What Would You Say?

Many of you have posted here or in our Forums of drivers that have accosted you in some way.  Sometimes it’s a honk.  Sometimes a yelled comment (“get on the sidewalk!”).  Sometimes, hopefully rarely, it’s something more serious than that (a verbalized threat, or using their car in a deliberately dangerous manner).

We’ve all talked about how maddening it makes us feel because mostly we can’t communicate to the driver when the situation happens.  Many times all we want to do is inform them of their misunderstanding of the rules of the road.  It’s why I carry some of Mighk’s pamphlets of  10 Things Motorists Should Know About Bicyclists with me in my bag — just in case.  But I don’t expect to be able to hand these out at each occurrence …… but!

What if we could?  What then would you want to say?

Today’s information access is amazing.   Information that was once only available in hard-copy in one location can now be digitally scanned and stored so that it can be accessed from a computer anywhere.   Social networking sites (like Facebook) now allow people to find each other across the world and across time.

So, given just a bit of information — for example a license plate # — lets say I could potentially find out the following:

  • name of person plate is registered to, and car information
  • address and phone number
  • Facebook name/site and email address

So …… for the sake of discussion, what if I could give you this information?  What would you do with it?  Would you use it?  If you would use it,  would you be anonymous or not?  Would you be angry?  Would you try to educate?

Do you have any concerns about using an approach like this?

If you could …….. What would you say?

(this is for theoretical discussion — in Florida there are privacy laws that prevent an individual from obtaining personal information, such as name/address/phone).  However, in certain situations, persons or organizations can get access.  See http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/DPPAInfo.html for more info on privacy law and who can obtain).

32 replies
  1. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Responses generally depend on the situation, but I find most motorist outbursts do usually take the form of a command.

    So I often respond with and sincere, polite “Why?” Then they have to think; which probably hurts.

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    Jerk: “Get on the Sidewalk”

    Me (in the moment): “OMG, that’s so creative! I’ve never heard that one before.”

    What would I say hours later if I could obtain the motorist’s information? Probably nothing. Trying to educate a neanderthal fails the cost-benefit analysis of time&energy vs potential penetration of a concrete skull.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    If someone uses their car in a deliberately dangerous manner and I can get the license plate, I’m stopping and calling the police right then.

  4. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    But seriously… Perhaps the most effective response I’ve used is something along the lines of: “Thanks for your concern, but I have over 30 years of cycling experience and I know what I’m doing.”

    Two out of the three times I used that the drivers responded with a variation on, “Oh, OK.” The third time the kid, who couldn’t have been older than 25, said “Yeah, well I’ve got over 30 years of experience driving this car.” No doubt he was mentally kicking himself in the pants for the next 15 minutes.

  5. rodney
    rodney says:


    I’m with you. I have already had to stop and call the cops three times. If the bag of Doritos thrown at me had not been opened, I would have enjoyed them and not called the cops for my last incident.

    Unfortunately, the adrenaline from having an object thrown at you caused me to forget the tag number by the time I reached my phone.

    OCSD was about five minutes away. At least their response time and the response was a good thing!

  6. john
    john says:

    Have contacted the police with the license plate # after a speeding SUV ran me and my sons off a four lane neighborhood road. When the police got involved a few minutes later, two stories emerged. Ours and the driver who claimed he felt that he was under attack by my sons (ages 9 & 11) and had to defend himself. The police explained that it was a “he said/she said” situation and therefore nothing would be done.

    My sons were flabbergasted with the reality that comes with these cycling experiences. I asked to have the Chief contact me which was promised by the officer. Further emails and communications have yet to produce a response. Drivers quickly learn that aggressive behavior, whether verbal or physically, pays large dividends.

  7. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    Nothing at all, particularly if we’re in motion. I think two moving vehicles trying to talk are more dangerious than just saying nothing and concentrating on riding well.

    If stopped, I like the simplicity of Mighk’s “Why?”, and would like to try it. In my experience, however, people are way less likely to say or shout something when you have any hope of replying.

  8. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    I was very impressed by a fellow cyclist some years ago when a jackass passed a small group we were riding with (a Freewheelers ride). We were on a 4-lane road in MetroWest on a Sunday morning with of course very light traffic. We were riding two-abreast. A guy in a Corvette came ripping by us and passed within a few feet as he came back into our lane. There was no other traffic around. He pulled into a convenience story lot and we joined him. The Moron had the balls to call OPD, who showed up promptly. He was complaining that we were “all over the road,” while we explained that we were in a tight, double paceline in a single lane. The cop seemed frustrated by the “he said/they said” situation until one of our guys — a doctor — said, with calm authority: “This man’s actions were clearly provocative.”

    The cop thanked us and sent us on our way while he continued his talk with the motorist.

  9. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Such a strange coincidence to have this topic arise. Yesterday’s ride brought to light something right in line with this subject:


    Given the opportunity to discuss actions of a driver or passenger, as in the case of the video above, I would first wish to have a cool-down period for myself.

    I have chased down a driver who passed me on the right, dangerously close, to pull into a shopping center, while laying on the horn, which started a half-block before the right-turn lane opened up.

    She was no more coherent than I was, with varying reasons for blowing the horn and passing me too closely. After following her into the parking lot and up and down three aisles, I shouted and she shouted and no good was done.

    In the future, I will photograph the tag and the driver, if possible and call the police. I have to hope it’s not in Port Orange, since they probably have a bad taste from my dismissed citations.

    I do like the “educate them” option, but only when I’ve cooled off.

  10. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Some of you are answering “in the moment” — what I want to know is would you do anything after-the-fact. Given that you could communicate with this person after the event — via phone, via mail, via email or internet, anonomously or not. Maybe, like Fred said, after you had cooled down.

    I don’t have an answer. My first thought was depending on the situation, if it was a “goose” I’d simply want to send them (regular mail) the “10 Things”. What I don’t know is if I would include a note like “you honked at me — maybe you didn’t know I was right where I was supposed to be – legally”.

    Just food for thought …….

  11. Ed W
    Ed W says:

    I’ve done a couple of things that seem to confuse belligerent motorists. I wave at them with a big smile on my face, using all five fingers – for emphasis. Honestly, it does confound them and it keeps my own blood pressure low. Why should I escalate and get angry right along with them? Anger shortens our lifespans. Don’t indulge in it.

    Also, I’ve shouted back, “No hablo Ingles!” I should learn some phrases in French, Italian, and German too.

  12. Eric
    Eric says:

    “Have contacted the police”

    Waste of time. Really. Unless one is right there watching the assault happen, nothing will happen.

    If a coke bottle puts you in the hospital, and you can somehow (in your addled state of mind) remember the tag number, they might express interest until the driver claims he wasn’t driving at that time and you can’t prove he was.

  13. Eric
    Eric says:

    “Coke bottles will have fingerprints on them.”

    You would have to check yourself out of the hospital to retrieve it. Then who’s to say somebody else didn’t handle it before you got there.

    Have you ever heard of any case where a cyclist calling the cops and complaining of motorist assault resulting in an arrest?

    Me, either.

  14. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    My Iphone has a voice recorder app, which comes in very handy when I need to record a license plate number for future reference.

  15. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Thanks, Lisa, I just got an iPhone and the thought of using the voice recorder for that purpose had not occurred to me. It’s a lot simpler than trying to write stuff down. Now I actually have a reason to USE that app…

  16. danc
    danc says:

    Re: Eric
    “Waste of time. Really. Unless one is right there watching the assault happen, nothing will happen.”

    I disagree, law enforcement must take information that you attest (usually written statement). A “harasser” will not be cited, arrested unless an officer has witnessed the event but if reports accumulate then the law enforcement has the effect of “constructive notice”. If you and I hypothetically also encounter fred_dot_u youtube celebrity this gives documentation, probable cause that an officer needs to speak with mr/ms dim crayon. Information about any events also documents law enforment “inaction” if mr/ms dim crayon has pattern of harassing.

    Try this Colorado approach: “Hotline OK’d for Bicyclists to Report Aggressive Drivers State Patrol’s “Star CSP” Cracks Down on Unsafe Drivers

    Hotline is not just for cyclists but any road users motorists, motorcyclists, trucks, etc.

  17. danc
    danc says:

    Re: john
    “I asked to have the Chief contact me which was promised by the officer.”

    Review the local bike laws and then snail mail letter to the Chief directly and request a written reply. I got a phone call three days later from the Deputy Commander (Major) asking for more details about the event. In my situation a Road Deputy verbally warned me twice I not not operating the vehicle far right as practicable and delaying traffic. After the Major spoke with the Deputy I received a written letter assuring me the officer warning was out of “concerned I be stuck” and did not intend to ticket. The Major agree better training of bicycle laws was needed by all officers.

  18. Keri
    Keri says:

    Dan, Thanks for posting the Bicycle Colorado link. I had forgotten about that. I’d love to see something like it here.

    Take note of Dan’s last sentence:
    Hotline is not just for cyclists but any road users motorists, motorcyclists, trucks, etc.

    This is REALLY important. We have to address the problems of incivility from a broad platform. Any time this is done as a cyclist-specific campaign, it devolves into the same bullshit backlash about “they’re scofflaws” and “they don’t pay taxes.” Besides, incivility DOES impact all road users.

  19. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Eric asked:

    “Have you ever heard of any case where a cyclist calling the cops and complaining of motorist assault resulting in an arrest?”

    Kevin’s answer:
    Yes. Which is probably why it doesn’t happen so often here. Drivers know that they’re going to jail.

    I posted here a while back about the speeding driver that was arrested on-the-spot for dangerous driving and jailed until he made bail. Upon conviction, he’s looking at up to five years in jail.

    Whenever I am the victim of violent and illegal behaviour I always (OK, almost always) immediately call the police. And they always follow up. See:


  20. Eric
    Eric says:

    “if reports accumulate then the law enforcement has the effect of “constructive notice”.”

    I have never heard or read anything anywhere of that having any effect. What I have heard from a friend of mine was after he called the FHP, and he hung around for an hour (because all the FHP officers were working wrecks) the patrolman was at first sympathetic, then became less so when my friend wanted a report filed.

    Also, I read just the other day of a historically reckless driver getting 2/3 of the max for DUI Manslaughter because he had amassed a stack of tickets, but none criminal until this one.


  21. tbm
    tbm says:

    once again, a very good post with interesting comments…

    I’ve had a few incidents, some that I thought I handled well (me being witty and using humor to defuse the situation) and others that I’m not too proud of because of how they went down (my anger got the best of me). I think the one that will forever stick in my mind is the incident I had this past January with a couple of paramedics. I was traveling south on Orange, just past Gore st. We all know how busy this stretch of road can be, especially in the afternoon. Not only did I have to deal with a lot of traffic but I also had to contend with parked cars off to the right. As I’m just passing Columbia and Orange, an ambulance comes within inches of my handle bars and as it passed, a female paramedic yells the ever so ever clever “get off the road”. Now usually ignore that kind of stuff but this one really kind of got to me because they where paramedics. Annoyed to no end about this, I decided to follow them to the hospital and once they parked I confronted them. The conversation went a bit like this:

    me: you do know you have to give me 3 feet when you pass?

    paramedic 1: excuse me?

    me: Florida law states when you pass a cyclist, you need to give them 3 feet. You guys came within inches of hitting me.

    paramedic 2 (driver): I had no room to move over, you should be on the sidewalk on busy streets like that.

    me: Really? Let me ask you, what’s the hurry? Why didn’t you wait a few seconds to pass me when you could move over? Are you just that reckless? What gives you the right to put my life in danger like that?

    paramedic 1: do you have a point? we’re busy

    me: the point is you, especially as paramedics, should be aware of this statue. Your big ass ambulance just almost hit me because you couldn’t wait a few minutes to pass. Once again, what gives you this right to put my life in danger like this?

    paramedic 1: you where all over the road, I saw you cut vehicles off. I’m tired of you guys acting like you own the road (this was a blatant lie as I know for a fact I had not cut anyone off during my entire ride)

    me: so because you harbor this prejudice against cyclists you think you can put my life in danger like that? Are you not in the business of saving lives? Or do you just pick and choose?

    at this point the conversation deteriorated and we are now shouting at each other. Their entire train of thought was that since I’m on a bike (which they obviously considered a toy) I should get off the road and mind my place on the sidewalk. By now I was so feed up with their arrogance that I asked for their names so I could contact their supervisor…

    paramedic 2: I don’t have to give you shit! Leave or we’re calling the cops.

    me: fuck you, whats your name? I know who you work for and I am damn sure going to call you two menaces in.

    paramedic 1: You need to leave, this is an emergency area. I can have you arrested for being here.

    me: go ahead and call the cops, I’m sure they would love to hear how you almost put my life in danger and broke the law.

    at this point hospital security comes over, and they start accusing me of harassing them. I try to explain to the security officer my side of the story and that I’m requesting a police officer on scene. Of course the security guard takes their side and threatens to call the cops and charge me with trespassing if I don’t leave. I insist that they call the cops and I continue to demand the names of the two paramedics. Cops show up, tell me it’s their word vs mine and there’s not much they can do about it. Either way I’m going to have to leave as this is the emergency room entrance to the hospital. I ride away pissed off wondering just how many other cyclist they intimidate just because they are paramedics…

    Now if I could have gotten the above information, I would have followed up on it and made a formal complaint with the company they work for. My point would have been that they, as PARAMEDICS, should not be creating situations with their emergency vehicles that could potentially hurt someone. This was not an emergency situation and there was no need for what they did. The fact the one paramedic flat out lied to make it look like I was at fault is indicative of their mentality (we are authority, we are always right). They haphazardly put my life in danger and trust me, I would have followed this through if I would have gotten that info. What would have resulted of this I can only speculate…

  22. Keri
    Keri says:

    tbm’s story makes me wonder if paramedic trucks have ID numbers on them. If so, that should be all you need to ID the occupants.

    Their belief that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road indicates a need for targeted education.

    Their willingness to endanger another person because of prejudice is astounding.

  23. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Re: the ambulance drivers: In the rare cases I’ve been treated that way by anyone in a company vehicle, I simply note the company name and/or phone number and contact the company (instead of trying to communicate to the driver). If I get a fair response from the company representative I leave it there. If not, I’d send a letter to the company president and copy the relevant law enforcement agency. Losing a CDL or other professional driving privilege is a big deal, and having one’s company seen in a bad light is, too.

  24. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Sometimes the company contact doesn’t amount to much, but I agree that it’s a better way to deal with this sort of problem.


    The video above is a good example of poor lane positioning by yours truly. This was prior to my education and increased safety.

    In two separate passes, this commercial driver, a parts delivery driver for Daytona Toyota, passed me in an unsafe manner. I was able to find the vehicle at his delivery stop shortly after the first pass, but took only the business name and phone number with me.

    I called the business, using my bluetooth phone inside the bike, parts of which can be heard in the second portion of the video. When I hung up after asking to speak with the parts manager, the driver made his second pass.

    I created a disk with the video file and attempted to deliver it to the manager, but he was out. I left the disk and my card, but never heard back.

    Lane positioning works much better for me now!

    On another note, when I espy a commercial vehicle with a taillight out, I do my best to inform the driver of this potential citation. It’s usually well received and might go some distance to improving things for me and perhaps for other cyclists.

  25. tbm
    tbm says:

    Mighk, thanks for the advice. This is originally what I wanted to do but I got side tracked arguing with them. Moving forward I’ll just get the id of the ambulance and contact the company directly. I admit I got emotional about it but a lot of it was due to seeing these paramedics put my life in danger like that. The real kick to the groin was when they decided to just flat out lie about my behavior in order to rationalize their own…

    Kerri: might I also suggest some classes for OPD as well. Just this past Wednesday I was reprimanded by an OPD officer for taking the lane in preparation of making a left turn. The best thing is he never stopped and talked to me, he just drove by and said over the loud speaker “stay in the bike lane”. Am I now expected to make a left on to another street from a bike lane? I always thought different…

  26. tbm
    tbm says:

    who would I report it to and what information would I have to give? I know I sound cynical but I just don’t see it helping much…

  27. Ed W
    Ed W says:

    Maybe some of you remember this incident last year involving Dr. Christopher Thompson. http://tinyurl.com/pz6ckz He swerved in front of two cyclists descending an mountain road, then braked hard. They hit his car and one was in the hospital as a result. The good Dr. Thompson claimed it was all their fault, and he probably would have walked away if two other cyclists hadn’t previously reported a similar incident involving Thompson.

    Make the report, even if it seems pointless. Insist on a report even if the responding officer doesn’t want to do it.

  28. Lyndy
    Lyndy says:

    At one parking lot crash, one person was very irate that I wasn’t going to arrest the other driver for not showing an insurance card (I HAVE NO arrest powers as a civilian officer and that is only a ticketable offense on the road!!!). He was very rude, pushy, demanding, threatening so I called for a sworn officer to stand by while I explained the crash report to this person. He kept asking for my name – it was not on the report – private property crashes folks self report to the state. (we’re required to provide our name and I did at the end as requested) NOTE: He would have been the at fault driver not the other one and he could not see how he was wrong, but it didn’t matter – private property crash.

    Anyway, he kept saying I have your car number I have your car number – I kept thinking, that’s nice – my patrol car is in the shop – this is a shared vehicle!!!!

    Ambulances, patrol cars, wreckers, firetrucks, all have vehicle numbers displayed on them. Make sure you note the day/time/location too – in case it is a loaner vehicle.

    Also, remember they’re human too. One day I told someone something wrong and felt bad – I looked for them the rest of my shift to apologize and didn’t find them. I did see them three days later and went up to them and told them, you know – I made a mistake the other day and this is the correct info – one word in their question made a difference and I had missed that one word initially, but after thinking it over realized it.

    And one other comment, about 10 years ago, I was buzzed by a LYNX bus so I called with the bus and route number, time and location. I checked back about a month later and learned they had done some training with all the drivers. So I guess it can make a difference depending on how you present the info and who you reach when you call – keep emotions out of the call and deal with facts, safety, improvement, working together on a solution.

  29. JohnB
    JohnB says:

    Agreed that the best solution is keep your cool at the time and do something calm and official later, either a police report if a private vehicle or a phone call to the company if commercial. Even if you don’t get the vehicle ID or license, you can tell the fleet manager where and when the incident occurred, and if they care, they can probably figure out which driver that would have been.

    That said, I have two “in the moment” incidents to relate, although I realize I’ve already answered Andrew’s actual question. I *finally* got a chance a few weeks ago to use the smart-ass sidewalk answer I learned from BikeForums years ago. (I don’t actually get that comment too often! My commute is mostly on inter-urban roads without sidewalks.)

    Motorist, passing me (actually his passenger): Get on the sidewalk!
    Me: The side WHAT?
    Passenger: Side WALK!
    Me: But I’m not walking!!

    Someone there once also suggested: “Can’t. Clowns will eat me.” 🙂

    Than said, Rantwick is right that it’s a little distracting. I found myself wobbling a bit as I yelled, and lost track of which intersection I was approaching and got in the left lane too soon, so had to alter my route slightly.

    On a slightly more philosophical note, I once found myself unintentionally in a shouting match with a pedestrian. It *was* mostly my fault, but for his part, he wouldn’t accept my apology and seemed to want to believe that I and other cyclists didn’t care a whit about pedestrians and just wanted to run him over. It made me think about how quick to anger many cyclists are to motorists, but the shoe was on the other foot this time.

    The situation was that it was a dark night in January or so, I was heading up one side of a bridge over an interstate, with a headwind, so I had my head slightly down and was concentrating on my pedaling. Suddenly about 10 feet in front of me I finally saw a pedestrian, with a head-mounted light but dark clothing. Not knowing if there was traffic about to pass me, I didn’t want to swerve, so I simply stopped. I thought his light *was* a bit hard to see, especially since it moves around when his head move, but then, I realize I wasn’t looking very closely, not expecting to encounter a pedestrian in that situation. Kind of like motorists don’t expect to see a bicycle. However, that bridge only has a sidewalk on one side, the other, and I think it was snow-covered at that point anyway, so I can’t blame him too much either. He didn’t have much choice, and at least we was correctly walking against traffic. It underscored to me how easy it can be for the other person to truly be caught off guard, and for the victim to jump to conclusions about intent as opposed to simply bad judgment.

    It would also have been helpful if I had been further out in the lane at the time. These days I usually control the lane at that point in the road, but I didn’t so much back then, putting him and me on more of a collision path on the side.

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