Sonoma County backs anti-harassment rule

An anti-harassment rule strongly promoted over the past six months by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (SCBC) has received unanimous approval from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors earlier today, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The resolution means the county will move forward on introducing an ordinance on Tuesday, March 19 that allows cyclists and pedestrians to file civil suit against motorists who intentionally harass them in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County because “it is against the public policy of the County of Sonoma to permit harassment due to an individual’s status as a pedestrian and/or a person riding a bicycle.”

Unlike similar laws passed in the cities of Los Angeles, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, and the Sonoma County city of Sebastopol, the proposed county ordinance has no cap on allowed damages. Although nobody has reportedly filed suit using the law in those cities, advocates believe knowledge of this law has encouraged motorists to drive a little more cafefully around cyclists in those cities.

The SCBC began campaigning heavily for anti-harassment laws after a crazy man in a car chased a cyclist off of the roadway and across a golf course last year.

The county has not yet approved the ordinance, they’ve only put it on a fast track for potential adoption. The real vote comes next week. Watch The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition for updates.

Edited text of Sonoma County proposed harassment ordinance

Sec. 19-57. Findings and purpose.

The Board of Supervisors of the County of Sonoma, State of California, does find that:

    (1) The County encourages people to walk and ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion, improve air quality and improve public health;

    (2) People walking and riding bicycles are vulnerable users of roads, sidewalks and pathways;

    (3) Harassment of people on the basis of their status as pedestrians and/or persons riding bicycles exists in the unincorporated area of the County;

    (4) Riding a bicycling and walking may become hazardous activities when people harass and endanger bicyclists and pedestrians; and

    (5) People have a right to walk, run and/or ride a bicycle in the unincorporated area of the County in a safe manner and in compliance with laws. It is against the public policy of the County of Sonoma to permit harassment due to an individual’s status as a pedestrian and/or a person riding a bicycle.

Sec. 19-59. Prohibition against civil harassment of bicyclists and pedestrians.

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

    (a) Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
    (b) Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
    (c) Threaten to physically injure a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
    (d) Threaten to physically injure a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
    (e) Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle or other object, a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
    (f) Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle or other object, a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
    (g) Intentionally distract or attempt to distract a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
    (h) Intentionally force or attempt to force a bicyclist off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.(i) Intentionally force or attempt to force a pedestrian off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.

Sec. 19-60. Remedies.

(a) Private Cause of Action. Any person damaged by any violation of Section 19-59 of this code may institute a civil proceeding for money damages, and for whatever other or additional relief the court deems appropriate. In any action brought pursuant to this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to order of the court. The remedies available under this section shall be in addition to, and shall not in any way restrict, any other rights or remedies available under law.

(b) Remedies not exclusive. The remedies provided by the provisions of this section are in addition to all other remedies provided by law and do not supersede or limit any and all other remedies. The remedies provided in this section shall be cumulative and not exclusive. Nothing in this section shall preclude any aggrieved person from pursuing any other remedy provided by law.