Coffee talk Tuesday - Should it be illegal to honk at cyclists?

Today's Tuesday discussion deals with a recent harassement ticket given to a cyclist as mentioned in a comment on 303cycling. Here is how their side of the story happened....

"I was given a ticket from Boulder County Sheriff for harassment last night. I was going down Highway 93 towards Marshall Road when a guy in a pickup truck felt it was necessary to honk as he sped past me. I was going about 40, he was going about 60. I caught up to him at the light and hit the bed of his pickup with my fist. I clearly let my emotions get the best of me. Regardless, we were both wrong but drivers simply don't understand how vulnerable we are, even to a car honking its horn. (And I kept my line, wasn't in traffic)."

I've been their before and let my emotions get away and hit the side of the car/truck in protest of their actions. But who is harassing who here?

In Columbia Missouri, they have made it illegal to honk at cyclists. Having grown up there I have to tell you, Columbia doesn't even come close to having the same level of tolerance for cyclist as the Boulder/Denver area does. There were times, especially when I was living in south St. Louis that if I didn't get honked at or yelled at on my ride then clearly the ride was way to short that day.

Still, in 95% of the time I'd say all the honks I have had are purely harassement focused so their action of the honk is the spark that starts the tensions between "drivers and cyclist"

But the law has had a lot of backfire, like the cyclists punching the car to vent their frustration now drivers are being held back from themselves venting and this one law is a hot topic within that community. Yesterday I had a random old facebook friend from Columbia vent to me about cyclist and how they own the road.

Having lived their I see that something has to be done to start to change the culture of hate towards cyclist but maybe instead of painting sharrows on the road and making these unenforceable laws why not invest in shoulders on the road.

Kris

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15 Comments

I would just have to say

I would just have to say legal. What if there is a valid reason the driver needs to honk? Its just too restrictive. The three foot rule makes a lot more sense to me.

As for "punching" cars or hitting the side of one, i must say I have done this before myself. Although it was back in chicago where cars would buzz you so close that you could just reach out and bang on the side. I did it once or twice to let the car know just how close they were. One driver got really, really mad at me, so i stopped.

Was I wrong to let the driver know he was in violation of the three foot rule? A valid law at that time in chicago. Maybe it's just not the way to go about it.

Agree - Legal

I agree that it should be legal. What if a driver needs to honk at something else for a safety reason and there happens to be a cyclist nearby? Or cars honk at cyclists and just make up something else they were honking at. Way too un-enforceable.

Honking isn't always polite

I too agree it should remain legal but I strongly believe that the majority of the honking that is going on is not for safety (unless it is honking because I'm going to run your ass down if you don't get over - type of safety).

Honking can be harassment and should remain legal.

Bicycle Safety

Any distraction to a cycler is a dangerous thing and visa versa, any distraction to a motorist is as well. That being said, until there is a mutual respect between motorist/cycler, there will always be some type of controversy. That's why we started 3footrule.com. To bring awareness to both motorists and cyclers alike through our 3 foot rule cycling Jerseys and apparel. Remember to: Ride Safe! Drive Safe!

Hey Curt, What is your

Hey Curt,

What is your hobby? How about I sneak up behind you with an air horn and blow it in your ear. Bet you would feel a little harassed and upset. Simple fact is it's dangerous and unnecessary. Cyclists need all the protection we can get from aggressive drivers and making it illegal can only help.

I've done it

I've hit the side of a vehicle with my fist on a few occasions, and a car window or two.

I've tried very hard this year to keep emotional reactions in check when having a rough encounter with a vehicle. A few months ago a lady made a left turn in front of me, basically she turned into me as I was traveling south on Garrison St and for a few moments we were side by side, and she was drifting into me. I ended up squeezed off the asphalt into the concrete gutter, and as she moved ahead of me her passenger side car tires also left the asphalt and crossed over into the concrete gutter. As I pulled up next to her at the next light I was shaking with rage, but somehow I pulled myself together as I decided to tap on her window and let her know she almost crushed me. I tried to be polite but was blunt and basically said something along the lines of "hey, didn't you see me as you turned left back there, you almost killed me!". She was apologetic and said she didn't see me, which I have to believe since when I pulled up next to her and tapped on her window she seemed startled. She, like many drivers, seemed to be on autopilot...

For once I was able to let a driver know my perspective of what just happened without yelling and cussing and name calling or using gestures.... I felt like a grown up (usually after an encounter and I let loose a fit of rage filled profanities I'll feel stupid some time later and wish I hadn't done that). I think at least in this case no hard feelings were generated.

As far as honking goes. I would prefer if people would give a nice gentle honk as they come up behind me to pass. On some roads such as Bear Creek Canyon Rd, if it is windy or there are oncoming cars it is sometimes hard to hear someone coming from behind. I'm thankful for the rumble strips because sometimes that is the only indication I get that someone is coming around me.

There are deer whistles you can get for your car, maybe there needs to be something like a bike whistle?

Too simplistic

I completely sympathize with the riders whose blood boiled when someone gets right up to their 7 or 8 o'clock position and lays on the horn. Just when you're listening to the approaching vehicle and trying to gauge their position, hoping they see you and give sufficient latitude, the driver does something that creates the fear of a collision AND startles the rider which can lead to an inadvertent swerve - making that collision more likely. This is hateful, juvenile, stupid, and irresponsible. This is vehicular intimidation. This is road rage. But it ain't the horn that did it. It is the driver's actions and approach - gunning the engine in the same place would be equally bad. Locking up the brakes? Same.

What about the guy who rolls by and gives a triumphant salute with the horn (when no longer right behind) and shows you the "thumbs up" on a particularly grueling climb? Would that now be outlawed too? Cowbells?

No, the law needs to be more oriented to the acts and intent - not narrowed down to an overly-simplistic item like a horn (or three feet, for that matter). Reckless driving is left up to the discretion of the officer - this sort of thing should be addressed as harassment or vehicular menacing or something along those lines - instead, if the driver revs the engine, swerves (but remains 3 feet away) and is generally an ass, the "horn law" will not help at all.

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