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Comm Ave Road Rage Imperils Biker

Fury leaves car windows smashed, cyclist leaps to safety

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A fit of road rage at the start of last night’s rush hour left windows in two SUVs smashed, one bicycle pinned under a car, and one cyclist lucky to have escaped uninjured.

A witness identifying himself only as Jerry, saying he feared for his life, says the driver of a sport utility vehicle jumped from his car and smashed the windows of the SUV directly in front of him while both vehicles were stopped for a light at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Essex Street. He says the driver of the first vehicle at the light panicked, hit the gas, and ran over a bicycle in front of him as the cyclist managed to leap to safety.

The cyclist, Stephen Lee (CAS’10), says he feels lucky to be alive. He was so frightened, he says, that he doesn’t remember jumping from his bike.

Casey Graves (CAS’12) says the driver of the first SUV at the intersection honked repeatedly at a bicyclist, apparently hoping he would make room for an escape from the irate driver of the other vehicle. Graves says the two drivers smashed each other’s windows and threatened each other, one wielding a baseball bat and one an iron bar, until Boston Police arrived on the scene to end the altercation.

Bike accident on Comm Ave

Sarah McDonald (SSW’13) was waiting to cross the street at 4:30 p.m., she says, when she heard horns honking. “There was an SUV in the bike lane trying to go across the intersection,” she says. “I heard crunching and realized the SUV went over the bicycle. At first I was sure the bicyclist was pinned under the car, and I was terrified. I called the police. The bicycle got crushed by the cars, but luckily the guy wasn’t on his bike by that time. I later asked him if he was OK.”

Police from Boston, Brookline, and the BU Police Department responded to the incident. Boston Police media spokesperson David Estrada says no arrests have been reported.

BU Today has been in contact with the Boston Police Department and will update this story as information becomes available.

Additional reporting by Amy Laskowski.

56 Comments
Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

56 Comments on Comm Ave Road Rage Imperils Biker

  • Zvi Bodie on 09.14.2011 at 5:18 am

    My thanks to Art Jahnke for bringing attention to this act of driver insanity on Commonwealth Avenue. Unfortunately it is all too common. Every day as I walk along Commonwealth Ave in the center of the BU campus, I witness acts of near-lethal carelessness by drivers, bikers, and pedestrians rushing to their classes. At times, when in my car or on my bike, I am even a participant in such incidents. In my opinion, these incidents are unavoidable under current conditions. Having Commonwealth Avenue running down the center of the campus is a major hazard, threatening the lives and limbs of all members of our community. One possible way to mitigate the danger: Post campus policemen at major crosswalks along Comm Ave. to direct traffic during critical rush hours.

    • Chris Gill on 09.14.2011 at 9:13 am

      I agree – no arrests???????

  • Kevin Outterson on 09.14.2011 at 7:19 am

    No arrests? Baseball bats and tire irons while driving in the bike lane?

    • PAM on 09.14.2011 at 11:31 am

      I witnessed this accident yesterday. Both men were taken away in handcuffs. As for Jerry’s report that “the driver of the first vehicle at the light panicked, hit the gas, and ran over a bicycle in front of him as the cyclist managed to leap to safety” — this driver did not look “panicked” as he then pulled over, took out a lead pipe from his trunk, and proceeded to smash in the windshield of the other car. That’s aggression. Nor did he ever take a moment to check on the bicyclist he nearly ran over IN THE BIKE LANE, no less.

      • Chris516 on 09.17.2011 at 1:43 am

        Thank you for the update.

        It sounds like the cyclist was ending up as ‘collateral damage’, from the extent of the road rage incident.

  • barbara brown on 09.14.2011 at 7:23 am

    Why no arrests??!

  • Stephanie on 09.14.2011 at 7:49 am

    Surely we can all refrain from running over people and from smashing car windows. What ever happened to the finger, some colourful language, and a good fist shake? Come on, guys. Get over it! We’re all in the same situation when we’re sitting in traffic. Plug in your music and chill the F@#% out.

  • MIchael Zank on 09.14.2011 at 8:05 am

    It’s amazing that we have no more incidents and accidents like this than we have. On the whole, right now, there’s a lot of tolerance for the general chaos and anarchy along Comm Ave. As a daily biker, I feel we can all do one another a big favor and slow down, allow people to pass whether or not they have the right of way, and model civil and civilized behavior. Imagine you were somewhere else, on a beautiful island, or in an ancient city, with narrow alleys. You couldn’t race there either, nor would you. You’d smile and wish the next person a good day.

  • Jen M on 09.14.2011 at 8:07 am

    Police from 3 departments showed up, lives were endangered, yet no arrests? Were the drivers fined or cited in any way? What awful and dangerous behavior.

    That bike is likely to have severe structural damage (bent tubes & rims, etc)- in addition to the saddle being chomped off & the front flat. I hope the driver is on the hook for the cost of repairs as well.

  • Marianne on 09.14.2011 at 8:39 am

    Bikers are getting hit almost every day on Commonwealth Avenue in front of BU and down past West Campus. Pretty soon, someone is gonna get more than “not injured” on BU’s campus. BU should probably do something about this before they have a dead biker to explain. And Bikers: ALWAYS get the information of the person who hit you.

  • Scott C. Mohr on 09.14.2011 at 8:41 am

    No arrests? Failure to prosecute these offenders would be criminal…

  • Filiz M. Aslan on 09.14.2011 at 8:45 am

    It is unbelievable that there are no arrests?! These acts call for license suspension!

  • Daniel Ranalli on 09.14.2011 at 8:45 am

    Mr. Bodie’s comments are very much to the point. I have been walking, driving and biking through the BU campus for decades and over the past year the degree of carelessness seems to have reached a new peak. The Comm. Ave/BU bridge intersection is very problematic. EVERYONE needs to follow the rules of the road – bicycles are NOT pedestrians, and should heed traffic signals. The stream of students crossing at the bridge seems to think that the walk lights are only a guideline. Rush hour motorists cranky from years of construction on the bridge are also more likely to behave carelessly. And talking on cell phones is no help.

    Safety is the most important value here and everyone needs to be more thoughtful and careful.

  • Dan Cusher on 09.14.2011 at 8:58 am

    Whoa, let me get this straight: you DON’T get arrested for smashing car windows, running bikes over, and almost MURDERING people in order to get through traffic? Sweet! I’m never going to be late for class again!

  • Carlitos Corazon on 09.14.2011 at 9:02 am

    Here’s an idea… lower the speed limit on Commonwealth Avenue in the vicinity of the campus to a rate commiserate with a school zone (25mph); mark it as such (like they do at K-12 public and private schools nationwide)… and then enforce it! The income generated by the fines would more than pay for an increased police presence and avert injury or death to pedestrians/bicyclists/motorists…. a win-win and just plain common sense.

    • Em on 09.14.2011 at 11:15 am

      I don’t think speed is necessarily the problem. Furthermore, it’s already like 30mph.

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 09.14.2011 at 11:18 am

      Comm Ave’s speed limit is already 30 in this area and at specific times a complete traffic disaster. I can’t imagine that slowing an already frustrating traffic situation will make any difference and certainly wont affect road rage in a positive way (which is the topic of this article, not the speed of cars on the street).

    • Kathy Moore on 09.14.2011 at 12:43 pm

      The main problem isn’t speeding cars; it’s congestion, where no one is moving at all, and maintaining your rank in line becomes intensely competitive. As someone points out, the lights around the bridge are timed all wrong and allow something approaching gridlock. I can attest that coming across Comm Ave from the direction of the pike, you can’t always tell whether the light will have turned yellow and then red before you get across. You wind up with 3 lanes of traffic competing to merge into one line to cross the bridge–and that’s *before* anyone starts acting like a homicidal moron.

      • Aaron L'Heureux on 09.14.2011 at 1:34 pm

        The disregard for how that intersection is supposed to work drives me insane :( I feel as if there is someone screaming this in his/her car every time I am near the intersection: “I AM A RAGING LUNATIC I WILL GO WHERE I PLEASE AND IF YOU VALUE YOUR CAR YOU WILL NOT HIT ME WHILE I’M CUTTING YOU OFF WAHHHGHFHFFHHAHHG!”

        That right lane is supposed to go down to Storrow =\

        • Kathy Moore on 09.14.2011 at 8:21 pm

          That isn’t clear to me. In fact, I can think of three intersections like that, where one right turn is quickly followed by another, more popular one, and there’s a right-turn-only sign before the first right. I conclude that either right turn qualifies. In Inman Square there’s an intersection like that, headed west on Cambridge Street. Both the road markings and everyone’s behavior support the interpretation that the sign apples to either turn.

          My point isn’t actually to argue the point; it’s that the situation is ambiguous, or at least confusing to generally alert and law-abiding people.

          I make a habit of deferring to other drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists in many situations, but the bridge at rush hour forces competitive behavior; be polite and you’ll sit still while people cut in front of you until rush hour is over.

  • Jay on 09.14.2011 at 9:07 am

    I have concern of safety of the student at BU campus and on Commenwealth Ave. Road rage with baseball bet and iron bar and there is no arrests, WHY? I think police should take some action and set example to others.

  • Emily Johnson on 09.14.2011 at 9:16 am

    I wonder why the drivers had a bat and an iron bar in the cars in the first place! For situations like these? Scary. Take a deep breath, Boston drivers. You’ll get there when you get there.

  • Anonymous on 09.14.2011 at 9:45 am

    I may be wrong, but doesn’t someone need to press charges for the destruction of property or assault for there to be arrests?

  • Sunny on 09.14.2011 at 9:52 am

    The Boston Police need to explain why there were no arrests. These are pure acts of rage and violence and it endangered the Boston community. That is plenty of reason for arrest. People need to understand the consequences.

  • Kathy Moore on 09.14.2011 at 9:56 am

    Like they said…no arrests?

  • DB on 09.14.2011 at 9:59 am

    If you don’t know why a car would have an iron bar in it, you obviously don’t know the slightest thing about cars.

    I blame the police for creating the conditions that led to the altercation. What passes for “traffic management” at the Comm Ave/Essex St/BU Bridge/Mountfort St intersection is pathetic. The main problem is that the intersection is configured all wrong, and the traffic from Mountfort St heading to the BU Bridge blocks the intersection in every direction as people “block the box” after the light turns red. Even the trolleys can’t get by. There’s a regular BPD traffic detail there…but instead of preventing the traffic from blocking the intersection, the officers basically just stand around watching the mayhem without lifting a finger to prevent it. $50 an hour for each of them…and the traffic is EXACTLY THE SAME as if they weren’t there at all.

    This doesn’t excuse the behavior of the drivers. But if the police weren’t so lazy and would DO THEIR JOBS, it never would have happened.

    • Em on 09.14.2011 at 11:13 am

      I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the police at all… that is weak. People should be able to control themselves in these situations.

      • Christi on 09.14.2011 at 12:04 pm

        Sorry? Em, if you agree that there’s a regular traffic detail at that intersection and you don’t think it’s the responsibility of the police AT ALL, then what ARE they being payed for?

        • Em on 09.14.2011 at 1:16 pm

          Whether or not police are standing right there, it’s easy to point the blame at them… but aren’t they there because of the traffic issues caused by the BU Bridge construction? That entire intersection has been a mess since construction started – which was made worse by reducing it to 2 (and sometimes one) lanes.

          The point is, blaming police doesn’t justify people using weapons on each other because of traffic. That’s just inexcusable.

        • Jess on 09.14.2011 at 3:08 pm

          That is absurd, they aren’t baby sitters. They are there to prevent accidents not acts of aggression among fellow drivers. No where in a cops job description is “eliminate all that would aggravate a mad man as they may act out”

  • Ra on 09.14.2011 at 10:23 am

    I agree with DB–the number of times the cops just stand around ignoring the increasingly crazy chaos around them is staggering. STAGGERING. I’ve even seen them leave their area to go chat IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET with the other detail officers, oblivious to everything around them. Such a waste of tax dollars.

  • Albert Do on 09.14.2011 at 10:34 am

    Agreed with the comments above. I also want to express concern for people who throw their car doors open without looking to see if a biker is coming. I’ve seen people “doored” many times, and the BU community would do well to consider outreach regarding that.

    Road rage has always been endemic to this city. I’m glad that this story brings to light the danger it entails.

  • Daniel Kamalic on 09.14.2011 at 10:41 am

    They didn’t say no arrests — they just said no arrests have been reported. I certainly *hope* there were arrests. BU Today, could you please follow up and update this article with the results?

    As the victim of a road-raged driver jumping out of his car and assaulting me on his bicycle just this Monday night, I sympathize with Stephen Lee and am glad he got out of the way in time! Stephen, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you get that driver (or that driver’s insurance!) to pay for your bike! Take the bike to any bike shop and have them write you a repair estimate that you can give to the police and they to the driver. I wouldn’t be surprised if your bike is “totalled”.

    • Daniel Kamalic on 09.14.2011 at 10:42 am

      Err, I meant to say “assaulting me on MY bicycle, not “his bicycle” — I was the one on the bicycle, and he jumped out of his car!

  • Christopher Maurer on 09.14.2011 at 10:51 am

    One thing that would make Comm Ave a little less dangerous for all of us: a couple of speed bumps to slow down the traffic a bit.

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 09.14.2011 at 11:12 am

      You must be joking. Comm Ave is a state highway and a city evacuation route.

      • Joe Chan on 09.14.2011 at 11:18 am

        I always thought that’s what we pedestrians were anyhow!

      • Amy on 09.14.2011 at 2:27 pm

        Yes, it’s a city evacuation route, and based on daily observances, many reckless drivers seem to think that the city is being evacuated 24/7.

    • Em on 09.14.2011 at 11:14 am

      Yes, let’s add a moat and a drawbridge, too.

      That makes absolutely no sense.

  • LA on 09.14.2011 at 12:51 pm

    Those police officers “controlling traffic” survey my butt as I walk by infinitely more than paying attention to, and directing, traffic on Comm Ave/BU Bridge :/

    • Amy on 09.14.2011 at 2:28 pm

      And you know this how, exactly? They giggle when you wiggle?

  • motown sluggo on 09.14.2011 at 1:52 pm

    I refer everyone to the recently published study conducted by Park & Peterson of the psychology department at the University of Michigan. They ranked the fifty largest cities in the US on the basis of empathy, civility, generosity, &c. of their inhabitants. Boston came fiftieth out of fifty. In other words it has the most uncivil, selfish and belligerent population in the country. I bet the guides didn’t mention that when you toured the campus with your folks. Welcome to Boston kids, A**hole Capital of North America!

    • Beanman McBeans on 09.14.2011 at 3:29 pm

      Actually I am quite nice, generally speaking. And a native of this fine city, which you can leave at any time, sweetheart.

      Note that the two homeboys arrested were, in fact, from Providence R.I.

    • Em on 09.15.2011 at 12:01 am

      Can you post a link to this study?

    • AG on 09.16.2011 at 2:34 pm

      I see you’re doing everything you can to turn that image around.

  • Nicholas on 09.14.2011 at 2:04 pm

    I’m glad the bicyclist is okay, but will say that when I first read the headline, I thought that a bicyclist had CAUSED an incident of road rage. I walk everywhere around B.U., and on the B.U. Bridge too. Bad bicyclists speed on sidewalks, cut close to pedestrians, don’t give pedestrians the right of way, run red lights, pull U turns in traffic, ride in bike lanes going the wrong way, ride diagonally across streets, and even ride while cell phoning and texting. I’ve had some near misses with these self absorbed fools, and have had mental images at least of “road rage” that involve me doing not nice things to certain bicyclists.

    Until bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists use common sense and exhibit courteous behavior to each other, road rage will persist and probably get worse in the years to come. Our streets and sidewalks have become one, big free for all, and the “wrong people” will be the ones who pay the price.

    • Dan on 09.14.2011 at 10:52 pm

      Wow, Nicholas, you’re taking this as an opportunity to berate cyclists? Shame on you. The cyclist in this article did NOTHING wrong, and was 100% the victim. There are plenty of responsible cyclists in this city, we outnumber the irresponsible ones, and I dare say the same is true for responsible drivers and responsible pedestrians! You just don’t NOTICE the responsible people — you only notice the irresponsible ones!

      To quote David Watson of MassBike, “There is no measure by which cyclists cause more than a small fraction of the problems on Boston roads; we are disproportionately the victims.” For you to take this as an opportunity to berate cyclists is irresponsible trolling, plain and simple.

      • Mark Kaepplein on 09.15.2011 at 2:34 pm

        Yes, the cyclist did something wrong. He didn’t move aside when getting beeped at. Often iPod ear buds impede, but nonetheless, moving aside is a good idea. Too often people don’t run red lights to make way for police, ambulance, and fire at clogged intersections. They just freeze.

        Comm Ave needs to restore some of its 30 and 40 foot sidewalks to travel lanes. It used to be many of them were used for extra parking on the south side by businesses. The travel lanes could even be bike lanes.

        The BU bridge will be a mess even when complete, having permanent loss of a travel lane to make bike lanes over to lovely Cambridgeport.

  • Michael T. on 09.14.2011 at 2:33 pm

    Just got a tweet from Boston PD that arrests were made.

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 09.14.2011 at 2:47 pm

      “Both suspects also indicated that they know one another ‘through work’.”

      Hm.

  • Carl Vartian on 09.14.2011 at 3:15 pm

    While I won’t say we don’t have any road rage here in Houston, many drivers just assume the other guy/gal has a firearm in their vehicle, as many actually do. Best to avoid an incident when the other driver is packing more than a baseball bat or tire iron. Want to cut in front of me…be my guest.

    • Tom on 09.14.2011 at 3:42 pm

      It’s like I always say. An armed society is a polite society.

      • Carl Vartian on 09.14.2011 at 4:36 pm

        Actually, that was written by Robert A. Heinlein but, since this is a BU site, you’re probably aware of that. Most definitely a true statement.

  • Chuck on 09.15.2011 at 8:44 am

    The drivers were both arrestted and they knew eachother as well.

    Rocky Jace, 39, of Providence, RI was charged with Assault and Battery by means of a Dangerous Weapon, Driving to Endanger, Malicious Destruction of Property and various motor vehicle violations.

    Nick Miller, 42, of Providence, RI was charged with Assault and Battery (injuries), Malicious Destruction of Property

  • Shepherd on 09.16.2011 at 6:44 pm

    Betting on the Red Sox is no way to make a living. Leave the rage on the field.

  • cwsx on 09.19.2011 at 10:11 am

    Why don’t we just do up a bike lane like MIT?

    BU student pedestrians might have a learning curve regarding right of way, but thats preferable by far. Bike/Pedestrian accidents are likely far less lethal than car/bike or related car/bike/ped conflicts.

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