Los Angeles doctor Christopher Thompson has been sentenced to five years in jail after deliberately braking in front of a pair of cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road, a winding five-mile residential street popular with local cyclists. The Los Angeles Times reported that Thompson offered a tearful apology to the injured rider and urged a peaceful resolution to conflicts between cyclists and residents of the street before he was led away.
Thompson was convicted of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon – his car – and bodily harm, as previously reported on road.cc. He received two years for the assault charge and three for bodily harm, a sentence that judge Scott T. Millington said he hoped would send a message to motorists. He also expressed doubts about Thompson's remorse, and called on cyclists and drivers to respect each other, adding that local government should add more lanes specifically assigned to cyclists to improve their safety
Thompson, 60, read a statement urging cyclists and canyon residents to resolve their differences. "If my incident shows us anything, it's that confrontation leads only to escalation of hostility and not resolution," he said. "You cannot fix the problem if you are consumed with affixing the blame."
Thompson's sentencing follows a worldwide campaign by cyclists, who sent over 270 letters and emails urging the judge to hand out a harsh sentence as a message to motorists. Deputy District Attorney Mary Hanlon Stone said the letters show that many cyclists feel like second-class citizens.
"It is time that motorists learn that they must share the road with people on bicycles and that the courts will view assaults on cyclists by motorists as seriously as other assaults with deadly weapons," she wrote in court papers.
What's particularly interesting in this case is that the sentence was for offences not specifically intended for motoring, a lead that the CPS in this country have been extremely reticent to follow. Even in cases where a driver has knowingly and deliberately run a cyclist off the road with intent to injure, such as in the case of Christopher Robertson, the charge used is one of dangerous or reckless driving rather than a more serious charge that assumes intent. We'll wait to see whether this judgement from the states has repercussions over this side of the pond.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.