By Edwin Folven, 7/28/2011
Under a new ordinance approved on July 20 by the Los Angeles City Council, bicyclists have new protections if they claim they have been harassed by motorists.
The ordinance, which was authored by City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, prohibits the harassment of cyclists and provides them with more legal recourse in court cases involving aggressive drivers. The ordinance defines harassment as attempting to run a bicyclist off the road, or throwing items at riders. According to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the law is the first of its kind in the country.
The Prohibition Against Harassment of Bicyclists bans physical assaults on bike riders, as well as banning any threats against cyclists or attempts to distract them. The law also gives cyclists greater legal protection and recourse when harassed, by allowing cyclists to file civil lawsuits and to recover attorney fees.
It enables cyclists who win civil lawsuits to collect triple the damages, or $1,000, whichever is greater, plus attorney fees and punitive damages. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, said the ordinance will result in safer roads for everyone.
“Education and respect are key elements in making the roads safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike,” LaBonge said.
Rosendahl, who chairs the city council’s Transportation Committee, said attorneys are often reluctant to accept bicycle harassment cases because they can cost more in attorney fees than the judgments that are allotted. Rosendahl has also launched a new video campaign to encourage bicyclists to share stories about being harassed while riding a bike in order to raise awareness about the problem. The campaign is titled “Cars+Bikes” and utilizes a network of bloggers, bike advocates and cycling enthusiasts to post information about their experiences, and about the new ordinance, on Rosendahl’s YouTube site at www.youtube.com/user/BillRosendahl.