This week, a scary video of an SUV running over a group of bikers in New York City, followed by those bikers chasing down and attacking the driver made the Internet rounds, and exploded into a national story. It isn't the first time that our highways have turned into the Wild West, but it's this video that elevated the story of "driver strikes bikers" or "bikers beat up driver" from another road rage incident into something more complex.
The video was shot on Sunday afternoon and shortly after the video was uploaded, found its way to over four million views. You can watch the whole thing below. It starts with a large convoy of motorcycles surrounding a Range Rover; the SUV striking a biker (who may have intentionally stopped short) at around 27 seconds in; the bikers stopping to surround the vehicle; the Range Rover running over a bunch of bikers at around 50 seconds; and then a prolonged chase, with the bikers catching up to SUV; and breaking the SUV's windows at around 6:15 in.
What you don't see after the video cuts off is the driver being pulled from the car and beaten, while his wife and infant child remain inside. You also don't see one of the bikers, injured in the original smash up, who reportedly has a broken back and may never walk again.
That chase has since resulted in two bikers being arrested and charged (one later had the charges dropped) and police are searching for the third biker who smashed in the SUV's windows, USA Today reported. Although one biker is now paralyzed, the driver of the SUV has yet to be charged — police explain that the investigation is still ongoing and it's possible that he could face charges at any point in the investigation.
People on both the driver's side and bikers' side are angry — some say the bikers got what they deserved; others that driver was reckless — and feel like there hasn't been enough done. But one of the reasons people care so much is because of this video evidence.
Without the video, this story likely would have just been relegated to the corner of your paper with the headline like "Driver Injures Bikers" or "Bike Gang Smashes SUV." The cops would have had a tougher time piecing together the fragments of this case — the arrests and charges have come fairly quickly, but without the visuals and widespread attention they might not have happened at all. What this video provides is still just one fragment of the story, as well.
Since the story broke, the video's uploader began taking down other videos shot on the same day, where many of those same riders were tearing around the city like jerks. (The reason they were all in New York City together was for an unsanctioned rally, believed to be organized by a group called Hollywood Stuntz. The NYPD was expecting trouble from them, and dozens of other arrests were made around Manhattan on Sunday.) Jalopnik has an excellent recap of the videos, showing many of the same bikers riding on the wrong side of the road; on the sidewalks; weaving in and out of traffic; and running red lights — a pain and danger for anyone sharing the road. That isn't to say that all bikers are jerks, or that these bikers' jerky behavior means they deserved to get run over, but it does change the complexion of this confrontation and gives more context to the event. There's a major difference between someone being scared and trying to get away from these bikers and someone just running over these bikers for fun.
Despite one of the biker's attempts to delete these videos from public consumption, they survived and have actually done a lot of good by bringing the story into the light. The behavior of everyone involved can be more clearly seen. In addition, that six-minute chase shows how dash and helmet cams, which are used almost everywhere in Russia as a defense against insurance fraud and police corruption (and to track meteorites), could actually help shed light on even more highway altercations.
If the Range Rover had been camera-equipped too, it could have provided more context to that chase since footage from both the driver and the bikers would be available. Granted, there are all kinds of privacy issues involved when people tape everything around them, and that's is a separate and important debate. But imagine if these videos of these bikers doing the illegal and dangerous things were in police hands before the altercation? Or if a man had been paralyzed with no record of how it happened? Or if every driver and rider knew that someone might be watching their every move? In the future, more dashcams might actually help police stop aggressively-dangerous drivers before road rage escalates into an ugly confrontation, and more people get seriously hurt.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.