US Driver who harassed cyclists refused plea deal (+ video)

Judge says cyclists must have an opportunity to comment on the case… video of the incident went viral around the world

by Sarah Barth   February 16, 2013  

SUV driver harrassing cyclists

A man who was charged with harassing cyclists by driving slowly behind them hooting his horn has been rejected the opportunity for a plea deal by a judge in the USA.

James Ernst, 75, is indicted for harassing two riders, who filmed him following them and blocking the traffic near Denver.

This video was uploaded to YouTube by one of the cyclists involved, Dirk Friel, who also happens to be the founder of Trainingpeaks.org

After posting the video, he learnt that other cyclists had received similar treatment at the hands of a man assumed to be Ernst, at which point he contacted the Colorado Highway Patrol, who decided to press charges.

Ernst wants to plead guilty to the charges but the judge said the two cyclists haven’t had a chance to comment.

Friel said that while he hadn’t been watching the case too closely, Ernst’s insistence that he’d done nothing wrong hadn’t come as too much of a surprise.

"This is probably to be expected, because people tend to go in and try to talk down charges against them," he explained.

"I guess I'm just amazed that my leisurely Sunday morning ride has to lead to a day like this. It's just too bad that it had to end up like this when, to the letter of the law, the cyclists did exactly what they were supposed to do."

He added that the attention the incident garnered was positive in that it had generated a debate that made people think about how they conduct themselves on the road.

"It's good for cyclists' rights to get the word out there that we should all share the road together, cohesively,” he reflected. “I think there's quite a bunch of evidence on our side."

9 user comments

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Yet another driver convinced - against all the evidence - that he's done nothing wrong

This is the worst of it - most drivers don't set out to deliberately cause problems - they just don't understand what the problem with their behaviour is!

posted by mad_scot_rider [537 posts]
16th February 2013 - 11:25

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Not me Gov; I'm innocent! Aren't they always? make an example of the idiot, as a message to the other nutters on the roads.

posted by Mostyn [400 posts]
16th February 2013 - 11:46

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That was harassment. Simple. It wouldn't be tolerated in the work place or a public establishment so why should the open road be any different? They should press charges on those grounds and have their day in court. This will be the only way to get through to ALL road users that they have a responsibility to be safe AND civil to other road users.

posted by ag_hind [9 posts]
17th February 2013 - 0:59

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The other night someone hammered down the road behind me in a suburb of Manchester, beeping the horn loudly. I wasn't in the middle of the road but in the dark and the rain I was avoiding the door zone. When I got past the parked cars I pulled over further, but instead of going past the driver pulled alongside for a while so his passenger could yell aggressively at me out of the window. It was unintelligible but sounded something like "do you want to get out for a fight?" (yes I know that makes no sense).

The reason for me relating this all-too-common story is that it highlighted for me how vulnerable and exposed you feel as a cyclist in this situation. The risk of a complete accident involving a motor vehicle with a nice but absent-minded driver is bad enough, without knowing that you're in the vicinity of a driver who clearly doesn't like you and is a bit of a "mentalist".

Even if I was the kind of bloke who would have been happy to take on two lads in a scrap - and I'm not - it's all too obvious who would have come off best in an altercation between my hybrid and their BMW X6 (why is it always a 4wd?).

posted by pmanc [113 posts]
17th February 2013 - 3:33

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Wow, had the same thing almost. Filtered to front of lights and was a couple of seconds late off the line when changed to green and the x5 behind me was raging. Then pulled up beside me, abuse from male pax, female driver and floored it. Misplaced anger you could call it. But I the while thing just seemed life affirming for them.

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posted by koko56 [312 posts]
17th February 2013 - 7:53

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had a white beemer, LL10 NBY just in case you need to be aware, beep and push through on the way to work last week. I Contacted Glos. Pol. simply because i see this car most days and at least it is on record if he does anything stupid.

Shocked to have a call from the police a few hours later and they said they would go round and have a word.

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posted by mrmo [1026 posts]
17th February 2013 - 9:47

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If Ernst thinks he did nothing wrong, he's an idiot. But then his actions show he's an idiot anyway.

I doubt there are many cyclists on a commute who haven't had abuse at some point or other. I've learned to shrug it off. One time instead of chucking abuse, some idiot chucked loose change at me (none of which hit thankfully).

posted by paulfg42 [370 posts]
18th February 2013 - 0:45

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I once reported some guy for this type of behaviour. Nothing immediately happened, but I was contacted two weeks later for an official statement as the police were building a case. Chap ended up going down for something or other. My statement was to demonstrate the guy was consistently offending.
Moral for me was... This behaviour is not acceptable, report it as you never know. Plus the more people that complain, the more seriously it will be taken. Think about it... Everyone know this goes on every day, but no one moans, which means it's not too bad yeah? Acceptable? Until we say otherwise, and not just moan to ourselves, it Willie perceived to be so.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [211 posts]
18th February 2013 - 9:16

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This kind of abuse is anti-social from behind the wheel of a car. If you walked along the street and were shouted at for going about your own business harmlessly, that would be ASB and the police would take action.

I think it's always worth noting the vehicle index number, location and time and report it to the police using the non-emergency number. I had a follow up from the police after they went round and had a word with a driver who shouted at me (because I was in the secondary position and he couldn't overtake me due to oncoming cars).

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
18th February 2013 - 10:56

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