Letter to the Editor

Right of way

I was excited to see the issue of pedestrian safety and traffic code infringement make front-page news on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The article exposed all sides of the issue, from the student bicyclist perspective to the student pedestrian perspective (albeit lacking some conviction), and also the perspective of DPS officials.

I have been a student pedestrian at USC for the past four years, and I usually enjoy most of my commute to and from campus.

However, each year that passes I see the distance between bicyclists and pedestrians grow wider. I have been marauded by bicycle traffickers and hit on the way to and from class, left with only a “Sorry!” and a bruise (sometimes offenders simply bike away in rage).

Imagine this happening with a motor vehicle. In a time when motorcycle accidents are at an all-time high in California, we need to be looking at everyone’s safety and convenience, rather than merely our own. I say with a sense of humor that I have been forced to practice “defensive walking,” just as one might practice “defensive driving” in heavy traffic. I would like to remind all bicyclists that it is not the responsibility of the pedestrian to avoid a bicycle hurtling directly toward him. The opposite is actually true, and this situation is usually harrowing.

How soon we, as students, forget that we all have rights in traffic. While I agree that the mentioned fines for traffic violations are excessive (and should be protested), the principle of the matter remains that the original violations are still occurring, and students, staff, faculty, and visitors on foot are all at risk for physical injury. Students of USC are not exempt from these traffic laws or any other laws, despite the prevalence of this mode of thinking.

Do you know your traffic code? After reading the article I decided to brush up on city ordinances and want to share the relevant code summaries with my colleagues:

Bicyclist rights (CVC 21200): Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers.

The key word here is responsibilities. I think a consensus can be reached that students largely do not care for these responsibilities and require enforcement as well as a deterrent (such as a fine in the hundreds of dollars) in order to understand that the days in which they are not receiving tickets are freebies. The idea that these “fining” days (which I believe used to occur every Thursday) are excessive in number is absurd to me as a pedestrian.

Use of the roadway (CVC 21202): Bicycles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except: when passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid hazards and dangerous conditions, or if the lane is too narrow.

Direction of travel (CVC 21650): Bicyclist must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic.

Enough said. These aren’t being followed at all.

However, the administration as well as city officials aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, either:

Bicycle lane use (CVC 21208): Bicyclists traveling slower than traffic must use bike lanes except when making a left turn, passing or avoiding hazardous conditions.

So, where are the bike lanes? The problem is that with more students come, constriction of once-free pedestrian thoroughfares. The editorial, “Bike regulation requires a more cohesive plan,” from the editorial staff hit the nail on the head when it stated cooperation with all parties is key.

One last thing: The idea that LAPD officers should be spending their time with other matters is absolutely correct. So, why don’t we allow them to focus on more “important” matters by upholding our end of the bargain? Let’s reserve civil disobedience for laws that actually discriminate or infringe upon our civil liberties.

greg laughnan

Senior, creative writing

3 replies
  1. Wanda Starr
    Wanda Starr says:

    You are talking about bikes while our planet is being destroyed by man-made Global Warming! Get a clue!

  2. Christopher Miranda
    Christopher Miranda says:

    “Enough said. These aren’t being followed at all.” These rules are being followed, but the cyclists who don’t follow the rules might make a bigger impression.

    • Greg Laughnan
      Greg Laughnan says:

      @ Chris: I was misquoted by the editorial staff. My original editorial read, “enough said. This one isn’t being followed at all.” I didn’t mean to state that all bicyclists are ignoring the rules 100% of the time. I agree that some bicyclists surely obey the law, but those who do not make a bigger impression. I would definitely say we have more rulebreakers than followers, however, just from experience. ;)
      @ Wanda: Clue obtained. I’m glad people ride bikes if they are doing it to help avoid climate change, but I sincerely doubt this is what is happening. Again, it seems to be more a choice of convenience and cost. There’s a time and a place for every debate. If we all get killed in traffic we won’t be able to talk about climate change! ;) Just commenting on the relevant side of things!

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