Friday, July 18, 2008

CityWatchLA - Mandeville Simmers

CityWatch, July 2008

Cyclists Rights
By Stephen Box

On July 4th, two cyclists riding down Mandeville Canyon Road encountered an angry motorist who proceeded to cut them off, slamming on his brakes and causing one cyclist to careen through the air crashing to the road in front of the car while the other cyclist crashed into the car putting his head through the back window.

The cyclists ended up in the hospital, the motorist ended up facing multiple felony charges , and the resulting media storm revealed significant animosity and disagreement in the community over cyclists and their use of the road.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl jumped into the fray with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in hand saying “Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.” He scheduled a Town Hall to address the issue, spoke eloquently at the Transportation Committee of cyclists’ rights and then at week’s end, he introduced the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights to City Council.

Through it all, an online debate was roiling and had grown in intensity to the point of absurdity. LAist shut down its comment section while the LATimes racked up over 700 comments, some of the hateful threats.

The LAWheelmen received a message from "Nina" saying "HOORAY FOR THE DOCTOR. It's about time you lawless bunch of crayolas get what you deserve! There are several of us current and former La Habra Heights residents ready, willing and able to testify on behalf of the doctor."

Over at the LATimes "Buckshotty" wrote "If you seen my rocket ripping up the canyon you better gtf out the way or we'll be coloring all of your spandex red with biological dye, feel me?"

On Saturday, a press release went out indicating that the Town Hall meeting was cancelled citing concerns from officials with homeowner associations and the bicycling clubs that train on Mandeville Canyon that “the tenor of media coverage and of blog posts would make a Monday public meeting counter-productive."

The Town Hall meeting was replaced with a Task Force which convened its first meeting with approximately 30 people in attendance including representatives from LADOT's Bikeways Department, LAPD, a rep from the City Prosecutor's Office, a Public Works Commissioner, a criminal psychologist, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee, Velo Club La Grange, the South Bay Wheelmen, Team Helens and Councilman Rosendahl and staff.

Within hours of the conclusion of the Task Force meeting, notes from the meeting had been blogged by the Bicycle Advisory Committee's representative and a significant online dialogue took place questioning the efficacy of the Task Force and the results of the meeting.

Critics claim the Task Force failed to establish that cyclists have the right to take the lane, that cyclists are not prohibited from riding two abreast and that double solid yellow stripes on the road means no passing.

At MidnightRidazz , Nathan Snider commented "How can it be that, in a meeting spurred on by a driver assaulting two cyclists, not a single one of the cyclists' recommendations relate to driver behavior?"

"Kyber" added "Wow. That dialog (sic) between residents and cyclists went really well. Talk about blaming the victim?"

Over at StreetsBlog Jeffrey W. Baker wrote "I'm not sure I understand what happened here. Some guy attacked and severely injured two bicyclists, and the proposed solutions are bicyclist education and repaving the road? Non sequitur."

Those more diplomatically inclined argue that it makes sense to bring cyclists and homeowners together and to share in the responsibility for addressing the conflict while those with good memories point out that the Mandevillians have a long history of "tension" and that Rosendahl is the third Councilmember to form a task force to address conflict in the Mandeville Canyon.

The upside of this three week long journey is that the community is talking and the world is watching. From the LATimes to the UK Telegraph, the Bike Writers Collective has been recognized for the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Councilman Rosendahl has championed the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and, in spite of all the criticism, he has proven steadfast in working toward a solution.

As the debate over the road rage incident, the cancelled Town Hall and the Task Force simmers down, the same cyclists who initially drove the "road rage" story have met with Councilman Rosendahl's staff and plans are now being made for the Town Hall meeting.

Through it all, we are reminded that our streets are the new public space and our ability to share that space is one of our greatest opportunities for revitalizing and redefining our communities.

"See you on the Streets!"

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