In this guest post, attorney Daniel Goldberg share his advice on what to do if you are a victim of road rage. Dan is a member of the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s board of directors. A life-long cyclist, he is the creator of www.WIBikeLaw.com, and he speaks to bicycle clubs, schools and advocacy groups on bike law and safety. He represents cyclists in accident claims and other legal matters.
Nothing can ruin a great ride like being the victim or road rage. Unfortunately there are too many angry people behind the wheel, and people on bicycles are easy targets for their vitriol. Wisconsin law defines bicycles as vehicles with the legal right to most public roadways. The roads are intended for a wide variety of users, including farmers on tractors, commercial freight carriers, motorcycles, horse-drawn vehicles, cars, and people walking. Unfortunately, some people either don’t understand that, or don’t like it. In fact, I’ve had more calls this year about aggressive or threatening motorists than ever before.
Thanks to social media we get a scary look into the behavior of one lunatic driver in Alabama, who has taken this type of ignorance to a new level. Amazingly, he filmed himself harassing cyclists and spewing hatred and shared the videos on his Facebook. Someone then got copies of the videos and they went viral after he shared them on YouTube
You notice the people he video taped bicycling could be used as textbook examples of how to share the road responsively. They were all on the far right side of the road, wore bright clothing, and used quality flashing taillights. You may be pleased to read this article which reports that local police did arrest the Alabama man who made this video. Keith Maddox of Piedmont was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. His bond was set at $3,000, according to Matthew Wade, chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
In a letter Maddox later posted on his Facebook page however, he apologizes to anyone offended by his videos. “I want to publicly apologize to all people that I have offended over those absolute stupid videos that I posted … anybody who knows me knows that would never ever intentionally hurt anyone,” Maddox wrote. “I am truly sorry for anyone I may have offended … and please everyone share the road and be very aware of bicycle riders everywhere.”
The Wisconsin Bike Fed has part time regional staff around the state who work to encourage people to obey the rules of the road and share the road safely as part of our Share and Be Aware program. We also work closely with law enforcement, drivers education instructors, and teach kids through our Safe Routes to School program. Importantly, we also work with municipalities, the legislature and the state Department of Transportation to encourage the design and construction of roadways that have safe and convenient accommodations for bicycles. Unfortunately, no matter how much we do, ignorance and road rage will remain, and there are things you should and should not do.
If you’re harassed by a driver, do whatever you can to avoid confrontation. Get the license plate number and a description of the car and the person driving. Be sure to report the problem to the police as soon as possible. Even without video evidence, local municipalities WILL investigate these incidents and can issue reckless driving charges where appropriate. It becomes much more difficult for the police when the driver or other witnesses claim the victim on the bicycle was aggressive, offensive, or obnoxious. Don’t let it become a case of “offsetting fouls.” Staying calm will help make your case and may even save your life since no one knows who’s in the car or what they’ve got with them.
It’s also important for us to be good ambassadors for cycling and ride responsibly. While there’s no justification for road rage, riding three or four abreast, interfering with traffic, ignoring traffic signals, tailgating cars, buzzing pedestrians, and reckless riding subject all of us to criticism. Remember, you’re representing the sport and all other riders every time you’re on the road.