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June 22, 2009

Bicycle Harassment

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There’s a lot of anger out there against cyclists. In my years of bike commuting, I’ve been swerved at, “bumped” off the road, screamed at by people trying to startle me, had a fast-food soda cup (half-full) thrown at me out the window of a minivan, and honked at for no reason (other than to scare me). There’s no question that motorist harassment makes it scary to bike commute and seriously diminishes from the joy that comes from getting out on a bike.

Columbia, Missouri’s City Council has reacted by passing an ordinance that officially makes biker harassment a crime. (Via TH.)  According to The Missourian,

The ordinance, which is modeled after similar ordinances in South Carolina and Colorado, makes it a misdemeanor to do the following: throw an object at or in the direction of a cyclist, threatening a cyclist to frighten or disturb the cyclist, sounding a horn with the intention to frighten or disturb a cyclist, knowingly placing a cyclist in the path of physical injury, or knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a risk of death or serious physical injury for a cyclist.

Residents who spoke at the meeting said they have experienced all of the above, and those who remained after the deliberation stood and cheered when the ordinance was passed.

“If you’ve ever been in a subcompact car and had a semi get on your back bumper and blow the horn, that’s what it was like,” ordinance supporter Steve Epstein said of being tailed by frustrated motorists.

(emphasis mine). I think we can all agree that the items detailed by the ordinance are all bad things that drivers should not do to cyclists. That’s pretty uncontroversial. My question is, Does this ordinance help, by providing recourse to the bikers? Does it cover something the law already addresses? Does it fan the flames in Columbia’s dispute between bikers and drivers?

Feel free to weigh in on these questions or share your bike vs. car stories in the comments (whether your perspective is from behind the wheel, or from behind the handlebars).

7 thoughts on “Bicycle Harassment”

  1. Amelie says:

    I thought this was a public transportationn blog…

  2. Matt says:

    This blog is really about transportation in general – how we get people to places they need to go. Public transit is only one aspect of that. Since we work a transit agency we’ll be mostly focusing on transit, but we also cover other modes of transportation – like biking.

  3. Jimmy Z says:

    Bikes can be a critical component in any public transit SYSTEM. Not everyone is close enough to a bus stop to walk, and others would prefer to get to Metrolink without relying on the bus. Bikes are a great alternative, on either end (home or work/school), to cover that first and/or last mile. Motorized movement isn’t always the only option . . .

  4. bikesRbest says:

    Much better than light rail or bus R bikes. They’re better for the environment and riders’ health, plus they’re much cheaper over the long run. They’re also more time efficient, more reliable and not dependent on Metro’s planing whims. I guess that’s why Metro never wanted cycling paths or lanes along their routes, it would make them look bad. Cycling behind high polluting buses (usually empty) SUCKS!

    1. Courtney says:

      bikeRbest –

      I happen to like a combination of bikes and transit – I ride transit in combination with riding my Schwinn World Sport around town. Regarding high polluting buses, however, the black smoke-chugging buses we associate with city transit is largely a thing of the past. Today all of our buses run on an ultra-low [sulfur] clean diesel or soy biodiesel blend. The allowable sulfur content for ULSD (15 ppm) is much lower than the previous U.S. on-highway standard for low sulfur diesel (500 ppm) which not only reduces emissions of sulfur compounds (a cause of acid rain), but also allows advanced emission control systems to be fitted that would otherwise be damaged by these compounds. These systems can greatly reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter. Also, the buses do receive very routine maintenance which helps them keep this lower rate of emissions through their vehicle life (often up to 500,000 miles).

      Thanks to these new systems, we can project a 69% reduction in Nox emissions and 64% in particulate emissions for Metro’s Bus and Van fleet over the next ten years. It’s not a perfect solution, but the more people that take transit instead of taking more polluting private vehicles, the better for the air quality for the region.

      While this CO2 calculator compares forms of vehicular transport, it gives a nice side-by-side comparison of the CO2 emissions of different transportation choices including small car, large car, rail and bus.

      But yes, I consider my bike the cleanest form of transportation I take!

      1. Courtney says:

        I should also point out that in my experience, cycling behind any large vehicle, bus or otherwise, is largely NO FUN. I really appreciate dedicated bike lanes.

  5. bikesRbest says:

    The combination of bike-light rail-bus is great and throw out all the stats you want but in comparing modes, bikes are less expensive to the public, healthier individually and for the public, more efficient, more dependable, etc. Other great benefits of the combination is that when Metro is unreliable (quite often) than the bike is available to finish the trip and Metro could be an important backup when weather is less than accommodating.

    So address the issue: why did Metro fail to build the dedicated cycle-pedestrian paths along the Extension as originally promised?

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