Attorneys David Lederer and John Nojima Welcome New Bike Law and the LA Media's Recent Focus on Bike Safety

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In September of 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law prohibiting drivers from passing a cyclist unless there is a space of at least 36 inches between the vehicle and the bicycle. The law also requires drivers to slow down to a speed that is both reasonable and prudent when passing cyclists and is set to be enforced beginning in the fall of 2014.

Bicycle accidents often have grievous consequences. The fact that the city, the state and the local media are paying close attention should offer some peace of mind to cyclists and their loved ones throughout LA

As Los Angeles personal injury attorneys who have represented many cyclists injured by motor vehicles, David Lederer and John Nojima hope a new California law will lead to safer streets for some of the most vulnerable commuters. When Governor Brown signed AB 1371 on September 23, 2013, he made bicyclist safety a state-wide headline for at least a short period of time, says Nojima of the Los Angeles law firm Lederer & Nojima.

"For a brief moment, the whole state was focused on cyclist safety," Nojima says. "People who are not cyclists often do not consider the topic at all. But everyone who drives a motor vehicle should be reminded on a regular basis: it is a driver's responsibility to make sure that cyclists are safe. Now that drivers are required to give more space to bikes, maybe fewer catastrophic bicycle accidents will occur."

But the law, according to David Lederer, "needs more teeth because the fine for a violation is only $35. However, now that it is going to be enforced starting in September, if a cyclist is injured by an irresponsible driver violating the new law, we may be able to obtain more compensation for the benefit of our clients. But John and I both agree that the law should penalize violators even more aggressively than a $35 fine as is written in the law now. If a crash is caused by a driver who violates the law, they will be fined $220. Still, this is a small amount if a catastrophic injury occurs."

If a driver is operating their vehicle in an unsafe way and does not prioritize the safety of other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, Nojima says, "they are likely not going to be scared of a small fine. But this new law is part of a larger dialogue about driver responsibility and bike safety. If nothing else, it brings much needed attention to the issue." The dialogue has been earnestly encouraged by the LA Times in the last few weeks and months. The newspaper has recently published several articles regarding bikes in Los Angeles and the difficulty of changing LA's car culture to one that is more welcoming to alternative means of travel. Lederer & Nojima are hopeful that the recent media attention on the new law and on bicycle safety will continue.

In the last several weeks, the Los Angeles Times has been featuring a series of articles focused on the city's efforts to create more opportunities for cyclists while ensuring their safety. Some of the many examples Nojima mentions include "Can car happy LA learn to share the road?" (The Times editorial board, February 24, 2014), "Cycling on the edge: Dodging cars and bike lane potholes" (Paul Thornton, February 26, 2014), "LA's plan to make Figueroa a 'complete street' makes sense" (LA Times Editorial Board, February 26, 2014), "What Long Beach can teach us about cycling, and politics" (Robert Greene, March 1, 2014). Launched in September of 2013, the newspaper's "Roadshare" investigative project has led to many articles, editorials, community responses and even films related to bike culture in Los Angeles.

"We are extremely relieved that the local media has become so focused on this issue," Nojima says. "We have seen the tragic results after cyclists have been hit by a car or truck and we have fought aggressively for compensation on behalf of victims. Bicycle accidents often have grievous consequences. The fact that the city, the state and the local media are paying close attention should offer some peace of mind to cyclists and their loved ones throughout LA."

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John Nojima
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