Tag Archive for Cyclist’s Bill of Rights

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights

My first exposure to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights came in an online forum.

Someone had posted a comment about it, complaining that cyclists expected drivers to treat them like porcelain dolls.

I had to agree with him. Because that’s exactly the point — if you hit a bicyclist with your car, he or she will break, just like a glass doll. Except the clean-up will be a lot longer, more complicated and more painful for everyone involved.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights doesn’t create any new rights. All it does is gather rights that cyclists — and human beings, for that matter — already enjoy in various forms, under various statutes, and codifies them in a single document.

Created by the Bike Writers Collective — I may have mistakenly said Coalition on today’s AirTalk program — it’s been endorsed by a long line of individuals and elected officials, neighborhood councils and organizations, just a few of whom are shown here. And countless cyclists have requested that it be officially adopted as part of the new L.A. bike plan.

I’m including the full text below, for anyone who heard me mention it on the show.

I’m also including a link to something I wrote earlier, explaining why cyclists do some of the things we do — and one driver’s exceptional response to it. Along with a link to the single best explanation of how to share the road, from a cyclist’s perspective, that I’ve ever seen.

Because really, we all want the same things out on the road.

We want to get where we’re going. And we want to get home safely.

And that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

CYCLISTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmental and traffic congestion solutions; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are, first and foremost, people – with all of the rights and privileges that come from being members of this great society; and

NOW, THEREFORE, WE THE CYCLING COMMUNITY, do hereby claim the following rights:

1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

2) Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.

6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development and design that enable and support safe cycling.

7) Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.

8 ) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations.

10) Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

11) Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment.

12) Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

And further, we claim and assert these rights by taking to the streets and riding our bicycles, all in an expression of our inalienable right to ride!

An open letter to the Mar Vista Community Council

Tonight the Mar Vista Community Council will consider endorsing the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, which has already been adopted by the L.A. City Council and a number of community councils throughout Los Angeles. Appropriately, this bill is being considered during Bike to Work Week, yet it has met some resistance in committee, with some people suggesting that bikes belong on the sidewalk and others saying cyclists should ride in bike lanes or next to cars in parking lanes.

I encourage you to go and speak in support of the bill if you can. Unfortunately, while I’d like to be there, prior commitments will keep me away. As a result, I’m writing the following letter, and will ask someone to deliver it to the council members for me.

Just two months ago, my wife and I were stopped at the intersection of Palms and Sawtelle Boulevards — at the edge of this very park — when her car was struck by a hit and run driver, suffering over $5000 in damage.

Fortunately, we weren’t seriously injured, since we had over 2,000 pounds of steel sand safety equipment to protect us.

If we had been on bicycles at the time, we probably would have been killed.

Some people would see that as an argument for why bikes don’t belong on the streets. They ask why cyclists can’t ride on the sidewalks, in bike lanes or within the parking lane. After all, in the event of a collision, the cyclist will inevitably lose — regardless of who is at fault.

Yet that sort of “blame the victim” mentality puts the entire burden of safety on the cyclist, rather than on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle — which is exactly what a car is. Motor vehicle accidents kill over 40,000 people in the U.S. each year. The number of those killed by bicycles is close to zero; the number killed by cars, trucks and motorcycles approaches 100%.

So the solution is not to remove bicycles from the street, but to insist that all drivers operate their vehicles in a safe and legal manner.

While riding on the sidewalk is legal in Los Angeles, in most of the other cities in the L.A. area, it is not. On many sidewalks, the pavement is broken and uneven, making it dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike. At the same time, most are too narrow to safely accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians; ask any pedestrian if they want bikes whizzing past with little or no warning.

At the same time, sidewalks are inherently dangerous for bicyclists. Aside from the inevitable conflicts with pedestrians, riding on a sidewalk requires the cyclist to cross the street at the end of each block, directly into the path of any drivers making a right turn or approaching from the cross street.

Most drivers look for bikes on the street; they don’t expect to see them dart out unexpectedly from sidewalks, where they can be hidden by plants or other objects. So rather than making bicyclists safer, riding on the sidewalk dramatically increases the risk of a serious accident.

As for bike lanes, the current system of biking infrastructure in the city is woefully inadequate — just one of the things the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights was written to address.

I challenge anyone to create a route from Mar Vista to Downtown — or virtually anywhere else — using only designated Class 1, 2 or 3 bikeways (off-road trails, on-road bike lanes or unmarked bike routes). And many of the Class 3 bike routes are actually among the most dangerous places to ride, such as the one along Pico Boulevard between Sepulveda and Overland.

While the parking lane would seem to be a safe place to ride, since it removes the cyclist from the driving lane, it is actually a very dangerous place for cyclists.

Too many drivers fail to adequately check their mirrors and blind spots before pulling out of a parking space, failing to see cyclists who could be hit by their cars or forced into traffic to avoid a collision.

An even greater hazard comes from drivers who carelessly open their doors without looking. Known as “dooring” by cyclists, this can cause a bicyclist to collide with the door, often resulting in serious injuries, or if the door strikes a rider, it can knock him or her over — directly into the path of oncoming traffic. Even a near miss can result in a serious accident by forcing riders to suddenly swerve into traffic, greatly increasing the risk of a collision.

State law already guarantees cyclists a place on the roadway, wisely leaving it up to the rider to determine exactly where and how to position themselves for maximum safety.

In fact, there is nothing in the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights which is not already taken for granted by other road users, from the right to travel safely and free from fear, to law enforcement aware of all applicable rights and regulations, and a place to park at the end of the journey. All it does is guarantee to cyclists the same privileges and conditions any driver would expect, and the same rights any citizen of this country is entitled to.

I urge you to support safe, free and fair bicycling in Los Angeles, and endorse the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers

Catching up on last week’s reading: Will Campbell channels his inner Dashiell Hammet to invent the new literary category of Bike Noir, while a novelist in Scotland discovers there is such a thing as bad weather; she also notes a new, slim volume of bike poetry. An Eastside cyclist wonders why he still gets harassed when he’s less of a problem than Critical Mass or the Ridazz. Damien Newton discovers that sometimes a bike lane is just paint on the street. Texas considers a safe passing bill. The Xtracycle moves up the coast to my neighborhood. Esquire notes the possible end of car culture, while Bicycle Fixation observes the rising tide of cyclists; even bank robbers prefer bikes these days. LA Eastside offers recent photos of the Ghost Bike for Jesus Castillo. Finally, in case you missed the links in last weeks rant about Santa Monica’s new designation as a Bike Friendly City, Russ Roca tells a tale in five parts of being ticketed for riding safely — and legally — in similarly bike friendly Long Beach, here, here, here, here and yes, here.

Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again — Cyclists plan to Storm the Bastille

Man the barricades.

Last week saw a vehicular assault on a group of cyclists, which was followed by threats of gun and gang violence — not to mention the crushing of several bikes as the driver attempted to flee the scene in his plate-less two-ton Hummer.

Then, in an action many cyclists recognize as typical of the LAPD, the driver was allowed to leave the scene without so much as a warning — despite being stopped by the police with a bicycle still lodged beneath his vehicle. And to top it off, the officer in charge not only said that he would have done the same thing, but implied that he might have used a gun himself.

Clearly, whatever may have lead up to this event, cyclists will never be safe on the streets of Los Angeles until we have the full support and protection of the LAPD that should be the right of every citizen of this city — and something that is promised by the 1st, 3rd and 4th clauses of the recently adopted Cyclists’ Bill of Rights:

1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

This past Tuesday, a group of cyclists met with Los Angeles Police Commission and the police Inspector General to file a protest.

Now riders are being called on to attend this Friday’s City Council meeting at the Van Nuys City Hall to express our dissatisfaction and demand action from the city government. If you can’t attend in person, contact your city council person now.

I’ll leave it to Dr. Alex to explain why immediate action is necessary.

Because we all have the right to be safe on our streets, whether we use two wheels or four.


Gary rides bikes, and now tweets, too. Lance starts his comeback at New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila. Coconut Grove cyclists take a page from the Dutch. The good news is, California no longer leads the nation in cyclists killed; the bad news is, we’re number two. Our rash of hit-and-runs spreads to neighboring Arizona, while a Utah driver who intentionally drove into a group of cyclists is sentenced to just 30 days in jail. An Iowa cyclist is injured after being struck with a full can of beer thrown from a passing car. Finally, a judge in Australia blames a rider’s accident on not having a headlight — even though he was hit from behind, despite his rear flasher.

Massachusetts Bicyclist Safety Bill vs. Dr. Doom and his Disciples of Death

The last few days, I’ve been reading, with increasing degrees of stomach-churning disgust, the comments that followed the Times’ article about the good doctor’s not guilty plea on their L.A. Now blog

Stomach churning, because many of our fellow citizens seem to believe they are justified in using their car as a deadly weapon, should any cyclist have the audacity to annoy or inconvenience them — and that the good doctor did nothing wrong, despite intentionally injuring two fellow human beings.

Stomach churning, in that many of the comments said that the cyclists were to blame, accusing them of tailgating the good doctor — despite the fact that he admitted intentionally cutting in front of the riders, then slamming on his brakes to teach them a lesson. Or at the very least, that their obnoxious behavior somehow justified sending both to the emergency room.

And stomach churning, in the appalling lack of knowledge of regarding the rights of cyclists under California law — and the belief that roads were made exclusively for motorized vehicles.

While I recognize that some — but by no means most — cyclists may ride in a dangerously aggressive manner, it is disingenuous at best to blame all riders for the actions of a relative few. As I was discussing with an employee at a local bike shop over the weekend, many drivers remember the single rider they saw blow through a red light, but never notice the others who waited patiently for it to change.

Then there are those who don’t believe we even belong on bikeways that were designed and built for our safety.

So despite the progress made in L.A. with the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, it’s clear that we still have a very long way to go.

Contrast that with the new bill that was recently signed into law in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Bicyclist Safety Bill applies common sense solutions to many of the problems we face everyday, on every ride.

Like making it clear that signals are not required when they would interfere with safe operation of the bike, such as when both hands are needed for braking or steering. Banning dooring, as well as cutting riders off after passing or when making a turn — something I’ve addressed previously.

And requiring that all police recruits receive training on “bicycle-related laws, bicyclist injuries, dangerous behavior by bicyclists, motorists actions that cause bicycle crashes, and motorists intentionally endangering bicyclists.” In-service training on the same subjects is optional for more experienced officers.

Imagine a police force that is actually knowledgeable, familiar with the rights and responsibilities of cyclists, and how motorists can cause cycling accidents — intentionally or otherwise.

I’ve been struggling lately with the question of what comes next, now that the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights is well on it’s way to becoming law.

As indicated above, I’ve made some suggestions for ways the California Vehicle Code could be changed to better protect riders and encourage cycling. (Scroll down to “Change the law. Change the world.”, then back up to see the individual suggestions.)

Another step would be to take the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights to the state level and make it part of the Vehicle Code. And require that drivers be tested on the full range of state cycling laws when they apply for their licenses.

As indicated in my previous post, Brayj had an excellent suggestion yesterday, when he said that the MTA could be sued to force funding of bicycle-related projects. And Ingrid Peterson of Rearview Rider added to his concept by suggesting that it’s time for a local coalition of cyclists and lawyers to protect our collective interests.

But we could do a lot worse than taking the full text of the Mass. law directly to our state representatives, and insisting that they use it as a platform for reforming our cycling laws.

Once they get off their collective asses and do something about the damn budget mess, that is.

 

Australian riders blame helmet laws for keeping cycling commuters off the road. Evidently, New York Police ignore hit-and-run accidents involving cyclists — as well as requests for more information. And cyclists fight back against bike thieves with exploding locks.

The 1st Annual BikingInLA Holiday Spectacular!

FADE IN:

MARVIN BRAUDE BIKE PATH — NIGHT

Palm trees along the bike path are swathed in twinkling lights, as the Santa Monica pier sparkles in the background. There’s a magical feeling in the air, as holiday music floats gently on the breeze.

It’s Christmas Eve.

A lone cyclist pedals up the path. Since he usually rides during the day, there are no lights or reflectors on his bike. So taking his cue from this guy, he has wrapped his bike in low-wattage LED Christmas lights. And in honor of his wife’s side of the family, he has cleverly attached a menorah to his handlebars as a headlight.

Unfortunately, the candles keep blowing out.

He hadn’t thought of that.

SFX: SLEIGH BELLS

Pausing to relight the candles, he briefly scans the sky…nothing.

SFX: SLEIGH BELLS SOUNDING CLOSER

Up ahead in the distance, a very large man appears, slowly passing through the glow of each streetlight as he drawsnearer, struggling to pedal his overloaded bike down the trail. He is dressed in a red suit and cap trimmed in white, politically incorrect fur, with a large messenger bag full of gifts slung over his shoulder.

He is sweating profusely, and anything but jolly.

BIKINGINLA

Santa? Mr. Claus?

SANTA CLAUS

Yo.

BIKINGINLA

The Santa Clause? Kris Kringle? Père Noël? Father Christmas?

SANTA CLAUS

Look, I’m on a schedule here…

BIKINGINLA

Oh. Sorry.

SANTA CLAUS

Name?

BIKINGINLA

BikingInLa.

The fat man pulls a pair of lengthy lists out of his pocket, scanning quickly until he spots the right name. Brow furrowing, he narrows his eyes as he considers the other cyclist.

SANTA CLAUS

You’re the wise guy who asked me for a dreidel back in ’87?

BIKINGINLA

Well, I…

SANTA CLAUS

Had to retool the entire production line for one lousy toy. Cost me countless elf-hours in lost productivity.

BIKINGINLA

Sorry.

SANTA CLAUS

Next time, take it up with my brother-in-law.

BIKINGINLA

Your…?

SANTA CLAUS

Hanukkah Harry. Mixed marriage, you know?

BIKINGINLA

Yeah, I know what that’s like. So, um…where’s the reindeer and stuff?

 

SANTA CLAUS

It’s this damned economy. Bank cut off my line of credit, so I had to make some cuts. Something about a flawed business model.

BIKINGINLA

Yeah, I hear that a lot these days.

SANTA CLAUS

Sure, I lose money on every toy, but I make it up in volume. And once I get the new Cyber Santa 2.0 online…

Anyway, I had to outsource production to China and let the elves go. And fuel costs got totally out of hand — I mean, have you priced reindeer kibble theses days? So I traded the sled for a new bike, and turned the reindeer over to an animal rescue. Except for Blitzen.

BIKINGINLA

Blitzen?

SANTA CLAUSE

After the layoffs, some of the elves went on a hunger strike. Man, you do not mess with a hungry elf.

BIKINGINLA pauses, visibly struggling to get that image out of his head.

BIKINGINLA

Wasn’t there anywhere you could turn? If they can bailout GM…

SANTA CLAUS

Yeah, right. Billions for the banks. And not a penny for the little guy.

BIKINGINLA

Or the fat guy.

SANTA CLAUS

(GLARING) That’s going on my list.

BIKINGINLA

(CHANGING SUBJECT) Uh, cool bike.

SANTA CLAUS

Yeah, got it in China. Call it a Flying Pigeon.

Doesn’t, though.

BIKINGINLA

Bummer, dude.

SANTA CLAUS

Think I’d know better than to fall for clever marketing at my age. Should have gone for something faster, or least designed to haul a little cargo. I got a lot of miles to cover tonight.

BIKINGINLA

Speaking of which, don’t you have something in that bag for me?

SANTA CLAUS

Don’t push your luck, kid. You barely made the good list as it was. One more single digit salute to a passing driver, and you’ll be lucky to find a lump of coal in your stocking. And we’re not talking clean coal technology, either.

Besides, you already got your present. Just be careful what you wish for.

BIKINGINLA

What’s that supposed to mean?

SANTA CLAUS

Passing the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights was the easy part. But it’s another thing entirely to turn all those pretty words into paint on the street, or change attitude of law enforcement.

I’m afraid your work is just starting, my friend.

BIKINGINLA

Okay, but what about that other stuff I asked for? You know, like peace on Earth, and all that stuff?

SANTA CLAUS

Hmmmph! Little over my pay grade, isn’t it? Besides, you don’t want peace on Earth.

BIKINGINLA

But…

SANTA CLAUSE

You just want other people to stop fighting. If you really wanted peace, you’d keep those damn gestures to yourself. And try turning the other cheek the next time some jerk cuts you off.

 BIKINGINLA

(EMBARASSED) Yeah.

SANTA CLAUSE

So stop being such a self-righteous cycle jerk, already. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few billion deliveries to make.

Santa slings his bag back over his shoulder, and slowly starts pedaling down the path, muttering under his breath. He pauses briefly, turning back to gesture towards his own eyes with two fingers before pointing at BIKINGINLA, as if to say “I’m watching you.”

He resumes riding, pedaling faster and faster until at last, his Flying Pigeon rises up from the pavement and soars through the sky. As he disappears into the stars, we hear him shout a final farewell.

SANTA CLAUSE

Oh, and happy Christmas to all and all that. And to all, a great ride!

FADE TO BLACK

Best wishes to all for a joyous holiday season, and a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

Looking at the big picture

Call it the curse of an inquisitive mind.

Instead of just enjoying the moment, I have a habit of trying to figure out the big picture, and put it all in perspective.

Take last Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting, for instance. In retrospect, it feels like a watershed moment. But where, exactly, is that water flowing?

Some of it sprang from the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, as the committee members voted to send it to the full City Council, with their recommendation for approval — although they did ask the City Attorney’s office to review it, as they should. Even though the odds of the lawyers keeping their hands off it are comparable to Barack Obama asking George W. Bush to stay on as ambassador to Iraq.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Then there was the unexpected support that cyclists received from the members of the committee. Or at least, unexpected to me, anyway.

Maybe people who had been more involved in this process had some inkling of the support we were about to receive. But based on my previous experiences with city hall, I was surprised, shocked, stunned and stupefied. And those are just the S’s.

In fact, the only thing more shocking was the audience.

A quick look around the room revealed an unexpectedly large turnout of riders, of nearly every possible description.

Old riders and young riders. Slow riders. Bicycle commuters. Fat tire fans and fixie fanatics. Roadies, off-roaders and racers. And everyone in between. About as disparate a group of two-wheelers as you’ll find anywhere, and all united, for once, in demanding their right to the roads of this fair city.

Except, for once, we didn’t have to. Which was probably the most shocking thing of all.

So what does it all mean?

It means we have friends at city hall. Or at the very least, people who understand the value of bicycling in reducing traffic congestion and smog, and are willing to support us in making this a more rideable — and livable — city.

Then again, as the Times’ Steve Hymon suggests, it’s not unusual for politicians to say they support something, as long as they don’t actually have to do anything. And the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights will be nothing more than a lot of pretty words until the city actually turns those concepts into concrete action.

It means that we all owe a big round of thanks to the people who started this process, back when the chances of success were every bit as infinitesimal as that of a black man becoming president, so that the latecomers — like me, for instance — could enjoy the fruits of their success. And take some small pride in jumping on the bandwagon before it crosses the finish line.

And it means I was wrong.

Because despite what Enci had to say following the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake check, I really didn’t believe this city had a bicycling community. That unfortunate incident marked my introduction to the local cycling community; Friday’s meeting offered proof that it really exists as more than just a series of ships that pass in the bikeway.

It’s one thing for cyclists to unite in outrage when someone deliberately assaults our fellow riders — and forces us to confront that fact that it could have been any of us. But it’s quite another for such a widely varied group to come together and sit through a typically bureaucratic committee meeting in support of their rights as riders.

However, as Stephen Box’s latest post makes clear, we still have a long way to go.  It’s clear that the L.A. Department of Transportation’s Bikeway’s Department isn’t exactly on our side, whether due to an abundance of caution or outright opposition to cyclists on the roads. And as we’ve seen, there’s a large segment of the driving public of that doesn’t exactly welcome our presence on the road, either.

So yes, we won this round, and we should feel good about it. But we have a lot more work to do to turn that Bill of Rights into concrete action that ensures our place on the road, as well as the safety of every rider.

Because no one should ever have to risk their life — or sacrifice their rights — just to ride a bike.

And arriving home safely is the most important right of all.

 

San Diego cyclists are up in arms when a ghost bike is removed earlier than promised. As long as we’re talking about L.A.’s getaways, turns out it is possible to do Santa Barbara without a car. Streetsblog L.A.’s Damien Newton interviews C.I.C.L.E.’s new Exec Director. LACBC gets into the t-shirt biz. Lance’s comeback helps kill next year’s Tour de Georgia, while N.Y. cyclists complain police are writing tickets for using the bike lane. An Altadena weather cam catches what looks an awful lot like a UFO. And finally, this is why we live in L.A.

For once, I shut up and let someone else talk

Ever since last Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting, I’ve been filtering my own thoughts in preparation of discussing the subject today.

But then Damien Newton of Streetsblog Los Angeles added a comment to my initial post on the subject. And since not everyone clicks the link to read the comments, I thought for once, I’d just shut up and let someone else do the talking.

So take it away, Damien:

It was pretty awesome to see us pack a board room like that…a hundred cyclists, ready to take part in the process…Unfortunately, we’ll still see a lot of setbacks before we get the kind of changes we want to see, and I hope the enthusiasm stays high.

In the meantime, I wrote up a draft letter on bike licensing that people should feel free to use if they want to get City Council to take up this issue. Rosendahl, LaBonge and Parks all seemed ready to go…

councilmember.greuel@lacity.org, councilmember.alarcon@lacity.org, councilmember.parks@lacity.org, councilmember.rosendahl@lacity.org, Councilmember.labonge@lacity.org,


Dear Member of the City Council XXX,

As a committed cyclist, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for respect and concern you showed at last Friday’s committee hearing on bicycling, bicycling infrastructure, and bicyclists rights. During the sometimes heated hearing, you continued to listen to our concerns and questions.

While it is not going to be easy to recreate Los Angeles as a cycling haven, there is one thing that can be done quickly and that is placing a moratorium on the bicycle licensing program. Whether a mandatory program is necessary is a conversation that can’t occur until cyclists are not being harassed for not having a sticker license that is difficult to obtain and not being distributed by the LAPD as they are required to.

Unfortunately, as you saw on Friday, the LAPD doesn’t seem interested in suspending their uneven enforcement of bike licensing even after being confronted on the program several times by Council Members LaBonge, Parks and Rosendahl at last week’s hearing. To that end, we are asking that you not let go of this issue and that you quickly introduce a motion to suspend the program. We understand that Councilman Rosendahl will not be at tomorrow’s hearing, but that doesn’t mean you cannot take action.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you in the future on other bike-related issues.

Sincerely,

X

Just copy, paste and send. Or if you prefer, use Damien’s email as a template, and put it in your own words. But as one who has been an active rabble-rouser over the years, I can tell you that letters and emails like this really do make a difference.

I’ll be back with my own thoughts soon. In the meantime, you can read a recap of the meeting from Stephen Box of the Bike Writer’s Collective — creators of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights (and a big thanks to all of you for your efforts). Or you can listen to Enci’s recording of the meeting here. 

Note: I’m waiving copyright for this post, in case anyone wants to repost Damien’s letter — and I’m sure it would be okay with him, as well. Right, Damien?

Is this our Howard Beale moment?

Sometimes I think I’m too political. Then there are times when I don’t think I’m political enough.

This is one of those times. Though which one, I’m not quite sure.

You see, I was always one to fight for my right to the road. A driver cuts me off or passes to close and he was going to hear about it, and I was never reluctant to give an unfriendly driver a friendly wave. Except I usually used just one finger. And it usually wasn’t that friendly.

Then one day I gave that one finger wave to the wrong woman, and she tried to shove her car up my ass. And nearly succeeded.

I had a lot of time to think as I recovered from a broken arm, and the 18 months my mangled bike was tied up as evidence in a civil case — which got me a settlement of a whopping $2500, most of which went for attorney fees.

I realized that, justified or not, things like that were counter productive, at best. All my ranting and raving never convinced a single driver that I was right, or they were wrong. Just that I was an obnoxious jerk. So now I try to keep my mouth closed, with hands firmly planted on the handlebars — though sometimes I fail, as this post from last week would suggest.

But now it seems like maybe it’s time to fight. To throw open a metaphorical window, and like the Howard Beale character from the movie Network, scream “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Seems like every time I check the news online, I find another article like this one from Winston-Salem, describing the hit-and-run accident suffered by a local bicycling doctor. Another cyclist was killed by hit-and-run in Hawaii, but the prime suspect gets released. Michigan riders fighting for a piece of the road. Or this one from Forth Worth, that says cycling in Texas is more dangerous than it need to be — although chances are, you could change the location to anywhere else in the U.S. and it would be just as appropriate.

And that’s just from this weekend.

Even the more positive pieces, like the recent Times editorial, or  this one from Carson City, Nevada, ask drivers to share the road — and stop harassing riders or running us off the road.

Then there are the recent stories that tell us what we already know, that the police — whether here in L.A., Seattle or across the country — don’t seem to take our safety seriously. And too often, the local press doesn’t dig any deeper than the first page of the police report.

To their credit, L.A.’s finest and the local press come through for us in the wake of the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test. Whether the D.A.’s office and the court system will do the same remains to be determined.

But what happens next time, when it’s you — or me — writhing on the asphalt?

And yes, there was a lot of talk from local politicians about moving forward with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights following the good doctor’s arrest. But now we can’t even get the Mayor and the rest of the MTA board to devote a lousy 1% each from their proposed sales tax increase to help keep cyclists and pedestrians alive. And after a brief flurry of coverage of cycling issues, the local press has moved on to more important issues, like whether Lindsey is or isn’t gay.

So I find myself getting fed up with it all, and like Howard Beale, feeling mad as hell and ready to do something about it.

And I wonder if it’s just me, or is this, finally, our moment — the time when we join together and scream at the top of our lungs, we’re not going to take it anymore. When we finally take action as a group to demand the respect of drivers, politicians and law enforcement. To insist on our rights as cyclists and as Americans. And ensure the safety of every rider, here in L.A. and around the country.

Or are we just going to get back on our bikes and let this moment — and our anger — pass forever, like all the other such moments before?

 

Streetsblog covers the exceptional police protection at last Friday’s Critical Mass in Santa Monica. The stupidest bike lane in America has been discovered right here in Westwood (though personally, I’d vote for the bike lanes on the new Santa Monica Blvd. that end without warning in Century City, leaving riders to fight for space on an over crowded, high speed thoroughfare). A student at Humbolt State may or may not have been fatally injured in a traffic accident. As if road rage wasn’t enough to worry about, someone is shooting cyclists on Long Island. Riders in New Jersey share our complaints about crowded and inadequate roadways. Finally, a writer for the Concorde Monitor suggests cyclists and drivers can all get along if we just use a little common sense and think more like fishermen.

The ugly side of an ugly incident

It was a shocking, disturbing and hideous case of road rage that sent two local cyclists to the Emergency Room — one made worse by the realization it could just as easily have happened to any of us.

But surprisingly, some good has come out of the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test. The Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has gained some traction as a result, in the hope that we can keep things like this from happening in the future. A real dialogue has finally begun between cyclists and Canyon residents. And for the first time, we saw an overwhelming response from our new-found biking community.

Unfortunately, we also saw how ugly that community can be.

As you may have noticed, I go out of my way not to name of the doctor who cause the injuries to those riders — and who reportedly refused to offer any medical assistance afterwards.

There’s a reason for that.

It’s not like it’s hard to find his name online. And as outraged as I was when I read about the incident, I was just as  sickened to read on LAist’s followup to the incident: *Note: There are other Dr. (name deleted)s in the Los Angeles area who work in medicine and unfortunately some are being wrongly threatened.

And this from the moderator of the Socal Bike Forum’s thread on the Mandeville Incident:

Just to clarify on the “name” issue. We all know who the guy is now, where he lives and where he works… but there is no good reason for posting his personal information on a public board. On another bike site, his name and phone number was displayed and some yokels thought it would be fun to start systematic harassment. Turns out, they posted the number of the wrong guy. (EDIT: LAist just closed their “Comments” feature because a number of men with the same name have been threatened.) Similarly, the hospital where the doctor works undoubtedly has more pressing issues than dealing with phone calls from a bunch of angry cyclists. That is why we do not want such information posted. The two riders have asked that no one take matters into their own hands, and to let the police do their job…

As my friend, and author of the excellent Altadena Blog that covers life in Pasadena’s less pretentious northern neighbor, put it, “…but it’s OK the threaten the RIGHT one? Anonymous phone calls to HIS mailbox are OK? I’m with the bikers on this one, but…let the cops do the threatening! That’s what they’re paid for!”

I wonder what the doctors who were mistakenly threatened think about cyclists now? Our public perception is bad enough in this town without going around threatening innocent people.

If you’ve been following the story online, like I have, you’ve undoubtedly seen countless comments threatening the doctor, or vowing retaliation against other drivers — just as there have been comments that the riders had it coming. And countless others vowing mass traffic disruptions if the charges are dropped, or if the good doctor should somehow be acquitted.

This isn’t the time for violence — as if there ever is a right time — or aggressive civil disobedience. That would only undo the progress our community has made over the past two weeks.

No, this is a time for action.

Contact the mayor’s office and your local council member to support passage of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, and demand prosecution of all violent acts against cyclists, as well as an end to police bias in favor of motorists. Contact the governor’s office, as well as your local representatives in the state legislature, and ask them to take real action to protect cyclists and encourage safe cycling everywhere in California.

And while you’re at it, remind them that you bike.

And you vote.

Blame bikers first

Normally, I try to avoid try to avoid the Santa Monica and Venice sections of the Marvin Braude bike path, aka Santa Monica bike path, this time of year. But I got out a little earlier than usual yesterday, so I thought I’d try to squeeze in a quick ride along the beach before it to got too late and the path became overrun with tourists and pedestrians.

And it was, for the most part, a pleasant experience. I did my best to ride safely and courteously, keeping my speed down and waiting behind slower riders until it was safe to pass, and announcing to the assorted riders, skaters, walkers, shopping cart jockeys, et al, that I was passing whenever appropriate.

Of course, there was that one incident. As there usually is.

A couple of surfers stepped out onto the path, without looking, maybe 10 feet in front of me, their surf boards parallel to the ground and blocking most of the path. So I yelled out a warning, then swung quickly to the left and immediately back to the right, avoiding them safely so we could all continue enjoying our day.

And that was when I heard a woman on my right yelling something about “aggressive cyclists.”

Of course, there was no way she could have seen what had just happened, so it was clear that she had just heard my warning, and immediately went into the ever popular Blame Bicyclists First mode.

Which left me to wonder just what it was that I had done wrong. Was that I warned them to avoid an accident? Or simply that I had the audacity to actually ride a bicycle on the bike path?

Or was it the mere fact of my spandex clad existence?

Of course, this sort of thing is nothing new. A few weeks ago, I was riding along a busy street with heavy traffic buzzing past my shoulder, when I saw a couple of young women standing in the middle of the bike lane up ahead as they waited to cross the street (illegally, of course).

They continued to just stand there as I approached, blocking my path as they gazed mindlessly at the cyclist bearing down on them. Finally, I yelled for them to get out of the way; their response, as their feet stood firmly planted in the bike lane in front of me, was “Fuck you.”

My only option was to jam on my brakes, coming to a stop just feet in front them. Which lead to a argument, of course. And sure enough, within a few moments, one of the local shop owners — who had no idea what had started the argument — came out and threatened to call the police and have me arrested.

Why? Because I’m a cyclist. And as we all know, cyclists are evil.

Which leads to this: last night’s public meeting to discuss the problems in Mandeville Canyon was cancelled, replaced by the first meeting of a task force to discuss the issue. (LAist has also posted a new video from Dual Chase productions on how to ride the canyon safely.)

Meanwhile, a group of bike and pedestrian advocates are collecting signatures to request that a mere 2 percent of Metro’s planned 1/2 cent sales tax increase be allocated for bike and pedestrian issues — that’s just 1% each to help keep bikers and pedestrians safe and alive.

And councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is rapidly turning into the biking community’s best friend, continues to support the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, and is calling for a larger discussion of the issues confronting bicyclists and drivers throughout the city later this year.

If you ask me, that can’t happen soon enough.

 

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