What happens when the hostile rhetoric we see in local media leaves the page and comes to life on the streets? I had the misfortune to experience it first-hand yesterday.
I was intentionally hit by a motorist, who used his car to push me and my bike out of the way while I was stopped at a light. The situation escalated when one of the occupants of the car got out and threatened me. Thankfully, nearby pedestrians intervened and the assailant got back in the car and fled. I was shaken and angry but otherwise unhurt; my bike was not so lucky.
This morning I discovered there were two other reported assaults-by-car yesterday (see here and here). UPDATE: Two arrests have now been made in the second incident. And we know there are lots of other acts of violence against bicyclists – we’ve all heard about them from friends or online.
How did we as a society get to a point where people find it acceptable to use cars as weapons, not only against other drivers, but against bicyclists and pedestrians who are far more vulnerable? It isn’t even difficult to understand that what might be a minor fender-bender between cars can be life-threatening between a car and a bike, yet these incidents are more and more common. I urge everyone (drivers, bikers, and walkers alike) to slow down and respect each other as people – that is the single most important thing any of us can do to avoid danger, de-escalate conflict, and protect ourselves and each other from harm. Slowing down gives you time: time to spot potential danger and avoid it; time to think about the possible consequences of an otherwise impulsive action; time to realize that it really isn’t worth risking your life or someone else’s to get somewhere a few seconds faster.
The police are investigating the attack on me, and I expect that arrests will be made. I have no idea what motivated my attackers, but this was a crime, and I am committed to pursuing this to the full extent of the law. MassBike will keep working to ensure that the system works to protect bicyclists and that motorists who intimidate and endanger bicyclists are held accountable.
Many of us have experienced incidents like this to varying degrees, ranging from cars “buzzing” us too close, to things thrown at us, to physical or verbal confrontations, or worse. We cannot let these things slide – we need to report them, so that the community and the authorities know they are happening. If you are a victim of road rage or harassment, please call the police and pursue charges. If you need help, call or email us, or look here for more information.