Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Helmet Cam Video raises VT bike law question

From the Burlington Free Press

An encounter on a dark road in East Montpelier in late July quickly became an example of the kinds of conflicts that can easily arise between motorists and cyclists in Vermont.
Carl Etnier biked in the center of the lane on U.S. 2 in the post-sunset hours of July 25. The road narrows at a certain point during his 10-mile ride from his job at Goddard College to his home in East Montpelier, and he later said the lane was too narrow for a car to pass him safely. He relied on his four-LED flashing red light and reflectors to make him visible.
Two men in a car came upon Etnier on the two-lane road, which has a speed limit of 50 mph, and began to follow Etnier closely, yelling at him and honking the horn. Etnier quickly turned on the camera he keeps attached to his bicycle helmet to capture any incidents that unfold, he told the Burlington Free Press.
"Get out of the road!" one man yelled at Etnier from the car, as shown in the video. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Two cars went around Etnier and the car behind him, passing on the other side of the road.
Etnier eventually pulled to the side of the road. The car stopped next to him.
"Are you crazy?" the passenger in the car said while cursing. The man yelled that the vehicle almost "killed you," adding, he and the driver "should" have killed him.
Etnier responded, "What's your name?" as the situation escalated. He later fired back at the men: "You're on candid camera."
Etnier led the men to the nearby fire station, and he said he had the people on duty at the station call the Vermont State Police to settle the disagreement. The men willingly went along with him.
Etnier eventually received a ticket for failing to ride close enough to the right.
No other citations were given, and the state police did not respond to an email seeking the names of the drivers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Report Road Rage incidents

Central Vermont cyclist Carl Etnier was bicycling home via Route 2 in East Montpelier on Friday, July 25.  Because this particular stretch of Route 2 has no shoulder, poor sight lines, and a narrow travel lane, Carl did the safe thing he has been trained to do:  he moved to the left and "took the lane," signaling to motorists behind him that there was not room to occupy the lane beside him.  Motorists who wished to pass Carl needed to cross the center line at a time when it was safe to do so.  One motorist became enraged at the sight of Carl in the middle of the lane.  The driver and his passenger unloaded a string of profanities and screamed at Carl:  "We should have f*ing killed you."  Carl's helmet-mounted video captures the images and the words as the sickening abuse unfolds over half a mile of travel. Click here to see this video: 

As the motorist's rage escalated, Carl took refuge at a firehouse nearby and asked for law enforcement. When Vermont State Police arrived, they ticketed Carl for not riding on the right.  The motorist was not penalized, although the motorist clearly violated the Safe Passing law.  Carl is consulting with the VBPC and others regarding how he should proceed.  He is working to arrange a time later this month to show his video to law enforcement in the hope that the ticket he was issued will be torn up and the motorist will be cited.  If you wish to email Carl about his experience, his address is

What happened to Carl is, unfortunately, much too common.  This incident points out why bicycle advocacy is so important and why it's essential for all victims to report incidents of harassment to law enforcement and local elected officials.  The victim is viewed as a credible witness in a court of law.  You don't need a helmet-mounted camera to prove it.  Please report!

Nancy Schulz
Executive Director
VT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition
PO Box 1234 
Montpelier, VT 05601