"He also founded Wolfpack Hustle, which takes high-speed group rides with a somewhat cavalier approach to traffic laws."
By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Bicyclists have been the loudest critics of the hit-and-run epidemic gripping Los Angeles, a crisis that has been ignored by the mayor and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. One chilling incident in Echo Park, in particular, galvanized the bike community: the running down of cyclist Don Ward, also known as Roadblock.
Ward is about as famous as you can get in L.A.'s bike scene because of his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame and his role as one of the early organizers of Midnight Ridazz, an enormously popular nighttime group ride. He also founded Wolfpack Hustle, which takes high-speed group rides with a somewhat cavalier approach to traffic laws.
"We've described him, half-seriously, as the bike community's James Dean because of his rugged good looks," says Damien Newton, who runs the website LA Streetsblog. "And he's a little bit of an outlaw."
In 2009, cycling advocates were getting involved in politics, lobbying for bike lanes — Stephen Box even ran for City Council. But Ward mostly coordinated rides.
That is, until 1 a.m. on May 19, 2009, when a gray Jaguar slammed into him from behind on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, bouncing Ward off the hood — with the mangled bike still attached to Ward due to his clip-on shoes — and catapulting him 50 feet. The Jaguar driver slowed, looked at Ward, then shot off into the night.
"I looked back, there was this car coming really fast," Ward recalls. "It was scary. It didn't look like the car was in control. I freaked out, just tried to get out of the way."
As Ward lay on his stomach, he turned his head to watch the Jaguar creep past. That's when he saw the license plate. He began feverishly repeating the numbers aloud.
Before the crash, Ward had been cycling with friends from whom he'd become separated. One of them, Sean Maytum, came upon Ward's body. "I thought he was dead," Maytum recalls. "He wasn't moving."
Then Maytum saw his fingers move. Ward was texting. Actually, he was tweeting — the Jaguar's license plate number, of which he clearly remembered the first six digits.
Ward was banged up but would be OK. From the hospital, he posted about his ordeal on a Midnight Ridazz message board, adding: "I will find this motherfucker."
The next day, Ward called LAPD. He'd already given them a nearly complete plate number, plus the car's color and general description. He was stunned at the disinterest the LAPD investigator showed.
The officer said, "Yeah, it's gonna take a couple weeks to run down the plate. You could try to find the car if you want."
As L.A. Weekly reported on Dec. 11, in a four-month investigation by Simone Wilson, "L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic," city leaders such as Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are ignoring, or unaware of, the car-as-weapon crisis in this city.
In the United States, 11 percent of all car crashes are hit-and-runs. In L.A., an incredible 48 percent are hit-and-runs. The levels are epidemic — 20,000 hit-and-runs inside the city limits annually.
The mowing down of Don Ward wasn't even a blip in a city where authorities have lost whatever grip they once may have had. But the public is getting angry: Ward's post in 2009 on the Midnight Ridazz message board generated hundreds of responses, including one from DJ Wheels — lawyer Danny Jimenez.
Jimenez had a friend in the California Highway Patrol who took five minutes, not LAPD's two weeks, to "run down the plate." Of four possible matches, one was a Jaguar registered to Glenn Gritzner, who lived near Silver Lake Reservoir, about two miles from the Echo Park crime scene.
Ward and Jimenez Googled "Glenn Gritzner" and found a blog site where he reviews bars in downtown L.A. The logo: a martini glass. Then their Internet search turned up something shocking: Gritzner wasn't an illegal immigrant fearing deportation, or a laid-off worker without insurance. He's a well-to-do, high-flying lobbyist and political player in City Hall and Sacramento, a managing director of Mercury Public Affairs, a powerful firm whose top partners include former California Speaker Fabian Nuñez and Adam Mendehlson, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"We were almost 100 percent sure this was the guy," Ward recalls. "We were operating on the premise that the cops were gonna do nothing. We had to get evidence."
They visited trendy downtown bars, including the Edison and the Standard, hoping somebody had seen Gritzner getting hammered. Nothing. They drove by his house. No gray Jaguar.
They finally deduced that a man as successful and connected as Gritzner probably would take his Jag in to repair the damage.
The first place they called was Rusnak, a Jaguar dealer in Pasadena.
"Yeah, I wanna see if my Jaguar's gonna be ready," Ward said.
"What's your name?"
"Oh yeah, your car's gonna be ready Thursday."
Ward was tingling. He and Jimenez rushed to Pasadena and found the Jaguar getting a new coat of paint. Its hood and grille had already been replaced.
"He also founded Wolfpack Hustle, which takes high-speed group rides with a somewhat cavalier approach to traffic laws."
Taking this conversation to a slightly different place, I will say that Don Ward and Josef Bray-Ali, both bicycle community leaders have been an inspiration to our family and I am grateful for their influence on my two adolescent children, a 13 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.
The three of us have gone on rides organized by Don and Josef. These rides have been a total eye opener for our family and in a small way have liberated us from the dependence on driving in some respects. Many parents are expected to drive their children everywhere. I do this plenty, but at some point, shuttling a kid around in a car ceases to be the right thing for pre-teens. It is diametrically opposed to what is supposed to be happening developmentally - developing independence and exploring one's surroundings, one's neighborhood and city; it is a healthy instinct. Some parents drop their kids off at a mall and let them walk around on their own a bit. While this gives a kid a bit of independence, it doesn't truly count as exploration of the city and it reinforces consumerism as fun.
Thanks to the rides, my son has embraced a way to be mobile and this has opened up his sense of where he can go and what he can do on his own. He has been inspired to bike to school on his own or explore the city with friends on bikes - good for the imagination, sense of possibility, independence and a bit of adventure, as well as physical fitness and good health.
I know that allowing my son to ride on his own carries risks and we do our best to mitigate them. He has been taught to always go out wearing a helmet and bright clothing, as well as having his cell phone, repair kit and tools in his back pack, and to follow all traffic laws (including and particularly red lights. On the rides, the only exception to following laws has been the red lights when very large groups are riding [and for us it has been slow rides], but that has already been explained here.)
Given that my family does not have the luxury of living in a neighborhood where we can walk to the local soda fountain or local park, we have always driven to those places. Now that the kids are a bit older and thanks to the new found love of bikes, they can now get there on their own. Thanks Don and Josef!
This is difficult to give "roadblock" any credibility here or see him as a victim. You should all watch a documentary called, "To Live and Ride in LA". It shows what "roadblock" and the groups he organizes do when they ride in the streets of LA, they are BEGGING to be hit by a car! It displays him and several dozen swarming others rushing through red lights and stop signs all at the same time, swerving through traffic, disobeying basically every law put in place for cyclists. I'm an avid cyclist and have logged well over 10,000 miles through Los Angeles Country, I and all of those I ride with invest heavily in protective gear and very bright lights for our rides. These guys wear jean shorts and cycle caps on bikes with no brakes!! And on their night rides, most of them have little to no reflective or protective gear on. Not to take away that hit and runs are horrible but this article is one sided and does nothing for cycling safety. Hey Don, why don’t you put your cycling street cred to good use and advocate for bike safety and the use of safety equipment, lights, reflective material and cyclist awareness to opening doors, staying on roads with bike lanes, carrying proper identification including blood type and contact information for family members, riding at times of the day were you remove yourself from the dangers of drivers and the proper use of signals, stop signs and turn lanes that are REQUIRED of cyclists to use.
This article is not about the unruly behavior of cyclists in Los Angeles, and it is sad and extremely callous that certain comments are made in order to derail the real conversation of a serious epidemic of hit and runs that effect individuals and their loved ones on a daily basis. Unless you have ridden a bicycle in an urban setting, or god forbid have been the victim of a hit and run, you cannot possibly pass judgement on anyone who survives such an incident and is strong enough to get back on a bicycle and ride again. How dare anyone suggest any human being deserves to get struck by a vehicle! How dare anyone assumes a human being on public streets needs to make way for you and your monster of a machine because you have somewhere you need to be! Cyclists pay taxes, support businesses, have friends and families just like any other human. In fact many cyclists also drive, and if more drivers also cycled, they would have a better understanding of the nature of this epidemic. It is incredibly disrespectful to the hundreds of humans on bicycles maimed and killed every year to make such false and vapid generalizations about all cyclists.
This story does not add up. If Mr. Gritzner hit and ran, then he committed a felony which should be prosecuted by the District Attorney's office and NOT the City Attorney's Office (the City Attorney can only prosecute misdemeanors). Did Mr. Ward notify the DA's office? Did Mr. Ward seek to have the City Attorney disqualify himself because of possible connections to Mr. Gritzner?
Again, this story just doesn't add up. If a felony has been committed then the DA's office should be involved.
Awesome! In the valley I have a confrontation with a motorist about once every week. Ive been in three accidents, two car doors opening and one car crossing a lane hitting me in the side. The woman was leaving the scene until she saw me get up and note her license plate. A lot of this kind of arrogant behavior with motorists going on now. Pedestrians in crosswalks almost getting hit and motorists throwing up their arms as if to say, "You are an obstacle in my path".
I've known way too many friends of mine get severely hurt from cars. I'm glad this dude caught this punk, but LA needs to make hit and runs a priority!
".................He also founded Wolfpack Hustle, which takes high-speed group rides with a somewhat cavalier approach to traffic laws."
Wow, hes been lucky so far .
Both of the assholes sound like real assholes. Ward rides his bike like he doesn't give a shit, and as a consequence, he was hit. Gritzner drives his Jaguar like he owns the fucking world, and, as a consquence, he ran somebody over. Both deserved what they got. Hit and Runs aren't the problem in this city. The problem is that this city is stuffed to the gills with assholes like Ward and Gritzner.
Does anyone see the hyprocrisy here?A man who is responsible for organizing mass disobedience of traffic laws looks to law enforcement for help in traffic accident. Nobody has the right to run over another person because they're upset but don't be surprised of that outcome when you tempt fate. Riding within the law is already dangerous enough with the careless and unstable drivers on the road, don't add to it by riding like an entitled jerk.
Encouraging more bike riding on city streets will result in more accidents and the bicyclists will be the people maimed or killed. The City, however, does not take into account the extent to which they lure bicyclists into harm's way with bike lanes and other measures which the City pretends benefit bicyclists.
The general problem of incompatible modes of transportation occupying the same road space was identified by the City 100 years ago. We've built a lot of roads in the last 100 years, but we have ignored this need to separate bikes from cars. Similarly, we still have trains crossing surface streets and are surprised every time some one is killed. It took Los Angeles decades to get the lethal Red Car tracks torn up and the deadly trolleys banished from surface streets. (But, now the KnowNothings of the 2000's are re-introducing trolleys to downtown. Oh, what joy for the personal injury attorneys when they sue the city and bring out all the City's old reports establishing the lethal nature of trolleys' sharing streets with cars and buses.) http://bit.ly/cJh5BP
There are psychological aspects to this car-bike problem, which support the position that bike lanes etc. are dangerous. Drivers do not "see" motorcycles and bicycles. The psychological invisibility of bicycles seems much greater than that of motorcycles, but it is a problem for both. It has been established that motorists can look directly at a motorcycle or bicycle which is in plain view and not "see" it.
It is a matter of expectations and anyone who designs streets needs to understand all the psychology behind Selective Perception. Failure to use available knowledge leads us to make myopic choices based upon political persuasion and not based on facts and science. Build bike lanes, but admit up front that you are setting up the situation where thousands will be maimed and many killed.
Take that you automobile driver! I don't have to obey the law! I ride a bicycle. What a self serving piece of shit.
Bycyclist MUST be held to higher safety standards. A high mayority do not wear helmet, light, reflective itmes, do not respect the street lights, you cant be a both a pedestrian and or motorist. A license should be given and they must carry an insurance card. I am NOT for Hit and Run but DO your part.
I'm almost positive the guy in the picture is the guy who rides up Hyperion every morning blocking traffic. Thanks dude for making my morning drive more eventful. If he would at least move over when he could, it wouldn't be a problem. However, this guy thinks he is entitled to take up an entire lane all the time. He can't keep up with traffic so how can this be true? Too many bike riders are being major jerks and when they get hit, I have to ask, Did they deserve it?
Congratulations to Mr. Ward on not giving up. It's hard to not give up sometimes when you're hurting so much and it's costing so much personally, but it's something we must do. And, it's all just part of a bigger picture of corruption and privilege. The guy knew he could get by with it. He knew the laws. He knew his privilege "rights." He probably prayed at least once you were dead. I know that sounds cruel, but what does it take in a person's mind (and heart) to not even stop to render help or even call in or help anonymously for a possible victim? He worried about how to get his car fixed as fast as possible. They probably fired the guy who leaked the truth about picking up the car on Thursday. It's time we connected the dots on the privileged corruption and lack of focus on meaningful work for those hired to "protect and serve"--we need to change that to protect and serve the people rather that it's current protect and serve the already privileged. Best of health to you, Mr. Ward. I appreciate your persistence and desire to make sure this doesn't happen to others. You've sent a great message.
@citymom Well said, thanks for sharing!
@AVeeDub Hi Avee it's true that film doesnt help my case at all, but it's also old footage and about the LA bike scene in general not Wolfpack Hustle specifically. I think the LA bike scene has evolved now that more people are cycling and now that the city is doing some things to facilitate a place for cyclists on the roads. Most of all the film does not accurately speak to how Wolfpack Hustle runs it's rides or has evolved in the years since it's inception. In fact anyone that rides on Monday nights knows that for years (we've been going weekly since 2005) I've been giving the "speech" which is aimed at everyone but especially the young inner city and urban riders who are rebellious and may not understand just how dangerous it is to ride on LA streets. Getting the buy in of these riders is difficult but its important and I believe that organizing these rides actually helps create a safer rider. We ride late on Monday nights specifically because of the lack of traffic at the time. I talk about looking ahead and timing the lights so that no one makes stupid decisions at intersections, we always tell people to use helmets and bright lights, call out potholes cars left cars right cars back and never to run lights. wearing jeans is more about being a commuter and in fact its a lot more protective when you fall... Riding brakeless in my opinion is not smart and I personally would never ride brakeless or fixed gear. It's not my thing, but you really cant tell people what to do you can only try to inspire.
Like I said, Wolfpack Hustle has evolved and this year we worked closely with the city and LAPD to create permitted and legal race events in the city core where youngsters really have no other way to get exercise and community. We havent thrown an "alley cat" style race in years specifically because I realized that it's not beneficial for the cycling community in general but also dangerous for people who have nothing to do with cycling. next year we will be hosting more legally permitted races and events.
The night that I got hit, I was riding by myself with bright 200 lumen lights in front and a planet bike super flash in back. I had on arm warmers, dickies and a helmet. I was riding in the right lane and looking back to signal a lane change to the left turn lane when I saw the Jaguar approaching in the distance at high speed and swervy. I got plowed into from behind by what I could only assume was a person worried about getting caught drunk driving. I will probably never know but what I do know is, that incident changed me and I hope the conversation can continue to focus on the fact that 48%% of all collisions are hit and runs and rarely do any of them occur on group rides, but even if they do, they are still a crime.
Thanks for speaking out.
The article is not about the unruly and inconsiderate behavior of bike riders in our city, but the people complaining our making it about this behavior because we can't empathize with people who think they can be rude and inconsiderate of drivers who have to get to work on time.
@ronrayton hi Ron, this is Don. As I have learned from this and many other cases since, State law re hit and run is a "wobbler" law. Meaning that the crime could be considered a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the severity of injury. In this case although my bike was smashed, I was carried on the car hood and thrown 50 feet and even though I was banged up hard and still suffer right shoulder and back pain, I did not suffer any broken bones and thus the law "wobbled" and the crime was considered a misdemeanor. Further complicating the issue was the fact that I did not get a look at the driver's face and could not provide a description. According to the detective and police report, Gritzner did in fact confess that he was the driver to his insurance company, but even that admission would not be allowed as evidence in criminal court because of attorney client privilege. Bottomline is that a person who is run down either needs to die or suffer broken bones or they need to get the plate and facial description to expect the police to do something.
@GnomeChumpsky Clearly, 20,000 hit and runs are not a problem. I mean, we could easily double that and you still would not give a fuck, right? Have you ever seen the broken body of a neighbor lying bleeding in the street? Have you ever spent time with a friend as they try and find a way to heal their shattered body after a hit and run? You know that kids walking to school have to deal with the ever present threat of death via car drivers every morning, right?
The city exists for "the good life". I know that because it is written in huge letters on the ceiling at City Hall. It doesn't say jack shit about your point of view, so maybe we'll just use that as a reminder the next time we make a collective decision in this town.
THE POWER OF SMUG RUNS THROUGH ME!
@GnomeChumpsky Well said
@LACyclist Think about it like this: guy organizes "outlaw" super fast bicycle rides on a weekly basis, treating traffic signals as optional. Never suffers an injury while donig this, never causes a crash nor crashes into anyone. Same guy is abiding by the law and riding his bike along when a lobbyist DUI crashes into him and leaves him for dead. Does that fit into your "traffic karma" world view? Are we all sliding abacus pieces across some little rod in the sky, waiting for the hammer to fall for our sins?
@abramsrl Were you paying attention to what you just read in the article? You know, the part where THOUSANDS ARE MAIMED AND MANY KILLED by the current transportation regime?Do you mean thousands more? I admit that the streets could be designed worse. Maybe reciprocating saw blades instead of crosswalk buttons?Take a look at one of the many videos about Copenhagen or the film Riding Bikes with the Dutch to see what a 1st world nation's transportation system ought to look like.
@Víctor Piña Can you provide a link to some evidence that would back up your claim about the "high majority"?
@Víctor Piña I wear a helmet, I have 2 lights, reflective armbands, reflective belt, reflective ankle bands. I stop at red lights and stop signs and if I want to be a pedestrian I get off the bike and walk with it. I have a drivers license which I carry at all times riding and my car insurance covers my bike.
People in cars "California rolling stop" while on their Cell Phone texting.
If you drive a 2000 pound vehicle you need to pay attention.
@Víctor Piña This is the most LOLs-worthy comment here.
I just hit a house with my car!
Did the house have a helmet on? They should license houses to exist in places where I might plow my car into them.
If we had to license everything a drunk irresponsible driver plowed into then we'd be safer, que no?
@sirvaldrin2002 No one ever deserves to be hit with a car, and it is extremely callous that you would suggest otherwise. Especially for a reason like slowing down traffic. Would you think the driver of a car deserves to get hit for going slow? Of course not! Any person traveling on a public street is simply trying to get from one point to another, just like you. The road is not yours, it is all of ours.
@sirvaldrin2002 nope. Not me, but you should understand that the reason cyclists "take the lane" is because most of the lanes in LA are less than 12 feet wide... ie not share-able with cars. Cyclists need to maintain a 4-5 foot distance from parked cars to avoid what is called "the door zone." Furthermore they need to be visible to cross traffic and cars pulling out of drive ways. Taking the lane also allows cyclists to maneuver side to side to avoid potholes, curb grooves and trash that occupies the right side of the road on most LA streets. Hyperion is a treacherous stretch, I wish the city would implement wide, protected bike lanes through that important connection to Glendale and the river path but until then cyclists will be taking the lane to protect themselves.
As far as keeping up with traffic... You mean keeping up with drivers that speed from one red light to another? You might achieve 45mph for brief periods before you have to slam on your brakes for a red... but your average speed in any urban area is never going to be much more than the speed of good cyclist. If drivers would learn to calm themselves and time the lights - slow roll to avoid stopping - EVERYONE could get along and be safe.
@hunterkcali Gritzner may be a jerk and a criminal, but let's not pretend that we know what was going on inside his mind and let's stop speculating about who was fired.
One thing that we do know is that the City Council has underfunded both the LAPD and the LAFD for years. If Angelenos want an LAPD that has time to enforce the laws, then Angelenos have to take action when Garcetti gives hundreds of millions of tax dollars to his developer cronies -- $52 Million to Eli Broad, tens of millions more to CIM Group. These are facts which we know from public records. Despite the rape of the City treasury, Garcetti is the front runner for Mayor.
If the LAPD had the manpower to "protect and serve" a city the size and complexity of LA, then there would be fewer Hit and Run's as people would know that they would be caught and prosecuted. Police investigations take time and manpower which requires we increase the LAPD budget. Also, threatening to privatize the police pensions will do nothing to attract competent officers in the future. If you don't like the ways LA is run, (and who does other than the crooks?), then stop electing people like Garcetti, Perry, Wesson and Labonge, Greuel, Reyes, Trutanich, and their ilk.
@sirvaldrin2002 Let me break it down for you: cyclists are humans just like you, trying to get somewhere just like you.
If you truly want every cyclist to cling to the curb, write your city council members and tell them you want parking to be removed and all roads to be free of potholes. Tell them you want separate infrastructure for bicycles so you won't to share the road. While you wait for their response, I invite you to travel anywhere in Los Angeles by bicycle. Perhaps a few days on the road will change your perspective of the elements a cyclists has to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe then you can recognize that cyclists are not being rude simply because they are being cautious. You are not entitled to the road simply because you are in a car.
I didn't know this about hit and run laws. It is criminal to allow someone to leave an accident cite regardless of injury. It's a lot like the lesser penalty for attempted murder. You didn't kill him, so we'll let you only do a couple of years to plan it better.
I ride a bike, I understand about the lane issue, I'm talking about riders who don't move over ever even when there is room to move over. I'm talking about riders who get in way because they feel entitled to get in the way without a reason. I never get upset with riders who have no choice to get in the way.
@abramsrl I agree. I would like to see the LAPD implement a bigger presence on the streets in terms of traffic calming. Instead, what has been happening is the LAPD under staffs it's traffic division, and actually has been pro-actively advocating for speed limit increases which at the end of the day do nothing more than serve to frustrate the hell out of drivers by giving them the impression that if they are not driving at the rate of speed suggested by big bold faced type on a sign, they are not getting optimum performance out of their commute. The REALITY is that even with no traffic what so ever, a car cannot average much more than 20 mph in any urban setting across the globe. We need to be realistic about speed limits. Speed kills both in impact and reaction time.
Since most car trips (50%%) are less than a very bike-able 3 miles in distance we should also be working to facilitate more local trips by bicycle. It would reduce pollution, traffic, noise, death and obesity. Not to mention, it would conserve a LOT of city resources that are used to maintain streets destroyed by every trip made by 2 ton automobiles. The most conservative thing we can do is to afford people safe and efficient travel when they decide to use their own two feet.
@sirvaldrin2002 Did you wake up this morning and just decide to be a nasty person or is this just who you are?
@sirvaldrin2002 @roadblock You don't need a car to carry kids in LA and run errands. You are trying to play that everyman argument and pretend like your current sad little life is the only one available to everyone.
Get the right bike and you can carry just about anything you need anywhere you need it to be in LA.
@sirvaldrin2002 @roadblock I'm not punishing anyone. on the contrary, I am relieving you of yet another car clogging the traffic grid. I know plenty of parents who ride bicycles and in fact bring their kids on bikes with them. Entire countries the size of Los Angeles Country have traffic grids that encourage the population to use people powered transportation and do just fine. Most car trips in america are less than 3 miles in distance. That is totally reasonable for us to accomplish here.
While I like what you are saying, your ideas a little pie in skyish. I have kids, I have to take them places and quickly. I have run errands like grab something to feed said children. If we were all single, I'd agree with you completely. What most of us are complaining about is not that you and others like riding your bike, I like riding mine when I have time, but the inconsiderate behavior that many hard core bike riders exhibit on a daily basis. If you choose to ride a bike to work or elsewhere, that's great, but don't punish us by unnecessarily blocking traffic just because you have the "right" to block traffic.