Tag Archive for Eric Billings

BikinginLA takes on the Times Opinion page, and arraignment delayed for killer OC DUI driver

If you’re wondering why there was no post yesterday, here’s one reason.

The LA Times Opinion page continues their excellent series on Sharing the Road in LA with an insightful rebuttal written by the author of BikinginLA to an earlier editorial saying cyclists don’t belong on Wilshire Blvd on the Westside.

Wait, that’s me.

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Yesterday’s planned arraignment of Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti, the 39-year old lawyer charged with killing OC bike rider Eric Billings while on a cocktail of prescription drugs, has been postponed until December 6th.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti denies she was impaired when she killed the popular father and Mormon elder, despite suggesting that she had no idea what was happening and no control over her car as it drifted into the bike lane.

Yeah, that’s credible.

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The Los Angeles Wheelmen are forced to cancel their annual Five County Century after the Forest Service demands a permit to use public roads and rest stops on federal land — even though it had gone on permit-free since 1984.

Despite working out other alternatives, the last straw was the USFS refusal to allow sag wagons to stop on federal roads to aid riders in distress.

Seriously.

Something tells me they’d let a tow truck stop to aid a disabled motorist.

And they’d probably permit an ambulance to rescue riders after they’re forced to keep going despite being at the end of their capabilities because they didn’t have a damn sag wagon to pick them up.

I don’t know if this had anything to do with the recent government shutdown. Or just someone with the forest service who has to visit a proctologist to get a root canal because his head is jammed way too far up his own ass.

Thanks to Vic for the heads-up.

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Aviator light

Aviator light

Please forgive the last minute notice.

I’ve mentioned this project before, but it’s worth noting again. You’ve got just a few hours left to back this Kickstarter project for the virtually theft proof and indestructible new Aviator and Afterburner bike lights from Fortified Bicycle Alliance.

I get a lot of pitches to promote various products, most of which go directly into the trash bin. But this one I really like, with tough, ultra-bright LED bike lights smartly designed by a team of former MIT students.

Afterburner light

Afterburner light

Back the project today at a level of $45 or more, and you’ll get one or more of the lights at a discount on the retail price. The Kickstarter is already funded, so you’re guaranteed to get your light(s), with a projected delivery date of next April.

And no, they haven’t promised me anything in exchange for promoting their products.

Dammit.

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The hidden bike path along the southbound 405 east of the VA campus that hardly anyone knows about will be closed from now through November. I only learned it existed a couple years ago when a previous shutdown was announced.

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In upcoming events, the exhibition Ghost Bikes of LA opens at red5yellow7 this Friday, 4257 Melrose Ave. And Trust South L.A. and Community Health Councils are sponsoring a bike ride from Central Ave to Leimert Park this Sunday to promote peace in South LA

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The New York Times looks at the state of bicycling, with reports from the father of vehicular cycling, the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, a senior research associate with the University of North Carolina Highway Safe Research Center, a researcher with the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, and the mayor of technical and environmental administration for Copenhagen.

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LADOT General Manager Jaime De La Vega highlights the department’s recent accomplishments, including 101 miles of new bike lanes. Maybe it’s a sign of the end times, as the auto-centric San Fernando Valley becomes pedestrian and yes, bike friendly, auto-centric Warner Center wants to get people out of their cars and Northridge could actually become pedestrian-friendly like Westwood — but hopefully without the vacant storefronts. KCET says the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge complex needs to be about more than just cars; evidently, the city is starting to get the message, as they’ve called a new public hearing next Monday. Popular LA cyclist Will Campbell founds the Happy Foot Bicycle Club, which departs each Wednesday before I even get out of bed. Video from last weekend’s Wolfpack Hustle HP Gran Prix. The annual Spooky Cross cyclocross race takes place this weekend in Pomona. The CHP will establish a bike and pedestrian safety enforcement project throughout Southern California next year.

Charlie Gandy and Steven Wallauch talk about the upcoming Calbike bike summit on KPCC’s AirTalk program. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske talks with cdmCyclist. A great San Diego program provides refurbished bikes to refugees living in the city. A San Diego triathlete refuses to be pretty in pink. Riverside approves a controversial road diet and bike lanes on Brockton Ave. This is one reason why some cyclists run stop signs, as confusion over who goes first leads to an injury collision. Santa Barbara hosts their first ciclovía on November 2nd. A Menlo Park writer doesn’t like the city’s proposed LA-style cyclist anti-harassment ordinance. A Mountain View writer says the city’s El Camino Real needs cyclists to survive. A Fresno father credits Obamacare for helping save his critically injured bike riding son without bankrupting the family. San Francisco police are targeting cyclists rolling through stop signs; I hope they’re also ticketing drivers who do the same thing. The San Francisco bus that ran over and killed an elderly cyclist was missing a rear wheel guard designed to prevent exactly that. Trying to track down East Bay bike thieves leads to the arrest of a woman for stealing a $1000 pair of jeans.

Distracted driving is killing more bicyclists and pedestrians in the US. Here’s a GOOD pre-ride checklist. Hammerhead wants to be Waze for bikes. The false dichotomy of civil vs militant cyclists. Seattle drivers are confused by new two-way bike lanes. A Colorado driver is found guilty of hit-and-run, but not guilty of vehicular homicide in the death of a cyclist. The per capita bike collision rate rises to record levels in my bike-friendly hometown; drivers are found at fault in 57% of cases. A call to make Montana roads safe for everyone. Wisconsin considers a law making it a felony to kill or injure vulnerable road users. Last year’s vaporware Copenhagen Wheel becomes a reality, easily turning your bike into an e-bike, which is exactly why I don’t want one. The New York Times says cycling is probably pretty safe, or maybe not, sort of. Gotham cyclists, including the famed Bike Snob, are up in arms over an OpEd piece in the NY Times that says blue Citi Bikes are besmirching the city, even though they seem to be popular with rich white people. New York DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says it’s been a wonderful six years; imagine what she could do here in the next 12. Evidently, in New York, bike lanes just happen. DC cyclists will get a jump on red lights — legally — while drivers will be held more responsible for hitting cyclists. An Atlanta cyclist is run down by a 15-year old in a golf cart.

Canadian police seize a truck used to intentionally run down and kill a bike rider. After an Alberta driver hits a cyclist head-on, she yells at him to get his bike out from under her car — then drives off with it still trapped underneath. Michael Bublé and wife bike baby-free in Vancouver. The Guardian asks if companies like Strava have a responsibility to discourage reckless behavior. A day in the life of a female London bike messenger. A long list of bike books for kids. Four — yes, four — people face manslaughter charges in the apparent hit-and-run death of a Welsh cyclist; can’t wait to see the explanation for that one. The 2014 Tour de France starts in England and returns to the cobbles; meanwhile, the only remaining American Tour de France winner calls Lance Armstrong the greatest fraud and says he belongs in jail. Cyclists and pedestrians make up over half of all traffic fatalities in India. While bikes appear to be booming everywhere else, bike use is dropping Down Under; maybe it’s due to the mandatory helmet law.

Finally, you can wear your new Bianchi around your wrist, without the inconvenience of wrecking it first. If the bike path you’re riding on glows in the dark, do you still need a bike light? And seriously, when you’re carrying cocaine, crack, meth, concealed knives and $1000 Canadian, stop for the damn stop light, already.

Justice delayed — OC driver faces charges for killing cyclist last March while on prescription drugs

Six months later, an OC cyclist may finally see justice for the driver who killed him.

According to Rancho Santa Margarita Patch, 39-year old Irvine resident Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti was arrested Tuesday on a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the death of cyclist Eric Billings last March.

Billings was riding a cruiser bike in the southbound bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway, between El Toro Road and Los Alisos Blvd in Mission Viejo around 6:45 pm on Friday, March 15th. Fakhrai-Bayrooti, who goes by the name Hayley, was headed north on Santa Margarita when she missed her turn onto Los Alisos, and made a U-turn at El Toro Road.

Her car drifted into the bike lane, striking Billings from behind and killing him instantly.

Blood tests revealed that she was under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the collision, which she described to Patch last July as an anti-depressant.

“I’ve had illnesses; I was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD,” she said. “I was diagnosed with manic depression and for those I have to take medication or else (I’m) not going to function.” 

And yet, she claims her ability to drive was not impaired by the medication — even though her own description of what happened after her U-turn suggests otherwise.

Next, ”something came into contact with me or I came into contact with something. I don’t know,” she said outside the fountains near Selma’s in RSM.

Her car wouldn’t stop, she said.

“I tried so hard to stop that car,” she said, gesturing as if she were holding a steering wheel and slamming on the brakes. ”The wheel was out of my control. The brake was out of my control.”

Apparently, the car developed a mind of its own, seizing control and running down an innocent victim while she sat helpless behind the wheel.

Yeah, that could happen.

And despite having just made a U-turn, she somehow hit the 54-year old father of four with enough force to kill him instantly; Billings was pronounced dead as soon as rescuers arrived at 6:48 pm.

It wasn’t her first driving infraction; she had previously been charged with speeding over 65 mph and using a hand-held cell phone while driving; no word on whether her car was responsible for those infractions, as well.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti describes herself as devastated by the collision, dropping her legal practice and leaving her car in the police impound lot. She also reports being so depressed that she attempted suicide the week after the collision by taking “everything in the medicine cabinet.”

On the other hand, I doubt her victim’s family took it very well, either. Although, as a devout Mormon, Billings probably would have forgiven her if he could.

Fortunately, the Orange County District Attorney’s office doesn’t seem to be so willing to turn the other cheek.

She has been released after posting $100,000 bail.

One last note.

This comment was left on the Patch story of Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s arrest:

…I feel bad for this woman. She had a need for a prescription, and it didn’t impair her or cause her to hit the cyclist. I take thyroid medication; if I get into a car accident, will I be arrested for the same thing? And after reading her blog about the accident, poor thing seemed like she had suffered enough for what she did.

So let’s be absolutely clear.

If your medication affects your ability to drive, then don’t. If you even think you might be impaired, you have both a legal and moral obligation to stay the hell off the road.

Despite the excuses we give ourselves, no one has to drive. And no one has a God given right to be on the roads — especially not when medications or other health factors may make them a danger to others.

If you make a decision to keep driving despite the effects of your medication, you can and should be held accountable for whatever happens as a result. And just because someone denies being impaired, that doesn’t mean they weren’t, as Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s description of the collision suggests.

She may have needed her prescription to function, but should have known it could affect her ability to operate a motor vehicle; there is a reason for those warnings that accompany prescription medicines.

Now a man is dead, and a family forever shattered.

And a woman faces charges for a fatal collision that has left her depressed.

But for which, by her own description, she still hasn’t taken responsibility.

Update: The LA Daily News reports Fakhrai-Bayrooti had two drugs in her system at the time of the collision — anti-anxiety drug Alprazolan, and Buprenorphine, which the paper says is used to treat opiate addictions.

Both medications contain warnings that they can cause drowsiness and dizziness, and not to drive until you know how they affect you. According to the Drugs.com link above, combining the two medications can cause severe drowsiness, as well as severe breathing problems and increased risk of seizures.

Update: Cyclist killed in Mission Viejo

Just got word that a bike rider was killed in Mission Viejo Friday evening.

According to the Orange County Register, the collision occurred around 6:50 pm on the Santa Margarita Parkway, between El Toro Road and Alisos Blvd.

No word on how the wreck happened, or any identity on the victim or driver. The paper reports the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and that the driver remained onsite following the collision.

A satellite view shows what looks like a ridable shoulder in both directions. However, there’s no indication of which direction the rider was going or where the rider was positioned on the roadway.

The speed limit in that area is 50 mph; a collision at that speed is not likely to be survivable.

This is the eighth bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in Orange County, which averaged more than one death per month for each of the past two years.

Thanks to Louis Martinet for the heads-up.

Update: The Orange County Register has identified the victim as 58-year old Eric Billings of Rancho Santa Margarita; he was pronounced dead at 6:48. 

According to the paper, Billings was riding in a designated bike lane, rather than a wide shoulder as I had assumed from the satellite photo, when he was struck by a 2003 Acura driven by 39-year old Hast Fakhrai-Bayrooti.

Mission Viejo Patch places the location as 300 yards south of El Toro Road near Trabuco Hills High School. The site says both the driver and victim were headed southbound on Santa Margarita, suggesting Billings was struck from behind. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

What does appear to be a factor is a surface street designed for excessive speed, where drivers typically exceed the already too high speed limit by double digits, and an unprotected bikeway in which a few inches of paint is all that separates riders from those speeding vehicles.

Or as appears to be the case here, doesn’t. 

Witness reports from the SoCal Trail Riders forum said the victim appeared to be riding a beach cruiser, which was badly mangled in the crash, and that skid marks from the car extended up onto the sidewalk. 

My prayers and sympathy for Eric Billings and all his family and loved ones.

Update 2: Friends remember Billings as a compassionate and generous man, dedicated to his faith.

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