Don’s Hit & Run, and the Flying Pigeon Stamp of Approval

By Alex Thompson

Bikeside got happy news via the internet in the last two days.  First, Don Ward, who famously won the battle for the Wilbur Ave road diet, wrote about Bikeside’s Life Before License campaign, and his organization, Safe Streets Northridge, gave it’s endorsement.  Second, Flying Pigeon announced it’s financial sponsorship of Bikeside.  Bikeside joins CicLAvia and LA Streetsblog in receiving a shot in the wallet from Flying Pigeon, which is emerging as a force for change behind the bike scenes.  Thank you Don, Josef, and Flying Pigeon for all you do, and for your support!

Hit & Run is nothing for a lobbyist:

It was natural for Don Ward to endorse Life Before License because he was clobbered in a callous hit and run on Glendale Blvd.  Ward was riding home from the nighttime all-city ride Wolfpack Hustle when big time lobbyist – Managing Director of the Mercury Group in LA – Glenn Gritzner hit him in his Jaguar:

I had the brightest lights money could buy, I was wearing a helmet, and I was riding in a legal, vehicular fashion when a driver plowed into me from behind at an estimated speed of 50 mph. It was 1 AM and the streets were relatively empty. My bike crumpled as it collided with the grill and my body sunk in to the hood of the gray 4 door 2009 Jaguar. I was carried and thrown some 50 feet and then…. left to fend for myself in the middle of the street.  …

Laying face down on the ground, blurry eyed, and in shock I still managed to get most of the plate numbers. Before I even moved I tweeted them on my smashed phone, afraid I would forget the numbers.

Gritzner fled the scene, and turned his Jaguar into the shop, but Ward was able to track him down using the partial plate and visiting high end body shops; Ward, at 6′ 8″, left the Jaguar needing body work after it smashed into him – a smaller rider might have nothing to go on.

Don Ward lies in the street after being hit and run by Glenn Gritzner in his Jaguar

Don Ward lies in the street after being hit and run by Glenn Gritzner in his Jaguar

In the end, power counts.  Gritzner never saw the inside of courtroom, his lawyer acting as his surrogate.  It drove the point home to Ward, who is rightfully mad that Gritzner got off easy, that a small first step toward justice is taking away the driving privileges of convicted hit and runners.  That’s the purpose of Life Before License, which asks:

  1. A hit and run which results in fatality will result in the loss of driving privileges for 10 years.
  2. A hit and run which results in permanent disability, or causes a life threatening injury will result in the loss of driving privileges for 5 years.
  3. A hit and run which results in injury, but which does not lead to permanent disability or a life threatening injury, will result in the loss of driving privileges for 2 years.
  4. A hit and run which results in the damage of property only will result in the loss of driving privileges for 1 year.

Thanks Don, and thanks Safe Streets Northridge for the endorsement!

Unfortunately, life and the 2010 Bike Plan intervened, and Bikeside has missed the legislative window to alter state law.  So, we may beef this initiative up so that we can get even more through in the next legislative session.

An OG endorsement, and OG support:

For about a year, Josef Bray-Ali and I were each others’ dopplegangers.  Josef founded the Bike Oven, Northeast LA’s version of the Bike Kitchen, out of his garage, and I co-founded the Bikerowave 18 months later, West LA’s version of the Bike Kitchen.  Both Josef and I were original members of Stephen Box’s watershed Bike Writers Collective, and we were in many ways, the angry voices in the wilderness in our respective corners of the city – RANT set to full.  Single men, in full ass kicking mode working against a recalcitrant system – those were the bad old, and the good old, days.

Josef Bray Ali at the opening night of the Bike Oven

Josef Bray Ali at the opening night of the Bike Oven

I still feel a strong kinship with Josef because we still are cynical hardasses who want change now, not 5 years from now, and certainly not on the 30 year timeline laid out for the LA Bike Plan.  And Bikeside is proud to take pages from the Bray-Ali playbook and engage on complicated issues like LOS, or ADT.

Since Josef became a dad, he started the Flying Pigeon with his brother Adam, a bike shop next to the Bike Oven which sells city bikes of all flavors, including European cargo bikes.  That makes Josef a proud father of three, first, his greatest love – his daughter – and then the Bike Oven and Flying Pigeon.

Instead of stapling together $100 bills to make pants and t-shirts from their profits, or commissioning rocket ship bikes, Josef and Adam have set aside some funds to support organizations kicking butt for cyclists.  They’ve supported CicLAvia and LA Streetsblog, and today, they’ve pledged their support for Bikeside! We’re proud to have it, and it’s a mutual thing – we love Flying Pigeon and we love Josef’s fire, so we’ll be running ads for Flying Pigeon and, as always, seeking the Bray-Ali point of view to inform our efforts.


[edited to alter comments re Glenn Gritzner per Don Ward's request]

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5 Responses to “Don’s Hit & Run, and the Flying Pigeon Stamp of Approval”

  1. Just a quick – and out of left field – thought about Glenn Gritzner: Is it kosher to write a wikipedia article about his hit and run with Don Ward? I remember hearing bits and pieces about this when it went down, but for whatever reason it really hit home today. Obviously, the courts system is leveraged in favor of people with connections – but here’s the thing about the Interwebs: Imagine if enough people started writing enough about it that when someone (say, a potential client) went to learn a little bit more about Mr. Gritzner. Right under the link to his Mercury profile, there’s a link explaining how he plowed into a cyclist and fled the scene. Makes you think a little bit more if that’s the person you want running your campaign, doesn’t it?

  2. I appreciate the sentiments… and while I am angry about the insane hit and run epidemic, Let the record show that I’m actually not personally angry at Gritzner. I’m angry at the system that gives drivers a slap on the wrist for these kinds of crimes. People make mistakes and they make worse mistakes when there is a lack of consequences.

    Life before license is a great campaign and I fully endorse it because it focuses on the fixing the system. It’s a great step towards creating a climate where drivers stop and be responsible. Thank you Alex for working hard on this campaign. Let’s not make this a witch hunt. I’m alive and I survived and Gritzner did what he had to do for himself that night and in court within the system. Peace and love.

  3. I’m fine with checking the witch hunt at the door, but I also don’t think we should shy away from telling the truth about what happened. It would be artificial NOT to mention Gritzner.

  4. Hi Alex for the record I’m totally not accusing you of a witch hunt, I just don’t want to see it develop into one. Perhaps you would be so kind as to remove the link to his company profile and the language about him using his influence… Sadly, I don’t think he needed to use any political influence to get such a light punishment. The system provided all the tools for him and hopefully that will change with Life Before License.

  5. For the record, Streetsblog is honored to be in the same company as Bikeside and CicLAvia as well. The JBA stamp of approval is like a Livable Streets Oscar.

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