Tag Archive for police training

TranspoComm takes up Wilshire BOL; NoCal driver witnesses solo bike collision she may have caused

The City Council Transportation Committee takes up the Wilshire Blvd Bus Only Lane — aka Bus Rapid Transit or BRT lane — on Wednesday.

Writing for HuffPo, Joel Epstein says a Wilshire without bus lanes is no longer acceptable.

As I’ve stated before, anyone who has taken the 720 bus from the Westside to Downtown knows how desperately this is needed. Not to mention that it will make cycling safer by sharing the new, smooth pavement that would be installed with riders, who are legally allowed to ride in the bus lane.

Wealthy residents of Brentwood and the Westwood’s multi-million dollar Wilshire Corridor are up in arms about allotting a full lane of traffic to a form of transportation they would never lower themselves to use. But traffic-choked Wilshire Blvd is only going to get worse until something is done to get people out of their cars and onto other forms of transportation, making more room for their Bentleys and Beemers.

And it’s not like we’re going to see the long-promised Subway to the Sea anytime soon.

Establishing the BOL for the full 7.7 mile route recommended by Metro is a vital first step in turning around the ever-worsening situation on our streets, as well as ending L.A.’s infamous car culture Councilmember Bill Rosendahl famously proclaimed more than a year ago.

Now it’s time to turn his bold words into real changes on our streets.

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Courtesy of Witch on a Bicycle comes this story of a NorCal woman who sees a cyclist riding in a bike lane, in full control of her bike.

Then less than 100 feet after she passes him, watches in her rearview mirror as the rider wobbles, loses control and suffers a severe brain injury in what’s described as a solo bike accident.

Anyone want to guess what’s wrong with this picture?

Yes, it’s possible that it was a total coincidence. The rider, Richard Kadet, could have simply lost control of his bike on a fast descent and fallen all on his own.

Possible, but highly unlikely given the circumstances. Far more likely is that the witness passed too close, causing Kadet’s fall, whether from the effects of the vehicle’s slipstream or over-reaction by a startled rider.

Just more evidence that it’s possible to pass a cyclist safely without passing safely. And that many police still don’t understand what causes bike collisions.

And one more reason why we need a minimum three-foot passing law to let drivers know how close is too close.

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The LACBC’s Alexis Lantz joins with William Roschen, President of the L.A. City Planning Commission to discuss L.A.’s new bike plan tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Naturally, the meeting will take place in Santa Monica, at 2515 Wilshire Blvd.

The same link will also take you to news of Bicycle Kitchen co-founder Jimmy Lizama speaking at UCLA on June 18th from 12:15 to 3 pm, with the intriguing title I am a Bicycle Messenger, My Message is Bicycle. Having heard Lizama speak, this one comes highly recommended.

……..

Former Angeleno and current NYDOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan discusses how we can get the most out of our streets. More great photos from last Sunday’s River Ride. An arrest is reportedly near in the Highland Park case of a driver accused of intentionally running down a cyclist; remarkably, the local Patch virtually invites retaliation against the driver by publishing his personalized license plate. Santa Monica finally turns the single line on 11th Street into a real bike lane, and marks spots for future bike racks. KCRW’s Shortcut’s blog keeps up with the latest bike news from the California Bicycle Coalition. Adam Bray-Ali, co-owner of L.A.’s Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, writes about Alhambra city codes that can discourage cycling.

The much improved KCET website looks at the new Long Beach Bicycle Business Districts, and suggests a similar approach for L.A.’s 7th Street. Inland area bike groups teach repair techniques to encourage new riders. A funeral will be held today for Nick Venuto, the cyclist killed when a car flipped onto an off-road bike path in San Diego last week. A 25-year old man was found dead on the campus of UC Santa Cruz lying 15 feet from a bicycle, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run. One of the joys of riding is exploring new areas. Cyclelicious discusses how to make a fast stop without pulling an endo; my technique has always been to squeeze the rear brake a fraction of a second before pulling the front, with a little practice it becomes second nature.

Bike touring can benefit local economies. The Vet Hunters will ride 1900 miles in a search to help homeless veterans. Making a movie about riding a ’67 Schwinn across country wearing a tux. River Ride was great, but it didn’t offer fresh bacon on the bikepath. CNN looks at how early bikes meant freedom for women. What’s your best excuse not to commute by bike? Bicycling offers advice on how to get your kids started with cycling. An Oregon man banned from driving argues that an electric bike is not a car; does it help or hurt his case now that Hertz is renting them? Thankfully, the 7-year old Alaska girl severely beaten when she refused to give up her bike is expected to make a full recovery. My bike-friendly hometown gets its first bike box. The Bozeman, MT newspaper says get a bike and use it, you’ll be glad you did. Chicago riders get a warning to obey traffic laws. The former Ugly Betty bikes the Big Apple. The trip leader of a national Bike and Build group was killed while riding in Alabama; this is the second fatality to strike the group in less than a year.

Bike Radar offers 10 tips to make your road bike faster. Should bicycling and running events be moved off city streets to accommodate motorists horribly inconvenienced on one or two days a year? Your next bike helmet could be made of cardboard. London Cyclist asks if one bike is enough, or is enough never enough? London’s Torries walk about to avoid voting on a proposal to protect cyclists and pedestrians. International transportation leaders say it’s time to take cycling seriously. Riccardo Ricco is once again banned from competitive cycling, just days after being reinstated.

Finally, apparently having learned absolutely nothing from last year’s Tony Kornheiser fiasco, ESPN once again allows a pair of their radio ranters to ride off the rails with a 20-minute long discussion of how much fun it would be to door cyclists. Maybe it’s time to let Disney — ESPN’s parent company — know that we don’t want their employees encouraging people to kill or injure people on bikes.

Then again, idiotic shock jocks aren’t just an American phenomenon

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

What to do when the road rages and bumpers bite — part 2

I thought I knew what to do if I was ever in a cycling collision.

I was wrong.

Yesterday I wrote about defusing a road rage incident, based on what I learned as a result of my own run in with a raging driver. A case in which I did just about everything wrong, costing me any chance of a settlement — as well as blowing any shot at a criminal prosecution.

Hopefully, it’s something you’ll never run into. But if you ever find yourself sprawled on the pavement looking up a looming bumper, maybe you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

After all, it’s so much more fun to make your own.

Let the driver leave.

No, seriously. After knocking me to the pavement, the driver who hit me started to flee the scene. So I jumped up and blocked her from driving off until she finally turned off the engine and got out of the car.

Wrong move. Not only did I put myself at risk of getting hit a second time, it might have been better if she had run away. Police usually take a hit-and-run far more seriously than they do a mere traffic accident, even if you say it was road rage. Hopefully, any driver would have enough decency to stick around, but if not, just note the license number and get out of the way.

Don’t move anything until you have to.

First, make sure you’re out of traffic or that someone is directing cars around you. Then ignore the people who tell you to move it, and leave your bike exactly where it is. And try to keep the driver from moving his car, as well.

Both are now evidence, and the relative positions between them could help show what really happened. Move either one before the police tell you to, and you’ve eliminated a key part of the puzzle. Or at the very least, pull out your camera phone and take photos of everything before anyone moves anything. Trust me, you’ll need them once the lawyers get involved.

Shut the hell up.

This isn’t a bike ride anymore; it’s a legal case. Who was at fault has yet to be determined — and you are just as likely to be blamed as the driver who hit you, if not more. So remember that anything you say can, and probably will, be used against you.

In my case, I tried to attract attention and keep the driver from fleeing the scene by yelling that she’d tried to kill me. But someone told the police that I’d threatened to kill her, instead. As a result, they refused to give me her contact information — and threatened me with arrest if I tried.

So make sure everyone else is okay. Exchange information. Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Listen closely if the driver or passengers say anything, and write it down if you can find a pen and paper. But keep your own lips zipped until it’s time to talk with the investigating officer.

You’re the victim. So act like it.

As soon as the driver got out of her car, she screamed that it was my fault for being in her way. So I found myself yelling back to defend myself against my attacker. Or at least, that’s how it felt from my perspective.

But as bystanders began to arrive, what they saw was a grown man yelling at a middle-aged woman — with no knowledge that she had just used her car as a weapon to run me down. So guess which one they felt sorry for?

I’m not suggesting that you lie or exaggerate. But how sympathetic you seem to the bystanders will determine whose side they’re on — and could influence what they tell the police.

Never refuse medical care

The fact is, you probably are hurt. But you may not know it yet, as the adrenalin and endorphins flooding your brain mask any pain.

So when the paramedics ask if you want to go to the hospital, the answer is always yes. The charges the driver may face will depend largely on the severity of your injuries, as will any future settlement you might receive. And the police will take the case more seriously if they know you’ve been injured.

I refused transportation to the hospital, so the official police report said I was uninjured. And that never changed, even after I was diagnosed with a broken arm and permanent vascular damage.

Be prepared for bias

As I waited for the police to arrive, I was surprised to hear bystanders, who had no idea what happened, say it was my fault because those aggressive, arrogant cyclists never obey the law.

But I was shocked to hear similar comments come from the supposedly impartial officer conducting the investigation. Even though I was stopped at a stop sign when she hit me, the driver claimed I’d run the stop sign and fell over while turning onto the cross street. The investigating officer said he believed her because “all you guys run stop signs.”

Expect to explain the evidence

The simple fact is, many, if not most, police officers don’t receive adequate training in investigating bike accidents. So chances are, they may miss or misinterpret key evidence proving who was really at fault.

In my case, the officers didn’t understand that it wasn’t possible to fall to my left while making a high-speed right turn, as the driver had claimed. And they didn’t grasp that the imprint of the chainwheel on my calf could only have occurred if my foot was firmly planted on the ground at the time of impact. So be prepared to walk them through the evidence. But don’t be surprised if they don’t believe you.

Don’t take no for an answer

This was probably the biggest mistake I made. After conducting their investigation, the lead officer said it was a “he said, she said” situation, and let the driver go without a ticket or charges — then tried to intimidate me by saying I could be charged with filing a false police report if I continued to argue with their decision.

It worked.

So I settled for an incomplete and inconclusive police report that virtually eliminated any chance of justice, financial or otherwise. What I should have done — and what you should do in a similar situation — was insist on talking to a supervisor and demanding a fair and unbiased examination of the evidence.

Those of us in Los Angeles have one more option. If you still don’t get satisfaction, you can call Lt. Andre Dawson, who has been appointed by new LAPD Chief Beck to look into complaints from cyclists, at 213/792-3551.

And maybe if enough of us call, things will start to change.

Update: The LAPD now has four bike liaisons representing each of the four Traffic Divisions. You can find their email addresses — which is the best way to contact them — on the Resources page.

………

Bikerowave hosts its first swap meet this Sunday. Jeremy Grant tackles the intro to LA’s Best Bike Plan. Meanwhile, a couple of LAPD officers attempt to tackle Critical Mass. Literally. Metro is still looking for volunteers to conduct an Orange Line bike study, while Damien catches an LADOT worker riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council offers improvements to the new bike plan. Bellflower gets a new 2.3 mile Bike and Pedestrian Path (the name needs a little work, though). Philadelphia papers are up in arms about cyclists, while The N.Y. Times asks if that could mean trouble for Gotham riders. About that 300 miles of new bike lanes new York installed in the last three years — make it 299 now. I don’t recall anything in the Bible about blessed are the bike lane blockers. A Michigan drunk driver who killed a cyclist gets up to two years per beer. A Detroit cycling organization offers effective responses to common arguments against accommodating bikes on the roads. San Francisco gets its first new bike lane in three years. Yet another music video featuring cyclists — naked ones, this time. Attention expat wannabes: London needs more good wrenches. Finally, I thought this cycling psychiatrist was off his rocker when he said those on four wheels have disdain for those on two, and those on two wheels have disdain for those on two legs — until I read this letter from Philadelphia.

How to respond when the police won’t

Last week, Charlie Beck was sworn in as L.A.’s new police chief.

In his remarks afterwards, he made it clear that he planned to continue departmental reforms established by departing chief William Bratton. As the Times reported later that day,

Beck made his own presentation, saying his top goal was to extend the reforms begun by Bratton and move them down into the rank and file of the department. He said he would concentrate on continuing reforms Bratton introduced into the mind-set of the thousands of officers who are the heart of the organization.

“Now is the time to push down into the patrol cars,” Beck said of the reforms, adding that this effort would be the “hallmark of my leadership.”

He may have some work to do.

As you may recall, last week I wrote about a second-hand report that a cyclist had trouble reporting a road rage incident to police. And the surprising responsiveness from a couple of high-ranking officers who looked into the situation.

But since then, I’ve gotten more reports from cyclists who said they’ve had problems with the LAPD, from reporting incidents with drivers to the failure of some officers to adequately enforce — or understand — the law regarding bikes on the streets.

Most surprising were two separate cases in which patrol officers said the cyclists were at fault because they were riding — wait for it — with traffic. Yes, they were blamed by police officers for riding in the direction that safety, common sense and the law requires.

If there was ever any question that police don’t receive adequate training in bicycle law (see #8) — here in L.A. and around the nation — that should put it to rest once and for all.

Then there was this email from a cyclist named Iain.

He wrote about a couple of incidents in which he had trouble getting the police to accept a report, including one in which he was run off the road by a car. When the driver refused to exchange insurance information after he finally caught up to it several blocks later, he rode to a nearby police station to file a hit-and-run report.

According to Iain, the officer at the desk was sympathetic, but didn’t know what to do because he hadn’t received any training in that area (see above):

He decided to call West Traffic to get clarification, and the officer that answered the phone told him that the LAPD does not take reports involving cyclists.  I asked for a supervisor, who was quite upset to hear that I was told this, but was unable to figure out which officer had transferred the call.  This time, they took the report.

As the Lieutenant pointed out last week, how a police officer responds depends on how well the victim communicates what happened — as well as how the officer interprets the applicable laws and regulations.

But it’s very troubling that two Westside cyclists have said they were told that the LAPD “does not accept reports involving cyclists.”

Fortunately, they both did the right thing.

Following the officer’s refusal to take a report, each rider asked to speak to a supervisor. And in each case, the supervisor overruled the initial refusal and agreed to file a report.

In a follow-up email, the Lieutenant agreed.

In regards to the handling of an investigation, any community member can request to speak to a supervisor if they feel their situation is not being handled properly.  The supervisor will come in and access the situation and intervene when necessary to correct a mistake, explain the officer(s) action/Department policy, or initiate a complaint investigation.

He went on to address how riders should respond when confronted with a threatening situation or an altercation with a driver:

My advice to your readers is to try and take the higher road. Understand the rules of the road and ride within the guidelines of the Vehicle Code. If they are a victim of a crime they should report it. If they witness unsafe driving, they can report it to the Bureau Traffic Division. Keep in mind that if the traffic unit responds to an area and sees the bicyclist riding in an unsafe manner, they could also be subject to a citation.

In other words, the knife cuts both ways.

So before you call the police, make sure it’s really the other guy who’s breaking the law.

……….

Celebrate Thanksgiving by riding the Seven Hills of Mar Vista. Here’s your chance to write the introduction to L.A.’s alternative D.I.Y. bike plan. Damien Newton offers advice on confronting L.A.’s bike theft epidemic. Friday Night Lights at the San Jose Velodrome. The nine driving habits that annoy cyclists the most. An Austin teenager is under arrest for shooting a cyclist with a pellet gun, in a case reminiscent of last year’s attack on PCH. On the subject of intentional assaults, a Miami cyclist was injured in an intentional hit-and-run. The driver who killed two tandem riders in Texas, orphaning their 7-year old daughter, says it really wasn’t his fault. No, really. A New Haven safe cycling advocate gets hit by a car. If you’re going to crash your bike, don’t hit a police car. The biking bassist for the Canadian band Sloan discusses his recent hit-and-run collision. Bangalore school kids go bike. Finally, a Santa Cruz writer opposes a Class 1 bikeway through an environmentally sensitive habit, in part because speeding cyclists would endanger dog walkers, small children and all the other people who aren’t supposed to use it.

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.

Who is at fault in cycling collisions? And who decides?

Let’s go back to that buzzing incident with the garbage truck, in which the driver honked loudly as he passed me with only about a foot’s clearance.

What if I hadn’t managed to maintain control over my bike when the horn startled me? As I noted yesterday, I could have swerved to the left, which could have meant going under his wheels. Or I might have swerved right, where I would have bounced off the parked cars, and possibly been thrown back underneath him.

So who would be at fault when the police filed their report?

Would it be the driver who passed too closely, honking his horn in a threatening manner, or the cyclist who responded by losing control and colliding with the truck?

Or would they decide it was just one of those things, and no one was really to blame?

Or take today’s ride, when I was nearly right-hooked by a truck driver who passed me on the left, then made a right turn directly across my path — while I was still beside him.

Fortunately, I try to anticipate such things. So I grabbed my brakes, dropped behind him, then passed him on his left before he could even finish his turn.

But what if I hadn’t?

What if I’d collided with the truck? Would he be at fault because he turned into my path? Or would it be my fault because I hit him?

The law suggests the driver should be at fault. Yet when a Baltimore cyclist was killed recently in collision just like that, the police determined that he was at fault — evidently they felt it was his responsibility to somehow avoid the truck that cut him off.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area cyclists are responsible for twice as many bike vs. motor vehicle collisions as drivers are. The same article quotes statistics from the California Highway Patrol, which found cyclists responsible for nearly 60% of all statewide cycling fatalities.

Yet a recent study by a Toronto physician found that cyclists were only responsible for less than 10% of local collisions.

So are Canadian cyclists really that much better than California riders? Or does the problem actually rest with who is analyzing the data — and investigating the accidents?

Do you really have to ask?

The problem isn’t that police hate cyclists, despite common perceptions in the cycling community. It’s that most officers receive little or no training in bike law — and none in the mechanics of cycling or investigation of bike accidents.

That’s not just my opinion. Consider this recent quote from a retired police officer:

In virtually every state, bicycles have most of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Many officers don’t seem to know, or care, that they do. Training in bicycle traffic law is virtually nonexistent in police academies and crash investigation courses.

Unfortunately, many serious road cyclists know and understand traffic laws regulating bicycles far better than most street cops. Officers who have received quality bike patrol training, such as the IPMBA Police Cyclist™ Course, have been trained in the legal status of bicycles in traffic, proper and legal lane use, and other pertinent provisions.

When investigating a bicycle-vehicle crash, it may be a good idea to involve a trained bike patrol officer to help get a comprehensive perspective as to the bicycle-related factors and conditions involved. Criminal charges may be warranted. An officer knowledgeable in bike law could be a victim cyclist’s best advocate, or a legal opponent, providing the details for fair prosecution.

The simple fact is that the operation and mechanics of bicycles are different from that of motor vehicles. And unless the investigating officer understands that, he or she won’t be able to accurately determine how the collision occurred and who is actually at fault.

Like the infamous downtown Hummer incident, in which the investigating officer concluded that the cyclist hit the SUV, even though the rear of the bike was damaged and the rider was thrown forward — suggesting that he somehow backed into the other vehicle.

Or my own case, when I was struck by a road-raging driver while stopped at a stop sign. Yet the investigating officer chose to accept the driver’s explanation that I had run the stop sign and fallen while making a right hand turn, even though that would have meant falling to the left while leaning into a right turn — something an officer who rides, or who was at least trained in cycling, would have understood was virtually impossible.

Then there’s the fact that in a car/bike collision, the driver is usually unhurt, while the cyclist can be seriously injured or worse. Which means that the police often hear just one side of the story.

Maybe that’s why, in virtually any repot of a collision at a controlled intersection, you’ll hear that the cyclist ran the red light or stop sign — never that the driver ignored the rider’s right of way or ran the signal themselves.

That also could explain why so many drivers involved in hit-from-behind collisions claim that the cyclist darted out in front of them without warning. Never that the driver was distracted or failed to see the rider in the first place.

In fact, many cyclists refer to that type of collision as an SWSS — Single Witness Suicide Swerve — because the frequency of such collisions would suggest that there must be a lot of death-wish cyclists out there.

That’s not to say cyclists are never at fault. I’ve seen enough riders attempt to pull off stupid life-risking stunts — myself included — to know that’s not true.

But the simple fact is, every cyclist is, and will remain, a 2nd class citizen on the streets until all police officers are trained in bike law.

And every bicycle-involved collision is investigated by an officer who understands the physics and realities of cycling.

………

Next year’s LA Bike Tour won’t be held in conjunction with the new Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon. Efforts are underway to ban cars from the annual bike-banning Festival of Lights instead. Where do I sign up? Streetsblog notes the anger over new bike lanes in Santa Clarita, where some residents feel ambushed, while others fault the design. Bike thefts are up across the country, including Downtown L.A.; some victims are using social media to get them back, Lance included. Even with the current budget cuts, Elk Grove gets state funding for a new bike overpass. Minnesota artists create bike racks that salute their Scandinavian heritage. Lebron James leads local kids and cyclists in a charity bike ride; so when can we expect the first annual Kobe Bryant Bike Classic? Even bike-friendly Portland suffers from the fatal hit-and-run plague. Cyclists roll by in a Chinatown bike lane as a NY politician holds a press conference to claim no one ever uses it. Finally, an 81-year old Welsh paperboy has his bike stolen while one of his customers thanks him with a piano recital.

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