Just passing this on...
I'm sorry this is long but I ensure your it's very important. Please forward this to the other local clubs and/or friends who cycle.
I just got home from the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department. I met with the captain of the department, Mark Velez and one officer (last name Ghazarian), about the incident with the green Prius on Paseo del Mar.
For those of you who were not there and didn't hear what happened, after turning onto Paseo del Mar, a driver in a Prius speed around us honking his horn, swerved in front of the pack and slammed on the brakes. He accelerated away from us then slammed on the brakes again. He stopped farther up the road then jumped out of his car as we passed, almost hitting people with his door. As we passed him, he was screaming profanities, calling us all ***** and telling us to get off the road. G3 and I stayed behind to phone the police and report the incident. I informed him we were phoning the police and had taken down his license plate and he told us he didn't care and to go ahead and call them; that they are all his friends and they wouldn't do anything about it. He also told me that I'd "better get my skinny ass on my bike and start pedaling or he'd thump me." I actually took this as more of a compliment since I've been trying to slim down.
Captain Velez is also professor at USC and I took his class in 2006. Eric Bruins, one of my teammates was there on Saturday and is currently in his class. He told him about what happened and Capt. Velez told him to have me file a report at the station. I met with him today for about an hour and explained to him what happened. We filled out an incident report and detectives will be following up with the driver of the Prius. They will take his statement then contact me and tell me my options, if any. Based on my description of the incident, since nobody was injured in any way, they can't pursue it as a criminal charge. It is being treated as an infraction and he might only receive a warning and a slap on the wrist.
While I spoke to Capt. Velez and Officer Ghazarian, I tried to explain to them that we are aware that there are times on our rides cars are unable to pass us and that we've appreciated the way the officers on duty have been handling the situation by following us, asking us to move over, then escorting vehicles past us. I told them this is the kind of support that will make it safer for us on the roads and will help alleviate some of the congestion our ride causes on the narrower PV roads. Capt. Velez seemed to not care about us blocking the road as much and said he didn't understand why people were always in such a hurry and couldn't just wait an extra minute to get around us. Officer Ghazarian was of the differing opinion that we should follow the vehicle code, regardless. They looked up the vehicle code on bicycles during our meeting and came to an agreement that we can ride more then single file, ie 2x2 or 3x3, so long as it doesn't impede the flow of traffic in any way. As soon as it does, we need to move over.
The PVE PD is having a meeting tomorrow to discuss cyclists in the area, but not about any of these issues specifically. The main issue on the table is whether they will be spending money on share the road signs. I told him while the share the road signs are nice, they don't do much to alleviate any of the bigger issues since most cars don't even follow the speed limit signs. He completely agreed.
He told me about how many complaints they get from drivers about us running stop signs/lights or blocking the road and gave the obvious impression that drivers are taking more action to get us off the road then we are to stay on the road. This is something that needs to change and is one of the main reasons why I took the time to follow up on this incident. Too many times things like this go unreported and often times it's the cyclist who gets cited for doing something stupid (throwing waters bottles, kicking doors, etc.) in retaliation to the driver's who endanger their life. We've all heard stories like this, example: A cyclist has garbage thrown at them so they throw a water bottle at the car and the driver calls the police. The cyclists gets cited for throwing an object at a moving vehicle. I told him I want the statistics to reflect that we aren't the only problem on the road, and that we are frequently assaulted by angry drivers or drivers who don't want us on the road at all. Their recommendations were as follows:
Immediately call the police. DO NOT call 911. They transfer you to the CHP who will take to long to get to the scene. Instead, get the driver's plate number and call the Palos Verdes Estates PD Dispatch. Their number is: (310) 378-4211. They will send an officer to the scene to take a report and try to deal with it immediately.
DO NOT RETALIATE in any way or try to talk to the person. They told me I was wrong to talk to the guy when he was stopped in the road. More for safety reasons; not knowing if he had a weapon...stuff like that.
Don't cry wolf. They asked that we be careful to report actual offenses and not every little thing that happens.
They told me what all of us already know, if we follow the vehicle code, and don't block travel lanes when we're going slower then the speed limit, and move over to make room when people are shouting "car back," then incidents of road rage like this will happen less frequently. I told them we're aware of this and are trying to be better about it but it's hard to keep 150+ people under control on narrow roads.
On a personal note, I'm glad nobody didn't anything to retaliate, like kick the guys door, but I'm really disappointed that only 2 of the 150 or so people riding that day stopped to report it. When somebody does something that egregious, I would expect everyone stop and file a report. I'm not asking people to stay behind and kick the person's ass, because that's foolish. I just expect more people to want to do something about it when their lives are placed in danger. I've been hearing a lot more chatter on the group rides about needing to report more incidents but when the time to act came, everyone went on with their ride.
I don't want to see anyone hurt or killed because they ran a stop sign or moved out into the street because they wanted to move up to the front. You hear about terrible accidents like what just happened in Cupertino and realize how easy it is for us to lose our lives on the road. In that instance, there was nothing they could do to help themselves, but not for us. We can take action and fight for our right to safely ride the roads. If we take the time to report these incidents without retaliating, the city officials will realize the problem is on both ends and things will start to improve. None of us want our family members to receive a phone call that we were injured or killed so I urge all of you to make the effort to be safer on the roads and not stand by idly and hope things improve on their own.
USC School of Architecture