Archive for November 12, 2009

Today’s post, in which I don’t recommend which bike to buy

In the aftermath of yesterday’s AirTalk program — which you can still hear by downloading the podcast — I received the following comment from Mario:

Really enjoyed your talk today on KPCC. I am mostly a mountain biker and have been thinking about buying a road bike…it is tough riding in paved roads on a mountain bike. So making our roads safer is one of the most important considerations for me in road riding. The second is the selection of a good bike (not too expensive). Would appreciate any advice you may offer on selecting a good road bike for under $2,500.

I wish I could offer an answer. I really do.

But choosing the right bike is a highly personal decision. It depends on how, where and why you intend to ride, what kind of deal you can get, and what feels right between your legs.

For instance, I don’t do a lot of bike commuting. I do most of my work from home, so there’s not a lot of need to ride from my bedroom to the living room. And one reason we chose this overpriced neighborhood is because almost everything we need is within walking distance.

So the overwhelming majority of my biking is recreational, which in my case means riding fast and far.

On the other hand, a lot of it is done on the mean streets of L.A. — which means my bike has to be responsive enough to carve through traffic, and sturdy enough to absorb shocks without making me feel like I’ve been riding a jackhammer all day.

So before you go shopping, make a list of the qualities that are important to you. And let that serve as your roadmap in selecting the right bike.

Another bit of advice is to buy the best frame you can afford. As time goes on, you can upgrade all of the other parts. But your frame will be the backbone of your bike for as long as you own it.

For that price, you can get a good steel or aluminum frame, or an entry level carbon frame. Personally, I don’t like the ride of aluminum frames — or aluminium, for any subjects of the queen who may be reading. Steel tends to be durable and shock-absorbing, and these days, usually weighs a lot less than you might think. Carbon offers light weight and speed; its ride and durability depends a lot on frame construction and geometry.

REI offers a good, simple primer to get you started.

The key is to ride a lot of bikes before you narrow your focus. Visit a bunch of bike shops and ride a variety of brands, types and models to determine what feels right to you.

As you narrow it down, pick two or three bikes that best fit what you’re looking for, and take them for extended test rides under a variety of conditions — fast, slow, cornering, hills, city streets.

I fell in love with my bike based on a quick spin around the shop. But it was only after I bought it that I discovered the handling gets squirrelly at faster speeds in an upright position; I have to ride the drops or risk a wipeout.

On the other hand, once I’m in the drops, it carves corners like a Ginsu knife.

But if I’d taken it on more extensive test ride, I would have known that handling issue before I bought it. And that might have affected my decision.

I’m also a big fan of local bike shops.

It may seem like you’re getting a great deal online, but the service you’ll get from a local dealer before and after the sale can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your bike.

When I walk into my local shop, they know me, they know my bike and they know how I ride. And that makes a big difference. They’ve also gone out of their way to solve any problems I’ve had — from patching it up after the Infamous Beachfront Bee Incident, to replacing broken wheels and sending it back to the factory when the paint blistered.

I can personally recommend Beverly Hills Bike Shop, Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica and any REI location — I’ve been a member for over 20 years.

While Helen’s is popular, I’m not big on their flagship Santa Monica store. However, I’ve found the staff at their I. Martin store to be helpful and knowledgeable, without the attitude. And Chris at the Westwood Helen’s is both a great wrench and a great guy; tell him I sent you.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Orange 20 Bikes. And Josef at Flying Pigeon has an amazing knowledge of bikes from around the world.

That said, if I was shopping on your budget, I’d start by looking at the entry level Trek Madone, though you might have to bargain a little to get it out the door at that price. I’ve ridden Trek almost as long as they’ve been making bikes, and I’ve been lusting after the new Madone since the day it came out.

You also can’t go too wrong with anything from Specialized or Bianchi.

So, readers, what do you think?

If you had $2,500 gathering dust in your bike budget, what would you buy — and where would you buy it?

No offense to any bike shops not named here; my observations are based on my own personal experience here on the Westside. If you think your shop and/or bikes deserve consideration, leave a comment and tell us why.

………

Dr. Alex asks where Councilman Rosendahl has gone now that we need him. Speaking of Flying Pigeon, the next Get Sum Dim Sum Ride rolls out on Sunday. The upcoming Bike ADventure to The End of Civilization doesn’t sound half BAD. Santa Barbara sees more bikes on city streets. Proof that silence is not always golden when it comes to bikes and hybrid vehicles. Colorado’s Department of Transportation puts bikes and pedestrians on equal footing with cars. Evidently, the debate over aggressive cyclists has gone on for over a century. Master framebuilder Dave Moulton says there’s not much difference between a right and a privilege if they can take it away. Note to Idaho bike thieves: don’t mug a cyclist while the police are watching. A great examination from Copenhagenize on how to reach cyclists to change behavior — without discouraging riders. The view from Budapest, where bike shops close for the winter. Maybe this will sound familiar: a British driver is convicted of intentionally striking and seriously injuring a cyclist. Finally, prepare to get pissed off — a former Aussie roads minister says bikes don’t belong on the roads. Maybe that’s why he’s a former minister.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights

My first exposure to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights came in an online forum.

Someone had posted a comment about it, complaining that cyclists expected drivers to treat them like porcelain dolls.

I had to agree with him. Because that’s exactly the point — if you hit a bicyclist with your car, he or she will break, just like a glass doll. Except the clean-up will be a lot longer, more complicated and more painful for everyone involved.

The Cyclists’ Bill of Rights doesn’t create any new rights. All it does is gather rights that cyclists — and human beings, for that matter — already enjoy in various forms, under various statutes, and codifies them in a single document.

Created by the Bike Writers Collective — I may have mistakenly said Coalition on today’s AirTalk program — it’s been endorsed by a long line of individuals and elected officials, neighborhood councils and organizations, just a few of whom are shown here. And countless cyclists have requested that it be officially adopted as part of the new L.A. bike plan.

I’m including the full text below, for anyone who heard me mention it on the show.

I’m also including a link to something I wrote earlier, explaining why cyclists do some of the things we do — and one driver’s exceptional response to it. Along with a link to the single best explanation of how to share the road, from a cyclist’s perspective, that I’ve ever seen.

Because really, we all want the same things out on the road.

We want to get where we’re going. And we want to get home safely.

And that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

CYCLISTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmental and traffic congestion solutions; and

WHEREAS, cyclists are, first and foremost, people – with all of the rights and privileges that come from being members of this great society; and

NOW, THEREFORE, WE THE CYCLING COMMUNITY, do hereby claim the following rights:

1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

2) Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.

6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development and design that enable and support safe cycling.

7) Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.

8 ) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations.

10) Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

11) Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment.

12) Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

And further, we claim and assert these rights by taking to the streets and riding our bicycles, all in an expression of our inalienable right to ride!

Today’s post, in which I prepare to talk bikes on KPCC

The closest I’ve ever come to being on the radio was when I was a kid, and talked the local late-night DJ into playing Pink Floyd’s classic Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

Which I’m sure had nothing to do with the suspension he received the next day.

That’s about to change.

Wednesday morning, I’m going to be on the AirTalk program, along with LADOT Senior Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, on Pasadena public radio station KPCC.

It’s a sequel to last week’s lively discussion about the Good Doctor’s trial and well-deserved conviction. I’m hoping to correct a number of misconceptions from the original show and the online comments that followed, such as the idea that it’s illegal to ride two-abreast and that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk — or illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

Wrong on all counts.

No, really.

Here’s how they describe the upcoming program:

Topic: PAVEMENT WARS – PART 2: Last week we talked about the assault, battery and mayhem convictions of Dr. Christopher Thompson, who attacked a group of cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road by swerving his car in front of them and jamming on the brakes, seriously injuring two of them. Response to the segment was overwhelming. However, many KPCC listeners raised questions about the laws that govern cyclists. Are cyclists required to yield for passing cars? Are bikes permitted on sidewalks? What are the rights and responsibilities of California cyclists? And what is being done to improve conditions for bikes?

You can tune in from 10:20 to 11 am Wednesday, November 11 at 89.3 FM. If you’re stuck at work or outside their broadcast range, you can connect to the live streaming broadcast on their website at www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk. Or come back later in the day to download a podcast of the program.

It should be a very interesting discussion.

And I promise not to make Larry Mantle do anything that will get him suspended.

………

Stephen Box offers a powerful reminder that the Good Doctor’s conviction is just one case out of many that never get that far. Will Campbell explains why he’ll just go for a bike ride during next year’s Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon. LACBC offers their comments on the new bike plan, while Long Beach is on a mission to become the most bike-friendly community in America. L.A. used to have a state-of-the-art elevated bikeway. Seriously. More great shots from Russ and Laura’s West coast bike tour. Seattle has a new cycling mayor. D.C.’s cycling mayor clogs traffic; or maybe it’s the media trucks who follow looking for a story. Finally, New York added 200 miles of bikeways over the last three years; now bike commuting is up 66% in just two years. Coincidence?

‘ello Guvnor

I received an interesting email the other day.

A gentleman by the name of James was writing to say he’s going to be in L.A. next month. I know he’s a gentleman because a) his email was very polite, and b) he was writing from London. And as we all know, Englishmen are gentlemen.

Except for the ones who aren’t, of course.

guvnor ride-or-admireThis particular gentleman, though, is president of the Guvnor Owners Club, an organization dedicated to the extremely cool Pashley Guvnor — or Guv’nor, as the 83 year old manufacturer oddly insists on calling it, to the apparent disdain of virtually everyone not employed by the company.

Featuring a frame hand-built in England — at Stratford–upon-Avon, no less, the proper name for the town that was home to that famous dead poet and playwright — the Guvnor is a steel-framed, single speed bike (a 3 speed model is also available). Its design resurrects a classic bike from 1930’s, called a Path Racer because it was built to race along dirt paths as well as paved roads, making it an ideal bike for today’s pothole-lined city streets.

guvnor goc-2-wpAnd what could be more stylish and urban cycle chic than those white balloon tires and rakishly swept handlebars?

The point of James’ email, though, other than to induce a deep craving for the bike-lust inducing roadster, was to seek out any Guvnor owners in the L.A. area. He’d like to hear from you, and possibly photograph your bike when he’s scheduled to be in town on December 3rd. James is willing to travel wherever you may reside in the greater L.A. area; I’m sure he’d still want to hear from you if you’re not available that day or if you live anywhere in the former colonies.

You can email him at james at guvnorownersclub dot com. Or respond through the comments on here and I’ll make sure he sees it.

Even if you don’t own one, check out his website at www.guvnorownersclub.com, where he offers insights into the joys of owning a Guvnor, as well as a photo-rich travelogue of one of my favorite cities.horse-guards-dark-wp

And if, like me, you’re now dying to ride the genuine article, rumor has it that Orange 20 Bikes has — or at least, had — one, though they haven’t responded to my email asking for confirmation. And Flying Pigeon has taken a stab at transforming their eponymous Chinese bikes into a more affordable faux Guvnor.

Personally, I’m just hoping the company sees this, and ships one over to express their gratitude for the free publicity.

A man can dream, can’t he?

………

In a town where so few people walk, L.A. ranks 3rd in the nation in pedestrian deaths — and in the bottom 10% in spending to make the roads safer. Westside Bikeside shares my biggest complaint about riding through the area’s newest Bike Friendly City. Monsters on Bikes invade Flying Pigeon for a group art show starting Saturday. Maybe they really are out to get us: Police cruisers kill cyclists in San Diego and the D.C. area. The Examiner notes that white people aren’t the only ones who bike. Starting tomorrow, New York requires commercial buildings to provide bike access for any tenant who requests it. Portland authorities credit a rider’s helmet for saving her life when an SUV drove over her head. An introduction to riding in the City of Big Shoulders. Back in my hometown, a man uses bike power to move his entire home — and tow his SUV. The Guardian profiles the cult appeal of Brompton folding bikes. Evidently, L.A. cyclists and drivers aren’t the only ones stuck in traffic. Bogata has a challenger for dumbest bike lane, international edition. London’s Daily Mail calls for increased prosecution of Lycra louts. Finally, in keeping with today’s theme, a classic bit of Brit bike humor, Python style.

Today’s post, in which I take notice of cycling chic

Awhile back, I found myself riding down Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, below the pier, where the bike lane passes in front of a number of hotels and restaurants.

As often happens there, a taxi was double parked in the bike lane, blocking my way.

I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a car coming up on my left, so I signaled to indicated that I was coming into the lane ahead of her. She responded by slowing down, giving me room to make my lane change, and courteously following at a safe distance until I could pull back over before resuming her speed.

When I stopped at the next red light, I found myself right next to her open window. So I leaned over and thanked her for driving so safely and sharing the road.

Her reaction surprised me, though.

“Thank you, but I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said. “I never saw you back there.”

Of course, her actions contradicted her words. She had clearly seen me and responded to my actions, since hers had matched mine perfectly; yet for some reason, I had never entered her conscious awareness.

And I finally understood why so many drivers think we all run red lights and ride aggressively.

They may see us and respond appropriately. But when we ride safely — and legally — we’re just so much background road noise, never entering their conscious awareness.

But when a rider cuts in front of them without warning or blows through a red light without slowing down, they’re shocked out of their musings — or their hand-held cell calls — and the image becomes firmly imprinted on their consciousness, with a notation indicating that’s what cyclists do.

All of us.

Don’t believe me? Consider London, where cyclists have a reputation as two-wheeled scofflaws who never stop for lights — except maybe for the current mayor, who’s earned a reputation as a knight on a shining bicycle. And women cyclists, who appear to risk their lives simply because they do stop for red lights.

Yet a recent government study found that 84% of London riders stop for traffic signals.

Or consider Mebourne, where cyclists tend to be held in lower esteem than a rabid dingo. But even there, a full 89% of bike riders observe red lights. Even in bike hating New York, nearly two-thirds of cyclists stop for red lights, at least long enough to determine whether it’s safe to proceed.

Now contrast that with something else I saw recently while riding.

A young woman was cruising down the street on her bike, stylishly attired in a dress and heels. And yes, she looked good, like she’d just pedaled off the pages of a magazine.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. Almost every driver — male and female — slowed down and turned their heads to look at her.

Lately, though, there’s been some controversy about the Cycle Chic movement online, in which bloggers post pictures of stylishly dressed, usually female cyclists, or discuss their own life and style as people who ride their bikes everywhere, often well dressed and made-up for work or an evening out.

One writer even went so far as to call it bike-porn.

I understand where the negative comments are coming from. It took me awhile to understand why a woman would get dressed up and get on a bike. After all, I’m from the old school, in which the point of riding is to work hard and sweat as much as possible.

But it shows that cycling is a viable form of transportation, whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or out on the town. It’s also helping to expand the biking community by drawing in women riders who may not be interested in donning spandex and joining the local bike club.

And for a change, it makes drivers notice cyclists who are actually riding safely and courteously.

And that can’t be bad.

……….

A cyclist was killed when he ran a red light in Long Beach Friday evening, according to police; I wonder if anyone other than the driver who killed him saw what color the light was. Meet the new chief of the LAPD in Mar Vista tomorrow night. Help promote transit safety by biking the route of the new Eastside Extension of the Gold Line this coming Friday. A close examination of the study of car/bike collisions in my hometown reveals how to get killed on a bike — or how not to. Portland now has an Episcopal shrine to the patron saint of bicyclists; is the local diocese paying attention? L.A. isn’t the only place where cyclists and drivers compete for limited canyon road space. Bogota, Columbia shows what a real bike plan should result in. A grandmother pedestrian is killed by a cyclist in Australia. Finally, confection giant Cadbury delivers 5,000 bikes to Africa, while a local university, grocery chain and radio station combine to show we can do the same thing right here in SoCal.

Evil on Trial: So why do we care?

Wednesday morning, I found myself in a recording studio at NPR West.

Accompanied by the esteemed Dr. Alex — aka, the other Dr. Thompson — we were there to offer whatever insights we could on the Mandeville Canyon case, as well as the current state of cyclist-driver relations on the streets of L.A.

It was an interesting conversation.

Alex offered the perspective of a passionate two-wheel activist, as one of the principal authors of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights and a founding member of the Bike Writers Collective. Meanwhile, I provided the views of a semi-curmudgeonly, long-term roadie, and the newest member of the BWC’s Dirty Dozen.

Needless to say, we disagreed on a few things.

But we agreed on a lot more — like the need for cyclists to always ride safely, because too often, drivers just aren’t looking out for us. And aren’t always willing to share the road even when they do.

Not all drivers, of course. Not even most.

But enough to make riding a far riskier proposition than it needs to be.

Of course, how much of that will make into the final story will be determined in the editing bays of NPR. After all, there’s a reason I’m a writer rather than a speaker.

Besides, they’ve also spoken with a number of other riders, including Roadblock, Stephen Box and our own DJwheels, so they won’t be lacking for cyclists’ point of view.

On the other hand, they’ve had a hard time finding drivers willing to go on the record. So if you spend too much of your time on four wheels cursing cyclists from the hermetically sealed comfort of your gas-guzzling behemoth — and you’re willing to discuss it on the air — let me know.

There may still be time to get you on tape, or silicon, or whatever they’re using in this digital age.

There was one question that I found particularly interesting, though, when she asked us what it was about this case that captured the attention of cyclists around the world.

I mean, it’s not like confrontations with drivers don’t take place on a daily basis in cities around the world — and sometimes with far worse results. Or that many, if not most, riders haven’t experienced some form of road rage in all its vile, life-and-limb threatening glory.

So we could easily put ourselves in Peterson’s and Stoehr’s place.

Then there’s the fact that the Good Doctor actually admitted to the police that his actions were intentional — before backtracking under oath. Which pretty much meant that if we didn’t see a conviction in this case, we probably never would.

But from my perspective, the real key was that the Christopher Thompson had used his car as a weapon. It was no different than if he had pulled out a gun and shot the riders after they’d flipped him off.

Same crime. Same intent. Same result. Different weapon.

Some people still don’t get that.

It wasn’t an accident. It was an assault. And that’s something that is never justified, under any circumstances. No matter how much you hate cyclists — or drivers. How dangerous you think their actions are. Or how rude or offensive they may be.

That’s what the police are for. And why every cyclist should carry a cell phone on every ride.

I was going to conclude with something about how easy it is to get along on the roads if we all just follow the rules and remember that we’re not the only ones trying to get from here to there.

And how in over 30 years as a licensed driver, I have never encountered a cyclist I could not pass, safely, with just a little patience and consideration. Even on narrow, winding mountain roads that make Mandeville Canyon look like the Champs-Élysées.

But last Tuesday, there was an interesting discussion of this case, and the state of cycling on the streets of greater L.A., on KPCC’s excellent AirTalk program (you can hear the podcast on the link above).

The host, Larry Mantle, offered his own take on the situation. And among the comments, I found something from one of my favorite bike writers, which he reposted in more detail on his blog.

So if you’ll allow me, I’ll let JHaygood take it from here:

One problem here is that many car drivers see a bike rider acting dickishly and then make the leap to ‘all bike riders are dicks’. That’s not true, by a mile. Clearly from the Mandeville case we see that poor behavior is not limited to bike riders, and when you get a jerk behind the wheel of a car, it’s no longer an annoyance, it can be deadly. My feeling is that the guy who rides his bike like a jerk is probably a jerk when he gets in a car, too. So it’s not the mode of transport, it’s the jerk.

Cars are awarded the overwhelming majority of infrastructure dollars compared to bikes – it’s not even close. You spend much time out there on a bike and you are quickly made to realize that you are second class. You piss people off if you use the sidewalk, and you piss them off if you use the street. (You piss SOME off – most car drivers are really respectful – in my experience) You are forced to go rogue out there – you’re really left to fend for yourself. So the fact that bike riders improvise, for convenience or for safety, is to be expected. The roads aren’t made for us, the laws aren’t based on our impact or our threat to others. So we improvise. Car drivers may see it as lawlessness, but they should try it sometime, you learn to make do however you can…

It’s a good read. And it’s definitely worth clicking on the link to finish what he has to say. And on a related subject, Freakonomics takes a look at why driving, like the internet, brings out the worst in people.

Speaking of AirTalk, yesterday I accepted an invitation appear on their show next Wednesday, along with LADOT Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, to talk about bike safety and our right to the roads.

It should be, once again, a very interesting conversation.

………

It’s happened yet again. A Yucca Valley cyclist was killed when his bike was rear-ended by a truck, and an Orange County rider critically injured in a near-fatal hit-and-run. Meanwhile, TV’s Terminator star faces charges for his D.U.I. encounter with a 17 year old cyclist. C.I.C.L.E joins the call for a better bike plan. RIDE-Arc returns this Friday with a bike tour of Santa Monica architecture. The Times reports on efforts to create the city’s first ciclovia — or cicLAvoia, in this case. Also in the Times, the recent articles about cycling evidently touched a nerve. Mr. Bicycle Fixation takes a look at the state of cycling in L.A. and some of the people who are working to make it better. Cycle Chic reports she was beaten to the punch in organizing L.A.’s first Tweed Ride. Huntsville, Alabama cyclists have rights too, and the city is willing to pay to get the word out. London’s bicycling mayor rides to the rescue to stop an assault. Finally, a meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at Echo Park Cycles to address the rapidly rising rate of bike thefts. And evidently, rapper 50 Cent is still broken up about having his stolen.

Tonight’s post, in which I offer my thanks to you — yes, you

I am truly humbled.

It has been exhausting work trying to cover the Mandeville Canyon trial. And I just wrote it — I can only imagine the effort it took for DJwheels to sit in the courtroom everyday, taking the extensive, detailed notes that allowed us to provide near gavel-to-gavel coverage of this case.

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve immersed myself in this trial, I’ve often found myself obsessing about some aspect of the case or turning over testimony in my mind. And for one of the few times in my life, I’ve been vaguely uncomfortable riding in traffic, painfully aware of the cars behind me, the Good Doctor’s actions never far from my mind.

Then tonight, I re-read the comments from the last few days.

I was struck by how many people expressed their gratitude to DJwheels and me. And how many other websites have linked to this site and referred their readers to our coverage.

So I thank you for reading, and for your appreciation.

In all honesty, this wasn’t easy.

But you — and the outcome — made it all worthwhile.

Evil on Trial: A day after look at the Mandeville Canyon case

photo

Patrick Watson and Christian Stoehr speak outside the courthouse following the conviction; at left is Josh Crosby. Photo courtesy of Jared Shier.

After a giddy few hours, reality is sinking in.

Monday afternoon, the jury in the Mandeville Canyon case returned a verdict far beyond the wildest hopes of most cyclists. Dr. Christopher Thompson was found guilty on all seven counts of the indictment.

According to a comment from Eric, it breaks down like this:

He was convicted of the following: 
2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a), 2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d), reckless driving (23103a), Reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a), and Mayhem (203).

He was cuffed and taken into custody immediately. As quoted in the Times, Asst. District Attorney Mary Stone put it this way:

“There’s not a cyclist in Los Angeles who would feel comfortable with this defendant out on the road after this verdict,” Stone told the court.

Jared Shier notes that six of the seven counts were felonies, with the only misdemeanor involving the incident with Watson and Crosby. Now the Good Doctor faces up to 10 years in prison for the infamous Mandeville Canyon Brake Check.

Of course, the exact sentence depends on the judge. He could take Thompson’s lifetime of healing into account, along with the fact that it was his first conviction — though his third alleged offense — and decide to be lenient.

Or he could take the previous incidents and the seriousness of the crime into account, and levy the maximum penalty. We’ll find out in about a month, with sentencing scheduled for December 3rd.

Then the inevitable appeals will begin; how much time he actually ends up serving is anyone’s guess.

One thing that is a near certainty is that this will cost the Good Doctor his medical license. And that’s a tragedy, not just for him, but for all those people he could have helped — if only he could have kept his anger in check.

On the other hand, he could be the world’s greatest ER physician, but like Peterson and Stoehr, I wouldn’t want him to touch me, either.

Even though, for once, a handful of cyclists received the full support and protection of the legal system, this entire event was a tragedy. Two cyclists were severely injured, three others threatened. And an otherwise good man, by all accounts, let his frustration and anger boil over until he used his car as a weapon, sending two total strangers to the hospital. And tearing his own life and family to shreds.

And there’s a lesson in that for all of us, cyclists and drivers alike.

All of us in the local cycling community owe a big round of thanks to the LAPD and the District Attorney’s office — and especially to Mary Stone for what was, by all accounts, a powerful and effective prosecution.

And I personally want to give a huge thank you to DJwheels, without whom it would not have been possible to cover this case in such detail. Danny, I owe you one — big time. Best wishes to you and your fiancé on your upcoming wedding.

But this is just one case. As DJwheels notes, there are at least five other cases working their way through the system in which cyclists were the victims — including the Rod Armas and Joseph Novotny cases, in which cyclists on group rides were killed by hit-and-run drunk drivers.

Then there’s the case of DJwheels own fiancé, who was injured when a group of riders were threatened by an aggressive driver who fled the scene; thank God, she had a far better outcome. Which probably explains why he worked so hard keeping up with this case.

Finally, let’s just remember to be careful out there, especially for the next few days. And try to keep those words and gestures to a minimum.

As happy as we are over the verdict, there are those in the four wheel community who are just as angry about it, and they’re armed with 2,000 pound potential weapons.

And as the Good Doctor clearly illustrated, some people aren’t afraid to use them.

In light of the Mandeville Canyon case, the L.A. Times asks if we can all share the road, along with advice on how to ride safely — and for a change, looks at it from a safe driving perspective, as well. And Damien Newton looks at the Times series, and what they left out.

……..

Dr. Alex offers 12 principles for a more effective bike plan, while Stephen Box imagines what the city could be like if the mayor rode a bike. Joe Linton looks at the new Fletcher Drive undercross on the L.A. River bikeway. Do more bikes mean more — and more severe — injuries? San Francisco prepares to move forward with their bike plan. The San Jose Mercury News takes a look at the problem of right hooks — like the one that almost hit me yesterday. Floyd Landis suspects his Tour dreams are over. Following the Texas governor’s bone-headed veto of that state’s bike safety law, Austin passes their own three-foot passing law. Bob Mionske reminds riders about the need for lights and reflectors. Beirut goes Critical Mass. New Zealand suspects a local hit-and-run driver may be targeting cyclists, while some drivers are going “berko over bisychos.” Maybe the world’s standard for bike sharing isn’t working so well after all. Finally, from my old home town, a fascinating in-depth, 18-month examination of bike/car crashes throughout the city, mapping out where and how they occurred; this should be a model for every city — including ours.

Evil on Trial: GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!

No details yet, but just got a text from DJwheels in the courthouse. Dr. Christopher Thompson has been found guilty on all seven counts.  More details as they come in.

I’m taking off the comment filter for now, so feel free to offer any comments or talk between your selves.

This just in from Eric, which I’m moving up from the comment section so everyone can see:

He was convicted of the following:
2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a)
2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d) reckless driving (23103a) Reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a)
Mayhem (203)

The first five charges are felonies, the judge would not release him on bail so he goes to jail for the moment.

Evil on Trial: Dr. Christopher Thomson’s fate in the hands of the jury

“Get the fuck off the road!”

— Dr. Christopher Thompson to cyclist Patrick Early, as told by Asst. D.A. Mary Stone

After two weeks of testimony, it all came down to this.

Two talented attorneys facing off before the jury, summing up days of impassioned first-hand testimony, complicated technical evidence and the insights of expert witnesses — in some case, highly paid experts — to direct them to a single inescapable verdict.

Guilty.

Or not.

And now the Good Doctor’s freedom, and his career, hangs in the balance.

“This coat can inspire trust”

According to cyclist/attorney DJwheels, the biking community’s eyes and ears in the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Mary Stone offered an effective closing argument delivered through a series of well-chosen props.

She began by donning a white medical coat, and asked the jurors if they remembered questioning during jury selection about what it means to be a doctor, and if doctors can commit crimes. She then offered a series photos of showing well known TV physicians wearing a similar coat.

“I don’t want you to get confused,” she said. “Because this coat can inspire trust.”

She showed a photo of the Grand Canyon, explaining that there is a big, wide line that you just don’t cross, because “there’s a canyon in between.”

“You don’t use your car to hurt people.”

That was followed by a recap of the testimony offered by Patrick Early, the first cyclist Dr. Christopher Thompson is accused of threatening with his car, though he was not charged with that encounter.

According to Stone, the doctor offered a long list of dates when the incident could not have happened because of work or travel. Yet he left a number of days unaccounted for — days when he could have yelled at Early to get off the road, then slammed on his brakes directly in front of the rider’s bike, just as he is charged with doing twice more in the following months.

She noted that Early worked in the auto industry and had an in-depth knowledge of cars, and so was able to identify the color, make and model of the vehicle that nearly ran him off the road, as well as recalling Thompson’s personalized license plates months later.

“The cry of an honest man”

She moved on then the next incident, which occurred the following March.

Cyclists Patrick Watson and Josh Crosby were riding down Mandeville Canyon, at or near the posted 30 mph speed limit, when Thompson again slammed on his brakes, forcing Watson off the road.

Stone told the jurors that Christopher Thompson chose to break the law. He was already speeding when he encountered the cyclists, she said, and he chose to engage the cyclists even though he had other options. He could have left; he could have kept going.

She noted the beginnings of a pattern. “We now know what enrages him.”

Stone went on to say that the defense will tell you that Watson had a grudge against Thompson, and that the angry emails Watson sent to friends and other cyclists after the incident show he wanted to get even with the doctor.

She played Watson’s 911 call for the jury, pointing out that Watson stayed at the scene waiting for the police for over an hour and a half after the incident, and gave his name and phone number to the operator. If he was a rogue cyclist, as Thompson claimed, why would he identify himself to the police, she asked?

And she described the emails as “the cry of an honest man.”

“Have a good laugh at that”

As for the incident with Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr, she reminded the jurors once again that he could have kept going. If you slam on your brakes in front of two cyclists, she explained, you have to expect that they could hit you. “That’s just common sense.”

“He wants you to believe that he just wanted to take a picture,” she said. “That’s ridiculous. When you get back into the jury room, have a good laugh at that.”

At that, defense attorney Peter Swarth objected — one of three times he defied judicial courtesy by objecting during another attorney’s closing arguments; like the other two times, he was overruled by the judge.

She continued by saying that even if he did want to take a picture of the riders, as he claimed, it was his choice to stop in front of them. He was also “disdainful” of the injuries the riders suffered as a result.

“What if you went to the emergency room and your loved one was bleeding from the face, and the doctor told you it wasn’t serious?”

Because of what had happened to his childhood friend, Stone added — reminding the jurors of Thompson’s earlier testimony about a friend who fell from his bike and was run over by a car — he should have had a heightened sense of the fragility of cyclists.

“He knows what can happen.”

She added that the doctor can’t escape the fact that he was driving recklessly. And reminded them about the testimony of LAPD Officer Rodriguez, who said Thompson’s admission that he slammed on his brakes to teach the cyclists a lesson was “burned into his brain.” Who is more believable, she asked, an experienced LAPD officer or the doctor who had just injured two cyclists?

Thompson knew exactly what was going to happen, Stone said. She finished by showing photos of the injuries suffered by Peterson and Stone, ticking off a list of the charges, and asking the jury to find the doctor guilty on all counts.

“No crime occurred”

DJwheels didn’t consider defense attorney Peter Swarth’s closing argument nearly as engaging or effective as Stone’s.

Swarth began by projecting a single word — “Accident” — onto the screen, explaining that this may have been an unfortunate event, but, he insisted, it was not a crime.

“The prosecution says my client is full of rage, but there’s no evidence of that,” he said, adding that only Patrick Early claimed to see an enraged Thompson behind the wheel — and he only saw Thompson through the car’s rear view mirror.

And that event never happened, according to the defense; no charges were ever filed “because no crime occurred.” The other riders never saw the doctor’s face until he exited the car, thanks to the tinted windows on his Lexus.

He also claimed that Early’s identification of Thompson was tainted. According to Swarth, the LAPD detective investigating the case showed Early an old DMV photo of the Good Doctor, part of a photo lineup designed to get the result the police wanted.

Early’s credibility was also strained, Swarth said, since he couldn’t even remember if the incident occurred in December 2007 or January 2008. And while Early testified that he didn’t know any of the other riders who testified in this case, he had worked at the Ground Zero advertising agency in 2001, at the same time Christian Stoehr was there.

“Their actions belie their testimony”

Watson and Crosby weren’t credible, Swarth claimed, noting that they testified they had moved over once they became aware of the car behind them.

“Why would my client tell them to ride single file if they were already riding single file?”

“They say ‘This guy tried to kill me.’ But why would they stand in front of the car of someone who had just tried to kill them?” He added that it just didn’t make sense to ask someone to get out of his car if he had just tried to kill you. They were mad, he said. “Their actions belie their testimony.”

And he insisted that the speeds recorded by Watson’s Garmin proved that he never left the roadway and bunny hopped onto the grass as Watson and Crosby had testified.

According to DJwheels, however, that argument didn’t seem to make any sense.

“How can a horn be angry?

Swarth then moved on to the incident with Watson and Stoehr, asking where the evidence was that proved the intent necessary to support the criminal charges.

He reminded the jury they had testified that Thompson honked his horn in an angry and aggressive manner. “How can a horn be angry? It’s just not true.” He also noted the gruesome photos of their injuries, asking the jury not to convict his client based on those photos alone.

He then attempted to discredit various aspects of the rider’s testimony.

Swarth said that Stoehr had testified that when Thompson slammed on his brakes, he clipped the back wheel of Peterson’s bike, hit the back of the car, flipped over it and landed in the street in front of the vehicle. “That just did not happen,” he said.

According to Swarth, what really happed was that Stoehr looked back after passing the car, saw what had happened to Peterson, then lost his balance and simply fell over.

He said that Thompson told the riders to get their bikes out of the street because emergency vehicles were on their way. And he asked what kind of cycling coach — referring to Peterson — teaches his student to respond in an angry manner, reminding them that Peterson had said “I’m going to fuck you up” immediately following the collision.

If Thompson was so enraged, as the riders claimed, why did he call 911 to get them help? Maybe he just used the wrong words in claiming that the injuries weren’t serious, Swarth suggested. “He was just trying to get the right help to arrive.”

“How can 30 years of trying to help people just disappear in a moment?”

He displayed a photo showing Thompson’s Lexus next to the curb. “Doesn’t it look like he was just trying to park his car?”

Then he turned his attention to the third rider on the road that day, asking why Chris Parker wasn’t injured. The answer, he claimed, was that Parker was simply more careful.

He finished by asking about Officer Rodriguez’s testimony, in which he said the Good Doctor admitted he did it intentionally. Rodriguez never asked the follow-up question, Swarth claimed.

“What do you mean you wanted to teach them a lesson?”

He added that maybe someone else in the crowd had said that, and Rodriguez mistakenly attributed it to Thompson.

It was all a tragic accident, Swarth concluded.

“Sometimes the thing that you seek to avoid becomes the thing you can’t avoid.”

“This is exactly what happens”

Stone then followed up with a powerful rebuttal, holding a baseball bat in front of the jury.

Let’s say you go into a grocery store, she suggested, and someone is blocking the aisle you need. So you threaten them with the bat, and say “Get the fuck out of my way.”

Then the next time you go in, it happens again. But this time, the people blocking your way say “Fuck you.” So you swing your bat at them. You miss, but they get out of the way. Then it happens a third time — and this time, you connect with the bat.

“That’s what happened here,” she said.

She paused to put on the white doctor’s coat she’d worn earlier, suggesting that the Good Doctor had wrapped himself in that afterwards to deflect responsibility.

Then she concluded by picking up Peterson’s shattered bike and holding it in front of the jury. “This”, she said, “is exactly what happens when you slam on the brakes in front of someone.”

According to DJwheels, one of the doctor’s supporters could clearly be heard responding in the gallery.

“Bullshit.”

Jury deliberations resume this morning at 9:30 am. DJwheels says he doesn’t expect a verdict until sometime Tuesday, or late today at the earliest. I’ll post it on here as soon as I’m able to get it online. VeloNews has a well-written summary of closing arguments, and the L.A. Times offers an overview of the trial, saying cyclists have a lot riding on the case.

I’ll post my usual links to articles later this afternoon.

%d bloggers like this: