Blame the Victim
Our ongoing series on L.A.'s hit-and-run epidemic had people talking again this week — but with a bit less consensus than the rah-rahs that greeted our initial expose a few weeks ago.
The story that got readers worked up was Hillel Aron's piece about bicyclist Don Ward, aka Roadblock, who tracked down the Jaguar that plowed into him and fled the scene ("Victim Hunts Down Hit-and-Run Driver," Dec. 21). Turns out the owner was lobbyist Glenn Gritzner — and, despite Ward's detective work, Gritzner ended up with a de minimus $500 fine and no jail time.
But some readers resisted shedding any tears for a cyclist known as "Roadblock."
Writes AVeeDub23, "This is difficult to give Roadblock any credibility here or see him as a victim. You should all watch the documentary To Live and Ride in L.A. It shows what Roadblock and the groups he organizes do when they ride in the streets of L.A. — 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. But I and 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.
"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 staying on roads with bike lanes ... and the proper use of signals, stop signs and turn lanes that are REQUIRED of cyclists to use?"
Gnome Chumpsky seconds the sentiment. "Both of the assholes sound like real assholes," he writes. "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."
Catwalshak2 responds. "This article is not about the behavior of cyclists in Los Angeles, and it is sad and extremely callous that certain comments are made to derail the real conversation of a serious epidemic of hit-and-runs that affect individuals and their loved ones on a daily basis. Unless you have ridden a bicycle in an urban setting, or God forbid been the victim of a hit -and-run, you cannot possibly pass judgment 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 assume a human being on public streets needs to make way for you and your monster of a machine! 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."
Ward himself weighs in: "It's true that film doesn't help my case at all, but it's also old footage. I think the L.A. 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.
"The night that I got hit, I was riding by myself with bright, 200-lumen lights in front and a Planet Bike superflash 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 swerving. 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 this: That incident changed me. I hope the conversation can continue to focus on the fact that 48 percent of all collisions are hit-and-runs."
Leslie Estrada agrees. "I've seen way too many friends of mine get severely hurt from cars. I'm glad this dude caught this punk, but L.A. needs to make hit-and-runs a priority!" Agreed.
She Loves Us
Every now and then we get a letter that warms the cockles of our cynical little hearts. This week it was from Elaine Venegas, who was inspired to write in after reading Gene Maddaus' Dec. 14 story about Sheriff Lee Baca ("Dark Side of the Moonbeam").
She writes, "Dearest L.A. Weekly: Another first-rate homerun on your 'Dark Side' story. Nobody comes near you in giving us the unvarnished truth. It's always hard-hitting. If you published a daily, I would be at the head of the line to sign up for it — 'dirty' ads and all!"
Thank you, Elaine, and thanks to everyone who gave us (and our dirty ads) a read in 2013. If you're interested in daily coverage, please check out laweekly.com. We're publishing more than 25 new stories every day — and you don't even have to stand in line to read them!
You Write, We Read
Please send letters to L.A. Weekly, 3861 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Or write us at ReadersWrite@laweekly.com. Full name and contact information preferred.