Posted by: kendra | May 6, 2010

Filing a Complaint Against a Driver

September 19, 2010: This case was resolved after a loooong time. This happened in April 2010, and we finally had mediation in September after several delays. Here is a news blog post about the outcome, which involved the driver having to read the relevant traffic laws and apologize.

A week or two ago, I was coming out of Twombly and taking Madison Avenue to a left turn onto Normandy, where I planned on turning left again on Washington Avenue. This is a super short ride, I make once or twice a day, and have for the last few years. The distance from Twombly to Normandy is only 1/10 of a mile.

While I was in the left turn lane, taking the lane, because it is not very wide and there is a concrete divider at the end, a driver came up behind me and laid on his horn, which totally scared the crap out of me. Anyhow, he then proceeded to pass me anyhow and when I caught up with him at the light, I had my prepared speech ready about how I am taking the lane because it is unsafe for cars to pass me there and also ready with the response that in Morristown, it is illegal for bikes to ride on the sidewalk.

This conversation actually did not go as I had planned, as the driver informed me I was crazy and it pretty much went downhill from there. I then backed up my bike, which is about 6 feet long, behind him and took a pic of his plate and filed a police report. I am certain there were no cars behind him at this point, because I would have not had room to back up my bike if there were. Eventually, as I recall, a car did stop behind me. Anyhow, light turns green, I pull over to the sidewalk near Friendly’s and called the Morristown non-emergency number and made a report.

Whew!

After having time to think about it and cool down, I am still going to file a complaint today at the Morristown Municipal Court. It was clear to me from the short conversation I had with the driver, and from comments he made later to the police, that he does not understand that bikes belong in the road. We are not holding up traffic, we are traffic.

The driver reported that I was weaving from lane to lane on Madison Avenue, which is something I, as a Savvy Cyclist graduate would be unlikely to do, and would be physically difficult to do on my bike as it takes some effort and planning to turn it.

So, in about 15 minutes, I’m dropping my complaint off at town hall. Here’s the list of what my complaints are: Careless Driving, Harrassment, and Illegal Passing.

I really just want the driver to understand that using the horn like that is unsafe, and well, uncool. This is not something I am doing lightly, and I have gone back and forth on it since this happened.

Anyhow, I do suggest whether or not you think this is smart or silly, that if a driver does something illegal and unsafe, that you put the town’s non-emergency number into your phone and report it. It turns out that they can’t keep track of things or know that there is a problem, unless we start telling them.

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Responses

  1. I hope to get back to my party girl persona by the weekend.

  2. My court date is in June.

  3. Sucky situation. But go for it!
    I know that crap can bring ya down. I had an old lady yell at me for taking the lane. She called me loser like 8 times and lots of other mean stuff. I was really mean to her back but it still sucked. I felt terrible.
    You could probably use your savvy cyclist course to your advantage in court no?

  4. That’s so crazy! Where was that at? I don’t think I was especially mean to this guy, I really just wanted to give him my standard speech. I have never had anyone hold their horn down for so long, and I haven’t run into a road ragey person in a year or so.

    I don’t know what will happen in court, you or your lawyer has to present you side and then the judge just makes the decision. I will bring my stellar biking resume with me. The traffic counts are in the morning, and the harassment charge is in the afternoon.

  5. Last fall, Washington & Western waiting at the light, lady behind me thought I should’nt be there….layed on the horn. She was yelling out her window at me, it was really hard to hear, but I told her to please call the cops if she had a problem….she was yelling, told her I really could’nt hear her, she gave me the finger, I gave it back. We actually shared the road nicely for a stretch then she got gas down the road and I wanted to talk to her…. she said she thought I was crazy, bikes cant go as fast as cars on the highway, I said the speed llimit is like 25 here, whats your deal? she told me I was a loser and get out of here. Told her ‘same rights and responsibilities as a car’ schpiel . Kept on looking directly into my eyes and calling me loser, get a car. I told her my car is nicer than her hyundai, I told her to go home and take a bubble bath cause she seemed to be having a bad day, I think I told her to eat shit too. I left, she passed me agian further up 24, I think I blew her a kiss.
    I felt really bad afterwards, for a long time.

    I know there are alot of cyclist attorneys into cycling law… dunno if you could find any to offer advice, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some websites around?

    What exactly did your road ragey guy say to you?

  6. The best thing to do in most cases is ignore the PO’d drivers and proceed safely. You’re never going to educate some schmuck in a 4500lb SUV or car while riding. Sorry, but it won’t happen and the results could be deadly. The incident could easily escalate into an assault or a fatality.

  7. This week I received notice that the driver has also filed a complaint against me, and I received 3 tickets. We both go to the court at the same time on June 10. Here’s my 3 tickets:

    39:4-127. Backing or turning in street
    No vehicle shall back or make a turn in a street, if by so doing it interferes with other vehicles, but shall go around a block or to a street sufficiently wide to turn in without backing.

    Failure to Keep Right
    39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 Operating Regulations.
    Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right roadside as practicable exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. A bicyclist may move left under any of the following conditions: 1) To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket; 2) To avoid debris, drains, or other hazardous conditions on the right; 3) To pass a slower moving vehicle; 4) To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; 5) To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file. Every person riding a bicycle shall ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic.

    Careless Driving
    39:4-97. Careless driving
    39:4-97. A person who drives a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.

  8. I picked up a copy of the driver’s affidavit, and he states that I was impaired or drunk and weaving all over the road, causing cars to veer off onto the shoulder.

    I also was yelling something about bikers rights.

    I am trying to work out how cars were veering off. Was I passing them and just weaving into them? or were they trying to pass a drunk biker and then veering?

    I actually hope that if anyone sees me riding my bike at noon and I’m really drunk, that they call the police and maybe get an intervention going.

  9. It is also sort of true that there is no shoulder on this section of Madison Avenue.

  10. […] posted this before, but I don’t care, it cracks me up.  Anyhow, I picked up a copy of the complaint against me today, and in it the driver says I was yelling about biker rights, and this is what I kept thinking about […]

  11. Dealing with drivers who are hostile and antagonistic are extremely hard to communicate with. I think it is doubly hard in such in-yer-face places and cultures such as Jersey (as a NJ native and former resident, now in Portland, Oregon).

    I think it is a good strategy to tell them to call the police.

  12. FYI – The Morristown police non-emergency number is 973-538-2200 for those of you who want to follow Kendra’s advice and add it to your phone contacts. I just did. Happy riding tonight..ZOMBIES.

  13. My son is21 and just had an accident. The woman ran a red light and hit his car in the front side,pushed him into the car next to him and didn’t get a ticket. This was on a highway. I bought this car for $6,300 about 4 yrs. ago and the ladys car insurance it was $10,000 in damage. It WAS a good car. Thank goodness he is okay. I took him to the hospital for the bump on his head. The lady said she THOUGHT it was yellow. Tomorrow we are going to file a complaint against her. WE WILL take her to court if needed. Now my husband and i had to get him another car while his destoryed car is still in the driveway til we find out what we need to do.


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