Tag Archive for three foot passing law

Weekend Links: Avid cyclist gets bike safety wrong in the ‘Bu, and a highly biased 3-foot report from the Bay

A self-described “avid” cyclist offers advice for cyclists in the canyons above Malibu.

And gets most of it wrong.

Despite what he says, bike riders aren’t expected to ride on the shoulder, or even hug the white line at the right of the road. In fact, nothing to the right of the limit line is even considered part of the roadway under California law.

And despite a common misperception, cyclists are not required to ride as close to the right as possible. Rather, bike riders — like any other slow moving vehicles — are expected to ride as close to the right as practicable.

Which means far enough into the roadway to avoid the broken glass, rocks and potholes that too often accumulate on the right.

Then there’s the question of the narrow traffic lanes usually found on canyon roads. The requirement to ride to the right does not apply to any lane too narrow for a bike and a car to safely share with at least three feet between them. Which includes most of the right lanes in Southern California.

There’s also nothing in California law prohibiting cyclists from riding two or more abreast, as long as they stay within a single unsharable lane. In fact, it’s often safer to ride abreast in order to increase visibility and maintain control of the lane.

While it may seem safer and more polite, riding single file along the limit line encourages drivers to pass cyclists in a dangerous manner, rather than change lanes to safely go around them. And it increases the likelihood that passing motorists will try to cut back in between the riders to avoid oncoming traffic, greatly raising the risk of a collision.

Never mind that it’s actually easier to pass a more compact group of cyclists riding abreast than it is a long, strung out line of single file riders.

Yes, bicyclists should always obey the law, and show courtesy to others on the road whenever it’s safe to do so.

And as he notes, we will inevitably come out on the losing end in any conflict with a motor vehicle.

That is why cyclists can and should ride in the manner they consider safest, and motorists should drive carefully around them. Even if drivers — or other “avid” cyclists — may not understand why we ride the way we do.

It only takes a modicum of courtesy and patience on everyone’s part to make sure we all get home safely.

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In a highly biased report, a Bay Area TV station takes a remarkably one-sided look at California’s new three-foot passing law.

San Francisco’s KGO-7 concludes that it is virtually impossible for drivers on the city’s crowded streets to give a bike rider three-feet of passing distance while remaining in the same lane.

Evidently, San Francisco drivers somehow lack the ability to change lanes or wait until it’s safe to pass. And never mind that the law allows drivers to pass at less than three feet after slowing to a reasonable speed, whatever that may be.

They also inexplicably note that bike riders aren’t subject to a fine for coming within three feet of a motor vehicle, evidently failing to realize that the purpose of the law is to protect the lives and safety of cyclists, rather than keep motor vehicles from getting scratched.

The law may be far from perfect, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of a better version of the law in 2011, as well as weaker version in 2012.

But it’s a hell of a lot better than their amateur reporting would make it seem.

And misguided reports like this only add to the animosity on our streets, putting cyclists at even greater risk.

Jerks.

……..

A bike rider was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in Compton last month after a traffic stop for illegally riding while wearing headphones.

The official version is he tried to flee, then grabbed the officer’s gun in a struggle to get away; a deputy wounded in the incident was shot with his partner’s gun.

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Local

Bicycle Retailer notes the ascension of ex-Helen’s employee Chris Klibowitz to editor of Road Magazine. Seriously, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Updated plans for a remade Union Station include two bike and pedestrian bridges over the busy rail yard.

The Bike League makes a mini-grant to the LACBC and Multicultural Communities for Mobility to promote women as community leaders.

There will be a commemorative ride for fallen Pasadena cyclist Phillip O’Neill in the city’s Grant Park next Sunday.

Long Beach’s new mayor calls for more bike cops, and making the bike-friendly city safer for everyone.

The Santa Clarita Century Ride and Expo rolls next weekend.

 

State

The five-day I Can Bike camp teaches disabled children to ride.

OC’s cdmCyclist confesses to Dirty Old Man On A Bike Syndrome. For the sake of full disclosure, I have to confess to riding into the back of a park car while gazing upon an attractive woman in my younger days. She thought it was funny; the owner of the car, not so much.

A bicycling victim of the Isla Vista tragedy hopes to walk in his graduation ceremony; the rider ho was run down in the vicious rampage is the last victim still hospitalized.

San Jose attempts to discourage, but not ban, sidewalk riding.

 

National

A new book tells the story of early bike racing legend Major Taylor, who broke the color barrier over a century ago.

An Oregon man alleges police beat him for riding while black.

A bamboo bike-riding Utah charity fundraiser is convicted of using the money to fund a Ponzi scheme.

Non-cycling Chicago residents are afraid of the city’s new bike lanes, but bike riders aren’t.

Fortunately, the reports of an upstate New York rider’s death were greatly exaggerated. Oops, say the local police.

The public could soon be banned from parking their bikes at the US Capitol.

Some people just don’t belong on the road. A Virginia driver who killed a cyclist had received two tickets in the last year — both after a crash that killed her daughter and niece last spring.

 

International

CNN offers the world’s most incredible bike routes.

Women’s cycling is starting to take its rightful place next to men’s. But women riders offer a voice to be listened to, not a problem to be solved.

Five UK residents rescue a cyclist who was trapped under a car.

It’s not only cars that crash into buildings, as a UK cyclist crashes through a local storefront.

Keep your eyes on Craigslist. Brazen thieves steal 200 bikes worth over $1.1 million from Scott’s Swiss factory, including 2015 models not even on the market yet.

An Aussie cyclist competing in a race swaps his water bottle for a beer. For the second time.

 

Finally…

In an amazing story, 25-year old cyclist Jonny Bellis will be riding in the Tour of Britain — five years after nearly dying and being told he would never walk again, let alone ride.

And maybe we should cut drivers some slack, because parking really does make them crazy.

 

Will three times be the charm for the state’s latest attempt to create a three-foot passing law?

I originally wrote this story earlier today for LA Streetsblog. Thanks to Streetsblog editor Damien Newton for allowing me to repost it here.

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Maybe the third time is the charm.

Or it could be three strikes and you’re out.

Only the veto pen on Governor Brown’s desk knows which way he’s leaning. And like the Corgi at his feet — and the governor himself — it isn’t talking.

Yesterday, the state Senate approved AB 1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act. This is the latest attempt at creating a minimum three-foot distance to pass a cyclist on California streets, after Brown vetoed two previous attempts in the last two years — joining Texas governor Rick Perry as the nation’s only state leaders to veto three-foot bike safety legislation.

Or rather, surpassing Perry, who only wielded his veto pen once in opposition to safe cycling legislation.

Twenty-one other governors have already signed similar legislation; Pennsylvania mandates a minimum of four feet.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Steven Bradford of Gardena, would replace the current requirement that drivers pass bicyclists at a safe distance without specifying what that distance is. Instead, it would require a minimum three-foot cushion between any part of the vehicle and the bike or its rider.

The act passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 31-7. It will now go back to the Assembly for a vote to concur with the amendments made following its approval by that chamber earlier this year.

And then it’s back to the governor’s desk, where he’ll have 12 days to sign it.

Or not.

There should be no reason for him to say no this time, however. The bill addresses his expressed, if questionable, reasons for vetoing the previous bills.

This time around, there is no provision requiring drivers to slow down to 15 mph to pass a bike rider if they are unable to give a three foot passing distance as mandated in the 2011 version, or to slow down to 15 mph more than the speed of the rider, as contained in the 2012 version.

And unlike the 2012 version, it does not give drivers permission to briefly cross the center line in order to pass riders safely, even though that is exactly what many drivers already do, legally or not.

In fact, that’s one of the problems with the current bill.

The primary reason Brown gave for vetoing last year’s bill was a fear of lawsuits stemming from drivers unsafely crossing the center line, even though the state is already largely exempt from such suits, and the bill required drivers to do so only when safe.

The current bill, which was very smartly written by Bradford’s staff in a attempt to address the governor’s concerns, originally included language that would specifically exempt the state from being sued if someone was injured by driver who ignored the provision to cross the line safely.

Unfortunately, that language was removed from the bill, along with the section permitting drivers to cross the line. So many motorists will continue to attempt to unsafely squeeze past riders in the same lane, or follow angrily behind until they have a chance to pass.

Or they’ll just do what many already do, and break the law by going onto the other side of the roadway to pass at a safe distance.

The other problem with the bill is that it contains a provision that takes much of the teeth out of it, allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet if they decide, for whatever reason, that the three-foot margin isn’t safe or practical. Even though nothing says they have to pass in the first place.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway.

The requirement to take into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle could help prevent the too frequent buzzing of bicyclists by trucks and city buses, though.

However, this bill is a big improvement over last year’s, which would have applied only to vehicles traveling in the same lane. Which means that if you were riding in a bike lane, the vehicle next to you could legally pass at significantly less than three feet — something that happens with far too much frequency already.

Instead, AB 1371 simply mandates a three-foot passing distance for any motor vehicle traveling in the same direction as the bike it’s passing. So the law applies whether you’re in a through lane, bike lane or turn lane, or any other situation when you’re headed the same way.

Of course, not everyone is in favor of the bill.

The San Jose Mercury News quotes Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, presumably one of the seven who voted against it.

“It’s just impossible to gauge what three feet is and so I don’t think it really accomplishes what you want,” Huff said. He said the state should instead focus on educating people about sharing the road with non-motorized vehicles when they renew their driver’s licenses.

“To create outlaws of everybody because you can’t judge the distance is nuts,” he said.

Then again, anyone who ever played football knows exactly how far a distance three feet — aka one yard — is.

And to argue that no one can judge that distance is absurd.

No one is going to pull out a tape measure to determine if a driver passes a vehicle at 34.5 or 37 inches. But anyone without serious depth perception issues can tell if they’re significantly less than three feet away from a rider.

Also, that three foot margin is a minimum passing distance, not a maximum target drivers are expected to adhere to. There is no reason why a motorist can’t pass with a four or five foot margin when it’s safe to do so, as many drivers already do.

“I have been riding for 25 years, and I have seen my share of run-ins and close calls,” Bradford said. “Too many people just don’t realize that cyclists are legally allowed in the street. This bill gives everyone clarity as to what is safe behavior.”

The bill should have no problem passing the Assembly once again, especially in the watered-down version passed by the Senate.

What happens once it reaches Governor Brown’s desk is anyone’s guess.

Three SoCal cities in top 10 for Complete Streets policies; proposed three-foot law moves forward

A national organization honors the Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012.

According to a press release from Smart Growth America, three of the top 10 policies are from cities in the greater L.A. area — though they define that as a far greater area than anyone here would. They list Hermosa Beach and Huntington Park tying for second behind Indianapolis, with Rancho Cucamonga in 10th place.

I think San Bernardino County would dispute that it’s anywhere near L.A. And I’m not sure L.A. would admit to more than a passing acquaintance it.

According to the SGA website, 488 cities and towns nationwide have adopted Complete Streets policies.

There may be hope for this country yet.

Update: I initially wrote that Orange County’s Huntington Beach received the honor, rather than L.A. County’s Huntington Park. Thanks to TQ for the correction.

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California’s latest proposed three-foot law is amended to address the improbable concerns of our veto-wielding governor. Can’t say I’m familiar with the bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Steven Bradford, but I’m liking the guy more and more each time I read about this bill. Here’s who you need to bug before April 22nd to get the bill out of committee.

But will Ohio get theirs before we get ours? Depends a lot on Governor Brown and his veto pen.

……..

The Antelope Valley Times offers a detailed update on the two idiots — and I use the term advisedly — who intentionally Jerry Browned a group of cyclists on Sunday morning, as we discussed here yesterday.

Idiot one is being held on $100,000 bail, while idiot two was released on $30,000.

Thanks to Michele Chavez for the link.

………

The authors of Where to Bike Los Angeles will team with the LACBC for L.A. Roubaix, our own not-so-hellish cobblestone-equivalent ride this Sunday; I’m told participants may have an opportunity or two to join in on Sunday’s Rowena Ave Cash Mob, as well.

………

Will pedestrian improvements make Downtown’s freeway overpasses more walkable? A petition calls for completion of the planned Confluence Park and its connecting bikeways. Santa Monica students go car free. Time for a little beer-induced bike-centric socializing in Upland. Calabasas bike-centric eatery Pedalers Fork is looking damn good, even if we have to wait until the 22nd for it to open. Long Beach police are on the lookout for a bike-borne groper, who evidently owns, steals or borrows multiple bicycles. Signal Hill wants to hook up with Long Beach, bike lane-wise.

A visit to frame building school, in two parts. Velodrome season opens in San Diego on Wednesday. San Diego needs to work with SANDAG to develop a regional bicycling plan. San Francisco Streetsblog discusses raised bike lanes to separate bikes from taxis; they’re coming to Chicago, too. A 12-year old Oakland thief is arrested after attempting to make his getaway by bike. Santa Rosa is the latest city to consider a cyclist anti-harassment ordinance. A Novato bike shop gets the okay to sell beer to its customers; now that’s what I call full-service. A Vacaville cyclist is recovering after being seriously injured riding salmon.

The late Annette Funicello was 1958’s Bicycle Queen, while Stephen Colbert wipes out on a pink cruiser in the House office building. A Great White North news site challenges Lance to earn back a little respect by competing in the Iditarod Trail Invitational bike race through the Alaskan wilderness — in winter; or he could just sponsor my brother so he doesn’t have to sell his entire dog team and equipment, damn it. An OKC cyclist is looking for the hit-and-run motorist who gave him fifty bucks, then drove off. New York’s long-delayed bike share program will kick off next month; Gothamist offers a first look at a new station in Brooklyn. New York cyclists push for bike lanes on the famed Verranzano Bridge. A Brooklyn cyclist is billed $1,200 for damage to the NYPD patrol car that hit him. A Daytona Beach mother is killed riding on her way to a job interview. A Pensacola man gets 24 years for killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run six months after getting out of prison on a DUI. Miami Heat stars LaBron James and Dwayne Wade support the city’s Critical Mass.

A Vancouver cyclist is killed in a collision with a pedestrian; when bicyclists collide with pedestrians or other bike riders, it can be deadly for both victims. After the latest London bike death, cyclists call for a ban on large trucks at rush hour. London Cyclist explains why drivers get mad at us, and offers slang you need to know. A UK writer points out the first death from performance enhancing drugs occurred in 1886; not surprisingly, the victim was a cyclist. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili breaks his shoulder riding his bike in Turkey.

Finally, all the hot vampires and werewolves from Twilight recommend using bike lights so you won’t end up undead like them; or am I reading a tad too much into it? Perez Hilton loves this bike. And it turns out Niceville isn’t for at least one pedestrian and bike rider.

Fairness and objectivity go out the window in NELA newspaper’s fight against North Figueroa bike lanes

So much for fairness.

Or facts.

A local NELA newspaper offers a misguided editorial disguised as news, arguing against proposed bike lanes on North Figueroa Blvd (upper right corner; click to enlarge).

Now, I don’t have a problem with anyone who takes a stand I may disagree with.

Granted, I may get a little hot under the collar at times, but my attitude is they have as much right to their opinion as I do to mine. And I can learn more from people who don’t agree with me than I can from those who do.

However, just because you own a newspaper doesn’t mean you get to make up your own facts.

In this case, the writer, Tom Topping, claims — among many other highly questionable assertions — that studies show bicyclists are 12 times more likely to have a fatal collision than someone in a motor vehicle. Even though the studies I’ve seen say you are far more likely to die behind the wheel than riding on two.

In fact, your lifetime risk of dying in a car is 58 times greater than on a bike. Meanwhile, a 1993 study shows that, even adjusted for comparable time spent driving and riding, you have almost twice as much risk of dying from driving as from bicycling.

Needless to say, he doesn’t offer any support for his claim.

He also suggests that bikes represent just 2% to 3% of traffic — again, not citing a source — so we should only be entitled to 2% to 3% of the roadway, apparently willing to relegate us to a strip 1.1 to 1.65 feet wide.

For both directions, that is, not each way.

And he makes the absurd assertion — again, without any evidence to support it — that bike lanes on Figueroa will add a full hour to an average commute. Never mind that the much lower delays projected by LADOT are worst-case projections that are unlikely to actually occur, let alone mutate into the automotive horror show he projects.

No, far easier to simply make numbers up to support his NIMBYist anti-bike argument.

Of course, he insists he couldn’t be anti-bike, as he trots out the same claim found in virtually every anti-bike or bike lane screed, because he is a bike rider himself. Yet at the same time, calls those who created a study showing no harmful effects to local businesses as a result of the York Blvd bike lanes — one he calls “obviously slanted” — “pro-bicycle fanatics.”

Actually, the carefully controlled study was conducted by a UCLA researcher as part of his class work, with support from the LACBC and funding from industry trade group Bikes Belong.

If he thinks those are fanatics, I know a number of far more rabid bike riders I could introduce him to.

And never mind that studies in other cities support that finding, concluding that rather than harming local businesses, bike lanes actually result in increased business.

Then again, his style of riding may hint at one likely reason for his opposition to bike lanes, even as he reluctantly admits that bike lanes increase safety.

Additionally, safety studies show that while a bicyclist is 1200% more likely to have a fatal accident (see above) than a motorist, bike lanes make it only 30% safer (again, no source cited)*. So, instead of being 12 times more likely to die, a bicyclist is only 8 times more likely to die, a small gain to consider when the specter of removing motorist lanes comes up. (To use a bike lane you have to trust that motorists will look out for you — something I cannot bring myself to do when I am on two wheels. I always ride like I am invisible, never assume anyone can see me and am therefore 99% safe at all times)

*Comments in italics mine

Personally, I’d call a 30% reduction in fatalities a huge improvement.

Never mind that every single study I am aware of shows that bike lanes improve safety for bicyclists, as well as others on the road, motorized or not — cutting injury risk as much as 50% with a simple painted lane, and 90% on protected bike lanes.

He is right to suggest it’s best to assume drivers don’t see you when you ride.

But to conclude that cyclists are less safe in bike lanes flies in the face of all available evidence. And once again, he fails to provide any evidence to support his bizarre claim that assuming no one can see him reduces his risk on the road to just 1%.

If Topping or anyone else can provide a valid study supporting that assertion, I’d like to see it.

And in an all-too-tired refrain, he concludes by complaining about the lack of outreach for a bike plan that was adopted over two years ago, following more than a year of public comment.

So why does it suddenly become our problem when other people have had their heads in the sand for over three years, rather than engaging in what was a very public and high profile process?

Unfortunately, this is what too often passes for local journalism in the debate over bikes, with no hint of objectivity or fairness. When one local business owner on North Figueroa called to complain about the inaccuracies and lack of objectivity in Topping’s story, he was told to “buy your own newspaper.”

He’s got a point.

It’s his newspaper, and he can print whatever he wants, regardless of facts or fairness.

Just like the big metropolitan dailies do.

Well, some of them, anyway.

………

Long-time L.A. bike advocate Richard Risemberg, aka Mr. Bicycle Fixation, has started a petition calling on Governor Jerry Brown to sign a three-foot passing law to make up for the two he inexplicably vetoed.

You’ll see my name right there as signee number two.

Please join me in signing it, and forward it to every bike rider you know. Let’s let our governor know we’re not going to stand by and allow him to needlessly risk our lives and safety on California streets.

………

This is why police investigators need specialized training in analyzing bike collisions.

Utah authorities say that after a 10-year old boy riding on the shoulder of a highway was passed by a semi-truck, he rode into the traffic lane where he was hit and killed by a second semi-truck.

A far more likely explanation is that the first semi passed too close at too high a speed, sucking the boy into the truck’s slipstream and onto the roadway, into the path of the trailing truck.

But only someone who has experienced the terrifying power of that kind of slipstream when riding — or been trained to look for it — would understand that.

………

Good news for distracted drivers, as Volvo designs the world’s first second cyclist detection system to recognize and automatically brake for bike riders in the car’s path; the first such system is called “eyes,” which come as standard equipment on every driver.

And notice how they assume it’s the rider who will swerve into the car’s way, and not the other way around?

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Note to Redlands Daily Facts: It’s good that Redlands is getting more bikeways. But sharrows aren’t bike lanes, and bicyclists already have the right to use the full lane in many, if not most, situations; the presence or absence of sharrows doesn’t change that.

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Damien Newton asks what does it mean and what comes next now that the primary election for L.A. Mayor and City Council is over. LADOT has installed 123 miles of bikeways since the 2010 L.A. bike plan was adopted. Gary Kavanagh reports on UCLA’s Complete Streets Conference last week; nice to see the moribund Bikeside website come back to life to discuss it, as well. Curbed looks at the effects of AB 2245, which removed bike lanes from CEQA review. L.A.’s 4th Street is already a bike boulevard, whether or not the city wants to call it that — or fix it. Better Bike looks at the results of Tuesday’s election in the Biking Black Hole; it looks like the outsiders — and the only semi-bike supporter — may have won. Santa Monica College officially unveils their new 400 space bike parking lot. Fallen Cal Poly Pomona cyclist Ivan Aguilar will be remembered with a memorial ride and ghost bike today. CLR Effect notes that Southern California is becoming more colorful.

Remarkable sometimes how easy it is to park in a bike lane and force riders to risk their lives in high speed traffic; no, Mr. Topping, that is an argument for better enforcement, not another reason to oppose them. San Diego’s city council approves an ordinance calling for safer recreational and commuter routes for bike riders. Bike SD makes the case for protected bike lanes on El Cajon Blvd. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition rewards cyclists with chocolate for good behavior. Cyclist Chris Bucchere faces a preliminary hearing for killing a pedestrian in San Francisco last year. A Fresno school teacher is killed in a classic SWSS — single witness suicide swerve — as the driver claims he did everything right, but the rider inexplicably swerved into his path; thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the heads-up.

Bob Mionske offers advice on whether to fight that ticket. AAA releases a bike safety video, which you may recognize as a Canadian video released last year, as the Bike League casts its lot with an organization that fights bike safety laws in California and elsewhere. Bicycle Retailer reports on Day Two of the National Bike Summit. The Bike League reveals what Congress really thinks of us — including that bike advocates are sore winners, while the economic benefits of bicycling dominate discussions with Congress. Outgoing DOT Secretary Ray LaHood calls for increased, high-quality infrastructure for people who ride bikes. How to recognize a Stroad. Stereotypes of who rides a bike are rapidly falling away. The driver accused of attacking a pro cycling team in an Arizona road rage assault defends himself online. A Colorado woman saves her own life through cycling, dropping 170 pounds in four years. At Austin’s SXSW one good Tern deserves another. Bike Safe Boston says ride straight through an intersection; definitely good advice for all the reasons they cite. Transportation Alternatives provides the facts about New York bicycling. A New York lawyer says the city needs to introduce strict criminal liability for traffic violence. Residents of one New York neighborhood don’t want their historic cobblestones ripped out to make way for a bikeway; for once, I might agree with them. While we all face harassment while riding, women can face a far worse kind.

Bike-centric traffic signals go up in Montreal. British politicians lack the will to get anything done to promote bicycling, but London’s bicycling mayor BoJo finally unveils a real plan to remake parts of the city into mini-Hollands and change the future of bicycling in the city. A 94-year old British driver claims an unforeseeable medical condition left her unconscious behind the wheel and therefore, not responsible when she ran down and killed a bike rider a third her age. Perhaps the most subtly sarcastic bike advocacy headline in human history. Is Spain trying to force bicyclists off the roads? An Israeli company wants to turn your helmet into a heart monitor. A Zimbabwe man kills his father with a brick after they argue about borrowing the older man’s bike without permission, then allowing it to get stolen. Someone dumped uncooked rice on an Aussie bike path in an apparent attack on bicyclists. A Kiwi rider suffers a heart attack while on a cross country charity ride, and rejoins the ride just days later after heart surgery.

Finally, after a drunk driver runs down a Florida cyclist and flees the scene, her father takes her to Mickey D’s before driving her to the police to turn herself in. A Florida legislator finds his drive delayed a few seconds by a bus, and responds by attempting to ban public buses from stopping on streets.

And as bike ads go, this one for the British video release of Premium Rush isn’t half bad.

Reading between the lines — did California Governor Jerry Brown kill a bike rider with his pen?

Sometimes the irony is as tragic as it is overwhelming.

It was just a few years ago that the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an editorial ridiculing efforts to pass a three-foot passing law in the state — one day after printing a story proving the need for it.

The paper said that while they supported “protecting bicycle enthusiasts,” they feared a society in which drivers could get a ticket for passing a cyclist at just 2’11”, and called the proposed law unenforceable.

Pity they don’t read their own newspaper.

Just 24 hours earlier, they’d run a story about a 78-year old man who died after being passed so closely by a school bus that witnesses thought the driver had hit him. Police initially investigated the death as a hit-and-run before concluding that the bus never came in contact with the rider.

It just passed so closely that the rider, an experienced cyclist who averaged 5,000 miles a year on his bike, lost control and fell, fatally, off his bike.

Something a three-foot law might have prevented. Or at the very least, could have provided a basis to charge the bus driver for his death.

Now we have a very similar situation right here in California.

Except instead of an editorial providing an ironic context, we have the veto pen of a misguided governor to blame.

And instead of a 78-year old victim, it was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley who died when he was passed by a dump truck last July.

Israeli professor Shlomo Bentin, a renowned expert in cognitive neuropsychology, was riding his bike next to a line of cars when he was buzzed by the dump truck — once again, so close that witnesses at the scene believed the truck had hit him.

Yet investigators, relying on video, interviews and forensic analysis, concluded that the truck never made contact with the rider.

And even though state law requires drivers to pass at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle, authorities felt they didn’t have enough evidence to make their case.

Something that probably wouldn’t have been a problem if we had a three-foot passing law in place.

Anyone who has ever been in Bentin’s position knows the sheer terror that comes with having a massive, multi-ton vehicle mere inches from your elbow.

It takes near-superhuman self control not to overreact in that situation, where the slightest mistake could result in a serious, if not fatal, collision with the passing vehicle – or a crash into the parked cars on the right that could throw you under the truck’s wheels or into the path of following cars.*

Or cause you to simply fall on your own, as Bentin and the rider in the New Jersey case appear to have done with tragic results.

And make no mistake. While most falls from a bike are harmless, any fall can be dangerous.

Yet thanks to the veto pen of our misguided governor, California drivers still have no standard in place to tell them what is and isn’t a safe passing distance.

And as this case clearly shows, any pass that doesn’t actually come in contact with the rider is effectively legal under current law.

Even if the rider dies as a result.

Had the governor not vetoed two straight safe passing laws — including one he indicated he would sign after vetoing the first — Shlomo Bentin might be alive today, training the next generation of neuropsychologists.

Or at the very least, the driver could have been held accountable for fatally violating the three-foot rule, rather than walking thanks to the current nebulous and virtually unenforceable standard.

Instead, the governor traded our lives, not for the implausible reasons he gave for his vetoes, but as a political favor to groups he evidently felt were more important than mere bike riders. Or so I’m told by people in a position to know.

Bentin’s body should be laid at Governor Brown’s feet — figuratively, if not literally. Because he’s traded the safety of every bike rider on California streets for political expediency.

And he should be held accountable, morally and politically, for Bentin’s death, and any other cyclists who have been Jerry Browned following his vetoes, or will be.

Our governor has blood on his hands.

And nothing he can do will wash it away.

*If you find yourself in a similar situation, the best course of action is to bail to your right if there’s room — even if that means going over a curb or off the roadway; road rash or a broken arm is a lot better than getting run over. If there’s no room to your right, hold steady and try not to react in any way; it’s not easy, but this is one situation where doing absolutely nothing could save your life.

………

A Canyon Country bicycle advocate was seriously injured in a collision on Saturday.

Kevin Korenthal was riding south on Little Tujunga Road when a 16-year old driver lost control rounding a curve, crossed the center line and hit him head-on. He was airlifted to the hospital, where he underwent 7 hours of surgery for injuries including three broken vertebrae in his neck and back, as well as a broken wrist, tibia, fibula, scapula and femur.

The founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users, Korenthal lost his lower left leg as a result of another cycling collision 21 years ago; the latest crash left a steel rod in the amputated leg bent at a 45-degree angle.

Thanks to Michele for the heads-up.

………

Finally, the Times offers a great look at L.A.’s jet-beating Wolfpack Hustle.

Surprisingly — or maybe not so much, given the number of cyclists who work for the Times — it offers a fair, balanced and objective look at a leading segment of the city’s formerly underground bike culture.

Although as usual, some of the comments leave something to be desired.

Cyclist refuses to back Governor’s Prop 30 in response to Brown’s repeated 3-foot vetoes

I got an interesting email tonight from a regular reader and bicycling advocate who asked that his name be kept private.

He forwarded an email he sent to Governor Jerry Brown, connecting the dots between Brown’s ill-advised vetoes of two three-foot passing laws, and support for the tax increase Brown is currently pushing. As well as his own safety.

After much soul searching I have decided not to support Prop 30.

As someone who commutes over 5,000 miles per year by bicycle, the Governor’s callous unwillingness to protect my safety by twice vetoing the 3 ft passing law is so important to me, that I cannot bring myself to cooperate with him on an issue of far less importance to me.  Just today I was again struck by a motorist (thankfully uninjured) while riding home in Hollywood.  My life, my safety, is personally more important than the solvency of this state.

If he can’t be bothered to protect me, I can’t be bothered to help him.

Regretfully, 

First of all, let me say I’m glad he’s okay; collisions with cars don’t always turn out so well.

Second, I have to admit, the same thought has occurred to me.

I can’t say I’d recommend basing your vote on a funding measure on Brown’s lack of support for California cyclists. On the other hand, I couldn’t blame you if you did; the governor shouldn’t expect our support when he won’t give us his. Which is something he can ill afford right now.

Meanwhile, Bike San Diego offers an in-depth two-part look at Brown’s veto.

………

On a related subject, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember who first came up with the term Jerry Browned to describe getting dangerously buzzed at less than three feet while riding your bike.

I remember seeing it on Twitter. And that took the ball and ran with it, as did Gary the always insightful of Gary Rides Bikes.

It turns out that credit for originally coming up with it goes to our friends at L.A.-based bikewear manufacturer Swrve.

………

The LACBC endorses Proposition J to speed up transit projects. Fighting a valet blocked bike lane. Motor Avenue gets a much needed road diet. Multicultural Communities for Mobility — the former City of Lights program — hosted their annual awards dinner on Wednesday. The history of PCH reveals a troubled and dangerous highway. In an absolutely absurd opinion piece, the L.A. Times compares the green credibility of a $20 cardboard bike with an $845,000 plug-in hybrid Porsche. Malibu officials confirm their commitment to bike safety following the death of Mari Echeverria on PCH this month; Cycling in the South Bay responds with the real problem on PCH. What happens to abandoned bikes in Hermosa Beach. CLR Effect takes a look at fire bikes.

Don’t forget this weekend’s Newport Beach Memorial Ride and Fundraiser; if you ride in Orange County you need to be there. An Orange County assailant escapes by BMX bike after stabbing a woman multiple times; fortunately, her injuries weren’t serious. Signs appear announcing the forthcoming sharrows in Corona del Mar. A Los Olivas DUI driver gets four years and four months in prison for plowing into a group of riders, leaving one in a semi-comatose state with serious brain injuries. A dangerous Santa Barbara street gets the blame for putting a cyclist on life support — though police say it’s because she didn’t use a crosswalk. San Francisco police allegedly beat the crap out of a popular cyclist and bike cap maker for exercising his 1st Amendment rights — then charge him with assaulting three officers and resisting arrest. Bay Area bicyclists say thanks to drivers.

The Bike League has recognized this year’s Bike Friendly Businesses — including Santa Monica’s Helen’s Cycles and Irvine’s Jax Bicycle Center — along with their new Bike Friendly Universities; sorry, USC. Thirteen reasons you should start biking to work. Winter bike commuting in Anchorage AK. An Arizona writer gets it right in responding to complaints from motorists. A Salt Lake City man is under arrest after taking a $5,900 for a test ride and not coming back. A Native American driver shows no remorse when he pleads guilty to running down a cross-county cyclist on a New Mexico reservation; the tribal court has jurisdiction, which is seldom a good thing. A drunk Texas cyclist pulls a machete on a cop; usually not a good idea. A Pittsburgh mom thanks the strangers who helped her bike-riding daughter. An arrest has been made in the case of the Pittsburgh cyclist whose throat was slashed last month. In a horrifying case, two New Jersey brothers are accused of killing a 12-year old girl to steal her BMX bike. Bike Portland says New York streets really do live up to the hype. NYPD forgets to investigate the fatal dooring of a cyclist last April. New York plazas and bike lanes are good for business. Russell Crowe leads the paparazzi on a 7.7 mile bike chase. AAA insists DC-area drivers are the victims of a war on cars; if they don’t figure out soon that a lot of their members also ride bikes, they may lose that war.

America’s only surviving Tour de France winner calls on the head of competitive cycling’s governing body to resign. Lancegate claims another victim, as Team Sky’s Bobby Julich resigns as cycling coach. Motorists say cyclists are endangering their lives by riding on divided highways; yeah, they couldn’t just slow down and drive safely. So much for that cycling paradise, as a Danish princess collides with a cyclist on the streets of Copenhagen. Bangalore gets its first bike lane. Real justice for a fallen cyclist as a Kenyan driver gets life in prison for the hit-and-run death of a bike rider.

Finally, let me get this straight — if 25% of drivers want those “inconsiderate cyclists” to be  taxed and licensed, doesn’t that mean an overwhelming 75% don’t? And a UK cyclist punches a car passenger in an unprovoked assault. So who said it was unprovoked?

Oh, right, the guy who got punched.

An open letter to L.A. Mayor — and three-foot law supporter — Antonio Villaraigosa

Last week, I asked you to write L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to urge him to try one more time to get a three-foot passing law through the state legislature and onto the desk of our seemingly bike-hating governor.

Today I’m sharing my own letter to the mayor.

………

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

No one blames you for the failure of SB 1464, the three-foot passing law recently vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

In fact, I’m told that, not only were you the driving force behind the introduction of the bill, you were also fighting for it right up to the moment of the governor’s ill-advised veto, urging him to sign the bill and protect the safety of the state’s bike riders.

Yet inexplicably, the governor failed to listen to you, and rejected both the bill and your advice, for reasons that don’t even begin to pass the smell test.

Worse, it’s the second time he’s rejected a three-foot passing law, making Brown one of just two governors in the country to veto a safe passing bill — and the only one to do it twice. This despite promising outgoing State Senator Alan Lowenthal that he would sign it this time.

Which is why Jerry Browned has become the new term for a cyclist getting passed in a dangerous manner.

But everything I’ve heard says that you did everything to could.

I, on the other hand, didn’t.

I actually believed Brown when he claimed he cared about the safety of cyclists and would sign the bill this time around. I also accepted the assurances of those involved in the process that we could count on him this time.

No, really.

There were also things I didn’t like about this bill. Like the fact that the three-foot limit wouldn’t apply to bicyclists riding in a bike lane. And exemptions that allowed drivers too much discretion in passing at less than three feet, making the bill difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

As a result, I didn’t fight for it. Even though codifying the three-foot limit, and legalizing the already common practice of briefly crossing the center line — the reason our auto-centric governor gave for the veto — should have been more than enough to overcome any reservations I might have had.

I won’t make that mistake again.

So I’m going to ask you to go to the mat one more time. Let’s find another sponsor for the bill, and use your considerable influence to get a three-foot passing law through the legislature once again.

And not one that’s been watered down to satisfy a governor who’s already shown he cares more about political expediency than he does the lives and safety of the people he’s been elected to protect. But rather, the strongest possible bill we can pass to protect cyclists as they ride the streets and highways of the Golden State.

I promise not to take it for granted this time. I’ll fight for it every bit as hard as you do, and use whatever influence I have with the cycling community to get it through the legislature.

Maybe redistricting and the new top-two electoral process will mean we can pass a bill with a veto-proof margin this time. If not, we’ll ensure that our governor truly understands how important this law is to California cyclists — and that it’s in his best interest, as well as ours, to sign it this time.

You’ve already done more than your share.

Now I’m asking you to take the lead one more time, and lay yet another bill to protect bicyclists on the governor’s desk. Except this time, I’ll be right there with you, along with countless other riders, to insist that he sign it.

Because our lives could depend on it.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
bikinginla.com

………

If you haven’t contacted the mayor yet, please take a moment to email Mayor Villaraigosa at mayor@lacity.org, or call his office at 213/978-0600 or 213/978-0721 to urge him to try one more time to pass a three-foot passing law — and get the governor to sign it this time.

And join me in pledging to support his efforts this time around.

Whatever it takes.

LBFD’s John Hines guilty, 3feet2pass passes and L.A. Weekly goes off the deep end

You can now remove “alleged” from any reference to John Hines.

The Long Beach Fire Captain, scion of one of the city’s leading fire fighting families, changed his plea to guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday.

He was convicted on three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Hines will serve a 90-day diagnostic evaluation in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary. After his release, he will be sentenced on December 2nd at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana; potential penalties range from probation to up to six years and eight months behind bars.

Hines reportedly spent the morning of April 1st drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before getting behind the wheel of his truck. Around 1:20 pm, he swerved into the bike lane on Westminster Ave in Seal Beach and plowed into the bike ridden by 47-year old Jeffrey Gordon.

Gordon was thrown over 70 feet, suffering critical injuries including severe lacerations, spinal injuries and head trauma; according to the Orange County Register, he was hospitalized for two weeks, and continues to suffer from limited physical mobility, as well as speech and memory loss.

Meanwhile, Hines fled the scene without slowing down; witnesses followed him to his home where he was arrested with a BAC of 0.24.

I have no idea why he needs to be evaluated for suitability for state prison; most inmates are simply sentenced without any say in the matter.

But we can only hope the judge imposes the maximum sentence.

Anyone who is trained to save lives, yet is so drunk and heartless as to leave a man laying broken and bleeding in the street does not deserve to walk free.

Or ever drive again.

Thanks to Rex Reese, Jim Lyle and an anonymous source for the heads-up.

……..

California cyclists may now enjoy a little cushion from passing vehicles, as the State Assembly passed SB 910, the 3feet2pass bill, by a margin of 41-20.

Do I really need to point out that 16 of the no votes came from the Republican side of the aisle, as the California GOP has swung so far to the right they feel a kneejerk need to oppose virtually everything?

However, six Republicans retained sufficient common sense to vote for the bill, while four Democrats felt California drivers still deserve the right to buzz cyclists as long as they don’t actually make contact.

What still remains to be determined is whether the dangerous exception allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet, as long as they slow to 15 miles above the speed of the ride, remained in the bill or was removed in amendments as we have been repeatedly promised.

In other words, if you were riding at 20 mph, a driver moving at up to 35 mph could pass you as close as they wanted as long at they didn’t actually hit you; yeah, good luck with that. And yes, that exception would be every bit as confusing and unenforceable as it sounds, forcing both drivers and police to guess how fast you’re riding.

And yes, it was still in the most recent draft of the law posted online on August 30th.

Let’s hope it really was removed.

Or this will be nothing but feel-good legislation that could actually make it more dangerous for California riders.

Update: Eric B and billsd wrote to correct my reading of the most recent draft of SB 910. The law has in fact been revised to remove the 15 mph passing exemption; it now allows drivers to pass at less than three feet only at speeds of 15 mph or less. Thanks to both for the correction.

……..

I’ve heard from a number of cyclists who are concerned about a rumor in the case of Joseph Fernandez, the driver convicted of killing Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman.

They’re worried that judge K. Michael Kirkman may have found that Swarzman contributed to his own death though improper lane positioning by failing to ride far enough to the right. As the comment linked to above points out, that would suggest a basic misunderstanding of both state law and commonly taught safe riding practices.

As a result, I reached out to cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, who looked into the question for me.

According to Wheels, it’s unlikely that the judge would have made a ruling like that, since it’s unrelated to the charges against Fernandez. He’s been found guilty of hit-and-run causing serious injury or death, rather than the death itself.

In other words, Fernandez was convicted of leaving the scene, not killing Swarzman — which makes where Swarzman was positioned  in the lane, and whether he contributed to his own death, irrelevant to this case.

As Wheels points out, that may be a matter that will be addressed in the civil case.

However, if anyone who was actually in the courtroom when Fernandez was found guilty has other information, please let me know.

Fernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12th in San Diego Superior Court in Vista; he faces up to four years in prison, case #CN290834.

……..

Finally, did the L.A. Weekly deliberately lie about L.A.’s new cyclist anti-harassment ordinance? Or was it a case of journalistic incompetence and failure to fact check?

A blog post by Dennis Romero suggests that the new law will clog the courts with cyclists retaliating for the slightest insult.

Really. The law goes into effect today. (Ed. Actually, it was Monday, but who’s counting?) We can just imagine the court testimony:

Bicyclist: He called me an asshole.

Driver: Your honor, I would like to submit that he is an asshole, and that free speech is protected, especially when one speaks the truth.

And he concludes with a reminder abut First Amendment rights:

Added: Interestingly, we recall that court rulings over the years have held that even swearing at police is protected speech. Guess the bicycle gets more respect than the badge at L.A. City Hall.

Of course, as virtually every commenter on the story has pointed out, he is completely and totally wrong. (I particularly enjoyed the comment from local bikewear manufacturer swrve.)

Mere insults aren’t addressed by this law. In fact, as LAPD Sgt. Krumer pointed out, you can call a cyclist any damn thing you want and be perfectly within your rights. Although at this point, calling someone an L.A. Weekly reader could be particularly hurtful.

What you can’t do is threaten the life or safety of a cyclist, either through words or actions.

That’s it.

Don’t say “I’m going to kill you,” or attempt to run a rider off the road — or imply you intend to — and this law will never apply to you.

And for his suggestion in the comments that most cyclists will never read the law, so they’ll file countless worthless cases anyway, no lawyer is going to take a case unless he or she thinks they have a reasonable chance of winning.

Which means there has to be evidence and/or witnesses to support it. And even if a lawyer did take such a case, the courts wouldn’t hesitate to throw it out.

Which takes us back to the Weekly’s false and inflammatory story, which can only put cyclists at greater risk of actual harassment from angry drivers who might believe their load of crap.

So I demand — yes, demand — a complete and full retraction from the Weekly, as well as a public apology from the author.

And I hope you’ll join me in doing the same.

Thanks to Evan G. for the tip.

Better news on Adam Rybicki, LA engineers get bike/ped training, CA considers 15 mph passing law

Good news on the condition of Adam Rybicki, who was critically injured in a collision with an allegedly drunk, underage driver in Torrance on Sunday.

Jim Lyle forwards the following comment from the original story in the Daily Breeze:

A number of physicians ride on this ride and were instrumental in initially saving Adams life. Richard Brenner is one of our riders and is also a physician. Here’s what he has to say about his visit to Adam tonight: “I just returned from visiting Adam at Harbor General. He is in the ICU 3 West. He is still in a coma but shows responsiveness in his extremities. 
He has a trach tube but is not on a ventilator. He has a drainage tube in the head but they haven’t needed to drain anything. The nurse, a great guy, 
told me that his ICP, intracranial pressure, was excellent. He had a cervical collar on and has not been to the MRI. His vitals were good. His face looks a lot better than I expected. There is some swelling but I didn’t see any of the lacerations I was expecting. The nurse noted that Adam has been improving in his responsiveness during his shift. Say a prayer.

Also, in answer to questions I’ve gotten from several people, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels confirms that the passengers in the car driven by Jaclyn Garcia could not be legally required to take a breathalyzer test, even though they were underage and allegedly drunk at the time of the collision. Under California law, only the driver is required to prove sobriety.

The officers investigating the crash could have given them field sobriety tests to test for underage drinking or public intoxication, however. Wheels also notes that police would not have allowed them to leave on their own if they were too drunk to take care of themselves, and could have taken them into custody until they sobered up or someone came to get them.

The passengers also bear no legal responsibility, according to Wheels, either for the collision itself or for allowing Garcia to drive under the influence, unless they were actively interfering with her ability to drive. That’s something we should look at trying to change; anyone who knowingly allows someone to drive after drinking should bear some responsibility for whatever follows.

And contrary to my understanding, while the person(s) who sold, served or supplied the girls with alcohol could be held responsible for violating state liquor laws, they bear no responsibility for the collision itself under California law.

For anyone who may have missed it yesterday, it appears the initial comments by a Torrance Police spokesperson were wrong. All reports I’ve received from people on the scene of Sunday’s collision indicate the Torrance police conducted a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation, and that the officer who’s comments suggested police were blaming the cyclists was not involved in the investigation and had no direct knowledge of the case.

.………

One of my biggest complaints over the years, and one I’ve frequently heard from other cyclists, is that bike infrastructure too often looks like it was designed by someone who had never been on a bike.

From bike lanes that start and stop at random and place cyclists squarely in the door zone, to bike paths that double as sidewalks and force riders to navigate through turning motor vehicle traffic.

Now the LACBC is working with LADOT and the Mayor’s office to do something about it.

Since the Mayor’s Bike Summit last year, the LACBC has been working quietly behind the scenes to arrange a training program in complete streets and bicycle and pedestrian safety design. Now it’s finally going to take place later this month, with an intensive two-day training session, not just for Bikeways staff, but for all of the city’s roadway engineers.

Maybe we can use this as a springboard for a Vision Zero plan for Los Angeles to achieve a rate of zero cyclists and pedestrians killed on city streets by 2020.

With the new bike plan, better relations with and enforcement from the LAPD, a bike-friendly mayor, a soon-to-be adopted anti-harassment ordinance, and now bike and pedestrian safety training for the people who design our streets, the pieces are finally in place.

It might be hard, but it is doable.

.………

Cyclelicious reports on the latest attempt to approve a three-foot passing law in the California legislature. As the bill now stands, it contains not only the three-foot provision, but also a requirement that drivers pass cyclists at a maximum 15 mph speed differential.

While most reasonable people understand the need to slow down to pass a cyclist, this appears to be an unenforceable standard as it now stands, requiring drivers to slow from 60 mph or more on some highways to 30 or 40 mph — or less — when they pass a cyclist riding on the shoulder.

A better standard might be to require the maximum speed differential when passing a cyclist in the same lane.

Even then, such a speed differential would be virtually impossible to objectively measure, requiring an officer with a speed gun to measure the relative speeds of both the cyclist and the passing vehicle. And frankly, police usually have better things to do with their time.

The only time something like this might come into play would be in the event of a collision, when it could be proven that the vehicle did not slow down before hitting the cyclist.

Which makes me wonder if it’s really just a straw dog — something that could be negotiated away in order to gain approval for the three foot provision.

Or does someone else have some insights on this that I don’t?

.………

CicLAvia is still looking for volunteers for Sunday, as well as the days leading up to L.A.’s new favorite biking, walking, sitting and just generally hanging out event. Fill out this form to volunteer on Sunday, or this one to volunteer to help get ready on Friday and Saturday; email CicLAviaVolunteer [at] gmail [dot] com for more information.

.………

LADOT Bike Blog offers an interview with new BAC chair Jay Slater. Damien Newton looks at the county’s proposed bike plan and not surprisingly, finds it lacking, with no plan to implement any of it. Steven Box writes that is has been a long road to relevance for L.A. cyclists, but this is just the beginning. Santa Monica unveils their proposed Bicycle Action Plan on Wednesday. Answering questions about the coming weekend’s 2011 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer event. Richard Risemberg rolls with the monthly Vélo Rétro ride. L.A. Cyclist recounts the restoration of a Nishiki with a bizarre front freewheel. Cynergy Cycles invites you to be one with your bike this Thursday. What to do to keep from getting dropped on group rides. A look back at Santa Monica bicycling history. Evidently, there’s a new Pashley in town. The Times offers a story on biking the steep trail to Little Pine. April is Distracted Driving Month in California — which means don’t do it, rather than encouraging it.

The Quiznos Pro Challenge thankfully abandons their horrible sandwich huckstering name and will hereby be known as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge; now that sounds like something I might actually watch. A new study shows that the percentage of who rides is nearly equally divided among economic groups, with lower income riders making up the largest group and upper income the smallest — so much for the idea that only rich yuppies ride bikes.

Twelve reasons to start using a bike for transportation. The U.S. once led the world in cycling. Minneapolis’ success offers a lesson in how to beat the bikelash. A cycling physician is killed when a driver has a sneezing fit. DC bike commuting on the increase. A cyclist participating in an annual Florida cycling event is killed when a driver attempts to retrieve a dropped cell phone; am I the only one who thinks calling this the event’s first fatality sounds like they’re planning for more?

In what’s sure to be seen by Tea Partier’s as yet another plot for world domination, the UN is now tweeting about road safety. After riding 1750 miles across Europe, a group of Brit soldiers riding for to raise funds for charity are forced to complete the journey on foot due to safety regulations. Mayor Boris considers establishing the London Marathon on Wheels. Saxo Bank SunGuard rider Nick Nuyens takes the Tour of Flanders in a final breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel and Fabian Cancellara; proof the strongest rider doesn’t always win. An Aussie man gets a slap on the wrist after setting a trap for mountain bikers, then changing his mind and warning riders.

Finally, Gothamist offers a hilarious take on the New York Post’s idiotic attempt to link their irrational hatred of New York bikeways and the woman behind them to — wait for it — 9/11.

I’m in catch up mode this week, so please bear with me. I’ve got lots of good stories in the queue, including a guest post from Eric Weinstein on Sunday’s Crosstown Traffic Ride, updates on bike-related criminal cases from Dj Wheels, bike lanes blocked by movie crews, and photos of the crappiest bike lane on the Westside — yes, even worse than Westwood’s Ohio Ave.

The high cost of traffic deaths, a possible 3-foot passing bill and ride with Bicycle Fixation on Sunday

The cost of a traffic death goes far beyond the emotional and financial toll it takes on the victim’s family.

Not surprisingly, there’s a cost to society at large, as well. And like virtually anything else, it can be measured in monetary figures.

The National Safety Council values the average actual cost of traffic deaths  — wages, productivity, medical expenses, etc — at $1.29 million, and the comprehensive costs to society at $4.3 million per death. Incapacitating injuries are valued at $67,800 and $216,000 respectively.

By that measure, Portland’s improvements in traffic safety has resulted 84 fewer deaths and roughly 2400 fewer injuries over the past four years. Which works out to a monetary savings of $1,629,913,300.

That’s $1.6 billion dollars. And nearly 2500 lives.

And that’s just one city.

Meanwhile, by the same measurement, the 12 cycling deaths that I’m aware of so far this year in Southern California have cost us $51.6 million.

And that’s just the financial toll.

The emotional toll is incalculable.

.………

According to Streetsblog, Long Beach State Senator Alan Lowenthal has introduced a bill that could become a three-foot passing law, even though it doesn’t currently include those words.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the state has considered establishing a minimum passing distance. A similar bill died in 2006 following opposition from the CHP and the trucking industry, which argued that trucks wouldn’t be able to pass cyclists on narrow roadways — as if trying to pass a cyclist at a distance of less than three feet was safe now.

Some have argued that a three-foot distance is unenforceable, since police have no way of measuring if a vehicle passed a cyclist at 35” inches or 37.” Which is ridiculous, of course.

Police won’t be looking for minor infractions; the law will come into force when they observe a driver buzzing a cyclist at far less than three feet, or when the vehicle actually comes in contact with a rider.

And it doesn’t really change anything.

Current law calls for a safe passing distance; all this would do is clarify that anything less than three feet — or roughly the arm length of a grown man — isn’t safe. Which is a hell of a lot better than the current standard, which basically allows anything short of actual physical contact.

Meanwhile, UCLA has started their own campaign to encourage campus drivers to give riders three feet. Good idea; however, I have a better one.

Just ban cars from campus entirely.

.………

Mr. Bicycle Fixation, Rick Risemberg, invites you to ride along in celebration of his birthday on Sunday. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, Rick offers a near-encyclopedic knowledge of local cycling, and is a hell of a nice guy. If my wife hadn’t already booked my weekend, I’d be tempted to join in myself.

So if you’ve got the day free, by all means, go have a little fun for me.

.………

The Times asks why Angelenos are lazier than you’d think — and if something as simple as bike lanes would help. LADOT invites you to attend the next meeting of the Bike Plan Implementation Team on Tuesday, which conveniently comes just hours after the bike plan will (presumably) be adopted at City Hall. Good Sam helps out with the new Bike Wrangler program; then again, as hosts of the annual Blessing of the Bicycles, they’ve long been a friend of local riders. The Argonaut offers a post-mortem on the failed attempt to extend the Venice beachfront bike path to the Marina jetty; thanks to Curbed LA for the link. The Daily Bruin looks at Friday’s Complete Streets conference downtown. How to build your conditioning for endurance riding. Examined Spoke suggests cycling is a solution for our crowded streets, even if that means riding behind children and old people, and notes that L.A. is twice as dense as Holland — in more ways than one, I fear.

Santa Monica plans bikeways throughout the downtown area, including bike lanes on the California Incline leading up the bluff from PCH to Ocean Blvd. Glendale reports on last year’s bike and pedestrian count. Long Beach’s Charlie Gandy offers a look at the city’s new, still-under-construction separated bike lanes. The OC Register reports that Danae Miller, the alleged drunk driver who killed Amine Britel on Monday night, had actually received 17 traffic tickets since 2005, but had six dismissed; meanwhile, CDM Cyclist notes that the road is popular with cyclists, offering bike lanes and a long uphill. the  An Orange County glossy discovers Cycle Chic and social cycling. Santa Cruz police go against current trends and common sense by urging that cyclists be required to display license numbers on their bikes.

Consider the 8-80 Rule of cycling infrastructure — is a street safe for an 8 year old or an 80 year old to ride on?  A new Streetfilms video says biking is redefining infrastructure and our cities. Lessons learned from two years of winter cycling. A proposed bike/ped boardwalk along a Mississippi River rail bridge could result in a 600 mile bike path on both sides of the river. Zeke attends the North Carolina Bike/Ped Summit, once he finally finds it. A Tampa Bay columnist calls for a vulnerable user law.

David Hembrow says maybe London’s bike share program hasn’t been as successful as it seems. Maybe your dream job awaits at London 2012. Kiwi correspondent The Trickster offers more photos of damage to a popular riding route from the recent earthquake, and notes he was supposed to race through there next month; doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There are several ways you can help. Don’t miss this exuberant celebration of cycling from Nairobi.

Finally, London’s Daily Mail concludes — incorrectly — that bike commuting is a leading cause of heart attacks, even though the study they based it on shows no such thing.  But hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the new intern insists that I’ve been working long enough.

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