Bicyclist’s Anti-Harassment Ordinance Clears T-Committee – Next Stop: City Council

Yesterday at 2:15 PM, the City Council’s Transportation  Committee met to discuss, among other things, a possible Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance.  The draft of the ordinance, released last month to great fanfare, was the result of a motion introduced by Council Member Bill Rosendahl.  The hearing yesterday at the Transportation Committee was the first hurdle on the draft ordinance’s path to becoming law.  It was fitting, then, that the selfsame Council Member Bill Rosendahl sat today as Chair of the Transportation Committee to hear the ordinance which he had introduced.

One step remains for the ordinance to become law

With a few adjustments, the draft ordinance cleared Transportation Committee and is now on it’s way to being agendized for the full City Council.  You can check out the play-by-play at the twitter hashtag #TComm. If adopted by City Council, the ordinance becomes law.

A Quick Rundown of the Ordinance

To start the agenda item, Council Member Rosendahl read aloud the provisions of the ordinance.  For those who don’t feel like getting the particulars on the ordinance from our previous post, the ordinance allows you to bring 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 reconfirms bicyclists’ right to the road, but also acknowledges that bicyclists are 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.  In fact, the ordinance will be the first of its kind in the nation.

T-Committee 3/9/11

Council Members Bill Rosendahl & Paul Koretz at Transportation Committee

Hearing & Public Comments

First, staff from the City Attorney’s office emphasized the importance of precise language in the ordinance, especially around defining the type of harassment that takes place and clarification of the damages that can be awarded.

Next, the sitting committee members, CMs Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz, gave their comments before public comment began.  CM Rosendahl touted the advantages of the ordinance, noting that a police report wouldn’t be necessary (nor precluded) for a bicyclist to take a harassing driver to civil court.  He also praised the fact that awarded damages will include attorney’s fees, which will make it easier for bicyclists to retain representation even when little property damage or injury has occurred (simple harassment will finally be enough).  CM Koretz asked staff to clarify language surrounding the ordinance and expressed his excitement to see it become law.

Next came public comment from three members of the bike community that have been keeping very close tabs to the anti-harassment ordinance.

  • Ross Hirsch spoke first.  As the attorney who has represented Ed Magos and other bicyclists in hit-and-run cases, Ross has a lot of expertise when it comes to bicycling law.  He urged the committee to strengthen the language surrounding the possible damages, making them mandatory in order to have no ambiguity in how the law is interpreted.  He also wanted an explicit reference that the ordinance would not preclude criminal charges in cases where applicable.
  • Jeff Jacobberger, a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, urged the committee to include stronger language in the ordinance.  Jeff envisioned a situation where a driver could claim that they were not harassing a bicyclist, but instead “alerting” or “warning” the bicyclist that they should be on the sidewalk.
  • Jay Slater, the newly elected BAC Chair, urged clearer guidelines for interpreting the law and worried about enforcement problems once the ordinance is adopted.  He also urged that the ordinance become a mandatory part of LAPD training.

Not allowed for much longer

Adjustments and Passage

After public comment ended, committee members said that they wanted the language surrounding damages cleared up and that they also wanted language specifically defining “forcing a bicyclist off the road for any reason other than public safety” as a form of harassment under the ordinance.  City staff said that they would be able to satisfy both requests before the ordinance came to City Council, which meant that the ordinance would not need to come back to Transportation Committee for approval.  With that said, the committee took a vote on the anti-harassment ordinance and unanimously passed it.

When the anti-harassment ordinance gets put on the City Council agenda, LADOT Bike Blog will let you know.  It’s important for bicyclists to come out to show their support for this visionary protection for bicyclists.  As Council Member Rosendahl said during the committee hearing: “We’re going to be breaking new ground in the nation. We’ll be providing guidance to the rest of the country.”

0 replies
  1. Alek F
    Alek F says:

    This is a good move.
    But also,
    how about – enforcing Bicycle laws as well?
    We can’t always be on the side of cyclists just because we’re a bicycle advocacy group!
    Let’s be objective, fair to everybody,
    and ensure bicyclists obey laws themselves!
    There are too many cyclists who don’t obey laws, disregarding their (and others’) safety.
    Cyclists are also a part of the road, including rules & regulations, and should obey them as well.
    Cyclists should stop running red lights, stop signs, and riding on sidewalks like maniacs!

    Reply
    • ladotbikeblog
      ladotbikeblog says:

      Alex,

      All of those things may be true, but the purpose of this ordinance is to assist bicyclists in getting redress for actions taken against them that are already illegal. Because the ordinance is for civil suits, enforcement falls on the shoulders of the individual bicyclist to file in civil court. It’s a different ballgame than enforcement of the criminal code or the California Vehicle Code. Additionally, it’s not illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles.

      Reply
  2. kathleen
    kathleen says:

    I have to agree with Alex. If we’re going to hold drivers to a certain standard, bikes should also be held to that standard. I’m thankful for this ordinance; I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had someone honk at me for no reason, or yell at me to get off the street, or had things thrown at me when I’m biking. But at the same time, I don’t disobey the law when I’m on my bike: I don’t ride on the sidewalk and yell at people to get out of my way, I don’t ride through red lights and hold up traffic and I don’t ride the wrong way on one-way streets.

    Reply
  3. Rick Risemberg
    Rick Risemberg says:

    Basically, most cyclists act as boorishly as most drivers; however, cyclists being a minority at present, they are seen as “fair game.”

    Running red lights is stupid and rude as well as illegal; of course motorists do it too–I see it every day. (One memorable day, a few weeks ago on La Brea, three in a row blew a red!)

    Groups of cyclists sprawling over two lanes are as self-centered and loutish as the SUV drivers they mock–but of course drivers hog the whole road every day, leaving little room for cyclists who are overpaying for the privilege of using a smidgen of asphalt–I see it every day. (See http://orange20bikes.com/2011/01/the-gas-tax-fallacy/ )

    As for stop signs–I kept informal tabs for a month once of how many drivers I saw stop at stop signs–at the end of the month I had seen all of ONE driver come to a full stop. Drivers roll stops signs routinely–I see it every day. (I suggest four-way yield signs as a way to get “Idaho stops” in place here–for everyone–without changing the law.)

    The difference is, that drivers acting as boorishly as the cyclists they resent murder 40,000 people a year–including each other. Cyclists doing so harm very few people, and those mostly themselves.

    Still, way too many cyclists are as babyish on the roads as drivers. The problem is universal, and NOT a reason to rag on cyclists. The hollow hypocrisy of drivers’ rants is what’s so infuriating about them. They do have a point–but they don’t dare concede that it applies to their own behavior even more than to cyclists’.

    Reply
  4. bikerdude
    bikerdude says:

    Excellent, this is good to see for the City of Los Angeles bicyclists.

    Now, let’s see if the state will move forward with newly introduced 3 foot bill. Write your local state rep and ask for their support and passage. Don’t let this opportunity pass us by.

    The State of California needs to do more to protect bicyclists on the streets by change the laws on the books. The first one should be all cars, buses and trucks must give bicyclists 3 feet when passing. It a simple rule that even the cops, judges, and lawyer can understand. They get out the ruler and if it less then 3 feet they are guilty. Second law, if you hit someone with negligence on a bicycle you will be arrested and do jail time. Right now the law is not specific to bicyclists and the sentences for hitting a bicyclist are up to the judge’s discretion.

    By lobbying to change the laws in California this will give the bicyclist more protection and specific rights.
    The last time the 3 feet law want to the State for consideration the truck and bus lobby’s killed it. It didn’t even make it out of transportation committee in Sacramento to go to the State Assembly for a vote.

    Want to make changes to the laws, work on the bus, truck lobbyists and the cops. Then it might make it out of committee and it might pass. If the bicycle lobby gets as much power and money as the truckers and buses we can make some head way.

    I have seen a lot of positive changes that bicyclist are being recognized as legitimate users of the road, we just have to keep moving the agenda forward in a positive way.

    Reply
  5. Herbie Huff
    Herbie Huff says:

    Everybody breaks laws.

    It isn’t really a question of whether you’re driving, biking, or walking – its the same humans breaking laws because they used their judgment and decided they could.

    Drivers’ judgment leads them to flaunt the speed limit, roll through stop signs, and weave through traffic without signaling.

    Bikers’ judgment leads them to roll through stop signs, hop up on the sidewalk, and ride on the left side of the road.

    Pedestrians’ judgment leads them to play frogger with cars, enter the crosswalk when the light is turning, and spill out onto the street in crowds.

    We’re all reacting to the infrastructure in front of us and societal norms, and for different modes it comes out in different ways.

    The only reason bikers get the hard end of the hammer when they break laws is out-of-group psychological bias. Most people are drivers, and they see what bikers do and don’t empathize with how similar it is to the law-breaking they do. They assume that while drivers are a diverse group, bikers are all the same.

    Learn more about out-of-group psychological bias here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-group_homogeneity_bias
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingroup_bias

    Reply
  6. papabru
    papabru says:

    Always feel vulnerable on my bike and frustrated when driving my car. I see drivers with cells, Starbucks, texting, pocket dogs in laps rolling through stops.
    I see riders blow through stops, including red lights and refusing to “ride to the right.”
    While cycling in Balboa Park I was tailgated, honked at, and loudly told to “get the f-on the bike path where you belong.”
    A patrol officer told me that while on my bike I am a vehicle subject to all vehicle laws. That makes sense to me. How many drivers or riders get the concept?

    Reply
  7. Alice Strong
    Alice Strong says:

    “The difference is, that drivers acting as boorishly as the cyclists they resent murder 40,000 people a year–including each other. Cyclists doing so harm very few people, and those mostly themselves.”

    That just about sums it up.

    While I don’t like to see cyclists breaking laws anymore than I like to see car drivers. the lion’s share of the responsibility should fall the car drivers shoulders, since the price for their lawlessness is so much higher for all of us.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] Anti-Harassment Ordinance Clears T-Comm, on Way to Full Council (LADOT Bike Blog) […]

  3. […] Newton offers a full recount of the meeting on Streetsblog, and LADOT Bike Blog provides an in-depth report on the anti-harassment ordinance. And you catch up on the meeting by following the Twitter […]

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