Over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fell off his bike, and instantly captured the attention of the entire city.
For better or worse.
But instead of using that moment to protect the cycling community he so recently joined, he let a careless driver off the hook.
Sending a clear message that drivers should pay attention. But if they don’t, no big deal.
It was just an accident.
As it turns out, Saturday’s outing was the Mayor’s first bike ride in years, and lasted all of 30 minutes before he hit the pavement. And in answer to the question some people have been asking, yes, he was wearing a helmet.
In fact, he landed on it first before breaking his elbow. Maybe that’s why he’s still a little confused on the subject.
His Honor may have written — and Tweeted — that bikes belong on L.A. streets and he’ll be back on a bike as soon as he’s able. But according to the Daily Breeze, Villaraigosa insists that the cab driver shouldn’t face charges.
“He was very concerned when he realized it was me,” the mayor said. “He was careless, but that’s not illegal. He certainly didn’t do this on purpose.”
That’s where the Mayor is wrong — and where he’s done a huge disservice to everyone else on the roads, especially his new friends in the cycling community.
Because what the driver did was illegal. He pulled away from the curb without making sure the bike lane he was parked next to was clear. And as a result, caused a cyclist to be injured.
It’s called failure to yield. And it is against the law.
Yet our mayor just told everyone within reach of his words — and in this wireless world, that’s just about everyone — that cutting off a bike is really okay. Careless driving is no big deal.
And if anyone gets hurt as a result, it’s just an accident.
Harm, but no foul.
Glen Bailey, chair of the city Bicycle Advisory Committee, pointed out that this kind of collision is all too common.
“It’s the kind where a vehicle pulls in front a cyclist without warning and an accident occurs… It’s the kind of thing that normally doesn’t get reported and doesn’t get the attention it should. That’s why we are advocating for greater awareness and are asking people to be more careful and watch when they make turns to make sure a bicyclist isn’t there.”
The mayor still has a chance to change that. Although a lot fewer people are listening now.
He needs to stress that — ticketed or not — what the cab driver did was, in fact, against the law. And that drivers are fully responsible for carelessness behind the wheel that results in injury to bicyclists, or anyone else.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Once he gets back on his bike, I’ll be happy to ride with him.
And teach the Mayor what to look out for so it doesn’t happen again.
Just one day after we found out that Robert Sam Sanchez was sentenced to 4 years for the drunken hit-and-run death of Rod Armas, the 18-year old intoxicated driver who fled the scene after maiming cyclist Louis Deliz received a whopping 90 days community service — and may be able to get her license back next year.
The only significant difference between these two cases is that Deliz survived, while Armas didn’t. Clearly, someone has to die before judges take the lives of cyclists seriously.
Maybe it’s time we all got MADD.
Tonight’s your chance to talk about the biking issues that matter to you, when the LACBC holds its monthly board of directors meeting at the Encino Velodrome. The meeting officially kicks off at 7 pm, but some board members plan to arrive early.
In stage 16 of the Tour, Lance gives it his best shot for a stage victory, but Pierrick Fedrigo gets the win; in what may have been his last chance for a win, Lance just didn’t have the legs. A Kiwi le Tour rider is mistaken for a tourist and pushed off his bike, breaking both wheels. Following today’s rest day, Thursday’s climb up Tourmalet should be exciting — because Schleck wants his yellow jersey back.
In near-daily pro doping news, Alessandro Petacchi is placed under formal investigation. Armstrong’s lawyer complains about media leaks, and his team leader admits selling bikes as Landis charged, but doesn’t know where the money went.
LACBC calls for L.A.’s broken-armed mayor to support safer streets. LADOT Bike Blog reports on the sharrows on Westholme Ave; I’m planning to ride them end-to-end in a few minutes. Advice on safely navigating a right turn lane. NBC4 looks at the upcoming CicLAvia, now scheduled for October. Bicycle Fixation complains to LADOT’s Carlos Morales about bike racks, and gets action. A Sacramento cyclist is killed on his way to work; the driver has no license but a witness blames the cyclist. She’s a citizen cyclist, not a cycle chic. Battling breast cancer by bike. A lawyer finally gets his client a settlement a year-and-a-half after she gets left hooked. Charleston encourages people to ride bikes Downtown, then locks and tickets them because there’s not enough bike parking. A Boston cyclist enjoys the occasional impromptu roadway horn concerto. A DC area driver had received five tickets in the month before he killed a 23-year old cyclist. More secrets to cycling safely in traffic. Comparing the world’s two largest bike share programs as London’s new Cycle Hire kicks off this week — but only for members. Meanwhile, the city’s first two Cycle Superhighways opened on Monday.