Boston Cyclist vs. Cranky Driver: Who’s To Blame?

Decide which person is at fault in this very typical, very Boston altercation.

Tensions between cyclists and drivers in Boston have led to intense debates about the rules of the road.

A recent video posted to YouTube, and later Reddit, has added fuel to the constant bickering between champions of each mode of transportation, drudging up the question, “who’s at fault—the cyclist or the driver?”

The video shows a cyclist bike up to a car that’s occupying what looks like a bike lane—based on the road markings—on Commonwealth Avenue. To get the driver’s attention, the cyclist bangs on the back of the car’s trunk, alerting the operator that he’s in the way.

The driver didn’t like that so much. “Get the fuck out of here, you asshole,” he responded.

On Reddit, people fall on both sides of the argument of this clip. “I don’t understand what the driver thinks he’s getting by crowding over to the left? There’s no benefit. Not like he can pass anyone,” one person wrote. Another: “He wouldn’t have flipped his shit if you hadn’t tapped his car. People take their cars real serious, especially old people.”

There are clearly defined laws when it comes to making way for cyclists in the city, and blocking the path of designated bike lanes like the driver did in this situation. Boston has been on the forefront of expanding its infrastructure to make sure that those on two wheels can safely maneuver along the streets with minimal interference from drivers they are sharing the roads with, to avoid situations like this, and more severe incidents that can result in crashes and injuries.

But in this instance, is the driver out of line by responding the way he did, after obviously blocking the cyclist from getting by? Or is the cyclist at fault for banging on the back of the car—something that tears into the nerves of those behind the wheel—and instigating the feud, which he was clearly intent on posting to YouTube? Perhaps it’s the fault of no one in this video, but the city’s instead, for not clearing the snow from the path completely and limiting the amount of room for the biker to get by.

You decide. Have at it:

POLL: Who’s at fault for this Comm. Ave. altercation?
  • Jeff Golenski

    Haha. The cyclist wouldn’t be at fault for tapping on the guy’s car. The tapping is an effect, not a cause. The cause was clearly the old man over the line. Why even have a poll on this? Argh, why did I even take time to comment? 🙂

    • Ezriah

      If I get mad and punch someone because I don’t like how they’re behaving, is their behavior the cause of my action? How you respond to something is up to you. It’s not an “effect” of someone else’s actions.

      • Jeff Golenski

        The entire reason you have to make a decision is an effect of an action that someone else caused. Cause: Someone does something stupid. Effect: You’re angry (or another emotion). Basic principles of physics and metaphysics.

        • Ezriah

          “The cyclist wouldn’t be at fault” suggests a legal context – you mean to say you meant the cyclist wouldn’t be at fault, in a metaphysical sense? In the employment of causal determinism you have to consider your own internal processes in the chain of events. They can’t really be ignored, even if it’s convenient to do so.

  • Josh

    If the cyclists would actually follow traffic laws, the 90% of this argument would end. I have seen cyclists run red lights then get mad at the drivers who almost hit them.

    • Sean Curran

      You don’t think car drivers break laws? We (humans) all do, its just learning to live with one another.

    • pickyvegan

      What traffic law was the cyclist breaking here?

    • Chris D.

      Cyclists like me don’t really like this type of argument, especially when folks use it to justify why they put me in the hospital (again) even though I follow the law on my bike more than most drivers do in their cars. “See… most guys like you are pompous assholes, so it’s okay for me to kick you in the balls ‘cuz all dudes that make arguments like you just sort of piss me off.” You can’t use other cyclists’ behavior as an excuse for your illegal negligence and road rage when you injure or kill me. BTW, I was intentionally assaulted by a taxi driver pushing me with his cab into traffic on Commonwealth Avenue while he was talking on the phone after I verbally informed him that he was blocking the bike lane and endangering me (I never touched his cab until he starting pushing me with it into a lane of traffic). He lost his medallion after I took a photo of his license plate with my phone and then called the Boston Police Hackney Unit. I was injured by a construction waste truck making an illegal right turn through a red light into the same bike lane that appears in the video. THAT is why some cyclists wear head cams… NOT to agitate drivers, but rather to capture on video when they get assaulted, injured or killed by folks like this guy. Try again…

      • Graham Marley

        There’s no justification for anyone willingly hurting someone, or a driver shifting blame in an accident. The problem is, there are enough members of the cycling community who just ruin it for everyone. I’ve been hit by a cyclist, my girlfriend has been hit by a cyclist, I’ve seen TWO cyclists run red lights at the storrow exit onto clarendon causing drivers to chirp to a stop in the last 8 weeks. There are definitely terrible drivers, and Boston driving is kind of a bloodsport, but I think cyclists in the city need license plates and insurance, because the rest of us do, and some of you guys are lunatics.

        • Mairead

          I could agree on the licence plates, but probably not the insurance since I’ve had to crash my bike a couple of times to avoid hitting idiot pedestrians who stepped out in front of me and then, for goddess knows what reason, stopped and gawked at me. If I’d hit them, I’m sure they’d have sworn it was my fault since everyone knows the law of inertia doesn’t apply to cyclists, who can always stop immediately if we want to.

          When I come up to the GBA to run errands, being the only cyclist on Mass Av who stops for lights is …annoying. On the other hand, having to steer around trucks parked in the bike lane and cagers who don’t bother to look before popping open their doors isn’t much fun either.

          What we really need is jersey barriers (or some lightweight equivalent) that shifts the parking lane out from the curb, leaving a safe lane for cyclists, and cyclist-aware traffic lights that disallow powered traffic from turning across a cyclist’s path going through an intersection.

  • $80391510

    Is that actually a bike lane? The old guy is being a dick by clearly trying to cut the cyclist off but I think he is right that the bike lane is on the right side there.

  • jranft

    I wonder what the driver thought that white line was for.

    • commenty_mcgee

      The old man is a jerk for cutting over to the left intentionally but he’s also right about the bike lane, the bike lane is on the right side of the street there. I think this guy is the guy who makes a habit out of antagonizing Boston drivers and putting them on youtube. Unless there’s another guy wearing a GoPro everywhere he rides.

      • Sean Curran

        not on commonwealth, where this is filmed. But yeah, I do think its ridiculous to wear a go pro around for your normal rides, but for all we know he could be working on an art or film project of some sort.

        • sean

          think of the camera as insurance against the high likelihood that a cop wouldn’t take it seriously if you claimed you were hit/antagonized by a car with no wrongdoing on your end.

        • ariof

          There have been cases where GoPro footage was used to identify and prosecute hit-and-run drivers who have hit cyclists (with severe injuries) and fled the scene. One such incident:

        • mkoryak

          i wear the camera because i ride with a pigeon on my head and funny stuff happens to me very often. Also I have had a car hit me before and I would like to have a license plate if it happens again.

        • Danimal

          Actually this is after the underpass at Mass Ave heading towards the Common. Bike Lane is on the left side. I would have switched lanes. No point in making the monkey in its cage get all worked up.

      • jranft

        Actually, the bike lane on Comm Ave is on the left. It’s been like that for about five years. I like riding it because it’s away from the parked cars on the right. The snow is covering up the markings though, so the old guy probably couldn’t tell. And you’d normally assume the lane is on the right, since most others are.

        • commenty_mcgee

          Fair enough. It seems tiny for a bike lane, I could see the guy’s confusion since it’s usually on the right. But both people in this video are obnoxious. You can’t kick someone’s car just because they’re being an idiot. He also could’ve just kept riding, he had room.

          • amfriedman

            When did he kick his car? He just tapped on it with his hand.

  • Nolan Dean

    yeah, i bike that stretch all the time, and most drivers don’t have the intuition to realize the bike lane is on the left when the markings are covered. a good rule of thumb, though: never touch a person’s car. I bet if the cyclist didn’t start with pissing the old, very crotchety, man off, the altercation may have been slightly productive.

    • amfriedman

      The biker didn’t exactly have a choice and he was actually doing the safe thing by at least warning the driver that he was there in a noticeable way. If he were to yell, would the driver have heard him?

      • Nolan Dean

        didn’t have a choice? the rules of the road apply to both bikes and cars, as in the vehicle ahead of you has the right of way. if someone is in your path, you don’t have the right to ‘push’ them out of the way. yes, the old man was impeding the bike lane traffic, but that’s not a free pass for someone from the rear to get physical with his car. just like if I am in the road I really don’t appreciate being aggressively passed by a car. so, you’re wrong.

        • Neil Vigliotta

          Nolan Dean, the driver purposefully was blocking the bike lane. The cyclist has the right to the bike lane, not the driver of the car. I think you should look up your driving laws. If I’m not turning left, in a left hand turning lane, and I block the lane, I’m in the wrong… just like this driver was.

          • Ben Edwards

            I think what Nolan Dean was trying to say, was that the cyclist had a choice of a) knocking on the cars boot or b) stopping and waiting for the car to move over, or c) not knock on the boot and actual just talk to the driver instead.

          • Nolan Dean

            that’s exactly what I’m saying. The driver was ignorant, not purposely trying to block cyclist. The idea that a bike lane can be on the left side was literally beyond this driver. It was not a constructive altercation, that’s for sure, and was doomed from the beginning when the cyclist got physical w the mans car. That’s that.

          • Ben Edwards

            Nolan the drivers response doomed it also. You clearly show that you believe the cyclist had a choice in his behaviour, but are implying that the driver did not have a choice in his behaviour?

            Clearly the driver did not need to act like the angry old bastard that he did. He had a choice how he behaved also.

            Both parties could of behaved better.

        • Code1

          It is illegal for the motorist to be in the bike lane. That is the whole point. Just because motorists are stuck in traffic does not mean that traffic in bike lane has to stop. Amazingly, I have had the same experience as this bicyclist. When motor traffic comes to a stop b/c of congestion, motorists deliberately move over to block bike lane.

  • ariof

    The poster should ask the BPD to cite the motorist for a market lane violation. The footage of the license plate, the motorist and the car well across the line should be more than enough to make the citation stick.

  • mcflem06

    Appears like the driver is a crotchety old man who was pissed that he was stuck in traffic, so he decided to block the bike lane.

    If you look close enough, you can see the car even start to cut off the bike lane even more as he noticed the biker approach. He wanted to prevent him from going around.

  • miffSC

    Yes, it does appear that the driver of the car deliberately moved even further to the left. He obviously is not aware of the location of bike lanes to begin with. What is interesting though, is the number of cyclists who have taken to wearing video cameras in order to document car drivers who deliberately cut them off. I have seen more and more of these videos lately. Bottom line, there is room enough for both on the road and the driver of the car was the one out of line here…literally and figuratively.

    • Graham Marley

      The driver is definitely out of line, but cyclists are the specific reason I got a dashcam. In a city where the pedestrian situation is basically chaos, I have to stand on my brakes at least once a month because of a cyclist. I give every single cyclist I come across the benefit of the doubt of not being a moron, and I give as wide a berth as I can, but if cars ran red lights at the rate of cyclists, downtown Boston would be a fireball.

  • cnick

    I see that the driver should have been further over from the left bike lane, but what should we drivers do when the bikes run red lights and stop signs, and pay no attention to pesky rules of the road themselves?

    • amfriedman

      Why hide behind irrelevant general discussion? Take a stand using the facts at hand.

    • jules

      still follow the rules? that isn’t an excuse

    • Ben Edwards

      You still follow the rules and you honk your horns at them, just like the cyclist did here by tapping on the car boot.

  • ReedSturtevant

    That’s not an altercation, it’s just passing the time of day in Boston. Love this town.

  • Guest

    Most accurately, it doesn’t matter if the solid white line marks a bike lane (which is ILLEGAL for motor vehicles to enter), a lane line or a line marking the edge of the pavement, because drivers MAY NOT cross over a solid line (that’s the difference between solid and broken/dotted lines). car driver in the wrong, biker knocking on the car in a non-damaging manner is perfectly appropriate to warn the driver he is doing something unsafe and illegal. -Ms. Too Pedantic, Esq.

  • velospeed

    Biker Bob missed a perfect opportunity to grip the handlebars tight and plow right through the old guy’s mirror. “Sorry pops – thought I could squeeze through the space.”

  • Chris D.

    (The City should do a better job clearing the snow but) The laws exist
    for reason. Drivers like this put my and others’ lives in danger when
    they act like this. Tapping on a car is the equivalent of honking your
    horn, and is letting you know that I’m here and you’re endangering my
    life by breaking the law. The cyclist isn’t seeking an altercation… he
    just wants to get where he’s going safely like everyone else.

  • Allison Pyburn

    both are guilty of being asshats

    • Ben Edwards

      Learn to spell you asshat

  • Davis Hunt

    At the risk of setting off a bunch of defensive comments, it’s not JUST the road/infrastructure that make it dangerous for cyclist and commuters on bikes (and no, those two things aren’t synonymous), it’s the attitude (see video) and driving “style” of people here. That said, I would get annoyed if someone banged on my trunk, regardless of who was right. Even with trunk tapping, the guy driving is clearly in the wrong here.

  • Neil Vigliotta

    I have a pretty strong reaction to this as both a cyclist (I’ve been a cyclist since the late 70s) and someone who spends VERY many hours driving each week. The driver is completely at fault. He clearly has no idea that he’s in a bike lane. He can’t tell that there is a bike lane there. He thinks he’s riding the inside of the street. The cyclist could have done a little better in the tapping department. Then again, that driver had NO idea the cyclist was there. And a couple more inches, the cyclist would have been in the snow if he was lucky!

    One thing to keep in mind… most of the time when there is a car/bike interaction, the cyclist is usually the one to suffer most, AND, the way the laws typically get enforced, the driver is rarely found at fault. When these things go to court, drivers typically side with drivers. Bad, all the way around for cyclists.

    And this brings up what is probably the most important point. Some cities and towns invite more cycling and are more pro-cycling than others. Maybe that is slowly changing. But the US is not a bicycle friendly culture. And until that changes, cyclists will always be the ones who have to defend themselves. As such, cyclists, be careful out there. Idiots like this guy, they don’t care until you’re dead. And even then, its sometimes doubtful.

  • john

    cyclist should have dumped a pile of snow into the drivers open sun roof. let the fireworks begin!

  • bruce gordon

    should have put snow thru his sunroof 🙂

  • Earl

    Why was the bicyclist on the left side we ride on the right in the USA? Perhaps there are bike lanes on both sides in Boston , I do not know. If that was a bike lane then the driver deserved a snow cone through the sun roof! That old fart in the car is just luck that wasn’t me as I would have verbally torn him a new asshole!

    • rorydlp

      Comm. Ave is weird in that the bike lane is on the left side on both the east and west bound sides. I think that was done since you can go under Mass. Ave. by staying on the left lane. That and the chances of getting doored are much lower.

  • Cormac

    i tap cars all the time. But usually only when drivers are being stupid.

  • Phaerisee

    As I get older and wiser, I find it is usually the manlier path to show restraint in these types of situations. Losing my temper could lead to consequences for myself or my family.

  • Nik Marucut

    The old fart in the car is totally at fault. I’m not against tapping a car if it’s warranted. I bike in SF and some people don’t know the rules where it applies to cyclists or they can just be self entitled inconsiderate assholes that can’t seem to grasp that a cyclist with only a helmet and his wits as protection are the same as driving 10 tons of metal at faster speeds with a driver that has absolutely no awareness of his or her surroundings and has the eyes and brain of a gnat. Um if I were in that situation I would have ripped this fartbag to shreds.

  • Billy Bob Trueblood

    The drivers is wrong. He is over a continues line. He shouldn’t be there, first place.

  • Marion

    I think the best course of action here is to ASSume ignorance, Driver is clearly wrong,>x’d white line and no idea of bike lane… back in the day when he got his license bike lanes where on the right…Not sure if he is nervous boston driver who keeps well the to left. Had he crossed-over while cyclist was there we could have had yet another mv/cyclist fatality….. Never Good…. And sorry Old Timer… Ignorance is not a defence- In this instance I would record LP tag and report… Banging on someones car is going to ignite them…. Why bother- ASSume they are ignorant- report it and carry on….

  • Code1

    2 points. Drivers sit in their cars with their windows shut. They communicate through their maneuvers and their horns. Bicyclists have no way to communicate back, other than tapping a car. Second: Drivers get upset when someone taps their cars? Well, bicyclists get upstart when motorists do things that pit them at risk of physical harm.

  • Peter H

    Anyone on here who thinks the cyclist is at fault is an absolute idiot.

  • B.

    Bikes, cars, and pedestrians. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone followed the traffic laws? Reading a Driver’s manual would benefit everyone.

    This metro is not easy to travel in. Lanes disappear and shift all over. Pedestrians cross when they have signals telling them to stop. Bikers run red lights because it is too much work to stop and start. Drivers just do what they want… recipe for disaster. Too many people get hurt.

    My suggestion start with the taxis/limos and follow the London protocol. Make them study for two years before they can drive. The bad seem to outnumber the good here.

  • Bobbie-Lee Woodis

    you know i’m the first to bitch about people riding bikes hogging the road and having to go around them into oncoming traffic. I think its great that bikers have a bike lane, wish we had them here in the southern part of the state. With that being said, the driver is the douchebag who couldn’t stay within his lines. I don’t bike ride, but i know how i feel when driving and having another driver come over the line at me (and at least i have the protection of my truck around me) This biker had nothing. I think he was totally justified in giving a little tap on the trunk to say hey, i’m here don’t hit me. If you listen to the audio the guy in the car starts swearing and yelling, and he’s the one that almost hit the guy on the bike. In all honesty, it comes down to one simple thing, whether you’re driving or riding a bike YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO STAY IN THE SOLID LINES.

  • Irish one

    Judge McKenna, BMC in the car

  • Andrew Daniel

    Doesn’t matter. There’s a line and he’s driving over it. Driver fail.