View of collision site shows how hard driver had to turn to cross center median; photo courtesy of Steve Herbert
Some of you have wondered why I haven’t written about the Santa Monica road rage assault that took place one week ago Thursday, other than a brief link earlier in the week.
It wasn’t for lack of trying.
I first became aware of this case on Saturday morning when a reader named Joy forwarded an email that had been sent to members of the Conejo Valley Cyclists.
In it, the author — who I won’t identify, since he hasn’t been publicly named by other news sources for reasons that escape me— told his side of the incident that occurred on Barnard Way on the evening of August 25th.
He described an ongoing dispute that continued as he rode down the street, as an angry driver repeatedly cut him off, gesturing and swearing. The rider responded by swerving into the paved median area, planning to pass the driver on the left when the car stopped for a stop sign. Instead, the driver, Jeffrey Ray Adams, cut sharply to the left across the rider’s path, causing a collision — apparently intentionally, in an incident all too reminiscent of the infamous Mandeville Canyon case.
Then to make matters worse, Adams continued to threaten the victim, as well as bystanders who intervened to protect him, in a video capturing the events that followed the collision.
I immediately reached out to both the victim and to Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin, the Santa Monica Police Department’s new liaison to the cycling community — sort of like LAPD Sgt. Krumer, but taller and closer to the coast.
Sgt. McLaughlin responded quickly to let me know he was off that day, but would pull the file the following day (Sunday) and get back to me.
As for the rider, I never heard back.
Which is odd, since he followed up on his first email with another directed to some 30 recipients, including members of the LACBC, Los Angeles Times and Santa Monica City Council, among others, asking them to report the story and demanding justice.
Note to cyclists: If you want someone to tell your story, trying responding to emails offering to do just that. Just a hint.
Meanwhile, Mihai Peteu of Bikeside broke the story later that night, with a link to the same information that Sgt. McLaughlin had offered to pull for me the next day. His story provided the name of the driver, as well as reporting that Adams had been booked on a charge of Assault with a Deadly Weapon and released on $30,000 bail.
Sgt. McLaughlin confirmed that Bikeside’s story contained all the relevant information he would have been able to give me from the incident report. And since Mihai had already reported everything I knew — and even turned the You Tube video the right way — I was more than willing to let them run with it.
Meanwhile, the story was soon picked up by the Santa Monica Mirror, LookOut News, Santa Monica Daily Press and L.A. Weekly. Although the first, and best, of news report came in a detailed story from the Canyon News.
Which meant that there was really no point in writing about it until I had something to add.
Which is, simply, this.
While cyclists are justified in their outrage over this dangerous and deliberate assault, this is not another Mandeville Canyon, despite the similarities.
In that case, the driver jammed his brakes directly in front of two riders, resulting in serious injuries to both, simply because they were in his way. Then the Good Doctor, who made his living treating trauma victims like the two he had just created, stuck around expecting a pat on the head from the responding officers. And was shocked to find himself cuffed in the back of a patrol car, because he’d gotten away with it before.
In this case, there was an ongoing dispute between the driver and cyclist; what started it, we have no idea. Although the rider’s initial email suggests the driver may have simply been pissed off to find himself stuck behind a cyclist on a road too narrow to allow passing, even though said rider said he was traveling at the 25 mph speed limit at the time.
But despite the outrageousness of the driver’s attack in turning directly into the path of the rider — then repeatedly claiming the rider hit his car and trying to goad witnesses into a fight — the bottom line is that the cyclist apparently suffered only minor injuries.
Or at least, what’s considered minor under the law. And under California law, that makes the crime a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. Even if his $3,000 bike was totaled.
Which is why Adams was out on just $30,000 bail within hours of his arrest.
The incident is still under investigation. And chances are, Adams will end up facing charges; his actions were clearly deliberate, there were too many witnesses and he made far too many stupid statements in front of a camera.
Unfortunately, it’s not against the law to be an idiot.
Or a jerk.
Then again, if it was, I could have faced my third strike years ago.
Whether he’ll do any time is another matter. Especially considering that Jaclyn Andrea Garcia is looking at just one year in jail — or in reality, six months or less — for nearly killing a cyclist while driving drunk, despite being underage.
And writing every council member in the City of Santa Monica won’t make a damn bit of difference.
What will make a difference, for other riders who find themselves in similar situations — and no, this is not the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last — is to get yourself out of it. Whatever it takes.
I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to have an angry driver behind you. Or in this case, in front of you.
Or beside you, for that matter.
So when a driver rages, pull over and let him pass. Or take the next turn and go a different way, as I did recently in a similar situation just blocks from where this happened.
And no, it wasn’t the same guy. Which means there are at least two of them out there roaming the streets of Santa Monica.
It’s not always easy. But it’s just not worth it to confront a threatening driver armed with a multi-ton four-wheeled weapon of mass destruction.
Especially now that the newly passed L.A. cyclist anti-harassment ordinance will become law on Monday. Not that it would help in Santa Monica, of course.
Just take down the license or grab a photo if you can, note any other details, and get the hell out of the way.
And never, ever flip off the driver behind you.
Trust me on that one.