Gutierrez & DeSousa Video Demonstrates That Mandeville Canyon Victims Rode Correctly. Task Force Recommends Responsibilities For Cyclists

By Alex Thompson

Dan Gutierrez & Brian DeSousa rode Mandeville Canyon on Saturday and recorded it to demonstrate proper lane positioning. The video confirms what many suspected – the two cyclists assaulted and injured were correct in taking the lane during their descent:

Gutierrez & DeSousa are vehicular cycling advocates who have produced videos like this in the past as part of their project: Cyclist View. This video gives you a small taste of how narrow the road is. In other sections it is much more twisty.

Speaking of Mandeville Canyon, whatever happened with the community meeting which was cancelled? Well, Rosendahl elaborated on his reasons for canceling the meeting on LAist, and stated his intention to have a town hall meeting on cycling in the fall. I’m all for that, and I think such a meeting could have massive impact. For Monday, he replaced the meeting with a task force which met privately at the same time and place. What happened in the meeting? His representative to the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee (LABAC), Kent Strumpell, wrote it up on LA StreetsBlog. Here’s some excerpts, emphasis added:

the homeowners group listed their primary concerns as:

1. Lack of accountability, ie, cyclists are anonymous and problem riders can’t be identified. Their proposed solution was some form of license plate that cyclist would be required to display. This idea was ruled impractical because it would require statewide legislation to enable it.

2. Lack of adherence to laws.

3. Lack of enforcement.

4. Cyclists who are unaware that motorists are near them and don’t move over to allow them to pass.

The response of homeowners to the serious injury of cyclists riding legally, and as demonstrated above, safely, is to recommend more scrutiny of cyclists. Angry yet? If not, read what the bicycle advocates recommended:

The bike riders then identified these strategies for addressing the problems:

1. Education. Create guidelines in the form of “rules of the road” to be distributed to cyclists via the internet, email, at bike shops and possibly on sign boards at both the bottom and top Mandeville Canyon. Also, collaborate with the homeowners groups to develop corresponding guidelines for motorists to provide guidance on safety factors for cyclists and how to drive around them. For instance, rather than honking (which seems to elicit adverse reactions), motorists should try to only tap their horn a couple times. Also, motorists need to understand that the harsh words they sometimes get from cyclists are not personal but reflect an instinctive reaction when they are put in a dangerous situation by a car.

2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right.

3. Traffic calming. . . .

4. Provide a means for homeowners to file complaints about and descriptions of unruly cyclists to the clubs so they can attempt to self discipline any members who warrant this. . . .

The solutions offered by bicycle advocates include looking for ways to “educate” cyclists on the rules of the road?! Track down unruly cyclists?!! Gutierrez and DeSousa demonstrated above that Peterson and Stoehr were riding appropriately, so what kind of bicycle advocate offers this as a solution? How is that appropriate when motorist aggression inspired the task force? How is that strategically sound when you’re across the table from a bunch of angry residents recommending license plates for $6,000 Cervelos?

Here’s your answer:

The Mandeville Task Force was attended by close to 30 participants including representatives from the three home owners groups, cyclists representing Velo Club La Grange, South Bay Wheelmen, Team Helens and others, city bikeways staff, LACBC and (LA)BAC reps, local police officers including the local captain, a representative from the city prosecutor’s office, a Public Works commissioner, a criminal psychologist and of course Councilman Rosendahl and staff.

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20 Responses to “Gutierrez & DeSousa Video Demonstrates That Mandeville Canyon Victims Rode Correctly. Task Force Recommends Responsibilities For Cyclists”

  1. I am an occasional recreational rider who started biking to work a few months ago for environmental and financial reasons, and I think you are way off the mark in your criticism of the riding clubs and the advocates.

    It seems there are three distinct issues:

    1) The specific July 4 incident — which is being properly adjudicated in the criminal (and eventually, I suspect, civil courts). In this forum, the advocate’s suggestions you highlight would be extremely inappropriate. The legal proceeding should be about the facts of the case, period.

    2) The issues of riding on Mandeville Canyon. I housesat there years ago, and I remember there were tensions between cyclists and residents even then. There are angels and devils on both sides, and everyone can benefit from greater understanding and mutual efforts to get along. This task force seems designed to accomplish that — and in that light, the advocates’ and the club’s suggestions seem appropriate and fair.

    3) The issues of cycling in Southern California. I am discovering new ones every day, and you highlight and advocate for a lot of them. But even here, it is not a one-way street. Our rights need to recognized by the government and by car drivers, but our responsibilities need to be recognized by us. I, for one, will be going to the councillor’s town hall meeting.

  2. Pretty bizarre to suggest to drivers that they should tap their horns when they approach cyclists.

    California Vehicle Code

    Use of Horns:

    CVC 27001. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation shall give audible warning with his horn.

    (b) The horn shall not otherwise be used, except as a theft alarm system which operates as specified in Article 13 (commencing with Section 28085) of this chapter.

    Safe Driving Practices – HORN, HEADLIGHTS, and EMERGENCY SIGNALS

    Use Your Horn

    * When necessary to avoid accidents. Don’t honk at other times.
    * Try to get “eye contact” with other drivers. Tap your horn to alert another driver who might turn in front of you.
    * On narrow mountain roads, where you cannot see at least 200 feet ahead.

    Don’t Use Your Horn

    * If a driver is going slowly, and you want him or her to drive faster. The driver may be ill, lost, or having problems with the vehicle.
    * If slowing or stopping your car will prevent an accident. It’s safer to use the brakes than honk the horn.
    * To show other drivers that they made a mistake. Your honking may cause them to make more mistakes.
    * Because you are angry or upset.

    The task force should read up on the law before they give advice. Not to mention that using the horn is a local noise disturbance.

  3. Wow Enci, nice job! I never knew that was in the CVC.

    Looks like our villain was using the horn for all the wrong reasons.

    I’m still trying to figure out what the bicyclist have done wrong. And yet the approach seems to be to correct the cyclist’s behavior. At this point I’m sure the next home owner is going to bring up that some of the cyclist in the area have sped through stops signs. Like these two cyclist are suppose to represent all the cyclist in the area or something. If that’s the case, then I guess this doctor represents all the drivers in the area, yeah?

  4. I don’t think the homeowner’s suggestions were that unreasonable.

    If I lived on a dead end street that was invaded by cyclists EVERY WEEKEND, I’d be wanting a great deal more than that.

    Note that the home owners did not say that they wanted a greater law enforcement presence to enforce the traffic laws against cyclists, only that they wanted some means of identifying unreasonable individuals, and reporting them to THEIR OWN cycling groups so the groups could police themselves.

    Imagine the uproar from the cycling community that we’d have heard if Dr. Thompson had not had license plates on his car and the incident had been a hit and run.

    Wanting a way of identifying hooligan riders and improving self-policing among cycling groups is not unreasonable, and is something a lot of people in a variety of cycling groups would like to see improved, as a couple of assholes can really screw it up for everyone. (See e.g. the incidents of theft/graffiti on a number of late night rides lately.)

    If the Mandeville Canyon residents really wanted to get cyclists off the road on their street, it wouldn’t take that much work to encourage the Brentwood LAPD to start enforcing the existing vehicle code against cyclists, and a few weekends of mass ticketing would probably put a damper on riding that road, as, despite the best efforts of numerous individuals, it’s fairly tricky to comply with all of the rules while riding in a group, especially since the laws regarding bicycles are fairly nebulous.

    But from the sounds of it, the Mandeville Canyon residents aren’t looking for more action by law enforcement, they’re just looking for cyclists to behave with common courtesy and police their own community.

    There’s no excuse for drivers to behave dangerously toward cyclists, but both sides have to be a little more respectful of each other.

    It’s all about accountability. Everybody needs to share, but the tiny minority of drivers and cyclists that can’t control themselves need to be controlled by the greater community.

    Just ask Dr. Thompson.

  5. “If I lived on a dead end street that was invaded by cyclists EVERY WEEKEND”, I would love my life. Wohoo! Jesus, how I would love that. Seriously though, who wouldn’t, other than maybe… Zsa Zsa Gabor?

    I don’t have to imagine the uproar from the cycling community if this had been a hit and run because hit and runs happen to commuter cylists all the time. Imagine how many other acts such as this one go unreported or unpunished. This is exactly why we needed a public meeting, because the issue is not limited to Mandeville Canyon. This is an outright culture war, whether folks want to admit it or not, so we might as well play it out sooner than later, because the longer we let it simmer, the worse the conflicts will get.

    I can’t see any illegal behaviour on the side of _any_ cyclist going down such a narrow road. The CVC loosely states that a cyclist may do whatever is in their power to assure safe riding conditions, so technically, the only illegal move one could pull on Mandeville is riding in the opposite lane of traffic. Plus it’s common sense, I’d never hug the side of road on a downhill even if Arnold was in a Hummer behind me leaning on the horn.

    The only question I saw on the written California DMV exam relating to cyclists specifically mentions not honking at cyclists. I guess a little horn tap isn’t all that bad, but what percentage of drivers tap vs lean on the horn?

  6. It’s not a culture war, it’s a community issue, that needs to be resolved with level-headedness rather than temper tantrums, because, as we’ve seen from the recent L.A. Times comments, there’s more than enough ignorant rage on both sides, from cranky drivers who think that all bikes should be on the sidewalk, to self-righteous cyclists who think that the whole world needs to wait on them.

    I love that L.A. has the cycling culture that it does, but I’ve also seen behavior by cyclists that helps me understand why some people get so pissed off.

    It really seems like a lot of riders are looking for selective enforcement of the traffic laws, in which cyclists can obey only those rules they find convenient.

    Making this a culture war would be stupid, because neither side has any hope of winning conclusively.

    Both cars and bikes will be on the road for years to come, so we need to figure out a way to coexist that’s both safe and efficient for cyclists and motorists.

  7. I tend to agree with Mihai – this has all the symptoms of a culture war. It’s not a culture war between CARS and CYCLISTS, but between cyclists’ safety needs and motorist entitlement. Can anyone deny that there is an almost universal sense of a entitlement amongst motorists in LA? Is it not the case that cyclists do not feel safe when motorists drive with entitlement? We have the ingredients for a culture war.

    Given that, I am with Mihai. We need to mix these groups together early and often. It can be ugly in a meeting, or ugly in a street. Which do you prefer?

    @Peggy

    The recommendations are much harsher on cyclists than motorists, and implicitly imply a kind of guilt. Yet it is the motorists who nearly killed two people, and it’s not the first place. If a cyclist makes a mistake or acts out aggressively, she risks her life, and usually her life alone. Should a motorist do the same, she can endanger many others. The burden should be on motorists, both in this case, and in general.

  8. If there’s is any enforcement that needs to be implemented it should be directed at the motorists. The motorist are more than likely speeding. Motorist are more than likely crossing a double solid yellow line. FYI crossing a double solid yellow line is illegal. I’ll dig up the CVC if I’m called on it. The motorist is more than likely tailgating. And as was shown earlier by Enci, it’s illegal to lay on your horn. Which would be another infraction a motorist would more than likely commit.

    All these infractions endanger the lives of the motorist, their passengers if they have any, other traffic, including bike riders. Very rarely can bike rider endanger more than his or her life with their infractions they commit.

    Finally Mihai right, you would be a complete fool and incompetent rider if you were hugging the right side of the lane going the speed limit. Motorist can’t even begin to fathom what it’s like to travel the side of a road like this, going 25-30 mph.

    For the record I’m both a driver and a rider. I also use public transportation when I can.

  9. User1 has entered the building.

  10. Alex – I’m quoting you in the latest post at my blog. Entitlement is exactly the issue, but it’s not exclusive to drivers.

  11. I imagine caltrops are generally more effective against something wider than a bike tire.

    Entitlement may not be exclusive to motorists, but it is certainly more dangerous for them to be so.

    Lets look at this: cyclists feel entitled not to die, and to some space on the road. When a cyclist exercises this sense of entitlement they endanger who? Nobody.

    Motorists feel entitled to travel as quickly as possible from point A to point B, and lots of space to do it in. When they exercise this sense of entitlement they endanger who? Other motorists, kids, old ladies walking down the street, cyclists.

    Highlighting the two as if they are equal is absurd. Cyclists are to motorists as pot farmers are to PCP suppliers. Yes, they are both illegal, but the similarities stop there. One is far more dangerous than the other.

    When you write such pieces make sure you make that highlight that distinction, lest the more entitled motorists use your POV as ammunition.

  12. Some cyclists feel entitled to a lot more than just the right to not die, and as a result, they risk injuring:

    Themselves.

    Pedestrians.

    Their fellow cyclists when they don’t pay attention on a group ride, and turn/stop short without warning in front of their fellow riders.

    The motorist who swerves to avoid them when a cyclist blows through an uncorked intersection when everyone else has stopped.

    We need to emphatically emphasize our right to share the road, but dismissing self-regulation as “blaming the victim” completely misses the point.

    The goal is to make the roads as safe as possible for both cyclists and motorists, not to rationalize illegal/anti-social behavior by cyclists merely because it’s less likely to result in serious injury.

  13. I can’t say it enough – I object to these recommendations. They are violently unbalanced. That’s the thrust of this post. Do you disagree?

    “The bike riders then identified these strategies for addressing the problems:
    1. Education. Create guidelines in the form of “rules of the road” to be distributed to cyclists via the internet, email, at bike shops and possibly on sign boards at both the bottom and top Mandeville Canyon. Also, collaborate with the homeowners groups to develop corresponding guidelines for motorists to provide guidance on safety factors for cyclists and how to drive around them. For instance, rather than honking (which seems to elicit adverse reactions), motorists should try to only tap their horn a couple times. Also, motorists need to understand that the harsh words they sometimes get from cyclists are not personal but reflect an instinctive reaction when they are put in a dangerous situation by a car.
    2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right.
    3. Traffic calming. It was acknowledged that this has been a controversial issue (residents of upper Mandeville have made legal challenges when lower Mandeville homeowners planned or implemented speed humps!). Nonetheless, at least speed “feedback” signs could be used, which display a motorist’s speed and have been shown to be effective.
    4. Provide a means for homeowners to file complaints about and descriptions of unruly cyclists to the clubs so they can attempt to self discipline any members who warrant this. Could be an email address or website. It was pointed out that perhaps 40% of the cyclists who ride on Mandeville are not affiliated with the clubs, so they could not be controlled. “

  14. Okay,

    If you had to develop a set of rules and guidelines for getting cars and bikes to share the roads safely and efficiently in Los Angeles, that stood a chance of being accepted by the community, what would you recommend?

    What exactly do you object to in the previous proposals “identified by the bike riders”? What would you like to see added?

    It’s easy to criticise, and it’s easy to make one-sided proposals, but creating a win-win solution’s a little more difficult.

    If it was just you representing the cyclists in these meetings, what would your recommendations be?

  15. “It’s easy to criticise, and it’s easy to make one-sided proposals, but creating a win-win solution’s a little more difficult.”

    JB, I like you, I think you’re cool. I don’t like your tone here. Do you want a resume?

    The starting point for any bike activist in that situation should have been our right to the road. That is a firm talking point. It’s not about creating a Win/Win, it’s about the law, and the law indicates that cyclists can take the lane. Motorists and homeowners must stipulate that before they can proceed with me. The bicycle advocates present failed to do that, and failed to represent cyclists, plain and simple.

  16. Alex,

    I like you too, and I think your last comment explains our difference. I’m sorry if my tone was offensive.

    I’d rather see pragmatists come up with a feasible solution for all concerned, rather than activists on both sides insisting on stipulations of their rights and issuing ultimatums, which, while perfectly within their rights, are likely to have some unintended consequences.

    CVC 21202 is not as clear as one might think, and if cyclists want to start arguing about having all of their rights under the law respected, no matter how inconvenient for motorists, then we can’t get angry when law enforcement starts ensuring that we respect our duties under the law as well, no matter how inconvenient for cyclists.

    This is why I’d like to see the parties hash this out on their own.

    It IS about a win-win. The law is something you should treat as a last resort, when reason and logic and common courtesy and self-regulation have failed.

    If everybody has to play strictly by the legal rules, we could easily end up with a situation where motorists understand that cyclists have the right to take the lane riding Mandeville Canyon, but Critical Mass and Crankmob come to an end because nobody can afford the tickets that start being given out for the wide variety of infractions that tend to occur on any given mass ride. (Think about how many cyclists prefer to avoid rides in Santa Monica right now. Imagine L.A.P.D. adopting that policy. That would be horrendously depressing.)

    It’s all about sustainable cycling fun. Being reasonable and making friends with the greater community is more likely to accomplish this and attract more people to try cycling, and the more cyclists we have on the streets, the more effective cycling advocacy will be.

  17. I want to preface this comment by saying I didn’t read every word of every post.

    @JB, “If I lived on a dead end street that was invaded by cyclists EVERY WEEKEND, I’d be wanting a great deal more than that.” Everyone makes a choice in how they create and exchange language. The word invaded in the context that you used it is insensitive.

    There are more benefits to living in a cycling dominant culture as opposed to a car dominant culture (I apologize for the binary dialectic).

    @Alex Thompson, “It’s not about creating a Win/Win, it’s about the law, and the law indicates that cyclists can take the lane.” Because of our friendship, I’m sure you understand why I disagree with you here. I believe people get too hung up on laws and codes. The more specificity in laws and the more laws, the more leverage police have, the more bullshit things they can cite you for (not having reflectors on your peddles), the more ways they can ruin your day and assert there power, the more reasons they have to “legally” pull you over. More laws take power away from people.

    If it is very safe for me to do something, I’m going to do it. I run reds by myself all the time. Every day I’m a criminal for managing risk well. (There is a larger argument here about how more laws make you a criminal all day. Especially copyright law. Does anyone have any idea how many serious laws they break everyday?)

    What’s fucked up is our entire society. How it deprograms people and redirects them to consume (TV is an example), and to be competitive, and to have bullshit rage. If you loved school, you’ll love work, etc. If your poor your education was worse than someone more wealthy than your family.

    It is not about the law to me, it is about how someone could hurt another human. What it takes for a society to create a beast like that. Where that comes from, why a doctor would ever do that.

    Whatever, ranting is bullshit.

  18. I take strong exception to recommendation #2:
    “2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right.”
    .
    Cyclists aren’t road ni**ers who must stay to the right, as the above prose implies, particularly on the upper 4.5 miles of the canyon where the lanes are consistently narrower than is safe for side-by-side sharing. Rather, we should be controlling lanes, especially on the descent, and only moving to the right when it is safe to do so to allow overtaking.

    While it is true that 8mph cyclists can ride further rightward on the uphill to facilitate overtaking, as we show in our YouTube video [Mandeville Canyon – Motorist/Cyclist Cooperation], however this same behavior is hazardous for 30+ mph cyclists on the downhill. Also note that a motorist can very quickly pass a cyclist on the uphill, so sightlines don’t need to be so good compared to a downhill situation when passing cyclists moving at 30+ miles per hour.

    The original item #2 should read:
    2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more easily use the full roadway width as needed for safety.

  19. Alex Thompson –

    “The starting point for any bike activist in that situation should have been our right to the road. That is a firm talking point. It’s not about creating a Win/Win, it’s about the law, and the law indicates that cyclists can take the lane. Motorists and homeowners must stipulate that before they can proceed with me. The bicycle advocates present failed to do that, and failed to represent cyclists, plain and simple.”

    Me –
    Exactly! Instead, the meeting commenced as if these cyclist were somehow the cause of this incident.

    These cycling representatives, and I use that term loosely, should have come up with something along the guide lines for the homeowner/motorist such as,

    1. Accountability, have the homeowners identify the problem drivers of the area. (Hey, they wanted this from the cyclists!) The homeowners would be responsible for any of their guest or anyone that would be in on that road because they had to go to the home owners property. This liability would include gardeners, maids, service workers, etc. The homeowners would be legally liable for any damages suffered by said parties.

    2. Homeowners must adherence to laws. This would include speeding, tailgating, abusive use of the horn, and crossing a double solid yellow line. Homeowners must inform the cycling groups that frequent the area of any motorists that happen to commit these infractions. Failure to do so would open them up to lawsuits against the association.

    3. Police enforcement must be a part of the safety for all parties concerned. The police must show that they are doing their enforcement fairly and not targeting cyclists.

    4. Motorist must pass when it is safe and legal to do so. A minimum of three feet clearance is not unreasonable to expect. Motorist will be cited if it is observed by law enforcement or cyclist have obtained evidence of this infraction on video.

    5. Education. Create guidelines in the form of “rules of the road” to be distributed to homeowners/motorists via the internet, email, at car shops and possibly on sign boards at both the bottom and top Mandeville Canyon. Also, collaborate with the cyclist groups to develop corresponding guidelines for cyclist to provide guidance on safety factors for cyclists and how to drive around them. For instance, rather than honking (which seems to elicit adverse reactions), motorists should try to only tap their horn a couple times. Also, motorists need to understand that the harsh words they sometimes get from cyclists are not personal but reflect an instinctive reaction when they are put in a dangerous situation by a car. Homeowners/motorists should know that they are just as much to blame for escalating tensions with their verbal abuse.

    6. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right when going up the hill. This includes not parking in the cycling area of the road, or placement of items such as the trash receptacle. Violators must be identified and notice sent to cycling groups in question.

    7. Traffic calming. If measures have not curbed aggressive behavior, then the city must have an unobstructed right to implement more drastic actions to curb unwanted behavior from said homeowners/motorists.

    8. Provide a means for cyclists to file complaints about and descriptions of unruly homeowners/motorists to the association so they can attempt to self discipline any members who warrant this.

    OK I’ll be the first to admit that these issues would need a little “massaging” and cleaning up, but the issue is legitimate. The homeowners association is expecting and demanding quite a bit from the cycling groups, it only seems fair that the cycling groups demand just as much. And really if you get right down to it, who really is breaking most of the laws in this area anyways? I’m betting no onet of the drivers in the area does the posted speed, which would be a very good starting point for law enforcement.

  20. User1,

    Your recommendations are much more reasonable. I don’t object to the original recommendations – individually – as much as I object to the lack of balance. These are far more balanced.

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