You can change the world, even if it’s only yours

June 14, 2016 § 24 Comments

We’ve all had post-ride arguments about the “safe” way to handle a particular intersection or stretch of road when riding with our group, and perhaps the finest aspect of Facebag is its ability to get various dissonant voices all screaming at each other simultaneously while plodding through the morning email.

These discussions typically degenerate, or lead to nothing because different cyclists have such vastly different perspectives on what constitutes safety. They have different views because for most riders there is no shared platform of ideas about how to ride other than each cyclist’s personal experience.

“I’ve been riding this way since ’84,” “Don’t pull that crap on my ride,” “I never do that,” and “That’s daaaaangerous!” all represent a rejection of shared riding theories and the primacy of personal experience. In other words, people have little to no chance of ever agreeing.

In most fields there are a series of shared practices that form the basis for operating on the road, or in the air, or on the water. The same is true for people who file lawsuits, conduct medical research, build houses, or cook for a living. Only in cycling does each rider make it up as she goes along, blown by the vagaries of the particular group she happens to fall in with.

I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in with a group of cycling instructors who teach bike-in-traffic principles by borrowing from the same practices and ideas used when you teach people how to drive a car. Whether you agree or disagree, sitting through a bicycling class can have a profound effect on the way you cycle. There are different curricula for bicycle riding instruction, but all share a few core elements.

There are lots of reasons that bike instruction hasn’t taken off in SoCal. One is that it’s not mandatory. Another is that people think that because they can ride, they can ride safely in traffic. Another is because people ride for freedom, and what’s more antithetical to freedom than being told how to do something? (Hint: Getting killed or maimed.)

A bike group that operates in what is arguably America’s most challenging group ride environment, the Long Beach Freddies, spurred by the recent deaths and catastrophic injuries of cyclists in the South Bay, paid for and took a course offered by Cycling Savvy, a curriculum that teaches cyclists how to drive in traffic. Spearheaded by Scott Stryker, Bill Holford, Scott Raymond, Bill Harris, and Gil Dodson, the Freddies have begun grappling with the considerable issue of safety that is posed on every one of their M-F group rides.

This is because their route always travels for several miles along extremely congested stretches of Pacific Coast Highway where there is no bike lane, where the shoulder/gutter are filled with debris, pavement irregularities, and where for long sections riders are exposed to the door zone of parked cars. “It’s only a matter of time” was the sentiment that led this performance-oriented Lycra crowd to do the unthinkable: Take bike riding lessons from hairy-legged dorks on cargo bikes.

Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko gave a tremendous presentation filled with facts, laws, video clips, strategies, and advice for how to conquer the fear of cagers and how to turn the roadway into a safe operating space. None of it involved tossing water bottles at offending cagers or the phrase “Fuck you!” The entire gang of speedsters was awestruck by the opening video clip showing Keri Caffrey, a yellow-shirted commuter on flat pedals, totally owning a fast, congested roadway in Orlando by completely controlling the traffic around her.

We all thought the same thing: “If she can do it, why can’t we?”

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Freddies are on the cutting edge of change. One person can’t change the world, but each person can change her world, and in the words of instructor Pete Van Nuys, “When you see things differently, you change the things you see.”

There are multiple levels of change required if cyclists are going to take their rightful place in the transportation network. Some of those changes are legal, some will require cager education, and in some few cases they will require infrastructure. But the one place that change must also occur is among the cyclists themselves. As Brad House loved to say, “I’m not in traffic, I am traffic.”

Taking the time to take a class, think about it, and apply it to your own regular rides will bootstrap safety discussions from “I think therefore it is,” to “This principle suggests that the best choice is [x].” And once you’re educated it’s a tiny step to asking others to take the time to get educated, too.

Shared principles among cyclists for riding in traffic that don’t include flipping off cars? Well, yes.



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Your ride didn’t change anything

June 9, 2016 § 110 Comments

The slaughter of five cyclists by speeding, erratic, and possibly impaired pickup driver Charles Pickett, Jr. in Kalamazoo made international news. For anyone who cycles in Los Angeles, the thought of getting killed by a car is a regular part of the pre-ride routine.

  1. Air the tires.
  2. Fill the water bottle.
  3. Switch on the lights.
  4. Hope you don’t get killed.

Two days after the massacre a ride of silence was held for the victims. It was massive, as this video shows. And for many it was moving. It got posted and re-posted on Facegag, where people saw themselves in place of the victims and got chills. Coulda been you, coulda been me.

I wasn’t moved by the ride of silence. I didn’t feel sadness and I certainly didn’t get goosebumps. What I got was angry. And who was I angry at?

Not at psychopath Pickett. Even if he were drunk or even if he intentionally murdered his victims I wouldn’t be angry at him. He and the psychopaths like him are part of my daily cycling existence and my law practice. They aren’t worth my anger, they aren’t worth ruining my day or especially my ride. I note their existence, give brief thanks that they missed, and continue on. If they’re a defendant, I sue them, and if I can ever get this POS Cycliq Fly12 to work, I’ll report every single case of assault I can record. But they are not worth anger.

Moreover, Pickett has been apprehended, and more incredibly charged with five counts of murder, a trick that the Palos Verdes police can’t manage even with video evidence and at least one hot lead. In the Kalamazoo case, justice will do whatever justice does, and as we know from the the arc of the process here in Los Angeles, it rarely amounts to anything at all. Ask Milt Olin’s family.

You ride, psychopath or inattentive schmo kills you, police shrug, and the moral of the story is that it sucks to be you, dead dude. You should have played golf.

Nope, I was angry at the majority of the people on the ride of silence, and even angrier at the people who named it “Ride of Silence.” The problem isn’t the psychopaths and the drunks, it’s the silence of all the cyclists that enables them. It’s the thousands of people across this country who mournfully get on their bikes and go pedal for a fallen friend and then return to life as usual, never writing an enraged letter to their elected officials, never showing up to demand change at the local level, never even bothering to report the vehicular assaults committed against THEM.

Over the past weeks I’ve tried to encourage people to report the violent crimes committed against them by providing an actual template they can use to file with the police, and several actually have. But many who have been assaulted, either out of fear or apathy or selfishness or all three, have simply gone on about their business, in silence of course. This is not merely silence, it’s killing silence, because until society hears our voices we will continue to be maimed and slaughtered.

At the PV traffic safety committee meeting this month a tiny handful showed up to voice their anger at the murder of John Bacon and the questionable deaths of two other cyclists here in the South Bay. What would that meeting have been like with a hundred raging voices? I’m pretty sure the committee chair wouldn’t have told us to “Back off!” which is how he dealt with one of the speakers.

The same people who are too busy to stop a ride and call the cops, or too busy to leave work early, ditch their family, or drive an extra hour in traffic to raise hell and demand change from the only people who can move the system are the same ones who join sad memorial rides for the dead.

In silence, of course.

I hate to tell you, but your sad silence isn’t bringing anyone back, it isn’t stopping one single psychopath from repeating the crime, and it isn’t changing one damned thing.

The sight of thousands of cyclists who are sad enough to mourn the dead but too fucking lazy to file a police report or attend a city council meeting or write a letter makes me angry.

I hope like hell it makes you angry, too.


“When it comes to bicycling on public roads, nice guys don’t finish last. They finish dead.” For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog to show your support, but don’t think it’s a substitute for showing up. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

We’re reactionary!!!

June 2, 2016 § 31 Comments

I don’t do pledges to you, your flag, your country, your Make Believe Friend, or anything else. But I will stand up when others do, and I did when the Palos Verdes Estates Traffic Endangerment Committee opened its monthly meeting. As you’d expect from a meeting that started with a pledge to a nation protected by a Make Believe Friend, the seating consisted of actual wooden church pews. This was designed to drive home the fact that the Make Believe Friend was watching your sorry ass, and also to make your sorry ass even sorrier after sitting on a wooden plank for two hours.

The Endangerment Committee of course sat in plush lounge-office chairs, wide and ample for the soft and large and spreading buttocks that each committee person lugged to the meeting.

I spoke first after being told, in effect, that nothing I said mattered because as an advisory body the Endangerment Committee was not empowered to make any decisions or implement any policies. That, we were told, must be done by the city council, although I was free to gas up the room with empty phrases and a harangue or two.

So I asked the Endangerment Committee a few questions along the lines of “How did they feel about being colossal failures since two cyclists had been killed in the last two months?” and “How did they feel about the fact that we were now reporting all violent crimes in PVE with an emphasis on assault with a deadly weapon?” and “How did they feel about the fact that we were all running video cameras and we were sick and tired of asking them to be nice while they killed us with impunity?”

The way they felt was angry at me, especially when I pointed to the fact that PVE police don’t know the law, either the 3-foot law or the exceptions to CVC 21202(a), and even more especially when I reminded them again that as a safety committee they were failures. When you call yourself a safety committee and people die on your watch, you have failed. However, I sat down before getting into the confrontational aspects of my speech.

This was but a drop in the bucket, though, because it was easy to dismiss me as crazy person with a hole in his jeans who lives in an apartment (Gasp!) and wears a t-shirt designed by Joe Yule saying “Wanky Awards.” [WHAT IS A WANKY? AND FOR MAKE BELIEVE FRIEND’S SAKE, WHAT IS A WANKY AWARD?]

It was harder to dismiss Michael Barraclough, a gainfully employed, property-owning, tax-paying, child-rearing white Republican male who made the rather devastating point that the problem wasn’t the “outsiders” such as hole-pantsing, wanky-shirt-wearing, apartment dwelling vermin, but rather the residents of white and upright PVE itself. “The problem,” he said, “are you, your neighbors, the people standing behind you at Trader Joe’s.”

The chief of the Endangerment Committee told us to “Put it in writing,” to which Michael responded, “I already have.”

The exasperated Endangerman then uttered these immortal words as he tried to tell us that the committee was reactive: “This committee is reactionary. We can’t cold turkey.” I almost jumped to my feet and offered him a dictionary and a book on the 12 Steps but it was clear that the uniformed man with the gun, the cuffs, the radio, and the Taser had his eye on me. “You’re out of line. Back off,” Endangerman said. When he added, “You’re on video,” I almost took off my shirt and started massaging my nipples. But I didn’t.

When they tried to shut Barraclough up he committed the foulest of sins; he quoted the government code language posted at the door allowing public comment to take precedence over the committee agenda in cases of urgency. “If two deaths aren’t urgent, what is?” he asked. The Endangerment Chairman, a crusty old property-owning Make Believe Friend-fearing property owner, scowled and essentially told him to shut up. We hoped that Barraclough would get arrested and dragged out by his hair, if only to make the blog photos more entertaining than this:


Where democracy goes to die.

And this:


Can I stab my eyes out now?

After dispensing with the pair of fatalities and the rash of violent crimes being perpetrated against cyclists in the happy enclave of PVE, the committee got on to serious business. First was the burning question of whether or not a convex mirror should be installed in front of 1812 Via del Monte.

I confess to having lain awake countless nights agonizing about this very thing; thank Make Believe Friend the city was on the case. Although no one knew or cared why two cyclists had been killed, the staff had conducted feasibility studies for the possible mirror. Now when I was a kid the feasibility study for installing something was called a shovel, but apparently not any more. What they found after thousands of dollars in studies and manpower was that no matter what the problem in PVE, it’s caused by cyclists.

In this case their traffic study showed that top speeds on VdM were 51 and 58 miles per hour. The posted speed is 25. Rather than coming up with an innovative solution, such as strafing offending cars with .50-caliber cannon from low flying gunships, they bemoaned the cyclists who broke the law going 27. Suggestions were increasing enforcement, having more parking restrictions, and taking no action.

Everyone was relieved to vote that they do more nothing, which they did with great energy. The dead cyclists could wait. They weren’t in a hurry; they were dead after all.

The next hot issue was not cold dead biker bodies. Instead it was the issue of residents seeking parking permit restrictions around the high school. The problem wasn’t that the students were assaulting cyclists (I was battered with a sandwich earlier this year), but rather students were parking cars in front of people’s homes. I suggested parking on top of their homes or better yet, inside them, say in the entertainment room, but this was not well received.

I marveled that no one said: “Hey, dumb fuck. Did you not notice at the time of purchase that you were buying a house next to a high school filled with spoiled pricks who all have nice cars? What is it about ‘rich kids’ and ‘cars’ and ‘cocaine’ that you don’t understand?”

But there was an underlying issue here, familiar to all residents of PVE: The only people who the Don’t-Touch-My-Stuffers hate more than outsiders are each other, and the only people they hate more than each other are each others’ children. That a mirror and a parking restriction were occupying the time of four white guys and a white woman wearing a salmon-colored tent, and that all of them had passed their expiration date years ago, was not lost on me.

Then it got good. Entitled Robert Winston (real name, but I was disappointed that he didn’t show up in a maroon smoking jacket) came to speak in favor of the new parking restrictions because, gasp, his house cleaner had gotten a parking ticket while parked in front of his house! We wondered how this civil rights activist had even been allowed into the meeting.

But the next controversy was even huger. Should the city relocate the stop sign from Granvia Altamira to Via Fernandez? SHOULD IT? Drivers were confused by the split intersection, i.e. they were stupid, and by consolidating the intersection perhaps they could all be turned from complete idiots into mere bumbling fools.

Fortunately, the true culprits were found. Perky Waterman, a real person who goes by that actual name, pointed out the obvious problem: Cyclists! Cyclists run that stop sign all the time! She’s never seen one stop! They roar down the hill! She reminded us that she and her family of four had lived there for thirty years, which made me wonder how an 80-year-old woman still had a family of four. Did she have a couple of those infamous PV sons who never seem to fall far from the tree, or even the living room couch? Or were the other two residents her pet cat and its split personality?

People clapped, cheered, rolled out the welcome mat, and showered the cyclists in attendance with jeers and spit. I thought about pointing out that no matter where they put the stop sign we could still blow the motherfucker, but didn’t. I also thought about pointing out that the two recent cyclist fatalities didn’t involve any stop sign running, but figured that with a name like Perky about the only thing that would get her attention was a stiff gin and tonic.

The final decision was monumental and decisive and unanimous: The Traffic Endangerment Committee exercised the authority invested in it by the Constitution and their Make Believe Friend and voted to do nothing.

“Do we need a motion to do nothing?” asked one of the members whose sole contribution to the meeting was a question about what action was needed to vote for inaction.

Apparently no motion for doing nothing was required, because shortly thereafter they adjourned, and they must have been pleased with their community’s round condemnation of the troublesome cyclists. Would they have felt so satisfied staring into the eyes of the families of the dead?



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South Bay weekly round-up

June 1, 2016 § 10 Comments

Off to the races, or rather, back from them …

  1. Heartfelt victory: Bart Clifford of Surf City Cyclery won the Barry Wolfe 45+ crit on Sunday, an event he’s been trying to win for years. Bart lost his daughter when she was only fifteen, and Thousand Oaks was a place filled with memories for him as he and his daughter lived not far from the current race course. We spoke the day after the race; no words can do justice to what he’s been through, or what it means for any parent to lose a child. Hats off to you, Bart. WE LOVE YOU.
  2. Shout it from the rooftops: The City of Palos Verdes Estates has a traffic safety committee meeting on Wednesday, June 1, at 7:30 PM. Show up and tell these folks that we won’t tolerate any more violence against cyclists in their supposedly “safe” city. Agenda here.
  3. Crime reporters: Several cyclists have shown up at various law enforcement agencies and filed reports for assault with a deadly weapon. That’s what it’s called when a car tries to hit you and fails. Here’s a link to an editable Word doc that you can use to file your own crime report when a driver tries to hit you. Whether the police investigate the crime or not, the report becomes a statistic that they’re required to report annually to the FBI, and statistics, unlike cyclist lives, matter.
  4. Licking their wounds: South Bay racers returned from masters nationals in North Carolina deploring the horrific crash-fest designed by the incompetent, greedy boobs at USAC. The local ER went into triage as a result of the bloodbath, and the idiots at USAC didn’t even bother to inform the hospital that there was a race the day of the crits. My lone appearance at masters nationals in Bend convinced me that as crazy as I am, I’m not crazy enough to do a race where there are half a dozen big crashes in a 60-minute crit. Jeff Koontz writes a very restrained criticism of what was a shitshow put on by a confederacy of dunces.
  5. Rise again: Local South Bay artist, icon, and lifelong cyclist Steve Shriver is on the mend after a horrific collision on PCH. So great to know that this gentle and talented guy is going to be back. Also cheers to local rider Marvin Campbell, back on his bike after a horrific collision last year in which he was hit by a car.
  6. Pizza and crime reports: South Bay cycling club Big Orange is going to put on a workshop for crime reporting so that you can have the tools of the trade at your fingertips when some asshat tries to kill you for exercising your legal right to ride in the road. Details coming soon.
  7. Top of the heap: South Bay cycling club Big Orange, according to USAC stats, has the most wins/podiums/race entries of any club in Southern California. Just sayin’!
  8. Bragging rights (but not worth falling off your bicycle for, please): SoCal elderly fellows’ state crit championships happen on June 12, courtesy of the occasionally courteous Chris Lotts and CBR. Come on down and watch the people who always win, win again. The flyer’s not up or I’d post it. Special guest: My 7-month-old grandson.
  9. So fly: I got a Cycliq Fly-12 handlebar-mounted video cam. It records for 10 hours on an infinite loop, installs easily, and will get its first test tomorrow morning, which is the day off that I’m not going to ride at all, not even a little bit except for maybe just a touch. You know, stretch the legs, recover from the racing, record some crimes …

It’s beginning to look a lot like “cockpit.” And Peyton, is 200 Nm’s too much for those carbon bars?



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The new performance bicycle

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:

  1. Full carbon
  2. 100% carbon
  3. Aero carbon

No more.

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:

  1. Diablo or equivalent headlight with max 1,200-1,500 lumens for continual day/night operation.
  2. Lezyne or equivalent rear taillight with max 100 lumens for continual day/night operation.
  3. Front-facing video camera with spare batteries for swap-out during ride.
  4. Rear-facing video camera with continual 6-hour loop.
  5. 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.

Carry on.



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Report card

May 26, 2016 § 59 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.

  1. Write what happened.
  2. Take it to the police station that has jurisdiction where the assault occurred.
  3. Tell them you want report a crime and you’ve already written it up for them.
  4. Have them review it, answer their questions, and hand over the physical evidence (video, photos).
  5. Make sure they assign a DR Number or a file number and they give it to you.
  6. Get the name and email and phone number of the detective assigned to the case.
  7. Go home and email the report to the detective so that you have an electronic trail of having submitted the report.
  8. 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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The people police

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.

Just kidding.

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:

  1. You don’t have to wait to be contacted to make a report.
  2. You don’t have to have the cops’ authority to make a report.
  3. You can write your OWN report.
  4. The police have to take it.
  5. 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.
  6. “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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