Before you start reading, I'll warn you this is long. It is a story about aggressive drivers, cyclists and a Larimer County Sheriff's Deputy.
Yesterday the group I was riding with headed to Estes Park via Glen Haven (Devil's Gulch Road or County Road 43). There were six of us riding single-file and riding close to the right side of the road, westbound. Within a few miles of Glen Haven, a grey Jeep came up behind us with the horn blasting. The driver continued holding the horn going by and all the way past the group. He seemed to be too close to the group as he went by, horn blaring in our ears.
There were a few comments within the group about, "What is that guy's problem?" We continued into Glen Haven, where we stopped.
There were a couple of riders off the back of the group and I decided to go back to pick them up. I was riding alone, east-bound out of Glen Haven when I heard a horn honking. I looked over my left shoulder to see the Jeep again. The driver was using his Jeep to force me off the road. I couldn't believe what was happening.
He was going slow enough to lean forward and look past his passenger to yell at me, "This road isn't big enough for cyclists!!!"
I went off the road into the soft sand and managed to keep the bike upright. I yelled at him, "I'm calling the police!"
He yelled back at me, "Yeah, good luck with that!" He drove off.
I managed to get his license plate numbers and a description of the vehicle. The vehicle description wasn't hard since I'd seen it twice. I rode back to Glen Haven chanting the license number and asked the other riders to help me remember so I could call the police when we arrived in Estes Park.
Audrey Stine was riding ahead of our group and happened to be stopped in Glen Haven. She asked someone sitting at the tables in front of the Glen Haven General Store if they had a piece of paper so we could write down the plate and vehicle description. A woman sitting at the picnic table was happy to help.
Another person, not with our group, reminded me of the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) program to alert police to aggressive drivers. Just dial star-CSP (*277) to report the incident. Be prepared to communicate:
Vehicle license plate number - this is mandatory
Location and direction of travel
Vehicle and driver description, if possible
The aggressive driving behavior being demonstrated
The *CSP number is important because the driver's information is entered into a state-wide data base. The license plate number is the key. From the Bicycle Colorado website:
"According to the State Patrol website, they enter this information into an aggressive driver database and send a warning letter after receiving three complaints. If the State Patrol receives additional complaints they send a trooper to make personal contact with the registered owner of the vehicle to take appropriate enforcement action.
Bicyclists can report aggressive driving from any road in Colorado, not just a state highway."
When we arrived at the Notchtop Café in Estes Park, I immediately called *CSP. The dispatcher took my information and then connected me to another person, I believe Larimer County. This person took initial information and my cell number. She told me someone would call to follow-up.
Within a few minutes, I did get a follow-up call from a woman that took the incident information. She told me that an officer would follow-up and asked what time I would be available to take a call. I told her either within 15 to 20 minutes or at 1:00 pm when I was back down the mountain and in cell range again.
Indeed, at 1:00 pm I received a call from a Larimer County Sheriff's Deputy. The deputy took all of my information and told me he would do some investigation.
A few hours later, the deputy did call me back and told me he spent about 45 minutes talking with the motorist. The motorist supported my basic story; except, as you might imagine, a few critical details.
The motorist claimed that he used his horn to alert the cyclists that he was approaching from behind. He agreed we were in single-file and he did not believe that he drove too close to us.
As for the second incident, with me as the only rider, he admitted that he was "grumpy" when he spoke to me to let me know he did not believe the road was a safe place for cyclists to be - and he apologizes for that. He did not believe that he forced me off the road.
In my editorial opinion, "Riiiiiiiiiight."
Of course he is not going to admit to the police that he tried to force me off the road.
I ride that road often and I ride many of the roads of Larimer County often. I have been riding here for more than 20 years. I have never had a motorist try to use their vehicle to intimidate me or use it as a potential weapon.
Over the years I have had the occasional horn honkers, obscenity screamers and finger-waggers; but, never anything so up close and personal. I was visibly shaken for several minutes after the incident.
I think a rider with less experience could have easily lost control of the bike and ended up under the wheels of the vehicle.
The deputy told me I had a right to be on that road and I had a right to be safe. He told me I was welcome to file formal charges, if that is what I wanted to do.
The formal charges would have likely resulted in a ticket issued to the driver. It would probably be something on the order of wreckless driving. If the driver would have paid it, there would have been a few points rendered on his driver's license and a fine.
If the driver wanted to fight the charges, there would have been a court date scheduled. Do I have enough eye witnesses to press a case? I believe so.
Would a traffic ticket get the issue resolved or get me what I wanted?
What did I want to have happen?
1) I wanted the guy's name and a report of the incident to be put into a data base. It turns out he is a local person that is a long-time resident of that area. I wanted it to be on record that he exhibited aggressive driving behavior. I wanted this documented because should someone else be attacked or injured in the future, he is on record as a repeat offender. The officer assured me that the incident is on record in Larimer County.
As a side note, repeat offender information is making it much easier to go after a California motorist that caused significant injuries to cyclists. Read about that case here.
2) I wanted a police officer to talk to this person to let him know that his behavior, or alleged behavior, is unacceptable.
Both #1 and #2 did happen. The deputy told me that he believes the driver's demeanor was impacted by the deputy's visit.
Will the driver change his future behavior toward cyclists? Only time will tell.
I can only say good things about how the Larimer County Deputy handled the situation. The deputy did not give me the impression that he was anti-cyclist. He did give me the impression that he was interested in keeping the road safe for cyclists and drivers.
I drove up to Estes Park today to thank him for his actions to keep the roads safe for everyone. I know the Sheriff's Office has received bad press recently for Sheriff Alderen's handling of other cycling issues; however, I think it is important to be on record that at least one deputy is correctly handling cyclist's complaints against aggressive motorists.
I decided that filing formal charges would not gain much, if anything at all, so I didn't file charges.
I do urge cyclists to call police about aggressive drivers. I believe getting the offender's name in a database is critical. If your state does not have something similar to *CSP, then use 911 to report aggressive drivers.