Brentwood, CA. 2008.
One morning a physician leaves his home in Mandeville Canyon, just as usual. At the same time, a dedicated group of bicyclists is completing their weekly ride which snakes past his house. They know each other already. They’ll get to know each other better. Or worse.
The riders’ gradual hill climb is a five mile time trial of sorts that reveals an hierarchy of fitness as the peloton of maybe fifty stretches and separates into small packs pedaling for between fifteen and thirty minutes. (FWIW, my times were a little better than 18 minutes. Not fast. Not slow.) The subsequent descent, depending on skill and derring do takes only a fraction of the uphill time. The cyclists rarely dip below the posted 25 mph limit, and many ride over 40mph.
Still, that’s too slow. For most– driving to work, dropping their kids at school, meeting their trainer at the gym, or what-have-you– customary automobile pace down this idyllic two lane road, with arching trees, pasture land and kids playing in yards is 40 to 50mph.
Most days cyclists and cars cooperate well enough. Some days individuals from one group or the other have been known to get a little testy. Today, hell breaks loose.
The doctor takes exception to the riders in his way. In anger, he curses them, speeds past, then swerves in front of a few and stomps his brakes. Crash!
One cyclist was flung face-first into the rear window of [the doctor’s] red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and cutting his face. The other cyclist slammed into the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder. — LA Times, January 8th, 2010
A police officer told jurors that shortly after the crash [the doctor] said he slammed on his brakes in front of the riders to “teach them a lesson.” — LA Times, January 8th, 2010
Yes — whether criminally or negligently– too many drivers are a danger to themselves and others, and cyclists are always vulnerable. But let me make clear that, having ridden with this group of cyclists myself, some arrogantly ride area roads with outrightly hostile traffic manners.
That’s right, cyclists aren’t all innocent, law-abiding victims. I fully understand drivers’ frustrations. Nonetheless, a car is no less intimidating nor any less lethal than a gun. But, cars themselves don’t cause accidents. And of course no reasonable person, not even an injured cyclist, would even think of putting a car on trial. Even as auto accidents kill over 45,000 Americans each year. Even as auto accidents are the leading cause of death of children, aged 10 to 19! That’s because to a rational mind, cars aren’t the problem.
Rather, a jury would convict this physician of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon (his car), battery with serious injury, and reckless driving causing injury. He would be sentenced to five years in prison. Why? For allowing his emotions to dictate his actions.