Charge filed in death of bike-riding Cal Poly Pomona student Ivan Aguilar; is the university really at fault?

May 30, 2013

A bike-riding college student is dead.

The driver who took his life faces a relative slap on the wrist.

And the campus where he was killed appears to be doing little or nothing to protect cyclists on campus.

Instead, Cal Poly Pomona seems to be hiding behind California’s devastating 85th Percentile Law to justify plans to raise speed limits on campus, making it even more dangerous for anyone on foot or two wheels.

Or at least, that was the gist of a Twitter conversation I had with representatives of the school Wednesday morning.

The outpouring of grief that followed the death of Cal Poly Pomona student and cyclist Ivan Aguilar should have spurred immediate action to tame what is reportedly dangerously out of control traffic on campus, where numerous students have reported feeling unsafe walking or biking.

Yet four months later, no changes have been made to protect students and faculty — not even on the street where Aguilar lost his life. And none are currently planned.

In fact, the school’s new 2013 traffic study doesn’t even include the words bicycle, bicyclist or pedestrian, according to a story by Beau Yarbrough in the Daily Bulletin.

Kind of makes it hard to make meaningful improvements when nothing is considered except speeding motor vehicle traffic flow.

Although to be fair, they have talked about bikes.

Key word being, talked.

But traffic plans that don’t even consider non-motorized transportation show just how out of touch campus leaders are. And how far the school has to go to make it safe for anyone, let alone everyone, whether on two feet, two wheels or four.

Apparently, those students are right to be afraid.

Especially when the death of a popular and promising young man leads to nothing more serious than a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of just one year in county jail.

According to the Daily Bulletin, CPP Civil Engineering student Gonzalo Aranguiz Salazar will face a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.

In other words, pretty much the mildest charge authorities could file under the circumstances, while still holding someone accountable for the death.

Is that justice?

I have no idea.

I’ve yet to see any description from any source of how the collision occurred. No word whatsoever on how fast the driver was going, or if he broke any traffic laws leading up to the impact with Aguilar.

Apparently, it’s on a need to know basis.  And no one with knowledge of the investigation seems to think you or I need to know.

We’re just expected to accept that the charges are fair and appropriate given the top secret circumstances.

Sort of like we’re supposed to trust that campus administrators have the safety of their students at heart, on a campus that does not include a single inch of bicycling infrastructure.

Beverly Hills, meet your collegiate counterpart.

In all honesty, I’m not sure Salazar is the one who should be facing charges.

But you can’t charge a college with living in the auto-centric past and favoring motorists at the expense of every other road user. As much as it may be deserved.

But something tells me Cal Poly Pomona won’t make the list of bicycle-friendly universities anytime soon.

Update: Gottobike forwards a quote from American bike racer Ted King that seems oddly appropriate to this discussion:

It is impossible to find solutions when you’re busy making excuses.

And Boyonabike reminds me of something I let slide from the Daily Bulletin story about the Salazar charge, and shouldn’t have. 

The story quotes Megan Chaney, director of Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Law at the University of La Verne College of Law, explaining why a misdemeanor charge may be appropriate in this case.

“A lot of time when somebody plows into somebody in a crosswalk or an intersection, it’s just an accident,” Chaney said Wednesday. “We put the onus, the responsibility on the driver, not the pedestrian, unless they’ve done something really horrible….”

“You’re allowed to look at the radio; that’s why you’ve got a radio. You drop your water bottle and look down to pick it up,” she said. “You really weren’t acting with any sort of criminal culpability. “

That’s the problem.

As a society, we’ve chosen not to hold drivers responsible for all but the most extreme actions behind the wheel. The collisions that result from carelessness, distraction or relatively minor violations of the law are excused as mere accidents, and left for the insurance companies to deal with, with little or no consequences for the drivers involved.

And that’s why we continue to have 30,000 +/- deaths on American streets each year.

It may be the current legal standard. 

But actions that result in the death or serious injuries of others should never be accepted. Or excused. Motor vehicles are, by their very nature, dangerous machines, and their operators can and should be expected to use the same caution behind the wheel that we expect from those involved in any other hazardous situation.

When life is taken more seriously than simple convenience on our streets, then — and only then — will anyone be safe on our streets.


Boring video proves Weekly writer wrong, anti-bike bias runs rampant, and riders run down on video

April 29, 2013

Sometimes it seems the truth doesn’t even matter anymore.

At least, not when it gets in the way of a bias against bicycles and those who ride them.

Stick with me here, because this is going to be a recurring theme today.

………

Just one of the many riders the LA Weekly claims don't ride on 7th.

Just one of the many riders the LA Weekly claims don’t ride on 7th.

We’ll start with what was apparently a semi-tongue-in-cheek article in last week’s LA Weekly.

In it, writer Dennis Romero — who famously proclaimed impending disaster before the first CicLAvia and seldom seems to miss an opportunity to unleash his snark on those of us on two wheels — offers five suggestions for solving the city’s traffic problems, from penalizing drivers who stop the flow of traffic to mandatory loss of license for any driver over 65.

Never mind that drivers aged 65 to 74 have the lowest rate of fatal collisions of any age group.

Then there’s his number one traffic solution — Take back the bike lanes.

….taking an entire car lane and giving it to bike riders, as has been done in some parts of town, is useless. It means double the number of cars in one lane and, often, an unused bike lane that neither protects riders from cars nor particularly entices the cyclist. Take a ride down 7th Street, which used to have four lanes and now has two, and you’ll see both mad traffic and an empty bike lane next to you…

That reference to “mad traffic — whatever that means — took me by surprise. Because 7th Street, post road diet, has morphed into one of the calmest, sanest and safest streets I ride on a regular basis.

It wasn’t always so.

Before the road diet went in about a year-and-a-half back — or before it was right-sized, to use the current, more PC planning term — 7th felt more like the wild west, as impatient drivers took to the lightly utilized street to zoom past more heavily congested routes such as Wilshire Blvd and 6th Street, just one and two blocks north, respectively.

And many of those drivers seemed less than disposed to share those lanes with the cyclists who rode them specifically because they were quieter, if not always safer, than those other streets.

Post downsizing, it has become one of the most popular riding routes between Downtown and the Westside. Despite the city’s failure to repave or patch the badly broken asphalt where the bike lanes went in, leading to an at-times bone-jarring ride, especially after dark when the potholes and cracked pavement are harder to see.

Let alone avoid.

I frequently use it myself, at all times of the day or night, as I ride in or out of DTLA for various meetings.

And despite what Mr. Romero suggests, I have yet to see anything close to traffic congestion on the repainted street.

Or angry — or crazy — drivers, for that matter.

Or any other form of the word mad, as it could be applied to traffic on the street.

But don’t take my word for it.

Consider this helmet cam video from last Thursday, recorded as I rode to an interview during what passes for the lunch rush on 7th.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing exciting about it.

In fact, it may be the most boring video I’ve ever posted online. Nothing of any consequence happens.

There’s no right hooks. No left crosses. No near doorings. No impatient drivers honking for me to move out of their way.

Although I did catch a motorist driving in the bike lane about a minute-and-three-quarters in, something I missed until I looked at the footage later that night.

And more to the point, no traffic congestion or angry drivers. No back-ups. No needlessly impeded traffic.

And no, it wasn’t any different when I rode back home at rush hour. Except I saw a lot more bike riders using the bike lanes in both directions.

Where Romero encounters that “mad traffic” that would justify yanking out the bike lanes and restoring automotive hegemony over the street is beyond me.

But I can say without the slightest doubt, it’s not on 7th Street.

………

Speaking of bike lanes, I was shocked to see new bike lanes on Wilshire Blvd — yes, Wilshire — in the Westwood area.

Evidently, the lanes went in after the roadway was recently repaved from Beverly Glen Blvd east to Comstock Ave, finally fixing one of the worst stretches of roadway in the City of Angeles, unaffectionately known by local cyclists as The Gauntlet.

It may go further west, but I was unable to see beyond the crest of the hill before making my turn at Beverly Glen. But I’m told the bike lanes will eventually reach west to Selby.

Of course, the bike lanes are only going in because the Condo Canyon millionaires’ row in the Westwood area was carved out of the planned Bus Rapid Transit Project, where bikes would have shared a lane with buses, allowing the hoi polloi to mingle with the overprivileged, at least on the streets.

But I’ll gladly take the bike lanes, and the finally, and unexpectedly, smooth pavement.

………

Now then, back to today’s theme.

In one of the most egregiously misguided pieces in recent memory, a writer in the UK takes issue with a new paved shared-use pathway in the Warwickshire countryside, decrying what sounds like an ideal pathway as a “grim cycle route” has become the domain of the “Lycra Brigade.”

Thankfully, most of the comments question her judgment. If not her sanity.

Thanks to DD Syrdal for the link.

………

Then there’s this one.

Writing for the London Guardian, the Executive Director of Scotland’s Daily Mail says that encouraging his fellow countrymen and women to bike will only result in more heart attacks, while making offices smell like “a badger’s arse.”

Though just how he has become intimately acquainted with the unique aroma of a badger’s butt is a question I am reluctant to ask.

………

For the benefit of motorists like those above, a Canadian writer offers six ways to kill a cyclist.

Although he forgets one of the simplest and most effective — just frighten riders off the road until they eventually die of inactivity in front of the TV or behind the wheel of their surprisingly not-actually safer SUV.

………

A British study shows that maybe that driver really didn’t see you, as over a fifth of all motorists seem blind to cyclists; thanks to Matt Ruscigno for the heads-up.

………

Fargo Street FMLIAR

Photo by Patrick Pascal

Speaking of Matt, Patrick Pascal shared a great photo of Sunday’s view from the top of Fargo Street, as the competitors in L.A.’s 8th Annual Feel My Legs, I’m A Racer stage hill climb race organized by Mr. Ruscigno struggle up the near impossible and virtually impassable climb.

Hopefully, we’ll soon find out who won.

……..

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has his right shoulder replaced after a serious fall from his bicycle. Odd; I would have assumed he’d lean to the left. Thanks to David Huntsman and Patrick Pascal for the tip.

………

And finally, maybe there is something to that study, as a Mulholland motorcyclist plows a pair of bike riders.

I’m told the rider somehow fixated on the cyclists directly in front of him, and was unable to avoid what he was staring at.

Scary, indeed.

Reports are the rider seem to be okay; one walked away while the other was taken to a hospital to get checked out. No word on whether the motorcyclist was injured, ticketed or charged.

My sincere thanks to everyone who submitted a link to this video via email, comments on here or Twitter. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten another story from so many sources.


Catching up with today’s way too long compendium of all the latest bike news and links

April 25, 2013

Let’s take a few minutes to catch up on this week’s news now that things have settled down a little.

Or maybe quite a few minutes.

It’s a long list.

………

Beverly Hills isn’t the only place where a road raging driver has left an injured cyclist in his wake.

Around 5 pm last Friday, a group of women visiting from Las Vegas were riding single file on eastbound PCH in Newport Beach, when a Cadillac pulled up behind one on the riders and started honking impatiently — then plowed into one of the riders, rather than wait a few seconds until they could get out of his way.

The jerk driver fled the scene, but returned later, claiming it was the victim’s fault. Evidently for having the audacity to occupy the same space where he wanted to put his car.

The woman was transported to a local hospital with a head injury; a comment to the story indicates she was released after being kept overnight.

And no word yet on whether the driver was cited, or if charges are pending.

Thanks to Lois for the link.

………

An unarmed bike rider is shot by an L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy who thought he was acting “suspicious” and might have had a gun.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but since when is the mere possibility that someone might a weapon sufficient justification for using deadly force?

Maybe that’s why some drivers have been so aggressive lately. They can’t tell if I’ve got a gun in my bike shorts, or just happy to see them.

………

On the job front, Safe Routes to School is looking for an Active Transportation Fellow in DC. The League of American Bicyclists is looking for a Development Director. And if you’re a bike enthusiast with wrenching skills, GMR Marketing has a job for you at this year’s Amgen Tour of California.

………

The LA Weekly trolls for web hits once again, claiming, among other things, that the best way to improve L.A. traffic is to rip out bike lanes in favor of restoring regular traffic lanes. As evidence, the bike-baiting writer who shall remain unnamed claims the 7th Street bike lanes are unused and result in angry motorists.

Yet he somehow fails to explain why the city’s worst traffic problems are on streets that don’t even have bike lanes.

As someone who rides 7th Street on a regular basis, I can attest that I have never seen a traffic jam there since the bike lanes were put in, even at rush hour. And seldom find myself the only cyclist using the popular lanes, which have become the primary feeder route for riders coming into Downtown from the Westside.

But then, the Weekly doesn’t always let the facts get in the way of the story when it comes to bikes these days.

………

Once again, L.A. County’s killer highway claims another life, this time a pedestrian crossing Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

Which is a needlessly tragic lead-in to the news that Malibu is hosting a pair of public meetings next month to discuss the city’s PCH Safety Study next month. If you ride on PCH — or ever find yourself trying to cross the street there — you owe it to yourself to attend one.

………

Maybe it’s just because the producer is my nephew. But this looks like a pretty decent distracted driving PSA. Especially considering it was made by a 16-year old who just got his license.

………

The city council gives the go-ahead for bike share in Downtown L.A., while CD14 Councilmember Jose Huizar introduces a motion to repaint the Spring Street green bike lanes. Speaking of which, the most recent bike count shows ridership on Spring Street is up another 40%, after a 52% increase last year; I suppose the Weekly would say no one uses those, either. Construction will begin soon on shared bike/bus lanes on Sunset Blvd. Mark your calendar for Bike Week; pledge to ride on Bike to Work Day and you could win a bike from REI. Examined Spoke offers some good thoughts about CicLAvia; I missed that somehow in yesterday’s roundup. Will Campbell unwillingly shares a burger with a man who blames cyclists for everything that’s wrong with Los Angeles; maybe he’s a regular Weekly reader. A Silver Lake bike rodeo is scheduled for May 18th. Metro works to improve bike and pedestrian access in Boyle Heights and Little Tokyo. How to get abandoned bikes removed from racks. Both Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica and Pasadena’s Incycle Bicycles invite you to ride with them this weekend to learn about Tour de Cure. County Commissioner Zev Yaroslavsky says NBC Universal has agreed to complete — and help pay for — a missing link in the L.A. River Bike Path through Universal Studios; now if he could only apply a little pressure to the anti-bike city of Vernon. Calabasas bike-centric farm-to-table restaurant, coffee roaster and Moots bike boutique Pedalers Fork is open, and the first reviews are already in and looking good. In other food news, bike-powered Peddler’s Creamery is now open in Downtown L.A. The San Marino paper offers what may be the most accurate estimate of attendance at Sunday’s CicLAvia, putting the total at an open-to-interpretation several hundred thousand.

The third attempt at a California three-foot passing law passed its first hurdle in the state legislature; now its on the Appropriations Committee, even though it wouldn’t seem to require any. Riverside boldly decides to study a disputed bike lane. An open letter to the AAA. No charges against a stop sign-running Apple Valley driver who hit a cyclist. A call for artistic bike racks in Beaumont. A Newport Beach city councilmember criticizes the sentence given the killer driver in the Campion-Ritz hit-and-run; but why is the death of a “significant citizen” any more important or tragic than anyone elses? Presenting the best bike ride around San Diego’s Mission Bay; I often followed a similar course when I lived down there. Escondido’s Muffler Man will get bike drag in time for the Amgen Tour of California. When a little girl’s bike is stolen, an Oxnard cop buys her a new one at his own expense, then teaches her how to ride it; thanks to our Carolina friend Zeke for the heads-up. Red Kite Prayer drops in on this year’s Sea Otter Classic. A new bike path opens connecting Downtown San Jose to the Bay. A case so old I’d forgotten all about it finally comes to a conclusion, as a Santa Clara County deputy gets a warm caress on the wrist when he’s sentenced to four months, possibly to be served at home, for killing two riders while asleep at the wheel. Unlike its L.A. counterpart, the San Francisco Weekly doesn’t have it’s collective head planted firmly up its own posterior, explaining why protected bike lanes are good for business; then again, even NBC says the same thing, at least for small businesses. It’s been a bad year for NorCal cyclists, as a 79-year old rider was the latest to killed; if a bike rider can fall under the wheels of a passing car, doesn’t that suggest the car was passing dangerously close — let alone that it might have caused the fall?

A Portland driver somehow finds herself on a separated bikeway rather than the interstate highway bridge next to it; local police say “oops.” Another self-hating bike rider who says cyclists don’t belong on the road (scroll down). Those bike-riding Portland kids sure have it easy these days. Bike share will launch in Seattle next year. An Alaska cyclist rides his fatbike over 2,000 miles in the middle of winter along two of the state’s famed sled dog trails. Big hearted strangers give a new bike to the victim of an Oklahoma hit-and-run victim. America’s only surviving Tour de France winner says he has no vendetta against Lance Armstrong; can’t say the same about the U.S. government, though. Louisiana driver gets a minor citation despite hitting and seriously injuring a bike rider who stopped in a bike lane. Bikeyface wishes bikes were more like cars. New York imposes new restrictions on bike delivery riders. NYC’s new bike share program isn’t even open yet, and it’s already being vandalized.

A UK nurse was over twice the legal alcohol limit — and on her way to work — when she killed a cyclist and fled the scene, stopping only to pull the bike out of her way. A driver with a suspended license killed a cycling married couple as he fled from police. Amazingly, British police refuse to file charges against a road raging driver was captured on helmet cam beating the crap out of a bike rider; thanks to Joni for the heads-up. Parliament members call for reducing speed limits and jailing dangerous drivers, as well as boosting spending levels to £1 billion to encourage more people to take up bicycling. Photos of eyes over bike racks cut theft rates. Town Mouse is more concerned with the safety of the dog chasing her. The director of a Dutch — yes, Dutch — road safety institute calls for a mandatory helmet law for riders over 55. A new book looks at Italian cycling great Fausto Coppi. The authoritarian state of Uzbekistan is banning bicycles in the capital, seizing bikes and advising bike shops to shut down. A Persian Gulf writer asks if taking a dangerous shortcut is really worth it. Queensland is relaxing their mandatory helmet laws to allow religious requirements. An Aussie woman is ticketed for using a handheld cell phone while riding, but the local press is more freaked out by her “bizarre” tall bike. Tempers run hot Down Under, as a cyclist is punched out by an angry driver. Why women should ride to work and how to get started.

Finally, build your own sandwich bike; peanut butter and jelly optional. A British thief returns a stolen “lusciously smooth” bike with an apology and a coupon. And trust me, you don’t want to read the comments to the Times’ story  about the Beverly Hills road rage case — let alone the ones on the CBS version.

But you’re probably going to anyway.


What the f*** is wrong with Beverly Hills??????

April 11, 2013

Excuse me if I’m a little livid.

Okay, mad as hell, to the point that my head may explode.

Because once again, a story has surfaced of a cyclist seriously injured on the streets of Beverly Hills. And once again, the local gendarmerie is either incompetent, or just doesn’t give a damn about a bike rider bleeding on their streets as a heartless motorist just drives away.

It’s an all-too-common complaint I’ve heard from far too many bike riders. They get hit by a car in the Biking Black Hole, and there’s little or no follow-up by the Beverly Hills police.

And as a result, little or no justice.

The latest case comes courtesy of L.A. Streetsblog, as they follow-up with Paul Livingston, a rider so critically injured in a hit-and-run that he’s able to walk only through the miracle of modern medicine.

Let alone still alive.

The last thing Paul remembers that day is being put on a stretcher before he woke up in a hospital bed six days later. He suffered spinal and pelvic fractures. His pelvic bone, broken in half and pushed upwards into his bladder had severed blood vessels causing him to bleed internally. When he was first admitted to the hospital he was hypotensive, which means his organs were shutting down with the lack of blood and his body was going into shock. Paul underwent three abdominal surgeries within the first two days just to stop the bleeding. On the fourth day, the doctors were able to fix his pelvis and then he went through spine surgery only to have pelvic surgery once again to get it back to its original position. Paul also suffered from post-operative infection from the abdominal surgeries. Finally, with his fever gone, he was healthy enough to have his spinal fusion – as a result, Paul is a bit shorter now.

You’d think that any competent police agency would conduct a thorough investigation of such a serious felony, and do everything necessary to bring the near-killer driver to justice.

You’d think.

I ask him about the person who hit him, self-identified as Victoria Chin. He tells me that during the time of his recuperation, he had been in touch with the Beverly Hills Police Department to find out what was going on with the woman who hit him and then ran. Apparently, they were dropping the ball on his case as they never even processed her car for evidence. And her explanation for not stopping, as given to the BHPD, “There was no place to park.”

The technical loophole that Victoria Chin falls into is that no one could properly identify her even though the day after the collision she called the BHPD herself. The police officer she spoke to said she had to come in to the police station to turn herself in. She then called back saying she would be in tomorrow. The police officer reminded her to bring her car in for processing. The next day, Chin showed up without her car and with a lawyer. She only admitted to being Victoria Chin refusing to say anything else. Her lawyer asked the police officer if they were going to book his client. BHPD said no. So, the lawyer asked if they were going to arrest his client. BHPD said no.

They let Victoria Chin go. No arrest. No charges.

It’s far from the first time something similar has happened.

Beverly Hills police and courts have repeatedly dropped the ball on cases involving cyclists. And while they have responded to pressure from riders, it shouldn’t be up to us to force them to do their damn jobs.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I’m not anti-police.

In fact, I have a great deal of respect for most cops, and have often been impressed with the responsiveness of the LAPD when I’ve dealt with them on various issues. While there are always a few bad apples, I’ve found overwhelming majority of officers are caring and committed to doing their best to protect the public and bring justice to those who have been wronged.

With the obvious exception of the NYPD, who the Beverly Hills police are evidently trying to emulate in their lack of responsiveness in incidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians.

But there is simply no excuse for any department dropping the ball so badly in so many cases where bike riders are run down on their streets. And given that it happens so often, the question arises whether it’s the fault of a few incompetent cops, or if there is a willful, systemic bike-blindness within the department that emanates from the top down.

It’s not a question I can answer right now.

Fortunately, charges were finally filed in the Livingston case, despite the failure of the department to conduct the most basic investigation.

In late august 2012, over a year after the crime, Don Ward wrote about the crash here at Streetsblog and elsewhere informing people about Paul’s situation and called on the cycling community to join them at the Beverly Hills City Council Meeting to draw attention to his case.

For a moment, Paul pauses his story, speechless, he swallows and then tells me that four months later, after the public outcry and the persistency of his lawyer, Otto Haselhoff, the DA of Beverly Hills is finally pressing charges. The helplessness that Paul describes to me, all his suffering, mental and physical anguish, had begun to lift. He quit drinking, started jogging, he was able sleep through the night.

“Knowing that something can be done, that there will be some kind of justice, this changed my life.”

Maybe so.

It’s long past time for Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden and new Mayor John Mirisch to meet with bicyclists to find some solutions to the dangers we face on their streets. And the apparent lack of support we get from the police.

In the meantime, I will continue to avoid Beverly Hills as much as possible. Not just because of their failure to provide a single inch of bikeway anywhere in the city.

But because I don’t trust the police to give a damn conduct a thorough and honest investigation if I end up bleeding on their streets.


Update: Monday’s ride, in which I catch the county breaking the law

March 27, 2013
Just because they post a sign doesn't make it so.

Just because they post a sign doesn’t make it so.

Sometimes it’s the government itself that breaks the law.

A recent planned ride down to Manhattan Beach was interrupted by construction on the bike path, as barricades diverted cyclists onto busy Vista del Mar at Dockweiler State Beach.

That didn’t come as a surprise. The beachfront Marvin Braude bike path has been undergoing much needed reconstruction over the past several months.

Up to this point, however, riders were directed to virtually unused South Marine Avenue, providing a low-stress detour around the construction work.

However, that changed last week as the construction work moved further south, past the point where Marine Ave ends. South Bay cyclist Jim Lyle gave me the heads-up last week, so I knew the pathway would be closed when I got there.

I knew if I wanted to reach my planned destination, I’d have to ride a street that is notoriously unfriendly to cyclists. And pass the exact point where bike rider George Loudon was killed in a still-unsolved hit-and-run less than two years earlier.

The only accommodation to cyclists forced to detour around the construction were some newly added Share the Road signs on Vista del Mar. Not enough to tame the high-speed traffic, or make most riders feel safe on a roadway already known for dangerous traffic.

Myself included.

So rather than add needless stress to a ride intended to reduce it, I decided I’d gone far enough for one day, and would save Vista del Mar for another ride later in the week.

On a whim, though, when I turned back, I decided to ride through the county-owned RV park along the bike path to see if it would allow me to bypass the construction work. Or at least add a little more to my mileage count for the day.

And that’s when I saw it.

Right at the entrance to the park was a sign banning bikes, in clear violation of state law.

Under California law, bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of motorists, and are allowed to use any public roadway where cars are permitted. The only exception is some limited access freeways, where bikes can be banned as long as signs are posted.

And which some cyclists have been known to ride, anyway.

Since there were numerous cars and RVs visible right in front of me, it was clear that motor vehicles were allowed in the RV park. So the only question was whether the park was public or private property.

And a simple look online quickly answered that question.

In other words, an RV park owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles bans bikes from the roads, in clear violation of state law. That presumably applies to people paying to camp there, just as it does to any stray riders looking for a shortcut.

So if someone wants to ride their bike from their campsite to El Segundo or the LAX area via surface streets, and rides on the roadway through the park to get there, they’re in violation of the ban.

Which is in violation of the law.

Even if the RV park is privately operated under a county contract, the roads within it remain public property, and so are subject to state law.

Which brings up the question, when the government itself is either unaware of, or doesn’t care about, the laws of this state, who exactly is responsible for enforcing them?

Let alone protecting the rights of its citizens, on two wheels or otherwise.

Update: I just received the following notice from the county Department of Public Works:

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1ADVISORY NOTICE
The County of Los Angeles will be closing a segment of the Marvin Braude Bike Path for reconstruction work until April 12th.  The limits of the beach bike path closure are from Imperial Highway in the City of Los Angeles to 45th Street in the City of Manhattan Beach.
To accommodate bike path users during this closure, a detour has been provided along Vista del Mar.  The most seaward of the 4 vehicle travel lanes (closest to the beach) will be barricaded and dedicated as a bike lane for both directions of bike path traffic for the duration of the work.
For information contact us at (626) 458-3110, (626) 458-4967 or visit http://dpw.lacounty.gov/bikepathclosures

Good news that they’re going to give cyclists a dedicated lane on Vista del Mar; however, that barricade did not seem to be place when I was there on Monday.

……..

One other quick note.

On Monday’s ride, I found myself chatting with a bike rider who had just flown in from Washington DC earlier that morning, and was enjoying a ride on a beautiful SoCal day.

Then last night, on a ride to a bike meeting in Downtown L.A., I struck up a conversation with a woman riding in her work attire, as she made her way from 7th and Fig to pick up the Gold Line for her commute home.

Nothing extraordinary about either event.

Except I can’t recall ever talking with a total stranger from behind the wheel of a car for any longer than it took for someone to ask directions before the light changed. Or exchange angry epitaphs with another driver.

That’s one of the rare joys of bicycling, as it allows a genuine interaction with our cities and those we share the road with, however briefly.

And helps make our city a better place to live, whichever and wherever that may be.


Today’s post, in which I follow Metro’s lead and issue a challenge to bike lane-averse merchants

March 18, 2013

I’ve been surprised by the opposition from local businesses to the planned bike lanes that could bring them more business.

Yes, I fully expected some blowback to plans to install bike lanes on busy streets like Westwood, Bundy and Figueroa. Auto-centric residents who can’t comprehend any other means of getting to and from their homes can be counted on to rise up in NIMBYist opposition to any suggestion of reducing traffic flow to a more rational level, or providing a safe alternative to getting behind the wheel.

Even though they don’t have to get out of their cars to enjoy the benefits. But just make it practical for other people to leave their cars behind so they can move more freely in theirs.

But the vehemence of the opposition from the merchants who would benefit from bike lanes has come as a very unpleasant surprise.

It doesn’t take a Masters in Business Administration to realize that anything that enables more customers to come to your door is good for the bottom line. Never mind that bike riders have been shown to visit merchants more often, resulting in higher sales over the long run.

Or that calming traffic — one of the many secondary benefits of bike lanes — can make a shopping district more attractive to everyone, And at the same time, replacing cut-through drivers with destination traffic more likely to actually stop and spend money.

So I was intrigued this morning when I received an email from Metro announcing that this year’s Bike Week will take place from May 13th to 19th. And that a new feature in 2013 will be the first Bike Weekend, in which merchants will be encouraged to offer a discount to bike riders.

Metro invites you to be part of Bike Week LA by offering discounts to any bicyclist who mentions “Bike Week” during Bike Local Weekend, Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19, 2013. This is a FREE advertising opportunity to attract and encourage customers to eat, shop, and play locally. Metro wants to promote you as a destination location for Bike Local Weekend through our website, social media network, and other media channels.

Did you know that bicycling is great for local business? Studies show that people who travel by bicycle actually make more visits to small businesses than people who travel by car. These visits add up – cities all across the U.S. are discovering that when bicycling increases, sales revenue does too. In San Francisco and New York City, for instance, retail sales along certain bike lanes is up as much as 50%! Because bicyclists travel at slower speeds than cars, it’s easier for them to stop and smell the coffee. (It also helps that they don’t have to pay for parking).

If your business would like to participate in Bike Local Weekend, please sign up here no later than May 1, 2013. The earlier you sign up, the better we are able to promote you! Please feel free to contact us with any questions at bikeweekla@metro.net or 213.922.5634.

So let me issue a challenge to business owners who oppose bike lanes in front of their shops. Especially those who have been most outspoken in their opposition, like Galcos in Highland Park and A Little Taste of Hoboken in Westwood.

Just give it a shot.

Offer a discount to bicyclists that one weekend.

If you don’t notice any difference in sales, maybe you’re right. You can come to the next meeting and argue that you tried to market your business to bike riders, and it didn’t do any good.

But if, more likely, your business goes up that weekend, you’ll have solid evidence that we bicyclists spend money at places that make us feel welcome.

And that, rather than the highway to financial ruin you fear, a bike lane in front of your business could be the pathway to higher profits. Let alone a better, safer and more livable business district.

The best part is, you have nothing to lose.

Except your misconceptions.

But don’t be surprised if we complain about the lack of bike parking.


Pleitez literally runs — and bikes — for mayor; WA Representative blames bikes for global warming

March 3, 2013

After a busy and needlessly heartbreaking week, I finally have a chance to catch up on all the latest bike news.

So put your feet up and get comfortable.

This could take awhile.

………

Pleitez riding to Venice on Saturday; note his helmet cam.

Pleitez riding to Venice Saturday; note helmet cam.

Mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez is running for office this weekend.

No, literally.

Long considered the fifth place candidate in Tuesday’s mayoral election, the 30-year old Pleitez is running and biking 100 miles across the city to promote his campaign and connect with voters.

He rode 22 miles from Boyle Heights to Venice with a group of supporters on Saturday, mostly along Venice Blvd. Sunday you’ll find him walking from LMU to the Watts Towers, while Monday takes him down to San Pedro.

Is it working?

We won’t know until Tuesday night — or most likely, sometime Wednesday — when the votes come in. But in a five-way race, it doesn’t take a lot of support to work your way into a top-two runoff.

While it may be a stunt, it’s the best one I’ve seen in the 20-plus years I’ve called this city home. It also beats the hell out of the mudslinging his fellow candidates have substituted for actual campaigning in recent days.

And it’s making me take a second look at a campaign I’d dismissed weeks ago.

Pleitez team setting off; Emanuel Pleitez is in the center.

Pleitez team setting off; Emmanuel Pleitez is in the center.

………

The LACBC isn’t just getting L.A. candidates on the record these days.

Local affiliate chapter South Bay Bicycle Coalition deserves major credit for getting responses from several candidates for that city’s council.

Although I’d like to think one of those who responded could offer a tad more detail than the 43 words he submitted.

………

If you want to see a clear example of why you should cast your vote carefully, consider this exchange between a bike shop owner and a Washington state representative.

Republican Representative Ed Orcutt says he’s not a fan of most tax plans, but supports a proposal to slap a $25 tax on all bike sales over $500.

Because of the greenhouse gases emitted by breathing bicyclists.

Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists (sic) has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.  Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.

Yes, far better to put all those riders back in cars where they’ll do less harm to the environment, right?

And don’t even get me started on that same old — and long disproven — argument that drivers pay for the roads and we don’t.

Let alone that most bike riders are drivers.

………

A 72-year old San Diego area cyclist suffered a life-threatening head injury Saturday morning when he fell from his bike in Torrey Pines State Preserve north of La Jolla.

And a Lakewood bike rider is collateral damage in a collision between an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy and another driver on Friday.

………

The Glendale News-Press offers the most in-depth coverage yet of the hit-and-run collision that cost cyclist Damian Kevitt his leg after he was dragged onto the freeway near the L.A. Zoo. Kevitt was riding with his wife on their way from the L.A. River bike path to the zoo when he was struck.

It’s frightening how quickly a pleasant bike ride can turn to horror at the hands of a heartless human being — if you can use that word to describe someone who could do this to another person.

A letter writer says the overpass where Kevitt was hit is a potential death trap for cyclists and pedestrians.

Meanwhile, friends and fellow students of fallen Cal Poly Pomona bike rider Ivan Aguilar mourn his death.

………

Bike blogger and wreck survivor Opus the Poet is having a rather unusual contest on his blog: design a tattoo to cover up a large scar on his leg and you could win $500. The appendage in question goes up on his website Sunday.

………

Streetsblog says kiss your buffered bike lane in front of formerly bike-friendly LAPD headquarters goodbye. An interactive guide to the last 139 years of Los Angeles transportation. Evidently, you can carry anything on a bike, even a cello. Flying Pigeon considers the argument that bike lanes might delay drivers ever so slightly, and finds it sadly lacking. LA Weekly reviews the new Spring Street parklets, and concludes they need more bike parking. CD5 city council candidate Mark Herd threatens to shoot someone with his antique gun if they try to put a bike lane on Westwood Blvd; load up, dude, while I paint a target on my ass. Santa Monica students will track their car-free miles as they pledge to bike or walk to school. Culver City-based Walk and Rollers needs your support to win a $5000 grant from the Lakers Youth Foundation. CLR Effect says just open the new tunnel on the San Gabriel River Trail already. Women on Bikes wants you to take their spring survey even if you’re not a woman; you could win a handcrafted bracelet, again, even if you’re not a woman.

Are drivers in Corona del Mar speeding through previously quiet neighborhoods just to avoid sharrows on the Coast Highway? An Orange County writer says drug testing should be eliminated in professional sports. San Diego will enjoy its first ciclovia — make that CicloSDias — in August. Riverside considers a road diet, including bike lanes. Just Another Cyclist says knock off the fear mongering already. A San Francisco writer offers advice on how to drive around cyclists, including instructions to stay the f*** out of the bike lane. BART will give bikes another test run. A Merced cyclist is killed in a rear-end collision after the driver saw him riding on the side of the road, but hit him anyway. How to take photos of bike racing.

Turns out the National Highway Safety Board hasn’t made a single bike safety recommendation since I graduated from junior high; trust me, that was a long damn time ago. NPR looks at the benefits of bicycling as part of a healthy lifestyle and smarter transportation. Shouldn’t pedestrians at least be safe from cars on the sidewalk? Women rise to the forefront of the bicycling movement at next week’s National Women’s Bicycling Forum; so wait, we’re a movement now? A first hand, or rather helmet, view of a white tail deer cyclocross collision. An Austin planned community goes green, as in bike lanes. Now why couldn’t Baton Rouge have gotten bike friendly when I lived down there, instead of making me dodge doors and flying beer cans? A hero Louisiana bike shop owner waddles into a burning house in bike shoes to save a woman’s life. After a Chicago cyclist is doored, then run over by a second driver who fled the scene, the original driver is cited — not for carelessly opening his door, but for failing to yield to a horseback rider. The New York DMV correctly determines that collisions aren’t accidents. Two New York men decide they, not you, own the sidewalk, offering penalty cards for anyone who doesn’t use it the right way, or rather, their way. New York wants to put speed cameras on the streets; a few of those on my street could balance L.A.’s city budget in a couple weeks. A Massachusetts driver gets out of his car and slaps a cyclist after Jerry Browning him. A proposed Maryland mandatory helmet law could make streets less safe. Charlotte streets are growing progressively less safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

Every city should have it’s own Lucha Libre superhero defender of the public pedestrian right-of-way. Should Vancouver cyclists be allowed to roll stop signs? The local press says hell no. A bike riding UK father survives a hit-and-run road rage attack. Edinburgh surgeons cross scalpels over the benefits of helmet use. A Scot writer demonstrates his massive heart by wishing he’d thought sooner to shove a pipe through a rude cyclist’s spokes, or elsewhere; note to writer, violence isn’t witty. Turns out Scarlett Johansson enjoys drunken bike bar hopping in Amsterdam. Strasbourg plans a spider web of bikeways, guaranteeing a minimum cruising speed of 12.4 mph. An Aussie triathlete says most drivers would give cyclists a meter of space — or roughly three feet — if they saw them as real people. New Zealanders call for calm in the wake of a road rage attack that left a triathlete seriously injured. A driver and cyclist debate the battle on New Zealand streets; a Christchurch pathologist says you can’t just look for bikes, you actually have to see them.

Finally, when one helmet cam just isn’t enough, how about seven cameras recording in every possible direction. It turns out that massive crocodile a cyclist spotted in the River Thames was a prop from a Bond film.

And a masturbating seat stalker proves that even bike paradise has its sick f***s deeply disturbed individuals.


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