"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

10.9.08

Enforced

As you know, I had a court date today to testify against a road-rager I had a run-in with last month on my way home from work. Since the entire exchange was between the two of us - the police didn't see it, and therefore could only issue him a 3 foot violation - I would need to testify should this guy decide to plead not guilty.

I left work at noon today and rode over; door to door it took me about 25 minutes to get from Milwaukee and Sanders to Harms and Old Orchard. The security guard wasn't going to let me take my bag into the courthouse, so I had to put my work clothes back on over my kit, before going through the metal detector. Then, on the plus side, I'd be able to take them off, Superman-style, before jumping back on the bike!

It was a typical traffic court hearing, the majority of folks there to either pick up their licenses that had been held as bond, or to plead guilty. Cases from all over the North Shore: Glenview, Rolling Meadows, Northbrook, Skokie. Only two defendants plead not guilty, including my man, and a trial was held right there, on the spot.

The case before mine was an auto accident between two old men who both looked too palsied to be even driving. The defendant was turning left out of the northbound lane into a Dominick's grocery store at Glenview and plowed into the other guy who was turning right. Guilty.

I was then called up before the Man, along with Mr. Road Rager, and swore to tell the truth. I gave my side of the story to the prosecutor, up to when we walked into the Glenview Police Station at the corner of Lake and Shermer, and then Mr. Rager began talking...er, babbling, and seemingly threatened to go on until he was interrupted.

It was more of the same in his terrible English: "I horned him because he riding at rush hour! I ride bike! But not stupi' 'nough do that! Cars in left lane!" During his testimony, the officer who'd issued the ticket - the one who'd originally told him if he didn't shut up, he'd be arrested - whispered into the prosecutor's ear - I think I heard the word, "beligerent."

Suddenly however, I was shocked to hear the judge agree with the defendant - and began taking the discussion to the bad area that I should've been to the right of the white line on the shoulder. I paused to make sure I wasn't going to interrupt him, and added, "of course I was to the left of the white line, the shoulder is filled with rocks and glass and other debris." I was getting a pained look on my face and wanted to scream out, "Jesus - I wouldn't have even gotten him into the police station if that motherfucker hadn't stopped in the middle of the road to impede my progress! That counts for nothing?!" Except the judge only had the citation to go on and the officer didn't witness anything. It was then that the prosecutor sealed the deal:

"Your honor. The issue here isn't where Mr. Morrissey was permitted to ride his bicycle. I know this as I ride a bike to work as well, and I make sure I am aware of the laws. The law states that the cyclist can ride in the roadway and should stay as far to the right as is safe. The issue is that [the defendant] can't violate the right of way, or threaten the well being of a cyclist just because he is in the way. That is what the 3 foot passing ordinance was established for. [The defendant], rather than honking at him and passing dangerously close, should have slowed and yielded the right of way until it was safe to pass the cyclist - just as would be expected upon encountering any other other slower vehicle."

The judge just looked at him for a second and then said, "One hundred thirty dollars and supervision."

And there it was. Justice meted out, completely blind.

I could offer much commentary, as you are well aware, on people's selfish attitudes behind the wheel, and how a little horsepower between their legs will make anyone feel they are entitled to anything. But I'll just say this: cars don't kill people, people kill people. But a 3,000 pound vehicle makes it a hell of a lot easier.

While it is no excuse to pawn your own responsibility off on your car - it has a brake pedal and a steering wheel and it doesn't move itself - it does carry a hell of a lot more liability and therefore responsibility. It is just as dangerous as a gun. And I recognize that both are necessary evils. And that is what the laws are there for - to protect all of us from each other and ourselves.

I actually did feel a bit like Superman as took my street clothes back off...

...keeping up with the fight for your right...

17 comments:

Jeff said...

Ha! Well done!!

Did the guy babble his way out the courtroom after paying his fine?

The Car Whisperer said...

Didn't stick around long enough to find out...I shook the prosecutor's hand, did an about face and got out of there.

Yokota Fritz said...

That absolutely rocks. A bike riding prosecuting attorney.

acoustony said...

Glad you didn't get stuck with a judge shunning you from the roads you have every right to be on.

But I must say, before we all start talking about stupid drivers, lets face it, we bikers can be pretty smug ourselves. Reading through the book "Traffic" the author made a good point that pretty much everyone thinks the other people are wrong. Drivers hate cyclists, cyclists hate drivers, and pedestrians hate everyone. And once you switch into foot, or into a car, you start critiquing other cyclists for not following the law etc.

Tamara Fraser said...

You deserved to rip off your clothes like Superman after that! YAY!

Duncan Watson said...

Thank you for going through with this. Even blind justice is better then letting the nutcase get away with it. Hopefully the judge was educated by this as well.

The Car Whisperer said...

To acoustony,

Very astute comment. We're all human. And that's why it's better to be annoyed at everyone around you while on foot or on a 20 lb bike instead of behind the wheel of the 3,000 lb vehicle.

Bike Girl said...

Congratulations!

Dave said...

Glad that things turned out for you well in the end but no need to criticize the driver for his bad english. That's simply an ad hominem attack that has no bearing on the case and only contributes to prejudice and ignorance (sort of like ignorance against cyclists!) Focus on the issues--his driving--not his ability with the english language.

Penelope Sommers said...

Aww, hell yes, Brian. This is absolutely awesome. Sorry I missed this posting earlier in the week.

The Car Whisperer said...

Dave, I disagree. Bad speaking and grammar is bad, period. I was making no judgments as to race, ethnicity, or nationality. He's obviously been living here long enough to speak better if he has a car and a license.

Let's not derail the topic.

s said...

Aww, hell yes, Brian. This is awesome.

James said...

Congratulations - It is so nice to hear good news from the legal side of things occasionally.

Keep taking your space!

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Hell Yeah.

Jennifer said...

I love a story with a happy ending.

Illinoisfrank said...

Does "Supervision" include having to take a class on rules of the road? As I reread this, Mr. Road-Rager's problems included a lack of knowledge of the law as it applies to bicycles.

The Car Whisperer said...

Not sure...I think it means he has to take an instructed driving course.