Tag Archive for no justice

No justice for a victim of road rage; hit-and-run victims urged join Damien Kevitt at Critical Mass next week

Evidently, tire tracks aren't sufficient proof of getting run over.

Evidently, tire tracks aren’t sufficient proof of getting run over.

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.

A year later, Kevitt is back on his bike, an artificial leg replacing the one lost in the collision. And he’s inviting every cyclist to join with him on April 27th to Finish the Ride.

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.

 

Update: LAPD traffic investigators evidently don’t believe other cops who witness a right hook bike collision

Evidently, cops aren’t credible witnesses.

At least as far as LAPD traffic officers are concerned.

Imagine you’re riding along when a driver right hooks you — not just turning across your path, but illegally making a right turn from the left lane — and in the process, not only violates your right-of-way, but causes a collision.

And for once, not just one, but two cops witness the whole thing.

And then…

Nothing.

………

That’s exactly what happened yesterday morning, when Melanie Freeland was making her regular bike commute from Highland Park to Downtown LA.

She was riding on North Broadway through Chinatown around 8:40 am, in the right peak hour lane — that is, what would normally be the parking lane, but converts to a regular traffic lane to accommodate rush hour traffic.

As she was passing the Far East National Bank at 977 N. Broadway, the Lexus traveling in the lane on her left — what was, in effect, the center of three lanes — suddenly turned into the building’s parking lot. The driver cut across the lane Freeland was riding in, without warning, forcing her off the roadway and causing her bike to collide with the car’s door and front panel.

A classic right hook, with the extra added benefit of an illegal turn from the wrong lane. Without signaling, no less.

If that’s not clear, just imagine you’re in the right lane of a two lane street, and the driver on the left suddenly makes a right turn directly in front of you.

And for once, a cop saw the whole thing.

Two police officers — one in uniform, the other in plain clothes — were on their way to court when the collision occurred right before their eyes. They pulled over to offer assistance, calling for an ambulance and staying with her until a regular traffic officer arrived to investigate.

Both officers — I’m leaving out the names of all the cops involved, though Freeland provided their names and badge numbers* — said the driver failed to signal or yield the right-of-way. But even though they were the ones who witnessed the wreck, it would be up to the traffic cop to actually issue a ticket.

The officers gave their report to the traffic investigator, then left for the courthouse.

………

And that’s when everything went to hell.

The investigator told Freeland he couldn’t issue a ticket or determine fault in the collision because he did not actually witness it, saying he “could not issue a traffic ticket for something he did not see.”

Never mind that two sworn officers did. As well as a security guard for the building, who supported the first officers’ version of events.

So Freeland smartly asked to speak with the traffic officer’s supervisor. Yet when the Sergeant arrived, she repeated the exact same sentence.

And added that “It is not a crime to hit a pedestrian.”

Note to police: bike riders are not pedestrians. We have all the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle operators, and are allowed on every public street cars are allowed to use, with the exception of some limited access freeways. Calling us pedestrians implies we belong on the sidewalk and belittles our legal right to the roadway.

While it’s true that police officers are generally prohibited from writing citations for traffic violations they don’t witness, I’ve been assured by officers that they can write a ticket or make an arrest based on clear evidence pointing to responsibility for a collision or other violation.

And if the testimony of two cops who witnessed the whole thing — as well as a third independent witness — isn’t clear evidence, I don’t know what the hell is.

Instead, the officers sent just as clear a message that, as far as they’re concerned, bikes don’t’ belong on the street. And good luck getting justice.

Just like the bad old days of LAPD’s anti-bike, windshield bias I thought we’d left long behind us under Chief Beck’s more enlightened leadership.

As Michael MacDonald put it in an email informing me of the case,

There are a lot of things wrong in this picture, not the least of which is that LAPD has again made it clear that cyclists are essentially fair game. I am particularly frustrated that someone I know that had made a concerted effort to make a mode shift towards cycling and to educate herself to ride safely now feels no degree of protection on the road, and is deterred from ever commuting by bike in Los Angeles again.

Fortunately, Freeland does not appear to have suffered any serious injuries, although she was due to be examined by a physician late yesterday.

She’s following up with the original officers, and contacting the department’s bike liaison for the Central Traffic Division. And she plans to reach out to Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Jose Huizar to express her disappointment and call for safety improvements on Broadway.

Police officers also tell me you should contact the Watch Commander overseeing the officers involved as quickly as possible after an incident like this.

But make no mistake.

Yesterday the LAPD failed Melanie Freeland.

Tomorrow, it might be you.

*My purpose here is not to embarrass the officers. The LAPD was been provided with all the names and badge numbers; it’s up to them to deal with the individuals involved.

Update: Okay, now I’m pissed. Melanie Freeland emailed this morning that she tried to call the bike liaison officer for the Central Traffic Division after I passed his contact information on to her. Except the desk officer who took the call initially refused to put the call through, significantly misrepresenting her case and saying “I know the same laws he does.”

She was finally able to leave a message, but hasn’t heard back yet.

Under former LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer, the department made great strides in improving relations with the bicycling community. But the expanded bike liaison program is absolutely meaningless if self-appointed gatekeepers are allowed to screen their calls.

And no one should ever have to face an argument when reaching out to anyone in the department for help.

I’ve praised the LAPD as one of the most progressive and bike-friendly police departments in the county since Chief Beck took over. But this is starting to feel like a huge step back to the bad old days.

Update 2: Freeland reports she spoke with the Watch Commander on duty at the time of the incident. Who turned out to be the same Sergeant who came to the scene and backed up the original traffic officer. 

In the course of a long conversation, the officer described a Catch 22 that makes it almost impossible for the department to issue a ticket to anyone. Which goes a long way towards explaining the wild west mentality of LA streets, where drivers feel entitled to do virtually anything without fear of consequences.

I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.

But aren’t all officers trained in traffic law at the Academy? 

And are you seriously trying to tell me that a uniformed LAPD officer lacks sufficient judgement and training to determine that a driver failed to signal and violated the right-of-way of another road user?

Sorry, but this explanation sounds like BS.

And if it isn’t, even worse.

The Biking Black Hole can’t get it right; no justice in Texas, and road rage is all the rage these days

A little news and a whole lot of links to wrap up the week.

………

Police in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills offer safety tips for cyclists, but can’t manage to get it quite right.

Bike riders are required to ride as close to the right as practicable, not as far right as possible, as they state. There’s a big difference, which any police officer should understand.

And which is scary as hell when they don’t.

Riding as far to the right as possible puts riders in the gutter and door zones, and gives police an excuse to ticket anyone with the audacity to take the lane. Riding as far right as practicable keeps cyclists out of the way of swinging doors and broken glass, and allows them to legally ride in the center of non-sharable lanes.

Which is basically the difference between being bike friendly and observing the law, and making sure riders know they aren’t welcome in your city.

Meanwhile, the city considers adding an handful of bike racks, but banning locking bikes to virtually anything else.

In other words, once again appearing to support cycling while actively discouraging it.

………

Amazingly, the Texas driver who ran down tandem cyclists Greg and Alexanda Bruehler in 2009 — resulting in the single saddest photo I’ve ever seen — has been acquitted in their deaths.

Clearly, there is no justice for cyclists in the state of Texas.

The driver was doing 79 in a 65 mph zone when he failed to see the riders wearing hi-viz vests, and drifted off the roadway onto the shoulder where they were riding. The defense won the case by arguing that anyone could have could have made the same mistake.

The scary thing is, they’re right.

Even scarier is no one really seems to care. Not even a jury.

………

There’s been a horrifying number of road rage and traffic violence stories in the news the past few days.

For instance, a Massachusetts driver punches a cyclist in the face after the rider’s bike falls over and scratches his car. Local police don’t get it when a Mass cyclist is deliberately doored. A Pittsburgh cyclist is chased up a flight of stairs, stabbed and cut from ear to ear in a brutal road rage assault. A Texas mixed martial arts fighter has been charged with the shooting death of a cyclist after they apparently argued last year; even in Texas, shooting someone because you feel disrespected is a rather extreme response. A former Florida police officer threatens two cyclists with a knife when one flips him off after he threw something at the riders. A Hamilton Ontario cyclist is beaten by a pickup driver after being yelled at, then grazed by the truck’s mirror. A road-raging Toronto cab driver faces up to five years in prison for backing into a cyclist following a dispute, causing the rider to lose a leg. A UK car passenger is sentenced to three years for jumping out of the car and beating a cyclist to a bloody pulp.

Proving it’s not just drivers, police find their suspect in a methadone clinic after a drunken Colorado cyclist pulls a knife on a driver. A Massachusetts cyclist bends a car’s antenna after an argument with a driver. A New York mob trashes a car after a collision with a cyclist during the Fashion’s Night Out celebration. A 16-year old cyclist breaks into a couple’s home after an argument over an open car door. And closer to home, the OC Weekly’s food writer gets into a little bike on bike action; thanks to David Bain for the heads-up.

So let me offer a little advice.

Having been the victim of a road rage assault, I would much rather get off my bike and let the jackass pass than have an angry, potentially violent, driver behind me.

And no matter how much you think the other party deserves it, violence is never justified — it’s far more likely to jeopardize your own life and freedom than teach the other person a damn thing.

One more bit of hard-earned advice.

Never flip off the driver behind you.

Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way that cars are bigger than me, and they hurt.

………

Some idiot jackass stole the bike Jerico Culata was riding as he lay dying on last week’s Critical Mass ride; there’s not a pit in hell deep enough for someone like that. Formerly bike-unfriendly Malibu has come a long way, now launching an interactive website to explore improving safety on PCH — for bicyclists and everyone else. The city will also be conducting public hearings on the subject the next four Thursdays. Rapper The Game comes to the rescue of a cyclist who was unresponsive after a crash with his bike on top of him — the cyclist, not The Game — no word on how the rider got that way. LADOT introduces new street signs for Bike Friendly Streets. A Sierra Madre driver sees a girl riding her bike, but steps on the gas instead of the brakes; local police say “oops.”

Bike Lawyer Bob Mionske looks at California’s recently passed three-foot passing law and CEQA exemption for bike lanes. San Clemente gets over $1 million in grants for bike and pedestrian projects. NPR looks at charges that Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital sent jobs from Santa Ana-based GT Bicycles overseas; seems like there’s some truth on both sides. San Diego plans to encourage cycling in the “fun” communities. A San Diego cyclist suffers major leg injuries in a crash with a delivery truck. A North San Diego County writer asks who owns the roads, and correctly concludes we all do. An 18-year old salmon cyclist is seriously injured in a Temecula left cross collision. A bike rider in Perris suffers major injuries in a collision with a minivan on a street that somehow seems to simultaneously run both south and west. Rancho Mirage tells cyclists to walk their bikes on the sidewalk across a bridge — even though it has a bike lane. Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious is run off the bike path by an overly aggressive rider. A Modesto cyclist is killed after both he and the driver who hit him run a four-way stop; guess which one will probably get the blame? San Francisco cyclists will get their own lane on The Embarcadero during next month’s America’s Cup races.

People for Bikes looks at biking to school. A cyclist watches an idiot bike rider from his position behind the wheel; thanks to Jerry Oser for the heads-up. Barbie rides a bike. New foldable bike helmet fits odd shaped heads. Suffering the emotional scars of urban cycling. A Portland man moves forward with a statewide initiative requiring bike license plates and licenses for bike riders. An Albuquerque court imposes the maximum sentence on a drugged driver who killed the bike riding manager of the local REI. The 13-year old Milwaukee girl who laughed about it after killing a cyclist while street racing in a stolen car has been ordered into mental health treatment; well no shit. Ohio suffers three cycling fatalities in one week. An Atlantic City cyclist is killed when he’s caught in the crossfire in a gunfight. An Alabama driver won’t be cited after colliding with a cyclist who was riding on the sidewalks illegally. Long Beach’s bicycling expats, now Portland residents, visit our buddy Zeke in North Carolina. A Florida driver with drugs in her system receives the maximum sentence for killing a cyclist — a six-month suspension of her drivers license; no wonder the Sunshine State leads the nation in bike and pedestrian deaths.

A Toronto writer is taken down by streetcar tracks while trying to maneuver around a truck blocking the right lane. A London magazine editor apologizes after writing that “the only good cyclist is a dead cyclist,” noting that he was merely being ironic with his heartfelt wishes that you and I would just die and get it over with. London considers, probably not seriously, a multi-million-pound network of elevated bikeways. UK driving instructors want bicycle awareness to be part of the driving test. Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi wins gold in the Paralympic handcycle time trial 11 years after losing his legs in a horrific crash. Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree cancels his attempt at a record setting 100 mph bike ride, saying his ride isn’t ready yet. An 11-year old French boy finds a brake lever imbedded in his thigh months after a bike crash; even my stomach turned a little writing that one. One of the better Vueltas in years is slowly coming to a conclusion, as Contador holds a seemingly comfortable lead after bouncing back from a drug scandal that stripped him of his 2010 Tour de France victory; maybe current and former dopers should form their own bike racing league so they can take whatever the hell they want and not have to worry about getting caught.

Finally, a UK cyclist apparently accomplishes the rather remarkable feat of rounding a corner on the sidewalk at 20 mph; even more remarkable is the arthritic pensioner who claims he managed to stop the speeding rider merely by putting his arms out.

Superman ain’t got nothing on him.

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