July 4th’s 300 person Holiday Ride ended badly for the 2 cyclists taken out by a road ragin’ motorist who objected to their presence on Mandeville Canyon and cut them off, slamming on his brakes and causing one cyclist to careen through the air crashing to the road in front of the car while the other cyclist crashed into the car putting his head through the back window.
Within hours of the incident, the cycling community had mobilized and rumors were chased down and the cyclists were located. (They had been transported to two different hospitals) Press access to the Police and Fire Departments was used to confirm information on the incident and the status of the driver, the cyclists and the investigation.
Press contacts were made but it was a holiday weekend. Fireworks were exploding in the air, gas prices hit a high and the death toll on our roads included a fiery crash, all stories that captured the headlines.
Through it all, a small crew of cyclists put their viral marketing skills to work, employing the same techniques and relationships and strategies that are used to promote rides, turn out the masses for “Storm the Bastille” political actions or put the spotlight on the all too frequent injustices and inequities that are part of the landscape of LA’s urban environment.
On Monday Morning, the story hit LAist complete with pictures supplied by the downed cyclists. As the City slowly returned to work, emails were waiting and the phones were ringing.
The Police Department at this point had only confirmed that there would be an investigation and that Westside Traffic would handle it if it was determined to be a traffic violation and that WestLA would handle it if it was determined to be a criminal case. This was hardly the resolve that the cyclists were looking for.
By noon, the LAist article was getting sent around the City. Calls were in to Council offices and the Mayor’s office and by midafternoon the incident was back in the spotlight.
News Crews were clamoring to get the pictures, the contact info for the cyclists, background on cycling in LA and were on the street in Mandeville talking to the neighbors.
Councilmember Rosendahl’s office jumped into the fray and his Chief of Staff began posting online, informing the public that the Council Office was monitoring the situation and would keep the public informed.
Captain Eaton of WestLA went public saying that he believed the incident was a case of road rage and that an arrest had been made and that it was being handled as a criminal assault.
The cyclists continued, calling and emailing and pushing the story. By Monday evening local TV stations were elbowing each other out of the way to interview the cyclists. The story went on the air on Channel 4, Channel 7 and Channel 9.
The original LAist story was picked up by SoCalCycling, StreetsBlog, the LAtimes’ Bottleneck Blog, the LATimes’ LANow and other blogs and now included additional photos of the aftermath of the accident including a graphic image of the Red Infinity with the broken back window and Ron Peterson’s blood all over the trunk.
LAist shut down the comment section of the article after readers repeatedly posted the motorist’s personal information. There was concern that such postings might serve as the catalyst for “vigilante” behavior.
By Tuesday morning the LATimes was fully in the mix and the investigation continued, the details of the story were enhanced as witnesses were located and what could have been simply another tragic road rage incident had now blown up and demanded attention.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl was interviewed on Channel 7 and refers to the need for the “Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.”
The LATimes story hits in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. It mentions Bill Rosendahl and concludes with him quoting from the BWC’s Cyclists’ Bill of Rights saying “Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.”
This incident is far from resolved. For the cyclists, the physical therapy and healing will take a long time. For the motorist, the legal situation looks to be a long and difficult journey.
For the cycling community, this incident has served to reinforce the fact that this is a movement, complete with a message, a network and an informal machine that is ready to spring into action with press, publicists, legal assistance, political heat and mainstream access to the media.
Here are the links to various posts on-line:
KFI 640: Doctor Allegedly Caused Bike Wreck
LAist: Road Rage Motorist vs. Cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road (also posted on www.carsversusbikes.wordpress.com)
LA Times Bottleneck: LAPD arrests motorist after bike crash
Daily Breeze: Doctor allegedly rams car into cyclists
KTLA: Cops: E.R. Doc Rams Cyclists in Road Rage Attack
Outdoor Urbanite: Bikers Beware on Mandeville Canyon Road
Ridiculously Persnickety: Doctor intentionally assaults cyclists with car
Derkeiler.com: ER Doc Arrested in Road Rage – Caused 2 Cyclists to Crash
Bentrider Forum: Road Rage Against L.A. Cyclists
See you on the Streets!