Los Angeles to pay tribute to fallen cyclists to raise safety awareness

For cyclists in Los Angeles, commuting can be tough. Riders can easily recount close calls with buses, cars, and the like that could have been fatal.

"He hit me from behind, and I went flying on the sidewalk," Rich Hirschinger recalled.

He's been hit by a car twice leaving him with a herniated disc. But he's also the president of Southern California's largest cycling club, Velo Club La Grange, and he helped lobby for new bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.

"It's just a piece of paint on the ground," Hirschinger said. "But it gives us a place that we feel -- at least mentally -- a little bit safer."

Security video from April 2018 shows the moment a hit-and-run driver killed Frederick "Woon" Frazier at Normandie and Manchester in South Central. The 22-year old was headed to meet friends to bike to the beach.

Frazier is one of 21 cyclists killed in Los Angeles in 2018.

"People don't really pay attention when they drive around here," said Lucas Avidan, an employee at Helen's Cycles who also bikes to work and school every day. "They'll pass you too class or will not follow street signs, lights and endanger our lives."

More than 160 riders have been killed in L.A. since 2003, prompting unofficial tributes called "Ghost Bikes" at locations where crashes claimed lives. One sits right near the 405 south on-ramp at Santa Monica Boulevard, where a cyclist was hit and killed by a big rig in November. The ghost bike tradition is not officially sanctioned by the City, and the bikes are sometimes removed.

Now, the LA City Council has approved a more permanent tribute: street signs honoring fallen cyclists that also warn drivers to share the road. A rendering from LADOT reads, "Give 3 feet, it's the law. In memory of Jill Smith."

"It doesn't cost us hardly anything, and yet it can make a difference," said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield who represents District 3. "And if it saves one life, it's worth it." Blumenfield initiated the idea in the Council but says the signs, which will be erected at the request of families, are just one piece of the puzzle. "I think it can only help. And I think it will make a difference, but it needs to be part of a bigger package."

SB127, a bill before the California legislature, would increase funding to make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists, not just cars.

"We are human, and we're very, very vulnerable," Hirschinger emphasized. "So give us a little bit of space, and we can all coexist very peacefully."