LAPD: Susanna Schick Fell Off Her Bicycle

Schick posing with friends before the "L.A. Marathon crash race." Photo: Used with permission from Schick's Facebook

(Friends of Susana’s have set up a ChipIn account to collect funds to help with medical bills.  You can donate, here.)

From the people that brought you “Andres Tena backed into a hummer and was propelled over his handlebars” and “a woman who plowed into a group of thirty cyclists committed no crime” comes another soon to be classic, “(Susanna Schick) fell down on her bicycle.”

Despite widespread media reports that Susanna Schick was attacked by the driver of a white Lexus on Friday night and that the LAPD didn’t even file a report until three days later; the LAPD is fighting back against perceptions that they bungled the case by attacking the victim implying both that she was the agressor in the incident and that she is an incompetent cyclist.  As we’ve seen before, they also accidentally admitted they don’t really understand traffic safety laws.

The crux of the LAPD’s argument is that there was no contact between the white Lexus that Schick claims hit her on Friday night, therefor there was no crime.  Lt. Paul Vernon tells Blog Downtown, “There is no crime here.  She fell off her bike.”  LAPD spokeswoman Wendy Reyes was even more vague, telling NBC 4, “They obviously determined it wasn’t a hit-and-run. She might have fallen off the bike on her own.”

“They” is a pair of LAPD officers who witnessed the entire incident.  According the officers, Schick was bicycling down Spring Street in the green buffered bike lane when a car pulled out of a garage, swung wide and swerved into the bike lane.  The car did not hit Schick.  At a light, Schick rolled up to the car, and pounded on the side view mirror causing the car occupants to roll up their windows.  When the light turned green, the car sped ahead and eventually turned right.  Then Schick just fell over.  The officers then called the paramedics and after Schick was safely in the hospital they returned the bicycle to her residence.

While anything is possible, the idea that Schick just fell off her bike is about as far-fetched as her being forced off her bike by lightning bolt or fear of green paint.  Schick, who goes by Pinkyracer on the Internet and racing forums, has been traveling by two wheels pretty much her entire life.  Her personal website is devoted to two wheeled travel, be it on bike, motor bike or scooter and she’s even a motor bike racer.  The odds that she just happened to fall off her bike and it just coincidently happened after an altercation with a car is statistically insignificant.

Even in the LAPD’s weird version of events, one which is designed to cast the victim as the aggressor to the poor drivers who were rolling up their windows, there are laws broken.  A car that “pulls out of a garage, swings wide and swerves into a bike lane” has a driver that has just broken a traffic law.  California Vehicle Code 21209 clearly states that no motorized vehicles can enter a bike lane unless they are within 200 feet of an intersection where they are going to make a turn.  

Even in the LAPD’s “there was no crime, Schick just fell off her bicycle” version of events, the car clearly wasn’t making about to make a turn, they were making a dangerous and illegal maneuver that put their vehicle completely through a six feet of extra road paint designed to give cyclists extra space into a bright green bike lane.

When I spoke to Jennifer Beatty, a friend of Schick’s who is well known in the bike advocacy community and who has served as a sort of spokesperson for Schick and the family, she described Schick’s bike as “badly damaged from the rear.”  She went on to say that you can “see right where the impact happened.”  Blog Downtown got a more picturesque description from her, “Beatty described the damage to the rear wheel as being a “bike taco” bent half an inch.” (Note: There is some disagreement on how bad her bicycle is, read the comment section below.)

To make matters worse, Beatty reports that as of Tuesday night the LAPD still hadn’t released the crash report to Schick’s family.  They managed to find time to talk to the press, but not the family of a woman who is going to be in a hospital for two months for “falling off her bicycle.”

To add even more insult to injury, even if the driver of the Lexus came forward, the report that Schick “fell off her bicycle” would undermine an attempt to even pursue a civil action under the city’s Bicycle Anti-Harassment Ordinance.

In November of 2008, I was riding on the Santa Monica bike path at night when my bike hit a part of the path that had been covered in sand.  Stupidly, I tried to warn cyclists behind me and took a hand off the handlebars to point at the sand while calling out the hazard.  I was traveling about 15 miles per hour, lost control of my bike and it slammed down hard on my right leg.  I had a gash on the leg, ruined a nice pair of jeans and ended up with a swollen knee that kept me from riding for a couple of days after I got home.  Oh, I did get back on my bike and ride from Santa Monica to the Fairfax area.  About six months later, my bike got a tuneup.  Nobody ever compared the scratch my bike received from the spill to any sort of Mexican food.

Following the incident where Schick fell off a bike completely randomly just after an altercation with a car, her bike is unrideable and she received a concussion, a broken collarbone, six broken ribs and a shattered pelvis.  I guess it’s a good thing no LAPD officers witnessed me falling.  My crash would have been a lot worse.

  • Dennis Hindman

    A rear wheel of a bicycle would not look like a taco from the rider falling over. It’s the front wheel that would receive damage if she hit something solid or ran into a pothole. Bicycles are built to withstand the force of a loaded weight of over 200 pounds traveling at 30 miles an hour or more. I’ve run into the side of a car at 22 miles an hour and the front bicycle wheel looked severely out of true, but other than the brake levers being scratched, the rest of the bicycle was undamaged. I’ve also had a 3/8th inch thick solid metal object lodge in my spokes when I was riding home after it rained one night. This instantly stopped my bike, but the only damage was a couple of broken spokes.

    The experts on what would cause such severe wheel damage would be bike wheel manufacturers or an experienced bike mechanic. Bike manufacturers would also be able to tell you what it would take to cause severe damage. i know Cannondale used to test their bikes by having an employee ride into the loading dock.wall.

    How do you have a shattered pelvis by falling off of a bike on a street unless you are a very fragile person? A broken arm, wrist or face damage,skin abrasions, cracked ribs or perhaps collarbone, but not a shattered pelvis. 

    If you explained to a emergency room doctor that the concussion, broken collarbone, six broken ribs and a shattered pelvis was due to your child simply falling off of a bicycle, I would be very surprised if the doctor did not report this incident to authorities as a potential child abuse case.

  • Brent

    I’ve crashed solo any number of times. I’ve only had one taco-ed wheel, and that only when a car hit my bike. I believe it’s possible to taco a wheel in a solo crash, but it’s rare, and requires unusual circumstances, like hitting a rim at an unusual angle against a giant pothole and at high speeds. 

    Unless the officers were quite close to the crash, I don’t believe that they could have an optimal viewing point. It doesn’t take a huge impact to send a cyclist to the ground, a “gentle caress” will suffice. That sort of impact makes no noise, has no visible effect on the car, and the effects on the cyclist might appear to a distant observer as simply “falling over.” 

  • Guest

    Via the DTLA Blogtown Piece:

    According to Schick’s own statement, she doesn’t think the car hit her,
    Vernon said. But when both parties arrived at the next red light, Schick
    pedaled up to the car, hit the side view mirror and began yelling at
    the people inside, who reacted by rolling up their windows, according to
    the report.

    So the “Victim” doesn’t believe the car hit her.

    What is the problem here?

  • PaulCJr

    Ya Guest I would have to agree with everyone else on here. The tacoed rear wheel wouldn’t be in line with a self inflicted bicycle crash. For one it’s really hard to taco a wheel by oneself, she would have had to been going at a very high rate of speed backwards. I can’t see how just falling off a bike would taco a wheel and cause all the injuries she has, unless another car ran her over after the fall. 

  • Bikinginla

    Guest, you’re confusing two separate but related events. Schick was not hit by the car swerving into her lane, even though it did jeopardize her safety. She fell, either on her own or after being hit by the car, a couple blocks later following a roadway dispute.

  • You’re right that Schick’s injuries far exceed what could be expected according to the solo fall the police describe.

    However, as it turns out, the description of the back wheel being tacoed — which I may be responsible for — is an exaggeration; the wheel is actually bent about a 1/2 inch or so. It could not have been like that prior to the collision, however, as Schick had her bike tuned just hours before the collision.

  • Anonymous

    All questions will be answered if some security camera footage of the incident surfaces.

  • Anonymous

    Bring in Private investigators and personal injury lawyers. They will uncover the truth…and it may not bode well for the LAPD version of this stroy.

  • Jim

    Circumstantial and physical evidence would indicate there is good reason to conclude she was struck by a car.  I’m a bike commuter who deeply appreciates the Spring Street bike lanes and felt an added degree of safety after they were installed.  This sad event reminds me to keep my head on a swivel no matter where I am.  And sometimes even that’s not enough.

  • Dennis Hindman

    These injuries were produced by either being hit by or hitting a hard surface with a great deal of force. Simply loosing control and falling off of a bicycle is not consistent with the severity of the injuries. A person is sitting on a bicycle at a height not much greater than if they were standing. Falling from this height is very unlikely to produce numerous bone fractures on several parts of the body if you are moving at a fairly slow speed. A healthy young human body is simply not that fragile.

    While riding a bicycle I have been hit by a car from behind twice. The first time it was from a car exiting the freeway heading west onto Los Feliz Blvd and the driver was checking to see if there were cars approaching to her left. I was ahead of her in the lane she was merging into, and after she hit me, I slid on the pavement with my head just below her bumper. No broken bones as the force of the collision wasn’t very strong. The second time was when I was stopped in the middle of a lane on Riverside Dr, where it intersects Tujunga ave and Camarillo St, waiting for the light to turn green. A car approached and stopped behind me. After the light changed, I pedaled a few feet and she ran over my rear wheel. I was cut on my leg from the bike pedal, but again no broken bones. There simply was not enough force in either collision to break a bone.

    A few months back, I got a flat tire from a goatshead thorn as I was pedaling into Balboa Park late at night. When I made a sharp right turn on the narrow bike path I immediately lost control of the bike and fell. Again, no broken bone, but there was some minor bleeding from the friction of the sidewalk. I wasn’t moving very fast when I fell so there was not enough force to break any bones.

    I would venture to guess that a car could have hit Susanna Schick with enough force to smash her to the ground and that may have been the reason that she had broken bones on several parts of her body.

  • Dennis Hindman

    A bike tire/wheel which is hit by a car that is moving in the same direction will likely survive a collision like that with very little damage The pneumatic tire will absorb some of the force, with some road bike tires able to hold up to 160 pounds per square inch and a wheel loaded by a rider is built to support even more pressure in the small contact area it has with a street. The spokes of a bike wheel also can absorb a good deal of force without the wheel going out of true. To put it simply, the bike tire/wheel would have bounced off of the car without sustaining much, if any damage. If a 2,500+ pound car runs over a bike wheel, then it would sustain major damage.

    If a rider is not attached to the bike pedals, then the bike will move forward ahead of the rider if hit from behind by a much faster moving vehicle and the person pedaling will be thrust backwards to possibily hit their head, pelvis, ribs or pelvis with enough force on the street to break some bones.

  • What says Sgt Krumer today?

    The two officers who allegedly witnessed the event were in their patrol car – was it equipped with video equipment?

    If the rear wheel was bent only half an inch it is not as easy on the first glance to see there was a car involved, like it would be if the bike was badly mangled. So I can understand the officers for not spotting it. But did they check the bike at all or do any crash scene investigation or did they just assume the cyclist fell off? Were they focusing on clearing the street so traffic could get through?

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    The LAPD is in the process of getting our vehicles equipped with video equipment…as of today the division where the officers were assigned is not video equipped so the answer is no…their vehicle was probably not. 

    With regard to examining the wheel…the officers indicated there was no collision so they would not even bother to look for evidence of one. 

    Since the officers did not perceive a crime than the focus would not be investigation but facilitating the re-establishment of order which would include clearing the street for the convenience of  other users of the roadway. 

  • Anonymous

    20-plus years after Rodney King, 10-plus years after September 11th, and in spite of all the posturing and puffing of chests (by city official) about how Los Angeles is a target, etc., etc. and despite the bountiful teat of “Homeland Security” funds…
    YOU STILL DON’T HAVE CAMERAS IN THE SQUAD CARS??!!??

    No wonder LEOs in this city routinely view photographers as suspicious.

  • I’d like to take a moment to thank Sgt. Krumer for taking the time to visit this and other forums.  It can’t be an easy job to hold an (unofficial?) liaison position in a time like this, and you’ve provided better information than the P.R. folks have.  Much appreciated.

  • What says…

    Me too! And having to rely on second and third hand information about the events must be annoying, as anything he has said will be nitpicked and examined thoroughly.

  • Gokhan

    I feel really bad that Susanna got hurt so badly.

    I should point out that high-speed wobbling of the front wheel of a bicycle (and subsequent loss of control and falling) is actually a common physical phenomenon:

    http://www.pro-am.com.au/speed_wobble_on_a_bicycle.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_wobble#In_two-wheeled_vehicles 

    Therefore, it wouldn’t be too unusual for a bicycle going 30 MPH to undergo this phenomenon.

    Get well soon, Susanna!

  •  thanks! but is it also possible at 18mph? I was so confounded by the wobble and not being able to save it. I need to get a steering damper, like I have on my motorcycle! ;-)

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