MassBike leader physically threatened with car

Though many would say it’s business as usual, publicized incidents wherein cyclists are harassed and threatened ballooned on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Four separate incidents came across the wire in one day, and even the city’s top bike advocates were not immune.

That morning a car bumped into the back tire of one of the most law-abiding, considerate cyclists in the region, David Watson, executive director of the statewide bike advocacy organization MassBike. The bump was intentional.

As events unfolded, Watson’s bike was totalled and a passenger got out and physically threatened him until bystanders began to intervene.

The police are still searching for the suspects, and Watson said he plans to press charges and make an example of the driver who hit his bike.  

“Nothing would justify them hitting me with their car intentionally,” he said.

Not too far away in time or place this video was filmed via helmet cam on Mass Ave, graphically illustrating how road rage appears to cyclists. And a third incident had two motorists going at it with at least one tire iron–and a cyclist ending up as collateral damage. Thankfully BPD was all over this one, arresting two. A fourth cyclist also reported a serious road rage incident to police on the same day, though no details are being made public at this time.

Let us not forget that it was only a scant month ago that the Boston Herald was drumming up images of a “war” between cyclists and drivers. Now we have four incidents in one day where motorists are clearly acting as if that war was real–and the Herald is strangely quiet about it.

Does this kind of “war” journalism embolden some motorists to strike out at cyclists?

It’s a question responsible journalists and their editors would be asking themselves right about now.

But even beyond misrepresentations and sensationalism in the media, driving a car in the city is fundamentally and by design a  frustrating experience. It’s inherent in stop and go traffic and the complexity of downtown traffic to get annoyed, and there is no fix for it. Cars are just like that. But cars are also deadly weapons.

Therefore, people who choose to travel by car need to be held to high standards of tolerance and calm. Driving a potentially dangerous vehicle requires a high level of responsibility and acts of road rage should be seen by the law as a clear sign that a person is not fit to drive.

As it stands, “criminal threats” are illegal and can be prosecuted as can assault and battery, though penalties are weak for first-time offenders. But there is no clear legal connection between criminal threats hurled by drivers and the number of points on their driver’s license. If a driver steps out of his or her car to physically threaten a cyclist, pedestrian or other driver, there should be clear consequences both for their criminal record and for their driving record. Ultimately, those who are repeatedly susceptible to road rage should not be allowed to drive.

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