Tag Archive for Stanley E. Goldich

Morning Links: Reckless driving laws apply to bike riders, too; LA Times comes down hard on Gil Cedillo

No, your bike isn’t a vehicle under California law.

But that may not matter as far as traffic regulations are concerned.

In a case involving an LA cyclist, a Los Angeles appeals court has ruled that the statute prohibiting reckless driving applies to bike riders, as well.

Even though the state defines bicycles as devices, rather than vehicles. And even though the most reckless rider poses far less risk to those around him or her than a reckless driver.

Jorge Velasquez, Jr was over twice the legal limit when he left a Dodger game in April of last year, riding brakeless on the hilly streets. He swerved to avoid a car, and slammed into a jogger while on the wrong side of the road, leaving her in a coma for 10 days with serious facial injuries.

Rather than charging him with biking under the influence, which carries just a $250 fine and no points against the rider’s drivers license, prosecutors charged Velasquez with reckless driving, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.

His public defender argued, reasonably, that the reckless driving statute was specifically written to apply to operators of motor vehicles who act in a manner likely to injure or kill others.

But the court ruled that CVC 21200, which gives cyclists with all the rights and responsibilities of drivers, meant that all traffic laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists — unless the law is specifically written to exclude bicyclists, such as the statue setting separate penalties for riding under the influence.

In some ways, the ruling works to our benefit by reconfirming our right to the road.

If the court had ruled that the reckless driving statute didn’t apply to bikes, it could be argued that other laws that work in our favor don’t either, such as the right to ride on any road where cars are allowed — with the exception of some limited access highways — or to use any lane when appropriate, just as drivers do.

On the other hand, not everyone agrees with the ruling.

Cyclist and Century City attorney Stanley E. Goldich, a frequent contributor to this site, thinks the court missed the mark.

My two cents on the opinion.  I read the prior 1980 Clingenpeel opinion in addition to the ruling of the CA Court of Appeal in the Jorge Velasquez (pdf) matter.  The central question seems to be whether the additional reference to Division 17 in the 1982 amendment to Section 21200 is sufficient to satisfy due process requirements by making clear “to persons of ordinary or common intelligence” that cyclists can be charged with reckless driving of a vehicle under Vehicle Code section 23103 notwithstanding that a bicycle is not a vehicle under the Vehicle Code.

I think in order for cyclists to be subject to prosecution and criminal penalties for reckless driving of a vehicle there needs to be an explicit reference to reckless driving of a vehicle in Section 21200 as was done for drunk driving in the 1982 amendment with the language “driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs, or the combined influence thereof.”  I don’t think it is sufficiently clear that cyclists are subject to criminal prosecution for reckless driving of a vehicle by the vague reference to Division 17, particularly in light of the last phrase in section 21200 “except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.”  I read this last phrase to mean that cyclists are not subject to punishments for driving of a vehicle because a bicycle in not a “vehicle.”  Certainly, without an explicit reference to reckless driving as was done for drunk driving in the 1982 amendment, there is ambiguity whether the general reference to Division 17 is intended to make cyclists liable for reckless driving of a vehicle.  This general reference does not give fair warning required for criminal statutes. In addition, there are not less severe penalties for bicyclists as was done for driving while intoxicated that takes into account that bicyclists do not pose the same dangers as motorists.

Certainly the actions of Jorge Velasquez in riding a fixed gear bike without a handbrake in traffic after the Dodger game with a blood alcohol level of 2.18 was extremely reckless. However, while he can certainly be prosecuted for biking while intoxicated (and should be subject to civil liability to the pedestrian he hit for his reckless conduct) I don’t think the criminal statute for reckless driving of a vehicle is applicable and criminally charging Velasquez or other cyclists for this violates due process of law. It is also curious that this issue has not arisen in the 32 years after Section 21200 was amended.   I wonder if there have been previous instances where cyclists in CA have been prosecuted for reckless driving of a vehicle. I certainly would welcome having the legislature address this and provide for prosecution of cyclists for reckless bike riding in conjunction with determining an appropriate penalty or penalties as was done with biking while intoxicated.

Unless the California Supreme Court agrees to take up the case, the ruling will now be law throughout the state.

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Red Kite Prayer offers an open letter to now ex-Santa Paula reserve officer Laura Weintraub, saying no, you are not forgiven.

And hat’s off to Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson, who responds to my post about the whole imbroglio being a teachable moment. And reaches out to a surprisingly receptive Santa Paula Police Chief Steve McLean; he’ll be meeting with McLean, along with the LACBC’s Eric Bruins, on Friday to help build a better relationship between the department and bicyclists.

I hate to sound like part of a mutual admiration society, but if you’re not reading Seth’s blog, you should be.

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The LA Times Opinion page comes down hard on CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo and his single-handed attempt to derail the already approved road diet and bike lanes on North Figueroa.

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. Currently, Los Angeles has 337.62 miles of dedicated bike lanes. Cedillo is looking at alternatives to the Figueroa corridor, but the city planners chose these designated routes for specific reasons; nearby streets, they say, won’t work. The idea is to create a seamless network of bike lanes that allow cyclists to travel continuously from one point to another.

It’s a good read, and well worth a few moments of your time. Thanks to Richard Risemberg for the heads-up.

Meanwhile, KFI’s John and Ken demonstrate how little they know about the subject in this segment from Monday’s show, beginning at roughly the 11-minute mark.

Personally, I didn’t have the stomach for it, tuning out shortly after they disregard studies proving road diets improve safety simply because they choose not to believe them. Life is too short for that kind of indignorant anti-bike drivel; maybe you can tolerate it better than I could. Link courtesy of Erik Griswold.

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After giving up his dream of winning a grand tour, Australia’s Michael Rogers wins Tuesday’s stage of the Tour de France. France’s Thomas Voeckler stops mid-race to berate a heckler. And BMC’s Peter Stetina is ready to step up and deliver Tejay van Garderen to a place on the podium; but only if TvG can manage to keep the rubber side down.

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Local

London’s Guardian looks at Nona Varnado and LA Bike Trains.

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton says new LADOT chief Seleta Reynold’s outside perspective could help overcome LA’s self-defeatist attitude.

Downtown LA could get a new 84-station bike share system and a bike hub at Union Station, courtesy of Metro.

Better Bike looks at three newly approved types of bike facilities and wonders if any will ever come to the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills. Don’t hold your breath.

A Santa Monica bike theft is caught on video; this is why you never secure your bike to a parking meter with a cable lock.

Construction begins on an improved bike route on PCH in west Malibu.

Pedestrian and cycling safety will be a major focus of new Glendale councilmember Paula Devine.

Walk Bike Burbank forms in response to the city’s decision to shelve a planned bike and pedestrian path.

 

State

KCBS-2 looks at last weekend’s Orange County memorial ride to remember fallen cyclists.

A Laguna Beach group proposes a two-way bike path as path of a plan to beautify downtown.

Sonoma County’s bike commuter of the year isn’t who or what you’d expect.

 

National

A new national bike website is for women only.

Even Arizona is driving less and bicycling more.

Lafayette CO police apologize for ticketing a cyclist for riding in a crosswalk, which isn’t against the law in the state.

Even Philadelphia police can be victims of bike theft; the clueless thief abandoned the bike after attempting to sell the clearly marked police bike to someone around the corner.

Not surprisingly, people who live near bike lanes exercise more than people who don’t — although the results may not be immediate.

 

International

Seven innovative ways cities are transforming themselves to improve bicycling.

The Telegraph offers advice on how to avoid common bicycling injuries.

A Kiwi writer calls cars the logical and inevitable solution to cycling injuries and dung-covered streets, and says it’s madness to expect bikes to share roads with cars. Oh, well okay, then.

 

Finally…

When the satirical Bike Lobby twitter account claims credit for two white flags that mysteriously appeared on the Brooklyn Bridge overnight, the media takes them just a little too seriously. And an easily offended Seattle driver assaults a cyclist to defend the honor of another driver. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

 

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.”

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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.

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