Cyclist Dies on Critical Mass, NBC Opens Fire

by Damien Newton
Saturday, September 1, 2012

Source: StreetsBlog

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 LAistPatch 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: http://www.livestrong.com/article/441945-fixed-gear-bike-safety/.

TakeAways

I was afraid that the Livestrong link was going to be written from a “defensive posture” but it was not. The writer of that piece notes the following:

Fixed-gear bicycles, known as fixies, are the simplest and oldest type of gear setup on bikes. These bikes feature only one gear, and the chains are fixed to the pedals and wheels. This means whenever the wheels are rotating, the pedals must also be. Some children’s bikes come as fixed-gear bicycles because they are cheaper and simpler in design, but adults also like fixed-gear bicycles, particularly for in-city riding. Fixed gears are tougher to ride and can be more dangerous, making it important to prepare yourself with fixed-gear safety education.

The key thing that should be read and understood is that even the LiveStong folks espouse some safety education. I would agree. That education should extend to any rider who is considering using a fixie in city traffic as well as pedestrians who do not perhaps understand the inherent dangers they face when crossing sidewalks where fixie riders are preparing to blow a red light while riding that kind of bike.

It would be additionally helpful if the motoring public knew to anticipate a loss of control on the part of fixie riders when they pass them in the bike lane. A dooring situation is especially dangerous for truckers who wish to avoid having to deal with a traffic fatality.

So in addition to trying to warn motorists about dooming, we need to point the finger back at ourselves and make certain that we are aware of the dangers from uncontrolled fixie bikes. In fact these bikes can be dangerous to other cyclists if the rider of them is not able to handle them effectively.

Wildly Irresponsible Story From NBC4?

Damien, get a grip!

I read the story and it seemed pretty balanced to me. If of course you are sensitive to people questioning the use of brakeless bikes (i.e. fixes) then perhaps you need to adjust your caffeine intake a bit. But anyone reporting on this incident who did not mention the issues with a brakeless bike would be a poor reporter indeed.

Stop the knee jerk reaction to having someone examine what is going on inside the cycling community, especially the urban segment. Things are indeed out of hand in most cities and this is yet another example.