Colorado Authorities Cite Driver for Cyclist Harassment

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.”

  • Anonymous

    I think I am going to be the first of many to say here, as a regular cyclist, I cannot count how many times something like this has happened to me. Maybe not this long and annoying, but having a motorist honk, yell, swerve and gun it, or nearly brush you when there is ample room to safely pass, happens basically on a daily basis in NYC. Both gratifying and alarming to see it caught on tape and actually being enforced

  • Anonymous

    Also what is it about the sight of a cyclist that provokes this hostile reaction. Would that driver react the same way to other perceived impediments such as a slow-moving vehicle like a tractor, or to a funeral procession?

  • Andy

    The driver wanted to prove a point – and actually it proved multiple points: Cyclists have no issue moving to the side when it’s safe to let cars pass. Aggressive driving behavior can get you multiple tickets. Older folks need to have retesting, specifically including points about how to interact with all road users. The internet is a powerful tool.

  • Gid276

    It’s about time cyclists started being cited for harrasing automobile drivers and pedestrians. Cyclists, are the most arrogant group that I have evere encounteered on our roadways. You want the privilege of sharing roads but not the responsibility of obeying regulations. 

  • Andy

    @cf59fb82cf1339f67abf86904a603e7a:disqus Cyclists have a right to the roads. Driver’s have a licensed privileged because they still kill tens of thousands of people each year.

  • Anonymous

    The driver should have gotten more than a couple of tickets for an extreme road rage situation like this. How about some jail time for terroristic threats?

  • Anonymous

    Time to hang up your Driving Hat, Mr. Ernst.  Given the restraint shown in in the video, I’m certain you can reach out to Mr. Friel for some tips on how to ride a bicycle for mobility. 

  • Joe R.

    I had the similar thing happen to me in the 1980s, also with an elderly male driver. Instead of being in back honking, he got in front of me and kept hitting the brake. Prior to the incident, I had done absolutely nothing wrong to provoke him. When I tried to go around him he kept blocking my way. I starting screaming at him asking him exactly what the heck was going on here but all he was interested in doing was yelling back. Finally he stops, gets out of his car, still yelling. At that point I lost it because of his irrational behavior, and also genuine fear for my own safety (I didn’t know if he was carrying a gun or not). I pulled out the knife I used to carry for protection (remember this was the 1980s when crime was a serious problem). That didn’t seem to phase him. He continued to yell so much I couldn’t get a word in. I finally just got on my bike, quickly rode off, and made a few turns so he wouldn’t be able to find me again because he seemed intent on continuing this nonsense. As I left, I also mumbled something to the effect of hoping he would drop dead soon and make the world a better place. I seriously would have killed the guy if he somehow found me again and started the same nonsense, that’s how pissed off I was.

    I might understand the kind of behavior shown in the video if a cyclist does something genuinely stupid which nearly causes an accident. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. The cyclists were both calm and considerate. They even moved into the less than ideal shoulder to allow the driver to pass. I really hope this driver is made an example of. I’ve had it with motorists who for no reason at all just decide to pick on random cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    @cf59fb82cf1339f67abf86904a603e7a:disqus You might want to read this: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/09/cyclists_are_annoying_why_you_think_they_re_a_menace_on_two_wheels_.html

  • Anonymous

    @cf59fb82cf1339f67abf86904a603e7a:disqus You might want to read this: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/09/cyclists_are_annoying_why_you_think_they_re_a_menace_on_two_wheels_.html

  • Tanya – the citation had nothing to do with being close to Boulder. Having grown up there and now living in the Bay Area, I will say with 100% certainty that the Bay Area – including Los Altos – is substantially better for cycling than Boulder County. There may be plenty of distracted drivers out here but Boulder County has episodes of intentional harassment like this, the sort of which is very rare in the Bay Area. Not to mention that the City of Blackhawk – not far from Boulder – banned cyclists from their roadways.

    The reason Ernst got cited was because this was on video. Period.

    Had Friel not taken a video and gone to the cops with nothing more than a license plate, they *might* have called on Mr Ernst but there is no way a citation is written.

  • Guest

    That person should not be driving.

  • voltairesmistress

    Last night I got a ride with a friend who talked smack about any bicyclist not in a bike lane, even if said “bike lane” was merely a sharrow street running parallel four blocks away.  The biker was taking a right lane (of a three lane city street) down a steep incline and keeping out of the door zone.  While she never harrassed said biker and just made noise within the car, I was appalled.  How does one change such attitudes?  I piped up with, “Well, I bike this street often and do exactly the same.”  And, “He has every right and need to be right where he is.”  And finally, “You need to share the road, not own it.”  I hope passengers will let their fellow drivers know that such anti-cyclist attitudes are wrong-headed and eventually lead to drivers taking risks with others’ lives.  Police can only enforce so much.  It’s up to the rest of us to educate our friends, family members, and colleagues we encounter expressing such attitudes or acting stupidly.

  • John Murphy

    “Why don’t you let me out at the next corner – I’m not comfortable with your driving”

  • Why did he not just cross the double yellow like everyone else usually does? Good thing he got slapped with harassment.

  •  Why do so many drivers hate cyclists? Because there are more jerks driving cars than riding bikes! 🙂

    But really! On a 50mile ride this weekend into the otherwise very quite NJ
    countryside, I had two drivers pull up next to me on the left (and
    therefore now on the wrong side of the road blocking oncoming traffic)
    as I waited at a two different stop signs. They though they had the
    right to pass me as waited for traffic to clear. One even said get out
    the way so I can go first!Crazy!

  • Sprague

    This video captures some of the arrogance of our age: The gas guzzling motorist with a sense of entitlement, owning the whole road; to hell with the planet, unwilling to share, and afraid of any perceived threat to the status quo.  Fortunately, such drivers are in the minority.  We all need to get along and do our part to tread lightly on Mother Earth.  Kudos to these cyclists for leading the way.

  • Anonymous

     Gid276, you’re joking, right?

  • Anonymous

     Gid276, you’re joking, right?

  • Jimjones

     So the sheriff files
    charges for harassment but if you read the excerpt and watch the video it points to the fact that
    there was plenty of room for the car to pass.  

     

    HOWEVER..a double
    yellow line means no passing.  It doesn’t mean, if it looks ok, go ahead. Overtaking another vehicle across a solid yellow line is considered a serious traffic violation in most states.

    Not once did the bike stop to allow the guy to go by, instead he continued to
    frustrate the guy putting everyone at risk.
    I am not condoning the horn bit, but the cyclist holding a camera with one hand and providing commentary even focusing the camera on the irregular edge of the road outside the white line doesn’t leave much room for error.  With only one hand on the handlebars, one bump and he swerves into the roadway.

    So if the guy went ahead and passed the
    bike, had a head on collision with oncoming traffic or hit the cyclists, he
    would have been at fault.

     
    If you want to share the road then you should abide by the same laws and the law states you should move off the road if you can’t keep up with the normal flow of traffic.

    Both sides need to do their part.

  • Andy

    @aa8df7ec20f1abb68b1aa9694514e0e5:disqus , Actually, many states specifically allow passing on a double yellow in certain situations, such as passing slow moving vehicles. Of course it has to be in a safe place with good sight of the road ahead. You may want to read your state’s driving laws before making assumptions that cars own the road.

  • Jimjones

    I did before I commented (as clearly you did not) and it doesn’t allow for it. So in this case it would have been illegal. So you may want to read your state driving laws before making the assumption that bikes own the road.

  • Andy

    @aa8df7ec20f1abb68b1aa9694514e0e5:disqus , please share where you found in the law that a cyclist needs to stop to let a car pass on the open road.

  • Andy

    @aa8df7ec20f1abb68b1aa9694514e0e5:disqus  I did a search just now to find the specific law that you are creating your own opinions on. Here it is, Colorado Statues Title 42, Article 4, Part 10, SS 42-4-1005 1:

    “No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction…” “4. The provisions of this section shall not apply:”, “(d): To the driver of a vehicle passing a bicyclist moving the same direction and in the same lane when such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with, impeding, or endangering other traffic lawfully using the highway.”

    Try reading laws before stating that you know them.

  • Jimjones

    I live in New Jersey and it is illegal. Guess I have to read each states’ laws about cycling before driving in another state. Thanks. 

    Again, didn’t condone the horn bit, but the driver must have determined that he couldn’t pass “in safety and without interfering with, impeding, or endangering other traffic” given the fact that the cyclist was turning around with one hand working his camera along the edge of the shoulder as the video shows his partner swerving inside and outside of the white line.

  • @aa8df7ec20f1abb68b1aa9694514e0e5:disqus The cyclist isn’t turning around; he’s turning his phone around. The camera’s in his hand, not mounted on his helmet. And where do these guys “swerve” to either side of the white line? The guy in the rear changes his position by maybe 6 inches as he rides down the roadway, but that’s not a swerve, and in any case bicyclists aren’t required to ride on a shoulder (not legally part of the roadway unless it’s marked as a bike lane, which this isn’t), especially one that’s practically non-existent like this one.

  • Anonymous

    39:4-86.  Overtaking and passing vehicles;  crossing  “No Passing” lines

        The
    driver of a vehicle shall not drive to the left side of the center line of a highway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in
    the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and free of
    oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the
    overtaking and passing to be made in safety.
    http://lis.njleg.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=45287399&Depth=4&TD=WRAP&infobase=statutes.nfo&rank=&record={ECEB}&softpage=Document42

    Apparently it *is* legal in New Jersey for a driver in this situation to have passed these guys instead of being a dangerous jackass. Give it up already.

  • Anonymous
  • biogem

    Really,
    drivers are using the excuse of breaking the law to not pass a bike on the road. In a vast majority of cases I’m sure the police would let you slide on such an infraction. Sorry, this just doesn’t work for me. As a driver of an automobile, a motorcycle and a bicycle this is a joke, and such behavior should not be tolerated in any circumstances. Common sense dictates that the driver should and could have passed without issue, case closed.

  • Steve 1776

    Talk about arrogance.  Common sense dictates that the bikes simply could have pulled off the road to let the car go by.  Instead, take out the video, ride with one hand while you film and dismiss the fact that you want a driver to put his/her life at risk only going “six inches” over a center line.  Next time you go across the center line.

  • Andy

    @aa8df7ec20f1abb68b1aa9694514e0e5:disqus Do you pull of the road every time there is another car behind you? Of course not, because there’s no reason to when someone can reasonably pass. There was no risk to the driver to pass them on a clearly wide open road, and as I posted, this is clearly legal too. Really, this has nothing to do with passing though. This jerk decided that spending five minutes honking at cyclists was a good idea, and thankfully he was cited and got tickets for his poor decisions.
    Without filming it, this idiot might still be driving around harassing others on the road.

  • Anonymous

    I hope this fucker gets serious points on his license

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely, if the road wasn’t busy, the driver of the Ford SUV should have just passed and went on his way. It’s true too how police and others take the side of cars rather than being objective. Most cycling accidents are the result of drivers not paying attention or being aware of the rules of the road. This puts an additional burden on cyclists to ensure they stay safe – http://www.personal-injury.injurylawcolorado.com/pedestrian-bicycle-accidents.html – it’s crazy to think that cops in NYC are more concerned with drunk people walking rather than the crap shoot that is traffic there. Just ride in a cab there and you’ll know why it’s prudent to be concerned about where police are focusing their attention

  • Sparky2048

    Double yellow line means no passing!  State law requires 3 feet distance from bikers! There is nothing the SUV could would without breaking the law!  Bikers seem to think they own the whole rode by riding on the 6 inch strip of pavement.  Bikers was obstructing traffic and should have pulled over to let cars pass!

  • Andy

    @810ff9de2ad78dda1e77bd041110ea30:disqus Or, if you read the laws, you’d see the 2009 revisions that state that drivers CAN pass a cyclist both safely and legally so long as they aren’t in the way of oncoming traffic and give the cyclist enough room. Somehow I’m not surprised that people too often assume they know the laws which they clearly haven’t read in a long time (if ever).

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