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The Daily Tar Heel

Dispute between cyclist, driver leads to fight

What started as two usual commutes resulted in spitting, yelling and police investigating Monday.

Wayne Pein was biking toward Rosemary Street in the center of the right lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when a truck passed him via the turn-only right lane.

In North Carolina, bicyclists are entitled to use the full lane.

When the light turned green, Pein, who has been cycling as his main mode of Chapel Hill transportation since 1986, got in the left turn lane to turn onto Cameron Avenue. Kevin Mitchell, the driver of the truck, followed, and Pein spit in the direction of the truck.

“I was about a lane away, and I’m wearing braces,” he said. “I can’t spit, I was far away, and I spit at the ground anyway.”

It’s unclear who started the altercation — but a few minutes later, he and Mitchell were yelling at each other on the side of the road.

“The … investigation revealed that the driver of the truck allegedly got out of his truck and kicked the individual’s bike, or possibly the cyclist, as he was riding away,” Chapel Hill Police Department spokesman Lt. Kevin Gunter wrote in an email.

After Mitchell kicked the bicycle, Pein took off his helmet and said, “Let’s go.” Mitchell got in his truck and left.

“We were unable to locate the cyclist in the area but were successful in identifying the driver of the vehicle,” Gunter said.

Pein went to the police on Wednesday after he heard police were looking for him but did not file a formal report. He said he does not plan to press charges.

The officer who issued the ticket and was most directly involved with the incident has not been working, so Pein said though he talked to the police, there wasn’t much information the police could give him.

“I’m sorry to witnesses for my loss of verbal control,” Pein later wrote in an email. “I counsel others to ignore hostile motorists, so to not do myself is inexcusable and embarrassing.”

Mitchell was cited for careless and reckless driving for the maneuver in front of Pein that caused the exchange, Gunter said.

But Mitchell maintains that he is not a criminal.

“(Pein) was impeding traffic. He was causing a traffic jam. He was causing people to go around him. He’s lucky he’s not dead.” Mitchell said. “That is dangerous. I’m not the dangerous one. The bicycle riders are the dangerous ones.

Pein, a local cycling advocate, said that in the past he’s had things thrown at him, had several close calls in traffic and that he’s been assaulted while biking previously.

“Over the years, I’ve had multiple friends be assaulted,” he said. “Some drivers just go crazy.”

President of the Carolina Tarwheels bicycling club Jeff Charles said threats or assaults on bicyclists from drivers are not common, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe enough.

“We do have problems with people passing way too close, honking horns repeatedly, (cars) not necessarily forcing us off the road, but coming very close,” Charles said.

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