A Register writer points the finger, bike crime fighting councilmembers, and a trail full of bike links

June 28, 2012

The OC Register’s Dan Whiting calls for better etiquette from riders after a couple of roadies yell at a group of children scattered on the wrong side of the Santa Ana River trail.

While yelling at children who may not know any better is never the right thing to do, I question if the parents involved — and Whiting, for that matter — considered the danger uncontrolled children pose to themselves and those around them on shared trails.

Personally, I consider it child endangerment when parents allow their kids to run around on pathways oblivious to the presence of other path users. I’ve gone to the ER myself when I had to lay my bike down to avoid a small boy who darted out in front of my bike with no warning.

Whiting’s explanation is that the cyclists were simply unwilling to slow down. Having been there too many times, I’d suggest it’s far more likely they were worried about a collision that could have sent both them and the children to the hospital.

And responded in a predictable, if inappropriate, manner.

Yes, the situation he describes was a violation of trail etiquette, as well as safety. But he may be pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

While there are no shortage of rude riders — and walkers, drivers, skaters, equestrians and humans in general — as Rashomon makes clear, there are multiple perspectives to every story.

And please, enough with that bike bashing “Lance Armstrong wannabe” crap, already.

Meanwhile, Lovely Bicycle gets it pretty much right on how to share pathways with pedestrians.


After dragging on… and on… and on… it looks like we may finally see white smoke on the new federal transportation bill.

Despite rumors that negotiators were going to cave in to the more radical anti-bike and pedestrian elements in Congress — even though 83% of Americans support continued funding, as do over 70 national organizations, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and 13 state governors — at least some protected funding for non-motorized traffic appear to have made it into the final bill.


A New York cyclist and bike researcher says it’s insane for the city to offer a bike share program without mandating helmet use, while the city’s CFO calls for mandatory helmet use, but gets the numbers, among other details, wrong.

So let me get this straight. Anyone wanting to rent a bike would have to bring their own helmet, or share one with the all the greasy haired, lice-ridden riders who used it before you?

Count me out.

Besides, there are other ways to keep cyclists safer.


Evidently, local politicians are going the extra mile to get the bike vote, as a Santa Cruz city councilmember chases a bike thief during a break in yesterday’s council session. And a Costa Mesa council candidate calls police after spotting a bike thief, leading to his arrest.

The bike thief, not the council candidate.


David Hembrow compares L.A.’s new bike plan to the Netherlands and finds it, not surprisingly, lacking. Streetsblog looks behind the scenes at the upcoming, and somewhat questionable, Bike Nation L.A. bike share program. Better Bike reports on the bike studies presented at the LACBC’s recent grad night. KCET Departures rides the L.A. River bike path, while the Orange Line bike path gets a four mile extension. South L.A.’s Real Rydaz are doing more than just getting paint on the street. The Source says potholes are good for nothing and we should get them fixed before they hurt someone; good advice, even if the repair is sometimes worse than the hole. Former BMX rider Stephen Murray still loves the sport that nearly killed him. Local riders prepare for the first Pasadena Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia; thanks to Matthew Gomez for the heads-up. Cyclists from Cal Tech are asking for east-west bikeways through Pasadena. Alhambra moves forward with the city’s first bicycle master plan. A Long Beach company is looking for test riders for their new bike.

AAA’s Westways magazine talks bikes this month. OC Girl Scouts create their own biking map of San Clemente. An allegedly drunk cyclist is seriously injured in a Hemet collision. Inspiring story as a former Camarillo CHP officer qualifies for the Paralympics cycling team five years after his spinal cord was severed by a drunk driver. A San Luis Obispo woman intentionally runs down a cyclist following an argument in a parking lot. Six women cyclists will ride the Tour de France course one day ahead of the men. Sunnyvale could be the third city to pass an L.A.-style bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance. A San Francisco attorney is charged with felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor manslaughter for leaving a cyclist to die in the street; at least he shouldn’t have trouble getting a lawyer. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske writes about the Strava racing San Francisco cyclist charged with felony vehicular manslaughter in the death of a pedestrian, and follows-up by answering questions about the case in detail. A 68-year old Sonoma cyclist was killed last week in an apparent SWSS after reportedly signaling for a left, then making his turn directly into the path of a big rig coming from behind.

Bicycling looks at Americans riding in this year’s Tour de France; we’re not so parochial as to only cheer for our fellow countrymen, are we? Bicycling’s Bill Strickland falls in love with the new, nearly $12,000 Trek Madone. Washington AAA now offers bike assistance; if they’d do that down here, I might reconsider renewing my membership — if they promise not to use my dues to lobby against bike safety legislation. American cycling scion Taylor Phinney takes his appointment to the U.S. Olympic team seriously. One Colorado highway, three world-class bike parks. The Colorado wildfires force postponement of a mountain bike race in my hometown, but don’t seem to affect the city’s Bike to Work Day. A Knoxville cyclist is sideswiped, then beaten by an angry driver — apparently for touching the car to keep his balance. A Louisiana man pleads not guilty to killing one cyclist and critically injuring another, despite a BAC of .307. Twitter gets a writer’s bike back just hours after it was stolen. Good news for New York drivers, as it’s still legal to kill a cyclist with your car door. Our North Carolina friend Zeke has lost his cycling mojo; any suggestions on how to get it back would likely be appreciated.

Bike advocates head to Vancouver for Velo-City. The Toronto Sun calls mandatory helmet laws a no-brainer; so is finding a new editorial writer if they can’t get past that tired no-brainer cliché. Or maybe the solution is to require helmets for drivers. A group of 25 Canadian opera singers are biking around the country to promote their art. Bookmark this page — a UK cyclist offers an extraordinarily detailed response to virtually every objection a motorist could have to bike riders. British bike traffic is up 18%. NBC re-ups to cover the Tour de France for another 10 years. An Aussie Olympic cyclist gets a slap on the wrist after being convicted of drunk driving in Spain. A German physician guesses there’s a high rate of drunk cycling crashes in his town. Here’s your chance to compete in a one day race in the Himalayas against the prince of Bhutan; one word of advice, it’s not always a good idea to finish ahead of the local royalty.

Finally, the Economist looks at the great Agenda 21 conspiracy in which a single sidewalk or bike lane will inevitably lead to one-world government.

They’re on to us, comrades.

Pomona hit-and-run killer arrested, OC Register’s Dan Whiting questioned, and a Westwood pothole fail

December 31, 2011

The driver who killed Rafael Perez in a Pomona hit-and-run on Wednesday has turned himself in to the police.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 67-year old Chino resident Rodger Allen Karcher walked into the Pomona Police Station around 8 pm Thursday. Police speculated that Karcher turned himself in after hearing media coverage of the collision, in which the victim was dragged half a block under Karcher’s SUV.

The Tribune reports that his SUV was also located, and matched the evidence found at the seen.

Karcher was booked on suspicion of hit-and-run causing death, and was being held on $50,000 bail; arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court.

Yes, that’s a lousy $50,000 for dragging a man half a city block to his death.

And of course, Karcher may — or may not — have been drunk as a skunk when the collision occurred. But if he was, he had plenty of time to sober up in the 26-and-a-half hours before he turned himself in.

Thanks to Opus the Poet for the heads-up.


I’m still hearing from cyclists about David Whiting’s recent columns about bicycling in the Orange County Register.

As I’ve said before, Whiting seems to have his heart in the right place. I have no doubt that he genuinely cares about keeping riders safe, and ending the seemingly eternal conflict between riders and drivers behind the Orange Curtain — one that has contributed to a nearly one a month rate of biking fatalities in the county.

On the other hand, that’s a hell of a lot better than the 21 riders killed on OC streets in 2006, or even the 15 killed the following year.

The problem is that Whiting seems to blame the victims, placing more than our share of responsibility firmly on the helmets and wheels of riders. And interpreting bike laws in an overly conservative manner, including a common misconception that riding two or more abreast is against the law — even though that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the California Vehicle Code.

Mark Loftus, author of the insightful riding website The C-Blog — I particularly like his explanation of why we roadies wear such ridiculous clothes — copied me on an email he sent to Whiting in response to his latest column on bicycling.

I have a quick observation that I was hoping you might see fit to print in the future…

There are several comments from readers included in your piece (referenced above) that go something like this:

  • I saw cyclists doing this (breaking a perceived law).
  • I saw cyclists run this light.
  • I saw a cyclist run that stop sign.
  • I saw cyclists do that.

And then these comments conclude with something akin to:

  • Cyclists should not be allowed on the road.
  • Cyclists should ride on bike paths.

I will not debate the validity of these observations except to say that many comments, on many different websites (not just your article) put out a cyclist “infraction” and it’s not really against the law anyway because the writer apparently doesn’t know/understand the law.

At any rate, why is it, in articles that draw out comments such as these, we don’t see comments also saying:

  • I saw a car driver not stop at a stop sign.
  • I saw a car driver texting while driving.
  • I saw a car driver blocking the whole lane and they wouldn’t let me pass. I had to pass on the shoulder or into oncoming traffic.
  • I saw a car driver run that red light.

And then, these comments could conclude with:

  • Car drivers should not be allowed on the road.

Food for thought, I should think.

Whiting responded positively, indicating that he’s written critically about drivers in the past. And may do so again soon.

Now that’s something I’ll look forward to reading.


Finally, a major Streets Services fail in Westwood.

In the roughly 18 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood, I’ve noticed a repeated problem at the corner of Manning and Ohio Avenues.

A near constant flow of water through the gutter on the west side of the intersection results in a massive recurring pothole undermining the eastbound lane — in fact, you can even see it in this Google satellite photo.

For nearly two decades, I’ve watched as the city would send out a crew to patch the pavement, without ever doing anything about the root cause of the problem. And every time, the patch would only hold for a few months — or in some cases, weeks — before washing out again under the continual barrage of water and traffic.

Never mind that if they figured out where the water was coming from, they might be able to actually solve the problem, and save a fortune in perennial pothole repair.

Maybe they’re finally catching on.

Instead of patching the pothole once again, after doing it yet again just a few months earlier, the city responded by placing warning signs directly over the potholes.

In the middle of the traffic lane.

So instead of investing a few bucks worth of asphalt for yet another temporary fix, they’ve decided to avoid the issue entirely.

And hope drivers manage to avoid the signs placed directly in their path, forcing them to go around by either cutting into the heavily trafficked pedestrian crosswalk on the right. Or cut around the signs on the left by entering the oncoming traffic lane.

Neither of which is a reasonable — or even rational — expectation.

And never mind that the second option places motorists directly in the path of vehicles coming over a blind hill, at an intersection where drivers frequently roll through the stop in all four directions.

And of course, when the inevitable collision occurs, if it hasn’t already, it will be your tax dollars that will pay the city’s share of the damages.

All because some rocket scientist thought putting a warning sign in a traffic lane was a better idea than patching the damn pothole one more time. Let alone finding the problem causing the posthole to keep coming back.

And fixing it.

Best wishes to all for a very healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

Through the looking glass — L.A.-area communities suddenly become bike friendlier

November 18, 2011

I was wrong.

It was only a couple years ago that Santa Monica was named a Bike Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists.

And even though it was just a Bronze level designation, I felt, like a number of other local riders, that the award was premature at best.

From frequently blocked bike lanes to a heavy-handed response to Critical Mass, and a Class III bike route on Lincoln Blvd that could only be considered an attempt to thin the herd, it seemed clear to everyone other than LAB that the day was long off when the city could be considered even remotely friendly to cyclists.

Remarkably, that day is here.

Just over two years later, Santa Monica is leading the way to becoming one of the state’s most bike-friendly cities, setting an example for every other town in the county, with the single exception of Long Beach.

Bike lanes and sharrows are appearing at a rapidly increasing rate. The city’s first bike corral has recently opened at 5th and Arizona. A new Bike Action Plan, which has been widely praised by cyclists, nears final approval by the City Council next week.

Even life-threatening Lincoln Blvd may soon see changes, as Santa Monica prepares to assume authority for the street from Caltrans, which seems more than willing to accept a few fatalities in exchange for an emphasis on vehicular traffic flow — even though it barely moves much of the day.

The police department has a new commitment to working with — and protecting the rights of — cyclists, with SMPD Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin serving as an effective counterpoint to the LAPD’s Sgt. David Krumer.

And on Friday, the city gets its first Bike Center, one of two in the downtown area that will provide riders with secure parking and showers.

More importantly, there seems to be a shared commitment throughout the city administration to make cyclists feel welcome — and safe — on the streets of Santa Monica.

Funny thing is, it’s not just SaMo.

Cities throughout L.A. County are suddenly stepping up to the bike-friendly plate.

Earlier this week, Burbank opened a new Bike Stop at their Downtown Metrolink Station — which is where you can find those cool new Metrolink Bike Cars that have everyone so excited.  Nearby Glendale recently adopted a Safe and Healthy Streets Plan, including a draft bike plan.

West Hollywood is working on a plan of their own, including a proposal to put bike lanes on busy Fountain Avenue, while L.A. is soon to open it’s first green bike lane, as well as a new separated bike lane on Downtown’s Spring Street.

The seven cities of the South Bay are just one away from unanimous approval of the Bicycle Master Plan. Even tiny South Pasadena approved a new bike plan that will add 24 miles of bike lanes to the city’s streets.

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Of course, there are still problem areas.

Like the Expo Bike Path, which is in danger of being derailed by a NIMBY lawsuit, while the planned bike facilities at the Culver City Expo Station face a misguided budget axe. And the supposedly final L.A. County Bicycle Master Plan, which still leaves a lot to be desired.

But even the biking black hole of Beverly Hills is making progress, limited though it may be.

And most shocking of all, the bayside ‘burb of Malibu, where cyclists have traditionally been regarded as some form of vermin, has inexplicably decided to explore achieving Bike Friendly status itself.

Like Beverly Hills, they have a long way to go.

Then again, so did Santa Monica just a few short years ago.


Barricades at the pier force cyclists to detour

Speaking of Santa Monica, cyclists who ride the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path — now that most of the tourists have gone home and it is actually rideable again — have been stymied by construction barriers at the pier. Along with nearly universally ignored signs asking riders to walk around the detour zone.

The path was closed to allow a storm drain improvement project, supposedly from September 12th to October 21st.

But nearly a month later, it’s still closed.

So rather than go off half-cocked — as I have admittedly been known to do — I picked up the phone and called the number posted on the sign.

After my call was passed through a series of very friendly and helpful people, I eventually ended up with the engineer in charge of the project, who told me that the delay had been caused by the need to work around some unanticipated utility lines. And that they expect to reopen the bike path next Tuesday, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.

And that may just be the most important change as the city moves to greater bike friendliness.

When you can not only get the engineer in charge on the phone, but actually get a genuine response and answers to your questions, something very positive is going on.

Are you listening, LADOT?


One last note.

I ran across this frightening item from the Orange County Register — at least, it should be frightening for anyone who rides behind the Orange Curtain.

Q. Sundays in Lake Forest are the worst: You have a pack of 50 to 75 cyclists riding up El Toro Road. My understanding of the bicycle law is that a bicycle must remain in the bike lane, and in the absence of a bike lane, the riders must stay as far to the right as safely possible. Instead, this pack rides four, five, six across.

– Mark Hermanson, Lake Forest

A. Perhaps Honk’s favorite county road that doesn’t include an ocean view is Live Oak Canyon Road, that windy, country ribbon of asphalt into Trabuco Canyon beneath a leafy canopy. And likely where those bikers go. And a road where cyclists have been known to at times dangerously, and selfishly, ride abreast of one another.

Yes, under state law, on a public road, riders are to be in the bike lane when they exist; so you and your pal can ride side-by-side if enough room exists. In the absence of a bike lane, in most circumstances, cyclists must stay as far right as possible, which would mean going it single file, or they face citations, Deputy Paul Villeneuve of the Sheriff’s Department’s Traffic Division kindly explained.

I don’t even know where to start.

As most cyclists should be aware, CVC 21202 requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable — not possible — while offering a long list a exceptions allowing them to move to the left whenever appropriate.

While cyclists are required to ride in a bike lane where present, we enjoy a similarly long list of exceptions that allow the rider to exit the lane when necessary.

And there’s nothing in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits cyclists from riding two or more abreast. In fact, it’s not even mentioned anywhere in the code.

Which means that cyclists can legally ride abreast as long as they don’t impede traffic — which is defined as five or more vehicles following behind a slow moving vehicle and unable to pass; if they can pass, they’re not being impeded.

In fact, it’s often safer to ride two or more abreast when the lane is too narrow to share, in order to increase visibility and control the lane to prevent unsafe passing.

You’d think someone in law enforcement would know that.

And it’s scary as hell when they don’t.

Breaking News: Cyclist killed Wednesday evening in Huntington Beach

December 23, 2010

An Orange County cyclist was killed in Huntington Beach last night as a result of a hit-and-run.

According to the Orange County Register, 69-year old Jurgen Ankenbrand was hit by two separate vehicles at the intersection of Brookhurst Street and Villa Pacific Drive at about 5:35 Wednesday evening. The first occurred when he was turning from Villa Pacific onto Brookhurst and was struck by a dark colored Toyota 4-Runner on his right as it made a left turn onto northbound Brookhurst.

That knocked Ankenbrand onto the southbound side of Brookhurst, where he was struck and killed by a white Honda Odyssey. He was pronounced dead at the scene; by my count, the 16th cycling death in Southern California since August.

The driver of the 4-Runner fled the scene; the driver in the Odyssey remained.

Reading between the lines, there appear to be three likely explanations for how this collision may have happened.

The driver of the 4-Runner may have been either signaling for a right turn or angling over as if he was turning right, causing Ankenbrand to pass on his left when the driver changed his mind and made a sudden left turn without checking his mirror or looking to his left.

The 4-Runner could have been stopped, either in the lane or at the curb, and Ankenbrand may have been attempting to go around it when the driver suddenly pulled forward to make a left.

I’ve seen both happen enough times that neither would come as a surprise.

The third possibility is that Ankenbrand was making a left onto Brookhurst when the driver of the 4-Runner came up from behind and made his left without noticing that the cyclist was already in position ahead of him. This wreck occurred about the same time as the severe thunderstorms rolled through Orange County, so the driver’s vision may have been impaired by the weather conditions.

We may never know, since the driver ran away, rather than obey the law and face the consequences of his actions. And he — or she — could now face a felony hit-and-run charge, when he may or may not have been at fault in the collision.

Witnesses are urges to contact the Huntington Beach police at 714-536-5666.

Thanks to Allan Alessio for the tip.

Better bike courtesy won’t keep cyclists alive

September 22, 2010

Note: there were too many important news items today to include in this morning’s post. Come back a little later this morning for news about AAA attacking bike and pedestrian funding, the Mayor calls for a bike friendlier Metro, cyclists urged to ride right at Critical Mass, and a Maryland driver runs over a deer who turned out to be a candidate for Senate.


Maybe he just doesn’t get it.

Or maybe we’re just not going to convince David Whiting that all the courtesy in the world won’t keep careless, dangerous or distracted drivers from running down even the most polite cyclists, pedestrians and yes, other drivers.

Whiting — the OC Register writer who wrote last week that the solution to the county’s one-a-month rate of bike deaths was for bike clubs to ride single file and stop running red lights and stop signs — now says the answer could be as simple as being more courteous to drivers.


Even though a failure to show the proper deferential politeness hasn’t been a factor in any of the deaths I’m aware of.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in roadway courtesy. I make a point of signaling, and often wave drivers across the intersection in front of me if there’s any question who has the right-of-way. And I do my best to let drivers behind me pass anytime it’s safe to do so.

But not just to be nice.

I’ve learned the hard way that there are few things more dangerous than having a frustrated, angry jerk stuck on your rear wheel. And I’d much rather signal my intentions or let someone else go first than risk any misunderstanding that could result in us both attempting to occupy the same space at the same time.

I’m also a big believer in obeying traffic laws, as well as avoiding unnecessary distractions while I ride. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it keeps me safer on the streets.

But let’s be honest. Bike courtesy wasn’t a factor when nine-year old Nicolas Vela was run over by a monster truck whose driver couldn’t see the little kid riding his bike across the crosswalk directly in front of him.

Nor did it come into play when Donald Murphy was run down by a woman high on prescription medications, who kept driving with his bike still stuck under her car. Or when Alan Earl Miller was killed by a truck that drifted off the roadway while he was riding on the shoulder.

And it certainly wasn’t a factor when a car veered off the road, killing Christy Kirkwood and injuring another rider.

So if Mr. Whiting or anyone else wants to start a campaign to increase courtesy on the streets, count me in. Though I do look forward to the companion campaign, in which drivers are urged to show more courtesy to other road users by passing safely, observing the speed limit, stopping for stop signs, signaling, sobering up before driving, and turning off their cell phones when they get behind the wheel.

But let’s not pretend for one minute that it has one damn thing to do with the tragic and completely unacceptable rate of cyclists killed on the streets of Orange County.

Because it doesn’t.

And pretending it does will only mean more deaths until we stop blaming the victims and address the real problems.


While we’re in Orange County, the OC Register reports that the senior cyclists cited for riding on the sidewalk — despite a sign saying it was legal to do just that and a cop who seemed to suggest they should— recently had their day in court.

And won.

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Max DeLiema ruled in favor of the two-wheeled scofflaws, delivering a not guilty verdict for both.

“According to the Judge, since there is no signage that directs bicyclist to exit the sidewalk, then the interpretation of the law is that ‘riding your bicycle on the sidewalk’ is OK!” Leslie Smith told us by e-mail. “We have spent three days in court (one for my husband, Duane, to enter a plea of not guilty, one for me to enter a plea of not guilty, then today in court to testify)! Such a waste of taxpayer $$$….”

Now maybe Newport Beach should consider improving their signage.

And maybe the police should offer a well-deserved apology.

Thanks to David Bain for the link.


Enjoy the confluence of bikes and poetry on L.A.’s Eastside with the Spokes & Words Back to School Ride this Thursday. Flying Pigeon is featured on the Green Jobs California web site. KCRW discusses CicLAvia and biking in LA (no, not me); not surprisingly, the first comment is about how dangerous those darn bicyclists are. Riding a bike while towing a device for riding a bike in place. A Santa Monica council candidate talks local issues, including how to make the city bike friendlier. A look at the Whittier Greenway. San Diego area authorities opt for cheap sealant on a local $10 million bike bridge, which means it will be out of action for the next two weeks. A San Jose cyclist is killed in a apparent hit-and-run. Cyclo-cross comes to Las Vegas this week. Speaking of Vegas, Cyclelicious visits Interbike. An Oregon cyclist is killed trying to beat a train across a crossing. Two Portland cyclists are run down in rapid succession, apparently by the same possibly intentional hit-and-run driver. The New York law that allows cyclists to bring their bikes into their office buildings hasn’t worked as planned. Bicycling as a way of life to reclaim America’s streets. Construction begins on the London 2012 velodrome track. A Labor candidate for London mayor tries to out-bike BoJo. The IMBA joins with component manufacturers to improve European Mountain biking. A Kiwi mother is knocked cold by a hit-and-run cyclist.

Finally, the widow of a man killed by a cyclist last year in NYC gets an apology from the city’s DOT commissioner; no doubt she’s cleared her schedule for the next few weeks to apologize to the relatives of all the cyclists killed by drivers.

And happy World Car-Free Day, a holiday that will no doubt be little noticed on the streets of L.A.

Blaming the victims in OC — bad behavior isn’t behind the high rate of bike deaths

September 16, 2010

You might recall that earlier this week, I linked to a column in the Orange County Register.

A writer for the Orange County Register joins with the OC Wheelmen to challenge other bike clubs to enforce safety rules for their members.

I have to admit, the story bothered me.

In it David Whiting joined with a couple of local OC cycling organizations to call for strict observance of all traffic laws, with riders who don’t risking banishment from the club. And suggested a prohibition against riding side-by-side, even though that’s legal in California — and explicitly allowed under chapter 11-1206 of the Universal Vehicle Code.

Obeying red lights is probably not the deal breaker. But stop signs? As a cyclist, I know many of us figure they don’t apply to us. Wrong.

And single-file pelotons? You might be muttering, “Not going to happen.”

As one man said Wednesday night, cyclists are more visible and safer when riding in a pack. And I might agree.

But I’m also looking at it from a driver’s perspective. Not only do packs block streets, they scare the bejeebers out of drivers.

Simply put, cyclists need to extend courtesy to drivers whenever possible. Swarming a road is not the way.

The reason for that club-level crackdown is to keep cyclists alive, noting that 80 cyclists have died in Orange County over the last 5 years — seven this year alone.

It’s an admirable goal.

Personally, I support anything that will make our chosen form of transportation/recreation safer while supporting our right to the road. And I have no problem with enforcing traffic laws, as long as authorities target dangerous behavior regardless of who commits the violation, and don’t single out cyclists for selective enforcement.

I also recognize that this could go a long way towards improving the image problem cyclists have with the driving public, many of whom see us as reckless scofflaws who needlessly flaunt traffic regulations.

Unlike all those drivers who never speed, text while driving or fail to come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs, of course. And each of whom are no doubt fully versed on the rights of cyclists, and gladly give us the road space to which we’re legally entitled.

I had other things to deal with, though — not the least of which is a bad back that’s kept me off my bike and wacked out on muscle relaxants most of the week.

Not to worry, though. It only hurts when I move.

Or breathe.

But the story continued to lurk in the back of my drug addled mind, until Richard Masoner, author of the excellent Cyclelicious, emailed me yesterday to ask the same question that had been eating at me.

Just how many of those recent deaths resulted from club rides or cyclists blowing through stop signals or riding two abreast?

So I stopped what I was doing, cleared my head, and dug through my files for every OC bike death I could find dating back to December of last year. The results didn’t surprise me, though they might surprise Mr. Whiting.

  • Dan Crain died in August, hit by a car merging at high speed at what appears to be a poorly designed intersection.
  • Michael William Nine died in July while on a club ride; but rather than “swarming the road,” he was leading the group downhill when a gardener’s truck pulled out in front of him on the wrong side of the street.
  • Alan Earl Miller died in May when a driver drifted off the road and struck him while he was riding on the shoulder of the roadway.
  • Annette Ferrin-Rodgers died in April when she was hit by a bus while riding in a crosswalk with no lights on her bike.
  • Jeffery Blum died in March after lingering in a coma since 2007, following a collision in which the driver who hit him — the only witness — blamed Blum for swerving in front of him.
  • Donald Murphy was killed in December when a woman high on prescription meds ran him down as he was riding single file with other riders on the shoulder of the road.
  • Nine-year old Nicolas Vela was killed in December when he was crossing in the crosswalk in front of a monster truck whose driver was too high up to see the kid on a bike directly in front of him.

That’s seven deaths in nine months — none of which involved cyclists running red lights or stop signs, or riding two or more abreast. And only two involving multiple riders or club rides.

I also found three other bike collisions I’d mentioned since last December.

  • An unnamed 16-year old rider was critically injured in March while riding across a Santa Ana street.
  • Patrick Shannon was killed in April, 2009 when he was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver while riding home from work.
  • Fourteen-year old Danny Oates was killed in August, 2007 by a driver high on drugs who was also texting at the time of the crash.

If you see any collision on that list that could have been prevented by observing stop signals or riding single file, you’re doing better than me. And only three — Blum, Ferrin-Rodgers and the unnamed 16-year old — could arguably be blamed on the cyclist.

And that my problem with Whiting’s plan.

While I have no doubt his heart is in the right place, it sounds like another case of saying we have to clean up our act so drivers won’t kill us, rather than placing the blame squarely where it belongs — on dangerous drivers, bad infrastructure and lax enforcement.

And dangerously customized trucks that prevent drivers from seeing bike riding kids right in front of their bumpers.

As Masoner wrote,

I’m sure the monster truck driver was terrified of the little nine year old he crushed on the road.

I’m a big believer in being responsible for my own safety. There are certainly actions we can take to reduce the risk of crashing and dying. We as cyclists should be courteous, and we should share the road by riding legally, but pelotons of cyclists hogging the road and blowing stop signs is not a bike safety issue in Orange County or anywhere else. Will single file riding do anything to prevent cyclist fatalities in Orange County? Should a bike club really suspend membership for rolling a stop sign, which is something that 97% of motorists are also guilty of? Can we also call on the AAA to suspend benefits for their members who are observed violating the rules of the road and not exercising common courtesy on the road?

Whiting promises a Phase II that will focus on driver safety. I’ll look forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, though, let’s agree that cyclists should ride safely and observe the law.

But stop blaming the victims.

And stop pretending that it’s the behavior of bicyclists that puts us at risk.


After 17 stages of the Vuelta, Nibali found himself back in the red leader’s jersey; the question is, can he keep it? Cavendish claims his third victory in stage 18; the race should be decided on Saturday’s final climb.


NIMBY residents file a lawsuit to stop the Expo Bikeway. Writing for the Bus Bench, Browne Molyneux says she hasn’t seen the Give Me 3 campaign south of the 10 Freeway, and doesn’t want LADOT’s and the Mayor’s table scraps. Santa Monica Spoke plans a Park(ing) Day park at Swingers on Broadway, complete with bike valet; LADOT Bike Blog looks at Park(ing) Day and Saturday’s Bicycle Beauty Pageant. Speaking of LADOT BB, Bikeside responds to the USC bike ban by taking the poorly paid student intern who reported it to task, rather than the university that did it. Join the LACBC and Bicidigna for a Vuelta de la Bici Digna, a free ride with the Bicidignarias from MacArthur Park to Pan Pacific Park this Saturday from noon to three. Now that texting while driving has been banned, there’s twice as much risk that the driver that hits you will be doing it. Occidental College students should benefit from the improved access provided by the West Valley Greenway Project. Car-less Valley Girl may have to get a new name, but promises not to give up her bike. Will reminisces about living in a city where the destination is always more important than the journey.

The San Francisco Gate takes a look at the Idaho Stop Law, and asks why shouldn’t drivers be able to roll stop signs as well — not that they don’t already; Dave Moulton says it’s one thing to roll through slowly, but blowing through makes us all look bad. A Santa Rosa area cyclist is hospitalized after being sideswiped by a pickup; the driver plays the universal SMIDSY get-out-of-jail-free card.

Bikes Belong and Interbike combine to bring 3.2 miles of bike lanes and a student bike program to the trade show’s soon-to-be-ex-home in Las Vegas. A primer on protecting yourself from the sun while you ride; take it from me, it matters. The fashion world discovers cycle chic at Monday’s Betsey Johnson runway show. A Chicago lawyer suggests buying a non-owners car insurance policy even if you don’t drive. The joys of riding to work — and a little exercise, too. Are you ready for some… High School Mountain Bike Racing? The mean streets of Detroit turn surprisingly bike friendly; losing half a city’s population makes for a lot of empty streets. The perfect lock for anyone who’s looking for a prettier way to secure a bike; personally, I’d use a Brinks truck if I could fit it in my seat pack. A writer questions how it’s possible to go over the handlebars; in my experience, it’s pretty easy if you’re not careful.

A British writer strives to be a MAMIL — in this case, a Middle Aged Mum in Lycra. A driver repeatedly cuts off a cyclist, then throws a drink cup at him — and gets convicted, thanks to the rider’s helmet-cam footage. More debate on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Copenhagen cyclists get the right to turn right on a red.

Finally, an Indiana cyclist discovers the hard way that there’s only one thing more dangerous than texting while driving. And don’t try this at home — a fourteen year old cyclist gets off his bike, climbs on the hood of the car behind him and smashes the windshield, causing $500 damage.


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