I’ve been going on about the quiet war between cyclists and automobile drivers for a few years now. Suddenly, it’s not so quiet. My news feed is speckled with stories of drivers getting into altercation with cyclists, both physically and verbally, at least a few times a week now.
One particular story made itself too compelling not to mention, so I find it necessary to say something. Drivers run cyclists off the road far more often than I care to mention, but when it starts happening to 10-year-old kids you can rest assured I’m going to speak up.
Julian Moore, a 10-year-old in New York was riding his mountain bike on a quiet street last September when he maneuvered his bike ever so slightly to avoid running over a manhole cover. The next thing he feels is a massive thud, which sends him off his bike and onto the pavement.
What came next, you can imagine, were screams. As adults, when we’re struck on our bikes, we’re overcome with fear and anxiety. You have no idea what the damage is to you or your bike, and there’s always that uncertainty of what just struck you and why. Imagine how a 10-year-old is going to react in that situation.
Julian did scream. Neighbors came out of their homes to find Doug Lamb, a 66 year old man, standing outside of his Range Rover quite a distance away from Julian and his mangled bike. A doctor arrived to give him aid while neighbors questioned Lamb. They were soon joined by paramedics, Julian’s mother, and the local police. And when I say “they” I mean everyone except for Lamb, who apparently high tailed it out of there after speaking to Julian’s mother. The police never got a chance to question Lamb.
I don’t know if any of you have ever been in a traffic collision, but it’s always a good idea to stick around to talk to the police. Lamb, obviously, doesn’t play by the same rules as the rest of us.
The police finally tracked Lamb down and brought his ass to court where he faced a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of a crash that caused an injury. The town justice was kind, however. He told Lamb that he would dismiss the charge if Lamb simply wrote Julian a letter apologizing for knocking him off of his bike (not to mention totaling the damned thing).
What came next was mind boggling, even for me – and I’m a cynic to end all cynics.
Three months pass before Julian finally receives his letter of apology from Lamb. OK, maybe he needed some time to think of the right words to say. Maybe he’s no Ernest Hemingway. Maybe, given the gravity of the situation, he needed time to truly tell Julian just how sorry he was.
Or maybe just needed time to find these words and let everyone know just how not sorry he really was.
Just to be clear, he never apologized to Julian’s mother at the time of the accident. He never admitted responsibility for knocking the kid off of his bike. He never gave his name or insurance information to her either. He could not have handled the situation any worse than he did. Adolf Hitler would have at least apologized for something like this. Not Lamb, though. He drives a Range Rover. What the hell was the kid doing riding in the street anyway? Streets are for cars. Sidewalks are for bikes, hence the word “walk” in . . . the . . . never mind.
The Democrat and Chronicle, a local paper, covered the story.
“At first, Julian wanted to throw [Lamb] in jail, but we decided to be generous and ask for a letter of apology and community service,. But that letter was just him spitting in our faces.”
“I was angry—really angry, actually. I was really upset with it. He accused me of riding into the side of his car, which didn’t really happen. He came up from behind me.”
According to the justice who proceeded over the case, it was “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.” This gives him the option to reopen the case if he felt Lamb didn’t meet the terms of the court. Once Julian’s family shared the letter with local media, guess what happened?
Lamb is slated to head back to court on February 14. Here’s my Valentine’s Day card for him: