The truth is, being harassed, buzzed (passed so closely from behind, that the hair stands up on your arm and neck), yelled at, incessantly honked at, had objects thrown at you (beer bottles and fireworks among the most common), or any other variety of these types of behaviors, is REALLY, REALLY SCARY to a cyclist out riding their bike. Some days it feels like motorists see a cyclist as the "dog they want to kick" after a bad day - when they take out their life's frustrations and anger and unhappiness on us - as we sit there next to them in the bike lane, or to the right side of their car on the roadway, just trying to get to or from our home or office, just minding our own business ...we are vulnerable and often unaware until the venom is directed our way. And man, is it unsettling.
Does this outweigh our true love and enjoyment of cycling? HELL NO! But do we need to discuss this? Yep!
At least weekly, I receive a text, email or message, such as the 3 texts below, received from friends within the past few weeks:
So - what can you do? Many folks choose to vent their experiences on social media, and while it feels really good to get the support of your community in response, the reality is that these posts don't do anything to solve the actual problem. Instead, here are my suggestions for actual conduct - actual response - actual behavior - which we hope can begin to curb these behaviors. At the very least, they serve the purpose of tracking these motorists and notifying authorities, in the event this person ends up threatening or hitting or killing a cyclist in the future.
Does it take time and effort to report these motorists? Yes. Is it time well spent if you felt threatened? Yes. Authorities cannot take action with social media posts/vents (and they won't). Save the information below in your phone for future use:
1) Call Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver hotline (or your state's equivalent). Here, it's *277 (*CSP) on your phone. The hotline has been approved for use by motorists to report drunk or erratic drivers, AND it's been approved for use by cyclists to report motorist aggression. They will want license plate numbers, vehicle description, driver description - as much info as you can provide (video or cell phone photos are a bonus!).
CSP claims that it collects this information and once a driver has been reported 3 times, will visit the driver AND issue a citation where appropriate. This is something well worth your time.
2) Call your local law enforcement authority (especially if this happens within a City). You can simply call 911 if you don't know it, and ask the dispatch to connect you to the local jurisdiction NON-emergent line. Take the time to give them your statement, all of the information you collected, and they may even ask you to remain on scene so they can come and take your statement in person. I've seen some local authorities then contact the motorist, if still in the area, or attempt to locate them to have a discussion and/or issue a warning or ticket if they feel it is warranted.
3) When you get home, visit the Close Call Database, and enter all information in that you can. This is not a law enforcement website - it is privately run by a cool guy named Ernest, who is doing his best to collect this information, and if you sign up for it (free) via strava, you'll also get notifications when other riders update the database concerning incidents in your area. The mission is also to gather information about repeat offenders in the hopes that information can then be provided in comprehensive form to law enforcement.
4) If you do believe that sharing the photos of the vehicle/driver/license plates will serve your social media circles, feel free to post them as a general "heads up" to your friends. I have seen these posts come full circle, where someone else knew the person in the photos and sometimes those ties result in good outcomes. (For example the driver is mortified to learn that their boss' best friend saw a post about them harassing a cyclist on FB).
Finally - you've heard me preach this before, but camera footage makes documenting these incidents even easier, and makes law enforcement's job easier as well, if the video clearly shows the license plates, vehicle, and driver... identification becomes less of an issue and videos don't lie. Be Proactive. Don't just vent online. Make the calls above. It matters!
BLOG ADDITION (8/7/17): I sought some input from one of my most trusted law enforcement resources and he's given me permission to share his email here: