Three years ago, a popular and well-known member of Chattanooga’s cycling community was buzzed by a driver who claims he never saw the cyclist, even though the cyclist was, according to friends, “lit up like a Christmas tree,” and was riding with “an obnoxiously bright blinking red light on the back of his bike when he was hit.”
The cyclist, David Meek, was sideswiped by the passing truck and thrown under the rear wheels. He suffered severe injuries, and was taken to a local hospital. He did not survive, succumbing to his injuries.
Although the driver had sideswiped Meek, and although a 3 foot safe passing law had already been on the books in Tennessee for nearly two years, the driver was never charged with a traffic violation. In fact, asBob detailed in False Protection, Chattanooga police seemed to be bending over backwards to invent new legal theories to exonerate the driver.
David Meek was denied justice by a police department that didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand the law. But what’s done is done. Three years have passed. Since then, more states have adopted safe passing laws, and slowly, the laws are beginning to be enforced.
Except, apparently, in Chattanooga, Tennnessee. Or more precisely, the enclave of Red Bank. Recently, a cyclist on a ride with the Chattanooga Bicycle Club was buzzed and run off the road, sustaining minor injuries. Another club member was able to get the license number of the fleeing vehicle, and the cyclist who had been run off the road called the Red Bank police to report the incident.
According to the cyclist, Gary Hooper, the Red Bank police officer who took his call “said there was nothing to be done because the car hadn’t actually touched the rider.”
Look—the law has been on the books for five years, not five minutes. That’s plenty of time for law enforcement to learn about the law. There’s simply no excuse for this kind of ignorance of the law by an officer sworn to enforce the law. No excuse.
Three years ago, we were shocked to learn that not one traffic citationhad been issued for an unsafe pass in the entire state of Tennessee in the two years that the law had already been on the books—despite clear-cut violations of the law, backed up by credible evidence. And now, three years later, we learn that Red Bank law enforcement doesn’t even know that buzzing is illegal in the State of Tennessee.
Unbelievable. Inexcusable. And unacceptable.
Join the discussion 7 Comments
The safe passing law has been on the books in every state since as long as there have been traffic laws. Obviously if you hit someone while passing you were not passing at a safe distance, and if there are no mitigating factors (e.g., vehicle being passed not showing required lighting equipment), then you are negligent.
The only answer to motorists injuring and killing bike riders (or pedestrians) is civil suit. Don’t expect anything from the government and you won’t be disappointed.
The cyclists of Red Bank need to organize themselves and inform all parents that their children are at risk because of political negligence. If they make it a political issue with votes at stake they will start to see a response. The might not succeed this time, but they will have started something that can grow. The same applies to cyclists across the USA.
It amazes me when i read things like this. I remember one time I was riding in the bike lane and almost got clipped by a driver. There needs to be more laws in place to protect bike riders.
What happens to the legal status of a bicycle when it is carried with both wheels off the ground? Does it then become a parcel and is no longer a vehicle? This is the case in the UK. Since US law is based on UK law, I am wondering if it is also the case in the USA.
That’s one question we’ve never come across! Does your question arise from a real-life incident?
@Paul Skilbeck that is some thing indeed new. I did not know about it.