Alex Romero’s Accused Killers Behind Bars, But Don’t Forget Dangerous Desoto

Yesterday, the LAPD announced the arrest of Dominque and Steven Rush for the hit and run killing of Alex Romero on April 20th.  Romero and his friend Peter Arias were bicycling along DeSoto Avenue in the Valley when Dominique Rush allegedly hit Romero’s bicycle from behind and just kept on driving while Romero lay dieing in the street.

The media has been using this image of Romero's crushed bicycle to show the horror of the crash.

Arias had the sense of mind to get a partial description of the vehicle, not an easy thing to do given the circumstances, and the LAPD went to work to track down the driver.  While they were at work tracking the vehicle, Rush allegedly enlisted the aid of her father, Steven Rush to help hide her involvement.

It truly takes a heartless and entitled person to turn a blind eye to the pleadings of Romero’s family and friends, but the Rush’s went one step further.  The father-daughter duo allegedly tried to hide the evidence by getting the car out of the area, possibly to a place where it could undergo some physical changes to mask the crime.  In June, the LAPD had a good idea of what they were looking for thanks to some tips and the initial identification, but still couldn’t find the car.

While it’s certainly good news that Romero’s killers will likely face justice, there are other culprits in this tragedy: the poorly designed speedway known as DeSoto Avenue and a culture that values speeding traffic.

I prefer this one, used by LA Weekly, to remind us that a young life was stolen.

Despite the residences and buildings along its sides, DeSoto Avenue is a mammoth six or seven lanes near the crash site.  At L.A. Weekly, Simone Wilson describes the street as “whizzing.”  She’s not exagerating.  Speeding is so rampant on De Soto Avenue that the Los Angeles City Council increased the speed limit in April of 2009.  A.B. 529, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto from the neighboring 43rd Legislative District, partially addresses this issue by giving municipalities some power to keep speed limits lower.

Speeding traffic proponents such as the National Motorists Association, who have been hailed as heroes for their role in getting the City Council to remove red light cameras, correctly point out that streets such as DeSoto are dangerous more because of their design than because of the limits.  The N.M.A. doesn’t use those words of course, but they do argue that people drive the speed that the road is designed for, not the speed that is posted.

The N.M.A. aren’t the only group of people wanting to see DeSoto kept fast.  Motoristd webpages that “report” on “speed traps” try to spread the word when the LAPD try to enforce speeding laws on the street.  Chillingly, this psychopath is complaining about the police enforcing the speed limit just north of where Romero was killed.

DeSoto Avenue is desperately in need of a road diet.  A seven lane residential road with speeding traffic is a recipe for disaster, but when you consider the reaction to road diet on Wilbur Avenue, such a plan is unlikely to be tried just two and a half miles west on DeSoto Ave.  While cyclists and non-motorized road users of DeSoto can rest assured that a thorough investigation was completed; it doesn’t change the fact that Romero was killed before the driver chose to drive off and that the speeding environment of DeSoto is a major reason the crash happened in the first place.

The reality is that all the LAPD outreach to cyclists, all the speed limit decreases, and all the Assembly bills in the world won’t amount to much as long as too many members of the driving class continue seek as many ways as possible to speed up their trips to the danger and death of everyone else.

Unfortunately, at least one more person is going to have to die before that message gets across.