Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance Ready for City Council

We here at the LADOT Bike Blog just heard from our sources in City Hall that the precedent-setting Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance will go before the full City Council sometime in the next two weeks.  Many bicyclists can relate harrowing stories of an out-of-control driver assaulting them simply for being on the road, and the ordinance scheduled to come before City Council aims to give bicyclists a tool to fight back against the daily harassment to which many have been subjected.  With the coming vote at the California State Legislature for the “Give Me 3” legislation, July is shaping up as a huge month for LA bicyclists.

Bicyclists from all over Los Angeles, all over Southern California, and all over the country should keep their eyes on this groundbreaking ordinance and support the City’s decision to provide bicyclists with tools to protect themselves on the road.

Turn out support this month to help LA join the vanguard of bicyclists' rights

This landmark piece of legislation wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for CD 11 Council Member Bill Rosendahl.  It was CM Rosendahl who introduced the council motion directing the City Attorney to craft the anti-harassment legislation, and it was CM Rosendahl who helped shepherd the legislation through the Transportation Committee on its way to full City Council.

Back when the City Attorney released their first draft of the Anti-Harassment Ordinance on February 17th, the topic spread through the bicycle communities of cities all over the country like wildfire.  Los Angeles has the opportunity to blaze the trail in protecting bicyclists’ rights, assuring bicyclists’ rightful place on the road, and giving bicyclists’ the tools they need to protect themselves on the streets of Los Angeles.  But we can’t do it without the support of the LA bicycle community, which is why we want to get the word out.

Not for long?

Ordinance Rundown

While there are other bicyclist anti-harassment ordinances on the books around the country, most of them are extremely difficult to prosecute because of the high burden of proof for criminal cases.  Los Angeles is breaking new ground for bicyclists’ right by making bicyclist harassment a civil offense, which requires a much lower burden of proof to get a favorable ruling because it does not entail any jail time.

For those who don’t feel like getting the particulars from our previous post, the ordinance allows a bicyclist to bring a civil suit against a driver who engages in any of the following:

  1. Assaulting, or attempting to assault, a bicyclist;
  2. Threatening to physically injure a bicyclist;
  3. Injuring, or attempting to injure, a bicyclist (this can include verbal and non-verbal threats); and
  4. Intentionally distracting a bicyclist with the intent of causing injury

Additionally, the ordinance awards a number of damages in order to make it more likely that an attorney will be willing to take your case.  The possible damages are:

  1. Triple the dollar amount of any resulting damages or $1,000, whichever is larger;
  2. The attorney’s fees of the bicyclist assaulted/harassed; and
  3. Any additional punitive damages awarded by a judge or jury

Our favorite part of the ordinance is that it not only re-confirms bicyclists’ right to the road, but also acknowledges that bicyclists get harassed on the streets of Los Angeles simply for being bicyclists.  That kind of stark honesty about the conditions bicyclists regularly face is rarely seen or acknowledged.

Language Cleared Up

From our notes on the hearing the Anti-Harassment Ordinance got before the Transportation Committee, it was clear that language in the ordinance still had too much ambiguity to be truly effective.  Over the last few months, the City Attorney’s Office has been in close contact with attorney (and bicyclist) Ross Hirsch and BAC member Jeff Jacobberger, crafting and refining the language in the ordinance to remove the possibility that a judge might interpret the ordinance differently than as written.  Our thanks goes out to Ross, Jeff, and the good people in the City Attorney’s Office for crafting a precedent-setting ordinance which could serve as a model for cities all across the country.

In particular, the language surrounding the minimum damages awarded was cleared up and additional language was added to hedge against a motorist claiming ignorance of current rules for sharing the road.  In this way, the bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance represents not only a precedent-setting step for bicyclists’ rights, but also a breakthrough, amongst a series of breakthroughs, in communication and cooperation between the City and the LA bicycle community.

Get Ready for City Council

LADOT Bike Blog will have more to say in the coming weeks on the bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance before the item gets to council.  When the ordinance becomes an official agenda item, we’ll let you know.  In the meantime: mark  your calendars, tell your friends, and let your council member know you support improving rights and conditions for bicyclists.

0 replies
  1. rex
    rex says:

    “Intentionally distracting a bicyclist with the intent of causing injury” is vague and a lawyer’s dream. If I wanted to yell at a cyclist for not obeying the rules of the road I would be liable. Unreasonable. This legislation is not needed.

    Reply
  2. Crystal Lake
    Crystal Lake says:

    The wording needs a great deal of clean-up. Harassment of bicycle riders is common and rampant, a great many car drivers feel that the road belongs to them and that bicycle riders have no right to be on the road. Also a great many Republican-minded car drivers express jealousy and hatred at bicycle riders and often get irate and violent when the riders ignore their honking, shouting, cussing, and throwing of things out their windows at bike riders.

    However the wording of the ordinance is much to vague to be allowed. Many, many car drivers *do* intentionally disrupt bike riders for malicious intent however there is most often no harm, it’s just the mindset of fat, slow, stupid right wing extremists who wish they were in better physical shape venting their frustration at their own inadequacies.

    Reply
  3. David
    David says:

    FYI Crystal… your assertions would have much more credibility if you would leave the partisan political crap out of them. I really don’t think someone’s political leanings have any bearing on how big of an A-hole they are when they get behind the wheel of their automobile.

    Reply
  4. rex
    rex says:

    Yes, I agree David. I don’t contend that there is no abuse of cyclists by motorists. I merely have a problem with a law that is vague or too broad. I’ve ridden thousands of miles in my younger years and live on the 4SBB.

    I’ll add this. There is a huge hypocrisy and credibility issue on the part of cyclists’ wanting motorists to treat them with respect and to view them as legitimate users of the road when a large percentage of cyclists avoid stopping at red lights or stop signs. If large portions of cyclists refuse to follow the basic laws of the CA vehicle code then they lose respect in the eyes of many motorists.

    Reply
  5. rex
    rex says:

    What I have observed over the decades is that a large percentage, not small, of cyclists run red lights and stop signs. Stopping at these points is the most basic rule of the road and therefore is viewed as a violation of one of the fundamental rules of the road. Translation in the eyes of some motorists: cyclists are cheaters and therefore don’t deserve respect.

    I have no ill will towards cyclists as I already mentioned above that I have logged several thousands of miles on a bike in my day. I am irritated when cyclists demand respect on the street when none is deserved by this flagrant behavior. There is no moral justification when cyclists demand that motorists play by the rules of the road when cyclists violate such a principal law as stopping at red lights and stopsigns.

    Reply
    • George
      George says:

      rex: What I have observed over the decades is that a large percentage, not small, of drivers regularly break the speed limit. Following the speed limit is the most basic rule of the road and therefore is viewed as a violation of one of the fundamental rules of the road. Translation in the eyes of some bicyclists: drivers are cheaters and therefore don’t deserve respect.

      I have no ill will towards drivers as I already mentioned above that I have logged tens of thousands of miles in a car in my day. I am irritated when drivers feel entitled to all the road space on the street when they regularly break laws and endanger pedestrians, bicyclists, and themselves. There is no moral justification when drivers demand that bicyclists play by the rules of the road when driver violate such a principal law as following the speed limit.

      Reply
  6. Michael
    Michael says:

    Rex,
    Until I see a motorist killed or injured by a cyclist your sentiments are insensitive and unfounded. Please think about this.

    Reply
  7. rex
    rex says:

    Michael, general statements without reasoning or emotional expressions are no counter argument. If you can’t refute my points, don’t try with one liners meant to invoke an emotional response yet don’t address the point of debate.

    Reply
  8. Craig
    Craig says:

    Kudos Rex.

    Bicyclists eagerly claim the same right to the road afforded vehicles. (the California Vehicle Code.)

    Albeit, there are also provisions in the Vehicle Code, and Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), regarding interfering with the normal flow of traffic, signaling, stopping for red lights, impeding traffic, riding abreast, riding to the right, etc. that apply to bicycles. Sadly these are often ignored, and a root cause of accidents and injury.

    That aside, there is also a common sense factor. You also have the right to swim in shark infested waters. Bicyclists need to take a good look at their actions and decision making process.

    Regardless of the law, Personally, I don’t think it’s a real wise idea to ride a bike thinking a legal umbrella is going to eliminate injury and death.

    Reply
  9. rex
    rex says:

    Yesterday, driving west on 6th St from Downtown, a cyclist disregarded signal stops, and dangerously weaved in between the front and rear of cars. This kind of behavior annoys me for the reasons I stated above.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] JetBlue offered $4 flights between Burbank and Long Beach that sold out in a matter of hours. This sparked a Twitter challenge from elite bicycle racing group Wolfpack Hustle. Who would win in a race from North Hollywood to Long Beach–someone riding the plane out of Burbank, someone exclusively taking public transportation or the elite cyclists taking the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path? The cyclists, and the person riding the Metro Red Line to the Metro Blue Line, beat Jet Blue to Long Beach. But Jet Blue, Wolfpack Hustle, the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and countless other cyclist advocacy groups managed to score quite a bit of local press coverage, and coverage on Twitter, less than a week before an anti-cyclist harassment ordinance goes before the Los Angeles City Council. […]

  2. […] It’s been almost two years since Councilman Bill Rosendahl first proposed an ordinance to better protect cyclists as vulnerable users of the roadway from harassment from empowered and obnoxious drivers, but now his proposed ordinance will finally get it’s final hearing at City Hall.  The full City Council is expected to hear the ordinance at next Wednesday’s meeting at 10:00 A.M.  The idea was first floated publicly in 2009 but had been discussed behind the scenes for months beforehand.  If passed, the law would be the first of its kind anywhere in America, a fact not lost on safe cycling advocates from around the country.  You can read the ordinance at the LADOT Bike Blog. […]

  3. […] Bike Blog has announced that the city’s long-awaited Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance is finally ready for final approval, and should come before the full council sometime in the next two […]

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