One down, thousands to go…

Anti-cyclist motorist goes to jail.

Anti-cyclist motorist goes to jail.

In case you missed it, check out Los Angeles doctor gets 5 years for injuring cyclists in yesterday’s LA Times.

Cyclists and lovers of transportation justice had something to cheer about yesterday.  Of the thousands of motorists guilty of threatening the lives of pedestrians and cyclists every day, sometimes killing and injuring them with their reckless driving, one such driver is getting five years in the slammer.

This particular case of road rage that resulted in serious injuries for a couple cyclists–a driver who doesn’t like bicycles in his neighborhood and who complained about the bikers flipping him off when after he honked thought he’d “teach them a lesson” by suddenly braking in front of them–seems to have gotten the world’s attention in part because the victims were middle-class white men in Brentwood.  And in part because the motorist made it abundantly clear to the 911 dispatcher and the attending police officer that he acted in bad faith. 

The motorist's car after the incident. (Photo from

The motorist's car after the incident. (Photo from

But I’ve heard testimonies from many other bicyclists and pedestrians who have been hurt or threatened by reckless drivers who refuse to acknowledge their rights or, apparently, their humanity.  One older man I met last year, an immigrant laborer who seemed to go about life feeling grateful that he hadn’t been deported yet, was hit and injured while biking (on the sidewalk) to work by a car that suddenly emerged from a driveway.  The car sped off.  But although the witnesses got the car’s license plate number, the man refused to do anything about it. He was glad to be alive.

And of course, every pedestrian in this city knows how difficult crossing a street can be when no traffic lights are there to force drivers to stop.  Under California law, drivers should yield at every intersection where a pedestrian is waiting to cross unless clearly marked “no pedestrian crossing”—crosswalks are there only as a courteous reminder of this rule but their absence at many intersections does not signify the motorists’ right to ignore pedestrians.  The problem is especially acute in Eastside neighborhoods, where the city notoriously invests much less in infrastructure relative to other precincts. (Has anybody ever tried walking under the freeway bridges on Soto between 7th and 8th streets, for example?  It must be the most treacherous stretch of street in Boyle Heights, with several freeway entrances/exits under the bridges and hardly visible crosswalks that haven’t been repainted in decades, which Soto Street Elementary kids must transit on a daily basis.  At night, either bring your own flashlights or just forget about it—public lighting there has been nonexistent for years and the potholes can be deadly.)

But I digress… As cycling becomes more popular as a viable form of transportation—because it’s cheap, pollution-free, healthy for the cyclist, and poses little or no danger to society compared to cars—motorists must get used to the fact that California law still allows bicycles on every road except freeways.  After all, street maintenance is paid for through our taxes, which should lead us to wonder why cars get to use such a disproportionate amount of space in the public right-of-way.  So when drivers encounter bicycles on a street lane, as with any other slow-moving vehicle, they should simply slow down or switch to a faster lane rather than honk or yell at or threaten the life of the cyclist. 

Perhaps someday in the future we’ll get more bike lanes and paths that separate bikes from car traffic along major streets. Revising traffic rules is also in order so that they can reflect the fundamentally different modes of transport that cars and bicycles represent.  Currently, laws are awfully car-centric—designed to regulate driving because cars pose a danger to people—and it’s unfair that bicycles, for example, should have to stop rather than merely slow down at stop signs meant to control car traffic (stop signs are necessary for cars and cost motorists relatively little, but they make cycling infeasible).

9 thoughts on “One down, thousands to go…

  1. As a motorcyclist, I will always side with the two wheelers. However, if you want courtesy, you also need to extend it. Cyclists need to remember that we share the road, and act accordingly if we expect any courtesy from drivers. That said, this guy should hang.

  2. I see a lot of working class Raza on bikes in BH going and coming from work. Unfortunately they usually ride on the sidewalks and ignore or are most likely unaware of the rules of riding bikes. For example: many get tickets for no lights at night.
    I want to organize a Spanish speaking informational meet up with these riders but need help with the rules, and translation, my writing in Spanish is not the best. I went to one a few years back in Pasadena organized by or something like that. They had lights for sale and for free, easy to read handouts with bike maintenance tips and rules for riding. All of which I gave away once I read. As I see more and more Raza riders I think we need to reach out and get them on board with these issues of sharing the road and being consistent with them to avoid confusing drivers and pedestrians.
    Anyone want to join me?
    I think I can get a hall or two in BH to host us, just need help making flyers, getting them out and then trying to get the info and hopefully some lights or whatever else we can give away or sell for real cheap.

  3. The under the freeways walkway on Soto is criminal, I’ve had shitloads of dangerous encounters there by cars trying to line up quickly into the traffic jam. Someone needs to take pics of that, I’ve forgotten how bad it was there as a kid walking to school.

    There really needs to be some efforts made in getting people to share the road.

  4. “and it’s unfair that bicycles, for example, should have to stop rather than merely slow down at stop signs meant to control car traffic”
    What happens if its only a 2 way stop on a 4 way intersection, meaning the cross traffic doesn’t need to stop?
    I rid and drive depending on my convenience and i agree that drivers dont respect and as some one who both rids and drives u learn to respect and share the rode. I wish gases prices would go back to $4 per gallon just so more people would get off of there cars and take bus(which are as bad or worse than car drivers) or ride bikes.
    So yeah i agree with you Chuy< although i will say i prefer to take a lane when riding my bike rather than use a bike lane. Cars are likely to zoom past you on a bike lane and usually way too close, whereas if i take a lane they have to slow down or change to another lane.

  5. thank you Herbie!!!!
    that is EXACTLY what I needed to know.
    they are exactly what we need on the Eastside too!!!
    this will happen.
    thank you thank you thank you

  6. I just posted a reported the issues with the pedestrian lighting etc. in the Soto St. underpass on — you can go there and “vote” for it to be repaired — this is a great website, all the issues reported on it go directly to agencies that can actually get problems solved. Here’s the link — go here and vote to have it fixed!

  7. P3000,
    there is also a group cale eastside riders or bike club or something like that, they are mostly chicano and hardcore eastsiders. they are a great group located on valley in sereno.

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