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Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Cyclist and the Pennsylvania Castle

May 2, 2017 11m
May 5, 2017 41m

May mtd: 52 ytd: 491

The cyclist was wearing a helmet when his head struck the pavement.

There's kind of a contretemps in Pittsburgh politics, with a year-old video of a cyclist on the North Side getting honked at, then getting into a brief argument with, a City Councillor who's a candidate for Mayor. She drove away, and the cyclist gave vigorous chase, catching the Councillor at the next red light and re-engaging.

I know the cyclist, and he's a good person and an experienced bike commuter.

I've done that, chased down a driver and re-engaged them. Lately I'm thinking: you should never chase down a driver to argue with them. You should never chase anybody via any mode to argue with them, because: what if you catch them? How does that end well?

How does that end well when they have a legal firearm, a concealed weapon permit, and the PA Castle doctrine recognizes cars and vehicles as areas where lethal force is authorized if you feel threatened for serious injury?

A story in three parts: The Cyclist and the Castle, (2 roles, 1 Male 1 Female)

Part One: The Initial Exchange. The Cyclist is taking the lane on a street with one lane in each direction. There's no bike lane on the side. There's no generous shoulder. There's a slight incline.

The Driver is late for a downtown public meeting. They're listening to a few voice messages while they're driving in. Traffic is backing up. The sun is bright on the dirty front window, and the Driver is squinting into the glare.

The car ahead turns off the road, and now the Driver is following the Cyclist. Just one lane. No chance of crossing the yellow lines to pass, because there's continual opposite-direction traffic. Hit the brakes. Honk at the cyclist. Lose track of which message I'm listening to. Honk again. No way they're going to be even almost on-time for the meeting.

Coming up to a stop sign. The Cyclist shouts, What's your problem? The Driver shouts, Stay in the damn bike lanes, that's what they're for! The light turns green, the Driver passes the Cyclist. The Driver moves much faster, and in a second is out of range. Event One is over.

Part Two: The Pursuit. The Cyclist is emotionally dissatisfied at the state of affairs. He takes off, intent on catching the Driver. For five blocks, the video shows the Cyclist striving mightily. His Strava recording shows that he crossed the five blocks much faster today than he usually does.

The Driver is stopped, third in a queue of six cars at a red light. She's got the phone out, sorting through emails. She's texted her staff that she'll be late.

The Narrator speaks from the wings. Analysis will conclude that at this moment, the first exchange has been concluded, the actors have been well separated, nobody is at risk, and the Cyclist has gone to great effort (as documented by the heart rate monitor) to pursue and catch up to the Driver. This sets the stage for The Second Event.

Part Three: The Second Event The Cyclist squeeks to a stop right next to the Driver's open passenger window. Over-exerted, spittle flies from his mouth as he shouts into the open car window. He intends to have another word with the Driver.

The Driver is startled at the shouting, turns to see the Cyclist with neck veins popping and chest heaving at her open window, and fears for her safety. She is trapped, boxed in by other cars. She reaches for her concealed-carry pistol and shoots the cyclist twice in the chest (fortunately, not striking his chest-mounted video camera). Blown back by the impact, the cyclist falls to the cement.

Media coverage will include the phrase, The cyclist was wearing a helmet when his head struck the pavement. The Driver will tell the police, "I was afraid for my life". The Prosecutor will find no reason to file charges.

I just don't think it's safe or prudent for a cyclist to chase a driver to argue. I've done it in the past, but I've stopped doing it.



The reader may care to read the PA Law on Castle Doctrine, more recently known as Stand Your Ground:

  • "Vehicle." A conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is designed to transport people or property.
  • Read the Law. Keep an look out for the phrase "occupied vehicle", which is construed to be part of the Driver's Castle.


Tuesday May 2, I rode around downtown to two meetings. Got to hang out in Gasoline Street Coffee for a while.

Saturday May7, I escorted a couple from New Mexico from their downtown hotel out on the GAP to Boston, PA. Living in the desert, they were really impressed at all the springtime greenery along the trail.



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