Skip to content

Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

63 Comments

Bottle Thrower in Cuffs: This Time I Was the Cyclist Who Got Attacked

Bottle thrower in cuffs in back of LAPD car. Photo by Roger Rudick

Bottle thrower in cuffs in back of LA County Sheriff car. Photo by Roger Rudick

Wednesday night I attended the vigil for Milton Olin, a cyclist who was run down and killed by a distracted Sheriff’s Deputy. The next morning, I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time: go for a purely recreational ride.

As I get older, and my number of close-calls gets larger, the more I worry that my luck’s about to run out and my death will be the next headline. But the vigil made me more determined than ever that cyclists should not cower. We must be allowed to ride in safety and peace.

I live in downtown, so I decided to take the safest ride I know of: the bike path along the L.A. River. But getting there is still undeniably precarious. I threaded the needle as best I could, navigated around a city vehicle parked in the bike lane on Main Street, cut back over to Alameda near Union Station, and continued towards Chinatown on my journey to the start of the path in Egret Park.

But as I passed the intersection of Spring and Bruno, just past the Homeboy Cafe, a tan SUV blew through the stop sign. I shouted “Oiy!” as loudly as I could and he stopped before hitting me, yelling out the window, “I saw you!”

I answered, “The stop sign is back there!” as I rode past him.

So no f-bombs, no cursing, nothing rude, just a criticism for blowing the stop sign.

He gunned his engine, overtook me, and threw a bottle at me.

The bottle hit me in the buttocks and bounced off. It must have been mostly empty, and plastic, so no damage done. But that’s an assault—anybody throwing a bottle at a cyclist is aware of the potential consequences.

I took off after the guy and easily got back in visual range of his license plate. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was going to do with the number. But then I noticed something to my left.

An L.A. Sheriff’s car, parked on the other side of the street, with two deputies standing nearby.

“Officer! I need help! Help!” I shouted as loudly as I could.  Read more…

2 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Milton Olin Ride and Vigil Demands D.A. Justice

Milton Olin Ride passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday’s Justice for Milt Olin Ride #rideformilt passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and Ghost Bikes hosted a ride and vigil for Milton Olin. Olin was bicycling in a Calabasas bike lane when County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood drove into the bike lane and ended Olin’s life. The sheriff was distracted, typing a non-emergency message on his on-board computer. Last week, eight months after the crash, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute the killer, stating that Wood’s distracted driving constituted “reasonable behavior.”

Yesterday’s ride started at the crash site in Calabasas, and rode 30 miles to the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown L.A. Roughly 75 riders were on the ride as it entered downtown, and the number swelled to roughly 125 for the vigil at Grand Park.

LACBC submitted this letter (read it – it is excellent and thorough in outlining appropriate measures to prosecute Wood for his deadly behavior) and are encouraging others concerned to write to D.A. Lacey to demand she prosecute Olin’s killer. The D.A. can be reached at webmail@da.lacounty.gov.

For links to media coverage of yesterday’s ride and vigil, check these articles from SBLA headlines: CBS, ABCLA Times, LA Register, and Daily News. See also earlier SBLA coverage of this outrageous killing and the inexcusable lack of prosecution. More photos after the jump.  Read more…

21 Comments

Milton Olin’s Killer Escapes Charges. A Broken System Cries for Change.

Last night, Brenda Gazaar broke the story in the Daily News that the District Attorney will not be pressing charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood, who struck and killed Milt Olin from behind with his car while Olin was riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Olin, a former Napster executive and lawyer, was riding legally and safely in the bicycle lane on the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas.

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Reaction from safety advocates, critics of the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department and bicyclists was swift on social media. The department’s internal investigation showed that Wood was typing non-emergency messages on his on-board computer when his car veered into the bicycle lane at high enough speed to strike Olin and send him flying over his handlebars.

I share their outrage, and the investigation into Wood’s killing of Olin has been under fire from the moment the Sheriff’s Department declined to pass the investigation off to the California Highway Patrol, but the burden of proof to convict a peace officer who kills someone with a vehicle is so high that even a well-ordered investigation may have yielded the same results.

The system is broken.

Maybe a review of the D.A. will overturn the initial ruling and a criminal trial will occur. Even if that’s the case, there’s going to be a high standard for Wood to face justice.

The system is broken.

Gazaar explains: Read more…

10 Comments

L.A. Weekly Claims the Mantle of Defender of Dangerous Drivers

There was a decent amount of outrage aimed at Hillel Aron at L.A. Weekly for his web-exclusive op/ed boasting about his driving prowess and defending his habit of texting-while-driving. I’ve considered myself something of a Hillel fan since his “Bikeroots” piece in 2011, so I was both surprised and a little dismayed while reading a piece that seemed so wildly tone-deaf.

A sample:

And so when we get a call, we’re forced to go digging through our glove compartments like desperate raccoons, looking for our filthy ear buds, an act infinitely more dangerous than simply holding something up to our ear.

Well I say: nuts to that.

I started a draft criticizing the piece, then scrapped it. I thought I should email him first. We had talked several times before. I’ve been quoted in some of his articles. So, I started an email last night I was going to send to him this morning.

Then, I saw the piece in Media Bistro, a web site that does little more than critique other media, and I realized the problem is bigger than Aron (whom I never emailed). Media Bistro corresponded with Sarah Fenske, the Weekly’s Editor in Chief. Fenske’s defense of the editorial decision to run the piece was even more bizarre than just reading Aron’s piece. From Fenske’s email response published at Media Bistro:

“When Hillel pitched this idea at our news blog meeting, it’s fair to say several jaws dropped. (Personally, as a chronic speeder, I consider any driver meandering along, texting, while I’m trying to get somewhere fast to be a mortal enemy.) But it was very clear to all of us as we chewed it over that he was only admitting to something that a vast majority of LA drivers do with impunity.”

“I suspect that at least half the commenters shaking their fist in his direction will send a text, or check their phones, or Tweet something, on their way home tonight. Everyone’s outraged about it; at least on the roads I’m driving, everyone’s still doing it.”

“And behind all the provocative rhetoric, he does make one good point: Distracted driving has long been illegal. As it should be. Texters are not necessarily any worse than the drivers putting on makeup, or eating breakfast. Yet texting is what we get wound up about (as, yes, this story proves!)”

Yes, this article proves that people get upset when someone brags about how they engage in dangerous behavior which proves your point that…wait, what?

And what’s up with the defense of speeding? Speeding has a long deadly track record; it’s arguably more dangerous than distracted driving or texting. Anyone in Fenske’s way considered a “mortal enemy”? Yes, it’s an email using hyperbole for effect, and I had to double-check the definition to be sure Fenske wrote what I thought she wrote, but Fenske appears to be stating that slower-moving drivers (in the way of her speeding) are actually trying to kill her.

I will give Fenske credit for one thing. I had never thought of texting-while-driving and searching-through-your-glovebox-for-a-filthy-earpiece-while-driving as akin to traffic calming. Kudos for thinking outside the box.

A couple of years ago, I had a story idea to write about why LAist, L.A. Weekly and the Daily News (to name a few) publish the locations of DUI checkpoints. Each organization explained to me that they believed that publishing these locations actually made the roads safer, and a public relations person at the Sheriff’s backed them up. While this seems counter-intuitive to me, I never got around to writing the story.

But now that the Weekly is on the record in favor of texting while driving and driving at unsafe speeds, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that public safety on the roadway is something they take seriously at all.

Hillel Aaron’s piece states: “Let’s face it, we all text in the car some of the time.” Sarah Fenske further states “everyone’s still doing it.”

For the record, I can name a whole group of people who don’t text and drive or drive at unsafe speeds.

They’re known as “people who don’t drive.” Because you are driving around with a suit of armor known as a car, and they are not, you are responsible to pay close attention to them at all times. These people are your grandparents, your weird friend who bikes everywhere, and, most importantly to me, THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. So if I sound mad or outraged, it’s not somehow proving your point. It’s because you’re acting like an asshole.

6 Comments

Vision Zero or Zero Vision? L.A. Needs to Change the Way It Thinks About Safety

##http://walksf.org/2014/01/no-loss-of-life-is-acceptable-san-franciscans-call-for-vision-zero/##Walk SF## shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.

Walk SF shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.

Cyclist John Philips was cycling in heavy traffic in the San Fernando Valley when he was hit from behind by an impatient driver. While the driver did try to run, heavy traffic allowed witnesses to photograph both him and his vehicle. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) WAS summoned and a report was quickly taken.

As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., "Apparently tire tracks aren't significant enough evidence that one has been run over."

As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., “Apparently tire tracks aren’t significant enough evidence that one has been run over.”

Last September, a cyclist was riding on Chatsworth Boulevard. After standing up for his rights after being verbally accosted by a dangerous driver, the driver intentionally ran him over, got out of his car, and berated him as he lay in the street. The cyclist used his cell phone to take pictures and turned the pics, as well as a witness list over to the police. Tire tracks were still visible on his legs when photographed later.

In December Dan Davis (name changed) crossed the street safely on foot in Downtown Los Angeles.

In all three of these stories, the LAPD was present . In only one of these cases did they find someone to be at fault. Philips and the other anonymous cyclist were shocked to discover that the city would not pursue a case against their attackers. In both cases “insufficient evidence” was cited, despite several eyewitnesses, pictures and immediate LAPD notification. Davis received a $259 ticket because the walk signal was already a flashing orange when he began his trip across the street, even though exactly zero people were injured or placed in danger by his actions.

With the LAPD’s enforcement of traffic laws so clearly out-of-step with the city’s safety needs, it’s time for someone to lead the way towards creating a safer Los Angeles. It’s time for the city to adopt Vision Zero.

“Vision Zero” began in Sweden. In the 1970′s, Sweden decided that the amount of traffic deaths was too great, so it began to base every transportation design, construction and enforcement decision around a basic premise: “will it help reduce Sweden’s total traffic deaths to zero?”.

The term “Vision Zero” wasn’t coined until it was written into the country’s transportation laws in 1997, but the statistics are clear. With only three of every 100,000 Swedes die in crashes each year. This compares with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, and 11.4 in America. Sweden’s roads are the safest in the world. America has over three times as many per capita fatalities. Read more…

3 Comments

Seriously, When Is Someone Going to Take Away This Kid’s Car Keys

For the second time in 2014, the world sat witness to Justin Bieber’s private meltdown. After two years of excusing and applauding his wreckless driving history, the long arm of the law caught up with Bieber after he egged a rich guy’s house and one of his friends was busted for carrying his drugs.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

Last night, the popular mega-star was arrested for DUI, resisting arrest, and drag racing in Miami Dade-County. South Florida seems to be a popular place for L.A. based celebrities to drive dangerously.

While gossip news sources and Bieber haters will delight in this news, the sad truth is our society that dismisses dangerous driving behavior is partially to blame for the Bieb’s most recent meltdown behind the wheel. Consider his recent driving history and wonder how a sane society allows this young man to operate deadly machinery.

31 Comments

There’s Still Plenty of Questions About the “Eric Garcetti Crash”

From the Times's security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor's SUV but barely the crash victim.

From the Times’s security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor’s SUV but barely the crash victim.

The LAPD, Mayor’s Office and to some extent the media are downplaying the significance of yesterday’s afternoon car crash in Downtown Los Angeles involving the Mayor’s SUV. Driven by an LAPD officer, the vehicle was driven into a pedestrian inside of a crosswalk causing her hospitalization. The the officer and his passengers were traveling east on 2nd Street towards City Hall when the crash occurred at Spring Street.

A video of the crash was taken by L.A. Times security cameras, but the resolution is so grainy and the actual collision occurs off-screen.

The LAPD dismisses the crash as “minor.” And with reports already streaming in that the woman was “crossing against the signal” it is possible that the city will use this crash as justification for its widely panned pedestrian stings.

But a look at the facts of the case show that instead of this being a lesson about safely crossing the street, it could turn into a lesson for the LAPD on how it desperately needs to improve the way the department investigates crashes. Here’s a rundown of some problems with the investigation as reported:

Problem 1: The LAPD Blamed the Victim Before Completing the Investigation

From the Los Angeles Times:

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the woman appeared to be crossing 2nd against the light when the accident occurred, but further investigation was needed.

The LAPD biasses its own investigation by stating the “probable” cause of the crash without all of the needed information. We don’t know if the officer had a chance to speak with the victim in the crash or what further investigation was needed. We do know that the officer assigned blame to the largest media outlet in the city before the investigation was completed.

We also know…

The Times video showed only part of the scene because of the camera’s angle. It appears to show the pedestrian was struck as Garcetti’s SUV was passing a pickup truck stopped in the crosswalk. Read more…

6 Comments

Garcetti a Passenger in LAPD SUV That Struck and Injured Pedestrian

An LAPD squad car carrying Mayor Eric Garcetti struck and injured a pedestrian at 12:20 pm today near Second and Spring Streets. The woman was taken to the hospital by Fire Department. Neither LAFD nor the Mayor’s Office would comment further on her condition.

“I’m very concerned about her and wish her a speedy recovery. I look forward to speaking with her soon,” Garcetti said in a statement.

The LAPD confirmed to KNBC that the Mayor was interviewed by LAPD investigators investigating the crash. The statement from the Mayor’s Office stated that Garcetti was on the phone at the time of the crash and did not actually witness the collision.

No further details have been released as to the cause of the crash.

Streetsblog will update this story throughout the evening if more news becomes available.

UPDATE, 6:30 pm – We have confirmed that the crash happened on Second Street near Spring Street, not the other way around.

9 Comments

Jaywalking and Parking Tickets: The Livable Streets Litmus Test of 2014

Over our end-of-the-year break, there were two stories related to how the city thinks about its transportation needs which kept popping up in the news: the LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown”** and the movement to restructure the city’s parking fees. The two stories were both treated as stories of regular people being harassed by a money hungry government.

While much of the mainstream narrative was the same, in truth the two couldn’t be more different. The stories are really about how Los Angeles residents see public space.

The parking reform movement in speared by a pair of advocates, one of whom happens to be the force behind getting the city to end its red light camera program, creating an advocacy machine to push against the city’s parking policies. They call the fees for illegal parking exorbitant, despite the fees being on par or lower than that in New York or Chicago and other major American cities.

The cheapest parking ticket in L.A. is a $58. In Chicago the cheapest fee is $50. In New York, it’s $65. The most common ticket in L.A. is $73 for “parking in a prohibitive zone.” In New York that costs scofflaw parkers $65. In Chicago it’s $75.

Some of their proposed reforms make sense, others are thinly veiled attempts to overthrow parking norms.

But the bedrock of this movement is a simple belief that making space for cars, and giving up a public resource to car owners at below market costs, is a primary function for cities in general and Los Angeles in particular.

Naturally, L.A. Weekly is very excited about all of this. As is the local television news.

The LAPD’s “Jaywalking Crackdown” in Downtown Los Angeles supports the notion that the public resource known as “city streets” are really just private space for automobiles. The LAPD cites safety for “cracking down” on people who step off a curb moments after a traffic signal goes from white to flashing red and make it across the street with time to spare. Even a precursory look at what’s causing crashes downtown shows that pedestrians crossing at crosswalks isn’t really a major safety issue, it’s cars turning either “right on red” or left after the signal has changed  without looking. Read more…

8 Comments

The Dodgers Are Failing the Yasiel Puig Test

On Saturday, December 29th, at 9:30 am, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was arrested for reckless driving in Greater Miami after being caught driving 110 miles per hour. Puig’s mother and sister were also in the car. This was the second time Puig was caught going over forty miles over the speed limit. In April, Tennessee police clocked him driving 97 miles per hour in a 50 m.p.h. zone.

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be "less conspicuous." Photo: ##http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/dodgers-sensation-yasiel-puig-goes-under-the-radar-with-2013-lincoln-navigator.html##Edmunds.com##

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be “less conspicuous.” Photo: Edmunds.com

The Florida state police deserve credit for not allowing the glare of celebrity to blind justice. They charged Puig with reckless driving, took him to Collier County Jail for processing, and blasted him in a statement for his dangerous behavior.

TMZ reports:

The officer writes in the report, “By driving in this manner Mr. Puig showed willful and a total disregard for the safety of his mother and the other two passengers and any vehicles on the roadway and placed the life’s [sic] of everyone in his vehicle and every vehicle that he was passing on the roadway in danger.”

The officer goes on to say that if a crash had occurred, ”His mother and the two passengers would not [have] survived as resulted [sic] of his action.”

Now that Puig has been caught not once, but twice, engaging in behavior that literally puts everyone near him in danger, it’s past time for the Dodgers to respond and take control of the situation. Respond they did, in a statement so weak that even the Los Angeles Times’ baseball columnist and Dodgers cheerleader Bill Platschke recognized it as woefully insufficient.

It goes without saying that if Puig were wandering the streets waiving a loaded gun around the Dodgers would do more than call him to ask him to behave nicely or commenting that they’re “very disappointed.” But when it comes to putting people’s lives in danger, Puig is basically doing the same thing. No amount of dramatic home runs or diving catches excuses that behavior.

Except of course, in modern America it does. Read more…