Dear District Attorney Stone,
I have been a daily cyclist in LA County for more than 15 years, using my bike as my primary means of transportation. As a result, I have experienced many instances of either reckless or malicious behavior by drivers on our streets and highways. Teenagers “having fun” and people out to “teach me a lesson”, no doubt. These are very serious offenses, which needlessly endanger me, and infringe upon my right to use our publicly funded infrastructure in a healthy, economical, fiscally responsible and environmentally friendly manner.
The case of Dr. Thompson is an extreme one, and I believe that he deserves the harshest penalty under the law for his violent act, which might well have ended the lives of one or more cyclists in Mandeville Canyon. However, he is only one person, and there are many lesser and some greater offenses committed against cyclists in LA County every month, which go largely unnoticed by the media or law enforcement, or if noticed, are dealt with in a manner which does not appropriately apportion responsibility. Drivers wield hundreds of times more power, in the literal sense, with their vehicles than cyclists do, and travel at much higher speeds, with much greater energies. They have the ability to cause much more harm than cyclists. This should result in greater responsibility. “I didn’t see him”, as drivers often say after an accident involving a cyclist, is not a valid excuse; it is evidence of their dereliction of this responsibility, a responsibility that all road users have to be aware of their surroundings, and the potential consequences of their actions.
More than any particular sentence for Dr. Thompson, I would like to urge you to take less spectacularly reckless behavior by drivers more seriously. For instance, driving while using a mobile phone, while now illegal, is not being aggressively ticketed, despite being an impairment on par with driving while under the influence of alcohol. Drivers who do not take their responsibilities seriously, or worse, who use the power their wield with their vehicles as a means of intimidation against other more vulnerable road users, should have their drivers licenses revoked for a long period of time. They need to be taken off the road. Losing your license is often seen as an extreme punishment, because we have built our city, and more broadly our society, so entirely around the idea that everyone will own and drive a car on a daily basis. But driving is not necessary, even in LA, as I can attest having never owned a car here, and I do not believe we should confer the right to operate a motor vehicle on every citizen when they turn 16. It should be a privilege that is earned and maintained through consistently responsible actions.
Thank you for your time and attention,
One thought on “Regarding the Sentencing of Dr. Christopher Thompson”
I support cycling – always have. But this comment is innane: “‘I didn’t see him’, as drivers often say after an accident involving a cyclist, is not a valid excuse; it is evidence of their dereliction of this responsibility, a responsibility that all road users have to be aware of their surroundings, and the potential consequences of their actions.”
Far too often, I’ve witnessed self-righteous cyclists “claim their equality on the road” by riding with indifference to whether their movements are anticipated/seen by drivers. The fact is this: cars constitute the vast majority of road traffic, and as a result a drivers’ eye is conditioned to seeing larger obstacles. The onus is on cyclists – the equal minority – to do anything and everything certain to make sure they are as visible as possible… and to ride with excessive caution. The law may not require this, but common sense does. I’m sorry, in my experience LA cyclists are far too arrogant on this issue.