We focus on criminal near misses, assault and reckless driving, because using cyclist video evidence they should be beyond debate. Cyclists need law enforcement to actively enforce the laws. We believe enforcing our laws is the most powerful way to change driver’s behavior.
The problem we had initially was law enforcement refused to accept criminal near miss incident reports without a collision, even with video evidence. That was the case in our 9/18/2014 Castro Valley egregious incident and our January 18, 2016 Glendale Assault Incident.
Once drivers pierce the 3 foot safety zone to 2 feet, 1 foot, or inches, they have willfully boxed cyclists into a “zero room for error zone” thereby implicitly accepting responsibility, and fault, for any collision that may occur due to unforeseen obstacles such as broken glass or a sewer grate in the cyclist’s path. Add in that they are coming up from behind the cyclist at speed and you have a recipe for a serious collision created by the driver.
In the penal code, assault does not require a collision, just intent. In the Castro Valley incident the driver admitted intent in the Investigation Report, and his recorded revving of his engine, laying on his horn and yelling at the cyclist demonstrated it beyond the shadow of a doubt. In the Glendale incident the driver intentionally swerved in front of the cyclist and slammed on his brakes. Both cases demonstrate intent and therefore Assault: California Penal Code 245. Both cases demonstrate the willful or wanton disregard for persons or property and therefore Reckless Driving: California Vehicle Code Section 23103. Reckless Driving does not require intent or a collision.
Drivers are responsible for their vehicles which become dangerous weapons if the driver is distracted, or intentionally wants to “teach cyclists a lesson” that they do not belong on the road as in the Castro Valley case and innumerable others since Wisconsin enacted the first 3 Foot law in 1973, almost 45 year ago. When drivers get behind the wheel they accept responsibility for the safety of their passengers and any other persons or property that could be damaged by their vehicle.
Benjamin Franklin said only two things are certain; death and taxes. In a collision between a bicyclist and a motor vehicle, it is also certain that the cyclist always loses, often with serious life altering injuries, and the vehicle is rarely even scratched.
Together, law enforcement, the legal system, government and cyclists need to identify, educate, and in some cases prosecute drivers for criminal near miss incidents, before collisions occur. It is the best use of the law to actively prevent cyclist-motor vehicle collisions.