It has happened again. Another bicyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver who couldn’t be bothered to stop and render aid to his victim. The driver, witnesses said, was traveling in excess of 60 MPH on North Figueroa Friday morning at approximately 3:30 AM when he allegedly ran a red light and struck the cyclist who was legally riding in the intersection. Witnesses told police the driver did not even brake and dragged the victim for 100 feet before speeding off. When police arrested the suspect, he was found to have abandoned his car and walked home, and the next morning was still over the legal limit for alcohol in his bloodstream and had debris from the collision in his hair.
I didn’t know the victim but I thought it was important to pay my respects to yet another cyclist who lost his life to the car culture. I attended a ghost bike ceremony on North Figueroa in Highland Park, where the tragedy occurred, and was heartened by the sense of solidarity that our suffering and vulnerability as flesh and blood in the face of speeding steel brings about. But I also get so tired of having to meet my fellow cyclists under circumstances such as these. Another life lost. Another ghost bike by the side of another unsafe street.
The thing that makes this tragedy doubly infuriating is the fact that this stretch of North Figueroa had been slated for a makeover under the L.A. mobility plan that would have lowered automobile speeds and installed bike lanes. No one can say for sure whether this “road diet” would have saved the victim’s life, but redesigning the street for the safety of all road users would have made it more difficult for any motorist to use Figueroa as a race track. Unfortunately, the previously approved road diet was unilaterally halted last year by Councilmember Gil Cedillo who represents the district. Some of the activists took matters into their own hands and painted DIY bike lane stencils on North Figueroa. We shouldn’t have to do this, but when our leaders fail to act, the people must step forward and take matters into their own hands.
In addition to paying my respects to the victim and his family and friends, I had to attend this memorial in order to bear witness to another example of the failure of car-centric road design and to the fecklessness of Councilmember Cedillo whose craven abandonment of the North Figueroa road diet is one of the more pathetic failures of L.A.’s political system in recent years. Yet Cedillo blithely saunters on, mouthing concern for another victim of car violence while single-handedly blocking an approved road redesign that would have made North Figueroa safer for everyone.