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I'm a daily commuter on my road bike. I commute into Manchester NH. Over the years drivers seem to have gotten better and better at passing me safely. I attribute this to the following:

  • Me learning how to influence the driver (body language, lane position, eye contact)

  • Regular commuters on my route getting used to seeing me on the road

  • Actually speaking to drivers and telling them the law. (Some people have slowed down after i shouted "3 feet" at them and I was able to tell the that NH is a 3 foot Law state

However there are still drivers that pass much too close. I typically stop immediately and call the non emergency Manchester PD line to report it. At no time have I ever been followed up on a call. Also dispatch is not interested in actually filing a police report. I feel that filing a police report is important so that the city and state actually record when crimes occur. The worst scenario is when dispatch tells me I need to ride a far right as possible rather than as far right as safe.

I could escalate with the PD but I am in no way interested in making a name for myself as someone who thinks the local PD isn't doing their job for something as 'small' as riding to close to a second class citizen cyclist.

My question (finally) is what reasonable options do I have to help educate the few problem drivers that still exist. Thoughts of small claims court for 'damages' are some things that come to my mind.

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I'm not sure that this is the best fit for our site since you're basically asking for legal advice. –  jimirings Jun 19 '13 at 2:00
Yeah, I guess you're right. I feel I've got a good grasp of all the cycling related issues. legal-questions.SE here I come. Feel free to do as you wish. –  Dave Jun 19 '13 at 2:08
if you want to educate people then go to the nearest cyclist union and sell them the idea for a marketing campaign for the 3foot rule (using the billboards and local media outlets), or spend several thousand dollars to finance the campaign yourself –  ratchet freak Jun 19 '13 at 10:19
Post a link to your question on legal-questions.SE. –  Adrian Jun 22 '13 at 16:55

4 Answers 4

I can relate to your disdain for being passed to close. Preferably, everyone would give you at least 3 feet. But as you mentioned, as more and more people ride their bikes and drivers get used to your presence and others', it will get better.

The problem with your wish is, it's kind of like prosecuting someone for stealing five cents from you. Sure, it's against the law to steal five cents from you, but no judge is going to hear the case. It's small potatoes. Too small.

You could get one of those shirts that has the 3 foot rule on the back though. http://www.3footrule.com/

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Having small change stolen from you is far less likely to result in serious injury or death than careless driving near you. I think being carelessly overtaken is legitimate grounds for concern. –  GordonM Jun 24 '13 at 22:44

The problem of drivers passing cyclists too close, while dangerous, is well below the threshold of being a serious road safety concern when considering other causes of death and injury on the road (at least in my country where drunk drivers, speeding and inattention kill 100s of people every year, vs between 0 and 2 cyclist being passed too close). All you will do if you persist in involving the PD is annoy them, they really do have much more important things to deal with...

You have no claim in civil courts. What damage have you suffered - the civil courts (rightly) cannot compensate you for something when you did not suffer a loss. You might be able to prove mental hardship, not sure I would want to go down that path.....

Criminal investigation and criminal courts - unfortunately in most countries, its that outcome, not the action itself that determines the laws response. If the outcome is a slightly miffed cyclist, usually nothing will happen. If its a dead cyclist, then the full force of law will swing into action and (in my country at least), the driver will slapped in the wrist with a wet sock.

In some countries you an bring a private criminal case - the significant sums of money involved that would make it an unreasonable response.

You ask 'what reasonable steps" and "educate problem drivers"... The only reasonable response is accept you cannot "educate" everyone and continue to "educate" drivers open to it - or stop riding your bike.

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A wet sock you say? What I wouldn't give for so robust a response from the local criminal justice system. –  Useless Jun 20 '13 at 16:01

From a legal standpoint, 3 feet laws give cyclists a legal upper hand in the cases of being rear ended or sideswiped as the driver of the motorized vehicle is by default in violation of that law. In terms of your options for restitution for someone breaking that law by buzzing you with no additional laws broken (ie you didnt get creamed by the car) there are virtually none. If you're really lucky a sympathetic cop might witness the incident and write the driver a citation, but that's about it.

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when you say "too close", what is this based on?

Is it your subjective opinion?

Or is there some distance laid down in statutes, which defines a limit? If so, do you have evidence that a driver has encroached that limit?

Don't get me wrong, I totally appreciate where you're coming from, but everything you're saying seems to be subjective, and I'm betting the only way the police will take an interest is if there is something objective to go on. From their perspective, what is the point of taking time out to investigate this when they have no chance of a successful prosecution? If you're anything like the UK, these are now the metrics on which police performance is judged.

Now, I don't want to post an unconstructive answer, so I have a suggestion. Do you wear a camera? If not, maybe you should? I have a bullet camera that is strapped to my helmet, for riding in London (UK). It carries a memory card sufficient for about 10 hours of footage, has a battery life of around 90 minutes (recharges via USB). It records HD video, not brilliantly but sufficient I reckon to stand up in court.

Obviously if you have video evidence when you are cut up, this is a lot more concrete for the police to go on. And if they are still not interested.....well there was a case in London not long ago where this happened. The guy stuck the video onto Youtube and the story then became "I have reported a crime to the police and they have refused to investigate it". And I believe the guy got somewhere with this line. So...by any means necessary.

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OP mentioned the distance of 3 feet, and even linked to the statute. –  Useless Jun 20 '13 at 16:03
thanks, I missed that, but it still a subjective call on whether the driver is within that distance. The only thing that would make it objective would be if, heaven forbid, a car actually hit the OP. (Then of course the car would have had to have been closer than three feet.) Even with a camera it would be difficult to prove 3 feet, but you might have a chance of proving dangerous driving, which is probably a more severe offence in any case. –  PeteH Jun 20 '13 at 16:29
In borderline cases a camera wouldn't be much help, but if you capture his wing mirror brushing your handlebars as he goes past it's not a massive leap to think he was less than 3 feet away. –  GordonM Jun 24 '13 at 22:49
or if he cuts across you when you have right of way.....or if he feels the need to beep at you on his way past because he feels you shouldn't be on the road.....or... –  PeteH Jun 25 '13 at 17:50

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