“I rode my bicycle from Koreatown to Santa Monica, like I do everyday for work, and stopped at a red light on Bedford Drive and Santa Monica Blvd., in Beverly Hills. But the car behind me was trying to make the light and accelerated, hitting me and running over my bike as I flew through the air.”
Brandon Chau, December 4, 2009, 9:45am
In a movement to stop Los Angeles’ growing epidemic of hit and runs, Bikeside, a new Los Angeles bike lobbying group is bringing awareness to City Councils through public comment on unfortunate examples mishandled in their region of the city. First up, Beverly Hills. On February 16, eleven cyclists who commute through the mine fields of Metro Los Angeles’ streets, most car free, brought to the floor a call to action to not only reopen Brandon Chau’s closed “hit and run” case, on the count of not being able to give a facial identification, but also, have bike lanes that are void on their streets as well as brighten and repave Santa Monica Blvd’s treacherous gauntlet from Camden to Doheny.
Brandon Chau, UCLA grad and at one time, employee, was victim to a hit and run as the car that hit him drove off, leaving him injured and his bike broken. A witness of the incident pursued the driver by car and was able to the woman’s license plate number. Brandon gave a full police report to the Beverly Hills police who arrived later at the scene. In mid January, 2010, Brandon was called down to the Beverly Hills Police Department to give a facial ID on the driver. When 6 photos were placed in front of him, all pictures of women in their mid thirties, white and brunette, Brandon, feeling like he had to make a choice, chose the wrong picture. The police then showed him the picture of the woman who actually did it and let him know that since he could not give a positive facial identification, the DA would not pick up the case. The Beverly Hills police officer than apologized for what they called, a “loophole.”
At the Beverly Hills City Council meeting, Roadblock, LA cyclist, stated that he too had been a victim of a hit and run in Los Angeles. If was not for his own detective work, his perpetrator would not have been brought to justice. Roadblock suggested that Beverly Hills City Council “compel the Beverly Hills Police Department to pursue and confront these driver’s who put cyclists lives in danger – if not, they are telling driver’s it’s okay.” Mayor Nancy Krasne replied, “[Beverly Hills] is the only city in town where if someone cuts off a bus and you call the police department and by three blocks away, they’re pulled over.” Her response was the perfect example of misconstrued priorities for the Beverly Hills Police regarding cyclists that ride on their streets.
Alex Thompson, reiterating the mishandling of Brandon’s Chau’s case, also brought to their attention, “To improve other issues in regard to cycling [through their city].” Santa Monica Blvd. Has no bike lane, the pavement quality is so bad and there are no street lights. He asked for them to focus on “making this city more livable and bike friendly.”
Ron Durgin, Resident of Beverly Hills since 1999, suggested, “Education for motorists and police officers on how to behave and share the road with cyclists” and then ended his comments with a reminder to the council of their own vision statement (pulled off their website), “Beverly Hills is committed to being the safest city in America.”
Surprisingly, the newly appointed Beverly Hills Mayor, Jimmy Delshad, taking office on March 16, 2010, said, “[Earlier that morning], I was on my bike at 6:30. I had an eight o’clock meeting with our city manager and had to take Santa Monica Blvd. At our meeting, I told him one of my agendas will be to bring to the city council, how can we put a bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd. Safety is very important. I felt very scared today several times when I saw the cars. But it’s something in my view that needs to be discussed. And I’ve asked our city manager to bring it to the council so hopefully your comments will be heard.”
Brian Cooperman took home the point of what it is to be a cyclist in Los Angeles with, “Unless you spend a lot of time on bike, you are not aware of what it is like. People [Drivers] are really hostile. People have cut me off on purpose, threatened me and when you’re on a small twenty pound bike, all cars are scary.” Brian struck a cord with Mayor Krasne, she replied, “You inspired us to sit down and talk. You certainly inspired me.”
But it wasn’t until Brandon Chau finally commented, telling his side of the story, that Mayor Krasne asked the City Manager if there was something they could do. The city manager, Jeff Kolin, said he “would talk to Chief Snowden to review the case and see what we can do.” And then, Mayor Krasne ended the comment session with, “If that car belongs to that person, if it wasn’t them in it, let them explain who was driving their car. As legal owner, if they are not driving, they must be responsible for who had the keys at that moment.” To which the entire room erupted in approving applause.
Cyclists of LA can only hope that the Bikeside was heard and understood, that the Beverly Hills City Council will stick to their word and investigate Brandon Chau’s case as well as make their streets safer and more bike friendly. Rest assured, this will not get swept under the table, and if push comes to shove, they’ll be back at the podium once again for “Beverly Hills is committed to being the safest city in America” and they’re making sure they stick to their word.