Cyclist Dies on Critical Mass, NBC Opens Fire

Jerico Culata/Twitter

Last night, a cyclist died on Critical Mass after losing control of his bicycle and crashing into a wall on UCLA’s campus. Jerico Culata was only eighteen years old and friends and family are already mourning his death. Police are investigating the cause of the crash but have already noted that Culata was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Other riders were involved in the crash, but the LAPD reports no other serious injuries.

That being said, NBC4, which is usually one of the better news organizations when it comes to covering cycling and healthy transportation options has a wildly irresponsible story which takes shots at fixed gear bicycles, Critical Mass, and group bike rides in general.  A brief response to the NBC 4 piece can be found after the jump.

(Update: I was just informed over Twitter by LAist editor Emma Gallegos that NBC4 just reprinted an article by City News Service. Don’t be surprised if some of the weirdness in the article is repeated by other news organizations, especially on a holiday weekend.)

I’m sure there will be a lot more news on this crash as time goes on. Streetsblog would like to express our sympathy to the friends and family of Jerico Culata. More coverage of the crash can be found at LAist, Patch and the Los Angeles Times.

1) LAPD began riding along on Critical Mass after an LAPD officer was caught on camera kicking a cyclist in the May 2010 Critical Mass. Other officers on the scene then assaulted the camera person and broke his phone. They didn’t do it because CM was out of control. That being said, the relationship between the LAPD and cyclists is at an all time high in large part because of the cooperation this has caused.

2) There is no relationship between Critical Mass in San Diego and Los Angeles other than a shared name. Mentioning an incident in San Diego would be like a looking at crashes occurring in different freeways as proof that car drivers are out of control.

3) The number of cyclists killed by cars and negligent drivers is far higher than the number killed by cyclists regardless of how rowdy or not the cyclists are.

4) I look forward to your upcoming series on drivers that turn left after the light turns red, in clear violation of the law. This occurs millions of times a day in Los Angeles and is far more dangerous than Critical Mass.

5) “Bikes without breaks” are known as Fixed Gear bicycles. I was actually trained on a fixed gear bicycle as a child, although I ride a more traditional road bike these days. Look them up before writing about them and assigning blame. Here’s an article on Livestrong:

  • Anonymous

    More details on the accident here:
    If a car has already legally entered the intersection in preparation for making a left turn are they breaking the law if they complete the turn after the light turns red?

  • Anonymous

    >> “Bikes without breaks” are known as Fixed Gear bicycles. 

    WRONG. Bikes without freewheel hubs are known as Fixed Gear bicycles. Bikes without breaks are known as break-less bicycles, and come in freewheel (often BMX) and fixed gear varieties.

    >> Look them up before writing about them

    DITTO. :)


  • What you describe — clearing the intersection even on red to end a properly initiated left turn — is legal and proper. And of course before completing the turn and clearing the intersection the left-turning driver needs to confirm that all cars coming toward her as the light turns red are going to stop.

  • Ubrayj02

    “Police are investigating the cause of the crash but have already noted that Culata was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.”

    What, am I involved in more crashes when I am not wearing my helmet?! The two things have no proven correlation, I don’t know why they needed to be mentioned together in this way.

  • Gumball Saint

    Both of you look it up before writing about them: It’s BRAKES.

  • Zbeat,
    I know the difference, I put it in quotes because all of the article was clearly bashing the young, fixed-gear culture without mentioning it by name.
    Whoops. Thanks.

  • I don’t mind when one car does that at a red, or even two. But oftentimes, especially in L.A., three or four cars (some well behind the crosswalks even) make those left hand turns. Often times they’re still queing up to make a turn after the other direction has a red light. It’s wildly dangerous behavior.

  • There is nothing wrong with riding a fixed gear bicycle. There is nothing wrong with riding without a helmet. I drive my convertible with bad front brakes all the time.

    It doesn’t sound right, does it?

    Jericho Culata is the son of my dear friend. He is family to me. Maybe you should educate his dad on the difference between the bikes and how everybody else is wrong about what has been said about the tragedy.

    Fixies are meant to be ridden in an oval track. People who races in fixies wears helmets. It is very hard to stop a fixie on a flat surface. I tried it before. Both of my kids rides one. It requires lifting the rear wheel you you can land on a skid. That is the fastest way to stop without a brake caliper.

    Does any of the people who posted here even realize that the tragedy happened while Jericho was navigating a downhill road? 

    Maybe the media over-estimated the number of riders. But if there were really 700+ riders that night, just imagine if you were one of of the lead riders and happened to fall on the same downhill road. Do you want them fixies with the stock back-pedal brakes and no brake calipers behind you?

    All we ask is that riders, organizers, and bicycle dealers be informed on safety. You want proof that bicycle dealers are negligent? My son bought another fixie Friday afternoon last week. That night Jericho passed away. It was configured with the free-wheel disabled so I insisted that the brakes be placed on the back. I was told that brakes are optional and would cost more. The store sells the brake as an option!!!

    If you would click on this link, you will have fun counting how many got the brakes at the front or even better, no brakes! One of them is my son – with the brakes at the back.

    It is a law in California that every bicycle sold should have free-wheel. Any experienced rider would also know that front brakes are dangerous. CKY even did a segment on it. Unless you have a cape and an “S” on your chest, you should have the brakes on the back.

    Just be careful out there guys. Have fun riding. Be safe. That’s all that we ask as parents.

  • Gregory

     Sorry for your loss.

    However, front brakes are not inherently unsafe, and are actually safer and more responsive than a rear brake so long as you know how to use it properly. According to Sheldon Brown: “Skilled cyclists use the front brake alone probably 95% of the time.”

    Also, as long as you have a front brake on your bicycle, riding a fixed gear bicycle is not much more dangerous than riding any other bicycle. 

    One big problem on these rides is those riding single speed bicycles with no brakes at all.  They can’t even slow down like a fixed gear rider and use their shoes on the wheel or on the ground to slow themselves. 

  • Erik Griswold

    3 died on the Grapevine this morning.  Funny, no media focus on whether they were wearing seatbelts or rode in vehicles equipped with airbags!

  • David

    Actually, about point number 5, “[b]ikes without breaks [sic]” are not known as “[f]ixed [g]ear bicycles,” despite the empirical fact that most fixed gear bicycles typically aren’t sold with brakes, nor do most fixed gear cyclists want them.  A select few fixed gear cyclists desire to have at least one brake, if only for additional safety precautions, though most fixed gear cycling cultures snub their noses at brakes, often claiming “If it ain’t fixed, it’s broken!”


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