Tag Archive for Greig Smith

Rosendahl to Council: Car culture ends today

Just two weeks ago, L.A. City Council Member Dennis Zine said he didn’t know if L.A.’s car culture was ever going to change.

Today, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl begged to differ.

In a powerful statement before the full council, Rosendahl said “The culture of the car is going to end now!” He reminded his fellow council members about the harassment cyclists face on the road, as well as the lack of support riders have received from the LAPD in the past. “We’re going to give cyclists the support they should have been getting.”

“This is my pledge to the cycling community.”

L.A. City Hall in January.

The subject at hand, which drew similar support from many of the council members in attendance, was a motion requesting the City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting the harassment of bicyclists.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be business as usual.

The first sign came when Council President Eric Garcetti noted that this matter had already been heard by both the Transportation and Public Safety Committees, which would normally mean no more public comments. But as Damien Newton had predicted, he quickly deferred to Rosendahl’s request to allow the handful of cyclists in the room to speak.

But first, Rosendahl and Public Safety Committee Chair Greig Smith agreed to what Damien called the three-step process, in which LADOT and the City Attorney will work with local cyclists to determine what the ordinance can and should contain, without conflicting with existing state traffic regulations. Then they will report back to both committees before drafting the actual ordinance, which will be subject to final council approval.

Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl addresses the council.

I argued against the extra step, since the City Attorney would, by necessity, determine what can legally be included in the ordinance during the process of drafting it.

But Rosendahl had already made it clear that he wouldn’t allow the process to drag on. He agreed with Smith to hold a joint session of the two committees to consider the recommendations. And pledged to have an ordinance drafted and ready for approval by the end of March.

That’s March of this year, in case you were wondering.

He also reminded the audience about a planned Transportation Committee session scheduled for February 24, in which cyclists will have a chance to speak with new LAPD Chief Beck. This is a chance to change, not just car culture, but that of the LAPD as well, he said, stating that future graduates from the police academy will receive training in bicycle law — including a copy of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

In remarks a little later, Council Member Ed Reyes, co-sponsor of the motion, added that indifference has usually been the best a cyclist could hope for from the LAPD after being harassed or assaulted.

Fellow Transportation Committee member Paul Kortez suggested that it wasn’t enough to defer to the state to address the problem, saying the city needs to find a way to address harassment in its own laws and do whatever it can to put a stop to it. “We need to send a clear message,” he said.

When the floor was opened to comments, a brief parade of cyclists spoke about the problems they’ve faced on the road.

The LACBC's Aurisha Smolarsky offers her comments.

David talked about being harassed on the streets, while Iain told the council about an incident in which he was injured after being harassed by a driver — only to be told that by a police officer that it was his fault because he was riding with traffic.

Siku spoke of an incident in which she was buzzed by a driver, who yelled “Do you want to die?” at the next red light. And Michael, who described himself as a businessman, homeowner and taxpayer, cast it as a civil rights issue, saying he had been harassed by both drivers and the police.

In fact, every cyclist who spoke — including Aurisha of the LACBC, as well as myself — told of being harassed by drivers on the streets of L.A.

Rosendahl concluded the discussion by listing what he believes should constitute harassment under the proposed ordinance, including:

1. Knowingly throwing a projectile or discharge at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle;

2. Threatening any person riding a bicycle verbally or by use of his/her vehicle for the purpose of injuring, frightening or disturbing the person riding the bicycle;

3. Knowingly placing his/her vehicle within 3’ of a bicyclist while passing or following;

4. Making physical contact with a bicyclist from a moving vehicle or the roadway either by physical person or use of an implement;

5. Knowingly placing a person riding a bicycle in concern of immediate physical injury;

6. Knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of physical injury or death to the person riding a bicycle.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Evidently, the council members agreed, voting 13 to 0 to approve the measure.

Afterwards, Eric Garcetti came up to me and offered his personal assurance that he will stay on top of this measure, and use his position as Council President to keep it moving forward.

And we can’t ask for much more than that.

Read more, including a wrap up on the Council’s discussion of the bike sharing proposal, on LA Streetsblog; LAist sums up the bike sharing discussion, as well.

……..

The Trickster offers an update on New Zealand’s cyber-bully Hummer Driver, who offers a half-hearted apology for threatening to kill cyclists — but only after the police get involved.

……..

Six cities that could go car free, including one right here in California, courtesy of Curbed LA. Designing better cities for bikes. Mixed results on Portland’s bike boxes. Boston Biker loses it after getting doored by a passenger bailing out in traffic. Virginia is the latest state to consider a three-foot passing law. New York cyclists are ticketed for delivering fried dumplings on the sidewalk. The great Hasidim v. hipsters debate goes on, and on — literally, this time. If bike lanes can tame New Dehli’s traffic, just imagine what they could do here. A UK driver is convicted of killing a rider competing in a time trial; as usual, she claims she never saw him. Brits petition the Royal Mail to let posties keep their Pashleys. Disgraced former Spanish cycling boss threatens to dope and tell. An Edinburgh cyclist hits a white van at 20 mph; maybe the driver thought he was a pothole. Finally, a great examination of how to fight biased — or just uninformed — police enforcement. And perhaps the best last line of any bike quote, ever.

From the high of the TranspoComm, to the low of the Public Safety Committee

Last month, cyclists stormed the bike-only Transportation Committee meeting. And left feeling we like were finally getting somewhere.

That was then.

Today, the Public Safety Committee took up the proposed anti-harassment ordinance, and it couldn’t have been more different.

These bikes, and the riders on them, were nowhere to be seen at yesterday's committee meeting.

It started out in front, where the line of bikes that had been chained to the City Hall railings last month were noticeably missing. And continued into the lobby, where the guard at the front desk noted that I was only the 4th visitor to arrive for the meeting.

Aside from LADOT Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery, there were only three people there to speak in support of the measure — Aurisha Smolarski and Allison Mannos from the LACBC, and myself.

As it turned out, we were vastly outnumbered by the four council members. Jan Perry and Tony Cardenas seemed open-minded, although Cardenas commented that it’s so dangerous to bike in L.A. that he won’t let his children ride on the streets.

What does it say about this city when even members of our own government say it’s too dangerous to conduct such a benign and legal activity as riding a bicycle?

However, Cardenas offered to work with us and use his contacts in the state legislature to address some matters on the state level, such as increasing the amount of bike-related content in the state driver’s handbook.

After talking with Aurisha and Allison afterwards, we have every intention of taking him up on his offer. Although, as usual, I intend to push my luck and try to get more bike-related questions on the drivers test, as well.

Dennis Zine, a former police officer, and committee chair Greig Smith were a different matter. Despite their assertions to the contrary, if either of them support cycling, they did a damn good job of hiding it.

When Perry brought up the increasing popularity of late night group rides, Zine shot back “And they break every law in the book.” Which, of course, had nothing to do with the topic of conversation.

Smith also questioned whether there was anything the city could do about banning harassment, since many of these things are already against the law and most traffic laws are regulated by the state. And Zine stressed that no enforcement of such an ordinance would be possible unless a police officer actually saw the infraction.

Sort of like the situation right now, in other words.

As Zach Behrens noted on LAist, Zine made the point that L.A. is now, and probably always will be, a city dominated by car traffic at the expense of other modes of transportation.

To which Aurisha boldy shot back, despite Smith’s repeated attempts to cut her off, that we can’t continue to follow the same old car-centric model. And that this is an opportunity for much needed change.

The end result, though, was that the matter was referred to the City Attorney’s office for a report on what was possible — rather than simply coming back with a recommendation for an ordinance. Or as Damien Newton put it on Streetsblog, adding an unnecessary third step to a simple two-step process.

And blowing an easy chance to support the riding community.

Below is the text of my statement to the committee, taken from my notes:

Good morning. I’m Ted Rogers, and I write the blog Biking In LA.

In 30 years as an adult cyclist in cities across the U.S., Los Angeles is by far the most dangerous city I’ve ever ridden in, due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and a minority of dangerous drivers.

In the short time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve heard from hundreds of cyclists who’ve been harassed and intimidated by drivers. This includes passing too close; lurching towards cyclists; honking to startle or intimidate; throwing objects; touching, pushing or hitting cyclists; and yelling things such as “get off the road.”

These are most likely to happen to less experienced — and therefore, more vulnerable — riders who lack the skills and confidence to assertively take the lane, as well women who may not feel safe on riding less populated side streets alone, and so prefer to ride on busier main streets.

However, it can happen to anyone. Ask any cyclist, and they will have a story to tell about being harassed on the roads; I myself have been a victim of a road rage assault.

At a minimum, this ordinance should ban all forms of harassment; establish a minimum three-foot passing distance; give cyclists unquestioned right-of-way in bike lanes, just as pedestrians enjoy in crosswalks; ban short-stopping, lurching towards or deliberately cutting in front of a cyclist; and require LADOT to educate drivers about the rights of cyclists.

Finally, in conclusion, I would like to read an email that was received by a friend of mine following the Thompson sentencing on Friday.

“I live in L.A. and it really irritates me to see you people riding all over the right hand lane in traffic. I often imagine running you over and speeding away. I think if I ever have the chance to hit one of you on Sepulevda Blvd; you know, that long stretch of road near Skirball Center where it sometimes gets lonely? If I ever have the chance to hit one of you and get away with it — I’m gonna do it.”

KABC Channel 7’s Gene Gleason reported on the committee meeting, including a brief comment from yours truly at the end. And that friend who received the threat was the much-respected Will Campbell.

%d bloggers like this: