Archive for November 30, 2011

Drunken Long Beach fire captain suffers a severe slap on the wrist

Is a single year in county lockup sufficient penalty for nearly killing a cyclist with a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit?

An Orange County judge seems to think so.

Yesterday, Santa Ana Superior Court judge Erick Larsh sentenced Long Beach fire captain John David Hines to four years and four months in state prison — then suspended the sentence in lieu of one year in the Orange County jail and five years probation.

Reports could not be confirmed that Hines responded by grabbing his wrist and yelling “Ow!”

And yes, that’s slightly bridled sarcasm, as I find myself censoring what I’d really like to say.

It was almost three months ago that Hines pleaded guilty to three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Those charges stemmed from a bloody, drunken and reportedly urine-soaked April Fools Day episode that left cyclist Jeffrey Gordon struggling for his life.

And no, it wasn’t the least bit funny.

The scion of a leading Long Beach firefighting family, Hines spent the morning drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before climbing behind the wheel of his truck and attempting to drive home, despite a BAC measured at .24 over two hours later.

The legal limit in California is .08.

The bar should bear at least some responsibility for allowing Hines to get that drunk at their hands. Let alone letting him drive after serving him so much alcohol knowing full well how drunk he had to be at that point.

I hope Gordon has a great lawyer; if not, I’ll be happy to recommend a few. If there’s any justice, he’ll own the bar before this is done.

And hopefully, the first thing he’ll do is change that damn name.

As he reportedly wove his way across the roadway on Westminster Blvd, Hines lost control of his truck, drifting into the bike lane to hit Gordon’s bike from behind at an estimated 60 mph. The rider was thrown 70 feet through the air before landing in a crumpled, bloody heap.

His injuries were severe enough to require two weeks hospitalization, as well as limited mobility, and speech and memory loss that continues to this day. Then again, given the speed and severity of the impact, it’s a miracle Gordon survived at all.

Meanwhile, Hines continued to make his merry way to his Huntington Beach home, either unaware or unconcerned that he had nearly killed another human being. He was followed by two witnesses who reported his location to the police.

According to the Belmont Shore – Naples Patch, Billy Chisholm was a passenger in one of those pursuing vehicles.

“I was sick to my stomach the whole time,” Chisholm recalled. “He just hit him and left him to die like he was a skunk in the road. He had to have known he hit him because his truck was all busted up. That was a human being he left there to die. It’s not right.”

When police arrived, they found Hines in an obvious state of drunkenness, with a strong urine odor coming from his clothes. His parked pickup showed major damage to the front-end and hood — including blood spatter from the victim.

As so many scoundrels do these days, he immediately entered rehab after his release from jail, spending over five months in an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Like Schrodinger’s Cat, whether that was a badly needed attempt to gain control over his apparent alcoholism or a blatant attempt at gaining leniency from the court depends on your perspective.

He also served a 90-day diagnostic evaluation — make that 86 days — in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary.

Maybe I’m just not up on current sentencing practices. But I doubt many gangbangers or bank robbers enjoy such sensitivity from the judge after pleading guilty.

Then again, not many felons come from such prominent fire fighting families.

And last but not least, Hines was ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution — most of which has already been eaten up in medical costs.

According to the Los Alamitos Patch, Gordon prepared a written victim impact statement to be considered at sentencing.

“I am a very active person who enjoys being outdoors with my family. I also have a very mentally and physically demanding job that I love. All of that was taken from me in just seconds.

“As a result of the impact, I was seriously injured, receiving an 18-centimeter head laceration, cranial bleeding, three broken vertebrae, a bruised kidney and multiple cuts, scrapes, and contusions over a large area of my body. Medical expenses are piling up from the long hospital stay and treatment from so many specialists… so far reaching nearly $65,000. The doctors are not yet sure when or if I will recover enough to return to full duty at work or to the quality of life that I had before.

“I have found myself becoming more and more upset by the possibility that the negligence of another person may have lasting effects on me, but the person who is responsible may suffer little or no consequences for his actions.”

An anonymous source who was in the courtroom for part of the sentencing hearing offers this assessment of Hines professional position, who has been severely criticized by many — including me — for causing exactly the sort of injuries he was trained to treat.

I wish to point out that although Hines undoubtedly responded as part of a pre-hospital care team to the type of vehicular crime he committed, he was not the one who would have been providing hands-on care to patients.  As a captain, he directed others on the response team.  In fact, Hines is not a paramedic; he holds only an EMT certificate (pending review), and this is probably the bare minimum medical education requirement for a person of his position within his agency.  At EMT level, he cannot even administer painkillers.  With his certification, he would not likely be the one in the back of an ambulance with a puking head trauma victim like the one he created last April, because injuries of that magnitude require paramedic-level response.  He could monitor vitals and provide oxygen in such situations, and that’s about it.

My opinion is that his interest in public safety is less about his interest, if any, in humanity than in the salary & inherent reputation of a firefighter, and the protection that such a reputation affords him as an alcoholic.  But this is just an opinion.

Meanwhile, the OC Weekly offers a scathing report on the lenient sentence.

As they suggest, current jail overcrowding problems make it highly unlikely Hines will serve the full year, joining local public enemy #1 Lindsey Lohan in the revolving door of SoCal jurisprudence.

And I’m sure her wrist is just as sore.

On the other hand, Hines acted as self-appointed judge and jury in sentencing the victim to a possible life sentence of disability.

As disgusted as I am by the apparent leniency, I honestly don’t know if a long prison sentence is the right answer in this particular case.

Alcoholism is an illness, and punishment in prison will do little or nothing to reform a dangerous drunk and return him to a productive member of society.

But I do know that until judges start taking cases like this seriously — and impose sentences that will serve as a warning and deterrence to other drivers — we’ll continue to experience the ongoing carnage on our streets.

And not everyone will be as lucky as Gordon.

A little human interaction turns a bad day into a good ride — one even the worst driver can’t ruin

This day did not start well.

Monday morning meant back to our regular routine after the long holiday weekend. Which meant walking my wife down to her car, then taking the dog out for its morning walk.

The dog has her own routine, too.

She insists on walking out front and waiting for my wife’s car to exit the garage. Then stands and barks a few times as my wife drives off to work.

And then — and only then — will she acquiesce to begin our daily constitutional around the block.

Today was different.

This time, she heard the garage gate open and took off running, jerking the leash out of my hand. And planted herself squarely in front of my wife’s car, hidden below her field of vision, in an apparent attempt to keep her from leaving.

Nice gesture. Bad execution.

Fortunately, my wife is a careful driver, and was exiting the garage slowly enough to hear my shouts of warning. She jammed on the brakes and stopped just short of turning our Corgi into road kill.

So I collected the dog, and after giving her a good talking to — which she seemed to clearly understand despite the language barrier — we finished our walk, my stomach churning the whole way over what might have been and almost was.

A few hours later I was still shaken, so I did what I usually when I’m upset.

I got my bike and went for a ride.

I was about three miles from home when the light at a busy intersection turned yellow. I noticed a driver facing the opposite direction, waiting to make her left and unsure what I was going to do. So I gave a quick nod for her to go ahead while I braked to a stop.

She smiled in response and waved her thanks as she turned just before the light changed to red.

A few moments later, as I waited at the light to turn green, a car pulled up behind me with its right turn signal on. I moved my bike slightly to the right so he could pull up to the intersection, nodding his thanks as he moved up next to me.

But instead of stopping, he continued to edge forward. So I pointed to the No Right on Red sign, unsure if he could still see me. Yet shortly afterwards, the car’s forward stance visibly relaxed as he took his foot off the gas, then turned around to give me a thumbs up for saving him from a possible ticket.

And suddenly, my mood brightened, the day’s near disaster finally behind me.

Throughout my ride, I found myself interacting with drivers and pedestrians in countless little ways. For once, it wasn’t drivers versus cyclists, but human beings recognizing the humanity in one another, and finding ways to share the road in peace and safety.

I even got the chance to express some thanks of my own, as a driver prepared to enter his car in a busy area where dooring is always a distinct possibility. He looked up and saw me, though, and somehow managed to squeeze himself into his car while barely holding the door open to allow himself the smallest possible entryway. And leaving me plenty of room to ride past as I thanked him for the courtesy.

Just one stranger looking out for another.

It was a day when courtesy and compassion seemed to override the usual stress on the streets. And a reminder that we’re not really cyclists or drivers, but just people trying to get from here to there and return to our loved ones in peace.

And in one piece.

Although that came into serious question when I encountered a woman who may just be one of the worst drivers in human history. Or at least one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

I was making my way home, taking my usual shortcut through the VA hospital grounds, when I was passed by a massive white SUV.

As we both neared a stop sign, she edged over to the right in an obvious attempt to block my path. So I rode around her anyway, only to have her lurch towards me in what I could only interpret as an unprovoked threat, coming less than a foot from hitting me before straightening her wheel and continuing down the road.

She didn’t get far, though. An ambulance coming from the opposite direction with red lights and siren blaring caused the car ahead of her to pull to the right and stop, blocking her path.

I pulled out my camera phone, intending to take a photo of her license plate while she was stopped.

Then watched in horror as she hesitated for a few moments before cutting sharply to the left, driving head-on into the path of the ambulance to get around the stopped car. And forcing the ambulance driver into a full panic stop, less than a block from the ER entrance, to let the dangerously aggressive driver pass without causing a wreck.


And never mind that every second counts in an emergency situation, and that her idiotic stunt could have put the patient in jeopardy. Let alone everyone else on the road who could have been collateral damage to her need to get where she’s going just a few seconds faster.

Wherever the hell there might be.

Once the ambulance passed, I kicked it up into my smallest gears to catch up to her.

Unfortunately, shift change at the hospital flooded the street with cars, cutting me off before I could catch her. And letting her get away to threaten other cyclists and risk the lives of other people another day.

Yet even that couldn’t kill my upbeat mood.

It would take more than one dangerous, threatening jerk to outweigh all the safe, positive and friendly interactions that came before.

And that’s what I call a very good ride.

And a good day.

Even if the jerk got away.

Mandeville cyclists Jerry Browned, Dr. Thompson appeal denied, fight for your Expo bike station

Just a few quick notes before we get this week started.


First up, I received word over the weekend about another dangerous incident in Mandeville Canyon.

A group of cyclists were descending the canyon at speed when they were Jerry Browned — passed too closely, in honor of our misguided governor’s veto of the three-foot passing law — at a high rate of speed by a Maserati Quattropote in what sounds like a deliberate assault.

Fortunately, the riders were all able to remain upright, and no one was injured.

But be careful out there.

It sounds like we’ve got a Dr. Thompson wannabe out there.

Update: I’ve heard from one of the cyclists involved, who promises full details on his own blog in the nest day or two. I’ll include the link as soon as it’s available.


Speaking of the Good Doctor, word came over the weekend that the California Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal. That means, barring any unexpected developments, he can be expected to serve out his term.

Which may have been what set out the Maserati owner, who may have been a neighbor of L.A.’s biking boogeyman.


Frequent contributor Jim Lyle forwarded an email looking for more information about a cycling collision over the weekend.

The accident occurred shortly before noon yesterday (Saturday).  I believe the biker was turning left onto PV Blvd from Malaga Cove Plaza.  The car that hit him was turning left onto PV Drive West after coming downhill from PV Drive North.  The car should have stopped at the stop sign.  I saw the biker on the small grassy median being treated by paramedics.  The white car was parked 5 car lengths beyond the stop sign.  The left half of the front windshield was shattered.  There was an ambulance and a fire truck but no media.

Let me know if you find any news about the accident.

Let’s keep the rider in our prayers. If you have any news — hopefully good — about the incident, let me know.

And the Orange County Register reports that a mountain biker was airlifted out of Modjeska Canyon on Saturday with a possible head injury; no word on the condition of the rider.


Rex Reese forwards the obituary for Frederik Meijer, founder of the Midwest retailing giant. And more pertinent to our discussion, the man who helped start a network of hiking and biking trails in western Michigan.


Finally, Steve Herbert invites you to join the Culver City Bicycle Coalition in fighting for the previously planned bike station at the Culver City Expo Station, which is in danger of being cut from the plans.

You can express your concerns at the next meeting of the Expo Line Construction Authority:

December 1st, 2:30pm
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Board of Supervisors’
Hearing Room 381B

And he forwards a look at a new ad on the Culver City green buses, which expresses an attitude I think most of us share.

Update: Six-year old Oxnard boy killed while riding bike on Thanksgiving

The Ventura County Star reports the heartbreaking news that a six-year old boy was killed while riding his bike in Oxnard on Thanksgiving Day.

Anthony Martinez was riding on the sidewalk on the south side of the 1300 block of West Olive Street at around 4:20 pm when he reportedly rode into the street and was hit by a full-size GMC Sierra pickup driven by 50-year old Jesus Calderon Ruvalcalba. He was knocked off his bike and run over by the truck.

Despite the fact tat both Martinez and Revalcalba were traveling east, this does not appear to be a right hook; the collision seems to have occurred mid-block rather than at the intersection. There’s no report on how fast the truck was going, or any other factors that could have contributed to this tragedy.

However, the police report indicates that Revalcalba is not suspected of drug or alcohol impairment.

There’s also no word on why the boy may have left the sidewalk and ridden his bike into the street.

However, it’s important to remember that children are wild cards when it comes to traffic; they can often act on impulse with no consideration or awareness of the possible consequence. You should always give children the widest possible berth while driving or biking, and be prepared to respond instantly to unexpected actions.

The investigation is continuing; anyone with information about this collision is urged to contact Senior Officer Maria Peña at 805-385-7750.

This is the 64th confirmed traffic-related bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 4th in Ventura County.

My sympathy and prayers go out to Anthony Martinez’ family and loved ones.

Update: A follow-up story by the Star fills in most of the gaps in the earlier reports.

Evidently, Ruvalcaba, who lived on the same block as the victim’s family, had his view of the sidewalk blocked by a large commercial truck that the victim was riding around. Neighbors described Ruvalcaba as a very cautious driver, who was in tears following the collision.

Meanwhile, Martinez was described as a cheerful, intelligent and outgoing boy, according to the Star.

The 6-year-old boy struck and killed by a pickup while riding a bike near his Oxnard home Thanksgiving afternoon was a smart, athletic child who loved celebrations so much he called himself “Mr. Holiday,” grieving family members said Friday.

“He was just sunshine in our lives,” said his mother, Gloria Burciaga, 40

A Thanksgiving thank you, editing Google bike maps, and Zev says back to the drawing board

I’ll be honest.

This has been yet another rough year, in a string of rough years that has gone on way too long.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least of which is the simple fact that I’m here, and have a loving home and family waiting for me at the end of a ride.

That’s a lot more than some people have.

I’m also very thankful for you. Because it doesn’t matter what I have to say if no one bothers to read it.

So much for that question about a tree falling in the forest.

Thank you for coming by, whether this is your first visit or you’ve been with me from the beginning.

Please accept my best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones. And my hope that we’ll all have more to be thankful for next year.

But if you want to read some heartfelt thanks from someone who clearly means it, try this one.

And People for Bikes says be thankful for biking.


Another thing I’m thankful for is all the people who send me links and contributions, and help me put this blog together on a regular basis.

Such as frequent contributor Eric Weinstein, who offers his thoughts on Santa Monica’s newly adopted Bike Action Plan.

The Santa Monica Bike Action Plan was enacted by the City Council last night. This means that Santa Monica will budget the expenditure of 2.5 Million dollars for the next two years, and has grants to bring the total up to about 8 Million dollars. That’s a big bunch of money to improve cycling!  I think this will change the entire experience of biking in Santa Monica to a level greater than Portland. Santa Monica is on it’s way to increasing the bike mode share – aiming for 30%!

Some of the items: lots of bike lanes, sharrows, bike boxes, and green lanes for major east-west and north south signature corridors. The largest bike garage in the country – oops it’s already here! Some bike education/encouragement for students, and a bunch of other useful items – some signage to improve the overcrowded beach bike path. And a bike share. There’s a 5- year and a 20 year wish plan for better facilities. These will include: taking some parking for wide (passing lane) bike lanes, even more lanes and sharrows, bike parking at the coming Expo stations, and my favorite: a recreational cycletrack around the Santa Monica Airport. Bring on the Tour of California.

Hooray for progress! This is a major milestone in getting people out of cars and on bikes!


County supervisor — and widely anticipated yet currently unannounced mayoral candidate — Zev Yaroslavsky says L.A. County should send the proposed county bike plan back to the drawing board.

The motion by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky calls on the county Department of Public Works to create a bike plan that “will not just move us out of the 1970’s, but move Los Angeles County forward as a leader in 21st Century bicyclist safety and comfort.”

Specifically, the motion says that the plan should “promote the use of leading-edge designs such as those found in the Model Design Manual for Living Streets that was prepared by the Department of Public Health.” Those include “cycle tracks” that separate bike lanes from traffic with dividers such as a lane of parked cars, and experimental street design approaches—including the possibility of varied lane and sidewalk widths in some areas—that do not fall within current Caltrans standards.

The motion urges the county to take the lead in helping such street layouts receive state approval for broader implementation.

A longtime leader in L.A. politics, Yaroslavsky offers a surprisingly strong and influential voice in support of safer cycling in the county. And could soon join Austin Beutner and outgoing City Council President Eric Garcetti in a bike-friendly mayoral field.

Things are getting very interesting.

Thanks to Streetsblog’s Damien Newton for the heads-up.


George Wolfberg, who I frequently rely on for some of our best links — as well as his incomparable behind the scenes contributions in reaching the right people and getting things — sends word of a rash of bike burglaries in the Brentwood area. He sends the following report from LAPD Senior Lead Officer Kirk.

  • 11/14/11 1500 Hrs – 11/21/11 1000 Hrs, 1300 Block of Wellesley Ave, Susp removed window to residence and entered the loc. Susp removed property and fled loc. Property taken was a bicycle.
  • 11/04/11 1800 Hrs – 11/08/11 0930 Hrs, 1800 Block of Stoner Ave, Susp cut bike lock and removed bicycle from parking lot.
  • 11/18/11 0400 – 0600 Hrs, 1400 Block of Barry Ave, Susp removed bicycles from apartment balcony.
  • 11/19/11 1200 Hrs – 11/21/11 0800 Hrs, Susp cut off lock and removed the bicycle from property.
  • 11/19/11 0900 Hrs- 11/21/11 0600 Hrs, 11300 Block of Wellesley Ave, Susp cut off lock and removed bicycle from carport area.
  • 11/20/11 1330 – 2130 Hrs, 1600 Block of Granville Ave, Susp cut cable lock off and removed bicycle from apartment courtyard.
  • 11/21/11 0645 – 0830 Hrs, 2000 Block of Colby Ave, Susp cut off lock and removed bicycle from property.

Officer Kirk suggests keeping your bike inside your residence, and writing down the serial number. I’d add that you should keep a current photo of your bike, register it, and lock it with a secure U-lock any time you have to leave it outside or in your garage.

Remember, weight doesn’t matter if you don’t have to carry it with you, so go for the biggest, strongest lock you can find to protect your bike at home.


Another contribution comes from Alejandro Merulo, who calls our attention to Google Maps feature I was unaware of.

I wanted to let you know of a feature that readers of your blog may find useful. As you know in Los Angeles, a large number of bike lanes and sharrows have been added to our streets recently. These bike lanes should be added to Google Maps so that more people ride on them. Google has made it possible to do this for any user using Google Map Maker. It would be great to have other cyclists adding/reviewing these features. For example, today I added the Spring Street and 1st street bike lanes. But these additions need approval. There aren’t that many cyclists reviewing other people’s submission to Google Map Maker.

Sharing the ability of cyclists to add our routes to the roads will make them safer. If you could share this feature through your blog, many cyclists would appreciate it.

Not being familiar with this feature — and a little to dense to figure it out on my own — I asked Alejandro to explain the process.

The link for Google map maker is If you are in normal Google maps with the biking layers on, there is some small text on the bottom right that says “Edit in Google Map Maker.” Using a Google account, you can then draw lines along roads. Clicking next, you can then edit road attributes and add bike lanes. Once you have gotten this far, I found it intuitive to figure out other features. However, if you try these steps and still have trouble, let me know and I’ll be happy to assist you. You can see some of the work I’ve added if you type in “Spring Street and 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA” in the text box at the top. You can also see Community Edits like mine by clicking on “Community Edits.”


Santa Monica’s Bike Effect hosts a trunk show of women’s cycling apparel from New York designer Nona Varnado this Saturday. L.A. wants your ideas on how to keep the city moving, including a suggestion to make motorists pay the true cost of driving. KCET Departures features Flying Pigeon’s always informative, entertaining and elucidating Josef Bray-Ali. Damien Newton unveils this year’s Streetsie Award winners, including a much deserved nod to the LACBC’s Colin Bogart as Advocate of the Year. Curbed takes you on a ride down the new Spring Street bike lane, which has bike parking, too. The Beverly Hills Bicycle Ad Hoc Committee considers the biking black hole’s first pilot projects. Cyclists make their case for a safer PCH while Malibu officials consider becoming bike friendly. Former Burbank city council candidate Garen Yegparian offers a spot-on look at the state of cycling in the Los Angeles area, and finds drivers in his own Armenian community among the worst offenders; definitely worth reading. This is what 10 years of L.A. traffic fatalities looks like, based on the Guardian’s map of U.S. casualties from the last decade; thanks to Simon for the link.

A San Diego cyclist thanks the life guards who saved his life. A San Francisco cyclist pleads not guilty in the death of a pedestrian; he’s accused of running a red light and hitting the 68-year old woman as she walked in the crosswalk with her husband. In a heartwarming story, an S.F. cyclist rescues a puppy while riding. San Jose cyclists pitch in to fix up a derelict bike path. A new bike rack keeps a Los Altos bike safe on a public street for four months. San Rafael cyclists celebrate Cranksgiving. A San Anselmo cyclist is in a coma after being found unconscious on the side of a fire road.

New Mexico cyclists install a ghost bike for a six-year old boy killed 21 years ago. In a classic chicken or egg equation, St. Louis County doesn’t build bikeways because not enough people bike; the current leadership in Ohio doesn’t seem much better. A Huntsville radio station helps ensure 2800 children will receive a new bike for Christmas. A Florida cyclist was drunk when he was hit and killed by an unmarked police car while carrying a case of beer in each hand. Dunedin FL officials turn down nearly $450,000 in Safe Routes to School funding because they’re afraid residents might object.

Nine-and-a-half years for on Oxford driver who deliberately ran down a cyclist; turns out he knew the rider if that makes it any better. A video guide to wearing tweed while you ride. Then again, if you really want to be seen, this should do the trick. Seven people face up to 2 years in prison each in the Operation Puerto bike doping scandal. A New Zealand driver is found guilty of killing a cyclist, despite claiming she just didn’t see him — which is usually the universal Get Out of Jail Free card for careless drivers.

Finally, North Carolina police kill a disabled, partially deaf cyclist by shooting him with a stun gun while he was riding. For any law enforcement personnel unclear on the concept, never, ever knock anyone off a bike while their riding unless you actually intend to kill them.

Because you just might.

Bike plans for SaMo and South Bay, miraculous recovery leads to pro cycling contract & lots of links

Tuesday night marked a big step forward for cyclists along the coast, as comprehensive new bike plans were adopted in both Santa Monica and the seven cities of the South Bay.

Update: Santa Monica Spoke reports on the bike plan’s passage last night, noting that several last minute improvements from the city’s Planning Commission were adopted by the council: 

  • Add to the 20 year vision the opportunity for a recreational cycle track at Santa Monica Airport – with connections to the remaining and proposed bike networks.
  • Pursue implementation of Bike Share prior to the Metro-funded project in 2016
  • Establish criteria to measure bicycle mode share to inform on-going investments and activities
  • Include at least one “central” east-west and north-south separated bike facility in the 5-year instead of the 20-year vision.
  • Establish a much greater priority for working with schools and Safe Routes to Schools programs
  • Provide annual reporting on the plan implementation
  • Highlight language about the potential for “open” street events like CicLAvia


Maybe someone can explain to me how an 88-year old man can be run down in a crosswalk — while being helped across the street by his rabbi, no less — and it’s just an accident.

When elderly people aren’t even safe using while using a crosswalk, something is seriously f’ed up.


A truly amazing story, as former Paralympic handcycling competitor Monique van der Vorst regains the use of her legs following a collision with a cyclist, after 13 years in a wheelchair — and will now compete on the pro cycling circuit with the Rabobank women’s team.

The only thing that could make this story even better will be when she records her first stage victory.

And if there’s anyone from Hollywood reading this blog today, what the hell are you waiting for? This is one story that was made for the big screen.


Rethinking the mismeasure of L.A.’s broken streets. The L.A. City Council votes to re-examine the legality of sidewalk riding in the City of Angels, which is currently permitted as long as your not a dick about it. Riding a bike on Downtown’s newly green-laned Spring Street is clearly nothing new; LACBC recaps yesterday’s press conference. Will Campbell takes a picture of famed L.A. photographer Gary Leonard while riding them. Jose from Tijuana inaugurates Boyle Heights’ new semi-green bike lane. L.A. may be getting better, but we won’t be truly bike-friendly until we have our own bike jersey. Instead of spending $100,000 to educate Burbank cyclists, a writer suggests spending it on education for the city’s dangerous drivers instead.

Bike San Diego interviews new S.D. bike coordinator Tom Landre. The time is right to build a foundation for youth cycling. A cyclist gets hit in a left cross and police bend over backwards to blame the victim, and the press shows its bias by calling the adult 20-something victim a young girl; thanks to Cyclelicious for the link. Cyclists are the victims of strong arm robberies in Santa Barbara and Clovis. Teaching bike safety and service in Santa Barbara.

Bob Mionske associate Rick Bernardi examines when police invent imaginary laws in order to blame the victim. An ugly, stomach churning map of the nearly 370,000 fatalities in the U.S. over the last decade; if you can spend much time digging through the data, you’re stronger than I am. Hybrid electric vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in a bike or pedestrian collision as a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. A Phoenix father is shot and killed while riding to work. A Scottish skiing champion is killed by a drunk driver while biking in Oregon. Serial bike raging truck driver Christopher Loven will face charges in the death of a 73-year old Colorado cyclist. A Cleveland truck driver is headed for prison after right hooking a cyclist; thanks to Dave Moulton for the link. Why cyclists ignore bike racks; then again, too many bikes is a good problem to have. A Florida detective kills a cyclist who was somehow riding with a case of beer in each hand.

Great read from the UK — getting rid of the car may not be possible, but we don’t need to deliberately place cyclists and pedestrians in harms way. Separate but equal may not be the safest choice for road design after all. More on the PR campaign that’s gone horribly off the rails. How to cycle in a skirt, or maybe just look like a grownup while biking to work. Yes, Dutch bike paths have speed bumps, but not to slow cyclists. The formerly amazing Jeannie Longo was acquitted of doping charges on a technicality, just months after her husband similarly escaped being held responsible for buying EPO; her reputation — and the respect and admiration I’ve long had for her — are another matter. Disgraced cyclist Riccardo Ricco receives a two-month suspended sentence for using EPO in the 2008 Tour de France. A New Zealand driver confesses to not seeing a cyclist before she hit and killed him; that should always be a confession, not an excuse.

Finally, in case you can’t decide whether to ask for a bike or a pony for Christmas — or a unicorn, for that matter. And it turns out that post-ride beer is actually good for you.

Be careful riding today. Many people will be getting off work early, and the streets are likely to be jammed with stressed drivers rushing to finish their errands and get home for the holiday — and they won’t be looking for you.

Expo bike facilities threatened in CC, why cyclists don’t ride in bike lanes, caste-ing for a new bike

Catching up with the latest news from over the weekend.


The Culver City Bicycle Coalition urges you to write in support of bike facilities at the Culver City Expo station, threatened by the usual ill-advised budget cuts — which oddly never seem to threaten the massive amounts car parking; thanks to Steve Herbert for the link.

And like the cycling community, local residents want to know when plans for the Phase II Expo bikeway will finally move forward.


Bike Newport Beach’s David Huntsman Esq., who I had the pleasure of meeting at the California Bike Summit, answers the eternal question of why cyclists ride in the road when there’s a perfectly good bike lane.

And in case you missed it the other day, the organization plans a 30-mile pre-Thanksgiving Day ride on Wednesday. Sound like a great way to work up an appetite for the next day (and don’t forget your holiday meal can also be purchased and delivered by bike); thanks to Frank Peters, who I also had the privilege of meeting at the Bike Summit, for the heads-up.


Great story from India, as students pitch together to buy a classmate a bike after he’s denied one as part of a state-sponsored program because he belongs to a lower caste. He started skipping school when everyone else in the class got one and he didn’t — until his classmates pitched in the equivalent of half a day’s pay to buy him one themselves.


Downtown Los Angeles gets its first bike lanes — and L.A.’s first buffered green lane, from Cesar Chavez to 9th Street; LADOT Bike Blog offers a great shot of the First Street bike lane in front of Mariachi Plaza. The San Gabriel Valley could soon see a green lane of their own. The nation’s largest bike parking facility opens in Santa Monica. After Alex de Cordoba is seriously injured in a hit-and-run, he calls for a crackdown on unlicensed drivers; fortunately, he’s bouncing back from his injuries. UCLA hosts a very short Bike to Campus week. Better Bike finds the recent Beverly Hills Bike Plan Update Committee meeting left a lot to be desired, and critiques the state of cyclist training by saying more needs to be done to train cyclists to survive in an urban environment. The Echo Park Neighborhood Council buys ten $110 bike racks, then discovers it will cost up to $1800 to install them — and they could have gotten them from LADOT for free. A possibly homeless cyclist is being sought as a suspect in the murder of a transgender woman. Burbank gets a $100,000 grant to benefit bike safety. Manhattan Beach endorses the seven-city South Bay Bicycle Master Plan.

Budget problems force Oceanside to put plans for a bike and pedestrian friendly Coast Highway on the back burner. Santa Ana residents worry a proposed bike path could result in an increase in crime; does it ever occur to anyone that the presence of riders could actually deter crime? Of course not. A Huntington Beach bicyclist files suit for injuries after her tire gets caught in a crack in a beachfront boardwalk. Once again, the Amgen Tour of California refuses to set tire behind the Orange Curtain. Evidently, it’s okay to shoot an animal from your bike as long as you’re not on a public roadway. Bike traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge is back to normal after a recent construction project.

Bob Mionske says three-foot passing laws — like the one ill-advisedly vetoed by our own Governor Brown — don’t work without enforcement from educated traffic officers. Do you — or even should you — say something to dangerous cyclists? A great photo series on classic biking celebrities. In an amazing comeback, triathlete Jordan Rapp competes for his second Ironman Arizona championship, less than two years after nearly being killed in a hit-and-run. Texas authorities bend over backwards to blame the victim, claiming a salmon cyclist somehow veered into traffic despite a clear view of oncoming cars. A 79-year old Phoenix cyclist is killed in a collision. Clearly, the upcoming Pedaler’s Fork won’t be the nation’s only bike shop, café and bar. Getting hit by a car doesn’t stop a Michigan bike advocate. A Tennessee election official faces DUI and vehicular homicide charges after killing a cyclist. An actress sues New York City for $3 million after she collides with a cyclist in Prospect Park, while park users — including cyclists — demand better safety, and the city tries orange barrels to slow cyclists. A University of Buffalo student offers a first-person perspective on what it’s like to live with killing a pedestrian on the road. Why is it that some drivers seem to think that we have no idea that cars are bigger than us and we’ll come out on the losing end of a collision? Well, duh.

A Toronto writer looks at the bike-unfriendly world around him after 50 years of riding and two recent deaths. Cyclists blow through stop signs because of simple physics. After too many deaths, and a successful protest ride by London cyclists, Mayor Boris Johnson finally requests a review of the city’s parking lanes bike superhighways, after being accused of ignoring expert recommendations. London’s equivalent of LADOT sits on a study showing women cyclists are more likely to be killed in traffic because they wait for red lights. A horrifying map of serious injuries and deaths over the last decade in Great Britain. Police increase patrols after a significant increase in cyclists along the planned London Olympic road course. Evidently, UK price comparison site is, as they produce a sympathetic video of a driver commuting by bike for a week and a press release attacking riders. Cyclist versus cyclist as a rider participating in an amateur race collides with a recreational rider aware he was entering the course. This is one sign we should see more often. Retired racer Jan Ullrich rediscovers his love of cycling in the face of a lifetime doping ban. Touring Tel Aviv by bike. A top Aussie BMX rider is in a coma after a failed off-bike stunt. A Japanese cyclist circles the globe for world peace, while the globe-pedaling BiciClown is currently touring Japan.

Finally, if you order now, your new riding kit should be here in plenty of time for the holidays. Or you could get the physics of cycling tattooed on your calf, instead; thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up. 

Visit SaMo Bike Center with the Spoke, Cambodian Arts Ride & Newport Pre-Thanksgiving Ride

Bike Talk airs every Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Bike Long Beach hosts Bike Saturdays every weekend; ride your bike to participating local shops and business throughout the city to get special offers and discounts.

The highly active Santa Monica Spoke, an affiliate chapter of the LACBC, will meet for coffee and pastries on Saturday, November 19th at 10 am at the Colorado Community Room on the southeast corner of 5th and Broadway, followed by a visit to the new SaMo Bike Center.

Cali Bike Tours is sponsoring a short 1.4 mile bike ride to the Cambodian Arts and Culture Exhibition on Saturday, November 19th. The ride will leave the Portfolio Coffeehouse at 2300 East 4th Street in Long Beach at 10:30 am, and returning by 12:30 pm.

C.I.C.L.E. is hosting a workshop on Brake and Gear Adjustment on Saturday the 19th, from 9:30 am to 11 am at Normandie Ave. Elementary School 4505 South Raymond Ave. That will be followed on Sunday by a Tire Repair Workshop on Sunday, November 20th, from 10 am to 11:30 am at Swim Stadium in Exposition Park.

The ever popular Get Sum Dim Sum rolls this Sunday, November 20th. Riders meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3714 N. Figueroa ST in Highland Park at 10 am, with the ride departing at 10:30; bring money for food.

The well-received Santa Monica Bike Action Plan goes before the SaMo City Council at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, November 22nd in the Santa Monica City Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street.

Bike Newport Beach is hosting a Pre-Thanksgiving Ride on Wednesday, November 23rd. The ride departs from the Newport Pier at 8 am for an easy 30-mile ride along the Santa Ana River Trail, with a stop for a late breakfast at the halfway point.

The public is invited to an informal Thanksgiving Day Mar Vista Turkey Ride, meeting at 3270 Stoner Ave at 9:30 am, with a 10 am departure time. The ride will feature a short, flat tour of the Westdale Trusdale area, followed a ride through the Mar Vista hills.

The South Bay Bike Plan concludes its long march to approval with with one last hearing before the Torrance City Council, 7:00 PM at 3031 Torrance Boulevard.

The Claremont/Pomona area hosts it’s own toy ride on Saturday, December 3rd, sponsored by the Kevin Unck Foundation, with support from Coates Cyclery and the Back Abbey. More details to follow; thanks to Michael at the Claremont Cyclist for the heads-up.

December 7th through 11th, Antenna Magazine’s Re:mix Lab will hit L.A. after a semi-national tour, featuring two urban Bad Boy bikes designed by Cannondale in cooperation with Junk Food Clothing. The art, music, fashion and cultural festival will unfold at a site to be selected.

LA Streetsblog is hosting an End of the Year Party on Thursday, December 8 from 7 pm to 10 pm at St. Andrews West Los Angeles, 11555 National Blvd. Streetsblog parties are always a good time, and well worth the suggested $25 donation; however, head Streetsblogger Damien Newton promises no one will be turned away if you can’t afford it.

Friday, December 9th, the Midnight Ridazz host what may be the most important ride of the year, when they ensure that thousands of L.A. children will have a happy holiday with the 6th Annual All-City Toy Ride. Routes will begin from points throughout the city, converging on Downtown L.A. to collect the toys and celebrate the season. If anyone else is hosting a toy ride this year, let me know.

Tuesday, December 27th, the LACBC returns to Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse for the 3rd Annual Mid-Winter Merriment, 2911 Main Street. Good beer, good friends, bike valet and a portion of all sales goes to support cycling in the great L.A. area. What’s not to like?

Through the looking glass — L.A.-area communities suddenly become bike friendlier

I was wrong.

It was only a couple years ago that Santa Monica was named a Bike Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists.

And even though it was just a Bronze level designation, I felt, like a number of other local riders, that the award was premature at best.

From frequently blocked bike lanes to a heavy-handed response to Critical Mass, and a Class III bike route on Lincoln Blvd that could only be considered an attempt to thin the herd, it seemed clear to everyone other than LAB that the day was long off when the city could be considered even remotely friendly to cyclists.

Remarkably, that day is here.

Just over two years later, Santa Monica is leading the way to becoming one of the state’s most bike-friendly cities, setting an example for every other town in the county, with the single exception of Long Beach.

Bike lanes and sharrows are appearing at a rapidly increasing rate. The city’s first bike corral has recently opened at 5th and Arizona. A new Bike Action Plan, which has been widely praised by cyclists, nears final approval by the City Council next week.

Even life-threatening Lincoln Blvd may soon see changes, as Santa Monica prepares to assume authority for the street from Caltrans, which seems more than willing to accept a few fatalities in exchange for an emphasis on vehicular traffic flow — even though it barely moves much of the day.

The police department has a new commitment to working with — and protecting the rights of — cyclists, with SMPD Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin serving as an effective counterpoint to the LAPD’s Sgt. David Krumer.

And on Friday, the city gets its first Bike Center, one of two in the downtown area that will provide riders with secure parking and showers.

More importantly, there seems to be a shared commitment throughout the city administration to make cyclists feel welcome — and safe — on the streets of Santa Monica.

Funny thing is, it’s not just SaMo.

Cities throughout L.A. County are suddenly stepping up to the bike-friendly plate.

Earlier this week, Burbank opened a new Bike Stop at their Downtown Metrolink Station — which is where you can find those cool new Metrolink Bike Cars that have everyone so excited.  Nearby Glendale recently adopted a Safe and Healthy Streets Plan, including a draft bike plan.

West Hollywood is working on a plan of their own, including a proposal to put bike lanes on busy Fountain Avenue, while L.A. is soon to open it’s first green bike lane, as well as a new separated bike lane on Downtown’s Spring Street.

The seven cities of the South Bay are just one away from unanimous approval of the Bicycle Master Plan. Even tiny South Pasadena approved a new bike plan that will add 24 miles of bike lanes to the city’s streets.

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Of course, there are still problem areas.

Like the Expo Bike Path, which is in danger of being derailed by a NIMBY lawsuit, while the planned bike facilities at the Culver City Expo Station face a misguided budget axe. And the supposedly final L.A. County Bicycle Master Plan, which still leaves a lot to be desired.

But even the biking black hole of Beverly Hills is making progress, limited though it may be.

And most shocking of all, the bayside ‘burb of Malibu, where cyclists have traditionally been regarded as some form of vermin, has inexplicably decided to explore achieving Bike Friendly status itself.

Like Beverly Hills, they have a long way to go.

Then again, so did Santa Monica just a few short years ago.


Barricades at the pier force cyclists to detour

Speaking of Santa Monica, cyclists who ride the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path — now that most of the tourists have gone home and it is actually rideable again — have been stymied by construction barriers at the pier. Along with nearly universally ignored signs asking riders to walk around the detour zone.

The path was closed to allow a storm drain improvement project, supposedly from September 12th to October 21st.

But nearly a month later, it’s still closed.

So rather than go off half-cocked — as I have admittedly been known to do — I picked up the phone and called the number posted on the sign.

After my call was passed through a series of very friendly and helpful people, I eventually ended up with the engineer in charge of the project, who told me that the delay had been caused by the need to work around some unanticipated utility lines. And that they expect to reopen the bike path next Tuesday, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.

And that may just be the most important change as the city moves to greater bike friendliness.

When you can not only get the engineer in charge on the phone, but actually get a genuine response and answers to your questions, something very positive is going on.

Are you listening, LADOT?


One last note.

I ran across this frightening item from the Orange County Register — at least, it should be frightening for anyone who rides behind the Orange Curtain.

Q. Sundays in Lake Forest are the worst: You have a pack of 50 to 75 cyclists riding up El Toro Road. My understanding of the bicycle law is that a bicycle must remain in the bike lane, and in the absence of a bike lane, the riders must stay as far to the right as safely possible. Instead, this pack rides four, five, six across.

– Mark Hermanson, Lake Forest

A. Perhaps Honk’s favorite county road that doesn’t include an ocean view is Live Oak Canyon Road, that windy, country ribbon of asphalt into Trabuco Canyon beneath a leafy canopy. And likely where those bikers go. And a road where cyclists have been known to at times dangerously, and selfishly, ride abreast of one another.

Yes, under state law, on a public road, riders are to be in the bike lane when they exist; so you and your pal can ride side-by-side if enough room exists. In the absence of a bike lane, in most circumstances, cyclists must stay as far right as possible, which would mean going it single file, or they face citations, Deputy Paul Villeneuve of the Sheriff’s Department’s Traffic Division kindly explained.

I don’t even know where to start.

As most cyclists should be aware, CVC 21202 requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable — not possible — while offering a long list a exceptions allowing them to move to the left whenever appropriate.

While cyclists are required to ride in a bike lane where present, we enjoy a similarly long list of exceptions that allow the rider to exit the lane when necessary.

And there’s nothing in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits cyclists from riding two or more abreast. In fact, it’s not even mentioned anywhere in the code.

Which means that cyclists can legally ride abreast as long as they don’t impede traffic — which is defined as five or more vehicles following behind a slow moving vehicle and unable to pass; if they can pass, they’re not being impeded.

In fact, it’s often safer to ride two or more abreast when the lane is too narrow to share, in order to increase visibility and control the lane to prevent unsafe passing.

You’d think someone in law enforcement would know that.

And it’s scary as hell when they don’t.

Great food, coffee, beer and a bike shop — what more could L.A. cyclists want?

I love great food.

Not to mention exceptional coffee. And I’ve seldom been known to turn down a good beer, especially on a pleasant outdoor patio after a good ride.

So when I heard a group a cyclists was planning to open a new restaurant in Calabasas specializing in just that — and marrying it all with a small bike shop — they had me at hello.

I’ll let one of the restaurant’s creators, Gideon Kleinman, explain what will await you next year with the opening of Pedalers Fork.


Front view of restaurant

Pedalers Fork was conceived by a group of riders who wanted to make a home for cyclists. A place that really has everything one needs to enjoy some of the greatest aspects of riding in our wonderful Santa Monica mountains.

Three of the four founding members just rode and completed the Leadville 100 and we are already training for next year, both on road and mountain. With that said, you can see that the passion is there for our pursuit of the sport and lifestyle. We wanted to create something where we could ride everyday, and enjoy the finest coffee, food and beer. Having partnered with a restaurant owner in the San Fernando Valley, we began to look for just the right space and community to establish Pedalers Fork. When we saw the space directly across from the Sagebrush Cantina in Old Town Calabasas we knew that was it. The community is there and a better location for roadies and mountain bikers hardly exists in Southern California.

We plan on having a variety of aspects that should appeal to the entire cycling community. The coffee will be furnished by our very own 10 Speed Coffee, which we partnered with and are bringing down from Hood River, Oregon. We will be roasting daily on site, and doing all of the most sought after coffee preparations and service. From single cup drips to the beautifully poured lattes, we will be bringing the a level of coffee sophistication that hardly exists in Southern California, and is so sought after by cyclists.

Rear view with cafe and bike shop

After, before or really anytime, Pedalers Fork will be an amazing place for cyclists and non-cyclists alike to dine. Our chef comes from one of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles, he is a cyclist as well and is crafting a menu specifically for the community. Pedalers Fork will be completely Farm to Table and will go to rigorous lengths to ensure that we are working with local farmers to get the absolute best and freshest ingredients. Meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, poultry and everything else on the menu will be sourced locally and will always be in season. We feel that many of the places available to cyclists don’t have the level of food in terms of quality and good healthy options that most cyclists really want.

Another of the post ride remedies that we knew we had to excel in was beer. We will have around 40 rotating beers on tap at all time and an extensive bottle list. From the micro brews of the Pacific Northwest to the oldest Trappist Ales, our selection will appeal to even the most discerning beer drinkers. We have likened our patio and bar area to a beer garden and want nothing more than to see everyone gathering at the tables and enjoying a few pints in the afternoon sun. We will be creating beer/riding clubs where people will get the chance to sample a variety of beers at a discounted price and enjoy them with friends, riders and anyone else who wants to join.

The last and perhaps the most crucial aspect of Pedalers Fork will be the bike shop. We wanted to make a meeting place for riders that can really serve them. We will have all the ride essentials; with tubes, tires, tape, food, etc, the shop will be a cyclist’s dream convenience. We plan on doing minor repairs if needed, but we are huge proponents of our local bike shops and we do not want to compete with them. It will be a fun place to watch races, pick up a few essentials, or just relax after a hard ride. Our self-locking bike rack will always ensure that your ride is safe so you needn’t keep looking over your shoulder to make sure your bike is still there. The shop will be the focal point of the restaurant and when not open, it will be lit and on display as a window into the cyclist lifestyle.

With all of these elements together, we feel that we are not only creating something perfect for cyclists and the community but will have an establishment that is totally unique. We are aiming to open around March and encourage people to friend/like us on Facebook (Pedalers Fork) and follow us on twitter @PedalersFork.

Thanks again and we look forward to riding with you all!

From left: Gideon Klienman, Head of Marketing and Creative Development, Owner/Partner Robbie Schaeffer and Chef Sam Baxter


I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for March.

And at about 23 miles from my home, it’s easily within riding distance. Although after a few good beers, the ride back could be challenging.

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