What Comes After Prunes

Let’s recount why cyclist might be considered second class citizens while sharing the road with motorist.  As it happens I have a wonderful encounter to illustrate my point. Today the Officer Assigned (here after referred to as the OA) finally got a hold of me when Aral wasn’t sleeping. We had a discussion on the phone and it went something like this.

First, he wanted to let me know that he had received statement from myself as well as the Driver of the Dodge (hereafter referred to as the DoD). He then said that our accounts of the situation were completely different. The OA then offered me two options:

  • First Option: Drop the issue and pretend like it never happened.
  • Second Option: The OA could write a ticket to the DoD for violating Colorado’s 3-foot passing law. And, here’s where it gets fun, the OA would also have to write me for the traffic infraction of “obstructing traffic” and the criminal misdemeanor of Harassment.

42-4-1003. Overtaking a vehicle on the left
(1)The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4-1008:
(a)The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
(b)The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.
(c)Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver’s vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
(2)Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.

Ok, at this point I’m flummoxed. There is no statute for obstruction of traffic while riding a bicycle. In fact, the only mention of obstruction in C.R.S. is for bicyclists riding more than two abreast in the lane (C.R.S. 42-4-1412 (6) (a/b). I can beat this one no problem and the OA knows it. What’s even more interesting is that since our first call he’s been poking around this one trying to figure out a way to nail me with it and it doesn’t exist.  Its a law he’d obviously like to make exist, but it doesn’t; we move along because I feel like I’m debating with a brick wall of obtuseness.

Ah, but the Trojan is revealed in the presence of the second potential charge. The OA and I discussed this at length. He assured me that not being there meant that he had to take both accounts of the situation as “truths”. At first the OA said that he had to write me the criminal charge because I slapped the DoD’s vehicle as the DoD jogged his vehicle at me and my son. If the OA is willing to believe the statement of the DoD in this instance, then why, would he not believe me in my statement where I mention that the slap on the vehicle was a response to the menacing act of driving the DoD’s big stinky diesel at me and my son? Menacing, wow I’ve already suggested this charge in my statement. No, the OA replies it couldn’t be menacing because the DoD said that I obstructed his progress in the parking lot of Alpine Orthopedics with my bicycle.  Yep, I stretched it across the narrowest point in the parking lot magically making it three car length wide while presenting a tempting target to someone who just about ran me over.

C.R.S. 18-3-206. Menacing.
(1) A person commits the crime of menacing if, by any threat or physical action, he or
she knowingly places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious
bodily injury. Menacing is a class 3 misdemeanor, but, it is a class 5 felony if
committed:
(a) By the use of a deadly weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to
cause a person to reasonably believe that the article is a deadly weapon; or
(b) By the person representing verbally or otherwise that he or she is armed with
a deadly weapon.

Ok, then how about reckless driving? I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up that easily. The OA responds that he can’t because the DoD didn’t wantonly disregard my safety. Really? Seriously? Driving your 2 and a half ton truck up my bicycle tail pipe and narrowly missing both rider and toddler in the trailer is no longer “wonton disregard” for the safety of people? Twice? I point out that acknowledging the violation of the 3-foot statute is also acknowledgement of Reckless Driving (and there’s even precedent for the charge), and I’m shot down again.

C.R.S. 42-4-1401 Reckless Driving.
(1) Any person who drives any motor vehicle, bicycle or motorized bicycle in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of person or property is guilty of reckless driving.

Finally, I try to review which part of the Harassment statute I’ve magically broken. I start by asking if the OA if he tell me the statue so I can look it up.  His reply he has to go grab it. Ok, please put me on hold, I’ll wait. He punches the hold button; moments later someone else picks up the receiver. I hear a third party conversation for a little bit and then the receiver is replaced and I’m cut off. This one just has awesome sauce dripping all over it.

I wait for about 10 minutes, and place a direct call back to the OA who answers his phone. We’re chummy now. I explain that someone cut our call off, sorry I waited for a return call, but figured ten minutes would be more than enough to get the statute. Oh sure, unfortunately the OA was distracted. I play along some more, its increasingly obvious to me that he just wants this one to go away. That’s why the Harassment charge has been stuck into the mix. Its a scary criminal offense and not having the statute at my finger tips I wonder if perhaps I might have actually committed the act.

We’re behaving like chums like I said, he’s giving me traffic advice and even occasionally listening to me as I recount being T-boned in 2004 in precisely the same situation. Well, its obvious I’m not getting anywhere. The OA still believes that I have an obligation to stay in the bike lane regardless even after I’ve shown him the statute. He believes that bikes are an obstruction in general and I’ve gotten the impression that he’d be happier if they were relegated to dedicated infrastructure (equal but separate anyone?) or just done away with all together. And its now clear to me what the Harassment charge is supposed to do. I let it do its job and accept the idea that perhaps the DoD has learned his lesson and wont do it again.

C.R.S. 18-9-111 Harassment – Stalking
(1) A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
(a) Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or
(b)IN a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or
(c) Follows a person in or about a public place; or
(d) Repealed.
(e) Initiates communication with a person, anonymously or otherwise by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system that is obscene; or
(f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, wheather or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or
(g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the provacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property; or
(h) Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.

I should have called his bluff!  It took me 10 minutes of searching to come up with the statute and it doesn’t even remotely apply. If there’s one thing that this encounter has let me know its that Gunnison as well as Gunnison Police Department needs:

  • a little more bicycle awareness,
  • a serious and complete review of bicycle laws and safety standards,
  • an advocacy group capable of bringing issues like this up with city leadership,
  • some legal support to ensure that tactics like this are not used to intimidate victims of crimes who need and request assistance,
  • a heaping dose of reality, the streets of this city are filled with cyclist coming and going and its in the best interests of the city to both encourage and protect these people.

However, as I repeatedly tell my son “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”  Its not healthy for me to hold a grudge for either the DoD or the OA; it is probably a good idea to see and be seen as much as I’m able while in the saddle.  Ride defensively and ride safe friends!

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