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Cyclist videos confrontation with motorist; Deputies say rider was in the right

Posted at 9:56 AM, Jan 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-08 16:27:47-05

WARNING: Video contains graphic language

He expects the frequent honking and occasional brake check, but a Bonita Springs bicyclist who rides to work said his latest encounter with an angry motorist is the most egregious yet.

“This is by far the most severe,” said Ryan Scofield, 36. “I’ve never actually had people exit a vehicle and confront me like this.”

Scofield was riding along Trade Center Way Wednesday morning when the driver of a white pickup truck honked and sped past him. The driver slowed then stopped and exited his truck. In a video Scofield posted to his YouTube account, footage shows the man swearing at Scofield who turns his GoPro camera to capture the incident.

“You need to stay on the side of the (expletive) road, dude,” the man shouts to Scofield.

The encounter is brief. The man yells for a few seconds before Scofield tells him he’s recording the exchange. Scofield grabs the man’s license plate number before he hops back into his truck and drives off.

“That’s the kind of aggression and anger and ignorance we face out there,” Scofield said.

Cmdr. Bill McDonald with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office is looking into the video. He says Scofield was in the right and the driver of the truck committed two traffic violations.

McDonald said Scofield was in the right traveling in the middle of the lane on Trade Center Way, where this is no bike path. The driver was in the wrong when he honked and then stopped in the road.

But because those two traffic infractions weren’t observed by a deputy in person, they cannot be enforced.

There is a little known Florida statute that says along roads of “substandard width,” where there is no bike path, bicyclists can travel along the centerline. The problem is, most motorists aren’t aware of it and substandard width is not legally defined.

“The average driver believes that a bicycle should always be to the right side of the road and they do not know the exceptions and the problem with the particular exception Ryan uses,” McDonald said.

The Florida Department of Transportation says standard roadways are 14-feet wide, and that’s the most commonly used definition, McDonald said.

The road Scofield was riding on Wednesday is closer to 10-feet wide.

“Most lanes are not shareable,” Scofield said. “The roads are shareable, the lanes are not. You want to control the lane and be conspicuous so you’re factored into that driver’s decision.”

Scofield said that’s what he was doing on the two-lane road when the truck driver became upset. Rather than ride close to the right side of the road and risk getting clipped as a driver passed him, Scofield said he dominates the lane and waits for oncoming traffic to let up before giving the drivers behind him the sign that it’s safe to pass him.

Scofield has been pulled over by Collier deputies four times for that technique, which he learned during a 10-hour bicycling safety course he took in Orlando.

“Deputies think I’m in legitimate danger and or crazy, and I understand so I try to talk to them about the statutes and why I’m doing it.” Scofield said. “There are legal reasons and practical reasons.”

Video from the incidents where he’s been pulled over capture entire exchanges between Scofield and deputies who say they’re concerned for his safety and others when he rides in the middle of a lane.

Scofield has never been cited or arrested while biking. McDonald said there is an ongoing campaign at the Sheriff’s Office to inform deputies of bicyclists’ rights. He agrees that deputies who have stopped Scofield have done so in the interest of his safety and have not cited him because he is not violating any rules of the road.

Bicyclists who travel at low speeds in the road aren’t considered to be impeding traffic the way a car might at the same speed, McDonald said, because they aren’t legally defined as motor vehicles. But anyone, pedestrians included, can impede traffic if they act intentionally the way the driver of the truck did, McDonald said.

Scofield is originally from Michigan but moved to Bonita Springs in 1999. He began making the 22-mile roundtrip to his job in Naples by bike in March of 2013, when he decided to save money and lose weight with a different mode of transportation. About a year ago, he purchased two GoPro cameras, hoping to catch some of his altercations on video. One of the camera faces front and the other captures drivers behind him.

While he originally wanted to start biking for personal reasons, Scofield said he’s become somewhat of an advocate for bicyclists here and elsewhere in a society that he feels is biased against bicyclists.

“They get so angry when they see a bicyclist out on the road,” Scofield said of motorists. “It’s silly to me. I wish him and everyone would try to understand why we’re out there.”

McDonald plans to track down the truck driver and give him a call to warn him of the dangers of road rage. In one other case when Scotfield was brake-checked on video, McDonald found and called that driver and called the conversation fruitful.

“After a little conversation, the man admitted that yeah, he probably shouldn’t have done that,” McDonald said. “When something we are doing wrong is brought to our attention, we try not to do it anymore.”