Monday, March 03 2008 @ 09:52 AM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
Jason Bultman was pedaling his bicycle up 500 East in Salt Lake City in November when a red pickup zoomed up beside him and a hand swiped across his back.
Startled, the all-seasons bicycle commuter feared he was so close to the truck that it would send him sprawling. Instead the truck veered away, the passenger withdrew inside and Bultman took down the license number for what would become the first reported prosecution of Utah's 2005 law requiring motorists, in most situations, to give cyclists a 3-foot buffer.
Police followed up with the driver and Salt Lake City prosecutors confirmed they filed charges under the 3-foot rule, adopted by the Utah Legislature in response to the 2004 death of University of Utah graduate student Josie Johnson. She died after being hit while cycling in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
"It's kind of interesting that you can actually prosecute someone for violating the 3-foot law," Bultman said. "[People] were saying it's unenforceable."
City prosecutor Sim Gill said his office filed the charge against a George Richard Young, 46, but attempts to find him and serve a summons for an arraignment earlier this month failed. The city will try again before issuing an arrest warrant, he said.
Attempts by The Salt Lake Tribune to reach Young at his last reported address were unsuccessful.
"Just because you happen to be in a motor vehicle doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to operate in a way that respects everybody's rights to be in the roadway, including bicyclists," Gill said.
The charge is a misdemeanor with up to a possible $750 fine and 90 days in jail, though Gill said there's no minimum mandatory fine and the courts are untested on these matters.
Bultman said authorities gave him several options to charge the passenger, including assault. Instead, he opted for the 3-foot rule, figuring it was the driver who had endangered him by swerving too near.
"I was well off into the shoulder and was all of the sudden brushed," Bultman said. "The guy was hanging out the passenger-side window of the truck. I don't know how the mirror missed me."
If the driver and passenger taunted Bultman in the way he described, they chose the wrong cyclist. Not only was he aware of the new law, but he is president of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective. ...