Tag Archive for Venice

Near head-on collision with scofflaw tricyclist, OC hit-and-run, good news in San Pedro and NELA

Talk about close.

A late start meant I didn’t have a lot of time to ride yesterday, so I took a quick spin along the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica and Venice — despite my long-held preference to avoid it as much as possible this time of year.

And I nearly paid for it with a head-on collision with a scofflaw salmon cyclist.

Make that a four-year old scofflaw.

On a tricycle.

She didn’t seem too pleased when I suggested she should ride on the other side, either.

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Yet another coward has fled the scene following a serious collision, leaving a bike rider to bleed in the street. This time in Orange County.

According to KABC-7, a teenage cyclist suffered critical head injuries when he was hit by an unidentified vehicle around midnight Wednesday on North Harbor Boulevard near La Palma Avenue in Orange.

A passing motorist saw the victim lying in the street and called for help.

Anyone with information is urged to call Anaheim police at (714) 765-1900.

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Tuesday’s twin meetings called to oppose bike lanes in NELA and San Pedro may not have turned out the way opponents might have planned.

The special meeting of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council’s Sycamore Grove Local Issues Committee — maybe they could work on shortening that just a tad — gave every indication of being a set-up for opponents of bike lanes on Figueroa Street in Northeast L.A. Even going so far as to allow a bike lane hater to present an uncontested 15 minute video in opposition to the lanes.

A presentation he reportedly botched — eventually leading to his ejection from the room for disrupting a public meeting.

The Fig4All website calls the meeting a farce in every sense. Yet one that resulted in an overwhelming 41 to 16 in favor of the bike lanes.

Meanwhile, the highly contested road diets and bike lanes recently installed in San Pedro received unexpectedly strong support from city officials, in a special meeting with area Councilmember Joe Buscaino.

The lanes were installed as part of the 2010 L.A. bike plan, as well as in an attempted to calm traffic on streets with excess capacity — including in front of a school, where parents inexplicably complained about the difficulty of dropping their children off, rather than praising the attempt to increase safety for their own kids.

Fortunately, cooler heads seemed to have prevailed, as Buscaino suggested drivers get used to the changes and find ways to avoid the brief periods of congestion.

I’m starting to like this guy.

Now let’s see if he, and the other members of the council, show as much backbone dealing with Hollywood’s irrational demands to remove the Spring Street green bike lanes at Friday’s council meeting.

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A couple bike-related items from Metro made it into my inbox yesterday.

First up is how to cope with the new locking turnstiles being activated in Metro train stations this summer.

Metro Rail turnstiles will be activated this summer and open only with a valid TAP card. If you bring your bike on board, please plan ahead for how this change can affect your station access.

Some important tips to remember for bringing your bike through turnstiles:

  • Follow ADA-accessible routes to find elevators and wider turnstile gates to safely walk your bike in and out of stations.
  • If lifting your bike over turnstiles, please be careful. Avoid lifting your bike over turnstiles in a crowded station.
  • Using the emergency exit gate for non-emergency purposes is not allowed and punishable by fine.

Whatever type of fare you’re using – single ride, pass or transfer from another system – it must be loaded on a reusable TAP card to ride any Metro Rail line. Please be sure your TAP is loaded with cash or valid fare before approaching turnstiles at Metro Rail stations. If you don’t already have a TAP card, you canpurchase one along with your fare from the TAP vending machine for a $1.

I can’t say I’m fond of the idea that one-time train users will be forced to buy a tap card, increasing the cost of a single ride to $2.50.

And Metro will be working with bike advocacy organizations to co-sponsor a series of bike education and safety classes throughout the county.

All cyclists can benefit from a working knowledge of the rules of the road.

Continuing efforts to educate all road users, Metro presents a new series of free bicycle traffic safety workshops, rolling out across the county over the next few months.

With funding from the Office of Traffic Safety, Metro is working with the LA County Bicycle Coalition, Bike San Gabriel Valley and Multi-Cultural Communities for Mobility to lead the workshops. A 3-hour beginner’s road rules class will be offered in English and Spanish, and an 8-hour workshop for intermediate cyclists will focus on building traffic skills.

The series kicks off with the following classes. As more classes are scheduled, information will be available able at metro.net/bikes andfacebook.com/bikemetro.

Street Cycling Skills Class 
Saturday, June 22 

8am-5pm
Alexander Hughes Community Center
1700 Danbury Rd
Claremont, CA 91711
Register with LA County Bicycle Coalition here

Street Cycling Skills Class 
Saturday, July 6 

9am-6pm
Culver City Veteran’s Memorial Building
4117 Overland Av
Culver City, CA 90230
Register with LA County Bicycle Coalition here

Street Cycling Skills Class
Friday, July 12, 6pm-9 pm 
AND Saturday, July 13, 8am-2 pm

Azusa Memorial Park Recreation Center
320 N Orange Pl
Azusa, CA 91702
Register with LA County Bicycle Coalition here

Bicycling on the Road Class
Sunday, July 14 

10am-1pm
South El Monte Community Center
1556 Central Av
South El Monte, CA 91733
Register with Bike San Gabriel Valley by emailing info@bikesgv.org

Street Cycling Skills Class 
Wednesday, July 17, 5:30pm-8:30pm 
AND Saturday, July 20, 9am-1pm

California State University Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Bl
Long Beach, CA 90815
Register with LA County Bicycle Coalition here

Bicycling on the Road Class
Saturday, July 20

10am-1pm
El Monte Senior Center
3120 Tyler Av
El Monte, CA 91731
Register with Bike San Gabriel Valley by emailing info@bikesgv.org

Bicycling on the Road Class 
Saturday, July 27 

10am-1pm
Palm Park Rec Center
5730 Palm Av
Whittier, CA 90601
Register with Bike San Gabriel Valley by emailing info@bikesgv.org

Bicycling on the Road Class 
Thursday, August 4 

1-4pm
Culver City Veteran’s Memorial Building
4117 Overland Av
Culver City, CA 90230
Register with LA County Bicycle Coalition here

Bicycling on the Road Class 
Sunday, August 18 

10am-1pm
La Verne Community Center, Classroom 1
3680 “D” St
La Verne, CA 91750
Register with Bike San Gabriel Valley by emailing info@bikesgv.org

Bicycling on the Road Class 
Saturday, August 24 

10am-1pm
Barbara J. Riley Community & Senior Center
7810 Quill Dr
Downey, CA 90242
Register with Bike San Gabriel Valley by emailing info@bikesgv.org

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Finally, you could soon fly over potholes; no, literally. And if you’re going to steal precious artwork by a revered artist, bring a bag big enough that it doesn’t stick out of your backpack as you make your getaway by bike at 4:30 am. Let alone big enough to carry everything you meant to steal.

Important meetings on Main St road diet and Verdugo Ave bike lanes tonight, and bike safety in Signal Hill

Just a few quick notes before I get back to work.

First up, the Venice Neighborhood Council meets tonight to discuss the planned Main Street Road diet, among other issues.

While I strongly support the plans to make the street safer and more inviting for everyone, a work deadline is going to keep me home slaving over a hot laptop long into the night.

But if you’re free this evening, I strongly urge you to attend the meeting to show your support.

Here’s what long-time bike advocate and former fellow LACBC board member Kent Strumpell has to say on the subject:

SUPPORT MAIN ST. BIKE LANE PROPOSAL AT SEPT. 20TH VENICE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL MEETING

The City of Los Angeles proposes to extend the bicycle lanes on Main Street in Santa Monica to the Windward Circle in Venice.  This project will be on the agenda for the VNC Board of Directors to consider supporting at their Sept. 20th meeting.  Please come show your support for this important bikeway improvement.  You can also email the Board (see below).

LADOT counted 730 cyclists on Main St. in Venice in a 6 hour period earlier this year, making it one of the most important bicycle routes in Venice.  Providing bike lanes on Main Street from Navy to Windward Circle will create a “Complete Main Street”. The proposed bike lanes will rebalance the street and provide more safety for all road users whether they be on bicycle, foot, or in a car.  Creating a complete Main Street will require removing a travel lane in each direction in order to accommodate the bike lanes and a two-way left turn lane in the center of the road. All on-street parking will remain.

This reconfiguration of Main Street will provide better bicycle connectivity to nearby areas, help achieve more sustainable transportation in our beach community and encourage a more bike-able, and walkable Venice!

Proposed changes for Main Street in Venice

PROJECT BENEFITS

1. Encourages more bicycling and walking in Venice and fewer car trips

2. More trips by bicycle means less demand for parking

3. Businesses can benefit: increased customer access by bike and foot traffic, reduced demand for parking, calmer traffic allows more people to notice businesses

4. Deters speeding, increasing safety for all road users

5. Provides a dedicated center lane for left turns, decreasing rear-end and side-swipe collisions

6. Improves visibility for motorists exiting driveways or turning onto Main Street

7. Provides dedicated space and enhanced safety for bicycles on Main Street

8. Provides better visibility of and for pedestrians crossing Main Street

ACTION

Attend the Venice Neighborhood Council meeting and speak in support.  Fill out a speaker card for the Main St. agenda item when you arrive.
When:  Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, 7PM
Where: Westminster Elementary, 1010 Abbot Kinney (just south of Main).

Email the Venice Neighborhood Council board to express your support and why you think it is needed.  Please send a email even if you plan to attend, to: board@venicenc.org

More info at:  LADOT’s blog post – https://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/main-street-bike-lanes-need-your-support/#more-4279

Damien offers more on the story on Streetsblog, and Gary Kavanagh offers his support after initially opposing the plan.

And on a somewhat related note, Joe Linton looks at LADOT’s approach to the proposed 4th Street Bike Boulevard, and foresees a forthcoming failure snatched from the jaws of apparent victory.

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In another important bike-related meeting on a busy Tuesday, the Burbank City Council will consider making the bike lanes on Verdugo Avenue permanent.

As you may recall, a road diet was installed on Verdugo over a year ago; after complaints from some motorists, the city council voted to keep the lanes in place on a trial basis.

Today, that trial comes to an end.

If you ride in the area, you’re urged to attend the council meeting tonight starting at 6 pm at 275 E. Olive Ave in Burbank. Or if you can’t attend in person, the LACBC offers a sample email you can send to express your support.

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The Signal Hill Police Department has kicked off a campaign to increase bike and pedestrian safety — which usually translates into a crackdown on bad bike behavior, rather than dangerous practices by drivers that have the potential to kill or injure cyclists, law abiding or otherwise.

However, they say the right things, for the most part, offering valid advice to cyclists and pedestrians on how to remain safe, and advising motorists on how not to kill someone.

Although nothing in state law requires cyclists to ride single file, particularly in substandard lanes where it can actually be safer to ride two or more abreast in order to hold the lane and prevent unsafe passing. And the law is quite specific that slow moving vehicles — which includes bikes — aren’t illegally blocking traffic unless there are five or more vehicles following behind and unable to go around.

But good luck arguing that point with a traffic cop who may not be as well verses in bike law as well as you are.

And I wouldn’t exactly take comfort in this comment from Signal Hill PD Traffic Department Supervisor Sgt. Chris Nunley:

“Unfortunately some people forget that the roadways are primarily for vehicle traffic and walk or run four deep across lanes of traffic.”

Actually, roadways are intended for all legal road users, which includes cyclists and pedestrians. And everyone is entitled to use the roads in a safe and legal manner, with no preference given to mode of travel.

In other words, bikes have as much right to the road as motor vehicles, though no one has the right to needlessly block the roadway.

The program is intended to start with an educational campaign before moving to an enforcement phase.

It remains to be seen whether it will be targeted equally towards all road users in a genuine attempt to increase safety, or simple be used as an excuse to crack down on cyclists.

Read more at the Signal Tribune (scroll to page 9); thanks to Nate Baird for the heads-up. (Note — all comments are mine, so don’t blame Nate; he just pointed out the story.)

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A new study from a Dutch consulting group shows that the benefits of properly constructed biking infrastructure significantly outweighs the cost.

In fact, the return in improved travel times, better health and environmental benefits outweigh costs by margin of 44% — increasing to a whopping 358% if ebikes continue to gain in popularity.

It would be interesting to see if the results could be duplicated on this side of the Atlantic.

Thanks to @bplusradsport for the tip.

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Much has been made of a report released over the weekend showing that roughly 1,000 pedestrians are injured badly enough by bicyclists to require hospitalization in New York State every year; roughly 500 of those are in New York City.

While that sounds damning, the report fails to note who was at fault in those collisions, merely that they occurred. And also fails to note how many cyclists were injured, as well.

So instead of suggesting, as the authors seem to imply, that it is the result of out-of-control scofflaw cyclists riding rampant on sidewalks and blowing through crosswalks, the collisions could just as easily be the result of pedestrians walking illegally in bike lanes or stepping into the path of riders.

And even that surprisingly large number pales in comparison to the roughly 15,000 New York pedestrians injured by motor vehicles each year. Yet no one seems to be calling for a crackdown on dangerous scofflaw drivers.

It should also be noted that the number of pedestrians injured in bike collisions is trending downward, despite a dramatic increase in ridership in recent years.

Testament, perhaps, to the efforts of that crazy NYDOT director Janette Sadik-Khan to make NYC streets safer for everyone.

Including cyclists and pedestrians.

Note: While I largely dismiss the results of this study, it’s important to remember that pedestrians are the only road users more vulnerable than cyclists. So it’s up to you to concede the right-of-way to pedestrians — even when they’re wrong. And never, ever ride through a crosswalk when someone is using it.

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Finally, a timely reminder from L.A. cyclist, bike advocate and attorney Rosh Hirsch that if riding your bike doesn’t make you smile, you’re not doing it right.

My smile wasn’t quite that big when I was riding yesterday, but it was there.

Third grade student Tristan Hirsch demonstrates proper cycling technique, starting with the huge smile; photo by proud papa Ross Hirsch

Minor miracles — new signage in SaMo and bike lanes on Via Dolce, and a new bike commuter benefit

If you’ve been coming here for awhile, you’ll know that one of my biggest complaints is the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica and Venice.

Or more precisely, the fact that it’s often almost impossible to actually ride a bike on it on busy summer days and weekends, when it’s overrun by pedestrians, skaters, skateboarders, dog walkers, Segway riders and other assorted forms of beach-loving humanity.

At its worst, the much dreaded Carmegeddon anticipated when the 405 closes this weekend will merely approximate a vehicular version of the congestion cyclists face on a daily basis.

At least, those patient and/or brave enough to attempt it.

Whenever the opportunity has presented itself, I’ve complained to anyone who would listen about the lack of signage along the bike path. And how it contributes to the problem by failing to warn crossing pedestrians about the presence of cyclists — after all, who would ever expect to find bikes on a bike path? — let alone direct riders and walkers to the sections devoted to each.

So imagine my shock this week when I rode through and saw exactly that.

Granted, it’s only a handful of signs, and only in the most crowded section around the Santa Monica Pier and just south.

And they’re only temporary signs, easily moved or knocked over. But they seem to be working, at least when the path isn’t already overrun with people.

On a quiet Tuesday morning, most people appeared to follow the warnings, whether pedaling or bipedaling. On a crowded Thursday afternoon, not so much.

But still, it’s a start. And maybe if it works, they’ll make these signs permanent, and spread them out throughout the pathway from the Palisades to the Venice Pier.

……..

That wasn’t the only minor miracle I discovered on my rides this week.

When I ride the bike path, I often continue down Pacific Avenue to the end of the Marina del Rey peninsula, returning along Via Marina. Depending on my mood, I may continue around the Marina on Admiralty Way, or turn off onto Via Dolce to make my way back home.

The route adds a little more than two miles to my ride, while giving me a relatively car-free — and mostly pedestrian-free — section of road where I can open it up a little without fear of hitting anyone who might unexpectedly step or pull into my path.

The only problem was the pitted and potholed surface of Via Dolce, which required frequent swerves into oncoming traffic to avoid the obstacles. Or at least it would, if there was traffic to contend with.

So imagine my surprise on Tuesday when I turned onto the street and found smooth, fresh pavement under my wheels, with a newly resurfaced road marking a refreshing change to a formerly jolting ride.

Let alone my shock on Thursday, when I rode the same route and discovered that the newly repainted lane lines had resulted in newborn bike lanes in the interim.

Granted, it’s only a few blocks, from south of Washington Blvd to near the junction with Marquesas Way.

And it’s a lightly travelled side street where bike lanes are largely superfluous, and of primary benefit to the people who live in the immediate area.

But still, it’s nice.

And aside from the bike lanes on Washington Blvd and the Marina extension of the bike path, it’s the first biking infrastructure in the Marina.

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SB582 was passed by the state legislature Thursday, mandating transportation benefits to employees who choose not to drive —including bike commuters. It now moves on to the Governor’s desk, who has 12 days to sign or veto it.

Meanwhile, L.A.’s proposed bike parking ordinance has passed the city Planning Commission, and moves on to the City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee. And Councilmember Bill Rosendahl explains the upcoming Bicycle Anti-Harassment Ordinance he has shepherded through the Council, while Damien Newton gets responses from local bike advocates about the ordinance.

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Not surprisingly, the ill-conceived near-killer speed cushions that resulted in critical injuries to cyclist Richard Schlickman have proven unpopular with local drivers and haven’t solved the problem of speeding drivers. So Palos Verdes Estates is looking at yet another study of how to solve the problem, including possible medians, chicanes and roundabouts.

Aside from the cost, the concern is that such measures could slow response times for emergency vehicles. Like the ones who came to save the life of Schlickman after he was nearly killed by their first failed attempt at traffic calming.

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The Source offers a two-wheeled guide to surviving Carmageddon, which does not include riding your bike on the 405, under penalty of arrest.

Speaking of which, anyone who enjoys a good race should be in front of their computers on Saturday, as Wolfpack Hustle challenges Jet Blue to a race from Burbank to Long Beach

You know, just your typical bike vs commercial airliner race.

The route will run door-to-door, from a home in Burbank to the lighthouse in Long Beach, starting at 10:50 am with an expected finish around 1:20 pm. And yes, the cyclists will observe all traffic laws; no word on whether the jet will signal or stop for red lights.

The story has gone viral, picked up already by bike writer Carlton Reid, Road.cc, the L.A. Times, Streetsblog, Cyclelicious, Slate and USA Today.

Gary explains how it all came together; follow #FlightVsBike to keep up with the rapidly developing events.

My money’s on the bikes.

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The first mountain stage of the Tour de France shuffles the standings, as expected. After 13 stages, Thomas Voeckler leads by 1:49 over Frank Schleck; his brother Andy is 4th with Cadel Evans in between.

Things are not looking good for defending champ Alberto Contador in this year’s Tour, who’s already 4 minutes back; guess that’s what happens when you stop eating Spanish beef. Samuel Sanchez won Stage 12, but to many, Geraint Thomas was the hero of the day. After unexpectedly finding himself in 9th place overall, tour rookie Tom Danielson plans to attack.

Maybe it’s just me, but this has been the most exciting Tour in years
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In an amazingly horrifying tale of the legal system run amuck, a mother is convicted of second degree vehicular homicide after one of her children was killed by a one-eyed hit-and-run driver who had been drinking and was on pain medication. She was held accountable simply for not using a crosswalk to walk across the street with her three children, even though they crossed at an intersection and the cost of prosecution was greater than the cost of painting one.

The driver faces just six months after the other charges were dropped, despite previous convictions for two prior hit-and-runs — on the same day, no less — while the mother faces three years for the crime of crossing the street.

And doing it in a manner that would be legal in more enlightened states, where every intersection is assumed to have an unmarked crosswalk.

Unless there’s more to the story that hasn’t made the press yet, something tells me the DA who prosecuted this case won’t be in office very long. If he’s not tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail first.

Thanks to Rick Risemberg for the tip.

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Will Campbell writes a truly outstanding letter of complaint about AAA’s opposition to SB910, California’s proposed three-foot passing law. Stephen Box says L.A.’s super secret final bike plan in finally available online; you might not need the infrastructure it includes, but the overwhelming majority of potential riders do. A Los Angeles firefighter will ride coast to coast to remember victims of 9/11, while a father and son from Manhattan Beach ride across the county to raise money for cancer research. Love this evocative photo from Long Beach’s biking expats as they ride through Eastern Oregon. The sobering truth about drinking and driving. Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Shaw explains the city’s new bike traffic school program for adult offenders. An Ojai man is arrested for an allegedly drunken hit-and-run that left a cyclist with moderate injuries. Hollister asks Caltrans for roundabouts and bike lanes.

After being convicted in the death of a cyclist, a Portland man will pay to fly her family out for his sentencing. A Houston driver says he’d rather hit something — or rather, someone — soft than something hard. An Ohio judge is killed while riding his bike when a woman swerves to avoid a raccoon, and thinks she hit a mailbox — despite knocking the judge’s body 160 feet through the air. The New York Post fires another salvo in the city’s bike wars, blaming bike lanes for bad business on Broadway rather than blaming bad businesses; after all, a good business might consider putting in some bike racks or even a bike corral to entice those passing riders to stop. A lawsuit will attempt to prove that NY officials lied about stats supporting the popular Prospect Park West bike lanes. Cycling collisions are up in tiny Elmira NY. Outrage in Charleston SC when a distracted driver is ticketed for improper lane usage after knocking a cyclist off a bridge to his death; thanks to Dave Yount for the link. A new Miami shop rescues and resells unloved bikes.

Montreal police crack down on earphones. Rachel McAdams rides a bike in Toronto with boyfriend Michael Sheen. Bike teams scramble for sponsorship despite positive returns. London attempts to improve road safety for cyclists by leaving no room for them. The Brit driver who punched a cyclist turns himself in. More road rage in the UK, this time it’s a cyclist who punched a passenger through a car window. A writer for London’s Guardian says the U.S. has a lot to learn from Europe when it comes to encouraging bike commuting; link courtesy of Rex Reese. The seven Estonian cyclists kidnapped in Lebanon while on a bike tour last March are finally free after French authorities negotiate their release. Following a collision, a drunk cyclist is fined for BUI in Dubai.

Finally, an auto-centric columnist for the Boston Globe calls for banning cyclists from the city, while the Times’ Hector Tobar urges patience even though some cyclists are setting a bad example for all those law-abiding drivers out there. But seriously, when you pass “two slow moving cyclists” and have no idea why they’re both flipping you off, there’s probably a reason for it.

And here’s your perfect soundtrack for Carmegeddon weekend.

Although this one seems kind of appropriate, too.

Monday’s ride, in which the mean streets of the Westside seem safer than the safety of the bike path

Something is seriously wrong when a busy shopping street feels safer than an off-road bike path.

But that was the choice I made on Monday, on what rapidly deteriorated into one of the most stressful bike rides I’ve ever taken. And one of the few times I’ve ever gotten off my bike far less relaxed than when I got on.

Another late start caused me to change my planned route, and break my cardinal rule of never riding the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path through Santa Monica and Venice after noon after Memorial Day.

And I was quickly reminded why I don’t.

It started with a couple of twenty-something couples who were coming out of a parking lot near the Annenberg Center on their way to the beach.

As I approached on the opposite side of the path, I watched as the first member of the group stepped onto the pathway without looking in either direction — right into the path of an oncoming cyclist, who had to make a panic stop on loose sand to just barely miss him.

Then, apparently having learned absolutely nothing from the experience, he stepped right in front of me, forcing me into a panic swerve to avoid him. When I made a comment about looking both ways like his mama taught him, I got a resounding chorus of “what a jerk” from the full group.

And things went downhill from there.

Take, for instance, the grandmother who led a toddler onto the pathway on the far side of a blind curve. And again, stepped out directly in front of me, without a single glance in my direction.

I wonder how she would have explained that to the child’s parents if I hadn’t been able to stop in time?

Or the unsupervised child, around five or so, who was stopped on the opposite side of the bike path, and suddenly swerved directly towards me as I was trying to slip past, forcing me into the sand to avoid him.

But I don’t blame him.

I blame the parents who were nowhere to be scene, leaving a kindergarten-aged kid to navigate a busy bikeway on his own.

And don’t even get me started on the countless groups of pedestrians who somehow managed to block both sides of the bike path as they meandered mindlessly along. Sometimes just inches from the separate pedestrian walkway they should have been using.

All of which combined to make the bike lanes along Main Street seem like the much safer choice on my return trip. And despite dodging doors and double-parked cars and trucks in the bike lane, it felt infinitely safer than the bike path I’d previously navigated just a few blocks away.

Which is absolutely shameful.

It’s one thing to share the pathway with other users, even those sections marked for bicycles only. But it’s another thing when the very people the path was intended to serve are forced to choose alternate routes because it just isn’t safe to ride.

Then again, the streets weren’t that great, either.

As I rode back up Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, I was nearly crushed between a parked Metro bus partially blocking the bike lane and a passing 720 bus whose driver refused to surrender a single inch of his lane, despite the limited space available.

And evidently, was willing to risk my life to stay on schedule.

Then there’s the driver that right-hooked me as she pulled into the driveway of her apartment building in Brentwood, forcing me to turn along with her to avoid a collision.

By this time, though, I’d had enough.

But when I confronted her about nearly causing a collision, something totally unexpected happened.

She apologized so completely and profusely, I found myself with no idea what to say. And felt all that pent-up anger just melt away.

So I urged her to be more careful next time, more to give myself an exit line than to suggest she drive more safely, since she had clearly gotten the message. And rode off with a cascade of apologies following me down the street.

And oddly, leaving me feeling just a little more hopeful than I had been before she cut me off.

If maybe even a little more stressed.

Rolling down Rodeo Drive and the best of the Westside with the LACBC last Sunday

Some of the riders before the start, including the Spoke's Cynthia Rose in the purple top; photo courtesy of Harry Dougherty

Okay, so it turned out to be a very long ride.

When I mapped out a route for the I ♥ the Westside ride, the second in the LACBC’s new series of Sunday Funday rides, I rode the 28 mile route in about two hours without breaking a sweat.

So I added another hour to my estimate to allow for a series of five minute stops to discuss different cities and issues along the way. And then added another half hour just to be safe, and assumed everyone would be on their way home to watch the Super Bowl commercials by 1:30.

Paul Backstrom discusses the proposed Main Street road diet in Venice

Like the song says, it ain’t necessarily so.

What I hadn’t counted on was the need to stop — repeatedly — when riders were cut off by traffic or red lights. Not mention an unexpected encounter with the Sweet E’s Bakeshop truck in Culver City.

I learned a long time ago never to come between cyclists and their cupcakes.

In the end, we got back to our pier-side start point over an hour after what I thought was a very generous worst case scenario.

Rick Risemberg of Bicycle Fixation discusses native plants on Ballona Creek

On the other hand, we made it without a single flat or mechanical problem. And everyone who started out either made it to the finish with the rest of the group, or left along the route to meet other obligations.

That alone made it a successful ride in my book.

I also learned that leading a ride is a lot like hosting a party — you spend so much time looking after everyone that you barely spend time with anyone.

There were a lot of great people that I didn’t get to spend as much time with as I wanted. And some I didn’t get to meet at all, much to my regret. In fact, 42 riders started out, including four new members of the LACBC who signed up that morning.

An unexpected Culver City food truck encounter made it a very sweet ride

And everyone seemed to have a great time, myself included. Then again, any day on a bike is a good day, and the perfect Westside weather and great guest speakers just made it that much better.

We started off with a brief presentation from the LACBC affiliate Santa Monica Spoke’s Cynthia Rose, who offered a brief overview of the many projects the Spoke is working on to make L.A.’s city by the bay live up to it’s bike-friendly status.

After a brief jaunt down Main Street, I asked if anyone could tell me when we left Santa Monica and entered Los Angeles; not surprisingly, almost everyone was able to pinpoint the exact spot where the bike lanes ended, the road widened to two lanes and traffic sped up.

Jim Shanman discusses the work of the recently formed Culver City Bicycle Coalition

That lead to Paul Backstrom from Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office speaking for a few minutes about the proposed road diet that would tame the L.A. section of Main, by creating a mirror image of the Santa Monica stretch. He noted that the city is working on solutions to move the bike lanes that would result out of the door zone, which has been fairly criticized in the original plans.

As we rode up Ballona Creek, Rick Risemberg, aka Mr. Bicycle Fixation and one of the city’s leading bike advocates, volunteered to talk about the native plants and rest area that had recently been installed along the bikeway, as well as a water filtration system designed to keep pollutants out of the bay.

Bikes roll down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; photo courtesy of Joni Yung

When we got to Culver City, Jim Shanman spoke briefly about the efforts of the newly formed Culver City Bicycle Coalition and their work on the new Culver City bike plan. And invited everyone to come back to participate in the LACBC-affiliate group’s next monthly Family Ride on the 27th.

One of my first thoughts in planning this ride had been that I wanted to see bikes rolling down Ferrari, Rolls Royce and Bentley-choked Rodeo drive. But I regretted that I hadn’t had time to reach out to Mark Elliot of the group Better Bike Beverly Hills — yes, yet another LACBC affiliate — to join us on the ride.

Mark Elliot talks about Better Bike Beverly Hills' work to make the city friendlier to bikes

So while we were stopped in Culver City, I asked if any of the riders were from Beverly Hills. When one man raised his hand, I asked if he was involved with the BBBH.

He introduced himself as Mark, and said “I founded it.”

That was how I finally met Mark Elliot, one of my personal heroes among local bike advocates, if only because he’s taken on one of the hardest battles in the L.A. area.

So when we got to Beverly Hills — which currently lacks a single inch of bike lane — Mark spoke about the work his group has been doing to transform the Westside’s bicycling black hole into something more ridable. Including the group’s efforts to capitalize on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restructure Santa Monica Blvd to make it, not just safe for cyclists, but actually inviting for the countless riders who now go out of their way to avoid it.

I talked about the decline of Westwood and biking through the VA; photo courtesy of Joni Yung

At our stop in Westwood Village, I spoke briefly about the decline of one of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods, and my personal vision to turn Westwood Blvd into a pedestrian walkway from Wilshire to the UCLA campus. We also discussed the new Veterans Administration master plan and the importance of regaining bike access through the Los Angeles National Cemetery, which was closed to bikes after 9/11 — evidently because of the threat that bicycles would pose to all the people buried there.

LACBC Executive Director Jen Klausner talks about the perils of riding and walking in Brentwood

Finally, Jen Klausner, Executive Director of the LACBC, spoke about the dangers that cyclists and pedestrians face in the Brentwood area, as well as the lack of adequate infrastructure to protect them from the dangerous behaviors and sense of entitlement displayed by many Westside drivers.

In the end, it was a great day, combining a fun, beautiful ride with an overview of local advocacy.

LACBC board member Alex Amerri (in white) will lead the next Sunday Funday ride March 6th

And it sets the stage for next month’s Sunday Funday #3, in which fellow board member Alex Amerri will lead a fast-paced 62-mile ride through the north San Gabriel Valley.

And riders on that one probably won’t have to worry about the group being broken up by red lights.

My thanks to everyone who turned out for the ride, especially Cynthia Rose, Paul Backstrom, Jim Stanman and Mark Elliot for their help in discussing the issues and opportunities for bicycling on the Westside. And special thanks to the LACBC’s Jen Klausner, Joni Yung, Alex Amerri, Greg Laemmle, Carol Feucht and Martin Lopez-lu for making it a success.

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Photo courtesy of Harry Dougherty

 

Harry Dougherty offers a great set of photos from Sunday’s ride — definitely better than my feeble attempts and worth the click to take a look.

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LAB calls on Colorado cyclists to support proposed legislation to fight the Black Hawk bike ban. I’d go a step further and encourage any cyclists to write in to support the legislation; Colorado’s economy depends on tourism, so your opinions on the misguided ban on bikes that could affect your decision to visit the state matters.

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The LACBC notes that a second workshop will be held Thursday night on the proposed redesign of the South Figueroa Corridor that could result in the city’s first true Complete Street, incorporating real pedestrian and bike access.

And don’t forget Wednesday’s 2:30 pm joint meeting of the City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Committees at Downtown City Hall to consider the city’s draft bike plan; this is the last public hearing before it goes to the full Council for approval. At the moment, it looks like illness will keep me away, but I urge you to show your support if you can make it.

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Kids, don’t try this at home! A cyclist was injured in a collision with a Blue Line train on Monday. According to authorities, he was holding onto a moving bus while wearing headphones and turned into the train when he let go.

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Long Beach finally eliminates their illegal bike licensing law. A driver sticks her neck out to support the Wilbur Ave road diet (scroll down). RSVP now for a free bicycle inspection and safety check workshop at the Bike Oven Wednesday night. The city’s first bike corral will be officially unveiled Friday morning in front of Café de Leche in Highland Park. CicLAvia invites you to help extend its route into South L.A. Flying Pigeon blogger Mickey Wally offers more of his great urban cycling photos. Green LA Girl talks with Jessica Meaney of Safe Routes to Schools. Car-less Valley Girl asks drivers not to mess with the balance on the street. How to contest a bad police collision report. Charlie Gandy talks about Long Beach’s bike-friendly successes in Corona del Mar. Tracking San Francisco’s most dangerous streets for cyclists. The Bay Citizen analyzes two years of bike collision data, and finds riders responsible for most wrecks — with the chief cause pedaling too fast. Huh? Now this kind of harassment from a passing car I wouldn’t complain about.

Dave Moulton says learn something from DC’s Swanson case, and don’t let matters surrounding the death of cyclist Ben Acree in San Diego last weekend drag on for three years. Better food and bicycling could be the cure for childhood obesity. If there’s a war on cars, then why are so many of the victims pedestrians (and cyclists)? Portland authorities search for the hit-and-run schmuck who ran down a stage 4 cancer patient. A Seattle lawyer jumps head-first into the Great Helmet Debate, concluding skid lids leave a lot to be desired. A Washington woman wins a lawsuit against REI for a defective bike part one day after she died in a backcountry accident. A Minneapolis study clearly shows the rate of bike crashes goes down as ridership increases. New York cyclists are up in arms over a citation to a rider for not wearing a helmet — even though that’s not illegal under New York law. A HuffPo writer urges a backlash to the New York anti-bike backlash. More than half a million New Yorkers ride more than once a month, but the Daily News hasn’t seemed to notice; makes you wonder what other stories they might be missing.

Brit blue-eyed soul singer Adele rides a bike. Pro cyclist Riccardo Riccò is hospitalized with kidney failure after allegedly botching a transfusion in an attempt to kick-start his comeback from a 2008 doping ban, while TdF winner Alberto Contador plans to fight the relative slap on the wrist Spanish authorities are reportedly planning to give him. Somehow, people shocked! shocked! to discover the windshield perspective of the host of the BBC’s top-rated Top Gear show; BBC radio is starting a 10 part series on the history of the bike.  L.A. cyclists have to contend with big ugly cars, while Dutch cyclists have to worry about big friendly dogs. The 2012 Olympic road course will finish with a sprint ending at Buckingham Palace; no word on whether the Queen’s corgis will be in attendance.

Finally, a non-bike related conclusion as a motorcyclist’s helmet cam shows exactly what it’s like to get rear-ended at stop, but without the pain, courtesy of Cyclelicious. Will Campbell plans a train-assisted March March through the real Eastside along historic Whittier Blvd; knowing both Will and Whittier, this one you won’t want to miss.

Let’s not let oversized, inefficient SUVs get in the way of much needed bike lanes on Main Street

A proposed road diet could turn this...

Let’s talk road diets.

Or more precisely, let’s talk about the one LADOT proposes for Main Street in Venice.

Following the disastrous reception the Wilbur Avenue road diet generated in the Valley last year, with motorists outraged by the loss of their high-speed, cut-though commuter route — regardless of the benefits or safety for the people who actually live there — LADOT has gone out of their way to engage the public on Main.

And yes, in advance, this time.

Go figure.

Unlike Wilbur, where the arguments for and against the road diet took place after it was installed with no public notice, LADOT reached out in advance in an attempt to build support beforehand. But this time, instead of drivers complaining about the loss of a through lane slowing them down, or having to find an alternate route to one that was never intended as a cut-through commuter route, the complaints came from cyclists who didn’t like the plan’s specifications.

Valley, meet Venice.

And this...

That negative response from some people was surprising, because the road diet merely takes the street design that already exists in the Santa Monica section and extends it south to the Venice portion between Navy and Windward Circle.

So if you want to see what a difference a road diet can make, just take a ride between Windward Circle and Pico Blvd. Or vice versa.

Night, meet day.

I usually bike Main at least once a week; more in the summertime when the crush of tourists and locals out for a little sun make the beachfront bike path virtually impassible for anyone wanting to move above a slow walking pace.

And yes, like most of the bike lanes in Santa Monica, they’re far from perfect. More than once I’ve found myself dodging flung doors and swerving to avoid drivers casually pulling into and out of parking spaces, with no concept that the narrow band of paint on the street next to them might possibly suggest the presence of bikes.

Into this.

After all, why would anyone expect to find bikes in a bike lane?

But despite the fears expressed by some, I’ve never had any problems — with drivers or police — moving out of the bike lane when necessary to avoid obstacles real or imagined.

When time allows, I give a little signal — not quite a full extension of my left arm to avoid confusion that I intend to make a turn, but more of a three-quarter point to the left to suggest that I’m just coming out a little. Then I give a quick wave when I pull back over to thank the drivers behind for giving me a little space.

And I find drivers on the narrowed Santa Monica section far more willing to concede a little road space than on the wider, higher speed stretch to the south.

In fact, the stretch of Main between Rose and Abbot Kinney (called Brooks on the map) is the only road I ride regularly where I legitimately fear for my safety. Between impatient bus drivers, motorists hell bent on remaining well north of the speed limit and clueless beachgoers cruising for free parking — yeah, good luck with that — I’ve probably had more close calls there than anywhere else.

I’ve learned to ride aggressively there. I take the lane and keep my speed above 20 mph, merging into the flow of traffic. Yet still cringe as drivers blow by at over twice my speed, and bus drivers ride my ass so they can lurch to a stop just a few feet up the road. Or sometimes crowd me out if I continue past Abbot Kinney where the road gets narrower.

Which makes me wonder why anyone would prefer the dangerous, bike-unfriendly situation we have now to the much calmer, though admittedly not perfect, situation just a few blocks north in Santa Monica.

As it turns out, that’s not really the case.

For the most part, even most of those who oppose the current plan don’t advocate doing nothing. But other proposed solutions, such as traffic calming or separated bike lanes, while they might be preferable, aren’t viable in the current budget crunch and would require years before they could be implemented, while the proposed plan requires nothing more than a little paint and can be implemented almost immediately

That leaves advocates doing complex math to divide up the street to come up with a better solution, debating the merits of a 10 foot motor vehicle lane and 6 foot bike lane, as opposed to the proposed 11 foot vehicle lane and 5 foot bike lane.

LADOT prefers the 11 foot lane to accommodate all those wide buses, fearing that a rider traveling near the outer edge of the bike lane could risk getting mirrored by a passing bus. And having had sufficient experience with bus drivers in that area, I would contend their fears are well-founded.

I won’t reargue the merits of the various widths and configurations; you can find virtually every possibility debated in the comments on Damien Newton’s always excellent coverage of the story. Although as noted above, I have a strong preference for anything that will keep those bus mirrors away from my head.

But here’s the thing.

The entire debate hinges on the width allowed for parking, and the risk posed by the swinging doors of oversized SUVs.

LADOT’s plans call for a 5’ bike lane next to a 7’ parking lane — which means that all those Hummers, Escalades and Navigators so popular in L.A. would offer only a few inches of clearance if perfectly parked, or actually extend into the bike lane if parked like most people do in the real world. And their massive doors would block virtually the entire bike lane when carelessly flung open.

To some, that’s reason enough to kill the road diet and live with the dangerous situation we already have, preferring the devil we know to the one we know just up the street.

But consider this.

According to a study from San Francisco, 85% of all vehicle doors extend less than 9.5 feet from the curb.

Which means we’re concerned about the problem posed by just 15% of drivers who have more money than sense, and are willing waste their resources on the biggest, most expensive, least efficient and most dangerous-to-everyone-else private vehicles on the road.

Then consider that such a vehicle would have to be parked next to the bike lane, and occupied, at the exact moment you pass by. And just happen to fling open a door at exactly the wrong time.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. It happened to me on Abbot Kinney just last year.

But I would contend that the risk is a hell of a lot smaller than the danger posed by the speeding and frequently distracted drivers just a few blocks down the street.

As Joe Linton points out, with or without bike lanes, many — if not most — cyclists will continue to ride in the door zone, preferring the perceived safety zone next to the parked cars to what they see as the scarier, if actually safer, space further out into the lane.

So here’s my suggestion.

Let’s take a foot from the center turn lane, narrowing it from 10’ to 9’, as Linton proposed in his comment above, and add 6” to the bike lane on either side.

But then take it a step further.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no requirement that any car be allowed to park anywhere and everywhere. So let’s ban those massive SUVs and other oversized vehicles from parking along the curb on Main Street.

Do as other cities around the country have done for decades, and paint a line on the street 6’6” from the curb — wide enough to accommodate all but the widest cars and trucks — then ticket any parked vehicle that crosses it.

That will not only effectively ban big vehicles from parking there, but also force all other drivers to park close to the curb without encroaching on the bike lane.

They can find parking somewhere else. Call it their penance for buying a massive motorized behemoth like that to begin with.

After all, if you can’t ban an inefficient SUV in environmentally conscious Venice, where can you?

Yes, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the plan.

But even if we build the road diet exactly the way LADOT proposes, it will make the southern section of Main Street significantly safer than it is now. And provide a more livable, complete street that will benefit everyone who lives, works or goes to school nearby, while encouraging more people to venture out onto their bikes.

So lets try to improve the plan.

But not kill a good project simply because it’s not a perfect one.

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Before I forget — again — a friend of a friend is planning a new line of handmade bike accessories, and would like your opinion on exactly what cyclists might want. So please help me make it up to her by taking a couple minutes to complete this quick survey.

After all, it’s not like I’ve been distracted lately or anything.

Texas jogger dies after colliding with a cyclist; is it just a matter of time before it happens here?

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Last week, a jogger on a popular shared use trail in Dallas suddenly turned to reverse direction and collided with a cyclist who was attempting to pass her. She struck her head as she fell, resulting in a fatal brain injury.

The reports I’ve seen don’t say how fast the rider was going or how close he was passing, or if he tried to warn her first. It didn’t help that her headphones may have kept her from hearing the rider as he approached.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to spend much time riding along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice to realized that a similar tragedy could happen here anytime.

Collisions between cyclists and pedestrians occur on the beachfront bike path on almost a daily basis.

Like the elderly rider I saw go over his handlebars when a small child on a tricycle suddenly strayed onto the wrong side of the path. Or the cyclist who was knocked of her bike as she tried to pass a group of pedestrians who stopped to talk without moving off of the path they shouldn’t have been on to begin with.

I’ve had several close calls exactly like this one myself, where someone has turned directly into my path without checking to see if anyone is behind them. Sometimes it’s a pedestrian or jogger, sometimes another rider making a left turn without bothering to look back first, evidently operating under the assumption that they’re the only ones there.

I’ve also had a number of close calls when a pedestrian has stepped onto the bike path without looking in either direction for oncoming traffic.

Call me crazy, but I’d think the mere existence of a bike path is a pretty good indication that there could, maybe, just possibly be bikes on it. And simple prudence would suggest that looking for them before attempting to cross would be a good idea.

But hey, that’s just me.

The Texas tragedy has reverberated around country, as the Bike Portland says it shows the need for more, and therefore, less crowded trails, as well as more courtesy on them, and Witch on a Bicycle offers advice on how to ride a multi-use path. Meanwhile, some people have responded by saying a 10 mph speed limit may be necessary on multi-use trails.

But it’s not a question of how fast you ride. It’s a matter of riding safely, and being prepared for other people on the path to do the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time.

I’m usually one of the fastest riders on the bike path. But I make a point of riding with my hands on my brake levers whenever there’s someone else around, which is most of the time. And passing other riders and pedestrians with the same three-foot or more passing distance I expect from drivers.

If I can’t, or if the other person’s actions make me suspect that they may somehow pose a hazard, I’ll announce my presence and tell them I’m about to pass — even though it’s often wasted breath, too many people can’t hear me or anything else over their headphones.

Sooner or later, though, something like this is bound to happen here. And when it does, the question isn’t whether the fault will lay with an overly aggressive cyclist or careless pedestrian.

It’s whether the city agencies who have repeatedly failed to enforce the path’s bike-only restrictions will be held accountable for it.

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The Santa Monica Public library will host a free discussion with David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard; thanks to Dr. Michael Cahn for the heads-up.

David V. Herlihy, author of the acclaimed Bicycle: the History, will discuss and sign his new book, The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance.  The book tells the true story of Frank Lenz, a young photographer who disappeared in Turkey in the spring of 1894 while trying to complete a round-the-world bicycle ride.  Herlihy will show photographs by Frank Lenz, taken before the world tour, when he rode an old-fashioned high-wheeler bike, and during the tour, when he rode a modern-style “safety” bicycle across North America and Asia.  A book sale and signing, courtesy of Diesel Bookstore, will follow the program.

And speaking of L.A.’s city by the bay, the Santa Monica Spoke invites you to attend a social mixer to talk bikes with the candidates for Santa Monica City Council tomorrow evening from 6:30 pm to 8:45 pm at 502 Colorado Blvd.

Plan carefully, and you could even make an evening of it.

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Rumors that Alberto Contador’ blood contained traces from a plastic IV bag have evidently been confirmed, as the New York Times reports that a new test first used in this year’s Tour de France showed plasticizer levels eight times over the allowed limit; a spokesman for Contador calls the story unfounded.

The Times quotes Bernhard Kohl, who finished 3rd in the 2008 Tour de France before being disqualified as saying:

“It’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping…. Riders think they can get away with doping because most of the time they do.”

Lance Armstrong’s test samples from his riding days could be subjected to the same tests in a seemingly relentless effort to prove the new-retired rider cheated. Fortunately, not every cyclist is dirty.

………

Word came yesterday that the Massachusetts LAB-certified cycling instructor who was stopped repeatedly and arrested for the crime of riding in the roadway on a state highway had his charges dismissed last month, though authorities still have a few days to appeal.

………

The video may be three years old, but it’s relevant today since it shows the current front-runner for mayor of Toronto. On it, he says his “heart bleeds” for cyclists killed on the streets, but at the end of the day it’s their own fault, comparing bicyclists riding with traffic to swimming with the sharks.

………

Evidently, the anti-bike backlash has extended to wildlife, as riders are taken out by squirrels and wallabies in separate attacks; this comes on the heels of an elite New Zealand rider whose season was ended by a magpie.

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A warm welcome to L.A.’s newest cycle chic. KPCC’s Larry Mantle had a good program on distracted driving on Tuesday; maybe the solution is hands-free texting. KABC-TV offers a mostly balanced, if somewhat lightweight, look at the conflict between bikes and cars; Damien Newton artfully deconstructs it. A new 3,000 square foot bike shop opens Downtown; link courtesy of @LosAngelesCM. USC’s Neon Tommy says the draft bike plan could make L.A. bike friendly, and reminds us there’s still time to submit your comments. Lisa Simpson, bike shop owner. Census data shows my hometown in the nation’s #3 cycling city behind Boulder CO and Eugene OR; L.A. checks in at a surprisingly high #26. In Oregon, anyone can write a traffic citation, even if the police and courts don’t always know it. And remember to wear orange if you ride there during hunting season. The Wisconsin bike shop owner who was hit by a car five yeas after barely surviving a racing accident died on Tuesday; the driver says he couldn’t see the riders in front of him because the sun was in his eyes. Don’t even try to figure out who’s at fault in this wreck as a salmon cyclist is hit by two drunk drivers in rapid succession; link courtesy of the previously mentioned WoaB. Advice on how to ride with another cyclist. After an Augusta driver hits five riders, critically injuring one, debate rages over how to keep cyclists safe — or whether we even belong on the roads. If you see someone riding your son’s stolen bike, don’t hit him with your SUV. Get out that ugly bridesmaid dress you thought you’d never wear again, as bike Pittsburgh hosts their first Bridesmaid Dress Ride. Rhode Island authorities look for the young motorists who intentionally forced a rider off the road during a triathlon. A London cyclist who was charged with assault after being strangled with his own scarf during an argument with a cab driver has his case dismissed; the court rules the driver’s version of events wasn’t credible. A driver in Singapore hits a cyclist with enough force that the rider smashes her windshield ­— then drives home with his bike jammed under her car, convinced that she was hit a falling branch; amazingly, the judge believed her. A bicyclist is killed when a school bus overturns in India’s Uttar Pradesh province, injuring 12 students; the driver ran away following the incident.

Finally, drivers evidently don’t stop for stops signs, either; then again, there are worse things than getting a ticket. And it looks like the LAPD won’t be pulling anyone over using jet packs, after all.

True grit: surviving the dangerously sand-covered beachfront bikeway

For months cyclists in Santa Monica and Venice have had to ride over a loose shifting surface of sand.

It is — or rather, should be — the crown jewel of the L.A. area bikeway network.

But the internationally famous 22-mile Marvin Bruade Bike Path, also known as the South Bay, Marina and Santa Monica bike paths, has its problems.

Like the section though Manhattan Beach where cyclists are expected to dismount and walk their bikes when the beach area is busy, or a similar restriction in Redondo Beach that’s enforced 24/7. Or the stretch through Hermosa Beach where bikes are expected to observe an 8 mph speed limit as they wind their way through assorted joggers, skaters and pedestrians.

Can you spot the bike in this bike-only section of the Marvin Braude Bike Path in Santa Monica?

And don’t get me started on the near impassibility of the bike path at prime times through sections of Venice and Santa Monica due to the total lack of enforcement of the bike-only restrictions — despite the promises made over a year ago to the Time’s Steve Lopez.

In fact, while it’s popular with casual cyclists, many more experienced riders — myself included — largely avoid it on weekends and summer afternoons. Personally, if I don’t get there well before noon, I usually opt for a less scenic but far more ridable alternative on the streets.

Like Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

This is what riders have had to deal with near the Venice boardwalk lately.

Lately, though, there’s been another problem, as the storms of the last few months have left a deposit of sand strewn across the bikeway that lingers to this day.

At first, sections of the path, particularly through the winding curves along Venice Beach, were unridable due to several inches of windblown sand piled high atop the concrete. Yet even now, weeks later, sand remains on major portions of the bikeway, presenting a significant safety hazard to anyone using the path.

Users crowd to the relatively clear portion, cutting the usable surface area to just a small band.

In many sections, it covers most or all of one side of the path, pushing riders, skaters and pedestrians moving in both directions onto a single side of the bike path, greatly increasing the risk of collisions. In other places, it coats the entire pathway with a thin veneer of loose sand, forcing cyclists to traverse a surface that can shift dangerously beneath them, risking a spill if they take a corner too quickly or misjudge an angle.

I’ve used my first aid kit more in the last few months patching up strangers who’ve wiped out on the sand than I have in the last few years.

A small band of sand can cause a bikes wheels to slide dangerously; many are barely visible.

Even more dangerous are the barely visible wisps of sand that spread across many of the path’s curves, threatening to take down any unsuspecting cyclist who happens to overlook such a seemingly insignificant obstacle as they take in the many sights of Venice.

I find myself breaking well before most curves, taking even relatively clear-looking corners slower than I would have earlier in the year on the off-chance that there may be a fine layer of sand I don’t see. But on a bike path frequented by tourists, not many riders have the local knowledge required to anticipate problems like that.

Loose sand makes traction treacherous, especially for narrow-tired bikes and inexperienced riders.

Which means that, sooner or later, you’re going to end up paying for the injuries suffered by a cyclist who looses control and takes a serious spill, or the pedestrian he or she slides into — assuming you’re not the one it happens to. Because even though the state law absolves local governments of any liability for off-road (Class 1) trails, it also requires adequate warning of known hazards.

And if two months worth of sand piled on the bike path isn’t a known hazard, I don’t know what is.

Santa Monica isn't much better; this was taken by the pier.

Of course, a beachfront bike path should imply the presence of sand. But the length and amount of sand, as well as the amount of time it’s been allowed to remain there, goes far beyond any reasonable expectation.

In the past, both the Santa Monica and L.A. sections of the bikeway were swept on a semi-regular basis to keep conditions like this from building up. But this year, budget cutbacks have apparently impacted cleaning operations, making any attempt to clear the path a rarity.

Several cyclists have fallen or crashed into pedestrians attempting to go around this curve.

And on the few occasions when they have tried to clean the sand off, the tool used has been a heavy industrial front loader, rather than the smaller and more efficient Bobcats, sweepers or even hand brooms that have been used in the past.

A front loader may be fine for moving a few tons of sand, but it’s entirely inadequate when it comes to removing the last few layers of sand that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain traction. In fact, it can make the situation worse, as the thin layer of sand a front loader leaves behind is often more dangerous than the thicker layer that was there before.

It’s simply the wrong tool for the job. Like using a pipe wrench to adjust your spokes.

A front loader on its way to yet another attempt to inadequately clear sand off the bike path.

Last week, after riding through Venice, I emailed a city official to say that something had to be done before someone gets seriously hurt. The response I got back said that they were working on it, but having trouble determining exactly what department has jurisdiction for the path.

You’d think that would be an easy question to answer after years of previous maintenance. But maybe that’s the effect of several rounds of staff cutbacks, as the institutional knowledge required to actually run the city is seriously depleted along with its staffing levels.

Evidently, though, they must have figured something out. As I rode back along the path on Wednesday, I passed yet another front loader on the bike path, apparently on its way to another semi-effective attempt to clear the concrete.

You can see the sand left behind by a front loader; notice scrape mark and tire tracks.

I’m not holding my breath.

This weekend marks the busiest time of the year on our local beaches, as tourists and locals alike crowd their way onto a few feet of prime beachfront real estate, competing for space on a thin strand of overly popular concrete.

Will the bike path be ready for them — let alone safe?

I wouldn’t count on it. I also wouldn’t count on it being ready for riding anytime soon afterwards.

Because if they can’t manage to sweep off the sand left behind by a few storms, how are they going to clean up after a few hundred thousand beachgoers?

This is what cleaning with front loaders leaves behind, as shown by the scrape marks; a loose sandy surface that can easily bring a cyclist down.

Summer’s here and the time is right for riding in the streets*

Last week I was a nice guy; yesterday, I was an asshole.

The difference was that the seasons officially changed, June Gloom finally ended and local schools let out for the summer. And that lead to an exponential increase in the number of people on the Santa Monica and Venice portions of the Marvin Braude bike path — the Class 1 bikeway that runs along the beach from Palos Verdes to Pacific Palisades.

And that means it’s time to ride somewhere else for awhile.

From September to May, it’s one of the most pleasant rides in Los Angeles, offering beautiful views, lots of sunshine and no worries about traffic. Even as late as last week, it was still a pleasant place to ride.

As always, pedestrians ignored the faded No Pedestrian and Bicycles Only markings, and walked wherever they wanted. But for the most part, they were considerate of other users, and vice versa, and there weren’t so many that I couldn’t easily ride around them.

As I rode, I came across a young woman who had just fallen off her bike after hitting a patch of sand.

Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt. If she had been, the city could have been liable, because state law requires adequate warning of any hazards along an off-road bike path. And loose sand is a common problem on the bike path, frequently resulting in falls.

She did have a large road rash abrasion on her upper hip, though. So I stopped just long enough to offer an antiseptic wipe and a large bandage from my first aid kit. She and her friends thanked me, and I continued on my way.

Yesterday was a different matter.

The upper section of the path, from Pacific Palisades down to the Santa Monica Pier, was crowded but still ridable. Closer to the pier, though, it was virtually impassible.

Large groups of pedestrians blocked it in both directions, ignoring the yellow line down the middle — as well as the markings indicating they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Some walked their dogs along the path, allowing the leash stretch across the bikeway, which could have been dangerous to me — and fatal to the dog — if I hadn’t seen it. Skaters swerved across the path, oblivious to the presence of anyone else, let alone the warnings blocked out by the earbuds from their iPods.

And tourists raced by on rental recumbents, gawking at the sights and paying no attention to which side of the path they were on. Or whether anyone else was in their way.

In other words, it was not a pleasant ride.

However, the tipping point came when I noticed three young children, all under the age or four or five, riding their tiny bikes and tricycles with no adult supervision.

Personally, I think anyone who leaves their children alone on a crowded bike path is guilty of child endangerment. But hey, that’s just me.

As you might expect, they were all over the place, swerving from one side to the other with total unpredictability, regardless of whether anyone else was occupying that space.

I watched as other people dodged out of their way, some annoyed, others thinking it was cute. But I’ve seen people seriously injured by little kids like that, including an older man who went over his handlebars when a toddler on training wheels drifted across the center line and crashed into his bike.

So I slowed to a crawl as I passed. And concerned for their safety, as well that of those around them, I called out to them to ride carefully.

For that, I was called an asshole.

The woman who said it was part of a group of pedestrians that clogged the better part of the bike path. And she seemed unaware of the irony, as they literally stood on a No Pedestrian symbol, just feet from a separate pedestrian walkway.

Yet somehow, I was the asshole.

It was over a month ago that Steve Lopez of the Times wrote about Santa Monica’s complete lack of enforcement of its own bikeway restrictions. He quoted city officials promising that steps would soon be taken to correct the problem.

It hasn’t happened yet. And I doubt we’ll see it anytime soon.

Or in my lifetime, for that matter.

And yet, the League of American Bicyclists cited this bike path as one of the prime reasons they recently gave Santa Monica a Bronze Award as a Bicycle Friendly City. And local cyclists consider it just one of many reasons why that award was undeserved and should be revoked.

So I’ll stop riding that part of the bike path for another summer, just like I do around this time every year. And yet another bike to the area’s overcrowded streets until school is back in session and the tourist season is over.

And we can once again use it for its intended purpose.

*With apologies to Martha and the Vandellas, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

……….

Streetsblog compares New York’s bike safety PSA with one from our own LADOT. Guess which one puts the blame on bikers? LAist reports the TransoComm will once again take up cycling issues tomorrow, and swears Alta Planning and the LAPD may actually show up this time. A local cyclist relates his recent ride up Mt. Baldy. Bicycle Fixation discusses a recent encounter with a false cycling prophet. LACyclist wrenches his way through C.R.A.N.K. Mob. Speaking of wrenching, Flying Pigeon encounters a rare Shanghai Forever. The governor of Texas decides cyclists don’t need to be safe in his state. The 91 year-old hit-and-run driver who injured 10 Arizona cyclists, leaving one with severe brain damage, gets three years probation — and sues the county for damages the next day. Opus analyzes the cost of wear and tear on the roads for bikes compared to cars and trucks, and Bob Mionske makes the case for cycling insurance. The next phase in Google Maps’ Streetviews is being done by tricycle. Finally, more uncoverage of the World Naked Bike Ride, as cyclists in London and Seattle celebrate the solstice.

A jerk by any other name

Let’s talk about jerks.

I mean, it’s not like there’s any shortage of them around here. Like the one I ran into — almost literally — on the bike path in Venice last week.

Thanks to the winter-time lack of crowds, it was easy to maintain a good head of speed. So I made a point of letting slower riders know I was there before I passed them, and gave them as much clearance as possible when I did. No point in ruining someone else’s day just so I could enjoy mine.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same.

Just as I was rounding a sharp bend in the path and about to swing around couple slower riders — in other words, at the worst possible moment — a cyclist suddenly appeared on my left. No warning, and passing so close that he actually brushed against me as he went by.

Needless to say, I was pissed. But the massive over-the-ear headphones he wore suggested that he wasn’t likely to hear a word of it, so I saved my breath.

Instead, I warned the other riders ahead that I was about to pass. And about the jerk who was also passing them right in front of me.

As it turned out, he wasn’t that much faster than me. So I watched as he passed other riders in the same fashion; at one point, nearly knocking over a young mother riding with a small child on the back of her bike.

And that, in my book, pretty much defines the word “jerk.” Along with several others I’d rather not use right now.

Problem is, to much of the non-riding public — and even some members of the cycling world — such riders are the rule rather than the exception. They see us as a rude, arrogant and lawless band hellbent on obstructing their God-given right to the road, and flaunting every law and courtesy in the process.

And people like him — the ones Bob Mionske calls scofflaw cyclists — offer all the proof they need.

I have another theory.

As far as I’m concerned, a jerk is a jerk. And it doesn’t matter if that jerk is on two wheels or four. Or pushing a shopping cart through a crowded market, for that matter.

Because really, what’s the difference between an aggressive driver who weaves in and out of traffic at high speed, and a cyclist who blows through red lights even in the presence of oncoming traffic?

They both operate as if the law doesn’t apply to them, with total disregard for the havoc they leave in their wake. To people like that, it doesn’t seem to matter if they cause an accident, as long as it doesn’t involve them.

It appears to be exactly the same mentality at work when a driver intentionally cuts off a cyclist, as when a cyclist blows through an intersection and forces everyone else to swerve or brake to avoid him. Or her.

A jerk is a jerk is a jerk.

And while it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.


Evidently, cycling isn’t the only sport with a doping problem. Even Arkansas considers sharrows, so what’s taking L.A. so long? Following Bob Mionske’s final column for Velo News, comes word he’s moving to Bicycling Magazine. A New York writer says bike lanes aren’t the whole solution; you have to learn to ride safely in traffic, tooA Santa Monica columnist, who gave up cycling because it was too dangerous, insists that creating livable streets and making the roads safer for bikes is wrong if it means slowing down traffic, and rails against the “small cadre” of “snarky” “gonzo cyclists” who dare to disagree with him. And finally, a current Santa Monica cyclist sells his Burley bike trailer, only to see it in the pages of People. Welcome to the bike blogosphere, J.

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