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Who Teaches the Teachers?

8:57 AM PDT on August 5, 2009

8_5_09_BID_BOX.jpgPhoto of a BID Bike crushed in a crosswalk sent after this story was first published by Stephen Box.

Public Safety officials continually lecture cyclists about the need to follow not just the letter of the law, but also to follow proven safety tips to stay safe during their rides.  However, during a recent trip through the Downtown and in my own neighborhood, I've begun to notice anecdotal evidence that those charged with protecting us on the street don't know what those rules are.

Last Sunday while biking through the Downtown I noticed the LA Business Improvement District's "Purple Patrol," those cyclists with the purple shirts and black pants charged with keeping the Downtown safe and clean, rode as close to the curb as possible, even if it meant weaving back and forth where cars were parked, crossing intersections in the crosswalk before weaving back into traffic and even positioning themselves in right-hand turn lanes at signaled intersections before crossing when the light turned green.  I observed this same behavior from three different members of the Purple Patrol during my slow ride through the Downtown.

None of this behavior is illegal, save for the one incident of a Purple Patrolman crossing the street in the right hand turn-lane, but the constant weaving stands in stark contrast to what I've learned in safe bicycle courses which is to "take the lane" and "hold the line."  The constant weaving is much more likely to create confusion with drivers, and if it hasn't happened yet, I worry that a crash is inevitable if this is common practice for the Purple Patrol.

But the most egregious example of bad behavior came from a driving instructor.  After a car with "STUDENT DRIVER" announced loudly on the back cut me off by making a left-hand turn well after the arrow had turned red, I caught up with the instructor at the next light and asked him why he thought that was an appropriate thing to teach a new driver.  After calling me an expletive, the instructor told me to "look it up" and that making a turn after the arrow turned red was perfectly legal.

The state of driver safety education in Los Angeles worries me if driving teachers are encouraging their students to run red lights.  While the Downtown LAPD has a pretty poor record enforcing traffic laws on everyone except pedestrians, it's chilling to get told off by a safety instructor for questioning the running of a red light.

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