Advocates for Safe Walking, Cycling Push Police for Safer Streets

“There is no such thing as a collision that isn’t serious when a bicycle is involved.”

“Try going for a bike ride down Wilshire Boulevard at 8 in the morning, and then at 8 at night and then go and advocate for faster speed limits.”

“It really scares the heck out of me…I get breezed by cars going sixty five miles per hour every day.”

A team of cyclists and pedestrian safety advocates descended on the Los Angeles Police Department Police Commission, the appointed body which regulates and oversees the LAPD, to press the case for safer streets.  Safety organizations were well represented including Rye Baerg with the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Bobby Gadda and Ted Rogers with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Don Ward and Patrick Miller with Midnight Ridazz and the Northridge West Neighborhood Council and Deborah Murphy with Los Angeles Walks.  However, the testimony that caught the attention of the Commission and Chief Charlie Beck was the appeal from riders telling their stories and asking for safer streets.

The story that attracted the most attention was told by a young woman who told the story of being hit by a passing car while bicycling in West L.A. on a residential street.  The car honked and flashed his lights at her before clipping her from behind adn  speeding away.  When she managed to get to the Pacific Division headquarters of the LAPD, she found her story discounted and even dismissed.  Apparently, if she was able to get herself and her bicycle to the headquarters, the local LAPD officers had trouble seeing the seriousness of the crash.

Both Chief Bech and Commission Chair Richard Drooyan promised follow-up and further investigation into the West L.A. incident, but what the cyclists and walkers were really asking for was a larger change in how the LAPD handles and investigates traffic crashes and other incidents when vulnerable users are involved.

Ward layed out the groups asks at his column at KCET.com, but the group refined their message down to two points at a pre-meeting:

1. We ask the LAPD to understand fully that pedestrians and cyclists have a right by law to use the public streets and roadways. Car drivers on the other hand are given permission by the state to operate heavy machinery on the same roads we travel on.  We need elevated protection. Traffic crimes need elevated status.  Vulnerable users need their rights protected.

2. We ask that the LAPD ask for a moratorium on speed limit increases in LA. If nothing else, we ask that the LAPD discontinue the practice of endorsing speed limit increases and to reverse their postition or remain neutral on the matter. The fact is, drivers can rarely break an average of 25-30 mph using surface streets to get from point A to point B in any urban environment around the world. Raising the speed limits needs to stop even if it means a posted speed limit gets ignored. We ask tha the LAPD exhaust all avaiable methods of speed enforcement.

 

After the meeting, Murphy was upbeat about the group’s impact noting that the Commission promised LAPD presence at the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee for the first time in half of a decade.   “They said they want to make streets safe for people as much as we do, and they promised to come to the table.”

Both Ward and Rogers report that LAPD officers have been in contact with them since yesterday’s meeting to follow-up on different parts of their requests.