L.A.’s newly biking Mayor still doesn’t get it

July 21, 2010

Over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fell off his bike, and instantly captured the attention of the entire city.

For better or worse.

But instead of using that moment to protect the cycling community he so recently joined, he let a careless driver off the hook.

Sending a clear message that drivers should pay attention. But if they don’t, no big deal.

It was just an accident.

As it turns out, Saturday’s outing was the Mayor’s first bike ride in years, and lasted all of 30 minutes before he hit the pavement. And in answer to the question some people have been asking, yes, he was wearing a helmet.

In fact, he landed on it first before breaking his elbow. Maybe that’s why he’s still a little confused on the subject.

His Honor may have written — and Tweeted — that bikes belong on L.A. streets and he’ll be back on a bike as soon as he’s able. But according to the Daily Breeze, Villaraigosa insists that the cab driver shouldn’t face charges.

“He was very concerned when he realized it was me,” the mayor said. “He was careless, but that’s not illegal. He certainly didn’t do this on purpose.”

That’s where the Mayor is wrong — and where he’s done a huge disservice to everyone else on the roads, especially his new friends in the cycling community.

Because what the driver did was illegal. He pulled away from the curb without making sure the bike lane he was parked next to was clear. And as a result, caused a cyclist to be injured.

It’s called failure to yield. And it is against the law.

Yet our mayor just told everyone within reach of his words — and in this wireless world, that’s just about everyone — that cutting off a bike is really okay. Careless driving is no big deal.

And if anyone gets hurt as a result, it’s just an accident.

Harm, but no foul.

Glen Bailey, chair of the city Bicycle Advisory Committee, pointed out that this kind of collision is all too common.

“It’s the kind where a vehicle pulls in front a cyclist without warning and an accident occurs… It’s the kind of thing that normally doesn’t get reported and doesn’t get the attention it should. That’s why we are advocating for greater awareness and are asking people to be more careful and watch when they make turns to make sure a bicyclist isn’t there.”

The mayor still has a chance to change that. Although a lot fewer people are listening now.

He needs to stress that — ticketed or not — what the cab driver did was, in fact, against the law. And that drivers are fully responsible for carelessness behind the wheel that results in injury to bicyclists, or anyone else.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Once he gets back on his bike, I’ll be happy to ride with him.

And teach the Mayor what to look out for so it doesn’t happen again.

………

Just one day after we found out that Robert Sam Sanchez was sentenced to 4 years for the drunken hit-and-run death of Rod Armas, the 18-year old intoxicated driver who fled the scene after maiming cyclist Louis Deliz received a whopping 90 days community service — and may be able to get her license back next year.

The only significant difference between these two cases is that Deliz survived, while Armas didn’t. Clearly, someone has to die before judges take the lives of cyclists seriously.

Maybe it’s time we all got MADD.

………

Tonight’s your chance to talk about the biking issues that matter to you, when the LACBC holds its monthly board of directors meeting at the Encino Velodrome. The meeting officially kicks off at 7 pm, but some board members plan to arrive early.

………

In stage 16 of the Tour, Lance gives it his best shot for a stage victory, but Pierrick Fedrigo gets the win; in what may have been his last chance for a win, Lance just didn’t have the legs. A Kiwi le Tour rider is mistaken for a tourist and pushed off his bike, breaking both wheels. Following today’s rest day, Thursday’s climb up Tourmalet should be exciting — because Schleck wants his yellow jersey back.

In near-daily pro doping news, Alessandro Petacchi is placed under formal investigation. Armstrong’s lawyer complains about media leaks, and his team leader admits selling bikes as Landis charged, but doesn’t know where the money went.

………

LACBC calls for L.A.’s broken-armed mayor to support safer streets. LADOT Bike Blog reports on the sharrows on Westholme Ave; I’m planning to ride them end-to-end in a few minutes. Advice on safely navigating a right turn lane. NBC4 looks at the upcoming CicLAvia, now scheduled for October. Bicycle Fixation complains to LADOT’s Carlos Morales about bike racks, and gets action. A Sacramento cyclist is killed on his way to work; the driver has no license but a witness blames the cyclist. She’s a citizen cyclist, not a cycle chic. Battling breast cancer by bike. A lawyer finally gets his client a settlement a year-and-a-half after she gets left hooked. Charleston encourages people to ride bikes Downtown, then locks and tickets them because there’s not enough bike parking. A Boston cyclist enjoys the occasional impromptu roadway horn concerto. A DC area driver had received five tickets in the month before he killed a 23-year old cyclist. More secrets to cycling safely in traffic. Comparing the world’s two largest bike share programs as London’s new Cycle Hire kicks off this week — but only for members. Meanwhile, the city’s first two Cycle Superhighways opened on Monday.

Finally, an NYPD officer faces charges for hitting a cyclist, dragging him to the curb, giving him a ticket and then driving off without reporting it; the entire event was captured on video.


Robert Sam Sanchez sentenced to 4 years for the death of Rod Armas

July 20, 2010

It’s hard to call something breaking news when it happened over a month ago.

But word is just coming out that Robert Sam Sanchez changed his plea to no contest at pre-hearing conference on June 14th and was sentenced to 4 years in state prison for the death of Rod Armas in Malibu last year.

According to cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, Sanchez pleaded no contest to hit-and-run with injury, as well as an additional count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. As part of the plea deal, charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI with injury were dismissed.

As you may recall, Rod Armas and his son Christian were riding on the shoulder of PCH in Malibu as they neared the end of the L.A. Wheelmen’s annual Grand Tour Double Century on the night of June 27, 2009. They only had about 10 miles left in their ride when they were struck by a Dodge Ram pickup driven by Sanchez, a records clerk for the City of Malibu, who fled the scene.

The pickup was discovered abandoned about a mile further down the road, and Sanchez was arrested after being found hiding nearby. His blood alcohol level still measured .05 over five hours after Armas was left to die in the road.

Wheels speculates that the delay in taking a blood sample may have led to the decision to drop the alcohol charges, since there may have been a problem proving that he was intoxicated at the time of the collision.

Sanchez was sentenced to four years for each count, to be served concurrently. As a result, he will serve a maximum of fours years; however, in all likelihood, the actual time he spends behind bars will be significantly less.

According to Wheels, this was a good outcome under the circumstances, and Sanchez was not let off easy. He was sentenced to the maximum term for felony hit-and-run, and a mid-term sentence for manslaughter, with a finding that alcohol was involved.

The next step is a Restitution Hearing scheduled for July 30th, after which Sanchez will be required to surrender to authorities to begin his sentence.

Of course, the question is why the conviction received coverage in the news; even the local press had no idea a deal had been reached and a sentence imposed. Dj Wheels had a case in another courthouse on the day of the pre-hearing conference, and only learned about the conviction when he tried to find out why yesterday’s scheduled pretrial hearing didn’t take place.

Maybe they just didn’t want us to know until Sanchez was safely behind bars.

Update: This absolutely chilling comment appeared on the Bike Forums thread about Rod Armas this morning, from a rider who rolled up on the scene just minutes after Rod and Christian were hit.


Click to enlarge.


L.A.’s mayor jumps on the bike bandwagon — and promptly falls off

July 19, 2010

L.A. bicyclists have long fantasized about getting Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a bike.

Not just for the affirmation of cycling as a valid means of transportation and recreation it would provide in this often unwelcoming city, but so he would understand the challenges we face on its streets.

I have a feeling he gets it now.

Just days after Will Campbell revealed the first known photo of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a bicycle — and only seven months since Villaraigosa stunned L.A. cyclists by publicly voicing support for bicycling for the first time — he’s now officially one of us.

On Saturday evening, he was cut off by a driver. And ended up with a broken elbow that required surgery on Sunday.

He might be hard pressed to find a local rider who can’t relate to the first part of the story, if not the second.

According to the Times, His Honor was riding in the bike lane on Venice Blvd between Hervey and Hargis Streets near Culver City when a taxi suddenly pulled in front of him, causing the mayor to fall.

Many bicyclists read between the lines and suspected a classic right hook, in which the driver makes a right turn across the path of a rider. Or maybe the cabbie cut in front of the Mayor and stopped short, like an accidental version of what Dr. Thompson was convicted of doing on purpose.

According to LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer, the real story is just a little different.

It seems the cab was parked along the curb and pulled out directly in front of the Mayor without looking for approaching riders in the bike lane. And rather than the implied hit-and-run, the driver did stop and exchange information, then left the scene before police arrived.

So while the driver did cause what the police term a no-contact collision, it was not a hit-and-run. And the only chargeable offense would be making an unsafe lane change or failure to yield.

Welcome to our world.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s spent much time riding the streets of this city who doesn’t have a similar tale to tell. Except drivers usually don’t stop for cyclists who don’t ride with a security detail.

And I have a feeling the police took the mayor’s call a little more seriously than they have the rest of us.

So we wish you well, Mr. Mayor.

Some of us hope you ignore all of those people who say this proves how dangerous it is to ride in this city, and just get back out on your bike as soon as you can. While others are hopeful that you’ve learned a lesson about drivers’ attitudes towards cyclists, painful though it may be, and hope you’ll now partner with cyclists to make the streets safer. And are critical of the press that wrote this off as a mere accident and implied it was your fault.

But if you haven’t quite grasped it yet, just try reading some of the comments on the Times story about your injury. If you have the stomach for it.

Like it or not, you’re one of us now.

………

After a dull weekend, some real drama in the Tour de France.

Just as Andy Schleck was about to destroy Alberto Contador on a climb, Schleck lost his chain. And his yellow jersey, as Contador ignored the accepted courtesy of not attacking the leader when he has mechanical trouble. As a result, he now leads Schleck by a mere 8 seconds — with a very pissed of Luxembourger on his heels.

On Sunday, nothing much happened as Christophe Riblon won the stage and the leaders chose to play poker rather than compete; Vino bounced back from a two-year blood doping suspension to win stage 13. Judging by his comments, maybe Lance will be back in 2015 (third item), while his PR machine rolls over bad press. Jens Voigt wonders just how strong Contador really is this year.

………

A cyclist visits New York and asks, can we have some of those separated bike lanes too? Brayj says the city Planning Department clearly listened to him, but the new draft bike plan still has a way to go. How to make Riverside more bike-friendly; just change the name of the city and this would be make damn good approach for L.A. as well. Visiting L.A.’s largely forgotten Fisherman’s Village by bike. A female cyclist says if guys only knew how good they look on a bike, they’d ride everywhere. A cyclist is found dead on the side of a Santa Clara County roadway. Long Beach’s biking expats take the long — and very scenic — route from Nashville to Chattanooga. One of Amarillo’s leading bike activists is killed when a distracted driver tries to pick up the cell phone he dropped. Two cyclists are killed in separate incidents in OKC in just two days. A British cyclist was killed on the site of a planned bikeway that was scrapped just last week. Even for a trained cyclist, wearing a helmet is better than cracking your head. Even in Turkey, they’re building new bikeways.

Finally, a writer for the New York Post bends over backwards to ignore the safety improvements on Gotham’s streets and says no matter how many bike lanes the city builds, they will only make New York more dangerous.

As our own mayor can attest, more cars on the road only make our streets safer.

Right?


Friday’s ride, in which I nearly acquire some prime agricultural land

July 17, 2010

I’ve often dreamed eventually settling down in Southern Colorado.

Maybe somewhere around Spanish Peaks, which is still one of the most beautiful and mysterious places I’ve ever seen. But I’ve always imagined myself living on a ranch.

Not buying the farm like I almost did today.

The funny thing is, I spent about half an hour Thursday evening on the phone with a reporter from the Times discussing whether it’s dangerous to ride on PCH. The point I tried to make was that the problems on PCH aren’t due to cyclists; it’s dangerous, aggressive and inattentive drivers, lax enforcement and a near total lack of infrastructure improvements to make things safer for everyone. Bicyclists included.

Yet what nearly happened to me didn’t happen on busy PCH; it was on Westwood’s relatively placid Ohio Ave, barely a mile from my home.

I was just starting out on my ride when I crossed Westwood Blvd heading west. As I rode, I watched as a driver at the next intersection started to make a left turn off Midvale, then noticed the oncoming traffic on Ohio.

And instead of gunning it to complete his turn and get the hell out of the way, he did exactly the wrong thing.

He froze.

He stopped right where he was, partially blocking the eastbound lane of Ohio. Which meant that the oncoming cars had a choice between stopping safely in front of him or going around him.

Do I really need to tell you which option the first driver took?

So just as I approached the intersection doing about 20 mph, I found myself staring face to face with a Cadillac Escalade driving on the wrong side of the road at over 30 mph, and at a distance of maybe 10 yards.

Which meant that I was less than half a second from becoming a bloody Caddy hood ornament. And at a combined speed of 50 mph, my survivability didn’t look very promising.

It wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference that I was wearing a helmet and riding exactly where I was supposed to be.

And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I had just enough time for that “Oh f***” moment in which I fully grasp the seeming inevitability of my demise, when he suddenly swerved back to the other side, clearing my handlebars by just a few feet. And leaving me riding rubber legged for the next several blocks.

It’s possible that he just didn’t see me. Although how you miss a 6’ tall, 180 pound man in a bright yellow jersey is beyond me.

Then again, maybe he did see me, which is even scarier. Because the total lack of surprise on the driver’s face would suggest that he knew I was there all along — and chose to risk the life of a total stranger just to avoid the minimal inconvenience of braking to avoid another car.

And let’s be very clear.

The danger I faced had nothing to do with being on a bike. Even if I’d been behind the wheel, that big ass truck would have mounted my little car like a dog in heat, most likely removing my head in the process.

Instead, it resulted from a frightened driver who made a mistake, then froze when he should have stepped on the gas. And an overly aggressive driver who chose to swerve dangerously when he should have stopped.

And that’s what makes riding, driving and walking across or along our roads risky, whether it’s on Ohio or PCH.

………

Joaquin Rodriguez outsprints Alberto Contador for the finish in stage 12 of the tour de France. Andy Schleck rallies to cut his losses to 10 seconds; the question is how much did it take out of him.

Lance Armstrong is slipping further behind the leaders, but maybe it’s on purpose. Bicycling talks with Contador on video. A day after being bounced from the Tour, Mark Renshaw blames the competition. This was supposed to be Tyler Farrar’s year; instead he drops out 10 stages after breaking his wrist. Life as a TdF rider means learning to love pain; more backstage tidbits from le Tour.

And caption this photo of Tour leader Andy Schleck and his wool-bearing friend to win a $20 gift certificate.

………

Click to enlarge

In case you missed yesterday’s list of upcoming events, click here and scroll down to catch up.

………

Hell has officially frozen over — L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is photographed riding a bike; no, seriously. Gary says Santa Monica may host its first ciclovia on 10-10-10; maybe it should start at 10:10 am. It looks like L.A.’s best transportation blog may be sticking around after all. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who nearly got nailed recently. Bell unveils new commuter-friendly helmets. The Wall Street Journal continues make itself over into Bicycling Magazine; this time asking if you would commute to work. Three ways to pedal faster. Why it makes no sense to license cyclists. A Georgia driver faces aggravated assault charges after imitating Dr. Christopher Thompson. It looks like Memphis and Toronto will be getting new bike lanes, while Jakarta cyclists demand theirs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy rides a bike. Secret to cycling with traffic #5: signal sensibly. Bike is a four letter word in Halifax. Vancouver residents are up in arms after efforts to create what sounds like a bike boulevard. Copenhagen requests high tech bids to make biking in the city even better, as the rest of the world falls further behind.

Finally, first the NYPD blocks a bike lane, then tickets cyclists for going around them.


Bright shiny new sharrows in Westwood

July 16, 2010

This morning, I set out on a ride down to Manhattan Beach, rolling right past the future home of sharrows on Westholme Ave.

As has been the case for the past few weeks, a quick glance up and down the street for traffic showed no signs of any new paint. At least none I hadn’t already spotted.

These markings have been on the street for the past week or so.

So imagine my surprise when I rolled back about 3 hours and 45 miles later, and noticed a car slow down to a near stop, evidently confused by the new markings that had suddenly appeared on Westholme.

Seriously, I swear these weren't there this morning.

I stopped to take a look, and sure enough, there were a pair of bright, shiny new sharrows on the street leading up to Wilshire Blvd. And a quick look the other way showed more heading south towards Santa Monica Blvd.

Sharrows to the left, sharrows to the right.

So even though my legs were on their last legs, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ride up as far as Wilshire to check them out.

Even though they were placed in the center of the lane, it seemed appropriate, since the lanes on this section are narrow — and definitely not sharable.

Even placed in the center of the lane, they're just outside the door zone.

Riding up towards Wilshire, I was perfectly comfortable riding on the sharrows, moving to the right to let cars pass when it was safe and appropriate. Coming back, there were no cars parked on the right due to street sweeping restrictions, so I stuck to the parking lane and let the drivers have the traffic lane to themselves.

On the other hand, many of the drivers who went by didn’t seem to know what to make of the strange symbols on the road in front of them. Some slowed down and examined them closely, while others drove onto the other side of the road to go around them — even though there weren’t any bikes, or anything else, in their way.

This driver wasn't the only one who seemed afraid to cross over the strange markings that had appeared without warning.

Then there were others who didn’t seem to notice there was anything different.

Those are the ones I worry about.

That just leaves Abbot Kinney Blvd as the last of the six streets scheduled to get sharrows during the current pilot project. And I just rode there on my way back this afternoon.

So I can safely say there aren’t any there.

Yet.


Cyclist killed in Newport Beach; a full slate of biking events

July 16, 2010

Forty-three year old Michael William Nine of Santa Ana — some reports indicate he was 47 — was killed in a collision at the intersection of Spyglass Hill Road and Harbor Ridge Drive in Newport Beach Thursday morning.

According to authorities, the collision occurred at 7:47 am as Nine was riding with a group of cyclists headed north on Spyglass Hill. He was traveling at about 30 mph at the head of the group when something caused him to lose control of his bike and slide across the road, where he collided head-on with a southbound truck; he was pronounced dead at Hoag Medical Center.

Some reports indicate that he may have lost control after he swerved to avoid a gardener’s truck, however, other witnesses contradict that version of events. The other riders in the group didn’t see what happened because their view of the collision blocked by a bend in the road.

It was the third fatal bicycling collision in the area in less than a year, which is about three too many.

Prayers and condolences to his family and loved ones.

Update: Jim Lyle pointed me to this comment on the Road Bike Review forum, from a cyclist who says he witnessed the collision:

For those of you that ride in the OC.

Mike Nine an avid cyclist out of Tustin was killed Thursday morning during a training ride in Newport Beach.

He crashed into the back of a stake truck as he tried to avoid the vehicle which was traveling the wrong way on the road and in the path of a group of riders.

The OC news channels have incorrectly reported that the cyclist lost control of his bike causing him to go into oncoming traffic and striking the truck. The news channels have cited that the Newport Police have been unable to determine the reason the cyclist lost control of his bike.

As 1 of the 10 witnesses of this event, I think it is important to set the record straight. Mike did not lose control of his bike and go into oncoming traffic. The truck was going the wrong up a narrow road. This caused the crash. The truck driver’s negligence set this tragedy in motion.

………

Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia won his third stage of this year’s Tour de France on Thursday, as teammate Mark Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour for head-butting a rival rider in a bit of argy-bargy that was caught on video during the final sprint.

Got to admit, though, Andy Schleck looks good in yellow. David Millar barely survives one of his worst days ever on a bike in stage nine, while Team RadioShack gets it’s first Tour win in stage 10. And Bicycling says if Lance isn’t going to win this year’s Tour, he should become the first American to claim the last place Lanterne Rouge.

………

An open letter from Reed Bates, the Texas cyclist jailed for the crime of riding a bike.

………

In upcoming events, tonight (Friday) say goodbye to the LACBC’s much loved and soon to be much missed Dorothy Le at Far Bar in Little Tokyo beginning at 4 pm.

Fortunately, she’s not quite gone yet. This Saturday, Dorothy will join with Madeline and Lauren in hosting the How To’s and Hubs Bike Ride for Ladies and Allies through the gentle streets of Downtown to encourage more women to ride by teaching the how to’s of savvy cycling.

Wombyn’s cycling krew — their spelling, not mine — Ovarian Psychos/Cycles rolls through the Eastside Friday night.

Summer Fix LA kicks off Friday night in Culver City, with events throughout the city all weekend. And I had to learn about this from a website in New York?

Tuesday, July 20, Mia Lehrer + Associates is hosting 5X20/SEED spotlighting the upcoming CicLAvia. Wednesday the 21st, the LACBC holds its monthly board meeting at the Encino Velodrome; the meeting starts at 7 pm, but you’re invited to arrive early to meet the board members — including yours truly — and discuss the bike issues important to you. The L.A. City Planning Department will be hosting their first ever Webinar to discuss the revised draft bike plan on Thursday, July 22nd. And wrap up the week with Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street on Saturday the 24th.

The LACBC is hosting the 2nd Regional Meeting for bike activists from around the region on Wednesday, July 28th.

The First Annual City of Lights Awards Dinner takes place downtown on Thursday, August 12th.

………

The LACBC reports that the 10% set aside from Measure R funds for bike and pedestrian projects has been officially confirmed, with $3.27 million available the first year. Ground breaks on Downtown’s new Civic Park, but where’s the Bike Station? Even Berkeley is getting one, already. LADOT is now 2/3 of the way through their sharrows pilot project; not all sharrows are on the streets, though. Flying Pigeon has your new Nihola Danish cargo bike on sale now. The host of Travelin’ Local goes car lite. Dancer a la Mode tries to get a broken-hearted driver to hang up the phone. Patrick Pogan, the now ex-NYPD cop who knocked a Critical Mass cyclist off his bike, walks with no jail time after a conviction for lying about the event; seriously, did you expect anything else? The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the season of biker chic; thanks to George Wolfberg for the link. The FBI says bike theft is on the rise nationwide as car theft is down. TreeHugger reports bike commuters show lower absenteeism and greater productivity than their four-wheeled coworkers. Shop for your next house by bike in KCMO. Missouri’s St. Charles County may not be able to ban bikes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Biking skills can come in handy off the bike, too. This animation clearly shows where to ride in traffic, and why. There’s a certain indisputable logic to this comment about bike parking. London’s bike superhighway hasn’t even opened yet and it’s already torn up for construction. A British driver who shattered a cyclist’s arm is fined £90, while a woman who dropped a cigarette in the street is fined £170. Downhill/four-cross racer Dan Atherton is placed in a halo brace after fracturing two vertebrae when he missed a jump. Next up in Biking Toronto’s 10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic, ride in a straight line, play by the rules and avoid the stoplight squeeze.

Finally, powered pedals are a few cranks closer to reality.


True Grit: clearing a path for beachfront bicyclists

July 15, 2010

See the sand on the bike path? Me neither.

Notice anything different lately?

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the long-standing problem of sand on the Marvin Braude Bike Path along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice.

Then last week, I shared an email that I sent to County Bicycle Coordinator Abu Yusuf, after discovering that the county is responsible for maintaining the bikeway.

Or most of it, any way.

And I promised to let you know when I received a response. Then again, if you’ve ridden the bike path over the last few days, I probably don’t have to tell you what that response was.

To be honest, I didn’t think they were taking me seriously at first.

This is what local cyclists have had to deal with in recent months.

Mr. Yusuf emailed back, explaining that the bike path gets cleared three times a week, and inspected on a regular basis. And their records showed the maintenance was up to date and it was clear of sand.

So I picked up the phone, and said, as politely as possible, maybe you should take another look at those photos.

I explained that I’ve been riding that bike path for nearly 20 years. And this was the first time it had looked more like a sand trap at Riviera than southern California’s most heavily used bikeway — and stayed that way for over two months.

I was prepared for an argument. But his response surprised me.

As late as Monday, the bike path in Santa Monica looked like this.

Yusuf took my complaints seriously — even though they contradicted what he believed — and offered to meet me in Venice to take a first hand look.

Meanwhile, my original email, which had been circulated through the county maintenance department, seemed to be having an effect.

When I rode the bike path last week, it seemed a little cleaner than it had anytime since the storms of last May. Not yet free from sand, but clearly efforts had been made to clean the sand off in a number of places.

Then I rode it again this past Monday. And it showed even more improvement, though it still had a long way to go.

This is how the same section looked on Tuesday.

So Tuesday morning, I rode out to Venice, this time as a representative of the LACBC, to meet with Yusuf and the county’s other Bicycle Coordinator, Kristofor Norberg. I also asked my friend George Wolfberg to join us, since he’s involved in a number of local and regional community groups and bicycle advisory committees.

What we saw surprised us.

Overnight, following the regularly scheduled Tuesday morning maintenance, the bike path had gone from a sea of sand to an actual, ridable bike path. There were still problems, but the cement was cleaner than it had been in months.

It may not be perfect yet, but the bike path hasn't been this clear in months.

Of course, no pathway along the beach will ever be completely free of sand. Daily ocean breezes blow it onto the path, and every beachgoer who tramps across it drags a little sand with them.

But the difference was night and day.

So the first thing we did when Yusuf and Norberg arrived was to say thank you. Then we took them on a little walk to point out some problems that still remained.

They surprised us, too. Instead of the sterotypical SoCal bureaucrats hell bent on defending their department, we found two very polite and friendly men who were clearly committed to solving problems and finding a way to get things done.

In other words, exactly the kind of public servants our city and county so desperately need these days.

Kristofor Norberg and George Wolfberg examine how much of the bike path has been lost to sand.

We showed them places where a malfunctioning sprinkler system washed out the sand bordering the path, sending it streaming across the bikeway in inch-deep deposits. Along with areas where sand had been allowed to overtake the edges of the path, reducing its usable surface by as much as a foot and a half in places.

We pointed out places where pedestrians walk across the bike path, often without looking — and they showed us where warning signs had been removed or covered with graffiti, and where sweeping equipment had worn off the markings that indicated portions of the path were for bikes only.

And we talked about the problems presented by the odd combination of cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, joggers, pedestrians and Segway jockeys who traverse the path on a daily basis. In fact, we watched as a bike rider nearly had to be restrained after colliding with a skateboarder.

And after a tour that lasted well over an hour, our meeting felt more like four friends working together to solve a problem than a couple of cyclists butting heads against the usual brick wall of local government.

This sign used to say something; now it's just bike parking.

In the end, they committed to follow up with the county maintenance staff to make sure the path stays as clear of sand as possible, and to see what can be done about the problem areas and the streaks of sand the sweepers sometimes leave behind.

They offered to look into additional signage and striping to identify the bike-only portions of the path and warn pedestrians to look out for bikes when they cross the path. They also agreed to ask for bike cops to patrol the path from time to time to try to prevent conflicts before they happen.

And finally, they asked for your help.

If you notice any problems on the bike path or areas where the signage could be improved, Yusuf wants to hear from you; you can email him at ayusuf@dpw.lacounty.gov. Or just send them to me or the LACBC, and we’’ll forward it to him for you.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there are limits to what he can do.

For instance, the county has responsibility for everything on the bike path itself — but anything on either side falls under the jurisdiction of other city or state agencies.

And their jurisdiction ends just north of the new Annenberg Community Beach House, where the city takes over.

Which means we face a whole different set of problems to get that section cleaned.

But at least, this is one clear victory for cyclists.

Clearly, we still have work to do; this is where the city maintained portion of the bike path begins.


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