Readers and columnists have expressed alarm about the Columbia City Council's June 15 approval of the so-called "Bicyclist Harassment Ordinance." But the new law will have no affect on 99.99% of motorists.
The outlawed activities are (1) to KNOWINGLY throw an object at a cyclist or otherwise put the cyclist at risk of physical injury or death, or (2) to threaten the cyclist with voice or horn FOR THE PURPOSE OF FRIGHTENING OR DISTURBING the cyclist. Police officers understand very clearly the difference between these intentional activities and other perfectly legitimate uses of the voice or horn. True harassment, as defined by the law, is quite rare (there may only be a handful of offenders in the area), but when it happens, it is very frightening - often resulting in injury and occasionally in death.
While supporting the new law, the PedNet Coalition also supports the ticketing and prosecution of cyclists who run stop signs and red lights, ride at night without lights, ride against traffic or break other traffic laws. PedNet worked closely with the Columbia Police Department last fall to implement "Operation Share the Road" - a targeted enforcement of traffic laws on cyclists. We continue to educate and advocate for safe streets and fair enforcement of the law for all users of our transportation system.
Ian Thomas is executive director of the PedNet Coalition.