When she’s not representing injured cyclists or riding her bike, Hottman educates law-enforcement personnel on state and local bike laws. “I observed a lot of misunderstandings in police reports and investigations, so I started reaching out to police departments,” Hottman says. “Now some of them have me in every year.” Here are her best tips for handling roadside conflict.
1. When you’re facing an angry or reckless driver, avoid escalating the situation, even if that means riding away. Don’t give the finger or curse. You’re dancing with someone driving a multiton vehicle who may have a weapon.
2. It’s hard to believe, but cops hear riders say things like, “I’m a pro cyclist, so I don’t have to stop at stop signs,” or encounter cyclists who refuse to give their names. But this is your chance to be an ambassador for cycling—be as respectful and polite as you can.
3. Even if you think the police officer is wrong, accept a ticket if you’re handed one. You should fight the citation in court if you think it was unwarranted, but having that confrontation on the side of the road is never a good idea.
4. If you’re sideswiped by a car, and the state you’re riding in has a three-foot-passing law (most do), that means the driver broke the law. But it’s not always cited as a violation in investigations and police reports. Make sure that detail is included: If you didn’t get a chance to give a statement at the crash site, call the officer as soon as you can and file a supplemental statement.
5. Let’s say you appear fine at the scene, and the police officer notes that no injuries are visible—but then it turns out you’ve broken a bone. Contact the police department and let the officer know the extent of your injuries, because it can elevate the penalties carried by the charges.
6. When it comes to cyclist-and-driver altercations, law enforcement is not the enemy. Most of them don’t see us that way. A lot of officers have told me, they really want us to get home safe. They aren’t anti-cyclist. They aren’t pro-car. They are anti-‘people in their community getting hurt.’