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81-year-old arrested in cyclist road rage incident


Palo Alto Biker

An 81-year-old Santa Rosa resident has been arrested on accusations of pursuing a bicyclist onto a golf course in Santa Rosa last Wednesday and running him down with his car. 

On Aug. 15, a motorist chased 47-year-old Toraj Soltani and hit him. The suspect drove away from the scene, and police were searching for an elderly man with gray hair driving a gold or beige sedan. 

Harry Edward Smith was tracked down when a Sonoma County woman, Rosa Zoia, told police about an incident that occurred in October when she was riding her bike on Pythian Road, the same road on which Soltani had been pedaling. 

Zola told police that an older man yelled at her, but had to drive away when another car pulled up behind him at a four-way stop, the Bay City News reported. Zoia relayed the incident to the police at the time, but no crime had occurred.

However, the bicyclist had been taking notes: She was able to give the man’s license plate number to police upon hearing about the golf course incident, and police tracked it to Smith. Soltani picked Smith out of a lineup. Smith’s gold 1997 Toyota Avalon was found to have a damaged passenger-side mirror and debris from driving on the golf course stuck to its undercarriage.

Santa Rosa police say they suspect Smith in at least one other aggressive encounter with a cyclist, according to a report in The Press Democrat.

There has been a spate of fatal collisions within the last week involving motorists and cyclists in the Bay Area, though the nonfatal golf course incident is the only one that appears purposeful.

On Thursday, an 88-year-old Concord resident collided with an SUV while riding his bike in Walnut Creek and died of his injuries that same day. No arrest has been made, though police still are investigating the cause of the accident. 

On Friday, a woman riding her bike in Antioch was struck and killed. The driver stopped at the scene of the crash and called 911. The woman was taken to a hospital, where she died.

On Saturday, a St. Helena man was fatally wounded when his bicycle collided with a car in Napa County near St. Helena. Police said the man was riding downhill and had the right of way, though the collision is still under investigation.

Yesterday, a 75-year-old cyclist was killed in a collision with a truck in Burlingame. The cyclist hit the side of the truck and was then run over. The driver stopped and cooperated with police and hasn’t been cited.

You can keep track of cyclist accidents and report them using The Bay Citizen’s Bike Accident Tracker app.

The Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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