A PCH cyclist speaks out on safety and the proposed Malibu bike crackdown

Recently, I received an in-depth email from Stanley E. Goldich about the proposed crackdown on supposedly scofflaw cyclists on PCH in Malibu.

Goldich, a Century City attorney and member of Velo Club LaGrange, offered his take on road conditions and safety considerations in the Malibu area. He points out that his observations are based on his own personal experience of riding thousands of miles per year on PCH, both solo and on group rides, as well as regularly climbing Latigo, Mulholland and other canyons in Malibu over the past 20+ years.

It’s definitely worth reading all the way through to get a real picture of the problems facing cyclists on PCH.

1.   When Malibu officials cite safety as a reason to target cyclists, it is baseless and offensive to those of us who have had friends killed by motorists while bike riding. While the deaths are almost always a result of negligent or reckless motorists and none of the deaths have involved running of stop signs or lights by the cyclists, in every instance this has occurred, people write letters shedding crocodile tears while suggesting that cyclists are asking for it and falsely tying the deaths to running of stop signs by cyclists.

2.  Bicyclists do NOT cause safety issues for others on PCH, and in most instances are the victims of unsafe driving and road conditions. Cyclists on PCH also ride on a shoulder that is not always adequate and do not get to share the road in any meaningful way .

3.  The opinions expressed by Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellum in her letter to the Malibu Times are at best misguided and uninformed.  Incredibly, two of her three justifications for a crackdown on cyclists riding on PCH are (i) cyclists running stop signs, and (ii) cyclists riding 3 abreast in violation of the law. PCH and Latigo do not even have stop signs, and virtually no cyclists ride on Corral (which I have been told also does not have stop signs). There is also no law against cyclists riding next to each other in the shoulder.

(Editors note: there’s no law against riding two or more abreast in California, as long as the riders aren’t obstructing traffic; the standard for obstruction is five or more vehicles following behind and unable to pass.)

Moreover, one of the reasons cyclists ride in groups is to increase their visibility, which actually furthers safety for everyone. In addition, cyclists riding in pacelines on PCH generally ride 2 abreast, and the bigger pacelines are generally traveling North early in the morning when traffic is lighter.

4.  In fact, the dangers on PCH are caused by (i) inattentive, negligent and reckless motorists and (ii) unsafe road conditions on the shoulder where cyclists ride, due to problems that include construction work, debris, illegal parking and parking where there is not an adequate shoulder.

– The recent PCH taskforce report cited speeding, unsafe lane changes and improper turning as the primary causes of accidents.

– Two other major safety issues that affect everyone involve (i) people using their cellphones and texting while driving and (ii) dangerous road conditions caused by construction with inadequate warnings and lack of adequate consideration for the safety of cyclists. Debra Goldsmith’s death on Palisades Drive in 2001 was caused by a woman dialing on her cell phone.  Scott Bleifer, 41, of Santa Monica, and Stanislov Ionov, 46, of Calabasas, were killed in 2005 after being hit by a catering truck at a construction site at the Jewish Center on PCH that blocked the shoulder, by a driver who said he did not hit his brakes because they were cooking (illegally) in the back and the hot water would have spilled.

– Other safety issues involve (i) road rage incidents by drivers who simply don’t want cyclists using their roads (this is what occurred in the widely reported incident on Mandeville resulting in the conviction of Dr. Thompson for assault with a deadly weapon and 3 other felony counts), (ii) motorists, particularly buses, trucks and motor homes who pass cyclists far too closely (often when the left lane is clear), and (iii) drivers in parked cars who open doors or pull out without looking.

–  Another safety issue, as well as a cause of traffic jams, involves hazardous parking where vehicles stick out into the right hand lane. This regularly occurs on Sundays in the summer on the Southbound side of PCH past the Getty/Coastline.

–   The lack of shoulders in certain sections is also a fundamental safety issue that has not been adequately addressed for years. One section on the Southbound side of PCH between Sunset and Temescal was finally repaired after many years. This has enabled cyclists to stay on the shoulder and not get in the traffic lane, resulting in a significant improvement in safety and traffic flow as cyclists no longer need to go into the right hand land.

5.  Real safety improvements could readily be achieved by enforcing existing parking restrictions on PCH and banning parking by vehicles on the side of the road unless there is still adequate space for a bike to ride past without the risk of being doored or having to move into the right hand lane. Other safety enhancements include keeping debris off the shoulder so cyclists do not need to veer out on the road, as well as enabling cyclists to get past construction zones without requiring them to go on the roadway, and requiring better markings and slower speeds where this is not possible.

6.  Running of stop signs where stop signs exist does violate the law, but is not a safety issue for motorists or (with very rare exceptions) cyclists. In fact, Idaho has permitted cyclists to roll thru stop signs for 27 years, as long as they slow to a reasonable speed, and a stop is only required for safety. Other states have similarly considered legislation permitting cyclists to treat stop signs as yields, and many public officials in many other parts of the country — including in LA — are making true efforts to improve safety that do not target or attack cyclists who are NOT putting motorists in cars and trucks many times their size in any danger.

7.  The safety concerns of cyclists are much greater than those of motorists due to our significantly greater vulnerability, and because we are much less visible than vehicles. For every stop sign or light run by a cyclist, there are countless incidents of motorists creating a much more dangerous situation by passing too close or turning in the path of a cyclist, let alone the risks posed by inattentive motorists on their cell phones and blackberries. Many of these concerns were recognized when the LA City Council passed the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in December 2008. While an important step, it remains to be implemented.

8. In addition to inattentiveness, motorists are often not even aware of the fears and dangers they cause for people riding their bikes. This is often the case at intersections where cars are turning left. Even when a motorist does not actually intend to turn in front of a cyclist, if the motorist begins to turn as a cyclist is approaching the intersection, the cyclist has no choice but to slow or stop to avoid the risk that the car will turn into their path. While most motorists do not intentionally turn in the path of cyclists, some motorists are reckless, inattentive, or simply do not see the cyclist, and cyclists often need to brake or risk being seriously injured.

9.  It must be emphasized that despite all of its hazards, PCH is an ideal roadway for cycling, both recreational and commuting, due to the limited number of intersections and traffic lights, as well as the absence of stop signs. PCH is also a route to the canyons in Malibu, which offer some of the best riding to be found anywhere due to light vehicular traffic, various levels of challenging climbs and miles with no lights or stop signs, which further adds to its allure for serious cyclists.

Due to the higher speed traffic and lack of adequate shoulders on sections of PCH, only more experienced riders generally should and do use it at this time. The superb Southern California weather combined with its terrain makes Malibu one of the world’s premier riding areas, and it was used by Lance Armstrong for training during his string of Tour de France victories. The Tour of California has also helped spread the word on Malibu around the world as a great vacation and cycling destination, something that the City should embrace and support.

10.  One of the best ways to address safety is to build a cycling infrastructure that helps people feel safer while riding. In a recent article by Bob Mionske, a former U.S. Olympic cyclist and cycling attorney, he stated: “As the great cycling cities of Europe have learned, when bicycling feels safe for children and the elderly, everybody feels safer, and more people ride—and that is a benefit for all cyclists, and others as well, since as the roads become safer for cyclists, there’s also less danger for both motorists and pedestrians.”


L.A.’s CicLAvia, now scheduled for 10-10-10 — the same day as Santa Monica’s more generically named version — gets a double dose of radio coverage. Wednesday night’s Blood In protest in Beverly Hills gets international coverage, as well as an in-depth local look complete with photos. Curbed picks up the story of the long-delayed Elysian Valley Bike Path along the L.A. River. Brayj looks at bike polo in the parking non-lot at Lincoln park. A fond farewell to last week’s last Tour LaBonge; would Tour La Box have the same ring? Even in wealthy La Jolla, unrepaired potholes can claim a cyclist. Cyclelicious digs deep and comes out with the full story on the proposed Anchorage go-ahead-and-hit-the cyclist ordinance. Outside Magazine names Tuscon the best city of road biking; there’s no truth to the rumor L.A was named the best city to get run over by a road raging driver. Life in a New York City bike lane. A child’s ghost bike appears in NYC, indicating a 9-year old boy was killed in a hit-and-run on June 3rd, yet no one in the area is aware of a collision or death. A Pennsylvania cyclist faces charges for pepper spraying a driver who allegedly got out of his car to threaten him. Bi-partisan legislators from around the country bike through the streets of Louisville KY. The inventor — and patent holder — of the Split Pivot mountain bike suspension system may face a challenge from Trek. Having the right tools can normalize your bike commute and overcome objections you haven’t thought of yet. A retired admiral and former senate candidate is killed by an SUV while riding in Florida; the driver claims he just didn’t see him. The wife of a British Olympian critically injured while riding through Arizona credits his survival to his helmet. A video tour of London’s third new cycle superhighway. BoJo rides a Pinarella around London’s nearly complete velodrome. Tips for a first time endurance rider. Bristol, England plans to offer training classes instead of fines to reduce conflicts between drivers and cyclists. Mixed reviews on a mass bike ride in Bath. In an exceptionally one-sided report, the Daily Telegraph claims Sydney business people are up in arms over the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly. After winning his third Tour, Alberto Contador splits with his Astana team. A 61-year old American woman and a 26-year old Chinese combine to bring ultra-distance cycling to the Middle Kingdom.

Finally, don’t use a cell phone while riding your bike. Or play your guitar. Or carry a pitchfork, for that matter.


  1. Richard Masoner says:

    Heh, “BoJo” — I hadn’t seen that one before.

    You gotta love those crackdowns on scofflaw cyclists in the name of safety. We get them up here in the Bay Area as well, especially on rural roads.

    No cell phones and pitchforks, but what about a shotgun and hatchet?

    • bikinginla says:

      I don’t know, if I had a shotgun and hatchet on my bike, I bet drivers would pass a lot more carefully.

  2. Rach Stevo says:

    Was this cc’d to Susan Tellem, the editor of the Malibu Times or anyone else on the City Council in Malibu? Great to see this response but I’m converted already.

  3. PlebisPower says:

    Thanks for sharing. The wisdom herein, clearly gained from time on the mean streets, is nothing that committed cyclists don’t already know. That’s why it’s crucial that the lessons here be aggregated and communicated to public safety officials, electeds, and agency representatives (like DOT and Public Works in Los Angeles). If advocacy is the component parts of education and action fused in an innovative and exciting fashion, this post by Stanley Goldich nails the first part of the formula down. Let’s take this hard-earned wisdom forward, in the aggregate or in part, and communicate it clearly and persistently to those who make the decisions that so greatly affect our safety.

  4. Does anyone have an update on the meeting with Tellem? Did that ever happen or did she just flake, like I assumed she would once she was told to “put her money where her mouth is”…work with cyclists to actually make PCH safe, instead of pointing fingers.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, we’ve been trading emails, and I’m going to meet with her next week to let her show me what she considers the problem areas. And we’re putting a group together to meet with Malibu officials in the near future.

      I do have to give Susan Tellem credit; while she hasn’t changed her opinions, she’s been surprisingly cooperative and willing to have a real conversation.

      • Evan says:

        Did you really “flip out” on Stephen Box? Is this a joke I don’t get?


      • danceralamode says:

        I understand that she might feel under fire, but I know myself, and others, would like the opportunity to take part in these meetings/rides, since she made a point of alleging a variety of crimes/traffic violations against all cyclists.

        • Evan says:

          What the heck was the story? What happened? She hasn’t offered any explanation, but has felt free to call Ted dangerous.

          • Evan says:

            Actually, I checked again on her Facebook page and the post is removed there, as it is from Twitter as well.

            • bikinginla says:

              We’re getting two different threads mixed up here.

              Dancer, I think it’s best to keep this to a small group so we can talk directly with Malibu officials; however, I’m more than happy to include you if you want to participate. I can loop you in on any future emails about this.

              Evan, I consider this a personal matter, and would rather not discuss it here. I can tell you that there was a dispute over political tactics, but at no time did I or anyone else become physical or threaten anyone. I do appreciate that she has done the right thing and removed the comment.

            • Please do loop me in. Thank you.

  5. Richard Blanton says:

    The safety talk was well composed and dead on the point. The crack down thing is not really that bad of an idea if you could get the people enforcing it to use it properly. Meaning concentrate on the dangerous behaviors that cause the more common incidents. You know riding on the wrong side of the rode. Riding without lights or my favorite one do both at the same time and talk on your cell phone. It must be baby seal season.
    I am about to put my tire knocker back on the top tube of my tandem. I am getting a slew of wrong way riders trying to ride in the same space where I ride. I had to yell at one who was talking on his cell phone and he got stupid. I managed to detour his rage toward the curb. It never ceases to amaze me that the police will not ticket these fools but will scold you and threaten you with jail when they cry home to mama after they start a fracas. Well off to the truck stop for a tire knocker and then to wally mart for some Velcro.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Risemberg, Don Ahern. Don Ahern said: A PCH cyclist speaks out on safety and the proposed Malibu bike …: When Malibu officials cite safety as a reason… http://bit.ly/d4Fssl […]

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