What to do if harassed or threatened by a motorist

We’ve all encountered “this guy” at one point or another.

Take these rational steps and you can help make riding safer for all

By Megan Hottman

Megan Hottman is a recognized legal expert on cycling laws and advocate in the cycling community. She provides bike law education clinics and classes to cyclists, local bike clubs and to law enforcement personnel in the state of Colorado. This post addresses the question, What can a cyclist do if harassed or threatened by a motorist?

At one point or another we’ve all uttered some version of this sentence: “I wasn’t hit, but I was harassed, yelled at, honked at, buzzed, menaced, or otherwise threatened.” But what can you do?

The truth is, being harassed, buzzed (passed so closely from behind, that the hair stands up on your arm and neck), yelled at, incessantly honked at, had objects thrown at you (beer bottles and fireworks among the most common), or any other variety of these types of behaviors, is REALLY, REALLY SCARY to a cyclist out riding their bike.

Some days it feels like motorists see a cyclist as the “dog they want to kick” after a bad day. They take out their life’s frustrations and anger and unhappiness on us while we sit there next to them in the bike lane, or to the right side of their car on the roadway, just trying to get to or from our home or office, just minding our own business. We are vulnerable and often unaware until the venom is directed our way. And man, is it unsettling. Does this outweigh our true love and enjoyment of cycling? HELL NO! But do we need to discuss this? Absolutely.

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2 thoughts on “What to do if harassed or threatened by a motorist

  1. Last encounter I had was with a couple of kids during a lunch ride. I’m riding down this 4 lane and the passenger yells something really loud as they’re passing me, been through this before so even though it startled me I don’t steer out of control, but I’m pissed. Unfortunately for them we’re traveling downhill and the next stop light is 300 ft away and just turned red. So I come up to them on the right (I’ve been in bike lane all along), the passenger window’s now rolled up and driver and passenger are looking straight ahead, pretending to not see me, like squirrels when they hide on the other side of a tree. I tap the window, the passenger has no option than turn and look up and I motion for him to roll his window down. He does. I ask him “what did you yell at me back there?” he says “I yelled RHAAAAAA”. While this “conversation” is been happening I have mechanically grabbed my gatorade-filled (Mango Extremo flavor) water bottle from the bottle frame and without even thinking I pour pretty much all of it on his baseball capped head and chest, while telling him and his driver to stop fu##ing with us. The look on the guy’s face was priceless. I don’t recommend doing this generally, people have been shot for less but let me tell you it FELT GREAT.
    The passenger rolled his window up. The light turned green, he rolled his window back down and threw the remnants of a gas station soda cup at me (he only managed to hit my front wheel – I was still stopped) and they sped off. I had a very pleasant ride after that.

    1. So you chose to also act the adolescent. Let’s hope they don’t take your immaturity out on the next biker they happen upon. (It’s not just those in cars who need to grow up.)

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