CityWatch, May 7, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 36
Three months ago LAPD Chief Charlie Beck declared that it was his intention to develop a working relationship with the cycling community, offering up his commitment that he would support cyclists and their right to ride the streets of Los Angeles safely and free of fear. Cyclists celebrated. On the streets, where the proverbial rubber meets the road … or in this case, where the cyclist hits the road … the LAPD Chief's oath has not yet made it to the rank and file who actually patrol the streets and who are responsible for delivering on Beck's promise. Cyclists protested.
Most recently, a cyclist on Sunset Boulevard was riding in a bike lane when a motorist pulled out of a parking lot and into the bike lane, causing the cyclist to take evasive action, resulting in the cyclist on the ground and in need of medical attention. The motorist continued on her journey. A witness pursued the motorist, the LAPD arrived, no report was taken, no charges were filed, no ticket was issued, and the cyclist was left responsible for his injuries. Wilco Tango Foxtrot!
Cyclists protested, the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force intervened, LAPD Operations responded and the LAPD reevaluated the situation. Determination: the LAPD Officers should have taken a report, it was a traffic incident with injury.
A motorist can cause a traffic incident without having to make contact. "Hit and Run" is a misnomer. The violation is actually "fleeing the scene" and doesn't refer to actual contact.
This was quite the learning experience for everybody, especially the motorist who didn't understand why she couldn't drive off and leave a cyclist lying in the street if she didn't actually hit him.
Apparently it wasn't much of a learning experience for the LAPD because it wasn't long before another cyclist riding down the street encountered a car that moved from curbside parking to the left, blocking the street in order to execute a U-turn, causing the cyclist to take evasive action, again resulting in the cyclist on the ground and in need of medical attention. Again the motorist continued on his journey.
A witness flagged down a passing LAPD patrol car but, again, the LAPD refused to take a report, after all "No contact, no foul!"
Cyclists protested, the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force intervened, LAPD Operations has indicated that they will respond.
All of which demonstrates that Chief Charlie Beck can issue proclamations and claims and intentions all day long but they mean nothing if they don't translate into patrol policies and officer actions that the cyclists can trust. It is after all the LAPD officers on the streets who have to deliver on the Chief's promises.
(Stephen Box is a cycling and transportation advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)