Columbia considers cyclist harassment ordinance

Friday, June 12, 2009 | 4:09 p.m. CDT; updated 9:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 7, 2009

COLUMBIA — Gail Ludwig, an MU assistant professor of geography, prides herself on being a very careful cyclist. She knows the hand signal she needs to do to when she makes a left-hand turn. She uses cycling as her main method of commuting. And while she doesn't have too many "horror stories," she's had some experiences on her bike she wishes had never happened.

"I try to minimize the opportunity that might occur to have  problems with both pedestrians and with automobiles," Ludwig said.

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Bill 151-09, which would make it a misdemeanor to harass bicyclists, is on the agenda for the Columbia City Council. The council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in its chambers at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway. The bill is the sixth item under Old Business on the agenda.

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Ludwig was riding her bike home and was getting ready to turn left on Garth Avenue, an already narrow street, when  she made the left-hand turning signal, but as she went to turn a car tried to pass her from behind.

"I couldn’t stop, so I darted across, and when I looked back the driver flipped me the bird," Ludwig said. "It was really, really close. I almost got really nailed badly."

That's the sort of episode that some members of the Columbia City Council hope to prevent by passing an ordinance making harassment of bicyclists a Class A misdemeanor. The ordinance is up for a vote during the council's regular meeting on Monday night. It's based on the language of a state law recently passed in South Carolina.

"This is catching on around the country," Robert Johnson of the PedNet Coalition in Columbia said. "South Carolina and Colorado both have passed state laws, but since it's much harder to pass things on a state level, we're starting locally, especially since Columbia is already bike friendly."

PedNet worked with Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and the city attorney's office to draft and perfect the ordinance.

The ordinance is intended to tackle issues that have been hard for officers and bicyclists to work out. It specifically addresses actions that put bicyclists in danger but also would prohibit using a horn or any other means that are "frightening or disturbing" to a bicyclist.

Johnson has had cyclists talk to him about harassment, and he said he's seen it firsthand during PedNet cycling classes.

"We're always looking for ways to encourage and help people use active forms of transportation," Johnson said. "We teach a class called Confident City Cycling, and I would say in 14 out of 16 classes we've had a motorist honk or scream or curse at our students."

The ordinance has been in the works for about three months, Johnson said.

"The city attorney wrote a proposed ordinance, which really didn't deal with the issues as much as I would have wanted," Johnson said. "So I met with the city prosecutor, Barbara Hoppe, the city attorney, and we tweaked the ordinance."

Hoppe also hopes the ordinance will educate people about how to coexist on the roads.

"It will educate those bicyclists and motorists regarding the law by having it clearly add bicyclists," Hoppe said. "Our goal is to educate, and if we never have to use the law because people observe and obey it, then that would be great."

Jessie Haden, spokeswoman for the Columbia Police Department, said that though police get few complaints from bicyclists, PedNet has legitimate concerns, and the department is taking them seriously. Hoppe said that's good.


"We’re looking at it from both sides," Hoppe said. "A car threatening a bicyclist has a much more dire outcome than a bicyclist threatening a car and we have to cover that in particular."

If the council passes the ordinance Monday, Haden said police will begin working with the Municipal Court to determine how to enforce it.

Johnson hopes the ordinance will pass and that change will begin immediately.

"We hope to pass the ordinance this summer and then incorporate it in the police department training in the fall," Johnson said.


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Charles Dudley Jr June 12, 2009 | 8:31 p.m.

What about the cyclists harassing motorists by not obeying all of the traffic laws?

(Report Comment)
Greg Collins June 13, 2009 | 8:08 a.m.

Instead of worrying about their little feelings, perhaps you should be asking "why" people are honking. So, how about licensing these two wheel wonders with a plate so we drivers to report the frequent egregious and often stupid behavior by a minority of cyclists?

(Report Comment)
John M. Nowell, III June 13, 2009 | 9:17 a.m.

Passing a new city reg. is fine and dandy, but it won't be enforcable until we have more police to witness the event and issue tickets. Just another knee-jerk reaction to placate the public. Barbara, there are laws against robbery in Columbia, but it still happens almost every day.

(Report Comment)
Bob Smith June 13, 2009 | 10:40 a.m.

This law is ridiculous. It's basically unenforceable. And I still don't see anywhere where they'll ticket or do anything to force bicylist to obey the laws of the road. I enjoy biking and am general liberal and an environmentalist, and supported Ms. Hoppe in the last election, but this is the end of that support.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 11:30 a.m.

Bicycles are the nuisance, distraction and obstacle on any road were there is a 20+mph speed limit.
We need bikes to have separate bicycle paths, apart from automobiles.
Slow moving bicycles are seasonal toys of exercise and an optional mode of transportation for a very small number of adults.
We should not be making life more punishable for those who are actually using new technology, invented by Henry Ford and not quaint old Schwinn two-wheeler foot powered slow moving helmet wearing pedal pushers.
(The mayor made a big mistake trying to make this town bicycle-friendly. He should have gone equestrian.)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 13, 2009 | 12:15 p.m.

To the PedNut who was wearing the neon green shirt,traveling West on Rogers,had one red pack on the left rear side of his bike and turned onto Tenth Street learn how to signal fool!

Just because you are in a turn lane does not give you the excuse not to use proper hand/turn signals!

(Report Comment)
james vincent June 13, 2009 | 12:57 p.m.

It never ceases to amaze me that seemingly normal intelligent people become basically testosterone challenged redneck bigots when it comes to sharing the road with a bicycle. Seriously, you come across like the Grand Wizard of the KKK from a half a century ago with your holier than thou feeble minded enviro racism. They're bicycles, not alien spaceships. Would it kill you to give them 3 feet, because it can kill them if you don't.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 1:01 p.m.

Perfect example of the arrogance, nuisance and aggressiveness caused by not having bicycles as "off-the road" toys. (Bicycles do not improve the quality of life for motorists.)
15 minutes ago hairy white dude, backpack, helmet, thirty-something years old riding precariously northbound on slow moving car traffic along Rangeline between Biz loop 70 and Vandiver haphazardly passing cars on the right, pedaling continuously across three supposed full stop red lights, with no consideration of any one but himself.
Pednuts can be very narcissistic and self absorbed. They should not be mixing with cars.
25 million dollars of federal taxpayers money is being wasted in Columbia.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 2:39 p.m.

@james vincent:
("...redneck bigots...")
I don't think so.
(" come across like the Grand Wizard of the KKK...")
Big difference.
("...holier than thou feeble minded enviro racism....")
You want to take your life into your own hands by riding with the "big boys" go ahead. My insurance company will pay for your hospital bills. You'll be the one physically hurting. Don't get in my way or pop out of no where, "tree-hugger."
("They're bicycles, not alien spaceships...)
They're road hazards which weave in and out of traffic, slow me down and get in my way. Dam it, I'm a motorist, not a social worker, Jim.
("...Would it kill you to give them 3 feet, because it can kill them if you don't....")
You can have 3 feet. Just don't take it away from me...
Nothing for nothing, the few who take their lives into their own hands by trying to "mix" with automobiles will find that all the attempted ordinances and attempts to change the car driving public will blow up in their faces as motorists become more vocal about speaking about what's really on their minds.
Personally, I have more respect for people on horses, (including the Amish), then the bicycle cutting me off, running red lights and passing me on the right.
I also think that if a road is "under construction or unfinished" that bicycles should be totally banned from attempting to "get through" that roadway and ride through neighborhood streets instead.
I am beginning to care less and less about the safety of the pedaler.
You yokels should have included the Automobile Club of America in your plans to take over the road before forcing yourselves on mainstream motorists.
Fa GetAbout its, Pedutz, Ms. Hoppe and Mr. Mayor: Your PR stinks on ice.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 13, 2009 | 2:40 p.m.

>>> 25 million dollars of federal taxpayers money is being wasted in Columbia <<<

The entire point of every protest I have read so far about this entire project in a nut shell and unfortunately is presented to this community in a PedNutShell.

You cannot hide Pork by painting bike tattoos on the streets because it is still Pork.

Maybe somebody who can create a Pig Stencil out of Metal could create one and then begin to post them randomly around Columbia's roadways right next to the bike tattoos.

Like this one:

That would be sweet justice because I would bet the person would use a higher quality paint too that does not fade away in 3 months time and have to be redone.

Don't get me wrong I like bikes as much as anybody but it is true that this $25 Mill is totally being wasted.

(Report Comment)
dog gone June 13, 2009 | 2:45 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 3:18 p.m.

@dog gone:
I've never been identified by name on KOMU TV so you must know me personally.
Next time we cross paths, ask me for a catheter bag so that you don't soil your carpet again.
I'm glad you're such a fan.
Have you ever been on Pepper and Friends?
And by the way, last time I counted, it's two chins.
Cow manure, I'm not too sure about.
Got anything else to throw at me?
Also, thanks for trying to make my opinions into a personal matter.
Do you have training wheels on your bike?

(Report Comment)
Steve McLuckie June 13, 2009 | 3:22 p.m.

I'm a car driver and a biker and look forward to the day when the volume on this discussion is turned down. When I am driving I give bicyclists plenty of room and am ready to react if they do something stupid. I do that because I am driving a two ton auto that could kill or maim the biker for life. Making a stupid move on a bike should not result in the death penalty!

When I am biking I follow traffic laws. I am amazed at the behavior of a few drivers, at how my mere presence seems to anger them. Four-way stops seem to be a particular problem. Luckily, most drivers are courteous and considerate. If fact, the vast majority of people in Columbia are nice people.

Perhaps it would help us all to remember that the bicyclist or driver who is getting on our nerves is someone's child, sibling or parent and that the small amount of time lost in passing them is nothing compared to what could happen if the two vehicles collided.

Thanks for sharing the road.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 4:25 p.m.

("we're starting locally, especially since Columbia is already bike friendly.")
Bike-friendly? More like car-unfriendly. (Nothing like declaring your town as bike friendly when it's coming from the mayor and his son-in-law's mouths.) How many grown men in Columbia are actual full-time regular cross town bicycle commuters anyway? (Let's keep children and transient students out of these figures, please.)
I view any town which is trying to force people to think and behave in a certain way when bicycles interfere with motorists or jump curbs and sidewalks and then cut in front of you, slow you down or surprise a motorist by suddenly passing that car on the right is just plain wrong. (Don't try to legislate the way you want people to think!)
Why the sudden volume? Because 22 million in federal tax money is being spent on two-wheelers. You pednuts all ready had an infrastructure. It's called the ground. We also have had, for decades, signs posted on poles alongside of roads stating "bicycle path." Didn't need bicycle logo tattoos plastered all over town.
(When do I get automobile insignias painted on the road to remind me that I'm allowed to have my car there? Or at least decently painted lines, sans pot holes. How about some well-timed traffic lights, or are you just going to "snag" people as they go through quick changing lights to avoid rear-end collisions?)
Pass an ordinance which forbids me from flipping you the bird? I'll gladly pay the fine and then make sure you're voted out of office. My candidate will rescind that ordinance and address some real priorities and concerns.
(You'll be finding me on under finger flipping. That can be motorist's new "gang" sign as we hang tough...)

(Report Comment)
james vincent June 13, 2009 | 9:23 p.m.

Oh Ray, poor poor Ray, thanks for proving my point and also my theory that the phallically challenged are proportionally more prone to road rage. Sadly, in your extreme case even a teenie weenie bicycle is a violent threat to your neonazi manhood. Hiel Hitler Ray, kill the cyclists!

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand June 13, 2009 | 9:24 p.m.

"Would it kill you to give them 3 feet, because it can kill them if you don't."

Yes, in the case of the two idiots riding side-by-side on Rock Quarry Road this afternoon. Giving them three feet puts me in the other lane. They should know better than to ride on roads like that.

And yes, I ride my bike all the time. I also have enough sense to know where not to ride.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2009 | 9:46 p.m.

You can go salute yourself.
Good post...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 14, 2009 | 5:20 a.m.

"Would it kill you to give them 3 feet, because it can kill them if you don't."

Yes it would because of like Ayn Rand stated and the two PedNutz that were riding side by side down College Ave. yesterday too.

SpendAboutColumbia is a joke when it comes to educating the cyclists in this city.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 14, 2009 | 6:39 a.m.

College Avenue is four lane down it's entire length. In that case, you would pass them like any other slower moving vehicle.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 14, 2009 | 9:52 a.m.

Mark not if it is quite busy as it was at that time with alot of traffic not wanting to wait. Riding side by side on any city street or county road should be against the law. Period.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess June 14, 2009 | 8:49 p.m.


"Riding side by side on any city street or county road should be against the law. Period."

Since you bring up law, let me give it to you directly from the Columbia Code of Ordinances, Section 14-503:

(c) Riding to right; riding abreast. Every person operating a cycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

This may be too much for you to understand, Charles, but this ordinance grants a cyclist the right to take the lane, "when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle." The lanes on College between Stadium & Business Loop are less than 10' wide, clearly too narrow for a 6.5'-7.5' auto and a bicycle rider to share safely. When bicycle riders are taking the lane, they are able to ride two abreast, in fact, it gets them along more quickly than if they were taking the lane single file.

So what, waiting a few seconds for an opening in the left lane and passing the riders is going to ruin your day? Grow up, man!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 14, 2009 | 9:30 p.m.

Todd Guess it is dangerous on our city streets that are already dangerous enough with alot of drivers cutting lanes and not signaling as it is.

We really do not need the same out of cyclists on our already dangerous city streets.

Why don't you think more of the bigger picture than off the end of your obviously pointed nose.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand June 14, 2009 | 10:10 p.m.

Todd, the law doesn't obviate the fact that it's asinine for cyclists to be on a winding, narrow, hilly road such as Rock Quarry Road. Taking the lane or not, they are jeopardizing their lives and those of drivers when taking roads such as that. How selfish and irresponsible of them.

You holier-than-thou PedNuts are making life worse for the rest of us cyclists. I can't wait for this grant to run out. Hopefully the city budget will be so tight at that point that the council won't be able to take over the funding.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess June 14, 2009 | 11:18 p.m.


There are roads I choose not to ride on because I feel they are unsafe, or are busy enough that they would be unpleasant. For years I have wanted to ride Rock Quarry from Grindstone to Stadium. The hills and twisties would be a blast, but because the traffic moves quickly around low-visibility curves, I've never done it. On the other hand, I don't live on Rock Quarry either.

You see, I don't call myself a cyclist on the basis of hopping on the MKT trail a few times a year on sunny days. Instead, I am one of the (supposedly few) non-student or transient riders in town, and what you call holier-than-thou, I call my right to choose a bicycle as a legitimate, legally-recognized form of transportation. I follow all of the traffic rules, have lights on my bicycle, leave plenty of room for cars to pass when road conditions allow, and never pass on the right or ride erratically or unpredictably. I've chosen not to ride on Rock Quarry but for someone like me who may live on Rock Quarry, I would call them unfortunate but certainly not asinine.

I believe that, all too often, the vocal minority on these boards conveniently confuses inconvenience with danger. You have to slow down and wait until it is safe to pass a cyclist now and again, and your mind immediately imagines a situation where such a maneuver could lead to an awful head-on collision. Do you ever stop and ask yourself why, if there are more-and-more cyclists on Boone County roads each year, we never hear of an accident like this occurring? Probably because, unless you are driving well above the speed limit and being inattentive, it is usually pretty easy to see and slow down for a cyclist.

Now, I won't deny you your frustration at those riders who ride in packs and seem to smugly disregard the needs of drivers to get around them on rural roads, all in the name of training for the next race, real or imagined. Nor will I defend the inconsiderate cyclists who run through every stop sign and pass every stopped car on the right. What concerns me is the tendency of bike-haters on these boards to lump all riders together and to bash organizations that are actively trying to teach Columbia cyclists to ride legally, predictably, and courteously. Worse yet, folks like you Ayn and you Dudley, who wouldn't seem to hesitate to deny a person the right to use their bicycle for transportation, condemning them instead to spending thousands of dollars per year on auto expenses, denying them valuable cardiovascular exercise, adding to the toll of damage to the roadways and pollutants in the atmosphere, all for what amounts, upon close inspection, to, perhaps, a disdain for being slowed down for a few minutes per day, or just a blanket hate for cyclists, just cause be damned, all veiled by these weak arguments of safety, tax dollars, licensing, and other ridiculous things. So, again, I say to you both, grow up.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 15, 2009 | 4:23 a.m.

Todd Guess we do not deny anybody the rights to ride. We and others want it done in a more safer manner is all. That is the difference you and others once again fail to grasp a hold of.

Typical of those like you.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand June 15, 2009 | 6:27 a.m.

There you go with the holier-than-thou attitude again: You assume that anyone who disagrees with you a) is a softie who rides only on trails or b) doesn't ride at all.

Your attitude appears to be the result of a growing nervousness that the money is running out and that enough of the public is fed up with sharrows and cyclists who arrogantly assume that stop signs don't apply to them.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess June 15, 2009 | 7:11 a.m.

I'm not nervous about the money running out, and I am personally unaffected by public opinions about the grant, with the exception of when a bike-hating bigot thinks it is okay to throw objects at me from their car or use their engine as a tool to intimidate me off of the roads (the kinds of sentiments bike-haters on these boards stir and encourage). In fact, the purpose of most of what has been built is to encourage riders who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with riding on the road to feel safer. I am an experienced rider who knows and follows road rules. I can get by fine with or without bike lanes and sharrows.

What I resent about the comments on these boards are three things:

1) If given your way; Ayn, Dudley, Shapiro, etc. You would happily let the worst riders on the road, the inconsiderate, holier-than-thou (to borrow your phrase, Ayn) stop-sign runner represent the entire cycling community. Not only is this ridiculous on the surface, but it seems to be a tool you use conveniently to justify your blanket dislike for cyclists.

2) Moving beyond the stereotyping, you all decry PedNet and GetAbout Columbia while at the same time saying things like "...we do not deny anybody the rights to ride. We and others want it done in a more safer manner is all." (Dudley) Hate to break it to you, these are the groups that are working towards that goal. They teach the classes, work with the Police Department to step up enforcement, and advocate against renegade cycling. You, by your own admission, share some of the same goals as PedNet. Dudley, you should volunteer. When it comes down to it, you really don't want what you claim because that will mean that a biker occasionally rides in the center of the lane on a narrow road or when preparing for a left turn, etc. So, ultimately, you say that you want bicycling "done in a more safe manner" but really you just want bikes out of "your" way.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess June 15, 2009 | 7:12 a.m.

Part 2 per 3K character limit

3) The argument about licensing and insurance, though repudiated countless times on these boards, continues to be your go-to when your other bike-hating tactics are exhausted. Perhaps there are a few bikers out there who don't own a car or property, buy ANYTHING at local stores, etc. but most cyclists aren't in that category. I do pay personal property taxes, buy gasoline for the car my wife and I share, and buy nearly everything I need at local businesses, and own my home. I pay for the roads of Boone County as much as anyone else. Plus, my homeowner’s policy covers my bicycle and liability when I am riding. So, I am a taxpaying, insured cyclist with a driver’s license. They are not YOUR roads, they are not MY roads, they are OUR roads and I am legally able to ride on them both on my bike and in my car.

I promise, I am just as frustrated by bad cyclists as you are, but other than complaining online, I am actually doing something about it by being out there, riding correctly, and encouraging as many riders as I can to take GAC education classes.

So, please, gripe only about the bad cyclists as opposed to the ones who are riding legally, learn the rules about when a rider may "be in your way" and understand why they are doing it (hint: it isn't to slow you down), or just admit that you hate anyone on a bike and continue on as before, like immature bigots, but if you choose the latter, be responsible enough to admit to yourself and others that you ARE being bigoted and stop trying to justify it with stereotyping, ignorance, and weak, emotional arguments about licensing and taxes.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand June 15, 2009 | 10:34 a.m.

". . . your blanket dislike for cyclists."

Huh? As I noted earlier, "I ride my bike all the time."

As for "encouraging as many riders as I can to take GAC education classes," why is attendance so thin even after you've been marketing the heck out those classes for so long?

(Report Comment)
cwh51 June 15, 2009 | 11:24 a.m.


This is from the City of Columbia Traffic Code

Section 14-494 License--Required.
No person who resides in the city shall ride or propel a cycle on any street or upon any public path set aside for the exclusive use of cycles unless such cycle has been licensed and a license or permanent stamp is attached thereto, as provided herein.
(Code 1964, § 12.1410)

(Report Comment)
Perry Taylor June 23, 2009 | 2:07 p.m.

I'm writing in reference to Mr. Shapiro's constant hate driven responses to everything from gays, to bikes, to school lunch. You seem like a very angry lonely man. You should get out and see the world and realize you're not the only person in it.
I'm not going to call you names, but I can tell you're simply not a pleasant person. I really hope I never come across you on the road when I riding. It seems like you giving me 3 feet on the road is simply too much to ask from someone who outwardly wouldn't like me simply because I'm on a bike. Adults, children and the (fit) elderly ride. There is nothing wrong or illegal about riding a bike. As a matter of fact, it's good to walk or ride. It saves gas, and is good for your cardio. But the bottom line is, you HAVE to share the road. It's the law. You don't want to be one of those law breakers (like the cyclist you seem to hate so much), do ya?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 23, 2009 | 2:59 p.m.

Perry Taylor actually you should get to know ray shapiro and listen to what he has to say. He is highly educated in alot of the areas he talks about which might actually help you to realize alot if not most everything he has to post on these local boards is just good old fashioned grass roots points of view and common sense.

Why does common sense such a lacking factor here in some parts of the Midwest?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 23, 2009 | 5:11 p.m.

Maybe if Ray was a bit less antagonistic and relied less on odd humor and YouTube links, people would think better of him and listen to him more. As for me, I've tuned out most of the stuff he posts here and at the Tribune. How's that for common sense, Chuck?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 23, 2009 | 5:45 p.m.

>>> John Schultz June 23, 2009 | 5:11 p.m. Maybe if Ray was a bit less antagonistic and relied less on odd humor and YouTube links, people would think better of him and listen to him more. As for me, I've tuned out most of the stuff he posts here and at the Tribune. How's that for common sense, Chuck? <<<

How about John people wake up and pull their heads out of the too many local park sand boxes and really take a look around them instead of burying their heads like scared Ostriches do or stop following along like pitiful Sheeple.

How is that for common sense John?

(Report Comment)

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