May 27, 2016 § 33 Comments
A long, long time ago back in March if you’d said that you wanted to buy the most high-tech, high-performance bike out there, I would have advised as follows:
- Full carbon
- 100% carbon
- Aero carbon
Although carbon is still the material of choice for those who want to go fast, or more importantly look fast, or most importantly, talk fast, it is no longer the first requirement for a high performance bicycle simply because you can’t look fast and aero and pro while you’re dead.
The new high performance bike must have:
- Diablo or equivalent headlight with max 1,200-1,500 lumens for continual day/night operation.
- Lezyne or equivalent rear taillight with max 100 lumens for continual day/night operation.
- Front-facing video camera with spare batteries for swap-out during ride.
- Rear-facing video camera with continual 6-hour loop.
- Strava/Garmin data to record speeds/stops of the entire ride.
Of course if you’re fine being dead (and certain religious sects maintain that this is actually a preferable state of affairs), all you need is carbon.
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May 26, 2016 § 53 Comments
You’ve been buzzed. Worse, you’ve been buzzed and honked at. Worse, you’ve been buzzed and honked at and screamed at. Worse, you’ve been buzzed and honked at and screamed at and flipped off. Worse, you’ve been buzzed and honked at and screamed at and flipped off and had shit thrown at you. Worse, you’ve been buzzed and honked at and screamed at and flipped off and had shit thrown at you and veered into.
“At least I didn’t get hit,” you tell yourself, shaking with terror and rage. “At least I’m still alive.”
You, my friend, are a victim. And not just any old victim. You’re the victim of a crime. In California, what happened to you is a felony and is proscribed by California Penal Code Sec. 245(a)1.
If you’re like me, after the assault you keep riding your bike — occasionally you may go into the police station and try to get them to write a report. They won’t and they don’t. Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever wondered to yourself, “Can I make law enforcement to take me seriously?”
The answer is yes. Before I tell you how to do it, I’m first going to explain why it’s so important that we begin reporting violent crime perpetrated against bicycle riders. This is going to be a long read. I hope you’ve got a comfortable toilet seat.
Reporting is key
The first reason that reporting is crucial is because regardless of what happens when you’ve been assaulted in terms of prosecution, your report may later serve to apprehend, charge, and convict the perpetrator when he does it again. So let’s say it’s your civic duty.
The second reason is that only by reporting violent crime will law enforcement and the communities that employ them begin taking felony assault seriously. Currently it is regarded as “buzzing” or “asshat drivers” or some other mild term of pseudo-endearment that doesn’t have the jail bell ring of “felony,” “crime,” and my personal favorite, “prison.” Words matter. As law enforcement, media, lawyers, and pedal pushers begin dispensing with the word “accident” to describe volitional acts by motorists to harm bicycle riders, we begin to see those acts for what they are: Choices with consequences. And guess what, Mr. Assault With A Deadly Weapon? The consequences for you are not going to be pleasant.
In the same way, by using the language of felony assault, the criminal behavior no longer sounds innocuous. “Some punks buzzed me and hit me with a sandwich” sounds almost funny, especially if you were hungry at the time and it was organic peanut butter. “Some minors committed felony assault” sounds like a very premature end to the college application process.
This shift in seriousness only happens when we use the right words. And the right words must be used where they have to be taken at face value: On a police report. This means that a jurisdiction such as Palos Verdes Estates, which prides itself on its safety — a marketing pitch to rich white and rich Asian families to justify the high real estate prices and to encourage the “right” people to live here — reported only six felony assaults with a deadly weapon in 2015. If a fraction of the cyclists assaulted in 2016 report the crimes committed against them, the number of reports will triple, quadruple, or increase by a factor of ten or more.
Which means you get this headline: “Violent Crime in Palos Verdes Estates Increases 1000% in 2016.”
Nice. Now the city manager and police chief are spending a lot of time networking on Linked-In, Monster, and the Help Wanted section of the classifieds.
Suddenly everyone is paying attention, even the crotchety old shits at the council meetings who think that PVE was invented for them alone and that the public roads are private. Another way of saying it is that we have to play the long game. By piling up the reports we create a history, a record, a stack of statistics. Bureaucrats and politicians may not care about dead and maimed people, but they live and die by statistics.
The third reason is that reporting violent crimes will absolutely result in a handful of prosecutions. It already has. Two specific cases, one of which involved a road-raging cager who hit and beat up a cyclist, and another which involved a pickup trucker who swerved and tried to hit two riders, are currently on the criminal docket in Torrance. As reports continue to be made, some will be referred to prosecution, and prosecuted, and some of those will result in convictions.
You may not like the pace, but that’s called justice. And as word gets out and law enforcement gets more adept at dealing with felony assault with a deadly weapon, i.e. car-on-bike, people will change their behavior. Mrs. Gottaget Juniortoschool will compare how she looked at the PV Pageant of Homes in her Yves-St. Laurent with how she’s going to look in a bright orange jumpsuit and a set of used manacles, and she’s gonna yield.
Finally, a successful prosecution sets you up for civil damages. When someone commits a felony and is convicted, you get to sue them for damages. The cager’s moment of rage becomes years of misery, and at the end of the whole sad story you might even get paid for what you were put through.
So the rationale is simple: Civic duty, engaging law enforcement so that they enforce the law, prosecution of bad people, and money in your pocket (maybe).
Forcing the sluggish hand of the bureaucracy
Most people think that the police are the only ones who can write a police report. They’re wrong. What the police are expert at is NOT writing police reports. The police don’t write thousands of reports a year. Why? Because it’s a lot of work and it leads to more work, which leads to even more work, resulting in the worst of all outcomes, more work.
Although it takes a surprising amount of effort to deter victims from reporting felonies, it takes even more effort to take out a piece of paper, ask a few questions, and then write a comprehensive narrative that addresses the statute of limitations, jurisdiction, criminal intent, the other elements of the crime, and identification of the applicable section(s) of the penal code.
However, not only can you write the police report, you should. No one knows what happened better than you. No one can articulate it better than you. No one remembers the details better than you. And best of all, seated at your computer with plenty of time to think and reconstruct and revise and use the dogdamned spell-check for fuck’s sake, no one can write it better than you.
Procedurally, it’s very simple.
- Write what happened.
- Take it to the police station that has jurisdiction where the assault occurred.
- Tell them you want report a crime and you’ve already written it up for them.
- Have them review it, answer their questions, and hand over the physical evidence (video, photos).
- Make sure they assign a DR Number or a file number and they give it to you.
- Get the name and email and phone number of the detective assigned to the case.
- Go home and email the report to the detective so that you have an electronic trail of having submitted the report.
- You’re done. You’ve just reported your first felony. And now someone is gonna have to work.
Practically, there are a number of obstacles you can run into. The desk officer may say it’s a traffic issue. Politely tell him you’re there to report a crime. Emphasize that it concerns an assault with a deadly weapon. If he resists, ask to speak with the watch commander. The police are obligated by law to take your report. Whether they investigate it, or think it has merit, or plan to refer it for prosecution are wholly unrelated issues. You’re there to report a crime and you’ve done their work for them.
Another issue you may run into is that you didn’t get any identifying information other than a description of the vehicle, i.e. “white pick-up.” Didn’t see the driver, don’t have a license plate number. You can still, and you should still, make a report. Why? Because that driver may be a repeat offender and your record of where-and-what could become evidence at a later date.
You may also think that because it happened last month or last year that it’s too late. There’s often a feeling that if you don’t get the cops there immediately the opportunity is lost. Not so. There’s a three-year statute of limitations in California for felony assault. If you have video of numerous assaults, you can write a report and submit each one, along with copies of the video. Of course this also brings up an important point — your case is much more likely to be investigated if you have video or witness testimony. Still, we reported a felony assault last week with only the victim’s testimony. It may not go far, but the Torrance PD now has a record of this clown and the detective has interviewed the suspects. If they ever kill or maims a bicycle rider, it’s been reported that they have already committed assault with a deadly weapon in the past.
Murders don’t require witnesses and video testimony to be reported as crimes. In fact, lots and lots of crimes never get investigated, much less solved. They are still reported as crimes, though, and they still go on the books. A community drowning in reports of violent crime suddenly comes under the microscope … everyone’s microscope.
Click here to see a sample of Grade A++ crime report, written at home, then taken in and submitted. Note: Always go down in person. This isn’t a job for Mr. Internet, or Mr. Telephone. It’s a job for Mr. In Person.
You and your club should start thinking about how to formalize a procedure for reporting felony assault committed against cyclists, such as by developing a club clearinghouse for crime reports. Better yet, go through your video archives and pick a few cherries from PV and environs, write up a report or three with video clips, and go submit your reports.
If you do, reports of violent crime on our beloved hill are going to spike quicker than Rubbermaid punch at a frat party.
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May 24, 2016 § 28 Comments
John Bacon was killed on Wednesday, May 18, possibly by the white pickup truck that was caught on surveillance tape tailgating him. After what in polite company can only politely be called a “lackadaisical” response to what, on its surface, suggests the possibility of first degree murder, the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department sprang into action.
They sat on their asses while local cyclists searched for, found, and reported a vehicle that closely matched the pickup on surveillance tape and perhaps more importantly, matched the driver described in the police All Points Bulletin. When another cyclist put in a WTF phone call about the police response, he was advised by Detective Hellinga that the driver who voluntarily came in with the vehicle didn’t match, and that there were “minor differences” in the two vehicles that definitively ruled it out.
The person who came in with the vehicle was Hispanic, not a heavyset white dude as described in the APB. However, the PV Irregulars had corralled the person who appeared to be the owner of the white pickup, who was indeed a heavyset white dude. It appears that the owner may have sent a friend down to the police station with his vehicle to throw them off the scent.
With regard to the “minor differences,” the PVE police advised that they consisted of running boards and tinted windows, neither of which were present on the surveillance video. As the driver of a 2007 Prius (point of personal shame) with 149,000 miles on it (point of personal cheapassedness) and a person with zero knowledge of or interest in car modifications (point of supreme pride), even I can tell you that window tinting and running boards can be slapped on in a couple of hours.
At this point the police had done no additional queries in the cycling community regarding basic, Cop 101 work such as asking The Most Basic Question Ever: “Have any of you spandex weirdos ever been harassed by a nutjob matching this car and description?”
The PV Irregulars, however, did. And what they got was an avalanche of responses. Numerous cyclists had indeed been assaulted by a heavyset white guy in a white four-door pickup. Some would call it coincidence. Some would call it irrelevant. Some would call it a silly lead. But any halfway competent cop would at least take the time to round up every single cyclist lead, bring them in, and interview them.
Remember, folks. Someone has just died, and he may have been murdered. In TV shows this where Columbo comes onto the scene. In PV Estates? If the victim is a cyclist, not so much.
By now a combination of bad press, terrible press, awful press, and downright hysterical press had moved the donuts over to the far corner of the conference table and forced the higher-ups at PVEPD to get to work, or at least a rough approximation of it, because local cyclists were informed of some key facts that you should take to the bank and remember for the rest of your life:
- You don’t have to wait to be contacted to make a report.
- You don’t have to have the cops’ authority to make a report.
- You can write your OWN report.
- The police have to take it.
- Just because you couldn’t identify the car or the driver doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t occurred, it just means it may not be solved. There are actually cases on record of crimes happening where the killer wasn’t caught!! And they’re still considered crimes!! Who knew? Cf. Jack the Ripper.
- “Buzzing,” “harassing,” and “threatening” a cyclist with a car, with the intent to cause injury, is a felony per People v. Wright, as it constitutes assault with a deadly weapon.
Fast forward to yesterday. One of the cyclists who had been assaulted on an earlier occasion by the mystery white pick-up went down to the PVEPD to report the crime. What she saw there was a thing of beauty: “The phones were ringing off the hook!” Cyclists were calling in like crazy, reporting the crimes committed against them (“White Prius just buzzed me on Via del Monte!”), in addition to the people who had shown up to report being assaulted by the mystery truck.
As a result of all this, the heavyset white dude who the PVEPD definitively ruled out as a suspect, then moved up to a “person of interest,” is now possibly, according to the police, going to find himself in a police line-up. Maybe in the interim someone will get around to carefully documenting the front and side of his vehicle, and having a collision reconstruction expert analyze John Bacon’s bike to see if there are any paint transfers or other marks that might show that the vehicle actually struck John. And a quick check on how recent the running boards and window tinting are wouldn’t be a total waste of time, either.
But hey, what do I know? We’re just a bunch of cyclists.
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May 22, 2016 § 41 Comments
The recent trio of cyclist deaths here in Palos Verdes has another angle, in addition to the lackadaisical police response as compared to how they deal with property crimes and crimes such as Driving While Black, Driving While Latino, and Driving While Poor. This other angle is the angle of cyclist inaction.
Since John Bacon’s death, numerous cyclists have reported that they too were buzzed and harassed by a vehicle similar to the one in the surveillance video. At least one other person confirmed that the driver was a big white dude, matching the APB description. None of these cyclists, after being assaulted, took the step of filing a police report. In one instance it was because the driver sped away before the rider could get his license plate, and although the PVE cops came they refused to report the incident because the cyclist didn’t have a license plate.
[Note #1: The police aren’t required to have a license plate to make a report. Note #2: Why haven’t the police followed up with every single person who has reported being buzzed by a similar vehicle? All it would take is a post on Facebag, a couple of phone calls to a couple of local cycling clubs, or even reaching out to a certain South Bay cycling blogger, to get that information. Note #3: This slackness is another example of the PVE PD’s casual approach to this case, rather than active, aggressive detective work.]
The other cyclists who have been assaulted by the white pickup driver never called the police. The reasons are myriad, but they typically boil down to this: Stopping your ride, calling the cops, and insisting that a report be made ruins your whole ride; in some cases your whole day. Most people ride by “snatching” a bit of free time in their busy day to go out and pedal. If they knew they would be spending the balance of the day at the police station, few would do it. In fact, when people are riding before work or before they have to be home to take kids to school, they simply can’t afford to stop–or so they think. And when they think about the hassle involved and the fact that the cager who assaulted them didn’t hurt or kill them, they get on with the ride and maybe talk about it over coffee or on a Facebook post.
This failure on the part of cyclists to report assault with a deadly weapon means that people like the mystery white pickup driver, who may or may not be the person the PVE cops have now identified as a “person of interest,” know that they can go about their deadly ways with impunity. In fact, the most famous case of cager-rager Dr. Thompson intentionally hitting a cyclist, in which the cager lost his doctor’s license and went to prison, only came to pass because of a previous incident in which a rider had reported the doctor’s assault on him. No charges were filed in that earlier case but a record existed, and this record resulted in the Thompson’s prison sentence.
Many have written or facebooked asking what can be done. The short answer is, “Take the time to report every single instance of assault, and especially every instance of battery.” No assault with a deadly weapon is minor, and people who do it once are the most likely people to do it again.
To give you an idea of what a buzzkill it is to report a crime, consider this:
A local 17-year-old was returning from the Telo training crit two weeks ago Tuesday, riding in the bike lane. An angry driver began honking and screaming at him. Of course there was a passenger and a child in the back seat because, role model. The cyclist tried to find out what the problem was, when the cager said he would get out and beat him up. The rider, a small high school student who is hardly a cage fighter, pulled over as he was afraid he was going to be run over, and the passenger jumped out. The rider took pictures, but not before the passenger slapped him in the face (a battery), and the driver continued to scream and threaten him (an assault).
Then they drove away. All this because a kid was riding his bike. In the bike lane.
Shaken and terrified, this young man decided to do something about it. So my daughter, who is an attorney at my firm, went with him to the Torrance Police Department to make a report and have the police open an investigation. Despite the location of the incident being clearly within the Torrance PD’s jurisdiction, they were sent to Redondo Beach Police Department, where they were told to go back to Torrance. It’s called Complainant Ping-Pong and the object is to wear people out so they give up and go home.
At Torrance, they waited almost three hours for the police department to do its job, and the boy was questioned over and over again, ostensibly to “make sure” he had his story straight, but clearly in order to try and trip him up so that the police wouldn’t have to open a report. Then, when it became clear that the kid’s story was completely consistent, and he had photos of the perps, and the attorney wasn’t going to back down, they opened an inquiry but only as to battery. It took additional argument to get them to include the obvious charge of assault as well.
The entire process took four hours, and of course the only reason it happened at all is because the rider happened to be on a club that happened to have a lawyer sponsor who happened to have someone on his payroll who happened to be able to take half a day off work to go help a crime victim. You can imagine how the young man would have been treated had he shown up at Torrance PD on his own.
Yet now the people who committed the assault and battery are going to be investigated by the police, and since the rider took photos, they may also be charged with a crime–though it’s easy to imagine that they will fabricate a story defending or wholly denying their behavior. What they can’t expunge is that there is now a record of them and their vehicle. If they repeat their behavior, or run over and kill a cyclist, there will be a smoking gun pointing at their California driver licenses and vehicle registration.
What’s as important is that regardless of how the case turns out, these bastards will know that their actions have consequences. They will think twice before attacking a cyclist. They may even have to hire a lawyer and part with some cold, hard cash to avoid a criminal conviction. These are the kinds of consequences that can never happen unless cyclists are willing to sacrifice the day’s ride and peace of mind to do the right thing. Like it or not, it’s on us.
This type of reporting has a ripple effect. Police know that their time is going to be consumed if they don’t do a better job of policing cager criminals. Best of all, these reports show up in local, state, and national statistics. And although dead bodies don’t impress bureaucrats, numbers do.
I reflect on the times I’ve been assaulted and have caught up to the driver and exchanged heated words. Never again. From now on I’ll be taking photos and calling 911. I’ll also be upgrading my bike into a rolling video production machine with front and rear cameras. Ruin my day? Fine. But at least the fucker who tried to kill me won’t be ruining some innocent person’s life.
So to everyone who asks, “What can we do?” the answer is this: Report the crime. Because if you don’t, the next John Bacon may be you.
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May 20, 2016 § 72 Comments
The Palos Verdes Peninsula now has three cycling fatalities since March. The most recent person to die on a bicycle was John Bacon, age 68, a guy many of us knew from his old-school, dark green steel Eddy Merckx.
The facts surrounding his death are unclear. Immediately prior to his demise a surveillance camera shot video of a white pickup trailing him very closely. Here’s the pic:
The PV Estates Police Department is well known for its aggressive policing of property crimes, which makes sense in this super-rich, highly white, greedily exclusive enclave whose unofficial motto is “Don’t Touch My Shit.” A recent burglary caused law enforcement here to call in a helicopter, with all hands on deck by the police, and they fully cordoned off neighborhood.
Because you know, someone’s jewelry might get stolen.
One on one the officers here are professional and polite, but they take direction from their boss, who takes direction from the City Manager, who takes direction from the City Council, who takes direction from the Don’t Touch My Shitters. And cyclist deaths mean little or nothing to the wretched excuses for human life who run city politics here.
The police put out an all points bulletin for the white pickup and they put up a couple of signs going up and down Granvira Altamira requesting information. That, folks, is what a suspicious death of a cyclist merits in PVE. Two flashing signs.
What do you think they would have done if a couple of kids from Compton had rolled into town and shot someone?
The only real detective work done on the case was by outraged cyclists who identified a truck the following day at a construction site near the death scene that was extremely similar to the one in the video. After phoning in the information to the PV police, the caller waited for forty-five minutes for someone to come.
No one did, and the truck left. Because, donuts and coffee.
Imagine if an upstanding white property owner in PV had been gunned down at Malaga Cove and someone called in a tip that the African-American shooter was a few yards away the following day. It’s easy to imagine the response that would have gotten, and the hailstorm of lead that would have rained down.
Eventually a person did voluntarily appear at the police department for questioning, but he didn’t match the physical description of the person of interest in the APB, who was a heavyset white male. The PV cops decided that due to “minor differences” in the two vehicles, a running board and a tinted window, that it was definitively not the car in question.
Of course these are items that can be quickly added to a car to change its appearance, and there’s no indication that they did a detailed investigation of the front of the truck, which could still have had paint transfers or other evidence of hitting John if that’s in fact what happened. What’s even stranger is that the cyclist who called in the tip later talked to the person who appeared to be the owner of the truck, who was in fact a heavyset white male. It seems that the person who went in for questioning may not have even been the owner of the truck.
Later that day on Friday the 20th, the police put out another bulletin saying that thanks to a phone tip they had finally found the driver of the vehicle they were seeking. The report didn’t say whether it was the same truck that the cyclist had phoned in, and an NBC reporter couldn’t get the PV police to confirm, but it’s hard to imagine who else it could be.
If it turns out that the “person of interest” who has notably not yet been charged or arrested is the owner of the truck called in by the cyclist, it will only underscore what we already know: When it comes to doing police work regarding dead cyclists, the PVE police have more important priorities.
If it turns out to be someone else, it still doesn’t explain the police department’s lethargic response to this epidemic of death on the peninsula. What makes it worse is that after John’s death no less than four cyclists reported being previously buzzed and harassed by a white pickup and driver matching this vehicle’s description. The environment of hostility and hate towards cyclists in Palos Verdes has a parallel with the local surfing gang known as The Bay Boys.
Don’t touch my waves, don’t touch my shit. Even when the ocean and the roads aren’t mine.
Stay tuned …
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April 30, 2016 § 33 Comments
There was much joy and happypantsing when laist.com reported that Douchey McDouchebag a/k/a Dennis Reed finally got his comeuppance for trying to kill a pair of cyclists, then compounded murderous intent with suicidal stupidity by dancing a jig of “They punched my car first!” in front of the TV cameras and following it up with a fresh sprig of perjury by filing a false complaint with the police.
Douchey’s fancy driving video and his performance on the small screen earned him a walk down the perp carpet and a “Misdy Award” in the form of an arraignment set for May 11. The charges? Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and filing a false report. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen. My advice to Douchey is that he mortgage his apartment, return his keys to the Audi leasing office, and lawyer fucking up.
But what about you? What about me?
We get buzzed all the time. Mostly people are trying to kill us through benign neglect. They have pressing updates to like on Facegag, or they’re responding to a crucial text message about how Pooky told Dipsy that Donkey wasn’t going to be the third starting pitcher in next Saturday’s Little League game, and bam! They *accidentally* whack us and it’s an *accident* and we’re *accidentally* on life support for a year or five. Oh, well.
Other times, though, there is evil, bad, life-taking intent. You know the drivers. They target you. And they either miss, or they pull out at the last minute, or you pull off the escape of your life, or you get flat fucking lucky, and after the exchange of a few middle fingers everyone goes on with his life until the next time, when someone doesn’t. And the someone who doesn’t is always the cyclist, never the cager.
For most riders, there is a fairly good roadmap for what to do when you get hit, and by now we all know that it’s usually a very good idea to call a lawyer. Me, for example.
But what about when you don’t get hit? What about those times when the driver tries to hit you but fails? Is there anything you can do about it?
The short answer is “yes,” but it’s not easy. Sometimes you’re really angry and then the anger recedes and you feel lucky to have survived. But other times the anger doesn’t go away, or you’re reminded of the rider who took the time to file a complaint against the infamous Dr. Thompson. Dr. Thompson intentionally hit Ron Peterson while descending Mandeville, and the doc got jail time because of the prior report.
In other words, when the violation is egregious enough, it really does make sense – sometimes – to not simply roll over and get on with your life because the person who tried to kill you may well kill or injure someone else.
What follows is a rough re-wording of a very excellent email I received from a cop who’s been in law enforcement for over twenty years, and it’s well worth filing this away if you ever find yourself the victim of some jerk who thinks that your life is as disposable as a candy wrapper. As a lifelong adherent of plagiarism and stealing the good work of others, I’ve taken his email and changed it enough to avoid a cease-and-desist letter but not enough to take away from his excellent work.
“If it’s so excellent,” he even asked me, “why the hell’d you rewrite it?”
“Sorry, dude,” I told him. “If Homer sent me his final draft of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I’d rewrite that, too.”
So the first question you have to ask yourself regarding any buzzing incident is this: Was the act of “buzzing” intentional? This is key because with few exceptions only intentional acts are crimes.
If you have video or solid witness testimony that shows the driver really did intend to buzz you, then that constitutes assault with a deadly weapon, and it’s a violation of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1). In your case, the deadly weapon is the car.
Based on many descriptions of such events, not to mention my own close shaves with cager crazies, it is often clear that the answer is “yes, the action was intentional.” But you have to be sure of that on your own, and it’s extremely beneficial to have witnesses or video. Once you’ve concluded that the driver intentionally tried to hit you, go to the police station whose jurisdiction includes the location of the incident and file a report.
- Do not call.
- Go there in person.
- Be prepared to wait.
- Be prepared for them to do everything in their power NOT to file a report.
If you’re at the station, you have decided that you want to involve the police. It’s not easy and it’s a hassle; despite constantly telling people to contact the police, few do. But ask yourself this: How are you going to feel if you read an article a week from now that a cyclist was mowed down by the same driver who buzzed you? If you believe that society is only safe when we look out for each other, then you have a duty to do this.
Once you have decided to do this, don’t waver. Do, however, be nice. And most of all don’t try to cut any slack for this unknown driver who almost killed you. Stop feeling like a bad person because you are calling out someone else’s conduct, and don’t feel bad about the negative consequences that will occur to the driver of the car. The driver was a big enough boy or girl to try and kill you, now he or she will be big enough to deal with the fallout.
If you begin to waver, the police will immediately detect this and do everything they can to avoid taking a police report. Face them firmly, politely, and with the same calm resolution that you’d defend your spouse or child. If you have to, hum a few lines to yourself of “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty.
So now you’re in the station and you have to demand a report. Not ask for one. Not suggest they write one. Not beg for one. You have to demand it. And you have to demand it politely and without hesitation. Do not leave the station without what is called a DR number for the report. Statements by the police such as, “We will keep an eye out for the guy,” or “I will give you an incident number” are unacceptable. You’ve gone to this much trouble to get a DR number and you owe it to yourself and everyone else not to leave without one.
*Important note: The term “DR number” is a term specific to the Los Angeles Police Department. The LA Sheriff’s Department calls the same number a “URN number.” Other police agencies call them varying things. What you need to do is get assurance that the officer handling your complaint is going to provide you with a police report and you should probably get the name of a detective or detective supervisor who is going to follow up on the police report.
When you demand the DR number, it’s practically guaranteed that you will be told one of several things, all well-practiced moves by the police to send you home and keep them from having to do their job.
#1. “Why didn’t you report the crime at the time it occurred?” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? I won’t allow you to blame me, the victim of a crime, for my conduct, when it is clear that a crime occurred.” Do not engage any further with a police officer who asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell the boss about the conduct. And remember, you’re in a police station. Any escalation of tone or hint of violence or threats on your part will wreck your endeavor.
#2. “This is not an assault with a deadly weapon, you need to report this to the Traffic Division as it is a traffic matter.” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? You are incorrect, but I do not want to argue with you about the law.” Do not engage any further with a police officer that asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. It is also abundantly clear that he does not know the law. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell him about the conduct. Direct the watch commander to the following case: People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. If the watch commander doesn’t understand what that is, you are going to have to insist on talking with his boss.
If all of that fails and you’re here in LA, call me. I’ll go with you to the station and we can jointly explain the basics of PC245(a)(1) as interpreted by People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. We’ll get the DR number and we’ll get the wheels of justice turning.
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April 27, 2016 § 47 Comments
I got a message from Scott S. the other day. He had heard about the collision from two weeks back in which South Bay cyclist Steve Shriver was run over on PCH, suffering catastrophic injuries. Coming hard on the heels of Jon Tansavadti’s death in March, as well as a rash of near misses in Long Beach, Scott was concerned.
“Anything we can learn from these tragedies?” he asked.
My answer was simple. “I don’t have the answer, Scott, but I can tell you this: What we’re doing now isn’t working.”
Then we talked about the gaping hole in our cycling experience, otherwise known as the utter lack of formal cycling education. Steve had been run over riding single file, up against the edge of a construction zone. Jon had been killed by a right-turning moving van.
We can argue all day about where they were and where they should have been, but we can’t argue about this: Neither rider had ever taken a formal bike education course–one, with more than 30 years of experience, the other, with less than twelve months.
Perhaps education isn’t the answer, but it sure seems like a great place to start. Moreover, whether education can save any one person is less important than the grim recognition that collectively the cycling community spends way more time on gear and clothing and equipment than it does on education. We encourage people to ride, help them select a fancy bike and a cool kit, and throw them to the wolves.
“Would you come ride with us next Wednesday and talk about this?” Scott asked.
“Sure,” I said. “What time?”
“We roll at 6:00 AM sharp.”
I gulped because that meant a 4:50 roll-out from PV, and there was only one other person in all of Los Angeles crazy enough to get up at 4:30 so he could meet me at 5:15 and pedal through the bowels of the nation’s biggest port at daybreak to ride with the Long Beach Freddies.
In short, this was a job for Major Bob, the grumpiest guy with the biggest heart in all of cycling. “Can you squire me to the Freddie ride on Wednesday?”
“Sure,” Bob said when I explained the misssion. He didn’t mention that on Sunday he’d be doing the 145-mile Belgian Waffle Ride, and that on Tuesday he’d knock out a cool 90 doing the NPR beatdown and a legstretcher up the 6-mile Mandeville climb.
At 5:15 sharp he was there at the corner of Vermont and Anaheim and Gaffey and PV Drive, and a happening place it was.
I was apprehensive about proposing education to the Freddies because despite their name they ride with some of the best people in cycling. Tony Cruz is one of the Freddies, as well as Olympic gold medalist Steve Hegg and Rio aspirant Nate Koch, and their fast Fridays are, well, fast. Very fast. One of the walls in cycling has always been between the fast people in lycra and the slow people with mirrors. Needless to say the one don’t always take kindly to advice from the other.
Problem is that the mirror dorks are the ones who have actually studied riding in traffic from a perspective more sophisticated than “bunnyhop the curb, flip off the asshole driver, and keep going.” Going to the Freddies and pitching a dork session was, I feared, going to be a hard sell.
It was anything but. Unlike most clubs, which operate with multiple levels of decision making atop glacial epochs of implementation, the Freddies have a “Fuck it, let’s go,” attitude. They politely listened to my speech.
“So where should we start?” Scott asked after I finished.
“Maybe four or five of you should take the Cycling Savvy Dorkcycle and Autopsy Avoidance Course like we did at Big Orange, see if it works for you, and then think about encouraging some of the other members to do it.”
“Nah,” said Scott. “We’re in, all of us.”
I blinked. “All of you?”
Bill H., not known for his lengthy speeches, stood up. “This is important and we need to do it. We’re in.”
So as far as I know, the guys down in Long Beach are the nation’s first speed club to take formal cycling education as seriously as they take their clothing. Which is, frankly, incredible, and which, if it prevents even one collision or saves even one life is worth it a million times over.
I’m humbled and awed.
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