A Mendota Heights motorist was charged with a felony Monday after an altercation in which he allegedly dragged a bicyclist alongside his car.
Alvin Lee Johnson, 64, is charged with one felony count of criminal damage to property and assault in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.
According to the complaint, Johnson was driving July 19 in Mendota Heights when he passed three bicyclists on the road. One gave Johnson the middle finger. Johnson pulled his car over and waited for the bikers to ride past him.
As one sped by, he reminded Johnson that the driver needed to give bikes 3 feet of space and "lightly slapped" Johnson's arm, the complaint said.
Johnson responded by grabbing hold of the bicyclist and driving 30 to 40 feet, squealing his tires.
Because the bicyclist's shoes were clipped to his bike, he was dragged at a high speed against the pavement, which resulted in road rash and more than $1,000 in damages to his bike, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, when officers found Johnson, he admitted to grabbing the cyclist and "driving away for a short distance."
The victim is declining to speak about the incident.
Whether in the city or the suburbs, such an extreme conflict between a biker and a motorist is uncommon, said Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
"For the most part, motorists are quite respectful of bicyclists," he said.
The incident offers everyone a chance to brush up on state law — the same one that the alleged victim spoke of during the altercation, he said. That law, more than 30 years old and one of the first of its kind nationally, says motorists cannot pass bikes unless they're able to give them 3 feet of space. "I rarely get passed," Grilley said.
But there are rarely any tickets issued for cars that don't obey the law, he added.
"Anger can lead to some really terrible things, I think," he said.
A court date has not yet been set.