Tag Archive for Mission Viejo

Guilty verdict in Scarpa DUI murder trial, bicycle parts in short supply due to bike boom, and a look back at LA bike history

That didn’t take long.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, 27-year old Mission Viejo resident Stephen Taylor Scarpa was convicted of murder for running down Costa Mesa fire captain Mike Kreza in 2018, as Kreza rode his bike on Alicia Parkway while training for a triathlon.

Or rather, on the sidewalk next to the parkway, which still didn’t keep him safe from Scarpa as he drove with a veritable cornucopia of drugs in his system after three days of partying.

According to the Orange County Register, Scarpa got at least some of his drugs from the same pill-prescribing Dr. Feelgood who allegedly supplied the gunman responsible for killing 13 people in the Borderline Bar massacre.

Which puts at least 14 deaths at the good doctor’s bloody feet.

The DA confirmed that Scarpa had participated in a drunk driving prevention program, which justified the murder charge.

Scarpa faces 15 years to life behind bars when he’s sentenced on December 10th, after jurors spent just four hours deliberating before reaching a verdict.

Which is just enough time to select a foreman, go over the judge’s instructions, and take a vote.

This is what our anonymous courtroom correspondent had to say.

Closing arguments for the Scarpa case were heard this morning. Alas, I am graveyard tonight, so I only got the morning events.

I haven’t written up the closing arguments because I’m a zombie, but they involved the Defense displaying an optical illusion, and the People reiterating every bit of evidence presented. Both sides defined legal terms and invoked the importance of impartiality and justice.

I don’t expect a lengthy deliberation.

I report with cringe that I previously misidentified the Deputy DA as Michael Feldman. I dunno how, it’s Dan Feldman in all my notes.

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Further testimony provided last week by OCSD investigators revealed a number of pill vials found at Scarpa’s home and in the minivan searched after the collision. Each prescription was in Scarpa’s name. The gabapentin prescription was ostensibly to control seizures after Scarpa had sustained a TBI. (Consider: a man prone to seizures due to physical brain trauma, and under the influence of gaba, who believes he is ever okay to drive.)

The Defense asked the traffic investigator on the witness stand to confirm that a motorist traveling on Alicia Parkway at or near the posted speed limit would need only a fraction of a second to veer off course and traverse the lateral distance covered by Mr. Scarpa’s Windstar, and that this could occur if the driver merely fell asleep. He went on to bring up Scarpa’s previous collision, in which he had “blacked out” and smashed a parked car or two, and for which he was never charged.

The Defense attempted to have the traffic investigator admit that Scarpa had no priors. The People’s objection was sustained. The Defense then asked vaguely about Scarpa’s driving record, and after another objection, the parties briefly retreated to chambers. Upon returning, the Defense had the investigator confirm Scarpa’s lack of prior DUI arrests. For his part, Mr. Scarpa looked hopeful that “never havin’ been caught before” reflected well on him.

The People asked about the violation of CVC 21107 (an “unsafe turning movement”), to which the Defense objected. The DA changed tack, asking instead whether the cause of the collision was the Defendant’s use of drugs prior to driving. The Defense objected, citing a demand for speculation on the deputy’s part, and the Judge sustained. The seething DA’s frustration was evident, and finally both the People and the Defense again headed to chambers with His Honor. Upon returning, the People reworded the question, and the witness answered in the affirmative: yes, intoxication was absolutely a possible direct cause.

The People immediately confirmed with the traffic investigator that Scarpa had been at fault in his prior collision, and although he had not been criminally charged, the DMV chose to revoke his privilege to drive. In fact, the DMV paperwork had been discovered in a search of Scarpa’s home, along with vials of assorted prescription pills.

The maximum lawful speed at the site of the collision is 50mph. Cyclists are protected from errant two-ton machines by a 2 millimeter high wall of thermoplastic, or, if they feel this is not enough, also by an 8-inch high concrete curb. Mr. Kreza had been riding on the sidewalk prior to his untimely landing in the number three lane of Alicia Parkway. He had not been wearing a helmet, and his dad cap was found among the embankment’s shrubs.

People’s Exhibit #33 was the toxicological exam performed on blood drawn from Mr. Scarpa four hours after the collision. The OC Crime Lab pathologist, whose thesis had been on the subject of gabapentin, expounded as questioned on the use and abuse of each drug found in Scarpa’s system, and on the effects and side effects of each. The People specifically asked whether gabapentin was useful to prevent blackouts. In fact, it is not.

The People brought Mr. Scarpa’s former colleague to the stand, an HR employee of Beachside Recovery, an addiction treatment facility where Scarpa had been employed as a Behavioral Health Technician. As part of her duties in human resources at the facility, she was responsible for “onboarding” Mr. Scarpa, including training and situating him as a new hire. To this end, she made it clear that the workplace had a zero tolerance policy for drug use and required random drug testing. People’s Exhibit was Beachside Recovery’s job description document, which stresses the importance of sobriety in carrying out the duties required of BHT’s (including driving), and which Scarpa signed. After several months of employment, Scarpa resigned suddenly, stating that he had relapsed.

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In 2011, Scarpa’s high school held an “Every 15 Minutes” event. As part of the event, a “memorial” video is created. A video montage shows DUI crash “victims” in happier times. A young lady sprints down the track straight towards the camera. As the image freezes, her name and date of death caption her smiling face. Another pretty girl dances with her friends. Her eyes lock on the camera. Her gentle smile twinkles, frozen in time as her name and death date appear on screen. A healthy young man swims powerfully toward the camera. He splashes up poolside, elbows resting on the concrete, beaming broadly. As his name pops up, jurors’ eyes whip over towards the defendant.

The video captures the aftermath of a simulated DUI collision, set up at the campus. Participating are local law enforcement and fire agencies. Scenes show the Jaws of Life in action. Shocked, gawking students. A moulaged young Stephen Scarpa. A “dead” victim immediately tarped over. Empty beer cans in the car. The teenage suspect breathalyzed and handcuffed. The ride in the back of a police cruiser. The tearful call from the jail phone. The tiny holding cell. The ambulance transport of an unresponsive young patient. Blood. Futile chest compressions. The sobbing mom in the ER.

The video is poignant and there was sniffling in the courtroom.

Throughout the school day, an actor dressed as the Grim Reaper comes into classrooms to collect the dead. The crash victim’s obituary is read aloud. (People’s Exhibit #37 is the obit written by Stephen’s mom.) That student is removed from school for the rest of the day, and a black shroud is placed over his or her desk.

The “dead” don’t return home that night. They’re taken for an overnight field trip to a local hotel, where speakers inform them of the statistics, dangers, and consequences of impaired driving. The kids retreat to their rooms, where they write a “Dear Mom/Dad, Today I Died” letter to their parents. Back at home, the parents are also writing to their “dead” child. The next day, the students gather for an assembly. The dead and their parents share the stage with a casket, and read their letters in front of the entire student body.

The video wasn’t shown in its entirety in the courtroom. As played at the school assembly, it concludes with the conviction of the teenage perpetrator. In questioning Esperanza High’s activities director on the witness stand, the Defense inexplicably pointed out that this fictional defendant had received (don’t be shocked) eight months for her felony DUI and felony manslaughter charges. The People, who had chosen to play the video in its truncated form, then inexplicably objected. His Honor overruled, and the Defense went on to ask the witness to confirm that the fictional killer had not been charged with murder.

After both sides rested their cases, the Defense requested a dismissal. His Honor did not hesitate to reject this motion.

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Today’s common theme — the effect pandemic bike boom is having on the global supply chain.

Despite an ongoing worldwide shortage of bike parts, at least some ebike prices are starting to come down. Others are boosting prices while improving quality, like this Chinese ebike foldie.

Meanwhile, Cycling Tips offers advice on how to keep your bike running, despite the parts shortage.

And Britain’s biggest bike retailer says the shortages in the global supply chain are dragging on its bicycling business.

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Evidently, dooring is nothing new.

And neither is decorating your bike for a parade.

Never mind that one of those guys with the flower-draped bikes could be your great — or maybe great, great — grandfather.

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This is who we share the road with, as police look for yet another, particularly heartless, coward.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

New York’s Department of Transportation chief won’t commit to whether people can legally lock their bikes to street signs, even after the police confiscated a number of bicycles they claimed were locked to signs illegally. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the city’s mayor declared an end to car culture;  we’ve already seen how that worked out in Los Angeles.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

Leading GOP California recall candidate and conservative talk show host Larry Elder was hustled into an SUV after a failed egging from a bike-riding, gorilla-masked woman, who needs to work on her aim.

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Local

The Long Beach Marathon says it’s quickly selling out; the race is preceded by a 20-mile bike ride along the marathon course.

Billions actress Malin Akerman is one of us, as she went for a ride through the streets of LA on a massive fat tire ebike with her son on the back.

 

State

Cypress police will conduct a bicycle and pedestrian safety operation this Saturday — but during the day, not at night, regardless of what the headline says. Ride to the letter of the law until you cross the city limits, so you’re not the one who gets ticketed. And remember the law allowing bike riders to roll stops may have passed the legislature, but it’s still not legal until the governor signs it. 

Traffic deaths went up in San Francisco despite the pandemic-light traffic, just as they did in Los Angeles.

General Motors credits bike-riding employees with working to ensure the company’s autonomous cars are programed to be aware of people on bicycles as they test them on the streets of San Francisco. If they’ve cracked the code for recognizing bike riders, let’s hope they share it with the other self-driving car makers who’ve struggled with exactly that.

 

National

Pink Bike once again takes a very tongue-in-cheek look at things that could have happened in the bike world last month, but probably didn’t. Unless they did.

A Colorado website offers four routes to experience the state’s spectacular fall colors, whether you’re on a roadie, ebike, gravel bike or mountain bike. Speaking of which, an Aspen writer calls for opening up the area’s singletrack trails to ebikes “before we’re all too old” to ride them.

The former owners of the now-defunct American bike brand Ross Bicycles pled guilty to hoarding PPE in Oklahoma last year, agreeing to pay a $1 million fine for buying over $1.2 million surgical masks from China, then reselling them to the state at a 900% markup; meanwhile, the Ross family reclaimed their original trademark for the bike brand after the federal trademark office ruled it had been abandoned.

A cruiser bikemaker came to the rescue of stranded students in Rochester NY, donating around 150 bicycles, helmets and locks to students and parents at three schools affected by a shortage of school bus drivers.

Brooklyn bike riders — and their dogs — get an early jump on the official opening of new bike lanes on the iconic Brooklyn, with one pronouncing it “stinky,” while his dog gave it three and a half paws. Out of four, presumably.

New Yorkers scrambled for alternate forms of transportation after the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded subway system, setting a new record for usage on the city’s Citi Bike bikeshare system.

A Pennsylvania nonprofit dedicated to promoting mountain biking in Afghanistan will likely hold its signature annual event in the state’s Lehigh Valley, instead of in Afghanistan in the shadow of the towering Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban in their earlier incarnation.

 

International

Time Out ranks the world’s best cities, with San Francisco coming in on top, followed by Amsterdam and Manchester, England; Los Angeles checked in at a surprising #11, as they celebrated the city’s outdoor lifestyle while politely ignoring all the people forced to live there.

Road.cc looks at the best high-end, lightweight road bikes for weight weenies with money.

A letter writer from the Virgin Islands expresses his disgust at the islands’ dangerous drivers. He’s preaching to the choir.

Calgary attempts to slow drivers along a bike route by painting colorful animals onto the street, while improving the area for bike riders and pedestrians.

A former London reporter says it’s time to take a stand following the death of his friend and neighbor, a pediatrician who was killed riding her bike on a notoriously dangerous junction that is still waiting for a safety makeover promised to be finished two years ago; over 7,000 people have signed a petition demanding popup plastic barriers until permanent changes can be made.

A writer for T3 says the new relatively low-cost ebike from English scooter maker Pure Electric could be the ebike bargain of the yearAlthough it seems like Burbank-based Pure Cycles could have a decent copyright infringement case on their hands. 

You still have time to get to Limerick, Ireland in time for next week’s Bike Week.

Ride your bike eye-to-eye with ducks through a Belgian lake.

Berlin announces plans for a more than 1,800-mile bicycle network, with a three-tiered network like Los Angeles was supposed to build, and a commitment to build it out as quickly as possible. Unlike Los Angeles, where bike plans are merely “aspirational,” and the city gives itself 25 years to build them. Or not.

To the surprise of no one, the Taliban announced plans to ban women’s sports — which is why 25 members of the Afghan girls’ cycling team crossed over to Tajikistan on Monday. Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for the link.

Add this one to your bike bucket list — exploring Jerusalem on a rental ebike.

 

Competitive Cycling

Cyclist looks back at the memorable moments from this year’s Grand Tours.

 

Finally…

What it feels like to be a Peloton widow. That feeling when you appreciate a driver mistakenly insisting you have to stop at the stop sign, because he said it in a kind voice.

And evidently, vehicular cycling is nothing to monkey around with.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Day one of Scarpa murder trial, tell LA to stop street racing and loud engines, and CHP responsible for East LA hit-and-run

Our anonymous Orange County correspondent is back to cover this week’s trial of Stephen Taylor Scarpa for murder.

Scarpa allegedly ran down popular Costa Mesa fire captain and father Mike Kreza in a drug-fueled crash three years ago, as Kreza was riding a bicycle in Mission Viejo to train for a triathlon.

Here’s what she had to say about the lead-up to the long-delayed trial.

Stephen Taylor Scarpa‘s jury trial starts on Monday. So far, Judge Patrick Donahue has decided to allow the video of Scarpa’s participation in his high school’s “Every 15 Minutes” event, as well as testimony from fellow personnel of the rehab centers he worked at. The People’s exhibits will probably also include the DMV’s letter of license revocation and a diagram (but no photographs) of the victim’s many injuries.

Since Scarpa has a long-standing association with drugs, his medical records might be presented as well. The judge finds that this is not in violation of HIPAA. Despite the lack of a previous arrest for DUI, there is sooo much other evidence, strong evidence, that Scarpa knew the dangers of impaired driving, the DA might not even bother to present these records. Scarpa had jaw-dropping levels of assorted drugs in his system, and his blood was not drawn until 4 hours after the collision.

His Honor has forbidden Kreza’s fellow firefighters to attend the trial in full uniform, and friends & family will not be allowed to wear clothing or badges with the deceased’s likeness. I am sorely tempted to get a T-shirt printed up with “It’s about time” in bold letters, because according to the arresting officer, these were Scarpa’s words as the handcuffs were slapped on.

And this is how she reported on the first day of public testimony in the trial.

Oh, man, I’m not hopeful.

The Scarpa trial began Monday morning. Deputy DA Michael Feldman began opening statements by thanking the victim’s friends and family for coming. As stipulated by the judge, no uniformed firefighters were present inside the courtroom. But they were out in the hallway to provide support for the widow and other family members. There was no mention that Mr. Kreza himself had been a firefighter.

In a PowerPoint presentation bannered by the misspelled name of the defendant, Mr. Feldman tersely listed the basic facts that support the People’s charge, among them Scarpa’s participation in his high school’s “Every 15 Minutes” program, his rehab stints, and his employment as a behavioral health technician. “He’s gonna be the one to tell you first hand,” insisted Mr. Feldman, pointing at the defendant, that he was aware of the dangers and consequences of impaired driving. To this end, the People played audio files of the interrogation, in which Mr. Scarpa tells the investigating deputy, “I do it, but I don’t condone it,” a tacit and unambiguous confession. Mr. Scarpa clutched tissues as the DA played his confession that he’d driven impaired with his own young daughter in the car.

Feldman then went on to use the word “accident” several times during his opening statement. AUUUUURGH. That is the entire premise of the defense. It’s almost like he’s trying to hand Mr. Scarpa an acquittal with a big red shiny bow.

Mr. Lowenstein, for the Defense, insisted that the collision had been an “accident,” and that Mr. Scarpa’s actions did not meet the legal definition of implied malice. He stated that the prescription drugs found in Scarpa’s system do not, as opposed to Feldman’s assertion, have warning stickers telling users not to drive. The defense asked whether Scarpa acted with “conscious disregard” (without underscoring the impossibility because Scarpa was, in fact, unconscious at the time of impact).

The Defense told the jury that Scarpa, though drugged up after a party, drove approximately 25 miles without incident, and there was no evidence that he was speeding. He went on to loftily praise Scarpa’s parking (“snug against the curb”!) after the collision, and reiterated several times that he did not attempt to flee afterwards. The collision was merely “a split second in time, a miscalculation, a perfect storm of events.”  Scarpa’s temporary inattention, “a fraction of a second,” and impaired state led to “a perfect storm of events.” (Lowenstein also mentioned something about a perfect storm of events.)

Both Feldman and Lowenstein brought up the words Mr. Scarpa uttered upon his official arrest: “It’s about time.” The People assert that this indicated Mr. Scarpa’s acceptance of a long-anticipated outcome. The Defense suggested that Mr. Scarpa had been expecting an arrest only for the duration of his lengthy interrogation.

First to testify was widow Shana Kreza, who identified a photo of her late husband, and briefly described the family’s Saturday morning, getting ready for their daughter’s soccer game. Mr. Kreza had left on his bicycle, but never arrived at the soccer field.

Next on the witness stand was the first responding officer, who described taking initial command of the scene, Mr. Kreza’s broken body, the agitation of the suspect, and the actions of the Good Samaritans.

The next two witnesses had been in the car behind Scarpa. Ragan Hill and her nephew, Cage Morgan, were putting up garage sale signs in the neighborhood. Hill saw Scarpa’s minivan leave the roadway. As it took out shrubs and saplings on the embankment to the right of the sidewalk (where Kreza was riding his bicycle, despite the adjacent bike lane), she saw a body fly off the top of the minivan.

Morgan described his aunt yell, “Oh my god, look at that car!” He diverted his attention from his phone to see Scarpa’s minivan returning to the roadway, with a trailing cloud of debris. He watched as a man fell off the minivan’s roof onto the road. Hill hit the brakes, stopping about 5-10 feet from Kreza’s prone, bloody body. Morgan called 911, and both exited the vehicle to assist.

Scarpa had parked by the curb and exited his minivan as well, but didn’t approach his victim or the witnesses. Instead, he sat on the curb, fidgeting. “My first thought,” testified Hill, “was that he was impaired.”

Both Hill and Morgan described the same aspects of the scene: Scarpa’s agitation, Kreza’s bone sticking out of his lower leg. Morgan was afraid to initiate CPR, fearing it would exacerbate Kreza’s injuries. Because Morgan was unsure the collision was accidental and did not know whether Scarpa was dangerous, he didn’t approach the suspect, but gestured questioningly from a distance, with palms up. He kept an eye on Scarpa, who appeared disoriented, because “I was afraid he would flee the scene.”

Deputy Christian Servin was called to the scene to perform a field sobriety test. He first approached the twitchy suspect and asked what was going on. He was apprehensive about asking Scarpa to perform some of the physical field sobriety testing tasks because his lack of balance and coordination might subject him to falls. Deputy Servin’s search found six 800mg gabapentin pills on Scarpa’s person, and Scarpa confirmed he had no prescription. Though Servin had difficulty with communication because Scarpa was “in and out” of it, he was able to determine that Scarpa had not slept for two days, had smoked .25g of meth 36 hours prior, had fresh tracks from injecting a fentanyl/meth mixture, had taken Suboxone at a party that morning, and had taken lorazepam. Scarpa stated that he had no medical conditions, and (and) that he was under a doctor’s care. (This doctor, perhaps?) Scarpa also stated he knew he should not have been driving, because he was “upset,” and he believed that he had crashed into a tree and several people.

At this point, court recessed for lunch, and I had to split ’cause I have graveyard shifts, but I’m all free for Day 2.

Meanwhile, the Daily Pilot says the case will hinge on intent, and whether Scarpa intentionally committed the act that resulted in Kreza’s death.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels.

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Our anonymous correspondent also added this note.

EMT students are required to attend one rotation in a hospital emergency department. I did this.

The morning started off slow, and the nurses had zero interest in talking with me, so I poked my head into an exam room and announced to the patient that I was there to check her vitals. She consented and while I took her pulse, I asked what brought her to the ER. She stated that she had passed out while making a left turn (in a major intersection, btw) and had crashed into a fire hydrant. I sympathized with her awful morning, and then asked what she’d had for breakfast. Nothing. I suggested that it was always a good idea to fuel up to start your day. Then I asked whether she was on any medications. She had taken a prescription narcotic analgesic before she took her kids to school. “And you drove?” She confirmed this. I informed her that it was dangerous to drive under the influence, and her pill bottle even had a warning sticker added to the prescription label. She insisted there was no such warning, so we pulled the bottle out of her purse to look at it.

I read the warning out loud: “Do not operate heavy machinery.”

She protested, with frustration at my stupidity, “I wasn’t operating heavy machinery. I was just driving my car.”

(Ed. note: Because evidently multi-ton cars aren’t, well, you know…)

There are warnings of “Don’t drive until you know how this drug affects you,” even though said drug impairs your cognitive abilities such that you cannot ascertain how the drug impairs you. In the absence of quantification and/or memory, your brain just lies to you: “Everything’s fine.”

Why appropriate phrasing hasn’t been legislated, I don’t know.

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Streets For All is urging you to take action to support a couple of motions on the agenda for this afternoon’s meeting of the LA City Council Public Safety Committee.

Make your voice heard on two key issues this week.

There are two key issues being considered this week at City of Los Angeles Public Safety Committee.

1 – The first (Council File 21-0870) is a motion at the Public Safety Committee to consider re-designing streets to prevent illegal street racing. As much as we fight for lower speed limits, the best way to slow cars down is by redesigning streets all together.

2 – The second (Council File 20-1267) is a motion to reduce illegal exhaust noise in the City of Los Angeles. Modified mufflers disturb the peace and evenincrease our stress hormones and risk of heart disease. While we don’t want more armed officers doing traffic stops, we can solve this by clamping down on the shops that make these illegal modifications.

Here’s how you can help in 2 easy steps:

1) Make public comment using the council file system

If you are unable to make live public comment, the next best thing is writing a message in the council file management system. We have made this easy with a pre-filled template and links.

MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT IN ADVANCE

2) Make public comment live at the committee meetings

The Public Safety Committee is on Wednesday, September 1, at 330pm. Here is the agenda. Call into this meeting to comment on the re-designing streets to curb racing and the illegal exhaust noise issue.

CALL IN INSTRUCTIONS + TALKING POINTS

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Speaking of Streets For All, the political nonprofit is calling on you to fill a vacancy in your local Neighborhood Council if you live in any of the following areas.

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In a Twitter thread, the LACBC calls for accountability from the CHP for the hit-and-run that injured a 14-year old boy in East LA over two months ago.

Despite catching the crash on video, and multiple news reports, they’ve apparently done nothing to hold the officer responsible, or compensate the bike-riding boy for his injuries.

Click on the tweets for the full thread.

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This is who we share the road with.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

Utah’s Zion National Park is looking for public input on new bike and ebike regulations that would allow bikes in groups of no more than six spread at least a quarter-mile apart, require riders to pull off to the side of the road for buses, and have a bell on your bike to warn people and wildlife. Because everyone knows cougars, skunks and bighorn sheep will politely move aside to let you pass if they hear the dulcet tones of a bike bell announce your presence.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

San Diego authorities are looking for a bike-riding arsonist who set a series of small fires in the city’s North Park neighborhood earlier this month.

Probably not the best idea to leave a “sanctimonious, passive-aggressive” note on a Portland driver’s car calling out the expired plates, and suggesting they get rid of it and start riding a bicycle.

Police in Lincoln, Nebraska busted a man who stabbed another man in the back in a dispute over an alleged stolen bicycle, then tried to break into an apartment using lock pick tools.

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Local

Bloomberg considers UCLA parking meister Donald Shoup’s call to stop subsidizing drivers at the expense of everyone else, arguing that free parking is killing our cities.

Monrovia’s new “Biking for Bucks” program promises to reimburse people who live or work in the city up to $350 for the purchase of bikes and ebikes, whether for adults or children, as well as bicycle accessories, purchased between July 1st and September 30th of this year. So start shopping, already.

Active SGV teamed with Alhambra and SCAG to install a new popup bike lane, high viz crosswalks and curb extensions on Popular Boulevard in the city to gather public feedback. But hurry of you want to check ’em out, because they’ll be gone this time next week.

 

State

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds teams with San Francisco Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin to pen an op-ed for CalMatters in support of AB 43, arguing that speeding drivers should not set speed limits.

 

National

It looks like Outside and VeloNews are joining Bicycling in hiding their stories behind a draconian paywall, on the mistaken assumption that preventing people from reading them will make more people want to. However, unlike Bicycling, the Outside and VeloNews stories don’t appear to be available on Yahoo.

Schwinn’s new I Am A Cyclist ad campaign focuses on marginalized members of the bicycling community to show what kind of people really ride bicycles.

Consumer Reports explains the steps they take to rate bike helmets, while InsideHook looks at the best commuter bike helmets for people who hate to wear one that won’t make you look like a total dork.

Best Buy is jumping head first into the ebike business by selling ebikes, e-scooters, mopeds and electric dirt bikes on their website, as well as in some stores.

A writer for Shape raves that her new Rad Power bike actually makes her comment enjoyable. And no, Best Buy doesn’t sell it.

Police in Colorado are looking for a hit-and-run driver who abandoned his SUV, then fled on foot before stealing a bicycle from a nearby school to make his getaway.

This is who we share the road with, part two. South Dakota’s killer Attorney General was hit with yet another speeding ticket — his seventh in seven years — just days before he was scheduled to go on trial for the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian while on his way home from a fundraiser last year. Yet he’s still allowed to stay on the roads to kill someone else, never mind that the $177.50 fine for a simple speeding ticket is nearly a fifth of what he was fined for actually killing someone.

A new Illinois law will require the state to pick up 100% of the costs for bicycle and walking infrastructure on state roadways; the state had previously required the local community to pay 20%.

A four-year old Michigan girl is able to ride a bicycle for the first time, after a fundraiser brings in enough to buy her an adaptive bike, and cover the cost to buy a bike for someone else, too.

Like drivers everywhere, motorists in Dayton, Ohio seem to have trouble figuring out how the city’s new parking protected bike lanes are supposed to work, parking in the bike lane next to the curb while leaving the parking lane empty.

 

International

Wired says Covid-19 means it’s finally time for the 15-minute city, where living, shopping and work are all within walking distance in the same neighborhood. Unless you live in Los Angeles, that is, where city leaders seem to be firmly committed to keeping everything within an hour and a half drive. Except at rush hour, of course.

Bosch says their new upgrades to ebike batteries and motors promise to make your new ebike ride smarter and farther.

Probably not the best idea to try to steal a bike from inside a British police station.

Life is cheap in Australia, where a driver was sentenced to seven years for the meth-fueled hit-and-run that seriously injured five bike riders last year — but with time served, he’ll be eligible for parole in less than a year.

 

Competitive Cycling

Twenty-year old American cyclist Quinn Simmons refuses to limit his options, dividing his plans for next year between the WorldTour and American gravel races.

Red Bull talks with two-time European mountain bike champ Lars Forster about how he went from riding with his dad to riding with, and beating, the world’s best.

 

Finally…

When your status in the local bicycling community hinges on finding the right bike basket. Get your very own bicycle umbrella for your next rainy ride.

And you’ll have to wait another year for a zombie bike ride in Key West.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Costa Mesa Fire Captain Mike Kreza died, 2 days after he was struck allegedly stoned driver in Mission Viejo

In the end, a man who spent 18 years saving others couldn’t be saved himself.

News broke this morning that Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Captain Mike Kreza had died, two days after he was after he was run down by an allegedly stoned driver while riding in Mission Viejo.

Kreza was training for an Ironman Triathlon when his bike was struck by a car driven by 25-year old Stephen Taylor Scarp around 8 am Saturday on Alicia Parkway near Via Burgos.

He was reportedly hit from behind as he was riding in the bike lane on eastbound Alicia Parkway, suffering critical wounds to the head and body.

The Costa Mesa Fire Department had reported that he was unresponsive as a Sunday afternoon, and surrounded by family and friends.

Scarp remained at the scene. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI after police found multiple prescription medications in his car. At last report he was being held on $100,000 bond, pending a hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Kreza leaves behind a wife and three young daughters.

This is made even more tragic, not just because of the families he leaves behind — both his own and the close-knit firefighter community — but because so many of us owe our lives to the men and women who devote theirs to saving others.

He died, sadly and needlessly, not in a courageous effort to rescue someone else, but as one of us.

A crowdfunding campaign for his family has raised over $126,000 in just two days, more than five times the original $25,000 goal.

This is at least the 43rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the sixth that I’m aware of in Orange County.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Mike Kreza and all his family and loved ones. 

Thanks to Megan Lynch, Steve S and Steven Bonadio for the heads-up.

 

 

Morning Links: OC fire captain critical after DUI crash, Claremont cyclist murdered, and hit-and-run driver ID’d

Tragic news from Costa Mesa, where an 18-year veteran of the fire department is fighting for his life after he was run down by an allegedly stoned driver.

Fire & Rescue Captain Mike Kreza was riding on Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo around 8 am when he was struck by a car driven by 25-year old Stephen Taylor Scarp, who remained at the scene.

Scarp was being held on $100,000 bond after police found multiple prescription medications in his car.

Kreza remains unresponsive; the Costa Mesa Fire Department tweeted that the next several hours will be critical.

A crowdfunding campaign has raised over $70,000 in just 24 hours, nearly triple the original $25,000 goal.

Let’s all say a prayer, or whatever you’re comfortable with, for Mike Kreza’s full and fast recovery.

Thanks to Megan Lynch for the heads-up.

………

In case you missed it over the weekend, there was more bad news from Claremont, where a bike rider was murdered by a driver who allegedly used her car as a weapon.

Police say that Leslie Pray, a 54-year old Claremont resident, was intentionally run down by 61-year old Sandra Wicksted, also from Claremont.

Wicksted reportedly had swerved in the direction of other bicyclists just moments before turning her wheel towards Pray, and swerving across the roadway to slam into her bike as Pray rode in the bike lane on North Mills Avenue near Radcliffe Drive.

Police found several empty liquor bottles in Wicksted’s car after the crash. She was arrested on suspicion of murder, and being held on a $2 million bond.

Tragically, Pray had only started riding a few months earlier.

………

The combative hit-and-run driver who killed a Van Nuys bike rider hours after Halloween, then fought with police who tried to take him into custody, has been identified as 20-year old Santa Monica resident Alexander Daniel Furtado.

No word yet whether he was actually in the military, as he claimed, or if the camo fatigues he was wearing were just a Halloween costume.

Furtado is being held on $50,000 bond for suspicion of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

The victim still has not been publicly identified.

………

The LACBC’s annual Operation Firefly campaign, which hands out free bike lights to riders who need them, kicks off in San Pedro tonight.

………

Lest ye forget, tomorrow is Election Day. And your chance to Bike the Vote for awhile.

Speaking of which, Bike the Vote LA offers their indispensable voters guide for tomorrow’s election.

The LA Times provides their total list of 2018 election endorsements.

LAist has advice on how to pick a judge to vote for.

Los Angeles Magazine explains what all those confusing propositions actually mean. And has a list of businesses that will give you a deal if you come in with your I Voted sticker .

………

Local

No surprise here. Bird has filed suit against Beverly Hills and their misguided total ban on dockless bikes and scooters. The only question is what took them so long?

The map has been released for next month’s CicLAvia as it returns to the Heart of LA.

California announced the latest round of Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Grants, including $550,000 to SCAG’s Go Human campaign, and a total of $375,000 to the City of LA; Pasadena and Long Beach received $175,000 and $150,00, respectively.

Streetsblog’s Joe Linton digs into the lawsuit from self-appointed NIMBY activists Fix the City trying to halt desperately needed growth along the Expo Line. And apparently not grasping that more residential building means less traffic, not more.

 

State

Riverside has opened its first bikeshare system with 55 ped-assist ebikes.

Ride through the Anza Borrego Desert State Park on November 17th, and get rewarded with a cold beer.

Hundreds of bike riders rode through Ventura County in the annual fundraising ride in honor of Mike Nosco, 14 years to the day after he was killed when his truck collided with an unlighted farm vehicle.

A new $13 million bike and pedestrian bridge with provide Palo Alto residents with a crucial link over the massive Highway 101 for the first time in 60 years.

San Mateo County bicyclists now have a safer, green bike lane across a dangerous bridge. Even if the photo clearly shows an SUV driving in it.

Uber’s JUMP Bikes ped-assist dockless e-bikeshare system has expanded throughout the Sacramento area, including bike friendly Davis.

 

National

Good question. A drivers website asks why hit-and-runs are at an all-time high nationwide, but doesn’t really come up with an answer. Although someone should tell them hit-and-run is a crime, not an accident.

General Motors is getting into the ebike biz — and they want you to name it.

A Portland homeowner posted a huge sign in his or her window demanding that bike riders cut some slack when they try to access their own driveways.

The Houston Chronicle says walking and biking in the city can be way too dangerous. Meanwhile, a Houston bike advocacy group is increasing the frequency of their bike safety classes, including what to do in an emergency situation, in the wake of a deadly year for the city’s bicyclists.

Once again, Texas copies California — this time our hit-and-run drivers, and the low bail for the crime. Thanks to Stephen Katz for the heads-up.

A Cincinnati TV station reminds us of the dangers to bike riders and pedestrians after yesterday’s time change. Speaking of which, this is what you look like to drivers in the dark without lights.

This is the cost of traffic violence. A Wisconsin driver smashed into a group of girl scouts at they were picking up trash along the shoulder of a highway before fleeing the scene; three girls were killed along with a parent, and another girl is in critical condition.

A 57-year old New Hampshire man rode 5,000 miles across the US, accompanied by his eight-year old dog following behind in a trailer.

A New York resident tries various ways of getting around the city, giving ebike riding an A+ rating — if you can tolerate universal loathing.

A DC website says Philadelphia is kicking the district’s butt on Vision Zero, while a Philly magazine says the city is making progress, but still has a long way to goNever mind that they’re both miles ahead of LA.

A year after Hurricane Irma, a beachfront Hollywood FL bike path is still covered in sand.

One of the four Florida bicyclists run down by a 91-year old driver last week has been released; two others remain in serious/critical condition, while a fourth is in stable condition.

 

International

Evidently, it’s open season on bike riders in Canada. The father of an Ottawa crash victim called the verdict a disgrace as a driver was acquitted in the speeding, hit-and-run death of his bike riding son; the driver claimed he fell asleep at the wheel and had no idea he hit anything, despite awakening to a loud bang.

An English bike rider is snatching phones from unsuspecting women as he rides by.

Shocking yes, but not surprising. Six out of seven drivers who kill bike riders in the UK get off without any jail time. And only a third lose their licenses. It’s probably no different on this side of the Atlantic.

Horrible story from Britain, where an injured bike rider froze to death waiting for help in a cemetery, after police drove off when they didn’t find her when they responded to a call.

Great idea. An Irish politician proposes offering financial incentives to encourage kids to bike to school, similar to the country’s bike to work program.

No bias here. An Irish columnist calls for detente and cooler heads in the conflict between bicyclists and drivers — while painting bicyclists are crazed maniacs willing to go to war with the poor motorists, who have no choice but to drive.

How to plan your fall culinary tour of Copenhagen.

Caught on video: A 24-year old German artistic cyclist performs stunts Peter Sagan could only dream of.

Your spare parts could help keep riders on the road in Kampala, Uganda.

Logging the way to better Kiwi mountain biking.

Melbourne, Australia’s Green Party proposes a 10-mile, multi-lane bike superhighway as the centerpiece of the city’s nascent bicycle network.

The Australian version of Lifehacker considers weather you should get an ebike; among the downsides, they say, is people will hate you and you might hate yourself.

 

Competitive Cycling

Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins defends his defense of Lance Armstrong, saying he’s “sick of being told how to feel about the sport by people who have never ridden a bike.”

The Cannibal heads Rouleur’s inaugural Cycling Hall of Fame class, along with famed bike builder Ernesto Colnago and British icon Beryl Burton.

VeloNews debates the merits of next year’s Tour de France versus Giro d’Italia routes.

 

Finally…

Forget bike riders, golfers should be the ones wearing helmets. If you’ve wanted to see Lance suffer, you finally got your wish.

And Apple wants to copy cycling’s pelotons for their electric cars.

Hopefully they’ll avoid taking half of it down by crossing wheels.

 

Former OC lawyer gets max sentence in drug-fueled death of bike rider

Four years.

That was the sentence a judge finally issued Friday, after repeated delays, for the death of bike rider Eric Billings in Mission Viejo 27 months earlier.

Former immigration attorney Hasti Fahkrai-Bayrooti, who goes by the name of Hayley, had unexpectedly pleaded guilty to a single felony count of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in March of this year.

According to the OC DA’s office, she had a near-lethal dose of Xanax and Suboxone in her system when she ran down Billings’ bike from behind on March 15, 2013, as he rode in a marked bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway.

My News LA reports that investigators found a bottle of Xanax in her car following the collision; despite being filled just two days earlier, there were already 75 pills missing.

She reportedly ignored several text messages prior to the wreck from friends who begged her to stop driving and sober up. Yet despite claims that she was screaming and “pulling her hair out” following the crash, her first call was to her pharmacist, not 911.

She had faced a possible sentence of 16 months to four years for the conviction. She was also sentenced to an additional three years, to be served concurrently, after being caught with Clonazepam, a sedative used to treat seizures and panic disorder, while she was behind bars.

In addition, Fahkrai-Bayrooti’s license to practice law has been suspended by the California Bar, and stands to be permanently revoked after her sentencing.

My News LA reports that her defense attorney — at least the third one she has had in this case — claimed she had been dependent on prescription drugs since an “early, early age,” and may have early onset dementia as a result.

She expressed remorse at the hearing while pleading for mercy, saying she is no longer in denial about the damage she has caused. Although that denial appeared to be in full force in comments she left on this site just one day after pleading guilty.

A press release from the DA’s office quotes Billing’s wife from the victim’s statements given at an earlier hearing, offering just a hint of the loss her family has suffered.

The victim’s wife said in part, “The void that is left by this tragic and senseless accident is overwhelming. The fact that it isn’t just an accident, but rather an accident committed by one under the influence, is ironic in that Eric never had a drink in his life, would not even take a Tylenol, and would barely take a pain killer after surgery.” She went on to say, “Although I have chosen not to be bitter and have forgiven this woman, I would like her to have consequences for her actions.”

Fahkrai-Bayrooti now faces a long stay in state prison because she didn’t get the help she so clearly needed before she took an innocent man’s life.

Let’s hope she finally gets it while she’s behind bars.

And is never, ever allowed to drive again.

 

Breaking news: OC lawyer guilty in 2013 DUI death of cyclist Eric Billings

Word is just coming in that an Orange County attorney has been convicted in the DUI death of cyclist Eric Billings two years ago.

According to a press release from the OC District Attorney’s office, Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti pled guilty to a single felony count of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated on Tuesday.

The DA reports the 41-year old Rancho Santa Margarita woman had prescription drugs — including Xanax and Suboxone — in her system when she ran down Billings’ bike from behind on March 15, 2013, as he rode in a marked bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti was apparently unable to plead down to a lessor charge; she was convicted on the same count she was originally charged with, which is unusual in cases that don’t go to trial.

According to the press release, she is currently out on $100,000 bond, and faces up to four years in state prison when she is sentenced on May 8th.

She also faces possible removal from the state bar following her conviction; she has been an active member of the bar since 2005.

Thanks to Edward Rubinstein, and Amy Senk of Corona del Mar Today for the head-up. (And apologies for misspelling Rubinstein’s name at first.)

 

Justice delayed — OC driver faces charges for killing cyclist last March while on prescription drugs

Six months later, an OC cyclist may finally see justice for the driver who killed him.

According to Rancho Santa Margarita Patch, 39-year old Irvine resident Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti was arrested Tuesday on a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for the death of cyclist Eric Billings last March.

Billings was riding a cruiser bike in the southbound bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway, between El Toro Road and Los Alisos Blvd in Mission Viejo around 6:45 pm on Friday, March 15th. Fakhrai-Bayrooti, who goes by the name Hayley, was headed north on Santa Margarita when she missed her turn onto Los Alisos, and made a U-turn at El Toro Road.

Her car drifted into the bike lane, striking Billings from behind and killing him instantly.

Blood tests revealed that she was under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the collision, which she described to Patch last July as an anti-depressant.

“I’ve had illnesses; I was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD,” she said. “I was diagnosed with manic depression and for those I have to take medication or else (I’m) not going to function.” 

And yet, she claims her ability to drive was not impaired by the medication — even though her own description of what happened after her U-turn suggests otherwise.

Next, ”something came into contact with me or I came into contact with something. I don’t know,” she said outside the fountains near Selma’s in RSM.

Her car wouldn’t stop, she said.

“I tried so hard to stop that car,” she said, gesturing as if she were holding a steering wheel and slamming on the brakes. ”The wheel was out of my control. The brake was out of my control.”

Apparently, the car developed a mind of its own, seizing control and running down an innocent victim while she sat helpless behind the wheel.

Yeah, that could happen.

And despite having just made a U-turn, she somehow hit the 54-year old father of four with enough force to kill him instantly; Billings was pronounced dead as soon as rescuers arrived at 6:48 pm.

It wasn’t her first driving infraction; she had previously been charged with speeding over 65 mph and using a hand-held cell phone while driving; no word on whether her car was responsible for those infractions, as well.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti describes herself as devastated by the collision, dropping her legal practice and leaving her car in the police impound lot. She also reports being so depressed that she attempted suicide the week after the collision by taking “everything in the medicine cabinet.”

On the other hand, I doubt her victim’s family took it very well, either. Although, as a devout Mormon, Billings probably would have forgiven her if he could.

However, the Orange County District Attorney’s office doesn’t seem to be so willing to turn the other cheek.

She has been released after posting $100,000 bail.

One last note.

This comment was left on the Patch story of Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s arrest:

…I feel bad for this woman. She had a need for a prescription, and it didn’t impair her or cause her to hit the cyclist. I take thyroid medication; if I get into a car accident, will I be arrested for the same thing? And after reading her blog about the accident, poor thing seemed like she had suffered enough for what she did.

So let’s be absolutely clear.

If your medication affects your ability to drive, then don’t. If you even think you might be impaired, you have both a legal and moral obligation to stay the hell off the road.

Despite the excuses we give ourselves, no one has to drive. And no one has a God given right to be on the roads — especially not when medications or other health factors may make them a danger to others.

If you make a decision to keep driving despite the effects of your medication, you can and should be held accountable for whatever happens as a result. And just because someone denies being impaired, that doesn’t mean they weren’t, as Fakhrai-Bayrooti’s description of the collision suggests.

She may have needed her prescription to function, but should have known it could affect her ability to operate a motor vehicle; there is a reason for those warnings that accompany prescription medicines.

Now a man is dead, and a family forever shattered.

And a woman faces charges for a fatal collision that has left her depressed.

But for which, by her own description, she still hasn’t taken responsibility.

Update: The LA Daily News reports Fakhrai-Bayrooti had two drugs in her system at the time of the collision — anti-anxiety drug Alprazolan, and Buprenorphine, which the paper says is used to treat opiate addictions.

Both medications contain warnings that they can cause drowsiness and dizziness, and not to drive until you know how they affect you. According to the Drugs.com link above, combining the two medications can cause severe drowsiness, as well as severe breathing problems and increased risk of seizures.

Update 2: There have been a few comments, as you can see below, accusing me of bias in this case and demanding changes to this story. 

I stand by everything I have written. However, just to be clear, I am not prejudging this or any other case; my comments are based on what has been published in the press, including comments from the DA’s office. 

Fakhrai-Bayrooti has been charged, but has yet to be tried or convicted. My hope is that she receives the justice she deserves, whether that is conviction or exoneration.

But I repeat, there is no excuse, ever, for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol — including prescription medications — that may prevent you from safely operating a motor vehicle.

If you have to take something, then get someone to drive you, find another means of transportation, or stay home. 

The lives of others depend on it.

Update: Cyclist killed in Mission Viejo

Just got word that a bike rider was killed in Mission Viejo Friday evening.

According to the Orange County Register, the collision occurred around 6:50 pm on the Santa Margarita Parkway, between El Toro Road and Alisos Blvd.

No word on how the wreck happened, or any identity on the victim or driver. The paper reports the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and that the driver remained onsite following the collision.

A satellite view shows what looks like a ridable shoulder in both directions. However, there’s no indication of which direction the rider was going or where the rider was positioned on the roadway.

The speed limit in that area is 50 mph; a collision at that speed is not likely to be survivable.

This is the eighth bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in Orange County, which averaged more than one death per month for each of the past two years.

Thanks to Louis Martinet for the heads-up.

Update: The Orange County Register has identified the victim as 58-year old Eric Billings of Rancho Santa Margarita; he was pronounced dead at 6:48. 

According to the paper, Billings was riding in a designated bike lane, rather than a wide shoulder as I had assumed from the satellite photo, when he was struck by a 2003 Acura driven by 39-year old Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti.

Mission Viejo Patch places the location as 300 yards south of El Toro Road near Trabuco Hills High School. The site says both the driver and victim were headed southbound on Santa Margarita, suggesting Billings was struck from behind. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

What does appear to be a factor is a surface street designed for excessive speed, where drivers typically exceed the already too high speed limit by double digits, and an unprotected bikeway in which a few inches of paint is all that separates riders from those speeding vehicles.

Or as appears to be the case here, doesn’t. 

Witness reports from the SoCal Trail Riders forum said the victim appeared to be riding a beach cruiser, which was badly mangled in the crash, and that skid marks from the car extended up onto the sidewalk. 

My prayers and sympathy for Eric Billings and all his family and loved ones.

Update 2: Friends remember Billings as a compassionate and generous man, dedicated to his faith.

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