I don’t think they knew what hit them.
When Council President Eric Garcetti opened today’s meeting, L.A.’s city council members probably expected to speak to a mostly empty room at yet another typically dull city council meeting. What they got was something entirely different.
Instead of empty chairs, they faced a room full of angry bicyclists. Most of whom demanded the right to speak in protest of last week’s Hummer incident, as well as dangerous and illegal police tactics and general lack of support from the LAPD.
Once the floor was opened for comments, a near continuous stream of riders approached the microphone — including Andres, who was injured by the Hummer, and Krista, who spoke of having her bike ripped from her hands as the driver fled the scene. Among the others commenting were Alex Thompson, who helped lead the response to this incident, along with Enci and Stephen Box, and the Ridazz’ Roadblock and Chicken Leather.
I’d like to tell you exactly who commented and what they said. But to be honest, I kind of got wrapped up in the moment and forgot to take notes.
Or more precisely, I preferred to participate, rather than observe.
Overall, though, many riders pointed out the dangers that they face on a daily basis from angry and aggressive motorists, and how that problem is only exacerbated by the anti-bike bias demonstrated by some officers. Not to mention the poor conditions of the roadways and a general lack of infrastructure that contributes to confrontations by forcing cyclists into the traffic.
And both Alex and Stephen reminded the council of their repeated failures to follow through on previous bike-related motions and programs that had passed the council, only to die somewhere in city’s vast bureaucracy.
When I spoke, I briefly mentioned my own experience with a road-raging driver, and how the failure to ticket or charge the
driver gave her permission to do it again to someone else. And how the failure to cite the Good Doctor the first time he ran cyclists off the road — at least, the first time we know of — only encouraged him to do it again, as evidenced by his great surprise when the police actually arrested him following last year’s Mandeville Canyon incident.
Then I added that the failure to charge the Hummer driver was tacit permission from the LAPD to go out and do it again, thus further endangering cyclists.
I concluded by pointing out that the recently passed Massachusetts Bike Safety Bill requires all new police officers to receive training in bike laws and safety while at the academy, and asked why Los Angeles couldn’t establish a program like that. And reminded the council members that the riders gathered behind me were voters, as well as a bicyclists.
Evidently, we were heard.
Before the meeting, departing District 5 city council member, and current candidate for city attorney, Jack Weiss met us on the steps of city hall to say that as a weekend cyclist himself — because he considers it too dangerous to ride on weekdays — he fully supports cyclists.
Afterwards, Bill Rosendahl noted that Mandeville Canyon is in his district, and that he had responded by introducing the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. And that while we had been speaking, he, Janice Hahn, Ed Reyes and Tom LaBonge had signed the following motion:
Numerous incidents have been reported relative to bicycle and vehicle collisions and aggressive motorists attitudes to law-abiding people riding bicycles. Complaints have also been raised regarding the treatment of bicyclists by the Los Angeles Police Department. It is critical that the City respond to these situations and respond appropriately.
I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Council direct the Los Angeles Police Department to report on recent bicycle incidents and conflicts between bicyclists and motorists, as well as efforts to increase police officer training related to bicycling activities and applicable regulations and laws.
Reyes, Hahn, Wendy Greuel, and Tony Cardenas also rose to speak in support of cyclists, while Garcetti thanked us for coming and promised that action will be taken. And LaBonge followed us outside to address the gathered cyclists and express his support.