Fatal hit-and-run in San Bernardino

February 20, 2010

A 19-year old cyclist was killed last night, and his brother critically injured, in a hit-and-run collision on 40th Street near Acre Lane in San Bernardino.

According to the Times, Joseph Meeks was sharing a bike with his younger brother when they cut across the roadway and were struck by a white 2000 or older Pontiac or Chrysler car, which should have front-end damage in the license plate area and possibly the windshield. Witnesses say the driver made no attempt to stop; KABC Channel 7 reports that Meeks’ friends watched as he died in the street.

Anyone with information about this crime — and yes, a hit-and-run resulting in death or serious injury is a felony — should call the San Bernardino Police Department Traffic Division at 909/385-5735.

How many more people have to die before we do something about the hit-an-run epidemic in California?

Update: The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that the younger victim was Meeks’ 15-year old stepbrother, who suffered critical head injuries, as well as other blunt force trauma; witnesses report he was conscious but having a hard time breathing after the collision.

They were apparently on their way home after buying some snacks at a nearby liquor store when they were struck by a car traveling east on 40th street at approximately 40 mph, throwing them about 60 to 80 feet; the driver fled the scene without stopping.


Cyclists and planners talk, Metro listens

February 20, 2010

Maybe they’ve ignored us. Or maybe we’ve just felt ignored.

Either way, today’s Metro Bicycle Roundtable meeting seemed to be a new beginning for both sides.

The meeting was kicked off by Doug Failing, Executive Director of Highway Programs and Interim Chief Planning Officer for Metro, who said the massive agency was focused on cycling as a way to solve the problem of traveling the first and last mile in combination with transit, as well as finding better ways to accommodate bikes on trains.

Standard rule of thumb — the longer the title, the less power an executive actually has. We’ll hope that’s not the case here, because he comes highly recommended and has a reputation for working well with cyclists.

But he also made the point that he, and the other members of Metro in the room, were there to listen. And he meant clearly meant it, as he later interrupted a Metro staffer who attempted to defend — or maybe just explain — one of their programs.

So after a brief presentation by Lynne Goldsmith, Bike Planning Manager with the Westside Area team, the floor was turned over to the concerns of the 70+ cyclists, bike planners and other assorted transit and planning professionals from various governmental groups and cities around Southern California.

Common comments called for larger bike racks on buses, and the need to allow more bikes on trains, including calls for a separate bike car. Another common complaint covered the need to better train bus drivers to respect cyclists on the roads — which we were told Metro is currently working on.

A number of people urged a greater focus on livable streets over massive transportation projects, as well as more bike-focused staffing at Metro; that’s in addition to the two — yes, 2 — who currently work there. And putting Metro’s budget to work to fund more bike-oriented infrastructure projects, and using their creative staff to create ads to encourage cycling and safe sharing of the roads.

In fact, those in the room overwhelming encouraged Metro to use its size, funding and influence to support cycling — with the single exception of a gentleman representing the Cheviot Hills homeowners group, who insisted that the planned Expo Line bike path should not go through their neighborhood in order to reduce crime and protect their privacy.

To which someone in the back of the room replied, “Did he just say, not in my backyard?”

However, the best comment of the day came from recently elected LACBC board member Greg Laemmle, who noted the historic opportunity to build out the Expo Line, along with the associated bikeway — and at the same time, summed up the issues currently facing the city.

“Great cities,” he said, “solve problems.”

……….

Hey, guess who I passed heading north along the beach on a five-person bike the other day. On their way to Alaska, maybe?

……….

Those who weren’t invited inside to meet with Sen. Barbara Boxer and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood make their case outside. Speaking of Metro, they have funding available for a feasible new bike path along the lower Arroyo Seco. C.I.C.L.E. is working with LACBC and the Bicycle Kitchen to bring the celebrated Tour de Fat bike and beer fest — sponsored by the maker of my favorite American beer — to L.A. State Historic Park. Is it really being bike friendly to ticket high school students for riding on the sidewalk when the street is too dangerous? Riding PCH — carefully — and Latigo Canyon. L.A. compares favorably in the small percentage of people who bike to work or work at home, like me. Why the Backbone Bikeway Network isn’t a freeway for bikes, and how to find your way along it. Pasadena’s new $1.7 million bike plan goes before the public, while Glendale needs to update theirs or continue to get left out.

Reno sees two cyclists injured in crashes in two hours. An Oklahoma FedEx driver faces a whopping $100 to $1000 fine for falling asleep and killing a cyclist; see, if you’re napping behind the wheel, it’s just an accident. University of Arizona police go after salmon riders, not stop sign runners. Is it just a coincidence that all the drivers who yell “Get on the sidewalk!” look alike? Snow piled on road shoulder may be partially at fault in a N.J. cyclist’s death. A Texas town bans cyclists from a key roadway for their own good. International computer hacking suspect Floyd Landis appears on Larry King. The three foot passing law moves forward in Georgia and comes up for a hearing in Missouri. Your next bike might have a double bottom bracket and no spokes. And maybe your next helmet will protect your head from devastating injuries.

Evidently, Toronto cyclists don’t want to declare war on cars after all. An Irish driver is convicted of killing Commonwealth Games medalist David McCall. London’s mayor encourages cycling to work, yet the new the London Bridge Tower offers just 250 bike parking spaces for 6,500 occupants. UK riders plan to improve safety with mass Bike Train rides departing every 15 minutes during rush hour; no, they aren’t riding the train, they are the train. The BBC plans an upcoming show claiming 1 in 5 cyclists ride roughshod over the law. Anti-social drivers blamed for a spate of anti-bike behavior.

Finally, not only is Oregon bike friendly, so is their porn. Or maybe you’d rather have your own ghost bike; you know, without the inconvenience of actually dying.


For those keeping score at home, it’s Nose 1, Cancer 0.

February 18, 2010

Six weeks after surgery for my latest cycling injury, I’m happy to report that my proboscis is now skin cancer-free and healing nicely.

Thirty years of mostly unprotected cycling resulted in a diagnosis of basal cell skin cancer — fortunately, one of the mildest forms of cancer, easily eradicated with simple surgery.

In fact, the surgery itself took just a few seconds, as the surgeon took a single slice with his scalpel, then had me spend an hour cooling my heels in the waiting room while they conducted a biopsy to make sure they got it all.

Six weeks later and skin cancer-free. Not so bad, huh?

Then came the hard part, as a pair of surgeons tugged and pulled to stretch my flesh over the gaping gap to minimize the scarring. Imagine trying to stretch your eyelid over a bowling ball, and you’ll get a general idea what it felt like.

But now I’m finally both bandage and cancer free. And, as you can see, with just a small scar as a reminder.

My doctor says he can get rid of that for me. But I kind of like it.

To me, it’s just another scar from a lifetime of riding.

And a reminder that some of our most important safety equipment comes in a tube.

……….

Tomorrow, USDOT Transportation Direct Ray LaHood and California Senator Barbara Boxer are hosting a hearing about priorities for the National Transportation Bill. The meeting will take place Friday, February 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in the Boardroom of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority at One Gateway Plaza, Downtown.

LACBC is hosting a ride to the meeting to emphasize the need for a higher priority — and more funding — for bikes and pedestrians projects. Riders are assembling at 8:15 at Union Station’s Patsaouras Plaza, or you can meet them there.

……….

LACBC talks about the benefits of bike boulevards, including the proposed for 4th St. in L.A.; remember, how you sell them to the surrounding neighborhood is key. LAPD plans to step up enforcement of dangerous motorcyclists and other careless motorists. Gary offers advice on driving to the beach: Don’t. The Backbone Bikeway Network concept spreads to Long Beach. Orange County park rangers plan to dismantle an illegal off-road bike course. A San Diego rider rolls a stop, and faces down a confrontation with an angry driver. What do you call someone with an irrational hatred of bikes? The planned 3,000 pedestrian/bike greenway along the East Coast received $23 million in Federal funding. A cyclist who testified against Floyd Landis is charged with illegally importing Human Growth Hormone. Toyota’s gas pedal problems have been blamed for 34 fatalities between 2000 and 2008 — compared to 378 pedestrians and cyclists in the Detroit area alone. A London cyclist says the way to promote cycling is to ban car advertising. Contrary to reports of increased risk, analysis shows the rate of cycling deaths per mile traveled has in Britain has dropped 50%  since 1995. Calgary considers revising speed limits for cyclists on bikeways. Ten riders are biking from Bangalore to Mumbai to promote “Car Free Day.” Finally, the bad news is, Anchorage police attempt to shift responsibility for avoiding collisions to cyclists; the good news is, current traffic code requires drivers to yield to all human-powered vehicles.


Today’s ride, in which bike friendly Santa Monica actually was

February 17, 2010

I confess.

I’ve been known to criticize Santa Monica’s bike-friendly city status once or twice. No, really.

Hard to believe, I know.

But to be fair, I also feel I have an obligation to point out when they do something right.

And today, they did.

One of my biggest complaints about the beachside city — aside from the perpetually tourist and pedestrian clogged Marvin Braude Bike Path — is the frequency with which the bike lanes that helped Santa Monica gain its bike-friendly status from the League of American Bicyclists are blocked for some ridiculously needless reason or another.

Like movie crews who put orange cones in the bike lane to keep anyone from getting close to their trucks, even though they don’t extend far enough out to pose a risk to anyone. Or the utility crews who block bike lanes even though their work area is several feet away.

Which means that cyclists are regularly forced out into the traffic lane, where too often, drivers aren’t willing to concede an inch of their precious roadway.

So today, I was pleasantly surprised as I was riding back up the bike lane on San Vicente Blvd, headed inland from the coast, and saw this:

Amazingly, all the signs have been carefully placed outside the bike lane.

Instead of blocking the bike lane, as most road crews inevitably seem to do — regardless of necessity — this particular crew had clearly taken great pains to keep their signs out of the bikeway. And kept the lane clear for riders working their way uphill.

So, Mr. or Ms. Road Crew Sign Placement Guy or Girl, thank you.

Your efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

And they were appreciated.

Not one sign even partially blocking the bikeway. Seriously.

……….

In L.A., even homeless people hate bikes. Danceralamode, a frequent commenter on this site, offers up some lucid and insightful observations in response to the Times’ brief article about the hit-and-run death of Ovidio Morales. Bikerowave is throwing itself a third birthday party this weekend; also this weekend is C.I.C.L.E.’s Creek Freak Bike Tour. The Times takes note of Pasadena’s new bike plan. Streetsblog is now accepting donations to provide more complete coverage of L.A. transportation. A call for shared bus/bike lanes in L.A. A San Francisco writer asks if cycling is really getting more dangerous. Braess’ Paradox says that closing streets can reduce traffic congestion. Biking to work with Seattle’s bicycling mayor. The three-foot passing law passes in another state, as Maryland becomes the latest to give riders an enforceable cushion. It’s the Year of the Bike in Riverside; no, the one in Illinois.  London begins work on two cycling superhighways. A Kiwi rugby legend prepares to join the English charity ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats — sort of like riding from Key West to Seattle, but much shorter. Speaking of Kiwis, a New Zealand man asks the High Court to allow naked bicycling on public roads. Prepare to step through the looking glass, because in Budapest, right-wing politicians actually support cycling. Finally, in what could spell the death of Critical Mass, a New York judge rules that large group rides must get a parade permit; a ruling that may migrate to the Left Coast.


Yet another cyclist killed in a hit-and-run

February 16, 2010

According to KABC Channel 7, a cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run collision in Compton this morning at the intersection of Dwight Avenue and Compton Boulevard.

The rider, described as a Hispanic man in his 30s, was riding north on Dwight when he was struck by a minivan driving east on Compton. Surveillance video shows the driver pull over, get out to look at the victim, then get back in his car and flee the scene.

The vehicle is described as a 1990s Ford van, possibly an Aerostar van, colored silver or gray. Anyone who may have information regarding this incient is asked to contact the Compton Sheriff’s Station, 310/605-6500.

Note: I selected the Channel 7 report because it offered a little better coverage than some of the other reports available online. It’s a very sad commentary when the hit-and-run murder of a bike rider is only worth 5 sentences from the local paper.

Update: The Times increased their coverage today, adding an additional sentence for a total of 6. But they did embed coverage from KTLA.

According to KTLA, the victim was Ovidio Morales, a 40-year old father of five who worked hard to send money back home to his family in Guatemala. He was crossing Compton in the crosswalk with the green light, when a driver who witnesses say was talking on a cell phone went through the red light, striking Morales and dragging him several feet.

The suspect is described as a very tall African American man, possibly around 7 feet tall.



Does the road to bike equality run through the courts?

February 15, 2010

I got an interesting email recently from a cyclist who is clearly fed up with the struggles riders face as we take our place in the streets of Los Angeles:

If this represents the state of bicycling in Los Angeles, is legal action the answer?

As I read the numerous stories about the unequal and obviously dismissive treatment of cyclists who are the victims of motor vehicle collisions, I am constantly wondering where the tipping point is?

Some of the stories are so truly ridiculous I think an equal protection lawsuit should be seriously considered against the city.  Time and time again cyclists are not treated equally under the law, and while cyclists are not considered a protected class in constitutional scrutiny terms, there may be no other alternative than to bring suit and get the city to wake up to the road warrior-esque state of depravity on our streets when it comes to treatment of cyclists.  At one end of the spectrum, I have been called names and yelled at by passing cars for riding in the bike line, which is indicative of the prevailing attitude in this (once great) city.  At the other end of the spectrum is letting a driver who just plowed a cyclist rightfully on the road go on about her day as if nothing happened (ed: here).  Clearly, this spectrum is lacking in a “good end” and it sucks for anyone riding a bike on the streets.

As long as the powers that be (cops, city attorneys and the city council/mayor’s office) continue to encourage, and, at a minimum, tolerate the unequal treatment of cyclists, so will the rest of the public and the horror stories will continue.

I almost feel like a call to the ACLU is in order.  Crazy as it seems, it might be the route that needs to be taken.

I had to admit, it was an idea that has occurred to me from time to time — and one I’ve heard from other cyclists, as well.

If we don’t feel safe, and don’t feel like the local authorities are taking our concerns seriously — and treating us equally to the motorists we share the road with — maybe we do need to start considering our options.

So I forwarded his email to an attorney of my acquaintance to get the opinion of someone who, unlike me, knows what the hell he’s talking about when it comes to the law.

Here is his response — though he reminded me to make it clear that this area of law is not his specialty, so we shouldn’t consider this the last word on the subject.

In regard to your question, I’ve thought about this as well.

Unfortunately, cyclists are NOT a “protected class” for purposes of the federal constitution and for an equal protection suit to stand.  A “protected class” is traditionally considered something like, race, nationality, religion, gender.  Some individual states have extended the meaning to include age, disability and sexual orientation for the purposes of their own state constitution.  So a lawsuit claiming that cyclists are a protected class would be dismissed pretty quickly, I think.

However, I have thought about another possibility, a class action lawsuit.  The problem with this is the technical nature of the class action laws.  Basically you’d have to show that a group of people (cyclists) have all suffered the same kind of injury from the same source.  Here is a breakdown of the elements for a federal class action:

(1) the class must be so large as to make individual suits impractical, (2) there must be legal or factual claims in common (3) the claims or defenses must be typical of the plaintiffs or defendants, and (4) the representative parties must adequately protect the interests of the class. In many cases, the party seeking certification must also show (5) that common issues between the class and the defendants will predominate the proceedings, as opposed to individual fact-specific conflicts between class members and the defendants and (6) that the class action, instead of individual litigation, is a superior vehicle for resolution of the disputes at hand.

California has its own laws on class actions, but the substantive basis for the claim follow the above elements as well.

I think the biggest obstacle here is determining the factual claims in the second element. Basically, what are we saying is the wrongful act and have all the members of the class suffered the same type of injury?  If you say the city of L.A. has put cyclists at danger with their lack of bike infrastructure, I think that’s too vague.  We’d have to point out a more specific point in the decision making process of the LADOT most likely….like treating traffic issues with an agenda to move more cars quickly, as opposed to other modes of transportation.  I think the city could still point to its on going efforts with the Bike Plan as a way to defend itself, as you’ve noted all ready.

You’d also have a real hard time finding that specific point or person within the agency to pin the wrong-doing on.  And then you still have to show a causal connection to the lack of infrastructure, crappy bike lanes in the door zone, pot holes, debris, etc. and the resulting injuries.  Unfortunately, I think we’d be all over the place with this one, and there’s still the issue of what role the motorists and law enforcement play in the injuries.  These are just some of the issues I can see off the top of my head.

There’s one more problem that adds an additional layer of complexity. In California, whenever you want to sue a public entity (state, city, school district, public works, police, public transportation) for some kind of wrongful act, you have follow the rules of the CA Tort Claims Act, which requires you to give notice to the particular agency that you are making a claim for injury no later than 6 months after the injury occurred.  No matter how you phrase the wrong-doing on the part of L.A., you still have to comply with this notice requirement first.

So, the problem then becomes finding not only a potential set of injured cyclists due to L.A. crappy streets, crappy bike lanes, lack of proper CVC enforcement, lack of thorough investigations, etc., but also that these plaintiffs fall within a 6 month window.

It’s a complicated case from the get-go, and we’d need a very serious and committed class action attorney with the desire and resources to take it.  I don’t want to say that there’s absolutely no attorney who would take a case like this, but I’m sure it’s slim pickings.

In other words, legal action may be possible, but success seems pretty unlikely.

Meanwhile, LADOT is working on revising the bike plan, the LAPD continues its new-found engagement with the cycling community, and bikes appear to be firmly on the radar of both the Mayor and City Council.

Although as Stephen Box points out, we’ve been here before.

But it’s an option to keep in mind, in case L.A.’s seemingly sudden support of cycling peters out before the next election cycle rolls around.

……….

Pasadena considers doubling the amount of bike lanes in the city as well as adding bike boulevards — or “emphasized bikeways” as they call it. A call for Bakersfield cyclists and pedestrians to do a better job of sharing the bike path. The three-foot passing law fails in the Virginia House. Advice on how to deal with a difference in leg lengths. Trek donates £20 million to the London Cycling Campaign. UK teenagers admit to brutally beating a cyclist because he “looked like a pedophile.”  In the final month of a 20-month suspension for doping, pro cyclist Riccardo Riccò dumps his girlfriend when she tests positive, too. Aussie world track cycling champ Mark Jamieson admits to four counts of sex with an underage girl. Finally, a writer in Iowa says a three-foot passing law isn’t the answer — and feels compelled to remind riders that cars “are fast and powerful.” Yeah, thanks, we didn’t know that.


A safer route from Westwood to Brentwood, Santa Monica and the coast

February 15, 2010

As people have pointed out lately, prior to 9/11, cyclists used to be able to ride through the Los Angeles National Cemetery just west of UCLA in Westwood — providing a much shorter, faster and safer route between the campus and the Brentwood, West L.A. and Santa Monica areas. A meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday to discuss reopening bicycle access through the cemetery, at a site to be determined.

The UCLA Bicycle Academy and the Bicycle Coalition at UCLA invite all interested cyclists, staff and representatives of UCLA Transportation Services, Office of Sustainability, the Campus Architect, UCLA Government and Community Relations, the Transportation Deputy for Councilmember Rosendahl, the Westwood Neighborhood Council, and other stakeholders and interested parties, to attend a meeting with Lisa Pinto, District Director for Congressman Henry Waxman.
The topic of the discussion is the Re-Opening the National Cemetery for Bicycle Traffic

The meeting will take place at 5:15 pm on Wednesday February 17, 2010.  We are currently negotiating with Transportation Services and hope we will be able to hold the meeting in their conference room.

While I respect the need to maintain the pastoral nature of this cemetery, I would hope than anyone — cyclist, driver or pedestrian — would demonstrate the proper respect for hallowed ground, where 14 Medal of Honor winners dating back to the Civil War are buried, along with over 100 of the famed Buffalo Soldiers and countless others who have served their country with honor.

Maybe if we show a little courtesy and respect at the meeting, they may be more willing to believe we’ll show it to those buried and visiting there, as well.

……….

An international arrest warrant has been issued for former Tour de France non-winner Floyd Landis for allegedly hacking into a French doping lab computer following his failed drug test.

……….

Stephen Box calls attention to a “secret” LADOT meeting to preview the revised bike plan tomorrow afternoon. A first visit to the Bikerowave. A good turnout for the 8 Presidents Ride. The Amgen TofC ends in Thousand Oaks on May 23rd. Sidewalks and bikeways should be part of every federally funded road project because “when roads slim down, so do people.” Corpus Christi, TX considers a 3-foot passing law for cars, and 5 feet for trucks. Considering the monetary benefits of biking infrastructure. A $40 million jury award for a 14-year old Arizona cyclist killed by a drunk driver. Arizona reintroduces the Idaho Stop law. A 77-year old veteran bike racer is killed in a Texas SWSS (Single Witness Suicide Swerve), in which the only witness is the driver who swears the riding turned in front of him for no reason. A UK writer blames all cyclists, calling for mandatory testing and licensing after her mother is injured by one; I was once bitten by a dog, but I didn’t insist that every dog be muzzled and tested for rabies. Manchester, UK cyclists carry ironing boards and deckchairs on onboard to successfully protest a ban forbidding bikes on trams included carrying ironing boards. Riders are called a menace in Bahrain, as well. New Zealand authorities are still hunting the hit-and-run killer of a 62-year old cyclist last October. In Australia, road users stick to their own kind and everyone else is the enemy; sort of like it is here. A driver deliberately swerves into a Kingston, Ontario cyclist, then flees the scene. Mumbai cyclists prepare for their first ever Cyclothon. Finally, the men of England are encouraged to rise up against reckless drivers who endanger men, women and children — in 1908.


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