Justice served, but time for a change – Reaction to the LA Road Rage case

While I understand there are complexities and that cyclists are concerned that the LA Road Rage conviction will create a greater chasm between cyclists and motorists sharing the road amiably, I find this a fairly simple matter.  Honestly, I’ve been surprised that for all the “throw the book at him” rage that was expressed from day 1, now that the verdict has come down many cyclists and industry figures have backed down using a conciliatory tone.  As cyclists, all of us had bad dealings with motorists, some worse than others.  This case seemed to be one where motorists would realize what you can and cannot do to somebody at your mercy.  That’s right…as cyclists, we’re at the whim of those behind the wheel who don’t understand what it’s like to be sitting on that saddle, pedaling along hoping for a safe journey or good workout.  Just as Christopher Thompson did, if they want to use their vehicle as a weapon, they can.

My reaction to the verdict of the “LA Road Rage” case, which found  Christopher Thomas Thompson, guilty of six felonies and a misdemeanor and sentenced to 5 years in prison, is very simple.  Take the man out of the car.  Put him on the edge of the same street with an aluminum baseball bat in his hand.  Recognize that he has had past run-ins with cyclists and doesn’t care for them.  Instead of hitting the brakes, picture him swinging the bat with bad intentions at these cyclists as they came down the hill. In either case, he took a metal object and used it as a potentially deadly weapon.  He deserves his punishment.

I feel fortunate in my rural Minnesota setting.  I have literally hundreds of miles of quality pavement that on many rides, I typically see 5-10 cars per hour once I get past the edge of town.  Almost all the drivers get far into the left lane, slow down a little and give me plenty of room.  Those that are driving the opposite direction generally wave and smile.  Most days, I worry about farm dogs with bad intentions more than I do motorists.

But, I’ve spent my time in urban areas on the bike.  I know it’s dangerous and an adversarial relationship exists.  Realize these same motorists have issues with almost all the other motorists in addition to the cyclists.  They’re angry because they’re behind schedule, their significant other didn’t take out the trash, the dog peed on the carpet and their kid just told them they got their pot from raiding their parents’ stash.  Until city governments understand that bicycles need to be an integral part of their effective, long term transportation plan and create adequate, safe lanes and paths to accommodate the growing number of bicyclists in urban areas who are in tune with ecology, economy and personal well-being, the problem will continue.  Until driver’s education, driver’s testing and public information improves on educating motorists on the rights of cyclists, the mindset won’t change.

In the end, this an unfortunate incident. Justice was properly served.  It’s time to start thinking about how to change it.


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