Mayor Villaraigosa Calls Critical Mass Attack “Disturbing”

6_8_10_villar.jpgThe Mayor's not as comfortable talking bikes as he is transit, so he used the LACBC Blog to get out his message.   Photo from last month's Measure R, 30/10 Rally.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa responded to an open letter from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition concerning the incident from May's Critical Mass ride where the LAPD was caught on tape kicking at cyclists and attacking a different rider recording the incident.  Instead of his press office,  Villaraigosa uses the LACBC's blog to make his official statement on the attack, video and the LAPD's follow-up.

There's nothing ground-breaking in the response, the three sentences can be summed up as,"Cyclists have the right to the road and fair policing.  It's good that Beck is trying to make things better for cyclists.  The video is disturbing, but I trust the LAPD to make this right."  You can read the full statement at the LACBC Blog.

I've already heard some complaints that Villaraigosa's response wasn't stronger or didn't announce a policy change of some sort in addressing the assault.  But when you compare the Mayor's statement to that of another big city mayor in a similar situation, Villaraigosa's is actually a step forward when it comes to recognizing the rights of cyclists on a Critical Mass ride.

In 2008, progressive transportation hero and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg found himself in a similar situation after an NYP officer knocked a cyclist off his bike during a Critical Mass ride.  You can watch video of that incident here.  As was the case in L.A., the mayor responded after video of the assault made the rounds on the evening news. 2008 actually shows that L.A.'s Mayor is taking a stronger stand.  Unlike Villaraigosa, it didn't take Bloomberg ten days to respond.  However, Villaraigosa's, actually took the initiative on his own, instead of waiting for a reporter to quiz him, and he responded directly to cyclists on the LACBC's own blog.

Bloomberg's response was also more vague than Villaraigosa's.  The Big Apple mayor wouldn't condemn the actions of then-officer Patrick Pogan when it was obvious to anyone watching the video of his assault on cyclist Christopher Long, even though charges against Long were still pending.

"It looked to me to be totally over the top and inappropriate, but the police commissioner is going to or is in the process of doing an investigation. I don't want to prejudice any investigation," said Bloomberg.

Personally, I'd much rather have a Mayor who first announces that he believes cyclists have the right to the road before condemning the incident as disturbing, than listen to Bloomberg's equivocation.  Villaraigosa's stand is another sign, joining his office's defense of a set-aside for cyclists and pedestrians in the city's Measure R funds.  In a lot of ways New York is miles ahead of Los Angeles in the race to be have the most sustainable transportation system, but our elected leaders seem to be recognizing that the old ways are not working.  These might be baby steps, but as the saying goes, every journey begins with one step.