The slaughter of five cyclists by speeding, erratic, and possibly impaired pickup driver Charles Pickett, Jr. in Kalamazoo made international news. For anyone who cycles in Los Angeles, the thought of getting killed by a car is a regular part of the pre-ride routine.
- Air the tires.
- Fill the water bottle.
- Switch on the lights.
- Hope you don’t get killed.
Two days after the massacre a ride of silence was held for the victims. It was massive, as this video shows. And for many it was moving. It got posted and re-posted on Facegag, where people saw themselves in place of the victims and got chills. Coulda been you, coulda been me.
I wasn’t moved by the ride of silence. I didn’t feel sadness and I certainly didn’t get goosebumps. What I got was angry. And who was I angry at?
Not at psychopath Pickett. Even if he were drunk or even if he intentionally murdered his victims I wouldn’t be angry at him. He and the psychopaths like him are part of my daily cycling existence and my law practice. They aren’t worth my anger, they aren’t worth ruining my day or especially my ride. I note their existence, give brief thanks that they missed, and continue on. If they’re a defendant, I sue them, and if I can ever get this POS Cycliq Fly12 to work, I’ll report every single case of assault I can record. But they are not worth anger.
Moreover, Pickett has been apprehended, and more incredibly charged with five counts of murder, a trick that the Palos Verdes police can’t manage even with video evidence and at least one hot lead. In the Kalamazoo case, justice will do whatever justice does, and as we know from the the arc of the process here in Los Angeles, it rarely amounts to anything at all. Ask Milt Olin’s family.
You ride, psychopath or inattentive schmo kills you, police shrug, and the moral of the story is that it sucks to be you, dead dude. You should have played golf.
Nope, I was angry at the majority of the people on the ride of silence, and even angrier at the people who named it “Ride of Silence.” The problem isn’t the psychopaths and the drunks, it’s the silence of all the cyclists that enables them. It’s the thousands of people across this country who mournfully get on their bikes and go pedal for a fallen friend and then return to life as usual, never writing an enraged letter to their elected officials, never showing up to demand change at the local level, never even bothering to report the vehicular assaults committed against THEM.
Over the past weeks I’ve tried to encourage people to report the violent crimes committed against them by providing an actual template they can use to file with the police, and several actually have. But many who have been assaulted, either out of fear or apathy or selfishness or all three, have simply gone on about their business, in silence of course. This is not merely silence, it’s killing silence, because until society hears our voices we will continue to be maimed and slaughtered.
At the PV traffic safety committee meeting this month a tiny handful showed up to voice their anger at the murder of John Bacon and the questionable deaths of two other cyclists here in the South Bay. What would that meeting have been like with a hundred raging voices? I’m pretty sure the committee chair wouldn’t have told us to “Back off!” which is how he dealt with one of the speakers.
The same people who are too busy to stop a ride and call the cops, or too busy to leave work early, ditch their family, or drive an extra hour in traffic to raise hell and demand change from the only people who can move the system are the same ones who join sad memorial rides for the dead.
In silence, of course.
I hate to tell you, but your sad silence isn’t bringing anyone back, it isn’t stopping one single psychopath from repeating the crime, and it isn’t changing one damned thing.
The sight of thousands of cyclists who are sad enough to mourn the dead but too fucking lazy to file a police report or attend a city council meeting or write a letter makes me angry.
I hope like hell it makes you angry, too.
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