Valencia sentenced, BOLO for killer car, arrest in Angeles Crest road rage and 3 feet 2 pass passes

June 28, 2011

Lots of news to catch up on while I take a break from work.

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First up, Marco Antonio Valencia has finally been sentenced in the drunken and high hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny over two years ago. Valencia had an estimated BAC of .23— nearly three times the legal limit — as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the 11 am collision.

The now 22-year old driver will spend the next 26 years to life in state prison.

Unlike some other notable cases, there’s no satisfaction or sense of victory in this case. At least, not for me.

Just an overwhelming sense of sadness that two lives ended that day — Novotny and the man who killed him — because we as a society couldn’t manage to keep a repeat, underage drunk driver off the roads.

And fear of how many more Valencia’s there are out there just waiting to happen.

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Next up, there’s BOLO alert in the hit-and-run death of Alex Romero on the Valley’s Canoga Park Blvd last April.

Authorities have identified the car used to flee the scene after killing Romero in a high-speed collision, and traced it first to Palmdale, then San Pedro before losing track of it. As a result, you’re urged to be on the lookout for the following vehicle —

SUSPECT VEHICLE:

2003 TOYOTA COROLLA 4 DOOR, LIGHT GRY OR SILVER

LIC PLATE: 5FCA061

(REGISTERED TO ADDRESS IN PORTER RANCH)

MISSING RIGHT SIDE MIRROR & FRONT EMBLEM, DAMAGE TO RIGHT PORTION OF WINDSHIELD, AND POSSIBLE FRONT GRILL DAMAGE

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Valley Traffic Detective Krajchir, at (818) 644-8034. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting the word “TIPLA” and the message to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. Tipsters may also go to www.lacrimestoppers.org, click on “Submit a Tip” and follow the prompts.

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An arrest has been made in the case discussed here recently in which a driver was accused of threatening cyclists on Angeles Crest Highway.

According to the Arcadia Patch, Earl Clyde Cox of La Crescenta threatened two separate groups of cyclists along the highway in a road rage incident.

Frighteningly, he reportedly told deputies that the riders weren’t being considerate, so he appointed himself as a driveway vigilante fashion and set out to teach them some manners.

I have a feeling he’s going to learn some the hard way himself.

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There’s good news from Sacramento for a change, as the proposed three-foot passing law passed the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition, the measure passed on an 8 to 5 vote after an hour of impassioned testimony, including support from Bakersfield Senator Michael Rubio, who spoke as a private citizen and cyclist.

Not surprisingly, the AAA — both NorCal and SoCal editions — came out strongly against the bill, suggesting that it be made optional for drivers. So basically, they think their members should have the right to buzz you if the mood strikes.

Meanwhile, a lobbyist for the Teamsters insisted on their members’ right to continue killing cyclists by passing too closely.

Now the bill moves on to the full Assembly, which means it’s time to flood your own representative with letters of support for SB 910.

Let’s end with this quote from CBC Executive Director Dave Snyder —

“…Yesterday’s hearing offered a sobering reminder of how far California still has to go to ensure that everyone who uses the roads can do so safely. It’s disturbing to see AAA and the Teamsters try to defeat a measure that would give drivers – those with the greatest potential to harm others on the road – clear guidance on how to share the road more safely. Drivers who ride bicycles or know someone who does should be deeply concerned about how they’re being represented before lawmakers in Sacramento.”

On second thought, let’s end on this from Cyclelicious, as he urges you to support another bill, SB 582, that could begin to level the playing field for those who prefer to commute via something other than four wheels.

Like a bicycle, for instance.

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There’s been a non-development in Dr. Christopher Thompson’s appeal of his conviction in the Mandeville Canyon Brake Check, in which the Good Doctor tested his stopping power by slamming on the brakes in front of two riders, seriously injuring both.

According to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, the oral arguments scheduled for Wednesday have been cancelled after Thompson’s attorney declined to argue his case.

Evidently, that’s not unusual. And since the appellant chose not to appear, the attorney for the People of California chose not to appear, as well. After all, there’s no point in responding when there’s no one to respond to.

So what’s next?

Brace yourself. According to Wheels,

In the normal course, the case will be “submitted” tomorrow (Wednesday), without oral argument, and the court will have 90 days from that date to file its opinion.  If the conviction is affirmed, appellant will have the opportunity to seek rehearing, if he can identify a very specific error in facts in the Court of Appeal.  He can also, and universally will, file a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, identifying specific issues under specific conditions that would justify a  grant of review in the Cal. Supreme court.  He may also collaterally attack the conviction in the California courts by means of a writ of habeas corpus.  For those federal claims that have been exhausted in state court, he may then file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, which could lead to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court.

In other words, we’ve got a long damn row to hoe before the case involving this particular repellant appellant is finally settled.

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Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday in the case of Gordon Catlett Wray, the driver accused of killing local scientist and cyclist Doug Caldwell and injuring fellow rider Scott Evans; opening arguments will follow either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, depending on what time jury selection concludes. The trial will take place at the San Fernando Courthouse, 900 Third Street in the city of San Fernando, case #0SR05313. Cyclists are urged to attend to show their support for the victims.

Update: I’ve just been informed that the charge against Wray is misdemeanor vehicular homicide; as always, that could be reduced if there’s a settlement.

Thanks to John Stesney for the reminder.

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Outrage from cyclists has had an effect in Mississippi, as a local DA has agreed to reopen the investigation into the hit-and-run driver who ran over a cyclist, got out of her car to look at her, then got back in and ran over her again. The victim was victimized yet again when authorities concluded that her actions weren’t prohibited under Mississippi and there was nothing they could charge her with.

Hopefully, a more thorough scouring of state laws will turn up something this time.

Personally, I vote for attempted murder. Or at the very least, a couple counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

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Finally, thanks to George Wolfberg, and Tim Rutt of Altadenablog, for forwarding the New York Times report on noseless saddles designed to help put a little less pressure on the groins of male riders, and help them get a little more wood out of the saddle.

Not that you have a problem with that, of course.


Valencia sentencing delayed, upcoming events and a little light reading for your holiday weekend

May 28, 2011

Dj Wheels reports that yesterday’s scheduled sentencing for Marco Antonio Valencia in the drunken and stoned hit-and-run death of cyclist Joseph Novotny has been delayed until next month.

The defense has challenged Valencia’s conviction based on a charge of juror misconduct. As a result, the judge has continued sentencing until June 28th, when he will rule on the defense motion: if he denies the motion, sentencing will take place on the spot, if not, there is a possibility of a retrial in the case.

Despite the delay, the judge allowed Novotny’s widow and family to give their victim impact statements for the record. Wheels reports that each one spoke movingly about the deep sadness that resulted from his death, as well as his kind and unselfish nature; Novotny’s mother also offered photos of Joseph to Valencia’s family.

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A blogging caregiver discusses how to keep new drivers safe, reminding parents of something that will resonate with many cyclists:

New drivers must realize that a car is a dangerous weapon and it is critical that they focus on their driving and be cognizant of everything around them.

Most not-so-new drivers could use the same reminder, as well.

Thanks to Stanley Goldich for the heads-up.

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In Giro d’Italia news, the erotically named Eros Capecchi wins Stage 18, while Paolo Tiralongo wins Stage 19 as race leader Alberto Contador declines to contest the finish against his former teammate.

Speaking of Contador, his appeal hearing on doping charges has been delayed, and probably won’t be concluded until after the Tour de France. Which means if he wins yet another victory this year, it could be invalidated afterwards — if he’s even allowed to compete with the cloud hanging over his head.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic says it’s impossible to separate the doping accused Lance from the anti-cancer do-gooder; the Times’ Bill Dwyre is troubled that more people aren’t troubled.

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The holiday weekend is a little quiet on the local bike scene, but a lot of events wait just down the road.

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

San Gabriel Valley riders can meet for a Memorial Day Weekend “What-the-Heck” ride on Sunday, May 29th; meet at Granada Park near Fremont Ave and Montezuma Ave in Alhambra at 9 am, with the ride rolling at 9:30.

Santa Monica hosts Bike It! Day on Wednesday, June 1st, to encourage local students to bike and walk to school.

Saturday, June 4th, the Palms Neighborhood Council and the LAPD’s Pacific Division is sponsoring the 2011 Bike Rodeo from 10 am to 2 pm at Palms Elementary School, 3520 Motor Ave; events include a bike safety course, safety inspection, radar speed test and a bike giveaway, as well as live entertainment and free food.

Folk Art Everywhere explores the historic West Adams District on their next bike tour on Saturday, June 4th; expect an easy, fun and fascinating ride perfect for beginning to moderate cyclists. Meet at Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, at 11 am, with the ride starting at 11:15.

Flying Pigeon hosts their monthly Brewery Ride on Saturday, June 4th from 3 to 5:30 pm, followed by the Spoke(n) Art Ride on Saturday, June 11 and the Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, June 19th. All rides meet at Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, 3714 North Figueroa Street in Highland Park.

Join me, and thousands of other cyclists at L.A.’s favorite fundraiser ride on Sunday, June 5th with the 11th Annual River Rideadvance registration is open through Wednesday the 1st; use special discount code TEDBC11 (case sensitive) to get a $10 discount on online registration courtesy of BikingInLA. Volunteers are still needed, and based on my experience last year, it’s about as much fun as you can have without actually riding; email RRvolunteer@la-bike.org for more info and to sign up.

If you can make it up to Sacramento on Sunday, June 12th, Ride4Matt is sponsoring a charity ride to benefit Matthew Wietrick, who was seriously injured while riding last February. Choose from routes of 10, 35 and 70 miles, with a $7 BBQ lunch after the ride; donations gratefully accepted.

Also on Sunday, June 12th, Flying Pigeon is hosting an evening with Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi, authors of “Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.” It takes place beginning at 7 pm at Flying Pigeon, 3714 North Figueroa Street in Highland Park.

Flying Pigeon Bike Shop will host a fundraising bike ride and party to benefit Streetsblog LA on Friday, June 17th, beginning and ending at Flying Pigeon, 3714 North Figueroa Street in Highland Park; ride meets at 6 pm, with party to follow at 8 pm.

The July 10th CicLAvia has been cancelled, but the October 9th event is a definite go, with an expanded route taking participants another 2.5 miles into Boyle Heights.

Tuesday, August 30th, Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse will host a benefit night for Streetsblog LA; 5% of all food and drink purchases will benefit Streetsblog; 2911 Main Street.

And mark your calendar for the 2011 L.A. edition of the Tour de Fat on October 9th; you’d think someone in the scheduling department would have noticed that the 9th is Yom Kippur this year.

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Austin Nichols meets the Queen Mary in the LACBC’s third River Ride promo. Two-wheeled sight seeing tour company Bike and Hikes LA opens a West Hollywood storefront. A Santa Clara University professor is seriously injured in a classic left cross collision, while the local paper blames the victim. A 75-year old Corning cyclist is killed after riding through a stop sign into oncoming traffic — just two doors from his own home. Another unidentified cyclist is killed in Tulare County — the driver claims he just didn’t see him, but doesn’t explain why he was driving on the shoulder; thanks to Danny Gamboa for the link. San Francisco’s first bike lane celebrates it’s 40th birthday.

As gas prices increase ridership, lawmakers continue to gut bike programs. Good busts popular myths about biking. A Tucson-area cyclist develops a one-ear ear pod that funnels your full iPod output into a single channel. Colorado National Monument celebrates it’s 100th birthday by denying the new USA Pro Cycling Challenge a permit to follow the Tour of the Moon course made famous by the late Coors Classic. Kansas becomes the 14th state to require interlock devices for drunk drivers; something we seem to desperately need here. Chicago talks about protected bike lanes. New York cyclists prepare a class action lawsuit in response to the NYPD’s heavy-handed crackdown. The anti-bike bikelash spreads to Philadelphia; Stanley Goldich reminds us about Bob Mionske’s insightful look at the subject.

Toronto’s new mayor seems to like bike lanes, as long as they don’t get slow down cars. Three years later, British authorities decline to file charges in the death of a 17-year old cyclist; and I thought our justice system was slow. Czech artists develop another DIY bike lane that’s projected in front of you as you ride. Cape Town, South Africa is named one of the world’s 15 most bike-friendly cities; from what I’ve read, the rest of the country has a long way to go. Jakarta cyclists turn out for the official opening of the city’s first bike lane.

Finally, a British rider barely avoids becoming the meat in a bus sandwich. And apparently, my 15 minutes of fame has extended into a blind Bike Snob link; by my calculation, that leaves about 12 minutes and 37 seconds left.


Legal update: DUI driver arraigned for injuring Adam Rybicki, Valencia sentencing today

May 25, 2011

These days, it seems like there are as many court cases involving cyclists than there are riders on the streets.

Fortunately, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels has done his usual great job of keeping us up to date with the latest legal proceedings — including charges against the under-aged, allegedly intoxicated driver who ran down who hit Adam Rybicki head on, and Thursday’s sentencing for Marco Antonio Valencia, convicted in the hit-and-run DUI death of Joseph Novotny.

Editor’s Note: While Dj Wheels provided updates on these cases, any commentary or information beyond the actual status of the cases are mine. So blame me, not him.

Jaclyn Andrea Garcia:  Charges were filed May 19th at the Torrance Courthouse for the DUI collision that critically injured cyclist Adam Rybicki this past April. The Supervising Judge recused all the judges there from hearing the case, with no public explanation for his actions; however, rumor has it that Garcia’s mother is a court reporter in Torrance, which would explain the recusal.

As a result, arraignment was held Tuesday in Department 5 of the Inglewood Courthouse, Case #YA081126. Garcia’s attorney, George Bird, entered a plea of not guilty to all four counts:

1) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
2) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury
3) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
4) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury

Bird also informed the court on the record that his client has voluntarily surrendered her driver’s license, entered into a three-month alcohol program, voluntarily attended 18 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and has begun electronic alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM device made famous by Hollywood’s favorite outlaw.

Too bad it’s just a little too late.

Had Garcia sobered up a few months earlier, Adam Rybicki might not be in a coma right now, the victim of a 20-year old woman still drunk and behind the wheel at 7:15 in the morning.

And you can bet that none of the actions Garcia took in surrendering her license or entering rehab were her idea; it was no doubt ordered by her attorney in an attempt to show remorse and get his client released with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

After all, it’s worked for any number of Hollywood celebrities, whose first stop after hitting the tabloids is usually a stint in luxury rehab.

And by all accounts, Garcia’s high-priced attorney knows what he’s doing. Maybe if Dr. Thompson’s attorney had ordered him straight into rehab, he might be a free man today.

Let’s hope that the court takes this case seriously, and doesn’t let yet another driver buy her way out of taking responsibility.

Speaking of the infamous Good Doctor:

Dr. Christopher Thompson:  The date for oral arguments has been continued upon the court’s own motion in the appeal of Dr. Thompson’s conviction for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon by slamming on his brakes in front of them.  The new date is now 6/29/11.

Marco Antonio ValenciaValenica was convicted last month in the hit-and run DUI death of cyclist Joseph Novotny. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for today (Thursday) at the San Fernando Court; he faces up to 24 year to life in prison.

Shawn Fields:  Fields is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of 17-year old cyclist Danny Marin in Pacoima last October. Fields reportedly told investigators that he thought he might have hit something, because he remembered seeing sparkly dust flying over him — from the windshield shattered by Marin’s body. Pretrial/Trial Setting Conference is scheduled for 6/22.

Patrick Roraff & Brett Morin:  Roraff and Morin are charged with causing the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado in April of last year. The two were allegedly street racing when Roraff lost control and slammed into Alvarado, who was riding on the opposite shoulder. Pretrial conference is scheduled for 7/7.

Stephanie Drew Segal:  Segal is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura last year (notice a theme here?). She allegedly plowed into Laing after leaving a local wine tasting room, and entered into a rehab facility after her arrest. Preliminary setting is scheduled for 6/28; Wheels notes that the docket says the DA has been ordered to have victims present, which is unusual for this type of hearing.

Renato Demartino:  Demartino is charged with the hit-and-run death of 22-year old cyclist Marco Acuapan, who died in April, four months after he was allegedly hit by Demartino’s car while riding in a bike lane in Tustin. A pretrial conference scheduled for 6/1.

Danae Marie Miller:  Miller is charged with the death of world-class triathlete Amine Britel; she was allegedly drunk and texting when she rear-ended Britel, who was riding in a marked bike lane. Pretrial conference scheduled for 7/15.

Captain John David Hines:  Hines, a Long Beach Fire Captain, is accused of plowing into cyclist Jeffrey Gordon, then fleeing the scene, despite legal, and professional, obligations to stop and render aid. He had allegedly been drinking for hours in a local bar before getting behind the wheel, and had a BAC of .24 at the time of his arrest — three times the legal limit. And once again, he reportedly checked into rehab right after his arrest. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/17.

Satnam Singh:  Singh is charged with killing 20-year old college student Nick Haverland in yet another hit-and-run DUI — this time, in a hit-and-run rampage involving three separate collisions in a matter of minutes that left five people injured and Haverland dead. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/14; Singh remains in custody with the Ventura County Sheriff.


Breaking News — Marco Antonio Valencia guilty on all counts in murder of Joseph Novotny

April 27, 2011

According to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, a San Fernando courthouse jury has found Marco Antonio Valencia guilt on all counts in the drunken, hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny.

Valencia now faces 15 to life for a conviction on 2nd degree murder, as well as 24 to life due to special circumstance enhancements on the charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Wheels notes that Valenica’s two priors for driving while intoxicated may lead the judge to impose a stiffer sentence, on the higher end of the sentencing scale.

Sentencing scheduled for Thursday May 26th, at 8:45 am in Department C of the San Fernando courthouse; the D.A. will reportedly contact the other victims as well as Novotny’s family so they can be present for the sentencing.

Evidently, there was no question about guilt, as the jury deliberated for just 1 hour and 20 minutes before reaching a verdict. Novotny’s mother has been following the case and may have been in the courthouse for the reading of the verdict, before being taken to see the route Novotny rode and the scene of the collision by members of the Santa Clarita Velo Club.

Valencia was convicted on five of the original nine charges, after four lesser charges involving two of the other injured cyclists were dropped for unknown reasons.


Possible justice in Jim Swarzman hit-and-run, Zeke’s brother Dave blasts Universal

April 27, 2011

It looks like justice may be coming for Jim Swarzman after all.

Joseph Ricardo Fernandez of Carlsbad has been rearrested and is being held on $100,000 bond pending arraignment on Wednesday. Fernandez was arrested after turning himself in the day after Swarzman was killed in a violent hit-from-behind collision, telling police investigators he thought he might have hit something.

However, he was released from custody just moments before the planned arraignment on April 14th, as prosecutors declined to file charges at that time.

It will be interesting to see just what charges are filed.

Problem is, no matter how severe the penalty ends up being, it can’t undo the past and bring a well-loved man back.

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On a similar subject, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the defense has rested in the murder trial of Marco Antonio Valencia for the drunken hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny, and jury deliberations will start tomorrow.

The question doesn’t seem to be if Valencia will do time for the hit-and-run, but whether he will be convicted of the murder charge, with its possible life sentence. Wheels has noted previously that even if he is acquitted of murder, Valencia still faces up to 20 years in prison.

Yet no amount of jail time will bring Novotny back, either.

.………

Bob Mionske says there has to be some middle ground between felony manslaughter and failure to yield, serious prison time or a slap on the wrist. As usual, he gets it right; definitely worth reading for anyone interested in genuine justice on our streets.

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Maybe you’ll recall that I’ve complained more than once about Universal Studios’s refusal to allow an extension of the L.A. River Bike Path or revitalization of the river through their North Hollywood property.

And that as far as I’m concerned, any plans for expansion should be dead in the water until their attitude changes. Including the silly explanation that they fear failing screenwriters will throw their scripts over the fence if they’re allowed to get that close.

Like they couldn’t just buy a ticket for the studio tour.

So I found it very amusing — and dead on the money — when Dave Yount, brother of North Carolina bike scribe Zeke, sent me the following email:

Hey Ted,

I just stumbled across these drawings for plans for the huge expansion at Universal Studios.  I knew they were trying to block any extension of the LA River path through the studio lot, but I didn’t realize they had offered an alternative bike path through the property.  Check out the drawings here:

http://www.lasubwayblog.com/2010/11/nbc-universal-evolutions-proposed.html

Are you familiar with Universal City Walk?  They have the bike path going up the hill from Lankershim, conveniently buy (pun intended) City Walk, back north across some new road and back down to Barham.  First of all, nobody is going to (and most can’t) ride a bike up that hill.  Secondly, you have to go through all the traffic at City Walk to get to this new road they are building.  Finally, if you are trying to get to the Cahuenga Pass, you then get to climb up Barham after having just pushed your bike up the hill to City Walk.

The nerve of some planning (PR) a$$holes never ceases to amaze me.

Bro Dave

Thanks to Dave for permission to share this. And say hi to Zeke.

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A teenage mountain biker is airlifted to safety after falling off a 50 foot embankment in the Claremont area. Metro will consider removing — or perhaps just studying — the rush hour bike ban on their trains, as well as an Active Transportation Agenda, at Thursday’s board meeting; LACBC says your help is needed. The next BPIT meeting is coming up next week, while the city prepares a package of projects for environmental review; Bikeside accuses L.A. Planning and LADOT of hijacking the process. Raise funds for LACBC while you River Ride and you could win big. Streetsblog offers a handful of opportunities to raise funds and have fun. Thirteen SoCal bike coops gather to trade notes last weekend. Glendale announces plans for next month’s Bike Month. The new Bike Newport is sponsoring a low-stress family fun ride for Sunday, May 15th.

Going carless can put the equivalent of a $4 an hour raise in your pocket, while higher gas prices mean fewer wrecks.  Bicycling asks what’s the best bike for bicycle commuting; how about the one you have? Lovely Bicycle asks if it’s really productive to criticize other cyclists. A reluctant bike commuter takes to the streets of Seattle. Albuquerque opens limited access highways to bikes. Take a baseball bat to a high-end bike, and get two years probation — even if your version of events is termed a fantasy. New York police insist on forcing cyclists to ride in the bike lane, even if it kills them — the cyclists, that is. The Wall Street Journal stops the presses for a little positive news about a New York cyclist.

Great Britain risks fielding a reduced bike team at this year’s Worlds and the 2012 Olympics. After a rough spring spent rehabbing a knee injuring, bike prodigy Taylor Phinney shows why the expectations are so high by finishing 2nd in the time trial prologue for this week’s Tour of Romandie; Jonathan Castroviejo takes 1st. Kate Middleton works for a Boston bike shop.

Finally, even Moscow — the one in Russia, not Idaho — promises to become bike friendly, although 2000 bike parking spaces and 45 kilometers of bikeways doesn’t sound like much in a city of 11 million.


Valencia trial nears conclusion, CA 3-foot law moves forward, NY Post absurdly fans the bikelash flames

April 26, 2011

Dj Wheels reports that the trial has resumed in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with murder and hit-and-run, among other charges, in the death of Joseph Novotny and the serious injury of three other riders.

According to Wheels, the prosecution has rested their case, and the defense is expected to conclude today after calling a single witness.

The defense’s expert witness, Dr. Ari Kalechstein, a neuro-psychologist who has testified in numerous other trials about the effect of intoxication on the brain and the effect on behavior, offered the opinion that Valencia was “unconscious” (either blacked out or passed out) at the time of the collision with the cyclists.

The prosecution’s cross examination has begun and will resume tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 10:30am.  So far, the prosecution is attempting to establish that although someone is “unconscious” (i.e. blacked out) they can still be aware of what they are doing.  Also that despite the expert’s opinion, he can not provide the jury with any indication of what was going on in the mind of Valencia at the time of the collision.

After the defense rests, the judge and attorneys will have to confer about the appropriate jury instructions to read to the jury before closing arguments begin.

Hopefully they get through it all tomorrow so the jury can start deliberating.

The Signal reports on the same testimony, and notes Valencia faces 27 year to life if convicted on the murder charge.

.………

Jim Lyle reports that the news is good for Richard Schlickman, the cyclist injured recently in a fall caused by new speed bumps in Palos Verdes Estates, as he has been moved to a rehab facility and is talking up a storm. Meanwhile, no change in the condition of Adam Rybicki, critically injured in a collision with an alleged drunk, under-aged driver.

.………

California’s proposed three-foot passing law makes it onto the legislative agenda; provisions also include a requirement that drivers pass riders at no more than 15 mph above the speed of the bike, with a fine of $250 for violations. Meanwhile, Kansas cyclists get a shiny new three-foot passing law of their very own; that brings the total up to 17 states with a three-foot law.

And it could soon be illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while you ride.

.………

What kind of a jerk would steal a bike from a teenager with Downs Syndrome? As I’ve said before, there’s a special place in hell…

.………

Now you can round up your credit and debit card purchases, and contribute the difference to the Bikes Belong Foundation to support projects like People for Bikes and Safe Routes to School.

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The bike-hating New York Post once again smears Gotham cyclists, noting that 24% of riders they observed in bike lanes at a busy intersection ran red lights — but fails to note that the overwhelming majority didn’t. According to the paper, fifteen percent rode the wrong way or swerved in and out of bike lanes; yet once again, they neglect to mention that 85% stayed in the lanes and rode with traffic. Or the distinct possibility that cyclists swerved out of bike lanes because they were blocked by the city’s famously double-parking drivers or pedestrians who use the bike lane as an extra sidewalk.

They also get their hackles up over the 81 cyclists out of 7,182 riders — just over 1% — who rode on the sidewalk; something tells me a lot more drivers than that parked in the bike lane. And of course, when they describe an average of four near-collisions an hour, they fail to note who was at fault, absurdly implying that the cyclists were to blame in every case.

In a textbook example of pot calling kettle black an editorial today, the paper says “far too many cyclists are clueless, boors or bullies,” and calls for a continued crackdown on New York cyclists.

You have to admire a publication with such a firm commitment not to let facts or rationality sully their pages.

Meanwhile, some New York cyclists consider the city’s separated bike lanes “deathtraps;” however, the Wall Street Journal notes that the number of riders killed in them totals exactly zero.

And much-maligned NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joins the board of Occidental College; could this be a first step in coming back home to Los Angeles?

Pretty please?

.………

Will Campbell shares a photo of the ghost bike for shooting victim Manuel Santizo. LACBC wants your support for bike lanes on the soon-to-be-widened North Spring Street Bridge. LAPD bike cops could soon be zipping around on e-bikes. Streetsblog notes that removing Brentwood and the Westwood condo corridor reduces the effectiveness of the planned Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lane by 40% — not to mention putting cyclists, who would share those lanes, at continued risk in some of the most dangerous sections of the boulevard. HuffPo offers a biking route from Echo Park to Venice Beach. Gather some friends together make your own Santa Monica CicLAvia. Help take CicLAvia to South L.A. Dancer ala Mode says her new career as a bike advocate began when someone stole her bike. Next time you need your Penny Farthing fixed, Flying Pigeon can handle the job.

Rick Risemberg visits the new separated bike lanes in Long Beach; Mihai and Gary Kavanagh seem impressed as well. A Monrovia High student nears a perfect season in the SoCal high school mountain bike league. Great bike photos from the Claremont Day of Champions. Bicycling’s ride of the day is our own Mt. Baldy. Long Beach’s biking expats Russ Roca and Laura Crawford are the proud owners of Bike Radar’s website of the week. A 17-year old OC cyclist riding on the 405 Freeway gets a good talking to from the police. A San Diego cyclist suffers a life-threatening injury after being doored by a driver getting out of her parked car.

A comprehensive beginners guide to bicycling. How bike economics can help beat the energy crisis. Wired looks at the culture of bike messengers. Complete Streets means the freedom to get around the way you want. A bike hating Tucson driver considers switching sides. Former president George W. Bush rides with the Wounded Warrior Project. Illinois police will now track dooring incidents, after originally saying they couldn’t. Minnesota reminds drivers to share the road after the state suffers its first cycling fatality of the year. A new campaign identifies bike-friendly businesses in New York; something tells me the Post won’t be one of them. Mo Rocca says when the U.S. becomes a third world country, we’ll all be riding bikes; hey, works for me.

Male drivers are twice as likely to have distracted-driving collisions as women. A London cabbie starts a campaign against high-intensity headlights, saying they put cyclists and others at risk by blinding drivers. An 81-year old UK man is killed in a collision with a cyclist. BoJo will be giving Will and Kate a tandem for a wedding present. Pharma Lotto rider Phillipe Gilbert wins three classics in a single week, though some question if the Schleck brothers handed the last one to him. Tel Aviv is the latest city to suffer a bikelash over bike lanes. South Jakarta gets its first bike lanes, though it looks more like motorcycle parking in the photos.

Finally, New York state police pepper spray a drunk cyclist. And a member of New York’s Transportation Alternatives board of directors says cyclists need to show we’ll use bike lanes responsibly; if drivers were held to that standard, no new roads would ever be built.


The sad stats behind this year’s rash of Southern California bike deaths

April 21, 2011

I’ve started a database to track information about biking fatalities throughout the Southern California area.

It’s not just morbid curiosity.

I’ve gotten tired of people blaming cyclists for the unacceptably high rate of riding deaths, and wanted to be able to respond to baseless accusations with actual, factual statistics. And I want to be able to offer more than just anecdotes when arguing for better bike safety measures before various state and local bodies.

So far, it’s complete for this year only, from January 1st to date. As time allows, I plan to go back through my files and include every riding fatality I can find for the last few years.

If you know of a bike rider who was killed in Southern California — which for the purpose of this exercise I’m defining as anywhere between Santa Maria south to the Mexican border — prior to this year, feel free to send me the information or a link to the news story to ensure I don’t miss it.

I’ve been debating whether to share that information, though. In some ways, I think there’s too much focus here on the tragedies on our streets, especially this year with the rash of riding deaths we’ve seen. Lord knows, I’d much rather discuss happier topics.

However, I believe very strongly that that every fallen rider should be remembered. And that nothing will change if we don’t call attention to it — because no one else is likely to if we don’t.

However, that decision was made for me when Steve Vance, author of Steve Can Plan — one of the nation’s leading biking and transportation planning blogs — asked for more information following last night’s tragic death of Alex Romero.

And as long as I shared the information with him, I might as well share it with you.*

• Wednesday’s tragic hit-and-run death of Alex Romero was the 24th fatality of a cyclist in Southern California this year; 22 in traffic incidents or riding accidents and two by shootings while riding.

• Of those killed in traffic, 11 were the fault of the driver, the cyclist was at fault in nine, and two were undtermined; in two of the 11 collisions where the driver was at fault, poor street design may have been a contributing cause.

• Two cyclists died in solo collisions; one additional rider lost control and fell in front of an oncoming car.

• Two cyclists were killed by trains while crossing railroad tracks.

• Three were killed while riding on the sidewalk.

• Two died while riding without lights after dark, one was riding on wrong side of street.

• Despite common accusations against cyclists, none died as a result of running stop signs or red lights.

•Four of the deaths were hit-and-runs.

•At least five involved drugs and/or alcohol — four drivers, 1 cyclist — though we can safely assume that some of the hit-and-runs were likely committed under the influence, as well.

• Location, by county (includes shootings):

  • Los Angeles – 8
  • Orange County – 4
  • San Diego – 7
  • Ventura – 1
  • Santa Barbara – 2
  • Riverside – 2

• The current rate projects to 83 cyclists dying on the streets of Southern California in 2011, compared to an average of 100 deaths throughout the state each year.

* A quick note about necessary biases in my methodology. This database contains all the fatal cycling incidents of which I am aware; any incidents which failed to make the news or which I did not learn about by other means cannot be included here. In assigning fault, I accepted the determination of the investigating authorities where available, even when that was questionable; where no official determination was available, I made my own determination based on the information on hand. In the event of a hit-and-run, I assigned blame to the driver in the absence of any conflicting information.

.………

Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the trial of Marco Antonio Valencia is on hold until next week, and could conclude as early on Monday. He speculates that the defense attorney is building an argument that Valencia was too intoxicated to appreciate the danger he posed behind the wheel, negating the required intent for conviction under the murder charge for the hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny

However, even if the defense is successful in convincing the jury that Valencia was too wasted to know what the hell he was doing — or more accurately, the risk that he posed — his client still faces as much as 20 years on the other charges and numerous probation violations.

.………

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride on Sunday in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride — Jim’s favorite with the club — will start at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge; it will be a challenging 40 mile ride, with over 2,000 feet of climbing.

And yes, it is open to everyone.

Speaking of Swarzman, plans are in the works to improve road safety on Hwy 101 where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver; unfortunately, it comes a little too late.

And the LACBC reports receiving over $2500 in donations made in Swarzman’s name following the request of his family and his fiancé Nicole Honda’s request that donations be made to the LACBC in lieu of flowers. Honda also asked that anyone touched by Swarzman’s story get involved by joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

Donations can be made by PayPal or sent directly to the LACBC; indicate that it is for the Swarzman fund when you make your donation. You can make a difference on our streets by joining the LACBC, or giving a gift of membership to a friend or loved one, by clicking here.

.………

The bike rider who was bumped by a car, then fatally shot by a passenger in an apparent gang killing on Sunday, has been identified as 28-year old Manuel Santizo. According to KCBS-2, no arrests have been made.

Writing on the Midnight Ridazz forum, Aktive reports that Santizo was a hard-working man who gave most of the money from his job at Jack in the Box to his parents, and to the mother of his four-year old son. A ghost bike will be installed at the scene on Friday, while a car wash will be held on Saturday to benefit his family. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

.………

Best wishes to Eric B, who’s sporting a new sling and a broken collarbone after becoming collateral damage in a bike racing collision last weekend.


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