(Alex Thompson speaking before the crowd)
The justice system is failing us, and we went out to the courthouse to make some noise about it. It's not just about this case with Loius, it's about the fact that it could happen to anyone of us. You can learn everything there is to know about safe defensive bicycling, but an intoxicated driver can come by and take you out regardless, that goes if your a cyclist, a driver, a pedestrian. Some people do not deserve to be behind the wheel, and yet are allowed to go right back to driving. I wrote recently about some of my thoughts on road justice, and it's clear something has to be done about this issue.
(Cyclists painted them selves with fake blood to call attention to our vulnerability, and that it could have been anyone of us)
Though most drivers kill and maim without the intent to do so, the fact of the matter is reckless drivers kill far more people than murderers with guns and knives. Whether someone is injured or killed by a driver or caught in gang violence cross fire, the outcome is needless dead youth all the same, automobile collisions rank first in cause of death of those under the age of 30. Most of these people are themselves drivers, this is not just a cyclist issue, this is an everyone issue. I think cyclists are just more tuned to these dangers, because we don't have the illusion of safety a metal cage provides. It should not be considered acceptable for us to lose 40,000 Americans every year on the road as collateral damage just getting from point A to point B.
(Roadblock of Midnight Ridazz, himself a victim of hit and run. Fortunately despite being hit directly from behind at speed, only suffered minor injuries. Unfortunately for Louis, his injuries are not so easily recovered from.)
One of the serious deficiencies in our system that was a major point of contention by many cyclists was the fact that violations for hit and run are so low, lower than penalties usually given for DUI, that drivers are given an incentive to flee. They might get caught anyways, but if they are sober by the time they are caught, DUI charges can't be made. In most cases the driver is never caught at all. When drivers do caught, they are often not prosecuted. As in this case even if prosecuted, a driver is sometimes not sufficiently punished for the damage they have caused. Our hit and run laws are really written for automobile to automobile collisions, which can sometimes be minor bumper to bumper incidents, but cyclists and pedestrians don't have bumpers, any collision is serious and potentially physically harmful.
One of the reasons cited for not perusing a driving suspension, was so Mahdavi could get to work. I'm sorry but if one cannot drive responsibly, than they can ride a bike to work, or if they aren't ready for life in the street outside a metal and glass bubble, they can take the bus. People joke about LA being a car only town, but the reality is the Metro system in LA is one of the most extensive networks of buses and light rail in the country, this is not some middle of nowhere town with few options. All the many people living in Los Angeles that cannot even afford to drive, they can still get to work. That is no excuse. If people want to the privilege to drive to work, they should learn how to drive without killing and maiming people in the process.
One of the most powerful aspects to this event was that after the opening speakers, the mic was left open for all cyclists to come and tell their own stories, points of views, and proposed solutions to these issues. Changing this kind of stuff is not going to be easy, but the more motivated people we have taking up the cause, the better our chance of really making a difference.
Bikeside is proposing a campaign Life Before License to take up the issue to the state level, and press for legislative change. I plan to support and be involved in this campaign how ever best I can help. I'll write up more when the effort begins to take more shape.
My complete set of photos from the event can be found on flickr. In addition to the event today, there are plans to bring Los Angeles Critical Mass to Beverly Hills this Friday over this issue as well. Also for any cyclists who happen to be residents of Beverly Hills, judge Elden S. Fox, who gave the ruling in this case, is up for re-election this year. Giving him the boot would certainly send a clear message how people feel about these kind of rulings.