Yesterday was a big day for cyclists. And showed just how far we still have to go.
Ten months after 37-year old fashion designer Angelina Everett left Ed Magos lying in the street begging for help after colliding with his bike on a Downtown Street, she was sentenced to 90 days in jail, along with community service and nearly $20,000 in restitution. According to the L.A. Times, she will be allowed to serve her sentence on weekends in the Glendale City Jail, in part because she has a young daughter.
This is case in which the authorities initially declined to press charges because the driver turned herself in an hour-and-a-half after driving away, until pressure from the cycling community led them to take another look at the case.
While cyclists celebrate that justice has finally been done — not just in this case, but in any hit-and-run resulting in injuries this side of death — it should be sobering, as well.
First because this case, like any hit-and-run, is doubly tragic.
Everett is every bit as as much a victim of her own actions as Magos is. Had she simply remained at the scene, there never would have been a case. Who was a fault would have been determined in civil court, rather than in a criminal case. And she would be able to spend her weekends with her daughter, rather than languishing behind bars.
The other reason this case should cause all cyclists to take a step back is this chilling excerpt from the Times:
In court Wednesday, prosecutor Michael Schwartz played 911 tapes from the incident.
In one, Everett called in to report that she had “collided” with a bicycle, and told the 911 operator that she kept driving after the accident because of heavy traffic. When she returned to the site of the crash, she went on, Magos was gone. She asked the 911 operator, “Am I going to jail?”
“No, ma’am,” responded the operator, who went on to tell Everett that people didn’t go to jail for hit-and-runs involving cyclists.
As the article notes, the LAPD has come a long way under Chief Beck’s leadership. And the department now has an effective point person in Sgt. David Krumer, giving us someone we can turn to when problems like this arise.
But this is just one case, in one city. And as the 911 operator’s comment makes clear, legal protection for cyclists is still the exception, rather than the rule.
And even in supposedly bike-friendly communities like Long Beach, authorities continue to make up their own rules, regardless of what the law actually says.