Road Rage

My Bike in Apartment Hallway
April 12, 2014

Another cyclist blew by me as I was waiting on a red traffic signal on the corner of Amherst and DeMaisonneuve. To avoid running into him a car with right-of-way had to thread a sharp, tight turn. Close as it was, both continued along up Amherst without contact.

"Idiot!", I muttered. It was well past dark. He could have waited: the signal changed to green just two seconds after the near-miss.

Just after I pedalled through the intersection I could hear yelling ahead. The cyclist who had buzzed through the red light had met some further sort of trouble less than a block on. Another car, an SUV, was stopped in the road. Its driver had stepped out of the vehicle and was yelling at and chasing after the cyclist. I didn't see whatever second traffic mistake the cyclist must have made up there, but in a third display of gross road ineptitude--all in under a minute--the cyclist doubled back down Amherst riding in the wrong lane against traffic to get away. To make four mistakes within a minute, he steered his bicycle directly into mine: knocking both of us off our seats.

He surely would have escaped if he hadn't run into me. Instead, he was collared by the SUV driver who screamed at him that he had to pay for damage he had caused to his car. The driver wrestled him to the ground. Then, with the cyclist sprawled prone in the middle of the street, he picked the bike up and waved it menacingly above the cyclist, yelling at him.

"I need a witness! I need a witness!", the panicked cyclist barked aloud repeatedly for anybody to hear.

I stayed deliberately close but out of arm's reach--not wanting to involve myself further in some stupid altercation while hoping my proximity might keep the cyclist from getting severely beaten. As the driver began twisting the cyclist's arm around his back I yelled out. "Hey! Leave him alone!" My words were immediately and automatically in English though the other two were speaking the whole time in French. A small crowd on the opposite side of the road stood on watching, at least one appeared to be recording a cellphone video.

To be sure he didn't go anywhere the fuming driver snatched the cyclist's cellphone out from a pouch on his bag strap. He yelled for the onlookers to phone the police. By coincidence, a passing patrol car happened down the road not much later. The SUV driver called out to it; it stopped. Somebody must have called the police before that car passed as well: another patrol car with lights already flashing pulled up behind a few minutes thereafter.

The driver launched into his account of events which included the cyclist crashing into his car then turning to flee and knocking into me. He didn't mention the fact that he'd snatched the cyclist's cellphone as collateral to keep him from running off nor that he'd tackled him in the middle of the street.

I stayed long enough to see the police separate the two and ask each to recount their version of what had happened. I figured the matter was well enough in-hand. It did cross my mind that the driver's agressive behavior might be the worse of the actions in comparison with the cyclist's damaging a vehicle and running off. Should I stick around and deliver a statement to that effect? I decided I'd played more than enough of a role that night, getting my own bicycle bashed by another and being the only one to stand alongside the street scuffle to potentially temper tensions and keep the argument from truly escalating.

As I started to walk away the only question the police officer had for me was whether I had any previous connection. Did I know the cyclist?

"Nope. I've never seen him before," I said, truthfully.

"Okay, you can go, then," the cop said.

My bike seemed to be rolling along about as well as it had been before the collision. Two more minutes up Amherst I was happily back inside my apartment and a world away from an all-around stupid situation nobody wanted to happen.