How Hit and Runs are Disrupting Biking in the City of Angels
This past month, Peter Flax, the Los Angles-based lifestyle journalist writing for Bicycling stated that Los Angeles is the worst bike city in America, with ample reasoning. Expecting me to disagree? He was 100% right, no question about it! As he also stated, Los Angeles is blessed with a perfect year-round warm biking weather, with very little rain to spoil our day. So where’s the disconnect?
An Increasing Epidemic
Since the phrase was coined by La Hood, the problem has only increased. The 90’s Los Angeles brought the ‘drive-by shooting’, a regularity dashed across local TV news. Today, the evening anchors chronicle the alarming number of pedestrian and bicyclist hit and run accidents resulting in serious injury or death. The daily body count of mowed-down bike riders and pedestrians killed while legally walking on the city’s marked crosswalks or riding on city streets continues to increase with markedly few individuals brought to justice.
It must be stated that per California Vehicle Code 20001 it is a felony crime to flee the scene of an accident in which another person has been injured or killed. Though severe, this punishment does not seem to have much effect, though lack of enforcement may be to blame. Statistics show that the overwhelming number of hit and run cases go unsolved, with only 20% resulting in a conviction. And when they do get caught, many are able to work deals with the district attorney to minimize the seriousness of the crime to a misdemeanor, thereby removing any of the punitive force originally intended by the law.
With the lack of law enforcements ability to enforce and bring justice to victims and their family, combined with a passive judicial process, what can we do to bring about change to the ‘worst bike city in America’? I have been mulling this dilemma for quite some time now. It has been up for debate in my meetings with our government agencies and transportation entities. We are all aware here that something must be done about hit and runs. I propose the following that would require the current law to be either amended or a new law introduced by our legislators in Sacramento. The new law I propose would function as follows:
When the crime of hit and run is committed as per CVC 20001 and results in a serious injury or death of another person, up on conviction and sentencing in a felony case, the perpetrator will be sentenced to the mandatory maximum of 10 years in jail and their California Driver License permanently revoked.
Of course before this law could be voted on it would need a petition to gather thousands of signatures. I am certain that all of us in the biking community would agree to sign it and help deter if not stop the hit and run epidemic that at present is allowed to run amok and unabated. The life you save might very well be your own.