Tag Archive for share the road

A meditation on moving, bike lanes and expectations

I’m back, after what can only be described as the move from hell.

A move in which nothing went horribly, irretrievably wrong. But in which nearly everything was more challenging, problematic, expensive or just plain aggravating than anticipated.

Even now, what is, in theory at least, my office remains more reminiscent of the aftermath of the ’94 earthquake than any functional working space I’ve ever encountered. Everything that didn’t fit anywhere else is piled there, along with everything that’s supposed to be there.

And trust me, that’s a lot of stuff. At this rate, I expect to finally excavate my desk sometime in mid-March.

The first night was the hardest, though.

Aside from all the problems we anticipated — like not knowing what box something we needed might be packed away in — it seemed lit nothing fit where it was supposed to.

Naively, perhaps, we assumed that everything we moved from the old place would find a corresponding space in the new one. But our new apartment, while about the same size, was arranged differently. And the things that had fit perfectly there didn’t necessarily fit here.

Or at least, didn’t fit the same way.

It wasn’t that there’s anything wrong with it. It was just very different.

And even though we went to bed that night thinking we’d made a big mistake, the only error we really made was failing to adjust our expectations.

Sort of like the way some people react when bike lanes unexpectedly appear on their streets.

Take the controversy that has developed in New York City over the rapid expansion of the city’s bikeway network, particularly over Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West and Father Capodanno Blvd in Staten Island.

Or attempts to make Washington DC more bike friendly, including new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, that elicited a backlash from groups and individuals as varied as ESPN’s Tony Korneiser and the East Coast branch of AAA.

Or even right here in Los Angeles, where a road diet on the Valley’s Wilbur Avenue had council members, drivers and the local media up in arms — even though people who actually live in the area seem to like it.

Because, you see, it just wasn’t what they expected.

Many people have gotten used to roadways dedicated solely to motor vehicles. And don’t necessarily welcome the intrusion of bikes on their streets.

In their minds, reducing the number of lanes, narrowing them or taking out parking spaces meant the streets were less safe than they were before — even though that usually calms speeding traffic and results in safer streets. And in some cases, actually forces drivers to get out of their cars and walk a bit.

The horror, huh?

To some, it represents a war on cars. As if traffic planning was a zero-sum game in which motorists must lose something for every step forward for anyone else.

Never mind that drivers gain as cyclists slowly replace other cars on the streets, reducing congestion and ultimately speeding their commutes. And that well-designed cycling infrastructure gets us out of the way of impatient drivers by moving bikes out of the shared right lane.

Meanwhile, the backlash goes on, with at least one member of the media doing his best imitation of the yellow journalism of the robber baron era, up in arms that bike lanes got plowed before some streets. Or maybe not. And describing the Prospect Park West bike lanes as “widely detested,” with no objective figures to back it up — and despite evidence that those lanes are “widely detested” by a just a small minority of very vocal people.

At least the DC press is smart enough not to fall for  that sort of crap.

Yet despite what some people insist, it’s not reckless cyclists who pose a risk to life and limb.

Then there are those who consider all things bike-related to be part of a liberal conspiracy to force people out of their cars, and in their deeply clouded minds, that’s reason enough to halt even the most basic of bike plans.

And no, they’re not all failed Colorado gubernatorial candidates.

If they gave them a chance, they might find that bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure can actually increase traffic safety, enhance local neighborhoods and improve their own quality of life.

Quite an accomplishment for just a few inches of white paint.

And like my wife and I, they may realize that it may not be what they’re used to. But with a little time, and a little effort, they may actually get used to it.

Or even like it, just a little.

.………

Then again, not all bikeways are improvements.

Consider this recent email from Rex Reese, in response to a link about a proposed Bakersfield bike path that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.

I sincerely believe the honor of Bike Path to Nowhere belongs to the metropolis of Trona, which is a small hell hole located on the shores of Searles Dry Lake, between Ridgecrest and Death Valley — literally The Middle of Nowhere. It’s very, very hot in the summer, very cold during winter, and smells like shit all year ’round because of the chemicals and powdered mineral dust that blows off the dry lake.

The path sorta starts maybe a quarter mile outside of town, parallels Trona Road, and sorta ends at East Outer Trona Road and Center Street a mile or so later. It’s separated by a narrow strip of dirt which qualifies it as a Class I Bike Path, right? And it’s got markings and everything. I can’t imagine who uses it or how it got funded — maybe done as a favor to the town warlord.

It’s barely not worth the drive to check out, but you can see it if you look it up on Google Maps.

With a description like that, I may just have to drive up there sometime just to give it a ride. If I can just figure out where the hell Trona is.

.………

A reader from Boston writes to ask for a recommendation on where to rent a bike in Anaheim when he comes out to visit next week. He’s used to a fixie conversion or older steel road bike, but open to anything practical for riding the mean streets of OC. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments or email me; you can find my address on the About BikingInLA page.

.………

Santa Monica’s Parks and Rec Commissioner is pushing to make the beachfront Marvin Bruade Bike Path a little safer; I’ll have something on that same subject later this week. The LACBC’s Valley Pride Ride is rescheduled for next weekend, after getting washed out on Sunday. KPCC looks at the upcoming Streetsblog event in Pasadena. Bikeside offers advice on gearing up for a cold wet winter, while Flying Pigeon offers much simpler advice for riding in rain and snow. The Times looks at efforts to lift the ban on mountain bikes on L.A. trails.  Will offers a video look at off-roading on the Beaudry Trails loop. A look at the upcoming South Bay Bike Plan. Long Beach cyclists fight back against regressive policies in America’s self-proclaimed “most bike friendly city.” Carlsbad police are looking for information on how a cyclist found lying injured in the street got that way, while a Ventura man is injured after losing control of his bike on a 30 mph descent; thanks to DC for the second link.

Elly Blue looks forward to the year in bikes, including predictions for an even bigger backlash. Forget peak oil, we may have already hit peak travel. Cleaning bike water bottles the easy way. Washington considers a three foot passing law when traveling under 35 mph, and five foot over 35; the local paper insists on framing it as a battle of car vs bike. A suggestion to combine bike lanes with right turn-only lanes. It only took three days for the country’s most dangerous state for cyclists and pedestrians to register its first bike death of the new year.

The secrets of riding in a group. The UK’s acclaimed Bikeability program may be saved from government cutbacks after all. Town Mouse touts the new Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Road.cc offers their 2011 predictions, including copper-plated bikes and Andy Schleck winning the Tour twice in a single year. A Ugandan candidate rides his bike to win votes. Movistar racer Andrey Amador is beaten and robbed by thieves out for his Pinarella Dogma with the new electronic Campy shifters.

Finally, cycling prodigy Taylor Phinney visits the beach, offering his view of a Santa Monica sunset and a 360° view from the bike path; you can follow his stay in SoCal on Twitter @taylorphinney.

Today’s ride, on which I was so not invisible, for a change

There are days when I feel like I must be invisible, as one driver after another fails to see me. And too often, tries to drive right through me as if I wasn’t there.

Today was not one of those days.

Not a single car in the bike lane, for as far as you can see. Or ride, for that matter.

In fact, it was just the opposite, as one driver after another noticed my presence on the road, waving me through intersections and patiently waiting for me to pass. And I found myself doing the same, signaling drivers to go ahead, and waving my thanks so often that I felt like a beauty queen in a homecoming parade.

And they waived back in return. Like the guy I gave a small nod to, indicating that he should go ahead and make his turn while I waited at the stop sign. Not only did he notice, but gave me a smile and a wave of thanks as he rolled by.

Even pedestrians got into the act.

Like the guy who stood waiting at a crosswalk on a corner, despite having the green light. Maybe he was waiting for a walk signal that never came. Or maybe he was just waiting.

Either way, he finally began sauntering across just before the light changed, forcing everyone else to wait through the green until he eventually made it to the other side.

“Late start,” I grumbled as he walked by. But instead of getting annoyed, he laughed out loud and gave me a friendly wave for waiting.

Don’t ask me why.

Maybe everyone was just in a good mood. Or maybe the DWP spilled a few cases of Prozac in the city’s drinking water. Except no one drinks tap water in L.A.

Or unfiltered tap water, anyway.

Usually when I ride, I make a point of reminding myself to focus on the hundreds, if not thousands, of drivers who share the road safely, rather than the one or two jerks who don’t.

This time, I didn’t have do that.

Because there weren’t any.

Not one right hook. No left crosses. No close passes, rude gestures, insults, honks or near misses.

The closest I came to any kind of incident was the SUV-driving woman who darted out from a side street when she found a brief gap in traffic, only to spot me directly in her path. So she stopped where she was and waited for me to pass, blocking traffic in both directions until I was safely out of her way.

And yes, I waved my thanks to her, too.

Frankly, I’m grateful to anyone who doesn’t kill me. And unlike yesterday, if there was anyone driving dangerously or illegally, I didn’t notice.

It was a very good day.

Which just goes to show that, yes, we do have them. And more often than you might think.

Even in L.A.

………

Jeremy Grant explains how the California Vehicle Code applies to sharing the road, for the benefit of all those on either side who just don’t get it. Here in L.A., 36% of all crashes involve cyclists or pedestrians, yet only 1.2% of Federal transportation funding is spent on bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure locally. The CHP officer who said it’s against the law for a little kid to ride “the wrong way” in a crosswalk tries to explain himself; Damien Newton swiftly and effectively eviscerates his explanation (the comments are good for a laugh, too). The bike-riding jackass who allegedly stole a gold chain off the neck of a 5-year old boy faces charges. Ride your bike to Long Beach next Friday and get 20% off lunch. Lawmakers from my hometown propose a mandatory helmet law for children; the only penalty would be a friendly warning. Maryland is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law — too late to save a popular rider. A lawyer’s take on why Florida is the most dangerous state for cyclists in the U.S. Over three-fourths of Toronto cyclists want separated bike lanes. Biking New Zealand cops offer advice on how to stay safe with idiots like this running around. Yet another risk on the road — your flashing bike lights could trigger a seizure in a passing motorist. Cambridge police give free lights — and tickets — to lightless riders. In the UK, they use cameras to measure the average speed of passing drivers; unfortunately, they put them in the middle of the bikeway. Finally, the Times asks if Long Beach is “the most bike-friendly city in America.” Uh, no.

But they’re sure making Los Angeles look bad.

A simple act of roadway courtesy

I have always believed in riding courteously, remembering that sharing the road is a two-way street. And that I have no less — or greater — right to it than anyone else.

So I didn’t think twice when I pulled up to a red light at a narrow intersection, and noticed the car behind me had its blinker on. I simply lifted my bike and made a couple quick sidesteps to the left so he could get by and make his right turn.

What happened next surprised me, though.

As he rolled past, the driver lowered his window, waved and said “Thank you; thank you very much” — sounding so much like an Elvis impersonator that I could barely keep from laughing.

Still winded from the sprint that got me there, the best I could manage in response was a nod and a smile, combined with a friendly wave. But he got the idea.

And just for a moment, we truly saw each other, not as adversaries competing for the same limited piece of pavement, but as real human beings.

Whether he’ll remember that the next time a cyclist is blocking his path, I have no idea. Or whether I will the next time an impatient driver follows too close or cuts me off.

But it only took a simple act of roadway courtesy, and its acknowledgement, to make me truly visible to another road user. And to lift my spirits for the rest of my ride.

And the rest of my day.

……..

Enci Box makes the case against Class 1 bike paths. L.A.’s best bike plan probably isn’t the one LADOT proposed; meanwhile, LADOT pleads poverty as an excuse not to attend future Bike Advisory Committee meetings. Will Campbell Embraces the Brilliance on a recent ride near Jefferson and Crenshaw. Flying Pigeon explains how to make your own Jasbeschermers clip; if you can pronounce it, you probably already know what it means. Making negligent driving fatalities a crime in the DC area. Bike Portland offers an in-depth examination on the lack of bike insurance. A candidate for mayor of Columbia, MO says vote for him “Because most Columbians drive cars and not bikes.” Denver lowers speed limits and adds bike lanes and traffic calming to around Washington Park (see LADOT? It can be done…). Hagerstown, Maryland includes cyclists in designing their new bike plan (see LADOT? It can be done…). The Orlando newspaper wants to know if cyclists have a right to the road. A look at 10 years of bike culture in America. Your Japanese-made bike now probably comes from China, but look for an increase in U.S. made bikes. Cycling casualties — serious injuries and deaths — in the British city of Leeds increased 10% in 2008; somehow, that works out to a fifth, according to the headline writer. Finally, this is why you never leave your sleeping children in your bakfiet; evidently, that’s just what they do over there. But at least the thief was honest responsible.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights

My first exposure to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights came in an online forum.

Someone had posted a comment about it, complaining that cyclists expected drivers to treat them like porcelain dolls.

I had to agree with him. Because that’s exactly the point — if you hit a bicyclist with your car, he or she will break, just like a glass doll. Except the clean-up will be a lot longer, more complicated and more painful for everyone involved.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights doesn’t create any new rights. All it does is gather rights that cyclists — and human beings, for that matter — already enjoy in various forms, under various statutes, and codifies them in a single document.

Created by the Bike Writers Collective — I may have mistakenly said Coalition on today’s AirTalk program — it’s been endorsed by a long line of individuals and elected officials, neighborhood councils and organizations, just a few of whom are shown here. And countless cyclists have requested that it be officially adopted as part of the new L.A. bike plan.

I’m including the full text below, for anyone who heard me mention it on the show.

I’m also including a link to something I wrote earlier, explaining why cyclists do some of the things we do — and one driver’s exceptional response to it. Along with a link to the single best explanation of how to share the road, from a cyclist’s perspective, that I’ve ever seen.

Because really, we all want the same things out on the road.

We want to get where we’re going. And we want to get home safely.

And that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

CYCLISTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmental and traffic congestion solutions; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are, first and foremost, people – with all of the rights and privileges that come from being members of this great society; and

NOW, THEREFORE, WE THE CYCLING COMMUNITY, do hereby claim the following rights:

1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

2) Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.

6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development and design that enable and support safe cycling.

7) Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.

8 ) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations.

10) Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

11) Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment.

12) Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

And further, we claim and assert these rights by taking to the streets and riding our bicycles, all in an expression of our inalienable right to ride!

Just who has the right to the road?

I stumbled on some interesting letters to the editor this week.

The first got my attention because it came from a town I know well, a scenic bump in the road in the Colorado high country near Rocky Mountain National Park.

My Grandmother lived in Granby, Colorado for awhile back in the ‘30s; my mother spent a few summers working there as a waitress when she was a teenager. And I grew up camping with my parents on the shores of Grand Lake just outside of town.

So I was surprised to read this letter in the local newspaper.

As these things often go, she was writing in response to another letter, which in itself was a response to an earlier letter demanding that cyclists be licensed, insured and taxed.

You know, the usual bull. As if most adult cyclists don’t already have a driver’s license and pay the same taxes anyone else does. And don’t make a fraction of the demands on the road system — or cause a fraction of the harm — that cars and trucks do.

When their real point is, they just don’t want to share their precious roads with us. Because, we’re like, in the way and stuff.

Her point was that local roads simply aren’t big enough to accommodate both bikes and the large logging trucks like her husband drives, especially given Colorado’s new three-foot passing law. Sort of like one of those classic westerns, where someone would inevitably say “this town’s not big enough for both of us.”

And it wasn’t her, or her husband, she thought should be leaving.

That came as a surprise to me, because over the years, I’ve driven — and ridden — virtually every inch of that area. And never had any trouble sharing those roads with anyone.

Then again, her idea of sharing the road is for us to get the hell out of the way.

The funny thing is, those curvy mountain roads that she claims weren’t built to accommodate cyclists weren’t built to accommodate today’s large trucks, either. Most of those roads were built in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, when most cars were smaller and trucks were just a fraction of the size they are today.

In fact, I remember riding in the car with my father, stuck behind yet another semi-truck inching its way down a narrow mountain pass, and listening to him rant about how those damn trucks didn’t belong on narrow winding mountain roads.

Evidently, who belongs on the roadway depends entirely on your perspective.

And it’s not just bicyclists — or trucks — that backcountry drivers have to watch out for. There’s the problem of drivers frightened by the winding curves and steep drop-offs who insist on driving 20 or 30 miles below the speed limit. Or farm combines and tractors who crawl along at 10 or 15 mph as they move from one field to another.

And there’s always the possibility that a deer and elk, cow or fallen boulder that could be waiting in the middle of the road, hidden by the next curve.

But her problem isn’t with rocks or cows, farmhands or frightened flatlanders.

No, it’s just the selfish cyclists riding where they don’t belong who inhibit her husband’s ability to speed along mountain roads that weren’t designed for either one of them — yet can accommodate bikes a lot more easily, and with less wear and tear, than they can massive trucks.

So here’s the bottom line.

If you don’t have the skill or patience to share the road safely with other users — whether cars, trucks, skateboards, bikes, cows, pigs or pedestrians, in the mountains or on the streets of L.A. — you don’t belong on the road.

Period.

Whether you’re behind the wheel, or crouched over the handlebars.

Don’t like it? Get over it.

Because we’re not going away. And neither are they.

………

The Times offers a great profile of the brothers — and philosophy — behind Flying Pigeon; next month’s Dim Sum Ride sounds like the best one yet. NPR considers the new Bike Station being built in Washington DC. New York might have a great new bikeway system, if it wasn’t for those darn New Yorkers. Stomach-churning video of a Wisconsin state legislator running a red light and hitting a cyclist. A Minneapolis cyclist is killed in a rare bike on bike fatality. DC authorities remove a ghost bike without notifying cyclists or the family — and do nothing to prevent more in the future. A writer insists the cyclist/motorist divide created by Columbia, MO’s new anti-harassment law is narrowing; the comments that follow beg to differ. The Cycling Lawyer clearly explains why the Idaho Stop Law is a good idea; people like the Columbia commenters and the letter writer above are why it will probably never pass. WorldChanging presents your guide to bicycle infrastructure; Bikes Belong announces a new Bicycling Design Best Practices project. Jakarta’s Bike to Work club celebrates its 4th anniversary. Finally, Portland gets a new separated cycle track, and a nifty brochure to explain it.

Today’s post, in which I examine two- and four-wheeled a**holism

Let’s go back to a topic I touched on last week.

You see, I’ve got a very simple rule of thumb:

When someone calls me a jerk, asshole or whatever other insult happens to pass their lips, I generally assume it’s the other person who actually has the problem.

If it happens again, though, I start to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something to inspire that. And if it happens a third time, I’m pretty convinced that I just may, in that particular case at least, be what the French would call le trou de cul.*

(Of course, the opposite holds true as well. If I keep encountering people I think are jerks, assholes, et al, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m at least partially to blame.)

Yet there are a significant number of drivers who remain quite convinced that every cyclist they encounter is a flaming rectal orifice.

For instance, I once took part in an online forum in which a number of people went to great lengths to point out the inherent rudeness of cyclists, as well as their willingness to teach us a lesson in vehicular Darwinism by running us off the road. Or worse.

Of course, these comments were met by a similar number of cyclists who argued the counterpoint with equal vehemence, and varying degrees of civility.

But one comment in particular stuck with me.

This person said he couldn’t begin to count the many times that riders had cursed, gestured or spit at him, or actually struck his car with their hands or bike locks. And took that as proof that cyclists are rude, vile and disgusting creatures, unworthy of life — let alone the few feet of roadway we insist on occupying.

So, invoking the above rule of thumb, I inquired just what it was he was doing behind the wheel that would make so many cyclists feel so ticked off. Then suggested that perhaps it wasn’t the cyclists who were actually the problem.

Needless to say, that was the last we heard from him. But clearly, he was not alone in his certainty that cyclists are responsible for all the evil in the world, or at least on the roadways. And that we all have a major attitude problem.

You can find similar comments on countless online discussions of bicycling. Yet in over 30 years as a licensed driver, I have never had a confrontation with an angry cyclist.

Never.

Maybe that’s because, as a cyclist, I make a point of driving safely and courteously around other riders. Or maybe just because I go out of my way not to be a jerk behind the wheel.

So if, as a driver, you find yourself having repeated conflicts with angry cyclists, it may be time to consider that perhaps they’re not the problem. And ask yourself what you’re doing, or failing to do, that could be causing, or at least contributing, to it.

Of course, that’s not to say that cyclists are entirely blameless.

Occasional conflicts are to be expected as we all learn to share the road and compete for the same increasingly limited piece of asphalt. But the key word there is occasional.

So if you find yourself having frequent conflicts with angry drivers, maybe it’s time to consider how you might be contributing to the problem. Because in any traffic confrontation, there’s usually at least one asshole involved.

And sometimes it’s me.

 

Damien Newton wants your input on Streetblog’s questionnaire for the Council District 5 candidates. A Salt Lake City writer applauds cyclists, even while resisting the occasional urge to turn them into hood ornaments. An economist applies game theory to four-way stops. Flying Pigeon suspects the thief who stole one of their bikes was an L.A. Sheriff. Another college newspaper takes on cyclists, and Oregon’s proposed Idaho Stop law. A group in Bend, Oregon suggests that bike safety is a two-way street, involving cyclists and drivers. And finally, last week’s discussion of a New Jersey newspaper editorial about their proposed three-foot law comes full circle, as one of their bloggers quotes yours truly.


*Courtesy of a truly indispensible pocket guide, The Little Book of Essential Foreign Swear Words, by Emma Burgess.

This bike lane is mine, God gave this lane to me

Today’s vastly oversimplified and seemingly off-topic history lesson:

It wasn’t that long ago, a little less than a century, that there were very few Jews in Israel. In fact, there was no Israel.

At the end of the first World War, less than 90,000 Jews lived in what was then known as Palestine. Then the Zionist Movement encouraged the migration of Jews to Palestine, reclaiming the land the Romans expelled them from nearly two millennia before.

The turmoil preceding World War II led to further migration, as did the resettlement of refugees following the Holocaust — resulting in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The only problem is, there were already people living there.

Over 700,000 Arab Palestinians became refugees virtually overnight. And a conflict began that defies resolution 60 years later, as two distinct groups claim their right to the same limited space.

Remind you of anything?

There was a time — a very brief time — when the bicycle was the king of the road; the cleaner, more efficient, new-fangled contraption that was to replace the horse and buggy. At least until the car came along and claimed the roads for themselves.

Bikes were relegated to the side of the road — or banned from the roadways entirely. Some cyclists and traffic planners believed the solution was to build segregated bike lanes and off-road paths; others felt the answer lay in reclaiming our space on road, just as any other form of vehicular traffic.

The problem was, drivers felt the streets belonged to them, and would not willingly give up any part of the road, or make way for what they considered an inferior mode of transportation invading their turf.

And so began the conflict we deal with every day. A cold — or sometimes, very hot — war between cyclists and drivers, as we fight for our right to ride, and the motorized world too often refuses to give an inch.

Does it compare to the tragedy currently unfolding in Gaza?

Of course not. But the roots of the conflict are similar, and a resolution just as unlikely.

Even the cycling community is divided as to what approach to take. Some riders refuse to be confined to a separate but unequal lifestyle; others are willing to utilize bike paths and lanes, but believe the solution lies in a better educated motoring public. Some believe in sharrows, while others are willing to fight for their bike lanes; yet even those who support those painted lines on the street accept that they may not always be the best solution.

Then there are those of us who want to take their bike lanes with them, and others who are just happy to stay off the sidewalk.

As for me, I suppose I have a wheel in both camps. I agree with Will, in that I believe the ideal solution lies in educating drivers, so they’re more willing to share the road. And make room for us as equal users of the streets.

I just don’t believe that will ever happen.

So unless, and until, it does, I will take my place on the road, while staking my claim to the bike lane — even if it doesn’t go anywhere. And fight to defend it from any form of abuse, encroachment or foreign invaders. Because separate and unequal may not be ideal, or even right, but it’s ours.

And right now, it’s the best we’ve got.

Gary reports on Bike Kill, complete with killer photos. Matt fills us in on L.A.’s upcoming tour de hills (and yes, we do have a few), while Will once again demonstrates his mastery of the cyclist’s revenge — with no blood, or anything else, spilled. C.I.C.L.E. announces their new office in Northeast L.A., courtesy of the brewers of my favorite beer. Denver follows up on its bike sharing program during the Democratic Convention with an affordable city-wide rent-a-ride plan. And Lauren, AKA hardrockgirl, fills us in on her first four months of L.A. riding, part 1 (and thanks for the kind word).

Bike law change #11: Investigate and prosecute any reported incidence of vehicular assault as a criminal violation

Awhile back, following the infamous Mandeville Canyon brake test, a woman wrote to describe her experience as bicycle commuter along a major east-west thoroughfare in the San Fernando Valley.

Like many streets in this city, there was no shoulder or bike lane, so she was forced to ride in the traffic lane, as impatient drivers honked or raced closely past her. One in particular, apparently angry at being stuck behind her at a red light, revved his engine and lurched forward, actually making contact and lifting her rear wheel off the ground in what she could only interpret as a not-so-subtle threat.

Actually, it was a crime. Or if it wasn’t, it certainly should have been. Because while most of us see a car as simply a means of getting from here to there, in the wrong hands, it can be a deadly weapon.  And there is no real difference between threatening a cyclist with a car or with a gun, since both are capable of inflicting serious injury or death.

Sections 240 – 248 of the California Penal Code define assault as “…an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another;” battery is defined as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Meanwhile, section 245 sets a penalty of up to 4 years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon other than a gun.

Like a car, for instance.

Of course, there are other ways a car can be used as a deadly weapon, from intentionally causing an accident by striking the cyclist or forcing the cyclist to strike the car, as the good doctor has been charged with doing, to intentionally striking a rider with an open car door, or forcing the rider off the road or into another vehicle.

Any one of these can cause serious injury or death. Even simply throwing something at a rider from a moving vehicle — as has happened to many, if not most of us, at one time or another — can cause a rider to lose control of his bike, with potentially deadly consequences.

But just try to report something like that to the police; in most cases, they’ll say that since they didn’t see it, there’s nothing they can do. Or if they do bother to respond, usually because of an injury to the rider, they’ll investigate the incident as a traffic accident, rather than the criminal activity it is.

Yet they would never tell the victim of an armed robbery that there’s no point in investigating, since they didn’t actually see the crime take place; nor would they investigate a mugging as a simple accident. Even a report of someone brandishing a gun in a threatening manner is enough to provoke a massive police response.

But commit the same crime with a car, and you’re virtually guaranteed of getting away with it.

So let’s demand the protection we deserve. Let’s contact our legislators, and insist that they amend sections 240 – 248 to clearly specify that anyone who uses a motor vehicle to threaten, intimidate, attack or injure a cyclist or pedestrian can, and should, be charged with assault and/or battery with a deadly weapon, and subject to a prison term and seizure of the vehicle, as well as permanent loss of driving privileges.

And insist that any report of a motor vehicle being used in such a manner be investigated by the police to the fullest extent possible as a criminal matter, rather than a traffic infraction.

Because your life, and mine, may depend on it.

 

 

An elderly woman was hit and killed by a teenage cyclist on his way to band practice yesterday. Vision Zero attempts to end the body count; isn’t it time Los Angeles got on board? Green LA Girl plans on attending the LACBC’s Bicycle Road Skills Class (and early wishes for a happy birthday); meanwhile, C.I.C.L.E. is offering an Intro to City Riding for eight lucky riders, which takes place the same day as the inaugural Tour de Ballona, none of which I’ll be attending unless these damn allergies improve. Evidently, L.A. now has its own version of N.Y.’s popular Bike Snob. And finally, this is just one reason why those allergies are killing me today.

 

Bike law change #10: Assign greater responsibility to the more dangerous and less vulnerable road users

Disgruntled correctly noted that some members of the European Union — notably Denmark and the Netherlands — have recently changed their laws to hold the driver automatically responsible for any accident involving a cyclist, except in the case of particularly outrageous and illegal behavior by the cyclist.

As appealing as that sounds, I doubt something like could ever be passed, or implemented, in this country. And frankly, I’m not sure that it should, having seen the way some cyclists ride around here.

However, the rational behind the law is sound.

As the law currently stands, drivers and cyclists share equal responsibility for avoiding accidents (although that’s not always how the police see it). But cars and SUVs are, by their very nature, dangerous vehicles. And in any collision between a two-ton vehicle and a 200+/- pound cyclist, the rider will inevitably come out on the losing end. Or as the European Commission document behind the proposal to extend the Danish and Dutch laws to other countries puts it, “Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more.”

Simply put, no matter who is at fault, if a car hits a bicyclist — or vice versa — the car may suffer a few hundred, or possibly even a few thousand, dollars in damage. But the cyclist is likely to suffer serious, potentially life-threatening injuries.

Or worse.

So let’s amend the law to reflect that reality. And put more responsibility to avoid an accident — and therefore, more liability in the event of an accident — on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle. Not all responsibility, but enough to reflect the greater vulnerability cyclists and pedestrians face on every road and at every intersection, every day.

 

L.A.’s only Flying Pigeon dealer tells how to save 30% one your very own FP. What can I say? When the name stops making me smile, I’ll stop writing about it. LACBC plans an ice cream ride this weekend. Toronto cyclists say bike lanes make sidewalks safer. The hot look for British cyclists this year is hi-vis. And finally, thanks to Damien at Streetsblog L.A. for Tuesday’s link to this series, along with Alex at Westside Bikeside, Gary at Gary Rides Bikes, Timor at Los Angeles Rides, and all the others who’ve helped draw attention to these proposed law changes.

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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