Be a Roadside Saint when Confronted by Aggressive Drivers:
Fight Back With Reason. By BOB MIONSKE, from Array
Stay calm, even when drivers behave badly. Photo by Thomas Trutschel (Getty Images)
Bryan Larsen was riding along California's Pacific Coast Highway near Dana Point on a sunny spring day this year when a driver he had passed began harassing him. So Larsen did something smart: He reached for his cell phone and hit record. While the video doesn't show what sparked the confrontation, it clearly captures the Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck swerving into the bike lane as a passenger hurls a bottle of Gatorade at Larsen. The video went viral, so naturally cyclists expected that authorities would prosecute the culprits.
Police tracked down the passenger, and she faces assault and battery charges. But Larsen was shocked to discover that he also faces charges related to profanity he used during the altercation. In California, it's a crime to say anything offensive that provokes a violent reaction.
Unfortunately, this is a common turn of events. One cyclist I represented was arrested after police officers witnessed him breaking the passenger-side mirror of a car with his U-lock. What authorities didn't see was that the driver had repeatedly swerved at the cyclist before he retaliated.
The drivers in many of these cases accuse cyclists of wrongdoing—even when they're clearly victims—so avoid doing or saying anything that supports those claims. Even if you're not recording the incident, another witness might be. Here are four ways to stay on the right side of the law.
If you are involved in an altercation, you want the driver (or passenger) to look like the obvious culprit. So act like a saint—that means no profanity, threats, or aggressive actions. You don't need to teach the driver a lesson; leave that to the criminal-justice system.
Follow the Laws
If you video a road-rage encounter, be mindful of where and how you ride—authorities may take a close look at your position on the road. Follow traffic signals and maintain a steady, even pace; erratic riding can make you look dangerous. Use the bike lane if there is one; if not, stay as far to the right side of the road as reasonable.
State Your Case
When police show up, you want to make it easy for witnesses to clearly identify the victim—you. The best way to do that: Remain mellow as the driver rages out of control and avoid direct confrontation. Screaming at or physically threatening the driver makes you look like the aggressor.
If you are verbally or physically attacked, defend yourself—just make sure your actions are clearly beyond reproach. In many cases, authorities and witnesses won't know what led to the initial altercation; they see only the aftermath. Avoid charges by defending yourself only when you are in immediate danger.