Riders gather for the start of Damian Kevitt’s Finish the Ride event. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
So, this is what it takes to make people angry enough to care, I thought as I looked out over the sea of elected officials, journalists, cameras, and cyclists gathering at the start point for Damian Kevitt’s Finish the Ride event Sunday morning.
It apparently takes someone like Kevitt being dragged under a van onto the freeway, suffering 20 broken bones, losing a leg, and surviving for the city to finally recoil in horror at what is being called the “hit-and-run epidemic plaguing Los Angeles.”
Somehow, until now, the approximately 20,000 hit-and-runs recorded in the city each year — only 20% of which are ever solved — had not been enough to get people riled up.
Neither had the fact that the actual number of hit-and-runs is probably much, much higher.
Bike commuters, wheelchair users, and youth in lower-income areas often tell me they’ve been hit multiple times but have never reported the incidents. Even the incident that killed Andy Garcia last September in Boyle Heights was not the first encounter he had had with a hit-and-run driver. The first had happened several months earlier and left him unconscious and bleeding from the head by the side of the road. It was not reported.
Damian Kevitt and his mom take a bow at Tom LaBonge’s behest. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
And, sympathy has not always been with the victims.
In reports about such incidents, events have often been described in a way that blamed cyclists or pedestrians for being in the street or behaving badly before all the details of the case were fully established. Meanwhile, trying to get accurate and meaningful data on hit-and-runs from the LAPD so that the problem can be better understood remains somewhat of an exercise in futility (see here and here).
Even those reporting a hit-and-run at 120th and S. Figueroa just this past weekend still seemed to be struggling to strike the right tone when they began by announcing that the slain man, 47-year-old Von Dedric Miles, “has an arrest record, but…is clearly the victim in this case.”
That approach is likely due to the attitude of many, including some of those in law enforcement, that pedestrians and cyclists are a nuisance to drivers. Read more…