Don’t take it lying down

The recent trio of cyclist deaths here in Palos Verdes has another angle, in addition to the lackadaisical police response as compared to how they deal with property crimes and crimes such as Driving While Black, Driving While Latino, and Driving While Poor. This other angle is the angle of cyclist inaction.

Since John Bacon’s death, numerous cyclists have reported that they too were buzzed and harassed by a vehicle similar to the one in the surveillance video. At least one other person confirmed that the driver was a big white dude, matching the APB description. None of these cyclists, after being assaulted, took the step of filing a police report. In one instance it was because the driver sped away before the rider could get his license plate, and although the PVE cops came they refused to report the incident because the cyclist didn’t have a license plate.

[Note #1: The police aren’t required to have a license plate to make a report. Note #2: Why haven’t the police followed up with every single person who has reported being buzzed by a similar vehicle? All it would take is a post on Facebag, a couple of phone calls to a couple of local cycling clubs, or even reaching out to a certain South Bay cycling blogger, to get that information. Note #3: This slackness is another example of the PVE PD’s casual approach to this case, rather than active, aggressive detective work.]

The other cyclists who have been assaulted by the white pickup driver never called the police. The reasons are myriad, but they typically boil down to this: Stopping your ride, calling the cops, and insisting that a report be made ruins your whole ride; in some cases your whole day. Most people ride by “snatching” a bit of free time in their busy day to go out and pedal. If they knew they would be spending the balance of the day at the police station, few would do it. In fact, when people are riding before work or before they have to be home to take kids to school, they simply can’t afford to stop–or so they think. And when they think about the hassle involved and the fact that the cager who assaulted them didn’t hurt or kill them, they get on with the ride and maybe talk about it over coffee or on a Facebook post.

This failure on the part of cyclists to report assault with a deadly weapon means that people like the mystery white pickup driver, who may or may not be the person the PVE cops have now identified as a “person of interest,” know that they can go about their deadly ways with impunity. In fact, the most famous case of cager-rager Dr. Thompson intentionally hitting a cyclist, in which the cager lost his doctor’s license and went to prison, only came to pass because of a previous incident in which a rider had reported the doctor’s assault on him. No charges were filed in that earlier case but a record existed, and this record resulted in the Thompson’s prison sentence.

Many have written or facebooked asking what can be done. The short answer is, “Take the time to report every single instance of assault, and especially every instance of battery.” No assault with a deadly weapon is minor, and people who do it once are the most likely people to do it again.

To give you an idea of what a buzzkill it is to report a crime, consider this:

A local 17-year-old was returning from the Telo training crit two weeks ago Tuesday, riding in the bike lane. An angry driver began honking and screaming at him. Of course there was a passenger and a child in the back seat because, role model. The cyclist tried to find out what the problem was, when the cager said he would get out and beat him up. The rider, a small high school student who is hardly a cage fighter, pulled over as he was afraid he was going to be run over, and the passenger jumped out. The rider took pictures, but not before the passenger slapped him in the face (a battery), and the driver continued to scream and threaten him (an assault).

Then they drove away. All this because a kid was riding his bike. In the bike lane.

Shaken and terrified, this young man decided to do something about it. So my daughter, who is an attorney at my firm, went with him to the Torrance Police Department to make a report and have the police open an investigation. Despite the location of the incident being clearly within the Torrance PD’s jurisdiction, they were sent to Redondo Beach Police Department, where they were told to go back to Torrance. It’s called Complainant Ping-Pong and the object is to wear people out so they give up and go home.

At Torrance, they waited almost three hours for the police department to do its job, and the boy was questioned over and over again, ostensibly to “make sure” he had his story straight, but clearly in order to try and trip him up so that the police wouldn’t have to open a report. Then, when it became clear that the kid’s story was completely consistent, and he had photos of the perps, and the attorney wasn’t going to back down, they opened an inquiry but only as to battery. It took additional argument to get them to include the obvious charge of assault as well.

The entire process took four hours, and of course the only reason it happened at all is because the rider happened to be on a club that happened to have a lawyer sponsor who happened to have someone on his payroll who happened to be able to take half a day off work to go help a crime victim. You can imagine how the young man would have been treated had he shown up at Torrance PD on his own.

Yet now the people who committed the assault and battery are going to be investigated by the police, and since the rider took photos, they may also be charged with a crime–though it’s easy to imagine that they will fabricate a story defending or wholly denying their behavior. What they can’t expunge is that there is now a record of them and their vehicle. If they repeat their behavior, or run over and kill a cyclist, there will be a smoking gun pointing at their California driver licenses and vehicle registration.

What’s as important is that regardless of how the case turns out, these bastards will know that their actions have consequences. They will think twice before attacking a cyclist. They may even have to hire a lawyer and part with some cold, hard cash to avoid a criminal conviction. These are the kinds of consequences that can never happen unless cyclists are willing to sacrifice the day’s ride and peace of mind to do the right thing. Like it or not, it’s on us.

This type of reporting has a ripple effect. Police know that their time is going to be consumed if they don’t do a better job of policing cager criminals. Best of all, these reports show up in local, state, and national statistics. And although dead bodies don’t impress bureaucrats, numbers do.

I reflect on the times I’ve been assaulted and have caught up to the driver and exchanged heated words. Never again. From now on I’ll be taking photos and calling 911. I’ll also be upgrading my bike into a rolling video production machine with front and rear cameras. Ruin my day? Fine. But at least the fucker who tried to kill me won’t be ruining some innocent person’s life.

So to everyone who asks, “What can we do?” the answer is this: Report the crime. Because if you don’t, the next John Bacon may be you.



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41 thoughts on “Don’t take it lying down”

  1. As someone who is guilty as charged of not reporting someone actually for real trying to kill me…I promise I will.

  2. I’ll be running fore and aft GoPros as soon as I can swing it. And I’m writing letters to my elected representatives and the insurance commission about raising the legal insurance minimums to more closely match present real-world losses related to errant drivers. Sure wish I had maxed out my UIM coverage before, as opposed to after the fact. Since we live in “a nation of laws”, it’s past time we held drivers accountable for the damage potential that driving badly presents to others. And if that prices people off the road, I have no fucks left to give. More room for me and my bike.

  3. Seth, I hope this type of “standing up for yourself” behavior works. I have been hiding behind the ‘gotta get home’ excuse many times in all these years, The only problem I have now is the hit-and-run, which I have been a victim of twice, and it has cause me to, more or less, get off the road. When someone knocks you ass over teakettle and takes off…you can only hope that someone else saw the incident. As you know, I live in redneck country, and the roads are narrow, the dogs are vicious, the drunks are many, and hitting cyclists is almost a sport. When I used to ride up to LA, it was just insane….Jan is really down on the road cycling right now, so for me, only the moutain bike for a while.

  4. I was given two GoPros awhile ago, no instructions, I’ve no clue how to use them but I really want to. Any tutors out there?
    Thanks for always having the right information Seth, and always having our backs.
    A blog you did awhile ago about upping our insurance if drivers don’t have enough was excellent information. Jeanine changed ours that same day.

      1. I’m in. That’d be awesome…..if you’re serious I mean. Unless you really want to say, download the manual, dork. Which is an excellent point, but manuals and I really don’t like each other. They keep confusing me and they hate it when I throw them across the room. No love lost.

  5. The “sport” angle has one aspect which is or should be a great motivator for reporting incidents of harassment (or worse): most drivers are terrible drivers. They don’t know closing speeds, they don’t know how wide their vehicles are, and they just plain don’t have very good control of their vehicles in the first place. Witness “parallel parking fails” and other examples.
    The rider they shave too close and run over might be you.
    Or me, and put me on the list of bicyclists who need to do better about this stuff.

    1. “most drivers are terrible drivers. ”
      For sure.
      In PV , the minivan drivers are among the worse — they can’t drive in straight line or stay centered in the lane. I see them routinely ping-ponging between the left & right lane markings, awakened from their stupor only because the lanes might be marked with “bot dots”.
      IMNSHO the caucasian/white construction workers in their trucks, as a group, seem especially prone to belligerence & anger problems.
      By contrast, the numerous hispanic construction workers seem generally far more polite & respectful.

  6. I came across these (light & camera combo, both front and rear) a while ago – My birthday’s coming, so know what I’m asking for / getting.

      1. The URLs automatically put it in the review folder. It’s up now. Thank you!

  7. Concerning bike-mounted cameras, the Cycliq “Fly6” looks very intriguing. It is a compact combination of a very bright taillight plus video camera.
    6 hr battery life, and the video recording continuously “loops” . if you upgrade to a 32GB memory card, it probably would record a full 6 hr ride without “looping” and overwriting the memory. Easy to operate, just 2 buttons, for on/off and setting flasher mode.
    In-depth review here:
    Cycliq also makes a (pricey) combo headlight + camera, review here:
    These gadgets aren’t intended as a general purpose action cams, but seem more targeted at creating a continuous ride “diary”.

    1. They look slick. Even though not meant for capturing entire rides, I’m guessing that they would be perfect for commutes. I’m guessing most commutes are an hour or less, and those are the times when cyclists share the road with the most cars.

  8. The last time a motorist assaulted me I emailed the police within 24 hours and included a link to my helmet cam footage which I uploaded to Youtube for the purpose.

    I never got a response back, even after repeated emails over several months. I was using the email address provided on their website. My emails were clear and specific.

    I think my mistake was to assume the police station was operating in the 21st century and would check their email. Next time I’ll show up in person at the station.

    1. In person or it didn’t happen. Sometimes even in person it doesn’t. If you’re in LA call me and I will help. How long ago was it? You can probably still make the report.

  9. A month back we were able to get the p.d. To arrest a cager in Malaga that cut off a rider and jumped out of his car and threw punches, he enjoyed the eve of Easter sitting in a cell! Too much anger out there and for no reason..other than it slowed the driver down….

  10. I highly recommend the Cycliq front and rear Fly 12 and Fly 6. Hella easy to use right out of the box. It’s an added bonus that they’re also lights. (Safety first!). Thank you for your advocacy on keeping us alive. My personal mission is rolling up to texting drivers at stoplights and asking them politely not to do that because it kills people like me and my friends. I use to scream obscenities, but have come to find that people seem to be jolted into reality much easier by a polite, heartfelt plea. But the few cases where politeness doesn’t seem to have an impact, I still quickly resort to obscenities.

    1. I’m definitely an old-school obscenity tosser. Hard habit to break … but I’m getting better.

  11. Thanks for this post. We have these cager types in Canada too, believe it or not. Interestingly, I got a call last week from the police officer who attended the incident where a driver rear-ended me. (Told me that since that incident, he had been hit by a car while on his motorcycle, and has a whole bunch of issues)

    Anyway, the guy who hit me is disputing the ticket (think it was $300). The guy could have killed me and he’s fighting the ticket!! Of course, he’s forgetting that he told me right after the hit “oh, I’m so sorry, my brakes aren’t working properly.” When I mentioned this to the Officer, he says “Yeah, that’s a new car”

    I know FAR too many friends who have been hit by cars. All are experienced and mature cyclists.

  12. Pingback: Morning Links: Blatant anti-bike bias from the director of the LAPD police union; LAX cyclist gets jet washed |

    1. $500,000 minimum. $1 million if your carrier offers it. If you have Mercury or a carrier that limits your coverage to $250,000, change carriers. I use Tokio Fire Insurance and Marine. Very reasonable and great coverage.

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