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L.A. plans crackdown on harassment of bicyclists. Are new laws necessary? [Updated]

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The L.A. City Council is moving to get tough on harassment of bicyclists.

TalkbackThe council this week asked its attorneys to draw up an ordinance that would make it a civil violation to harass or assault bicyclists. The proposed law, which the council could consider in two months, would make it easier for  cyclists to sue those who allegedly harass them and recover a cash settlement. [Updated: In response to readers who asked for more information on the proposal, here are city documents on the issue.]

The bike rights campaign has been galvanized by the case of an L.A. doctor convicted a few weeks ago of purposely hitting bikers in Brentwood.

More people are turning to two wheels for commuting and recreation. Cyclists are asserting their rights as never before. In Los Angeles, advocates are pushing for more bike lanes and other road improvements, a cyclists' bill of rights and more protection from police.

Updated at 12:30: By noon this post had received more than 100 comments. Here is a sample, along with some social media reaction:

 

Is the proposed law a good idea? Share your views below.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (146)

I agree with Victor Ray. In addition, more laws are not needed, but more traffic signs for bicyclists and motorists are needed to remind drivers that bikers are welcome and to be mindful of the routes that bicyclists take. Bike lanes and/or bike indicators on pavement would also help better the relationship between bicyclists and motorists.

I ride almost every day and there are so many people, usually young men in pickup trucks or some fool who thinks it is cool whip right around you. I have had only one or two incidences where I thought someone was going to hit me. The laws really need to be strengthed to protect bick riders. The penalty should be: Go to jail.

I bike a lot and can attest to the harassment that happens all the time. Most common, car or truck will get right next to you and passenger will scream at me as loud as he(she) can. I am somehow used to it, but I can imagine that some people can get startled and fall. Only one time I manage to catch up with the girls in the truck at red light and scream back into the truck.

There's an obvious need to protect bicyclists legally since regardless of whether I or anyone else obey all traffic laws there are clearly people - as evidenced by many of these comments - who have ill will towards all bicyclists and view it as an illegitimate means of transportation. The fact is that people should have the right to use a bike as the healthy, environmentally friendly, and economically prudent form of transportation that it is. I would challenge all of us to think about transportation as moving people not cars and accept walking, biking, and riding mass transit as equal in our transportation system.

The movement for this law however does obscure one key fact - our region is built in a way that privileges the car as the only means of transportation. Other cities and countries have invested in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that makes riding a bike in particular an enjoyable means of transportation that seamlessly blends into and coexists with infrastructure meant to move cars.

Let's make a commitment to invest in transforming our infrastructure in a way that embraces different ways to get around. It's all about investing in options and in doing so we can have the option to opt out of sitting in traffic for safe, swift, and active two-wheeled bicycle. This will benefit people in cars who will have one less car in front of them and benefit those of us who would like to be able to safely get around by other methods.

I’m in MA, and have seen the bicyclists, and it is definitely an aggressive sport. They ride in teams and know how to surround and block opposing riders. Pretty stupid when a collision means a tangled group hitting the pavement. Racers of any kind should be on tracks, not public ways. I’m not defending slamming on your brakes in order to hurt somebody, but these aren’t commuter bikes, they are racing bikes. If they need to race, then cities should block off sections of boulevards on Sundays. We also should either make the streets wider or the vehicles smaller so there’s room for everybody. And take NASCAR off TV; people have come to think it’s appropriate to race to work on the highways.

From my experience, cyclists want to have the privileges of a motor vehicle and the protections of a pedestrian. That will never work.

If you want to share the road, then start obeying the rules of the road. I can't believe someone would try to justify blowing through a stop sign. Hell, even as a pedestrian, I stop and look both ways before crossing.

I have read the prior comment posted and do agree to both sides of the argument presented. The protest ride aka LACM is a ride that I personally have done, but the whole reason why people get so agitated about this ride is because of all the teenagers (hipsters) who come out and ride "fixies." Granted that not every teenager is mature, has common sense, and lack of respect for the rules of the road. With that said I do not want to take away anything from those teenagers who are the complete opposite of the characteristics I have mentioned above.
In response to the comment of the photo taken of the guy who is ridding a bike that it was said to cost $2,000, not every bike that is on the road cost that much. There are different price ranges on quality road bikes. So before saying that you might have wanted to check out the different companies that make road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrid/commuter bikes. So, it is not fair to single out road bike bicyclists whom most drivers see on the road.
Now onto the car and bicycle relationship. There are drivers who do not respect that bicyclist have the same right of way on the road as drivers. I have ridden my bicycle in the same direction as traffic as it is really annoying when cars get right next to me and will speed up to go around me and cut me off when later they have to stop for a light, which is dumb because drivers waste more gas when speeding up trying to beat the light and when they fail to beat the light bicyclist have to stop abruptly. The street conditions in certain parts of Los Angeles are horrible. There are cracks, bumps, holes, ditches, loose dirt, and debris. With the increase of bicycles on the road there has be laws and or legislation in the works to help protect bicyclists. In response to having people registering bicycles or attaining licenses it would be a difficult feat to do because there are thousands and thousands of bicycles out there and people not having the financial resources to pay for exams to get a the proposed idea of getting a license for ridding a bicycle in Los Angeles. Since I am a tax payer I would like to know where my money goes because isn't the taxes we pay have to go to civil road projects that would be much appreciated with the creation of more bike paths.

A new law isn't going to do anything. What we need is more striped bike lanes so cars and bikes don't have to fight for the same space on the roads.

Drivers need more education on how to behave around cyclists. I ride a bike, my friends all drive...I am their only voice of education. Most drivers seem to panic around cyclists because they don't know what to do and it's never mentioned when taking your driving test. On the other hand, it's always really strange to me when a driver stopped behind me at a red light starts honking because he wants to turn right. I mean...if I were in a car waiting for the green light would he do the same thing? If you pass a car that's moving slowly, do you usually honk and pass within inches of their side view mirror? I've seen drivers harass cyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers...it's like people don't realize they are wielding a two ton death machine and the total lack of regard for human life is just demoralizing. We wouldn't have to make new laws if people were just civil toward each other...and it seems that some drivers have a particular lack of civility toward cyclists. Most drivers are chill, courteous, and cool...when life is good, you don't need to take out your insecurities on other people. The people who drive like assholes are the people who behave like assholes even in line at Starbucks...I feel bad for the people who harass me on the road...they feel so powerless in their lives that they take it out on someone vulnerable. It justs sucks that too many times that harassment ends in injury...it's not just someone cutting in line at Starbucks, it's someone playing with your life. These drivers aren't just harassing cyclists...they're bullying everyone else in their lives. It's just crazy to me when I'm harassed on the road...I don't understand where that aggression comes from and I don't know what I've done to warrant such mistreatment. Even if other cyclists break the laws (Laws, which, in my opinion, are not written with cyclists or pedestrians in mind), that doesn't give anyone license to hurt or harass someone else. It's indicative of a society that's lost its humanity. I know what it's like to hold onto hurt and to take it out on other people...I'm both a domestic violence victim and former perpetrator. It sucks to be so hurt and angry...and when you take it out on the rest of the world, it only hurts yourself.

no no no. we don't need to be more punitive. what we need is better driver/cyclist education-outreach. we need public service announcments onTV or in the paper that educate drivers/cyclists on valuable techniques to avoid accidents. For example- did you know that it is lawful for a cyclist to take up the entire right hand lane if necessary. Why would the do that? To avoid the inevitable parked car door opening up right into them (which causes serious injury) . See- We need education. In the mean time have respect for each other people. BTW: I'm a serious cyclist but critical mass is too combative now. It has made its point. Its time to share information with each other.

My only complaint about bike riders is that they make it so I have to move over to get by them, and it makes me have to go into the next lane, where there is usually another car. What am I supposed to do?

@jlee -- ...the annual economic impact of manufacturing, distribution, retail and other services for cycling in WI alone is 556 million dollars and it creates 3,420 jobs..
now lets multiply that by 49 states --
thats 27 billion 244 million dollars -- 167,580 jobs for us elementary school children ... plus there is at least one bike in every household in the US - making it the #1 rec sport ...
close your eyes some more ..

New laws? Maybe.
Better city planning to support and encourage alternative transportation? ABSOLUTELY.

Might as well light a can of gasoline on fire, posting this topic.

YES is my answer.

I am one of those bike riders who bike downtown and bike as a car and occasionally break a law that I wouldn't ever dream of doing in a car.

I think that the bikers that many of you complain about, bike the way they do because it sucks so much to be a biker in LA – it either self-selects for "cowboy" renegade biker types or regular people resorting to extreme measures to get from A to B. I understand why you might hate them, but that ain't what their trying to do.

Biking in the perfect bike city of Amsterdam is boring to someone used to the daily adrenaline fix of LA streets and its wonderful drivers. If we start improving bike facilities and safety (including laws!) then the extreme bicycling that enflames drivers will naturally subside.

Given that few laws give you any rights or do any benefit for bikers in LA it makes sense that they don't feel very beholden to traffic system that is inadequate for their safety. When I breaking laws I do it to escape from the dangerous situation that most roads present. Consider the fact, that until recently, a car could basically run a biker down and not suffer many consequences. Actually I feel pretty safe when I take lanes, but I know that many drivers don't understand that this is legal and it's really not the best solution for roads with single lanes. Occasionally one of these drivers threatens to kill me! Nice! We need a better system, including some laws.

Finally, if the city wants to stop bikers from breaking laws than they should start citing them – that would stop it fast! But don't do that until they offer some better alternatives and protection.

P.S. Please don't tell me that I don't have a right bike on roads. Roads are public right of ways and biking is a major part of our future.

How about something to protect drivers from bicyclists? Drivers will undoubtedly be liable for any wrick, even if the biker is at fault. They run lights and stop signs, take up lanes and act all kinds of stupid.

Bicyclists need to know the law too. They are, in fact, a moving vehicle. Ride in the direction of traffic, not against it. Ride on the pavement, not on the sidewalk. Wear bright colored preferably reflective clothing and have light reflectors on the front and back. Bikes should require registration which would do two things: require instruction & certification before attempting to operate in traffic; and discourage those willing to steal knowing that the bike can be tracked. I have had several incidents that have resulted in minor injury to myself and bike. Drivers of autos need to be more aware and not distracted especially by utilizing their electronic devices anytime while behind the wheel. Penalties for non compliance should be stiff and unforgiving.

I wanted to go back to cycling in our sheltered lttle neighborhood. No spandex, no attitude, staying toward the right of the right lane.

First day I got back on my bike, I got pop bottles thrown at me. The two cowards in the truck didn't have the guts to get out of their armor and face me.

Third day I got back on my bike, a driver came up behind me and knocked me down with his truck's right rear-view mirror. The leg wounds still haven't healed.

So tell me, you self-righteous me-first motorists, why you think this is lawful behaviour. What gives you the right to treat people - any people - like you have rights they don't? What gives you the right to inflict personal and property damage as if you're above the law?

And, yes, I will be back on my bike.

I have never seen a bicyclist stop at a stop sign. Never ever, not once. I've also seen bicyclists completely flipping out when asked politely to pull a bit closer to the right. They're the ones with the anger issue, not the drivers. So the law, if there is one, should have most severe punishment for bicyclists violating traffic rules.

i am a cyclist and a driver. ive been hit-and-run in my car and on my bike. it's sad to say that the police took it more seriously that had a broken headlight than when i was bleeding in the station with a broken helmet.

drivers think it's ok to sideswipe cyclists, to honk at them and to force them off the road. we need stronger laws because cyclists are fragile. and a concerning number of LA drivers just don't seem to care.

one of my friends is disabled for life because of a drunk driver who hit-and-run him. she got 90 days community service. sadly, dr. thompson is an exception to the rule. the system IS broken. that's why we need new laws.

---

for those of you who don't know, cyclists have every right to the road that a car does, and can often use the lane. see CVC 21200 and CVC 21202. ive attached a link.

As a general rule: SLOW VEHICLES, KEEP RIGHT

Bicycle riders, if you put your feet on the ground, you are a pedestrian. Get off your bike if you cross the street using cross walks or simply want to use sidewalks. Wait for the proper traffic signals. DONT CREATE your own set of rules while using the road.

If you put your feet on your pedals, CONSIDER YOURSELF A MOTORIST AND ACT LIKE ONE.

All drivers, blow your horns and raise your arms if these so called "bike riders" dont act like motorists while sharing the roads. Respect, Praise and Smile at them if they obey the traffic signs and laws.

Los Angeles have enough laws to protect everyone. Don't bother making one.

The mayor himself rides on the street and he himself gets harassed.

Good job LA, you harass the one guy who could probably do something.

So what constitutes harassment? Is that when I assert my right-of-way and it irritates a bicyclicst who is at that moment breaking the law?

I LOVE bikes, motorcycles and CARS. I can see all sides. SELFISH people are the problem! I almost got killed by an old lady crossing the costco parking lot (and I was WALKING). These idiots think they are SUPERMAN because they are protected by their gas pedal. We have an A$$hole problem in this city!

The conviction of Dr. Bikeslammer shows that current laws are enough to protect cyclists without creating new legislation.

This conviction was total B.S. The doctor DID NOT hit the bicyclists. They ran into the BACK of the doctor's car. The bicyclist that went thru the car's back window was going 40 mph at the time. Why was he going so fast? Because he was CHASING the doctor's car.

@ plaidjack - "The best thing a cyclist can do is take up the whole lane and obey the rules of the road."

What an ABSURD idea UNLESS:
- you can ride as fast as the posted speed limit so you don't impede traffic
- have turn signals, brake lights, and a headlight so we can see you clearly and know what you're doing
- have a license plate so when you do violate the rules of the road, people know who you are

OH WAIT - we have that already - it's called a MOTORCYCLE

 
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