Asheville cyclist punched in the face by motorist

Cyclist punched in face at red light in Asheville, NC

UPDATE (April 12, 2018): The alleged assailant in this video, Claude Donald Watson of Candler, was arrested several days after the incident. On Monday, April 9, 2018, Watson was sentenced to jail time after pleading guilty to simple assault. Get details and read the district attorney’s press release here.

An Asheville cyclist was punched in the face by a motorist on 9/27 and video of the event has been provided for Asheville on Bikes to share. It should go without saying that this is unacceptable behavior on the part of the motorist.

We’ve spoken with the cyclist and have learned about the events that occurred immediately prior to the video footage. In the video, the cyclist is stopped on Sand Hill road, heading south, at the intersection of Sand Hill road and Sardis road, near Asheville, NC. The cyclist had been riding legally within his lane on a two lane section of Sand Hill road. Because the section of road just prior to this intersection is a long downhill, the cyclist was able to ride at the pace of traffic and was not, to any degree, causing a backup of traffic. The driver of the truck tailgated the cyclist during this time, and, because of line painting crews in the oncoming lane, was unable to pass until he neared the intersection in the video. While accelerating around the cyclist, the driver attempted to run the cyclist off the road by aggressively entering the cyclist’s travel lane to the point the cyclist had to brake and swerve to avoid being hit. Moments later the truck and cyclist rolled up to the red light that is shown in the video. The only words spoken occurred after the punches were thrown, when the driver said, “Get off the fucking road.”

The driver, who left the scene, was later apprehended by police, charged with simple assault, and released. We do not know if additional charges are going to be brought against the driver and Asheville on Bikes will follow this case closely.

The video is shot from the cab of a commercial vehicle that happened to drive up to witness this scene. The police responded at the time of this incident and took statements from several witnesses.

Audio edit note: The video is untouched, but the audio has been altered in one place to remove the mention of the truck’s license plate information.

The cyclist’s attorney, Ann Groninger, can be reached at or 704-200-2009. She works regularly with cyclists in cases like this and we’re happy to list her as a resource for anyone who finds themselves in similar circumstances.

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  1. I am thrilled that the cyclist wasn’t run over and that the assault was caught on film too! Great to see bystanders stand up for the cyclist. Still so shocked this man thought violence was the best option. Riding on the road is a jungle everywhere I have lived and ridden. Asheville is better than some but not great. Too many close calls to remember them all. Ride safe peeps. Craig

  2. Can’t say I am shocked, people have no respect for bicyclists,this is so awful to see .glad everyone got out of their comfort zone and stood up for him..I was proud of the woman getting out of her car.

  3. I was assaulted while riding on Haywood Rd. in West Asheville years ago. A driver threw a giant fast food drink at me, hitting me in the face. I turned and followed the guy to the next intersection at got the tag #. I reported this to the police who would only say that they “talked to the guy”. They would not file charges. Most of the rednecks in NC do not realize, recognize, or care that cyclists have the legal right to use the lanes and that it is illegal to pass them, not to mention throw objects at them.

  4. The world is getting crazy against cyclists. I hope the failing judicial system makes an example of this incident by charging the driver with assault and reckless endangerment. It would be great if the prosecutor could find more to charge him with.

  5. Simple assault?!? That’s all?? Last time I checked, using a 2 ton machine to run into some is AT LEAST assault with a deadly weapon… whether or not it inflicted bodily harm! The penalties for this type of behavior need to be much higher or nothing will change because there is no deterrent.

  6. I love how asheville police will arrest one person because of a video, but when I show the police a video of threats made against me, the police tell me that I have to press the charges… [Edit: profanity removed]

  7. Horrendous to witness this event on recorded video. Grateful that the incident was caught on tape by the motorist behind the cyclist. The motorist who assaulted the cyclist should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Thank you for sharing this content, AoB.

  8. Very sad. Have a friend who was struck by a car cycling on Hendersonville road in 2011 and paralyzed. While it can be frustrating at times as a motorist, tailgating or assaulting a cyclist is absurd. Hope this guy gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law

  9. As a rider, I have for years EXPECTED extreme reactions from drivers…even though they don’t materialize. ONE RULE: driver comes out of the car at me, I’m off the bike and ready to rumble. As a vet, I know a few things…..

    Glad this one is being resolved civilly.

  10. There must be mutual respect for drivers who are trapped behind a bicyclist on a curving, double yellow road for miles and do nothing to allow the cars to pass. Particularly frustrating to the motorist who is trying to get to their destination with a time restraint.

  11. As with every one of these cases, I try to learn from this. Were there other circumstances we don’t see? No, nothing I do as a cyclist warrants assault and battery. And yes, as MarkB said, if the driver comes at me, I have to protect myself. Makes me want to carry.

  12. I would agree in this instance that the driver of the truck was completely wrong in assaulting the bicyclist. However, lack of respect is also often displayed by cyclists who ride several abreast, particularly when riding up hill. Even motorists show the courtesy of pulling off in a cutout to allow faster vehicles to pass – I expect the same from cyclists but rarely see it. And before you go nuts citing ‘rights’, please keep in mind that I also am a cyclist and I do believe the sharing the road means ‘sharing’ and that common sense and courtesy go a lot further than rights in creating a pleasant and safe experience for all.

  13. What does the “Good Samaritan” commercial truck driver recording this say at the beginning of the recording?

    “Oh it’s a cyclist – Part of me says should I push him in?”

  14. Kudos to the lady in the car for getting out and standing up to the driver. She was brave in these crazy times.

  15. Sid and Wendy, did you see the part of the article where it said he was up to speed because he was going downhill? There was no reason to let anyone pass him, so stop victim-blaming.

  16. I totally agree with Wendy! I also enjoy cycling but am getting more and more frustrated with the riding habits of cyclists especially those I encounter on Pennsylvania Road in Arden which is winding and dangerous to begin with let alone with packs of riders who occasionally cross the double yellow line. I don’t condone the actions of the driver but do understand his anger!

  17. The correct response to this is truck driver goes to jail for assault, biker gets awarded max amount in small claims court for pain and suffering, truck driver loses driving license permanently before he kills somebody.

  18. To those motorists who are angry or frustrated with bicyclists who stay two abreast on winding roads and blind hills: Often times especially on blind hills or blind corners bicyclists should stay two abreast to prevent/ discourage motorists from passing when they can’t see over the hill or around the corner. If they encourage passing and a vehicle comes over that hill they know that the passing motorist will take them out rather than die in a collision. Bicyclists who automatically fall into single file when a motorist approaches from the rear is not safe for anyone.

  19. Hopefully the greater and greater availability of technology leads to more situations where dangerous and often violent drivers are cited and charged for their offenses because of video and/or photography. This sort of stuff is par for the course if you spend any time on a bike.

  20. This guy should, I hope, will be punished to the full extent of the law. I hope this will lead to better motorist awareness.

  21. The driver is nuts and 100% at fault. In other instances, bicyclists do need to show more courtesy (specifically talking about riding four across and showing no consideration for drivers behind them). That said, absolutely no excuse for this guy and he should be in jail.

  22. Randy, if you can’t slow down for a minute or two without getting angry, you don’t belong behind the wheel.

  23. Ok, so to address the cyclists saying that a rider should get over to let a driver pass going up hill. Are you absolutely nuts?! Is it Ever a good idea to pass anyone going up and over a hill?? Part of sharing the road with cyclists, is to understand that as a driver you may encounter slower moving traffic. Be patient and understanding of the fact that you will be able to pass very soon. A delay on the road behind a cyclist will be very brief. You will make up the 1 to 2 minutes. If however, you kill someone. That will be with you forever.

  24. We just released a research article about this exact issue yesterday.

    Without the happenchance video evidence we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

    This was assault and battery with a deadly weapon; his fist. It was also reckless driving and assault with another deadly weapon, his vehicle, “the driver attempted to run the cyclist off the road.”

    The only way we can hold law enforcement accountable for enforcing the laws is if cyclists ride with a camera and submit all of their egregious near miss incident reports so we can identify these egregiously aggressive drivers before collisions and assaults like this occur.

    Our site is free for cyclists to enter, track, analyze, update, and map their incident reports. Once you enter your incidents everyone will be able to search them to identify repeat offenders.

  25. Hey Ben, if you can’t ride a bike with common courtesy guess what bud you don’t belong on the road! There are plenty of trails in WNC to ride until your heart’s content!

  26. Randy, there you go road raging again. But to humor you, how do you propose that I get from my front door to the trails and the trails to my destination?

  27. They should be named and shamed.

    Maybe then the police will need to take action. If you can get his number and pic, you can get his name.

    Raise funds. Stick an ad in the paper with his pick on it. Put up a bill board.

    That shit will stop pretty quick.

  28. I don’t drive my truck on the velodrome, or the bike trails, but I do drive on the roads and highways to make a living. The second amendment is a right as well, since we are speaking of rights.
    Once we selectively discriminate against rights given to anyone, are we not discriminating to rights given to everyone?

  29. The cyclist will have to go civil court; the state law ain’t gonna do jack. My prediction.

  30. Jason, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Are you saying he should carry a gun while he bikes to prevent this sort of behavior from other road users?

  31. This is why I only ride where there are bike lanes. Lucky, in AZ, bike lanes are everywhere. There are places I have no choice but to go out on a main road. I am always super courteous to cars. I feel like I am out joy riding and they are probably on the way to work. I can wait. I will pull over and let cars pass. No matter what the laws are, common courtesy still applies. Oh, and just in case I carry a high powered stun gun. Because no matter how kind you are, some people will still hate you. Also carry pepper spray. That stuff will stop an elephant!

  32. How come the name of the driver is never published. He was charged…his name should appear everywhere on the internet, especially of this video showing him throwing & landing punches. The victim is the cyclist – quit protecting the names of the guilty!!! I’m

  33. I had a hostile interaction this morning with an old white man at hazel mill and riverside dr. Taking a left and he felt i was in his way. A total lunatic. Will be carrying my tear gas spray with me.

  34. Hello,
    Is there any follow-up on whether the driver of the pickup truck has been found and arrested for assault? Regardless of anyone’s position on bikes sharing roads, the pickup driver assaulted the bike rider. That has to be a clear crime everywhere.

  35. Steven,

    Yes. He was arrested and charged with Simple Assault and Reckless Driving to Endanger. We are following the case closely. The Asheville Police Department commented publicly on Facebook about it, saying, “We would like to ensure the cycling community that behavior like this is not tolerated. The driver was arrested and charged with Simple Assault and Reckless Driving to Endanger.”“tn”%3A”R0″%7D

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