An open letter to L.A. Mayor — and three-foot law supporter — Antonio Villaraigosa

October 24, 2012

Last week, I asked you to write L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to urge him to try one more time to get a three-foot passing law through the state legislature and onto the desk of our seemingly bike-hating governor.

Today I’m sharing my own letter to the mayor.

………

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

No one blames you for the failure of SB 1464, the three-foot passing law recently vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

In fact, I’m told that, not only were you the driving force behind the introduction of the bill, you were also fighting for it right up to the moment of the governor’s ill-advised veto, urging him to sign the bill and protect the safety of the state’s bike riders.

Yet inexplicably, the governor failed to listen to you, and rejected both the bill and your advice, for reasons that don’t even begin to pass the smell test.

Worse, it’s the second time he’s rejected a three-foot passing law, making Brown one of just two governors in the country to veto a safe passing bill — and the only one to do it twice. This despite promising outgoing State Senator Alan Lowenthal that he would sign it this time.

Which is why Jerry Browned has become the new term for a cyclist getting passed in a dangerous manner.

But everything I’ve heard says that you did everything to could.

I, on the other hand, didn’t.

I actually believed Brown when he claimed he cared about the safety of cyclists and would sign the bill this time around. I also accepted the assurances of those involved in the process that we could count on him this time.

No, really.

There were also things I didn’t like about this bill. Like the fact that the three-foot limit wouldn’t apply to bicyclists riding in a bike lane. And exemptions that allowed drivers too much discretion in passing at less than three feet, making the bill difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

As a result, I didn’t fight for it. Even though codifying the three-foot limit, and legalizing the already common practice of briefly crossing the center line — the reason our auto-centric governor gave for the veto — should have been more than enough to overcome any reservations I might have had.

I won’t make that mistake again.

So I’m going to ask you to go to the mat one more time. Let’s find another sponsor for the bill, and use your considerable influence to get a three-foot passing law through the legislature once again.

And not one that’s been watered down to satisfy a governor who’s already shown he cares more about political expediency than he does the lives and safety of the people he’s been elected to protect. But rather, the strongest possible bill we can pass to protect cyclists as they ride the streets and highways of the Golden State.

I promise not to take it for granted this time. I’ll fight for it every bit as hard as you do, and use whatever influence I have with the cycling community to get it through the legislature.

Maybe redistricting and the new top-two electoral process will mean we can pass a bill with a veto-proof margin this time. If not, we’ll ensure that our governor truly understands how important this law is to California cyclists — and that it’s in his best interest, as well as ours, to sign it this time.

You’ve already done more than your share.

Now I’m asking you to take the lead one more time, and lay yet another bill to protect bicyclists on the governor’s desk. Except this time, I’ll be right there with you, along with countless other riders, to insist that he sign it.

Because our lives could depend on it.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
bikinginla.com

………

If you haven’t contacted the mayor yet, please take a moment to email Mayor Villaraigosa at mayor@lacity.org, or call his office at 213/978-0600 or 213/978-0721 to urge him to try one more time to pass a three-foot passing law — and get the governor to sign it this time.

And join me in pledging to support his efforts this time around.

Whatever it takes.


Hell freezes over, as LA is now officially bike-friendly; let’s go for three on the 3-foot passing law

October 19, 2012

By now, you’ve probably heard what the press conference I cryptically hinted at yesterday was all about.

Not that I didn’t want to tell you.

But when someone swears me to secrecy, I tend to take that seriously.

Especially when the League of American Bicyclists releases their latest list of Bike Friendly Communities. And Los Angeles, shockingly, is on it.

No, seriously.

Councilmember Ed Reyes makes the announcement flanked by members of the L.A. cycling community.

In an announcement that few of us thought we’d ever hear, the bike league named the formerly bike-unfriendly City of Los Angeles one of the nation’s best places to ride a bike.

And the oddest thing is, for once, we actually deserve it.

This award would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. When I started this blog a little over four years ago, which was my introduction to bike advocacy, Los Angeles was a very bike unfriendly city.

There were no sharrows, few bikeways connected to one another, and the only major bike lane built in recent years unceremoniously dumped riders off with no warning in the middle of high-speed Century City traffic, just a few blocks from even more bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. And we had no voice whatsoever in City Hall or LADOT.

If we can point to any moment when that changed, it’s when a careless cab driver cut off the mayor of this city, leading to a broken arm and his Road to Damascus moment when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saw the light and became a convert to the cause of safe bicycling in the City of Angels.

Although, to be fair, there were hints of a change in attitude when he publicly mentioned the word “bicycle” for the first time following a trip to Copenhagen a few months earlier, to the shock of just about everyone.

However, that ignores the work of long-time bike advocates like Joe Linton and Stephen Box, just to name a few, as well as the roll of the recently dormant Bikeside and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in demanding a better bike plan and a safer riding environment.

Then there’s the work of a revitalized LACBC fighting for justice and better support for L.A. cyclists in City Hall on an almost daily basis.

Not to mention the friendly ear provided by City Council members such as Bill Rosendahl, Eric Garcetti, and Ed Reyes, just to name a few, and the support of LAPD Chief Beck in turning one of the most bike-unfriendly police departments into one of the nation’s most responsive to the needs of bike riders.

Admit it. You never thought you’d see this.

The two Bike Summits helped galvanize bicyclists — as did the Mayor’s own Bike Summit — while CicLAvia showed us for the first time what the city could be. And L.A. Streetsblog deserves a lot of credit for shining a light on bicycling and other transportation issues, both good and bad.

Let’s also not forget Wolfpack Hustle’s brilliant victory over a Jet Blue airliner. And all the Ridazz and riders who risk the streets to carve out a place for bikes on the city’s too often unforgiving streets.

This award is yours. And you’ve earned it.

One other note.

For years, LADOT and Senior Project Coordinator Michelle Mowery have been the ones local cyclists loved to hate — Mowery especially suffered heaps of blame as the highest ranking bicycling official in the city.

But I long wondered what she could do with the actual support of city leaders, and without the roadblocks posed by senior auto-centric engineers more concerned with maintaining automotive throughput than making the streets safe for everyone.

I think the rapid changes of last few years — and this award — have given us an answer.

And reason to give her our thanks.

That’s not to say our city has suddenly turned into a bicycle paradise. Amsterdam, we’re not.

The bronze award is the lowest level the LAB bestows. It signifies the city has made significant progress, but we still have a very long way to go.

And as the L.A. Weekly pointed out, it’s hard to say the city is truly bike friendly when a full one-third of all bicycling collisions are hit-and-runs.

Then again, as the bike league’s Andy Clarke reminded me at Thursday’s press conference, I was one of the angry cyclists who demanded the LAB rescind their recognition of Santa Monica as a bike-friendly city when it was first awarded back in 2009.

And look how that turned out.

Santa Monica took that modest award, and used it as a springboard to challenge Long Beach as the most bike-friendly community in Southern California.

Maybe we’ll look back on this as the day L.A. took it’s first big step towards becoming the great city it should be. One that works for everyone who uses its streets, rather than bequeathing de facto dominance to the ones with motors.

And truly earns, not just this award, but the silver, gold and platinum levels that could come if we continue to demand and work for them.

………

In an even more surprising award, the LAB named Orange County — yes, the entire county — a Bike Friendly Community as well. And like L.A., at the bronze level.

Something I’m sure a lot of OC cyclists may take as much issue with as I did Santa Monica’s a few years back, given the county’s unacceptably high level of cycling fatalities.

But maybe like SaMo — and hopefully, L.A. — this will spur them to actually do something about it.

And congratulations to already bike friendly Claremont on its promotion to the silver level.

………

The L.A. Times has picked up a story from a Sacramento paper about how Jerry Browned has become the new term for cyclists getting passed dangerously close, in honor of our governor’s two-time veto of the state’s proposed three-foot passing law.

And they have the infinite good taste to not only quote me on the subject, but to embed my video of getting Jerry Browned by a Hollywood tour bus.

Not that they seem to realize the same devilishly handsome and wickedly charming cyclist was responsible for both.

But there’s still that problem of a two-time veto by our two-time governor. And what the hell we’re going to do about it.

That was something that came up in conversation with other riders at Thursday’s press conference. And led to a commitment to try one more time.

If for no other reason than we should refuse to give up on something so important to our safety, regardless of what any pen-wielding curmudgeon may have to say on the subject.

Maybe this time we can demonstrate our real clout, and make it clear it’s in Governor Brown’s best interest to sign it this time, if he wants to be in a position to sign anything next term. Or maybe with the new redistricting and electoral reforms, we can get a veto-proof margin in the legislature to ensure his signature is nothing more than a formality.

The problem is, we’ve lost one of the bill’s two champions.

Senator Alan Lowenthal, who shepherded both bills through the legislature, is termed out of office, and now running for Congress in the 47th District. We could do a lot worse than electing a proven bike-friendly leader to the federal government.

That leaves the bill’s other big supporter — our own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Chances are, he’s licking his wounds after achieving apparent victory on two separate occasions, only to have it snatched away by our non-friend in Sacramento. Or at least, I would be if I was in his wingtips.

We need to encourage him to give it one more try.

That’s why I’m asking you to contact the mayor’s office by phone or email. Or Twitter, for that matter.

And urge him not to give up on us.

Ask him to use his clout as mayor of the state’s largest city, and his connections in the legislature, to pass a three-foot passing law one more time.

Then it will be on all of us to make sure we don’t get Jerry Browned again.


I miss CicLAvia, but it doesn’t miss me; L.A. gets a new bike share program courtesy of Bike Nation USA

April 16, 2012

Did you miss me?

I didn’t think so.

Yesterday marked L.A.’s fourth CicLAvia. And the first one I’ve missed, thanks to a combination of family obligations and a lingering cold that has me feeling just this side of six feet under the weather.

And yet, it didn’t seem to matter.

Countless L.A. area cyclists turned out anyway, on a day that, by all accounts, exceeded the already high expectations of virtually everyone in attendance.

And that’s the point.

In previous years, it seemed like we all had to turn out every time to guarantee the day’s success, and help ensure that the next CicLAvia wouldn’t be the last CicLAvia.

Now I think we’re well past that point. The overwhelming success of each event — even if they oddly seem to draw the same number of participants each time (see below) — has already made it an L.A. institution, which will continue as long as the city and its residents and visitors continue to fund it.

And one that will continue to grow and expand into new areas, whether you’re there, I’m there or anyone else does or doesn’t go this time or the next.

And that’s a good thing.

It’s a sign of a strong, healthy and successful event that has quickly become part of the fabric of our city.

I may have missed this CicLAvia. But I won’t miss the next one.

And we call all expect many more opportunities to attend as it continues to transform the image and livability of this city we call home.

………

The Claremont Cyclist captures the spirit of CicLAvia in a single photo. CicLAvia itself offers just a few more photos of the day, while Bicycle Fixation’s Richard Risemberg provides video of the day. Los Angeles CM offers a great photo collection, as does USC’s Neon Tommy. And even on a car-free day, you can expect traffic jams, although Gary says he noticed — and stopped for — even more by taking it in on foot rather than bike.

According to the Times, CicLAvia organizers estimate that 100,000 people turned out for this edition. Just like the one before, and the one before that, and the one before that. Evidently, 100,000 is shorthand for “a lot of people showed up, but we don’t really have any way to count how many.” Of course, it might have been even more if Metrolink hadn’t turned some riders away, but the paper reports a good time was had by all, anyway.

And future CicLAvias could run from North Hollywood to Glendale and Burbank. However, Texas may get the jump on us by making Ciclovia de Dallas permanent.

The Design Observer Group offers a good overview of CicLAvia and its history.

……..

You may have heard that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unexpectedly announced Sunday that the city will get a bike share program in the fourth quarter of this year.

Managed by Bike Nation USA, the program will eventually be the second largest in the country, behind only the coming system in New York, with 400 kiosks and 4000 bikes scattered throughout the city. This will be just their second bike share program, after a 200 bike system expected to open in Anaheim this June.

On the surface, it sounds great. Bike Nation is picking up the full $16 million cost, with no city funds at risk.

But clearly, there’s still a lot of details to be worked out.

Or revealed, anyway.

One of which is whether this system will be compatible with bike share systems currently under consideration in L.A. County, Long Beach and Santa Monica, just to name a few.

As the region’s 800 pound gorilla, L.A. could influence the development of those programs, encouraging them to select the Bike Nation system to create one unified bike share reaching into every corner of the county.

Or they could ignore L.A.’s lead and develop their own bike share system, resulting in an incompatible mishmash that could limit the success and viability of bike share in the region.

Time, and more details, will tell.

Speaking of details, I have an unconfirmed report that Bike Nation is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG — the people behind the L.A. Kings and Galaxy, Staples Center, LA Live and Downtown’s proposed Farmers Field football stadium. However, I can’t find any information about ownership on Bike Nation’s website, or about Bike Nation on the AEG website.

Update: Tom reminds me that AEG also owns the Tour of California, even if Amgen gets title sponsorship.

Update: I’ve received word that Bike Nation is actually owned by First Pacific Holdings, not AEG.

I’m also told that the contract was handed out without a competitive bid.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against AEG; if they really are involved in this, it bodes well for the ultimate success of the program. They have a track record of success in our city, and billions of dollars to back whatever programs they commit to.

On the other hand, I think we’d all be more comfortable with a more open selection process that aired the plusses and minuses of the various interested parties to allow the people of this city, rather than just the mayor’s office, to make a fully informed decision.

I know I would, anyway.

……..

Just in time for the city’s big bike weekend, the Sunday L.A. Times included a copy of the Red Bulletin, a monthly magazine insert with a great feature on Don Ward, aka Roadblock, and the Jet Blue-vanquishing Wolfpack Hustle.

Great, that is, except for the story’s over-the-top framing device.

To ride a bike in the City of Angels might just be the riskiest proposition on two wheels anywhere in the world. But the ringleader of a growing legion of fearless Angelenos is riding to change all of that.

Clearly, the writer hasn’t spent much time riding in our fair city.

Or most likely, any.

While L.A. may not be the cycling paradise it should be, riding our streets is far from the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike. In fact, the City of Los Angeles isn’t even the most dangerous place to ride in Southern California.

And while the city’s current biking infrastructure, or the lack thereof, doesn’t exactly encourage timid riders to take to the road, those who do usually find a far safer and more enjoyable riding environment than outsiders and non-cyclists would expect.

Yes, there are jerks who use their cars to enforce their self-appointed position on the transportation food chain, just as there are in every city and town where cyclists and motorists mix on the streets. And yes, we have more than our share of careless and/or distracted drivers.

But in most cases, it only takes a modicum of care to arrive safely at your destination by bike — and in a far better mood than most other means of getting there.

It’s long past time we put this offensively anti-L.A. and anti-bike myth to bed.

………

Bicycle Kitchen needs your help to buy a new home. Evidently, you can live in L.A. without a car. Is it really a pipe dream that people will walk, bike or take transit to a new Downtown football stadium? Palos Verdes will see a benefit ride for Habitat for Humanity later this month. An Orange County couple rides 45 miles on a tandem to their own wedding. Enjoy a VIP finish on the Big Bear stage of the Amgen Tour of California. A San Francisco rider tries to cut through the anger to present a realistic look at Chris Bucchere, the cyclist who recently killed a pedestrian who was walking in a crosswalk  — even though his GPS shows him going 35 mph at the time of the crash; thanks to Eric Weinstein for the tip.

Women drivers are more likely to mistake the gas pedal for the brakes, even though men are more likely to get into crashes. Chicago cyclists form a chapter of Red Bike and Blue to promote bike riding in the African American community; sounds like something we could use here in L.A. Normal teens in Normal IL organize a bike train to Normal Community High. How to fight a ticket for not riding close enough to the curb. A collision with her husband’s bike puts a 9-month pregnant woman at death’s door and on a long, difficult path to recovery. The good news is, the bike racks are overflowing; the bad news is, the bike racks are overflowing. A fascinating Baltimore study shows drivers violate Maryland’s three-foot passing law nearly 25% of the time — except when the rider is in a bike lane. The Washington Post says if you want more cyclists, build more bike lanes. Dave Moulton suggests that good cycling habits need to be ingrained. A year later, an arrest is finally made in a deadly South Carolina hit-and-run; thanks to Zeke for the heads-up. Huntsville AL police have ticketed just 11 cyclists in the past four years.

London cyclists plan to have an impact on the city’s upcoming mayoral election. Clearly, the Times of London gets it, as they correctly expose seven cycling myths. And clearly the Daily Mail doesn’t, as they say only a £10,000 bike will do for the country’s MAMILs, while the Telegraph would settle for a £8,250 Pinarello Dogma. Nine out of 10 UK riders report close calls with drivers who didn’t see them; and when they get hit, the driver gets a slap on the wrist. Eddy Merckx, perhaps the greatest bike racer of all time, says it’s time to stop attacking cyclists for doping. For the second time in the last few weeks, a top pro cyclist is hit by a car, this time in near Zurich. A Zambia writer calls for flogging, not ticketing, speeding drivers, while a bicyclist is charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Taipei commuters take to their bikes.

Finally, a bike ad is banned for being too overtly sexual. Meanwhile, a Dutch PSA campaign apologizes for speeding just a little. And even Barbie thinks you should signal.


The link love is back — Villaraigosa’s failing bikeway promise, Roadblock joins the bloggerati

January 21, 2012

Leading L.A. bike advocate and Creak Freak Joe Linton offers another of his exceptional bike wonk efforts, digging deep into the mayor’s promise to build 40 miles of bikeways each year.

And not surprisingly, finding it lacking.

Linton points out that between what’s already installed and what’s projected to be installed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, the city will end up over 23% short of the mayor’s promise, at 31.04 miles.

And that includes eight miles of sharrows, which we all seem to appreciate, but which most would hardly consider fulfillment of the mayor’s promise.

After all, sharrows are easy to put down almost anywhere. But unlike bike lanes, they don’t grant us one inch of pavement we weren’t entitled to before. Or get us out of the traffic lane, where our safety depends on the willingness of drivers to observe the law. Let alone pay attention.

Which isn’t something you really want to count on.

Still, Joe holds out hope that L.A. will live up to its promise. And offers a list of low hanging fruit that could be installed quickly and easily.

Are you listening Mayor?

……..

Speaking of our soon-to-be outgoing mayor, Streetsblog is keeping an eye on L.A.’s 2013 mayoral candidates.

I particularly like cyclist, businessman and former First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner’s comment that 35 years is too long to build out the city’s bike plan.

“We want a bike-friendly city. What does the City deliver? A 35-year plan.  It took Tolstoy one year to write “War and Peace,” four years for physicists to assemble an atom bomb, eight years to answer JFK’s call to land a man on the moon, and it took Dick Riordan three months to fix the 10 freeway after the Northridge earthquake. Why is it going to take 35 years to make us bike-friendly?

Why indeed?

A motivated mayor could easily build out the entire plan before he or she is termed out, even if we tossed in a few cycle tracks, bike boxes and other assorted infrastructure still considered experimental under current Caltrans guidelines.

As NYDOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said, it’s just paint.

……..

In a very pleasant surprise, one of the leaders of L.A.’s cycling community joins the bloggerati, as Roadblock begins a bi-weekly column for the excellent KCET’s Departures series; it’s worth the click just for the breathtaking photos.

They also offer a first-hand report on Flying Pigeon’s ever popular Get Sum Dim Sum ride.

……..

The long awaited Main Street road diet in Venice is now underway. Richard Risemberg reminds the Tea Partiers among us that bikes aren’t socialistic, but highways are. The LACBC tours bike-friendly Long Beach with County Supervisor and presumed L.A. mayoral candidate Zev Yaroslovsky. LADOT offers an update on the latest BPIT meeting, while Street Services take a patchwork approach to preserving sharrows. Better Bike offers advice on how to put a dent in Beverly Hills bike theft. The Weekly looks at the Fresh Food Bike grocery delivery mentioned here awhile back. USC releases a draft plan for dealing with bike safety on campus; all options seem to include at least a partial bike ban or dismount zone. Will Campbell discovers a new bike/ped path in Burbank. South Pasadena is looking for advisory committee members for a remake of Monterey Road, including possible bike lanes. A must read, as KCRW’s Shortcut’s blog asks if the auto industry will ever give a crap about safety; the proliferation of texting and Facebook enabled dashboards suggests otherwise.

California has updated it’s overly conservative guide to what traffic signals, signage and markings are allowed on our streets; wayfinding and Bikes May Use Full Lane signs are now allowed, NACTO not so much. Riverside’s mayor calls for fighting obesity with more bike lanes. Redlands cyclists set out to form the desperately needed Inland Empire Bicycle Alliance; if you’re in San Bernardino County, you should definitely look these guys up. A look at the recent High Desert Cyclocross. Buellton approves a close-circuit bike race for March 31st; yes, that’s what they call it. Santa Barbara’s Wheel House Dutch-style bike shop will go out of business at the end of the month after a steep rent increase; don’t get me started on greedy landlords, especially in this economy.

People for Bikes is now up to nearly 500,000 supporters; as I recall, I signed up about 490,000 ago. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske says “I didn’t see the cyclist” — or as the Queen’s loyal subjects put it, “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” aka SMIDSY — is a confession of guilt; something I’ve been saying for years. Good offers a beginners guide to Cycle Chic. There seems to be little love for Seattle’s so-called Mayor McSchwinn. Albuquerque decides to ban bikes from an industrial area rather than require truckers to drive safely; a local bike blog quite correctly calls them on it. A Madison WI cyclist offers a mittened response to angry drivers on snowy days, and not the one you might think. St. Louis could soon require bike parking along with new car parking lots. New York vehicle crashes disproportionately affect children in poor neighborhoods. More Miami mayhem as a Brazilian race car driver plows into a man loading his bike onto a car, allegedly after a night of drinking and cocaine use. A long time vehicular cyclist feels uniquely qualified to debunk the practice.

A writer for London’s Guardian considers his double life as a slow cycling Dutch-style commuter and a Lycra-clad speedster; meanwhile, the paper offers advice on how to start cycling to work. While we’re on the subject of Fleet Street, a writer for the conservative London Mail says he wishes cars had never been invented after getting hit by one while riding to church. UK businesses offer to pitch in with money, materials and equipment to cut the cost of a much-needed bike path. Britain’s Parliament considers a new law to criminalize dangerous cycling that results in death — of others, that is; causing your own death by riding recklessly will remain perfectly legal. Bicycle registration is not the answer for bad behavior, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. A witness claims that bike-hating Aussie cricketer Shane Warne deliberately hit a cyclist he blamed for attacking his car; thanks to cyclist and attorney David Huntsman for the tip. Horrifying story of an Australian sex offender who deliberately ran down and crippled a female cyclist in a failed attempt at abduction; there is not a hole in hell deep enough for someone like that.

Finally, a reminder to check the background of your photos before you post them online, even if it does feature a famous cyclist. And a great Monty Python-esque response to the question what have the cyclists ever done for us?

And thanks to Margrét Helgadóttir and D. D. Syrdal for reminding me that it’s possible to ride past angry drivers as calmly as I’ve passed other dangerous beasts over the years.


Manny Ramirez defense leads to acquittal for Gordon Wray; The Times’ Hector Tobar likes bikes

July 8, 2011

Evidently, killing a cyclist because you can’t see is nothing more than an accident.

Just say the sun got in your eyes, and walk away.

That’s what happened today, as Gordon Wray was acquitted on a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of Doug Caldwell.

A jury of his peers — though not necessarily the victim’s, since cyclists are usually excluded from bike case juries — took little more than an hour to agree that the prosecution’s case failed to meet the necessary burden of proof.

Never mind that most rational people would agree that the sudden, violent death of another human being should amount to more than just “oops.”

However, Wray’s attorney astutely played the Manny Ramirez defense, claiming the sun was in his client’s eyes at the time of the collision. And rather than pull over until he could see, proceeded to slam into two other people who had the misfortune of sharing the road with him.

At least when Manny used the excuse, he only lost the ball and allowed a few runs to score.

The crux of this case was CVC 22350, which reads:

No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

Unfortunately, as cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels points out, the problem for the prosecution was determining just what speed was reasonable under the circumstances. They were forced to argue that if Wray was truly blinded by the sun, he should have slowed down to a speed that allowed him to see the two riders, even if that meant coming to a full stop.

The defense countered that Wray understood the risk posed by the sun shining in his eyes, and slowed down to 35 mph in a 50 mph zone as a result.

Except that still wasn’t good enough. And a well-loved man died as a result, while another suffered road rash so severe that he required plastic surgery to repair the damage.

Yet the jury’s reaction was to be expected.

Virtually every driver has found him or herself in that same position at least once. And when they put themselves in Wray’s position, they had to ask what they would have done under the same circumstances.

Which, given the verdict, should serve as a frightening warning to everyone else on the road.

If you want to look on the bright side, it was a victory for cyclists that this trial ever came to court. The case was never strong, and it shows just how seriously authorities took it that charges were ever filed in the first place.

But my heart breaks for Caldwell’s family, who had to watch the man responsible for his death walk away, knowing he’ll never be held accountable in criminal court.

Maybe they’ll have better luck in civil court, where the burden of proof is lower.

Although this acquittal won’t help.

……..

Better news comes from the Orange County Transportation Authority in the form of OCLINK, which they describe as “an innovative and convenient pass that allows riders to hop on trains and buses throughout the county.”

According to their release, the OCLINK pass provides unlimited weekday transfers on a buses and Metrolink trains throughout Orange County for just $7 per person. As a result, OC cyclists can easily hop the bus or train to the riding destination of their choice — even if that happens to be in L.A. or Ventura County — then return home without breaking the bank.

For those of us a little further away, Metrolink is now offering an All-Weekend Pass for just $10 a person, allowing unlimited train rides from 7 pm Friday to midnight Sunday. And anywhere Metrolink travels throughout Orange, L.A., Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

Which means you can now take the train to one of those great far-flung riding routes you’ve only heard about, then ride the rails back home without breaking the bank.

The downside is, like the long-despised and recently revoked Metro policy, Metrolink allows only two bikes per passenger car. Although rumor has it they’re considering a prototype bike car that will accommodate up to 20 bikes, making future group tours by bike and train a more viable possibility.

Maybe we should encourage that idea.

……..

LADOT Bike Blog has announced that the city’s long-awaited Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance is finally ready for final approval, and should come before the full council sometime in the next two weeks.

The groundbreaking ordinance, the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S., would make harassment of a cyclist a civil matter, rather than criminal, allowing riders to take threatening drivers to court themselves. And it contains a provision for legal fees, making it worthwhile for lawyers to take cases that might not otherwise be financially viable for them.

Meanwhile, reader Alejandro Meruelo writes to remind us that L.A. Mayor — and my CicLAvia riding buddy — Antonio Villaraigosa has asked for suggestions on how to make L.A. more bike-friendly.

Meruelo suggests using the Ask the Mayor website to encourage hizzoner to inform law enforcement officers that CVC 21202 allows cyclists full use of the lane under many, if not most, circumstances. While every LAPD officer should be well versed on the subject thanks to the department’s bike training video, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little official support from the mayor’s office. And it could carry a lot of weight with other law enforcement agencies that aren’t nearly as enlightened.

……..

The Times’ Hector Tobar talks with some of L.A.’s Ridazz, and decides that the city needs an attitude adjustment regarding bicyclists — concluding that we’re not only a part of the community, but have as much right to the roadway as anyone else.

And yes, that chill you felt was hell freezing over, as the Times has officially crossed over to our side.

Mostly.

Contrast that with this absurdly biased anti-bike lane piece from New York’s WCBS, which argues that city streets should accommodate the 90% in cars and buses, rather than making space for the 10% who ride bikes — even if those bike riders make more room for everyone else. And suggests the danger posed by theoretical bomb-laden bicyclists, who might conceivably use the new lanes to roll up in front of the Israeli consulate.

Because terrorists evidently aren’t brave enough to take the lane in New York traffic.

……..

Bike friendly ad agency Colle+McVoy — the people behind my all-time favorite bike-to-work ad (scroll to the bottom) — has created a Facebook app to let the world know you’re out on your bike. Just download the app, and it will replace your profile photo with the Out Biking image when you ride.

Although I’m not sure I want my clients — or my wife — to know I’m out riding when I should be working.

……..

Finally, thanks to George Wolfberg for forwarding this photo from Jonathon Weiss, showing the new bike-friendly ads on the back of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Buses. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one myself the other day, but was a little too busy trying to survive the obstacles blocking the Ocean Ave bike lanes to grab a photo myself.

Evidently, Santa Monica drivers assume that if we can use their lanes, they can use ours.


Catching up on CicLAvia, Magas on driver/cyclist tension, a nice gesture from Swarzman family

April 14, 2011

A few random thoughts on Sunday’s second CicLAvia, in no particular order.

• Let’s start with the size queens at KCBS-2, who somehow pegged the number of participants at 130,000 — with no explanation of where they got their figures. From my perspective, the turnout was at least two to three times larger than last October’s, which was estimated at around 100,000.

Let’s put it this way. Last year, it took no more than two light cycles to cross Vermont on 4th; this year, I barely made it through after five. The Alliance for Biking and Walking puts the figure at a far more credible 200,000 to 500,000, but since KCBS said it first, their figure is the one everyone is — mistakenly — quoting.

• Speaking of that backup at Vermont, I finally experienced my first ever bike traffic jam. And for the first time, gridlock brought a smile to my lips.

• As I arrived, I just happened to fall in with a group of riders that included a number of bike cops on my way to the Bicycle District. When I looked up to my left, I just happened to see I was riding next to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; for someone famous for falling off his bike, he seems to have gotten a handle on it. No sign of that Lance guy, though.

Photo courtesy of George Wolfberg

• There were far too many paramedic calls. I passed at least five riders injured seriously enough to require emergency medical attention, along with at least three other paramedic units speeding by under lights and sirens that may or may not have been carrying or rushing to CicLAvia participants.

• At least part of the problem stemmed from the large mass of riders of all abilities; several times I found myself dodging riders who swerved into my path with no warning, or stopped at random. Going forward, there should be a better effort to educate participants on how to ride in large groups — including efforts to slow down the riders who cut through the crowd at dangerously high speeds.

• Note to cyclists: Just because you can ride fast doesn’t mean you should. I cut my usual 18 – 20 mph cruising speed down to 12 mph; not just because it was safer in the massive crowd, but because it allowed me to better enjoy the sights and experiences of the day.

• Another problem was the seemingly unnecessary choke points at streets that remained open for cross traffic, where people were forced into a single lane or two to wait out the red lights. Too often, it resulted in riders struggling to work their way into the suddenly narrowed space where there wasn’t enough room to accommodate the suddenly congested bike traffic. I don’t know what the reasoning was for narrowing the road crossing points, but whatever it was, it didn’t work.

• For an event that was supposed to open up city streets for whatever people wanted to do, there was far too much emphasis on bicycle throughput — just like there’s too much emphasis on moving cars the rest of the time.

Last year’s event saw people sitting in the middle of downtown streets eating lunch or making ornate chalk drawings on the street; this year I found myself following a motorcycle cop who ordered standing people out of the street, and instructed riders to keep right in order to keep people moving — exactly the opposite of what CicLAvia is supposed to be.

Josef Bray-Ali nails it when he complains about the bike bias evident in this year’s first edition of CycLAvia; while I disagree about the need for more choke points from a safety standpoint, I couldn’t agree more with every other word he writes. If this is going to be a bike-only event, let’s move it to the L.A. River bike path and call it River Ride. Update: Damien Newton says we need to make it safe for everyone to come out and play.

• As I rode back from the Bicycle District, I once again found myself riding next to the Mayor. So this time I introduced myself, and thanked him for his recent support of both CicLAvia and bicycling in the City of Angeles. And I soon found myself having a surprisingly candid conversation, which I won’t repeat here. But I will say is, for the first time I got a feeling for who he is as man, rather than as the mayor. And that this is a guy I’d love to have a beer with sometime.

And that’s one of the great things about CicLAvia. It brings the entire city together, and makes us all equal on the streets. There’s no class strata, none of the usual L.A. self-segregation between us and them. Just people joining together to enjoy the city, where you were just as likely to find yourself meeting a high-powered lawyer as a recent immigrant. Or a mayor, or some guy named Lance.

• After awhile, it started to seem like the Mayor was stalking me; every time I thought I’d left him far behind, I’d stop to talk to someone or get something to eat, then turn around and there he’d be in the crowd behind me, or gathered by the water dispenser at the other terminus in Hollenbeck Park. On the other hand, he seemed to enjoy it as well.

• I loved the incredible variety of people and bikes, from beach cruisers that had clearly been removed from the garage for the first time in ages, to children on tricycles, teenagers on bright colored fixies, and spandex-clad riders on high-end racing bikes. Not to mention tall bikes, road skimming recumbents and fabulous foldies, and just about anything and everything in between. And every variety of person onboard.

Photo courtesy of George Wolfberg

• For me, the highlight of the day was witnessing the Biking Circle of Life, when I saw a Spanish-speaking family with a little boy riding on training wheels, his father on a road bike and grandma on an adult three-wheeler. And realized that’s exactly what local activists and advocates are working for.

• However, the highlight of the day came long after I got home, and read the column by the Times’ Sandy Banks talk about riding CicLAvia. And loving it.

I may have criticized her just a little — okay, maybe a lot — after she wrote about her opposition to the Wilbur Avenue road diet. But her new column revealed the open mind I’d long to expect from her. And if she wants to experience the streets of L.A when cars are allowed, I’ll ride with her anytime.

Now we just need to work on that Krikorian guy down in Long Beach.

.………

Nice obituary for Jim Swartzman in yesterday’s L.A. Times. A memorial will be held today at noon at Forest Lawn, and the family asks requests that a donation be sent to the LACBC in lieu of flowers — a very kind and moving gesture to help other riders in their time of grief.

Maybe you’ll join me in observing a moment of silence at noon to remember someone most of us may not have known, and now we’ll never get the chance. And from everything I’ve heard, that sounds like our loss.

.………

Ohio Bike Lawyer Steve Magas — you’ll find him over there on the right — offers an insightful look at the tensions between cyclists and drivers; seriously, this one is definitely worth the click.

.………

Jumping back into the great helmet debate, an Aussie professor of Public Health says mandatory helmet laws are counterproductive and should be repealed. Meanwhile, a NZ study shows helmets reduce the risk of head injury by just 43%, and may increase the risk of neck injury. A Canadian paper says wise cyclists will work to make helmet use unnecessary, but wear one just in case. And like me, leading bike writer Carlton Reid says he’s pro helmet and anti-compulsion — and tired of the media blaming the victim.

.………

Just discovered this great page of best ever cycling quotes.

“People love cycling but hate cyclists.”
Peter Zanzottera, senior consultant at transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave, to Scottish Parliament’s Transport Committee, November 24th 2009

Ned Flanders: “You were bicycling two abreast?”
Homer Simpson: “I wish. We were bicycling to a lake.”
The Simpsons, ‘Dangerous Curves’ (Episode 2005), first broadcast, November 10th 2008

.………

Metro is finally ready to drop restrictions on peak hour cyclists. LACBC announces One Tree Hill’s Austin Nichols — aka @Aus10Nichols — as Grand Marshall for June’s 11th Annual River Ride; meanwhile, river riders are invited to help clean it up. People for Bikes visits Los Angeles to film a PSA. Santa Monica Spoke looks back fondly on CicLAvia, while Orange 20 Bikes notes that some businesses showed a big boost in their Sunday business. Will Campbell offers proof that the world does not collapse when timelapse videographers collide. Bicycle Fixation will lead a Miracle Mile Art Ride on Saturday the 16th. The South Bay Bicycle Coalition hosts an Earth Day fun ride this Saturday. A report on Sunday’s San Diego Gran Fondo. Head north this Sunday for a Full Moon Ride with Bike Bakersfield. Better bike access is coming to downtown Sacramento. Just Another Cyclist says if you’ve got to fall and break a bone, it’s not a bad one to break even if it is kind of cliché; heal fast, my friend. Frank Peters of cdm Cyclist visits biking’s platinum paradise of Boulder, CO.

The web is buzzing with news that Frontier Airlines is dropping their fee for checking a bike. Trek’s CEO argues for continued bike transportation funding. A radical new frame design promises 10 times the vertical flex and 60 times the shock absorption of traditional frames, while retaining the same lateral stiffness and pedaling efficiency. A new bike parking design takes a Ferris Wheel approach. A writer explains why he doesn’t consider himself a cyclist anymore; you may already know my take on that. A Portland man is charged in a dooring hit-and-run. Biking in Heels manages the rare feat of a civil conversation with the driver who just buzzed her, while a writer in the Baltimore Sun says some cyclists and drivers deserve each other.  New York’s embattled Prospect Part West bike lanes get a big boost as over 700 riders turn out for a family ride to show their support. Another planned Brooklyn bike lane bites the dust. A cranky New York cyclist compares riding in Amsterdam to the former New Amsterdam. Competitive Cyclist looks at Lebowskis in wetsuits and competitive pro rankings.

Bike Lane Wars: P.J. O’Rourke and the myth of the pinko cyclist. In 2009, no UK pedestrians were killed by cyclists, while 426 were killed by motorists — so guess which one Parliament considers cracking down on? The Guardian says it won’t help, while the Beeb asks if dangerous cycling is really a problem; nearly 1500 comments later, it appears they struck a chord. Plan Bike offers a nice look at small town European bike infrastructure, and finds it heavenly. Garmin-Cervelo rider Johan Van Summeren takes a surprise victory in the Paris-Roubaix classic, while Fabian Cancelara closes a near two minute gap to take second. Hidden cameras show only 6.9% Melbourne cyclists run red lights, which is inexplicably called “an alarming rate.”  Seven thousand Queensland cyclists were ticketed last year — but 6400 of those were for violating the mandatory helmet law; 96 used there cell phones while riding.

Finally, it’s evidently been a problem for a long time — a Dutch writer complains about pedestrians and parked vehicles blocking the bikeway. In 1906.

And don’t forget tonight’s Bike Night at Westwood’s 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.



Villaraigosa endorses the new bike plan; snowball in Hell stocks skyrocket

December 16, 2010

I’m not saying hell has frozen over, but I swear I saw the devil shopping for overcoats at Macy’s yesterday. Because L.A.’s mayor has officially, sort of, tweeted his endorsement of the draft bike plan.

I support bike lanes, improvements – do you? Planning Commission hearing on Bike Plan Thurs in Van Nuys. Info at http://bit.ly/ax9Je

Looks like I have to support it now, too. But even scarier is when Mayor Villaraigosa and Alex Thompson appear to agree on the subject. Or any subject, for that matter.

Maybe the devil should be looking for gloves and a nice heavy muffler, too.

In case, like me, you can’t make the Planning Commission meeting Thursday, LACBC will be live tweeting from Van Nuys City Hall, and LADOT Bike Blog will be live blogging, both of which are so much more enjoyable than the dead kind (and congrats on surviving finals, Chris).

And Villaraigosa fulfills his promise of pushing for a three-foot passing law on the state level, made after his Road to Damascus — or in this case, Venice — conversion to bike advocate.

.………

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s story about the Santa Monica Bike Action Plan, here’s your chance to voice your opinion without the inconvenience of actually having to set foot in the city; second link courtesy of Stanley E. Goldich.

Not everyone seems to be impressed, though.

.………

And as long as we’re on the subject of cities on the verge of bike friendliness — or at least, bike friendlierness — comes a trio of stories from one SoCal city that actually is, most of the time.

Long Beach officially unveils the new Vista Bike Boulevard, once again beating L.A. to every conceivable cycling innovation. An interview with Long Beach Mobility Coordinator and recovering politician Charlie Gandy. And the city considers eliminating its licensing requirement after it was recently used to bludgeon the city’s first official Critical Mass.

.………

Flying Pigeon issues a BOLO alert for a stolen Batavus step-through; it’s not like there are many of those around here, so it should be easy to spot. Metro releases bicycle data for 88 cities for web and app designers. Help kickstart CycLAvia into 2011 and expand it into long neglected South L.A. Is it just me, or did this Victorville writer just tell drivers not to merge into a bike lane before making a right turn — as the law requires — dramatically increasing the risk of a right hook? Drivers aren’t the only ones who can tunnel their way from point A to point B. Here’s your chance to ride a stage of the Amgen Tour of California, from Claremont to Mount Baldy, without having to pee in a cup afterwards to prove you’re dope free. If cyclists are a privileged class, why do all the roads seem to be designed with cars in mind?

Tips for begging free gear and sponsors for your next big ride. Meet the Bicycle Accident Victims Fund. A reporter for the Wall Street Journal starts riding around town since NYC belongs to bike people now — especially if we’re going to ride in weather like this — while the paper offers advice on fashionable attire for your bike commute; studded tires might come in handy, too. A successful winter bike to work day in my old hometown — if you can call getting coffee and eggs from New Belgium Brewing instead of beer successful. Courtesy of Carolina cyclist and recent guest writer Zeke comes word of a call for better biker behavior in DC.

An American living in Germany notes a remarkable lack of spandex; I was starting to think I was the only blogger who doesn’t call it Lycra these days. Evidently, London truck drivers are tired of killing cyclists. Eight months in jail for a banned driver who left a cyclist lying unconscious in the road. A study by a Brit doctor shows that a carbon bike won’t get you to work any faster than a traditional steel framed bike. Requiring cyclists to be licensed and insured would be unnecessary, harmful and pointless; agreed. UCI slams back against Floyd “I swear I was lying then but I’m telling the truth now” Landis’ charges of protecting doping bike stars. The dying wish of bike coach Aldo Sassi is for Ivan Basso to win the Tour de France and place the winner’s yellow jersey on his tomb; no pressure or anything, Ivan.

Finally, it wasn’t a lack of compassion or human decency that made a driver leave a cycling transplant surgeon seriously injured in the road, it was that damn new car smell. Then again, if he’d just bungeed himself to his riding partner, that cyclist might not have gotten hit in the first place.


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