Have you been involved in an injury collision only to find that the responding officer didn’t take your story seriously? Or that the report understated your account and you don’t recognize the basic facts of the crash? Or perhaps the officer let the offending motorist off without a citation because, well, you assume the risk of injury when you ride? Ventura County police reservist Laura Weintraub embodies the misconceptions that often make it difficult for us to get a fair shake from public safety.
Laura Weintraub is not only a lifestyle blogger and body stylist [update: link no longer functions], she’s also evidently an avowed foe of those who choose to bike. In her video ‘cup holder commentary bicyclist edition,’ she tours the suburban streets of Santa Paula in an SUV looking for riders to skewer. What’s her beef? The fashion infraction that is spandex, for one thing. Riders who deign to turn without signaling (as if drivers always signal). Or that riders move too slow for her taste.
But it hardly matters; just don’t get in her way. “Get in your friggin’ lane!” she cries about a rider on a typically wide suburban street where the bike lane unceremoniously comes to an end. At that point it’s a shared lane anyway, right? But why quibble over the fine points of traffic law or road safety.
We wouldn’t quibble because this kind of ignorance is dime-a-dozen. But this Ventura County-based fitness trainer is also an officer reservist with the City of Santa Paula. As a graduate of the Ventura County Police and Sheriff’s Reserve Officer Academy, she’s surpassed her “most physical and mental challenge to date,” she says. Some will quibble: a post to a forum on officer.com describes that training this way: “You run around, do some obstacle courses, do some pushups, stuff like that. It’s on the lower end of the difficulty spectrum.”
But the physical test is not the real challenge anyway. Rather it’s the law enforcement training on offer in this 21-week program. “The reserve academy will help you develop a law enforcement aptitude and furnish considerable police training,” the academy says. “Successful completion of the academy proves to potential law enforcement employers that you have the aptitude for police work and can endure a para-military style academy environment.”
But not all of public safety’s finest have gotten the memo. She seems under-informed about the vehicular code, for example. Here’s a reminder: it’s not only legal to ride our roads (in whatever outfit at whatever speed) on a bicycle, it’s also state policy to actually encourage it. We guess that academy graduates learn about firearms and chemical agents but perhaps don’t learn too much about the most likely kind of encounter with the public: affecting a proper and constructive attitude as a public safety official.
What a Public Safety Attitude Is Not
“I came out today hoping to film for you,” she tells her viewers, “and there’s like no bicyclists around, but I’m hoping that we’ll run over, er, run into some so that I can actually make this video for ya.” She asks her pal in the driver’s seat, “How much would I have to pay you to run one of these over?” Just give me a dollar, he replies.”I’ve got a few” she says.
Funny right? No, not so funny. “As much as I like the sun, I’m definitely moving somewhere where it snows all the time so that I don’t have to put up with these A-holes.” (Well that feeling is mutual.) And then Laura Weintraub closes her ‘cupholder commentary’ with this video still frame:
After her commentary made the rounds, the police department’s chief disavowed her comments and put her on administrative leave. [UPDATE: The chief announced she’s resigned from the reservist position. As @Rakdaddy said, “Too bad she wasn’t fired.”]
Time to Focus on the Fitness Business Exclusively
We support the chief’s action to put her on leave and have urged both the Police Chief and the Santa Paula Mayor and City Manager to dismiss Ms. Weintraub from reserve duty. The offense? Her less-than-constructive attitude concerning public safety and her disregard for the legitimacy of two-wheeled road users. There is no small number of cyclists who tour the Ojai Valley area, and each of them deserves the presumption of legitimacy. Not to be referred to as “A-holes.”
What’s next for this fitness trainer and public safety officer? Hopefully some quiet time to consider how her perspective makes getting a fair shake difficult for those who share the road with SUVs in suburban towns like hers. And maybe to reconsider how she presents herself.
I must say that there are 2 things I promised to never write about. Religion and politics. I will also abstain from sharing my thoughts about gun control.
Add to that too-small list the making light of running down people who choose to ride a bike for transportation, sport or pleasure. She’s taken down the original video but as news outlets picked up the story, Laura Weintraub’s hate lives on.