Friday, December 12, 2008

CityWatchLA - City & Cyclists Take a Love-Hate Ride in the Lights

CityWatch, Dec 12, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 100

Soap Box-Video
By Stephen Box

Cyclists demonstrated their love-hate relationship with the City of Los Angeles this past week by staging a protest ride at Griffith Park on Monday night and then a Celebration at City Hall on Tuesday. Monday's protest was the 3rd annual "Festival of RIGHTS!" in which cyclists take the DWP and Councilman Tom LaBonge to task for promoting the Griffith Park Festival of Lights as "Going Green" and then proceeding to ban cyclists from the congested streets filled with idling vehicles. News crews from KABC and Fox joined the cyclists as they gathered at the Mulholland Fountain, adorned themselves in holiday decorations and then rode through the gridlock of the Griffith Park Festival of Lights.

Tuesday's celebration came about as the Councilman Bill Rosendahl initiated motion to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights finally worked its way to the full City Council. The motion was co-sponsored by Council President Eric Garcetti and Transpo Committee Chair Wendy Greuel and was seconded by Councilmen Ed Reyes and Bernard Parks. Cyclists have been taking the CBR around the City for months, picking up endorsements and encouragement, all the while fighting to maintain the integrity of the document, urging for approval "as written, as ridden!" The motion was approved unanimously and the cycling community celebrated.

In both cases, the events simply marked the beginning of the next phase of an ever-developing journey as the cycling community works to establish its place in the community and to establish a relationship based on respect and equality.

Monday night's ride was less about the Festival of Lights and more about the City's authority to restrict cyclists from the streets of Los Angeles. To the credit of the Department of Recreation and Parks, they tried to accommodate the cyclists on Monday night, although their offer was to have the Festival of RIGHTS! protest ride use the bridle trail. Not only is this illegal under LA's Municipal Code and not only does it demonstrate a misunderstanding of the notion of a "protest ride" but it also maintains a position that is the basis for the protest, that the City of Los Angeles has the right to restrict cyclists from the street.

Cyclists have long asserted that State law (CVC 21- the Uniformity Code) restricts the rights of a municipality to ban cyclists from the streets. LaBonge responds that the streets of Griffith Park are private park streets not covered by State law. This made it tough for the Supervising Park Ranger when he threatened to cite the cyclists at the end of the ride because the simple challenge was "under whose authority?" One can't both claim to be free of California Vehicle Code authority and then write tickets for violating the same code.

Ultimately, Sgt. Joyce stood his ground and threatened to write tickets and then to have his armed backup Rangers detain the cyclists while the tickets were being written. This offer was accepted by the cyclists and the stand-off lasted seconds before the Rangers were dismissed and sent home. Sgt. Joyce demonstrated a lack of willingness to enforce the ban with tickets or arrest and he got back in his truck and returned to the Ranger Station followed in the same lane by the remaining cyclists. (many had grown bored by the debate and had taken off in search of holiday cheer)

As for Tuesday's victory in City Hall, it marked a beginning, not an end. The Motion simply endorsed the Bill of Rights, a document that enumerates a dozen rights that are already guaranteed in some manner by Federal, State and local law, policies and directives. The real value of the Cyclist's Bill of Rights is its effectiveness as a catalyst for discussion and that is the opportunity that cyclists seek to pursue.

Through it all, the cycling community has been urging our leadership to endorse the CBR, as an affirmation to cyclists that they ride with rights and to inform the greater community of the nature of those rights.

In both cases, on the streets of Griffith Park and in Council Chambers at City Hall, it is most rewarding to this cyclist to see the cycling community engaged in the process. The discussions, the debates, the desire to improve, the passion, the participation, the perseverance, and the progress all serve to remind us that the journey is its own reward!

"See you on the Streets!"

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