Saturday, October 17, 2009

Teaching Lessons on Mandeville Canyon

July 4, 2008. 2 experienced cyclists are riding down a narrow canyon road, enjoying their reward for a hard climb, the long downhill back. The road they're traveling on has 2 lanes, one in either direction. It's a narrow, winding road that meanders through a neighborhood of homes nestled in a steep canyon, whose walls form a tight V. Wealthy Angelenos, doctors, lawyers, titans of business all call this canyon their home. At some points the lane is no more than 12 feet wide, which classifies it as "sub-standard."

Back to our cyclists. They were enjoying the long descent, riding side by side, at a brisk pace of 30 miles an hour, exceeding the speed limit. Their ears pickup the sound of a car approaching from behind. A long, sustained honk signals the aggression and anger of the operator, a man who they later find out is a physician. Before this man was allowed to practice medicine, he swore an oath that's over 25 centuries old, written by Hippocrates. In it, it says "Primum non nocere," latin for "First, do no harm."

As a courtesy, the cyclists fall into single file to allow the car to pass. This is just a courtesy, as the width of the road, the speed limit (which they were meeting and exceeding), the constant turns are all conditions that make it unnecessary and too dangerous to allow 2 vehicles to share a single lane. Legally, cyclists are allowed to "take the lane" and travel using the entire lane in this instance (CVC 21202(a)). Cyclists routinely offer car drivers this courtesy, and car drivers routinely drive well into the oncoming lane to give a wide berth to the cyclists they are passing.

The doctor passed the cyclists and slammed on his brakes directly in front of them, intentionally using his car as a weapon, sending one rider into the back window of his car and catapulting the other clear over the car onto the pavement in front. The doctor, one Christopher Thomas Thompson, later told a police officer that he stopped his car in front of the cyclists to "teach them a lesson."

I guess Thompson forgot the lesson and oath he took long ago, Primum non nocere. Hopefully our justice system will teach him a lesson as well.

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