Glad to see this being done but don't know how enforaceable it can be. It would be nice to see this start up in Florida
Copied from the Kansas City Star
Justin Bowes is an avid cyclist — 30 miles a day, six days a week.
But at least once a week, the Kansas City resident is harassed by angry drivers. Generally, it’s a vehicle following too close. Sometimes it’s a shout and a rude gesture; someone lays on the horn. Two weeks ago, Bowes was hit by a van.
“The lady driving the van had seen the group and didn’t see me,” said Bowes, who was riding with about a dozen other cyclists. “I got some pretty good scrapes.”
In Columbia, those shouts and horn honks soon could cost the offender a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.
The Columbia City Council on Monday night passed an ordinance making harassment of a bicyclist a Class A misdemeanor.
Possible infractions: throwing an object at a rider, threatening the rider, sounding a horn or shouting to frighten a person on a bike, making a bicyclist fear for physical injury, or knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of death for a bicyclist.
Of course, bicyclists aren’t always innocent victims. They can be at fault when they weave in and out of traffic, make unexpected moves or sail through intersections. Motorists may get impatient with bicyclists because they are usually not going as fast as a car and it slows them down. Many drivers wonder why they don’t ride on the sidewalk, though bikes are supposed to be in the street.
The Columbia ordinance passed unanimously, and residents who spoke at the meeting were all in favor of the measure. But the issue generated comments from both sides on radio talk shows and newspaper Web sites.
“You can’t take the right to honk away,” one person wrote on the Columbia Missourian’s Web site. “If a bicyclist does something stupid or illegal (which is pretty much all the time), that’s what they put horns on cars for.”
It will take more than just the ordinance to make roads safer for bicyclists in Columbia, Councilman Paul Sturtz said.
“We’re co-mingling cyclists and cars,” Sturtz said. “On major roads, that’s bound to cause tension. There is more education that needs to be done to say that bicyclists are allowed on the road too.”
Tension between bicyclists and vehicles on the road isn’t a problem limited to the central Missouri college town, which is known as a bike-friendly community. Drivers are “angry because they think the roads are built for cars only and you might be slowing them down,” said Laurie Chipman, advocacy director for the Kansas City Bicycle Club. “They don’t understand that bicyclists have the right to use the road a lot of time.”
Kansas City in 2007 hired a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and last year formed a task force to focus on making the city more bike-friendly. Coordinator Deb Ridgway’s job includes promoting bicycle lanes on roadways, promoting sharing the road and adding more bicycle parking racks around town.
The Missouri Department of Transportation recently announced plans to add a barrier-protected bicycle and pedestrian lane on the Heart of America Bridge over the Missouri River.
Each year several hundred bicyclists are killed and tens of thousands are injured across the country in collisions with motor vehicles.
The rules of the road are simple: Bicyclists are supposed to obey all traffic laws just like motorists, including stopping at intersections and signaling when turning. In turn, bicyclists have the same right of way as motorists. “The bicycle actually has as much right to the road as the car does,” said Kansas City Police spokesman Capt. Rich Lockhart, “but cars are larger and heavier, so we know who’s going to win that one if it comes to a battle of wills.”
Kansas City police do not keep statistics on bicycle harassment complaints, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the problem exists.
Kevin Boehm was riding with his father one day when a man in a construction vehicle got so agitated at them he stopped and ran at them with claw hammers in each hand, yelling, “Get off the road!”
But that was an extreme case. “In my experience, and I’ve been at it for 24 years now, it doesn’t happen very often,” said Boehm, a detective with the Kansas City Police Department. “A friend of mine had a run-in with a gentleman in Parkville. We get a lot of gestures and yelling.” Boehm said he would not oppose an anti-harassment law in Kansas City.
Kansas City Councilwoman Cathy Jolly, who is chairwoman of the council’s public safety committee, said she wants to learn more about the issue. “I haven’t heard of any push to do that here, but if there is a problem we certainly should look into it,” Jolly said. “It’s terrible if people are throwing things at bicyclists. That’s road rage.”
Kansas City Councilman Russ Johnson, himself a bicyclist, said yelling or throwing things at other people is wrong whether it involves a bicyclist or not.
“I don’t know if you need specific legislation on bicyclists,” he said. “But road rage is a public safety concern that probably needs to be addressed if it’s not already.”
Meghan Cahill, a spokeswoman for the League of American Bicyclists in Washington, D.C., said she is aware of state anti-harassment laws in Colorado, Massachusetts and South Carolina, and one is awaiting the governor’s signature in Louisiana. The league welcomes such initiatives.
“The league is working for a bicycle-friendly America, so anything that’s going to help bicycles and vehicles ride on the road safely together, we are for that,” Cahill said. “Any type of harassment, that’s not safe on the road.”
Something that seems to particularly irritate some motorists is bicyclists riding two abreast. But that is legal under Kansas City ordinances.
The League of American Bicyclists endorses riding two abreast because there is safety in numbers, Cahill said. But if bicyclists are being overtaken by a car, it is wise to form a single file, she added.
Bob Bonness of Overland Park rides with a rearview mirror on his helmet to see when cars are approaching so he can move over.
“You’ll get occasional comments to get off the road,” said Bonness, who rides two or three times a week. “Most of the time in the city, I haven’t had much trouble … You just have to ride defensively.”