Anger Issues…

Not All Drivers Agree...

That is what my friend Ilya said is going on.

On Sunday, as Stoker and I were laboring up the big hill on the north side of Pardee Dam, the driver passed me and told me “Ride on the white line” on the right side of the road. Never mind that that particular white line is on the edge of the tarmac (no shoulder) and there is a 2 inch drop off onto gravel. Never mind that Stoker and I are laboring at 5 mph on a 9% grade, and at that speed a tandem is hard to control and needs a little space to maneuver.  Never mind that we are riding within 2 feet of the edge of the pavement and that the road ahead is perfectly clear and the car could pass easily and safely without giving me advice about my proper place on the road.

In fact he is wrong. I have the right to use the road on a bicycle, tandem or single. I am required to ride as  CLOSE TO THE RIGHT EDGE OF THE ROAD AS IS SAFE. Not ‘as close as possible’, but ‘as close as is safe’. Cars passing cyclists are required BY LAW to give us a 3 foot margin. Or, cars are allowed to pass cyclists closer than 3 feet IF they slow to 25 mph or below.

This has been a bad year for bad behavior towards me as a cyclist, and there have been three memorable confrontations, yesterday’s being the least threatening. In January the tandem got yelled at by a woman sitting in the passenger seat of a big pickup pulling a big horse trailer, telling us we didn’t belong on this road.  But more threatening was an encounter with a black Jeep while rolling down Old Sacramento Road, again on the tandem. Here is the report I sent to the CHP:

On Saturday, February 3, my wife Diane and I were riding our tandem bicycle on Old Sacramento Road. We were about 2 miles west of Plymouth heading towards Hwy 16. We were with another cyclist, Steve Frentress. Both my wife and Mr. Frentress are witnesses to what happened.

We were riding single file, with traffic and to the right side of the road as close to the edge of the pavement as was safe. There was no oncoming traffic and we were not impeding any motor vehicle traffic. We were riding in a completely legal manner

We were passed by a black Jeep CJ type with very wide tires and a soft top. We believe the license is ______.  We are not 100% sure of the license. There was one passenger and the driver in the Jeep.

The vehicle slowed next to my wife and I, about 2 feet to our left. Closer that the ‘3 foot’ rule for passing cyclists. That is a traffic violation. The passenger leaned out of his window and yelled “Get the f… off the road”. The Jeep then sped past us.

When the Jeep was about 150 yards ahead the driver came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. The driver opened his door, got out and turned toward us. I slowed our tandem bike but did not stop. When I was about 50 yards behind him he yelled “I’m going to kick your ass”. Then he got back in his vehicle and drove off.

I would like to file an official report of this incident. If I need to come to your office to do so I would be more than willing. I would also be happy to speak with a deputy on the phone, feel free to call.

I believe it is important to report this even if your office does not have enough information to issue a citation or pursue criminal investigation. I doubt this is the first time this driver and passenger have harassed cyclists, and I would like this report on file in case a more serious incident occurs.

I don’t know if the threat “I’m going to kick your ass” constitutes “Making a terrorist threat” but this definition might apply:

1) Willful Threat: Someone willfully threatens to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily harm. This means that the threat obviously has to be of a highly dangerous nature. Threatening to slash someone’s tires, for instance, would probably not be sufficient. However, the threat can be made in writing, verbally or electronically transmitted.

CHP actually responded. A very nice sergeant called me. It turns out I had the license number wrong. Not surprising, since I was concentrating on not crashing the tandem and trying to decide how best to deal with a stopped Jeep and a dangerous driver. Too bad; the sergeant said that if the license had matched the description he would have contacted the owner for a talk.

Most drivers pass safely and calmly and don’t cause cyclists trouble. But occasionally we get flipped off, yelled at, passed too close or too fast or both, ‘smoked out’ (a big diesel pickup pulls right along side, then slams on the accelerator to leave a cloud of black smoke for the cyclist to ride through). A truck once passed our group, then pulled off the road and spun out in the gravel to raise a cloud of dust for us to breathe.  Drivers passing us lay on their horns, or honk repeatedly. So much anger.

If you are inclined to this type of behavior, you are unlikely to be reading this. But those drivers should be advised I’m trying to get your license and I’m going to report you. You probably won’t be cited, since it will be your word against mine. But do you really want a visit from CHP?

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