With Thompson Behind Bars, What’s Next for “Street Justice” in Los Angeles

11_3_09_ct.jpgThis Los Angeles Times photo of Thompson being cuffed is being widely syndicated.

Yesterday, cyclists concerned with the safety on their streets got a boost.  For many of us who have been harassed or threatened by uncaring and dangerous motorists, it was a relief to see that the system is capable of convicting one of the more outwardly-psychotic drivers out there.

But while the streets are safer without Dr. Thompson behind the wheel, they’re far from safe.  Stephen Box noted in an article last month that Thompson’s trial is far from the only one worth watching, and Box’s article only touched on deaths involving cyclists.  There are dozens of other cases involving assaults on law-abiding pedestrians for every bike-related case.  Even with these cases moving, it’s still more common for police to throw up their hands and say they can’t do anything unless they witnessed the crash.  Or in some cases, they write a report without even looking at the physical evidence blaming the cyclist.

So even if these other court cases turn out well, there’s still some education of law enforcement that is needed.

The other people that still need to be educated are the general public.  Scroll through any discussion of Christopher Thompson’s assault on cyclists and you’ll see a "blame the victim mentality."  They deserved it for shouting at the driver.  They deserved it for riding abreast.  They deserved it for being on a street built for cars.  These are all messages you’ll read, even here, from Thompson’s defenders.  That it’s not illegal to shout, ride two abreast, take the lane or "bike on a street built for cars," doesn’t seem to matter to these car-culture warriors.  All that matters is the couple of minutes of inconvenience these drivers have to suffer because of the cycling scourge.

Of course, this also needs to change.

So while we can relax a little that the deranged doctor is sitting behind bars, at least for now; there’s still a lot of work to be done to educate law enforcement and drivers alike as to our rights and responsibilities on the road.  Yesterday was a good day, and not just because of the verdict. Tomorrow it’s back to work.

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