An open letter to the L.A. City Council Public Safety Committee

Monday morning, I intend to make the following remarks to the members of the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee when it considers the proposed bicycle anti-harassment ordinance.

The Chairman of this committee was recently quoted in the L.A. Times suggesting that cyclists make up just 2% of the city’s population, compared to the 98% who drive cars.

Yet the city’s own 2010 bike plan suggests that over 5% of Los Angeles residents ride a bike on a weekly basis — and up to half ride at least occasionally. And many would ride more if they felt safer on the streets of this city.

One reason they don’t is a lack of infrastructure and roads designed with the safety of all road users in mind, like the recently improved Wilbur Avenue. But another reason is the harassment we face on a daily basis.

The Dr. Christopher Thompson case was just the tip of the iceberg.

I challenge you to talk to any local cyclist. Virtually all have been forced off the road or had objects thrown at them, sworn at, honked at, short-stopped, passed in a threatening manner or told to get off the road.

All of which has happened to me in recent months. And any of which can cause cyclists to lose control of their bikes, resulting in possible injury. Or worse.

In just the last week, I’ve been deliberately crowded off the road by one driver, and intentionally cut off by another — even though I was riding in a designated bike lane with the right-or-way.

These people feel safe harassing cyclists because they know the odds of being caught are virtually nil. It seldom occurs when a police officer is around, which means that in most cases, the only options we’ve had to defend ourselves are our own words and gestures.

And no word can defend against an angry driver in a 2,000 pound car.

This proposed ordinance would be the first step in allowing cyclists to defend themselves, in a civil, rather than criminal, court — which means that a police officer would not have to witness the incident.

The chances of winning any given case might be small. But the deterrent effect would be huge, as drivers realize for the first time that they could be held accountable for their actions. And virtually overnight, L.A. would change from a bicycling backwater to a world leader in protecting the rights of the city’s most vulnerable road users.

But it has to has teeth to be effective. It must provide a minimum $1,000 fine for violations, and a provision for lawyers fees so we can have someone fighting in our corner.

This isn’t about Ridazz or racers, wrong-way cyclists or sidewalk riders. It isn’t even about whether you like or respect cyclists. It’s about protecting the rights and safety of a sizable percentage of this city’s citizens — your constituents.

And make no mistake. It will protect the public safety and it will save lives.

And isn’t that the purpose of this committee?

.………

Help the very active South Bay Bicycle Coalition conduct vital a bike count to prepare for the upcoming South Bay Bike Master Plan on Thursday, November 4th from 3 pm to 6 pm, and again on Saturday the 6th from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm; volunteers are still neededThanks to Steve Montalto for the heads-up.

.………

Maybe Long Beach isn’t so bike friendly after all.

“The group known as Critical Mass travels from city to city and as a matter of practice engages in dangerous conduct, violating every rule of the road and endangering the public.” said Police Chief Jim McDonnell. “We take bicycle safety seriously in Long Beach and will not stand by idly while any person or group acts with blatant disregard for safety of the residents of our community.”

.………

A look at L.A.’s first bike corral, temporary though it may be. Bike cops are back on the streets of Escondido. A board member of the South Bay Bicycle Coalition says yes, there are bad cyclists, but they’re far from the majority. Colorful mystery bikes appear in Muskegon MI. A teenage cyclist is killed by an off-duty Connecticut cop. Bicyclists aren’t always the good guys. A month later, a cyclist lingers in a coma, and South Carolina police still haven’t explained how a driver could fail to see 20 cyclists on the side of the road directly in front of him. The nation’s deadliest state for bicyclists claims yet another victim. Opera singer Andrea Bocelli doesn’t let a lack of sight stop him from riding a bike. A Japanese man traveling the world on a bamboo bicycle is hit by a car and injured in Illinois. A famed cycling photographer appears to label three-time TdF champ Greg LeMond a fool. After the original 2012 Olympic Road route is deemed not tough enough, local London residents want their race back. The 2012 Tour de France will lay siege to Liège. By 2014, you could find bike lanes on the Champs-Elysées in the City of Lights. Bike cops on the beat in Amsterdam. A survey says safety concerns ware what keep Indian cyclists off the road.

Finally, officials may name a public bike trail through the Folsom Prison grounds made famous by country singer Johnny Cash in his honor.

I hear those bikes a comin’, they’re comin’ round the bend. I ain’t seen the sunshine, since I don’t know when. I’m stuck in Folsom Prison…

2 comments

  1. I got honked at 5 times this morning. By the same driver over a 50 feet stretch of class III bike route. Incidents like that are what makes me think that all the infrastructure in the world won’t compensate for ignorant drivers.

    Thanks for representing at the PSC meeting. Please emphasize the 50% statistic. Greig Smith has some very backward ideas about cyclists and road use in general.

  2. la rider says:

    I was almost hit twice and yelled at twice two consecutive straight days. I try to stay off of roads where I do not feel safe, but most of the times I have no choice because a retarded person made the bike plan with no connections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 × one =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: