New Cyclist Anti-Harassment Law in Berkeley

In February Berkeley passed a new law that allows cyclists lawful recourse in civil court.  Los Angeles and Berkeley are the only two cities to have instituted this so far.   Harassment and assault on a cyclists has always been illegal, but the burden of proof is much more difficult to prove as a criminal offense versus in civil court.

Photo by Nancy Ruben, from

The article, Cyclist anti-harassment law live in Berkeley from today, explains:

“What does this new ordinance do?
This new ordinance in Berkeley allows bicyclists who are harassed or assaulted to take a driver to civil court. According to personal injury lawyer Hughes & Coleman a bicyclist may bring suit against a driver who:

1. Assaults, or attempts to assault, a bicyclist;

2. Threatens to physically injure a bicyclist;

3. Injures, or attempts to injure, a bicyclist;


4. Intentionally distracts a bicyclist with the intent to cause injury; or,

5. Intentionally forces a bicyclist off the roadway.”

“The ordinance adopted by Berkeley and Los Angeles is groundbreaking because it makes harassment and assault of a bicyclist a civil offense as well as a criminal offence. There is a lower burden of proof for civil cases as the penalties are financial and remedial. Making this harassment a civil offense also puts legal tools directly in the hands of bicyclists, letting them bring suit rather than having to go through the District Attorney’s office in a criminal case.

In the case of a successful civil suit for harassment of a cyclist, a driver will be required to pay:

1. Three times the damages incurred from the offending incident or $1,000, whichever is larger;

2. The attorney’s fees of the plaintiff; and,

3. Any other damages awarded by a civil judge or jury

These awards are essential in making civil suits viable, because they increase the likelihood an attorney will take the case. The awards also ask as a strong deterent to wrong behavior on the roadway. Frivolous lawsuits are unlikely, as a harassed or assaulted bicyclist must not only have enough evidence to convince a lawyer to take a case, but also enough evidence to convince a judge or jury. In the six months since the ordinance was enacted in Los Angeles not one case has yet been brought to court.”

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