harass a cyclist, go to jail

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bd
Participant
#

Any laws like this in the works in PA? extra penalties I mean, I know the passing zone thing was getting pushed.

From Sierra Magazine

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201003/nocar.aspx

<from article>

Harass a Cyclist, Go to Jail

“This is gonna hurt,” I thought. I was running an errand on my bike when a Subaru Outback burst into view. It caught me broadside, slamming square into my right side. I rolled over the hood, smashed the windshield with my back, and fell to the pavement. A surge of adrenaline masked the pain–at first. Soon I was in the emergency room being treated for bone contusions and a huge bloody gash on my shin.

I was lucky. In 2008, more than 700 bicyclists were killed and 52,000 injured in crashes with motor vehicles. A Harris Poll shows that half of U.S. adult cyclists would pedal to work or school if they felt it were safe–but most still feel it is not. Some local governments are trying to do their part. Last June, after cyclists testified about being run off the road or having ashtrays dumped on their heads, Columbia, Missouri, made harassment of bicyclists an offense punishable by a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.

Colorado passed a similar law, with additional penalties for throwing objects at cyclists or driving in a threatening manner. In Texas, however, where 53 cyclists were killed by cars in 2008, Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have required motorists to give bicyclists a clearance of at least three feet when passing on most highways. Perry was roundly criticized several weeks later when a truck careened into a couple on a tandem bike in San Antonio, killing both. The accident orphaned their seven-year-old daughter.

A special hazard to cyclists are motorists who talk or text on cell phones. Last November, for example, New Jersey cyclist Lisa Granert suffered broken bones and head injuries when a motorist drifted onto the shoulder while texting. Six states and the District of Columbia have outlawed driving while using a handheld cell phone, and 19 states ban texting while driving; Utah now penalizes texting drivers who kill someone as harshly as it does drunk drivers.

Beyond laws and infrastructure, one of the biggest determinants of bike safety is sheer numbers: The more people ride, the safer it is. New York City had more than double as many cyclists in 2008 as in 1998, but only half the number of injuries and fatalities. Where cycling is the norm, cyclists become visible to drivers. –Rob Story

</from article>


dwillen
Participant
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Rep. Miller has introduced a pair of House Bills aimed at cyclist safety.

The first, HB1109 would add bike-specific language to the “Recklessly Endangering Another Person” crime, a second degree misdemeanor:

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2009&sind=0&body=H&type=B&BN=1109

The second, HB1110, is as you mentioned, a safe passing law:

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2009&sind=0&body=H&type=B&BN=1110

Both have been “referred to committee” for almost a year now. I know nothing about law making beyond high school government class, but I’m guessing “the committee” is where these things might end up staying. Bummer.


salty
Participant
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I think the “harassment of cyclists” thing is stupid. There are already traffic laws and there are already laws against assault. We don’t need a new law, we just need better enforcement of existing laws. Actually penalizing people who kill cyclists or pedestrians instead of calling it an “accident” would be a good start.


brian j
Participant
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@salty: +1

If we already have a law on the books entitled “Recklessly Endangering Another Person,” how does this NOT cover cyclists already? It seems that enforcement is the issue. And if police officers don’t know the existing codes (which seems to be the case given the stories we’ve all heard/experienced) how would tacking on more laws help the situation?


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I am not a politician, but in 20 years of following politics, I have noticed that pushing for legislation on an issue is a good way to get publicity on that issue. Often they die in committee; sometimes that’s good, sometimes bad. In any event, even to get it as far as a bill and committee gives you something to work from in the future.


Mick
Participant
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Even though the existing laws would, indeed, be adequite if enforced, there are plenty of times when having an explicit law is an advantage.


brian j
Participant
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How is “Recklessly Endangering Another Person” not explicit enough? Do we lose personhood on our bikes? Certainly we may be treated that way at times, but again, if the law was actually enforced, the perps could be prosecuted.


Mick
Participant
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How is “Recklessly Endangering Another Person” not explicit enough to cover speeding, drunk driving, going through red lights, and playing with pistols?


reddan
Keymaster
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How is “Recklessly Endangering Another Person” not explicit enough to cover speeding, drunk driving, going through red lights, and playing with pistols?

None of the above necessarily involve another person. If another person _is_ involved, the charges should include both.


Mick
Participant
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I’ve been thinking (a rare and scary thing).

Legislators need to examine existing laws to see if they are working aand if they aren’t, why not. It might be possible that more laws will help. It might be possible that existing laws need changes in wording to make they are enforcible.

There are ways that the legislature can influence law enforcement. I’m not sure of the details, I’m guessing mandates to regulatory agencies and various road or law enforcement funding mechanisms.

We vote for legislators and regularly take away individual legislators’ jobs. The same can’t be said for first response law enforcement.

So basically, I guess I’m saying Stu’s right: it’s good for the legislature to consider new legislation in regard to the fact that existing laws are not solving the problem.

Mick


dwillen
Participant
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The statute is pretty vague as it stands now. Wide open for cops and prosecutors to interpret as they wish.

Rep. Miller’s bill would add:

(i)  an operator of a motor vehicle who knowingly maneuvers the vehicle to intimidate or harass a pedestrian or pedalcyclist; or (ii)  an operator or occupant of a motor vehicle who knowingly directs threatening gestures or language at a pedestrian or pedalcyclist on a highway.

Unfortunately it says ‘highway’ so I don’t know what that would mean for local roads? But if honking at you, swearing, and flipping the bird before speeding off weren’t illegal before, they would be under this bill, as I understand it.

Remember the thread from this summer? Where Ken Zvirman intentionally backed his vehicle over a bike? Threatened a cyclist with the suggestion of a weapon? According to the thread, the cops dismissed the situation as a civil matter. It would be nice to pull out the statute, show the officer some specific language, and get some action taken. Apparently peace officers aren’t adequately applying the laws as they are now.


brian j
Participant
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Reckless endangerment denotes the result of an action. See here. So, if you play with a pistol, and that puts someone in harm’s way (without injuring them), it is reckless endangerment. If you shoot and kill that person, there are more severe punishments (involuntary manslaughter to first degree murder). That seems pretty reasonable.

Dan is right–running a red light can be prosecuted with reckless endangerment if you endanger someone else. Without a law against running red lights, someone running a red light on a desolate county road at 02:00 wouldn’t be guilty of anything.


Marko82
Participant
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I’m not against new laws per se, but enforcement is the real issue. Take gun control. There are existing rules that say that felons are not allowed to posses guns. The cops catch a felon with a gun and instead of going to jail he is let out on probation. The felon then commits another crime (like shooting a cop!) and everyone screams we need more gun laws.

Maybe we do need more bike laws, but if the current motor vehicle laws are not being enforced…. I think the best solution is education of the general public and just as important the education of the police. I know a lot of professions require “continuing education” credits each year to remain in your respective profession. Maybe we should require the same thing for driving a car, riding a bicycle, or being a policeman.

How much would it cost to have everyone retake the written portion of the driving test every time they need a new photo for their license?


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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How much would it cost us NOT to?


sloaps
Participant
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Maybe we should require the same thing for driving a car, riding a bicycle, or being a policeman.

Wouldn’t that be more government? And we know how Pennsyltuckians love more government…

For me, continuing education is about $1500 a year to keep my licenses. While it’s $36 per year to leave my vehicle at home as I bike to work and $22 every four years to show ID at the Post Office and occasionally drive.

I say the insurance companies should administer periodic exams – written and driving – and reduce your rates accordingly, if you earn high marks. Of course I’d probably be the first to fail…


reddan
Keymaster
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I say the insurance companies should administer periodic exams – written and driving – and reduce your rates accordingly, if you earn high marks

Now THAT is a darn spiffy idea. Let those with a vested financial interest in you not being a dumbass, encourage you in material fashion not to be one.


Marko82
Participant
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I agree that the insurance route of enforcement/encouragment is a great idea! But I still think the State should be involved. When I moved to Texas a few decades ago I had to take the written portion of the drivers test even though I had a valid PA license. I almost failed because they asked questions like “how many DUI fatalities occured in Texas last year?”. Since I had not read the test booklet I had no idea. Having people re-tested keeps people informed of the new laws: headlights in work zones, snow removed from your roof, don’t kill a bicyclist etc.


salty
Participant
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Insurance company driving exam


Question 1: You run over a cyclist and you’re pretty sure there are no witnesses. Should you:

a) stop, call an ambulance for the cyclist, call the police and give them your information.

b) get out of there! even if you get caught, nothing will happen to you, and if the guy dies it’s cheaper for us, so it’s really a “win/win”.


Kordite
Participant
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> “how many DUI fatalities occurred in Texas last year?”

I know the answer to that one: “Far too many.”


Ohiojeff
Participant
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I say the insurance companies should administer periodic exams – written and driving – and reduce your rates accordingly, if you earn high marks

Now THAT is a darn spiffy idea. Let those with a vested financial interest in you not being a dumbass, encourage you in material fashion not to be one.

I’ve had this idea for a while now that when you renew your driver’s license you should have to do more than verify your info and your organ donor status. Imagine if you had to read some statements on a computer monitor and agree to them

one at a time.

1) I agree that I have been notified that a malfunctioning traffic light is to be treated as a four way stop.

2) I agree that I have been notified that my headlights are required by state law to be on when my windshield wipers are on. (This is true)

3) I agree that I have been notified that all snow and ice must be cleared from the roof of my vehicle before I drive it. (also true)

4) I agree that I have been notified the bicycles have equal right to the road and must be given adequate space to operate at all times.

I agree that these notifications are the same as a warning and I may be cited for infraction of any of them without further warning.

The only problem is that when you start thinking of these things you can’t stop.


reddan
Keymaster
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The only problem is that when you start thinking of these things you can’t stop.

Yep, that’s the problem with being overly specific. Sadly, a nice, general rule for all road users of “don’t be a jackass” is a bit overly subject to interpretation…


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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@reddan – I thought the whole point of a PA operator’s license was the state-sponsored equivalent of the phrase “Don’t be a jackass”.

I can see one significant problem with sloaps’s suggestion: It applies to vehicle owners, not to licensed drivers. Non-vehicle-owning dumbasses would fall through the cracks. Unless we get the Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation to talk to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.


Marko82
Participant
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Wooaa two state agencies talking to each other? I think there’s a law against that.


Lyle
Participant
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@salty: +alot

Unenforced laws diminish respect for the law in general. Even the proponents of laws like this will come right out and admit that they don’t expect them to be enforced, but they want to “send a message”. I don’t think the message that actually gets delivered is the one they wanted.

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