Archive for Guest Columns

Guest Post: CiclaValley invites you to remember fallen riders at next week’s SF Valley Ride of Silence

Ghost bike for Cairo Castaneda in Studio City

Ghost bike for Cairo Castaneda in Studio City

In the past few years, CiclaValley has become one of the leading voices for bike advocacy in the LA area, with a focus on the San Fernando Valley. Today he offers a guest post on next week’s Ride of Silence to remember fallen bike riders.

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Cycling is a community.

It doesn’t matter how fast you ride, what bike you have or how often you do it. You have a connection knowing that your fellow cyclists share the same joys and anxieties as you.

When news breaks that cyclist has lost their life, you can’t help but think about what that person left behind. Family. Friends. Even children. It is a perilous world, but one where we can use these tragedies to teach us how to live.

Last year, I attended my first Ride of Silence in Pasadena. I had no idea what to expect or how many people would be there, I just thought it was important to go to show my dedication to this community.

There were at least one hundred riders on hand, but what was more powerful than our size was the symbolism coming from riding together in absolute silence. Riding down Colorado Blvd., people took notice not only of our large group, but also the message we were sending without any sound.

I knew from that day one year ago that the San Fernando Valley, with over 1.8 million residents, needed a ride of our own. As I continued my preparations for the ride with LACBC, my planning changed when in early April, Cairo Castaneda lost his life in Studio City at an intersection that is very familiar to me. Danny Gamboa of Ghost Bikes came to place the memorial and since that time, people have continued to pay their respects by adding details making it a beautiful shrine.

This ride will now quietly roll by this site.

The goal is to spread the Ride of Silence, not just to the valley, but countywide as well.

Please come out to support our ride in North Hollywood next Wednesday night on May 18th. It meets at the North Hollywood Red Line Station at 6:30 p.m. If you cannot make it out into the valley, Pasadena’s ride will be meeting the same evening at the Rose Bowl, and you’ll also find other rides in Orange County, Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

Cycling is a great community because we care about each other. Let’s show everyone else as well.

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CiclaValley mentioned other RoS in Southern California.

You can find all the OC rides on Bill Sellin’s site, including rides in Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Orange and Santa Ana; information on the Oxnard ride can be found here, and Thousand Oaks here.

I’ve long had a vision for a Ride of Silence down Wilshire Blvd from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills. Maybe one day we’ll be able to make it happen.

 

Guest Post: Team LACBC gears up for incredible Northern California adventure with the 2016 Climate Ride

Redwoods_cyclists_lrAfter the excitement of next week’s Bike Week, hundreds of cyclists will converge in Northern California to wrap up Bike Month with this year’s Climate Ride. I invited Marc Horwitz, leader of this year’s LACBC contingent, to explain what it is, and why it matters.

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In the coming weeks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) will be sending its TEAM LACBC up north to participate in Climate Ride California 2016. It’s  an epic 5-day, 330-mile charity ride (May 22-26) that goes through the Redwood Forest and down the stunning Northern California Coast.

The event raises awareness and funds for a variety of beneficiary agencies working on the environment. Better yet, the money generated by TEAM LACBC will help make cycling safer and more accessible for everyone in the L.A. region. The ride itself is a veritable roadie’s bucket list! Highlights include Avenue of the Giants, Leggett Hill, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes Station, the Russian River, Mt. Tam and much more. It all ends with a bang, as the peloton crosses the spectacular Golden Gate into S.F. on Day #5.

Team_LACBC_lrParticipating in Climate Ride is an amazing and life-transforming experience. But it’s also a big commitment. Riders must train and get ready for the physical challenge and procure all the necessary equipment, not to mention meet the minimum $2800 fundraising requirement. It’s a big ask, and you can help! Supporting Team LACBC is easy. Go to our team fundraising page and click the orange “support me” button. Alternatively, you can browse our roster and contribute to an individual rider.

This week, we’re featuring team member Lac Vuong. Hailing from East Hollywood, Lac works for Tern Bicycles as well as for LACBC as a bike valet. This young man is an incredible asset on any group ride, frequently acting as sweep and always assisting riders in distress. As with all members of Team LACBC, Lac is riding on behalf of all of us, so why not show him a little love? Any amount of support will be greatly appreciated.

Training_PV Donut_cliffThough the team is locked in for this year, Climate Ride is something you’ll definitely want to put on your radar for 2017. Membership is open to the public and we can accommodate riders of all levels. With a “no rider left behind” policy, we’ll guide you through each step of the process – from initial sign-up right through the event itself.  Don’t let the fundraising aspect deter you. Nearly everyone who commits to raising the money winds up making it happen. It’s an incredible feeling to be riding with the support of your friends and family!

For more information, browse the Team FAQ Page or contact Marc Horwitz at climateride@la-bike.org. Also connect with Team LACBC on Facebook for news and events, including training ride announcements.

Colin_Hyeran_Carrie_Greg_01_lr

Attorney Solves the Great Mystery of the “No Biking In Crosswalk” Signs

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

USC Crosswalk Sign

Cyclists biking around the University of Southern California may once again be stopped and cited for riding their bikes in a crosswalk.

The officer stopping them, whether they are from the Los Angeles Police Department or USC security, when asked why they are writing a ticket might reference the sign that reads “Walk Bikes In Crosswalk” as the reason for citing the cyclist. What the officer apparently doesn’t know is that there is no such law, regardless of what the signs says.

At the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House a couple of months ago, I met a graduate student who attends USC and who is a cyclist. He told me about this sign at Jefferson and Royal, and a few others like it, near the USC campus. He wanted to know if these signs were accurate and enforceable. A few days later he took and emailed me the accompanying photo.

I knew this wasn’t a question of law as bicycles can be ridden – legally – through crosswalks. So where and how and why was this sign on the street?

We contacted Sgt. Flynn of the LAPD, Central Traffic Division, who said, “I do not know of any California Vehicle Code section that states you can’t ride your bike in a crosswalk.  The only section that someone could be cited for, if it is an official sign, would be CVC 21461(a)vc ‘Official Traffic Sign or Signal-failure of Driver to Obey Regulatory Provisions.’”

So where did this sign come from and why is it still there? What we found out after many, many telephone calls and emails, is that the sign is reflective of old laws that empowered officers to cite bicyclists for not walking their bikes in a crosswalk. But that law was taken off the books in 2006.

This is not a new issue, particularly in the USC neighborhood. In September 2009, the Daily Trojan reported that a task force of LAPD officers and USC security was being put together to regulate safety. This would include sting operations set up at intersections to cite cyclists riding their bikes in crosswalks. Citations could cost up to $250.

On Jan. 12, 2010, four months later, Streetsblog wrote a more extensive article on this same topic called “If You Want to Know Bicycle Law, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol, Part 2.” Streetsblog reported that, as we know, there was no law that stated that cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes in crosswalks. Ten years later, since the 2006 change in the law, we’re still discussing these same issues.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over most traffic devices – signs and signals – in the City of Los Angeles. DOT employees confirmed that this sign is a DOT sign and it was installed by DOT.

LADOT’s Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowrey was one of the people involved in the 2006 modifications of the California Vehicle Code that resulted in the removal of the law that bicycles had to be walked through crosswalks.

When we asked Mowrey about this sign, she told me that whether or not it is reflecting the pre-2006 law, it is a non-standard sign.  Mowrey told us that though the sign doesn’t appear in any Caltrans’ manuals, a black-and-yellow sign, as it is, indicates that it’s a warning sign, not a regulatory sign, which is black-and-white. Citations can be issued only on regulatory black-and-white signs. That’s why speed limit signs are black-and-white and “Share the Road” signs are black-and-yellow.

An LAPD representative said the LAPD was not involved in the signs. We were told their opinion of the sign is that it is a safety recommendation. Our question, then, would be, do LAPD officers know that or are they still ticketing cyclists for disobeying the sign? We don’t have an answer to that question.

We talked to three different people at LADOT about why these signs were up. In essence, they all said that after the law was changed, in 2006, steps were taken to remove signs like these on all city streets. These signs were overlooked, apparently, and it was just an oversight.

Mehrdad Moshskar, LADOT’s central district engineer, was our next stop. We were referred to him to find out how to get the signs removed. Moshskar assured me that all of these signs in that area of town would be removed soon.

People have asked me if I thought the signs originated with USC. I have no idea, and no one knew or was willing to tell me.

The official answer came from Tim Fremaux in the LADOT Bicycle Coordination Department who said, “Anyone can submit any traffic-related request via myladot.lacity.org and it will be reviewed. If DOT approves the request, it will be implemented on our streets.”

There are Traffic Division and Bicycle Liason meetings held on a quarterly basis, which are open to the public. These meetings include representatives from LADOT, USC, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and other public groups. For more information about these meetings, contact Lt. Chris Ramirez at 213-486-6000.

Meanwhile, if anybody goes past Jefferson and Royal, would you email me at info@pocrass.com and let me know if the sign is still up?

 

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

Guest Post: Felicia Garcia looks at Councilmember Cedillo’s Opposition to Mobility Plan 2035

Since his election in 2013, CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo has lead the fight against bike lanes in his Northeast LA district, first by halting an already approved road diet on North Figueroa, then by demanding that bikeways planned for his district be removed from the new Mobility Plan.

A casualty of that opposition has been safety for everyone, as North Figueroa remains one of the most dangerous streets in Los Angeles.

Today Fig4All’s Felicia Garcia examines his continued opposition to the safety improvements promised in the Mobility Plan.

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For over 50 days, a memorial for Yolanda Lugo-Espinoza has stood on N. Figueroa, and donation boxes to help the family cover funeral expenses have adorned the counter of local businesses along the street. However, this tragic fatality seems to be absent from Councilmember Cedillo’s memory, as he continued his opposition Tuesday to a plan that aims to eliminate traffic deaths citywide. N. Figueroa Street was intended to undergo a reconfiguration shortly after Cedillo took office in 2013 that would have resulted in crosswalk improvements and buffered bike lanes but that city-approved and funded safety plan has been single-handedly stalled by District 1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

In a joint Transportation and Planning & Land-Use Management Committee meeting Tuesday to re-examine proposed amendments to the Mobility Plan 2035, Councilmember Cedillo again demonstrated his lack of empathy with the community and those affected by dangerous streets. He is one of 2 council members who has consistently opposed the Mobility Plan. The primary goal of the Plan is to put safety first by eliminating traffic fatalities while encouraging Angelenos to consider alternative means of transportation through adding dedicated bus and bike lanes to the city’s roadways over the next 20 years.

At the initial Mobility Plan 2035 meeting in August, Councilmember Cedillo (whose district includes the Glassell Park, Highland Park and Cypress Park neighborhoods of Northeast LA) attempted to make significant changes to specifics in the Plan. Most notably he requested that the streets in his district meant to be part of the citywide network of protected bike lanes be removed from the Mobility Plan. The Councilman has said his reluctance towards the Plan and his motive for excluding streets in his district is that he must act as “representative for the entirety of …[his] district, not simply 1%”. He refers to anyone who walks, bikes or uses public transportation as the 1%, but in doing so dismisses a large population of his constituents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the MacArthur Park neighborhood of his district boasts one of the highest percentages of commuters who travel by means other than car – a noteworthy 49.2%. For other parts of Cedillo’s district such as Westlake and Chinatown, those commuting without car make up 48.8% and 25%, respectively.

Many of the residents in Cedillo’s district cannot afford the luxury of owning a car, while others simply choose not to drive. Cedillo attempted to give more insight behind his reasoning at the Mobility Plan meeting stating: “A recent poll in the L.A. Times found that traffic is the No. 1 concern of the people, not public safety, not the high cost of living, not cleanliness of the city.” The poll he refers to was an online survey taken by 1,500 LA County residents. Considering the 2013 Census estimates LA County is home to over 10 million people, this survey focused on a tiny portion (around 0.015%) of the population, with the majority (98%) of the surveys conducted in English and exclusively serving those with internet access. Besides the fact that this survey in no way represents the needs of his constituents, he continues to cite it. He also overlooks one of the main purposes of the Mobility Plan, which is to find new ways to deal with the inevitable traffic that comes with a growing population of Angelenos. In insisting that traffic flow is more important than safety, he expresses his disregard for human life while a candle for hit-and-run victim Ms. Lugo-Espinoza still flickers at a memorial less than 2 blocks away from his Highland Park Field Office.

The Council Tuesday concluded the Mobility Plan 2035 meeting with intent to place changes to the Plan up for vote again next week with a full Council. Neighboring Northeast LA Councilmember Huizar is in strong support of the Plan, citing the 43% reduction in traffic collisions on Colorado Boulevard after safety improvements were introduced in 2013 as an example of how the rest of the city could progress. The majority of the City Council supports the Mobility Plan and commend it for its vision and years of exhaustive outreach unmatched in the City’s history. Meanwhile, Councilmember Cedillo remains insistent that he would not like the Plan to move forward until there can be greater “community input,” leaving his constituents at risk and danger as he stalls implementation of critical roadway safety improvements.

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BikinginLA welcomes guest posts on subjects of interest to bicyclists, particularly in the Los Angeles and Southern California areas. If you’ve written something you’d like to share, or have a topic you’d like to suggest, contact us at the email address on the About page.

Morning Links: LA’s Mobility Plan up for review today, and a call for to join or renew membership in LACBC

The LA Times looks at the city council’s planned revote on the recently passed LA Mobility Plan to stave off a lawsuit filed by Fix the City, the self-appointed guardians of LA’s failed auto-centric transportation system.

It’s worth noting that the story quotes CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo as saying that a recent poll showed traffic, not safety, was the number one concern of LA residents. Even though there have been a number of high-profile traffic deaths in his district since he arbitrarily killed the safety improvements planned for North Figueroa, and attempted to have all bike lanes in his district removed from the plan.

Evidently, the deaths of a few bike riders and pedestrians are a small price to pay to avoid slowing traffic by even a minute or two — and then only at peak hours.

It’s also worth noting that the story begins by describing supporters of the plan as “activists,” rather than just people who want to be able to get where their going safely, and without fear. However they choose to travel.

Yet those who oppose safety improvements are never referred to as car, business or homeowner activists.

And once again, the story fails to correct claims from groups like Fix the City that the plan calls for an increase in congestion and a decrease in air quality and emergency response times. Even though that’s only a worst case scenario in case the plan does nothing to encourage alternative transportation, which is extremely unlikely.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman travels with a group of South LA bike riders protesting Councilmember Curren Price’s plans to exclude the promised Central Avenue bike lanes from the plan.

If you’d like to weigh in on the matter, whether as an activist or just a bike-riding human being, the City Council Planning and Transportation Committees will take up the proposal in a joint session scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon in the council chambers at City Hall.

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I want to pass along the following message from Ishraq Ali, Membership Manager for the LACBC.

Hi there!

We’re in midst of a Membership Drive at the LA County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC)!

The year 2015 has been one of change and growth for LACBC. To start I’m the new Membership Manager looking to build our presence in LA! I’m excited to come onboard and help LACBC integrate equity into all our programs and prioritize outreach in underserved communities.

We’ve had GREAT success, and the momentum is in our favor to make the LA region a healthy, safe, equitable and fun place to ride a bike. Our advocacy efforts have led to the passage of the Mobility Plan 2035 and the creation of the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance.

Now is a great opportunity for us to grow and strengthen our numbers as we head into 2016.

Support us today and get a special one year complimentary e-subscription to Momentum Magazine! We also have a special limited edition of our #bikeLA members’ shirt!

bikeLA group

Support us at the premium level and represent LACBC with these limited-quantity shirts.

Its through your support that we can continue to do our advocacy, education and community work! Join and support our work today!

If you have questions or thoughts to share, email me at membership@la-bike.org

#bikeLA

Ishraq

Membership Manager

The LACBC is the leading voice for LA’s bicycling community, working with city and county leaders on a daily basis to improve the riding environment for everyone on two wheels.

It’s only through your membership that they have the strength to make all our voices heard.

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Local

Streetsblog pulls back the curtain on pricing for Metro’s coming bikeshare system in DTLA; most commenters seem disappointed that the plan doesn’t offer true integration with the tap card system. Although I’m glad to see there’s a walkup option that doesn’t require advance membership.

CiclaValley takes on the challenge of Sunday’s Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer hill climb.

Breitbart looks at how Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare system will work. Although what the US Department of Transportation has to do with it is beyond me.

Tonight is your last chance to turn out in support of a proposed bike park in the San Gabriel Valley.

 

State

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton talks about Calbike’s legislative report cards with Campaign’s Director Ryan Price.

Santa Barbara’s new draft bike plan is called deeply disappointing, as the city avoids making the hard choices between bikes and cars.

Somehow I missed this story on bike theft at an Oakland BART station, which explains why even a heavy U-lock can be worthless in protecting your bike. Thanks to Gil Solomon for the heads-up.

 

National

Bicycling suggests bike commuters should use Strava to provide data for city planners, and offers advice on how to get back on your bike after having a baby.

Bob Mionske says killer drivers are seldom held accountable, and Vulnerable User Laws can form the middle ground between giving killer drivers a walk and sending them away for years. As if to prove Mionske’s point, a Maryland man won’t face charges for running down a bike rider on the shoulder of a roadway; instead, he got three tickets worth less than $300 each, with a possible two points against his license.

Sixteen female bike industry executives met with federal lawmakers to discuss the transportation bill and other issues facing the bike industry. Nice to have women’s voices represent the traditionally male-dominated bike business for a change.

How Minneapolis is encouraging kids to bike and walk to school.

A political commentator for CNN attempts to lose her fear of bicycling with just her second ride through the streets of Manhattan.

Two Miami men are dead after the driver of a stolen car slams into a bicyclist before the car crashed into a tree and burst into flames.

 

International

VeloNews catches up with the newly retired Jens Voigt, who says he’s leaving pro cycling in good hands.

A writer in Saskatoon says people ride to work even in winter because they’re commuting just like anyone else.

London’s Guardian newspaper unmasks Mexico City’s Peatónito, a cape crusader fighting for pedestrian rights and safety on the traffic-clogged streets.

The Guardian examines fatality stats to determine how bike riders get killed in England and Wales, pointing out that you’re almost as likely to get killed falling off a ladder. The story adds that four pedestrians were killed in collisions with cyclists in the UK in the last year.

Evidently, it’s a Guardian kind of day, as another writer continues the recent theme of windshield-perspective hatchet jobs, portraying even 71-year old bike riders as out to terrify those poor, innocent drivers by being dangerously out of control. Must be strange driving over there if lightless kamikaze hands-free cyclists doing wheelies from all sides is really a problem.

A Welsh cyclist with a long history of substance abuse gets 14 months for threatening two people with a knife while “out of his mind on drink and drugs.” Call me crazy, but it seems like his mode of transportation is the least important part of this story, despite the headline.

Jerusalem police give a new bike to a 13-year old boy who was recently stabbed while riding.

Bike paths are coming to several communities in Dubai, which is on track to add 550 miles of cycle tracks by the end of the decade.

A group of 35 Aussie cyclists are riding through New South Wales to call for the equivalent of a three-foot passing law, including some of the country’s current and past elite riders.

 

Finally…

Apparently, cyclists aren’t the only dopers after all. A simple photo of Beyoncé looking hot while posing with her bike blows up the Internet.

And if you’re going to get high and ride your bike, try to remember to put lights on it first — and don’t assault a deputy when he tries to stop you.

 

Guest Post: BAC member Jonathan Weiss explains California law on riding side-by-side

Riding abreast on Rodeo Drive, without breaking the law

Riding abreast on Rodeo Drive, without breaking the law

One of the most frequently misunderstood laws governing bicycling is the right to ride two or more abreast, both by bicyclists and — especially — law enforcement. Police too often misinterpret the requirement to ride to the right as forbidding riding abreast.

Although law might be the wrong word, since it isn’t even mentioned in state law.

Los Angeles Bicycling Advisory Committee member Jonathan Weiss has done an exceptional job of digging deep into state law to explain when it’s legal, and why.

This should be mandatory reading for every police officer in California.

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Side by Side

Admit it – you ride side by side so you can chat. But is it legal? The simplest guidance I can formulate is: Except where local laws forbid it, California law allows riding side by side (by side) where the road is not wide enough or in good enough condition for cars to safely pass bicyclists.

Most states allow side-by-side riding – California law is silent

U.S. National Champion road racer and Olympian (and bicycle lawyer) Bob Mionske reported in his 2010 Bicycling.com article, “Road Rights – Two by Two, How and When to Ride Side by Side,” that 39 states expressly regulate riding side-by-side on a statewide basis.  California was (and is) not one of them.  So, he says, side-by-side riding is implicitly allowed in California – except where localities regulate it.

California’s “ride to the right” law (Vehicle Code section 21202) has been interpreted as barring side-by-side riding

If you know anything about laws applying to bicycling, you’ve probably heard that Vehicle Code section 21202, subdivision (a), requires bicyclists to “ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.“ Section 21202 was (and is) the law governing operation of bicycles on roadways. So, when a Statewide Bicycle Committee (set up by the California Legislature – see note at end) asked the Attorney General his opinion on the legality of side-by-side cycling, he relied on section 21202 to say it was forbidden. (“It is our opinion that section 21202 does preclude bicyclists from legally riding abreast of one another assuming both bicyclists are on the roadway.”) When the Deputy Attorney gave his opinion in 1975, Section 21202 said: “(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) [re one-way streets], every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.” Therefore, bikes could only be side-by-side when passing one another.

The Deputy Attorney General wasn’t unsympathetic to the law’s impracticalities. He concluded by joining in the Committee’s recommendation “that section 21202 be amended to expressly provide that bicyclists are permitted to move to the left when passing a slower moving vehicle, when preparing for a left hand turn, or when seeking to avoid hazards in the roadway.” Indeed, the Bicycle Committee had proposed those amendments and more. They wanted to allow cyclists to “Occupy a full lane to avoid being forced off the roadway when the lane is too narrow for a vehicle to pass safely in the lane, in accordance with CVC Section 21656.”

In 1976, Governor Brown signed a bill adding all of those exceptions to the ride to the right requirements in section 21202.

  • (a)  Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
  • (1)  When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  • (2)  When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  • (3)  When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

The newly added exceptions are discussed below.

The “substandard width lane” exception to the ride to the right law

Even if you knew about the ride to the right law, you may not know about the “substandard width lane” added in 1976. The “substandard width lane” exception means that, where “a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane” – cyclists don’t have to ride to the right. In other words, where there is no room for a car and a bike, the cyclist can (one might say should) take the lane by riding in the center.  (More on that later.)

The “safely side by side” phrase in Vehicle Code section 21202, subdivision (a)(3), was recently clarified by the three foot passing law. Vehicle Code section 21760, subdivision (b), says – “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.” A three foot buffer is how much space a car must leave to be “safely side by side” with a bicycle.

This rider on Westwood Blvd could legally take the lane, and probably should

This rider on Westwood Blvd could legally take the lane, and probably should

Consider, for example, northbound Westwood Boulevard between Pico and Santa Monica Boulevards. The curb lane is 12 feet wide. During morning rush hours, there is no parking in that lane. With a cyclist taking about 3 feet (counting from the curb – to stay off of the concrete gutter pan), and the 3 foot passing law, a 6 foot wide car, that’s the tightest fit possible. But with wider SUVs, buses (8 ½ feet wide), and trucks plying that same space – taking the lane is clearly legal.

The “surface hazards” exception to the ride to the right law

The law also allows straying from the road’s edge when reasonably necessary to avoid “fixed or moving objects” or “surface hazards” “that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge ….”

So, if the road is busted up (like Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills) or has unsafe storm drain catch basins (along the same roadway), then there’s another reason to take the lane.

The “speedy rider” exception to the ride to the right law

Section 21202 only requires cyclists riding “at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic” to stay right. So, since the 1976 amendment, those cyclists who can keep up with traffic may take the lane no matter how wide the road or its condition.

If you’ve legally taken the lane, you can ride side-by-side (by side)

The Statewide Bicycle Committee recommended allowing cyclists to “Travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.”  But that never became law. Therefore, there is still no state law permitting – or limiting – the number of cyclists riding side-by-side. Local entities can (and have) applied their own restrictions. (Under Vehicle Code section 21, most local entities cannot overrule the Vehicle Code.) Locally, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Long Beach, and Irvine (is that local?) allow no more than two abreast riding. No other local cities appear to limit riding two by two – or more. But that doesn’t hold everywhere. In San Anselmo, you must have a license (is that even legal?) and one condition on the license is that “Every person, when operating a bicycle upon a highway, shall ride such bicycle in single file only.”

So, if you’ve legally taken the lane under the substandard lanes, surface hazards, or left turn exceptions, no state law says your pal can’t ride next to you. And, in most cities, you can ride three (or more) abreast.

Please, please, don’t hold up lots of traffic

Sometimes, even after taking the lane, you must pull over. Vehicle Code section 21656 requires slower moving traffic to move over when safe: “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed.”

So, for example, if you head up Benedict Canyon (which is probably substandard in many areas), and if five cars stack up behind you, you would have to pull over.  On the way down, however, you may go about as fast as the cars, so no need to pull over.  This wouldn’t apply on Beverly Hills’ Santa Monica Boulevard, since it’s not a two lane road.

Why ride side by side?

I started off suggesting you might ride side by side to chat. But there are better reasons to do so. The Statewide Bicycling Committee noted them in its report:

It is not unusual for a motorist to attempt to pass a cyclist in the same lane when it is not safe to do so. This often results in the cyclist being forced off the roadway. Cyclists contend that it is safer in a narrow lane to occupy the full lane, thereby causing the motorist to pass in an adjacent lane or to wait until the cyclist moves off the roadway at the first safe and available opportunity In accordance with CVC Section 21656.

Taking the lane (occupying a full lane – as the Committee put it) may be best achieved with the help of friends. Two bicycles are more visible than one, and so forth.

Jonathan Weiss

This article is dedicated to the memory of cycling lawyer and advocate Howard Krepack.

Note: As background, the Statewide Bicycle Committee was formed in accordance with Senate Concurrent Resolution 47.  The Committee was charged with the following responsibilities:

  • To study problems related to bicycling in California.
  • To review the California Vehicle Code and recommend changes which will benefit both bicyclists and motorists.
  • To develop a Model Bicycle Ordinance for use by local jurisdictions.

You can find the Statewide Bicycle Committee report here; the AG’s opinion is at the very end.

………

Thanks to Velo Club La Grange for permission to repost this piece, which originally appeared in the club’s newsletter.

Crappy photos by BikinginLA.

 

Low Speed E-Bikes Given Bicycle Privileges

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

On Oct. 7, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1096 that gives two of the three classes of electric bikes the right to access bike paths and bike lanes. This is the first of its kind of legislation in the country, and it is a sign that e-bikes are coming of age.

AB 1096, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016, divides electric bikes into three classes:

  • Type 1: Pedal-assisted machines with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph
  • Type 2: Throttle-assisted machines with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph;
  • Type 3: Pedal-assisted bikes with a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.

As of 2017, electric bike manufacturers must label e-bikes as a Type 1, 2, or 3. The infographic below by People for Bikes and the California Bicycle Coalition explains the policy more completely.

e-bike-graphic-trimmed

E-bikes are gaining in popularity, and not just with seniors, people with injuries or disabilities, families, and those who have particularly long or uphill commutes. These bikes are quickly going mainstream because they’re fun to ride and adaptable to various conditions.

Though AB 1096 permits various classes of e-bikes to ride in or on various bike paths and lanes (as indicated on the chart above), be aware of where e-bikes still may not be permitted to ride, unless specifically indicated in these areas:

  • Bike paths and roads that are not under federal or state vehicle codes (an example would be a bike path in a county park).
  • Natural surface paths in parks, like mountain bike trails, and open space areas.

Most importantly, counties, cities and other government entities still have the right to regulate e-bikes, just as they have the right to regulate bicycle usage with their domains.

Since we’re discussing e-bikes’ rights and responsibilities under the law, let’s go a little further. In 2001, the United States Congress passed Public Law 107-319. It stated that electric bicycles and tricycles that meet the definition of low-speed electric bicycles are regulated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Act versus mopeds and motorcycles that have the ability to exceed the speed of an electric bicycle. The latter are regulated by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

States then passed their own laws regulating e-bikes. In California, low-speed (up to 20 mph) e-bikes have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle, just as a bicycle does. E-bike riders do not need a driver’s license, license plate or insurance. You must be at least 16 years old to ride an e-bike, and if you are age 17 or younger, you must wear a bicycle helmet.

Now with AB 1096, you can ride an e-bike almost anywhere you can ride a bicycle. But remember, all the traffic laws – from stop signs to traffic signals and to phone and text use and from riding with traffic and having working brakes, handlebars, and lights on your bike – all apply to you on your e-bike.

There are a couple of potential legal issues that I see facing e-bike riders. The most important one in my mind is the issue of insurance. As I said, no insurance is required for an e-bike in California.

I have read online that dealers believe that if your e-bike is stolen, it is likely that your homeowner’s or rental insurance policy would cover the theft. They do suggest that you contact your insurance agent to confirm that.

My apprehension is whether your uninsured motorist insurance would cover you if you are in a collision and the driver of the motor vehicle is either uninsured or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover you if the collision results in serious injuries or a wrongful death. A cyclist riding a bicycle who has a collision is covered by his/her uninsured motorist insurance. Is a cyclist on an e-bike similarly covered?

This is a very important point, and it’s why we always recommend that a cyclist increase his/her uninsured motorist insurance as high as their insurance company will permit. It’s pennies on the dollar and if you’re in a collision, it could mean that you have a much easier time of restarting your life.

Your uninsured motorist insurance kicks in if the driver does not have insurance, if the driver does not have enough insurance to cover the damage he/she caused, or in the event of a hit and run when the driver is not found.

Does your uninsured motorist insurance cover you on an e-bike? I urge you to contact your insurance agency and ask. If they say “yes,” get it in writing!

It is also worth noting that regardless of what type of bike you are riding, it is illegal to ride under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Besides the obvious, I see a potential legal issue here also.

In 1985, California passed Vehicle Code 21200.5, which made cycling (or bicycling) under the influence a CUI rather than a DUI. A CUI is a misdemeanor and it will show up on your record as a conviction. It also carries a $250 fine but no jail time. If the individual is under 21, a CUI conviction can result in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license.

In my mind it is unclear whether riding a Type 1 or a Type 2 e-bike under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol would be categorized as a CUI or a DUI if you were stopped by law enforcement.

Cal. Veh. Code § 231, specifically defines a bicycle as a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one of more wheels. It says that persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code (CUI) specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5.

A moped rider who is under the influence is subject to the drunk driving laws (DUIs). This was decided in 1977 by the California Court of Appeal in People v. Jordan, 75 Cal. App.3d Supp.1. The court specifically stated that because it had a motor it did not fall under the CUI law.

There doesn’t seem to be any law on the books at this time that would remove Type 1 or Type 2 e-bikes from DUI law. My best advice would be to not test the law and to not ride under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (illegal OR prescription drugs).

So the next time you see an e-bike in a bike lane, remember, it, too, has the right to be there.

 

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

 

 

Guest Post: A detailed look at commuting mode share in Los Angeles, and how bikes lanes fit in

Not many people have the ability, or patience, to dig deep into various data sources to paint a detailed picture of just how people get to work in the City of Angeles.

And how bicycles fit into that portrait.

Dennis Hindman does.

He’s written a number of detailed analyses for this site, including a look at the causes of bike-involved collisions, and how the economy and bike lanes affect them.

Today he offers a look at the influence of bike lanes on LA commuting rates in the context of the overall commuting picture.

It’s fascinating stuff, and worth a few minutes to read. And maybe bookmark for future reference.

I’ll be back tomorrow with our usual Morning Links.

………

In 2008, there were 147 centerline miles of bike lanes in the city of Los Angeles, according to League of American Bicyclists survey results from 90 of the largest U.S. cities.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation substantially increased the centerline miles of bike lanes installed per calendar year after the 2010 bike plan was approved by the LA city council in 2011. The centerline miles of bike lanes is now at least 375, according to the bikeways inventory listed on the website ladotbikeblog. Which is 2.55 times more than in 2008.

Chart-1

There have been two periods of time since 2005, using Census Bureau household survey results (ACS), where the bicycle commuting percent of workers residing in the city of Los Angeles has increased. One was 2008 through 2009 after there was a sharp increase in the price of gasoline in 2008. Interestingly, the bicycle commuting share increased further in 2009 after the price of gasoline dropped, then dropped by 10% in 2010 (within the margin of error) and increased back to 1% in 2011 and 2012. According to the margin of error for the ACS results, it’s possible that the 2009 percent could be .9% as it is for 2010 and 2008, and then rose to 1% in 2011. Although if you look at the LAPD collision reports during that time, the bicycle collisions sharply increased in 2009 compared to 2008.

The number of bicycle commuters increased by an estimated 46% from 2007 through 2010.

Compare that to 2011 through 2014, when there was a 41% increase in the number of bicycle commuters and nearly 200 miles of bike lanes were installed.

There was a 143% increase in the ACS estimated number of bicycle commuters in the city of Los Angeles from 2005 through 2014 and a 9% increase in the amount of workers commuting by car, truck or van. Commuting by transit increased 15%.

Chart-2

Chart-3

When the number of bicycle commuters increased by 46% from 2007 through 2010 in the ACS results, the motor vehicle involved bicycle collisions reported by the LAPD increased by 61%.

If the installation of almost 200 miles of bike lanes from 2011 through 2014 had either decreased, or had no effect on the overall level of safety for bicycle riding on streets, then the number of motor vehicle involved bicycle collisions reported by the LAPD should have substantially increased based on the greater number of bicycle commuters — as happened from 2007 through 2010 when much fewer additional miles of bike lanes were installed.

It turns out that the LAPD reported motor vehicle involved bicycle collisions went from an increase of 7% in 2012, to less than a 1% increase in 2013 and a 6% decrease in 2014.

Chart-4

Traffic collisions and fatalities reported by the LAPD are given to the California Highway Patrol and these results can be obtained through their SWITRS data, as I have done for the chart above and below. These data collection results are about 7 months behind from when the collisions took place. Even given the incomplete data for 2015, the number of bicycling fatalities reported by the LAPD is already the second highest since 2001.

Chart-5

For comparison, here is my estimated number of car, truck and van commuters derived from ACS survey results on percentage chart S0801.

Chart-6

Also, the estimated percentage of workers who primarily commuted by car, truck or van and resided in the city of Los Angeles. Notice how the percentage has remained relatively stable from 2008 through 2014.

Chart-7

The ACS estimated number of transit commuters has not yet increased to the amount that it was in 2008, even though the estimated number of workers has increased by 3%. Metro’s transit boarding’s throughout the county decreased by 2.8% in calendar year 2014 and continued to fall through August of 2015.

Chart-8

The percent of workers residing in the city of Los Angeles who primarily use transit to commute. Metro transit rail boarding’s, along with bus boarding’s, fell in Los Angeles County in calendar year 2014. It might seem that increased bicycle commuting took away from rail ridership, but the average bicycle trip tends to be a shorter distance than an average transit rail trip. These two forms of transportation would tend to be more complementary, rather than competitive with each other.

Chart-9

The percent of workers residing in the city of Los Angeles who primarily work from home has increased from 2005 to 2014, probably due to greater use of the internet.

Chart-10

The last category of journey to work on the ACS data is primarily commuting by motorcycle, taxi or other means.

Chart-11

Adding together the ACS estimated percent of workers residing in the city of Los Angeles who primarily commuted by walking, bicycling or transit has, except for 2011, remained fairly stable from 2007 through 2014. I didn’t calculate the margin of error for this category.

Chart-12

……..

Dennis adds a few final notes on how he compiled the data and graphs.

I’ve tried to simply give data available from SWITRS, ladotbikeblog and ACS in the form of graphs. This is so that anyone can check the accuracy of this information quickly on-line. Unfortunately, to make it as unbiased and the changes between years as clear as I can, I created separate charts for each category. Combing categories made each category more of a straight line.
I used the Census Bureau American Community Survey chart S0801 which gives results in percent of workers and converted that into the number of workers using each type of transportation for journey to work. There are two other charts that give the estimated number of workers for each type of transportation, but they do not include the year 2005–which S0801 does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Links: How the economy and bike lanes affect bike wrecks, and fight the bikelash over Rowena road diet

Maybe the economy is the reason you might get hit by a car.

And more bike lanes could be the reason you don’t.

An interesting piece in Saturday’s LA Times suggests that traffic collisions surged in the first six months of this year, reversing a long-term drop, because an improved economy and lower gas prices — except in California, of course — has resulted in more people on the roads.

In fact, American’s drove a record 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of the year, beating the previous high water mark set eight years ago.

The story notes that the increase in miles driven doesn’t totally explain the jump in collisions here in California, suggesting that distracted driving also plays a significant role.

Interestingly, Dennis Hindman recently came to a similar conclusion, digging into SWITRS data submitted by the LAPD to conclude that pedestrian-involved collisions dropped when the economy tanked, while bike collisions jumped.

And that bike wrecks started to fall when more bike lanes were installed in Los Angeles.

The first chart below was created using California Highway Patrol SWITRS data of motor vehicle involved collisions reported by the LAPD within the city of Los Angeles.

Notice how the amount of pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles started to drop in 2009 when the economy went into a recession. Then the pedestrian involved motor vehicle collisions began to increase as the economy started to recover.

The motor vehicle involved collisions with bicycles rose in 2008 when a sharp increase in the price of gasoline very likely contributed to a large increase in the amount of bicycle commuters. The bicycle involved collisions kept increasing in the recession from 2009 through 2011, unlike the pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles.

The LADOT started to greatly increase the miles of bike lanes installed per calendar year beginning with 20.94 miles in 2011. Then 62.42 miles of bike lanes were installed in 2012, 96.6 miles in 2013 and 23.3 miles in 2014.

The motor vehicle involved collisions with bicycles had a much lower amount of increase in 2013 of about 1% compared to a 7% increase in 2012 and then declined by about 6% in 2014. This occurred even though there was likely a large increase in the amount of people bicycling due to the miles of bicycle lanes installed.

The percentage of the total motor vehicle collisions that involved bicycles has gone from 3% in 2007 to 6% in 2014.

Chart one

The second chart below, created from SWITRS data, shows a decline in the motor vehicle involved collisions involving other motor vehicles reported by the LAPD during the recession. Unlike the pedestrian involved collisions, these motor vehicle collisions have not increased to the pre-recession level in 2008 as the economy recovered. A contributing factor in this could be the increased level of safety for occupants of cars that car manufacturers are required to install. This may not have lowered the amount of collisions involving motor vehicles, but it could have reduced the number of LAPD collision reports due to a lower incidence of injuries to motor vehicle occupants.

Chart 2

Comparison of motor vehicle involved fatalities from collisions with other motor vehicles or pedestrians.

Chart 3

Of course, before someone else points it out, we should note that correlation is not causation. But the data does suggest it’s worth considering.

Thanks to Dennis Hindman for his analysis. Not many people have the skill, or the patience, to wade through complex data like that, and actually make sense of it.

………

Writing for Flying Pigeon, Richard Risemberg offers a warning about the bikelash rearing its ugly head at tonight’s town hall meeting to discuss the successful Rowena road diet, which has cut injury collisions by half.

Ivanhoe Elementary School Auditorium
2828 Herkimer St, Los Angeles, CA 90039
6:30 – 8:30pm

………

Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson gets a big markdown on a citation for blowing a stop on a group ride, but wonders if the ticket will count against his license.

Which serves as a reminder to always make sure any traffic ticket you get while riding clearly indicates you were on a bike. Bicycling infractions should never count as points against your driver’s license, since no license is required to ride a bike.

But if it’s not marked, the DMV may assume you were in a car, and wrongly assign points against your license for the infraction.

………

People say cyclists dress funny. I’ll take sausage-casing spandex festooned with logos over fashionista haute couture any day.

………

The Vuelta was won — and lost — on Saturday’s final mountain stage as race leader Tom Dumoulin cracked, losing nearly four minutes to fall out of contention for the podium, and allowing Fabio Aru to secure the overall victory.

Dumoulin’s performance over the first 19 stages has the Dutch dreaming of Tour de France glory. And a Madrid thief earned himself a striped jersey when police spotted a $13,600 bike stolen from the Orica Greenedge team for sale in a second hand store for one-tenth its value.

Meanwhile, American Shelley Olds sprinted to victory in the first Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, a token 54-mile circuit race on the final day of the men’s tour.

Germany’s Andre Greipel took the seventh stage of the Tour of Britain in a photo finish, then was stripped of his victory the next day.

Forty-two-year old American Molly Shaffer Van Houweling set a new women’s hour record in Mexico City, breaking the old mark that had stood for a dozen years.

And Bicycling magazine finally catches up with the No Podium Girls movement, and agrees that offering up hot women as the spoils of victory send the wrong message to women, as well as men.

………

Local

LADOT released their annual report for the last fiscal year, saying safety is their priority. Which is a welcome change from the old LADOT that focused strictly on moving as many cars as quickly as they could, safety be damned.

A Santa Monica High School student is working to promote bike helmet use with a new website, along with a 20% discount on helmets at Helen’s Cycles if you mention the site.

Bad news from Pasadena, as bike rider described only as an Asian man in his 20s is in critical condition after somehow colliding with a parked car with enough force to shatter the rear windshield; he suffered severe head and neck injuries despite wearing a helmet.

Next month’s Richard Selje Ride4Recovery in Pasadena will raise funds to make treatment more affordable for men who want to get clean, with rides of 25, 62 and 100 miles.

The Daily Breeze looks at the Redondo Beach man building custom bikes with steering wheels instead of handlebars; so far he’s only raised just $10 of a requested $10,000 with a month to go. Call me crazy, but I’d think a steering wheel would make the handling awfully twitchy.

CLR Effect’s Michael Wagner goes for a dirty ride, and looks forward to the coming SoCal Cross season.

 

State

A new poll says most Californians think local politics are pointless. And that’s how we get stuck with people like Gil Cedillo, when only a handful of people turn out to vote.

The Orange County Bicycle Coalition reports the Santa Ana River Trail is open again, after riders were detoured for construction work.

A writer for the San Diego Free Press says the city’s North Park neighborhood should be bike friendly, but isn’t.

San Diego’s Bike SD will benefit from this weekend’s 35-mile Bike to the Border.

Scofflaw Santa Cruz cyclists attend bike traffic school, just like their counterparts on four wheels. A bill to allow similar bicycle traffic diversion schools statewide passed the legislature last month and awaits the governor’s signature.

Caught on video: A plant-killing San Francisco bike messenger was apparently doing other cyclists and the native environment a favor by stomping out fennel.

 

National

Two Special Forces vets are riding cross-country to raise money to help the families of special ops soldiers, while 10 cyclists are setting out from San Diego today on a ride across the US to raise awareness of mental illness.

Portland opens a new bridge for trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but motor vehicles need not apply; the lights on the bridge change according to the river flow and temperature.

A dozen blind Iowans team with sighted cyclists for a tandem bike ride.

Just days after complaining to the local press about the danger of motorists driving in a dedicated bus and bike only lane, an Ohio cyclist was injured in a fall when a driver blared on his horn while hugging his back wheel. Although the driver, who claims he didn’t know about the lane restriction, says he just “beeped at the gentleman and he fell off his bike.” Right.

Nearly 500 cyclists ride from Ground Zero to Boston to remember victims of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings, raising half a million dollars for the families of police officers.

A Boston area livable streets group wants to connect the area’s existing pathways to create a 200 mile bike and pedestrian network.

 

International

British police are looking for a driver who got out of his car and punched a bike rider in the face, breaking his cheekbone in an unprovoked attack.

A Brit bike rider uses his to deliver blood, breast milk and meningitis fluid to hospitals.

The new leader of the UK’s Labour Party isn’t just unabashedly liberal, he’s also car-free and rides a bike; in fact, he owns two.

One-hundred-fifty Indian med students ride their bikes to promote bicycling and other forms exercise to prevent heart attacks.

Bicycles are helping young Bangladeshi women eradicate gender disparity by providing the opportunity to get an education.

A New Zealand study said MAMILs — Middle Aged Men In Lycra, for the uninitiated — were keeping people from riding bikes, as just the thought of wearing skintight togs was enough to scare some people off. Spandex serves a purpose, especially if you plan on long, fast rides. But bicycling isn’t a fashion show; wear whatever the hell you feel comfortable riding in.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei takes his impressive bicycle art sculpture to Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria. I can’t help thinking that those 1,500 bikes would be even more impressive on the streets with people riding them, though. Thanks to Megan Lynch for the link.

 

Finally…

If you’re going to ride your bike to rob a bank, at least do it right; a New York man tried to rob six New York banks in just two days, but only managed to ride off with a lousy thousand bucks. Evidently, pointlessly sexist ads for children’s bike are out of fashion these days.

And no. Just… no.

 

Juries, Judges and Your Bike Crash

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 

Jury box

This may well be the most controversial blog post I’ll ever write. It’s likely that many of you are going to hate reading this. Some of you will tell me that what I say here isn’t fair and that I’m blaming the victim.

Be assured, I’ve represented many bicycle riders in bike crashes and I know as well or better than anyone how the system is stacked against them. As to fairness, well, it isn’t fair that I don’t have the same head of hair that I had as a younger man either, but that’s the way it is.

What I’m going to tell you is the hard truth. It’s not fair, but it IS an undeniable, regrettable fact: many people have strong, negative feelings about cyclists. If you are in a bike crash and it goes to trial, the judge and/or jurors will probably not be cyclists.

Though the people on your jury and the judge presiding over your trial have probably encountered hundreds – if not thousands – of law-abiding bicyclists, those aren’t who they remember. They remember the helmetless cyclist who cut them off or rode through a red light and saluted them with a middle finger as they blew by. It’s always that “one” ne’er-do-well who people remember.

The U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmark Report, commissioned by People for Bikes, reported that though the number of Americans ages 3+ who rode a bicycle last year is larger than had been previously thought, 30% of these cyclists rode 5 days or fewer in 2014.

The chance of getting a cyclist on your jury or a judge is probably even worse when you add the number of seniors who willingly sit on juries. (Think of that the next time you attempt to get out of jury duty or complain about being called for jury duty.)

The result is that the judge and jurors, more than likely, are going to be people who are biased against cyclists. When I am questioning potential jurors in a bicycle case, some of the most common comments I get from people are:

  • Bike riders ride recklessly, not stopping at red lights or stop signs.
  • Bike riders should ride on the sidewalk and stay out of traffic.
  • Bike riders ride too fast on the sidewalk.
  • Bike riders ride in car lanes, sometimes side-by-side or as a group, which interferes with traffic.
  • Roads are for cars, not bikes.

You know all this. If these things have never been said to your face, you’ve read them in comments on articles and posts on social media.

These are the people who are going to decide your legal case. Their inclination is going to be to blame YOU – the cyclist – for your own “accident.” Furthermore, insurance adjustors and defense attorneys know this, and they are going to cater to this bias.

It would be nice if more people understood the rules of the road. “Fair” doesn’t enter into the equation. In a trial, we have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt, and in most bike crash trials, it’s contending with the prejudice against our cyclist client.

To be successful in trial it is critical for your trial lawyer to understand how people perceive you. As a trial lawyer, I have numerous strategies I utilize to attempt either to overcome this bias or to focus the jurors on the person the cyclist is, not his/her activity. I want the juror to see the cyclist as a person who has more in common with the jurors than s/he has different. An experienced trial lawyer utilizes specific strategies in every part of the trial, from jury selection at the beginning of the trial to how jury instructions are crafted near the end of the trial, and everything in-between.

I believe we can change these preconceptions, but it isn’t easy, and it isn’t going to happen tomorrow, next month, or even next year.

As a cyclist – whether you ride for recreation or as a commuter – you can be part of the solution. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Join the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and your local bicycle advocacy organization. Even better, get involved. These people are on the frontline of change. At the very least, sign up for the LACBC’s e-newsletter (no membership required) and join these advocacy organizations’ Facebook pages. (And in a shameful plug, “friend” the FB Pocrass & De Los Reyes Bicycle Law page, too.)
  1. I suggested above that you join your local advocacy organization. Many of these are chapters of LACBC, all of them work together. Almost all cities have such organizations, including Claremont, Pomona, the Eastside, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita, and many more.
  1. Join the California Bicycle Coalition, our state-wide organization that is instrumental in lobbying for biking conditions and laws for California cyclists.
  1. Get involved with SAFE (Streets are for Everyone). The nonprofit advocates for changes in the law to make streets safe for bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and everyone else.
  1. Know and follow the Rules of the Road. The LACBC has a wonderful wallet-sized brochure that explains what these are. They are available at every event attended by the LACBC. The organization also is offering FREE bicycle safety classes through the end of September throughout the Southland. Don’t be that one cyclist who will be burned into the brain of those who come in contact with him/her for his/her bad behavior.
  1. Cyclists over the age of 18 are not required by law to wear a helmet when they ride. We strongly urge you to wear one, regardless of your age. The obvious reason for wearing a helmet is that it very likely increases your chances of surviving or limiting brain injury should you crash. A less obvious reason is that not wearing one adds to the jurors’ and judge’s biases that you SHOULD HAVE BEEN wearing a helmet and if you had been wearing one, it would have protected you so your injuries “are your own fault.” (Don’t kill the messenger, please. I said I was going to talk reality here.)
  1. Think before you post on social media. Specifically, insurance companies and defense attorneys troll your social media accounts to see what can be used against you. What you write on social media will come back if you’re ever a plaintiff in a jury trial. Generally, furious posts filled with expletives (I understand the urge, believe me), reinforce non-cyclists’ attitudes about the “arrogance” of cyclists.
  1. Educate the non-cyclists you know. Back up your arguments with facts and statistics. Try to be calm and rational in the discussion, but the one-on-one discussions are the best way to change perceptions. Remember, no one goes out to kill someone with their car (okay, almost no one), but most drivers are angry because they’re scared. No one taught them how to share the road. No one taught them how to drive sharing the road with a cyclist. You can say that’s not your problem, but the truth is, it’s everybody’s problem.

Often when I read bikinginla.com and see the slap on the wrist so many drivers get for hitting cyclists, I am frustrated by the slowness of the process to eliminate cyclist bias. But it’s coming, and by working together, I believe we can make it happen.


 

Jim Pocrass Trimmed

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

For more than 30 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com or visit www.pocrass.com.

 

 

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