Massachusetts Bicyclist Safety Bill vs. Dr. Doom and his Disciples of Death

The last few days, I’ve been reading, with increasing degrees of stomach-churning disgust, the comments that followed the Times’ article about the good doctor’s not guilty plea on their L.A. Now blog

Stomach churning, because many of our fellow citizens seem to believe they are justified in using their car as a deadly weapon, should any cyclist have the audacity to annoy or inconvenience them — and that the good doctor did nothing wrong, despite intentionally injuring two fellow human beings.

Stomach churning, in that many of the comments said that the cyclists were to blame, accusing them of tailgating the good doctor — despite the fact that he admitted intentionally cutting in front of the riders, then slamming on his brakes to teach them a lesson. Or at the very least, that their obnoxious behavior somehow justified sending both to the emergency room.

And stomach churning, in the appalling lack of knowledge of regarding the rights of cyclists under California law — and the belief that roads were made exclusively for motorized vehicles.

While I recognize that some — but by no means most — cyclists may ride in a dangerously aggressive manner, it is disingenuous at best to blame all riders for the actions of a relative few. As I was discussing with an employee at a local bike shop over the weekend, many drivers remember the single rider they saw blow through a red light, but never notice the others who waited patiently for it to change.

Then there are those who don’t believe we even belong on bikeways that were designed and built for our safety.

So despite the progress made in L.A. with the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, it’s clear that we still have a very long way to go.

Contrast that with the new bill that was recently signed into law in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Bicyclist Safety Bill applies common sense solutions to many of the problems we face everyday, on every ride.

Like making it clear that signals are not required when they would interfere with safe operation of the bike, such as when both hands are needed for braking or steering. Banning dooring, as well as cutting riders off after passing or when making a turn — something I’ve addressed previously.

And requiring that all police recruits receive training on “bicycle-related laws, bicyclist injuries, dangerous behavior by bicyclists, motorists actions that cause bicycle crashes, and motorists intentionally endangering bicyclists.” In-service training on the same subjects is optional for more experienced officers.

Imagine a police force that is actually knowledgeable, familiar with the rights and responsibilities of cyclists, and how motorists can cause cycling accidents — intentionally or otherwise.

I’ve been struggling lately with the question of what comes next, now that the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights is well on it’s way to becoming law.

As indicated above, I’ve made some suggestions for ways the California Vehicle Code could be changed to better protect riders and encourage cycling. (Scroll down to “Change the law. Change the world.”, then back up to see the individual suggestions.)

Another step would be to take the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights to the state level and make it part of the Vehicle Code. And require that drivers be tested on the full range of state cycling laws when they apply for their licenses.

As indicated in my previous post, Brayj had an excellent suggestion yesterday, when he said that the MTA could be sued to force funding of bicycle-related projects. And Ingrid Peterson of Rearview Rider added to his concept by suggesting that it’s time for a local coalition of cyclists and lawyers to protect our collective interests.

But we could do a lot worse than taking the full text of the Mass. law directly to our state representatives, and insisting that they use it as a platform for reforming our cycling laws.

Once they get off their collective asses and do something about the damn budget mess, that is.

 

Australian riders blame helmet laws for keeping cycling commuters off the road. Evidently, New York Police ignore hit-and-run accidents involving cyclists — as well as requests for more information. And cyclists fight back against bike thieves with exploding locks.

2 comments

  1. KateNonymous says:

    I missed that post on the L.A. Now blog, but my response to commenters who say that the cyclists had it coming because they used profanity, or because they were biking in the “wrong” portion of the road, is this:

    So, if the guy who works in the next office talks too loudly, can I hit him in the face with a baseball bat?

    I don’t care what the cyclists did or didn’t do. The doctor used his car as a weapon, and he’s lucky no one died. His actions cannot be excused.

  2. Excellent post. Stomach churning indeed – That freakin’ “Doctor”

    Got me remembering my time back in grad school when I lived (and cycled) in Boston…

    “You are not a CAR!!!” A woman shouted at me one time as her small child in the back seat looked on… She then angrily sped off…

    The LA version of a sort of “Bicycle Legal Collective” strikes me as a mandatory next step. We’ve got enough creative intelligent minds in LA to make this happen already.

    With a bit of structure and organization, I have no doubt we could continue to achieve a few “small victories” for cyclists and pedestrians alike here in Los Angeles….

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