Monday, January 11, 2010


A reader submitted some background on the case of the motorist vs the bicyclists in the Brentwood hills. The two articles are here and here and the evidence seems that the driver may have had a history of aggressive driving in the past.

What is most interesting is the dialog that is happening in the comments. There are those who are condemning the driver, citing his aggressive stance and other criticizing the cyclists for either provoking the driver by not being courteous riders or for following too close (which technically is correct, if you are a vehicle you are suppose to stay far enough back to be able to stop if necessary, and cyclists have to observe the same rules of the road.)

The thing that is most disturbing is that the dialog is very polarized, most are accusatory on both sides. The debate is a winner take all attitude. If I am 49% wrong and you are 51% wrong then you take all the blame kind of discourse. Of course sentencing is suppose to address the nuances. The sentence of five years at first seemed excessive but visiting the Bureau of Justice Statistics five years seems about average as quoted here.

Felony convictions

State and federal courts convicted a combined total of nearly 1,145,000 adults of felonies in 2004. Of these felony convictions, an estimated 1,079,000 adults were convicted in state courts and 66,518 were convicted in federal courts, accounting for 6% of the national total.

In 2004, 70% of all felons convicted in state courts were sentenced to a period of confinementconfinement in a state prison (40%) or a local jail (30%). Jail sentences are short-term confinement (usually less than 1 year) in a county or city facility. Prison sentences are long-term confinement (usually 1 year or more) in a state facility.

Prison sentences handed down by state courts in 2004 averaged almost 5 years .

and given the intent to harm and the use of a weapon (car) based on an internet definition below

A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he or she attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes such injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon. In all jurisdictions statutes punish such aggravated assaults as assault with intent to murder (or rob or kill or rape) and assault with a dangerous (or deadly) weapon more severely than "simple" assaults.

The felony sentence seems appropriate.

Unfortunately this case has polarized more than resolved issues. Our network of roads, streets and paths are signs of a civil society. Maintained for the citizenry for the benefit of all the citizenry. Our tax distribution and allocations really exemplify that our support for cars is first and foremost. And this allocation of resources only reinforces that cars are special. More balanced spending on different modes of transportation would go a long way to removing the subconscious notion that cars and mechanical transportation is normal. It may be our norm, but it is definitely not natural. And since it is not natural, we can shape our own norms. It's time that we do.