"Storm the Bastille" cyclists rode to City Hall to call on the City Council for support and after an hour and a half of public testimony, the City Council responded with a Motion directing the LAPD to investigate and address police officer training.
The issue that prompted the cyclists to ride was the recent Hummer vs. Cyclists incident when a Hummer driver hit a cyclist, left the scene and then ran over the bikes of the cyclists who were trying to get his license information.
The week prior, Jesus Castillo was killed by a hit and run driver who was caught within hours, found to be driving on a suspended license, yet was out on bail before the Ghost Bike for Jesus was even placed on the street.
Many of the cyclists who spoke referred to these incidents as part of a larger gestalt of contempt for cyclists. They called on the City Council to address behavior that ranges from motorists who endanger the lives of cyclists to police officers who harass cyclists.
The most significant charge was that the LAPD is actually endangering the lives of cyclists by using their cars recklessly to herd cyclists on group rides, aggressive acts that are ineffective and dangerous.
Councilman Smith interrupted today's meeting after the first speaker to advise the Council that this was an inappropriate venue for a complaint of LAPD behavior and to advise the cyclists to take it to the Police Commission. The cyclists responded "We've already been there this past Tuesday!" The City Attorney allowed that the City Council was the right place for the testimony.
The Hummer victims testified and called on the Council to explain how the Motorist could be allowed to drive away after hitting a cyclist, leaving the scene and then running over three more bikes.
Roadblock called on the City Council to address the LAPD;s aggressive behavior, and cyclist after cyclist gave their personal experiences and stories, all concluding by asking the City Council to step up and support cyclists as transportation solutions, not problems.
Alex Thompson cut to the chase and addressed the LAPD's treatment of cyclists and the City Council's failure to support cyclists by following through on the motions and resolutions that go nowhere.
Enci spoke of her origins in Eastern Europe and the fact that when she made it to America, she experienced freedom and equality like never before, until she climbed on a bike and then became a 2nd class citizen.
I called on the City Council to examine their record. The Reyes motion of 2006 addressing the rights of cyclists when hit by a car was approved unanimously and then simply faded into oblivion. The motion setting aside $400K for a Bike Map was approved unanimously and then the money disappeared but yet no map. The motion setting aside $450K for the bicycle Master Plan was approved unanimously and it was due in 2008. No Plan, no word, no respect.
We took the Cyclists' Bill of Rights to the City Council and they endorsed it, advising the departments of the City of Los Angeles to report on how to incorporate it "into the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Master Plan and other relevant documents and practices." No reports, no action, nothing has happened.
"What's it gonna take for the City Council of the largest City in the most Populated State in the most powerful Country in the world to make safety on the streets a priority?"
Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Councilwoman Janice Hahn responded with a motion directing the LAPD to report back to the City Council and to address the complaints and the conflicts and the issue of police officer training on bicycling activities and laws.
Rosendahl, Hahn, Reyes, Greuel all responded to the public testimony of the cyclists and committed to addressing the issues and to supporting the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Cardenas wrapped by suggesting that the cyclists go to the police Commission, earning a thundering "Been there!" from the room.
It should have ended there but Councilman Tom LaBonge stepped up and puffed out his chest and said "Take me to your leader!"
He went outside to the front steps of the Van Nuys City Hall and gave a meandering pontification that veered from "Yes, we can't!" explanations of how hard progress really is to an explanation of Equestrian licenses to a lecture on responsibility and the downside of group rides. He tossed in his interpretation of the 3 E's, forgetting that there are really 6 E's. He left out Evaluation, Encouragement and EQUALITY. All this from a guy who still doesn't have bike racks at this field offices.
At the end of the day, it remains to be seen whether this "Storm the Bastille" ride will have any impact.
For the cyclists it was a great day, a great ride and a great opportunity to forge a stronger community of cyclists. After a celebration lunch at Joe Peep's Pizza, some went off to play bike polo, some went back to work, and others headed of to DTLA's May Day activities.
"See you on the Streets!"