Tag Archive for DUI

Update: Chula Vista bike rider killed by drunk driver in stolen car

A drunk driver. A stolen car. A dead cyclist.

A San Diego area bike rider has lost his life at the hands of a criminal apparently too drunk to control the car he stole.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, 29-year old Michael Reyes was traveling westbound on Chula Vista’s East J Street at Dennis Avenue around 4:15 pm Monday when he somehow crossed into oncoming traffic. He hit cyclist head-on before crossing over the sidewalk and crashing into a utility pole.

Reyes allegedly admitted to the police that he had been drinking, and that the silver Nissan Maxima  he was driving had been stolen earlier that afternoon. Inside the car, police found property that appeared to come from other car burglaries.

The 44-year old bike rider, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center where he died.

There was nothing the victim could have done to avoid the collision. He does not appear to have done anything to contribute in any way to his own death, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sharing the same planet with a drunk on a crime spree.

If there is any justice, his killer won’t be back behind the wheel of any car, stolen or otherwise, for a very long time.

This is the 20th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in San Diego County. This is also the fourth cyclist killed in Chula Vista since 2012.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones.

Update: The victim has been identified as 44-year old Chula Vista resident David Voight. According to San Diego’s 10News, Voight was a regular bike commuter, and was just eight blocks from his home when he was killed. 

Update: Riverside bike rider killed by suspected drunk driver; first SoCal bike fatality of 2014

That didn’t take long.

Just five days into the new year, Southern California has suffered its first bicycling fatality, as a Riverside rider was run down by a suspected drunk driver on Sunday.

According to the Press-Enterprise, 22-year old David Mendez was riding east on Central Avenue, approximately three-quarters of a mile west of Victoria Ave, at 3:47 pm yesterday when he was hit from behind by a suspected drunk driver. An earlier story puts his location close to the Olivewood Cemetery.

The story says he was riding in the far left lane, suggesting that he may have been preparing for a turn.

Mendez was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead half an hour later. The story reports he was wearing a helmet; clearly, it was not enough to protect him from the force of the impact.

The 20-something driver was detained at the scene on suspicion of DUI; no word on whether he was arrested.

Anyone with information is urged to call Riverside Detective Ken Madsen at 951/826-8723.

This is the first bicycling fatality in Southern California this year and the first in Riverside County; there were 11 cycling deaths in the county last year. Mendez is also the fifth bike rider to be killed in the City of Riverside since 2011.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for David Mendez and all his loved ones.

Thanks to Zak and West Seegmiller for the heads-up.

Update: As a comment from John McB notes, the Press-Enterprise story has been corrected to say Mendez was riding in the far right lane nearest the curb, rather than the left lane as originally reported.

The story also reports that the driver, 31-year old Christopher R. Banning was arrested at the scene on suspicion of vehicle manslaughter without gross negligence and driving under the influence. Any charges will be determined by the Riverside district attorney’s office.

Update: Fatal bike collision on Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades

The aftermath of today's fatal collision; photo by Clifford Phillips

The aftermath of today’s fatal collision; photo by Clifford Phillips

I’m still waiting on official confirmation, but the news doesn’t look good.

A tweet from West LA Traffic Division Captain Brian Adams reports that the LAPD is working a fatal traffic collision at Temescal Canyon Road and PCH in Pacific Palisades.

At the same time, I received an email from a reader who had just passed the intersection and saw a mountain bike with the rear wheel crushed, and a car stopped nearby with its windshield bashed in; the rider was nowhere to be seen.

Of course, that does not necessarily mean the rider was killed. But it sounds like prayers or good thoughts are in order.

More details as they come in.

Update: According to KCBS-2, the collision occurred around 9:15 Sunday morning when a vehicle drifted into the bike lane on Temescal Canyon and hit the rider from behind. The victim was declared dead at a local hospital, later identified as St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica; another report says he was taken to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

And yes, the driver remained at the scene. 

A comment from Lois below indicates the collision occurred about a quarter mile above PCH on the eastbound, uphill lane. 

Having ridden through there many times myself, that is one of the few bike lanes where I don’t feel comfortable, as many motorists drive far above the speed limit and drift from their lanes on the many curves, both up and downhill.

This is the 84th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 36th in Los Angeles County. It is also the 16th cycling death in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year — over three times the number of bicycling fatalities last year.

Update 2: Pacific Palisades Patch reports the victim, who has not been publicly identified, was approximately 25 to 27 years old, and was hit hard enough to throw his body up to 20 feet through the air.  

One commenter on the site said she was told by an officer at the scene that the driver had been drinking — at 9:15 am — while the writer of the Patch piece says the driver himself suggested he was texting when the collision occurred.

John Rapley; photo from The Age

James Rapley; photo from The Age

Update 3: Police officials have identified the victim at 29-year old Australian tourist James Rapley from Victoria; the driver was 19-year old Mohammed Kadri of Santa Monica.

There’s something horribly wrong when someone can’t visit this country without returning home in a coffin.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for James Rapley and his family.

Update 4: Australian publication The Age confirms a comment from a friend of the victim that Rapley was just passing through Los Angeles when he was killed.

The paper quotes his father as saying Rapley, a software developer for Groupon in Chicago, had rented a bike during an extended layover on a flight back home to Melbourne for the holidays. An experienced rider, he may have enjoyed the challenge of tackling the steep climb, even on a rental bike.

His father also confirms the report that police said the underage driver had been drinking at that early hour.

“He was the sort of kid everyone hopes to have as a son,” John Rapley said.

“I just really want to get the message out that drink driving can affect you anywhere and it’s so stupid.”

No word yet on any charges the driver may face. Let’s hope the authorities take this one seriously — especially if reports that he was texting as well turn out to be true.

I can’t overstate the tragedy that someone just passing through our city is murdered by someone too young to legally drink, let alone be on the road in that condition. 

Update 4: The Santa Monica Mirror reports Kadri was arrested on an unspecified felony charge at 10:50 am, and released on $50,000 bail Sunday night — which seems low under the circumstances.

He is scheduled to appear in Downtown Municipal Court on January 16th; we should be able to learn what charges he’ll face then. Thanks to John McBrearty for the heads-up.

Breaking news: OC DUI hit-and-run driver Juli Ann Brown gets serious jail time

It looks like a dangerous driver may be off the streets for awhile.

And for once, she didn’t have to kill someone to get the court’s attention. Just nearly kill three people in an allegedly intoxicated state.

I’m told that Juli Ann Brown, the driver who ran down three members of the Long Beach Lightening Velo bike club in a drunken hit-and-run on PCH last year, was sentenced on Friday to a total of one year in county jail, 15 years in state prison, plus fines, restitution and an 18-month alcohol offender program.

Yes, you read that right.

A total of 16 years, though what that will mean in real life remains to be seen, as she was convicted of multiple counts, and some or all of those terms may end up being served concurrently.

Brown was convicted of plowing into a group of cyclists riding in the bike lane on PCH in Seal Beach in February 2012, then fleeing the scene. Three of the riders were hospitalized with moderate to severe injuries.

Brown was arrested shortly afterwards when Huntington Beach police officers observed her damaged car swerving repeatedly, and booked on suspicion of hit-and-run, driving under the influence and possession of narcotics.

All before 10 am on a Saturday.

This is her second conviction for a DUI offense. Brown was convicted on two separate DUI counts in 2003, one for drug use and another for a blood alcohol level greater than .08. Amazingly, she was sentenced to just 10 days in jail — which as then stayed — and just 90 days of driving restriction, as well as a nine month alcohol treatment program.

This time, at least, she should do some serious jail time.

Whether it will be enough to keep her sober and off the streets once she gets out, only time will tell.

Update — Two cyclists injured, one killed by second driver in drunken early morning hit-and-run

Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

I’ve just gotten word from the LAPD that a bike rider was killed, and two others injured in a hit-and-run early this morning.

Or rather, the victim most likely died because the driver failed to stop at the scene as required by law and basic human decency.

According to the press release, 28-year old Los Angeles resident Ulises Melgar, 30-year old Mario Lopez of Bellflower and 21-year old Bell Flower resident Luis “Andy” Garcia were riding east on Cesar Chavez Avenue at Mission Road with two other bicyclists at approximately 2:45 am Saturday.

They were rear-ended by an eastbound 2013 Toyota Corolla driven by 21-year old Wendy Villegas, knocking all three off their bikes and into the street.

Villegas fled the scene, leaving her victims lying in the street. She drove to her home, where she told her parents she’d been in a collision, and asked them to call the police.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

Just moments after Villegas ran away, 21-year old Jimmy Marroquin was driving east on Cesar Chavez in a 1994 Nissan Quest. He didn’t see Garcia lying in the roadway and struck him with his SUV, dragging his body a short distance.

Had Villegas stayed at the scene, she could have directed other drivers around the people lying in the street until they could move or help could arrive. Ot at the very least, Marroquin would have been more likely to see the collision and drive more carefully around it.

Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. Whether he could have survived the initial collision if he hadn’t been struck a second time is a matter of speculation.

However, the other two victims only suffered minor injuries, which suggests that his injuries might have been survivable. Lopez was treated by paramedics at the scene, while Melgar was taken to the ER at USC Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Villegas confessed to police that she had been drinking and left the scene of the collision. She was booked for hit-and-run resulting in injury or death (CVC 20001(a)) and vehicular manslaughter while under the influence (Penal Code 191.5).

In other words, police investigators are blaming her for Garcia’s death.

The collision is still under investigation.  Anyone with information is urged to contact Central Traffic Detective M. Kaden at (213) 972-1837 or Officer R. Cortez at (213) 972-1846; or call the Central Traffic Division’s Watch Commander at (213) 972-1853 during the weekend or off hours.

This is the 66th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 28th in Los Angeles County; that compares to 23 in the county for all of last year. It is also the 12th biking death in the City of Los Angeles, compared to five in each of the last year two years.

That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the city’s cycling death toll for 2011 and 2012, with over three months left in the year.

And horrifyingly, nine of those 12 deaths have been hit-and-runs.

My prayers and deepest sympathy for Luis “Andy” Garcia and his loved ones.

Thanks to LAPD Central Traffic bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor for the heads-up.

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Update: There are a number of rumors swirling around this case. According to reports, instead of turning herself in, the second driver followed Villegas home and reported her to the police after watching her get out of the car stumbling drunk.

In a second version, there were three vehicles that hit Garcia; the third was reportedly a Metro van, or possibly an official Metro vehicle, which followed Villegas to her home after hitting Garcia.

After checking with the LAPD, both of those versions appear to be untrue. The only vehicles involved in the collision were those driven by Villegas, who fled the scene, and Marroquin, who stopped after hitting Garcia.

Marroquin did not follow Villegas to her home; if he had, he would have committed hit-and-run, regardless of his intentions in following her. And so far, there is no credible report that there was a Metro vehicle present at the time of the collision, let alone that it was involved in the wreck or that the driver tracked her to her home.

I’ve also been told that one of the victims suffered a broken back as a result of the collision, which I have been unable to confirm with the LAPD. They’re looking into it for me, but so far say both other victims suffered minor injuries.

In addition, reports are that it was actually Melgar who was treated and released at the scene, while Lopez was taken to the hospital; he’s the one who reportedly has a broken back.

There will be a memorial service for Andy Garcia Tuesday, September 17th.

andy

Christine Dahab enters guilty plea in 2011 Culver City Massacre, faces minimum 90 day sentence

Most of us who have followed this story from the beginning never thought this day would never come.

It was just less than two years ago that a car driven by an allegedly drunk and distracted Christine Dahab plowed through a group of cyclists stopped alongside a Culver City roadway, injuring 13 riders, some seriously.

The case took a turn for the worse almost immediately, as the initial, highly biased LAPD investigation blamed the victims for allegedly standing in the roadway — even though they were actually in the parking lane — and suggested that she could not have seen them there because of a blind curve that didn’t exist.

And some members of the media irresponsibly implied that the riders had been engaged in a drunken orgy, noting the presence of empty liquor bottles and condoms near the collision site. Yet failed to note the collision occurred near a popular lovers hangout or that the inflammatory items could have been there for days or weeks, let alone connect them to the riders in any way.

Meanwhile, some misguided motorheads applauded Dahab’s apparent efforts to decrease the excess cyclist population.

Fortunately, the Culver City Police Department took over the investigation after it was determined that the collision occurred just inside the CC city limits.

The CCPD investigators refused to give up on the case, even when it would have been far easier to follow the LAPD’s lead and let Dahab off the hook. Especially when many of the witnesses, some of whom may have been under-aged, were reluctant to come forward.

However, their painstaking investigation eventually led the L.A. District Attorney’s office to file felony charges of DUI causing injury and DWI with a BAC over .08 causing injury.

But in the 16 months since then, the case seemed to fall off the radar as a then-pregnant Dahab missed at least one court date, and other more recent and higher-profile cases took priority in the minds of local bicyclists.

Even I managed to forget the case was still ongoing as nothing appeared to take place.

But looks can be deceiving.

Frequent contributor Dj Wheels now reports that Dahab unexpectedly entered a guilty plea last week. And even more surprisingly, according to the cyclist and attorney, she did it without a plea deal in place, throwing herself on the mercy of the court.

On Tuesday, April 2, 2013, Christine Dahab entered a plea of no contest to all counts. She has pled “open to the court,” meaning she didn’t bargain for a lesser sentence but rather will ask for leniency from the Judge directly based on a diagnostic evaluation to be completed by the Dept. of Corrections while she is in custody.

She will surrender directly at a CA State prison on April 22, 2013.

She will remain in custody for the 90 day evaluation period, a report will be prepared by the Dept. of Corrections and sent to the Judge in Dept. D with its recommendations for sentencing.

April 22 is also on calendar as a probation/sentencing hearing, but they will probably just select a future date for the sentencing hearing which would have to be beyond the 90 day diagnostic period.

Victims will be notified of the actual sentencing date so that they can give their victim impact statements in court to the Judge to take into consideration when making his sentencing order.

So even if Dahab is released at the of her evaluation, she will have spent at least 90 days in custody — more than many drivers receive in fatal collisions.

And depending on the results, she could face considerably more.

Not bad for a case almost no one outside the cycling community, including the driver herself, seemed to take very seriously.

Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up. And to the CCPD and DA’s office for fighting for a conviction few of us expected.

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The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition wants your help to keep the Spring Street green lanes green in light of continued ridiculous attacks from some in Hollywood who value their locations and free parking more than your safety.

The LACBC is also sponsoring a cash mob next Sunday in support of the provisional road diet and bike lanes on Rowena Ave.

Meanwhile, a bilingual newspaper group bizarrely fears bike lanes on York Boulevard could fuel a violent bikelash against bike riders.

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BOLO Alert: Be on the lookout for a stolen black and white Cannondale SuperSix taken near Silverlake around 4 Sunday afternoon.

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KCRW traffic maven Kajon Cermak discusses the effects of L.A.’s newly synchronized traffic signals; seems like if I get stopped at one light on my bike, I get stopped at all of them. Rumors are L.A. will soon merge the Department of Planning with Building and Safety. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles leads the nation in traffic congestion. The proposal for a $3 billion bond issue to fix L.A. streets is back; as I said before, as far as I’m concerned, it’s dead in the water unless it includes a provision for speeding up Complete Streets and fixing our broken sidewalks. The Emerald Necklace plan proposes 16 park and bike path projects along the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers, while writer for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune says only CEQA can make a project like that sound bad; thanks to BikeSGV and Megan Lynch for the heads-up. Better Bike says take your money somewhere else as the Biking Black Hole punts on promised bike racks. Cycling in the South Bay writes beautifully about early morning rides on the city’s deserted streets. Santa Monica will host its first Kidical Mass this Saturday.

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan is biking cross country for her Tour de Peace, with stops in Santa Monica and Claremont on Sunday. New sharrows hit the road in Redlands. San Diego is slowly becoming more bike-friendly. Cyclelicious lists hearing dates for bike-related bills in this year’s legislature, while Calbike shares their 2013 legislative agenda; I don’t see the third attempt at a three-foot law anywhere on their list. A Salinas hit-and-run driver is under arrest after striking a man riding a child’s bike. A San Jose man is sentenced to a well-deserved 41 years in prison for killing two men and injuring another in a road rage assault; thanks to Ralph Durham for the link.

As any cyclist could tell you, bans on using hand-held cell phones or texting while driving aren’t working; an estimated 660,000 Americans use their cell phones while driving every day. Too many drivers don’t look for pedestrians — or bicyclists — when they turn left. Legendary 1920s baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis dropped out of high school to take up bike racing. People for Bikes discusses what to wear, or not, while riding, while an Oregon writer debates the need for underwear under bike shorts; kind of defeats the purpose of a good chamois, mais non? An Oregonian takes up bike commuting in response to rising gas prices. Seattle’s Department of DIY installs their own protected bike lane. An Anchorage man completes the 2,000 mile Iron Dog sled dog trail in 40 days on a fat tire bike. A South Dakota man tragically demonstrates the risks of off-road mountain biking. A Galveston driver gets a well-deserved 10-year sentence for fleeing the scene after killing a cyclist, even though the rider reportedly ran a stop sign. A Dallas councilmember suggests repealing the city’s mandatory helmet law to encourage bicycling. This Louisiana tour sounds like about as much fun as you can have on a bike. A Wisconsin legislator want to legalize some cases of drunken bike riding to allow pedal pub crawls. A Minneapolis cyclist survives an attack with a Molotov cocktail. If you’re carrying a loaded .38 with an outstanding New York warrant, don’t ride on the damn sidewalk, already.

A Vancouver writer looks into mandatory helmet laws, and changes his mind. In a horrible collision, a Montreal cyclist falls under a truck after hitting a stopped car, then is killed when the light changes and the truck pulls forward. Four in 10 Brits now ride bikes, including one out of every two men and over half of Londoners. The London Times corrects seven common bicycling myths. A UK council votes to remove a ghost bike three years after the victim is killed. Yet another British bike racer has been hit by a car while riding; this time, its gold medalist Joanna Rowsell. A Liverpool pedestrian dies a day after a collision with a bicyclist, after deciding not to wait to see an emergency room doctor. A Cambridge bike rider nearly has his belongings seized after he’s mistakenly fined the equivalent of over $1,000 for riding without lights. Eddie Merckx Cycles promises to advance bicycle design by investigating bike stability and possibly put an end to death wobbles. A young American cyclist gets a last-minute call to ride in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, won by Fabian Cancellara in a sprint over 24-year old Sep Vanmarcke. Spanish cycling legend Miguel Poblet passes away at 85; he was the first España rider to wear the yellow jersey. Women cyclists dread Aussie roads, while an Australian woman calls for more riders in dresses and heels; thank goodness I’ve got the legs for it. Canberra cyclists have doubled in numbers over the last nine years, while Adelaide cycling is up 10% over the last year after increasing 20% the year before. Yes, there should be fewer cyclists in Lycra, but only because there should be more cyclists wearing anything they please; couldn’t have said it better myself. Earthquake damaged Christchurch plans to rebuild with Copenhagen-style separated bikeways.

Finally, a bike riding Korean War chaplain is awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, and may be considered for sainthood. And a Brooklyn writer offers advice to motorists on how to stop hitting him with their cars.

Presenting a passel of bike links to close out your 2012 reading, and a brief New Years warning

Welcome to the end of yet another year, with the promise that somehow, tomorrow will be different.

Numerically, at least.

Assuming we all get there.

Think of New Years Eve as the world championships of over-drinking. And almost everyone is in on the competition.

A lot of people will have the day off, and may start drinking — and yes, driving — by midday; others will get off from work early and head straight for the nearest bar, if they don’t start drinking at lunch.

From noon on, you can safely assume many, if not most, of the drivers you see will have had one or more for the road. And if you ride tonight, assume every motorist on the streets will have been drinking, if not actually drunk.

You won’t be far off.

So ride carefully, and extra defensively, at all times.

And no, I’m not kidding. I want to see you back here next year, in one piece.

Please.

If you’re going out tonight, walk, take a cab or catch a free ride on any Metro bus or train. Or if you insist on driving, consider a free tow to get back home.

Or ride a bike.

Yes, drunk bicycling is illegal here in California. But the penalty is nowhere near as stiff as a DUI, and won’t count against your license.

Granted, you might kill yourself riding home under the influence.

But at least you’re not likely to take anyone with you, unlike those who insist on pouring themselves behind the wheel.

And no, I have no sympathy for anyone who gets busted for DUI.

And a hell of a lot less for anyone who kills or injures another person because they’ve been drinking.

Seriously, don’t be that guy. Or girl.

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Apathy may be the biggest obstacle facing L.A.’s 2013 mayoral candidates; at least one voter wants more bike lanes in Wilmington. The Army Corps of Engineers unexpectedly razes a section of the Sepulveda Basin, a popular Valley biking destination. The Bicycle Kitchen wants your help deciding what color to paint itself. If only more merchants realized their customers don’t always come by car. C.I.C.L.E. hosts a class for traffic-averse cyclists next month. Memorable things happen when you ride a bike. Friends hold a successful Frisbee golf fundraiser for injured Canyon Country cyclist Kevin Korenthal. A new DMV study shows unlicensed and suspended drivers are three times as likely to cause a fatal crash. Carlsbad cyclists are startled to see Superman flying past — yes, Superman. The joys of riding at night. Cyclelicious is giving away books on bikes starting Wednesday.

Bicycling lists five things cyclists should have in their cars; bike riders need cars? Turns out Kirsten Dunst is one of us. Baton Rouge has tripled its bike lane mileage in just three years; I don’t think they had any when I lived down there a few decades back. Memphis aims to be friendly to bikes as well as blues. A cyclist is killed in the other Hollywood on Sunday. Three cyclists rammed by a car in South Florida last week say it could have been a lot worse. Tampa Bay sees a big jump in bicycling deaths this year. Continuing today’s Florida theme, a cyclist is intentionally pushed to the ground by a bike lane-walking pedestrian.

Riding a bike on Sunday was once seen as a road straight to hell. The UK needs to maintain momentum now that cycling is reaching critical mass (lower case, please), even while the country sees soaring sales of black market bicycles. British cyclists move a house by bike. Cyclists push for road safety in Greenwich. Leicestershire drivers ignore an injured cyclist lying on the roadside. Walking and biking are on a dangerous arc in Scotland, as fatalities could soon surpass those of motor vehicles within a few years.

Finally, helmets are evidently now required for every waking activity. And an Italian judge says cyclists are scruple-less, because we cheat and steal low-quality drugs. So make a resolution this year to only steal top-of-the-line pharmaceuticals.

You’re worth it.

The health benefits of biking, and a call to be careful riding today

I’m on the run today, so my apologies for not offering a full update this morning.

But I didn’t want to let the week pass without offering this thought about the health benefits of bicycling from Michael Eisenberg.

Glad to hear your wife is recovering. I had a heart incident a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve taken up cycling, including commuting 30 miles round trip every day, and weekend rides like today’s 70 miler. I’ve lost 64 lbs, lowered my blood pressure to the point that I no longer take BP medications, lowered my blood sugar to normal numbers even after discontinuing diabetes medication, and improved my cholesterol numbers to well within normal too.  Keep preaching.

There are lots of reasons to ride.

But whether you’re riding for fun, exercise, transportation or any other reason, you’re saving your own life with every pedal stroke you take.

And that’s a good thing.

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One other quick note.

Today is the last working day for a lot of people before Christmas. And that means a lot of office parties, and people getting off work early and starting their holiday celebrations on the way home.

So if you’re riding any time after noon today, ride defensively. And assume every driver you meet on the road has been drinking.

Singh sentenced to 15 – life for drunken killer multi-hit-and-run; NY writer calls bike lanes cancerous

For once, the sentence for a killer driver fits the crime.

The Ventura County Star reports that Satnam Singh has been sentenced to 15 years to life for the drunken hit-and-run death of 20-year old cyclist Nick Haverland last year.

Yes, I said life.

In addition, he must serve two years for DUI before he can begin serving his sentence for the second degree murder conviction, effectively making it a minimum 17-year sentence.

Singh had a blood alcohol level nearly five times the legal limit when he went on a serial hit-and-run spree at speeds up to 90 mph, culminating in the collision that took Haverland’s life as he rode to take a college final.

Something Singh claims not to remember, as a result of an “accidental” dose of depression medication.

Then again, given the amount of alcohol in his system, it’s surprising he remembers his own name, let alone his homicidal hit-and-run Hummer joyride.

Yet remarkably, despite his actions, the judge received over 100 letters attesting to his fine character.

For those unconvinced, the first collision might — might — have been unintentional. The two that followed, including the one that took Haverland’s life, flowed directly from his drunken attempt to avoid responsibility.

A real prince, that guy.

And I’d like to know just how does someone get that drunk by accident. Let alone gets behind the wheel when he’s too damn wasted to walk, let alone drive.

I’d like to think this sentence will send a clear message to everyone to stay the hell away from the driver’s seat after drinking. Let alone drinking yourself to oblivion.

Not to mention stopping after your first collision, rather than continuing to run after the third.

But I fear too many drivers will look sadly at Singh, convinced they’d never do anything like that.

Then celebrate the season with one more for the road.

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Gotham cyclists are up in arms over an assault on both bikes and rationality by New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo, who compares bike lanes to cancer and bike riders to sociopaths.

New York Curbed artfully deconstructs Cuozzo’s highly biased arguments, while Gothamist takes it apart paragraph by scurrilous paragraph. New York Streetsblog fears he’s lost his marbles. The Brooklyn Spoke says, despite his negative assertions, bike delivery people do count and have as much right to safe streets as anyone else.

And it all brings up a great column from the New York Times Magazine, which offers a point-by-point guide to writing a biased anti-bike hate piece of your very own.

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The 7th Annual All City Toy Ride takes place this Friday; couldn’t recommend a better reason to ride. Just be careful, because some cops didn’t seem to have a lot of Christmas spirit last year.

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More women than men now have driver’s licenses, which is good news according to the Times, since women drive less and have fewer fatalities per miles driven.  Southside cyclists take L.A. city planners on a bike tour of Watts. Phase one of the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk opens. LADOT Bike Blog is thankful for Alex Baum’s bicycle advocacy; aren’t we all? Last weekend’s Santa Monica Family Bike Fest is declared a success. Malibu proposes an esplanade with walkways and bikeways connecting the Malibu Pier with Surfrider Beach; wait, a bikeway in Malibu? Seriously? Hermosa Beach revisits the Aviation Blvd bike lanes they turned down earlier this year (scroll down). A look at Long Beach’s Bikeway Route 10. UC Irvine police bust a pair of suspected bike thieves. The Laguna Beach paper calls for more bikeways and a complete streets approach. Plans stall for an Agoura overpass including bike lanes, sidewalks and five lanes of traffic. Bakersfield city planners are looking for cyclists input on improving bike lanes. Natomas CA sprouts signs declaring the city bike friendly; thanks to Amy Senk for the heads-up.

In their new book City Cycling, John Pucher and Ralph Buehler argue that “cycling should be made feasible, convenient, and safe for everyone.” The Feds finally get serious about counting cyclists and pedestrians; unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much until individual states and cities do, as well. It’s okay to be the only non-traffic engineer in the room. Tour Hawaii’s Big Island by bike. Reno bike advocates are successfully reshaping the city. A more than comprehensive list of women’s bike blogs. Bicycling grannies ride in small town Wyoming. Spandex bikewear for the closet super hero. A writer for the Chicago Tribune defends his column calling out scofflaw cyclists and ridicules anyone with the audacity to disagree. A Michigan man is finishing the cross-country bike ride his father was on when he was killed. Your next bike could glow in the dark. A Virginia auto repair shop says it doesn’t make sense to require it to install bike racks, even if the city is trying to be bike-friendly.

London’s transportation department calls on the mayor to develop the world’s largest cycle network. Six steps to survive cycling in London. Cyclists in a BBC documentary on the conflict between drivers and cyclists were paid — and choreographed — to ride as recklessly as possible. An open letter to motorists from UK cyclists. Drinking and riding is a bad idea with a long history. Town Mouse goes temporary bike shopping. The all-time highlights of the Giro d’Italia.

Finally, maybe there is such a thing as too cold to ride. And who knew a simple bike ride was part of global plot to force bike lanes on unsuspecting Americans?

Maybe Cuozzo’s onto something, after all.

………

A special thanks to Margaret for making a contribution to help defray the costs of operating of this blog; I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s appreciated. If anyone else wants to help support my work here on BikinginLA, I’ve set up at PayPal account to accept contributions like hers. You can transfer funds through your PayPal account or major credit card by directing them to bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

And yes, I’m totally blown away that she even thought to do that.

Many thanks, Margaret.

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?

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