Motorist Takes Responsibility For Hitting MassBike Executive Director

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.

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10 Responses to Motorist Takes Responsibility For Hitting MassBike Executive Director

  1. Jonathan Sainsbury May 3, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    That’s fantastic! Truly. Hard to imagine. Often I think an apology is all (ideally) most people would want. But what does this admission mean in terms of the law and expenses?

    • David May 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Jonathan: The settlement included money and an agreement that I wouldn’t pursue further criminal or civil charges.

  2. JKM May 3, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I’d like to know more about why you chose mediation. You were assaulted, isn’t that a crime that belongs in court?

    • David May 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      JKM: I did initially want to pursue assault and battery charges. But the evidence wasn’t strong enough (no witnesses and no injuries) and I didn’t want to risk letting the driver off the hook completely by filing charges that were likely to be dismissed. I decided to try mediation because I could always pursue charges later if mediation failed. These are obstacles and choices faced by many victims; I did not feel that I was treated differently because I was a bicyclist.

  3. Rebecca Albrecht May 3, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Wow! A sincere apology like that is such a powerful message. Thank you for pursuing your case and letting us know the outcome. Will his apology be heard by the public?

  4. Merrick May 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    This is a really great story to hear for motorists AND bicylcists. I ride my bike to and from work everyday and I find myself getting very angry at motorists sometimes. I’m really glad to hear of a story where appropriate legal action was taken not with the mind set of “I want him punished!” I hope I can keep these kinds of stories in my mind the next time someone cuts me off! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Rick Kuehnast May 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

      I am surprised this incident was not treated as road rage and therefore a criminal offense, as opposed to aggressive driving, which is a traffic violation. I found his apology to be rather weak and generic, particularly when one considers he intentionally assaulted you with a motor vehicle and you could have been injured. What do you suppose the outcome would have been if the cyclist had been a uniformed (or non-uniformed) police person on a bike?……had that been the case you could have drawn your weapon and fired at the driver. I think the perpetrator got off pretty easy.

  5. MJM May 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I’m horrified.

    I mean, I guess this is ‘progress’ of some kind, but honestly, this is a near miss with manslaughter, David. You could have been killed by this creep who, like so many people in this demographic, is probably a nice person around family and friends…but has a certain gate that opens to expose a complete psycho lurking underneath at certain times. Certain times like whatever thing pissed him off to induce homicidal road rage. Like you being on a bike and occupying space on the road (the audacity).

    So my question is: will the psychotic criminal in question at least be required to attend some kind of program for road rage, anger management, or *something*? I sure don’t want this guy, armed with a ton of fiberglass and nasty plastic behind me or any member of my cycling family. His license should at least be revoked for a year or ten, eh?

    • David May 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      MJM: Please see my earlier response to JKM. This is how the system works, and even though I would have liked harsher consequences, it just wasn’t going to happen. It was this or likely he gets off entirely due to lack of evidence.

  6. Eugene May 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    David, just found your blog and read this story. It seems like you made the right decision with mediation. Good work on getting the public apology and maybe changing his perception of cyclists. Luckily you were not injured. Take care