Support Our Police?

CBS-8, and so far only CBS-8, reported yesterday on a bicyclist who was the victim of both a hit and run crime and of the typical coward inept behavior of “America’s finest” police. The crime(s) were captured on a surveillance video camera belonging to Streetcar Merchants of Fried Chicken which is located on the NW corner of Lincoln Ave and 30th in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego.

It’s best to watch the entire video over on CBS-8 but below I’ll try to explain it as well.

The criminal was stopped, most likely waiting for a red light to change, while going Southbound on 30th. The victim was bicycling on the sidewalk* going eastbound on Lincoln and was struck when he entered the intersection. It’s possible, and this is my speculation, that the criminal saw the light change to green and proceeded to enter the intersection without looking as is common among motorists. One of the fundamental skills of driving, be that a motor vehicle or a bicycle is that you are to confirm an intersection is clear of traffic AND pedestrians before entering. Green does not mean “go!”

The criminal collided with the victim while turning right onto Lincoln however he (or she) then proceeds to continue without stopping. The bicyclist is dragged along Lincoln for approximately 40 feet according to the news story before being left for dead. The criminal does not stop or get exit the vehicle as a normal civilized human would do. A Good Samaritan, either an employee or patron of Streetcar Merchants, jumps over the tables and out toward the victim.

The victim is left in the center turn lane but rolls up and into the opposing lane. He’s very lucky that no traffic in this lane hit him again. This type of situation where a collision with a car throws the bicyclist into another lane is precisely why being hit by an opening car door while riding in the door zone is so hazardous and this is precisely why any city that installs hazardous door zone bike lanes is endorsing an unethical deathtrap. Tomorrow I’ll post another couple of photos of yet another brand new hazardous door zone bike lane the city installed.

But anyways….

Behind the criminal, at an unknown distance in this video is a San Diego Police Department cruiser traveling the same direction. The driver of this vehicle also turned right. According to the news story, the police saw the collision, or at least the injured victim. The driver stopped the vehicle, got out of the car and walked over to the victim. From here we see no more of the footage but instead listen to witnesses of the crime.

The news story reports that San Diego Police did stop but did not arrest or charge the criminal, hence my labeling of them as cowards. The only reason this is even news at all is probably due to this fact and due to the surveillance video that was given to the news agency.

Ironically, the last sentence of the news article instructs readers who know of any additional information to contact the police should they have anything to say. Yeah right, as if the police will do anything.

The news story reports the victim is okay and suffered minor injuries and I wish him a speedy recovery. Unfortunately he is not only a victim of the criminal hit and run but he’s also a victim of the inept San Diego Police Department and their lackluster but typical “not give a crap” about bicyclists. Maybe the police will, public pressure, have a “come to Jesus moment,” and start taking this seriously. Charge the criminal and use the video along with the witnesses. This is an open and shut case.

*Side note: It’s vital to explain that bicycling on the sidewalk, especially in the way the victim did, is extremely dangerous. California law even allows local governments to prohibit bicycle riding on sidewalks and the City of San Diego has such a prohibition in commercial/business zones. I’m not sure if this area prohibit sidewalk riding or has any “No Bicycling on Sidewalk” signs like other areas do. Regardless of the bicyclist’s actions, he did not deserve to be the victim of a hit and run crime nor did he deserve to be the victim of incompetence by SDPD. The best place for a bicyclist to ride on these roads is in the center of the travel lane, going the same direction as traffic in that lane. Because on-street parking is permitted in this area, and due to the presence of alleys, driveways, and intersections, it’s best for the bicyclist to ride well out into the lane to avoid the numerous collision risks which include being doored. Seeing as how the city of San Diego is installing more and more hazardous door zone bike lanes, I wouldn’t be surprised they tried to squeeze one here someday. There is no room in this road’s current configuration for any kind of bicycle-specific infrastructure as well. 

Generally, I have a pretty neutral opinion about cops. They aren’t “pigs” but nor are they to be placed on pedestals as heroes. Cops are humans, they make mistakes, some are corrupt, most are not. Some departments have severe internal issues but others do not. Their jobs have long hours with high amounts of stress and they are not paid enough for what they do. While they’re technically public employees who work for us, we should always treat them with professionalism and expect the same back. The relationship should always be cooperative. SDPD, despite presumably the many good qualities I want to assume they have, have some severe issues with traffic primarily bicycling issues. Unfortunately, due to the number of bad experiences with SDPD concerning traffic safety issues, I presume they are guilty of being incompetent or not giving a damn unless proven otherwise. I still approach them and treat them with professionalism and courtesy though. My language and attitude here is very different from my actual interactions with them.

Go grab a cup of coffee because the rest of this post is long.

Because operating a motor vehicle seems to be a God-given right here in the US, and especially here in California, bad actors get away with endangering other road users with near impunity. I’ve tried to work with SDPD to report numerous issues and the majority are handled poorly. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the three times I’ve been been a victim of assault with a deadly weapon by reckless motorists who have an issue with my legal right to ride my bicycle on the road. They (SDPD) have also failed to take reports or enforce other more minor issues but these are not in the scope of this post. These incidences I’m discussing are by criminals used their vehicles as weapons and in a manor that could have caused significant injury or death. If a cop had their lives threatened in this way they’d probably shoot and kill the criminal in defense.

The first incident, which was reported somewhat successfully to SDPD (i,e, the officer replied indicating she’d send out additional patrols to the area) occurred when I was riding on a two lane road with unsharable width lanes. A motorist, an older white man in a white Prius passed me within less than one foot of clearance within the lane. He, who I will now refer to as the criminal, then turned into an RV park where he lived, and I as well turned into the RV park where I captured photos of him and of his car. I informed the criminal that he passed too closely and after initially denying the incident be bickered about why I didn’t use the non-existent bike lane and that bicyclists don’t obey traffic laws. I indicated to him that per the presence of the sharrows, and the width of the lane, that I had a right to use the center of the lane. The criminal then told me that’s what we “crazy -ass bikers” deserve. I’ve not seen this criminal on this roadway since then but he did at the time live in the RV park on Santa Fe Street in San Diego. His plate number is CA 91888GDP and it has a handicap symbol on it. I tried to find my photos and video of the confrontation as I did upload them to Closecalldatabase but I do not see them. SDPD should have done their jobs by contacting me to make a report and they should have followed up. This is what real police departments do.

The second incident happened a few months later, on the same road riding in the center of the lane. A criminal sub-human piece of garbage came up from behind (most change lanes to pass without a fuss and in other instances when it’s safe for me I can practice control and release) and attempted to ram me off the road. He was driving a white Toyota pickup truck sadly with a children’s bicycle in the back. Luckily I had my phone in the jersey pocket and was able to capture a few shots of the plates. I reported this via a 911 call which I recall as being quite uneventful. By this time, I was aware, that victims of these crimes, especially bicyclists, needed to write and submit reports to the police department in jurisdiction. Since the concept of sending an officer out to the seen of the crime or even to my home to collect information is something SDPD mostly refuses to do, the process of this report must be done. Following the direction of Seth Davidson, a cyclist and lawyer, who writes a blog called Cycling in the South Bay wrote a series of posts on how victims best report these crimes to police. I followed the procedure and the next day attempted to file the report downtown. The police station was closed and I had to wait until the middle of the next week to do this. The officer seemed perplexed I was reporting a felony assault with a deadly weapon which is a crime (unlike most vehicle code infractions) does not need to be witnessed by a police officer. He took the report, asked me several questions including whether I was obeying traffic law (yes I was, and had to explain the concept of lane control and the legalities behind it) and he said there wasn’t anything he could do. He also claimed there were two sides to the story which is certainly true but never indicated whether he or SDPD would try to get that other side of the story. He also insisted there wasn’t much to do since law enforcement need to witness these kinds of crimes. I kindly reminded him that this was not a traffic infraction but instead a felony where my life was threatened. To his credit, he did understand lane control and that bicyclists have a right to use the full lane.

In the meantime, while reporting this to a few local cycling forums, we began to draw the conclusion the criminal may have been an employee for one of the contractors for the SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) transit project located parallel to the roadway. I attempted to contact SANDAG hoping they would do the right thing and ask around, even if it was just for a witness, and got a reply as well as a phone call saying they’d follow up but they never contacted me after that. Again, SDPD should have done their jobs by contacting me to make a report and they should have followed up. This is what real police departments do. SANDAG also failed to keep up to their end of the bargain.

This is the primary reason I invested several hundred dollars in a front and rear camera system to record my rides. Since I ride primarily alone, there are no witnesses other than myself. I know that if I am involved in a collision, and I’m not alive or I’m injured past the point of being able to remember the incident, I’ll be unable to tell my side of the story and chances are I’ll be blamed in any crash anyways. While bicyclists are at-fault or at least contribute part of fault in many collisions, the ones who are not are often blamed either by biased cops, fibbing motorists telling an inaccurate story, or the crash investigation police simply do not know how to properly analyze a crash involving a bicycle. Unfortunately, many of these collisions are hit and runs too. When I ride, I ensure my bicycle is equipped with reflectors and two sets of front and rear lights to go above the minimum legal requirements. I also typically wear high visibility clothing and I obey the rules of the road including obeying stop signs and traffic lights. My ride videos prove this and serve as an insurance policy.

My front facing camera recorded the third incident. Unfortunately my rear camera’s battery was dead at this point. I was riding on the same exact stretch of road, but this time with heavier daytime traffic. I practiced control and release when it was safe but moved back out to control the lane when I was coming up onto a narrow bridge followed by a blind corner and a section of the road with parked cars. The, or as I should say, another criminal pulled out from a driveway in a black pickup and began to tailgate me and honk his horn. He wanted me to move over in a non-shareable lane and allow him to pass inside this lane while there was oncoming traffic. It was not safe nor appropriate to release control of the lane. He did pass after the bridge, in the adjacent lane, then hit his brakes in an attempt to cause a collision. At this time I still controlling the lane to avoid potential hazards with opening car doors. A few hundred feet up we both stopped where one lane of travel was closed and traffic control was setup for the nearby construction. I pulled up beside the criminal and he attempted to swing at me and he threatened to “kick my ass.” It’s hard to hear on the video exactly what he said (either “I’m gonna f-ing kick your ass” or ‘I oughta kick your f-ing ass”) but it’s obvious to anybody with a pulse that this is a felony criminal threat. The construction worker conducting the traffic control saw and heard the incident but was laughing as if it was some kind of joke. He let us through and the criminal sped off.

When I got home about ten minutes later, I called 911 only to have extreme resistance from the operator. The operator insisted this incident wasn’t an emergency (previous SDPD officers advised me to always call 911 after these incidents) and that I need to call the non-emergency line. The non-emergency line often has hours long wait times and there’s no way to navigate the frustrating phone menu to find an option to talk to a human. I called 911 back insisting they do their job, they eventually patched me to an SDPD officer in the neighborhood. The officer on the phone insisted this was nothing of importance and even got stuck on what exactly the criminal threatened. He oddly, and incorrectly believed, that it was the criminal’s first amendment right to make such speech. When I kept insisting he or someone come see the footage, which is what professional and real cops do, he asked for my address.

When the officer arrived, I invited he and his partner into my home. I explained that I was very frustrated with the lackluster past performance of SDPD on both these issues and other varying quality of life issues they seem to not care to address which are outside the scope of this post. He did agree after seeing the video that the actions were dangerous and asked that I email the file to him but he never agreed the crime was of felony level. He asked several questions about why I was riding the way I did and I explained both the laws to him and showed him infographics from I Am Traffic. He gave me his email address and I explained to him the video’s file size would be too large to email. Instead I emailed him a link to a Google Drive folder and I also attached a written report along with a copy of the previously mentioned infographic. I’ve never heard anything since. No reply, no receipt, nada.

I did contact SANDBAG, I mean SANDAG again, calling them out for not following up on the last incident. The email was also forwarded to several news media organizations (who didn’t do anything, except Ted over at Biking in LA) and to almost any SANDAG email address I could find online. They did finally reply (and call me) and looked into the issues and determined the criminal in the black pickup indeed did work as a contractor for the project. He was supposedly contacted. I also asked about the dingbat traffic control employee who laughed at the crime as if it was a joke but never heard back. The correct action, aside from the police charging the motorist, would have been to fire both employees. There are plenty of real human beings who would be deserving of these jobs.

I should note that a Strava user on one of the local groups commented saying he’d experienced issues with a motorist driving a vehicle with the same description as the criminal in the black pickup. I forwarded this to SDPD and encouraged the victim to report the crime as well.

I’m not the only victim of these types of crimes in California nor am I not the only victim of police incompetence. Here law enforcement have been presented with video evidence of crimes committed against other cyclists but refuse to investigate or press charges. Both the websites Cyclist Video Evidence and 3 Foot Cycling chronicle the struggle for law enforcement to grow a pair and start charging criminals who endanger bicyclists. The website Close Call Database is a log of crimes and close calls all around the world many of which are on the same street where my three incidences occurred. I’ve written to and tried to contact SDPD, my City Council representative, and to the Chief of SDPD, who is supposedly an avid road cyclist requesting all parties look into safety issues on our roadways. No replies or even receipts have been received. As far as I’m concerned I’m being ignored and so is anybody else concerned about safety on the city’s roadways. If these incidences were handed to the District Attorney, they’d probably agree there’s solid evidence and necessity to prosecute the crime but we need the police to bring the cases to them.

I ride thousands of miles on these roads per year, and fortunately these criminals are extremely rare. Riding a bicycle on the road isn’t inherently dangerous and bicyclists can do a lot themselves to reduce risk. Even if SDPD and government (local and state, along with the DMV) don’t give a crap, fortunately 99.99 percent of motorists and other people we share the roads with give us no problems. This is even with “biking in the middle of the road lane” or known correctly as “controlling the lane,” which seems to be concept many people, even most cyclists, do not understand. The criminals who endanger the lives of others should not be allowed the privilege to operate a motor vehicle ever again though. Especially those who commit hit and run crimes.

While issues are rare, we need our law enforcement and government to step up to the plate and serve the public when these issues do arise and SDPD especially blatantly fails at that.

Cyclists who are victims of crimes need to step up to the plate too and report these issues too. Witnesses and/or video are better but even if none is available, law enforcement should be informed. Most departments, yes even SDPD, do want to hear from the public and they do want us to come forward and report crimes.  Victims should also report these incidents to Close Call Database and blast local cycling forums as well as social media.  Perhaps with this effort, the police will get a clue and start treating us like they’re supposed to.

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