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Next Week’s Big Bike Meeting: Bike Harassment, the LAPD, Bike Planning and More!

8_11_09_rosendahl.jpgRosendahl poses with the LACBC on "Car Free Friday."

When Streetsblog spoke with Councilman Bill Rosendahl about his priorities as Transportation Committee Chair, he promised a number of sweeping changes and regular "bike themed" committee hearings.  Next week he is going to make good on some of his projects when he chairs his first "bike-only" City Council Transportation Hearing.  You can read the full agenda here, or just read on as we'll preview each issue that will be discussed.

Already, Rosendahl's proposal to create a law prohibiting the harassment of cyclists is generating buzz.  Some are comparing it to a "hate crimes" law for bicyclists and others are just happy to have someone recognize that many cyclists, be they commuters, Ridazz, or just people trying to get around, run into regular harassment from some of our larger road users.

While Rosendahl's efforts to better protect cyclists within the law is more than laudable, we have to point out that we're at the start of the process to create a new ordinance.  At this point, the Council is just directing the City Attorney and LADOT to create an ordinance.  How long it will be until we see one is anyone's guess.

If this leads to the creation of a strong law protecting cyclists, Wednesday's meeting could be a major moment in the history of cycling in Los Angeles.

Serving almost as a companion piece to the ordinance protecting cyclists is a return of a discussion with the LAPD concerning our law enforcement's relationship with cyclists.  At the last Big Bike Meeting in May, the Committee and cyclists slammed the Department for its poor reporting on an April incident where a hummer crashed into a cyclist and ran off with another bike under its grille.  Amazingly, the police report blamed the cyclist for "running into the hummer," even though damage to the bike clearly showed that the bike was side-swiped from behind.  Even though it was the second time they appeared in front of the Council, the LAPD failed to bring a copy of the report, and photos provided by cyclists contradicted many of the "facts" from the crash that the LAPD claimed.

6_25_09_hummer.jpgThe LAPD claimed this hummer had license plates and other untrue "facts" from their report on April's "Hummer v. Bike" crash.

Now, we have confirmation of a "Bike Working Group" sometime next year and a clash between the LAPD and Critical Mass downtown last week to further spice up the public comment.  Since the announcement of the working group last week, I've tried to pin down what the LAPD is doing to improve their relationship with cyclists and have found the process somewhat maddening.  Lieutenant Andre Dawson, who will head the working group, isn't up to speed on the issues yet and didn't even know what the Bicycle Advisory Committee is.  It's small wonder that the LAPD hasn't attended the last several BAC meetings.

Hopefully, the LAPD will come prepared to discuss what they're doing to address their relationship.  Is Commander Jeff Greer's internal effort that we briefly discussed earlier this week the most important effort on going?  Will Lieutenant Dawson's Working Group be empowered to make real changes or at least clarify how reports should be written and how cyclists should be detained when they do break laws?  These are just some questions for which we need an answer.  And let's face it, our elected leaders can pass all the ordinances they want. If the support for cycling doesn't exist with beat cops, cyclists won't benefit from safer streets.

Another new piece of legislation is an ordinance directing city planning to re-evaluate bike parking requirements  in the zoning code.  While this ordinance could be the beginning of something big, just as the "anti-harassment ordinance" above, on Wednesday the Committee will only be discussing whether or not to study whether or not to change the current bike parking requirements.

Also on the  agenda are some items that seem to pop back up every time it's time for another "Bike Only Meeting."  I can play psychic and predict what's going to happen based on what we've seen at past meetings.

Update on City's Draft Bike Plan: The city will claim victory in its public outreach based on the number of comments received and happily note that they've extended their comment period into next year.  Cyclists will point out that the rollout of the plan was convoluted, the plan is a step back from the 1996 plan (which wasn't very good), the plan doesn't incorporate the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, and a laundry list of other complaints.  Most of which I feel are completely valid.

Update on City's Study of Whether or Not to Bring Bike Sharing to L.A. - I don't know if I've ever seen a Department as unenthusiastic about a proposal as the LADOT is with this one.  In their report for the Council, the LADOT says that they're going to go out with a "Request for Information" which would allow private industry to let the City know what is fiscally doable in Los Angeles.  Of course, they also note the deplorable state of our bike infrastructure, although they somewhat understate the problem when they claim it will be "several years before the network is completed."  Cyclists present won't agree on whether or not bike-sharing is a good idea or not.

Update on effort to bring Sharrows to Los Angeles - As we noted earlier, since the last time the committee discussed this, Long Beach and Hermosa Beach have had Sharrows programs go from engineers heads onto paper and on to the street.  If LADOT can't commit to a timeline to put paint on the ground, we should just dust our hands on working with the Department because they're clearly stone walling us.  At some point the LADOT will remind us that "This isn't Long Beach" in response to complaints about how long this is taking.  No kidding.

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