Tag Archive for Share the Road – Share the Tickets

A PCH cyclist speaks out on safety and the proposed Malibu bike crackdown

Recently, I received an in-depth email from Stanley E. Goldich about the proposed crackdown on supposedly scofflaw cyclists on PCH in Malibu.

Goldich, a Century City attorney and member of Velo Club LaGrange, offered his take on road conditions and safety considerations in the Malibu area. He points out that his observations are based on his own personal experience of riding thousands of miles per year on PCH, both solo and on group rides, as well as regularly climbing Latigo, Mulholland and other canyons in Malibu over the past 20+ years.

It’s definitely worth reading all the way through to get a real picture of the problems facing cyclists on PCH.

1.   When Malibu officials cite safety as a reason to target cyclists, it is baseless and offensive to those of us who have had friends killed by motorists while bike riding. While the deaths are almost always a result of negligent or reckless motorists and none of the deaths have involved running of stop signs or lights by the cyclists, in every instance this has occurred, people write letters shedding crocodile tears while suggesting that cyclists are asking for it and falsely tying the deaths to running of stop signs by cyclists.

2.  Bicyclists do NOT cause safety issues for others on PCH, and in most instances are the victims of unsafe driving and road conditions. Cyclists on PCH also ride on a shoulder that is not always adequate and do not get to share the road in any meaningful way .

3.  The opinions expressed by Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellum in her letter to the Malibu Times are at best misguided and uninformed.  Incredibly, two of her three justifications for a crackdown on cyclists riding on PCH are (i) cyclists running stop signs, and (ii) cyclists riding 3 abreast in violation of the law. PCH and Latigo do not even have stop signs, and virtually no cyclists ride on Corral (which I have been told also does not have stop signs). There is also no law against cyclists riding next to each other in the shoulder.

(Editors note: there’s no law against riding two or more abreast in California, as long as the riders aren’t obstructing traffic; the standard for obstruction is five or more vehicles following behind and unable to pass.)

Moreover, one of the reasons cyclists ride in groups is to increase their visibility, which actually furthers safety for everyone. In addition, cyclists riding in pacelines on PCH generally ride 2 abreast, and the bigger pacelines are generally traveling North early in the morning when traffic is lighter.

4.  In fact, the dangers on PCH are caused by (i) inattentive, negligent and reckless motorists and (ii) unsafe road conditions on the shoulder where cyclists ride, due to problems that include construction work, debris, illegal parking and parking where there is not an adequate shoulder.

– The recent PCH taskforce report cited speeding, unsafe lane changes and improper turning as the primary causes of accidents.

– Two other major safety issues that affect everyone involve (i) people using their cellphones and texting while driving and (ii) dangerous road conditions caused by construction with inadequate warnings and lack of adequate consideration for the safety of cyclists. Debra Goldsmith’s death on Palisades Drive in 2001 was caused by a woman dialing on her cell phone.  Scott Bleifer, 41, of Santa Monica, and Stanislov Ionov, 46, of Calabasas, were killed in 2005 after being hit by a catering truck at a construction site at the Jewish Center on PCH that blocked the shoulder, by a driver who said he did not hit his brakes because they were cooking (illegally) in the back and the hot water would have spilled.

– Other safety issues involve (i) road rage incidents by drivers who simply don’t want cyclists using their roads (this is what occurred in the widely reported incident on Mandeville resulting in the conviction of Dr. Thompson for assault with a deadly weapon and 3 other felony counts), (ii) motorists, particularly buses, trucks and motor homes who pass cyclists far too closely (often when the left lane is clear), and (iii) drivers in parked cars who open doors or pull out without looking.

–  Another safety issue, as well as a cause of traffic jams, involves hazardous parking where vehicles stick out into the right hand lane. This regularly occurs on Sundays in the summer on the Southbound side of PCH past the Getty/Coastline.

–   The lack of shoulders in certain sections is also a fundamental safety issue that has not been adequately addressed for years. One section on the Southbound side of PCH between Sunset and Temescal was finally repaired after many years. This has enabled cyclists to stay on the shoulder and not get in the traffic lane, resulting in a significant improvement in safety and traffic flow as cyclists no longer need to go into the right hand land.

5.  Real safety improvements could readily be achieved by enforcing existing parking restrictions on PCH and banning parking by vehicles on the side of the road unless there is still adequate space for a bike to ride past without the risk of being doored or having to move into the right hand lane. Other safety enhancements include keeping debris off the shoulder so cyclists do not need to veer out on the road, as well as enabling cyclists to get past construction zones without requiring them to go on the roadway, and requiring better markings and slower speeds where this is not possible.

6.  Running of stop signs where stop signs exist does violate the law, but is not a safety issue for motorists or (with very rare exceptions) cyclists. In fact, Idaho has permitted cyclists to roll thru stop signs for 27 years, as long as they slow to a reasonable speed, and a stop is only required for safety. Other states have similarly considered legislation permitting cyclists to treat stop signs as yields, and many public officials in many other parts of the country — including in LA — are making true efforts to improve safety that do not target or attack cyclists who are NOT putting motorists in cars and trucks many times their size in any danger.

7.  The safety concerns of cyclists are much greater than those of motorists due to our significantly greater vulnerability, and because we are much less visible than vehicles. For every stop sign or light run by a cyclist, there are countless incidents of motorists creating a much more dangerous situation by passing too close or turning in the path of a cyclist, let alone the risks posed by inattentive motorists on their cell phones and blackberries. Many of these concerns were recognized when the LA City Council passed the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in December 2008. While an important step, it remains to be implemented.

8. In addition to inattentiveness, motorists are often not even aware of the fears and dangers they cause for people riding their bikes. This is often the case at intersections where cars are turning left. Even when a motorist does not actually intend to turn in front of a cyclist, if the motorist begins to turn as a cyclist is approaching the intersection, the cyclist has no choice but to slow or stop to avoid the risk that the car will turn into their path. While most motorists do not intentionally turn in the path of cyclists, some motorists are reckless, inattentive, or simply do not see the cyclist, and cyclists often need to brake or risk being seriously injured.

9.  It must be emphasized that despite all of its hazards, PCH is an ideal roadway for cycling, both recreational and commuting, due to the limited number of intersections and traffic lights, as well as the absence of stop signs. PCH is also a route to the canyons in Malibu, which offer some of the best riding to be found anywhere due to light vehicular traffic, various levels of challenging climbs and miles with no lights or stop signs, which further adds to its allure for serious cyclists.

Due to the higher speed traffic and lack of adequate shoulders on sections of PCH, only more experienced riders generally should and do use it at this time. The superb Southern California weather combined with its terrain makes Malibu one of the world’s premier riding areas, and it was used by Lance Armstrong for training during his string of Tour de France victories. The Tour of California has also helped spread the word on Malibu around the world as a great vacation and cycling destination, something that the City should embrace and support.

10.  One of the best ways to address safety is to build a cycling infrastructure that helps people feel safer while riding. In a recent article by Bob Mionske, a former U.S. Olympic cyclist and cycling attorney, he stated: “As the great cycling cities of Europe have learned, when bicycling feels safe for children and the elderly, everybody feels safer, and more people ride—and that is a benefit for all cyclists, and others as well, since as the roads become safer for cyclists, there’s also less danger for both motorists and pedestrians.”

………

L.A.’s CicLAvia, now scheduled for 10-10-10 — the same day as Santa Monica’s more generically named version — gets a double dose of radio coverage. Wednesday night’s Blood In protest in Beverly Hills gets international coverage, as well as an in-depth local look complete with photos. Curbed picks up the story of the long-delayed Elysian Valley Bike Path along the L.A. River. Brayj looks at bike polo in the parking non-lot at Lincoln park. A fond farewell to last week’s last Tour LaBonge; would Tour La Box have the same ring? Even in wealthy La Jolla, unrepaired potholes can claim a cyclist. Cyclelicious digs deep and comes out with the full story on the proposed Anchorage go-ahead-and-hit-the cyclist ordinance. Outside Magazine names Tuscon the best city of road biking; there’s no truth to the rumor L.A was named the best city to get run over by a road raging driver. Life in a New York City bike lane. A child’s ghost bike appears in NYC, indicating a 9-year old boy was killed in a hit-and-run on June 3rd, yet no one in the area is aware of a collision or death. A Pennsylvania cyclist faces charges for pepper spraying a driver who allegedly got out of his car to threaten him. Bi-partisan legislators from around the country bike through the streets of Louisville KY. The inventor — and patent holder — of the Split Pivot mountain bike suspension system may face a challenge from Trek. Having the right tools can normalize your bike commute and overcome objections you haven’t thought of yet. A retired admiral and former senate candidate is killed by an SUV while riding in Florida; the driver claims he just didn’t see him. The wife of a British Olympian critically injured while riding through Arizona credits his survival to his helmet. A video tour of London’s third new cycle superhighway. BoJo rides a Pinarella around London’s nearly complete velodrome. Tips for a first time endurance rider. Bristol, England plans to offer training classes instead of fines to reduce conflicts between drivers and cyclists. Mixed reviews on a mass bike ride in Bath. In an exceptionally one-sided report, the Daily Telegraph claims Sydney business people are up in arms over the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly. After winning his third Tour, Alberto Contador splits with his Astana team. A 61-year old American woman and a 26-year old Chinese combine to bring ultra-distance cycling to the Middle Kingdom.

Finally, don’t use a cell phone while riding your bike. Or play your guitar. Or carry a pitchfork, for that matter.

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.

%d bloggers like this: