Tag Archive for Transportation Committee

Herding cyclists, and L.A.’s proposed first-of-its kind anti-harassment ordinance

Evidently, at least one driver took lessons from a Corgi.

I knew I’d seen that technique before.

But it took me awhile to put my finger on just where I’d seen it until it finally dawned on me.

When I lived in Denver a few decades back, I shared a house with a good friend of mine, who showed up one day with a Welsh Corgi he’d just adopted from the pound. And it didn’t take long to realize that it was his herding instincts were fully intact.

The dog, not my friend.

First he tried to herd my roommate’s cats, with limited success.

But we came to appreciate his skills when my friend hosted a party for his co-workers. When we let the dog outside to play with the dozen or so children in the backyard, he stood for a moment watching them scatter throughout the yard. Then he quickly set out to bring order to the chaos.

He started by running rapidly around the yard, drawing ever smaller circles around the kids. We watched in amazement as he guided them into a group; if any child tried to stray from his impromptu herd, he nosed in front and gently guided them back into the pack.

And that, in effect, is exactly what a driver tried to do to me on Saturday as I rode home from Tour de Fat.

I’d taken my place firmly in the center of the lane on a busy Koreatown street, where a line of parked cars made it too narrow to safely share. And I was riding at the same speed as the cars ahead of me, which meant that I could legally ride anywhere I wanted on the road.

But clearly, the law — and common sense — just isn’t good enough for some people.

The woman behind me evidently decided that I didn’t belong there. Or maybe, just didn’t belong in front of her.

So she pulled into the left lane as if she was going to pass, even though the backed-up traffic meant there wasn’t anywhere to go.

Then she slowly started nosing her humongous older Lincoln over into the exact space I was occupying. Just like that Corgi did in forcing the children to go where he wanted, she deliberately angled her car to move me out of the way, until she finally left me with no choice but to surrender my place on the road by braking and dropping behind her, or get hit.

I chose the latter.

She didn’t seem to acting in anger. In fact, she never once looked my way during the entire process. She just seemed to think that she belonged in there, and I didn’t.

I probably should have taken her license number and reported it. Or better yet, pulled out my cell phone and snapped a quick photo of it.

But I was too stunned to think that quickly.

In three decades of riding, I’ve pissed off more than a few drivers by taking the lane. I’ve been yelled and honked at, passed too close and had things thrown at me. But I never once encountered a driver who simply wouldn’t allow me to ride in the lane, and was willing to use her car as a wedge to force me out of it.

Until now.

Of course, even if I had reported her, there’s nothing the police could have done except take a report.

Without any physical evidence — like my blood on her car — an officer would have had to actually see her do it to take any action. Otherwise, it’s my word against hers.

But that may change soon.

This afternoon, the L.A. City Council’s Transportation Committee will take up a proposed bicycle anti-harassment ordinance that goes far beyond any similar law anywhere in the country.

Instead of making harassment of cyclists a crime, it would make it a civil offense. Which means you’d be able to file a case yourself, rather than rely on the actions of the police and the DA or City Attorney. And because it would be heard in civil court, where the burden of proof is much lower, it would only require the agreement of a majority of jurors, rather than the unanimous verdict required in a criminal case.

You also wouldn’t need physical evidence or an officer to witness the infraction to file charges. Video of the incident or statements from people who witnessed it could be enough to win your case.

And it would include a provision for lawyers fees if you win your case, so it would be easier to get an attorney to represent you in a matter that might not otherwise be worth their time and expertise.

More importantly, though, it would finally give cyclist the ability to defend ourselves on the streets. And take action on our own against dangerous, threatening and aggressive drivers, without resorting to a U-lock or risking a violent confrontation.

Even just the existence of the law could be enough to change driver’s behavior on the streets, once they realize that they could finally be held accountable for their actions.

It wouldn’t have helped me in my encounter with the woman who tried to herd me off the road. I was riding alone, with no potential witnesses and no way to document the event as it happened. And  I escaped with no injuries or damage to my bike.

Then again, if she knew she could face a civil case, she might not have tried it to begin with.

The hearing takes place today at 2pm in room 1010 of Downtown’s City Hall. I know it’s short notice, but every voice that can be there to support this measure will help. If you can’t make it, you should be able to listen to the session live on the city’s website, or download it later.

And there will be another — and potentially more important — hearing on Monday in front of the far less bike-friendly Public Safety Committee, at a session that still hasn’t made the city’s calendar even though it’s just five days away.

Maybe they just don’t want to give us any advance notice.

.………

With eight mountain stages and three time trials, next year’s Giro looks near-impossible. Italian cyclist Peitrio Cucchioli will challenge the UCI biological passport that got him banned. Lance says there will be no riding in Aspen today.

.………

Streetsblog looks at this Friday’s Critical Mass. LACBC sponsors its second Ed Magos Ride for Justice to attend the sentencing of the driver who fled the scene after hitting him and left him lying in the street; more cyclists in the courtroom could effect the sentence the judge imposes. C.I.C.L.E. invites cyclists to a Bike Parking Party on Saturday to support the installation of the city’s first bike corral. The Daily News finally discovers the tragic death of Danny Marin, reporting on a nighttime ride in his honor. The Examined Spoke looks at the state of bicycling after 40 years of Vehicular Cycling, while the Daily Trojan says L.A.’s bike co-ops show the city’s cycling scene has finally hit adolescence. San Francisco may be challenging Portland for bike-friendliness.

In light of the recent stolen bike alert on here, 10 things you can do to get your bike back. An $8 million settlement for a cyclist paralyzed when his tire got caught on bridge gates. Motorists and cyclists “will obey traffic rules when they have no other choice and ignore them when they can.” Living in the Bike Lane looks at belt-drive bikes. A look at the debate between vehicular and segregated cyclists. New Colorado road signs instruct cyclists to ride single file on curves so motorists can pass, even though passing on curves isn’t safe or legal, while OKC cyclists get new signs saying they can — and should — use the full lane. Mad City cyclists are told to get off the sidewalk. A Louisiana consultant recommends a Mississippi levee bikeway from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Can bikes and buses co-exist? Specialized will give a kid a free bike for every 1,000 “likes” on their Facebook page; nothing like a little manipulative marketing for a good cause.

A bike-hating Canadian website wants to get rid of bike lanes, but doesn’t want cyclists on the sidewalk, either — and equates cycling with aggressive panhandling. Stay in the right London hotel, and you, too, can ride a Boris Bike. In L.A., biking has it’s challenges, but at least it’s legal; in Iran, it’s not for women. Shanghai’s Forever bike brand attempts to spark a rebirth of the city’s bike culture.

Finally, why pump air into your tires when you can steal it from parked cars? Or maybe get it from the ones who harass you when they’re stopped at red lights if you’re fast. And brave.

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?

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