This is an incident that happened to me.
Thought some may be interested. Below is a recap and conclusion I sent out to fellow instructors.
The following text is a recap and final result of an incident I experienced on June 3, 2012 with a driver of a pick-up towing a fifth-wheel camper trailer. I will refer to this driver by his initials WP. In short, the driver, WP, forced me off the road and passed within approximately 1 foot. I was using a helmet mounted camera and captured the incident on video. The camera is a Contour brand, has 1080p HD capability and has a wide angle lens, approximately 120 degree field of view. This causes the video to have a slightly “fish-eye” or “bubble” effect. Similar to the passenger side mirror in your automobile, objects are closer than they appear.
You can watch the video on YouTube, my YouTube name is “Elvisdigger” but the video specifically is located here:
By passing this story onto you my hope is that you gain some knowledge about the whole process should a similar incident happen to you. Thus avoiding the mistakes I made and reducing your stress level.
After the incident, on the same day, I gave a statement to the RCMP. Over the next 3 months I emailed and phoned the officer twice for an update. To be fair, this 1-metre rule was only 1 year old at the time. The RCMP, a federal organization, might not be as well versed in specific provincial legislation, especially one that exists in only 1 province. Thus you need to know the applicable acts and gently direct the police in the proper direction. I mentioned the particular section to the officer during the statement and later in an email.
On or about September 4 the officer served WP a Summary Offense Ticket (SOT) in violation of Motor Vehicle Act section 171B (1) (b), as below:
Motor vehicle passing bicycle
171B (1) A driver of a vehicle shall not pass a bicycle travelling in the same direction as the vehicle that is being ridden to the far right of the driver of the vehicle on the roadway, on the shoulder or in an adjacent bicycle lane unless
(a) there is sufficient space to do so safely; and
(b) the driver leaves at least one metre open space between the vehicle and the cyclist.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection 115(2), a driver of a motor vehicle may cross a line to pass a bicycle in accordance with subsection (1) if the driver can do so safely as required by Section 100. 2010, c. 59, s. 10.
After serving WP the SOT, the officer reported back to me via email as shown below:
I wanted to let you know I spoke with the owner of the truck and served him with a ticket. The driver was very upset about this and said he would be contesting this ticket.
He said there was no where else for him to go. He said he couldn't slow down as he had a trailer on the back and there was traffic in the other lane so he couldn't move over. He said he honked the horn to give a warning to you but then said you swerved out onto the road a bit. I told him the video didn't show you swerving out onto the road but he wasn't listening too well at that point as I told him he was getting a ticket no matter his excuse.
On October 19 I was served a subpoena to appear as a witness in traffic court on October 24 at 7pm.
Arriving early at 6:15 pm, to speak to the prosecutor, was for naught. The prosecutor arrived 10 minutes before court session. I spoke with him for about 60 to 90 seconds. Here’s the gist:
1) There was a possibility that my video could not be used because I “altered it.” By altering they mean I added some text to the video explaining the situation (as you likely saw already). The prosecutor understood why, but strictly speaking, I was not to do this. Fortunately, the judge did not have an issue with it.
2) Since I did not have the video on DVD/CD, rather on my laptop, it was likely that I would have to leave the laptop in evidence for 30 days. It was my wife’s laptop and I had visions of an evisceration when I arrived home without a laptop. Fortunately, the RCMP officer showed up with the video on DVD.
I was called as witness and asked to describe the situation (abridged version):
- Traveling from Musquodoboit Harbour to my home at the Head of Chezetcook along the number 7 highway.
- Usually travel the available side roads that parallel the number 7
- I had turned left off of one of those side roads, from Pine Hill Drive onto the number 7 highway.
- About 17 seconds later that was when WPs horn sounded. I had to bail when I determined, in my rear view mirror, he was coming up fast and not slowing down and he passed within (approximately) 1 foot.
After my description, I was asked if I had a camera and if I recorded the incident on video. The video was played in the courtroom.
After my testimony, WP was allowed to asked questions. First, he asked the judge why it took so long (3 months) to get the SOT. The judge asked what his point was. WP then moved onto a very long-winded question (the judge asked him to get to the point) regarding how I knew how close he was to me. “What was my calibration?”
My response was:
1) I was there and buffeted by the blast of wind from the passing vehicle
2) I am a survey engineer/cartographer and measuring is my occupation, thus I am very good at estimating distances
3) I have it on video, and using the fog line one can estimate the distance
4) I visited the area a few weeks after and measured the distances with as meter-stick and had taken pictures (not shown in court).
WP then asked, if I had seen him coming up behind in my rear view mirror, why I didn’t pull over sooner? (As stated in my testimony, after the 3 second horn blast, I monitored his speed for a few seconds and decided he wasn’t slowing down, there was oncoming traffic and I had to bail off the road). I stated that there was a parked truck, some garbage cans, a soft shoulder, and then a guardrail at the bridge. I had to pick a place to safely pull over.
WP stated (not verbatim) that, surely, if you see a large vehicle, towing a heavy trailer that you would know that the vehicle would have a long stopping distance.
My response was to explain the dynamics of the road and describe the 150m of distance (1.5 times the length of a football field) from the Pine Hill Drive intersection to the bridge which was more than enough to stop. Regardless, he did not have to stop, rather he had to slow down from a supposedly 80 kph speed limit to 30 kph, the speed at which I was traveling.
He reiterated his large vehicle conundrum and large stopping distance.
He did not seem to understand, gave me an incredulous look and stated that “this is foreign to me.” I then explained that as an overtaking vehicle he was required to slow and wait until it was safe to pass. He then stated, “well I did slow.” My response was, “so then you were able to slow?”
There was a bit of back and forth regarding this issue of slowing down at which point the judged stepped in and stopped the….argument. He asked if WP had any further questions, the answer was no.
WP then gave his testimony describing the incident from his perspective. Large vehicle, oncoming traffic thus no room to move left, “like he always does” and unable to slow down in time, “like he always does.” He claimed that I “swerved all over the road.” He finished by stating that he was unsure what the issue was since, “I didn’t hit him.”
In short, my perspective of his testimony is that WP feels that, as the operator of a larger vehicle, and “unable to stop or slow down,” he has absolute right-of-way and slower moving vehicles are to clear out. In his defence, some of that statement is true. He is driving a larger vehicle with a longer stopping distance and more blind spots. However, overtaking traffic is required to pass slower moving traffic only when it is safe to do so, slower traffic is not required to get out of the way. Again, he did not have to stop, but reduce his speed by 50 kph to my
speed of 30 kph within the 150m (500 feet) of available road space. If he is unable to slow in that distance, then the vehicle should not be on the road.
As a side note, I do pull off for these larger vehicles (I recommend that ALL cyclist do this, it is the prudent thing to do); tractor trailers, dump trucks, and especially these types of campers. No special licensing is required and no special training is required for these large fifth-wheel campers. However, I do need a moment to safely pull off the road, WP did not afford me that time.
No, he wanted me to move. Now. He did not want to be inconvenienced by slowing down.
After both testimonies, and that off the serving RCMP officer, and a reiteration of my points via the prosecutor, the judge sat and thought for a full minute, the courtroom was silent. He called me back up and asked;
1) “Do you usually carry a camera?” I replied that I am a bicycle safety instructor and I tape traffic situations to show in the courses as an instructional aid. We learn from them.
2) “Do you feel it acceptable that WP should veer into oncoming traffic?” Absolutely not.
The judge thought for another minute, in a silent courtroom.
The judge found WP guilty of an offence in section 171(B); not giving enough room when passing a bicyclist. The judge also admonished WP by stating that, although there were no hard distances given, the video clearly shows him passing within approximately a foot. The judge read out the particular section from the Motor Vehicle Act. The judge also stated to WP “you took a gamble and you’re lucky…and Mr. R. (me) is lucky, that he is still with us here today.”
This is the first time this new “1 metre law” has been tested and it only succeeded because I had a video. If no video is available, then the second best option would be an agreeable eye witness. Other than that, the only other way to effect a conviction would require you, the cyclist, to be on the ground, as proof that the motor vehicle passed too close.
Some suggestions to consider should it occur to you:
1) I recommend a video camera, but be prepared to explain why you have it.
2) Preparation is key. Anticipate the argument against and be prepared to answer. I spent a day preparing and many emails to others for advice.
3) Don’t fiddle with any evidence. Provide the police with the raw video.
4) Take a CAN-BIKE course. If nothing else it gives the judge confidence that you’re serious about safety and that you’re trained.