- PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
- Bryan Agnello was biking on Culver Road when a driver rear-ended him. A month later, the driver filed a $700 claim against him for damaging his car.
Agnello escaped the crash without serious injury, although he said his helmet absorbed an impact “that would have been the end of my head.”
But that wasn’t the last time he would be blindsided by the driver, Jovonte Cook, of Rochester.
A month later, Agnello received a notice from Rochester City Court that Cook had filed a $700 claim against Agnello for damage to his car.
“I felt like I just got punched in the gut again,” Angello, 37, said. “It was painful. I was angry.”
The saga opened around 8:30 p.m. on January 10, when, according to a Rochester Police Department report of the incident, Agnello was pedaling on the left side of the north-bound lane of Culver Road in front of Cook and slowed down just north of the I-490 interchange to make a left-hand turn.
Agnello said he was wearing a reflective rain suit and riding his custom-built, steel-frame Pake touring bike, which he described as having reflective panniers and a blinking red light. The police report described Agnello as being hit by the left front corner of Cook’s 2012 Ford sedan as Agnello prepared to turn.
“(Cook) said he did not see (Agnello) until he was on the hood of his vehicle,” the police report read.
“It was the most wicked feeling I think I’ve ever incurred,” Agnello said.
Agnello, a senior broadcast engineer for WXXI Public Media, the parent company of CITY Newspaper, described himself as a full-time cyclist who gave up driving two years ago.
Cook was not ticketed or charged in the incident, the police report shows.
In his small claims filing in Rochester City Court, dated February 11, Cook described a version of events that conflicted wildly with the police report and Agnello’s recollection of the collision. He described Agnello as riding his bike on I-490 at about 60 mph.
“I didn’t see him coming at me at all due to bad weather,” he wrote.
- GRAPHIC BY RENÉE HEININGER
- An excerpt from Jovonte Cook's claim against Bryan Agnello.
“There was a lot of damage that was done to my car and I couldn’t even use it the whole weekend to make money off of my car,” Cook said.
The top speed recorded at the 2019 Tour de France, a grueling road race that draws elite cyclists from around the world, was 63 mph. The rider hit that pace during a descent in the Alps.
Pressed on whether Agnello could have been traveling at such a rate of speed, Cook replied, “Of course, depending on if it’s an expensive bike.”
Then Cook hung up. He did not respond to a follow-up message.
“If I could go 60 mph I wouldn’t be here, I’d be in the Olympics,” Agnello said.
James Reed, an attorney with the Elmira-based Ziff Law Firm and an expert on New York’s bicycle laws, is advising Agnello on the case. In an e-mail response to CITY, Reed wrote, “There is no legal basis for this ridiculous claim.”
He noted that bicyclists have the same rights and obligations as motorists.
“In New York, if one vehicle rear-ends another vehicle, the rear-ending driver is legally responsible because it is his or her legal duty to keep their car under proper control so as to not rear-end another vehicle,” Reed wrote. “And this is true whether it is raining or snowing, day or not.”
Cook and Agnello are scheduled to appear before a City Court judge on March 25.
“This is just another one of those situations where I just feel like people in this country look at bicycles as second-class forms of transportation, and that is sad,” Agnello said. “It is really, really sad. It shouldn’t be that way. There needs to be education from the driver’s ed stage all the way through the license acquiring stage.”
Agnello said he wants drivers to pay better attention to their surroundings and more respect to cyclists.
With that in mind, Agnello hit back — with a counterclaim for $2,500 that he said covers the value of his destroyed bicycle, the time he spent recuperating, and the sheer aggravation of the ordeal.
But, he said, he would settle for Cook dropping his claim.
“I’m not about this stuff,” Agnello said. “This is not me at all. I just want to ride my bike.”
Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.