Riding a bike in San Francisco is difficult enough without cars deliberately running you over. When a driver decides to to make it his business to put your pedals between his tires and the cold, unforgiving asphalt, things can get downright terrifying.
Here, two cyclists tell the harrowing tale of a driver who suddenly snapped.
On Sunday evening, around 6pm, Erik Aylen and Shelley Monahan were making their way down Shotwell Street by bike when a black Chevy Impala pulled up behind them. Witnesses said they heard the driver laying on his horn and shouting at the pair to get out of his way. Apparently they didn’t comply with his demands quickly enough, so he revved his engine and slammed into Aylens’s rear tire.
“I looked back to see him heading toward us in a hurry. I had just enough time to turn my head forward again before he accelerated into me,” says Aylen.
“I was still riding at the time. He hit me dead center on his bumper (my tire left a mark on his license plate). The collision knocked me off the bike, destroyed my rear wheel, and damaged several other parts. The driver backed up, turned around, and drove off, yelling, ‘I warned you!’.”
There were a number of witnesses at the scene able to catch the car’s license plate number, which Ayler and Monahan included in their report to the police. When contacted by the Appeal, an SFPD spokesperson did not comment on how they’d be pursuing the case.
Both daily bikers, the couple says they only feel slightly less safe than before riding around the city and neither report the attack convinced them to quit biking.
“This just confirms for me that some people don’t belong behind the wheel of a car,” says Aylen.
This attack comes nearly a year after David Mark Clark allegedly went on a rampage in his blue, Nissan SUV, intentionally ramming into four cyclists in the Mission and Potrero Hill. Clark, who maintains his innocence, is still awaiting trial on multiple charges.
Despite the dangers of the occasional crazed motorist, Kit Hodge of the San Francisco Bike Coalition tells the Appeal that riding a bike in the city is getting progressively less dangerous and that a greater separation between bikes and cars is a key to helping everyone get along safely.
“When you look at the full picture,” says Hodge, “riding a bike is very safe and getting safer everyday. Large and growing numbers of people are biking, and San Francisco streets need to start catching up with the tremendous demand for improvements. Market Street is becoming a great model, where a separated bikeway is helping more people feel safe biking on our city’s main thoroughfare and we’re seeing the difference with seniors biking to the farmers market, parents biking their kids to daycare and more women biking to work.”