Two weeks ago a group of cyclists got together with the LAPD and created the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force. The Task Force addressed issues concerning law, safety, education, enforcement, policy, road rage, the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, the Bike Plan, theft, data, and crime scenes.
Representing the cycling community was Bikeside, Bike Writers Collective, Sustainable Streets, the Bike Advisory Committee, LA Bike Working Group, illuminateLA and the Voice Newspapers. A great mix of people who are not only passionate but also who have showed effective communication skills, outreach, political will, resourcefulness, education and who work well with the community as a whole.
The meeting was scheduled for 1 hour but lasted 3 and it was quite productive. Commander Doan of the LAPD’s Operations Department was heading the meeting and I felt a bit of a silent joy. Commander Doan, Lt. Torsney, Sgt. Graham and Sgt. Krumer, represented the LAPD and were open to our concerns, they did their homework and they were very knowledgeable. They are aware of the issues on the streets and they seem to want to support our rights on the streets of LA.
The LAPD was receptive to the concerns we addressed and especially those that came from the perspective of a woman. This was quite surprising, especially after dealing with the LADOT’s Bikeways coordinator, Michelle Mowery, who doesn’t seem to be interested in the concerns of cyclists or anything we have to say. (I gave up talking to the LADOT a long time ago, because I knew that anything that I addressed would be countered with a “No, we can’t do that”, “…that’s because some cyclists are stupid…”, “That’s not feasible” “Anything else? No? Thank you.” “Next” or I would just get ignored.)
So I was expecting the same thing, if not more of it, because this was a bunch of guys with guns and authority on their side. But I was surprised. Everybody was open to what I had to say. I think it was the first time in a long time that I didn’t feel like cops were a threat to me and against me. Nobody in that room talked down on me, looked down on me or thought less of me because I was a woman or because I rode a bike. As a woman I’m very used to being called by cops “Sweetheart” and then hearing “You need to know…” or “You shouldn’t … it’s dangerous.”
In this meeting I felt a mutual respect from all sides and I’m only hoping that it will continue. This was the first meeting of many and I know it will take time for change. But during this time we all have to be committed to make the changes that are necessary for a bikeable Los Angeles.
A lot of the laws, books and rules of the LAPD are outdated. A lot of our policies need rewriting. Educating motorists is going to be necessary not only about the rights of cyclists, but also their duties in an incident. LAPD education is also on the table. Counting cyclists, filing complaints and thefts, etc. Lots of issues, lots of new ideas have surfaced during the meeting.
I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to make our streets safer for all users. I’m willing to go to Sacramento and lobby again like Stephen and I did last year with Krekorian’s Safe Streets Bill. I’m willing to pound the pavement to get new laws into effect. But to be effective, we will need the LAPD to back us up. We will need the LAPD to be willing to walk with us, speak up with us, write letters with us, and we need them to enforce the law and to teach everybody out there to respect us.
So I’ll keep my joy silent, until I can with conviction see changes that are happening and see that the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force has one mission. And that is, as Commander Doan said: “The LAPD is committed to making our roadways safer for all commuters with an emphasis on our most vulnerable commuters, cyclists. We are committed to working with the cycling community to improve police cyclist interactions and to find ways to make our streets safer for everyone.”
Until then, know the law and your rights, and join us at the Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 2nd at 7pm, where you get to meet Commander Doan. The LABAC meets at Parker Center, 150 Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Photo courtesy by Incycle/Flickr