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.


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You are right, it is

You are right, it is illegal. According to Colorado statutes, "The driver of a motor vehicle, when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation,shall give audible warning with the horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway."

I am traffic, therefore I can be honked at.

We are obliged to follow all traffic laws. If we are going to share the road, we must also share the consequences. While I agree most honks are completely unnecessary, sometimes a cyclist(s) really does need to be honked at. We don't deserve any more protection or special treatment than any other vehicle on the road. We have to be aware of the risks we are taking.

I work downtown and often see riders totally blowing stop lights, weaving up between two lanes of stopped cars at a light, and other demonstrations of reckless disregard for the rules of the road. Would you do this on a moped? A motorcycle? A small car? Then why should you be able to do it on a bike? These bad apples give all cyclists a bad name, and perpetuate our unwarranted reputation. It's no wonder people honk at us.

Respect the laws of the road. It's the best way to represent cyclists and end the harassment.


I've been on a bike as my main transportation mode since I was 18 years old and moved out of the house. I've raced off and on for over 2 decades, and worked for 2 years as a messenger in Washington DC. A bike is a vehicle, and cyclists do dumb stuff too. They're not immune to the law or somehow above it, and this is a silly proposal for too many reasons to count.

I see sketchy acts perpetrated daily by both drivers and cyclists. Drivers tend to overreact to cyclists for a couple of reasons: bikes are less common, therefore any perceived "wrong" has a much greater threshold of acknowledgement, and secondly drivers perceive us (for good and bad) as vulnerable.

The bulk of what I see going wrong out there from both parties comes down to pure inattention. I have also seen a lot of escalation and anger management issues by both parties, but on the whole, my impression is that it's generally your more casual/recreational riders who cause most of it. They're not as skilled, they're not used to riding in traffic, they may not know their rights and/or the laws, and many of them (I'm looking at you, CU students) have this grand sense of entitlement that is far out of proportion to their actual function as a pure road hazard.

One of the best lessons I learned as a courier, well actually 2 things:

1) cars can kill you, so act accordingly.
2) any driver encounter that doesn't involve actual physical contact to me (either with the car or the ground) is one I can safely ignore.

#2 brought me a long way towards being a calmer, happier, safer rider in all disciplines. You can yell, flip me off, or honk at me all you want but I'm not going to respond or escalate. If it was really my bad (and I'm big enough to acknowledge that I do screw up too), I'll give you the "sorry man, I'm a fool" shrug/wave, but I'm not going to get involved in whatever issues you're having that day.