A bicyclist who was struck by a motorist in the District last year in a highly publicized crash said efforts to prosecute the driver have been stymied because the man has not shown up for court and has not been arrested on the outstanding bench warrant issued in the case.
“We’re nine months since it happened, and he’s driving and free. It seems to me there should be repercussions for cursing and running into someone on the road,” Evan Wilder said Wednesday after testifying before a D.C. Council committee on pedestrian and bike safety.
Mr. Wilder’s helmet-mounted video camera captured his Aug. 31 crash, and the video went viral after it was posted online. The video shows a driver yelling out of his truck’s passenger-side window at the cyclist as he rides down Rhode Island Avenue Northeast and then swerves toward him, striking Mr. Wilder’s bike and sending Mr. Wilder tumbling to the concrete.
According to court documents filed in D.C. Superior Court in the case, a bench warrant was issued for the owner of the Toyota Tacoma truck, John W. Diehl, after police tracked the truck’s license plate number.
Judicial summonses were mailed to Mr. Diehl for hearings scheduled in February and March. But the summonses could not be delivered, and Mr. Diehl did not appear for the hearings, according to court records. As a result, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest March 29 but has yet to be served.
Reached on Wednesday by phone, 56-year-old Mr. Diehl said he had no idea he had been summoned to court and denied being involved in the accident.
“This is all news to me,” he said. “I never hit anyone. If I had a bench warrant, I would turn myself in.”
Police inspected Mr. Diehl’s truck in September, about two weeks after the crash, and noted a small dent on the rear passenger-side fender, according to court documents.
Mr. Diehl, of Northeast, said Wednesday that no one else drives his truck.
A spokesman for the District’s attorney general said Mr. Diehl will be formally charged with leaving the scene after a collision causing personal injury and leaving the scene after a collision causing property damage when he appears in court.
The lingering prosecution thus far underscores the uphill battle cyclists face as they push for safer roadways, Mr. Wilder said.
“All signs from my case are pointing to the fact you can be assaulted on the road,” he said.
At Wednesday’s hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, Mr. Wilder was one of several people who testified about pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as police enforcement of traffic laws.
“I’m a little frustrated that the prosecution has not been more vigorous,” council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said at the hearing. “Through prosecution we will begin to impact behavior.”
Police officials who also testified at the hearing said the department is still working to boost officer education and training with regard to the enforcement of traffic laws relating to bicycle- and pedestrian-related crashes and ticketing.
The number of both pedestrian- and bicyclist-involved crashes are down this year, and just six traffic deaths have been reported, Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Lamar Greene said.
“Now we have a consistent approach across the Metropolitan Police Department,” Chief Greene said. “I believe the statistics are showing some advances.”