Less than a month after a hit and run driver killed Bikestock co-founder Matthew Von Ohlen, another Brooklyn cyclist says an enraged driver followed him into a protected bike lane and tried to intentionally run him over. And when he tried to report the incident to police, he says officers weren't interested.
According to Shawn Wolf, he and a friend were riding south on the Kent Avenue bike lane on Thursday night, July 7th, when they saw a silver Honda Odyssey parked in the bike lane. Wolf said he noticed a number of cyclists ahead of him being forced to merge into traffic, so when he passed the Odyssey, he told the driver to "Get the fuck out of the bike lane." That's when Wolf says the driver began chasing him and his friend in his car down Kent Avenue, and even threw a water bottle at them.
While still being chased, Wolf and his friend turned onto the protected bike lane on Flushing Avenue, but the minivan driver followed down Flushing, cutting into the separated bike lane, which is divided from motor vehicle traffic by Jersey barriers. After Wolf and his friend were able to get around the car, Wolf said the driver fully entered the bike lane and tried to hit the two cyclists, forcing the two to hop onto the sidewalk.
According to Wolf, the driver of the car attempted to exit his vehicle, but the car was so wide that the driver's side door was pinned shut by the Jersey barrier. So after yelling at the two some more, he kept driving in the bike lane until exiting it at Grand Avenue and speeding off.
Wolf said that his first instinct when he got home that night was to let the situation go, but decided that since Von Ohlen had been hit so recently he "didn't want this aggression against cyclists to go unseen." But he says police discouraged him, despite being provided with the vehicle's license plate. While Wolf said that the responding officers from the 88th precinct were sympathetic to his experience (one said "Holy shit, he really was in the bike lane" when he saw the picture, according to Wolf), they ultimately told him that since an officer wasn't on the scene to witness the attempted assault and there was no damage to person or property, they could only classify the incident as "a verbal dispute."
And even that would wind up being Wolf and his friend's word against the driver, despite the picture. When Wolf suggested it could be helpful to report the incident in case the driver wound up in another road rage incident, he says the police discouraged him from filing a report, telling him that it would get buried and be "a waste of time."
Wolf's fiancé Anna Maria Diaz-Balart shared the picture that he took of the car stuck in the bike lane on Instagram. She deemed the police response "unacceptable." Attorney and cycling advocate Steve Vacarro agreed with Diaz-Balart's sentiment, telling us that the driver could have been charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree and attempted assault (both felonies), menacing in the third degree, reckless driving and failure to yield (all misdemeanors). Vaccaro also said that he's "had numerous cyclists raise this issue [police not being interested in charging reckless drivers] with me," and that by not even taking a report, the police were encouraging this driver, and other drivers, to commit more crimes like this."
The NYPD declined multiple requests for comment. Wolf, for his part, acknowledged that telling the driver to get the fuck out of the bike lane "wasn't the most polite way to say it, but he was in the wrong," and that it clearly didn't warrant that kind of reaction.
Wolf said he was disappointed with the NYPD response to someone weaponizing their car like this. "What would the difference in response be if he had chased us down the street with a knife or a gun?" he wondered.