Tag Archive for drunk driving

Santa Clarita to honor fallen cyclist with silent ride

novotny-2Every cycling death is tragic. And unnecessary.

And this year, there have been far too many around here.

Whether it’s a father taking his son on a grand adventure. A local handyman who took up riding after losing part of his vision in an accident. A day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who rode everywhere. A woman police blame for causing her own death by riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. Or a man in Orange County just trying to get home from work.

And then there’s Joseph Novotny.

Like Rod Armas and Jesus Castillo, he was killed by an accused drunk driver who fled the scene — a driver who had already been arrested multiple times, despite being too young to legally drink.

And it was preventable.

His killer was driving with a suspended license, and passing motorists had already reported him to the authorities. But despite their best efforts, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments after he’d plowed his truck into a group of oncoming cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder of the road, and continued down the road.

Four cyclists were injured, two seriously. And Novotny was killed.

It could have been anyone of us.

Adding to the tragedy, he was on one of his first rides with the Santa Clarita Velo Club, having just moved to the area with his wife. Now she, and all those who knew and loved him, have to find a way to go on without him.

Next Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Velo Club are sponsoring a Memorial Ride of Silence in memory of Robert Novotny, and other cyclists who have been killed on the roads.

I’ll let Jeff Wilson explain:

Los Angeles cyclists and Biking in LA readers, we could use your help!

On July 11, 2009, 43 year old cyclist Joseph Novotny was struck and killed by an underaged drunk driver while riding his bike in the Bouquet Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

On October 3, Santa Clarita cyclists will ride silently in memory of Joe Novotny and all other cyclists who have been killed while riding. Please consider joining us to raise awareness of bicyclists and our right to use roads.

The 12 mile ride begins at 8am in Santa Clarita. A Sheriff’s escort will be provided as we ride into Newhall, then Stevenson Ranch, and finally back to Valencia. Most of the route is flat; other parts are somewhat hilly (but brief). Cyclists are asked to ride in silence and at around 12mph.

From Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is just minutes north of the San Fernando Valley. Take Interstate 5 north and exit at Valencia Blvd. Proceed east on Valencia until you reach Citrus Avenue. Turn left on Citrus Avenue. Free parking is available.

Unfortunately, while Metrolink service is available to Santa Clarita, the earliest northbound train will arrive after the ride has started.

I know it’s short notice, and you may have other commitments already. But if you’re planning to ride next weekend, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

Or a better reason.

And please, be careful out there this weekend. I want to see you all back here on Monday.

For more information, contact IreneTJohnson@yahoo.com, or click here to visit the Facebook page.

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Submitted for your approval: LADOT has finally released the full draft bicycle plan and scheduled dates and locations for public comment; Bike Girl calls the deadline for comments “infeasible,” while Dr. Alex notes that it excludes input from Neighborhood Councils. Pasadena has a meeting scheduled to discuss its new Bicycle Master Plan. Mark your calendar for the Festival of Rights to protest the illegal exclusion of bikes from the DWP’s annual Holiday Light Festival. We could have had bike lanes on Topanga Boulevard by now, no thanks to the Department of Currently Unfeasible, aka LADOT. L.A.’s leading bike wonk makes the case for making the case for active transportation. The only thing missing from Santa Monica’s new green maintenance facility is bike racks. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a report from the road. An Arizona cyclist was killed riding with a group of other cyclists; he leaves behind a wife and three children, including a newborn. Evidently, cars really do make Americans fat. Proof there’s more than one way to park a bike. I don’t know what’s worse — that they put up speed bumps in a cemetery without warning cyclists, or that a few rude cyclists made it necessary. San Francisco police take a report of harassing a cyclist seriously. Finally, your word for the day is Traumadinejad.

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An alleged killer to be arraigned; peak hour lanes to be debated again in Northridge

A couple of quick notes.

A reader named Danny sends word that Robert Sam Sanchez, the driver arrested in connection with the hit-and-run death of cyclist Rod Armas, will be arraigned this Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

As you may recall, Rod and his 14-year old son Christian were nearing the finish of the L.A. Wheelmen’s Grand Tour Double Century when they were struck by an alleged drunk driver on PCH near Malibu early in the morning of Sunday, June 28; Rod was killed and Christian was seriously injured. The driver ditched his truck about a mile away and was arrested by sheriff’s deputies a short time later.

According to Danny, the arraignment will take place in Dept. 1 of the Malibu Courthouse this Thursday, August 20, at 8:30 am. He says he plans to be there and will fill us in on any details. If anyone else plans to attend, feel free to forward observations you may have (you can find my email on the About BikingInLA page.

My prayers go out to the entire Armas family; if anyone can provide an update on Christian’s condition, let me know. And you can still make a donation to the Armas family online through the Talbert Family Foundation.

On another note, on the heels of last week’s successful turnout at the Northridge West Neighborhood Council meeting to fight the “rumored” peak hour lane proposal, BAC Chairperson Glenn Bailey sends word that the subject will be taken up by their Northridge East counterparts on Wednesday:

Fellow bicyclists and other interested persons:

This morning I received the attached agenda for the Northridge EAST Neighborhood Council meeting for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 19 which includes Item 7d:

7. Old Business

d. Proposed Peak Hour Lane Reseda Boulevard

[Possible Action]

The meeting will be held at CSUN’s University Club located northwest of Nordhoff and Zelzah, enter from Dearborn St.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments are usually served.  (NOTE:  When I called the University Club (818-677-2076) inquiring about bicycle parking I was told to “Tie it to a tree.”  <sigh>  I requested that they get a bicycle rack by tomorrow night’s meeting.)

FYI, I made a presentation at the Northridge East NC’s July meeting as to the information I had obtained as of then and I was well received.  This morning I emailed the NENC board recommending that they vote to OPPOSE the Reseda Boulevard peak hour lanes and SUPPORT the installation of the long planned bicycle lanes between Nordhoff and Rinaldi streets.  (The bicycle lanes would assure that no peak hour lanes would be installed in the future, or at least that it would be a much more difficult process.)

I am hoping you might be able to attend this meeting and inform others.  As you can see, this time there is no motion listed on the agenda so it could go either way.

I will not personally be able to attend this meeting as I have a previous commitment out of town.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email and/or telephone me,

Thank you for your interest and assistance.

Cordially,

Glenn Bailey, Chairperson

Bicycle Advisory Committee

City of Los Angeles

If you live or ride in the area, I urge you attend the meeting if you can. LADOT may claim they don’t have any current plans for peak hour lanes on Reseda, but that could change as soon as we turn our backs. Let’s keep up the fight until we get those long-promised bike lanes painted on the street. (And thanks to Joe Linton for providing a link to the NENC agenda).

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Evidently, Stephen Colbert reads Streetsblog LA, at least when it’s about him. Mikey Wally announces a party at Orange 20 to celebrate his return, along with two other SoCal cyclists, from a NY to LA cross-country ride.  C.I.C.L.E. and the Santa Monica Museum of Art join together for an art ride this weekend, promising a slow pace and observance of all traffic laws. The Springfield Cyclist can now legally run red lights. A Colorado jerk motorist says bikes have as much right on the road as sheep, but at least sheep have enough sense to get out of the way. Athletes from the University of Colorado come to the aid of a fallen cyclist. Tucson unveils the Bike Church, a memorial to fallen cyclists made entirely of bike parts. Graphic evidence that cycling casualties go down as ridership goes up. A Toronto cyclist returns to find her bike ticketed for excessive awesomeness. Ireland agrees to pay for bike parking facilities; one of their top amateur cyclists is killed in a single vehicle car crash. Finally, in what may be the most vile incident in recent memory, a cyclist in Texas is killed by a hit-and-run driver who pulls the victim inside his back seat and drives home, leaving him in the car to die.

Just how many drunk driving deaths are one too many?

This last Saturday, Joseph Novotny of Stevenson Ranch became the latest local cyclist killed in a hit-and-run drunk driving incident. (Note that I refuse to call them “accidents.”)

It should never have happened.

According to the local Santa Clarita paper, the driver of the pickup had been reported to the police just minutes earlier after nearly sideswiping another car. After calling 911, the other driver followed him as he drifted across lanes, onto the sidewalk and the median, and into a fence.

He continued talking with the dispatcher as he followed the truck up Bouquet Canyon Road, then watched in horror as it crossed onto the other side and hit five cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder head on.

Unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments too late.

That wasn’t the first opportunity anyone had to stop him, though. That came in 2007, when the then 18-year old driver was first convicted of driving under the influence. Or they could have stopped him last year, after he knocked down a utility pole in another drunk driving incident.

They also might have gotten him off the streets for any of his multiple arrests for illegal drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing police officers.

Instead, this past Saturday he was allegedly driving drunk, with a suspended license — despite the early hour and being under-age. Now two cyclists face a long recovery from serious injuries, and another is dead, leaving behind a wife and devastated friends.

According to one of those friends, despite being a relatively new member of the Santa Clarita Velo Club — Novotny and his wife moved to the Santa Clarita area just last March after living in Minnesota and Belgium — Novotny was an experience rider and a great hill climber. In fact, he sold Novotny his first road bike over 20 years ago and they frequently rode together. Novotny had even been the best man at his wedding.

Now he’s dead because the authorities couldn’t — or simply didn’t — keep a repeat offender off the roads. And the driver is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges that may include murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run causing death.

Since the driver was underage, it’s also possible that whoever supplied him with the alcohol and/or drugs, or sold it to him in violation of the law, could face charges if the authorities choose to pursue it.

Yet even if this young man spends the rest of his life in jail — which is a distinct possibility — it does nothing to stop the larger problem of intoxicated and/or hit-and-run drivers.

At least three L.A.–area cyclists have been killed in hit-and-run incidents by accused drunk drivers this year alone — Novotny, Jesus Castillo and Rod Armas. Add to that Patrick Shannon, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Orange County recently, as well as countless others who’ve survived their injuries, including local cycling leader Roadblock.

Then there are all the pedestrians and vehicle passengers who’ve been killed or injured in hit-and-run and/or drunk driving incidents this year alone, including Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in 2007 alone, an estimated 12,998 people were killed in alcohol-related motor-vehicle collisions — and an estimated 50% – 75% of drivers whose licenses get suspended will continue to drive anyway.

Newly elected councilmember Paul Koretz addressed this problem on here recently, as did his opponent David Vahedi. MADD proposes a campaign along the lines of what Vahedi suggested, including increased police enforcement as well as interlock systems that can prevent drunk drivers from starting their cars if they’ve been drinking.

Personally, I think the solution is a strict two-strike and you’re out policy.

On the first offense, the driver’s license is permanently revoked; after a period of one to two years, he or she can appear before a judge and request permission to apply for a license — but only if they’ve successfully completed a counseling program and agree to place an interlock system on any vehicle to which they have access.

Meanwhile, any vehicles registered in the driver’s name will be impounded until the license is restored, or sold to compensate any victims. And no one, anywhere, for any reason, should ever get another chance after a second violation.

Anyone caught driving after their license has been revoked should face mandatory jail time, with no possibility of early release. And any person convicted of leaving the scene of an accident should lose all driving privileges permanently, forever. Even for the first offense.

Harsh? Maybe.

But nowhere near as harsh as what Novotny’s family and friends now face.

Full disclosure — My 16-year old cousin was killed by a drunk driver when she was thrown from a car driven by her own father, who then ran over her and drove home without ever noticing she was missing. Also, one of my childhood friends was killed just before our senior year of high school when a drunk driver jumped a 20-foot wide median strip on an Interstate highway and hit his car head-on at over 70 mph. She walked away without a scratch; he and his passenger were killed instantly.

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The Wheelmen list all the finishers for this years Grand Tour, but there’s no mention of the two who didn’t make it, Rod Armas and his son. Am I the only one who thinks that’s shameful? Stephen Box examines the bikes on Metro controversy, while the Bus Bench takes the other side, and complains about those oppressed cyclists. Newport Beach beats L.A. to the punch on bicycle sharing. The cycling lawyer offers good advice for when tempers flare, while the other cycling lawyer notes that not one driver has been cited for violating Arizona’s three-foot passing law in Tucson this year. Two Milwaukee bike cops are struck in separate incidents. Evidently, it’s still illegal to park a bike on the sidewalk in Jacksonville. No bikes involved — thank God — but see how fast an accident can happen. Just Williams finally gets the instructions on how to fold his Ikea folding bike. Finally, a Berlin brothel offers a discount to anyone who arrives by bike.

How to play in the street — Part 3: when not to ride

One more quick thought before we call it a day. Or a week.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the infamous Mandeville Canyon brake check, in which the good doctor sent two cyclists to the emergency room — a crime for which the accused has yet to be tried.

And it marks a full week after the L.A. Wheelman’s Grand Tour, in which Rod and Christian Armas were struck by an allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run driver, resulting in the death of the father and severe injuries to the 14-year old son.

Holidays offer a great opportunity to ride, but the risk on the roads remains, and often increases as more people hit the streets. Other people are likely to be focused on things besides the road and who they’re sharing it with — and just as likely to be frustrated by the traffic and crowds, and ready to take it out on the first innocent person who gets in their way.

Which could very well be you.

Add alcohol to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

My rule of thumb is to ride early in the day on holidays, especially ones that traditionally involve drinking — Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day. And yes, the 4th of July.

Get out, ride, enjoy yourself. Just get back home before the crowds and traffic get out of control, and the people who’ve spent the day drinking decide to get behind the wheel.

And while riding a bike is a great way to glide past the inevitable traffic jams before and after the fireworks, be extra careful as you make your way through the streets tomorrow night. Wear bright clothing. Use every light, flasher and reflector you can find. And watch out for drivers who may not be watching out for you.

Because it only takes one mistake to ruin the celebration.

And I need all the readers I’ve got.

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Brayj takes the mayor to task for not putting his environmental money where his mouth is. Bob Mionske questions what good is a bicycle safety law if the police won’t enforce it. UCI releases confusing new equipment rules for the racing community. Evidently, the Twilight heartthrob knows his way around a bike, at least when it comes to walking it. San Francisco offers the 2009 bicycle plan — one that actually works, unlike some cities we could name. Idaho adds an entire section on cycling to the new driver’s education manual, while Boise creates a bike safety response team in reaction to a recent rash of deaths. A Colorado letter writer argues that bikes should pay a registration fee or be banned from narrow roadways. Finally, this year’s Le Tour kicks off Saturday, and for once, Lance isn’t a favorite.

Evidently, another drunk driver and dead cyclist just isn’t a big deal

Last Thursday, my wife had the day off, so we decided to run a few errands in Westwood that afternoon. As soon as we stepped out of her car, we noticed the helicopters overhead.

For the uninitiated, there is a code to interpreting helicopters in L.A. One, flying low and circling, is probably a police helicopter responding to a crime report or looking for a suspect. Two or more, flying high and stationary, means news copters covering a story; the more helicopters, the bigger the story.

And one low circling helicopter combined with two or more stationary helicopters mean you probably shouldn’t go outside for awhile.

Clearly, though, something important was happening — confirmed by the presence of over a dozen news vans and satellite trucks parked near the new UCLA hospital. It was only later that we discovered that Michael Jackson had died less than a block from where we were parked, at almost the same moment we arrived.

By the time we got home, a full blown media frenzy had broken, unleashing a tsunami of all things Jackson.

It’s not that the coverage was undeserved. He had been, and clearly still was, a beloved figure, at one time the most important performer of his era. And he died on the cusp of a comeback that could returned him to prominence for his music, rather than the flurry of tabloid reports of recent years.

Yet that tidal wave of coverage swept aside all other news in its path. Including the death of a cyclist early Sunday morning, as well as his critically injured son who was taken to the same hospital where Jackson died.

I heard about the death early in the day on Sunday, but wasn’t able to learn much more than the minimal details included in that report. Finally, today I was able to learn a little more, thanks to the Ventura County Star.

An L.A. County probation officer named Rod Armas, a resident of Kern County, was the cyclist killed; his 14-year old son suffered numerous broken bones but is expected to survive. In addition to his son, he leaves behind a wife and two daughters; my heart and prayers go out to them.

They were struck while on the final leg of a double century sponsored by the Los Angeles Wheelmen. And the human waste of space allegedly responsible is being held on $100,000 bail.

I’m sure we’ll learn more soon as word spreads and the local blogosphere fills in the gaps, and those who knew him begin to address their loss.

But it’s shameful that the local media couldn’t interrupt their breathless coverage of the most minute and mundane details of Michael Jackson’s life and death to make a few phone calls to fill in the blanks in the AP report. Or mention Armas’ tragic death at all.

Then again, it was just another dead cyclist.

And another drunk hit-and-run driver.

………

Alex metaphorically beats his chest after dropping another rider. Will pays his dues for rolling through a stop sign, and gets a mention in New York Magazine for his touching story of meeting Farah Fawcett. GT in LA falls out of love with his bike. Streetsblog wants to know where LADOT should do more workshops on the bike plan. Ensie offers photographic proof of new much needed bike lockers on the Orange Line. A writer with the Downtown News explores L.A.’s reviving downtown by bike, and should have a new stretch of the L.A. River Bike Path to enjoy soon. And finally, the Atlantic day dreams about bike-only roads, while Russ Roca covers the unofficial and official unveilings of the new Long Beach sharrows, though not everyone shares the love; maybe they could tell LADOT what kind of paint they used.

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