Roraff apologizes for killing Jorge Alvarado; cyclists disagree with city on environmental review

May 3, 2011

According to the Highland Community News, Patrick Roraff is sorry he killed pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado last April.

In a brief story about the case going forward against Roraff and co-defendant Brett Morin for the alleged street racing collision that killed Alvarado, the paper mentions that Roraff wrote a letter apologizing to Alvarado’s family — as well as telling investigators how much he regretted his actions.

According to the accident report, Roraff wrote a letter to Alvarado’s family apologizing for the crash and told investigators, “I feel so stupid for even doing that, like trying to show off … I wish I could go back and just change everything, but I can’t … I can’t believe I took away a life.”

Unfortunately, no amount of remorse will bring the rising pro rider back to life.

Then again, no amount of punishment will either, no matter how much jail time the two teenage drivers receive.

Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

Update: I received an email from an L.A. cyclist named Bret Morin, who pointed out that I had misspelled the name of the driver charged in Alvarado’s death as Bret, rather than Brett. My sincere apologies to the other Bret Morin for any inconvenience this may have caused.

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Surely no one is really surprised by this. Damien Newton reports that cyclists are in conflict with L.A.’s notoriously risk-averse agencies over plans for environmental review of projects in the new bike plan.

You didn’t think the fight was over once the plan was unanimously passed by the city council, did you?

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Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson ride a tandem in Venice, which brings up one of my pet peeves.

For those unclear on the subject, the world-famous Venice Boardwalk is that crowded sidewalk between the stores and the beach where bikes are banned. That narrow strip of asphalt where Simpson and Johnson rode last weekend is the world-famous Marvin Braude, formerly Venice/Santa Monica, Bike Path, where bikes are actually allowed and pedestrians banned.

In theory, at least.

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LACBC calls for volunteers for this weekend’s Culver City bike count. The West Hollywood Bicycle Task Force meets this Wednesday at 6:30 pm. Bikerowave is hosting a bike swap meet this Sunday. Source readers overwhelmingly approve of removing bike restrictions on Metro trains. Fourth District Councilmember Tom LaBonge rides next to the L.A. River; public television station KCET offers a field guide to biking it yourself. Harry Dougherty offers great photos from last weekend’s Sunday Funday ride, as well as the L.A. River clean-up. Santa Monica Spoke will host a bike exhibition at the 20th Annual Santa Monica Festival. Gary Kavanagh says Santa Monica could be the envy of the bicycling nation. Hermosa Beach invites you to an all ages bike playdate on Saturday the 14th. SoCal’s bike-friendliest city celebrates Bike Month. The Claremont Cyclist offers local bike news, including the new Citrus Regional Bikeway. The Amgen Tour of California will bypass the scenic central coast due to a massive landslide.

Astronaut Grover says wear your helmet. It’s Bike Month, so get out there and don’t proselytize. What to consider when you get new tires. Then again, maybe you’re overinflating your tires; based on this, I may try dropping my front tire a little. What’s your motivation to ride to work? The League of American Bicyclists shifts their focus from educating cyclists to educating the drivers who threaten us, and wants your help to do it; they also release the latest list of bike-friendly cities. No surprise cycle tracks save lives. Touting the environmental benefits of cycling could do more harm than good. People for Bikes says 2011 could be the year of the bike. The perfect accessory for your designer handbag could be the new Kate Spade bike.

Lovely Bicycle ponders why some towns aren’t cycling towns. Participants in New York’s popular Five Boro Bike Ride seem to spend more time walking than riding. The Washington Post implies cyclists are the only ones who need to obey the law, while Wash Cycle deftly dismantles their arguments. DC cyclists are threatened by drivers, as well as the roads they ride on. Maryland adds tougher penalties for negligent drivers who kill cyclists. A cyclist is killed by a hit-and-run driver in North Carolina after falling in the street, even though his friends tried frantically to stop the oncoming driver; thanks to Zeke for the heads-up. Florida cyclists may get a chance to ride a local causeway legally. The legal deadline has passed for Lance Armstrong to sue Floyd Landis over doping allegations.

Canadian parents are charged with letting their nine-year old son ride without a helmet after he’s hit by a car. Maybe if you rode with a halo around your head, you might not end up with one. A nurse saves the life of a man who collapsed during a triathlon, then finishes the race herself. Town Mouse wonders if we’re teaching our children the right lessons. An 81-year old UK man dies after a collision with a cyclist. Great mostly bike-related artwork. Good road design makes peace break out between cyclists and drivers. Sydney homeowners discover living near a bike path is good for property values.

Finally, if you’ve already jumped bail after being ordered not to drink, don’t get drunk and ride your bike into a parked patrol car.


Hollywood blocked bikeways may be common, but not legal; moving story on fallen cyclist Alex Romero

April 29, 2011

It something we’ve all gotten used to living here in the greater metaphorical Hollywood.

And something we shouldn’t have to.

If you’ve ridden much around this city, chances are, you’ve found your way blocked by a movie crew, TV set or a commercial photo shoot at some point, forcing you to wait until the scene or shoot is over.

Or maybe you’ve run into my pet peeve — movie crews parked along the side of the road, with orange safety cones placed in the middle of the bike lane to protect their precious trucks from passing cyclists, forcing you out into traffic with little or no warning.

And often as not, with no legal basis.

Take the photo shoot Todd Munson encountered on his way home last week on the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

They were set up near the eastern end. When I rolled up they had a scrim set up that was a good 10 feet high and as wide as the path. Because of it, I had to come to a full stop and announce my presence before they even noticed I was there. Based on how “fashionable” they all were I’m guessing they came from the nearby Smashbox Studio.

When I realized how much I was “hassling” them by having to move their equipment to make some room, I asked if they had a permit for the shoot. Everyone just sort looked at each other and mumbled incomplete sentences. The guy who was apparently in charge was the one covering his face in the first photo. The amazing thing to me was that nobody including him was at all apologetic. The best they could do was “Hey man, we didn’t think anyone would be here.” And a couple of them even tried getting tough.

The other funny part was that girl in the red shirt in photo number 3 asked that I not take anyone’s picture.

Good times.

Problem is, unless they did have a permit, what they were doing was completely illegal. Section 21211 of the California Vehicle Code reads:

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.

But it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to prohibit parking or placing anything on the bike path that would block it, as well.

(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.

Of course, there are additional subsections specifying a handful exceptions, none of which apply in the situation Munson encountered. Or to the overwhelming majority of cases you might encounter that would delay your ride more than a few moments.

Then there’s the matter of blocked bike lanes.

As we’ve discussed before, bike lanes are considered traffic lanes by the LAPD, just like the larger lanes to their left. And just as it’s illegal to block any other traffic lane, it’s against the law to block a bike lane — whether with trash cans, orange cones or double parked vehicles.

The question is whether L.A.’s favorite industry enjoys a special exemption when it comes to their trucks.

The afore mentioned Mr. Munson, who seems to be having a rash of bad luck with this sort of thing lately, reached out to myself and Tony Arranaga, who works in the office of 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, after a recent encounter with bike lanes blocked by a movie crew on San Vicente Blvd in the Brentwood area.

Tony was kind enough to connect us with Geoffrey Smith, Director of Community Relations with FilmLA Inc, the agency responsible for overseeing the massive amount of filming that takes place in this city on a daily basis.

Once again, I’ll let Todd explain the situation:

The specific incident I encountered occurred in Brentwood along San Vicente last Thursday morning (3/24). A film production had vehicles parked on both sides of San Vicente near the golf course and had laid out large cones along the respective bike lanes.

The cones were placed on the outer edge of the bike line cutting down its width to the point that it was no longer safe to use. Any cyclist who chose to stay in the bike lane was faced with a lose-lose situation as they were forced to ride dangerously close to parked vehicles. Should a door swing open or a crew member walk out from between the vehicles, the tightly spaced cones to the immediate left eliminated any chance for a safe escape.

The only option for a cyclist wishing to avoid this mess would be to exit the bike lane and ride in traffic. This option was equally undesirable and dangerous as motorists tend to treat San Vicente as a mini freeway- especially during the morning rush hour.

Attached is quick diagram I made with the help of Google Street View illustrating the dangerousness of the situation.

To reiterate what Ted stated, those cones served no functional purpose other than creating a life-threatening situation for cyclists. Should the status quo be allowed to remain, it’s not a matter of if but when a deadly accident will occur.

That drew the following response from Smith, who answered promptly the next morning:

1)      No, the company should not have put cones in the bike path. It seems that the Transportation Captain was perhaps a little overzealous in trying to let everyone know that there was a trailer parked on the street. Why he felt that the general public would fail to see a trailer 8’ wide by 7’ high will undoubtedly remain a mystery.

2)      Yes, a company can close a bike path BUT, it requires submitting a traffic plan to DOT, showing what alternate route(s) are being created, via cones, barricades, signage, so that bicyclists are not forced into traffic. DOT has to approve of the closure before it will be allowed.

3)      As an FYI, FilmL.A. is 24/7. If you should run into this situation again, PLEASE call us 213/977.8600 ASAP. Let us check and see a) if there is a permit and b) if they have a closure of the bike path.

4)      I am also annoyed if they were parking on both side of San Vicente. Parking on the north side is not allowed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting that phone number in my speed dial.

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Dj Wheels, who has been very busy keeping up with local bike-related criminal cases lately, shares the news that 19-year olds Patrick Roraff and Brett Morin will face trial for the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado in Highland one year ago.

Roraff and Morin were allegedly street racing at around 70 mph when Roraff lost control and hit Alvarado, who died on the side of the road, far from his family and friends in Mexico.

According to the Press-Enterprise, the two will be arraigned on May 12th on a single count each of vehicular manslaughter.

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Chances are, you’ve never heard of the San Fernando Valley Sun. But maybe you should.

Once again, they’ve written movingly about the death of yet another teenage Valley cyclist murdered by a hit-and-run driver.

Just six months ago, it was Danny Marin*; this time, it’s Alex Romero, run down by a speeding driver on De Soto Avenue in Canoga Park last week.

Consider the heart-rending pathos in the first paragraph alone:

Tomorrow, April 29, Maria De La Paz “Pacita” Romero will have to find the strength to bury her teenaged son. “Empty. I feel empty,” Maria said as she attempts to describe the loss of her son, German Alex Romero, a 17-year-old promising soccer player whose life was tragically cut short last week when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Canoga Park.

Remarkably, Romero’s family doesn’t bear any animosity towards the still unidentified driver; his mother saying “God bless him” of the man who killed her son.

The family would also like Romero’s death to serve a positive purpose. Their desire is for new bicycle markings to be placed on the street where he was killed, as well as additional lighting, a traffic light and cameras.

“We would like Alex’s sacrifice to be worth something,” Fuentes said. “He came to this earth for 17 years to give light to everybody, motorists and bicyclists, so that we may be more careful to make ourselves aware of everybody who’s on the road.”

Seriously, stop whatever you’re doing, and take just a few minutes to read a very well-written story about the massive hole a heartless driver has left in what appears to be a remarkable, and remarkably forgiving, family.

But don’t be surprised if you find a few tears in your eyes before you’re done.

*Unfortunately, the original Sun story is no longer available online.

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Finally, the LACBC reports that the peak hour restrictions limiting bikes on Metro trains have been lifted, effective immediately. While the bike ban has been widely ignored in recent months, the action of the Metro Board means you can now take your bike on any Metro train, any time, to any destination.

As train cars come in for servicing, they will have seats removed to create additional standing and storage room to provide more space for bikes, as well as other large objects such as strollers and shopping bags.


Cyclist killed in Indio area, suspected Jim Swarzman killer released, Marco Antonio Valencia on trial

April 15, 2011

I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.

Last night, the CHP reported a collision involving a cyclist in the Indio area; the cryptic feed indicated that the coroner had been called.

As I searched for confirmation, though, I found another report online that said the coroner call had been cancelled, and the rider had been transported to the hospital with major injuries. The CHP feed was later updated to indicate that, as well.

Unfortunately, the good news didn’t last.

According to a story in the Desert Sun, 39-year old Travis Carroll was pronounced dead at 8:17 last night, after being hit by a van while riding on Avenue 42 in Bermuda Dunes. The collision occurred between Washington and Adams Streets at around 7:35.

The sparse description of the collision in the Desert Sun doesn’t really make sense.

The paper reports that Carroll was riding on the north side of the street, which suggests he would have been riding west if he was riding with traffic. He then reportedly began riding southeast, which would mean he either had to make a U-turn, or had actually been riding against traffic and drifted across the roadway before being struck by the west-bound van,

However, that raises the question of why he would cross the path of an oncoming vehicle which should have been clearly visible as he faced it — especially since the paper reports that alcohol does not seem to be a factor.

According to reports, the investigation is ongoing.

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The same day Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman was laid to rest at Forrest Lawn, word came that the driver suspected of killing him was released from custody.

According to San Diego’s KGTV, Joseph Ricardo Fernandez was released at the last moment before being arraigned. Reportedly, the reason stemmed from the three day limit authorities have to file charges after taking the suspect into custody.

The station indicates that the delay is due to ongoing forensic work to ensure that Fernandez’ Dodge Ram 1500 pickup was in fact the vehicle that took Swarzman’s life; following that, the DA needs to be able to show that Fernandez was actually the one behind the wheel.

I would hope that they are also investigating his actions before the collision; I suspect they may find that he was drinking heavily.

The reports I’ve heard say the collision was extremely violent; I’ll spare you the details, but it would have been virtually impossible for the driver to have been unaware he hit something, putting to question Fernandez statement to the police that he thought he might have hit something.

Unless he was in a significantly altered state, the driver had to know damn well that he hit something, making his flight afterward a purely intentional — and illegal — act.

The investigation is ongoing, and I have no reason to believe the San Diego DA’s office isn’t taking this case very seriously. But we may want to keep on top of it, just in case.

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I’ve been on the run the last few weeks, and haven’t had a chance to update the ongoing legal cases (my apologies to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, who has done a great job of keeping me abreast of the ongoing cases).

Wheels reports that the trial has begun in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring three other riders in an alcohol and drug-fueled hit-and-run.

The Signal reports on yesterday’s testimony from the surviving riders; it’s difficult to read, but offers the clearest picture yet what happened on that tragic day. Here’s one brief excerpt:

Chad Lewin, 25, was riding in front of Munana and Novotny during the ride.

As Lewin was riding around a right turn, he saw the bicyclist in front of him slam on his brakes abruptly.

To avoid crashing, Lewin testified that he swerved into the roadway to his left to avoid crashing.

In an instant, he was knocked to the ground by the truck. As he slid, Lewin said his skin was ripped off — in some instances to the muscle.

“As I was sliding backward, I saw Joe 20 feet in the air and hit the mountainside,” Lewin said.

Dj Wheels has been attending some of the court sessions, and offers these thoughts:

It appears that Valencia’s defense will mainly focus on avoiding the “Watson” 2nd degree murder charge by arguing that although he was awake and able to drive, he was not “conscious” of his actions and thus did not have the required specific intent for murder, which would be implied malice.

I don’t know all the case law on these types of DUI murder charges, but essentially Watson says when you have been previously convicted of DUI, you should know all ready that driving drunk can cause serious injury or death, which would establish the intent requirement of malice.  The CA legislature later enacted CVC 23103.5.  As a resulty, many county courts and district attorneys offices for several years now have required defendants to sign a declaration admitting that you acknowledge these risks and that you may be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of their drunk driving.  I believe this declaration can also be used as evidence.

However, under CA Jury Instructions 8.47 says “If you find that a defendant, while unconscious as a result of voluntary intoxication, killed another human being without intent to kill and without malice aforethought, the crime is involuntary manslaughter.”

So my guess is that the defense will try to establish that none of the witnesses actually saw the driver of the vehicle (specifically his face/body) in the seconds before the collision and during the collision in order to establish a reasonable doubt about whether he was indeed “conscious.” I think the only defense witness will be the expert who will testify that someone can be unconscious due to voluntary intoxication, but still be awake.
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As long as we’re on the subject of biking collisions and court cases, we might as well keep going.

Danae Marie Miller will be arraigned today on one count of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated in the death of world-class trialthlete Amine Britel in Newport Beach last month. She’s currently out on $100,000 bail.

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John Stesney reports that a pretrial hearing is scheduled next week in the death of local scientist and cyclist Doug Caldwell. The hearing for accused driver Gordon Catlett Wray will take place at the San Fernando Courthouse, 900 Third Street in the city of San Fernando, on Wednesday, April 20th at 8:30 am, case #0SR05313.

My sources indicate that despite numerous questions that have been raised that the defendant was using a cell phone at the time of the collision, the prosecutor either can’t get the records, or won’t request them for some reason — even though they could offer proof of distracted driving in fatal collision.

Maybe a few cyclists in the courtroom could stiffen the DA’s resolve, and show how seriously we’re taking this case.

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Dj Wheels reports that Shawn Fields was arraigned on March 30th for the heartbreaking hit-and-run death of 17-year old Danny Marin in Pacoima last year; a description of the injuries suffered by Marin — again, I’ll spare you the details — suggests another extremely violent collision.

Wheels offers some revealing testimony from the case:

According to the arresting officer, Fields was asleep at home by the time they arrived at the location where the vehicle was registered. He wouldn’t wake up at first after knocking and banging on the windows from where they could see him sleeping.  Fields also volunteered a statement before being taken to the police station that he shouldn’t have driven home because he had too much to drink at a wrap up party at the Roosevelt in Hollywood. He also saw many bottles of various alcoholic beverages inside Field’s house.

Also, the officer that administered the breath test at the station noted that his BAC was .14/.15 at about 4:15 a.m. The collision occurred about three hours earlier.

The investigating officer who interviewed Fields at the station also testified. Fields told him he got to the party around 10pm and drank a long island ice tea, a red label whiskey, a gin and tonic, beer and some water before leaving. After walking out, he had a bacon wrapped hot dog on the street, threw up on himself, debated whether to drive home, waited in his car for a while then finally drove.  He did not have a recollection of actually driving home, but recalled he may have hit something because he remembered being at a stop light close to home and looking at sparkly dust on his arms from the shattered front windshield.

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A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 28th at 8:30 am in the San Bernardino Superior Court in the case of Patrick Roraff and Brett Michael Morin for the street racing death of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado last April.

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A preliminary hearing is also scheduled for May 11th in the case of Stephanie Segal, charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last October.

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Jim Lyle forwards news that Richard Schlickman, the cyclist critically injured when he lost control of his bike due to newly installed speed bumps in Palas Verdes Estates, is showing amazing progress and determination, and may be transferred to a rehab facility by the end of the month.

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Meanwhile, reports are that your prayers continue to be needed for Adam Rybicki, critically injured by an alleged underage drunk driver in Torrance on April 3rd.


A raft of legal cases — 5 deaths, 4 hit-and-runs, 1 drunken pop star and a justly jailed physician

February 4, 2011

I haven’t had a lot of opportunity lately to keep up with recent bike-related court cases, or even to update the Legal Cases page on my blog — something I’ll try to get to over the weekend.

Fortunately, local cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels continues to do an incredible job of keeping on top of what’s happening in our local courts, as well as with key trials across the country. This past week, he sent his latest update on some of the cases currently making their way through the courts.

My heartfelt thanks to Wheels, who has done more to keep the local cycling community informed than we could ever thank him for.

Shawn Fields – PA068775 (San Fernando)

Charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of 17-year old Daniel (Danny) Marin on Laurel Canyon Blvd in Pacoima on October 2nd of last year. While any cycling death leave me shaken, this is one that has hit me the hardest. Maybe it was the needless waste of a bright, well-loved young man; maybe it was because he reminds me of myself at that age. Or maybe just because I think I would have liked him if I’d ever had the chance.

Last hearing was held on January 21 – proof of compliance with discovery requests.  Although the Preliminary Hearing had all ready been scheduled for February 2, that hearing was advanced and continued to February 16 in Dept. 502 – Judge Olmedo.  Fields remains out of custody on bail.

Marco Antonio Valencia – PA065011 (San Fernando)

Valencia is charged with killing cyclist Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two other riders in Santa Clarita’s Bouquet Canyon. He is accused of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life,” by driving with a blood alcohol level of .18, as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the morning collision. After the wreck, he reportedly told a deputy to shoot him because his life was over; unfortunately, it was Novotny whose life was ended.

After numerous continuances of the trial date, Valencia will probably be on trial by the end of February for DUI/murder charges.  The next hearing is scheduled for February 14 as a 0 of 20 for Trial.  Valencia is still in custody.

Yelena Krupen – 0BV00450 (Beverly Hills)

Beverly Hills model Yelena Krupen was charged with fleeing the scene after hitting cyclist Brandon Chau on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills, in a case that infuriated local cyclists by demonstrating just how hard it is to get justice if the rider isn’t critically injured.

She was sentenced on December 7 to 25 days county jail for misdemeanor hit and run property damage and driving on a suspended license charges, plus restitution to the victim.  She surrendered on December 27 to the women’s detention facility in Lynwood.  Her projected release date was January 6 according to the Sheriff’s inmate locator page, but it has not been updated with an actual release date.

Jose Luis Huerta Mundo – 10HM05193 (Newport Beach)

He’s charged in the death of popular OC cyclist Michael Nine, who was killed on a group ride when he collided with a truck driven by Mundo, who was in the country illegally after previously being deported. Mundo allegedly made an illegal turn on a blind corner; Nine was riding downhill at speed and was unable to avoid the truck.

Trial was held in mid November and the jury was hung.  Mundo is being re-tried.  Pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 7 and trial is tentatively scheduled for February 28.

Patrick Roraff – FSB1002475 (San Bernardino)

In another devastating case, rising pro racer Jorge Alvarado was killed shortly after moving from Mexico to the San Bernardino area to join the short-lived Bahati Foundation racing team. He was killed when Roraff was allegedly street racing another car driven by Brett Morin, who is also charged. Along with the fallout from fellow team member Floyd Landis’ doping accusations, Alvarado’s death helped destroy what had been a promising new pro team headed by a local riding hero who gives back to the community he grew up in. If you have the heart to handle it, read the heartbreaking Spanish language comments from those who knew and loved Alvarado.

Pre-Preliminary Hearing is scheduled for March 1 and Preliminary hearing for March 3.  Roraff remains out of custody on bail.

Carlos Bertonatti – F-10-001742  (Miami-Dade County, Florida)

Bertonatti is the Miami pop singer charged with killing cyclist Christophe Le Canne last year in yet another drunken hit-and-run, culminating in a police chase with Le Canne’s bike still lodged under his car. Bertonatti was still on the road despite racking up over 40 moving violations in the past 12 years.

Trial Hearing scheduled for February 22.  http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2010/12/carlos_bertonatti_released_on.php

Dr. Christopher Thompson – B221794 (L.A. Downtown Appellate Court)

The Good Doctor was convicted in the vehicular assault of two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on the 4th of July in 2009. Not surprisingly, he is appealing his conviction.

Attorney General’s responsive brief is due March 1, with no further continuances.  Thompson remains in custody at Wasco State Prison.

In addition to the cases Wheels mentioned here, charges were recently filed against Stephanie Segal in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills, and Patricia Ann Izquieta has pleaded guilty in the “drug addled” death of cyclist Donald Murphy in Newport Beach last year.


Charges finally filed in the death of Jorge Alvarado; revised bike plan released

June 19, 2010

Bahati rider Jorge Alvarado, from the VeloNews forum

Two months after pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado was killed by a street racing teenager, two of the three drivers involved have been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter.

According to the Press-Enterprise, 18-year old high school seniors Brett Morin and Patrick Roraff were racing when Roraff lost control of his car and hit the cyclist.

“Individually, their driving behavior may not have resulted in the tragedy that occurred,” Supervising Deputy District Attorney Vic Stull said Friday, “but combined, it was just almost vehicular Russian roulette — way beyond what anybody would see as reasonable conduct.”

The Contra Costa Times — which lists Morin’s age as 20, rather than 18 — says that Roraff was travelling in excess of 70 mph at the time of the collision.

“You can call it street racing, you can call it negligent driving – what they were doing depends on your point of view,” prosecutor Vic Stull said Friday. “We don’t have to prove they were racing to have a jury find them liable for the death. They were driving very fast, they were driving very dangerously. For us, that’s sufficient.”

A story in the Highland Community News — which describes the events in more detail than you may want — says three cars were involved after the drivers and passengers skipped school to go “hang out.” According to the paper, the events leading to Alvarado’s death began when Morin moved left to keep Roraff from passing, causing the second car to swerve right, lose control and skid across the left shoulder where Alvarado was riding.

The Community News reports that Roraff apologized to the victim’s family, and told investigators:

“I feel so stupid for even doing that, like trying to show off and trying to be – just stupid. I don’t know why I would do that. It’s just like – I wish I could go back and just change everything, but I can’t. I feel so – I just want to say sorry to the family. I can’t believe I took away a life.” Roraff had a promising soccer (sic) and was hoping to go to college on a soccer scholarship.

At the scene, he was reported saying, “There goes my life. There goes my soccer career.”

No reason was given why there were no charges against the third driver, or why prosecutors did not charge the drivers with murder, which the Contra Costa Times suggests the Sheriff’s Department had recommended. However, they note that investigators are still looking into whether others may have contributed to Alvarado’s death in some way.

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KCBS Channel 2/KCAL 9 reports on the bicyclist injured in a collision with a Sheriff’s Department vehicle in the aftermath of the Lakers’ victory Thursday night. Evidently, the rider was going east on 11th at an estimated 11 mph, with the police cruiser headed north on Flower at slow speed when the cyclist hit car and was thrown into air. (Unfortunately, coverage of the collision is merged with the other reports from Downtown; it should be the third story after you push play. Thanks to David for the link.)

The Times indicates the collision occurred at 9:18 pm as the Sheriff’s vehicle was stationary, while L.A. Rider questions whether it was the same cyclist he witnessed riding the wrong way on 9th while talking on a cell phone.

And somehow, this one missed the radar, as L.A. Creek Freak discovers a shrine to a dead father along the L.A. River Bike Path in Cudahy; no mention of whether he was walking or biking, or if it actually occurred on the bike path; there are no news reports that I can find.

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It’s almost summer, and infrastructure seems to be in full bloom.

Eco-Village reports that the rare painted bike lane has taken root on San Pedro Street adjacent to the 105 Freeway in South L.A. LADOT Bike Blog confirms the sighting, as well as confirming that we weren’t hallucinating and there really are new sharrows on Fourth Street.

And as promised, the revised bike plan was released on Friday; I’ve already downloaded my copy. Bikeside’s Alex Thompson notes that the new draft marks a 180° reversal from the much reviled previous draft.

As he wisely points out, we’re under no obligation to accept or support this or any other plan. If LADOT delivers a great new bike plan, we should back it; if not, then we can and should reject it. We should also take full advantage of the comment period make sure we end up with the best possible plan for the streets of L.A.

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In weekend riding news, unfortunately, it’s too late to join in on Streetsblog’s Friday fundraising ride through NELA; though I’m sure Damien wouldn’t mind if you still wanted to send in a few bucks.

Click to enlarge

Saturday marks the long awaited Folk Art Is Everywhere Bike Tour, offering an easy 3.5 mile art ride with several stops at shops and galleries in Echo Park and historic Filipinotown — perfect for beginning or occasional riders, or anyone who just enjoys art and good company.

Sunday, Dorothy Le of the LACBC hosts a Los Angeles Bike Tour through the bridges of L.A.

………

Slovenian rider Jure Robic won this year’s Race Across America on Friday for a record 5th time, covering the course from coast to coast in nine days, 61 minutes.

Robert Gesink holds onto the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Switzerland, with Lance Armstrong in striking distance less than one minute back. Bicycling looks at the real reasons Lance’s new team was snubbed by the Vuelta.

………

Gary reports that Santa Monica has set aside $25,000 for bicycle education, what form it will take is still to be determined; if you’re not familiar with Gary Rides Bikes, check it out for intelligent insights on bicycle issues. Biking cross country on the Yellowstone Trail. Dave Moulton offers his objections to Critical Mass. Yet another radio jock spews a violent anti-bike rant, while cyclists call for his firing; maybe he just wants Lance to appear on his show. Tips on how to trigger a traffic light sensor. A Tucson man removes graffiti by bike. A Baltimore columnist calls for adopting the Idaho stop and says bicyclists to wear helmets and slow down in the door zone. The first London bike share station goes up. The Guardian looks at the Black Hawk bike ban, as well as the joys of night riding — something I rediscovered myself just the other night. An Aussie cyclist plans a ghost bike for his fallen friend, only to discover one already on the site.

Finally, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry as the International Cycling Union (UCI) announces that all bikes used in this year’s Tour de France will be scanned for illegal motors.


Update: Charges coming in street-racing death of Jorge Alvarado

May 21, 2010

Bahati rider Jorge Alvarado, from the VeloNews forum

Following up on last night’s post, Dj Wheels forwards news that charges will be filed against Patrick Roraff, the 18-year old driver accused of killing pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado while street racing near San Bernardino.

According to a story in the Press-Enterprise, San Bernardino County Deputy D.A. Dan Detienne made the announcement at the Temecula Ride of Silence, which tuned into a de facto memorial for Alvarado. The ride was joined by Alvarado’s brother Louis, who rode in honor of Jorge.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone,” he said.

He then turned away from the group and bowed his head over the handlebars of his bike, no longer able to hold back tears.

The story reports that Roraff was driving on the wrong side of the road at over 70 mph when he lost control of his Honda Accord and plowed into Alvardo, who died at the scene.

Cyclists throughout the U.S. and Mexico will be watching closely to ensure that the charges reflect just how tragic, serious and needless this crime was.


A raft of bike-related court cases; L.A.’s revised bike plan MIA.

May 20, 2010

Dj Wheels catches us up on the current of court cases affecting the cycling community — some of which we’ve discussed before, along with a few new ones in the ever expanding list of drivers brought to justice.

Robert Sam Sanchez, charged in the hit-and-run death of Rod Armas in Malibu while allegedly intoxicated, had his Preliminary Setting continued to May 26 at 8:30 am in the Malibu Courthouse.

According to Wheels —

I didn’t see anyone that appeared to be there for the victim’s family, but there were plenty family members there in support of the Defendant. The deputy DA said again that there would either be a disposition on this day (ie. a plea deal entered) or there would be a date selected for a Preliminary Hearing (a mini trial before the judge to determine if there is sufficient evidence to hear the case before a jury).

William Keith Square, arrested in the hit-and-run death of a still-unnamed cyclist in Carson on April 17th, was arraigned three days later and entered a not guilty plea on all counts. A Preliminary Setting was held on May 5th, and Preliminary Hearing scheduled for June 10 at 8:30 am. Notes Wheels, “Funny how when you don’t have private counsel, the process moves a lot faster.”

Angelina Gailine Everett, accused of the hit-and-run that left an injured Ed Magos lying in the street on January 6. Dj Wheels explains —

She initially stopped, but then left the scene without rendering aid or exchanging information with the injured cyclist. The city attorney was not going to file charges at first, but after pressure from the cycling community and a promise from the newly appointed Chief Beck to request that the C.A. take a second look at it, charges were finally filed on April 6. There was an initial arraignment date of May 6, but apparently Everett did not show up. According to my sources, the city attorney might have sent the citation and notice to appear for her arraignment to an old address.  The court’s system still doesn’t have a new arraignment date entered.

Everett is charged with:

1) one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of a collision where there physical injuries to one of the involved parties – CVC 20001

2) one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of a collision where there is property damage – CVC 20002(A)

Naira Margaryan, accused in the death of Gerado Ramos 13 months after he was struck while riding in a Glendale crosswalk.

On September 23, 2008, Margaryan ran over a cyclist at a crosswalk in a residential section of Glendale, after allegedly blowing through a stop sign. Detective Mankarios of the Glendale PD claims the victim cyclist was somehow also at fault in violation of the Cal Vehicle Code by riding his bike on the sidewalk. The case was filed on April 30. There was an initial arraignment date of May 13, and the defendant appeared with private counsel but did not enter her plea. Arraignment was continued to June 2 at 8:30am at the Glendale Courthouse in Dept. 1.

Margaryan is charged with:

1) one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence – PC 192(c)(2)

In a non-bike related case, former state legislator Walter Karabian stands accused of assaulting an unnamed parking attendant during a USC football game last fall. Wheels reports that a pretrial conference was heard on May 13, with another hearing scheduled for June 10 for compliance with discovery requests, as well as a Trial Setting Conference. A jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for July 19.

Yelena Krupen is accused of damaging the property of an unnamed victim in a hit-and-run collision while driving with a suspended license.

On December 3, 2009, Krupen struck a cyclist from behind with her Mercedes on Santa Monica Blvd at Bedford Ave. in Beverly Hills, causing damage to the bicycle. However, Krupen immediately left the scene after backing up off the rear wheel of the bike. Another motorist who witnessed the incident followed the Mercedes for a short distance, wrote down the license plate and returned to the scene with the info, which was later provided to the BHPD. After an investigation by BHPD and some complaints to the BH City Council for what was feared would become a dismissal, charges were filed on March 15, 2010.

Arraignment was held on March 26 and Krupen pleaded not guilty to both counts with the assistance of the Public Defender. A pretrial conference was held on April 23, which was continued to May 20. The defendant was not present but appeared by private counsel. She was ordered to be present at the next hearing.

Krupen is charged with:

1)one misdemeanor count of failing to stop and provide information at the scene of a collision where there is property damage only – CVC 20002(A)

2)one misdemeanor count of driving with suspended/revoked license – CVC 14601.1(A)

And still no word on charges against Patrick Roraff, the 18-year old driver who allegedly killed pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado while street racing near San Bernardino on April 8th.

………

Remember the new bike plan that seemed to be such a big deal last year? Yeah, me neither. LACBC seems to recall that LADOT promised us a revised plan all the way back in February, and — justifiably — takes the city to task for failing to schedule a realistic release date three months later. And oh-so-politely points the finger at the upper echelons of the department.

Seems to me that if the people in charge at LADOT wanted to release a bike plan, it would have happened already. So here’s my polite suggestion. Either get with the program, or get hell out of the way so people who actually give a damn about cycling in this city can get something done.

Otherwise, you may find L.A.’s cycling community gathered on LADOT’s doorstep with a different finger extend.

And this one won’t be pointing.

………

Richie Porte keeps the leader’s jersey in the Giro; Vinokourov starts his comeback by gaining 10 seconds on the leader, leaving him just 9 minutes and 48 seconds behind. Thursday’s Amgen Tour of California was not hijacked by Floyd Landis, despite appearances to the contrary; Michael Rogers — no relation — claims the leader’s jersey despite having the same overall time as Dave Zabriskie.

Landis-accused Lance Armstrong crashes out at the beginning of the stage, while Greg “Everyone is a Doper but Me” LeMond sides with Landis for a change; tune in tomorrow for As the ToC Turns.

Meanwhile, Blog Downtown anticipates big crowds and closures on Saturday.

………

Gary gets a pleasant Bike to Work Day surprise — along with some not so nice surprises. Bike to Work Day is celebrated in Claremont and by the LACBC Downtown, while UCLA offers Bike to School Day. Metro offers free rides to cyclists with helmets, but may have forgotten to tell their drivers. And a little Tweet pressure gets Trader Joe’s to think twice about opening in Bike Week without bike parking.

………

LADOT continues their advice for beginning cyclists. Pasadena tells cyclists to please stay off the sidewalk. A new OC bike shop will offer dial-up roadside service. Hemet police find cyclists at fault in 16 of 18 collisions; yeah, no hint of bias there. A cyclist in Oakland is killed when he gets doored by a driver and forced into a bus. On the heels of the worldwide popularity of the Tweed ride comes the Seersucker Ride; seriously, does anyone look good in seersucker? Dave Moulton notes that most drivers would give a stray dog more than three feet clearance, so why not a cyclist? The obvious answer is most people like dogs. A cyclist confesses to running red lights, carefully. Boulder CO police are looking for the speeding driver of a $110,000 Mercedes SUV who fled the scene after striking a cyclist in a bike lane. The Washington Post says sharing the road is a two-way street. Evidently, there’s a rash of narco-cyclists in Dallas; oddly, they lifted the photo from USC’s Daily Trojan. A Miami rider says a bus driver ran over him on purpose; the driver claims the cyclist intentionally collided with the bus. Truckers call a proposed new law that would require a four foot distance when passing a cyclist — five feet above 49 mph — “insanity.” Korea prepares a new mandatory bike registration plan to deal with the problem of abandoned bikes. Drivers going through bus and bike-only traffic lights are turning a Birmingham UK road into a ring of death.

Finally, this is pretty much the definition of a very lucky bicyclist.


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