Today's Question: City Council passes bicycle harrassment ordinance

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | 2:58 p.m. CDT; updated 9:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Monday night, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that gives anyone who harrasses a person on a bicycle a misdemeanor charge, the sentence of which is punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.

At the meeting, advocates of the ordinance voiced their horror stories of intimidation and assault. The meeting ended with cheers from supporters.

According to the ordinance, it is now a misdemeanor to do the following: throw an object at or in the direction of a cyclist, threaten a cyclist or sound a horn with the intention to frighten or disturb, knowingly place a cyclist in the path of physical injury or knowingly engage in conduct that creates a risk of death or physical injury for a cyclist.

Jerry Wade, councilman for the Fourth Ward, said he wanted to see harassment protection extended to everyone, not just specific sets of people. The council decided to revisit the ordinance on July 20 to add protections for other non-motorists, such as joggers, walkers and wheelchair-users.

There is no problem with protecting the legitimate concerns of people who travel on bicycles, but some of the language in the ordinance is subjective. For instance, if a motorist sounds a horn at a cyclist, how does one determine if the intent was to achieve a malicious or friendly warning?

What risks do you foresee with regard to Columbia's new bicycle harassment ordinance?

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Charles Dudley Jr June 16, 2009 | 9:11 p.m.

Who is actually going to enforce this as it will be a he said they said type of thing unless everybody starts to carry mini video cams and mini audio recording software.

They should enforce more of the actual laws they have that alot of cyclists break daily in this city instead of creating new ones.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 16, 2009 | 9:29 p.m.

If someone is harassing bikers (and I don't doubt that it occurs at some frequency), then let the police call the alleged harassers up and have a chat with them. That might be all the enforcement that is needed. And bicyclists aren't the only mode of transportation breaking the law, breaking the law in this city. Car drivers are just as bad, maybe worse, than the average biker I encounter.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 17, 2009 | 5:04 a.m.

John Schultz I agree with you 100% on your post. They said only 20 cyclists showed up at that city council meeting so maybe if we stretch it we can give them credit for say 20 more if that?

This law is a total joke and if a cyclists still gets in the way of me or if I ride the City Transit System and a cyclist is slowing down the bus so it gets off schedule I'll still flip that cyclist off as we roll on by. I'll also encourage others to express their opinions as well in this way as a show of protest.

What are they going to do chase the city buses all over the city trying to find one citizen in a crown of hundreds? Good luck with that. Good luck proving it if they do not have a digi/video cam strapped to their helmet.

It is the simple case of word against word no matter how you look at it and any judge is going to want to see solid proof of the act and after seeing a bunch of these in their court room with no proof you can be assured they will just get more pissed off at City Council for enacting this stupid ordinance.

All too many times cyclists ride right in the middle of the streets directly in front of the city transit buses or paratransit vans and do not yield ever. They use no turn signals at all. Bus drivers get frustrated and then their dispatcher yells at them for being late alot. If anybody has ridden the City Buses you know the frustration these drivers face daily on this issue and others.

If you think it is frustrating to normal drivers why don't you ask some of the bus drivers or other delivery/service people in this community how annoying cyclists can be when you have schedules to keep.

How about some students from the Jschool ride the city transit system for awhile and see how cyclists act when on the road incorporating themselves around with hectic city traffic.

Sure cyclists can share the roads if they like but please just follow all of the laws for a change,have a visible license plate strapped on,wear a neon green vest and carry some form of nominal insurance in case you ruin somebody's car or truck due to your recklessness.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 17, 2009 | 8:11 a.m.

>>> 304.677. Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law to the contrary, every driver of a motor vehicle shall exercise the highest degree of care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, any person propelling a human powered vehicle, or any person operating a motorcycle, and shall give an audible signal when necessary, and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person. <<<

Well doesn't that beat all so their ordinance is not enforceable due to an already standing state statute!!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 17, 2009 | 9:27 a.m.

Too bad some car drivers are not exercising "the highest degree of care to avoid colliding with ... any person propelling a human powered vehicle" and brought about the impetus for this ordinance.

(Report Comment)
Jason Entermyer June 17, 2009 | 11:19 a.m.

If you want to make a difference instead of complain, here's your chance (but I'm not holding my breath)....

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission has four vacancies with terms to expire July 31, 2012. One member shall have knowledge of street construction and maintenance, and three shall have knowledge of bicycling, bicycle safety and/or bikeways. All must be qualified voters of the city. The Board advises the Council on issues relating to sidewalks, walkways and trails. Monthly meetings are held the third
Wednesday at 7 p.m.

(Report Comment)

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