No Traction Seen for Cyclist-Driver Law

San Diego official says it’s unlikely that policy-makers will adopt a Los Angeles biker protection law

By Gene Cubbison
|  Friday, Jul 22, 2011  |  Updated 9:34 PM PDT
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Cyclists and the Power to Sue

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Cyclists and the Power to Sue

Los Angeles passed an ordinance that lets cyclists take hostile drives to court. Should San Diego follow suit?
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Should San Diego follow the path of a new Los Angeles city ordinance that lets bicyclists take hostile drivers to court?

The measure carries triple damages up to $1,000, plus punitive damages and legal costs.

But the perspective offered by local cycling activists and public-safety policymakers at San Diego's City Hall indicates there's no immediate traction for a similar bike ordinance.

Riders emphasis that the problems that arise between bicycles and motor vehicles are a two-way street.

They say a lot of cyclists have horror stories about malicious motorists. Conversely, many drivers don't like boneheads on bikes.

Still, riders know it's risky business to pedal in traffic where drivers may be in a hurry, preoccupied or careless. One result of this kind of driving is a collision called "hood surfing."

"You end up hitting them and sliding across their hoods," says Mike Abell, a Kearny Mesa resident and public relations liaison for the San Diego Bicycle Club. "We all carry the scars from those things. Most of us assume that's part of the inherent dangers in cycling."

As for the idea of introducing a similar measure here in San Diego?

"It sounds great on paper, but the practicality is going to be very difficult," says Steve Borer, a civil trial attorney who is president and general counsel of the San Diego Bicycle Club.

"If the ordinance is written criminally, I think it would have much greater chance of success," Borer explains. "Have more teeth, have the D.A. or city attorney involved. But this is in the civil arena, and I think this is going to be much more difficult."

Borer says cyclists themselves can go a long way in helping tame wild-eyed drivers by correcting their own bad habits.

For example, says Jacob Cain, floor manager of Mission Hills Bikes: "Running red lights. Going the wrong way on the road. Basically, cutting off cars. You know, that sets up a bad image for cycling, because it only takes one or two."

"And the more cyclists and drivers out there who know how to get along on the road," Cain adds, "the better it is for me, the better it is for you."

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