Road Rage Driver Apologizes

In a follow up to a blog we wrote a week and a half ago, the driver in an east side Madison road rage incident that went viral online has issued an apology. I’ve pasted it below.

I’ve removed the driver’s name and we also haven’t reported the name of the cyclist. That information is easy enough to find if you really want to know. For my part, I wish the driver hadn’t led with his first paragraph and just left it at the second, but it is what it is.

The important thing is that this is an opportunity to think about how important it is to treat one another with respect out on the roads.
Let’s just accept his apology, dial down the anger and figure out how to get along out there.

Here is the driver’s note:

Madison Bicyclist,

For your sake, and for your mother’s sake, please don’t flip off people and then spit on their cars. It’s just a question of time before you come across someone who isn’t willing to walk away. And whether your assailant is arrested or not, that won’t change the fact that your eye socket is fractured or your jaw is wired shut. It just isn’t wise to act like that on so many levels.

As for my part, I made mistakes and I apologize for them. I apologize to you and my neighbors. I’ve lived on Spaight Street for over 25 years. I spend a lot of time on a bike on Jenifer Street. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’m sorry I overstepped my rights when I tried to enforce the decorum to which I’m accustomed in my neighborhood.

Thank you!

About Dave Cieslewicz, Director Emeritus

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

32 thoughts on “Road Rage Driver Apologizes

  1. An interesting “apology”. The “decorum” he expects in his/our neighborhood does not appear to extend to stopping for stop signs, allowing appropriate passing distance, nor refraining from assault with a deadly weapon (only the extension of a finger or saliva toward the assaulter). While I do tend to refrain from the latter actions (in the interests of both respect and safety), the driver appears to lack the perspective to notice the difference between disrespect and reckless endangerment.

  2. That first paragraph isn’t just unfortunate, Dave, it’s a threat, and it’s unacceptable.
    i agree that the anger needs to be dialed down. but the driver needs to start the dialing, and threatening cyclists with assault isn’t the right direction.
    At least five different people in my (his) neighborhood have reported (in separate social media threads) him acting in a similarly unlawful and dangerous manner – effectively attempted assault. It’s a clear pattern that’s now documented, and if that driver doesn’t change that behavior, he should be charged with assault the next time.

    • I agree this is a threat, and not an apology this man … this video is such a representation of Jennifer street… the. With its must be proud of this guy monitoring them….

  3. Dave, I will not accept his apology because it is absolutely NOT an apology, in any way. No apology starts out with “if someone gets in my way again I might really hurt them!” and finishes with “you weren’t behaving like I thought you should, which was the cause of my [unacceptable] actions.” The driver has obviously learned nothing from this incident, which included a lot of very public shaming.

    • I agree, it is EXACTLY how an abuser speaks to the person he is abusing. Not an apology. The second paragraph is not ‘great’ and there is no sign he really feels bad about the whole thing. This is an angry man who needs help before he really does hurt someone.

  4. Dave, I appreciate your attempts to make peace. However, let’s look at the driver’s statement in terms of the conventionally accepted three elements of an apology:
    1) Tell them how you feel, specifically, express remorse. Ummm, half credit at best.
    2) Admit your mistake and the negative impact it had. This guy seems to be far more interested in pointing out the rider’s mistake in responding to his assault with anger. *bzzzzt* No good.
    3) Make the situation right. Not seeing any atonement here at all. *bzzzzzt*
    That’s a .50 or maybe .75 out of 3.0 possible Apology Points. Sorry, I see no indication that this guy has any intention of changing his behavior.

  5. Look, I agree that the guy wrote one terrible paragraph followed by one really good paragraph. I even considered cutting the first one before I posted it because I figured it would get this reaction. But he sent me what he sent me and I didn’t think it was my place to edit his own words. I think we’d be better off in what has become a very polarized society (not only on this but seemingly on virtually everything else) to try to focus on the positive where somebody gives us something positive to focus on. It seems to me that this isn’t really about bikes and cars but about conflicting world views that get reflected in lots of other ways.

    • Dave, I’m really struggling to see the positive here. I was horrified by the video and now given this threatening note, I am terrified of what my neighbor might do next. I would be willing to hear a second attempt at a genuine apology, but until then, I will be afraid of my neighbor. This is not about a conflicting world view, or difference of opinion, this person reacted violently and we now can see he believes it was justified.

  6. Neither paragraph is good, in fact the second one may be even more insidious. This is a fake apology and another attempt at laying full blame with the cyclist. At no point does he actually take responsibility for his inappropriate and extremely dangerous behavior by name. He makes an allusion to making “mistakes,” which for all we know could mean not following through on his threat of violence. Being sorry you “overstepped your rights” means essentially that you’re sorry the law got involved and sorry that you’re being held accountable. What’s extremely galling is that he thinks the neighborhood owes him a certain level of decorum and if we just wouldn’t make him angry he wouldn’t have to act the way he did. He’s an abuser and I’m sorry for his family. Don’t legitimize any portion of this apology, Dave.

  7. That is NOT an apology. Not even close. It is clearly a sociopath rationalizing. wow. Sorry, polarization or not. That guy scares me, and this is REALLY close to home. My family. This man needs therapy, badly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has had other problems but please, don’t try to ‘alt truth’ this. Not an apology.

  8. The attempt to place this incident within the context of the greater conflict in the U. S. is just plain silly. The driver’s behavior should be a police matter. The “apology” was anything but apologetic. Frankly, there was a distinctly threatening tone to it. (This over-sixty woman might well have flipped him off too.) I’ve had my frustrations with bicyclists on Madison streets, but I can’t conceive of behaving in the aggressive and dangerous manner displayed by this driver.

    • Echoing that the police need to charge him, at the very least for the moving violations that were captured on tape

  9. When I first saw the video on the original post, I thought… man, people need to respect cyclists rights and those on both sides need to not let their anger and emotions in the moment get the better of them and cause these confrontations. I felt the driver was at fault… the cyclist is at an inherent disadvantage to an angry driver who did not obey the stop sign, and did not respect the cyclists rights. Would he have done that if it was another car, instead of a cyclist????? 100% no! He did it because it was a cyclist. BUT…emotions can get the better of us… time yeilds perspective. THEN I READ THE “APOLOGY”…. What an example of everything wrong with drivers…. they will justify themselves as always superior and justified. I originally cut the gut a little slack for being in the heat of the moment… but now he proved himself a total jerk! Get this guy off the road!!! He doesnt know what hes doing!!!!!

  10. If this were an apology, it could be accepted. This however are the words of an abuser. Saying sorry not sorry. Next time it will be worse, if you break my rules of decorum in my neighborhood. This was a child on a bike versus a grown man in a car. Let’s hold adults to a higher standard and ask that they demonstrate the values they would like others to follow.

  11. Might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually found the first paragraph to be the better of the two, but not necessarily in the context of an ‘apology’ letter. When I saw the video, my first reaction was that the person riding the bike responded to a bad situation in a way that, while understandable, served no benefit to the situation, and would at best leave the person on the bike feeling vindicated, and the person in the car justified in thinking that the person on the bike is an unpleasant person. To that end, the author’s suggestion that it “isn’t wise to act like that” is very true, and is advice that everyone on the road would benefit from – the altercation would not have happened had the person in the car taken their own future advice.

    Please note, I don’t mean this to be victim blaming, rather I am trying to point out that a bad situation could have been made less so, and that both sides could have taken action to do so. In the case of the person in the car their action had the potential to cause the incident to never happen in the first place, and they carry the weight of the blame.

    Regarding their apology, I agree with Patrick. The author went into far more detail on the misbehavior of the recipient rather than their own. The apology to the neighbors was a nice touch, but there was no mention that the “decorum to which I’m accustomed” is not required and that the behavior they were trying to correct was completely legal and correct.

  12. I agree that this is one of the more infuriating non-apologies I’ve ever read, but I cannot rest until justice is served. There is video evidence of failure to stop and reckless driving (I would argue vehicular assault but let’s leave it at the obvious) so are charges being filed or what?

    • We contacted the Madison Police, had a good conversation with the Chief’s office, and an officer called me back the very next day. I also believe that the cyclist did file charges. So, I believe it may be in the hands of the DA now, but I will check.

  13. This driver just keeps making it worse for himself. He’s a neighborhood resident, pulls this stunt IN his own neighborhood, the neighborhood sees the video, and he still has an attitude. Maybe this would die down if A didn’t keep fanning the flames with his “apology”.

  14. Who lives on Spaight Street for 25 years and acts this way toward a cyclist? The one time in five years an asshole driver honked at me and reved his engine from directly behind me, honking, at a redlight, I assumed he had just arrived from some angry east coast place (my point is that living in east madison for 25 years and acting like that makes it less excusable).

  15. Only in the cycling community can you flip off a driver, spit on a car (allegedly), cry like a baby on social media, and count on 100% unequivocal support from the community. At the end of the video, when the driver is finished and gets back in his car, suddenly this cyclist gets real brave and starts moving forward, profane venom flying. Did the Bike Fed hit stop prior to that? Does the bike fed condone cyclists flipping off cars for minor swerves required by a bad driving decision? Has the entire cycling community never made a bad driving decision? This video and entire exchange could serve as an anti-cycling recruitment video just as easily as it can be used against drivers. Has the Bike Fed lost its mind? News flash: Cars win every collision. Why not encourage people to smile and go about their day?

    • No, of course, the Bike Fed does not condone that. But the answer cannot possibly be to threaten bodily harm with a powerful vehicle. The two behaviors are not equivalent.

    • Steve, I was a bike messenger for many years and every time I saw someone roll through a stop sign or run a red light(yes, it happens incredibly often) I got upset. I sometimes cursed, I occasionally flipped the bird at someone if they obviously were trying to box me out or were being aggressive towards me, and I slapped some cars to let them know I was there. I wasn’t doing it because I thought I knew better. I was scared for my safety and the adrenaline was pumping like crazy. You know what I never did? I never tried to run someone off the road with a 3000 lb. vehicle just to prove a point. The cyclist thankfully recorded and reported an extremely irritated man using his vehicle as a weapon. The man doesn’t need to be publicly shamed, but he needs help for his anger. If you have spent much time on a bike, you will understand that no matter how skilled you are, you are still very vulnerable and having a screaming person use their car as a weapon against you is deeply, deeply upsetting. It has happened to me a few times. Calling someone a cry baby for having this feeling shows that you do not empathize with this feeling(and that you probably don’t ride a bike much). We all know that cars will win every collision. That’s the point. It’s not up to cyclists to be polite and smile, it’s up to drivers to be law-abiding and resilient and not let the inconvenience of a cyclist in their way turn into a road rage assault, just as It’s not up to you to not be shot by a gun owner. It’s up to the person with the gun to use it responsibly(or at least we hope this is where the burden lies). Again, this is, as has been stated many times in the comments, the line of thinking most abusers employ. “Oh, if you didn’t act this way, then I wouldn’t have to hurt you. “

  16. I’m sorry, Dave,

    The driver’s response is not an apology, no matter how diplomatic you try to be about it.

    I’m sorry about the loss of your spine.

  17. Okay, so where’s the apology again? Somewhere buried in the implied threat? Good luck, buddy, if it had been me standing there when you exited your vehicle, you’d be the one worrying about fractured eye sockets.

    Of course, the guy on the bike was acting like a dick, though. He takes the lane just to piss the guy off, let’s face it. He wants to put that GoPro to good use, right? Probably trolls people with it on a regular basis.

    That said, now’s the time for the driver to apologize for calling the biker a “faggot”. That’s a homophobic slur, and should be eliminated permanently from our society’s lexicon. Unbelievable that this “apology” doesn’t even address it; well, on second thought, it’s believable considering the source.

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