A Staten Island driver is due in court at the end of the month to face assault charges after a road rage incident with a cyclist. Unlike Fox News staffer Don Broderick, whom the Manhattan DA let off the hook despite allegations that he drove with a cyclist clinging to his hood, 27-year-old Michael Graziuso was taken away in handcuffs after this altercation, which took place at a busy Staten Island intersection on the morning of July 8th. The confrontation was sparked after cyclist Gregory DeRespino, 48, stopped in the bike lane at a red light at Capodanno Boulevard and Seaview Avenue, making it difficult for several cars lined up behind him to make a right turn.
According to the Staten Island Advance, when traffic is backed up at the light, drivers commonly move into the bike lane to make a right turn on red, which is permitted at the intersection. But on this particular morning, DeRespino wasn't having it, and decided to defend the bike lane from vehicular encroachment. He says, "The motorists who wanted to use my bike lane as a turning lane were very upset." And when they started honking at him, he decided to stay there an extra turn of the light "because I was frustrated and fuming... I was trying to calm myself and have a drink on a hot day."
Graziuso, who was one of the drivers angry that a cyclist wouldn't move out of the bike lane, was also frustrated. After driving by, he parked and returned on foot. DeRespino says Graziuso grabbed his bike from behind as he was sitting on it, "dragged me from that position," and pushed him off. "He gave me a kick for good measure, then walked away." But Graziuso insists he only got out of his car to remedy the matter by pulling the bike out of the street, and DeRespino had gotten off the bike when he approached: "He was not attacked. I pulled his bike up to the sidewalk. The guy was never touched. He wasn't on the bike. He was near the bike."
Graziuso's lawyer, Jonathan Ginsberg, tells the Advance the confrontation is a "manufactured event," and thinks DeRespino just wants to cash in as a poster boy for cycling advocacy: "I seriously question whether or not the complainant is trying to set up a civil suit for damages." And DeRespino concedes, "In hindsight, it was my mistake to stay as long as I did. It never crossed my mind that someone would come back to me. Now, it's the paramount thought."
Regardless of whether cycling advocacy is DeRespino's intent, the incident has had an impact already; last Thursday cops cracked down on motorists who drive through the bike lane to approach the intersection, issuing five tickets to offenders. And now local officials have fired off a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly calling for a better effort to educate drivers and cyclists on road rules.