Any cyclist who has ridden the streets of Los Angeles with any regularity has a horror story. Sometimes the story is because of negligence, such as a driver who passes too close or a taxi that pulls out of a parking space without looking. Sometimes the story is caused by maliciousness, such as a hummer that drives through a group of cyclists or some kids in a truck that throw things. These stories almost always end with the no consequences for the aggressor, because the police don’t like to file reports without witnessing the act. No report, no legal recourse.
But now the City of Los Angeles is trying to change that sad trend. The City Attorney’s office, represented by Judith Reel, is poised to create a draft ordinance that would allow for cyclists to file suit themselves for violent or aggressive actions directed towards them. There’s a feeling that this ordinance only addresses “car v bike” issues, but the City Attorney clarified that it also applied to “a guy on the street corner throwing a rock and yelling ‘I hate cyclists.'”
Reel also went to great lengths to explain that the ordinance is not about making new things illegal, but making some things which are already illegal but difficult to enforce made more enforceable. Also, because the ordinance creates civil law, not criminal law, there would be no cost to the city once the ordinance is passed.
All the C.A. needs to begin drafting is the approval of the City Council. On Wednesday, the City Council Transportation Committee gave them the green light to start drafting. However, they still need the approval of the Full Council and a hearing from the Public Safety Committee.
It seems unlikely that the full Council will reject the drafting of the ordinance, which will need another approval before it becomes law. That means Monday’s 9:30 A.M. meeting of the Public Safety Committee is the only place that could stop the creation of the groundbreaking ordinance.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the potential ordinance began to take shape. After testimony from Ross Hirsch, Glenn Bailey and Ted Rogers, the committee urged the C.A. to draft the ordinance for full review from the Council before potentially becoming law. Hirsch suggested a $1,000 civil penalty if one is found guilty of violating the anti-harassment ordinance. Despite the language that appears in the agenda item at the top of this article, the Council Committee urged a $1,000 minimum penalty for anyone found guilty of harassing a cyclist in civil court.
Other items which the Committee wanted to see involved in the new ordinance included attorney recovery fees, cost recovery for injuries or physical damages, and punitive damages for repeat offenders.
Streetsblog will report on the Public Safety Committee hearing on Monday.