November 22, 2013
That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.
In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues
in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is
reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14
It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made
great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an
accompanying jump in ridership.
Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.
Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.
Just one problem.
Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.
Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.
And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as
heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed
out in the street.
Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.
There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in
the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as
they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.
In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.
It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s
brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in
others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t
seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.
And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.
Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish
— was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a
speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through
another human being.
Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact
that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d
ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.
And that makes him one of us.
Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13.
Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the
last two years.
As if that isn’t five too many.
Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.
There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.
And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to
halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike
riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.
In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the
bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go
— supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul
Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.
When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.
But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if
that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their
hegemony on our streets?
Greene’s piece isn’t bad.
He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that
we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for
greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t
resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.
But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our
own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and
bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently
scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and
It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.
And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.