Update: Bike rider killed in Pacoima train collision; eighth SoCal train victim this year

December 6, 2013

Eighty-one. And eight.

That’s how many bike riders have lost their lives in what has turned out to be a horrible year for SoCal cyclists. And how many of those riders have died as a result of train collisions.

According to the LA Times, a male bike rider was hit and hilled by a Metrolink train in Pacoima this afternoon. The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was riding on Van Nuys Blvd when he attempted to cross the railroad tracks just north of San Fernando Road around 3:50 pm.

The paper reports he apparently tried to beat the train, despite the fact that the warning gates had already been lowered. He was struck by the 218 train on its way to Union Station in Downtown LA, and pronounced dead at the scene.

With this death, nearly 10% of the fatalities involving Southern California bike riders have been the result of train collisions — the easiest type of collision to avoid. All you have to do is stay off the tracks when there’s a train coming.

Unlike motor vehicles. trains are restricted to a specific pathway, and can’t vary their route in any way. And they have warning systems to let you know when they’re coming; all you have to do is squeeze on the brakes.

At least three of those eight deaths resulted from riders attempting to beat the train or ride around the warning gates. Which makes me wonder if they were truly attempting to beat the gates, or if at least some might have been fixie riders forced to ride through because they lacked the skill to stop in time.

Unfortunately, we may never know, since none of the reports identify the type of bike the victim was riding.

But it’s a question worth asking as we struggle to understand why so many riders have died in a type of collision that’s so easy to avoid.

This is the 81st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 33rd in LA County. This is also the 14th rider to lose his life in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year, three time the average for the city.

Update: According to KCBS-2, the victim, identified only as a 30-year old Hispanic man, was riding west on Van Nuys at the time of the collision. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his family.


Bike-riding dancer suffers broken leg in Westside hit-and-run

December 2, 2013
A broken leg is a serious injury. Especially for a dancer.

A broken leg is a serious injury. Especially for a dancer.

LA yoga maven and bike rider Joni Yung forwards word of a nearly month old hit-and-run that left a dancer with a broken leg.

This is from the victim’s husbands Facebook page:

As some of you know, on Nov 6th, my wife was involved in an hit and run accident while riding her bicycle. As a result of the accident she has a broken fibula in two places. We are posting this to activate our community of friends to help locate the driver and/or car. Luckily, we have a couple witnesses that were able to get a description of the driver and a partial plate number. The car involved was a Black Mercedes with the partial plate 7AF65. (not sure the placement of digits missing) The driver description: female, early 20’s, around 5’5-5’6, with long wavy brown hair. The accident was at the intersection of Federal and Rochester in West Los Angeles. Feel free to share and please contact the police department at 213-473-0222 case number 130816261 with any information regarding the car or driver. Thank you for your help.

The driver reportedly stopped to check on the victim, then said she had to move the car. And took off.

That’s definitely someone who deserves to be found.

And held accountable for her tiny, cold, hard heart.

………

An innovative new kickstand design promises to support bikes born without them; the project just passed it’s Kickstarter goal with less than three days to go.

………

The LA Times takes a belated look at the controversy over the killer redesign of the Glendale-Hyperion bridge complex, and adds to the story, including news of a possible road diet. Sweet Ride USA reviews their most recent sweet ride. Firestone Walker Brewing plans a bike-friendly Venice beer tasting room; I’m in. SaMo city councilmembers want better bike and wheelchair access to the planned replacement for the new pier bridge. A Long Beach paper asks if bicycling has a future in the city; aka trolling for controversial comments to boost readership. Burbank will hold a meeting on the Channel Bikeway Project on the 11th, while the San Gabriel Valley will hold a series of meetings for their proposed bike plan. Is it just me, or are there too many bike meetings to keep up with these days? Either way, it’s a good problem to have.

Caltrain makes it easier to park your bike and ride the train. Laguna police are looking for a stolen $10,000 mountain bike; seriously, what kind of person would leave any bike, let alone one worth that much, in an unlocked pickup bed overnight? Bakersfield city councilman promises a better bike plan and rides one himself — a bike that is, not a bike plan — while the local paper calls for better bike infrastructure.

A new Bike League infographic looks at women and cycling. A Seattle letter writer says the hilly city will never be a cycling city, despite plans to spend $500,000 on bike infrastructure and programs. A PA driver faces charges for intentionally running down a bike rider following an argument — with his dad sitting next to him. Safety isn’t the only concern many cyclists have to deal with, as women and LGBT riders face harassment on their bikes. Former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson will ride to the school’s spring football game as his third annual bike ride for tornado relief.

After London cyclists stage a die-in, the city’s cycling czar says bike safety advocates are spreading fear; actually, six riding deaths in nine days will do that. A BBC poll shows one in five bike commuters has stopped riding as a result. London prosecutors drop charges against a rider who stopped ahead of a bike box because there was a car in it. UK residents call for a crackdown on “lunatic” ninja cyclists. Former cosponsor Oleg Tinkoff buys the Saxo Bank team, and proclaims cycling’s doping era is over; yeah, right. Former TdF champ Jan Ulrich is at peace with his doping past, while the cutback in drug use seems to have produced more grand tour winners. Bangalore bike commuting questions answered. Qatar introduces a women’s cycling team; the question is whether they will be permitted to dress in a way that allows them to be competitive. Eritrea wins the African Cycling Championships for both men and women. Queensland cyclists will get the equivalent of a three-foot passing law, with more space required at higher speeds. Aussie judge loses her license and faces charges after hitting a cyclist while driving drunk. A Brit pro cyclist is punched out in New Zealand because a local didn’t like his T-shirt. Three-hundred Singapore cyclists ride for better safety.

Finally, an Aussie paper jumps on the bike hate bandwagon, offering 14 reasons why they hate cyclists, aka “cockroaches of the road.”

Nice.


The more things don’t change, the more they remain the same; LA driver confesses to threatening cyclists

December 1, 2013
Here's a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog than the people I hired to do it.

Here’s a picture of my dog, who could have done a better job of moving my blog to a private server than the people I hired to do it.

So much for that.

As we left off last week, I promised this blog would be transferred to a private server over the holiday weekend, as the first phase of long-gestating plan to remake it into an advertising-supported website.

Long gestating, indeed. Many species have their babies in a lot less time than this process, which started in August, has taken.

But as you’ll see, either the transfer was done so perfectly that nothing has changed, or nothing has changed.

Smart money is on the latter.

Over the weekend I received an email from the web-hosting service I’d hired to do the transfer that they too lacked the capability to move it to their servers. This, despite sworn assurances from their sales staff that they’d done it many times before, and would have me up and running in a matter of days.

Turns out they hadn’t. And wouldn’t.

But at least I got my money back.

So the transfer is on hold for now. Hopefully, it will get done later this week, by another company that doesn’t have its head so far up it’s own ass knows what it’s doing and is a little more honest about its own abilities.

I’ll let you know more when I do.

………

It’s not everyday someone confesses to assault with a deadly weapon on National Public Radio.

But that’s exactly what self-proclaimed life-long LA driver Jackie Burke did in an otherwise positive piece about LA Bike Trains.

The story focused on the founding of the program by New York transplant Nona Varnado, who has become a leader in the local bicycling scene in the short time she’s been here — though I do miss her incredible design work for women cyclists. Along with the success the program has had in helping beginning bike commuters take to the roads.

Not that everyone welcomes new riders to the roads.

Like the aforementioned Ms. Burke, for instance.

“It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes,” says Jackie Burke, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She says bicyclists drive her crazy when she’s in a car and has to slow down for them.

“It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

Let’s start with the fact that neither Burke, nor anyone else, has a right to the roadway, let alone a right to drive unimpeded. And as Niall Huffman points out, bikes aren’t hard to pass — as long as you’re not the kind of sociopath who’s willing to intentionally threaten another human being for the crime of slightly inconveniencing your commute.

Because that’s exactly what Burke has admitted doing.

By her own account, she used her vehicle as a weapon in an attempt to intimidate another person using the roadway in a legal manner. She could, and perhaps should, be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Except that she would undoubtedly deny her own words, which is currently the only evidence against her.

In order for charges to stick, her victim or an independent witness would have to come forward who could testify that Burke threatened the rider with her car, and could place her — or at least her vehicle — at the scene of the crime.

Because a crime is exactly what it was.

Her words also place her in violation of LA’s groundbreaking cyclist anti-harassment ordinance, which allows a cyclist to file a civil suit against deliberately threatening drivers. But again, that would require Burke’s victim(s) to come forward, and be able to identify her as the attacker.

Not likely, given the challenge of taking down a license number as a rider struggles not to get run off the road. Let alone over.

Which means, despite her very public confession on national radio, she’s likely going to get away with it. Just like all the other otherwise decent people who somehow turn into blood-thirsty, road-raging sociopaths once they get behind the wheel.

Although the DMV should seriously look into permanently pulling her license. Or at least until she can learn to drive without threatening the lives and safety of complete strangers who have the misfortune of sharing the road with her.

Perhaps more frightening, though, is that Alex Schmidt, the reporter on the piece, didn’t even bother to challenge her comments.

Because attitudes and actions like hers are far too common. And far too accepted in our society.

And if that doesn’t scare the crap out of every American, it should.


Bus driver who killed Udo Heinz may have been distracted; and a long list of Monday links

November 24, 2013

Official results aren’t expected from federal investigators until the end of the month in the death of Udo Heinz, the popular San Diego cyclist killed by a bus while riding on Camp Pendleton last August.

However, San Diego’s NBC-7 confirms that Heinz and two other riders were hit from behind, as reported here earlier, rather than sideswiped as reported in other press accounts. And reports — or strongly implies — that the bus driver was illegally using a handheld cell phone at the time of the collision.

………

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton questions the courage of CD5 Councilmember Paul Kortez following his recent kowtowing to Westwood homeowners. UCLA unveils a new on-campus bike counter, while less bike-friendly cross-town rival USC reneges on promises for street improvements. Touring LA without a car. Santa Monica could see new green bike lanes on Main Street and Broadway, pending Tuesday’s SaMo city council vote. Cycling in the South Bay isn’t shocked by doping by masters racers. The new bike team at Cal State Long Beach is starting to make waves. The Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition is hosting a fund raiser at the Dale Bros Brewery on Saturday, December 14th. BikeSGV discovers newly installed protected car parking, uh, bike lanes.

Palm Springs could become more bike friendly. Santa Cruz cyclists get a new off-road dirt bike course. If you’re riding with an illegal blackjack and two outstanding warrants, stop for the damn stop sign, already. A cyclist suffers major injuries when his bike is rear-ended on the Stanford campus; fortunately, a second car only hit his bike. SFist asks if San Francisco is the most bike-friendly city in the country; uh, probably not. Salinas cyclist killed after allegedly running a stop sign; but if the driver had the sun in her eyes, who saw him run it? Napa Valley paper asks if California’s laws are enough to keep bicyclists safe. Improve safety by designing roads for cyclists.

Treehugger says let’s stop calling the deaths of cyclists at the hands of negligent drivers accidents; I couldn’t agree more. Reflective vests don’t have to look like crap. A 78-year old driver kills cyclist participating in El Tour de Tucson bike race, even though the rider “did everything right.” Seattle spends $225,000 for a special bike lane street sweeper. Boulder CO bike advocates question lenient penalties for drivers who kill or injure cyclists; actually, I think bike riders everywhere question that. Chicago driver jerks — with emphasis on the jerk — his vehicle into a cyclist after the rider asks him to stop playing video games while driving. A Tennessee town misinterprets local law to ban children from riding bikes on city streets. Actually, new Boston sharrows – even on steroids — don’t give priority to cyclists or motorists; that’s kind of the point of a shared lane, no? Maryland grand jury gives an aggressive driver a pass for fatally not passing a cyclist. Bipartisan support for bicycling baffles the media. A Florida rider corrects the misconception that salmon cycling is safer.

Bicycling British writer politely responds to the very unfunny, anti-bike troll she has the misfortune of sharing the planet working with. New report says the UK is falling behind on bike safety. London’s Police Commissioner says he’s afraid to ride a bike and that only poor people do, then backs off on his own comments. On the other hand, Bristol’s police chief says he’s one of us, while the city steps up enforcement against both cyclists and motorists. The Independent says cyclists and motorists should be on the same side. Brit author and WWII survivor is run down by a driver blinded by the sun. A Scottish letter writer calls for £500 — $811 — fines for rogue cyclists; I wonder how many rogue drivers face fines anywhere near that? Former pro rider Arnaud Coyot was killed in a French car crash on Sunday. Former world time trial champ Emma Pooley is back in the saddle after taking time off for her PhD. American triathlete is forced to pay blood money to leave Abu Dhabi after colliding with a race volunteer who ran into his path. Kiwi cyclist confesses to being less of a rebel, with more of a cause. Are Australian cities underestimating the potential for bicycling? Aussie cyclist gets five years for fatally pushing a 71-year old woman who got in the way of his bike. A new bike safety campaign wants your help in reporting articles about cyclist/driver incidents; thanks to Megan Lynch for the heads-up. A Tokyo police sergeant is under investigation for trying to stop a rash of bike thefts; yes, you read that right.

Finally, a British Lord claims bike riders want to get run over so they can film it; personally, I’ll pass, thank you. And a London cyclist says he’s okay, but everyone else sucks. Then again, he’s probably never had to defend himself from a family of elk.


Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care

November 22, 2013
Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Thirteen.

That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.

In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14 this year.

It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an accompanying jump in ridership.

Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.

Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.

Just one problem.

Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.

Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.

And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed out in the street.

Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.

There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.

In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.

It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.

Thirteen.

Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish — was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through another human being.

Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.

And that makes him one of us.

Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13. Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the last two years.

As if that isn’t five too many.

Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.

There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.

And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go — supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.

When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.

But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their hegemony on our streets?

Greene’s piece isn’t bad.

He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.

But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and sisters.

Thirteen.

It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.

And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.


OC bike rider died a week after she was trapped under car; 80th SoCal cycling death this year

November 20, 2013

And then there were 80.

On Monday, November 4th, 44-year old Michelle Lounsbury was hit by a car in Costa Mesa in an apparent right hook.

Early last week, I started seeing rumors that she had died; however, it wasn’t until this morning that Amy Senk of Corona del Mar Today forwarded confirmation from the Orange County Register that Lounsbury had passed away one week later on November 11th.

For some reason, the story never showed up in any of my internet searches, even though it doesn’t seem to be hidden behind the paper’s paywall for some reason.

According to the original story in the Daily Pilot, the driver — later identified as 48-year old Suja Haq of Costa Mesa — was headed east on Bay Street when he started to turn right onto Newport Blvd. As he turned, he heard a loud noise, and stopped to find Lounsbury trapped under his car.

Rescue personnel had to use emergency equipment to lift the vehicle off her, before rushing her to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. The Register reports that she showed no brain activity shortly after arriving at the hospital; life support was disconnected a week later after family members gave their consent.

The Register describes Lounsbury as a homeless woman who lived in the Costa Mesa area, and was well-liked in the local homeless community.

“She was always there for everybody,” said Ashley Clark, who kept in contact with Lounsbury through the Churches Consortium’s outreach. …

“She had a cruiser, like a black cruiser. It was very Michelle. She’s kind of like a rocker chick, so her bike was black. She had black hair, black outfits, black everything … The homeless people, the thing about them is they stick together,” Clark said. “So when one of them passes away, it’s difficult. … That moral support that they would’ve gotten from her is gone.”

Lounsbury was scrappy, outgoing and direct, and could also be considerate, big-hearted and compassionate, said Clark and John Begin, pastor at Costa Mesa Church of Christ.

As a homeless person, it’s possible that she may not have had lights on her bike; with black clothing and a black bike, she may have been hard to see in the full darkness of the early morning hour. However, the driver still had an obligation to notice and avoid someone anyone on the street, especially at a major intersection that should have been well lighted.

If there is any good news in this story, it is this.

“She didn’t suffer through this,” Begin said. “From the day of the accident, she wasn’t there.”

Police are still looking for two men who may have witnessed the collision. Anyone with information is urged to contact Traffic Investigator Darren Wood at 714/754-5264.

And let’s remember that there are many reasons someone might become homeless. Their lives are no less valuable than those of anyone else, and their deaths no less tragic.

This is the 80th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, in what has turned out to be an exceptionally bloody year for SoCal bike riders. It is also the 11th cycling death in Orange County, as the county maintains its horrible average of one bicycling death per month.

My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to Michelle Lounsbury and all her family and friends.

Thanks to Amy Senk for her help in confirming this story.


Update: Bike rider killed in Coachella; few details available

November 20, 2013

Once again, a bike rider is dead in Riverside County. And once again, we have almost no information about what happened.

According to The Desert Sun, the victim was involved in a collision with a car at 5:11 pm, at the intersection of Van Buren Avenue and Avenue 48 in Coachella. He was pronounced dead at the scene; no word on how or why the collision occurred.

The paper identifies the victim only as an older man, while KESQ-TV says he was described as a man in his 50s, wearing dark clothing. The family in the car that hit him is reportedly cooperating with the investigation.

No other information is available at this time.

Hopefully that will change. Because whoever the victim turns out to be, he was someone’s father, son, brother or friend. And he deserves to be remembered for the person he was, instead of a nameless victim.

This is the 79th cycling fatality in the seven-county Southern California area this year, compared to 74 for all of last year, and the 11th in Riverside County.

Update: The victim has been identified as 70-year old Ruben de la Cruz Miramontes, a citizen of Mexico. According to the LA Times, Miramontes was hit while riding in the southbound lane of Van Buren, between Avenues 48 and 49. He was pronounced dead at 5:14 pm. 

Anyone with information is urged to call the Riverside County Sheriff’s Dept at 760/863-8990.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Ruben de la Cruz Miramontes and his loved ones.


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