L.A. doctor gets five years in bike rage case

January 10, 2010

An emergency room physician was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday for assaulting two bicyclists in Los Angeles by driving in front of them and slamming on his brakes. [Los Angeles Times]

Christopher Thompson, 60, was arrested on July 4, 2008, following the incident, which occurred on winding Mandeville Canyon Road, in the upscale Brentwood neighborhood. The assault drew national attention in bicycling circles and nearly 300 cyclists wrote letters and e-mails to Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington, asking for a longer prison sentence for  Thompson.

In issuing the five-year sentence, Millington described the case as a “wake-up call” about tensions between cyclists and motorists on Los Angeles streets.

“Government must be aware of the dangerous conditions existing on our city streets and the threat of injury to cyclists,” Milington told a packed courtroom.

The two injured cyclists testified in court that  Thompson acted aggressively from the start that day. They said he honked loudly and passed by dangerously close, before getting in front of them and slamming his brakes hard.

One cyclist, Ron Petersen, hit the back of Thompson’s red Infiniti face-first, breaking his front teeth and nose. The other bicyclist, Christian Stoehr, suffered a separated shoulder after slamming into the sidewalk.

Thompson, convicted of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon — his car — and other serious charges, had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.

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From what I can gather about this article, the road rage this doctor had was directed at those cyclists who are “sport” riders, those who wear the spandex and ride the expensive bikes. Many of those at that level of cycling are extremely fit and have very quick reactions, and most them believe that they can “react” their way out of dangerous situations. I never achieved that level of fitness on a bike, so I cannot really judge whether or not they can be safe in that manner. They are not the only ones on bikes on the road though; the commuter bicyclist is usually a much safer rider since they ride with more of a regular route. You can recognize them because they are usually in street clothes, most of them wear helmets, and some of their bikes even have fenders and lights. It is the person who rides a bike because that is their only transportation that is usually the most dangerous; they ride junker bikes usually, very few wear helmets, and most of them pay no attention to the rules of the road or sometimes even traffic. No matter which type of cyclists you encounter on the road though, they have every legal right to be there, and the law is clear about that. “Share the Road” isn’t just a slogan, it is the law, so please be careful. And all of you who ride a bicycle, please remember it is better to be safe than it is to be “dead” right.

As someone who rides his bike around SLO town a lot, I think part of the problem is that being on a bike is so liberating compared to driving a car that there’s a temptation to break the rules of the road. You see this sometimes with motorcycles too. Driving a car conditions you to be (relatively) patient and really demands obedience to the rules, and these habits aren’t as strong on a bike.

It’s no excuse, obviously, but something for bike riders to keep in mind.

What really gets me is when bike riders look both ways and then peddle through red lights like they don’t apply to them. Working in downtown SLO this is something I saw on a daily basis. Now I have to commute south bay everyday and regularly see the three wide everyone is complaining about on here. There are blind corners and I do look, but as a motorcycle rider I am well aware of the fact that regardless of who is in the “right” or who was at fault, the rider loses in a fight that isn’t close. Just remember bike riders, being right does you no good when your dead.

Bicycles rolling thru a stop sign or light does not bother me at all. From a bike you are much more aware of your surroundings for many reasons, and therefore are much more able to judge what is coming. Also, there is a much bigger “huff” to get going again (compared to stepping on the accelerator pedal), it does not seem unreasonable to me.

Riding three abreast is stupid, and Darwin will help the species trim off those stupid enough to be share the lane with cars.

I seem to be involved here in an argument that really doesn’t interest me, so I am going to try to bow out now.

Jeez, let’s just put ‘racket’ up against the wall for free thought and the ability to login.

I rode a bike all throughout my college years at Humboldt. Talk about a community that embraces alternative means to get around. SLO County, however, does not. And, quite frankly, I have seen just as many stupid cyclists as jerk drivers, especially on the ‘country roads’. As a land surveyor, I have witnessed many close calls regarding cars v.s. bicycle. As an E.M.T., I know from experience that sometimes it is just dumb luck that anyone survives these days.

The people I cannot even begin to understand are motorcyclists. Yeah, I understand the whole ‘gas savings’ upside, but the downsides are just plain fatal.

I like to ride a road bike for exercise and I drive a car/truck as well. It really pisses me off at times when riders are 2 or 3 abreast with at least one of them out of the bike lane.

LEARN HOW TO RIDE!!!!! Single file, inside the bike lane unless you want to be scraped off on a steal bumper. (not a threat, just reality)

I usually see idiot riders on weekend rides risking there and my lives as I have to drive across the centerline to get around these inconsiderate riders.

I’ve never encountered bicyclist riding 3 a breast and blocking my lane. If I did, I would give them a long obnoxious honk and follow behind them until they got out of my way. No need for me to be crossing a center line because they don’t want to respect the road that we all share. I do cross the center line on occasion but that’s only when the road is narrow and I don’t want to come to close to the bicyclist, I would never do it because they were being hogs and willfully creating a dangerous situation.

It’s called a Peleton,


Large groups occupy less of the road and travel faster than otherwise. It allows people of lower fitness to travel at speed of people of better fitness. See road cycling clubs. In a peleton, occupying 1 lane is OK. Occupying more than 1 lane should never happen unless road is *closed* for a race.

Again, passing safely you may be pissing away 1 minute of your life, max. Not passing safely, you are jeopardizing another’s life and risking years of your own life. Treat a peleton like a slow moving semi truck.

And yes, if people ride 2 abreast and there is less than 10 of them, and not on a side road (ie. there’s traffic), then they are assholes.

take note? seriously?

How about you take note that road rage is a serious issue Mr. Racket. Your driving a couple ton car and the average cyclist + bicycle weighs a combined 200 ish pounds. How about you slow down and pass without issue. Take a whole 20 seconds of your day to drive around the cyclist at a safe distance. God help anyone who would likes to workout….

That is exactly what I mean.

I am not a “Type A” personality and I am seldom late. Which, I hope, illustrates that I have no “need” to endanger bicyclists or anyone else.

However, I do feel that tug of the steering wheel when I see bikes riding three abreast and crowding what used-to-be the autos’ slow lane. Thankfully, I have always been able to resist that pull on the wheel.

My observation was meant to remind the bicyclists that there is little future in pissing off the auto drivers, for exact reason you mention (couple of tons of steel vs couple hundred pounds of meat and titanium). I did not mean to threaten anyone, only to point out what a spandex-clad ass straddling the line looks like to an otherwise sane driver.

You have some serious issues. Take the extra few seconds and get on with your life. Absolutely no excuse for this type of behavior, and I don’t ride a bike much.

Cyclists are not there to “piss you off” sir. There are there to either get from point A to point B or get some exercise. A large group of cyclist occupying one lane out of a 4 lane road, not in rush hour, is not exactly causing any inconvenience to anyone. Not any more than a slow moving truck.

Sadly, that could have been me. Or most any other auto driver who gets fed up with the passive/aggressive tactics of the spandex set.

Absolutely it is wrong to cause injury. But it coulda been me. Or almost any other driver.

Bicyclists, please take note.

Here is a handy guide to dealing with situations involving asserting your will/ego on the road .

I’ve got to disagree with you racket. I have never been that aggravated with a bicyclist. We are supposed to share the road with them. I fully expect to slow down and if the road is narrow, I wait for an opening to pass while affording them plenty of room. There is nothing wrong with people of bicycles, the rest of us need to slow down, what’s the rush?