For the past week, I’ve allowed candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 to use this blog to address the bicycling community. You’ll find statements from Adeena Bleich, Robert Schwartz and Robyn Ritter Simon below. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by clicking here.
Thank you for the opportunity to write specifically about bicycling issues in relation to my candidacy for Los Angeles City Council, 5th District.
Whether you are an avid weekend cyclist or a person who depends on a bicycle to get to work or school, the City of Los Angeles has failed miserably to create an infrastructure that encourages cycling.
As you are aware, in my life long district, the 5th, we have very few Class One Bikeways. We must build more and I am dedicated to achieving this goal even if it means I will have to tap my office holder accounts to realize this dream.
As you will see from my Website at Votevahedi.com, Westside button, I have been a long time advocate for a continuous Class One Bikeway along the Exposition Light Rail Line from Downtown to Santa Monica. I will be a strong voice for this project on the city council.
Another problem we must tackle is the unwillingness of most motorists to appreciate the exposed nature of cyclists and that when a vehicle fails to follow the traffic laws, especially around a cyclist; the result is often severe bodily harm or death for the cyclist. LAPD must be constantly reminded to take cyclist safety as a top concern along with educating drivers. Furthermore, there are many simple things the City can do to protect riders, from highly fluorescent lines indicating a bikeway to placing concave mirrors at known dangerous crossings.
We must also create a true hotline with rapid response for both potholes and street surface issues that are not only talking away from the positive experience of cycling, but also resulting in many serious injuries to riders.
There are also two issues in the legal arena that must be addressed and changed. Many cyclists are unaware that if they are injured on any class of bikeway due to the negligence of the city, that the city is 100% immune from liability. This is the result of the courts extending immunity for trail and paths in the mountains to bike paths, including all classes of bikeways.
This extension of immunity followed after a cyclist broke his neck on Sepulveda Blvd., near Mulholland Highway, after the asphalt collapsed under his bike. The city was aware of the unsafe conditions and the cyclist sued to recover his damages. On appeal, the higher court specifically found that cities and counties have immunity even where they had “actual notice” of the danger.
As an attorney, I have litigated this immunity issue when a client was injured on the Venice Bike Path when a DWP manhole had a piece of metal protruding from it. The DWP, when originally notified of the danger, put a cone over the metal which was soon knocked off, exposing a 13 inch piece of metal 1 inch by 1/16th of an inch that could not be seen. Amazingly, the LAPD officer on the rescue scene was able to break the piece of metal off at the base just like a hangar protecting other cyclists and doing what the DWP should have done in the first place.
There is currently a culture at city hall arising from this immunity that puts the repair of bikes path at the bottom of the list. This must change. The city should adopt the public policy that it will not invoke the immunity if it is determined that they had “actual notice” of the danger and failed to act prudently.
The second area of law that needs to be addressed is that of presumption. Specifically, that if a cyclist is injured in a bike lane in a cyclist versus vehicle accident, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver of the vehicle was negligent. This presumption will work in two ways to protect cyclists. First, recovery of damages will be less expensive and time consuming for the cyclist, and I strongly believe that insurance companies will do a much better job to educate drivers to be more prudent and aware of cyclists’ rights to share the road.
While I most likely cannot make this important legal change directly from the council, city councils historically have been very successful in influencing the legislature to make statewide changes to law.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at home (310) 557-9677 to talk about any issue. I look forward to working with your group and other groups to make Los Angeles a world class city for cyclists.