Swarzman trial begins, Stearns sentenced, Mraz charged, GOP proposes ill-advices budget cuts

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our roads when the trial of one killer driver begins just days after another ends.

Or maybe it’s a positive note that police and prosecutors are finally taking cases involving cyclists more seriously.

Either way, the trial of Joseph Ricardo Fernandez is scheduled to begin Tuesday for the late night hit-and-run death of popular Encino cyclist Jim Swarzman in Encinitas last April. The trial is scheduled for the North County Courthouse, 325 South Melrose Drive in Vista, starting at 8:45 am tomorrow; Fernandez is facing a single count of hit-and-run causing death.

Cyclists are urged to attend to show their support and make it clear that these killings have to stop.

Thanks to @sonofabike for the heads-up.


In a case that’s been dragging on for years, 30-year old Michelle Nicole Stearns was sentenced to six years in prison for the Dana Point death of Jose Barranco-Patino in 2007. Stearns had a BAC of .20 — 2.5 times the legal limit — when she jumped the curbed and killed Barranco-Patino as he rode home from work.

Thanks to Steve Herbert for the tip.


The driver was finally arrested for a violent May confrontation in which a female cyclist was allegedly deliberately struck and knocked off her bike.

Louis Mraz has been charged with hit-and-run and assault; evidently, this wasn’t his first time. Maybe we need a one-and-done policy when it comes to road rage — one conviction for assault stemming from a roadway incident and you lose your license for life.

Thanks to Rick Risemberg and Patrick Pascal for the links.


In a serious disconnect, the Republican head of the House Transportation Committee proposes major funding cuts, including elimination of all bike and pedestrian set asides, as a new report says Americans are fatter than ever.

And never mind that building transportation infrastructure creates jobs, and bike infrastructure creates even more; then again, so do transit projects, which are also on chopping block.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking, People for Bikes and Safe Routes to Schools ask you to contact your representatives in Congress to demand that funding be continued for bike and pedestrian projects.

Personally, though, I’d gladly trade guaranteed bike and ped funding for legislation mandating Complete Streets throughout the 50 states, which would give us a much bigger piece of the pie while making our streets safer and communities more livable for everyone.

And frankly, I would question the judgment of any elected official who would call for cutting job-creating transportation projects while the country still struggles to get back to work.


In pro cycling news, doctors say Columbian rider Juan Mauricio Soler has suffered serious cognitive deficits following his crash in the Tour of Switzerland last month; he has been transferred back to his Spanish base of operations.

It’s bad enough that the rest of us have to contend with dangerous drivers, but when competitors in the Tour de France are run off the road by a reckless driver in a media car, something is seriously wrong. Crash victims Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland both managed to finish, after Hoogerland extricated himself from a barbed wire fence — amazingly, he was able to reclaim the best climber’s jersey prior to getting 33 stitches to close the deep gashes in his legs. The driver who hit them has been thrown out of the race while the collision is being investigated by French authorities; rumor has it the car was ferrying VIPs who wanted to get closer to the action.

Additional casualties continue to mount in yesterdays Stage 9, as Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov leaves with a broken pelvis in what was his final tour, David Zabriskie of Garmin-Cervelo is out with a broken wrist, and Omega’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Frederick Willems leave with broken collarbones. A day earlier, San Diego cyclist Chris Horner crashed out; reportedly, he was unaware at the finish that he had even completed the course, let alone that he had crashed. Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins was also forced to leave after suffering a broken collarbone in a mass crash that shook up the standings. And defending champ Alberto Contador finds himself falling even further behind after hitting the pavement once again in a controversial crash with Vladamir Karpets, aggravating a knee injury suffered earlier in the tour; maybe he needs to start eating Spanish beef again.

Meanwhile, le Tour gets its first ever black cyclist.

And Elly Blue reminds us there’s another big bike race in France; after watching the incomparable Jeannie Longo and the rest of the world’s best women racers compete in the late, great Coors Classic, I think it’s long past time that women were more than just podium girls at the grand tours.

It time that women’s racing got the respect, attention and money it deserves. The Amgen Tour of California will always be a 2nd tier tour for the men, but with a little effort, it could easily become the Tour de France of women’s racing.


Photo by Richard Masoner

Bike-friendly L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl gets friendly with, or rather on, a bike. LACBC says avoid Carmegeddon at the Eat Real food fest in Culver City this weekend; Flying Pigeon credits the Coalition for calling attention to the link between poverty, urban density and bike/ped fatalities. Another recent road rage assault results in riders calling for Share the Road signs to be returned to Angeles Crest Highway; Bike May Use Full Lane signs like the one on the above would probably be a better choice. The Times offers an obituary of cycling coach and former champion Mark Whitehead, who passed away in Texas last week. Stephen Box says L.A. is losing millions in transportation funding. A writer for KCET points out how he and his girlfriend single-handedly boosted the local economy on a bike trip. Four local high schools are fighting poverty by collecting bikes to donate to homeless people on L.A.’s Skid Row. L.A.’s neighbors are outpacing the city in biking infrastructure. Santa Monica’s Fuzzy Bike Coalition sets out to make the world smile. Gary looks at Santa Monica’s new bike racks and how to get them. Encino Patch looks at the summer season at the Encino Velodrome, while Ride the Black Line — which you’re probably already reading if you follow track racing — offers faces of the Velodrome. A Long Beach cyclist is in critical condition after being hit by a pickup that allegedly ran a red light on Wednesday.

The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition has appointed Andy Hanshaw as its new Executive Director. Solano Beach state Assemblyman Martin Garrick was arrested for DUI by CHP bike cops — who knew? — last month with a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. Speaking of Solano Beach, a cyclist asks where to turn after he’s harassed, then threatened by a passing motorist. The father of fallen San Diego cyclist Nick Venuto rode his son’s bike in a memorial ride in Nick’s honor Saturday. The underage driver who killed an English cyclist near Oceano last month was over twice the legal blood alcohol limit. Great advice from Sacramento on how boosting your speed can save your life in an emergency situation; being able to accelerate out of danger is as important as knowing how to brake properly.

Ten smart tips to cycling in traffic. How to regain your confidence after a crash; my personal method is to go back and finish the same route you crashed on. Nevada passes a three-foot passing law and increases penalties for drivers who hit cyclists who are riding legally. A 71-year old Tacoma man is pushed and beaten by passengers in a passing car until he crashes and ends up in local hospital; credit Tucson Bike Lawyer with the heads-up. The new head of Chicago’s DOT wants to spur more cycling; I’d like to hear a similar pronouncement from LADOT’s new head honcho. A Minnesota man finds his stolen DIY custom bike in a newspaper photograph years later. Cyclists will now be able to ride two Central Park pathways as long as they do it very, very slowly. The Wall Street Journal continues its attempt to become the bike world’s newspaper of record as it looks at custom bike builder Sacha White of Vanilla bikes. A New York Times reporter plans to bike across the country for the 2nd time. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Unit treats information on traffic fatalities like state secrets. Clearly, black women do bike in DC, after all. Reviews aren’t good for the new bike safety video from Fairfax County VA. Harassment of cyclists rears its ugly head in the Carolinas. A North Carolina cyclist is killed after crossing the center line and colliding with an oncoming car during a local bike race. Dave Moulton calls for more accountability after a cyclist is knocked off a bridge and killed.

An 80-year old New Brunswick man is under arrest for the hit-and-run death of a cyclist; link courtesy of Witch on a Bicycle. A violent assault on a Brit cyclist is caught on video; police swear they’re still investigating. A UK cyclist attempts to reclaim a stolen bike, and ends up stealing another one. Apparently, cycling in Northumbria doesn’t suck after all. Touring Versailles by bike. Do low end bikes — aka Bike Shaped Objects — encourage cycling or put riders off from the miserable experience?

Finally, a Florida cyclist is T-boned by a black bear. And one of L.A.’s more colorful bike characters is caught on camera.


  1. […] Swarzman trial begins, Stearns sentenced, Mraz charged, GOP … In pro cycling news doctors say Columbian rider Juan Mauricio Soler has suffered serious cognitive deficits following his crash in the Tour of Switzerland last month; he has been transferred back to his Spanish base of […]

  2. […] Quick Update on a Couple of Bike Crash Trials (Biking In L.A.) […]

  3. Street signage reminding drivers of cyclists’ right to the full lane could go a long way to calming the animosity drivers have towards bicyclists. It’s inexpensive (relatively) and could improve safety tremendously. I hate to sound like a broken record, but what works in other cities must certainly work here. No expensive “studies” necessary.

  4. @Alex – as soon as the CTCDC meets and approves the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” sign in the CA MUTCD (which we expect to be later this year), we’re hoping to deploy those signs all over LA.

  5. Richard says:

    The law which allows full full use of the lane has been around in one form or another since before most of us were born. I for one do not need a sign to allow me to take the lane where it is needed. I would like the State of CA to require all drivers to no the laws when they take there drivers tests.

  6. bikinginla says:

    Yes, and I want a pony.

    You’re right that every driver should know the traffic laws pertaining to bikes and other road users when they get their license, and should have that knowledge refreshed on a regular basis.

    In the meantime, Full Use signage is a good way to educate drivers about a law most may not be familiar with.

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