Sunday, June 12, 2011

Road rage incident on NM-4 during lunchtime ride

A touch of civility, anyone?
acknowledgements to Patrick O'Grady

The email below was posted to pajarito-riders, Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy, and the Los Alamos Triatomics club on Friday, 10 June by Clay Moseley. Note that as far as we know, this dangerous driver is still out there.

I strongly urge that if you are in such a situation as described below, remain calm, get to a safe place, and call 911 at once. Posting to a list can alert other riders and that is good, but unfortunately, doesn't do anything of legal standing nor get a dangerous driver off the road. The next cyclist might not be lucky enough to be home safe, hitting "send". 

From: "Clay Moseley"
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2011 22:06:38 GMTTo:,
Cc: Police Chief Wayne Torpy wd dot torpy at lacnm dot us
Subject: Driver vs. Cyclist incident on NM-4

"After avoiding road riding for almost 3 weeks now, Dina and I headed out for an easy ride to Bandelier and back today during the lunch hour. 
We had a bad incident with a lady driving a late-model white Hyundai Sedan, NM license plate (will check with Clay before posting plate number here)Be aware of this car if you're out riding.  Read on as to why...
For those of you who don't know how I ride on the road, I essentially avoid most group riding, and am a real stickler for single-file, out-of-cars'-way bike riding habits.  I don't ride in busy streets and avoid altercations with cars in almost all situations.  In short, I'm a big advocate for non-intrusive bike riding for a few reasons, mainly because I think we're our own worst enemies with how we look to motorists, regardless of whether we're right or wrong.
All that said, I was in disbelief at what a motorist did to me today while out on NM-4 heading just east of the TA-49 entrance.  Dina and I were riding along single-file, going about 25mph and as far to the right as was safe (there are some bad shoulder cracks right in that area).  The traffic was very light and there were lots of other lunch-time bikers out there, and suddenly this person comes up behind us going about 35 and honking like an idiot -- absolutely without any sort of provocation other than being on a bike.  Anyway, when she passed me, she veered over within a cat's whisker of hitting me, then hit her brakes.  I had to veer out toward the other lane to avoid hitting her.  Dina was freaked out by the honking at very close range and had to hit her brakes to avoid being caught up in a crash.
I screamed at her because she was just about to take me out, and she began to hit her brakes again, then sped off.  Of course, I was pretty pissed off and gave her the ol' single-finger invitation to face up to what she had just done.  She slowed down and when I began to draw near again, she tried again to run me off the road with her car -- this time toward the opposing traffic side of the road!  Finally, she realized she was all over the road and started going nuts about having been flipped mention of the unprovoked attempted assault with her car.  I got in a few very loud shouts that hitting someone with her car is illegal, to which she reacted by veering (again) into the on-coming lane to take me out while wildly yelling that flipping someone off is illegal.  I had to call on some good bike handling skills to avoid this crazy lady and her car.
Anyway, nothing good came of the altercation, of course.  But, I did ascertain that the lady was either completely mentally unstable, off her meds, on way too many meds/under the influence, or a combination of two of the above.
Ironically, she had an Obama campaign sticker on her rear trunk.  I guess there is no Hope for some things...
Be careful out there.  It just doesn't seem to matter if you're right or wrong.  The people in the cars have all the control."


danc said...

Khal: You got that right: remain calm, get to a safe place, and call 911 at once.

Email or re-posting this message does nothing to change the specific driver problem(s).

Jimbo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimbo said...

I'm agreeing, but calling the cops afterward isn't going to help either. I was in a similar incident a couple of years ago. Like Clay, I avoid cars as much as possible and am about as non-aggressive on a bike as could be imagined. After a motorist tried to murder me twice, sped off, and then turned around for one more shot at killing me in cold blood, I hopped up on the sidewalk, rode across some grass and got the heck away from the lunatic.

I called the police once I was safely away. The dispatcher was immediately accusatory and informed me that bicyclists most often are in the wrong in these incidents. Furthermore, since no officer was around to witness the incident, there was nothing that could be done anyway. She then ended the conversation by telling me that I might be better off from now on if I rode on the sidewalk.

No matter how much we want to plead to the contrary, it is very clear that in this country the deck and public perception is badly stacked against cyclists. Each road ride is gambling with death. That's just the way it is. Until murder of cyclists by a motor vehicle becomes a criminal offense in the nation (it currently is not), this will continue across over and over again. This is why I avoid the streets at all costs.


Khal said...


Assault is not the same as a traffic infraction. Assault is a misdemeanor or worse. Just like a spouse calling the cops when his/her loving soulmate pulls a gun or knife on him/her in the privacy of the family castle. One calls the cops after the fact when one is safety away from the presence of one's "loved one". The cops come to the scene.

In the case of a traffic violation, my understanding is that a summons can't be issued on the basis of a citizen call to the police but even then, a citizen can go to municipal court and file a traffic complaint.

In the case of a criminal attack rather than a traffic infraction (and both your case and Clay's sound like a criminal attack to me, but my opinion is not caselaw), I think the comment "nothing can be done anyway" is plain wrong. I've emailed Chief Torpy to elaborate on this.

Fortunately these incidents are rare although I know from the email traffic that the lunchtime rides out on NM-4 seem to occasionally rub some motorists the wrong way and sometimes people get spun up.

I've been fortunate. Riding to work and out in the country around BombTown for ten years and had one pretty bad incident. That one was in part my fault for contributing to it getting out of control rather than following my own advice (hey, I'm Sicilian). Even that one ended with a handshake instead of bruises and handcuffs. Another time I followed my own advice and managed to play peacemaker between two men in cars who jumped out of their cars to take out their pent up frustrations on each other's faces. They shook hands.

There is hope. There is always hope.

Chandra said...

I am horrified to learn that this garbage happens in your neck of the woods as well. I have had one nasty incident happen in the past. I had one altercation a couple of weeks ago (or so) and I have decided that I am going to not confront such persons, verbally or otherwise.

But I have called the police in the past and I will call the police if I am harassed. I may also use a video camera mounted atop my handlebar and/or helmet and use it to document such perpetrators.

Be safe out there!

Peace :)

Khal said...

Jimbo, how long ago was that incident? Someone we both know is curious.

snogglethorpe said...

Seriously, a little consideration and politeness goes such a long way...

I'm as prone to be hotheaded as anybody, but I find that really it depends a lot on how I feel I'm being treated.

When others are polite to me -- e.g. a car driver stops and patiently waits for me to cross when he really didn't have to -- it makes me want to do likewise the next time I'm in such a situation ... and when I do, I feel good for having done so.

When I've have such good experiences in a certain area, I'm much more prone to generally relax and be forgiving and deferential, and the resulting feeling of general mutual civility is really very nice.

Unfortunately this rarely seems to happen in the U.S. (in my experience, at least)...

Jimbo said...

Hey Khal,

That incident was three or four years ago by now by my best recollection.

I recently spoke to someone who had a similar incident and he said the cops were much more responsive and concerned. That makes me feel a little better.