Los Angeles cyclists demand protection

By Kirsten Robbins | Saturday, February 27, 2010 3.00am

Los Angeles cycling advocates opened new lines of communication with the city’s chief of police, Charlie Beck, during a meeting at City Hall on Wednesday.

Some 40 cycling advocates came together earlier in the day for a group ride to protest at the way cyclists have historically been treated the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after incidents with cars. Beck promised his department would do a better job of providing fair and equal treatment in future.

“The ride was not about correcting the unfair treatment,” said Aurisha Smolarski, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition campaign director. “It was about providing us with a visible opportunity to raise our voices in protest to the way cyclists have been routinely disregarded and disrespected. Things need to change, and they need to change now.”

Frustration reached a boiling point when Ed Magos, a city council member and cyclist, was struck from behind while riding his bike to work on 6 January. In his case, the driver fled before fire department paramedics transported Magos to the Good Samaritan Hospital.

It is reported that the driver stepped out of her car and looked at Magos’ injured body before leaving the scene. She later went to an LAPD station but was neither arrested nor charged with a crime.

Protesters rode along an 8km route and stopped at the location where Magos was struck by the car on 2nd Street near Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“Ed’s wife and kids were present and he did see us ride up to City Hall from his office window,” Smolarski said. “But he was unable to ride with us due to injuries.”

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During the meeting that followed the protest ride, Chief Beck said he intended to hand over responsibility for investigating bicycle accidents to the LAPD's specialised Traffic Investigation Unit and would appoint Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger as the force’s liaison to the cycling community.

“I think things are headed in the right direction,” Smolarski said. “We are part of a [bicycle] task force that will be meeting with the LAPD on a monthly basis. So the communication is good and they are open to hearing our input and comments.”

Chief Beck promised to stay involved to make sure the proposed changes were implemented. He also plans to speak with the City Attorney’s office about reopening the Magos hit-and-run case.

“We hear you, we know that we can do a better job for you, we will do a better job for you,” he said during the meeting. “But, don’t just listen to what I say, watch what I do.”

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