Letters to the Editor

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CYCLISTS: Tacoma needs a bicyclist anti-harassment law

Letter by James E. Lawson, Tacoma on July 26, 2011 at 11:24 am | 23 Comments »
July 26, 2011 2:54 pm

Anybody who rides a bicycle in Tacoma knows this is not a friendly town. Broken traffic-control devices cause serious, often dangerous, problems. Roadway design flaws and roadway neglect cause other dangerous problems.

The city needs to work more aggressively to fix these problems. Left-turn arrows need to respond to bicyclists, and roadway drainage grate slots should not align with the flow of traffic.

Most of the outright hostility, however, comes from motorists who have not yet accepted that cyclists have as much right to be on the road as motorists do. Threats, profanity, angry honking, passing too close, cutting off, thrown objects, failure to yield: Such are the typical responses of these motorists to cyclists on “their” road.

All that rage is meant to intimidate cyclists and, when combined with frequent media attention to cyclists killed or maimed by drivers on the local roadways, has more than just a chilling effect.

Tacoma should pass a bicyclist anti-harassment law similar to the one recently enacted in Los Angeles. There, bicyclists (or, too often, their heirs) can use the civil court system to sue drivers who harass them physically or verbally, without waiting for the city or police to act.

Penalties can be up to three times the amount of damages plus attorneys’ fees. That potential compensation should be enough to interest attorneys in taking the cyclists’ cases.

After a similar law is passed here, my helmet camera investment will pay for itself, many times over.

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