Despite the number of two-wheeled cop patrols around some cities, police aren’t always the most bike-minded bunch. When there’s a conflict between motorists and cyclists, they’re often inclined to take the motorist’s side. As Streetsblog has reported, police in New York City care more about drunk pedestrians than unsafe drivers, despite the fact that most fatalities are caused by motorists violating traffic laws. And then there’s the bizarre example of Los Altos, California, where police say cyclists are the ones causing crashes by speeding or even failing to yield automobile right-of-way. Huh?
Well, maybe you have to be within spitting distance of a platinum bike-friendly community to get police to care about cyclists’ safety. Last week, police in Longmont, Colorado, near Boulder, raised the bar for police work by actually pursuing charges against a driver who harassed cyclists.
Cyclist Dirk Friel took this harrowing video of the harassment he and a teammate faced last Sunday when they were out for a ride. Seventy-five-year-old James Ernst allegedly followed them for several minutes in his Ford SUV, honking constantly. He had plenty of room to pass, as they were riding to the right of the white line.
Also troubling is that a resident, quoted in Longmont Times-Call write-up of the incident, said the solution was to widen the road to four lanes. Granted, it was a Sunday, but the video hardly shows any other cars on the road. The only thing holding up traffic was Ernst’s massive SUV. Maybe we can hold off on the road expansion for now?
Friel, the owner of a company that specializes in bicycle-training technology, says he encourages everyone to get out and ride. “Everyone no matter what their age or where they may live should have the right to feel safe when riding,” he wrote on his YouTube page, “whether it be for health, fitness or simply commuting to work.”
Friel did the right thing by documenting the harassment, making sure to get the plate number of the vehicle. The video went viral among cycling advocates, racking up nearly 400,000 views and building a drumbeat for enforcement. They made it easy for police to do the right thing, and they did. And it’s a good thing, too: By investigating the incident, they found others who “have had similar run-ins with this driver,” according to Friel.
“Together with victims and witnesses, CSP worked with the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office in an effort to find and correctly charge the alleged driver,” Trooper Joshua Mills said in a statement released late Wednesday. “The Colorado State Patrol wishes to remind everyone to share the road with courtesy with everyone, regardless whether they are pedestrians, bikers or other motor vehicles.”