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October 23, 2005

The dangers of cycling PCH in Malibu

WARNING: This story, and its associated entries, as covered by 4 Blogs, and various newspapers, and other media outlets, is LONG.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT avoid reading the whole collection.

If you ride along Pacific Coast Highway ANYWHERE along its more narrow, and challenging, sections from the north end to the south, but especially in the Malibu area, then your LIFE could one day depend on having read this series of articles.

Let's begin in happier times...

In May of 2002, I rode my bike along the stretch from West Channel Rd.  north to Webb Way, and  from Kanan Dume Rd. south to Malibu Rd., then a several mile stretch from the other side of the hill, south to the bike path that starts at Will Rogers State Beach at PCH and Temescal Canyon Rd. ( The 2nd Blog Article I reference will show you photos of this stretch of PCH. )

Not knowing that I was supposed to consider PCH a possible danger to life, and limb, my descriptions reflect this innocence, as I shared my joy in a very long, and adventurous ride.

Slow Pokes DO have all the fun!

Pedal forward to 2005...

The stark reality that PCH holds plenty of danger for the unwary bicyclist, and that the state, county, Caltrans, and the cities of Los Angeles, and Malibu are at odds with concerned cyclists is in the news, on blogs, and on the minds of local cyclists.

Meet Insider, of the Blog Independent Sources ( A fellow member of the California Bear Flag League ) as this blogs fabulous coverage ( with pictures! ) of this story begins:

[ Story Arc, including 2nd article, and various updates: Sept. 16, 2005 to October 3, 2005 ]

This story has particular relevance to me as every week I ride my bike over the exact same stretch of PCH in Malibu as the two riders who were killed last Saturday. Every week I comment to my riding partner that the situation there is incredibly dangerous. For the past several months I had wondered out loud why no one was calling Caltrans or the contractor responsible for creating the dangerous encroachment. I was one of those people who never made the call and I will have to live with that the rest of my life. However, I can do something now which is to make sure that this story is told in its entirety and that pressure is put on all responsible parties to fix the section of roadway that has contributed to two deaths. As of today, five days after the fatal accident, nothing has been done to remove the obstructions which means this weekend, hundreds of more cyclists will be forced out of the bike lane into 50+ mph traffic. How can this be so?

This is the story of the senseless death of 2 cyclists, and it is the story of the clash between cyclists, and the culture of the car, and the lifestyles of the coastal communities.

Bicyclist deaths are always tragic and senseless. However, the killings of Stanislav Ionov and Scott Bleifer stand out in their senselessness. Bike accidents are often the result of a series of unrelated and unpredictable events that happen in such an unfortunate manner as to result in a catastrophe. For example, a driver just happening to be inattentive at the moment when they are drifting out of their lane while a cyclist is at that same moment veering into traffic to avoid road debris they were just coming upon (think “wrong place, wrong time.”).

However, unfortunate circumstances have nothing to do with the deaths of Ionov and Bleifer and their deaths were 100% avoidable.

The research into this story is detailed, heartfelt, and powerful from the get go.

Meet the tragic victims.

Be introduced to PCH, and one stretch in particular.

Take a good, long, look at the the satellite shot, and ground level photos, and come to grips with the fact that "so far in 2005, eight cyclists have been injured on PCH, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Seven were injured in 2004 and six in 2003."

Then THIS happened.

The hill mentioned is the one I avoided dealing with by taking the side road around it.

To reach that stretch, going south from Kanan, meant I was riding along the highway shown on the left side of the Photo.

Read the details of the accident, see what was left of one of the bikes, feel the horror of the other cyclists shown at the scene.

Meet the killer, and marvel at his excuse.

And a week later marvel at this stunning bit of news...

Ionov and Bleifer were killed nearly a week ago, and while people at the local Starbucks are talking about it, and the city officials of Malibu are talking about it, absolutely nothing has been done to improve the safety and while I was taking photographs today I saw bicyclists forced back out into the same stretch that killed Ionov and Bleifer. I do not understand how this is possible. State permit or not, two people are dead because of those barricades so how can they remain? Furthermore, if you look at the pictures it would appear that they could easily be moved in three feet which would still allow the construction process to continue while allowing bicycle traffic to come through without going into a high-speed traffic lane. (see photo below.) Is this really too much to ask?

"Is this really too much to ask?" He writes, and I join him in asking...

Apparently so.

Join the writer in pondering some questions.

The writer ends the 1st article with several updates, and links to the outstanding coverage by the Malibu Times, to coverage of a memorial ride, to various tribute pages, and a plea for local cyclists to get involved, and write the LA Times, and Government Officials.

Oh, and Malibu Sheriffs new policy toward cyclists.

Be sure to read all the comments ( 37 so far ) to this piece.

READ THE FULL STORY: Malibu: Sunshine, Movie Stars, and senseless death on PCH.

Part 2 is a tour of a 20 mile stretch of PCH in Malibu, with pictures, that will open your eyes to what cyclists have to deal with every day.

you must note that there are in fact NO bicycle lanes on PCH, despite the fact that thousands of cyclists ride on it every weekend. Instead, cyclists are forced to ride in a shoulder which ranges in width from a few feet to non-existent and varies in condition from bad to deadly. Henceforth I will refer to this shoulder area as the “bike passageway” since that is how cyclists use it.

Seeing is believing, folks, and the views, of the road  ( yes, and the beach, and the ocean, too ) will leave you speechless.

To understand why any road cyclist would want to travel along this, or any other stretch of PCH, understand this:

PCH is a beautiful stretch of land with sweeping ocean views and hillside and canyon vistas. Furthermore it is the primary (or in some cases sole) method for reaching the many canyon roads that criss-cross the Santa Monica Mountains. For these reasons and others, PCH is extremely popular with road cyclists. However, PCH is an extremely dangerous road–made worse by a lack of planning and care by the state and local agencies who have jurisdiction over it.

Take a good long look at ALL THE PHOTOS, read the accompanying paragraphs, and you too will join me in echoing the writers following observation:

We are realists and we do not expect miracles (e.g., drivers to suddenly change behavior). But we do not believe that it is too much to ask:

  • the permanent and semi-permanent blockages of the bike passageway be immediately addressed
  • parking regulations be created or enforced that would keep automobiles from forcing cyclists into traffic
  • more and better signage at dangerous points
  • construction zones to factor in bicycle traffic

These are just a few of the reasonable actions that the city, state and all responsible parties should take which I believe will be more effective than the recently announced Malibu Sheriff’s policy.

READ THE FULL STORY-- Dangerous Cycling: PCH Malibu ( Seeing is believing ).

I Join Independent Sources in stressing that the story of this stretch of PCH serves as a proxy for dangerous riding conditions EVERYWHERE.

Please DO NOT wait for someone to be killed to address unnecessarily dangerous bicycling conditions in your areas.

After reading all of the above I look back at how I wrote about my trip thru the area, and my 2 other PCH rides [ Seal Beach to the tip of Balboa ( mostly along the dedicated Bike Trail ), and Newport Beach to the dead end in San Clemente ], a couple of years ago, and wish I'd been more descriptive of the conditions that might pose a hazard to cyclists less attuned to paying attention to their surroundings than I. ( I've got photos that, with the experience I have gained in Blogging, and my new computer, and printer/scanner, I just might add to the stories as written, time permiting. )

October 23, 2005 in Riding Los Angeles County | Permalink


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