Tag Archive for traffic fatalities

Traffic deaths up nationwide in 2012, while US bike deaths increase 6.5%; plus lots of fresh bike links

The news is out, and it’s not good.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities are up for the first time in the last seven years, with 33,561 deaths in 2012, compared to 32,479 the year before.

That total includes 726 bike riders who lost their lives in 2012 — a 6.5% increase — and 49,000 injured. Pedestrians and cyclists represented 17% of traffic deaths, compared to just 13% in 2003.

Of course, it’s possible, even likely, that the increase in cycling deaths and injuries is a result of an increase in ridership, though we have no idea whether the increase is proportionate to the rise in cycling rates.

However, the increase may call into question the much-cited safety in numbers effect.

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Just Ride LA has scheduled a bike race to benefit the Philippines on the 21st. Time is running out to save the Riverside-Figueroa bridge. Gary Kavanagh discusses mainstreaming bicycle lessons learned from bike-friendly Davis CA. Manhattan Beach approves sharrows, but not on Pacific. Women on Bikes’ Pedal Love project is raising funds to inspire women and girls to ride as part of their daily lives. Calabasas gets a new bike and pedestrian plan. While bike haters claim we don’t pay our fair share for the roads, Rick Risemberg points out it’s drivers who need to dig a little deeper.

The case of fallen Newport Beach cyclist Debra Deem has been referred to the Orange County DA’s office. A Corona del Mar cyclist is slightly injured in a collision on the Coast Highway, while another rider is injured in San Clemente. A San Diego driver parks his car in a bike lane, and the press blames a cyclist for running into it. Santa Barbara bike rider is injured in a train collision when he doesn’t bother to look before crossing the tracks; thanks to Danny Gamboa for the link. A road raging San Francisco driver is under arrest for intentionally running down a bike rider. San Francisco 49er players build bikes to give to kids. Chico paper says two recent fallen cyclists did everything right — then tells cyclists to obey the letter of the law to improve safety.

In a shocking display of bipartisanship, Congress members from both parties introduce the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act to set separate safety targets for motorized and non-motorized transportation. Stoplights made for cars leave cyclists stuck on red. Portland infographic clearly shows bikes aren’t getting a free ride. A Utah cyclist is injured because a teenage driver couldn’t take her eyes off the pretty foliage. Driver ticketed for a fatal left cross in my hometown. The Boulder CO driver whose carelessness left ‘70s cycling legend Dale Stetina with life-threatening injuries faces charges, as well; Stetina could be out of the hospital next month. Eighty-five year old Iowa doctor still rides 100 miles a week, on skinny tires, no less. Getting it wrong: Time Magazine says Boston has finally solved bike sharing’s bike safety problem, which oddly hasn’t been a problem anywhere else. Glenn Beck, among others, urges New York’s new mayor to lose the bike lanes; better yet, let’s lose Glenn Beck and make the world a better place. Going to war over bike lanes and parking spaces in Alexandria VA.

A rash of fatalities strikes British cycling, with six dead in the last nine days — five in London alone. London’s mayor Boris is urged to take action, but shamefully chooses to blame the victims instead. How to stay safe on UK streets. Londonist considers how it would sound if we talked about all road users the way some people talk about cyclists, while a rider says, despite comments to the contrary, respect does not have to be earned. The Evening Standard says London can be a cycling city to rival any in Europe with a different approach. Authorities conclude that a bike-riding British spy died after somehow locking himself into a sports bag; yeah, that’s credible. Bike riding is up in Edinburgh as driving rates drop. Copenhagen design firm creates Lego-like snap-together tiles that can be assembled to create temporary cycle tracks; I like it. A UAE editorial calls for better protection for Emirates riders. Egyptian women are riding bikes in a fight for equality. Cyclists are dying at a faster rate on Australian roads. Thankfully, an Aussie cyclist suffers a massive heart attack while riding, but lives to ride another day. The husband of a fallen New Zealand cyclist calls for an attitude change on the country’s streets. Road raging Kiwi driver faces charges for pushing a rider off his bike, resulting in serious injuries.

Finally, Ireland gets tough on hit-and-run as a proposed law would increase penalties to up to 10 years, which sounds about right to me. And Bikeyface says your lights don’t work if no one can see them.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for bike friendly CA Assemblymember Mike Gatto, whose father was murdered in a home invasion robbery Thursday morning.

Traffic deaths are down, unless you’re on two wheels. Or two feet. Or driving a big ass truck.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released their latest figures for traffic fatalities in 2011.

And the news is not good for bicyclists.

While the overall traffic fatalities showed a nearly 2% decline, bicycle deaths shot up 8.7%, to 677 throughout the U.S. So much for the safety in numbers theory, as the increase is attributed to the higher number of riders on the road.

The news isn’t much better for pedestrians, as bipedalist deaths rose 3% to over 4,400. Then again, either one is better than drivers of large trucks, who saw an amazing 20% increase in fatalities in a single year.

Yet even with increases in virtually every category other than car and light truck drivers and passengers, the total number of traffic fatalities dipped to just over 32,000, the lowest level since 1949.

The Times quotes me as saying in response that bicycle fatalities are a largely urban phenomenon. What I meant by that is that there are more cyclists, and more traffic collisions, in cities, which explains the relatively high number of deaths here in Southern California, while more rural areas may only suffer a handful of deaths each year.

Which is not to say their experience is any less tragic or heartbreaking.

Or unnecessary.

It’s also unclear if the NHTSA figures includes bicycling deaths from various causes, or is limited to fatalities due to collisions.

My counts of 70 SoCal cycling fatalities last year, and 71 so far this year, include deaths due to all causes except for shootings — including solo falls, collisions with trains, and deaths due to natural causes while riding, which may not be included in the NHTSA figures.

We’ll have to wait until statistics for individual states are released to see if their totals are anywhere close to the numbers I’ve counted, which showed a significant increase over the NHTSA’s figures for 2010.

Or if it will be closer to the 49 deaths registered in 2010, before I started tracking them on my own.

Meanwhile, a Sacramento writer says to take those numbers with a grain of salt.

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Los Angeles’ newfound commitment to bicycling helps make us smarter than our neighbor to the south; sorry San Diego. Women on Bikes SoCal interviews new Bike Nation bike share head April Economides. Long Beach releases ten years of data on the causes of local bike crashes; cyclists are to blame for the top three, which makes me wonder who compiled the figures and how. More on the Long Beach cyclist being named the city’s person of the year. An Orange County man is under arrest for stealing a five year old’s bike; the victim drew his own wanted poster. Fontana cyclist fights off would-be robbers on his way to work. A Marin writer says when police crack down on cyclists, it makes the road a more dangerous place. Sonoma County votes to screw cyclists and pedestrians. A Vacaville woman is looking for the good Samaritan cyclist who helped save the life of her bike riding husband.

Even Goldfish crackers are riding bikes these days — with a helmet, no less. Sometimes, the real victory is just not quitting; I’ve learned many times over that it’s always too soon to quit, whether on a bike or in life. Portland reaches double digits when it comes to kids bicycling to school; kind of sad that such a low number is such a big achievement. My Colorado hometown celebrates a winter Bike to Work Day; if they can do that on a chilly December day, why can’t we do it here in sunny SoCal? A Rochester NY cyclist is hit by a police cruiser; needless to say, it took little time to find the rider at fault. Pedestrians call for bike-only traffic signals in New York’s Central Park to address red light-running bike riders. Making the public health case for bicycling.

A Toronto writer explains why we mourn fallen cyclists. Alex Moulton, developer of the iconic small-wheeled Moulton bicycle, passed away at 92. A British driver who fatally doored a cyclist may not have seen his victim, after recently having his windows tinted to allow only 17% transparency. If there’s a war on Britain’s roads, only a small minority of drivers and cyclists are taking part; personally, I’d call that one a must read. An Aussie writer says it’s time to declare war on cyclists, because we’re so much more dangerous than motor vehicles; nice to know irresponsible journalism isn’t just an American phenomenon. Meanwhile, a local bike organization offers a more rational response. And an Aussie planning institute says give up on bikeways and turn them into Segway and scooter lanes, because their lazy ass countrymen won’t ride them anyway.

Finally, the Alliance for Biking and Walking is looking for nominations for their 2013 bike and pedestrian advocacy awards, both individual advocates and organizations are eligible. When you fill out your nomination, it’s spelled B-i-k-i-n-g-i-n-L-A.

Okay, okay, I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Just ride

“Man to man is so unjust.” — Bob Marley, Who the Cap Fit

My sister, who lives in Denver, called us Thursday evening.

As the call was wrapping up, she mentioned that she had to pick my 15-year old nephew up at the movies at 3 am.

Because he was on his way to a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

The next morning, I awoke to the news that a madman had opened fire in an Aurora theater, not far from their home, during a midnight showing of the movie.

My stomach started doing flips.

It was bad enough that something like this had happened once again. Or that it happened in my home state, in a town I lived in briefly about three decades ago.

I knew there was little chance Adam had been at that particular theater at that exact time. But when an email to my sister went unanswered for longer than I could live with, I had to call to ensure he hadn’t been there.

And I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I felt when he answered the phone, and said he’d gone to a theater closer to his home. One that was, thankfully, madman and assault rifle free.

All weekend, we all were bombarded with a constant drumbeat of news bits, each adding to the still incomplete portrait of just what happened in that theater that night.

Yet none of the jabbering talking heads paused long enough to put this madness in perspective.

Twelve dead is a horrible, tragic needless waste.

But it doesn’t begin to compare with the 90 Americans who lose their lives on our streets every day. And it’s just one less than the death count of cyclists on SoCal streets this month alone.

Ninety killed every day.

Six-hundred-thirty every week.

Two-thousand-forty every month.

Yet there’s no breaking news reports for that story. No attractive anchormen or women breathlessly whipping to reporters in the field, no tidbit of meaningless information that’s not trivial to relate. No outrage or prayer vigils or 24-hour news cycles dedicated to the lives and deaths of victims of the rapidly compounding body count.

And seldom an arrest, let alone prosecution, even when the killer is known.

Instead, we just call them accidents.

Never mind that virtually every collision that occurs anywhere can be traced back to one or more people breaking the law, or operating their vehicles in a careless, distracted or intoxicated manner.

Accidents are virtually never just accidents.

Even on the rare occasions when killers are arrested, those who know them will argue that it wasn’t really their fault. If you only knew the whole story, they insist, you’d understand that he or she was really a good person who just made one little mistake, or did something so out of character it should be forgiven.

Even in cases where the driver left the victim to die on the side of the road, then ran off like a coward and hid the evidence of the collision in an attempt to avoid the consequences of his or her actions.

No outrage.

Seldom any consequences.

And even then, it usually amounts to nothing more than a limp slap on the wrist.

In the meantime, the body count continues to rise. And nothing is done to address the insanity on our streets; no politicians step forward to demand an end to our daily motor maniacal madness.

I don’t have an answer.

I believe, strongly, in a Vision Zero plan. And in placing greater responsibility on those with the greatest potential to cause injury and death.

As well as changing our laws to force drivers to stop and stay at the scene of a collision.

Yet we all wait in vain for a political leader with sufficient courage to take a stand on the issue. Let alone actually do something about it.

Then again, none of our elected leaders seems to have the courage to do something about all the Columbine/Virginia Tech/Aurora massacres that actually do make the news, either.

I wish I had a solution.

I really do.

Other than demanding that our candidates for every office go on the record for what, if elected, they would do to address these parallel, if vastly uneven, bloodbaths. Then vote accordingly in the fall.

But at least I know a way to release that knot that’s been gnawing at me since Friday morning. And salve, in some part, the overwhelming sadness.

And that’s get out on my bike.

For a moment, for a hour, for an afternoon.

Let the wind blow away whatever tears may fall.

And just ride.

My prayers for all those injured or killed in the Aurora shooting. And all the countless named and nameless victims of the madness on our street.

A relatively light post-holiday list of links, including an odd news focus ignoring 90% of traffic fatalities

We’ve got a relatively light load of bike news over the 4th of July holiday.

Which, given that Independence Day is the deadliest day of the year on American roads, suggests that no news really could be good news.

But before we move on, let’s consider the odd perspective of the above link, which appears to have been driven by a nationwide AAA press release, and notes with horror that 10% of those holiday fatalities are teen drivers.

Which means that 90% aren’t.

So let’s be clear.

There is no acceptable level of traffic fatalities, no matter what the age of the victim. Even one death is one to many.

And teenage drivers do seem to over represented in traffic fatalities, as Colorado records show they account for 12% of the state’s deaths despite representing just 6% of the state’s drivers.

But doesn’t it make more sense to reduce the over whelming majority of traffic fatalities — or better yet, all traffic deaths — rather than just focusing on the relatively small percentage represented by teen drivers?

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Andre Greipel wins stage four of the Tour after Cav goes down in a mass crash; it’s Greipel’s second stage win in just his first two tours. The Washington Post compares Peter Sagan to a young Lance Armstrong, but without all the doping accusations.

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LACBC promises to keep an eye on the city’s environmental impact report process for 43.3 miles of bike lane projects. Richard Risemberg realizes he’s not so special any more, and likes it. In the biking black hole of Beverly Hills, it’s a little more talk and a lot less action, and more dollars than sense. The Bike League urges your support of the first ever National Women’s Bicycling Summit this September in Long Beach.

A San Diego pedicab driver wins the right to sue the SDPD for allegedly harassing him by stealing his license and then charging him for operating without one, among other escalating offenses. A Mission Beach couple battles cyclists after they’re enveloped by Critical Mass riders while walking on the boardwalk. A new video promotes San Diego cycling as a fun, safe and sensible activity. Why do so many drivers insist that cyclists must obey traffic laws too, yet fail to note that most drivers don’t, either. A local writer says the High Desert won’t ever become a bike community. Turns out police ticket cyclists after all. In an amazing — and amazingly brief — story, a Chico driver loses control while allegedly driving under the influence, and flips his car over a cyclist riding in a bike lane; the rider remarkably escapes with just scratches. An Oakland cyclist is chased by two vehicles, then robbed of his bike and jewelry at gunpoint. A Merced County cyclist is mauled by a pack of dogs, 20 minutes after they’d bitten another rider; thanks to Meghan Lynch for the heads-up.

The otherwise disastrous new federal transportation bill could mean less red tape for local transportation projects — including bikeways. Helmet laws could be on the way out due to a lack of enforcement and increased local liability. Denver tries to keep up with a growing number of cyclists. A Chicago writer says the bike lane is not your parking spot; it’s not the place to fix a broken down bus, either. Time magazine discovers the New York bikelash about two years after everyone else. After a Gotham cyclist and driver exchange words and spit, the driver flashes an NYPD courtesy badge and tells the rider and a traffic cop that his badge number is his apparently minuscule sexual appendage. A New York cyclist is making a slow recovery from nearly crippling injuries. A DC-area driver is convicted of intentionally running down a rider, then beating the crap out of him afterwards.

After a cyclist is let off with a slap on the wrist for severely injuring a pedestrian, a rocket scientist writer for the London Mail says cyclists should be held to the same standard as drivers — not realizing that was exactly what happened, as most UK drivers are held to the same incredibly low standards. Can China go from the world’s leading bicycle nation to one billion cars and back to one billion bicycles?

Finally, if this doesn’t bring a post-Independence Day smile to your face, nothing will. Especially with appropriate holiday musical accompaniment from the Eastside’s own Dave Alvin.

………

Best wishes to departing Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition Planning and Policy Director Alexis Lantz, with thanks for the amazing progress the LACBC — and L.A. cycling — has made during her all too short tenure. And congratulations to the Los Angeles County Department of Health on landing a great new employee.

Best wishes, as well, to incoming Planning and Policy Director Eric Bruins, who has very big pumps to fill.

And the skills to do it.

NHTSA data shows drop in traffic and bike deaths — and cyclists fare as well in collisions as motorists

I’m stunned.

Like just about everyone else, I have always assumed that the lack of protection afforded cyclists meant that we fare far worse in collisions than the occupants of motor vehicles.

After all, we don’t have seat belts and airbags — let alone a couple tons of steel and glass — to protect us. Just a thin shell of foam covered in plastic and a maybe bit of chamois between our legs.

But I was wrong.

During an email exchange with fellow cyclist and KCRW chief engineer Steve Herbert, he posed an intriguing question.

For all the cycling deaths we are seeing and the lack of protection a bicycle provides us in a crash with another automobile, I wonder if fatality numbers are proportionally higher than that of motor vehicle occupants?

Fortunately, the answer was readily at hand.

Just yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the latest traffic fatality statistics for 2010, showing an overall drop in traffic deaths from 1.13 deaths per million vehicle miles traveled in 2009 to 1.09 fatalities per million miles in 2010. And a drop of over 1,000 traffic deaths over the pervious year, from 33,808 to 32,788.

And yes, that’s a significant improvement.

Even if an average of 90 traffic deaths a day is hardly good news.

The news is also better for cyclists, as biking deaths have dropped to 618 — the lowest total in 35 years — despite a dramatic upsurge in ridership.

That’s still an average of 1.7 riders dying on our streets everyday. Nearly 12 every week. Over 51 every month.

And it is still far from acceptable.

The real surprise came when I dug a little deeper into those figures.

According to the NHTSA figures, excluding motorcyclists, roughly 2,009,000 motor vehicle occupants — drivers and passengers — were seriously injured on American roads last year, compared to 23,946 fatalities. That gives a ratio of 83.9 motor vehicle injuries for every death.*

For the same year, roughly 51,000 cyclists were seriously injured compared to 618 deaths, for a ratio of 83.5 to one.

Look at that again — 83.9:1 for motor vehicles, compared to 83.5:1 for cyclists.

In other words, you have virtually the same risk of dying in a traffic collision riding your bike, with little or no protection, as you have in a car or truck surrounded with safety features.

Of course, that does not take into account the frequency of collisions. While the NHTSA can cite a rate of 1.09 deaths per million miles of vehicle travel, no such figures exist for bikes, as there is no quantifiable method of determining how many miles are travelled by bike each year; any estimate you might see is nothing more than an semi-educated guess at best.

But those figures clearly show, once a wreck severe enough to cause serious injury occurs, you face no statistically greater risk on a bike than you would in a car.**

Don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn shocked.

* Motorcyclists face a significantly greater risk, with 82,000 injuries compared to 4502 fatalities, for a ratio of 19:1.

**Update: One important distinction I failed to make. As maxutility pointed out, the data doesn’t show the same injury to death ratio for all car and bike collisions, but only those severe enough to result in injury. I’ve adjusted the copy to reflect that. The data does not show whether you are more likely to be seriously injured in a collision riding a bike or in a motor vehicle, just the ratio of serious injuries to fatalities.

Don’t get me wrong…

Seriously, I’m glad Osama bin Laden is dead.

Even though this may be the first time the death of another human being has made me truly and unapologetically happy.

But let’s keep things in perspective.

Just under 3,000 people died on 9/11/2001.

That same year, over 14 times that many people died in traffic collisions; 42,109 to be exact.

And in the years that followed, from 2001 to 2009, 369,629 people died on American streets. Roughly 100 times the total number of deaths that can be attributed to al Qaeda in all the attacks before and after 9/11.

Bin Laden’s actions led to wars, a massive world-wide man hunt, draconian security procedures and a near-constant state of fear, here and around the world.

Yet hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. get behind the wheel every day without a moment’s thought. And almost nothing is done to ensure that they return home safely.

Based on the latest statistics, 96 people will die on American streets today. They could be your neighbors, your co-workers, your family, your friends. They could be total strangers.

It could be you.

Or me.

The attacks on 9/11 were devastating. I’m happy that bin Laden has finally been brought to justice. And I thank the men and women who sacrificed, and in some cases gave their lives, to make this possible.

But now maybe we can refocus on the carnage that takes place on our roads every day.

96 today.

672 this week.

2976 this month. Just one less than the number of victims killed on 9/11.

This month. And every month.

That’s the terror we need to fight now.

First review of County Bike Plan for Santa Clarita Valley; driver gets one year for LA DUI fatality

The first draft of L.A. County’s draft bike plan just dropped late last week, and already the first review is in.

Writing for Santa Clarita Valley blog SCVTalk, Jeff Wilson says the plan highlights the current deficiency of biking infrastructure in area, as well as how the plan would go a long way towards correcting that.

Currently there are only 3.3 miles of bicycle lanes in unincorporated SCV. If adopted and built-out completely, the County’s bike plan would add 45 miles of Class I and Class II bike lanes and 101 more miles of Class III Bike Routes in unincorporated SCV.

Among the more exciting aspects of the plan: a Class II bike lane from Castaic to the Newhall Pass along the Old Road (13 miles), a Class I grade-separated bike path along Castaic Creek in Castaic (5.5 miles), and a Class I grade-separated bike path near Highway 126 all the way to the Ventura County line (10.2 miles), which would be a very positive step forward in bike-path-to-the-sea dream some of us cyclists have had.

The 100+ miles of Class III routes aren’t as exciting because they are merely lines on a map. Few or no alterations to roads are permitted (save for signage), and cyclists are expected to ride in the shoulder or in the traffic lane if that is not possible. The plan puts Class III routes on some of the more popular roads outside of town, including Bouquet Canyon and Sierra Highway.

He notes that the plan says it’s essential to that county bikeways connect with bikeways in Santa Clarita, although many of the existing lanes and routes aren’t on roads that go out of town, especially on the west side. And that just because something is on the map, that doesn’t mean it will be built, as other projects in other areas have been given a higher priority.

So what do you think?

Download the bike plan and take a look at the areas you ride — or would like to ride. And let me know what you think.

Or more importantly, attend one of the workshops or respond online.

And let the county know.

.………

An L.A. man who killed a 72-year old motorist while speeding at 20 mph over the speed limit — and twice the legal blood alcohol limit — gets just one year in jail because his victim may have made an illegal U-turn.

And if Mark David Skillingberg completes his probation without incident, the felony conviction could be reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged from his record.

According to the L.A. Times:

Judge Katherine Mader expressed sympathy for the victim’s family but referenced a probation report that concluded that Skillingberg was not a danger to the community and will learn from the experience.

“Mr. Skillingberg was obviously drunk and he made the decision to drive,” she said. “But he is not going unpunished.”

So let me get this straight.

Someone who gets drunk, gets behind the wheel and takes the life of another human being isn’t a danger to the community. And it’s okay to kill someone, as long as you promise to learn from the experience.

The primary cause of the other driver’s death wasn’t a U-turn — legal or otherwise. It was a speeding drunk behind the wheel.

And how will any of us be safe on the streets as long as the courts refuse to take that seriously?

.………

WeHo Daily asks if Stephen Box can beat incumbent CD4 City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. The dreaded Hudson River on L.A.’s future 4th Street Bike Boulevard may have finally run dry. The prolific Rick Risemberg asks cyclists to get involved in the Bike Plan Implementation Team to help turn the new bike plan into a ridable reality. Exploring Los Angeles on two wheels, including good advice on using transit and riding safely. Mark your calendar for Bike Night at the Hammer Museum on April 14th. C-Blog thanks a Mercedes driver for the near-miss wake-up call.

Temple City is next up on the list of local bike plans under consideration. Claremont cyclist offers a lesson in cycling lingo. Hermosa Beach cyclists are about to get new artisan bike racks in high traffic areas; thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up. A columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram says no one uses those new bike lanes, and no one is asking for them; note to Doug Krikorian — if you don’t know anyone who bikes in Long Beach, maybe you need to expand your circle of friends. Orange County gets another ghost bike amid calls for improved bike safety and more sharrows. The OC’s cdm Cyclist interviews Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution.

The Bakersfield Californian says if L.A. can embrace bicycling, they can too; let’s not get carried away though — L.A.’s recent bike love still exists primarily on paper, not on the streets. The country’s healthiest and happiest city continues to invest in the bike infrastructure that helps make it that way. Overcoming a fear of bike commuting. Evidently, I’m not the only one who’s dreamed of opening a combination bike shop/brew pub. Placer County will pay you to buy a new bike. Forget cell-phone using drivers; nearly 20% of drivers admit to surfing the internet while they drive. How to ride in the rain. Ten articles for beginning cyclists, including one from our friend the Springfield Cyclist. Bike Biz asks if the bike industry gives bloggers enough love; hey, I can always use a little more. If you want change, write a letter.

The Colorado man accused of attacking a group of cyclists with a baseball bat has been found guilty. Dottie offers her typically lovely look at Chicago’s spring thaw. In a horrifying story, a New York cyclist is arrested, physically abused and thrown in jail for nearly 24 hours for allegedly running a red light. Despite the backlash, New York cyclists are ahead of the curve, says the Wall Street Journal, while Bike Snob says history is repeating itself. The much criticized Prospect Park West bike lanes have tripled the number of riders and slowed speeding traffic — while adding one second to the average commute. The New York Times looks at cyclists who build their own frames. A look at riding in New York from a Dutch perspective. Brooklyn cyclists plan a ghost bike in honor of the victims of unreported collisions. A 13-year old cyclist is attacked after asking a driver who buzzed him to put his cell phone away and look out for cyclists; thanks to Al Williams for the heads-up.

How to tell when it’s time to get back on your bike after illness. Bicycling looks at this week’s Race to the Sun. After 18 months, a Brit water board can’t seem to find a dangerous road hazard, let alone fix it. Turns out that one of London’s most popular — and threatened — cycling bridges could be closed to cars without adversely affecting traffic. Remarkably, an Edinburgh court finds it more credible that a motorist made an emergency stop, then drove off in fear — with a rider’s bike still stuck under his car — than the possibility that the driver hit the cyclist. Rising French star Fabien Taillefer is the latest rider to admit to doping. A Singapore physician calls for banning recreational cyclists from the road. Even the Chinese People’s Daily is reporting on L.A.’s bike plan.

Finally, I received an email from New York music website Break Thru Radio, promoting a new performance video from guitarist Brian Bonz. In a segment they call Hear & There, the site asks their artists to immerse themselves in an unusual environment; Bonz chose New York bike shop Zen Bikes for his song Terror in Boneville.

And thanks to everyone who has sent me the link to the NY Times article about Janette Sadik-Khan; evidently, the Times registration program was created specifically to keep me out.

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.

Memorial ride for James Laing, and why it’s important to remember those who died

Jim Laing, photo courtesy of his sister Peggy Laing-Krause

Late word is that the memorial ride for James Laing scheduled for Saturday morning will be held rain or shine.

Sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club, the easy, 16-mile ride is being held in memory of the cyclist killed by an alleged drunk hit-and-run driver in Agoura Hills on October 23rd, and will visit the roadside memorial where he was killed. The ride is scheduled to begin at 8 am at the Agoura Hills Bicycle John’s, 29041 Thousand Oaks Blvd.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be there; if you can’t, or if you read this later, I hope you’ll join me in offering a short prayer or a moment of silence for Jim, his wife Lulu and all of their family and loved ones.

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A couple of friends raised a good point lately.

They said that, while they enjoy reading about biking in this overgrown traffic-choked city we call home, it’s depressing to read about the seemingly endless barrage of deaths on SoCal streets lately.

I couldn’t argue with them; that’s something I’ve worried myself. And trust me, if you think it’s depressing reading things like that, try writing about them.

So let me explain why I do it.

It’s certainly not to suggest that cycling is dangerous. The number of people killed or injured on bikes pales in comparison to the number of miles we ride every day. And as studies have shown, the benefits of bicycling more than outweigh whatever risks we may face on the roads.

Though you can certainly improve your odds by doing simple things like using lights after dark, signaling, stopping for red lights and riding with traffic.

But there are reasons why these stories need to be told.

First, it’s import to remember the victims.

Except in rare cases, traffic fatalities seldom make the news. Or if one does, it’s usually just a few paragraphs buried in the paper or on a news website.

If you’ve been a reader here for awhile, you may have noticed that few things offend me more than a news report that doesn’t tell you much more than someone was killed while riding a bike.

Nothing about how it happened or why, or who was responsible; nothing about the victim or the heart-wrenching hole that’s been torn in the lives left behind. Sometimes, not even a name, or any follow-up once it’s released.

On rare occasions, the press gets it right. Other times, I feel like someone has to make sure they aren’t forgotten. And when I look around, I see that someone is usually me.

I’ve received enough comments and emails from family and friends of the various victims to know that it offers at least some comfort to know that someone, even a total stranger, cared enough to say something.

Second, I want to put whatever pressure I can on the mainstream media to same them into reporting these stories.

Somehow, we long ago reached the point where traffic fatalities ceased to be news. The 33,000 or more deaths that occur on American roads each year have come to be seen as collateral damage, the cost of getting from here to there — if we even stop to think about it at all.

We don’t want to consider the carnage on our highways, or the 93 people who leave home every day and never return.

But it’s something we have to think about, because the cost is too damn high.

The average American driver has long ago forgotten that a motor vehicle is an exceptionally dangerous thing. When we look at our cars, trucks, vans and SUVs, we see friendly, almost anthropomorphic machines that carry our loads and get us where we want to go.

And no one ever looks in the mirror and sees a careless, distracted or overly aggressive driver.

But maybe we should.

It’s responsibility of the press to be that mirror, and force us to take a cold, hard look at ourselves. Even if we don’t like what we see.

It may be too much to ask them to report on each of the nearly 31,000 or more fatal collisions every year (the numbers don’t add up because some collisions result in more than one death). But the relative handful of bicycling deaths — 630 nationwide last year — can, and should be, reported.

Because along with pedestrians, we’re the ones most vulnerable to the actions and distractions of those with whom we share the road.

Finally, it has to stop.

No one should have to risk their life simply because he or she decided to go out for a bike ride, or chose to benefit our city and planet by choosing a healthier and less harmful mode of transportation.

Compared to 33,000 total traffic deaths, 630 may not seem like much. But even one death is one too many — let alone 14 in the last four months alone.

As others have pointed out, the death of a cyclist is no more tragic than the death of pedestrian or a motorist, or any of the other countless accidental or violent deaths that occur in our cities everyday.

I learned a long time ago, though, that I can’t fight every fight, no matter how much I may care. But this is one I can take on.

I’m a cyclist, and this website is about bicycling.

That makes it my fight.

Our fight.

And I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that the last bike death was the last bike death.

If we can do that, then the loss of people like Jim Laing and Danny Marin may not feel any less tragic or heartbreaking than they do today.

But maybe, just maybe, some good will come out of them.

.………

In a non-bike related case, a driver with two previous DUI convictions gets 15 years to life for causing a fatal freeway collision by trying to pass rush hour traffic on the shoulder at over 70 mph while high on grass and prescription drugs.

.………

Bike Talk airs Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Flying Pigeon sponsors its next Get Some Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, November 20th, including a visit to the Arroyo Arts Collective 18th Annual Discovery Tour; riders meet at 10 am at Flying Pigeon LA, 3714 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park.

Flying Pigeon and the Bike Oven host the free Spoke(n) Art Ride on the 2nd Saturday of every month; the next ride will take place on Saturday, December 11th, starting 6:30 pm at 3714 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park.

Bike Long Beach sponsors a two part Traffic Skills 101 Course to teach cyclists how to ride in traffic. November’s session has been cancelled due to expected rain; the next class is scheduled for Wednesday, December 15th from 6 – 8 pm, with part two following on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 9 am – noon at Cal State Long Beach.

Mark your calendar for the LACBC’s all-day Holiday Open House on Tuesday, December 28th at the Library Alehouse, 2911 Main Street in Santa Monica. Festivities begin at 11 am and continue until closing with great food and beer, fun and raffle prizes; a percentage of the days sales will be donated to the LACBC.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside, exhibition continues through December 31st.

The Bikerowave will ring in 2011 with a New Years Eve party, starting at 8 pm on December 31st at 12255 Venice Blvd.

..………

Damien Newton presents three more candidates to lead LADOT; lets just hope the Mayor reads Streetsblog. Bicycle Kitchen still has workshops open this month, including one Saturday morning on wrenching bottom brackets and headsets. And I though getting a flat from a late night pothole was a problem. CicLAvia explores uncharted territory, as the biking community finally discovers South L.A. Work starts on the northern extension of the Orange Line Bikeway. Bikes and ebikes crash the L.A. Car Show. Pasadena City College students discuss why they ride. Bike-banning USC may soon provide cyclists and pedestrians with their own bike boulevard; maybe one day they’ll even be a Bike-Friendly University, but I’d put my money on UCLA first. Charlie Gandy invites you to ride Long Beach in search of the perfect tres leche. Just Another cyclist covers the vital topic of bike lights, particularly now that it’s getting dark earlier. A Palo Alto cyclist is hit by a salmon hit-and-run driver. To clip or not to clip, that is the commuting cyclists’ question. San Francisco cyclists get five new green boxes on Market Street.

Sure, you can prepare your bike for winter storage, but why would you — especially if you live in L.A.? Good advice: grant yourself permission to be a beginner. Helmet cams and carbon wheels for junior racers won’t be banned after all. A comparison of bike commuting benefits in the US and the UK. A Portland writer says please don’t dump your trash in the bike lane, or you’ll hurt his dad. Serial numbers and Samaritans unite three hot bikes with their owners. An OKC thief makes his getaway by bike with a large flat-screen TV. A Chicago cyclist decides to keep riding after getting doored. People for Bikes offers an introduction to federal funding for bicycling, while Streetsblog DC says the GOP wants to take transportation funding back to the 1950s and an influential group fights bike projects in the district. A DC cyclist gets hit by a cab, then ticketed while still in the hospital — without ever speaking to a cop about the collision. Family members question whether a rider’s apparent solo accident was actually a homicide.

A Toronto cyclist killed in a collision with a streetcar may not have been able to see the traffic signal. Alejandro Valverde fails to overturn an Italian doping ban. Biking Barcelona’s beachfront bikeway. After a Kiwi cyclist is fatally doored, officials decide to remove the offending parking spots. Unbelievably, the Singapore driver who hit a cyclist, bouncing him off her windshield, before driving home with the bike still stuck under her car, gets off with an $800 fine. Pneumatic tires — like the ones on your bike — were invented because John Dunlop Jr. had a bumpy ride on his trike.

Finally, to help get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday season, how about a Christmas tree made entirely of bikes?

Compare and contrast: taking the Times and other local media to task for unbalanced reporting

One was a 17-year old cyclist killed on the streets of Pacoima. The other was a 16-year old runner who died on the streets of Sherman Oaks.

Daniel Marin and Connor Lynch.

One attended a public school in Granada Hills; the other went to an exclusive private school. Daniel Marin died alone on the streets of a disadvantaged neighborhood; Connor Lynch died trying to catch up to teammates in one of the Valley’s most desirable communities.

Both deaths devastated family and friends, and brought tears to classmates.

Yet one received a massive outpouring of news coverage in the local media and around the state and nation, while the other barely made a ripple in the local press and was soon forgotten — without once mentioning the victim’s name.

It’s not that the death of runner Connor Lynch was any less tragic than Daniel Marin’s, or that it shouldn’t have been reported the way it was. Any death on our streets is a loss to the entire community; every story deserves to be told, and every victim remembered.

It’s just that Danny Marin deserved to be remembered too.

Maybe it’s because Danny died on a weekend, when the severe cutbacks in the local press mean there’s often no one around to report the story, while Connor’s killing occurred just in time for the evening news.

Or maybe it’s because some people questioned why a 17-year old would be on the streets at that late night hour. Yet it only took a little investigation by the only reporter who took the time to talk to Danny’s family and friends to uncover a perfectly benign and banal reason why he was coming home so late.

It might be because Danny’s death occurred in a largely forgotten section of the city, while Connor was killed on a busy street in an upscale community; I really don’t want to believe that the difference in coverage is due to the ethnic background of the victims or their respective communities.

Maybe it’s because Connor was participating in school activity as part of an athletic team, while Danny was just a guy trying to get home.

I don’t think it was simply because Danny was on a bike, or because traffic deaths have become so commonplace in our society; countless other pedestrians have died, even in hit-and-runs, without attracting the outpouring of news and grief that Connor Lynch received.

Frankly, I can’t explain it, any more than I can explain why the driver who ran Connor down was immediately arrested when she turned herself in to officers a few blocks away. Yet authorities initially failed to take any action against the woman who ran down Ed Magos, even though she didn’t turn herself in at a police station until hours later.

Yes, Connor was killed, while Magos was “merely” injured. But in both cases, the drivers took the same actions to turn themselves in — and much more promptly in the more recent case.

Maybe the police learned something from the Magos case, after all.

And maybe the press will take a hard look at themselves, and accept that the life of a teenage cyclist in Pacoima is worth every bit as much as that of a runner from an exclusive private school.

Or maybe the Times, the Daily News — which purports to report on the Valley — and the city’s other media outlets will finally publish Daniel Marin’s name, nearly three weeks after they reported his death. Let alone actually tell his story.

I’m not suggesting that one column inch or a single minute of airtime should be taken away from Connor Lynch. But maybe the press could find a little time and space for some of the other victims of our streets.

And by the way, Friday’s memorial ride for Daniel Marin was a success.

Even if it got exactly one mention in the press.

.………

Speaking of reporting, was it a case of sloppy writing or a police officer suffering from an unbelievable ignorance of the law? In a story about Segways in La Jolla, the head of the San Diego PD Northern Division says it’s against the law to “ride a skateboard or a bicycle on business district streets.” Maybe he meant riding on the sidewalk, since California law allows bikes on any surface street or highway, with the exception of some freeways and expressways.

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Condolences to our friends at the LAPd, as another officer is killed while deployed with the Marines in Afghanistan. Officer Joshua Cullins had just two days left in the field when he was killed by an IED; he had just recently recovered from injuries received while attempting to disarm another explosive device in July.

And my sympathy and condolences to Chief Charlie Beck on the death of his mother.

If you’ve noticed a change in the way L.A. cyclists are treated on the streets, don’t forget that it all started with the appointment of Chief Beck last year.

.………

Maybe they need a bike safety course at City Hall, as new Planning Director Michael LoGrande becomes the latest city official to be injured on a bike. Another Santa Monica City council candidate responds to Gary’s survey on biking and transportation issues. KCRW’s Kajon Cermak looks back on CicLAvia. How to stay dry on your commute during L.A.’s early winter, following our virtually nonexistent summer. The world is rediscovering the odd-looking Pedersen bike; at least one L.A. bike shop actually sells them. A Modesto musician becomes the latest cyclist to die from the hit-and-run plague. San Jose’s Bike Party gets thousands of people on their bikes to celebrate cycling without the conflict of Critical Mass. A look at Oakland’s Scrapertown scene. A Walnut Creek cyclist suffers major head injuries after falling from his bike; that’s exactly the sort of accident helmets were designed for.

A Utah teenager drives with her windows decorated for 17th birthday, and crosses onto the other side of the road to kill a cyclist. An Iowa father deliberately runs down his son’s bike because the teenager hadn’t been home in two days. Two Wisconsin hockey players face murder charges after knocking a cyclist off his bike, while another faces obstruction charges and eight teammates have been suspended for one year. Hundreds rally is support of New York’s new Prospect Park West bike lane; the downside is that yes, you do have to look both ways when you cross the street, a skill most non-New Yorkers master by age 7. The off-duty NYPD officer accused of threatening a cyclist with a gun says it was just his badge instead; easy mistake, since guns and badges look so much alike. A Tampa Bay homeowner is up in arms about the “20-plus” cyclists who invade her quiet equine community each weekend.  Now can we look forward to mandatory cyclist airbag laws? Yet another cyclist/driver complains about how those darn bike riders could ruin his life by forcing him to kill them.

A Montreal man gets 8 years for killing a cyclist during a police chase. Removing traffic signals to improve road safety. The UK’s bike-to-work plan may survive the country’s budget cuts after all. A London rider says he loves bicycling, but he’s not prepared to advertise a bank for the privilege of doing it. Viscously beat a cyclist unconscious, and get community service. Speaking of community service, that’s what a van driver got for killing a rider after a 13-hour, all-night shift. A new autobiography from the other Isle of Man cyclist. Biking through the Italian countryside.

Finally, in the Netherlands, bike theft isn’t just a crime, it’s an avocation.

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