Tag Archive for dooring

Update — 37-year old cyclist critically injured in Westside dooring

Word is just coming in that a bike rider suffered severe injuries after being doored last night.

According to an email from LAPD West Traffic Division bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor, a 37-year old bicyclist was riding south on Barrington near the intersection with San Vicente in Brentwood at 6:46 pm when he came in contact with the open door of a parked car.

No word on whether the victim, whose name was withheld due to privacy restrictions, was hit by the door as it was opened, or if he collided with it after the door was opened in front of him.

Barrington is a narrow, two-lane street on both sides of San Vicente, with substandard-width lanes that legally allow riders to take the lane in order to avoid the door zone. However, heavy traffic and impatient drivers encourage many cyclists to ride in the door zone, where passing cars can leave them trapped with nowhere to go if one of those doors should open.

Sgt. Sandor reports the rider is in critical condition and was in surgery last night for head trauma.

No helmet was found at the scene. This is exactly the sort of relatively slow-speed impact helmets are designed to protect against; however, there’s no way of knowing whether one could have made a difference in this case.

He was also using a headlamp and tail light, so he should have been visible to the driver.

And no word yet on whether the driver was cited. Drivers are almost always at fault in a dooring; CVC 22517 clearly requires that drivers only open car doors when it is safe to do so.

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Head trauma is never a good thing; if not life-threatening, it can often be life-changing, sometimes permanently. So prayers, good thoughts and/or best wishes for the rider are definitely in order.

More details when and if they become available.

Update: I was just forwarded the following email, which went out as part of a community crime report from a Brentwood-area homeowner’s association. 

Unfortunately, an accident occurred last night on the 600 block of Barrington involving a cyclist and a vehicle. My partner and I were the first responders at scene.  The severity of the accident moves me to encourage all cyclists to PLEASE wear helmets — even for short trips. The cyclist is in critical condition and sadly, it doesn’t look good for him. 

A man sitting in his parked vehicle opened his door just as the cyclist passed and the cyclist clipped the door sending him head first onto the pavement. Does everyone know that it is the driver’s responsibility to look behind them before opening their door? The driver was incredibly shaken and upset and did not realize, until the traffic officers gently explained to him, that he was the party likely at fault. 

As our community continues to increasingly utilize cycling as a mode of transportation, please be ever aware of cyclists maneuvering throughout the traffic. And cyclists please wear your helmets and follow the rules of the road—all the rules of the road—for your own safety and protection.

Thank you. My apologies go out to the Brentwood Homeowner’s Association board and members for missing the meeting that I was en route to when we came upon the accident. I’ll make every effort to be at the next one….

Thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up.

Update 2: I’ve received confirmation that the victim, identified as Julio Martinez, died sometime after he was hospitalized; I haven’t been able to confirm the date. His brother, who worked with Martinez at the Belwood Bakery on Barrington Court, took his body back to their hometown in Mexico. 

This is the 88th bicycling fatality in Southern California in 2013, and the 39th in Los Angeles County. It’s also the 18th in the City of Los Angeles — a 360% increase over 2012.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Julio Martinez and all his family and loved ones.

A ride through the Westside, in eight parts

Cars blocking bike lanes. Doors blocking bike lanes. Trucks blocking bike lanes. Nannies blocking bike lanes. Elderly drivers ignoring right of way. New sharrows in front of Catholic churches. Missing sharrows. Useless sharrows. Decrepit Victorian VA churches. Last second left cross drivers.

Or as I like to call it, Thursday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a video from my helmet cam.

It’s not that I haven’t captured anything worth sharing. It’s just that by the time I usually get around to editing the video, the limited storage left on my ancient Mac means I’ve usually had to delete the footage before I can do anything with it.

So I wanted to get this one out while it’s fresh.

This is footage I captured on yesterday’s ride through L.A.’s Westside and Santa Monica. The sad thing is, there’s absolutely nothing unusual about it. Other than discovering new sharrows on my usual route through Westwood, things like this happen virtually every time I get out on my bike.

Maybe just not so many on the same ride.

And this wasn’t even everything I saw, good or bad.

There were a couple of Jerry Browns that the camera didn’t pick up – it seems that the fisheye lens on the cam means that a driver has to virtually brush me before the video looks anywhere as close as it feels in person. And I also have to avoid flinching, since the helmet mount means I miss the whole thing if I turn my head away.

I also noticed the county has been busy with the sharrow stencils, as well, adding a single symbol on Washington between the beachfront bike path and where the bike lane picks up on the next block. They also put in a few behind the Marina library, where riders on the Marina bike path have to share a brief roadway with drivers using the parking lot or moving their boats.

And in a nod to the Cycle Chic crowd, I wanted to offer a look at a well-dressed woman I encountered who looked about as good as anyone could on her bike. But when I saw the video, it felt a lot more like Creepy Stalker Guy than an honest appreciation of a fellow cyclist.


As for those newfound sharrows on Ohio, maybe someone can explain to me why they skip the two blocks between Selby and Glendon on the westbound side, but not on the east.

Did they just forget? Or is there some incomprehensible reason why those two blocks on that side of the street, where they’re most needed, don’t qualify for sharrows?

Because it’s right there, in that direction, where I feel most pressured by drivers when I take the lane, since it’s far to narrow to safely share.

A little pavement-based support from the city for the proper road position would have gone a long way towards telling impatient drivers that’s exactly where I belong. And encourage more timid riders to use the street and move out of the door zone, despite pressure from drivers coming up behind them.

There seems to be no reason to omit them from the street.

But omitted, they are.

And don’t get me started on the oddly placed sharrow further west that forces riders to duck beneath a low tree branch as they hug the curb.

Or the oddly undulating placement that may keep riders out of the way of vehicular in places without parking, but encourages them to weave in and out of the traffic flow in a dangerous manner, as some motorists may not be willing to cede the road space to let them back into the traffic lane.

Look, I’m not complaining. Much.

I’d glad to have sharrows on a street that needed them.

But these need some serious improvement before they meet the apparent goals of encouraging more ridership and keeping riders safer on the street.

Breaking news: Bike rider dies of injuries from dooring last week

Excuse me if I’m a little pissed off.

Not to mention more than a little heartbroken.

On Wednesday, I found myself in a room filled with LAPD traffic investigators to discuss bicycling issues in the City of Angels. And not one of them mentioned that yet another L.A. cyclist had joined that heavenly host as a result of a careless driver.

Maybe they didn’t know.

Maybe there’s a lack of communication within the department, and the people who should be first on the list to be notified about bicycling collisions — the bike liaisons representing the four Traffic Divisions, each of which was represented at that meeting — aren’t.

But either way, a bike rider has been dead for a full week as a result of a Hollywood dooring. And we’re just finding out about it now.

According to a press release from the LAPD, a 49-year old Los Angeles resident, who wasn’t identified in the release, was riding his bicycle in the southbound bike lane on Vine Street near Banner Avenue at 6:30 pm on Sunday, March 3rd, when a driver opened her car door into the bike lane. The rider reportedly collided with the door and was thrown into the roadway.

LAFD paramedics responded to the scene and took the victim to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries five days later, on March 8th.

The driver is identified only as 26-year old resident of L.A. in a 2009 BMW 328i. Police cite unsafe opening of a car door as the primary cause of the collision; drugs or alcohol do not appear to have been a factor.

The press release does not mention the nature of the victim’s injuries or whether he was wearing a helmet; however, this is exactly the sort of collision in which a helmet might have made a difference. The description of the incident suggests that the victim most likely suffered head injuries as a result of hitting the pavement; falling to the street after colliding with a car door is unlikely to result in fatal injuries to other parts of the body, though it is possible.

While dooring is one of the leading causes of bicycle collisions, both here in Los Angeles and elsewhere, it seldom results in fatal injuries. In fact, of the 145 bicycling fatalities in Southern California in 2011-12, only two resulted from a rider getting hit with a car door.

This is the seventh bicycling fatality in the seven county Southern California region this year, compared to 10 this time last year, and the fourth in Los Angeles County.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his family.

Update: A bloody reminder to watch the door zone

Just got this email from Jeffrey Nerdin:

FYI – There was a bike/auto accident in front of the Skirball Center on Sepulveda Boulevard around 9:00 this morning when a motorist stopped to let a passenger out of the car while in a lane of traffic (stopped either at a stoplight or in slow traffic). The passenger in the car opened his door into the bike lane and a cyclist hit the door, shattered the window and suffered (at least) significant cuts to his face. (I arrived after the cyclist had already been loaded on the stretcher and was headed to the ambulance, but I didn’t get the impression that his injuries were life-threatening.) I don’t know the cyclist, but I see him regularly as we both commute daily by bike along Sepulveda between Ventura Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard. If you have a chance, please warn motorists and pedestrians to be very careful when crossing over or into the bike lane, either by driving, walking, or opening a door into the lane, and cyclists to avoid riding any closer than necessary to a lane of traffic. You never know what might pop out in front of you.


Photos of the collision scene by Jeffrey Nerdin.

Unfortunately, as this incident shows, cyclists risk dooring from either side.

We train ourselves to ride at least three feet to the left of parked cars — and many experts recommend five to keep out of the reach of massive SUV doors — and to watch for the brake lights, drivers or passengers inside the car and partially open doors that could suggest a door may open or a vehicle could pull out into our path.

Yet we risk dooring from the vehicles moving on our left, as well.

In that case, we must depend on them to maintain a safe distance, and check their mirrors and blind spots before pulling over or allowing passengers to get out. Because few things are as dangerous or terrifying as having a door suddenly fling open in front of you when you’ve got nowhere to go.

And as CVC 22517 makes clear, hitting a bike rider with an open door, making a rider collide with an open door or causing a collision by forcing a rider to avoid a vehicle door is virtually always the motorist’s fault.

Even though they may try to blame you. Or you happen to be riding in Santa Monica.

As the writer suggests, drivers and pedestrians should always be on the lookout for bikes on the right of the roadway. And especially where there’s a bike lane, which should always suggest the presence of bike riders, just as a crosswalk implies the possible presence of pedestrians.

Because failing to do so can have needlessly tragic results.

Let’s hope the rider makes a full and fast recovery. And the right people are held accountable.

Update: I’ve credited Jeffrey Nerdin as the person who emailed me and took the photos above, after getting permission to use his name.

A comment below provides the identity of the victim, as well as a few more details:

Rider is Roland Sunga. He blacked out for about ten minutes. Passenger driver opened door to get out of vehicle. Roland was traveling 30 mph and flew 20 ft. No time to react and that means no time to tense up which he says saved his life. Very lucky as he rides Sepulveda daily. Thank you.

LAPD doors a cyclist, CD11 candidates talk bikes and raft load of soggy bike links for a rainy few days

An LAPD cop nearly doors L.A. cyclist Weshigh — and seems incapable of saying “sorry,” let alone comprehending CVC 22517:

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.


The LACBC teamed with Streetsblog, LA Walks and Bikerowave to host it’s first ever political forum, a Tuesday night debate among the four leading candidates to replace bike-friendly Councilmember Bill Rosendahl in CD 11.

A special thanks to Will Wright, Government and Public Affairs Director for the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, for moderating the event.

From left: Wright, Bonin, Hess, Bostick and Sutton

From left: Wright, Bonin, Hess, Bostick and Sutton

You can view post debate interviews with the four participating candidates — Mike Bonin, Tina Hess, Fred Sutton and Odysseus Bostick — prepared by Strteetsblog’s Damien Newton.

Although it’s pretty clear who’s got the simian vote.

The next LACBC-sponsored debate will take place in Council District 1 for the candidates to replace Councilmember Ed Reyes after the Ride Figueroa on February 10th.

If you want to get involved in bike politics in L.A. County, come to the LACBC’s Civic Engagement Committee meeting at 6:45 pm next Tuesday, January 29th at the Pitfire Pizza on Second and Main Downtown.


It just keeps on coming, as a 44-year old cyclist is seriously injured in a head-on collision in Capistrano Beach; he reportedly drifted onto the wrong side of PCH around 3 pm Wednesday.


In light of l’affaire Lance, the Times dug up this story from 1989 reporting that America’s only remaining Tour de France winner was pressured to dope by his former Dutch team. And speaking of Lance, it looks like no one really buys it; although he may — or may not — have kept one local promise.

Meanwhile, former UCI chief Hein Verbruggen confirms rumors that doping cyclists were tipped off by pro cycling’s governing body; the World Anti-Doping Agency says not so fast. Reports that pro cycling is now clean may have been just a tad premature, even if some claim it’s just an accident, while South Africa plans to retest the country’s 50 top riders.

It looks like the FBI is investigating Floyd Landis for possibly defrauding those who contributed to his defense fund. And two readers file suit against Lance because they didn’t realize his books were fiction.


Revitalizing Boulevards in Northeast L.A. Aaron Paley looks back at the birth of CicLAvia; which is hiring a new marketing manager and director of development. The Source looks at last weekend’s Tweed Ride; so does Flying Pigeon. Spreading the gospel of bikes at the King Day Parade. LADOT wants your bike photos. Here’s one we can all relate to, as Boyonabike gets harassed for riding legally. Temple City’s Rosemead Blvd gets a major makeover, even if some — or maybe just one — of the people who live on it don’t want bike lanes. CLR Effect sees the ghosts of unloved bikes. Long Beach’s Danny Gamboa brings ghost bikes to life. A cyclist is kneed to the ground by a tow truck driver after riding in the slow lane of the 405 in today’s rain.

Sign the petition — or rather, petitions — to maintain bike funding in the California budget. Coronado approves bike corrals, which are also going in across the bay in the North Park neighborhood where I used to live. Thousand Oaks will remake an intersection to improve safety for cyclists. Talk about instant karma, as a Santa Cruz driver hits a cyclist and flees before crashing into a divider and flipping his truck; the rider was hospitalized with serious injuries. A cyclist has filed suit after he was hit by a patrol car driven by an East Palo Alto police officer. Ninety days in jail for intentionally trying to run over a San Mateo bike rider; how much time do you think he would have gotten if he’d used a gun instead? A crime so nice they did it twice, as a couple is arrested for the second time for selling hot BMC bikes. It’s safer than ever to bike commute by the bay. Bike collisions spike in Chico; naturally, police blame the bike riders.

Here’s your chance to spend the summer on the road working for People for Bikes. Register now for a free webinar on strategies to move towards zero traffic deaths; I might sign up for that one myself. Despite the accusations they hurl at cyclists, drivers only pay for 51% of road costs; you and I pick up the rest. A reminder to make sure your bike lawyer really is a bike lawyer. Turns out the bikelash is a fiction of the media, at least in Seattle, where the overwhelming majority of residents support bikes despite what the local press says; the Atlantic Cities says it’s time to declare peace in the fictional war on cars. Boulder CO sets a record for their winter Bike to Work Day. Plans are in the works for bikeways to connect communities in northern Colorado; I rode everywhere on that map when I lived out that way. Ohio police seem to make up the law as they go along, declining to charge a driver who struck a cyclist because — wait for it — he wasn’t wearing a reflective vest; thanks to Rick Risemberg and Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland for the heads-up. So maybe riding a bike to the presidential inauguration wasn’t the best idea; thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the link. And in yet another city where I used to live, one  year after a cyclist was killed and another seriously injured, bike safety is still a concern in Baton Rouge LA; actually, it’s still a concern everywhere.

After a colleague is arrested for protesting the removal of a bike lane, Toronto physicians call for more bike lanes, more quickly. One writer says cyclists present the wrong image when they show up for mass protests in cycling attire, while another says if we focus on making the roads safe it won’t matter what we wear. The UK Parliament debates the future of bicycling, but questions remain whether the country’s leaders have the will to get it done; I can’t imagine Congress caring enough to even discuss the subject. As long as bike theft is ignored, Great Britain will never be a cycling nation; the same could be said on this side of the pond. How to rebuild your bike after someone backs into it. Chinese artist Ai WeiWei creates a tower of bicycles in Italy. Beijing pledges to get tough on blocked bike lanes; something every city should do — including this one.

Finally, most of us want to be seen when we ride; now there’s a bike for those who don’t, as well as a beer carrying bike designed for DUI drivers. This is what happens when a cyclist runs a red light in Shanghai; odd that no one mentions that the car that hit him ran the light, too. And Flying Pigeon demonstrates how to bunny hop a bakfiets

Breaking old news: Doored Santa Monica cyclist died over a week ago

Word broke early this morning that the cyclist who was doored in Santa Monica on June 8th has died of his injuries.

According to Santa Monica Patch, 40-year old Antonio Cortez of Los Angeles passed away on June 22nd, the same day Roger Lippman was killed in Huntington Brach.

Police continue to blame the victim for being drunk and not wearing a helmet, even though the latter is perfectly legal, if ill advised, and drunkenness cannot legally be considered the cause of a collision.

This is the 28th cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 8th in Los Angeles County. Cortez’ death also marks the 8th fatality in a horrible month of June.

Thanks to Evan for the heads-up. And no thanks to SaMo authorities for failing to keep the public informed on this case.

Are police in bike-friendly Santa Monica holding a dooring victim to a different standard?

Are cyclists being held to a different standard?

So it would seem in bike-friendly Santa Monica.

This past Friday, a cyclist was critically injured when he ran into a car door while riding south on 11th near Oak, just below Ocean Park Blvd.

The rider, identified only as a man in his 40s, reportedly flew over the door and landed directly on his head, suffering a life-threatening head injury.

It’s worth noting in this particular case that he wasn’t wearing a helmet, as the story points out; this is exactly the sort of slow speed collision bike helmets are design to protect against.

And then the officer goes on to immediately blame the victim, accusing the rider of being drunk at the time of the collision.  According to Santa Monica Patch, SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis said,

“Alcohol played a big role,” Lewis said. “We do not know that he is going to survive.”

He goes on to add,

“There will not be any criminal charges,” he said. “It appears to be an accident.”

Witnesses said that the rider had been swerving in and out of traffic lanes before he hit the car door, which had been left open for several seconds.

By reading the news stories, it certainly sounds like the riding was completely at fault; a drunk rider collided with a car door that he should have seen and been able to avoid.

And maybe it happened just that way.

Then again, maybe it didn’t.

While the police spokesperson suggests the rider was drunk and there’s a reference to a blood test being done at the hospital, there’s no report of just how high his blood alcohol level was. He may have had a couple of drinks, or he may have been plastered.

Then again, it may not really matter.

One thing I’ve learned dealing with the LAPD on other cases is that under California law, whether or not a driver is drunk is a secondary factor unrelated to the cause of a collision.

For instance, let’s say two cars collide at an intersection, and one of the drivers is drunk. If the drunk driver ran the red light, he caused the collision by running the light — not by being drunk. His drunkenness might be why he ran the light, but it’s not the cause of the collision under the law.

On the other hand, if it was the other driver who ran the light, the fact that his victim was drunk is entirely unrelated to the cause of the collision.

Yet in this case, police are suggesting that drunkenness was the cause.

Even though state law prohibits opening a driver’s-side car door if it interferes with traffic. And then, only as long as necessary to get in and out of the vehicle.

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

The Times story reports that the driver left the door open while she gathered her things, which would seem to be a clear — yet non-cited — violation of CVC 22517.

The driver should have gathered her things before opening the door, or she could have moved around to the other side of the car where the open door would not have interfered with traffic.

We’ve also learned from the CHP in the Carol Schreder case that witness reports of what a driver was doing in the moments leading up to a collision have little or no relevance to the actual collision.

In that case, numerous witnesses said they saw the driver operating his truck at a high speed and in a careless manner for several miles prior to hitting Schreder’s bike. Yet police didn’t even talk to those witnesses, as they said what occurred a few miles away had no bearing on what actually caused the collision or the charges the driver eventually faced.

I might argue that point. In fact, I have.

But if that’s the way the law is applied to drivers, that’s how it should be applied to cyclists.

So the fact that the victim had been drinking wasn’t the cause of the collision. Nor were the comments that he was weaving in and out of traffic prior to the collision.

The cause of the collision appears to be a car door that was left open in violation of the law, as well as a possible careless cyclist who may or may not have been able to see the door in time to stop safely.

There’s one other thing we should note.

On the Patch site, there’s an imbedded video showing the police investigation at the site of the collision. At the end of that, there is what seems to be a local resident blaming the narrow road and lack of a bike lane in the direction the victim was traveling.

It’s entirely possible that traffic on that narrow street caused the victim to ride in the door zone and could have prevented him from swerving out of the way when — and if — he saw the door blocking his path. It’s also possible that he may have tried to brake to avoid the door.

Bikes seldom leave the skid marks police use to determine if a vehicle tried to stop, which can lead them to erroneously conclude that a rider didn’t brake prior to a collision.

Which is just one more reason why every police traffic investigator should be trained in the unique physics and forensics of bicycle collisions.

This wreck could have occurred exactly as the police suggest. It’s entirely possible that the victim could responsible for his own injuries through his own drunken carelessness.

Or he could be the victim of a careless driver and bad road design.

We’ll probably never know.

But it certainly looks like the police may be going out of their way to blame the victim and let a dooring driver off the hook.

Thanks to Evan G for the heads-up. And say a few prayers for the victim; reading between the lines, his outlook doesn’t sound good.

A little this, a little that — NBC’s Tracy Morgan doors a cyclist, a killer Santa Cruz driver gets a sore wrist

A few quick notes before I hit the ground rolling on what promises to be a gorgeous day.


Comedian, please.

Tracy Morgan, star of NBC sitcom 30 Rock, clearly doesn’t get it after dooring a cyclist in New York yesterday.

After flinging open the door of his car in the path of a bike delivery man, Morgan blamed the rider for wearing black. And made it clear that the incident was no big deal.

And in all honesty, it probably wasn’t.

To him.

According to the New York Post, Morgan was quoted as saying “This kind of stuff happens all the time in the city. I grew up in the city. I’ve been dealing with this stuff for years. Brooklyn-born and -raised, Bed-Stuy do or die.”

Unfortunately, he’s right. Whether he’s talking about cyclists getting doored, or celebs who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Meanwhile, E Online seems far more concerned about the comedian’s health than the cyclist he sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

At least future Gotham bike riders will face less risk of dooring from the city’s cabs, as the next generation cab design approved by the city will have sliding doors to protect those around them.

Maybe we can get Tracy Morgan to trade his Jaguar for one.


While we’re on the subject of New York, local cyclists are tired of police blaming the victim and demand better protection and investigations from the NYPD. Meanwhile, a bike riding transit official clashes with a cop who tried to stop him from riding in a no-access area, and tries to pull rank by pretending to be a police commissioner.


Pennsylvania cyclists get protection from a new four-foot passing law as of the first of this month; at least one driver can’t grasp the concept that it’s okay to wait until it’s safe to pass.

That seemed to be the rationalization our own governor used in vetoing last year’s three-foot passing bill, assuming that drivers would mindlessly slam on their brakes to slow down to pass cyclists at less than three feet, rather that wait a few seconds to pass safely.

Now he may get another chance to be less of an idiot do the right thing, as a new three-foot passing bill heads to committee — this time without the driver-appeasing clause Gov. Brown objected to last year.


In a bizarre case from Edinburgh, a cyclist is slightly injured after jumping on the hood of a car during a roadway dispute, then holding on for dear life as the driver swerves from side-to-side and brakes repeatedly in an attempt to throw him off.

Note to cyclists — no matter how smart it may seem at the time, don’t climb onto the vehicle of the driver you’re arguing with.

Never mind getting killed. You could get strip searched.


A Santa Cruz-area driver gets a whopping two years in jail for running down a cyclist and fleeing the scene, leaving his victim to die on the side of the road.

Can someone please explain to me how that isn’t murder?

The collision may have been unintended, but the decision to let his victim bleed out in the street was purely intentional.

Instead, Elliot Dess gets a slap on the wrist, while an innocent bike rider got the death penalty.

If the laws we have now don’t give prosecutors the tools they need to address crimes like this, then we need to change the law so future heartless killers will get the punishment they deserve.

Two lousy years.

Give me a break.


San Diego cyclists are becoming a political force.

That’s something that should soon be happening here, as the LACBC is in the process of forming a political committee to help influence the election of bike-friendly civic leaders; more details soon.


California’s oldest bike racer has another two titles under his belt. In an impressive performance, 93-year old Gordy Shields of El Cajon — soon to be 94 — won the state championship for his age group in both the 20k time trial and the criterium.

Of course, he was the only competitor in his age group.

But still.


Finally, medical science at last discovers the discomfort many women riders have complained about for decades, and realizes that maybe it wasn’t all in their heads after all.

Meanwhile, Gothamist wonders if this, combined with reports of erectile dysfunction among some male riders, means cyclists will soon go extinct.

Uh, no.

Door-flinging driver causes near-quadruple collision; election year politics behind horrible House bill

The sheer stupidity of some drivers amazes me.

Or maybe it’s carelessness — in the most literal sense of the word.

I had a business event to attend on the Miracle Mile last night. And rather than go through the hassle of fighting rush hour traffic in my car, I decided to ride the relatively short five mile distance from my home. Dressed in semi-professional casual wear, I might add.

For the most part, it was a mostly pleasant and uneventful ride. Other than the driver who flipped me off when I yelled out a warning after he cut me off, of course.

But that’s almost to be expected in L.A. traffic. There’s always some jerk who has to take out his or her frustration on someone else. And since cyclists are exposed and vulnerable, and stand out from the overwhelming majority of traffic, we seem to make as good a target as any in the eyes of the angry and misguided few.

But it was just past the intersection of Charleville Blvd and South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills that things really got interesting.

Charleville is a great street to bypass the bumper-to-bumper madness of Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds. It’s lightly traveled, and most drivers seem willing to make room for bikes; the only downside is the stop signs on virtually every corner.

And the occasional idiot behind the wheel.

I had just waited at the light to cross Beverly along with a number of cars. Once it turned green, I allowed the first few cars to pass, then took my place in the lane as we entered a narrow section with a lot of parked cars.

Suddenly, the lead car screeched to a stop when the driver of a massive SUV flung her door open directly in its path. And the car behind it jammed on its brakes, avoiding the bumper of the car ahead by just inches.

So there I was, riding at traffic speed with two stopped cars directly ahead of me, another coming up from behind and a huge door blocking the path to my right.

There was no time to make a conscious decision.

Yet somehow, my mind worked out the complex mathematics of my few available possibilities, the same way a baseball player calculates exactly when and where to catch a ball without consciously thinking about it. Even when that catch seems impossible.

Given my speed, it wasn’t possible to stop before colliding with the back of the vehicle ahead of me. And even if I did, I would have been rear-ended by the car behind me — and probably sandwiched between the two cars.

So I instinctively cut hard to the right to take my chances with the open door. And came to a panic stop just inches away from it. Meanwhile, the car behind me stopped just short of the one ahead — right where I would have been if I hadn’t swerved.

And that’s when I heard it.

I don’t know what the driver of the lead car said. But the attractive young women who’d caused the whole problem responded by calling him a “crazy person.”

I just couldn’t help myself.

Since I was stopped right next to her, I suggested, as calmly and politely as possible, that the crazy person just might be the one who threw open her door and left it open in heavy traffic, nearly causing a quadruple chain reaction collision.

“What,” she responded, “I’m not allowed to get out of my car?”

“Not if it causes a wreck.”

So I did my best to explain the concept and consequences of dooring, and how drivers are legally required to verify that the road is free of traffic and that it’s safe to open the door before doing so. And then only for as long as necessary to get in and out.

In other words, not leaving it open to adjust her skirt and fix her hair before leaning back in to grab her purse while traffic around her screeches to a halt.

But I might as well have been talking to the SUV she just got out of, which seemed to be at least as comprehending as she was.

“Whatever,” she said, storming off with her panties in a twist.

So at least three drivers and a cyclist were put in jeopardy simply because she couldn’t wait until it was safe to get out of her car. But that, in her mind, wasn’t her problem.

Because she, like, had a right to get out of her car, okay?


Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have declared war on anyone who uses anything but motor vehicles to get just about anywhere. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood calls the new highway-focused House Transportation Bill the worst ever; he’s a Republican, by the way.

While cycling and pedestrian organizations are up in arms — and rightfully so — about this unprovoked attack on average Americans, it’s worth noting that this bill has no chance of becoming law with a Democratic majority in Senate. And the sponsors know it.

Instead, it’s just election year politics, as the L.A. Times notes. A paean to their Tea Party supporters, as well as big donors in the oil industry; a political shot over the bow that was never expected or intended to become law.

And unfortunately, one that leaves a much better bi-partisan Senate bill similarly dead in the water.

But it’s fair warning what could happen if the more radical elements of the party win control of both houses this November.

Let alone the White House.

It’s not about party affiliation.

It’s about electing candidates who understand what they’re voting on and the effect it will have on their own constituents, rather than paying off big donors and political pressure groups.

John Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage nearly 60 years ago.

Something tells me today’s Washington would make him weep.


Don’t miss Wednesday’s BikeUP! LA benefit for the California Bicycle Coalition next Wednesday at the Living Room in Silver Lake. CicLAvia is hosting a fundraising Valentines Party at Atwater Crossing next Friday. Better Bike recounts the uphill battle to get bikeways on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills. Downtown’s Spring Street green bike lane will soon get a partner one block over on Main Street; hopefully, this one will last a little longer. Leading Eastside bike advocate Carlos Morales asks where the outreach was for the 1st Street bike lanes. Hit a celeb, lose your license — Reese Witherspoon now wears bangs, courtesy of the driver who ran her down; thanks to Todd Munson for the heads-up. A Monrovia gang member is convicted in the 2008 attempted murder of a cyclist. Glendale’s Honolulu Avenue is about to go on a diet. Claremont Cyclist encounters the Trickster; and no, not our frequent correspondent from New Zealand. A writer urges us to stop saying good things about vehicular cycling. Better bike security through technology.

AB 819, the proposed law to modernize bikeway standards — and which was gutted at the urging of CABO — has passed the state Assembly; maybe the Senate will have more sense. Just Another Cyclist, one of my favorite bike bloggers, is moving to a new online address. Santa Ana residents seem to have missed the memo that bike paths increase property values. Temecula elementary students take the bike train to class. A La Jolla cyclist is injured after blowing through a flashing red light; for anyone unclear on the concept, a flashing red should be treated like a stop sign — and no, that does not mean you should run it. A plea has been reached in the case of the San Francisco cyclist who ran a red and killed a pedestrian; however, the ruling has been delayed so the rider and the victim’s husband can face one another in court. An SF rider is seriously injured when she’s hit by a mail truck. If you’re an ex-con carrying a concealed weapon, maybe you shouldn’t ride against the flow of traffic; I’m just saying.

A Las Vegas BMX rider is killed in a SWSS; further details reveal he was riding salmon and in a crosswalk, which is prohibited there. Guess what happens when Helena MT uses crushed glass to improve traction on icy streets. A Missoula man is charged in a drunken hit and run, first claiming he hit a rock before blaming his victim for riding without lights. An Iowa court rules a police search of a bicyclist violated his rights. A Houston driver may have intentionally attacked a bike rider. Cyclists in Texas — and everywhere else — want cleaner bike lanes. Three riders are hit in two days in one Louisiana parish. Grid Chicago offers a detailed record charting the many failed promises for the city’s long-promised bike plan — something every city could use to hold our elected leaders to account; thanks to Cyclelicious for the link. An anonymous landlord in New York’s Crown Heights neighborhood urges his peers not to rent to immodestly clad bike riding goyim, or maybe even hipster Hasids. The NYPD evidently falsified reports to protect a killer driver. A rider in the most dangerous state for cyclists and pedestrians in killed when he’s hit and run over by three cars.

London’s Guardian joins the Times of London in calling for safer streets for cyclists, saying the city’s biking mayor BoJo is wrong — and has the stats to back it up — while yet another fatality demonstrates the need for better safety. A writer for the Manchester Evening News makes his bid as Great Britain’s anti-bike village idiot with a bizarre rant, while a Telegraph scribe evidently believes we deserve to die because we’re already smug enough; if he’s looking for unbearable people, I’d suggest starting with the mirror. The Guardian asks who is the American heir to Lance? A former pop star turned vicar evangelizes for biking. A New Zealand writer calls for the equivalent of a six-foot passing law for drivers — and for cyclists passing parked cars. Cycling seems to be an uphill battle in Singapore.

Finally, the schmuck hot-tempered driver/former cyclist who attacked Long Beach expat and The Path Less Peddled’ Russ Roca pleads guilty to the assault; sentencing will take place next Month. We’re rapidly approaching the 150th anniversary of the first header. And PETA opposes a bid to make Dorothy’s bike basket-riding Cairn Terrier the state dog.

If California needs a state dog, I nominate Snoop.

Update: San Diego cyclist dies two days after dooring

This is not the way we wanted to end the week.

Early Friday morning, a San Diego cyclist died of injuries he received after getting doored Wednesday evening.

The incident occurred around 7 pm Wednesday when 30-year old Justin Newman of San Diego was riding west on University Avenue near Kansas Street.

According to the Union-Tribune’s Sign On San Diego website, as he passed a 2008 Dodge sedan parked on the side of the street, the driver opened the door into his path. He hit it and fell into the street, suffering a major closed head injury.

He was pronounced dead at 1:30 am at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego.

For a change, none of the stories I’ve seen indicate whether Newman was wearing helmet, even though this is exactly the sort of relatively slow-speed impact that helmets are designed to protect against.

And despite common perceptions that often blame the cyclist for running into a door, it is almost always the motorist’s fault when a cyclist is doored.

Under section 22517 of the California Vehicle Code, drivers are responsible for ensuring that the street next to them is clear before opening a door. And it’s been that way for nearly 50 years.

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

The driver should face criminal charges for Newman’s death under that statute, since there is virtually no way to door a rider without violating it. So it will be interesting to see if San Diego authorities, who aren’t always perceived as being supportive of cyclists, do the right thing.

Or if they say it was just another accident. And let yet another killer careless driver off the hook.

Newman was the 2nd San Diego area cyclist fatally injured in two days this week, and the 12th confirmed traffic-related bike fatality in San Diego County this year. He was also the 55th cycling fatality in Southern California since the start of the year, matching the annual total for the last two years on record.

Update: Chuck Lowery forwarded an earlier story from the Sign On San Diego site indicating that Newman wasn’t wearing a helmet when he was doored.

And that brings up a common misconception.

Bike helmets are designed to offer full head protection at impact speeds of up to 12.5 mph, and partial protection up to 20 mph. It’s highly unlikely that Newman’s head hit the pavement at a speed higher than that in a simple dooring; had he been wearing one, there’s a good possibility that he might have survived.

Where helmets offer little or no protection are the kind of high speed collisions most people wear them for. If you’re hit by a car or truck traveling at speed, a helmet may offer some protection, but it’s not a magic talisman that will miraculously protect you from injury.

Personally, I use something else for that.

And a helmet will do absolutely nothing to protect against injury to other parts of the body.

So by all means, wear your helmet; I never ride without mine. But know their limitations. Because the best way to survive a dooring, or any other collision, is to avoid having one.

My deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Justin Newman.

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