Today’s video footage not only demonstrates a common dilemma, it also shows a motorist assault me with his vehicle, which is a felony that I’m going to report to the police.
I’ve traveled this stretch of road thousands of times, in many different lane positions. I’ve traveled it down the center, on the right side, and on the left side. I’ve had speeding motorists overtake me, dangerously, illegally, and unpredictably, crossing the center lines to pass on my left, or using the shoulder to pass on my right. It’s illegal for motorists to use the shoulder as a travel lane, or cross the solid yellow lines in the center of the roadway. That makes no difference, however, because if the space is available, then most motorists do one or the other.
The main factor that prevents this sort of dangerous overtaking is oncoming traffic, because it denies would-be illegal overtakers the opportunity to cross the center lines. The other factor is my position in the roadway, riding inside the travel lane, just left of the fog line, and avoiding the shoulder. This eliminates the threat of drive-out hazards (a frequent occurrence here) and discourages motorists from overtaking me on the shoulder. The point is that my lane position cannot prevent dangerous and illegal overtaking here, it can only influence which one it’s going to be. I choose the lane position that tends to result in the illegal straddle passing, because almost every motorist gives me plenty of room in the process.
This describes the reasoning for my lane position in today’s video. I’m avoiding the shoulder and traveling one foot inside the fog line, when I see in my mirror a line of about seven motor vehicles approaching from behind. I’m turning left at the next traffic light, which is 200 feet ahead, and also where the road divides into two lanes thereafter. There is no oncoming traffic, so I decide to let the line of cars pass before I take the lane for my left turn. As predicted, they all go for the illegal straddle pass, albeit at a safe distance.
That is, except for the very last vehicle in the line of cars. That driver decides against a safe but illegal straddle pass, and opts for a dangerous and illegal “buzz” overtake instead. The driver honks the horn. I hear the words, “Move over!” emerge from the passenger-side window. The vehicle passes within a foot of my elbow, traveling at 40 miles per hour.
(Notes: The video footage shows the side mirror on my bicycle, but not the position of my elbow. My elbow extends further out, depending on the position of my hands and how far forward I am leaning.)
Massachusetts law defines an assault as an attempt to either; (1) do bodily harm to another person by force or violence, or (2) intentionally cause fear or apprehension in another person. Note that assault does not require actual bodily harm, it requires only that someone intentionally instills a fear of bodily harm. For example, holding a fist under another person’s nose is assault, even if the fist-maker never touches the nose.
A motorist who overtakes a cyclist at high speed, honking the horn, shouting a command to move over, and passing within inches of the cyclist’s body, is trying to instill within the cyclist a fear of imminent harm. Move over. I can crush your body with my vehicle. That’s a Felony Assault. The motorist used a moving vehicle to establish the threat. That’s a Felony Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. These are serious criminal charges, which upon conviction could put an offending motorist behind bars for several years.
Massachusetts license plate 5949GT