It’s finally here. After years of work by City staff and dedicated members of the public, it’s here. After months of council hearings and refining of legal language, it’s here. Just over a week from today, the City of Los Angeles has the opportunity to enact a truly groundbreaking ordinance for protecting Bicyclists’ rights and safety.
A vote on the Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance is scheduled for the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, July 20th. You can read the latest draft of the ordinance here. We’ll be attending the meeting next week, and will be live-tweeting the proceedings from @BikeBlogChris.
As covered in many previous posts on the LADOT Bike Blog, the Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance takes the new and innovative step of making the harassing of a bicyclist a civil crime. While anti-harassment laws for bicyclists are on the books in several other states and cities, they have been largely ineffective and unenforceable because of the higher burden of proof necessary in criminal law to prove harassment. Los Angeles will sidestep this barrier by instead making harassment of bicyclists a civil crime, which carries a lower burden of proof. A lower burden of proof is allowed in civil court because, unlike criminal court, a civil court can only impose financial (and not jail time) penalties on the defendant.
Beyond the mechanics of the ordinance itself, we just wanted to share with you the “findings and purpose” section of the ordinance:
After public hearings and receipt of testimony, the City Council finds and declares:
That the City of Los Angeles wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality;
That harassment of bicyclists on the basis of their status as bicyclists exists in the City of Los Angeles;
That existing criminal and civil laws do not effectively prevent the unlawful harassment of bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists;
That riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and that these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists; and
That because people have a right to ride a bicycle in the City of Los Angeles and should be able to do so safely on City streets, it is against the public policy of the City of Los Angeles
Most striking to us about this section, other than its stark honesty, is that the findings reaffirm the vital role bicycles will play in improving congestion, emissions, and quality of life in Los Angeles. But if bicycles need to take such a large role in making our City more livable, we first need to find effective ways to combat illegal and dangerous actions that discourage bicyclists from riding on our streets.
This ordinance, combined with the Mayor’s Directive, the progress of the BPIT in implementing the 2010 LA Bike Plan, and the upcoming vote on SB 910 – the Give Me 3 bill – will help Los Angeles create a better City for all by creating a better, and safer, City for bicyclists. We urge you to lend your support to the Bicyclist Anti-Harassment Ordinance. Talk to your council member, talk to you Neighborhood Council, talk to your friends, your neighbors, and your family. We will need the support of the whole LA bicycle community to help this ordinance become a reality. If you want to share times you have been a victim of unprovoked harassment, feel free to share them in comments or on our Facebook Discussion Page.