Morning Links: LA Times columnist takes his anger out on us, and a section of LA River path closed for two years

Take a breath, George.

Abraham Lincoln had a habit of writing angry letters to let off steam, then placing them in his desk, unsigned and unsent.

Maybe LA Times Capitol Journal columnist George Skelton should take the hint.

In his Thursday column, Skelton reported that his planned trip to Lake Tahoe with his daughter over the weekend was derailed when they ran into a road closure to accommodate an Ironman triathlon — not a bicycle race, despite how he characterized it. And was so incensed he responded by calling for a tax on all bike riders.

Which is like demanding that joggers and pedestrians pay for the sidewalks and crosswalks they use just because the LA Marathon keeps you from crossing the street, as Keith Pluymers pointed out.

Except they already do.

In fact, we all do. Just as we all pay for the roads Skelton seems to think are exclusively financed by motorists.

Even gas taxes and auto registration fees, which he seems to think bike riders don’t pay — even though the overwhelmingly majority of people who ride bikes also own and drive cars — only cover a fraction of the cost of building and maintaining our streets and highways.

The rest comes out of the same income and sales taxes we all pay, whether we travel on two wheels or four.

Or none.

He also seems to forget about those similarly freeloading electric car drivers, who don’t pay a penny more in gas taxes than bike riders do. And hybrid owners, whose relatively high mileage means they pay a fraction of the taxes other drivers pay when they fill up.

Then there’s the simple matter of why drivers are expected to pay for those roads.

It’s not for the privilege of driving on them, as Skelton seems to presume. It’s because those multi-ton vehicles cause exponential wear and tear on the roadways every time they’re driven on them.

Bicycles don’t. Period.

Even at the peak of my out-of-shape weight following my father-in-law’s stroke, when I packed 220 pounds onto a 15 pound bike, my impact on the road was infinitesimal compared to even the lightest motor vehicles. Never mind the massive SUVs so common in California they should replace the grizzly on the California flag.

It’s true that bike lanes aren’t free.

But striping lanes costs just pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of building a roadway to accommodate cars and trucks. Let alone the more than $1 billion — that’s billion, with a b — it cost to put HOV lanes on the 405 through the Sepulveda pass.

And as anyone who’s driven there lately can attest, that’s barely made a dent in the infamous 405 traffic congestion. If that.

Skelton doesn’t address the question of who would have to register their bikes with the state. Does the toddler on her trike have to pay the same fee as the roadie slicing curves on Mulholland?

What about the immigrant worker who can’t afford a car or public transportation? Do we slap him in leg irons if he rides an unregistered bike on the streets of our fair state?

Finally, there’s the question of who would administer the fees he calls for.

The DMV has already said they don’t want the job. The sort of small fees he suggests — such as the $3 licensing fee charged in Long Beach — wouldn’t begin to cover the millions required to administer and enforce a program to register every single bicycle in the late, great Golden State.

And any fee high enough to cover the costs would only serve as yet another barrier to bicycling, at time when we should be lowering those barriers to encourage more people to bike to improve their health, and the health of the cities they live in.

Let alone removing a few more cars from our overly congested streets.

In fact, a recent study showed that every mile traveled by bike results in a net economic gain of 42 cents to society, while every mile traveled by car results in a net loss of 20 cents.

Which means we should be getting a rebate, not charged extra taxes on top of those we already pay.

Skelton should have known better.

And probably would have if he’d just taken long enough to cool off; even a few minutes with Google could have corrected his misassumptions before they ever got into print.

Instead, a respected reporter who usually offers valuable insights into the inner workings of our state government apparently let his anger get the better of him.

And instead of taking it out on the Ironman sponsors, Caltrans or the local governments who permitted the race, he chose to take it out on you and me.

This is one column that should have been placed in his desk drawer. And left there.

Permanently.

Thanks to Noel Smith for the heads-up.

………

Just in case you needed a reminder — which is highly unlikely if you ride LA streets — this is what a too-close pass looks like, courtesy of On My Bike in LA.

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LA area cyclists are about to lose one of the few safe places we have to ride thanks to the never-ending drive to increase capacity for cars.

A one-mile section of the La River bike path will be closed for two full years between Riverside Drive and the 134 Freeway.

Yes, two years.

All because Caltrans is adding carpool lanes to a section of the 5 Freeway. The construction will impact a section of the bike path that runs nearby, and the closure is for our own safety, according to the notice.

Thanks for looking out for us. No, really.

Bike riders will be diverted onto Zoo Drive and Western Heritage Way, near where Finish the Ride founder Damien Kevitt was struck by a hit-and-run driver who dragged him onto the 5, nearly taking his life.

So if anyone happens to get hit by a car while bypassing the construction zone for the next two years, I’d suggest getting a good lawyer who can reach into the deep pockets at Caltrans.

And yes, I can recommend a few.

………

Mike Wilkinson forwards advice on what to do if you’re the first on the scene following an injury collision. It’s written from a motorcyclist’s perspective, but the advice holds true for non-motorized riders.

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Welcome to the US. An unidentified cyclist training for the world championships was hit by a car that was somehow allowed to cross the course; fortunately, the victim was not seriously hurt.

Bicycling talks with U23 silver medalist Emma White; the 18-year old is the first American woman to podium in the world junior time trial since 2007.

School students get days off for snow days, teacher training days, religious holidays, and now, UCI world championships race days.

Alberto Contador makes plans to exit stage left after the Rio Olympics next year. Bike racing’s governing body announced next year’s women’s WorldTour with a 60% increase in competition days. Women continue to ride in the back of the bus, though, and there’s still no women’s equivalent to the men’s Grand Tours.

Taylor Phinney discusses the pain of time trials versus the pain that comes from a devastating injury, while the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay offers perhaps the best Taylor Phinney profile yet. And a gofundme account has raised $80 to buy Phinney a muffin.

Yes, a muffin.

………

Local

South LA cyclists demand the Central Avenue bike lanes promised in the mobility plan. And rightfully so.

Bike Portland talks with our own transportation maven Seleta Reynolds.

The latest podcast from Streetsblog’s Damien Newton is a talk with new CicLAvia Executive Director Romel Pascual.

A man is under arrest for murder after shooting another man near West 6th and Lafayette Park, then stealing a bicycle at gunpoint before being captured by police.

Los Angeles Magazine offers five tools to make shopping by bike easier. Although they somehow forgot messenger bags, which were developed by bike messengers for a reason.

 

State

An anonymous tip has led San Diego police to the car used in a hit-and-run that seriously injured a woman riding her bike last week; it was found at a repair shop, apparently getting fixed to hide the damage. Although the local NBC station seems to think the car was acting on its own.

Trial began on Thursday for the wrong-way, allegedly high driver who slammed into 10 riders on San Diego’s Fiesta Island, leaving one permanently disabled.

The San Diego Union-Tribune puts the Coronado anti-bike hysteria in context, saying it’s part of a backlash against increased tourism on the penisula. Maybe tourists should respond by taking their money somewhere else.

Palm Springs cyclists get a new mobile bike repair truck.

Bittersweet story from Camarillo, as a woman is spending her final days touring California by bike with her boyfriend; she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer shortly after kicking a two decade addiction to meth. Camarillo’s US Bike Company gave them new bicycles after theirs were stolen in Big Sur.

Caught on video: The San Francisco police captain who ordered a crackdown on scofflaw cyclists rolls a stop himself while on his bike. Maybe he was just trying to fit in.

Evidently, San Francisco cyclists will be on the Critical Mass to Hell this weekend.

Sad news from Shingletown, near Redding, as a bike rider was killed Thursday evening when a 17-year old driver drifted onto the shoulder where she was riding.

 

National

The National Bike Challenge hit 35 million miles 10 days before the scheduled end of the program, a whopping 50% increase over last year.

You can now ping your bell to tell you where you parked your bike. Although if you can’t find where you parked your bike, it’s usually a sign it may not be there anymore.

The Portland paper road tests the city’s new bikeshare bikes.

The standard controversy erupts over a road diet in my hometown, with drivers complaining about traffic backups and unused buffered bike lanes, which riders avoid because they don’t connect to anything and dump them back into traffic with no warning.

Denver tries on a protected bike lane for size; for a change, local merchants joined safety advocates in pushing for changes on the busy street.

That’s one way to steal a bike. A woman walked into an Ohio Wal-Mart, set a rack of pajamas on fire, and walked out with a new bike.

Some schmuck stole a 1980 Schwinn 12-speed from a 92-year old WWII vet in Troy NY; he only rode it twice before hanging it up in his garage.

Now those are some serious choppers. A New York bike thief imitates the city’s infamous rats and uses his teeth to gnaw through a bike lock. Yes, his teeth.

A Philadelphia website says the pending papal visit is the perfect opportunity for drivers to experience a Road to Damascus conversion to bike commuting.

That Delaware DuPont exec on trial for killing a man on a bicycle in a hit-and-run last year claimed he thought he hit some tree branches. And yet his young sons saw the bike spinning away and asked if he’d just killed a cyclist. Schmuck.

All Washington DC students will now learn to ride a bike in the second grade. This should set the standard for every city, including LA.

Atlanta officials sign off on 31 miles of new bike lanes.

By his account, a 70-year old Georgia driver was doing everything right when those crazy bike riders started yelling at him, and he accidently ran into one trying to get away. Sure, that sounds credible.

FL police blame a teenage bike rider for not riding in the crosswalk after he’s injured in a collision. Of course, if he had been in the crosswalk, they would have blamed him for that.

 

International

Now those damn Canadians are trying to take credit for the Popebike.

No bias here. The CBC apparently thinks the value of a victim’s bike has something to do with why a left turning driver ran him down in the bike lane and fled the scene.

Serious injuries among British bike riders are going up three times faster than the increase in miles ridden.

Brit bike couriers protest to demand a living wage.

 

Finally…

Evidently, the key to success as a champion lumberjack is riding a bike. Regardless of what the Standard thinks, a combination breathalyzer/bike lock is not a blow to bike-riding boozers as long as its use remains voluntary.

And this gnome-lookalike perv should be locked away until he’s 87. But you’ve got to admire his bike handling skills.

 

2 comments

  1. John McBrearty says:

    Maybe George Skelton should read his own newspaper. Long Beach eliminated bike licensing!

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/02/long-beach-eliminates-bike-registration-law-that-dealt-steep-fines.html

  2. D. McFarland says:

    I have a truck that I pay all fees on but drive less than 1500 miles a year as I choose to do most of everything I do by bicycle. The state or the country as a whole should do as they do in some countries. Tax vehicles extra for weight and mileage driven per year. I cause no damage to our roads or air quality by choosing to leave my vehicle at home and do almost everything by bicycle. In fact we save the state large amounts of money. Even after almost being killed on August 30th 2013 I still ride and will continue to take a huge risks since very few drivers know about or obey the 3 foot law.

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