A Prince George’s County sheriff’s deputy tried to deliberately run a friend of mine off the road. The friend was riding his bicycle on Route 1 in Hyattsville. Here are excerpts from his story.
The second car. Photos by the bicyclist.
On September 16, 2014 at 9:53 am on my way from Northeast DC to Proteus Bicycles in College Park to pay a repair bill, I was harassed by a Prince George’s sheriff’s deputy along Route 1.
This roadway is signed, as you enter Mount Rainer, “Bicyclists may take full lane.” This is marked all the way past the University of Maryland to near the 495 overpass. I’m sitting at the light where the Northwest Branch Trail crosses Route 1, just after North Brentwood going into Hyattsville. There is a sign just before and after the light.
As I’m making my way through the intersection I hear a horn blow. Normally, I just keep pedaling, but I looked back. It is a PG County car, the brown and white one in the photo. It has no lights on. I keep going. There is no traffic in the left lane.
The horn blows two more times. I yell, “learn the law.” Then, the officer comes on the speaker: “Move over to the far right.” I turn and respond back, “No, I’m obeying the law.” Next, the officer overtakes me by zooming into the left lane, cuts in front of me, and slams on the brakes. I luckily did not have my luggage gear on the bike, as I would not have been able to swerve to avoid crashing into the sheriff’s car.
The car driven by the deputy who tried to run the cyclist off the road.
He jumps out yelling that I need to obey the laws of the road by moving over. I explained to him this roadway is signed and I am operating my vehicle within the legal law. He tells me different. I explain to him he is in the wrong and his action of cutting a bicyclist off in the manner he did was more dangerous. I also said that WABA makes a cheat sheet law book. He tells me, “this is Maryland.”
This is all happening with me in the left lane, him and then his cruiser occupying the right lane. He ask for identification. I go to move from the roadway, and he grabs the bike and myself and tosses me around the car onto the grass. I’m then pulled from the bike, both hands placed behind, and he is rummaging within my pockets. The entire time, I’m reciting the law and current events about police publicity.
The officer is black, as am I.
Then a second cop shows up, the blue and white car. But he sides with his co-worker. He kept telling me to lower my voice. The other officer returns after not finding me in the system. His response: “Well, I didn’t see the sign.”
I say, “Seriously, these aren’t new signs.” Then he hops in the cruiser and makes a U-turn. I take the two photos and go to the local police station and am given the runaround. I went twice. Finally someone tells me if I want to make a complaint I needed to go all the way to Upper Marlboro. I received a follow-up call from internal affairs, but it was only focused on the aggression and not the lack of education.
This is simple to explain: another selfish motorist, but this one is a cop and figures he can brandish authority to mask his obviously ill-placed “road rage.”
I have been black a long time, and it takes tons to surprise me. This was just ridiculous.
This is on the same road and not far from where a retired DC police officer sideswiped cyclist Evan Wilder in 2011, which Wilder captured on video.
Drivers, whether they are police or not, do not have a right to honk and try to bully bikes out of a lane. Cyclists have to ride on this stretch to connect from the Northwest Branch Trail to the Hyattsville Trolley Trail. It really needs a marked bike lane or, better yet, a cycletrack, especially because it appears even some of the police think it’s a crime to ride on the road.
There’s plenty of surplus asphalt for a two-way cycletrack on the east (northbound) side, with room for one wide northbound lane and left turn storage lanes. The road narrows to one lane anyway after the courthouse, so it won’t create a bottleneck. Or if the State Highway Administration and county can’t figure that out, at least they could put some sharrows on the road as a temporary patch for cyclists.
Maryland law does not require cyclists to ride in the extreme right part of the lane so drivers can try to squeeze past. We need much better education for police officers if some still think the law allows them to force bikes off the road into an unsafe line in the gutter or into the curb.
I asked the Prince George’s County sheriff’s department for a comment, but did not hear back. We will update this article if we get a response.