It never rains in California…

January 23, 2010

This is what greeted us today on a crisp, 42º morning, when the clouds finally cleared after a week of rain.

And yes, that is the Hollywood sign on the hill in the foreground.

Two-wheeled second class citizens on L.A.’s Metro rails

January 22, 2010

I’ll be honest. I’ve never ridden an L.A. Metro train.

Not the new Gold Line extension, aka La Linea de Oro. Not the Purple subway line, which promises to eventually pass just blocks from my home, giving me easy access to Downtown and the coast — provided they manage to build it within my lifetime.

Or any of the other colors in the system’s pallet, which still resembles a child’s line drawing more than a transportation masterpiece. Although it appears other cities are starting to take notice.

Not that I have anything against trains.

On the contrary, one reason I fell in love with London a few years back was the city’s Tube. As much as locals love to hate it, I enjoyed being able to walk a few blocks, board a train, and be anywhere in the city in just a few minutes.

When I lived in San Diego, I frequently hopped on the trolley rather than slog through that city’s traffic. And I long ago swore off driving in the Bay Area, since virtually any place too far to walk is easily accessible by rail.

But for those of us on the Westside, the trains are just too far away. Just getting to the western terminus of the subway takes me at least a half hour by car or bus. Or fighting my way on bike through some of the city’s most crowded and unforgiving streets.

Which is why I visit Mama’s Hot Tamales far less than I’d like.

And while I admire those who do it on a regular basis, it’s a lot easier to point my bike west and ride the relatively less-cramped routes that lead to the coast.

So I’ve been looking forward to the opening of the Expo Line, which, when it finally opens, will open up whole new vistas of the city that are currently too far or too difficult to visit by bike.

I look forward to the day I can hop on the train and be whisked away to visit my good friend in Altadena, without spending a fortune in gas and risking my life and sanity on the freeway. Or have dinner at El Tepeyac without driving an hour to get there.

And I look forward to taking my bike on the train, and hopping off to explore parts of the greater L.A. area I’ve yet to see on two wheels.

Yet that may not be a viable option, since Metro continues to treat cyclists as second-class citizens. Except instead of being made to sit at the back of the bus, we’re told that no more than two bikes per car are allowed on a train.

Or maybe not at all, at certain times or if the train is crowded.

It’s bad enough for someone like me, who looks forward to riding far flung parts of the city. But it’s a disaster for commuters, for whom a bike provides an effective means of travelling the last mile to or from work, in a city where effective mass transit is still in its infancy. Or for groups or families, who must divide themselves into separate cars — or separate trains.

Or just stay home.

And if you ride a tandem, you’re just screwed. Period.

Now contrast that with more bike-friendly transit systems, where cyclists are actually encouraged to take the train — or even allowed to ride free. Or the more enlightened approach proposed by the LACBC, which advocates accommodating everyone:

Metro must accommodate all users during regular and peak hours, and designate sufficient space for multiple bikes on trains. They must provide publications and clear signage to make it easy for passengers to see where bikes should be placed in train cars and how to enter and exit both trains and stations.

These accommodations can be implemented in multiple ways:

A) A large set aside area for bikes in either the last or first car. This car can also provide flip up seating and room for ADA (ed: Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodations. Hooks and straps can secure bikes to the floors of the train. B) Ample space in each train car for multiple bikes. The same ADA accommodations and bike-securing features can also be present in this scenario.

Instead of actively discouraging bikes on their trains, Metro should encourage cyclists to use the system as frequently as possible. An effective transportation system should offer an alternative to driving that can actually get people out of their cars and reduce pressure on our overcrowded streets.

And just like bikes on the roads, every bike on a train represents one less car on the street.

Which benefits everyone.


More on the schmuck aspiring musician who ran down a Miami cyclist on Sunday morning, despite having over 40 traffic violations in the last 12 years. DJ Wheels notes that, as an attorney, his jaw dropped when he read the following section in of the articles above:

In an arrest form affidavit by Miami-Dade police on Wednesday, officers said Bertonatti, who reeked of alcohol and failed a balance test, refused to provide a blood sample after his arrest. Officers and firefighters strapped him down on a fire-rescue board and forcibly took a blood sample as Bertonatti continued to resist, the form said.


Culver City’s proposed bike plan is available for review; oddly, Alta Planning doesn’t seem to be involved. Dr. Alex discusses the recent meeting between cyclists and the LAPD, while Stephen Box addresses enforcement double standards in bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. Flying Pigeon introduces Nihola cargo bikes to L.A., and masters the art of shaft-drive bike repair. Next time you ride along Venice Beach, you’ll be even closer to the ocean. Growing tensions between cyclists and drivers in Morgan Hill, CA. A popular Miami man who recycles bikes and gives them away to youngsters is attacked by thugs following an attempted burglary. Twelve ways to reform D.C. area bike laws — including some good suggestions for us. San Antonio takes up the three-foot passing law vetoed by Texas’ governor last year. A bike riding soon-to-be-former talk show host gets a job offer from a Texas bike shop. 9,000 women in the United Kingdom petition for safer streets. Police seek a hit-and-run cyclist in the UK. An 11-year old British girl was killed when she swerved her bike to avoid a holly leaf. A helmet cam-wearing Brit bike blogger gets death threats. Google Street View captures a falling cyclist. A candidate for mayor of Toronto says he’ll tear out bike lanes on major streets, which does not go over well with his fellow cyclists. Finally, an angry driver honks when a cyclist takes the lane — not realizing he’s following a bike cop.


Idle thoughts while waiting on the end of the world

January 21, 2010

We were waiting for the end of the word, waiting for the end of the world. — Elvis Costello

It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya? It pours, man it pours. — Albert Hammond

According to some, the world will be coming to an end in a few years when the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012. Although I recently heard a scientist discussing the subject who said that when his calendar runs out, he just puts up a new one.

But anyone who has been watching the news in Los Angeles this week would conclude that the end times have come a couple years early.

It’s raining.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s rain, for crying out loud.

But seriously, it’s right up there with all the other warning signs of a near-biblical apocalypse: War, famine, pestilence, earthquakes and rain in Los Angeles.

And not just rain, but heavy rain. And hail. And waterspouts.

Or as they called it when I lived in Louisiana, Thursday.

Then there’s another sign that the world as we know it may be coming to an end. Not only did Hizzoner recently say the city has to do more to support cycling, but there may be a chance — a slight chance — that we might actually see Mayor Villaraigoso on a bike.

Strange days, indeed.

So just to be safe, I’ve been holed up in my office all week, working on plans to convert my old bike into the world’s first pedal-powered ark.

Which means now I have to find two of all the local species. Like lawyers, hipsters, artists, gangbangers, actors, agents and Brit ex-pats, et al. Though I may have to build a bigger ark just to fit the massive egos on board.

And cyclists, of course.

And that means pairs of roadies and beach cruisers, commuters, recreational riders, fixie fanatics, hipsters, off-roaders, family cyclists, racers, fast riders, slow riders, Lance Armstrong wannabees, Ridazz, bike activists, LACBCists, eco riders, Critical Massers, license-less immigrants and mandatory-helmet-wearing kids.

Just to name a few.

I gotta sit down.


CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz continues his support of cyclists with an effective letter requesting a better bike plan for his district — definitely worth reading. Cyclists and the LAPD begin the long process of building a better relationship, but it appears to be off to a good start. Enci Box continues her examination of L.A. bikeway systems, noting the failure of the city’s Class III Bike Routes. LACBC presents the Spanish language version of their new Bike Parking Community Resource Guide, available as a free download. Steal a bike, lose your pants. Bob Mionske writes that cyclists continue to pay the price for cell drunk drivers. Mandatory helmet laws for children reduce fatalities, but also discourage riding. Even the Boy Scouts say take the whole lane. Urbana, IL boldly removes parking to add bike lanes. Getting Portland’s mounted police off the saddle and onto bikes would save over $500,000. The drunken asshole driver who killed a cyclist in Miami had over 40 traffic violations in 12 years, but was still on the road. DC area cyclists win one and lose one, as a hit-and-run is investigated as an assault, while riders are stopped by police for being annoying. The Guardian says mudguards are a must, even on your fixie. In L.A., we haven’t even got sharrows yet; in Copenhagen, they get footrests. The UK’s Olympic cycling team gets a Formula One boost from McLaren. Police order British children to wear high visibility clothing at night, or get off their bikes. Finally, over 70 cyclists rode the valley’s Chandler Bikeway last weekend in honor of Drake Holland, a 17-year old Burbank cyclist who died in a fall while walking with friends.

Bike cases fill the dockets — Dr. Thompson was just the beginning

January 19, 2010

As Bob Mionske noted in the Times last week, the Thompson case does not represent a sea change for cyclists.

It was just one case, with unique circumstances. Like driver who admitted trying to “teach them a lesson.” A car with a unique, memorable license plate. And at least three other cyclists who could testify to similar incidents involving the same car, and the same driver.

Not to mention a police department that took it seriously — which isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.

As cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels pointed out recently, while Thompson got 5 years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, Alejandro Hidalgo got just two years for getting drunk and killing Jesus Castillo, then fleeing the scene.

Call me crazy, but on my balance sheet, Intoxication + Death + Running Away outweighs Intent + Injury. Even if it wasn’t the first time.

And that’s just the first of at least 10 other cases involving cyclists working their way through the investigative and legal process in the L.A. area.

Like Teri Hawkins, for instance.

She reportedly ran a stop sign before striking a cyclist, knocking him 30 feet through the air. The 40-year old Simi Valley resident turned herself in to the police 4 days after the hit-and-run collision that resulted in “major injuries” to the 26-year old rider, who has not been publicly identified.

After pleading no contest to hit-and-run with injury (CVC 2001a), her request for probation was denied and she was sentenced to 16 months in state prison last week, with credit for 76 days time served. Hawkins was also ordered to pay restitution, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the San Fernando courthouse.

Wheels notes that turning herself in may have been a mitigating factor in the relatively low sentence — although it should be noted that her conscience seemed to kick in after her car had been located and impounded by the police.

Wheels also provided an update on the status of some of the other cases:

The preliminary setting for Robert Sam Sanchez — the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Christian on PCH in Malibu last June — has been continued for the third time.

Sanchez was arrested shortly after fleeing the collision, which took place near the completion of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200-mile Grand Tour Double Century. The preliminary setting, held prior to a preliminary hearing, is now scheduled for February 11 in the Malibu Courthouse. Sanchez has pled not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Section 191.5a of the California Penal Code) as well as driving under the influence (CVC 23152a) and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury (CVC 20001a).

Rod’s sister-in-law reported last summer that Christian was doing well physically, though making it clear that the family was struggling with his loss. And an acquaintance of Sanchez noted that he was not a bad person, despite a drunken decision to get behind the wheel that has forever changed two families.

Mark Antonio Valencia was high on drugs and alcohol when he mowed down five cyclists in Santa Clarita on the morning of July 11, killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two others. Valencia, who was driving his sister’s car without a license after two prior DUI convictions — as well as multiple arrests for drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing officers — had already been reported to authorities before the collision; unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies couldn’t catch up to him in time.

DJ Wheels reports that Valencia is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the San Fernando courthouse on January 22. Valencia is still being held on $1.3 million bail, charged with 13 criminal counts including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.

In a very personal case, the driver who threatened a group of cyclists, resulting in injuries to Wheel’s new wife, will be arraigned on January 26.

On January 28, the driver accused of injuring local cycling advocate Roadblock in a hit-and-run collision is scheduled for a pretrial hearing.

A February 3 hearing has been scheduled for four men charged with attempting to rob a female cyclist by striking her in the face with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the hit-and-run that sent community leader Ed Magos to the hospital on January 6. Despite driving off and leaving another human splayed on the pavement unable to move, the driver was not arrested when she turned herself in later; no charges have yet been filed.

No word yet on the status of Patricia Ann Izquieta, who was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Donald Murphy in Irvine last month. Or whether any charges will be filed in the death of Gustavo Ramirez in Long Beach on the 5th. It doesn’t sound likely, though, since initial police statements seemed to blame Ramirez; the Press-Telegram reports on last weekend’s ride in his honor.

And there’s still no word of an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Robert Painter, the cyclist killed while riding in a crosswalk in North Hollywood last month. Fittingly, the driver is likely to face murder charges once an arrest is made.


Controversy over plans for a bikeway near JPL. Travelin’ Local maps L.A. by bike. A North County San Diego paper questions whether current criminal penalties are strong enough when cars hit bikes; a drunk cyclist unwittingly volunteers as a test case. Another rider is killed in the nation’s most deadly state for cycling; Transit Miami examines why it happened there. Austin’s planned bike boulevard hits some bumps. Anchorage holds a very frosty bike race. A Colorado town revives the legendary Morgul Bismark stage from the Red Zinger/Coors Classics. German pro Matthias Kessler suffered a serious brain injury after a cat runs in front of his bike. London residents question traffic calming and bikeway plans. Lance has won seven tours; World Champ Cadel Evans says he’s only lost five.  Bikeways to the sailing venues for the 2012 Olympics could use some improvement. Scotland awards over $1.2 million to promote cycling in Edinburgh. The UK promotes child cycling through the new Bike Club. An Indian Nobel Laureate and confirmed cyclist says cars set a bad example, while a Danish politician says bikes are the obvious solution. Finally, the Trickster did indeed say it first — Michael Vink is a rising rider to keep an eye on.

And a woman walks into a bike shop

I’d know that look anywhere

January 16, 2010

I grew up in Colorado, where men are men and sheep run scared. Or so the saying goes.

In fact, I grew up right in the heart of sheep country. My high school football team was even called — I kid you not — the Lambkins. Not exactly a name to strike fear the heart of opposing teams.

So I know that look.

The same one I saw in the face of the woman driving the BMW this afternoon.

I was cruising down a side street in Brentwood, making my way home from today’s ride when I saw her car waiting at a stop sign up ahead. I watched closely as she looked to her right and waited. And waited.

And waited.

Even though I knew better, I decided to ride past her, since I had the right of way and there was no way of knowing how long she was going to sit there. Besides, she still hadn’t cast a single glance to her left.

But sure enough, that was exactly when she started to turn left — without ever looking my direction.

So I yelled “Look out!” and jammed on my brakes; she hit hers and we both skidded to a stop, ending up with me directly in front of her. And as I looked at her, she gazed back with the same uncomprehending expression I normally associate with wool-wrapped ruminants.

I was tempted to say something, but it was clear it would just be a waste breath. So I shook my head and rode on, leaving her sitting there with that same blank look on her face.

Then there was the earlier incident, as I was just starting my ride, when I pulled away from a stop sign about the same time as an SUV going in the other direction — only to have her brake angrily as I blocked her from making the left she hadn’t signaled for.

Seeing her window open, I shouted, “Turn signal would be nice.”

And as I went by, I heard a woman in the crosswalk next to me say, “Yeah, good luck with that!”


After nearly five years of delays, the Transportation Committee wants to see some progress on getting Sharrows on the street — official ones, this time. Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl wants some answers by next month; LAist says maybe by May; LADOT just says maybe.


Mark your calendar as last year’s successful — and fun — Bike Summit turns into this year’s new and improved Street Summit. LAPD asks for cyclists’ help in finding a sexual assault suspect. Will Campbell captures scofflaw pedestrians and a motorized red light runner, and sticks up for his Ballona, assaults and all. Photos from the first 60 days of the new Bikerowave. LACBC looks back on a successful 2009, and looks forward to 2010. The upcoming county bike plan will look at new paths along L.A. rivers and creeks, as well as improving existing bikeways, among others. Council Member Tom LaBonge would rather see bike stations than bike sharing. What do you do when Luckman Plaza won’t let you take your bike up the elevator? Sacramento ranks 4th in the U.S. in bicycle commuting. San Francisco’s Streetsblog looks at the statewide bicycle agenda for 2010. Springfield, MO gets bike lockers. Over a quarter of all traffic accidents collisions are caused by occur while drivers are on cellphones or texting. Boston Biker looks at drivers arguments from a cyclist’s perspective. Yellow Springs, OH cyclists are encouraged to use the whole lane. Manchester’s new bikes on trains policy make Metro’s limitations seem generous. As L.A. considers a three-foot passing distance, Ireland raises the ante to nearly five feet — 4.921259842519685 feet, to be exact. A call for improved biking infrastructure, or any for that matter, in Karachi. Finally, the world’s Top 10 Cycling Cities; oddly, Los Angeles isn’t on the list.

Go figure.

Evidently, parked cars aren’t the only things that block bike lanes

January 15, 2010

Speaking of blocked bike lanes, as we were the other day, Todd Munford sent this photo showing his typical Friday morning commute on Venice Blvd:

Memorial rides and ghost bike for Gustavo Ramirez tonight and tomorrow

January 15, 2010

Just a quick reminder about the memorial ride and ghost bike dedication for Gustavo Ramirez. The popular Manhattan Beach REI employee killed when he collided with a semi-truck on East Shoreline Drive in Long Beach last week.

Actually, there will be two rides.

The first will take place tonight, meeting at 8 pm at Lincoln Park in Long Beach, and leaving at 8:30 pm, following one of Gustavo’s favorite routes.

The second will take place tomorrow morning, following the same route and stopping at the memorial. The ride meets at the same location at 8 am, departing at 9 am.

Full details are available on the Midnight Ridazz website for both Friday’s and Saturday’s rides, as well as on the website.

Hats off to the Ridazz for organizing these rides and preparing the ghost bike, and deepest sympathies to Gustavo’s family and friends.

Let’s make this the last one we’ll need this year.


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