Last month, Stanley E. Goldich, a Century City attorney and member of Velo Club LaGrange, wrote about the road conditions and safety problems on Pacific Coast Highway, based on his own personal experiences riding thousands of miles per year on PCH, as well as climbing the canyons of the Malibu area for over 20 years.
Today, he writes again in response to the recent post by Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Chris Frost, as well as the opinions expressed by fellow Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem in a recent letter to the editor and on a now-deleted Facebook group.
I have not met Chris Frost or Susan Tellum and cannot speak to whether or not they are nice people. However, there is nothing nice or decent about their words and misguided efforts to target cyclists, who almost always are victims and not perpetrators with respect to safety conditions on PCH. I am completely supportive of efforts to educate cyclists about the issues confronting Malibu residents with respect to exiting their driveways and U-turns and their need to be more considerate of these concerns, however the efforts of Tellum and Frost to target cyclists are grounded in fallacious arguments and facts that do not have any evidentiary basis.
1. What is particularly pernicious in the views expressed by Frost and Tellum is the linkage between running of stop signs and lights with the aggression of motorists against cyclists and deaths and serious injuries of cyclists. Frost’s denial is belied by his words: “That means the law abiding rider gets treated pretty much the same as one who continually flaunts the law. So when you get buzzed for no apparent reason, the cause may well be an incident you had no part of. This is happening much too frequently now, and it has developed into a breeding ground for animosity and worse – injury and death.”
2. The contentions that cyclists are a cause of any major safety problems on PCH and their flaunting of the law is a cause of “injury and death” are patently false and flawed justifications to unnecessarily target cyclists instead of other far more significant safety concerns. My prior email that you published detailed the safety problems on PCH including what was identified in the PCH Taskforce Report – nothing Frost alleges is identified in that Report or any other report that I am aware of. The deaths of Debra Goldsmith, Scott Bleifer, Stanislov Ionov and others were acts of careless and reckless drivers and/or unsafe road conditions and were not acts of vengeance. Even the road rage incidents of Dr. Thompson on Mandeville were driven by not wanting cyclists in his neighborhood, not running of lights and stop signs. The suggestion that deliberate acts of violence against cyclists is defensible because of running of lights by scofflaw cyclists is outrageous and targeting cyclists to address such inexcusable actions is hardly an appropriate solution
3. While it is true that cyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists, the circumstances are not the same (or equal). As a cyclist on PCH I get to ride on a shoulder that is not a true lane and deal with all of the dangers resulting from this. I am not surrounded by a steel frame and am virtually always the victim in any truly dangerous situation on the road. Yes, as a general matter cyclists should stop at lights. However, there are times and some lights on PCH where it is unquestionably safer to go thru the light ahead of traffic due to dangerous roadway conditions including inadequate shoulders, lack of space next to parked cars, and cars pulling out requiring the cyclist to move into the right hand traffic lane. Contrary to Frost’s contention, most of the T-intersections do not involve cars making U-turns or trying to pull out (an exception are cars U-turning at Corral). Certainly, cyclists should be considerate of residents/motorists trying to make U-turns or pull out, particularly at lights; however, the primary dangers are motorists making U-turns in front of cyclists and pulling out or turning in front of them.
4. The central reason a minority of motorists and Malibu residents are hostile is because cyclists impede them or they simply don’t want cyclists using the roads period, not because of running of stop signs or our Lycra clothes. Many motorists do not take offense at running of stop signs or lights where the cyclist is not getting in their path (and sometimes trying to avoid doing so) – I regularly get waived thru stop signs by drivers.
5. I am not arguing that I and other cyclists are free to break the law with impunity. My point is simply that the targeting of cyclists is not justified by the fictions advanced and that a much more productive discussion would be trying to understand why cyclists are running the lights and addressing conditions that require cyclists to move out of the shoulder into the right hand lane.
6. Finally, it would be one thing if Frost just argued that cyclists should stop at all lights (and presumably stop signs) to be “ambassadors of our sport.” While I may disagree with singling out bicyclists to be role models (rather than all road users) and whether stopping at all lights is required to be an ambassador of cycling (rather than simply being courteous and considerate), I have no quarrel with Frost promoting this. However, Frost is not leaving things at encouraging what he believes is good bike-riding behavior. Rather, it appears he seeks to misuse his position as a safety commissioner to threaten and punish cyclists who do not comply with his views.
In the comments to his post, Chris Frost invited a number of the people who responded to attend a meeting of the Malibu Public Safety Commission.