Riding your bicycle on the roadways of America is usually dangerous enough, but if we throw in some drivers with road rage, then bicycling can result in even more personal injury or even wrongful death. For years, bicyclists have been confronted by and suffered from near misses by angry drivers who do not show the same respect or courtesy to bicycle riders that they do to other car drivers. Indeed, some drivers do not afford the most rudimentary common courtesy to cyclists, and this is one of the reasons why cyclists act so darn angry a lot of the time. Don’t you ever wonder as a driver, why that bicycle rider was so darn rude when you didn’t even know you had done anything wrong? As a motorcycle rider and a bicycle rider here in California, and as a bicycle attorney, I have seen many cyclists become absolutely militant because they are treated so horribly by motorists. In other words, the cyclists have a short fuse because of earlier abuses that have added up. I am not trying to condone bad behavior, because some cyclists are just obnoxious, but I tend to understand why bicycle riders can be defensive at times. After all, the bicycle rider is extremely vulnerable to injury every time there is even a minor confrontation, so that can create high stress.
And, of course, the motorists are sick and tired of bicycle riders hogging the lanes and being so downright rude and of bicyclists screaming and swearing, and flipping cars the bird, even when the drivers have their children riding in the car. While I really do understand why many motorists are angry at the seeming scofflaw attitude of cyclists, I have to point out one crucial fact. If a bicycle rider loses their temper and flips you off, it may hurt your feelings. However, if a car or truck driver loses their temper and takes it out on a bicycle rider, the consequences may be fatal. If a bicycle rider fails to follow the rules of the road, the only person likely to be harmed is that same rider. If a motorist fails to keep a proper lookout or runs a stop sign, they might cause serious personal injuries or wrongful death. Earlier this month after a near death experience, one normally mellow New Orleans bicyclerider said “enough!”
Charlie Thomas, a cyclist who was out for a ride in the French Quarter of New Orleans with his young daughter Colette, towing her in his bike trailer, was enjoying the peaceful Sunday morning when a speeding car buzzed by them, passing dangerously within a foot of Charlie and his young daughter. Thankfully, the cyclists weren’t harmed, but the pass was way too close for comfort.
Charlie, although usually very even-keeled, was not going to take this one lying down. He pulled up next to the driver waiting at the light, and let that driver know that Louisiana has a three foot passing rule, and that the driver had passed too close to him and his daughter.
And, even though Charlie’s comments were justified, the driver responded angrily, yelling at Charlie: “How about I get out and f*** you up in front of your kid?” At that point, realizing that continuing to engage the driver would only make matters worse, Charlie broke off the encounter and the driver sped away.
Charlie was not alone in being bullied by a motorist. Many cyclists have found themselves the victim of road rage, and many times, there is no justice to be found. Drivers continue to get away with acting rude to cyclists on the road, not respecting the rules of the road, and acting in ways that endanger bicycle riders and pedestrians. Usually, the motorists drive away without consequences. But, thanks to Charlie, this man was brought to justice.
Charlie hired a private investigator to track the rude man’s car, identified him, and after a short legal battle, ended up settling with the driver for a value of $4,500 in damages in a civil case of cycle harassment. Charlie did it, and you can too. Advocate for bike safety, ensure your state has anti-harassment laws in place, and if you see something, say something. All negligent drivers and road bullies should all be held accountable for their actions, especially when they endanger other users of the road.