Tag Archive for Pacific Coast Highway

Noted safety advocate’s tragic story of friend’s death as they were riding together is compelling — but it may not be true

Due to the time and effort this story has taken, there will be no Morning Links today. We’ll catch up on anything we missed tomorrow. 

Photo by Danny Gamboa.

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It’s not unusual for advocates to disagree about bike and traffic safety.

It’s doesn’t necessarily mean one person is right and the other wrong. And it doesn’t mean we can’t respect one another, or work together on issues where we find common ground.

That’s the position I find myself now, after learning respected safety advocate Pat Hines, founder of the nationally recognized nonprofit youth program Safe Moves, opposes the California Safety Stop, aka Stop as Yield, bill that recently passed the state assembly.

Hines cites a personal tragedy in opposing the bill, when a friend was killed as they were riding together while training.

This is from a recent story from the Sacramento Bee.

For Pat Hines, founder of traffic safety group Safe Moves, this bill is personal.

While training for the 1984 Olympics, Hines and a fellow cyclist, Sue Latham, rode their bikes through an intersection, believing they had enough time to cross. Hines made it across, but Latham was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle.

Hines tells virtually the same story in this 2013 piece from the Mountain View Voice.

Safe Moves founder, Pat Hines, started the organization in 1983, after her friend, Sue Latham, was killed while the two were riding their bikes together.

Neither of the two were wearing helmets, Hines recalls, “because I don’t like helmets and I had asked her not to wear one either.”

Hines blew through a stop sign and Latham followed her. And while Hines made it in time, Latham didn’t — she was struck by a passing car, which never stopped.

There’s just one problem.

It may not be true.

……….

I confess, I wasn’t aware of Hines’ opposition to AB 122, or the tragedy that spurred her life of advocacy, until a few days ago.

That’s when I received an email from Serge Issakov, a longtime advocate for San Diego bicyclists.

I don’t always agree with him, either. But I always respect him, and his opinion, and make a point of listening to whatever he has to say.

It was Issakov who pointed me to the article in the Bee, and called out the discrepancy in her story.

As the stop-as-yield bill is working its way through Sacramento there have been several articles about it, and several quote cycling safety advocate and former RAAM racer Pat Hines, who opposes the bill, saying that she was once riding with a friend, Sue Latham, who rolled a stop and was hit, fatally. I of course felt empathy for the horror Hines must have experienced as I first read the story in the Sacramento Bee.

He reached out to me after coming across this 2018 article from the LA Daily Mirror historic website, which tells a radically different story about how Latham was killed.

One which did not involve them riding together — or Latham running a stop sign.

In fact, she wasn’t even on her bike at the time.

California Highway Patrol investigators said that [Sue Latham] was apparently kneeling on the side of the highway, trying to unjam the gears on her bike, when a motorist hit her, throwing her 15 to 20 feet in the air, causing massive head injuries and leaving a pool of blood on Pacific Coast Highway. Whoever hit her dragged her to the construction site and partially undressed her to make it appear that she had been raped, and then made a second trip to get her bike, the CHP said. Because she was nearly 6 feet tall, investigators said it might have taken two people to drag her to where she was found.

As Issakov pointed out, two extremely different accounts.

One is a simple, and all too common story, about a hit-and-run that occurred after someone blew a stop, with tragic consequences.

The other, a bizarre tale that strains all credibility.

Except it’s the second version that seems to be true.

………

The story starts to change as you move back in time.

Starting with this 2008 story in the Sahuarita Sun, which cites Hines as saying Latham had run a red light, rather than a stop sign.

Hines told students she started the organization in memory of her best friend, Sue Latham, who died in 1983 when she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Hines, also on a bicycle, had run a red light, and her friend followed. Latham was thrown 65 feet and died in the hospital three days later.

Hines said she was young at the time of the accident, and reckless about traffic safety.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my friend,” Hines said.

Note that the story is also off by two years on the 1981 date of Latham’s death.

However, those discrepancies can easily be written off as a simple trick of memory.

More troubling is a 1993 story from the Los Angeles Times, which suggests Hines wasn’t with Latham at all when she was struck.

And again, the story incorrectly sets Latham’s death in 1983, rather than 1981.

She began (Safe Moves) after her best friend was killed on a bicycle Nov. 13, 1983, by a hit-and-run motorist. Sue Latham had been on her way to meet Hines for a morning ride on Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway.

“The guilt I felt for Sue’s death was overwhelming,” Hines said. “I’d been responsible for her being interested in bicycle riding… I’d told her, ‘Don’t worry, the cars have to look out for us.’ ”

………

But when we go back to more contemporaneous accounts, like this 1982 Associated Press story published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel just over two months after Latham’s death, and archived on the California Digital Newspaper Collection maintained by UC Riverside, the story changes completely.

And the bizarre fake rape story starts to become much more credible.

It was near dawn on a cloudy Sunday morning last fall when Miss Latham set out alone from Santa Monica on a bicycle ride up the scenic highway.

She had moved to Los Angeles just two months earlier from Austin, Texas. Miss Latham, who held a master’s degree in quantum mechanics, seemed to be settling nicely into the Southern California lifestyle. She had joined a swim club and loved to bicycle.

As she pedaled her 10-speed into Malibu on Nov. 15, she apparently developed a problem with the bike and got off to make repairs along the shoulder of the road. As Miss Latham was working, an automobile swerved and struck her, throwing her 15 to 20 feet.

Investigators say the driver, and perhaps another person, got out of the car and dragged her to a site about 100 feet away. They removed her shorts and underpants, shoved her beneath a partially constructed home and drove off. Police say it was an attempt to make Miss Latham look as if she was raped and beaten.

Two days later, in a hospital, Miss Latham died of head injuries and the Malibu office of the California Highway Patrol had a homicide to solve…

The story goes on to describe a billboard campaign and reward intended to find Latham’s killer.

And it mentions Hines, with no suggestion she was with Sue Latham when she was killed.

Pat Hines, a member of the (Santa Monica Swim Club) and a friend of Miss Latham’s, is hoping to boost the reward to $100,000.

Ms Hines said friends told her that as soon as the emotional impact wore off, people would lose interest. It isn’t true, she said. “I get letters from people all the time”, including from those whose sons and daughters have been killed by hit-and-run drivers, she said. “People are desperate to help.”

“I don’t want to let it get by”, she said. “I don’t want her to become just another statistic.”

………

An even more contemporaneous article from the Austin American Statesman, written just a month after Latham’s death, tells her personal story in much more detail.

And confirms the tragic crime as told by the CHP, rather than Hines’ version of events.

The paper describes Latham as having a genius IQ, and publishing an article on the quantum mechanical study of a particular laser reaction in the journal of a prestigious British academic society, while studying for her masters at the University of Texas.

She was also a talented artist, with her work displayed in a New York gallery when she was just 17.

And she was active in the budding environmental movement of the 1970s, as well as campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Somewhere along the way, though, her interests shifted to the family business of writing, following in the footsteps of her novelist father and screenwriter sister and brother-in-law.

Which led her to move to Los Angeles to break into the business as a screenwriter and actress. And led to her friendship with Hines, then an advertising director for KRTH-AM.

“I met Sue in a restaurant,” Hines recalled. “I train daily on a bike, and Sue asked me if I knew any places to ride that were safe. I told her LA is really a bad place to ride…cars are everywhere and motorists don’t pay any attention to people on bikes. I said it was important to ride with somebody, and she kind of smiled and said, “I don’t worry about things like that…

The bike route Hines and other friends suggested was the Pacific Coast Highway, but they said the ride should only be undertaken early in the morning when traffic was light, preferably on holidays or weekends.

On the final day of her life, Latham borrowed her sister’s car, and parked behind Gladstones at Sunset and PCH, where she planned to meet the other members of the swim team later that Sunday morning.

Shortly after 7 am, Latham got off her bike on southbound PCH and knelt alongside the road; the CHP suspected she was fixing a mechanical problem.

That’s when the driver, who still hasn’t been caught 40 years later, veered off the side of the road, slamming into her.

Unconscious, and likely clinically dead, she was alone and defenseless against her killer or killers.

What happened next turned the case from a routine traffic accident into a bizarre incident that captured the attention of a city not known for its compassion.

Someone dragged Latham off the roadway, leaving her under a beach house under construction about 30 feet from the highway. Doctors later found sand in her brain.

After the injured woman was hidden from view, someone removed Latham’s shorts and underwear. her bike was concealed behind a nearby construction crane, and her backpack, containing her current journal, was stolen.

Note that there is no mention of Hines, or anyone else, being with her, other than the heartless cowards who took her life and went to extraordinary lengths to coverup the crime.

In fact, the story makes it very clear that, not only was Hines not with her, but wasn’t even aware of her death until the next day.

Outrage. The word comes up frequently in conversations with Californians who knew Latham or who have heard about the case.

One person who uses the word is Hines.

“We must have ridden right past her and not known it,” she said.

Hines said she got back to the restaurant where Sue had left her car about 2 pm that Sunday, but did not notice the Mercedes was still there.

The next morning, unaware of the accident, Hines saw Latham’s car in the restaurant parking lot about 6 am.

“It was still pitch dark,” she said. “I thought Sue might have gone swimming by herself. I ran up and down the beach but I didn’t see her.”

Then, assuming Latham must have been somewhere else, Hines went for a swim herself.

In fact, Pat Hines didn’t even learn about Latham’s impeding death until around 10 am Monday, when someone called the radio station to make sure Hines was okay.

The caller told Hines that an unidentified young woman had been critically injured in a hit-and-run on the Pacific Coast Highway. She had been admitted to Santa Monica Hospital as “Jane Doe.”

I knew it had to be Sue,” Hines said. I called the restaurant and found her car was still there. I called one of her friends and she said she had not seen Sue in two days.

Convinced the woman was Sue Latham, Hines contacted Latham’s brother-in-law.

She and the brother-in-law went to the hospital that Monday, and identified Latham.

Sue Latham died at 10:30 the following night.

………

None of this is to suggest that Pat Hines is intentionally lying.

Maybe, as Serge Issakov suggests, she just needed a compelling story for her advocacy work, and it evolved over time.

But time can play tricks on memory, especially when clouded by grief and survivor’s guilt.

Pat Hines lifetime of work on behalf of bike-riding children has surely earned our respect, and more than a modicum of consideration; there’s no telling just how many young lives she could be responsible for saving.

We also haven’t heard her side of this story. Issakov reached out to her for a reaction, but hasn’t received a response at the time this was written.

And I’m more than willing to post her response if she sees this.

Let’s also not forget that real story is, or should be, that there’s someone out there, living or dead, who’s gotten away with killing an innocent young woman for a full four decades.

But the next time Pat Hines tells the story of how Sue Latham died, whether to oppose AB 122 or any other reason, take it with a grain of salt.

Or maybe a five pound bag.

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Eid Mubarak to all those observing today’s holiday!

………

Be safe, and stay healthy. And wear a mask

And get vaccinated, already.

Two bike riders killed in Malibu collisions on PCH; just two of five fatal crashes on LA’s killer highway in recent weeks

My biggest fear when I agreed to surgery on my arm and hand was that someone would lose their life riding a bike, and I wouldn’t be able to write about the victim.

Which is exactly what happened in Malibu.

And not once, but twice.

The first came when three men were crossing Pacific Coast Highway just west of Busch Drive around 10:35 pm on Easter Sunday, one of whom was apparently walking a bicycle.

According to the Malibu Times, the man with the bike was struck and killed by a driver headed west on PCH.

A few moments later, one of his companions was struck and killed by a second driver as he scrambled to collect the victim’s belongings from the roadway.

Both men apparently died at the scene, just minutes apart. According to the paper, there have now been three people killed at the same spot in recent years.

Six days later, another man was killed while riding his bike at PCH and Corral Canyon.

The crash occurred sometime after dark on Saturday, April 10th.

The victim was riding without lights or reflectors when he was run down by a driver headed east on PCH at 51 mph, as recorded on the vehicle’s black box. He was knocked onto the other side of the highway, where he may have been struck by another driver.

There’s no word on whether the victim was riding on PCH or trying to cross the street. There’s also no word on whether the second driver remained at the scene.

Unfortunately, no identification was given for any of the victims, other than the first two men were homeless, while the third may have been.

But they all deserved better.

These are at least the 18th and 19th bicycling fatalities in Southern California this year, and the fourth and fifth that I’m aware of in Los Angeles County.

They are also just two of at least five people killed on PCH in Malibu since early March, along with another pedestrian and the driver of an SUV who went off the road.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for all the victims and their loved ones.

Thanks to Valley Duke for the heads-up.

 

 

 

 

Breaking news: Man killed in apparent solo bike crash on PCH in Seal Beach

Southern California’s killer highway has claimed yet another victim.

The Seal Beach Police Department is reporting that a man was found lying in the bike lane on Pacific Coast Highway near Seal Beach Boulevard around 9:17 Wednesday morning.

The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

According to the police, he was apparently riding in the bike lane when he hit some unidentified object, and was thrown from his bike.

The article stresses that no other vehicle was involved.

However, without identifying the object he allegedly struck, it’s also possible that the victim could have been sideswiped by a passing driver, or fallen in an attempt to avoid one.

There’s also no word on whether the victim was wearing a helmet, which might have helped in this situation, depending on the speed he was riding. Or it might have been of no use, since they don’t specify what injuries he suffered.

Hopefully we’ll learn more later.

Anyone with information is urged contact Traffic Investigator Keith Phan at 562/799-4100 ext. 1625, or email kphan@sealbeachca.gov.

This is at least the 45th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eleventh that I’m aware of in Orange County, which is having a very bad year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones. 

Thanks to John McBrearty for the heads-up.

Morning Links: CicLAvia returns to Culver City–Venice, and Malibu parking study could bring better safety to PCH

The big news this weekend is the return of CicLAvia to Culver City and Venice, and points in between.

CicLAvia lists feeder rides, including a chance to ride with the mayor of Santa Monica. Meanwhile, Metro offers advice on how to get there via the Expo Line, which is by far your best bet if you can’t ride there.

CicLAvia also offer an interactive map of highlights along the route. And no CicLAvia is complete without the Militant Angeleno’s epic guide.

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It was only seven short years ago that cyclists started seriously pressing Malibu officials to make much needed changes on deadly PCH through the city.

Efforts that at first seemed to go nowhere in what was then a very bike-unfriendly city, but gradually led to significant improvements as they recognized both the value of bicyclists and the need to make the city’s de facto Main Street safer for everyone.

A change for which Eric Bruins, now the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for Culver City, deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

Now those efforts appear to be bearing fruit, as many of the suggestions made by cyclists in those meetings — like narrowing traffic lanes to slow drivers, installing bike lanes and widening shoulders to reduce the risk of dooring from parked cars — are contained in a new PCH Parking Study commissioned by the city.

According to the Malibu Times, the study calls for making traffic lanes, which are currently anywhere from 14 to 16 feet wide, a uniform 11 feet throughout the 22-mile length of the highway through the ‘Bu.

It also calls for bike lanes, which city officials had rejected out of hand back in the bad old days, on PCH west of Trancas. And from Webb Way to Las Flores Canyon, stretching 3.3 miles from just beyond the Country Mart to a little before Pepperdine University.

However, it’s not a done deal.

Malibu is holding a special joint meeting of the Public Safety and Public Works Commissions this Wednesday to discuss the study. And it’s sure to be filled with the usual anti-bike forces who don’t want any changes to accommodate bikes, as well as residents who are willing to keep PCH dangerous if it means they can keep their parking spaces.

So if you ride PCH through the city — or would like to — make plans to be there, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road.

………

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from LA Bike Dad. Now we know why, as he relates the harrowing tale of his wife’s emergency C-section and his son’s premature birth.

Best wishes to him and his family, and congratulations on a healthy baby boy.

And let’s offer a word of thanks that everyone is okay.

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Local

LA’s $5.5 billion plan to reduce auto traffic at LAX includes improvements in bike and pedestrian access.

Rapha is planning a series of weekend rides and parties in cities around the world; they’ll come to Los Angeles in July.

The mayor of Santa Clarita makes a call for residents to complete a short five-question survey about the city’s proposed bikeshare system before the end of the month.

 

State

Don’t plan on riding the bike path at Bolsa Chica State Beach this Saturday, unless you want to find yourself in the middle of a pro-Trump rally.

A Salinas writer says bikeshare has been a huge success in SoCal, so why not there?

A bike-hating Vallejo letter writer blames bicyclists for just about everything, from running into car doors to riding outside the door zone. The only thing she seems to have left out is colluding with the Russians to put bike lanes on our streets.

 

National

A writer for Road and Track makes a surprising call to bring back red light cameras — not to raise revenue for cities, but to actually improve safety for everyone on the streets.

Tucson concludes that painted bike lanes aren’t enough for riders of all ages.

A Seattle-area bicyclist complains about the insensitivity of drivers who refuse to pass safely.

A Boston reverend says she found a new spirituality and sense of community bicycling through the city’s traffic clogged streets.

New York delivery cyclists speak out about what the Village Voice calls the toughest job on two wheels.

New Orleans plans to double bicycling rates over the next three years as part of the PeopleForBikes Big Jump Project. Los Angeles is also one of the ten cities participating in the project, with plans to boost cycling rates in DTLA and University Park.

 

International

Grab another cup of joe; a new books says for most people, coffee isn’t just not harmful, it’s actually good for you.

Seriously? A British lord blamed the bike lanes on London’s Westminster bridge for making it easier for a terrorist to run down dozens of people in Wednesday’s attack. As if it would have been harder for him to drive down the sidewalk if the traffic lanes butted up against the curb, instead.

A physician who used to live in Visalia got caught up in the attack as he was bicycling across the Westminster Bridge, and rushed to help the victims before the paramedics arrived.

A British bike industry association is staring a new campaign to get more children to start cycling.

Officials in an English town remind angry drivers that bicyclists aren’t required to use a new network of bikeways, and there are good reasons why they might choose to ride in the road instead.

Now that I’d like to see. Danish ebike maker Diavelo will unveil a new model at the Taipei Cycle Show designed by famed auto design firm Pininfarina, the company responsible for classic cars from Ferrari, Fiat, Alpha Romeo and Maserati.

Drivers aren’t always the bad guys. A South African motorist came to the aid of a woman who had been pulled off her bicycle and dragged down some stairs by a pair of robbers; they bolted when he ran to help.

 

Finally…

If you’re going to hitch your dog to a bike rack, make sure it’s bolted down first; same advice holds for your bike, too. Maybe you’re in the market for a slightly used 24K gold BMX bike for a mere fifty grand.

And usually the douchebags are behind the wheel, not protecting the bikes.

 

PCH claims another victim, as bike rider killed in Pacific Palisades hit-and-run

Yet another bike rider has been murdered by a heartless driver who didn’t have the basic human decency to stop.

KCBS-2 reports the victim was struck by the driver of a white Jeep around 11 pm on PCH at Sunset Blvd. However, they add that it was near Temescal Canyon, suggesting that the wreck occurred somewhere in between the two streets.

No information is currently available about the victim, who died at the scene.

The driver fled following the crash, with the front bumper hanging off the vehicle.

No other details are available at this time.

According to SWITRS data, the brief section of PCH through Los Angeles remains one of the most dangerous areas of the coast highway, with 158 bicycle-involved crashes in the last 12 years, second only to Long Beach. Malibu is third with 128.

The section of PCH that runs through Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Malibu has been the site of nine bicycling fatalities in that time, including this one, making it one of the deadliest roads for cyclists in Southern California. At least three of those deaths have been the result of hit-and-runs.

Malibu is currently working on safety improvements to PCH through the city, while Caltrans has promised to eventually widen PCH to provide shoulders through the section where this crash presumably occurred.

This is the 55th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 22nd in Los Angeles County; it’s also the seventh in the City of Los Angeles.

Note: An earlier version of this story contained the wrong total for bicycling fatalities in Los Angeles County this year; it has been corrected to reflect the accurate total. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his or her loved ones.

Thanks to Brian Nilsen for the heads-up. And thanks to Ed Ryder for the stats on PCH.

Update: Early morning crash kills cyclist on PCH in Huntington Beach

More bad news.

Less than two hours after a disabled bike rider was killed in Arleta, a woman was killed riding her bike in Huntington Beach.

The Orange County Register reports that the cyclist, who has not been publicly identified, was riding north on PCH just south of Seapoint Drive when she was rear-ended by a car around 4:40 am.

She was hit with enough force to knock her into the southbound lanes, and was taken to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, where she died.

The driver stayed at the scene and called police; police said he did not appear to be under the influence, and was not arrested.

A satellite view shows a four lane divided highway with a wide marked shoulder where the victim likely would have been riding, although she could have been forced into the traffic lane by parked cars or some other obstruction.

No word on whether she had lights on her bike nearly two hours before sunrise.

This is the 47th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 10th in Orange County. It’s also the 13th bicycling fatality in Huntington Beach since December, 2010.

Update: The victim has been identified as 31-year old Long Beach resident Nadia Silva. 

Update 2: According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Silva was crossing the southbound lanes of PCH from the center median when she was hit, and places the location as between Seapoint and Goldenwest Streets

Police say speed doesn’t appear to be a factor. Which leaves the question of why Silva and the driver did not seem to see each other on the straight, unobstructed roadway.

My deepest sympathy for Nadia Silva and all her loved ones.

OC Sheriff threatens to victimize an Orange County cyclist a second time; road raging driver allowed to walk

Prepare to get mad.

Or maybe livid is a better word.

Just a day after a widely circulated open letter called on the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to charge a truck driver who used his vehicle as a weapon to threaten a cyclist, the department recommended that charges be filed.

Against the victim.

According to the LA Times, Bryan Larsen was riding his bike on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point on May 31st when he captured video of a truck driver attempting to run him off the road before the passenger — who turned out to be the driver’s wife — hits him with a thrown Gatorade bottle; they then try to smoke him out as they took off.

Maybe she thought he looked thirsty.

Larsen was originally told that no charges could be filed because sheriff’s deputies did not actually witness the assault themselves.

Which is not true, of course.

Police are required to witness an event in order to file a traffic violation or misdemeanor charge; however, there’s no such requirement for felony charges. And using a large truck to intimidate a vulnerable road user should certainly qualify.

I’ve also been told by members of other departments that video footage can be used as evidence, as well as eye witness testimony. At the time, Larsen was riding with another cyclist who could verify everything seen on the video.

After the video went viral and was picked up by local news stations, the sheriff’s department reconsidered and conducted an investigation. Though based on the results, not much of one.

Even though the driver reportedly used his massive truck as a weapon to threaten the rider and attempt to force him off the road, they declined to charge him with anything. At all.

Instead, the Orange County Register reports they recommended that the OC District Attorney file an assault and battery charge against the driver’s wife.

And that charges be filed against the victim for apparently inciting the attack through his use of obscene language directed at the couple.

Charges are also being recommended against the bicyclist, he said, who is suspected of using “offensive words in public, likely to provoke a violent reaction.” Officials suspect the cyclist made “rude, disparaging comments” before the incident was recorded on his cellphone, (Lt. Jeff) Hallock said.

This, despite the fact the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that offensive language and gestures are protected as free speech under the 1st Amendment. And even though Hallock makes it clear investigators are only assuming that Larson said something so offensive as to justify a violent attack with a deadly weapon.

As if anything could.

Would they still feel the driver was justified if he had pulled out a gun and started shooting at the cyclist? Legally, there’s no difference; only the choice of weapon used.

And never mind what actually precipitated the event. Unless Larsen suffers from a rare form of Tourette’s Syndrome or mental illness that forced him to swear without any provocation, he was clearly responding to something the driver had done before the camera started recording.

What, we may never know, since the threat of criminal charges will now force him to remain silent. Which is probably the real intent.

Legally, there’s no valid case against him. So the question becomes, why is the OCSD trying so hard to intimidate the victim of a violent crime — while letting the primary perpetrator off scott-free?

And what does it say to every other bike rider south of the Orange Curtain when even video evidence isn’t good enough to get the authorities to give a damn about our safety — let alone threaten us for reporting it?

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and her department are sending a clear message to everyone who travels by two wheels that we remain second-class citizens in her jurisdiction.

And if something bad happens on her watch, just keep your mouth shut about it.

Or else.

Update: Cyclist killed in Huntington Beach hit-and-run; arrest made in nearby Seal Beach

A bad month for SoCal cyclists just got that much worse when a cyclist was killed in a Huntington Beach hit-and-run late this morning.

According to the Orange County Register, the collision occurred around 11:40 Friday morning on northbound PCH between Seapoint Street and Warner Avenue. The rider, who has been identified only as an adult male, was pronounced dead at the scene.

No details on how the crash occurred are available at this time. However, a commenter on the Register story says they heard the impact, and turned to see the rider flying through the air and skidding over 100 feet, suggesting a high speed hit-from behind collision.

Satellite photos show a long stretch of roadway with only limited access, while the street view reveals a marked shoulder next to a four lane highway, with a 60 mph speed limit. It’s possible the driver may have drifted onto the shoulder, or the cyclist could have been forced into the traffic lane by a parked car or some other obstruction.

But we won’t know until additional information becomes available.

The good news — if there can be good news in a story like this — is that a suspect was arrested about an hour later in nearby Seal Beach.

According to KTLA-5, a man lost control of a 2011 Hyundai and crashed on Westminster Blvd between Bolsa Chica and Seal Beach Blvds. Police investigating the collision discovered the car matched the description of the suspect vehicle in the hit-and-run, and took the driver into custody.

However, KCBS-2 says police were following the suspect by helicopter, and arrested the driver when he ran off the road.

This is the 27th cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fifth in Orange County. The cyclist was also the sixth SoCal rider killed by hit-and-run since the first of the year, and the seventh to die this month.

My prayers for the victim, and all his family and loved ones.

Thanks to Lois, David Huntsman and Weshigh for the heads-up.

Update: KTLA-5 has identified the victim as 63-year old Roger Michael Lippman of Huntington Beach, listed as a rider in last year’s Palm Desert and Stagecoach Centuries

KNBC-4 confirms that the driver hit Lippman from behind; aerial video shows Lippman’s body covered by a tarp on the right shoulder next to his crumpled bike. The web version of the story shows the bloodied face of the suspect driver, while the embedded video shows the crumpled front end and shattered windshield of the car he was driving, which was registered to a 59-year old Anaheim woman.

Meanwhile, the Times identifies the driver as 27-year old Joel Alexander Murphy of Mission Viejo. A comment from reliable source TQ reports that Murphy has been booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and violating probation for prior drug offenses, including DUI, dating back to 2005.

And yet, despite all that, he was still behind the wheel.

I’ve also seen unconfirmed reports that Murphy was racing another vehicle at speeds up to 80 mph when he ran off the road and murdered hit Lippman. 

Hopefully, this will be the last time he’s ever allowed to operate a motor vehicle.

Battling anti-bike bias in the ‘Bu

The tranquility of the beach belies the dangerous conditions and hostility cyclists face getting there.

Pity poor Malibu.

Blessed with an idyllic location along the sun-drenched Pacific Coast, the city draws countless visitors, from celebrity hunting tourists to motorists speeding — often literally — along scenic PCH.

It also attracts countless cyclists.

And that, in the eyes of some locals, is the problem.

Not the dangerous, poorly designed highway. Not the near total lack of cycling infrastructure. Not even the deaths of Rod Armas, Scott Bleifer and Stanislav Ionov in recent years.

No, the problem is those bad, bad cyclists who ride side-by-side, running red lights and blowing through stop signs. And keeping wealthy homeowners from being able to back out of their driveways.

Though anyone who has to back out onto a major highway should seriously consider investing a little money to reconfigure their parking situation.

Bleifer and Ionov were killed by a catering truck in September, 2005 when the driver deliberately failed to brake or swerve around them because another person was illegally cooking in the truck’s kitchen area when the truck was in motion. Despite traffic traveling at 50 mph or higher, they were forced to ride in the lane because of an obstacle blocking the shoulder where they’d been riding.

In an astounding display of compassion — or the lack thereof — following the deaths, Malibu Public Safety Committee Chairperson Carol Randall was quoted by the Malibu Times as expressing fears about anything the city might do that could encourage cycling on PCH, “particularly where it is lined by driveways in eastern Malibu.”

“It’s very irresponsible to encourage something that we know is not safe,” she said. “I invite them to try to back out of my garage on any weekend onto PCH.”

Yeah, being able to back out of a driveway certainly trumps bike riders’ right to use the road in a safe and legal manner. Let alone to return home in one piece.

Then again, she wasn’t the only one. Defending Malibu’s unshakable commitment to do virtually nothing, Council Member Pamela Conley Ulich, who claimed to bike on PCH herself, was quoted in the same article as saying:

“The bikers need to work with us,” Conley Ulich said. “They have [a motive] here: they don’t want to die.”

Amazingly, both still hold the same positions within Malibu’s apparently cold-hearted city government.

Of course, it’s hard to work with someone who refuses to work with you. Malibu’s solution to the riders who pass through the city every day has apparently been to ignore them in hopes we’ll go away.

And if that doesn’t work, crack down on bicyclists, rather than the roadway and drivers that put their lives at risk.

It’s an attitude exemplified by former council candidate and current Public Safety Committee member Susan Tellem in her recent letter to the editor in the Malibu Times, Bikers be warned.

As a Malibu Public Safety Commissioner, I have been disturbed by the high number of bicyclists who do not follow the rules of the road. While many do obey the vehicle code, just as many do not. They run red lights, do not stop at stop signs and ride three abreast even though the law is clear about what is safe and what is not. Motorists become frustrated and rude in turn, and this leads to ugly confrontations, not just here in Malibu, but everywhere.

She goes on to say that enforcement is the key. And announces a campaign called Share the Road – Share the Tickets to encourage “the sheriff, CHP and LAPD to ticket cyclists who break the law.”

This is a winning campaign in that everyone will be safer once cyclists realize that laws for them will be enforced. Tickets will decrease and maybe even disappear as the word gets out about enforcement. The biggest payoff? Motorists will be less likely to threaten bike riders and much more willing to “share the road.”

So let me get this straight. In Tellem’s opinion, it’s the fault of bike riders that we’re threatened by motorists.

Yes, cyclists are subject to exactly the same road rules as drivers. We’re required to signal — not that most drivers do — and stop for stop signs — ditto — and red lights. And if not, we can be ticketed, just like drivers.

On the other hand, I don’t recall any case of a motorist being killed by a cyclist in Malibu. And last I heard, drivers are already required to share the road, and under California law threatening another human being is illegal, regardless of motivation or self-justification.

Just ask Dr. Christopher Thompson.

And let’s not forget that it’s a Malibu city employee who’s charged with killing Rod Armas in a drunken hit-and-run last year.

I should also point out that cyclists are legally allowed to take the lane when appropriate, and despite what Tellem writes, there is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits riding side-by-side as long as the riders don’t block traffic. So on a roadway with two or more lanes in each direction, cyclists can legally occupy an entire lane as long as drivers can safely go around them.

Of course, what the law allows and what the police and courts enforce aren’t always the same thing.

Tellem has taken her campaign to Facebook, where she continues to criticize cyclists and misrepresent California law — including the frequently misstated and misunderstood requirement that cyclists ride as far to the right as practicable — while asserting her rights as a private citizen.

…You cannot legally impede traffic on PCH, or ride side by side and you must ride as far right as safely possible. If you get a ticket and come to court in Malibu for any of these infractions, you will lose every time. All I am asking for is safe riding. Stop at red lights and stop signs. As for saying I am “overtly hostile” to bicyclists – please show me proof. Your claim that I should be “investigated” is patently ridiculous as safety comes first. Finally, this site has nothing to do with the City of Malibu or the Commission. Just like you I am entitled to free speech…

Yet as a member of the city government, she has a higher responsibility to be truthful, not just as she sees it, and to protect the rights and safety of all road users.

I’ll leave the final word to John Abbe, in a letter published yesterday in the Malibu Times.

The PCH through Malibu is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in California and cyclists are not the problem. Like it or not, every weekend thousands of cyclists ride PCH to enjoy riding thru the beautiful canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. They all have as much right to the PCH as those driving cars and trucks…

He goes on to cite the cases of Armas, Bleifer and Ionov, as well as Tracey Clark, a 26-year old triathlete killed on PCH in 1990, for whom the Dolphin Fountain at the famed Malibu Country Mart was dedicated.

The truth is that they all were not annoying obstacles to traffic on PCH, or a hindrance to homeowners trying to exit their driveways on PCH. They were all somebody’s husband, somebody’s father, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, somebody’s loved one-lives now gone forever!

And he concludes by quoting from pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie’s website, Yield to Life.

“We all travel life’s roads. I stand before you to ask for your cooperation in providing safe space for cyclists. When you see a cyclist on the road, please, yield to life”.

For the sake of full disclosure, I don’t ride PCH through Malibu anymore, tempting as it might be at times. While I never met Scott Bleifer, I knew his father through his medical practice, and his son’s death struck a little too close to home. As a result, my wife asked me to stop riding on PCH, and I have respected her request. And while Tellem may be biased against bicyclists, she can’t be all bad; she’s the founder of a local Tortoise rescue program along with her husband.

Update: Damien Newton has picked up the subject, and Gary of Gary Rides Bikes has joined in with an exceptionally detailed and insightful examination of Tellem’s Facebook group; Tellem herself has responded on Streetsblog.

………

Mark Cavendish sprints to victory in Stage 5 of the Tour de France, while the overall standings remain unchanged; no major moves are likely until the riders reach the mountains. More on 4th stage winner Alessandro Petacchi, who won his second stage of the Tour at age 36, which could bode well for another older rider — if he can put up with the heckling.

Rumors of mechanical doping continue to follow the Tour, particularly surrounding current leader Fabian Cancellara’s performance in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix; a German bike shop owner shows how it can be done.

………

Bike Lawyer Bob Mionske says adding better bike infrastructure helps create more riders, while EcoVelo says more separated bikeways could help beginning riders feel more comfortable. Paris proves it takes more than a bike share program to be bike friendly. And research shows that women prefer off-road paths, bike lanes and streets with low traffic that actually go where they need to go.

Meanwhile, lobbyists for the electronics industry want to preserve the right of distracted drivers to run you off the road.

………

Damien Newton asks if L.A. cyclists can fix the sharrows study without killing it. Oaklavia reveals what this September’s CicLAvia might look like. A look at last week’s Tour LaBonge, where police handcuffs double as bike locks. Santa Monica is adding 400 bike racks, and has a new bike share program for city employees. If you’ve been suffering from a shortage of seriously cute in your life, check out this 4th of July parade, courtesy of my friends at Altadenablog. ESPN looks at Kristina Ripatti-Pearce, the paralyzed former LAPD officer who just complete the Race Across America (RAAM). A 21-year old Reno area rider is declared brain dead two days after being rear-ended by a Sheriff’s SUV. A Portland rider successfully defuses a road rage situation, ending in a handshake; another close call in Eugene OR ends more the way you’d expect. The Museum of Arts and Design in New York will be hosting Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle through August 15. A biking 4th in Birmingham AL. Mississippi authorities are looking for the victim of a YouTube prank, in which two men in a truck purposed smoked out a cyclist. A new bike lane in York — the old one, not the new one — results in problems on nearby streets. The European Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships come to Haifa, giving a local Israeli rider the hometown advantage. The hit-and-run driver who ran over the son of a former Israel Supreme Court Justice after drinking and smoking hashish faces manslaughter charges.

Finally, when a dangerous bus driver nearly runs a cyclist over, it helps if the cyclist works for the company that runs the buses.

Bike law change #9: Require a bike lane or sharrows for any roadway with heavy bike traffic

Way back in the dark ages when I was just a fledgling rabble-rouser, my handbook of choice was the classic Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. (Highly recommended for anyone who want to learn how to leverage the system. Or just generally piss off the powers-that-be.)

As I recall, through the deep, dusty haze of memory, that was where I first encountered the story of a town struggling with a stubborn speeding problem. After trying everything they could think of to stop drivers from speeding, they finally stumbled on the one solution that actually worked.

They raised the speed limit.

Which, in a way, brings us to our next suggestion. Instead of putting bike lanes and routes where traffic planners — most of whom haven’t been on a bike past the age of 12 — think they should go, put ‘em where the cyclists already are.

Like PCH, for instance. Every day, hundreds, if not thousands, of riders brave heavy, high-speed traffic, turning cars and narrow, sometimes non-existent, road shoulders along the coast through Malibu, making this one of the most popular rides in Southern California. And yet, despite the near-constant flow of bike traffic, no one has made the slightest effort to accommodate cyclists or improve safety for riders, or the drivers they share the road with.

So lets insist that, for once, form follows function, and require that every city and county in the state study the bike traffic within its jurisdiction. And that they be required to accommodate bicycles on any street, road or highway that receives heavy bike traffic, through the establishment of bike lanes or off-road bike trails that follow the roadway wherever possible, or if not, by installing sharrows, along with Share the Road signs — or better yet, Cyclists Have Full Use of Lane signs.

 

Not unlike O.J.’s Simpson’s book If I Did It, Alex insists last week’s C.R.A.N.K. MOB did not happen, but shows photographic evidence of what might have happened if it did. A Portland State University study shows more people would ride if they had a safer place to do it. Down San Diego way, it finally occurred to someone that bike routes in different cities should actually connect to one another, resulting in a planned 500-mile network. An new Geowiki program at the University of Minnesota allows users to rate routes based on bikeability to create new user-defined bike maps. The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy has started a new campaign to double the Federal investment in active transportation — walking and biking, in other words.

Finally, it has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, but L.A.P.D. has a backlog of nearly 7,000 rape kits waiting to be tested — including at least 217 for which the statute of limitations has expired, meaning no one can be charged even if they offer conclusive proof of who committed the attack. And if that doesn’t piss you off, maybe it should.

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