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Colorado driver in cyclist harassment viral video pleads not guilty (+ video)

75-year-old faces charges relating to harassment, slow driving and unnecessary use of horn

A Colorado motorist featured in a YouTube video that has clocked up close to half a million hits showing him beeping the horn of his SUV at two cyclists while making no attempt to pass them has pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggressive driving.

According to a post on Denver Westword that cites a Colorado Judicial Department spokesman, 75-year-old James Ernst entered the plea in relation to a misdemeanour charge for following the two cyclists in the video, a well as two traffic violations – using his horn inappropriately and driving at too slow a speed.

Some of the incident was captured in that film later posted 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.

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."

The message of sharing the road doesn’t appear to have got through to everyone, however.

As the post on Denver Westword points out, earlier this month there was another incident in Colorado in which a motorist not only beeped at a group of cyclists but also forced one of them off his bike, which was crushed under the wheels of the pick-up truck involved.

The cyclist, Byron Nix, narrowly escaped serious injury in the incident, in which the motorist turned out to be the grandson of President Herbert Hoover.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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