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.

  • rhode bloch

    here here!

    whats incredible is the short sightedness of this attitude that a driver is being inconvenienced by a cyclist at all. ONE freeking trip to the Netherlands instantly clears up all doubts that the more people choose to commute by bicycle the LESS traffic jams are an issue. A recent trip to the Netherlands reaffirmed this fact. Downtown Amsterdam has streets filled with bicycle riders – sexy healthy ones at that – and not a peep of traffic jams…. better yet? in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of people moving from A to B one could hear people talking in the streets. You practically have to shout to be heard on the busiest streets in Los Angeles due to the noise pollution factor of so many cars. In other words, the quality of life is far greater in so many aspects when people use bicycles, mass transit, and simply walk to their destination rather than mill about in a traffic jam of giant loud road hogging automobiles.

    Experience freedom. Ride a bicycle.

  • robert

    It’s not even a couple minutes of inconvenience… Maybe over the course of a month, but it costs less than a few seconds each time you wait for cyclists at an intersection or to switch lanes and pass.

  • Jose

    Let’s put up speed bumps where the accident happened!

  • joe

    Listening to the radio yesterday I heard several Mandiville residents complain that the road in question was far to dangerous with its curves and blind sections for cyclists. I think this is a good reason for the city to lower the posted speedlimits, Enforce speedlimits with speed traps (for both cyclists and Cars) and install speed bumps. It is the only way to be sure that the people that use that road are truly safe from the unpredictable nature of that street. If its that unsafe for cyclists, what about pedestrians?

  • Gary Kavanagh

    Apart from some extraordinarily steep hills, think going down something like Fargo with turns in it, I cannot think of a road being inherently too dangerous for cycling (assuming a decent level of riding experience and good bike in working order with duel brakes). The presence of reckless drivers is what makes roads dangerous. People who say a road is too dangerous for cycling are almost always A) people over the age of 30 who have hadn’t ridden a bicycle since they were a teenager and B) people who don’t believe bicycles belong on the road period, and want them out of their way so they can go about their flying over the speed limit.

    The gps cycle computers the cyclists were using confirmed their speed was just under the posted limit. People who say cyclists are the danger and in the way must be oblivious to that little dial with numbers on it in their dashboard.

  • Slee

    So now there is 1 down out of how many psychotic drivers out there?

    Thankfully, the incredible majority of drivers are courteous. It’s still doggone scary to think about.

  • Diana Moore

    Perhaps if the cyclists were more considerate about taking the entire lane, be more polite, and not blow through the stop signs on Mandeville then the motorists would be more considerate. I have lived on Mandeville for more than 30 years and I can count on one hand how many times I have seen a bicyclist stop at one of the four stop signs… They don’t even slow down, just blow through them! Also it seems as if they intentionally spook horses being ridden or walked down Mandeville… I got seriously injured along with my horse when a bicyclist came right up my horses tail with maybe 6″ to spare between my horse and the cyclist! He saw my horse slip and fall landing on me and didn’t even bother to stop! He looked back and actually smiled! Thousands of dollars in medical and vet bills later, I was left with a horse that could no longer compete at the level we were at prior to the fall… This dropped the value of my horse tens of thousands of dollars! I think Mandeville should be a no bicycles allowed street!

  • Diana Moore

    There are stop signs that the cyclists ignore!

  • Niall Huffman

    1) Riding in the center of the lane is often necessary for safety. You need a wider clearance when going around curves, for example — and even on straight roads, the lane is often simply too narrow to share side-by-side with a car safely. It’s not inconsiderate to take the space you need to be safe. 2) The fact that some people who ride bikes are inconsiderate does not make it OK for sociopaths like Thompson to threaten, endanger and assault other human beings with their cars. Everyone needs to take responsibility for behaving in a safe and courteous manner, regardless of whatever wrongs they perceive others to be committing.

    It’s regrettable what happened to you while you were riding your horse. The guy who buzzed you was a fool and a jerk. The rest of us who ride bikes don’t deserve to be punished for his sins, however. It’s useless to conceptualize the issue of road safety in terms of a tribal mentality (drivers vs. bicyclists) — we’re all our own individuals, and we’re each individually responsible for our own behavior. Collective punishments like banning all bikes from Mandeville would be unjust and unnecessary; we’ll all get along fine if we pay attention, follow the rules, and exercise a little patience and compassion. To the extent possible, we should try to enforce the law, provide education, etc. that fosters better behavior while still allowing users of various modes to coexist on the public roads that we all pay for.


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