Insights and updates on Orange County bike cases — laughter or tears?

December 12, 2011

Over the past year or so, I’ve featured a number of updates on various Orange County and South Bay legal cases from an anonymous source.

Like the updates I get from Dj Wheels, I’ve come to trust and rely on the insights from this source to keep us up to date on cases from behind the Orange Curtain, which can be hard to follow from up here in L.A. — especially since these cases seldom make the news unless something major happens.

Today she sent me an email offering background information on a couple of cases that are slowly moving through the system. And I thought it was good enough that I wanted to share it with you.

This article from the Sunday Orange County Register shows why the OCDA’s office wants to nail Michael Dennis Roach (and his ilk) so bad.  (Roach is the drunken racer on PCH who hit another drunken racer, spinning both cars onto a segregated beach path.)  Things do not look good for Roach.  His co-defendent Glenn Michael Moore, on the other hand, has a much shorter rap sheet and a terrifyingly good lawyer.

Our drunk-driving laws are nauseating liberal.  MADD had to fight for years to get that excessively high .08 limit, and it’s so easy to circumvent in court.  In other, more civilized countries with a better grasp of public safety and/or neurochemistry, the limit is much lower, and the penalties are more appropriate.  Every year in America alone, more people are killed by drunk drivers than by firearms, knives, blunt objects, & strangulation combined, and drivers under the “legal” limit (but at .04 or above) account for 25% of these deaths.  Our laws fail to address the severity of the repercussions of dangerous operation of motor vehicles.

Danae Miller (um, for example) had a preliminary hearing on December 1st and naturally the judge decided that there is indeed enough evidence to send her to trial.  Miller’s due to be arraigned in a few hours;  I won’t be there because both Anita Sue “Stop Signs Don’t Apply to Me” Cherry and Adam Carl “Just a Witness” Garrett have appearances at a different couthouse.  However, an incredibly wonderful MADD victim services specialist assisting the Britel family will forward me the plea and any details.

Miller’s preliminary hearing was tedious, thorough and heart-rending. The D.A. called four individuals to testify; the defense called none.  The hearing included some of the evidence that will be shown if Miller doesn’t just plead guilty like Hines, including the video from the dashboard-mounted camera of the first responding officer’s approach to the scene, which showed Britel’s shattered carbon fiber bike lying in the gutter, front light still blinking.

Although it was dusk, the view of the roadway was completely unobstructed, the streetlights were on, and the bike had plenty of reflective material on the rims and below the seat.  Britel was wearing a yellow dayglo jacket with reflective material.  A blind man could have seen him.  Miller could not.

Evidence also included the dozen or so texts & calls made in the minutes preceding the collision, as well as Miller’s ratty ancient-tech flip phone, which she’d handed over to the first responding officer at his request after stating that she never texts while driving.  Two prior citations to which she pleaded guilty refute this remark.  Disappointingly, a Verizon custodian of records testified that there’s no record of the content of the texts sent or received.

Miller also initally lied to the police on scene about her intake of alcohol.  With bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, she first claimed she’d had nothing to drink prior to driving.  She then changed her story, saying she’d had “one glass” of wine about an hour prior to leaving work.  However, her BAC was measured at .105 and .106 from two separate vials of her blood collected approximately an hour and forty-five minutes after the collision.  (This amount was rounded down to .10.)

In questioning the D.A.’s theory of culpability, the judge requested a brief review of testimony in order to determine whether, as Miller’s lawyer attempted to suggest, the incident was a simple SWSS.  But Miller had never told investigators,  “I saw the cyclist ahead.”  She admitted to the arresting officer that the first indication she had that she’d hit something was the shards of her shattered windshield hitting her arm.  (At least she wasn’t too drunk to wonder what all the sparkly stuff was.)

After the hearing, I asked D.A. Hayashida whether Britel had a bike computer and whether the data had been accessed.  To my surprise, she admitted she didn’t know (!!!) but would look into it.  I’d squinted at the pics & video of Britel’s mangled bike, but could only see a dark blur to the left of the areo bars.  It just strikes me as unlikely that a serious, competetive cyclist wouldn’t have the bells and whistles that could pinpoint the location, sudden deceleration & trajectory of his bike… and possibly even indicate the exact time, to the second, when his heart stopped beating.

Incidently, Hayashida is also assigned to prosecute Adam Carl Garrett, so I expect to see her  again today.  AND (refer back to the Orange County Register article) she’s the one who nailed Dennis Malavasi.

Mad props to good stranger Heather Lohrman (hope that’s spelled right), who stopped at the crime scene, attempted to find Britel’s pulse, and ran up to Miller’s car to get the license plate number in case the perp decided to flee.  Another good stranger was present as well but his name was not released.

Just a quick and irrelevant note about Anita Sue Cherry:  Last month, only two days before her most recent scheduled hearing, her first lawyer (whose list of traffic citations is longer than Cherry’s) was cited for failure to stop at a stop sign.  And next Monday, her most recently retained lawyer (her first lawyer’s legal partner) has his arraignment for the DUI w/property damage he got in September.

I swear to God I’m not making this up.

Laugh, or cry?


Drunken Long Beach fire captain suffers a severe slap on the wrist

November 30, 2011

Is a single year in county lockup sufficient penalty for nearly killing a cyclist with a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit?

An Orange County judge seems to think so.

Yesterday, Santa Ana Superior Court judge Erick Larsh sentenced Long Beach fire captain John David Hines to four years and four months in state prison — then suspended the sentence in lieu of one year in the Orange County jail and five years probation.

Reports could not be confirmed that Hines responded by grabbing his wrist and yelling “Ow!”

And yes, that’s slightly bridled sarcasm, as I find myself censoring what I’d really like to say.

It was almost three months ago that Hines pleaded guilty to three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Those charges stemmed from a bloody, drunken and reportedly urine-soaked April Fools Day episode that left cyclist Jeffrey Gordon struggling for his life.

And no, it wasn’t the least bit funny.

The scion of a leading Long Beach firefighting family, Hines spent the morning drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before climbing behind the wheel of his truck and attempting to drive home, despite a BAC measured at .24 over two hours later.

The legal limit in California is .08.

The bar should bear at least some responsibility for allowing Hines to get that drunk at their hands. Let alone letting him drive after serving him so much alcohol knowing full well how drunk he had to be at that point.

I hope Gordon has a great lawyer; if not, I’ll be happy to recommend a few. If there’s any justice, he’ll own the bar before this is done.

And hopefully, the first thing he’ll do is change that damn name.

As he reportedly wove his way across the roadway on Westminster Blvd, Hines lost control of his truck, drifting into the bike lane to hit Gordon’s bike from behind at an estimated 60 mph. The rider was thrown 70 feet through the air before landing in a crumpled, bloody heap.

His injuries were severe enough to require two weeks hospitalization, as well as limited mobility, and speech and memory loss that continues to this day. Then again, given the speed and severity of the impact, it’s a miracle Gordon survived at all.

Meanwhile, Hines continued to make his merry way to his Huntington Beach home, either unaware or unconcerned that he had nearly killed another human being. He was followed by two witnesses who reported his location to the police.

According to the Belmont Shore – Naples Patch, Billy Chisholm was a passenger in one of those pursuing vehicles.

“I was sick to my stomach the whole time,” Chisholm recalled. “He just hit him and left him to die like he was a skunk in the road. He had to have known he hit him because his truck was all busted up. That was a human being he left there to die. It’s not right.”

When police arrived, they found Hines in an obvious state of drunkenness, with a strong urine odor coming from his clothes. His parked pickup showed major damage to the front-end and hood — including blood spatter from the victim.

As so many scoundrels do these days, he immediately entered rehab after his release from jail, spending over five months in an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Like Schrodinger’s Cat, whether that was a badly needed attempt to gain control over his apparent alcoholism or a blatant attempt at gaining leniency from the court depends on your perspective.

He also served a 90-day diagnostic evaluation — make that 86 days — in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary.

Maybe I’m just not up on current sentencing practices. But I doubt many gangbangers or bank robbers enjoy such sensitivity from the judge after pleading guilty.

Then again, not many felons come from such prominent fire fighting families.

And last but not least, Hines was ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution — most of which has already been eaten up in medical costs.

According to the Los Alamitos Patch, Gordon prepared a written victim impact statement to be considered at sentencing.

“I am a very active person who enjoys being outdoors with my family. I also have a very mentally and physically demanding job that I love. All of that was taken from me in just seconds.

“As a result of the impact, I was seriously injured, receiving an 18-centimeter head laceration, cranial bleeding, three broken vertebrae, a bruised kidney and multiple cuts, scrapes, and contusions over a large area of my body. Medical expenses are piling up from the long hospital stay and treatment from so many specialists… so far reaching nearly $65,000. The doctors are not yet sure when or if I will recover enough to return to full duty at work or to the quality of life that I had before.

“I have found myself becoming more and more upset by the possibility that the negligence of another person may have lasting effects on me, but the person who is responsible may suffer little or no consequences for his actions.”

An anonymous source who was in the courtroom for part of the sentencing hearing offers this assessment of Hines professional position, who has been severely criticized by many — including me — for causing exactly the sort of injuries he was trained to treat.

I wish to point out that although Hines undoubtedly responded as part of a pre-hospital care team to the type of vehicular crime he committed, he was not the one who would have been providing hands-on care to patients.  As a captain, he directed others on the response team.  In fact, Hines is not a paramedic; he holds only an EMT certificate (pending review), and this is probably the bare minimum medical education requirement for a person of his position within his agency.  At EMT level, he cannot even administer painkillers.  With his certification, he would not likely be the one in the back of an ambulance with a puking head trauma victim like the one he created last April, because injuries of that magnitude require paramedic-level response.  He could monitor vitals and provide oxygen in such situations, and that’s about it.

My opinion is that his interest in public safety is less about his interest, if any, in humanity than in the salary & inherent reputation of a firefighter, and the protection that such a reputation affords him as an alcoholic.  But this is just an opinion.

Meanwhile, the OC Weekly offers a scathing report on the lenient sentence.

As they suggest, current jail overcrowding problems make it highly unlikely Hines will serve the full year, joining local public enemy #1 Lindsey Lohan in the revolving door of SoCal jurisprudence.

And I’m sure her wrist is just as sore.

On the other hand, Hines acted as self-appointed judge and jury in sentencing the victim to a possible life sentence of disability.

As disgusted as I am by the apparent leniency, I honestly don’t know if a long prison sentence is the right answer in this particular case.

Alcoholism is an illness, and punishment in prison will do little or nothing to reform a dangerous drunk and return him to a productive member of society.

But I do know that until judges start taking cases like this seriously — and impose sentences that will serve as a warning and deterrence to other drivers — we’ll continue to experience the ongoing carnage on our streets.

And not everyone will be as lucky as Gordon.


North County San Diego area cyclist killed in a drunken hit-and-run; a full roster of bike events

April 1, 2011

An 18-year old man from Bonsall has become to latest Southern California cyclist to die at the hands of a drunken hit-and-run driver.

According to press reports, a passerby found David Mendez laying on the side of the road on the 1300 block of Sleeping Indian Road in Oceanside around 7 am Monday, suffering from severe head injuries. He was taken off life support and died at 3 pm Tuesday after his organs were donated.

A hubcap found at the scene identified the car as a black 1998 Plymouth Neon, which was found by the police on Monday. As a result, 23-year old Herman Gonzalez of Oceanside was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and felony DUI; his passenger was booked for public intoxication.

Yes, authorities believe both people in the car were drunk, and that Gonzalez was behind the wheel — and killed another human being — before 7 in the morning.

Gonzalez is expected to be arraigned on Monday. Authorities are looking for a man who stopped briefly to offer help; anyone with information is urged to call Officer Mark Edgren at 760/435-4958.

Mendez is, by my count, the 20th cyclist to be killed in traffic collisions in Southern California this year.

And as always in cases like this, the real tragedy is that one life is ended, another in ruins, and two families needlessly devastated simply because someone felt the need to drive after drinking.

My heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of David Mendez.

.………

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

The Santa Clarita Century is scheduled to roll on Saturday, April 2nd with rides ranging from a family ride to a full century, and a free expo and entertainment throughout the day. All rides begin and end at the Valencia Town Center, 24201 Valencia Blvd.

If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, visit the free Magical Magnolia Bicycle Tour on Saturday, April 2nd from 3 to 7 pm in the Magnolia Park neighborhood in Burbank; be sure to visit Porto’s Bakery for a great Medianoche or Cubano sandwich and Cuban pastries.

Another option for a relaxed — and relaxing — ride is Flying Pigeon’s monthly Brewery Ride to the Eagle Rock Brewery; meet at 3 pm at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3714 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park. Other regularly scheduled Flying Pigeon rides include the Spoke(n) Art Ride on April 9th and the Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on April 17th; see their Shop Rides page for more information.

The fourth installment of the LACBC’s popular series of Sunday Funday rides takes place on Sunday, April 3rd, with the Crosstown Traffic Sunday Funday Ride led by board member Greg Laemmle. The 28-mile ride will assemble at 9:30 am the Westwood Recreation Center1350 South Sepulveda Blvd, and explore routes from the Westside to Downtown, with a stop for some of L.A.’s best coffee and tamales. I’ll be along for the ride, so come say hi.

Help ensure the bike plan moves from ink on the page to paint and signage on the streets by participating in the Bike Plan Implementation Team. The next monthly meeting will take place at 2 pm on Tuesday, April 5th in room 721 of Downtown City Hall, 200 North Spring Street.

Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, a quasi-governmental body assigned to advise the Mayor and City Council on bicycle issues, meets at 7 pm Tuesday, April 5th at the Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall, 6501 Fountain Avenue in Los Angeles.

The San Diego Custom Bicycle Show takes place April 8th, 9th and 10th at Golden Hall in San Diego, 3rd Ave and B Street. Single day admission is $15; a four-day pass including professional workshops on Thursday, April 7th is $45.

Get a head start on CicLAvia on Sunday, April 10th with the 2011 edition of Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer, a 10 stage race up some of the city’s steepest hills. Competitors will assemble at 7:45 am at the intersection of Sunset and Griffith Park Blvds.

The next CicLAvia will take place on Sunday April 10th, with two more to follow on July 10th and October 9th. If you missed the first one, don’t make the same mistake again; word is that Lance will be there.

Keep the post-CicLAvia good bike feelings going on Thursday, April 14th with Bike Night at the Hammer Museum, starting at 7 pm at 10899 Wilshire Blvd in Westwood. Free admission, free food, drinks and screenings of the 1986 BMX classic Rad.

Celebrate tax day with the second annual Streetsblog fundraiser at Eco-Village on Friday, April 15th from 6 to 10 pm at 117 Bimini Place; suggested donation is $20, but L.A. Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says no one will be turned away.

The Culver City Bicycle Coalition hosts a special Family Ride on Saturday, April 16th to tour the bicycle and pedestrian improvements planned for the Safe Routes to School grant recently awarded to Linwood Howe Elementary School; riders meet at Town Plaza near the Culver Hotel at 10 am. with the ride starting at 10:30 or 11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And mark your calendar for the 2011 L.A. edition of the Tour de Fat on October 9th; unfortunately, Yom Kippur also falls on that date this year, so cyclists of the Jewish Persuasion will have to choose between atoning and having something else to atone for.


First review of County Bike Plan for Santa Clarita Valley; driver gets one year for LA DUI fatality

March 7, 2011

The first draft of L.A. County’s draft bike plan just dropped late last week, and already the first review is in.

Writing for Santa Clarita Valley blog SCVTalk, Jeff Wilson says the plan highlights the current deficiency of biking infrastructure in area, as well as how the plan would go a long way towards correcting that.

Currently there are only 3.3 miles of bicycle lanes in unincorporated SCV. If adopted and built-out completely, the County’s bike plan would add 45 miles of Class I and Class II bike lanes and 101 more miles of Class III Bike Routes in unincorporated SCV.

Among the more exciting aspects of the plan: a Class II bike lane from Castaic to the Newhall Pass along the Old Road (13 miles), a Class I grade-separated bike path along Castaic Creek in Castaic (5.5 miles), and a Class I grade-separated bike path near Highway 126 all the way to the Ventura County line (10.2 miles), which would be a very positive step forward in bike-path-to-the-sea dream some of us cyclists have had.

The 100+ miles of Class III routes aren’t as exciting because they are merely lines on a map. Few or no alterations to roads are permitted (save for signage), and cyclists are expected to ride in the shoulder or in the traffic lane if that is not possible. The plan puts Class III routes on some of the more popular roads outside of town, including Bouquet Canyon and Sierra Highway.

He notes that the plan says it’s essential to that county bikeways connect with bikeways in Santa Clarita, although many of the existing lanes and routes aren’t on roads that go out of town, especially on the west side. And that just because something is on the map, that doesn’t mean it will be built, as other projects in other areas have been given a higher priority.

So what do you think?

Download the bike plan and take a look at the areas you ride — or would like to ride. And let me know what you think.

Or more importantly, attend one of the workshops or respond online.

And let the county know.

.………

An L.A. man who killed a 72-year old motorist while speeding at 20 mph over the speed limit — and twice the legal blood alcohol limit — gets just one year in jail because his victim may have made an illegal U-turn.

And if Mark David Skillingberg completes his probation without incident, the felony conviction could be reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged from his record.

According to the L.A. Times:

Judge Katherine Mader expressed sympathy for the victim’s family but referenced a probation report that concluded that Skillingberg was not a danger to the community and will learn from the experience.

“Mr. Skillingberg was obviously drunk and he made the decision to drive,” she said. “But he is not going unpunished.”

So let me get this straight.

Someone who gets drunk, gets behind the wheel and takes the life of another human being isn’t a danger to the community. And it’s okay to kill someone, as long as you promise to learn from the experience.

The primary cause of the other driver’s death wasn’t a U-turn — legal or otherwise. It was a speeding drunk behind the wheel.

And how will any of us be safe on the streets as long as the courts refuse to take that seriously?

.………

WeHo Daily asks if Stephen Box can beat incumbent CD4 City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. The dreaded Hudson River on L.A.’s future 4th Street Bike Boulevard may have finally run dry. The prolific Rick Risemberg asks cyclists to get involved in the Bike Plan Implementation Team to help turn the new bike plan into a ridable reality. Exploring Los Angeles on two wheels, including good advice on using transit and riding safely. Mark your calendar for Bike Night at the Hammer Museum on April 14th. C-Blog thanks a Mercedes driver for the near-miss wake-up call.

Temple City is next up on the list of local bike plans under consideration. Claremont cyclist offers a lesson in cycling lingo. Hermosa Beach cyclists are about to get new artisan bike racks in high traffic areas; thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up. A columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram says no one uses those new bike lanes, and no one is asking for them; note to Doug Krikorian — if you don’t know anyone who bikes in Long Beach, maybe you need to expand your circle of friends. Orange County gets another ghost bike amid calls for improved bike safety and more sharrows. The OC’s cdm Cyclist interviews Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution.

The Bakersfield Californian says if L.A. can embrace bicycling, they can too; let’s not get carried away though — L.A.’s recent bike love still exists primarily on paper, not on the streets. The country’s healthiest and happiest city continues to invest in the bike infrastructure that helps make it that way. Overcoming a fear of bike commuting. Evidently, I’m not the only one who’s dreamed of opening a combination bike shop/brew pub. Placer County will pay you to buy a new bike. Forget cell-phone using drivers; nearly 20% of drivers admit to surfing the internet while they drive. How to ride in the rain. Ten articles for beginning cyclists, including one from our friend the Springfield Cyclist. Bike Biz asks if the bike industry gives bloggers enough love; hey, I can always use a little more. If you want change, write a letter.

The Colorado man accused of attacking a group of cyclists with a baseball bat has been found guilty. Dottie offers her typically lovely look at Chicago’s spring thaw. In a horrifying story, a New York cyclist is arrested, physically abused and thrown in jail for nearly 24 hours for allegedly running a red light. Despite the backlash, New York cyclists are ahead of the curve, says the Wall Street Journal, while Bike Snob says history is repeating itself. The much criticized Prospect Park West bike lanes have tripled the number of riders and slowed speeding traffic — while adding one second to the average commute. The New York Times looks at cyclists who build their own frames. A look at riding in New York from a Dutch perspective. Brooklyn cyclists plan a ghost bike in honor of the victims of unreported collisions. A 13-year old cyclist is attacked after asking a driver who buzzed him to put his cell phone away and look out for cyclists; thanks to Al Williams for the heads-up.

How to tell when it’s time to get back on your bike after illness. Bicycling looks at this week’s Race to the Sun. After 18 months, a Brit water board can’t seem to find a dangerous road hazard, let alone fix it. Turns out that one of London’s most popular — and threatened — cycling bridges could be closed to cars without adversely affecting traffic. Remarkably, an Edinburgh court finds it more credible that a motorist made an emergency stop, then drove off in fear — with a rider’s bike still stuck under his car — than the possibility that the driver hit the cyclist. Rising French star Fabien Taillefer is the latest rider to admit to doping. A Singapore physician calls for banning recreational cyclists from the road. Even the Chinese People’s Daily is reporting on L.A.’s bike plan.

Finally, I received an email from New York music website Break Thru Radio, promoting a new performance video from guitarist Brian Bonz. In a segment they call Hear & There, the site asks their artists to immerse themselves in an unusual environment; Bonz chose New York bike shop Zen Bikes for his song Terror in Boneville.

And thanks to everyone who has sent me the link to the NY Times article about Janette Sadik-Khan; evidently, the Times registration program was created specifically to keep me out.


Sharing the road with drunks — and worse

March 16, 2010

There are certain days I try not to ride. Or if I do, I try to get out and back before the kegs and cocktails start flowing.

Like Christmas Eve. New Years Eve. Super Bowl Sunday.

And yes, St. Patrick’s Day.

Days when the risk of getting intimately acquainted with the bumper of an intoxicated driver is just too high for comfort. And not based on statistics or studies, but my own personal experience of having dodged far too many far too close calls over the years.

Lately, though, it’s become clear that there’s another roadway risk that’s not tied to the calendar or the local bar. One that seems to be a daily, and rapidly growing, occurrence.

Take Monday’s ride.

I was at the base of San Vicente Blvd in Santa Monica, waiting to make my left onto Ocean Blvd.

I watched as the driver approaching from my left signaled for a right turn. And having been fooled by far too many turn signals over the years, waited until she actually began her right before starting across the intersection

Then I jammed on my brakes as she suddenly cut back to her left, forcing the driver behind her to slam on his brakes — as well as his horn — as she blew through the stop sign in front of her.

And rolled through the very spot I would have been occupying if I hadn’t hit my brakes in time.

It was okay, though, because she gave the other driver L.A.’s ubiquitous “sorry” wave. And I’m sure she would have gladly directed it my way as well, if only she’d actually seen me.

Do I really need to mention that she was on her cell phone the whole time?

Or consider another incident from last week.

I was on Beverly Glen, waiting with a long line of cars to make the left onto Olympic Blvd. And watched in horror as a pickup coming from the other direction made a right turn onto Olympic from the opposite left turn lane, cutting off three lanes of traffic in the process.

He then drove well below the speed limit, swerving from lane to lane before finally forcing his way into the left lane, nearly leaving a demolition derby’s worth of cars strewn in his wake.

Thanks to his slow speed, I found myself stopped at the same light with him, so I looked over, expecting to see a noticeably drunk motorist behind the wheel.

Instead, he had his hands in his lap.

No, texting.

Or consider another case from later that same day, when I took my car out to run an errand.

Just a few blocks past the spot of the earlier incident, I put on my turn signal and slowed to make a right turn. And nearly got rear-ended by a driver who evidently couldn’t see the car directly ahead of him, despite the working turn signal and brake lights.

And yes, I checked.

And yes, he had his phone pressed tightly to his ear.

So what do you think my chances would have been if I’d been on a bike instead of wrapped within a rolling ton of rubber, glass and steel?

I wish these were just random events. But the fact is, simple observation suggests that the laws prohibiting handheld phones and texting behind the wheel are almost universally ignored these days — though I have noticed more drivers holding their phones in their right hands, where they would presumably be less noticeable from a passing patrol car.

Even though studies have consistently shown that talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.

And texting behind the wheel is worse.

Which brings up the problem.

We can ban dangerous behavior behind the wheel and pass all the laws we want to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

But just like the trash bins in the bike lanes on Venice Blvd — or the three-foot passing law in our neighbors to the east — it won’t make a damn bit of difference without adequate enforcement.


Santa Clarita to honor fallen cyclist with silent ride

September 24, 2009

novotny-2Every cycling death is tragic. And unnecessary.

And this year, there have been far too many around here.

Whether it’s a father taking his son on a grand adventure. A local handyman who took up riding after losing part of his vision in an accident. A day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who rode everywhere. A woman police blame for causing her own death by riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. Or a man in Orange County just trying to get home from work.

And then there’s Joseph Novotny.

Like Rod Armas and Jesus Castillo, he was killed by an accused drunk driver who fled the scene — a driver who had already been arrested multiple times, despite being too young to legally drink.

And it was preventable.

His killer was driving with a suspended license, and passing motorists had already reported him to the authorities. But despite their best efforts, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments after he’d plowed his truck into a group of oncoming cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder of the road, and continued down the road.

Four cyclists were injured, two seriously. And Novotny was killed.

It could have been anyone of us.

Adding to the tragedy, he was on one of his first rides with the Santa Clarita Velo Club, having just moved to the area with his wife. Now she, and all those who knew and loved him, have to find a way to go on without him.

Next Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Velo Club are sponsoring a Memorial Ride of Silence in memory of Robert Novotny, and other cyclists who have been killed on the roads.

I’ll let Jeff Wilson explain:

Los Angeles cyclists and Biking in LA readers, we could use your help!

On July 11, 2009, 43 year old cyclist Joseph Novotny was struck and killed by an underaged drunk driver while riding his bike in the Bouquet Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

On October 3, Santa Clarita cyclists will ride silently in memory of Joe Novotny and all other cyclists who have been killed while riding. Please consider joining us to raise awareness of bicyclists and our right to use roads.

The 12 mile ride begins at 8am in Santa Clarita. A Sheriff’s escort will be provided as we ride into Newhall, then Stevenson Ranch, and finally back to Valencia. Most of the route is flat; other parts are somewhat hilly (but brief). Cyclists are asked to ride in silence and at around 12mph.

From Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is just minutes north of the San Fernando Valley. Take Interstate 5 north and exit at Valencia Blvd. Proceed east on Valencia until you reach Citrus Avenue. Turn left on Citrus Avenue. Free parking is available.

Unfortunately, while Metrolink service is available to Santa Clarita, the earliest northbound train will arrive after the ride has started.

I know it’s short notice, and you may have other commitments already. But if you’re planning to ride next weekend, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

Or a better reason.

And please, be careful out there this weekend. I want to see you all back here on Monday.

For more information, contact IreneTJohnson@yahoo.com, or click here to visit the Facebook page.

………

Submitted for your approval: LADOT has finally released the full draft bicycle plan and scheduled dates and locations for public comment; Bike Girl calls the deadline for comments “infeasible,” while Dr. Alex notes that it excludes input from Neighborhood Councils. Pasadena has a meeting scheduled to discuss its new Bicycle Master Plan. Mark your calendar for the Festival of Rights to protest the illegal exclusion of bikes from the DWP’s annual Holiday Light Festival. We could have had bike lanes on Topanga Boulevard by now, no thanks to the Department of Currently Unfeasible, aka LADOT. L.A.’s leading bike wonk makes the case for making the case for active transportation. The only thing missing from Santa Monica’s new green maintenance facility is bike racks. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a report from the road. An Arizona cyclist was killed riding with a group of other cyclists; he leaves behind a wife and three children, including a newborn. Evidently, cars really do make Americans fat. Proof there’s more than one way to park a bike. I don’t know what’s worse — that they put up speed bumps in a cemetery without warning cyclists, or that a few rude cyclists made it necessary. San Francisco police take a report of harassing a cyclist seriously. Finally, your word for the day is Traumadinejad.

novotny-2


An alleged killer to be arraigned; peak hour lanes to be debated again in Northridge

August 18, 2009

A couple of quick notes.

A reader named Danny sends word that Robert Sam Sanchez, the driver arrested in connection with the hit-and-run death of cyclist Rod Armas, will be arraigned this Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

As you may recall, Rod and his 14-year old son Christian were nearing the finish of the L.A. Wheelmen’s Grand Tour Double Century when they were struck by an alleged drunk driver on PCH near Malibu early in the morning of Sunday, June 28; Rod was killed and Christian was seriously injured. The driver ditched his truck about a mile away and was arrested by sheriff’s deputies a short time later.

According to Danny, the arraignment will take place in Dept. 1 of the Malibu Courthouse this Thursday, August 20, at 8:30 am. He says he plans to be there and will fill us in on any details. If anyone else plans to attend, feel free to forward observations you may have (you can find my email on the About BikingInLA page.

My prayers go out to the entire Armas family; if anyone can provide an update on Christian’s condition, let me know. And you can still make a donation to the Armas family online through the Talbert Family Foundation.

On another note, on the heels of last week’s successful turnout at the Northridge West Neighborhood Council meeting to fight the “rumored” peak hour lane proposal, BAC Chairperson Glenn Bailey sends word that the subject will be taken up by their Northridge East counterparts on Wednesday:

Fellow bicyclists and other interested persons:

This morning I received the attached agenda for the Northridge EAST Neighborhood Council meeting for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 19 which includes Item 7d:

7. Old Business

d. Proposed Peak Hour Lane Reseda Boulevard

[Possible Action]

The meeting will be held at CSUN’s University Club located northwest of Nordhoff and Zelzah, enter from Dearborn St.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments are usually served.  (NOTE:  When I called the University Club (818-677-2076) inquiring about bicycle parking I was told to “Tie it to a tree.”  <sigh>  I requested that they get a bicycle rack by tomorrow night’s meeting.)

FYI, I made a presentation at the Northridge East NC’s July meeting as to the information I had obtained as of then and I was well received.  This morning I emailed the NENC board recommending that they vote to OPPOSE the Reseda Boulevard peak hour lanes and SUPPORT the installation of the long planned bicycle lanes between Nordhoff and Rinaldi streets.  (The bicycle lanes would assure that no peak hour lanes would be installed in the future, or at least that it would be a much more difficult process.)

I am hoping you might be able to attend this meeting and inform others.  As you can see, this time there is no motion listed on the agenda so it could go either way.

I will not personally be able to attend this meeting as I have a previous commitment out of town.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email and/or telephone me,

Thank you for your interest and assistance.

Cordially,

Glenn Bailey, Chairperson

Bicycle Advisory Committee

City of Los Angeles

If you live or ride in the area, I urge you attend the meeting if you can. LADOT may claim they don’t have any current plans for peak hour lanes on Reseda, but that could change as soon as we turn our backs. Let’s keep up the fight until we get those long-promised bike lanes painted on the street. (And thanks to Joe Linton for providing a link to the NENC agenda).

………

Evidently, Stephen Colbert reads Streetsblog LA, at least when it’s about him. Mikey Wally announces a party at Orange 20 to celebrate his return, along with two other SoCal cyclists, from a NY to LA cross-country ride.  C.I.C.L.E. and the Santa Monica Museum of Art join together for an art ride this weekend, promising a slow pace and observance of all traffic laws. The Springfield Cyclist can now legally run red lights. A Colorado jerk motorist says bikes have as much right on the road as sheep, but at least sheep have enough sense to get out of the way. Athletes from the University of Colorado come to the aid of a fallen cyclist. Tucson unveils the Bike Church, a memorial to fallen cyclists made entirely of bike parts. Graphic evidence that cycling casualties go down as ridership goes up. A Toronto cyclist returns to find her bike ticketed for excessive awesomeness. Ireland agrees to pay for bike parking facilities; one of their top amateur cyclists is killed in a single vehicle car crash. Finally, in what may be the most vile incident in recent memory, a cyclist in Texas is killed by a hit-and-run driver who pulls the victim inside his back seat and drives home, leaving him in the car to die.


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