Gay man alleges road rage after hit by Lyft driver

  • by Alex Madison
  • Wednesday June 6, 2018
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Jim Donahue's bicycle was mangled after being hit by a car. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Jim Donahue's bicycle was mangled after being hit by a car. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A gay man said he was allegedly hit deliberately by a Lyft driver while riding his bike May 31 at the intersection of Market and Gough streets.

Jim Donahue, 63, suffered a sprained thumb, scrapes, and bruises, and a damaged bike. Donahue is a professional piano player and longtime San Francisco resident.

Donahue was riding home on his mountain bike on Valencia Street around 3:20 p.m. when he stopped because a white sedan with a Lyft emblem in the window was parked in the bike lane in which he was traveling. The driver was an African-American woman in her early 30s, according to Donahue, and was talking on her cellphone while parked in the bike lane.

Having continually faced this problem as a frequent bicyclist, Donahue stopped and began shouting at the driver.

He shouted, "You have room over there, park over there" referring to the fact that the driver had room to park further down the street outside of the bike lane, Donahue said.

Donahue added that he "probably" called the driver "a bitch."

In response to Donahue's shouting, the driver started to shout back while still in her car. She then got out of her car in the middle of Valencia Street, Donahue said, and once close enough, "shoved" Donahue with both her hands against his chest.

That was enough for Donahue, who said he felt threatened, to get back on his bike, leave the scene, and begin heading toward Market Street from Valencia Street. He decided to ride on the sidewalk once on Market Street to avoid another confrontation with the woman in the street.

At that point, the driver got back in her car and began to follow Donahue, he said.

"I thought she was going to come up on the sidewalk. She was coming really close to the curb," Donahue said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

Donahue then got back on the street, still riding his bike, a decision he called "stupid."

Riding north on Market Street he took a right on Gough Street with the driver trailing closely behind. As both Donahue and the driver took a right on Gough, the driver then allegedly hit Donahue with her car from behind.

"She deliberately ran me over," he said. "100 percent intentional. 100 percent deliberate," he said.

After being hit, Donahue got up from the ground, and the woman then got out of her car and the two continued shouting at one another. It was less than a minute that the driver then got back in her car and left the scene, Donahue said.

"I thought I broke my hand," he said.

Donahue could not identity the car specifically, only that it was a large, white sedan that was new. The car did not have license plates on either the front or the back of the car. Donahue said he did see a license plate on the dashboard, but that he saw the driver remove the plate during their second altercation.

After the altercation, Donahue went home, where he called 911. San Francisco police officers from Northern Station showed up at his house around 7:30 p.m., Donahue said.

San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Michael Andraychak said the officer who responded to the call, "could not find any indication that the driver intentionally struck the bicycle."

Andraychak added, "Officers will be looking at it as a hit and run."

The front wheel of Donahue's bike was mangled. He went to the doctor the day after the incident June 1. He received a splint for his sprained thumb, which will take about three months to fully heal, Donahue said. He also has scrapes on his legs and left elbow.

"I was so lucky," he said. "I'm a piano player. I would have been devastated if my hand would have been broken. What kind of person runs over a bicyclist with their car?"

Donahue said during the altercation he remembered seeing people watching and even someone recording the scene with a cellphone, but as soon as the altercation was over, Donahue said no one was around. He did not get contact information of any of the witnesses.

"It was a quick altercation," he said. "The whole thing was like, 45 seconds. When she took off, I was frantic. I looked around and no one was around, like nothing had ever happened."

A few days after the incident on Saturday, Donahue walked to the San Francisco Bike Coalition located at 1720 Market Street and spoke with employees about the incident.

Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the coalition, was not in the office when Donahue stopped by, but did say the number one complaint of the coalition's members is unsafe driving behavior by people who drive for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

"Lyft and Uber are adding tens of thousands of vehicles to the streets of San Francisco everyday," Wiedenmeier told the B.A.R. "Data from the San Francisco Police Department show they are disproportionately responsible for violating traffic rules like parking in the bike lane."

He added, "We have called on Uber and Lyft to take responsibility for the safety issues they are causing on the streets and this example highlights what the problem is in the city."

Lyft's corporate communications lead Kate Margolis was not able to identify the driver and asked for a copy of the police report to be able to further research the incident.

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