Group Ride Confrontation Sparks Debate, Cyclist-Blaming

Cyclists removing driver from car. Screen capture from CBS
Cyclists removing driver from car. Screen capture from CBS

The full story is not clear at this point, but news media and social media have been critical of cyclists in a confrontation with a driver. See coverage at CBS, Fox11, and the L.A. Times.

The incident took took place last night, in Koreatown, during a group bike ride. According to CBS, the group of cyclists

continued through the intersection even when their light turned red, but other drivers were giving them the right of way, according to witnesses – except one. The driver of a white BMW sedan apparently became impatient and began inching through the intersection and hit one of the cyclists, according to an LAPD watch commander. The cyclists thought he was trying to leave the scene, and a shouting match erupted. Video shows at least two cyclists yanking a man out of his car and wrestling him to the ground. With his arms behind his back, the driver was kept on the ground by a cyclist who sat on his back until police arrived.

Media are reporting that the driver ran over a cyclists’s leg, but also that there were no injuries.

Daily News headline captured via Facebook
Daily News headline captured via Facebook

The Daily News headline initially asserted that bicyclists had beat the driver, though this does not appear on video from the scene, and the headline has since been corrected.

One interpretation is that the cyclists prevented a hit-and-run perpetrator from fleeing the scene. Another interpretation is that the cyclists broke the law by corking the intersection and by breaking the car window. Not that any of these cyclist transgressions would justify a driver trying to run over anyone.

Commenters took to Twitter and Facebook to offer blanket condemnations of cycling, for example: “Bicyclists are always in the way, causing traffic, riding in the middle of a lane meant for vehicles. Driver ran him over on purpose but it’s not like they didn’t ask for it by blocking an entire lane.”

It is an unfortunate double standard that when road rage erupts between two motorists, no one lumps all drivers together as troublemakers. In a case like this one, where cyclists are involved, people seem to feel free to pass judgement on all cyclists.

Streetsblog L.A. will continue to update this post as more details become available.

  • Daniel Schoen

    Hmm just like cycling activists feel free to pass judgement on all drivers…

    You might want to point out that the police stated the driver was not at fault, and no one was arrested. Also that it’s wrong for a group of cyclists to block traffic so they can break the law and ignore a red light. Oh and also that it’s wrong to pull someone from their car, beat them up and pin them to the ground. But I know you’re not going to.

  • HPHwd

    I encountered a group ride last week going home from work – 6:30, 7ish. Going west on 6th st near Rossmore. Hundreds of cyclists. I was at the intersection, at the crossing lane. When the light turned green for me to go, i was dumbfounded to see that not one rider came to a stop at their red! I cautiously inched forward, as I had the right-of way, and no one stopped. Pros, casuals, mums, grannies, and kids, just kept going. There were no spotters and no indication of what this was about. A protest? I didn’t know. I was not confrontational in any way, but waved a rider over and questioned why no on was stopping. It isn’t safe, i said. THEN confrontation started… against me! Several riders surrounded me and started threatening me. Again, I questioned their safety, and why were they doing this. “Because we can” was all I was greeted with, along with finger salutes, and chants of threatening them (I was not). It was extremely intimidating and frightening. I am pretty much a life-long bike rider. I am responsible with my riding.I am no casual rider. I have been harassed and threatened by drivers while on my bik,. so I know what it can be like to be a rider in the city. But this new superiority, and holier-than-thou attitude of many bikers these days is alarming. Their activist views border on violence. They are not achieving anything with this brazen attitude many of them have. IF they continue in this manner, someone may very well get mowed down

  • jamesjamonsta

    of course it was a BMW driver. They are generally the worst humans.

  • jamesjamonsta

    Decent humans don’t push people with their cars, regardless of the law…

  • Dan S.

    You can try and justify this all you want, but the simple truth is that if the cyclists had obeyed the law, stopped for the red light and not blocked traffic this would never have happened. End of story.

  • homasapiens

    if the driver had been more careful (and obeyed the right-of-way rule of thumb that says more powerful vehicles give way to the more vulnerable vehicle) and had not pushed anyone with his car this never would have happened. That’s an alternate end of story.

  • Dan S.

    Incorrect. There is no such rule of thumb. Under California law, bicycles are required to follow the same laws and rules as cars, including right-of-way. But to clarify again…if the bicyclists had obeyed the law, stopped at the red light and not blocked the intersection, the car could have proceeded without pushing anyone and none of this would ever have happened. This was started by the bicyclists, period.

  • Cynara2

    Thank you. Good cyclists are appreciated by pedestrians.
    Yes, the cyclists are bullying pedestrians around. And it is because they can.

  • Cynara2

    Decent human beings do not block motorists in.

  • This reminds me why we should no longer respect the Funeral Processions that are allowed to continue along through traffic lights without regard to (disabled) pedestrian safety.
    Entitled mourners!

  • User_1

    The rule of law I live by is that you are free to pull someone from their car if they are about to leave the scene of the accident. You are preventing further innocents perpetrated by this driver and keeping the driver there for answering to their first crime.

    I wonder how many hit and run incidents they prevented with this story?

  • Mark Mallare

    It’s safer to let the ride pass because a ride this massive won’t have everyone knowing the route. When cars get in between, would you feel safe stuck in the middle? There are kids on the ride, and the driver had blind spots.

  • Paul Redmond

    Every group ride rule I’ve ever read says to stay together and stop for lights. If the light changes on you, the leaders pull over and wait. All this rule of thumb, right of way stuff is myth. In this case, bikes instigated and escalated creating an unsafe situation culminating in assault. Go ahead with your own rules but spare is the indignation when things go south. Stay safe out there.

  • Paul Redmond

    Did you have a source for these rules? Not familiar with that.

  • homasapiens

    a rule of thumb is not a rule of law. It’s a rule of common sense.

    But to clarify again…
    If the driver of had decided not to start pushing into the bikes, the incident would never have happened.

  • Dan S.

    If the bikes weren’t there for him to push in the first place…like if they had stopped at the red light and yielded the right of way like they should have…just saying…there’s no way you can argue around that.

  • Karen

    I think I actually may have seen this group ride on my way home — many people didn’t have lights and they definitely weren’t sharing the road. This is pretty endemic common whenever I see big groups of cyclists like this and personally it’s a huge turnoff from wanting to participate in these sorts of things. As someone who commutes primarily by bicycle, I feel strongly that bad/inconsistent cyclists make us all much less safe. If all cyclists were predictable and obeyed traffic laws, drivers would be much less freaked out by bikes on the road. Yes, this guy in the BMW is the absolute worst and definitely deserved to get dragged from his car if he was trying to flee the scene, but bad behavior truly begets more bad behavior. If we’re going to advocate for pro-cyclist policies and infrastructure we need to be better than this.

  • homasapiens

    The bikes were injuring no one.
    The driver injured someone. That was by his choice.
    We all have the choice to escalate, or not.

  • Butter Milk

    I’m totally using this so I don’t have to stop and wait for lights to cycle when I’m out walking. “But I wasn’t injuring anyone, officer, if this guy hadn’t tried to drive through the intersection on his green we wouldn’t be here.” (Sarcasm, of course.)

  • homasapiens

    That one depends on if you were in the walkway already, or not. If a pedestrian is already there, any driver that hits them is culpable regardless of the red or green light. If you walk into the car’s path on the other hand, you get cited. Maybe with attempted suicide, I don’t know.

    The bikes were already in possession, so to speak, of the intersection. The driver knew they were there. He cannot drive into them.
    The driver, it occurs to me, could have called for traffic cops to come and ticket the whole lot. I bet that would have been satisfying to him, and less injurious.

  • Dan S.

    The bikes certainly had a choice as well. Stop at the red light, or block traffic and put themselves in harm’s way.

  • homasapiens

    I agree, it’s a dead horse, and both of our beating arms are about to drop off.

  • neroden

    The first right-of-way law in every single state is “Yield to traffic already in the intersection”. This takes priority over EVERYTHING.

    It doesn’t matter how the traffic got into the intersection, whether it entered legally or illegally. It doesn’t matter whether the traffic in the intersection is pedestrians, bicycles, cars, or trucks. You wait for it to get out.

    End of story.

  • neroden

    Indeed, the motorist would have been justified in calling the cops or taking photos and trying to get the cyclists ticketed.

    Once they were in the intersection, he was legally bound to wait for them to get out of it before moving. The first right-of-way law on the books of every single state.

    I’ve yielded to some crazy shit in my time.

  • Butter Milk

    No, the bikes in the intersection when the light changed had the right to clear it. If others in the group continued into the intersection against the light, they were running it, and did not have the right of way. They also shouldn’t have entered the intersection if they didn’t have time to clear (e.g. if they entered on a yellow). Acting like they are somehow free of culpability here is just adding to the general sense of “bike riders are entitled pricks.”

  • homasapiens

    That’s why I said he could have got them ticketed.
    when he decides to drive into them, though, he’s done something he shouldn’t have done, no matter what anyone else did first.

    I’ve found that BMW drivers are very often entitled pricks, myself, disrespecting me in my ratty old 98 honda.

  • SZwartz

    An incompetent city administration is aggravating the tensions between cyclists and motorists. 100 years ago LA city’s civil engineers warned that incompatible modes of transportation should not share the same right of way. Too many people end up maimed or killed. The Garcetti Administration has it own agenda to try to make traffic congestion as bad as possible in the delusion that people will give up cars and use mass transit. Thus, the intentionally encourage cyclists to use the streets. An increasing number of cyclists will be maimed and killed and Garcetti will capitalize upon that for more Road Diets to make traffic congestion worse. Under Garcetti’s leadership, LA now has the worst traffic congestion in the entire world. Anyone who thinks that there will not be an anti-Bike Backlash is not familiar with human nature.

  • Joe Linton

    “If all cyclists were predictable and obeyed traffic laws, drivers would be much less freaked out by bikes on the road.” I find this to be an unhelpful double standard. Drivers and cyclists both break the law plenty, but nobody says things like “if all drivers obeyed traffic laws…” It’s taken as an assumption that streets are for legitimate drivers, and illegitimate cyclists (pedestrians, transit riders) should be held to a higher standard when asking for safety in drivers’ space.

  • Joe Linton

    On what evidence do you claim that the cyclists “beat” the driver?

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Okay let’s not blow this out of proportion. Please, worst traffic congestion in the world? Have you been to Manila on a rainy day?

  • D Man

    “Cyclist blaming” Hahaha. Please stop car-shaming drivers. Cyclists illegally blocked an intersection and were running a red light. A driver who had a green light went to drive through the intersection because he had the right of way. A biker who ran the red light then collided with the car. The cylists then pulled the guy out of his car and beat him up.

  • D Man

    According to the LA Times, Los Angeles has the worst traffic congestion in the world. Should we believe you or the LA Times?

  • D Man

    You mean when a funeral procession gets a permit and has a police escort by off-duty police officers? If the cyclists had a police escort where the police lawfully stopped traffic at an intersection then I would have no problem with it. But having some random person attempt to control traffic is unsafe and illegal.

  • Andrew

    Lots of people complain about drivers breaking the law. Lots of people complain about cyclists breaking the law. Both should not break the law. Pretty simple. If cars break the law, that doesn’t excuse cyclists breaking the law. If cyclists break the law, that doesn’t excuse cars breaking the law.

  • D Man

    Did you read your own blog post before posting? You included a link to a news article that says the cyclists beat the driver.

  • dcbird

    Did you read the article?
    “The Daily News headline initially asserted that bicyclists had beat the driver, though this does not appear on video from the scene, and the headline has since been corrected.”

  • davistrain

    “Cars” don’t break the law, DRIVERS break the law.

  • Andrew

    As you can see, I said “drivers” in the first sentence, but thanks for pointing out my typo later. Technically, you should have corrected me to say “SOME AUTOMOBILE drivers” but I’ll forgive you. Did you have an actual point?

  • davistrain

    This is just an old “pet peeve” of mine–people write about “cars doing this or that”, when, for now at least, cars don’t do a thing without a driver driving them. With the exceptions of such events as “cruise nights”, the cars out on the streets and highways are taking one or more people where they want to go. I see the term “sport utility vehicle” and expect that the “utility” miles far outnumber the “sport” miles. On the other hand, what was the story behind the “group ride”? Was this a way of getting the cyclists to a specific event, or were they out just for the enjoyment of a bike ride? Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think it gives them the right to interfere with other people’s use of the street. It was probably just coincidence, but Stephan Pastis, the creator of the “Pearls before Swine” comic strip, included a periodic character, “Jeff, the self-righteous bicyclist” being his usual obnoxious self. I don’t think Mr. Pastis has a high opinion of cyclists.

  • Dan S.

    Corrected, since it was incorrectly reported by the Daily News. However, as far as I’m concerned dragging someone from their car and pinning them to the ground is assault and unlawful detention.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    I really wish you could post the article claiming that. You’re right about me to be sure but I’m in no way obliged to believe you either.

  • Tsang Clement

    Every group ride is inherently a protest and living moving memorial for every single cyclist that has lost their life at the hands of a driver. Group rides are meant to take up space on the road, we have our own rules and codes of conduct. Group rides “roll” red lights but because imagine the ride as a super long car and the more the group becomes divided, the weaker and more vulnerable each of us become. United we stand, divided we fall under the crushing weight of cars. Group rides are meant to allow those who would feel scared to bike alone, at night, to be able to reclaim the streets and land that has been tarred and covered by settler society.

    Without proper infrastructure and road respect, BOTH drivers’ and cyclists’ lives are in danger of reckless driving and road rage.

  • SZwartz

    Also according to Inrix, whose job is to gather and compare traffic data from all over the planet, in 2016 Los Angeles had the worst traffic congestion in the world. f you have some facts to support the idea that Inrix does a poor job, please share those facts.

  • SZwartz

    LA Business Journal
    L.A. Tops Congestion Ranking for U.S.,
    Monday, February 20, 2017

    The L.A. metro area has topped a list of the world’s most gridlocked cities, according to a report issued late Sunday. L.A. area motorists spent an average 104 hours in congestion during peak traffic periods last year,
    according to the 2016 Global Traffic Scorecard from Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash.-based provider of connected car services and transportation analytics.

    That put Los Angeles ahead of No. 2 Moscow (91 hours a year in congestion), New York (89 hours), San Francisco (83 hours), and Bogota, Colombia (80 hours). The U.S. had 11 of the 25 worst cities around the globe for traffic congestion.

    “Los Angeles drivers spend more time in congestion compared to anywhere else in the world due to a
    mixture of factors, including significant population growth, a high employment rate, high productivity
    and lack of alternative public transportation options,” Bob Pishue, senior economist with Inrix, said in
    a statement.

    In the nine years Inrix has compiled the traffic congestion scorecard, last year was the first time the
    number of hours Los Angeles drivers spent on average trapped in peak-hour congestion topped 100.
    Exact figures from previous years were not released because Inrix changed the metrics and parameters
    for this year’s survey.

    The 104 hours that L.A. drivers spent on average last year trapped in congestion cost each driver $2,400 in fuel, wasted time, and other costs, resulting in a cumulative cost of $9.6 billion a year, the
    report said.

    But if it’s any consolation, Angelenos only spent about 13 percent of their total drive time in congestion, way behind Moscow (25 percent) and Bogota (31 percent), though on a par with New York and San Francisco.
    Surprisingly, only one L.A. area highway made the list of the 10 most congested roads in the U.S.: the 10 Freeway between the 110 and 405 freeways. The most congested was Interstate 95 in the Bronx borough of New York.

    Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Fair point, considering people here travel longer distances and drive more than the folks in Manila. But I will say that blaming Garcetti for it is probably what I had a bigger with. We have had terrible traffic before Garcetti and we’re gonna have it after.

  • SZwartz

    The other day, I pushed the button and waited for the traffic on Franklin to stop and it did and I was cross during the white flashing walk sign and had the right of right. No car tried to cut me off, by a cyclist came down Franklin passed the two lines of waiting cars and ran the red light causing me to stop and yield the right of way to him. I very seldom see a car ignore a red light, but I often see cyclists blowing through red lights.

  • SZwartz

    You really do not seem to know Garcetti’s role in making bicycles a significant traffic problem and the other Garcetti policies which have consistently made traffic congestion worst. While it is not possible that everyone can go back to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to see how the La city council has historically functioned, people should be aware of what Garcetti has done since he was first elected in 2001. He is the longest serving person at City Hall and he has brought his discredited smart Planning philosophy with him from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Policy. I heard tell that even Torquemada arose from the grave to remark of Luskin and Garcetti, “And, you though I was rigid true believe in silly myths.”

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Bicycles are the traffic problem? We’re not talking about crowded bicycle highways and streets are we? I’m glad we’re mostly back to the subject of the article though.