Tag Archive for leadership

Morning Links: Confronting LA’s diabetic drivers, and bike thief’s mom gives back bike her son stole

Let’s talk Diabetes.

Before I was diagnosed last year, I spent about a year trying to keep my sagging energy up with carbs and energy bars.

What was happening, unbeknownst to me, was that my blood sugar would spike after I ate something high in carbs — even the whole grains I thought were better for me — then crash, leaving me hypoglycemic and needing still more carbs to get back up.

In a very real sense, I was chasing the dragon, just like any other addict. Except my addition was to sugar and other carbohydrates.

I thought I could burn them off by riding my bike, even as I became sicker and sicker, my weight slipping from a muscular 190 pounds down to 160, before finally crashing to 145 shortly after I was diagnosed.

I was killing myself with every bite I took, even though I thought I knew what I was doing.

LA drivers are diabetics.

They’re addicted to ever-increasing road capacity every bit as much as I was addicted to carbs, demanding ever more and wider roads, despite the evidence that greater capacity just results in induced demand.

If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who drives the 405 if the $1 billion road widening project has made their commute any easier.

And they fight tooth-and-nail to preserve every traffic lane and parking spot, even from projects designed to improve safety while providing those who want it with alternatives to driving.

It’s not that they’re bad people. They just don’t know any better.

It’s our city officials that have failed them.

Common sense tells people that removing a traffic lane will only make their commutes worse. Even though it’s been shown repeatedly, in cities around the world, that it can actually improve traffic flow while increasing the odds that they, and those they share the road with, will get home to their families in one piece.

And it tells them that no one will actually ride a bike to work, despite those who do it every day right here in bike-unfriendly LA, and that bike commuting rates have gone up in other cities that have installed safe bike lanes and cycle tracks.

They simply can’t see their addiction is killing them and the city we all love, as LA’s streets, many of which are already at or above capacity for large portions of the day, continue to get more congested as we continue to follow the old failed approach.

Like me, they need an intervention.

In my case, it was my doctor telling me that my blood sugar levels were literally off the charts; so high, in fact, he was surprised I wasn’t already in a diabetic coma. Forcing me to rethink my entire approach to food, and give up those things I thought I needed.

In the case of LA drivers, we need our city officials, from the mayor down to our too-often weak kneed councilmembers, who insist on being led by their constituents rather than the other way around, to explain why the old ways no longer work. And show them how alternative approaches can actually work better, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.

And that bike lanes, and the people who use them, aren’t the enemy.

They can’t leave it up to us, as they have in the past, to explain why things have to change. That only creates yet another us against them confrontation, as bicyclists fight with drivers and homeowners over our safety versus their fears of gridlock.

It will take our leaders actually leading for a change.

And sticking their necks out to do what’s right, because they already know it is.

………

Talk about an unexpected development.

Three weeks after a man pushed an 11-year old boy off the bike he’d just won during a Halloween celebration at Ted Watkins Park and rode off with it, the mother of the suspect identified by police has returned the bike to him.

Which means he now has two bikes, since the ESR Bike and Skate Shop had already replaced the stolen bike.

Nice to see mom step in and do the right thing.

………

Local

CiclaValley explains why drivers are the real threat, even to other drivers.

Thanks to the LACBC, the NoHo Red Line Station now has a short off-road bike path connecting the station to the popular Chandler Bike Path.

Streetsblog reports Metro’s Planning Committee has approved the fair structure for LA’s coming bikeshare system. Meanwhile, Santa Monica’s Transit App now includes real-time information on the city’s Breeze bikeshare program.

In a totally unsolicited plug for a friend, Richard Risemberg’s Bicycle Fixation is offering merino wool bicycling tops on sale at just above cost.

Monrovia is the latest city in the San Gabriel Valley to develop a bike plan, as well as considering a bikeshare program.

Long Beach will crack down on unsafe drivers who put cyclists and pedestrians in danger on Thursday. But that doesn’t mean they’ll let law-breaking bicyclists off the hook.

 

State

The OC Register looks at the recent Orange County Honor Ride, which raised $40,000 for injured vets.

A Bakersfield school district gets a $100,000 grant to teach children to ride bikes safely during PE time. Although someone should explain to them that’s not what Vision Zero is, and that it can’t be accomplished in a year. Especially not without focusing on drivers instead of kids.

The three-day Eroica California returns to Paso Robles for the second annual vintage bike event next April.

The Santa Cruz paper looks at the city’s elevation to a gold-level Bike Friendly Community.

Noah Budnick, the Executive Directive of the San Francisco Bicycle Coaliton, has unexpectedly stepped down just under a year after he was hired.

The Sacramento-area’s Cycle Folsom is getting casual riders out onto the road and into spandex.

 

National

Streetsblog looks at that study showing a 14% transportation share by bikes in the world’s major cities could result in an 11% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Bicycling encourages you to get out and celebrate Blacktop Friday the day after Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday.

Portland prosecutors ask for $250,000 bail for the self-proclaimed King of Bike Thieves.

If you can make it out to Tucson AZ this Saturday, you could ride with America’s only remaining Tour de France winner.

Researchers in my hometown found the air bike commuters breath basically sucks.

A Wichita cop goes way beyond the call of duty, giving his own bike to a veteran in need after his had been stolen.

Nebraska bike and pedestrian deaths reach their highest level since the turn of the century.

A Chicago hospital executive gets a slap on the wrist for killing a cyclist while on his way home from a holiday party; the judge gave him just 100 days behind bars, even though state law calls for three to fourteen years for aggravated DUI.

Intriguing new bike coming from Boston’s Fortified Bicycle, which promises their Invincible urban bike will be theft proof, flat-resistant and virtually indestructible.

In a sign of what can happen when bike riders and local residents actually listen to each other instead of arguing back and forth, the two sides may be close to an agreement in a dispute over a Baton Rouge bike lane. If Paul Koretz or Gil Cedillo showed enough leadership to sponsor that kind of conversation, we might have had an agreement on Westwood Blvd and North Figueroa ages ago.

A South Florida ride combines bicycling and black jack to raise funds to give bikes to children who can’t afford them.

 

International

Ottawa plans a permanent memorial to fallen cyclists.

The new Cycling Revolution exhibit at London’s Design Museum celebrates bicycle engineering; it will be open through the end of June if you’re planning a trip across the pond.

British retailer Tesco is accused of dumping $6,000 worth of new bicycles, some still in boxes, in the trash rather than donating them to those in need.

Fast Company calls the coming 200-foot high Copenhagen bike bridge the craziest bike lane ever built, with elevators that will lift riders up to cross over the harbor.

India’s elite cyclists are attempting to rebuild the cycling team following the death of the team’s coach two years ago, although their training is limited by the country’s dangerous roads.

Motorcycle-riding Bangladeshi gunmen seriously wound an Italian priest as he rode his bike.

Over 3,000 Egyptian cyclists are expected to take part in Cairo’s fourth annual Orange Bike Day sponsored by the Dutch Embassy.

 

Finally…

If you’re holding large quantities of cash and illegal drugs, maybe you’re better off not riding a stolen bike. And if you’ve been very good this year, maybe Santa Claus or Hanukkah Harry will bring you a 62 mph carbon fiber hydrogen-fueled e-bike.

 

Morning Links: Tragedy in Santa Clarita, LA announces Vision Zero, and too much racing news for one day

Sad news from Santa Clarita, as a man apparently rode his bike to commit suicide Sunday morning.

According to the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, the unidentified man jumped to his death off the bridge on White’s Canyon Road at Via Princessa in full view of several people. Deputies said an overturned bicycle behind the yellow sheriff’s tape belonged to the man who jumped.

As others have said before me, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

No matter how bad things may look today, it will change. Maybe not now, maybe not soon. But it will. That’s the way life goes.

Hopefully the good, in the end, will outweigh the bad.

And you are not alone.

There are people who care. If you need help, call. Or talk to someone you know. Not tomorrow, not next week.

Now.

I want to see you back here tomorrow. And many more tomorrows after that.

NOTE: I heard from a relative of the victim who complained that the line about the permanence of suicide was glib. It was not intended that way; I learned it from a psychiatrist who specialized in treating depression. And it has helped me get through some very bad days.

I didn’t say this last night in my rush to get this online, but my heart and prayers go out to the victim and all his family and loved ones. Regardless of how he died, he was one of us.

Update: The victim has been identified as 23-year old Phillip Michael Griffin; a search had been underway since he went missing on Wednesday. 

………

This is a big day in LA.

According to Los Angeles Walks, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will formally announce the city’s Vision Zero initiative to end traffic deaths in the City of Angels within the next 10 years. He’s set to make the announcement at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and St. Louis in Boyle Heights at 12:30 pm.

Of course, the question is whether the city is willing to make the tough choices that will require. As the recent controversies over Westwood Blvd, North Figueroa and the Glendale-Hyperion bridge make clear, many Angelenos — and a handful of elected representatives — still favor convenience over safety, and maintaining the automotive hegemony on our streets.

And are more than willing to twist that safety argument to preserve the status quo and keep our streets dangerous.

It will take strong leadership to make a dent in the number of deadly collisions in our city, let alone eliminate them in 10 years. And it can’t be done if we continue to carve out certain streets, neighborhoods or council districts.

We haven’t seen that yet from our city leaders. In fact, we haven’t heard from the mayor on any of those controversies, or any of the other streets where opposition to bikes has blocked much needed safety improvements.

Hopefully, that will change today.

In fact, it has to.

………

Way too much racing news today.

Taylor Wiles won the second stage of the women’s USA Pro Challenge; Kristen Armstrong ended up winning the short three-day tour by 29 seconds over Wiles on Sunday. Taylor Phinney’s mom — who was a pretty decent cyclist herself — is thrilled to see how Colorado has embraced women’s bike racing.

Saturday’s men’s stage was taken by Roman Kreuziger after a long breakaway, while BMC’s Rohan Dennis finished with the main pack to hold a 44 second lead. He held that lead to win the Pro Challenge, with teammate Brent Bookwalter taking second.

Earlier in the race, Dennis had chucked his panini at a rider who attacked when the peloton stopped to pee.

Across the Atlantic, BMC won the team time trial on the first day of the Vuelta a España; however, no individual times were recorded due to a dispute over the unsafe conditions of the sand-covered route. On the other hand, at least they didn’t have to outrace a tank.

After all the rumors about motor doping over the summer, Vincenzo Nibali did it old school, getting bounced from the race for holding onto a team car to catch up to the peloton after a crash. Astana teammate Paolo Tiralongo posts a nasty eye injury he suffered in that same crash. All of which supports Deadspin’s observation that the Vuelta is the best race of the season, calling it “as spectacular as a relatively tame sport gets.”

And for future reference, you might want to keep your eye on a 16-year old racer from San Diego’s Torrey Pines High School.

………

Sometimes, cyclists really are heroes.

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Washington Post tells the story of professional cyclist Ken Bellau, who returned to his New Orleans home after competing in the Tour of French Guyana, hopped in a boat, and saved over 400 people from the flooding caused by the hurricane.

………

Local

South Pasadena neighbors team up to chase down a one-man bike theft crime wave; the thief had been busted three times for similar crimes in just the last 45 days.

Pasadena’s newly passed general plan calls for increased density in the urban core while encouraging people to walk, bike or ride transit.

 

State

A Laguna Beach website asks if it’s possible for hikers, mountain bikers and wilderness habitat to co-exist.

A Coronado letter writer says beaches and bicycles are not at match. A statement disproven daily at pretty much every beach, everywhere.

Those anti-bike Coronado people couldn’t have been happy on Sunday, as 3,400 cyclists rode around the bay, through the town and across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in a fundraiser for the San Diego Bicycle Coalition.

A reminder from Santa Cruz that drivers are required to make a right turn from the farthest lane to right, which means merging into a bike lane rather than turning across it. But make sure to check for bikes first.

Deb Hubsmith’s hometown newspaper says the late founder of Safe Routes to School showed the impact one person can have in a short lifetime.

The Bay Area’s Bicicletas Por la Paz is a band, bicycle advocacy group, awareness collective and food kitchen rolled into one.

The Sacramento paper says it’s long past time to make safe, easy bicycling a priority.

A South Lake Tahoe cyclist is back home after riding through Iran to meet with school children to promote peace, although not everyone in this country welcomed his efforts. Or in that one, probably.

 

National

Now that’s more like it. A Reno man gets 20 years for the drunk driving death of a 16-year old bike rider; he was nearly twice the legal limit when he was arrested. Similar cases here seldom result in more than a couple years.

A Chicago writer rides Missouri’s 238-mile Katy Trail with her husband, even if their starting point was under water. Meanwhile, the Windy City has a shiny new three-mile elevated rail-to-trail conversion.

The Chicago man who was brutally beaten by five honor students was selling the bike to raise money for school; his attackers reportedly believed the bike was stolen.

Cleveland prepares to paint a buffered bike lane on a newly resurfaced street. And bizarrely puts the buffer next to the curb, instead of next to the traffic lane where it might actually do some good.

Sad news from Massachusetts, as a bike rider hit by a drunk driver in 1996 dies after 19 years in a coma; his family has forgiven the driver, but the DA has yet to determine if additional jail time is warranted as a result of the death.

President Obama and family ride their bikes through the drizzle on Martha’s Vineyard. Although judging by the photo, daughter Malia isn’t too happy about it.

A PA paper offers advice on how to teach someone to ride a bike safely. But despite what they say, might does not make right; drivers don’t have a superior right to the road because they’re in the larger vehicles.

If you really want your employees to ride to work, try offering a free bike valet like this New York company. But discourage them from stealing a bikeshare bike to commute with.

A Baltimore driver hits a cyclist while trying to pass on a curve, then gets out of his SUV and hits him some more. With his fists. Showing how non-seriously authorities take traffic violence, he’s out on just $25,000 bail.

 

International

A musician rides 1,800 miles across Canada to perform, while supporting a movement for clean air, food and water.

Bicycling looks at how Bogotá’s ciclovía changed the world. I’m not sure the new Mobility Plan would have passed without CicLAvia, which is based on the Bogotá event.

Better bike routes and more bicycling could solve the traffic problems in Manchester UK.

A British bike rider was lucky to get away with a broken wrist and hand injuries after someone sabotaged his bike by disconnecting his brakes; the local government councilor crashed into a lamp post after careening down a hill at 30 mph.

A private postal service in Edinburgh delivers the mail by bike for a third less than conventional services; not surprisingly, business is growing by booming 20% a month.

A Chinese tourist who was kidnapped by Taliban militants while bicycling through Pakistan over a year ago has been freed by Pakistani security forces.

 

Finally…

It may not be safe for Florida kids to bike to school, but at least they can pedal at their desks. A new smart helmet could help avoid wrecks. Too bad we can’t get drivers to wear it.

And while the driverless car is still in development, the riderless bike is here today.

 

The Dept. of Currently Infeasible vs. the Dept. of Just Get It Done.

The difficult, I’ll do right now; the impossible may take a little while.

— Crazy He Calls Me, by Carl Sigman and Sidney Keith Russell

A few years back, I was hired as advertising director for a company that made electronic musical and recording equipment.

Years of mismanagement had put the company in serious financial trouble. And I was given less than five months to hire and train an in-house creative team, develop a new marketing strategy to completely reposition the company, and create an ad campaign good enough to pull them from the brink of bankruptcy.

It wasn’t possible.

I knew it. They knew it. And I agreed to do it anyway.

After countless long hours, including working both Christmas and New Years Day, we got it to the printer just minutes before our final drop-dead deadline, and broke the new campaign on the eve of the most important trade show in the company’s history. Three days later, they left with over $6 million in new sales — nearly 75% of the total sales for the entire year before.

It wasn’t enough. Within a few weeks, the bank cut off funding, and the company’s assets were liquidated in bankruptcy court.

It may not have been my best work, but I am more proud of that than anything else I’ve ever done in my career. Because I refused to accept that it couldn’t be done. And got it done anyway.

Now compare that with the sad state of our local transportation authorities. At a time when this city desperately needs bold leadership to solve its transportation problems, we get excuses and endless delays.

Consider our nascent rail system.

Metro has methodically focused on building just one or two lines at a time, making painfully slow progress on a railway that is decades away from touching the lives of most Angelenos, unless their starting and ending points just happens to be near one of the lines. And they don’t mind going through Downtown to make their connections.

The planned routes that might, someday, turn it into a viable transit system won’t break ground for years — and many, such as the long-promised Subway to the Sea — aren’t even scheduled to be completed in my lifetime. Unless I happen to live a very long damn time.

Contrast that with Denver, where city leaders had talked about the need for light rail for decades, yet it was constantly derailed by one seemingly insurmountable obstacle or another. Until local voters finally elected an administration determined to cut through the red tape and just get it done.

Instead of following L.A.’s example, they committed to building the entire system at once. The result is an integrated regional system that has been fully functional — and successful — virtually from day one. And yes, they actually encourage cyclists to take the trains.

Meanwhile, our own leaders are pushing, with no promise of success, for just three of the 14 scheduled L.A.-area projects to be moved forward a little.

Or take the pitiful, disjointed system of L.A. bikeways that don’t connect, don’t actually lead anywhere and are frequently in virtually unridable condition.

The problem, we’re told, is that the city’s built-out street system is already over-stressed. As LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator Michele Mowery was recently quoted in Bicycling Magazine, “What I need is roadway. Right now, all I can do is try to find places to squeeze bikes in.”

Yet New York City, home to one of the most congested, built-out road systems in the country, recently completed a 200 mile expansion of their bike lane system — increasing the system by nearly 50% in just three years.

The result has been equally impressive, with bike commuting up 45% since the project began — a nearly a 50% increase in ridership in just three years. And it will undoubtedly rise further now that the system is complete, reducing stress on the local traffic and transit systems while helping to improve the health of those new commuters.

The difference is civic leaders — from the mayor’s office down — who recognize the value of bicycles as a legitimate part of the overall transit system, and have the political will to overcome objections and just it done.

The same leadership that had the courage to convert one of the city’s busiest boulevards into a pedestrian walkway.

Yet even L.A.’s proposed Bike Master Plan fails to “squeeze bikes in,” since most bikeways that might actually make a difference are listed as “currently infeasible.” And the people charged with leading the change continue to offer implausible excuses, like telling council members that they can’t move forward with a sharrow test project because they’re worried about cyclists slipping on rain-soaked paint.

And yes, I actually heard them say that. Which makes me wonder just how many riders have been killed or crippled on Long Beach’s new sharrow green lane. Or maybe it just hasn’t rained there yet.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has the most congested roadways in the nation. Yet we’re still waiting for our civic leaders to recognize that the city’s decades-long focus on increasing traffic capacity has failed miserably. And that maybe, just maybe, the real solution is offering people viable alternatives to getting behind the wheel.

Like biking, for instance. Or taking a train system than can actually get you where you want to go.

And for someone — anyone — with the courage to just step up and get it done.

………

Streetsblog interviews the LACBC. Will defuses a potentially violent situation, and proves he who honks last honks best. Today could be the day you get a ticket for riding through a crosswalk in Santa Monica. An Eastside writer asks if the Class 1 bike path in South Gate could be used to improve the quality of life for local residents. Cycle Chic looks haute on a Batavus Fryslân. No Whip rides the high altitude Alta Alpina Double Century. Texas cyclists vent their wrath on their veto-wielding governor. An experienced bicycle safety instructor is killed after inexplicably turning directly in front of an oncoming car. A Virginia judge laments the lack of civility between cyclists and drivers. Vancouver discovers their new bike bridge could actually turn a profit. San Francisco’s Mission District is about to get new bike lanes, as is Dar-es-Salaam — maybe they just have more road space than we do. Town Mouse discovers the value of a good tailwind. Finally, the Guardian asks if bikes and beer really mix.

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