A Boston taxi driver stands accused of punching a cyclist then driving his cab at the rider, who had sought his help after colliding with a pedestrian as he rode through a red light. The bike rider involved? Film maker Lucas Brunelle, whose videos of alleycat racing have polarised opinion among cyclists.
Some see them as providing an adrenaline-fuelled view of top-notch bike handling skills. But for others, they glamorise law-breaking riding and undermine the efforts of cycle campaigners.
Brunelle was riding with friends last Friday evening through the intersection of Tremont Street and Avery Street near Boston Common.
The 43-year-old ran a red traffic signal and struck a woman who was crossing the road, reports the Boston Globe.
The cyclist flagged down a cab driven by Sam Chandler to ask him for help. But a witness says the driver punched him in the face, flooring him. The attack continued until onlookers pulled him off Brunelle.
James Kidd, who was jogging nearby, told CBS Boston: “The taxi driver was on the ground on top of the biker just pummelling his face into the ground. There was blood everywhere.”
Once back on his feet, Brunelle positioned himself in front of the cab to prevent Chandler from making off. But instead, said an anonymous witness cited by the Boston Globe, the cabbie drove his vehicle at him.
“It was definitely scary being on the hood of a taxi. I was going down Tremont with a guy trying to kill me,” said Brunelle.
At an arraignment hearing on Monday, Chandler, aged 45, was set bail of $1,000. He had driven away from the scene, with police tracing him later.
Sporting a black eye, after the hearing Brunelle described the amount set by the judge as “a joke” and said he was “disgusted” by it.
But Chandler’s attorney, Kim Giampetro, said the cyclist had been the instigator. She also pointed out that her client, who could face 10 years’ imprisonment, had no criminal record.
She said: “This is a cyclist who had two problems in a short span of time.”
Despite Brunelle's admission he rode through a red light, it appears police will not fine him for that because they did not see him do so.
He told CBS that the woman wasn’t badly hurt. But the Boston Globe said she was taken to hospital with head injuries, adding that “she is expected to survive.”
Brunelle, who runs an IT business which helps pay for his film-making, described the incident as “a group ride that went bad.” Chandler is due back in court on 10 December.
In December 2012, footage of alleycat racing in London’s West End shot by Brunelle six years earlier featured in the BBC One documentary, The War on Britain’s Roads.
Cycle campaigners who saw a preview said the programme sensationalised the issues and did not explaining the background to the alleycat footage.
Its makers did acknowledge in the final version that it represented “extreme behaviour.” They didn’t make clear that it was shot commercially and featured on the Line of Sight DVD sold through Brunelle’s website.
In a blog post, former bicycle courier ‘Buffalo’ Bill Chidley said Brunelle had put up prize money for the race and influenced the route to get the shots he wanted.
Criticism from other riders or from cycling campaigners is unlikely to bother Brunelle much.
As Chidley points out, in an interview with Bicycling magazine after Line of Sight was released, Brunelle said: “I love cars. Fuck bike advocacy. It's the cars that make shit fun.”
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