For this first time, the Los Angeles Police Department is pledging to take an active role in protecting bikers’ safety on the streets of Los Angeles.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced last week that LAPD will work to heighten awareness of bikers’ rights and regulate officers’ conduct regarding bicycle accidents. The announcement came as a result of growing discontent among bicyclists who want to be able to share the roadways with motorists in a safe manner.
Previously, the officer’s discretion would determine whether an incident between a bike and a car became a collision report or a crime report. LAPD plans to change this policy to include a full, documented report for each collision. The report will be sent to a specific department, which will then determine if the collision was incidental.
LAPD officers will also be better trained in bikers’ safety and rights.
LAPD Cmdr. David R. Doan said the LAPD hopes to create a website where bikers can identify areas in Los Angeles that are particularly problematic.
One area that can be troublesome for both bicyclists and motorists is around USC.
Because all motor vehicles abide by the same California vehicle code, bikers at USC have the same rights as bikers everywhere statewide as well as the same responsibilities.
Department of Public Safety Capt. David Carlisle said bicycle collisions often occur because students are not observing traffic laws. Carlisle said he has noticed that many students at USC tend to not yield to pedestrians as is the law.
According to Carlisle, bikers were previously cited at USC for riding bikes on sidewalks and crosswalks, but it is now permissible to ride bikes on both as long as it is done in a safe manner.
Still, the large number of bicyclists in the USC area creates a potential for problems.
“With the proliferation of bicycles in a campus that was not designed for bike traffic, it has created a hazardous situation for bikers and pedestrians,” Carlisle said.
Although most bike accidents are minor and not reported to DPS, there have been more than 60 bicycle-related incidents reported since January 2008, according to Carlisle.
“I’m always afraid I’m going to hit someone … In the areas where it is congested, it’s almost not worth it to have a bike because you have to walk it,” said Roseanna Jamison, a senior majoring in architecture.
Last year, DPS created a bicycle task force, which aims to find solutions for the numerous bikes on campus and how to manage traffic flow. The bike task force is preparing to release a report soon, Carlisle said.
Though campus is crowded with bicyclists, many students find bikes to be a convenient mode of transportation.
“[Biking] is faster and makes it easier to get to class,” said Bryn Kressin, a senior majoring in communication. “I don’t have to wake up as early.”
Though Elizabeth Castro, a junior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention, has not been involved in a serious biking accident, she is conscious of how dangerous it can be to bike around USC.
“I always bump into pedestrians, and there’s always the awkward ‘which way are you going?’ kind of thing,” Castro said. “You have to bike really slowly. [Biking around USC] is like a game of Frogger.”
Doan cautioned bicyclists to be aware of the pedestrians around campus.
“Bicyclists share pathways with pedestrians and should remember to maneuver in a manner that is consistent with pedestrians because they rule in these situations,” Doan said.
Ryan Nunez, a senior majoring in communication, does not own a bike but must still face bikers who do not follow the rules of the road.
“[Campus] is a nightmare. Bikers feel that they get the right of way and most of the time they don’t,” he said.
Carlisle cautions pedestrians and drivers on campus to “look left, look right and left again” to prepare for oncoming bicyclists.