Tag Archive for police bias

A call for justice for Damien Kevit; Redwood City police blame 14-year old cyclist for her own death

The fight for justice continues in the case of Damian Kevitt.

As you may be aware, the cyclist lost a leg — as well as suffering a number of other horrific injuries — when he was dragged onto the 5 Freeway by a hit-and-run driver last month.

Tonight I received the following email attempting to mobilize the community to find the heartless bastard who did it.

And I use that term advisedly.

……..

COMMUNITY MOBILIZING TO FIND HIT & RUN ASSAILANT

WHAT:  Members of the media are invited to attend a public outreach event in the continuing search for the driver who hit cyclist Damian Kevitt last month.

Volunteers and community organizers will be distributing fliers to inform the public of the hit-and-run collision and the $25,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the assailant(s).

Damian was struck on Sunday February 17, 2013 at 11:30AM, the timing and distribution area correlate to the time and location of the hit-and-run one month ago.  There is a strong possibility the assailant was playing soccer at or near the field prior to the accident.

WHEN:
Sunday March 24, 2013
10:30AM Check-In
Public outreach from 10:45AM-12:00PM
 
WHERE:
John Ferraro Athletic Fields – Griffith Park
Meet at the Giant Soccer Ball adjacent to the soccer field parking lot
4701 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 91207

BACKGROUND: On Sunday February 17, 2013, Damian Kevitt was struck by a light colored minivan, possibly a gray Toyota Sienna which might have had a “for sale” sign posted in the rear window, on Zoo Drive near the Ferraro Soccer Complex and Dog Park.  The driver was possibly wearing a soccer jersey.

A $25,000 reward is being offered by the City of Los Angeles and the CHP to find the hit-and-run driver.  Anyone with information is asked to call CHP’s Altadena station at (626) 296-8100 or (323) 259-2010

Damian Kevitt was struck on on Feb. 17 around 11:35 a.m. when a minivan made a hard left, that struck and dragged him 600 feet down the Interstate 5 on-ramp until he fell from the vehicle.  The violent collision broke 20 bones and crushed his right leg.  Doctors had to amputate his right leg below the knee.  His left foot is missing tissue and skin and may also need to be amputated the road rash was so severe, it was down to the bone on Kevitt’s left elbow, and his buttocks will need skin grafts.

………

In a heartbreaking case, police blame a 14-year old Redwood City bike rider for her own death in a right-hook collision.

The official conclusion is that she undertook a truck that was signaling for a right turn, and got squeezed out when the road narrowed at a bulb-out. However, it’s far more likely that the truck overtook her, then cut her off by turning in front of her.

Unfortunately, the victim isn’t around to tell her own side of the story.

But a local rider does a pretty good job of telling it for her; link courtesy of LadyFluer.

But regardless of how it happened or who was at fault, there’s something terribly wrong with expecting a 14-year old to ride and react like an experienced cyclist just to stay alive on her way to school.

………

The family of fallen hit-and-run victim Benjamin Torres still hope for justice, six months after he was killed while riding to work. Boyonabike looks at Thursday’s LACBC-sponsored discussion on making bike-friendly places. An LMU student tells what it’s like to crash the LA Marathon with thousands of other riders. Will Campbell enjoys the irony of biking to the DMV. Pasadena City College installs a self-serve bike repair station; thanks to Megan Lynch for the heads-up. Streetsblog is throwing itself a 5th birthday party and Streetsie Award dinner on Saturday, April 27th.  C.I.C.L.E. hosts a Street Art Ride for the Pasadena Earth and Arts Festival on Saturday, April 20th. Ride with the mayor of increasingly bike-friendly Glendale on Saturday, April 6th. Santa Monica bike riders deliver Meals on Two Wheels. A Valencia woman faces up to four years for seriously injuring a bike rider in a hit-and-run. Long delayed Calabasas bike-centric farm-to-table restaurant Pedalers Fork is scheduled to open April 15th; let’s see, that’s only a 52 mile roundtrip ride from my place…

A look at San Diego bike paths. Residents are divided on a proposal to right-size a roadway in Riverside; that’s the new, more PC term for a road diet. Riverside’s mayor invites the public to join him on a bike ride today. A Hemet bike rider is airlifted to a trauma center following a collision. More — and more secure — bike racks coming soon to Bakersfield. In a bizarre case, a Fresno cyclist stabs two men after claiming another driver hit his bike when he stopped to help a stranded motorist. If you’re going to break the law by riding on the sidewalk in a city that bans it, leave the meth at home. A bike rider is hit and killed by a pickup in Clear Lake. Don’t plan on renting a bike in Yosemite anytime soon; not even for a guided fundraising ride to dismantle the park’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which never should have been built in the first place.

People for Bikes invites you to turn your bike into art. Those woodpecker-inspired cardboard bike helmets should be on the market this summer, while a new prototype headlight projects your current speed onto the roadway in front of you. Tell Bicycling about your favorite ride, and you could win a new bike valued at up to $4,999; my favorite ride is usually the one I’m on. Car commuters, even those who work out, put on more weigh than active commuters. How to ride to work and still wear a suit. Idaho bike club bands together to buy their own Watch for Bikes signs. How to build protected bike lanes even confident cyclists will use. A Minnesota city ends its experiment with advisory bike lanes, deciding a permanent bike lane is preferable. A New York bike rider breaks the rules of subway etiquette. New York bicyclists demand the NYPD get off its collective ass and hold killer drivers accountable; okay, some of that anger might actually be mine. Atlanta cyclists struggle to co-exist with motorists. Two Miami-area mayors ride to work for National Bike to Work Day, which doesn’t actually take place until May. Cycling Weekly gets the skinny on biking scion Taylor Phinney.

The long and ever-growing list of very high-end bikes from exclusive auto manufacturers. The difference between UK and US police is the Brits apologize after they hit you. British cyclists understandably take offense at being called Lycra-clad lemmings. A British pro soccer player credits his helmet with saving his life when a driver swerves into his bike. Road rage strikes even in the middle of a bike race, as a team car not-so-gently nudges a motorcycle out of the way. The Cannibal, AKA legendary cycling great Eddy Merckx, should be back on his bike in a couple weeks after getting a pacemaker. Spanish bicyclists seek asylum at European embassies to protest anti-bike legislation. Here’s your chance to help buy bikes for orphans in Kenya. The first African pro team to compete in a spring classic surprisingly wins the first time out. Tanzanian cyclists ride to support victims of sickle cell disease. New Zealand rider Jack Bauer — no, not the fictional terrorist fighter — suffers a nasty concussion in a racing crash. Safety issues discourage Aussie women from riding. Taiwan needs to lower its speed limits to become a bicycling island. A Thai bike rider’s body is scattered like roadkill in a horrific multiple hit-and-run; seriously, unless you have a strong stomach, you may not want to read that one.

Finally, an amputee makes his own prosthetic finger out of spare bicycle parts. Patrick at Red Kite Prayer continues to remind us that there are things far more important than riding a bike, as heretical as that may seem sometimes. Latest word is the surgery went well, but prayers and good thoughts, whatever you’re comfortable with, are still needed.

And ending on a more upbeat note, UK band British Sea Power becomes the latest group to offer a bike-centric music video. I say it has a nice beat and it’s easy to ride to.

Update: Courtesy of Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious, here’s a story I missed last night, as a very pregnant Seattle woman gets out of a car, pulls a stun gun out of her bra and shoots a bike messenger in the face twice. The male driver of the car also got out and swung a second stun gun at the messenger, both apparently in retaliation for the messenger kicking the car’s wheel well in a crosswalk dispute.

Update: Bike rider illegally ticketed by pissed-off cop for non-infractions on Venice bike path

Give Yo! Venice! credit for reporting this one.

The popular website broke the news yesterday that a bike rider on the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path was ticketed by a cop for a made-up violation — simply because he pointed out the LAPD officer’s motorcycle was blocking the pathway last Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the site — and backed up by a helmet cam video of the interaction — Venice resident Chris J. was slowly riding north on the pathway when he encountered the officer blocking the entire southbound section of the bikeway, at the same time a girl on a tricycle was blocking the north side of the path.

So after going around, he — politely, evidently — informed the officer his motorcycle was blocking the path, to which the officer responded “I can give you a ticket for that.”

Next thing he knew, the cop was following behind his slow moving beach cruiser with lights flashing.

And that’s when it gets interesting.

The cyclist turned on his helmet cam and recorded the officer fumbling for something, anything, he could ticket him for. And admitting on camera that the only reason he was writing up the rider was because he had argued with him.

Politely asking a cop not to block the bikeway may not be smart, but it sure as hell isn’t arguing.

Kind of violates the meaning of “To Protect and Serve,” doesn’t it?

First the officer threatens to write up the cyclist for riding on the wrong side of the bike path. Which, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t illegal; if the same traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles also apply to an off-road, Class I bikeway — a multi-use pathway in places — this is the first I’ve heard of it.

If so, the department could make up the state’s entire budget deficit just by writing tickets on the bike path. Starting with pedestrians walking on the bike-only sections, since people generally aren’t allowed to walk in the street, either.

Of course, it would also require cyclists to signal their lane change every time they pass someone. Along with a host of equally absurd requirements never before enforced on this bike path, or any other that I’m aware of.

So Chris argues that there’s a dotted yellow line dividing the two sides of the path in that section, rather than a solid yellow line, legally allowing him to cross over it in order to pass someone.

When the officer can’t argue that point, the cop switches gears. And instead, writes a ticket for violating the state’s Basic Speed Law, for — wait for it — riding 5 mph in a 10 mph zone.

Never mind the fact that the officer appears to have made up the 10 mph speed limit, which is not posted anywhere along the bikeway. Or anywhere else that I can find, for that matter.

Instead, let’s consider that the Basic Speed Law, CVC 22350, refers only to a speed greater than is reasonable under the circumstances. It says absolutely nothing about going too slowly.

Basic Speed Law

22350.  No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

And to the best of my knowledge, a bike path is not a highway.

But I could be wrong about that; I’ll let you know if I see a semi-truck and a few speeding SUVs rolling down it when I’m out that way this afternoon.

Maybe the officer meant to write a ticket for CVC 22400, the Minimum Speed Law. Except that pertains only to highways, as well.

Not bike paths.

And part of which only applies to vehicles subject to registration.

In other words, not bikes.

Of course, had the officer written a ticket for that, he likely would have been laughed out of court when the case comes up before a judge on Friday. As he should be for attempting to make up traffic laws on the spot in order to cite a bike rider simply because the rider pissed him off.

Which is not exactly what we should expect from a trained officer sworn to uphold the law, who should have known better.

Or at least, known enough not to admit it on camera.

And I should also point out that it’s not against the law to argue with a cop. Although it’s seldom a good idea.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, take the ticket. Then take it up with the officer’s superiors, or fight it in court.

I’ve reached out to the LAPD’s bike liaisons for the West Traffic Division to see what they have to say on the subject. So far, I haven’t gotten a response; I’ll let you know if I do.

Update: According to KNBC-4, Detective Gus Villanueva of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section says the ticket was canceled “in the interest of justice,” and that the department was conducting an investigation into the officer involved.

Yo! Venice!, which has done a great job keeping on top of this story, reports that the officer involved works out of the West Traffic Division; still no response from the bike liaison from that Division. 

The Biking Black Hole can’t get it right; no justice in Texas, and road rage is all the rage these days

A little news and a whole lot of links to wrap up the week.

………

Police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills offer safety tips for cyclists, but can’t manage to get it quite right.

Bike riders are required to ride as close to the right as practicable, not as far right as possible, as they state. There’s a big difference, which any police officer should understand.

And which is scary as hell when they don’t.

Riding as far to the right as possible puts riders in the gutter and door zones, and gives police an excuse to ticket anyone with the audacity to take the lane. Riding as far right as practicable keeps cyclists out of the way of swinging doors and broken glass, and allows them to legally ride in the center of non-sharable lanes.

Which is basically the difference between being bike friendly and observing the law, and making sure riders know they aren’t welcome in your city.

Meanwhile, the city considers adding an handful of bike racks, but banning locking bikes to virtually anything else.

In other words, once again appearing to support cycling while actively discouraging it.

………

Amazingly, the Texas driver who ran down tandem cyclists Greg and Alexanda Bruehler in 2009 — resulting in the single saddest photo I’ve ever seen — has been acquitted in their deaths.

Clearly, there is no justice for cyclists in the state of Texas.

The driver was doing 79 in a 65 mph zone when he failed to see the riders wearing hi-viz vests, and drifted off the roadway onto the shoulder where they were riding. The defense won the case by arguing that anyone could have could have made the same mistake.

The scary thing is, they’re right.

Even scarier is no one really seems to care. Not even a jury.

………

There’s been a horrifying number of road rage and traffic violence stories in the news the past few days.

For instance, a Massachusetts driver punches a cyclist in the face after the rider’s bike falls over and scratches his car. Local police don’t get it when a Mass cyclist is deliberately doored. A Pittsburgh cyclist is chased up a flight of stairs, stabbed and cut from ear to ear in a brutal road rage assault. A Texas mixed martial arts fighter has been charged with the shooting death of a cyclist after they apparently argued last year; even in Texas, shooting someone because you feel disrespected is a rather extreme response. A former Florida police officer threatens two cyclists with a knife when one flips him off after he threw something at the riders. A Hamilton Ontario cyclist is beaten by a pickup driver after being yelled at, then grazed by the truck’s mirror. A road-raging Toronto cab driver faces up to five years in prison for backing into a cyclist following a dispute, causing the rider to lose a leg. A UK car passenger is sentenced to three years for jumping out of the car and beating a cyclist to a bloody pulp.

Proving it’s not just drivers, police find their suspect in a methadone clinic after a drunken Colorado cyclist pulls a knife on a driver. A Massachusetts cyclist bends a car’s antenna after an argument with a driver. A New York mob trashes a car after a collision with a cyclist during the Fashion’s Night Out celebration. A 16-year old cyclist breaks into a couple’s home after an argument over an open car door. And closer to home, the OC Weekly’s food writer gets into a little bike on bike action; thanks to David Bain for the heads-up.

So let me offer a little advice.

Having been the victim of a road rage assault, I would much rather get off my bike and let the jackass pass than have an angry, potentially violent, driver behind me.

And no matter how much you think the other party deserves it, violence is never justified — it’s far more likely to jeopardize your own life and freedom than teach the other person a damn thing.

One more bit of hard-earned advice.

Never flip off the driver behind you.

Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way that cars are bigger than me, and they hurt.

………

Some idiot jackass stole the bike Jerico Culata was riding as he lay dying on last week’s Critical Mass ride; there’s not a pit in hell deep enough for someone like that. Formerly bike-unfriendly Malibu has come a long way, now launching an interactive website to explore improving safety on PCH — for bicyclists and everyone else. The city will also be conducting public hearings on the subject the next four Thursdays. Rapper The Game comes to the rescue of a cyclist who was unresponsive after a crash with his bike on top of him — the cyclist, not The Game — no word on how the rider got that way. LADOT introduces new street signs for Bike Friendly Streets. A Sierra Madre driver sees a girl riding her bike, but steps on the gas instead of the brakes; local police say “oops.”

Bike Lawyer Bob Mionske looks at California’s recently passed three-foot passing law and CEQA exemption for bike lanes. San Clemente gets over $1 million in grants for bike and pedestrian projects. NPR looks at charges that Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital sent jobs from Santa Ana-based GT Bicycles overseas; seems like there’s some truth on both sides. San Diego plans to encourage cycling in the “fun” communities. A San Diego cyclist suffers major leg injuries in a crash with a delivery truck. A North San Diego County writer asks who owns the roads, and correctly concludes we all do. An 18-year old salmon cyclist is seriously injured in a Temecula left cross collision. A bike rider in Perris suffers major injuries in a collision with a minivan on a street that somehow seems to simultaneously run both south and west. Rancho Mirage tells cyclists to walk their bikes on the sidewalk across a bridge — even though it has a bike lane. Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious is run off the bike path by an overly aggressive rider. A Modesto cyclist is killed after both he and the driver who hit him run a four-way stop; guess which one will probably get the blame? San Francisco cyclists will get their own lane on The Embarcadero during next month’s America’s Cup races.

People for Bikes looks at biking to school. A cyclist watches an idiot bike rider from his position behind the wheel; thanks to Jerry Oser for the heads-up. Barbie rides a bike. New foldable bike helmet fits odd shaped heads. Suffering the emotional scars of urban cycling. A Portland man moves forward with a statewide initiative requiring bike license plates and licenses for bike riders. An Albuquerque court imposes the maximum sentence on a drugged driver who killed the bike riding manager of the local REI. The 13-year old Milwaukee girl who laughed about it after killing a cyclist while street racing in a stolen car has been ordered into mental health treatment; well no shit. Ohio suffers three cycling fatalities in one week. An Atlantic City cyclist is killed when he’s caught in the crossfire in a gunfight. An Alabama driver won’t be cited after colliding with a cyclist who was riding on the sidewalks illegally. Long Beach’s bicycling expats, now Portland residents, visit our buddy Zeke in North Carolina. A Florida driver with drugs in her system receives the maximum sentence for killing a cyclist — a six-month suspension of her drivers license; no wonder the Sunshine State leads the nation in bike and pedestrian deaths.

A Toronto writer is taken down by streetcar tracks while trying to maneuver around a truck blocking the right lane. A London magazine editor apologizes after writing that “the only good cyclist is a dead cyclist,” noting that he was merely being ironic with his heartfelt wishes that you and I would just die and get it over with. London considers, probably not seriously, a multi-million-pound network of elevated bikeways. UK driving instructors want bicycle awareness to be part of the driving test. Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi wins gold in the Paralympic handcycle time trial 11 years after losing his legs in a horrific crash. Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree cancels his attempt at a record setting 100 mph bike ride, saying his ride isn’t ready yet. An 11-year old French boy finds a brake lever imbedded in his thigh months after a bike crash; even my stomach turned a little writing that one. One of the better Vueltas in years is slowly coming to a conclusion, as Contador holds a seemingly comfortable lead after bouncing back from a drug scandal that stripped him of his 2010 Tour de France victory; maybe current and former dopers should form their own bike racing league so they can take whatever the hell they want and not have to worry about getting caught.

Finally, a UK cyclist apparently accomplishes the rather remarkable feat of rounding a corner on the sidewalk at 20 mph; even more remarkable is the arthritic pensioner who claims he managed to stop the speeding rider merely by putting his arms out.

Superman ain’t got nothing on him.

Blaming the victim: Beverly Hills police blame sidewalk riding cyclist over dangerous driver

Last week, I received the following email from cyclist and budding brewmeister Todd Mumford.

As you may recall, Todd recently described a collision that left him with minor — though painful — injuries and a badly mangled bike. Now his neighbor has been the victim of a law-breaking driver.

And, apparently, the Beverly Hills police.

Todd notes that the story is second hand, but he has no reason to question his neighbor’s version of events.

He was headed east on Olympic Blvd. At some point he was riding in the street, but jumped on to the sidewalk (there was a car blocking his path or something like that).

He was on the sidewalk when he entered the crosswalk at Olympic/Doheny on a green light with the pedestrian walk sign. According to my neighbor, he checked the road and all was clear as he entered. However, as soon as he got into the crosswalk, he looked left just in time to see an SUV make a right turn from the middle lane at the last second, hitting my neighbor and sending him to the ground; he took the brunt of the impact with his shoulder.

The driver stopped and checked on my neighbor. My neighbor said two or three drivers that witnessed the accident also stopped, and started berating the driver that hit him for driving like a maniac. According to them, the driver of the SUV was speeding down Olympic, weaving in and out of traffic and finally made an illegal right turn from the middle lane before striking my neighbor.

The paramedics arrived as did the police. My neighbor got checked out and nothing appeared broken, but his shoulder was in a lot of pain (it has since become worse and he is going to get it checked to see whether he needs surgery). The police took the statements of the witnesses, the driver and my neighbor.   Their conclusion at the end of the police report was that my neighbor was entirely at fault because he was riding on the sidewalk. (My neighbor also said the police treated him like he did something wrong the entire time.)

Now, as I explained to him, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills. If he was just a little farther down Olympic he would have been in Los Angeles and it would not have been an issue. What I am wondering is if the police came to their conclusion because the law states it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk or they think he’s at fault because the driver couldn’t see him because he was riding on the sidewalk.

All of which begs the question, what would the police have concluded had the SUV hit a pedestrian who was walking down the sidewalk had just entered the crosswalk and got hit?

If the police assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor because he broke the law by riding on the sidewalk, they are absolutely in the wrong. There is a legal concept in torts called negligence per se  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence_per_se), which, although not applicable here, feels like the police may be following the same concept. “You broke a law, you got hit, your fault.”  I have not seen the police report, but if they assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor, I would assume the driver was not cited for anything.

My neighbor said he has since retained an attorney and the driver’s insurance company assigned 80% of the fault to the driver and 20% to him, which is a small victory.

(As a side note, when I was dealing with the adjustor for the insurance company of the driver that hit me, they asked if I was riding on the sidewalk when I was hit.)

This story raises a number of issues.

Not the least of which is the problem of sidewalk riding, which is legal in some California cities and banned in others. And even legal in some areas of cities that ban it in others, such as Beverly Hills, which bans sidewalk riding only in business districts — even though BHPD bike officers routinely ride on the gilded sidewalks of the city’s Golden Triangle, including Rodeo Drive.

This patchwork of laws makes it virtually impossible for cyclists to comply with the law, as they may have no way of knowing if it is legal or illegal as they pass through the many various communities of the county.

In effect, it’s no different from the speed traps that plagued the state in the ’40s and ’50s. By refusing to post regulations on the street where cyclists who don’t live in the city can see them, jurisdictions that ban sidewalk riding virtually ensure that riders who take to the sidewalk for whatever reason will break the law at some point and be subject to ticketing.

Or worse, as this case points out.

Of course, the one solution is for all cyclists to always ride in the street. But simple common sense says that will never happen, as some riders will always feel more comfortable on the sidewalk, while others will jump on and off as needed to avoid road hazards and dangerous streets.

A better answer is to establish a uniform standard from city to city so it’s actually possible for riders to know and observe the law, wherever they ride.

Then there’s the problem of police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills ignoring witness statements that the driver broke the law by making a right turn from the wrong lane. And deciding that the relatively minor violation of riding on the sidewalk completely outweighs a reckless driver in a dangerous vehicle putting others at risk by committing a major moving violation.

Despite the driver’s potential to cause harm, they insisted on blaming the victim. Instead of holding people operating vehicles that are capable of killing their fellow road users accountable for operating them in a safe and legal manner, they heaped all the blame on the bike rider, who posed a danger no one but himself.

All of which begs the question, what the f*** is wrong with Beverly Hills??????

Maybe you can ask them yourself.

The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, March 6th, at 1:30 pm. Bikes are on the agenda — a discussion of the city’s first planned bikeways, making them only 40 years or so behind the rest of the world.

But maybe we can use the opportunity to ask why they seem intent on remaining the most bike-unfriendly city on the Westside.

Torrance police spokesman responds about statement blaming cyclists

It seemed black and white.

A cyclist is critically injured in a collision with an underage drunk drunk driver. And the very next day, a story appears in the local paper clearly suggesting that the cyclist could have been at fault.

He added that it’s not clear if the driver swerved or what led to the accident.

“It’s kind of a residential street, so we’re not sure if the bicyclists were staying on their side of the road or taking up more of the road,” Chase said.

I responded to it almost immediately, as did thousands of other cyclists.

After all, it fit with the long-standing pattern of police bias against cyclists that we’ve been battling for decades.

But over the past few days, as the story unfolded, it became clear that there was more to the story. Riders who were on the scene reported that the police conducted a fair and complete investigation, while others stressed that the officer who made the statement was not involved in the case.

Lately, though, I’ve been receiving messages suggesting that the officer had been misquoted, and that as a cyclist himself, would never have made such a statement.

I usually take such things with a grain — if not a 10 pound bag — of salt. After all, blaming the press is usually the first response when it all hits the fan.

It’s clearly nothing new. Way back in the last century that Groucho Marx once quipped “Quote me as saying I was misquoted.”

And it wouldn’t be the first time someone claiming to be a cyclist attacked other riders.

This time, though, there may be some truth to it.

A reader named JA reached out to the officer in question, Lt. Devin Chase, and received the following response:

I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.  I am a bicyclist who rides at least two to three times per week, so I share your concerns and believe me as a bicyclist I do not have any anti-cyclist bias.

I am not sure if you have ever been interviewed by the media, but they never quote you fully and often don’t quote you completely accurately.  Unfortunately the ten minute conversation that I had with the Daily Breeze reporter was reduced to the short statement in the article; which was not quoted in context, nor did it clearly indicate that we were only interested in gathering all the available facts in this case.

My actual statement was that the Torrance Police Department was conducting a major investigation into this accident and our major accident investigators had been called out and that they would be looking at all aspects of the collision in order to determine exactly what occurred.

I then gave an example of one aspect that would be looked at, which was where in the roadway was the driver and where in the roadway were the bicyclists prior to the collision. The importance of this level of investigation is that the point of rest for the vehicle and the bicyclist was against the west curb with the vehicle facing west, possibly indicating the vehicle was taking evasive action from their side of the roadway and away from the bicyclists.  To a non-trained investigator or to a citizen this might lead one to believe that based solely on those facts the bicyclist was riding on the wrong side of the street at the time of the collision; however our trained accident investigators will be able to reconstruct what occurred prior to the point of rest.

I felt this was important to point out to the reporter because if a picture of the accident scene were published it would portray the above information; which would look bad for the bicyclist.  This was all shared with the reporter, it just wasn’t printed.

I want to assure you that the Torrance Police Department conducts very thorough, bias-free investigations of all aspects of a significant incident like this and this case is no different.

Lieutenant Devin Chase
Watch Commander – Torrance Police Department

If we take Lt. Chase at his word — and frankly, I see no reason not to, having been in the same situation myself — he is guilty, at most, of talking a little too freely to a reporter, without consider the damage his words could do if taken out of context.

As I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s not easy talking to a reporter. You have to respond to questions off the top of your head, with no time to edit your response. I’ve often found myself walking away hoping they don’t use a well-intended comment that would sound entirely wrong out of context.

Even when you have time to carefully craft your words, you have no control over how they’re eventually used, as Bike Snob lately learned.

So maybe he’s right.

Maybe the press is to blame this time. Maybe the reporter got careless in trying to meet a deadline, and didn’t consider how that quote would be read. Maybe, as some have suggested, it’s the paper itself that is biased against cyclists.

Or maybe, in retrospect, the local police are just trying to scrape the shit back off the fan.

Personally, I’m inclined to give Lt. Devin the benefit of the doubt. And to take a little more time to calm down before I write in response to something I’ve read.

I’d also say I’d make more of an effort to reach out to the police for clarification before I write something. But I’ve found that, with the notable exception of the LAPD, my emails to the CHP, L.A. Sheriff’s Department and various local police departments have been almost universally ignored.

But I suppose past results are no indication of future performance, as they say on the investment ads.

And let’s give credit to the Torrance department for being the exception, as they have clearly shown in responding to cyclist complaints this week.

But maybe this is an opportunity.

Maybe the Torrance police and South Bay cyclists should take the anger this story has aroused, and use it as an opportunity start a real, ongoing dialogue like LAPD Chief Beck and Sgt. Krumer have done with the Bike Task Force.

Because it sounds like they may have a lot to talk about.

Torrance cyclist critically injured; police appear to bend over backwards to blame the victim

Excuse me a moment, because I’m livid.

Yesterday, a 19-year old alleged drunk driver collided with a group of cyclists in Torrance, critically injuring one rider and leaving another with a broken hand.

In fact, reports indicate that the car was full of intoxicated young women, on the road at 7:15 am(!). Yet according to the Daily Breeze, a spokesperson for the Torrance police still tried to blame the cyclists for the collision.

“It’s kind of a residential street, so we’re not sure if the bicyclists were staying on their side of the road or taking up more of the road,” Chase said.

That, even though his aspersions are clearly contradicted by witnesses at the scene.

According to a second-hand witness statement posted on Road Bike Review, Adam Rybicki was riding with a group of 10 – 12 cyclists returning from a ride through Palos Verdes when they encountered a swerving car on the 600 block of Camino de Encanto.

When the car veered onto the wrong side of the road, Rybicki swerved left to avoid it. However, the car then swerved back to the right, narrowly missing the lead riders and hitting him head on, as well as hitting and injuring a second rider. The writer says it was only divine intervention that spared the rest of the group — and describes the driver as emotionless when she was cuffed at the scene.

Jim Lyle, who came on the scene moments later, described Rybicki’s carbon fiber bike as “exploded,” and said there was significant damage to the driver’s car.

I’ll spare you the description of his injuries; you can read it on Road Bike Review comment if you want. But trust me, it’s not pretty, and sounds like your prayers and/or best wishes would be in order.

Then again, judging by the report in the Daily Breeze, it also sounds like cyclists may need a little divine intervention in dealing with the local police, as well.

Here you have a case where witnesses clearly describe a car swerving onto the wrong side of the road, scattering a group of riders in a desperate attempt to save their own lives. Then the driver swerves back and hits two riders who were only on the wrong side of the road because they were trying to avoid her.

And by all accounts, the driver was clearly drunk — verified by the fact that the police immediately took her into custody for felony DUI, holding her on $100,000 bond.

Yet a spokesperson for the Torrance police still suggests that the riders may have been at fault. So just what part of drunk driving don’t they understand?

And let’s not forget that the driver was underage.

Here they had a perfect opportunity to comment on the obvious and well-documented dangers of driving under the influence — at seven in the morning, no less. And use this woman’s story as a cautionary tale to help keep other young people off the road after drinking.

Instead, all they seem to manage is to suggest that, despite all available evidence, maybe she wasn’t entirely at fault.

Excuse my language, please.

But just what the fuck is wrong with them?

My prayers go out to Adam Rybicki and his family and loved ones; best wishes for a full and complete recovery.

Update: It appears the initial comments by the Torrance Police spokesperson were wrong. All reports I’ve received from people on the scene of Sunday’s collision indicate the Torrance police conducted a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation, and that the officer whose comments suggested police were blaming the cyclists was not involved in the investigation and had no direct knowledge of the case.

A NorCal cyclist dies, and CHP blames the victim

Unbelievably — or all too believably — the CHP has concluded that the death of a Los Altos Hills cyclist last month was her own fault.

This despite the fact that the driver of the truck that killed her has been involved in two previous fatal collisions. And officially exonerated in all three.

Maybe he’s just unlucky.

Or maybe those he shares the road with are.

According to the official version, the driver, Gabriel Manzur Vera, was travelling in the right lane and signaling his move into a right turn lane when Lauren Ward attempted to pass on her bike to his left. The report says Ward attempted to make an unsafe turn — where she was turning or why is unexplained — and fell to her right, where she was run over by Vera’s massive 26-wheel truck.

The report does note the lack of witnesses, as well as the possibility that there may or may not have been another vehicle involved in some unexplained way.

In other words, they really have no idea what the hell happened. But the CHP is still jumping through hoops to blame the victim, rather than a driver whose record would suggest that he’s either one of the unluckiest truckers on the road, or doesn’t belong on it.

To be fair, it is possible that the official report could be correct.

Ward may have swerved to avoid a pothole or glass, and lost control of her bike. She may have been buzzed by a passing car and fallen as a result.

But just as likely is the possibility that the actions of a careless, inattentive or overly aggressive driver caused her death in some way. Maybe he bumped her as he swung to the left to make his turn, or came close enough that she made a panic turn in an attempt to avoid him.

Maybe she wasn’t even passing the truck. It’s entirely possible that the driver was upset at being stuck behind a bike and made an unsafe move to pass her on the right, possibly bumping her with his mirror as he went by.

We’ll probably never know.

What we do know is that the CHP has already demonstrated a clear bias against cyclists, concluding that cyclists are at fault in 60% of all bike-involved collisions — despite numerous studies from other areas showing just the opposite. Or are California cyclists just that much more dangerous than riders in the rest of the world?

As Bob Mionske notes, police bias against cyclists is not unusual — whether out of animosity, a lack of understanding how bicycles operate in collisions or just poor training.

But as this case clearly illustrates, if you’re involved in a collision on a state highway, chances are, the investigating officers are likely to conclude that you’re at fault.

And cyclists will never be safe on California roads until that changes.

.………

Yesterday I heard from an attorney who’s representing a cyclist injured when she ran into sand on the Marvin Braude bike path in Venice in October 2009. He’s looking for anyone who might have suffered a similar accident and filed a claim as a result. If that happened to you or someone you know, email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com and I’ll forward it to him.

.………

Bob Mionske digs into his archives to examine the question of whether cyclists can ride in a crosswalk; California’s state legislature recently tried to clarify that matter, only to create more conflict due to poor wording.

The law now says cyclists are allowed to ride “along” any crosswalk — but does that mean we can ride on it or next to it? After all, when you walk along a path you’re walking on it, but when you walk along a river, you don’t walk in it.

Last I heard, the LAPD was looking for clarification from the Attorney General’s office before deciding how to enforce the law.

.………

Writing for Grist, Elly Blue jumps into the great helmet debate, concluding that the argument over whether or not to wear a helmet is the wrong question. Meanwhile, Traffic’s Tom Vanderbilt provides a forum for Dr. Ian Walker — famed for a study showing motorists drive closer to riders wearing helmets — who says:

This leads me straight onto the big issue: I do not know whether or not bicycle helmets save lives. And, critically, nor does anybody else.

Interestingly, Walker concludes exactly as Blue does, that the emphasis should be on making our streets safer, rather than insisting on body armor for riders. And Bicycling’s Fit Chick relates a story of her husband’s injury to argue why you should wear a helmet all the time.

The funny thing with helmets is, you don’t need one until the one time you do. Personally, I always wear a helmet for the same reason I always carry a patch kit in addition to a spare tube; chances are I’ll never need it, but I’d rather have one than wish afterwards that I did.

.………

Bike Revolution works with Kryptonite to bring their free international bike registration program to the U.S.; I’ll put my Pulse ID tags (note — the registration is free, the tags aren’t) on as soon as I figure out where I packed them.

.………

Ten reasons to attend the LACBC fundraiser at the Library Alehouse on Tuesday, the 28th. Flying Pigeon explains how to track stand. Hats off to the Burbank city employees who donated their time to help repair bikes to give to needy families. A private bike rental company asks for free space on the Hermosa Beach pier, after gaining a similar concession from Manhattan Beach. Rain cuts the turnout at last weekend’s Hunger Ride in Orange County to benefit the Second Harvest canned food drive; there’s still time to make a donation to a very worthy cause. Speaking of worthy causes, friends are attempting to raise $10,000 to pay an air ambulance flight to take a critically injured cyclist back home to Denver; you can donate here.

Send an e-carol and Schwinn will donate bikes and helmets to children across the U.S. In case you missed it before, Bicycling has a great story about a 501 pound man who saved his own life by taking up the bike — even if it did require a custom-made bike to support his weight. Urban cycling needs to attract more women and people of color in order to grow. Tour de Fat raised over $3.3 million for non-profit organizations. Portland holds a vigil for a cyclist killed by a drunk driver last Wednesday. A key Portland bridge is closing for two years, so the state DOT makes special accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists. A biking flautist names her new band Bike Lane. In an incredibly biased story, the New York Post blames 2-wheel heels for a 16% increase in vehicle/bike collisions; yeah, it couldn’t possible have to do with more cyclists on the streets or drivers unwilling or unable to share the road with them.

A look at pro cycling’s all-time ugliest jerseys; trust me, I’ve seen worse. Two-thirds of all UK bike thefts occur at home. A left cross (our right) collision from a rider’s perspective. It looks like Britain’s acclaimed Bikeability bike safety training program may survive, despite budget cutbacks. After a cyclist hits the side of a red-light running car, the road raging driver and his passengers attack the rider, as well as a bus carrying a witness. A former Argentine national champion takes his own life following a kidnapping. Good advice on how to ride in winter weather; a lot of these tips will work on L.A.’s soggy streets.

Finally, after a friend of her sons was killed as they were riding together, a mother urges motorists to drive safely.

Congratulations to recent guest writer Zeke and his wife for their 28th anniversary.

The Verdict 2 — Fighting Anti-Bike Bias in Baltimore

FADE IN: ESTABLISHING SHOT OF EXT. BUSY URBAN COURTHOUSE

CUT TO INTERIOR OF COURTROOM

A lawyer rises and addresses the court

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

We call BikingInLA as an expert witness.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Objection! What makes him an expert on cycling?

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

He’s been riding in Los Angeles traffic for nearly 20 years.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY

So?

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

He’s still in one piece.

JUDGE

Works for me.

A strikingly handsome man rises from the gallery, immaculate in his finely tailored three-piece suit. He then steps aside to make way for a man in well-worn spandex biking clothes, helmet tucked under his arm, his cleats clacking loudly on the marble floor. He takes a seat in witness stand.

The bailiff offers him a bible; he waves it off and pulls out a biography of Eddie Merckx, placing his hand on it.

BAILIFF

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you…Eddie?

BIKINGINLA

I do.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

I’d like to direct your attention to the case of John “Jack” Yates, a Baltimore cyclist who died recently in a collision with a tanker truck. I understand you’ve made some observations on the case…

BIKINGINLA

I have.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Objection! What does this have to do with bicycling in Los Angeles?

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

Your honor, if you’ll grant me some leeway, the connection should become clear.

JUDGE

Overruled. But make it quick.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

Continue.

BIKINGINLA

As you may be aware, Jack Yates was riding his bike on a city street just before noon when a tanker truck made a right turn in front of him; according to police, Yates collided with the rear of the truck, became entangled in the truck’s wheels and was killed. The driver left the scene, apparently unaware of the collision. The police obtained security camera footage of the collision, and determined that Yates was at fault. And society lost a respected cyclist and a man who had dedicated his life to knowledge and helping others.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

And you have reason to believe the police report is not accurate?

BIKINGINLA

I do. Let’s start with the fact that the lawyer retained by the victim’s family viewed the same video footage and said that the driver failed to signal. Independent witnesses also reported that the driver didn’t make sure the intersection was clear before turning into the cyclist’s path.

Now let’s consider how the accident occurred. According to the police, Yates struck the rear of the truck. However, the family’s lawyer said: “He did not crash into the rear [of the truck]. He was literally taken under the passenger-side rear wheel.” Now, that suggests that the rider struck the right side of the truck and fell under its wheels. So unless Yates felt a sudden suicidal urge and deliberately broadsided a turning truck, the only way that could happen is if the truck had turned into the path of the rider — what’s known as a right cross collision, and one that is almost impossible for a cyclist to avoid.

There are virtually no circumstances in which the driver shouldn’t be at fault in a right cross, just as a driver in the left lane who turned across the path of a driver in the right lane would be at fault. However, police often blame the cyclist for failing to stop or riding in an unsafe manner — a clear indication that they fail to understand the basic physics of bicycling.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

Yet the police determined the driver wasn’t at fault…

BIKINGINLA

There is speculation that the police believe Yates was riding too close to the curb, and therefore couldn’t be seen by the driver as he passed. By this theory, he should have taken the lane, which presumably would have put him in the driver’s field of view.

There are a few problems with that, though. First of all, the driver should have seen Yates regardless of where he was on the road. A truck cab sits high above the road, offering the driver a superior view of anything in front of him. Whether Yates was in the lane or hugging the curb, the driver should have seen him as he passed — especially in broad daylight.

Secondly, for Yates to be at fault, he would have been riding at an extreme speed — which no one has suggested, and which is unlikely for a 67-year old cyclist — or been unaware of the truck before running into it. But any experienced cyclist can tell you that if a truck that size is in front, behind or beside you, you know it.

Just as I did last week when I got buzzed by a garbage truck.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

And when you sense a large truck approaching like that…

BIKINGINLA

Typically, a cyclist would respond by moving to the right to give the truck as much room as possible — which would explain his presence next to the curb, rather than further out into the lane.

As Bob Mionske pointed out the other day, cyclists are require to ride as close to the right as practical if they are traveling below the speed of traffic. And it is up to the cyclist to determine exactly what that means, and where and how to safely position themselves on the road.

Yet because Yates isn’t around to defend his actions, the police can say he was in the wrong place without fear of contradiction.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

Is there anything else about this incident that doesn’t seem right to you?

BIKINGINLA

Yes. The police have stated that the driver may not have known that he struck anyone, but I find it inconceivable that a truck could run over a grown man, and the driver not be aware that he hit something. He may not know what he hit, but he should have known something wasn’t right.

And he certainly would have become aware of it as soon as he examined his truck, which any professional driver does on a regular basis.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

This incident occurred in Baltimore. So what does this have to do with Los Angeles, or any other city, for that matter? Why isn’t this just a tragic, but strictly local, matter?

BIKINGINLA

Simply this. The police in Baltimore have responded to questions about this case by issuing a statement in which they say the case has been thoroughly investigated, by officers who have been trained in “the physics of a pedestrian crash and a cyclist fatal crash.”

Yet the explanation they’ve offered simply doesn’t add up. Either they have additional evidence they haven’t revealed, or their conclusions appear to be invalid.

And if that doesn’t sound familiar to Angelenos, it should.

I’m not saying that police are intentionally biased. But even experienced police officers say the training most officers receive in bike accident investigation is inadequate.

Clearly, this isn’t just an L.A. problem, or a Baltimore problem. It’s a nationwide problem. And cyclists will continue to be injured and killed on American roadways, with little or no protection or recourse, until we find an effective solution.

Simply put, we are vulnerable on the streets. And we can’t survive without the protection of an informed and trained police force that truly understands how, and why, bicycle accidents occur.

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

Thank you. Your honor, we rest our case.

FADE TO BLACK

………

Prepare yet another ghost bike. A Duarte cyclist was killed on Monday just blocks from his home. As usual, the authorities haven’t released any information; if you have any details, let me know. Stephen Box responds to an invitation from the Mayor. The Examiner suggests avoiding smoke by riding up the coast from the ‘Bu. Marin County does something about those red lights that never change for bikes. A driver in Colorado intentionally strikes a cyclist in a case of mistaken identity. Oops. The makers of my 2nd favorite beer — this being #1 — suggest going car free. A cyclist in New York gets punched in the face after criticizing a driver for driving in the bike lane; police do nothing. A Seattle writer calls sharrows a sham, while Oregon drivers wonder if Portland just makes up those stats about cycling in the city, proving that “bike friendly” is a relative term. Bad infrastructure and adrenalin are blamed for cyclist/driver tensions north of the border. Researchers say cycling has killed more Londoners than terrorists. Finally, the cyclist killed by a former Canadian Attorney General in an apparent road rage incident may or may not have been too drunk to ride.

At the BAC, good things come to those who wait

Eighty percent of success is just showing up.

— Woody Allen

Sometimes, it seems like the other 20% involves just sticking around long enough. At least, that’s how it seemed last night, at the meeting of the city’s Bike Advisory Committee.

Other than the council members themselves, there was only a small turnout — most of whom were there to discuss the many failings of the Bicycle Master Plan. And most of whom left — some in anger and frustration — once the committee turned to more mundane matters.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to say on that subject. But after hearing all the other comments on the subject — and the DOT’s representative swearing she didn’t know anything about it — I didn’t think they really needed my two cents.

Besides, considering the state of the economy these days, that may be my retirement fund.

I was actually more interested in one of the last items on the agenda — a motion from the council that had been submitted in the aftermath of the recent Hummer incident, and eventually signed by six of the 18 council members:

Numerous incidents have been reported relative to bicycle and vehicle collisions and aggressive motorists (sic) attitudes to law-abiding people riding bicycles. Complaints have also been raised regarding the treatment of bicyclists by the Los Angeles Police Department. It is critical that the City respond to these situations and respond appropriately.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Council direct the Los Angeles Police Department to report on recent bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists, as well as efforts to increase police officer training related to bicycling activities and applicable regulations and laws.

It was the last part in particular that interested me. Especially since LAPD had already found itself blameless in the Hummer incident.

When the time came, I spoke in support of the resolution, pointing out that it wasn’t just a problem here in L.A. Cyclists nationwide have complained about police officers who are unfamiliar with the laws regarding bicycling and the rights of cyclists, as well as institutional bias against cyclists — or in favor of motorists, depending on your perspective.

Then I pointed out that Massachusetts recently became the first state to require that police officers receive specialized training in bike law, as part of their new Bike Safety Law. And asked why that curriculum couldn’t be adapted for use in training officers at our own police academy.

Evidently, the committee members agreed. They voted unanimously to endorse the resolution, and to put the MassBike program on the agenda for the next committee meeting in July.

Afterwards, I emailed a link to the MassBike site to 4th Council District representative Larry Hoffman, who forwarded it to the rest of the BAC, as well as the mayor.

So, a small victory. But a victory none the less.

And one worth sticking around for.

 

If you’re missing a bike on the Westside, the police may have found it in a Venice Garage. Alex Thompson joins the chorus condemning Santa Monica’s bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists. Matt joins in on the other chorus, complaining about the failure of the new Bike Master Plan. Stephen Box questions why LADOT’s redundant bike map business stimulates the economies of Portland and Seattle, while Timur examines the maps that currently exist — and there are more than you might think (good to see you back!). Bike Girl wonders where you keep your bike(s). A writer for the Times rides the L.A. River bike path, evidently holding his nose the whole way. Even Iowa cyclists get sharrows; maybe LADOT can ask them what kind of paint they use so we can get some here. Bicycling’s biking lawyer examines whether cycling is a privilege or a right. And finally, just wait until Rush Limbaugh hears about this — Bike Portland outs the new SCOTUS nominee as a closet cyclist.

Ghost bike for Echo Park cycling fatality; Police-blessed vehicular assault Downtown

Stephen Box managed to get the information I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Earlier in the week, I’d written about the cyclist killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park early Sunday. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to learn any more about the victim than had been included in the initial reports; Box reports that he was a day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who used his bicycle as his primary means of transportation.

Just one of the countless nameless, faceless workers we Angelenos pass every day without a second thought.

Yet he died as one of us. 

And he is being memorialized this evening where he was killed on Glendale Blvd. As Box put it:

Let’s work together to make sure this is the last Ghost Bike placed in our community.

Meanwhile, the local cyber wires are buzzing with the news that a cyclist was injured late last night when he was struck by a driver in Hummer with no license plates — apparently intentionally. The occupants of the vehicle then threatened the other riders with guns and gang violence, and ran over several of their bikes when they tried to block the vehicle until police arrived.

But the real injustice came when the lead officer let the driver go, and told the cyclists that he would have done the same thing the driver did — and suggested that he might have used a gun, as well.

So who exactly is he trying to “protect and serve”?

As a number of people have commented on the Midnight Ridazz forum, some of the other officers on the scene were far more sympathetic. But this represents an anti-cyclist bias that seems far too common in the L.A.P.D. — one that I’ve experienced myself, when I was threatened with arrest after being the victim of a road rage incident a few years back.

The difference is, now there really is a cycling community in Los Angeles, and protests are already being planned for next week. And in fact, may be occurring right now, as there were plans to extend the Ghost Bike ride into a protest at Parker Center.

And less than a week after Jesus Castillo was killed in Echo Park, another cyclist was the victim of yet another hit-and-run in Orange County today.

Some run away.

And some just get away with it.

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