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Columbia Missourian

Today's Question: City Council passes bicycle harrassment ordinance

By Jim Holt
June 16, 2009 | 2:58 p.m. CDT

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.


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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?