Today’s Headlines

  • Obama Address Ignores State of the Union’s Cities; Major HSR Reveal Expected Today (DMI, NRDC)
  • City Council Joins Fight for Cyclists Rights (Daily News, LA Now, ABC7)
  • Controversy Over Speed Limit Increases Continues (LAist)
  • Jassy Update: Prosecutor Calls "Self-Defense" Argument "Laughable" (LA Now)
  • Council Committees Also Fighting for More Parks (Daily News)
  • Late Night Work Permit Revoked for Expo Line (Times)
  • Gov’t Scholar, Former Indy Mayor: Chicago Parking Privatization Got a Bum Rap (Governing)
  • Bailout-Declining Ford Reaps First Yearly Profit Since 2005 (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Michele Chavez

    Reading the comments on the LA Now article (L.A. to study ways to protect bicyclists, considers ‘bill of rights’), it’s obvious we cyclists have a public relations problem.

    Most of the commenters, even cyclists, seem to believe that it is cyclists who disobey the law and are rude, not that motorists harass cyclists. I suppose I am being naive, but how do we address this perception? Other than being scrupulous ourselves about stopping at stop signs and lights and refraining from flipping the bird and using the F word?

    It feels a lot like being stereotyped. Not comfortable when I don’t exhibit any of those behaviors, yet others tar all cyclists based on the behavior of a few.

  • Michele, for every negative comment on the LA Now story there is a positive one.

    What’s the problem? Drivers bitch about other drivers too. After all, every driver thinks they are perfect and it’s everybody else who is causing traffic and accidents. It’s only natural to include any other road users in the bitchfest as well.

  • The second page of comments does get pretty negative though, haha.

  • This anti-harassment law is the ignition fuel for stupid debates about how dangerous and hopelessly lame bicyclists are. It is a strategic blunder to push this un-enforceable law.

    We need to focus on the assigning of liability in a crash. If you are driving a car, and you hit a pedestrian or a cyclist, you should be found at fault regardless of whether the person was “jaywalking” or running a stop sign. You’re the one roaring around in the multi-ton death mobile. If someone rides into the side of your stopped car, fine, they messed up, not your fault. The car had better be at a standstill.

    If the way liability in the crash is automatically assumed to be the driver’s we’d see a massive re-structuring in the way people drive in the city. Other laws notwithstanding, we should try and enable the LAPD to get draconian about hassling car drivers that hit stuff with their vehicles. Period. Make this about car drivers not “cyclist harassment” and you’ll have a whole different set of comments on an LA Times article about the issue. “My dad was killed by a driver” or “I got run over by a car when I was kid” or “Something has to be done about those darned hot rodders on mah block!”.

    When the issue is about cyclists, you can expect the same stupid “helmets”, “stop-sign running”, “rude/lane hogging”, “spandex wearing” comments to flare up. When the issue is about cars running over people (bikes included) and crashing into stuff, it is actually quite easy to show that there is a serious problem with the impunity we afford automobile drivers.

  • “If you are driving a car, and you hit a pedestrian or a cyclist, you should be found at fault regardless of whether the person was “jaywalking” or running a stop sign.”

    It depends on whether or no you had time to react. The cliche is the child who runs after a ball that is bouncing into the street and gets hit. I would not find the driver at fault if there was not enough opportunity to avoid hitting the kid.

    We certainly need to crack down on excessive speed, distracted driving or otherwise careless drivers. But when a car and something else collide on the roads, it is not always the driver’s fault.

    Jaywalking is a funny thing though. The law seems to imply the inevitability of jaywalking by requiring cars to stop for jaywalkers and allow them to continue crossing, even though they prohibit jaywalking in the first place.

  • DJB

    I wonder what kind of experience could build mass empathy with cyclists’ rights? I think we’d need another oil shock, 1970s style, that forces people out of cars. Or maybe more people need to know what it’s like to have someone they love at risk on the streets.

    Maybe you don’t ride, but if your friend does, you worry about that person and suddenly you make the connection that cyclists are human beings, not just slow-moving masses put there to “ruin your day”.

    It’s sad that so many people aren’t even willing to depress a brake pedal and wait a few seconds to safely pass another human being on the road. This kind of behavior is what makes me tend to think that it’s easier to change the road (bike lanes) than to change the people on it.

    Unfortunately, the people in the cars are the voting majority that needs to be convinced. I almost want to start driving again so I can safely pass a cyclist and give him/her a thumbs up :)

  • It depends on whether or no you had time to react. The cliche is the child who runs after a ball that is bouncing into the street and gets hit. I would not find the driver at fault if there was not enough opportunity to avoid hitting the kid.

    See Spokker, that is exactly where I would say, “Sorry, your ‘accident’ to drive at a safe speed killed a kid” You driving privileges should be revoked. Your insurance should cover all the funeral or medical expenses. You should face civil and criminal penalties for your negligence. Kids are part of human society, have been and will be as long as we exist. Cars are an invention. A convenient invention, but not one that absolves the operator of this machine from their rights and responsibilities as a citizen in our civilization.

    If every driver knew that a serious legal and financial risk was being taken every time they drove (this can be, but is not necessarily the case now), I can guarantee you that we’d need no new laws but those that assign the blame squarely on the driver in every instance but a person slamming themselves into a stopped car.

    “Anti-harassment” laws are a farce, focusing (as cyclists always seem to do) on cyclists as victims. In Holland, the “Stop the Child Killing” campaign worked quite effectively to enshrine less destructive modes of transport as the “best” for urban travel. Part of that campaign was in assigning liability automatically to the driver of the car. The psychological impact this has on drivers is immense, and would reshape the way people drive when in urban areas.

  • To DJB,

    We have not yet begun to fight. The level of politically coordinated, full-frontal assault of city hall currently underway will hit a fever pitch late in the summer of 2010.

  • David Galvan

    “See Spokker, that is exactly where I would say, “Sorry, your ‘accident’ to drive at a safe speed killed a kid”. . . ”

    Spokker explicitly said “if there was not enough opportunity”. It doesn’t require that someone be driving at an unsafe speed for a collision to be unavoidable from the point of view of the driver.

    Come on now Ubrayj. Is your position really that the only case in which a driver is NOT at fault (in your view) is a person “slamming their body into a stopped car”?

    So, if I’m driving 65 on the freeway, and some crazy dude runs out into the lane 10 ft in front of me, even though it is physically impossible for me to stop my car before I hit him, or neurologically impossible for me to swerve to avoid him at that distance (due to reaction time), then I should be criminally prosecuted?

    Obviously that’s an extreme case, but scale it back to the kid running out in the street. Yes, if you know kids are playing nearby you should slow down just in case one darts out in front of you unexpectedly. But what if you don’t know kids are playing nearby? What if there is a hedge or a fence or another car blocking your view, and you are going what would generally be considered a safe speed (say 25 mph) and the kid/pedestrian/whatever steps in front of your car just a few feet in front of you? At that distance it would be near impossible to recognize the problem and take action before colliding. Still completely the driver’s fault? No responsibility lies with the pedestrian or the kid’s parents? Drivers, not pedestrians, are completely responsible for the safety of pedestrians?

    Is there really no room in your logic to allow for cases where a driver could be involved in a collision that is not his fault?

    There really is such a thing as an accident, you know. I don’t follow your argument that, because cars are mechanical inventions, therefore anyone who operates one is ALWAYS at fault for any collision with that machine. Does that scale up to other mechanical inventions? Are Train engineers ALWAYS responsible for collisions with humans or lesser mechanical inventions (like cars)?

  • Eric B

    I won’t get involved with the “always” argument because there are “always” exceptions to every rule, but I just want to point out two fallacies:

    1) Comparing the auto-oriented freeways and people-oriented streets does not work. Freeways are designed to be free from all interference, whereas streets will always have interference despite the best efforts of LADOT to keep people off of them.

    2) 25 mph in a neighborhood is not necessarily a safe speed. European speed limits in “home zones” are no more than 30 kph (a little under 20 mph) and sometimes less. I remember playing in the street and riding my bike all over the neighborhood as a kid and I’m not that old. If you can’t see around the parked cars, then you are probably going too fast.

    Remember back to driver’s ed and the safe speed law. It is never ok to drive faster than conditions warrant. That’s not only rain and snow, but also the risk of potential conditions (i.e. a child running into the street). Again, if there’s not enough time to react, the driver is probably going too fast.