way through just a few miles in high gear, before calling it quits until the next CicLavia. With a basic tune up and brief lesson on how to use her bike, it would be a small step to an easy game changer. Instead of just dragging the bike out for those very rare occasions, find weekly opportunities to make a bike ride special. Maybe breakfast out on Sunday morning by bike, or a short daily ride as a stress busting habit right after the evening commute home.
  3. Use technology to facilitate riding and as a feedback tool to improve your riding and fitness level. A basic bike computer provides a wealth of data to measure your results, while providing a tool for setting new goals for improvement. Other technology makes it increasingly easy to insert a bicycle in place of a car in our daily routines. The bus bike racks and increasing number of bike lockers along key transport routes make it easy and economical to start to use a bike for part of all of a commute. Recent bike design technology, such as the highly engineered folding bikes Tern Bicycles was demonstrating at CicLavia make it possible to take your bike with you anywhere. This opens a whole new world of bicycling opportunities, whether as part of a daily routine, or an easy way to enhance a vacation getaway. The game changer here is to realize that technology makes the bicycling experience more flexible, convenient and economical in many scenarios than the typical paradigm of transport being limited to where your car can take you along with a just a few additional blocks you can conveniently walk once you get there.

CicLavia is a fantastic enabler to get rarely used bicycles out of garages and on the road. All most of us need is just a little help and a couple of mental and physical tools to experience a major paradigm shift to move the bicycle from a toy of last resort to become a key tool for enhancing our daily lives. Hopefully a few other of the 150,000 on Venice Blvd yesterday are having similar thoughts tonight and will be changing the urban roadscape in the days and weeks ahead.

………

Another friend I ran into along the way was someone most readers of this blog should know by now, at least by his bike de plume.

Dj Wheels has been a key contributor here for the past several years, offering legal updates and insights on many of the cases involving bicyclists.

It was Wheels who broke the news that Christine Dahab had pleaded guilty and was going to jail; in fact, he told me she started her 90 day evaluation behind bars on Monday.

And it was Wheels who reported from inside the courtroom in the trial of road raging L.A. bike boogeyman Dr. Christopher Thompson, enabling me to scoop the major media and break the news to the world when he was convicted.

So I’ve long been frustrated that I couldn’t tell you who he really is while a court case he was involved in dragged through the legal system. But Sunday, he let me know the case was finally finished.

And I was free, finally, to reveal his identity.

Granted, it may not be a big secret in some circles of the Los Angeles cycling community, where he has long been a popular member.

But for those who don’t know, allow me to introduce Daniel F. Jimenez, Esq.

Jimenez is one of the few lawyers I know who has made bike law his specialty, rather than just an area of practice. And unlike many lawyers, he doesn’t limit the cases he takes on to potentially high-payout liability lawsuits.

Yes, he takes the cases of injured cyclists on a contingency basis, just like most other lawyers. But he has also represented riders in everything from criminal cases to simple traffic violations, and even defended a rider who collided with a pedestrian and was being sued for the injuries he suffered.

Southern California cyclists are lucky to have a number of excellent bike lawyers; I can personally recommend many of the men and women you’ll find listed over there on the right.

But any time someone asks me for a good lawyer to represent a bike rider, you can bet that Daniel Jimenez will be on the list.

………

The Times offers a look at CicLAvia and decides it gives L.A. a small town feel, even though some motorists grumble; then again, I’d grumble too if I was stuck in my car when so many Angelenos were out having fun. Many people complained about the bike congestion caused by closing just half of Venice for CicLAvia; outgoing Councilmember Bill Rosendahl says plans are already in the works to repeat CicLAvia to the Sea next year — and this time, with both sides closed to vehicular traffic.

Streetsblog offers a lively discussion of the day, and notes that for some it was more than just fun. For others, it was the smells that were most memorable. Even the Mayor rode on Venice once again, this time without falling down. Leading mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti rode at CicLAvia; if opponent Wendy Gruel was there, I haven’t seen any sign of it yet. Flying Pigeon offers suggestions to make L.A.’s happiest day even better. A road racer does her first CicLAvia and asks WTF just happened? KPCC’s Larry Mantle talks CicLAvia with co-founder and Executive Director Aaron Paley.

And clearly, the Stoopidtall bike was the hit of the day.

………

Finally, I’m not much on heroes.

I learned early in life that they too often turn out to be human, and so, likely to let you down. See Armstrong, Lance; Hart, Gary.

But one exception has always been track cyclist and US Bicycle Hall of Fame member Nelson Vails, who captured a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics and helped prove that Americans — and African-Americans — could hold their own at the highest levels of the traditionally white European sport.

So excuse me if I was just a little awed — rather than merely odd, which I freely confess to — when I ran into Eastside bike advocate Carlos Morales, the new owner of Stan’s Bike Shop in Monrovia. And he introduced me to the man sitting next to him in the bike car they rode at CicLAvia.

And if Nelson Vails wants to give a shout out to his friends at Stan’s, far be it from me to say no.

Guest post: A review of high-intensity rear lights for improved safety, day or night

Awhile back, OC cyclist Mark Goodley wrote a guest post calling for cyclists to ride with ultra bright bike lights both day and night for increased safety, following his own near-fatal riding collision

At the time, he mentioned he was working on a review of some of the brightest lights on the market, which would be easily visible in daylight. So I offered to post his review once he got it finished. 

And here is it, representing an exceptional amount of work and out-of-pocket expense.

……..

STAY WELL LIT and You Won’t be HIT!!!

In other words

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY And night”

A Bicycle Light Review

By Mark D. Goodley

Introduction: As a quick start; I was hit and almost killed last year by a car making an illegal turn… I was a lucky survivor. Many are not so fortunate. Even though I ride an average of 10K miles/yr., I’d never been a bike advocate or activist before; but seeing your own blood draining onto the street changes you. Within weeks of being released from the hospital, I started looking for a solution to the carnage. We had two more fatalities the next month further raising the stakes. What was the most expedient, reliable, and cost effective mechanism to preventing/stopping the fatalities?

You can say and preach all you want about driver and rider safety and education, but the truth is, you’re never going to get to every driver or rider. There had/has to be other options. I looked in all directions and researched numerous possibilities, and one statistic I found leapt out against all the others… To date, I have not found one, not a single fatality, hit from behind accident, (which out number all other cycling fatality accidents 2:1), when the cyclist was riding with today’s ultra bright rear lights turned on… that started me on the trek…  If you can give the driver 5-10 seconds (.1-.2 tenths of a mile at highway speeds) advance warning of your presence, you will not (at least statistically) have problems. In fact, from my and many others reported experiences, most every driver that passes you will appreciate the simple and effective “heads up” warning.

Cutting directly to the chase scene: Wear multiple ultra brite lights, day and night..  As a good rule of thumb; If  you can look directly at the light, it’s not even close to being brite enough. All the lights in this article are retina searing, some, more  than others.

The bottom line is, that after many months of searching police and sheriff records following my accident this past June, I still can’t find one rear end cycling fatality where the rider had ultra-bright rear lights flashing at the time of the accident. That is an impressive statistic to say the least; and one that no cyclist should ignore, take lightly, nor not heed.

Abstract:

Determining which rear end lights were most effectively seen, day and night by drivers. There are many dozens of lights to choose from. Which lights can be seen most easily? Which are the best Price/Performance options?

The minimum lighting standard I set for inclusion in this review was the light must be clearly visible flashing, in the daytime  .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile). At highway/road speeds, that represents between 10 and 20 seconds warning to the driver. An eternity in reaction time, and an early warning system to drivers.

A total of only 11 lights met this criteria, many more did not. Any of these lights will greatly enhance your chances of staying alive on the road. But there are profound differences between Good, Better, and Best, as you will see.

Prices ranged from $25-$200.

I intentionally did not make it easy to meet this standard. For the visibility tests, I chose early morning, around 8-8:30AM, bright cloudless days, when the sun was low on the horizon. The lights were placed roughly only 10 degrees east (North) of being directly into the sun. This is exactly the time when most cyclists have been killed, early morning or late afternoon, riding towards the sun.

Determining which is the best light is impossible. It would be the same as saying which bicycle is the “best.” Everyone has their own needs and budget. What works best for Fred doesn’t for Wilma, etc.

Please note, that as a matter of practical usage, ALL lights/batteries tested were rechargeable, in one manner or another. The intent was/is to take the typically heard excuse for not using lights, “I didn’t want to run my batteries down”, completely out of the equation.  Some lights were tested with rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, while others were USB rechargeable… In any case, no one can use that excuse again. Lights that did not have a rechargeable option were not tested, and in fact, are being erased from the market.

A power meter

A power meter

One light characteristic and function that becomes important to note to the reader is “lensing.” A light can appear to be extremely bright from one angle, but quickly loses effectiveness only a few degrees off this primary angle. To further complicate matters, more LED’s in a light may or may not be perceived as brighter, depending upon the relative photon count coming out from the individual LEDs. Therefore every light is a compromise of LED brightness, lensing focus brightness, viewable angle brightness, # of LEDs, and battery runtime.

P1020098

Testing LED lights is technically challenging. Numerous methods have been used over several decades. For this study I roughly followed the Modified Allard method for effective intensity. This calibrated protocol was combined with visual comparisons at .1 mile and .25 mile. The  empirical results of these protocols, were averaged.

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Next, while the flashing color red denotes a heightened state of awareness in our minds, red lenses typically reduce overall perceived power by a significantly large factor. Again, everything is a compromise. Lastly; runtime of each light was tested and noted. The minimum was approx. 2 hours, which is usually acceptable  for a commuter who can and will recharge their lights at work, but not so good for the road cyclist who’s putting in 4-6 hours, and will be left unprotected.

Lastly,  note that all lights were paid for. None were “donated.” I wanted to eliminate any potential or possibility of the results being questioned or perceived as “bought” or “mailed in.” When multiples of light from a given mfg were tested, some were purchased at a discount which was appreciated to save my personal wallet a bit, but all were bought. Many of the lights were purchased at retail, multiples from some mfg’s.

  1. Best Overall Combined Brightest Light
  2. Best Price/Performance Light
  3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light
  4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)
  5. Best Commuter Light

So, due to the large number of variables in testing, it seemed fairest to set several categories to list the order of finish, and “award” the winner, and hence for you to choose from: Each light has its own Strength and Weaknesses. What’s important to note is that all lights in this review passed the most basic of tests: Can the light be clearly seen flashing by a driver from a minimum of .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile)?

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance.  You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible.  The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance. You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible. The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

Quickly (skip this paragraph if not interested in testing protocols).

How do you test for brightness? This is not as EZ as it map first appear. There are numbers of industrial, military, auto, and FAA lighting standards, and none for cycling. I chose to loosely follow the Modified Allard method which is the most common, and augment the approach with visual confirmation. This incorporates very high end testing equipment such a Lab spheres, CCD spectrometers, Optical power meters, and finally, after the numbers were in; good ole’ eyeballs. Lights were tested by observers at .1 mile and then at .23 mile, both directly line of sight, and then approx.. 30 deg. off axis center line. All lights were tested with full charges, either from their own USB batteries, or fully charged Li+ rechargeable purchased from Costco. Lights and mounts were weighed and noted in grams.

For a complete analysis description, protocol, data taken, etc., please see website or write.

Newport Corporation

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

LabSphere

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

1.  The Top 11 lights tested (in OVERALL combined viewpoint- Brightest order)

  • DINOTTE 300L $200 USD This light is very bright (though not the brightest) from all possible viewing angles.  It also has the longest battery life, USB rechargeable, and nicest flashing pattern. It suffers in cost and weight.
  • SERFAS TL-60  $60USD WOW doesn’t seem to do justice to this little dynamo. Placing first in brightness both on the meters and visually, USB rechargeable, decent runtime, weight and EZ mounting options for frame and helmet. This guy was the surprise entry. Suffers only in viewing angle. Ride with two or three and you’re set.
  • NIGHTRIDER Solas USB http://www.niterider.com/ This is a Great Light. A Very Bright, and Very Well built light.  This  was the third brightest light. The light angle spread is wider than most of the others, including the TL-60 above it. The design works well on both helmet and frame. I used electricians tape to cap off the end when using it on my helmet. Can’t go wrong here.
  • PLANET BIKE Turbo Super Flash $30USD I’ve bought at least half of dozen of these over the years… They’re reliable, bright, good flashing patter, affordable, run forever, and EZ to mount. Close on the Price/Performance curve, but not in the same brightness category as the two above it.
  • CATEYE Rapid 5 This all-time favorite is historically one of the best lights ever manufactured and set the standard for many years, and can still holds its own.
  • NIGHTRIDER Cherry Bomb  Another strong entry from NightRider, not in the same briteness category as the others above, but a good light nonetheless. A very nice light, extremely well built, you can feel the quality of everything about this light.
  • BONTRAGER Flare Nothing wrong with this guy,  good briteness, just not in the same category as the first few… Good mount and EZ to use.
  • PLANET BIKE Super Flash My defacto standard for many years and still a very reliable, long running worker… Briteness has been passed in the last year by it’s Turbo sibling and the others above.
  • SERFAS Thunderbolt Yellow; SERFAS Thunderbolt Red These two lights have taken the world by storm. Instead of a string of singular, tightly focused LED bulbs, the Thunderbolts utilizes an entirely different technology emphasizing a new Wide Beam approach. Although not as intrinsically bright as the top entries, the Wide Beam pattern really gets your attention as you get closer… and it’s the only light tested that is meant to be attached to the seat stays and forks… This light is a revolution. It suffers only in runtime, about 2 hours, which is more than enough for most commuters, but not in the running for road cyclist needs.
  • CATEYE Rapid 3 A decent light in a pinch and fine at night. But nowhere in the same category as the above top Escalon. It just barely made the minimum criteria.

2. Best Price/Performance Light

3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light

4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)

  • THUNDERBOLT Pair of RED/YELLOW

5. Best Commuter Light Conclusion:

  • THUNDERBOLT RED/YELLOW COMBINED
  • TL-60
  • CATEYE Rapid 5
  • ALL the ABOVE
Pic below; from top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

From top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

While any of these lights will greatly increase the odds of avoiding mishaps on the road and help to SAVE YOUR Life, there is a definite pecking order…  Buy the best that your wallet can afford. Increasing Brightness means early warning distance, and distance means time to avoid you.

I highly recommend riding with multiple flashing lights. You will not be missed. One on your helmet, one on your seat post pointed level, slightly to the left towards traffic (to the right in UK), and at least one on your back seat stay. If you wear a backpack, at least one if not two more.

 List Review Spreadsheet  
  Mfg Model BRITENESS Retail Weight Battery Runtime
    RATING 1-5 $ USD      
DINOTTE 300L

4.5

200

  USB 4 hr+
SERFAS TL-60

5

60

  USB 4 hr+
NIGHT RIDER SOLA

4

45

  USB 4+ hr.
PLANET BIKE SUPER FLASH TURBO

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
CATEYE RAPID 5

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
BONTRAGER FLAIR

2.5

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
SERFAS THUNDERBOLT

2

45

  USB 120 min
NIGHT RIDER CHERRY BOMB 1 W

2

25

  AAA 4+ hr.
 
Mark D. Goodley
USA Cycling Pro Race Mechanic
markdgoodley@aol.com

Today’s post, in which I post elsewhere

Just a quick note.

I’ll be writing a series of articles on bicycling in Santa Monica for LA Streetsblog over the next several days. The first, an apology to the city and people of Santa Monica for opposing the city’s designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community, appears today; others will appear next week.

Meanwhile, no more information yet regarding the cyclist killed in San Diego last night. I’ll update the story as details become available.

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