Russell Donaldson III and his fiancee, Abbey, were riding Jump scooters home from dinner at Southern Provisions in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood when they heard the driver of a white van behind them revving his engine.
“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up," Donaldson, 29, said in an interview. “It didn’t feel right to me.”
They were riding the scooters safely on the right side of the road and weren’t weaving through traffic, he said. Donaldson said he shouted at the driver to “Cut it out, [expletive]."
Instead, the driver shouted an expletive back at him and accelerated, striking him from behind and knocking him off the electronic scooter around 8 p.m. on Feb. 23 at South Linwood Avenue and Hudson Street, outside Lee’s Pint & Shell. The driver in the van drove off as others rushed to check on Donaldson, lying in the street.
“Honestly, it’s really like a blur,” he said. “Next thing I know, people are standing over me saying, ‘Don’t move.’ It’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
Donaldson, who grew up in Edgewater and lives in Canton, suffered a cut on his elbow and soreness in his neck and back from the hit, he said. He reported the incident to police and has retained a lawyer, he said. A Baltimore Police Department spokeswoman said she could not provide a police report Monday.
“I’m alive,” Donaldson said. “I’m sore, but I’m alive. That’s my main thing. ... If you’re on a scooter, be aware of your surroundings. You have to share the road and look out for everyone’s safety and their lives. I’m getting married in less than a month.”
Corbin Beckenheimer, who lives on Hudson Street, captured the dramatic collision on her Amazon Ring video doorbell. She gave the surveillance video to Donaldson when he canvassed the neighboring houses to see whether anyone had surveillance footage that could help to identify the driver or the van.
Beckenheimer is intimately familiar with the dangers of being struck by a vehicle while riding a scooter in Baltimore. Her husband, Justin, broke his wrist when he was hit head-on by a pickup truck while riding a scooter in Canton in December, she said. He’s still in a cast, she added.
Lee’s Pint & Shell provided surveillance footage of the incident from its security cameras to police, said Dave Carey, the restaurant’s owner.
Carey called the hit-and-run “disturbing across the board.”
“It’s concerning to anyone if someone was hit and the person didn’t stop," he said. "How does that speak for humanity itself?”
Drivers need to be more careful and mindful of people riding bicycles and scooters, he said, especially in high-trafficked areas like Federal Hill, Canton and Fells Point.
“You need to be a little more on alert and have your radar up,” Carey said. “You have to be on alert a little more, especially in a business district with people on foot.”
The hit-and-run exemplifies a “violent disregard of someone’s life ... fueled by this culture that anyone who stands in the way of them driving a car doesn’t deserve to live," said Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore, the city’s bicycling advocacy group.
“Anyone who’s ever ridden a scooter or a bike in this city has experienced physical intimidation, verbal harassment, and can read comments online where people threaten to kill people and dehumanize them,” she said in a statement.
Two bicyclists were killed in collisions while riding in Baltimore last summer, Cornish noted.
“In one instance the driver didn’t even stop,” she said. “I’m cynical that anything will ever change until people driving either start caring about other people on the road or stop fighting the City when it tries to build things like bike lanes that make the streets safer for everyone.”
While Baltimore police are still investigating, the city wants to “assure the public that that safety of those who use our roadways is paramount,” Transportation Director Steve Sharkey said in a statement.
“We want to remind motor vehicle drivers that everyone has a place on city roadways which should be shared with all users,” Sharkey said. "We must all do our part to reduce traffic accidents and keep our roadways safe for the traveling public.”
Donaldson said he is urging the van driver who struck him to come forward. Barring that, he wants to let others who have been hit on scooters that they’re not alone.
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“I know how it felt, and I just want to reassure someone everything’s gonna be OK in that type of situation,” he said. “I want this to really give the community a heads-up that these types of things happen, and we need to come together to find this guy.”