L.A. Doc Takes Out Road Rage on Cyclists, Injuring Two

la_doc_car.jpg

Via Streetsblog LA, a story of motorist anger run amok this past holiday weekend:

A motor vehicle driver, outraged that he was being asked to Share the Road, sped past some cyclists and slammed on his brakes; using his car as a weapon to critically injure the cyclists.  Ron Peterson had no time to swerve and ended up with his face slamming into the car’s rear windshield.  The other cyclist, Christian Stoehr, had more time to maneuver and escaped with an assortment of cuts and bruises.  Both cyclists are accomplished racers who know how to safely maneuver on the road.

When a third cyclist attempted to stop the doctor from leaving the scene the driver laid into him with curse words and threatened to drive over his bike.

The LAPD arrested and charged Dr. Christopher Thompson who was released on $30,000 bail.  No trial date has been set, but the Chief of Staff for Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the councilman in the area where the crash took place, assured LAist readers that, "The investigation will be handled by [West Los Angeles division] Detectives, who are seeking a criminal filing. When LAPD updates us on the progress, I will be sure to share that information here."

Images of the crash’s aftermath (caution: fairly graphic) after the jump.

laist_2.jpg

laist_3.jpg

Images: LAist

  • It’s horrifying to see such a vivid example of uncontrollable anger put behind a steering wheel, turning it into a vehicle of injury and death. Anyone who deliberately uses their car to injure and kill others because they have been “inconvenienced” should have their license revoked permanently (as well as suffer other penalties).

  • Sam

    Having just been hit by a car in a WTF moment – aka turning across a lane of traffic and ‘not seeing’ my bicycling self – I can honestly say fuck this guy. If he is a Dr. he should lose his license on top of going to jail. Oh, and the cyclists should sue his ass (I’m pretty sure they will).

  • Amen, Sam! It’s a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

  • Question for readers with law degrees: I wonder if the law against leaving the scene of an “accident” can be invoked here? Can someone be charged for leaving the scene of an assault, in addition to charges relating directly to the assault?

  • brent

    Had the driver stayed on the scene he would have been highly commended for doing the right thing after his murderous assault!

  • Max Rockatansky

    I think he’s going to be facing much more serious charges than fleeing the scene of a crime. Aggravated assault perhaps?

    From a LA Defense Lawyer’s website – Assault with a Deadly Weapon: using a weapon (other than a firearm) of any kind by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI). Can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction for this offense may be considered a ‘Strike” under the California Three Strikes Law. Use of a car as a deadly weapon could mean lifetime revocation of your California Driver’s License.

  • LAist provides the following useful piece of information: “There are other Dr. Christopher Thompsons in the Los Angeles area who work in medicine and unfortunatley some are being wrongly threatened.”

  • m-o

    Hippocratic oath?… hypocrite oaf.

  • tani p.

    This guy is screwed. Assault with a deadly weapon and fleeing the scene of an accident.

  • Scott

    LAist provides some information about a city councilman there taking up a “Cyclist’s Bill of Rights”… http://www.illuminatela.com/images/Cyclists_Bill_of_Rights.pdf

    It would be nice to see something like that here. This incident is truly appalling, and the perpetrator should be stripped of his medical and drivers’ licenses for life, as he is clearly unqualified to hold either.

  • This story has become major news out here picking up full stories in the LA Times and the local NBC and CBS affiliates. The doc is lawyered up and claimin he’s misunderstood, but I’ve read eyewitness accounts from several cyclists and they all say the same thing.

    The Dr. actually stayed on the scene, a third cyclist sat on his hood while the LAPD came and actually took care of business.

    As for the Cyclists Bill of Rights, it’s being promoted by a group of cyclist/writers called the Bike Writer’s Collective (note, they were formed before I was writing Streetsblog and I am not a member). They are getting as many Neighborhood Councils to support it as possible as a show of the disconnect between the politicians and the people that live in the community when it comes to cycling in LA. Two down, and they’re going to a third one tomorrow.

    Ironically, of the three times they’ve presented it publicly, twice members were harassed by cops for no good reason on their way home from the meeting.

  • jimjr

    If bicyclists want to claim they have the right to ride in the street provided they keep up with the speed limit, as provided to them in the vehicle code, I would suggest that they also must leave adequate room to stop from whatever vehicle is on the road in front of them. I would love to see the look on Peterson’s face when told he is at fault and to pay for damages to the car he hit

  • Scott

    Jimjr, are you out of your mind? The accounts of the assault clearly indicate it was a “swoop-and-squat” collision.

    It’s quite difficult to leave adequate trailing room when a car swerves in front of you and slams on the brakes.

  • Stu

    Jimjr is just a gloating little prick doing his own little swoop and squat to try to piss off Streetsblog readers. Best just to ignore him.

  • “If bicyclists want to claim they have the right to ride in the street provided they keep up with the speed limit”…

    A speed limit controls the maximum allowable speed, not the minimum. Any vehicle on the road may travel below the speed limit unless otherwise stated (i.e., if there’s a minimum speed limit posted).

  • From other accounts of the incident the cyclists were doing or exce4eding the posted speed limit, which kind of negates the “Do the Limit” cranio-rectally impaired motorists imaginary requirements…

    Read my blog, lots more in there (or you could just go to the LA Times version of the story).

  • CycleGuy

    I am a longtime cyclist and what I do not understand is why groups take over the road rather than keep a single file draft line. Don’t get me wrong what this driver did is horrible. I just wish cyclist would do their part to give us a better rep.

  • CycleGuy, why is it acceptable for motorists to take over the road but bicyclists have to ride in single file? I haven’t seen any legal requirement requiring multiple cyclists to ride in single file.

  • Dave

    Urbanis:
    Your thoughts about speed limits are ridiculous. In your world it is OK for a group of bikes to take over a road and do 15 MPH? That doesn’t seem to be the case here but there is a legal statute “impeding the flow of traffic” to which the cyclists I mention would be guilty.

    This si also the crime that many many drivers on the LIE and other highways are guilty of when they do 55 or 60 in the left-hand lane. To me they are much much more dangerous than those who do 70 in the left land as trafic then weaves around them Why are these left-lane slowpokes rarely prosecuted?

    So I digressed but your idea that anyone can do any speed on any road is wrong and in fact dangerous to both the cyclist and driver.

  • pat m.

    I must say OUCH that had to really hurt clearly looks like a case of “OH SHIT”. I must agree with JIM JR.Peterson will have 2 bills coming 1 the DR. bill and 2 the DOCS bill. I ride daily, I learned long ago to ride defensively and I share the road. Shame on you “STU” attitudes like yours are typical of someone who rides to the store the park and the gym,and calls himself a triathlete.Were all the witnesses on bikes? do you really think the DOC got into his car looking for attention.

  • pat m.

    I learned long ago (like 5 yrs. old)when you crash put your hands out and chances are you’ll save your face.Maybe a lesson learned.

  • Wow, the driver is a doctor. That may not be as sad or frightening as this incident, but it’s still pretty sad and frightening.

  • Court

    Urbanis, you can’t drive whatever speed you feel like provided it is below the maximum. It’s called impeding traffic and police can give you a ticket if they believe you are driving too slowly.

    And how do you figure it is acceptable for drivers to “take over the road?” Drivers are not allowed to drive in bike lanes. They must stick to their part of the road. Similarly cyclists are expected to stick to the bike lane unless they are making a left hand turn or unless they are going straight through an intersection and staying in the right impedes cars trying to make a right.

    This is from the CA DMV on bike safety and laws:

    Always ride on the right side of the road. Stay in single file as far to the right as practical. It’s both dangerous and illegal to ride on the left side of a two-way highway.

    As far as this case goes, it doesn’t matter if the cyclists were riding side by side cars can’t cut cyclists off and then slam on the breaks. And I don’t see anyone thinking the driver was justified in taking over the road, as you suspect.

  • OK, let’s add up the doc’s liabilities. I’ll flag the ones I’m not sure of:

    Assault on Peterson
    Assault on Stoehr
    Reckless endangerment (?)
    Destruction of Peterson’s property
    Destruction of Stoehr’s property (?)
    Verbal threats to third biker (?)
    Attempt to leave scene (?)
    Other traffic-related violations (?)
    Car confiscated, weapon and thus evidence
    Driver’s license revoked (not suspended!)
    Medical license revoked
    Civil suit from Peterson
    Civil suit from Stoehr

    Have I missed anything?

    This followup story in the LA Times details the injuries. I won’t repeat them here. Dr. Thompson identified himself on the scene as a doctor, then refused to offer the two injured men any medical help.

    The soon to be former Dr. Thompson has a brilliant future ahead of him delivering pizza. Oh, wait a minute, he won’t be able to drive. Maybe a paramedic. Or a job with the AAA. Is their LA office reachable by public transit?

  • john deere

    JimJr and Dave: The laws of all 50 states give cyclists the rights to use the roads regardless of their traffic speed.

    Urbanis: laws requiring single file cycling vary by state and municipality. Some do require single file cycling; others allow riding two abreast, but require going single file to allow overtaking vehicles to pass more safely and easily. NYSVTL &1234 says cyclists can’t ride more than 2 abreast, but they must pull single file to allow overtaking vehicles to pass. Now you’ve seen it!

  • Max Rockatansky

    According to the article the cyclists were pulling over to allow the car to pass. I’ve also noticed a few comments on the LA blogs that the doctor has a history of aggression towards cyclists, an earlier incident prompted a police visit to his residence.

    The trolls can be as tough as they want, I’m sure that at the end of this (if not already) the doctor will regret his actions. A moment of anger and he’s brought down a world of hurt on himself. Facing prison, a felony record, fines, civil cases, and who knows what else. At some point he might even regret the fact that he caused serious injury to two people because he had to drive a little slower.

  • jimjr

    john deere:what do the laws of 50 states say about a bicyclist rearending a car? I for one believe that the citizens of So Cal will be safer with this road warrior(Peterson) out of action. He obviously was out of control

  • Yes, jimjr, when the jurors see what a mess that biker made of that lovely car window with his nasty old skull, they’re sure to feel surges of sympathy for the driver who sped ahead of the bikers and slammed on his brakes.

  • john deere

    jimjr: Your assertion that the cyclist rear-ended the doctor is ridiculous in light of what eyewitnesses have said happened.

    But to answer your question,with an example. In NY State, it’s illegal for a motorist to open a car door into someone else’s right of way, including a cyclist. No one would legally accuse the cyclist of running into a car door (except for some thoughtless people in the media who report on such things.).
    One of the basic legal concepts of “right of way” is allowing a road user to have their space on the road, and some kind of a buffer space around it to stop or maneuver in time. Just to give another example, someone changing lanes has to yield to someone in that lane. If they move over and collide with that person, it would be legally incorrect to accuse the person already occupying the lane of slamming into the car that was moving over. Another example: motorists & cyclists are supposed to yield to pedestrians, but that doesn’t mean that a pedestrian can simply step out into a space that is going to imminently be occupied by another vehicle, in such a way that they can’t stop. In other words, the burden of yielding & respecting someone else’s right of way belongs to the vehicle or cyclist making the change, not someone continuing what they’re already doing. Recommended reading for you: Bicycling and the Law, by Bob Mionske. You should also take a League of American Bicyclists Road I class, which will describe local cycling law, and rights of responsibilities of cyclists, as well as how cyclists fit into traffic.

  • Steve, your link points to a psychiatrist. The Dr. Christopher Thompson who went berserk was identified as an emergency-room doctor. The name is probably common enough to cause havoc for a great number of innocent Christopher Thompsons.

  • So that explains it! Dr. Thompson was simply generating more business for himself. (just kidding!)

  • Andy B from Jersey

    john deere pretty much covered the riding two abreast thing as long as the cyclists are not obstructing traffic. The same rule pretty much applies in New Jersey as well.

    Most state laws, like NJ’s which I am most familiar with, state that a cyclist must stay the the right as much as is PRACTICABLE. Practicable is the key word. This means if a cyclist only feels that it unsafe to ride as far to the right as might be possible he/she is allowed to move to the left. Reasons to move toward the center of the road might include potholes, sand/debris/glass or even the cyclist’s speed. It may be possible to ride further to the right but it may still not be practicable.

    Also in New Jersey and in many other states, a cyclist can take the lane if the cyclist is moving at the speed limit or the even just the speed of traffic. The speed limit could be 50mph but if traffic is only going 20mph the cyclist may take the lane.

    Down hill riding is a prime example where the “as far to the right as is practicable” law can come into play even if the cyclist is not traveling at the speed limit or the speed of traffic. A cyclist might need the full use of the road to safely navigate the road at speed. Since it may be unsafe to move from the center or even left part of the lane it is no longer practicable and hence the cyclist can legally take full control lane of the lane.

    This is probably the rule that the cyclist used in this California case. Plus one of the comments from a direct witness on Streetsblog LA said that they were traveling at speeds between 25 and 30 mph as they were heading down hill on Mandeville Canyon Road. Looking at the road on Google Maps you can tell that it is a twisty residential canyon road and I would be very surprised if the speed limit was anything above 35mph. If it was only 30 mph this Doc is totally screwed which I hope he is anyway.

  • At least this is being treated marginally better than the incident in Sydney not long ago where a motorist slammed on the brakes in front of a pack of cyclists who were all riding legally, early on a Sunday morning in one lane of a wide road with plenty of free space in the other lanes.

    I am constantly amazed at people who should know better acting as if they own the road exclusively. This man is a doctor and his intentional injuring of these people is shocking.

  • thanks for the link steve. a psychiatrist. lol.

    the guy gets off scott free or with the very worst, community service. a privileged little asshole ruins lives because he has no patience, fuck him. yeah, sure, we all get pissed on the road, but this kind of behavior is inexcusable. period.

    expect more and more of this kind of bullshit. we are under siege.

  • Thought it might be helpful here in this discussion to include a link to the Wikipedia page on the California Vehicle Code on Cycling which links to the relevant sections in the CVC. So here it is.

    Note a couple things that bicycles are considered vehicles under the CVC. Back when I lived in California, and got my driver license, I remember that the CVC indicates that the buffer zone around a cyclist is roughly the size of an auto. A driver is to maneuver around a bicycle as if they were maneuvering around a car.

    Also, to someone that up comments mentioned pedestrians, the CVC also gives the right of way to pedestrians, as long as they are in a crosswalk and not crossing against a light. California jaywalking laws are very strict if you cross against a light as a pedestrian, that would be jaywalking. And yes, you will get ticketed if you are seen doing it by a “peace officer” (the CVC way to describe a police person).

  • Alice Reed

    I ride daily in small town U.S.A. in the Midwest and we have the same type of irate morons here who scream and gesture and try to drive us off the road at times. This is the worse case I have ever heard. This man should be charged and put behind bars for the maximum amount of time. He is lucky that his two victims survived. Also the 4 men who he tried to kill or injure should get a good sized monetary compensation from him. I hope he is not a Doctor of medicine. MDs are supposed to value and promote human life.

  • This whole incident is outrageous. I think that $30,000 is not a high enough bail for this person. I don’t even think he should be allowed out on bail. Hopefully he will be justly punished for this criminal act.

  • Richard

    According to the vehicle code a bicycle rider is required to stay as close to the right edge of the road as practicle. A person on a bicycle may leave the edge of the road to avoid obstacles such as poor road surface rocks parked cars dogs pedestrians etc.
    A person riding a bicycle may ride out further in the lane when it is a substandard lane. This means if the road is not wide enough for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to occupy it safely then the bicycle rider has the right to use as much lane as they need to avoid being squeesed of the road by an inexperienced driver or a bigot who just does not care. A bicyle rider may also leave the right edge to make a left turn or avoid the right turn lane when going straight. All this is legal provided you give adaquate time for other traffic to respond. Because I respect myself and others I do not endanger others intentionally or otherwise. I bicycle and prefer when I ride with a group to have small groups riding together so it is easier for motorists to pass. All states have the single file law and they also have the substandard lane law. It is an inconvience when a slower moving vehicle is in our way not a reason to attack. The doctor has obviously done this activity many times before and has just recently increased the intensity of his attack. Motorists slamming there brakes on in front of bicyclists rarely gets reported and when it is it is not given much credence. I have had it happen to me and I was to busy avoiding the rear of the car to make an ID. Yes it usually happens when you are alone. I have reported other incidence to police and it had no effect on the motorist who had no intention of stopping his dangerous activities until he did the same to an off duty Florida trooper in front of several other troopers who were not off duty.

  • SustainLane

    Tell us about what’s good and green about your city.

    In just a few short weeks, SustainLane will release its 2008
    sustainability rankings for U.S. cities.

    And this time around, we want to hear from you! Top entries win cash
    prizes of $100.

    Help us shine some light into what’s going on in your city.
    Send us your perspectives (humorous, tragic, ironic) on living green in your gray city.

    The more specific you are, the more your city’s flavor will emerge. Geek out or wax poetic. Dig deep for your inner-urbanist.

    Visit our submission page for details.

    http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-ranking/green-urban-life-submissions.jsp

    If you have questions please contact us through the email on the above page.

    The deadline is September 12th, 2008.

    Cheers!

  • jj

    I’ve been commuting daily — miles and miles for years and years — and in my time I’ve been deliberately hit, accidentally hit, unknowingly hit, swatted by a baseball bat, even — and I’ve gotta say: the bike fascists in my town (Austin, crawling with lance wannabees and ill-tempered hippies) who take up the whole road and openly express their contempt of cars are endangering my non herd-minded life — guess who these road rage psychopaths are gonna mow down. Stay right. Obey the laws. Yield to the gigantic metal machines, or I’LL wind up bug splatter.

    Thanks.

  • JST Books

    Judges presiding over road traffic accident compensation claims will not be inclined to make maximum awards if you risked your health by delaying medical assistance, in order to take photographs of the scene.

  • Usually, when you make a car accident compensation claim, the settlement process appears to be like a slow waltz in which the dancers are moving back and forth in the same place several times. You may not know how much to claim, so you don’t mention anything. But the defendant’s attorney or adjuster will send you a proposal for settlement that is not even sufficient to cover your medical expenses, leave alone the costs of damages to your car, your valuables in the car, and the amount of salary you are forgoing at work because you are stuck on a hospital bed with broken limbs. Not to mention the shock and the trauma it cause, after which you may not have the courage to drive ever again, or even be in a car again, and will thus have to end up being dependent on public transport. So, full of anger, you make a counter claim. The negotiations will continue until you put your foot down and threaten to go to court. But you can’t – since you don’t know whether the court will grant you the car accident compensation claim that you are making.
    The best option in such cases is to consult an expert for advice. You could find one online, or take the opinions of others who have been before in the same place where you are now. You could write a letter to the defendant’s insurance company, explaining the level of losses you are facing, and ask them to support your claim. You could include the documents showing the expenditures you are facing as a result of the accident, with evidence that these expenses are being incurred indeed as a side effect of the accident. You could request for mediation or arbitration, where an impartial 3rd party will help you sort out your woes with the defendant.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Biking the Mean Streets of L.A.

|
In Los Angeles County, bicycle-related accidents have increased in the past year. Road rage is an enormous problem, and as growing numbers of Angelinos choose bikes as transportation, clashes with motorists are on the rise. The Los Angeles Times reported in August: Scott Sing has had a tire iron hurled at him, a water bottle […]

Electeds, Local Media Wage War on Staten Island Cyclists

|
The recent motorist assault on a Staten Island cyclist is a symptom of anti-bike bias routinely displayed by local politicians and the Staten Island Advance, as chronicled on a web site encouraging action for safe streets. Council Members Vincent Ignizio (l) and James Oddo scientifically prove that bikes can’t fit on Jefferson Avenue in Dongan […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Colorado Authorities Cite Driver for Cyclist Harassment

|
Despite the number of two-wheeled cop patrols around some cities, police aren’t always the most bike-minded bunch. When there’s a conflict between motorists and cyclists, they’re often inclined to take the motorist’s side. As Streetsblog has reported, police in New York City care more about drunk pedestrians than unsafe drivers, despite the fact that most fatalities are caused by […]

Overheard on the Bus: NYC Bicyclists Losing the PR War

|
Stuck in traffic congestion all day long, one might think that New York City’s bus drivers might be at the center of the movement to reduce automobile dependence and encourage more efficent forms of urban transportation. But if the conversation I heard last week is representative, it’s the cyclists that are wrecking all that havoc […]