A local cyclist sent us a video of a road rage incident he experienced last weekend while riding his bike south on East Henrietta Road near the intersection at Westfall. Thankfully, no one was hurt – in the end, a good samaritan stepped in and called RPD. But there are clearly some important lessons to be learned. First a word of caution; this video contains some graphic language…
What the heck happened here?
As the incident escalated, the cyclist activated a GoPro camera he had attached to himself. So we don’t see exactly what led up to the altercation. But here is what we can deduce based on what’s shown in the video and some common sense:
- The cyclist approached the intersection in the right-most lane. The left lane was closed off to traffic so only one lane was available.
- According to the cyclist, the traffic signal was red as he approached. The driver said the light was green. We’re not sure it makes any difference, but it seems logical that maybe the light was red and as the driver approached from the distance, the light turned green.
- The driver honked his horn at least once to signal to the cyclist that he was approaching and wanted to pass.
- With only one traffic lane opened and no bike lane or shoulder, the cyclist had no safe area to move out of the way, so he rightfully took the full traffic lane.
- The driver, perhaps in a hurry, became enraged.
- Both driver and cyclist pulled over and confronted each other on the sidewalk.
- The driver yells to the cyclist, “Get out of the road!”
- The cyclist says, “I’m supposed to be in the road.”
- The driver claims that the cyclist was intentionally moving slowly and should have been traveling at the speed limit (30 mph).
And that is where the common sense part ends. So who is right? Before we go any further, confronting someone on the road is ALWAYS a bad idea. Don’t do it. Move on and call 9-1-1 if you believe someone broke the law.
What does the law say?
In the video, the cyclist refers to section 1231 of NYS traffic law which states that “every person riding a bicycle… upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”
To be clear, section 1234(a) further explains:
Upon all roadways, any bicycle shall be driven either on a usable bicycle lane or, if a usable bicycle lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.
Bottom line… cyclists have the legal right to be in the road AND take the full width of a traffic lane when there is no other safe place to be. In this situation, a 12 foot wide lane (with a closed lane to the left and a curb to the right) is not safe for motor vehicles and bikes to be traveling side by side within it. [UPDATE: One of our readers pointed out that these lanes are actually 10 feet wide, not 12′. So in this case, there’s no question that cyclist should take the full lane.]
Cyclists DO need to be cognizant of other road users and make sure they are not blocking traffic. Assuming you are not riding your bike on a limited-access highway, causing vehicles to drive slower than the speed limit until you have room to move aside is not a crime. That’s why it’s called a “Speed LIMIT” and not a “Speed REQUIREMENT”.
The driver in this video also incorrectly tells the cyclist he should ride his bike on the sidewalk. In reality, it is never a good idea for a cyclist to ride on the sidewalk. Riding on the sidewalk creates dangerous conflicts with turning vehicles at intersections, hidden driveways and pedestrians. In fact, it is often illegal to ride on the sidewalk – as it is in downtown Rochester.
So who was right and who was wrong? The cyclist was right to be where he was and as long as he was making an effort to move through the intersection the driver should have been patient and proceeded cautiously, yielding to the cyclist, without honking or yelling profanity.
The driver incorrectly assumed he had the right of way because he was in the bigger vehicle. It doesn’t work that way, as explained above. If it did, cars would be required to pull aside to let trucks pass.
However, neither the driver nor the cyclist did the right thing by confronting one another. They both should have given a friendly wave and rolled on.
Whether we are on a bike, or in a car, we all need to understand the rules of the road and give others the benefit of the doubt. It could save a life.