What’s IN a Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights?

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 velorucĂ­on 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?

5 thoughts on “What’s IN a Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights?”

  1. Wow, getting linked to by this post generates a frenetic burst of traffic. I like your questions, very apt. Here’s my take:

    1) The right to “informed law enforcement which proactively looks out for cyclists right to road” ought to be in any Bicyclist Bill of Rights. It’s hard to change motorists attitudes directly (I guess one could have a PR campaign) but law enforcement quality is pretty ragged, and improving that ought to make progress toward changing motorist’s attitudes.

    I think Stephen Box is seeking a hybrid of “tattered manifesto” and document of principles which local politicians agree to support.

    2) Ok, here’s some ideas – cyclists have the right to

    – informed law enforcement
    – participation in formation of policy, urban planning etc
    – right to use of mass transit with bicycle
    – to travel safely
    – 1st & 4th amendment rights to assemble peaceably and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure respectively

  2. Participation is the key to making change. Last week the High Desert Cyclists Bike Access Committee had a meeting with a planner from the City of Palmdale. The discussion was about linking existing bikes lanes, improving a sweet bike path between the west side of town to the central shopping area, and adding new lanes across Palmdale from east to west. This was the 2nd meeting in recent weeks with the city where cyclists could air their concerns and wishes. The City of Palmdale is really listening to the bike community. I expect to see many improvements and additions which should definitely make Palmdale safer for cyclists.

  3. I’m in favor of cyclists rights, but I’m opposed to hypocritical cyclists that cry about having the same rights as motorists yet consistently violate traffic laws that motorists must obey. If you are a cyclist and advocate your rights to occupy a lane as much as car, then don’t be an ass and fail to stop at stop signs. Almost all cars stop at stop signs, yet I would estimate only 20 to 30 percent of cyclists do.Why should a cyclist feel entitled to ride right through?

    Cyclist’s aren’t helping the cause for awareness of their rights by being hypocrites.If you advocate others to obey the traffic laws, set an example by doing so yourself.

  4. If a biker rides through a stop sign, they risk their own lives. If a car drives through a stop sign, they risk the lives of others.

    Bicyclers violate traffic laws to the same degree that pedestrians do. It’s more akin to jaywalking than it is to traffic violations in a car.

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