Tag Archive for the kindness of strangers

Morning Links: Protect your bike on Metro buses, motorists behaving badly, and more kindhearted people

Keep a close eye on you bike when you use those racks on the front of a bus.

That was the gist of an email I received Thursday evening, from someone who reported having his bike stolen while commuting home from work.

Fortunately it was not my favorite cyclocross bike but rather a Specialized Rock Hopper that’s about 15 years old and that I was thinking about replacing.  I ride buses a lot and I read the story of the fellow whose bike was stolen from rack while he was sitting in the back of the bus. So I sit in the front and I watch my bike at the stops.  In retrospect I realized that I mainly watch when it is the only bike up there, for anyone who is going up to the front that shouldn’t be there.  But this guy was a very clever thief who had a beater bike on the rack in front of mine. So even though I was watching my bike at the stop it didn’t occur to me that the guy in the front was undoing the bike catch to my bike and not his bike until it was too late.  I can tell you that watching doesn’t do much good when all it takes a few seconds to take the bike off, mount it and take off riding.  By the time I grabbed my backpack and my pannier and got past the people coming in the front door, it was too late.  And what would I have done anyway, taken him down with a running tackle?  My only option was to take the beater bike which he left.

I have been paranoid in regards public transportation — I sit near my bike on the MetroLink even if that means sitting on the floor or standing and I lock my bike on Amtrak because there are only about six seats down in the bike area and they are reserved for disabled.

But I can’t lock my bike to the Metro bike rack so instead I decided that I’m going to lock my rear wheel to the frame before I put it on the rack.  So if someone decides to take it they aren’t going to be able to ride it away.

That last bit is good advice.

Many bus drivers keep an eye on the bikes in front of them, but they can’t watch them all the time. And not every driver does.

So anything you can do to disable your bike to keep a thief from being able to easily ride or roll off with it could be enough to protect your bike from being stolen.

After all, it’s a lot harder to pick up a bike and run with it than it is to simply ride away.


Today’s common theme: Motorists behaving badly.

San Diego police are looking for a hit-and-run driver who rear-ended an experienced cyclist Thursday morning; she nearly lost a foot in the collision.

A Chicago woman faces felony drunk driving charges after drinking all day and running into an eight-year old boy as he rode his bike; she also had an open container in the car.

Unbelievable. Five Ohio cyclists were left crossed when the driver of pickup turned into them as they rode in a group; one rider died at the scene and two were airlifted to a hospital.

A New Jersey driver faces up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted of first degree vehicular homicide and other assorted charges in the drunken hit-and-run death of a bike rider. To make matters worse, he 1) told police he thought he hit a deer, 2) told police he wasn’t the driver of the car, 3) refused to give a urine sample without a warrant, and 4) had been driving on a suspended license since 2007.

A South Carolina driver faces charges for driving with a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. But the cyclist he killed? No big deal.

A road-raging English driver is charged with intentionally chasing down and ramming a bicyclist, all because the cyclist touched the man’s car to steady himself at a red light. The driver claimed the victim had swerved into his car, which was disproven by security cam footage.

A Helsinki driver faces up to eight years for deliberately running down and killing a cyclist in a road rage incident.

And how distracted does a driver have to be to miss — or rather, not miss — a camel walking on the side of a road in Southern California?

Then again, it’s not just motorists; Scotland police are looking for a cyclist who whacked a schoolboy in the head with his bike lock.


Thankfully, we can counter that with a few stories of people at their best.

Minutes after big-hearted Kansas City police take a report of a stolen kids’ bike, they come back with a new one to replace it.

The owners of a Michigan Pizza Parlor gave a new bike to an autistic employee after his was stolen while he was at a movie to celebrate his first paycheck.

A NASA engineer in Huntsville AL fixes bikes for neighborhood kids and gives away refurbished ones, along with life lessons for the young riders.


For reasons known only to them, Cleveland is redefining buffered bike lanes, apparently choosing to protect cyclists from riding too close to the curb while moving them next to the far more dangerous traffic to the left.

Photo by Angie Schmitt

Photo by Angie Schmitt


A couple quick notes from this week’s Interbike in Las Vegas.

Credit Jay Wolff of the Santa Monica Helen’s Cycles with bringing the stars of Breaking Away back together.

In light of the Interbike sockgate scandal, Bike Radar lists five of the bike industry’s most sexist marketing fails. Of course, these are just from the last few years; bike marketing has been a boy’s club for decades. And they wonder why more women don’t ride.

And what could be a more natural product extension for a multi-sport clothing maker to roll out than a new reposado tequila?



Mad Men producer Tom Smuts will once again be riding his bike to the Emmys this Sunday, along with actors Aaron Eckhart and Jon Huertas, and producers Alex Cary and James Younger. City officials including councilmember Tom Bonin will tag along.

Streetsblog offers an update on Metro’s planned bikeshare system, which remains on track for a sponsorless mid-2016 opening.

A writer for USC’s Daily Trojan badly misunderstands and misrepresents LA’s new mobility plan; the plan is actually designed to reduce congestion by providing alternatives to driving. Evidently, she’s learned the wrong lesson from modern American politics, that facts don’t matter as long as they’re labeled opinion.

The LA Weekly’s Hillel Aron tries to ride the full length of the LA River. Even in two parts — the ride, not the story — it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Santa Monica is nearing completion of the new Colorado Esplanade connecting the terminus of the Expo Line with the Santa Monica Pier, including a two-way separated bike path.

The 29th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon rolls, runs and splashes through the city this weekend.



The OC Register astutely observes that even adults need to know how to ride a bike.

San Diego strawberries may end up costing a little more, but residents will be rewarded with a new rail bike and ride.

A San Luis Obispo man gives a whole new meaning to the term custom bike maker.

San Francisco posts banners to encourage drivers to slow down. Might as well, since nothing else seems to work.



New census data shows that bike commuting continues to grow in the US. The findings are even more impressive since census data undercounts transportation cycling by failing to including multi-modal or non-work related trips.

Tern and Xtracycle team up for a cargo foldie; a Kickstarter to fund it is just over halfway to the $60,000 goal with 29 days to go.

El Paso is the latest city to get bikeshare before Los Angeles.

Thousands of bike riders tear through the Motor City with Slow Roll Detroit at breakneck speeds up to 10 mph.

No bias here. A Connecticut newspaper says a 10-year old girl was critically injured when she hit a car while riding her bike, then later explains that the car actually struck her.

New York’s mayor is taking credit for a 13% drop in traffic deaths in his first year in office. Even though the bike lanes, road diets and other changes to the streets that most likely led to it were done under the previous administration.

Now there’s a new excuse. Bike-friendly improvements to a New York street have been put off until the UN adjourns and the pope puts the city in his rear view mirror.

Police in New York’s Upper West Side credit a 40% decrease in injuries to a 160% increase in cyclist traffic tickets.



Yes, longer bike shorts really are more aero. And no, you’re probably not fast enough for it to make a difference.

A Swedish couple bicycling around the world was hit by a car in Brazil. The driver, who was going 12 mph over the speed limit, will face a manslaughter charge after the woman rider didn’t make it.

Vancouver police realize they had already impounded the bike that had been stolen from a Taiwanese cyclist on an around-the-world ride after a reporter called to ask about it.

An 18-year old London man was convicted of stabbing a 15-year old boy to death in an utterly senseless attack to steal his bicycle.

Nice. Employees can ride their bike directly into a new London office building and down a ramp to the basement, where they’ll find bike parking, changing rooms and lockers.

Dubai has made a big push to become bike friendly with a network of bicycle paths, cycle tracks and bike lanes across the emirate.

Aussie cyclists may finally be able to legally stand on their pedals.

Bangkok, Thailand goes car-free this Sunday, though the city still has a long way to go to make bicycling an everyday choice for people.



Caught on video: Wherever you’ve ridden, it probably doesn’t compare to a 59-foot slack line over a 367-foot gorge. If you’re going to steal $120 worth of coffee from a donut shop, don’t go back there a few days later riding the same distinctive bike, and leave the heroin and drug paraphernalia at home while you’re at it.

And drivers already act like you’re wearing a cloak of invisibility on your bike. So why not do it for real?


Morning Links: New website seeks to undo Rowena road diet, and more news about kindhearted people

The new Safe Streets for Silver Lake website calls for removal of the Rowena road diet. Even though it has cut injury collisions by half since it was installed, and brought average speeds down to the speed limit.

Which, sadly, is a rarity in Los Angeles.

The site blames the road diet for creating cut-through traffic in the surrounding neighborhood, However, that same video could have been shot on virtually any other street in LA, especially now that Waze directs drivers onto backstreets they might never have discovered otherwise, let alone driven.

And while cyclists have a reputation for blowing through stop signs, deserved or otherwise, most drivers do little more than genuflect in their general direction.

If that.

The solution isn’t to rip out proven safety measures. The answer is better traffic calming to slow drivers down and make it less convenient to cut through neighborhoods, along with better enforcement.

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council is hosting town hall meeting to discuss the matter next Monday at the Ivanhoe Elementary School auditorium.

There will be plenty of voices calling for an end to the road diet. Let hope there are others to urge a more rational approach.


More good news about kindhearted people this week.

After someone stole the therapy bike an autistic Long Beach boy used to ride with his parents, a Huntington Beach volleyball team pitched in to buy him a new one.

And an Idaho boy with cerebral palsy gave away the $4,300 bike he’d outgrown to a special needs girl who couldn’t afford one. And he donated his hair to Locks of Love. Just a reminder that no matter what problems you face in your own life, there’s always someone who could use your help.


Cycling officials check bikes for signs of motor doping at the Vuelta, in response to a video showing a Movistar mechanic trying to hide a broken bike.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome will miss the worlds with a broken foot suffered in the Vuelta.



Great analysis of why there are so many dangerous intersections around USC, and what can be done to improve the situation. Thanks to Ikawe for the heads-up.

WeHoVille profiles the city’s young feminist mayor, who worked to improve bicycling in her first term on the city council.

The Santa Monica Bike Center is looking for a part-time wrench.

A Redondo Beach man is building custom beach bikes complete with a steering wheel instead of handlebars.

The monthly Spoke(n) Art ride rolls this Saturday. Which just happens to be the eighth anniversary of the infamous beachfront bee incident.



The Orange County Transportation Authority is holding a roundtable meeting on Thursday on how to improve bicycling in the County’s foothill communities.

Specialized apologizes for the lack of road etiquette displayed by their employees on their lunch ride through Morgan Hill.

There’s something seriously wrong when fire officials would rather keep a street dangerous than improve safety, as they’re doing in Menlo Park.

The East Bay Express says Oakland is still stuck in the 20th Century when it comes to the city’s longstanding love affair with cars.

Just Another Cyclist says the supposedly non-violent bike rider arrested for bashing a car with his U-lock is the perfect stereotype for the Critical Mass cyclist gone amuck.

Sacramento officials debate where sidewalk cycling should be banned.

A Yuba City driver basically confesses to not paying attention after running down a bike rider he’d spotted some distance away.



A new taillight from Garmin detects the presence of cars coming from behind and flashes faster as they get closer; an optional head unit warns you of relative risk as cars approach. Although its $200 – $300 price tag will put it out of the reach of many riders.

The US Department of Transportation studies how to improve safety for cyclists in Seattle’s seaport area, concluding bikes and pedestrians should be separated from traffic whenever possible, and that signage and infrastructure should be improved to increase predictability.

An Ohio woman plans to bike to Corpus Christi TX to see her four-year old daughter. Maybe she should sign up for Ohio Valley AAA bicycle service before she goes. Ignore the damn zip code window and scroll down to the benefits; thanks to Steve Herbert for the link.

Someone finally said it. A Texas writer says there’s nothing cute about a college student driving a toy Barbie car to class after she was busted for DUI. Drunk driving is no accident, and it’s not a laughing matter. Period.

A Louisiana driver gets three years for the DUI death of a bike rider; the victim’s wife has forgiven him, saying her husband was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although that might not have mattered if the driver had been sober.

A Memphis bicyclist is in critical condition after he was right hooked, but not hit, by a driver. Just because the car didn’t actually make contact doesn’t mean the driver didn’t cause his injuries.

Four cyclists have died on Vermont roads in the last six months; before this April, no bike rider had killed in the state since 2010.

A New York bike messenger faces a manslaughter charge after fighting with a building tenant; he rode off even though the man was clutching his chest and died of a heart attack.

Now that’s more like it. The Baltimore Episcopal bishop who fled the scene after a drunken collision that killed a bike rider accepts a plea bargain that will keep her behind bars for the next 10 years.



The mayor of car-crazed Caracas, Venezuela is attempting to carve out a little space for cyclists. Although the first attempt is just a short, three mile bike path that bypasses areas where most people live, and crosses a park that closes at 5 pm.

A new separated bike lane in Calgary is getting rave reviews from cyclists.

Britain’s Near Miss Project shows that bicycling must get safer, since commuter cyclists in the country have up to 60 “very scary” incidents a year. Especially since British cities of the future will be teeming with bicycles.

Someone sabotaged a Scottish bike ride by scattering nails and tacks on the roadway; at least 50 riders suffered flats. That sort of thing is not just a prank, and could result in serious injuries if riders lost control when their tires went flat.

A Swiss driver faces a voluntary homicide charge for the death of a cyclist, in addition to being charged with DUI and hit-and-run.

Sadly, the bicycle a Turkish soldier sent home to his son arrived the same day his family learned he’d been killed in a bombing.



If you’re going to get busted for a series of burglaries, try not to get caught riding a bike belonging to the judge scheduled to arraign you. It’s a sure sign you don’t ride enough when nature tries to reclaim your bike.

And screw the health benefits; a Rhode Island doctor says older men shouldn’t ride their bikes fast because they’re annoying.


Speaking of kindhearted people, let me offer a special thanks to James Lyle, Robs Muir, Harvey Woien, Bryan Jones, Margaret W, Glen Schmuetz, and Mark Jones for opening their hearts and wallets to help support this site. Your generosity is truly appreciated.

And I’ll repeat what I said yesterday. If everyone who visits here today donated just $10, it would fund the operation of this site for a full year.


A driver stops to help keep a cyclist safe

I received an email yesterday from a reader who wanted to thank a stranger for an unexpected kindness on her morning commute.

I’ll let her tell the story:

The truck pulled over on the side of the road, for reasons she'd soon learn

Before I headed out this morning, my blinky clip snapped.  While fumbling to rubber-band it onto the loop on my bag, the push button fell off. I stabbed at the hole with a pencil to turn it on, and failed.  Undercaffeinated and cranky, I headed out into the misty dawn, feeding myself all kinds of nonsense:  It’s almost sunrise anyway; the bike lane is wide; drivers know there are cyclists along this route; the seat stay has a (completely insufficient) knoggy skull with blinking eyes, and besides my bag has (tiny) reflective straps.

Several miles into my commute, between four lanes of Pacific Coast Highway and a slim sandy strip of solid earth next to the wetlands, a big white pick-up truck suddenly zipped in front of me, crossed over the bike lane, and came to a quick stop, half parked on the sand.  I slowed to a crawl and wondered what was up.  Was the driver having a medical emergency?  Did he need to make a phone call?   Engine trouble of some sort, maybe?  The driver, a tall male, stepped out of the truck and opened the left passenger door.  Ah, okay, so something in the backseat had spilled, or was rattling around.  Or maybe he was double-checking a child’s safety seat.  But then he pulled out a flumpy dayglo vest, and I was instantly certain he’d be changing a tire.

I was wrong.

He turned in my direction and hailed me.  I had slowed way down because, you never know, if nothing else I could offer my cell if his didn’t have enough juice.

The unidentified driver; if you know him, say thanks for all of us

He said hi and explained he’d been passing me every morning all summer, and the mornings are getting darker now, with fall coming.  He held out a brand-new, reflective, dayglo mesh safety vest and said it was for me.

I kind of stared for a moment.

Naturally I accepted it.  Then, I kind of babbled.  I don’t remember about what, although I did kind of apologize that even though I know better, I remain too stupid to wear a helmet.  Then the guy dropped a bombshell that explained a great deal of his desire to illuminate me.

Last month, on this same stretch of highway, a drunken, impatient creep in a pick-up had used the bike lane to pass slower traffic, and had then struck a motorcyclist when swerving back out of the bike lane.  This happened at half past four on a cloudless, sparkling summer afternoon.  The drunk driver fled the scene.  Two days later, I read about this in the paper, and bemoaned the rotten human race with equally appalled friends.

This guy standing before me, handing me the gift of safety?  He had witnessed the crime and pulled over, along with another horrified witness.  He stopped and knelt by the severely injured cyclist and kept talking to him until the medics arrived.

The nearest fire station, staffed with at least two paramedic-level responders at all times, is literally within sight of the crime scene; I could see it in the distance beyond the Good Samaritan’s shoulder.  Our fire department has one of the fastest response times in the entire nation–in fact, in the world.  Yet to this bystander, and certainly to the injured party, it must have seemed an eternity until the medics arrived to provide care and transport.  It is difficult to deal with a person in agony even when you know what to do.  This guy had no medical training, but he did everything right: he did nothing that would exacerbate extant trauma, and he provided psychological comfort, which has a beneficial physiological effect.  Most importantly, he gave a damn, which is more than the perp who had left the biker for dead could be bothered to do.

I thought about heroes on the rest of my commute.  In an Ethan Coen poem (from his book titled, ironically, The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way), the narrator observes a crowd of good strangers assisting a toppled geezer, and after contemplating his own possible future topple, concludes with, “Golly, I hope I get good strangers.”

I know how to provide spinal immobilization, how to assess trauma, how to MacGyver an occlusive dressing, how to manage looky-loos, and I do it if I have to.  I hold the elevator, share my hand sanitizer, and hell yeah, I’ll cork an intersection for a wobbly abuelita who can’t make it across in time.  And if she topples, I’m right there.  I support the LACBC’s City of Lights program and carry extra reflective slap bands to hand out to the so-called “invisibles.”  And yet clearly I am so lacking in common sense for myself that I worry good strangers.

I didn’t get this guy’s name.  I didn’t offer mine.  Despite my appreciation, I don’t remember whether I even thanked him.  He’ll probably see me tomorrow morning, lit up like the Fourth of July, gratitude bouncing off my new high-vis vest in blinding beams.

Dude, whoever you are, wherever you are, thanks.  Not just for the vest, but for the reminder that there are good strangers out there.

We won’t get into the argument over whether hi-vis vests should be necessary for drivers to see us.

Or the necessity for motorists to drive safely and pay attention to others on the road with them — unlike the jerk who left the motorcyclist laying injured in the road.

Her story isn’t about that.

It’s about someone who cared enough about a total stranger to do what little he could to help keep her safe. And a rider who didn’t respond defensively, but instead accepted the gesture in the spirit it was intended.

It’s also the most uplifting thing I’ve read in a long time.

And something we could all learn from.

Myself included.

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