Tag Archive for dangerous drivers

The more things don’t change, the more they remain the same; LA driver confesses to threatening cyclists

Here's a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog than the people I hired to do it.

Here’s a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog to a private server than the people I hired to do it.

So much for that.

As we left off last week, I promised this blog would be transferred to a private server over the holiday weekend, as the first phase of long-gestating plan to remake it into an advertising-supported website.

Long gestating, indeed. Many species have their babies in a lot less time than this process, which started in August, has taken.

But as you’ll see, either the transfer was done so perfectly that nothing has changed, or nothing has changed.

Smart money is on the latter.

Over the weekend I received an email from the web-hosting service I’d hired to do the transfer that they too lacked the capability to move it to their servers. This, despite sworn assurances from their sales staff that they’d done it many times before, and would have me up and running in a matter of days.

Turns out they hadn’t. And wouldn’t.

But at least I got my money back.

So the transfer is on hold for now. Hopefully, it will get done later this week, by another company that doesn’t have its head so far up it’s own ass knows what it’s doing and is a little more honest about its own abilities.

I’ll let you know more when I do.

………

It’s not everyday someone confesses to assault with a deadly weapon on National Public Radio.

But that’s exactly what self-proclaimed life-long LA driver Jackie Burke did in an otherwise positive piece about LA Bike Trains.

The story focused on the founding of the program by New York transplant Nona Varnado, who has become a leader in the local bicycling scene in the short time she’s been here — though I do miss her incredible design work for women cyclists. Along with the success the program has had in helping beginning bike commuters take to the roads.

Not that everyone welcomes new riders to the roads.

Like the aforementioned Ms. Burke, for instance.

“It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes,” says Jackie Burke, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She says bicyclists drive her crazy when she’s in a car and has to slow down for them.

“It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

Let’s start with the fact that neither Burke, nor anyone else, has a right to the roadway, let alone a right to drive unimpeded. And as Niall Huffman points out, bikes aren’t hard to pass — as long as you’re not the kind of sociopath who’s willing to intentionally threaten another human being for the crime of slightly inconveniencing your commute.

Because that’s exactly what Burke has admitted doing.

By her own account, she used her vehicle as a weapon in an attempt to intimidate another person using the roadway in a legal manner. She could, and perhaps should, be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Except that she would undoubtedly deny her own words, which is currently the only evidence against her.

In order for charges to stick, her victim or an independent witness would have to come forward who could testify that Burke threatened the rider with her car, and could place her — or at least her vehicle — at the scene of the crime.

Because a crime is exactly what it was.

Her words also place her in violation of LA’s groundbreaking cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which allows a cyclist to file a civil suit against deliberately threatening drivers. But again, that would require Burke’s victim(s) to come forward, and be able to identify her as the attacker.

Not likely, given the challenge of taking down a license number as a rider struggles not to get run off the road. Let alone over.

Which means, despite her very public confession on national radio, she’s likely going to get away with it. Just like all the other otherwise decent people who somehow turn into blood-thirsty, road-raging sociopaths once they get behind the wheel.

Although the DMV should seriously look into permanently pulling her license. Or at least until she can learn to drive without threatening the lives and safety of complete strangers who have the misfortune of sharing the road with her.

Perhaps more frightening, though, is that Alex Schmidt, the reporter on the piece, didn’t even bother to challenge her comments.

Because attitudes and actions like hers are far too common. And far too accepted in our society.

And if that doesn’t scare the crap out of every American, it should.

Cut off — and flipped off — in DTLA

Last night took me to a meeting of the LACBC’s Civic Engagement Committee in Downtown LA.

And nearly into the rear end of a delivery driver who cut me off by swerving from the left lane to the curb with no warning.

Then he flipped me off before driving away.

But rude and dangerous bicyclists are the problem, right?

A couple quick reminders that cars are big, dangerous machines that must be used with caution

No, really.

Who could have possibly seen something like this coming?

Besides everyone, I mean.

A pickup truck driver crashed into a building in Downtown L.A. on Sunday, injuring several people on the sidewalk and killing a 52-year old woman; reportedly, the collision was the result of a previously known medical condition.

Meanwhile, a 40-year old man was arrested after using his car as a weapon to ram two men he’d argued with earlier inside a Downtown strip club; one man lost both legs while the other had one leg severed.

Yet somehow, to some people, the biggest problem on our streets is scofflaw bike riders blowing through red lights and stop signs.

Yes, everyone needs to observe the law, and ride and drive safely and legally.

But motor vehicles are dangerous machines, used too often in dangerous ways. And until we accept that as a society, people will continue to be needlessly killed and maimed on our streets.

It’s not cyclists who kill over 33,000 people on American streets every year.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading some of the comments online.

………

An unlicensed Santa Barbara BMW driver hits another car while making an unsafe turn, hits a cyclist riding in a bike lane trying to flee the scene, gets stuck on the curb, then nearly runs over a pedestrian trying to stop him.

The driver was arrested on charges of hit-and-run with injury, driving without a license and driving under the influence; he also faces charges of dissuading a witness.

………

That petition calling on Governor Brown to atone for his vetoes by signing a three-foot passing law the third time around has now passed over 700 signatures.

………

Los Angeles continues to needlessly treat cyclists like second-class citizens on its streets. The LACBC and the authors of Where To Bike LA invite you to join them on a tour of the Rio Hondo, Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers next Saturday. The LACBC’s Planning Committee will host a forum with three of the area’s leading bike planning experts on Thursday, March 21 at LACBC headquarters, 634 S. Spring Street. A 31-year old woman was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center with serious injuries after a solo fall while mountain biking off Mulholland Highway. Burbank police will participate in the Police Unity Tour Bike Ride this May, riding from New Jersey to DC in honor of Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka, who was killed in the line of duty 10 years ago. Burbank bans mobile billboards, including those pulled on trailers that can block bike lanes or fall and injury a cyclist or others passing by. Following the death of bike riding student Ivan Aguilar, a Cal Poly Pomona official promises to maintain the auto-centric focus on campus for the foreseeable future, while police continue their investigation. A look at one of SoCal’s leading bike advocates and nicest people, Melissa Balmer, founder of Women on Bikes.

The founder of Vista CA-based Electra bikes started a revolution in casual bicycling. A Santa Rosa cyclist explains why he isn’t one anymore. Sonoma County considers adopting an L.A.-style anti-harassment ordinancethanks to Megan Lynch for the link. Over 100 bicyclists ride in honor of two fallen Santa Cruz police officers. Two Santa Cruz County bicyclists are air-lifted to trauma centers in unrelated incidents. Could bike tourism make a difference in Redding? I’ve said it before, if you’re carrying illegal drugs and a weapon, use a headlight on your bike.

If you want to get more women on bikes, try treating them like normal people; my thought exactly. The Cascade Bicycle Club talks with Ed Orcutt, the Washington Representative who called for taxing bike riders because our breath emits greenhouse gases, and finds he’s not all bad. Phoenix police look for not one, but two hit-and-run drivers who fatally tag-teamed a bicyclist. A Boulder CO dump truck driver is convicted of careless driving resulting in death for killing a bike rider — his second offense involving a cyclist in the last four years. If you don’t think the lives of cyclists count, you’re right, at least in Wyoming. Topeka cyclists discover bike polo, saving some unused tennis courts from closure in the process. When a local rider is killed Lubbock TX, cyclists share tips on how to stay safe. After losing 60% of it’s population, Cleveland is slowly becoming a bike and pedestrian friendly city. After years of clearing killer drivers by reciting the mantra “no criminality involved,” New York police finally get serious about investigating traffic collisions; they’ve also stopped referring to collisions as accidents.  A Rochester NY driver flees the scene after Jerry Browning a cyclist riding in a bike lane with an alcohol level over twice the legal limit; yet somehow, he was still allowed behind the wheel despite a “significant criminal history” of prior DUI offenses.

A drunken Brazilian driver flees with a cyclist’s severed arm inside his car, dumping it into s stream before turning himself in. A highly detailed examination of the pros and cons of bicycle registration, including Nazi Germany’s fondness for licensing bikes; so when you license a bike, you ride with Hitler. The Pakistan cycling team gets visas to compete in the Asian Cycling Championships for the first time. South African cyclists ride to call for a five-foot passing law in honor of fallen pro cyclist Burry Stander.

Finally, an extremely drunk Montana rider crashed his bike into the back of a patrol car; no word on whether he damaged the alcohol monitoring bracelet he was wearing. And following a terrifying road rage assault, a Kansas City cyclist threatens to kill his attacker.

With kindness.

A brief observation on walking the dog, as it relates to dangerous drivers and surviving on two wheels

Let’s talk dog walking.

Or rather, walking the dog as it relates to dangerous drivers. And how that relates to riding a bike in the swirling cesspool of human interaction we call traffic.

Seriously, could you run over this smiling face?

Seriously, could you run over this smiling face?

Take what happened last week.

I was walking the Corgi a few blocks from our home, after dark, during rush hour traffic. The last building on the block we were on featured that 1960’s style covered parking in which the front of the building overhangs the parking spaces, with the sidewalk passing between the driveway apron and the parking spaces.

As we were strolling in front of the building, a car pulled up on the side street in front of us, barely paused at the stop sign, then suddenly pulled onto the wrong side of the busy street we were walking along and turned left, making a shallow U into a parking space just in front of us.

Fortunately, I was able to pull her back in time and took a quick step back myself, allowing the driver to zoom by without hitting either of us.

I was not, however, able to control my own reaction, calling him a jackass as we walked past and rounded the corner.

Moments later, though, the driver came running up after us on the dark side street we’d turned onto. As he approached, I moved the dog behind me and balled my fists, prepared to defend myself against the jerk who’d just threatened our safety.

Since we rescued the then four-year old Corgi a few years ago, we’ve developed an interesting dynamic. She’s taken it upon herself to protect my wife, and more than once has shown signs that she would fight to the death to defend her — even standing up to a coyote over twice her size that dared to walk through our urban neighborhood.

On the other hand, she’s also made it clear that she trusts me to protect her, lowering her guard when I walk her in a way she never does with my wife alone. And I take that trust very seriously.

Threaten my safety with your car and I’ll be pissed. But God help you if you endanger my dog.

What happened next caught me completely off guard, though.

He apologized.

He said he hadn’t seen us, and was sorry if he had frightened my dog. Never mind that he’d scared the crap out me.

No apologies for the dangerous stunt he had pulled — and probably not for the first time, since he appeared to live in the building. And no explanation how it was that he failed to see a grown man and a light colored dog on a well-lighted sidewalk.

I was still too angry to politely discuss the situation, so I simply accepted his apology, shook his hand and turned away to walk home, shaken by the close call.

The very next night, I was once again walking the Corgi when we ran into another, all-too-common situation.

We were alongside a large apartment building on a busy side street when a driver entering the parking lot paused to let us safely cross the driveway. However, that left the rear of his car extending out into the traffic lane, much to the chagrin of the driver behind him who was forced to briefly pause in his mad dash through the residential neighborhood.

So needless to say, that second driver leaned on his horn, blasting an angry rebuke that anyone might have the audacity to stop in his way, with no idea why it washappening.

In other words, he was more than willing to let someone else run us over if it meant he didn’t have to slow down for even a moment.

Never mind that he could have simply gone around the other car. Which is exactly what he did after treating us to his rage-filled car horn soliloquy.

And never mind that his honking could have startled the driver ahead of him, possibly leading to tragic results.

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem on our streets. Or one of them, anyway.

Too many of today’s drivers have lost any sense of the danger their vehicles pose to others. They feel entitled to their place on roadway, and have little or no fear of the reckless stunts they pull, having gotten away with them too many times in the past.

Even though getting away with it doesn’t mean it’s legal. Or safe, for that matter.

The problem is, you can only get away with something until you don’t. At which point, it’s too late for anything but the too-often tragic consequences.

Then there’s the sense of entitlement, to use that phrase again, that allows some — not all, but far too many — drivers to feel they have a right to move unimpeded along the streets. And that anyone in their way, be it other motorists legally slowing or stopping for a turn or to let a pedestrian pass, or a bicyclist in the lane in front of them, is committing some offense by delaying their progress by even a second or two.

I see it every day on the busy street in front of my building, as some speeding jerk lays on his horn because a car is stopped in the left lane, legally, to make a turn. Or slows down to safely make a right, rather than taking the corner at a dangerously high speed, as too many do.

Even though using a horn for any reason other than a safety warning is against the law.

And don’t get me started on the drivers who see a car stopped ahead of them, then whip around on the right or left without considering that there may be a reason why they stopped. Other than the other driver just felt like it, that is.

Like maybe a pedestrian or bicyclist crossing the street.

Which is why I politely refuse any invitation from a driver to cross an intersection in front of them unless I know for a fact that every other motorist in the shares their courtesy and inclination.

And yes, before you say it, there are countless reckless, self-entitled jerks on two wheels — and two feet — as well.

The difference being that a reckless cyclist or pedestrian poses a danger primarily to him or herself, while reckless drivers pose a danger to everyone around them.

There may be hope, though.

Some drivers get it when they see the potential consequences of their actions. Like the driver who apologized for nearly running down the Corgi and I.

Though whether that will keep him from pulling the same stunt next time remains to be seen.

Then there’s the valet driver I had a brief conversation with in Santa Monica last week.

I was riding past a large hotel on Ocean Ave when a car exited the parking garage right in front of me. And as too often happens, another car followed closely behind him, on a collision course with my bike.

So I yelled out a warning, and the driver came to a sudden stop just a few feet from my right.

He caught up to me at the next light, waiting to make a right as I sat on his left to go straight.

“Dude,” he called out, “I wasn’t going to hit you. I do this all day long, every day.”

“Yeah, but how do I know that?” I responded. “I don’t have any choice but to assume you don’t see me.”

“Oh.” He sat for a moment, letting it sink in.

“So, you’re just doing what you have to do to stay alive. Okay, I get that.”

The light changed and I rode on as he turned away, a little more hopeful than I’d been just a few moments before.

………

Speaking of Santa Monica, still no response seven days later to the complain I filed about being forced to share a bike lane with a Big Blue Bus.

And that’s frightening.

Accused Ventura drunken serial hit-and-run driver Satnam Singh pleads guilty, now facing 15 to life

Evidently, the farther you get from San Bernardino County, the more likely cyclists are to see justice.*

Case in point: Satnam Singh, accused in the drunken hit-and-run death of Ventura cyclist Nick Haverland, has changed his plea to guilty to second degree murder and driving under the influence following two days of damning testimony.

The 20-year old college student was riding with a friend to take a college final when he was run down by Singh’s Hummer in May of last year. The Santa Paula liquor store owner reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .39 — nearly five times the legal limit — when he hit Haverland and injured five other people in a series of violent collisions.

Singh now faces 15 years to life in state prison, followed by parole for the rest of his life if he should be released; no word on whether he would ever be allowed to drive again. He was also threatened with deportation upon release from prison if he can’t prove he’s a citizen of the U.S.; odd that something like that should even be in question this far into the case.

Prior to his drunken rampage, Singh had received at least two tickets for speeding, and been accused in another DUI collision just three months before murdering Haverland — a case in which he attempted to have his wife take the fall.

Just more evidence that the state moves too slowly to protect the public in cases like this.

*Then again, Riverside County may not be much better.

………

Sunday’s shift back to Standard Time means bike commuters will now face evening rush hour traffic in full darkness. And that means you need a good headlight and tail light — preferably flashing — in order to make it back home in one piece, let alone avoid a ticket.

Even if you’re just out for an afternoon ride, it makes sense to throw a light set into your bike bag or jersey pocket in case a flat or other mechanical keeps you out later than planned. Or at the very least, toss in some reflective ankle straps just in case.

After all, it’s better to light a single bike headlamp than to curse the darkness after getting run over.

………

Tuesday is Election Day. I won’t tell you to go vote in what may be the closest election of our lifetime — not to mention one with a slate of state propositions and local measure that could affect your life for decades to come.

I assume you’re an adult and know just how important this is.

What I will do, though, is urge you to ride your bike to the polls if at all possible to show that our votes count, too. And that it’s long past time for politicians to address our concerns if they want our votes.

………

Writing for Orange 20 Bikes, Richard Risemberg says that, contrary to perceptions, bikes are actually better for business than cars. Best wishes to LADOT Bike Blogger JoJo Pewsawang as he moves on to hopefully greener pastures. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske looks at California’s cranky and apparently bike-unfriendly Governor Jerry Brown. Calbike says Prop 33 in Tuesday’s election hurts those who are helping the environment — like bicyclists. Maybe your broken carbon frame can be brought back to life after all. The 23rd Solvang Prelude brings thousands of riders to the Santa Ynez Valley. A teenage Santa Barbara hit-and-run driver faces charges for a right hook hit-and-run that critically injured a cyclist. The widow of a Sonoma cyclist now helps others after confronting the man who killed him. A 24-year old Napa driver gets a year in jail for seriously injuring a cyclist while under the influence of marijuana.

Bicycling offers a roster of vintage rides through the wine country, along with five coffee table bike books. CNN talks to gold medal-winning Paralympian and former race car champion Alex Zanardi. A Boulder CO intersection gets a makeover in the wake of two cycling deaths; meanwhile, the city won’t pursue a stage in next year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge; probably not just because of the tour’s awful name, though. San Antonio’s safe passing law needs better enforcement. A Chicago writer says that cyclists shouldn’t have to bear responsibility for safety or accept that risk is inevitable. Bike Portland’s Jonathan Maus reports on riding in the Manhattan blackout following Hurricane Sandy; the New Yorker asks if Sandy will turn the city’s residents into bike commuters. Charging powerless New Yorker’s devices by bike. Thankfully, former L.A. bike and creek advocate Joe Linton survived Sandy, as well. Why are the rules of the road are a lot longer for Boston bicyclists? What would you do if you came across a bike crash? Yet another delay in the case of accused killer Miami DUI hit-and-run driver and musician Carlos Bertonatti.

A writer says Vancouverites are too old to take advantage of the city’s new transportation plan; you’re kidding me, right? Are bike helmets or bike lanes more important for bike safety? British cycling legend Tommy Godwin passes away at 91. The London Times says bikes are the future, and cities must adapt them — but can’t be bothered to make the story available behind their paywall. A Swiss sportswear company is suing cycling’s governing body over damage to the sport following the Lance Armstrong scandal, while Guam could hold the key to real reform in pro cycling. We have a new candidate for the world’s safest cycling city: Berlin. An Aussie cyclist is shot in the ass as he tries to ride away from a group of men in a park. Bringing the internet to Bangladesh by bike. Even the Indian city of Mangalore gets cycletracks before we do.

Finally, as if doping isn’t bad enough, now former doper Alexandre Vinokourov is accused of paying off another rider to let him win the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic.

Is it just me, or is pro cycling is starting to give swamp pits a bad name?

Friday’s ride, on which I seemed to be invisible

One of the biggest problems we face as cyclists is being seen by today’s too-often distracted drivers, who seem to take the simple act of driving far too casually.

We wear bright colors, and position ourselves in ways that force anyone paying the slightest attention to see us. Yet too often, motorists seem oblivious to our presence.

Let alone anything else on the road with them.

I saw that yesterday as we were driving home from the market, and watched as the driver ahead of us looked as though he was going to stop for a red light — then proceeded to roll through the light without ever braking and T-bone an SUV on the cross street, knocking it into another SUV waiting in the opposing turn lane.

The impact was hard enough to deploy both airbags in the car that ran the light. And send the driver of the first SUV storming out of his vehicle to berate the man who hit him.

Why he went through the light, I have no idea; he could have been drunk, distracted or just not paying attention.

But it was an odd perspective to watch it all unfold from behind and be unable to do anything about it. And realizing that the airbags and armor plating of the vehicles involved had combined to protect everyone involved from serious harm.

Yet if it had been a bike in the driver’s path, the outcome would had been far different, as the rider would have been severely injured by the initial impact. And most likely would have helplessly fallen into the path of other motorists in the busy intersection.

How the driver failed to see the red light and massive SUV directly in front of him is beyond me. Let alone the bus directly behind it, which avoided the wreck only through a combination of slow speed and the skill and attention of the driver.

And if a driver can’t see something that massive directly in front of him, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us who present a far smaller profile as we travel on two wheels.

Something I experienced for myself as I rode home on Friday.

I was coming up busy Montana Blvd in Santa Monica on the last leg of a 40 mile ride to the South Bay.

Usually I take San Vicente back from the beach. But every now and then I take Montana just to see something different — even though that means riding even more defensively than usual to dodge the many drivers who turn into or out of driveways and alleys without looking, or dart across the street, oblivious to the presence of anything traveling on less than four wheels.

Like the guy who cut me off as he made his left onto Montana from the side street on my right. And flipped me off when, after braking hard to a stop, I spread my arms in the universal “WTF?” gesture.

Unfortunately, the video didn’t come out for that one.

Then there are the drivers who cut quickly into the bike lane, using it as a staging area to enter or wait for a parking space, without ever looking for a bike that may already be occupying that space.

Or even caring, for that matter.

Like the woman who drove past me just a block or two later, then cut directly into the bike path mere feet in front of my bike. And sparing me from rear-ending her only because she slid forward to wait for a space a little further up the street.

At first I thought she moved up because she heard my shouted warning.

But as I pulled up next to her, it became clear that she couldn’t hear me or anything else in the hermetically sealed automotive bubble in which she was driving.

I was going to say something, but it quickly became clear that she had no idea I was there. And probably never saw me at all as she passed just feet from where I rode in the bike lane.

So I rode off, a little shaken, but grateful I’d been prepared for a dangerous driver like her.

And well aware that it was only a matter of luck that kept me from being rear-ended or sideswiped; had she seen another parking space a few seconds earlier, she would undoubtedly have driven directly into me.

It’s scary as hell to realize that someone could completely miss a six-foot tall cyclist in a bright red and blue Fat Tire jersey.

And riding in a space which should, by its mere existence, suggest the presence of bikes.

………

One other quick note.

If you haven’t read it yet, take a few moments to digest Mark Elliot’s excellent wrap-up of cyclists descending on the recent Beverly Hills City Council session to demand fair treatment on the streets of their city.

Because right now, we’re far less than second-class citizens in a city many of us have no choice but to ride through. And which doesn’t seem to give a damn about whether we live or die.

Or receive justice either way.

Just ride

“Man to man is so unjust.” — Bob Marley, Who the Cap Fit

My sister, who lives in Denver, called us Thursday evening.

As the call was wrapping up, she mentioned that she had to pick my 15-year old nephew up at the movies at 3 am.

Because he was on his way to a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

The next morning, I awoke to the news that a madman had opened fire in an Aurora theater, not far from their home, during a midnight showing of the movie.

My stomach started doing flips.

It was bad enough that something like this had happened once again. Or that it happened in my home state, in a town I lived in briefly about three decades ago.

I knew there was little chance Adam had been at that particular theater at that exact time. But when an email to my sister went unanswered for longer than I could live with, I had to call to ensure he hadn’t been there.

And I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I felt when he answered the phone, and said he’d gone to a theater closer to his home. One that was, thankfully, madman and assault rifle free.

All weekend, we all were bombarded with a constant drumbeat of news bits, each adding to the still incomplete portrait of just what happened in that theater that night.

Yet none of the jabbering talking heads paused long enough to put this madness in perspective.

Twelve dead is a horrible, tragic needless waste.

But it doesn’t begin to compare with the 90 Americans who lose their lives on our streets every day. And it’s just one less than the death count of cyclists on SoCal streets this month alone.

Ninety killed every day.

Six-hundred-thirty every week.

Two-thousand-forty every month.

Yet there’s no breaking news reports for that story. No attractive anchormen or women breathlessly whipping to reporters in the field, no tidbit of meaningless information that’s not trivial to relate. No outrage or prayer vigils or 24-hour news cycles dedicated to the lives and deaths of victims of the rapidly compounding body count.

And seldom an arrest, let alone prosecution, even when the killer is known.

Instead, we just call them accidents.

Never mind that virtually every collision that occurs anywhere can be traced back to one or more people breaking the law, or operating their vehicles in a careless, distracted or intoxicated manner.

Accidents are virtually never just accidents.

Even on the rare occasions when killers are arrested, those who know them will argue that it wasn’t really their fault. If you only knew the whole story, they insist, you’d understand that he or she was really a good person who just made one little mistake, or did something so out of character it should be forgiven.

Even in cases where the driver left the victim to die on the side of the road, then ran off like a coward and hid the evidence of the collision in an attempt to avoid the consequences of his or her actions.

No outrage.

Seldom any consequences.

And even then, it usually amounts to nothing more than a limp slap on the wrist.

In the meantime, the body count continues to rise. And nothing is done to address the insanity on our streets; no politicians step forward to demand an end to our daily motor maniacal madness.

I don’t have an answer.

I believe, strongly, in a Vision Zero plan. And in placing greater responsibility on those with the greatest potential to cause injury and death.

As well as changing our laws to force drivers to stop and stay at the scene of a collision.

Yet we all wait in vain for a political leader with sufficient courage to take a stand on the issue. Let alone actually do something about it.

Then again, none of our elected leaders seems to have the courage to do something about all the Columbine/Virginia Tech/Aurora massacres that actually do make the news, either.

I wish I had a solution.

I really do.

Other than demanding that our candidates for every office go on the record for what, if elected, they would do to address these parallel, if vastly uneven, bloodbaths. Then vote accordingly in the fall.

But at least I know a way to release that knot that’s been gnawing at me since Friday morning. And salve, in some part, the overwhelming sadness.

And that’s get out on my bike.

For a moment, for a hour, for an afternoon.

Let the wind blow away whatever tears may fall.

And just ride.

My prayers for all those injured or killed in the Aurora shooting. And all the countless named and nameless victims of the madness on our street.

Dangerous driver alert, cyclist critically injured in West LA, and your fresh summer solstice links

I received the following email last night, urging cyclists to be on the lookout for a dangerous driver who continues to drive despite a restricted — and possibly suspended — license.

And despite seriously injuring a cyclist in a collision late last month.

URGENT -Dangerous Driver Alert If you ride the Rockstore Loop you should be very concerned. (Agoura Road, Cornell Road, Mulholland Between Cornell & Lake Vista Dr.)

The Vehicle: 2012 Red Hyundai Elantra License 6TLN???* Damage to right front & right side. Missing right side mirror.

On 5/30/2012 @ 6:30 AM Local Cyclist Richard Harris sustained serious injuries and was Life Flighted to UCLA when he was run down from behind by a 45 MPH car while riding in the bike lane on Cornell Road � mile N of Mulholland. The 88 year old Driver of the car lives in Malibu Lake and is continuing to drive even though she has a restricted and possibly suspended license. She regularly drives back and forth between Malibu Lake & Agoura. This driver has been involved in multiple serious accidents in the last six months. The DMV has already been notified by the CHP that she needs a priority reexamination of her license. However she continues to drive in violation if the restrictions placed on her. If you see her driving call 911 so the CHP can impound her car.

*I’ve removed the last three digits of the license number to protect the online privacy of the driver; if you see a car matching that description with the first four digits of the license, contact the police and let them determine if it’s the right car.

And whatever you do, don’t try to deal with the situation yourself.

Thanks to Michael Byerts, Henry Hsieh and Steve Herbert for the heads-up.

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A UC Berkeley and Santa Monica College student is critically injured in a collision with an SUV while riding her bike home last week. Tragically, her mother and sister discovered her lying in the street no more than a minute after the collision; she’s reportedly doing well, despite suffering life-threatening injuries.

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Once again, the great helmet debate rears its ugly head. This time in our neighbor to the north.

No, further north.

The Ontario, Canada chief coroner gets it right by saying all of the 129 cycling deaths in the province since 2006 could have been prevented. And responds by calling for a 14-point plan to prevent bicycling deathsincluding a mandatory helmet law.

And that’s where the argument starts.

A writer for the National Post says prove helmets are effective before making them mandatory, while Quebec pediatricians call for a law mandating helmet use for children.

The Toronto Star says the coroner is right, while a Toronto writer likes most of the suggestions, except for that damn helmet law. Windsor cyclists say it’s a matter of choice; the local paper calls for better education — and maybe mandatory helmets. The Ottawa Citizen says it should be an adult’s choice, which is exactly my take on the subject, even though I never ride without one.

Meanwhile, cyclists call for easing British Columbia’s helmet law, while a letter writer says they must be brain dead. The Daily News says repealing the law would send the wrong message, noting the outcry that would occur if the requirement to wear a seat belt was withdrawn.

Then again, unlike bike helmets, seat belts are designed to offer protection in crashes above 12.5 mph.

And an Anchorage AK writer suggests bike lanes would do more to make riders safe than requiring — or even wearing — helmets.

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The San Francisco cyclist charged with killing a pedestrian while allegedly trying to beat his time on Strava enters a not guilty plea. Meanwhile, the family of a fallen cyclist files suit against Strava for encouraging dangerous riding. And Strava changes their terms and conditions to absolve themselves of any responsibility for anything anyone does using their service; good luck with that.

And Dave Moulton wisely advises riders not to play pretend racer on city streets — and somehow does it without using the words jerk, idiot or anything derived from four-letter words; I’m not sure I could show that kind of restraint.

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Bike share takes to the streets in Salt Lake City and New York, where the Post calls it a money-wasting crazed campaign backed by cycling-advocate groups and their stooges.

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The bikelash rises in an attempt to stop a planned road diet on Honolulu Ave in Glendale, so City Council members delay a decision until July 10th. A writer for Patch explains the arguments for and against.

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As noted here last week, Heal the Bay and Mountains Restoration Trust are calling for mountain bikers to help clean up sections of Malibu Creek State Park to remote to reach on foot this Saturday. The LA Sheriff Cycling Team hosts 350 riders for the second annual Ride 2 Recovery Honor Ride; thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up. The long awaited Main Street bike lanes are on their way, while the Source questions whether it’s legal to park in them; short answer, not in Los Angeles, where parking in bike lanes in banned by local ordinance — even if the police don’t seem to know that. Over 200 riders took part in this year’s L.A. World Naked Bike Ride. L.A. riders recreate the famous flying bike scene from E.T. — without the flying, of course. Letter writers to the Times call for protecting pedestrians from cyclists, although one notes that you can’t blame all riders for the actions of a few. Richard Risemberg discovers the Graffiti Bridge. Four Santa Monica schools will take part in the Safe Routes to Schools program.

A harrowing report on a left-cross collision from Orange County’s cdmCyclist; oddly, the badly injured rider found a link to his own collision right here. San Clemente is seeking funding to develop smart bicycling signs riders can scan with a cell phone to get local information. A San Diego writer says biking in that city means literally risking his life, while another is stunned to discover cyclists have a right to use the whole lane. Two San Mateo men are charged with deliberately running two boys off the road, as well as threatening them with a knife. Three years in San Quentin and a lifetime driving ban for a Saratoga hit-and-run driver with one prior DUI. Sadly, the retiring Sonoma State University professor severely injured by a hit-and-run driver — who said he didn’t stop because he had to get to work — has died of his injuries. A not guilty plea from an accused Bay Area hit-and-run driver with three prior DUIs; why is someone with a record like that even allowed on the road? BART police arrest a Major bike thief.

AASHTO, the national association of state departments of transportation, updates its guidelines but leaves out cycle tracks. A Portland cyclist credits the movie 127 Hours with inspiring him to climb back up a ravine with a broken neck, eight broken ribs and both lungs punctured after he rode off the road at 41 mph. Grim stars join in on Portland’s partly naked bike ride. Issaquah firefighters buy a new bike for a 4th grade boy after his is broken by a careless driver. In a bizarre twist, a Washington town may not be able to afford its mandatory helmet law; thanks again to George Wolfberg for the link. Colorado’s Attorney General seizes $300,000 worth of bogus bike parts and jerseys; this is why you have to be careful about buying from unknown sources. Cyclists are divided on installing a protected bikeway in Lincoln NE. Springfield Cyclist looks back on a successful Ride the Rockies. It’s time to take back the bike lane in Chicago. Dottie of Let’s Go Ride a Bike declares jerk driver season officially open; it takes a real jerk to steal a bike from a Michigan boy with cerebral palsy. The police chief of Grand Rapids MI crashes into two boys on a bike. A New York paper points out pedestrians have little to fear from us pedalists, but everyone has to worry about cars. Why do police always assume a cyclist simply fell over when they find a badly injured rider on the road; sideswiping a rider could also result in serious injuries without damaging the bike.

Canada’s transport minister rejects a requirement for trucks to have side guards to protect cyclists and pedestrians; evidently, saving lives isn’t worth offending the trucking lobby. An Alberta cyclist asks local residents to control their dogs. The Economist says more UK residents are riding bikes, but it’s still a niche activity. London’s Boris Bikes bike share program is swindled out of £42,000. It takes a real schmuck to steal a man’s bike after he suffers a heart attack while riding. A 13-year old UK bike rider is killed by a driver racing his girlfriend at 80 mph, after his car flips and hits two girls riding on a bike path. With more people riding bikes, the Irish Times questions just how safe their streets really are. Even in Israel, deeply observant riders can’t compete in the national championships because their held on the Sabbath.

Finally, your next bicycle could fly; no, really. And a Massachusetts cyclist has his bike and jewelry stolen by a sausage-wielding attacker.

Blaming the victim: Beverly Hills police blame sidewalk riding cyclist over dangerous driver

Last week, I received the following email from cyclist and budding brewmeister Todd Mumford.

As you may recall, Todd recently described a collision that left him with minor — though painful — injuries and a badly mangled bike. Now his neighbor has been the victim of a law-breaking driver.

And, apparently, the Beverly Hills police.

Todd notes that the story is second hand, but he has no reason to question his neighbor’s version of events.

He was headed east on Olympic Blvd. At some point he was riding in the street, but jumped on to the sidewalk (there was a car blocking his path or something like that).

He was on the sidewalk when he entered the crosswalk at Olympic/Doheny on a green light with the pedestrian walk sign. According to my neighbor, he checked the road and all was clear as he entered. However, as soon as he got into the crosswalk, he looked left just in time to see an SUV make a right turn from the middle lane at the last second, hitting my neighbor and sending him to the ground; he took the brunt of the impact with his shoulder.

The driver stopped and checked on my neighbor. My neighbor said two or three drivers that witnessed the accident also stopped, and started berating the driver that hit him for driving like a maniac. According to them, the driver of the SUV was speeding down Olympic, weaving in and out of traffic and finally made an illegal right turn from the middle lane before striking my neighbor.

The paramedics arrived as did the police. My neighbor got checked out and nothing appeared broken, but his shoulder was in a lot of pain (it has since become worse and he is going to get it checked to see whether he needs surgery). The police took the statements of the witnesses, the driver and my neighbor.   Their conclusion at the end of the police report was that my neighbor was entirely at fault because he was riding on the sidewalk. (My neighbor also said the police treated him like he did something wrong the entire time.)

Now, as I explained to him, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills. If he was just a little farther down Olympic he would have been in Los Angeles and it would not have been an issue. What I am wondering is if the police came to their conclusion because the law states it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk or they think he’s at fault because the driver couldn’t see him because he was riding on the sidewalk.

All of which begs the question, what would the police have concluded had the SUV hit a pedestrian who was walking down the sidewalk had just entered the crosswalk and got hit?

If the police assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor because he broke the law by riding on the sidewalk, they are absolutely in the wrong. There is a legal concept in torts called negligence per se  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence_per_se), which, although not applicable here, feels like the police may be following the same concept. “You broke a law, you got hit, your fault.”  I have not seen the police report, but if they assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor, I would assume the driver was not cited for anything.

My neighbor said he has since retained an attorney and the driver’s insurance company assigned 80% of the fault to the driver and 20% to him, which is a small victory.

(As a side note, when I was dealing with the adjustor for the insurance company of the driver that hit me, they asked if I was riding on the sidewalk when I was hit.)

This story raises a number of issues.

Not the least of which is the problem of sidewalk riding, which is legal in some California cities and banned in others. And even legal in some areas of cities that ban it in others, such as Beverly Hills, which bans sidewalk riding only in business districts — even though BHPD bike officers routinely ride on the gilded sidewalks of the city’s Golden Triangle, including Rodeo Drive.

This patchwork of laws makes it virtually impossible for cyclists to comply with the law, as they may have no way of knowing if it is legal or illegal as they pass through the many various communities of the county.

In effect, it’s no different from the speed traps that plagued the state in the ’40s and ’50s. By refusing to post regulations on the street where cyclists who don’t live in the city can see them, jurisdictions that ban sidewalk riding virtually ensure that riders who take to the sidewalk for whatever reason will break the law at some point and be subject to ticketing.

Or worse, as this case points out.

Of course, the one solution is for all cyclists to always ride in the street. But simple common sense says that will never happen, as some riders will always feel more comfortable on the sidewalk, while others will jump on and off as needed to avoid road hazards and dangerous streets.

A better answer is to establish a uniform standard from city to city so it’s actually possible for riders to know and observe the law, wherever they ride.

Then there’s the problem of police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills ignoring witness statements that the driver broke the law by making a right turn from the wrong lane. And deciding that the relatively minor violation of riding on the sidewalk completely outweighs a reckless driver in a dangerous vehicle putting others at risk by committing a major moving violation.

Despite the driver’s potential to cause harm, they insisted on blaming the victim. Instead of holding people operating vehicles that are capable of killing their fellow road users accountable for operating them in a safe and legal manner, they heaped all the blame on the bike rider, who posed a danger no one but himself.

All of which begs the question, what the f*** is wrong with Beverly Hills??????

Maybe you can ask them yourself.

The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, March 6th, at 1:30 pm. Bikes are on the agenda — a discussion of the city’s first planned bikeways, making them only 40 years or so behind the rest of the world.

But maybe we can use the opportunity to ask why they seem intent on remaining the most bike-unfriendly city on the Westside.

A little human interaction turns a bad day into a good ride — one even the worst driver can’t ruin

This day did not start well.

Monday morning meant back to our regular routine after the long holiday weekend. Which meant walking my wife down to her car, then taking the dog out for its morning walk.

The dog has her own routine, too.

She insists on walking out front and waiting for my wife’s car to exit the garage. Then stands and barks a few times as my wife drives off to work.

And then — and only then — will she acquiesce to begin our daily constitutional around the block.

Today was different.

This time, she heard the garage gate open and took off running, jerking the leash out of my hand. And planted herself squarely in front of my wife’s car, hidden below her field of vision, in an apparent attempt to keep her from leaving.

Nice gesture. Bad execution.

Fortunately, my wife is a careful driver, and was exiting the garage slowly enough to hear my shouts of warning. She jammed on the brakes and stopped just short of turning our Corgi into road kill.

So I collected the dog, and after giving her a good talking to — which she seemed to clearly understand despite the language barrier — we finished our walk, my stomach churning the whole way over what might have been and almost was.

A few hours later I was still shaken, so I did what I usually when I’m upset.

I got my bike and went for a ride.

I was about three miles from home when the light at a busy intersection turned yellow. I noticed a driver facing the opposite direction, waiting to make her left and unsure what I was going to do. So I gave a quick nod for her to go ahead while I braked to a stop.

She smiled in response and waved her thanks as she turned just before the light changed to red.

A few moments later, as I waited at the light to turn green, a car pulled up behind me with its right turn signal on. I moved my bike slightly to the right so he could pull up to the intersection, nodding his thanks as he moved up next to me.

But instead of stopping, he continued to edge forward. So I pointed to the No Right on Red sign, unsure if he could still see me. Yet shortly afterwards, the car’s forward stance visibly relaxed as he took his foot off the gas, then turned around to give me a thumbs up for saving him from a possible ticket.

And suddenly, my mood brightened, the day’s near disaster finally behind me.

Throughout my ride, I found myself interacting with drivers and pedestrians in countless little ways. For once, it wasn’t drivers versus cyclists, but human beings recognizing the humanity in one another, and finding ways to share the road in peace and safety.

I even got the chance to express some thanks of my own, as a driver prepared to enter his car in a busy area where dooring is always a distinct possibility. He looked up and saw me, though, and somehow managed to squeeze himself into his car while barely holding the door open to allow himself the smallest possible entryway. And leaving me plenty of room to ride past as I thanked him for the courtesy.

Just one stranger looking out for another.

It was a day when courtesy and compassion seemed to override the usual stress on the streets. And a reminder that we’re not really cyclists or drivers, but just people trying to get from here to there and return to our loved ones in peace.

And in one piece.

Although that came into serious question when I encountered a woman who may just be one of the worst drivers in human history. Or at least one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

I was making my way home, taking my usual shortcut through the VA hospital grounds, when I was passed by a massive white SUV.

As we both neared a stop sign, she edged over to the right in an obvious attempt to block my path. So I rode around her anyway, only to have her lurch towards me in what I could only interpret as an unprovoked threat, coming less than a foot from hitting me before straightening her wheel and continuing down the road.

She didn’t get far, though. An ambulance coming from the opposite direction with red lights and siren blaring caused the car ahead of her to pull to the right and stop, blocking her path.

I pulled out my camera phone, intending to take a photo of her license plate while she was stopped.

Then watched in horror as she hesitated for a few moments before cutting sharply to the left, driving head-on into the path of the ambulance to get around the stopped car. And forcing the ambulance driver into a full panic stop, less than a block from the ER entrance, to let the dangerously aggressive driver pass without causing a wreck.

Barely.

And never mind that every second counts in an emergency situation, and that her idiotic stunt could have put the patient in jeopardy. Let alone everyone else on the road who could have been collateral damage to her need to get where she’s going just a few seconds faster.

Wherever the hell there might be.

Once the ambulance passed, I kicked it up into my smallest gears to catch up to her.

Unfortunately, shift change at the hospital flooded the street with cars, cutting me off before I could catch her. And letting her get away to threaten other cyclists and risk the lives of other people another day.

Yet even that couldn’t kill my upbeat mood.

It would take more than one dangerous, threatening jerk to outweigh all the safe, positive and friendly interactions that came before.

And that’s what I call a very good ride.

And a good day.

Even if the jerk got away.

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