Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Man Bites Dog

Well, not exactly, but this story in the San Francisco Chronicle definitely fits the genre:

Yes, a Bay Area cyclist has been charged with felony assault for pummeling (unconscious) a driver whom he claims clipped him with the side-view mirror of his pick-up truck.  This image is not from that incident, but, I think, is more typical of how cyclist vs. driver confrontations turn out:

Before discussing the incident itself, though, I would like to applaud the Chronicle for heeding a complaint I have been making for years against the media.  Ever notice how, whenever a member of the military is alleged to have committed a crime, the press feels compelled to point out their military status?  Rather than "El Cajon Man Stabs Cyclist," we get "Marine Fails to Heed Crosswalk Signal," or "Sailor Cited for Playing Car Stereo Too Loud."  Meanwhile, we never see the headline, "Local Cable TV Installer Terrorizes Boardwalk With Chainsaw," or "Qualcomm HR Receptionist Runs Over Beloved San Diego Bikeist While Texting His BFF."  For some reason, what Sailors, Soldiers and Marines do for a living always seems to be headline-worthy, even if the story is totally unrelated to anything they've done in uniform.  Thus, I have to give the Chronicle credit for, at least, not applying a double-standard, by identifying the profession of the accused cyclist ("Tech Executive Charged . . .") in the above story.  Wait, a member of my crack staff just tapped me on the shoulder.  She has informed me that, after San Franciscans ran the Navy out of town, members of the tech industry became the most reviled local citizens and the focus of random hatred and scorn.  Oh.  I guess the unfair headline makes sense now . . .

Anyway, back to our Bicyclist Pummels Driver story.  First off, The Bikeist (who has had my share of run-ins with drivers) would like to make it completely clear that I do not condone violence as a solution to conflicts or disputes, and am pretty sure that the cyclist in this story is likely to be a complete tool.  However, the negative tone of the story, and the presumptive attacks posted by Chronicle readers seem to ignore the possibility that there may be two sides to this story. Lumping the behavior into the category of garden variety "road rage," akin to some driver over-reacting to someone tailgating them, the writer glosses over the fact that the cyclist claims to have been struck by the truck driven by the alleged victim (whose profession wasn't deemed to be news-worthy, by the way).  Suppose you were walking along the side of the road, and were suddenly struck by the side-mirror of a pick-up truck followed by the driver speeding on as if nothing happened?  Do you think that might be a little bit upsetting?  What if a driver who witnessed the hit and run chased down the criminal driver and detained him?  Hero, right?  But, when it's a bike rider who gets hit, the reaction seems to be (1) "so what" and (2) he has no right to do anything to the person who just hit him with a multi-ton vehicle.

I get it, though - if this story is at all accurate, it sounds like this cyclist went too far.  But, is the driver being charged or investigated for the hit and run?  It sounds like we have two crimes here, but, as with the way the press chooses to write its headlines, a double-standard being applied to how they are reported.

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