Tag Archive for Roadblock

Fighting back against hit-and-run in L.A., and a tree points the finger at the car that killed it

Not all victims of hit-and-run are human.

Hit-and-run is a serious problem in L.A.

And from what I’ve seen, pretty much everywhere else, too.

According to LAPD statistics, a driver flees the scene in a staggering one out of every three reported collisions in this megalopolis we call home.

Last year alone, the city saw 18,819 hit-and-run collisions. That includes 36 cases where someone — another motorist, a cyclist* or pedestrian — was left to die in the street. Along with another 134 people severely injured and 852 with less serious injuries.

I have my own thoughts on how to address it at a state level. Like automatically revoking the license of anyone who leaves the scene of a collision. And impounding the vehicle as evidence pending a trial — then seizing and selling it upon conviction, with any proceeds going to the victim.

After all, you don’t let a bank robber keep the gun he used.

State law already allows a car to be seized by the state if it’s used to solicit prostitution. And isn’t leaving a victim bleeding in the street a little serious than trolling for a blowjob?

Meanwhile, writing for KCET, L.A. bike advocate Don Ward — better known as Roadblock — has his own thoughts on how to address it on a local level.

  1. Elevate the status of hit-and-run against cyclists and pedestrians to that of assault, regardless of the severity of the injury.
  2. License numbers must be run immediately, and a patrol car deployed to the owner’s home to gather evidence.
  3. Saying “I didn’t see them” should be an admission of guilt, not an excuse — especially when it involves a pedestrian in a painted crosswalk.
  4. Speed limits must be enforced by all means possible.

He’s planning to take it up with the L.A. Police Commission at their next meeting at 9 am Tuesday at police headquarters, 1st and Main Street, across from Downtown City Hall. Ward is asking cyclists to meet him at the Starbucks one block east of police headquarters at 1st and Los Angeles Street before the meeting to discuss strategy.

You may think you have more important things to do that day.

But chances are, you don’t.

Especially if you don’t want to find yourself lying in the street one day, watching the car that hit you speed off into the distance.

*LAPD stats show four cyclists killed in hit-and-run collisions in 2011, while my records show three out of the city’s five cycling fatalities were hit-and-run.

……..

The key to solving any hit-and-run is identifying the driver.

But sometimes, it’s a little easier than others. Especially when the victim grabs the license plate of the vehicle that killed it.

Photos courtesy of the LACBC's and CicLAvia's Bobby Gadda

The link love is back — Villaraigosa’s failing bikeway promise, Roadblock joins the bloggerati

Leading L.A. bike advocate and Creak Freak Joe Linton offers another of his exceptional bike wonk efforts, digging deep into the mayor’s promise to build 40 miles of bikeways each year.

And not surprisingly, finding it lacking.

Linton points out that between what’s already installed and what’s projected to be installed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, the city will end up over 23% short of the mayor’s promise, at 31.04 miles.

And that includes eight miles of sharrows, which we all seem to appreciate, but which most would hardly consider fulfillment of the mayor’s promise.

After all, sharrows are easy to put down almost anywhere. But unlike bike lanes, they don’t grant us one inch of pavement we weren’t entitled to before. Or get us out of the traffic lane, where our safety depends on the willingness of drivers to observe the law. Let alone pay attention.

Which isn’t something you really want to count on.

Still, Joe holds out hope that L.A. will live up to its promise. And offers a list of low hanging fruit that could be installed quickly and easily.

Are you listening Mayor?

……..

Speaking of our soon-to-be outgoing mayor, Streetsblog is keeping an eye on L.A.’s 2013 mayoral candidates.

I particularly like cyclist, businessman and former First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner’s comment that 35 years is too long to build out the city’s bike plan.

“We want a bike-friendly city. What does the City deliver? A 35-year plan.  It took Tolstoy one year to write “War and Peace,” four years for physicists to assemble an atom bomb, eight years to answer JFK’s call to land a man on the moon, and it took Dick Riordan three months to fix the 10 freeway after the Northridge earthquake. Why is it going to take 35 years to make us bike-friendly?

Why indeed?

A motivated mayor could easily build out the entire plan before he or she is termed out, even if we tossed in a few cycle tracks, bike boxes and other assorted infrastructure still considered experimental under current Caltrans guidelines.

As NYDOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said, it’s just paint.

……..

In a very pleasant surprise, one of the leaders of L.A.’s cycling community joins the bloggerati, as Roadblock begins a bi-weekly column for the excellent KCET’s Departures series; it’s worth the click just for the breathtaking photos.

They also offer a first-hand report on Flying Pigeon’s ever popular Get Sum Dim Sum ride.

……..

The long awaited Main Street road diet in Venice is now underway. Richard Risemberg reminds the Tea Partiers among us that bikes aren’t socialistic, but highways are. The LACBC tours bike-friendly Long Beach with County Supervisor and presumed L.A. mayoral candidate Zev Yaroslovsky. LADOT offers an update on the latest BPIT meeting, while Street Services take a patchwork approach to preserving sharrows. Better Bike offers advice on how to put a dent in Beverly Hills bike theft. The Weekly looks at the Fresh Food Bike grocery delivery mentioned here awhile back. USC releases a draft plan for dealing with bike safety on campus; all options seem to include at least a partial bike ban or dismount zone. Will Campbell discovers a new bike/ped path in Burbank. South Pasadena is looking for advisory committee members for a remake of Monterey Road, including possible bike lanes. A must read, as KCRW’s Shortcut’s blog asks if the auto industry will ever give a crap about safety; the proliferation of texting and Facebook enabled dashboards suggests otherwise.

California has updated it’s overly conservative guide to what traffic signals, signage and markings are allowed on our streets; wayfinding and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs are now allowed, NACTO not so much. Riverside’s mayor calls for fighting obesity with more bike lanes. Redlands cyclists set out to form the desperately needed Inland Empire Bicycle Alliance; if you’re in San Bernardino County, you should definitely look these guys up. A look at the recent High Desert Cyclocross. Buellton approves a close-circuit bike race for March 31st; yes, that’s what they call it. Santa Barbara’s Wheel House Dutch-style bike shop will go out of business at the end of the month after a steep rent increase; don’t get me started on greedy landlords, especially in this economy.

People for Bikes is now up to nearly 500,000 supporters; as I recall, I signed up about 490,000 ago. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske says “I didn’t see the cyclist” — or as the Queen’s loyal subjects put it, “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” aka SMIDSY — is a confession of guilt; something I’ve been saying for years. Good offers a beginners guide to Cycle Chic. There seems to be little love for Seattle’s so-called Mayor McSchwinn. Albuquerque decides to ban bikes from an industrial area rather than require truckers to drive safely; a local bike blog quite correctly calls them on it. A Madison WI cyclist offers a mittened response to angry drivers on snowy days, and not the one you might think. St. Louis could soon require bike parking along with new car parking lots. New York vehicle crashes disproportionately affect children in poor neighborhoods. More Miami mayhem as a Brazilian race car driver plows into a man loading his bike onto a car, allegedly after a night of drinking and cocaine use. A long time vehicular cyclist feels uniquely qualified to debunk the practice.

A writer for London’s Guardian considers his double life as a slow cycling Dutch-style commuter and a Lycra-clad speedster; meanwhile, the paper offers advice on how to start cycling to work. While we’re on the subject of Fleet Street, a writer for the conservative London Mail says he wishes cars had never been invented after getting hit by one while riding to church. UK businesses offer to pitch in with money, materials and equipment to cut the cost of a much-needed bike path. Britain’s Parliament considers a new law to criminalize dangerous cycling that results in death — of others, that is; causing your own death by riding recklessly will remain perfectly legal. Bicycle registration is not the answer for bad behavior, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. A witness claims that bike-hating Aussie cricketer Shane Warne deliberately hit a cyclist he blamed for attacking his car; thanks to cyclist and attorney David Huntsman for the tip. Horrifying story of an Australian sex offender who deliberately ran down and crippled a female cyclist in a failed attempt at abduction; there is not a hole in hell deep enough for someone like that.

Finally, a reminder to check the background of your photos before you post them online, even if it does feature a famous cyclist. And a great Monty Python-esque response to the question what have the cyclists ever done for us?

And thanks to Margrét Helgadóttir and D. D. Syrdal for reminding me that it’s possible to ride past angry drivers as calmly as I’ve passed other dangerous beasts over the years.

Bike cases fill the dockets — Dr. Thompson was just the beginning

As Bob Mionske noted in the Times last week, the Thompson case does not represent a sea change for cyclists.

It was just one case, with unique circumstances. Like driver who admitted trying to “teach them a lesson.” A car with a unique, memorable license plate. And at least three other cyclists who could testify to similar incidents involving the same car, and the same driver.

Not to mention a police department that took it seriously — which isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.

As cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels pointed out recently, while Thompson got 5 years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, Alejandro Hidalgo got just two years for getting drunk and killing Jesus Castillo, then fleeing the scene.

Call me crazy, but on my balance sheet, Intoxication + Death + Running Away outweighs Intent + Injury. Even if it wasn’t the first time.

And that’s just the first of at least 10 other cases involving cyclists working their way through the investigative and legal process in the L.A. area.

Like Teri Hawkins, for instance.

She reportedly ran a stop sign before striking a cyclist, knocking him 30 feet through the air. The 40-year old Simi Valley resident turned herself in to the police 4 days after the hit-and-run collision that resulted in “major injuries” to the 26-year old rider, who has not been publicly identified.

After pleading no contest to hit-and-run with injury (CVC 2001a), her request for probation was denied and she was sentenced to 16 months in state prison last week, with credit for 76 days time served. Hawkins was also ordered to pay restitution, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the San Fernando courthouse.

Wheels notes that turning herself in may have been a mitigating factor in the relatively low sentence — although it should be noted that her conscience seemed to kick in after her car had been located and impounded by the police.

Wheels also provided an update on the status of some of the other cases:

The preliminary setting for Robert Sam Sanchez — the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Christian on PCH in Malibu last June — has been continued for the third time.

Sanchez was arrested shortly after fleeing the collision, which took place near the completion of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200-mile Grand Tour Double Century. The preliminary setting, held prior to a preliminary hearing, is now scheduled for February 11 in the Malibu Courthouse. Sanchez has pled not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Section 191.5a of the California Penal Code) as well as driving under the influence (CVC 23152a) and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury (CVC 20001a).

Rod’s sister-in-law reported last summer that Christian was doing well physically, though making it clear that the family was struggling with his loss. And an acquaintance of Sanchez noted that he was not a bad person, despite a drunken decision to get behind the wheel that has forever changed two families.

Mark Antonio Valencia was high on drugs and alcohol when he mowed down five cyclists in Santa Clarita on the morning of July 11, killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two others. Valencia, who was driving his sister’s car without a license after two prior DUI convictions — as well as multiple arrests for drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing officers — had already been reported to authorities before the collision; unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies couldn’t catch up to him in time.

DJ Wheels reports that Valencia is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the San Fernando courthouse on January 22. Valencia is still being held on $1.3 million bail, charged with 13 criminal counts including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.

In a very personal case, the driver who threatened a group of cyclists, resulting in injuries to Wheel’s new wife, will be arraigned on January 26.

On January 28, the driver accused of injuring local cycling advocate Roadblock in a hit-and-run collision is scheduled for a pretrial hearing.

A February 3 hearing has been scheduled for four men charged with attempting to rob a female cyclist by striking her in the face with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the hit-and-run that sent community leader Ed Magos to the hospital on January 6. Despite driving off and leaving another human splayed on the pavement unable to move, the driver was not arrested when she turned herself in later; no charges have yet been filed.

No word yet on the status of Patricia Ann Izquieta, who was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Donald Murphy in Irvine last month. Or whether any charges will be filed in the death of Gustavo Ramirez in Long Beach on the 5th. It doesn’t sound likely, though, since initial police statements seemed to blame Ramirez; the Press-Telegram reports on last weekend’s ride in his honor.

And there’s still no word of an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Robert Painter, the cyclist killed while riding in a crosswalk in North Hollywood last month. Fittingly, the driver is likely to face murder charges once an arrest is made.

……..

Controversy over plans for a bikeway near JPL. Travelin’ Local maps L.A. by bike. A North County San Diego paper questions whether current criminal penalties are strong enough when cars hit bikes; a drunk cyclist unwittingly volunteers as a test case. Another rider is killed in the nation’s most deadly state for cycling; Transit Miami examines why it happened there. Austin’s planned bike boulevard hits some bumps. Anchorage holds a very frosty bike race. A Colorado town revives the legendary Morgul Bismark stage from the Red Zinger/Coors Classics. German pro Matthias Kessler suffered a serious brain injury after a cat runs in front of his bike. London residents question traffic calming and bikeway plans. Lance has won seven tours; World Champ Cadel Evans says he’s only lost five.  Bikeways to the sailing venues for the 2012 Olympics could use some improvement. Scotland awards over $1.2 million to promote cycling in Edinburgh. The UK promotes child cycling through the new Bike Club. An Indian Nobel Laureate and confirmed cyclist says cars set a bad example, while a Danish politician says bikes are the obvious solution. Finally, the Trickster did indeed say it first — Michael Vink is a rising rider to keep an eye on.

And a woman walks into a bike shop

DIY police work leads to meager charges — and dangerously written laws

A popular L.A. cyclist thinks he knows why the driver who hit him ran.

And he knows who it was.

Maybe you know Roadblock. It’s almost amazing how many L.A. area cyclists do, and just how highly they regard him. But then, as one of the city’s leading bike activists and an original founder of the Midnight Ridazz, it’s pretty easy to understand why.

Or maybe you read about his recent biking accident, when the story of how he got run down by a hit-and-run driver made waves in the local online and cycling communities.

Fortunately, he’s okay, aside from a complaint about lingering back pain. In fact, when I ran into him the other night — figuratively, not literally — he looked good.

But it could have been much worse.

He was hit from behind at high speed, and carried several yards on the hood of the car before the driver applied the brakes and he was thrown off onto the street.

And then, as so often happens, the driver gunned his engine and took off, disappearing into the night. In fact, at least four cyclists in the L.A. and Orange County area have been killed by hit-and-run drivers this year alone; Santa Clarita held a Ride of Silence this past Saturday to commemorate the most recent cyclist run down by a drunken runaway motorist.

Fortunately, he somehow managed to get a partial license plate as he lay in the street. And that’s when L.A.’s Department of DIY sprang into action once again.

Overnight, signs sprang up seeking witnesses. Back channel contacts identified the owner of a suspect vehicle. A little detective work led to a local auto body shop, where photos were taken of the car as it was being repaired.

And in less than 48 hours, the suspect was identified to the police and the legal process was in motion.

Roadblock wants to keep the driver’s identity to himself for now, until the legal process is further along. But he says it’s someone well known in city circles, who certainly should have known better — and acted differently.

He also has a theory — which, due to the delay in finding the suspect, is likely to remain nothing but speculation — that the driver had been drinking. And that’s probably why he ran.

Evidently, the driver’s gamble paid off, since Roadblock had the good fortune to escape with relatively minor injuries, so the driver will escape with relatively minor charges.

Under California law, a hit-and-run that doesn’t result in injury is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1000. And the authorities seem to feel that the sort of soft-tissue injuries Roadblock suffered don’t count, despite lingering pain and stiffness nearly five months later.

If the collision had resulted in a few broken bones, the penalty would be up to a year in jail, with a fine up to $10,000; a hit-and-run resulting in death or serious, permanent injury could bring up to 4 years in state prison.

And that’s the problem.

Existing law actually encourages intoxicated drivers to flee the scene of a collision, because the penalties for drunk driving resulting in injury or death can be far more severe than the relatively minor penalties for running away.

In fact, according to the Driver’s Handbook published by the DMV, a DUI case involving serious injury or death can be prosecuted under the state’s Three Strikes Law, potentially resulting in life imprisonment. Which makes the maximum penalty of four years for running away pale in comparison.

And relatively minor charges like hit-and-run are often dropped or plea-bargained away before a case ever comes to a resolution.

So for a driver who’s had a few drinks, fleeing the scene offers a reasonable gamble that they may get away with it. Or at least have time to sober up before getting caught.

And that has to change.

The penalties for hit-and-run have to be increased, until they’re strong enough that no one would ever consider leaving the scene of an accident.

Because this epidemic of drunken hit-and-runs has to stop. And our government has to stop encouraging it.

………

Santa Monica authorities insist it’s safe to ride through the city even if you don’t have a license, despite what the law says. L.A.’s bike culture captures yet another convert. A motorist in Sun Valley is in desperate need of a better bike rack; if your bike is missing, this might be your prime suspect. An upcoming photo exhibition profiles Angelenos who somehow survive sans cars. The paparazzi catch Sharon Stone bike shopping with her kids; the unidentified store looks like I. Martin to me. Joe Linton lists Long Beach’s leap to livability. In Chicago they even bike for cocktails; how civilized. An S.F. paper asserts cycling steers fashion, and that cars and bikes can, in fact, coexist. New York gets the kind of center median cycletrack we can only dream of. A Florida cop tases a fleeing cyclist before running over and killing him. Lego cyclists can be put back together; real ones can’t. Ex-framebuilder Dave Moulton explains the bike’s evolution away from the wheelbarrow effect. Edmonton police are on the lookout for a biking people-basher, while Toronto cyclists look hotter in a helmet. Finally, the Times touches briefly on last Friday’s David Byrne panel discussion; look for my take Wednesday on Streetsblog.

The hit-and-run epidemic continues — and almost takes a local legend

Only by the grace of God, or good fortune, or karma, or whatever you happen to believe in, did local riders avoid yet another ghost bike ceremony this week.

Late Monday night, Roadblock, one of the original Midnight Ridazz and a leader in the L.A. bike community, was struck from behind at high speed while riding on Glendale Boulevard and flipped up onto the hood of the car. The driver then braked, dumping him onto the pavement, before speeding off without so much as pausing to see if he was injured or dead.

Fortunately — miraculously — he avoided serious injuries and was able to get the first six digits of the license plate number, along with a general description of the vehicle as it sped off.

And yes, he was riding legally, using both a headlight and rear light, as well as reflectors on his shoes, and was wearing a helmet.

In some ways, he may be lucky that the driver fled the scene, making it a crime rather than a mere traffic accident. Otherwise, the LAPD Traffic Division might be twisting itself in knots to come up with evidence proving he backed into the car at high speed.

There are two things that have to be done in response to this. The first is to get the a**hole who did this off the streets, and behind bars. Fortunately, the police take hit-and-run very seriously, and will do their best to catch the people responsible.

But we can help, too.

There are far more cyclists than there are police on the streets of L.A. So let’s be their eyes and ears, and keep a close lookout for a dark sedan — Roadblock describes it as dark gray — with a license plate reading 6GYC11-.

If you see it, don’t try to do anything yourself. Call the police and let them deal with it. And if you have any information, call the tip line at 213/972-1825 or email BikeHitAndRun@gmail.com.

Secondly, call or email your councilmember today and demand action to stop the epidemic of hit-and-runs in this city. There’s a reason that was the first question I asked both of the candidates for CD5 (which remains too close to call).

You can read more about Roadblock’s incident — based on his description, I can’t call it an “accident” — on Streetsblog and LAist, as well as the original thread on the Midnight Ridazz website.

And on a semi-related note, tonight is the annual worldwide Ride of Silence to honor fallen cyclists; maybe next year, we can hold one here. And maybe, with luck, we won’t have any local riders to honor.

I’ll leave the last words to Roadblock, on a comment he left today as part of that thread:

You guys are crackin me up. Love you guise seriously. Feels great to be part of this big family of caring ridazz.

Just fed myself a big ole breakfast and I’m on my way to grab some wood and spray paint…. gonna put up some big signs and see if I can get more witnesses. There was a witness last night who said she saw the driver and gave the cops a description, so that coupled with hopefully an accurate plate and boom, fingers crossed this guy gets caught…

Sorry for my angry words up there, I was so steamed up that someone could be that careless and ruthless. The law will run its course and hopefully this guy had insurance or something I can sue for in a civil suit. I’m hobbling around cause I’m sore as hell but again, I got lucky nothing broke.

Thanks everyone.

Wear your helmets, use bright bike lights in the daytime as well…. you need to be 100% and even then something like this can still happen and it won’t change until there is paint on the streets and traffic is tamed… wow.

 

According to Streetsblog, we may actually see an Expo Bikeway in our lifetime; they also ask if there’s too much emphasis on safety. Uh, no. Russ Roca offers good advice on how to introduce sharrows to the driving public. Ubrayj suggests that now may be the time to break up the LADOT. Green LA Girl calls your attention to the upcoming World Naked Bike Ride. Finally, an Aussie writer suggests cyclists should be forced to register their bikes, but only so the government knows where to send the checks for all the good we do — and adds that all drivers should be required to spend 100 hours on a bike before they can get a license.

And as for that post I promised on Election Day, it’s still coming. I promise. But somehow, this seemed more important.

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