L.A.’s newly biking Mayor still doesn’t get it

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.

Finally, an NYPD officer faces charges for hitting a cyclist, dragging him to the curb, giving him a ticket and then driving off without reporting it; the entire event was captured on video.

8 comments

  1. Todd says:

    After giving the Mayor’s accident some thought, I think there’s a good chance his crash was caused more by his inexperience and panic rather than the actions of the cab driver. No one else riding along with him went down and I feel if it were truly the driver’s fault he wouldn’t be so easy in letting him off the hook.

    Either way it gives him a good taste of how dangerous the streets can be.

  2. [...] bike riding in Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa was quick to champion the cause of bicycles(though some urge the Mayor to do more). In his blog post, the Mayor recognized the same arguments that LADOT [...]

  3. Digital Dame says:

    I was wondering why “inattentiveness” isn’t illegal, when I read that your mayor was downplaying the whole thing. Isn’t that why we’re passing laws banning cellphone use while driving. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.

    I have a feeling a large part of the reason he’s being so cavalier about the whole thing is (say it with me now) constituents. He’d rather not piss off the non-cycling segment.

    • bikinginla says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure he wants to appeal to the bike community without turning off the rest, so he downplays the real offense.

      When I wrote this, I tried looking up careless driving in the California Vehicle Code, but evidently it’s not a chargeable offense in this state. Reckless driving is, but that’s a higher level of offense, involving “wanton disregard” rather than simply not paying attention.

  4. [...] That response didn't sit well with Network member BikingInLA: [...]

  5. Laura Walsh says:

    Wow, the cab driver who broke the mayor’s elbow was “very apologetic” when he realized he cut off the man in charge of the city? No kidding! Would he be apologetic about cutting of anyone else not oozing power?

    Not being hit is better than an apology.

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Molly Duggan, NoRacer (Isaias). NoRacer (Isaias) said: L.A.’s newly biking Mayor still doesn’t get it « BikingInLA: http://bit.ly/cxx34D via @addthis [...]

  7. danc says:

    bikinginla wrote: “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.”

    I agree the taxi driver was at fault, however his honor did not help himself. A correctly stripped bike lane ends before the intersection. The cyclist should shoulder check, move to center of the travel lane if going straight thru or move away from the curb to be more visible and watch for right hook.

    An animation that shows the problems of bike lane, intersections or riding right in a narrow lane. http://www.commuteorlando.com/ontheroad/animations/narrowlane/narrowlane.html

    Yes, the taxi driver is a fault, just like person who opens a door in a bike lane. Is this anyway to encourage cycling?

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