02

Blog

Too often, those sworn to protect us don't.

One of our great challenges to making cycling safer is to change the public’s mindset so that bicycles are expected and accepted on the road. This change will be difficult to achieve unless it is first embraced by those whose job it is to serve and protect the public – police.

On my Saturday morning ride today, I heard a story with an all too familiar theme. A cyclist was riding his bike on Charlotte’s Booty Loop when a truck drove up and began to harass him, intentionally tailgating and buzzing the cyclist. It happened that another car, driven by cyclists, drove up. The second car saw what was happening, took a picture of the truck and its plate and then signaled to the harassing driver that they were going to report him. The angry truck driver then started chasing the cyclist drivers. They called 911 and were told to drive to a safe place, which they did, the harassing truck drove off and they were met by a Charlotte Police officer. When the officer heard the story and learned it involved a cyclist, he said, “you guys shouldn’t be riding on the road anyway” and refused to take any further action. He didn’t at all care that the truck driver’s outlet for his road rage was to pit his two ton vehicle against a person’s body.

On the topic of callous police behavior, the story on everyone’s mind this week was the announcement that the Los Angeles County police officer who killed a cyclist last year while driving and emailing will not face criminal charges. Although texting and driving is illegal in California, the police department has a policy requiring officers to respond immediately to colleagues, which is what Wood was doing. Prosecutors explained their decision: “because Wood (the officer) was acting within the course of his duties when typing into his computer, criminal charges are not warranted.” Really? It’s ok for officers to perform administerial duties even when doing so risks the lives of the very public they are obligated to protect?

There are many wonderful police officers; some who ride and others who don’t but respect the law and the equal rights of cyclists to use the road. But there is a disconnect. Unfortunately, many in law enforcement exhibit the same callousness we see in the general public toward cyclists. The “satirical” video created by a reserve Santa Paula California Police Officer a few months ago about running over cyclists is, though extreme, sadly just one of many demonstrations of the attitude that people on bikes deserve what they get, even if caused by egregious driver behavior. This has to stop.

One, all police officers need to receive training specifically on the rights of cyclists and the law pertaining to cyclists. We’ve conducted many such course, often to snickering.  It is amazing how many of them do not know, for example, that North Carolina has no law requiring cyclists to ride single file, let alone that single file all the way to the right is usually the least safe way to ride.  When arriving at a crash scene, most officers do not understand or know how to report the cyclist’s actions.

Two, police departments must implement a zero tolerance policy against harassing behavior or intolerance toward cyclists. It’s sad that such a policy is necessary; you would think a mandate to protect the public would be enough, but apparently it is not. Again, many of my North Carolina clients are grateful for the diligent efforts of the officers who responded to their crash scenes. Unfortunately, there are too many instances where officers see a cyclist involved and suddenly don’t care. The gap must be closed.

Three, police departments need to have strict policies prohibiting unnecessarily dangerous driving activity by their officers. Failure to implement and enforce distracted driving policies endangers cyclists as well as the general public. This is not just about cyclists, folks, it’s about everyone behaving in a way that respects the lives and well-being of everyone around us. Police should be setting an example for the rest of us.

If you have a negative interaction with an officer while riding your bike (or defending a cyclist) it is likely that officer’s department wants to know about it so they can correct it. Report the officer to his or her superiors and keep going up the chain until you are satisfied someone is listening. Put your complaint in writing if necessary. If you need help, call us at Bike Law. We interact frequently with police and may have a cyclist-friendly contact.

Comments

Human Shield Bike Lane
Bruce Hagen Jul 29, 2019

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jul 19, 2019

This is a time when advocacy efforts are crucial to making our streets safer for everyone. Within 24 hours from the Two Wheel Tuesday gathering we suffered two more casualties.  On Wednesday morning, Marten Bijvank was on his way to work on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by an unlicensed DUI driver […]

Read More
AJ's Bicycle Shop in Iowa
Jim Freeman Jul 15, 2019

Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.   First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, […]

Read More
Bike accident scene
Rick Bernardi Jul 12, 2019

The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy. But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally […]

Read More
Uber Biking Escort
Charlie Thomas Jul 11, 2019

I often find myself wanting to ride on a roadway corridor that doesn’t want me there. At best, I could make it across alive with some close calls and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At worst, I wouldn’t be around to write this blog post.  Of course, a safer, alternate route […]

Read More
Cycling Without Age Bike Law
Brian Weiss Jul 11, 2019

The founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team loves his life on two wheels. Gary Harty was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and raised in Colorado – Denver Metro area, and now makes bicycling in Lakewood, Colorado safe and fun.  Gary is part of the baby boomer generation. He attended Colorado State University (CSU) and […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Bike Law
Rachael Maney Jul 10, 2019

Outrage.  It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else.  Judgment. By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on […]

Read More
Stop as Yield for Cyclists
Rick Bernardi Jul 09, 2019

The Oregon Legislature made national news this past week, for all the wrong reasons. The State Senate, with a super-majority of Democrats in control, had been working on climate legislation which would have Oregon join a cap-and-trade market with California and Quebec. Unable to stop the legislation, Republican Senators fled the state en masse, preventing […]

Read More
Bike Law Alps
Charlie Thomas Jul 07, 2019

It’s Tour de France time. I follow the racing daily through the footage on TV feed and still photos. But I hadn’t ever considered what’s happening on the other side of the camera lens. Like, what actually goes into snapping these pictures that we see documenting the Tour’s happenings? I started to care more about […]

Read More
E Bike and insurance
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Jul 01, 2019

Prologue  Last month, I rode across the Casco Bay Bridge to talk e-bikes and insurance with Bob O’Brien, the Vice President of Noyes, Hall and Allen Insurance in South Portland, Maine.  Although I have yet to invest in an e-bike for myself, I have been captivated by e-bikes and their potential to get and keep […]

Read More
Brooke Nelson
Danny Feldman Jul 01, 2019

Brooke Nelson has been the ride director of the Cheaha Challenge (www.cheahachallange.com) since shortly after the 2014 ride and in the past 5 years, ride participation has increased 188%.  Since 2017 when it became the only UCI Qualifier, Alabama’s biggest ride has become known nationally and internationally.  The 2019 ride had participants from 31 states […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Jun 20, 2019

Thanks to some outstanding advocacy efforts, both the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia have recently scored two important wins for cycling safety. Pennsylvania:  “Dutch Reach” in State Driver’s Manual The “Dutch Reach” method of opening a car door has finally been added to the State Driver’s Manual after many years of conversation. […]

Read More
Load More