An open letter to the Mar Vista Community Council

May 12, 2009

Tonight the Mar Vista Community Council will consider endorsing the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, which has already been adopted by the L.A. City Council and a number of community councils throughout Los Angeles. Appropriately, this bill is being considered during Bike to Work Week, yet it has met some resistance in committee, with some people suggesting that bikes belong on the sidewalk and others saying cyclists should ride in bike lanes or next to cars in parking lanes.

I encourage you to go and speak in support of the bill if you can. Unfortunately, while I’d like to be there, prior commitments will keep me away. As a result, I’m writing the following letter, and will ask someone to deliver it to the council members for me.

Just two months ago, my wife and I were stopped at the intersection of Palms and Sawtelle Boulevards — at the edge of this very park — when her car was struck by a hit and run driver, suffering over $5000 in damage.

Fortunately, we weren’t seriously injured, since we had over 2,000 pounds of steel sand safety equipment to protect us.

If we had been on bicycles at the time, we probably would have been killed.

Some people would see that as an argument for why bikes don’t belong on the streets. They ask why cyclists can’t ride on the sidewalks, in bike lanes or within the parking lane. After all, in the event of a collision, the cyclist will inevitably lose — regardless of who is at fault.

Yet that sort of “blame the victim” mentality puts the entire burden of safety on the cyclist, rather than on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle — which is exactly what a car is. Motor vehicle accidents kill over 40,000 people in the U.S. each year. The number of those killed by bicycles is close to zero; the number killed by cars, trucks and motorcycles approaches 100%.

So the solution is not to remove bicycles from the street, but to insist that all drivers operate their vehicles in a safe and legal manner.

While riding on the sidewalk is legal in Los Angeles, in most of the other cities in the L.A. area, it is not. On many sidewalks, the pavement is broken and uneven, making it dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike. At the same time, most are too narrow to safely accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians; ask any pedestrian if they want bikes whizzing past with little or no warning.

At the same time, sidewalks are inherently dangerous for bicyclists. Aside from the inevitable conflicts with pedestrians, riding on a sidewalk requires the cyclist to cross the street at the end of each block, directly into the path of any drivers making a right turn or approaching from the cross street.

Most drivers look for bikes on the street; they don’t expect to see them dart out unexpectedly from sidewalks, where they can be hidden by plants or other objects. So rather than making bicyclists safer, riding on the sidewalk dramatically increases the risk of a serious accident.

As for bike lanes, the current system of biking infrastructure in the city is woefully inadequate — just one of the things the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights was written to address.

I challenge anyone to create a route from Mar Vista to Downtown — or virtually anywhere else — using only designated Class 1, 2 or 3 bikeways (off-road trails, on-road bike lanes or unmarked bike routes). And many of the Class 3 bike routes are actually among the most dangerous places to ride, such as the one along Pico Boulevard between Sepulveda and Overland.

While the parking lane would seem to be a safe place to ride, since it removes the cyclist from the driving lane, it is actually a very dangerous place for cyclists.

Too many drivers fail to adequately check their mirrors and blind spots before pulling out of a parking space, failing to see cyclists who could be hit by their cars or forced into traffic to avoid a collision.

An even greater hazard comes from drivers who carelessly open their doors without looking. Known as “dooring” by cyclists, this can cause a bicyclist to collide with the door, often resulting in serious injuries, or if the door strikes a rider, it can knock him or her over — directly into the path of oncoming traffic. Even a near miss can result in a serious accident by forcing riders to suddenly swerve into traffic, greatly increasing the risk of a collision.

State law already guarantees cyclists a place on the roadway, wisely leaving it up to the rider to determine exactly where and how to position themselves for maximum safety.

In fact, there is nothing in the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights which is not already taken for granted by other road users, from the right to travel safely and free from fear, to law enforcement aware of all applicable rights and regulations, and a place to park at the end of the journey. All it does is guarantee to cyclists the same privileges and conditions any driver would expect, and the same rights any citizen of this country is entitled to.

I urge you to support safe, free and fair bicycling in Los Angeles, and endorse the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers

Catching up on last week’s reading: Will Campbell channels his inner Dashiell Hammet to invent the new literary category of Bike Noir, while a novelist in Scotland discovers there is such a thing as bad weather; she also notes a new, slim volume of bike poetry. An Eastside cyclist wonders why he still gets harassed when he’s less of a problem than Critical Mass or the Ridazz. Damien Newton discovers that sometimes a bike lane is just paint on the street. Texas considers a safe passing bill. The Xtracycle moves up the coast to my neighborhood. Esquire notes the possible end of car culture, while Bicycle Fixation observes the rising tide of cyclists; even bank robbers prefer bikes these days. LA Eastside offers recent photos of the Ghost Bike for Jesus Castillo. Finally, in case you missed the links in last weeks rant about Santa Monica’s new designation as a Bike Friendly City, Russ Roca tells a tale in five parts of being ticketed for riding safely — and legally — in similarly bike friendly Long Beach, here, here, here, here and yes, here.


L.A. Council District 5 — David Vahedi

May 9, 2009

As I noted recently, I was approached by representatives for both of the candidates in the May 19 runoff election for L.A.’s 5th Council District, each of whom offered to discuss bicycling and transportation issues here. As a result, I sent each candidate a list of five questions.

Here is the response from David Vahedi, current Board Member of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Association and a co-founder of the Westside Neighborhood Council, as well as pro-bono attorney for Friends of Animals and other rescue organizations. He is also well-versed in bicycle law, having represented cyclists in a number of important cases, and is a life-long resident of the 5th District. I’ll repost this on the CD5/SD26 page above and keep it there through the election on May 19th.

David Vahedi

vahedi-small1bicyclist was killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park recently, the latest in a string of hit-and run incidents. What can be done on the city level to reduce the rate of both drunk driving and hit-and-runs? And what can be done to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians?

Injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers are not only senseless, but absolutely maddening. For the last 30 years, while the public has demanded tougher sanctions for drunk driving, the alcohol lobby has used campaign contributions to water down enforcement. A perfect example is the current proposal by an Assemblyman to require breathalyzer ignition locks installed on convicted drunk drivers vehicles. After more political contributions and pressure he has capitulated and the bill is now only for a pilot program in four counties.  

More germane to Los Angeles is the fact that we are the most under policed city in the nation. For the last 15 years we have talked about a 10,000 member police force, but are only finally reaching the milestone later this year if the city council shows back bone and supports the Mayor’s goal. 

While we should have 15,000 officers to be at parity with New York, Chicago, and other major cities per capita, we just lagging behind. Most frustrating to me is the fact that just a 2.2% shift in the general fund budget of LA would pay to hire an additional 1,000 officers. I cannot believe we cannot find and cut 2.2% of inefficiency to make this happen.

If you want to cut down on drunk driving and hit and runs you need the cops on the street to make it happen. More importantly, as I wrote during the primary, educated cops on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and enforcement of laws to protect cyclists will start us in the right direction.

Finally, I am very proud that my neighborhood council was able to raise $5,000.00 to purchase 5 police bicycles for the WLA Division. These bike officers have been seeing first hand and citing vehicle drivers for their knucklehead moves that put all cyclists at risk. 

The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Are you familiar with this document, and if so, do you support these rights as written? Are there any you disagree with, and why? And what would you consider the next steps to transform those rights from mere words into tangible action?  

I was lucky enough to see the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights shortly after it was drafted by the BWC and other leaders in the community in the Spring of 2008 when several friends e-mailed it to me.

I fully support the bill. I would like to strengthen the bill to include that all future road construction projects should require as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) an independent section on how the project would benefit and encourage safe bicycle riding so we stop squandering the opportunity to add to a safe riding experience and encourage people to get out of their cars. 

Please see my primary election responses below for how we can as city leaders stop talking about protecting cyclists and actually start doing it.

There is often a high level of tension between cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles as they compete for limited road space, as illustrated by last year’s incident in Mandeville Canyon. What can the city do to help reduce that tension, and encourage both sides to safely and courteously share the road?  

While we all have witnessed some bonehead moves by cyclists, the majority of the tension in Los Angeles lies with inattentive drivers who are wedded to an idea that they own the road and that driving a car is a right. 

As mentioned earlier, I have been promoting getting more police officers out of their cars and onto bikes. I will continue this on the city council. Bike officers are a proven method of reducing crime and promoting community policing (it is easier to stop and interact with citizens on a bike, than in a car.) 

More importantly, these officers are more likely to cite for dangerous driving that put cyclists at risk.

Also as mentioned earlier, we have failed to incorporate the biking community in dozens of road projects that for very little additional costs could have added segregated bike lanes.

What role, if any, do you see bicycles playing in city transportation policy and improving traffic flow within the city?

As mentioned earlier, all road projects, whether requiring an EIR or not, must include a real dialogue on how the project incorporates and encourages safe cycling.

Are there any other issues you want to address, or any additional comments you’d like to make to the bicycling community?

I would like to share my comments written during the primary which I have included below. As always, Please do not hesitate to contact me at home (310) 557-9677 to talk about any issue. I look forward to working with your group and other groups to make Los Angeles a world class city for cyclists.


David Vahedi’s statement from the March 3rd primary election

May 9, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to write specifically about bicycling issues in relation to my candidacy for Los Angeles City Council, 5th District.

vahedi-small1Whether you are an avid weekend cyclist or a person who depends on a bicycle to get to work or school, the City of Los Angeles has failed miserably to create an infrastructure that encourages cycling.

As you are aware, in my life long district, the 5th, we have very few Class One Bikeways. We must build more and I am dedicated to achieving this goal even if it means I will have to tap my office holder accounts to realize this dream.

As you will see from my Website at  Votevahedi.com, Westside button, I have been a long time advocate for a continuous Class One Bikeway along the Exposition Light Rail Line from Downtown to Santa Monica. I will be a strong voice for this project on the city council.

Another problem we must tackle is the unwillingness of most motorists to appreciate the exposed nature of cyclists and that when a vehicle fails to follow the traffic laws, especially around a cyclist; the result is often severe bodily harm or death for the cyclist. LAPD must be constantly reminded to take cyclist safety as a top concern along with educating drivers. Furthermore, there are many simple things the City can do to protect riders, from highly fluorescent lines indicating a bikeway to placing concave mirrors at known dangerous crossings.

We must also create a true hotline with rapid response for both potholes and street surface issues that are not only talking away from the positive experience of cycling, but also resulting in many serious injuries to riders.

There are also two issues in the legal arena that must be addressed and changed. Many cyclists are unaware that if they are injured on any class of bikeway due to the negligence of the city, that the city is 100% immune from liability. This is the result of the courts extending immunity for trail and paths in the mountains to bike paths, including all classes of bikeways.

This extension of immunity followed after a cyclist broke his neck on Sepulveda Blvd., near Mulholland Highway, after the asphalt collapsed under his bike. The city was aware of the unsafe conditions and the cyclist sued to recover his damages. On appeal, the higher court specifically found that cities and counties have immunity even where they had “actual notice” of the danger.

As an attorney, I have litigated this immunity issue when a client was injured on the Venice Bike Path when a DWP manhole had a piece of metal protruding from it. The DWP, when originally notified of the danger, put a cone over the metal which was soon knocked off, exposing a 13  inch piece of metal 1 inch by 1/16th of an inch that could not be seen. Amazingly, the LAPD officer on the rescue scene was able to break the piece of metal off at the base just like a hangar protecting other cyclists and doing what the DWP should have done in the first place.

There is currently a culture at city hall arising from this immunity that puts the repair of bikes path at the bottom of the list. This must change. The city should adopt the public policy that it will not invoke the immunity if it is determined that they had “actual notice” of the danger and failed to act prudently.

The second area of law that needs to be addressed is that of presumption. Specifically, that if a cyclist is injured in a bike lane in a cyclist versus vehicle accident, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver of the vehicle was negligent. This presumption will work in two ways to protect cyclists. First, recovery of damages will be less expensive and time consuming for the cyclist, and I strongly believe that insurance companies will do a much better job to educate drivers to be more prudent and aware of cyclists’ rights to share the road.

While I most likely cannot make this important legal change directly from the council, city councils historically have been very successful in influencing the legislature to make statewide changes to law.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at home (310) 557-9677 to talk about any issue. I look forward to working with your group and other groups to make Los Angeles a world class city for cyclists.

Sincerely,

David


This WTF moment, courtesy of Santa Monica and the League of American Bicyclists

May 7, 2009

Don’t get me wrong.

I like riding in Santa Monica. It’s a genuine pleasure to ride in a city that has actual cycling infrastructure, let alone where bike routes actually connect with something and you can plot out a route to just about anywhere you want to go.

Coming from traffic-heavy Los Angeles, it’s a breath of fresh air. Literally.

Still, I was surprised when the League of American Bicyclists named SaMo a bicycle-friendly city. Even if it was just a bronze.

I know the state of cycling pretty well sucks in this country. But either they didn’t consult local riders before they made their award, or the bar is set so low we’ll have to be careful not to trip on it.

Because it takes more than just infrastructure and good intentions to truly be bicycle friendly. Even for a city of less than 90,000 people that offers 16 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of bike routes and a 3 mile beachfront bikeway.

It takes a genuine commitment to work with cyclists to encourage riding. Not government officials who refuse to meet with them to work out a compromise that would allow Critical Mass to take place without a heavy-handed police crackdown, complete with bogus — and possibly illegal — tickets.

It takes a city where infrastructure doesn’t just exist, but was smartly planned to protect the safety of riders while preserving traffic flow. It also means a commitment to enforcing restrictions on that infrastructure — or to put it another way, keeping cars the hell out of the bike lane.

In fact, Santa Monica could balance their entire city budget by placing a couple of officers on northbound Ocean Avenue. Then just ticket the drivers who blithely cruise down the bike lane for nearly a full city block between Arizona and Wilshire. I usually see at least couple such idiots every time I ride through there — even though I’m the only one using it for its intended purpose.

And don’t get me started on the way the city allows movie crews to place cones blocking the bike lanes, for no other purpose than to keep cyclists from coming within three feet of their precious trucks.

Yeah, that’s worth risking a life for.

Then there’s the city’s crown jewel, which was mentioned prominently in their press release touting the LAB award — three miles of beach-front bikeway, part of the larger Marvin Braude Bike Path.

As the Times’ Steve Lopez pointed out recently, it’s nearly impossible to ride at times due to the sheer number of pedestrians, dogs, skaters and other assorted non-two-wheeled flotsam. A bikeway on which people are often surprised to encounter cyclists, despite the “Bikes Only” and “No Pedestrians” markings every few feet. And despite the presence of a parallel pedestrian walkway mere feet — or in some cases, inches — away.

Because just like with drivers on the street, if the city won’t enforce bikeway restrictions — let alone state laws that prohibit the blocking of any Class 1 bikeway — other users will take it over and claim it as their own.

Of course, it’s not just a problem in Santa Monica. L.A.’s segment of the bikeway along Venice Beach isn’t any better. And evidently, Long Beach — another recent bronze winner — has issues of its own.

Maybe the LAB thinks things like that are acceptable for a bike-friendly city. Or maybe they’re trying to encourage cities that have made a modest start to keep improving until bike-friendliness permeates the entire city culture.

Or maybe they just didn’t ask those of us who know those city streets best.

I’ll leave the last word to Gary Se7en, in a comment he made on LAist:

I live and work in Santa Monica, live car free and ride a bike every day. It’s not that bad here. It’s not that great either, although it beats most anywhere else in Los Angeles. Maybe SM should get a copper rating instead of bronze. Also bike routes should not count for anything. Lincoln Blvd. is a bike route, Lincoln is also one of the worst streets to ride a bike on in L.A. county.


LAist covers today’s press conference about AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. The Orange Line Bike Path finally gets a much-needed makeover, while talk of sharrows surfaces yet again in L.A.; the LACBC asks you to beg our mayor to move forward. C.I.C.L.E. promotes Bike Week in Pasadena. Connecticut considers a bill that would set aside 1% of all state and federal transportation funds to improve bike and pedestrian access. A bike-hating deputy sheriff from hell assaults two cyclists in Ohio, and a bike riding cop from Florida explains why you should stop anyway. A writer in western Colorado asks why drivers can’t give cyclists as much space as they would a horse or cow. Finally, from across the pond, a new campaign says there’s safety in numbers, while the leader of the Conservatives in Parliament has his bike stolen. Again.


L.A. Council District 5 — Paul Koretz

May 6, 2009

As I noted on here a few weeks ago, I was recently approached by representatives for both of the candidates in the race for L.A.’s 5th Council District. They each offered to have their respective candidates address bicycling and transportation issues here, so I sent each campaign a list of five questions. Former state Assembly Member and West Hollywood City Council Member Paul Koretz is the first to respond. I’ll repost this on the CD5/SD26 page above and keep it there through the election on May 19th, and will post David Vahedi’s responses as soon as I receive them.

Paul Koretz

pk-headshot-smallbicyclist was killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park recently, the latest in a string of hit-and run incidents. What can be done on the city level to reduce the rate of both drunk driving and hit-and-runs? And what can be done to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians?

First, we need to educate people about drinking in moderation by promoting alcohol abuse awareness programs and making the public more conscious of the serious consequences of drinking and driving.  Second, I think one of the largest contributing factors to drunk driving in Los Angeles is the lack of an accessible and effective regional public transportation system. We simply do not have a system in place for people to safely travel between local bars and restaurants and their home. Expanding our existing public transportation system would be the first big step. I also believe that penalties for hit-and-run drivers need to be substantially increased and enforced. It’s a serious crime and the penalties need to be much stiffer for offenders.  I strongly believe that our current system lets drunk drivers off the hook too easily.

I have met with neighborhood groups throughout the district who are deeply concerned with the recent increases in alcohol-related accidents that have caused serious bodily harm and in some cases, unfortunately, death. We need to increase traffic police activity near major intersections and thoroughfares throughout the district to deter speeders and red light runners. Cross walk sting operations (near Robertson and Pico) have been able to temporarily increase awareness among morning and evening commuters. In addition, we should also increase traffic lights and reflectors near intersections to alert drivers at crossing areas. Finally,  I am also in favor of increasing penalties for violations of these regulations.

One step we could take immediately to help make our streets safer would be to support Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian in helping pass AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. This important legislation would address the problem of rising speed limits in our neighborhoods and empower give local cities and neighborhoods to regulate their own speed limits, while still being able to enforce them.  The Safe Streets Bill will equip local governments with the tools to keep the speeds traveled on local roads at a rational level and make the streets in our community safer for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.  

The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Are you familiar with this document, and if so, do you support these rights as written? Are there any you disagree with, and why? And what would you consider the next steps to transform those rights from mere words into tangible action?  

I am well-versed with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and I support it.  It goes without saying that Cyclists should be entitled to the same protections under the law as everyone else. I believe the first step is to transform these rights into tangible action by increasing the role that cyclists play in urban and roadway planning. I strongly encourage input from the cycling community on how to improve our public transportation and specifically how we can increase access to and use of mass transit. We all need to work together to create conditions that will ensure safety for all parties – pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers.  

There is often a high level of tension between cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles as they compete for limited road space, as illustrated by last year’s incident in Mandeville Canyon. What can the city do to help reduce that tension, and encourage both sides to safely and courteously share the road?  

It’s not easy to get motorists in Los Angeles, who are so dependent on their cars, to realize that bicyclists have the same rights as someone in a car. That being said, I think the driver in the Mandeville Canyon incident went far beyond extreme – deadly. I am pleased that Councilmember Rosendahl (who has endorsed my campaign) agreed to introduce the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, which I whole-heartedly support and I think is a step in the right direction to addressing the tension.  

What role, if any, do you see bicycles playing in city transportation policy and improving traffic flow within the city?

When I was the Mayor of West Hollywood, I requested input from the bicycle community on how to implement bike lanes on part of Santa Monica Boulevard. I think Los Angeles needs to adopt a regional public transportation approach that not only addresses improving traffic flow, and mass transit, but also how we can improve options and the quality of life for bicyclists.

In general, we need to focus on the creation of an effective bicycle infrastructure. Los Angeles, with over 330 sunny days a year, should be the world leader in bicycle commuting. We need to start the work of building many more miles of safe bikeways and adequate secure parking for commuters. These two steps will be a good beginning in our efforts to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow.

Are there any other issues you want to address, or any additional comments you’d like to make to the bicycling community?

I am very proud to say that I rode a bicycle all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the AIDS Lifecycle. It was one of the most rewarding experiences because I got to see California from a unique perspective while supporting a great cause.


AB 766 — An open letter to the California State Assembly

May 5, 2009

As you may recall, I recently wrote about the need to pass the Safe Streets Bill AB 766.

As part of that, I encouraged everyone — and yes, that includes you — write a letter in support of the bill, and email it to SafeStreets@BikeWritersCollective.com for presentation at a committee hearing next week.

Here is my letter, which I have just emailed to the Bike Writers Collective — the group behind the recently passed Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Feel free to copy any portion of this to use as the basis for your letter, or write your own in your own words.

But please, write something.

Dear Assembly Member,

The highest responsibility of state government is the protection of its citizens, as well as the countless neighborhoods that make up our state.

Sadly, California is failing in that duty.

Currently, state law allows local governments to use radar to control speed limits; however, in exchange for that privilege, they are required conduct a study of average traffic speeds every seven years. If most drivers exceed the speed limit, which most drivers in California do, they have no choice but to raise the speed limit — whether or not that’s a good idea, and regardless of the harm it may cause to the local community.

The result is that the lives of local residents are needlessly placed at risk, as pedestrians and bicyclists must contend with traffic moving at ever higher speeds, while collisions between vehicles are likely to be far more dangerous and destructive. At the same time, higher speeds encourage through-traffic, as opposed to local destination traffic, contributing to the declines suffered by business districts and residential neighborhoods along the way.

AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill, would rectify that situation by giving the local community a voice in deciding whether or not to raise the limits, without requiring that they give up a valuable enforcement tool in exchange.

I urge you to support this vital measure, and cast your vote to return control of our streets to the people who know them best, and will be most impacted by any increase in speed limits — and allow the people of this state to protect their own lives and communities.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers, BikingInLA.com

Enci Box discusses her upcoming trip in support of AB 766 in her own compelling way, while Damien Newton notes a wave of support for the legislation. And on a related subject, L.A. Council President Eric Garcetti wants to know how you want to spend the city’s stimulus funds. Can you say, bicycling infrastructure? Sure you can.

 

A great video showing British MPs learning about cycling from the Dutch, courtesy of my favorite Welsh slow-biking blogger — now if we could only get the Metro board to take the same tour. Also from across the pond, proof that bad cycling signage isn’t just an American problem. Meanwhile, LAist discusses what L.A. could learn from Tokyo Bike Culture, as does the Time’s Steve Lopez. Yes, that Tokyo. Bicycle Fixation observes the increase in fixie-riding bike commuters. Central Illinois cyclists prepare to participate in an international cycling memorial ride later this month. And finally, The Denver Post says cyclists need to know the rules of the road, too; don’t miss the comments, which capture the full range of the cyclists vs. drivers conflict — and evidently, someone out there takes safety tips from yours truly.  Glad I could help.


AB 766 — Slowing our streets for everyone’s safety

May 3, 2009

How many people have to die because of a bad law?

As cyclists, we often have no choice but to share the road with drivers. It’s risky enough on streets where there’s just a small disparity in speed — where drivers pass by at 30 mph, for instance, while you ride along at your own speed, whether that’s 12 mph or 20 mph.

But that risk increases dramatically as speeds rise, and the disparity between your speed and that of the cars rushing up from behind grows. Drivers have less time to see you, and less time to react.

And you have a lot less time to get the hell out of their way if anything goes wrong.

The potential for serious injury goes up, as well, with every mile per hour in speed differential. Because the faster a vehicle is traveling, the more damage it can do if it hits anything. Or anyone.

Which brings us to California AB 766.

You see, current California law allows the police to use radar to enforce speed limits on the streets. While that might seem like a problem if you’re behind the wheel, trying to push the speed limit by 5 or 10 mph to get to your destination a few seconds faster, it’s actually a good thing — enforcing the speed limits makes the roads safer for everyone.

The problem is the Faustian bargain that cities have had to accept in order to use that radar.

One of the conditions the state requires in order to use radar guns is that cities have to conduct a study every seven years to evaluate speeds and traffic conditions.

If that study shows that most drivers go over the speed limit on a given roadway — which most drivers do — they can be forced to raise the speed limit, whether or not that’s a good idea. And regardless of what effect that might have on local neighborhoods, as previously placid surface streets are slowly turned into speedways.

Or how many lives may be shattered along the way.

Sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian, AB 766, also known as the Safe Streets Bill, would give cities more power to control their own speed limits, while still being able to enforce them.

It’s not a big change. But it’s one that could do wonders to preserve our neighborhoods, and the lives of people just like you.

And me.

Bike Safety Advocates Stephen and Enci Box, along with other members of the Bike Writers Collective — the group behind the recently passed Cyclists’ Bill of Rights — are working to help pass this important bill.

As part of that, they’re asking everyone to write letters in support of it, which they will deliver to the Assembly in person at an upcoming hearing in Sacramento. Fellow blogger Ron Kaye, former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, has already written his — as well as providing a link to a fact sheet about the bill — and I’ll be writing one in the next few days myself.

And I hope you will, too.

You can email your letter to SafeStreets@BikeWritersCollective.com. And I’m sure Ron wouldn’t mind if you wanted to use his as an example. Or if you asked all your friends to write one, as well.

Because your safety, and mine, could depend on it.

You can read more about this bill, and the Box’s upcoming lobbying trip in support of it, at Stephen Box’s blog, as well as at the blog Brayj Against the Machine — both of which you really should be reading, if you don’t already. And learn more about the problem at City Watch.


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