We have a winner!

June 23, 2011

Here's the official mileage from my ride on Wednesday.

Thanks to everyone who entered Wednesday’s contest for a free $25 gift card from Performance Bike.

And especially everyone who thought I could manage a decent distance. I’ll talk to everyone who guessed under 30 miles — or even 16 — after class.

As it turned out, a late start dictated by the day’s breaking news limited my options, since I had to get back for other commitments. But I still managed to get in a decent 40.39 miles — just 1.29 miles more than the 39.1 mile guessed by Joe Anthony of Bike Commute News; P4D was off by just 1.91 miles, and the lovely Alice Strong finished third at an even 37 miles, 3.39 miles off the final total.

I’ll be emailing Joe for his mailing address, and will forward it to Performance Bike’s agency to send him his prize.

So congratulations to Joe, and thanks again to everyone who entered.

I don’t know about you, but this was fun. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime soon.

Yet another bike rider shot and killed; 15-year old SD cyclist critically injured by 84-year old driver

June 22, 2011

The Daily News reports that a bicyclist was killed in a Long Beach shooting last night.

The shooting occurred prior to 8 pm Tuesday on the 2100 block of East 14th Street; no other details are available at this time.

This is the 5th cyclist fatally shot in Southern California this year, and the 4th in L.A. County.


An anonymous reader forwards news of a tragic collision in San Diego last week, in which a 15 year old boy was critically injured when an 84-year old driver mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brakes.

Isaiah Fisher remains in a coma after reconstruction surgery to the entire right side of his face. The van driven by Dean Hedlund reportedly made a wide left turn, went over the curb and hit a light pole before colliding with Fisher.

Just when an elderly driver is no longer able to drive safely is one of the hardest questions any family will face. For older people, driving means represents freedom and an ability to care for themselves, yet it can also pose a significant risk to themselves and everyone else on the road as their ability and judgement decline.

The hard part is that this occurs at a different rate for every individual. Some can no longer drive safely in their 60’s, while others can maintain full control of a motor vehicle decades later.

We took my father-in-law’s keys away after he suffered a severe stroke; even with significant physical impairment, he would have gladly gotten back behind the wheel if he could.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have such a clearly defined indicator that they can no longer drive safely. The warning signs of declining driving ability are usually subtle and slow to develop, often not becoming apparent until it’s too late; Hedlund himself denied that his age was a factor in the collision.

As a society, we haven’t begun to address this problem.

Instead of mandating annual testing after a certain age, we leave it up to often unqualified family members to recognize the problem and take away the keys.

As Isiah Fisher tragically shows, that’s just not good enough.


Speaking of drivers who should be on the road, Bikeside’s Alex Thompson offers a full update on the condition of the victims, as well a interviews with witnesses, in the Culver City collision that injured 11 cyclists, 6 seriously enough to require hospitalization.And he forwards a link to some very sick and disturbed people who consider Christine Dahab, the driver who put all those people in the hospital, a hero.

Maybe we should force everyone who posts such vile comments online to visit the victims of their hatred, and see firsthand what drunken and/or distracted carelessness can do.

Maybe then they might rediscover a shred of their own humanity.

Doubtful, though.

Win a $25 Performance gift card, celebrate To Live and Ride in LA, and watch your ass on Angeles Crest

June 22, 2011

For once, it could actually pay to read this blog.

Starting today, the singularly named Performance Bike is holding what they describe as the biggest sale in their 29-year history. And to celebrate — and yes, get a little publicity — they’ve offered me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my readers.

According to their press release, everything in their stores will be on sale, as well as everything on their website, with doorbuster specials offering up to 70% off. The sale runs through Sunday, June 26th; and takes place in all of their local L.A.-area stores, including, presumably, the new Long Beach store.

And while you’re at it, you might want to like them on Facebook, for those of you who, unlike me, actually like Facebook.

Now, about that contest to win a free gift card.

Here are the rules:

I’m planning to go out for a bike ride on Wednesday. All you have to do is guess how far I’m going to ride; closest guess to my actual final mileage wins the $25 gift card from Performance Bike.

Simple, right?

Of course, the catch is, even I don’t know how far I’m going to ride.

To give you a clue, I’ll be riding from my home in Westwood to the coast, then along the beach and back. I live almost exactly 7.5 miles from PCH, so that’s a minimum of 15 miles right there. And exactly where and how far I go after that will depend entirely on my mood, the weather and how far my legs will carry me.

Just leave your best guess in the comments here; I’ll contact the winner by email, so be sure to use a valid email address. And to give everyone a fair chance, wherever you are and whenever you read this, we’ll make the deadline to enter a full 24 hours from the time I post this.

Which means the cut-off is Wednesday night at 11:58 pm PDT.

The gift card will be mailed to the winner directly from their agency, and should be valid on the Performance website, so you don’t need to live in Southern California to enter.

May the best guess win.

Note to other bike shops: I’m a firm believer in supporting local bike shops; the reason I’m promoting the Performance sale is because they asked. Just a hint.

And for the sake of full disclosure, they’re sending me a gift card for the same amount as well. And no, you can’t have it.


The new, long-awaited movie about the L.A. fixie scene has just been released on DVD and iTunes. To Live & Ride in L.A. explores one of the world’s most vibrant cycling scenes taking place right now on the streets, alleys and velodromes of our fair city.

You can celebrate both the film and biking at the official release party this Saturday, June 26th, at Royal/T, 8910 Washington Blvd in L.A. The party runs from 6:30 pm to midnight, and is open to the public.


Michael Byerts forwards an email from a member of the LA Tri Club warning about a dangerous driver on Angeles Crest Highway — which has already seen three traffic fatalities since the highway was reopened less than three weeks ago.

On Angeles Crest today, a silver Nissan XTERRA (ED: plate number deleted) slowed down to yell angrily at three pairs of cyclists and swerved into the shoulder cutting off two pairs (I was in one of the pairs). All three pairs were riding separately, didn’t know each other, and were at different sections of the highway between Foothill and Newcombs. Long story short, the car was reported, and the driver was stopped and arrested.

However, given that the driver seemed to show very little remorse when talking with the other pair of cyclists up at Newcombs Ranch and didn’t seem all that well balanced, we are a little worried that he will continue his dangerous driving into cyclists. All three pairs of cyclists were riding up, so going slowly. If he does the same thing to cyclists riding down, it could be much worse.

So, please be careful if you see a silver Nissan XTERRA while riding on ACH, particularly if the driver slows down or yells at you. The car had a bike rack on it today, too. If you experience anything similar (or have already since crest has opened), please notify the California Highway Patrol to build a case on this guy.

Please forward to friends/groups that ride on Angeles Crest.

I’m withholding the author’s name to protect his/her privacy.


Finally, you may recall that L.A. cyclist Patrick Pascal offered his observations on the multitude of problems facing cyclists in Griffith Park in a guest post last December.

Now he offers an update indicating that at least one of the problems has been resolved.

I am happy to report that, a mere six months after the above left picture appeared on your blog (in my review of Griffith Park’s bike amenities), this stretch of pavement (pictured on the right has been restored. I have no illusions that my post was anything but a coincidence as we all know how fastidious the city is about maintaining infrastructure. Bravo to the Park Department for not letting the entire roadway wash away before making repairs.

BTW, this is one of LA’s best sunset rides with panoramas from the San Gabriel mountains to the islands and into the valley from the top.


After. Though from what I can see, the other side still doesn't look so good.

An open letter in support of SB 910, California’s proposed three-foot passing law

June 20, 2011

As you may be aware, the California Senate recently passed the state’s proposed three-foot passing law. Now it’s under consideration in the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee, with a deadline of 5 pm Tuesday to offer your comments.

I have strongly supported three-foot passing laws throughout my riding career. As I’ve pointed out before, I consider it a much-needed improvement over the current vague standard in place in California and most other states.

As a result, I’ve written the following letter to Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair of the Transportation Committee, to express my support and urge the removal of a clause that would allow passing at less three when travelling at a speed differential of less than 15 mph. This clause undermines the purpose of the bill, and would increase driver confusion and the risk to riders, rather than decreasing it as the law intends.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to write Lowenthal to express your support; it also can’t hurt to send a copy your own Assemblymember and the bill’s author, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, while you’re at it.

You can find a sample letter and more instructions here.


Hon. Bonnie Lowenthal
Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
State Capital, Room 112
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblymember Lowenthal,

I’m writing to express my support for Senate Bill 910 and to urge the committee to approve the bill on June 27, with one vital amendment.

As a serious bicyclist and California resident, I have ridden a bike on the streets and highways of this state for over 20 years. During that time, I have experienced a number of close calls that have threatened my life and safety due to drivers passing too closely.

I have had drivers pass so close that their mirrors have brushed against my arm, and had passengers reach out to touch me or dump liquids on me. I have been crowded off various roadways, both accidently and intentionally, and nearly collided with parked vehicles as a result, as well as being blown out of my lane by the slipstream from passing trucks and buses. In fact, I can count on being passed at a dangerously close distance at least once or twice virtually every time I ride. I can only credit luck and my own skill as a cyclist for having avoided serious injuries as a result.

On more than one occasion, I have managed to confront drivers who have passed me at such a dangerously close distance; almost invariably, the drivers were convinced that they observed a safe passing distance, demonstrated by the fact that they didn’t actually make contact with me.

The current standard for safe passing is both unclear and confusing, providing no objective measurement to tell drivers what is a safe passing distance. This law clarifies that, providing a clear standard that anyone can understand. Its passage is vital to protect the safety of cyclists, reduce needless confrontations between cyclists and motorists, and encourage more people to choose bikes as a safe form of alternative transportation.

However, I must request that the current bill be amended to remove the provision allowing passage at less than three feet with a speed differential of 15 mph or less. This provision creates a confusing, unmeasurable standard that benefits no one while undermining the key provision of this bill. As a result, it serves to increase the risk to cyclists rather than decreasing it, and is almost universally opposed by every cyclist I have discussed it with. As an alternative, briefly allowing drivers to cross the center or lane line to pass a bicyclist maintains the spirit of the law, while permitting safe passing under most circumstances.

I urge you to pass this important bill, with the above amendment,  to help make our streets safer for everyone.


Ted Rogers
@bikinginla (Twitter)

CC: Senator Alan Lowenthal, Assemblymember Mike Feuer

CHP reports possible fatality in East L.A. bike vs big rig collision

June 20, 2011

No confirmation yet, and only limited details.

However, CHP reports indicate that a cyclist was killed in a collision with a big rig truck at around 9:54 this morning at the intersection of South Atlantic and East Olympic Boulevards in East L.A.

San Diego salmon cyclist killed after falling into traffic lane

June 20, 2011

A 47-year old San Diego cyclist was killed about 10:40 pm Sunday night after falling in front of an oncoming pickup.

According to San Diego’s KFMB 760, Jaime Ruiz was riding against traffic on the 1200 block of Hollister Blvd when he hit a parked car and fell into the traffic lane, where he was struck by a Toyota Tacoma driven by an unidentified off-duty Border Patrol agent. The driver was not cited; Ruiz was reportedly riding without lights or helmet.

While I often rail against press reports that insist on noting the lack or presence of a helmet in fatal collisions, this is a case where it might actually be worth mentioning — though not without more details.

Depending on the speed of the truck and how the actual impact occurred, this could be exactly the sort of slow-speed impact bike helmets are intended to protect against. Or it could be that the impact occurred at a higher speed or to other parts of the body, making the lack of a helmet irrelevant. Without more information, we’ll never know.

This is also a case in which the rider is clearly at fault.

While riding against traffic may seem logical in order to provide a better view of oncoming traffic, drivers don’t expect to see cyclists riding towards them in the same lane. It also shortens the reaction time required to avoid a collision, as well as increasing the severity of a collision by increasing the speed differential.

This is often a problem among immigrant cyclists, who are sometimes taught to ride facing traffic, rather than with it. While it may seem to make some sense on rural roads where motor vehicle traffic can be rare, it is extremely dangerous on busier streets.

It’s tempting to suspect that Ruiz could have been intoxicated — after all, most riders manage to avoid large stationary objects. However, it’s also possible that, without a light, he may not have seen the parked car until it was too late to avoid it if the street was dark enough, or could have been forced into it by a driver passing too close.

This is the 9th traffic-related cycling fatality in San Diego this year, and the 32nd in the larger Southern California area. Of those, the rider has been at primary fault in 12 of the collisions, the driver at fault in 18; the other two were undetermined.

Today’s post, in which I remember the man who instilled my life-long love of bicycling

June 18, 2011

As far back as I remember, there was a bike hanging on the wall of our family’s garage.

The yellow paint had faded years before, any brand name that may have once marked its frame had disappeared in the many days since its manufacture. Its three speed gearing had long ago locked in place; the improbably narrow tires hadn’t seen air in decades.

In its day, it was a racing bike.

One that carried my father, in his own youth, on journeys to countless cities surrounding his northern Colorado home, often dozens — and sometimes hundreds — of miles on a single ride.

And usually without permission.

Where it came from, I don’t know. It may have been a gift, possibly from his own father, before he abandoned my grandmother and her children on an isolated farm on the eastern Colorado plains in the midst of the Great Depression. Or it could have come after she quit the farm and moved her family to the then small town where I grew up.

Maybe he earned the money himself. Or it could have come from some other source.

My father described himself as a bad kid when he was growing up; one who knew every cop in the area on a professional basis. When asked, he told us that meant smoking, drinking and staying out past curfew. But I often thought there might be more to the story he wasn’t willing to confess to his own children.

One thing is certain, though. He vowed that, unlike his father, he would always be there for his own children. And even though he was far from a wealthy man,  they would never endure the hardships he did growing up.

And he more than lived up to that.

To be honest, though, all you really need to know about the kind of man my dad was is contained in one simple story.

He started smoking when he was just 12 years old, and continued his pack-a-day habit for more than 40 years. He often said the only thing that got him through the horrors of World War II — first in Europe, then the Pacific preparing for the planned invasion of Japan — were cigarettes and letters from my mother.

He made a few half-hearted attempts to quit over the years, mostly at her urging. But never made it more than a day or two before starting up again.

Then one day, when I was about 12, he came home from work to learn that the doctor had just diagnosed my persistent cough as an allergy to cigarette smoke. So he took the cigarette pack out of his pocket and placed it on his dresser, without a word or second glance.

And never picked them up again.

He was, then, roughly the same age I am today; 20 years later, those same cigarettes would take his life.

In my earliest memories, I see him encouraging each of us to get out and ride our bikes; from my older brothers on their 5 and 10 speeds, to my sister’s hand-me-down Schwinn cruiser, and me, as the youngest, on a tiny tricycle.

As I got older, I graduated to a bigger trike, then to that same old Schwinn, which he had repainted in the colors of my choice. As I recall, I picked the purple and gold of the high school I would eventually attend, though it may have been the green and gold of the local university; at one time or another, it was painted in both.

It was my dad who held on tight, pushing my new grown-up bike down the sidewalk until it finally picked up enough speed to maintain my balance for a few yards. And he was the one who picked me up, brushed me off and dried my tears, and got me back in the saddle again, until at last I could tear around the neighborhood unassisted.

On those long hot summer nights, he’d urge us all to get on our bikes. Sometimes, he might even borrow one from one of my brothers and join in for a few minutes.

All the while, that old yellow bike hung on the wall, his love for it shown by the dust that never seemed to accumulate for long.

He’d talk about fixing it up and joining us, but never seemed to get around to it. Once he finally did, he found the parts were no longer available.

In my teens, I took the money I earned delivering newspapers on that old Schwinn, and bought an Astra Tour de France that looked exactly like this one. That was my primary form of transportation until I bought a car my junior year; regrettably, I sold that Astra a year later as I got ready to travel halfway across the country for college.

Then one day, a few years out of college, I found myself sitting alone in a Louisiana movie theater, far from home and the people I loved. And I was reminded once again of the sheer joy of bicycling, as I watched a young man call out “Ciao Pappa!” to his Indiana father as he rode by on his bike, wishing I could see my own.

I’ve often credited Breaking Away with kindling my love of cycling. But in truth, it only resparked a romance that began in my childhood and lasted most of my life.

A few months later, I walked into the local branch of nation’s oldest bike shop and walked out with a shiny blue Trek — one of the first of their then-new line of American-made bikes.

The day my father died, that old yellow bike was still hanging on the wall of his garage; still unridden and unridable, yet something he was never able to bring himself to give away. A sentiment I understand well, as that now 30-year old Trek sits silently in my office, one of my oldest and closest companions with whom I have shared most of my fondest memories, and one I have no desire to ever leave behind.

I don’t remember why I didn’t take his bike when I went back home for my father’s funeral; I imagine I simply didn’t have room in my tiny apartment for a bike I might never be able to ride.

We ended up donating it to the local museum, where it was on display the only time I stopped to visit, following my mother’s death a decade later.

It’s probably the right place for it, where countless people who never knew him can marvel at the antique speed machine that carried my dad so far from home, so many years before.

But sometimes I wish it was hanging on my own wall, reminding me of the man who first kindled my lifelong love affair with cycling.

And I wish I could talk to him just one more time, and beg him to ride with me once again.

And thank him for the truly precious gift he gave me.


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