Police officers, prosecutors, and judges must treat bicyclists equitably, as full and equal road users in the investigation, citation, and prosecution of traffic laws, and in assigning fault/liability and awarding damages.
Police officers in particular must treat bicyclists as equal to other road users when investigating traffic crashes, particularly their status as:
- full and equal road users with a right to use roadway travel lanes as full and equal drivers making normal driver movements per the rules of the road
- persons entitled to the same due care in investigation work and reporting (into state collision databases),
- persons entitled to equal treatment when fault is assigned.
Judges must also treat bicyclists in civil and criminal trials as equal to other drivers when
- assessing the advisability of bicyclists using the roadway as drivers (controlling lanes, making normal driver movements, such as through movements, lane changes, turns, etc.),
- determining fault,
- awarding damages (including pain and suffering, economic loss, property loss, etc.).
To facilitate the above equity goals for police and judges, it is imperative that they receive education on proper enforcement and treatment of bicyclists when patrolling, investigating, issueing citations in the field, assigning fault (crash report and courtroom), and determining culpability in the courtroom. I am traffic sponsors such education programs (see Education for details).
Posts in the Enforcement Category
In part 3 of his comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement, Kirby Beck explains: What police need to learn How to get heard by your local police department Why changes in police departments need to come from the top Plus: why you need the AAA on your side. “You need to start reporting things,” Kirby urges cyclists. “They’re not going to know it’s a problem if they don’t hear from you and hear from your friends. “Now I know the cops will go, ‘Why did you tell them that? That’s all we need is more calls.’ Too bad! Too bad. “See, I’m not going to be happy until we don’t have to have special programs to do bike enforcement because it’s part of what cops do every day, we don’t have to spend a lot of money on bike lanes and other facilities because we’ve got roads, and people can use those roads. They’re there for everybody, it’s a public right-of-way.” Beck is a retired police officer and a trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association. In Part 1 of this series, he took us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, and gave an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. In Part 2, Beck explained how to deal with police citations and how to effectively report incidents to 911. Tamar Wilner...read more
In part 2 of his comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement, Kirby Beck explains: What police mean when they describe something as a “problem” (hint: it’s different from how you or I might use the word) How to effectively report incidents to 911 How to deal with police citations (step one: stay calm!) Beck is a retired police officer and a trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association. In Part 1 of this series, he took us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, and gave an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. See Part 1 here. Tamar Wilner...read more
In this series of videos, Kirby Beck – retired police officer, instructor and trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association – gives a comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement. In part 1, Beck takes us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, from the early police officers who stopped speeding horses, to the bike-based rapid response team that kept anarchists from burning St. Paul during the Republican National Convention. Plus, we get an amusing look back at 1970s cop show Adam 12, in which the protagonists clock a neighborhood cyclist at 45 mph. Beck also gives an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. Frustratingly for bike advocates, Beck says, “Virtually no officers I have ever spoken with have had any kind of specialized training in bicycle laws or bicycle enforcement, anywhere in this country. The most they get is at rookie school where they are given the traffic code and [are told to] read it and memorize it…. “There is nothing in their background, except for the same biases that every other motorist on the road has. So that’s what you’re dealing with and it’s not intentional. It’s just they don’t know any better.” In Part 2, we’ll look at what police mean when they describe something as a “problem” (hint: it’s different from how you or I might use the word), how to effectively report incidents to 911, and how to deal with police who cite you with cycling violations. Tamar Wilner...read more
This story was originally published on CommuteOrlando, January 26, 2010. It has been updated here. The Judge Mirandizes us as a group, then brings us forward one at a time to hear our plea, and the setting of a bond, etc. Those of us waiting are close enough to hear most of what is said. When I approach his raised dais, he opens a folder, and then looks up in surprise. He says, “Are they serious? Operating a bicycle on the roadway?” And as absurd as it sounds, my friend ChipSeal went back to jail that same night, arrested again on his way home from jail for operating on the roadway. What an incorrigible scofflaw! Read his story, beginning with While Minding My Own Business… I have great admiration for his gracious attitude toward those who detained him unfairly. The right to travel by human power ChipSeal’s case is a clear violation of his civil rights. The charge is unsupported by TX statute, and yet he was convicted of reckless driving and sentenced to time served (20 days). When Eli Damon encountered an officer who didn’t want him on the roadway, he found himself charged with disorderly conduct. Eli maintains that he was calm and courteous in the encounter, but the officer was angered by his assertion that he was riding legally. The charge was prosecuted for four months before the prosecutor dropped it a week before the scheduled trial. You can read Eli’s story here. In 2009, Bob Mionske covered the story of Tony Patrick, who was tasered and arrested for disorderly conduct in Chesapeake, OH for refusing an unlawful order to get off the road. His lawyer, Steve Magas, has more links to the story and the judge’s dismissal of charges here. Being arrested for asserting your right to drive your bicycle on the road is an extreme violation of civil rights. But living under the specter of choosing between riding unsafely to avoid hassles and risking constant citations is also a violation of your right to travel by human power. In 2009, Fred U. experienced this in Port Orange, FL. The harassment ended when his lawyer got pretrial dismissals of all of his citations. Fred provided documentation for other cyclists who might face a similar predicament. Cultural bias can be blinding Nowhere is the bias more glaring than when an officer pulls a cyclist over for using one lane on an empty six-lane road on a Sunday morning. Then, during the stop the officer repeatedly asserts that the cyclist is failing to share the road by not riding at the far right of that lane. This might raise the question, with whom exactly is he failing to share the road? (See Red & Blue in the Rear View… Again?) A few months ago, Mighk Wilson was pulled over for riding in one of three lanes on South Street. This is a one-way street, downtown, with a 30mph speed limit and plenty of traffic lights to prevent movement anywhere near that fast. Of course, when there are lots of motorists, traffic moves slower still. Agitated with Mighk’s knowledge of traffic law, the officer huffed that he was “one of those people who just doesn’t care about others.” Bias denies basic human equity to its target. Bias is impervious to logic and reason. Bias is blind to its own...read more