LAPD seeks to restore relations with bicycle commuters

By Kevin R. Betts

“As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.” Although it is unclear who first said this, there is no doubt that many people feel this way. In California, this recently became clear when an officer of the LAPD was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter who followed several hundred others riding in Critical Mass, a monthly mass bicycling event. Making matters worse, officers then surrounded and tackled the cameraman! Unfortunately, cities across the U.S. have seen similar confrontations between police and bicycle commuters in recent years.

While friendship may not be in the cards, peaceful relations between police and bicycle commuters are essential as the popularity of bicycle commuting grows. Every day, thousands of people around the globe commute to work, school, and other locations by bicycle. In one U.S. city, bicycle couriers were found to deliver between 3000 and 4000 items per day at a financial steal of only about seven dollars per delivery (Dennerlein & Meeker, 2002). Indeed, bicycle commuting offers an important contribution to society as it is cost-effective, as well as reduces pollution and traffic congestion. Standing in the way of these societal advantages, however, may be fears among potential bicycle commuters about confrontation with aggressive police. For these cyclists, it is imperative that police understand their role as protectors of those that legally share the road. When bicycle commuters abide by traffic laws, they should be treated by police in the same manner as motorists.

In response to the incident in California, LAPD officers joined a Critical Mass ride this past Friday to show their support for lawful bicycle commuting. Whether most bicycle commuters in California have taken this peace offer at face value is unclear, but nonetheless, the actions of the LAPD are commendable. Considering the societal advantages of bicycle commuting and the potential role police can play in protecting lawful bicycle commuters, peaceful relations are imperative.

Read more:

LAPD officers attack Critical Mass riders

LAPD pledges to join Critical Mass ride

Dennerlein, J.T., & Meeker, J.D. (2002). Occupational injuries among Boston bicycle messengers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 42, 519-525.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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4 responses to “LAPD seeks to restore relations with bicycle commuters

  1. Miriam Shelton

    I can’t speak about Los Angeles, and I have no idea why police officers may have attacked a cyclist, and what relation it had to his/her cycling . ..but I live in New York, where cyclists, in order to keep their momentum and speed up, habitually, and seemingly without compunction, break pretty much every traffic rule- ignoring red lights, pedestrians, and weaving through cars as though they were alone on the streets. Their sense of entitlement is unfair and abusive of people commuting in other ways. Along park paths, the situation is even worse, as cyclists are supposed to share narrow paths with strolling pedestrians, but the burden is on pedestrians to walk off the paths, sometimes into the mud, in order to feel safe from the rushing cyclists, who EXPECT others to move out of their way! This mix is not safe, or socially effective, as commuters who feel good about reducing energy use, nevertheless become increasingly insensitive to others sharing their roadways. Your article, by not addressing these types of problems, appears to present cyclists as environmentally responsible and innocent victims of people’s unreasonable rage. The social reality is much more complex.

  2. Bicycle commuters who engage in the actions you describe are certainly a threat to public safety. But unfortunately the actions of these people also taint the image of all bicycle commuters, as can be seen in your comments. My intent in this brief post was to describe the nature of “lawful bicycle commuting” and the social benefits that are derived from this. So although I would concede that some bicycle commuters break some laws, I disagree that “they” “break pretty much every traffic rule” as you describe. What I hope other readers will take from my post and your comment is that just like motorists can operate their vehicles lawfully and unlawfully, so can bicycle commuters. Much social good can come from the lawful operation of both methods of transportation.

  3. Pingback: On the effectiveness of intergroup apologies | Social Psychology Eye

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