Tag Archive for Paul Koretz

Breaking news — bike rider physically assaulted by motorist in West LA

I’ve received an eye witness report of a bike rider being physically attacked by a motorist this afternoon.

According the report, forwarded to me by attorney David Huntsman, a woman was driving north on Westwood Blvd when she saw another driver get out of his car and attack the rider on the southeast corner of Westwood and Olympic just after noon today. As she described it, the driver came at the rider flailing his arms, while the cyclist yelled at his attacker.

The woman said other people appeared to be calling 911 to report the attack.

Let’s be very clear.

No matter what took place between the two parties to cause the conflict, the motorist committed a crime by striking the rider — as one cop explained to me in a similar case, the driver was at fault as soon as he left his vehicle. He can, and should, be prosecuted if he and his victim can be identified.

This is also would appear to be a perfect case for LA’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which allows bicyclists to sue motorists or others who threaten or attack them while riding. The ordinance allows victims to collect three times actual damages or $1000, whichever is higher; it also allows for the payment of full legal fees to encourage lawyers to take a case that might not otherwise be worth their time.

The problem with the ordinance has always been that it can be difficult to gather the witnesses or other evidence necessary to prove the case. But in this case, it took place in front of multiple witnesses, at least one of whom has already come forward.

If anyone has more information — or if you were the rider involved — contact me; you can find me email address on the About page.

And let’s not forget that this is exactly where an innovative floating bike lane was proposed to reduce or eliminate conflicts between cyclists and drivers — without the loss of a single traffic lane or parking spot.

Yet the lane was vetoed by Westside City Councilmember Paul Koretz at the urging of wealthy homeowners, even though it would have zero negative impact on the Boulevard and the surrounding area.

And would move cyclists out of the way of impatient, and too often, angry drivers, helping to avoid incidents like this.

Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Thirteen.

That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.

In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14 this year.

It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an accompanying jump in ridership.

Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.

Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.

Just one problem.

Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.

Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.

And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed out in the street.

Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.

There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.

In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.

It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.

Thirteen.

Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish — was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through another human being.

Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.

And that makes him one of us.

Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13. Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the last two years.

As if that isn’t five too many.

Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.

There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.

And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go — supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.

When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.

But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their hegemony on our streets?

Greene’s piece isn’t bad.

He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.

But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and sisters.

Thirteen.

It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.

And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.

Fight for Westwood bike lanes at LA City Council Tuesday; Times writer tells motorists to get a grip

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has issued an action alert calling for bike riders to attend tomorrow’s city council session to protest the cancellation of planned bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard.

Please join us for a day of action tomorrow to urge Councilmember Koretz to keep his promise to study bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. He told us that we would be able to share our thoughts at a public forum, which he then canceled. So, we want to make sure he hears that you support bike lanes on Westwood.

You can show your support in two ways:

1) Join us at City Council at 10 AM tomorrow when we give public comment. You will have two minutes to make your case for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. Let us know you’re coming: email alek@la-bike.org with your name and address and we’ll fill out a public comment card for you.

Council Chambers (10 AM on Tuesday)
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring Street, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

2) Can’t make it downtown? Call Koretz’s office and share your thoughts. Dial (310) 289-0353 (field office) or (213) 473-7005 (downtown office). Then, email alek@la-bike.org to let us know how it went.

Sample script:

“Hi, my name is __________ and I’m a (resident of CD5, student at UCLA, etc.) and I’m calling to urge Councilmember Koretz to complete the study of the Westwood Boulevard bike lanes and have a transparent public process, like he promised. Bike lanes on Westwood are important to me because…”

What’s your reason for supporting bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard? Consider these when making comments either at City Council or on the phone:

Safety – A report by Neighborhood Bike Ambassador and Westside South of Santa Monica (WSSM) resident Calla Weimer shows a history of collisions along Westwood in just the six blocks from Santa Monica Blvd to Pico. Westwood Blvd is among the most-traveled streets for bicyclists on the Westside that does not have bike lanes.

Lack of good alternatives – There’s been a lot of talk about alternatives, but when you map them out, they are hillier, indirect, have stop signs nearly every block, or lack ways to cross major boulevards. All of these factors make Westwood Blvd the preferred route for bicyclists.

Bikes are good for business – Study after study shows that bicyclists are a boon for local business. Bicyclists can stop on a whim, park easily, and shop more frequently that those arriving by other means. Routing bike traffic on side streets between major employment and transit hubs is a missed opportunity for small businesses.

Sustainability – Just days after opposing the Westwood bike lanes, Councilmember Koretz attended the launch of the UCLA Grand Challenge, calling for Los Angeles to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Transportation is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles, and research clearly demonstrates that alternatives to driving must be convenient for people to use them.

Access to the Expo Line – The Westwood station on the Expo Line will not have public parking, making it all the more important that it is accessible by bike. Over 90% of Metro customers access transit without a car. Metro is currently analyzing corridors for potential station access improvements and bikeshare opportunities, but Westwood will miss out if the bike lanes do not go through.

I can’t make it, since I’ll be sitting in for Damien Newton as guest editor of LA Streetsblog in the morning.

But I urge you to attend, or call or email CM Kortetz’ office if you can’t. Because a decision that gives a greater value to the convenience of a few homeowners over the safety of cyclists should not be allowed to stand.

………

This is the editorial I’ve been waiting for, as a writer for the Times tells motorists who claim cyclists have it coming to get a grip.

Bravo.

So what is it that drives otherwise rational people to fits of apoplexy when the subject of cycling comes up?

Yes, some cyclists break the rules. Dangerously, at times.

But sit by any major street, and it only takes moments to observe an unending stream of stupid driver tricks. And has been pointed out many times before, even the most reckless cyclist is a danger primarily to him or herself, while reckless drivers are a danger to everyone around them.

Dangerous drivers kill; dangerous cyclists and pedestrians get killed.

The risk is by no means equivalent.

And only a truly sick SOB would ever take pleasure or find justification in the needless death of another human being.

So get a grip. And get over it already.

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Vancouver Cycle Chic writer Chris Bruntlett interviews me and other LA bikevocates in a photo essay on the state of bicycling in Los Angeles; a nice piece from a nice guy.

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4314920.web.templateCycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson rides to remember a fallen cyclist he didn’t know and writes about it movingly.

Speaking of Seth, word is he has a book coming out this week, with a signing this Thursday at 7 pm at Pages: A Book Store, 904 Manhattan Ave in Manhattan Beach — including wine from Victoria Hill Vineyards and beer from Strand Brewing. That alone would make it worth the trip to the South Bay.

Seth is one of my favorite bike writers, veering from wildly inappropriate to outrageously funny to deeply moving. Sometimes in the same post.

Something tells me his book will be on the can’t miss gift list for a lot of bike riders this year. Including mine.

Maybe a copy will find its way into my stocking.

And yes, that’s a hint. But someone please tell my wife, since she doesn’t read my blog.

………

Don’t miss the LACBC Open House on December 5th; and yes, I’ll be there. How to protect your bike from theft while riding Metro; this is what can happen if you don’t. Pardon me boy, is that the Westwood Blvd choo choo tracks? Take a bike train to the LA Gran Prix on Saturday, and watch the first ever Wolfpacktrack Invitational. Better Bike recaps a recent tour of soon-to-be-made-over Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, with possible plans for bike lanes. A bike rider in Santa Monica gets hit by a car, assaults the driver, jumps up and down on the roof, and gets arrested; not that he overreacted or anything. New protected bike lanes in the San Gabriel Valley. Cyclists helping others with the SC Velo and Incycle Thanksgiving food drive. CLR Effect offers incredible photos from the El Dorado Park Cyclocross; hey Michael, ever think about putting a bike calendar together?

Six highlights from the recent California Bike Summit. Orange County riders turn out to remember fallen cyclist Paul Lin. Too bad this one is buried behind the paywall, as the OC Register’s Dan Whiting says it’s worth two seconds to save a cyclist’s life; I may disagree with Dan from time to time, but no one ever said his heart isn’t in the right place. An OC driver is sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing a cheerleader while drunk, thus proving the lives of cheerleaders are more valuable than cyclists; thanks to George Cook for the link. San Diego cyclists complain about trash cans in the bike lane. A memorial ride was held Saturday for popular San Diego cyclist Udo Heinz, who was killed by a bus on Camp Pendleton last August. Santa Barbara paramedics pitch in to buy a special needs man a new bike less than an hour after his was stolen. Some Santa Cruz cyclists protest the groundbreaking for a new bike path. A 72-year old cyclist suffers major injuries in a Cayucos collision. More evidence that police officers don’t always understand the laws they enforce. Two teens injured in Stockton bike-by shooting; thanks to Cyclelicious for the heads-up. San Francisco police are accused of beating a bike rider for riding on the sidewalk, then beating people who tried to come to his aid; turns out he was only packing a cupcake.

Lactic acid is your friend; no, really, that’s what they say. Floyd Landis goes to war against Lance Armstrong; speaking of Lance, he says former UCI president Verbruggen was in on the cover-up. Well, duh. A ghost bike goes up in my hometown. A Wisconsin bike evangelist wants you to get ‘bent. The NYPD cracks down on bicyclists for riding on a bike path. Riding with Wall Street MAMILS on $20,000 bikes.

In a virtual repeat of the Santa Barbara story, a stranger buys a new bike for an autistic Canadian boy after his is stolen. Is London Mayor Boris pushing too fast to make the city bike friendly, or not fast enough? Following a rash of bicycling deaths in London, police wisely choose to crack down on the victims, rather than the big ass trucks that are killing them. London gang members are barred from riding bikes to prevent them from committing crimes or fleeing police; yeah, they couldn’t possibly just take the Tube or run away or anything. Eight reasons to be grateful to cyclists. A UK driver didn’t see the young bike rider he killed because he was safely checking his rearview mirror; oh, well okay, then. UK police confiscate a $273,000 McLaren supercar after the uninsured driver hits a cyclist; seriously, you drive a quarter-of-a-million dollar car and can’t carry a little insurance? An 18-year old Irish rider pleads guilty to the new charge of drunk cycling; just one of an average five Irish cyclists who appear in court each week. A Spanish cyclist is fined the equivalent of $135 for eating a croissant while riding. Bicycling should be encouraged in India so youths learn to maintain balance in their lives. Can someone please explain what a Kiwi bike rider who was seriously injured after riding into a parked car five years ago has to do with a call to wear hi-viz to improve visibility?

Finally, a cyclist does the right thing by giving up bicycling to take up driving; no really, you should read this one. Unlike the Chinese driver who did the wrong thing, promising to take the cyclist he hit to the hospital before dumping him on the side of the road.

And if this wasn’t enough to satisfy your bike link lust, the world’s biggest and best bike link compendium is just a click away.

Breaking news: Councilmember Koretz abandons safety, cyclists and his word on Westwood Boulevard

Evidently, the lives and safety of bike riders don’t matter when wealthy homeowners raise their voices in opposition.

At least, that the message CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz seems to be sending.

According to LA Streetsblog, Koretz has come out in opposition to bike lanes in any form on Westwood Blvd between National and Santa Monica Boulevards — despite an earlier promise to study the feasibility of such lanes, which is currently ongoing.

Evidently, he doesn’t want any facts to get in the way of making up his mind.

As Damien Newton, author of the Streetsblog story points out, any kind of bike lane on that section of Westwood has been adamantly opposed by a small group of local homeowners represented by the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowner’s Group, as well as business owners along the boulevard who fear a loss of parking spaces.

It is wildly unlikely that the city will move forward with a bicycle lane project without at least tacit support from the Council office, which is bowing to pressure from homeowner groups that have been hostile to transportation options outside of the automobile….

Local opposition to the lane publicly centered around an LADOT study of a bus lane (bikes allowed) which would have removed travel lanes and parking.  That plan was DOA.  Instead, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition proposed a “floating” bicycle lane where the parked-car adjacent bike lane would be moved to the curb during rush hour so that the road could continue to have a peak hour lane.  After the public meeting, the LADOT began a study of the floating bike lane (which they had only briefly introduced as an “idea” at the public hearing), but that was put on hold by the Councilmember.

It should be noted that the floating bike lane would not have resulted in the loss of a single traffic lane or parking space; the greatest handicap anyone would face would be crossing the street from one side to the other as the parking lane flipped sides.

Now, the floating bike lane plan has been rejected by the Councilmember before he has allowed the formal study to be was completed.  In response, today, the LACBC released an action alert calling on Koretz to move forward with a full study of the lanes that includes all stakeholders.

In that alert, the Bike Coalition calls attention to the councilmember’s broken promise.

Word on the street is that Councilmember Paul Koretz is reneging on his commitment to study bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, connecting the future Expo Line Station to UCLA and Palms.  Earlier this year Koretz wrote, “I am an advocate of bike paths so long as we implement them intelligently and with the input of local stakeholders.”  With that in mind, LACBC respected local opposition to the City’s proposed bus-bike lanes and developed an alternative that still provides safety benefits without the traffic impact that upset some stakeholders. We then requested to work with the Councilmember to:

  • Study alternatives for Westwood with less traffic impact
  • Create an inclusive engagement process that is fact-based and respectful of divergent opinions

After agreeing to the above, Koretz stalled.  He did not set up an open and transparent process and instructed LADOT to stop the study.  Instead of seeking input from all stakeholders, he has listened to one small insular group of homeowners that have repeatedly put out inaccurate information to rally opposition to even studying the project.  At LACBC, we firmly believe that studying options is the first step in making decisions “intelligently.”

Koretz opposition also flies in the face of support for the lanes from his own appointee to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, CD5 representative Jonathan Weiss, as quoted by Streetsblog.

Weiss argues that the road width is actually wide enough to put in lanes without removing parking or mixed-use lanes if lanes are narrowed.

“There is ample room for bike lanes without losing car lanes or parking,” Weiss writes in a letter to Koretz. “Providing bike lanes would actually free up traffic by separating bikes from cars.  And safety concerns will continue to keep risk-averse people from riding – exacerbating, rather than relieving, automobile traffic to UCLA and keeping buses stuck in traffic.  (Biking is actually faster than the bus during the evening commute.)  UCLA has done a great job in cutting its carbon footprint, but this bottleneck on its doorstep hinders its ongoing efforts in that regard.”

It’s short notice, I know.

But the LACBC is calling on everyone who rides Westwood — or would like to — to attend a meeting this evening to discuss the next steps in light of Koretz firmly planting a knife in the back of the Westside cycling community.

Come to our meeting TONIGHT (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. to plan next steps for RideWestwood and find out about upcoming actions:

UCLA – Public Affairs Building – Faculty Lounge (Room 5391)
337 Charles E. Young Dr. East (near Wyton and Hilgard).

If you can’t make the meeting — or even if you can — the coalition asks that you email Koretz’ office to demand he reconsider bike lanes on Westwood Blvd.

Sample email:

to: paul.koretz@lacity.org 
cc: joan.pelico@lacity.org, jay.greenstein@lacity.org 
bcc: info@la-bike.org 

subj: Study Westwood Bike Lanes

Dear Councilmember Koretz,

Westwood Boulevard is currently one of the most popular routes for people riding bikes in your district.  It is also one of the least safe.  You’ve said before that, “I do not vote for things that kill people.”  I hope that you’ll at least study how to fix a dangerous situation that has already killed and will likely again if it is not improved.  As a community leader, it’s your responsibility to convene people with differing views, seek out accurate information and make informed decisions that respect all stakeholders.  I ask that you take this commitment seriously by studying alternatives for bike lanes along Westwood Boulevard and hosting an open and inclusive process to discuss the merits of the project.

Sincerely,

your name
your neighborhood 

And while you’re at it, you might remind him of his own support for bicycling, as he stated right here when he was first running for office.

When I was the Mayor of West Hollywood, I requested input from the bicycle community on how to implement bike lanes on part of Santa Monica Boulevard. I think Los Angeles needs to adopt a regional public transportation approach that not only addresses improving traffic flow, and mass transit, but also how we can improve options and the quality of life for bicyclists.

In general, we need to focus on the creation of an effective bicycle infrastructure. Los Angeles, with over 330 sunny days a year, should be the world leader in bicycle commuting. We need to start the work of building many more miles of safe bikeways and adequate secure parking for commuters. These two steps will be a good beginning in our efforts to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow.

Odd that someone who fought for bike lanes on the even more congested Santa Monica Blvd through West Hollywood would oppose them on Westwood.

Or was he just saying what he thought we wanted to hear to win an election?

Rosendahl to Council: Car culture ends today

Just two weeks ago, L.A. City Council Member Dennis Zine said he didn’t know if L.A.’s car culture was ever going to change.

Today, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl begged to differ.

In a powerful statement before the full council, Rosendahl said “The culture of the car is going to end now!” He reminded his fellow council members about the harassment cyclists face on the road, as well as the lack of support riders have received from the LAPD in the past. “We’re going to give cyclists the support they should have been getting.”

“This is my pledge to the cycling community.”

L.A. City Hall in January.

The subject at hand, which drew similar support from many of the council members in attendance, was a motion requesting the City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting the harassment of bicyclists.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be business as usual.

The first sign came when Council President Eric Garcetti noted that this matter had already been heard by both the Transportation and Public Safety Committees, which would normally mean no more public comments. But as Damien Newton had predicted, he quickly deferred to Rosendahl’s request to allow the handful of cyclists in the room to speak.

But first, Rosendahl and Public Safety Committee Chair Greig Smith agreed to what Damien called the three-step process, in which LADOT and the City Attorney will work with local cyclists to determine what the ordinance can and should contain, without conflicting with existing state traffic regulations. Then they will report back to both committees before drafting the actual ordinance, which will be subject to final council approval.

Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl addresses the council.

I argued against the extra step, since the City Attorney would, by necessity, determine what can legally be included in the ordinance during the process of drafting it.

But Rosendahl had already made it clear that he wouldn’t allow the process to drag on. He agreed with Smith to hold a joint session of the two committees to consider the recommendations. And pledged to have an ordinance drafted and ready for approval by the end of March.

That’s March of this year, in case you were wondering.

He also reminded the audience about a planned Transportation Committee session scheduled for February 24, in which cyclists will have a chance to speak with new LAPD Chief Beck. This is a chance to change, not just car culture, but that of the LAPD as well, he said, stating that future graduates from the police academy will receive training in bicycle law — including a copy of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

In remarks a little later, Council Member Ed Reyes, co-sponsor of the motion, added that indifference has usually been the best a cyclist could hope for from the LAPD after being harassed or assaulted.

Fellow Transportation Committee member Paul Kortez suggested that it wasn’t enough to defer to the state to address the problem, saying the city needs to find a way to address harassment in its own laws and do whatever it can to put a stop to it. “We need to send a clear message,” he said.

When the floor was opened to comments, a brief parade of cyclists spoke about the problems they’ve faced on the road.

The LACBC's Aurisha Smolarsky offers her comments.

David talked about being harassed on the streets, while Iain told the council about an incident in which he was injured after being harassed by a driver — only to be told that by a police officer that it was his fault because he was riding with traffic.

Siku spoke of an incident in which she was buzzed by a driver, who yelled “Do you want to die?” at the next red light. And Michael, who described himself as a businessman, homeowner and taxpayer, cast it as a civil rights issue, saying he had been harassed by both drivers and the police.

In fact, every cyclist who spoke — including Aurisha of the LACBC, as well as myself — told of being harassed by drivers on the streets of L.A.

Rosendahl concluded the discussion by listing what he believes should constitute harassment under the proposed ordinance, including:

1. Knowingly throwing a projectile or discharge at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle;

2. Threatening any person riding a bicycle verbally or by use of his/her vehicle for the purpose of injuring, frightening or disturbing the person riding the bicycle;

3. Knowingly placing his/her vehicle within 3’ of a bicyclist while passing or following;

4. Making physical contact with a bicyclist from a moving vehicle or the roadway either by physical person or use of an implement;

5. Knowingly placing a person riding a bicycle in concern of immediate physical injury;

6. Knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of physical injury or death to the person riding a bicycle.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Evidently, the council members agreed, voting 13 to 0 to approve the measure.

Afterwards, Eric Garcetti came up to me and offered his personal assurance that he will stay on top of this measure, and use his position as Council President to keep it moving forward.

And we can’t ask for much more than that.

Read more, including a wrap up on the Council’s discussion of the bike sharing proposal, on LA Streetsblog; LAist sums up the bike sharing discussion, as well.

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The Trickster offers an update on New Zealand’s cyber-bully Hummer Driver, who offers a half-hearted apology for threatening to kill cyclists — but only after the police get involved.

……..

Six cities that could go car free, including one right here in California, courtesy of Curbed LA. Designing better cities for bikes. Mixed results on Portland’s bike boxes. Boston Biker loses it after getting doored by a passenger bailing out in traffic. Virginia is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law. New York cyclists are ticketed for delivering fried dumplings on the sidewalk. The great Hasidim v. hipsters debate goes on, and on — literally, this time. If bike lanes can tame New Dehli’s traffic, just imagine what they could do here. A UK driver is convicted of killing a rider competing in a time trial; as usual, she claims she never saw him. Brits petition the Royal Mail to let posties keep their Pashleys. Disgraced former Spanish cycling boss threatens to dope and tell. An Edinburgh cyclist hits a white van at 20 mph; maybe the driver thought he was a pothole. Finally, a great examination of how to fight biased — or just uninformed — police enforcement. And perhaps the best last line of any bike quote, ever.

Breaking news — Rosendahl calls for extending the Marvin Braude bikeway

Is Bill Rosendahl the biking community’s new BFF?

The 11th District City Council member, who represents most of the Westside, recently sponsored a motion to have the City Attorney’s office draft an ordinance banning harassment of cyclists in Los Angeles — a motion that goes before the full city council on Wednesday.

Now Rosendahl has proposed another motion — apparently seconded CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz — to request federal funding to extend the north end of the beachfront Marvin Braude Bike Path. The extension would add a little less than two miles to the bikeway, from where it currently ends at Temescal Canyon Road to the intersection of Coastline Drive and PCH near the entrance to the Getty Villa.

Aside from adding to one of the area’s most popular and scenic bike routes, this extension could also contribute to the safety of cyclists by providing a way to bypass one of the narrower sections of PCH, where riders are forced to share a lane with drivers often traveling well in excess of 50 mph. And open up the coast highway to countless cyclists who aren’t comfortable taking the lane under those conditions, and now turn back at that point.

Now if Rosendahl could just do something about all the pedestrians on the bike path.

TranspoComm Chair Rosendahl draws a line in the sand

It hasn’t been easy watching the City Council this past year.

Especially the Transportation Committee.

I’ve watched as council members requested a response from various city agencies on issues ranging from the long-delayed Sharrows pilot project to the LAPD’s flawed response to the Hummer Incident.  Only to see them sit back and accept lame excuses from the people who supposedly work for them — to the point that I’ve wondered who really runs this city.

Sort of like watching someone tease a caged animal that has long ago given up fighting back. And yes, I have seen that, in a less enlightened time and a far less enlightened place; it evokes the same sort of stomach-twisting pity I’ve felt watching our government in action.

Maybe that changed yesterday.

This is how the Transportation Committee chambers looked when the hearing was scheduled to begin

After a seemingly endless delay in the scheduled 2 pm start time that left cyclists wondering if the committee had blown them off — followed by visibly livid committee member Richard Alarcón storming out of the meeting just moments after the members finally arrived and an impromptu hearing on the issue of overnight RV parking in Venice — the nearly bike-only Transportation Committee meeting finally began.

And truncated though it was, it was worth the wait. If only to watch committee Chair Bill Rosendahl get his back up and start demanding answers from the people who work for this city.

Because of the late start, two items — updates on the Sharrows program, which has been delayed to near-infinity, and the proposed bike-sharing program — were dropped entirely.

A third motion to increase the number of bike parking spaces required for new developments was touched on briefly, only because an audience member wanted to comment on it after going out of his way to attend the meeting. Although why it should be limited to new developments is beyond me, when City Hall doesn’t even offer adequate bike space.

This is what passes for bike parking at L.A. City Hall

From the beginning, Rosendahl ran the short-handed meeting with a firm hand. In addition to the Alarcón storm-out, Bernard Parks was missing in action and Tom LaBonge had to leave before the last, and most important, issue was discussed — leaving just Rosendahl and the recently elected 5th district representative Paul Koretz.

When the representatives from LADOT and the Planning department mentioned Federal funding that may be available in connection to the new bike plan, Rosenhdahl asked, “Do we need a resolution to get that? Because I want to get that money.”

He followed up with a list of 12 hard-hitting questions prepared in conjunction with bike activists Stephen Box and Alex Thompson; to be honest, though, the limited responses offered were far less important than the fact that someone was finally starting to ask them.

Bike Coordinator Michele Mowery’s insistence that the plan the city presented was the one that Alta Planning delivered brought audible murmurs of “bullshit” from the audience — or it could have just been me. Her answer may have been technically correct, but very few people actually believe this is the plan that Alta wanted to deliver.

She also was taken to task by audience members for “playing the race card,” suggesting that L.A.’s diversity makes it more challenging to build to a functional bikeway system than it is in a city like Portland — “a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation,” while L.A. is a “very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people.”

Dr. Alex has already written a very hard-hitting response to that; if you haven’t read it, click here and read it now. Well, maybe when you’re done with this. But seriously, read it.

Complementing Rosendahl’s newly newly demonstrated commitment, Koretz was also a pleasant surprise.

Throughout the meeting, he spoke very little, sitting quietly until audience members were making their comments. Then he interrupted briefly to note that he also rides a bike, but isn’t comfortable riding on L.A. city streets. And asked if this plan would allow inexperienced cyclists to get where they want to go.

The overwhelming answer was no.

Rosendahl responded firmly to my comment that all the work spent on this bike plan is a waste of time unless there was a commitment to actually build it — unlike the 1996 plan, which had no apparent use other than as a very large and clumsy paperweight.

He insisted that he will make sure the final plan is built — the first commitment any city official has made to this plan, including the people responsible for it. “There’s been enough talk,” he said. “No more words, it’s time for action.”

That attitude was also in evidence when representatives of the LAPD appeared to update the council on recent cycling cases, including the Hummer Incident, as well as the West L.A. case I wrote about recently — noting that no arrest has been made, but the matter has been referred to the City Attorney for possible charges.

When the respected Commander Greer — recently promoted to Assistant Commander of the Detective Bureau — mentioned that a report has been completed on the Hummer case, but not yet approved, Rosendahl said he wanted a copy prior to the next meeting, approved or not.

And in a huge win for cyclists, Cmmdr. Greer announced that all officers below the rank of Lieutenant will be required to complete a brief online course on riders’ rights and responsibilities, created by a group a bike officers. Rosendahl pushed them to take a step further, insisting that the department needs to create a bike training module for the police academy — something I’ve repeatedly called for on here.

Of course, it wasn’t all good news. The Commander noted that Lt. Andre Dawson, recently appointed by Chief Beck as the point man for cycling complaints, will no longer be involved in the process and asked that cyclists no longer contact him.

However, the committee saved the best for last.

The most important issue of the evening — and yes, by then it was evening — was the proposed anti-harassment ordinance.

After hearing from several cyclists, Koretz said he’d heard a few stories about the problems cyclists face on the roads, but had no idea it was so widespread. With that, he made a motion to forward the proposal on to the Public Safety Committee, which was quickly seconded by Rosendahl — meaning that it carried, since they were the only two members left at that point.

However, it was not quite the win that LAist suggested last night. What passed was merely a proposal requesting that the City Attorneys’ office write such an ordinance, similar to the one that recently became law in Columbia, Missouri. Mowery suggested that it cover such topics as hurling projectiles at cyclists, threats or verbal abuse, using a vehicle to intimidate cyclists, and passing too close to — or buzzing — cyclists.

Its small win, the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and complicated process.

But it’s a win.

And for once, I left with a smile on my face

And without a knot in my stomach.

LA Streetsblog has more on the meeting here; and you can listen to a recording of the meeting here.

……..

Will Campbell has a front road seat to a bike wreck. Paul Krekorian, author of the failed Safe Streets bill, is the city’s newest council member. Sharrows pop up in Glendale — legal ones, this time. Wilshire Boulevard is 75 years old; Flying Pigeon keeps up the fight to make Figueroa bike friendly. The Pigeons are also featured on the VOA’s Persian TV. Bikerowave claims success with their recent swamp meet. Photos of the CalTrain bike car. A Tucson mother fights for a memorial for her cycling son — and politely corrects thoughtless car-head commenters. Copenahgenize reminds us that us that New York’s recently removed bike lane results from a conflict between the Hasids and the Hotties; city hall isn’t denying a deal was made, while Bike Snob suggests maybe cyclists should act like grown-ups. New bike lanes in Philadelphia have resulted in a doubling of bike traffic; just imagine what they could do here. Bikes remain banned from a primary street in De Soto, Kansas; old car-head thinking from a town that shares its name with an old car. A biking Asheville lawyer argues for equilibrium on the roads. Trust the geniuses at MIT to create a combo bike rack/tire pump. A cycling schoolgirl plunges 90 feet into a Scottish gorge and lives to tell the tale. Finally, Brit cyclists are in a tizzy over the bike-hating Mail’s obviously staged photograph, standing in a bikeway to force a cyclist onto the wrong side, then taking — and publishing — a photo of it.

An open letter CD5 Council Member Koretz and the Transportation Committee

Council Member Paul Koretz
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 440
Los Angeles, California 90012

Dear Council Member Koretz,

During your race for the Los Angeles City Council, I submitted a series of questions about bicycling issues to your campaign; in your response, you voiced support for bicyclists and for improving bicycle infrastructure in Los Angeles, as well as the need to reform the law in order to better protect cyclists.

In light of this Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting focusing on bicycling issues, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of your support, and call your attention to a few of the items on the agenda:

1) Proposed bicycle anti-harassment ordinance

As you may be aware, cyclists throughout the U.S. face daily harassment simply for exercising their right to ride in a safe and legal manner. Virtually any experienced rider can tell you stories of being yelled at or honked at by motorists, passed in an unsafe manner, having things thrown at them or being forced off the roadway — or in extreme cases, intentionally struck by a motor vehicle.

A number of states, including Massachusetts, Louisiana and Colorado, have recently passed laws to address this problem, as have a handful of cities, including Austin, Texas and Columbia, Missouri. While a similar law should be passed on a statewide level, there is much the city can and should do to address this problem.

Article 1 of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights — which you endorsed — says cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear. Therefore, I strongly urge you to support the proposed anti-harassment ordinance, and encourage you to take an active interest in its drafting to ensure a law that is both effective and enforceable to protect the rights and safety of bicyclists.

2) Report from LAPD on bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists

Many local cyclists have long felt that we don’t receive adequate support from the LAPD. There have been numerous reports of police officers misinterpreting or misapplying existing laws, as well as reports of apparent bias in investigating incidents between bicyclists and motorists; Chief Beck has recently agreed to create a working group to look into these complaints.

Again, this problem is not limited to the City of Los Angeles. Municipalities throughout California and across the nation have struggled with the same problem, which appears to be a result of inadequate training rather than active discrimination against cyclists. In my experience, most officers want to do the right thing, but may lack the training in bicycle law and bike accident investigation necessary to evaluate the situation, interpret the evidence and make qualified decisions.

Fortunately, this is easily rectified. MassBike, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has developed a simple two-hour program intended to serve as a national template for training police officers in bike law, available as a free download or on CD for just $15; this program could be easily modified to reflect local and state regulations. The International Police Mountain Bike Association offers detailed articles on how to investigate accidents involving bicycles, also available as a free download.

Article 3 of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights says that cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement. I urge you to hold the LAPD to their commitment to report back to the Council, accurately and in detail, and encourage the department to improve training for both new and existing officers.

3) Support changes in state law to curtail hit-and-run drivers

Finally, I would like to bring up one item that isn’t on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, but perhaps should be.

This year alone, three local cyclists have been killed by hit-and-run drivers; in each instance, the driver was also suspected of driving under the influence. Just last week, two cyclists were critically injured in collisions in which the driver fled the scene.

As you pointed out in your responses, the problem is that penalties for hit-and-run under state law are far too low:

I also believe that penalties for hit-and-run drivers need to be substantially increased and enforced. It’s a serious crime and the penalties need to be much stiffer for offenders.  I strongly believe that our current system lets drunk drivers off the hook too easily.

Under existing law, it is actually to the driver’s benefit to flee the scene of an accident if he or she has been drinking, as the penalties for drunk driving far outweigh the penalties for hit-and-run. This has to change.

As a member of the City Council and a former member of the state legislature, I strongly encourage you to introduce a motion putting the Transportation Committee and the full L.A. City Council on record as supporting an increase in the mandatory penalties for hit and run, including automatic loss of license and/or forfeiture of the vehicle involved. In addition, I urge you to use your influence with the legislature to get such legislation passed into law.

This meeting is your opportunity put your words in support of cycling into action. And for you, and the other members of the Transportation Committee, to help make the streets of this city safer and fairer, not just for bicyclists, but for everyone who drives, walks or rides in Los Angeles.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
Bikinginla.com

An earthquake and an endorsement

Nothing like a little earthquake to get your attention.

Appropriately, it struck last night just as I was reading about the LADOT’s absolutely moronic and incredibly short-sighted plan to eliminate the entire bikeways department and cut all bicycle funding in Los Angeles.

450-Vahedi-StickerNo more endlessly delayed bicycle master plan. No more non-existent sharrows. No more attempting to put off the required environmental review for the Expo bikeway.

In other words, pretty much what they’re not doing right now, but without all the meaningless excuses.

But instead of cracking the whip and telling LADOT to get off their collective asses and do something — anything — to make cycling a legitimate part of the city’s transportation plan, the city may seriously consider just cutting their losses, and politely tell every cyclist in the city to just go screw themselves.

If you’re really surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.

Oh, and did I mention that there is a vital city council election for L.A.’s 5th Council District on Tuesday?

Are you starting to get why it matters?

As cyclists, we do seem to have friends on the council, as evidenced by the adoption of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. But it will take a lot more than just words to make this city safer for the most vulnerable road users.

It takes real resolve, support and action from our civic leaders. And as this proposal clearly shows, that seems to be sadly lacking these days.

And that is why it is so important to vote for David Vahedi tomorrow.

No offense to Paul Koretz. He has an impressive background in local and state government, and had some great responses to my recent questions about biking and transportation issues.

But David Vahedi clearly understands the importance of bicycling and the issues facing cyclists in this city.

As a lawyer, he fought to protect the rights of cyclists. And as a community activist and a member of his local homeowner’s association and co-founder of his neighborhood council — as well as a lifelong resident of the 5th District — he has worked to protect and improve the quality of life around here.

He has also proven to be exceptionally responsive — which is a breath of fresh air after 8 years of Jack Weiss.

When I first got involved in this race, I reached out to each of the six candidates in the primary election for their comments on biking and transportation issues. Much to my surprise, four of the candidates — Vahedi, Adeena Bleich, Robert Schwartz and Robyn Ritter Simon – responded; only two candidates — Paul Kortez and Ron Galperin — did not. (As the above link shows, Koretz did respond to the second set of questions I submitted for the general election, however.)

Only one of those candidates reached out to me, though.

Instead of just talking about the need for more bike lanes, Vahedi wanted to understand the issues from a rider’s perspective. So he picked up the phone and asked me. And then he did something so rare for a political candidate that I was actually stunned.

He listened. Then responded with more questions, until he truly understood what I was trying to say.

That was the first time I ever spoke with him. And the first time I seriously thought of him as someone who could make a real difference in Los Angeles.

Since then, we’ve spoken a number of times. Each time, he’s made it clear that cyclists will have a friend on the council and a genuine voice in city government if he is elected.

He’s also made it clear that he may not always agree with us. But he’s committed to always being open, honest and objective, and listening to whatever we have to say before making a decision. Then casting his vote based on what’s best for his district and for the city, rather than the special interests that currently run city hall.

And that’s all we can ask of any elected official.

I’m not the only one he’s impressed. Vahedi has been endorsed by The L.A. Times and the Daily News, as well as former Daily News editor Ran Kaye. And you can read more about both candidates in the L.A. Weekly and in this article from yesterday’s Times.

There will also be a bike ride tomorrow to help support David Vahedi in tomorrow’s election. You can see the details on Facebook, or just show up at Vehedi headquarters at 10 am on Tuesday, May 19 at 10714 Santa Monica Blvd, on the southeast corner Overland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

But whatever you do tomorrow, please — get out and vote.

L.A. Council District 5 — Paul Koretz

As I noted on here a few weeks ago, I was recently approached by representatives for both of the candidates in the race for L.A.’s 5th Council District. They each offered to have their respective candidates address bicycling and transportation issues here, so I sent each campaign a list of five questions. Former state Assembly Member and West Hollywood City Council Member Paul Koretz is the first to respond. I’ll repost this on the CD5/SD26 page above and keep it there through the election on May 19th, and will post David Vahedi’s responses as soon as I receive them.

Paul Koretz

pk-headshot-smallbicyclist was killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park recently, the latest in a string of hit-and run incidents. What can be done on the city level to reduce the rate of both drunk driving and hit-and-runs? And what can be done to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians?

First, we need to educate people about drinking in moderation by promoting alcohol abuse awareness programs and making the public more conscious of the serious consequences of drinking and driving.  Second, I think one of the largest contributing factors to drunk driving in Los Angeles is the lack of an accessible and effective regional public transportation system. We simply do not have a system in place for people to safely travel between local bars and restaurants and their home. Expanding our existing public transportation system would be the first big step. I also believe that penalties for hit-and-run drivers need to be substantially increased and enforced. It’s a serious crime and the penalties need to be much stiffer for offenders.  I strongly believe that our current system lets drunk drivers off the hook too easily.

I have met with neighborhood groups throughout the district who are deeply concerned with the recent increases in alcohol-related accidents that have caused serious bodily harm and in some cases, unfortunately, death. We need to increase traffic police activity near major intersections and thoroughfares throughout the district to deter speeders and red light runners. Cross walk sting operations (near Robertson and Pico) have been able to temporarily increase awareness among morning and evening commuters. In addition, we should also increase traffic lights and reflectors near intersections to alert drivers at crossing areas. Finally,  I am also in favor of increasing penalties for violations of these regulations.

One step we could take immediately to help make our streets safer would be to support Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian in helping pass AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. This important legislation would address the problem of rising speed limits in our neighborhoods and empower give local cities and neighborhoods to regulate their own speed limits, while still being able to enforce them.  The Safe Streets Bill will equip local governments with the tools to keep the speeds traveled on local roads at a rational level and make the streets in our community safer for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.  

The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Are you familiar with this document, and if so, do you support these rights as written? Are there any you disagree with, and why? And what would you consider the next steps to transform those rights from mere words into tangible action?  

I am well-versed with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and I support it.  It goes without saying that Cyclists should be entitled to the same protections under the law as everyone else. I believe the first step is to transform these rights into tangible action by increasing the role that cyclists play in urban and roadway planning. I strongly encourage input from the cycling community on how to improve our public transportation and specifically how we can increase access to and use of mass transit. We all need to work together to create conditions that will ensure safety for all parties – pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers.  

There is often a high level of tension between cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles as they compete for limited road space, as illustrated by last year’s incident in Mandeville Canyon. What can the city do to help reduce that tension, and encourage both sides to safely and courteously share the road?  

It’s not easy to get motorists in Los Angeles, who are so dependent on their cars, to realize that bicyclists have the same rights as someone in a car. That being said, I think the driver in the Mandeville Canyon incident went far beyond extreme – deadly. I am pleased that Councilmember Rosendahl (who has endorsed my campaign) agreed to introduce the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, which I whole-heartedly support and I think is a step in the right direction to addressing the tension.  

What role, if any, do you see bicycles playing in city transportation policy and improving traffic flow within the city?

When I was the Mayor of West Hollywood, I requested input from the bicycle community on how to implement bike lanes on part of Santa Monica Boulevard. I think Los Angeles needs to adopt a regional public transportation approach that not only addresses improving traffic flow, and mass transit, but also how we can improve options and the quality of life for bicyclists.

In general, we need to focus on the creation of an effective bicycle infrastructure. Los Angeles, with over 330 sunny days a year, should be the world leader in bicycle commuting. We need to start the work of building many more miles of safe bikeways and adequate secure parking for commuters. These two steps will be a good beginning in our efforts to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow.

Are there any other issues you want to address, or any additional comments you’d like to make to the bicycling community?

I am very proud to say that I rode a bicycle all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the AIDS Lifecycle. It was one of the most rewarding experiences because I got to see California from a unique perspective while supporting a great cause.

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