Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 12th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
Former contributor to BikePortland and recent Portland resident Russ Roca and his partner Laura Crawford have finally been able to come up for air following a harrowing road rage incident that happened to them while biking in New Zealand.
Foster and Roca were riding in Wellington when a man driving a sedan passed them aggressively. After hand gestures were exchanged by both sides, the man driving the car stopped, got out and assaulted Russ. The man assaulted Russ, striking him in the face hard enough to cause him to fall to the ground, and then speeding off.
The story grabbed major headlines throughout New Zealand and far beyond (it is just now hitting U.S. news on the web). Russ and Laura had a whirlwind of media appearances on TV and radio and even sat down for tea with the Mayor of Wellington.
New Zealand is a country that takes cycle touring very seriously and to have this nasty interaction happen to Russ and Laura, arguably the most highly visible and well-known cycle tourists in America who are there specifically to highlight the country’s great biking, is a major embarrassment.
The headline about the incident the New Zealand Herald read: “Shame, fear over driver’s road rage attack on cyclists.”
As for the incident itself; before you start thinking that Russ deserved this treatment because he flipped a finger at the man in the car, read Russ’s perspective (which is thoughtful and classy, as usual):
“It is not a proud moment when, as a bike advocate, you lose your cool, but I did. Finger gestures where made, to which the driver returned the same. This is where some “blame the victim” usually creeps in and people will no doubt say that I somehow brought this whole incident upon myself, conveniently disregarding the fact that just moments before someone driving two tons of steel had threatened us with bodily injury. This point has always bothered me when I’ve read these sort of stories myself. The cyclist is suppose to not react, to be a Ghandi-esque figure at all times, not registering any discontent at the fact that two tons of steel was just maliciously steered at them with impunity. Forgive this cyclist for being imperfect and human.”
I highly recommend reading Russ’s full account and thoughts on what happened.
While it’s unfortunate that Russ and Laura had to experience this and that the reputation for amazing bike riding that New Zealand enjoys has been sullied, there is some good news. The incident will vastly increase the visibility of Russ and Laura’s Path Less Pedaled initiative and bike touring in general, and it will remind the world that road rage is a very real and serious issue.
Thank you Russ and Laura for being such great bike ambassadors and we hope both of you continue to lead inspiring adventures.