Yesterday, I received the following email from a local cyclist named Aaron, relating his experience with a bike-hating driver. And a successful, and surprisingly personal, intervention from the LAPD.
I’m a regular reader of your blog and avid cycling commuter, and I’ve been excitedly following Police Chief Beck and Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent progress on the issue of cycling. I know the city is really trying to take strides in its approach to cyclists, and I think the cycling community needs to give credit where credit is due. In that spirit, I feel compelled to share my own recent mind-blowingly great experience with the LAPD regarding a motorist that had been repeatedly harassing my fiancé and me on our morning ride over the course of several weeks.
To give you some background, my fiancé and I try to be model cyclists on our commute from Silver Lake to K-Town (we wear helmets, yield to pedestrians, stop at stop signs, stay to the right of the road where safe to do so), but occasionally we’ll still encounter some maniac who feels like he/she owns the road and targets us for harassment.
Over the past six weeks, we’ve had a series of unpleasant encounters with the same woman who apparently shares at least a few blocks of our morning commute. It started when, on a quiet, residential stretch of Vendome one morning, we noticed a tan Toyota sedan driven by a middle-aged woman barreling past us in excess of the speed limit and honking; the car then swerved dangerously close to another cyclist up ahead, still honking. When we (cyclists and motorists) all arrived at the same red light half a block later, all of the cyclists glared at the woman because of her dangerous and aggressive driving while we waited for the light to change. She saw this and rolled down her window and started screaming that we have to “get out of the road” and other such nonsense.
We kept seeing this woman again over the coming weeks on the same block of Vendome, often waiting at the same red light with her, and whenever we saw her, she would honk, roll down her window and yell, give us the finger, etc. This all came to a head this Monday (8/23), when she launched into a particularly toxic rant while we were waiting at the red (she kept calling my fiancé a “stupid bitch” claiming that cyclists have to “follow the law” by “stay[ing] out of the road,” telling us that she “recognizes” us, etc.). We tried to explain that we had a right to be in the road and that she shouldn’t harass cyclists, but this just set her off screaming even more. I mad a point of taking photos of her and her license plate before the light turned green.
We were feeling pretty intimidated at this point after weeks of harassment from this obviously unhinged woman, so using info from the LA County Bicycle Coalition, I contacted Sergeant David Krumer with the LAPD via email, explained the situation, and asked him if there was anything he could do to help with the situation. Within a couple of days (he actually apologized for this short delay saying he was on vacation!), he called me up and we talked about the incidents further. He explained that, because there were no elements of assault or specific credible threats, things had not yet escalated to a criminal issue (which I had figured from the start). What blew me away is what he said next.
Sergeant Krumer explained that, even though no crime had been committed, the motorist was clearly behaving wrongly and, since I had her license plate number, he would have a talk with her. He took down the details about where exactly the encounters took place and told me that he would either wait at the intersection in an unmarked car the next morning and pull her over when she drove by or go make contact at her home. That same night, Sergeant Krumer contacted me again and said that he had already met with the woman. Here is his description of the encounter:
I had a pretty lengthy conversation with her with regards to a cyclist’s road position, the door zone, and under which circumstances a cyclist needs to cede the roadway.
We also had a discussion about honking horn, etiquette, and unnecessary provocations.
She indicated she understood and also stated that she will be using an alternate route to prevent future encounters.
He also told me that, after seeing me take her picture, she had actually gone to the police herself to try to tell her side in anticipation of me reporting her. I guess she must have realized that she had let things get out of hand at that point.
So, in the span of a few days, the LAPD was able to contact a motorist that had been terrorizing me for weeks, personally educate her on traffic laws, cyclist safety and etiquette, and even get her to change her route in the morning!!! All the while, Sergeant Krumer was incredibly courteous and professional, and he has asked me to contact him should I have any more trouble or need further assistance. I’m extremely impressed with the degree of personal attention and seriousness that the LAPD devoted to me. I can only conclude that the LAPD is serious about taking a new approach to cyclists.
Incidentally, after he helped me, I mentioned to Sergeant Krumer that I might like to share my story with some of the local cycling blogs that I follow. He was very receptive, saying:
Chief Beck made a commitment to improving relations with cyclists and making a sincere effort to address their concerns. I know that many cyclists have had negative contacts with law enforcement. Anything that you can contribute that would let cyclists know that the LAPD is making a sincere and genuine effort to better our relationship would be greatly appreciated.
So that’s why I’m writing to you. It’s just a minor issue involving a couple of cyclists and one motorist, but I hope that you see fit to share my story as one of the “small victories” that can be replicated around the city. We’ve all heard a lot of talk lately from city institutions about how they’re taking our concerns seriously. Now, after my interactions with the LAPD, I’m inclined to believe that talk.
Update: Sgt. Krumer offered a clarification in the comments to this post; I’m moving it up here for everyone who doesn’t read the comments.
Thank you very much for the positive comments. Just to clarify a few points: The driver volunteered to take a different route on her own without any suggestion or proding from me. It appears she recognized on her own the prudence of that decision.
While I did say that I would attempt to be at the intersection at the approximate time of the encounters (if necessary), my intent was to observe…not pull her over (unless a dangerous situation ensued).
Finally I did not “meet” with her but had a telephonic conversation in which we discussed all of the aforementioned issues. I left a message for her that she promptly returned. After our discussion a face to face did not appear warranted.
I am hopeful that the issue is resolved and that there will be no further incidents!
Big bike happenings in the Valley. It looks like Wilbur Avenue really will get two miles of bike lanes; LADOT Bike Blog says Wilbur is getting bike lanes because it got a road diet, not the other way around. Meanwhile, new bridges at Tampa and Winnetka Aves mean work can proceed on two miles additional miles of the LA River Bike Path between Mason and VanAlden.
Streetsblog gets the first second photo of a real Give Me 3 poster on the street. Ten public spaces you can visit along the CicLAvia route on 10/10/10. Green LA Girl reports on Wednesday’s Streetsblog fundraiser. LACBC follows up on the Mayor’s Bike Summit, including the bike plan, Complete Streets and the proposed three-foot passing and vulnerable user laws. Bikeside says the only question in the Santa Monica bikeway vs Agensys dispute is how to make the bikeway happen. Is San Diego’s Critical Mass a victim of its own success? San Francisco remembers the German cyclist killed in an alleged drunken hit-and-run. SF cyclists “with an anti-establishment attitude” protest BP and a dangerous bike lane next to an ARCO station. Tucson police “suppress” cyclists behaving badly. A semi right hooks an SLC cyclist, leaving the rider with life-threatening injuries. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske notes that three-foot passing laws — like the one Mayor Villaraigosa and Council Member Rosendahl propose — only work if they’re actually enforced. Three ticketed cyclists challenge the constitutionality of the Black Hawk CO bike ban. A Colorado women describes what it’s like to hit a cyclist from the driver’s perspective; fortunately, the rider wasn’t seriously hurt — and the driver took full responsibility. Is that Mario Kart bike lane a genuine Banksy? In a twist on bike share, the Twin Cities host a successful bike library for low income adults. Officials fear bikes and pedestrians flooding the streets of Elmhurst. In the most dangerous state for bicyclists, a ninja cyclist is hit and killed by a Florida Sheriff’s deputy. The Cervelo men’s team folds, as the women’s team may continue; Garmin-Transitions will be on Cervelo bikes next year. On the other hand, India’s cyclists may not be on any bikes for the Commonwealth Games. Cambridge England creates a website to act as a suggestion box for cyclists; maybe L.A. cycling’s new BFF — aka the Mayor — should consider the idea. The body of a Brit cyclist is found stuffed in a sports bag; maybe it’s just a coincidence that he worked for MI6. A Brit teenager on a stolen bike critically injures a pedestrian in a two-wheeled hit-and-run. Now this sounds like a perfect ride to me.