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James Ernst cited in case prompted by bike-rage video that went viral

Video below.
Video below.

Update by Michael Roberts: Citations have been issued in the bike-rage case prompted by a startling video showing a driver repeatedly honking at and harassing a pair of cyclists on an open Longmont road; see it below.

As Sam Levin details in our original post, which follows this update, the video, shot by Dirk Friel, caused a stir when it was posted on YouTube -- and the clip prompted a Colorado State Patrol investigation. Now, the CSP has reportedly hit Erie-resident James Ernst, 75, with multiple allegations.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Ernst is accused on "two counts of misdemeanor harassment, impeding the flow of traffic and improper use of a horn or warning."

Levin has reached out to Ernst. When and if we receive a response, we'll share it here. In the meantime, here's our earlier coverage.

Original post, 1:28 p.m. September 19: It's the exact opposite of "sharing the road."

A video shot by an in-motion cyclist in Longmont captures an SUV slowly driving behind two bikers and honking his horn nonstop for several minutes; see it below. The footage is now on the radar of the Colorado State Patrol, which is looking to question a driver whose actions frightened two cyclists during what should have been a peaceful Sunday morning ride.

Here's the bizarre video, which, as of this writing, has more than 110,000 views.

The footage was shot by Dirk Friel, 42, of Boulder, who was on a bike ride with a friend when the honking became so strange and aggravating that he decided he should film it on his phone.

"Half of me is scared, because I don't know what's going to happen next," says Friel, an avid cyclist who founded Trainingpeaks.com, a company based in Lafayette that works with cyclists, triathletes and runners. "We didn't provoke him. We were just on bikes, so we just assume he doesn't like cyclists."

He adds, "Half of me is angry.... It would be easy enough to do something in retaliation. But the only thing we did was try to wave him on."

In the footage, the SUV, driven by an older male, repeatedly honks at the two cyclists on a virtually empty road in Longmont, where it's clear he could easily pass them. There are only two other cars in sight early in the two-minute video, and one going the same way -- heading north on East County Line Road in southeast Longmont -- actually passes the cyclists and the energetically honking van driver.

Friel, who is seen riding single file in front of his friend, narrates the situation during the video, starting at around the thirty-second mark, saying, "I have no idea what this guy is doing. I'm riding right of the white line. Amazing.... Wow! This is a nice Sunday bike ride for me!"

His friend clearly tries to wave the SUV past, but instead of speeding up and going around them, the vehicle just inches closer.

"This is getting old!... This is insane," says Friel, who then recites the license plate number in the video.

At around the two-minute mark, he says he thinks he is going to run out of memory and shuts off his video.

Friel tells us that this went on for several more minutes before the guy eventually passed -- but not before he got so close that his friend actually touched the car.

"We decided, let's just go slow...force him to pass us," he recalls. "The whole thing was about five minutes...a long five minutes of him just being rude."

He says, "It was just total disbelief.... This guy has to know I'm videotaping.... It's obvious I'm recording. But he continues to do what he's doing. It's just mind-boggling."

The pair went on with their Sunday ride and didn't call the police or state patrol immediately, though Friel did post the video on YouTube and on Twitter. He tells us he quickly got feedback from folks saying they think they've seen this exact driver before.

Friel eventually decided to contact the Colorado State Patrol and has since updated the YouTube video with a note saying:

The Colorado State Patrol is involved and we've found others who have had similar run-ins with this driver. If anyone else has information about this driver call Trooper Donahue 303-239-4501. Need to centralize information. Thanks

Continue reading for more on the Colorado State Patrol investigation into this driver.

 

Trooper Josh Lewis, a Colorado State Patrol spokesman, says no charges have been issued in this case, adding that the trooper investigating this inquiry has not yet been able to make contact with a suspect; the state patrol went to the house of the possible suspect this morning.

YouTube image of the open road in front of the cyclists, riding single file on the right side of the white line.
YouTube image of the open road in front of the cyclists, riding single file on the right side of the white line.
Screenshot

"Obviously, we need to get both sides of the story," he says.

The video is a very extreme and unusual example of the tension that can exist on the road between cyclists and drivers as more and more folks are riding bikes. Bike advocates like to emphasize that most cyclists and drivers -- and many people use both modes of transportation throughout a typical week -- try to be courteous to each other and get along well. In their opinion, the more cyclists there are on the road, and the stronger presence they have, the safer the streets become.

Still, situations like this one -- or, in a somewhat reverse case, stories about drunk cyclists antagonizing drivers -- make people uneasy and heighten road tensions.

"It's not going to deter me [from biking]," says Friel. "There's danger in everything we do.... It definitely makes me more and more aware and conscious of cars in different situations."

Friel adds that when he lived in Europe, where he biked all the time, he never had these kinds of confrontations.

"This is an American issue," he says.

Some good, he says, will come out of this. Friel has put ads on the video, which is getting more and more attention as additional news outlets write about the case, and he plans to donate any money raised through the footage to Bicycle Colorado, the state's bike advocacy group.

The SUV getting closer to the cylists.
The SUV getting closer to the cylists.
Screenshot

"Bikes aren't going away," Friel says. "There are going to be more and more bikes on the roads in Colorado.... Tourists come here from all around the world to ride our beautiful roads."

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "James Holmes railroaded...for running a red light, says traffic-ticket critic"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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