Heaven knows, I don’t mean to be provocative or radical when I set out on my bike, my backside a brightly colored billboard, my nebbish noggin rocking a hopeful helmet.
I’m just a middle-aged guy who, having ceded the basketball court to younger, fitter men (the President! sigh!), is looking for some age-appropriate fun and exercise. But from the suburban soccer mom, late to corral her better-than-average but shockingly fragile offspring, to the rural teenager succinctly expressing himself with a well-aimed beer bottle, the response is the same: “Get off the d*mn road!” More threat than suggestion, two trials opening this week spell out how deadly a threat it can be.
In car-crazy Los Angeles, a successful doctor is charged with two counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon, having exchanged heated words and then “brake-checked” a group of cyclists on the popular Mandeville Canyon Road, where he lives. Dr. Christopher Thompson, an emergency-room physician, did nothing to aid one cyclist who severed his nose crashing through the car’s rear window, or another who suffered a grade 3 shoulder separation and lay bleeding in the road. Thompson allegedly told responding officers he was “tired of” cyclists and wanted to “teach them a lesson.”
In bike-loving Toronto, the former Ontario District Attorney, Harvard Law School grad and rising star of Canada’s Liberal Party, Michael Bryant, faces trial for “criminal negligence causing death” and “dangerous driving causing death.” Bryant had a minor collision with a cyclist as he and his wife drove home from a dinner party. Words were exchanged. Bryant tried to drive away, but the cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, clung to the side of the car. Bryant accelerated to what witnesses described as a very high rate of speed, and steering to the opposite curb, crashed Sheppard’s dangling body into a small tree, and then head first into a mailbox, killing him.
Who knew a simple bicycle ride could occasion such violence and anger? But then, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is, after all, the era of the town hall crier, of the second Brooks Brothers riot, the death throes of a decrepit political order upon us certain as $5 gasoline. Rage is all the rage. And whether we like it or not, bikes are suddenly a symbol, provocative as a liberal president. Still, I plan to ride again tomorrow.
[Note: This article was written for the Washington Post’s “America’s Next Pundit” contest.]
Enhanced surveillance video of the Toronto incident:
Witness statement from the Toronto incident:
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