Tony Petros has seen a lot as a cyclist and former Newport Beach city councilman.
But he’s not likely to forget a recent Wednesday evening ride on Pacific Coast Highway by Mariner’s Mile, when a pickup truck jumped from the leftmost lane and toward his bicycle.
“Young kids started screaming (‘butt dart’) at me,” Petros said. “They kept doing it, and it wasn’t funny.”
The “butt dart” stunt — an act of pointing a finger gun, making a shooting noise and yelling at cyclists — has gained traction recently on social media. As silly as the act may seem, Orange County cyclists say it has them intimidated.
Now, a law firm is considering filing a harassment suit on behalf of several affected cyclists against Chad Towersey, the man who started it all.
The act isn’t illegal, law enforcement officials say, but cyclists are concerned that the new fad in the county’s beach communities could make an already dangerous situation worse.
From 2015 to 2016, about 200 traffic collisions resulted in cyclist injuries in Newport Beach, according to Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella. A dozen cyclists died in traffic accidents in Orange County in 2016.
“It’s getting out of hand,” said former Huntington Beach resident Javier Pedroza, 19, who was the target of a “butt dart” stunt.
Towersey said he’s actually performing the stunt, and recording it, as a way to promote safe bicycling: “Please ride safe and obey the rules of the road — That is all we ask,” he wrote in a caption for an Instagram post.
He declined to comment further.
Towersey operates the website ocinstanews, which has about 9,000 followers on Instagram. He calls himself “a home grown California kid in a grown man’s body delivering real news with real problems,” although his videos mostly document his antics.
He has been doing “butt dart” stunts at least since May, and some of his followers have joined him.
There are no state or local regulations against the act. Law requires that drivers must leave at least three feet of space as they pass cyclists, but there is no other regulation against drivers or pedestrians harassing cyclists.
California Highway Patrol officer Josh Nelson said it’s difficult to cite someone simply for yelling.
“Everyone would be arrested,” Nelson said.
But he also emphasized that the CHP’s “Share the Road” campaign highlights a need for drivers to understand that many roads are to be shared between drivers and cyclists.
Manzella, on Wednesday, said the Newport Beach Police Department has not fielded any criminal reports on “butt dart.” She also said, as far as she knows, no one has filed a complainant about the stunts.
She said it would be hard to cite or prosecute someone for the stunts.
“There are very specific violations of a law that has to take place in order for a criminal report,” she said. “There are a lot of acts that may fall short of that.”
Manzella urged those who witness or are targets of the stunts to call the police nonetheless.
“We can send officers to intervene before it escalates,” she said.
But regardless of the legalities, the act is upsetting many cyclists.
In Pedroza’s case, a car jumped in front of him while he was bicycling a couple of weeks ago. Riders in the car yelled at Pedroza, and he later saw a video of the incident on the ocinstanews Instagram page. “How does that even make sense?” he said.
Around two months ago, Rick Van Tuyl was riding a tandem bike in Laguna Beach with a rider who is blind when an Audi pulled up next to him. He said those in the car yelled “butt dart” and shouted obscenities. Despite little traffic, the car drove sideby- side with van Tuyl’s bicycle for miles, he said.
“I didn’t know what would happen if kids ran out,” the 53-year-old Orange resident said.
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