Global bike lobby urges tough sentence in US road rage case
Doctor slammed on brakes in front of riders
An international lobby of cyclists - including UK riders - is urging an American judge to impose a tough jail sentence on a doctor convicted of a road rage assault.
Dr Christopher Thompson, from Los Angeles, slammed on his brakes in front of two riders to "teach them a lesson" after he shouted at them to ride in single file.
One cyclist was flung face-first into the rear window of Thompson's car, breaking his front teeth and nose and cutting his face. The other cyclist slammed into the pavement and suffered a separated shoulder.
During the trial, prosecutors cited two prior incidents in which Thompson was accused of confronting cyclists along Mandeville Canyon Road and braking suddenly in front of them. None of those cyclists were hurt.
Cyclists from Europe and China as well as the United States have written to the judge in the case asking him to impose a severe penalty. The prosecution has asked that he be sent to jail for eight years.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the emails and letters argue that a tough sentence would send a strong message to hostile drivers everywhere.
Though some of the writers described themselves as friends of the victims, many said they had no connection to the case.
"Here in the U.K., the cycling community has a saying that, 'If you want to harm or kill someone, a motor vehicle is the weapon of choice,' " wrote Tony Raven, of Cambridge.
The 60-year-old emergency room physician was jailed in November immediately after jurors found him guilty of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon -- his car -- and other charges.
Many of the cyclists who sent messages about the case described how vulnerable they felt on two wheels when motorists get too close. Some recounted serious accidents caused by careless or sometimes vindictive drivers and complained that authorities rarely take such episodes seriously.
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.