Despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s ambitious Vision Zero program, which he launched in August 2015 in a drive to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2025, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in Los Angeles have increased. In 2017, 245 people were killed in traffic accidents in the city, and 60 percent of the people who died were walking or riding bicycles at the time of their collisions. This was almost twice the number of people who were killed in traffic accidents in the city in 2016, underscoring the need for further attention. A group of cyclists has become politically active in an effort to get better safety measures in place.
Frederick Frazier accident
In April 2018, Frederick Frazier, a 22-year-old man, went for a ride on his bicycle. Frazier turned onto the far right-hand side of Manchester Boulevard. He was riding his bicycle between the cars that were parked along the right side of the road and the traffic when a white Porsche sped up behind him. Instead of slowing, the Porsche increased its speed behind him as was revealed by a video of the traffic. The Porsche struck Frazier and his bicycle hard enough that the force of the crash broke his bicycle in half. The Porsche’s driver did not stop and instead drove away, leaving Frazier to die in the street. Frazier’s hit-and-run accident was the first one of four that would occur over the next six days. It also was the type of bicycle collision that we have previously highlighted as being among the most dangerous. Cyclists are often struck when they turn right onto busy surface roads such as Manchester.
Bicycle hit-and-runs a serious problem in L.A.
As we have previously written, hit-and-run accidents with cyclists have dramatically increased over the past decade. The Los Angeles Times reported that these types of accidents increased by 42 percent. Hit-and-run accidents are especially problematic since more than 80 percent are not solved by the authorities. In Frazier’s case, the security video from a nearby building led to the driver’s identification and arrest. Authorities are considering filing charges of involuntary manslaughter against the driver.
Another hit-and-run accident at demonstration
Following Frazier’s death, a group of bicyclists gathered for a memorial in Frazier’s honor 24 hours after his accident. During the memorial, the cyclists blocked traffic briefly in protest. Several motorists became angry at the cyclists, and a woman drove through the crowd. She struck a cyclist named Quatrell Stallings, seriously injuring him. Stallings was a friend of Frazier’s, and similar to the driver who struck Frazier, the woman who hit Stallings sped away. In June, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it had located the woman and had arrested her. She is now facing charges of attempted murder.
Accidents highlight multiple problems
The cyclists agree that the motorists are not the only parties who are to blame for the numerous accidents involving cyclists. They also point to the inaction of members of the city council. There are plenty of funds available to create new bicycle lanes following the passage of a 1/2 cent sales tax in 2016 with funds that were earmarked for improvements for cycling and walking. Despite the availability of funds, the city has only installed 7 miles of bicycle lanes and have torn up some of the lanes that have been installed in response to pressure from motorists.
New York has a similar Vision Zero program in place and has seen a marked decrease in the number of fatalities since its implementation. Unlike Los Angeles, however, New York has a strong mayoral system that allows the mayor to overrule actions by individual city council members. In Los Angeles, the councilmen each serve as rulers of their own areas, and they can only be overruled by a vote of the entire council. The council members are reticent to overrule the votes of other council members because of worries that they will be voted down themselves.
City built for cars
Los Angeles is a city built for cars. Little thought has been given to the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians. The infrastructure has instead been built in such a way as to facilitate the quick movement of large volumes of traffic. The cyclists have formed multiple political advocacy groups in a push to get the city to install more bicycle lanes and to reduce the speed limits so that motorists will be forced to drive more slowly.
Another part of the problem is the unawareness that many motorists have about the rights of cyclists. As we have pointed out in the past, cyclists have just as many rights to use the streets as do motorists under CVC 21200. Motorists who do not understand this may grow frustrated when they have to share the roads with cyclists and may drive aggressively around them, causing accidents to happen.
It is important for motorists and cyclists to understand the laws that apply to them and the duties that they both have when they share the road. We have compiled a list of the 10 most important laws that cyclists should know so that they can be safer when they are riding on the roads in areas without bicycle lanes.
What to do after a bicycle accident in L.A.
If you are struck by a motor vehicle while riding a bicycle in Los Angeles, there are several things that we advise you to do. If you can, try to take a photograph of the vehicle that hit you with the license plate in the picture. This can help to track the driver down if he or she leaves the scene of the accident. You should also try to get the names and contact information of any witnesses, and call the police. After the police arrive, you should get examined by your doctor for injuries even if you are uncertain whether or not you have been injured. Finally, you might benefit by talking to an experienced bicycle accident lawyer in Los Angeles at the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat. Call us today to learn more about the rights of cyclists and your potential ability to recover damages in your own claim.