Tag Archive for L.A. anti-harassment ordinance

Breaking news: L.A.’s groundbreaking bike anti-harassment ordinance passes full City Council

L.A.’s first-of-it’s-kind ordinance to protect cyclists from harassment by motorists by making it a civil violation has passed the full City Council by a unanimous vote. Now the measure goes to the Mayor’s office for his signature, which is expected. You can download the full ordinance here; no word on when it will go into effect.

There is no overstating just how important this innovative new law is. For once, L.A. is leading the way in protecting the rights of cyclists with an ordinance that is likely to be copied by cities around the world

The hearing for the ordinance lasted just 40 minutes, with moving comments from a number of cyclists and council members, including District 11th District Council Member Bill Rosendahl, who has shepherded the measure from its inception — and who learned to ride a bike again just two weeks ago after a break of over 40 years.

But Council President Eric Garcetti may have said it best when he suggested that this ordinance may be what it takes to move L.A. from Carmegeddon to Cycletopia.

Unfortunately, any urge to celebrate this important win is tempered by news of last night’s fatal bike collision Downtown — sources at City Hall tell me police have ruled out road rage as the cause — as well as news of two other SoCal cycling fatalities, and confirmation of the previously reported fatality in Santa Maria earlier this week.

I’ll try to catch up will all the news as quickly as I can.

Meanwhile, come out and join the LACBC Board of Directors at our annual public meeting at the Encino Velodrome to celebrate the victory and discuss what we can do to prevent more tragedies.

BAC Chair Emeritus Alex Baum and Councilmember Bill Rosendahl take questions surrounded by cyclists after the unanimous vote.

Today’s post, in which I play the race card in support of L.A.’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance

When I moved to the deep south over three decades ago, I found myself, perhaps not surprisingly, in a town deeply divided by race.

After all, it was just over a decade after the civil rights era, and far less than that since the city’s last violent demonstrations over school busing.

It didn’t take long notice an unfortunate pattern. Every day, thousands of people, both black and white, would come into the city’s business district where I worked; every night, they would go back home to their separate parts of town.

And most people seemed okay with that.

The attitude was expressed to me many times by people of both races. “We may not like you,” they said, “but we all have to get along if this city is going to survive.”

And so they did, working side-by-side by day, then going their own separate ways, to their own separate parts of town.

So when some of my coworkers invited me to go out bar hopping on their side of the tracks, I jumped at the chance.

I’d been raving about a band I’d heard the night before, in a bar where I rarely saw a face much darker than mine. And they said if I really wanted to have a good time, I was hanging out on the wrong side of town.

A few days later, I found myself in a car with a small groups of friends and co-workers, making our way down streets familiar to them, yet which I had never travelled before.

Evidently, not many like me had; the owner of one bar we visited bought me a drink because he said mine was the first white face that had ever entered his club unaccompanied by a license or a badge.

At first, my presence was met by skepticism; once I explained, in response to the inevitable questions, that I was just there to have some fun with my friends, the reactions from other patrons ranged from indifference to warmly welcoming, like a long lost friend they’d never met.

With one notable exception.

A very angry man came up at one of the clubs and went nose to nose with me, hissing “We don’t need your kind in here.”

The next thing I knew, one of my friends was standing directly between us and facing down my challenger, who stood a good head taller and outweighed her by at least a margin of 2-1. She wasted no time in telling him that I was with her, and if he didn’t like it, he could get the hell out.

And he did.

Later, as we discussed it on the way home, she asked if I’d enjoyed myself. I replied that I’d had a great time, but learned the hard way that it only takes one jerk to ruin things for everyone.

“Now,” she said, “You know how we feel.”

That’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. And one that often comes back to me as I ride these mean streets we call home.

The overwhelming majority of drivers I encounter on the streets as I ride my bike treat me with anything from courtesy to indifference.

But every now and then, I run into someone who doesn’t think our kind — the two wheeled kind — belongs on their streets.

Sometimes it takes the form of honking aggressively or passing too close, maybe escalating into thrown objects, insults or getting run off the road.

Or maybe it turns into a violent assault, with a driver using her car as a weapon, like the woman who deliberately ran me down on a Westwood street.

It only takes one jerk to ruin things.

And there’s usually no one there to step in between and save the day. Even if there is a cop nearby, or they happen to take your 911 call seriously and send out a patrol car, he or she is just as likely to take the driver’s side and say it was just an accident, or defend the attackers against their victim. In my experience, anyway.

That’s why L.A.’s proposed Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance is so important.

For the first time, we’ll be able to defend ourselves against driveway vigilantes who attempt to enforce their own, usually made up, version of the law.

Not with words or gestures. Or even U-locks.

But with lawyers and subpoenas.

It won’t work miracles. We’ll still have to gather enough evidence to make it worth taking a case to court, which isn’t always easy to do from the saddle of a bike — let alone laying on the road after a driver has knocked you on your ass.

And we’ll still have to prove our case before a judge and jury, even if it only requires the simple majority of a civil case, rather than the unanimous agreement required for a criminal conviction.

But we’ll finally have a chance to defend ourselves against those handful of jerks who think we don’t belong. And it will only take a few verdicts on our favor before they get the message loud and clear.

We have a right to the road.

And the law — this law — will be on our side.

……..

L.A.’s groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind anywhere Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance comes before the full City Council for final approval at 10 am Wednesday at Downtown City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street. It’s number #19 on the agenda, but could be moved up if the council wants to address it sooner to accommodate the anticipated crowd of cyclists in the room.

And yes, I’ll be there.

Paramount Grand Prix, Eat Real, LA Anti-Harassment Ordinance and LACBC at Encino Velodrome

Bike Talk airs every Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

It’s the Carmageddon grudge match of the century as L.A.’s own Wolfpack Hustle takes on Jet Blue on Saturday, July 16th. Follow along online as five cyclists race passengers Joe Anthony and Erza Horne on a Jet Blue flight from Burbank to Long Beach to see who can arrive at the Light House in Shoreline Aquatic Park first. The action starts at 10:50 am near Cahuenga and Chandler in North Hollywood, and is expected to conclude between 1:15 and 1:30 pm. Follow along on the Twitter hashtag #FlightVsBike, or a live tracking GPS courtesy of L.A. Streetsblog; rumor has it there may be a party afterwards.

The LACBC invites you to join them in a free guided ride to the Eat Real Festival in Culver City this Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th. The ride meets at 10:30 am both days at the corner of Western Ave and Wilshire Blvd, and commences promptly at 11. The Festival will take place from 10:30 am to 9 pm both days at the historic Helms Bakery District, 8800 Venice Blvd. A bike valet will be available courtesy of the Bikerowave and the Culver City Bicycle Coalition from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday, and 10 am to 5 pm Sunday.

The Paramount Grand Prix takes place this Sunday, July 17th, with the first race starting at 7:30 am and the last race starting at 3:40 pm; registration takes place at the intersection of S. Broadwick and Paulhan Streets in Rancho Dominguez.

L.A.’s groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance comes up for a final vote before the full City Council on Wednesday, July 20th, at L.A. City Hall, 200 North Main Street. The session starts at 10 am, item #19 on the agenda. Cyclists are encouraged to attend and show their support.

Later that same day, Wednesday, July 20th, the LACBC Board of Directors will hold their monthly meeting at the Encino Velodrome, 17301 Oxnard Street in Encino, beginning at 6:30 pm. The meeting is open to the public; your opportunity to meet the board members, learn what the LACBC is doing and express your interests and concerns about bicycling throughout Los Angeles County. And yes, I’ll be there.

Also on Wednesday the 20th, Global Green and the Santa Monica Transportation Department are co-hosting a community forum on bringing bike share to Santa Monica. The meeting takes place from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Santa Monica Civic Center, 1855 Main Street.

Flying Pigeon hosts their monthly Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, July 17th at 10 am; the ride meets at Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, 3714 North Figueroa Street in Highland Park.

West L.A.’s annual Brentwood Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, August 7th on San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood; races start at 7 am and run through 4 pm.

Tuesday, August 30th, Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse will host a benefit night for Streetsblog LA; 5% of all food and drink purchases will benefit Streetsblog; 2911 Main Street.

Mark your calendar for L.A.’s Ultimate Bike Weekend, as the 2011 L.A. edition of the Tour de Fat comes to town on Saturday, October 8th, followed by the next CicLAvia on Sunday, October 9th, offering an expanded route taking participants another 2.5 miles into Boyle Heights.

Finally, the LACBC’s City of Lights Program will host their 2nd Annual City of Lights Awards/Fundraising Dinner on Thursday, October 27th from 6 to 11 pm at CARECEN HQ, 2845 W 7th Street. Tickets will be available for $45 later this year.

Tell AAA to stop fighting 3-foot passing law; final vote on Bike Anti-Harassment Ordinance July 20th

One of the biggest transportation fallacies is the enduring myth of cyclists versus drivers.

The fact is, despite the irrational hatred some drivers have for us, most cyclists are drivers as well. And many of us — myself included — belong to one of California’s two branches of AAA, by far the state’s largest motorist groups and among the most powerful lobbyist groups in Sacramento.

Yet remarkably, AAA’s kneejerk response is to oppose any proposed legislation that would increase protection for cyclists or pedestrians — let alone protect their driving-only members from needless collisions and the expensive insurance claims and legal matters that follow.

The latest case in point is AAA’s needless opposition to SB910, California’s proposed three-foot passing law.

AAA initially took a stance opposing the measure as it was originally written. Yet even when the key point they objected to — a clause that would allow drivers to pass at less that three feet when they maintain a speed differential of 15 mph or less — was removed, they continued to oppose the bill.

Their current position is that a three foot passing distance is a wonderful idea — but it should be voluntary on the part of drivers, rather than a mandatory minimum standard.

In other words, if they had their way, California drivers would be able to legally pass you at any distance they damn well wanted to. Whether that’s three feet or three inches.

Not only would that gut the proposed legislation, it would significantly weaken the current law requiring motorists to simply pass at a safe distance — which many drivers interpret as anything that does not make actually contact with the cyclist.

That was made clear by the three separate drivers who passed me Tuesday at a distance of about a foot or less, even after I had taken the lane.

Maybe they were in a hurry and couldn’t be bothered to pass safely. Or maybe they were just pissed off to see a cyclist in front of them.

I can’t speak for you, but I’ve had enough.

I’m sick and tired of AAA using my membership money to fight legislation designed to protect my life. And I intend to tell them so.

And I hope you’ll join me.

Just send a letter — evidently, they still haven’t joined to digital age – to:

Thomas V. McKernan
CEO
Automobile Club of Southern California
2601 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-3254

And

Paula F Downey
President
California State Automobile Association
1276 California Blvd
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

You can see a sample letter here. But mine is going to be more direct and far less polite.

Because I’m sick of belonging to an organization that purports to support my interests working to make the roads more dangerous for me. And everyone who shares them with me.

Besides, I’m told there’s a pretty good alternative that also supports bikes.

……..

Mark your calendar.

L.A.’s proposed Bicycle Anti-Harassment Ordinance comes before the full City Council on Wednesday, July 20th, with the session starting at 10 am. It’s vital that as many cyclists as possible attend; if you can’t be there in person, contact your councilmember to voice your support.

Even if you live in another city but ride in Los Angeles, this ordinance will affect you and help protect your safety, so make sure your voice heard, as well.

The LADOT Bike Program is collecting cyclists’ stories of being harassed on L.A. streets; if you’re on Facebook, add your story to show how desperately this new law is needed.

And the idea seems to be spreading, even before this law is adopted, let alone goes into effect.

……..

Speaking of LADOT, Jaime de la Vega’s nomination to head the agency was approved by the City Council Transportation Committee, and will go to the full Council on Friday; he promises more emphasis on public transit, cycling and pedestrians.

Let’s just hope he lives up to his promise.

……..

Michael Byerts forward the following theft alert:

Be on the Lookout!

The individual shown was videotaped stealing a bike from 5750 Wilshire Blvd one week ago.

Description:  Male black, light facial hair, bald.

Last know incident:  July-7-11 the suspected individual made an attempt to steal another bike from the premises.

Modus operandi: Suspected thief uses cell phone as guise, selects higher end bikes, cuts the lock with a knife & steals the bike in broad day light.

Last Seen: Running from the scene of a reported bike theft on Wilshire, South on Curson to 8th Street then west on 8th Street.

Please report any sightings of this individual to security personnel or the authorities. Never attempt to approach a suspect yourself.

……..

Katusha’s Alexander Kolobnev became the first — but probably not the last — rider to fail a drug test during this year’s Tour.

Meanwhile, barbed wire survivor Johnny Hoogerland says it’s actually easier to ride in the Tour de France than rest in his bed. Red Kite Prayer seems to capture what we’ve all been feeling since Hoogerland got up from that horrible crash to finish the stage; it’s definitely worth the click to read the rest.

Hoogerland’s name was barely known to most of us before the Tour started. In my head he was just another Dutch cyclist. Now he’s a hero, not of the Tour or of cycling, but of the human spirit. After all, who walks out on a dream as the whole of the world gasps for you?

……..

Someone doesn’t get it, though.

In yet another case of an ESPN talking head demonstrating a hateful bias against cyclists, ESPN sports personality Michael Smith repeatedly tweeted how funny he found the Tour de France collision that injured Hoogerland and Juan Flecha. After a storm of protest, he first offered a half-hearted apology, followed by a far more meaningful one once he realized his job could be on the line — or more likely, once the company’s lawyers got involved.

This follows other notable cases involving bike-hating ESPN personalities, including Tony Kornheiser and the team of Waddle and Silvy.

The inimitable Bike Snob joins in the hilarity and our own SWRVE offers a brilliant response.

Maybe it’s time to contact Robert Iger, CEO of ESPN parent company Disney, to let him know that violence against cyclists isn’t funny.

And that we’re sick and tired of his employees encouraging it.

……..

The L.A. City Planning Commission meets at 8:30 am Thursday to discuss a proposed bike parking ordinance. Will Campbell offers a timelapse of Sunday’s not-quite-CicLAvia ride, which seems to have gone off beautifully. Todd Munson captures another shot of a needlessly blocked bike lane on Venice Blvd. The Engaged Observer looks at riding with the Ridazz. Speaking of whom, Ridazz and skateboard flash mobs may take over the 405 during Carmageddon; thanks to Rex Reese for the heads-up. Orlando Bloom deals with “big and intimidating” L.A. by riding his bike, just like the rest of us. Discuss a possible Santa Monica bike share program on Wednesday the 20th. Biking and BBQ with Long Beach’s Charlie Gandy. Rosemead Blvd will get a road diet complete with cycle tracks through Temple City. KCRW’s Steve Herbert is participating in the Cliff Bar 2 Mile Challenge. Peloton magazine invites you to celebrate Bastille Day with them in Burbank Thursday evening. Remembering former cycling champ and SoCal coach Mark Whitehead. Cycling is up in Santa Cruz, and so are cycling collisions.

Problem drivers tend to be problem people. The newly renamed Velo News is now just Velo, except online where, in an apparent attempt to confuse their readers, it’s still Velo News. Walmart now offers Dutch Bike Shaped Objects, which they seem to consider toys. Enhanced enforcement can cut distracted driving rates. Tales of bike commutes good and bad. Tucson police are already targeting drivers who ignore turn lanes on an upcoming bike boulevard. Over twice as many NYC women ride in protected bike lanes as on streets with no infrastructure. Long Island has the highest cycling fatality rate in the New York area. Victoria’s Secret and some of their models raised $200,000 for a bike ride to raise money for cancer research. Ten Samaritans lift a pickup off a cyclist who was trapped underneath. Niagara Falls police rule the death of a cyclist an accident after he rides into an open manhole; call me crazy, but wouldn’t the crew that left the cover off have some responsibility? If New Orleans can become bike-friendly with their ancient narrow streets and levees crisscrossing the city, no other city has any excuse. A political scientist offers an intriguing and insightful look at the conflict between tribes of cyclists and motorists, and the failure of rule of law when it comes to traffic.

A London woman survives without serious injury after being dragged under a large truck at a troublesome intersection. A new survey shows 62% of Aussies are willing to bike to work — but don’t because of safety fears. In a horrific case, a group of drunken thugs beat a 9-year old New Zealand girl with her own bicycle.

Finally, a team of 50-something cyclists, including one from Laguna, sets a new RAAM women’s record by traversing the country in six days, 11 hours and 34 minutes — and beats two teams of younger women and six eight-man men’s teams in the process.

Something tells me they aren’t afraid to bike to work. With or without separated bike lanes.

Manny Ramirez defense leads to acquittal for Gordon Wray; The Times’ Hector Tobar likes bikes

Evidently, killing a cyclist because you can’t see is nothing more than an accident.

Just say the sun got in your eyes, and walk away.

That’s what happened today, as Gordon Wray was acquitted on a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of Doug Caldwell.

A jury of his peers — though not necessarily the victim’s, since cyclists are usually excluded from bike case juries — took little more than an hour to agree that the prosecution’s case failed to meet the necessary burden of proof.

Never mind that most rational people would agree that the sudden, violent death of another human being should amount to more than just “oops.”

However, Wray’s attorney astutely played the Manny Ramirez defense, claiming the sun was in his client’s eyes at the time of the collision. And rather than pull over until he could see, proceeded to slam into two other people who had the misfortune of sharing the road with him.

At least when Manny used the excuse, he only lost the ball and allowed a few runs to score.

The crux of this case was CVC 22350, which reads:

No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

Unfortunately, as cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels points out, the problem for the prosecution was determining just what speed was reasonable under the circumstances. They were forced to argue that if Wray was truly blinded by the sun, he should have slowed down to a speed that allowed him to see the two riders, even if that meant coming to a full stop.

The defense countered that Wray understood the risk posed by the sun shining in his eyes, and slowed down to 35 mph in a 50 mph zone as a result.

Except that still wasn’t good enough. And a well-loved man died as a result, while another suffered road rash so severe that he required plastic surgery to repair the damage.

Yet the jury’s reaction was to be expected.

Virtually every driver has found him or herself in that same position at least once. And when they put themselves in Wray’s position, they had to ask what they would have done under the same circumstances.

Which, given the verdict, should serve as a frightening warning to everyone else on the road.

If you want to look on the bright side, it was a victory for cyclists that this trial ever came to court. The case was never strong, and it shows just how seriously authorities took it that charges were ever filed in the first place.

But my heart breaks for Caldwell’s family, who had to watch the man responsible for his death walk away, knowing he’ll never be held accountable in criminal court.

Maybe they’ll have better luck in civil court, where the burden of proof is lower.

Although this acquittal won’t help.

……..

Better news comes from the Orange County Transportation Authority in the form of OCLINK, which they describe as “an innovative and convenient pass that allows riders to hop on trains and buses throughout the county.”

According to their release, the OCLINK pass provides unlimited weekday transfers on a buses and Metrolink trains throughout Orange County for just $7 per person. As a result, OC cyclists can easily hop the bus or train to the riding destination of their choice — even if that happens to be in L.A. or Ventura County — then return home without breaking the bank.

For those of us a little further away, Metrolink is now offering an All-Weekend Pass for just $10 a person, allowing unlimited train rides from 7 pm Friday to midnight Sunday. And anywhere Metrolink travels throughout Orange, L.A., Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

Which means you can now take the train to one of those great far-flung riding routes you’ve only heard about, then ride the rails back home without breaking the bank.

The downside is, like the long-despised and recently revoked Metro policy, Metrolink allows only two bikes per passenger car. Although rumor has it they’re considering a prototype bike car that will accommodate up to 20 bikes, making future group tours by bike and train a more viable possibility.

Maybe we should encourage that idea.

……..

LADOT Bike Blog has announced that the city’s long-awaited Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance is finally ready for final approval, and should come before the full council sometime in the next two weeks.

The groundbreaking ordinance, the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S., would make harassment of a cyclist a civil matter, rather than criminal, allowing riders to take threatening drivers to court themselves. And it contains a provision for legal fees, making it worthwhile for lawyers to take cases that might not otherwise be financially viable for them.

Meanwhile, reader Alejandro Meruelo writes to remind us that L.A. Mayor — and my CicLAvia riding buddy — Antonio Villaraigosa has asked for suggestions on how to make L.A. more bike-friendly.

Meruelo suggests using the Ask the Mayor website to encourage hizzoner to inform law enforcement officers that CVC 21202 allows cyclists full use of the lane under many, if not most, circumstances. While every LAPD officer should be well versed on the subject thanks to the department’s bike training video, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little official support from the mayor’s office. And it could carry a lot of weight with other law enforcement agencies that aren’t nearly as enlightened.

……..

The Times’ Hector Tobar talks with some of L.A.’s Ridazz, and decides that the city needs an attitude adjustment regarding bicyclists — concluding that we’re not only a part of the community, but have as much right to the roadway as anyone else.

And yes, that chill you felt was hell freezing over, as the Times has officially crossed over to our side.

Mostly.

Contrast that with this absurdly biased anti-bike lane piece from New York’s WCBS, which argues that city streets should accommodate the 90% in cars and buses, rather than making space for the 10% who ride bikes — even if those bike riders make more room for everyone else. And suggests the danger posed by theoretical bomb-laden bicyclists, who might conceivably use the new lanes to roll up in front of the Israeli consulate.

Because terrorists evidently aren’t brave enough to take the lane in New York traffic.

……..

Bike friendly ad agency Colle+McVoy — the people behind my all-time favorite bike-to-work ad (scroll to the bottom) — has created a Facebook app to let the world know you’re out on your bike. Just download the app, and it will replace your profile photo with the Out Biking image when you ride.

Although I’m not sure I want my clients — or my wife — to know I’m out riding when I should be working.

……..

Finally, thanks to George Wolfberg for forwarding this photo from Jonathon Weiss, showing the new bike-friendly ads on the back of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Buses. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one myself the other day, but was a little too busy trying to survive the obstacles blocking the Ocean Ave bike lanes to grab a photo myself.

Evidently, Santa Monica drivers assume that if we can use their lanes, they can use ours.

L.A.’s groundbreaking anti-harassment ordinance moves forward; Box says the journey continues

Unfortunately, transit issues kept me from getting to Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting until after the hearing for the proposed anti-harassment ordinance.

The good news is, there were plenty of other cyclists there to support it, including Ross Hirsch, Jeff Jacobberger and BAC Chair Jay Slater. In the end, the measure received unanimous approval to move forward to the full council, while the City Attorney’s office considers minor wording changes to clarify the penalties and to add a line prohibiting forcing cyclists off the road.

The committee also voted to support a study to develop solid data for a Safe Routes to School program, and to recommend funding of bike and pedestrian projects from Measure R.

Damien Newton offers a full recount of the meeting on Streetsblog, and LADOT Bike Blog provides an in-depth report on the anti-harassment ordinance. And you catch up on the meeting by following the Twitter feed.

As for me, I gained first-hand knowledge of why Wilshire Boulevard so desperately needs a Bus Rapid Transit lane.

And why I will avoid the 720 bus from here on, even if it means walking another 10 blocks to catch the 728.

.………

Stephen Box says even though he lost, the journey continues; let’s not forget that he remains the city’s most forceful bike activist. It will be interesting to see if the beard comes back, or if he stays in his new clean-shaven politico mode.

Meanwhile, Tom LaBonge says thanks, and Damien Newton offers his thoughts on Tuesday’s election results; as usual on Streetsblog, the comments are worth reading, too. Mark Elliot offers an insightful post-mortem on Better Bike Beverly Hills in which he blames you, if you were one of the overwhelming majority of voters who didn’t bother to.

.………

The Economist says if motorists paid for all the costs they impose on others, there’d be fewer drivers complaining about bike lanes and more people using them. And a writer for the Washington Post nails it when he says if you love driving, buy your neighbor a bike:

I see the (New York City) Bloomberg administration’s aggressive pursuit of bike lanes and related alternatives as an almost radically pro-car position. If driving is to remain half as pleasant as Cassidy wants it to, it will only be because most New Yorkers decide against purchasing cars. And they’re only going to do that if the other options seem attractive…. I’ve seen that future and it’s called Los Angeles. New Yorkers should want no part of it.

Neither should we.

Meanwhile, suddenly embattled NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan escapes the media-generated backlash to present at the National Bike Summit. And a DC writer says hatred of cyclists is not a partisan issue; she’s got a point, I’m sure liberal drivers blame cyclists as much as conservatives do. And Dave Moulton says the whole argument is a sign that we’re winning.

.………

CSU Long Beach and UC Irvine were named Silver-level Bike Friendly Universities by the League of American Bicyclists; UCLA was awarded Bronze. Needless to say, USC, which banned bikes from parts of campus — including a walkway Metro lists as designated bikeway — wasn’t.

The upper levels were held exclusively by California schools, with UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara awarded Gold, and Stanford the only school recognized with a Platinum award. And that little school in my hometown gets a little credit, too.

Thanks to Evan G. for the tip.

.………

The next Folk Art Everywhere ride rolls this Saturday from noon to 3 pm starting at Rudy Ortega Park in San Fernando, giving you a chance to tour the Northeast Valley in a fun and easygoing way while you learn about the Valley’s past and present Native American tribes. Guest speakers will represent Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, Pacoima Beautiful and Pukuu Cultural Community Services.

.………

ABC’s Modern Family talks up cycling and safe streets; maybe some of the other Hollywood shows will join in. Without bike parking, bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure won’t encourage commuting or shopping. More on the national Best Practices Award given to LACBC’s City of Lights Program. LADOT Bike Blog reports on the March BPIT meeting. A 55-year old rider known as the Unigeezer becomes the first to ride a unicycle up L.A.’s steepest street.

Thousand Oaks residents argue over widening a roadway for a planned bike lane; opponents actually call for a separated bike path instead. A look at Amine Britel, the cyclist killed by an alleged drunk driver in Newport Beach last month. Russ Roca says this bike is not a bike, it’s a Brompton — but please don’t tell. Santa Rosa senior citizens oppose a bike lane through their retirement community. Lodi is the latest city to crack down on cyclists, though most of their scofflaws are children. Cal State Fullerton police use GPS trackers to bust bike thieves. Visalia’s bike plan calls for 200 miles of new bike lanes. The Art of the Group Ride, a great new — well, new to me at least — Bay Area blog enjoys a group ride for two, even if the other rider is just 2-1/2.

Rising young marathoner, trail runner and triathlete  Sally Meyerhoff was killed in a collision with a pickup in Maricopa AZ on Tuesday when she reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign; thanks to Todd Munson for the heads-up. Looks like bike cafes may be the latest trend. The new Urban Bikeway Design Guide is out for all you traffic engineers, street planners and infrastructure wonks. Nine tips for beginning cyclists. Detroit focuses on biking to attract young professionals to the city. As part of CNN’s Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, a cyclist discovers the challenges of clipless pedals. Traffic isn’t the only risk some riders face.

Christian Vande Veld is passing on this year’s Giro. Former Liquigas rider Franco Pellizotti says a two-year doping ban probably marks the end of his riding career. Pro riders threaten to strike over a ban on race radios; somehow, Eddie Merckx and the other legends seemed to do okay without them. Brisbane pedestrians call for a ban on sidewalk riding “lycra lunatics” because “we were here first.” A Christchurch NZ cyclist is determined to ride again after breaking his neck while riding to check on his neighbors after the recent earthquake.

Finally, Bike Rumor says now this is a bike lane. Anyone want to bet there’s nothing like it in the L.A. or L.A. County plans?

Groundbreaking L.A. cyclist anti-harassment law nears final approval

A first-of-its-kind new anti-harassment law could prove as inspiring as City Hall itself.

In the end it was a false alarm.

For a brief period Thursday afternoon, there was a flurry of online activity suggesting that the groundbreaking new Bicycle Anti-Harassment Ordinance had unexpectedly become law.

It hadn’t.

Instead, it was something almost as big, but not quite as final.

I first heard that this law was in the works when I appeared with LADOT Sr. Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery on Larry Mantle’s AirTalk program on KPCC back in November ’09. She told me confidentially that she had been working quietly behind the scenes with members of 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s staff to develop additional legal protection for the city’s cyclists, though in a far different form from what we see today.

So give credit where it’s due. Because this wouldn’t be happening at all if she hadn’t been pushing for it.

Yesterday was that the City Attorney’s office officially unveiled the final draft of the ordinance. The confusion came from the inclusion of Council Rule #38 in the City Attorney’s letter accompanying the draft, which said that because it didn’t require enforcement by an city officer, board or commission, it didn’t require review by “any such City officer or entity.”

To those of us who lack a legal background and aren’t grounded in the minutiae of city regulations, that sounded like it might not need further approval by the City Council to become law.

It does.

Fortunately, after a mad flurry of emails, texts and tweets Thursday afternoon, City Council President Eric Garcetti and his staff helped us unravel what had really happened, and what the next steps will be.

It turns out that Rule #38 simply means that the ordinance doesn’t need to be reviewed by any other city department, such as LADOT or the police department. Instead, it will go straight to the Transportation Committee for review, leading up to a hearing before the full Council; if they approve it, it goes to the Mayor for his signature.

And assuming Mayor Villaraigosa signs off, it will then become law, most likely 30 days after signing unless otherwise noted. L.A. cyclists will then be protected by this innovative ordinance — as near as I can find, it’s the first of its kind anywhere that makes the harassment of cyclists a civil, rather criminal, violation.

Which means that you’ll be able to take drivers — or anyone else — who threatens your safety or refuse to recognize your right to the road to court yourself, rather than relying on the police to determine if a crime has been committed, and the District Attorney or City Attorney to file charges.

And because your case will be heard in civil court, it requires a lower burden of proof; just a majority of jurors will have to agree instead of the unanimous verdict required in criminal cases.

It also doesn’t preclude criminal charges, so you can pursue your own case against someone who threatens you without jeopardizing any possible criminal case.

Of course, it won’t work miracles.

While it sets a new standard for other cities and states to follow in ensuring cyclists a safe place on the road, you’ll still need to prove your case. As all too many of us have learned the hard way, it’s not easy to get the license number of a driver who just ran you off the road. And you’ll still need to gather evidence and witnesses so it’s not just your word against theirs.

But with a potential judgment of triple your actual damages or $1,000, whichever is higher, plus any punitive damages the court may impose, it should act as a significant deterrent to hot headed motorists.

In addition, the provision for attorney’s fees should make it much easier to find a lawyer who’ll take your case despite the relatively small potential judgment. Which means that whatever money you receive as a result will go to you instead of your attorney — something I learned about the hard way when the small settlement I received in a road rage case was eaten up by attorney’s fees; in fact, I would have owed him if he hadn’t written off the excess.

So it should be an effective tool to fight back against things like this that occur countless times every day in every part of the city. And it should also serve as a model for other area cities, since harassment and threatening behavior is hardly confined within L.A.’s borders.

We still have some significant hurdles to jump before this becomes law, though. While the drafting of the ordinance enjoyed unanimous support from the council, we haven’t heard from the motoring public, who may not yet be aware this law is being considered.

But now we finally have an actual draft in our hands.

It was a just over a year ago that Council President Eric Garcetti offered me his personal assurance that he would stay on top of the proposed ordinance and keep it moving forward. Yesterday he reacted to the release of the draft by saying “This is a long-overdue recognition that our streets are shared and bicyclists deserve to be free from fear on our streets.”

It looks like he’s kept his word.

As has Rosendahl, who has been driving — or perhaps, pedaling — this ordinance since the very beginning, famously declaring that “The culture of the car is going to end now!”

There are other people to thank, of course — not in the least of whom is Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel, who had the brilliant idea of treating harassment as a civil violation.

But let’s save that until we’ve actually crossed the finish line.

Because we still have some work to do in the meantime.

Learn more about the Anti-Harassment Ordinance in Chris Kidd’s excellent step-by-step analysis at LADOT Bike Blog. And I’ll give you as much advance notice of any hearing as possible.

.………

Here’s the full draft of the proposed ordinance:

ORDINANCE NO. _________

An ordinance adding Article 5.10 to Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to prohibit harassment of bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists.

THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. Article 5.10 is added to Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to read as follows:

ARTICLE 5.10

PROHIBITION AGAINST HARASSMENT OF BICYCLISTS

SEC. 45.96.00. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

After public hearings and receipt of testimony, the City Council finds and declares:

That the City of Los Angeles wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality;

That harassment of bicyclists on the basis of their status as bicyclists exists in the City of Los Angeles;

That existing criminal and civil laws do not effectively prevent the unlawful harassment of bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists;

That riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and that these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists; and

That because people have a right to ride a bicycle in the City of Los Angles and should be able to do so safely on City streets, it is against the public policy of the City of Los Angeles to harass a bicyclist upon the basis of the person’s status as a bicyclist.

SEC. 45.96.01. DEFINITIONS.

The following words and phrases, whenever used in this Article, shall be construed as defined in this Section. Words and phrases not defined herein shall be construed as defined in Section 12.03 of this Code, if defined therein.

A. Bicycle. A device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain or gears, and having one or more wheels.

B. Bicyclist. A person riding a bicycle.

SEC. 45.96.02. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES.

A person shall not do or attempt to do any of the following:

A. Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

B. Threaten to physically injure a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

C. Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle, or other object, a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

D. Intentionally distract or attempt to distract a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

SEC. 45.96.03. REMEDIES.

A. Any aggrieved person may enforce the provisions of this Article by means of a civil lawsuit.

B. Any person who violates the provisions of this Article shall be liable for actual damages with regard to each and every such violation, and such additional amount as may be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, up to three times the amount of actual damages, or $1,000, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation. In addition, a jury or a court may award punitive damages where warranted.

C. Notwithstanding Section 11.00(m) of this Code, violations of any of the provisions of this Article shall not constitute a misdemeanor or infraction, except where such actions, independently of this Article, constitute a misdemeanor or infraction.

D. The remedies provided by the provisions of this Article are in addition to all other remedies provided by law, and nothing in this Article shall preclude any aggrieved person from pursuing any other remedy provided by law.

Sec. 2. Severability. If any provision of this ordinance is found to be unconstitutional or othervvise invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, that invalidity shall not affect the remaining provisions of this ordinance, which can be implemented without the invalid provisions, and to this end, the provisions of this ordinance are declared to be severable.

Sec. 3. The City Clerk shall certify to the passage of this ordinance and have it published in accordance with Council policy, either in a daily newspaper circulated in the City of Los Angeles or by posting for ten days in three public places in the City of Los Angeles: one copy on the bulletin board located at the Main Street entrance to the Los Angeles City Hall; one copy on the bulletin board located at the Main Street entrance to the Los Angeles City Hall East; and one copy on the bulletin board located at the Temple Street entrance to the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.

A threatening Beverly Hills driver offers a reminder that we still have a long way to go

I got a good reminder yesterday that we still have a long way to go to secure our place on the streets.

I was riding through Beverly Hills, scouting a route for the LACBC’s I ♥ the Westside Ride next Sunday, when I pulled up to a four way stop to make a left.

Yes, I did stop. And even signaled.

I waited for the first car coming the other way started his left, then pulled out to make mine. And while I was still in the middle of the intersection, the car that had been behind that one aggressively pulled out to make a left as well, putting him on a direct collision course with me.

So I jammed on the brakes, and yelled out “What the f***!” as he blew by.

Next thing I knew, the driver screeched to a stop on the far side of the intersection, then whipped around 180 degrees to put himself the same direction I was going.

I’ve learned the hard way that there’s nothing more dangerous than having an angry driver behind me. And it was pretty clear that I was probably going to have to defend myself.

So I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, positioning myself between two parked cars that offered protection from his car, and got off my bike.

He screeched up to a stop next to me, and stared at me in a threatening manner. So I pulled out my cell phone and held it out so he could see me dialing.

“911,” I said. “Do you want to stick around to see what happens next?”

With that, he screeched off down the road, still clutching the illegally hand-held cell phone he’d had plastered to his face the whole time.

I jumped back on my bike and chased after him, holding out my cell phone to take a photo of his license plate, but lost him in traffic before I could get a clear shot. Then rode home angrily replaying the situation in my head, with images of going all De Niro on his ass.

In the end, I think I handled about as well as I could, responding to the threat without escalating the situation — or crossing the line myself.

Just another angry interaction on the streets, serving as a reminder that things may be improving for cyclists in a lot of ways. But there are still angry, dangerous drivers out there.

And we’re still at risk from them.

It also shows once again why L.A.’s proposed bike anti-harassment ordinance is so vital for our protection. This was a textbook example of exactly the sort of incident it’s intended to address.

Even if it wouldn’t apply on the mean streets of Beverly Hills.

.………

I got an email earlier this week from a reader who recommended the CitySourced app for the Windows, Droid, iPhone or Blackberry smartphones, or Garcetti 311 for iPhones.

These applications allow reporting of all sorts of biking problems in Los Angeles. For example, I was biking up the bike lane on Westwood Avenue a day ago and saw 2 cars parked in the bike lane within a matter of 2 minutes. I often see this illegal parking in the bike lane on Gayley Avenue going past In-and-Out as well. You can now report this with a quick picture of their car/license plate/bike lane (in same photo). You can also report abandoned bicycles, potholes, sidewalk cracks (e.g., Westwood park abandoned bike path), etc. Your reports are saved so you can review them in the future.

On another subject, he also wanted to note that he recently emailed the Westfield Century City mall to ask about bike parking, and was happy to get a response indicating that they have bike racks near the valet station. And he was even more please that they agreed with his suggestion to add that information to their website.

It always makes me a little happier when people become more aware that people use bicycles to shop just like anyone else. And then they respect bike lanes more when they are aware that we’re important customers too.

From what I’ve seen, the bike parking at Westfield Century City could use a lot of improvement.

But he’s right. When businesses understand that cyclists spend money just like drivers do — or as some studies have shown, even more — they’ll make sure we have the facilities we need.

And that our rights are respected in their business, and on the streets around them.

L.A. City Council unanimously approves drafting proposed anti-harassment ordinance

Sometimes, what happens inside is actually as inspiring as the view outside.

It’s hard to call it a victory when we’ve still got so far to go.

But I’ll take a unanimous vote in City Council any day of the week.

After a couple hours of contentious debates over smoking restrictions and solar panels, the City Council finally got around to discussing the proposed anti-harassment ordinance that would give cyclists the right to sue in civil court for harassment, threats and assault.

Although we seriously need to find a catchier name for it.

Regardless, 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl — who’s taken the lead in shepherding this ordinance through the countless pitfalls City Hall is famous for — set the tone when he said this ordinance just gives cyclists rights we should already have.

He was followed by Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel, who explained the nuts and bolts of the proposed ordinance, including a maximum award of $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is higher. Along with a provision for attorney’s fees if you win your case, which in many cases could far exceed the damages awarded by the court.

As Rosendahl put it, “This plan has teeth.”

And lets not forget that it was Reel who had the stroke of genius to make harassment a civil violation, resulting in a lower burden of proof compared to a criminal case. And allowing cyclists to file suit themselves, rather than rely on police to witness a violation.

Michele Mowery, Senior Bike Coordinator at LADOT, told the council that this ordinance is necessary because many motorists still believe that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and consider it sport to throw things at riders.

4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge and 1st District Councilmember Ed Reyes also spoke in support — though LaBonge seemed equally concerned with the problems posed by out-of-control sidewalk riders.

Under questioning from Rosendahl, Reel said that if the council approved the motion, the actual drafting of the ordinance would take up to 60 days. Rosendahl urged her to come back to the council with the finished ordinance sooner, rather than later, and to include the LACBC in the reviewing process.

In the end, the council voted 12 – 0 to move forward, with three members absent.

Which means that, through two committee sessions and hearing before the full council, not one vote has been cast in opposition to the City Attorney’s proposal.

And cyclists are one step closer to a first-of-its-kind anti-harassment law that could set the standard for communities around the world.

.………

Below are my comments from the council session.

I want to make sure you understand how important this measure is.

Every day, cyclists face a barrage of harassments and threats. I’ve received reports of cyclists being crowded, yelled at, honked at, having things thrown at them and forced off the road; female cyclists have had to endure unwanted sexual comments and touching while they ride.

Some people complain about rude cyclists swearing and making gestures. That’s because, until now, that’s all we’ve had to defend ourselves. But as Dr. Thompson clear showed, no word or gesture is a match for an angry driver in a two-ton vehicle.

The police are here to protect us, but they can’t be everywhere. And few people will do these sorts of things if there’s a cop around to see it.

This proposed ordinance is a brilliant solution to these problems. It’s the first of its kind anywhere, giving cyclists the tools to protect ourselves even if there isn’t a cop around. More importantly, it will act as a deterrent to protect the city’s most vulnerable road users, and encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes.

It will save lives.

Overnight, it will transform L.A. from a bicycling backwater to the world leader in protecting cyclists. It will be copied by cities around the world; already, I’ve received several requests from cyclists across the county for a copy of the City Attorney’s report.

That’s what you’re voting on today.

And yes, it is that important.

.………

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton explains why Livable Los Angeles has started an online petition urging Mayor Villaraigosa to conduct a real search for the next head of LADOT, and select a world-class leader to replace Rita Robinson.

And yes, I’ve already signed it.

Speaking of Damien, he wants to know when enough is enough; wouldn’t we all.

.………

Justice in the Ed Magos case, as Angelina Everett gets jail time, community labor and is ordered to pay restitution; more details as they come in. LACBC offers eight tips on what to do if you’re in a collision; here’s my take on the same subject. A look at the signal loop detectors that makes a Bike Friendly Street bike friendly. CicLAvia is looking for volunteers for Host Committees for next year, and wants your advice on what Sunday in April to hold the next one. Culver City approves a new bike and pedestrian plan. Santa Monica begins the long, hard process to cut the city’s unacceptably high rate of biking accidents. Lance likes our local Left Coast sky in the ‘Bu. The New York Times takes in the sights of L.A. on two wheels, touring the city on $100 a day; thanks to everyone who forwarded it to me. Cycling’s equivalent of Dr. Thompson strikes in Santa Cruz, as a cyclist threatens a group of children in a park, then deliberately rides over a toddler; Thompson got five years, this jerk deserves at least that much, if not more. Ross del Duca puts on a helmet at his wife’s insistence, and is glad he did.

Maybe it’s time for a U.S. version of strict liability. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta prepares for his first triathlon. It’s true, biking is far more social than driving. A Tucson cyclist signs a pro contract just three years after taking up the sport. Speaking of the NYT, they interview cycling attorney Bob Mionske on the Eagle County DA’s inexplicable decision not to file felony charges against a rich hit-and-run driver; meanwhile, Witch on a Bicycle offers an exhaustive recap of 30 separate takes on the same subject. Springfield Cyclist stops to work on his ride to work. A Cleveland driver gets three years for intentionally hitting a cyclist he mistakenly thought had stolen his son’s bike. A heavily bundled Katy Perry rides a bike in New York; the question is, how do they know it’s her? Baltimore joins L.A. in becoming the second city to pass the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. A hit-and-run driver is convicted after his plates are captured by a red light camera.

Eco Velo offers 10 kinder, gentler rules for urban bike commuting; Town Mouse responds with 10 rules for rural commuting from the Scottish countryside. Evidently, bike rage is the new trend, as a Brit cyclist beats a driver into a coma after a near-dooring. UK cycling casualties are up while other road deaths and injuries are down. The Guardian asks if the law takes killing a cyclist seriously enough; if they’re anything like us, the answer is no. A policewoman is disciplined after calling a 16-year old girl a scumbag after she’s killed by a speeding police car. Instead of focusing on making cyclists more visible, police should tackle poor driving. An online exhibition of James Straffon’s the Art of Cycling. A man in Guyana stabs a man several times after he’s called a bike thief.

Finally, Patrick Pascal goes out for a ride in Griffith Park, and is magically transported to an alternate reality where Spandexed riders on Penny Farthings pose beneath the Hollywood sign.

Yeah, like that would happen in real life.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Pascal

Update: Anti-harassment ordinance clears Public Safety Committee

Just a quick update on this morning’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

After a surprisingly brief and mostly supportive discussion  — including comments from Ross Hirsch, the attorney for hit-and-run victim Ed Magos, along with BAC chair Glenn Bailey and Alexis Lantz of the LACBC — the committee members voted unanimously to endorse the proposal previously put forward by the Transportation Committee.

With one member missing from the meeting this morning, that means 9 of the 15 council members have now voted to support the measure, without a single vote against it.

Now my understanding is that it will go before the full City Council for approval before being sent back to the City Attorney’s office to actually draft the ordinance.

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