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Dealing with Road Rage

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Aug 25, 2009

Road rage is something that most of, as cyclists, have had to deal with at one time or another. Clearly, there are some drivers out there who intentionally pass cyclists way too closely in an attempt to either scare the cyclist(s) or to generate some sort of reaction. While this is pretty sad behavior on the part of the motorist, how we cyclists react is also very important.

 

Bob Mionske, former professional cyclist and now a lawyer specializing in bicycle law, has a very informative website(www.bicyclelaw.com) where he talks about the best ways for a cyclist to deal with road rage. I would strongly recommend that everyone read what he has to say as it is very sound advice.

 

In a nutshell, Bob gives some real world examples on how a road rage incident where a motorist has put a cyclist's life in danger ends up with the cyclist going to jail and the motorist getting off scott free. In a common scenario, a car driver intentionally "buzzes" (passes too closely) a cyclist looking for a reaction and when the cyclist flips off the car driver, the driver stops and a confrontation ensues.

 

During the confrontation the now-enraged cyclist damages the driver's car either by kicking in a tail light, scratching the paint or knocking off a side view mirror. Ultimately, the authorities are called and the police step in to figure out what happened and who is going to jail. Unfortunately, it is the cyclist and not the motorist who is charged with a crime.

 

The reason this happens is that most of the time, the motorist has what Bob calls "plausible deniability" for his/her actions. Even though the motorist intentionally passed the cyclist very closely, when questioned by law enforcement later, the motorist can claim that they did so unintentionally or by accident while trying to put a CD in their car's stereo or some such excuse.

 

However, the actions of the cyclist are not deniable. The broken tail light, scratched paint or broken mirror is undeniable damage to the car and is a violation of the law.

 

Bob recommends that in such confrontations, cyclists try to remain calm and do everything they can to avoid breaking the law by causing damage to the motorist's car. While this can leave a cyclist feeling less than satisfied with the outcome of the situation, this is very sound advice because, as Bob points out, the motorists usually has "plausible deniability" for his actions while any action a cyclist takes is not deniable.

 

Bruce

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