Tag Archive for League of American Bicyclists

Is it time for a cyclists’ legal defense fund?

A few months back, someone contacted me looking for a lawyer to represent a cyclist who’d been injured in yet another of the city’s steady stream of hit-and-runs.

I wrote back asking for a little more information before I reached out to my contacts; meanwhile, they found someone to take the case. But it started me thinking that L.A. should have a referral service for cyclists who need legal assistance.

In fact, one of the ideas I intend to address with the LACBC is the possibility of creating just such a service, where cyclists could find a lawyer knowledgeable about cycling issues and with experience in bicycle law. And who would agree to accept an occasional pro bono case or offer legal advice now and then in exchange for referrals on potentially more lucrative cases.

Take my own case when I was a victim of a road rage assault.

I spent a couple of days calling one attorney after another looking for help, only to be repeatedly turned down because a) I’d given the driver the finger before she hit me, and b) my case simply wasn’t worth enough to compensate a lawyer for the time he or she would have to put in.

Although how any word or gesture justifies an assault with a deadly weapon is beyond me.

That last part I understood, though, as frustrating as it was; lawyers need to make a living like anyone else. I finally got help through one of my in-laws; but if he had charged a normal rate for the legal services he provided, I would have owed him far more than the meager amount the insurance company finally settled for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for the help I received, and appreciate that my attorney’s fee barely covered his expenses.

But a referral service could have put me in touch with someone who specialized in bike cases, and had a better understanding of how bikes work and how the rights we’re supposed to enjoy on the road are frequently infringed by dangerous and uncaring drivers.

Then there are cases where legal rights, rather than a monetary award, are the issue. And where a lawyer’s assistance is every bit as necessary.

Like defending cyclists ticketed for imagined violations that aren’t actually against the law.

Or take the recent case in Flagstaff AZ, where a rider was brushed by a city bus. Yet amazingly, the local authorities concluded the driver didn’t violate that state’s three-foot law because he was in a bike lane — even though the right side of that lane was blocked by snow, forcing him to ride near the traffic lane on the left.

Then there’s the case of a Massachusetts LAB-certified cycling instructor stopped repeatedly and arrested for the crime of riding in the roadway on a state highway, rather than on the shoulder. Or the Texas rider who has been cited, arrested and convicted for impeding traffic even though drivers could easily pass using the other lane, and now faces trial in another jurisdiction for the crime of riding on the roadway.

A New Mexico writer makes an intriguing suggestion that could offer a solution for cases like this.

His idea is for a legal defense fund that would be operated by the League of American Bicyclists, supported by the deep pockets of the bike industry.

As he envisions it, this would operate as sort of a legal strike force, evaluating cases for merit and importance, and providing assistance where warranted anywhere in the U.S.

The benefit for cyclists should be obvious.

As is the benefit to the bicycle industry, which would profit from the expansion in ridership that would undoubtedly follow the expansion and protection of riders’ rights.

It’s certainly worth considering.

Because our right to the road is only as good as the willingness of the police and courts to enforce it.

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Drivers often say bikes should be registered to pay for their place on the road; places that do it say it just doesn’t pay.

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More on last weekend’s StreetSummit.

Damien covers the plenary speakers (if, like me, you had no idea what plenary means, click here), and covers the Bike Plan workshop, including BAC Chair Glenn Bailey’s comments that the revised plan looks better, but still needs work.  And Gary says the time is now, let’s kick some ass.

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Metro’s Orange Line bike study kicks off this week; there’s still time to volunteer. Danceralamode says ladies, learn to fix your own bike like she now does. Congratulations to Ted’s Manhattan Cycles in Manhattan Beach, celebrating its 50th Anniversary. A British perspective on the South Bay — aka Marvin Braude — bike path. Santa Barbara curb extensions are credited with making a key street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. A DC councilman says we’re being too easy on drivers who kill. A rider on motorized bike is hit by a car, then run over and killed by an SUV as people tried to help. U of Maryland cyclists are allowed full use of the lane, and encouraged to stay off the sidewalk. As the Witch on a Bicycle astutely points out, how can a group of cyclists impede traffic when they are traffic? It’s time to stop peddling road rage over the airwaves; maybe it’s time to ban the term avid cyclist, too. And come to think of it, bikes aren’t alternative transportation, either. Yellowstone’s snowmobile season is over, so it’s time to break out the bikes and bear spray; just don’t ride into Canada loaded for bear. You don’t have to stink after riding your bike to work. It’s time to pull on your woolies and ride. Despite the rash of cycling deaths, London’s new 20 mph speed zones are saving lives. A London cyclist is charged with involuntary manslaughter after a fatal collision with a pedestrian at a busy intersection. Brits question why bike cops need 10 hours of training before they hit the streets. Two Kiwi cyclists credit their helmets with saving their lives over the weekend. Is a person on a bike worth less than one in a car? French President Sarkozy doesn’t have to ride those darn French bikes anymore. Now that’s what I call bike parking.

Finally, Albuquerque unveils a new bike safety campaign with the theme Easy to Miss, because we are with just a little effort; an L.A. version of their 10 Things Drivers Should Know should be mandatory reading for local drivers.

The state of cycling in semi-bike friendly Santa Monica

I wouldn’t want to be a traffic planner these days.

Following the recent controversy over LADOT’s super-secret plan to remove the existing bike lanes from Reseda Boulevard — so secret, even they didn’t know about it — comes two perspectives on the fight for a share of asphalt in Santa Monica.

First, fellow bike blogger J. Haygood — whose always entertaining output has been limited lately due to a couple little somethings coming soon to a screen near you — addresses coverage of that city’s attempt at traffic calming on Ocean Park Boulevard.

As part of a pilot project, a portion of the street was narrowed from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane and bike lanes on either side. And as he notes, local motorists responded with all the road-sharing equanimity you might expect.

In other words, they hated it. And demanded a return of their God-given right to zoom down the street and run off the road any unfortunate riders who might happen to be in their way.

Though I did appreciate the person who suggested that pedestrians and cyclists move to Bermuda; as soon as I receive my voucher from the city, I’m out of here.

I just hope my non-cycling wife can join me someday.

And as if that’s not enough to drive a traffic planner over the edge, now those darn cyclists want to revoke Santa Monica’s Bike Friendly Bronze Award.

Alex Thompson — one of the area’s most respected bike activists and proud possessor of a recently minted PhD — takes both that city and the League of American Bicyclists to task for an award many cyclists, including yours truly, consider something less than deserved.

It’s not that Santa Monica isn’t one SoCal’s more pleasant places to ride. Which, unfortunately, isn’t saying much.

I do a lot of my own riding in and through the city. And it’s a breath of fresh air — sometimes literally — after slogging my way through L.A. traffic.

And it’s not that we don’t appreciate their efforts. It’s just that they have a long way to go, as Dr. Alex explains:

Santa Monica has 19 miles of bike routes, but many of those bike routes are placed on some of the nastiest roads in the West LA Metro area.  Lincoln Blvd is a notorious road, and yet three miles of it count towards Santa Monica’s 19 miles of bike route.  Having ridden the 10 and 405 freeways, I can assure you that they are preferable.  In general, a sign denoting “bike route” in the LA Metro Area is most often a sign you should take another street.

Santa Monica has 16 miles of bike lanes, but nearly all of those miles of bike lane are directly in the door zone of oblivious motorists.  The beach bike path is not in the door zone but, as LA Times transit blogger Steve Lopez wrote the day before the award was issued, for utilitarian cycling the path is rendered useless by throngs of tourists walking, rollerblading, skateboarding, and Segways.  The Main St bike lane is probably the world’s foremost producer of right hooks, crammed with streetside parking and motorists turning down side streets.  If you haven’t nearly died on Main St, you probably haven’t ridden it.

The award cites Santa Monica’s efforts to encourage, including a bike valet service and a Bike to Work Day.  However, it fails to note the efforts of the department of discouragement, also known as the Santa Monica Police Department.  Apart for its $3000 monthly outlays to police Critical Mass, which may please the VC community, SMPD has been specifically citing cyclists riding brakeless fixies, despite their compliance with California Vehicle Code.  SMPD is generally loved for their response to emergency calls, but they are nearly universally loathed for their handling of accidents between cyclists and cars, and have recently failed atrociously at dispatching with bike thieves when provided detailed and specific evidence.

Personally, I haven’t ridden the 10 and 405 freeways, or Lincoln Boulevard. But having driven all three, I have to agree that I would much rather ride the freeways if forced to choose.

I can also testify that the beachfront bike path that should be the crown jewel of Santa Monica cycling is virtually impassible in the summer months, due to a complete lack if enforcement of bike only restrictions. And despite the promises made to Robert Downey Jr., uh, I mean Steve Lopez of the Times — I get them confused now — nothing has been done to improve the situation.

So if the award is based on nothing more than the amount of cycling infrastructure in the city, I can understand it. But if they factor in the actual safety and usability of those bike lanes, paths and routes — let alone the other factors Alex mentioned — they clearly have a long way to go.

And I agree that the LAB should figure out a way to make their Bike Friendly City program a more inclusive process, and get feedback from the local cycling community before presenting any award.

Maybe they should come up with a “Nice Effort, But…” award.

I’d be the first to nominate those long-suffering Santa Monica traffic planners.

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Next month, an evening of bikes with ex-Talking Head David Byrne. Will Campbell plans an upcoming Westside presidential ride. A cool cycling video wins first place on YouthNoise Play City. Ex-Long Beacher Russ Roca and Laura Crawford discuss gear for long tours like theirs. A review of riding rules in Tehachapi. A Santa Cruz company unveils a bike light drivers might actually notice. A horrific collision in Tucson as an apparently distracted driver takes out eight cyclists before stopping. Spend the fall cycling through a few Mountain West national parks. A comparison of cycling in Canadian cities. More on the outrage over the vehicular homicide of a Toronto cyclist. The British bicycling Baronet gets a promotion. An Arab Gulf perspective on the recent Bicycle Film Festival. Finally, Bicycle Fixation meets with the Mayor of West Hollywood; has any cyclist ever had lunch with the mayor of Los Angeles? I’m just asking…

This WTF moment, courtesy of Santa Monica and the League of American Bicyclists

Don’t get me wrong.

I like riding in Santa Monica. It’s a genuine pleasure to ride in a city that has actual cycling infrastructure, let alone where bike routes actually connect with something and you can plot out a route to just about anywhere you want to go.

Coming from traffic-heavy Los Angeles, it’s a breath of fresh air. Literally.

Still, I was surprised when the League of American Bicyclists named SaMo a bicycle-friendly city. Even if it was just a bronze.

I know the state of cycling pretty well sucks in this country. But either they didn’t consult local riders before they made their award, or the bar is set so low we’ll have to be careful not to trip on it.

Because it takes more than just infrastructure and good intentions to truly be bicycle friendly. Even for a city of less than 90,000 people that offers 16 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of bike routes and a 3 mile beachfront bikeway.

It takes a genuine commitment to work with cyclists to encourage riding. Not government officials who refuse to meet with them to work out a compromise that would allow Critical Mass to take place without a heavy-handed police crackdown, complete with bogus — and possibly illegal — tickets.

It takes a city where infrastructure doesn’t just exist, but was smartly planned to protect the safety of riders while preserving traffic flow. It also means a commitment to enforcing restrictions on that infrastructure — or to put it another way, keeping cars the hell out of the bike lane.

In fact, Santa Monica could balance their entire city budget by placing a couple of officers on northbound Ocean Avenue. Then just ticket the drivers who blithely cruise down the bike lane for nearly a full city block between Arizona and Wilshire. I usually see at least couple such idiots every time I ride through there — even though I’m the only one using it for its intended purpose.

And don’t get me started on the way the city allows movie crews to place cones blocking the bike lanes, for no other purpose than to keep cyclists from coming within three feet of their precious trucks.

Yeah, that’s worth risking a life for.

Then there’s the city’s crown jewel, which was mentioned prominently in their press release touting the LAB award — three miles of beach-front bikeway, part of the larger Marvin Braude Bike Path.

As the Times’ Steve Lopez pointed out recently, it’s nearly impossible to ride at times due to the sheer number of pedestrians, dogs, skaters and other assorted non-two-wheeled flotsam. A bikeway on which people are often surprised to encounter cyclists, despite the “Bikes Only” and “No Pedestrians” markings every few feet. And despite the presence of a parallel pedestrian walkway mere feet — or in some cases, inches — away.

Because just like with drivers on the street, if the city won’t enforce bikeway restrictions — let alone state laws that prohibit the blocking of any Class 1 bikeway — other users will take it over and claim it as their own.

Of course, it’s not just a problem in Santa Monica. L.A.’s segment of the bikeway along Venice Beach isn’t any better. And evidently, Long Beach — another recent bronze winner — has issues of its own.

Maybe the LAB thinks things like that are acceptable for a bike-friendly city. Or maybe they’re trying to encourage cities that have made a modest start to keep improving until bike-friendliness permeates the entire city culture.

Or maybe they just didn’t ask those of us who know those city streets best.

I’ll leave the last word to Gary Se7en, in a comment he made on LAist:

I live and work in Santa Monica, live car free and ride a bike every day. It’s not that bad here. It’s not that great either, although it beats most anywhere else in Los Angeles. Maybe SM should get a copper rating instead of bronze. Also bike routes should not count for anything. Lincoln Blvd. is a bike route, Lincoln is also one of the worst streets to ride a bike on in L.A. county.


LAist covers today’s press conference about AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. The Orange Line Bike Path finally gets a much-needed makeover, while talk of sharrows surfaces yet again in L.A.; the LACBC asks you to beg our mayor to move forward. C.I.C.L.E. promotes Bike Week in Pasadena. Connecticut considers a bill that would set aside 1% of all state and federal transportation funds to improve bike and pedestrian access. A bike-hating deputy sheriff from hell assaults two cyclists in Ohio, and a bike riding cop from Florida explains why you should stop anyway. A writer in western Colorado asks why drivers can’t give cyclists as much space as they would a horse or cow. Finally, from across the pond, a new campaign says there’s safety in numbers, while the leader of the Conservatives in Parliament has his bike stolen. Again.

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