Breaking News: “Road Rage” Dr. Christopher Thompson Gets Five Years
For anyone reading Streetsblog for the first time, during a Fourth of July ride in 2008 Thompson approached a group of cyclists that were training in Mandeville Canyon. After honking at the cyclists, they "exchanged words" and Thompson passed them. He then cut back in front of them and slammed on his brakes, causing the cyclists to slam into the rear of his car. Peterson, an experienced cyclist who actually teaches bike safety, crashed through Thompson's rear window, bringing horrific pictures to both blogs and the mainstream news of the cyclists and the damage to Thompson's car.
What helped make the story mainstream news was the way Thompson acted after the crash. On a 911 call, he can be heard yelling at the fallen cyclists to get their bikes off the road and assured the dispatcher that they weren't that bad off even as the group lay broken and bleeding in the street. During his trial, Thompson's defense tried to blame the victims and his neighbors in Mandeville Canyon rose to his defense because, ya know, cyclists are annoying and all.
For a complete overview of Thompson's assault, the coverage, the trial and sentencing; visit the Streetsblog archives here.
(Update, 11:30) Of course, this was never just about one crash in a city that sees examples of "car v cyclist" or "car v pedestrian" crashes nearly every day; it was about sending a message that Los Angeles' roads are dangerous enough without drivers taking their idea of vigilante justice into their own hands. In the LA Now artice on the sentencing, they quote Superior Court Judge Scott Millington.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a "wake-up call" to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.
I agree with Millington. If the end result of this case is one sad doctor spends five years in jail, then justice is only partially served. Instead, this case needs to be a wake up call to a city who's attitude towards cyclist safety is cavalier at best.
(Update, 11:35) As for the letter writing campaign by cyclists encouraging a harsh sentence? Over 270 letters were received, from literally all over the world, but judge Millington says he didn't consider them.