LBFD’s John Hines guilty, 3feet2pass passes and L.A. Weekly goes off the deep end

September 7, 2011

You can now remove “alleged” from any reference to John Hines.

The Long Beach Fire Captain, scion of one of the city’s leading fire fighting families, changed his plea to guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday.

He was convicted on three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Hines will serve a 90-day diagnostic evaluation in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary. After his release, he will be sentenced on December 2nd at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana; potential penalties range from probation to up to six years and eight months behind bars.

Hines reportedly spent the morning of April 1st drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before getting behind the wheel of his truck. Around 1:20 pm, he swerved into the bike lane on Westminster Ave in Seal Beach and plowed into the bike ridden by 47-year old Jeffrey Gordon.

Gordon was thrown over 70 feet, suffering critical injuries including severe lacerations, spinal injuries and head trauma; according to the Orange County Register, he was hospitalized for two weeks, and continues to suffer from limited physical mobility, as well as speech and memory loss.

Meanwhile, Hines fled the scene without slowing down; witnesses followed him to his home where he was arrested with a BAC of 0.24.

I have no idea why he needs to be evaluated for suitability for state prison; most inmates are simply sentenced without any say in the matter.

But we can only hope the judge imposes the maximum sentence.

Anyone who is trained to save lives, yet is so drunk and heartless as to leave a man laying broken and bleeding in the street does not deserve to walk free.

Or ever drive again.

Thanks to Rex Reese, Jim Lyle and an anonymous source for the heads-up.

……..

California cyclists may now enjoy a little cushion from passing vehicles, as the State Assembly passed SB 910, the 3feet2pass bill, by a margin of 41-20.

Do I really need to point out that 16 of the no votes came from the Republican side of the aisle, as the California GOP has swung so far to the right they feel a kneejerk need to oppose virtually everything?

However, six Republicans retained sufficient common sense to vote for the bill, while four Democrats felt California drivers still deserve the right to buzz cyclists as long as they don’t actually make contact.

What still remains to be determined is whether the dangerous exception allowing drivers to pass at less than three feet, as long as they slow to 15 miles above the speed of the ride, remained in the bill or was removed in amendments as we have been repeatedly promised.

In other words, if you were riding at 20 mph, a driver moving at up to 35 mph could pass you as close as they wanted as long at they didn’t actually hit you; yeah, good luck with that. And yes, that exception would be every bit as confusing and unenforceable as it sounds, forcing both drivers and police to guess how fast you’re riding.

And yes, it was still in the most recent draft of the law posted online on August 30th.

Let’s hope it really was removed.

Or this will be nothing but feel-good legislation that could actually make it more dangerous for California riders.

Update: Eric B and billsd wrote to correct my reading of the most recent draft of SB 910. The law has in fact been revised to remove the 15 mph passing exemption; it now allows drivers to pass at less than three feet only at speeds of 15 mph or less. Thanks to both for the correction.

……..

I’ve heard from a number of cyclists who are concerned about a rumor in the case of Joseph Fernandez, the driver convicted of killing Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman.

They’re worried that judge K. Michael Kirkman may have found that Swarzman contributed to his own death though improper lane positioning by failing to ride far enough to the right. As the comment linked to above points out, that would suggest a basic misunderstanding of both state law and commonly taught safe riding practices.

As a result, I reached out to cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, who looked into the question for me.

According to Wheels, it’s unlikely that the judge would have made a ruling like that, since it’s unrelated to the charges against Fernandez. He’s been found guilty of hit-and-run causing serious injury or death, rather than the death itself.

In other words, Fernandez was convicted of leaving the scene, not killing Swarzman — which makes where Swarzman was positioned  in the lane, and whether he contributed to his own death, irrelevant to this case.

As Wheels points out, that may be a matter that will be addressed in the civil case.

However, if anyone who was actually in the courtroom when Fernandez was found guilty has other information, please let me know.

Fernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12th in San Diego Superior Court in Vista; he faces up to four years in prison, case #CN290834.

……..

Finally, did the L.A. Weekly deliberately lie about L.A.’s new cyclist anti-harassment ordinance? Or was it a case of journalistic incompetence and failure to fact check?

A blog post by Dennis Romero suggests that the new law will clog the courts with cyclists retaliating for the slightest insult.

Really. The law goes into effect today. (Ed. Actually, it was Monday, but who’s counting?) We can just imagine the court testimony:

Bicyclist: He called me an asshole.

Driver: Your honor, I would like to submit that he is an asshole, and that free speech is protected, especially when one speaks the truth.

And he concludes with a reminder abut First Amendment rights:

Added: Interestingly, we recall that court rulings over the years have held that even swearing at police is protected speech. Guess the bicycle gets more respect than the badge at L.A. City Hall.

Of course, as virtually every commenter on the story has pointed out, he is completely and totally wrong. (I particularly enjoyed the comment from local bikewear manufacturer swrve.)

Mere insults aren’t addressed by this law. In fact, as LAPD Sgt. Krumer pointed out, you can call a cyclist any damn thing you want and be perfectly within your rights. Although at this point, calling someone an L.A. Weekly reader could be particularly hurtful.

What you can’t do is threaten the life or safety of a cyclist, either through words or actions.

That’s it.

Don’t say “I’m going to kill you,” or attempt to run a rider off the road — or imply you intend to — and this law will never apply to you.

And for his suggestion in the comments that most cyclists will never read the law, so they’ll file countless worthless cases anyway, no lawyer is going to take a case unless he or she thinks they have a reasonable chance of winning.

Which means there has to be evidence and/or witnesses to support it. And even if a lawyer did take such a case, the courts wouldn’t hesitate to throw it out.

Which takes us back to the Weekly’s false and inflammatory story, which can only put cyclists at greater risk of actual harassment from angry drivers who might believe their load of crap.

So I demand — yes, demand — a complete and full retraction from the Weekly, as well as a public apology from the author.

And I hope you’ll join me in doing the same.

Thanks to Evan G. for the tip.


Update: San Diego TV station attempts to thin the herd by encouraging children to ride against traffic

August 23, 2011

Evidently, they have too many children in San Diego.

How else can you explain a news report on KFMB-TV encouraging children riding to school to risk their lives by salmoning on the wrong side of the road?

And if your child walks, rides a bike or a skateboard to school, make sure they travel against traffic and always wears a helmet.

The helmet advice is fine. In fact, helmets are legally required in California for all bike riders under 18. And walking against traffic can be good advice, although it might have been nice to encourage children to walk on the sidewalk, rather than in the street.

But riding a bike against traffic is not only illegal — bikes are required to ride with traffic — but exceptionally dangerous. While it may give the illusion of increasing safety by allowing riders to see oncoming traffic, it reduces reaction times for both the rider and drivers while greatly increasing the severity of any collision.

It’s bad enough that a local reporter got it wrong and gave children and parents the wrong advice in a mistaken attempt to improve back-to-school safety. What’s worse is that the statement came in the middle of a quote from a California Highway Patrol officer.

At best, it appears to give official support for the reporter’s error. At worst, it suggests that the officer in question is badly misinformed about bike law and safety, and offering advice that could put children at risk.

Hopefully, they’ll make a correction soon. Before anyone takes their advice.

And maybe they’ll talk to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about before making a similar mistake again.

Update: As of 12:30 today, KFMB still has not corrected their report, despite promising several people who contacted them that they would do so. As a result, I sent them the following email.

Dear Adrienne Moore — 

I’ve heard from a number of people who have contacted you today to correct the dangerously false advice given in your report “Avoiding a big danger kids face on way to school.” They wrote you to asking that you correct the suggestion that children riding bikes should ride against, rather than with, traffic. 
This is both illegal, as California law requires that all cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic, and dangerous because it reduces reaction time for the cyclists and for motorists rushing towards them. There is no valid authority that advices riding against traffic in the U.S.; however, the placement of the statement within the discussion by CHP Officer Brian Pennings suggests that he provided you with that information.
If he told you that cyclists should ride facing traffic, he is wrong, and this gives you an opportunity to both correct his error and inform the general public how to ride safely with traffic. If not, you have done the CHP a disservice by suggesting that Officer Pennings is unaware of one of the most basic laws governing cycling.
Your continued failure to correct this advice puts the lives and safety of children at risk. I must insist that you offer a full retraction immediately before anyone is injured or killed as a result of your error; simply correcting the story online will not be sufficient to remedy the damage that has been done.
Update 2: I haven’t received a response to my email; however, the video report has been re-edited to say that pedestrians should walk against traffic, and skateboarders and bicyclists should wear a helmet. However, the online print version of the story still has not been corrected, and as far as I can tell, no effort has been made to correct the misinformation given all the people who may have heard or read the original report.
Update 3: I received a response from Adrienne Moore, the reporter who covered the story for KFMB, who apologized for the error and said the story had been corrected. However, the online print version still has not been corrected as of 10 pm August 23rd.

USC officials ban bikes from campus; more enlightened UCLA wins Metro award

September 15, 2010

You don’t have to go to Blackhawk, Colorado or  St. Charles County, Missouri to find misguided leaders banning — or attempting to ban — bikes.

You only have to go as far as the University of Southern California campus.

Just days after a writer in the school’s Daily Trojan called on university officials to develop a more effective way of dealing with USC’s estimated 10,000 to 15,000 bikes a day, Dr. Charles E. Lane, Associate Senior Vice President for Career and Protective Services, responded in typically kneejerk fashion by banning bikes from the two major pedestrian thoroughfares on campus — one of which is listed as a bike lane on Metro’s new bike map.

It’s not that careless riding isn’t a problem. In fact, in a story about the ban, LADOT Bike Blog reports that a majority of students surveyed claimed to have been hit by a bike two or less times in the past year. Although the same study also shows that a majority of students feel bike congestion on campus is average or not a problem.

But the solution isn’t banning bikes. Especially not by an institution dedicated to higher education.

As LADOT BB and the Daily Trojan both point out, the problem isn’t bikes, or even the high number of bikes on campus. It’s the university’s complete and total failure to do anything to accommodate bikes or educate students on how to ride safely.

But instead of doing something about it — just what part of education don’t they understand? — they respond by banning bikes from a large segment of the school, and asking incoming freshmen to leave their bikes at home.

Then again, this is the same school that ticketed cyclists for riding in the crosswalk — even though that’s legal anywhere it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk.

Like L.A., for instance.

Now contrast USC’s bike ban with archrival UCLA, which actually encourages students and employees to ride to campus, and gives them secure places to park once they get there. Not to mention all the other schools that are busy implementing their own bike share programs, not banning them.

For a school that claims to be a leading educational institution, USC gets an F in transportation planning.

………

Congratulations to the far more bike-friendly UCLA Transportation and the UCLA Sustainable Resource Center, who will be honored tonight for their short film Bike-U-mentary.

Directed by Brent Parnell, it looks at Herbie Huff and Mihai Peteu, campus bike commuters active in L.A.’s cycling community, and offers their perspectives on riding to campus and how to get started with bike commuting in the Los Angeles area.

The film will receive a Metro Rideshare Diamond Award at a ceremony this evening.

………

The League of American Bicyclists is out with their latest list of Bicycle Friendly Communities.

Davis remains the only city in California to earn Platinum Status, along with Boulder CO and Portland OR. Palo Alto, San Francisco and Stanford University — not USC — remain Gold, while Folsom, the Presidio of San Francisco, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz are Silver. Long Beach and Santa Monica retain the Bronze status, along with Thousand Oaks, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Clarita. Honorable Mention goes to Menlo Park, Merced, North Lake and Palm Desert.

Los Angeles evidently remains in the dishonorable category, despite our Mayor’s Road to Damascus — or in this case, Culver City — conversion to bicycle advocate.

And don’t get me started on those Trojans.

………

Joaquin Rodriguez enjoys the red leader’s jersey on Vuelta’s Tuesday rest day, then loses it in a disastrous time trial as Vincenzo Nibali survives a wheel change to claim the lead. And this year’s Tour of Britain turns into absolute carnage.

A new website says Lance Armstrong needs your help to fight doping allegations; isn’t that the approach Floyd Landis took? Meanwhile, Armstrong’s Team RadioShack gets a belated invitation to the Tour of Lombardy.

………

Santa Monica’s Agensys development is approved with no bike path, though the City Council did toss in a few bucks to ease the pain. L.A City Council candidate Stephen Box takes current Councilmember Greig Smith for overreacting to complaints about new bike lanes on Wilbur Ave, and LADOT for not doing enough to avoid the problem. LADOT Bike Blog concludes its study of sidewalk riding in Los Angeles County with a look at the eastern San Gabriel Valley; evidently, the Claremont Cyclist is on his own. Streetsblog offers a photo tour of Long Beach’s new Vista Street bike boulevard. Authorities continue to investigate the woman who switched seats with her drunk boyfriend and drove away after he killed a German cyclist in San Francisco. The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning a Distracted Driving Summit on Tuesday the 21st, with online access for those of us at work or home. Time looks at where the transportation stimulus funds went. More women now bike in New York. If an angry driver would murder someone over a speed bump, what would they do over a road diet — or God forbid, a bike boulevard? The inaugural Crooked Roubaix takes riders on dirt roads through the Colorado high country at up to 10,000 feet elevation and temperatures as low as the 20s; hopefully they read these tips on fall riding wear. A Portland school reverses a ban on biking and encourages riding to class. The Guardian asks why a woman on a bike has to deal with sexual comments from jerks. Bike friendly Nottingham has been named England’s least car-dependant city, while Southport offers a bike-friendly escape for vacationing Brits. Rescued by a knight in shiny red overalls with a tire pump. Feast your eyes on the new 2011 Pinarellos and the Canyon Strive enduro bike.

Finally, a new campaign warns London cyclists of the dangers posed by large trucks but may only discourage people from riding, while cyclists launch their own campaign to get dangerous trucks off the streets.


Cop tells seniors not to ride in the street — then tickets them for riding on the sidewalk

August 11, 2010

Sometimes, it seems like you can’t ride anywhere.

According to the Orange County Register, four OC senior citizens were stopped by a police officer for riding on the sidewalk — just moments after the same officer warned them not to ride in the street.

As they rode along a restaurant-filled section of PCH, the four riders passed a motorcycle cop as he finished writing a ticket, and made a comment about the busy street. The officer responded by saying he wouldn’t ride there, so they took to the sidewalk — legally, as shown by a sign indicating that the sidewalk was a designated bike route.

So imagine their surprise when the same officer roared up a few blocks later, lights and siren blaring, and — incorrectly — told them that riding on the sidewalk is against the law in California. He specifically pointed to CA Code 12.56.30 (A) NBMC, which doesn’t seem to exist in the Vehicle Code.

In fact, the only California Code I could find by that number is one that assigns responsibility for the unauthorized release of hazardous materials.

Maybe he just scared the crap out of them.

Oddly, only two of the cyclists were cited by the officer, while the other two — who apparently committed the same infraction — were let go.

As it turns out, the cyclists were technically in violation of the law because riding on the sidewalk is allowed next to PCH before Riverside Ave, but banned immediately after crossing the street — even though there’s no sign indicating that the bike route ends or that riders must leave the sidewalk.

Amazingly, Lt. Bill Harford of the Newport Beach Police Department defends the officer.

“The officer did cite them appropriately, and they need to go through the process,” Hartford said. “They’ll have their day in court — that’s the purpose of it. It’s up to the judge to look at the circumstances and make a decision.”

It seems far more likely that the department owes them an apology, and should do everything in their power to get the tickets dismissed. They should also work with the city to get proper signage installed instructing riders to leave the sidewalk once the bike route ends.

And a little common sense wouldn’t hurt. Because the police can observe the letter of the law.

And still be very, very wrong.

Update: I may have been overly harsh in my criticism of the officer who wrote the ticket. TC points out in the comments below that the code he cited is part of the Newport Beach municipal code, rather than state law. We don’t have the actual ticket for reference, so there’s no way to know if the officer actually said it was a violation of state law, or if the riders misunderstood him or inferred he was referring to state law.

As a result, I’ve toned down some of my comments, and apologize for my earlier criticism that the officer involved was ignorant of the law.

However, I still believe that a warning would have been appropriate under the circumstances. Most cyclists aren’t familiar enough with local ordinances to know where they can and can’t ride on the sidewalk, and it’s virtually impossible for cyclists to know when they’ve moved from one area where it’s allowed to another where it’s banned without adequate signage, particularly after having just passed a sign saying it was legal.

………

Meanwhile, LADOT Bike Blog continues its excellent examination of local sidewalk riding ordinances; maybe they’ll go south of the Orange Curtain and take a look at those wacky folks in Newport Beach.

And Gary points out that if Santa Monica wants to ban bikes from the sidewalk, they should defend cyclists who ride in the street.

………

The Mayor’s office has created a Facebook page for his upcoming Bike Summit on Monday; if you’re not one of the 5,696 people invited so far, invite yourself — or just show up.

………

The next Bikeside Speaks takes place Saturday, August 21st in conjunction with Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles, Specialized and the Disposable Film Festival; the above mentioned Gary of Gary Rides Bikes will be one of the speakers. Beverly Hills Patch looks at local cycling instructor and bike activist Ron Durgin. The Times’ Chris Erskine names Lance Armstrong to his all-ego team. Claremont Cyclist says even if L.A. builds the 40 miles of bikeways each year that they’ve promised, they still have a very long way to go. Cyclelicious looks at how to get local traffic engineers to enforce the state law requiring traffic signal actuators to recognize bikes. Los Altos cyclists and drivers compete for space on the roads; according to the writer, bikes are entitled to the full lane but should keep to the right of it. Huh?

Chicago calls its bike share trial a success and plans an annual return each spring; DC’s starts next month. A leaner, meaner — and cheaper — approach to bike share. A Wisconsin driver faces a $114 fine for violating the state’s three foot passing law by running over and killing a cyclist; thanks to Witch on a Bicycle for the heads-up. Consider a Tour du Fromage through the Wisconsin’s cheese country. A Boston cyclist is killed; police say it’s just an accident. A mean old rich guy wants Boston area cyclists to stay the hell away from his yard. Keep pandas away from your bamboo bike. A cop tells a Tennessee cyclist to get off the road. Even a helmet advocate like me agrees that avoiding crashes is the most important factor in avoiding serious injury; meanwhile, mandatory child helmet laws apparently reduce injury rates by keeping kids off their bikes.

Vancouver business owners are up in arms over a proposed bike lane. A former world junior champion struggles to come back from a near fatal collision. The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency wants to ban your morning eight cups of espresso. A Brit bike messenger claims to have delivered a document 125 miles in five and a half hours. Town Mouse has her head turned observing a rare Pederson bike. A British law firm wants to increase the understanding between cyclists and truck drivers; how’s this for an understanding — just don’t kill us, okay?

Finally, Pinarello has replaced the Porsche as official status symbol of the mid-life crisis.


The great bike conspiracy — a Colorado Tea Party candidate rides off the rails

August 4, 2010

Clearly, common sense is not a requirement for higher office.

Or maybe sanity, for that matter.

A Republican running for governor in Colorado — home of the misguided and probably illegal Black Hawk bike ban — has uncovered the vast UN conspiracy behind bike share programs.

According to the Denver Post, Tea Party favorite Dan Maes has charged that popular Denver Mayor and fellow gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper is “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

The smoking gun?

The city’s new B-Cycle bike share program.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” Maes said.

Apparently, the evil organization behind the scheme is the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which Denver has been a member of since 1992.

The Mile High City is just one of over 1200 communities around the world in the ICLEI, an organization that professes to support the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. But thanks to Maes, we now know that it’s the hidden hand behind a conspiracy to infiltrate our country through the insidious facade of bicycling.

For anyone who may be harboring doubts, Maes made the connection clear.

“At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty,” Maes said….

“Some would argue this document that mayors have signed is contradictory to our own Constitution,” Maes said.

They’re on to us, comrades.

Clearly, motorists and Malibu officials have been justified in their hostility to bikes, as we represent the leading wave of a vast international conspiracy to subvert our nation and its wholesome American values. Like the God-given right to drive everywhere and run off the road any non-motorized users who happen to get in our way.

The conspiracy continues to spread, as Long Beach plans to have a bike share program in place by next spring. And a Modesto columnist asks “Is there any more lawless, arrogant and contemptuous group of citizens than these bikers?”

I’m so ashamed.

………

Maybe Curbed LA is trying to fill the gap created by Streetsblog’s semi-hiatus. After relaying Monday’s news about reporting on bad roads in Westwood, they break the story that the Mayor’s Bike Summit will take place Monday, August 16, from 9 am to 11 am at Metro headquarters Downtown; no word yet on the format or who will be invited.

Speaking of Metro, the next Bicycle Roundtable will be August 11 from noon to 2 pm at Metro Headquarters. And the latest word on the long-awaited removal of their rush hour bike restrictions: “We’re working on it.”

………

Following the lead of the Black Hawk bike ban, a Missouri county proposes banning bikes from any highway without a shoulder and many two lane roads; the state Department of Transportation says the law would be unenforceable.

………

Ubrayj continues his fight for a car-free Lincoln Park. Now that’s what I call a painful looking blister. KCRW traffic queen Kajon Cermak explains ciclovia. Riverside unveils a new six mile Downtown Bike Loop. More bikes on Caltrain could help prevent service cuts; maybe there’s a hint there for Metro. A Las Vegas cyclist is killed in a hit-and-run by an allegedly drinking driver. A new Portland nonprofit forms to pay the medical bills of injured cyclists. A bloodied Inception star Joseph Gordon-Levitt slams his bike into the back of a cab while filming “Premium Rush” in New York, and rates it “f***ing cool.” Volunteers bike from Niagara Falls to build homes in New Orleans. Clearly, this isn’t the nation’s first cycle chic boom; does that bode ill for the future? Lance’s Livestrong could be in trouble due to Floyd Landis’ doping allegations: “Anyone or anything associated with Lance Armstrong should be very worried right now;” link courtesy of Cyclelicious. A Calgary cyclist is charged by an angry grizzly bear; at least that’s one problem we don’t have here. Alberto Contador replaces the Schleck brothers on Team Saxo Bank. Five British cyclists were injured when a car swerved into them on Saturday. Riding around the world in a record breaking 176 days. A Brit cyclist tests positive for EPO after authorities are tipped off. Model Erin O’Connor says it’s not the bike, it’s what you wear that counts; and offers her suggestions on that should be.

Finally, regardless of what Erin O’Connor or Dan Maes says, Claremont Cyclist is sticking with his Lycra and holding his head up high.

Then again, if O’Connor wants to ride with me, I’ll wear anything she wants.


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