Archive for Guest Columns

Guest Post: Beeline Bikes Expands Fleet of Mobile Bike Shops to SoCal, Offering a New Path for Mechanics.

Recently, I heard from Peter Small of Beeline Bikes about their new mobile bike repair service coming to SoCal, offering franchise opportunities for local bike mechanics.

It seemed like an interesting idea, so I offered Small the opportunity to write a guest post for this site.

……..

Beeline Bikes’ Mobile Bike Shop model enables mechanics to own their own business, deliver expert service, and do what they love.



A few years ago, Beeline Bikes Co-Founder Pete Buhl found it nearly impossible to get his bike serviced after visiting a shop that only serviced bikes they sold…another that refused to work on his brand…and two other shops had wait times of two to three weeks. It was at that moment he recognized a need that had yet to be served and so he built a business model focused on empowering mechanics, customer service, and enabling more people to ride bikes.

ExteriorSan Carlos, California-based Beeline Bikes thus began in 2013 and the company has been growing ever since. After servicing thousands of customers at their homes and 100+ corporate locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Beeline recently announced plans to franchise nationwide.

Beeline’s approach satisfies a customer’s need for convenience. Customers can visit beelinebikes.com, see real-time availability, and quickly schedule an appointment at the location of their choice – work or home. A shop on wheels then arrives equipped with the tools and parts to perform the service, along with a full complement of accessories. And the scheduling algorithm in place ensures mechanics arrive to each appointment on time.

InteriorAs for mechanics, the technology platform plays an important role too. Appointment management, customer communication, bike history, and routing are all accessible from mobile phones or Wi-Fi enabled laptops as they travel onboard the Mobile Bike Shop. Beyond that, Beeline has built an integrated supply chain with 80+ distributors and brands to ensure reliable component and accessory availability.

Beeline Bikes is a departure from the traditional bike shop and places mechanics central to the business. It’s exciting to see mechanics develop an ongoing relationship with customers, and benefit from their knowledge and expertise. This is an opportunity for mechanics to build a long career in the bike industry.

Beeline has seen a strong response to its franchise expansion plans from all over the country and will initially focus on West Coast markets, including Los Angeles.

To learn more visit https://beelinebikes.com/franchise or email franchise@beelinebikes.com.

 

Guest Post: Provoking, Scaring and Piercing, the (Driver’s) Reptile Brain Part 2

Part one here.

How do we Provoke, Scare and Pierce the (Driver’s) primitive Reptile Brain? How do we stay alive?

We look to nature and the development of the brain in the animal kingdom. Evolutionists (which I am not) have no problem with this concept. Yet, observation leads to irrefutable conclusions. Most all organic organisms in nature, no matter how “primitive/paleo” or presumably “advanced”, share common traits… like all have and share DNA similarities for example…

Even the “simple”, primitive, prehistoric paramecium3 (see link below) are highly sensitive and flee from bright light. And likewise, so too our own human visual cortex, directly wired in the brain; via the Amygdala, Basal Ganglia, and Hypothalamus via the Limbic system (or paleomammalian brain)… These gray, and convoluted features are understood (some say known) to be the deepest and most primitive unconscious areas of our human brain (along with the medulla & cerebellum).

While this isn’t a physiology paper, the point to be made is that the “Fight or Flight” mechanism mentioned much earlier, needs to be completely, totally, and unconditionally activated and profoundly stimulated at a very low and unconscious level; in the vehicle driver’s brain.

It turns out that just like paramecium, and many reptiles, ULTRA BRIGHT FLASHING RED LIGHTS are immediately sensed by humans as “threats”.  As a life form is “threatened”, certain physiochemical responses are unconsciously activated…. the “Fight or Flight involuntary mechanism. Immediately the higher functions of the cerebrum are bypassed, and the visual cortex “reaches down” to the primitive reptile brain and causes/induces FEAR, and the autonomic, unconscious brain triggers the release of some very powerful stimulant hormones. Now; close your eyes; and imagine that you are outside in the dark tall grasses, and you feel and hear the low strong growling of a nearby lion; hear tires squealing, a loud close Bang!, etc… you get an idea of what the driver’s EYES are seeing…

Why flashing lights?…and Not solid? Flashing create and induces the appearance of Motion. Movement is the key to being detected by the Reptile brain. We want and need to be detected and identified, from the greatest possible distance.

Alternatively; waiting for any driver to see and consciously recognize you riding away, in dark clothing from a distance, then comprehend, and avoid you, turns out to be a quick death march for cyclists.

Flashing Bright Light(s)… Our only reliable solution, “defence against the…?”

“Statistics don’t lie”… my college statistics professor often told us, (countless others have made the same statement/observation). What we learned in school is that (in a fair and well designed study) the numbers are what they are, for a reason. It doesn’t matter what that reason is… The (possible) reasons/explanation that the stock market climbs or drops is incidental and unimportant. Using math to measuring the speed and momentum (emotion) of the rise and fall is what is critical. Why do I mention this seemingly unrelated topic?

(Another) Spoiler Alert: The statistics for riding with Flashing Ultra Bright lights is literally breathtaking, from one perspective, and alarming from another. In addition to the 700 KILLED riding a bike in the US every year, there are over 500,000 cycling injuries. Let’s say the 2/3rs mentioned at the beginning of this article, or roughly 5,000 cyclists in the last ten years alone, were hit from behind, and died… The cyclist had no warning or defense to prevent his/her death.   In the other 1/3 of fatal accidents, most often the cyclist either had some visual warning and possible responsibility (steered into traffic, went across a rail road crossing, etc.) in the outcome of the accident, or some warning. Not the case of “hit from behind” fatalities. That again, is where I draw the line.

In now two plus years of research, I have Yet to find a single, confirmed, instance where the killed cyclist was riding with Ultra Bright Lights turned ON at the time of the accident. 500,000 injuries, 7,000+ deaths (without lights) to (so far) ZERO (With Lights)… (EVEN if one or two have been missed, the numbers are far more than compelling.)

Note; as of the week of 6/12/15 there were (2) reported fatalities (bikinginla.com) where it appears the riders did have lights on the rear of their bikes…. See/Read article “Testing to Destruction” for more information… So now the numbers are over: 500,000 : 000002.

The numbers are REAL.   In this singular case, my statistics professor was (dead) wrong. It DOES MATTER why the numbers are the way they are. Important Note; Several times I would/have heard it said; He/she (the victim) was “lit up like a Christmas tree”… but later found out from eye witnesses, their cycling buddies, car cam videos, accident pictures, or the police interviewed, that they had no lights at all. Don’t believe everything (anything) you hear until you have verified it for yourself.

My story: Like many, perhaps most victims, I went on a Crusade; to find “the answer”, “the solution”, to prevent what had happened to me, from happening to others. After being released from the hospital and in time regaining some memory and “normal” lifestyle, I set out on this quest.   As stated, I have found this characteristic is deeply imbedded in the deepest being and recesses of most victims. Every time I hear of a cyclist fatality, I relive my own accident; I literally feel the glass and metal pushing/smashing through my own face, and body…

Utilizing a previous positive relationship with of a couple PD’s and the L.A. County Sheriff’s department, I started my quest. I wanted to see and learn everything I could about fatality accidents. This process is ongoing and will likely last my lifetime.

What I learned (am learning) from adding up and compiling the numbers, is that 2/3 rd’s of fatality accidents fall in the “hit from behind” category. The problem is that the standard Highway Patrol accident report form, used by all law enforcement departments, is inadequate and lacking in a number of areas. I started with the three fatalities in Newport Beach almost following my accident.

I noticed that none of these first few fatality victims’ bikes had any lights at all.   I started to develop a theory. Could it be valid and true? The problem is that the CHP standard traffic collision report form does not have a checkbox for “rear Lights? ON?”

Obtaining reliable information was difficult. What did I do? Reports, Pictures and Questions. Without going into details that would compromise others, I talked directly to officers, or obtained photos of the actual accident scenes. Not just any pics, only those specifically of the bikes, without any people. (I specifically didn’t ask nor want pics with any people in them, and no one offered.)

I continue to search accident reports and witnesses; to see IF the bikes had rear lights, what type, and did anyone know IF the lights were CHARGED and ON at the time of the accident. What time of day was the fatality crash? Where? What were the conditions? Those were/are my questions.

A clear and obvious pattern began to emerge. No fatality accident bikes, had lights at all. Not one. I was also looking for lights that were so cheap/poor as to be worthless, even if they were turned on, but haven’t found any yet.

Time after time, death after death, I found no lights… I knew it was “ game on”…

Then I interviewed drivers, and read the PD reports. As mentioned earlier, what I heard was scarily familiar, ominous, and consistent with every one.“I never saw them”….

Every driver report, and every police interviewed driver, unrelated by age, sex, residence area, or ethnic background… all said the same thing… almost word for word… This clearly wasn’t a coincidence. This was/is a Real phenomena. They had killed a cyclist before they ever knew what had happened. Most of these people would otherwise be considered good citizens. Most (one exception) had no criminal record. Yet Everyone of them had killed another human being. That’s scary.

So why weren’t accidents found with riders using Flashing Ultra Bright lights? That became the burning question. What was mentally, visually and physically happening? I started testing lights, with the help of colleagues and very expensive borrowed equipment from a company that I do business with. Some of the testing was very technical requiring calibrated equipment, and some was done using human subjects in blind (brighter/dimmer) visual studies…

What was true in all light tests, was/is that Brighter is better. (we’re not going to be discussing beam angles, target size, protocols for standardized brightness measurements, etc., in this article, that’s another paper).  For the sake of this article, I’m defining Brightens here in strictly relative visual observations; as the ability to see a Flashing light, in broad daylight, from some distance X. The farther away a Flashing light is able to be clearly seen, the “Brighter” it is defined to be… for this article…(more in light reviews).

“Brighter” means that the car drivers can see you from a farther distance. The greater the distance, the more time the driver has to see, recognize, and react to avoid you. Some of my lights, perfectly acceptable at night, couldn’t even be seen in the daylight from 10 yards, not good.

What was the minimum “brightness” between life and death”? How much recognition and reaction time was necessary to make the difference, to prevent a conflict and dead body?

“I never saw them”… started to haunt me. What IF those same drivers had been alerted to the cyclist from a Geat distance, (30-60 driving seconds away)… instead of finding out, only milliseconds before or just after they heard the crashing, crushing horrible crushing sounds?

Rule # 4   Time and Space: Planning time for Avoidance VS. (0) REACTION TIME…

You Hockey players are familiar with the term “Time and Space”… The imperative life/death question boiled down to this: How to effectively and reliably CREATE “TIME AND SPACE” between US (CYCLISTS) AND DRIVERS?

I bought more lights. Lots of lights. From countless observations, I set “standard” protocols to visually test them during daylight, and at night.

Minimum Acceptable Standard (MAS)… 1/10th of a mile minimum visibility looking almost straight at; only 10 degrees off the 10AM morning summer sun. In other words, the worst possible conditions.

In addition to visual testing with multiple subjects, from professional resources, I borrowed high end equipment (worth $50,000+), utilized the optics testing and light meters at the college I teach at. Then applied standard LED FAA aircraft LED testing protocols … Many lights visually tested to ¼ (.25) mile in daylight. That’s 15 seconds warning, even at highway speeds… a very good start…. Some were clearly seen flashing at ½ (.5) mile away… That gives a driver 30-40 seconds to see, identify, and react…. an ETERNITY relative to the previously reported 0 – milliseconds by fatality drivers.

First Quick “Brightness” rule of thumb. If you can even come close to looking at your light from an arm’s length in bright daylight, it is far too weak to be of any worthwhile use. ALL usable Ultra Bright lights are incredibly blinding, retina searing and burning. Think (DON’T actually do) of trying to stare directly at the sun, into a lighthouse, or at your HID high beams for example.

It was all making sense. The reason that people weren’t/aren’t being hit is that drivers had plenty of time to see, identify, and avoid the problem. There is no possibility of a conflict in time and space IF the driver is two lanes away when they pass you.

This has been born out in my life and those of every cyclist I’ve talked to. My wife and I have not had any more accidents or even close calls since we began putting Ultra Bright Flashing Lights on our bikes. Many many many drivers have stopped me/us to exclaim “…WHAT BRIGHT LIGHTS YOU HAVE”… THANK YOU !!!…”

During daytime; I suggest a minimum of three lights backwards and at least two forward for several reasons.

  1. Three (3) is the minimum number of points in space that a (driver’s) brain needs to immediately determine location, bearing, and speed….without a lot of time consuming and confusing calculations. Remember your geometry? # of points to make a Line and Plane?
  2. Redundancy; you never know when a light is going to fail, and it will usually be at the worst possible time.
  3. Battery life; many lights have variable battery life.
  4. Pattern variability; I like riding with lights that all have different flashing patterns to ensure that someone doesn’t get bored/numb/forgetful that I’m there.
  5. Loaners; knowing that the likelihood of a problem while riding with lights is miniscule (compared to without), I have been known to share a light with those without… especially kids, Boy Scouts, etc…
  6. While hitting someone from the front is statistically less a fatality risk than being hit from behind, it will still ruin your whole foreseeable calendar. Riding Ultra Bright front lights is only slightly less important than the necessity of riding Ultra Bright Rear…. Driver’s running red stop signs ahead of you still need their Reptile Brain stabbed….

And I strongly suggest buying/using only rechargeable lights and/or lights that can use rechargeable batteries. Buying and replacing batteries is a time consuming pain, expensive and time consuming pain, hence they are very EASY to forget…and besides, they often leak acid killing your lights.

Once you get into the daily habit of taking your lights off after each ride and plugging them in, it becomes an easy pattern to fall into.

Rule # 5 Drivers APPRECIATE Your Early Warning System…. Ultra Bright Bright Lights.

Take responsibility for your OWN SAFETY and Welfare… No one else is going to.

No one, at least very very few of us ever want to kill someone. And No one, especially drivers, wants to scared to death and shocked to have a cyclist seemingly “JUMP OUT” of nowhere.

Here’s an interesting topic…. Innate Godly/Human factors;

Rather indescribably; Flashing Lights seemingly “cry out”, “I want to Live!”… Human to Human, animal to animal, this is a very strong emotion/instinct/feeling/perception among many living life forms…. Someone has probably done a study on when/why/how this works…? (Please write me if you know of one)…. I don’t… but taking responsibility for your own welfare, and making yourself Highly Visible and WELL Marked, just works…

Repeating, I can’t tell you how many drivers have THANKED me, consistently, for my lights… Some have driven up onto sidewalks and JUMPED out of their cars! It’s actually very interesting to see how often this happens.

Generally now, most drivers just take a Very WIDE berth around us… Because they have ALREADY SEEN us from well over a Half A MILE Away (1/2 mile)… Another example: I take Boy Scouts out for their merit badge rides, and the trailing dad’s in the SAG car JOYfully exclaimed he could see us from a “mile away” (which was probably an exaggeration), but makes the point.

It is extremely rare that we have any issues, any more…and I have heard the same repeated by countless others than ride with Flashing Ultra Bright lights. In fact, I haven’t heard a negative feedback yet…

So, if you follow this advice, the odds/chances of you being (fatally) hit from the rear will be largely eliminated.

However, to make full disclosure beware, we’re not wholly out of the woods quite yet.   There are other very dangerous types of accidents… even if statistically not fatal most of the time… they will still ruin your day-week-months, your body, and your beautiful bike.

  • Be vigilant and on the alert for the bleached brain (and hair) blonde that tries to changes lanes or makes left hand turns into your path, without looking… like almost happened to me just the other day…
  • Stay far away from parked cars. NEVER get closer than 4-6 FEET from a door that can suddenly open and (door) kill you. You may even have to fight for your space. (A motorcycle officer on PCH, once yelled at me and pointed to move over. I politely (honestly, ask my wife) nodded and responded by slowly opening my hand towards him, and then drawing it back in front of me, inviting him to (by all means) lead the way… he loudly scowled something unrepeatable and raced off).
  • Only cross over to the left, from right hand turn and bikes lanes (you’re going straight) AFTER looking several times first. STOP and WAIT if you have to…LET the cars pass. A few seconds isn’t going to change your life, but it may end it if you don’t.   This is the last fatality to mention. A very well known woman cyclist was riding on PCH (W) near Crystal Cove when she was killed. A group of cars were merging right onto a high-speed “highway onramp” when the last driver didn’t see her. He wasn’t cited either. And she is dead.
  • Like above: Don’t expect a thin, white painted line is going to protect you. ONLY after looking several times first, cross over into LARGE protected (by light poles, etc.)hash marked traffic islands at stop lights….. Often, I choose to just pull over and wait… If others are more brave….?… You know the old joke about the old wagon trail scouts (cycling leaders)? They’re the ones with the arrows in their backs… which really hurts… and can end your day(s)….
  • Keep your ears open, and eyes ahead…sounds so simple doesn’t it?
  • If you aren’t very comfortable with keeping a straight line, while turning around in both directions, to see what’s behind, perhaps consider more practice, before riding on the road with others… Too Many rider-rider cycling accidents and injuries occur when someone changes their “line” without first looking back. Just a thought.

There are a lot of excellent rear and front lights out there now… And you need both.

When Purchasing, Consider:

  • Published “Lumens” is only a start. Take out the lights in the store and check them out at a distance. The relative brightness will be quickly apparent.
  • Flashing pattern variability… or the same mind numbing on/off “beat”
  • Are they rechargeable? Getting into a daily habit of charging your lights is critical
  • Beam Pattern. Some lights are very bright with a narrow beam; others have very wide beam pattern “signatures”, but not apparently as bright. Strongly Suggest you ride with both.
  • Mounting options: Can you mount your lights on the seat tube, seat stay, handlebars? Do they have a clip for your helmet-saddle-saddlebag?
  • Mount orientation: As riding is almost always on the right side of the road (we hope), Rear lights should be slightly directed backward and to the left, towards traffic, not straight backwards. I ride the road with front lights on my handlebars, and both forks… (being a pilot I follow protocol and ride with red on the left)…. Front lights have saved me pain a number of times from left/right turners ahead of me.
  • Cost; good lights are going to run $50-$300…each… and I suggest you want/need five to eight for a lengthy road ride.   Too much? Ask yourself again. How MUCH is Your LIFE and physical well being worth? Any number greater than ZERO is a GOOD START…
  • Battery Life. There is a huge variability in battery life and charging time. Best to cover your bases… Some rides may only be an hour and a half, safe for most lights, others might last 4-7 hours…
  • Be considerate to other riders: While Ultra Bright Lights should ALWAYS BE ON if you’re riding on the street… They are blinding to group riders close behind… IF you’re in a group ride, maybe you can ride last in line if you (should) feel more comfortable with all your Rear lights on… (anywhere in the group with Flashing Headlights… Not the most macho position perhaps, but there are advantages in guarding the rear.

 

3http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227

4http://jeb.biologists.org/content/134/1/43.full.pdf

5http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Bradford_Cannon

 

mark d. goodley

Near Fatality Survivor

Product Design Engineer

USA Cycling Licensed Pro

 

Guest Post: Provoking, Scaring and Piercing the (Driver’s) Reptile Brain Part 1

Cycling shouldn’t and needn’t be a death sentence

A few years ago, Mark Goodley survived a near fatal collision while riding his bike. 

Since then, he’s made it his mission in life to keep others from suffering the same fate. And has put his background as a product design engineer and a licensed pro racing mechanic to use to study how bike collisions happen, and how to prevent them.

He’s written a few previous posts for this site, including a review of ultra-bright bike taillights — one of the most popular posts ever on here — and the recent Testing to Destruction

Now he offers a detailed examination of how and why ultrabright lights can save the lives of cyclists. 

Including yours.

……..

SPOILER-ALERT: The secret is slowly getting out that if you (are smart enough to) ride with Ultra Bright Flashing Lights, (sets that are fully charged and meeting a minimum brightness standard) the odds are ridiculously/infinitesimally small, that you will ever be involved in a “hit from behind” injury/fatality accident.1 Wide experience shows that Drivers will keep a very wide berth, and avoid you like the plague.

Now for the inquiring minds that want to know Why?…

Introduction / Abstract

There are over 500,000 cycling injuries accidents in the US every year. An estimated two-thirds (2/3) of the 700 cycling accident fatalities (35,000/year worldwide) are classified as “hit from behind” accidents; where the cyclist had little to no warning. This article focuses on those accidents where the cyclist was defenseless, and did nothing “wrong” (not those killed running red lights, getting run over by trains, etc.).

Most every interviewed driver who killed a cyclist made almost identical statements… “I never saw them”…  As we will see below, this statement is neither untrue, nor a coincidence.

The how and why answers to the “I never saw them” statements are obviously of Great interest, and will be revealed and illustrated in this article… There are scientific and rational explanations for how these statements, repeated (again) by nearly every single (killer) driver are incredibly, both truthful and accurate.

Most importantly, a reliable, affordable, and easy to execute (potential) solution will provide an escape path to avoiding this critical problem. The only real question you will need to answer (to yourself) is: “How much is my/your life worth?”

Let’s assume first that you’re a sane, normal, brain active, and rational cyclist (as opposed to a helmetless macho-man/woman with superhuman immortal powers, invulnerable Kryptonite and 7,500 pound chunks of fast moving steel?) i.e., “You have studied and learned, that man is mortal.” You realize and fully understand that you are responsible for your own welfare (and can’t/won’t “assume” that others will be more concerned about your health and safety, than yourself.)

We might also agree that nothing on this planet is perfect. There are a given percentage of bad drivers that are always going to exist; Whatever their issue, brain dead, blind, deaf, sleep walking, drugged up, distracted, glue sniffing, mentally fatigued, illegal, bleach brained, comatose, and often defensive arrogant @$$%#@holes….

Let’s make the final argument and supposition that the above generality is and will always be true.

That is to say that No amount of DMV/Caltrans fairy dust, driver education, morning coffee, brain transplants, glasses, or better roads will EVER FULLY, and 100% of the time, eliminate Bad drivers from the roads.

Here’s the really scary part. Many of the fatality accidents were caused by “good” drivers as well.   Just as there will Always be bad drivers…. “And it must follow, as the night the day…” there will also be good drivers whom aren’t perfect 100% of the time either.   How can this be? How can good drivers repeatedly kill cyclists, just like bad drivers? Turns out it’s not too hard… Stay tuned below.

To be clear, I have nothing against improving driver-cyclist education; it’s just not reasonable or sane to expect “education” to be a 100% solution, or even close. We need a reliable, sound strategy against bad, and good drivers alike.

This is our not so trivial task… HOW to protect ourselves and cope with this entirely unacceptable situation?   Is “it” beyond our control? If not, What strategies are available to combat the inherent risk to our cycling time on the road?

There is no amount of training or education, that will break through the fatigued, distracted, brain dead, or blind driver; either good or bad. This is just common sense. How are you going to reach any driver behind the wheel on an intellectual or even conscious level if they’re not there already? The answer is obvious and clear. You can’t. It’s Impossible.

Rule #1: IF someone is going to take responsibility for your own Life and Safety, it had better be YOU…it’s Not going come from anywhere else.

We need another tool. One not dependent upon the relative consciousness, awareness, intelligence, clarity, visual ability, or mental (incapacity) state of a driver.

To Reach, Jolt, and SHAKE/WAKE UP EVERY driver, bad and good alike, to our cycling physical presence and location, 100% of the time, we MUST make a HARD strike on an unconscious level. To hope and believe otherwise you might as well self-check yourself into Patton hospital, right now. (link provided below).

Now we are getting closer to an answer. We have to go much lower in the brain, Much, Much lower… Lower than cognitive cerebral conscious awareness.

We have to STRIKE at the lowest, most primitive, and strongest physiologically processes possible. We need to go “for the throat”… Straight to the core Survival Instincts that predate conscious thought. We have to go directly, to the primordial, primitive, primeval, Reptile brain.

Almost 100 years ago, this unconscious REACTION was termed “Fight or Flight” by a scientist named Walter Canon. We need to INCITE this innate, subconscious, uncontrollable visceral reaction that operates entirely outside consciousness and thought.

Getting back to the “good drivers” for a moment… We have to Fully grasp and realize something that none of us wants to admit. Even “good” drivers can entirely miss seeing us and cause accidents. “WHAT?” “WHAT ARE YOU talking about???” “The driver’s Always Wrong…!!!…”… you say….!

We ALL have inherent human perception weaknesses and frailties, regardless of our state of mind while driving.

We have to review and outline a few topics to illustrate the Full extent of this “invisibility cloak” we road cyclists all wear.

First; Human visual Perception and Atmospheric Physics…

  • Lack of our relative movement and perspective; between traffic and the driver. Humans, like most every member of the animal kingdom, detect and identify movement far easier and faster than identifying the source/nature of that movement.  If you’re moving at the same relative speed as the surrounding traffic “pattern”, and or in the same direction, there is every likelihood you will “blend in” and go completely unnoticed; “inside” the driver’s mind, even IF you are clearly in the line of sight and “visible”…
  • Bright, cloudless days, and very dark shadows. Do you know what I’m talking about? No clouds means no diffracted light, no gray areas; only distinct very dark and bright light borders. Do you know the average time it takes for a human eye to fully adapt (Adaptation) from bright light to the dark? Astronomers would knowingly answer 20-30 MINUTES ! So what chance do (any) drivers eyes (the rods) have of making the physiological/chemically time dependent change while driving from a bright daylight area, into a dark shadowed area? The answer is very little, in fact almost none… I rode to the scene of a fatality accident not long ago at the exact time of the accident, two days later. Tall trees on the east, created shadows across ALMOST the whole road. On a cloudless day, like the day of her death, the bright light was blinding, and the shadows, very dark… Seeing into the darkened bike lane line, never mind identifying a cyclist wearing black clothing, was difficult for me. And I was prepared for the physiological/perception drawbacks. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now imagine the shadows cast by buildings, trucks, cars, etc… and you can “see” the problem.
  • Low blinding sun on the horizon. Most all of us have experienced these phenomena. The eyes become overexposed (and overwhelmed) by direct penetrating sunlight that is much brighter in the early morning and late afternoon (due to the reduced atmosphere and scattering). The windshield with inherent flaws creates bright and dark rays making it very, very difficult to see through.
  • Black and dark clothing against black roads… need more be said
  • Dirty or wet windshields and windows – “What is this rusty, dusty, dirty-looking thing over your window? Enough said.
  • Dark tunnels and shadows/overpasses on clear, cloudless, bright days… (see 20-30 minute Eye Adaptation time above). (Remember a decent US Pro cyclist that rode into a dark tunnel,,, without a helmet OR Lights…?… look at how well that turned out…
  • Higher “priority” distractions that forces and takes attention away from road outside (texting/email/phone), sirens, stopping traffic, lane changing trucks, peds, etc.. We will talk about this one in a bit.
  • You photographers/videographers already know where I’m going with this. Our eyes/brains process information pathetically slowly. A VERY SLOW incoming 24 frames per second is fast enough to completely fool our turtle slow brains. Adding to this problem is the ironic placement of our visual cortex at the very rear/back of our brain, the farthest possible position away from our eyes… We (read; drivers included) weren’t designed or meant for quick or efficient processing of visual information.
  • Our minds generally process less than 5% of what the eyes actually see. Again, pathetic but true… Most of the world around us is seen by our eyes, but unnoticed and unprocessed by our minds. I’m not just talking about the ease with which any skilled magician can fool our minds, but in everyday life observations. How much of what is in front of you, do you actually process and remember…? Very little it turns out…. So also for human drivers. Most people are completely (blissfully) unware of the complexity or enormity of the vision comprehension problem.

***

From Discover magazine2:

Vision, of course, is more than recording what meets the eye: it’s the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see. And that happens in the brain. The brain, explains neurobiologist Semir Zeki of the University of London, has to actively construct or invent our visual world. Confronted with an overwhelming barrage of visual information, it must sort out relevant features and make snap judgments about what they mean. It has to guess at the true nature of reality by interpreting a series of clues written in visual shorthand; these clues help distinguish near from far, objects from background, motion in the outside world from motion created by the turn of the head. Assumptions are built into the clues–for example, that near things loom larger, or that lighting comes from above.

The brain must process an immense amount of information as fast as it can, using any shortcuts it can, says Anstis. It has to find a minimum hypothesis to cover a maximum amount of data. So it’s got to use any trick it can. His experiment reveals one of those tricks: We think the brain is programmed to use brightness the way it is in the world. That means shadows are always darker, and light comes from above.

***

Rule #2. While cycling, like it or not, admit it or not, believe it or not… WE ARE often LITERALLY invisible, to bad and good drivers alike, no matter how alert and conscious they may be. Our presence often just doesn’t register in a driver’s mind. Why not?… is the question, this article seeks to answer.

Rule #3. We MUST find a way to unconsciously BE perceived as a THREAT by the driver to be NOTICED within the subconscious REPTILE brain.

The Reptile brain, first and foremost, identifies threats. We must create Relative Movement and/or change our perspective (frame of reference) relative to the driver. For reasons you are probably already aware, but that will soon be explained.

How can we completely bypass the conscious, perceptual, senses which are too often just plain blind, or dozing off asleep at the switch anyway?…

Let’s get back to the interviewed (killer) drivers’ statements. “I never saw them”. (Where I might also add “… until it was too late”)

The police have a very difficult legal problem here assigning fault to the driver. As I learned from personal experience with the police in my own near murder, a driver not “seeing” a cyclist IS (unbelievably) a valid, legal and very frustrating (for cyclists) defense.

Even though every interviewed driver repeated nearly identical statements, it is impossible for anyone to determine whether this was some mental defense mechanism, (a human rationalization/justification, as many have postulated) or in fact, was visually true. In this case, legally it doesn’t matter. And more importantly, in practice it doesn’t matter either. Dead is Dead.

Let’s get to the core of this legal problem. Wouldn’t it be great for cyclists if this invisibility “defense” variable was taken completely out of the equation?!?   It would seem unlikely, and seemingly extremely difficult to make the “invisible” case/claim when blinding lights are flashing from the bike.

Less than a year after my own near death experience, I mentioned that there were three cyclists that were killed in Newport Beach.   Together, they outline and illustrate each of the issues.

One of them a well-known doctor, was riding with her husband on Newport Coast, in dark morning tree shadows, at the wrong time. One of them, a young woman, had made a right hand turn onto Bayside Dr. from PCH (S). A following gardening stake bed truck ran her over. What is dangerous about this corner is that the turn is largely blind due to a wall and large tree. The driver, like all the others claimed to police, “I never saw her”… which may have been true… The police had no legal choice but to accept his statement, and not cite him. But what if the driver had clearly seen her, and been warned of her presence a minute, and half a mile earlier, Before she ever made the turn?… and undeniably reinforced it, after he made his turn behind her? Would the outcome have been different? Statistics say Yes, absolutely.

Most of you have been tracking where I’m going with this… and some are saying to yourself, “No, it’s too much trouble”… or “NO, it’s too expensive”, or “No, I shouldn’t have to worry about something that is clearly the driver’s fault/problem?”…

OK; good enough…. I only have two questions for you, to Ask yourself.

  1. How much is my (your) life worth? Yes, I‘m absolutely serious. How Much is YOUR LIFE WORTH?… to you, your family, your wife, husband, children, parents…? How MUCH? How much is your time worth? IF you’re hit, at the very least, you Will Very likely be missing work, paying medical bills, bike repair bills, be in a LOT of pain, etc… Isn’t it waaay better (AND A LOT CHEAPER) to avoid problems in the first place, than pay for the resulting outcome?
  2. If you lie BLEEDING in the street, dead or seriously injured, does it really matter who was/is right or wrong?… I’d like to ask every, single, dead, fatality victim, OR their family members, IF they REALLY care who was right or wrong?

Having been there myself, I can tell you definitively the short, quick, two lettered variety answer, for a FACT.

So; now that we have a better understanding of the “perception” issues and problems, for you H. Potter fans; What IS our “defense against the dark arts…”(DADA)… “Unconscious” and blind?

 

 

1Roughly 500,000:000002/10 years (about the same as getting hit by lighting)

2http://www.dsh.ca.gov/patton/

 

mark d. goodley

Near Fatality Survivor

Product Design Engineer

USA Cycling Licensed Pro Race Mechanic #325244

………

Part 2 here.

 

Guest Post: The Benefits of a Bicycle for Urban Transport

Every now and then — okay, nearly every day — I get a request to write a guest post for this site.

Most turn out to be from marketers hoping to slip in a link to their client’s website. Which are promptly ignored.

But this week, we’ll feature three new guest posts; two from a long-time contributor, and one from a new one.

The first comes from Nik Donovic, who describes himself as a lifelong, if casual, cyclist and new-found fixie enthusiast with a passion for road safety — especially after a driver hit his dad a few months ago.

And yes, before you ask, his father is okay, though it was scary for both of them.

This may be preaching to the choir on here. But it’s worth reading.

……..

Remember your first bike and how exhilarated you felt when you were finally freed from the confines of the wobbly training wheels? Your first bike is memorable. The polished chrome that was almost blinding in the sun, the smooth curve of the banana seat, and the streamers that whipped around from the end of your handlebars as you rode fast and without a care in the world. Your bike was your main source of transportation from trips to the park, to school, and to your best friend’s house. Jump ahead 20 years and you consider yourself lucky if you’re able to hop on your bicycle to ride to the neighborhood coffee shop on a Saturday morning. Part-time bicycle riders are full of excuses as to why they “don’t have time” to ride: I’ve got groceries to pick up. I don’t have proper riding gear. I’m too tired. I can’t ride THAT far. It’s not safe. I would, but…

 

Are There Any Valid Excuses Not to Ride?

The reasons seems endless, but what’s the point of owning a bicycle if you aren’t going to ride? Sure, bicycling requires a time commitment, but so does sitting in your car while commuting to and from work. While a substantial amount of bicyclists are hitting the streets, more than a decade ago, the majority remains to be strictly recreational riders.

In a 2014 U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report, commissioned by PeopleForBikes, 16,193 adults were surveyed on their bicycle usage. The results revealed that 54% of adults believe that bicycling is a convenient form of transportation, but 48% of adults don’t have access to a bicycle at home and 52% of adults fear being struck by vehicles. 46% of surveyed adults would ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated. Finally, 70% of bicyclists only ride for recreation or leisure while 46% ride to travel to and from school or work.

Although the concerns are reasonable, bicycling is safer and more accessible than people may think. While it’s true that sharing the road with motorists can be dangerous (and a little scary), bicycling is often safer than driving. The National Safety Council reports that for every million cyclists in the US, about 16.5 die each year in comparison to the 19.9 motorist deaths each year.

In regards to the not having access to a bicycle at home, there are several great public bike sharing systems throughout the U.S. in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and San Francisco. Don’t have a bike share system in your town? Check out a local bike shop. You don’t need a top of the line, multiple geared bicycle to get from place to place. So, no more excuses. Just ride.

 

Urban Cycling Leads to Better Health

Maybe you’re only a “weekend rider” because you feel too tired or out of shape to ride a bicycle on a regular basis and maybe the “out of practice” aches and pains keep you from riding more regularly. However, like other forms of exercise, your body gets stronger and healthier with consistent movement. Sure, a sore rear end and tired legs may persist after your first few rides, but over time, you will forget that riding was ever a struggle. Unlike running and other sports, bicycling is a gentle form of exercise, putting less stress on your body and making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities. All the times that you ride, remember how good it feels after you hop off your bike? Your blood is pumping, your endorphins are high, and you might even say, “I can’t wait to ride again.” Don’t make bicycling an “every now and then”, but rather remember how good it feels to ride and use that as your motivation. From heart to lungs, there are so many health benefits related to bicycling.

In addition to all the physical and mental health benefits, a 2012 study conducted in Iowa revealed that bicycling can save a significant amount of money typically allocated to health care. When looking at statistics surrounding the cost of diabetes, breast/colorectal cancers, heart disease and stroke related treatments, recreational and commuter cyclists saved money by simply being more healthy. For instance, in Des Moines, savings from commuter cyclists includes $254,797 and in Johnson County, cyclists are estimated to save $1,018,347 in health care costs each year.

 

Don’t Add to the Urban Congestion

As a recreational bicyclist, you may stick to areas within your cities that have trails and other areas designated for bicyclists. While such areas provide a great opportunity to be “one with nature”, get exercise, and keep cyclists off the road, they aren’t as practical for commuting cyclists. As a commuter, you often need to ride side by side with other vehicles which can feel overwhelming, a little dangerous, and far from “taking your mind off of stress”.

Still, being a commuter cyclist doesn’t need to be stressful. A lot depends on space allocated for cyclists. As a commuter cyclist, you’re doing your part to reduce urban congestion, but you’re only really making a difference if there are bike lanes in place. In “bicycle friendly” cities like Minneapolis, traffic volume increased but was less congested when bicycles had separate lanes.

Here’s an example of bike lanes working correctly: in San Francisco, on busy Valencia Street, vehicle lanes were reduced from four to two and a center lane and two bike lanes were added. As a result, pedestrians were not only 36% safer, but there was a significant increase of bicycle riders by 140%. In the same report released by Smart Growth America, pedestrians and bicyclists combined (about half and half) have reduced congestion by about 30% in the nation’s 100 most congested cities. If bicycle lanes continue to pop up, we can expect the congestion to keep dropping.

 

Human and Physical Infrastructure for Cyclists

From Minneapolis, MN to Austin, TX, big cities are becoming more bicycle friendly, recognizing the importance of less traffic and better health, but most cities can’t be truly bicycle friendly without infrastructures.

 

Physical Infrastructure for Safety and Economic Gain

Biking trails, bicycle lanes, and non-motorized vehicle overpasses are essential for bicycle safety and ease of travel; they make up the physical infrastructure. This infrastructure can help avoid drivers hitting cyclists as opposed to urban roads with no infrastructure. Many cyclists may not realize that the presence of physical infrastructures benefit the economy as well. In cities like Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., home values increased the closer they were located to infrastructures like bike pathways. Additionally, businesses located in an area with physical infrastructures for cyclists (such as bike pathways and widened sidewalks) typically see a boost in business. In the study of Valencia Street in San Francisco (as mentioned earlier), businesses on the street saw a significant increase (about 66%) of patronage due to better physical infrastructure for cyclists.

 

No Physical Infrastructure Without Human Infrastructure

Despite the overwhelming need for physical infrastructure, it wouldn’t exist without human infrastructure. Such infrastructure can include biking advocates, bike shop owners, and bicycle riding groups. Without bike shops, to purchase and repair bicycles, the future of the “urban bicyclist” would be limited. By supporting a local bike shop, not only are you supporting the local economy, but you are supporting some of your biggest advocates. Bicycle shop owners and employees have a passion for bicycling. They commute by bicycle, they encourage others to ride, and they have valuable feedback when it comes to planning physical infrastructure. If you want to see an increase of physical infrastructure for cyclists, find a group of bicycle advocates and enthusiasts to join.

In cities across America, we’ve witnessed the increase of urban bicyclists who can ride the city streets more safely thanks to the passions of fellow riders who fought for a better riding environment.

 

Guest Post: Testing to Destruction

It’s one of the most popular posts ever on this site. And I didn’t even write it. 

A review of ultra-bright bike taillights by Mark Goodley continues to draw readers on a daily basis, over two years after it was written.

The survivor of a near fatal collision, Mark has made it his mission in life to keep others from suffering the same fate. And has put his background as a product design engineer and a licensed pro racing mechanic to use to study how bike collisions happen, and how to prevent them.

……..

Common to physicists and engineers is the requirement to test a product and/or design to total destruction. First we test in computer simulations (via FEA, CFD, or Multi-physics) software, Second; by intentionally pushing well beyond the design limits in real world tests, to produce catastrophic failures.

This is how we learn and improve our designs, and develop an understanding between our theoretical software modeling, and it’s correlation to the physical entity/item/product.

How and why this process is highly relevant to understanding and preventing cycling fatalities follows below.

After countless examinations of police reports, interviews, and scouring though all available data, I started a couple plus years ago with a very simple theory.

IF you ride your bike on roads and streets, with (minimum standard/charged) Ultra Bright Lights, you won’t get hit or killed (from behind at least) by a vehicle. (The bio-psycho-physio-logical “whys and how’s” this works is found in separate articles.)

The theory has seemingly held for over 500,000 bicycle-car related accidents, injuries and deaths in the US over a ten year period. Until this past week, I haven’t been able to find a single verified instance (data collection is ongoing) where a cyclist was hit from behind, while flashing Ultra Bright lights. Half a Million Cycling Injuries and Fatalities (without lights) to 0 (ZERO, with lights). 500,000: 000000.

Even if these numbers could be off by one or two accidents, the long term trend is evident, striking, and alarming.

That statistic changed this past week. Two men were killed (reported by bikinginla.com) in unrelated “hit from behind” accidents in the Los Angeles area while likely/evidently riding with lights. Begging the question; what made these two different from all the others? What broke down? Is the theory disproved?

So let’s look at the preliminary facts in each of these two fatalities that “broke” the theory.

  1. Each man was riding his bike shortly before, and long after midnight, between roughly 12:00AM and 3:00 AM.
  2. Each man was riding on high speed streets (one on a freeway off-ramp, the other in twisting and turning Fairfax) streets with car sidewalk parking), both without bike lanes.
  3. Each man was Hispanic and over 45 years old.
  4. Each man may have had (only) one bicycle light on the rear when they were hit.
  5. One man was very possibly killed by a drunk/drugged driver.

This is what we’ll call/term Testing a Theory to Destruction.”

Look at what was necessary to “Break the Theory.” Do you see anything even remotely resembling your riding? NO, of course not. How many of us actually get on our bikes after midnight to take a ride?

You had to have a large number of beyond “Perfect Storm” scenarios in each case to kill these two men. An old pilot axiom is: It’s not the 1st or 2nd mistake that kills you, but the 5th or 6th will.

IF anything, these two (very sad) fatalities PROVE the point. To get hit or injured by a car while riding with Ultra Bright lights, a lot of things have to go wrong, all at the same time.

In Summary; what have we learned?

  1. Don’t ride late at night at all, especially after midnight when even the best of drivers are going to be tired, never mind when drunk-drugged up drivers are going to congregate… after the bars close.
  2. Don’t ride on very dangerous roads that are going to be a problem, even under the best of circumstances.   I personally have known the Fairfax area for many decades… and would never ride a bike on it; at least not willingly. IF you HAVE absolutely no option but to ride these streets, take extra precautions. Ride at safe(r) times, with EXTRA Ultra Bright Lights, Don’t ride in black/dark colors, and Still ride at least 5 feet away from parked cars (to prevent getting doored, which is equally life threatening).
  3. Take up the WHOLE lane if you MUST, until it is Safe to move back over to the right. There are some areas I still will only ride the sidewalk.
  4. Be attentive at all times; DON’T BE TOO PROUD to PULL OVER and STOP your bike and WAIT for traffic to pass before crossing dangerous, high speed areas. ESPECIALLY FREEWAY/Highway ON-OFF RAMPS.
  5. Ride with multiple rear lights, (3) three is preferable to “paint” a clear 3D picture in space for a(ny) driver’s mind to immediately identify your location, bearing, and speed. The best lights can be clearly seen and easily recognized from over 1/2 a mile away!!! (in broad DAYlight).   Distance is Time, Time is Early Warning, Early Warning is allowing a driver time to plan (rather than milliseconds to react) and hence accident avoidance, and That is Life.
  6. 500,000:000002 are still pretty good odds… Especially when Your life is on the line. Play the numbers.
  7. STAY ALIVE! ride ULTRA BRIGHT… DAY and night…

……..

Stay tuned. We’ll have another post from Mark next week.

 

 

Why Attorneys Tell You To Never Admit Guilt

 

Bikes Have Rights™*

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Pocrass Photo 6-15

 

Immediately after any type of motor vehicle “accident” (bicycle, pedestrian, motorcycle, car), most people have two reactions: 1.) to blame the other person or 2.) to say “I’m sorry; it was my fault.” As a personal injury lawyer, I counsel people to NEVER admit guilt after a crash of any type. Whether you are or are not liable, I guarantee such a statement will come back to bite you in ways you never expected.

The most important reason for not admitting guilt, which is, in legal terms, admitting liability, is because you probably don’t really know the cause of the collision.

Example: We recently had a client who was in a Santa Monica bicycle collision. He came up to a four-way stop and rolled slowly through it, getting halfway through intersection. Meanwhile, an 80-something-year-old woman drove up to the intersection, stopped, and went, hitting our client in the intersection.

During the deposition, the woman insisted that she never saw anyone or anything in the intersection. (I admit, I laughed inside at the insurance company lawyer’s expression.) The insurance company settled for a five-figure settlement.

This was an unusual situation, but the point is, you really don’t know exactly what the complete cause of your bike collision is, and, therefore, who is liable. Yes, you might be partially liable if you do not follow the rules of the road, but there may be extenuating circumstances that contributed to the collision. These could be:

  • Road Design: the road or signage was not designed well, maintained, in disrepair, or missing.
  • Product Liability: your bike or the other vehicle could have defective parts or been repaired, maintained, or manufactured incorrectly.
  • Other Driver: also might not be following the rules of the road.

If any of these conditions exist, your case — even if you are partially liable for the collision — could allow me as your bike lawyer to argue for comparative liability.

California recognizes comparative liability, which states that each party might hold some responsibility for the collision. If your case were to go to trial, the judge or jury decides IF each party is liable for the collision and, if so, what percentage of liability each party is responsible for.

Consider this hypothetical situation: You are riding your bike at night. You have no lights on your bike. As you ride past a parked car, the driver opens his door and you are “doored.” You suffer serious personal injuries and your bike is trashed. The case goes to a jury trial.

The jury decides that because you were riding at night without lights — clearly against the law — you are partially liable for the collision. They may determine that you are 10% responsible and the driver is 90% liable. In that situation, if they awarded you a $100,000 verdict, you would receive $90,000 from the driver’s insurance company rather than the full $100,000.

Once you have admitted guilt at the scene (or in follow up conversations with the other driver’s insurance company), it becomes more difficult for your attorney to argue comparative negligence. It also means that it is more likely that the insurance company will either refuse to settle or low-ball its offer.

Trials are always more expensive in cost and in time than settlements, so if a fair settlement is possible, that is the more desirable route. (Of course you wouldn’t say THAT to an insurance company either because if it thinks you’re not prepared to go to trial you’re back to them either refusing to settle or low-balling their offer. It’s all a chess game with serious consequences for you.)

I have a friend who is a criminal attorney. He once told me the most difficult part of his job is trying to undo what his clients have told the police. As a civil attorney, I understand. It is very difficult to “unring a bell.” So, please, don’t admit liability or guilt. Let us sort that out later.

 

Jim Pocrass TrimmedFor 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.

 

 

Bikes Have Rights™*

How Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

 
Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

Have you ever been asked a question in which the answer seems so obvious that it seems like a trick question? This happened to me recently. A reporter asked me if it were true that, as he was told by a police officer, that you could be ticketed for riding your bike the wrong way in a crosswalk.

The question flabbergasted me. Since when are crosswalks one-directional? Pedestrians walk in crosswalks in both directions. That’s why there are buttons and/or signals on both sides of the street.

Requiring cyclists to only travel with the flow of traffic would lead to absurd results. You would have to cross two streets to go across the street.

The legislature passed Vehicle Code 21650: A bicycle operated on a roadway or a shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway.

Subsection(g) states: This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any shoulder of a highway, on any sidewalk, on any bicycle path within a highway, or along any crosswalk or bicycle path crossing, where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance.

The legislative comments to VC 21650.1 say: That had the Legislature wished to include the term “sidewalk” or “crosswalk” it would have done so.

All of this naturally leads me to opine that for the bicyclist to be in violation of VC 21650.1 (riding the wrong way in traffic), the cyclist would have to be riding in the opposite direction of traffic AND be either a.) on the shoulder of a highway or b.) on a roadway. (Again, assuming there is no local ordinance against riding in a crosswalk.)

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from a woman asking for my help. She was hit by a car while riding her bike across the street in a marked crosswalk. The police claimed the accident was her fault.

The law says it is legal for you to go from the sidewalk – against traffic – and ride into the crosswalk to the other sidewalk.

However, if there is a local ordinance that prohibits riding on the sidewalk, which many cities do, especially in commercial areas, AND the local ordinance specifically states that you may not ride through a crosswalk, then riding in the crosswalk and/or the sidewalk would be illegal. If the local ordinance does not state that you cannot ride on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk, then it is legal.

Vehicle Code 275 defines a crosswalk and does not limit it to pedestrians. Subsection(b) expands crosswalks to include: Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrians crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

Legally riding on the sidewalk – slowly – and looking before entering a crosswalk for other vehicles, especially those making a right or left turn, and looking for pedestrians, should be legal (again, assuming there is no local ordinance restricting you from riding through a crosswalk).

There is even case law that specifically addresses the issue of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk against traffic. In Spriesterbach v. Holland (Case B-240348) the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four, ruled on April 9, 2013 that: . . .because VC 21650.1 requires a bicycle to travel in the same direction as vehicular traffic only when ridden on “a roadway” or the “shoulder of a highway,” it does not by its plain language require bicycles to travel with the flow of traffic when ridden on the sidewalk.

The court continued: Pursuant to Section 21200, (a) persons riding a bicycle. . .upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division. . .except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. . .because 21650.1 governs the direction bicycle travel on a roadway or shoulder. . .it does not by its plain language require bicycles to travel with the flow of traffic when ridden on a “Sidewalk.”

Riding fast through a crosswalk and not stopping to look is very dangerous. A cyclist that rides into a crosswalk at 10+ mph does not give the driver of a vehicle that is turning left or right time to see the cyclist.

I suspect that is why the City of Los Angeles passed L.A. Muni Code 56.15(1): No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle . . .on a sidewalk, bikeway or boardwalk in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. This ordinance gives the police a lot of leeway to determine what is “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

I believe that these topics are good areas for discussion, but legally, I would (and will) argue that, if no local ordinance disallows it, then it is legal to ride in a crosswalk in either direction if it is done safely.

By the way, the answer to the question in the title of this post is that the chicken crossed the road on a bicycle in a crosswalk after stopping and ascertaining that it was safe to ride slowly across the road. But you knew that.

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.

*Sponsored post

Guest post: Detailed analysis of 2013 bike collisions in the City of Angels

Now the study is complete.

A few weeks ago, long-time LA bike advocate Dennis Hindman wrote a detailed analysis of the city’s bike-involved collisions, based on partial data for the year 2013. 

Now he has finished his analysis of every bike collision listed in the state’s SWITRS traffic collision database last year.

The results are eye opening, and should give insight on how safety efforts should be directed for the greatest impact.

Or better yet, no impact between cyclists and motor vehicles. 

But let’s be clear about one thing.

As impressive as Hindman’s study is, it shouldn’t be up to a single person, or organization, to analyze how collisions occur on our streets. 

It should be the responsibility of our city government. Because if they don’t know how these collisions happen, they have no idea how to prevent them. 

And traffic safety shouldn’t be left to guesswork. 

……..

I have finally completed a list of all the types of 2,421 bicycle involved collisions that were reported by the LAPD in 2013. This was mainly done by just manually counting them. All of these collisions involved injuries.

There were 2,597 pedestrian involved collisions with motor vehicles and 2,277 for bicyclists (some of the reported 2,421 bicycle collisions for the year did not involve motor vehicles). Eighty of those pedestrian involved collisions were fatalities and fifteen were fatalities for bicyclists. There was one bicyclist collision with a train that was fatal. That brings the total reported collision fatalities for bicyclists reported by the LAPD at 16 for 2013.

Bicyclists riding the wrong way are 569 of the collisions. Drivers turning right were involved in 239 (42%) of these collisions. I did not count all the different ways the collisions occurred in this case since the bicyclists were not traveling in the correct direction. Its rather obvious from the raw data that the main danger when riding the wrong way is motor vehicles turning right.

A bicyclist will sometimes ride through a crosswalk in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. From what I have observed, a motorist turning right will frequently just look to their left to see if a motor vehicle is coming and not to their right before proceeding.

Subtracting the wrong way riders from the total leaves 1,852 bicycle involved collisions.

From experience I know that the vast majority of bicyclists are riding between the parked motor vehicles and the front right quarter panel of moving vehicles. Few are riding directly in front of moving motor vehicles in the middle of the moving lane. Since that’s where most of the bicyclists are riding, then it would make sense that most of the collisions would involve cyclists riding in that position on the road. That does not necessarily mean that it is much more dangerous to be riding this way.

The following information does not include the raw collision data of wrong way bicycle riders.

According to some bicycle riders, the danger of being right hooked by drivers is greatly increased when you ride between the parked vehicles and moving vehicles because drivers are much less likely to see you there compared to riding directly in front of them in the middle of the motor vehicle lane. I counted almost as many collisions for bicyclists with motor vehicles turning left (326), as there were for motor vehicles turning right (337). It would appear that drivers tend to not see the bicyclist when turning in either direction before colliding with them.

Parked cars are also sighted as a major hazard by those advocating riding in the middle of motor vehicle lanes. I counted 155 collisions involving bicyclists and parked motor vehicles. I don’t know how many of these involved doors swinging open in front of the bicyclists.

If that sounds particularly hazardous, there were also 55 bicycle collisions with motor vehicles stopped, 125 sideswipes, 16 collisions involving drivers backing up, 7 drivers slowing and the bicyclist hitting them, 6 improper passes by drivers, 5 drivers parking, 17 unsafe driving speed, 72 rear end collisions, 23 lane changes by drivers and 20 lane changes by a bicyclist. That’s 346 collisions. Well over double the amount of bicycle collisions involving parked motor vehicles.

Another argument against riding to the right of moving vehicles and next to parked vehicles is the danger from cars exiting driveways. There were 78 bicycle involved collisions with motor vehicles entering traffic. I presume those to have mainly occurred due to vehicles pulling away from the curb, exiting driveways and freeway off-ramps. Adding this to the parked vehicle collisions still doesn’t come close to the amount of other types of collisions I mentioned above.

There were also 20 head-on collisions where the direction of travel was either E/W or N/S and 367 collisions where both driver and bicyclist were heading straight (typically intersections) but in different directions (not head-on).

Drivers making a U-turn collided with bicyclists 12 times and 3 U-turns by bicyclists involved a collision with a motor vehicle.

Four collisions involved bicycles passing motorists and 6 were unsafe turns by bicyclists.

Bicyclists entering traffic involved 104 collisions.

Right turns by bicyclists were 25 of the collisions and left turns 47.

LAPD reported 29 pedestrian collisions with bicycles. No pedestrian was killed.

Bicyclists hitting an unknown object, slipping and falling or hitting a pothole involved 39 injury reported collisions.

Bicyclist involved in a collision with another bicyclist was reported 7 times.

There were 12 collisions where the primary factor was unknown.

There was one case where a bicyclist hit the driver and the driver (88 years old) was the only one with an injury and also one collision where the passenger of the vehicle was the only one who had an injury when it involved a bicycle rider.

Lastly, a bicyclist injury occurred from colliding with an animal.

My total count is larger than the 2,421 bicycle involved collisions due to counting such things as entering traffic, turning by bicycles and motorists separately for each collision. Each collision could involve a turn by both bicycle and motorist or entering  traffic and a turn.

The variety of types of collisions reinforces to me that the Dutch safety principle of separation by mass, speed and direction when possible is the way to go to improve safety. Bicycle riders should not be mixed with motor vehicles that have a much greater mass and are going at a much greater average speed than the bicyclist.

Having more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street increases the likelihood of a higher motorist speed, increases the chance of lane change and also increases the possibility that the driver will get distracted by all of the different actions going on around them. That’s why the Dutch national Crow manual for bicycle infrastructure advises to have a cycle track or bike path built if there is more than one motor vehicle lane in each direction on a street.

……..
Hindman followed-up with a look at the bicycling fatalities reported to the state for 2013 in the city of LA.

Here’s a list of the 16 reported bicycle collision fatalities by the LAPD in 2013 and the primary factors for the collisions:

  • 1-bicyclist unsafe speed
  • 1-driver unsafe speed. Both driver and bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-train
  • 2-parked vehicle
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclists headed east. Three bicyclists involved.
  • 1-driver alcohol/drugs. Both driver and bicyclist headed east.
  • 1-driver headed east/bicyclist headed north.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver moving south/bicyclist headed west. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed west/bicyclist headed south. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed north/bicyclist headed west.
  • 1-stop sign/signal. Driver headed south. Direction of travel for bicyclist not indicated. Bicyclist 90 years old. Hit and run driver.
  • 1-unknown primary collision factor. Both driver and bicyclist making left turn.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist entering traffic.
  • 1-right turn driver/bicyclist proceeding straight.

This shows some of the wide variables in collisions. A bicyclist cannot avoid all of these situations. A barrier between the bicyclist and driver would decrease the potential for drivers and bicyclist to hit each other when changing lanes, rear-end collisions or merging. Removing the parked vehicles from arterial streets or a buffer between the bicyclist and parked vehicles would reduce some of the conflicts. Different signal phases for bicyclists/pedestrians and drivers at the intersections would decrease the potential conflicts further.

……..

Thanks to Dennis Hindman for caring enough about your safety and mine to assume this responsibility himself.

 

Bikes Have Rights™*

The Danger in Dog Day Afternoons

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

   
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 

Recently, at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House, JJ Hoffman was telling me a story about her daily encounter with dog a couple of years ago. JJ said every day when she was riding to work she’d meet up with this same woman who was walking her dog unleashed.

Every day the dog took after JJ, which set the woman off who would run yelling behind her dog. It got so bad that JJ had the pepper spray out before she got to the street where she’d meet up with the dog. All that dog wanted, JJ said, was a taste of her calf.

JJ really didn’t want to spray the dog, though spraying the owner was tempting, and, luckily for everybody, JJ never actually had to take action.

Like JJ, I really like dogs. The dogs are doing what their instincts tell them to do: to chase prey. Irresponsible dog owners are another matter. They put the cyclist, the dog, and especially themselves in danger.

Bitten by a Dog

In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is at fault. It doesn’t matter if the dog is leashed or not. It doesn’t matter if the owner knew or didn’t know that the dog had a “vicious nature.” California holds owners to “strict liability.” If you are bitten, the owner is liable for your injuries. There is no “free bite” in California.

Collision with or because of a Dog

When a dog begins chasing a cyclist, most cyclists tend to try to outrun the dog. When that happens, the dog’s brain goes into get-the-fleeing-prey mode, and the race is on.

Whether or not you can really outrun the dog, the real danger is in possibly colliding with the dog or colliding with something else because you lose control of the bike or you hit a pot hole or even getting hit by a motor vehicle when swerving or not being able to stop at a light or an intersection.

If you suffer serious personal injuries or your bike is damaged, again, the dog owner can be held liable. Your bicycle accident attorney should be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Compensation for Dog-related Collisions or Bites

The dog owner may be held negligent for:

  • Ineffective control of the dog.
  • Violation of the leash law and other Animal Control Ordinances.
  • Inadequate supervision or management of the dog.
  • Putting the dog in a condition in which the owner could have seen that the dog could cause injury to somebody.

Individual cities also may have their own animal control ordinances. For instance, one city limits the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time and a number of cities consider it a misdemeanor if a dog is tied to a parking meter, sign or bus bench without food or water nearby.

Some cities have ordinances specific to a breed. In Santa Monica a pit bull on public property must be muzzled.

The dog owner may be held responsible for compensating you for:

  • Medical bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, therapists, plastic surgeons, and for prescriptions.
  • Future medical bills to remove scars or to repair disfigurements. If the money for medical care is not recovered at this time, your health insurance might not cover any future medical procedures you need later, calling them “cosmetic.”
  • Time you had to take off from work resulting in lost income.
  • Lost future earnings because of disfigurement or disabilities.
  • Emotional counseling.
  • Pain and suffering.

Of course you can only recover compensation for injuries you suffer and care you actually need.

Hesitations to Holding an Owner Liable

One of the major hesitations a cyclist who is bitten by a dog often has in reporting a dog bite is the fear that the dog will be destroyed. A dog that has no history of biting is rarely “put down.”

The court takes into account the severity of the bite and the number of times it has bitten. It may rule that a dog must be muzzled in public or restrained in a particular way, such as kept behind a certain type of fence of a certain height.

Self-Defense

We all have heard that we have the right to defend ourselves against an attack from another person. What few people realize is that the law says you can defend yourself as much as is necessary to foil the attack. Your defense must be proportionate to the attack, and when the danger is past, so is your right to defend yourself.

This is a common law concept, and there is no explicit statement in common law that this also applies in a dog attack. More and more dog owners are counter-suing for compensation when their dog has been injured either intentionally or through someone else’s negligence.

So if you are going to use self defense, be sure that it is proportionate to the attack and that once the attack is over you stop, similar to how you would defend yourself with a human. That is a legally defensible act, though you could still find yourself in a lawsuit with the dog owner.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that it’s rare to find a bad dog, but bad owners are much too plentiful.

*Sponsored post

 

Guest Post: A view from the courtroom

It’s one of the more heartbreaking cases in recent history.

It was just two days before Christmas last year, when a young Australian man working in Chicago was flying back home for the holidays, leaving his girlfriend of five years behind. Faced with an extended layover at LAX, James Rapley decided to rent a bike on a sunny Sunday morning for a ride along the beach.

He never made his flight home.

Rapley was riding in the uphill bike lane on Temescal Canyon Blvd when he was run down from behind by another young man, who was allegedly under the influence at 9 am, and reportedly admitted to texting behind the wheel when he drifted into the bike lane, taking the Aussie’s life in an instant.

I’ve often wondered what James Rapley’s thoughts were in those last few moments as his life drifted away. Whether he thought of the woman he loved, or the family he would never see again.

Or just wondered why.

Mohammed Kadri, the driver who took his life, was recently charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent volunteered to be in the courtroom for Kadri’s Preliminary Setting on Thursday. Here’s her report.

……..

This morning, Mohammed Kadri was actually present in court. I didn’t see anyone in the tiny courtroom who looks 20 years old, because Kadri is kind of hirsute, so he looks older; the kid probably has a 5 o’clock shadow by noon. He’s not very tall, but his suit fit well, and posture is good and it indicated that he understands the gravity of his situation.

The Deputy DA assigned to the case requested a continuance. The judge asked a little impatiently why they shouldn’t proceed today. The prosecutor stated that she needs time to speak with the victim’s family. (Because what better time than the holidays?!?) The next court date is Friday, January 16th.

Incidentally, the prosecutor is Danette Meyers. She’ll prosecute viciously. The victim impact statements will be absolutely integral to the case, though. Even if the family can only provide written statements.

From the glass elevators at the courthouse, you can see planes coming in to LAX. I looked at those tubes of tin and thought of all the souls on board. James had flown into LAX a day early because he was worried that bad weather would delay his flight home to Australia. I wondered if any of today’s arrivals had chosen an early flight for the same reason, to play it safe so they can get home to their families for the holidays. And then I prayed every single one of them will be on their connecting flights. Because James Rapley never got the chance.

Just as an aside, and I could be wrong, but… In the hallway outside the courtroom, an older guy intercepted Kadri’s lawyer as we (me & the guy who turned out to be the lawyer) reached for the courtroom door at just about the same moment. This older guy may be a relative. Right after Kadri’s appearance, I went into the hallway to type some quick notes on my laptop. This same older guy walked by, very clearly looking down at the screen. I scowled at him and he pivoted away. I think he noticed the LACBC sticker on the front and suspects I’m some agent of theirs. Well, let the defense worry that so many eyes are on them.

I’d love to see Kadri quake beneath the gaze of an angry guardian angel the size of the Bike Coalition.

The Airport courthouse has no bike parking, but the security at the garage entrance suggested locking up to the handicap parking sign. The courthouse is conveniently nestled in the armpit of the 105/405 interchange, and miserable to reach by any way but car. If you look at Google Maps, it’s right there by the Green Line station, but you can’t access it by 116th street (unless you scale two chain link fences, and people clearly do this.) Nope, you have to go down to 120th and head back north. If you’re on a bike on 120th & La Cienega, it’s terrifying to wait in the eastbound left turn lane (whose sensor doesn’t register bikes), because the westbound traffic shooting out from the freeway underpass seems to be COMING RIGHT AT YOU thanks to the wacky angle at the intersection. By the time that oncoming wall of FedEx truck zoomed at me like Jaws, my heart rate was about 160. It’s not much lower right now, what with the rage about how we practically require vehicular manslaughter defendants to arrive at the courthouse by automobile.

……..

After I got her report, I emailed a member of Rapley’s family in Australia to let them know about the January 16th court date.

The response I received broke my heart.

The next court date will be just days after the one year anniversary of his funeral. And six years to the day that he’d been with his girlfriend. 

……..

The ghost bike for James Rapley is still there, 355 days later.

Maybe you’ve seen it at the corner of Temescal and PCH, and wondered who it was for, or stopped to read the inscription.

It’s been maintained all this time by a grieving father from Oxnard, whose own six-year old son was killed while riding his bike. Since then, Anthony Novarro has dedicated his life to remembering other bike riding sons and daughters who have lost theirs.

He stops by every few weeks to clean the site, and remember a young man none of us ever knew.

But all ghost bikes are removed or stolen sooner or later; it’s unusual that one lasts this long.

There’s a discussion currently underway to make the memorial permanent by installing a bike rack in the shape of a bicycle in Rapley’s honor.

So far it hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage.

But its another reminder that James Rapley hasn’t been forgotten in the City of Angels, even if he died a stranger to us all.

……..

Something else that hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage yet is a proposal to build the city’s first parking-protected bike lane on that uphill side of Temescal Canyon where Rapley lost his life.

Such protected bikeways were just approved by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed into law by Governor Brown. This would be the ideal location for one, with no conflicting intersections or cross traffic for nearly mile from PCH to Palisades High School.

Whether it would have saved Rapley’s life at that early hour is impossible to say; there may not have been enough beachgoers parking their cars to form a protective barrier so early on a winter weekend.

But it might help prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

And if there’s a better way to honor someone who needlessly lost his life in the few short hours he spent in our city, I don’t know what that would be.

……..

Update: A comment below from Jeffrey reminds us that a memorial fund in Rapley’s name has raised over $15,000 for Australia’s Amy Gillett Foundation to improve bike safety, with a goal of eliminating bicycling deaths. And it tells his all-too-brief life story, letting us know just who this man we never knew was.

More impressively, his family donated his life insurance and joined with friends to contribute over $250,000 to establish a scholarship at Whitley College for a Rural Student studying either Engineering or Science at Melbourne University.

But more funds are needed to increase the amount of the annual award, and help make a difference in the world that James Rapley never got the chance to make.

 

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