Before bike video cameras and dumb phones and such, I used to practice memorizing license plates of passing cars. You never knew when some cager would buzz you or hit you and if you couldn’t identify the car the police wouldn’t do anything.
I always had a chip on my shoulder about law enforcement that didn’t care about cyclists, a chip that grew with each passing stop-sign-blowing citation. As a buddy mused the other day, and I agreed, “You know, I can’t work up outrage anymore at senseless cager killings.” He was referring to the gal who was looking for her mascara and swerved onto the shoulder, killing a cyclist, then overcorrecting into oncoming traffic and killing a motorcyclist.
Thankfully, though, she wasn’t charged or even taken in for questioning. Ventura County law enforcement is understanding like that.
My pal and I agreed that the constant stream of killings, buzzings, screamings, harassings, abusings, and throwings has made us numb. Another one bites the dust? That’s what you get for riding a bicycle, you were warned. Warned, for example, by entities like the Boston Globe, which ran a nice editorial about how bicycling is dangerous so get off the fuggin’ street.
Closer to home, The Daily Breeze champions the cause of repressed and downtrodden cagers in the South Bay.
On my afternoon pedal along PV Drive West today I heard the catcall behind me followed by the deep hum of fat tires. PV High School had just released its Adderall-addled spoiled children from their playpen, and what could be more fun than hauling your brand new Jeep Wrangler stuffed with two friends within a foot of a grumpy old fart and pelting him with a sandwich?
I swung over after forcing my middle finger back into position and dialed 911. The PVPD dispatcher took my information. “What kind of car was it?”
“2014 or 2015 Jeep Wrangler, black.”
“Did you get the license plate?”
“In fact I did. 7LBC437.”
She was kind of surprised. “And you’re on a bike?”
“I’ll send a car out. Stay there.”
“But … ”
So I stayed. The cops arrived, and one of them was the same officer who had pulled me over and ticketed me the month before. He smiled when he saw me. They took my statement and then their radios beeped. “Just a second,” said one. He listened, then looked up at me. “Well, we’ve apprehended them. Do you want to press charges?”
“We’ll need you to come make a field identification. They’re just up the road.”
“Great,” I said, but in reality I thought, “FUCKING AWESOME! THIS NEVER HAPPENS!”
Things soon got complicated, though. I had ID’d three boys, but in fact the driver was a boy and the thrower was a girl. They grilled me about whether I could identify her. “No,” I admitted. “I thought they were all guys. Plus, I was so busy not crashing and memorizing the license plate and model of the car … ”
The cops nodded sympathetically. Later, another cop came, this time the head supervisor. He was direct. “If he tried to hit you with his car it’s assault with a deadly weapon. You want to press charges?”
“Yes,” I said.
He was all business and had exactly zero sympathy for these rich little brats. “Okay. Let’s go do a field ID.”
“Just a sec,” I said. “I didn’t get hit. I don’t want these kids to go to jail.” I thought about my own youth, the felonies I’d committed, the people who had given me a second chance (or third, or fourth), and about how different my life would be if I’d started out life with a felony conviction.
“So you don’t think he intended to hit you?”
“If he’d intended to hit me I’d be dead now.”
“What was he doing, then?”
“He was trying to get close enough so that his girlfriend could whack me with some ham and mustard.”
“That sounds like reckless driving to me.”
“Officer,” I said, “maybe pressing charges and dragging this kid’s sorry ass through the courts will change him. But what I’d really rather have happen is that, while he’s in your custody, he comes to appreciate the seriousness of what he’s done.”
“The girls are in tears and he practically is, too. We’ve got him in our database and we’re making a report and will refer it to the city attorney, who can file charges if she wants to. I think he’s terrified.”
“I’d like to let it go, then.”
The officer nodded. “Okay.”
“And one other thing.”
“Your guys popped me for running a stop sign the other day and it always seems like you take bicycle stop sign violations more seriously than motorists trying to kill cyclists.”
“And your presence and actions today have convinced me I’m wrong. Thanks for chasing those kids down.”
“It’s our job.”
“I know,” I said. “And thank you for doing it.”
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