What’s IN a Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights?

February 4, 2008 at 5:06 pm in Biking in LA

bikeup.jpgIf you’ve been doored, cut off, spat on, spanked, sideswiped, t-boned or otherwise abused as a bicyclist in Los Angeles, you might think it’s time for a Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights.

West-side bike-blogger Alex Thompson thinks so, and said so last night, crediting Stephen Box, of the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee with preaching for such a law: A city ordinance that protects bicyclists from …. well, that’s where it all gets kind of vague.

In fact, Alex is the first to admit that getting such a thing passed will have more symbolic value than legal teeth:

  • Common Ground: Cyclists often get sidetracked arguing over methods. Arguments about bike lanes vs. vehicular cycling distract from the issue: cycling must be made easier and safer. Pernicious navel gazing within the LACBC board over Critical Mass wastes energy better spent on improving things for cyclists. A BBR focuses our community’s energy by identifying our commonality.
  • Basic Criteria for Bike Programs: Imagine you are a councilwoman in Torrance CA, where the velorucíon hasn’t quite exploded yet. How are you to know what street improvements will assist cyclists? If you consult city engineers they’ll likely regurgitate cryptic street specifications. You need a basic idea of cyclist’s needs, and a BBR gives you a starting point.
  • Accountability: At first glance a BBR is toothless. As an elected official, if you are pressured you can easily sign it and feel safe that you aren’t committing to much. However, it becomes a weapon for the bikers when we insist that officials follow through. When elected officials fail to effect real change, we can point to the BBR and whisper, gurgle, shout, or scream “you are not living up to your commitment.”
  • Rallying Cry: Los Angeles County is a big place, and so bike efforts rightly take different focuses. A BBR is something we can all get behind, while not giving up our individual autonomy. It’s a collaborative opportunity to come together with a common goal, while strengthening our other efforts.

California’s Motor Vehicle Code section VC 21200 gives cyclists a right and responsibility to share the road with motor vehicles, but as too often turns out to be the case, it’s often open to interpretation.

Two questions:

  1. Would any extra law, ordinance, “bill of rights” or tattered manifesto nailed to the doors of City Council Chambers will go very far in changing the way motorists – and the police treat bicyclists exercising their rights under that law?


  2. What rules would go into your version of a Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights?
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