Tag Archive for sharing the road

The DMV gets it right, a killer hit-and-run driver may get what’s coming, and your Monday morning links

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of publications from the DMV about bicycling and sharing the road with cyclists.

But this is the first one I’ve seen that really gets it right — even if it is a tad light on instructions for motorists.

It even answers the question the LAPD has struggled with for the past year, explaining that bike riders can, in fact, ride in the crosswalk. Although it doesn’t say anything about whether riders have to cross with traffic, or if crosswalks are bi-directional for cyclists just as they are for pedestrians.

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A preliminary hearing is scheduled Monday for Jason Cox, charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run resulting in death or injury for the death of cyclist Michael Vega in Rancho Cucamonga last August.

Unfortunately, this case will be held in Bernardino County, where the lives of cyclists seem to have little value.

Update: I had originally misplaced Rancho Cucamonga in Riverside County, rather than San Bernardino. Thanks to JG for the correction.

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The London Guardian says you can, in fact, look good on your bike. And they’re right, epecially if you invest in the Pee-Wee Herman skin suit.

Meanwhile, Bicycling offers their sartorial advice on dressing for cold weather.

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L.A. City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander take up the city’s hit-and-run epidemic; Englander calls for impounding vehicles of drivers who flee, maybe he’s been reading my blog? The Times looks at Gil Garcetti, bike-friendly photographer and former DA — and father of current mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti. Long Beach’s biking expats are back in SoCal after returning to the scene of a beautifully challenging ride near Solvang.

There was actually a time when Riverside was a center for cycling. Plans are underway to remake Orange County’s Moulton Parkway to add sidewalks and bike lanes, and unfortunately, widen the roadway, which will undoubtedly increase speeds. Coronado ignores Caltrans and approves bike corrals throughout the city. Oceanside plans to rebuild PCH on a more human scale, making it bike and pedestrian friendly. When a reader asks why Los Gatos is so unfriendly to cyclists, a town official swears it ain’t necessarily so. A popular 90-year old Livermore resident struggles to recover from a December collision with a 70-year old cyclist. San Francisco plans to spend $200 million on bike projects over the next five years.

60 Minutes discovered something fishy was going on in cycling back in 2001; but don’t forget cycling is just people on bikes. Bicycling says now Greg LeMond can be the American hero he always should have been; it didn’t hurt that his name was on the bike ended up buying when I was shopping. Colorado Springs depends on bikes for freaky fast delivery. Memphis officials discuss the benefits of bike lanes. It shouldn’t take the tragic deaths of two teenage cyclists to bring their families together. Bikes are good for business, but how can cyclists make their presence known? Bicycles and Mack Trucks have exactly the same rights to the roads.

A Vancouver cyclist responds to his stolen bike by inventing a new cable lock hidden in the seat post; here’s the link to the Kickstarter page, courtesy of Bill. A UK driver flees the scene on foot after killing a couple riding their recently purchased tandem. A British mother wants to thank the driver who hit her bike-riding son for exposing the tumor that could have killed him. Another Brit hit-and-run driver faces jail for claiming his car was stolen, but not for the cyclist he killed. As usual, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain offers a long list of mostly, but not exclusively, UK-centric bike links. Touring the Loire Valley by bike. Now that’s scary, as an Australian cyclist is critically injured after riding into a downed power line. The internet is killing Aussie bike shops. A Singapore physician is charged with five counts in the hit-and-run death of one cyclist and seriously injuring another; are you starting to notice a theme here? Bangkok cyclists put pressure on candidates for governor to improve the city for bicycling.

Finally, having evidently solved the problem of distracted drivers maiming and killing people with their multi-ton vehicles, the biggest traffic problem in New Zealand is now texting cyclists. And another Kiwi writer politely says these roads are mine, so keep your damn Lycra-clad asses off it.

Loosely translated, of course.

The keys to getting even

You don’t have to ride a bike very long — here in L.A. or anywhere else — to experience an unpleasant interaction with the driver or occupants of a car. And most of us have harbored more than a few fantasies of getting even somehow.

Some of us have even gone beyond the realm of fantasy.

I was reminded of that the other day, when Will followed up his story of an ill-advised, water-logged ride by recounting his efforts to even the score with a deflating tale of a Valley double-dunking.

To paraphrase a song from my blissfully misspent youth, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. And you don’t mess around with Will.

In fact, I’d say it’s probably the second-best story I’ve heard about bikers getting even.

The best came a few decades back, when I met one of the first competitors in the Race Across America — an ultramarathon cycling event in which the competitors ride from coast to coast in a little over a week. (I’m leaving his name out because it’s not my story to tell. And because the statute of limitations may not have run out yet.)

This particular rider lived in a small mountain town in the Colorado high country, and trained by commuting by bike to his job in Denver — a round trip of over 100 miles every day, rain, shine or snow.

Usually, he didn’t have any problems with drivers. In those days, at least, Colorado was home to the Red Zinger/Coors Classic bike race, and drivers were used to seeing cyclists on the roads. And since the winding mountain roads didn’t allow vehicles to go very fast, he seldom had a problem with impatient drivers, particularly on downhill portion, where he could easily ride at or above the speed of traffic.

This particular morning, though, he had to deal with a truck driver who seemed to be in a hurry. And was being a total jerk about it, repeatedly honking his horn and driving in an unsafe manner.

They traded the lead a few times, as the driver would pass on a straight section, then he would catch up and pass on the right when the truck had to slow down for a tight turn.

That continued through the entire length of the canyon.

Once they got to the bottom, the driver was in no mood to share the road. In fact, what he wanted was a fight. So as soon as the road widened, the driver gunned his engine and zoomed past, then screeched to a stop on the side of the road. And got out of the cab with his fists balled — leaving the door open, with the engine running.

So the cyclist came to a stop just behind the truck — but stayed on his bike, balancing with his feet in the clips, as they traded angry words. When the driver charged him, he would ride back and stop again to maintain the distance between them.

This continued for several minutes, until finally, they were around 3 0 or 40 yards from the truck. At which point the cyclist simply stood on his pedals and rode past the sputtering driver — then stopped at the open door to the truck.

Realizing his mistake, the driver sprinted back to the cab as fast as his chubby legs could carrying him. But not fast enough, as the rider calmly reached in and grabbed the keys, slipped them in his jersey pocket and rode until he was safely out of reach.

Then he stopped and turned around to make sure the driver was watching. And threw the keys into an empty field, as hard and far as he could, before continuing to ride calmly on to work.

And when he rode back home that night, the truck was still there, abandoned on the side of the road.

 

Streetsblog LA counts down to the upcoming Los Angeles Bike Summit. I’m marking my calendar, though I have no idea where the L.A. Trade-Tech College is. Green L.A. Girl suggests uglifying your bike to deter theft. And in case you missed it, the despised — and probably unenforceable — L.A. bike licensing program is semi-officially dead, despite the best efforts of many riders to comply with it.

Road report from the dark side

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

It’s been a full week since I’ve been on my bike. Worse, I’ve been driving my car to and from work almost every day. Seven out of the last eight working days, in fact.

Yes, it’s true. I’ve gone over to the dark side.

Not that it was my idea, of course. I’d much rather still be working at home, so I can take off for a long lunch and knock off a quick 30 or so miles on the bike. Or maybe 40. Or 50. Especially when the weather is absolutely perfect, like it was last week.

And to make matters worse, the office I’m working in is just south of Ballona Creek, so I can see all the riders headed to and from the beach on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Assuming they don’t get mugged along the way.

But in this economy, I’m just happy to have work after a very slow summer. Besides, it could be worse; I could have been a high-paid investment banker on Wall Street.

All this time in my car has given me an opportunity to observe cycling from the perspective of a driver. And surprisingly, it hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure, there was the cyclist who hadn’t learned how to ride in a straight line yet, and was swerving right and left with every corresponding pedal stroke. As a result, he’d suddenly jerk into traffic, then back out again, back and forth. And yet, every driver somehow managed to avoid him, at least as long as he was within my site.

Or there was the woman riding a single speed cruiser with a big basket on the handlebars, who made a very, very slow speed right turn off a very busy street — and still, somehow, she managed to swerve all the way to the middle of the left lane before completing her turn (that would be the lane nearest the middle of the road, for any Brits reading this).

In the time it took to finish her turn, two cars were also able to make the same right turn behind her. One went into the right lane, safely passing to her right; the other followed her into the left lane, none too pleased from the sound of it. But as near as I could tell before my light changed, she was able to safely, and by all appearances, happily, continue down the road, as far as she could ride from where she was supposed to be without crossing over into oncoming traffic.

But most of the cyclists I’ve seen on my commute have just been people dressed for work or class, riding safely and politely. And most of the drivers I’ve seen have been equally courteous, taking the time to pass each rider safely.

Now, I have no doubt that if I would have talked to one of them, they could have told me about some driver I didn’t see who came too close, or turned right in front of them with no warning; just as I could no doubt find drivers who would complain about some crazy cyclist they encountered.

By and large, though, I’ve been pleased to see just how well cars and bikes have been able to share the road. So maybe this crazy town isn’t as dysfunctional as I thought.

As for me, I’m pleased to report that, even though I’m now a driver myself, I haven’t felt any urge to run a cyclist off the road, or toss a large drink at a rider I pass — or raw vegetables, as seems to be the fashion overseas.

So evidently, it’s not contagious. Or maybe I just haven’t been exposed long enough yet.

 

Tamerlane picks up a thread that began in New York, and transforms it into a meditation on vulnerability, and discusses the ethics of biking. Will Campbell amusingly confronts another cigarette smoking asshat. The S.F. Cycling Examiner describes flipping over the handlebars, without spilling his coffee. CNN discovers Santa Barbara’s former naked cyclist, now baring it all in Oregon. Town Mouse’s novel is soon to be available in paperback, although with the current exchange rate, still out of reach for most of us Yanks. Bike Girl continues going car free, while I go reluctantly bike free.

Educating drivers, one at a time

I was a passenger in a car over the weekend, on the way to meet some friends. We were stopped at a red light, and watched as a cyclist came down the cross street, made a right turn, and continued on the street ahead of us.

He did everything right. He signaled his turn, entered the intersection on the green, and was riding on the right side of the right lane, as close as he could get to the parked cars without undue risk of getting doored. I was admiring the way he was riding legally, safely and courteously; the driver, on the other hand, was furious.

We were just a few minutes late. And the cyclist was in her way.

Now, this was a nice four-lane street, and we were the only car on the entire block. It would have been easy for the driver to swing around the cyclist and go on her way. Instead, she started raging about how he shouldn’t be there. So I pointed out that he was riding legally, exactly where he should be, and had every right to be there.

“I don’t care,” she said. “He doesn’t belong there. I should just run his ass over.”

She didn’t mean it, of course. She was following safely, if angrily. I said, “You know, that could be me next time.”

She didn’t care. She was late. He was in her way. Case closed.

I asked why she didn’t just go around him. She replied, “I can’t, there’s not enough room.” So I told her to just swing out into the next lane, which was completely clear, and would give her plenty of room to pass safely.

She did, and we went on our way, arriving at our destination just 5 minutes after our scheduled time, of which maybe 10 or 15 seconds might have been due to following the cyclist — who never knew he had an angry driver on his wheel.

And I realized just how far we have to go in educating drivers on how to share the road.

 

Last Friday, the good doctor had his first day in court resulting from the Mandeville Canyon Break Check. Both Streetsblog and LAist comment on the hearing, including amazing speed and convenience of his first court appearance, and how it was courteously arranged so he could avoid the press, as well as future hearings. Just wait — he’ll undoubtedly end up pleading to vastly reduced charges and get off with no jail time. (Note to gangsters and other assorted criminals: if you want to get away with a driveby, just use a car instead of a gun. And make sure the victim is wearing spandex.)

In other news, the Wall Street Journal looks at bicycling in Los Angeles, and pretty much misses the point — just like the researcher for Marketplace who wanted to know how the bad economy was affecting my relationship with my bike. Uh, how about the fact that it’s putting more pissed off people behind the wheel for us to dodge? LABC’s president discusses a member’s recent accident, and the lack of effective police action. And finally, a cyclist from the UK comments on Critical Mass, the latest local version of which takes place Tuesday — and check out his other posts for some lovely shots of cycling in the countryside near Cardiff.

 

Socially conscious commuters? Or law-flaunting demons from hell?

There’s an intersection in front of my building with a 4-way stop. You don’t have to stand there very long to note that most cars passing through fail to come to anything near a complete stop; many go right through without even slowing down, as if the stop sign wasn’t there. Or as if standard traffic laws don’t apply to them.

And don’t get me started on turn signals. The drivers who actually signal their intentions, at this or any other Los Angeles intersection, sometimes seem rare enough to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Based on those observations, I could assume that everyone behind the wheel in Los Angeles is a bad driver.

I know that’s not true, though. I’m a driver myself — one who actually takes the time to observe stop signs and use his turn signals. And everyday, I see other people driving courteously and carefully; they’re just not the ones who stand out.

Or any time I’m out on Santa Monica Blvd, it’s almost a given that I’ll see someone in an expensive sports car — or driving like he wishes he had one — weaving dangerously in and out of traffic at speeds far above the posted limit. That could lead me to assume that all drivers of high-performance vehicles speed and drive recklessly; yet, again, I often see Porsches, Ferraris, Vantages and other high-powered vehicles driven as placidly as a soccer mom’s minivan.

So why do so many people in this town think that all bicyclists are alike?

You see it all the time in the comments that follow virtually any online post about bicycling, such as the comments on the Times website concerning the good  doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test, or on bulletin boards such as  Craigslist, like this comment.  Or you could have seen it again in the Times’ Letters to the Editor on Saturday, in response to the paper’s editorial urging drivers to stop harassing cyclists. (Inexplicably, the Times has posted letters from everyday except Saturday on their site; I’m including the link on the off chance that they might rectify their oversight.)

Bicyclists are aggressive. They flaunt the law. They (gasp!) ride two or more abreast.

Take this excerpt from one of Saturday’s letters: Cyclists are insistent about their right to equal use of the road (ed: actually, the California vehicle code is insistent on that), but they couldn’t care less about following the rules of the road. Only the privileges apply to them, not the responsibilities.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The biking community includes everyone from casual beach cruisers to off roaders to fixies to road racers, with a multitude of attitudes and riding styles in between. Some flaunt the law, others — I dare say, most — observe it to varying degrees.

Others carve out an exemption of one sort or another from the greater mass of evil riders, such as the next writer, who distinguishes from those “going green” and riding for transportation purposes, and other riders simply out for recreation. Of course, in her eyes, the “green” riders are the ones who observe riding etiquette, while the “pleasure riders” are the ones who “encourage road rage.” (Ed: more on that tomorrow.)

Isn’t it just possible, however, that some cyclists ride for both pleasure and transportation? Couldn’t someone commute on two wheels during the week, then don spandex before hitting the road for pleasure on the weekends?

As I’ve noted before, I try to ride safely and courteously, stopping for stop signs and red lights, and giving drivers room to pass whenever possible. And from what I’ve seen on the road, I’m not the only one. I often find myself striking up a conversation with other riders waiting patiently for the light to change — including, on occasion, members of professional racing teams in town for one reason or another.

Sure, there are rude and dangerous riders out there, just as there are rude and dangerous drivers. And they aren’t all high-speed roadies; I’ve seen as many — if not more — casual riders blow through red lights as I have those on high-end racing bikes. But my own personal experience tells me they are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Judging from comments like these, though, there seem to be a number of people here in the City of Fallen Angels who assume we all have 666 birthmarks hidden somewhere under our spandex.

 

The Times discusses rage-less road sharing today, Westside Bikeside! recounts the comments of a clueless councilman in neighboring Santa Monica, and Streetsblog talks with an expert on remorseless, horn-blaring sociopaths.

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