I live in Berkeley, CA, and I often bike to the nearest grocery store along a designated "bicycle boulevard". The street is mostly residential. I try to keep as near to the sidewalk as is safe without risking getting hit by an unexpected car door opening, and I try to bike as quickly as I can. Furthermore, the road is not very busy.

Still, I have had all manner of threats and obscenities shouted at me by drivers and front-seat passengers of cars, including:

You piece of s***! I should knock you off your f***ing bike!

Hey, a*****e, why don't you do us all a favor and go kill yourself?

Sometimes it's racial slurs (that don't match my race):

You fata** n*****! The road is for cars!

Other drivers have seen fit to drive as close to me as possible, revving their engines or exaggeratedly going around me at ~10mph above the speed limit (in a school zone no less!). One chose to follow me most of the way home, screaming obscenities out the window the whole way.

Are any of these people breaking any laws? Could it be that I am in the wrong? The frequency of these behaviors have made the simple 5-minute bike ride to the grocery store highly stressful. Can I work with the local police / government somehow to make this street safer?

  • 2
    One thought I had was to attach a GoPro to my bike to record my trips, but I'm not sure what the laws are regarding recording in a public space. May 31, 2018 at 20:31
  • 3
    I would get the camera if I were you.
    – phoog
    May 31, 2018 at 20:33
  • bicycles.se might be of interest.
    – user4460
    May 31, 2018 at 22:55
  • 3
    I figured Berkeley, CA would be bicycle friendly. You cannot do much about the words but the camera is evidence if you are hit. You could post real idiots to YouTube. There are lots on YouTube.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 1, 2018 at 13:37
  • 1
    @paparazzo - I figured that would be the case, too, especially on a road that is specifically prioritizes bicycle traffic. YouTube is an excellent idea. Jun 1, 2018 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


In the US, obscenities, insults, racial slurs and so on are legal, owing to the First Amendment. An actual, believable threat to maim you would not be legal, under Cal. Penal 422, but "I oughta punch you" would not be a criminal threat.

Some forms of aggressive driving constitute reckless driving, if they are driving "in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property". It is also against the law to follow too close (you must follow reasonably and prudently). Exceeding the speed limit is a violation of Veh. Code 22352, even if it's to pass a guy on a bike. Of course, we can't tell if you are obeying the law, but even if you were doing something illegal in your biking such as blowing away a stop sign, "the other guy was bad" is not a defense against a citation for illegal driving.

  • 1
    Following too close is definitely a thing. People will pull their cars up under 2-3 ft to my right to shout. This usually entails driving directly over the double-yellow line. May 31, 2018 at 21:04
  • 1
    @Alex People drive up on your right side and have to cross the yellow lines to do so? How is that possible? Are you riding on the wrong side of the road? Of so that might explain part of your problem...
    – Matt
    Jun 1, 2018 at 3:17
  • 1
    @Matt- LEFT! :) Brain-fart Jun 1, 2018 at 5:34
  • If the cyclist used some kind of self-defense that doesn't damages health like pepper spray in case of threatening, would the cyclist break law?
    – fixerlt
    Jun 1, 2018 at 12:38
  • 1
    @fixerlt Words is not an assault. It would not be self defense.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 1, 2018 at 13:34

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