There are lots of ways to be a leader in the cycling community.
Howard Krepack has forged his own way, as a long time L.A. cyclist as well as a major supporter of local cycling organizations. As a partner in Geklaw, he’s also one of the area’s leading bike lawyers, fighting for the rights of riders.
And along with some of the other names you’ll find over there on the right, one of the first people I’d personally recommend calling if you need help.
Today, he offers his thoughts on how to be seen — and not be a victim — when you ride your bike.
When It Comes to Bike Safety, Think on the Bright SideBy Howard Krepack, Esq. Partner, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP
“I never saw him. I didn’t know where he came from. All of a sudden he was just there.” These remarks are all too common when we read accident reports or are taking statements from motorists involved in a bicycle accident.
Being aware of your environment—road conditions, side streets, driveways, distracted motorists—and, therefore, bicycling intelligently, is only part of the safety equation. An equally important part is making sure you are visible by wearing brightly colored clothing while bicycling during the day. The whole idea is to stand out from your surroundings. Motorists subconsciously expect to see blues and greens (the natural environment) and grays and blacks (streets and highways). By wearing a canary yellow, neon orange or fluorescent green jersey, you are changing the “natural order of things” in the mind’s eye of a motorist. If your bicycle is your main mode of transportation and you don’t want to be sporting a shirt that screams “see me” while running errands or going to work, simply wear a bright vest over your clothes; you can remove it when you reach your destination.
Visibility takes on different dimensions when bicycling at night. Statistics show that half of all bicycling fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. even though there is relatively little cycling done during that 12-hour period. However, that same fluorescent jersey or vest that helped keep you safe during the day might not do the trick at night. According to a study in Bicycling Magazine, “When cyclists wear fluorescent clothing, a driver’s perception distance (when the driver first spots something on the road) increases from 400 feet to 2,200 feet during the day and from 150 feet to 560 feet at night.” That’s quite a difference in perception distance.
So, how do you keep yourself as safe as possible when bicycling at night? One study from Australia found that although fluorescent vests were not a significant improvement on black clothing at night, reflective strips attached to ankles and knees were more effective than wearing a “less static” bright jacket. The thought being that the constant movement of the reflective strip caught the motorists’ attention.
Lights are also an effective way to keep yourself visible while riding at night. They are also required by law when riding after dusk and before dawn. According to California’s Motor Vehicle Code, when riding at night, your bike must have (or you must be wearing) a front white light that is visible from 300 feet. In addition, your bike must have a rear red reflector, pedal reflectors and side reflectors. Keep in mind that wearing a helmet light may be problematic if it is your only front light source as the light is directed in the direction you’re facing. Make sure if you’re riding with others that you don’t inadvertently shine the light in their eyes. Also, the combination of a constant beam and a flashing light is a great attention getter.
Lights are also effective during daylight hours. A powerful blinking white light in the front of your bike—even during the day—can make you more visible to oncoming motorists making left turns.
Keep in mind that even though bicyclists share the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, the road is never an even playing field. Savvy bicyclists are constantly on the lookout for motorists (helmet-mounted rear-view mirrors are very helpful), but that attentiveness is not generally reciprocated. There are too many things—the radio, passengers, phones—that are possible distractions for drivers. Plus, there is the whole bicyclist vs. two-ton machine reality that can spell disaster for the cyclists involved in an accident.
Making yourself as visible as possible can go a long way toward ensuring many safe and enjoyable rides. It is not, however, an insurance policy against getting into an accident. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because you’re wearing something bright. Even though motorists should be looking out for you, don’t count on it. Always make sure you are looking out for yourself.
(The law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of those who have suffered serious injuries on or off the job. Partner Howard Krepack leads the firm’s bicycle accident practice. For more information about our firm, call us at 213-739-7000 or visit our website: www.geklaw.com.)
In case you missed it, Culver City now has a new bicycling City Council Member.
We can look forward to a more bike-friendly Culver City government as she gives a voice to the two-wheeled community that has long been missing from that city’s decision making.
Not to put any pressure on her or anything.
Thanks to CCBC member Steve Herbert for the heads-up.
Last year, Margaret Wehbi wrote to complain about the crumbling, glass-strewn and sand-blocked condition of the bike lanes on Imperial Highway south and west of the airport. I followed up by riding the lanes myself, only to discover the single worst bike lanes I’ve yet ridden in Southern California.
Wehbi now reports that the roadway has finally been repaved, and is much more ridable than before. As she put it, even without being restriped yet, “It was as if I had my own private CicLAvia.”
Now that sounds smooth.
San Diego cyclists are hosting a Memorial Ride on Wednesday for Chuck Gilbreth, the rider killed near San Diego State University last Wednesday. The ride will assemble at the large fountain in Balboa Park at 4 pm, then ride to City Hall at 4:30.
Our message for this ride will be: “The people who are dying on our streets are not inexperienced or reckless bicyclists, they are careful, experienced riders who are dying from no fault of their own and we demand immediate action toward to goal of safer roads for all users”
This one is highly recommended if you find yourself near our neighbor to the south on Wednesday.
With 12 cyclists killed in San Diego County last year — 13 if you count Jordon Hickey, who was murdered by gunfire while riding blocks from his home — and four already this year, it’s clear that far too many of our fellow cyclists are dying on San Diego’s poorly designed, high-speed and unforgiving streets.
A few other quick notes.
LADOT may pick up responsibility for the innovative, crowd-sourced MyFigueroa project, bringing it back to life after the state shut down the Community Redevelopment Agency behind it — including the city’s first separated cycle track.
Looks like you’ll find more cars in the green Spring Street bike lane than bikes.
Steven Box says bike share sounds great, but why Bike Nation?
The League of American Bicyclists has honored the new Santa Monica Bike Center as a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business, the first in Santa Monica and the only Bike Friendly Business in the L.A. area.
Finally, here’s your chance to discover what’s happening in the Asian bike world, as Gavin Dixon and Byron Kidd — author of the always fascinating Tokyo By Bike and the man behind the dramatic bike reports following last year’s earthquake — bring you the new Pedal Asia Podcast. If nothing else, give a listen to the first segment offering an intriguing overview of bicycling throughout Asia from two men who clearly know what they’re talking about. The free weekly podcast is available on iTunes, as well.
A special thanks to attorney Daniel F. Jimenez for his help today.