Tag Archive for bike safety

Guest Post: Provoking, Scaring and Piercing, the (Driver’s) Reptile Brain Part 2

Part one here.

How do we Provoke, Scare and Pierce the (Driver’s) primitive Reptile Brain? How do we stay alive?

We look to nature and the development of the brain in the animal kingdom. Evolutionists (which I am not) have no problem with this concept. Yet, observation leads to irrefutable conclusions. Most all organic organisms in nature, no matter how “primitive/paleo” or presumably “advanced”, share common traits… like all have and share DNA similarities for example…

Even the “simple”, primitive, prehistoric paramecium3 (see link below) are highly sensitive and flee from bright light. And likewise, so too our own human visual cortex, directly wired in the brain; via the Amygdala, Basal Ganglia, and Hypothalamus via the Limbic system (or paleomammalian brain)… These gray, and convoluted features are understood (some say known) to be the deepest and most primitive unconscious areas of our human brain (along with the medulla & cerebellum).

While this isn’t a physiology paper, the point to be made is that the “Fight or Flight” mechanism mentioned much earlier, needs to be completely, totally, and unconditionally activated and profoundly stimulated at a very low and unconscious level; in the vehicle driver’s brain.

It turns out that just like paramecium, and many reptiles, ULTRA BRIGHT FLASHING RED LIGHTS are immediately sensed by humans as “threats”.  As a life form is “threatened”, certain physiochemical responses are unconsciously activated…. the “Fight or Flight involuntary mechanism. Immediately the higher functions of the cerebrum are bypassed, and the visual cortex “reaches down” to the primitive reptile brain and causes/induces FEAR, and the autonomic, unconscious brain triggers the release of some very powerful stimulant hormones. Now; close your eyes; and imagine that you are outside in the dark tall grasses, and you feel and hear the low strong growling of a nearby lion; hear tires squealing, a loud close Bang!, etc… you get an idea of what the driver’s EYES are seeing…

Why flashing lights?…and Not solid? Flashing create and induces the appearance of Motion. Movement is the key to being detected by the Reptile brain. We want and need to be detected and identified, from the greatest possible distance.

Alternatively; waiting for any driver to see and consciously recognize you riding away, in dark clothing from a distance, then comprehend, and avoid you, turns out to be a quick death march for cyclists.

Flashing Bright Light(s)… Our only reliable solution, “defence against the…?”

“Statistics don’t lie”… my college statistics professor often told us, (countless others have made the same statement/observation). What we learned in school is that (in a fair and well designed study) the numbers are what they are, for a reason. It doesn’t matter what that reason is… The (possible) reasons/explanation that the stock market climbs or drops is incidental and unimportant. Using math to measuring the speed and momentum (emotion) of the rise and fall is what is critical. Why do I mention this seemingly unrelated topic?

(Another) Spoiler Alert: The statistics for riding with Flashing Ultra Bright lights is literally breathtaking, from one perspective, and alarming from another. In addition to the 700 KILLED riding a bike in the US every year, there are over 500,000 cycling injuries. Let’s say the 2/3rs mentioned at the beginning of this article, or roughly 5,000 cyclists in the last ten years alone, were hit from behind, and died… The cyclist had no warning or defense to prevent his/her death.   In the other 1/3 of fatal accidents, most often the cyclist either had some visual warning and possible responsibility (steered into traffic, went across a rail road crossing, etc.) in the outcome of the accident, or some warning. Not the case of “hit from behind” fatalities. That again, is where I draw the line.

In now two plus years of research, I have Yet to find a single, confirmed, instance where the killed cyclist was riding with Ultra Bright Lights turned ON at the time of the accident. 500,000 injuries, 7,000+ deaths (without lights) to (so far) ZERO (With Lights)… (EVEN if one or two have been missed, the numbers are far more than compelling.)

Note; as of the week of 6/12/15 there were (2) reported fatalities (bikinginla.com) where it appears the riders did have lights on the rear of their bikes…. See/Read article “Testing to Destruction” for more information… So now the numbers are over: 500,000 : 000002.

The numbers are REAL.   In this singular case, my statistics professor was (dead) wrong. It DOES MATTER why the numbers are the way they are. Important Note; Several times I would/have heard it said; He/she (the victim) was “lit up like a Christmas tree”… but later found out from eye witnesses, their cycling buddies, car cam videos, accident pictures, or the police interviewed, that they had no lights at all. Don’t believe everything (anything) you hear until you have verified it for yourself.

My story: Like many, perhaps most victims, I went on a Crusade; to find “the answer”, “the solution”, to prevent what had happened to me, from happening to others. After being released from the hospital and in time regaining some memory and “normal” lifestyle, I set out on this quest.   As stated, I have found this characteristic is deeply imbedded in the deepest being and recesses of most victims. Every time I hear of a cyclist fatality, I relive my own accident; I literally feel the glass and metal pushing/smashing through my own face, and body…

Utilizing a previous positive relationship with of a couple PD’s and the L.A. County Sheriff’s department, I started my quest. I wanted to see and learn everything I could about fatality accidents. This process is ongoing and will likely last my lifetime.

What I learned (am learning) from adding up and compiling the numbers, is that 2/3 rd’s of fatality accidents fall in the “hit from behind” category. The problem is that the standard Highway Patrol accident report form, used by all law enforcement departments, is inadequate and lacking in a number of areas. I started with the three fatalities in Newport Beach almost following my accident.

I noticed that none of these first few fatality victims’ bikes had any lights at all.   I started to develop a theory. Could it be valid and true? The problem is that the CHP standard traffic collision report form does not have a checkbox for “rear Lights? ON?”

Obtaining reliable information was difficult. What did I do? Reports, Pictures and Questions. Without going into details that would compromise others, I talked directly to officers, or obtained photos of the actual accident scenes. Not just any pics, only those specifically of the bikes, without any people. (I specifically didn’t ask nor want pics with any people in them, and no one offered.)

I continue to search accident reports and witnesses; to see IF the bikes had rear lights, what type, and did anyone know IF the lights were CHARGED and ON at the time of the accident. What time of day was the fatality crash? Where? What were the conditions? Those were/are my questions.

A clear and obvious pattern began to emerge. No fatality accident bikes, had lights at all. Not one. I was also looking for lights that were so cheap/poor as to be worthless, even if they were turned on, but haven’t found any yet.

Time after time, death after death, I found no lights… I knew it was “ game on”…

Then I interviewed drivers, and read the PD reports. As mentioned earlier, what I heard was scarily familiar, ominous, and consistent with every one.“I never saw them”….

Every driver report, and every police interviewed driver, unrelated by age, sex, residence area, or ethnic background… all said the same thing… almost word for word… This clearly wasn’t a coincidence. This was/is a Real phenomena. They had killed a cyclist before they ever knew what had happened. Most of these people would otherwise be considered good citizens. Most (one exception) had no criminal record. Yet Everyone of them had killed another human being. That’s scary.

So why weren’t accidents found with riders using Flashing Ultra Bright lights? That became the burning question. What was mentally, visually and physically happening? I started testing lights, with the help of colleagues and very expensive borrowed equipment from a company that I do business with. Some of the testing was very technical requiring calibrated equipment, and some was done using human subjects in blind (brighter/dimmer) visual studies…

What was true in all light tests, was/is that Brighter is better. (we’re not going to be discussing beam angles, target size, protocols for standardized brightness measurements, etc., in this article, that’s another paper).  For the sake of this article, I’m defining Brightens here in strictly relative visual observations; as the ability to see a Flashing light, in broad daylight, from some distance X. The farther away a Flashing light is able to be clearly seen, the “Brighter” it is defined to be… for this article…(more in light reviews).

“Brighter” means that the car drivers can see you from a farther distance. The greater the distance, the more time the driver has to see, recognize, and react to avoid you. Some of my lights, perfectly acceptable at night, couldn’t even be seen in the daylight from 10 yards, not good.

What was the minimum “brightness” between life and death”? How much recognition and reaction time was necessary to make the difference, to prevent a conflict and dead body?

“I never saw them”… started to haunt me. What IF those same drivers had been alerted to the cyclist from a Geat distance, (30-60 driving seconds away)… instead of finding out, only milliseconds before or just after they heard the crashing, crushing horrible crushing sounds?

Rule # 4   Time and Space: Planning time for Avoidance VS. (0) REACTION TIME…

You Hockey players are familiar with the term “Time and Space”… The imperative life/death question boiled down to this: How to effectively and reliably CREATE “TIME AND SPACE” between US (CYCLISTS) AND DRIVERS?

I bought more lights. Lots of lights. From countless observations, I set “standard” protocols to visually test them during daylight, and at night.

Minimum Acceptable Standard (MAS)… 1/10th of a mile minimum visibility looking almost straight at; only 10 degrees off the 10AM morning summer sun. In other words, the worst possible conditions.

In addition to visual testing with multiple subjects, from professional resources, I borrowed high end equipment (worth $50,000+), utilized the optics testing and light meters at the college I teach at. Then applied standard LED FAA aircraft LED testing protocols … Many lights visually tested to ¼ (.25) mile in daylight. That’s 15 seconds warning, even at highway speeds… a very good start…. Some were clearly seen flashing at ½ (.5) mile away… That gives a driver 30-40 seconds to see, identify, and react…. an ETERNITY relative to the previously reported 0 – milliseconds by fatality drivers.

First Quick “Brightness” rule of thumb. If you can even come close to looking at your light from an arm’s length in bright daylight, it is far too weak to be of any worthwhile use. ALL usable Ultra Bright lights are incredibly blinding, retina searing and burning. Think (DON’T actually do) of trying to stare directly at the sun, into a lighthouse, or at your HID high beams for example.

It was all making sense. The reason that people weren’t/aren’t being hit is that drivers had plenty of time to see, identify, and avoid the problem. There is no possibility of a conflict in time and space IF the driver is two lanes away when they pass you.

This has been born out in my life and those of every cyclist I’ve talked to. My wife and I have not had any more accidents or even close calls since we began putting Ultra Bright Flashing Lights on our bikes. Many many many drivers have stopped me/us to exclaim “…WHAT BRIGHT LIGHTS YOU HAVE”… THANK YOU !!!…”

During daytime; I suggest a minimum of three lights backwards and at least two forward for several reasons.

  1. Three (3) is the minimum number of points in space that a (driver’s) brain needs to immediately determine location, bearing, and speed….without a lot of time consuming and confusing calculations. Remember your geometry? # of points to make a Line and Plane?
  2. Redundancy; you never know when a light is going to fail, and it will usually be at the worst possible time.
  3. Battery life; many lights have variable battery life.
  4. Pattern variability; I like riding with lights that all have different flashing patterns to ensure that someone doesn’t get bored/numb/forgetful that I’m there.
  5. Loaners; knowing that the likelihood of a problem while riding with lights is miniscule (compared to without), I have been known to share a light with those without… especially kids, Boy Scouts, etc…
  6. While hitting someone from the front is statistically less a fatality risk than being hit from behind, it will still ruin your whole foreseeable calendar. Riding Ultra Bright front lights is only slightly less important than the necessity of riding Ultra Bright Rear…. Driver’s running red stop signs ahead of you still need their Reptile Brain stabbed….

And I strongly suggest buying/using only rechargeable lights and/or lights that can use rechargeable batteries. Buying and replacing batteries is a time consuming pain, expensive and time consuming pain, hence they are very EASY to forget…and besides, they often leak acid killing your lights.

Once you get into the daily habit of taking your lights off after each ride and plugging them in, it becomes an easy pattern to fall into.

Rule # 5 Drivers APPRECIATE Your Early Warning System…. Ultra Bright Bright Lights.

Take responsibility for your OWN SAFETY and Welfare… No one else is going to.

No one, at least very very few of us ever want to kill someone. And No one, especially drivers, wants to scared to death and shocked to have a cyclist seemingly “JUMP OUT” of nowhere.

Here’s an interesting topic…. Innate Godly/Human factors;

Rather indescribably; Flashing Lights seemingly “cry out”, “I want to Live!”… Human to Human, animal to animal, this is a very strong emotion/instinct/feeling/perception among many living life forms…. Someone has probably done a study on when/why/how this works…? (Please write me if you know of one)…. I don’t… but taking responsibility for your own welfare, and making yourself Highly Visible and WELL Marked, just works…

Repeating, I can’t tell you how many drivers have THANKED me, consistently, for my lights… Some have driven up onto sidewalks and JUMPED out of their cars! It’s actually very interesting to see how often this happens.

Generally now, most drivers just take a Very WIDE berth around us… Because they have ALREADY SEEN us from well over a Half A MILE Away (1/2 mile)… Another example: I take Boy Scouts out for their merit badge rides, and the trailing dad’s in the SAG car JOYfully exclaimed he could see us from a “mile away” (which was probably an exaggeration), but makes the point.

It is extremely rare that we have any issues, any more…and I have heard the same repeated by countless others than ride with Flashing Ultra Bright lights. In fact, I haven’t heard a negative feedback yet…

So, if you follow this advice, the odds/chances of you being (fatally) hit from the rear will be largely eliminated.

However, to make full disclosure beware, we’re not wholly out of the woods quite yet.   There are other very dangerous types of accidents… even if statistically not fatal most of the time… they will still ruin your day-week-months, your body, and your beautiful bike.

  • Be vigilant and on the alert for the bleached brain (and hair) blonde that tries to changes lanes or makes left hand turns into your path, without looking… like almost happened to me just the other day…
  • Stay far away from parked cars. NEVER get closer than 4-6 FEET from a door that can suddenly open and (door) kill you. You may even have to fight for your space. (A motorcycle officer on PCH, once yelled at me and pointed to move over. I politely (honestly, ask my wife) nodded and responded by slowly opening my hand towards him, and then drawing it back in front of me, inviting him to (by all means) lead the way… he loudly scowled something unrepeatable and raced off).
  • Only cross over to the left, from right hand turn and bikes lanes (you’re going straight) AFTER looking several times first. STOP and WAIT if you have to…LET the cars pass. A few seconds isn’t going to change your life, but it may end it if you don’t.   This is the last fatality to mention. A very well known woman cyclist was riding on PCH (W) near Crystal Cove when she was killed. A group of cars were merging right onto a high-speed “highway onramp” when the last driver didn’t see her. He wasn’t cited either. And she is dead.
  • Like above: Don’t expect a thin, white painted line is going to protect you. ONLY after looking several times first, cross over into LARGE protected (by light poles, etc.)hash marked traffic islands at stop lights….. Often, I choose to just pull over and wait… If others are more brave….?… You know the old joke about the old wagon trail scouts (cycling leaders)? They’re the ones with the arrows in their backs… which really hurts… and can end your day(s)….
  • Keep your ears open, and eyes ahead…sounds so simple doesn’t it?
  • If you aren’t very comfortable with keeping a straight line, while turning around in both directions, to see what’s behind, perhaps consider more practice, before riding on the road with others… Too Many rider-rider cycling accidents and injuries occur when someone changes their “line” without first looking back. Just a thought.

There are a lot of excellent rear and front lights out there now… And you need both.

When Purchasing, Consider:

  • Published “Lumens” is only a start. Take out the lights in the store and check them out at a distance. The relative brightness will be quickly apparent.
  • Flashing pattern variability… or the same mind numbing on/off “beat”
  • Are they rechargeable? Getting into a daily habit of charging your lights is critical
  • Beam Pattern. Some lights are very bright with a narrow beam; others have very wide beam pattern “signatures”, but not apparently as bright. Strongly Suggest you ride with both.
  • Mounting options: Can you mount your lights on the seat tube, seat stay, handlebars? Do they have a clip for your helmet-saddle-saddlebag?
  • Mount orientation: As riding is almost always on the right side of the road (we hope), Rear lights should be slightly directed backward and to the left, towards traffic, not straight backwards. I ride the road with front lights on my handlebars, and both forks… (being a pilot I follow protocol and ride with red on the left)…. Front lights have saved me pain a number of times from left/right turners ahead of me.
  • Cost; good lights are going to run $50-$300…each… and I suggest you want/need five to eight for a lengthy road ride.   Too much? Ask yourself again. How MUCH is Your LIFE and physical well being worth? Any number greater than ZERO is a GOOD START…
  • Battery Life. There is a huge variability in battery life and charging time. Best to cover your bases… Some rides may only be an hour and a half, safe for most lights, others might last 4-7 hours…
  • Be considerate to other riders: While Ultra Bright Lights should ALWAYS BE ON if you’re riding on the street… They are blinding to group riders close behind… IF you’re in a group ride, maybe you can ride last in line if you (should) feel more comfortable with all your Rear lights on… (anywhere in the group with Flashing Headlights… Not the most macho position perhaps, but there are advantages in guarding the rear.

 

3http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227

4http://jeb.biologists.org/content/134/1/43.full.pdf

5http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Bradford_Cannon

 

mark d. goodley

Near Fatality Survivor

Product Design Engineer

USA Cycling Licensed Pro

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Including yours.

……..

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

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

Introduction / Abstract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First; Human visual Perception and Atmospheric Physics…

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

***

From Discover magazine2:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

mark d. goodley

Near Fatality Survivor

Product Design Engineer

USA Cycling Licensed Pro Race Mechanic #325244

………

Part 2 here.

 

Guest Post: Testing to Destruction

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

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

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

……..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary; what have we learned?

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

……..

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

 

 

Morning Links: Hermosa backs safety improvements; San Diego details deaths in the county, including on bikes

A reader sends word that Hermosa Beach is backing up its commitment to bike safety.

Literally.

A married couple were exploring the new bikeways on Harbor and Herondo linking Redondo Beach and Hermosa when they came upon some odd markings on the street next to a new bike lane.

Photo by Allison Sheridan

Photo by Allison Sheridan

A quick look online confirmed they are reverse-angled parking spots, designed to improve bike safety by increasing visibility for drivers as they pull out of the spots (scroll down to pages 26-29). Although I neglected to ask just which street they were on.

I’m told these could be the first reverse-angle parking in the South Bay. And one of the few anywhere in the LA area.

So hats off to Hermosa for reversing the usual risky angled parking to help keep riders safer.

Update: A comment from Margaret says the street is Herondo; this is what it used to look like. And Vince points out that the south half the street is actually in Redondo Beach, so they should get credit, as well.

Thanks to Margaret for the heads-up and the correction.

……..

Philip Young of the San Diego Wheelmen forwards a series of annual reports from the San Diego Medical Examiner examining the causes of deaths in the county for the years 2011 through 2013; he notes the 2014 report hasn’t been released yet.

According to Young, the reports show nine bicyclists were killed in San Diego County in 2011, ten in 2012 and seven in 2013.

Although my records indicate a higher bicycling fatality rate for each year — twelve in 2011, eleven in 2012 and eight in 2013.

I haven’t had a chance to dig through the reports to figure out the reason for the discrepancy yet. However, they may classify bicycling fatalities more conservatively than my records; I include anyone who was riding or walking a bike at the time of their death, including solo falls and bike-related medical conditions, as well as traffic collisions.

Update: Ed Ryder sends word that SWITRS shows 15 bicycling fatalities in 2011, which makes more sense.

I track fatalities primarily through news reports, as well as other sources, so my records may undercount the actual totals if the death of a cyclist never makes the news; that often happens if the victim dies several days or weeks after a collision.

The real question is, why does the Medical Examiner’s report undercount bicycling fatalities for that year by over 50 percent?

……..

The Women’s Tour of Britain is helping to bridge the equality gap in pro cycling, while a writer for Britain’s Guardian says it’s time for cycling to lose the podium girls.

Let alone bikini girls at women’s races.

Twenty-three-year old Astana women’s pro Anna Solovey has been canned by the team for “unprofessional behavior;” she was previously banned for two years for doping before she was even in her 20s.

And you’d think someone who once sponsored a major bike race would get that 72 years old isn’t too old to race, let alone ride. Thanks to Megan Lynch for the link.

……..

Local

A Metro survey shows 37% of LA voters think separated bike paths are very important, while only 10% say they’re not important at all.

Pasadena gets that intersections are dangerous places for bike riders; the city is painting a new bike lane that remains green all the way through the intersection of Marengo and Orange Grove.

CiclaValley tells you why to get excited about the upcoming LA River Ride, set to roll on the 28th. And if you’re not too worn out from the River Ride, join CICLE, the Bike Oven and Metro for the Spintacular Fireworks Neighborhood Ride later that day.

 

State

Dozens of Santa Ana homes will be demolished to widen a dangerous Santa Ana street, including wider medians and sidewalks. And yes, bike lanes. I guess performing a road diet and keeping the houses would be out of the question in auto-centric OC.

Oceanside police will team up to compete in RAAM; the team competition starts on Saturday.

A San Diego County supervisor may have committed an ethics violation in nixing a bike lane that could have affected the value of a restaurant he’s a partner in. Although as a new study shows, he may have shot himself in the foot.

Coachella Valley bike riders are urged to donate old bikes, locks and helmets to benefit the local Boys and Girls Clubs.

 

National

A writer for People for Bikes says you don’t have to give up your car to live mostly car-free. I’ve put less than three hundred miles a year on mine for the last five years.

Someone is groping and harassing women riding on Phoenix bike paths; one woman was punched in the face by a homeless man.

Boulder CO moves forward with right sizing three major streets to make room for wider bike lanes.

A Chicago runner and firefighter makes a commitment not to use his cell phone when he drives.

Don’t believe everything your GPS tells you. A Minnesota girl learned that the hard way after her smartphone guided her and her bike onto a freeway.

Evidently, it takes concrete barriers to keep New York drivers from parking in bike lanes, green or otherwise. Maybe we could use some here to keep cops out.

Bike commuting in the DC area jumped 450 percent in just three years, while auto commuting has remained steady; now another area county plans to ramp up their bike network.

 

International

Twelve reasons why you should take a foldie when you explore Cuba. Which is sort of legal for Americans these days. Visiting Cuba, that is.

A group of 17 friends will team together to finish the epic ride a UK man had planned before he was killed in a collision earlier this year.

A British woman can ride a bike for the first time after being fitted with the world’s most lifelike bionic hand.

An Irish mom says yes, cyclists face dangers on the roads, but pedestrians run a risk from us, as well.

Tim Robbins casually rides a bike in Milan. Just don’t ask him about The Shawshank Redemption.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is riding his new bicycle on his Bulgarian set as he recovers from knee surgery.

Reckless Japanese bike riders can now be required to take safety lessons, and can face steep financial liability for injuring others.

 

Finally…

Caught on video: Eating behind the wheel is one thing; eating cereal out of a bowl is another. Eight years old may be just a tad too young for a naked Brit bike ride, by about a decade or so.

And when your name is Outlaw, it’s probably not a good idea to steal a bike, unlocked or otherwise.

Or anything else, for that matter.

 

Morning Links: January was a good month for SoCal cyclists, walkability survey and still more bike events

Good news for a change.

To the best of my knowledge, only one bike rider was killed anywhere in Southern California last month.

One.

That’s ten less than lost their lives in the seven county region last January. And significantly less than the average of 7.25 deaths in the month of January over the previous four years. In fact, it’s the first time since March of 2012 that only one bicyclist has been killed in any month.

It could be a statistical fluke.

Or it could be that improvements in infrastructure, education and enforcement, as well as the much-touted safety in numbers effect, are finally beginning to pay off.

Lets keep our fingers crossed. And hope this soon leads to a month, or even more, with zero deaths. Something that has never happened since I began tracking SoCal bicycling fatalities in mid-2010.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally turned the corner. And are on our way to safer streets, not just for cyclists, but for everyone.

We can hope.

……….

If you’ve got a few minutes, CSUN sociology master’s student Elizabeth Bogumil could use your help answering a few questions on walkability and livability.

The anonymous survey is designed to examine the relationship between the ability to walk in a community and its quality of life.

Here’s my short answer. If you can’t walk — or bike — safely and enjoyably wherever you are, there’s no point in living there.

Period.

………

Still more upcoming bike events, in addition to Friday’s long list.

The LACBC is hosting a Northeast LA organizing workshop on Wednesday to discuss options, including bike lanes, for a five block stretch of North Figueroa.

Join Multicultural Communities for Mobility and the East LA Community Corporation this Saturday for the extensively named Equity in Motion Bici Tour: A Look at Transit Oriented Development in Boyle Heights.

Bike Talk and the Feminist Library on Wheels invite you to the February 22nd Open Books “Lost Cyclist” ride to three independent book stores, including a talk by bike historian David Herlihy.

Head down to San Diego County on March 7th for the St. Paddy’s Palomor Punishment ride up the area’s favorite hill climb.

Or head north on April 25th for the Wildflower Century through northeastern San Luis Obispo County, sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club.

………

Local

The Times says the 3.5 pound, foldable Foldylock is serious about securing your bike. Then again, lock up your bike like they show in the photo, and you could kiss your wheels goodbye.

Santa Monica police arrest three 20-year old men with a truck load of stolen bikes.

Better Bike says file Beverly Hills’ dangerous Crescent Drive sharrows under C for crap facilities. Then again, that’s my take on most sharrows, anywhere.

The Glendale News-Press says not so fast on those ridiculous pedestrian crossing flags. Next they’ll expect us to wave a flag while we ride down the street.

An Azusa bike rider suffers serious injuries in a solo fall due to mechanical failure while apparently racing another rider. Yet somehow, the press seems to think the most important detail is that he might be a transient.

The Long Beach paper wants to know how the city treats its cyclists.

 

State

Laguna Beach installs five miles of sharrows in an attempt to route riders away from the Coast Highway.

Great idea. A San Diego program gives bikes refurbished by prison inmates to ex-offenders so they have reliable transportation while they transition back into society.

San Francisco’s SAFE Bikes program takes credit for a 20% drop in bike thefts in the city.

 

National

The Verge asks if it’s time for the Feds to mandate software to disable mobile phones while driving. That would be yes. Or maybe hell yes.

The US imported over $1.3 billion worth of bicycles through November of last year, compared to $140 billion worth of motor vehicles; then again, bikes are a lot cheaper.

A Phoenix man pleads not guilty to murdering murdering two bike riding women in the early ‘90s.

A petition calling for a three-foot passing distance in Wyoming gains over 1,000 signatures in just two days; the organization sponsoring it is named for one of the state’s fallen riders.

A Delaware website calls for boycotting the conservative Koch brothers over their opposition to funding active transportation and transit projects. Unfortunately, given the huge size and reach of their holdings, that would be almost impossible; a better tactic would be to pick one Koch company to target.

A US sailor chases her Olympic dreams in Miami, just months after suffering serious injuries while bicycling; thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the heads-up.

 

International

Bike riders Tweet about how they got into cycling. My origin story begins with a matinee showing of Breaking Away in a nearly empty theater, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

More people are riding bikes in London than ever before, while the Independent offers tips on how the city can keep the momentum going; actually, it’s good advice anywhere.

Famed Italian automotive designer Pininfarina jumps on the bike bandwagon. Nice try, but it doesn’t even come close to the world’s most beautiful bike, at least not in my humble opinion.

FC Barcelona looks back at the first great Spanish cycling champion, who wore the football (aka soccer) club’s colors when they had a bike team early in the last century.

A young South African cyclist offers bike tours through one of Johannesburg’s oldest townships; after less than five years, his company is now rated as one of the top five activities in the city.

Aussie great Cadel Evans calls it a career, while his countryman discovers attempting to set a new hour record really hurts.

 

Finally…

Here’s how LA can close its budget deficit; an Australian city collects nearly $50,000 in just four months by fining drivers who park in bike lanes. A Canadian cyclist uses his bike to fend off a charging cougar; I’ve used a similar technique to defend against angry drivers.

And a British ad encourages cab drivers to get a dash cam in case they run over a cyclist. Yeah, like that would ever happen.

 

Morning Links: CicLAvia coverage, cyclist injured in bike-on-bike wreck, benefits of protected bike lanes

The news coverage of Sunday’s CicLAvia continues to trickle in.

The LA Times offers video and a handful of photos. Curbed LA does the same while the Source serves up still more photos as well as tweets.

Orange 20 calls the new Echo Park to East LA route another great success. The CSUN Sundial says cyclists ruled the road for a day. And Takepart calls it the biggest public open space event in America.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog questions the relative lack of news stories about Sunday’s 10th CicLAvia since the first one rolled through Downtown on 10/10/10.

But maybe that’s a good thing.

CicLAvia may be huge in our world, but it’s not new anymore. It’s proven itself to be a huge success, and now has the funding and support to continue and grow beyond the confining limits of Los Angeles itself.

In a way, the lack of the breathless news stories we’ve seen in the past is a tacit acknowledgement that the event has become part of the fabric of the city.

……..

A Manhattan Beach bike rider suffered serious injuries when she was hit head-on by another cyclist where the Marvin Braude and Ballona Creek bike paths meet in Marina del Rey. To make matters worse, Ana Beatriz Cholo had no insurance since she was just starting a new job, so a fund has been created to help her pay her five-figure medical bills.

Let this be a reminder to never pass slower riders unless it’s safe to do so.

Which means never, ever passing if there’s a rider coming in the opposite direction. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to swerve suddenly — if not bail off the bike path entirely — to avoid someone who seemed to think he had a supreme right to the pathway.

Or maybe just lacked sufficient common sense to realize that the same safety rules that govern passing slower vehicles when driving apply on the bikeway, as well.

And if you’re ever involved in a collision with another cyclist, always give your name and contact information. Your car insurance should cover liability on your bike, as well.

It’s no less hit-and-run when a bike rider or pedestrian leaves the scene without identifying themselves after causing a collision than it is when a driver does it.

……..

A new study reconfirms the benefits of protected bike lanes. According to the study, ridership increased anywhere from 21% to 171% after protected lanes were installed, with 24% of the increase coming from other routes and a full 10% actually switching from other modes of transportation.

……..

The route for next year’s Giro d’Italia is unveiled, with an eye towards a possible rare sweep of the Giro and Tour de France.

……..

Local

Bike riders are urged to attend tonight’s meeting of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Transportation Committee to help elect new bike friendly members.

Milestone Rides’ Johnny Lam explains why he volunteers with bike organizations, and why you should, too.

PV Bike hosts a perfectly alliterative Pomona Pumpkin Patch Pedal on October 19th.

A bike rider was seriously injured in a collision on PCH in Long Beach Sunday night.

 

State

A Santa Barbara cyclist says the Milt Olin case shows the dangers of distracted driving.

A San Luis Obispo woman charged in the hit-and-run death of a cyclist had three prior convictions for driving under the influence. Somehow, though, she was still allowed to remain on the road until she finally killed someone; too bad the judges and other authorities who helped keep her behind the wheel can’t be forced to serve some of her sentence with her.

 

National

City Lab makes the case for banning traffic lanes wider than 10 feet.

Bicycling’s Elly Blue says motherhood is one of the biggest obstacles preventing women from biking.

Different types of bike riding requires different muscle use. But you knew that, right?

Kansas City is just the latest municipality to prohibit the harassment of bicyclists and pedestrians.

A Chicago writer calls for banning bikes for a single day to give pedestrians a break. Not an entirely bad idea; maybe it would help the relatively few overly aggressive cyclists realize the risk they pose to others. But probably not.

How rare is this? A Pittsburgh cartoonist offers a mea culpa for an anti-bike diatribe after riders convince him he was wrong.

A Richmond VA writer says yes, cyclists break the law, but so does everyone else; and if bikes bug you, maybe you’re the problem.

 

International

Members of a cancer charity ride 800 km — roughly 500 miles — to deliver a custom made ebike to Pope Francis.

Be a more successful cyclist in just seven simple steps.

Yet another ridiculous pie-in-the-sky plan is floated — literally — for a London bikeway.

A New Zealand editorial writer says a visit to DC shows separating bikes and cars is the best way to go, while an email writer says the Kiwi equivalent of a three-foot passing law is ridiculous because cyclists do bad things.

 

Finally…

Caught on video: A first-person bike cam view of an Aussie cyclist attacked by a magpie. A daredevil squirrel tries to pass through the spokes of a Sonoma County Gran Fondo rider; not surprisingly, the rider doesn’t fare well, though the squirrel fares worse.

And after a six-year old bumps his head at CicLAvia, a big-hearted cop buys helmets for him and his three brothers. Let’s hope he gets a commendation for that.

 

Santa Monica police blame the victim in a new bike safety video, two better videos and your Morning Links

Santa Monica police are offering up a new PSA suggesting that stopping for stop signs while riding a bike is child’s play. And the best way to ensure you’ll get home to yours.

Children, that is.

It’s not like their message isn’t reasonable — both the law and common sense dictate that we should observe traffic signals just like anyone else. But while they’ve undoubtedly scored points with bike-hating residents, they could have done a lot more good by focusing on the need for motorists to pay attention and drive safely around bike riders.

Which is what share the road really means, despite the way some drivers — and police departments, apparently — try to twist it these days.

After all, even the most dangerous cyclists pose a risk primarily to themselves, while dangerous drivers pose a risk to everyone around them.

I don’t have any records on what may have caused bike injury collisions in Santa Monica. But neither of the two bicyclists killed in Santa Monica in recent years ran a red light or stop sign. Antonio Cortez died after riding into an open car door while allegedly riding drunk, while Erin Galligan was run down from behind by while riding home from work on PCH.

Even if he was as stumbling drunk as SMPD officials implied, Cortez would probably still be alive today if a driver hadn’t left his car door open in violation of California law.

And to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever suggested that Galligan did anything wrong, other than occupy the same road space as the speeding hit-and-run driver who killed her.

Maybe the SMPD’s next bike safety videos should focus on closing your damn car door and not running away like a coward after you kill someone.

Then again, this is the same department that has promised to crackdown on scofflaw cyclists more than once. Even though they can’t legally focus enforcement on specific violators as opposed to violations.

That is, they can legally ticket everyone who rolls stop signs, for instance. But they can’t direct their enforcement towards cyclists as opposed to everyone else on the road.

And they should know that.

……….

As long as we’re sharing videos, here’s one from the Encino Velodrome’s recent Swap Your Legs Race.

Meanwhile, a great video says it’s time to fix LA’s broken sidewalks. And even our Twitter-using mayor liked it.

……….

The Daily News is the latest to notice that current LA law bans kids playing on or near streets.

LA’s first protected bike lane has already seen better days.

How many people get to work car-free in your neighborhood?

A writer for City Watch says the Pacoima Wash bike and pedestrian pathway recently approved by the San Fernando City Council has the power to transform the area.

Zev says you’ll soon be able to sponsor your own section of bike path in LA County.

Drivers can — and should — cross into a bike lane to make a turn, even when there’s a solid white line. California law requires drivers to make a right from the lane closest to the curb, and never turn across a bike lane.

Fair warning to Los Angeles, as Oakland agrees to pay out $3.25 million to a cyclist seriously injured after hitting a pothole. The city had received numerous complaints about the pothole-ridden road but failed to fix it.

Across the bay, San Francisco is on its way to becoming a bike utopia.

How bicycling helped build Kickstarter.

A new helmet attachment promises to keep you cool by soaking your head. No, really.

Turns out the wicked witch of the Wall Street Journal was wrong, while famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz says it’s time for vigorous law enforcement against reckless drivers before they kill someone, not after.

Drivers are at fault for injury collisions with bicyclists in a Georgia county two-thirds of the time. But why did they illustrate the story with a crashed motorcycle?

A documentary maker for the BBC moves to LA, but gives up bicycling to work due to “distracted drivers going 50 mph in the dark.” But isn’t that half the fun? Thanks to Jim Pettipher for the heads-up.

Funny how often totally insane cyclists attack perfectly innocent motorists for absolutely no rational reason. Seriously, no one should ever attack anyone else on the roadway or use their U-lock as a weapon. But something tells me there’s probably another side to stories like this.

The owner of Soigneur magazine looks at five up and coming bicycling groups, and manages to be only somewhat offensive, particularly in regards to women riders.

A writer for the Guardian says cyclists aren’t the enemy, and it’s time to end the us versus them mentality.

An Australian writer suggests bike cams have been beneficial, but oddly worries about privacy concerns even though nothing that occurs in public view is ever private.

Your next helmet could look like an alien brain if you’re willing to spend more than $1000 for the privilege.

Finally, after an Aussie BMW worker calls for intentionally dooring cyclists and posting the videos online, the story somehow devolves into a debate over licensing cyclists, rather than protecting them from illegal assaults by bike-hating jerks.

And Boyonabike found this bike lane fail at Cal Poly Pomona. Are they trying to tell us something?

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Breaking news: Councilmember Koretz abandons safety, cyclists and his word on Westwood Boulevard

Evidently, the lives and safety of bike riders don’t matter when wealthy homeowners raise their voices in opposition.

At least, that the message CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz seems to be sending.

According to LA Streetsblog, Koretz has come out in opposition to bike lanes in any form on Westwood Blvd between National and Santa Monica Boulevards — despite an earlier promise to study the feasibility of such lanes, which is currently ongoing.

Evidently, he doesn’t want any facts to get in the way of making up his mind.

As Damien Newton, author of the Streetsblog story points out, any kind of bike lane on that section of Westwood has been adamantly opposed by a small group of local homeowners represented by the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowner’s Group, as well as business owners along the boulevard who fear a loss of parking spaces.

It is wildly unlikely that the city will move forward with a bicycle lane project without at least tacit support from the Council office, which is bowing to pressure from homeowner groups that have been hostile to transportation options outside of the automobile….

Local opposition to the lane publicly centered around an LADOT study of a bus lane (bikes allowed) which would have removed travel lanes and parking.  That plan was DOA.  Instead, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition proposed a “floating” bicycle lane where the parked-car adjacent bike lane would be moved to the curb during rush hour so that the road could continue to have a peak hour lane.  After the public meeting, the LADOT began a study of the floating bike lane (which they had only briefly introduced as an “idea” at the public hearing), but that was put on hold by the Councilmember.

It should be noted that the floating bike lane would not have resulted in the loss of a single traffic lane or parking space; the greatest handicap anyone would face would be crossing the street from one side to the other as the parking lane flipped sides.

Now, the floating bike lane plan has been rejected by the Councilmember before he has allowed the formal study to be was completed.  In response, today, the LACBC released an action alert calling on Koretz to move forward with a full study of the lanes that includes all stakeholders.

In that alert, the Bike Coalition calls attention to the councilmember’s broken promise.

Word on the street is that Councilmember Paul Koretz is reneging on his commitment to study bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, connecting the future Expo Line Station to UCLA and Palms.  Earlier this year Koretz wrote, “I am an advocate of bike paths so long as we implement them intelligently and with the input of local stakeholders.”  With that in mind, LACBC respected local opposition to the City’s proposed bus-bike lanes and developed an alternative that still provides safety benefits without the traffic impact that upset some stakeholders. We then requested to work with the Councilmember to:

  • Study alternatives for Westwood with less traffic impact
  • Create an inclusive engagement process that is fact-based and respectful of divergent opinions

After agreeing to the above, Koretz stalled.  He did not set up an open and transparent process and instructed LADOT to stop the study.  Instead of seeking input from all stakeholders, he has listened to one small insular group of homeowners that have repeatedly put out inaccurate information to rally opposition to even studying the project.  At LACBC, we firmly believe that studying options is the first step in making decisions “intelligently.”

Koretz opposition also flies in the face of support for the lanes from his own appointee to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, CD5 representative Jonathan Weiss, as quoted by Streetsblog.

Weiss argues that the road width is actually wide enough to put in lanes without removing parking or mixed-use lanes if lanes are narrowed.

“There is ample room for bike lanes without losing car lanes or parking,” Weiss writes in a letter to Koretz. “Providing bike lanes would actually free up traffic by separating bikes from cars.  And safety concerns will continue to keep risk-averse people from riding – exacerbating, rather than relieving, automobile traffic to UCLA and keeping buses stuck in traffic.  (Biking is actually faster than the bus during the evening commute.)  UCLA has done a great job in cutting its carbon footprint, but this bottleneck on its doorstep hinders its ongoing efforts in that regard.”

It’s short notice, I know.

But the LACBC is calling on everyone who rides Westwood — or would like to — to attend a meeting this evening to discuss the next steps in light of Koretz firmly planting a knife in the back of the Westside cycling community.

Come to our meeting TONIGHT (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. to plan next steps for RideWestwood and find out about upcoming actions:

UCLA – Public Affairs Building – Faculty Lounge (Room 5391)
337 Charles E. Young Dr. East (near Wyton and Hilgard).

If you can’t make the meeting — or even if you can — the coalition asks that you email Koretz’ office to demand he reconsider bike lanes on Westwood Blvd.

Sample email:

to: paul.koretz@lacity.org 
cc: joan.pelico@lacity.org, jay.greenstein@lacity.org 
bcc: info@la-bike.org 

subj: Study Westwood Bike Lanes

Dear Councilmember Koretz,

Westwood Boulevard is currently one of the most popular routes for people riding bikes in your district.  It is also one of the least safe.  You’ve said before that, “I do not vote for things that kill people.”  I hope that you’ll at least study how to fix a dangerous situation that has already killed and will likely again if it is not improved.  As a community leader, it’s your responsibility to convene people with differing views, seek out accurate information and make informed decisions that respect all stakeholders.  I ask that you take this commitment seriously by studying alternatives for bike lanes along Westwood Boulevard and hosting an open and inclusive process to discuss the merits of the project.

Sincerely,

your name
your neighborhood 

And while you’re at it, you might remind him of his own support for bicycling, as he stated right here when he was first running for office.

When I was the Mayor of West Hollywood, I requested input from the bicycle community on how to implement bike lanes on part of Santa Monica Boulevard. I think Los Angeles needs to adopt a regional public transportation approach that not only addresses improving traffic flow, and mass transit, but also how we can improve options and the quality of life for bicyclists.

In general, we need to focus on the creation of an effective bicycle infrastructure. Los Angeles, with over 330 sunny days a year, should be the world leader in bicycle commuting. We need to start the work of building many more miles of safe bikeways and adequate secure parking for commuters. These two steps will be a good beginning in our efforts to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow.

Odd that someone who fought for bike lanes on the even more congested Santa Monica Blvd through West Hollywood would oppose them on Westwood.

Or was he just saying what he thought we wanted to hear to win an election?

Important LAPD meeting next week for anyone who lives or rides through the San Fernando Valley

Yesterday I received the following email from Glenn Bailey, Vice-Chair of the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee. 

Dear Valley Bicyclists:

At the request of LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas, commanding officer of LAPD’s Operations-Valley Bureau, an important meeting with Valley bicyclists to discuss and improve the handling of:

  •       traffic enforcement to ensure cyclist safety
  •       hit and run collisions/crimes
  •       bicycle thefts
  •       improving safety on the Orange Line and other bicycle paths in the Valley
  •       safety education for motorists and cyclists
  •       and other topics of interest to bicyclists

The LAPD Valley Traffic Division will be participating and the County Sheriff (Metro Orange Line enforcement) has been invited as well.

You are cordially to invited to attend:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
LAPD Van Nuys Division
6240 Sylmar Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91401

So that there is adequate seating and copies of handouts, please RSVP via email to glennbaileysfv@yahoo.com if you are attending OR may be attending. Also, if you have additional topics you wish to be considered for this or a subsequent meeting, please forward those as well.

I encourage you to forward this invitation to other interested Valley cyclists.

Hope to see you there.

Thank you.

Glenn Bailey, Vice-Chair
Bicycle Advisory Committee
City of Los Angeles

Having worked with both Bailey and Deputy Chief Villegas as part of the department’s bike task force, I can assure you this is one meeting that will definitely be worth your time.

Especially given the subject matter.

Chances are, riding a bike is a lot safer than you think — and just as fun

Let’s talk safety for a moment.

Or rather, the risk you face riding your bike on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Or wherever you happen to ride.

Because chances are, it’s a lot less dangerous than you might think.

Granted, it can look bad at times — especially if you read this blog on an irregular basis; I’ve long noticed that readership spikes whenever a bike rider gets killed or seriously injured.

That’s perfectly understandable. But that means you might miss the stories in between that talk about bike advocacy and improving infrastructure, as well as lists of links and the simple joys of just riding your bike.

Which I freely admit I don’t write about nearly enough.

So let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Riding a bike is fun.

Really fun.

Even a bad day on a bike is better than just about anything else I might do with that time; after a few hours — or sometimes, a few days — I forget about the few moments when something went wrong and remember just how good the rest of the ride felt.

Even when I have an encounter with an angry or dangerous driver, I try to forget the one or two jerks I had a problem with. And focus on the countless others who shared the road safely and, often, courteously.

Yes, bad things can happen on a bike.

Unlike drivers, we don’t have glass and steel plating to protect us. Or seat belts, air bags and crumple zones, for that matter.

Our crumple zones are our own bodies.

And we have nothing more than a helmet to protect us, if that.

On the other hand, we also have much greater maneuverability than those lumbering metal behemoths we share the road with. And can often avoid collisions that would be inevitable if we were behind the wheel.

It may seem counterintuitive, but you actually have a much lower risk of dying on a bike than you do in a car. In fact, you’re 15 times more likely to die in a car collision over the course of your lifetime than you are on a bike.

Even accounting for relative time in the saddle and behind the wheel, your risk of dying in a car is nearly twice as much as on a bike.

And neither one begins to approach the risks of sitting on your couch and doing nothing.

Surprisingly enough, Los Angeles is a pretty safe place to ride, as well. The city has seen five bicycling fatalities in each of the last two years, while the county averages 24 bike deaths per year.

That may sound like a lot, but it works out to just one cycling death per 750,000 and 400,000 residents, respectively. Which makes the area significantly safer than Orange and San Diego Counties, with one death per every 230,000 and 250,000 residents, respectively.

Granted, even one death is one too many.

But given that the city cites over 400,000 regular riders in Los Angeles — and climbing rapidly — your odds of surviving your next ride, and every ride after that, are pretty damn good.

Looking at it another way, I once read a study which said regular cyclists — that’s regular as in frequent, not ordinary or non-constipated — could expect an injury serious enough to require medical attention once every 8.3 years.

Which puts me right on course, with four trips to the ER in 32 years of adult riding.

And only one of those involved an automobile. Which is exactly the same number involving freak encounters with massive swarms of bees.

Better yet, you can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury just by taking a few simple precautions.

  • Always ride within your own abilities. Yes, it’s fun to push your limits, but riding on the edge is where most injuries happen.
  • Avoid the door zone. Ride at least three feet from parked cars and watch for people inside, open doors or brake lights that could indicate trouble.
  • Ride defensively. Assume that anyone you see on the road will do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, and mentally prepare for it. If they do, you’re ready; if not, you’re no worse off.
  • Always ride with traffic. Drivers aren’t looking for you coming at them, and salmon cycling reduces reaction times and increases the force of any impact.
  • Signal your turns. Even though many, if not most, drivers don’t these days, they expect you to; predictability of movement is key to safe riding in any situation.
  • Use other hand gestures, as well. No, not that one. Point slightly to your left if you’re coming into the traffic lane, or point straight ahead if you’re going through an intersection to keep cars from turning. And if there’s any confusion, waive drivers through ahead of you — it’s a lot better than getting hit.
  • Always observe the right of way. The first vehicle at an intersection goes first, those going straight go before any turning left, and in the event of a tie, the one on the right goes first. It may mean stopping to let a driver go ahead of you, but isn’t your safety worth a few extra seconds?
  • Stop for stop signs and red lights. Yes, it’s inconvenient and requires more effort. But riders blowing through signals is one of the primary causes of preventable collisions. And just about all collisions are preventable.
  • If you use hand brakes, practice braking with your back brakes a fraction of a second before you squeeze the front one, until it becomes second nature. That will keep you from going over your handlebars, which I’ve done too many times.
  • Learn to turn by shifting your body weight instead of using the handlebars. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much easier, natural and more responsive, especially at speed, and allows you to swerve quickly to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Practice sprinting at a higher cadence. Even if you’ll never race, sprinting skills can help you get out of a dangerous situation before it sucks you in. I’ve probably avoided as many collisions by sprinting out of the way as I have by braking.
  • Wear a helmet. Yes, I know all the arguments against helmet use, as well as their limitations. And in 32 years of riding, I’ve only needed mine once. But that one time could have made my wife a widow if I’d been without it.
  • Use lights and reflectors after dark. The law requires a headlight and rear reflector, along with reflectors on both wheels. I use a flashing light up front, two blinkers in back and reflective strips on my wrists and ankles. Drivers can’t avoid you if they don’t know you’re there.
  • Wear clothes that contrast with your surroundings. Hi-viz isn’t necessary; bright colors, deep blacks and whites stand out from the surrounding environment on during the day, while light colors stand out at night. Avoid dull blacks, blues and grays, especially on cloudy days, since they blend in too easily.
  • If you don’t feel safe or confident on the streets, consider taking a Confident City Cycling or Savvy Cycling course. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a rabid vehicular cyclist, but it helps to have the skills to ride in any situation.

Unfortunately, bad things can happen on a bike.

And I’m going to keep writing about the bad things that happen on bikes, and to bike riders, until there aren’t any more to write about.

But until then, don’t let that scare you off your bike.

Because those bad things happen a lot less often than it might seem.

And with a little effort and skill, they probably won’t happen to you.

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