November 03, 2009

Doctor Who Struck Cyclists Guilty in LA Road Rage Trial: "In the July 4 incident, the two cyclists hit the rear of Thompson's car; one slammed through the rear window, the other catapulted over the car into the road. In the earlier incident, the cyclists said they narrowly avoided hitting the rear of Thompson's car."

posted by apoch to other at 04:41 AM - 29 comments

There is a sidebar with articles that covered testimony during the trial.

posted by apoch at 04:42 AM on November 03, 2009

I wouldn't mind seeing this guy go to prison, but I'd rather see his driving privileges suspended for life.

posted by rocketman at 09:29 AM on November 03, 2009

He's extremely fortunate that nobody was killed with that stunt. You'd think an ER doc would have more sense, but some people just flip a switch in their cars and become raging maniacs.

posted by rcade at 09:47 AM on November 03, 2009

I know that sometimes cyclists can be a pain in the ass, the roads around here a littered with them the batter part of the year. Like drivers, some are polite and some are inconsiderate asshats, but Jesus, man, get a grip. You can't kill someone to make your point.

posted by tahoemoj at 10:06 AM on November 03, 2009

Yeah, the doctor is an idiot.

As an aside am I the only one who read the headline and pictured the good (bad) doctor in his TARDIS?

posted by THX-1138 at 10:57 AM on November 03, 2009

Okay, so here's the part where I make people hate me.

Thompson deserves to be punished for this. Given that he told a traffic investigator that he "wanted to them a lesson," there's not much question of intent.

But if you read more of the testimony, you also find that Thompson says bicyclists taking up much of the road he lives on was a frequent occurrence. He also says the three riders in this instance were riding three-wide and when he honked and told them to ride single-file, they flipped him off and said, "Fuck you, asshole."

Of course, you also find Thompson has apparently been involved in other incidents, which leads me to believe this was intentional and deserves punishment.

The four-lane road I drive to get to my store in the morning is a popular one for cyclists, sometimes singles, sometimes large packs of 20 or more. At least half the time they are riding out across the slow lane and into the passing lane, or sometimes even in the turn lane up the middle of the road.

I couldn't count the number of times cyclists have veered into my path, cut in front of me to make a turn or flipped me off as I passed. I've never honked, never swerved my car toward them, never done anything threatening -- and yet I'm the bad guy.

I feel badly for the cyclists hurt in this incident. But I also recognize that they are experienced riders who should know that the law seems to generally be two abreast is the widest you can go. Given that they decided a nice middle finger and insults were the best way to handle someone pointing out that they needed to share the road, it doesn't surprise me in the least this happened.

In fact, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:11 AM on November 03, 2009

You can't try to kill people that fail to follow the rules of the road. And, the riders claimed they were two abreast, he wanted them to be single file.

posted by bperk at 11:36 AM on November 03, 2009

Well, I don't know the road he was on, but maybe two abreast was inappropriate. I was intimating at something like fraze; in Reno, where we have bike lanes on virtually every main street, the cyclists still choose to ride two and three abreast in traffic. I've had similar experiences of being flipped off or told to fuck off when I honk. The difference between civilized human beings and criminals is how you handle the situation. You can't attempt to kill or maim someone just because they're inconsiderate (unfortunately).

posted by tahoemoj at 11:57 AM on November 03, 2009

As my name suggests, I am a cyclist, so you may consider me biased on this subject. I'd hope that majority of public recognizes that the events Dr. Thompson instigated involved intentional assault.

I'll be first to admit some cyclists act like jerks and cause antagonism between drivers and anyone on a bicycle by their actions. On the other hand, drivers regularly pull bonehead moves as well. I've been involved in two accidents with cars in last 3 years - both times because a car pulled out in front of me in broad daylight, leaving me no option but to T bone them. I was fortunate in that I wasn't seriously injured either time.

I understand the frustration some cyclists cause drivers, after all, I'm a driver too. But I also recognize that anyone on a bicycle is much more vulnerable in any encounter with a car, so I take that into consideration whenever passing cyclists in my car and also when I'm out riding my bike. The law may say I'm entitled to ride two abreast on my bicycle, but an SUV outweighs me by at least 3000 lbs. So I try to be aware of my surroundings and take appropriate precautions, whether I'm riding my bike or driving my car.

Bottom line is that person on a bike that just aggravated you probably has a family at home. They may have inconvenienced you and may be a jerk - that doesn't mean they deserve to be intimidated or seriously injured. If you observe a cyclist breaking the law, try to get the police involved. Don't take matters into your own hands! And if you are a cyclist, obey traffic laws for God's sake. You're going to lose any battle you pick even with the smallest compact car on the road.

posted by BikeNut at 12:01 PM on November 03, 2009

BikeNut, that was extremely well said.

I'm certainly not advocating the injury of cyclists. I even used to take my big butt on the occasional ride, and I saw my fair share of morons behind the wheel.

But the cyclists I see on the news in Toronto talking about bike/car incidents don't seem to want to shoulder the blame for the number of riders who ignore traffic signals, weave in and out of traffic and generally ignore the laws which they seem to want to protect them from vehicles.

It reminds me of the lawyer joke -- the crooked lawyers are ruining the good names of the 1% who are honest. Until cyclist-rights advocacy groups do more to police the idiots in their own houses, I don't see the issue gaining much traction with those of us behind the wheel.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:59 PM on November 03, 2009

But the cyclists I see on the news in Toronto talking about bike/car incidents don't seem to want to shoulder the blame for the number of riders who ignore traffic signals, weave in and out of traffic and generally ignore the laws which they seem to want to protect them from vehicles.

As a non-cyclist driver, I don't want to shoulder any blame for all the morons driving cars either. A lot of drivers, especially in this area (DC), don't believe that bicyclists even belong on the road.

posted by bperk at 02:30 PM on November 03, 2009

As a cyclist in L.A. I've followed the case with some interest. Here's the L.A. Times article.

This wasn't the first time he's tried this:

But prosecutors alleged Thompson had a history of run-ins with bike riders, including a similar episode four months before the 2008 incident, when two cyclists told police that the doctor tried to run them off the road and braked hard in front of them. Neither of the riders was injured.

And, at the end of the day, this is nothing more than a road rage incident:

Prosecutors alleged that Thompson stopped his car after passing the two cyclists and shouting at them to ride single file. The cyclists testified that they began maneuvering to ride one after the other when they noticed Thompson's car approaching fast behind them but that the driver passed dangerously close before abruptly stopping.

Ron Peterson, a coach for USC's and UCLA's cycling team, was flung face-first into the rear windshield of the doctor's red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and lacerating his face. Christian Stoehr, the other cyclist, hurtled to the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.

A police officer testified that Thompson told him soon after the accident that the cyclists had cursed at him and flipped him off, so he slammed on his brakes "to teach them a lesson."

The road where this happened, Mandeville Canyon, is an extremely wealthy, exclusive area. I have no doubt the cops would be more than happy to respond to complaints from residents about cyclists.

As a non-cyclist driver, I don't want to shoulder any blame for all the morons driving cars either.

Exactly. Just as there are good cyclists and bad cyclists, there are good drivers and bad drivers (And none of the good drivers live in L.A.).

Every time I've ridden my bike in L.A. some moron driver has done something to put me at risk. It's much more ignorance than maliciousness but cyclists certainly do not have a monopoly on moving violations.

And in L.A., bicycle lanes are few and far between so a cyclist rides at his own peril, usually sandwiched between parked cars and cars doing 50 MPH in a 30 zone.

I'm all for everyone following the traffic laws, drivers and cyclists alike.

posted by cjets at 03:16 PM on November 03, 2009

Maybe the bicyclists were Daleks?

posted by THX-1138 at 03:55 PM on November 03, 2009

I think that there is also a great degree of ignorance in general on both sides as to what the traffic laws are that govern bicycles, not a few of which may have changed over the last twenty years. For instance, when my kids were little, we were required to get off and walk the bike across an intersection.

And bicyclists who either assume that drivers know these laws or seek to force the drivers to comply can find themselves dead right. Not to generalize, but bikers also seem to treat pedestrians the way some drivers treat bikers. I have had too many narrow escapes from bikers whizzing by on paths, trails, or even sidewalks. And bikers, just shouting "on your left" or "on your right" as you approach a pedestrian at five times their speed doesn't absolve you of responsibility if that pedestrian doesn't comply. Not every pedestrian knows or understands what those statements mean, and don't always have the time to respond.

I think a little common sense and courtesy on everyone's part would result in a much better experience for everyone.

posted by irunfromclones at 04:03 PM on November 03, 2009

How far the Timelords have fallen.

posted by Drood at 04:36 PM on November 03, 2009

I live along a road that is used heavily by both commuters and cyclists, and I use that road for both purposes myself. As a motorist I get annoyed like anyone else when cyclists are disrespectful or disobey traffic laws; and as a cyclist I cannot believe the audacity with which some poeple operate a motor vehicle. It is pretty obvious that they don't give a damn about anyone else around them as long as they get where they are going on time.

What it ultimately comes down to is that the Dr was a loose nut and should be locked up for his actions. He has the right to be pissed at ignorant or disrespectful cyclists, but he does not have the right to assualt them with his car.

posted by Tigginator at 04:46 PM on November 03, 2009

Well, there aren't any bicycles on Gallifrey. I can understand their impatience with such a linear form of transportation.

posted by THX-1138 at 04:53 PM on November 03, 2009

The bike vs. car wars are on here in Toronto. Lots'of bikes now in a city not really designed for it so the conflict is real and a number of bikers seem to be killed every year.

This has led to a community of ornery bikers who really do have a chip on their shoulder and have shown themselves to be as much a danger to pedestrians as drivers. The burden of safety for all involved seems to now be the sole responsibility of drivers since the bike community won't admit any fault. I was hit by a cyclist while crossing the street a month or so ago and the guy went nuts on me - forgetting of course that I was crossing with the light, while he was just blowing through it.

I don't have a car or a bike. I use the subway and walk. I hope they get more bike lanes soon, because I can't stand either of the two groups when using their respective vehicles.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:45 PM on November 03, 2009

I was hit by a cyclist while crossing the street a month or so ago and the guy went nuts on me

Did you get his license number?? Oh wait, bikes don't have to have licenses. I guess a description of a dude in spandex and a weird helmet might work if it didn't fit a lot of people these days and not all of them on bikes.

posted by irunfromclones at 06:52 PM on November 03, 2009

a dude in spandex and a weird helmet might work if it didn't fit a lot of people these days and not all of them on bikes.

Hey IRFC, what I choose to wear to church is my own damn business.

the helmet is to keep the lightning bolts off my head

posted by tahoemoj at 11:52 PM on November 03, 2009

That's the key though, IRFC. Cyclists have neither plates nor insurance. A friend of mine was driving and was hit by a cyclist breaking a signal. The back side window was smashed, the cyclist admited all responsibility, gave her a fake name and number and disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. Being in control of any kind of vehicle seems to enrage even the calmest people. To quote Dylan Moran:

"If somebody blocks you when you're walking, you're positively Edwardian in your manners. You do this sheepish little smile together. And you step aside. You both do it at the same time and you go 'Oh for goodness sake, what a to-do! Ha ha ha. Dear me... I'll just... I'll jus... OH we did it again, do you believe it? I can't believe it. We should be on the stage! One more time, I'll just.... OH how did we ever get this far as a species?' But, for some reason, in a car, that becomes 'YOU SPUNK BUCKET!' from, you know, an 89 year-old church warden." [4:30 in the clip linked]

posted by JJ at 06:27 AM on November 04, 2009

An old biker told me back in my riding days: "Always ride like every car is out to kill you and always figure they don't see you." A good rule of thumb for anyone on two wheels, I think.

This doctor sounds like he just doesn't want cyclists on HIS road.

And I have to agree with the comments that there are assclowns on both sides of the issue.

posted by steelergirl at 10:26 AM on November 04, 2009

Some drivers have this false belief that cyclists have absolutely no right to the road. It comes from a lack of driver education, is exaggerated with less experience among cyclists, and is supported by a generally poor infrastructure that all but ignores the fact that cyclists not only can but will utilize the roads. Even if these drivers are in the minority, the fact that so many do believe it and tend to be vocal about it can leave cyclists with a palpable feeling of being under constant attack. Even a simple honk of the horn can be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as a signal that the driver wants you off HIS road, to paraphrase steelergirl. It is mostly in response to this, I believe, that so many cyclists feel that the rules of traffic do not apply to them, because hell, it's war out there and the other guys have the weapons.

I guess I would urge the reasonable majority of drivers among us to consider what cyclists face when they encounter those less-reasonable drivers. Consider that cyclists get honks (and worse) even when they are doing everything right.

And fraze, I humbly submit that if you frequently get middle fingers, then you are in fact causing cyclists to feel threatened.

posted by cl at 04:39 PM on November 04, 2009

Hey IRFC, what I choose to wear to church is my own damn business.

I just knew I was going to offend someone from the Our Lady of Spandex Cathedral with that comment. And what are the odds that they would also be a member of the Weird Helmet Missionary Position committee?

posted by irunfromclones at 06:19 PM on November 04, 2009

You ought to see my synagogue tights. Hot pink and covered top to bottom in obscure logos.

posted by tahoemoj at 12:27 AM on November 05, 2009

Hot pink and covered top to bottom in obscure logos.

I find that oddly auto-erotic.

posted by irunfromclones at 04:23 AM on November 05, 2009

VeloNews has an Explainer article that covers some of the legal issues in the trial.

posted by apoch at 08:56 AM on November 05, 2009

And fraze, I humbly submit that if you frequently get middle fingers, then you are in fact causing cyclists to feel threatened.

They should feel threatened -- not by me, but by the two-ton missile I'm driving legally and safely.

And I'd humbly submit that you have no idea what you're talking about. As I described, I'm talking about cyclists riding in a pack on a four-lane road with an extra turn lane in the middle, and they are spread out into the passing lane and sometimes riding up the middle in the turn lane.

As Weedy said, it seems as if the cyclists have a hard-on for anyone driving a car, recklessly or not, and are courting confrontation. It's much worse in the GTA than here because it's much more open in my area, but it's still noticeable.

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:22 AM on November 05, 2009

But THX (was it a coincidence I fat-fingered that as THC first?), timelords can regenerate a dozen times--at least--so you'd expect him to be a bit cooler.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:02 PM on November 05, 2009

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