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LA City Council Eyes Fines For Bicyclist Harassment

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(Michael Powell/Allsport/Getty Images)

(Michael Powell/Allsport/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A second Los Angeles City Council committee went on record on Monday in support of a proposal to make it a civil violation to harass, threaten or assault a bicyclist, and to allow the rider to file for damages.

The council’s Public Safety Committee directed the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance, an action first proposed by Transportation Committee last week.

“This isn’t about a fine,” Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel said. “What this does is it says to a plaintiff who sues: `Here’s what you’re entitled to recover — damages or $1,000, whichever is greater.”‘

Reel said if a bystander or driver were to touch a bicyclist waiting at a stop light, the proposed ordinance would give the rider an opportunity to receive compensation for the violation.

“It may be that there’s no actual monetary damages because thank goodness there was no serious physical injury,” Reel said. “This (proposed ordinance) would establish a minimum amount that a plaintiff could recover.”

Both committees also supported efforts to urge the state Legislature to make it illegal for people to drive a vehicle within three feet of a bicyclist.

In his report to both committees, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said bicyclists have complained that people spit at them; throw liquids and solid objects at them; verbally threaten them; drive too close and cut them off; and honk horns to scare them.

Trutanich said state laws already exist to protect bicyclists from such actions, which can be considered assault, battery and other crimes. He said the California Bicycle Coalition is working with the state Legislature to craft other protections for bicyclists.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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