Stupid human tricks: Hit-and-run triathlete, assault on a cyclist, and confused SF and NYC cops and DAs

Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a common theme to much of this week’s news.

………

A Chicago cyclist is injured in a deliberate assault, as a passenger in a passing SUV reaches out and grabs her messenger bag, dragging her alongside the vehicle until her bike crashed into a parked car.

Evidently, just for the heck it, as she reported that the occupants were laughing as they risked her life.

Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt. But it’s another argument for protected bike lanes as she was quick to point out.

………

Following the death of a San Francisco bicyclist, members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition held a rally calling for improved safety and a separated bike lane on the street where she was right hooked by a truck driver who illegally turned across the bike lane she was riding in.

Evidently, one of San Francisco’s finest didn’t get the memo.

He illegally parked his patrol car in the middle of the bike lane, in the middle of the rally — despite an empty parking space to his right — forcing riders to leave the bike lane to go around his car. All to make a point that bike riders are supposed to pass on the left, just like anyone else.

Except they aren’t. Bikes are allowed to split lanes in California. And cyclists using a bike lane are in a separate lane from automotive traffic, and are no more required to stop for traffic in the lane next to them than a driver in the right lane would be expected to stop for one in the left.

Which isn’t to say it’s not the smartest move in response to clueless drivers sometimes.

Better to come to a full stop even though the law doesn’t require it than end up under the wheels of a car or truck.

And he blamed the death of Amelie Le Moullac, and two other bike riders killed by trucks in the same area this year, strictly on the victims. Even though the truck driver who killed Le Moullac was most likely overtaking her, rather than the other way around.

So he took the law into his own hands, apparently making the law up as he went along and needlessly risking the safety of anyone using that bike lane, just to blame the victim of a collision that’s still under investigation and attempting to bully bike riders into seeing the world through his own windshield perspective.

Sound about right?

If he’s not working a desk and worrying about his pension today, there’s something seriously wrong in Baghdad by the Bay.

Thanks to murphstahoe and Bike Soup USA for the heads-up.

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Thankfully, not all San Francisco cops have their heads so far up their own badges, as the department responded to a tweet from a tipster to bust a bike chop shop.

And speaking of bike thieves, a San Francisco resident noticed one riding off on a stolen bike. And promptly nailed him with an ice cube from his third floor apartment.

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In a case of someone who really should have known better, a well-known San Francisco triathlete has been arrested for the hit-and-run that left a Bay Area business suffering from the after effects of a severe brain injury.

Ironman champion Meredith Kessler was allegedly driving the SUV that ran into Soren Krogh-Jensen as he walked in a crosswalk last March, tossing him into the air before crashing back down ob his head. Security video shows her remaining at the scene for several minutes, reportedly checking the victim before getting back in her car and running away like just another heartless coward.

You’d expect better behavior from someone who rides a bike, especially at that level.

At least, I would.

Then again, instant karma seems to have played a role, as Kessler suffered a head injury herself in a collision with another rider while competing in a triathlon that followed the hit-and-run.

And yes, I know karma doesn’t really work that way.

But still.

………

On the opposite coast, a New York City cop decides to ticket a bike rider for going through a red light by knocking her off her bike, apparently failing to realize — or perhaps not caring — that any fall from a bike can result in serious injury.

Or worse.

That’s like deliberately crashing into a driver’s vehicle in order to make a simple traffic stop. Or pistol whipping a pedestrian for jaywalking.

………

Update: Thanks to Joe B for pointing out that the case below actually dates to 2009. For some reason it popped up in a web search for stories posted online in the previous 24 hours, and I neglected to check the date before writing this. So the good news is, maybe today’s New York isn’t as bad as it seems; or maybe the bad news is, this sort of thing has been going on longer than we thought. 

Or maybe I just need to avoid posting my own stories after 1 am. My apologies.

In another example of the sheer idiocy of officials in supposedly bike-friendly New York, a rider faces a charge of criminal mischief after he was deliberately doored by the driver of a massive SUV.

The vehicle was stopped partially blocking a protected bike lane with no indication of why it was stopped; but when the rider attempted to go around it, it started moving again.

So the cyclist responded by slapping the side of the SUV to warn the driver he was there; I’ve done the same thing more than once, and seen other cyclists do it as well.

It usually scares the crap out of the driver, but it’s better than getting run over by someone who doesn’t even know you’re there.

But I’ve never seen anyone respond the way this driver did, flinging open his door into the victim and knocking him off his bike. Then standing over him threateningly before picking up the man’s bike and setting it on the kickstand and driving away.

Leave it to the New York DA’s office to victimize the victim all over again, apparently for that potentially life-saving tap on the driver’s door.

According to the story, criminal mischief requires property damage in excess of $250 — which is far more likely to have been caused by the door hitting the rider than the other way around.

And this from the city Bicycling ranks as the 7th most bike-friendly community in the US.

Maybe the New York DA’s office didn’t get the memo, either.

………

In another horrifying case from Gotham City, a taxi driver took the leg — or possibly legs — of an English tourist after an apparent dispute with a bike rider.

And Dr. Oz came running to the rescue.

The bike rider, who was injured in the incident, was next to the cab when the driver allegedly became impatient while attempting to make a left turn. When the rider attempted to tell him to stop, the cabbie reportedly became angry and stepped on the gas, tossing the cyclist onto his hood before slamming into the woman who was sitting on a piece of concrete street furniture.

Her life was apparently saved by a bystander who had the presence of mind to use his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding on her severed leg, while another put the amputated limb on ice. Reports are her other foot was crushed and may not be able to be saved.

TV’s Dr. Oz reportedly saw the collision from his studio window, and came down to help, followed by a camera crew.

Needless to say, the NYPD seems to have ignored everything leading up to the crash and quickly determined there was no criminality involved. Not an impatient, careless or road raging driver, but just another tragic oops.

Fortunately, the city’s DA — yes, the same ones who charged the cyclist in the previous story — is taking another look at it. And the agency responsible for licensing cab drivers is taking steps to revoke the driver’s taxi license for a whopping 30 days; although under the circumstances, life would seem more appropriate.

Meanwhile, advocates are trying to get the NYPD to take traffic crime seriously, instead of just targeting bike riders while ignoring speeding motorists.

………

A Florida detective makes a U-turn without checking his mirror, and collides with a driver in the next lane. But of course, it’s the stop sign-running bike rider who gets the blame.

………

A British mom gives her hockey playing son a new BMW because she thought it was too dangerous to ride his bike to work.

Forty-two days later, he was killed driving his new car.

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Newport Beach’s highway-style right turn lanes put cyclists and pedestrians at needless risk. Actually, these are far too common throughout Orange County as well as San Diego County; another example of well-meaning but outdated planning gone dangerously amuck.

………

But at least the Tour de France was dope-free this year. Right?

Although now that I think about it, I remember the same being said about Lance in the not too distant past.

………

Finally, here’s the story I wrote for LA Streetsblog as guest editor yesterday, reporting on the new Save Our Streets LA proposal to repave the city’s crumbling streets.

And hopefully fix the sidewalks and install bikeways and build complete streets in the process.

7 comments

  1. fsethd says:

    Sometimes, reading your blog leaves me feeling hopeless and depressed, until I realize that it’s only by reporting these things that we can even start to get balance in the lopsided way the media — let alone the police — treat bicyclists. I can’t imagine how tough it is to write these articles. Hope your fridge is well-stocked. Thanks, again.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’ve hit on why I first decided to write about things like this in the first place. Yes, it’s depressing at times; I’d much rather write about the good news. But it’s only by bringing these problems out into the light of day that we can all be aware of them — and do something about it.

      My intention is to write about the last cyclist killed or maimed on our streets, until it truly is the last time a cyclist is killed or maimed on our streets.

      It’s not about me, though. It’s about the victims and their families, and trying to bring some measure of comfort and justice to their lives. And doing what we can to build a community where we can all ride our bikes without fear.

      But you’re right. It can be pretty tough to write about things like this, let alone get out on my own bike afterwards.

      • fsethd says:

        Well, it may not be about you, but it’s through you that this is happening. Great work. Keep it up, and keep pedaling.

  2. Car slapping, though it may relieve your own tension a bit, serves only to escalate the situation.

    A shout if you must, a bell if you can, works much better. When you car-slap, you lower yourself to the level of the arrogant driver.

    Plus “scaring the crap” out of someone maneuvering two or three tons of steel next to you is probably not wise. Especially when it’s already obvious that they’re not competent drivers.

    But what do I know? I’ve been riding in LA for barely over forty-five years, and don’t often pedal more than 5,000 miles in a twelvemonth….

    • bikinginla says:

      I have to disagree. You seem to be talking about slapping a car in anger after something has happened; I’m talking about a last-second warning to avoid an imminent collision.

      First of all, a moving car should never be close enough that you can touch it, let alone slap it. Any car that close already poses a risk.

      Second, these days, many people drive in hermetically sealed containers, with the windows rolled up and the stereo on, often on their cell phones. They’re so distracted and insulated from the street that they may not be able to hear a warning from the bike rider they’re about to run over.

      I’ve had a case where I’ve been right next to a driver’s window, screaming at the top of my lungs, as he drifted to the left while looking right to make a right turn, with no idea that he was about to push my bike into the next lane. If I hadn’t hit his window, I would have been squeezed between his car and the bus on my left; not a position I’d choose to be in.

      Slapping the car is a last ditch measure to warn the driver s/he’s about to hit you when the other measures you’ve mentioned have already failed. If I have to risk scaring the crap out of someone to warn a driver of my presence to avoid a collision that could result in serious injury or death, I’m going to do it every time.

  3. Joe B says:

    NYC filing charges against the cyclist who was assaulted is terrible, and clearly shows that NYC is going the way of Florida. However, the article is also dated June 2009.

    I’d be curious to know the outcome, though.

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