DC Police Wrongly Presume Injured Cyclist Guilty: “C’mon, You’re a Biker”

How many times have you read about someone who was injured while walking or biking, only to be found at fault by law enforcement? And in those cases, how many times did police blame the victim based on nothing more than self-serving testimony from the driver? That’s what happened to Zach T. in Washington, DC, this spring, but thanks to his own persistence and detective work, he was able to prove the driver’s account wrong and obtain some measure of delayed justice.

Zach was biking to work in March when he was struck by a left-turning SUV driver. The collision landed him in the hospital with a separated shoulder. While he was receiving treatment for his injuries, he got a visit from a police officer who handed him a ticket for running a red light. Zach refused to sign the ticket, insisting that he’d had the right of way.

On the police report, the driver and one other witness said that Zack had run a red. So, on his own initiative, he filed a public records request and managed to obtain footage from a nearby CCTV camera before it was erased. It clearly showed that he had proceeded through a green light (see video above, collision happens at 0:32). But, as Zack wrote yesterday on Greater Greater Washington, that still wasn’t enough to sway the supervisor of the local police precinct to do anything:

Now it was time to take action against the claims that I was at fault. I returned to the Third District police station, where a supervisor told me that only the officer who wrote the report and the ticket could change it. He asked me to tell my story again.

“Wait, you mean, you were biking and you want a ticket canceled?” he said, incredulous. “We all know how bikers behave. It must have been your fault. C’mon. You are a biker.”

When I suggested that he review the video, he refused. The supervisor said he’d contact the officer but that I shouldn’t expect anything to come of it, as I was a bicyclist.

Eventually, Zach was able to set the record straight:

So I filed an appeal. I scheduled a hearing and brought my evidence, but the officer didn’t bother to show up. The ticket was canceled. It took an extra several hours of unnecessary hassle, but it felt great.

Thanks to the airtight evidence contained in the footage, Zach was also able to win an insurance claim against the driver for his injuries, which include permanent damage to his shoulder.

Zack’s whole story is worth a read. It makes you wonder how many times biased police have wrongfully blamed victims who didn’t survive a crash or couldn’t obtain camera evidence on their own.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland explains a new state law that will give pedestrians right of way over vehicles anywhere on narrow neighborhood streets. Biking Toronto shares stories from Seattle and Toronto about developers catering to people who ride bikes. And Systemic Failure says that the Federal Railroad Administration’s promises of flexibility on one of their onerous safety regulations are a joke.


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