Tag Archive for Mohammed Kadri

Guest Post: A view from the courtroom

It’s one of the more heartbreaking cases in recent history.

It was just two days before Christmas last year, when a young Australian man working in Chicago was flying back home for the holidays, leaving his girlfriend of five years behind. Faced with an extended layover at LAX, James Rapley decided to rent a bike on a sunny Sunday morning for a ride along the beach.

He never made his flight home.

Rapley was riding in the uphill bike lane on Temescal Canyon Blvd when he was run down from behind by another young man, who was allegedly under the influence at 9 am, and reportedly admitted to texting behind the wheel when he drifted into the bike lane, taking the Aussie’s life in an instant.

I’ve often wondered what James Rapley’s thoughts were in those last few moments as his life drifted away. Whether he thought of the woman he loved, or the family he would never see again.

Or just wondered why.

Mohammed Kadri, the driver who took his life, was recently charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent volunteered to be in the courtroom for Kadri’s Preliminary Setting on Thursday. Here’s her report.

……..

This morning, Mohammed Kadri was actually present in court. I didn’t see anyone in the tiny courtroom who looks 20 years old, because Kadri is kind of hirsute, so he looks older; the kid probably has a 5 o’clock shadow by noon. He’s not very tall, but his suit fit well, and posture is good and it indicated that he understands the gravity of his situation.

The Deputy DA assigned to the case requested a continuance. The judge asked a little impatiently why they shouldn’t proceed today. The prosecutor stated that she needs time to speak with the victim’s family. (Because what better time than the holidays?!?) The next court date is Friday, January 16th.

Incidentally, the prosecutor is Danette Meyers. She’ll prosecute viciously. The victim impact statements will be absolutely integral to the case, though. Even if the family can only provide written statements.

From the glass elevators at the courthouse, you can see planes coming in to LAX. I looked at those tubes of tin and thought of all the souls on board. James had flown into LAX a day early because he was worried that bad weather would delay his flight home to Australia. I wondered if any of today’s arrivals had chosen an early flight for the same reason, to play it safe so they can get home to their families for the holidays. And then I prayed every single one of them will be on their connecting flights. Because James Rapley never got the chance.

Just as an aside, and I could be wrong, but… In the hallway outside the courtroom, an older guy intercepted Kadri’s lawyer as we (me & the guy who turned out to be the lawyer) reached for the courtroom door at just about the same moment. This older guy may be a relative. Right after Kadri’s appearance, I went into the hallway to type some quick notes on my laptop. This same older guy walked by, very clearly looking down at the screen. I scowled at him and he pivoted away. I think he noticed the LACBC sticker on the front and suspects I’m some agent of theirs. Well, let the defense worry that so many eyes are on them.

I’d love to see Kadri quake beneath the gaze of an angry guardian angel the size of the Bike Coalition.

The Airport courthouse has no bike parking, but the security at the garage entrance suggested locking up to the handicap parking sign. The courthouse is conveniently nestled in the armpit of the 105/405 interchange, and miserable to reach by any way but car. If you look at Google Maps, it’s right there by the Green Line station, but you can’t access it by 116th street (unless you scale two chain link fences, and people clearly do this.) Nope, you have to go down to 120th and head back north. If you’re on a bike on 120th & La Cienega, it’s terrifying to wait in the eastbound left turn lane (whose sensor doesn’t register bikes), because the westbound traffic shooting out from the freeway underpass seems to be COMING RIGHT AT YOU thanks to the wacky angle at the intersection. By the time that oncoming wall of FedEx truck zoomed at me like Jaws, my heart rate was about 160. It’s not much lower right now, what with the rage about how we practically require vehicular manslaughter defendants to arrive at the courthouse by automobile.

……..

After I got her report, I emailed a member of Rapley’s family in Australia to let them know about the January 16th court date.

The response I received broke my heart.

The next court date will be just days after the one year anniversary of his funeral. And six years to the day that he’d been with his girlfriend. 

……..

The ghost bike for James Rapley is still there, 355 days later.

Maybe you’ve seen it at the corner of Temescal and PCH, and wondered who it was for, or stopped to read the inscription.

It’s been maintained all this time by a grieving father from Oxnard, whose own six-year old son was killed while riding his bike. Since then, Anthony Novarro has dedicated his life to remembering other bike riding sons and daughters who have lost theirs.

He stops by every few weeks to clean the site, and remember a young man none of us ever knew.

But all ghost bikes are removed or stolen sooner or later; it’s unusual that one lasts this long.

There’s a discussion currently underway to make the memorial permanent by installing a bike rack in the shape of a bicycle in Rapley’s honor.

So far it hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage.

But its another reminder that James Rapley hasn’t been forgotten in the City of Angels, even if he died a stranger to us all.

……..

Something else that hasn’t gotten past the discussion stage yet is a proposal to build the city’s first parking-protected bike lane on that uphill side of Temescal Canyon where Rapley lost his life.

Such protected bikeways were just approved by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed into law by Governor Brown. This would be the ideal location for one, with no conflicting intersections or cross traffic for nearly mile from PCH to Palisades High School.

Whether it would have saved Rapley’s life at that early hour is impossible to say; there may not have been enough beachgoers parking their cars to form a protective barrier so early on a winter weekend.

But it might help prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

And if there’s a better way to honor someone who needlessly lost his life in the few short hours he spent in our city, I don’t know what that would be.

……..

Update: A comment below from Jeffrey reminds us that a memorial fund in Rapley’s name has raised over $15,000 for Australia’s Amy Gillett Foundation to improve bike safety, with a goal of eliminating bicycling deaths. And it tells his all-too-brief life story, letting us know just who this man we never knew was.

More impressively, his family donated his life insurance and joined with friends to contribute over $250,000 to establish a scholarship at Whitley College for a Rural Student studying either Engineering or Science at Melbourne University.

But more funds are needed to increase the amount of the annual award, and help make a difference in the world that James Rapley never got the chance to make.

 

Weekend Links: Rider down at 7th and Grand; driver charged with killing James Rapley in Temescal Canyon DUI

A bike rider was hit by a car at 7th and Grand in Downtown LA Friday morning.

Unfortunately, no word on the condition or identity of the victim, but I’m told he was conscious and in a lot of pain.

That bike appears to be trashed, though.

Photo by Yuki Kidokoro

Photo by Yuki Kidokoro

Thanks to Yuki Kidokoro and LA BAC member David Wolfberg for the heads-up.

……..

Just got word late Friday that Mohammed Kadri has been charged with a felony count of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death of cyclist James Rapley on Temescal Canyon late last year.

As you may recall, Rapley was riding on a rented bike during an extended layover at LAX while flying back home to Australia for the holidays, when Kadri’s car drifted into the bike lane and hit him from behind.

Kadri was allegedly drunk — or possibly still drunk — at 9:15 am on a Sunday morning, and reportedly told a bystander he had been texting.

On a related note, it’s my goal is to turn the uphill bike lane on Temescal into the city’s first parking–protected bike lane. It may not have saved Rapley at that early weekend hour, but could help keep future cyclists from the same fate.

Thanks to Karen for the heads-up.

……..

You’ve got to be kidding.

A 20-year old Wisconsin man hit a newspaper deliveryman on a three-wheeled bike, and drove home with the victim embedded in his windshield. The rider, who did not appear to be seriously injured, unlocked the passenger door and started walking down the street before a witness called police.

And yes, you’ve got to see the photo on that link.

Then it happened again, when an allegedly drunken New Jersey driver was stopped by police with a man stuck in the windshield, after driving 1.5 miles from the scene of the hit-and-run. The 61-year old victim had to be cut out of the windshield by firefighters, and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

……..

Local

No surprise that two of the three drug charges filed against Clinton Alford, Jr — the bike rider allegedly beaten and kicked by LAPD officers last month — have been dropped, with the third likely to follow, since police had no probable cause to stop and search, let alone beat, him. I’ll never understand why there’s not more outrage over this case.

Seventh District Councilmember Felipe Fuentes teams with the LACBC to light up lightless riders as part of Operation Firefly.

LADOT counts riders along the LA River bike path.

Better Bike offers an open letter calling for an end to considering traffic congestion as a mitigation criterion under CEQA rules.

Cycling in the South Bay writes about an all too typical exchange between a cyclist, a dangerously aggressive driver and bike cop who blames the wrong one.

Former US crit champ Rahsaan Bahati talks bike safety to school kids.

 

State

Neal Storm Stephany pleaded not guilty to a well-deserved murder charge in the Newport Beach DUI death of cyclist Shaun Eagleson last month.

A missing Irvine mountain biker isn’t missing any more.

The Executive Director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition explains what the city’s CicloSDias open streets festival is all about.

A Riverside man uses cycling to bounce back from osteoarthritis, and is raising a team after missing last year’s California Coast Classic following a double knee replacement.

Ventura County gets a $3.3 million grant for biking and walking projects.

Oakland bike thieves bust through the front door of a bike shop and steal 46 high-end mostly folding bikes. Thanks to Alex Kekauoha for the link. Note: I initially misidentified the location as San Francisco; it actually happened in the Bay Area city that didn’t win the World Series this year. Thanks to Prinzrob for keeping me honest. 

A San Francisco drunk passes out in the street next to the pink child’s bike he’d been riding. Am I the only one wondering if they checked to see if the bike was stolen?

Bike friendly Davis is looking for a new bike/ped coordinator.

A Sacramento-area fitness chain mimics ghost bikes by locking orange-painted bikes around town for a not-very-effective marketing campaign.

 

National

Protected bike lanes not only improve safety for cyclists, but for pedestrians, as well. Then again, they seem to be good for everyone.

A rider for Team Novo Nordisk explains how to ride with diabetes, something I’m going to have to learn.

Four years for a Portland teenager who bashed a random cyclist in the face with a brick. Too bad he’s a juvenile, because that crime deserves a lot more time.

A Wyoming driver faces up to 16 years after pleading guilty to aggravated homicide in the death of a cyclist earlier this year.

Things are changing in the Lone Star State as San Antonio becomes bike friendlier, and even Houston isn’t as bad as it used to be.

A writer for the Chicago Reader skillfully dismantles the Tribune’s crotchety, anti-bike troll.

A Michigan writer explains why riding with traffic is safer for cyclists. Seriously, nothing good comes from riding salmon.

New York launches a new Vision Zero map tracking traffic deaths across the city.

Great profile of New York bike messenger and riding legend Austin Horse.

A DC writer says riding on the sidewalk is just scary, for pedestrians, not dangerous.

 

International

How to survive riding in the rain.

A Vancouver study shows drivers are seldom charged with dooring.

A UK website asks if doping is finally a thing of the past in pro cycling. Uh, yeah, sure. Of course it is.

A smartly designed new Brit bike grows with your child.

A Welsh cyclist faces multiple charges after breaking out the window of a car with his U-lock. Seriously, no matter how angry you may be, responding with violence will only make it worse.

Irish researchers with a keen grasp of the obvious discover bicycling is underutilized in the country because many people think it’s too dangerous.

An Aussie rider explains why we wear those silly cleated shoes.

 

Finally…

Sir Bradley Wiggins, former Tour de France champ, is now an anime character. Caught on self-promoting video: A London beverage company develops a slightly self-serving plan to provide helmets for Boris Bike users; but not, evidently, these helmetless cyclists who videoed themselves using them — the bikes, not the helmets — to ride from London to Paris.

And Bikeyface neatly illustrates the problem with Share the Road.

 

Update: Fatal bike collision on Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades

The aftermath of today's fatal collision; photo by Clifford Phillips

The aftermath of today’s fatal collision; photo by Clifford Phillips

I’m still waiting on official confirmation, but the news doesn’t look good.

A tweet from West LA Traffic Division Captain Brian Adams reports that the LAPD is working a fatal traffic collision at Temescal Canyon Road and PCH in Pacific Palisades.

At the same time, I received an email from a reader who had just passed the intersection and saw a mountain bike with the rear wheel crushed, and a car stopped nearby with its windshield bashed in; the rider was nowhere to be seen.

Of course, that does not necessarily mean the rider was killed. But it sounds like prayers or good thoughts are in order.

More details as they come in.

Update: According to KCBS-2, the collision occurred around 9:15 Sunday morning when a vehicle drifted into the bike lane on Temescal Canyon and hit the rider from behind. The victim was declared dead at a local hospital, later identified as St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica; another report says he was taken to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

And yes, the driver remained at the scene. 

A comment from Lois below indicates the collision occurred about a quarter mile above PCH on the eastbound, uphill lane. 

Having ridden through there many times myself, that is one of the few bike lanes where I don’t feel comfortable, as many motorists drive far above the speed limit and drift from their lanes on the many curves, both up and downhill.

This is the 84th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 36th in Los Angeles County. It is also the 16th cycling death in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year — over three times the number of bicycling fatalities last year.

Update 2: Pacific Palisades Patch reports the victim, who has not been publicly identified, was approximately 25 to 27 years old, and was hit hard enough to throw his body up to 20 feet through the air.  

One commenter on the site said she was told by an officer at the scene that the driver had been drinking — at 9:15 am — while the writer of the Patch piece says the driver himself suggested he was texting when the collision occurred.

John Rapley; photo from The Age

James Rapley; photo from The Age

Update 3: Police officials have identified the victim at 29-year old Australian tourist James Rapley from Victoria; the driver was 19-year old Mohammed Kadri of Santa Monica.

There’s something horribly wrong when someone can’t visit this country without returning home in a coffin.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for James Rapley and his family.

Update 4: Australian publication The Age confirms a comment from a friend of the victim that Rapley was just passing through Los Angeles when he was killed.

The paper quotes his father as saying Rapley, a software developer for Groupon in Chicago, had rented a bike during an extended layover on a flight back home to Melbourne for the holidays. An experienced rider, he may have enjoyed the challenge of tackling the steep climb, even on a rental bike.

His father also confirms the report that police said the underage driver had been drinking at that early hour.

“He was the sort of kid everyone hopes to have as a son,” John Rapley said.

“I just really want to get the message out that drink driving can affect you anywhere and it’s so stupid.”

No word yet on any charges the driver may face. Let’s hope the authorities take this one seriously — especially if reports that he was texting as well turn out to be true.

I can’t overstate the tragedy that someone just passing through our city is murdered by someone too young to legally drink, let alone be on the road in that condition. 

Update 4: The Santa Monica Mirror reports Kadri was arrested on an unspecified felony charge at 10:50 am, and released on $50,000 bail Sunday night — which seems low under the circumstances.

He is scheduled to appear in Downtown Municipal Court on January 16th; we should be able to learn what charges he’ll face then. Thanks to John McBrearty for the heads-up.

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