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Kansas City passes anti-harassment law to protect cyclists and pedestrians

Fines and prison sentences could be imposed

Kansas City Council has approved a measure which prohibits people from intimidating cyclists and pedestrians. The ordinance covers threats, thrown objects, the swerving of a vehicle in a person’s direction and anyone found guilty of such an act could face fines or a six-month prison sentence

The move follows similar legislation in California – in Los Angeles and Berkeley. However, whereas in those two cities harassment of cyclists is a civil offence, in Kansas City it is a crime. The move was felt necessary following testimony from joggers, cyclists, those in wheelchairs and others. Speaking to, councilman John Sharp summarised what he’d heard.

“Swerving their car at them, or coming right beside them and blaring their horn, or throwing something at them, or if it’s someone who’s visually impaired throwing something at their service animal… I mean there’s been some really bad stuff happen.”

In Sharp’s words, the aim is ‘to get people to realise that cyclists have the same rights to use the streets as motorists’.

A recent Australian study blamed hostile media coverage for increased harassment of cyclists with a 2009 TV sketch and a 2012 road rage incident involving ex-cricketer Shane Warne highlighted as being examples of this. The research also found that more than 90 per cent of near-collisions between cyclists and vehicles were the fault of the driver involved.

The Kansas City ordinance will at least provide pedestrians and cyclists with a potential course of action should they suffer intimidation of some form. As local cyclist, Adam Orr, observes:

“I’ve always said I wish I had a rocket pack on the back of my bike to catch up to them and let them know what I thought about it, but now it’s great, you just get their licence [plate number] and turn them in.”

However, the ordinance stops short of outlawing crude comments, attempting to balance protection of cyclists with the right to free speech. Or, as city attorney Bill Geary told the council at one discussion of the ordinance:

“We’re not going to pass any law that unjerkifies someone who wants to be a jerk. Yelling crude things at people is part of living in America.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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WolfieSmith | 9 years ago

Bad syntax though. I thought he actually meant someone visually impaired had been throwing stuff at their service animal..

kitkat | 9 years ago

word of the day: unjerkifie
So many good things in this article

Das | 9 years ago

In Sharp’s words, the aim is ‘to get people to realise that cyclists have the same rights to use the streets as motorists’


jacknorell | 9 years ago

There already are laws covering this, but the new statute will make it a separate and easily prosecutable criminal act.

Else you need to fit it into 'assault' for example, and then convince a jury that the charge fits the action: Now it clearly does.

Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago

Amazing that there wasn't a law before... presumably that's partly why deaths on US roads are at four times the rate of the UK...

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