Tag Archive for Santa Clarita

Update: Bike rider killed in Santa Clarita collision; witnesses say salmon cyclist ran red light

More bad news, on what is turning out to be an awful day for SoCal cyclists.

According to SCVNews, an unidentified bike rider was killed in a collision in Santa Clarita this morning.

The rider, described only as an older teen or young adult, was crossing Magic Mountain Parkway on northbound Railroad Avenue — which becomes Bouquet Canyon Road on the other side of the intersection — around 7:50 am when he was hit by an LA County Sanitation truck turning left onto Railroad.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses report he was riding on the wrong side of the street, against traffic, and ran the red light at the intersection. He somehow collided with the eastbound truck, which was turning left onto Railroad. A story in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal suggests the sun may have been in the driver’s eyes; however, he likely wouldn’t have been looking for someone coming from the wrong direction as he turned in the opposite way.

The victim was reportedly riding a child’s bike; it’s also possible that it was a BMX bike, as many non-cyclists wouldn’t know the difference. It’s unclear if authorities know his identity, as he didn’t have any ID in his wallet.

The driver was taken to a nearby medical center for routine tests; however, there was no suspicion of drug or alcohol use, and a sheriff’s spokesman said he was unlikely to face charges.

This is the 75th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 32nd in Los Angeles County; that compares to 22 in the county for all of last year.

My prayers and deepest sympathy go out to the victim and all his family and loved ones.

Update: The Daily News says the victim was in his 30s, with no explanation for the discrepancy or any other details. 

Update 2: The victim keeps getting older; the Signal identifies him as a 47-year old Hispanic man; his name has not been released pending notification of next of kin.

Update 3: The victim has been identified as 47-year old Luis Ochoa of Newhall. 

Update: Bike rider fatally shot in South L.A.; 15-year Santa Clarita rider critically injured in Wednesday collision

LAist is reporting that a bike rider was shot and killed in South L.A. yesterday.

Thirty-year old Darnell Charles was riding near the intersection of Menlo Avenue and Imperial Highway around 3:20 pm Wednesday when a car pulled up next to him. After exchanging words, the driver pulled out a gun and fired before speeding off.

No word on exactly what street Charles was on, or what was said. It’s possible it was a road rage case; however, it’s more likely that the shooting was gang related or that the driver and victim knew one another.

The fact that police know words were exchanged suggests that there may have been at least one witness to the shooting.

He was the first bike rider to be fatally shot in Southern California this year; it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be the last.

Update: The Daily Breeze adds more details to the story, identifying Charles as a former star football player for Leuzinger High School. 

According to the paper, the gunman got out of his vehicle and walked up to Charles before shooting him multiple times in the upper body, then fleeing in his car. Charles was transported to a hospital where he died at 4:50 pm.

The victim, who worked as a security guard, leaves behind a son. Police confirm that they suspect the attack was gang related. 

That does not necessarily mean Charles was a gang member, however; it suggests that the shooter is suspected of having gang affiliations, whether or not his victim did.

As I note in the comments below, the overwhelming majority of fatal shootings involving cyclists are gang related. Of the 17 SoCal shooting deaths since the beginning of 2011, gang involvement was confirmed or suspected in all but two.

Until we as a society decide it’s time to put a stop gun and gang violence, people will continue to fall victim to bullets on our streets. 

Some of them will be on bikes.

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In other news, a 15-year bike rider suffered life-threatening injuries in a collision with an SUV in Santa Clarita yesterday.

The rider, who has not been publicly identified, was struck by a vehicle driven by a 17-year old motorist around 5:30 pm Wednesday at the intersection of Fairview and Waterford Drives. Again, no information on how the collision may have occurred.

News stories note that the victim was not wearing a helmet; however, they don’t say whether he suffered head injuries, or if a helmet might have made any difference.

Anyone with information is urged to call Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Traffic Detective Travis Kelly at 661/255-1121.

Santa Clarita hit-and-run killer was high on meth, coke, grass and booze; now faces trial

After Marco Valencia plowed into a group of cyclists on Bouquet Canyon Road last July, he wanted a Sheriff’s Deputy to kill him.

The local Santa Clarita Valley newspaper quotes L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Burrow as testifying that “He told me to shoot him, that his life was over.”

Unfortunately for the riders he hit, the request came a little too late.

By the time Valencia was apprehended after a short chase, Joseph Novotny already lay dead or dying and four other cyclists were injured, two seriously.

L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Allen Ramseyer accused Valencia of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life.” According to Ramseyer, he had a blood alcohol level of .18 — over twice the legal limit of .08 — as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of his arrest.

Despite being under age at the time of his arrest, Valencia already had two prior DUI convictions when he appeared before Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss at the San Fernando Courthouse on Thursday. According to the Signal, Giss determined that there was enough evidence to try Valencia on “13 criminal counts, including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.”

Giss set bail at $1.3 million, with Valencia’s next court appearance scheduled for Christmas Eve.

Somehow, I don’t think he’ll find anything good in his stocking this year — or for the next few decades, for that matter.

And Novotny’s family will have an empty seat at their holiday table this year.

And every year that follows.

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A reminder that cyclists aren’t the only vulnerable street users at risk from hit-and-run drivers. Miguel Penayo tried to escape from the scene of a traffic collision in Bell last night after apparently feeling threatened by a group of men, driving directly at them and striking one man. He then struck and killed another man who was leaving a Starbucks — an innocent victim who had nothing to do with the preceding incident — dragging his body beneath the car for “some distance,” according to L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

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For all you Dutch bike and cargo bike fans, Flying Pigeon will soon stock Nihola Cigar Cargo Bikes. Streetsblog offers a bike-focused calendar for the upcoming week. The new plan for the Whittier Narrows calls for more bikeways and bike friendly streets. Stunt cyclist Danny Makaskill demonstrates the skills you need to navigate rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. Charleston, SC looks to calm the conflict between cyclists and drivers. The New York Times magazine endorses the bicycle highway. Missouri considers building a hanging bike bridge over the Mississippi River. Philadelphia cyclists declare victory over the city’s first experiment with a road diet. Among the reasons not to bike to work, you could die — of course, the same argument could be made for not getting out of bed in the morning. Cheap helmets help, but fit matters, too. With the rise in cycling, expect bad press to get worse before it gets better. A UK “thug” is sentenced for killing a man in an argument over borrowing his bike. Apparently, drunk cycling is legal in New Zealand, but I wouldn’t count on it. Philippines cyclists ride for women’s rights. A Brit TV host had his “willy cut ‘half off’” in a childhood biking accident. The rash of bike thefts spreads to Oxford — yet somehow, becomes a reason to crack down on reckless riders. After 75 years, the debate over UK bike lanes goes on…and on…and on… Finally, an OP piece in car-centric L.A.’s leading paper calls on Angelenos to change their thinking and not view streets as exclusively for cars; it didn’t take long for the usual sniping about “traffic laws are for cyclists, too,” to start. Or for someone to suggest it’s all a commie plot.

Santa Clarita to honor fallen cyclist with silent ride

novotny-2Every cycling death is tragic. And unnecessary.

And this year, there have been far too many around here.

Whether it’s a father taking his son on a grand adventure. A local handyman who took up riding after losing part of his vision in an accident. A day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who rode everywhere. A woman police blame for causing her own death by riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. Or a man in Orange County just trying to get home from work.

And then there’s Joseph Novotny.

Like Rod Armas and Jesus Castillo, he was killed by an accused drunk driver who fled the scene — a driver who had already been arrested multiple times, despite being too young to legally drink.

And it was preventable.

His killer was driving with a suspended license, and passing motorists had already reported him to the authorities. But despite their best efforts, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments after he’d plowed his truck into a group of oncoming cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder of the road, and continued down the road.

Four cyclists were injured, two seriously. And Novotny was killed.

It could have been anyone of us.

Adding to the tragedy, he was on one of his first rides with the Santa Clarita Velo Club, having just moved to the area with his wife. Now she, and all those who knew and loved him, have to find a way to go on without him.

Next Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Velo Club are sponsoring a Memorial Ride of Silence in memory of Robert Novotny, and other cyclists who have been killed on the roads.

I’ll let Jeff Wilson explain:

Los Angeles cyclists and Biking in LA readers, we could use your help!

On July 11, 2009, 43 year old cyclist Joseph Novotny was struck and killed by an underaged drunk driver while riding his bike in the Bouquet Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

On October 3, Santa Clarita cyclists will ride silently in memory of Joe Novotny and all other cyclists who have been killed while riding. Please consider joining us to raise awareness of bicyclists and our right to use roads.

The 12 mile ride begins at 8am in Santa Clarita. A Sheriff’s escort will be provided as we ride into Newhall, then Stevenson Ranch, and finally back to Valencia. Most of the route is flat; other parts are somewhat hilly (but brief). Cyclists are asked to ride in silence and at around 12mph.

From Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is just minutes north of the San Fernando Valley. Take Interstate 5 north and exit at Valencia Blvd. Proceed east on Valencia until you reach Citrus Avenue. Turn left on Citrus Avenue. Free parking is available.

Unfortunately, while Metrolink service is available to Santa Clarita, the earliest northbound train will arrive after the ride has started.

I know it’s short notice, and you may have other commitments already. But if you’re planning to ride next weekend, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

Or a better reason.

And please, be careful out there this weekend. I want to see you all back here on Monday.

For more information, contact IreneTJohnson@yahoo.com, or click here to visit the Facebook page.

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Submitted for your approval: LADOT has finally released the full draft bicycle plan and scheduled dates and locations for public comment; Bike Girl calls the deadline for comments “infeasible,” while Dr. Alex notes that it excludes input from Neighborhood Councils. Pasadena has a meeting scheduled to discuss its new Bicycle Master Plan. Mark your calendar for the Festival of Rights to protest the illegal exclusion of bikes from the DWP’s annual Holiday Light Festival. We could have had bike lanes on Topanga Boulevard by now, no thanks to the Department of Currently Unfeasible, aka LADOT. L.A.’s leading bike wonk makes the case for making the case for active transportation. The only thing missing from Santa Monica’s new green maintenance facility is bike racks. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a report from the road. An Arizona cyclist was killed riding with a group of other cyclists; he leaves behind a wife and three children, including a newborn. Evidently, cars really do make Americans fat. Proof there’s more than one way to park a bike. I don’t know what’s worse — that they put up speed bumps in a cemetery without warning cyclists, or that a few rude cyclists made it necessary. San Francisco police take a report of harassing a cyclist seriously. Finally, your word for the day is Traumadinejad.

novotny-2

Just how many drunk driving deaths are one too many?

This last Saturday, Joseph Novotny of Stevenson Ranch became the latest local cyclist killed in a hit-and-run drunk driving incident. (Note that I refuse to call them “accidents.”)

It should never have happened.

According to the local Santa Clarita paper, the driver of the pickup had been reported to the police just minutes earlier after nearly sideswiping another car. After calling 911, the other driver followed him as he drifted across lanes, onto the sidewalk and the median, and into a fence.

He continued talking with the dispatcher as he followed the truck up Bouquet Canyon Road, then watched in horror as it crossed onto the other side and hit five cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder head on.

Unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments too late.

That wasn’t the first opportunity anyone had to stop him, though. That came in 2007, when the then 18-year old driver was first convicted of driving under the influence. Or they could have stopped him last year, after he knocked down a utility pole in another drunk driving incident.

They also might have gotten him off the streets for any of his multiple arrests for illegal drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing police officers.

Instead, this past Saturday he was allegedly driving drunk, with a suspended license — despite the early hour and being under-age. Now two cyclists face a long recovery from serious injuries, and another is dead, leaving behind a wife and devastated friends.

According to one of those friends, despite being a relatively new member of the Santa Clarita Velo Club — Novotny and his wife moved to the Santa Clarita area just last March after living in Minnesota and Belgium — Novotny was an experience rider and a great hill climber. In fact, he sold Novotny his first road bike over 20 years ago and they frequently rode together. Novotny had even been the best man at his wedding.

Now he’s dead because the authorities couldn’t — or simply didn’t — keep a repeat offender off the roads. And the driver is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges that may include murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run causing death.

Since the driver was underage, it’s also possible that whoever supplied him with the alcohol and/or drugs, or sold it to him in violation of the law, could face charges if the authorities choose to pursue it.

Yet even if this young man spends the rest of his life in jail — which is a distinct possibility — it does nothing to stop the larger problem of intoxicated and/or hit-and-run drivers.

At least three L.A.–area cyclists have been killed in hit-and-run incidents by accused drunk drivers this year alone — Novotny, Jesus Castillo and Rod Armas. Add to that Patrick Shannon, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Orange County recently, as well as countless others who’ve survived their injuries, including local cycling leader Roadblock.

Then there are all the pedestrians and vehicle passengers who’ve been killed or injured in hit-and-run and/or drunk driving incidents this year alone, including Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in 2007 alone, an estimated 12,998 people were killed in alcohol-related motor-vehicle collisions — and an estimated 50% – 75% of drivers whose licenses get suspended will continue to drive anyway.

Newly elected councilmember Paul Koretz addressed this problem on here recently, as did his opponent David Vahedi. MADD proposes a campaign along the lines of what Vahedi suggested, including increased police enforcement as well as interlock systems that can prevent drunk drivers from starting their cars if they’ve been drinking.

Personally, I think the solution is a strict two-strike and you’re out policy.

On the first offense, the driver’s license is permanently revoked; after a period of one to two years, he or she can appear before a judge and request permission to apply for a license — but only if they’ve successfully completed a counseling program and agree to place an interlock system on any vehicle to which they have access.

Meanwhile, any vehicles registered in the driver’s name will be impounded until the license is restored, or sold to compensate any victims. And no one, anywhere, for any reason, should ever get another chance after a second violation.

Anyone caught driving after their license has been revoked should face mandatory jail time, with no possibility of early release. And any person convicted of leaving the scene of an accident should lose all driving privileges permanently, forever. Even for the first offense.

Harsh? Maybe.

But nowhere near as harsh as what Novotny’s family and friends now face.

Full disclosure — My 16-year old cousin was killed by a drunk driver when she was thrown from a car driven by her own father, who then ran over her and drove home without ever noticing she was missing. Also, one of my childhood friends was killed just before our senior year of high school when a drunk driver jumped a 20-foot wide median strip on an Interstate highway and hit his car head-on at over 70 mph. She walked away without a scratch; he and his passenger were killed instantly.

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The Wheelmen list all the finishers for this years Grand Tour, but there’s no mention of the two who didn’t make it, Rod Armas and his son. Am I the only one who thinks that’s shameful? Stephen Box examines the bikes on Metro controversy, while the Bus Bench takes the other side, and complains about those oppressed cyclists. Newport Beach beats L.A. to the punch on bicycle sharing. The cycling lawyer offers good advice for when tempers flare, while the other cycling lawyer notes that not one driver has been cited for violating Arizona’s three-foot passing law in Tucson this year. Two Milwaukee bike cops are struck in separate incidents. Evidently, it’s still illegal to park a bike on the sidewalk in Jacksonville. No bikes involved — thank God — but see how fast an accident can happen. Just Williams finally gets the instructions on how to fold his Ikea folding bike. Finally, a Berlin brothel offers a discount to anyone who arrives by bike.

Another weekend, another drunken hit-and-run, another ghost bike

This has to be the worst weekend for L.A.-area cyclists in recent memory.

On the heels of yesterday’s twin shootings comes word of yet another cyclist killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver.

Joseph Novotny of Stevenson Ranch was riding on Bouquet Canyon Road with a group of other riders Saturday morning. A pickup truck driving in the opposite direction crossed over the double yellow line and struck three cyclists, then continued on his way without stopping. Novotny was killed, and four other riders were injured, two seriously.

A 20-year old driver from Saugus was arrested about 90 minutes later, and is currently being held on suspicion of murder, hit-and-run and driving under the influence, with a bail of $1.1 million, according to the Times. (As a rule, I try not to name suspects because tempers tend to run high after something like this. Including mine.)

This comes just two weeks after another local rider was killed, and his son injured, in yet another alleged drunken hit-and-run incident on PCH in Malibu.

The simple fact is, there are far too many drunk drivers on the road, and far too many drivers willing to flee the scene after killing or injuring another human being. And far too many innocent lives shattered forever.

If you have a solution to this problem, I’d like to know.

Because frankly, I’m at a loss here.

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Evidently, this was a bad weekend cyclists all around the country. Locally, a rider took a bad fall on a century ride over the weekend. A rider in Harlem was knocked off his bike and killed after a blow to the head. A Toledo rider was struck by a car, then spit on and beaten by the occupants — less than a week after another rider died of injuries he sustained when a 15-year old boy stole his bike. Finally, a little good news as a pro bono attorney fights for a group of riders who rolled a stop on a charity ride.

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