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Cyclists, motorists and rage all around

July 10, 2008 |  6:05 pm

2ndtraffic Huh. I thought riding a bike was supposed to be healthful. Not so much in L.A., maybe.

In what was described in a recent L.A. Times story as a "road-rage incident," two cyclists were injured last week on Mandeville Canyon Road in Brentwood when a motorist in front of them slammed on his brakes. One went through the rear window; the other hit the pavement. The driver was arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

(No wonder folks in West Hollywood want to ride on the sidewalks.)

The story has drawn almost 400 responses to an attached discussion board, a call from L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl for a town meeting (Monday at 6:30 p.m., according to The Times' Bottleneck Blog), and widespread attention on various local blogs including this pronouncement, and fairly comprehensive coverage of the incident and reaction, from illuminatela, that "L.A.'s got a cycling movement!"

The members of that movement are pretty ticked off, as the thread at socalbikeforums suggests.

The incident and ensuing outrage seem to have increased interest in the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. From bikinginla: "it beats the heck out of my best idea, which was to wear a jersey reading 'Thank you for not killing me today.' "

Outdoorurbanite also offers coverage of the issue, plus a rundown of bike laws and, in a slight digression for this post anyway, a really cool look at a backpack bicycle.

But motorists are working themselves into a lather too. Actually, they seem to have already been in one. Says "John" on the discussion board: "So you broke your nose? Good! Maybe that will knock some sense into you. Like the good doc said, "Single File!" Lance Armstrong wanna-bes."

That single-file business again. Perhaps it's time to remind everyone of the relevant portions of the California Vehicle Code. It's of particular interest to the more legal-minded among us, but woefully unfamiliar to pretty much everyone else. As Section 21200 says: "Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle..."

Now let's get down to specifics, as stated in Section 21202: "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656.

4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

Said "legal-minded among us" goes on to detail the penalty for conviction of assault with a car. This dovetails nicely with some cyclists' wishes that those convicted should lose their license. It's somewhat less harsh than the wishes for more graphic punishment.   

Until everyone memorizes the pertinent sections of the vehicle code (or at least glances at the thing), perhaps it's worth checking out these important lessons from on bicycle safety (with helpful graphics), otherwise known as How to Not Get Hit by Cars

The author specifies, in a way that is clearer and seemingly more logical, than the Vehicle Code: "Take the whole lane when appropriate. It's often safer to take the whole lane, or at least ride a little bit to the left, rather than hug the right curb." Explanations follow. There was no Mandeville Canyon Road exception to this advice.

... And since we're on the topic of cycling, there's some sort of bicycle race going on in France now. Supposed to be a big deal. Check it out, more or less directly (if you didn't think ahead enough to get plane tickets), here.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Flavio Olcese braves traffic on Washington Boulevard in Culver City last year.

Credit: Christina House / For The Times