01 May 2012

Extreme Sport in L.A.! Not.

P1060119
Los Angeles, California.

Addendum: Check this ride out from South Bend: http://www.wsbt.com/news/sbt-procession-aims-to-show-how-bikes-cars-can-coexist-20120427,0,2181987.story

If you look closely at the above Citizen Cyclist in Los Angeles it is clear that this person is participating in an athletic event which is an extreme test of her physical and mental limits and it carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss.

I mean, it's bloody obvious, isn't?

Turns out that Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is hosting a little bike ride today. Which is cosy. And nice. Here's the route:
  • Pomona 2ns St
  • Left on White
  • Left on 1st
  • Right on E st
  • Take a Break ( perhaps 7-11) COFFEE BREAK! COOL!
  • Right on Bonita
  • Right on Yale
  • Take a Break (Rhino Records) RECORD SHOP STOP! COOL!
  • Left on 1st
  • Right on College
  • Right on San Jose
  • Left on San Antonio
  • Right on San Bernardino
  • Left on Gibbs
  • Left on McKinley
  • Right on Palamares
  • Right on 1st
  • Left on Main
Here's a pdf of the route, too.

The ride should be less then 10 miles and we will go at a moderate pace. Please bring lights just in case it gets dark before we get back.  We are meeting at 6pm and riding out at 6:20 and should be about an hour ride or less.

16 km. Group ride. For fun. Stopping at a 7-11 for a Slurpee. Stopping at a record shop. Groovy.

So here's the waiver form you have to sign to take part in this little Citizen Cyclist bike-o-rama:

"I acknowledge that this athletic event is an extreme test of a person's physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. 

The risks include, but are not limited to, those caused by terrain, facilities, temperature, weather, condition of athletes, equipment, vehicular traffic, actions of other people including, but not limited to, participants, volunteers, spectators, coaches, event officials, and event monitors, and/or producers of the event, and lack of hydration. These risks are not only inherent to athletics, but are also present for volunteers. I hereby assume all of the risks of participating &/or volunteering in this event. I realize that liability may arise from negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities being released, from dangerous or defective equipment or property owned, maintained or controlled by them or because of their possible liability without fault. I certify that I am physically fit, have sufficiently trained for participation in the event and have not been advised otherwise by a qualified medical person."

Readers may recall our Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Die! article from awhile back, about a similar event in Chicago.

What a ridiculous message to be sending to people who wish to participate in a cosy bike ride. This is a massive marketing/advocacy FAIL.

Spare me all the comments about "That's just the way our legal system is the US"... Because you know what? If advocacy groups are serious about reestablishing the bicycle on our urban landscapes, they will engage an attorney to reword documents like these.

Look at how many people get off the hook in the US legal system for crimes. So there are loopholes the size of North Dakota. It must be possible to rewrite these documents in a realistic language that presents an all important positive image of urban cycling, separating it from sport/recreation and that still covers all the liability issues that need to be addressed in the American system.

It can't be hard. But why isn't it being done?

And why don't motorists have to sign such waivers when they purchase a car? Or pedestrians when they purchase shoes?

It boggles the mind.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's only because she has a flat tire and a bike that is too small for her shiney legs. It is all about the legs afterall, in your posts anyway.

Dave Feucht said...

We have a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome, man. Kick us in the face, and we'll continue kicking ourselves in the face to please you.

Anonymous said...

These people are not signing a waiver to buy a bike, they are participating in an event organized by a 3rd party. If you were participating in a driving event in your car, or even a charity walk, for damn sure you'd have to sign the same waiver.
Most bike advocacy organizations don't have lots of money to spend on a lawyer, and no lawyer wants to volunteer to re-write a waiver only to be liable when some ambulance chaser finds a hole in THEIR language and sues the advocay group right out of existence. Sorry, but that's America.

Konstantin said...

Is it really necessary to distinguish urban cycling from other forms of cycling? While I'm cycling most of my kilometers inside a city for commuting and errands, I don't mind touring or road cycling as a sport occasionally. The risks and problems are mainly the same, so why not unite among cyclists for the better of the common purpose (safety & fun on the bike)? Bashing sport cyclists will not help anyone ...

DB said...

I agreed, but I thought you were talking about the surfing...

kdt said...

I've taken the trouble to do a bit of editing to the disclaimer. I think this language works better:

I acknowledge that this athletic event is an extreme test of a person's physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. (Just kidding. This is a 10-mile or so long bike ride over mostly-level terrain, in a civilized urban area where there are plenty of places to stop and rest. What I really acknowledge is that I am responsible for my own actions during this ride, and that the ride's organizers or their lawyers have pulled this language from some other event, perhaps an active volcano lava-surfing competition or maybe a long-distance swim through shark infested waters where each participant drags a leaking bag of chum behind them. Whatever, I understand that I should take care of myself while participating in this event.)

The risks include, but are not limited to, those caused by terrain, facilities, temperature, weather, condition of athletes, equipment, vehicular traffic, actions of other people including, but not limited to, participants, volunteers, spectators, coaches, event officials, and event monitors, and/or producers of the event, and lack of hydration. (In other words, the risks are basically the same ones I face each morning when I get out of bed and leave my house ready for whatever life has to throw my way.)

These risks are not only inherent to athletics, but are also present for volunteers. (The same risks also are present for spectators, those who don't give a rats ass about this event, store employees along the route, and Zach Galifianakis. I'm not really trying to single out Zach Galifanakis, but I like him and decided to use him as an example of someone who is facing the same risks I'm assuming by taking on this 'extreme test' of an 'athletic event.' I mean, it could be Angelina Jolie, but do you really see her doing something like this? No, I think Zach Galifianakis is a much better example.)

I hereby assume all of the risks of participating &/or volunteering in this event. (Just as I and everyone else on this planet assumes that they are not protected by some supernatural 'Cocoon of Safety,' I do acknowledge that the organizers of this event, while perhaps laboring away at such a cocoon in the dark recesses of their basement workshops, have yet to perfect it and so are not prepared to assure me that my life will suddenly be without all risk during this bike ride.)

I realize that liability may arise from negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities being released, from dangerous or defective equipment or property owned, maintained or controlled by them or because of their possible liability without fault. (In other words, I completely understand that there is an overabundance of morons in this world, and that I may encounter some of them during this ride. I'm ready for it. In fact, bring on the morons!)

I certify that I am physically fit, have sufficiently trained for participation in the event and have not been advised otherwise by a qualified medical person. (And if I'm lying, may God strike me . . . . . .)"

ablejack said...

Nobody has to sign anything.

Chris said...

Actually, if you ever read anything written by lawyers? None of those waivers are worth the computer screen you don't bother to read them on. The 3rd party still can (and will) be sued and will probably lose, and lose a LOT of money/property/etc...
Making the whole exercise pointless...

Damien Newton said...

I use the same form when Los Angeles Streetsblog is leading a ride. I don't have the money to afford a lawyer to re-write it, and if I did I would prefer to spend it on freelancers to improve our coverage. I would prefer that LACBC not spend money or manpower fighting their insurers. We have more than enough fights with City Hall, MTA etc...than to waste energy on this. Everyone knows what these forms are and where they come from.

ubrayj02 said...

As mentioned above, these form don't do anything but scare away people that might want to sue you. Someone gets hurt and contacts you ; things go poorly between you; they threaten a lawsuit; you scream, "I gotta waiver here!" - the dream is that this will stop them from going forward.

The reality is that this waiver is a piece of bum wipe. Someone wants to waste your money and theirs in court, they can do it. A majority of jurors is going to find against you based on their biased opinions of the facts allowed to be heard in court - this waiver doesn't mean squat.

kfg said...

@Konstatin: If you pick up a copy of the American "Bicycling" magazine published anytime between 1990 and 2010 you will discover the answer to your question is "yes."

Although it is the general population magazine (there are sport specific magazines as well) you will find it is full of the latest racing equipment, the latest racing "fuel" and instruction on how to get your interval training in on your way to work.

If you trawl through Mikael's websites you will find that the raison d'etre of said websites is to act as the necessary counterbalance to that cultural attitude about bicycles as sporting equipment.

He is not opposed to sport cycling, he has even featured it on this blog from time to time where it is relevant, he is opposed to the idea that one needs a racing bike and all the associated equipment, clothing and even special shoes just to pop down to the local for a pint.

In many places (particularly those referred to as "English Speaking") this has not simply been forgotten, but is actually opposed as untrue.

Mikael Colville-Andersen said...

Thank you kfg. A voice of reason, as always.

Erik Griswold said...

Let's contrast the LACBC waiver with one I found for the Carmel (California, USA) School District which has the equally covering but less ominous language:

I am aware that during any field trip or excursion certain dangers may occur, including, but not limited to, the hazards of accidents or illness in places without medical facilities, hazards created by the forces of nature and hazards of travel by air, train, bus, automobile, and other means, including walking.

I understand that I assume all of the above-mentioned risks, will hold the Carmel Unified School District, its employees, officers, agents, volunteers, and the State of California, harmless of any and all liability or claims whatsoever, which may arise out of or in connection with the above-described trip/excursion. The terms hereof shall serve as a release and assumption of risk for my heirs, executor and administrators and for all members of my family.

http://www.carmelunified.org/carmelunified/lib/carmelunified/_shared/District%20Forms/NewForms/CUSD_221_NON_School_Sponsored_Trip_Waiver_-_Staff-Volunteer.pdf

LACBC could even include the word "bicycling" but by having listed all those other modes, will not have singled out bicycling for undue scrutiny. And as future rides begin to include other modes, namely rail transit, this would really be a very good thing.

Tim K. said...

Having started a bicycling Non-profit and working on my second, I have always been appaled by this kind of language. If a non-profit is hosting the event and they have insurance and they are NOT charging for participation (Just saying show up and ride with us) then this is not needed. It is when the event become formal and money exchanges hands that thing legally get wacky. Almost all American bicycle advocates need to lighten up and stop being such uptight pantywaits and they would get more people riding bikes.

Tim
La Crosse, WI USA

examinedspoke said...

"And why don't motorists have to sign such waivers when they purchase a car? Or pedestrians when they purchase shoes?"

We don't yet sign waivers for car or shoe buying, but we do sign them when using cars and shoes in events like track days and "fun" runs. For that matter, we sign them when go skydiving or take kung fu classes, and sometimes even when participating in bowling tournaments.

I don't think the risk differences between skydiving and bowling matter much to sponsoring organizations. Injuries cost, no matter how they happen. Waivers help mitigate those costs, even if only a little, even if they sometimes don't work at all.

But contrast: CicLAvia is as big a bicycle "thing" as they get, with some 100,000 people participating each time. But no waiver is required. Why? I think the difference is in the contours of the event: there's no specified distance, no specified route to take, no mark of completion. The streets are simply made car-free for a few hours on a Sunday, but otherwise, the normal rules of street usage apply, no waiver required.

Railing against waivers isn't going to solve the underlying problem of poorly funded businesses and organizations trying their best to operate in a litigious society. Maybe it's better to celebrate the fact that the events happen at all, because "not happening" is often the lawyer-advised alternative.

Sa-Spence said...

Ok, yes, it is silly. But as a former Angeleno and native-born American, I can assure you that no one takes this kind of language seriously. We just chock it up to the price of our legal system and sign away. Just be careful you don't sign the iTunes waiver without reading it!

Har said...

Riding a bike for about an hour is an "athletic event with the potential for death, serious injury and property loss". Considering the number of "heroes" the Americans seem to have, cycling is probably a death-defying activity. I'll remind myself when I take to the streets this afternoon and know I am a hero.

Anonymous said...

Consider how lawsuit-happy Americans are, and it's standard fare.

Chris said...

I chose not to participate in a local family "fun ride" here in the New Jersey suburbs because, although the entire route was closed to auto traffic, they wanted me to sign one of these and force me to wear a helmet. Yet, suspiciously, no helmets required at the local half-marathon.

Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. Keep fighting the good fight, Mikael!

Dr. Avery Jenkins said...

In the U.S., as in many cultures, making your activities seem dangerous is the way to get respect, so many cyclists here boast about their derring-do on two wheels.

I wrote about the safety of bicycling in my series of Bike Month posts on my blog: http://www.averyjenkins.com/?p=671

Thanks for the inspiration.

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Anonymous said...

Girls on 45lb bikes with 70 cm bars and flat pedals in dangerously inappropriate footwear.

It must summer again.

Konstantin said...

@ kfg & Mikael:

I'm reading copenhagenize now for more than two years and from time to time stumble over sentences like "[...] positive image of urban cycling, separating it from sport/recreation [...]". Even after your explanation, I still don't see the necessity to distinguish between different groups of bicyclists.
I don't come here to read about sports news, for sure, but at least from my view it makes more sense to embrace every cyclist we can find than to create enemy stereotypes among cyclists.
While there might be a perception of bicycles as sports equipment in the US (I have not lived long enough in the US to judge on this point), I can't find the same attitude towards bicycles in germany. Even those using a bike for their workout not always have a road bike/MTB but use the same as for their daily commute (or just make a detour on their way home as a workout). Where to make the cut between the "good" urban cyclist and the "bad" road/sport/offroad cyclist? For me, there is no clear line we can draw.

ATX Bikette said...

Eh, I don't anyone takes these seriously anymore right? I mean there are warnings and disclaimers on EVERYTHING now. I mean we are the country who has warning that coffee is hot on their styrofoam cups so I think most Americans have a strong bullshit filter now when it comes to these things.

Branko Collin said...

An average of 16 kph does not make a leisurely bike ride. If you count in all the stops and starts, your real speed will more likely be 24 kph.

Downhilldiva said...

KDT, I love your waiver!