L.A. City Council unanimously approves drafting proposed anti-harassment ordinance

Sometimes, what happens inside is actually as inspiring as the view outside.

It’s hard to call it a victory when we’ve still got so far to go.

But I’ll take a unanimous vote in City Council any day of the week.

After a couple hours of contentious debates over smoking restrictions and solar panels, the City Council finally got around to discussing the proposed anti-harassment ordinance that would give cyclists the right to sue in civil court for harassment, threats and assault.

Although we seriously need to find a catchier name for it.

Regardless, 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl — who’s taken the lead in shepherding this ordinance through the countless pitfalls City Hall is famous for — set the tone when he said this ordinance just gives cyclists rights we should already have.

He was followed by Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel, who explained the nuts and bolts of the proposed ordinance, including a maximum award of $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is higher. Along with a provision for attorney’s fees if you win your case, which in many cases could far exceed the damages awarded by the court.

As Rosendahl put it, “This plan has teeth.”

And lets not forget that it was Reel who had the stroke of genius to make harassment a civil violation, resulting in a lower burden of proof compared to a criminal case. And allowing cyclists to file suit themselves, rather than rely on police to witness a violation.

Michele Mowery, Senior Bike Coordinator at LADOT, told the council that this ordinance is necessary because many motorists still believe that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and consider it sport to throw things at riders.

4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge and 1st District Councilmember Ed Reyes also spoke in support — though LaBonge seemed equally concerned with the problems posed by out-of-control sidewalk riders.

Under questioning from Rosendahl, Reel said that if the council approved the motion, the actual drafting of the ordinance would take up to 60 days. Rosendahl urged her to come back to the council with the finished ordinance sooner, rather than later, and to include the LACBC in the reviewing process.

In the end, the council voted 12 – 0 to move forward, with three members absent.

Which means that, through two committee sessions and hearing before the full council, not one vote has been cast in opposition to the City Attorney’s proposal.

And cyclists are one step closer to a first-of-its-kind anti-harassment law that could set the standard for communities around the world.

.………

Below are my comments from the council session.

I want to make sure you understand how important this measure is.

Every day, cyclists face a barrage of harassments and threats. I’ve received reports of cyclists being crowded, yelled at, honked at, having things thrown at them and forced off the road; female cyclists have had to endure unwanted sexual comments and touching while they ride.

Some people complain about rude cyclists swearing and making gestures. That’s because, until now, that’s all we’ve had to defend ourselves. But as Dr. Thompson clear showed, no word or gesture is a match for an angry driver in a two-ton vehicle.

The police are here to protect us, but they can’t be everywhere. And few people will do these sorts of things if there’s a cop around to see it.

This proposed ordinance is a brilliant solution to these problems. It’s the first of its kind anywhere, giving cyclists the tools to protect ourselves even if there isn’t a cop around. More importantly, it will act as a deterrent to protect the city’s most vulnerable road users, and encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes.

It will save lives.

Overnight, it will transform L.A. from a bicycling backwater to the world leader in protecting cyclists. It will be copied by cities around the world; already, I’ve received several requests from cyclists across the county for a copy of the City Attorney’s report.

That’s what you’re voting on today.

And yes, it is that important.

.………

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton explains why Livable Los Angeles has started an online petition urging Mayor Villaraigosa to conduct a real search for the next head of LADOT, and select a world-class leader to replace Rita Robinson.

And yes, I’ve already signed it.

Speaking of Damien, he wants to know when enough is enough; wouldn’t we all.

.………

Justice in the Ed Magos case, as Angelina Everett gets jail time, community labor and is ordered to pay restitution; more details as they come in. LACBC offers eight tips on what to do if you’re in a collision; here’s my take on the same subject. A look at the signal loop detectors that makes a Bike Friendly Street bike friendly. CicLAvia is looking for volunteers for Host Committees for next year, and wants your advice on what Sunday in April to hold the next one. Culver City approves a new bike and pedestrian plan. Santa Monica begins the long, hard process to cut the city’s unacceptably high rate of biking accidents. Lance likes our local Left Coast sky in the ‘Bu. The New York Times takes in the sights of L.A. on two wheels, touring the city on $100 a day; thanks to everyone who forwarded it to me. Cycling’s equivalent of Dr. Thompson strikes in Santa Cruz, as a cyclist threatens a group of children in a park, then deliberately rides over a toddler; Thompson got five years, this jerk deserves at least that much, if not more. Ross del Duca puts on a helmet at his wife’s insistence, and is glad he did.

Maybe it’s time for a U.S. version of strict liability. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta prepares for his first triathlon. It’s true, biking is far more social than driving. A Tucson cyclist signs a pro contract just three years after taking up the sport. Speaking of the NYT, they interview cycling attorney Bob Mionske on the Eagle County DA’s inexplicable decision not to file felony charges against a rich hit-and-run driver; meanwhile, Witch on a Bicycle offers an exhaustive recap of 30 separate takes on the same subject. Springfield Cyclist stops to work on his ride to work. A Cleveland driver gets three years for intentionally hitting a cyclist he mistakenly thought had stolen his son’s bike. A heavily bundled Katy Perry rides a bike in New York; the question is, how do they know it’s her? Baltimore joins L.A. in becoming the second city to pass the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. A hit-and-run driver is convicted after his plates are captured by a red light camera.

Eco Velo offers 10 kinder, gentler rules for urban bike commuting; Town Mouse responds with 10 rules for rural commuting from the Scottish countryside. Evidently, bike rage is the new trend, as a Brit cyclist beats a driver into a coma after a near-dooring. UK cycling casualties are up while other road deaths and injuries are down. The Guardian asks if the law takes killing a cyclist seriously enough; if they’re anything like us, the answer is no. A policewoman is disciplined after calling a 16-year old girl a scumbag after she’s killed by a speeding police car. Instead of focusing on making cyclists more visible, police should tackle poor driving. An online exhibition of James Straffon’s the Art of Cycling. A man in Guyana stabs a man several times after he’s called a bike thief.

Finally, Patrick Pascal goes out for a ride in Griffith Park, and is magically transported to an alternate reality where Spandexed riders on Penny Farthings pose beneath the Hollywood sign.

Yeah, like that would happen in real life.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Pascal

One comment

  1. [...] is some good rhetoric over at BikingInLA con­cern­ing the dan­gers of rid­ing in L.A. and this measure. Some peo­ple com­plain about [...]

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