35

I'm curious to get some opinions on this from other cyclists. FYI this event took place in Ottawa, Canada.

On my work commute, there are about 3 blocks where I ride in the lane with cars because there are no bike lanes or sharrows, and I need to make a left turn in one of two left turning lanes, onto another street which also has no bike lane, and no shoulder. Details below in photo.

During that part of my commute two days ago, I stopped at a red light, in the middle of the left turn lane at the front of a line of several cars. The car behind me honked while we were still stopped, clearly wanting me to get out of his way before we'd even started moving. I stayed where I was since there was nowhere to go: another left-turning traffic lane to my left, and a straight through lane on my right that only buses can proceed through. After taking the left turn, I proceeded in the center of the lane for one block before signalling a right turn, after which I normally ride on the side of the lane because there is more space.

While I was riding the block right after the left turn, the driver who had honked at me pulled into the other lane to pass, then while passing, i.e. while right next to me, quickly swerved back about halfway into my lane, coming within about one foot of me while I was riding, then back out into his own lane. This was clearly meant as a threatening maneuver to scare me. The vehicle did not make contact with me.

I was able to memorize his license plate, make and model, and car color, and I took note of the exact time time, so I can certainly pinpoint who it was in a police report.

So I'm wondering if it's worth reporting something like this to the police, or will that just be an exercise in frustration?

If anyone has any tips or suggestions on reporting something like this, I would appreciate it. (Again, this is in Canada, so any locally relevant tips would be great)

Map

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    I think its in general worth doing -- if theres a public record and someone else does it, that helps. If not, all you lose is a bit of time reporting it. – Batman Apr 20 '17 at 13:07
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    @Batman Agreed, and done. Took about 10 minutes to file an online report. – SSilk Apr 20 '17 at 18:24
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    Its worth doing because you got a plate. Without that its useless and a waste of police time. Go for it. – Criggie Apr 20 '17 at 20:35
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    Incidents like this make action cams really worth a try. – bipll Apr 21 '17 at 5:22
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    Yielding to people who drive like deranged lunatics is recommended even for car drivers and is pretty much a survival skill for bicycles and pedestrians. Being alive feels better than being right. – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 21 '17 at 13:10
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I also live in Ottawa so I can provide some pertinent viewpoints. Yes, you should report it, and yes, it will probably be an exercise in frustration. Don't expect the police to do anything about it. However, you should report it anyway, it might end up in a database somewhere and give them another data point about why it's important to build more cycle lanes and increase driver education on the issue of cyclists. If they notice a trend of complaints against the same vehicle, perhaps they will be able to do something about it.

A little anecdote. I once saw a car ram into the back of another guy's car at a stop light. The driver in question fled the scene. I was able to catch the license plate as I was walking down the sidewalk at the time of the accident. Even though the police were able to find the car, and identify that indeed it matched the description and damage, they were unable to press charges for fleeing the scene because the owner of the car claimed he wasn't driving, and the police therefore didn't have enough evidence to actually issue a ticket or charge the suspected driver.

Without video evidence, there is probably little they can do to actually issue a ticket.

If you are uncomfortable making this turn because of the high amount of traffic and because of incidents like this. You can just head straight on Rideau across the intersection and then wait for the light to change and then go straight across Sussex. This will avoid a lot of traffic and won't add much extra time to your commute. You might even possibly avoid issues like this in the future. It's not great that cyclists have to ride so defensively, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Hopefully this situation won't turn you off cycling. I've found that most of the drivers in the city give quite a bit of room to cyclists, but there are always bad apples in the bunch.

One last point, if you want to ride the city without having to deal with traffic, check out the CN Cycle for CHEO. You got 2 weeks to get ready, and it's a great way to see the city and help a worthy cause.

  • Thanks for the locally-relevant reply. This won't turn me off cycling - I do 2-5,000km commuting here every year. I worry about how this would affect someone who is just getting into cycling, trying to do it "by the book" (riding in traffic when bike lanes not available). a) the incident may have been panic-inducing for a new cyclist, causing them to swerve into the curb or a light-pole, or b) it could have turned them off cycling just as they're getting into it. Your advice on crossing Rideau & Sussex separately is good although I would hate to change my cycling method because of this event. – SSilk Apr 20 '17 at 17:56
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    For anyone else with the same questions as me, I called the non-emergency Ottawa Police line and described the situation. They said to file an online report for a "traffic violation" and an officer will assess it to see if it's a traffic violation (e.g. speeding) or criminal violation (e.g. vehicular assault). The online report page can be found at ottawapolice.ca . Look for "ONLINE REPORTING". It took 10 minutes to complete. Per Kibbee's answer, even if it becomes nothing more than a datapoint in their stats, that's still useful to groups advocating for bike lanes, etc. – SSilk Apr 20 '17 at 18:01
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    @SSilk police cannot issue a citation unless they personally viewed the infraction. Sometimes this can mean viewing a video. You might consider placing a video camera on your bike. I remember a CBC segment talking about Ottawa area cyclists doing this. Perhaps if there is an "critical mass" of cameras out there drivers will think twice before committing punishment passes. – Rider_X Apr 21 '17 at 13:54
  • Without video evidence or other witnesses, the report can't possibly go beyond "statistic in a database". If the driver denies the incident, it's just your word against theirs and no action can be taken on that basis. On the other hand, multiple incidents in the same place could lead to redesign of the road, and multiple incidents involving the same driver becomes several people's independent word against one. – David Richerby Sep 24 '17 at 15:21
2

Yes, report it.

Then if at some later point (heaven forbid) he decides to hit you, or tries to scare you again and misjudges things and hits you, the police will have a prior report establishing a pattern of behavior.

-3

Yes, you should report it: Maybe the car's owner will get a nasty phone call or letter from the police. The best case is that it was somebody's kid or husband driving, and he'll loose his keys.

The police should also give you a serious talking to about the serious accidents they have seen between cars and bikes. Having nearly been killed on a bike, I won't go near traffic anymore. Not getting off the road when someone is honking and presumably angry is a good way to get wiped out of the gene pool, regardless of traffic regulations. I knew a girl from highschool who was in the bike lane on a heavy-traffic 6-lane road when someone opened a car door right in front of her. She fell and her skull was crushed by a bus, and my immediate reaction was that she was incredibly reckless to be riding there.

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    AFAIK police isn't allowed to threaten people unless they have sufficient proof, at which point they usually proceed straight to traffic tickets or court convocations. – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 21 '17 at 13:01
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    75% of this answer is off topic and subjective commentary. Consider editing to remove that part, or establish how it informs the question of whether this incident should be reported to the police or not. – Adam Davis Apr 21 '17 at 16:01
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    -1 "The best case is that it was somebody's kid or husband driving, and he'll loose his keys" – BSO rider Apr 21 '17 at 16:19

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