Cyclist and photojournalist Evan Wilder encountered a road raging driver on R Street. He says the driver tried to force him off the road, caused a collision, then threw his bike into the truck. A police officer later wrote Wilder a ticket while he was in the hospital. Here is his story:
Image from video by Evan Wilder.
A driver came alongside me on a narrow, sharrow painted part of the R Street bike route just before the entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
He should not have tried to pass me, since there was no way to pass and give me the required 3 feet minimum. What he was doing was intentional because he kept pace with me then moved to his right in order to broadside me.
I braked hard in order to avoid a collision, but the driver had stopped at stop sign as he swerved right, so I ran into the back of his truck.
He then got out and berated me, yelling and screaming that I shouldn’t mess with his truck and that I should be in the bike lane. When I said I would call the police he picked up my bike and threw it into his truck. The bike bounced out and landed on the other side of the truck in the road.
MPD officers arrived and I told them what happened. EMS took me to the ER, and while I was waiting, the MPD officer gave me a $100 Notice of Infraction for “following too closely.” The driver got nothing.
The officer wrote the following on the police report:
D1 states he was traveling east bound on his bicycle when D2 drove past him on the left. D1 states D2 passed him too closely. D1 further states that D2 stopped at the stop sign in front of him and he was unable to stop his bike in time. D1 struck the back of D2 with his bike causing a scratch to the right side of D2’s tailgate.
D2 states he was stopped at the stop sign when he heard D1 strike the rear of his vehicle.
[Witness] W1 states D2 was stopped at the stop sign and D1 struck his right rear bumper. W1 also states D2 was walking perfectly fine after the accident.
W2 states he came out side of his house after the accident and seen D1’s bike behind D2’s truck as in a rear end.
D1 was issued an NOI [Notice Of Infraction] for following too closely.
D1 had no complaint of injury but was transported to Howard University Hospital by Medic 17 for further evaluation.
The driver passing Wilder.
This narrative resembles Wilder’s, but in a way that is clearly more sympathetic to the driver’s point of view. What seems most conspicuous is that it makes no mention of the driver throwing Wilder’s bike into his truck. It seems very strange not to include that, since it is certainly also an illegal action. And did the officer ask the witnesses about this?
Wilder says he indeed told the officer, both at the scene and later at the hospital. And he says that both witnesses indeed saw the bike-throwing incident; they came outside after the crash because the driver was yelling so loudly. He writes, “When I asked about it and how that wasn’t an offense, he said that it was a separate incident from me being ticketed for striking his car, and that was it.”
It certainly seems relevant to the question of whether the driver was in a road rage state of mind before the crash. If you’re just sitting stopped at a light and a cyclist for some reason hits your car and makes a small scratch, you usually wouldn’t respond in this way.
As it happens, Wilder has a camera on his bike, which captured video of the whole incident. He’s not yet ready to release the video, but I’ve seen it and it seems to corroborate the fact that the driver suddenly cut off Wilder just before stopping. It also certainly shows the driver yelling, throwing the bicycle, and so on. Wilder is initially (and understandably) fairly angry as well, but then starts more calmly talking about calling the police while the driver rages on.
Certainly Wilder was asserting his right to space on the street. Some cyclists would have just slowed way down to give this driver a wide berth. But sharrows on this block
mean emphasize that the cyclist has as much right to be in any road space as a driver. Passing a cyclist too closely (a violation of the law) and then swerving in front of the cyclist to stop at a stop sign is fairly clearly an aggressive move that’s likely to cause a crash. Not to mention throwing the bike into a truck.
View from the bike as it’s flying into the truck.
Cyclists have had constant problems with police officers doing scant investigation, assuming a cyclist is at fault, and going all the way to the hospital to give the cyclist the ticket. It’s not one jurisdiction or one police force; this happened just last Monday in Rosslyn with the US Park Police.
We know from Zach T.‘s story that many police officers strongly believe that a cyclist is just about always at fault for any crash. We don’t know if this officer is one of those people or not, but given Wilder’s video, it’s clear that either the officer was biased, or else the type of investigation he conducted is simply not adequate to find the truth.
Update, May 20: Here’s the video.