Friday, July 22, 2011

Storage Box Secrets: Bicycle Safety Community Outreach

Every once in a while something reasonably interesting makes its way out of that black hole in space known as City Hall, and fortuitously ends up here on my kitchen table where I type up Tattler posts. I don't know how this happens. Perhaps it is the close proximity of the foothills that causes odd wind currents to send these missives my way, floating through an open window as if guided by invisible hands.

Or perhaps it was placed in a bottle and thrown into the sea, and then a really big wave caused that bottle to beach itself upon my front lawn. Unlikely of course, but you never know. The world is a big and mysterious place.

But usually people just bring me stuff. All kinds of stuff, actually. It's left under my door mat, stuck in the mailbox, or stuffed into manila envelopes and left behind my screen door. Sometimes it comes in the mail. Just information that people think would be interesting to the folks who read The Tattler.

As a matter of fact, so many Sierra Madre residents have now gotten into the blog spirit that I've had to open up a second storage box just to hold it all. And every time somebody leaves me something another secret gets its wings, and flies into the light. Or at least onto this blog. Which might be the same thing. Or not, depending upon your point of view.

As an experiment (and because I had no idea about what I was going to post this evening), I reached into the very full box and pulled something out. With the idea that whatever it was, that is what I would write about. And what chance placed into my hands was a June 20th, 2011 document from the City of Sierra Madre entitled, "Bicycle Safety Community Outreach."

Here is how this baby kicks out the jams:

Summary: At the request of former Mayor Joe Mosca the Police Department developed a community-based strategy to increase bicycle safety awareness, particularly in the downtown area. The safety plan includes public education, outreach with bicyclists, and enforcement.

Now to me this shows some real promise. Any document including Joe Mosca is usually rich with comedic potential. Couple that with the Police Department versus a horde of bike riding dentists in Euro-logo bumblebee suits with padded seats and you're deep into an authentic Sierra Madre moment. Few doubts should be had, friends.

Analysis: Residents and downtown business owners have continually complained to police about groups of bicyclists running stop signs and committing other traffic violations, particularly along Sierra Madre Blvd. In turn, police increased enforcement, which resulted in complaints from some bicyclists over what they perceive to be overzealous enforcement.

Overzealous enforcement of bicycle rules, overzealous enforcement of car parking regulations, overzealous enforcement of "moving violations?" Yes, that is what they do. All 36 of them. Overzealous enforcement leading to the capture of all those thieves that treat Sierra Madre residences like so many treasure chests perched upside sugar mountains? Not quite as much.

Organized bicyclists have ridden through Sierra Madre on weekend mornings for years. Most travel west on Sierra Madre Blvd. and continue past Michillinda Ave. into Pasadena. The Montrose Cyclists begin their Saturday morning ride in South Pasadena and end up in Sierra Madre in Kersting Court, where they congregate and patronize local businesses.

I do have a solution to this problem. Ban the sale of iced cappuccinos and bottled vitamin water in Sierra Madre to anyone wearing a bumblebee suit and/or padded underwear. I promise you, the entire black and yellow horde will soon migrate down to Foothill Boulevard and congregate in front of the Hastings Ranch Starbucks instead.

Staff researched traffic data from 2006 through May 31, 2011, which revealed the following:

- Officers gave in excess of 113 verbal warnings to bicyclists.
- Officers issued 297 citations to bicyclists.
- The Police Department investigated 8 traffic collisions involving motorist v. bicyclist. The primary violations are running a stop sign and unsafe turning movements.

You hear a lot about how City Staff is overwhelmed with work and can barely complete the vital tasks that keep Sierra Madre from falling into a state of primeval chaos. So why would former Mayor Joe Mosca take up the valuable time of our salaried employees by asking them to tabulate and sort through 113 verbal police warnings to bicyclists? Was the City of Sierra Madre Doorknob Census already completed and they needed another job to do?

Of course, Joe Mosca has also had City Staff work up a report about skateboarders, along with a county Puppy Mill ordinance even though we have never had puppy mills here. This not being Nebraska. Joe's tendencies towards the frivolous seem to have worn a deep groove in this town.

There would be no point in City Staff lining up all of the above carefully detailed problems if those in charge were incapable of providing solutions as well. And here is how these problems were to be solved a month ago:

In response, officers have taken several steps to educate the public about bicycle safety.

- Officers have met with bicyclists in the Kersting Court area to welcome them to Sierra Madre, and let them know that they need to abide by the rules of the road while traversing our community and be considerate of businesses in where (sic) they park their bicycles.

I can't imagine that these were anything but awkward conversations. Most bicyclists spend their time on the road keeping a wary eye out for 14 ton suburban assault vehicles driven by moms on cell phones who are completely distracted by the screaming kids in the back seat. The common perception among bicyclists is that they are far more likely to be the victims in any traffic confrontations. Especially here in Sierra Madre where few accommodations are made for them. Being told otherwise by police officers must have seemed odd.

- Uniformed Sierra Madre police officers have ridden the police bicycles with the bicycle groups as they ride through the city to gain compliance with traffic safety efforts.

Is there any reason why Sierra Madre cannot establish bike lanes? I know when I am out peddling around, most of the surrounding communities do have them. Parked cars along the sides of the streets force bicyclists out into traffic where they become fair game for anyone driving by. A lot of what seems like erratic biking is actually an effort to stay alive.

- Police placed the City's LED message boards placed along Sierra Madre Blvd. with messages encouraging bicyclists to stop at stop signs and obey the rules of the road.

Maybe the instructions should be placed on the stop signs themselves. If they simply said "stop" then maybe people might do just that. As it is now the message is confusing and contradictory. I'm kidding.

- The Police Department has parked marked police cars along problem intersections on Grandview and Sierra Madre Blvd. to alert bicyclists to stop for the stop signs.

OK, so they have been spoken to, instructed by LED message boards, accompanied by officers on bicycles themselves, and have officers in cruisers sit by to help remind them to stop at stop signs. Is there anything more that can be done to assure the people of Sierra Madre that this problem is being taken seriously?

- Officers routinely drive up and down Baldwin Ave., Grandview, and Sierra Madre Boulevard and use their public address loudspeaker(s) to encourage groups of bicyclists to obey the rules of the road. Officers also thank those bicyclists for complying with the laws.

While we certainly owe Mayor Mosca a debt of gratitude for marshaling the resources of this community for something so important, I can't help but wonder if the results stack up favorably next to all of that effort.

Then there is this thought. As bad as running stop signs may be, here is a relatively large amount of reasonably affluent (if colorfully dressed) people coming into town and spending money at our businesses. Which is something some people in town might think is a good thing. So shouldn't we lighten up on the control freak routine a bit, put in bike lanes and bike racks, and generally do all that we can to encourage their commerce here in town?

Most business communities would give their eye teeth for this kind of traffic. Here we treat these people like they're the Hells Angels.

Look at it this way. As far as I can tell all of the above hasn't made one iota of difference in the behavior of the two-wheeled hoard that barrels through town every Saturday morning. So why not do what every other city in Los Angeles County has done and make our streets more biker friendly? Sierra Madre is hardly the safest city around for this kind of activity. Not by a long shot.

Police Officers chasing guys in bumblebee suits around is not the solution. Though it is an accurate reflection of the personality of the individual who initiated it.


  1. In my humble opinion, Sir Eric, enforcement can't be too zealous in the case of the bicyclists who ride through en masse on Saturday morning (and sometimes on Sunday) ignoring stop signs, cross traffic, and pedestrians to lay over in Kersting Court where bicycles are haphazardly strewn about until called upon to propel the cyclists out of town.

    Motorists aren't given a Saturday morning pass to run traffic signs. For awhile they were even finding their way into the Canyon to hang out in the street in front of the market - literally in the street. Residents would have to stop while the poseurs tossed back water from their trendy bottles and leisurely moved from the middle of the street. The proprietoress said they didn't buy much, mostly asking to use the facilities.

    I heartily agree with enforcement of traffic laws when it comes to these scofflaws.

  2. I'm not sure that these bicycle people realize the danger they are in when they run stop signs. It is a miracle that none have been shot.

  3. Don't look now, but increased bike lanes and bike racks is absolutely one of the changes the Sustainable and Green desire for Sierra Madre.

  4. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  5. By causing cars to stop it is proven that stop signs increase green house gas emissions, therefore contributing to global warming.

  6. Mosca would have pushed this bicyclist rapprochement because it makes SCAG, COG and GREEN happy. It's all about walkability, or 2 wheelability.

  7. Mosca would push bike lanes because his masters at the POA claim our boys in blue need the target practice.

  8. Can we just leave the guys and gals on their bikes alone? It is exercise, a sport, a family activity, a way to bring in business (every weekend with no expense), and we should embrace them. How is it that decades go by with this bike issue, and yet no bike lane is painted? Are we out of white paint in the yard? Why is this no-brainer idea not even mentioned by the powers that be. How is it that Arcadia has a bike lane all the way up Santa Anita, then the bikes turn on Sierra Madre, and get a ticket, get hassled, and hit by cars.

  9. Legitimate concerns well articulated 7:30.
    At the same time, I have seen the things 6:16 wrote about.
    There are some very aggressive bike riders who do run stop signs.
    Having long outgrown the taste for playing Chicken, I give them as much room as possible and plan extra time if my commute is going to intersect theirs.

  10. 7:30, and cars get hit by bicyclists.

  11. Can just hear Mosca at SCAG now:
    And in my term as mayor, not only did I balance the budget and save the town with paramedics, I also championed bicycle safety!

  12. We have the paint, but it would require one of those $50,000 consultants to tell us how wide to paint the lines.

  13. Has anyone ever seen Go Joe ride a bike? I really don't think he has the coordination to do such a thing. Another example of how our local government works. A person in charge with no experience or interest on the subject making decisions that effect the entire community, yep, that would be Mosca.

  14. Ever see the bikers in the Santa Anita bike lane? No siree! They come up Highland Oaks and cross Santa Anita at Grandview. Let's be clear here: we're talking peleton type riding not the family out for an early morning bike ride.

    Very little business is done with the bikers, by the way.

  15. With 36 cops I think we can afford them to be posted at the stop signs for traffic control. What is wrong with a police officer directing traffic? The majority of the problems occur on Saturday and Sunday. Let us be proactive, help local business. We chase business away. Give business owners a break. Encourage business. It is not a new concept.

  16. There are bike lanes in Arcadia, and the same in Pasadena. In Sierra Madre we have police with bullhorns.

  17. I'll bet ya Joe received "just so many calls" about bicyclists - so he accomplishes being able to please the SB375 folks and fib about being responsive to Sierra Madre residents.

  18. Maybe the chamber or a $50,000 consultant can do a study and find out just how much business the bicyclists bring with them.Sounds like it's more what they use and the impact they have than any revenue they generate.

  19. Unfortunately 7:45 is right. The exhaustive traffic study that would need to be done to put in bike lanes, oi vey.

  20. Right Wing CyclistJuly 22, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Thank you 7:30 for your words of reason.

    I live here. I ride in the Saturday group every Saturday. I am aware of not a single accident involving a care and the large Saturday group, which takes great care in protecting itself from traffic. Instead, the accidents have involved casual cyclists (rule of cycling, the potential for accident is directly proportional to the number of neon green jackets in the group).

    On the other hand, I have been accosted in front Pete Siberal's house on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning by a fat idiot in an 80s - 90s Bronco on his way for donuts at Beantown. While I am still looking for the zaftig bozo in the Bronco, I have decided that . . . IT IS TIME TO LIGHTEN UP PEOPLE.

    Better yet, get off the couch. Rent Breaking Away. Enjoy the healthiest activity in town. Take pleasure in the fact that cycling is the only - and I mean only - activity in which a fully multi-ethnic slice of Americans engage on a regular basis. Allez, Allez!

    And tell Chief Diaz to back off. PS: Can we squirt the Chief on the 4th once she is retired, or do we still risk prosecution?

  21. I have personaly seen whole families on bikes, so it's not just the guys and gals in the lycra suits. ...anon 7:45 that's funny!

  22. They are breaking the law and they know it. Ticket them.

  23. Our children get cited for skateboarding. Cyclists think they are above the law.

  24. We have 32 full time police officers, let them earn their keep. TICKET those who break the law.
    Our town will be safer.

  25. anon 7:54 ...
    I am sure there have been bikes on all of the Sierra Madre streets, and well...that's O.K.. Why should the families be required to ride in a family unit in the "early morning". We as citizens of the U.S. should be able to ride bikes on any street, at any time, with out people such as yourself second guessing the rights of other citizens to ride their bikes (whatever bikes they wish to ride) in whatever fashion, wearing whatever they wish. How about you just let the bike rider go by, and you just go about your life. Not too much to ask right?

  26. It really could be handled if there was an officer on a bicycle at the stop signs.

  27. Suburban Assault Vehicle Attack Squad Committeemember says: my biggest complaint about bike riders is what they do to my paint job.

  28. I drive a VW bug. Just as soon not be hit by a cyclist.

  29. The recently painted bicycle lanes (car-bicycle-park) on Santa Anita from Foothill Blvd. to Chantry appears to be working very well. It has taken the "aggressive" need for space out of the equation. Everyone has a "space" to drive and bicycle. The only violation I occassionally see is some jerk plowing down the bicycle lane with his bumper stickered vehicle. I am not a bicyclist.

  30. Greetings Tattlers,
    Thank you for the article John, this is a discussion we have needed for a long time. The Tattler has become the sounding board of reason for Sierra Madre.
    The bikes are here. They are going to stay. These are facts.
    Like them or not.
    The only issue is safety, for the bicyclists, for the cars, the pedestrians, and their pets.
    A way (and by far not the only way) to help create a safe zone would be to reach out to the bike clubs for better coordination of time.
    The City of Sierra Madre would then be able to know in advance when and where the safest route would be.
    No policing would be needed, as the route would be established for "through cycling" thereby creating a safe bike corridor.
    It could be marked with those weather proof signs we are all familiar with from our friendly local politics.

  31. bike lanes would not solve the problem. these arrogant cyclists know where to ride. they choose to ride three deep and ignore the stop signs.

    bike lanes would only cost us money which we do not have.

  32. The immediately that put together the report of the poor performance of the City Administrator that was presented to a previous CC found that there was a budget item from a grant for Bicycle Lanes that was never implemented. Those funds were mixed with the General Fund and sat there as a small cash flow for other city expenditures. I know that someone from that earlier committee will still have the report and the Bicycle Lane information. It should come up soon once the information is relocated.

  33. Escort the peleton from Santa Anita to Baldwin with a police cruiser fore and aft; make the stragglers stop at the signs.

  34. Pa thought the cyclists were the Hell's Angels!

  35. Ah c'mon Pa! When's the last time you saw any self respecting Hell's Angel wearing skintight clothing?
    Or riding nekkid but for strategic paint?

  36. So it's okay to have a large group of out of towners who can disobey the town's laws because they're too hard to enforce? It's only one day a week? They buy drinks at Beantown and Starbucks? A politician is burnishing his halo in preparation for the next level election?

  37. There is a very simple solution for this problem.

    This a really a weekly event. The bikers need to get and PAY for a weekly TUP. Let them incur the cost of having the police stop traffic. They can pay the 4 hr minimum for 2 officers every Saturday.

    When Little League want or the Chamber want to use our streets that is what they have to do.

  38. I like it, 9:26 am! Let's see... 4 hours x $150 hr = $600 x 2 officers = $1,200 x 52 weeks = $62,400 annually! The bikers become a profit center.

  39. Maybe the City could set up toll plazas on each end of Sierra Madre Blvd. Fee Centers is what they could be called. Anyone who enters is expected to help pay for the upkeep of the streets.

  40. So everyone knows. The proper use of the term "Hells Angels" is just that. "Hell's Angels" is incorrect. Apparently they take that very seriously.

  41. I always thought we treated them as guests in our town and everyone just moved over when they arrived and we all just knew that we could not walk by, because their bikes were spewn on the sidewalk, and it was an unspoken law that no one could buy at Starbucks since they bought it all up and took up the seating.

    The CC knew and liked it that way. It made it look like we are busy and profitable. They told the cops to shut up because no one wanted to spoil the status quo.

    Do not let the citizens shop then. We want the outsiders to think all is well in town so we won't rock the boat. Everyone loves it here.

    Quaint, quiet. Often repressed.

  42. Letter to S-N at the link above shows how the Sheriff's Department will do fundraising in local cities where they're used. The money goes to County, not the local city. The letter discusses how the illegal "sting" operation works. Basically jaywalking cops in civilian clothes were ensnaring drivers with $250 citations:

    That street closure had nullified
    the requirements of the intersection and therefore the "unmarked crosswalk" did not exist. What really happened that morning was the Sheriff's Department going on a financing campaign against the citizens of this community by handing out over 131 invalid traffic citations that grossed over $40,000.

    This needs to be exposed as a black eye given the county Sheriff's Department. So that there won't be another traffic ticket jamboree in Temple City, or elsewhere.

  43. Eats Shoots and LeavesJuly 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    10:00, yeah, nothing like an apostrophe to show possession to drive a rebel wild.

  44. There are many Hells. The Angels draw from all of them.

  45. Neuroblast Films,

    Just how and where would you implement this great idea? How about we also accommodate Friday evening drag races for our hotrod enthusiasts. Also, if the bikes are going to stay, encourage them, and make them obey the laws like all other Sierra Madre residents. They are guests/visitors to our friendly city; they should be much more respectful!

  46. Grammar? Hells no!

  47. Delighted this issue has surfaced..I agree with 9:26..The city should get something out of this weekly locus flyover.Now,they are becoming a plague within the Canyon cluttering and blocking motorist attempting to pass by Mary's market.Police,frankly I have never seen the Police anywhere in town patrolling this mob.Needless to say,I was delighted to read that the Police ARE ticketing them.Good Job!!!

  48. It's a lifestyle war!

  49. If Sierra Madre police cannot or will not effectively enforce traffic laws to control these intentional lawbreakers, they deserve no respect, cooperation, or consideration for salary increase or other support from the citizenry. Currently, cyclists are being treated as a special class with extra-legal protections. They are vehicles subject to the California Vehicle Code and the ignorant or insolent ones should be educated, by the SM police or otherwise, to the fact that this is not right, nor will be tolerated.

  50. It doesn't appear to me that despite the SMPD's efforts anything has changed in the least.

  51. What's changed is Joe Mosca. He's getting ready for his next campaign. Elephants, puppies, babies, he'll be so adorable folks will have to vote for him.

  52. wouldn't you just hate to work for the city and have the likes of Mosca, Buchanan, Moron and Walsh just whilly nilly assigning you random whatever comes to mind tasks and then lamenting at Council meetings how overworked you are?

    Mosca has all the free time in the world, he could have done the review himself

    all I know is the smelly bikers in spandex have ruined Starbucks and Mary's Market for me - yuck

  53. I heard on the news this morning that several Orange County cities have combined to study outsourcing city services, including police.

    The consultant is 80K and it's being spread out over the participating cities.

    Yet, our podunk town of 10,000 spends $ 50K on consultants for smaller tasks or to consult on brilliant topics like shopping habits or the Farmer's Market.

  54. put in bike lanes with speed bumps

  55. kids are harrassed for loitering around Kersting Court and leaving their bikes or skateboards lying around

    but our PD can do nothing about the bike groups parking on sidewalks or cluttering Kersting Court or congesting traffic or yielding at stop signs?

    if the bike groups were teenagers our PD would arrest them all

  56. So what's Mosca got to write about? He passed the water rate hike, he brought back the Farmer's Market, single-handedly prevented a PETA riot, kept Sierra Madre free of puppy mills, and made the streets safe for bike riders... and he's got many months to go... want to bet he'll solve the cebt ceiling issue this week?

  57. Joe's newest challenge will be Califorina:

    "Taxes paid by residents as pct. of income: 10.6%
    Total state and local taxes collected: $354 billion
    Pct. of total taxes paid by residents: 82.5%
    Pct. of total taxes paid by non-residents: 17.5%

    California is exceptional in many ways when it comes to taxing its residents. The state has the highest statewide sales tax in the country, currently 8.25%. It also has the highest tax on gas, charging 46.6 cents per gallon. The state collects among the lowest amount of taxes from non-residents and business out of all the states. But with the lowest credit rating in the nation, according to S&P, an ongoing budget problem, and a $10.8 billion deficit, one of the biggest in the country, the state may want to change its approach."

    (from 24/7 Wall St 7-22-11)

  58. As an avid cyclist (have multiple bumblebee suits and around $40k worth of bikes in the garage) and as a motorist, I definitely see multiple sides to the issue.

    For sure, bikers need to follow the rules of the road and not blow stop signs/ lights, not take the lane unless there are road hazards or substandard lane width, etc.

    That being said, most cities in LA are extremely bike unfriendly.. both in their layout, infrastructure as well as blood boiling vitriol from drivers.

    Bike racks, bike lanes, bike preferred routes are great additions to any city. I think it would be great to set up one or two east/west and north/south bike preferred routes in the city.

    Pasadena is proposing "enhanced bike routes" where roads would have mini-traffic circles instead of four-way stops.. and periodically divert auto traffic off these roads while allowing bikes to continue. The bike preferred route would not be a major car thoroughfare... would encourage bike use on those roads and encourage autos to use more major roads.

    As a sidebar, remember that there are many sub-groups within cycling. You can coarsely divide it into utilitarian and recreational. Within the utilitarian, you may have educated commuters, restaurant workers, etc.. and in the recreational you might have kids, regular folk, serious bumblebees and pelotons (groups). Don't demonize us all from the actions of a particular sub-group.

  59. From 4 decades of experience, the most frightening thing on wheels is a mid to late life woman with blue hair, driving a Mercedes or Lexis,@30mph through a mall parking lot.

    No speed limits there.

    The next move was to seek out the Managers office to report her car stolen. Usually that ment she exited a different door than she entered.

    We did not have a bicycle prolem with her.

  60. Of course, building "enhanced bike routes" takes money that much of the populace would not endorse spending... so painted bike lanes and bike route signs are a great bang for the buck.

  61. I taught bicycling as a P.E. class at Claremont High School many years ago. Only once time did I have to wait long after school when the rest of the class was dismissed for one rider who was late to return. That rider had been stopped, but not ticketed, by the Montclaire Police for running a red light (to keep up with the group at a T intersection along Foothill Blvd. west of the Claremont Colleges). Needless-to-say the bicyckle rules of the road of the California vehicle code was part of the course and she did break the law but the cop thought a warning was sufficient and the discussion at the next class meeting was very productive.

  62. Earlier post mentioned the grant for bike lanes in Sierra Madre. If the money is still sitting there it should be used as we taxpayers have already paid for this safety approach. Come on--it's a no brainer. That would be it the staff in the past/present had brains.

  63. I didn't know police used bullhorns anymore. Very 1960s.

  64. Jagger and RichardsJuly 22, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    well thank you very much and now I think it's time for us
    all to go. so from all of us to all of you not forgetting
    the boys in the band and our producer, Reg Thorpe,
    We'd like to say "God Bless". So, if you're out tonight,
    don't forget, if you're on your bike, wear white. amen.

  65. anon 10:44
    Get somebody to read, and explain my post to you. It seems you may be looking through a bunch of dirt.
    Neuroblast Films


The Tattler is a moderated blog. Annoying delays when posting comments can happen. Thank you for your patience and understanding.