Sympathy for the Careless Driver

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 huge disservice to everyone else on the roads, especially his new friends in the cycling community.

Because what the driver did was illegal. He pulled away from the curb without making sure the bike lane he was parked next to was 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 in this wireless world, that’s just about everyone -- that cutting off a bike 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.