We got a lot of shit recently for saying L.A.'s bicyclist harassment ordinance is a stupid, kowtowing law, leaving way too much open for interpretation.

God forbid you have an opinion, let alone one that clashes with that of a vocal group in this city: They'll call for your head on a platter, at the least. You must march in lockstep, or fear losing your livelihood.

Well, a lawyer just joined our cause, an attorney who says in the Los Angeles Daily News that “everyone likes bicyclists,” but that's not the point here.

Bill Blum writes in an opinion piece that “the council may well have gone too far, enacting a regulation so broad and vague that it runs afoul of constitutional strictures.”

He also notes the vagueness of the ordinance, which would triple civil suit damages for a bike-riding victim of motorist harassment. The problem is the law doesn't define, for example, what, exactly, the key element — purposefully distracting a rider — is. Blum:

Would wagging one's index finger (not the obscene “table for one” gesture) at a cyclist who runs a stop sign qualify? Would honking the horn to catch the attention of a cyclist dangerously weaving in and out of traffic meet the test? Or how about just shouting to slow down?

And, as Blum says, it presents asymmetry where a motorist wouldn't be entitled to the same protection if she were to be harassed or distracted.

Now, you say, but she's in a big old car surrounded by steel. But it's still unfair.

Why bicyclists, who have fought for years in L.A. to achieve parity with motorists, would want special protection beyond what's fair is beyond us. It's like they're becoming navigation-challenged or something.

In any case, we'll let the lawyer speak:

… The ordinance fails to offer similar awards of costs and fees to motorists who prevail in legal actions – an asymmetry that raises issues of fundamental fairness and equal protection – the principal defect in the ordinance is that it also sweeps within the net of liability anyone who intentionally “distracts” or attempts to “distract” a bicyclist in whole or in part, because of the bicyclist's status as a bicyclist.

Nowhere in the ordinance is the term “distract” defined.

Yeah, good luck defending it in court, City Hall. Because we all know you have loads of cash just laying around in order to defend laws that weren't really thought out at all.


LA Weekly