Tag Archive for Gustavo Ramirez

Bike cases fill the dockets — Dr. Thompson was just the beginning

As Bob Mionske noted in the Times last week, the Thompson case does not represent a sea change for cyclists.

It was just one case, with unique circumstances. Like driver who admitted trying to “teach them a lesson.” A car with a unique, memorable license plate. And at least three other cyclists who could testify to similar incidents involving the same car, and the same driver.

Not to mention a police department that took it seriously — which isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.

As cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels pointed out recently, while Thompson got 5 years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, Alejandro Hidalgo got just two years for getting drunk and killing Jesus Castillo, then fleeing the scene.

Call me crazy, but on my balance sheet, Intoxication + Death + Running Away outweighs Intent + Injury. Even if it wasn’t the first time.

And that’s just the first of at least 10 other cases involving cyclists working their way through the investigative and legal process in the L.A. area.

Like Teri Hawkins, for instance.

She reportedly ran a stop sign before striking a cyclist, knocking him 30 feet through the air. The 40-year old Simi Valley resident turned herself in to the police 4 days after the hit-and-run collision that resulted in “major injuries” to the 26-year old rider, who has not been publicly identified.

After pleading no contest to hit-and-run with injury (CVC 2001a), her request for probation was denied and she was sentenced to 16 months in state prison last week, with credit for 76 days time served. Hawkins was also ordered to pay restitution, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the San Fernando courthouse.

Wheels notes that turning herself in may have been a mitigating factor in the relatively low sentence — although it should be noted that her conscience seemed to kick in after her car had been located and impounded by the police.

Wheels also provided an update on the status of some of the other cases:

The preliminary setting for Robert Sam Sanchez — the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Christian on PCH in Malibu last June — has been continued for the third time.

Sanchez was arrested shortly after fleeing the collision, which took place near the completion of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200-mile Grand Tour Double Century. The preliminary setting, held prior to a preliminary hearing, is now scheduled for February 11 in the Malibu Courthouse. Sanchez has pled not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Section 191.5a of the California Penal Code) as well as driving under the influence (CVC 23152a) and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury (CVC 20001a).

Rod’s sister-in-law reported last summer that Christian was doing well physically, though making it clear that the family was struggling with his loss. And an acquaintance of Sanchez noted that he was not a bad person, despite a drunken decision to get behind the wheel that has forever changed two families.

Mark Antonio Valencia was high on drugs and alcohol when he mowed down five cyclists in Santa Clarita on the morning of July 11, killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two others. Valencia, who was driving his sister’s car without a license after two prior DUI convictions — as well as multiple arrests for drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing officers — had already been reported to authorities before the collision; unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies couldn’t catch up to him in time.

DJ Wheels reports that Valencia is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the San Fernando courthouse on January 22. Valencia is still being held on $1.3 million bail, charged with 13 criminal counts including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.

In a very personal case, the driver who threatened a group of cyclists, resulting in injuries to Wheel’s new wife, will be arraigned on January 26.

On January 28, the driver accused of injuring local cycling advocate Roadblock in a hit-and-run collision is scheduled for a pretrial hearing.

A February 3 hearing has been scheduled for four men charged with attempting to rob a female cyclist by striking her in the face with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the hit-and-run that sent community leader Ed Magos to the hospital on January 6. Despite driving off and leaving another human splayed on the pavement unable to move, the driver was not arrested when she turned herself in later; no charges have yet been filed.

No word yet on the status of Patricia Ann Izquieta, who was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Donald Murphy in Irvine last month. Or whether any charges will be filed in the death of Gustavo Ramirez in Long Beach on the 5th. It doesn’t sound likely, though, since initial police statements seemed to blame Ramirez; the Press-Telegram reports on last weekend’s ride in his honor.

And there’s still no word of an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Robert Painter, the cyclist killed while riding in a crosswalk in North Hollywood last month. Fittingly, the driver is likely to face murder charges once an arrest is made.


Controversy over plans for a bikeway near JPL. Travelin’ Local maps L.A. by bike. A North County San Diego paper questions whether current criminal penalties are strong enough when cars hit bikes; a drunk cyclist unwittingly volunteers as a test case. Another rider is killed in the nation’s most deadly state for cycling; Transit Miami examines why it happened there. Austin’s planned bike boulevard hits some bumps. Anchorage holds a very frosty bike race. A Colorado town revives the legendary Morgul Bismark stage from the Red Zinger/Coors Classics. German pro Matthias Kessler suffered a serious brain injury after a cat runs in front of his bike. London residents question traffic calming and bikeway plans. Lance has won seven tours; World Champ Cadel Evans says he’s only lost five.  Bikeways to the sailing venues for the 2012 Olympics could use some improvement. Scotland awards over $1.2 million to promote cycling in Edinburgh. The UK promotes child cycling through the new Bike Club. An Indian Nobel Laureate and confirmed cyclist says cars set a bad example, while a Danish politician says bikes are the obvious solution. Finally, the Trickster did indeed say it first — Michael Vink is a rising rider to keep an eye on.

And a woman walks into a bike shop

Memorial rides and ghost bike for Gustavo Ramirez tonight and tomorrow

Just a quick reminder about the memorial ride and ghost bike dedication for Gustavo Ramirez. The popular Manhattan Beach REI employee killed when he collided with a semi-truck on East Shoreline Drive in Long Beach last week.

Actually, there will be two rides.

The first will take place tonight, meeting at 8 pm at Lincoln Park in Long Beach, and leaving at 8:30 pm, following one of Gustavo’s favorite routes.

The second will take place tomorrow morning, following the same route and stopping at the memorial. The ride meets at the same location at 8 am, departing at 9 am.

Full details are available on the Midnight Ridazz website for both Friday’s and Saturday’s rides, as well as on the ghostbikes.org website.

Hats off to the Ridazz for organizing these rides and preparing the ghost bike, and deepest sympathies to Gustavo’s family and friends.

Let’s make this the last one we’ll need this year.

A cyclist is killed, ignorance abounds

Yesterday, Will Campbell was right hooked by a driver in a small car.

A day earlier, a Long Beach cyclist was killed when a truck driver did virtually the same thing.

In the video he posted, you can clearly see the car cut directly across Will’s path, and his rapid reduction in speed as he brakes hard to avoid a collision. And you can hear his restraint as he urges the driver to be more careful in the future.

Now contrast that with the incident in Long Beach, in which an experienced cyclist collided with a semi-truck making a right turn.

According to published reports, Gustavo Ramirez, a 30-year old resident of the Belmont Shore area, was riding eastbound on the sidewalk along East Shoreline Drive in Long Beach about 10:30 am Tuesday, when he hit the side of the truck as it turned onto Shoreline Village Drive. The driver reportedly had missed his exit off the 710 Freeway and was attempting to turn around when the collision occurred.

The popular cyclist, who worked at the Manhattan Beach REI, had survived another recent accident when a car cut him off while riding in the Bixby Knolls area.

Charles Gandy, the mobility coordinator for the city, was quoted as saying that many cyclists feel uncomfortable riding a busy street with no bike lanes like Shoreline Drive, so they may prefer to ride on the sidewalk.

Judging by the city’s website, that may or may not be legal. Long Beach’s municipal code suggests that riding on the sidewalk is allowed in most areas, with a maximum speed limit of 15 mph — 5 mph when pedestrians are present. However, there are a number of exceptions where it’s prohibited; I don’t know the area well enough to say if any of those would apply around there.

Then again, as complicated as the exceptions are, I’m not sure if anyone else does, either.

As a general rule, I advise against riding on the sidewalk, because drivers anticipate cyclists on the sidewalk even less than they do on the street, and aren’t likely to look for you when they’re pulling out of a driveway or turning onto a cross street. In fact, according to a 1998 study by Dr. William Moritz, there’s a 24.8 times greater risk for cyclists riding on the sidewalk as compared to a typical street with no cycling facilities.

However, I can also understand why a cyclist would make an exception there. The southern end of the 710 Freeway dumps heavy traffic directly onto the street just blocks from where Ramirez was killed; more than a few drivers fail to make the mental adjustment from freeway to surface street driving.

It’s clear from the description of the incident that Ramirez collided with the truck, rather than the other way around, striking it on the right side just behind the cab.

Some of the comments online suggest that proves he was at fault. But as Will’s video clearly shows, when a driver turns in front of you without warning, there’s not much you can do except jam on your brakes and pray. If there’s time.

The fact that Ramirez hit the truck just behind the cab suggests that the driver was just beginning his turn when the collision occurred, so there probably wasn’t enough time to react. It also implies that he was probably already alongside the truck when it turned, so he might not have been in a position to see its turn signal, assuming the driver used it.

And even if he was wearing earphones, as a friend of his suggested, it’s highly unlikely that any experienced cyclist would be unaware of such a large truck on the roadway right next to him.

It’s more likely that the driver failed to see Ramirez before turning in front of him; a classic right hook. And a heartbreaking tragedy for his family and friends.

Still, that didn’t stop the usual online comments blaming cyclists from running red lights, calling for licensing and testing — or expecting cyclists to yield regardless of who has the right of way. Or even demanding that the new health care plans impose a surcharge on people who engage in risky behavior like riding a bike.

And that’s not counting the many comments that were deleted for being too offensive. Like the ones questioning whether Ramirez — or the driver — were in the country legally, just because of their names.

It’s tragic enough when any human being loses his life. But no one should have to die simply for riding a bike.

And it shouldn’t be an opportunity for people who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to show just how little compassion and common sense they have.

Members of Midnight Ridazz are planning a ghost bike and memorial ride for Friday the 15th.


A Downtown cyclist was run down by a hit-and-run driver yesterday, yet somehow managed to avoid serious injuries. Damien offers the definitive response to the bike plan; the deadline for comments is tomorrow. An L.A. rider tries, and fails, to reach Downtown by following the county bike map. Flying Pigeon gets Belgian-made Achielle bikes in stock. An East Coast cyclist learns to take the whole lane — and in a skirt, no less. Ft. Collins, CO cyclists demand equality, and get the same traffic-calming surcharge drivers face. A New York school bus driver backs over a cyclist in a fatal collision. A Louisville writer goes car-free, and gets a new Pashley. A North Carolina newspaper complains about a planned bike route for “design cyclists,” whatever that is. The League of American cyclists wants to make U.S. university campuses bike friendly. London cyclists outrace the Tube. The hit-and-run plague even extends to Oxford Dons. Adelaide cyclists get a boost in infrastructure spending. A Canadian cyclist is killed by a truck’s oversize load, yet the court rules no one is at fault. Tips on riding in the snow, not that it’s an issue here. Finally, proof that not all cyclists are nice people, even in Copenhagen; then again, neither is everyone who offers to help recover your bike.

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