Tag Archive for three foot passing law

Reading between the lines — did California Governor Jerry Brown kill a bike rider with his pen?

Sometimes the irony is as tragic as it is overwhelming.

It was just a few years ago that the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an editorial ridiculing efforts to pass a three-foot passing law in the state — one day after printing a story proving the need for it.

The paper said that while they supported “protecting bicycle enthusiasts,” they feared a society in which drivers could get a ticket for passing a cyclist at just 2’11”, and called the proposed law unenforceable.

Pity they don’t read their own newspaper.

Just 24 hours earlier, they’d run a story about a 78-year old man who died after being passed so closely by a school bus that witnesses thought the driver had hit him. Police initially investigated the death as a hit-and-run before concluding that the bus never came in contact with the rider.

It just passed so closely that the rider, an experienced cyclist who averaged 5,000 miles a year on his bike, lost control and fell, fatally, off his bike.

Something a three-foot law might have prevented. Or at the very least, could have provided a basis to charge the bus driver for his death.

Now we have a very similar situation right here in California.

Except instead of an editorial providing an ironic context, we have the veto pen of a misguided governor to blame.

And instead of a 78-year old victim, it was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley who died when he was passed by a dump truck last July.

Israeli professor Shlomo Bentin, a renowned expert in cognitive neuropsychology, was riding his bike next to a line of cars when he was buzzed by the dump truck — once again, so close that witnesses at the scene believed the truck had hit him.

Yet investigators, relying on video, interviews and forensic analysis, concluded that the truck never made contact with the rider.

And even though state law requires drivers to pass at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle, authorities felt they didn’t have enough evidence to make their case.

Something that probably wouldn’t have been a problem if we had a three-foot passing law in place.

Anyone who has ever been in Bentin’s position knows the sheer terror that comes with having a massive, multi-ton vehicle mere inches from your elbow.

It takes near-superhuman self control not to overreact in that situation, where the slightest mistake could result in a serious, if not fatal, collision with the passing vehicle – or a crash into the parked cars on the right that could throw you under the truck’s wheels or into the path of following cars.*

Or cause you to simply fall on your own, as Bentin and the rider in the New Jersey case appear to have done with tragic results.

And make no mistake. While most falls from a bike are harmless, any fall can be dangerous.

Yet thanks to the veto pen of our misguided governor, California drivers still have no standard in place to tell them what is and isn’t a safe passing distance.

And as this case clearly shows, any pass that doesn’t actually come in contact with the rider is effectively legal under current law.

Even if the rider dies as a result.

Had the governor not vetoed two straight safe passing laws — including one he indicated he would sign after vetoing the first — Shlomo Bentin might be alive today, training the next generation of neuropsychologists.

Or at the very least, the driver could have been held accountable for fatally violating the three-foot rule, rather than walking thanks to the current nebulous and virtually unenforceable standard.

Instead, the governor traded our lives, not for the implausible reasons he gave for his vetoes, but as a political favor to groups he evidently felt were more important than mere bike riders. Or so I’m told by people in a position to know.

Bentin’s body should be laid at Governor Brown’s feet — figuratively, if not literally. Because he’s traded the safety of every bike rider on California streets for political expediency.

And he should be held accountable, morally and politically, for Bentin’s death, and any other cyclists who have been Jerry Browned following his vetoes, or will be.

Our governor has blood on his hands.

And nothing he can do will wash it away.

*If you find yourself in a similar situation, the best course of action is to bail to your right if there’s room — even if that means going over a curb or off the roadway; road rash or a broken arm is a lot better than getting run over. If there’s no room to your right, hold steady and try not to react in any way; it’s not easy, but this is one situation where doing absolutely nothing could save your life.

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A Canyon Country bicycle advocate was seriously injured in a collision on Saturday.

Kevin Korenthal was riding south on Little Tujunga Road when a 16-year old driver lost control rounding a curve, crossed the center line and hit him head-on. He was airlifted to the hospital, where he underwent 7 hours of surgery for injuries including three broken vertebrae in his neck and back, as well as a broken wrist, tibia, fibula, scapula and femur.

The founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users, Korenthal lost his lower left leg as a result of another cycling collision 21 years ago; the latest crash left a steel rod in the amputated leg bent at a 45-degree angle.

Thanks to Michele for the heads-up.

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Finally, the Times offers a great look at L.A.’s jet-beating Wolfpack Hustle.

Surprisingly — or maybe not so much, given the number of cyclists who work for the Times — it offers a fair, balanced and objective look at a leading segment of the city’s formerly underground bike culture.

Although as usual, some of the comments leave something to be desired.

Cyclist refuses to back Governor’s Prop 30 in response to Brown’s repeated 3-foot vetoes

I got an interesting email tonight from a regular reader and bicycling advocate who asked that his name be kept private.

He forwarded an email he sent to Governor Jerry Brown, connecting the dots between Brown’s ill-advised vetoes of two three-foot passing laws, and support for the tax increase Brown is currently pushing. As well as his own safety.

After much soul searching I have decided not to support Prop 30.

As someone who commutes over 5,000 miles per year by bicycle, the Governor’s callous unwillingness to protect my safety by twice vetoing the 3 ft passing law is so important to me, that I cannot bring myself to cooperate with him on an issue of far less importance to me.  Just today I was again struck by a motorist (thankfully uninjured) while riding home in Hollywood.  My life, my safety, is personally more important than the solvency of this state.

If he can’t be bothered to protect me, I can’t be bothered to help him.

Regretfully, 

First of all, let me say I’m glad he’s okay; collisions with cars don’t always turn out so well.

Second, I have to admit, the same thought has occurred to me.

I can’t say I’d recommend basing your vote on a funding measure on Brown’s lack of support for California cyclists. On the other hand, I couldn’t blame you if you did; the governor shouldn’t expect our support when he won’t give us his. Which is something he can ill afford right now.

Meanwhile, Bike San Diego offers an in-depth two-part look at Brown’s veto.

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On a related subject, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember who first came up with the term Jerry Browned to describe getting dangerously buzzed at less than three feet while riding your bike.

I remember seeing it on Twitter. And that took the ball and ran with it, as did Gary the always insightful of Gary Rides Bikes.

It turns out that credit for originally coming up with it goes to our friends at L.A.-based bikewear manufacturer Swrve.

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The LACBC endorses Proposition J to speed up transit projects. Fighting a valet blocked bike lane. Motor Avenue gets a much needed road diet. Multicultural Communities for Mobility — the former City of Lights program — hosted their annual awards dinner on Wednesday. The history of PCH reveals a troubled and dangerous highway. In an absolutely absurd opinion piece, the L.A. Times compares the green credibility of a $20 cardboard bike with an $845,000 plug-in hybrid Porsche. Malibu officials confirm their commitment to bike safety following the death of Mari Echeverria on PCH this month; Cycling in the South Bay responds with the real problem on PCH. What happens to abandoned bikes in Hermosa Beach. CLR Effect takes a look at fire bikes.

Don’t forget this weekend’s Newport Beach Memorial Ride and Fundraiser; if you ride in Orange County you need to be there. An Orange County assailant escapes by BMX bike after stabbing a woman multiple times; fortunately, her injuries weren’t serious. Signs appear announcing the forthcoming sharrows in Corona del Mar. A Los Olivas DUI driver gets four years and four months in prison for plowing into a group of riders, leaving one in a semi-comatose state with serious brain injuries. A dangerous Santa Barbara street gets the blame for putting a cyclist on life support — though police say it’s because she didn’t use a crosswalk. San Francisco police allegedly beat the crap out of a popular cyclist and bike cap maker for exercising his 1st Amendment rights — then charge him with assaulting three officers and resisting arrest. Bay Area bicyclists say thanks to drivers.

The Bike League has recognized this year’s Bike Friendly Businesses — including Santa Monica’s Helen’s Cycles and Irvine’s Jax Bicycle Center — along with their new Bike Friendly Universities; sorry, USC. Thirteen reasons you should start biking to work. Winter bike commuting in Anchorage AK. An Arizona writer gets it right in responding to complaints from motorists. A Salt Lake City man is under arrest after taking a $5,900 for a test ride and not coming back. A Native American driver shows no remorse when he pleads guilty to running down a cross-county cyclist on a New Mexico reservation; the tribal court has jurisdiction, which is seldom a good thing. A drunk Texas cyclist pulls a machete on a cop; usually not a good idea. A Pittsburgh mom thanks the strangers who helped her bike-riding daughter. An arrest has been made in the case of the Pittsburgh cyclist whose throat was slashed last month. In a horrifying case, two New Jersey brothers are accused of killing a 12-year old girl to steal her BMX bike. Bike Portland says New York streets really do live up to the hype. NYPD forgets to investigate the fatal dooring of a cyclist last April. New York plazas and bike lanes are good for business. Russell Crowe leads the paparazzi on a 7.7 mile bike chase. AAA insists DC-area drivers are the victims of a war on cars; if they don’t figure out soon that a lot of their members also ride bikes, they may lose that war.

America’s only surviving Tour de France winner calls on the head of competitive cycling’s governing body to resign. Lancegate claims another victim, as Team Sky’s Bobby Julich resigns as cycling coach. Motorists say cyclists are endangering their lives by riding on divided highways; yeah, they couldn’t just slow down and drive safely. So much for that cycling paradise, as a Danish princess collides with a cyclist on the streets of Copenhagen. Bangalore gets its first bike lane. Real justice for a fallen cyclist as a Kenyan driver gets life in prison for the hit-and-run death of a bike rider.

Finally, let me get this straight — if 25% of drivers want those “inconsiderate cyclists” to be  taxed and licensed, doesn’t that mean an overwhelming 75% don’t? And a UK cyclist punches a car passenger in an unprovoked assault. So who said it was unprovoked?

Oh, right, the guy who got punched.

An open letter to L.A. Mayor — and three-foot law supporter — Antonio Villaraigosa

Last week, I asked you to write L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to urge him to try one more time to get a three-foot passing law through the state legislature and onto the desk of our seemingly bike-hating governor.

Today I’m sharing my own letter to the mayor.

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Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

No one blames you for the failure of SB 1464, the three-foot passing law recently vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

In fact, I’m told that, not only were you the driving force behind the introduction of the bill, you were also fighting for it right up to the moment of the governor’s ill-advised veto, urging him to sign the bill and protect the safety of the state’s bike riders.

Yet inexplicably, the governor failed to listen to you, and rejected both the bill and your advice, for reasons that don’t even begin to pass the smell test.

Worse, it’s the second time he’s rejected a three-foot passing law, making Brown one of just two governors in the country to veto a safe passing bill — and the only one to do it twice. This despite promising outgoing State Senator Alan Lowenthal that he would sign it this time.

Which is why Jerry Browned has become the new term for a cyclist getting passed in a dangerous manner.

But everything I’ve heard says that you did everything to could.

I, on the other hand, didn’t.

I actually believed Brown when he claimed he cared about the safety of cyclists and would sign the bill this time around. I also accepted the assurances of those involved in the process that we could count on him this time.

No, really.

There were also things I didn’t like about this bill. Like the fact that the three-foot limit wouldn’t apply to bicyclists riding in a bike lane. And exemptions that allowed drivers too much discretion in passing at less than three feet, making the bill difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

As a result, I didn’t fight for it. Even though codifying the three-foot limit, and legalizing the already common practice of briefly crossing the center line — the reason our auto-centric governor gave for the veto — should have been more than enough to overcome any reservations I might have had.

I won’t make that mistake again.

So I’m going to ask you to go to the mat one more time. Let’s find another sponsor for the bill, and use your considerable influence to get a three-foot passing law through the legislature once again.

And not one that’s been watered down to satisfy a governor who’s already shown he cares more about political expediency than he does the lives and safety of the people he’s been elected to protect. But rather, the strongest possible bill we can pass to protect cyclists as they ride the streets and highways of the Golden State.

I promise not to take it for granted this time. I’ll fight for it every bit as hard as you do, and use whatever influence I have with the cycling community to get it through the legislature.

Maybe redistricting and the new top-two electoral process will mean we can pass a bill with a veto-proof margin this time. If not, we’ll ensure that our governor truly understands how important this law is to California cyclists — and that it’s in his best interest, as well as ours, to sign it this time.

You’ve already done more than your share.

Now I’m asking you to take the lead one more time, and lay yet another bill to protect bicyclists on the governor’s desk. Except this time, I’ll be right there with you, along with countless other riders, to insist that he sign it.

Because our lives could depend on it.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
bikinginla.com

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If you haven’t contacted the mayor yet, please take a moment to email Mayor Villaraigosa at mayor@lacity.org, or call his office at 213/978-0600 or 213/978-0721 to urge him to try one more time to pass a three-foot passing law — and get the governor to sign it this time.

And join me in pledging to support his efforts this time around.

Whatever it takes.

LBFD’s John Hines guilty, 3feet2pass passes and L.A. Weekly goes off the deep end

You can now remove “alleged” from any reference to John Hines.

The Long Beach Fire Captain, scion of one of the city’s leading fire fighting families, changed his plea to guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday.

He was convicted on three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Hines will serve a 90-day diagnostic evaluation in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary. After his release, he will be sentenced on December 2nd at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana; potential penalties range from probation to up to six years and eight months behind bars.

Hines reportedly spent the morning of April 1st drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before getting behind the wheel of his truck. Around 1:20 pm, he swerved into the bike lane on Westminster Ave in Seal Beach and plowed into the bike ridden by 47-year old Jeffrey Gordon.

Gordon was thrown over 70 feet, suffering critical injuries including severe lacerations, spinal injuries and head trauma; according to the Orange County Register, he was hospitalized for two weeks, and continues to suffer from limited physical mobility, as well as speech and memory loss.

Meanwhile, Hines fled the scene without slowing down; witnesses followed him to his home where he was arrested with a BAC of 0.24.

I have no idea why he needs to be evaluated for suitability for state prison; most inmates are simply sentenced without any say in the matter.

But we can only hope the judge imposes the maximum sentence.

Anyone who is trained to save lives, yet is so drunk and heartless as to leave a man laying broken and bleeding in the street does not deserve to walk free.

Or ever drive again.

Thanks to Rex Reese, Jim Lyle and an anonymous source for the heads-up.

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California cyclists may now enjoy a little cushion from passing vehicles, as the State Assembly passed SB 910, the 3feet2pass bill, by a margin of 41-20.

Do I really need to point out that 16 of the no votes came from the Republican side of the aisle, as the California GOP has swung so far to the right they feel a kneejerk need to oppose virtually everything?

However, six Republicans retained sufficient common sense to vote for the bill, while four Democrats felt California drivers still deserve the right to buzz cyclists as long as they don’t actually make contact.

What still remains to be determined is whether the dangerous exception allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet, as long as they slow to 15 miles above the speed of the ride, remained in the bill or was removed in amendments as we have been repeatedly promised.

In other words, if you were riding at 20 mph, a driver moving at up to 35 mph could pass you as close as they wanted as long at they didn’t actually hit you; yeah, good luck with that. And yes, that exception would be every bit as confusing and unenforceable as it sounds, forcing both drivers and police to guess how fast you’re riding.

And yes, it was still in the most recent draft of the law posted online on August 30th.

Let’s hope it really was removed.

Or this will be nothing but feel-good legislation that could actually make it more dangerous for California riders.

Update: Eric B and billsd wrote to correct my reading of the most recent draft of SB 910. The law has in fact been revised to remove the 15 mph passing exemption; it now allows drivers to pass at less than three feet only at speeds of 15 mph or less. Thanks to both for the correction.

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I’ve heard from a number of cyclists who are concerned about a rumor in the case of Joseph Fernandez, the driver convicted of killing Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman.

They’re worried that judge K. Michael Kirkman may have found that Swarzman contributed to his own death though improper lane positioning by failing to ride far enough to the right. As the comment linked to above points out, that would suggest a basic misunderstanding of both state law and commonly taught safe riding practices.

As a result, I reached out to cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, who looked into the question for me.

According to Wheels, it’s unlikely that the judge would have made a ruling like that, since it’s unrelated to the charges against Fernandez. He’s been found guilty of hit-and-run causing serious injury or death, rather than the death itself.

In other words, Fernandez was convicted of leaving the scene, not killing Swarzman — which makes where Swarzman was positioned  in the lane, and whether he contributed to his own death, irrelevant to this case.

As Wheels points out, that may be a matter that will be addressed in the civil case.

However, if anyone who was actually in the courtroom when Fernandez was found guilty has other information, please let me know.

Fernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12th in San Diego Superior Court in Vista; he faces up to four years in prison, case #CN290834.

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Finally, did the L.A. Weekly deliberately lie about L.A.’s new cyclist anti-harassment ordinance? Or was it a case of journalistic incompetence and failure to fact check?

A blog post by Dennis Romero suggests that the new law will clog the courts with cyclists retaliating for the slightest insult.

Really. The law goes into effect today. (Ed. Actually, it was Monday, but who’s counting?) We can just imagine the court testimony:

Bicyclist: He called me an asshole.

Driver: Your honor, I would like to submit that he is an asshole, and that free speech is protected, especially when one speaks the truth.

And he concludes with a reminder abut First Amendment rights:

Added: Interestingly, we recall that court rulings over the years have held that even swearing at police is protected speech. Guess the bicycle gets more respect than the badge at L.A. City Hall.

Of course, as virtually every commenter on the story has pointed out, he is completely and totally wrong. (I particularly enjoyed the comment from local bikewear manufacturer swrve.)

Mere insults aren’t addressed by this law. In fact, as LAPD Sgt. Krumer pointed out, you can call a cyclist any damn thing you want and be perfectly within your rights. Although at this point, calling someone an L.A. Weekly reader could be particularly hurtful.

What you can’t do is threaten the life or safety of a cyclist, either through words or actions.

That’s it.

Don’t say “I’m going to kill you,” or attempt to run a rider off the road — or imply you intend to — and this law will never apply to you.

And for his suggestion in the comments that most cyclists will never read the law, so they’ll file countless worthless cases anyway, no lawyer is going to take a case unless he or she thinks they have a reasonable chance of winning.

Which means there has to be evidence and/or witnesses to support it. And even if a lawyer did take such a case, the courts wouldn’t hesitate to throw it out.

Which takes us back to the Weekly’s false and inflammatory story, which can only put cyclists at greater risk of actual harassment from angry drivers who might believe their load of crap.

So I demand — yes, demand — a complete and full retraction from the Weekly, as well as a public apology from the author.

And I hope you’ll join me in doing the same.

Thanks to Evan G. for the tip.

Better news on Adam Rybicki, LA engineers get bike/ped training, CA considers 15 mph passing law

Good news on the condition of Adam Rybicki, who was critically injured in a collision with an allegedly drunk, underage driver in Torrance on Sunday.

Jim Lyle forwards the following comment from the original story in the Daily Breeze:

A number of physicians ride on this ride and were instrumental in initially saving Adams life. Richard Brenner is one of our riders and is also a physician. Here’s what he has to say about his visit to Adam tonight: “I just returned from visiting Adam at Harbor General. He is in the ICU 3 West. He is still in a coma but shows responsiveness in his extremities. 
He has a trach tube but is not on a ventilator. He has a drainage tube in the head but they haven’t needed to drain anything. The nurse, a great guy, 
told me that his ICP, intracranial pressure, was excellent. He had a cervical collar on and has not been to the MRI. His vitals were good. His face looks a lot better than I expected. There is some swelling but I didn’t see any of the lacerations I was expecting. The nurse noted that Adam has been improving in his responsiveness during his shift. Say a prayer.

Also, in answer to questions I’ve gotten from several people, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels confirms that the passengers in the car driven by Jaclyn Garcia could not be legally required to take a breathalyzer test, even though they were underage and allegedly drunk at the time of the collision. Under California law, only the driver is required to prove sobriety.

The officers investigating the crash could have given them field sobriety tests to test for underage drinking or public intoxication, however. Wheels also notes that police would not have allowed them to leave on their own if they were too drunk to take care of themselves, and could have taken them into custody until they sobered up or someone came to get them.

The passengers also bear no legal responsibility, according to Wheels, either for the collision itself or for allowing Garcia to drive under the influence, unless they were actively interfering with her ability to drive. That’s something we should look at trying to change; anyone who knowingly allows someone to drive after drinking should bear some responsibility for whatever follows.

And contrary to my understanding, while the person(s) who sold, served or supplied the girls with alcohol could be held responsible for violating state liquor laws, they bear no responsibility for the collision itself under California law.

For anyone who may have missed it yesterday, it appears the initial comments by a Torrance Police spokesperson were wrong. All reports I’ve received from people on the scene of Sunday’s collision indicate the Torrance police conducted a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation, and that the officer who’s comments suggested police were blaming the cyclists was not involved in the investigation and had no direct knowledge of the case.

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One of my biggest complaints over the years, and one I’ve frequently heard from other cyclists, is that bike infrastructure too often looks like it was designed by someone who had never been on a bike.

From bike lanes that start and stop at random and place cyclists squarely in the door zone, to bike paths that double as sidewalks and force riders to navigate through turning motor vehicle traffic.

Now the LACBC is working with LADOT and the Mayor’s office to do something about it.

Since the Mayor’s Bike Summit last year, the LACBC has been working quietly behind the scenes to arrange a training program in complete streets and bicycle and pedestrian safety design. Now it’s finally going to take place later this month, with an intensive two-day training session, not just for Bikeways staff, but for all of the city’s roadway engineers.

Maybe we can use this as a springboard for a Vision Zero plan for Los Angeles to achieve a rate of zero cyclists and pedestrians killed on city streets by 2020.

With the new bike plan, better relations with and enforcement from the LAPD, a bike-friendly mayor, a soon-to-be adopted anti-harassment ordinance, and now bike and pedestrian safety training for the people who design our streets, the pieces are finally in place.

It might be hard, but it is doable.

.………

Cyclelicious reports on the latest attempt to approve a three-foot passing law in the California legislature. As the bill now stands, it contains not only the three-foot provision, but also a requirement that drivers pass cyclists at a maximum 15 mph speed differential.

While most reasonable people understand the need to slow down to pass a cyclist, this appears to be an unenforceable standard as it now stands, requiring drivers to slow from 60 mph or more on some highways to 30 or 40 mph — or less — when they pass a cyclist riding on the shoulder.

A better standard might be to require the maximum speed differential when passing a cyclist in the same lane.

Even then, such a speed differential would be virtually impossible to objectively measure, requiring an officer with a speed gun to measure the relative speeds of both the cyclist and the passing vehicle. And frankly, police usually have better things to do with their time.

The only time something like this might come into play would be in the event of a collision, when it could be proven that the vehicle did not slow down before hitting the cyclist.

Which makes me wonder if it’s really just a straw dog — something that could be negotiated away in order to gain approval for the three foot provision.

Or does someone else have some insights on this that I don’t?

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CicLAvia is still looking for volunteers for Sunday, as well as the days leading up to L.A.’s new favorite biking, walking, sitting and just generally hanging out event. Fill out this form to volunteer on Sunday, or this one to volunteer to help get ready on Friday and Saturday; email CicLAviaVolunteer [at] gmail [dot] com for more information.

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LADOT Bike Blog offers an interview with new BAC chair Jay Slater. Damien Newton looks at the county’s proposed bike plan and not surprisingly, finds it lacking, with no plan to implement any of it. Steven Box writes that is has been a long road to relevance for L.A. cyclists, but this is just the beginning. Santa Monica unveils their proposed Bicycle Action Plan on Wednesday. Answering questions about the coming weekend’s 2011 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer event. Richard Risemberg rolls with the monthly Vélo Rétro ride. L.A. Cyclist recounts the restoration of a Nishiki with a bizarre front freewheel. Cynergy Cycles invites you to be one with your bike this Thursday. What to do to keep from getting dropped on group rides. A look back at Santa Monica bicycling history. Evidently, there’s a new Pashley in town. The Times offers a story on biking the steep trail to Little Pine. April is Distracted Driving Month in California — which means don’t do it, rather than encouraging it.

The Quiznos Pro Challenge thankfully abandons their horrible sandwich huckstering name and will hereby be known as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge; now that sounds like something I might actually watch. A new study shows that the percentage of who rides is nearly equally divided among economic groups, with lower income riders making up the largest group and upper income the smallest — so much for the idea that only rich yuppies ride bikes.

Twelve reasons to start using a bike for transportation. The U.S. once led the world in cycling. Minneapolis’ success offers a lesson in how to beat the bikelash. A cycling physician is killed when a driver has a sneezing fit. DC bike commuting on the increase. A cyclist participating in an annual Florida cycling event is killed when a driver attempts to retrieve a dropped cell phone; am I the only one who thinks calling this the event’s first fatality sounds like they’re planning for more?

In what’s sure to be seen by Tea Partier’s as yet another plot for world domination, the UN is now tweeting about road safety. After riding 1750 miles across Europe, a group of Brit soldiers riding for to raise funds for charity are forced to complete the journey on foot due to safety regulations. Mayor Boris considers establishing the London Marathon on Wheels. Saxo Bank SunGuard rider Nick Nuyens takes the Tour of Flanders in a final breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel and Fabian Cancellara; proof the strongest rider doesn’t always win. An Aussie man gets a slap on the wrist after setting a trap for mountain bikers, then changing his mind and warning riders.

Finally, Gothamist offers a hilarious take on the New York Post’s idiotic attempt to link their irrational hatred of New York bikeways and the woman behind them to — wait for it — 9/11.

I’m in catch up mode this week, so please bear with me. I’ve got lots of good stories in the queue, including a guest post from Eric Weinstein on Sunday’s Crosstown Traffic Ride, updates on bike-related criminal cases from Dj Wheels, bike lanes blocked by movie crews, and photos of the crappiest bike lane on the Westside — yes, even worse than Westwood’s Ohio Ave.

The high cost of traffic deaths, a possible 3-foot passing bill and ride with Bicycle Fixation on Sunday

The cost of a traffic death goes far beyond the emotional and financial toll it takes on the victim’s family.

Not surprisingly, there’s a cost to society at large, as well. And like virtually anything else, it can be measured in monetary figures.

The National Safety Council values the average actual cost of traffic deaths  — wages, productivity, medical expenses, etc — at $1.29 million, and the comprehensive costs to society at $4.3 million per death. Incapacitating injuries are valued at $67,800 and $216,000 respectively.

By that measure, Portland’s improvements in traffic safety has resulted 84 fewer deaths and roughly 2400 fewer injuries over the past four years. Which works out to a monetary savings of $1,629,913,300.

That’s $1.6 billion dollars. And nearly 2500 lives.

And that’s just one city.

Meanwhile, by the same measurement, the 12 cycling deaths that I’m aware of so far this year in Southern California have cost us $51.6 million.

And that’s just the financial toll.

The emotional toll is incalculable.

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According to Streetsblog, Long Beach State Senator Alan Lowenthal has introduced a bill that could become a three-foot passing law, even though it doesn’t currently include those words.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the state has considered establishing a minimum passing distance. A similar bill died in 2006 following opposition from the CHP and the trucking industry, which argued that trucks wouldn’t be able to pass cyclists on narrow roadways — as if trying to pass a cyclist at a distance of less than three feet was safe now.

Some have argued that a three-foot distance is unenforceable, since police have no way of measuring if a vehicle passed a cyclist at 35” inches or 37.” Which is ridiculous, of course.

Police won’t be looking for minor infractions; the law will come into force when they observe a driver buzzing a cyclist at far less than three feet, or when the vehicle actually comes in contact with a rider.

And it doesn’t really change anything.

Current law calls for a safe passing distance; all this would do is clarify that anything less than three feet — or roughly the arm length of a grown man — isn’t safe. Which is a hell of a lot better than the current standard, which basically allows anything short of actual physical contact.

Meanwhile, UCLA has started their own campaign to encourage campus drivers to give riders three feet. Good idea; however, I have a better one.

Just ban cars from campus entirely.

.………

Mr. Bicycle Fixation, Rick Risemberg, invites you to ride along in celebration of his birthday on Sunday. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, Rick offers a near-encyclopedic knowledge of local cycling, and is a hell of a nice guy. If my wife hadn’t already booked my weekend, I’d be tempted to join in myself.

So if you’ve got the day free, by all means, go have a little fun for me.

.………

The Times asks why Angelenos are lazier than you’d think — and if something as simple as bike lanes would help. LADOT invites you to attend the next meeting of the Bike Plan Implementation Team on Tuesday, which conveniently comes just hours after the bike plan will (presumably) be adopted at City Hall. Good Sam helps out with the new Bike Wrangler program; then again, as hosts of the annual Blessing of the Bicycles, they’ve long been a friend of local riders. The Argonaut offers a post-mortem on the failed attempt to extend the Venice beachfront bike path to the Marina jetty; thanks to Curbed LA for the link. The Daily Bruin looks at Friday’s Complete Streets conference downtown. How to build your conditioning for endurance riding. Examined Spoke suggests cycling is a solution for our crowded streets, even if that means riding behind children and old people, and notes that L.A. is twice as dense as Holland — in more ways than one, I fear.

Santa Monica plans bikeways throughout the downtown area, including bike lanes on the California Incline leading up the bluff from PCH to Ocean Blvd. Glendale reports on last year’s bike and pedestrian count. Long Beach’s Charlie Gandy offers a look at the city’s new, still-under-construction separated bike lanes. The OC Register reports that Danae Miller, the alleged drunk driver who killed Amine Britel on Monday night, had actually received 17 traffic tickets since 2005, but had six dismissed; meanwhile, CDM Cyclist notes that the road is popular with cyclists, offering bike lanes and a long uphill. the  An Orange County glossy discovers Cycle Chic and social cycling. Santa Cruz police go against current trends and common sense by urging that cyclists be required to display license numbers on their bikes.

Consider the 8-80 Rule of cycling infrastructure — is a street safe for an 8 year old or an 80 year old to ride on?  A new Streetfilms video says biking is redefining infrastructure and our cities. Lessons learned from two years of winter cycling. A proposed bike/ped boardwalk along a Mississippi River rail bridge could result in a 600 mile bike path on both sides of the river. Zeke attends the North Carolina Bike/Ped Summit, once he finally finds it. A Tampa Bay columnist calls for a vulnerable user law.

David Hembrow says maybe London’s bike share program hasn’t been as successful as it seems. Maybe your dream job awaits at London 2012. Kiwi correspondent The Trickster offers more photos of damage to a popular riding route from the recent earthquake, and notes he was supposed to race through there next month; doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. There are several ways you can help. Don’t miss this exuberant celebration of cycling from Nairobi.

Finally, London’s Daily Mail concludes — incorrectly — that bike commuting is a leading cause of heart attacks, even though the study they based it on shows no such thing.  But hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the new intern insists that I’ve been working long enough.

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