Tag Archive for auto-centric society

Charge filed in death of bike-riding Cal Poly Pomona student Ivan Aguilar; is the university really at fault?

A bike-riding college student is dead.

The driver who took his life faces a relative slap on the wrist.

And the campus where he was killed appears to be doing little or nothing to protect cyclists on campus.

Instead, Cal Poly Pomona seems to be hiding behind California’s devastating 85th Percentile Law to justify plans to raise speed limits on campus, making it even more dangerous for anyone on foot or two wheels.

Or at least, that was the gist of a Twitter conversation I had with representatives of the school Wednesday morning.

The outpouring of grief that followed the death of Cal Poly Pomona student and cyclist Ivan Aguilar should have spurred immediate action to tame what is reportedly dangerously out of control traffic on campus, where numerous students have reported feeling unsafe walking or biking.

Yet four months later, no changes have been made to protect students and faculty — not even on the street where Aguilar lost his life. And none are currently planned.

In fact, the school’s new 2013 traffic study doesn’t even include the words bicycle, bicyclist or pedestrian, according to a story by Beau Yarbrough in the Daily Bulletin.

Kind of makes it hard to make meaningful improvements when nothing is considered except speeding motor vehicle traffic flow.

Although to be fair, they have talked about bikes.

Key word being, talked.

But traffic plans that don’t even consider non-motorized transportation show just how out of touch campus leaders are. And how far the school has to go to make it safe for anyone, let alone everyone, whether on two feet, two wheels or four.

Apparently, those students are right to be afraid.

Especially when the death of a popular and promising young man leads to nothing more serious than a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of just one year in county jail.

According to the Daily Bulletin, CPP Civil Engineering student Gonzalo Aranguiz Salazar will face a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.

In other words, pretty much the mildest charge authorities could file under the circumstances, while still holding someone accountable for the death.

Is that justice?

I have no idea.

I’ve yet to see any description from any source of how the collision occurred. No word whatsoever on how fast the driver was going, or if he broke any traffic laws leading up to the impact with Aguilar.

Apparently, it’s on a need to know basis.  And no one with knowledge of the investigation seems to think you or I need to know.

We’re just expected to accept that the charges are fair and appropriate given the top secret circumstances.

Sort of like we’re supposed to trust that campus administrators have the safety of their students at heart, on a campus that does not include a single inch of bicycling infrastructure.

Beverly Hills, meet your collegiate counterpart.

In all honesty, I’m not sure Salazar is the one who should be facing charges.

But you can’t charge a college with living in the auto-centric past and favoring motorists at the expense of every other road user. As much as it may be deserved.

But something tells me Cal Poly Pomona won’t make the list of bicycle-friendly universities anytime soon.

Update: Gottobike forwards a quote from American bike racer Ted King that seems oddly appropriate to this discussion:

It is impossible to find solutions when you’re busy making excuses.

And Boyonabike reminds me of something I let slide from the Daily Bulletin story about the Salazar charge, and shouldn’t have. 

The story quotes Megan Chaney, director of Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Law at the University of La Verne College of Law, explaining why a misdemeanor charge may be appropriate in this case.

“A lot of time when somebody plows into somebody in a crosswalk or an intersection, it’s just an accident,” Chaney said Wednesday. “We put the onus, the responsibility on the driver, not the pedestrian, unless they’ve done something really horrible….”

“You’re allowed to look at the radio; that’s why you’ve got a radio. You drop your water bottle and look down to pick it up,” she said. “You really weren’t acting with any sort of criminal culpability. “

That’s the problem.

As a society, we’ve chosen not to hold drivers responsible for all but the most extreme actions behind the wheel. The collisions that result from carelessness, distraction or relatively minor violations of the law are excused as mere accidents, and left for the insurance companies to deal with, with little or no consequences for the drivers involved.

And that’s why we continue to have 30,000 +/- deaths on American streets each year.

It may be the current legal standard. 

But actions that result in the death or serious injuries of others should never be accepted. Or excused. Motor vehicles are, by their very nature, dangerous machines, and their operators can and should be expected to use the same caution behind the wheel that we expect from those involved in any other hazardous situation.

When life is taken more seriously than simple convenience on our streets, then — and only then — will anyone be safe on our streets.

Maybe Cal Poly Pomona doesn’t care how many students die if they get to raise the speed limits

Evidently one dead cyclist isn’t enough, as a new Cal Poly Pomona traffic study completely ignores bike and pedestrian safety.

In fact, the study — released under a Freedom of Information request — actually urges raising speed limits for motor vehicles, rather than doing anything to encourage non-motorized transportation. Or protect the lives and safety of those who bravely choose to use it in spite of the campus administration’s apparent disregard for anyone who travels on less than four wheels.

According to an article in the Daily News,

The words “bicycle,” “bicyclist” and “pedestrian” do not appear anywhere in the 2013 traffic study document.

It’s the same story with the 2006-2007 traffic study, which was released a year after student Matthew Myers was struck and killed in a crosswalk on Kellogg Drive, a tenth of a mile west of University Drive, across from Parking Lot F-9…

The article quotes the university’s Executive Director of Public Affairs as saying people just don’t understand how difficult it is to add speed bumps or bike lanes on campus, saying a simple bike lane on Kellogg Drive would cause traffic to back up onto I-10.

Right.

Give me a brush and a bucket of paint, and I’ll show them just how easy it is.

It’s shameful when a major university, which is supposed to be dedicated to critical thinking, can’t manage to look past their own dangerously outdated auto-centric windshield perspective to develop safety solutions that would benefit everyone on, arriving to or leaving campus.

And then manages to talk out of both sides of their mouths by promising to improve bike and pedestrian safety while proposing to place students and staff even more at the mercy of motor vehicles by to increasing speeds on campus and refusing to lift a finger to calm traffic.

Seriously, if I was a parent, I would think twice about sending my child to a school that evidently doesn’t give a damn about the safety of their students. Especially the ones who choose not to travel by motor vehicle.

There are plenty of other California colleges and universities that do.

Maybe the students and faculty need to stop calling for improved safety. And demand a school administration that gets it, instead.

Thanks to Erik Griswold for the link.

………

On the first day of New York’s new bike share program, a writer for the self-proclaimed supportive but failure-fearing Daily News seems to like it, while another suggests the city will probably survive — even if the program doesn’t include helmets. Meanwhile, the frequently anti-bike New York Post gleefully announced the first Citi Bike bicycle theft occurred before the bike could even be installed. A protester claims Paris would never put a bike share station in front of the Louvre, but a photo proves him wrong. A writer for London’s Guardian says the clumsy Mikes Bikes just make him want a less clumsy one of his own. And the Times calls it a tie in four races across town.

The program is even popular with the city’s candidates for mayor, who have fallen over themselves in criticizing Bloomberg’s efforts to increase cycling facilities. And two days in, calamity has yet to strike.

The world hasn’t come to an end, either.

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An Indiegogo campaign has two weeks left to raise $3000 to send an eight-member foster family to CicLAvia.

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Local cyclist Weshigh captures a dangerous driver on video, as the jerk — which seems to be the mildest word appropriate to the situation — passes a small group of cyclists on their right using the parking lane, then flips them off as he drives away. Before getting stuck in traffic, that is, allowing them to capture his license number.

Maybe it’s just me, but I swear I can hear lawyers lining up to try out L.A.’s still untested cyclist anti-harassment ordinance.

………

The next in an endless series of community meetings to discuss planned bike lanes in Northeast L.A. takes place on Monday, June 3rd. Despite the hysteria over bike lanes in NELA., the fire department isn’t concerned. A business owner says parking is the real problem in Eagle Rock, not bike lanes. The top 22 bike stories so far in 2013; L.A. checks in at #19. Boyonabike — quoted in the Daily News article that kicks off today’s post — examines the recent LACBC panel discussion I participated in, along with the Bike Safe guide it promoted. Glendale could see $57 million in improvements, including new bicycle facilities throughout the city. Learn to ride safely in Long Beach this Sunday. Long Beach plans to separate bike riders and pedestrians on the beach bike path, which oddly brings opposition from beach advocates.

The Inland Empire checks in as the nation’s 6th most deadly areas for cyclists and pedestrians. Get $5000 to design and build an artistic bike rack, as Palm Springs works to become bike friendlier. While L.A. worries about protecting Hollywood locations instead of cyclists, San Diego riders get their fourth green bike lane in just weeks, including this good looking lane on Montezuma Road; thanks to Monet Diamonte for the heads-up. A series of bike corrals is coming to Coronado. A Fresno bike trail with get an underpass beneath a busy street, a year too late to save a seven-year old bike rider. Meanwhile, a 19-year old Fresno State student is killed in a collision with a big rig, while the battle over Fresno bike lanes goes on. NorCal’s MonkeyLectric ups their game with the programmable Monkey Light Pro wheel light system; I’m a big fan of their earlier, non-programmable Mini Monkey Light, which offers a fun, playful way to not get run over at night.

How not to buy a bike in seven steps. So much for contrition, as Lance still hasn’t said “I’m sorry” to the people he bullied or for the lives he ruined. An Everett WA writer says watch out for passer-aggressive motorists. Your guide to riding in Colorado; even I only did some of these rides when I lived there. Despite a significant decline in Colorado traffic fatalities, cycling deaths are going the wrong way — up 44% since 2002. Denver bike thieves are caught on camera. Signup begins for Chicago’s upcoming bike share. Boston researchers find helmet laws reduce deaths and injuries for riders under 16 by 20%, but fail to consider possible reductions in ridership levels that could more than account for their findings; oddly, though, it appears you actually have to wear one before it does any good. One of my favorite bike bloggers is now the proud owner of a new Boston bike shop. Florida’s governor shoots down a planned 275-mile cross-state bike and pedestrian trail.

Mexican TV shames people for driving in the bike lane; I wish someone would do that here. A Canadian writer points the finger at those murderous, spandex-clad cyclists speeding down the bike path; yes, you and I are apparently the root of all evil. Or maybe it’s just me. A British Columbia bike rider apparently collides with a pedestrian before fatally falling in front of a bus. A Victoria writer says the road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it doesn’t have bike lanes. An Ontario driver gets 4-1/2 years for killing a cyclist while binging on coke. A Toronto bike commuter rants after a close call while riding. Top Gear’s frequent anti-bike ranter Jeremy Clarkson has become one of us, but still can’t resist a few digs. A London study shows free parking is less important than most retailers think. A quick-thinking London cyclist saves a toddler from drowning in the Thames. Police suspect a Brit fixie rider of bike theft because he wasn’t wearing Lycra. Another favorite sometimes bike blogger explains why Scot cyclists pedaled on Parliament. Biking in Britain is actually safer than you might think. Ten lessons from this year’s Giro, including the indisputable fact that 2013 winner Vincenzo Nibali is a badass. A careless Kiwi driver crashes into a kids bike safety class.

Finally, if you’re already facing a life sentence for having three strikes under Louisiana’s habitual offender law, don’t ride on the sidewalk with marijuana in your shoe and coke in your hat. Although I have to admit, that’s about the flimsiest excuse for a probable-cause pat down I’ve ever heard.

And an 11-year old astutely observes “When you drive, the Earth smokes.”

Casting a critical eye on Times columnist Sandy Banks’ Wilbur Ave auto-centric bias

You didn’t really think I was going to forget about Sandy Banks, did you?

CicLAvia may have pushed her recent one-sided column about the Wilbur Avenue road diet to the back burner. But far from out of mind.

There it was on Saturday morning, on the second page of the L.A. Times — the same paper that recently flaunted their new journalistic standards by replacing their front page with an ad for Law & Order Los Angeles.

And don’t get me started on the entirely inappropriate photo that accompanied Banks column.

Maybe all the paper’s photographers had the weekend off. Or maybe they were stuck in Valley traffic and couldn’t make it back in time to meet the paper’s new early press deadline.

Still, I expected better from her.

Her column usually focuses on feel-good stories about her family life, or those of ordinary Angelenos trying to make it in this megalopolis we call home.

This time, though, it was all about her anger and frustration over the road diet that cut Wilbur from four through lanes to two, making room for a center turn lane with bike lanes on either side.

For years, Wilbur Avenue had been a free-flowing community secret, a commuter street that bypassed the congestion of Northridge’s main routes. Then a “street improvement” project last month turned our speedway into a parking lot.

It wouldn’t have taken much research to reveal that her speedway was never intended as a bypass to the Valley’s more crowded boulevards, as drivers turned what should have been a quiet, safe residential street into a cut-through throughway that only benefitted the people who don’t live there.

The road diet merely returned a little sanity to a single local street. And if that slightly inconveniences the people who don’t live on it, it’s a small price to pay to preserve the livability of the neighborhood.

Despite denials from the people who should actually know, she also suggests that the mayor’s recent Road to Damascus conversion to bike advocate may have had something to do with the sudden, unannounced striping of bike lanes — forgetting that we live in a dysfunctional city where bureaucrats seldom speak to one another, let alone the public. And even though she notes herself that bike lanes have been slated for that street since 1996.

Then again, she’s probably not the only one who was shocked that something from the ’96 bike plan actually made it onto the streets.

Despite talking to LADOT’s John Fisher and Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, she fails to mention that the actual purpose of the road diet was to slow high-speed drivers like herself and return a little sanity to Wilbur Avenue. Or that the bike lanes were added almost as an afterthought because there was finally room for them.

Instead, she based her entire column on the mistaken concept that her inconvenience was due to the city giving cyclists priority over drivers.

Like that would ever happened here.

Needless to say, she had 12th District City Councilmember Grieg Smith, who never met a speed limit he didn’t want to raise, firmly in her corner.

“Wilbur is the wrong street for this kind of improvement,” said Smith, his sarcasm clear. His district office is on Wilbur, at the bike lane’s southern terminus. “I’ve driven that street for 30 years, and I have probably seen a total of 30 bicycles on Wilbur in all that time.”

Maybe he really was blindsided by the unannounced road diet. On the other hand, you’d think a council member would be able to pick up the phone and find out what’s going on in his own district.

And why.

Instead, he responded in typical knee-jerk, car-centric, anti-bike fashion, saying that the 98% of the public who drives shouldn’t be inconvenienced for the 2% on two wheels.

Never mind that many of us do both. And a lot more might if they felt safer on the streets of the council member’s own district.

In fact, the city’s new bike plan suggests that up to half of L.A. adults ride a bike from time to time, and roughly 12% ride on at least a monthly basis.

Smith should also know, as the mayor and many of his peers on the City Council seem to have figured out, that this city can no longer afford the same failed focus on automotive throughput that has destroyed the livability of many parts of our city. By focusing all our efforts on moving more and more cars through our streets, we have created gridlocked streets, destroyed our air quality and blighted countless pass-through neighborhoods.

On the other hand, by providing effective alternatives to driving — like well-designed bike lanes, for instance — we can create a safer, more walkable, ridable and livable Los Angeles that will improve the quality of life for everyone.

What we need to do is increase our 1% share of bike commuters on the street to the nearly 6% in Portland — or even the 3% currently enjoyed by San Francisco — rather than mercilessly drive them off the streets as Smith would do.

And make it safer and more convenient for people to leave their cars at home for short errands around their own neighborhood, which currently account for nearly half of all car trips.

Then everyone would benefit from the reduced congestion.

Even drivers like Banks who feel hopelessly inconvenienced by the first baby steps to get there.

Damien Newton looks at the Wilbur Ave controversy, and embeds a report from KNBC-TV 4.

Reports indicate that last night’s Northridge West Neighborhood Council meeting did not go well for the cyclists in attendance. Word is that drivers are on the offensive, and ready to steamroll cyclists and local residents to regain their high-speed Wilbur Avenue throughway. Although how effective it would be now that they’ve told everyone about their secret speedway is another matter.

.………

Frequent Kiwi contributor the Trickster forwards a link to a fascinating Aussie study of the role of traffic violations in collisions reported to the police. In over 6,000 crashes between bikes and motor vehicles, the cyclist was found at fault in 44% of the time, while cyclists were held at fault in 66% of crashes between bikes and pedestrians. However, you may want to note that the results are based on police reports, without independent analysis of their investigations.

He also forwards a report on a study of cycling injuries in Australia that suggests efforts to improve road safety for drivers have done little to improve safety for cyclists, and that cyclists are over-represented in their share of traffic injuries and under-represented in efforts to prevent them.

.………

Still more cicLAvia news, with photos from This Girls’s Bike, a report of Grist and an out of town visitor’s view of our fair city, Metro and a car-free Sunday from Plan Bike. Meanwhile CicLAvia wants your ideas for the next one.

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The Source offers an update on Metro’s bike efforts. New bike racks at the CARECEN day labor center in MacArthur Park. Photo’s from San Diego’s Tour de Fat, which will be hitting L.A. on the 23rd. It’s back to Vegas after all for Interbike. Portland looks beyond cyclists to promote biking as an everyday means of transportation. Cycleliscious updates the Black Hawk bike ban, along with new rules for large rides in lieu of the proposed ban in St. Charles County MO. St. Louis blocks many streets already, so why not let bikes through? Crain’s New York Business asks if the city should give up on Manhattan bike lanes; so far, the vote is running 9 to 1 in favor of keeping them. It’s fall back in the midlands. After killing a cyclist, a London dump truck driver is fined £165 and forced to get new glasses.

Finally, Hermosa Beach officials want your input regarding the sharrows on Hermosa Avenue; if you’ve ridden them, you know how effective they are; if not, they’re the gold standard for what SoCal sharrows can and should be.

The nail that stands out, pt. 2

 

Feel free to copy and use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

After I put yesterday’s post online, I went out for a nice, long ride down the coast to Hermosa Beach, enjoying the ride, the sunshine and the bikinis. And those wearing them, of course.

But then, as I was nearing my home, I started kicking myself — mentally anyway; doing it physically would be kind of difficult with my feet locked into my pedals. And after 46 miles on the bike, I’m not sure I would have had the energy, anyway.

Because it occurred to me that in my response to Mr. Rowe’s letter to Rupert Murdoch’s latest acquisition, I failed to address a key point. Consider the penultimate line of his screed:

“…Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions….”

It’s a variation on the same old canard you’ll find on virtually any message board or letters column discussing cycling. Sooner or later, someone will suggest that all cyclists should a) have to study and pass a test, b) have a license, such as a driver’s license, c) have license plates, as Mr. Rowe suggests, and/or d) carry liability insurance.

The catch is, we already do.

You see, in today’s auto-centric society, most cyclists are also drivers. In fact, while I’m sure there must be some, I don’t personally know of a single cyclist over the age of 16 who does not have a driver’s license.

Which means that we have studied the rules of the road, so there is no excuse for any bicyclist not knowing the rules of the road — just as there is no excuse for any driver being unfamiliar with the traffic laws and regulations, including laws regarding cyclists’ right to the road.

We can also be ticketed, just like the operator of any other vehicle — legitimately or not. And while I have no personal knowledge of the subject, I would assume that any ticket received while cycling can result in points against the recipient’s driver’s license, under the provisions of section 21200 of the California Vehicle Code, just as they would for a driver who receives a similar citation.

And as I discovered when I was struck by a car several years ago, car insurance in this state covers the driver, not the vehicle — which means that the driver is covered when operating his or her car, or any other vehicle. Including a bicycle.

In fact, State Farm paid my entire medical bill under the uninsured driver section of my policy. And as my agent explained at the time, any other section of my policy — including liability coverage — would be equally valid, whether I was in my car, driving someone else’s car, or on my bike.

So the problem isn’t one of licensing or liability coverage. It’s just that some cyclists, like some drivers, are jerks. In fact, I’m convinced that people ride their bikes the same way they drive. If someone is a safe driver, he or she will undoubtedly be a safe cyclist, while those who drive like jerks will undoubtedly ride the same way. Just like drivers, they usually get away with it simply because there’s seldom anyone around to enforce the law.

And here in L.A., the cops usually have more important things to do than worry about whether a cyclist blew through a stop sign.

 

Will uses my new favorite word in an attempt to track down the indignorant Mr. Rowe, and sacrifices a chunk of flesh to a man-eating chainring. Next weekend’s Brentwood Gand Prix will reward competitors with a special prize for the Sex and the City crowdA lone cyclist takes to the freeway; as Richard Pryor would say, that _______’s crazy!  A town in Arkansas weighs becoming a LAB-approved bike friendly city. If only our own local cared that much; we’re still waiting for action on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

 

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