Tag Archive for dangerous riding conditions

Call now to fight killer roads in San Diego, and a near repeat of a Huntington Beach bike path collision

Just a quick update on a busy day.

Anyone who rides in the San Diego area should take a moment to read today’s BikeSD, in the wake of the death of a publicly unidentified bike rider on Clairemont Mesa Blvd last week.

While no official word has been released regarding the cause of the collision, cyclists have been quick to blame bad road design that forces riders going straight to cross over an exit lane leading to a freeway onramp — just as they did in the death of David Ortiz last year.

In response, riders are prepared to take on, not just a city famed for turning a blind eye to cycling fatalities, but what may be the state’s most bureaucratic and unresponsive agency.

There’s still time to join in and call Caltrans District Director Laurie Berman to demand that she appear at tomorrow’s San Diego City Council meeting to defend the city’s high-speed killer streets, and Caltrans’ apparent refusal to do anything to make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Or motorists, for that matter.

And to attend tomorrow’s council meeting yourself to demand both immediate and long-term action to prevent more needless deaths on the city’s streets.

Because far too many people have died on San Diego streets already.

……..

Our anonymous South Bay/Orange County correspondent reports another collision at the exact same site where a car went off PCH in Huntington Beach and nearly killed cyclist Richard Lauwers as he rode on the bike path below.

No cyclist involved

By 10pm, when I rode past, the totaled car had been righted and was facing north, in the exact location of the incident that put Richard Lauwers in the ICU for days.

The tow truck driver was the only one still on the scene, using power tools to try to get the mangled car roll-able.  He said he’d arrived just as the ambulance left Code 3 for UCI.  “The kid fell asleep,” is what HBFD told him, and he added that the car had rolled and then came to rest upside down, half on the path & half on the sand. He also said the cops don’t suspect alcohol or drugs (of course, if the tox results disagree, there’ll be charges.)

I hope all the pretty sparkly bits of glass are swept off the path for the Sunday morning cyclists.

I hope a mom isn’t signing Consent to Harvest papers tonight.

Ride safe out there!

Two serious collisions that sent drivers off the road in exactly the same spot indicates a serious safety problem that has to be addressed on the roadway.

And should serve as a warning to cyclists that they may not be safe riding the bike path there.

………

Finally, I stumbled on something I found heartbreaking over the weekend.

Yes, it’s a good thing that bicycling has become so mainstream that it’s now used to sell everything from pharmaceuticals to fashion.

But it’s a sad day when a once proud Pashley is relegated to serving out its remaining days as a flat-tired retail display in a Santa Monica Banana Republic.

Banana Republic Pashley

Reporting dangerous drivers online — Philadelphia, London and coming soon, L.A.

We’ve all been there.

And if you haven’t yet, just keep riding and you will.

Sooner or later, some driver will take offense at how you ride, where you position yourself in the lane or the simple fact that a bike is taking up space on his road.

So he’ll show his anger by buzzing you, passing way too close for comfort, or maybe making a sudden right-hook turn or braking directly in front of you, forcing you to jam on your brakes to avoid a collision. See Thompson, Dr. Chistopher.

Or maybe it’s just someone who doesn’t have the good sense to put down her cell phone, blowing through a stop sign just as you were about to enter the intersection.

Whether it’s your skills or the fact that the driver has just enough sense and ability to avoid a collision, you escape unscathed but shaken. And mad as hell, wishing there was something you could do about it.

Even if you did call the police, the driver would be long gone before they could respond, or off the phone, or just deny everything. Or the police would tell you that they have to witness the infraction before they can do anything.

Which means you’re on your own and SOL.

That should be changing soon.

While the police may not be able to do something about a specific incident, they can do something about the larger trends, like policing intersections where cyclists frequently encounter problems or stationing officers along a stretch of roadway where drivers refuse to play nice.

The problem is making them aware of these issues.

Philadelphia police, working in conjunction with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, have addressed that by developing an online system that allows cyclists to report hazards, harassment, crashes and blocked bike lanes.

Locally, the LACBC recently forwarded a list of the city’s most dangerous intersections to the police as part of their work with the LAPD Bike Task Force, enabling officers to examine them and determine if the problem can be resolved through roadwork, better signage or tougher enforcement.

Meanwhile, Bikeside has worked with the LAPD, as part of that same task force, to develop an interactive map that combines police collision data with a system to report near misses, collisions, harassment and bike thefts. It not only gives you a way to report incidents you’ve experienced, but allows you to search for dangerous areas you might want to avoid or at least use a little more caution when you roll through.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Not that I’d recommend carrying weapons on your bike, as tempting as that might seem sometimes.

You’ll find a similar system for reporting crashes, hazards and thefts — without the integrated police data — at Bikewise.org.

And the LAPD is working with the Bike Task Force to develop an interactive system similar to the one in Philadelphia, which should be online later this year.

Now comes word that the London Metropolitan Police have developed an online system allowing anyone to report dangerous drivers and unsafe conditions. But it goes further by asking people to report uninsured or unlicensed drivers, as well as people who make a habit of drinking and driving.

Around here, it would also have to include a way to report drivers who consistently phone or text behind the wheel.

But if there’s any question whether their system works, consider this.

After a London driver honked, swore and swerved his car at a cyclist, the rider reported the incident on the Roadsafe London website. The police followed up by contacting the employer, which prompted the company to review their tapes from the car’s on-vehicle cam.

And then they promptly fired the driver.

Even if you use an online system to report an incident, you should still report crimes to the police by calling 911 for emergencies, or 1-877-ASK-LAPD (1-877-275-5273) for non-emergencies — and yes, you should have that programmed into your cell phone. And if there’s any question whether you should report an incident to the police, call them and let them figure it out.

………

After coming in for harsh criticism from Dr. Alex, LACBC explains the facts behind their recent grants, and how they intend to work with the South Bay Bicycle Coalition to develop an integrated bike plan for the South Bay area.

And yes, the work will be done by professionals with training and experience in the field, despite what you may have heard.

………

Thanks to Green LA Girl for the reminder about Thursday’s Bike Night at the Hammer, and the first ever Streetsblog Fundraiser this Friday at Eco-Village; Damien says admission to the Streetsblog event is a suggested donation, and no one will be turned away due to empty pockets.

And check out Bikeway Central, a new compendium of nationwide bikeway maps, information and advocacy organizations.

………

Meet Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd when she speaks at Bikerowave on Wednesday. The L.A. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects endorses the 4th St. Bike Boulevard. Santa Monica unveils its draft Land Use and Circulation Element Wednesday; Gary explains why this matters to cyclists. A Claremont cyclist says an effective traffic signal button would work even better with a green bike box; I seriously want his banner art. Better directional bike signage is popping in Long Beach, even if they misdirect sometimes. The California Bicycle Museum is merging with the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame; bet you didn’t know either one existed. A Colorado Springs cyclist faces down a gun in a road rage incident. The bikefication of New York continues, with upcomming green bike lanes leading from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. It’s spring, when a rider’s fancy turns to riding rough roads. How to pass a horse when you’re on a bike; that’s not a problem we have too often around here. EcoVelo offers a pretty picture from a springtime commute. I understand getting hit by a car, but how does a cyclist get hit by a train? Miami police investigate the outgoing mayor for corruption after he accepted a $321 bike from his staff, while Miami cyclists get tickets for doing exactly what the city encourages. In more Miami news, yes, that is Jamie Foxx on a bike. A little further north, drivers are an increasing danger to Jacksonville cyclists and pedestrians. Austin’s planned bike boulevard shrinks. A Vancouver cyclist struggles to reclaim his life nine years after an excruciating collision, while an Edmonton cyclist collars a firebug. A New Zealand truck driver is charged with killing a German tourist just three days after she wrote about the dangers of Kiwi truckers, while the family of a Christchurch cyclist says there was nothing she could have done to avoid a fatal collision. A London cyclist faces charges of involuntary manslaughter by recklessness and negligence after a fatal collision with a pedestrian. We Yanks might call it something else, but all cyclists seem to face that Oh Sod It, Just Carry On moment.

Finally, a Holland, Michigan cyclist looks at the bike path from the mindset of an impatient driver; some of the commenters don’t seem to get the joke.

The Incredible Disappearing Bike Lanes

So here’s my biggest complaint about riding in Los Angeles. Aside from inattentive drivers yammering on their now-illegal handheld cell phones and bike paths clogged with pedestrians and bus drivers who don’t use their mirrors and cops who write tickets for things that aren’t against the law, anyway.

Of course, I’m talking about a “system” (cough, cough) of bike lanes that start and stop at random, without actually going anywhere or connecting to anything.

Take the bike lanes on the newly rebuilt Santa Monica Boulevard near my home (yes, that Santa Monica Blvd.). Or as I like to call it, the Incredible Disappearing Bike Lane and the Block of Death.

You see, when I heard they were planning to accommodate bicyclists on the boulevard when they were done, I actually got my hopes up.

I know, I know.

This town will always break your heart.

But still, that hope got me through all those years of construction, when I could barely get home to my own apartment, and couldn’t sleep because of the heavy construction equipment operating in the middle of the night just a few hundred feet from my window. Not to mention all those unreturned calls to the mayor’s office to complain about it. (I hope Mr. Villaraigosa remembers that before he asks for my vote again.)

I had visions of a state-of-the-art bike path actually separated from the roadway — I mean, why not, since they were completely rebuilding the roadway anyway — or maybe separated bike lanes, or at least something elevated above the roadway or set off with a concrete divider.

But no. After enduring years of construction, all we got was a lousy line of paint to separate riders from traffic along one of the busiest thoroughfares in Los Angeles.

The westbound lane starts abruptly a few blocks past the east side of Century City, requiring several blocks of fighting your way through heavy traffic just to get there. Which gives you choice — you can take the lane and risk the wrath of angry drivers and impatient bus jockeys, or you can take to the wide, virtually empty sidewalk for a few blocks before cutting back over once the bike lane starts.

Guess which one I usually choose.

On the west end, it dumps you off without warning at Sepulveda Boulevard. Not too bad, if you know the area, since Sepulveda is a designated bike route, although it really shouldn’t be. Or you can turn off on one of the quiet side streets before Sepulveda, ride a couple blocks north to Ohio, and continue west in relative peace and safety.

Needless to say, there’s no signage there to direct riders, so if you don’t know the area, you’re on your own.

Which means riders are often forced to take the lane on Santa Monica, just before a busy freeway onramp. And fight their way through heavy traffic as the street narrows from four lanes to two, with a degree of difficulty that’s off the charts.

And that’s the good news.

On the other side, heading east, things start off well, with the lane beginning just after Sepulveda. If you’re fool enough to believe the city’s designation and ride that section of Sepulveda, you can easily pick up the bike path at that point — assuming you survive the intersection, which is not a given.

From there, you have a smooth route through West Los Angeles and Century City. Well, most of Century City, anyway.

Because all of the sudden, without warning, the bike lane simply… stops. You’ve just made it past all the cars rushing in and out of the shopping mall, and you’re approaching Avenue of the Stars when you pass a sign hidden between the palm trees, where no rider trying to stay alive on such a busy street is likely to look. And all that sign says, on the off chance you actually happen to see it, is “Bike Lane. End.”

That’s it.

No advice for riders, suggesting that they turn, or take the lane, or ride the sidewalk, or just bend over and kiss their ass goodbye.

Nothing.

Which means that whether you’re an experienced rider who can navigate busy traffic, or a beginning rider without the skills to take a lane, you’re on your on. It’s bad enough in the middle of the day when I usually ride; I can ride fast enough that, in most cases, I can hold the lane without causing too much inconvenience to the drivers, or undue risk to myself.

But God help you if you’re an inexperienced or slow rider, or if you have to negotiate those streets at rush hour when the street is filled with impatient drivers, few of whom will willingly take the extra couple seconds required to pass a cyclist safely.

So why would anyone design bike lanes that actually makes it more dangerous for riders?

A more generous person, one willing to give city traffic planners the benefit of the doubt, might think the intent was to encourage people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods to bike to their jobs in Century City. But that assumes the people who live in there actually work nearby, which is seldom the case in Los Angeles.

And my personal observation indicates that virtually every cyclist who uses the eastbound bike lane continues through to Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Blvd., on a street that wasn’t designed for cycling, in a city with no bike lanes, routes or paths whatsoever.

A cynic like me, though, would say they just penciled those lanes in as an afterthought once they finished the blueprints, and just didn’t give the slightest thought to what riders would do when the lane ended. As usual.

Or just didn’t care.

 

Will Campbell addressed this subject in the Times last year, taking the contrary position that we need fewer bike lanes and more educated drivers. Outdoor Urbanite offers a variation on Bicycling’s suggested Mandeville Canyon route, and wants to know if anyone has ever taken the fire road on skinny tires. Just Williams discusses Britain’s worst drivers; over here, I’d put Santa Monica cab drivers at the top of the list. You’ll find advice for beginning bike commuters here, and C.I.C.L.E. offers a beginners workshop on riding in traffic. A children’s hospital in Ontario, CA (the other one) says their study shows helmets save lives. Evidently, the war between cyclists and drivers has spread throughout the English-speaking world. And finally, a cycling editor wants to save the hour record, once held by the legendary Eddie Merckx.

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