SPD Says Call 911 When a Motor Vehicle Driver Acts Aggressively Towards You as a Bicycle Driver

One morning this week while riding to work at about 7:00 AM I was aggressively cut off by a car driver. I was travelling south on 5th Avenue at about 17 MPH in the right curb lane approaching the Pine Street intersection (at the south end of the monorail in Seattle) and the driver of a late model white Subaru Impreza (WA ABW 3335) aggressively merged into my travel lane forcing me to brake and move towards the curb. I slowed and honked my air horn. After she passed through the intersection she turned her head back to look and flew me the bird. The driver was a brown-haired middle-aged woman.

I moved out of the roadway onto the sidewalk and looked for paper and pen to write down the plate number and vehicle description. Somehow I didn’t have anything to write with so I memorized the plate number. I didn’t think that I should call 911, and that was my mistake.  

Later after getting to work and navigating the Seattle Police Department directory and automated phone system I talked to a human on a non-emergency line. She was very helpful and told me that I should have called 911 even though there was no physical harm or explicit verbal threat. She said if I had called immediately they would have put out a call to officers in the area and looked for the driver and vehicle, come and talked to me etc.
I am not a vindictive person, nor overly oriented towards crime and punishment but I did want to seek some recourse after being run off the road. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, go right ahead and call 911 immediately and make a report.
Keep the situational awareness up and the rubber side down. Happy urban biking!
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  1. Steve Arnhold
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    while accidents between cars and bicyclists are not new, there is definately a more aggressive driver out there today. Not only do they endanger bicylcists and pedestrians, but they also cut off other drivers, on freeways, highways and streets. While there may be many reasons for this, I suspect that 2 attitudes are at work here. First, the modern day driver, any age race etc, believes that speed limits are for idiots or everyone but themselves. As long as there is a car, cyclist or pedestrian impeding or slowing them down, many drivers will do whatever they damn well please, in a recless manner, to pass the other car, bicycle or pedestrian. The second reason for this behavior is an extension of the first reason, there are not many police or state patrol out, even less now, due to budget cuts in surrounding communities. Many drivers realize that unless there is an unmarked police car in the vicinity, they can AND often do get away with their reckless driving. While reporting to the police seems to go nowhere at times, it is still a good idea to, keep a log your self, you will get a copy of the report. With an actual report you havwe more leveredge then without. Find out where the jerk or jerkess lives; yes men AND women do this. You may even be able to picket in front of their home and let their neighbors know what kind of idiot they are, though they may know already. As long as there is a group picket on PUBLIC property and NO damage or fighting breaks out, you are within your rights to demonstrate and bring attention to them. This is better then chancing getting hit.

  2. Posted September 9, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    It's really stuff like this that makes me afraid to commute with my bike. There was a recent article in The Economist about European driving styles when nearing bikers (they usually slow down to 15 mph). If the biker were to get hit, the survival rate was above 50%, I think (I don't remember the exact figure). Going 30 mph and hitting a bicyclist will almost always kill him/her. Unfortunately, in our city and the rest of the US probably, this will never happen because we always have somewhere to be and can't take time to slow down even.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I did this recently and the cop, while being extremely helpful, basically told me that the report would go nowhere. I checked days later for the police report and it never showed up on the SPD site. *sigh*

  4. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    And when the police officer finally gets there, they will bag you not to have to file a report and then attempt to accuse you of doing something to provoke.

    Try it and see. The police are not helpful. If you have the license plate, they want the driver description and vice versa, but if you have both, then they come up with some other reason not to bother.

    I hope your results are better but mine never have been