Bike and civic giant George Wolfberg dies at 82, Mariah Kandise Banks prelim a bust, and anti-bike bias in CA Senate

Happy International Winter Bike to Work Day.

Oh, and Valentines Day, too. 

And sorry if I leave a tear or two on your screen today.

………

Giants are usually invisible.

You seldom notice them hiding among the rest of us, doing the same things we do.

Until one falls. And it’s felt all over the city.

Like my friend George Wolfberg, an invisible giant of the Los Angeles bicycling community.

And virtually every other community in the City of Angels.

It was just yesterday, flipping the pages of the LA Times, that I recognized Wolfberg’s face looking back at me from the obituary pages, and learned he’d passed away last week after an extended illness at the age of 82.

His death did not go unnoticed in Pacific Palisades, where he was a longtime resident, chair emeritus of the community council, and the former leader of the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association.

I first met the longtime bicycle and community advocate nearly a dozen years ago, when he was fighting a battle to extend the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path to Malibu.

One he ultimately lost to a group of fellow advocates who preferred the danger of keeping bicyclists on deadly PCH to the optics of such an expensive bikeway project.

But George quickly got me involved in other projects, from joining the PCH Task Force to represent the needs on bike riders on the dangerous corridor, to connecting me with just the right people in the city and county governments to get finally piles of sand swept off the beachfront path months after a storm.

Which wouldn’t have happened without Wolfberg’s help.

Because George Wolfberg knew almost everyone at every level of the city, county and state governments. And even set up meetings with state Assembly Members and Senators to present my approach to halting hit-and-runs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to convince them at the time that hit-and-run was that big a problem.

I wonder if they get it now.

For years, I could count on finding links to some bicycling story or another from the Wall Street Journal or New York Times popping up in my inbox on a regular basis, with the email address invariably leading back to him.

And he never missed contributing to this site’s holiday fundraiser every year; it breaks my heart to think this last one was, in fact, the last one.

But that’s the funny thing about giants.

They don’t always tell you they are one. Or why.

I’d known for some time that George Wolfberg was one of the first members of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advocacy Committee.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I learned he’d also served on the LA County BAC. Or that there even was an LACBAC.

I was familiar with the late LA bike legend Alex Baum’s work to bring the ’84 Olympic Games to Los Angeles, and that he was instrumental in bringing women’s cycling to the Games for the first time.

But I never knew Wolfberg had worked hand-in-glove with him, writing the original proposal for the Games that forced the International Olympic Committee’s hand by including women’s cycling as a demonstration sport.

Or that he was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to Los Angeles in ’94. Let alone that he fought the horrific South African apartheid by working to get the city to divest from the racially divided county, later earning thanks from Nelson Mandela himself.

And worked just as hard for the residents of South LA, setting up a meals program for soccer playing kids who didn’t get enough to eat at home.

George never told me any of that. Or the countless other civic and athletic accomplishments on his resume that have made this city a better place for all of us.

Because that’s not what giants do.

I am poorer today, because I lost a friend and ally.

But more importantly, this city is poorer because it lost a true giant of a community leader. A man who did everything Los Angeles asked of him, then kept on doing more.

We will all miss George Wolfberg, even if most of us will never know it.

May his memory be a blessing for all of us.

Photo from Pacifica Palisades Community Council

………

Our anonymous courtroom correspondent attended yesterday’s hearing for Mariah Kandise Banks in the hit-and-run death of fallen bicyclist Frederick “Woon” Frazier, which turned out to be a prelim, rather than the actual trial.

But for no apparent reason, as it turned out.

Banks’ public defender couldn’t get herself extricated from another case that’s currently at trial (these things happen), so today’s preliminary hearing was delayed until March 17th, and I’ll be there.

A film crew from USC was there to cover the proceedings, which were brief. Bogart was there, Spencer was there. I met a budding activist, new to LA from Chicago, who had lost his fiancee of 8 years, and another activist fresh from Corvallis.

Nobody’s bike was stolen during the hearing, but Bogart et al were in the elevator (with Courtroom 38’s bailiff!) when it jammed, so their arrival was delayed for 20 minutes.

Woon’s mama was there and holding it together as best she could, which of course meant rivers of tears. She wore a t-shirt with a picture of young Woon and his bike, from which his face beamed. She repeated the words he said to her as he walked out the door for the last time, and I could just about hear them in his voice. Then her body heaved with sobs. So many arms were there to comfort her, but there’ll never be enough.

After Banks accepted the motion for continuance, the Assistant DA spoke to us in the hallway, providing a basic overview of the prosecution process and a chronology of expected future events. Woon’s mama indicated that she’s unlikely to actually be in the same room with Ms. Banks.

God damn. I wish I could suffer her pain for her.

………

No bias here.

Streetsblog reports that the Republican Vice-Chair of the California Senate Transportation Committee buys into the myth that bike lanes increase traffic emissions.

Bates has made it clear that she is hostile to taxing people to pay for transportation, and hates the idea of paying for transportation infrastructure that doesn’t involve cars. At the hearing, she said that active transportation projects–“translated as ‘road diets,’ which is the term used these days,” she said, further muddling the topic–contribute to higher emissions by causing “mounting congestion on some of the primary arterials.”

“I think [the Active Transportation Program] had more to do with moving people out of automobiles and onto bikes and things where you create less greenhouse gas and the emissions, but when you’ve got the other two lanes and people are sitting in their cars, running, you have the same problem,” she said.

The transportation site’s Melany Curry had this to say in response.

And a lot more.

This actual data is in sharp contrast with the kind of fearmongering promulgated by groups like Keep L.A. Moving and Keep Pasadena Moving, whose anti-bike advocacy has prevented safety measures in those cities, and resulted in the removal of a road diet in Playa Del Rey before data could even be collected. Those fears are also fed by awful click-bait headlines like the one on the recent story in the S.F. Chronicle blaming bike lanesvery wrongly — for congestion on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge.

Sure, it’s possible for a poorly designed road diet to increase congestion. But that’s not what happens, for the most part. And Senator Bates’ repeating the idea that they do is unhelpful, at best.

And blaming bike lanes for vehicle emissions is just gaslighting. Senator Bates is not alone in doing this, and she needs to stop. And she also needs to stop pushing that as a reason for the state to stop funding active transportation projects.

Seriously, give it a read.

Because we have to know who and what we’re up against out there.

And how to respond to made-up facts with real ones.

………

This is who we share the roads with. And the airspace, apparently.

………

It may not be romantic, but chances are, you’ll still love killing a little time this foggy downhill run.

………

Local

Crosstown LA at USC crunched the numbers, and came up with a list of the most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles; surprisingly, all but three are in the San Fernando Valley, with the others in South LA. Hint: You might want to avoid Sepulveda and Sherman Way. 

Curbed looks at CD14 Councilmember Jose Huizar’s proposal to permanently prohibit cars from a 1.5-mile stretch of historic Broadway in DTLA.

Active SGV will host their first Emerald Necklace Bike Train of 2020 this Sunday.

The Santa Monica City Council voted to approve the bike and pedestrian friendly makeover of deadly Wilshire Blvd.

You can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, as CiclaValley’s Zachary Rynew unveils his Karate Kid custom hand-painted bike shoe; he showed off the other one earlier this week.

 

State

New polls show San Diego residents want parking more than bike lanes, and stricter regulations on e-scooters — even though the current regs have already chased some providers out of town.

An 11-year old Ventura boy was seriously injured when he was hit by a driver while riding his bike on a private roadway in a condo complex; needless to say, the driver played the Universal Get Out of Jail Free card, claiming he just didn’t see the kid.

UC Santa Barbara’s HOPR bikeshare will be hopping off campus this spring.

The garlic capital of the world considers establishing bicycle parking minimums for apartments and commercial buildings, including both long and short term bike parking.

A Modesto paper welcomes a road diet and protected bikeway, as long as it’s accompanied by affordable housing.

A debunking website says yes, Amazon’s first CFO really was killed by one of the company’s own delivery subcontractors while riding her bike in San Jose.

San Francisco’s shortest protected bike lane could be here to stay — assuming all goes well at a hearing next week, after it was already ripped out once.

 

National

Streetsblog says don’t hold your breath waiting for a Democratic presidential candidate who’s committed to breaking car culture.

Writing for Bicycling, a woman describes how her fellow mountain bike coaches got her through the darkest days of her divorce.

It’s 44 days into Oregon’s new Idaho Stop Law, and the sky hasn’t fallen.

There’s a special place in hell for the bike thief who stole a beautiful, $4,000 custom-made low rider bike from an Arizona barbershop.

Colorado Public Radio offers tips on how to keep riding in the snow. Which is not a problem you’re likely to encounter on International Winter Bike to Work Day here in Los Angeles.

A Michigan School got a visit from professional mountain biker Jeff Lenosky, and every 1st and 2nd grader got a new bike and helmet, thanks to Lenosky and a local nonprofit.

Over 2,000 safety-minded people signed a petition calling for protected bike lanes downtown Nashville TN.

A Boston TV station comes to the rescue of a college student, who got stuck with a $1275 bill when she was unable to dock a bikeshare bike after a $2.50 ride.

Singer and rapper Ray J discusses his Scoot e-bike/scooters on a Gotham morning talk show.

 

International

A red light-running London driver has been convicted in the hit-and-run death of a bike rider, who slipped away after 18 months in a coma; his father, cousin and younger brother were convicted of helping him coverup the crime.

The driver of a commercial skip loader got a well-deserved three and a half years for killing a bike rider while high on coke and cannabis.

A British woman refused to accept the diagnosis when doctors told her she’d never ride a bike again following brain surgery; now she rides a bike, runs, climbs mountains and jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.

A woman in the UK is furious after thieves stole her $1,000 bike, then came back to take her hot tub, too.

Forget CicLAvia. Paris will now ban cars from four arrondissements — aka districts — on the first Sunday of every month, opening the streets to the people.

German bicycle and trucking associations say the country has to do more to improve safety for bicyclists, with over 400 people dying while riding their bikes in Germany every year.

The hit-and-run epidemic has spread to Oman, where a driver was busted for fleeing the scene after running over a bicyclist; no word on the condition of the victim.

 

One comment

  1. Anya says:

    Thank you for the story about my father, George Wolfberg. When I was young, he would ride us on his bike or ride with us on our bikes from Will Rogers beach to past LAX. We’d go and have Sunday brunch in Venice and we all grew our ties to bicycling. I’m happy to live now in Davis, where the first bike paths were created, and to be able to bike to work and no longer sit in LA traffic. When I lived in North Hills, Dad helped me purchase a nice road bike so I could exercise the length of the Valley along the nearly continuous path — I think it was Plummer from 405 to Topanga. Nice to know he helped you all in you mission!

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