Tag Archive for right hook

Last night’s ride, in which I flip off an impatient driver

In retrospect, I should have been further out into the lane.

Instead, I tried to be polite and let cars move up next to me, not anticipating that one incredibly impatient driver would deliberately right hook me.

She couldn’t wait two seconds — literally — for the light to change. And it was worth it to her to risk the life of a total stranger because I didn’t get the hell out of her way.

I don’t recommend flipping off anyone.

But this one earned it.

If I’d gone when the light turned green, I’d be in the hospital right now.

Or worse.

Just another right hook — from the left lane

After awhile, you get to know the streets you ride.

Like this intersection on eastbound Ohio Ave, one block west of Sepulveda. I’ve learned to slow down there in anticipation of right hooks, as drivers stuck in traffic make a sudden decision to turn right without checking the bike lane first.

But I’ve never been right hooked from the left lane before.

Cutting through the confusion — LAPD clarifies why driver wasn’t cited in last week’s right hook wreck

Call it a case of miscommunication.

Last week’s failure to ticket the driver who right hooked Melanie Freeland as she biked to work — despite being witnessed by two police officers — quickly went from bad to worse.

As Freeland questioned why the driver wasn’t ticketed for failing to signal and yield the right-of-way as required by law, it quickly devolved into a desk officer arguing with her and refusing to put through her call to the bike liaison for the Central Traffic Division.

And led to an explanation from the Watch Commander on duty at the time of the collision that made it appear that most police officers are prohibited from writing traffic tickets, even if they witness the incident.

Or maybe not.

That bike liaison in question, LAPD Central Traffic Division’s Sgt. Laszlo Sandor, went to great lengths to clarify matters at last night’s regularly scheduled bike liaison meeting, which evolved from the department’s long-standing bike task force.

First off, the officers who witnessed the collision could have written a ticket on the spot. The reason they didn’t wasn’t that they didn’t have specific training in traffic law, as Freeland had understood from the Watch Commander’s explanation. It was that they were due in court, and had to hand the case off to someone else to avoid the wrath of an angry judge.

Or worse, having their case dismissed.

Secondly, Freeland reported that the Watch Commander had described a Catch 22 that would seem to prevent most patrol officers from writing a ticket in virtually any situation.

She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.

In other words, as she understood it, in order to issue a ticket at the scene, an officer must 1) actually witness the infraction, and 2) have specialized training in traffic investigations.

Which counts out the overwhelming majority of officers on the street.

Well, almost.

As Sgt. Sandor explained, there are two ways a driver — or a bike rider or pedestrian, for that matter — can be held accountable for an infraction.

The first is the one we’re all familiar with.

Someone commits an infraction, like running a red light, for instance. An officer sees it, fires up the lights and sirens, and tickets the violator on the spot.

Or in this case, can write a ticket after actually witnessing a collision. Which these officers could have done, but didn’t, for the reason explained above.

The second way is what the Watch Commander evidently tried, and failed, to explain. A driver can be ticketed after the fact if the investigating officer can conclusively determine what actually happened based on witness statements and the evidence at the scene.

But in order to do that, the officer must have specialized training in traffic investigations.

So any officer can write a ticket for any infraction they witness. Or an officer with specialized traffic investigation training can write a ticket or make an arrest after the fact, based on the totality of evidence.

In addition, there are two ways a driver can be held accountable for an infraction.

Again, he or she can be ticketed or arrested, depending on the severity of the infraction. Or the investigating officer can find the driver at fault in the traffic report, in which case the driver won’t face a fine or jail time, but will be charged points against his or her license by the DMV.

That appears to be what happened in Freeland’s case.

So justice was, apparently, won, despite a full week’s worth of aggravation and confusion.

The officers at the meeting suggested that, in some ways, it’s better to have the driver found at fault and have points charged by the DMV, since, unlike a ticket, it can’t be fought in court or dismissed if the officer is unable to attend the hearing.

Although if the driver is convicted, he will still have points charged against his or her license, as well as face additional penalties from the court.

As for the argument with the desk officer, Sgt. Sandor suggested that the officer was actually trying to help, since he — Sandor — was out of the office for several days.

But in the end, we all agreed that it would have been better to simply send the call to his voice mail, rather than appear to screen the bike liaison’s calls.

On the other hand, all of the department’s bike liaisons at the meeting agreed that email was the best way to contact them, rather than calling. Email leaves a written record of the conversation that they can refer to later. And they receive emails on work computers as well as on their personal devices, regardless of whether they are in the office.

And one more thing.

This morning I received an email from Melanie Freeland, who reported that she was back on her bike and once again riding to work, exactly one week after she was hit by the car.

Now that’s good news.

………

Thanks to Sgt. Sandor for looking into the matter and clarifying a very confusing situation. And thanks to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Colin Bogart, who worked with the LAPD and city officials to assist Freeland in this case.

The LACBC doesn’t often trumpet its victories or the work it does to help individual bike riders — perhaps to its detriment.

But as in the case above, I’ve often witnessed their staff members fighting behind the scenes for the rights of bike riders, whether collectively or on an individual basis. And whether or not they’re members of the coalition.

It’s an organization I’m proud to support and be a part of.

Meanwhile, writing on LA Streetsblog, an LA attorney offers advice on what to do if the police fail to adequately respond to a collision.

Update: LAPD traffic investigators evidently don’t believe other cops who witness a right hook bike collision

Evidently, cops aren’t credible witnesses.

At least as far as LAPD traffic officers are concerned.

Imagine you’re riding along when a driver right hooks you — not just turning across your path, but illegally making a right turn from the left lane — and in the process, not only violates your right-of-way, but causes a collision.

And for once, not just one, but two cops witness the whole thing.

And then…

Nothing.

………

That’s exactly what happened yesterday morning, when Melanie Freeland was making her regular bike commute from Highland Park to Downtown LA.

She was riding on North Broadway through Chinatown around 8:40 am, in the right peak hour lane — that is, what would normally be the parking lane, but converts to a regular traffic lane to accommodate rush hour traffic.

As she was passing the Far East National Bank at 977 N. Broadway, the Lexus traveling in the lane on her left — what was, in effect, the center of three lanes — suddenly turned into the building’s parking lot. The driver cut across the lane Freeland was riding in, without warning, forcing her off the roadway and causing her bike to collide with the car’s door and front panel.

A classic right hook, with the extra added benefit of an illegal turn from the wrong lane. Without signaling, no less.

If that’s not clear, just imagine you’re in the right lane of a two lane street, and the driver on the left suddenly makes a right turn directly in front of you.

And for once, a cop saw the whole thing.

Two police officers — one in uniform, the other in plain clothes — were on their way to court when the collision occurred right before their eyes. They pulled over to offer assistance, calling for an ambulance and staying with her until a regular traffic officer arrived to investigate.

Both officers — I’m leaving out the names of all the cops involved, though Freeland provided their names and badge numbers* — said the driver failed to signal or yield the right-of-way. But even though they were the ones who witnessed the wreck, it would be up to the traffic cop to actually issue a ticket.

The officers gave their report to the traffic investigator, then left for the courthouse.

………

And that’s when everything went to hell.

The investigator told Freeland he couldn’t issue a ticket or determine fault in the collision because he did not actually witness it, saying he “could not issue a traffic ticket for something he did not see.”

Never mind that two sworn officers did. As well as a security guard for the building, who supported the first officers’ version of events.

So Freeland smartly asked to speak with the traffic officer’s supervisor. Yet when the Sergeant arrived, she repeated the exact same sentence.

And added that “It is not a crime to hit a pedestrian.”

Note to police: bike riders are not pedestrians. We have all the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle operators, and are allowed on every public street cars are allowed to use, with the exception of some limited access freeways. Calling us pedestrians implies we belong on the sidewalk and belittles our legal right to the roadway.

While it’s true that police officers are generally prohibited from writing citations for traffic violations they don’t witness, I’ve been assured by officers that they can write a ticket or make an arrest based on clear evidence pointing to responsibility for a collision or other violation.

And if the testimony of two cops who witnessed the whole thing — as well as a third independent witness — isn’t clear evidence, I don’t know what the hell is.

Instead, the officers sent just as clear a message that, as far as they’re concerned, bikes don’t’ belong on the street. And good luck getting justice.

Just like the bad old days of LAPD’s anti-bike, windshield bias I thought we’d left long behind us under Chief Beck’s more enlightened leadership.

As Michael MacDonald put it in an email informing me of the case,

There are a lot of things wrong in this picture, not the least of which is that LAPD has again made it clear that cyclists are essentially fair game. I am particularly frustrated that someone I know that had made a concerted effort to make a mode shift towards cycling and to educate herself to ride safely now feels no degree of protection on the road, and is deterred from ever commuting by bike in Los Angeles again.

Fortunately, Freeland does not appear to have suffered any serious injuries, although she was due to be examined by a physician late yesterday.

She’s following up with the original officers, and contacting the department’s bike liaison for the Central Traffic Division. And she plans to reach out to Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Jose Huizar to express her disappointment and call for safety improvements on Broadway.

Police officers also tell me you should contact the Watch Commander overseeing the officers involved as quickly as possible after an incident like this.

But make no mistake.

Yesterday the LAPD failed Melanie Freeland.

Tomorrow, it might be you.

*My purpose here is not to embarrass the officers. The LAPD was been provided with all the names and badge numbers; it’s up to them to deal with the individuals involved.

Update: Okay, now I’m pissed. Melanie Freeland emailed this morning that she tried to call the bike liaison officer for the Central Traffic Division after I passed his contact information on to her. Except the desk officer who took the call initially refused to put the call through, significantly misrepresenting her case and saying “I know the same laws he does.”

She was finally able to leave a message, but hasn’t heard back yet.

Under former LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer, the department made great strides in improving relations with the bicycling community. But the expanded bike liaison program is absolutely meaningless if self-appointed gatekeepers are allowed to screen their calls.

And no one should ever have to face an argument when reaching out to anyone in the department for help.

I’ve praised the LAPD as one of the most progressive and bike-friendly police departments in the county since Chief Beck took over. But this is starting to feel like a huge step back to the bad old days.

Update 2: Freeland reports she spoke with the Watch Commander on duty at the time of the incident. Who turned out to be the same Sergeant who came to the scene and backed up the original traffic officer. 

In the course of a long conversation, the officer described a Catch 22 that makes it almost impossible for the department to issue a ticket to anyone. Which goes a long way towards explaining the wild west mentality of LA streets, where drivers feel entitled to do virtually anything without fear of consequences.

I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.

But aren’t all officers trained in traffic law at the Academy? 

And are you seriously trying to tell me that a uniformed LAPD officer lacks sufficient judgement and training to determine that a driver failed to signal and violated the right-of-way of another road user?

Sorry, but this explanation sounds like BS.

And if it isn’t, even worse.

This is what a right hook looks like

California law requires drivers to merge into a bike lane before making a right turn, after ensuring that the lane is clear.

This is why.

Update: Cyclist killed in Newport Beach in apparent right hook collision; 8th OC bike death this year

Getting word from multiple sources that a woman was killed this morning while riding in Newport Beach.

The victim, identified only as a woman in her 20s or 30s, was riding eastbound on East Coast Highway near Bayside Drive around 10:35 this morning when she was struck by a stake-bed truck traveling in the same direction.

According to Corona del Mar Today, the truck was making a right turn onto Bayside when it ran over the woman in an apparent right hook. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Satellite photos show what appears to be a bike lane on the east side of Bayside, but only a wide right turn lane where the victim may have been riding.

Both the Orange County Register and Corona del Mar Today note that she was wearing a helmet, while the Register says she was in cycling clothes.

However, there’s not a helmet made that can protect a cyclist from being run over by a multi-ton truck.

This death comes just one day after the first ever National Women’s Bike Summit was held in Long Beach, in which a large part of the discussion was about encouraging more women to ride. Maybe we need to start by making our streets safer so the ones who already do can get home alive.

This is the 53rd bicycling fatality in Southern California, and the eighth in Orange County; of those, seven have died in traffic collisions, and one of a fall that may have been cause by health conditions.

Note: If you have a strong stomach, read the comment from Jamie on the Corona del Mar Today site to show just how little human compassion some motorists have when it comes to cyclists. A woman is dead, and this jackass guy rants about disbanding the ‘militant, special interest, “Bicycle Committee”.’  His mom must be so proud.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and her loved ones. 

My thanks to Ann, David Huntsman, Ed from the OC Bicycle Coalition, Sydney Hunter, and jg for the heads-up; sorry if I left anyone out.

Update: Corona del Mar Today updates their story to indicate that a witness stopped at the intersection saw the collision as it occurred. According to  Amanda Walter, both the driver and the cyclist were turning right, and the truck was traveling too close to the curb.

“I saw the truck come around the corner and I though, ‘Wow, he’s going too fast,’” she said in a telephone interview. “I saw the cyclist and said, ‘Oh my…God…he’s going to hit her.’ He cut her from behind. She went down and he ran over her.”

The paper reports the victim was initially awake and struggling to speak, but passed away within a few minutes. And apparently, the driver never saw her.

The truck driver kept insisting that he looked twice and the cyclist wasn’t there, Walter said.

According to the Orange County Bicycle Coalition, the victim is still unidentified.

According to Sgt. Mark Hamilton, “The identity of the victim is still unknown at this time. Anyone with information or who witnessed the collision is urged to call the Newport Beach Police Department Traffic Division at 949-644-3742″. If anyone is missing a loved one that was riding a blue bike with white tape and saddle in the Newport area, and they haven’t returned home yet,  please contact the NPBPD.

The OCBC also reports that there have been 16 bike-involved collisions in the last 10 years, though this is the first fatality.

Update 2: Newport Beach bike lawyer David Huntsman offers a little more information about the site of the collision.

By the way I ride this road several times a week. It is truly a nightmare intersection going south, because of the very long high-speed dedicated right turn lane.
 
I was right-hooked into the gas station just south of the intersection when I moved here after returning from Australia two years ago. I didn’t go down, to the surprise of everyone around – including the driver- but mentally marked this as one of the most dangerous intersections around. 
Update 3: The victim has been identified as 29-year old Sarah Leaf.
I’m getting second-hand reports that she was a serious cyclist and a very fast rider, possibly a triathlete. And someone who was very well-liked, who will be sadly missed.

Surviving a Sunday Westside right hook — a first person account from the lucky cyclist involved

Sometimes it’s better to start at the end.

So let me start by saying that Michael Eisenberg is okay. Which is not what you’d expect after reading his description of the right hook collision he suffered on Sunday while riding his bike through Brentwood on his way to the Marina.

But we’ll let him tell the story.

I am very lucky. I was riding my road bike from home near the Chatsworth reservoir to Marina Del Rey today (Sunday) to go sailing. At noon, I was westbound on Sunset Blvd looking to make a left on Kenter Avenue.

There was too much traffic to work over to the left turn lane, so I chose to do what I thought was the safest alternative. I pedaled across Kenter, stopped at the corner, and waited for the traffic light to change so I could then cross Sunset. I could see a line of cars in the lane behind me with a Toyota Prius at the head of the line.  I did not see a right turn flasher.

The light changed, and I proceeded to cross Sunset. The next thing I remember is my shoes disengaging from the pedals of my bike followed by me slamming into the windshield of the Toyota Prius. My next recollection was of lying in the middle of Sunset Blvd, about 10 feet away from the Prius and my bike another 10 feet farther down the street.

I was surrounded by bystanders.  One was a cyclist who was an EMT asking me who the president of the United States is. Another bystander was a Doctor, and he started a basic neurological evaluation. LA City Fire arrived shortly afterwards, I’d guess within 2 minutes. LAPD arrived Code 3 in another 5 minutes. Fortunately, this was not a hit & run, as the 75 year old female driver of the Prius was a little shaken up.

The LA City Fire EMTs could not find any injuries, and I was feeling little discomfort. The most interesting anomaly was that my heart rate monitor had recorded an instantaneous jump from 70 to 160 at the moment of impact. For better or worse, I decided to decline a ride to the hospital. It was then the LAPD’s turn to write the accident report. I didn’t actually see the report, I only received an incident receipt to use to acquire the report in the future. I did mention to the female Prius driver, while standing next to the LAPD officer, that if her handicap placard wasn’t hanging from her rear view mirror obstructing her vision she probably could have seen me.

When all the paperwork was done, I checked my bike and equipment and found everything to be scuffed or cracked. My 2 month old BH Prisma Force looked trashed, but still operable. My Specialized helmet, gloves and carbon shoes were all scuffed. They all did their job blunting the impact and receiving road rash, saving my skull and skin from being injured.

I finished up the last 5 miles of my ride to the Marina. By that time there were various parts of my body (hip, calf, neck) that were causing me just a little discomfort. I elected to get a ride from my son to Kaiser for a quick check. That is where I received the biggest assault to my dignity. The Doctor came into the examining room, and said “I see you ran into a car”. I politely corrected him, and he then said “the nurse wrote down that you ran into a car, so you must have run into a car.” I felt I was being branded as guilty because I am a cyclist.

Anyway, X-rays showed nothing to be concerned about. The recommendation was to take it easy for 3 days, with application of an ice pack as necessary on my neck for a mild strain. The next step for me is to contact the Prius driver’s insurance company and see what they are going to do about replacing my bike and gear.

As Michael says, he was lucky.

And yes, it sounds like he did exactly what he should have done. I usually try to use the left turn lane to make a left, but when traffic conditions or a dangerous intersection make that too risky, I’ll make the same sort of L turn he did. I try to position myself just in front of the right fender of the lead car at the intersection, or just in front and to its left if it’s making a turn.

The problem comes when drivers too often don’t indicate they’re turning. Combine that with an obstructed view from behind, and you’ve got a situation where you can do everything right, and still get hurt.

It will be interesting to see if the police report agrees when he gets a copy.

………

Herb Meyerowitz forwards a flyer he received while trying to enter the parking lot at Malibu Bluffs Park, a popular parking spot for cyclists preparing to ride PCH.

I’ve been aware for some time that Malibu was considering asking cyclists to park elsewhere in order to leave sufficient space for other park visitors; complaints have been made that we hog too many weekend parking spaces, leaving little room for actual park visitors.

However, this is the first I’ve heard that they’re actually attempting to herd bike riders Webster Elementary School.

It seems like a reasonable request — especially with the promise that restrooms and water will be made available to riders.

Let me know how it works out if you give it a try.

………

Tragedy strikes the annual LoToJa race as a rider falls off a bridge to his death on Sunday.

According to multiple sources, Robert Verhaaren, a 42-year old father from Mesa, Arizona, reportedly swerved to avoid a pothole on over a Snake River bridge in Wyoming. He lost control, hit the guardrail and went over the side of the bridge, falling 35 feet to his death.

The 206 mile ride from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is the longest race sanctioned by USA Cycling; tragically, Verhaaren died just eight miles from the finish line.

………

The victim in last weekend’s Topanga Canyon hit-and-run has been identified as 60-year old Gary Morris of Van Nuys. Police are looking for a 1996 to 2000 Land Rover with possible damage to the right front. Anyone with information should call CHP Investigator Brooke Covington at 818-888-0980, ext. 228.

………

A Denver cyclist says traffic laws weren’t made for cyclists. And uses that as justification for breaking them.

Meanwhile, an Asheville writer says cyclists have to give a little, too.

………

A hyperventilating commenter on an earlier story says cyclists are crazy to ride on major roads, where speeding cars pass them by just inches.

Do I really need to say I disagree?

………

Former doper tainted meat eater Alberto Contador makes a dramatic comeback by winning his second Vuelta; fellow Spaniards Alejandro Valverede and Joaquin Rodriguez finish second and third, respectively.

………

Finally, a writer for the London Mail rips the cycling world a new one — especially the life-threatening Lycra louts she claims hit her elderly mother twice in just three weeks. Only problem is, she wrote almost exactly the same story two years ago; thanks to UK bike scribe Carlton Reid for the links.

Unrelenting pace of cycling fatalities continues as Laguna Hills cyclist killed in OCTA bus right hook

It’s happened again.

Just a week after the riding deaths of Sherrie Norton and Robert Hyndman — and critical injuries to two Long Beach riders — an Orange County cyclist has been killed in a right hook collision while riding in a crosswalk.

The Orange County Register offers a confusing description of the collision. But apparently, the cyclist, who has not been publicly identified, was riding north on Paseo de Valencia around 5 pm Saturday, either on the wrong side of the roadway, or more likely, on the sidewalk facing southbound traffic.

As he attempted to cross Alicia Parkway, he was struck and killed an Orange County Transportation Authority bus turning west onto Alicia from southbound Paseo de Valencia.

No other details are available at this time.

However, the driver should have been able to see the cyclist, as the rider appears to have been coming directly towards him in the crosswalk.

The paper notes that the OC Sheriff’s department is continuing to investigate the collision.

This is the 10th confirmed cycling fatality in Orange County this year, and 64th confirmed traffic-related bike fatality in Southern California since the start of the year. That compares with an average of 10 bicycling deaths in Orange County for the last two years on record (2008 and 2009), and 55 in Southern California over the same period.

However, it should be noted that the 5-year average for both is much higher, at 13 and 68.2 respectively.

……..

As long as we’re sharing bad news, an 18-year old cyclist was the victim of a hit-and-run in East Long Beach. Fortunately, his injuries were non-life threatening, although that does not necessarily mean he didn’t suffer serious injuries.

Police are looking for an oversized, dark-colored pick-up with possible damage to the passenger-side front or side window. Anyone with information can contact authorities at www.tipsoft.com

And an 82-year old Mendocino cyclist was killed when he was hit from behind while riding on the shoulder of Highway 1; he was hit by a pick-up operated by an 18-year old driver who drifted off the roadway, hitting the victim at 55 mph.

I want to say that someone still riding at 82 deserves better than that.

But so does every other cyclist, no matter how old.

A cyclist is killed, ignorance abounds

Yesterday, Will Campbell was right hooked by a driver in a small car.

A day earlier, a Long Beach cyclist was killed when a truck driver did virtually the same thing.

In the video he posted, you can clearly see the car cut directly across Will’s path, and his rapid reduction in speed as he brakes hard to avoid a collision. And you can hear his restraint as he urges the driver to be more careful in the future.

Now contrast that with the incident in Long Beach, in which an experienced cyclist collided with a semi-truck making a right turn.

According to published reports, Gustavo Ramirez, a 30-year old resident of the Belmont Shore area, was riding eastbound on the sidewalk along East Shoreline Drive in Long Beach about 10:30 am Tuesday, when he hit the side of the truck as it turned onto Shoreline Village Drive. The driver reportedly had missed his exit off the 710 Freeway and was attempting to turn around when the collision occurred.

The popular cyclist, who worked at the Manhattan Beach REI, had survived another recent accident when a car cut him off while riding in the Bixby Knolls area.

Charles Gandy, the mobility coordinator for the city, was quoted as saying that many cyclists feel uncomfortable riding a busy street with no bike lanes like Shoreline Drive, so they may prefer to ride on the sidewalk.

Judging by the city’s website, that may or may not be legal. Long Beach’s municipal code suggests that riding on the sidewalk is allowed in most areas, with a maximum speed limit of 15 mph — 5 mph when pedestrians are present. However, there are a number of exceptions where it’s prohibited; I don’t know the area well enough to say if any of those would apply around there.

Then again, as complicated as the exceptions are, I’m not sure if anyone else does, either.

As a general rule, I advise against riding on the sidewalk, because drivers anticipate cyclists on the sidewalk even less than they do on the street, and aren’t likely to look for you when they’re pulling out of a driveway or turning onto a cross street. In fact, according to a 1998 study by Dr. William Moritz, there’s a 24.8 times greater risk for cyclists riding on the sidewalk as compared to a typical street with no cycling facilities.

However, I can also understand why a cyclist would make an exception there. The southern end of the 710 Freeway dumps heavy traffic directly onto the street just blocks from where Ramirez was killed; more than a few drivers fail to make the mental adjustment from freeway to surface street driving.

It’s clear from the description of the incident that Ramirez collided with the truck, rather than the other way around, striking it on the right side just behind the cab.

Some of the comments online suggest that proves he was at fault. But as Will’s video clearly shows, when a driver turns in front of you without warning, there’s not much you can do except jam on your brakes and pray. If there’s time.

The fact that Ramirez hit the truck just behind the cab suggests that the driver was just beginning his turn when the collision occurred, so there probably wasn’t enough time to react. It also implies that he was probably already alongside the truck when it turned, so he might not have been in a position to see its turn signal, assuming the driver used it.

And even if he was wearing earphones, as a friend of his suggested, it’s highly unlikely that any experienced cyclist would be unaware of such a large truck on the roadway right next to him.

It’s more likely that the driver failed to see Ramirez before turning in front of him; a classic right hook. And a heartbreaking tragedy for his family and friends.

Still, that didn’t stop the usual online comments blaming cyclists from running red lights, calling for licensing and testing — or expecting cyclists to yield regardless of who has the right of way. Or even demanding that the new health care plans impose a surcharge on people who engage in risky behavior like riding a bike.

And that’s not counting the many comments that were deleted for being too offensive. Like the ones questioning whether Ramirez — or the driver — were in the country legally, just because of their names.

It’s tragic enough when any human being loses his life. But no one should have to die simply for riding a bike.

And it shouldn’t be an opportunity for people who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to show just how little compassion and common sense they have.

Members of Midnight Ridazz are planning a ghost bike and memorial ride for Friday the 15th.

………

A Downtown cyclist was run down by a hit-and-run driver yesterday, yet somehow managed to avoid serious injuries. Damien offers the definitive response to the bike plan; the deadline for comments is tomorrow. An L.A. rider tries, and fails, to reach Downtown by following the county bike map. Flying Pigeon gets Belgian-made Achielle bikes in stock. An East Coast cyclist learns to take the whole lane — and in a skirt, no less. Ft. Collins, CO cyclists demand equality, and get the same traffic-calming surcharge drivers face. A New York school bus driver backs over a cyclist in a fatal collision. A Louisville writer goes car-free, and gets a new Pashley. A North Carolina newspaper complains about a planned bike route for “design cyclists,” whatever that is. The League of American cyclists wants to make U.S. university campuses bike friendly. London cyclists outrace the Tube. The hit-and-run plague even extends to Oxford Dons. Adelaide cyclists get a boost in infrastructure spending. A Canadian cyclist is killed by a truck’s oversize load, yet the court rules no one is at fault. Tips on riding in the snow, not that it’s an issue here. Finally, proof that not all cyclists are nice people, even in Copenhagen; then again, neither is everyone who offers to help recover your bike.

Today’s ride, on which I get right-hooked by a bus in Bike Friendly Santa Monica

It’s the holiday season.

When the city takes on a festive glow, and visions of sugar plums dance in countless heads, even if no one seems to know what those are anymore. And stressed out, distracted and/or intoxicated drivers hit the road, with the possible presence of cyclists the furthest thing from their minds.

I have no idea if that had anything to do with the problem I ran into today. I only know I arrived home simultaneously mad as hell and thanking God I was in one piece.

It’s not like I wasn’t prepared.

Experience has taught me that driving gets worse the closer we get to the holidays. In fact, the last Friday before Christmas — tomorrow, in other words, or possibly today by the time you read this — is often just this side of a demolition derby as people stumble out of countless office parties and into their cars.

So I wasn’t too surprised when a driver nearly right-hooked me. Or even when a pedestrian stepped right out in front of me without ever looking up, forcing me into a panic stop that ended with his extremely startled face just inches from mine.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the bus driver who cut directly in front of me — apparently on purpose — in what seemed from my perspective like a road rage assault. Then again, maybe she was just an incredibly crappy driver.

I first encountered her as I rode through the commercial district on Montana Avenue in the Bicycle Friendly City of Santa Monica, headed east in the bike lane. One of the city’s Big Blue Buses was loading passengers at a bus stop, then pulled out and cut me off as soon as I started to go around it.

It happens.

I wasn’t happy about it, but that’s almost to be expected. I see buses do the same thing to drivers on a daily basis.

Then a few blocks down the road, I moved ahead of the bus while it waited at a red light, since it was clear the driver was going to pull over at a bus stop just past the light. That put me safely out of its path, and I left the bus and its driver far behind me.

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

A few blocks further down the road, I could feel the bus coming up behind me. By that point, though, the bike lane had ended and the road had narrowed down to a single lane in both directions, with parking on each side. I had already taken the lane, since there wasn’t room for a car to pass safely — and certainly not enough for a bus.

I wasn’t too worried about it, though. While I don’t enjoy having a bus on my ass, I was doing over 20 mph in a 25 mph school zone, so it wasn’t like I was holding anyone up.

Evidently, the driver disagreed.

The moment we cleared the center divider, she gunned her engine and cut around me on the left — way too close for my comfort — then immediately cut back in front of me to pull over to the bus stop in front of the elementary school.

At that distance, stopping was not an option; I would have rear-ended the bus, which would not have been pretty at that speed. So I squeezed my brakes and leaned hard to the left, just clearing the rear bumper of the bus and zooming past; if I’d clipped its bumper, I would have been thrown into oncoming traffic, and probably wouldn’t be here to write this.

Again, not exactly a desirable outcome.

About half a block down the road, I thought better of it, though, and turned back to take down the number of the bus — 3830 — and the route number (3). Then I sat back and waited for the bus pass, somehow managing to keep both my words and fingers to myself.

After all, it wasn’t like she hadn’t known I was there. She’d just followed me for about a block, then sped up to go around me — even though it would have been much smarter to simply wait a few seconds and pull over safely behind me.

Somehow, though, I suspect that my safety was the last thing on her mind. Then again, pulling a stunt like that in school zone suggests she wasn’t too concerned about the kids, either.

I’ve already filed a complaint. And been assured by the very pleasant woman who answered the phone that they take things like this very seriously.

We’ll see.

……….

Update to the recent item about Andrew Wooley, the San Diego cyclist wrongly convicted of violating CVC21202 for passing a short line of cars in the right turn lane on the left, even though he was riding faster than the current speed of traffic.

In a surprising turnaround, the San Diego City Attorney’s office issued a formal position clarifying the law and reversing the undeserved conviction. Bike San Diego discusses the lessons learned, and interviews Wooley about the case — including the frightening revelation that the officer involved visited Wooley’s work and filed a complaint with his boss after Wooley had discussed the case with the officer’s supervisor.

……..

In what may be a sign of the apocalypse, L.A.’s mayor endorses cycling, or at least CicLAvia. Bike Girl offers a cautionary tale about choosing your battles. Burbank adopts a new bike plan that actually connects to other cities. A 30 minute car commute now takes 20 minutes by bike. A 9-year old Thousand Oaks boy is injured in a hit-and-run, while 39-year old Camarillo father is killed in a cycling collision; for a change, the driver stuck around. Conejo Valley volunteers give away 160 refurbished bikes, while Temecula’s Rotary Club gives away 39 shiny new ones this holiday season. Ridership in America’s bike paradise goes down for the first time in five years. Cyclists and drivers fight over Santa Rosa’s first bike boulevard; in Austin, it’s cyclists vs. business people. An innocent Chicago cyclist is killed when caught between road raging drivers. If New York’s South Williamsburg Hasidic community though cyclists were scantily clad before, just wait until this weekend. Arizona cyclists win the right to take the lane on appeal. New Bikes Allowed Use Of Full Lane stickers on sale now – which brings up the new Federal standards for bicycle signage. A Toronto man gets roughly one day in jail for each 3.3 of the 3,000 bikes he stole. British Cycling announces the first 50 members of its new Hall of Fame. Finally, the plot thickens as a cyclist hit by a car containing actress Anne Hathaway may have been a paparazzo intent on getting a photo. No wonder he didn’t stick around.

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