Sometimes good things do happen when bicyclists fall victim to aggressive, even violent manoeuvres by motorists. I’ll share some updates on two incidents which resulted in criminal charges for the drivers.
I’ll start with the more recent case.
May 30th, 2013: Dignity Transportation, in the Junction
Later today the accused from the May 30th incident appears in court to answer to two criminal charges. The accused was driving a Sprinter transport van for his employer, Dignity Transportation, when unprovoked, he used his vehicle to endanger and knock me down before he fled the scene. He was arrested two days later.
He is charged with dangerous driving and failure to remain (i.e., a hit-and-run). This case is somewhat novel because it was recorded by a helmet cam I now wear whenever I ride — a cycling safety addition prompted by a road rage incident last December, unrelated to another December incident updated below.
The high-def video is not public. Once a ruling is made, I’ll post the unedited clip to my “velo tastic” channel (side note: I really don’t like that name, but whatever).
That video evidence, plus photo evidence of the several injuries I sustained (like that nasty split chin and a chipped patella from blunt-force impact) and damages to my bike, probably made the difference between two criminal charges and maybe one charge, if at all. Why? Because as a bicyclist, Toronto Police, as with police forces elsewhere, demonstrate a mode choice bias pattern against users of active transportation when an incident involves a bicyclist and a motorist. The additional support of video evidence helps to offset that bias.
December 5th, 2012: intoxicated driver endangerment assault, next to Christie Pits
Back on December 5th, I was endangered by one motorist’s aggressive driving on Bloor Street adjacent to Christie Pits. He tried to use his minivan to knock me out of the right lane (and almost succeeded with his effort). Then he got out of his minivan, his breath sweet and strong from alcohol, and assaulted me at Bloor and Concord before speeding off.
What was supposed to be a simple call to 911 resulted in an almost comical three-hour delay by Toronto Police. I say “almost” because it was a really frigid, windy night, and several Twitter people rallied together as my phone died and my extremities numbed. Eventually, 14 Division arrived, then afterward visited the alleged at home and charged him with criminal assault.
What’s worth highlighting is that the police charged him only on the bodily assault at Concord where he had followed me, got out of his van, and grabbed my coat whilst threatening to do much more harm. This was several blocks west of where the real endangerment occurred. The reason I had stopped my bike at Concord, after passing the man (who appeared to be turning right at Ossington), was because during the contact he made with me (using the side of his minivan to shove me rightward), one of my saddle’s rails snapped as a function of my putting sudden force on that side when deflecting his van. I kept my balance, but the saddle was a total loss. And yet, he was not charged for this far more dangerous infraction.
In February, the constable from that night sent an update: the alleged had plead guilty. The crown recommended probation, community service, and a letter of apology, pending my input as the victim. This is what I recommended:
I endorse these avenues:
- Volunteer for Councillor Mike Layton’s office on public bicycling events (e.g., Bike Month). I suggest Cllr. Layton as both a firm advocate of multi-modal transportation and as councillor for the ward inside which both of the defendant’s infractions occurred. I recommend co-ordinating with Layton’s executive assistant, Michal Hay.
- Volunteer for a community-run bike repair shop. Suggestions: Bike Pirates, Charlie’s Freewheels, Bikesauce, Community Bicycle Network. In these, he can learn to work to repair a bike, assist other bicyclists by teaching them how to repair their own bikes, and have a humanizing interaction with the community of citizens who use bicycles as a functional mode of mobility.
I support a letter of apology and would appreciate a copy. His letter should be addressed to Toronto’s bicyclists, explaining how the nature of his behaviour toward one of them was illegal, socially inappropriate, and something he won’t do again. Alternately, he may address the letter to me. If he does this, he understands that he must forward a copy to one of Toronto’s four, online-only daily news sites (Torontoist, BlogTO, Toronto Standard, or Spacing), prefaced with an explanation why the letter, meant for community publication, is being sent. I’d leave this choice up to the defendant.
The constable had forgotten about sending the final outcome until I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Today, I learnt of that outcome in the form of two letters.
The first was from the Community Bicycle Network:
April 22, 2013
To Whom It May Concern:
RE: Chrysostom Louis
This letter will confirm that Chrysostom Louis has completed 25 hours of voluntary services at the Community Bicycle Network located at 761 Queen Street West, Toronto. Between March 27 and April 20, 2013, Mr. Louis assisted the Network by preparing a preliminary framework for an upcoming inventory of the Network’s resources.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.
Chair, Board of Directors
Community Bicycle Network
The other letter was from the defendant, Chrysostom Louis. While the letter was addressed to me and not sent to any news outlets that I’m aware of, I want to be clear that this apology is extended to all of Toronto’s bicyclists.
April 22, 2013
Ministry of the Attorney General
Office of the Crown Attorney
Old City Hall
RE: Regina VS Louis, C. / C.E. #: 2546327-1
Dear Astrid Idlewild:
I am writing to apologize for assaulting you on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012. I know that as a cyclist you have as much right to the public roadway as I do as a motorist and that moreover, as an operator of a larger more powerful vehicle, it was my obligation to be mindful of and extra careful towards you, a fellow commuter, sharing the road. My behaviour on December 5th was less considerate than you deserved and for that I am sorry.
I accept that the incident on December 5th was my fault and that my actions to you were aggressive and disrespectful and endangered your person. You are certainly entitled to greater dignity of person than I accorded you and did nothing to warrant being treated in such a manner. I regret and am sorry for having behaved angrily towards you. Please accept my apology for disrespecting and assaulting you.
[Chrysostom Louis] (signature)
So fellow #bikeTO riders, it’s tiny, but it’s something: sometimes we can have happy endings.
Tiny plug: Unrelated to anything in this post, this Friday, August 30th, is the 6th birthday for my TTC subway station shirts! The idea materialized that morning in 2007 on a walk along the Danforth. Six years on, and many external obstacles later (much of that by a local heavy whose name’s a lot like “displacing”), you can get a shirt for any station either from my shop or from Denizen.TO. Thanks for your support!