Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We've All Learned a Lesson Here

Dr. Thompson is cuffed after the guilty verdict. Photo: LA Times

Reading the verdict yesterday in the LA road rage trial of Dr. Thompson, I found myself getting all teary eyed. Not because I was upset, but because for any cyclist who has been hit by a car, or witnessed a cohort being hit by a car, or who has had close calls with angry drivers, the guilty verdict in this case is a long overdue breath of relief.

Car vs. bike encounters rarely go well for the cyclist. Even when the fault lies with the driver, oftentimes charges are not filed against them and they walk without a real form of punishment. Not so in the case of Dr. Thompson.

Dr. Thompson is a former ER physician who lives on a mountain road popular with cyclists. After numerous altercations with cyclists, one day he’d apparently had enough and took his frustration out on Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr. While descending the mountain road side by side on July 4th, 2008, Dr. Thompson drove up behind them, honked, pulled up beside them, exchanged words and hand gestures with the cyclists and then sped up, pulled in front of them and slammed on his brakes. Stoehr slammed into the back of the car and flew over it, landing in front of the car in the oncoming lane. Peterson went through the rear window face first, nearly taking his nose off his face. did a stellar job covering every minute of this trial. I suggest you read some of the details because the Prosecutor, Mary Stone, was phenomenal in her cross examination of Dr. Thompson and in her Closing Statements as is proven by the fact that the Doc was found guilty on all 6 counts against him: 2 counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and reckless driving, along with mayhem and a misdemeanor reckless driving stemming from a separate yet very similar incident on a different day with different cyclists that did not result in bodily injury.

Although I’m glad to see the cyclists get their justice, I feel sad for all involved when the rage between cyclists and motorists reaches this point. All of their lives have been affected tremendously. The doc is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison, which he won’t get, but it’s largely accepted that he will do jail time and lose his medical license.

I try to be a courteous cyclist when out on the road. I am not one of the antagonists. Having said that, though, I’ve still had close calls and seen stupid moves by drivers that send me into a moment of rage; curse words flying along with the middle finger as I watch my life flash before me. But, right here, right now, I’m gonna make a promise to my fellow cyclists and motorists – I’m going to do my best to make sure I’m sharing the road to the best of my ability both when I’m on my bike and in my car. I will try very hard to keep my rage in check because, really, what gets solved a “Fuck You” and the finger? Nothing. It just increases the rage. Just look at this case. Could these incidents have been avoided if there had been more understanding on both parts? Probably.
There’s no reason to be the asshole whether you’re the asshole on the bike or the asshole in the car.

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