Tag Archive for Los Angeles City Council

An open letter to the L.A. City Council — let’s move forward, not retreat to our auto-centric past

Dear Council Members,

It was just three years ago that CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl famously stood before his fellow council members and declared that “The culture of the car is going to end now!”

True to his word, the City of Los Angeles has made remarkable progress in the last 24 months, rapidly expanding rail lines, moving forward on the long-promised Subway to the Sea — or Brentwood, anyway — and most improbably, being named a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community.

Although pedestrians seem to be lost in the process, as the city continues to remove crosswalks as it build others.

But now the city is threatening to backslide into the same old car-focused past that has repeatedly driven the many communities that make up our city into decline over the last half-dozen decades.

A new proposed bond measure promises to repair our crumbling streets, yet contains not one word committing to improvements for anything but motor vehicles, returning us to the bad old days of automotive hegemony that CM Rosendahl had promised was in the past.

On the surface, it seems like a good idea, though not everyone agrees; some are quite vocal in their opposition for a number of reason.

Yet no one can deny that our streets are crumbling. Too many L.A. streets now resemble the cobblestones of Europe, as a broken patchwork of pavement causes collisions and needless costs for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

And fixing them now makes sense, sparing Angelenos the estimated $750 a year in added repair costs, not to mention the untold cost to repair countless broken bikes — and broken bones — suffered by cyclists who hit potholes or swerve dangerously to avoid them.

Historic low interest rates mean the city can borrow the money at favorable rates, and repave the streets now at a fraction of the cost it would cost in decades to come. And since the bond will be funded by a relatively insignificant increase in property taxes, the work can be done without adding to the city’s debt burden.

The problem, as always, is in the details.

Or the lack of them, as far too much as been left out of this measure.

Like a commitment to implementing bikeways contained in the city’s new bike plan as those streets are repaved, dramatically cutting the cost of implementation since those streets would need to be repainted anyway. And potentially cutting the time to build out the bike plan from 30 years to perhaps half of that, or less.

Worse, there is absolutely nothing in this massive bond issue that promises to repair the city’s broken sidewalks, estimated to cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion. Leaving a massive obstacle to creating more livable and walkable communities, while failing to give people an incentive to get out of their cars and off our highly congested streets.

My own wife has been injured twice as a result of tripping over broken sidewalks, suffering first a broken foot, followed by wrenched knee that continues to cause her problems to this day. How many others have been similarly injured, or simply stopped walking in their own neighborhoods because it’s simply not worth the risk?

Clearly, this will not be an easy measure to pass.

It will require a two-thirds majority, something very difficult to achieve as the recent failure of Measure J demonstrated, despite getting over 66.1% of the vote.

Which means you’ll need every vote you can get for passage, including the support of bicyclists and pedestrians. And right now, we have no incentive to support it — let alone vote yes in May.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this is dead in the water unless significant changes are made.

The city needs to make a firm commitment to building out the bike plan as streets are repaired, and rebuilding our streets using best practices that benefit all road users — based on the new mobility plan currently being finalized, rather than the outdated version it will replace.

It also needs to include provisions to fix our sidewalks. After all, while most Los Angeles residents are drivers, we’re all pedestrians at one time or another. And this will never be the great city it can and should be until we are free to walk when and where we want, safely and enjoyably.

Let’s also not fall into the old trap of treating infrastructure as separate elements; streets and sidewalks and crosswalks should be rebuilt as a single Complete Street designed to move people, not vehicles, and bring renewed life to all our communities. And they should incorporate Safe Routes to Schools, while providing necessary access for the disabled.

Granted, CD12 Councilmember Mitch Englander has promised that much of this will addressed down the road.

But with all due respect, you’ll excuse us if we don’t settle for promises than can be broken down the line. These matters need to be included in the ballot measure, locked in as part of the bond issue.

This morning’s City Council session will be visited, not by three ghosts, but by a phalanx of impassioned bicycling, pedestrian and safety advocates determined to fix this bond measure before it goes to the ballot in order to win their support, and the support of countless like-minded Angelenos such as myself.

Listen to them.

Then act on the suggestions they make.

The success of this bond measure, the livability of our city and the safety of its residents depends on it.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
Bikinginla.com

A unanimous vote, a new bike plan for Los Angeles, and a reminder why it’s needed

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

This afternoon, I sat in City Hall and watched as L.A.’s City Council unanimously passed a widely praised new bike plan. Tonight, I got a call from a friend who got clipped by a car on her way home.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, indeed.

I got up early to take the 1 to 1.5 hour bus ride downtown, arriving to find the council chambers filled to overflowing with Teamsters. They were there, I’m told, to support a proposal to disincorporate and annex so-called city of Vernon — the city where businesses outnumber residents and local government seems more akin to a fiefdom operating on a code of omertà.

The long, passionate discussion meant it was well after noon before the room emptied out enough to let us in. And because of the late hour, we were at risk of being pushed off to another day.

As a result, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who has championed the plan from the beginning, made a simple request. He could hold the quorum together long enough for a vote on the motion if we agreed to limit comments in favor of the plan to just 10 minutes.

I looked around the room, counted the cyclists — including several members of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, as well as the LACBC and Bikeside — and decided that mine could wait for another day.

I’ll let others fill you in on the nuts and bolts of the hearing. But there were a few standout moments.

For instance, Bikeside’s Alex Thompson lead things off by knocking it out of the park, saying this plan makes L.A. competitive with any other city in the U.S. — better, even, than the widely praised plans of New York and Chicago.

Flying Pigeon LA owner Josef Bray-Ali said the plan includes propoals to document “the trail of blood on our streets.” And said that this information needs to be collected and made public.

The LACBC’s Alexis Lantz stated that our streets are currently biased against those too young or too old to drive, as well as those who choose not to. This plan, she said, will create complete, healthier streets, and she noted that the support of the council would be critical to its implementation.

The BAC’s Jeff Jacobberger pointed out that bikeways have already been placed where it’s easy, so now it’s time to put them where it’s hard, which may mean removing parking or a lane of traffic.

New Chair Jay Slater says the BAC stands ready to work with the city to implement the plan, insisting that it should not go the way of the failed 1996 bike plan. And outgoing Chair, and current Vice Chair, Glenn Bailey quoted William Mulholland, saying “There it is. Take it;” noting that we can’t turn back the clock, but we can educate drivers and cyclists to take back the streets.

Then there were the dueling comments from cyclists who support allowing mountain biking in city parks, and the equestrians dead set against any mode of parkland transportation with wheels instead of legs.

In the end, the plan was adopted, with a motion by Councilmember Tom LaBonge that the issue would be studied and that nothing in the plan would change existing policies in the meantime.

Although it should be noted that virtually every horseman and horsewoman, as well as a couple representatives from the Sierra Club, insisted that they support cyclists who ride for transportation; it’s just recreational riders in city parks that they oppose.

Which of course leads to the question of whether horses in the park are recreational, or if they’re used for transportation.

Then there was the comic relief provided by two commenters appearing on video from the Valley City Hall, who seemed to think that a three-foot passing law had miraculously been included as part of the plan. And insisted that no driver could possibly pass a cyclist at such a dangerously extravagant distance.

So if you get buzzed riding in the valley, you can start there in your hunt for suspects.

Meanwhile, Council President Eric Garcetti noted that he’s supported bikeways since he was seven years old, and takes pride in the design standards included in the plan that say Los Angeles embraces bicycling.

And Rosendahl said the plan isn’t the final word, and that if changes are necessary, “I’m not leaving; if the people re-elect me, I’ll be here for another five years.” He also suggested that once the plan is built out, “If you get me a safe place to ride, I’ll get on that bike.”

With that, LaBonge had BAC Chair Emeritus Alex Baum — the only remaining original member of the BAC, appointed by the late, great Mayor Tom Bradley — call for a vote on the motion. And it carried unanimously, with all 12 members voting in favor.

As for my remarks, I had intended to point out that the adoption of the bike plan wasn’t the end of a long and difficult process.

Rather, it’s the beginning of an even longer and more difficult one. Because now it’s up to all of us to ensure that the lines on that map turn into paint and signs on the street, and that it doesn’t end in failure like the last one.

I was also going to ask that we use this plan as a springboard to accomplish something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Or last year, even.

That the city commit itself to zero bicyclists killed on our streets by 2020.

It wouldn’t be easy. It would take education, enforcement, and genuine commitment from the Mayor, City Council, LAPD, LADOT, Street Services and Planning, as well as the entire cycling community.

But it is achievable. And using this plan as a springboard, we could make the last bike death in this city the last bike death in this city.

As for my friend, she was shaken up, but it sounds like she’ll be okay.

And when she called the police, they took her seriously, and sent a patrol car to her home to investigate what they said was a clear case of a hit-and-run.

And that alone is a big change.

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Read more about the bike plan from Streetsblog LA, the LACBC, NBC4 LA and the L.A. Times, and follow the Twitter feed for the plan.

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Celebrate the passing of the bike plan when Mayor Villaraigosa plans to sign it at a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, from 9:30 am to 10 am.

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Mark your calendar for March 9th, when L.A.’s groundbreaking new bicycle anti-harassment ordinance is scheduled for a final hearing with the Transportation Committee before moving on to the full council for adoption; more information as it becomes available.

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Two other brief notes:

Frank Peters of cdmCyclist reports that agreement has been reached to ensure that bike lanes will be included on the soon-to-be-rebuilt Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach — and that they won’t be cut from the plans, even if it comes in over budget.

And Road.CC says that Brazilian banker Ricardo Neis, who was recorded plowing down dozens of cyclists participating in the Porto Alegre Critical Mass, will be charged with attempted murder.

Clearly, Brazil gets it.

And evidently, Caltrans — and L.A.’s leadership — is starting to.

BAC Chair Glenn Bailey files to run for L.A. City Council

Glenn Bailey, left, with other members of the BAC.

Evidently, Stephen Box isn’t the only local bike advocate running for City Council next spring.

I’d glanced at the list of candidates who filed before the deadline on Saturday, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it; other than Box and the current council members running for re-election, none of the names jumped out at me.

I should have looked a little harder.

I was on the phone last night with Hillel Aron, Editor-at-Large of Neon Tommy, USC’s outstanding online news source, when he asked what I thought about bike advocates such as Stephen Box and Glenn Bailey running for the council.

Wait a minute, I said.

Glenn Bailey is running for L.A. City Council?

So as soon as I got off the phone, I went back to look at the list of candidates to succeed retiring Councilmember Grieg Smith. And there he was, one of 11 candidates running in that district and the 72nd person to file for the council in Los Angeles, filing his papers on Friday, November 12th.

It’s true.

Neighborhood Council member and Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Glenn Bailey is running for City Council in the Valley’s District 12. And yes, it’s the same Glenn Bailey.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be on the ballot.

He still has to gather 1000 valid signatures (pdf) by December 8th to make it on the ballot, or gather 500 signatures and pay a $300 filing fee; unfortunately, petitions can only be signed by people registered to vote in that district or I’d volunteer to sign right now. And he has until December 13th to change his mind and back out.

But depending on how things turn out on March 8th, two of the city’s leading voices on behalf of cyclists could be doing a lot more than speaking for us.

And speaking of Grieg Smith, he promises to protect the Wilbur Ave bike lanes when and if the road diet is reconfigured.

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In light of Bailey’s candidacy, this would be a good time to remember his eloquent remarks at Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent Bike Summit.

Good morning Mayor Villaraigosa, fellow cyclists.

On behalf of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Mayor’s Bike Summit.

The BAC, was established by Mayor Bradley 35 years ago to make recommendations to the City on all bicycle related matters.  It is composed of an appointee of each of the fifteen Councilmembers and four from the Mayor.  For most of Mayor Bradley’s twenty years in office, his office staffed the Committee.  As a result, when the Mayor’s office called a City department about a bicycle matter, they were usually responsive.

Several days ago the Mayor’s office requested the top bicycle priorities of the BAC.  I invited each BAC member to respond and those suggestions have been compiled and submitted to your office as an “unofficial” list.

____________________________________________________________

Mr. Mayor, last December in an interview from Copenhagen you stated that the Los Angeles has to do a much better job for bicycling.  We couldn’t agree more.

A better job for bicycling means safely accommodating bicycles on all projects, on all streets, without exception.

A better job for bicycling means the prompt repair of potholes, cleaning debris, and other hazardous road conditions.

A better job for bicycling means the vigorous enforcement against the blocking of bike lanes by delivery vehicles, unhitched trailers, or anything else.  (Audience:  trash cans!)

A better job for bicycling means a transit system that integrates cyclists in every aspect of its operation, not just when it’s convenient to do so.

A better job for bicycling means providing convenient and secure parking at every City building and park, including at City Hall itself, and at all commercial and retail locations.

A better job for bicycling means holding the line, in fact, rolling back the recent increases in speed limits.

A better job for bicycling means a properly trained police force that enforces the law equally and fairly and that protects and respects the rights of cyclists.

A better job for bicycling means vehicular hit and runs will be fully investigated and prosecuted for the crimes that they are.

A better job for bicycling means a visionary and robust City Bicycle Plan that is implemented each and every day, not just sitting on sitting on a shelf for five years awaiting its next revision.

A better job for bicycling means installing at least fifty miles of bicycle lanes every year for the next three years, rather than the five mile annual average of the past fourteen years under the current 1996 Bicycle Plan.

A better job for bicycling means incorporating the City Council endorsed Cyclist’s Bill of Rights in the operation of every City department and every action taken by the City and its employees.

And a better job for bicycling means welcoming and encouraging cyclists to participate in every step of the decision making process, the outcome of which affects our very lives.

Thank you for listening and for your support.

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Two actors on ABC’s Castle agree to go car free in Los Angeles for seven days a month, and follow their progress on an online reality program.

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An L.A. bike theft is caught on tape, and $1000 reward is offered for return of the bikes; in Tucson, a police car is shown rolling past a bike theft in progress captured on a security camera.

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The social calendar is starting to get busy, as the South Bay Bike Coalition is holding an informal cocktail mixer from 7 – 9 Tuesday night, and the Bikerowave plans a New Years Eve party, which could be the highlight, or highlighter, of the year.

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The LACBC announces their first annual report is now available for download. Bob Muellner reports on the proposed anti-harassment ordinance on KCRW’s Shortcuts blog, and says if everyone would just obey standard traffic laws, things would go a lot better. Meanwhile, KPCC profiles L.A. eco, bike and river activist extraordinaire Joe Linton; anyone notice that it’s the public radio stations who provide the best coverage of bicycling issues? Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles offers a workshop on Winter Training for Metabolic Efficiency this Wednesday. A cyclist discovers LADOT’s bike riding parking enforcement officers. Glendale plans to add bike parking downtown; granted, it’s only five words out of the entire article, but it’s a good five words. The latest area bike co-op is born as the Bicycle Lounge opens its doors in Riverside. San Francisco buses, bikes and businesses battle to be king of the road. A Redding bike count shows an 80% increase in the last year alone.

Pick your bicycling calendar for the upcoming year, including one from Long Beach’s cycling expats, Russ Roca and Laura Crawford. Or maybe you’d prefer an autographed George Hincapie championship jersey. Victims of distracted driving are remembered online. Even the U.S. Secretary of Energy rides a bike. An all natural, biodegradable spoke card. A new website celebrates the bicycle as an art form; thanks to EvoVelo for the link. MTV host and BMX cyclist TJ Lavin returns home after a nearly fatal bike stunt. A Utah teenager turns herself in following a fatal hit-and-run. A Phoenix woman is arrested in the hit-and-run death of a cyclist. More on the Oregon bike commuter study, which shows cycling is good for you except when you crash, while a local paper offers a highly skewed perspective on the same study. At least L.A. cyclists don’t have to deal with moose on the bike paths. My hometown passes a ballot measure to create and implement a citywide Bicycle Safety Education Plan. The Eagle County, CO District Attorney who declined to file felony hit-and-run charges against a wealthy fund manager hasn’t filed charges in the other hit-and-run that occurred the same day, either; thanks to Cyclelicious for the link. An Ohio cyclist is killed in what locals call a hit-skip collision, making it sound so much more fun than a mere hit-and-run. Yet another cyclist is killed in the most dangerous state for bicycling, the 9th Tampa-area rider to die in the last four months.

Nova Scotia considers the metric equivalent of a three-foot passing law. A street racing Brit driver who killed a cyclist at 80 mph six years ago asks for his license back. The Guardian asks what you would do if you saw a bike being stolen. The great Aussie helmet debate goes on, as an ER doctor says research shows the effectiveness of that country’s mandatory helmet law. A New Zealand driver is reportedly traumatized after crossing onto the wrong side of the road to hit three cyclists head-on; on the other hand, two of the riders she hit are dead, which just seems a little worse to me. In a separate Kiwi collision, a cyclist questions if she’ll ever ride again after seeing her riding partner killed. Also in New Zealand, a driver runs a cyclist off the road, then stops to lecture him before driving off. Biking the Hajj from Capetown to Mecca. An American expat buys a bike in Beijing. UCI announces an amateur world championship tour for next year.

Finally, a successful Hollywood director strips away the trappings of his success to live the change he advocates, and chooses to ride his bike virtually everywhere. With a helmet, the article notes.

L.A. City Council unanimously approves drafting proposed anti-harassment ordinance

Sometimes, what happens inside is actually as inspiring as the view outside.

It’s hard to call it a victory when we’ve still got so far to go.

But I’ll take a unanimous vote in City Council any day of the week.

After a couple hours of contentious debates over smoking restrictions and solar panels, the City Council finally got around to discussing the proposed anti-harassment ordinance that would give cyclists the right to sue in civil court for harassment, threats and assault.

Although we seriously need to find a catchier name for it.

Regardless, 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl — who’s taken the lead in shepherding this ordinance through the countless pitfalls City Hall is famous for — set the tone when he said this ordinance just gives cyclists rights we should already have.

He was followed by Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel, who explained the nuts and bolts of the proposed ordinance, including a maximum award of $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is higher. Along with a provision for attorney’s fees if you win your case, which in many cases could far exceed the damages awarded by the court.

As Rosendahl put it, “This plan has teeth.”

And lets not forget that it was Reel who had the stroke of genius to make harassment a civil violation, resulting in a lower burden of proof compared to a criminal case. And allowing cyclists to file suit themselves, rather than rely on police to witness a violation.

Michele Mowery, Senior Bike Coordinator at LADOT, told the council that this ordinance is necessary because many motorists still believe that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and consider it sport to throw things at riders.

4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge and 1st District Councilmember Ed Reyes also spoke in support — though LaBonge seemed equally concerned with the problems posed by out-of-control sidewalk riders.

Under questioning from Rosendahl, Reel said that if the council approved the motion, the actual drafting of the ordinance would take up to 60 days. Rosendahl urged her to come back to the council with the finished ordinance sooner, rather than later, and to include the LACBC in the reviewing process.

In the end, the council voted 12 – 0 to move forward, with three members absent.

Which means that, through two committee sessions and hearing before the full council, not one vote has been cast in opposition to the City Attorney’s proposal.

And cyclists are one step closer to a first-of-its-kind anti-harassment law that could set the standard for communities around the world.

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Below are my comments from the council session.

I want to make sure you understand how important this measure is.

Every day, cyclists face a barrage of harassments and threats. I’ve received reports of cyclists being crowded, yelled at, honked at, having things thrown at them and forced off the road; female cyclists have had to endure unwanted sexual comments and touching while they ride.

Some people complain about rude cyclists swearing and making gestures. That’s because, until now, that’s all we’ve had to defend ourselves. But as Dr. Thompson clear showed, no word or gesture is a match for an angry driver in a two-ton vehicle.

The police are here to protect us, but they can’t be everywhere. And few people will do these sorts of things if there’s a cop around to see it.

This proposed ordinance is a brilliant solution to these problems. It’s the first of its kind anywhere, giving cyclists the tools to protect ourselves even if there isn’t a cop around. More importantly, it will act as a deterrent to protect the city’s most vulnerable road users, and encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes.

It will save lives.

Overnight, it will transform L.A. from a bicycling backwater to the world leader in protecting cyclists. It will be copied by cities around the world; already, I’ve received several requests from cyclists across the county for a copy of the City Attorney’s report.

That’s what you’re voting on today.

And yes, it is that important.

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Streetsblog’s Damien Newton explains why Livable Los Angeles has started an online petition urging Mayor Villaraigosa to conduct a real search for the next head of LADOT, and select a world-class leader to replace Rita Robinson.

And yes, I’ve already signed it.

Speaking of Damien, he wants to know when enough is enough; wouldn’t we all.

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Justice in the Ed Magos case, as Angelina Everett gets jail time, community labor and is ordered to pay restitution; more details as they come in. LACBC offers eight tips on what to do if you’re in a collision; here’s my take on the same subject. A look at the signal loop detectors that makes a Bike Friendly Street bike friendly. CicLAvia is looking for volunteers for Host Committees for next year, and wants your advice on what Sunday in April to hold the next one. Culver City approves a new bike and pedestrian plan. Santa Monica begins the long, hard process to cut the city’s unacceptably high rate of biking accidents. Lance likes our local Left Coast sky in the ‘Bu. The New York Times takes in the sights of L.A. on two wheels, touring the city on $100 a day; thanks to everyone who forwarded it to me. Cycling’s equivalent of Dr. Thompson strikes in Santa Cruz, as a cyclist threatens a group of children in a park, then deliberately rides over a toddler; Thompson got five years, this jerk deserves at least that much, if not more. Ross del Duca puts on a helmet at his wife’s insistence, and is glad he did.

Maybe it’s time for a U.S. version of strict liability. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta prepares for his first triathlon. It’s true, biking is far more social than driving. A Tucson cyclist signs a pro contract just three years after taking up the sport. Speaking of the NYT, they interview cycling attorney Bob Mionske on the Eagle County DA’s inexplicable decision not to file felony charges against a rich hit-and-run driver; meanwhile, Witch on a Bicycle offers an exhaustive recap of 30 separate takes on the same subject. Springfield Cyclist stops to work on his ride to work. A Cleveland driver gets three years for intentionally hitting a cyclist he mistakenly thought had stolen his son’s bike. A heavily bundled Katy Perry rides a bike in New York; the question is, how do they know it’s her? Baltimore joins L.A. in becoming the second city to pass the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. A hit-and-run driver is convicted after his plates are captured by a red light camera.

Eco Velo offers 10 kinder, gentler rules for urban bike commuting; Town Mouse responds with 10 rules for rural commuting from the Scottish countryside. Evidently, bike rage is the new trend, as a Brit cyclist beats a driver into a coma after a near-dooring. UK cycling casualties are up while other road deaths and injuries are down. The Guardian asks if the law takes killing a cyclist seriously enough; if they’re anything like us, the answer is no. A policewoman is disciplined after calling a 16-year old girl a scumbag after she’s killed by a speeding police car. Instead of focusing on making cyclists more visible, police should tackle poor driving. An online exhibition of James Straffon’s the Art of Cycling. A man in Guyana stabs a man several times after he’s called a bike thief.

Finally, Patrick Pascal goes out for a ride in Griffith Park, and is magically transported to an alternate reality where Spandexed riders on Penny Farthings pose beneath the Hollywood sign.

Yeah, like that would happen in real life.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Pascal

Transportation Committee moves forward with anti-harassment ordinance

I’m buried with work today.

And I’m damned if I’m going to let an 84 degree sunny SoCal day pass without at least a quick spin down the coast.

But I don’t want to let this morning pass without catching up on yesterday’s news from the City Council Transportation Committee. Because it marked one of those vital quantum leap moments — a seemingly small shift that could result in a dramatic change down the road.

I’ll try to fill you in with more details later, but here’s the key point. After eloquent comments by Ross Hirsch — the attorney for hit-and-run victim Ed Magos — and BAC chair Glenn Bailey, the Transportation Committee voted unanimously to move forward with drafting a first-of-its-kind ordinance to ban harassment of cyclists.

While other cities and states have passed anti-harassment laws, this ordinance would be the first to allow cyclists to file suit themselves for violent or aggressive actions directed towards them, whether it’s committed by drivers, bystanders or even other riders.

As the representative from the City Attorney’s office stressed, it would not prohibit anything that is not already against the law, and it would not prevent criminal prosecution for any incident where there’s sufficient evidence to prosecute.

It would simply, finally, give cyclists the opportunity to protect themselves on the streets of L.A. And possibly prevent the kind of harassment that we’ve all experienced at one time or another.

And mark L.A.’s growth from a bicycling backwater to a world leader in protecting the rights of cyclists.

Yes, it really is that big.

The next test comes on Monday when the proposal will be taken up by the Council’s Public Safety Committee, which has been significantly less friendly to cyclists in the past.

The more riders we can get in that room, the better our chances to keep it moving forward.

Herding cyclists, and L.A.’s proposed first-of-its kind anti-harassment ordinance

Evidently, at least one driver took lessons from a Corgi.

I knew I’d seen that technique before.

But it took me awhile to put my finger on just where I’d seen it until it finally dawned on me.

When I lived in Denver a few decades back, I shared a house with a good friend of mine, who showed up one day with a Welsh Corgi he’d just adopted from the pound. And it didn’t take long to realize that it was his herding instincts were fully intact.

The dog, not my friend.

First he tried to herd my roommate’s cats, with limited success.

But we came to appreciate his skills when my friend hosted a party for his co-workers. When we let the dog outside to play with the dozen or so children in the backyard, he stood for a moment watching them scatter throughout the yard. Then he quickly set out to bring order to the chaos.

He started by running rapidly around the yard, drawing ever smaller circles around the kids. We watched in amazement as he guided them into a group; if any child tried to stray from his impromptu herd, he nosed in front and gently guided them back into the pack.

And that, in effect, is exactly what a driver tried to do to me on Saturday as I rode home from Tour de Fat.

I’d taken my place firmly in the center of the lane on a busy Koreatown street, where a line of parked cars made it too narrow to safely share. And I was riding at the same speed as the cars ahead of me, which meant that I could legally ride anywhere I wanted on the road.

But clearly, the law — and common sense — just isn’t good enough for some people.

The woman behind me evidently decided that I didn’t belong there. Or maybe, just didn’t belong in front of her.

So she pulled into the left lane as if she was going to pass, even though the backed-up traffic meant there wasn’t anywhere to go.

Then she slowly started nosing her humongous older Lincoln over into the exact space I was occupying. Just like that Corgi did in forcing the children to go where he wanted, she deliberately angled her car to move me out of the way, until she finally left me with no choice but to surrender my place on the road by braking and dropping behind her, or get hit.

I chose the latter.

She didn’t seem to acting in anger. In fact, she never once looked my way during the entire process. She just seemed to think that she belonged in there, and I didn’t.

I probably should have taken her license number and reported it. Or better yet, pulled out my cell phone and snapped a quick photo of it.

But I was too stunned to think that quickly.

In three decades of riding, I’ve pissed off more than a few drivers by taking the lane. I’ve been yelled and honked at, passed too close and had things thrown at me. But I never once encountered a driver who simply wouldn’t allow me to ride in the lane, and was willing to use her car as a wedge to force me out of it.

Until now.

Of course, even if I had reported her, there’s nothing the police could have done except take a report.

Without any physical evidence — like my blood on her car — an officer would have had to actually see her do it to take any action. Otherwise, it’s my word against hers.

But that may change soon.

This afternoon, the L.A. City Council’s Transportation Committee will take up a proposed bicycle anti-harassment ordinance that goes far beyond any similar law anywhere in the country.

Instead of making harassment of cyclists a crime, it would make it a civil offense. Which means you’d be able to file a case yourself, rather than rely on the actions of the police and the DA or City Attorney. And because it would be heard in civil court, where the burden of proof is much lower, it would only require the agreement of a majority of jurors, rather than the unanimous verdict required in a criminal case.

You also wouldn’t need physical evidence or an officer to witness the infraction to file charges. Video of the incident or statements from people who witnessed it could be enough to win your case.

And it would include a provision for lawyers fees if you win your case, so it would be easier to get an attorney to represent you in a matter that might not otherwise be worth their time and expertise.

More importantly, though, it would finally give cyclist the ability to defend ourselves on the streets. And take action on our own against dangerous, threatening and aggressive drivers, without resorting to a U-lock or risking a violent confrontation.

Even just the existence of the law could be enough to change driver’s behavior on the streets, once they realize that they could finally be held accountable for their actions.

It wouldn’t have helped me in my encounter with the woman who tried to herd me off the road. I was riding alone, with no potential witnesses and no way to document the event as it happened. And  I escaped with no injuries or damage to my bike.

Then again, if she knew she could face a civil case, she might not have tried it to begin with.

The hearing takes place today at 2pm in room 1010 of Downtown’s City Hall. I know it’s short notice, but every voice that can be there to support this measure will help. If you can’t make it, you should be able to listen to the session live on the city’s website, or download it later.

And there will be another — and potentially more important — hearing on Monday in front of the far less bike-friendly Public Safety Committee, at a session that still hasn’t made the city’s calendar even though it’s just five days away.

Maybe they just don’t want to give us any advance notice.

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With eight mountain stages and three time trials, next year’s Giro looks near-impossible. Italian cyclist Peitrio Cucchioli will challenge the UCI biological passport that got him banned. Lance says there will be no riding in Aspen today.

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Streetsblog looks at this Friday’s Critical Mass. LACBC sponsors its second Ed Magos Ride for Justice to attend the sentencing of the driver who fled the scene after hitting him and left him lying in the street; more cyclists in the courtroom could effect the sentence the judge imposes. C.I.C.L.E. invites cyclists to a Bike Parking Party on Saturday to support the installation of the city’s first bike corral. The Daily News finally discovers the tragic death of Danny Marin, reporting on a nighttime ride in his honor. The Examined Spoke looks at the state of bicycling after 40 years of Vehicular Cycling, while the Daily Trojan says L.A.’s bike co-ops show the city’s cycling scene has finally hit adolescence. San Francisco may be challenging Portland for bike-friendliness.

In light of the recent stolen bike alert on here, 10 things you can do to get your bike back. An $8 million settlement for a cyclist paralyzed when his tire got caught on bridge gates. Motorists and cyclists “will obey traffic rules when they have no other choice and ignore them when they can.” Living in the Bike Lane looks at belt-drive bikes. A look at the debate between vehicular and segregated cyclists. New Colorado road signs instruct cyclists to ride single file on curves so motorists can pass, even though passing on curves isn’t safe or legal, while OKC cyclists get new signs saying they can — and should — use the full lane. Mad City cyclists are told to get off the sidewalk. A Louisiana consultant recommends a Mississippi levee bikeway from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Can bikes and buses co-exist? Specialized will give a kid a free bike for every 1,000 “likes” on their Facebook page; nothing like a little manipulative marketing for a good cause.

A bike-hating Canadian website wants to get rid of bike lanes, but doesn’t want cyclists on the sidewalk, either — and equates cycling with aggressive panhandling. Stay in the right London hotel, and you, too, can ride a Boris Bike. In L.A., biking has it’s challenges, but at least it’s legal; in Iran, it’s not for women. Shanghai’s Forever bike brand attempts to spark a rebirth of the city’s bike culture.

Finally, why pump air into your tires when you can steal it from parked cars? Or maybe get it from the ones who harass you when they’re stopped at red lights if you’re fast. And brave.

Ten percent set-aside, bike corrals pass; bloggers call for better — or new — LADOT leadership

According to Damien Newton at Streetsblog, the L.A. City Council passed the 10% set-aside for “people powered transportation” from the city’s share of Measure R funds by an 11 – 3 vote today.

But in a truly bizarre twist, LADOT — which has spent the last 14 years not building the previously approved projects in the 1996 bike plan — has no idea if they can actually spend the money, whether that turns out to be $3.2 million or the $5.35 million shown in our newly bike-friendly Mayor’s budget.

Which may be the first time — in my knowledge, at least — that a city department has gone out of it’s way to resist additional funding.

Speaking for the LADOT was Mike Uyeno, who was joined by Maria Souza-Rountree from the Chief Legislative Analyst Office.  Time and again, Council Members asked if the LADOT would be able to spend Measure R Local Return funds that were set-aside.  Time and again, Uyeno gave an answer somewhere between “no” and “I don’t know.”  For example:

Councilman Paul Koretz asked:

Is there any chance at all that we’ll be unable to spend the 10% on bike and pedestrian needs.

Uyeno answered

I’m not sure. It depends what staffing becomes available. Not sure what ped. projects are out there in the department. There’s just a lot of open ends in this anymore.

In all fairness, the recent budget cuts have reduced the department’s staffing. But for the first time in memory, LADOT has both the funding and the political backing to actually accomplish something in terms of biking projects. And the best they can come up with is “I don’t know?”

I’d suggest giving LADOT’s leadership 30 days to come back with a plan to spend every penny of that money, effectively, efficiently and productively. And if they can’t do that, then it’s time to hire someone who can, or maybe just do what others have suggested and eliminate the department entirely.

No excuses.

Speaking of which, Damien tells LADOT’s Rita Robinson to stop making excuses and just try something already; while LAist’s Josh Behrens asks if it’s time this city got a new transportation leader.

Anyone think NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is ready to come home and take on a real challenge?

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After a seemingly ridiculous amount of debate and delay, the City Council gave unanimous approval to the city’s first bike corral yesterday. This project had the full support of virtually everyone — with the possible exception of LADOT — including the Highland Park business owner who asked for one in front his Café de Leche.

Now the question is whether LADOT will support and implement the project, or if they will drag their feet until this turns into another sharrows project.

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In local bike news, an unidentified hero bicyclist finished a police chase for them, as he ran down a suspected drunk driver who had taken off running after colliding with another vehicle during a police pursuit. Kudos to the cyclist, but standard advice is to point out the bad guys and let the police do the actual apprehension. Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up.

And hats off to Jason Alexander — not for colliding with a 14-year old cyclist on his way to school — but for doing the right thing and staying with the rider until the paramedics arrived. The collision occurred at Wilshire and June Street near Hancock Park, and the rider was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries; no word yet on how it happened, but Alexander was not cited and police sources suggest he was not at fault.

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Our bike-friendly U.S. Secretary of Transportation — no matter how many times I write that, it still seems strange — says the one thing we know for sure about biking infrastructure is that people want it, and calls for a nationwide interstate biking network. As a result, he gets some love from cyclists, but the way some people react, you’d think he was suggesting that we move freight by bike instead of trucks.

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Congratulations to the LACBC’s Dorothy Le, as Grist recognizes her as one of 40 people who are redefining green. While the city dithers over bike share, a Hollywood man succeeds with an e-bike rental program. If Santa Monica truly wants to be a bike-friendly city, their departments need to communicate with each other — even during construction projects. Upcoming family bike and pedestrian events in Culver City. The Anonymous Cyclist says time’s running out to get your stickers. That two miles of new bike lanes striped in Long Beach over the weekend marked the completion of the city’s 33-mile bike loop. AAA says California drivers are still texting despite a state-wide ban.

New York bike advocates question the city’s bike count. Denver opens a bike-through coffee window, while a cyclist in neighboring Boulder is hit by a car while riding in a crosswalk marked by flashing lights. New Braunfels TX passes a new law requiring drivers to change lanes if they encounter a vulnerable road user, or pass with a minimum of three feet on two lane roads. Minnesota’s governor signs a law giving cyclists the right to ride though red lights that don’t change. In a bizarre case, a DC-area mom deliberately runs down her cyclist son.

A British driver is accused of murder after intentionally running down a cyclist who damaged his mirror. The three-foot movement spreads to the UK, and takes on a lovely shade of Pepto-Bismol pink. A writer asks if spandex bike shorts are too revealing; obviously, she didn’t grow up with Speedos. The Queen honors Brompton for her birthday. Be careful who you accuse of doping Down Under. Auckland maps out areas cyclists might want to avoid; thanks to the Trickster for the link. A writer in Toronto challenges the precepts of Vehicular Cycling; part two should be very interesting. Now Lexus is getting in on the high-concept bike design trend…yawn.

Finally, 84% of Brits surveyed by a motorists’ group say more money, not more laws, will make cyclists safer; 82% say registration and licensing is a bad idea, and only 1% support mandatory helmet laws.

An open letter to the L.A. City Council — what do you want your legacy to be?

It’s really not that hard a question.

Do you want to leave this city better than you found it when your time on the council is over? Or do you want to continue down the same failed path that has brought L.A. gridlocked streets and declining neighborhoods?

Either way, your vote on Wednesday for or against the 10% set-aside for biking and pedestrian projects in the local return portion of Measure R should be clear.

You can vote to continue the same car-oriented culture that threatens to destroy our city, while leavening it with just enough expensive transit projects to maybe, almost keep up with anticipated growth. Or you can take a seemingly small shift in direction that will set L.A. on a pathway to less congestion, better health and improved livability.

It’s your call.

You can question — as Councilmember Smith did last week — whether enough people walk and bike to justify the expenditure.

Or you can accept the results of the U.S. Department of Transportation study that says 27.3% of all Americans over the age of 16 rode a bike at least once in 2002 — before the recent boom in cycling. Or maybe the statistics cited by Bikes Belong that say 16% of American adults ride a bike in any given month.

That’s a lot more than 10%. And that’s just bikes.

Any guess how many able-bodied Americans walk during the course of their day?

It’s not like this city doesn’t have hundreds, if not thousands, of shovel-ready projects waiting for funding. Just ask the council’s representative from LADOT how many projects included in the 1996 bike plan still haven’t been built. All that’s lacking is a commitment to build them and the funding to do it.

And you can take care of both before this day is over.

In fact, biking and pedestrian projects are remarkably affordable. You could build every project recommended in the new bike plan for a fraction of what it will cost to extend the subway to Westwood. Or the $450 million currently being invested to gain a little short-term traffic relief on the 405 Freeway over the Sepulveda Pass.

Or have you forgotten how nice it used to be to drive on the 105 and 215 Freeways before increased demand overwhelmed the increase in capacity?

On the other hand, maybe you think driving is good for business.

I suspect the merchants on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or Old Town Pasadena would argue otherwise, with their highly profitable clientele drawn almost exclusively by the walkability of those areas. Even the businesses on busy Hollywood Boulevard benefit far more from the crowds who wander down the sidewalks as opposed to those who drive past on the crowded street.

Now imagine what it would be like if it didn’t take an unpleasant drive on frequently gridlocked streets just to get there.

In fact, cities across the country are shifting from drive-through mode to walkable, bikeable, complete streetscapes. Even New York City has discovered the benefits of closing Broadway to vehicular traffic, making it one of the most popular destinations in the city.

Speaking of New York, that city — one of the most crowded and built-out in the nation — recently tripled the number of bike lanes on its streets. So much for the argument that L.A. is too built-out for bike projects.

That also answers the question of whether people will actually use those bike and pedestrian facilities if they’re built. Because New York — which, unlike Los Angeles, actually counts the number of bicyclists who ride on its streets, so they don’t have to guess — saw a 28% increase in ridership last year alone.

Or consider the crowded, crooked streets of New Orleans, where a new bike lane on St. Claude Avenue resulted in a 44% increase in male bicyclists. And a 133% increase in women riders.

If you build it, they will come. And every rider on a bike represents one car that isn’t on the streets. Isn’t that something Los Angeles could clearly benefit from?

How you vote today is up to you.

But few decisions you will ever make in your political career will have a greater impact on the future livability of this city.

Or on the legacy you’ll leave behind.

I had planned to speak in support of the 10% Measure R set-aside for biking and pedestrian projects at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, but a bout with bronchitis will keep me confined to home — and off my bike — for the next few days. So I’ll let this do my talking for me. Come back later for links and other interesting items.

A brief bit of news, and hot bike links for a warm L.A. weekend

Lots of interesting bike stories in the news the last few days — far too many to hold onto until my next post. So pull up a chair, pop open a cold one, and settle in for a bit of reading.

But first, one bit of news. The hotly debated motion to support extending the Marvin Braude Bike Path nearly two miles north to the border with the ‘Bu was passed in the City Council Friday by a vote of 9 – 2.

Does that mean the path will be extended?

Far from it. All it means is that the city’s representatives in D.C. will start looking into the availability of Federal funding to build it. Which is a very long shot, indeed.

So for the time being, you’ll have to keep turning back at Temescal Canyon. Or take the lane on PCH.

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The Times considers L.A.’s big jump in bike thefts, so does KABC; as usual, Damien Newton takes a more in-depth look, and Bicycle Law offers advice on how to avoid it, and what to do if you don’t.

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Roadblock — or Rhode Block — calls on LADOT Bikeways Coordinator Michele Mowery to connect with the cycling community. NELA campaigns for a bike corral and a more ridable Four Corners. Flying Pigeon hosts this weekend’s Spoke(n) Art Ride. Bicycle Fixation remembers when California actually had good roads. Streetsblog says advocates love the Backbone Bikeway Network; hey, ma, look — I’m an advocate! Solving USC’s bike/foot/car/truck/bus traffic issues. Now that Long Beach is officially a bike-friendly city, they’re actually becoming one. Stephen Box says the Times got it wrong in the Warren Olney dooring, then again, the Culver City PD doesn’t get it, either. A San Diego cyclist tells a first-hand tale of a thankfully injury-free hit-and-run. Amgen’s Tour of California unveils it’s toughest route yet. Portland passes a new bike plan leading up to the year 2030. Colorado’s 25th Anniversary Ride the Rockies — think of it as an alpine RAGBRAI — kicks of June 13th. Dave Moulton continues his excellent advice on how to be seen and not be a victim. Finding peace on sleepy city streets. Seattle installs special rail-crossing markings for cyclists and a video explaining how to follow them. The three-foot passing law moves forward in Virginia, as well as in Maryland. Do Arizona drivers have to give a three-foot clearance even when the bike lane is blocked? A new study suggests Portland’s bike boxes may be working. Minnesota considers allowing cyclists to turn left on a red light if the light doesn’t change. Iowa Bike Blog argues why a local legislator is wrong about their proposed five-foot — yes, five foot — passing law, which also includes an anti-harassment measure. USA Today looks at the long road faced by electric bikes in the US. A Charlotte street is about to get a road diet. Why don’t British women ride? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the 19% increase in serious cycling injuries and deaths last year, would it? Helsinki gets new bike lanes and cycle paths, while L.A. continues to wait for sharrows.  Finally, maybe instead of recalling defective cars, we should recall defective drivers.

Much ado about almost nothing — the $30 million Bike Path extension

Why would a city that’s facing a $200 million budget deficit spend $30 million to extend a recreational bikeway?

With a lot of luck — and $30 million — that arrow could point both ways someday.

Actually, it wouldn’t.

In fact, Los Angeles officials are hoping they can get the job done without spending a dime. Stranger things have happened.

As reported here last week, city officials have begun the process of requesting funds to complete the long-planned final leg of the Marvin Braude Bike Path, from where it currently ends at Temescal Canyon Road to the entrance to the Getty Villa.

What wasn’t reported was the cost — a whopping $15 million each for the approximately two miles of bike lane it would add, due to the need to elevate a significant portion of the bikeway along the beach.

As the esteemed — or in this case, steamed — Dr. Alex pointed out, 30 million dollars would pay for over 1,000 mikes of new bike lanes. Far more than contemplated in the city’s proposed bike plan, and barely enough to meet the needs of the city’s cyclists.

It would also be enough to save funding for L.A.’s neighborhood councils, and maybe even a few of the 1,000 jobs currently on the line in this city.

However, that’s apples and oranges. Or bananas and kumquats, or whatever mismatched fruit more precisely fits your tastes.

Because the funding would not come out of the city budget, or even out of the cash-strapped state’s. And it would not take away from any future funding for bicycle infrastructure, or prevent the installation of a single on-street bike commuter lane.

In fact, the money doesn’t even exist yet. Because the matter currently being considered by various council committees (10-0002-S4) isn’t a motion to decide what to spend the money on, or even to request funding.

All that Council Member Rosendahl has proposed is a resolution asking the Council and the Mayor to go on record as supporting the project. Which will then allow the city’s representatives in Washington to start scrounging around for any funds that may be available for this sort of project.

That’s it.

Even though the country is deeply in debt, there are funds available for things like this, whether as part of the stimulus package, or some other authorization or appropriation bill. And turning it down probably won’t save a penny in the federal budget, because if we don’t take it, chances are, someone else will.

That’s just the way the system works.

It’s not like this isn’t a worthwhile project. While the bike path is used primarily for recreation, opening up this last section will allow cyclists to bypass one of the most dangerous sections of PCH, where riders are forced to share the lane with impatient drivers often traveling at speeds in excess of 50 mph.

In other words, it could save lives — and probably will, if it gets built. And at the same time, open up the coast highway to riders who don’t feel comfortable taking the lane in those first few miles between Santa Monica and Malibu under those circumstances.

Just to be sure, though, I reached out to some of my contacts at City Hall this afternoon. They assured me that no one has any intention of blowing the entire bikeways budget on this one project, and that the extension won’t move forward unless it receives significant federal funding.

So don’t hold your breath.

This is a long shot. But it’s one worth taking.

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Update: The L.A. Times has taken notice of the Bike Working Group’s proposed Backbone Bikeway Network, an alternative to the city’s proposed bike plan that uses major arterial streets to connect cyclists to virtually every part of the city. If the mayor and council are truly serious about making this a better city for cycling, they need to take a hard look at this — and ask why their high-cost plan isn’t nearly as effective.

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The legal process has begun for the hit-and-run driver who ran down popular local rider Roadblock. Will Campbell schedules his upcoming 8 Presidents Ride for Saturday the 13th. GOOD looks at the plans to turn 4th Street into L.A.’s first bike boulevard. Writing on Bob Mionske’s blog, Rick Bernardi looks at the “I didn’t see him” excuse for hitting a cyclist. The cyclist killed in the Bay Area yesterday was a devoted single father living car-free in Los Gatos; the driver has been arrested. The SFPD plans to use Compstat to track cycling collisions — something we should look at here. World Champ Cadel Evans — or Cuddles, as the Trickster calls him — turns up unexpectedly in Palo Alto Tuesday morning. Professional cyclist Tom Zirbel faces a two-year suspension after his B sample tests positive for DHEA.You won’t be calling it the Utah stop anytime soon, as the Beehive State considers — and rejects — the Idaho stop. A well-known Nevada cyclist, racer and bike shop owner was killed over the weekend. Zeke faces a father and child riding head-on towards his car on the wrong side of a snowy the road. Admiration for living car-free in bullheaded car-centric Texas. Presenting the first self-balancing unicycle. Great photo of cowboy cyclists in Tucson’s Old Pueblo. Call it the Rosetta Stone of cycling; the Bicycle Lexicon tell you how to talk bikes in 23 languages. New Zealand employees are urged to swap four wheels for two during Bike Wise Month. Will Sydney’s planned Bike Hub be successful? Half of all bike thefts in England and Wales go unreported. Finally, a teenage Lancashire driver gets nine months for repeatedly attempting to run a cyclist off the road — not realizing his attempted victim was a police inspector.

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