Possible justice in Jim Swarzman hit-and-run, Zeke’s brother Dave blasts Universal

April 27, 2011

It looks like justice may be coming for Jim Swarzman after all.

Joseph Ricardo Fernandez of Carlsbad has been rearrested and is being held on $100,000 bond pending arraignment on Wednesday. Fernandez was arrested after turning himself in the day after Swarzman was killed in a violent hit-from-behind collision, telling police investigators he thought he might have hit something.

However, he was released from custody just moments before the planned arraignment on April 14th, as prosecutors declined to file charges at that time.

It will be interesting to see just what charges are filed.

Problem is, no matter how severe the penalty ends up being, it can’t undo the past and bring a well-loved man back.

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On a similar subject, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the defense has rested in the murder trial of Marco Antonio Valencia for the drunken hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny, and jury deliberations will start tomorrow.

The question doesn’t seem to be if Valencia will do time for the hit-and-run, but whether he will be convicted of the murder charge, with its possible life sentence. Wheels has noted previously that even if he is acquitted of murder, Valencia still faces up to 20 years in prison.

Yet no amount of jail time will bring Novotny back, either.

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Bob Mionske says there has to be some middle ground between felony manslaughter and failure to yield, serious prison time or a slap on the wrist. As usual, he gets it right; definitely worth reading for anyone interested in genuine justice on our streets.

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Maybe you’ll recall that I’ve complained more than once about Universal Studios’s refusal to allow an extension of the L.A. River Bike Path or revitalization of the river through their North Hollywood property.

And that as far as I’m concerned, any plans for expansion should be dead in the water until their attitude changes. Including the silly explanation that they fear failing screenwriters will throw their scripts over the fence if they’re allowed to get that close.

Like they couldn’t just buy a ticket for the studio tour.

So I found it very amusing — and dead on the money — when Dave Yount, brother of North Carolina bike scribe Zeke, sent me the following email:

Hey Ted,

I just stumbled across these drawings for plans for the huge expansion at Universal Studios.  I knew they were trying to block any extension of the LA River path through the studio lot, but I didn’t realize they had offered an alternative bike path through the property.  Check out the drawings here:

http://www.lasubwayblog.com/2010/11/nbc-universal-evolutions-proposed.html

Are you familiar with Universal City Walk?  They have the bike path going up the hill from Lankershim, conveniently buy (pun intended) City Walk, back north across some new road and back down to Barham.  First of all, nobody is going to (and most can’t) ride a bike up that hill.  Secondly, you have to go through all the traffic at City Walk to get to this new road they are building.  Finally, if you are trying to get to the Cahuenga Pass, you then get to climb up Barham after having just pushed your bike up the hill to City Walk.

The nerve of some planning (PR) a$$holes never ceases to amaze me.

Bro Dave

Thanks to Dave for permission to share this. And say hi to Zeke.

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A teenage mountain biker is airlifted to safety after falling off a 50 foot embankment in the Claremont area. Metro will consider removing — or perhaps just studying — the rush hour bike ban on their trains, as well as an Active Transportation Agenda, at Thursday’s board meeting; LACBC says your help is needed. The next BPIT meeting is coming up next week, while the city prepares a package of projects for environmental review; Bikeside accuses L.A. Planning and LADOT of hijacking the process. Raise funds for LACBC while you River Ride and you could win big. Streetsblog offers a handful of opportunities to raise funds and have fun. Thirteen SoCal bike coops gather to trade notes last weekend. Glendale announces plans for next month’s Bike Month. The new Bike Newport is sponsoring a low-stress family fun ride for Sunday, May 15th.

Going carless can put the equivalent of a $4 an hour raise in your pocket, while higher gas prices mean fewer wrecks.  Bicycling asks what’s the best bike for bicycle commuting; how about the one you have? Lovely Bicycle asks if it’s really productive to criticize other cyclists. A reluctant bike commuter takes to the streets of Seattle. Albuquerque opens limited access highways to bikes. Take a baseball bat to a high-end bike, and get two years probation — even if your version of events is termed a fantasy. New York police insist on forcing cyclists to ride in the bike lane, even if it kills them — the cyclists, that is. The Wall Street Journal stops the presses for a little positive news about a New York cyclist.

Great Britain risks fielding a reduced bike team at this year’s Worlds and the 2012 Olympics. After a rough spring spent rehabbing a knee injuring, bike prodigy Taylor Phinney shows why the expectations are so high by finishing 2nd in the time trial prologue for this week’s Tour of Romandie; Jonathan Castroviejo takes 1st. Kate Middleton works for a Boston bike shop.

Finally, even Moscow — the one in Russia, not Idaho — promises to become bike friendly, although 2000 bike parking spaces and 45 kilometers of bikeways doesn’t sound like much in a city of 11 million.


Valencia trial nears conclusion, CA 3-foot law moves forward, NY Post absurdly fans the bikelash flames

April 26, 2011

Dj Wheels reports that the trial has resumed in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with murder and hit-and-run, among other charges, in the death of Joseph Novotny and the serious injury of three other riders.

According to Wheels, the prosecution has rested their case, and the defense is expected to conclude today after calling a single witness.

The defense’s expert witness, Dr. Ari Kalechstein, a neuro-psychologist who has testified in numerous other trials about the effect of intoxication on the brain and the effect on behavior, offered the opinion that Valencia was “unconscious” (either blacked out or passed out) at the time of the collision with the cyclists.

The prosecution’s cross examination has begun and will resume tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 10:30am.  So far, the prosecution is attempting to establish that although someone is “unconscious” (i.e. blacked out) they can still be aware of what they are doing.  Also that despite the expert’s opinion, he can not provide the jury with any indication of what was going on in the mind of Valencia at the time of the collision.

After the defense rests, the judge and attorneys will have to confer about the appropriate jury instructions to read to the jury before closing arguments begin.

Hopefully they get through it all tomorrow so the jury can start deliberating.

The Signal reports on the same testimony, and notes Valencia faces 27 year to life if convicted on the murder charge.

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Jim Lyle reports that the news is good for Richard Schlickman, the cyclist injured recently in a fall caused by new speed bumps in Palos Verdes Estates, as he has been moved to a rehab facility and is talking up a storm. Meanwhile, no change in the condition of Adam Rybicki, critically injured in a collision with an alleged drunk, under-aged driver.

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California’s proposed three-foot passing law makes it onto the legislative agenda; provisions also include a requirement that drivers pass riders at no more than 15 mph above the speed of the bike, with a fine of $250 for violations. Meanwhile, Kansas cyclists get a shiny new three-foot passing law of their very own; that brings the total up to 17 states with a three-foot law.

And it could soon be illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while you ride.

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What kind of a jerk would steal a bike from a teenager with Downs Syndrome? As I’ve said before, there’s a special place in hell…

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Now you can round up your credit and debit card purchases, and contribute the difference to the Bikes Belong Foundation to support projects like People for Bikes and Safe Routes to School.

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The bike-hating New York Post once again smears Gotham cyclists, noting that 24% of riders they observed in bike lanes at a busy intersection ran red lights — but fails to note that the overwhelming majority didn’t. According to the paper, fifteen percent rode the wrong way or swerved in and out of bike lanes; yet once again, they neglect to mention that 85% stayed in the lanes and rode with traffic. Or the distinct possibility that cyclists swerved out of bike lanes because they were blocked by the city’s famously double-parking drivers or pedestrians who use the bike lane as an extra sidewalk.

They also get their hackles up over the 81 cyclists out of 7,182 riders — just over 1% — who rode on the sidewalk; something tells me a lot more drivers than that parked in the bike lane. And of course, when they describe an average of four near-collisions an hour, they fail to note who was at fault, absurdly implying that the cyclists were to blame in every case.

In a textbook example of pot calling kettle black an editorial today, the paper says “far too many cyclists are clueless, boors or bullies,” and calls for a continued crackdown on New York cyclists.

You have to admire a publication with such a firm commitment not to let facts or rationality sully their pages.

Meanwhile, some New York cyclists consider the city’s separated bike lanes “deathtraps;” however, the Wall Street Journal notes that the number of riders killed in them totals exactly zero.

And much-maligned NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joins the board of Occidental College; could this be a first step in coming back home to Los Angeles?

Pretty please?

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Will Campbell shares a photo of the ghost bike for shooting victim Manuel Santizo. LACBC wants your support for bike lanes on the soon-to-be-widened North Spring Street Bridge. LAPD bike cops could soon be zipping around on e-bikes. Streetsblog notes that removing Brentwood and the Westwood condo corridor reduces the effectiveness of the planned Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lane by 40% — not to mention putting cyclists, who would share those lanes, at continued risk in some of the most dangerous sections of the boulevard. HuffPo offers a biking route from Echo Park to Venice Beach. Gather some friends together make your own Santa Monica CicLAvia. Help take CicLAvia to South L.A. Dancer ala Mode says her new career as a bike advocate began when someone stole her bike. Next time you need your Penny Farthing fixed, Flying Pigeon can handle the job.

Rick Risemberg visits the new separated bike lanes in Long Beach; Mihai and Gary Kavanagh seem impressed as well. A Monrovia High student nears a perfect season in the SoCal high school mountain bike league. Great bike photos from the Claremont Day of Champions. Bicycling’s ride of the day is our own Mt. Baldy. Long Beach’s biking expats Russ Roca and Laura Crawford are the proud owners of Bike Radar’s website of the week. A 17-year old OC cyclist riding on the 405 Freeway gets a good talking to from the police. A San Diego cyclist suffers a life-threatening injury after being doored by a driver getting out of her parked car.

A comprehensive beginners guide to bicycling. How bike economics can help beat the energy crisis. Wired looks at the culture of bike messengers. Complete Streets means the freedom to get around the way you want. A bike hating Tucson driver considers switching sides. Former president George W. Bush rides with the Wounded Warrior Project. Illinois police will now track dooring incidents, after originally saying they couldn’t. Minnesota reminds drivers to share the road after the state suffers its first cycling fatality of the year. A new campaign identifies bike-friendly businesses in New York; something tells me the Post won’t be one of them. Mo Rocca says when the U.S. becomes a third world country, we’ll all be riding bikes; hey, works for me.

Male drivers are twice as likely to have distracted-driving collisions as women. A London cabbie starts a campaign against high-intensity headlights, saying they put cyclists and others at risk by blinding drivers. An 81-year old UK man is killed in a collision with a cyclist. BoJo will be giving Will and Kate a tandem for a wedding present. Pharma Lotto rider Phillipe Gilbert wins three classics in a single week, though some question if the Schleck brothers handed the last one to him. Tel Aviv is the latest city to suffer a bikelash over bike lanes. South Jakarta gets its first bike lanes, though it looks more like motorcycle parking in the photos.

Finally, New York state police pepper spray a drunk cyclist. And a member of New York’s Transportation Alternatives board of directors says cyclists need to show we’ll use bike lanes responsibly; if drivers were held to that standard, no new roads would ever be built.


Two more bike deaths add to a bloody spring

April 24, 2011

Just two days after writing about the unacceptably high rate of cycling deaths on SoCal streets, we have two more to add to the list.

One was killed in an apparent solo collision Friday night; the other succumbed earlier this month to injuries suffered last November.

In the most recent case, a man was found lying dead on top of his bike on the side of the road in Coachella, at the intersection of Avenue 50 and Peter Rabbit Lane. Despite initial reports of a hit-and-run, police investigators concluded that the rider, who has not been publicly identified, was the victim of a solo collision.

According to KPSP-2, the victim was riding on the sidewalk at a high rate of speed about 8:03 pm Friday when he collided with a traffic light pole. Police investigators suggest he lost control of his bike after gaining speed on the downhill side of a railroad track overpass.

A police spokesperson indicates that the victim’s bike did not have an “operable brake system” or front headlight; that probably means he was riding a fixie, in which the fixed gearing itself can be used to stop the bike.

In the other case, 22-year old cyclist Marco Acuapan died on April 8th, over 4 months after he was injured in a Tustin hit-and-run.

Acuapan was riding west in a marked bike lane on Walnut Avenue near Browning Avenue about 7:30 pm on Wednesday, November 17th when he was rear-ended by red 2010 Mustang, which fled the scene. He suffered severe head injuries and taken to a hospital in critical condition, remaining in a coma until his death this month.

Witnesses provided police with a description and the license number of the car, which police later found abandoned in nearby cul-de-sac; Renato Demartino was arrested at his home on suspicion of felony hit-and-run.

Demartino is currently released on bond on charges of felony hit-and-run with permanent and serious injury, unsafe turn or lane change, and not using headlights after dark. No word yet on when charges will be upgraded to reflect the victim’s death.

That makes 26 cycling deaths in Southern California this year; 23 resulting from collisions after the first of the year, and 2 from shootings while riding.

Thanks to Rick Risemberg for the tip on the Coachella collision, and an anonymous tipster for the information about Acuapan’s death and charges against Demartino.


An ever growing list of bike happenings, including a busy Easter weekend

April 23, 2011

The list of upcoming events gets longer every week, with five events this weekend and seven next week.

Bike Talk airs Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Join Bike SGV on the Earth Day Community Bike Ride in Monterey Park on Saturday, April 23rd from 7:30 am to 9 am, beginning and ending at Barnes Park.

There will be a car wash on Saturday, April 23rd to benefit the family of Manuel Santizo, who was killed in an apparent gang shooting while riding his bike in Silver Lake. It will take place from 8 am to 6 pm at 1185 Myra Avenue near Effie Street.

Long Beach hosts the official grand opening of their new separated bikeways on the Promenade between Broadway and Third on Saturday, April 23rd from 11 am to 2 pm, with the opening ceremony at noon.  Events include a scavenger hunt, bike rodeo, guided bike tours, bike decoration and a screening of Riding Bikes with the Dutch.

Also on Saturday, there will be a pancake breakfast at LAFD Fire Station 69 at 15045 Sunset Blvd in Pacific Palisades to raise funds for four local firefighters planning to participate in the 3,300 mile cross-country Ride for 9-11 to honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride this Sunday, April 24th in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride will follow Jim’s favorite route with the club, offering a challenging 40 mile ride with over 2,000 feet of climbing; it starts at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge.

Thursday, April 28th, help craft the Glendale Bikeway Master Plan at the first community meeting for the updated plan. The meeting will be held at the Glendale Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Also on the 28th, L.A.’s draft Bike Parking Ordinance will be presented to the L.A. Planning Commission at 10 am Downtown City Hall; comments are still being taken through April 19th attom.rothmann@lacity.org or 213-978-1891.

Attention Boss fans — take in select screenings of the new Bruce Springsteen documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town at a Laemmle Theatre near you, and half of all ticket sales will go to benefit the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, April 28th, 30th, May 1st and 2nd.

Sustainable Streets and Transition Culver City will be hosting a Confident City Cycling course for adult riders. The two-day course is intended to help bike riders gain the confidence and skill to ride a bike safely and legally in city traffic. The $75 course is limited to 12 people, and takes place Saturday, April 30th and Saturday, May 7th at 10 am to 2 pm at Linwood E. Howe Elementary School, 4100 Irving Place in Culver City; preregister at info@sustainablestreetsla.org.

On Saturday, April 30th, the Conejo Valley Cyclists presents Cruisin’ the Conejo, offering rides from 21 mile to a 101 mile route that follows last year’s final leg of the Tour of California. The ride begins at the Skyworks parking lot located at 2504 W. Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks (aka Newbury Park); register online through April 28th.

The Dana Point Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, May 1st, featuring a .8 mile criterium; the start/finish will be located at the intersection of PCH and Del Prado in Dana Point.

If you can’t make it to Dana Point, don’t miss the May edition of the LACBC’s Sunday Funday Rides, with a tour of historic Northwest and Northeast L.A.; riders assemble at the Echo Park Boathouse at 9:30 am on May 1st.

Also on Sunday, May 1st, the Tour de Cure Ship to Shore rolls across the Vincent Thomas and Gerald Desmond bridges, starting from the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach. Routes range from 8 to 100 miles, as well as an 11-mile route ending with a harbor cruise back to the starting point; in addition to the entry fee, riders are required to raise a minimum $150 in donations to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Thanks to GVDub for the reminder.

Monday, May 2nd, Glendale Safe and Healthy Streets is sponsoring a free Bicycle Commuter Tips Workshop from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Sycamore Room of the Pacific Park Community Center, 501 S. Pacific Ave in Glendale. Topics include planning your route, what to do with work clothes, how to carry things and basic gear.

The Antelope Valley Conservancy sponsors the 16th Annual Antelope Valley Ride on Saturday, May 7th with rides of 20, 30 and 60 miles; check-in begins at 7 am at George Lane Park, 5520 West Avenue L-8 in Quartz Hill.

Also on Saturday, May 7th, celebrate the intersection of art, the environment and bicycling at the 20th Anniversary Santa Monica Fest, offering free admission, parking and bike valet. A special bike zone includes bike repair and maintenance advice from the Bikerowave, a Bike Learning Area sponsored by the City of Santa Monica Planning and Community Development, a Bike Exhibition with Santa Monica Spoke and a Ticket to Ride from the Santa Monica Museum of Art. It takes place from 11 am to 6 pm at Cloverfield Park, 2600 Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica; free bike valet at 25th and Ocean Park.

Meet the members of Team HTC-Highroad before they compete in the Amgen Tour of California when Cynergy Cycles sponsors An Evening in Fast Company on Monday, May 9th from 6 to 10 pm to benefit the Right to Play organization. Your $100 donation includes dinner, drinks, raffle and gift card; 2300 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica.

Also on Monday, May 9nd, Glendale Safe and Healthy Streets sponsors a free Basic Bike Repair Workshop from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Auditorium of the Glendale Central Library, 501 S. Pacific Ave in Glendale. Topics include planning your route, what to do with work clothes, how to carry things and basic gear.

On Thursday, May 12th, there will be a party  to benefit the California Bicycle Coalition and preview the new state-of-the-art Bike Stations at Bikestation Long Beach, 211 E. 1st Street at the Promenade in Long Beach, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

The annual Long Beach Bicycle Festival takes place on Friday, May 13th and Saturday, May 14th in Downtown Long Beach. The festivities include the Tour of Long Beach on Saturday, May 14th with rides of 4, 31 and 61 miles to benefit Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.

L.A.’s 17th annual Bike Week takes place May 16th through the 20th, with an emphasis on bike safety education, and events throughout the city. This year’s Blessing of the Bicycles will take place as part of Bike Week from 8 to 9:30 am on May 17th at Downtown’s Good Samaritan Hospital, 616 S. Witmer Street. And Metro is looking for Bike Buddies to guide inexperienced cyclists on Bike to Work Day.

The San Diego Century ride takes place on Saturday, May 21st with rides of 37, 66 or 103 miles, starting in Encinitas, along with free admission to an expo featuring sports, local cuisine and live music.

L.A.’s favorite fundraiser ride rolls on June with the 11th Annual River Rideadvance registration is open now. Volunteers are needed now and on the day of the ride, email RRvolunteer@la-bike.org for more info and to sign up.

The next two CicLAvias will take place on July 10th and October 9th; anyone who was at the one last Sunday probably doesn’t need a reminder to mark their calendars.

And mark your calendar for the 2011 L.A. edition of the Tour de Fat on October 9th, unless you happen to be an observant Jew, since it falls on Yom Kippur this year.


More on fallen cyclist Alex Romero, a good guy wins & thanks for supporting Safe Routes to Schools

April 22, 2011

KABC-7 offers more information on the hit-and-run death of Alex Romero.

Evidently, the driver who hit him had tried to pass a van on the right side when it collided with Romero’s bike at a high rate of speed. Local residents say De Soto is a de facto racetrack from Sherman Way to Saticoy Street, referring to it as a deathtrap. Evidently, they’re right, as witnesses reported the killer car was travelling at highway speeds — reports online vary from 66 to 100 mph.

In a report that oddly wasn’t posted online, KNBC-4 reports that the driver may have been being followed or chased by another car.

Police are looking for a gray or silver — the latest report called it a metallic gray — Toyota Corolla or Camry with moderate to significant damage to the front passenger side. Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Krajchir at (818) 644-8034 or email 26481@lapd.lacity.org. Or call LAPD at (877) LAPD-24-7; anonymous calls can be made to Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

The Claremont Cyclist said it very well

How long will we continue to allow the irresponsible, anti-social driving practices of certain individuals, who care not for the lives of any other road users, to be given free reign, to leave trails of death and destruction and shattered lives, across our roads and highways?

Rest in Peace Mr. Romero, and my condolences to family and friends.

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Congratulations to LADOT’s Chris Kidd, named Student of the Year by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Planning Association. The award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. Just more proof that this is one employee the city can’t afford to lose when his internship with LADOT is up next month.

Just a hint.

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As of 10 am Friday, the Safe Routes to School 2012 Southern California Regional Platform had been endorsed by 77 people — two more and three weeks earlier than the original goal of 75 set for May 15th.

I recognize a lot of the names on that list as regular readers of this site, so please accept my personal thanks to everyone who signed after reading about it here. And to anyone who hasn’t signed up yet, there’s still time.

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File under the heading of they just don’t get it. After a Brooklyn board votes against bike lanes on the Bay Ridge Parkway, a writer for the Brooklyn Eagle insists that those opposed to the proposal aren’t primitive antediluvians who reject anything not propelled by an internal combustion engine.

Biking here is great, especially along the Shore Road Narrows Promenade. Spectacular! I have two bikes, but find it impossible to ride safely along local avenues because they were not constructed to accommodate designated bike lanes in the first place!

Is it just me, or do the problems inherent in that statement just sort of leap out at you?

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Joel Epstein says tear down the fence blocking access to a park at Santa Monica and Bundy, and add a Metro TAP card kiosk and bike parking. Josef Bray-Ali says they start cyclists early at USC; now if school would just show the same support to more adult riders. Take a CicLAvia survey and you could win a $200 gift certificate from Flying Pigeon Bike Shop — which is enough to get you a Flying Pigeon of your very own. Metro’s rush hour bike ban is one step closer to repeal, and L.A. City Planning wins an award for the newly approved L.A. bike plan. Four L.A. firefighters will ride across the country on a 45-day journey to honor those who lost their lives on 9-11. Streetsblog is auctioning a signed Give Me 3 poster online. Jack Black goes bike shopping at I. Martin. Glendale’s city council officially adopts the city’s new Safe and Healthy Streets Plan on a unanimous vote.

Joe Linton give a positive review to Long Beach’s new separated bike lanes, officially opening on Saturday; if you want to understand the meaning of bikelash, read the driver comments on the Linton story. The Long Beach City Council moves to honor Mark Bixby by naming the bike paths he worked so hard to get on the new replacement for the Desmond Gerald Bridge after him. Police escort a cyclist off the 405 Freeway in Orange County after he’d ridden four miles on the highway; a CHP officer struggles with another highway rider in Chico. Cruise the Conejo Valley on April 30th. New York and Long Beach aren’t the only cities with bike lane controversies, as Visalia votes to keep bike lanes on a pair of streets, despite complaints. The Big Sur stage of the Amgen Tour of California is threatened by slides undermining Highway 1 along the coast. A decision has been postponed on a proposed 5 – 10 mph speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here’s your chance to Race Behind Bars at Folsom Prison if you’re sure they’ll let you back out.

Just in time for Earth Day, Trek plans to start recycling carbon fiber. Mia Birk writes that stop signs don’t work for bikes. A nice thought, every month is bike month. A new business in my home town plans to combine a bar, coffee shop and bike shop; totally works for me. What if the car had been invented before the bicycle? A Yuma paper offers an example of press bias, as a cyclist riding on a separated bike path gets right hooked, then blamed. A Memphis mother says connected bike lanes are the right kind of change. NTDOT offers a simple five-point pledge for better bike behavior; NY Streetsblog says combined with the upcoming “Don’t Be A Jerk” campaign, it sends the wrong message. The value of a human life is just $250 in Florida, as long as that human rides a bike.

A new poll says one in ten would give up bicycling if helmet use is made mandatory. A UK women’s race is disrupted by a hit-and-run driver and a tack-strewing saboteur. The head of the UK’s AA — equivalent to our AAA, not Alcoholics Anonymous — defends the organizations recent helmet and hi-vis vest giveaway following a Twitterstorm of protest from cyclists. Town Mouse takes a lovely scary ride home under a placebo moon, without encountering any creatures of the night. A cyclist complains about biking’s cult of fear. An interview with the Brazilian driver who plowed through the Critical Mass ride that injured at least 17 people; not surprisingly, he says it really wasn’t his fault.

Finally, Copenhagen’s Sperm Bike makes special deliveries to fertility clinics. And the cutest sharrow T-shirt model you’ll ever see.

A busy weekend means I’m not sure if I’ll be able to update the events this week, so just in case, please accept my wishes for a happy Passover, a joyous Easter or just a lovely spring weekend, whichever is appropriate.


The sad stats behind this year’s rash of Southern California bike deaths

April 21, 2011

I’ve started a database to track information about biking fatalities throughout the Southern California area.

It’s not just morbid curiosity.

I’ve gotten tired of people blaming cyclists for the unacceptably high rate of riding deaths, and wanted to be able to respond to baseless accusations with actual, factual statistics. And I want to be able to offer more than just anecdotes when arguing for better bike safety measures before various state and local bodies.

So far, it’s complete for this year only, from January 1st to date. As time allows, I plan to go back through my files and include every riding fatality I can find for the last few years.

If you know of a bike rider who was killed in Southern California — which for the purpose of this exercise I’m defining as anywhere between Santa Maria south to the Mexican border — prior to this year, feel free to send me the information or a link to the news story to ensure I don’t miss it.

I’ve been debating whether to share that information, though. In some ways, I think there’s too much focus here on the tragedies on our streets, especially this year with the rash of riding deaths we’ve seen. Lord knows, I’d much rather discuss happier topics.

However, I believe very strongly that that every fallen rider should be remembered. And that nothing will change if we don’t call attention to it — because no one else is likely to if we don’t.

However, that decision was made for me when Steve Vance, author of Steve Can Plan — one of the nation’s leading biking and transportation planning blogs — asked for more information following last night’s tragic death of Alex Romero.

And as long as I shared the information with him, I might as well share it with you.*

• Wednesday’s tragic hit-and-run death of Alex Romero was the 24th fatality of a cyclist in Southern California this year; 22 in traffic incidents or riding accidents and two by shootings while riding.

• Of those killed in traffic, 11 were the fault of the driver, the cyclist was at fault in nine, and two were undtermined; in two of the 11 collisions where the driver was at fault, poor street design may have been a contributing cause.

• Two cyclists died in solo collisions; one additional rider lost control and fell in front of an oncoming car.

• Two cyclists were killed by trains while crossing railroad tracks.

• Three were killed while riding on the sidewalk.

• Two died while riding without lights after dark, one was riding on wrong side of street.

• Despite common accusations against cyclists, none died as a result of running stop signs or red lights.

•Four of the deaths were hit-and-runs.

•At least five involved drugs and/or alcohol — four drivers, 1 cyclist — though we can safely assume that some of the hit-and-runs were likely committed under the influence, as well.

• Location, by county (includes shootings):

  • Los Angeles – 8
  • Orange County – 4
  • San Diego – 7
  • Ventura – 1
  • Santa Barbara – 2
  • Riverside – 2

• The current rate projects to 83 cyclists dying on the streets of Southern California in 2011, compared to an average of 100 deaths throughout the state each year.

* A quick note about necessary biases in my methodology. This database contains all the fatal cycling incidents of which I am aware; any incidents which failed to make the news or which I did not learn about by other means cannot be included here. In assigning fault, I accepted the determination of the investigating authorities where available, even when that was questionable; where no official determination was available, I made my own determination based on the information on hand. In the event of a hit-and-run, I assigned blame to the driver in the absence of any conflicting information.

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Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the trial of Marco Antonio Valencia is on hold until next week, and could conclude as early on Monday. He speculates that the defense attorney is building an argument that Valencia was too intoxicated to appreciate the danger he posed behind the wheel, negating the required intent for conviction under the murder charge for the hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny

However, even if the defense is successful in convincing the jury that Valencia was too wasted to know what the hell he was doing — or more accurately, the risk that he posed — his client still faces as much as 20 years on the other charges and numerous probation violations.

.………

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride on Sunday in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride — Jim’s favorite with the club — will start at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge; it will be a challenging 40 mile ride, with over 2,000 feet of climbing.

And yes, it is open to everyone.

Speaking of Swarzman, plans are in the works to improve road safety on Hwy 101 where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver; unfortunately, it comes a little too late.

And the LACBC reports receiving over $2500 in donations made in Swarzman’s name following the request of his family and his fiancé Nicole Honda’s request that donations be made to the LACBC in lieu of flowers. Honda also asked that anyone touched by Swarzman’s story get involved by joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

Donations can be made by PayPal or sent directly to the LACBC; indicate that it is for the Swarzman fund when you make your donation. You can make a difference on our streets by joining the LACBC, or giving a gift of membership to a friend or loved one, by clicking here.

.………

The bike rider who was bumped by a car, then fatally shot by a passenger in an apparent gang killing on Sunday, has been identified as 28-year old Manuel Santizo. According to KCBS-2, no arrests have been made.

Writing on the Midnight Ridazz forum, Aktive reports that Santizo was a hard-working man who gave most of the money from his job at Jack in the Box to his parents, and to the mother of his four-year old son. A ghost bike will be installed at the scene on Friday, while a car wash will be held on Saturday to benefit his family. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

.………

Best wishes to Eric B, who’s sporting a new sling and a broken collarbone after becoming collateral damage in a bike racing collision last weekend.


Dear God, not again — 17 year old cyclist murdered by hit-and-run driver

April 21, 2011

Just a week after Encino cyclist Jim Swarzman was laid to rest, another cyclist has been killed by a hit-and-run driver, this time on the streets of Canoga Park.

In a case that brings to mind year’s tragic death of teenage rider Danny Marin, a 17-year high school senior identified as Alex Romero was struck and killed near the intersection of De Soto Ave and Valerio Street around 9 pm last night.

According to multiple reports, the Chatsworth High student was riding north with another 17-year old rider when Romero was struck from behind by a gray Toyota Corolla traveling at a high rate of speed, killing him instantly. The driver of the hatchback then fled the scene without stopping.

The two cyclists were reportedly riding side-by-side in the far right lane of De Soto when the collision occurred; reading between the lines, Romero evidently had the inside position while the other rider, who was uninjured, was positioned closer to the curb. KABC-7 reports that there were multiple witnesses to the wreck.

L.A. Weekly indicates that he was a star soccer player at El Camino High School, suggesting that he may have recently transferred since he’s identified as student at Chatsworth.

Police are looking for a gray — or possibly silver — Corolla with moderate to severe damage to the right front end. Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Krajchir at (818) 644-8034 or email 26481@lapd.lacity.org. Anonymous calls can be made to Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.


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