Morning Links: More details in Tour de Palm Springs crash, and what to do about overly courteous drivers

No victim blaming here.

After cyclist Mark Kristofferson was killed by a speeding driver while riding in the Tour de Palm Springs on Saturday, and another rider badly injured, participants say there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the crash.

Except for a bike-riding Palm Springs resident, who calls for better eduction for participants in the rules of the ride.

Even though accused killer Ronnie R. Huerta Jr. was allegedly traveling at over twice the 50 mph speed limit when he lost control and slammed into the victims.

And even though the two victims were doing nothing wrong, and reportedly riding exactly where they were supposed to be.

Nothing they did could have prevented the crash. Unless they had somehow been able to keep Huerta’s alleged foot off his alleged gas pedal. Or keep him out of his damn car to begin with.

Huerta was reportedly released on $75,000 bail on a single count of vehicular manslaughter, though that could change as prosecutors move forward.

Meanwhile, the other victim, 50-year old Alyson Lee Akers of Huntington Beach, was being treated for what was described as “major injuries,” including a head laceration.

Let’s all hope she makes a full and fast recovery.

And that Riverside County officially treat this case with the seriousness it deserves.

Let’s also hope that the ride organizers figure out some way to improve safety. Because two deaths in four years is two too many.

Photo courtesy of the LAPD Central Area Bike Unit.

………

Frequent contributor Mike Wilkinson writes for advice on how to handle the problem of friendly drivers who want to wave you through the intersection.

Dear Dr. BikinginLA:

My wife and I are enjoying a friendly disagreement about what to do when a driver yields their right of way to us. I say it’s confusing and maybe dangerous. She says the drivers are being courteous. We should smile, wave, and go for it.

Although I go to extra effort to ride according to the rules (and laws) of the road, I don’t have too much trouble waving and smiling in low-risk situations. An example would be meeting a driver at a four-way stop. If the driver waves me through, even if that driver was there first, my wife’s words ring in my ears, and I smile, wave, and start pedaling. My wife is very adamant: With all of the hostility from drivers that we hear about, if a driver is kind enough to yield their right of way, we should accept it graciously.

On the other hand, yesterday I encountered what I thought was a dangerous situation. I was on a small 25 mph residential street waiting to cross a 45 mph street with two lanes in each direction. To my surprise, a driver on the busy street stopped and waved me through. I didn’t go, because there were cars coming from the other direction. Soon there were other drivers behind the one who stopped, and the honking began. Eventually the driver who stopped drove away, but I think everyone involved was upset, some of them at me!

I think that in the long run it would be better if everyone took their right of way. We all know that the streets are crazy enough without someone trying to invent new rules, even if they are just trying to be courteous. However, in the real world, I’d be very interested to learn what your other readers have to say about drivers who yield their right of way.

Personally, I appreciate when drivers show me any courtesy, wanted or otherwise.

So I play it by ear. If there’s no one else on the road, I’ll usually wave my thanks and ride through; if not, I’ll wave the driver through while signaling my appreciation.

And if I don’t feel safe, I’ll clip out of my pedal, put my foot down, and won’t budge until it’s safe for me to go. No matter how offended the driver gets.

However, I try not to brag about my Ph.D. in Advanced BS from Whatsamatta U.

………

Local

The intersection where 15-year old Saul Lopez was killed while riding to school two years ago has been renamed in his honor after receiving a number of safety improvements, including leading interval signals for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The LACBC will host a monthly slow ride beginning this Saturday.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman will host a discussion on the future of transportation in Los Angeles at the Glendale Transportation Center this Saturday.

CiclaValley explores the newly extended bike lanes on Verdugo Ave in Burbank.

 

State

Caltrans’ white paper on the Future of Mobility in the years leading up to 2050 includes a section on bikeshare. But not on riding any other kind of bike.

The San Diego Union-Tribune says pedestrian fatalities continue to mount as the city drags its feet on Vision Zero. Not unlike another city I could mention a few hours to the north.

 

National

Oregon chefs are already gearing up for May’s three-day, 300-mile No Child Hungry ride along the California coast.

Riding while black. According to the Chicago Tribune, blacks, Latinos and whites each make up roughly a third of the city’s population — yet over half of all tickets issued to bike riders were written in predominantly black neighborhoods.

A Kentucky Op-Ed says the state should adopt a three-foot passing law, like 34 other states already have, including California.

Country star Luke Bryan is still one of us, gearing up with a new Trek despite breaking his collarbone in a 2016 bicycling fall.

The annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show runs this coming weekend in Hartford CT.

 

International

Former LA Kings goalie and current Canadian hockey analyst Kellie Hrudey is one of us, too.

A British bicyclist gets six months for breaking the leg of a man in his 70s while riding drunk and brakeless on a train platform.

A British man lost his bicycle, mobile phone and laptop in a strong-arm robbery by three young men who pushed him into a stream.

A Scottish nonprofit group is helping refugees get settled in the country by providing them with bicycles.

An Irish writer says “Cyclist bashing is a popular sport among the less enlightened members of the commentariat.” And then proceeds to do exactly that, before concluding that too many cyclists have died.

Drivers in Kuala Lumpur call for the removal of new protected bike lanes, describing them as a safety hazard. Just like drivers in Los Angeles do.

Bicyclists in Yangon, Myanmar say riding a bike on city streets is like betting your life.

 

Competitive Cycling

Nice profile of America’s only men’s Olympic cycling gold medal winner, 1984 champ Alexi Grewal, told from the perspective of his new home in India.

A Rwandan paper looks at the rise of bike racing in the country.

A writer for Slate looks at Strava as a gateway drug, explaining how it got her into bike racing.

 

Finally…

If you’re going to do a story about sharing the road, don’t illustrate it with a photo of tandem time trial riders. How to be antisocial and take a group cycling vacation anyway.

And teenage Nazi spies on bikes may not just be a good premise for a WWII novel.

……..

Let’s finish with one last, larger look at that great, suitable-for-framing photo at the top of this page.

Photo courtesy of LAPD Central Bike Unit

13 comments

  1. Flehnerz says:

    I don’t have Facebook but someone should go reply to
    Bob Rimac
    Northwestern University
    “I guess bicyclists are so passionate they see two deaths as collateral damage. If nothing changes, there will be more deaths. It’s no fluke – it’s a poorly designed and managed event.”

  2. Randy Ice PT, CCS says:

    You just pointed out that the Palms Springs death was not preventable short of the car driver “taking his foot off the gas.” The accidental death in this event in 2014 was a female cyclists who apparently ran a stop sign and was hit by a car. There were no charges filed so apparently law enforcement agreed with that assessment.

    Then you make the bizarre statement: “Let’s also hope that the ride organizers figure out some way to improve safety. Because two deaths in four years is two too many.” Neither of these accidents are the fault of the event nor it’s organizers.

    In one case the cyclist was at fault, in the other a motorist. The event has no control over people’s behaviors and what they do on the road.

    • bikinginla says:

      It doesn’t really matter whether its the fault of organizers or not, does it?

      Two deaths is two too many. Bike riders won’t continue to participate in an event they consider unsafe, insurers will demand changes before they continue to provide liability coverage, and cities will opt out of participating if they think they could face liability — and they will.

      As for the organizers, there are a number of additional steps they could take, such as providing crossing guards at key intersections, hiring police escorts to accompany and follow the riders, or blocking all or one side of the road. Nothing keeps an idiot from getting behind the wheel and driving in a dangerous, and possibly intoxicated, state, but steps can be taken to mitigate the risk.

      Finally, Koester was unfairly blamed by the CHP for her death. Witnesses at the scene reported that a group of bicyclists were waiting at a two-way stop for traffic to clear, when a driver with the right-of-way stopped to wave them across the intersection. Koester was part of a large group of riders who rode through the intersection at his invitation. Another driver came up at a high rate of speed, and was unable to stop in time to avoid striking her.

      CHP investigators oversimplified the situation, and settled the case by stating Koester ran the stop sign, which is technically true. She, and the other riders, should have stopped at the stop sign and refused the first driver’s attempt at courtesy. But she went along with what everyone else was doing, as most people would.

      This situation could have been avoided by having crossing guards or police stationed at the intersection. Because they didn’t, a woman lost her life.

  3. I think when riders embark on Tour de Palm Springs they have a false sense of security that they will be safe. Dillon Rd where the crash occurred is not safe, period. It’s a rural road with no bike lanes and drivers feel like they can speed along it. It is a fairly popular cycling route but I would never ride on it. The Coachella Valley is full of terrible drivers and cycling deaths and injuries are not uncommon. Keep that in mind when you sign up for the 50 or 100 mile ride where so much of it is uncontrolled.

  4. Actually I was thinking of Ramon Rd in that area and am less familiar with Dillon Rd; it’s probably similar. My best wishes for a safe ride.

  5. D says:

    I agree with Mike. It´s easier if everyone who knows them follow the rules of the road. We who do can then go back to automatic pilot.

    But not everyone knows them. The stopped driver is correctly thinking about getting out of the way of riders who routine blow through stop signs. Which will continue to happen until teenage bike riders learn the rules of the road. I see no end to this problem.

    • bikinginla says:

      It’s not just teenage riders. I have yet to see a bike rider stop for the four-way stop on the corner near my home, and not many slow down for it. But I agree that too many drivers have no idea what to do when a bike rider approaches an intersection, because they have no idea whether or not the rider is going to stop. When I’m behind the wheel, I always assume a bike rider will blow the stop, and wait until I know for sure before proceeding. Then again, I always assume other drivers will go through it, as well.

    • “…a driver with the right-of-way stopped to wave them across the intersection. Koester was part of a large group of riders who rode through the intersection at his invitation. Another driver came up at a high rate of speed, and was unable to stop…”

      Oh God help us… this is exactly why I hate it when drivers, even with the best of intentions, yield their right of way.

      I’ll stick to what I wrote to Ted near the top of today’s day’s post . If it’s just me and another driver at a four-way stop, I’ll smile, wave and go. Otherwise, I’ll smile and wave them off.

      • Kim says:

        That’s not what happened. There was no intersection there. The 21 year old tried to pass a vehicle that was respectfully going at a reasonable speed passed the bikers. The 21 year old tried to pass that driver and lost control.

  6. Kim says:

    What????? Nothing they can do??? I spoke to an EMT who told me that they pick this road because it’s lightly traveled, but the authorities know very well that those who drive on that road, speed. That driver drove passed us like a crazy person. There were thousands of bicyclist out that day and signs everywhere that a bike event was going on. The driver spun out of control because he was going twice the speed limit. Why is the truth being twisted to make it sound like this was a simple accident that couldn’t have been avoided. How about putting police officers out there to keep an eye on those who might be using that road as a race track? They are well aware of the speeding that goes on out there, and I saw no one out there deterring anyone who would speed. I’m angry as hell that someone lost their life and all of this downplaying of the events, it’s disrespectful to him.

  7. Ralph says:

    Ah the over polite driver at the 4 way stop.

    I tend to like following the right of way rules. First there, first to go. If I just beat a driver there I may wave them through if no one else is there. Assuming they come to a full stop. I tend to wait to make sure that they stop. They can normally get through faster than I can. If they are on my right the driver normally is past my lane if we both start at the same time. I normally go first if the driver is on the left side of me.

    If there is any other traffic I follow right of way rules. I also like to stop to let drivers know that cyclists do stop.

  8. Henry says:

    This horrific incident could have been prevented had there been police presence along Dillon Road that day. Outside of emergency vehicles that responded to the incident, I did not see one police officer the entire time I cycled Dillon Road.

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