When the Justice System Failed Alan Deane, It Failed Us All

The music in this time-lapse video by William Campbell captures the solemn mood of the bike community following Deane’s death. This ride was completed on September 27, 2011. Five days after Deane’s death.

On September 22, 2011 Alan Deane was riding his bicycle on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, perhaps on his way to the Crawford Family Forum for a public event. While crossing Terrace Drive, Siddhartha Misra struck Deane with his car. Deane was rushed to the hospital where he died form injuries sustained in the crash. Deane had turned 61 that day.

##http://kpcc.tumblr.com/post/10779788055/goodbye-alan-deane-well-miss-you##KPCC## wrote a heartfelt farewell to Deane, a regular attendee of events at their Crawford Family Forum, after his passing.
On Tuesday, after pleading guilty to reckless driving, Mirsa received his sentence. Judge Steven Monette sentenced Mirsa to 10 days of community labor, 400 hours of community service and $4000 in restitution and other fines. At Biking In L.A., Ted Rogers referred to the judgement as a “gentle caress on wrist.”

Cyclists and safe street advocates were outraged, not just at Mirsa who appeared by all accounts genuinely contrite; but by a system that treats driving as a right and not a privilege  The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Colin Bogart, who shared the Streetsblog 2011 advocate of the year award, was quoted in the Pasadena Star News, KPCC and other outlets giving a variation of a statement that said that the punnishment for killing a person through negligence should at least include loss of driver’s license.

There have been a lot of eulogies for Deane, a man who chose to eschew most personal possessions, played music, rode his bike and participated in civic life. But it’s not just his life and personality that make this a tragedy, but that the justice system and society as a whole too often look the other way when it comes to the carnage that occurs on our streets.

As Streetsblog worked on this euology, our inbox has been active. One reader writes asking how many tickets and reckless driving infractions is it going to take before Justin Bieber has his toys taken away. Another reader sends a “Roadshow” column that appeared in the Daily News featuring both a traffic columnist and a letter from an insurance investigator who blame cyclists, especially children, for crashes when a car driver can’t be bothered to look both ways before running them down while exiting their driveway.

On Tuesday, Mirsa apologized to Deane’s friends and families. But after the sentence was handed down, apologies were also needed from Monette and society itself.

  • Roadblock

    We need a state wide campaign that makes it far easier to lose your damn license if you kill or injure someone while operating a machine in the public space. 3 foot is nice and all but this typical kind of slap on the wrist inspires RAGE.

  • Erik Griswold

    If the justice system remains docile in its treatment of these murderers, it has only itself to blame for the inevitable rise of vigilantism that will surely result. 

    I recall that when George Russel Weller murdered ten with his Buick at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market almost ten years ago, there were calls in the crowd that pulled him from his driver’s seat to dish out justice there and then, but more level heads pleaded to let the police handle the situation.  Which *the police*  did, but then, as we all know, the courts withheld punishment.  I wonder what that crowd would have done, if they knew then what we know now.  This is my fear and this is where judges and prosecutors have got to reform their windshield outlooks.

  • PC

    The “Biking In LA” link links to the Pasadena Star-News article.

  • Ubrayj02

    Alan went on the Spoke(n) Art Ride many times. I remember him, I remember him. I am so angry about his death, and about the so-called “justice” that allows an unqualified machine operator, who has proven his incompetence, to continue to hold a free license to operate that machine on public streets. There can be no solution where we arrive at city hall, or the state house in Sacramento, and beg for a change in law. We need to demand it. We need to organize and fight for it because what holds back the change in our legal system is not practical: it is political, it is ideological, it is cultural.
    We need to inveigh against the attitude that makes murder with a machine a misdemeanor. The license to drive must be predicated on a basic competence, and killing someone counts against that competence. The stakes on our streets need to be lowered, the penalties for crashing a car into humans and property need to be raised.

  • paul

    this is totally unacceptable. 
    at the very least this guy should lose his license for 5 years.
    at the very least…