On Fountain and LaBrea, a Ghost Bike Appears

4_22_09_ghost_bike.jpg

Yesterday morning, the sun rose on the corner of La Brea and Fountain to a new occupant on the street corner.  A Ghost Bike had been erected by a group of bike activists to memorialize two pedestrians, one of whom may have been walking her bike across the street, who "lost their lives to a motorist" on March 31 while walking their bikes across the street.

When Alina Sheyman and Maria Velasquez, both in their 70’s, stepped off the curb they weren’t expecting to be placing their lives on the line.  Yet, when a left turning car hit another car; the second car was sent careening out of control into the two women, both were killed.  Of course, neither driver was charged in the crash because of a little-known, but oft-cited, part of the vehicle code that clearly states, "Unless a driver is drunk, runs away from the crash or does something else horrific but telegenic action; said driver can kill as many pedestrians as he or she desires."  I guess causing a chain reaction of crashes that kills two elderly women, and injured a third pedestrian, wasn’t quite exciting enough.

However, the boredom shown by the LAPD doesn’t extend to the family and friends of the victim nor the cycling community at large.  Spear-headed by User1, a group of Ridazz and Bike Oven volunteers constructed, moved and set-up the make shift memorial late on Monday night.

Similar projects are underway for riders downed in Echo Park over the weekend and another to the victim of a drunk driver in Glendale.

For more pictures of the Ghost Bike, you can find some at Streetsblog’s or User1’s Flickr pools.

  • Like every ghost bike, this one breaks my heart. But maybe we need to break some hearts for drivers and civil authorities get the message that killing cyclists and pedestrians just isn’t acceptable anymore.

    Kudos to User1, the Ridazz and the Bike Oven volunteers.

  • BE

    What a fool! It makes me sad also. Do you have anything worth while to say? It was an unfortunate sequence of events. No one intended this to happen. I am sure you have plenty of opinions and complaints about many things! Do you have any reasonable suggestions to prevent this from happening? Probably not.

  • Alex

    Fountain, not Flower.

  • Stats Dude

    I was suggesting to someone that perhaps, in addition to the ghost bike that gets photographed and posted on some blogs (and hopefully a mention in a newspaper) that more action is needed.

    Perhaps a “Ghost Ride” should be done when a bicyclists is killed by a motorist. The orderly movement of dozens, if not hundreds of bicyclists (one towing the ghost bike)from the place of the accident to the victim’s home, or to some suitable venue, would garner some press exposure.

    Just think of it like the funeral processions that police have when one of their own has died in the line of duty. You might even garner their support.

  • BE, I’m not sure if you’re responding to Damien’s story or my comment. Either way, people get killed very day without anyone intending it to happen, but they’re no less dead than if someone had intended it.

    We’ve got to get past this attitude that accidents happen, and start holding every driver accountable for maintaining control over their vehicles. “Oops” is not a valid excuse for killing anyone.

  • Dear Lord, I biked there and everything and still wrote the name wrong. Thanks Alex. Ted, I’m not sure who he meant either, but I would assume that anyone reading the story could figure out I’m calling for stricter enforcement of traffic laws. I’ll say it again, nobody who was involved in the crash was CHARGED WITH ANYTHING! Yet Alex Thompson get handcuffed for taking a picture of a bunch of kids getting harassed.

  • Besides traffic enforcement, how about re-orienting the way this intersection is designed? Right now, it enables high speed, reckless, driving. If lanes were removed, cars would move slower, but all other users of the road would have more freedom and safety.

  • Spokker

    “I’ll say it again, nobody who was involved in the crash was CHARGED WITH ANYTHING!”

    What would you charge them with? Should they go to jail?

  • Spokker

    I think a revocation of license with a time limit on getting it back (six months to a year?) and extensive driver’s education (at the expense of the driver) if they ever want to drive again is appropriate.

    I mean, to cause an accident where someone dies or gets hurt means someone screwed up. I don’t think they should go to jail unless they showed an intent to harm others or were grossly negligent (as in the case of DWI or speeding), but they definitely shouldn’t be driving.

    In any case, I get a lot of shit from people in my life for driving the speed limit and making FULL stops at stop signs. I was driving in Griffith Park the other day where the speed limit was 25 MPH. Now this isn’t exactly a highway where there’s a “fast lane” and a “slow lane.” There are fucking pedestrians, hikers and cyclists and horses and shit. My passengers said, “Driving a little slow there, eh?” and “What the hell?” and I told them the speed limit is 25 while many cars passed me at 40 MPH.

    If they had kept at it I would have told them to shut the fuck up or get out.

  • To be clear. Yes, I think they should go to jail. If someone is negligent with a gun and shoots and kills someone, they go to jail, get charged with manslaughter, etc. Even if it’s an “accident.” I don’t see why killing someone with a car because of negligence is any different.

  • I’m against making the country more punishment oriented than it already is. This is tragic. I’d like to see some laws, but not laws that have to do with punishing people, not at least with jail time. Revoking your license, fine. Suing the manufacturers for selling two ton bullets, fine.

    When kids get shot because their parent left their guns hanging around it’s tragic, but sending people to jail? That’s not going to do anything. This country has a higher incarceration rate than any 1st world country on the planet and I don’t think we need more people going to jail for accidents. I hate guns. I think Americans having guns is some kind of flawed wrongness, but you know what breaks my heart even more, when some family whose kid accidentally shot himself in the face has to then face charges with the possibility of going to jail. We allow guns in this country. We allow people to drive and who should pay isn’t individuals. This country this system encourages this behavior. We need to change the system, not add band-aids like jail time.

    Jail is for murderers and mean people who do mean things on purpose.

    More driver training, obviously. Better public transit, so people don’t feel like they have to drive, most definitely. Safe bike lanes, that a parent and kid can ride in, YES, YES, YES!!

    But for more things for Americans to go to jail for I would have to respectfully disagree. I very much understand wanting to throw people under the jail for being thoughtless, it’s a very emotional thing, but you can’t let emotional make you come up with a solution that isn’t going to do anything. It’s just going to lead to more problems and it will be the gov’ts way to not truly fix anything.

    Why would politicians make public transit work when they can say they’ve put this amount of people in jail?

    Why make bike lanes when you can say you’ve added the death penalty for accidents?

    We can’t encourage the American’s culture thirst for blood of the individual when it’s the corporate and systems fault that people are dying.

    The US has more people in jail than communist China. Is that not an amazing thing?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199812/prisons

    Browne

  • Damien, I gotta say the rhetoric in your post seems inappropriate to me. When you say stuff like:

    “Of course, neither driver was charged in the crash because of a little-known, but oft-cited, part of the vehicle code that clearly states, “Unless a driver is drunk, runs away from the crash or does something else horrific but telegenic action; said driver can kill as many pedestrians as he or she desires.” I guess causing a chain reaction of crashes that kills two elderly women, and injured a third pedestrian, wasn’t quite exciting enough.”

    First: “neither” driver? So you think the driver of the second car, which got struck and went out of control as a result, should be charged with something and sent to jail? The way you described it, one car struck another, and the second car was out of control and killed the pedestrians. So, if, I’m standing on the sidewalk waiting for the bus, and there’s another person standing in front of me, and some big dudes get in a shove-fight behind me, I get shoved and accidentally push the person in front of me into the path of the oncoming bus. . . I should be charged with manslaughter?

    What if a bus struck another bus and the second bus killed pedestrians? Should the second bus driver be charged with manslaughter?

    Second: “. . . said driver can kill as many pedestrians as he or she desires.”

    Right. Because the drivers of both of these vehicles really desired to kill two people that day. How do you know that? Because they were driving cars. Murderous monsters. Do drivers of the blue line “desire” to kill someone when that happens?

    The whole “cars are evil and there’s no such thing as accidents” mentality that pervades so many of the posts around here just leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. You do know it’s possible to advocate for a more sustainable society without demonizing driving, don’t you? Encouraging people to drive less out of interest for their health and their wallet and the environment is plenty of motivation. You don’t have go off the deep end and imply that people who drive cars “desire” to kill pedestrians.

    There are shades of gray when it comes to fault in these kind of cases. The driver who blew through the crosswalk at USC and only stopped momentarily to pull a victim off the hood. . . yeah, charge and convict. A driver who gets T-boned and has no control over their car as it gets flung into pedestrians? Not so much.

    The incident mentioned in the post was tragic. And yes it resulted from either wrecklessness OR a momentary lapse in judgement OR a mistake. And yes, it cost the lives of two people. But there IS such a thing as an accident.

  • First: “neither” driver? So you think the driver of the second car, which got struck and went out of control as a result, should be charged with something and sent to jail? The way you described it, one car struck another, and the second car was out of control and killed the pedestrians.
    ———————

    Actually, I was trying to say that one driver or the other should be charged, not both. The stories on Fox, Metblogs and other places didn’t have enough information for me to know which driver was at fault. 95% sure it was the one doing the rear-ending; but if the police had determined the driver in the front was at fault for whatever reason I wouldn’t have minded that.

    As for the rest of the comment, let me say this.

    I don’t hate cars. My wife drives over an hour a day to and from work. My brother lives in the Valley and works in Santa Monica. Heck, I even jump in the car when I’m writing on something that is farther away than the Downtown or SM and all the time last fall when I had a hole in my left knee.

    You’ll also note that I don’t spend a lot of time arguing to punish people for driving with higher parking rates or other user fees UNLESS the money is going back to alternative transportation. To raise parking fees without putting the money back into transportation is just charging people more to get around. But, if you’re the city of L.A. and you take parking funds and put them into maintaining and expanding DASH, then by all means. Have at it.

    That being said, I hate unsafe driving and I think the attitude that crashes that kill people are “accidents” is part of the problem. What you call “a momentary lapse,” I call “negligent driving.” Did the driver want to kill those old ladies? I would guess no. Are they just as dead because he had a momentary lapse? Absolutely.

    But you see, that’s just it. Only when a person is killed by a car driver do we treat it as an understandable mistake instead of negligent homicide. When I say that you can kill as many people you want as long as you wait for the cops and aren’t drunk I’m not trying to say people get in their cars because they want to kill people. I’m saying that if you want to kill someone, you’re crazy if you use anything besides a car to do so…because people, and especially the LAPD, will explain away your act as an accident.

    Let’s try a different example. This weekend was beautiful out. Since it was so nice, I decided to go clean my gun collection in the back yard. My neighbors were playing in their yard. Distracted by the sound of children’s laughter, I have a momentary lapse and the gun discharges, killing one of the kids. You think the cops are going to care that it was an accident? I’m going to jail for manslaughter because I shouldn’t be cleaning my guns while distracted and heck, it’s probably not the best idea to do it next to children playing.

    The same logic applies here. People should be paying more attention to the road when approaching a crosswalk, not having momentary lapses. If there’s some external reason (hepped up on caffeine, distraught that his girlfriend dumped him, tired from a day of exams) they shouldn’t be driving in the first place. Cars are deadly when not utilized safely and we should treat them as such and the people driving them should be responsible for their actions.

    Yeah, I have a problem with the couple that mowed down those peds. near USC. But I have a larger problem that their negligence killed someone and put someone else in the hospital than that they cowardly ran and pulled the one victim off the windshield. To me the greater horror is the dead woman than the attempt to cover it up.

  • Spokker

    The gun analogy doesn’t work because guns are designed to kill or hurt people. Cars are designed to get people from point A to point B.

    I think my solution is better. Take the responsible party’s license away with strict guidelines for getting it back. At least you take them off the road.

  • Cars may not be designed to hurt people, but they obviously do hurt people. If you had a product like chicken and that chicken though it was for eating killed as many peoople’s as cars chicken would be pulled off the shelves, even if that chicked only killed people if you fried it, and only if you fried it in crisco, still the potential is there.

    Guns and cars to me are very American and they kill lots of people that’s why I use the analogy.

    30,000 died in the year 2005 from guns
    http://www.ichv.org/Statistics.htm

    42,000 died in the year 2006 from cars
    http://www.usnews.com/blogs/barone/2007/7/30/good-news-on-auto-accident-trends.html

    So possibly if the point of guns is to kill people gun manufacturers should look into the car industry.

    Cars kill more people per year than a tool that’s point is to kill people. If there wasn’t so much money in the car industry something would be done about this.

    I am not about demonizing individual car drivers, because I get it in regards to there being a real lack of choices but I have no problem demonizing corporate assholes who make deals with dirty politicians to limit our choices and force us to drive death traps. I’d be all for putting those two groups of people in jail.

    Browne

  • Spokker

    Cars are used more often than guns.

  • Knives are used more than guns, but not that many knife deaths in the US.

    In the US when two kids get sick on some peanuts, peanuts get banned from the cafeteria. If cars were a food item, it would be banned, even if everyone ate it.

    Car accidents is the 7th leading cause of death for the entire US population and in the 15-24 group is is the leading cause of death with 33% of people who die in that age group being killed by cars.

    If 33% of deaths of 15 year olds were caused by peanuts, rap music or carrying a heavy back pack there would be a major class action suit, laws put forth and major campaigns and organizations to down this very dangerous product, but is is the sacred car. We would rather have it the machine and rich people who make these machines be free to kill people than to try to find a different way to live.

    And cars are the leading cause of accidental death in the US.

    National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 50, No. 15, September 16, 2002
    http://www.the-eggman.com/writings/death_stats.html

    Browne

  • Spokker

    Cars are more important than peanuts or rap music.

  • Spokker

    The car is not the problem. The car is not what kills. It’s the driver acting stupid.

    Like I said earlier, I drive the speed limit the one or two times a week I drive. I make FULL stops at stop signs and red lights, not rolling stops. I actually keep the appropriate empty space in front of me and the car ahead. I’m actually looking out for pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t talk on the cell phone, hands-free or not, nor do I text or screw around with the radio unless I am stopped. All of these things piss off my friends and other drivers on the road.

    There are many people like me, and there are many people not like me. So instead of demonizing drivers, it would make sense to propose getting those drivers who can’t operate cars safely off the road instead of alienating all the “rich” drivers. Poor people drive too, you know.

  • The solution may not be jail, but it’s clear that something has to be done, and done now. We all see dangerous, out-of-control drivers every time we’re on the road. Most of the time they get away with it; sometimes they don’t, and it’s usually other people who end up paying the price:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/04/man-waiting-for-bus-killed-in-playa-del-rey.html

  • uh, we don’t need to create any new laws here. there is one called manslaughter that i’m sure we are all aware of, that applies directly to this situation. it is the unintentional killing, often through negligence. in addition to that there is reckless endangerment. reckless endangerment leading to death is definitely a felony. ok, we’ve got 2 strikes here. i’m sure we could find another…

    cops are notorious for not doing their jobs when they don’t have to. they should be made aware of the fact that they are required to do their jobs even when they don’t feel like it. we pay their salaries. they work for us, not the other way around. when a cop wants to, they will use any means necessary to arrest someone, for the smallest infraction. yet they won’t when people are killed. this is bullshit. folks are supposed to be arrested when there is suspicion of a crime having been committed. manslaughter is a crime and it applies to motorists running people over.

    lock em up and throw away the key. the solution is jail. period.

  • Brent

    I think it’s important to remember that criminal fault and civil fault are two different things.

    Criminal fault usually requires that you wanted or intended to do something against the law, and then did it. For that, you can be put in jail.

    Civil fault doesn’t always require desire to do something; often it only requires negligence, that you failed to act cautiously. For that, you can be sued and lose all your money.

    Accidents are not often criminal, but they are almost always the fault of someone, and often mean severe financial costs.

    I think the best way to prevent motor vs. pedestrian/bicyclist accidents is through better infrastructure, and not so much through law changes.

    Bring on protected bikeways!

  • i guess you are right, we shouldn’t get these people off the streets. they should be put back in their cars to do it all over again.

  • Yeah, putting people in jail, but not making public transit work or having safe bike lanes will do a lot!!!! Blame the people making less than 100k per year, that always makes for good sound bites. And helps the American public pick the best person for the job.

    It makes the average angeleno really happy too. Lets throw one person in jail and then write really long posts about that person talking about how evil they are.

    Why waste time reading facts and doing research and finding out why people kill people with cars, that’s too much trouble. You can’t tweet that in 140 words.

    Why blame general motors or ford or toyota (toyota makes ELECTRIC CARS) why blame the politicians that are given money by car companies. Lets blame joe blow on the street and put him under the jail, that will solve everything and it won’t be offensive or anything.

    Joe Blow can’t impact our job or money, so lets just blame it all on the individual. No need to write or complain about the very rich, that might actually make an impact and we wouldn’t want to do that, because if we actually got to the root of the problem and solved it what would we have to complain about? What would we have to blog about? The Rockefeller Foundation may be able to give us a grant and their money was based on oil and cars, so lets not talk about the car, because that’s what made them rich, that’s too real. That could make you lose money and status.

    Lets just put people in jail because that will fix everything, just like it did with drugs. I don’t know anyone who uses drugs anymore, because of those laws. When I was in college in the 90s no one used drugs, because it was illegal and you might go to jail.

    Browne.

  • Spokker

    1) I don’t see too many special interests standing in the way of mass transit anymore. Measure R and Prop 1A passed without opposition from oil companies or airlines or so called rich assholes. AAA even got behind Prop 1A, which includes a little under a billion for lower speed regional rail. In fact, transit of all types did pretty well across the country in 2008.

    2) In the end, yes, the individual is the one who drives the vehicle. The individual is the one who chooses whether or not to drive that vehicle and how to drive it. They are to blame if they indeed cause an accident. Some people think they should go to jail for causing an accident. I think they should get their license taken away.

    But you’re making a false assumption that people who blame the driver, and rightfully so, don’t think increased mass transit investment might save a few lives, which is safer on average than driving.

    If everybody got on mass transit, accidents would still happen. People would still die. Will people be happy that less people are dying? Of course not. There will be plenty of rabble-rousing on blogs such as this one. I’m certainly not worried about that.

  • nice try trying to bring drugs into this. it’s one thing to light up a joint or do some shrooms, but another to kill someone with a car.

    yeah, you are totally correct. we should probably stop putting people behind bars for drunk driving too, because putting average people in jail doesn’t fix anything. good point. let’s let drunk drivers and reckless drivers roam free. in fact, if they damage their cars, we can give em a coupon for a new one. must be domestic though. that’ll jump start the economy!

  • My point is this, the system is flawed. Now I know how the average Angeleno loves blood. (Living in LA is like living in a very big backwoods town but people are more attractive.) And wants to see people fry, fine whatever, but you have to know that doesn’t do anything. It truly doesn’t, because most people who drive drunk don’t get caught. Most people who are thoughtless drivers don’t get caught.

    We always look at other countries in regards to alt transit on this blog, why don’t we look at other countries in regards to crime and punishment? It’s all connected, education, crime, and alt transit. You can’t just take one piece and try to apply it here. The fact that we’ll look at Japan’s public transit or Amsterdam in regards to their bikes, but we don’t look at how those countries treat their people.

    You know why you can bike in Amsterdam, because everyone there doesn’t hate everyone else. There isn’t this active “how can I ruin these people’s lives because their values are not the same as mine or they speak a different language or they look different.” There is a true respect for humanity, now there are alot of reasons for that, but those reasons need to be looked at and it doesn’t start with the bike lanes.

    We’re number one in putting people in jail and yet I think this country is pretty violent and scary. I would say this is the most scary non third world country on the planet so how exactly did that happen?

    Now our solutions is always to put people in jail, we’ve been doing that for awhile and the same results have happened. You know things getting worse.

    Why can’t we take all the money we spend on jailing people and make education better, make alt transit work better.

    Do you know they take third grade test scores in certain states in this country to decide how many jails they will build for the future?

    That’s the kind of thinking we have in this country and that kind of thinking needs to stop.

    Browne

  • the other day i was riding my bicycle through a trader joes parking lot. there was a lady coming out of a parking row and onto the main bit, which i was traveling on. i had clear right of way. i watched the lady, in her suv, not even bother to look to see if anyone was coming and make a turn in the place where i was supposed to be. if i hadn’t have watched her and swerved, she would have run me right over.

    when i pointed this out to her, she shouted “i should have run you over anyway, you shouldn’t even be in the street.” literally, she said this.

    this is certainly not an isolated incident, living in brooklyn for 10 years, i faced this type of behavior nearly every time i rode my bike. i’ve had people try to run me off the road, i’ve been spit on, called faggot. you name it – just for riding a bicycle.

    i have no problem with people being idealists and optimists and whatnot. but one person’s utopia is another’s nightmare. our utopia of bike lanes criss-crossing everywhere and subways running 24 hours a day and light rail lines running by schools… doesn’t apply to everyone. this lady’s utopia is obviously free of bicycles and probably pedestrians and buses and is full of empty freeways and her not paying a dime of taxes for public transportation. and there are plenty just like her.

    no amount of turning cheeks and pleading to people’s compassion – people who don’t have any to begin with – is going to make people selfless and compassionate.

    i agree that we must work with each other, but not everybody wants to play that game. in the short term, i’d just like to be able to ride my bicycle around and not have assholes run me over until we get some real bike lanes n schtuff and if it takes laws and the threat of jail time for these selfish folks to see restraint, then so be it.

    good luck.

  • cochon,

    With all due respect, this isn’t a Utopian movement.

    Plenty of other cities around the world have adopted a transportation system that is favorable to bicycles and pedestrians. They have lowered the risks involved in moving oneself about town as well as saved themselves considerable amounts of money otherwise burned up fueling the automobile entitlement system.

    This isn’t about the wet dreams of cyclists – it is about basic good governance, safety, and protecting local businesses.

  • Spokker

    A cyclist utopia is better for pedestrians than the autopia we have now. I got hit by a cyclist once on the sidewalk (the kicker was that there was a bike lane in the street). I was fucking pissed and he scurried away, but if it had been a car I’d be dead.

    So in summary I’d rather be involved in a hit and run by a guy on a bike than a guy in a car.

  • governance and safety? did you read what i wrote? governance is the point i’m trying to make. i don’t give two shits about some stinking utopia. i just want the police to earn their salary that i pay for by doing their jobs correctly. case in point, hummer – last week.

    spokker, sorry to hear that – i use to run through stop signs and red lights until i almost ran some little old lady over, then i had an epiphany. if i’m so hell bent on cars giving me respect, then i should give the same level of respect to pedestrians. now, i stop at red lights and stop signs.

    we may not all be auto drivers, riders of bicycles or buses or whatever, but we are all pedestrians at some point in our day. all of us.

  • Moishele

    The driver you described as the ‘second car’ was recently arrested on two counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of driving on a suspended license. The pedestrains weren’t killed because of the collision of the two cars. The pedestrians died because one driver decided it was okay for him to drive erratically, run a red light, and exceed the speed limit by up to 20 mph.

    The first driver was making a legal left turn and was cleared of any wrong doing.

  • mike

    This intersection constantly has accidents, most of which have resulted in cars going into the store on the southwest corner.

    All this discussion about bicyclists is very slanted. In my work I have had numerous contacts with bicyle riders. Some of them positive but many negative. Those negative contacts always involve those who think autos, trucks and buses should get out of their way. They constantly challenge those vehicles. I guess they think they will win if there is a collision. I’ll just take pictures of what is left of them ande their mangled bike. Bike riders should be cited when they violate the law including rideing on the sidewalk. How mant times have you seen a bike rider weaving in and out of traffic. What about the ones that ride against traffic?

    The two bike riders killed in the article appeared to be at the time of the accident pedestrians with bikes. Its a bad intersection. I’m not sure why.

  • DW

    “i use to run through stop signs and red lights until i almost ran some little old lady over, then i had an epiphany. if i’m so hell bent on cars giving me respect, then i should give the same level of respect to pedestrians. now, i stop at red lights and stop signs.”

    cochon, you are in a very, very small minority of bicycle riders.

  • Mike, please note that riding on the sidewalk within the City of Los Angeles is LEGAL unless otherwise posted (LA Municipal Code, Chapter VIII, Section 85.07). By default, the California Vehicle Code does not ban bicycles on sidewalks. Individual city ordinances can. The County does ban bicycles on sidewalks (County Code 15.76.080) but that is operative ONLY within the County’s unincorporated area, and is virtually never enforced, just like the mythical overnight parking ban (County Code 15.64.060, can’t leave your car for more than half an hour overnight – in many unincorporated neighborhoods every house would be ticketed for this).

  • Rodebella

    I would love to know if this memorial is still there. I will check it out this week, as I am planning to erect one in Hollywood also, to memorialize my dear friend Christopher “Bicycle Chris” Spychala who was killed in Hollywood this week due to being struck by an opening car door while he was passing. And as per the story here, it was classified ” just an accident”.

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