By Michael Collier
The open road is a cyclist’s friend most of the time, but not when a trucker decides to blow a cloud of black exhaust on a rider or a group of riders.
It’s known as “rolling coal,” a blast of soot from a truck’s exhaust pipes that can temporarily blind a cyclist or a car driver — to the pleasure of the “coal-rollers,” who seem to be making a statement of what they think of people who travel clean and green.
This is what it’s like to be smoked:
For about $500, a trucker can add a couple of smokestacks to a rig and “roll coal” by stomping on the accelerator. It’s a dangerous game, with cyclists and car drivers saying they barely avoided being involved in a collision after being surrounded by a dark cloud.
Now the Daily Kos, a Berkeley, CA-based site, has launched an online petition demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice department crack down on the soot-blasters. At the same time, New Jersey lawmaker Tim Eustace, a Democrat who was blasted by a twin-stack rig last week, plans to introduce legislation to make diesel-soot shooting illegal.
Federal officials say the practice is outlawed under the Clean Air Act because the modifications to passenger vehicles are aimed at producing more pollution. But large trucks aren’t subject to the rules for passenger vehicles.
Cyclists in Northern California who have been victims of “rollers” are at wit’s end.
“The experience of being blinded by black smoke is not only frustrating as an act of aggression; it is dangerous, as it suddenly blinds your vision for several seconds, which in a pace line can cause crossed wheels and falls,” said one.
Adding to the frustration is that there is little chance that a cyclist will be able to decipher the license plate of the smoke-blowing rig.
Have you been “coal-rolled”? If so, please comment in the Reply box.