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Windsor council rejects ordinance aimed at protecting cyclists


Windsor Town Council members on Wednesday night rejected a proposed ordinance that would make it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to sue people who harass or intimidate them.

While acknowledging the vulnerability of cyclists and people on foot, a majority of council members said it would not necessarily make them safer and could lead to frivolous lawsuits.

“This doesn’t solve the behavior,” Mayor Robin Goble said. “This just gives more opportunity for people to sue.”

CyclistShe said education and common courtesy will do more to address the problem of unsafe behavior on the part of both motorists and cyclists.

Other than Councilwoman Debora Fudge — a seasoned cyclist who described an incident where a motorist deliberately cut her off and slammed on the brakes — there was no support on the council for the “Vulnerable Road User Protection” ordinance urged by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

“It missed me by two inches. I could have been killed,” she told her colleagues.

But other council members had their doubts that it would be effective.

“There’s a lot of bad blood between bicyclists and motorists,” said Councilman Steve Allen, who commutes sometimes by bike and has participated in organized cycling rides. “I don’t see passing an ordinance as relieving animosity. I see it as potentially worse — people being more angry about it.”

The bicycle coalition is on a campaign to get all nine cities and the county to adopt an ordinance to make it easier for a cyclist or pedestrian to bring a civil lawsuit and collect damages if they are harassed or assaulted. Advocates say it will mainly act as a deterrent.

Sebastopol and the County of Sonoma earlier this year adopted their versions of the new law.

Santa Rosa City Council members, who previously expressed support for a vulnerable user ordinance, will formally consider it next month, as will the Healdsburg City Council.

The push for an ordinance followed a series of vehicle crashes in the county over the past two years that have seriously injured or killed cyclists and pedestrians.

It’s patterned after similar ordinances that have been adopted in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Sunnyvale and Washington, D.C.

Supporters say the ordinance is intended to fill gaps in criminal prosecution, which has a higher standard of proof.

It defines what harassment is and sets up a procedure for an injured party, whether it is a cyclist, pedestrian, jogger or skateboard rider, to bring a lawsuit against an aggressor, which could be a motorist or even a cyclist.

Harassment is defined as attempted physical assault or physical assault; verbal threats of assault; intentional injury or attempts to injure; distracting or attempting to distract a bicyclist, pedestrian or others; forcing or attempting to force someone off the street; passing at an unsafe distance of less than 3 feet with intent to intimidate or injure; and failing to yield to a pedestrian walking or running along a road.”It would not apply to “someone behaving rudely, or giving a person a one finger salute,” said Gary Helfrich , executive director of the county Bicycle Coalition.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

6 Responses to “Windsor council rejects ordinance aimed at protecting cyclists”

  1. R.B. Fish says:

    Congrats to the Windsor city council for seeing the scam and prtecting local taxpayers. Windsor has done more planning to accomdate bike riding than any other city.Windsor is turning into a nice place.

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  2. The Hammer says:

    Thank God some one has got a brain.

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  3. Steveguy says:

    About time someone said no to the ‘ Bicycle Coalition’.

    The Humboldt Street ‘Bicycle Boulevard’ is and was a total failure and waste of time and money, much money.

    Then they left my old ‘hood with annoying speed bumps where none where wanted.

    Finally the Town Council got something right.

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  4. homegirl says:

    The Bicycle Coalition demands and gets everything. I anxiously await the day when a local city council or the Board of Supervisors demands that the BC support an ordinance requiring cyclists to be tested, licensed, insured and have a license plate on the bike.
    Then the motorists should place dash cams on their dashboards and report the incessant traffic violations of cyclists.

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  5. Just what northern California needs, “an ordinance to make it easier for a cyclist or pedestrian to bring a civil lawsuit and collect damages if they are harassed or assaulted.” Increased litigiousness never hurt anybody, right?

    It’s already against the law to assault a cyclist–exactly as it should be. Anyone who willfully injures someone else without cause deserves what’s coming to them.

    This law, however, just means that whatever some thin-skinned cyclist (no offense intended to the vast majority of your considerate, RESPONSIBLE cyclists) considers harassment becomes a potential payday and a GUARANTEED hassle.

    How about a law that increases fines for cyclists who behave dangerously and violate the rules of the road?

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  6. Grapevines says:

    So if I produced a “One Finger Salute” towards the Board of Supervisors, would that be considered behaving rudely??

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

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