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Bicyclists call for stricter hit-and-run penalities

KPCC Southern California Public Radio: Bicyclists call for stricter hit-and-run penalities

KPCC

A meeting held Feb. 3, 2010 between bicycle safety activists and the LAPD addressed bicyclists’ concerns about traffic collisions with motorists.

Feb. 3, 2010 | Newly Paul | KPCC

About two dozen bicyclists called for stricter penalties against motorists who hit bicyclists and drive away.

The calls came at a Tuesday night meeting of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee at the Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall.

“LAPD must develop a comprehensive cradle-to-the-grave policy on hit-and-run crimes,” said bike activist Alex Thompson, who writes a blog - westsidebikeside.com, a self-described "hyper-opinionated bike" blog in L.A. “I support declaring hit-and-run crimes a felony.”

 

While acknowledging an urgent need for measures to make city streets safer for bikers, LAPD Cmdr. David Doan pointed out that budget cuts within the LAPD had left him with few resources to effectively enforce and investigate difficult-to-solve hit-and-runs, Doan said.

LAPD Sgt. David Krumer said there were 10 fatal bike-related injuries and 97 serious injuries requiring hospitalization in L.A. in 2008. Data for 2009 was not immediately available.

He said the LAPD is investigating the possibility of reporting traditionally non reportable accidents on a Web site. The LAPD does not record complaints for collisions and property damage, but the Web site will allow bikers to report incidents, which could prompt an LAPD investigation.

Doan said police were working with bike advocates to put together a list of the top 10 locations in the city where the most hit-and-runs occur. He said police would receive more training on how to handle such collisions. He also said police would help spread awareness among the biking community about their rights.

“We want to deal with hate, but we need specific information to be able to target these issues,” said Doan, in response to complaints about the insensitivity of LAPD officers and inadequate follow ups on accident reports filed by bikers.

Cyclists questioned the differences between felony, misdemeanor and assault hit-and-run cases. Doan explained that the differences have to with whether there was intent.

Biker Thomas Kies suggested putting prominent signs encouraging drivers to share roads with bikers.

Brad House, a biker and representative of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents District 15, which stretches from Watts to San Pedro, suggested the LAPD take a look at maps of bike routes in the city, enforce speed limits in those areas, and use the revenue collected to support bike safety.

Anurisha Smolarski from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition said the meeting was a positive step towards building a “collaborative process between bikers and the LAPD.”

“We expect to see public service announcements spreading awareness in the near future, and in the long term, we expect to see policy changes,” she said.

LAPD officials said they’d return in two months to another Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee and report about bike safety.