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Santa Rosa to consider law protecting cyclists, pedestrians

Santa Rosa leaders on Tuesday said they are receptive to a law aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians from harassment.

Much like the laws passed by Sebastopol in December and Sonoma County last month, the new law would make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to sue people who harass or intimidate them.

"It's my opinion that it would be prudent for Santa Rosa to follow suit," Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom said following a study session Tuesday.

The council directed staff to return with a formal ordinance at a later date.

A draft of the so-called "vulnerable users" law would prohibit people from assaulting, threatening, injuring, distracting someone because of their "status as a pedestrian or person riding a bicycle."

Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry told the council that the law would not change the fact that police will still investigate such incidents as crimes, such as running a cyclist off the road or throwing an object at a cyclist.

As drafted, the law merely states that victims of harassment can pursue civil penalties. Other laws, like Sebastopol's, include provisions offering prevailing parties triple monetary penalties.

Councilman Gary Wysocky, an avid cyclist, said he would like more information from staff about including such "enhanced civil penalties" in the city's law.

City Attorney Caroline Fowler said the ultimate goal of the law is not to produce a lot of lawsuits, but to raise awareness and prevent such incidents in the first place.


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