By Sirinya Tritipeskul

Described by Damien Newton at LA Streetsblog as "The image that started it all"

Earlier today, the LA Times and LA Streetsblog reported that Christopher Thompson – the Mandeville Canyon-based doctor who was convicted on six felonies and one misdemeanor back in November 2009 – was sentenced to five years in prison. His attorney’s plea for probation was denied.

The blogosphere is aflutter on the verdict. As of this writing, there is back and forth on the length of the prison term (too long? too short?), as well as the rights of cyclists (should they be allowed on the road? Should they only be restricted to bike lanes?) Some commenters have expressed their support for cyclists, while others have expressed their frustrations or negative-run-ins with cyclists.

As a “green guru” writing you from a blog at UCLA, my goal first and foremost is to educate fellow commuters (cyclists included) on how to reach our campus safely. If you scroll below, you’ll see some pointers, including a clarification on where you can and cannot ride on sidewalks (turns out it’s pretty tricky to keep straight!).

But for myself as a commuter who has also used a bike to get onto campus, I can’t help but be pleased that our court system sent out a firm signal to our city that our roads are for both cars and cyclists.

I am hopeful that this will carry over into the policy, planning, and engineering realms, especially as we are at the end of the public comment period for our city’s bike plan (click here to see the maps; send your comments to jordann.turner at lacity.org and lacbc.comments at lacbc.org).

It is in that bike plan that we have the opportunity to articulate what infrastructure we will build and what changes we will make in order for bikes and cars to co-exist safely.

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A few notes on riding safely around LA from Sirinya

1) Always, always wear a helmet. I don’t care if you’re only riding for five minutes. I got in a bike accident just 100 FEET from home! Thank GOODNESS I had a bike helmet on that day.

You can get a $20 voucher for a helmet from us at Helen’s Cycles on Gayley.

2) Bike lights galore. Make sure anyone and everyone can see you from the front, behind, and the side.. My bike has rear lights, wheel lights (dorky, but whatever), and I’m waiting on delivery on a 2W LED light from Planet Bike.

2a) Bike vest. I’ve just ordered my first bike vest. I’m going to look like an even bigger dork than I already am. Whatever, I just want to get from point A to point B without dying.

3) Have a noise maker. The sounds of a bell evoke Leave It To Beaver-era nostalgia.

4) Figure out where you are safest to ride: Is it on the street or on the sidewalk?

  • No joke, if you’re on Wilshire between UCLA and Brentwood, you’re probably better off on the sidewalk with a very loud horn.
  • On campus? I think I’m safer cycling and Xooting on our campus roads. There are thousands of pedestrians on our sidewalks, and I’m not going to take the chance that they can get out of my way fast enough and vice-versa. (I learned this the hard way during my freshman year at Smith.) Also, some pedestrians don’t take too kindly to swerving out of the way for cyclists on crowded sidewalks. I don’t want to be the one who turns someone who was previously neutral on cyclists into someone who is very anti-cyclist.

Now, I promised I would tell you where it is legal to ride on sidewalks (because there are times when it seems like the streets are more cars, not bikes. Here’s what’s up in areas near UCLA:

1) City of Los Angeles (From the LAPD)

Bicyclists are permitted to ride on sidewalks; however, it is an infraction to do so in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property (56.15.1 LAMC). If you ride your bicycle on the street, you must ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic and as close as practicable to the right side of the roadway (21202a CVC).

2) County of Los Angeles (this encompasses unincorporated sections of LA, such as Marina Del Rey, Compton, parts of East LA, and Hacienda Heights): No

3) West Hollywood: Yes, Cyclists can ride on sidewalks when there is no marked bike lane. However, you can get cited with an infraction with a fine up to $250 if you ride recklessly.

4) Santa Monica: No (per Santa Monica PD).

5) Culver City: Still can’t figure this out.