New bike law seeks to raise street awareness

Nick Geiger, a Phi Delta Kappa historian, often rides his bike to school, stating that it is healthier and eliminates the hassle of finding parking. However, Geiger has been involved in his fair share of close calls on the road.

Geiger retells a close call he had with a driver while biking down to Marina Del Rey. There was a car near Geiger that seemed much closer than a car should be. He recalls someone reaching their hand out, trying to hit him. “I felt contact but didn’t have time to react,” he says.

“I’m lucky that they missed, otherwise I would have been seriously injured,” says Geiger. Nick Geiger is one of many who have trouble commuting around Los Angeles by bike.

The Santa Monica Police Department records show that there were over 1,000 collisions between February 2006 and February 2011. A majority of the accidents occurred at intersections  and on major streets such as Pico Blvd., Lincoln Blvd., Ocean Park Blvd., and Wilshire Blvd. According to the California Highway Patrol Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System report for 2012, more than 150 bikers were killed in car vs. bike accidents. The number of bikers that were injured or involved in car accidents during that year reached about 5,000.

A law, effective as of September 16, requires all vehicles to give bikers 3 feet of space before passing them. This is to insure that the biker will not be accidentally hit by a passing car. Violators will be penalized with a minimum $35 fine if no injuries occur. If, however, the biker has been hit, the fine will be $233, with any additional fees, depending on the situation, potentially racking up penalty costs to $959.

Assemblyman Steven Bradford, the bill’s author, explained, “This is not another fine or a way of penalizing drivers, it’s a way of educating drivers and bikers,” (about sharing the road).

Some bikers, like SMC student Tekoah Flory, speculate if this law will really change the attitude of drivers sharing the roads with bicycle riders. Flory bikes all over Los Angeles to avoid traffic and to improve the condition of her health. “‘Bikers’ are just survivors. We are street warriors,” she says.

Flory believes that this bill is not the answer to the problem of bikers sharing roads with drivers. She states that because of the debris, small lanes, close proximity to cars, and parked cars in bike lanes, bikers are subject to unsafe conditions. “Biking in Santa Monica is more policed. It is safer, but I bike all over Los Angeles, Inglewood, Silverlake, K-Town, and the bike lanes, if there are any, are crap,” says Flory.

California Highway Patrol officer Edgar Figueroa is quoted by LA Times saying, “There are a lot of road rage incidents.” He believes this new bill is meant to promote sharing the road between bikers and drivers.

Students like Flory similarly feel that there is tension between bikers and drivers, causing numerous accidents. “There is a lot of aggression. Only some neighborhoods will provide protection,” said Flory.

The other party this law effects is drivers of the road, who encounter bikers on both busy and calm streets in Los Angeles.

Drivers, like Santa Monica College sophomore business major Maurice, who wished to withhold his last name, suggests that bikers are also to blame for accidents. Maurice recalls a time when a biker ran into his car while he was stopped in the street. “I saw them coming and they couldn’t see me, and I was honking my horn,” says Maurice, as the biker road out of a driveway and rolled over the top of his hood. The biker was extremely apologetic, admitting he wasn’t paying attention.

Maurice recently bought a bike and began riding it around Santa Monica, noting that he can see the other side of the things as a biker now, too.

A Big Blue Bus driver for over 20 years, Ruben Romero explains that bikers often don’t stop at stop signs and swerve in front of his bus.

“They’re terrible,” he says about bikers on the road, adding that he expects them to break traffic laws. Romero doesn’t believe that will really change anything; “They’re going to go where they want,” says Romero.

Another SMC student driver who commutes by car to school, Ashley Wake, a child development student, says that she allows bikers their space on the road. Though she has never experienced a car-biker collision, Wake has noticed bikers riding through stop signs and not adhering to traffic laws that drivers have to follow. She explains at times its hard to see bikers on the road; “Sometimes they come out of no where and you literally don’t see them. And you can’t swerve over or you’ll hit another car on the road,” says Wake.

LAPD Officer Sara Faden states that police will begin to issue out warnings to give drivers time to adjust and become educated about the new law. Each case will be individually reviewed, however, Faden notes that incidents witnessed by police will result in a citation. However, the citation can only be issued if a police officer witnesses the violation.