Responding to Police vs. Bicyclist Brutality

I wasn’t on last Friday’s Critical Mass ride where this video captured a Los Angeles Police Department officers kicking a bicyclist and taking down another (the person filming) with what appears to me to be excessive force.

The incident has already been editorialized at Bikeside, LACBC, Soapbox LA, Streetsblog, and elsewhere… but I, too, want to weigh in on the question of what should be done.

First off, I acknowledge that nobody can speak for Critical Mass – a worldwide celebration of bicycling, which boasts “no leaders.” Critical Mass is not a group nor an organization, more of an event, a happening. I, and a couple of other eco-villagers, were some of the bicyclists that got Critical Mass started in L.A. in the late 1990’s, but the group has a life of its own.

Los Angeles police take their cues from the built environment around them. The officers can “read” L.A.’s streets. Our streets currently show that bicyclist are not valued, not legitimate, not welcome, not important, not planned for… not worthy of respect.

The way to remedy this is not just for the city to open an investigation into the incidents (though that should be and is being done), but for the city of Los Angeles to commit to reworking its roadways to better accommodate bicycling. The city should add bike lanes. This should be done in all areas, as a routine accommodation… but there are some good places where we can move quickly.

Here are ten easy, already-approve bike lane projects that the city should do this year. There are no surprises here. These are all approved, all cheap (can be done under the city existing restriping budget)… though they do require some political will. Some of them require modest removal of some car-travel lanes and/or some parking, but none of them will close streets to cars, or greatly inconvenience transit users or drivers.

  1. Devonshire Street – bike lanes from Reseda Blvd to Hayvenhurst Ave – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  2. Figueroa Street – bike lane from 3rd St to Olympic Blvd in Downtown Los Angeles – approved in 2009 Downtown Street Standards.
  3. First Street – bike lanes from Glendale Blvd to Central Ave in Downtown Los Angeles – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  4. Flower Street – bike lane from 3rd St to Venice Blvd in Downtown Los Angeles – approved in 2009 Downtown Street Standards.
  5. Mission Road – bike lanes from Cesar Chavez Ave to Huntington Dr – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  6. Reseda Boulevard – bike lanes from Devonshire St to Parthenia St in the San Fernando Valley – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  7. Seventh Street – bike lanes from San Pedro St to 110 Freeway [or Bixel St] in Downtown Los Angeles – approved in  2009 Downtown Street Standards.
  8. Vermont Aveune – bike lanes from Manchester Ave to Slauson Ave – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  9. Westwood Boulevard – bike lanes from Wilshire Blvd to LeConte Ave in Westwood – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.
  10. York Boulevard from Eagle Rock Blvd to San Pascual Ave – approved in 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.

The city should show its respect to bicyclists by implementing these ten already-approved bike lane projects within one year. This would begin to set up an atmosphere of respect on Los Angeles’ streets. In the absence of streets that are safe for bicycling, the police will continue to abuse bicyclists, and bicyclists will continue to protest our treatment.

(Note – Many of these projects are listed and explained further in an earlier post at cicLAvia. Updated June 7 2010 – fixed error on limits of 7th Street bike lanes.)

8 thoughts on “Responding to Police vs. Bicyclist Brutality

  1. Agreed. The city should show its respect to bicyclists… just as bicyclists should show their respect to the city (obeying its laws would be a good start… starting with not running red lights just because we happen to be on a bike). This blog provides much needed information about what the city can do. Perhaps it could also suggest various practical and realistic ideas as to what its readers/cyclists could do to best help bring about the changes needed to make L.A. safer for bicycling. To paraphrase a former President: “Ask not what your city can do for you, ask what you can do for your city.”

  2. @Kevin – I think that cyclists are doing plenty. We’re civically engaged. Daily, we’re demonstrating a mode of transportation that’s safe, friendly, healthy and that doesn’t overheat the globe, pollute air and water, and massive oil spills. We’ve been doing all kinds of DIY stuff that makes the city safer.

    It’s time for the city to do what it can to respect cyclists. Not for LAPD to kick us, endanger us.

  3. Pingback: What does Friday’s Critical Mass Takedown say about police/cyclist relations in LA? « BikingInLA

  4. There is also a plan that has gone before the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council to put Rowena in between both parts of Glendale on a road diet and add bike lanes. It would tie in with whatever near future plans the DWP has for work on Rowena. Search for “Proposal for Rowena Ave. Planted Median 7:10 p.m.” to find the relevant section in the meeting minutes:
    It would be particularly exciting if the Fletcher extension hooked up with the river bike path!

  5. Pingback: Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines

  6. @Amanda (actually the second Amanda commenter “Danceralamode” is also an Amanda) – the Rowena Avenue project sounds great. Those bike lanes would be really useful.

  7. Pingback: Who’s the man behind the curtain of L.A. bicycling? « BikingInLA

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