Man Beaten Up in Bike Lane…For Trying to Ride in the Bike Lane

Driver in Park Slope draws first blood on the new Ninth Street protected path.

Cops collared this perp after he allegedly pummeled a cyclist. Photo:  Tom Flash
Cops collared this perp after he allegedly pummeled a cyclist. Photo: Tom Flash

A driver was arrested on Tuesday morning for beating up a cyclist who had the temerity to ask him to move his car out of the newly painted protected bike lane on Ninth Street.

Tom Flaschen was moving westbound on the new Park Slope lane when he encountered the obstruction between Fourth and Fifth avenues. That obstruction was a fancy Chevy Traverse.

Flaschen picks up the story here:

He was blocking the bike lane, so I tapped on his rear window. He got out and yelled at me angrily and loudly and was very threatening, but then got back into his car. So I tapped on the glass again. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess I was fed up with having the bike lane blocked. People are trying to get to work and they’re trying to get there safely. I guess I wasn’t in the mood to let it slide.

But this time, the driver got out of the car and spoke with his fist.

“He punched me,” Flaschen said. “In retrospect, I wouldn’t tap on the glass a second time. This guy was clearly insane.”

The impact of the fist cut open Flaschen’s lip, but he was able to call 911, despite the blood on his phone. Officers arrived and arrested the driver, later identified by police as Chris Chernak, 46, of 51st Street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Chernak was charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He could not be reached for comment before publication.

The city’s traffic database showed Chernak’s vehicle had been written up 42 times for parking and camera violations, including seven red-light violations and seven school-zone speeding infractions. He’s also parked at a fire hydrant at least three times and blocked bus lanes at least seven times, the data show.

Flaschen received multiple stitches at nearby Methodist Hospital. He now says he’s less certain about challenging bike lane blockers.

“I don’t know any more,” he said. “I have done it before without incident because most people are polite and quickly move along. Clearly this guy was not in that category.”
Flaschen was surprised to hear that Chernak was charged.
“If he had hit me with his car instead of his fist, he probably wouldn’t have been arrested,” he added, noting that drivers who kill pedestrians or cyclists are rarely charged when they claim it was an “accident.”

It’s not the first controversy for the new protected bike lane on Ninth Street, which was hastily built after two children were mowed down by a driver in March. Last month, Liz Plosser left her “sweet Subaru” in the bike lane when she went on vacation, causing a neighborhood uproar that reverberated far beyond mere rudeness into questions about why it’s cheaper in New York City to get two no-parking tickets than it is to put your car in a garage for a week.