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Posted by on Jan 20, 2010 in Uncategorized | 65 comments

Dude! Who do you think you’re honking at?

rollingvideo

Photo by Mighk

Today was a stellar day! The weather was perfect and my work for today consisted of shooting on-bike video for the Law Enforcement Toolkit. The objective was to shoot the best practices of bicycle driving with a uniformed officer. My subject was Bill Edgar of OPD (with appearances by Mighk). Bill runs the bicycle training program and trains bike patrol officers all over North America.

bill edgarOne important segment of the program deals with a cyclist’s use of a “sub-standard width” lane. For the purpose of the statute, that’s a lane less than 14 feet wide. A cyclist is allowed the full use of a sub-standard* lane — meaning you can ride anywhere in it you choose and motorists must change lanes to pass. The lane in the photo above (Princeton St) has 13 feet of usable pavement (from the gutter seam to the lane line). It looks pretty wide with a small car in it, but it’s too tight to share with SUVs or large commercial vehicles. A cyclist’s best position in the lane is one that makes it clear to motorists that they have to change lanes.

Unfortunately, some motorists resent having to change lanes, and they make a big fuss about it.

So, as I was riding directly behind Bill on Princeton, one such motorist came upon us. Unable to see any details of the cyclist in front of me, he laid on the horn to try and intimidate us out of his way. That’s when Bill moved left into view… and the horn went silent.

It’s unbelievable that the guy went on sassing Bill after we stopped. I guess that’s the personality of someone who would honk like that (frequently wrong but never in doubt). The video doesn’t show it, but he was shaking like a schoolboy. I’m guessing his bravado was a cover for having peed in his pants.

We actually did demonstrate 2-abreast riding in a sub-standard lane (including Princeton St) with Mighk. Oddly enough, there was no honking.

Help us stop hostile behavior

toolkitThe Law Enforcement Toolkit is a product of the Florida Bicycle Association. The first phase has been funded and is almost ready for beta testing, but we need more funding to complete the training program and implement it in Police Departments around the state. The purpose of the LE Toolkit is to educate traffic enforcement officers about the rights and responsibilities of bicycle drivers. Informed law enforcement is key to changing the culture and making the road system safer and more civil for everyone. Please help support this program with an individual, club or business membership, or a tax-deductible donation.

*Sub-standard is a misleading term, since >90% of the lanes in Central Florida are less than 14ft wide.

65 Comments

  1. I want one of those POLICE shirts. I know it is very much against the law, but a guy can dream, can’t he? My brother says I look like a cop when I wear a suit…

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could organize police (off-duty, maybe?) to take the lane all over the place a couple of times a year?

    Thanks Keri, Mighk and especially Bill Edgar. That was sweeeet.

    • I’m quite sure that wearing a shirt marked ‘POLICE’ is considered free speech protected by the First Amendment. The problem comes if the shirt-wearer tries to detain someone, direct traffic or in another way act like a police officer. In that case they could be charged with impersonating a police officer.

      • Scott,
        In Texas it would be considered a crime to wear a shirt labeled POLICE even if you don’t try to stop someone or effect and arrest, so you have to be careful.

        • I’ve seen cyclist shirts that say:

          (tiny print up top, not visible from > 10 feet)
          Support your local

          (HUGE PRINT) POLICE

    • Just to be safe, get one that says “POLITE”.

    • I have a cycling jersey that has “POLIZEI” written across the back… it’s in the Bavarian Police Dept. colors… I ride around New York City & suburbs with it… no honks yet. I think drivers don’t know what to make of it. LOL

    • Where our ranch is in Texas the Farm-to-Market highway by our place is a busy road for cyclist and I always honk well before passing to make sure they know I’m there before going by.

  2. Priceless! Did he give you a recommendation about what your best course of action would have been in the same situation had you been by yourself? Stopping does have some merit.

    • Steve, Unfortunately there is not much a citizen cyclist can do. I hold my line and wave the motorist to change lanes. Eventually they do and usually just go away (especially if the badfinger keeps to itself). I’m pretty sure a citizen cyclist cannot stop in the lane like Bill did. That would be impeding traffic. An officer can do that.

      One can call in and report it as harassment, but unless the motorist does something physically threatening, the police aren’t going to be interested in taking a report and most cyclists don’t have the time to deal with that process either. This kind of behavior is really frustrating and corrosive, but there’s very little a citizen can do about it.

      Personally, I’d love to see sting operations. Incivility is prevalent enough around here that it wouldn’t be a waste of time. I think that kind of honking is a violation (too lazy to look up the statute, but something like improper use of the horn).

  3. That was really awesome!

    RE ‘sub-standard’, I don’t think that it’s necessarily appropriate or a even a good idea to have outside lanes 14′ wide, particularly in denser, more urban areas.

    • I agree. And 10-11ft works best for me as a cyclist. With a lot of crossing conflicts, controlling a narrow lane is much safer and easier.

      12-13ft lanes becomes more of a problem because they look kinda wide, especially when a cyclist rides all the way to the right. Prime side-swipe territory.

  4. Keri, that was rather entertaining. I trained the police near Houston, Texas, and they gave me one of their police jerseys for when we rode. I never had any problems when I was part of their team in training.
    Some similar things happened, motorists would open their windows to scream at us and see the police jerseys and shut their mouths, put the window back up.
    Too bad it takes a jersey to put some common sense, such as self preservation, back in their tiny little heads. Well done!

  5. Rantwick:

    Have a t-shirt made with nice, big, 6-inch letters saying POLICE, and above it, in — oh, maybe 1-inch letters — “Support Your Local.”

  6. Mighk – Oh, Man. That’s super tempting. I’m not sure how my local cops might respond… perhaps 3″ for the “support your local”… hmmm. You are a bad influence.

  7. Folks of this caliber make me want to pack up, move to Canada, and ride with Rantwick!

    Nice to know that some of “The City Beautiful” citizens will try to bully their ignorance on the local law enforcement. Especially towards uniformed police that patrol ON bicycles.

    This clip makes an excellent addition to the LEO Training Kit.

  8. One-inch letters should be illegible from a safe following distance, but readable when stopped in a queue.
    Just sayin’!

  9. I have a number of those Police marked shirts- but then, until recently I did the exact job that Officer Bill Edgar is doing, only in England (though I have attended an IPMBA conference Baton Rouge 2007).

    Trust me- being marked up with Police and with reflective/ fluorescent kit doesn’t make you immune to idiot drivers- it just makes dealing with them official!

    Another option for a marked jersey might be to have POLITE instead of POLICE- people see what they want to see and POLITE has fooled a few (allegedly)!

  10. Best video clip I have seen in some time ….. :)

    I agree with Rantwick; I would love to see officers on bikes on the streets. I GUARANTEE this would increase civility towards cyclists. It also allows officers to reach out to cyclists who ride improperly (running reds, etc.).

    If it could happen ….. …..

  11. Awesome!!!! I love it. Oh to see that guy’s face!

    I’m really shocked that he ran his mouth at the cop, though. I wonder if it’s because he was that much of a moron or if it had to do with Bill being a bicycle cop.

  12. Here’s my suggestion: instead of cyclists wearing an imitation POLICE shirt, the police should go undercover and be willing to hand out tickets to those who honk unnecessarily.

    Of course POLICE would have to be on the front but the look drivers would have once they see that it was actually a law enforcement officer would be precious.

    We need more officers biking everywhere for many reasons. By the way noticed that many of the vehicles (including the offending car) don’t have front license plates, are they required in FL? Thanks for the film Keri.

  13. I’m extremely impressed with Officer Bill’s handling of the situation. Really disarms the driver when you politely ask if he needs help.

    Great capture!!

  14. i really don’t mind honking or yelling. i know i’m obeying the law and riding safely, so they can honk all they want. it actually makes me smile. however, the close passing, passing into oncoming traffic (while i’m controlling the lane), etc, needs to stop. that’s where i wish law enforcement would pay more attention. i realize that incivility leads to these actions, but it doesn’t bother me in and of itself. seeing people getting away with breaking the law and feeling righteous in doing so does bother me.

  15. I finding honking and yelling unnerving and a bit draining. I’m not afraid of it. But it feels like someone is making an unwelcome withdrawal from my peace-of-mind account. I resent it.

    Excellent video, Keri!

  16. I’m coming into this discussion a day late, so everyone else has posted thoughts that duplicate my own. My first thought was about the shirt, but it’s way risky. The smaller letters about support may cover one’s posterior, though. I laughed all the way through the video from the stop forward.

    thanks for sharing this video, it’s truly priceless.

  17. Great video. I love how he just came to a complete stop right in front of him.

    I hope Officer Edgar notices how much his left arm is angled downward when he signals his left turn. Turn signalling can be remarkably more effective in terms of getting motorist attention by using a straight arm that is parallel to the ground. I suspect the downward angle looks relaxed and might transmit a relative lack of urgency, and is much easier to ignore.

    • Nonsense. It was a low speed negotiation and it worked beautifully. I use that style sometimes and it has always worked for me.

      • Can you guys can distinguish the “left” turn signal used in the video at around 1:34 from the slow-stop signal shown in the following diagram?

        http://www.diycycling.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/HandSignals.gif

        I have a still snap from 1:34, but don’t think I can post that here. I’m emailing it separately to Keri’s gmail account.

        We can agree to disagree, but I don’t think it’s nitpicking to make sure your left turn signal is clearly distinguishable from a slow-stop signal, or from an attempt to point out a hazard for that matter (my email includes an image of that too, from here: http://www.cyclingtipsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/hole.jpg), and I would hope all LCIs point this out to their students.

        Serge

    • Serge, you’re my friend and I like you and I know you think you’re being helpful, but your habit of critiquing every little biking movement gets pretty old after a while. They’re reminiscent of the spelling and grammar corrections on Usenet in the 90s.

      • Hee, hee! Mighk criticized my left turn signaling the same way when I took the class. Said it looked like I was signaling something bad in the road to others behind me if I was in a group ride.

        I don’t ride with anyone and never do, so I figure if I have my left arm stuck out in any fashion I am signaling cars.

        Never-the-less, I straightened out my arm on the outside chance it would help.

        Even with a straight arm perfectly parallel with the pavement, and me all the way over near the double yellow line, two times cars crossed the double yellow and try to pass as I was stopped to make a left turn.

        This really caused trouble since I was stopped because there was oncoming traffic and the cars pulled right out into that oncoming traffic to pass me!

        When I saw a car to my left, I then dropped my signaling and used my left hand to cover my eyes. No awful sounds, so I guess they missed each other, somehow.

        Twice.

        This is all my fault of course. If I hadn’t stopped to make my left turn, it wouldn’t have happened.

        • Oops. I forgot.
          Once I signaled cars that there was something bad in the road that they wouldn’t want to run over. I pointed at it but shook my arm and hand up and down pointing at it several times.

          That worked. They stopped and I did, too. They waited while I removed the offending piece of metal.

      • Yokota, please look at the slow-stop and “hole” signals illustrated here:

        http://www.diycycling.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/HandSignals.gif

        http://www.cyclingtipsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/hole.jpg

        Now, compare those with the left signal used in the video at about 1:32. Is it just me, or do they all look about the same?

        Granted that’s not an ideal slow-stop signal (which should have a bent elbow), but that just makes my point.

        If it’s important to signal, then don’t you think it’s important to be clear about what you’re signalling?

        • I agree, but what I saw in the video is it looks like he’s pointing a finger to the left. So it looks like a combination of “slow-stop” and “left turn.”

          Try to make sure you’re clear on what you intend to do. Straight-left or straight-right for making a turn; downward left or right hand for signaling cars to slow down.

      • Fritz, Thank you.

        Serge, The critiquing and nitpicking has the effect of making cycling in traffic look like rocket science. It’s just not that rigid. There are best practices and there plenty of variations in practices that work just fine for people.

  18. “The angle of your signal arm….” “it looks relaxed…”

    Oh please… and what do you call it when motorists don’t even bother to signal… “totally chilled?”

    The fact is that the “lack of urgency” shouldn’t have any bearing what so ever on the rights of someone using the road in a safe and legal manner.

  19. Had a similar experience with an even more stupid driver when I was putting 10 police community support officers (UK) through 1-day basic road safety riding course.

    Sergeant-in charge at the front, newbies between us with me at the back, observing. Very narrow road on council estate with vehicles parked at irregular intervals. Plonker in SUV decides to overtake with few inches(!) to spare while we were passing two parked cars. All riders except me with shirts with Police on.

    Sergeat alerted by general curses and shouts and pulls driver to side of road. “I was in a hurry”, quoth he. Sergeant gives him warning and takes down his details, v…e…r…r…y s…l…o…w…l…y. Plonker then turns into his drive about 100yds ahead.

  20. I had a similar situation in Maitland a few weeks ago. I was controlling the rt lane with 2 other lanes free on a Saturday afternoon. A soccer mom in an SUV laid on the horn for a full 20-30 seconds as I waved her around (using all fingers) and proceded to sit in the lane next to her at the next two traffic lights. Sometimes I think it will never change… Loved this video. It should be in the “best of Commute Orlando”!!!

  21. This is exceptional. Best video I’ve seen on the subject. Really should be distributed to police and cyclists so them better understand the legal rights and responsibilities of road cycling.

  22. Just kick the cars if they cut you off?

  23. This is why the “Million Car Challenge” Bicycles Allowed Use Of Full Lane, Change Lanes To Pass national awareness campaign is happening now. baufl.org

  24. Gary,

    I love your site and have been planning to do a post on it, but wanted to link to your stickers. When are you going to have them? I promise to promote it and get some myself!

    • Hi Keri, Thanks for the comment. We’ve been live for 5 weeks at the site: http://www.baufl.org
      They’re available and all the info is there. Response has been amazing.

  25. Incredible! Can’t believe the cop was so nice about it.

    -Streetfilms

    • @Clarence, my dad’s a retired detective. Law enforcement puts up with all kinds of unbelievable B.S. so they have to keep themselves under control.

  26. It irks me to think that the driver who’s impatient with my presence will likely tolerate 15MPH behind construction equipment for half a mile or more, but 15MPH behind me on a bike for 50 meters is too much to handle.

    • Hi Dan!

      I used to drive great big gravel trucks. Fully loaded, I had to go nice and slow for safety.

      Very few car drivers tried to harass me. Probably because, in a collision, I would squash them like a bug.

      These drivers that have a “might makes right” mindset need to be removed from the road.

  27. ughh!! why didn’t write that driver a ticket? That would have been classic!

  28. Awesome! I’ve lost count over the years how many times I’ve seen drivers exhibiting boorish behavior behind the wheel and wondered: where are the police when you need them? Officer Bill handled the situation perfectly and hopefully after the driver has time to reflect will modify his behavior. Probably not. We really need driver re-education in this country.

    • I agree Tim. It’s time.

      Gary
      baufl.org

    • “driver re-education”

      Most young people never got it. Driver’s Ed was done away with in the schools back around, oh, I think it was in the early eighties. It was a requirement to graduate.

      Recently, free driver’s ed classes have become available. I have mentioned this fact to several parents of teen-agers and they don’t seem to be interested in telling their children. Why go to school when all that is required is passing a test? After all, they never had any formal instruction . . . so why should the kid?

  29. You couldn’t have asked for a better time to have a camera recording!

    Still, In my experience even when you have really wide roads motorists still don’t want to share and will buzz you. Take this road I cycled on once not too long ago:

    “Hudson Street is a wide two-lane roadway, 32 feet wide
    from curb-to-curb with narrow left turn lanes at many
    intersections.” (page 7 of a neighborhood traffic calming plan http://pubserv.ci.columbus.oh.us/transportation/Linden/South%20Linden%20FINAL.pdf )

    Yep. One 16ft wide lane in each direction where two cars could almost share the lane comfortably. What did drivers do? Ride in the middle of the lane despite having plenty of room to stay closer to the middle of the road, which is what I should have known to do regardless of lane width. Or just avoid that street altogether, which I will.

  30. Awesome video and I hope all police departments sign-on for this program. My only complaint is that I had to use Firefox to watch it as it just wouldn’t play in Safari for some reason. Not the fault of the video though! :)

  31. FS 316.271 Horns and warning devices.–

    (1) Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet.

    (2) No horn or other warning device shall emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle.

    (3) The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation, give audible warning with his or her horn, but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.

    (8) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.

    (non-moving is now $114)

  32. Just watching and reading this again from the link at the “Powerful Tool for Law Enforcement” article. One thing I noticed this time that I haven’t seen anyone comment on is how Bill and Keri caught up with that driver at the next red light anyway! Ha!

  33. Im from Australia, and our motorists are arseholes. Why not have plain clothed police on bicycles, who handed traffic infringements to motorists for aggressive behaviour. Now that would be effective. Motorists would not know which cyclist was a police officer.

  34. Don’t care if he’s a cop or not, riding a bike in the middle of a highway is dangerous and stupid.

    An open letter to all you hipster doofuses who think you have the right to the road: You don’t have the right to dart out in front of intersections with total disregard for the 4-way stop signs. You don’t have the right to run red lights. You don’t have the right to swerve haphazardly in and out of traffic with no regard for whether or not there is a 1/4 ton vehicle right behind you. You do all of these things under the banner of “clean air” and we’re supposed to applaud you that you have a fanny pack and can carry all your groceries in your baby rack.

    Just remember the Lugnut Rule, dipshits.

    If it has more lugnuts than you, get the hell out of its way.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion. *waves*

    • AJ must have had a bad day on the set of Swamp People but never the less there is still lots of work to be done with educating drivers and cyclists.

    • I don’t recall the police officer doing any of those things in the video. Perhaps I was inattentive. I do have a question for AJ: “When you get pulled over for your next traffic violation, do you plan to call the officer a ‘hipster doofus’?”

    • @ AJ, We are having our next Orlando Cycling Savvy class session in September. Sign up and join us. If not, at minimum, come ride with me. Be a part of the solution. Ride Big and Ride On!

  35. I think AJ has a problem discerning the difference between the safe, skilled and consistent cyclists who inhabit these forums and those other people on bikes who need to be educated. Other than his unwarranted use of profane references, I applaud his ability to spell and use correct grammar. Such things are rare in folks of his ilk.

  36. I commute to work on a campus filled with thousands of bicycling students who are anything but “safe, skilled and consistent.” They’re complete idiots. Educate them. Please.

    And I apologize for swearing.

    • AJ,
      Educating drivers and cyclists is a big part of cycling advocacy. It starts with individuals that take the initiative to become educated about riding their bike safely on the road and following the laws of their state. There are excellent educational programs in most cities but it is up to the individual to invest in their own safety and education. Many don’t. Uneducated drivers (and cyclists) can not fully comprehend what safe cycling is unless they have been taught by someone or some organization that is qualified to instruct on ALL the laws of their district pertaining to cycling, proper positioning and safe riding. Opinions on safe cycling vary widely among uneducated cyclists and drivers. But not as much between cyclists and drivers that are educated properly about safe cycling.

      If your a bicycle commuter I hope you invest in your own safety, get educated and help with the problem. If you don’t commute by bike or even ride a bike, I understand your frustration. Most of us are drivers when we’re not riding our “clean air” devices.
      Best regards, Gary

  37. My daily travels often take me past Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College. Rather than provide for cyclists’ education, some decision maker somewhere has put in a parallel paved surface, encouraging the previously-wrong-way riders to ride the wrong way and more easily blow through the traffic lights.

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