Tag Archive for California

Morning Links: CABO opposes protected bikeway bill; Brit driver kills 5-year old, then says shit happens

Once again, CABO — the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, not to be confused with the California Bicycle Coalition — has come out in opposition to a measure that would benefit the overwhelming majority of bike riders in the state.

AB 1193 would legalize protected bike lanes, which are currently considered experimental under California law, creating a fourth class of bikeways in the state to go along with Class 1 off-road bike paths, Class 2 bike lanes, and Class 3 bike routes.

The bill, sponsored by the CBC, would require Caltrans to work with local jurisdictions to establish minimum safety requirements for protected, or separated, bike lanes, rather than rely on Caltrans’ antiquated rules that have severely limited innovation and safety.

I have no doubt CABO is sincere in their opposition, which appears to be based on maintaining the overly conservative Caltrans standards they helped create.

But their opposition stands in the way of encouraging more people to get on their bikes, and improving safety for all road users. And gives needless support to those in the legislature who oppose bicycling and bike infrastructure in general.

Instead of opposing a very good and necessary bill, they should find a way to support it. Or at the very least, stay neutral.

Or they will continue to find themselves out of step with most riders, and further marginalized in a state where the CBC has become the voice of mainstream bicycling.

……..

Local

Richard Risemberg asks what part of traffic calming doesn’t councilmember Gil Cedillo understand?

A Pasadena bike rider is assualted and robbed by passing motorists, possibly at gunpoint.

Nice. LA’s Milestone Rides prepares to ride from Vancouver to San Francisco.

 

State

San Diego City Beat goes drinking with BikeSD advocate Sam Ollinger.

The inaugural Big Bear Cycling Festival rolls at the end of next month.

A pipe bomb is found next to a Pacific Grove bike trail. The question is, did someone just hide it here, or were they targeting bike riders?

 

National

Good read, as Vice Sports says you can kill anyone with your car, as long as you don’t really mean it.

Great ideas never die. Okay, sometimes. But the self-inflating bike tire is back after a six year absence.

Utah will put rolling billboards on six semi-trucks to promote the state’s three-foot passing law. But will the drivers practice what they preach?

Two New Mexico bike riders find a missing 9-year old girl.

Biased much? A Denver TV station says cyclists are at fault in several bike vs car collisions, but fails to back it up in any way.

If you want to get away with murder, use a car. A Philadelphia judge acquits a driver of vehicular manslaughter for running down his bike-riding romantic rival.

A North Carolina bike lawyer explains why it’s often safer to ride abreast.

 

International

Paris’ Velib bike share system has added kids bikes to their rental fleet.

German bike rider poses for photos atop wrecked cars.

The Deutschland high court wisely rules that not wearing a helmet is not contributory negligence in the event of a collision; I’m told some American juries are starting to find otherwise.

 

Finally…

Sidi unveils a new camo mountain bike shoe. You know, for all those cyclists who want to be even less visible when they ride. Then again, whenever I see someone wearing camo, I want to walk up to them and say “I can totally see you.”

And a Brit lawyer insists his client really is remorseful, despite saying “Shit happens, life goes on” after being convicted of killing a five-year old bike rider while driving at over twice the speed limit.

Big heart, that guy.

 

Update: Gatto bill suspends licenses for hit-and-run; hit-and-run victim Damian Kevitt to finish his ride in April

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Last year, Glendale-area state Assembly Member Mike Gatto sponsored successful legislation to extend the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases from three to six years.

The bill was stronger as originally written, though, providing an additional year from the date a suspect was identified. Still, the final version that passed the legislature on a unanimous vote of both houses was signed by Governor Brown — which is not always a sure thing — and went into effect on the first of the year.

Now Gatto is taking the next step in ending the epidemic of hit-and-and run.

According to a press release from his office, which does not appear to be online yet, Gatto has introduced legislation calling for automatic license revocation for any motorist who leaves the scene of a collision involving another person — even if the injuries are minor.

That’s revocation, not suspension.

(Update: Actually, it’s not. See below.) 

As such, it goes beyond the 2010 Life Before License campaign sponsored by the apparently dormant Bikeside LA, which called for license suspensions of varying length depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Because too often, drivers are allowed to keep their licenses after fleeing the scene, even in cases where the victim has been seriously injured.

And it corrects, in part at least, a loophole in California law that only allows serious consequences in cases resulting in death or serious bodily injury.

Even then, hit-and-run drivers too often walk off with a slap on the wrist. And their license.

“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop. The only way to get someone medical help is to stop,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license, adds insult to their victim’s injuries.” …

“AB 1532 will give victims of hit-and-runs solace, knowing that cowards who drive recklessly, and purposefully avoid responsibility for their actions, are no longer driving the streets,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “This is a sensible fix to the law that will lead people to think twice before leaving the scene of an accident.”

It’s not the full solution to hit-and-run.

But it’s something I’ve long called for to discourage drivers from fleeing the scene, and get drivers who’ve shown they can’t obey the most basic requirements for driving — let alone human decency — off the road.

We still need to address the fact that current law actually encourages drivers who have been drinking to flee the scene until they have time to sober up. As well as the fact that unless their vehicle is taken away, many motorists will continue to drive after their licenses have been taken away.

And again, with little or no consequences in far too many cases.

But Gatto’s bill is a vital step to control, if not end, the epidemic. And get some of the state’s most dangerous and heartless drivers off the road.

As Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted,

“Stopping and rendering aid after a collision is the most basic duty of a motorist. … Failing to do so can be the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious injury or fatality. Anyone who flees the scene of an accident has demonstrated in the most cowardly way possible that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep their driving privileges.”

Update: Now that the bill has been posted online, it’s clear that the press release was misleading, at best. Rather than calling for revocation, as the press release stated, it would merely require that drivers who leave the scene have their licenses suspended for 6 months.

As such, it’s still a step forward, if a relatively small one. It’s not as strong as what was called for under Life Before License, and a lot weaker than what I’ve been calling for; whoever wrote Gatto’s press release should know there’s a big difference between suspension and revocation.

The bill would also amend current law to require that drivers who hit a person would be required to stop at the scene, rather than at the nearest location that would not impede traffic. 

The current provision has been abused by drivers who would leave the scene, then turn themselves in hours later with no penalty.

Thanks to Alex H for the correction

……….

The press release also notes that Damian Kevitt — the cyclist critically injured in a hit-and-run when a minivan driver dragged him onto the 5 Freeway after running him over near Griffith Park nearly a year ago — is planning to finish the ride that took his leg.

And nearly, his life.

Other hit-and-run victims are continuing the healing process.  Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 Freeway in Los Angeles last February.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs. Kevitt recently announced that he will be finishing the ride he started last year at an event on April 27, 2014 to raise awareness for hit-and-run victims and challenged athletes.

The suspect who hit him remains at large, despite a $25,000 reward. You can contribute to Damian’s efforts to raise $10,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Seriously, I’m in awe of that guy.

……….

In a somewhat related, and horrifying, story, a Wisconsin driver faces charges for allegedly running down an adult tricycle rider, then fleeing the scene with his victim still lodged in his windshield. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t seriously injured, and managed to free himself after the driver arrived home, reports the StarTribune.

A Wisconsin man who became lodged in the windshield of a car that struck him said he turned to the driver and said, “Hello, I’m the guy you hit on the bicycle.” …

The man finally noticed Gove when he stopped the car outside his home.

“He looked at me and said ‘Who are you? What are you doing in the car?’” Gove said. “He started freaking out: ‘I’m going to jail, I’m going to jail.’”

Thanks to Michael McVerry for the heads-up.

……….

A 79-year old Glendora cyclist is critically injured when he’s left-crossed by an 86-year old driver.

Meanwhile, a 19-year old Temecula man faces nine years in prison after reaching a plea bargain on charges that he fled the scene after hitting a stopped car, then ran a red light to strike another car and a bike rider in a crosswalk; the cyclist survived, but the other driver died several days later.

And if you can get past the paywall, the OC Register’s David Whiting asks if the death of his friend means we should give up sharing the road.

That would be no.

For all the bad news — and yes, there’s been far too much lately — your risk of dying on a bike is an infinitesimal one in 6.3 million. You also face twice as much risk inside a car as you do on a bike, on an hourly basis. And research shows the health benefits of bicycling far outweigh any risks.

I write about the bad things that happen because every fallen rider deserves to be remembered, and even one victim is one too many. And because someone has to wake up our civic leaders to the need for greater safety for everyone on our streets.

Don’t let that scare you off your bike, though.

Because bad things may happen. But they’re highly unlikely to happen to you.

……….

LADOT unveils the next round of planned bike lanes throughout the city. Assuming anti-bike city councilmembers don’t block them, that is.

Meanwhile, the city officially unveiled new bike lanes on Virgil Ave. And LADOT introduces People St to help rebuild our city on a more human scale.

……….

Bike share programs around the US and Canada have been called into question, as the company behind many of the leading programs has filed bankruptcy. Hopefully, Bixi’s financial problems will be just a bump in the road for cities like New York and Chicago, though Time Magazine isn’t very hopeful.

Thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the tip.

………

Flying Pigeon looks at last weekend’s successful Tweed Ride.

………

Finally, the National Business Review asks what you’d do if you knew how to stop bicycling deaths; evidently, the answer is not much, based on experience in Auckland. And Tennessee sheriff’s deputies threaten a bike rider with arrest after he’s assaulted by teenagers, even though they confessed to the crime; thanks to Charles Hudak for the link.

For once, California cyclists don’t get Jerry Browned. And finally get a three-foot passing law.

Yes, we won.

But just what did we win?

Monday afternoon, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he’d signed AB 1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act, after vetoing similar three-foot passing laws in each of the last two years.

So we should be happy, right?

Yes.

Sort of.

For the first time, California drivers will have a clearly defined passing distance, rather than the current requirement that they pass at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle being overtaken. Which in the real world, too often passes for anything that doesn’t actually result in contact with the rider.

No, really.

More than once I’ve caught up with a driver who buzzed me at a dangerously close distance. And the response has been a sarcastic “Well, I didn’t hit you, did I?”

Well, no.

Just scared the crap out of me, taking all my self-control not to overreact and swerve into the passing car or some other object. Not to mention risking getting sucked into the side of a larger vehicle by its slipstream.

Sort of like the school bus that passed me at speed at less than an arm’s length distance on San Vicente Monday afternoon. Or maybe this pass by a Big Blue Bus that barely did.

Pass, that is.

And I’m still waiting for someone, anyone, at the Santa Monica bus company to give enough of a damn to call me back.

Now drivers will know anything less than three feet is too damn close.

Though some would question that.

Some lawmakers who opposed the bill, such as Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said it would be difficult to estimate a 3-foot distance while driving, especially when cyclists also might be swerving to avoid road hazards.

That’s kind of the point, though. We need that three feet of space so we can swerve to avoid road hazards without plowing into the vehicle next to us.

Anyone convicted of violating the law will face a $35 base fine, plus fees that will take it up to $233, or a $220 base fine if a collision resulting in injuries to the rider occurs.

The problem is, unless a driver actually does make contact with a cyclist, the law is virtually unenforceable.

The bill includes a provision allowing drivers to pass at less than three-feet if they slow down and pass only when it won’t endanger a cyclist’s safety.

In other words, the same sort of vague, virtually unenforceable standard we have now.

Still, it’s worth celebrating simply because we’ve joined the other 22 states and the District of Columbia with a clearly defined standard. And unlike last year’s bill, this one applies whether you’re in the same lane as the vehicle passing you or in a separate bike lane or parking lane.

Which should help stop those drivers who buzz you with two wheels on, or in, the bike lane while you’re riding in it.

Key word being should.

So let’s give credit to former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for pushing for a third attempt to pass this bill. And Gardena Assemblymember Steven Bradford for shepherding this law through the legislature, even if it was severely watered down from the brilliantly written bill he originally proposed.

Including removal of the much-needed provision allowing drivers to briefly cross the center line in order to safely pass cyclists with a minimum three-foot distance. In other words, legalizing exactly what many drivers already do, despite the fears our governor expressed in vetoing last year’s bill.

Like Glendale’s Mike Gatto, who took on the successful fight to extend the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases, Bradford has shown himself as a skilled legislator willing to go to the mat for bicyclists. Both deserve our support, and will be worth watching — and working with — as we go forward.

We should also thank the strange mix of supporters who backed the bill, from Calbike and CABO, to traditionally bike-unfriendly AAA, which helped kill the last two bills.

And we owe a begrudging round of thanks to Jerry Brown for not going down in history as the only governor to strike out when it comes to bike safety legislation; it’s enough that he’ll be remembered by bike riders for being the only governor, besides Rick Perry of Texas, to veto a three-foot passing law once, let alone twice.

As the bill’s author put it,

“I sincerely thank the Governor for signing this commonsense measure to protect cyclists on our roads,” Bradford said. “When cars and bikes collide, it often turns to tragedy. This bill is a great reminder that we all have to work together to keep our roads safe for all users.”

Which begs the question, do we now stop referring to dangerously close passes as being Jerry Browned? Or is a single signature not enough to overcome the harm he’s already done?

The law takes effect a year from now, on September 16, 2014.

Which means things should start to get a little better then. If we can all survive that long.

And once Brown leaves office, we can work on strengthening the law and giving it some real teeth.

Will three times be the charm for the state’s latest attempt to create a three-foot passing law?

I originally wrote this story earlier today for LA Streetsblog. Thanks to Streetsblog editor Damien Newton for allowing me to repost it here.

………

Maybe the third time is the charm.

Or it could be three strikes and you’re out.

Only the veto pen on Governor Brown’s desk knows which way he’s leaning. And like the Corgi at his feet — and the governor himself — it isn’t talking.

Yesterday, the state Senate approved AB 1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act. This is the latest attempt at creating a minimum three-foot distance to pass a cyclist on California streets, after Brown vetoed two previous attempts in the last two years — joining Texas governor Rick Perry as the nation’s only state leaders to veto three-foot bike safety legislation.

Or rather, surpassing Perry, who only wielded his veto pen once in opposition to safe cycling legislation.

Twenty-one other governors have already signed similar legislation; Pennsylvania mandates a minimum of four feet.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Steven Bradford of Gardena, would replace the current requirement that drivers pass bicyclists at a safe distance without specifying what that distance is. Instead, it would require a minimum three-foot cushion between any part of the vehicle and the bike or its rider.

The act passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 31-7. It will now go back to the Assembly for a vote to concur with the amendments made following its approval by that chamber earlier this year.

And then it’s back to the governor’s desk, where he’ll have 12 days to sign it.

Or not.

There should be no reason for him to say no this time, however. The bill addresses his expressed, if questionable, reasons for vetoing the previous bills.

This time around, there is no provision requiring drivers to slow down to 15 mph to pass a bike rider if they are unable to give a three foot passing distance as mandated in the 2011 version, or to slow down to 15 mph more than the speed of the rider, as contained in the 2012 version.

And unlike the 2012 version, it does not give drivers permission to briefly cross the center line in order to pass riders safely, even though that is exactly what many drivers already do, legally or not.

In fact, that’s one of the problems with the current bill.

The primary reason Brown gave for vetoing last year’s bill was a fear of lawsuits stemming from drivers unsafely crossing the center line, even though the state is already largely exempt from such suits, and the bill required drivers to do so only when safe.

The current bill, which was very smartly written by Bradford’s staff in a attempt to address the governor’s concerns, originally included language that would specifically exempt the state from being sued if someone was injured by driver who ignored the provision to cross the line safely.

Unfortunately, that language was removed from the bill, along with the section permitting drivers to cross the line. So many motorists will continue to attempt to unsafely squeeze past riders in the same lane, or follow angrily behind until they have a chance to pass.

Or they’ll just do what many already do, and break the law by going onto the other side of the roadway to pass at a safe distance.

The other problem with the bill is that it contains a provision that takes much of the teeth out of it, allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet if they decide, for whatever reason, that the three-foot margin isn’t safe or practical. Even though nothing says they have to pass in the first place.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

The requirement to take into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle could help prevent the too frequent buzzing of bicyclists by trucks and city buses, though.

However, this bill is a big improvement over last year’s, which would have applied only to vehicles traveling in the same lane. Which means that if you were riding in a bike lane, the vehicle next to you could legally pass at significantly less than three feet — something that happens with far too much frequency already.

Instead, AB 1371 simply mandates a three-foot passing distance for any motor vehicle traveling in the same direction as the bike it’s passing. So the law applies whether you’re in a through lane, bike lane or turn lane, or any other situation when you’re headed the same way.

Of course, not everyone is in favor of the bill.

The San Jose Mercury News quotes Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, presumably one of the seven who voted against it.

“It’s just impossible to gauge what three feet is and so I don’t think it really accomplishes what you want,” Huff said. He said the state should instead focus on educating people about sharing the road with non-motorized vehicles when they renew their driver’s licenses.

“To create outlaws of everybody because you can’t judge the distance is nuts,” he said.

Then again, anyone who ever played football knows exactly how far a distance three feet — aka one yard — is.

And to argue that no one can judge that distance is absurd.

No one is going to pull out a tape measure to determine if a driver passes a vehicle at 34.5 or 37 inches. But anyone without serious depth perception issues can tell if they’re significantly less than three feet away from a rider.

Also, that three foot margin is a minimum passing distance, not a maximum target drivers are expected to adhere to. There is no reason why a motorist can’t pass with a four or five foot margin when it’s safe to do so, as many drivers already do.

“I have been riding for 25 years, and I have seen my share of run-ins and close calls,” Bradford said. “Too many people just don’t realize that cyclists are legally allowed in the street. This bill gives everyone clarity as to what is safe behavior.”

The bill should have no problem passing the Assembly once again, especially in the watered-down version passed by the Senate.

What happens once it reaches Governor Brown’s desk is anyone’s guess.

Police target distracted drivers for a whole month, Ventura farmers fear you’ll pee on their crops

Once again, police agencies around the state and across the country are targeting distracted drivers in the month of April.

Last year’s stepped up enforcement efforts lead to over 57,000 drivers being ticketed for texting or using hand-held phones behind the wheel. Not to mention another 3,800 nabbed for other illegal and unwise behaviors, such as eating, shaving and applying makeup as they sped down the roadway.

Not that you’d do anything like that, of course.

Which is why, like me, you probably wish police would dedicated themselves to the same level of enforcement the other eleven months of the year.

Because 60,000 tickets a month, every month, might actually get California drivers to put down their phones and pay attention behind the wheel. And maybe even save a few lives in the process.

Yeah, right. I know.

Here’s the press release from the LAPD. Thanks to Paul B. for the heads-up.

Distracted-Driver-Month-New

………

Ventura County farmers fear people and animals using a new rural bikeway will pee on crops and be sickened by pesticides, something that evidently never happens at farms located along rural roadways frequented by bike riders.

I grew up in farm country — no, really, my high school team was called the Lambkins for chrissake — and spent much of the first 30 years of my life riding in rural areas. And I can assure you that when the need arises, there are far better and less visible places to take a leak than the middle of some farmer’s cropland.

Even though it may not necessarily be a bad thing.

And if a farmer can’t manage to apply his pesticides in a manner that allows him to control where it ends up, he probably shouldn’t be using them in the first place.

Then again, as someone who has been crop dusted on more than one occasion, it hasn’t killed me yet.

Although, now that I think of it, it may explain a lot.

Thanks to Machiko Yasuda for the heads-up, and Bike SD’s Sam Ollinger for that number one link.

………

Today’s must read — an examination of design-oriented traffic safety vs. passive safety. It may be a little dense for us non-planners, but definitely worth the read.

………

I get a lot of emails from various people and companies wanting me to promote their products.

Some just don’t interest me, while others get lost in the shuffle. And many end up in the delete file for one reason or another; often because they have the audacity to offer me some small discount in a vain attempt to lower my editorial standards.

No, seriously.

If you’re going to bribe me, at least make it worth my while.

But every now and then, someone will approach me with an idea that actually makes sense. Like this one, attempting to raise funds for an ultra-reflective bike tire called LIT.

I rode something similar when I tested the Urbana Bike a couple of years ago. And never felt more visible; even without lights, the bike could be easily seen on the darkest streets.

Combine a reflective stripe like that with the durability of Gatorskins, and I’m there. Which, thanks to LIT’s puncture protection layer, it just might be.

So if, unlike me, you’ve got a few extra bucks to invest, this is one project I might just recommend.

In fact, I think I just did.

Meanwhile, this is one Kickstarter project that really should get funded, but probably won’t.

………

Here’s your chance to vote for funding for CicLAvia or Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts, among other projects for My LA2050; I cast my vote for the latter, since getting businesses on our side will do more than anything else to speed acceptance of bicycling in the City of Angeles. The proposed $3 billion bond issue to repair L.A.’s streets is being revived, with hearings throughout the city this month; I still can’t support it unless it includes provisions to repair the city’s broken sidewalks and speed up implementation of the L.A. bike plan as street get repaved. The latest Unity Ride will roll Sunday, April 28th to strengthen ties between L.A. and the San Fernando Valley — much of which is L.A. Letter writers weighing in with the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council were overwhelmingly in support of bike lanes on Colorado Blvd; I understand speakers at Tuesday’s meeting strongly backed the proposed lanes, as well. Update: In a bit of late-breaking news, the Eagle Rock NC voted to supported buffered bike lanes on Colorado Blvd. Bike lanes are proposed for Cal Poly Pomona, where cyclist Ivan Aguilar was killed a little over a month ago perhaps due to the lack of them. KCRW traffic maven Kajon Cermak wants to know if L.A.’s newly synchronized traffic lights have sped up your drives through the city; I can’t speak for driving, but I seem to get stopped at more lights when I ride these days.

Applications for Newport Beach’s new Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee are due Wednesday; meanwhile, donations to the city’s Bike Safety Improvement Fund totaled over $75,000, which Newport Beach will match on a three-to-one basis. A proposed bill would force drivers to acknowledge they understand the dangers of distracted driving when they get their license. Bike safety is finally coming to Bakersfield. Cyclelicious says those traffic light detectors work better if you lay your bike on its side. Specialized Creative Director Robert Eggers says the company is intoxicated by bicycles, and wants to spread the disease to everyone. Good advice on how to ride through parking lots. A cyclist is killed in Red Bluff traffic collision.

A writer for People for Bikes correctly points out that for every “FU” we cyclists utter, there’s an equal and opposite “FU” from motorists; the antidote, he says, is to say “careful” instead. This is another reason why it’s hard to get women excited about bicycling. Proper etiquette for group rides; a lot of experienced riders could stand to read this as well as beginners. No irony here, as America’s wounded warriors have until Friday to submit applications to ride with the man who sent them to war. A Minneapolis man is arrested for the apparent drunken hit-and-run death of a bicyclist. A Minnesota writer who previously opposed bike lanes commits to riding every day this month. Ohio redefines the word bicycle to include four-wheeled pedal-powered vehicles. That Philly man who rides with his cat on his shoulder is the new handlebar-mustached face of GoPro. A New York study shows most pedestrians are hit by cars while walking in the crosswalk with the light, and cabs are no friend to cyclists. The New York Post is shocked! shocked! to spot Alec Baldwin riding a bike sans helmet and talking on a cell phone; only the latter is against the law in New York. An open hate letter to Miami’s bike thieves, in which the writer wishes them a social disease.

Toronto’s notoriously anti-bike mayor is accused of public drunkenness and possible drunk driving. It ain’t easy to keep your cool when a professional cyclist grabs your ass. Oxford advocates call for more bike lanes, or not. Bucharest bike advocates fight the city’s dangerous bike lanes by adopting and eliminating them. A call for police to target New Zealand cyclists riding without lights at night. Sadly, an Aussie cop is killed while riding to celebrate his 52nd birthday.

Finally, continuing this week’s theme, a BMX-biking Colorado bank robber gets 41 months in Federal prison; probably a better getaway choice than yesterday’s beach cruiser. And a suspected drunk driver fled the scene after rear-ending a car near the Malibu Pier, then slammed into six parked cars and damaged a house; the driver turned out to be the son of Gone With the Wind star Clark Gable.

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn.

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.

………

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.

………

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.

………

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.

A little clarification on tickets and misdemeanors, and what police can and can’t do

Maybe I got it wrong.

Or maybe the person who explained it to me did.

But yesterday, I got clarification on what police can and can’t do in cases where they don’t witness a violation.

My understanding was that the police were prohibited from writing a ticket or filing misdemeanor charges unless they actually saw it happen. Which is why it’s so hard to get criminal charges in a harassment case, for instance, because few motorists are foolish enough to threaten a bike rider when a cop is watching.

However, it turns out that’s not quite right.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the LAPD bike task force, officers who work in traffic investigations explained that they actually can write tickets for traffic violations after the fact — if the evidence or witness testimony makes it clear that a driver broke the law.

For instance, if the evidence suggests that a collision occurred because someone ran a red light, they can ticket the responsible party even though they didn’t see it happen.

Criminal charges are another matter.

While police are free to make felony arrests whether they see the crime or not, state law prohibits them from making a misdemeanor arrest unless they see the violation.

However, the key word there is arrest; misdemeanor charges can be filed later if the evidence warrants, whether or not the officer was there when the crime was committed.

Clear now?

It seems like splitting hairs, but that’s the current state of the law here in the late, great Golden State.

The good news is, that means your bike cam video can be considered as evidence leading to a misdemeanor charge.

It can also lead to a traffic ticket after the fact, though that’s not likely in most cases. Particularly if the violation didn’t lead to a collision or injuries.

A couple other quick notes from the meeting:

  • Police are seeing a number of bikes converted to use a small gas-powered engine. However, once you hit the gas, it’s no longer considered a bicycle. Anything with a motor over 150 cc’s is legally a motorcycle; anything below that is considered a moped. And both are subject to laws that bicycles aren’t, as well as licensing requirements. E-bikes are not subject to the same requirements and are still regarded as bicycles under state law.
  • By far the leading cause of bicycling collisions in the Valley Traffic Division is riding against traffic. In fact, riding salmon resulted in nearly six times as many collisions reported to the police as dooring, the second leading cause. And not only does riding upstream dramatically increase your risk of getting hit, it also means you’re automatically considered at fault, at lest in part, regardless of any other factors.
  • Finally, those long-awaited stats on hit-and-run requested by the L.A. City Council are unlikely to be delivered before the end of the month. The LAPD still working on compiling detailed data breaking down just how prevalent the problem actually is. But it would be great if they could step it up just a little, since there are currently two state laws under consideration to address the problem, and a little solid data might help.

Reading between the lines — did California Governor Jerry Brown kill a bike rider with his pen?

Sometimes the irony is as tragic as it is overwhelming.

It was just a few years ago that the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an editorial ridiculing efforts to pass a three-foot passing law in the state — one day after printing a story proving the need for it.

The paper said that while they supported “protecting bicycle enthusiasts,” they feared a society in which drivers could get a ticket for passing a cyclist at just 2’11”, and called the proposed law unenforceable.

Pity they don’t read their own newspaper.

Just 24 hours earlier, they’d run a story about a 78-year old man who died after being passed so closely by a school bus that witnesses thought the driver had hit him. Police initially investigated the death as a hit-and-run before concluding that the bus never came in contact with the rider.

It just passed so closely that the rider, an experienced cyclist who averaged 5,000 miles a year on his bike, lost control and fell, fatally, off his bike.

Something a three-foot law might have prevented. Or at the very least, could have provided a basis to charge the bus driver for his death.

Now we have a very similar situation right here in California.

Except instead of an editorial providing an ironic context, we have the veto pen of a misguided governor to blame.

And instead of a 78-year old victim, it was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley who died when he was passed by a dump truck last July.

Israeli professor Shlomo Bentin, a renowned expert in cognitive neuropsychology, was riding his bike next to a line of cars when he was buzzed by the dump truck — once again, so close that witnesses at the scene believed the truck had hit him.

Yet investigators, relying on video, interviews and forensic analysis, concluded that the truck never made contact with the rider.

And even though state law requires drivers to pass at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle, authorities felt they didn’t have enough evidence to make their case.

Something that probably wouldn’t have been a problem if we had a three-foot passing law in place.

Anyone who has ever been in Bentin’s position knows the sheer terror that comes with having a massive, multi-ton vehicle mere inches from your elbow.

It takes near-superhuman self control not to overreact in that situation, where the slightest mistake could result in a serious, if not fatal, collision with the passing vehicle – or a crash into the parked cars on the right that could throw you under the truck’s wheels or into the path of following cars.*

Or cause you to simply fall on your own, as Bentin and the rider in the New Jersey case appear to have done with tragic results.

And make no mistake. While most falls from a bike are harmless, any fall can be dangerous.

Yet thanks to the veto pen of our misguided governor, California drivers still have no standard in place to tell them what is and isn’t a safe passing distance.

And as this case clearly shows, any pass that doesn’t actually come in contact with the rider is effectively legal under current law.

Even if the rider dies as a result.

Had the governor not vetoed two straight safe passing laws — including one he indicated he would sign after vetoing the first — Shlomo Bentin might be alive today, training the next generation of neuropsychologists.

Or at the very least, the driver could have been held accountable for fatally violating the three-foot rule, rather than walking thanks to the current nebulous and virtually unenforceable standard.

Instead, the governor traded our lives, not for the implausible reasons he gave for his vetoes, but as a political favor to groups he evidently felt were more important than mere bike riders. Or so I’m told by people in a position to know.

Bentin’s body should be laid at Governor Brown’s feet — figuratively, if not literally. Because he’s traded the safety of every bike rider on California streets for political expediency.

And he should be held accountable, morally and politically, for Bentin’s death, and any other cyclists who have been Jerry Browned following his vetoes, or will be.

Our governor has blood on his hands.

And nothing he can do will wash it away.

*If you find yourself in a similar situation, the best course of action is to bail to your right if there’s room — even if that means going over a curb or off the roadway; road rash or a broken arm is a lot better than getting run over. If there’s no room to your right, hold steady and try not to react in any way; it’s not easy, but this is one situation where doing absolutely nothing could save your life.

………

A Canyon Country bicycle advocate was seriously injured in a collision on Saturday.

Kevin Korenthal was riding south on Little Tujunga Road when a 16-year old driver lost control rounding a curve, crossed the center line and hit him head-on. He was airlifted to the hospital, where he underwent 7 hours of surgery for injuries including three broken vertebrae in his neck and back, as well as a broken wrist, tibia, fibula, scapula and femur.

The founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users, Korenthal lost his lower left leg as a result of another cycling collision 21 years ago; the latest crash left a steel rod in the amputated leg bent at a 45-degree angle.

Thanks to Michele for the heads-up.

………

Finally, the Times offers a great look at L.A.’s jet-beating Wolfpack Hustle.

Surprisingly — or maybe not so much, given the number of cyclists who work for the Times — it offers a fair, balanced and objective look at a leading segment of the city’s formerly underground bike culture.

Although as usual, some of the comments leave something to be desired.

A simple four — or maybe five — point plan to end hit-and-run in California once and for all

The news hit like a bombshell Wednesday night.

After years of ignoring the problem, the Los Angeles press discovered the city’s hit-and-run epidemic when the LA Weekly unveiled an extensive examination of what may be the city’s most common crime.

The article, by writer Simone Wilson, cites the shocking news that 48% of all L.A. collisions are hit-and-runs. Or at least, shocking to anyone who hasn’t been fighting to call attention to the problem, and trying desperately to get city officials to actually do something about it.

Although to be fair, in the meetings I’ve attended, LAPD has consistently said that roughly 33% percent of all collisions are hit-and-runs, based on COMPSTAT data. And unfortunately, the Weekly doesn’t explain where they got the higher figure.

But either way, it’s too damn high.

I won’t recap the article here. If you want the short version, you can get it from LA Streetsblog or The Atlantic Cities; if there’s any justice at all, it will soon be picked up by the larger mainstream press.

Or better yet, click the link in the second paragraph and read the full article yourself. And try to retain the contents of your stomach when you do.

The question is what can we do about it.

Most of the efforts by advocates working to do something about the problem have focused on addressing it after the fact.

Like raising the profile of the crime to put it on equal footing with other violent crimes. And increasing the number of officers assigned to investigate hit-and-run collisions — particularly those involving serious injury. Which won’t be easy given that the department is desperately trying to avoid further budget and staffing cutbacks.

Meanwhile, others, such as the recent Life Before License campaign, have focused on ensuring that drivers who aren’t willing to observe the most basic requirement to remain at the scene of a collision will have their driver’s licenses suspended — something that has failed to happen in a shocking number of cases.

Which sends clear message just how seriously our courts don’t take traffic crimes.

All of these efforts are important, and deserve our support.

On the other hand, I’d rather stop hit-and-runs before they occur by changing state law to remove the incentive to flee. And making the cost for running away so steep that no one in his or her right mind would think it’s worth the risk.

Long-time readers may recall that I’ve advocated a three-point plan to do just that. And recently added a fourth to address the heartless bastards who leave their victims to die on the street.

1. One of the most common reasons people take off following a collision is that they’ve been drinking or are otherwise under the influence of something. Yet current state law actually encourages drivers to flee by making the penalty for hit-and-run less onerous than the penalty for DUI. So we should start by removing that incentive, as Colorado did at the urging of cyclists, by making the penalties for hit-and-run equal to the penalties for DUI.

However, given California’s current prison overcrowding, it’s highly unlikely that anyone convicted under a toughened law would serve their full sentence. So I suggest we take it further.

2. Anyone who leaves the scene of a collision should have their license automatically revoked — not suspended — by the DMV. By committing the crime of hit-and-run, they’ve shown a callous indifference to both the law and the lives and safety of others, and are undeserving of the privilege of driving. By making this an administrative action, it can be taken regardless of whether the driver is ever charged or convicted. The driver would have to go before an administrative judge to request the right to apply for a new license — and should face a higher standard to get it.

3. Hit-and-run is the only crime where the criminal is allowed to keep the weapon he or she used, even after a conviction; after all, bank robbers aren’t given back the gun they used. Any car used to commit a hit-and-run should be impounded as evidence until a decision is made on whether to file charges or until the trial is concluded. If the driver is convicted, the vehicle should be seized by the state and sold, with the proceeds going to the victim. After all, the state can already seize cars used in drug crimes or to solicit prostitutes; isn’t running away after killing or injuring another human being just a little more serious than trolling for a blowjob?

And I guarantee people will think twice about running away if they have to continue making payments on a car they don’t own anymore.

As I mentioned, I’ve recently added a fourth item to this list, after one too many cases in which a hit-and-run driver has left their victim to die on the streets — yet authorities can’t manage to find anything to charge the driver with that’s in any way commensurate to crime.

4. The greatest tragedy in any fatal hit-and-run is that in many cases, the victim might have been saved with prompt emergency care. But instead of calling for help, the drivers run off, leaving their victims to suffer and die alone, when they might otherwise have been saved. So prosecutors should be encouraged — if not required — to file unpremeditated degree murder charges in any case where there’s even the slightest possibility the victim might have survived if they’d gotten help.

It’s a tough approach. And quite frankly, despite discussions with a few state legislators, I’ve yet to find one willing to take up the fight.

They’d rather pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Or that nothing can be done about it, while countless cyclists, pedestrians and motorists continue to bleed.

Or die.

Then there’s one other element that should be considered.

Every police officer with whom I’ve discussed the problem of hit-and-run, without exception, has said there are two primary reason drivers flee. First, because they may be intoxicated, or second, because the drivers may be undocumented, with no license or insurance.

Of course, there’s also a third, somewhat smaller category. Some people are just gutless assholes who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

But until we allow all residents of the state — whether or not they are here legally — to apply for a license and buy the insurance required by law for all drivers, we will continue to give them a reason to run away.

It doesn’t mean we are legitimizing their status; the state does not have the power to do that.

It just means that we recognize the problem.

And it’s long past time we did something about it.

Cyclist refuses to back Governor’s Prop 30 in response to Brown’s repeated 3-foot vetoes

I got an interesting email tonight from a regular reader and bicycling advocate who asked that his name be kept private.

He forwarded an email he sent to Governor Jerry Brown, connecting the dots between Brown’s ill-advised vetoes of two three-foot passing laws, and support for the tax increase Brown is currently pushing. As well as his own safety.

After much soul searching I have decided not to support Prop 30.

As someone who commutes over 5,000 miles per year by bicycle, the Governor’s callous unwillingness to protect my safety by twice vetoing the 3 ft passing law is so important to me, that I cannot bring myself to cooperate with him on an issue of far less importance to me.  Just today I was again struck by a motorist (thankfully uninjured) while riding home in Hollywood.  My life, my safety, is personally more important than the solvency of this state.

If he can’t be bothered to protect me, I can’t be bothered to help him.

Regretfully, 

First of all, let me say I’m glad he’s okay; collisions with cars don’t always turn out so well.

Second, I have to admit, the same thought has occurred to me.

I can’t say I’d recommend basing your vote on a funding measure on Brown’s lack of support for California cyclists. On the other hand, I couldn’t blame you if you did; the governor shouldn’t expect our support when he won’t give us his. Which is something he can ill afford right now.

Meanwhile, Bike San Diego offers an in-depth two-part look at Brown’s veto.

………

On a related subject, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember who first came up with the term Jerry Browned to describe getting dangerously buzzed at less than three feet while riding your bike.

I remember seeing it on Twitter. And that took the ball and ran with it, as did Gary the always insightful of Gary Rides Bikes.

It turns out that credit for originally coming up with it goes to our friends at L.A.-based bikewear manufacturer Swrve.

………

The LACBC endorses Proposition J to speed up transit projects. Fighting a valet blocked bike lane. Motor Avenue gets a much needed road diet. Multicultural Communities for Mobility — the former City of Lights program — hosted their annual awards dinner on Wednesday. The history of PCH reveals a troubled and dangerous highway. In an absolutely absurd opinion piece, the L.A. Times compares the green credibility of a $20 cardboard bike with an $845,000 plug-in hybrid Porsche. Malibu officials confirm their commitment to bike safety following the death of Mari Echeverria on PCH this month; Cycling in the South Bay responds with the real problem on PCH. What happens to abandoned bikes in Hermosa Beach. CLR Effect takes a look at fire bikes.

Don’t forget this weekend’s Newport Beach Memorial Ride and Fundraiser; if you ride in Orange County you need to be there. An Orange County assailant escapes by BMX bike after stabbing a woman multiple times; fortunately, her injuries weren’t serious. Signs appear announcing the forthcoming sharrows in Corona del Mar. A Los Olivas DUI driver gets four years and four months in prison for plowing into a group of riders, leaving one in a semi-comatose state with serious brain injuries. A dangerous Santa Barbara street gets the blame for putting a cyclist on life support — though police say it’s because she didn’t use a crosswalk. San Francisco police allegedly beat the crap out of a popular cyclist and bike cap maker for exercising his 1st Amendment rights — then charge him with assaulting three officers and resisting arrest. Bay Area bicyclists say thanks to drivers.

The Bike League has recognized this year’s Bike Friendly Businesses — including Santa Monica’s Helen’s Cycles and Irvine’s Jax Bicycle Center — along with their new Bike Friendly Universities; sorry, USC. Thirteen reasons you should start biking to work. Winter bike commuting in Anchorage AK. An Arizona writer gets it right in responding to complaints from motorists. A Salt Lake City man is under arrest after taking a $5,900 for a test ride and not coming back. A Native American driver shows no remorse when he pleads guilty to running down a cross-county cyclist on a New Mexico reservation; the tribal court has jurisdiction, which is seldom a good thing. A drunk Texas cyclist pulls a machete on a cop; usually not a good idea. A Pittsburgh mom thanks the strangers who helped her bike-riding daughter. An arrest has been made in the case of the Pittsburgh cyclist whose throat was slashed last month. In a horrifying case, two New Jersey brothers are accused of killing a 12-year old girl to steal her BMX bike. Bike Portland says New York streets really do live up to the hype. NYPD forgets to investigate the fatal dooring of a cyclist last April. New York plazas and bike lanes are good for business. Russell Crowe leads the paparazzi on a 7.7 mile bike chase. AAA insists DC-area drivers are the victims of a war on cars; if they don’t figure out soon that a lot of their members also ride bikes, they may lose that war.

America’s only surviving Tour de France winner calls on the head of competitive cycling’s governing body to resign. Lancegate claims another victim, as Team Sky’s Bobby Julich resigns as cycling coach. Motorists say cyclists are endangering their lives by riding on divided highways; yeah, they couldn’t just slow down and drive safely. So much for that cycling paradise, as a Danish princess collides with a cyclist on the streets of Copenhagen. Bangalore gets its first bike lane. Real justice for a fallen cyclist as a Kenyan driver gets life in prison for the hit-and-run death of a bike rider.

Finally, let me get this straight — if 25% of drivers want those “inconsiderate cyclists” to be  taxed and licensed, doesn’t that mean an overwhelming 75% don’t? And a UK cyclist punches a car passenger in an unprovoked assault. So who said it was unprovoked?

Oh, right, the guy who got punched.

%d bloggers like this: