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Sympathy for the Careless Driver

8:00 AM PDT on July 22, 2010

One
of the stories that's been percolating all week on the Streetsblog
Network stars Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a new role:
urban cyclist. On Saturday, Villaraigosa was riding in a bike lane on
Venice Boulevard (his first bike trip as mayor), when a cab driver cut
him off, forcing him to brake suddenly and fall off his bike. Many
advocates for better cycling conditions, including Streetsblog
LA's Damien Newton
, wondered whether the broken elbow Villaraigosa
suffered might prompt the mayor to tackle street safety problems with
more urgency.

On Monday, Villaraigosa told reporters that
he wouldn't abandon his newest form of transportation, but neither would
he hold the cab driver accountable. "He was very
concerned when he realized it was me," Villaraigosa said. "He was
careless, but that's not illegal. He certainly
didn't do this on purpose."

That response didn't sit well with Network member BikingInLA:

That’s where the Mayor is wrong -- and where he’s done a hugedisservice to everyone else on the roads, especially his new friends inthe cycling community.

Because what the driver did was illegal. He pulled awayfrom the curb without making sure the bike lane he was parked next towas clear. And as a result, caused a cyclist to be injured.

It’s called failure to yield. And it is against the law.

Yet our mayor just told everyone within reach of his words -- and inthis wireless world, that’s just about everyone -- that cutting off abike is really okay. Careless driving is no big deal.

The cab driver who cut off Villaraigosa is probably a well-meaning,
hard-working guy, and no one wants to punish nice people. But if public
figures and elected officials can't talk about careless, sloppy driving
as a public safety risk, many millions of nice people won't think twice
about actions that endanger, injure, and yes, kill other people on our
streets.

Also on the Network: On
Transport
notices that top honors in Money Magazine's "Best Place"
awards went to a town that doesn't seem to have much sense of place at
all. Charleston
Moves
reports that a measure to restrict bike parking in that
city's downtown was thankfully abandoned by city hall. And Richard
Layman
laments that the press doesn't report on traffic-inducing
land-use decisions until it's too late.

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