The Los Angeles City Council recently passed an ordinance giving bicycle riders the chance to sue automobile drivers for threatening them, harassing them or trying to force them off the streets. Hit-and-runs are a big concern to cycling activists.

Cycling activist Don Ward recounts his hit-and-run story. About three years ago, he collided with a car while riding on Glendale Boulevard, near Sunset Boulevard, in Echo Park. The car took off, but Ward was able to get the car’s license plate number. He tweeted the information and posted it to the Midnight Ridazz message board, a group he helped found. With the help of someone in the California Highway Patrol, he was able to track down the driver, and eventually bring him to justice.

But he recognizes that the police, who seemed unwilling to help him at first, are overburdened and unable to help cyclists go after aggressive drivers. He says the laws need to be changed so that a hit-and-run incident carried a far more serious consequence. Listen to the interview below.

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  • Cary Gordon

    I was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver last May. It was in Mar Vista at two o'clock in the afternoon, returning from a trip to the market. Unlike Mr. Ward, I lacked the consciousness, let alone the presence of mind to note the driver's plate number. I remember nothing between a moment before I was hit and looking at the ceiling of a LAPD ambulance and being asked strange questions, like "Do you know where you are?"

    With 14 broken ribs, a broken leg and a good hit to the head, I didn't get to take up the hunt for my assailant.

    I did learn a lot, though. First and foremost, I reaffirmed that helmets work. I would either be dead or a vegetable had I not been wearing one.

    I also learned that well over ninety percent of bicycle accidents are the cyclist's fault. I don't think that mine was, but I will never know for sure. I do realize that the vast majority of folks riding bicycles on the street either have no idea of the risks they are taking, or they are in denial. They also have very little knowledge of the law, and what law they do know, they often disrespect.

    I am fortunate. I am back on my bike, although it will be a while before I clock over 5,000 miles in a year, like I did when I was training for AIDS/Lifecycle, which I rode five times.

    I love cycling, but know that we will never separate cyclists from cars as they do in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Any driver who has taken a written test or attended traffic school has a basic idea of their responsibilities regarding cyclists. Only a tiny proportion of cyclists understand what their responsibilities are. Until that changes, cycling in a city like ours will be a risky business.

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