Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rude, Aggressive Cyclists in Los Angeles About to Become Very Wealthy

During the Carmageddon "crisis" last weekend, we wondered about the hysteria being peddled by the news media and various political figures in Los Angeles; specifically, we wondered how it was connected to the oft-expressed desire of these same people to force the city to abandon an auto-centric life in favor of a New Urbanist existence of bicycles and public transit. Well, the LA Times reports that the City Council has just engaged in a bit of Cass-Sunstein-esque "nudging" to encourage bike ridership: approving a new ordinance allowing cyclists to sue motorists in civil court for physical or verbal harassment, without waiting for the city to press charges.

As former bike commuters ourselves, we can sympathize with the concerns of cyclists in busy cities like Los Angeles. That said, it's a challenge for drivers as well: cyclists routinely run red lights, switch quickly from streets to sidewalks, don't slow down for turning cars when approaching intersections, weave abruptly across traffic lanes, and ride with earphones in. And frankly, just because you bike to work doesn't mean you're not an a**hole; many drivers dislike cyclists because they don't like getting flipped the middle finger or cursed out. In Los Angeles, of course, all these things are exacerbated: stressed-out drivers spending long hours in heavy traffic, and canyon roads full of blind curves. Yet the City Council's way of fixing the problem is to reward LA's worst behaved cyclists. Riders who provoke drivers and create havoc on the road will now have the option of suing the drivers as well, even if the motorist's reaction is purely verbal, without having to file a police report. Cyclists will potentially be able to collect three times their damages plus legal fees. So, if you live in Los Angeles, look for more rude, aggressive cyclists and more frivolous lawsuits in your corner of town soon.

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