Cyclist road rage or power run amok?
That’s the question in the wake of an encounter between a bike rider and State Senator Marty Golden on the evening of Monday, December 11, the story of which went viral following a series of tweets by the cyclist, Brian Howald.
According to Howald, he was riding in the bike lane on Third Avenue in Brooklyn when a vehicle in which Golden was a passenger — as he later learned — was one of several that veered into the bike lane to circumvent a traffic jam.
“A man stuck his head out the window waving a non-NYPD placard, telling me to pull over, claiming to be a police officer. When challenged, he hid the placard & his face,” tweeted Howald, who posted a series of photos of the car’s passenger along with his running narration of the encounter.
“When I asked passenger who he was, he responded, ‘wouldn’t you like to know?’” Howald went on, adding, “He tried to evade further attempts to take his picture by clutching to his sun visor for dear life.”
Among the infractions Howald alleges were committed by the driver of Golden’s car: Driving southbound in a northbound traffic lane and running two traffic lights.
Howald eventually caught up with Golden’s car, and got a relatively clear photo of the pol in the passenger seat, though, based on his tweets, he wasn’t certain at first who it was. “Now,” tweeted Howald, “I can’t be sure but heading south from Sunset Park, special plates, and a driver strongly indicates an elected official or department honcho.”
Golden, for his part, has a vastly different take on the encounter.
In an extended interview with this newspaper, the state senator — a former NYPD officer who has been in public office for just shy of two decades — contended that Howald exhibited “cyclist road rage,” and, through his behavior, endangered himself and others in a traffic situation that was already perilous because of extreme congestion that Golden attributed, at least in part, to the terrorist incident earlier in the day.
Howald, he said, had previously blocked another car from veering into the bike lane. “He finally got through and I got as far as he had been when [the cyclist] blocked me,” Golden said.
“We were trying to move through the intersection. Cars were moving through the intersection. [What Howald did] was dangerous, reckless. Someone could have gotten hurt,” Golden contended, telling this paper also that Howald was “carrying on, screaming. We were telling him to move over because someone was going to get hurt, but he didn’t.”
Golden’s car eventually cleared the intersection, heading toward Bay Ridge, but, he said, Howald “followed us, escalating the situation that I thought could have been far worse.” He said he was shocked to see the lengthy thread on Twitter the following morning, which included Howald also posting that, after the incident with Golden, he had been hit by a cab, “which is sad.
“He was doing the same thing,” Golden contended, “and it looks like he did the same thing a couple weeks earlier in the 19th Precinct in Manhattan, taking it upon himself to move vehicles out of the bike lane. If he continues to do this, eventually it’s going to cause him or someone else to be injured.”
Golden acknowledged having a placard, which he said was in the vehicle’s window, but denied having said he was a police officer to Howald. “If he took it upon himself to presume, maybe we looked like cops to him,” Golden said, adding, “We did not in any way identify ourselves as cops. If anything, I would have identified myself as a state senator but he was acting irrational and we just wanted to get away from him. The only one acting as a police officer seems to be him, and if you look at his Twitter page, that seems to be a common practice of his.”
This was not the first vehicular incident to involve Golden. In 2005, while driving in Bay Ridge, he struck and injured a pedestrian who had been crossing against the light. The car in which Golden was riding when he encountered Howald had accrued over 30 violations prior to the incident. These include speeding in a school zone and running red lights.