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Casey Ann Dilou on her bike.
Casey Ann Dilou on her bike. Photo by Bradley Johnson.

Last Thursday, at 1:30 in the afternoon, 32-year-old Casey Ann Dilou was riding her bike northeast on Market between 8th and 7th when she heard a car horn blaring behind her. She turned around and saw a blue Ford Minivan driving dangerously close with the passenger yelling out the window “run her over” and “get the fuck out of the way!”

Dilou stopped her bike and the car drove around. As it did, the passenger continued to yell obscenities, laughed, and flicked a cigarette at her.

That was it. Dilou said she'd been run off the road twice before by aggressive drivers—the last time a truck blasted its horn and forced her onto the trolley tracks. She crashed and fractured her elbow.

Dilou caught up to the minivan at the next red light and put herself in front of it. “This is a fucking bike lane and you can't treat people like that!” she shouted. The passenger started screaming back and yelled at the driver to run her over. But Dilou held her ground. “There was a Muni stop there and other cars and no way for them to go around.”

Then the passenger threw a water bottle at her and got out of the car. “You better move before I make you move,” he said. But Dilou, who is nearly six feet tall and teaches self defense, was not intimidated. She called the cops. "The passenger said he's going to go get his 'crew' and that I'd better be gone when he gets back," explained Dilou. “The cops will be here first so I can't wait until you show up with your 'crew,'” she replied.

He took off on foot and didn't come back. The police arrived and had Dilou swear out a complaint on the driver for violating California's three-foot passing law.

As with the pepper spray incident from less than two weeks prior, this was a statement on how far San Francisco has come—and how far it has to go in making its street safe. Certainly, it's great that the police invoked the three-foot passing law. “He's not going to jail or anything, but he has to appear in court,” the cops explained to Dilou. She also said the police were sympathetic--it's sad to consider this a win, but none tried to blame her.

That said “on Market between 7th and 8th is the first stretch where there's no bike lane at all. It's just sharrows,” observed Chris Cassidy, spokesman for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Dilou also mentioned that there wasn't much traffic at the time and the next lane was wide open. Psychologist Robert Nemerovski, a specialist in road rage, said in a previous post that drivers get enraged when their goals are frustrated or at the perceived injustice of a cyclist holding them up.

Sharrow markings on Market provide no protection against road rage. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Sharrows provide no safety from road rage attacks. Photo: Wikimedia

So why wouldn't the minivan pass in the open lane? And does a frustrated and angry person laugh? At some point, cycling advocates have to remember that there's a subset of people who are just sadistic. That seems like an accurate label for the passenger. Or, to use Dilou's description, he was a “douche nozzle.” Unfortunately, sitting ensconced in the steel cage of an automobile makes it easy for such bullies to act on their impulses.

All of which makes it difficult to understand why the police told Dilou they couldn't go after the passenger for throwing the bottle because it didn't hit her. “Under California Penal Code Section 240 an assault is an attempt to use force or violence. There is no question that throwing a bottle at someone is an assault,” said Andy Gillin, an attorney with the Bay Area firm GJEL. He recommends that Dilou reach out to her San Francisco County Supervisor and the media "in the hopes that the DA will take a hard line on this, which is more than appropriate."

Streetsblog asked Supervisor Jane Kim--the confrontation happened in her district--and SFPD for an explanation. Kim's office has promised to look into it. SFPD hasn't yet replied. That said, “Market Street is one of the most-biked corridors in the country, which should be a signal to city leaders that protected bike lanes are long overdue,” said Cassidy.

Dilou, meanwhile, was encouraged to see how many people helped. “I want to give a shout out to all the friendly, supportive bystanders who came to my aid and the friendly bicyclist who stayed with me...while I was on the phone waiting for the cops to show up.” She said the incident left her shaken but she refuses to be intimidated and will continue cycling in San Francisco.

Note: GJEL is a Streetsblog sponsor.

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