Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a mandatory helmet law for all bicyclists across California at his much-touted “bike summit” downtown Monday.

Cyclists booed the mayor as he called for the law, which would cover those 18 and older (juveniles are already required to wear helmets). ” … We need to have a bicycle helmet law for people over 18,” Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa broke his elbow in a bike accident last month. The incident renewed his interest in a long-simmering movement to make L.A. a more bicycle-friendly city.

“I don't need to be popular here,'' Villaraigosa said. “I'm here today because I was wearing a helmet.''

More than a hundred bicycle activists and community members gathered at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority boardroom Monday morning to hear the mayor and city officials speak on the issue — and to participate in a question-and-answer session.

Members of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee and others participated in the discussion. Joining the mayor were city planning director Michael LoGrande and Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) general manager Rita Robinson.

The death of a bicyclist Monday morning in the San Fernando Valley underscored the need to improve bike safety, Villaraigosa said.

“We need to change the driving culture where some drivers don't pay attention to the rights of bicyclists,” Villaraigosa said.

The mayor touted the city's bicycle plan, which calls for the creation of more than 1,600 miles of “bikeways” throughout the city. Ten percent of revenue from Measure R, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation projects in L.A. will be allocated toward bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, according to the mayor.

The mayor noted that between 1977 and 2010, the city only built 372 miles of bikeways, with an average of eight to ten miles being built per year. He hopes to increase the average to forty miles per year, with 200 miles planned for the next five years.

The mayor said he plans on producing a series of public service announcements to educate the public on bicyclists' rights and safety.

Villaraigosa and city Councilman Bill Rosendahl touted a law that would mandate a three-foot separation between drivers and cyclists on state roads when cars are overtaking bikes.

During the forum, some community members questioned the city Department of Transportation's efficiency when it comes to implementing the city's bike plan.

“LADOT is notorious for dragging their feet, what will you do to change that?”, one bicyclist asked.

LADOT head Robinson said the department will work with the mayor and city council to address the problem.

Following the summit, some community members seemed pleased by what the mayor and others had to say but were concerned about actions going forward.

“I think today was a good start”, said cyclist Patrick Miller of Hollywood. “But the mayor is going to need a lot more of a sustained effort for this to amount to anything.”

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

LA Weekly