Cyclists Get More Room To Ride, Increased Taunt Protection

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In what I personally find to be a very disturbing development, it is now illegal in Louisiana to taunt someone who is riding a bicycle.

It is also illegal in at least two states to throw something at such a person, but the ban on taunting hits me a lot closer to home.

According to USA Today, my authoritative source for all important facts (yesterday: 59% of beach-goers sit at least four feet away from others), several states have enacted laws recently that give greater protection to cyclists bicyclers velocipedists bicyclopedians people who ride bicycles.  These states include Wisconsin, Colorado, Louisiana, and everyone's favorite representation-lacking quasi-state, the District of Columbia.

Common to most of these laws is what I think is a sensible requirement that drivers give riders at least three feet of space when encountering same on the road.  While this may not be easy to enforce, it may help get drivers to pay more attention to the normally unarmored riders who often have to share the road with them.  According to the report, more than a dozen other states already have similar "three-feet-to-pass" laws.  Fair enough.

You WILL Be Taunted If Seen Riding This The new laws in Colorado and Louisiana, though, also make it illegal to throw things at bike-riders, and here is where we start getting into problems.  Personally I am constantly throwing things out of my car's windows while driving, and I don't think I should be penalized just because a bicyclarian happens to intersect one of them.  The Colorado bill would prevent that, at least, because the projection of a missile "at or against a bicyclist" must be done "knowingly."  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-116.  There is also the question, though, of what the meaning of "at" is.  According to a supporter of the legislation, it was necessary because under prior law, "police could only cite a motorist if they actually hit the rider" with the missile.  I don't think that's really true (it would still be assault, if not battery), but on the other hand, I guess it doesn't make any sense to punish for accuracy.

Louisiana's law restricts missile projection even more, making it an offense to "maliciously throw objects at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle."  La. H.B. No. 725 (creating Rev. Stat. 32:201)(horrified emphasis added).  Under that law, I could be prosecuted even if the rider was clearly well beyond my throwing range, or just in the general "direction" of my throw.  Although I also note that under either law, there is apparently no violation so long as you bank the missile off something first.

In all seriousness, and just to clarify, I am in fact opposed to any assault, let alone an actual battery, or God forbid a blow-dart attack, on anyone whether they are riding a bike or not.  I do, though, plan to continue standing up for the God-given right of Americans to taunt one another.

Likely Also Taunt-Inducing God-given and constitutionally protected, it seems to me.  If you can taunt others, but not los cyclistos, then (as long as you avoid "fighting words") shouldn't that be a content-based restriction on speech that would be subject to strict scrutiny?  Preventing injury certainly would be a "compelling governmental interest," but preventing hurt feelings is not, nor would this be narrowly tailored to achieve it even if it were.  Just to complete the circle here, I occasionally ride a bicycle myself, and am fully willing to be taunted should drivers feel so inclined.  I feel this is the price of liberty, or more specifically, the price of my continued liberty to taunt others.

Speaking of comical Louisiana statutes, here are a few others I happened across:  La. Rev. Stat § 14:37.3 (entitled "Unlawful use of a laser on a police officer"); Rev. Stat. § 14:67.5 ("Theft of crawfish; penalty"); Rev. Stat. § 14:102.10 ("Bear wrestling; penalty"); Rev. Stat. § 32.196 ("Clinging to vehicles"); and my personal favorite, Rev. Stat. § 14:312 ("Jumping from state bridge for publicity prohibited; penalty").

Link: New Orleans Times-Picayune (June 11)