Issue Drivers' Licenses Based on Emotional Age
Just this afternoon, I was riding on a Boulder street. I was in the bike lane, approaching a major intersection, and saw the light change to green. There were three cars in front of me, and all of them had their right-hand turn signals flashing. To avoid any question about whether they would have to wait for me to pass on the right, I pulled out into the lane where they could see me in their mirrors, and waved them on.
As a cyclist, when I pull into the traffic lane, I always pull well into the lane, so that there is no temptation for any driver behind me to pass when it is not safe. I moved to the left-hand side of the lane, and as the three cars moved through the bike lane to turn, I went by them on the left.
As I was moving back to the right side of the road, a guy in a large pickup truck roared by me, leaned over to his open passenger window, and angrily yelled at me, "Hey, stay to the right!"
Now, clearly I was riding legally, safely, courteously, and defensively. I had not caused the driver behind me a single second of delay -- in fact, I had probably reduced his delay by removing any possibility of confrontation between myself and the turning cars. In my mind I imagined that my taunter hates cyclists, but is lately worked up even more than usual by the likes of Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. The sheriff, as a law officer, has made it ok to blame the cyclist, to assume the cyclist is always doing something wrong, and to take it upon yourself to correct the matter.
Vigilante justice never solves the problem. In fact it turns the enforcer into the criminal. In Boulder there is a "fighting words" ordinance, which states, "No person shall insult, taunt, or challenge another in a manner likely to provoke a disorderly response." Just as clearly as I was not violating any law in this incident, Mr. Pickup Truck was clearly using fighting words, and had he been charged and convicted he could have been given a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to ninety days. My only penalty would have been having to show up in court to testify against him, which I would have done willingly and via bicycle just to rub it in.
That is, had I been quicker on getting the license plate number off that pickup. Oh, well, at least I can vent here.
Here is some general advice for both drivers and cyclists. Don't get it into your head that you can or should enforce the law yourself, because you can't. If you see someone doing something that you think is wrong, you need to put yourself in their shoes first. If you can't see what they're seeing, if you don't know why a cyclist would be riding where that person is, well, then you need to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. There is probably a good reason that you just don't know. And there's a pretty good chance that the cyclist knows the laws that apply to cyclists better than you, as a driver, do.
I guarantee this. Your road rage will not make the situation better. Throwing insults or worse at cyclists (or at drivers if you are a cyclist) will not change their behavior in any way that you would see as a benefit. Rather, it will encourage them to be more obnoxious just to spite you. And there's nothing worse than having someone spite in your face while you're enjoying a nice drive or bike ride.