August 1, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Bike News, Get Involved | 6 Comments
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The following statement from LACBC Board President Alex Kenefick is a response to LACBC member Marina Rostovskaya, who was hit from behind by a driver turning right on red and the subsequent mishandling of the incident by law enforcement:

Marina Rostovskaya, an active LACBC member and Los Angeles bicyclist, was recently hit by a car—she broke her hand. She reports having been riding through an intersection on a green light when a driver turning right on red hit her.

This was an accident—the driver called the Police and they showed up. Everything seems to be OK in LA, right? Wrong. Marina reports that the police officer who appeared on the scene and took her to the hospital did not take the driver’s information. An accident between two vehicles happened on the roadway. All parties remained on the scene, and the police showed up. Still, Marina has no recourse. She can’t get a settlement. She can’t even go to court because the accident didn’t officially happen. The driver’s record will still be clean, their car insurance rates will not be raised, and Marina will be left to struggle with the emergency room bills on her own.

Across our region, cyclists are not enjoying the full slate of rights available to motorists, while we are still presumably subject to the same responsibilities. Cyclists too often fall in a grey area with these rights and responsibilities. This goes both ways – traffic moves I have pulled while cycling could get a motorist arrested–though I often go unnoticed on a bike.  However, we also fall through the cracks when we need protection.

About 6 months ago I encountered the same kind of mishandling of cyclist rights and responsibilities. It was late at night and I was riding down Sunset Boulevard. A bus driver was repeatedly passing me, the bus tires crossing the line of the already narrow bike lane and crowding me towards the parked cars. It was a local bus, so the driver and I were leapfrogging each other repeatedly, and each time the bus would come further into the bike lane and closer to me. After this happened five or six times, I was convinced the driver’s actions were intentional. When I saw some police officers sitting in their car at a traffic light, I asked them if they were on duty and if they could have a word with the bus driver about how he had been passing me. The police officers were friendly, but ignorant of cyclist rights; one of them said “We’ll pull the bus driver over and have a word with him, but you should really be riding on the sidewalk.” I was painfully reminded of the lack of uniformity when enforcing the rights of cyclists stated in the California Vehicle Code.

The California Vehicle Code states that ‘bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers’ (CVC 21200) and that ‘bicycles traveling slower than normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except when passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid hazards and dangerous conditions, or if the lane is too narrow’ (CVC 21202).

Being told to simply ride on the sidewalk, did not acknowledge my right to use the roadway in a safe manner as granted by the California Vehicle Code. As bicycle ridership in Los Angeles continues to rise for both health and economic reasons, my hope is that bicyclists, motorists, bus drivers, law enforcement, and pedestrians will become aware that we all have rights and we all have responsibilities when it comes to using the roadways of Los Angeles. We all have a place in the city’s transportation system, and with more education on the policies that exist to protect cyclists, cyclists and motorists will be able to share the road in a safe and respectful manner. Then, Marina’s experience, as well as my own, will be dealt with fairly and with respect to a cyclist’s right to ride safely on our roads.

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  1. […] James . Excerpt: As bicycle ridership in Los Angeles continues to rise for both health and economic reasons, my hope is that bicyclists, motorists, bus drivers, law enforcement, and pedestrians will become aware that we all have rights and we all have … […]

  2. […] putting more pissed off people behind the wheel for us to dodge? LABC’s president discusses a member’s recent accident, and the lack of effective police action. And finally, a cyclist from the UK comments on Critical Mass, the latest local version of which […]

  3. When I was in school, I was taught that the law exists to protect the most vulnerable members of society. In any traffic situation, those most vulnerable are cyclists and pedestrians, since we are the ones who will inevitably lose in any confrontation with a motor vehicle. Yet in virtually every instance I am aware of, the police have sided with the driver by downplaying the incident, assigning blame to the cyclist or failing to follow through.

    Clearly, there needs to be an effort to get the L.A.P.D., the L.A. Sheriff’s Department and other area law enforcement departments to educate their officers on both the rights and responsibilities of cyclists. They need to understand that while we have every right to ride, we are exceptionally vulnerable on the streets, and dependent on the support and protection of law enforcement for our very survival.

  4. […] are the recent stories that tell us what we already know, that the police — whether here in L.A., Seattle or across the country — don’t seem to take our safety seriously. And too often, the […]

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