By GLENN CONWAY – The Press Last updated 05:00 29/01/2010
Police are investigating the road rage assault of a website editor caught in a war of words between cyclists and motorists.
Vorb website editor and cyclist Rik Unthank says a passenger of a car that nearly hit him while he was cycling on Cashmere’s Dyers Pass Rd yesterday subsequently got out and tried to strangle him.
The passenger, Eddie Gillespie-Wild, says Unthank provoked the incident and while he had his hands around the cyclist’s neck and shoulders, he did not try to strangle him.
The incident happened on the same day as the man who prompted the motorists-versus-cyclists row, Christchurch businessmen Richard Freeman, apologised for his online vow earlier this week to “nail” cyclists with his Hummer.
Unthank, who has been posting online in support of cyclists, was unhurt in the latest incident but has laid a complaint with police, who will investigate.
Unthank alleged the car, driven by Gillespie-Wild’s wife, Glenys Spinsby, cut him off and nearly hit him when overtaking. When he knocked on the car window at a roundabout at the bottom of the road, he said Gillespie-Wild got out and tried to strangle him.
“There was total rage in his eyes. He was seething,” Unthank said.
Red marks were visible on Unthank’s neck when The Press spoke to him an hour after the incident.
Gillespie-Wild said he felt terrible about what happened, but said Unthank “should have let it go”.
“He had to knock on the window and didn’t know how to stop pushing my buttons.”
Spinsby said she deliberately waited for an open, clear piece of road before passing Unthank and then travelled down the hill faster than normal to avoid being in his path.
The incident is the first reported case of road rage between a motorist and cyclist since Freeman’s online comments.
Freeman issued a statement yesterday apologising.
He said his postings were “a bit of a wind-up [that] have taken on a life of their own”.
“These comments have been used out of context or have been selectively edited by others with a different agenda to give them more meaning than their original, strongly worded banter.”
Freeman said he went too far and has “learned to my cost that there is no such thing as tone or context online”.
But he said people had rushed to judge him based on what were a few “offhand and ill-considered” remarks.
“There has been a huge over-reaction to those remarks and I regret that. I’m sorry that my comments have upset parents and cyclists and brought these threats to my family and business colleagues.”
Freeman said he did not have a problem with cyclists. Many of his friends and his own children were regular cyclists. “I, like all parents, hate to think they are in danger on our roads from car drivers.”
His original point was that as there were drivers who behaved badly, there was also a small percentage of cyclists who brought the rest into disrepute with “their equally arrogant and offensive on-road behaviour”.
Freeman said the Hummer pictured in The Press yesterday was not the one he drove.
The Hummer in the photo is one of two registered in Freeman’s name.