Bicycle anti-harassment law would close loophole, give cyclists rights after assault
WABA seeks law to protect bicyclists from driver assault and harassment
In the District of Columbia, exact statistics on this type of anti-cyclist harassment are hard to come by. Most incidents go unreported. And when the police are summoned to the scene the result is invariably “There’s not much that we can do.” Worse than this response, however, is the knowledge that there is little a cyclist can do after being attacked.
But the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and its allies are working to change that.
“There are criminal laws against roadway assault. But the criminal burden of proof is high, available witnesses are often scarce, and police are reluctant or unable to follow up if they did not witness the act themselves,” says WABA executive director Shane Farthing, adding that a civil suit is also possible, but “is likely to require an attorney and a fair bit of that attorney’s work. But because intimidation, assault, and harassment do not often lead to big monetary damages (unless the cyclist is significantly injured or killed as a result), most victims cannot afford to pursue such cases. This law would provide for attorneys fees and allow cyclists who otherwise could not afford legal representation to seek justice and compensation.”
In July, the city of Los Angeles passed the nation’s first bicycle anti-harassment law. This law states that “existing criminal and civil laws do not effectively prevent the unlawful harassment of bicyclists” and provides harassment victims with the ability to recover damages in addition to any legal fees. WABA’s proposed DC legislation would use similar language to close the loophole that allows drivers to harass and assault bicyclists without repercussion. Everyone has the right to not be harassed while going about their daily lives.
This law will give bicyclists a way to defend that right in a court of law.
Watch the assault video & read the proposed legislation online at http://www.waba.org/antiassault
Given the obvious physical differences between automobiles and bicycles there is ample opportunity for bullying in the form of harassment assault and battery. But because intimidation assault and harassment do not often lead to big monetary damages unless the cyclist is significantly injured or killed as a result most victims cannot afford to pursue such cases..The result currently is a situation in which harassment and assault of bicyclists goes undeterred through the legal system.
Just Friday I was riding down U Street, a bumpy road with lots of traffic, around 2 pm. I stopped at a light, and when it changed green, I rode forward in the right lane. I let some cars pass me in the right lane, there were some cars in the left lane, and once I got near some parked cars blocking part of the right lane, I signaled that I was moving left, as in, not on the curb but more into the lane. A normal driver would have no problem with this and let me in, but this guy in a little Suzuki jeep yells at me to get on the damn sidewalk! What? On U Street? So small, so busy, and dangerous to all the pedestrians. I was being nice by letting all those cars pass me in the right lane rather than holding them up while I accelerated. I caught up to this man at a light and told him there is no room on the sidewalk, and besides, bicycles aren't supposed to be on the sidewalk (it's even against the law downtown below M Street). I was so angry, but remembering I was representing all cyclists at that moment, listened to him say that I was trying to get hit, and all I said was, "Take it easy. Share the road." This guy was yelling at me from the beginning, and I actually had stopped at the light, rode close to the curb until dooring became a concern, and I signaled my intention while looking back. If I was keeping this guy from getting somewhere, then how was I able to catch up with him once he passed me? He didn't let me merge and there was enough room to do so.
The driver can and should be charged with Assault With A Dangerous Weapon Other, other is for pick up truck. It is a felony. He show's intent when he pull's up next to the guy and make's his smart ass remark. Did anyone file a police report? Also, is the cyclist working with MPD? The guy who located the tag# should be commended because I did not see it. I think we can pursue this one as the owner of the vehicle is most likely the driver, and a DMV driver's permit search could yield a photo of him for a photo spead. Did the cyclist get a good look at the guy? Did the camaro driver call 911 and stop? I heard siren's in the background. Who was the cyclist?
Since both sides (Nick wanting edit, others not) have good points...how about editing the video to put the assault first (get viewer's attention) then a message (like: "here's the whole story") followed by the complete video.
As an avid GoPro user whose filmed a couple of her own mountain bike crashes, I have to say first, that this is one video I hope never to top! On a more serious note, given the completeness and "dashboard cam" nature of this video, in this particular case, it would appear there is no need for a special law -- what we all witnessed is a clear case of assault with a deadly weapon, a major felony. WABA should take the lead in pressing the District's District Attorney (or whatever he's called, I'm a Marylander) in making sure the driver in question is prosecuted to the full extent of the law and NOT offered any kind of lesser plea. Even if the case were to be lost, the publicity and authoritative message that "this kind of crime will not be tolerated in the Metro area" is sorely needed and might just start to turn things around. I'd be the first to sign a petition or send a letter if I knew where to do so.
Hang in there, Nick! It's important to see that the rider is having an uneventful ride before the driver enters the scene and blows away the rider's day.
Nick: I don't agree, as the first minute sets the stage. The first minute shows the cyclist stopping behind Prius at a stop light, and thus obeying the law. It also shows how cars parked in the right lane, and how there is very little traffic. Thus, the cyclist is acting lawfully, safely, going about his business, and not interfering with anyone. At one minute the driver, on the other hand, opens his window, slows down, threatens the cyclist, veers towards him, and the cyclist falls. So, you have a perfectly nice day, with the cyclist not harming a fly, and a motorist specifically goes out of his way to hurt him. This is why we need a change in the law? Also, why is the MPD not involved. We have video, a witness, and the licence plate.
There's a license plate at 1:18, of DC DK-2193. What's the story of this video? It the driver being held accountable using existing laws?
I'm in full support of this effort but a small recommendation. I would edit the video down to eliminate the 1st minute where nothing happens. Average internet user attention span is under 30 seconds for sure and you risk losing a lot of casual viewers by not starting them with the actual footage (which is powerful and important).