Archive for November 30, 2009

What to do when the road rages and bumpers bite — part 1

“Boy, boy, crazy boy, get cool boy! Got a rocket in your pocket, keep coolly cool boy!”— Cool, from West Side Story

On a good day, nothing beats a good ride.

Days when the sun is shining and traffic effortlessly parts to let you glide by. And you find yourself offering a nod and a wave to express your gratitude for the courtesy of others on the road.

And there are the other days.

Days when traffic snarls and tempers flare. When horns become curses and cars are brandished like threats.

In most cases, that’s as far as it goes.

But when steel and glass impact flesh and bone — intentionally or otherwise — how you respond in the first few minutes before and after can go a long way in determining whether you finish your ride. Or whether you have a case.

I was the victim of a road rage attack a few years back, and in retrospect, I did almost everything wrong. Over the next couple days, I’d like to share some of the painful lessons I learned so you’ll know what to do if, God forbid, it ever happens to you.

Maybe you’ll be smarter than I was and find a way out that doesn’t pass through the emergency room. Or lose your case before it starts.

Let’s start with those precious few minutes before the impact, when there’s still time to de-escalate and find an exit strategy — or at least find a way to protect yourself and your legal rights.

Ride courteously

Let’s face it. There are hotheads on the road. A driver might be mad because he had a fight with his significant other. Maybe he’s an aggressive driver who doesn’t want to share the road. Or maybe he — or in this case, she — is just a bike-hating jerk. How you react to them can go a long way in determining whether that anger gets directed towards you. So always ride courteously. And if you see signs that a driver may be angry or acting in an aggressive manner, try to give them a very wide berth.

Ride legally

I won’t to tell you how to ride. But I will make one simple point: As Bob Mionske observed, whether or not you obey traffic laws could determine whether you have a legal case in the event of a collision or road rage incident. Simply put, if you run a stop sign or red light, or fail to signal a turn or lane change, chances are, you will be found at least partially at fault regardless of what the driver may have done.

And not just during the incident; police and lawyers will look for anyone who may have seen you riding in the miles and weeks leading up to the incident. So the red light you blew through half an hour before, or even last week, may be used to show that you probably didn’t stop at the stop sign when you got hit — even if, as in my case, the physical evidence shows you did. It may not be fair, but that’s the world we live in.

Keep your fingers to yourself

It’s a bad habit, one I’ve struggled to break with limited success. Unlike drivers, we don’t have horns to express our fear and anger, so it only seems natural to flip off someone who’s just cut you off or threatened your safety in some way. The problem is, it doesn’t work. I’ve never seen anyone respond to a rude gesture with an apology; instead, it only escalates the situation. At best, they may ignore you or respond in kind; at worst, it gives an angry driver a reason to retaliate.

And never, ever flip off a driver behind you.

Let dangerous drivers pass

You have a right to the road, no less than anyone with a motor and four wheels. And you have every right to take the lane when the situation warrants it; drivers are legally required to follow or pass safely. But just because it’s the law doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to do. So the question becomes whether it’s better to stay where you are and fight for your right to the road, or pull over and let the driver — and the situation — pass.

Before my road rage incident, I would have stayed right where I was and held the lane. But I’ve learned the hard way that cars are bigger than I am, and they hurt. So when you find an angry driver on your ass, pull over and let the jerk pass. Then take down the license number, pull out your cell phone and call the police.

Snap a photo

Your camera phone may be one of the most important safety tools you own; I keep mine within easy reach in a Topeak case attached just behind my handlebars. When tempers flare, simply pull it out and snap a photo of the other person, as well as the license of their vehicle. Instantly, you’ve established a record of the incident and documented the identity of the driver — destroying the sense of anonymity that allows most violent acts to occur.

I’ve used mine on a number of occasions. And in every case, the driver has backed down and driven away.

Next: What to do after a collision


The real surprise isn’t that the Times has covered CicLAvia twice; it’s that they’ve finally discovered Midnight Ridazz and Critical Mass. Flying Pigeon demands a bike-friendly North Fig, just like the original bike plan draft called for. Oceanside’s San Louis Rey River Trail is growing, while Glendale is abut to get new bike lanes. Speaking of which, it seems better signage makes for better bikeways. Colorado makes it illegal to text behind the wheel. Here’s one problem L.A. cyclists seldom have to deal with. A Wisconsin drunk driving case finally comes to trial. If a Utah cyclist becomes fender-fodder, he hopes it’s a legislator behind the wheel. Famed frame builder Dave Moultan writes about a Brit cyclist whose 1939 mileage should give Will Campbell a new target for next year. The Mounties may not always get their man, but they did recover a lot of bikes. Finally, after railing against Lycra Louts, the British Press discovers the dangers of iPod Zombies.

Special Thanksgiving edition open comments

L.A. cyclists have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Like a new police chief and a department who are finally starting to hear our complaints. Along with an extension of the comment period for the new bike plan. And yesterday’s perfect weather that had me watching other cyclists with envy on the way to Thanksgiving dinner.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to have time to write about it, since I’ll be on the run all weekend. Including risking my life by going to Target on Black Friday to pick up a few toys for next week’s El Niño Toy Ride.

So let’s try an experiment.

Rather than go dark all weekend, I’m going to open this up to your comments. Just click on the Reply link below and say anything you want, on any bike topic.

Have a bike to sell or want to report a stolen bike? Have a complaint or high praise for someone? Got some news? As long as it’s even vaguely bike-related and relatively inoffensive, it stays.

Maybe we’ll even get an update from our colorful Kiwi correspondent, as he joins hordes of the spandex-clad in overrunning a small New Zealand town.

So comment away. I’ll try to add some links later this evening.

And if you like it, maybe we’ll make this a regular weekend thing.


Metro is looking for volunteers to for a study of the Orange Line and it’s bikeway. The first entry in the challenge to write an intro to LA’s best bike plan. A Brea woman converts her spare change into bikes for Marine families at Camp Pendleton. Bike Oven and Flying Pigeon host the city’s first bike corral. Pierce Brosnan and sons bike through the ‘Bu. San Diego cyclists install a ghost bike for the killed in recent collision with a police vehicle. A Visalia driver is killed after striking a cyclist, then crashing into a tree. San Francisco finally gets the go ahead to begin work on its long-standing bikeway projects. Bikers and ranchers collide in Colorado’s backcountry. A Kentucky cyclist is just thankful to be alive this year. Now you, too, can have a holder for your decaf Venti Carmel Macciato during your commute. Finally, an award-winning VW ad suggests it’s the ideal car for dooring cyclists.

Do the right thing December 6th — the El Niño Toy Ride for the children of St. Anne’s

In Spike Lee’s classic movie, they told him to do the right thing. But no one could seem to figure out just what that was.

I think I can answer that.

You see, when I got home from my ride today, I found an email waiting from yet another friend I’ve never met; a reader who’s been kind enough to steer my attention to a few things I might have missed otherwise.

This one included.

As Patrick put it,

I don’t know the first thing about the LA Greensters, but, as vice-chair of the board, I am well familiar with St. Anne’s and the great things they do for the young women and their children in the Rampart district and beyond.  If you could find space on your blog for a mention, it could help brighten a few more Christmas mornings.

Who could resist an invitation like that?

So I clicked on the attached link, and found myself reading about next month’s El Niño (para las niñas) Toy Ride, sponsored by LA Greensters — a group of cyclists committed to creating a more sustainable model for the film industry.

And the more I read, the more I was moved — and the more I agreed that this is something you’d want to know about.

You see, for over 100 years, St. Anne’s has helped local women, children and families in need, dealing with issues like teen pregnancy and parenting, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and homelessness among adolescents.

But recently, they got some bad news.

The toys they were counting on for their annual Christmas Party wouldn’t be coming, after all. Which meant that 150 children wouldn’t get gifts this year.

At least, that’s where things stood until the big-hearted people at LA Greensters found out about the situation and decided to do something about it.

Now they need your help.

On Sunday, December 6th, they’re inviting cyclists to meet them at the Red Line Metro Station at Santa Monica and Vermont at 1 pm for an easy, family-oriented ride to St. Anne’s. And they’re asking you to bring along an unwrapped toy or other gift appropriate for children:

Everyone is encouraged to bring along an unwrapped toy or gift for children ages 0-17. We can arrange to pick up gifts and/or money donations before the ride if you cannot attend or wish to make a larger donation. If your toys are too big or too heavy for you to carry on the ride we are equipped to haul these items for you. All donations are fully tax deductible and a letter of acknowledgment will be sent to you from St. Anne’s a 501 (c)3 organization.

I know this has been a hard year for all of us. Myself included.

But I can’t think of anything that would make me more proud of this city’s cyclists than for a thousand cyclists to show up for the ride bearing so many gifts that the children of St. Anne’s can have a holiday they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Maybe even enough that the sisters of St. Annes can pass them along to other organizations in need.

And they’ll have the generosity of the cycling community to thank for it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to join in. But I am going to stretch my budget to make room for a few toys I hadn’t planned buying on this year. So if the Greensters want to swing by and pick them up next week, just let me know when.

For all your corporate types out there, this is a great opportunity for your company to make a donation that will really make a difference. Or if you’re outside the L.A. area and want to help, I’m sure they’ll take a check.

For the rest of us, it only takes one small toy to put a smile on a child’s face. So do what you can. And pass this page, or the link to the LA Greenster’s Facebook page, along to everyone you know.

Because this is a chance to open your heart and do the right thing.

And for once, you don’t have to be Spike Lee to figure out what that is.


LACBC catches the new Chief’s ear, and gets a promise to address the problem of bike thefts, assaults and harassment against cyclists. Joe Linton does the math, and discovers that L.A.’s new bike plan calls for just 28 — yes, 28 — new miles of bike lanes; Dr. Alex says cyclist could have gotten more for our money if the plan had been created on a compost powered laptop. Flying Pigeon celebrates the Gold Line extension by offering a same-day discount to anyone who rides it. Acomprehensive regional transit plan for Los Angeles; too bad it’s 60 years old. Even though state law requires that bikes have equal access to every street, DWP still offers separate but unequal access to the annual Holiday Light Festival. Writing on Bike Lawyer Bob Mionske’s blog, Rick Bernardi discusses police enforcement of a non-existent law against riding two-abreast in Redondo Beach. Cities for Cycling will attempt to improve road design standards to include cyclists and pedestrians. Shoot a cyclist with a gun, get 120 days in county lockup; shoot a car with a pellet gun, get over three years in state prison. The next time a driver complains that cyclists don’t pay our shareof road fees, show them this. Indianapolis forgives tickets for commuters who ride park trails before or after posted hours. In an interesting tactic, a Toronto cyclist takes the city before the labor relations board, claiming the streets aren’t safe for working commuters. The Department of DIY opens a branch in London’s East End. Finally, yesterday was a difficult day for cyclists; here in Westwood, at 9th and La Brea, and in the Windy — and rainy — City (love that headline, Dottie).

How to respond when the police won’t

Last week, Charlie Beck was sworn in as L.A.’s new police chief.

In his remarks afterwards, he made it clear that he planned to continue departmental reforms established by departing chief William Bratton. As the Times reported later that day,

Beck made his own presentation, saying his top goal was to extend the reforms begun by Bratton and move them down into the rank and file of the department. He said he would concentrate on continuing reforms Bratton introduced into the mind-set of the thousands of officers who are the heart of the organization.

“Now is the time to push down into the patrol cars,” Beck said of the reforms, adding that this effort would be the “hallmark of my leadership.”

He may have some work to do.

As you may recall, last week I wrote about a second-hand report that a cyclist had trouble reporting a road rage incident to police. And the surprising responsiveness from a couple of high-ranking officers who looked into the situation.

But since then, I’ve gotten more reports from cyclists who said they’ve had problems with the LAPD, from reporting incidents with drivers to the failure of some officers to adequately enforce — or understand — the law regarding bikes on the streets.

Most surprising were two separate cases in which patrol officers said the cyclists were at fault because they were riding — wait for it — with traffic. Yes, they were blamed by police officers for riding in the direction that safety, common sense and the law requires.

If there was ever any question that police don’t receive adequate training in bicycle law (see #8) — here in L.A. and around the nation — that should put it to rest once and for all.

Then there was this email from a cyclist named Iain.

He wrote about a couple of incidents in which he had trouble getting the police to accept a report, including one in which he was run off the road by a car. When the driver refused to exchange insurance information after he finally caught up to it several blocks later, he rode to a nearby police station to file a hit-and-run report.

According to Iain, the officer at the desk was sympathetic, but didn’t know what to do because he hadn’t received any training in that area (see above):

He decided to call West Traffic to get clarification, and the officer that answered the phone told him that the LAPD does not take reports involving cyclists.  I asked for a supervisor, who was quite upset to hear that I was told this, but was unable to figure out which officer had transferred the call.  This time, they took the report.

As the Lieutenant pointed out last week, how a police officer responds depends on how well the victim communicates what happened — as well as how the officer interprets the applicable laws and regulations.

But it’s very troubling that two Westside cyclists have said they were told that the LAPD “does not accept reports involving cyclists.”

Fortunately, they both did the right thing.

Following the officer’s refusal to take a report, each rider asked to speak to a supervisor. And in each case, the supervisor overruled the initial refusal and agreed to file a report.

In a follow-up email, the Lieutenant agreed.

In regards to the handling of an investigation, any community member can request to speak to a supervisor if they feel their situation is not being handled properly.  The supervisor will come in and access the situation and intervene when necessary to correct a mistake, explain the officer(s) action/Department policy, or initiate a complaint investigation.

He went on to address how riders should respond when confronted with a threatening situation or an altercation with a driver:

My advice to your readers is to try and take the higher road. Understand the rules of the road and ride within the guidelines of the Vehicle Code. If they are a victim of a crime they should report it. If they witness unsafe driving, they can report it to the Bureau Traffic Division. Keep in mind that if the traffic unit responds to an area and sees the bicyclist riding in an unsafe manner, they could also be subject to a citation.

In other words, the knife cuts both ways.

So before you call the police, make sure it’s really the other guy who’s breaking the law.


Celebrate Thanksgiving by riding the Seven Hills of Mar Vista. Here’s your chance to write the introduction to L.A.’s alternative D.I.Y. bike plan. Damien Newton offers advice on confronting L.A.’s bike theft epidemic. Friday Night Lights at the San Jose Velodrome. The nine driving habits that annoy cyclists the most. An Austin teenager is under arrest for shooting a cyclist with a pellet gun, in a case reminiscent of last year’s attack on PCH. On the subject of intentional assaults, a Miami cyclist was injured in an intentional hit-and-run. The driver who killed two tandem riders in Texas, orphaning their 7-year old daughter, says it really wasn’t his fault. No, really. A New Haven safe cycling advocate gets hit by a car. If you’re going to crash your bike, don’t hit a police car. The biking bassist for the Canadian band Sloan discusses his recent hit-and-run collision. Bangalore school kids go bike. Finally, a Santa Cruz writer opposes a Class 1 bikeway through an environmentally sensitive habit, in part because speeding cyclists would endanger dog walkers, small children and all the other people who aren’t supposed to use it.

Build your own DIY bike plan next Saturday, and today’s missing links

The official comment period may be over, but work on the city’s new bike plan isn’t.

Next Saturday, November 28, you can escape all those mounds of leftover Turkey — or Tofurkey, depending on your inclinations — while you help build a better a better bike plan at the Bike Working Group III at the Hollywood Adventist Church, 1711 N. Van Ness Ave:

The LA Bike Plan is in shambles. Point to a page and there’s a flaw, something missing, or just a careless error.

That’s why we’re creating our own bike plan. LA’s Best Bike Plan – for cyclists, by cyclists!

Join us Saturday, November 28th, at 1pm to continue that quest. The lonely souls who didn’t travel for Thanksgiving will be crafting the future of Los Angeles!

We’ll start with maps and markers – we’ll mark off a “Backbone Bikeway Network” that can get a cyclist from one region of LA to another, quickly and safely. We’ll persuade, share, and cajole until we’ve got a consensus, or nearly so, on what we need to connect all parts of LA by bike.

Then we’ll move on to look at some chapter introductions for the Best Bike Plan.

Come out and get involved in shaping LA’s future!

And along those lines, the petition I linked to on Wednesday urging UCLA’s Chancellor to implement the university’s 2006 Bike Master Plan is limited to staff, faculty and graduates. Thanks to commenter Herbie Huff for pointing out there’s a petition the rest of us can sign calling for better bike access to the UCLA campus in the city’s new bike plan. You’ll find my name at #179.

So what are you waiting for?


After running two teenage cyclists off the road, an Escondido driver stops — then drives off after learning they were  injured. Bakersfield says the bike path belongs to everyone. San Jose plans to reduce car lanes to add another 200 miles of bike lanes. Austin, TX is about to get its first 16-block bike boulevard. A day in the life of Chicago bike lanes. A firefighter in North Carolina gets 120 days for shooting at a cyclist, and barely missing. A Massachusetts driver hits a cyclist and drags him and his bike under her car for another 300 yards. Are you really shocked to learn cyclists inhale twice as much dirty air as drivers? Google may soon add biking directions on their route to world domination. Yes, this sign means you have to stop, too. England swings like a pendulum do, bobbies — once again — on bicycles two by two (with apologies to England, bobbies and Roger Miller). Also from the UK, the Guardian puts the dangers of anti-social cycling in perspective. Kazakhstan pledges $22 million to rescue the now Lance and Bruyneel-less Astana cycling team. Finally, from the department of superfluous redundancy, in a clear attempt to target fixed-gear bikes, a Philadelphia councilman proposes a $1000 fine or immediate confiscation of any bike without brakes — yet fails to comprehend that a fixie is a brake.

A more responsive LAPD confirms: We do take road rage reports seriously

Today’s story has two heroes.

Both wear blue. And both reflect the courtesy, support and responsiveness this city deserves from its police department. Yet which so many cyclists have learned not to expect, based on their own experiences.

Myself included.

Both are unidentified here, after requesting anonymity — something I will honor to keep them from getting swamped by cyclists seeking high-level help. And to keep that channel open for the next time.

The story begins last week, when I got a second-hand report that a local cyclist had been threatened in a road rage incident, and that the LAPD had refused to take a report about it.

By itself, that would be disturbing enough.

Too many cyclists encounter angry drivers on the roads as it is; if we can’t count on police protection, they might as well declare open season on anyone on two wheels. But it was especially troubling in light of the Mandeville Canyon case, in which prior incidents involving Dr. Christopher Thompson established the pattern of behavior that led to his conviction.

Even if there’s nothing the police can do, having a record of such complaints could establish a paper trail that might eventually lead to another prosecution. Because chance are, Thompson isn’t the only driver willing to use a car to threaten, intimidate or injure another human being.

As a result, I wanted to find if it really was LAPD policy not to take road rage reports from cyclists. So I reached out to Bicycle Advisory Committee Chairman Glenn Bailey, who suggested that I contact one of the top commanders at the new police headquarters downtown.

I sent an email explaining who I was, what I had heard, and asking for clarification about the department’s policies regarding road rage incidents. And then I moved on with my day, assuming I’d be lucky to get a response within a week. Or ever.

To my surprise, though, I received an email half an hour later asking for more information. And within two hours, I had phone messages waiting for me from the Commander, as well as a Lieutenant he had asked to look into the matter.

Both were very helpful when I returned their calls. The Commander, especially, was surprisingly friendly for such a high-ranking officer. Unfortunately, they both agreed that there was nothing they could tell me without more information.

I told them I was trying to get in touch with the rider involved, and would get back to them as soon as I knew more. And hung up the phone, fully expecting to never hear from either of them again.

A few days later, though, I got an email from the cyclist, who confirmed much of what I’d heard and agreed to talk with the Lieutenant.

(In light of the Thompson case, in which Patrick Watson’s emails were subpoenaed by the defense, I agreed not to disclose his name or any details of the incident.)

I forwarded his phone number to the Lieutenant. Later that day, I heard back from both of them that they had spoken, and the matter had been satisfactorily resolved.

The Lieutenant went on to explain that no one at the department had refused to take a report, and that it is police policy to take any road rage case seriously — but that what constitutes road rage can be subject to interpretation.

For instance, if a driver yells at a cyclist to get off the road, it probably wouldn’t merit police involvement. But if the driver uses his vehicle to threaten or attack a rider, they want to know about it.

And he assured me that they will take it very seriously.

Without going into specific detail on this case, he added that miscommunication sometimes occurs because the people involved are highly excited in the heat of the moment, and may have trouble communicating exactly what happened. Police officers are trained to calm them down and get the information they need, he said — but some officers are better at it than others.

When this rider was able to explain more clearly what had happened, it was clear that a crime may have occurred. As a result, the case will be investigated by a detective as an Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

He also gave me some advice on what to do if you find yourself in a situation like this — which I’ll try to get to in another post next week.

Bottom line, the cyclist was satisfied with the result. And I was pleasantly surprised, not only that such high-ranking officers would respond, but that they would take the time to investigate the situation and keep me in the loop every step of the way.

The Lieutenant also added one final thought, which I’ll let him explain in his own words from a follow-up email:

Finally, the Department is continuously evaluating its operations in our attempts to improve.  We are looking at ways to better educate the community and the Department employees on bike safety issues and traffic accident prevention.  In order to develop a comprehensive plan to minimize to the risks to bicyclists we will need their input and cooperation.

Maybe things really are getting better.


On a related note, Asst. D.A. Mary Stone, prosecutor in the Thompson case, has requested letters from cyclists to present to the judge next Monday prior to Thompson’s sentencing. Will Campbell offers his letter as an example; you can see additional letters on Streetsblog, as well as Damien Newton’s advice on how to structure your letter.

What do two Nobel Laureates know that L.A.’s Mayor doesn’t?

A loaded question, I know.

Earlier this week, I received an email from the UCLA Bicycle Academy calling attention to a recent open letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, along with a petition in support of UCLA’s 2006 Bicycle Master Plan:

The petition asks the Chancellor to ensure the implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan from 2006, which demands improvements on the routes to campus; to address potential conflicts between income from car parking and bicycle encouragement, and to make sure that commuting cyclists are closely involved in all decision making on campus. The UCLA Bicycle Academy would like to see an independent Bicycle Bureau on Campus, with increased authority to support and encourage cycling. Members are currently compiling bicycle accident statistics on the approaches to campus.

Among the initial signers were two Nobel Laureates — Louis Ignarro, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, and Paul Boyer, awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize for Chemistry as well as the 1998 UCLA Medal. Along with a long list of other respected professors and staff members.

Now contrast that with the City of Los Angeles, which still hasn’t implemented its last bike plan, either.

The one from 1996.

In fact, of the 288 miles of new bike lanes called for in that plan, L.A. has striped just 37 miles. Combined with a handful of new lanes that weren’t in the plan, that means the city has added just 4.5 miles of Class II bike lanes a year.

4.5 miles.

Add to that 13 miles of Class I off-road bike paths — one per year — and one lonely mile of Class III bike routes. This despite research that shows dedicated bike lanes, routes and off-road paths present the lowest risk of cycling injuries.

Yet somehow, they expect us to support the new 2009 Bike Plan that replaces it — a plan that is almost universally considered a significant step back.

And that’s the problem. Because it’s hard to get excited about any plan — good, bad or otherwise — when you have little expectation that it will ever get built.

Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks that. Virtually every response I’ve seen calls for benchmarks for the implementation of the plan, or requires that key measures be completed within a few years.

Which sounds reasonable, until you consider that New York recently built 200 miles of bike lanes in just three years. Or about 140 miles more than L.A. has managed with a 10-year head start.

And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Even if this plan were to somehow win universal support — something else that’s not likely to happen anytime soon — it will be dead in the water without support from the people who matter and have the power to move it from paper to paint.

Which in this city means L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson. Neither of whom has, to the best of my knowledge, made any commitment to support — let alone implement — the plan once it’s approved.

This despite the fact that it is, in effect, their plan, since it was produced by Alta Planning in conjunction with LADOT. And LADOT reports directly to the mayor.

It’s not like there aren’t some good things in the new plan.

I like idea of a collector system made up of Bike Friendly Streets, although a lot depends on exactly what that term ends up meaning.  And there’s a nifty little bike bridge hidden in the plan that would connect the Ballona Creek bikeway with Playa Vista — something that would have made bike commuting a more viable alternative when I was freelancing there last year.

There’s also a lot of room for improvement. Like considering every street a street that cyclists will ride, and making the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights — as written — an integral part of the plan. And calling for police officers to receive a minimum of eight hours of education in cyclists rights, laws and practical bike training.

Then again, I can’t argue with the cyclist at last month’s West L.A. Bike Plan meeting who said he’d give up everything else in the plan for just one good route from Santa Monica to Downtown.

But none of it matters without a firm commitment from the mayor and LADOT to support, build and fund it — at a fraction of the cost of the of the planned Subway to the Sea. Let alone the other 11 transit projects Mayor Villaraigosa has committed to building in the next 10 years.

So I’ll offer His Honor a challenge. If he’ll commit to supporting the final plan, I will, too. However flawed or incomplete it may end up being.

And I’ll commit to riding it once it’s built.

After all, combined with the other transit plans, this is his opportunity to transform the face of Los Angeles transportation, and leave this city a far more livable place than he found it — along with building a legacy that could provide a stepping stone to higher office.

And it shouldn’t take a Nobel Laureate to see the value in that.


C.I.C.L.E. plans to change the face of biking in NELA. The Daily Trojan says lax police enforcement only encourages a freewheeling attitude among campus cyclists. According to Damien Newton, there’s more at stake in L.A.’s Measure R debate than just bike and pedestrian issues, while Stephen Box say the truth is getting lost in the feeding frenzy. Flying Pigeon thinks about bikes at Habeas Lounge. Cycling Lawyer Bob Mionske discusses legalized injustice in bicycle/car collisions. Evidently, a bike doesn’t make a good getaway vehicle on icy Denver streets. Proof that it’s not just drivers who can be jerks — a hit-and-run a**hole cyclist mows down a five year old boy. What would you do if you saw bike thieves in action? Philadelphia considers mandatory bike registration and confiscating brakeless bikes, while the police crack down on aggressive cyclists after two pedestrians are killed. Finally, car lobbyists blame bike lanes for congestion in downtown Budapest, insisting that cyclists can ride just as easily in the traffic lanes.

So this is how the Lone Ranger feels

It was one of those days.

A Monday in the most pejorative sense, from the time I got up this morning. One of those days when the best laid plans work out no better for mice, or at least, we can assume, than they do men — i.e., me.

I spent the morning gazing wistfully out the window as my planned riding time came and went, along with one of the most spectacular mornings we’ve seen in ages.

I finally managed to wrap up my obligations and get out on the road about the same time most of L.A. was making its way back from lunch. Fortunately, the day still had a lot to offer, even as I mentally sliced one leg after another off of my planned route to get back home in time to resume working and make dinner.

Then again, I tend to believe things happen for a reason.  And as I rode through a parking lot along the beach, that reason soon became apparent.

A couple of women cyclists were stopped in the middle of the parking lot, their bikes on the ground, with one wheel in a state of disassemble. So I pulled up next to them and asked if they needed anything; once they assured me everything was under control, I continued on my way.

As I looped around the lot and came back around the other side, though, they flagged me down to see if I had an extra air cartridge. Being the old school type I am, I offered them my pump, instead.

When the tire lever they were using snapped, I loaned them mine. Then when tube they had put on wouldn’t hold air, I reached into my bike bag and pulled out my spare. And when the woman fixing the flat had trouble getting the tire back on the rim, I offered my assistance.

Unfortunately, her problems went far beyond a bad tube; her tire was shot, a section of the rim separated from the bead. So I patched it up as best I could, and we gave her directions to the nearest bike shop.

Meanwhile, I got to enjoy a conversation with a couple of very pleasant riders. There are certainly worse ways to spend a day.

And I was impressed that a couple of other riders stopped to make sure everything was okay. Although the fact that I was in the company of two attractive female cyclists may have had something to do with it.

The one with the flat offered to replace my tube for me. Instead, I suggested that she pass it on to someone else when the opportunity presents itself.

Then we all went our separate ways. Three strangers, one who needed help and two who’d stopped to offer it.

And I rode back home in a far better mood than I had left in.


LACBC urges everyone to attend tomorrow’s Transportation Committee meeting to fight for a share of Measure R funds for bikes and pedestrians. The woman who successfully transformed New York’s bike system will be the Keynote speaker for next year’s bike summit. The County Sherrif’s Department will hold this year’s Tour of Altadena Bike Ride on December 5th. With so much talk about the new bike plan, C.I.C.L.E. offers a workshop on biking infrastructure and creating great places to ride. Damien Newton calls for a bike network to support the new Gold Line extension. Travelin’ Local looks at bike sharing at UC Irvine. Santa Maria considers their own bike master plan. Minneapolis studies the causes of bike/car collisions; failure to yield — for both — tops the list. South Dakota considers a three foot passing law. Coming soon to a theater near you: a bike messenger action thriller. A U.S. group ships thousands of unwanted bikes to developing countries, while the Los Angeles St. Louis Rams donate 275 bikes to local children — including 22 therapeutic bikes for special needs kids. Philadelphia tells rogue cyclists to stop. Even dolls are getting into the Cycle Chic movement. Brits are up in arms over a new guide for bike cops, which among other things, tells them to not to tackle a suspect while still “engaged with the bike.” Also in the UK, complaints about dangerous cyclists on the sidewalks. Finally, U.S. bike thieves are using Craigslist to sell your bike one part at a time, while in Denmark, insurance companies are part of the problem.

And as an aside to our Kiwi correspondent, congratulation on your local footballers qualifying for the World Cup. See you in South Africa (metaphorically speaking, of course, since I’ll be watching on TV).

Have the police responded when you’ve reported a crime?

Just a quick question this morning.

Lately I’ve heard 2nd and 3rd-hand reports from cyclists complaining that police officers may have failed to respond appropriately to various incidents involving cyclists, ranging from road rage to reports of stolen bikes. Not a lot complaints, but enough to raise the question of how seriously they may be taking bike-related crimes.

If you’ve had a recent incident in which you tried to file a report with the LAPD or another local police department and they didn’t respond in what you felt was an appropriate manner, let me know. Or if you received a good response, let me know that, as well.

You can respond by leaving a comment here, or email me directly at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

As Twain – or was it Disraeli? — suggested, statistics can be used to support virtually any argument, valid or not.

And often, both sides of the same argument.

For instance, numerous New York publications and organizations have used a recent Hunter College study to support their contention that cyclists in the city are a bunch of dangerous, out-of-control scofflaws.

They cite statistics showing that 37% of New York cyclists didn’t stop at red lights, while another 28.7% stopped briefly before going through the light. And that 13% rode the wrong way, against the flow of traffic.

Sounds pretty damning.

But look at it another way, and it shows that 63% of cyclists did stop at red lights, and less than half of those continued through after determining it was safe to proceed. And an overwhelming 87% of cyclists did not ride the wrong way, despite the city’s numerous one-way streets.


I relied on them on the AirTalk program the other day to rebut the popular contention that all cyclists run red lights — citing the Hunter College study, as well as studies from London and Melbourne that each showed a compliance rate of well over 80%.

Other studies allowed me to show that cyclists aren’t the only ones who break the law, such as over a third of drivers routinely run stop signs in residential areas and seven out of 10 drivers exceed the speed limit.

Of course, the validity of the statistics depends on the quality of the research. And like Schroedinger’s Cat, the results can depend on the observer.

For instance, a study by the California Highway Patrol showed that cyclists were at fault in 60% of collisions, while research by a Toronto professor said cyclists were at fault less than 10% of the time. Cyclists would argue that the CHP study offers proof of bias in investigating bicycling accidents; drivers would contend that the Toronto professor’s interpretation of the data was biased because he is a cyclist himself.

I’ve often struggled to find valid statistics for cycling in Los Angeles — like how many people in L.A. ride bikes, what routes are most popular, where they would ride if more people felt safer on the streets, what percentage observe stop signals, and how much cyclists contribute to the local economy.

With over 40 universities in Los Angeles County — including a number of world-class research institutes — it should be easy for the LACBC or the LADOT to find one willing to help design and conduct a study that would answer those questions, and countless more. And give us a detailed picture of where we are now and where we need to go.

Of course, some baby steps have been taken. Earlier this year, the LACBC called on volunteers to conduct the city’s first bike count, establishing a baseline we can use to measure further growth in ridership.

Local cyclists are anxiously awaiting the results — some with rapidly diminishing patience, if my emails are any indication.

Now Alexis Lantz, a Master’s student in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning — and an intern with the LACBC — is conducting a cycling survey on behalf of the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative.

It may not give us all the answers we want. But it could provide a good snapshot of how and why we ride.

You can find it by clicking here. Participation is limited to Los Angeles residents over the age of 18, and the deadline is December 15th.

So why not take few moments to complete the survey?

I just did.


Westwood is about to get its own Neighborhood Council; could a bikeway through the LA Country Club be far behind? Westwood is also home to a new student bike group, the UCLA Bicycle Coalition. SoCal’s wayfaring bike couple pedal through Yosemite — and they have the breathtaking photos to prove it. Speaking of photos, who knew a Missouri sky could look so good? Now that the Gold Line extension is open, you’ll need a place to park your bike. Maybe you missed Mr. and Mrs. Cindy Crawford riding along the beach last weekend. A Cupertino cyclist is killed in an apparent right hook or left cross. San Francisco wants to know where you ride, and they’ve got just the app to do it. Would stricter penalties help protect vulnerable road users? If you’re riding with an Easton EA30 stem, get off the bike and stop riding now; then again, if you’re riding now, you shouldn’t be reading this. For a change, the Feds want to increase bike and pedestrian funding. Coming soon: your very own I Pay Road Tax jersey. Finally, the most stirring eight minutes of bicycling video you’re likely to see today. And the music’s not bad, either.

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