By Stephen Box
Declaring “The culture of the car ends now!” City Councilman Bill Rosendahl invoked the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights (LINK) and took a giant leap at pursuing a city ordinance that would prohibit the harassment of cyclists. He drew applause from council chambers as he articulated several examples of the behavior that he wants to forbid on the streets of Los Angeles.
2. Threatening any person riding a bicycle verbally or by use of his/her vehicle for the purpose of injuring, frightening or disturbing the person riding the bicycle;
3. Knowingly placing his/her vehicle within 3’ of a bicyclist while passing or following;
4. Making physical contact with a bicyclist from a moving vehicle or the roadway either by physical person or use of an implement;
5. Knowingly placing a person riding a bicycle in concern of immediate physical injury;
6. Knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of physical injury or death to the person riding a bicycle.
As cyclists offered testimony of their experience riding the streets of Los Angeles, they were echoed in their concerns by members of the City Council who agreed that the City needs to do more to support the cycling community.
Councilman Ed Reyes recounted his experience as a child getting hit by a motorist as he rode his bike.
Councilman Rosendahl reminded the council of the Mandeville Canyon Road-Rage incident that brought the issue of harassment of cyclists to the forefront.
Councilman Paul Koretz stood in support and declared “We need to send a clear message.”
Rosendahl brought it home saying “We’re going to give cyclists the support they should have been getting.”
It seems simple, after all, who can stand in favor of harassment of any kind, but the devil is in the details.
The proposed “anti-harassment” motion, which simply directs the generation of reports on the development of an ordinance has made it through the Transportation Committee but hit a speed hump at the Public Safety Committee which recommended further study. The City Council voted to essentially direct the City Attorney and the LADOT to continue with the generation of reports.
As cyclists recounted their experiences turning to the LAPD for assistance when they experienced road-rage, aggression from motorists, threats, assaults and even hit-and-run collisions, Rosendahl responded by saying “The LAPD hasn’t been part of the solution, but sometimes has been part of the problem.” The LAPD had no response, they weren’t there. Somehow the LAPD and the District Attorney were left out of the process, leaving the LADOT as the lead and the City Attorney deferring in the development of an anti-harassment ordinance that requires enforcement and prosecution support. Some might even suggest that it requires support from Sacramento.
The real value of this ordinance lies not in its chances of becoming law but in the fact that the harassment of cyclists is being discussed, prompting some to murmur “This is how it starts!”
Complementing the City Council’s slow but steady pursuit of a more bikeable Los Angeles was the City’s ongoing study of Bike Sharing, an endeavor that prompted Council President Eric Garcetti to refer to great bikeable cities such as East Hollywood, Paris and Long Beach. (Not often that those three are mentioned in the same breath!)
The bike sharing concept is an old one even in Los Angeles where college students can “rent” a bike for the quarter, studio employees can “share” a bike while on the lot, tourists can “borrow” a bike from some hotels, and bikes “for hire” exist in several locations.
None of these are as visible as the programs in Paris or Munich or Leon but perhaps that’s the real opportunity for the City of LA, to support those small operators who are already in the bike share business with promotion and marketing support.
Capping off the “anything but the budget” day at City Hall was the Transportation Committee’s showdown over the speed limit increases in the Valley. On the agenda were proposals to raise the speed limit on Riverside Drive (up to 45 mph) and Chandler Avenue (up to 50 mph) in an effort to certify the streets for radar/laser speed limit violation enforcement.
Cyclists were joined by members of the community, all braced with arguments against the City of LA’s continued pursuit of increased speed limits as a tool for enforcement, but the debate faded at the request of Councilman Krekorian who wanted to pursue other options, such as his AB 766 Safe Streets bill which he introduced last year when he served as the Assistant Majority Leader in the State Assembly.
The bill did not make it to the finish line but the message was clear, the 50 year old speed trap law needed to be revised so that local authorities can set speed limits with greater sensitivity to the local community. Not all streets should be raceways, not all streets should be fast cut-throughs, not all streets should be hospitable for speeding motorists.
Councilmembers Krekorian and Koretz both asked the hard questions and seem to understand that there are methods for slowing traffic other than simply raising the speed limits and then relying on traffic officers with radar/laser enforcement.
Now is the time to pursue traffic calming methods, many of which represent funding opportunities such as Safe Routes to School, Highway Safety Improvement Program funding and Office of Traffic Safety grants.
Road diets, bulb-outs, speed tables, pedestrian enhancements and other innovations are not just tools for safety, they are also opportunities to put people to work, to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and to bring funding into the city coffers.
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cycling advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net) -cw