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In a first, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck vows to better protect cyclists, train officers on biker rights

February 25, 2010 |  7:08 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a6a47ba6970c-800wi

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/07/09/bicycle.jpgLos Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck told a group of bicycle advocates that department-wide training  would be implemented to highlight the rights of bicyclists on the road and ensure that officers know how to deal with incidents involving bikes.

Beck's statements come amid growing complaints from cyclists that their rights are being infringed by drivers. It marks the first time top LAPD brass has publicly addressed the issue.

Beck said bike riders are “our most vulnerable commuters” and that the police department needed to do a better job protecting them.

“We hear you, we know we need to do a better job for you,” Beck said.

Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said the training would include a document that would be included in official department policy outlining officers' responsibilities in dealing with cyclists on the road. He said it was still unclear what would be in the document but said he hoped to meet with bicycle groups and have it ready within 30 days.

Paysinger also said that in less than 45 days the department would create a computer-based “e-learning” agenda that would be mandatory for all police officers to help them better recognize problems and issues involving cyclists.

Paysinger also pointed to other actions the LAPD had recently taken involving bicyclists – creating a working group with advocacy groups, appointing an official liaison within the police department and ensuring that all incidents involving bicyclists are handled by each bureau’s traffic division – as evidence the LAPD had begun to take bicycling safety more seriously. 

Beck’s statements came during a transportation committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. About 20 cycling advocates, including some from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, came to the meeting to address Beck after they completed a bike ride to call for justice for victims of hit-and-run accidents and to protest what it says is unfair treatment of cyclists.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, chairman of the transportation committee, said it was a “historic first” to have the chief of police listening directly to the experiences of cyclists and promising reform.

“Today is the beginning of a new day with the LAPD,” Rosendahl said. “My hope is that six months from now an officer will know the rights of cyclists as well as the rights of motorists.… I think the LAPD, like pretty much the citizenry in general, has had the car culture.”

The ride traced the route that local cyclist Ed Magos used to take on his daily commute to City Hall, where he works in the information technology department. Magos was injured Jan. 6 when he was struck from behind while cycling on 2nd Street near Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles, according to the coalition. The motorist stopped but then drove away. The motorist later went to an LAPD station but was  not charged with a crime. 

--Ari B. Bloomekatz

Photos: L.A. Times file

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