Tag Archive for bike law

Morning Links: Making up the law on PCH, Olin ghost bike goes missing, and Canyon Lake cyclist critically injured

Once again, a sheriff’s deputy is caught on video making up traffic law on PCH.

For anyone unclear on the concept — law enforcement included — bike riders are allowed to ride in the traffic lane under California law, and allowed to take the full lane if it’s not wide enough to safely share with a motor vehicle.

And there is nothing in state law banning cyclists from riding two or more abreast as long as they stay in a single, non-sharable lane on a multi-lane roadway.

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Someone has taken the ghost bike for fallen cyclist and Napster CEO Milt Olin, despite efforts of the City of Calabasas to maintain it. And still no word about the results of the investigation into Olin’s death or whether the sheriff’s deputy who killed him will face charges.

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More bad news from the Inland Empire, as a 15-year old Canyon Lake cyclist suffers critical injuries after broadsiding an SUV at the base of a steep descent. The impact was hard enough that the vehicle’s airbags deployed.

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Local

Some of DTLA’s larger new buildings feature more bike than car parking.

New LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds says it’s time to slow LA traffic to a more human scale, and may bring big changes to the city.

Meanwhile, LADOT has completed 50 miles of road diets in the last 15 years, and has finally budgeted for a citywide network of bicycle wayfinding signs.

Discovering the Ballona Creek bike path.

Sounds like fun. Metro and CICLE sponsor a Downtown LA Film History Ride on July 19th; maybe they’ll visit the Spring Street green lane gutted at the request of Hollywood filmmakers.

 

State

Newport Beach unveils the city’s draft bicycle plan, which will be under discussion when the Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee meets on Monday.

Nice. San Clemente approves a two-way bike path along the coast highway, as well as bike lanes for riders who want to remain on the roadway.

Seriously? San Diego is the only California city named to USA Today’s list of the 10 best cities for bicycling. No mention of Long Beach, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Davis, Palo Alto or any other CA towns.

 

National

Your bike is finally welcome on Amtrak.

Fading bike lanes send a message of disrespect from motorists.

A bike safety educator takes issue with the Bike League’s recent report showing 40% of bicycling fatalities over a 12-month period involved hit-from-behind collisions; thanks to Karen Karabell for the heads-up.

The feds are investigating a sabotaged Aspen CO bike trail after someone hid nail-studded boards on the path. Except it’s the Bureau of Land Management doing the investigating, not the FBI.

Life is cheap in Colorado, as a hit-and-run driver who killed a cyclist from my hometown gets four years probation and one year of work release.

A new deal could save New York’s Citi Bike bike share program.

 

International

How can you tell when police investigations are biased against bike riders? When they conclude cyclists are at fault in over three-quarters of all bike collisions.

The key to encouraging alternative transportation is to make private cars the least efficient mode of transport.

Maybe wheel-suckers don’t suck after all. Drafting cuts wind resistance up to 49%, while reducing drag for the lead rider by 5%. And it turns out shaving your legs really does make you faster.

A UK man is riding across Africa following the death of his parents from cancer.

Bicycling is booming in Bangkok, even if it puts bike riders in the danger zone.

 

Finally…

An LA cop watches as a red light-running driver threatens a pedestrian, then blames the walker for blocking the road. And no matter how mad you may be, your bike deserves better than to be thrown onto the hood of a driver’s car; maybe they can charge him with bicycle cruelty.

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Just a quick reminder. Bikes are usually the most efficient way to get in and out of your local fireworks display. Just ride with extra care, because drivers will be focused on finding that elusive parking space or beating the crowd home instead of looking for you.

Get a ticket for not signaling? Maybe you didn’t really break the law

Maybe you don’t have to signal your turns after all.

Turns out drivers don’t.

Like many Californians, I have long labored under the assumption that all road users — motorists and bicyclists alike — are required to signal every turn or lane change.

Something many, if not most, fail to do.

After all, there’s no point in tipping off total strangers about where you’re headed.

Still, it’s not uncommon for bike riders to be ticketed for failing to stick an arm out — preferably with multiple fingers extended — to let those around them know which way they’re going to go.

But as it turns out, it may not be illegal.

The section of the vehicle code that specifies our right to ride on the roadway, CVC 21200, clearly states “a person riding a bicycle… has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle….”

In other words, any law that applies to a driver applies to a bike rider. And drivers don’t have to signal their turns unless it affects other vehicles.

But don’t take my word for it. It says so right here in CVC 22107

22107.  No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

So if your turn doesn’t interfere with the movement of other road users, a signal isn’t required.

For instance, if you’re making a left turn onto a street with no vehicle traffic, there should be no legal requirement to signal. The only exception would be if there were cars in front or behind you on the first street whose movement might be affected by knowing if you’re going to turn or go straight.

Or say you’re turning right onto a street with a designated bike lane. A turn signal shouldn’t be necessary, even if there are cars on the street you’re turning onto because they aren’t legally allowed to drive in a bike lane, and therefore shouldn’t be affected by your movement.

Of course, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you won’t get a ticket for it.

But as bike lawyer Bob Mionske pointed out recently, if you get a ticket for something like that and you can afford to fight it, you probably should.

There’s a good chance that the officer who wrote the ticket won’t show up in court and the case will be dismissed. Or even if he or she does, the officer may not clearly remember the case — which is yet another reason to never argue with a cop so your case doesn’t stand out in his mind.

But assuming he does, ask the officer to diagram the location of every vehicle on the street at the time of the alleged infraction. And explain exactly which ones were affected by your failure to signal, and how.

If he can’t do it, the case should be dismissed.

Key words being, should be.

Because as we should all know by now, the courts don’t always bend over backwards to ensure justice for those of us on two wheels.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t signal your turns.

You should.

It’s smart. It’s courteous. And it’s usually safer, though there are times when prudence dictates keeping both hands on your handlebars.

And lord knows, you don’t want to argue with Prudence.

But you may not be breaking the law after all. Even if you don’t lift a finger.

Update: Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious points out that this law could be read to refer to movement of the vehicle, rather than a requirement to signal. The problem is, the law was written in the 1950s, evidently prior to the invention of punctuation, which could have clarified the meaning.

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Then again, if you ride in Alhambra, you may be breaking the law.

But only if you live there.

That city is one of a rapidly dwindling list of towns that still requires registering your bike, even if does only cost a dollar to do so.

But despite what their city ordinance says, you can’t legally be ticked for riding your bike in Alhambra if you live in another city and haven’t licensed it in the city you live in. If your city even requires it.

That’s because their law is illegal.

The section of the state vehicle code that allows cities to require bike licenses, CVC 39002, clearly states that any such licensing requirement applies only to residents of that particular city. And therefore, may not be applied to anyone biking in or through that city who doesn’t actually live there.

So you live in Alhambra and get a ticket for not licensing your bike, pay it.

If not, once again, fight it.

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Laemmle Theater president Greg Laemmle, your host for Team LACBC at Climate Ride

Laemmle Theater president Greg Laemmle, your host for Team LACBC at Climate Ride

Here’s your chance to take part in the upcoming Climate Ride for free.

And maybe even have your required fundraising done for you.

Laemmle Theaters invites you to ride along with company president and LACBC board member Greg Laemmle on the five-day fundraising ride through Northern California to benefit sustainable transit and green energy.

Four winners will have their entry fee paid as members of Team LACBC, and win a free pass for two at any Laemmle Theater for the remainder of this year.

And one of those four winners will receive the grand prize, meaning the company will contribute the minimum required fundraising amount of $2400 on your behalf.

Which means you’ll not only ride for free, but all your required fundraising will be done for you. Of course, you’re still welcome to raise more money on your own; it is a good cause, after all.

You just have to fill out the simple form on the link above, and explain why you want to ride with Greg.

Entries are due by April 5th.

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Finally, after riding through the Biking Black Hole both ways on my way too and from a meeting in Downtown L.A. on Wednesday night, I have a suggestion for their new city motto:

Beverly Hills. Where the bike lane ends.

Guest post: leading L.A. bike attorney and advocate Howard Krepack on taking the lane

There are just a handful of attorneys I’d want on my side when I need help, most of whom you can find over there on the right column.

Howard Krepack is one of those, someone I’ve come to know and respect as a friend and fellow cyclist, as well as an experienced attorney specializing in bike law and a strong supporter of our local cycling community. So when he contacted me recently to say he’d written a piece about the law behind your right to take the lane — as well as when and how to do it — I offered to let him share it here.

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Taking the Lane—It’s a Personal Decision

By Howard Krepack, Esq.
Partner, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant Felton & Goldstein, LLP

Bicycling safety is all about balance and control, particularly when it comes to taking the lane. Sharing the road with motorists can be a breeze or a nightmare; you can do a lot to shape that reality for yourself.

Taking the lane makes you more visible to motorists by basically becoming one of them. It enables an approaching driver to spot you, slow down as necessary and pass you as if you were a car. If you are hugging the shoulder, many drivers will pass you too quickly and/or too closely. In addition, motorists are often preoccupied with other things—the phone, the radio, their passengers—to pay a great deal of attention to the cyclist riding near the curb (drifting to the shoulder is common for inattentive drivers).  Taking the lane also helps alleviate your chances of being caught in a right hook when a motorist makes a right turn.

The California Vehicle Code tackles the topic in Section 21202—Position in Traffic. It reads as follows:

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

But, just because taking the lane is legal and oftentimes optimal, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. It is as much of a mental act as a physical one, and shouldn’t be done until you are comfortable putting yourself in that situation.

Even then, there are cases when balancing the legality with the reality doesn’t add up to taking the lane. For instance, when vehicular traffic is moving at 45 mph or more, a bicyclist traveling at 20 mph will be seen as a nuisance at best (with the possible accompanying road rage that implies) and an unseen victim at worst.

We live in a car-centric society where infrastructure improvements that would increase bicycling safety are slow in coming. Grassroots, non-profit groups are making great strides, but until cities and governmental agencies get on board in earnest, bicyclists will still be considered second-class citizens. Needed changes include:

  • An increase in the length and number of bike lanes and sharrows.
  • Keeping road shoulders clear of debris and obstacles.
  • Utilizing proper/appropriate signage to warn bicyclists of road conditions and hazards.
  • A better understanding on the part of public safety officers about the vehicle code as it pertains to bicyclists.
  • Public awareness that bicyclists and motorists share the same responsibilities and rights to the road.
  • Motorists adhering to the rules of the road.
  • Bicyclists adhering to the rules of the road.
  • Motorists and bicyclists treating each other with common courtesy.

Just like taking the lane, it’s all about balance and control.

(The law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of those who have suffered serious injuries on or off the job. Partner Howard Krepack, an avid bicyclist, leads the firm’s bicycle accident practice. For more information about our firm, call us at 213-739-7000 or visit our website: www.geklaw.com.)

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I welcome guest posts, whether you’re a leading bike attorney or just a cyclist with something to say. And whether or not you agree with what I have to say — or vice versa.

So if you’d like to share your thoughts with your fellow cyclists on any bike-related subject, email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

Monday morning links: Calling all lawyers, bike plan hearings, share the road — or not

When I was injured in a road rage incident, I had a hard time finding a lawyer to represent me.

I needed an attorney who understood bicycling, but had no idea how to find one. The lawyers I called either had no experience in bike cases, or had no interest in taking a small case with no serious injuries — and no hope of a large settlement.

And no one I called was willing to challenge the LAPD over a flawed investigation that let a violent assault go unpunished, and left a dangerous driver free to do it again.

Of course, that was over 10 years ago.

Now we have a more responsive police department, taking the hard steps to change their culture and be more protective of bike riders. We also have a more activist bike community, ready and willing to step up to defend our rights.

And we have more lawyers who’ve handled bike cases — or who ride themselves and understand how bikes work and collisions happen.

In the next few days, I’ll be adding a section of links to lawyers who represent cyclists in civil, criminal and/or traffic cases. I know a few personally, and have already received their permission to include them.

But if you’re a lawyer with experience in bike cases who wants to be included — at no charge — or you know someone who fits that description, email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

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KPCC reports on the hearings for the L.A. bike plan; upcoming sessions will be held on the Westside on Wednesday, South L.A. on Thursday and in the Valley on Saturday, with an online session at 11:30 am Wednesday.

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Famed framebuilder Dave Moulton says we need to share the road, too, citing weekend stories about embarrassing bicyclist behavior. Meanwhile, an Ohio lawyer says if you have the right of way, you don’t have to share, period; link courtesy of Baltimore Spokes.

Note: one of the articles Moulton cites discusses bike riders who blow through red lights when pedestrians are in the crosswalk. For anyone still unclear on the concept, people on foot are the only road users more vulnerable than cyclists. And they should always, always, always get the right of way — even when they’re wrong.

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Will finds a source for those hard-to-find cable clamps, as well as a builder for his next fixie. Glendale counts cyclists and pedestrians over the weekend. After a year-long experiment, opinion on Santa Rosa’s bicycle boulevard is evenly split. San Francisco’s Critical Mass reaches legal age. Bicycling takes a ride on the rare Pederson bike. A cyclist is killed in a hit-and-run in Tulare County while walking his bike on the shoulder of the road. Nearly 5,000 cyclists take part in the semi-annual Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride.

Only one segment remains to be completed in an off-road bikeway along I-70 through the Colorado Rockies. Lance joins in on a charity ride in Aspen. On Friday, Maryland will become a lot more bike-friendly. Boston letter writers say enough with the bike bashing. Over 3,000 cyclists converge for Tour de Troit, “just like Amsterdam, with helmets.” A Tulsa-based convenience store chain finds humor in angry drivers trapped behind a slow cyclist; or at least, they think it’s funny.

The Vancouver Sun jumps into the debate over whether cyclists pay for their fair share of the road, finding that bike riders subsidize drivers, not the other way around; readers offer their take, as well. A Vancouver cab driver says late night lightless riders put themselves at risk. One of Toronto’s anti-bike lane mayoral candidates suddenly supports ‘em after all. Despite the high number of biking deaths in London, cycling deaths in the UK dropped 10% in 2009. A woman gets off with probation for intentionally running her biking boyfriend off the road. Turns out London cyclists are honest, after all, but authorities predict a 41% increase in bike thefts for one British city. Two Scotch riders with nearly identical names suffer identical injuries just days apart. Bikes for Bush provides free bikes for children in the Australian Bush; three carbon bikes hand-painted by indigenous artists will be auctioned to raise funds for the program Friday. An Australian report claims cyclists face a 34 times greater risk of being injured than people in cars, based on average distance traveled. Over 6,000 cyclists join in on the India Cyclothon. Friends and fellow riders remember the 17-year old Belize rider killed while training on Thursday. A cyclist is in police custody after a collision kills an elderly pedestrian in Beverly Hills; no, not that Beverly Hills, this one.

Finally, the mystery deepens in the death of the bicycling British MI6 intelligence analyst — who also had high-level clearance with the U.S. National Security Agency — as the FBI joins in the investigation.

Who is at fault in cycling collisions? And who decides?

Let’s go back to that buzzing incident with the garbage truck, in which the driver honked loudly as he passed me with only about a foot’s clearance.

What if I hadn’t managed to maintain control over my bike when the horn startled me? As I noted yesterday, I could have swerved to the left, which could have meant going under his wheels. Or I might have swerved right, where I would have bounced off the parked cars, and possibly been thrown back underneath him.

So who would be at fault when the police filed their report?

Would it be the driver who passed too closely, honking his horn in a threatening manner, or the cyclist who responded by losing control and colliding with the truck?

Or would they decide it was just one of those things, and no one was really to blame?

Or take today’s ride, when I was nearly right-hooked by a truck driver who passed me on the left, then made a right turn directly across my path — while I was still beside him.

Fortunately, I try to anticipate such things. So I grabbed my brakes, dropped behind him, then passed him on his left before he could even finish his turn.

But what if I hadn’t?

What if I’d collided with the truck? Would he be at fault because he turned into my path? Or would it be my fault because I hit him?

The law suggests the driver should be at fault. Yet when a Baltimore cyclist was killed recently in collision just like that, the police determined that he was at fault — evidently they felt it was his responsibility to somehow avoid the truck that cut him off.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area cyclists are responsible for twice as many bike vs. motor vehicle collisions as drivers are. The same article quotes statistics from the California Highway Patrol, which found cyclists responsible for nearly 60% of all statewide cycling fatalities.

Yet a recent study by a Toronto physician found that cyclists were only responsible for less than 10% of local collisions.

So are Canadian cyclists really that much better than California riders? Or does the problem actually rest with who is analyzing the data — and investigating the accidents?

Do you really have to ask?

The problem isn’t that police hate cyclists, despite common perceptions in the cycling community. It’s that most officers receive little or no training in bike law — and none in the mechanics of cycling or investigation of bike accidents.

That’s not just my opinion. Consider this recent quote from a retired police officer:

In virtually every state, bicycles have most of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Many officers don’t seem to know, or care, that they do. Training in bicycle traffic law is virtually nonexistent in police academies and crash investigation courses.

Unfortunately, many serious road cyclists know and understand traffic laws regulating bicycles far better than most street cops. Officers who have received quality bike patrol training, such as the IPMBA Police Cyclist™ Course, have been trained in the legal status of bicycles in traffic, proper and legal lane use, and other pertinent provisions.

When investigating a bicycle-vehicle crash, it may be a good idea to involve a trained bike patrol officer to help get a comprehensive perspective as to the bicycle-related factors and conditions involved. Criminal charges may be warranted. An officer knowledgeable in bike law could be a victim cyclist’s best advocate, or a legal opponent, providing the details for fair prosecution.

The simple fact is that the operation and mechanics of bicycles are different from that of motor vehicles. And unless the investigating officer understands that, he or she won’t be able to accurately determine how the collision occurred and who is actually at fault.

Like the infamous downtown Hummer incident, in which the investigating officer concluded that the cyclist hit the SUV, even though the rear of the bike was damaged and the rider was thrown forward — suggesting that he somehow backed into the other vehicle.

Or my own case, when I was struck by a road-raging driver while stopped at a stop sign. Yet the investigating officer chose to accept the driver’s explanation that I had run the stop sign and fallen while making a right hand turn, even though that would have meant falling to the left while leaning into a right turn — something an officer who rides, or who was at least trained in cycling, would have understood was virtually impossible.

Then there’s the fact that in a car/bike collision, the driver is usually unhurt, while the cyclist can be seriously injured or worse. Which means that the police often hear just one side of the story.

Maybe that’s why, in virtually any repot of a collision at a controlled intersection, you’ll hear that the cyclist ran the red light or stop sign — never that the driver ignored the rider’s right of way or ran the signal themselves.

That also could explain why so many drivers involved in hit-from-behind collisions claim that the cyclist darted out in front of them without warning. Never that the driver was distracted or failed to see the rider in the first place.

In fact, many cyclists refer to that type of collision as an SWSS — Single Witness Suicide Swerve — because the frequency of such collisions would suggest that there must be a lot of death-wish cyclists out there.

That’s not to say cyclists are never at fault. I’ve seen enough riders attempt to pull off stupid life-risking stunts — myself included — to know that’s not true.

But the simple fact is, every cyclist is, and will remain, a 2nd class citizen on the streets until all police officers are trained in bike law.

And every bicycle-involved collision is investigated by an officer who understands the physics and realities of cycling.

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Next year’s LA Bike Tour won’t be held in conjunction with the new Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon. Efforts are underway to ban cars from the annual bike-banning Festival of Lights instead. Where do I sign up? Streetsblog notes the anger over new bike lanes in Santa Clarita, where some residents feel ambushed, while others fault the design. Bike thefts are up across the country, including Downtown L.A.; some victims are using social media to get them back, Lance included. Even with the current budget cuts, Elk Grove gets state funding for a new bike overpass. Minnesota artists create bike racks that salute their Scandinavian heritage. Lebron James leads local kids and cyclists in a charity bike ride; so when can we expect the first annual Kobe Bryant Bike Classic? Even bike-friendly Portland suffers from the fatal hit-and-run plague. Cyclists roll by in a Chinatown bike lane as a NY politician holds a press conference to claim no one ever uses it. Finally, an 81-year old Welsh paperboy has his bike stolen while one of his customers thanks him with a piano recital.

At the BAC, good things come to those who wait

Eighty percent of success is just showing up.

— Woody Allen

Sometimes, it seems like the other 20% involves just sticking around long enough. At least, that’s how it seemed last night, at the meeting of the city’s Bike Advisory Committee.

Other than the council members themselves, there was only a small turnout — most of whom were there to discuss the many failings of the Bicycle Master Plan. And most of whom left — some in anger and frustration — once the committee turned to more mundane matters.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to say on that subject. But after hearing all the other comments on the subject — and the DOT’s representative swearing she didn’t know anything about it — I didn’t think they really needed my two cents.

Besides, considering the state of the economy these days, that may be my retirement fund.

I was actually more interested in one of the last items on the agenda — a motion from the council that had been submitted in the aftermath of the recent Hummer incident, and eventually signed by six of the 18 council members:

Numerous incidents have been reported relative to bicycle and vehicle collisions and aggressive motorists (sic) attitudes to law-abiding people riding bicycles. Complaints have also been raised regarding the treatment of bicyclists by the Los Angeles Police Department. It is critical that the City respond to these situations and respond appropriately.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Council direct the Los Angeles Police Department to report on recent bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists, as well as efforts to increase police officer training related to bicycling activities and applicable regulations and laws.

It was the last part in particular that interested me. Especially since LAPD had already found itself blameless in the Hummer incident.

When the time came, I spoke in support of the resolution, pointing out that it wasn’t just a problem here in L.A. Cyclists nationwide have complained about police officers who are unfamiliar with the laws regarding bicycling and the rights of cyclists, as well as institutional bias against cyclists — or in favor of motorists, depending on your perspective.

Then I pointed out that Massachusetts recently became the first state to require that police officers receive specialized training in bike law, as part of their new Bike Safety Law. And asked why that curriculum couldn’t be adapted for use in training officers at our own police academy.

Evidently, the committee members agreed. They voted unanimously to endorse the resolution, and to put the MassBike program on the agenda for the next committee meeting in July.

Afterwards, I emailed a link to the MassBike site to 4th Council District representative Larry Hoffman, who forwarded it to the rest of the BAC, as well as the mayor.

So, a small victory. But a victory none the less.

And one worth sticking around for.

 

If you’re missing a bike on the Westside, the police may have found it in a Venice Garage. Alex Thompson joins the chorus condemning Santa Monica’s bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists. Matt joins in on the other chorus, complaining about the failure of the new Bike Master Plan. Stephen Box questions why LADOT’s redundant bike map business stimulates the economies of Portland and Seattle, while Timur examines the maps that currently exist — and there are more than you might think (good to see you back!). Bike Girl wonders where you keep your bike(s). A writer for the Times rides the L.A. River bike path, evidently holding his nose the whole way. Even Iowa cyclists get sharrows; maybe LADOT can ask them what kind of paint they use so we can get some here. Bicycling’s biking lawyer examines whether cycling is a privilege or a right. And finally, just wait until Rush Limbaugh hears about this — Bike Portland outs the new SCOTUS nominee as a closet cyclist.

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