Last summer Paul Livingston, an experienced cyclist of 15 years, was commuting along Santa Monica Blvd heading east through Beverly Hills. He began slowing as he approached a stale red light. Relaxed, it was about 6pm on a clear skied Sunday afternoon and his lane – the right lane – was clear. He was estimated to be moving at about 8 miles per hour. Suddenly his world changed forever. Witnesses describe an impatient and unpredictable driver racing in and out of pockets heading east towards the soon to be green light that Paul was approaching. Paul had no chance. He was smashed from behind and thrown. It was reported that the driver never braked but instead accelerated to get away after impact.
The impact was so harsh that Paul suffered multiple spinal and pelvic fractures, severe internal bleeding and abdominal injuries. He spent 6 days in a coma and another month in the hospital. Doctors performed spinal fusion surgery to 5 levels of his vertebrae. Because of his disability he was let go from his job at SIR Hollywood, and as a result his medical insurance was terminated. With no ability to work he lost his apartment soon after. Paul’s hospital bills add up to well over $1 million dollars. The driver not only left Paul with a massive hospital bill, she stole a life’s joy from him as he lie broken in the street that day. Paul may never again ride a bicycle. None of the witnesses that stayed managed to get a plate, just a vehicle description.
According to Beverly Hills PD a break came the next day when the alleged driver, Victoria Chin, phoned in to confess her crime. Detectives arranged for her to turn herself in that day. They requested she bring the car in as well. This is where things apparently got complicated for the Beverly Hills Detectives. After flaking on her first appointment, Chin showed up the following day along with a lawyer but without her car. Beverly Hills Detectives acknowledge that they failed to process her confession and they sent her home without booking or arresting her.
Months later, citing issues not fully understood, the case was declined by District Attorney Steven Katz. Katz claims that since there was no car in custody, and the woman confessed on the phone and not in person, there was not enough evidence to move forward with a case. Questions arise of whether this is an isolated incident or part of a larger pattern of Beverly Hills apathy towards cyclists… Paul was not the first hit and run victim in recent memory to be denied justice by the city.
A little over 2 years ago, myself, Alex Thompson, Sara Bond and a group of cyclists had staged a “Blood In Press Conference” to protest the less than slap on the wrist nature of verdict handed down in the Louis “Birdman” Deliz trial. This was a highly watched case in which 19 year old Celine Mahdavi nearly killed Deliz with a left hook before fleeing the scene in her black SUV. Deliz was left severely maimed and bleeding in the street unable to move. Mahdavi was caught blocks later, drunk and with huge damage to her car’s side panel. At the sentencing in Beverly Hills Superior court, Judge Elden Fox gave Mahdavi no jail time and 90 days community service. The cycling community was outraged, and with good reason, a pattern of apathy was emerging.
During the year and a half period between Birdman’s hit and run incident and the suspect’s sentencing came yet another case of hit and run injustice. Brandon Chau, a UCLA student had been rear ended at a red light and knocked off his bike. While he didn’t suffer significant injuries, his back wheel was taco-ed and Chau was left without his main mode of transportation. A witness got the plate and a description of the driver, but the Beverly Hills Police Department perplexed the cycling community when they refused to move forward. Alex Thompson of BikesideLA led a public comment action at Beverly Hills City Hall and 11 cyclists showed up to bring the City Council’s attention to the injustice. As a result of that action, the Beverly Hills Police Department re-opened the case and a sentence was handed down to the driver.
Recently, yet another case emerged in which Hal Bergman, a professional photographer and cyclist was forced off his bicycle by a road raging driver who ran over his bike. After turning herself in blocks later, police refused to move forward. Pattern or not, the fact is, the severity of the Paul Livingston case and cases like it need to be brought time and again to the attention of the powers that be if there is to be any hope of justice.
On Thursday August 23rd, anyone who commutes by bicycle in or through Beverly Hills is encouraged to ride out and join us for public comment period during the next scheduled Beverly Hills City Council meeting. We will be having a public comment workshop about an hour before the doors open. The Council is actually pretty personable and allows some limited back and forth discussion at times. We will be asking specifically for justice for Paul Livingston and for Beverly Hills to protect cyclists more vigorously as a policy.
Join us and get your voice in:
Beverly Hills City Council Meeting
7pm Thursday August 23rd in Room 400
Beverly Hills City Council
455 N. Rexford Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: (310) 285-1013
Fax: (310) 275-8159
Group ride from Sunset / Vermont Metro Redline Station
August 23rd meet at 4:30pm ride at 5pm
Easy paced group ride to Beverly Hills City Council
GOOGLE ROUTE MAP
Pre-meeting Public Comment workshop 5:45pm
Those who plan to speak are encouraged to meet at City Hall main entrance
prior to the 7pm meeting to go over speaking points and ensure they are cohesive.