Last night’s ride, in which I flip off an impatient driver

October 31, 2013

In retrospect, I should have been further out into the lane.

Instead, I tried to be polite and let cars move up next to me, not anticipating that one incredibly impatient driver would deliberately right hook me.

She couldn’t wait two seconds — literally — for the light to change. And it was worth it to her to risk the life of a total stranger because I didn’t get the hell out of her way.

I don’t recommend flipping off anyone.

But this one earned it.

If I’d gone when the light turned green, I’d be in the hospital right now.

Or worse.


Cut off — and flipped off — in DTLA

September 18, 2013

Last night took me to a meeting of the LACBC’s Civic Engagement Committee in Downtown LA.

And nearly into the rear end of a delivery driver who cut me off by swerving from the left lane to the curb with no warning.

Then he flipped me off before driving away.

But rude and dangerous bicyclists are the problem, right?


A polite response to a very wrong safety campaign, and blocking the bikeway in Manhattan Beach

August 16, 2013

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s nice when government agencies try to bring a little peace to our streets. Let alone when they respond to the demands of bike riders to do something — anything — to improve safety when too damn many people are dying just for riding a bike.

But it would be even nicer if they actually made things better instead worse.

Take Scotland’s new Nice Way Code, which tells drivers to think of bike riders like horses — without the requisite crap on the roadway, hopefully — and blames every bike rider for the actions of others.

Not so nice, actually.

That’s why a group of well-mannered Scot bike riders have written a very polite response asking the Scottish government to pull the campaign and put it where the sun don’t shine.

Okay, so I might have added that last part.

The Nice Way Code is failing in its own terms

At the launch of the Nice Way Code, Transport Minister Keith Brown said, “The Nice Way Code campaign seeks to build a culture of tolerance and patience between cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and all other road users across Scotland.” However, everything that has come out of this campaign – which was paid for out of the active travel budget – seems likely instead to create conflict, reinforcing divisions between people based merely on their mode of transport. One advert encourages cyclists not to run red lights simply in order not to give other cyclists a bad name (and not because it’s dangerous and discourteous, not least to pedestrians) – lumping all cyclists together and implying bad behaviour by a tiny minority justifies hostility to everyone who chooses to ride a bike.

As cyclists we are used to hearing from a few uninformed drivers that ‘all’ cyclists run red lights, ride on the pavement, hold up traffic and generally deserve to be treated like obstacles on the road. But we never expected our own government to run adverts saying the same thing. As nine cyclists have died on Scotland’s roads already this year, it’s unsurprising that this campaign seems to have angered almost everyone who regularly rides a bike.

Safer roads will not come from lecturing people and pandering to stereotypes. We believe they will come from rethinking our current emphasis on designing roads purely for motor traffic and redesigning them to remove the sort of conflicts these adverts reflect. Pending that, it’s clear that many people who don’t ride bikes themselves are unaware of the needs of cyclists on the road. A campaign that really aimed to build a culture of patience and tolerance could have helped to educate them about these things, and to get cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to see things from each others’ point of view. Calling cyclists names is not it.

We urge the Scottish government to recognise that it has made a mistake and to pull this campaign before it ramps up tensions on the road even further. We suggest that it takes this opportunity to start a real dialogue between road users about how we can recognise that we are all people, and behave accordingly.

The letter was signed by over 85 people.

If I lived in Scotland, or thought I might find myself riding there anytime soon, you’d find my name on that list, as well.

………

Photo by Don Hayashi

Photo by Don Hayashi

Don Hayashi emailed this photo of an apparently legally blocked Marvin Braude bike path in Manhattan Beach, writing:

I’ve always wondered what the criteria was for forcing the bicyclist to walk their bikes at the pier was.

In this case a Manhattan Beach camp employee has set up the barrier so that his charges can cross safely during their lunch break. He said his boss told him he could.

Funny thing he only set up the barrier on one side of the pier. So bikes were still riding from the other direction. I guess it was to inconvenient to set up the other sign.

The municipal code actually says that a public safety officer has to make the decision.

Apparently legal, that is, under CVC 21211(b):

21211.   (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.

(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.

It’s that damned “safe operation” clause that gets you, which seems to give local governments the authority to shut down bikeways anytime they think it’s appropriate.

As well as write local ordinances like the one linked to above.

………

Cyclelicious offers a detailed update on all the bike-related bills before the California legislature, including the state’s third attempt to get a three-foot passing law past our bike-unfriendly governor’s veto pen.

………

Amelie Le Moullac, the 24-year old bike rider killed in a San Francisco right hook yesterday, was a 2011 graduate of USC. CicLAvia unveils the official route for October’s Heart of LA event. The LACBC needs your help for this years bike and pedestrian count; scroll up for a chance to win a free trip to San Diego’s Tour de Fat when you become a member or renew your membership. A bank of full bike racks at one of the city’s leading hospitals is a good problem to have. Helen’s Cycles is inaugurating a no-drop, womens-only ride this Saturday. Streetsblog’s new SaMo edition goes online Monday. Santa Monica hosts a meeting to discuss the proposed Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greeway this Saturday. San Marino talks bikeways at Monday’s meeting of the Traffic Advisory Commission. The SoCal Cross Prestige Series announces their fall and winter racing schedule.

A 45-year old Costa Mesa bike rider was injured when she allegedly ran a red light; unfortunately, the details are hidden behind the Register’s paywall. A young Temecula city employee is given a bike to commute to work. A 68-year old Oxnard rider was seriously injured in a SWSS when he reportedly drifted out of a bike lane. I Bike Kern offers a graphic look at a 100-year tradition of bicycling. San Jose readers argue over whether bikes belong on local roadways. A 56-year old Freemont cyclist remains in a coma in critical condition a week after he was injured in a hit-and-run. After a blind Los Altos man invents a high-tech bike for sightless riders, some colossal jerk steals it. An 18-year old Pleasanton driver faces a murder charge for killing a cyclist after tweeting about going on a death ride; thanks to murphstahoe for the heads-up. San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere was formerly sentenced to three years probation and 1000 hours of community service for the death of a pedestrian. Get to know the co-founder of Public Bikes. San Francisco police are shaming bike thieves on Twitter. How to ride safely around trucks and buses. Should bikes be treated like cars, pedestrians or something in between? Grist calls MonkeyLectric the world’s coolest lights for bike wheels; might be fun to have those cartoon dogs light up the night.

A Las Vegas man with cerebral palsy is still riding his bike 45 years after doctors said he was going to be six foot under. Greg LeMond, now America’s only Tour de France winner, talks bikes and doping in Portland. A new Seattle road diet and bike lanes helped boost business 400%, or at least didn’t hurt it. Boulder CO is becoming a living bike lab. My hometown considers adopting a stop as yield law for bike riders. An Evansville firefighter is handcuffed and threatened with a stun gun after waving at a cop while riding through a stop sign. Michigan State University opens new secure bike parking facilities; I’m looking at you, USC. Long planned Jersey City bike lanes are still coming, cross their heart. New York police continue their crackdown on all those dangerous bicyclists, including writing tickets for supposed infractions they didn’t actually observe. The NY Times considers the problem of keeping the city’s bikeshare racks in balance. A DC church fights a long-planned cross-city separated bike lane, claiming “the slaves who built the church were not thinking about bike lanes;” then again, they probably weren’t thinking about cars speeding past every day, either.

After saying no one should jump to quick conclusions, a Canadian paper does exactly that by calling for a mandatory helmet law for adults. In a completely wrong-headed approach to traffic congestion, a UK city fines cyclists for violating a ban on bikes in the city center. Brit cyclists and drivers fight it out over Twitter. This is why you never ride with your head down, as a British rider competing in a time trial dies after rear-ending a stopped trailer. Evidently, hit-and-run isn’t just an LA problem, or even an American one, as two Irish riders are lucky to be alive when a driver flees the scene after running them down.

Finally, there’s a fatal loophole in an Aussie territory’s hit-and-run law, as it turns out drivers are free to flee if they actually kill their victims instead of merely injuring them.

Then again, in LA you just have to be a celebrity.


Killer SF cyclist Chris Bucchere gets slap on wrist — should we be angry?

July 23, 2013

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I can get almost apoplectic when a killer driver walks with a relative slap on the wrist.

So how should we respond when it’s a bike rider who gets the benefit of the court’s low valuation of a human life?

San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere faced a felony manslaughter charge for running into 71-year old pedestrian Sutchi Hui in a crosswalk while — allegedly — trying to beat his Strava time. Witnesses and security camera footage were unclear on whether he ran the red light, or entered on the yellow as Bucchere claimed.

Bucchere posted online shortly after the incident, defending his actions by saying the crosswalk filled before he could clear the intersection, and, unable to find a clear line, laid down his bike at the least populated area. At least some witnesses said he simply plowed through the crowded crosswalk, killing Hui.

Other witnesses reported that he had been riding recklessly prior to the collision, running at least three red lights prior to arriving at the deadly intersection.

Now the SF Gate reports that he’s accepted a plea deal that will avoid jail time, agreeing to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Don’t get me wrong.

One thousand hours is a long time, and it gives him an opportunity to benefit society while serving as a warning to other riders.

But if a killer driver got off with just community service, we would be livid. At least, I would be.

Should we be any less so when the killer is one of us?

My first reaction was relief that Bucchere had been held accountable without suffering the heavy handed sentence that had been threatened. After all, he’s one of us, and it’s easy to imagine ourselves in that position.

Or not, on second though.

I never run red lights. As in, never.

I always ride within my capabilities; as thrilling as it can be to push beyond your limits, I’ve learned the hard way that the risks far outweigh the benefits.

And I never, ever ride recklessly around pedestrians. They have the right-of-way when crossing the street. And even when in the wrong, they are the only people on the roadway more vulnerable than we are.

They need, and deserve, our respect and consideration as much as we need that of the motorists we’re forced to share the road with.

So I find myself conflicted.

I’m angry that yet another killer has been let off the hook with a sentence that once again devalues the life of his victim and the consequences of his actions.

And relieved that one of us wasn’t held to a stricter accountability than similarly reckless drivers.

It’s just another slap on the wrist. And a sentence that is only fair in the uniformity of its unfairness.

Thanks to Al Williams for the heads-up.


South Bay cyclist victim of a hit-and-walk

July 5, 2013

One of the primary arguments used to attack bicyclists lately has been the alleged carelessness — or aggressiveness — some bike riders show around pedestrians.

Never mind that a solid  collision between a cyclist and someone on foot is likely to result in injuries to both. And while people can point fingers at a handful of cases where careless riders have seriously injured — or even killed — pedestrians, it is a problem that goes both ways.

As just about anyone who has ever ridden any of Southern California’s beachfront bike paths can attest.

Case in point, this email I received yesterday from frequent South Bay contributor Jim Lyle.

Nine days ago, I was returning home from my morning ride up the coast.  As I navigated the bike path under the Redondo Beach pier, a woman ducked under the chain that separates the bike path from the pedestrian walkway directly in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her and went down, hard.  As I hit the pavement, I heard a “pop” and knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing.  I unclipped and tried to get up, but couldn’t bear any weight on my left leg due to the pain.

Here’s where it gets surreal.  The woman, with a bunch of her friends, did not offer to help me, did not ask if I was OK, or if I was hurt; they simply walked away as if nothing had happened.  Does that qualify as a “hit and walk?”

I was able to pull myself up using the bike to lean on and hobbled to an open area where I had cell phone coverage.  I called a friend who lives near the pier and asked her to come get me.  She arrived, put the bicycle in the truck bed, but I couldn’t get into the cab, it was too high and it hurt too much to move the leg.  I started to go into shock, tunnel vision and losing consciousness.  My friend called 911.  The EMTs arrived, put me on a gurney, and transported me to emergency.  X-rays revealed I had snapped a bone on my femur, but there was no displacement.  They gave me pain meds and crutches and sent me home.  I return to the orthopod in a couple of weeks to make sure there’s been no movement of the bone and I’m on the road to recovery. Otherwise, they’ll have to do surgery.  Meanwhile, I’m moping around the house feeling sorry for myself.  It could have been worse, much, much worse.

As you know, it is illegal (CVC and city ordinances) for pedestrians to use the beach bike path.  There are signs posted and “BIKES ONLY” is painted on the path every few yards.  Because these laws are not enforced, pedestrians, nannies, dog walkers, skaters, illiterates, and scofflaws use the bike path instead of the pedestrian walkway which is often within spitting range.  I always knew this created a dangerous situation for cyclists and pedestrians. And, now, I’m a victim.

In the past, a polite “on your left” or “bikes only, please” would be sufficient.  In future, when I’m back riding, I am no longer going to be very pleasant when I encounter the brain dead idiots who insist on endangering my health.  Police chiefs in the beach cities are going to know my name.  All it would take is a little public education and the occasional ticket to make the beach safe for all users, on two wheels or none.

I’m still fuming about the lack of humanity shown by people.  Surely, they’re in a minority, or are they?

Make no mistake.

Pedestrians are the only class of road users more vulnerable than we are. And we need to go out of our way to protect their safety, especially when riding on sidewalks and through crosswalks, where they should have unquestioned right-of-way.

And yes, I’ve seen cyclists plow through a crowded crosswalk, seemingly oblivious to the harm they may cause. And a Santa Monica cyclist was recently convicted, fairly or not, of assault with a deadly weapon for doing just that.

But as Jim’s email suggests, we aren’t always the problem. And we are just as vulnerable to their carelessness as they are to ours.

One other point.

Had he been able to stop the woman, she could have been held liable for his injuries, just as a bicyclist can be held legally liable for injuring a pedestrian. Or another bike rider, for that matter.

But whether she could be charged with leaving the scene of a collision is a question I can’t answer.


How to (usually) stop a charging dog in its tracks; Culver City Chamber President offers non-apology

April 4, 2013

Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I found myself living in Baton Rouge, a couple hours north of New Orleans.

That’s where I bought my first adult bike from the local outlet of what was then the nation’s oldest continuously operated bike shop, thanks to a tax refund courtesy of a conservative president far too liberal for many of today’s conservative voters.

One of my favorite riding routes out into the Louisiana countryside required passing a ramshackle shack with the rusted hulk of a car in the front yard, and a massive Doberman on the front porch. An unleashed Doberman, I might add, who had no love of bike riders passing by on the road in front of his home.

Inevitably, the dog would sprint out of the yard, chasing me down the street snarling and snapping, and striving to bite anything he could get his teeth on.

Including me.

I tried everything I could think of to defuse the situation, from pedaling furiously to outrun his snapping canines to squirting him with my water bottle, and tossing dog treats behind my bike.

At best, I only managed to distract him long enough to sprint away. And he’d be waiting right there on my way back.

That changed the moment I finally remembered a lesson learned growing up in a house full of dogs.

So one day, as the dog was bearing down on me, instead of running away, I pulled up short and stopped in front of him carefully placing my bike between us, just in case. And as he prepared to lunge at me, I shouted out a single word.

“Sit!”

And to my everlasting surprise, he did.

The dog stopped on the spot and sat there in front of me, watching me intently and waiting for my next command.

So I said, as authoritatively as possible, “Go home!”

He did, sadly turning tail and slinking back to his own yard, apparently disappointed that I didn’t want to play anymore.

After that, I didn’t need to get off my bike any more; it was enough to shout “go home” as I rode by. Eventually, the dog didn’t even bother to chase me any more, accepting that it just wasn’t worth the effort.

That’s when it sank in through my sometimes dense brain matter that almost every dog know certain key commands. And they instinctively want to obey, even if they’ve never seen you before.

Since then, I’ve tried the same technique with countless other dogs. And it’s worked almost every time, almost without fail.

Some dogs are just incorrigible.

The key is to issue a command, not a request.

No matter how big or angry the dog may be, try not to show any fear. Then use your best drill sergeant voice to order it to sit or go home.

“Leave it” is also a popular command that works with a number of dogs these days, mine included; for some reason, “stop” doesn’t seem to work at all.

And not everyone can pull it off.

But if you can, it’s the most effective tool I know to stop a dog dead in its tracks.

………

He just doesn’t get it.

Yesterday, I linked to a letter written by Culver City Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose, in which he criticized Metro’s “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” campaign, trotting out a number of the common fallacies typically employed by bike haters.

Wednesday afternoon, he offered a non-apology, professing to have been misunderstood, and that his comments reflected his personal opinion and did not represent the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

Right.

The problem is, he cites his position to give gravitas to his opinions. But in doing so, he links them to the organization he represents, whether he wants to or not.

If he doesn’t want his comments to reflect on the Chamber, all he has to do is drop the title and identify himself simply as a Culver City businessman.

But the moment he identifies himself as Chamber president, he inevitably links his comments to the Chamber of Commerce, despite any protestations to the contrary. And rightly or wrongly, makes it appear the Chamber shares his opinions.

As for those opinions, he is correct that cyclists are required to obey the same traffic regulations motorists are. The problem comes when he suggests it is up to us to use extra caution when we ride, once again placing responsibility on cyclists for the actions of those we share the roads with.

Because the key to bike safety isn’t obeying the law, using reflectors or wearing helmets. It’s not getting hit by cars.

And we’re only part of that equation.

So I’ll say it again.

Collisions are hard to have. If you drive safely and obey the law, and I ride safely and obey the law, it’s almost impossible to have a collision.

Yes, many riders could show more courtesy to others on the roads. But placing the responsibility for safety on those of us on two wheels is just blaming the victims, and ignores the dangers posed by those who are far more capable of causing serious injury or death.

He may be a responsible driver.

But responsible observer of the situation on our streets is another matter.

When he wants to follow up his letter with one calling on drivers to share the road, pass safely, signal their turns, check their mirrors, obey the speed limit, look for riders before opening doors, and give cyclists the same right-of-way they would any other vehicle, then, and only then, will his comments be worth taking seriously.

And not reflect negatively on the organization he claims to represent, but not speak for.

………

Finally, a 73-year old spree killer faces charges in Mesa AZ.

The woman driver fled the scene after hitting and killing a bike rider, only to blow through a red light and kill another motorist just six minutes later.


Get a ticket for not signaling? Maybe you didn’t really break the law

March 22, 2013

Maybe you don’t have to signal your turns after all.

Turns out drivers don’t.

Like many Californians, I have long labored under the assumption that all road users — motorists and bicyclists alike — are required to signal every turn or lane change.

Something many, if not most, fail to do.

After all, there’s no point in tipping off total strangers about where you’re headed.

Still, it’s not uncommon for bike riders to be ticketed for failing to stick an arm out — preferably with multiple fingers extended — to let those around them know which way they’re going to go.

But as it turns out, it may not be illegal.

The section of the vehicle code that specifies our right to ride on the roadway, CVC 21200, clearly states “a person riding a bicycle… has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle….”

In other words, any law that applies to a driver applies to a bike rider. And drivers don’t have to signal their turns unless it affects other vehicles.

But don’t take my word for it. It says so right here in CVC 22107

22107.  No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

So if your turn doesn’t interfere with the movement of other road users, a signal isn’t required.

For instance, if you’re making a left turn onto a street with no vehicle traffic, there should be no legal requirement to signal. The only exception would be if there were cars in front or behind you on the first street whose movement might be affected by knowing if you’re going to turn or go straight.

Or say you’re turning right onto a street with a designated bike lane. A turn signal shouldn’t be necessary, even if there are cars on the street you’re turning onto because they aren’t legally allowed to drive in a bike lane, and therefore shouldn’t be affected by your movement.

Of course, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you won’t get a ticket for it.

But as bike lawyer Bob Mionske pointed out recently, if you get a ticket for something like that and you can afford to fight it, you probably should.

There’s a good chance that the officer who wrote the ticket won’t show up in court and the case will be dismissed. Or even if he or she does, the officer may not clearly remember the case — which is yet another reason to never argue with a cop so your case doesn’t stand out in his mind.

But assuming he does, ask the officer to diagram the location of every vehicle on the street at the time of the alleged infraction. And explain exactly which ones were affected by your failure to signal, and how.

If he can’t do it, the case should be dismissed.

Key words being, should be.

Because as we should all know by now, the courts don’t always bend over backwards to ensure justice for those of us on two wheels.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t signal your turns.

You should.

It’s smart. It’s courteous. And it’s usually safer, though there are times when prudence dictates keeping both hands on your handlebars.

And lord knows, you don’t want to argue with Prudence.

But you may not be breaking the law after all. Even if you don’t lift a finger.

Update: Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious points out that this law could be read to refer to movement of the vehicle, rather than a requirement to signal. The problem is, the law was written in the 1950s, evidently prior to the invention of punctuation, which could have clarified the meaning.

………

Then again, if you ride in Alhambra, you may be breaking the law.

But only if you live there.

That city is one of a rapidly dwindling list of towns that still requires registering your bike, even if does only cost a dollar to do so.

But despite what their city ordinance says, you can’t legally be ticked for riding your bike in Alhambra if you live in another city and haven’t licensed it in the city you live in. If your city even requires it.

That’s because their law is illegal.

The section of the state vehicle code that allows cities to require bike licenses, CVC 39002, clearly states that any such licensing requirement applies only to residents of that particular city. And therefore, may not be applied to anyone biking in or through that city who doesn’t actually live there.

So you live in Alhambra and get a ticket for not licensing your bike, pay it.

If not, once again, fight it.

………

Laemmle Theater president Greg Laemmle, your host for Team LACBC at Climate Ride

Laemmle Theater president Greg Laemmle, your host for Team LACBC at Climate Ride

Here’s your chance to take part in the upcoming Climate Ride for free.

And maybe even have your required fundraising done for you.

Laemmle Theaters invites you to ride along with company president and LACBC board member Greg Laemmle on the five-day fundraising ride through Northern California to benefit sustainable transit and green energy.

Four winners will have their entry fee paid as members of Team LACBC, and win a free pass for two at any Laemmle Theater for the remainder of this year.

And one of those four winners will receive the grand prize, meaning the company will contribute the minimum required fundraising amount of $2400 on your behalf.

Which means you’ll not only ride for free, but all your required fundraising will be done for you. Of course, you’re still welcome to raise more money on your own; it is a good cause, after all.

You just have to fill out the simple form on the link above, and explain why you want to ride with Greg.

Entries are due by April 5th.

………

Finally, after riding through the Biking Black Hole both ways on my way too and from a meeting in Downtown L.A. on Wednesday night, I have a suggestion for their new city motto:

Beverly Hills. Where the bike lane ends.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 365 other followers