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Colorado driver in cyclist harassment viral video pleads not guilty (+ video)

75-year-old faces charges relating to harassment, slow driving and unnecessary use of horn

A Colorado motorist featured in a YouTube video that has clocked up close to half a million hits showing him beeping the horn of his SUV at two cyclists while making no attempt to pass them has pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggressive driving.

According to a post on Denver Westword that cites a Colorado Judicial Department spokesman, 75-year-old James Ernst entered the plea in relation to a misdemeanour charge for following the two cyclists in the video, a well as two traffic violations – using his horn inappropriately and driving at too slow a speed.

Some of the incident was captured in that film later posted to YouTube by one of the cyclists involved, Dirk Friel, who also happens to be the founder of Trainingpeaks.org.

After posting the video, he learnt that other cyclists had received similar treatment at the hands of a man assumed to be Ernst, at which point he contacted the Colorado Highway Patrol, who decided to press charges.

Friel said that while he hadn’t been watching the case too closely, Ernst’s insistence that he’d done nothing wrong hadn’t come as too much of a surprise.

"This is probably to be expected, because people tend to go in and try to talk down charges against them," he explained.

"I guess I'm just amazed that my leisurely Sunday morning ride has to lead to a day like this. It's just too bad that it had to end up like this when, to the letter of the law, the cyclists did exactly what they were supposed to do."

He added that the attention the incident garnered was positive in that it had generated a debate that made people think about how they conduct themselves on the road.

"It's good for cyclists' rights to get the word out there that we should all share the road together, cohesively,” he reflected. “I think there's quite a bunch of evidence on our side."

The message of sharing the road doesn’t appear to have got through to everyone, however.

As the post on Denver Westword points out, earlier this month there was another incident in Colorado in which a motorist not only beeped at a group of cyclists but also forced one of them off his bike, which was crushed under the wheels of the pick-up truck involved.

The cyclist, Byron Nix, narrowly escaped serious injury in the incident, in which the motorist turned out to be the grandson of President Herbert Hoover.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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