18 Los Angeles bike riders killed in 2021 Vision Zero fail, speed cams improve safety, and Sidney Poitier was one of us

It’s worse than we thought.

A lot worse.

Tracking bicycling deaths in Los Angeles last year, it became clear that what I was seeing was clearly a major undercount.

Because the numbers I was seeing were too good to be true, as if LA’s Vision Zero has suddenly started showing results, despite years of just nibbling at the edges of traffic safety.

It’s a problem that has developed over the past few years, as local newspapers and TV stations stopped reporting many bike crashes after the pandemic forced major cutbacks in the newsrooms.

At the same time, the LAPD has taken to telling the public about bike and pedestrian deaths only when there’s a crime involved — and even then too often waiting weeks, if not months, to issue a press release in some parts of the city, particularly in the case of hit-and-runs.

And LADOT has backtracked from their promises to track bike and pedestrian deaths under the Vision Zero program, which has receded to where it seems more like an inconvenience than a priority for the city’s transportation agency.

As a result, I counted just eight people killed riding bicycles in the city last year, a fraction of the 15 to 20 or more deaths that would have been expected in pre-pandemic days.

Sadly, I was right.

According to the Los Angeles Times, that was less than half of the actual total of 18 people killed riding their bikes in the City of Angels in 2021 — a 20% increase over the 15 people killed on bikes in the first year of the pandemic.

The paper points out the ongoing failure of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s underfunded Vision Zero pledge to cut traffic deaths by 20% by 2017 — a target the city didn’t come close to meeting. And the virtual impossibility meeting his commitment to ending traffic deaths in the city entirely by 2025.

According to Los Angeles Police Department data through Dec. 25, 289 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, 21% more than the same period in 2020 and 19% over the same period in 2019. A total of 1,465 people were severely injured, a 30% increase over the same period in 2020. The LAPD defines severely injured as needing to be transported from the collision.

The city’s streets are increasingly dangerous for pedestrians in particular, with 486 being severely injured by motorists — a 35% increase over 2020. Pedestrian deaths rose 6% to 128.

The numbers frustrate transportation advocates, who’ve long argued that Vision Zero — a program to end traffic deaths unveiled in 2015 by Garcetti — is underfunded and given a low priority by the mayor and City Hall leaders.

Then again, that’s what can be expected when our elected leaders quake in fear of getting recalled by angry drivers, and lack the courage to make the hard choices and changes necessary to save lives.

But Garcetti isn’t one to take such criticism lying down.

Garcetti cited the distraction of cellphones as a cause of collisions and said the city has added bike lanes during the pandemic, studied the city’s most dangerous intersections to come up with solutions, and supported a new state law designed to help cities have more control over speed limits.

“But it shows how tough it is,” Garcetti said Thursday.

He pushed back against criticism that he doesn’t mention Vision Zero as frequently as he touts other initiatives. “I speak out all the time,” Garcetti said. “I do on panels, I go out there, internationally, to kind of be part of this movement to make sure that we have more walkable, livable cities.”

So it’s nice to see Garcetti has done what he seems to do best.

Talk and attend conferences.

To be honest, I’ve wracked my brain in recent months, but can’t recall any elected official I’ve voted for and actively supported who has been a greater disappointment than Eric Garcetti. 

He started out great in his first term, before apparently setting his sights on higher office — including the presidency — and appearing to lose interest in the daily work of being the mayor of Los Angeles.

But I can tell you this.

I will not vote for anyone for mayor this year who does not fully commit to making Vision Zero a top priority, and funding it at levels necessary to result in real change. And commit to making the difficult choices and changes we need on our streets to actually reduce deaths and make our streets survivable.

And I won’t support anyone for city council who doesn’t, either.

It’s clear that homelessness will be the primary issue in this year’s campaign. We need to fight to raise traffic safety to a top priority, as well.

Because our lives literally depend on it.

………

A new Chicago study shows speed cams really do work. And they really do save lives.

A review of the city’s 162 automated speed cams, which state law allows to be installed only within one-eighth of a mile of a park or school, showed that serious crashes went up in those areas.

But not as much as they did in the city as a whole.

According to Chicago Streetsblog,

  • Fatal or serious injury crashes increased only 2 percent near speed cameras between 2012-13 and 2018-19, as compared to a 21 percent increase citywide. This is similar to the 1 percent and 19 percent findings of last year’s study, which compared 2012-13 with 2017-18.
  • Between 2012-13 and 2018-19, overall crash totals increased 1 percent in the cam locations, compared to a 25 percent increase in all crashes citywide. The figures from last year’s study were 4 percent and 26 percent.
  • Speed-related crashes increased 18 near speed cams between 2012-13 and 2018-19, compared to a 64 percent spike city-wide. Those are smaller increases than were seen in last year’s study: 25 percent and 75 percent.

Two bills under consideration in the state legislature during the past session would have established pilot programs for speed cams here in California.

But both died on the vine, apparently because they would have inconvenienced speeding drivers, which tend to make them mad.

Fortunately, Calbike and SAFE — aka Streets Are For Everyone — say they’ll make getting a bill through the legislature one of their top priorities.

So there may be hope yet.

………

Los Angeles Bureau of Streets Services Assistant Director & Chief Sustainability Officer Greg Spotts is one of us.

Which should inspire confidence that he’ll get the job done right.

………

Now if all cars were just made like this.

Thanks to Ted Faber for the heads-up. 

………

The immortal Sidney Poitier was one of us. So was his friend and fellow 1940s alum of Harlem’s American Negro Theatre.

………

I want to be like him when I grow up.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

No bias here. Instead of complaining about the one rude bike rider they encountered, a New Jersey father addresses his complaints to “all the arrogant jerks who ride on New Jersey trails and roadways.” On the other hand, if you’re not an arrogant jerk, his message apparently doesn’t apply to you.

No bias here, either. Two cops were disciplined after Irish officials allowed a dangerous driver to remain on the streets until he killed a man riding a bike, despite 42 — yes, 42 — previous convictions, and being out on bail from three separate courts. But the police commissioner quashed their fines and sanctions.

Sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

A Montreal bike rider responds to being told to stay in the bike lane by smashing his bike against the driver’s car. Which probably hurt his bike more than it does the car. Seriously, violence is never the answer, as tempting as it is sometimes.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CYcErfYoi8V/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=310f8a6c-bbd3-4df9-8baa-2b82c601f84b

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Local

Metro Bike is offering a one-month bikeshare pass for just $1.

The director of the LA chapter of the Sierra Club complains that there are no programs in place to encourage customers to ride their bikes to local businesses.

 

State

A California inventor is working on a bike lane sweeper you can pull behind your bike.

Encinitas residents turned out for the city’s Cyclovia open streets event on Sunday, which shut down four letters worth of the Coast Highway to cars, and opened them to people for four hours from D Street to J Street.

Police in Temecula are looking for a pair of burglars who broke into a local bike shop and stole a pair of high-end mountain bikes.

Riverside’s SMART Tire Company has released the second-generation of their airless metal tire prototype, developed in conjunction with NASA in an effort to reduce weight — and the $2,000 price tag — before it goes to market later this year. Although the investors on Shark Tank didn’t approve.

San Luis Obispo kicked a homeless encampment off a local bike path before closing it for the next eight weeks to make improvements along the route.

A San Francisco writer says he won’t be renewing his membership in the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor, thanks to their demands to return “car-free JFK Drive…to a dangerous highway used mostly by shortcut-takers zipping between destinations outside the park.”

 

National

They get it. Wired says if the US is serious about climate change — which remains to be seen — our leaders need to start treating bicycles like replacements for cars, and not toys.

Mashable considers all the ebikes and scooters presented at last week’s CES in Las Vegas — including one with treads and no pedals to get through the snow.

A series of reports about the “the uneasy coexistence of grizzly bears and humans” recounts the horrific tale of a Montana mountain biker who rounded a blind curve and ran directly into a massive grizzly, who did not take to it kindly.

Once again, an ebike battery spontaneously combusted, sparking a four alarm fire in a Bronx apartment building early Saturday. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, unlike Sunday’s apartment fire sparked by a space heater that killed at least 19 people.

Nearly 40 injured vets took part in the Wounded Warrior Project’s annual ride through the Florida Keys.

 

International

He gets it, too. A British Columbia columnist says yes, he always wears a bike helmet, but bike lanes will do a lot more to improve safety.

A British automotive website looks forward to the upcoming ebikes that are revving their engines.

UK residents laugh at the idea that people could carry their trash to drop-off sites on their bicycles during a garbage strike. Apparently, no one has ever told them about cargo bikes. Or racks. Or baskets. 

National Geographic examines what makes the Isle of Man one of Great Britain’s best places to ride a bike.

Milan is getting serious about bicycling, unveiling a $272 million plan to build an entire 466-mile network of concentric and radial bike paths connecting 80% of the city.

NPR visits Iraq, where women riding bicycles are often seen as promiscuous, though the women see themselves as activists.

A man from Kazakhstan plans to ride 500 miles from Busan to Seoul, South Korea to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

 

Competitive Cycling

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is targeting a record-tying number five this year, insisting that he’s fully recovered from a near fatal crash two years ago. Even though He Who Must Not Be Named won seven, before he didn’t.

Cycling Weekly considers who has this year’s best looking pro cycling kit.

 

Finally…

Anyone can hold a naked bike ride in the middle of summer, but a January ride takes balls, uh, guts. If you have to steal an ebike, probably not the best idea to take one marked “evidence” from the police impound yard.

And someone get me some ice and a skate, quick.

………

Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

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