Your BAC at work — building better bikeways; a civil cyclist anti-harassment ordinance

A few notes from this week’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting:

As you may be aware, the City Attorney has finally reported back on the proposed anti-harassment ordinance.

Your Bicycle Advisory Committee hard at work in Hollywood Monday night.

Not surprisingly, the response was that there wasn’t much the city could do, since most of the actions that would be covered by the ordinance — such as throwing objects at cyclists, encroachment, threatening a cyclist, etc. — were already covered by state law. And any attempt to address traffic regulations, such as creating a minimum three-foot passing distance, can only be addressed at the state level.

But then he offered up with a brilliant alternative.

Instead of making harassment of cyclists a criminal offense, the recommendation was to make assaulting, threatening or harassing a cyclist a civil offense under the L.A. Municipal Code.

That would allow bicyclists to sue a driver in civil court for any violations, instead of pursuing criminal charges. As a result, it would eliminate the need for police to actually witness the violation, and require a lower burden of proof since only a majority of jurors need to reach agreement in a civil case, rather than the unanimous verdict required in a criminal trial.

The ordinance would also include a provision for attorney’s fees, which could encourage a lawyer to represent you on a contingency basis. Or at the very least, mean that anyminey you’re awarded by the court wouldn’t be eaten up by lawyer’s fees.

The BAC voted unanimously to endorse the plan, which has been referred to the City Council Transportation and Public Safety Committees for further consideration.

………

Reports are that new BAC Second District representative Ayla Stern hit the ground running.

LADOT reported at the meeting that their priority in building out the new bike plan over the first five years will be filling in gaps in the current bikeway system, and building bikeways in areas that currently lack any biking infrastructure.

They also plan to focus on completing key links, such as the Cahuenga Pass between Hollywood and the Valley, as well as extending the Orange Line bike path and building a new bike path along the Expo Line. In addition, if a street included in the bike plan is scheduled for resurfacing, a bikeway can be striped as part of the repaving, whether or not it’s part of the five year plan.

A perfect example is the work currently being done to install HOV, or car pool, lanes on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. Metro has offered to build bike lanes on Sepulveda Blvd wherever their work involves that street, which is the key connecting route for cyclists between the Westside and the Valley — despite a bike lane that repeatedly stops and starts and is only a few feet wide in places.

The BAC passed a motion asking the city to use this opportunity to fill in any remaining gaps to create a continuous bike lane from Ventura Blvd to Wilshire Blvd, and to explore innovative solutions to improve safety for cyclists at the Sepulveda Blvd onramp to the southbound 405.

They also approved a motion to ask that design and construction of the Expo Bikeway be done along with the rail work, so that it can be included in any plans and not precluded by the plans or alignment for the Expo Line.

A limited schedule of hearings on the bike plan will take place next month.

  • Sept. 2, Thurs 5:00 to 8:00 PM in the Braude Building in Van Nuys
  • Sept 11, Sat 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM @ Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall, 6501 Fountain Ave.
  • Sept 14, Tues 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM @ Felicia Mahood Senior Center next to WLA City Hall
  • Sept 16, Thurs 5:00 to 8:00 PM in South LA /Webinar
  • Additional dates may be added but any delay will probably foreclose the possibility of applying for the next Metro Call for Projects

………

Speaking of bikeways, Claremont Cyclist asks what good is a bike lane or path when it’s obstructed?

Funny he should mention it. I ran into this guy — not literally, fortunately — in Westwood yesterday; maybe he was just trying to save seven bucks.

………

Are drivers out to get public radio hosts? First KCRW’s Warren Olney got doored earlier this year; now Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! gets hit by a car as he was riding through an intersection.

Fortunately, he’s okay, aside from what he describes as the occasional stab in the back from an invisible angry dwarf, but says his racing bike may be cursed. And it gave a Chicago bike commuter second thoughts about some of her close calls. Thanks to Patrick Murray for the heads-up.

………

A rally is scheduled at City Hall for noon today with Barbara Boxer and Move LA in support of the Mayor’s 30/10 plan to speed up transit projects; what we need is a 25/10 plan for bikeways to go with it. Speaking of the Mayor, he wants your questions for Monday’s Bike Summit, even if you can’t be there in person.

………

LACBC’s first monthly volunteer mixer was a success. Santa Monica ciclovia gets its own website; thanks to Gary Rides Bikes for the link. Flying Pigeon helps distribute the new Blogdowntown Weekly on Nihola Family bikes. Ubrayj sees some progress in his campaign for a car-free Lincoln Park. Tucson police finally begin enforcing Arizona’s three-foot passing law; the cartoon at the beginning alone is worth the click. A Kentucky man buys a bike custom made for Floyd Landis — for $5. Evidently, bike share isn’t a new idea; Mark Twain suggested it 115 years ago, in Portland, of course. Testing out the triple seat Kangaroo Family bike. Did Chicago police protect the Hyatt Hotels heir from road rage charges after he tried to run a cyclist off the road? Is the real conflict between cyclists and motorists, or between patient and not-so-patient people? A writer says cyclists should be as courteous as other road users; do we really need to lower ourselves to that level? Brisbane police crack down on bell-less bikers. A Vancouver politician says Critical Mass should declare victory and obey the law. Evidently, L.A. cyclists aren’t the only ones who have to deal with pothole problems.

Finally, an Austin man was killed last year after crashing in his first bike race; yesterday, his heart finished the first lap.

11 comments

  1. danceralamode says:

    That “Cyclists Should be Courteous” is a misleading title. The article is actually very reasonable, saying cyclists need to remember they are to heed the rules of the road and motorists need to focus on driving safely. It appears to be a coordinated campaign on both sides. But the title is misleading and, well, a little offensive.

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks for the Austin link; great story. Oh, and as a former Valley dweller who used to use both Sepulveda and Cahuenga Passes on a weekly basis, I am glad to hear some good news concerning both those important connections.

  3. anty says:

    That section of bike lane in Westwood is often blocked by cars. Especially if the In and Out drive thru line is backed up. At least they seem to have stopped putting the parking signs out in the lane.

  4. Digital Dame says:

    Ahahaha, somebody go to DMV, get this douchebag’s address, and we’ll send him copies of the photo along with some encouragement to find elsewhere to park.

  5. Richard says:

    Reasons I dislike painted line bike lanes.
    1: Motorists frequent them and do not properly check the right away before crossing them.
    2: Novice bicyclists use them with very little skill and are put in greater danger.
    3: Motorists park or block them without thought for vulnerable road users who have a difficult time safely getting around them. Some of them are children and adults who do not even have basic skills. How many times do children whip across the road without looking. Motorists encourage this behavior when they block the bike path.
    4: State law requires you to use that stinking poorly designed unsupported money pit so they should have some obligation to train motorists and the vulnerable road users on how to safely use it.
    5: The money could be better spent training police, bicyclists and motorists on how to share the road. And of course for those who refuse to change they can ride the bus or walk.

  6. Rach Stevo says:

    I was initially wary when you wrote about making harrassment a civil offense, thinking it would just result in cyclist abuse not being taken seriously (take a broken beer bottle to the head and you’ll figure out how it can get serious pretty quickly). But, correct me if I’m wrong, it will still be possible to press criminal charges, should sufficient evidence exist, right?

    Thanks for the write-up, sad I was out of town for this meeting. Sounds like it was productive.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re right, Rach. This wouldn’t change existing laws at all, just add another legal tool to fight back with. Criminal charges could still be filed if there’s enough evidence.

      The benefit of a civil option is that it could be filed whether or not the authorities decide to file a criminal case. In fact, you could still win a civil case against a driver even if he or she was acquitted in a criminal trial, since it requires a lower burden of proof.

  7. […] a statewide three foot passing law. Both also seemed to support the City Attorney’s plan for a civil anti-harassment law that would allow cyclists to sue drivers who assault, threaten or harass them, regardless of […]

  8. […] Chicago Bike Advocate and Biking In LA. Last fall, Peter Sagal’s brand new Felt road bike was […]

  9. […] Chicago Bike Advocate and Biking In LA. Last fall, Peter Sagal’s brand new Felt road bike was […]

  10. […] Biking in LA also excellently covered the discussion at the BAC meeting about creating a civil offense ordinance for bicyclist harassment. Ted covers the intricacies far better than we would, so click on the link above and take a look for yourself. […]

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