Six cyclists near Houston, Texas were injured, with two of them airlifted to hospital after a 16 year old driving a pick-up truck crashed into a group of six riders on Saturday while deliberately blowing exhaust smoke at them.
The practice, which has its origins in truck racing, is known as “rolling coal,” and one eyewitness to Saturday morning’s incident said he himself had been targeted by another driver moments beforehand.
He was one of what was described as a large group of cyclists who out on a ride to train for Ironman Texas, and revealed that he too had almost been struck by a driver during the incident on old Highway 290 close to Waller, which lies around 10 kilometres northwest of Houston.
“This truck, swerved into my lane, he said. “It got within feet on me, then accelerated to blow exhaust on me.”
Describing the crash, , “The reason he couldn’t stop is because he was accelerating to blow more diesel fuel on these cyclists,” Ferrell told FOX 26. “He ended up hitting three people before his brakes even started.
“There was no reason for this to happen,” said Ferrell. “It wasn’t like he was on his phone.”
He said that the driver “definitely meant to try and scare these people,” or to “intimidate them in some way,” and that the motorists then “made a mistake and ran them over.”
Ferrell said: “I heard a lot of crunching. I heard brakes. Tires screeching. I thought someone was dead," added Ferrell. He had been riding with the group on Saturday.”
“Rolling coal” involves drivers modifying their vehicles with aftermarket parts to get around pollution control systems, enabling them to produce massive clouds of black fumes, with typical targets including cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of electric vehicles.
A number of articles published online place it as part of the culture wars in the US, with some drivers choosing to modify their vehicles in this way as a means of expressing their views over measures aimed at protecting the environment, such as limiting or reducing vehicle omissions.
The US Environmental Protection Agency said in 2014 that the practice contravened the practice was Clean Air Act which prohibits the manufacturing, sale, and installation “of a part for a motor vehicle that bypasses, defeats, or renders inoperative any emission control device.”
It also “prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer.”
Police interviewed the driver at the scene of Saturday’s incident, but no arrest appears to have been made to date as investigations continue.
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.