LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles City Council directed its attorneys on Wednesday to prepare an ordinance that would make it a civil violation to harass, threaten or assault a bicyclist, and to allow the rider to file for damages.
“At the moment, when a bicyclist gets hit or hurt by a vehicle, this allows civil lawsuits to take place, and recovery of funds,” Councilman Bill Rosendahl said.
He added the proposed ordinance should be ready for final consideration by the council within 60 days.
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“This does not create a criminal cause of action that the city will enforce,” Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel told the council. “It will create a civil cause of action that a bicyclist could enforce. The city will not be involved in enforcement.”
Testifying before the council’s Public Safety Committee last week, Reel explained, “This (proposed ordinance) isn’t about a fine. 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 last week that 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 last week. “This (proposed ordinance) would establish a minimum amount that a plaintiff could recover.”
In his report to the council’s Public Safety and Transportation committees, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said bicyclists have complained that people spit, 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 cyclists.
Even members of the Los Angeles Police Department have been accused of harassing bicyclists. During a Critical Mass ride in May, about 400 bicyclists rode along Hollywood Boulevard to protest the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, creating traffic jams.
Some of the participants accused police officers of harassing them and sticking batons through the spokes of their wheels. One person posted a YouTube video of an alleged confrontation.
City officials and bicyclists are in the process of crafting a so-called “Bicycle Plan” that calls for building more than 1,600 miles of bikeways over the next 30 years — including 200 miles in the next five years.
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