Day’s Verse:
But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!
Romans 1:18-19 (context)

Pink Rear FenderTo the man driving the silver Ford Ranger with license plate no. B341437E (or F),

On Monday, you pulled up behind me on S. Dearborn near 5th Ave and honked repeatedly at me as I rode in the driving lane. I waved you back, but you kept tooting your horn at me anyway. When we pulled up next to each other on 4th Ave, you waggled your finger at me in a “naughty, naughty” gesture. I shook my head and indicated I belonged where I was. That spurred you to roll your window down and tell me emphatically — although not rudely, which I appreciate — that I was legally obligated to ride in the bike lane. I politely replied that I was allowed to ride anywhere in the road. We repeated that exchange a couple times, clearly not communicating effectively, and then the light mercifully turned green.

Imagine my feelings when, today, you pulled up behind me in the same place and we proceeded to enact exactly same scenario we’d just played out on Monday, sans the conversation. This time I think I memorized your license plate number correctly, but I’m sure that I’ll see you again just in case I didn’t.

Now, sir, I know you think you know the law. However, I’d like to point you to RCW 46.04.670, which states, “‘Vehicle’ includes every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles.” Additionally, please refer to RCW 46.61.755, which states,

(1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in RCW 46.61.750 through 46.61.780 and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

In fact, I encourage you to check out all the laws relating to bicycling in Washington State so you know when cyclists really are breaking the law. I fully accept that bicycles must follow the same laws as other vehicles on the road (RCW 46.61.750), and I think you’ll agree that when you honked at me, I was riding perfectly legally straight down a road.

About that honking thing. In Washington, according to RCW 46.37.380,

(1) Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than two hundred feet, but no horn or other warning device may emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle. The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway. (emphasis mine)

This law clearly says that you should only honk “to insure safe operation,” and in this instance, nobody was in danger. Now, it’s true that you’re not in imminent danger of getting a ticket for honking at me, but common courtesy would suggest that driving along behind me while tooting your horn just is not polite.

Sir, before you honk at me again, please know the law. I have the right to operate my bicycle as a vehicle on any part of the road, as long as I follow all the applicable vehicular laws. You, on the other hand, are not allowed to honk at me unless I jeopardize your safety — which, I think we’ll both agree, would be difficult while I’m on a bicycle and you’re in a one-ton mass of metal.

Thank you for not honking at me in the future.

Sincerely,
That bicyclist with the yellow helmet and red bike that you’ve wrongly honked at twice this week

One thought on “Open Letter to Honking Motorist

  1. Well written article and worthy of publishing anywhere. I am much less ‘generous’ in my approach sometimes to the honking motorists. There is one piece of the RCW, however, that you fail to mention in your writing that, as a fellow cyclist, I try to be acutely aware of, as it is one of the pieces that we cyclists often tend to forget:

    RCW 46.61.770
    Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.

    (1) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.

    (2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

    As a daily commuting cyclists, I am faced every day with both positive and negative encounters with operators of various forms of motor vehicles. We’re all learning together in our society, and I like how you tried to help educate this person. Hopefully, it will not be a recurring problem. If it is, SPD can be enlisted as it is also illegal to harrass and intimidate with the use of an automobile.

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