Friday, July 18, 2008

CityWatchLA - Mandeville Simmers

CityWatch, July 2008

Cyclists Rights
By Stephen Box

On July 4th, two cyclists riding down Mandeville Canyon Road encountered an angry motorist who proceeded to cut them off, slamming on his brakes and causing one cyclist to careen through the air crashing to the road in front of the car while the other cyclist crashed into the car putting his head through the back window.

The cyclists ended up in the hospital, the motorist ended up facing multiple felony charges , and the resulting media storm revealed significant animosity and disagreement in the community over cyclists and their use of the road.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl jumped into the fray with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in hand saying “Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.” He scheduled a Town Hall to address the issue, spoke eloquently at the Transportation Committee of cyclists’ rights and then at week’s end, he introduced the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights to City Council.

Through it all, an online debate was roiling and had grown in intensity to the point of absurdity. LAist shut down its comment section while the LATimes racked up over 700 comments, some of the hateful threats.

The LAWheelmen received a message from "Nina" saying "HOORAY FOR THE DOCTOR. It's about time you lawless bunch of crayolas get what you deserve! There are several of us current and former La Habra Heights residents ready, willing and able to testify on behalf of the doctor."

Over at the LATimes "Buckshotty" wrote "If you seen my rocket ripping up the canyon you better gtf out the way or we'll be coloring all of your spandex red with biological dye, feel me?"

On Saturday, a press release went out indicating that the Town Hall meeting was cancelled citing concerns from officials with homeowner associations and the bicycling clubs that train on Mandeville Canyon that “the tenor of media coverage and of blog posts would make a Monday public meeting counter-productive."

The Town Hall meeting was replaced with a Task Force which convened its first meeting with approximately 30 people in attendance including representatives from LADOT's Bikeways Department, LAPD, a rep from the City Prosecutor's Office, a Public Works Commissioner, a criminal psychologist, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee, Velo Club La Grange, the South Bay Wheelmen, Team Helens and Councilman Rosendahl and staff.

Within hours of the conclusion of the Task Force meeting, notes from the meeting had been blogged by the Bicycle Advisory Committee's representative and a significant online dialogue took place questioning the efficacy of the Task Force and the results of the meeting.

Critics claim the Task Force failed to establish that cyclists have the right to take the lane, that cyclists are not prohibited from riding two abreast and that double solid yellow stripes on the road means no passing.

At MidnightRidazz , Nathan Snider commented "How can it be that, in a meeting spurred on by a driver assaulting two cyclists, not a single one of the cyclists' recommendations relate to driver behavior?"

"Kyber" added "Wow. That dialog (sic) between residents and cyclists went really well. Talk about blaming the victim?"

Over at StreetsBlog Jeffrey W. Baker wrote "I'm not sure I understand what happened here. Some guy attacked and severely injured two bicyclists, and the proposed solutions are bicyclist education and repaving the road? Non sequitur."

Those more diplomatically inclined argue that it makes sense to bring cyclists and homeowners together and to share in the responsibility for addressing the conflict while those with good memories point out that the Mandevillians have a long history of "tension" and that Rosendahl is the third Councilmember to form a task force to address conflict in the Mandeville Canyon.

The upside of this three week long journey is that the community is talking and the world is watching. From the LATimes to the UK Telegraph, the Bike Writers Collective has been recognized for the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Councilman Rosendahl has championed the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and, in spite of all the criticism, he has proven steadfast in working toward a solution.

As the debate over the road rage incident, the cancelled Town Hall and the Task Force simmers down, the same cyclists who initially drove the "road rage" story have met with Councilman Rosendahl's staff and plans are now being made for the Town Hall meeting.

Through it all, we are reminded that our streets are the new public space and our ability to share that space is one of our greatest opportunities for revitalizing and redefining our communities.

"See you on the Streets!"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

LAist - Road Rage Motorist vs. Cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road

LAist, July 7, 2008

On July 4th, about 300 cyclists gathered at the Manhattan Beach Starbucks for a Holiday Ride to the top of Mandeville Canyon Road in Brentwood. The Holiday Ride is a regular event that takes place 5-6 times a year drawing cyclists from all over the greater LA area.

Mandeville Canyon, off Sunset Blvd., is a steep and challenging ride and the crowd quickly thinned out with some cyclists racing to the top while others rode socially, catching up with old friends and savoring the journey.

On the descent, a cyclist in the back fell, breaking his collarbone and injuring himself seriously enough to require medical attention and a ride to the hospital in an ambulance. Christian Stoehr, 29, and Ron Peterson, 40, stayed behind until the ambulance arrived and then they began their descent down the hill.

Christian Stoehr recounts "We were riding downhill at approximately 30 mph when a car came up behind us, must have been doing 50 mph, and the driver started honking at us. We moved to the right in single file within seconds and the motorist pulled along Ron and started screaming at him. He then pulled in front of us with 3-5 feet to spare and slammed on his brakes, giving us no time to stop. I swerved and almost made it, clipping the car and flying through the air and landing in the street. Ron had no room to move and he went straight into the back of the car, putting his face through the back window."

The driver of the vehicle stopped his car and continued the tirade, identifying himself as a Doctor but never offering medical attention.

Ron told the motorist to turn off the car and Christian sat on the hood of the car, afraid that the driver would drive off. The motorist continued the tirade, telling Christian to get his bike out of the street. Christian reported that they were afraid that the motorist would leave the scene.

A third cyclist, Chris Roberts, rode up and stepped in to make sure the motorist didn't leave. Christian collapsed on the side of the road as the ambulance from the top of the hill pulled up with the first injured cyclist. Paramedics jumped out and administered first aid.

Christian was banged up, collected road rash and was unable to move his right arm. Ron reports that "my nose was separated to the point that it was hanging off my face. They moved it to the side and pulled glass out of my face. My front two teeth are broken, they found a piece in the backseat mixed in with all the glass. I've got 90 stitches in my face."

Both cyclists ride with Synergy and both are accomplished racers. Ron is a CAT1 racer and former State Champion with 14 years of racing experience. Christian has a couple of years of racing under his belt and says "Ron is my racing coach and just a couple of months ago he conducted a safety class with exercises to teach us better bike handling skills. This meant I was better prepared to take evasive action and I almost made it! Ron had no room to move and ended up hitting the back of the car, putting his face through the back window."

Christian says "It'll be months before I can ride again, I was looking forward to some of the upcoming stage races but the season is over for me. Not only that, I'm a camera and steadicam operator so I'm going to be unable to work for months."

Their bodies are broken, their bikes are totaled but their resolve is stronger than ever.

"This isn't the first time that there's been an incident like this." says Ron. "In fact two cyclists from LAGrange were recently run off the road by a motorist who fits the same description as this one. They reported it but no charges were filed. Same road, same situation. We've got to work together to prosecute this guy to the full extent of the law before he kills somebody!"

Sunday, July 06, 2008

LAPD: The Heavy Hand of the Law!

“While riding a bike for transportation is a tribute to many of the basic ideas upon which this country was founded - common sense, self-reliance, and closeness with the land, to name a few - it is also, in many ways, a slap in the face to contemporary American culture.” Robert Hurst in “The Art of Urban Cycling"

A large group of cyclists rode down Sunset Boulevard. If they had been driving automobiles, we would call it traffic, congestion, rush hour, our quotidian dose of gridlock, LA's legacy or any of a number of names. But they're on bikes and the ride is called the LA Critical Mass. It's a regular bike ride consisting of cyclists who ride for all sorts of reasons, coming from all directions and riding as a group through the streets of Los Angeles, all in a celebration of the fact that "We are Traffic!"

The LAPD responded to the sudden presence of so many cyclists by sending 12 Officers in 6 squad cars. They picked out the most threatening and dangerous cyclist in the crowd and immediately went to work making the streets of Los Angeles safer for motorists.

"CD" indicates that the approaching officers greeted her by screaming at her "Do you have any warrants out for your arrest? Are you on probations? Do you have any drugs or weapons on you?" They ordered her to put her possessions on the ground, to put her hands on her head, then turned her around, grabbed her wrists and put her in handcuffs.

They called for a female assist who then grabbed "CD" and told her to "spread'em" and then "very thoroughly frisked me everywhere, saying that she was searching for drugs and/or weapons!"

"CD" was given a ticket for "STOPPING ON SIDEWALK BLOCKING TRAFFIC" which is an infraction. (The Officer may have mixed up Crosswalk and Sidewalk - Excellent!)

There are a couple of things wrong with this scenario, the first being that it is completely unbelievable that "CD" posed a such a threat to the 12 police officers that it was necessary to submit her to such a thorough and humiliating experience.

The second thing that is wrong with this scenario is the fact that the Police Department has a very specific protocol for dealing with an "Illegal Assembly." If the 12 Officers who responded to the LACritical Mass made a decision that the ride constituted an illegal assembly, law enforcement present at the scene must then announce to the crowd that the crowd must disperse. The Dispersal Order is very specific on the process.

Nowhere in the Dispersal Order does it say, "pick someone from the crowd, handcuff her, yell at her, frisk her thoroughly looking for drugs and weapons, then issue her a poorly-written ticket for an infraction."

"CD" reports that two guys stopped to make sure everything was okay and that they stayed until the end. "Thank god. I didn't even know them. Which is always a great reminder of how amazing some people are."

The amazing people of Los Angeles deserve better from our Police Department.

If you're a fan of the 1st Amendment, give City Council President Garcetti a call and ask him to look into this case. It's summer time, the evenings are warm, it's entirely possible that there will be groups of cyclists on the streets. It would be great to have a well-informed Police Department capable of dealing with a crowd without having to get aggressive.

If you're a fan of the 4th Amendment, give City Council Transportation Chair Wendy Greuel a call and ask her to look into the case. It's always a good time to be secure in our persons and property, free of unreasonable search and seizure.

It's up to us to work with our Leadership in making Los Angeles a Great City.

Call Council President Garcetti @ 213- 473-7013 or

Call Councilwoman Greuel @ 213-473-7002 or

Saturday, July 05, 2008

SLNC Endorses Cyclists' Bill of Rights! LAPD Stomps on Them!

Watch Commander Donatoni points.

Andrea, Officer Stine, Officer Corona and Paul.

Sgt. Harrington supervises the release of cyclist #1. Paul remains in custody for 15-20 minutes. (Photos by Alex Thompson.)

This past Wednesday evening, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council became the 2nd NC to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, sending a message to the City of Los Angeles that "We need to do anything we can to support cyclists!"

It was a great evening, warm air, lots of energy, and Scoops was still open. Some rode to HelMel, others to TrenWay, plans were made for next weeks ride to pick up the 3rd NC endorsement at the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council and eventually everybody went their own way.

A little after midnight, the phone rang. "They're handcuffing cyclists!" my wife yells.

Alex Thompson is on the phone, he was part of a group of three, riding home to the WestSide from TrenWay when they came across a cyclist they had earlier passed on the road, this time he was standing on the side of the road with LAPD officers and in handcuffs.

Just him and the Police, late at night, no witnesses.

Paul Bringetto later recounted that he found himself wondering "How would I feel?" and that prompted him to return, get off his bike, walk down the sidewalk and identify himself to the Police, offering himself to the detainee as an observer.

Rather than accept, deny, or simply act confused and ask for a supervisor so that they could get some guidance, they chose to handcuff Paul and then began to search him, his backpack, all as Paul said he wasn't giving them permission to search his bag.

Meanwhile, I've got Lt. Donatoni, the Watch Commander of the Hollywood Station, on one phone while Enci is on the phone with Alex, giving me updates as I go round and round with Donatoni, urging him to take responsibility for his unnecessarily aggressive Officers. (Alex and Andrea are watching from a distance)

Lt. Donatoni and I take some time to get settled into a conversation where we can work together to calm the situation down. He was at first defiant, flip, and accusatory, pointing out over and over that I'm not on the scene so how do I know what's going on?

I keep pointing out that I don't know what's going on, I simply want the Watch Commander to get a Supervisor to the scene and I want him to be accountable for his Officers and I want him to take responsibility for asking the simple questions, why handcuffs?

He slows down and instructs me to have Alex approach the Officers and request a Supervisor. Alex does and reports back that the response is "No, and if you don't leave, you'll be arrested also." I point out to Lt. Donatoni that his instructions and the officers responses are out of sync and that this is on him and requires his intervention. He gets a supervisor to the scene.

The specifics of the incident belong to Paul, Alex and Andrea. they will fill in the details as they report on the incident from their perspectives. But for now...

Ultimately, Paul was handcuffed, searched and detained, eventually being released on the street with a ticket for an equipment violation on his bike. It took them 20 minutes to think of a violation. Somebody is trying too hard!

(He approached the Police on Foot. He was a pedestrian. The ticket is retaliatory. Sgt. Harrington records the incident as "Stopped for Equipment Violation." I later point out that Paul wasn't stopped. He walked up the Officers. On foot. With a bike.)

I head over to the Station and get Lt. Donatoni to the front desk. Paul arrives and brings his bike to the counter with a headlight blazing and asks for the "correctable" ticket to be corrected. Donatoni says they don't do that. We ask who does. He doesn't know.

We ask to file complaints. We argue about the rights of a "detainee" to observers. We argue about the circumstances of the incident that evening. We point out that his instructions to ask for a Supervisor are rejected by his own Officers.

We ask if they also handcuff, detain, search and go through the personal property of other stopped for infractions such as talking on a cell phone or driving a car with expired tags or a burned out tail light. Crickets chirp.

We ask again to file a complaint and we're told to sit down and wait. The clock ticks. Officer Russell #1 and Officer Russell #2 sit at the front counter working on computers. From the clicking sounds, I can only imagine how cool their MySpace pages must be!

It's now way late. We talk about the frequency of the incidents in which cyclists encounter the Police and end up in an adversarial relationship simply for thinking that the streets are ours to ride as equals and that the Police are there to support our rights and our safety.

In February, cyclists delivered the Cyclists' Bill of Rights to the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, left the building and were riding to Pure Luck from downtown when a Lt. from Rampart pulled the group of 4 over and informed them that it wasn't safe for cyclists after dark. He resented not hearing a thundering round of "Yes Sirs" and informed the group "one of you is going to take a ticket." Nice. Mikey Wally took one for his pedals. He now rides brake-free, pedal-free and guilt-free!

In May, a female cyclist is handcuffed and searched thoroughly for "drugs and weapons" as she stands crying on the street and ends up taking a ticket for "stopping on sidewalk blocking traffic" which is an infraction. (the ticket was poorly written, I think the officer got sidewalk and street mixed up. Not a big confidence builder!)

Now again, on the heels of another Cyclist's Bill of Rights endorsement from the community, the Police step up aggressively and write punitive tickets for what purpose?

It's Hollywood, late at night, there must be lots of opportunities to make this a great neighborhood. I'd suggest they start by supporting cyclists, giving them all of their support instead of aggressive and heavy handed violations of our rights.

I recently visited Piper Tech, the City facility that includes the LAPD's Hooper Heliport and the Police Garage. Here are some pictures that should serve to remind LA's finest that it is crazy out there, our streets are crowded and we need to work together. Give it a break, welcome the cyclists, support the cyclists, get out of your squad car and go for a ride yourself! It'll be good for everybody!

See you on the Streets!

Friday, July 04, 2008

BWC Picks up 2nd Cyclists' Bill of Rights Endorsement from Silver Lake NC

Stephen (BWC,) Enci (BWC,) Alfredo, Elson, Alex (BWC,) Erik (BWC,) Colin, Mark (BWC) and Michael

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council became the 2nd NC to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights as presented by the members of the Bike Writers Collective and a delegation from the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. EHNC was the 1st NC to endorse the CBR and they have demonstrated themselves to be leaders among the NC's in fighting to make our communities great, not just for cyclists but for all modes.

Alexis and Erik

As usual, the ride started at REDquarters, the Redline station at Santa Monica & Vermont, this time only traveling a short distance to the SLNC Board Meeting at the Micheltorena Elementary School Auditorium where Alexis and Erik of the SLNC Transportation Committee stood by with motion in hand for 1) a resurfacing project in Silver Lake and 2) the endorsement of the Cyclists Bill of Rights.

Elson took to podium saying "I know SLNC has a reputation for being a progressive NC, so this president of the 1st NC to adopt the CBR hopes to see you become #2 tonight!" He also pointed out that the CBR has no official authority but just like the 232 year old document that we will be busy celebrating on July 4th, it takes time to grow and establish awareness - so we're doing it one community at a time.

Alex, co-author of the CBR, urged the SLNC Board to affirm to cyclists who live here, work here and travel through the neighborhood that the NC cares about them and wants to engage them in the Silver Lake community. Alex's photoset of the evening.

Enci spoke of her experiences riding the streets of Los Angeles, both good and bad, and urged the Board to endorse the CBR as a starting point in stirring neighborhood discussions of equality, shared space and a spirit of community, all of which will ensure that LA is a great place to ride.

Erik spoke of the need for equality, pointing out that on the ride over to the meeting, he passed a long rubber hose stretched across the street, used to measure the number of vehicles that pass through our streets. "But they don't count cyclists. In fact they don't count seniors walking to the store, they don't count children walking to school and they don't count the many people on a bus, simply the bus."

There's something wrong when we don't measure the effectiveness of our streets on the people who use them but simply on the number of vehicles. When it's all said and done, the CBR is about equality. We count!

The Board then discussed the CBR, asking if this was the Bill of Rights or the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Common question, simple answer. The Bill of Rights, just like the Bill of Rights for the United States, is a simple list of basic human rights, and addresses the issues and elements that are basic human rights, civil rights and which serve to support an environment of equality. You're not opposed to equality, are you?

Spencer Strauss had a bit of difficulty with item #8 and item #9 and ultimately voted against the CBR.

#8) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities. (apparently he doesn't have a AAA card, a Union Card or belong to any group that acts to represent its membership. Even the SLNC Board has fellow Boardmembers who qualify for their At-Large seats based on a variety of interests in the community)

#9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations. (Spencer was concerned about the future. What if lots of people start taking the Metro and we reach capacity and it's full and everyone wants to ride a bike. - Wow! Is that a problem or a solution? Meanwhile, City Council President Eric Garcetti has just introduced a motion urging the Metro to remove its ban on rush hour access for bicycles. Spencer has his elbow firmly on the pulse!)

After Spencer spoke, other Board members spoke up affirmatively and firmly. "Cyclists deserve the full support of the Law!" said Gale Jaffe. Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov said "This is the way to urge the City to encourage pedestrians and cyclists and to improve our community. I support it!" Bea Gold cut to the chase saying "We need to do anything we can. I'm in favor."

And so it passed, 16 to 1, with Boardmember Michael Ray Menjivar joining the group in the hallway, asking about the next NC ride and prompting a few cries of "One of Us!, One of Us!"

Stakeholder Norman Chramoff, an elderly gentleman who had arrived on foot, joined the cyclists in the hallway saying "I think we should all be riding bikes! It would make it safer for all of us! Thank you! What you're doing is great!

As the Board continued with its business, the group broke up, some riding to Tren Way, some riding to Scoops and some to Pure Luck.

As for next steps, on Thursday, July 10th, @ 6pm, we meet at REDquarters and ride to the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council for the 3rd NC endorsement.

See you on the Streets!