Bicycle Awareness: For Those in Power, Ignorance Is Still Bliss!
Law enforcement officers are fond of quoting the popular standard “ignorance of the law excuses no one” when dealing with the public but when faced with an accusation of scofflaw behavior, suddenly ignorance is a solid defense.
The LAPD officers responsible for the blocked Bike Lane pictured above are going to have a hard time explaining why they were out shopping on Sunset Blvd. instead of protecting and serving, but as for the illegal parking job, it’s not their fault. They merely need to plead ignorance and then point to the DMV.
After all, the DMV’s “Wilco Tango Foxtrot” interpretation of the California Vehicle Code specifies “You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.”
From the top down, the State of California and the City of Los Angeles need to get together and embark on an education program directed at those in charge, those responsible for operating this state and this city.
Between the DMV’s car-centric creative interpretation of the law and the CHP’s complete ignorance of the rules of the road as they apply to pedestrians and cyclists, it is apparent that the real opportunity to make our streets safer for everybody is to start with those in power.
Last year, the LAPD developed a Bicycle Awareness training program for its officers that firmly established the rights of cyclists on the streets and replaced “ride to the right” with “ride where it’s right” as the principle for lane positioning.
Bike Activists were given the opportunity to participate in the development of the program and the Cyclist/LAPD Task Force was optimistic that the Bicycle Awareness training would have a significant impact on the streets, turning LAPD officers into partners, not adversaries.
Unfortunately, the mandate to participate in the training program was not as significant as the promises made to the cycling community and it is now easier to find officers who have never heard of the program than it is to find officers who have participated and who understand the concepts.
Just last week, a LAPD Supervisor responsible for special events went into a tirade over “cyclists who impede traffic by taking up the whole lane” and “cyclists who ride side by side.” The street that he was referring to, San Fernando Road, has two lanes in both directions with a left turn pocket in the center. This LAPD Supervisor needs to engage in some Bike Awareness training before he spreads any more mis-information about cyclists and “impeded traffic.”
The City of LA’s Department of Transportation is responsible for operating a fleet of 400 buses that provides 30 million trips per year aboard the DASH, the Commuter Express, Cityride, Shuttles and Charter services.
Simply training the operators of those 400 buses on the rights of cyclists would make the streets safer but that Bicycle Awareness program never made it out of the hands of the LAPD.
Passing a cyclist is no cause to honk, in fact it distracts the cyclist at the worst possible moment, in this case as the operator is about to illegally and unsafely force the cyclist from the road in violation of the prohibition against “interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle.”
Perhaps its time to share the LAPD’s Bicycle Awareness program with the Metro!
Through it all, once the debate is put aside, the important thing to remember is that the City of LA operates huge pieces of equipment on local neighborhood streets that are surrounded with homes, populated with families, and filled with pedestrians and cyclists who have as much right to the streets as the professional vehicle operators moving the City of LA’s equipment.
The City of LA issues film permits and retired LAPD officers in uniform provide traffic control for the film shoots begging the question, “Who is responsible for their training and education?”
The film shoot pictured above should have lane closure and traffic control so that cyclists riding downhill on Sunset get the same respect that motorists would get if the lane ahead were closed.
For all the promise of Eurotopian Bikeway engineering, the real opportunity to engineer our streets for cyclists is to start by educating those responsible for maintenance and repair of our streets on the needs of cyclists and on the difference between a Hummer and a Huffy.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has embraced cycling as a viable mode of transportation and has committed to supporting cyclists with the full force of his Mayoral authority, directing City of LA department heads to partner with him in making LA a Bike Friendly city.
If he is serious about his commitment, he’ll make Bike Education a priority and he’ll start by educating the City Family on Bicycle Awareness, from the LAPD to the DWP to the LADOT.
Imagine 40,000 City of LA employees going about their business with a new sensitivity to how streets work, to the rights of cyclists, to the repair, and maintenance of streets so that they are safe for everybody.
For all the talk of “40 miles a year” of Bikeways improvement and millions of dollars in Measure R money, the real opportunity to move LA forward immediately is to embrace Bike Education, for cyclists, for motorists, for the LAPD, for the engineers, for the policy makers and the pothole fillers, so that the people who use the streets understand how to integrate cyclists into the traffic mix.