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Breaking news: PCH cyclists save two scuba divers from drowning off Malibu coast

Thousands of drivers speed by every day.

But it took a couple of cyclists to hear the cries for help — and save a pair of scuba divers trapped in the unforgiving surf.

Bankruptcy attorney and cyclist Stanley E. Goldich reports that he was on his way back from a ride up PCH on Saturday when he passed a group of riders stopped on the ocean side of the highway near Deer Creek Road.

He saw a number of bicycles on the side of the road, looking like the riders had gone down to the beach, as well as a couple of cyclists with their riding cleats off. While it caught his attention, it didn’t seem like anything was wrong, so he continued riding.

But when a fire truck roared up and stopped at that exact spot, he turned around to check things out.

And what he found surprised him.

He spoke with two women, Martha Hunt and Rachel Hosmer, both triathletes who were on the backside of a ride from Santa Monica to the Rock.

As they rode, they’d heard yells for help that seemed to come from the ocean; when they stopped, they discovered two men in scuba suits trapped in the surf and unable to climb out due to the steep slope of the shore. Their wetsuits had filled with water, and they were drowning as they were dragged down by the undertow and excess weight.

Hunt immediately threw off her bike shoes and made her way down the steep embankment, first pulling out the man closest to her, then going back out to the man further from shore, who seemed to be in greater difficulty.

He proved to be more than she could handle on her own. Fortunately, Hosmer had flagged down another group of passing cyclists, five of whom went into the water to help Hunt pull the drowning man to safety.

Goldich reports that the men were still being treated by firefighters when he left. They were conscious, although clearly in need of medical attention, but should be okay. They reportedly told Hunt that they were training for their scuba certification, and this was only their second time using the equipment.

Thankfully, it may not be their last.

Cyclists may be far from the most popular people in Malibu these days. But I have a feeling that two men and their families are very grateful that Hunt and Hosmer went out for a Saturday ride on PCH.

Unfortunately, Goldich wasn’t able to get their contact information. But if anyone out there knows Martha Hunt or Rachel Hosmer, or any of the other cyclists involved in the rescue, I’d love to hear the story from their perspective.

Both women, and the others involved, are real heroes.

Two men are breathing tonight who might not be without them.

A low-cost fix for a troubled West L.A. bikeway

Click for detailed map with description and photos

Earlier this year, I wrote about Westwood’s abandoned bikeway — a winding Class 1 route that leads from the intersection of Wilshire and Veteran to the southern edge of the VA Center along Ohio Ave.

It should be a pleasant off-road feeder route for UCLA students, especially since cyclists are no longer allowed to pass through the National Cemetery north of Wilshire. Unfortunately, a lack of maintenance has made it virtually unridable in places; yet it continues to remain on the city’s draft bike plan, for reasons only a bureaucrat could understand.

Recently Evan Garcia, a cyclist who works at UCLA, emailed me with a suggestion that could revive the route by allowing riders to bypass the worst sections and connect to Ohio without running the gantlet of traffic on narrow Veteran Blvd.

Not only is it a great idea, it could be accomplished right now at minimal cost. So I asked Evan to explain it in his own words.

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This site did a great service for all West LA and Westwood cyclists when it thoroughly dissected the problems with the Westwood Park bike path. As it currently stands, it’s a forgotten route. That isn’t to say that cyclists don’t ride through Westwood Park — I do, and I see others often — but right now it has been so neglected in parts (simply look at the photos of the path along Sepulveda) that its full length is not a viable route for cyclists. So, out of both wishful thinking and selfish reasons (it would make my bike commute between Santa Monica and Westwood Village much more enjoyable), I’m proposing some changes to the route that would extend its usefulness.

A simple change here could let bikes bypass heavily trafficked Westwood streets

If you aren’t familiar with the area, Ohio Ave. is a two lane east-west street between Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds used by many cyclists. Veteran Ave. runs north-south, and it is between Sepulveda and Westwood Blvds. Neither Ohio or Veteran have bike lanes. The “existing” bike path, as previously described on this site, runs on a crumbling sidewalk along Sepulveda. One could of course ride along Sepulveda in the street, but there is no bike lane and drivers seem to treat it as a mini-freeway. On the sidewalk on the east side of Sepulveda are many businesses with parking lots, leading to a risk of a car entering or exiting without looking for bikes traveling on the sidewalk.

Narrow Veteran Avenue isn’t safe or inviting even for experienced for cyclists

Currently when I bike to Westwood, I travel along Ohio and turn left onto Veteran heading north. The ride along Ohio is acceptable, though of course it could be better.  I feel a major problem is alongside Veteran, however. Veteran is a street with two lanes and parking for cars on both sides, as is Ohio, but it is much more narrow than Ohio.

As a result, riding along Veteran can be very intimidating and unpleasant. If there are cars coming in the opposite direction, cars behind a cyclist cannot pass. Of course, many drivers have honked at me (or at the car waiting to pass me) and the cars parked along Veteran ensure that a cyclist is in the door zone unless they take the full lane. What I propose is linking Ohio to the bike path through Westwood Park via Greenfield Avenue, a street one block west of Veteran that dead-ends at a parking lot for the park. This would allow cyclists to travel between Ohio and Veteran through the park and without the dangers of riding along narrow Veteran Ave.

Gate at the end of Greenfield Ave

Greenfield Ave. terminates at the far end of the parking lot. Access from the street to the parking lot is currently blocked off — I assume to prevent cars traveling south on Veteran from driving through the lot quickly as a shortcut to get to Ohio — by a large swinging gate. Along the sidewalk are two stationary poles. Replacing the gate with additional poles — which could be removed by park employees to allow park vehicles to get through — would let cyclists pass between Greenfield and the parking lot without going on the sidewalk, while still preventing cars from cutting through.

Curb blocking convenient bike access

Between the parking lot and the bike path is a curb, and a small incline with a dirt path. Removing the curb would let bikes connect to the path from the parking lot. Further north near where the path exits the park and runs alongside the Federal Building is a crosswalk across Veteran at Rochester Avenue.

Installing a wheelchair cutout on the west side of Veteran — there is already one on the east side — would let cyclists cross much more easily than trying to turn left onto Veteran from one of the Federal Building driveways.

Veteran Ave near exit from Westwood Park; even with a crosswalk, it can be difficult to get across

This may be a pipe dream, but also having a crosser-controlled light warning signal would alert drivers that someone — a cyclist or pedestrian — is waiting to cross (I know from personal experience that very few drivers will voluntarily stop to let someone waiting to cross; it usually takes going into the crosswalk when there is no traffic on the nearest side and hoping that drivers coming on the other side slow down).

I realize that this would not make for a perfect bike path — it does nothing to address the problems of the path along Sepulveda and Ohio — but I think it would make getting from Westwood to Ohio less stressful and dangerous.

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After challenging in the Vuelta, Philippe Gilbert won his second consecutive Tour of Lombardy. Just days after having his two-year ban for doping reduced for cooperating with investigators, Danilo di Luca is free to compete again. David Millar and the ageless Jeannie Longo win the final time trial of the European pro season. Katie Compton wins in the first round of the MTB World Cup.

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SoCal based Felt bikes rolled along with the rest of us at CicLAvia. The people behind CicLAvia are officially honored by the City Council, and deserve our thanks, as well. Examined Spoke compares biking infrastructure in the U.S. and Europe firsthand, and not surprisingly, finds us lacking. The Claremont Cyclist reports on the CORBA Fat Tire Festival — and encourages you to support the advocacy groups that work to keep us all safer. El Random Hero becomes yet another victim of bike theft. A look at Tucson Velo, that great bike website to our east. Building memories in a two-week family bike tour of the Rockies. Nearly 25% of bicyclists killed in the U.S. in 2008 were legally drunk; a BAC of .08 raises a cyclist’s risk of serious injury by 2,000%. Don’t just ride on sharrows, wear them. Building bike culture in the land of Elvis and Rev. Al Green. An 82-year old Destin FL man rides his first century just to see if he could. A Manhattan cyclists alleges an off-duty cop pulled a gun on him in a road rage incident. Taking a bike tour of the palace of Versailles. Biking for transportation means riding anytime, not just bike commuting. Kiwi cyclists can look forward to riding with Landis.

Finally, some good news over the weekend as pro BMX rider and MTV host TJ Lavin shows signs of improvement after being critically injured attempting a stunt in Las Vegas; is he’s.

And in non-bike related news, congratulations to my good friends at Altadenablog, who are now officially related to a saint, by blood or marriage, respectively. I have no idea how that would feel; most of my relatives lean the other way.

While 33 men were rescued from a Chilean mine, 6500 people died on American streets

Like everyone else, I kept an eye on the TV since the rescue of the Chilean miners began late Tuesday night.

My spirits soared when Florencio Avalos reached the surface, the first of 33 miners to be saved. And I’ve said a prayer of thanks for every one who has been brought out safe and alive, and rejoiced when the rescue capsule was raised for the last time and the final rescuer stepped out.

But let’s put this in perspective.

In the 10 weeks since the 33 miners were trapped on August 5, the world watched in rapt attention as an international team of rescuers literally moved the earth to bring them out.

But during the same 10 weeks, over 6,500 people died on American streets, based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the same period, roughly 850 pedestrians and 140 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle collisions.

By my count, 12 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles here in Southern California alone since August 5 alone; another died as the result of a collision with a pedestrian.

And no one even noticed.

No massive press response. No live coverage.

No 24/7 media watch tracking the safety of every motorist, cyclist, pedestrian and transit user throughout their journey, and breathlessly reporting when each arrived safely at their destination. Or breaking the tragic news to the world when one of the 33,963 people who were killed on our streets last year didn’t make it back again.

Those same statistics tell us that of the millions of people who will leave their homes today, 93 won’t return.

It could be you. Or me. It could be someone you love, or someone you barely know. Someone who once crossed your path, or someone you’ll never meet.

It’s just collateral damage. The price we’ve come to accept for the privilege of getting from here to there. 93 people every day. 651 every week. 2830 every month.

Roughly one person killed on American roads every 15 minutes.

And it touches virtually every life in this country.

So when does it become unacceptable? When do we reach the point when we decide as a society that the price is too high, that the last death was one too many?

And we’re willing to put the same effort into saving the 33,000 that we put into saving the 33.

I’m already there.

I thank God the miners are safe.

And I’ll be just as glad when the rest of us are.

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An Orange County mom takes to Facebook to find the Mercedes Benz driver who apologized for hitting her bike-riding son in Lake Forest before driving off. Meanwhile, a repeat drug offender gets four years in prison for killing a cyclist in an Orange County hit-and-run, and police search for an SUV that fled the scene after hitting a rider in last weekend’s Sonoma County GranFondo.

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More on CicLAvia from the Occidental Weekly, and the Times publishes letters in support of it, as well as letters on both sides of the Wilbur Ave controversy. (The car is the “most efficient means of transportation ever devised”? Really?)

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In an incredibly shortsighted move, the new Brit government cut funding for Cycling England, the successful program that trained over 400,000 children how to ride safely each year, even though it will only save £200,000 — about $330,000; the Bikeability program will continue for now.

Hopefully, they’ll increase funding for the National Health Service to make up for it; just one injured child could cost far more than they’ll save.

.………

For the second year, the Amgen Tour of California will end in Thousand Oaks. Long Beach is getting another Bike Station, offering free secure bike parking, bike shop, rentals and repairs; my goal is to get one at L.A. City Hall to make it easier to ride to city council meetings. The Bus Bench complains about an inconsiderate schmuck with a bike on the Gold Line. Evidently, bike industry insiders just don’t like Anaheim. Riverside’s new Culver Center opens with an exhibit on bike culture in Southern California. Your choice for governor: big bucks Whitman vs bike-lane Brown. Give all the angry people Dutch bikes. Advice on how to ride a bike in a dress. A key rule for bike safety — when car traffic slows down, watch out. Portland cyclists get their own green light. Three members of the Cutters, the Indiana University the 11 time Little 500 champion bike team made famous in Breaking Away, are injured in a head-on collision a week after another team member was hit by a car. What happens when sidewalk cafes swallow bike parking. A beautiful shot of DC bike lanes. A Baltimore cyclist explains to drivers why he sometimes has to take the lane. The World Anti-Doping Agency says they’ve heard Contador’s tainted meat excuse before. If regular bikes are just too boring for you, how about one without a seat? Kiwi police crack down on a bike pub crawl. A Sydney paper is up in arms over lawless cyclists terrorizing the city’s new bike lanes. Buenos Aires aims to be the Amsterdam of South American biking.

Finally, Sir Paul McCartney was hopping mad over a rude cyclist.

Riding in the gray area of the law

I’ve long argued that its safer for cyclists to move up to the front of an intersection than stop behind a line of cars in the traffic lane.

The reason is simple.

The single greatest risk any cyclist faces on the roads is that drivers may not see you. By moving up to the front of an intersection, in front of any drivers in the right lane — in other words, the same position you would occupy in a bike box — you ensure that you can be seen by everyone on the road, no matter what direction they’re coming from.

On the other hand, if you stop in place in the traffic lane, you’re at least partially hidden from oncoming and cross traffic — and possibly completely hidden from view, depending on how far back you are or how big the vehicles ahead of you are — dramatically increasing your risk of a collision. And you run the risk that a driver coming up from behind will be focused on the car ahead of you, and fail to notice the bike right behind it.

Of course, there are those who disagree.

Some cyclists argue that it’s rude to block cars from turning right or force drivers to pass you repeatedly as they move by once, then have to pass again after you filter past on your way up to the red light.

The first is easy to address. If the car at the front of the right lane has its turn signal on or is moving to the right, simply position yourself slightly in front and to its left, leaving room for it to make a right. And don’t be surprised if the driver thanks you for that bit of courtesy before turning.

As for the second, whether or not passing becomes a problem depends on how difficult you make it.

I usually move slightly to the right once the light changes, allowing the first few cars to go by before retaking my place in the traffic lane. And I try to leave a little more room on my left when there are no parked cars next to me — and therefore, no risk of dooring — remaining at the edge of the traffic lane but leaving room for drivers to get by when it’s safe.

The other argument against filtering up to the intersection is that it’s dangerous and/or illegal to pass on the right.

The danger is easy to deal with by using a modicum of care. Simply put, don’t pass a car on the right if it could move into your path; if it’s blocked in place by the cars ahead, though, you should be safe. And never pass a moving car — or a car that has room to move into your path — on the right if it has its turn signal on or is edging towards the right; under those circumstances, you’re wiser, and legally allowed, to pass on the left.

Whether passing on the right is 100% legal may be another matter.*

I’ve always argued that you’re allowed to do it to pass slow or stopped traffic. After all, lane splitting is legal in California, and despite common misconceptions, it’s perfectly legal for drivers to pass on the right if they can do it safely, without driving off the paved or main-travelled portion of the roadway.

In other words, they can’t use the shoulder of the roadway to pass on the right. But you can.

Bikes are specifically allowed to ride in places cars are’t, like bike lanes, parking lanes or on the shoulder — which means you’re often riding in a separate lane from the motor vehicles on your left. And since you’re subject to the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle, that means you can legally pass on the right, just like they can under similar circumstances.

Look at it this way.

Say you were driving in the right lane of a four lane highway when the car ahead of you in the left lane stops to make a left turn. Does that mean you have to stop as well?

Of course not. Not only are you allowed to keep going, you could even move around and pass in the right lane if you were directly behind him when he stopped.

It’s just common sense. And specifically allowed under California law.

On the other hand, common sense and court verdicts can be mutually exclusive around here.

For instance, on Monday, Cyclelicious told the story of a cyclist who was riding in a San Francisco bike lane when he was doored by a passenger exiting a taxi on the right. And even though dooring is clearly illegal in California, a jury found him partly responsible for the collision because the law that allows passing on the right specifically refers to motor vehicles, with no provision for bikes.

Never mind that we have all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle operators.

It’s that damn common sense thing again.

Fortunately, that won’t be a problem much longer. Virtually unnoticed in the flurry of bills signed by Governor Schwarzenegger was SB1318, which removes the reference to motor vehicle in the laws covering passing on the right.

And it specifically allows cyclists to pass on the right in a designated bike lane or the shoulder of the road, legalizing what should already have been legal by any reasonable reading of the law.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take effect until January 1st.

So until then, I’ll continue to pass stopped cars on the right, just like I always have. And ride in the gray area of the law, hoping common sense will somehow prevail.

Even in California.

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Your new world champion is Norway’s Thor Hushovd, winner in a mass sprint to the finish; Mattie Breschel of Denmark is second with Aussie Allan Davis third. Think Italian rider Filippo Pozzato regrets going without sex for four months to focus on the Worlds after finishing a disappointing 4th?

Meanwhile, Bicycling says the Alberto Contador case raises more questions than answers; Contador says clear his name or he’ll hang up his cleats. And a fourth Spanish cyclist is suspended for doping as mountain bike world champion and Olympic bronze medal winner Margarita Fullana admits to breaking the rules. Spaniard Ezquiel Mosquera says his conscience is clear, while UCI Director Pat McQuaid says Spain needs to get its house in order, and the Spanish press says calls his words a blow to the heart.

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With less than one week to go before L.A.’s first ciclovía, Travelin’ Local takes a look at Sunday’s upcoming CicLAvia; sounds like Will is looking forward to it. Streetsblog uncovers a film about the original in Bogotá and the organizers behind it invite you to come out and play. And Flying Pigeon suggest a cargo bike or baby carrier for the full CicLAvia experience.

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Straight out of Suburbia says if Tea Partiers are really serious they’ll do something to get cars off welfare. Zero tolerance on distracted driving on Tuesday; about time, but will that include distracted cycling, as well? LADOT Bike Blog urges riders to attend Tuesday’s BAC meeting. A look at the day one of Krosstoberfest, followed by day two. New bike blog Examined Spoke compares L.A. to Copenhagen. How to prepare for your first century. After taking a bike tour with Long Beach mobility coordinator Charlie Gandy, a Hermosa Beach cyclist says that city could learn a lot from Gandy’s. The Orange County writer who insists that better courtesy is the solution to OC’s one-a-month rate of cycling deaths says riding a bike is as easy as, uh, riding a bike. Riverside police are accused of trashing a homeless camp, destroying their food and slashing bike tires. It’s cyclists versus senior citizens on the streets of Sacramento.

Looks like bike friendly Tucson has the same problems with bike parking — or the lack of it — that we do. Colorado cyclists fix unwanted bikes and donate them to the homeless. Teaching a cyclist to ride on the right side of the road. Sadly, the jogger injured in a collision with a bicyclist on Dallas bike and pedestrian trail has died. Texas drivers are urged to be more mindful of bikes, although that right turn rule is pretty confusing. A riding revolution hits the Motor City. A Wisconsin bike shop owner is seriously injured in a hit-from-behind collision, just five years after barely surviving a previous wreck. A Chattanooga cyclist is embarrassed to be associated with bicyclists who ride slowly in groups ad block traffic. Riding to a winery and orchard to pick apples, just one of the many pleasures of fall riding we miss here in L.A. The Baltimore Sun says Maryland’s new three-foot law simply codifies common sense and courtesy; in that state, you’re not impeding traffic if you’re riding within 15 mph of the speed limit. Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey rides a bike to raise funds for a Maine charity. Now that’s a big heart — after a woman is killed on her bike, her family gives away over 100 bike helmets to local children.

A London writer says Britain needs to get on its bike. London’s Daily Mail suggests that a 20% decrease in significant injuries isn’t — significant, that is. An Irish cycling coach says now is the time to decide what kind of cyclist you are to get ready for next season. Copenhagen insists that you’re safer on a bike than on your sofa.

Finally, a Vancouver editorial writer calls bike lanes an “irritating act of wrongheaded righteousness” for the “whims of a supposedly progressive elite.” And from Durham Ontario, a writer who claims to love cycling says bikes should get out of the way of cars because that’s what the roads were designed for — regardless of whether the government considers bikes vehicles.

And we thought L.A. was bad.

Report a dangerous intersection; recycle old tubes for fun and profit

I wasn’t able to fit Thursday’s Webinar on the revised draft of the new bike plan into my schedule; if you participated in the sessions and want to share your thoughts, let me know and I’ll be happy to post it here.

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No one knows the streets better than a bicyclist.

So chances are, in the course of your riding, you’ve noticed a dangerous intersection or two. Or twenty, maybe. Someplace where drivers frequently break the law and place other road users at risk.

Like the left turn arrows at Santa Monica and Beverly Glen, for instance, where cars often go through the intersection long after the light has changed — regardless of whether there are bikes crossing or pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Or one block north, at Beverly Glen and Eastborne Ave, where motorists routinely ignore the no U-turn sign to the detriment of everyone else on the street.

And maybe, like me, you’ve thought that all it would take to improve the situation is a little police enforcement.

So I asked LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer who we should contact at the LAPD to report the situation. Here’s his response:

West Traffic – 310-202-4545
(West LA, Pacific, Olympic, Wilshire, Hollywood)
Captain Nancy Lauer nancy.lauer@lapd.lacity.org

 
Valley Traffic – 818-644-8000
(Everything in the San Fernando Valley)
Captain William Sutton suttonw@lapd.lacity.org

 
Central Traffic – 213-972-1853
(Central, Rampart, Hollenbeck, Northeast, Newton)
Captain Ronald Marbrey marbreyr@lapd.lacity.org

 
South Traffic – 213-485-7417
(77th, Southwest, Southeast, Harbor)
Captain Kelly Mulldorfer kelly.mulldorfer@lapd.lacity.org

Sgt. Krumer suggests calling first, then sending an email to the captain in charge to follow-up.

When you call, talk to the officer who answers the phone, and say something like this:

“Good Morning, I am (NAME) and I live in (AREA).  I would like to report a dangerous intersection and request additional enforcement along (LOCATION).  The problems at that location are…”

After explaining the situation, conclude by saying “Thank you officer…what was your name again?”

Then once you hang up, email the Captain of the respective Traffic Division and write something like:

“Hello Captain (NAME),

I spoke to officer (NAME) on (DATE) and advised him of an issue at (LOCATION).  I requested additional enforcement at that location.  Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Thank you for your efforts,

(YOUR NAME)”

As always, thanks to Sgt. Krumer for his help.

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Recycle your old tubes at the Grand Opening of the new Woodland Hills store, or the newly remodeled Santa Monica location this weekend.

I’m usually a supporter of your friendly neighborhood LBS.

That’s Local Bike Shop, for the uninitiated.

But this weekend, I’d highly recommend heading over to the Grand Openings of the newly remodeled Performance Bicycle in Santa Monica or the new location in Woodland Hills.

And take your old inner tubes with you. Because for each old tube you bring in, you’ll get a $5 credit, up to a limit of three tubes.

That’s up to $15 for the unreliable, over-patched or unrepairable tubes currently cluttering up your bike space.

This weekend, from July 23rd to July 25th, Performance (www.performancebike.com) will celebrate the grand openings of its new Woodland Hills and completely remodeled Santa Monica stores with the Bike Tube Blow-Out, a recycling program sponsored by Performance and Liberty Tire, the largest scrap tire recycler in the country. During the weekend, anyone can bring their used or blown-out inner tubes to the store and receive up to three $5 money cards for the tubes they recycle.

Liberty Tire Recycling, the nation’s largest collector of used and scrap tires, will turn the bike tubes into mulch for playgrounds, athletic fields, railroad ties and highway asphalt, among other uses. The company collects and recycles nearly one-third of all of America’s annual scrap tire material and has cleaned up more than 150 dump sites littered with nearly 40 million scrap tires—more than any other organization.

“We estimate that a major city can annually generate several tons of used rubber just from blown out bicycle inner tubes alone,” said Jim Thompson, CEO of Performance Inc. “Our aim is to make bike inner tubes a proven reusable resource for playgrounds, manufacturing and other applications.”

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Insisting his time has come, Andy Schleck wins the last mountain stage of the Tour de France but not the yellow jersey; however, anything is possible in Saturday’s time trial, he says.

Meanwhile, the French love the Tour a lot less than they used to. Jens Voigt blows a tire while descending at 40 mph, shattering his bike — and his body — but refuses to abandon the race. Irish rider Nicolas Roche threatens to put his teammate’s head through the nearest window. More on the Kiwi TdF rider tackled by a gendarme before Wednesday’s 16th stage.

And in today’s daily doping news, Greg “Everyone dopes but me” LeMond says the evidence against Lance is overwhelming.

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More on the slap on the back wrist given Celine Mahdavi, who ended the professional bike racing career of Louis “Birdman” Deliz in a hit-and-run. Alex Thompson says LACBC forgot to give credit to Stephen Box for $1.32 million in Measure R funds. Gary argues that the penalty for most driving crimes should be permanent revocation of driving privileges. LADOT Bike Blog reminds readers about this weekend’s Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street. Metro and Calstart are conducting a folding bike survey. Joe Linton says the new draft bike plan is an improvement over the last one, but still has a way to go. The rich get richer, as Long Beach cyclists will soon enjoy separated bike lanes downtown. A Santa Barbara council member calls the city’s focus on alternative transportation regressive and destructive. Ten ways to stay safe on the road. A cyclist riding cross country for charity is killed in South Dakota; the driver uses the universal get out of jail free card, insisting he just didn’t see her. Riding along with a Seattle council member, and annoying faster riders. Evidently, New York workers aren’t capable of looking both ways to avoid bikes. A Colorado Christian music festival tries to solve traffic problems by banning bikes, while a Steamboat Springs writer says promoting cycling would attract thousands of rude, disrespectful, dangerous, arrogant road and trail hogs; sounds to me like she’s describing drivers. A Kansas driver intentionally strikes a cyclist, then flees the scene. A Baltimore street goes on a road diet. After losing a $2.9 million verdict, a Connecticut water district may close its 41 miles of trails. A Maltese cyclist plans to sue over bad road design after catching a wheel in a storm grate. Even Nicosia Cyprus will have a bike share program before L.A. does. A Mumbai Muslim seminary issues a fatwa against female cyclists. A helmet and some good Samaritans save the life of a Vancouver cyclist after she falls nearly 15 feet onto some rocks, landing on her head. A truly bizarre story on the dangers of cycling, including scrotal damage and using your helmet to ward off the blows of a road raging driver.

Finally, an Oregon driver shares his attitude towards bikes on his license plate; something tells me he falls into the anti camp. Maybe it belongs to the Portland bus driver who urged city residents to kill a bicyclist after a close call, or it could be the person tried to injure cyclists by placing a tape tripwire at a popular intersection.

Unsafe at any speed

Just one day after I got back in the saddle, I found myself sitting in an L.A. courthouse, a winner — or loser, depending on your perspective — in the annual jury duty lottery.

It quickly became clear I wouldn’t be serving on the case for which I was called.

It was a simple traffic case, resulting in injury. And I was just a little too knowledgeable about traffic issues, and too open in expressing my opinions, for the comfort of either attorney.

What struck me, though, was when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool, or a close friend or relative, had ever been involved in a collision resulting in significant injury. Almost every hand shot up; the only one that didn’t belonged to the only person in the room who had never held a drivers license.

What followed was a litany of auto-involved mayhem. A grandfather killed while bicycling, a neighbor who died behind the wheel just last week. Others spoke of undergoing years of physical therapy, while some were still undergoing treatment.

I told about the time my car was rear-ended while waiting at a red light, resulting in recurring back problems that continue two decades later. Yet somehow, I forgot about the injuries from the road rage incident that happened while I was riding.

I purposely left out the childhood case in which my cousin fell, or tried to escape, a car driven by her intoxicated father, landing in directly in front of the rear wheel and resulting in a death no one in her family ever recovered from.

Or another incident my senior year of high school, when a lifelong friend was killed after a drunk driver crossed a 20’ wide highway median to hit his car head on.

As a cyclist, I’ve never been anti-car. The truth is, I love to drive; the only thing that approaches the joy I feel on a good ride is cruising down an open road in the middle of the night with the radio playing and the dark filled with endless possibilities.

Yet yesterday’s experience drove home, once and for all, just how extensive the harm caused by cars truly is, touching virtually everyone in our society.

We’ve spent half a century making safety improvements that increase the survivability of the auto occupants, yet have done virtually nothing to reduce the frequency of collisions or the risk to those outside the vehicle.

The focus always seems to be on making the car safer, even though the overwhelming majority of collisions are caused, as my dad liked to say, by the loose nut behind the wheel.

As a society, we’ve become far too comfortable in our cars, losing the sense that the vehicles we rely on every day are dangerous machines.

We text and talk on cell phones, believing we can still drive safely even while acknowledging that others can’t. And routinely ignore laws designed for everyone’s safety — including our own — to the point that a gas company decides it’s a good marketing position to insist they’re on the drivers’ side by creating an app to get out of tickets.

Yes, it’s a joke.

But the problem is that violating the law is so commonplace that we’re all in on the joke.

And did you notice the disclaimer — in white on a light colored background — that says the best way to avoid a ticket is not to speed? I didn’t until I watched it online several times, despite seeing this same spot on TV countless times each day.

The problem is, as traffic-meister Tom Vanderbilt noted the other day, that a drivers license is too easy to get and too hard to lose.

Yet stiffer penalties that would get bad drivers off the road — or cause most drivers to change their behavior behind the wheel — are unlikely to pass anytime soon because most people don’t see a problem, or any viable alternatives to driving.

And instead of focusing on the harm caused by dangerous drivers, auto organizations have a knee-jerk reaction to any loss of pavement that creates space for other road users.

But we have to do something.

Because we’ve reached the point where 40,000 +/- deaths each year is considered an acceptable cost just to get from here to there.

………

I’m really starting to like the idea of DIY group rides; after all, you need something to do while you wait for next month’s River Ride. Next up is Will Campbell’s Watts Happening Ride, while L.A. Cycle Chic plans the Moms Ride for May 16.

………

Writing for CicLAvia, Joe Linton follows Janette Sadik-Khan’s comments by suggesting 12 cheap bike projects L.A. could do right now, and note also that Bikes Belong has written CicLAvia a nice big check — literally. Meanwhile, Joe also takes a spin up Orange County’s Aliso Creek. Enci Box suggests adequate bike parking would make L.A. a more bike friendly city. L.A.’s best guide to hometown tourism reminds us the Amgen Tour of California will be coming to town May 22nd. Courtesy of my friend at Altadenablog comes word that a mountain biker fell 50 feet from a Mt. Lowe trail over the weekend. The Glendale Narrows Riverwalk project is finally going to happen, including a multipurpose walk and bike trail. Bicycling tells you how to avoid five common cycling collisions; that’s just a normal ride in L.A. They take away a lane in Milwaukee, and the world doesn’t come to an end. Evidently, Germans don’t need cycle tracks, and neither do the women of Chester County, PA. A fund has been set up for a woman rider seriously injured during a Critical Mass in South Florida. Navigating New Orleans by bike. Cincinnati plans to double the number of cyclists by 2015, while L.A. has no idea how many cyclists we have now. London cyclists offer an 8-point plan to Beat the Thief.

Finally, it has nothing to do with bicycling — other than being my favorite epithet for rude drivers — but this article from the Yale Law Review, by way of LA Observed, is one of the funniest things I’ve read in years.

Yesterday, I offered my heart to a stranger

Please don’t bury me in that cold cold ground; I’d rather have them cut me up and pass me all around. — John Prine, Please Don’t Bury Me

The other day I found myself at my bank, transferring a couple of accounts I never bothered to move from my old bank in San Diego, despite over 20 years of living in L.A.

Much to my surprise, when I handed them my drivers license to prove I really am who I say I am — yeah, like a lot of people want to pass themselves off as moderately broke, semi-self-unemployed bike writers these days — they handed it back.

“Do you have a valid ID instead?” the banker asked. And sure enough, when I looked at my license, it had expired.

Five months ago.

For some reason, I never received the automatic renewal form a clean driving record should have merited. And since I’m long past the age when bartenders ask for ID, and I seldom write checks, I’d never noticed the deadline had passed.

So yesterday I took the bus down to the DMV, and after a $31 check and a two-hour wait, I had my new temporary license in hand.

And I was, for the first time, a registered organ donor.

I don’t know why I never did it before. Partly squeamishness, partly a desire to meet my maker in as close to original condition as possible, I suppose.

But I’d been thinking about it ever since GT pointed me to the story of a local cyclist killed without warning in a freak accident.

Jeff Bayly’s death was such a heart-rending tragedy that it reminded me that anything can happen, anytime. And if it should ever happen to me, I want some good to come out of it.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that cycling is inherently dangerous. I probably face more risk slipping in the shower than I do even on the worst streets of L.A. And I’d certainly face a far greater health risk if I spent my time on the couch instead of in the saddle.

But things happen.

So while I plan to live a good, long life and annoy my loving wife for as long as possible, I want to make sure someone, somewhere, benefits in case I don’t.

Because even at the advanced age of 53, I still have a few good parts left.

………

Notice for anyone planning to attend today’s TranspoComm meeting with special guest star LAPD Chief Beck — the session has been moved from its usual site in Room 1010 to the City Council Chambers on the third floor.

………

Arnold joins the husband of the current Secretary of State for a Health, Nutrition and Obesity summit right here in Los Angeles; I wonder how many local cycling groups/advocates were invited to participate?

………

Hey, HuffPo backs CicLAvia, just like me (more on that next week). Does a split between founding members threaten the new South Bay Bicycle Coalition? Cyclists confront bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills, and see a possible shift in attitude. Long Beach’s cycling expats explore Marfa, Texas. Cycling lawyer Bob Mionske cuts through the posturing to put Portland’s new 2030 in context — including Long Beach and yes, Los Angeles. Alta Design’s attempt to build a more bike-friendly Southern California spreads to San Diego. A San Diego area bike path poses a hazard to cyclists; so what else is new? Beautiful views of the Chicago skyline captured in the puddles left by melting snow. DC area governments respond to budget cuts by slashing bike plan funding. Despite numerous calls to ban them, one city explicitly allows fixed-gear bikes. Not surprisingly, NYC’s new law mandating bike access results in high bike parking charges. A cycling J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame compared auto infrastructure in Oxford to the destructions of Saruman and the Dark Lord. The BBC offers a biased bashing of Brit cyclists. Two-time Formula 1 champ Fernando Alonzo considers forming a cycling team with buddy and two-time Tour de France champ Alberto Contador. Twenty-one months in jail for the driver who killed an army major taking part in a Cambridgeshire time trial last year. UK Grocery giant Tesco offers bike skills classes and considers adding bike departments to its stores — think bikes next to buns at your local Vons.

Finally, you don’t have to speak Hungarian to understand this great bike-to-work ad campaign. And if the last one doesn’t make you want to hop on a bike — if not your significant other — nothing will.

Anatomy of a bikeway — L.A.’s abandoned Class 1 bike path

In a city with so few bikeways, why would an off-road bike path over a mile long be forgotten — abandoned by cyclists and the city alike?

This Class 1 bike path runs south from Wilshire along Veteran, through the park, down Sepulveda, then several blocks west on Ohio.

Just a few blocks from the 275 foot long “stupidest bike lane in America,” you’ll find – if you look hard enough — a Class 1 bike path that should serve the massive biking population of UCLA, while providing a viable alternative to driving into car-clogged Westwood.

Yet few people even know it’s there.

It’s a bikeway that’s virtually unmarked, so hidden from view that I only found the final segment a few weeks ago when I decided to ride it from one end to the other.

This used to say Bike Path. I think.

Maybe I’m not very observant. Or maybe I just mistakenly assumed that a valuable asset like that would have signs indicating its existence.

Then again, I would also assume that it would be at least minimally maintained. While I understand that L.A. doesn’t have any legal responsibility to maintain any off-road path — having won their legal battle to absolve themselves of any liability for injuries suffered by cyclists — you would think common decency and human compassion would compel them to take some steps to protect the safety of those who might use it.

You would be wrong.

See any sign indicating a bike path? Me neither.

This path has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it is virtually unridable in some places, putting the safety of less attentive riders at risk — particularly shameful since it runs through a public park and past a popular Little League field, explaining why most of the cyclists I’ve seen on it have been children.

This indentation is several inches deep — more than enough to catch the wheel of a passing cyclist.

However, the city may get an unpleasant surprise one of these days. Because the same law that the courts have ruled absolves the city of any liability for dangerous conditions on a Class 1 bike path also requires that adequate warning be provided for any known hazards.

And I can assure you that LADOT has been made aware of these conditions.

After all, I informed them myself.

One of the better sections of the path, and a great place to teach a child how to ride a bike.

And I saved a copy of the email, just in case anyone happens to need it.

……..

Bike Radar notes that two days remain to submit your thoughts on what constitutes harassment of cyclists on the streets of L.A. This year’s Amgen Tour of California kicks off with a Nevada City to Sacramento route on May 16. How to pee while riding your bike, male edition — step four, “Direct the stream away from you.”

If you want to keep cyclists from using a bike path, that’s a good way to do it.

A new book tells the story of how a masters cyclist recovered from a near-fatal broken neck to win 11 gold medals. South Dakota’s proposed three-foot passing law dies in committee. Forth Worth adopts a new bike plan with a 900% increase in biking infrastructure, including nearly 500 miles of on-street bike lanes. Central Oregon considers banning bike events on a popular racing route. A $10,000 racing bike stolen from Lance’s U23 development team is discovered in a Mexican flea market. Still drunk from the night before, a driver blames bright sunlight for why he struck and killed a Florida cyclist last fall. Biking continues despite the snowpacolypse. Finally, an Oxford, England cyclist has a unique approach to dealing with potholes — rather than complaining, he plants them with primroses. And You Are The Engine tells the tale of the first mile-a-minute cyclist, who accomplished the feat in 1899 by drafting on a steam engine train(!).

A cyclist on a bike can brake, turn or accelerate to avoid a collision; a rider walking his bike is a sitting duck if a driver runs the red light.

No signage indicating a bikeway here, either, but at least cars aren’t allowed on the sidewalk/bikeway. And yes, this is shown as a Class 1 bike path in the latest draft of the new bike plan.

These cracks rise several inches, and run most of the way across the path.

Note the faded yellow paint. Would you consider that an adequate hazard warning?

Now imagine encountering that after dark.

Of course, the crosswalk at Sepulveda and Ohio isn’t much better.

At Ohio, the bikeway turns west, sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians — few of whom seem to notice the faded markings on the cement.

At least this section has signs, though most people assume they indicate a bike lane in the street — which could be why most cyclists ride there, instead. And at the next intersection, cyclists going straight have to cross the path of drivers entering the VA grounds.

Evidently, we should be glad there’s such a low turnout in local elections

Back when I was in college, one of my Political Science professors gave a lecture about low voter turnout in the U.S.

He pointed out that far more people turn out to vote in formerly totalitarian countries, because they understand the true value of the freedom we take for granted.

Then he flipped through a few surveys, highlighting the percentages of people who hate blacks, Jews, gays and other assorted minorities. As well as those who believe the moon landing was fake and the Earth is flat.

His point was that a lot of people don’t vote.

And maybe we’re better off for it.

Case in point, the 91 and counting comments that followed the brief story on the Times website about the proposed bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance. The overwhelming majority of which were of the standard “I’ll respect bikes when they (choose one or more of the following): respect the law, stop for red lights and stop signs, signal, stay on the sidewalk, stay off the sidewalk, get out of the lane, get out of my way, get a life, grow a pair, and/or stop wearing those ugly clothes.”

I read ’em so you won’t have to. You can thank me later.

Take these two, for example, which pretty much sum up the tone of today’s conversation (and yes, I’ve left the spelling and punctuation exactly the way I found it):

Im a fireman. Experience has shown me that SPANDEX AND HEAVY STEEL DONT BELONG ON THE SAME ROAD!!!!!! Common since. Legislation is not going to change physics! Ride at your own risk!

Posted by: Steve | January 28, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Bicyclists are full of it. There are legally obligated to follow the motor vehicle code. However, I see them run stops signs, run redlights, and make sudden lane changes without signaling all the time.

If bicyclists want respect, they need to follow the rules of the road.

Posted by: Stump Barnes | January 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Then there was this one:

Here’s some ideas how to get people to be more vehicle friendly with cyclists;
1.Get cyclists to be more courteous with vehicles & pedestrians
2.Get cyclists to start opeying all driving laws
2. Require all cyclists to install I.D. licence plates on their bike’s so they can be identified when they either break a law, cause an accident, or start somesort of road rage.

Cyclists are known to be rude, obnoxious, law breaking jerks for the most part. They use strong profanity, they spit, they flip you the bird, and they provoke fights, knowing that they can easily get away because they can’t be identified. They seem to have all City Officials on their side, and since they are not wasting gas or polluting the air, they get away with just about anything. What’s it going to take to get Officials to wake up and realize that the root of the problem is the cyclists themselves.

Posted by: Dave Reynolds | January 28, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Dave, have you ever considered that if you’re running into so many rude, obnoxious, swearing, spitting, finger-flipping, fight-provoking, law-breaking jerks, that maybe, just maybe, the cyclists aren’t the problem?

Just a thought.

Anyway, after reading all those comments, I was truly shamed, realizing for the first time what dangerous scofflaws we cyclists must be. And understanding that, yes, these people are right to harass us because we pose such a risk to their two+ tons of glass and steel.

I mean, I might actually dent the bumper and get blood on their shiny paint and stuff.

So when I set out to ride today, I took notice of the drivers around me, hoping to learn from their example how to properly assume my place on the road.

Imagine my surprise.

Three of the first four drivers I saw ran stop signs. Not just a rolling stop, mind you — that’s what the fourth one did — but full blown, not slowing down don’t care if you’re in the way I’m coming through anyway stop sign running.

And for the first 1.83 miles, I didn’t see a single driver use a turn signal — and yes, I did make a note of it, because it was so surprising when someone finally did. And no, he wasn’t the first one to turn or make a lane change.

Far from it.

Then there were these four rocket scientists of the road.

I encountered the first two as I sat waiting at the front of the intersection for a light to change, just to left of the right turn lane. Next to me was a small utility truck, which kept inching forward. So I gestured to the driver, pointing out the “No right turn” sign directly ahead of him. Evidently, though, it doesn’t apply to small utility trucks, because he made his turn anyway.

Then the SUV behind him pulled up to the light. Unlike the previous driver, she waited patiently in the right turn lane until the light changed. Then went straight, nearly forcing me into the car on my left before she cut in front of both of us and sped off down the road.

But not before giving me the finger.

Although, to be fair, that was after I called her a jackass. Which I thought showed remarkable restraint, given the circumstances.

Then there was the driver in the Escalade, who saw me signal to move left into the traffic lane. And responded by speeding up to cut me, forcing me to jam on my brakes to avoid rear-ending the parked car ahead of me. Because there just wasn’t room for a massive Escalade and a bike in the same lane at the same time.

The real winner, though, came when I pulled up behind a car that was stopped at a stop sign, waiting patiently for a woman to cross the road. So the driver behind me crossed the yellow line onto the wrong side of the road, passing us both, then blew through the stop without slowing down — forcing the pedestrian to dodge out of his way.

So yes, I can easily see why all these people think we’re such dangerous, law-flaunting outlaws, undeserving of equal protection from law enforcement, since that right is reserved for real, law-abiding, gas-guzzling Americans.

I take comfort, though, in knowing that most of these self-proclaimed traffic law experts probably won’t be voting in the next election.

Oh, and Dave?

“Licence” is usually spelled with an “s.”

I’ll let you figure out where to put it.

Rosendahl to Council: Car culture ends today

Just two weeks ago, L.A. City Council Member Dennis Zine said he didn’t know if L.A.’s car culture was ever going to change.

Today, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl begged to differ.

In a powerful statement before the full council, Rosendahl said “The culture of the car is going to end now!” He reminded his fellow council members about the harassment cyclists face on the road, as well as the lack of support riders have received from the LAPD in the past. “We’re going to give cyclists the support they should have been getting.”

“This is my pledge to the cycling community.”

L.A. City Hall in January.

The subject at hand, which drew similar support from many of the council members in attendance, was a motion requesting the City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting the harassment of bicyclists.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be business as usual.

The first sign came when Council President Eric Garcetti noted that this matter had already been heard by both the Transportation and Public Safety Committees, which would normally mean no more public comments. But as Damien Newton had predicted, he quickly deferred to Rosendahl’s request to allow the handful of cyclists in the room to speak.

But first, Rosendahl and Public Safety Committee Chair Greig Smith agreed to what Damien called the three-step process, in which LADOT and the City Attorney will work with local cyclists to determine what the ordinance can and should contain, without conflicting with existing state traffic regulations. Then they will report back to both committees before drafting the actual ordinance, which will be subject to final council approval.

Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl addresses the council.

I argued against the extra step, since the City Attorney would, by necessity, determine what can legally be included in the ordinance during the process of drafting it.

But Rosendahl had already made it clear that he wouldn’t allow the process to drag on. He agreed with Smith to hold a joint session of the two committees to consider the recommendations. And pledged to have an ordinance drafted and ready for approval by the end of March.

That’s March of this year, in case you were wondering.

He also reminded the audience about a planned Transportation Committee session scheduled for February 24, in which cyclists will have a chance to speak with new LAPD Chief Beck. This is a chance to change, not just car culture, but that of the LAPD as well, he said, stating that future graduates from the police academy will receive training in bicycle law — including a copy of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

In remarks a little later, Council Member Ed Reyes, co-sponsor of the motion, added that indifference has usually been the best a cyclist could hope for from the LAPD after being harassed or assaulted.

Fellow Transportation Committee member Paul Kortez suggested that it wasn’t enough to defer to the state to address the problem, saying the city needs to find a way to address harassment in its own laws and do whatever it can to put a stop to it. “We need to send a clear message,” he said.

When the floor was opened to comments, a brief parade of cyclists spoke about the problems they’ve faced on the road.

The LACBC's Aurisha Smolarsky offers her comments.

David talked about being harassed on the streets, while Iain told the council about an incident in which he was injured after being harassed by a driver — only to be told that by a police officer that it was his fault because he was riding with traffic.

Siku spoke of an incident in which she was buzzed by a driver, who yelled “Do you want to die?” at the next red light. And Michael, who described himself as a businessman, homeowner and taxpayer, cast it as a civil rights issue, saying he had been harassed by both drivers and the police.

In fact, every cyclist who spoke — including Aurisha of the LACBC, as well as myself — told of being harassed by drivers on the streets of L.A.

Rosendahl concluded the discussion by listing what he believes should constitute harassment under the proposed ordinance, including:

1. Knowingly throwing a projectile or discharge at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle;

2. Threatening any person riding a bicycle verbally or by use of his/her vehicle for the purpose of injuring, frightening or disturbing the person riding the bicycle;

3. Knowingly placing his/her vehicle within 3’ of a bicyclist while passing or following;

4. Making physical contact with a bicyclist from a moving vehicle or the roadway either by physical person or use of an implement;

5. Knowingly placing a person riding a bicycle in concern of immediate physical injury;

6. Knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of physical injury or death to the person riding a bicycle.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Evidently, the council members agreed, voting 13 to 0 to approve the measure.

Afterwards, Eric Garcetti came up to me and offered his personal assurance that he will stay on top of this measure, and use his position as Council President to keep it moving forward.

And we can’t ask for much more than that.

Read more, including a wrap up on the Council’s discussion of the bike sharing proposal, on LA Streetsblog; LAist sums up the bike sharing discussion, as well.

……..

The Trickster offers an update on New Zealand’s cyber-bully Hummer Driver, who offers a half-hearted apology for threatening to kill cyclists — but only after the police get involved.

……..

Six cities that could go car free, including one right here in California, courtesy of Curbed LA. Designing better cities for bikes. Mixed results on Portland’s bike boxes. Boston Biker loses it after getting doored by a passenger bailing out in traffic. Virginia is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law. New York cyclists are ticketed for delivering fried dumplings on the sidewalk. The great Hasidim v. hipsters debate goes on, and on — literally, this time. If bike lanes can tame New Dehli’s traffic, just imagine what they could do here. A UK driver is convicted of killing a rider competing in a time trial; as usual, she claims she never saw him. Brits petition the Royal Mail to let posties keep their Pashleys. Disgraced former Spanish cycling boss threatens to dope and tell. An Edinburgh cyclist hits a white van at 20 mph; maybe the driver thought he was a pothole. Finally, a great examination of how to fight biased — or just uninformed — police enforcement. And perhaps the best last line of any bike quote, ever.

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