You’re a safe, savvy rider. You follow the rules of the road. You’re friendly and communicative. You choose less-busy routes when you can, and you ride predictably. You make it easy for drivers to see you. No doubt, the vast majority of other road users you encounter will be cooperative and even outright appreciative.
You can’t change the fact that some drivers, no matter what you do, will be upset simply that you are on the road, and that other drivers simply won’t notice or acknowledge your presence. Some close passes are “punishment” passes – as close as possible without hitting you, meant to scare you off the road – and some are people simply not realizing that their car is as wide as it is, or that Nebraska does have a three-foot passing law. Some drivers will yell. Some will throw objects. Sadly, if you ride enough, you have stories about this dangerous behavior.
Earnest Ezis, a cyclist and software developer in Boulder, Colorado, had enough of these “close calls.” He noticed that when the most egregiously antagonistic drivers were caught using their cars as weapons against cyclists, they had a pattern of previous bad behavior – other cyclists would recognize the car as one that had harassed them before. He wanted a way for cyclists to share information about dangerous drivers. In 2014, he started the Close Call Database for Cycling. (Read more about Ezis’ rationale for the site here.) The site is receiving more attention after being featured on VeloNews last week.
Membership in the Close Call Database is free, and users can either create an account or log in with Strava. Registered members receive alerts when an incident is reported within 60 miles of their location. Names and other identifying information for cyclists who report incidents are kept private, but the reports are made available to local law enforcement. The more cyclists in an area who serve as “eyes and ears” for other cyclists, the better the site works.
There is safety in numbers: The more Lincolnites who ride bikes, the more drivers will become accustomed to seeing cyclists. When you get the chance, be a friendly advocate. Explain to non-cyclists in your life why cyclists are on roads. Some skillful de-escalators calmly address drivers who yell at them. (Key word: Calmly.) But by no means should you feel that you should do this. A driver in a rage is not in the best mental state, at that moment, to be educated, and they may even be dangerous. When you encounter hostile behavior on the roads, the safest bet is not to engage at all. Do try to note everything you can about the situation: the location, a license plate number, make/model of the vehicle, any identifying characteristics of the vehicle or driver. When you get home, you may choose to report it to the Close Call Database, and/or the police. If we create a record of “close calls,” it can help other cyclists and law enforcement become aware of patterns of cyclist harassment.
Want to join? Sign up for the Close Call Database here.