LA Times fans OC ebike mayhem panic, City Hall die-in this Saturday, and Slate questions efficacy of bike helmets

No bias here.

The Los Angeles Times reports on complaints about ebikes in Orange County, where they face bans and draconian speed limits on and near beach trails.

No, just the complaints.

At least until you reach the bottom of the story, by which time most Times readers have already moved on to Marmaduke.

Instead of reporting objectively, the paper settles for reprinting the long list of complaints from Orange County’s anti-ebike crowd, who seem to consider them the worst tech advance since Elon Musk bought Twitter.

Here’s how the paper frames the story, starting with a longtime Newport Beach resident who compares the local boardwalk to the 405 Freeway.

Three decades ago, Levine moved to what some refer to as the city’s “war zone,” a nickname given not because of crime but for the reputation of summertime rowdiness along the boardwalk, which now includes an abundance of electric bicycles. The strip’s 8 mph speed limit means nothing to some of these people, he said.

He’s watched people get mowed down, dogs hit and too many near misses to count, he said. City leaders for years have studied how to manage the proliferation of e-bikes along the route but have stopped short of banning them.

“What we’re witnessing on the boardwalk is mayhem,” Maureen Cotton, president of the Central Newport Beach Community Assn., told the City Council during a meeting urging officials to address e-bikes last year.

So, let me get this straight.

It’s been a war zone for decades. But ebikes have somehow ruined everything.

Sure, that makes sense.

Then the paper moves on to repeating the same tired and previously discredited stats we’ve been hearing for months from PR staffers at the local hospital trying to fan the flames of an anti-ebike pyre.

During the first 10 months of last year, staffers at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo documented 198 e-bike injuries. Doctors saw 113 injuries in 2021 and just 34 in 2020, according to data provided by the hospital.

Between January and October of last year, 78 of the 198 people who suffered an injury on an e-bike were not wearing helmets and 99 suffered some type of head injury, data show.

“My feeling about the whole situation with e-bikes is that we got a device a little bit too fast, and the culture is not completely set for it,” said Tetsuya Takeuchi, the trauma medical director at Providence Mission Hospital…

Where to begin.

Evidently, some people who got injured riding ebikes weren’t wearing bike helmets. But most were.

And half of the people who were injured riding an ebike suffered a head injury. Which may or may not have been the 40% who weren’t wearing helmets.

It may come as a shock to the kind and caring people at Providence that some people who ride regular bikes don’t wear helmets, either. And some of them get hurt, too, though not always with head injuries.

Which is just one of the great, inexplicable mysteries of bicycling, that some people who don’t wear bike helmets don’t suffer head injuries, and some who do, do.

Then there’s the exponential increase in ebike injuries. Which just happens to coincide with the exponential increase in ebikes.

That doesn’t mean ebikes are dangerous. Just that a lot of people are using them now.

In fact, I’d consider 198 injuries a relatively small amount, given the untold thousands of Orange County residents who’ve adopted them.

Lastly, let’s consider the question of speed, which has apparently gotten “a little bit too fast.”

Under California law, which has been copied in most states, Class 1 and 2 ebikes, whether ped-assist or throttle-driven, are limited to 20 mph.

Which virtually anyone could top with a decent effort on a decent road bike. Never mind today’s lightweight, technological marvels engineered for every higher speeds.

The bikes, I mean, not the riders. Though some of them have been engineered for speed, too.

Yet somehow, those bikes aren’t considered too fast. And no one has banned 27 speed carbon-fiber bikes or their spandex-clad riders from the boardwalk.

And just wait until the good doctors at Providence learn how fast cars can go, and the damage they cause.

In fact, my stats show 12 people were killed by drivers while riding bikes in Orange County last year, a drop from the obscene 17 killed in 2021.

Ebike riders killed somewhere around zero in Orange County over that same time period, to the best of my knowledge.

So which of these is actually dangerous?

Then there’s the way the paper takes about halfway through the story, after fanning the flames of ebike haters, to even mention that there are different categories of ebikes, and dozens of different types.

And even then, fails to mention that the faster Class 3 ebikes are banned from bike trails that aren’t attached to roadways, beachfront or otherwise.

Or that even people on regular bikes struggle to meet those ridiculously low 8 mph speed limits without falling over.

But once again, no one is seriously suggesting that regular should be banned.

The key, as they finally get around to mentioning just before the end of the story, is behavior.

Someone who is a jerk in a car — or on a skateboard, or with a shopping cart — is just as likely to be a jerk on an ebike.

And a kid who has never been taught to ride a bike safely — electric or otherwise — is going to ride a bike or bike like a, well, kid.

Just what they’re riding doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it.

So let’s put away the torches and pitchforks, and learn to live with all those scary ebike monsters. Because really, they’re not bad, just new and different.

And seriously, LA Times, do better.

Ebike photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels.

………

We’ll let Streets For All put things in perspective with their call to participate in the Saturday’s City Hall die-in to protest traffic violence.

If you’re a pedestrian or cyclist in Los Angeles, you’re probably used to hearing about traffic fatalities in our community. But 2022 was a record-breaking year — in the worst way. Last year, there were 309 traffic fatalities in LA, breaking the 300 mark for the first time in more than twenty years. This is a staggering increase of almost 30% from 2020.

These statistics are tragedies in and of themselves, but they’re made even worse by the fact that pedestrians and cyclists are impacted the most by every measure. Cyclist fatalities alone went up 40% between 2020 and 2022.

We can’t keep living like this. Join us on the steps of City Hall on Saturday, January 21st at 9:30am for a die-in protest. It’s time for our electeds to start paying attention.

RSVP for more details

………

A writer for Slate examine the limited efficacy of bike helmets, noting that “When it comes to the dangers threatening cyclists, wearing a helmet is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.”

They make the same argument I’ve been making for years — bike helmets are designed to protect against relatively low speed falls, not high impact crashes with motor vehicles.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t wear one.

The overwhelming majority of bicycling injuries result from falls, not crashes. Which is exactly what they’re made for.

I still credit my helmet with saving my grey matter, and possibly my life, during the Infamous Beachfront Bee Incident, and never ride without one.

But they should always be considered the last line of defense when everything else fails.

You’re a lot better off not getting hit by a car and its driver in the first place, rather than count on your helmet to save your life if you do.

………

In a related story, the Manhattan Beach Police Department tells teenage bike riders not to be melon heads, as they gleefully smash watermelons as a metaphor for helmet-less bike riders.

Even though watermelons smash much easier that teenage skulls, and most heads aren’t filled with seeds.

And yes, I said most.

………

Ted Faber finds a pothole that could be the gaping maw of the gates of Hell.

………

This is who we share the road with.

An alleged drunk driver in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood backs through a crowd of people trying to stop him from getting behind the wheel, then takes off, leaving injured bystanders strewn in his wake.

Thanks to How the West Was Woke for the heads-up. 

………

This is who we share the road with, part two.

An South LA man apparently angry about his pending divorce decided to take it out on his wife’s house, and all the cars in the neighborhood.

But sure, tell us again about those OC ebikes.

………

San Francisco Bay Area cyclist Nehemiah Brown is asking other people of color to join him in accepting the gift of gravel.

………

More proof of our auto centric world, as Irish Tic Tok’ers are shocked to see a man transporting a new flatscreen TV on his bike.

Even if he’s just using it as a cart.

@all_about_rosalilla

Who thinks this TV is making it home in one piece? #fyp #onlyinireland #tiktokireland #irelandtiktok #fypage #nanocelltv #whatsontelly #foryoupage

♬ Crash – The Primitives

………

And this video pretty well sums things up, I think.

………

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

No bias here. Plans for a Manhattan bike lane are being held up by judges who don’t want to give up their cushy curbside parking next to the courthouse, with one court official comparing their efforts to the French attempting to hold back Nazi Germany prior to WWII.

A road raging British driver is on trial for allegedly punching and choking a man riding a bike, after clipping the arm of the victim during a close pass; he blocked the victim’s path and got out of his car when the bike ride slapped it and called him an idiot.

Another road raging British driver gets a lesson in setting the handbrake before going off on a bike rider, who didn’t appear to be doing anything wrong.

 

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

A British runner justifiably blasts schmucks who park on the sidewalk to go mountain biking.

………

Local 

Longtime KPCC and LAist reporter Frank Stolze introduces the seven candidates who have qualified so far to run in the race to replace ex-councilmember Nury Martinez in LA’s CD6.

Speaking of Streets For All, Streetsblog reports on their call to transform current-day Mid City car sewer San Vicente Blvd into a linear park.

 

State

Orange County will install a new traffic signal at Oso Parkway and Coto de Caza Drive, just outside Coto de Caza, where eight-year old Bradley Rofer was killed by a pickup driver in September. As usual, the long-needed traffic fix only comes several months after Rofer was killed.

Former NBA great Bill Walton reacts to being harassed by homeless people while riding his bike through Balboa Park by suggesting all the city’s unhoused residents should get rounded up and sent to a camp on a military base — voluntarily, of course. Because that worked so well last time, apparently.

The CHP is looking for the hit-and-run driver who ran down a 22-year old Santa Barbara man riding his bike on PCH (scroll down) north of Ventura early Friday morning; there’s no description on the driver or vehicle, and no word on the condition of the victim.

 

National

Calvin, of “and Hobbes” fame, faces up to his greatest tormenters, including his bicycle.

Scott is recalling their 2022 Speedster road and gravel bikes due to a defective fork that could break during use.

Nonprofit group Black Girls Do Bike celebrates ten years of changing what the cycling world looks like by “providing welcoming, safe and fun opportunities for women of color to ride bikes.”

The Washington Post examines where cars outnumber drivers, let alone people. Surprisingly, California ain’t one of them.

In a report that should surprise absolutely no one, the Rhodium Group concludes that transportation is the leading source for climate damaging emissions for the sixth year in a row. To which bicycles contributed just this side of zero.

Apparently, not even Congresspeople are safe from traffic violence, as Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici and her husband were struck by a driver as they were crossing a Portland street Friday evening. Although CNN somehow manages to get through the entire story without mentioning that there was someone behind the wheel. 

A kindhearted Boise, Idaho group donated over 50 bikes to Ukrainian refugee children in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

This is who we share the country with. Wyoming, the state where even Liz Cheney wasn’t considered conservative enough, continued its race to the bottom when state legislators proposed banning electric vehicles in a childish tantrum to protect the gas and oil industries.

The fight continues over a $12 million Houston road diet and bike lane project, as a county commissioner pushes it forward while a city councilmember works to halt it.

A pair of kindhearted Texas cops surprised a young boy with a new bike, after they fixed the chain on his old beat up bike so he could make it home from school.

Boston readers freak out over a single still photo of a woman on what looks like a bikeshare bike trying to merge onto a local highway, with her shopping bag dangling from her handlebars.

The New Yorker talks with the daredevil behind the city’s infamous bikeshare-riding stunt crew, the Citi Bike Boyz.

A DC proposal would give ebike buyers a $400 tax rebate, with an extra $500 for e-cargo bikes; low-income buyers could get up to $1,200 plus the e-cargo bike bonus.

At least 80 bike riders turned out to honor a pair of Baton Rouge, Louisiana high school cheerleaders who were killed in a collision with a cop at the end of a high speed chase; the cop was arrested and could face charges.

Young Miami bike riders conducted their annual MLK Day Wheels Up Guns Down ride. But somehow, all the local press could focus on was the usual heavy-handed police response, and the 58 felony and 11 misdemeanor arrests — not the hundreds, if not thousands, of peaceful riders and their message of hope. 

 

International

Havana, Cuba is installing their first public bikeshare dock, part of what promises to be a 300 bike fleet.

The former boyfriend of a Welsh woman killed while watching a mountain bike race in 2014 calls for more protection for bike race fans; she had come to see him compete.

Young “demon” ebike riders are accused of turning Amsterdam’s once angelic streets into a living hell, as they ride their souped-up ebikes at the unholdy speed of…24 mph. Which would make them relatively tame by Orange County standards.

India’s bike industry threatens a series of hunger strikes over a new requirement to install reflectors on bicycles; industry officials say the problem isn’t the mandate, but the penalties that would be imposed for failing to comply.

An Indian man was tied to a pole and viciously beaten and stomped after he was accused of stealing a bicycle. Look, I dislike bike thieves as much as anyone, but that’s going too damn far.

The bike boom continues, as Taiwan’s exports of bicycles and bike parts rose 23.11 percent annually to $6.15 billion. Or it could just means that more production is shifting to Taiwan from mainland China.

Gizmodo Australia misses the mark, insisting safety bikes came into widespread use about the same time cars did, and that bikes only enjoyed a few months as king of the roads before they were shoved aside by motor vehicles. Meanwhile, Adventure Journal marvels that bicycles were invented after the much more complex locomotives wereBut as Carlton Reid makes clear in Roads Weren’t Built For Cars, bicycles were widely adopted around the world long before cars ruled the earth. And if you haven’t read it yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

 

Competitive Cycling

Australia’s Grace Brown kicked off the women’s cycling season by out-sprinting Amanda Spratt to win the Santos Tour Down Under, after Alex Manly led following the first two stages.

Sad news from the Netherlands, where 40-year old retired Dutch pro Lieuwe Westra was found dead, after suffering from depression for several years; nicknamed The Beast, Westra won stages at Paris-Nice, the Tour of California and Critérium du Dauphiné, as well as winning the Tour of Denmark and Driedaagse De Panne.

UCI is telling team cars to back off, instead of giving their riders an extra boost during time trials by changing the airflow behind the rider.

Former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman has formally lost his medical license as a result of his involvement in a doping scandal, when he was caught ordering testosterone gel for an unnamed male cyclist.

 

Finally…

That feeling when you try a 30-foot jump on an ebike — and nail it. Maybe it’s time to put this “slightly used” VanMoof out of its misery.

And if you’re going to ride a kid’s Barbie bike across an entire country, always choose a small one.

Country, that is.

………

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

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.

 

One comment

  1. Christian says:

    Lifelong resident OC and bikinginla blog can attest to the veracity of LA Times article. Haven’t read recent article completely, but I think it draws stats from previous article on e-bike accidents. Background for LA residents and ppl who don’t know how the hospitals are set up. Mission Hospital is literally the only level one trauma center in south OC. So the 198, in context, is the number of level 1 trauma accidents. iirc previous article pre Covid # was well < 100? So this a huge increase in level 1 trauma cases. This does NOT include the minor accidents ie road rash, sprains, minor fractures… that went to ER but didn’t require level 1.
    As for law limiting class 1, 2 on bike trails; can attest having drafted off many e-bikes. No one that can afford an e-bike will buy a class 2 when class 3 is pretty match same price(faster, longer battery). Pretty much every e-bike encountered on trail is 25-28 mph. There’s nothing on e-bike that tells you it’s class 1,2,3 unless you get behind one and clock w speedometer. And who will enforce these laws on bike trails, when not enough to patrol streets.
    For LA residents, there’s a bike trail in OC you can ride from north HB pier all the way past Balboa pier(8ish miles). Similar to Marvin Braude in LA, however having ridden MB trail 2x from Torrance to Ballona Creek the OC trail is much more “leisurely”. Peds also use as walkway, and traverse to/from beach all along its entire length. Vs MB trail the areas for ped crossing are more well defined, and seem to acknowledge the presence of cyclists going relatively fast.
    And yes the prevalence of scofflaw e-bike riders has jumped considerably imo vs non e- cyclists. And those few compared to biking community as whole is gonna ruin for rest of us. Recent post on NextDoor of e-bike gang of teens terrorizing Newport Beach and egging peds, dogs, houses,… Yes cuz either they were a-holes before or never educated on bike safety, doesn’t matter, public as whole will bunch all in one group.
    I see changes for the worse if these trends continue. HB, NB will crack down on e-bikes and non e-bike. There’s likely be some type of ID(visually) for class 1,2,3 rather on just speed alone. Restrict access to trails for e-bikes. Possibly register e-bikes; thus may require license, driving test, safety classes. And w registration comes insurance, ER docs rec motorcycle type helmets, age limits?… Pretty much everything that comes w motorcycles.

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