by Stephen Miller
Elevated from today’s headline stack, via Animal NY: A driver on a South Williamsburg street refused to share the road with cyclist Rafael Huerta, and after harassing Huerta in the street three times with his vehicle, refused to take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he claimed the cyclist was at fault — but video from the cyclist’s handlebar-mounted camera indicates otherwise.
The video begins with Huerta riding eastbound on Wallabout Street, starting at Kent Avenue. (Wallabout is a parallel route to Flushing Avenue, which has shared-lane markings but also heavier truck and auto traffic.) The street is two-way and the lane is relatively narrow; the video shows Huerta riding in the right-hand third of the lane.
After the intersection with Franklin Avenue, a gray Toyota minivan driver passes him, then hits the brakes and moves to the right, squeezing him between the moving vehicle and parked cars.
Following a third encounter where the driver swerved into his path, Huerta stopped, and the driver, a middle-aged Hasidic man, gets out of the car and says, “You are not allowed to drive in the middle of the street.” This is incorrect. According to state law, as encapsulated in DOT’s “Bike Smart” guide, “Cyclists should ‘take the lane’ when necessary.”
As Huerta calls 911 to report being harassed, a third man comes over, and the driver calls Huerta a liar. “Don’t bang my car,” he says, laughing. “He’s harassing me right now.”
This incident thankfully ended without physical harm to anyone, though not before a plainclothes police officer intervened to break up the crowd that had gathered around Huerta, blocking his way. Huerta says in the video’s description: “Please refrain from using racial comments…This man doesn’t represent the Jewish community…And I don’t represent the biking community either.”
Harassment like this isn’t limited to Hasidic Williamsburg. A few years ago, Streetsblog reported about two cases, one involving a cyclist and one a pedestrian, in which people were physically endangered or injured by motorists, then cited by police for damaging the vehicle of the perpetrator.