Last September, I reported that a motorist had intentionally hit me while I was riding to work. Fortunately I was not hurt, but my bike was totaled. As the victim, I wish it had never happened, but as an advocate I decided to learn from the experience how the legal system works and whether it would protect me and hold the driver accountable. It took awhile (seven months) for the case to move through the legal process, from the initial report, to the investigation, to the filing of charges, to a hearing, and finally to a resolution.
I think the system worked in my case, though not in the way I originally expected. I had initially hoped to see the driver convicted in court, but after weighing the options carefully I chose to attempt mediation offered by the Boston Municipal Court. The case was finally settled this week. I know this result will not satisfy everyone, but I feel that it served my purpose. My primary goal was for the motorist to publicly take responsibility for what he had done, and he did. As part of the settlement, the motorist, David Monahan of Roslindale, MA, made the following statement:
On September 13, 2011, I intentionally struck a bicyclist, David Watson, with my car while he was stopped at a red light in Boston. I purposely pushed Mr. Watson’s bicycle with the bumper, pushing it completely out of the road as the light turned green. I cannot undo what I did, but I can and do accept full responsibility. In addition, I extend my sincere apology to Mr. Watson. This incident has served as a real wakeup call for me to be a more responsible, law-abiding, vigilant and aware driver. This is especially necessary in Boston where motorists like me must learn to share the roadways with a growing number of bicyclists.
Having talked face-to-face with the driver, I believe his statement is sincere – that he made a very bad choice and regrets it. I also believe he genuinely wants other motorists to learn from his mistake and do more to protect bicyclists. And I think for a motorist to say these things sends a powerful message that violence against bicyclists is wrong and will not be tolerated.
I hope other bicyclists will share their experiences dealing with the legal system. From my perspective, the system can protect us and hold drivers accountable, but the process is not quick or simple. The legal system has many hurdles built into it that must be cleared by any victim, bicyclists included, but patience and perseverance can lead to a fair result.