Celebrating L.A.’s most magnificent, wheel crunching and sometimes life-giving potholes

November 18, 2010

Just one of the many massive potholes cyclists have to contend with in the City of Angels.

No one has to tell L.A. cyclists that the streets are getting worse.

These days, even a brief ride means dodging potholes and ridges of rumpled asphalt that can take down even the most careful riders. And God help the bike rider taking a new route after dark, unaware of the road hazards that lay hidden in the night.

That was driven, or more precisely, ridden home last night, as my riding companion and I plowed into a deep rut left behind by road work on Olympic Blvd.

We both hit it hard; my front wheel hit it squarely, causing my back wheel to fly off the ground and briefly putting me at risk of going over the handlebars. Fortunately, I nailed the landing and escaped unscathed.

My companion wasn’t so lucky.

While he successfully navigated the rut, it took a toll on his tires as the rear quickly went flat. Once he got the tire off, it didn’t take long to spot the telltale twin snakebite punctures caused by solid smack against an unflinching surface. Fortunately, I had a spare tube with me, and we were back on our way in just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, though, the city’s budget problems mean that the roads aren’t going to get fixed anytime soon. While L.A. says it’s still fixing potholes, the job doesn’t seem to be getting done as fast or as well as it has in the past, and other issues — like the trench we hit last night — present more complicated problems. And many streets are long past the point where patching would do any good.

Which bring us to my current candidate for the worst pothole in the city.

Other cyclists may point to the huge recurring pothole caused by flowing water on 4th Street known as the Hudson River. Or the endless series of cracks, ruts and gaping holes on the westbound stretch of Wilshire Blvd between Beverly Glen and Wilshire Blvds unaffectionately called the Gauntlet.

Pothole planter at Glendon and Holman.

But I would direct your attention to the intersection of Holman and Glendon Avenues in Westwood, where you’ll find what I call the Westwood Community Garden — a pothole of such breadth, depth and duration that is has grown to become an unofficial city planter.

And judging by the multiple L.A. Street Services sawhorses gathered in its gaping maw, one that the city is well aware of and chooses to ignore, instead allowing nature to reclaim a small section of our asphalt megalopolis.

Fortunately, it’s not a street that cyclists frequent. And we can always use a little more greenery here on the Westside.

So call it a victory of nature. Or even a failure of city government.

Just don’t try riding through it.

L.A. Street Services has clearly staked out their turf.

If you have a better candidate for Pothole of the Year, send me your photos and I’ll post them on here. The winner will receive absolutely nothing, other than the satisfaction of knowing the continued neglect of your streets has not gone unnoticed by your peers.

And remember — unless you know for a fact that there are no cars behind you or on your left, you’re often better off riding through the pothole than suddenly darting into traffic to go around it.

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Following on the heels of the recent rescue of two scuba divers by a pair of biking triathletes in Malibu, a hero cyclist saves the life of a woman drowning in the San Gabriel River.

Meanwhile, a teenage salmon cyclist in Calabasas stops a drunk driver after narrowly avoiding a collision himself. Oddly, while recognizing his actions, not one word about the obvious dangers of riding the wrong way in traffic — or that he wouldn’t have been in the drunk’s way to begin with if he’d been riding on the right side of the street.

Note to cyclists: Saving lives, good; wrong-way riding, bad.

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A hit-and-run driver is in custody after critically injuring a cyclist at the intersection of Walnut and Browning Avenues in Tustin; the name of the driver and victim have not yet been released.

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Lulu Laing, widow of cyclist Jim Laing killed by an alleged drunk driver in Agoura Hills last month, writes about her loss on Bikeside; warning — reading it will just break your heart all over again.

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Victorious hit-and-run victim Ed Magos writes to thank the L.A. cycling community for its support. Streetsblog interviews bike advocate and BAC member Ayla Stern, and recommends four fresh faces who should be considered as the new head of LADOT. The UCLA Bike Coalition sponsors its first group ride on Friday, while Flying Pigeon sponsors its next Get Some Dim Sum Ride on Sunday including a visit to the Arroyo Arts Collective 18th Annual Discovery Tour. Currie Technologies opens its first iZIP store in Venice, offering electric bikes and ebike tours of Venice, Santa Monica and the Marina.

The driver who killed a cyclist near Portola Valley earlier this month had been involved in two previous fatal collisions, including a 2007 collision that took the life of another cyclist. Cycling the 31-mile California Delta ride. Promoting bicycling in the African American community through the National Brotherhood of Cyclists. Lovely Bicycle compares different types of Mixtes. A bicycling Portland bus driver stops a thief from stealing a ghost bike. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, a Seattle cyclist is attacked with an umbrella. No matter how mad you get at a driver, do not throw your bike at the offending vehicle. New York cyclists are blindsided by the removal of a vital Staten Island bike lane.

Happy birthday to the world’s oldest bike shop, which just turned 150 but doesn’t look a day over 135. Sadly, the Joy of Cycling didn’t make the cut for a new London cycling promotion. Brit road safety experts call for a ban on large trucks in cities to protect cyclists, while an aptly named severely hung-over truck driver gets seven years and a lifetime driving ban, and a cyclist wins a £280,000 settlement in another case. A new campaign urges drivers to be BikeAware. Budget cuts in Scotland could undo years of bike and pedestrian progress. Tour de France champ Alberto Contador claim his positive doping test resulted from tainted meat; the World Anti-Doping Agency says “yeah, right.” Signage for salmon cyclists. Australia introduces new standards for bike helmets to provide better protection, making thousands of unsold helmets obsolete. An Aussie cyclist is hit by an SUV while fleeing from police. A third cyclist has died in the head-on collision that took the lives of two other cyclists on Sunday, while a British tourist is fatally doored — making five New Zealand bike deaths in five days.

Finally, stunt ace Danny MacAskill releases his latest film full of impossible tricks. And if you thought you were skilled on a bike, you ain’t seen nothing yet.


Evidently, juries blame the bike-riding victims too

November 17, 2010

Maryland injury lawyer Ronald V. Miller, Jr. forwarded a couple of interesting links.

They show that while the average jury award in a bike case is $279,970, the median is only $50,000, thanks to a handful of high verdicts that skew the average. And they reveal that cyclists only prevail in 41% of cases — something that hasn’t significantly changed in the past 20 years.

In case you wonder why, you only have to look as far the comment section of virtually any online story about bicycling. There are people who just don’t like cyclists and don’t think we belong on the roads — and believe anything that happens to us as a result is our fault, regardless of what the law says.

And those are some of the same people you’ll find in jury pools.

To put it in perspective, motorcyclists injured by cars — hardly a popular group in our society — prevail in court roughly two-thirds of the time.

Which means we’re even less sympathetic to jurors than your neighborhood biker.

As Miller’s legal partner, Laura G. Zois, put it,

The motorcycle thing (that) drives our lawyers crazy is when we know our client is a motorcyclist who did the right thing and the defense lawyer is just using the bias against motorcyclists in a way that completely ignores the real facts. But I’m amazed this same bias also exists to bike riders.

Miller himself adds,

I think the relatively low success rate of bicycle accident cases at trial is a general bias against bikes that may be even stronger than the bias against motorcycles. Many jurors, who typically drive cars, simply think bicycles shouldn’t be on the road.

However, one place I disagree with him is that, like our mayor, he calls for a mandatory helmet law.

While I never ride without one — and credit mine for saving my life in the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter a few years back — I think making helmet use mandatory would be counterproductive.

As others have pointed out, despite the low rate of helmet use in many parts of Europe, the injury rate is also significantly lower, which many people ascribe to the greater number of cyclists on the road and greater emphasis on accident prevention. And there is evidence to suggest that the reduction in injury rates in areas with helmet laws is due to a decline in ridership after the law takes effect, rather than an actual reduction in the rate of injuries per mile travelled.

I think a program to encourage helmet use — such as a tax break for buying a helmet or a discount on insurance rates for using one — would do far more to increase the number of riders who wear one, as opposed to a more punitive approach that might only increase the percentage of helmet use, while reducing the actual number cyclists on the road.

On the other hand, one study I haven’t seen yet is the effect helmet use has on jury verdicts.

I have a feeling most jurors would look far more favorably on an injured rider with a skid lid than one without one.

And be far more likely to blame the helmetless rider for his own injuries.

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I love this comment from Meghan Kavanagh on her Facebook page; made, she said, in frustration after nearly getting run over from both directions while in a crosswalk:

We should not have to educate seniors, pedestrians, and cyclists on how to deal with reckless drivers. We should stop the reckless driving.

Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

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Cyclist and attorney Ross Hirsch updates his webpage, and looks like the bike attorney he is. Mayor Villaraigosa’s bicycle proposals go before the Metro board on Thursday. Car-less Valley Girl finds her bike helmet a useful prop for social interaction. Stripes hit the L.A. River Bike Path through Elysian Valley. The Claremont Cyclist discovers the joys of the unexpected. Turns out the “don’t touch my junk” guy is one of us. Bicycle cops are the best bet for improving campus security. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition gives out free lights to Ninja cyclists by the Bay. Cyclelicious demonstrates how to avoid the door zone; SF Streetsblog asks if you should say anything to riders who ride there.

An appropriately named Boulder, CO cyclist is arrested for biking under the influence with a BAC of .215. The ups and downs of bike commuting, and a look at Chicago’s Cocktail Party Ride. European car manufacturers are getting on the bike bandwagon; will Detroit follow suit? Can death and serious injury ever be eliminated from our roadways? An off-duty Connecticut police officer was drinking before he ran down a teenage cyclist, but fellow officers neglected to give him a blood test; link courtesy of Urban Velo. Advocacy group People for Bikes gathers their 150,000th pledge; you’ll find mine somewhere around 20,000 or so.

The lead investigator in the Lance Armstrong Inquisition meets with the French anti-doping agency. A London cyclist finds her stolen bike, only to have it slip through her fingers. Regular exercise, such as bicycling, is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Finally, after the year with no summer, this is what November looks like on the beach. And it turns out the reason we need a Subway to the Sea is that above ground rail has been permanently barred from Wilshire Blvd, as in forever.

A couple quick personal notes — a speedy recovery to Rach, who survived a silent collision with a Prius last night, and says she managed to capture a photo of the suspect. Welcome to Cheryl T, who recently bought a bike and joined the L.A. cycling community; remember, new girl buys the donuts. And happy anniversary to LAPD Chief Beck, who in one year has done more to improve relations with the cycling community than all the chiefs who came before.


BAC Chair Glenn Bailey files to run for L.A. City Council

November 16, 2010

Glenn Bailey, left, with other members of the BAC.

Evidently, Stephen Box isn’t the only local bike advocate running for City Council next spring.

I’d glanced at the list of candidates who filed before the deadline on Saturday, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it; other than Box and the current council members running for re-election, none of the names jumped out at me.

I should have looked a little harder.

I was on the phone last night with Hillel Aron, Editor-at-Large of Neon Tommy, USC’s outstanding online news source, when he asked what I thought about bike advocates such as Stephen Box and Glenn Bailey running for the council.

Wait a minute, I said.

Glenn Bailey is running for L.A. City Council?

So as soon as I got off the phone, I went back to look at the list of candidates to succeed retiring Councilmember Grieg Smith. And there he was, one of 11 candidates running in that district and the 72nd person to file for the council in Los Angeles, filing his papers on Friday, November 12th.

It’s true.

Neighborhood Council member and Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Glenn Bailey is running for City Council in the Valley’s District 12. And yes, it’s the same Glenn Bailey.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be on the ballot.

He still has to gather 1000 valid signatures (pdf) by December 8th to make it on the ballot, or gather 500 signatures and pay a $300 filing fee; unfortunately, petitions can only be signed by people registered to vote in that district or I’d volunteer to sign right now. And he has until December 13th to change his mind and back out.

But depending on how things turn out on March 8th, two of the city’s leading voices on behalf of cyclists could be doing a lot more than speaking for us.

And speaking of Grieg Smith, he promises to protect the Wilbur Ave bike lanes when and if the road diet is reconfigured.

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In light of Bailey’s candidacy, this would be a good time to remember his eloquent remarks at Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent Bike Summit.

Good morning Mayor Villaraigosa, fellow cyclists.

On behalf of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Mayor’s Bike Summit.

The BAC, was established by Mayor Bradley 35 years ago to make recommendations to the City on all bicycle related matters.  It is composed of an appointee of each of the fifteen Councilmembers and four from the Mayor.  For most of Mayor Bradley’s twenty years in office, his office staffed the Committee.  As a result, when the Mayor’s office called a City department about a bicycle matter, they were usually responsive.

Several days ago the Mayor’s office requested the top bicycle priorities of the BAC.  I invited each BAC member to respond and those suggestions have been compiled and submitted to your office as an “unofficial” list.

____________________________________________________________

Mr. Mayor, last December in an interview from Copenhagen you stated that the Los Angeles has to do a much better job for bicycling.  We couldn’t agree more.

A better job for bicycling means safely accommodating bicycles on all projects, on all streets, without exception.

A better job for bicycling means the prompt repair of potholes, cleaning debris, and other hazardous road conditions.

A better job for bicycling means the vigorous enforcement against the blocking of bike lanes by delivery vehicles, unhitched trailers, or anything else.  (Audience:  trash cans!)

A better job for bicycling means a transit system that integrates cyclists in every aspect of its operation, not just when it’s convenient to do so.

A better job for bicycling means providing convenient and secure parking at every City building and park, including at City Hall itself, and at all commercial and retail locations.

A better job for bicycling means holding the line, in fact, rolling back the recent increases in speed limits.

A better job for bicycling means a properly trained police force that enforces the law equally and fairly and that protects and respects the rights of cyclists.

A better job for bicycling means vehicular hit and runs will be fully investigated and prosecuted for the crimes that they are.

A better job for bicycling means a visionary and robust City Bicycle Plan that is implemented each and every day, not just sitting on sitting on a shelf for five years awaiting its next revision.

A better job for bicycling means installing at least fifty miles of bicycle lanes every year for the next three years, rather than the five mile annual average of the past fourteen years under the current 1996 Bicycle Plan.

A better job for bicycling means incorporating the City Council endorsed Cyclist’s Bill of Rights in the operation of every City department and every action taken by the City and its employees.

And a better job for bicycling means welcoming and encouraging cyclists to participate in every step of the decision making process, the outcome of which affects our very lives.

Thank you for listening and for your support.

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Two actors on ABC’s Castle agree to go car free in Los Angeles for seven days a month, and follow their progress on an online reality program.

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An L.A. bike theft is caught on tape, and $1000 reward is offered for return of the bikes; in Tucson, a police car is shown rolling past a bike theft in progress captured on a security camera.

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The social calendar is starting to get busy, as the South Bay Bike Coalition is holding an informal cocktail mixer from 7 – 9 Tuesday night, and the Bikerowave plans a New Years Eve party, which could be the highlight, or highlighter, of the year.

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The LACBC announces their first annual report is now available for download. Bob Muellner reports on the proposed anti-harassment ordinance on KCRW’s Shortcuts blog, and says if everyone would just obey standard traffic laws, things would go a lot better. Meanwhile, KPCC profiles L.A. eco, bike and river activist extraordinaire Joe Linton; anyone notice that it’s the public radio stations who provide the best coverage of bicycling issues? Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles offers a workshop on Winter Training for Metabolic Efficiency this Wednesday. A cyclist discovers LADOT’s bike riding parking enforcement officers. Glendale plans to add bike parking downtown; granted, it’s only five words out of the entire article, but it’s a good five words. The latest area bike co-op is born as the Bicycle Lounge opens its doors in Riverside. San Francisco buses, bikes and businesses battle to be king of the road. A Redding bike count shows an 80% increase in the last year alone.

Pick your bicycling calendar for the upcoming year, including one from Long Beach’s cycling expats, Russ Roca and Laura Crawford. Or maybe you’d prefer an autographed George Hincapie championship jersey. Victims of distracted driving are remembered online. Even the U.S. Secretary of Energy rides a bike. An all natural, biodegradable spoke card. A new website celebrates the bicycle as an art form; thanks to EvoVelo for the link. MTV host and BMX cyclist TJ Lavin returns home after a nearly fatal bike stunt. A Utah teenager turns herself in following a fatal hit-and-run. A Phoenix woman is arrested in the hit-and-run death of a cyclist. More on the Oregon bike commuter study, which shows cycling is good for you except when you crash, while a local paper offers a highly skewed perspective on the same study. At least L.A. cyclists don’t have to deal with moose on the bike paths. My hometown passes a ballot measure to create and implement a citywide Bicycle Safety Education Plan. The Eagle County, CO District Attorney who declined to file felony hit-and-run charges against a wealthy fund manager hasn’t filed charges in the other hit-and-run that occurred the same day, either; thanks to Cyclelicious for the link. An Ohio cyclist is killed in what locals call a hit-skip collision, making it sound so much more fun than a mere hit-and-run. Yet another cyclist is killed in the most dangerous state for bicycling, the 9th Tampa-area rider to die in the last four months.

Nova Scotia considers the metric equivalent of a three-foot passing law. A street racing Brit driver who killed a cyclist at 80 mph six years ago asks for his license back. The Guardian asks what you would do if you saw a bike being stolen. The great Aussie helmet debate goes on, as an ER doctor says research shows the effectiveness of that country’s mandatory helmet law. A New Zealand driver is reportedly traumatized after crossing onto the wrong side of the road to hit three cyclists head-on; on the other hand, two of the riders she hit are dead, which just seems a little worse to me. In a separate Kiwi collision, a cyclist questions if she’ll ever ride again after seeing her riding partner killed. Also in New Zealand, a driver runs a cyclist off the road, then stops to lecture him before driving off. Biking the Hajj from Capetown to Mecca. An American expat buys a bike in Beijing. UCI announces an amateur world championship tour for next year.

Finally, a successful Hollywood director strips away the trappings of his success to live the change he advocates, and chooses to ride his bike virtually everywhere. With a helmet, the article notes.


Oxnard cyclist killed in Sunday collision; 14th SoCal bike death in last four months

November 16, 2010

In yet another SoCal cycling fatality, 20-year old Rene Ambritz was struck and killed in Oxnard on Saturday.

The collision occurred about 6:45 pm at the intersection of Ventura Road and West Hemlock Street. The Ventura County Star reports that Ambritz was riding against traffic with no lights, and was struck by a van driven by Paul Castenada after Ambritz ran the red light. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marks the 14th cycling fatality I’m aware of in Southern California since the beginning of August.

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In other cycling collisions, an unidentified ninja cyclist is in intensive care after reportedly running a red light and getting hit by a car in Thousand Oaks late Sunday; the rider was wearing dark clothing and riding without lights, and had no identification on him at the time of the collision.

And fifty-nine-year old cyclist Donald Schick suffered major injuries in a Castaic hit-and-run on Sunday afternoon. Stephanie Leann Argo of Castaic was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and felony hit-and-run.

Outside the Southern California area, a teenage Vacaville cyclist was killed after being hit by two cars last week; thanks to Witch on a Bicycle for the link.

Meanwhile, a noted NorCal track coach was severely injured in a hit-and-run while riding his bike; reading between the lines, it sounds like it could have been an intentional assault by an impatient driver. And a dangerous stretch of highway may finally get a bike lane, too late for the rider killed there two weeks ago; it was the 2nd cycling fatality for the driver involved.

Finally, Jose Luis Huerta Mundo, the driver who killed OC cyclist Michael Nine last July, is currently on trial for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. A Costa Mesa writer notes that Mundo was in the country illegally and had been cited four previous times for driving without a license, as well as once for not registering his truck, and had ignored two signs prohibiting the illegal maneuver that resulted in Nine’s Death. However, he stresses that now is not the time to hate.

Seriously, as angry as we may get, is there ever a good time for that?


Blaming the victim — some drivers say cyclists are just asking for it

November 15, 2010

It wasn’t that long ago that a woman was just as likely to be blamed as the man who attacked her.

All too often, a woman would report a sexual assault, only to be asked why she was out that late or what she was doing in a place like that. And if a case overcame the odds and made it to court, a judge or jury might conclude that her short skirt or tight top meant that she was asking for it.

Or if a woman was the victim of domestic violence, she was likely to encounter an attitude that she was the one to blame because she shouldn’t have made her husband or boyfriend that mad to begin with.

Case dismissed.

Fortunately, times have changed. That sort of attitude went out with the onset of the women’s movement, when it slowly dawned on society that a woman had a right to say no or stand up for herself. And that we all need to be held accountable for our own actions, regardless of what anyone else does or doesn’t do.

Except, it seems, when it comes to sharing our streets.

The last socially acceptable vestige of that blame-the-victim attitude is firmly on display whenever the subject turns to bicycling and a riders’ right to the road — and the wisdom of putting our wheels on the asphalt some motorists claim as their exclusive domain.

Consider the L.A. Time’s recent Talk Back L.A. post asking for comments on the proposed anti-harassment ordinance, for instance.

By now, we’ve become accustomed to attitudes like this one that merely express a misguided hatred for anyone who moves on two wheels.

EVERY single person i know hates bicyclists. Your cute little mass protest rides have pissed off a lot of people. Your very existence on busy, clogged streets is an annoyance. Learn to drive or bust a gut-check and pay for gas like the rest of us.

No, the problem comes from those who absolve themselves of any responsibility for their own actions. It’s the cyclists’ fault for being where we shouldn’t be, in the eyes of the outraged and inconvenienced drivers.

ban all bicycles from main roads and their riders won’t get hurt or killed. they can’t keep up with traffic and provide no passenger protection. automobile drivers have enough to worry about when on the road, traffic rules, stop lights, pedestrians and now we have to watch over these cry babies who think they are special, really.

Yes, drivers have enough to worry about without watching out for other traffic on the road. And there’s certainly no need to acknowledge that a car or truck is a dangerous machine and must be operated carefully.

It’s just those two-wheeled crybabies who think they’re special, and insist on using the roads as if the law said they could.

Which it does, of course.

If you ride a bicycle on the street, you’re taking your life in your own hands. Bikes are too slow, too hard to see and take up space in the lane preventing cars from driving around them.

It’s the cyclists, they insist, who are risking their own lives; it’s not the drivers’ responsibility to look for them or pass safely. So if you hit one, it’s really his or her fault, not the fault of the careless, distracted or overly aggressive person behind the wheel.

On a busy 8 lane (8 lane!) street I had a bicyclist pull up in between my truck and another car at the stoplight at one of the busiest intersections in the city like he was on a motorcycle or something. Ridiculous. Just an accident waiting to happen. He perfectly could’ve use the available bike lane and cross walk. But no, he uses a major throughfare as his preferred route of transportation. And guess who’s fault it is when they get hit?

Honestly, the nerve. A cyclist riding on the street like it was a safe, legal and reasonable thing to do. Which it is — or at least, should be.

Then there are others who make the connection more directly.

Rather than a new law, enforce the current laws, laws that bicyclists are supposed to follow. If they drove as they are supposed to drive, harassment would become a non-issue.

From their perspective, drivers are entitled  to harass cyclists because cyclists break the law, or at least they’re not acting unreasonably if they do. Never mind that, despite what some people seem to think, a drivers license does not authorize vigilante enforcement of traffic laws.

I had to hit her, your honor. She made me so mad, I just couldn’t help myself.

Then again, there are some who bend over backwards to blame the victims.

This conviction (of Dr. Christopher Thompson) was total B.S. The doctor DID NOT hit the bicyclists. They ran into the BACK of the doctor’s car. The bicyclist that went thru the car’s back window was going 40 mph at the time. Why was he going so fast? Because he was CHASING the doctor’s car.

Even when a motorist is clearly breaking the law, it’s never the law-breaking driver who’s to blame — as in this heartless comment about the death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last month.

You have no idea what you are talking about, but that doesn’t stop you from hollering with your righteous indignation.
 Don’t want to get killed? Then stay off the streets, there are PLENTY of parks with bike paths. Insist on your “right” to participate in inherently dangerous behavior, then expect there to be tragedies like this.

No, it couldn’t be the fault of the driver who got behind the wheel after drinking and ran down a cyclist riding on a wide road in a well-marked bike lane. It’s the fault of the cyclist for simply for being on the road.

Or just being born, perhaps.

And it’s not just Los Angeles. And not just anonymous motorists.

A father who tragically lost his daughter in a cycling collision concludes, not that the driver who took his daughter’s life should have been more careful, but that bikes don’t belong on the street.

When are people going to realize bicycles and cars don’t mix? I have had horrible days driving along Highway 1 in Marin County, where the bikers are so thick that they force cars to pass on the opposite side of the road — in many cases on blind curves. We need some strict laws that restrict bicycles to roads specifically designed with bike lanes. How about a registration and helmet requirement to ride on streets and highways? Anything else should be illegal and subject to a citation. How many more people need to die before something is done?

Never mind that the law clearly prohibits passing on blind curves, or that it only takes a few extra seconds to pass safely in most cases.

The fact is, it’s not easy to have a collision.

It requires one or more people violating the law or using the road carelessly; if everyone drove and rode carefully, paying close attention to the traffic and circumstances around them, while observing the law, it would be virtually impossible to have a collision. And wrecks, whether between motor vehicles, bikes, pedestrians or any combination thereof, would become so rare that a simple fender bender would be front page news.

Because most accidents aren’t accidents.

But even the newly elected mayor of Toronto says it’s cyclists’ own fault if they get killed — whether or not they’re riding in a traffic lane.

What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks, and sooner or later you’re going to get bitten. And no wonder, roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. And my heart bleeds for them when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.

No need for drivers to be careful.

No need to slow down or put down that cell phone, watch the road or take alternative transportation if you’ve been drinking.  It’s not your fault, really.

It’s those darn cyclists who just don’t belong on the road.

They made me do it.

Case dismissed.

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In a truly astounding example of a driver refusing to take responsibility for his actions, a convicted drunk driver sues the parents of the bike riding boy he killed for allowing him to ride without a helmet — even though no helmet on earth would protect against a car moving at 83 mph in a 45 mph zone.

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And in case you ever wondered just what a harassing driver looks like, they seem to look kind of sheepish when they get caught.

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In a horrific weekend for New Zealand cyclists, two men are killed and a woman critically injured in a collision that left a bike embedded in the side of a car, and another woman killed by a car during a training ride, leading a cycling organization to call for urgent action; meanwhile, a Christchurch cyclist is seriously injured after colliding with a pole.

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Herbie says Google responded very quickly to a suggested change for a more appropriate riding route. The paparazzi catch Gwen Stefani teaching her son to ride with training wheels in West Hollywood. Bike lanes are coming to Valencia exactly where they’re not needed most. A Corona del Mar cyclist traces his route to bike advocate. A biking and baseball literary doping doubleheader can be yours for just $5. It’s your bike, ride it the way it feels right to you. Orem, Utah plans to become more bike and pedestrian friendly. Hats and scarves for cold weather riding. Police reports are often wrong. Yet another case of a cyclist suddenly materializing out of nowhere. As Witch on a Bicycle aptly put it, one zero-emissions vehicle collides with another. Evidently, L.A. isn’t the only city where the roads are falling apart. Sometimes, a sacrifice to the biking gods may be in order. Ivan Basso wants his first bike back. Italian police raid the home of Lance Armstrong teammate Yaroslav Popovych.

Finally, a tongue-in-cheek study shows that electric cars take up as much space as the gas-driven ones.


Weekend rides, Tamale Throwdown and a heartbreaking comment from a recent bike widow

November 13, 2010

Lulu Laing, the widow of James Laing — the cyclist killed by an alleged drunk driver in Agoura Hills October 23rd — left a comment on here Friday in which she talks about, and to, her late husband.

But fair warning, don’t read it if you don’t want to cry.

I think Ross X, aka @dudeonabike, said it best in a tweet this evening:

Wow … just wow. The tears that must have fallen on her keyboard as she wrote that… For Lulu and James, we fight on.

The San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club is tentatively scheduled to hold a memorial ride for James Laing, next Saturday, November 20th beginning at 8 am at the Agoura Hills Bicycle John’s. Organizers say it will visit the site where Laing was killed on Agoura Road, with an easy pace to accommodate all riders.

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The landscaper accused in the death of OC cyclist Michael Nine returns to court on Monday, charged with vehicular manslaughter after pleading guilty of driving without a license; thanks to Lois for the heads-up.

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Friday and Saturday, November 12th & 13th, celebrate the city’s favorite cuisine by riding your bike to the LA Tamale Throwdown sponsored by the Eastside Bicycle Club at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Rose Hill; free bike valet sponsored by Flying Pigeon LA bike shop.

Flying Pigeon and the Bike Oven host the free Spoke(n) Art Ride on the 2nd Saturday of every month; the next ride will take place on Saturday, November 13th, starting 6:30 pm at 3714 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park.

Sample the route for the upcoming 2011 River Ride as the LACBC hosts a free ride from Griffith Park to Long Beach on Sunday, November 14. Riders will leave from the Autry Museum in Griffith Park at 7:30 am and arrive in Long Beach between 11 am and noon, then return by riding back or taking the Blue Line to L.A. Email erica@la-bike.org to RSVP; click to download the ride waiver or share a ride to the starting point.

Also on Sunday the 14th, tour Beverly Hills and talk about opportunities to make the city more inviting for cyclists with the inaugural Better Bike Beverly Hills Ride, starting at 2 pm at Peets Coffee at 258 South Beverly Drive.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside, exhibition continues through December 31st.

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Police are looking for a Torrance hit-and-run driver who collided with an 11-year old cyclist, then ran over his leg. City Council candidate Stephen Box says L.A.’s planned construction on PCH is reminiscent of the construction work that resulted in the deaths of two cyclists in 2005. Gary reports on the recent meeting of Santa Monica’s Recreation and Parks Bike Committee. Hip, hot and in the know Sacramento girls on bikes. Coworkers remember a cyclist killed near Napa on Wednesday. The SF Weekly looks at last weekend’s successful San Francisco Bike Expo. Looks like that California middle school student can keep his flag after all. Tucson’s Director of Transportation has his own personalized parking space. Joining in on the great Cat 6 commuter race. An Iowa cyclist slowly recovers after being clotheslined by wire strung across a bike path. A Michigan drunk driver hit something, but kept driving because she wasn’t sure what it was; turned out it was the cyclist she killed. Bike Radar says don’t be afraid of clipless pedals. Advice from the first great depression, bike your way back to prosperity. The UK’s Cycle to Work tax benefit survives the country’s budget cuts, barely. A cycling Brit lawyer captures a death threat from a motorist on video, and can’t get anyone to do anything about it. Astana reloads to move past the Contador era; yeah, good luck with that. Cycling legend Gino Bartali will be honored for risking his life by working undercover to save the lives of Jews during WWII. NYDOT director Janette Sadik-Khan tells Sydney cyclists if she can do it in New York, they can do it there; if she really wants a challenge, why not try to do it here — after all, we have an opening right now. A South African cyclist is shot to death in an apparent road rage attack.

Finally, what do you call it when a New York cyclist is attacked by a naked man on the newly bike friendlier Queensboro Bridge?

Friday.


Ride the 2011 River Ride route six months early — and free this Sunday only

November 12, 2010

Think of it as the 2010-and-a-half River Ride.

What started out as a chance for River Ride volunteers to experience the course they usually miss out on because they’re busy helping others enjoy it is now open to everyone. And its turned into the one of the biggest and best free bike rides of the year.

The L.A. River Training Ride is now open to riders of all levels, from beginners to experienced long distance cyclists — whether you volunteered with the River Ride last year or plan to next year, or want to get a head start on training for next year’s ride. Or just feel like getting out for a great ride with a great group of people along the L.A. River Bike Path.

And it will be led by experienced riders from the LACBC staff, as well as other volunteer ride marshals, to offer guidance, advice and encouragement every step, or pedal stroke, along the way.

Riders will meet at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park this Sunday, November 14, at 7:30 am, then ride to Long Beach for lunch. Those who arrive early enough may ride over to see a special showing of Riding Bikes with the Dutch at the Art Theatre in Long Beach. Other riders will have lunch in Long Beach before either riding or taking the Blue Line back to Los Angeles — making it the perfect opportunity for anyone who doesn’t want to do the full ride, or isn’t sure if they can make it all the way.

As well as your chance to overcome those nagging doubts about signing up for the real River Ride next May.

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Speaking of Riding Bikes with the Dutch, that special showing I mentioned is also open to the public, and will take place at 11:30 am this Sunday, November 14th.

I’ll let Tim Blumenthal of People for Bikes tell you about it.

  • When: Sunday, Nov. 14 at 11:30 a.m., 
Q & A with the filmmaker to follow at 12:15 p.m.
  • Where: Art Theatre, 2025 East Fourth Street, Long Beach, CA
  • Cost: $10 per person; tickets available online or at the box office

The filmmaker, American Michael Bauch, completed a home exchange in Amsterdam, and spent months living and documenting the bicycle-centric lifestyle of the Dutch. “The first time I stepped off the train in Amsterdam I was literally speechless,” said Bauch. “Everyone from three years old to 93 seemed to be tooling around the city on two wheels. There was a three level structure dedicated to just parking bicycles. This was too much to take in with just my own eyes. I needed to share this with everyone I could and this is why I made my film.”

Bicycling is booming in big U.S. cities, with more urban riders than ever. This film offers insights for Americans like us hoping to create more bike-friendly, livable communities in our own backyards.

Learn more about the film on the Riding Bikes with the Dutch website or by watching the trailer.

Happy trails,

Tim Blumenthal, peopleforbikes.org

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The LACBC says cyclists and local residents were shut out of an Ad Hoc committee to reconsider the Wilbur Ave road diet, while LADOT apparently has a super secret plan — developed without input from cyclists or local residents — to reconfigure the roadway.

If you’re pissed off — and you probably should be, especially if you live along Wilbur or ride in the Valley — you’re urged to email and voice your opinion.

TAKE ACTION
Write to the Northridge West Neighborhood Council members and Councilmember Smith to demand that this committee be fairly staffed with residents, homeowners as well as local cyclists.

Local residents, be sure to include your zip code.

And isn’t it time we had real leadership at LADOT to put a stop to this kind of crap stuff?

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The Eagle County DA attempts, and fails, to explain his highly flawed reasoning in declining to prosecute a rich money fund manager for felony hit-and-run. Bob Mionske says the DA is wrong on the law and picks the wrong battles to fight, while the Vail Daily urges him to prosecute the felony charges the crime merits.

Personally, I’d suggest that he either prosecute the driver for felony hit-and-run or resign and let someone else do it.

But that’s just me.

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The mainstream media discovers the proposed cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, as the Daily News, et al, publishes the story, while the Times draws comments from the usual bike-hating suspects; Mark at the C-Blog says it may not be as effective as I think. NoHo’s killer intersection may finally get a traffic signal. LACBC offers a new countywide resource guide. Bicycle Fixation relates a night of riding with Flying Pigeon and the editors of Momentum Magazine. Long Beach’s cycling expats say yes, they know they’re doing it wrong. Calabasas residents help plan a new off-road bikeway along Las Virgenes Creek. Ventura plans a new development where 25% of the parking spaces will be for bikes. People for Bikes says San Francisco sets the bar high. The proposed solution to two NorCal bikes deaths: ban cyclists from any road without a bike lane and require all cyclists to wear helmets, even though the first victim was killed while riding in a bike lane, and the helmet the second victim was wearing didn’t do her any good. A cyclist is killed by a 78-year old driver south of Yountville. A California middle school student is told to take an American flag off his bike to “avoid racial tension.”

An Oregon study of bike commuting injuries shows that injury prevention should focus on improving the riding environment, rather than on the habits and skills of riders. After attempting — and apparently failing — to fire the Executive Director, the directors of Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club face a recall. Even Cheyenne, Wyoming is working on becoming bike friendlier. A Chicago mayoral candidate promises to make it one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world. A blind, nine-time cancer survivor who raised over $50,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital by riding a bicycle 400 miles from Chattanooga to Memphis has died at age 21. Would you ride to work if you had a guaranteed ride home if you needed it?

Someone may be sabotaging an oceanfront UK bikeway. A British cyclist has been arrested in the bike rage attack on a motorist who nearly doored him; in another UK attack, a cyclist smashes his bike into a driver’s windshield. Some schmuck(s) stole the jersey Marco Pantani’s wore to win the 1998 Tour de France. In interesting choice, Team Sky taps the other Texas pro, TdF veteran Bobby Julich, as team race coach. Aukland NZ pulls the plug on their bike share program. A Croation cyclist is fined for falling off his bike.

Finally, advice to riders — don’t ride near foliage because “Rats can jump out and scare you so badly, you’ll be propelled into traffic and, you know, die.”


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