I have been involved in incidents with people in cars (incidents of the “hit you with my car/almost hit you with my car” variety) four times that have occurred directly in front of police officers. Twice in Cambridge, and twice in Boston.
Here they are in order of “best” to “fuck the police”
Lets start with the best one. I was riding down Hampshire street in Cambridge, and a man in his car tried to force me off the road so that he could make an illegal turn. I was in the bike lane, and there was heavy traffic. There was a cop car on the side of the road, I tapped on the glass, told the officers what happened, they assured me they would take care of it. They walked over and started talking to the guy, told him to be careful, and said the he could have hurt someone. That was all I wanted, them to give him a verbal warning, make it understood that bikes have a legal right to use the road (and the god damn bike lane) and that he needs to be more careful. The officers were polite, took my story at face value, and responded in a measured and swift way. Thank you officers, you made me feel safe, and you informed an asshole motorist that they needed to be more careful.
Next up was the time I got hit by a car in Harvard square. The man in his car had run the red light, and when he saw me he panicked, and hit the gas instead of the brake. His car went from 3mph to about 20mph in the space of ten feet and rabbit punched the front of my bicycle. I was thrown from my bike and landed on my hands and knees, breaking both wrists at the same time. This incident occurred in front of not one, but 4 Cambridge police officers. Not one of which who was actually looking at the intersection. The report showed that not one officer had witnessed the incident…the incident that happened 5 feet in front of their faces. My bike was totaled, and my hands hurt for months. This could have been a coincident, they might have all been really interested in a birdy, or perhaps it was just bad luck. I didn’t think it was some sort of conspiracy, I was just really mad that police set to watch the intersection, were not watching the intersection.
Are you fucking kidding me?!
This incident occurred today. I was riding though Chinatown when a man in a silver prius changed lanes without looking (I was right next to him at the time). I managed to avoid him, but he then proceeded to drive at me aggressively while honking and swearing. His logic went something like this “You need to be more careful because I nearly killed you when I changed lanes without looking to see if any vehicle was next to me, and now I am going to try to hit you with my car while honking at you to reenforce that point.” I of course found his logic to be lacking. Lucky for me there was a cop right on the corner…not only had the officer failed to notice the symphony of honking (he was talking to a construction worker), his reaction was less than helpful. When I approached him I said “excuse my officer, that man in the silver prius just tried to run me over, and is now honking and swearing at me, while trying to hit me with his car.”
His response was “you gonna file a report, you gonna go to court? I aint gonna do the work unless you are serious about going to court.” It was clear he didn’t want to issue a ticket, talk to the driver, or in anyway do anything. I continued in vain to explain to him that “that guy, RIGHT THERE” just tried to kill me, and that he should do something about it. He continued to make it clear that “fuck you kid, you are not hurt I aint doing shit.” Those words were not used, but the sentiment was clear. He continued to stonewall me until the driver had driven off and I could no longer figure out what car he was in.
At no point did he ask if I was hurt, what the driver looked like, or any details about the incident. He was just very clear that unless I was “ready to go to court” I shouldn’t bother him.
Fuck the police!
This incident happened in the middle of the night. I was returning to my home (in Dorchester at the time), and was nearly run over by a guy in a black BMW. I was wearing a helmet, reflective strips on my bag, lights on my bike, and was riding to the right in a straight line. The man in the BMW not only tried to run me over, but after nearly missing me continued to swerve dangerously while honking. It was clearly a road rage type thing where he was pissed I was “in his way” even though we were the only two vehicles on the street, and he had not one but two lanes free next to me. Eventually his aggressive driving became such that at a red light I feared he would actually strike me with his car, I pulled my u-lock out of my pocket and readied myself for battle. It was at this point that the cop in the car on the corner (who had been watching the entire incident), decided to get out of his car and make his presence known. He informed me that he would charge me with assault, that I was to give him my license, and that the driver was free to go. He told me he had seen the entire thing, and that I had acted irresponsibly by riding my bike in the street at such a late hour. When I tried to explain myself, he informed me that if I said another word he would arrest me. He also informed me that unless I “showed him more respect” he would arrest me. I was forced to “Yes Sir” him for the remainder of the interrogation. Basically he would say “Have you been drinking” and I would say “No sir.” Etc etc. I was let go with no action taken against me, the driver was never questioned.
These four incidents have led me to several conclusions The cops in Cambridge have much better training for how to deal with cyclist related issues than the cops in Boston do. Cops posted at construction zones are not effective, and are almost never actually watching the traffic. Many cops seem to care less about the “little” problems. This last one is probably the most detrimental. Because these incidents were not murders, and because “no one was hurt” the cops seemed to think it wasn’t important.
All I wanted was for the police to tell the motorist “You are not allowed to threaten cyclists.” That’s it! No ticket, no arrest, simply a verbal warning from a person in a position of power. Instead I am met with stone wall “not my job” attitudes, or threats against me for daring to protect myself from speeding piles of metal, piloted by possibly drunk and belligerent assholes.
This post is not to say that all officers are horrible, in fact the officers in the first two incidents did their best to help. But its clear that training could be better, and that some officers are shirking their duty, or are heavily biased against cyclists. These sort of attitudes change over time, and in light of recent fatal incidents I think its once again time to reexamine the types of training (if any) that police officers are given for how they interact with cyclists.
If you are an officer and you are reading this here are some suggestions:
- Take cyclists seriously
- Talk to both parties
- Most drivers have no idea how dangerous they are behaving
- Pay attention to the traffic, not the big dirt moving machines
- Most of the time warnings are sufficient, most cyclists just want you to remind drivers to be careful
- People rely on you to protect them, don’t forget why you took this job
Tags: cops, serve and protect
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker | 9 Comments »