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Santa Rosa cyclist recounts painful encounter with road rage


Even from his hospital bed a day removed from the crash, Toraj Soltani cannot make sense of it, why a motorist would chase him on his bicycle for two blocks and then far down a golf course fairway to intentionally run him down.

"I have recounted it so many times. It seems like make-believe; it doesn't sound like it could happen," said Soltani, 47, of Santa Rosa.

The experienced cyclist was hit from behind Thursday on a cart path at the Oakmont golf course by a car he had gone great lengths to evade.

"I don't think that you can ever make sense of something like this," Soltani said. "I really hope they find him."

The crash, which occurred at 5:15 p.m., left Soltani with a broken wrist and serious road rash on his arms, left wrist and buttocks.

Santa Rosa police are looking for a man that Soltani described as in his 70s with white hair. He described the car as a beige or gold sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry or Buick.

Sgt. Rich Celli said the violent crimes division is investigating the crime as an assault with a deadly weapon.

"We are actively working to find the driver. We are hoping for the public's help," Celli said.

"Unbelievable," said Celli, who knows Soltani well.

The incident is among the many recent serious collisions between vehicles and cyclists, with five cyclists killed since May, and part of a growing number of unpleasant encounters between motorists and cyclists.

"This is such bizarre case. It illustrates what many cyclists have been saying — that there is this overt dislike and aggression toward cyclists," Soltani said. "Maybe this is weird enough it will cause people to think differently."

Soltani runs Mac's Delicatessen in Santa Rosa, the family business his father, Iraj Soltani, bought in 1968. He described the crash from his Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital bed Friday evening, his left wrist held up in a sling.

An avid cyclist who rides five or six times a week, Soltani said he was on Pythian Road, a broad street as it runs through Oakmont, and hugging the right hand gutter. His hands were off of his handlebars to let him sit up and take some pressure off his back.

Soltani said a car drove beside him, the driver laying on his horn and yelling at him through the passenger window to put his hands on the handlebars,.

"Then he veered to the right and bumped into me with the car. Then I became upset and yelled back," Soltani said.

He said he attempted to avoid the motorist. He rode onto the sidewalk, took the curve on Pythian Road with the car still chasing him. He then braked hard and did a U-turn, remaining on the sidewalk, but could hear that the car also had turned around.

When he got to the golf course, he headed down the paved cart path. "I relaxed, I thought I was safe," Soltani said. "I should have looked over my shoulder, I should have been more vigilant."

The car sped down the cart path after him, he said, hitting him from behind at a point police said was 100 yards from the street. The incident was witnessed by a woman who lives along the golf course, he said.

"I didn't even know he was behind me until I heard the engine," Soltani said. "He accelerated and ran into the back of me."

Soltani said he fell in front of the car, but the driver had stopped. The car did a U-turn, leaving tire tracks in the grass, and sped away.

"I feel really lucky that I came away with a broken wrist and I'm alive," Soltani said.

"If the guy didn't stop, if he didn't have a moment of lucidity, he would have driven over me. I wouldn't be here," Soltani said.

Soltani underwent surgery Thursday night during which a titanium plate was inserted into his wrist.