Tag Archive for Tom LaBonge

Morning Links: Another reason to ride, as traffic congestion costs LA drivers; Flying Pigeon calls out Tom LaBonge

As if you needed another incentive to ride a bike.

The LA Weekly says the city’s traffic congestion costs motorists $5,700 a year, compared to an average of just $1,700 nationwide. And that’s in addition to the estimated $2,458 LA drivers lose due to bad roads.

On the other hand, traffic congestion doesn’t cost bike riders a dime. Although those bad roads can bust wheels and frames.

And bones.

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Writing for Flying Pigeon, Richard Risemberg says as if anti-Fig4All City Councilmember Gil Cedillo isn’t bad enough, CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge manages to insert himself into bike photo ops while blocking much needed bike safety projects.

Tom LaBonge intrudes his bulky self into every bike-related photo op anywhere in or near his district, often wearing his signature red sweater to catch the eye (and the cameras). But he has stopped the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway, is trying hard to stop the Lankershim Boulevard road diet, and stands stubbornly against a community-friendly Glendale/Hyperion bridge rebuild.

And now, Sixth Street in the Miracle Mile, a narrow four-lane that impatient scofflaws use as a fast alternative to Wilshire one block away, sometimes hitting speeds of 60 and 70 miles per hour…

Sixth Street was slated to receive a road diet, but—yes, you guessed right!—Tom LaBonge chose to “defer” it. His rationale? Road work on Wilshire might send more traffic onto Sixth. But his presumptions have led him into error: road diets, while they restrain top speeds, often smooth out traffic flow and result in quicker, if calmer, A to B transits of a street.

Something is seriously wrong when a single councilmember can derail already-approved road treatments designed by people actually qualified and paid to make those decisions.

If Mayor Garcetti really wants to do something about our dysfunctional city government, this would be a damn good place to start.

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In pro cycling news, the Astana cycling team risks losing its license for the pro tour after yet another rider is caught doping. Good thing the sport has cleaned itself up.

Meanwhile, VeloNews attempts to fit injured cycling scion Taylor Phinney for next year’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France, even though he’s still working on his comeback and has never ridden — let alone won — a single stage of the Tour.

Give the man a little time, already.

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Local

Metro moves forward with a mealy-mouthed, weak-ass Complete Streets policy.

Flying Pigeon hosts another of their popular Get Sum Dim Sum rides on Sunday.

The 2nd annual Long Beach AIDS Ride rolls on November 15th with rides of 40 and 70 miles, along with an eight mile family ride.

 

State

BikeSD reports bike and livability advocates in the Hillcrest neighborhood are subject to death threats.

San Francisco’s police investigate a series of attacks on bike riders in the city’s Panhandle.

 

National

A new government study confirms Millennials are driving less and biking and walking more.

A Kickstarter project promises jeans cut to accommodate the massive thighs of serious cyclists, which won’t always fit in regular jeans. A problem I once had, and sincerely hope I will again someday.

Grist gushes over the beautiful bike freeways in Minneapolis.

Three years ago, the NYPD recommended a mandatory helmet law for cyclists, but can’t be bothered to enforce traffic laws to protect them.

Nice. Atlanta’s working on a citywide network of protected bike lanes.

 

International

A Calgary writer explains why he rides in the road when there’s a bike path nearby.

Seriously? An Edmonton city councilor wants to discourage bike commuting by requiring licenses for anyone who rides to work.

The Guardian says bicycling is good for everyone; mass cycling could save the National Health Service £17 billion — the equivalent of $27 billion — over 20 years, and prevent 500 road deaths a year.

Britain’s Department for Transport calls for doubling cycling by 2025, but lacks the funding to do it.

Copenhagenize’s Mikael Colville-Andersen discusses how cities around the world are adapting to bike riders.

A group of cycling physicians call for more to be done to improve bike safety in Perth, but the equivalent of a three-foot law fails in West Australia.

 

Finally…

A Scot cyclist goes for an unplanned swim after swerving to avoid a dog. You thought LA potholes were bad — a New Zealand cyclist rides into a sinkhole and can’t get out; his dog stayed with him until help finally arrived.

And a road raging Kiwi cyclist goes off on the driver who rear–ended him following a roadside dispute; something tells me there are no innocent victims in this one.

 

Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Thirteen.

That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.

In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14 this year.

It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an accompanying jump in ridership.

Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.

Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.

Just one problem.

Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.

Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.

And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed out in the street.

Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.

There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.

In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.

It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.

Thirteen.

Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish — was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through another human being.

Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.

And that makes him one of us.

Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13. Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the last two years.

As if that isn’t five too many.

Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.

There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.

And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go — supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.

When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.

But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their hegemony on our streets?

Greene’s piece isn’t bad.

He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.

But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and sisters.

Thirteen.

It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.

And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.

More on the 2nd-car death of Andy Garcia, no more green bike lane, and LA gets tougher on hit-and-run

Streetsblog attempts to clear up the confusing details over the hit-and-run collision that resulted in the death of Luis “Andy” Garcia.

Garcia was killed after 21-year old Wendy Villegas hit a group of five riders and fled the scene, leaving her victims lying in the street, where he was hit by a second vehicle.

Streetsblog writer Sahra Sulaiman talks with some of the other riders involved.

What they have to say contradicts some of the details in the official press release from the LAPD — including the fact that Mario Lopez, one of the riders hit in the initial collision, suffered a broken back, rather than the minor injuries the police report.

And paints a picture of a needlessly horrifying night that took the life of a young bike rider, shattered two families, and forever scarred the four surviving riders, as well as the three men who prayed over Garcia after their van took his life.

All because a young woman got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive, and fled like a coward after colliding with her victims.

Then again, there’s no such thing as being just a little drunk when you’re driving.

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Photo of no-longer green Spring Street bike lane shamelessly stolen from Niall Huffman

Photo of no-longer green Spring Street bike lane shamelessly stolen from Niall Huffman

Also courtesy of Streetsblog, which has been very busy on the bike front this week, comes official confirmation that you can kiss your green Spring Street bike lanes goodbye.

The highly popular bike lanes barely survived an attempt by Hollywood filmmakers to have them removed entirely; regretfully, self-described bike supporter Council Member Tom LaBonge bought into the industry’s easily disprovable lies — as did our new bike-friendly Mayor Eric Garcetti.

If it wasn’t for the efforts of Council Member Jose Huizar and a few others, the bike lanes would have been removed entirely, rather than just stripped of their green paint.

Now they await a newly approved treatment that costs significantly less, but may not be as effective in capturing the attention of motorists.

We should all hold Hollywood — and our elected readers — accountable for any drop in ridership on the street.

Or increase in injuries.

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The LA City Council instructs the LAPD to take a tougher stance on tracking hit-and-runs. And will work at the state level to revoke the licenses of fleeing drivers, and forfeit their vehicles.

Which is exactly what I’ve long been calling for.

So whether someone has read my blog, or just came up with the idea on their own, thank you. Frankly, I couldn’t care less who gets the credit as long as long-needed changes are made.

Now let’s get it done. And put a stop to this deadly epidemic.

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The LA Times says the ball is in Governor Brown’s court when it comes to signing the three-foot passing law, noting that this is the fifth attempt at passing it in California. The first two never made it out of committee, while our esteemed governor vetoed the last pair.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog notes the Times promises more coverage of bicycling issues on their Opinion page. With all the bike-riding reporters and editors who work at the paper, the only question is what took so long.

Speaking of which, Streetsblog and the new Santa Monica Next are holding a fundraiser this Sunday.

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lb_market_valetKelly Heller sends word that the Long Beach Southwest Farmers Market will begin offering a bike valet this Sunday:

Since it doesn’t begin till next weekend, I cannot tell you anything about how the valet staff is or what the bike accommodations look like.

However, I certainly *can* attest to the fact that this farmer’s market has a significant car-traffic problem.  They are paying for at least three traffic guards, and the whole time we were locking up our bikes and readying our shopping bags we observed the frustration of both the drivers and the traffic guards as they yelled at each other and everyone struggled to find any remaining needle-in-a-haystack open parking spots.

It’s nice to see that someone did the math and figured out that putting up a free bike valet might be the ideal solution.

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There may be hope for the LA River yet, beyond the current unfinished bike path next to a graffiti-clad concrete river bed. The city breaks ground on a new park next to the river in Sherman Oaks that will include a short bike path. The city council approves a new $6 million bike, pedestrian and equestrian bridge over the LA River in North Atwater Village. Larchmont Village loses thirty — yes, 30 — bike racks in order to satisfy drivers who prefer parking meters. Residents want to tame traffic on Ave 64.

There will be a blood drive in honor of fallen OC cyclist Kurt Kirkey in Aliso Viejo on Wednesday, October 2nd. Bike Newport Beach looks at the different mindset for riding in Paris. A Bakersfield driver was using a legal hands-free device when she struck and killed a cyclist riding in a bike lane Tuesday night, in what has been a horrible year for Kern County cyclists and pedestrians; police say the driver was at fault. Sharrows or Supersharrows? When a cyclist is nearly decapitated by fishing line strung over a bike trail, it’s not a prank, it’s a terrorist attack.

Industry trade group Bikes Belong folds itself into its own People for Bikes subsidiary. Elly Blue offers five tips for the bike industry to increase ridership among women. Lovely Bicycle asks if it’s possible to have too short a ride. The Houston Chronicle asks how relatively ancient Chris Horner won the Vuelta. A Houston rider has his bike stolen when he’s mugged on a popular bike trail. Evidently, there’s a requirement in Montana that says drivers have to pass bike riders even when it’s not safe to do so. A Milwaukee man is shot and killed after spotting a man riding a child’s stolen bike. Apparently, more bikes really do mean safer streets, even if New York’s Daily News has trouble believing it. Evidently, you can do tricks on a bike share bike. Male riders outnumber women in Philly, like just about everywhere else. A Maryland rider explains what it’s like to be a cyclist on the state’s roads. DC could remove restrictions preventing bike shops from selling used bikes. A 77-year old Arlington VA driver threatens the cyclist he right hooked with a baseball bat; the driver claimed the rider should have signaled for the left turn he wasn’t making.

A Winnipeg law would absurdly force groups of 10 or more bike riders to get a parade permit. Beat the crap out of a UK bike rider in a road rage incident, and walk away with a fine. A three-year old Brit girl is banned from riding her bike because she might damage resident’s cars. Is Europe’s bad economy causing the boom in bicycling? After overseeing the worst doping era in bike racing history, Pat McQuaid says he’s the only one who can clean it up; I’d say let’s give him the same ban Lance got. The mother of racing great Marco Pantani thinks her son was poisoned after breaking pro cycling’s doping omerta. A Sydney paper continues its highly biased anti-bike reporting, including blaming bike lanes for a loss of handicap parking and cyclists for running red lights; apparently, objectivity and grammatically correct headlines aren’t attributes expected of the local press. Meanwhile, the Guardian says the anti-bike hysteria in the Sydney press has got to stop, and local cyclists fight back on Twitter.

Finally, this is one way to ride with a dog. And if you’re planning to burgle a flat screen TV, maybe a bike isn’t your best choice for a getaway vehicle.

Good news and bad news — Box finishes third in CD4, LACBC’s City of Lights honored

Newly re-elected CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge with LACBC board member Scott Moore.

Despite running what appeared to be a very smart campaign, bike activist Stephen Box lost overwhelmingly to Council District 4 incumbent Tom LaBonge yesterday.

While he appeared to have support from many in the cycling community — as well as backing from food truck operators — it wasn’t enough to keep him from finishing third in the three man race, with less than half the votes of second place Tomas O’Grady.

And far behind LaBonge, who sailed to victory with over 55% of the vote — echoing predictions from internal polling.

I won’t go into a lengthy post-mortem here. Bicycle Fixation offers a good look at what went wrong, while pointing out LaBonge’s re-election is far from a disaster.

However, it would be wrong to look at this as a failure of the cycling movement in Los Angeles. Prior to the election, a number of cyclists told me privately that they preferred the more moderate and usually bike-friendly LaBonge; so despite how it may have looked before the election, the bike vote may have actually been split between the two candidates. And it’s important to note that many of Box’s most ardent supporters live outside of his district.

In the end, he lost out to one of the city’s most likeable politicians. As well as the power of incumbency, which seems almost impossible to overcome in L.A.

It is worth noting that LaBonge will be termed out in four years, leaving an open seat; whether Box will try again is another question.

So let me congratulate Councilmember Tom LaBonge on winning another four years, and encourage him to continue to be a friend to the cycling community.

And hats off to Stephen Box for a very hard-fought, if ultimately unsuccessful, campaign. And for opening the door for cyclists to run for city office.

Whatever the reasons behind his loss, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort.

And he certainly won’t be the last to try.

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Congratulations to the LACBC’s City of Lights program, which was honored last night with the Best Practices Award from the Alliance for Biking and Walking at this year’s National Bike Summit.

The Best Practices Award goes to an organization that serves as a model for other bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. In 2010, countless individuals and a number of advocacy organizations drew information and inspiration from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. The LACBC’s City of Lights initiative elevated the conversation about “invisible cyclists” – men and women who ride bicycles but whose voices aren’t heard and needs aren’t acknowledged because of language or economic barriers. Through thoughtful outreach and, more importantly, true collaboration, the LACBC is changing the dialogue among city officials about urban planning, bringing new advocates into the movement and, expanding the scope of the bike-ped movement to address critical issues of social and economic justice.

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Lately, it seems like half the links on here have to do with the state of cycling in New York City. For instance…

A writer for the New Yorker bizarrely says he supports programs that encourage cycling, as long as they don’t affect his ability to park his Jag, although he does seem to consider bipedalism a passing fad; Aaron Naparstek artfully deconstructs — or perhaps eviscerates — his arguments. The Observer says straw men on bikes represent the city’s last culture war. Turns out that NY pol was only joking about ripping out the bike lanes; it was a real knee-slapper alright. The suddenly embattled Janette Sadik-Khan reports that her controversial efforts to reshape Gotham’s streets have improved safety 40% for all road users; yeah, I can see why they want to get rid of her. Bob Mionske offers his typically insightful perspective on the city’s bike wars. And the Guardian says it could negatively affect the future of cycling worldwide.

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If you find yourself in the Valley Thursday afternoon, stop by the groundbreaking for the West Valley L.A. River Greenway. Streetsblog reports $2.6 million in local Measure R funds will go to L.A. bikeways. LADOT Bike Blog looks at the role of mini-roundabouts in calming traffic on bike-friendly streets; considering the way drivers race around the one near me at Eastborne and Westholme, it doesn’t seem to be working. Local SF residents want to live on a street, not a virtual freeway. Cyclicious offers a more in-depth look at the new Bicycle Studies Program at Lees McCrae College.

Looking at the politics of cycling from a female perspective. The National Bike Summit is now underway in Washington DC; one of these days, I’ll find a way to be there. New national bikeway design standards are released. Why you should participate in group rides. The top five most influential women is cycling. After just one year, People for Bikes is one-fifth of the way towards their goal of 1 million cyclists. Traffic-meister Tom Vanderbilt offers an interesting infographic on the causes of traffic jams. Eight states continue to hold out in efforts to create a national bike route system; someone should tell them bike tourists spend money too. A New Mexico State Police spokesman tells cyclists to stay off the open roadways; having spent a lot of time in the Land of Enchantment, I can attest that covers most of the state. In a tragic incident, a blind Illinois cyclist is killed by an apparently distracted driver. A bike theft with a happy ending. Minneapolis cyclists find strength in numbers.

UK cyclists fight back against Northern Ireland’s proposed mandatory helmet law. Evidently, becoming the UK’s leading bike city doesn’t happen overnight, or even in three years. A look atSouth African cyclists. And a brilliant post on IPayRoadTax.com looks at driver bias and says cyclists don’t own the road, we rent it; seriously, if you don’t read any other links today, read this one.

Finally, a new study shows that traffic fatalities increase after nail-biter finishes in sporting events, but only in the hometown of the winning team. So you might want to be careful riding after Lakers games, but feel free to ride after Clippers play.

Bike plan moves forward, police crackdown in OC, Box and bikes profiled in LA Weekly

First the big news, as the joint Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management votes to move forward with the draft bike plan, with a five year plan for implementation.

While that’s great news for city cyclists, it also means no for now to the proposed South Venice Beach bike path extension.

The debate was dominated by discussion over whether to allow bikes on city trails currently used by hikers and equestrians — something that safely occurs around the world, yet according to the local horse crowd, would lead to inevitable disaster here in L.A.

While there’s an obvious need for people to use trails safely and courteously, and observe the rights of other users, public parks and trails belong to everyone and shouldn’t be set aside for any single group. Or exclude any single group of users.

The committee voted to have the Planning Department negotiate language between both types of riders; however, anything that doesn’t find a way to accommodate all users would be a failure.

Meanwhile, the plan will now go to the full committee for final approval before going to the Mayor for his signature; all indications are Villaraigosa will sign off on the plan.

You can still follow yesterday’s live coverage of the meeting from L.A. Streetsblog, LACBC and Christopher Kidd of LADOT Bike Blog by clicking here.

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New York cyclists have been justifiably up in arms the last few weeks over the NYPD’s efforts to crack down on lawbreaking cyclists, while ignoring more dangerous violations by drivers.

Now a similar move is underway here as the Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa police departments are banding together to conduct a “specialized Bicycle Safety Enforcement Operation” on the 19th and 24th of this month.

Despite the title, the press release promises officers will address traffic violations by cyclists and other vehicle operators that could “lead to bicycle vs. vehicle collisions, injuries and fatalities.”

The goal of the program is to educate the public about the safe and lawful use of bicycles, as well as the safe and lawful use of vehicles that share the roadway with bicycles. Prevention is a key component of the program, which centers on the traffic laws that can prevent bicycle riders from becoming injured to killed due to illegal use or reckless behavior by bicyclists and vehicles. In addition, the Police Departments involved may be required to enforce obvious violations to the City’s Municipal Code to maintain safe operations.

I don’t have any problem with enforcing traffic violations by cyclists; frankly, I’ve seen some cyclists who should be ticketed, if not thrown into leg irons. However, I would expect — and all cyclists have every right to expect — that unlike the situation in New York, the crackdown will address violations by drivers as well as cyclists.

And it should take into account which violators pose the greater risk to others.

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Neon Tommy Editor-at-Large Hillel Aron offers an in-depth profile of CD4 City Council Candidate Stephen Box and the history of L.A. bike activism in this week’s L.A. Weekly.

As the article notes, it’s almost impossible to unseat a sitting council member in L.A.; even the most unpopular usually cruise to victory over seemingly more worthy opponents once special interest money starts pouring in. Despite that, there’s a growing sense that Box may have a real shot at forcing incumbent Tom LaBonge into a runoff next month.

LaBonge has long supported cycling, though not always in the way cyclists would prefer; if he were smart, he’d move to strengthen his support of bicycling to undercut Box’s strongest base of support. Instead, he seems to be focused on shoring up support from the anti-bike crowd, as many cyclists see him, rightly or wrongly, as an obstacle in the way of many bicycling issues.

And it’s hard to take the other candidate in the race, Tomas O’Grady, seriously when he ignores questions from the city’s leading newspaper.

You have your own chance to evaluate the candidates tonight when the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council hosts a candidate’s forum at Silver Lake Community Church, 2930 Hyperion Ave. Or you can meet Stephen Box at an open house from 2 to 4 pm this Sunday at 3311 Lowry Road in Los Angeles.

Box has also received an endorsement from MobileFoodNews; not to surprising since LaBonge has been seen as an opponent of L.A.’s popular food trucks.

One other note — the writer of the Weekly article gave me every opportunity to attack other bicycle advocates and advocacy groups; I chose not to do that. It’s my firm belief than anyone working to support cycling in Los Angles deserves my support and gratitude, whether or not I happen agree with them. I’m saddened that not everyone feels the same way.

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If you’re looking for a good ride this weekend, consider the Tour de Palm Springs, with rides ranging from 5 to 100 miles. A little further down the road, the Santa Clarita Century rolls on April 2nd offering a full century, half century, 25-mile and family rides.

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CicLAvia has received a $25,000 grant from the California Endowment. Meanwhile, GOOD is throwing a fundraising party to benefit CicLAvia on Saturday, March 5th; tickets range from $20 to $500.

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The newly unveiled draft plans for South Figueroa range from good to wow, though Josef Bray-Ali says they could use some polishing; then again, there are more important things than signing in for a meeting. L.A. will soon get its first bike corral in Highland Park. Rick Risemberg, who appears to be everywhere these days, writes about taking part in last weekend’s LA Brewery Ride with Flying Pigeon. Cool Claremont bike racks. Long Beach replaces a mandatory bike licensing law with voluntary registration through the National Bike Registry.

A popular retired Bakersfield educator died of a heart attack while riding with friends. A three-year old Visalia girl is killed when she’s backed over by a neighbor’s pickup while riding on the sidewalk. San Francisco police have refused to take reports or issue citations for collisions involving cyclists unless an ambulance is called; so not matter what a driver does, if they don’t seriously injure a rider, they walk. Shameful. Matt Ruscigno rides from San Louis Obispo to L.A. in a single day — while sick. This year’s Amgen Tour of California won’t tour California exclusively.

J. Edgar Hoover on a bike, sort of. It’s not the same as an Idaho Stop Law, but Oregon considers lowering the fines for cyclists who roll through stop signs. Somehow I missed this; Dr. Matthew Burke, the orthopedic surgeon, U.S. Army Major and Iraq war vet critically injured by aggressive driver while on a group ride last October, passed away over the weekend after 4 months in a coma; the driver is charged with reckless homicide.

Yet another London cyclist is killed by a large truck, this time a 28-year old art curator. More bikes than cars expected to cross London’s bridges during morning rush hour in 2011. Irish physicians urge the passage of a mandatory helmet law, even though you’re over six times more likely to die walking on the sidewalk. Europe already has the kind of airport bike lanes John McCain wants to kill. Looks like rising star Taylor Phinney will compete in the Tour of Oman after all. South African cyclist Michael Dean Pepper is banned for three years for a failed drug test; sometimes I think we should just ban everyone for two years and start over.

Well, that’s one more problem we don’t face in L.A. — a South African cyclist survives after using his bike to fight off a leopard attack; evidence suggests that the animal had just escaped from a snare and was fighting for its life, as well.

Stephen Box, his campaign, and our game changer

Today, Damien Newton, editor of L.A. Streetsblog — by far, the city’s most influential source for transportation news — steps in with a guest commentary, as I continue packing in anticipation of my first move in 17 years.

Damien tackles the topic of Stephen Box and his campaign to unseat Tom LaBonge as councilmember for L.A.’s 4th Council District. However, he stresses that this piece reflects his personal opinion, and doesn’t reflect the position of Streetsblog or any other organization.

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Photo by Alex Thompson

Usually a City Council election is about the incumbent, and whether or not he deserves to be returned to City Hall.  However, for any cyclist who follows politics in Los Angeles knows, there is one election on the docket for 2011 that is different: Stephen Box’s challenge of incumbent Tom LaBonge in the 4th Council District.

The election of Stephen Box to the City Council would be a watershed moment for cyclists.  No offense meant to Eric Garcetti, Ed Reyes, Bill Rosendahl or even LaBonge himself, but Box has had a laser-like focus on improving safety for cyclists in the city and beyond.

But it’s not just that Stephen understands what’s important to cyclists, he also has an understanding of City Hall and the levers of power that means his ideas can become reality.

The cyclists/LAPD task force was a direct result of Stephen’s advocacy with the police department over the years.  Heck, watch Stephen interact with the police before a Critical Mass ride, and you can forget who is the authority figure and who’s the advocate as police officers happily mug for the camera with Box and his wife, Enci.

Or, just read the newest edition of the Bike Plan and run a search for the word “Backbone.”  Stephen was the leader of the citizen’s group that created the Backbone Bikeway Network after a series of public meetings in 2009.  While a lot of people worked hard to get the Bike Plan changed from the wretched first draft that was dropped in 2009 to what we see today; Box’s imprint, and that of the entire Bike Working Group, is all over the most recent proposal.

Sometimes being a leader means doing something you aren’t particularly thrilled about.  Saddled with a newborn and trying to find the funds to keep Streetsblog going, I had to sit out much of the end of the debate on how Los Angeles will spend its local return funds from Measure R.  The idea of a bike/ped set-aside had originated at the back of the Metro Board Room between myself and LACBC’s Dorothy Le in the summer of 2008, and Box had tried to talk us out of it.

He argued that trying to get a small piece of the pie for bike/ped facilities was the wrong strategy.  Instead we should be pushing for every road project to have a bicycle and pedestrian component.  A fair point.  At the time, I used a football analogy that we were trying to move the ball, but he was going for the touchdown.  A group of people that all wanted the same thing, better designed roads and streets, but had different ideas and plans how to do that.

The point, Stephen wasn’t a fan of the set-aside strategy.  Fast forward to this year.  Both Rosendahl and Mayor Villaraigosa are pushing for 10% of the city’s local return funds to be set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  The LADOT was agreeing, but was using a budget trick that would have stripped out nearly $20 million of the $60 million that would have been dedicated to cyclists and walkers.

Photo by Enci Box

I read the LADOT’s reports and I missed it.  So did the staff for Council Members Rosendahl, Parks, Alarcon, Koretz and LaBonge.  They missed it.  So did the Bike Coalition (who have been champs on this issue, make no mistake.)  Stephen didn’t.  He called the LADOT out for it during a Transportation Committee Hearing.  Rosendahl directed them to fix the “error.”  And they did.

And remember, he didn’t even like the idea of a “set aside.”

Let’s also remember that he’s not paid for any of this.  In fact, he’s often paying his own money for materials or even a trip to Sacramento.  He doesn’t always win, after all he’s been the poster boy for the fight against raising speed limits on local streets, but it’s not for a lack of effort.

After convincing then Assemblyman Paul Krekorian to introduce legislation that would have pushed back against limit increases that were popping up throughout the valley, Stephen and Enci took a trip to Sacramento, on their own dime, to lobby for the legislation.  It didn’t pass, but if Los Angeles had put the muscle into lobbying for it that Stephen and Enci did, it would have had a much better shot.

Supporters of LaBonge could point to his history of advocacy for issues such as better bicycle facilities on 4th Street, his voting record at the Council, or the annual Tour LaBonge summer bike series.  Others could argue that LaBonge’s record, which includes obstructing the Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights and originally supporting a plan for the Griffith Park Observatory that didn’t include bike parking.  But the reality is that LaBonge’s record shouldn’t matter when discussing this race.  When it comes to bike issues, Box is a once in a generation chance to get a real champion in City Hall.

Conversely, a lot of people have problems with Stephen’s combative style.  Other advocates have complained to me about it and I’ve known some city staff that just can’t stand him.  More than once I’ve been on the other end of some of his pointed criticism, but it’s because he’s always focused on the results.  And for a one-man army armed with only his brain and a social media-network, the results are impressive.

And I would argue that neither Box’s personality nor LaBonge’s record are the issue.  Whether cyclists as a group can embrace this candidacy and push it over the top is.

And while there are plenty of reasons to support his campaign, as cyclists, we honestly shouldn’t need to look beyond our spokes.  Box will be a great Council Man for Neighborhood Councils, for government transparency, for neighborhood empowerment and for always focusing on results, not intentions.

There’s a reason Box won Streetsblog’s “2009 Livable Streets Person of the Year” award and that Alex Thompson bluntly refers to him as “literally the single most important bike activist in Los Angeles ever.”  His record of advocacy is second to none.

He’s also our game changer.  There’s only one Stephen Box, and we may only have one chance to get him in City Hall.

.………

In a bizarre case that just doesn’t seem to add up, the L.A. Times says questions remain in the shooting death of Beverly Hills publicist Ronni Chasen. According to Beverly Hills police, Chasen was shot in a botched robbery attempt by a bike riding ex-con — despite the tight grouping of shots, which would have been difficult to achieve from the saddle of a bike. Let alone the lack of bullet casings at the scene or the fact that nothing appears to have been taken. And evidently, according to the police theory, leaving the bike he was reportedly devoted to at the scene.

As a writer for the Huffington Post put it —

How many robbers in America ride a bicycle seven miles to commit a robbery, approach from the passenger side of a single occupant vehicle, shoot with deadly accuracy, center mass, through the passenger window and then leave after taking nothing? Then, potentially leave their bicycle in the area and walk seven miles home? Take the bus? Hitchhike? More than that what about all the firefighters, ambulance, and police that rolled out no one saw him, interviewed him or anything?

So he kills her but doesn’t have time to grab her purse or anything of value from the scene? That really does stretch the notion of “botched robbery.” Not impossible, but very “weird” nonetheless.

Personally, I suspect Joe Anthony, aka @ohaijoe offered a more credible theory when he suggested that it could have been road rage.

At least that theory makes a little sense.

.………

Transit advocates and cyclists are outraged as the Metro Board discards the recommendations of their own staff and LADOT to exempt the multi-million dollar condos along Wilshire Blvd in the Westwood area from the planned Bus Rapid Transit, or bus-only, lanes.

The lanes would run on either side of Wilshire Blvd; impact on traffic would be manageable, while encouraging alternative transportation and moving more people more efficiently.

Yet somehow, the entire board voted unanimously against the recommendations of the people paid to know what the hell they’re talking about — as well as a room full of people arguing passionately in favor of the extending the BRT the entire length of Wilshire. The attitude of the board seemed to be summed up by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who responded to the comments with “I respect people’s right to pontificate, but the rest of us have a responsibility to make sure things work.”

Yes, he actually said that.

And yes, the rest of the board voted with him to support the desires of the very wealthy few over the needs of everyone else in the room, exempting an approximately 1-mile stretch from Selby to Comstock.

Personally, I intend to remember that quote the next time Zev asks for my vote.

Pontificate, my ass.

.………

Finally, Chris K, wrench-meister and author of (just) Riding Along, offers up a guest post on Pedalr that they call their best blog post yet. And Long Beach may drop their heavy-handed bike licensing requirement.

Catching up with Le Tour, Box boxes LaBonge, surviving the dreaded death wobble

Overlooking a suddenly sand-free bike path; more on that later Wednesday.

Following a rest day in the Tour de France, it’s clear that Lance wasn’t the only one who took a spill on Sunday; Cadel Evans loses the leaders jersey after trying to ride with a broken arm. Andy Schleck is the one who ends up in it, taking a 41 second lead over chief rival Alberto Contador, as Sandy Casar takes Tuesday’s stage. Then again, maybe they should just give a trophy to anyone who survives to cross the finish line.

Lance shows he may be down but he’s not done. Meanwhile, a New York Grand Jury subpoenas his sponsor Trek, but NPR says his fans are unfazed. And Zeke just doesn’t get the glee some people seemed  to take in his misfortune.

Besides, between the cobbles and fractures and a falling Lance caught on video, this might just be the best Tour de France ever.

………

Bike activist extraordinaire Stephen Box announces his candidacy for L.A. City Council, preparing to butt heads against incumbent 4th District Council Member Tom LaBonge; LAist says the reaction has been mixed, but some seem more than open to the idea.

………

LACBC explains in graphic detail how to file a report with the LAPD. Walk and ride to a safer 4th Street on July 24th. A sweating Governator bikes the streets of L.A.; maybe it’s time to cut back on the cigars, Arnold. Our streets may have a lot of problems, but at least we don’t have to deal with rumble strips. I’m not the only one who had to deal with a basal cell skin cancer this year; the Springfield Cyclist went in for round two — as he suggests, consider sunscreen your most important safety equipment. A Miami driver is charged with murder after killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run. An insightful response to the standard argument that bicyclists should be licensed. Bicycling is transportation, even if you’re on your way to the airport, or maybe the train. Finding your bike community. The Chicago Bicycle Advocate explains why he runs red lights, saying we are traffic, but we are not cars. More on the anti-bike backlash in bike friendly Colorado. Surprisingly, most drivers really don’t want to kill you. Separated bike lanes are on their way in Vancouver. A controversial Portsmouth bike lane is put on hold. Two Brit riders are badly injured when they’re hit by a truck outside New Orleans.

Finally, the Claremont Cyclist fights to overcome the dreaded death wobble; something I never want to experience again.

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