Last week, I received the following email from cyclist and budding brewmeister Todd Mumford.
As you may recall, Todd recently described a collision that left him with minor — though painful — injuries and a badly mangled bike. Now his neighbor has been the victim of a law-breaking driver.
And, apparently, the Beverly Hills police.
Todd notes that the story is second hand, but he has no reason to question his neighbor’s version of events.
He was headed east on Olympic Blvd. At some point he was riding in the street, but jumped on to the sidewalk (there was a car blocking his path or something like that).
He was on the sidewalk when he entered the crosswalk at Olympic/Doheny on a green light with the pedestrian walk sign. According to my neighbor, he checked the road and all was clear as he entered. However, as soon as he got into the crosswalk, he looked left just in time to see an SUV make a right turn from the middle lane at the last second, hitting my neighbor and sending him to the ground; he took the brunt of the impact with his shoulder.
The driver stopped and checked on my neighbor. My neighbor said two or three drivers that witnessed the accident also stopped, and started berating the driver that hit him for driving like a maniac. According to them, the driver of the SUV was speeding down Olympic, weaving in and out of traffic and finally made an illegal right turn from the middle lane before striking my neighbor.
The paramedics arrived as did the police. My neighbor got checked out and nothing appeared broken, but his shoulder was in a lot of pain (it has since become worse and he is going to get it checked to see whether he needs surgery). The police took the statements of the witnesses, the driver and my neighbor. Their conclusion at the end of the police report was that my neighbor was entirely at fault because he was riding on the sidewalk. (My neighbor also said the police treated him like he did something wrong the entire time.)
Now, as I explained to him, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills. If he was just a little farther down Olympic he would have been in Los Angeles and it would not have been an issue. What I am wondering is if the police came to their conclusion because the law states it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk or they think he’s at fault because the driver couldn’t see him because he was riding on the sidewalk.
All of which begs the question, what would the police have concluded had the SUV hit a pedestrian who was walking down the sidewalk had just entered the crosswalk and got hit?
If the police assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor because he broke the law by riding on the sidewalk, they are absolutely in the wrong. There is a legal concept in torts called negligence per se (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence_per_se), which, although not applicable here, feels like the police may be following the same concept. “You broke a law, you got hit, your fault.” I have not seen the police report, but if they assigned 100% of fault to my neighbor, I would assume the driver was not cited for anything.
My neighbor said he has since retained an attorney and the driver’s insurance company assigned 80% of the fault to the driver and 20% to him, which is a small victory.
(As a side note, when I was dealing with the adjustor for the insurance company of the driver that hit me, they asked if I was riding on the sidewalk when I was hit.)
This story raises a number of issues.
Not the least of which is the problem of sidewalk riding, which is legal in some California cities and banned in others. And even legal in some areas of cities that ban it in others, such as Beverly Hills, which bans sidewalk riding only in business districts — even though BHPD bike officers routinely ride on the gilded sidewalks of the city’s Golden Triangle, including Rodeo Drive.
This patchwork of laws makes it virtually impossible for cyclists to comply with the law, as they may have no way of knowing if it is legal or illegal as they pass through the many various communities of the county.
In effect, it’s no different from the speed traps that plagued the state in the ’40s and ’50s. By refusing to post regulations on the street where cyclists who don’t live in the city can see them, jurisdictions that ban sidewalk riding virtually ensure that riders who take to the sidewalk for whatever reason will break the law at some point and be subject to ticketing.
Or worse, as this case points out.
Of course, the one solution is for all cyclists to always ride in the street. But simple common sense says that will never happen, as some riders will always feel more comfortable on the sidewalk, while others will jump on and off as needed to avoid road hazards and dangerous streets.
A better answer is to establish a uniform standard from city to city so it’s actually possible for riders to know and observe the law, wherever they ride.
Then there’s the problem of police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills ignoring witness statements that the driver broke the law by making a right turn from the wrong lane. And deciding that the relatively minor violation of riding on the sidewalk completely outweighs a reckless driver in a dangerous vehicle putting others at risk by committing a major moving violation.
Despite the driver’s potential to cause harm, they insisted on blaming the victim. Instead of holding people operating vehicles that are capable of killing their fellow road users accountable for operating them in a safe and legal manner, they heaped all the blame on the bike rider, who posed a danger no one but himself.
All of which begs the question, what the f*** is wrong with Beverly Hills??????
Maybe you can ask them yourself.
The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, March 6th, at 1:30 pm. Bikes are on the agenda — a discussion of the city’s first planned bikeways, making them only 40 years or so behind the rest of the world.
But maybe we can use the opportunity to ask why they seem intent on remaining the most bike-unfriendly city on the Westside.