The cyclist outfitted with a head cam cruised in the rain Tuesday along Selby Avenue in St. Paul. Among the vehicles passing him was a black SUV.
Failing to signal the maneuver made for a serious moving infraction in the cyclist's mind. But passing too close meant the driver may as well be the anti-Christ.
The cyclist couldn't dismount fast enough to scold the motorist about the sins of his ozone-depleting ways.
"Three feet when you pass a cyclist, sir," he said after catching up to the driver, who sat idling at a red light.
But lo and behold, this wasn't some ignorant lay commuter. The man behind the wheel was none other than St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell.
"Three feet," the cyclist chirped again. "You should know that law.… This is a narrow lane. I'm entitled to a full length."
The cyclist, Ward Rubrecht, knows his bike laws, and he doesn't mind telling you so.
Rubrecht, a City Pages contributing writer, is the self-appointed Deputy Dog of Cycling. Between his Facebook group, MPLS Bike Wrath, and YouTube videos, Rubrecht has taken it upon himself to tell the world that cyclists are people with rights and feelings too.
A bike has been his work-mobile for nine years. He started wearing a helmet cam for liability reasons, "then began recording each of what I believe is significantly illegal or dangerous behaviors [of drivers] I was seeing around me.… I wanted to show from a first-person perspective what it's like to be on a bike when somebody passes you too close and how not just scary that is, but really dangerous."
His videos go beyond showing. He chastises motorists and tells them how to do better. His lectures about law have all the subtlety of a jihadist.
"If somebody comes within a foot and a half from turning me into a meat pancake, I think you're entitled to be a little annoyed about that," Rubrecht says. "… I think there's a benefit for cyclists to be more confrontational on the road versus being treated like second-class citizens. In general, I don't think we stand up for ourselves."
After their first chat at the light, Axtell and Rubrecht met again in a parking lot beyond the intersection, where the chief provided his business card.
"… Please obey the law you're sworn to uphold," Rubrecht told him.
Call it one conversation in the helmeted crusader's larger mission.
"If we [stand up] to drivers more, I think we won't just be passive targets for bullying."
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