Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why it’s essential to report motorist harassment

From the VBPC
Here is a story from Nancy Schulz, executive director of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, about why it pays to take the time to file a report with the police if you’re out on your bike and someone in a car threatens or harasses you:
On the evening of Sunday, July 10, I was bicycling on a dirt road in Berlin, VT. I had just passed over a stretch of rough “washboard” when I heard a car approaching rapidly behind me. I then heard a horrible crunching, crushing sound as the car hit the washboard while going too fast. In fear, I pulled off the road and looked over my left shoulder to see the car leave the road just behind me, tear up the turf, and rip off its rear bumper. The car then passed me, dragging its bumper, before two young male occupants hopped out and stuffed the bumper in the back seat. Over the next 15 minutes, the driver pulled over as I cycled by and then passed me two more times. Once, the car came very close and the passenger screamed at me while the driver leaned on the horn. The next time, the passenger hung his naked rear end out the window.
I reported this repeated harassment to a Berlin police officer, who appreciated hearing the details of what happened to me. I was told that the same driver on the same evening had hit a mailbox and almost hit a little girl who was bicycling. The driver was cited for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. His car was impounded and the police had obtained a warrant to search the vehicle. They were pleased to know about the location of the car leaving the road and the debris left behind, including the foam liner of the bumper.
I gave a signed statement to the police and requested that the driver be charged with violating the Safe Passing law, which took effect one year ago. I shared copies of the law and the penalties because the officer was not aware of this law. I asked to testify in court about my unfortunate experience and I offered to provide a training, on behalf of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, to the Berlin police department that would cover this law and much more. The officer made copies of the documents for posting and was very interested in the training opportunity.
If you, while bicycling, walking, running, riding a horse, etc. on Vermont’s roads, have experienced harassment from a motorist, please report what happened to you and let the police know that you would like the motorist to be cited for violating the “Safe Passing” law. By doing so, you are assisting law enforcement and you are helping to protect others from experiencing what you experienced or worse. If you ignore this kind of behavior on the part of drivers, it will continue. Don’t tolerate it. You, as the victim, are a credible witness. Please speak up and save lives! Thank you.
You can find the text of the Safe Passing law on the home page of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition web site:

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