Sebastopol California adopts vulnerable road user law

The Sebastopol California city council voted to adopt Sonoma County’s first vulnerable users law after several cyclists testified on the need for such a law last night. The proposed city law, which is based on model code provided by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, allows cyclists and pedestrians to sue those who “intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure” them for $1000 or up to treble actual damages, whichever is greater, in addition to litigation costs. A jury or judge may also additional award punitive damages.

Last night’s council vote is for a first reading. A second vote scheduled for January 15, 2013 is required for this is adopted as law. If this ordinance passes its second reading, Sepastopol becomes the fourth California city to adopt an anti-harassment statute. Los Angeles adopted their anti-harassment law in 2011. Berkeley and Sunnyvale now have similar laws on the books.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition began asking cities to adopt vulnerable user legislation after Oakmont resident Harry Smith purposefully chased and ran down Santa Rosa cyclist Toraj Soltani in a road rage incident last summer. Smith yelled at Soltani to “Stay out of Oakmont” and began nudging Soltani off of the road with his car. Soltani tried to escape by turning into a golf course; Smith followed the cyclists across the golf course and intentionally rammed him from behind.

Several other Sonoma County cities are considering similar anti-harassment legislation. The Sonoma Bike Coalition plans to send a letter to those cities urging them to follow Sepastopol’s example. Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane has gone on record supporting a county-wide ordinance to cover unincorporated portions of Sonoma County.

Cyclist Bob Nerberg reports on the city council meeting and its outcome at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Sebastopol adopts law to help bicyclists, pedestrians.


Text of Ordinace Number 1054 (with redactions for clarity)


AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SEBASTOPOL
Creating Chapter 10.10 to Title 10 of the Sebastopol Municipal Code to prohibit harassment of Vulnerable Users because of their status as pedestrians and/or persons riding bicycles.

CHAPTER 10.10
VULNERABLE USER PROTECTION

10.10.040 PROHIBTED ACTIVITIES

A person shall not do or attempt to do any of the following:

    A. Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a Vulnerable User because of, in whole or in part, a Vulnerable User’s status as a pedestrian and/or person riding a bicycle.

    B. Threaten to physically injure a Vulnerable User because of, in whole or in part, a Vulnerable User’s status as a pedestrian and/or person riding a bicycle.

    C. Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle, or other object, a Vulnerable User because of, in whole or in part, a Vulnerable User’s status as a pedestrian and/or person riding a bicycle.

    D. Intentionally distract or attempt to distract a Vulnerable User because of, in whole or in part, a Vulnerable User’s status as a pedestrian and/or person riding a bicycle.

    E. Intentionally force or attempt to force a Vulnerable User off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety.

    F. Intentionally pass a Vulnerable User at an unsafe distance.

    G. Intentionally fail to yield to a pedestrian walking or running along the roadway, crossing the roadway, or using a public sidewalk in order to intimidate or intentionally injure the pedestrian.

10.10.050 REMEDIES

    A. Any aggrieved person may enforce the provisions of this Article by means of a civil lawsuit.

    B. Any person who violates the provisions of this Article shall be liable for treble the actual damages with regard to each and every such violation, or $1,000, whichever is greater, and shall be liable for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation. In addition, a jury or a court may award punitive damages where warranted.

    C. Violations of any of the provisions of this Article shall not constitute a misdemeanor or infraction, except where such actions, independently of this Article, constitute a misdemeanor or infraction.

    D. The remedies provided by the provisions of this Article are in addition to all other remedies provided by law, and nothing in this Article shall preclude any aggrieved person from pursuing any other remedy provided by law.

H/T to Murph aka Holier Than You.