Thursday, November 20, 2008

FABB meets with Fairfax County Police

Master Police Officer Beth Benham attended last nights FABB meeting. She gave an overview of bicycle crash stats over the last couple of years and fielded many sometimes heated questions about the lack of enforcement of motor vehicle traffic violations. We also discussed what constitutes harassment of cyclists. Many of us have been yelled at, honked at, had things thrown at us, been passed too close (less than 2 feet), and otherwise bullied by motorists.

These are all illegal behaviors and can and should be reported to the police. There are two ways to report them. You can call 703-691-2131 as soon as possible after the incident occurs to report it. Or it can be reported on the Aggressive Driver report form. If reported by calling the police, you must be prepared to file charges and appear in court to testify against the offender. If reported on the Aggressive Driver form, and the information matches vehicle records (license number and description of vehicle), a letter is sent to the motorist.

We also discussed pedestrian and bicycle safety enforcement campaigns, arguing that some of us feel that cyclists are often targeted for not coming to a complete stop and putting a food down at a stop sign, while motorists roll through stop signs or turn right on red and are not ticketed. The intersection in the county where the most bicycle crashes have occurred recently is Wiehle Ave and Sunset Hills Road in Reston. Motorists regularly turn right on red without hesitating. Here's a recent video clip taken at that intersection showing cars turning right on red. Officer Benham said that police are supposed to enforce all violations, not just those against bicyclists and pedestrians. However, when the campaigns are conducted by the bicycle police, it's hard to see how moving violations against motorists can be enforced.

We hope the meeting was the beginning of a dialog between FABB and the police. I think we can work together to educate motorists and cyclists (and the police) on our shared responsibilities.

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