Tag Archive for Todd Mumford

Blaming the victim: Beverly Hills police blame sidewalk riding cyclist over dangerous driver

Last week, I received the following email from cyclist and budding brewmeister Todd Mumford.

As you may recall, Todd recently described a collision that left him with minor — though painful — injuries and a badly mangled bike. Now his neighbor has been the victim of a law-breaking driver.

And, apparently, the Beverly Hills police.

Todd notes that the story is second hand, but he has no reason to question his neighbor’s version of events.

He was headed east on Olympic Blvd. At some point he was riding in the street, but jumped on to the sidewalk (there was a car blocking his path or something like that).

He was on the sidewalk when he entered the crosswalk at Olympic/Doheny on a green light with the pedestrian walk sign. According to my neighbor, he checked the road and all was clear as he entered. However, as soon as he got into the crosswalk, he looked left just in time to see an SUV make a right turn from the middle lane at the last second, hitting my neighbor and sending him to the ground; he took the brunt of the impact with his shoulder.

The driver stopped and checked on my neighbor. My neighbor said two or three drivers that witnessed the accident also stopped, and started berating the driver that hit him for driving like a maniac. According to them, the driver of the SUV was speeding down Olympic, weaving in and out of traffic and finally made an illegal right turn from the middle lane before striking my neighbor.

The paramedics arrived as did the police. My neighbor got checked out and nothing appeared broken, but his shoulder was in a lot of pain (it has since become worse and he is going to get it checked to see whether he needs surgery). The police took the statements of the witnesses, the driver and my neighbor.   Their conclusion at the end of the police report was that my neighbor was entirely at fault because he was riding on the sidewalk. (My neighbor also said the police treated him like he did something wrong the entire time.)

Now, as I explained to him, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills. If he was just a little farther down Olympic he would have been in Los Angeles and it would not have been an issue. What I am wondering is if the police came to their conclusion because the law states it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk or they think he’s at fault because the driver couldn’t see him because he was riding on the sidewalk.

All of which begs the question, what would the police have concluded had the SUV hit a pedestrian who was walking down the sidewalk had just entered the crosswalk and got hit?

If the police assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor because he broke the law by riding on the sidewalk, they are absolutely in the wrong. There is a legal concept in torts called negligence per se  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence_per_se), which, although not applicable here, feels like the police may be following the same concept. “You broke a law, you got hit, your fault.”  I have not seen the police report, but if they assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor, I would assume the driver was not cited for anything.

My neighbor said he has since retained an attorney and the driver’s insurance company assigned 80% of the fault to the driver and 20% to him, which is a small victory.

(As a side note, when I was dealing with the adjustor for the insurance company of the driver that hit me, they asked if I was riding on the sidewalk when I was hit.)

This story raises a number of issues.

Not the least of which is the problem of sidewalk riding, which is legal in some California cities and banned in others. And even legal in some areas of cities that ban it in others, such as Beverly Hills, which bans sidewalk riding only in business districts — even though BHPD bike officers routinely ride on the gilded sidewalks of the city’s Golden Triangle, including Rodeo Drive.

This patchwork of laws makes it virtually impossible for cyclists to comply with the law, as they may have no way of knowing if it is legal or illegal as they pass through the many various communities of the county.

In effect, it’s no different from the speed traps that plagued the state in the ’40s and ’50s. By refusing to post regulations on the street where cyclists who don’t live in the city can see them, jurisdictions that ban sidewalk riding virtually ensure that riders who take to the sidewalk for whatever reason will break the law at some point and be subject to ticketing.

Or worse, as this case points out.

Of course, the one solution is for all cyclists to always ride in the street. But simple common sense says that will never happen, as some riders will always feel more comfortable on the sidewalk, while others will jump on and off as needed to avoid road hazards and dangerous streets.

A better answer is to establish a uniform standard from city to city so it’s actually possible for riders to know and observe the law, wherever they ride.

Then there’s the problem of police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills ignoring witness statements that the driver broke the law by making a right turn from the wrong lane. And deciding that the relatively minor violation of riding on the sidewalk completely outweighs a reckless driver in a dangerous vehicle putting others at risk by committing a major moving violation.

Despite the driver’s potential to cause harm, they insisted on blaming the victim. Instead of holding people operating vehicles that are capable of killing their fellow road users accountable for operating them in a safe and legal manner, they heaped all the blame on the bike rider, who posed a danger no one but himself.

All of which begs the question, what the f*** is wrong with Beverly Hills??????

Maybe you can ask them yourself.

The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, March 6th, at 1:30 pm. Bikes are on the agenda — a discussion of the city’s first planned bikeways, making them only 40 years or so behind the rest of the world.

But maybe we can use the opportunity to ask why they seem intent on remaining the most bike-unfriendly city on the Westside.

The CABO debate goes on; a badly broken Cinelli helps make the point

Just a quick follow-up on last week’s post about the California Association of Bicycle Organization’s (CABO) opposition to the original intent of state assembly bill AB 819.

As originally written, AB 819 would have allowed California cities and counties to use infrastructure designs that have been proven safe and effective in other places, but haven’t been approved under Caltrans extremely conservative guidelines.

Unfortunately, at the urging of CABO, the bill was rewritten to force Caltrans to review any project that isn’t currently allowed under the MUTCD guidelines, adding a needless layer of red tape, delay and expense. And discouraging planners and designers from even attempting innovative projects that could encourage more riders and enhance safety.

And, I might add, allowing CABO to maintain their influence with Caltrans, which gives them a say on road and bike projects that far outweighs their small size — and gives them the opportunity to challenge projects that don’t meet their own conservative Vehicular Cycling bias.

Amid the incredible mass of comments in response to that post — 174 and counting, as of this morning — a couple stood out, and are worth bringing up to a wider audience reluctant to slog through the many, many critical and defensive points and counterpoints.

First up is this from Gary Kavanagh, author of Gary Rides Bikes, and one of the most intelligent analysts of biking issues I’ve encountered.

Something of great importance that has mostly been left out of this discussion is the impact of bike lanes and other facilities on other street users besides bicyclists. Streets that go through configuration changes to include bike lanes often see safety improvements across the board, including for pedestrians and drivers as well cyclists.

Something that has come up several times during the Santa Monica bike plan process was the results of the Ocean Park bike lane and road diet, which was initially installed as a trial project, and resulted in a 50% reduction in collisions of all kinds. Despite increased bicycle ridership, total bike collisions dropped as well.

Personally I wish the bike lanes were a little wider, with more room to buffer from doors, but it’s hard to argue that the changes to the street were a bad thing. The street became easier and safer to cross for pedestrians, bicyclists were given their own lane, which attracted more riders, but decreased collisions, and the travel time impact to drivers were minor, and fewer drivers collided with each other. It was a win win for everyone.

In New York some street reconfigurations reduced fatalities by so much, that it is literally increasing the average lifespan of New Yorkers because of the past years of traffic fatality reductions. Cities in California could be learning and implementing based on the successes elsewhere, but instead we will continue to be hobbled by having approval go through the unresponsive Caltrans.

As leading L.A. cycling advocate Roadblock put it in response —

This comment basically hits the ball out of the park into the next town folks.

I should also mention that Roadblock, and several others, argued passionately throughout the comments in support of better infrastructure and non-vehicular cyclists. It’s definitely worth taking the time to read all the comments if you have the time.

Then there’s this from DG

I was somewhat impressed that the CABO people were willing to try to defend their views here, until I read this by (Dan) Gutierrez above: “Since you support segregated infrastructure, there are plenty of other organizations better suited to your interests.”

You’re absolutely right, bikinginla: CABO is an anti-biking fraud if they think bike lanes (AKA “segregated infrastructure”) are not an essential part of bike safety. Of course, bike lanes are expensive, and CABO provides a fig-leaf for avoiding that expense.

And that’s the problem. Or at least, one of them.

Even though they changed their mind later, CABO’s initial opposition to California’s proposed three-foot passing law gave cover for groups and individuals who opposed the bill entirely, from AAA to Caltrans and the CHP.

After all, they might reason, if even cyclists don’t support it, why should we?

Their opposition gave Governor Brown an excuse to veto it, placing countless cyclists in continued danger from dangerous motorists. And making Jerry Browned the new bike slang for getting dangerously buzzed by a passing vehicle.

Don’t misunderstand me.

I am not opposed to CABO. As they point out in the comments — over and over again — they’ve done some good work to benefit California riders.

What I am opposed to is a small organization professing to speak on behalf of California cyclists while seeming to stand in the way of the bills and projects we want.

If CABO truly believes they are misunderstood and unappreciated, as their responses indicate, maybe they should take a hard look at why so many cyclists are so angry with them.

Because that anger certainly didn’t start with anything I wrote.

……..

The need for safer streets was driven home by a collision suffered by reader and frequent tipster Todd Mumford, who offers a badly broken bike as evidence.

I was heading down Federal Ave. from my office on Wilshire/Federal.  About a quarter mile down the road, just as the hill gets a little steeper, there is a cross street (Rochester) with a two-way east/west stop.   The car seemed to be checking both ways, but all of a sudden they just roll right across the road as I am coming down the road.  There were no cars behind me, the closest car in front of me was about 4 or so car lengths in front of me and no cars were coming up the hill.  I have two bright blinkers on the front of my bike, along with reflective sidewalls on my tires and a bright fluorescent green jacket.  The driver obviously didn’t look carefully before proceeding across the street.  When I realized that the driver was actually rolling into my path, I slammed on my brakes and turned to avoid them, but ended up laying my bike down and sliding right into the passenger side of their car, slamming it really hard.  The driver stopped and was really freaked out, but glad he didn’t actually have a dead cyclist on his hands.  He gave me his info and hung out while I waited for my wife to pick me up.  Also, a few other cars and pedestrians stopped to check on me.  Unfortunately, none of them were actually there to witness the collision.

Fortunately, he didn’t suffer any serious injuries — just a lot of painful ones, with major bruising and road rash. Here’s hoping he heals fast, and gets back out on a new bike soon.

As an aside, Todd is working with his wife and brother to get a new microbrewery up and running Downtown later this year. They’ve already got the beers, now all they need is a location. And money. If you’re in the market to invest, a bike-friendly microbrewery might be a tasty place to start.

You can follow their progress on their website and on Twitter @MumfordBrewing.

……..

My apologies to everyone who has sent me links lately, especially in regards to Gene Hackman getting hit by a car while not wearing a helmet, the anti-bike ravings of Aussie Cricketeer Shane Warne, and the jerk who physically assaulted Long Beach bike expats The Path Less Pedaled in New Zealand, leading to the two-fisted driver’s arrest.

I’m still crunching numbers on last year’s far too high total of 71 bike riders killed on SoCal streets — 80 if you count gunshot victims. I’ll try to get back to my normal link-loving self soon.

And don’t assume that my posting today means I’m not in support of the opposition to SOPA; a tight schedule this week just means I have to post when I can.

Finally, a quick shout out to Mr. Salamon’s class; I truly enjoyed meeting and talking with you yesterday.

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