Residents Raise Money to Take on the Ryderz

Pictured, from left, back row: Officers O’Dea and Basaker, and Sgt. Eun; front row: Jill Smith, Nina Madok and Paula Leonhauser
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief 

The numbers and noise of the Ruthless Ryderz motorcycle club, also known to Sunset residents as the “Wednesday Night Pests,” may be down at the moment—but residents are not taking any chances.

They are creating a 5013C nonprofit organization to be called “The Friends of West Traffic Division” that will raise money to support Los Angeles Police Department strategies against the Ryderz and other perceived threats to public safety.

It is working under the motto “keeping our streets safe.”

The tax-exempt organization will have to work out how to spend the money, whether it be on radar guns to collect speeding data, promotional literature or online.

The founders, Alphabet Streets residents Paula Leonhauser and Nina Madok, announced their plan at the Pacific Palisades Community Council on Thursday, Jan. 11.

It followed a presentation by the traffic division’s recently promoted chief, Captain II Gary William Walters, who recalled cruising down Sunset on a Sunday afternoon and carrying out sobriety tests on a driver in The Huntington.

The West Traffic Division, which follows Sunset Boulevard from the ocean to Vermont Avenue, has seen a 10-percent drop in road accidents and a 22-percent drop in hit and runs over the last year. It handed out 20,000 DUIs.

But that does not mean there are officers to spare to shadow the Valley-based motorcycle club on the Wednesday and Sunday night high-speed parades along Sunset.

They are also limited on enforcement powers unless a traffic survey is carried out—which could be very soon, it was revealed.

Walters also delighted the PPCC members when he said that more air support to uphold the law on Sunset could also follow—although that enforcement would also apply to car drivers in addition to leather-clad Yamaha fans.

Sgt. Eun at PPCC
Photo by John Harlow

He congratulated his team of officers, including Sgt. Danny Eun and Officer Ryan Basaker, for clamping down on the Ryderz when they could—when the bikers have been performing illegal maneuvers or confiscating bikes for non-moving violations.

The number of bikers has shrunk steadily since the death of David “Babyface” Babylan at the intersection of Sunset and Chautauqua on April 2, 2017 in a collision with a Mercedes, which is under investigation by LAPD without any charges being laid, still.

Leaders of the motorcycle club maintain they are only expressing their right to drive on a route they have patronized for two decades without serious issue before the death of one of their own, and they do not intend to disturb light sleepers at 10 p.m. in the Palisades.

The new organization was founded because, Leonhauser said, the traffic division still needs community help to maintain the peace on Sunset.

She said they were inspired by the stewardship and recent resurgence of P.R.I.D.E., the association of Village-based businesses, which is drawing up plans to “refresh” the area in conjunction with the Caruso project. Now they want to make the rest of Sunset as appealing.

Leonhauser said that drivers on Sunset, a dangerously challenging corridor at best, needed both enforcement and education to make it a safer place for everyone—and the community, which admired police efforts but aware there were limits to their personnel, was ready to help out.