Some people drive angry. Some people normally do not, but get angry after certain experiences. Some people never get mad while driving. As runners and bicyclists, we need to worry about the first two categories.
There are things that we can do to protect ourselves and others on the road. For example, when a car behaves badly, we need to know our rights. Some of the good NYS laws are on the CNY Triathlon Club’s website already, and you should familiarize yourself with them so that you can have a valid and legally supported conversation with anybody who thinks you do not have a right to ride on the road. But let’s face it – that opportunity is rare.
So, when the offensive driver does not stop or refuses to coherently and patiently talk to you, it is important that we get the identity of that car, including make, model, color and license plate if possible. If we can identify repeat offenders, it makes prosecuting them both criminally and civilly much easier for any future wrong-doing committed by that car.
Finally, from a safety stand point, do whatever you can to avoid being hit. I know this sounds silly, but being struck while you are riding or running in the legally correct spot still sucks. It may not be fair, but it hurts a lot less to go on to the shoulder or even a lawn to avoid being hit by a big heavy car.
We also need to make sure that we do not create the second category of driver. We must remember that our actions influence how drivers respond to other bicyclists and runners in the future. It is illegal to ride abreast with another bicyclist if a car is approaching from behind. It is illegal to ride a bicycle on any road unless you are as far to the right as practicable. It is also simply a bad idea to not stay as far right as possible, because if an accident occurs, and you were not paying attention to the laws or your responsibilities, then the blame for the accident may be shifted in whole or in part from the car to you.
But the biggest reason to behave? Angering drivers may have an effect on one of our friends or family members down the road. If you influence somebody in a vehicle so that they now are angry at bicyclists, or have decided that bicyclists are rude and inconsiderate, they may drive differently around us in the future, which could (accidentally or intentionally) result in one of us getting smooshed. My experience, after practicing personal injury law for over fifteen years, is this: Getting smooshed by a car sucks.
Finally, for those of you that missed the orientation classes about insurance, it is imperative that you review with your insurance agent all of your policies to make sure that if something bad does happen on the road while you are a bicyclist or pedestrian, that you have the appropriate coverage to take care of your medical expenses, any lost wages that you may sustain as a result of missing work, and other damages that can result from an auto accident.
If anyone has any questions about the laws, both criminal or civil, or any other legal issues relating to bicycling and running on the roadways, please feel free to call me or email me anytime and I will gladly, free of charge, spend as much time as you would like talking about how we can protect ourselves.
Ben Rabin is a Lawyer who represents those who have been involved in motorcycle, bicycle, running, ATV, Jet Ski, Auto or other accidents. Contact him at 315-448-2453 or http://www.rabinlawfirm.com/.