Huerta on trial for Tour de Palm Springs death, examining the racial gap in traffic deaths, and too little too late for LA mom

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so settle in and let’s get to it. 

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Jury selection has begun in the trial of Ronnie Ramon Huerta for the death of 56-year old bicyclist Mark Kristofferson during the 2018 Tour de Palm Springs.

Huerta was allegedly stoned and driving at up to 100 mph when he lost control of his car and plowed into the Lake Stevens, Washington man and 48-year-old Huntington Beach resident Alyson Lee Akers as they were riding their bikes.

Kristofferson died at the scene, while Akers miraculously survived the impact despite suffering significant head trauma, resulting in lasting injuries.

Huerta was arrested after he was detained by witnesses as he tried to escape into the desert.

He faces charges of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of drugs resulting in great bodily injury, reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.

NBC Palm Springs had this to say about Huerta’s driving history prior to the crash.

According to a trial brief filed by the District Attorney’s Office, Huerta was a repeat traffic offender, racking up seven citations over a two- year span for speeding, failing to obey traffic signals and signs, making unsafe lane changes and driving while distracted due to use of a cellular telephone.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended his driving privileges in 2017 because he had accumulated so many points on his record that he was deemed a “negligent operator” of a vehicle and unsafe to be on the road, the brief said.

Huerta had been suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana during a Desert Hot Springs police investigation in January 2017 stemming from his plowing through a stop sign on Palm Drive. However, no charges were filed due to a lack of conclusive results in blood screenings that were done after his arrest, according to court papers.

Despite that, he still retained possession of his car, so he able to get behind the wheel despite his horrendous driving record and lack of a valid license.

And Kristofferson and Akers paid the price.

Allegedly.

Photo from Ekaterina Bolovtsova for Pexels.

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He gets it.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Adam Paul Susaneck, founder of Segregation by Design, examines the alarming racial gap in American traffic deaths.

Across the US — and right here in Los Angeles — your risk of dying in a traffic collision increases exponentially if you live in a community populated primarily by people of color, as well as lower income neighborhoods.

Which are too often the same thing.

The design of our cities is partly to blame for these troubling disparities. Pedestrian and cyclist injuries tend to be concentratedin poorer neighborhoods that have a larger share of Black and Hispanic residents. These neighborhoods share a history of under-investment in basic traffic safety measures such as streetlights, crosswalks and sidewalks, and an over-investment in automobile infrastructure meant to speed through people who do not live there. Recent research from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that formerly redlined neighborhoods — often the targets of mid-century “slum clearance” projects that destroyed residences and businesses to allow for new arterial roads and highways — had a strong statistical association with increased pedestrian deaths. The neighborhoods graded D for lending risk by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation had more than double the pedestrian fatality rate than neighborhoods graded A.

He writes that on a per mile basis, Black people are more than twice as likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle as white pedestrians, while fatality rates for Black bicyclists are a whopping 4.5 times higher than white cyclists.

For Hispanic walkers and bikers, the death rates were 1.5 and 1.7 times higher, respectively, than they are for white Americans using the same modes of transportation.

Then he brings it home for those of us living here in LA.

In Los Angeles, for instance, a 2020 analysis by U.C.L.A. researchers found that although Black residents made up 8.6 percent of the city’s population, they represented more than 18 percent of all pedestrians killed and around 15 percent of all cyclists. From 2016 to 2020, the Los Angeles metropolitan area had more pedestrian deaths than any other metro area in the United States and a pedestrian death rate higher than the metropolitan areas around New York, Philadelphia or Washington…

Last year, 312 people died in traffic accidents in Los Angeles, the majority of them pedestrians and cyclists. “If 300 people died of something in the city, whether it was something violent or whether it was something else like Covid, the resources were put behind it to try to prevent those things, to respond to those things,” said Eunisses Hernandez, a member of the Los Angeles City Council. “We have not seen that same urgency with people dying in traffic accidents as pedestrians and as cyclists.”

Shameful doesn’t begin to describe it.

The solution, he says, is investing in safer road design with proven interventions like “narrowing streets, reducing the amount of space devoted to cars, enforcing speed limits and adding trees to provide visual cues for drivers to slow down.”

And he adds,

City planners must recognize that we all should be able to walk or ride a bicycle through our own neighborhood without fearing for our life.

It’s well worth a few minutes of your day to read the whole thing.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

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Call it yet another example to too little, too late.

A mom walking her 6-year old daughter in a crosswalk was fatally run down by a driver, and her daughter critically injured, as they crossed the street in front of the girl’s school Tuesday morning.

The driver may or may not have been intoxicated, or could have been suffering a medical emergency.

So the LA city council has responded with a plan to install speed bumps near every elementary school in the city.

Which raises the obvious question of what the hell took them so long — particularly since the city has ostensibly had a Safe Routes to Schools program for the past several years?

And why the hell do we always have to wait until someone is needlessly killed before making even the smallest safety improvements?

At least they’re doing something now. Too late for an innocent mother and her equally innocent child.

But still.

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They get it, too.

A podcast from The New Republic examines America’s unhealthful addiction to motor vehicles.

Americans are in a toxic relationship with their automobiles. They’re bad for us—polluting, noisy, and increasingly dangerous to pedestrians—yet we remain fully committed to them. They’re also bad at their primary function: transport.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.

But this week’s fiasco with the gutting of the MOVE Culver City project to add a traffic lane certainly makes their case for them.

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Spectrum News 1 reports California’s long-delayed $7.5 million ebike rebate program will finally launch sometime in the second quarter of this year.

Which is, like, now.

The program will be limited to California residents 18 or older, with a gross annual household income less than 300% of the federal poverty level.

The station reports that the standard tax credit will be $1,000, with an additional $750 for cargo or adaptive ebikes.

You can also receive another $250 if you live in a a disadvantaged or low-income community, or have a gross income 225% of the federal poverty level, or less.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s meeting of the Pasadena Municipal Committee was cancelled, delaying approval of a proposed ebike rebate program for residents of that city.

Thanks to Atticuz the Freelance Activist for the heads-up.

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Things are starting to take shape on 7th Street in DTLA.

https://twitter.com/multimodalLA/status/1651053122276720641

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

San Diego’s infamously bike hating Ocean Beach columnist calls on the neighborhood to secede from the city, in part because of bike lanes allegedly foisted upon them without local input.

No bias here. A Toronto mayoral candidate has taken aim at the city’s bike lanes, catering his campaign to bike lane haters.

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

Three women were assaulted in separate incidents in New York’s Central Park after being surrounded by bikeshare-riding teenagers.

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Local 

Who knew you could checkout a bike pump at your local library?

Streets For All reminds you to take the survey about changes to Eagle Rock Blvd between Colorado and York boulevards, and select Option 2, which they say is “safest for cyclists, widens sidewalks, adds more sidewalk trees and preserves the most parking (ie. less likely to experience community pushback).”

Streetsblog offers photos from Sunday’s 626 Golden Streets through four San Gabriel Valley communities, and reports that new bike lanes have been installed on Foothill Boulevard in Sylmar and San Fernando Road in Cypress Park.

Michael Siegel forwards news that South Pas Active Streets will host a bike valet at Saturday’s The Eclectic community music and art festival in South Pasadena; the event will be held on Mission Street, which will be closed to cars for the day.

 

State

Streetsblog offers more details on AB 73 passing out of the Assembly Transportation Committee; the bill would allow adult bike riders to treat stop signs as yields, but must survive Gavin Newsom’s veto pen if it passes the legislature.

San Diego continues to make massive payouts to settle personal injury lawsuits, with the latest example a $2.95 million settlement for a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was thrown off his bike after hitting sunken pavement in the city’s Bay Ho neighborhood, and now suffers permanent disabilities. Thanks to Phillip Young for the link.

This is who we share the road with. A Temescal Valley man is on trial for murder in the hit-and-run death of three teenagers, and critically injuring three others, when he allegedly ran them off the road in a fit of rage after one of the teens rang his doorbell and mooned him before speeding off in their car; he also claims he seldom drinks, but somehow chugged two six-packs of beer in two and a half hours before the crash, yet was miraculously driving under control, “even using his turn signals” as he pursued their car. Sure, that’s credible.

Friends of fallen San Francisco masters cycling champ Ethan Boyes want to know why the details of his death remains shrouded in mystery, while the lawyer for his family calls for patience.

Sad news from Fremont, where a man riding an ebike was killed in a collision with a Tesla driver.

A group of bicyclists including former pros Alison Tetrick and Rebecca Rusch rode their bikes from Marin County to Monterey’s Sea Otter Classic, while Cycling Weekly highlights the top ten things chosen from the 900 brands on display at the show.

The Kelly Clarkson Show features Sacramento’s Mercy Pedalers, a religious nonprofit that uses bikes to distribute water, food and other vital resources to the city’s homeless residents.

A kindhearted Merced school principal bought a new bike for a teenage student after his was stolen.

 

National

Road Bike Rider considers the difference between biking and cycling, even though they mean exactly the same thing.

Vice recommends the best city bikes, going beyond the usual suspects to include bikes from REI, Linus and State.

A bill in the Oregon legislature targeting civil disorder has bike advocates worried that it could ensnare people protesting while riding a bike or corking an intersection on charges of engaging in paramilitary activity.

The Coast Guard had to rescue a man in Galveston, Texas after he spent nearly a day trapped in mud when his bike got stuck.

A Texas man rode eighty miles on what he calls the frontage road from hell, just so you don’t have to.

The editor of Chicago Streetsblog is recovering after he was seriously injured when a piece of unsecured construction material fell off a pickup truck and struck him as he was on a bike tour of southern Illinois.

A Minnesota man was named Advocate of the Year by the League of American Bicyclists.

A bighearted Indiana man is on a mission to ensure every kid can have a bike, by refurbishing used bikes and donating them to children in need.

The family of a Pittsburgh man tased to death by cops for the crime of test riding a bicycle he thought was abandoned has reached a super secret settlement with the city; five officers were fired over the incident, while three others were disciplined.

A bighearted man in Maine has spent the last three years rebuilding 400 bikes for asylum seekers coming to the state.

Bicycling calls BS on a Cambridge, Massachusetts group whose highly-flawed study purports to show bike lanes are more dangerous than simply sharing the road. As usual, read it on Yahoo if the magazine blocks you.

If you build it, they will come. New York City’s transportation commissioner says bike ridership in the city had has reached an all-time high, with 24,000 daily weekday trips on on the East River Bridges alone.

The chair of New York’s city council transportation committee insists local community boards should have veto power over street safety projects. Which would turn New York’s successful traffic safety work into the same failed system we suffer with in Los Angeles, where councilmembers overrule any and every project in their districts.

Two new bike lanes across the Mississippi River from New Orleans are causing confusing among apparently easily confused drivers and local officials, with contradictory complaints that one lacks protective barriers, and the other one doesn’t.

Miami officials have approved plans for a 20-mile long, fully separated pedestrian and bicycle trail.

A teenager vacationing in Florida with his family suffered serious injuries when a 19-year old unlicensed driver fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into his bike.

 

International

Brompton foldies go electric, as Momentum considers the benefits of owning a folding bicycle.

Bike riders in Ottawa, Canada complain that new bike lanes abruptly end to make room for right turn lanes, arguing that the design is too dangerous. To which SoCal bike riders say welcome to our world.

Add this one to your bike bucket list — an ebike tour of lighthouses in southwest Scotland.

A British company has introduced rear-view bicycling glasses with built-in mirrors.

A man in the UK denies having anything to do with the hundreds of stolen bikes found in his garden. Apparently, they were all place there by the bike fairies without his knowledge.

Apparently fascinated by countries starting with the 21st and 11th letters of the alphabet, an English man rode his bike nearly 2,000 miles from the UK to Ukraine in three weeks to raise funds for charity.

An Aussie broadcast network examines desire lines, and what they can tell us about how to design safer, better public spaces.

 

Competitive Cycling

Belgium’s Sanne Cant is back in action after receiving 60 stitches to close severe facial cuts suffered in a mass crash in the women’s Paris-Roubaix.

Tragic news from Colombia, where a 17-year old cyclist died of a heart attack during the second stage of the Vuelta a Anapoima.

A local cycling team in Sierra Leone is riding in Great Britain’s national team kit, after the outdated uniforms were donated by the father of Britain’s Ethan and Leo Hayter.

Alpecin Cycling previews next months 106th Giro d’Italia.

 

Finally…

That feeling when your final project for welding school is an 8.5-foot high tall bike. When you’re carrying meth on your bike, obey the damn traffic laws — and don’t head butt the cop car after you get busted.

And when you’re riding your bike with an outstanding arrest warrant, stop for the damn stop sign, already — and don’t fight with the cops after leading them on a bicycle chase.

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

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.

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