Letters to the Editor

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CYCLISTS: Tacoma needs a bicyclist anti-harassment law

Letter by James E. Lawson, Tacoma on July 26, 2011 at 11:24 am with 23 Comments »
July 26, 2011 2:54 pm

Anybody who rides a bicycle in Tacoma knows this is not a friendly town. Broken traffic-control devices cause serious, often dangerous, problems. Roadway design flaws and roadway neglect cause other dangerous problems.

The city needs to work more aggressively to fix these problems. Left-turn arrows need to respond to bicyclists, and roadway drainage grate slots should not align with the flow of traffic.

Most of the outright hostility, however, comes from motorists who have not yet accepted that cyclists have as much right to be on the road as motorists do. Threats, profanity, angry honking, passing too close, cutting off, thrown objects, failure to yield: Such are the typical responses of these motorists to cyclists on “their” road.

All that rage is meant to intimidate cyclists and, when combined with frequent media attention to cyclists killed or maimed by drivers on the local roadways, has more than just a chilling effect.

Tacoma should pass a bicyclist anti-harassment law similar to the one recently enacted in Los Angeles. There, bicyclists (or, too often, their heirs) can use the civil court system to sue drivers who harass them physically or verbally, without waiting for the city or police to act.

Penalties can be up to three times the amount of damages plus attorneys’ fees. That potential compensation should be enough to interest attorneys in taking the cyclists’ cases.

After a similar law is passed here, my helmet camera investment will pay for itself, many times over.

Leave a comment Comments → 23
  1. aislander says:

    Yeah, I WISHED I had a helmet cam when a driver purposely pulled out in front of me as I was negotiating a high-speed downhill corner, and then denied that he had done it. I would have LOVED to have fried his bacon, but no witnesses and no video…

  2. While I do not feel harassment is correct, I am not aware of any specific taxes, fees, or payments of any kind that cyclists pay to travel the roads. So, in reality, the motorists pay for the right to drive as well as maintain the very roads you choose to complain about. My tax dollars have gone to provide bike lanes which narrow the roads I pay taxes to drive on without my permission, and now I have someone who pays nothing, complaining about turn lights, sewer grates, etc. Pull out your wallet or purse, then pop off!

  3. Yeah, more lawsuits will fix it. Not so much. Unfortunately, it is not a lack of law that causes the treatment you refer to, but rather the lack of common courtesy…which seems to have gone the way of to dodo, and no lawsuit will bring either of them back.

  4. How many times do motorists sit at a red light and a cyclist blazes straight across the intersection because now the cyclist is a “pedestrian” in a crosswalk? Or how many times have you been in the process of making a legal “right on a red” and lo and behold – here comes Mr. Greenie / Save the Planet at the last second and they give you the one finger salute because you didn’t see them coming from behind and passing on the right? I for one, hate cyclists and their “I own the road” attitude. Remember when there used to be “Motor Vehicles Only” signs at freeway on-ramps? Bicycles are not Motor Vehicles and cyclists pay not One Red Cent towards the maintenance for the roads, yet they have the same rights as a motor vehicle?

  5. Common sense was actually practiced a couple of decades ago when cyclists were to ride on the left side facing oncoming traffic.
    Everyone could see everyone coming.
    Miss the days of common sense yet?

  6. itwasntmethistime says:

    I almost killed a couple of cyclists just yesterday. I was 4th or 5th in a line of cars stopping, then turning right on a red light at a major intersection. I was just starting my right turn when two cyclists whizzed up on my right. I was creeping so I was able to stop quickly, and they veered out, then yelled at me and gave me the one-finger salute. We all went on our way, but now I have a few questions.

    There is a dedicated bike lane on this street, but the solid white line ends several car lengths from the intersection. When the white line ends, is it still legal for cyclists to pass on the right? How are we drivers making right-hand turns supposed to yield to cyclists we can’t even see sneaking up from behind a solid line of stopped cars?

  7. aislander says:

    As a cyclist AND a car driver, I follow the rules of the road, but, when I’m on my bicycle, I RESPECT the laws of physics. I NEVER pass a car on the right at an intersection. I always wait to see whether the driver is going to turn or go straight. If he goes, I go…

  8. bobcat1a says:

    Wel jintz, you sure made yourself sound mature and intelligent. “hate” and “opening day”???? You’re a sad excuse for humanity.

  9. When bicyclists start following the law, I will have more sympathy for them.

  10. “I for one, hate cyclists and their “I own the road” attitude.”

    I totally agree with you. Cyclists are just a bunch of jerks!!!

  11. gerry0416 says:

    Bicycles need to be registered and their riders need to be forced to adhere to the laws of the road. Unfortunately, most of the riders in this area want to be treated like autos when it is their best interest (driving in the middle of the lane and blocking traffic) but don’t hesitate to violate the rules of the road (running red lights/stop signs or passing on the right) when those rules are inconvenient. You can’t have it both ways.

  12. letsworkitout says:


  13. reformedliberal says:

    Make them get license plates and pay for tabs just like every other vehicle on the road. If they want equality so bad, let’s give it to them.

  14. itwasntmethistime says:

    Has anybody ever seen a cyclist receive a ticket for blowing through a red light at an empty intersection, cutting a car off, or passing a line of cars on the right when there is no dedicated bike lane?

  15. BlaineCGarver says:

    Most cyclists think they are on a closed road doing their own Tour De France, and are totally self absorbed in their ride. For heavens sake, take it to a track someplace. They don’t pay attention, and think nothing of weaving in and out of traffic even when bike lanes, or room on the right of the fogline provide ample space. They ride two or three abreast to block traffic when it’s not necessary to do so. Those bonehead cyclists can go to blazes and learn some give and take. And, yes, I ride my Trek every chance I get.

  16. BlaineCGarver says:

    It’s against the law to impede traffic, dang it.

  17. modyfied says:

    Yes, a co-worker got a speeding ticket on South Tacoma way, on his bike. Unfortunitely this arguement brings out the worst sides of both.
    As a motorist and Bike rider, The first thing to go is common courtesy, on BOTH sides. As long as everyone pays some sort of tax to the state, EVERYONE pays for the road in one manner or another. As a motorist, I cannot always see a bicyclist on the right or elsewhere. Hense the ill feelings. As a Bicyclist, I surely do not follow the law specifically because melding into traffic is extremely hazzardous. But I do take great care in both capacities to be aware…

  18. itwasntmethistime says:

    I don’t think my Trek goes fast enough to earn me a speeding ticket. Lazy bike.

  19. aislander says:

    BlaineCGarver: I try to be courteous when I ride, but passing cars on the right isn’t courtesy: it’s suicide. If it is necessary to pass cars, I always move left. When most drivers make a right turn or pull over to the shoulder, they usually don’t glance at the mirror or look over their shoulders, and even if they do, they’re looking for a car and have a case of “bicycle blindness.”

  20. If everyone used aislander’s common sense approach, much of the contention would vanish. Cyclists DO need to decide if they want to be treated as motorists or pedestrians, and for heaven’s sake, please do not presume you are safe passing on the right at an intersection. Use the heads underneath those helmets!

  21. Commonsense and the laws of physics say 200 pounds of bike lose to 2,000 pounds of car.

  22. geeterpontiac says:

    I don’t think we need anymore laws because they aren’t going to solve the problem.

    The only thing that will is more courtesty on both sides and a change in attitude.

  23. I have ONE complaint about bicyclists. When there is a WIDE shoulder, or a specified bike lane, too many of them will STILL ride in the traffic lane OUTSIDE their lane, or right on the painted line, which causes the idiots in cars trying to get around them to swerve INTO oncoming traffic!

    I cant count the times I have watched some bicyclist pedaling down the highway and some bozo in a car who is too impatient, or stupid to slow down until he can pass, risk a near head on crash.

    All that being said, I watch nutcases in traffic all day at work and considering that I negotiate a fuel tanker and trailer through the mess, AND own a bicycle that I can see clearly from BOTH sides of the spectrum from the smallest to the largest. In the middle is a large majority of CAR drivers who behave no different, and in fact, often worse, than the bicyclists they “hate”.

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