Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CityWatchLA - Cyclists’ Bill of Rights Heads to Full Council

CityWatch, Nov 25, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 95

LA Transit Watch
By Stephen Box

A standing room only crowd of cyclists attended last Friday's Transportation Committee, all in support of the proposed Cyclists' Bill of Rights (CBR) "as written - as ridden!" and of roadway improvements that would encourage and support cycling as a transportation solution.

Cyclists spoke passionately and eloquently of the need to affirm the rights of cyclists and to inform the community of these rights. The CBR was originally penned by the Bike Writers Collective and the motion to endorse it was initiated by Councilman Rosendahl. Council President Garcetti and Transpo Committee Chair Greuel signed on as co-presenters it was seconded by Councilmembers Reyes and Parks.

Greuel spoke of the need to support cyclists and Rosendahl referred to it as "a no-brainer!" Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels joined the Committee and spoke in favor of the need to work to create a safe environment for cyclists. Speakers from the community recounted their experiences on the streets of LA and of their hope that our City leadership would support cycling as a transportation and environmental solution by endorsing the Cyclists' Bill of Rights "as written - as ridden!"

The LA Department of Transportation acknowledged that rights articulated in the Cyclists' Bill of Rights already exist but then went on to express hesitation with a call for the "full support of our judicial system." The DOT rep went on to express concern with a call for "full access...on mass transit," referring to it as a Metro issue, apparently forgetting that the City of Los Angeles operates a significant mass transit fleet of its own. The LADOT's reluctance to comply with the Transpo Committee Chair's request that the CBR be included in the Bicycle Master Plan was a telling character revelation and spoke volumes of the uphill battle that cyclists fight.

The City Attorney waxed un-poetic on the "rather long laundry list of items" contained in the CBR and expressed a desire to review the document in order to analyze the legal implications for the City of Los Angeles. This reluctance matches the concerns expressed by the LADOT's outside consultants who opined that by supporting the rights of cyclists, such as "the right to travel safely and free of fear," the City might open itself up to liability and an expectation that it could not meet.

Councilman Rosendahl was on fire, bringing it back on track by reminding the Committee, the LADOT and the City Attorney that the motion had been made, that it came from the cycling community and that he didn't want it changed. Greuel, Rosendahl and Parks then acted to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and this turned out to be the highlight of the meeting.

As for low points, the LAPD sent Chief Paysinger to the meeting to defend the department’s enforcement of the City's antiquated requirement for bike licenses, one that results in $160 tickets for cyclists found riding without the $3 sticker on their bike.

Cyclists argued that current bike licensing law is simply an opportunity to harass cyclists by enforcing a law that is badly written, contradicts the state's Uniformity Code and is thereby invalid, has no real purpose other than loss prevention, can't be followed because the LAPD is incapable of providing the licenses and that if the LAPD can't provide a mechanism for obtaining the license, it could hardly then enforce the law.

Rosendahl asked, loudly and firmly, for a moratorium. Parks expressed the opinion that it was within the authority of the LAPD to hold off on enforcement of the archaic law until the issue could be resolved. Chief Paysinger smiled and rejected the requests of the Transpo Committee.

The LADOT took things lower when it expressed concern that the encouragement of cycling as a transportation option might interfere with the free flow of automobile traffic, thereby opening the City up to liability for inducing traffic congestion and causing air pollution.

Ultimately, the rights articulated in the CBR already exist and are guaranteed by Federal, State and Local laws, regulations and policies. The City of LA endorsement is not necessary in order to "create" or codify any of the rights but the endorsement of our city council is a significant symbolic gesture that informs the cycling community and affirms to the Community as a whole that cyclists ride as equals and with the support of our leadership.

To that end, we're thankful for the enthusiastic support of Councilmembers Greuel and Rosendahl in endorsing the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and in encouraging and supporting the cyclists of Los Angeles.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

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