"Typically it's the drivers who hit a cyclist from behind that try to get away from the scene because the cyclist is often not in a position to ID the fleeing driver,” Hottman continues. “Also cars that hit cyclists from behind tend to be traveling at a faster speed, hence the increased need to capture backward-looking footage. Forward footage is good, too, but most cyclists don't have the cash or desire to run two cameras on every ride.”
Check out today's Bicycling Magazine article on this topic!
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:
Earlier this week I had the awesome opportunity to present my law enforcement bike law education talk to the Larimer County Sheriff's Department. The two biggest concerns they vocalized (the same as all the other LEO departments I've worked with) were:
1- large cycling group rides that take up the entire lane/road and cause all kinds of traffic mayhem; and
2- cyclists failing to yield to emergency vehicles like law enforcement, fire trucks, and ambulances -especially when lights and sirens are on!
Let's focus on the second issue for now - because time after time, I've heard this complaint from Law Enforcement and it causes me serious concern. The officer who raised the issue this particular time, shared a story where he was responding to a call in his marked patrol car, with lights and sirens on. He drove up behind a cyclist who paid him ZERO attention (and the officer did not believe the cyclist was wearing headphones). The officer stated the road was a single-lane road with blind turns, and because the cyclist failed to stop or move off the side of the road, the officer was reduced to an 8-10mph speed until he had a clear chance to go around the cyclist.
Let's phrase this another way: if you or a loved one are the victim of an emergency, do you want help to be delayed because a cyclist would not pull over, as we are instructed to do when we drive our cars? Of course not. Let's break this issue down, so we are all clear on why cyclists - like motorists -must move over and allow emergency vehicles to pass.
"...In summary, when emergency vehicles are approaching on a non-divided highway, all vehicles are required to move to the right side of the roadway and stop, clearing a path for the emergency vehicle to have the right of way. On a divided highway, those vehicles traveling the same direction as the emergency response vehicle are required to pull over to the right and stop until the vehicle passes." (read more here).
Penalty: Move over or get a ticket (typically cited as careless driving).
Does this apply to bicyclists?
Answer: YES! The law above specifically references vehicles. It does not say motor vehicle, it says "all vehicles." Bicyclists are vehicles under the law (not just in CO but every state). Here in Colorado, C.R.S. 42-4-1412 states that bicyclists shall have all the same rights AND DUTIES as the operator of a vehicle.
Therefore -bicyclists are required to move over and stop when approached from behind by an emergency vehicle. This is yet another reason to avoid the use of headphones because wind noise in the ears alone can make it hard to hear vehicles approaching from behind. Keep those ears open and eyes and head up and alert. You do NOT want to be the cyclist that prevents an officer, EMT or fire fighter from getting to an emergency, nor do you want to receive a ticket!
(Check back on our blog on 12/14 and 12/22, for two more blog posts addressing specific questions we've been asked!).
When I returned home from the National Bike Summit, I vowed to commit my firm's time and resources to teaching cyclists the rules. It is my opinion that there are 2 types of cyclist:
(1) those who know the rules and CHOOSE not to follow them -and for those cyclists, we rely on law enforcement to correct that behavior; and
(2) those newer riders who truly don't know -and want to learn the rules.
For the latter group, we began to tackle the "I don't know" problem by offering Biking 101 classes at local bike shops and businesses in April.
Full Cycle, Boulder
I'm proud to say that after last night's huge turnout at Full Cycle in Boulder, we've now taught over 130 cyclists. In just a 3 months! Kudos to the following businesses, who hosted us for these classes and found them worthwhile and a great way to connect with their customers and/or employees:
Trek Store of Kansas City
Full Cycle, Boulder
Big Ring Cycles, Golden
Peak Cycles, Golden
Oz Architecture, Denver
In addition, our office has hosted two TS101 (traffic skills 101) classes for citizens who wanted to learn bike basics including the laws and skills, as well as the riding etiquette on the roads in a short group ride format. These were full classes and through them we trained another 25 cyclists. This weekend our office is hosting the League for Instructor Certification Training. By Sunday assuming we all pass, most of the Hottman Law Office staff will be certified and so will 6-8 more local residents! This means more people certified and empowered to teach to more and more cyclists! WIN WIN!
Finally -a key component of the education goal is to work with enforcement and be sure we are all on the same page. I am proud to say that our office is helping law enforcement by providing training to local officers on bike laws. We use our own case examples to show how the accident occurred, what citation was issued and how the ensuing traffic case/trial played out. We had over 20 officers attend our Badges on Wheels event in April, and since then we've been invited into two departments to provide bike law ed during their officer briefings. All told, by the end of July we will have helped teach this information to over 100 law enforcement officers in Colorado. This is incredibly exciting -and it shows a desire on the part of these officers and departments to learn the laws to apply them appropriately.
Briefing officers at their 6:30am day shift briefing
Bottom line, we are making cycling safer and more accessible by teaching people the rules and HOW to follow them, one cyclist at a time. It's powerful stuff and I'm so excited with the momentum we've seen already!!! Look for more events at our office...coming soon!
Last Friday we hosted approximately 15 law enforcement officers from various entities along the front range. We began with a presentation of Colorado statutes and city ordinances that affect cycling on public roads, and I used specific case examples that I've handled as actual real world evidence of the problems that can arise when laws are not correctly interpreted or enforced. After our morning session all of the participants took to the open roads in 3 group rides: beginner, intermediate and veteran. Everyone had a blast, especially those who took advantage of the Cannondale demo fleet!
After the ride we enjoyed some healthy lunches from Mad Greens, we raffled off some prizes and we wrapped up the silent auction for items donated to raise money for the Police Unity Tour. We also got to hear from some of the PUT riders and hopefully we recruited new riders for the 2015 tour!
Overall we had a wonderful time and received very positive feedback. This will certainly be an annual tradition moving forward! Many thanks to all of the officers who took part!
Here are some of our favorite photos of the event: