By Rick Orlov Staff Writer
Posted: 01/27/2010 06:18:59 PM PST
Concerned that bicyclists have become targets of road rage, the Los Angeles City Council asked its staff Wednesday to determine if there are ways to better protect those who get around on two wheels.
Several bicyclists told the council of instances in which they were forced off the road or subjected to verbal and physical threats from motorists.
“There are anti-harassment laws protecting us in the workplace, but cyclists don’t have the same protections when they are on the road,” said Aurisha Smolarski, communications director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “Los Angeles has a chance to make sure we have the protections and the equal rights to use the roads.”
The council asked for a staffreport in 30 days on what laws could be toughened to protect bicyclists.
“We need to look at our own laws,” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “If we try to change state law, it will take too long. We need to send a message to motorists that we take it seriously and it’s not OK to do these types of things.”
Westside Councilman Bill Rosendahl concurred, saying he wants the city to develop an ordinance to protect bike riders and to enact a Bicyclist Bill of Rights.
“We should be a leader on this,” he said.
Cyclist Steven Box encouraged the council to include the Los Angeles Police Department in developing a plan. Several bicyclists had complained that LAPD officers do not understand the laws regarding bicyclists and are unsympathetic to their problems.
“To leave the LAPD out of the loop would be a serious misstep,” Box said.
The issue of road rage against bicyclists first gained attention in 2008, when a motorist deliberately braked in front of a group of bicyclists on Mandeville Canyon, forcing them to crash into his car and sustain serious injuries.
Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson, who owns a medical documentation company in Woodland Hills, was found guilty this month of assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to five years in prison.
The council also instructed the city Planning Department to pursue efforts to develop a bicycle-sharing program, similar to those in other cities. Under those programs, bicycles are made available for a small fee for riders to get to specific locations.
Areas being studied include the Figueroa Corridor between USC and L.A. Live and around other college campuses in the city.