Sometimes it’s better to let the pictures tell the story.
So here are a few images and random thoughts from the start of Sunday’s Finish the Ride.
Sometimes it’s better to let the pictures tell the story.
So here are a few images and random thoughts from the start of Sunday’s Finish the Ride.
I got to meet one of my heroes last week.
I was at the LACBC Board of Directors meeting Wednesday night when someone stepped up behind me and said he wanted to introduce himself.
I turned to see a tall man with a huge smile and a face I knew from countless news stories. A quick, almost involuntary glance down revealed an artificial leg he made no attempt to hide, and suddenly no introduction was necessary.
For reasons I will never understand, Damien Kevitt wanted to shake my hand.
I think he had that backwards.
I’ve been wanting to shake his ever since he fought his way back from one of the most horrific hit-and-run collisions I’ve ever heard of. Just surviving what he went through took more courage than most of us will ever need in our lifetimes.
And that was long before his amazing Finish the Ride campaign made him the public face of the fight against motorists who run away like the cowards they are, rather than stopping to take responsibility for their actions.
Under similar circumstances, most people would be happy just to survive. Let alone display the determination to get back on his bike as quickly as possible, despite the loss of a leg.
And even more to start a movement dedicated to justice, if not for himself, then for others victims of hit-and-run.
It was a little later, after he had made a presentation to the board, that I gave a hug to another hero of mine.
Kevitt was accompanied by a woman who turned out to be one of the most awe-inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
His mother, Michele Kevitt Kirkland.
Her name popped up from the very beginning in news stories about his collision. And virtually every story after that as she spoke for — and fought for — her son until he was able to do it for himself.
I have no doubt that it was her will and determination, as much as the skill of his medical team, that helped bring Kevitt through the first few days when his survival was in doubt.
Let alone every seemingly impossible step that followed.
Kevitt was at the board meeting because he had named the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition as one of the beneficiaries of the event, along with the Challenged Athletes Foundation — in the unlikely event there were any profits to benefit from — and the coalition provided the organizational support necessary to pull it off.
At the last minute, though, sponsors started pouring in, from local bike shops to a major car dealership, as well as BikinginLA sponsor Pocrass & De Los Reyes. And news started spreading, not just here in LA, but across the US and around the world.
In the end, the turnout far surpassed anyone’s expectations. And the ride not only broke even, it resulted in one of the largest private donations the LACBC has ever received.
But the biggest success may have come as a surprise to everyone.
According to LAPD Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff, after rising steadily for years, the rate of hit-and-runs in Los Angeles has declined 9% since the first of the year.
A drop he attributed in large part to the publicity Finish the Ride received, and the message of responsibility behind it.
Which goes to show that the battle to stop drivers from fleeing may actually be winnable after all.
After a victory like that, anyone else would sit back and relax. Or maybe start thinking about next year’s ride.
Clearly, Damian Kevitt is not like anyone else I’ve ever met.
He not only credits everyone else with the success of Finish the Ride, he’s taking the fight to the next level.
Tomorrow night he’s hosting the first Hit and Run Summit — Gathering of the Minds at a church in Hollywood. And inviting you, and everyone else committed to doing something about this deadly, life-shattering epidemic, to attend.
Join us Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 7:00pm for the first “Hit and Run Summit – Gathering of the minds.”
Gather your voices and be part of something that will help change the streets of Los Angels in a positive light for young and old alike.
Join in on a united mission to make Los Angeles County a healthy, safer, and fun place to walk, run, and ride bicycles.
Come and network with a diverse community of people that believes in advocacy, education, and community building over dinner.
Please share this with anyone that could possibly benefit from this event. We will be providing useful contact information for various groups, and organizations for volunteer and/or assistance purposes.
Schools, mothers, clubs, and non-profit organizations are highly encouraged to attend and participate.Address: Hollywood Lutheran Church, Rear Gallery 1733 North New Hampshire, Hollywood, CA 90027 Time: 7:00PM Summit Opens, 7:20 Summit Starts, 7:50PM Dinner Served
*Keynote speakers will include experts in the following areas.
- CREATING SOLUTIONS TO MAKE LA STREETS SAFER FOR EVERYONE
- CAMPAIGNING ON HANDLING HIT AND RUN
- CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LAW AND HIT AND RUN
- CURRENT AND FUTURE LEGISLATIONS REGARDING HIT AND RUN
- STATISTICS AND FACTS OF HIT AND RUN
“Safer roads in LA County for everyone!”
I’m not making many commitments these days as I work to get my own health back under control. But I plan to attend even if I have to drag myself there.
And I hope you’ll be there, as well.
Just a couple quick notes this morning.
First up, a painful reminder that justice for cyclists remains elusive, even here in relatively enlightened and bronze-level bike friendly Los Angeles.
You may recall last September we told the story of a bike rider who was harassed by a driver while riding home from work in Chatsworth.
He reported being passed in a dangerous manner, then repeatedly honked and yelled at after passing the car while it was stopped in traffic. When the rider paused to ask what the driver’s problem was, he was told bikes aren’t allowed in the street and threatened with a call to the police.
If only the driver had, he might have been quickly corrected and properly chastised. Instead, he got out of his car and physically threatened the cyclist. Then things got worse.
After that, he got back in his car and honked awhile longer. I was trying to explain to him my rights as a cyclist but he would not listen to me. He then drove slowly forward, making contact and slightly pushing my bike. I yelled at him, then he just nailed the gas. He knocked me to the ground and ran over my bike and right leg, then had to stop because there were two cars in front of him at the light.
As I got up, he got out of his car and told me that I am an asshole and I’m the reason people hate cyclists. I took the pic of him and his car about that time.
Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured, although it left him with leg pain that lingers today.
Unfortunately, it also left him with emotional scars caused by yet another failure of the justice system to take an assault with a deadly weapon seriously, when that weapon is a car and the victim is on a bike — despite having two witnesses to the attack.
I got this email from him last night.
I was just told today that the LAPD decided not to charge the driver who ran me over with any crime. This news came as a extreme shock, to think that a driver can honk and yell at a cyclist then intentionally run him over, get out of his car, call that cyclist names then speed off, and not be charged with any crime. It just makes me feel like I’m going to die riding a bike in LA and no one will care. I trusted our system. It has failed me and it has failed every cyclist in Los Angeles. I don’t know if you care to update the story or ask anyone why he wasn’t charged; I’m told lack of evidence. But I had 2 witnesses, I had a smashed front wheel of my bike and badly bruised leg ankle and foot as well as tire tracks across my leg. I was barely able to walk for 3 weeks and still to this day I have pain in my ankle and right foot. I’m just in so much shock right now.
Shocked is a good word for it.
Appalled, disgusted and mad as hell would be appropriate responses, as well.
He was clearly injured, he had physical proof of a collision and witnesses who could attest that the driver got out of his car and threatened him.
Yet somehow, that isn’t sufficient to file charges — even though I’ve been told by police that simply getting out of a motor vehicle is sufficient for a charge of assault in a situation like this
I can’t explain it. Except as a reminder of the bad old days when bike riders knew we couldn’t count on the LAPD for protection on the streets, let alone justice.
I thought we’d left those days behind as the cycling community established a better relationship with the police. But maybe I was wrong.
Meanwhile, I’ve strongly urged the victim to contact a lawyer to discuss filing a civil suit under LA’s still-untested bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance.
He would seem to have an ideal case.
And the best part is, he wouldn’t have to count on the police to lift a finger.
By now, you probably know the name Damian Kevitt.
He’s the man who riding his bike with his wife near Griffith Park exactly a year ago this week when a van driver stuck in traffic made an illegal U-turn, hitting his bike in the process.
If the driver had simply stopped, Kevitt might have suffered minor injuries. Instead, he floored it, dragging the trapped cyclist 600 feet onto the 5 Freeway before he was finally dislodged in front of high-speed traffic as the van sped away.
Fortunately, he landed near a doctor and an off-duty paramedic who were able to tend to him until paramedics arrived; otherwise, the outcome of this crime might have been much different.
As it was, Kevitt was among the most critically injured riders I’ve ever heard of who somehow survived their collisions.
And not only survived, but thrived.
The easy, 12-mile ride will benefit the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. But more importantly, will allow us to honor the courage of an amazing man, while calling attention to the epidemic of hit-and-runs.
In addition, Kevitt is planning to hold a vigil in front of City Hall during the Critical Mass ride next Friday, February 28th. As part of that, he’s inviting anyone who has been the victim of a hit-and-run, as well as the families of those who have been lost to hit-and-run, to join him in calling for a stop to the crime, and justice for those who have been victimized by it.
If you’d like to join him — and I would strongly encourage it if you can — email him at damiankevitt@FinishTheRide.com, or leave a message at 206/495-3116.
As for justice, the heartless bastard who nearly took Kevitt’s life is still out there somewhere.
Despite a $25,000 reward.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Last year, Glendale-area state Assembly Member Mike Gatto sponsored successful legislation to extend the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases from three to six years.
The bill was stronger as originally written, though, providing an additional year from the date a suspect was identified. Still, the final version that passed the legislature on a unanimous vote of both houses was signed by Governor Brown — which is not always a sure thing — and went into effect on the first of the year.
Now Gatto is taking the next step in ending the epidemic of hit-and-and run.
According to a press release from his office, which does not appear to be online yet, Gatto has introduced legislation calling for automatic license revocation for any motorist who leaves the scene of a collision involving another person — even if the injuries are minor.
That’s revocation, not suspension.
(Update: Actually, it’s not. See below.)
As such, it goes beyond the 2010 Life Before License campaign sponsored by the apparently dormant Bikeside LA, which called for license suspensions of varying length depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Because too often, drivers are allowed to keep their licenses after fleeing the scene, even in cases where the victim has been seriously injured.
And it corrects, in part at least, a loophole in California law that only allows serious consequences in cases resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
Even then, hit-and-run drivers too often walk off with a slap on the wrist. And their license.
“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop. The only way to get someone medical help is to stop,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license, adds insult to their victim’s injuries.” …
“AB 1532 will give victims of hit-and-runs solace, knowing that cowards who drive recklessly, and purposefully avoid responsibility for their actions, are no longer driving the streets,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “This is a sensible fix to the law that will lead people to think twice before leaving the scene of an accident.”
It’s not the full solution to hit-and-run.
But it’s something I’ve long called for to discourage drivers from fleeing the scene, and get drivers who’ve shown they can’t obey the most basic requirements for driving — let alone human decency — off the road.
We still need to address the fact that current law actually encourages drivers who have been drinking to flee the scene until they have time to sober up. As well as the fact that unless their vehicle is taken away, many motorists will continue to drive after their licenses have been taken away.
And again, with little or no consequences in far too many cases.
But Gatto’s bill is a vital step to control, if not end, the epidemic. And get some of the state’s most dangerous and heartless drivers off the road.
As Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted,
“Stopping and rendering aid after a collision is the most basic duty of a motorist. … Failing to do so can be the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious injury or fatality. Anyone who flees the scene of an accident has demonstrated in the most cowardly way possible that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep their driving privileges.”
Update: Now that the bill has been posted online, it’s clear that the press release was misleading, at best. Rather than calling for revocation, as the press release stated, it would merely require that drivers who leave the scene have their licenses suspended for 6 months.
As such, it’s still a step forward, if a relatively small one. It’s not as strong as what was called for under Life Before License, and a lot weaker than what I’ve been calling for; whoever wrote Gatto’s press release should know there’s a big difference between suspension and revocation.
The bill would also amend current law to require that drivers who hit a person would be required to stop at the scene, rather than at the nearest location that would not impede traffic.
The current provision has been abused by drivers who would leave the scene, then turn themselves in hours later with no penalty.
Thanks to Alex H for the correction.
The press release also notes that Damian Kevitt — the cyclist critically injured in a hit-and-run when a minivan driver dragged him onto the 5 Freeway after running him over near Griffith Park nearly a year ago — is planning to finish the ride that took his leg.
And nearly, his life.
Other hit-and-run victims are continuing the healing process. Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 Freeway in Los Angeles last February. The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs. Kevitt recently announced that he will be finishing the ride he started last year at an event on April 27, 2014 to raise awareness for hit-and-run victims and challenged athletes.
The suspect who hit him remains at large, despite a $25,000 reward. You can contribute to Damian’s efforts to raise $10,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Seriously, I’m in awe of that guy.
In a somewhat related, and horrifying, story, a Wisconsin driver faces charges for allegedly running down an adult tricycle rider, then fleeing the scene with his victim still lodged in his windshield. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t seriously injured, and managed to free himself after the driver arrived home, reports the StarTribune.
A Wisconsin man who became lodged in the windshield of a car that struck him said he turned to the driver and said, “Hello, I’m the guy you hit on the bicycle.” …
The man finally noticed Gove when he stopped the car outside his home.
“He looked at me and said ‘Who are you? What are you doing in the car?'” Gove said. “He started freaking out: ‘I’m going to jail, I’m going to jail.'”
Thanks to Michael McVerry for the heads-up.
A 79-year old Glendora cyclist is critically injured when he’s left-crossed by an 86-year old driver.
Meanwhile, a 19-year old Temecula man faces nine years in prison after reaching a plea bargain on charges that he fled the scene after hitting a stopped car, then ran a red light to strike another car and a bike rider in a crosswalk; the cyclist survived, but the other driver died several days later.
And if you can get past the paywall, the OC Register’s David Whiting asks if the death of his friend means we should give up sharing the road.
That would be no.
For all the bad news — and yes, there’s been far too much lately — your risk of dying on a bike is an infinitesimal one in 6.3 million. You also face twice as much risk inside a car as you do on a bike, on an hourly basis. And research shows the health benefits of bicycling far outweigh any risks.
I write about the bad things that happen because every fallen rider deserves to be remembered, and even one victim is one too many. And because someone has to wake up our civic leaders to the need for greater safety for everyone on our streets.
Don’t let that scare you off your bike, though.
Because bad things may happen. But they’re highly unlikely to happen to you.
Bike share programs around the US and Canada have been called into question, as the company behind many of the leading programs has filed bankruptcy. Hopefully, Bixi’s financial problems will be just a bump in the road for cities like New York and Chicago, though Time Magazine isn’t very hopeful.
Thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the tip.
Flying Pigeon looks at last weekend’s successful Tweed Ride.
Finally, the National Business Review asks what you’d do if you knew how to stop bicycling deaths; evidently, the answer is not much, based on experience in Auckland. And Tennessee sheriff’s deputies threaten a bike rider with arrest after he’s assaulted by teenagers, even though they confessed to the crime; thanks to Charles Hudak for the link.