Police appear posed to blame the Culver City victims; Wilbur Ave “compromise” threatens road safety

June 17, 2011

Things aren’t looking good in the case of the cyclists injured by an allegedly drunk, texting and speeding driver.

To start with, it looks like the driver, Christine Elizabeth Dahab, may skate on the DUI charges. According to a report on Bikeside, she registered a .07 Blood Alcohol Content when she was tested at the police station — just under the .08 BAC threshold for drunk driving. Even though she initially registered a .08 at the scene, her body had time to process the alcohol in her system.

Secondly, while the LAPD initially responded to the collision, the case has been handed over to the Culver City police, since the site is technically within their jurisdiction. And deservedly or not, the Culver City PD has a long-standing reputation for being biased against cyclists — particularly when it comes to populist group rides similar to the one hit on Thursday morning.

Finally, there is some dispute as to where the cyclists were located on the roadway. The preliminary conclusions of the LAPD are that at least some of the victims were stopped in the traffic lane, rather than on the shoulder. And since many were stopped and off their bikes, they may have violated the law against pedestrians in a traffic lane.

That could be enough to get Dahab off the hook — even though she was reportedly drunk at the scene, and witnesses have reported that she appeared to be texting at the time. And since she hit the riders without braking, there is no objective evidence that she was speeding, despite the reports of witnesses that she was travelling at least 20 mph over the limit.

Evidence of just how seriously the case against Dahab is not being taken is that she was out on an exceptionally low $15,000 bond just hours after the collision.

Damien Newton angrily questions whether the LAPD is botching the investigation, as many of the decisions made so far in the case seem to cast blame directly on the victims — never mind the actions of the driver that contributed to, if not caused, the collision. And asks if the police would handle the case more aggressively if roles were reversed, and it was a Hispanic male driver who ran into a bunch of young women.

Yes, the riders may have been in the traffic lane, though that remains in some dispute. But a driver who was not speeding, drinking and/or distracted should have had plenty of time to see and avoid a large mass of stationary people.

Newton also takes KABC-7 to task for their highly inflammatory reporting on the case, as they repeatedly referred to condoms, beer and evidence of drug use found near the scene, without ever directly connecting any of that to any the riders or suggesting that it had anything whatsoever to do with the collision.

Frankly, you could find any or all of those things in the alley behind my old building just about every day of the week; that doesn’t mean I was the one who used or put them there, even though I happened to be nearby.

It’s entirely possible that some of the riders may have been using drugs or alcohol, however, KABC’s exceptionally irresponsible report — which has been toned down significantly from earlier reports — creates the suggestion of a drunken orgy in the middle of a traffic lane, and has unfortunately been picked up by other news sources.

They cite unidentified members of the police as the source of that information; however, unlike KABC, most of the mainstream press somehow managed to keep such unfounded and highly biased tidbits out of their stories. The station owes an apology to all the victims — and every other cyclist in L.A., since this sort of unfounded report smears all of us in the eyes of some members of the public.

There was a much-needed Justice Ride this afternoon, to support the victims of Thursday morning’s bike collision.

……..

In order to maintain drivers’ God-given right to speed on Valley streets, the Wilbur Ave. road diet is in the process of being “fixed,” channeling cyclists into the sort of substandard half-gutter bike lane we thought this city had long ago outgrown. At the same time, drivers will be forced to compete for lane space as they’re suddenly channeled into less space, significantly increasing the potential for collisions and putting cyclists in the bike lane at unnecessary risk.

The only good news is that the new design may actually reduce the number of cycling collisions on Wilbur — by reducing the number of cyclists willing to ride the street, as many cyclists are likely to shun the new bike lanes for other unmarked streets.

Evidently, L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl was wrong when he famously declared that “the culture of the car is going to end today.” Thanks largely to one or more of his fellow councilmembers, it’s alive and well in the San Fernando Valley, and risking the lives of everyone who uses or resides along our streets.

Un-effing-believable.

……..

Fed up with the refusal of the Newport Beach Bike Safety Committee — aka the Orange County Gutter Bunnies — to support much needed sharrows on the Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, cdm Cyclist’s Frank Peters has joined with a handful of other local bike advocates to form the new Newport Beach Citizens Bicycle Committee.

If you live or ride down that way, I strongly urge you to get involved with them, and do your part to force local officials to do something to make cycling safer in the local area, and Orange County as a whole.

That is, something that doesn’t put the blame squarely on the victims.

……..

Time is short, but you still have a few hours left to cast a vote to decide which of five finalists will get the chance to work with Team Liquigas-Cannondale in this year’s Tour de France.

According to a representative for the team —

Ventura native Gabriel Garcia and Los Angeles resident Angel Castillo are among five finalists for an opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to spend a week at the Tour de France working behind the scenes with Team Liquigas-Cannondale.

Both had to submit a one to two-minute video explaining why they’re the most qualified to serve as Team Liquigas-Cannondale’s newest addition.  Hopefuls had to highlight the following in their video submission:

  • How the sport of cycling has impacted your life.
  • Your most memorable moment from the Tour de France.
  • A bike MUST have been visual somewhere in the video shoot (it didn’t have to be a Cannondale)

The five finalists are:

  • Amy Campbell (Austin, TX)
  • Angel Castillo (Los Angeles)
  • Gabriel Garcia (Ventura)
  • Joe Praino (Arlington, VA)
  • Derrick Young (Columbus, OH)

All five videos are now available for fans to vote on by logging onto Cannondale‘s (http://www.facebook.com/RideCannondale) and Peloton Magazine’s Facebook pages (http://www.facebook.com/pelotonmagazine). Videos and voting capability can be accessed by first liking the page, then clicking the Trip de France icon on the left. Voting runs from now until Friday, June 17th.

My apologies for not giving more notice of the competition. I found out about it just a few days ago, and recent events have kept me from getting to it until now.

……..

Notes from this month’s BPIT meeting. LADOT updates what bike projects are on the boards, including a road diet and bike lanes along the CicLAvia route on 7th Street. Here come the bus — and bike — lanes. Better Bike Beverly Hills endorses California’s proposed three-foot passing lane; SWRVE, the L.A.-based urban cycling attire manufacturer, writes to urge cyclists to get involved to support it, and personally, I’m a firm believer in supporting companies that support us. The DVD of the fixie film To Live and Ride in LA drops on Tuesday the 21st. Flying Pigeon will host a fundraising ride and party for Streetsblog tonight. C.I.C.L.E. hosts a ride through NELA on Saturday. Hermosa cyclists look for improvements in the South Bay/Marvin Braude Bike Path. CNN Travel lists the Huntington Beach bike path, along with the Braude bikeway, as among the best in the U.S. Remembering a dedicated bike commuter. A Santa Cruz cyclist gets six months in jail and three years probation for deliberately running over a toddler with his bike; maybe those two figures should be reversed. It’s the people who yell the insults who are seen as the crazy ones. Cyclelicious says don’t be afraid of the dark. Just Another Cyclist says he hates helmets.

Brilliant responses to just about any bike forum comment, ever. People for Bikes reports on riding with your fur-footed best friend. Tom Vanderbilt says it’s time for livability to push mobility into the back seat. AZ Rep. Gabby Giffords is back on a bike just five months after her January shooting. A Portland cyclist recounts a frightening road rage encounter with truck driver that, while not justified, could have been avoided if he’d just stopped for the damn red light. Springfield Cyclist recounts a near-collision with a kid on a bike. Minnesota traffic officials join to reduce traffic deaths to zero; it’s long past time for a Vision Zero plan for California. An 8-year Chicago girl followed all the rules, but was killed by a hit-and-run driver anyway; there’s not a deep enough pit in hell for a driver like that. The Windy City’s new DOT Commissioner could rival NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, while their crackdown on scofflaw cyclists may not be such a bad thing, after all. Someone is deliberately attacking cyclists in Virginia Beach. A Craig’s List missed connection leads to a woman on a Dolphin bike.

The Guardian says riding in a skirt probably doesn’t make you a traffic hazard, though they’d recommend against riding commando on a ‘bent. Euro scientists form a group to coordinate on helmet research. In bike racing news, Movistar rider Juan Mauricio Soler was critically injured after colliding with a spectator in the Tour de Suisse. Mark Cavendish prepares to jump ship for the 2012 season. UCI urges everyone to be kind to Contador, who needs to put a light on the racing bike, and may soon be sampling clenbuterol-free cows in Colorado. Another new on-road laser projection concept could save lives, or at least make your ride more colorful. Wales becomes the first government in the world to require local authorities to provide bike routes.

Finally, only bad guys drive distracted.


Why the New York bikelash matters to L.A. cyclists

March 22, 2011

New York cyclists are up in arms over a lengthy New York Magazine article tracing the history of the bikelash — the tabloid-flamed controversy over the city’s rapid transformation into a more livable, walkable and ridable Gotham.

While opponents use anecdotal evidence to criticize the bike lanes — indeed, the entire concept of allowing bikes on the streets and/or sidewalks of the city — the data clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the bikeway system.

In fact, New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson recently  backed the bike lane argument with a solid set of statistics, including one demonstrating that once separated bike lanes are installed, injuries for all road users decline 40% to 50%.

Unfortunately, facts aren’t enough to win over those who think bikes are the biggest threat this side of al Qaeda. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

Consider this quote from the article — from a former bike shop owner, no less — who clearly needs to increase his meds:

“You know about the cars. You know about that potential danger when you’re crossing the street. You know you might end up a bag of blood and guts and bones. But that is a finite realm of danger,” says Jack Brown, who used to own a bike shop in the East Village. “When it comes to cyclists, that danger is infinite. Cyclists can be anywhere, at any time: on the sidewalk, riding the wrong way down the street. And you have no peace … The anarchy that has been allowed to prevail is astonishing. According to butterfly theory, according to chaos theory, I am sure that the level of emotional and psychological damage wrought by the bicycle far exceeds the damage done by cars.” And then Brown goes there: “It is homegrown terrorism. The cumulative effect is equivalent to what happened on 9/11.”

Not only does he equate the simple act of riding a bike to flying a jet into the World Trade Center, he claims that the harm done by the relative handful of bicycle incidents far exceed the emotional and psychological damage done by the 40,000 +/- deaths caused by cars on American streets each year — let alone the countless crippling and life-changing injuries resulting from car collisions each year.

Talk about blaming the victim.

As someone who has lost both a relative and a childhood friend to drunk drivers, I can assure you that he is quite mistaken as to which one inflicts lasting emotional harm.

As for psychological damage, I’d point the finger at whatever he’s been smoking.

As proof of the danger posed by cyclists, opponents inevitably trot out the case of Stuart Gruskin, who died as a result of a collision with a wrong-way bike deliveryman.

Needless and tragic as that case was, it was just a single death two years ago. And not caused by a speeding spandex-clad cyclist, or even the city’s notoriously anarchic bike messengers, but by a food delivery rider taking an ill-advised shortcut. And a victim who failed to look both ways when crossing a one-way street.

That compares with a long, long list of New Yorkers killed by motor vehicles last year alone.

It’s enough to make bike lane opponent Louis Hainline, founder of the ironically named — some say Orwellian — Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, seem relatively rational.

Although it never hurts to have a reminder not to take it all so seriously.

So why does a dispute on the opposite coast matter to riders here in L.A.?

Simply this.

We’ve just finished the battle to get a widely praised bike plan adopted. But right now, those bike lanes, sharrows and bike-friendly streets exist as nothing more than lines on a map.

And if you think New Yorkers are mad, wait until you see the blowback here in the City of Fallen Angeles when we try to take a single inch of road capacity away from drivers to create even a shadow of a complete street.

Because Wilbur Avenue is just the beginning.

Along those lines, cyclists are urged to come out to support completion of the bike lanes on Reseda Blvd, as the final half mile between Roscoe and Parthenia comes up for review by the Northridge South Neighborhood Council.

This one may prove controversial, as it will require the removal of parking on one side of the road for a one-block stretch between Chase and Napa Streets.

And the only thing L.A. drivers love more than an open lane to speed in is a place to park their gas-guzzling SUVs when they’re done. Most local businesses are yet to be convinced that bike riders spend money, too.

The meeting takes place at 7 pm this Thursday, March 24, in the Northridge Middle School Library, 17960 Chase Street.

So make your voices heard.

Because we already have more than enough disconnected bikelanes in L.A. And we need to head-off the L.A. bikelash before it begins.

.………

Santa Monica Spoke says yes, please to a proposed Michigan Ave Bike Boulevard. LACBC reports on their successful Bike Valet program. Men’s Journal says rides with Jake Gyllenhaal on the streets of L.A., and Ewan McGregor bikes with a cute dog. Glendale offers a children’s bike skills class April 30th. Those new separated bike lanes — the ones that Long Beach columnist Doug Krikorian complained about not seeing a single cyclist on — don’t officially open until April 2nd. A look at Mark Bixby’s final victory as a bike advocate.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says it won’t be easy to get biking or transportation projects funded by a cost-cutting Congress. Advocacy Advance grants are available for state and local biking organizations. NPR points out that it’s often cheaper to tear down outdated freeways than to fix them. Three years, one family, from Alaska to Chile. Portlanders are good, but not great, about using bike lights. Illinois cycling advocates consider legislation to force the state to track dooring incidents. Taking New York’s bike crackdown to ridiculous levels, cyclists are ticketed for violating an evidently fictional 15 mph speed limit. The Wall Street Journal looks at the growing popularity of hand-cranked bikes; thanks to George Wolfberg for the link. Partisan politics and negative perceptions of cyclists take down Virginia’s proposed three-foot passing law. Video tips for riding in the rain, which may come in handy for the rest of the week.

A one year suspended license and community service for driving dangerously and killing an 89-year old cyclist. Italian cycling needs to stop living in the past. Dutch cyclists are being terrorized by little kids in golf carts. A 10-point plan to make bike racing more exciting.

Finally, a London writer says the Mary Poppins Effect only works when riding an upright bike, without a helmet and while wearing a skirt.

Probably counts me out.


Pissed off about bike lanes on your street? Get over it already.

March 17, 2011

There are nearly 21,000 miles of non-freeway roads in Los Angeles County. How many of those do you think were built to accommodate motor vehicles?

All of them.

So why do some people get so pissed off when a few lousy feet are finally set aside for the benefit of someone else?

Take Tuesday night, when cyclists made a last stand before the joint Porter Ranch and Northridge West Neighborhood Councils in an attempt to preserve the Wilbur Avenue road diet and bike lanes.

While no one can argue that motorists, or anyone else, received sufficient notice of the road work, people who live in the immediate area seem to like it. And there’s no real argument that something had to be done to improve safety on a residential street that had turned into a high-speed throughway in recent years, as drivers used it as a secret bypass to more congested roadways.

Yet inconvenienced drivers are up in arms about the loss of their speedway. Even if their arguments don’t always hold water.

After all, it’s far too hard to simply slow down and observe the speed limit, protecting the safety of other people on and along the street.

Or find a route that utilizes one of the overwhelming majority of streets that don’t have bike lanes or road diets, where you can drive with all the wild abandon L.A. traffic will allow.

Surprisingly, the Wilbur Avenue road diet survived this vote, despite overwhelming opposition from the 450 people in attendance — who, according to Streetsblog, went so far as to boo calls for road safety.

Why should you care if a few people are killed or injured if it means you can get where you’re going a few minutes faster?

Then there’s Doug Krikorian of the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

A respected sportswriter and columnist, he seems to have taken it upon himself to return Long Beach to its previous state of bike unfriendliness.

Why?

Because it inconveniences him.

After all, he recently found himself stuck in traffic on Broadway. And didn’t see a single cyclist using the city’s newly installed bike lanes the entire time he sat there gnashing his teeth.

It may have been a situation that left him speechless, but unfortunately, not typeless. And led him to the inescapable conclusion that no one bikes in Long Beach, despite evidence to the contrary.

Which is odd, because I’ve often found myself riding on streets without a car in sight.

Yet it never occurred to me to become angry over the wasted space devoted to motor vehicles that could have been converted to more productive uses. I just assumed that the cars would undoubtedly be along sooner or later, for better or worse.

And never mind that those bike lanes he’s complaining about aren’t even officially open yet.

But evidently, when Krikorian gazes out his window and doesn’t see a bike, that means the bikeway — in fact, the city’s entire commitment to bike-friendliness — is a failure.

Not that he has any statistics to back that up, of course.

It’s not like there’s anyone at the Press-Telegram could do a little research, after all. Or that he could call Long Beach Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy and ask if anyone actually rides in the city.

Although to be fair, more people might ride if their bikes didn’t get stolen.

Of course, the real problem wasn’t the bike lanes beside him, it was all the cars and trucks ahead of him. And that if more people used those bike lanes, he might not be stuck be stuck in traffic next time.

Then again, it’s not just a problem here in the L.A. area.

Anti-bike NIMBYism runs rampant just about everywhere. Even in the biking capital of North America.

Take Fresno County, where local farmers are all for cycling, but don’t want bike paths near their farmland. Not because they would be inconvenienced by all those two-wheelers silently whizzing by, of course. But because cyclists would be exposed to all those pesticides and industrial chemicals they put on our food.

As if we’re not exposed to them already when we eat it.

It’s not like cyclists aren’t riding those country roads anyway. The proposed bike paths would just make it a little safer by getting bikes out of the way of all the combines and farm trucks they currently have to dodge.

On the other extreme, there’s New York City, where Prospect Park West is Ground Zero in the bike lane wars — even though 70% of local residents support the bike lanes that were recently installed there.

The seemingly endless debate goes on, even migrating to economists, who can and will debate anything, seemingly endlessly. And again, don’t always get it right.

Yet the massive congestion claimed by opponents has failed to materialize, adding just 7 seconds to the average commute through the park. And pretty much all of dangers opponents project can be mitigated by looking both ways.

Evidently, that’s something New York mothers don’t teach their children to do, unlike virtually every other mother on the face of the planet.

Yet that doesn’t stop the opposition from offering less effective alternatives. And it keeps other bike projects from moving forward.

What they all fail to consider is that the entire total of bike lanes — whether here in L.A. or anywhere else this side of Amsterdam or Copenhagen — represents just a minute fraction of roadways otherwise devoted almost exclusively to motor vehicles.

And even then, it amounts to no more than 10 or 12 feet of space out of the entire road surface.

So let’s face it.

It’s not the bike lanes — or the bikes, or lack of bikes, on them — that’s making anyone’s commute a living hell.

It’s all the other cars and trucks on the street, most of which usually contain just one person behind the wheel, often on his or her cell phone, texting or web surfing.

Which means the bikeways they bitch aren’t the problem, but rather, just a small part of the solution.

And if the biggest problem you or anyone else has today is a cyclist or bike lane slowing your commute, your must be having a damn good day.

So just get over it already.

.………

Alta Planning’s Mia Birk offers tips and strategies on how to avoid the backlash, suggesting that fighting the battle upfront can help avoid Wilbur Avenue or PPW-type battles after the fact.

Although something tells me you can do all the outreach in the world, and it still won’t satisfy the people who choose not to participate until they suddenly discover a bike lane on their favorite high-speed short-cut.

Not that I’m feeling the least bit cynical today or anything.

.………

More on the death of Long Beach bike activist Mark Bixby and four other prominent people from the Long Beach area, from the L.A. Times, Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Daily Breeze, as well as a Santa Barbara perspective on the tragedy.

For those of us who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, you can get a feel for who Bixby was — and how important cycling was to him — through his blog and his all-too-brief Twitter feed.

.………

A cyclist suffered significant injuries in a solo fall in Palos Verdes Tuesday morning. According to the Daily Breeze, the rider was one of five who were descending a steep hill on Via Del Monte around 7 am when he lost control and crashed on the 500 block near Via Ramon.

Jim Lyle writes to say that the street has an 8% grade, making speeds over 30 mph possible. Speed bumps were installed recently to slow vehicle traffic, but there’s space between them for emergency vehicles, making it unlikely that they were the cause.

Meanwhile, an Orange County rider required a helicopter rescue after going over the handlebars in rough terrain around 10:13 Wednesday morning. And an Altadena cyclist was injured in a right-hook-and-run.

.………

Anyone in the job market — and these days, that seems to be just about everyone — may want to check out this Craigslist listing.

Trainer/Instructor needed for outdoor bike safety program at schools and events. Physical ability needed to handle equipment and props; includes setting up student training course plus instructing students on pedestrian and bicycle safety. Will train. Background in sports or outdoor activities desired. Works well with children. Must have flexible schedule as hours vary. Weekend availability a definite plus. Pay rate based on experience. Please email resume.

Thanks to Stephanie for the heads-up.

.………

Yesterday’s breaking news left me with a long backlog of links. I’ll try to catch up over the next few days, starting with the ones I’d planned to post yesterday, but which seemed inappropriate given the day’s news. Look for more late tonight or tomorrow morning.

L.A. County’s new model streets manual was unveiled Tuesday night, including a requirement to design streets for all users, including bikes. LACBC announces Sunday Funday #4, exploring crosstown routes on Sunday, April 3rd. The new Bike Wrangler space across from Good Sam finally has a name. L.A. bike cops in 1904. Ride the closed-off L.A. Marathon course before the race starts. Covina is the latest SoCal city to ask for your help in developing a new bike plan, with three workshops scheduled before the end of the month. Claremont will serve as the launching point for Stage 7 of this year’s Amgen TofC. Last weekend’s Tour de Murietta honored pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado, who was killed by street racers near San Bernardino last spring. A California cyclist uses echolocation to navigate despite a lack of eyesight. Links to bike computer manuals for everyone who forgot how to spring forward.

Fifteen women who don’t exactly rule the biking world, but close. Which is worse — angry terriers or argumentative drivers? Before engineers are allowed to work on bike projects, maybe they should be required to actually ride a bike. A Colorado driver and his passenger are ticketed in a road rage case after being captured on the rider’s front and rear video cams. Ten teams are now confirmed for Colorado’s Quizno’s Pro Challenge, with some of the top pro teams participating, including Cancellara and the Schleck brothers. The Idaho house bars the use of eminent domain for building bikeways. An Iowa cyclist overcomes a broken arm and leg to win the 350 mile Iditarod bike race. Chicago considers adding a cycle track. When a cyclist has to compete for a driver’s attention, the cyclist always loses. Wednesday was Texas’ first Cyclists in Suits day. New Orleans prepares to break ground on the Lafitte Corridor, a three mile stretch of bike paths, greenways and public gardens. A New York police commander tries, and evidently fails, to defend the city’s selective enforcement crackdown on cyclists; key stat — 35 million Central Park visitors in 2010, yet just 42 incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. A Florida truck driver swerves to hit and kill a cyclist, then keeps on driving; remarkably, the reporter refrains from calling it an accident. Miami Beach kicks off a bike share program; Toronto launches its own May 3rd.

UK employees get more than a Bike to Work Week to encourage them to ride. Evidently, dragging a cyclist 150 meters beneath a large truck is just an accident. The Cycle Opera moves forward, based on the life of British steelworker and Olympic cyclist Lal White. A Brit blogger has eight bikes stolen, and somehow gets them all back. Follow the tweets of top pros on a single Twitter list. Welcome to New Zealand, where life if cheap — at least for cyclists — although they do seem to take dooring seriously.

Finally, Copenhagenize looks at biking in post-earthquake Japan — and provides a historical perspective when some people take offense.

And anyone planning to ride through Beverly Hills today is urged to avoid the Wilshire Blvd geyser.


Casting a critical eye on Times columnist Sandy Banks’ Wilbur Ave auto-centric bias

October 13, 2010

You didn’t really think I was going to forget about Sandy Banks, did you?

CicLAvia may have pushed her recent one-sided column about the Wilbur Avenue road diet to the back burner. But far from out of mind.

There it was on Saturday morning, on the second page of the L.A. Times — the same paper that recently flaunted their new journalistic standards by replacing their front page with an ad for Law & Order Los Angeles.

And don’t get me started on the entirely inappropriate photo that accompanied Banks column.

Maybe all the paper’s photographers had the weekend off. Or maybe they were stuck in Valley traffic and couldn’t make it back in time to meet the paper’s new early press deadline.

Still, I expected better from her.

Her column usually focuses on feel-good stories about her family life, or those of ordinary Angelenos trying to make it in this megalopolis we call home.

This time, though, it was all about her anger and frustration over the road diet that cut Wilbur from four through lanes to two, making room for a center turn lane with bike lanes on either side.

For years, Wilbur Avenue had been a free-flowing community secret, a commuter street that bypassed the congestion of Northridge’s main routes. Then a “street improvement” project last month turned our speedway into a parking lot.

It wouldn’t have taken much research to reveal that her speedway was never intended as a bypass to the Valley’s more crowded boulevards, as drivers turned what should have been a quiet, safe residential street into a cut-through throughway that only benefitted the people who don’t live there.

The road diet merely returned a little sanity to a single local street. And if that slightly inconveniences the people who don’t live on it, it’s a small price to pay to preserve the livability of the neighborhood.

Despite denials from the people who should actually know, she also suggests that the mayor’s recent Road to Damascus conversion to bike advocate may have had something to do with the sudden, unannounced striping of bike lanes — forgetting that we live in a dysfunctional city where bureaucrats seldom speak to one another, let alone the public. And even though she notes herself that bike lanes have been slated for that street since 1996.

Then again, she’s probably not the only one who was shocked that something from the ’96 bike plan actually made it onto the streets.

Despite talking to LADOT’s John Fisher and Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, she fails to mention that the actual purpose of the road diet was to slow high-speed drivers like herself and return a little sanity to Wilbur Avenue. Or that the bike lanes were added almost as an afterthought because there was finally room for them.

Instead, she based her entire column on the mistaken concept that her inconvenience was due to the city giving cyclists priority over drivers.

Like that would ever happened here.

Needless to say, she had 12th District City Councilmember Grieg Smith, who never met a speed limit he didn’t want to raise, firmly in her corner.

“Wilbur is the wrong street for this kind of improvement,” said Smith, his sarcasm clear. His district office is on Wilbur, at the bike lane’s southern terminus. “I’ve driven that street for 30 years, and I have probably seen a total of 30 bicycles on Wilbur in all that time.”

Maybe he really was blindsided by the unannounced road diet. On the other hand, you’d think a council member would be able to pick up the phone and find out what’s going on in his own district.

And why.

Instead, he responded in typical knee-jerk, car-centric, anti-bike fashion, saying that the 98% of the public who drives shouldn’t be inconvenienced for the 2% on two wheels.

Never mind that many of us do both. And a lot more might if they felt safer on the streets of the council member’s own district.

In fact, the city’s new bike plan suggests that up to half of L.A. adults ride a bike from time to time, and roughly 12% ride on at least a monthly basis.

Smith should also know, as the mayor and many of his peers on the City Council seem to have figured out, that this city can no longer afford the same failed focus on automotive throughput that has destroyed the livability of many parts of our city. By focusing all our efforts on moving more and more cars through our streets, we have created gridlocked streets, destroyed our air quality and blighted countless pass-through neighborhoods.

On the other hand, by providing effective alternatives to driving — like well-designed bike lanes, for instance — we can create a safer, more walkable, ridable and livable Los Angeles that will improve the quality of life for everyone.

What we need to do is increase our 1% share of bike commuters on the street to the nearly 6% in Portland — or even the 3% currently enjoyed by San Francisco — rather than mercilessly drive them off the streets as Smith would do.

And make it safer and more convenient for people to leave their cars at home for short errands around their own neighborhood, which currently account for nearly half of all car trips.

Then everyone would benefit from the reduced congestion.

Even drivers like Banks who feel hopelessly inconvenienced by the first baby steps to get there.

Damien Newton looks at the Wilbur Ave controversy, and embeds a report from KNBC-TV 4.

Reports indicate that last night’s Northridge West Neighborhood Council meeting did not go well for the cyclists in attendance. Word is that drivers are on the offensive, and ready to steamroll cyclists and local residents to regain their high-speed Wilbur Avenue throughway. Although how effective it would be now that they’ve told everyone about their secret speedway is another matter.

.………

Frequent Kiwi contributor the Trickster forwards a link to a fascinating Aussie study of the role of traffic violations in collisions reported to the police. In over 6,000 crashes between bikes and motor vehicles, the cyclist was found at fault in 44% of the time, while cyclists were held at fault in 66% of crashes between bikes and pedestrians. However, you may want to note that the results are based on police reports, without independent analysis of their investigations.

He also forwards a report on a study of cycling injuries in Australia that suggests efforts to improve road safety for drivers have done little to improve safety for cyclists, and that cyclists are over-represented in their share of traffic injuries and under-represented in efforts to prevent them.

.………

Still more cicLAvia news, with photos from This Girls’s Bike, a report of Grist and an out of town visitor’s view of our fair city, Metro and a car-free Sunday from Plan Bike. Meanwhile CicLAvia wants your ideas for the next one.

.………

The Source offers an update on Metro’s bike efforts. New bike racks at the CARECEN day labor center in MacArthur Park. Photo’s from San Diego’s Tour de Fat, which will be hitting L.A. on the 23rd. It’s back to Vegas after all for Interbike. Portland looks beyond cyclists to promote biking as an everyday means of transportation. Cycleliscious updates the Black Hawk bike ban, along with new rules for large rides in lieu of the proposed ban in St. Charles County MO. St. Louis blocks many streets already, so why not let bikes through? Crain’s New York Business asks if the city should give up on Manhattan bike lanes; so far, the vote is running 9 to 1 in favor of keeping them. It’s fall back in the midlands. After killing a cyclist, a London dump truck driver is fined £165 and forced to get new glasses.

Finally, Hermosa Beach officials want your input regarding the sharrows on Hermosa Avenue; if you’ve ridden them, you know how effective they are; if not, they’re the gold standard for what SoCal sharrows can and should be.


Calling all cyclists — NC meeting tonight to discuss Wilbur Ave road diet and bike lanes

October 12, 2010

Just days after the success of CicLAvia, L.A. cyclists once again have to defend the little bit of infrastructure progress we’ve made.

Drivers long used to using Wilbur Ave are up in arms about the recent road diet that reduced it from four lanes to two through lanes and a center turn lane, along with bike lanes on either side of the street — and they have one of the city’s most car-centric Council Members in their corner.

Angry drivers are blaming a cabal of bicyclists for imposing unwanted bike lanes on the street. The truth, though, is that the reduction was made to stop the all too frequent practice of using Wilbur — an otherwise quiet residential street — as a high-speed throughway to bypass backed-up Valley streets; the bike lanes were just an added benefit once street capacity was already reduced.

Tonight there’s going to be a neighborhood council meeting to discuss the situation on Wilbur Avenue. The meeting will take place at 7 pm at the Northridge West Neighborhood Council at Beckford Avenue Elementary School, 19130 Tulsa Street, Northridge, 91326; cyclists are encouraged to attend.

I know it’s short notice. But if you can make it, wiser voices than mine encourage you to focus your comments on the benefits of the road diet for the local residents of the Wilbur Ave area.

By reducing the traffic capacity, it will reduce the high rate of cut-through traffic and slow down speeding drivers, making the street safer for everyone. And resulting in a more pleasant, livable and walkable neighborhood for the people who live there.

And the fact that bikeways tend to increase property values can’t hurt, either.

Unfortunately, I’ll be home tending to a sick wife tonight. But if anyone who attends wants to share their thoughts afterwards, just let me know. You can find my email address on the About Bikinginla page.

Thanks to Patrick, aka Trickmilla, for the heads-up.


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