Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You in one HEAP of trouble, Boy!

Local cyclist Dwight was issued a traffic ticket while bicycling - for riding in the roadway! (Thanks to correspondent Bob T for bringing this to my attention.)

Dwight's version of what happened can be seen HERE, on the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance website.

Some background information:

Chinden Boulevard is a major arterial that tends to get congested during Rush Hour. Dwight says there was about 18 inches of pavement to the right of the fog stripe, which was covered with sand and debris. (Very typical for this time of year.) He was riding just barely to the left of the fog stripe... and the ticket states that he was 3 inches (!) into the roadway.

Dwight - I believe I speak correctly - is not only an experienced and dedicated transportation cyclist, but he also happens to be a certified cycling instructor for the League of American Bicyclists. (The people who gave us our Bronze Medal for being so bike-friendly!) If there's anybody who's more familiar with bicycle traffic laws than Dwight, I don't know who it is.

The Law (essentially identical to the law in most jurisdictions) states that cyclists must ride "as close as practicable" to the right side of the road. (Why don't the cops enforce the law on people who ride on the wrong side of the road?!!!)

So - who determines what is "as close as practicable"? It has to be the cyclist, no? If somebody else can make that determination, it rocks my world, that's for sure!

I once got honked at by a sheriff's deputy (from outside the county), who thought I was too far out into the roadway. Somewhat amusingly (in retrospect), I caught up with him, many miles down the road, and made a comment to him. My comment included the word "jackass" - I try not wax vulgar, but it seemed appropriate at the time. He ordered me, in his Big Cop Voice, to "Pull Over!" which I was happy to do. And we had a spirited discussion about bicycles in traffic. (I do not advocate being confrontational with law enforcement people. They provide a valuable service, and I rarely disagree with them. I want them to like me!)

Check out the link to Dwight's story. There are some interesting comments from people - claiming to be cyclists - with widely differing opinions on whether Dwight was correct in riding where he was riding. Or even if he should've been riding at all, on that road and at that time.

I fully expect that Dwight's ticket will be dismissed. Because where the law is vague, there's absolutely no way to declare that he was in violation of the law. I sure hope so!

Dwight himself has to decide how risky it is to ride on Chinden or any other road. If he's willing to accept the risk, the law is on his side. (As I see it.) He has the legal right to as much of the right-hand lane as he determines he needs for safe passage. Of course, as I've said before, it doesn't provide worlds of satisfaction to know that the other guy was wrong, if you're lying in a hospital bed or a coffin.

(I don't regularly get out on Chinden as far as Dwight was, but closer in, I often get a HUGE dose of smug satisfaction, when I can ride past long queues of zombies-in-cars during Chinden rush hour. That is one of the rewards of transportation cycling!)

Go git 'um, Dwight!

7 comments:

Michael Carpenter said...

Not only is there the normal accumulation of sand, grit, etc. in the bike lanes right now, but there are a couple of places (Cloverdale between Chinden and McMillan for starts) that have had construction recently, but they didn't bother to clean out the bike lane. So, it has huge dirt clods, rocks, etc.

Good luck to Dwight.

Clancy said...

The ticket will probably "go away". It sounds like both parties wanted to educate each other.

Joe said...

I hope Dwight has taken pictures of the trash on the shoulder of the road in case he needs to prove his case in court.

bob t said...

When it rains it pours....

Today at about 7:45am I was commuting to work by bike on Maple Grove between Franklin and Overland. As is my habit I was riding in the middle of the right lane with the left lane available for faster vehicles to use (of which there are hardly any at that hour on a Saturday). Next thing I knew I was stopped by a Boise Police Department officer who told me that since I was unable to keep up with the normal flow of traffic I needed to be as far to the right as possible, not in the middle of the right lane. I asked which law I was breaking by riding this way and he could not give me a specific answer, but stated that he would research the matter and would issue a citation if necessary the next time that he saw me. I mentioned that the Idaho Code states that I only need to ride as far to the right as "practicable" with various exceptions including "substandard with lanes". The officer stated that Maple Grove has "standard" 11 foot lanes which he felt were wide enough for a bicycle and car to share. I respectfully disagreed with him. (I have since done some preliminary research which seems to indicate that for the purpose of this statute, any lane less than 14 feet wide is "substandard". Does anyone know where I can find a legal definition?). I also mentioned that the Boise City Code goes even further and specifically states that cyclists are entitled to use the right lane.

Our conversation was cordial and there appears to be a possibility for further dialog with the officer (and hopefully with his superiors) regarding this matter.

bob t said...

I have been referred to this document which states on page 17:

"In general, 4.2 m (14 feet) of usable lane width is the recommended width for shared use in a wide curb lane. Usable width normally would be from edge stripe to lane stripe or from the longitudinal joint of the gutter pan to lane stripe (the gutter pan should not be included as usable width)."

Clancy said...

Bob- Hopefully this turns out to be a good learning example for local cyclist and law enforcement

db said...

Perhaps the police see cyclists as a means of following the chief's orders.

We are easy targets.