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Cyclists as targets for police?(24 posts)

Cyclists as targets for police?BlueHenCyclist
Aug 16, 2001 12:46 PM
I was just talking to my father who lives in NJ about his court date yesterday for "failure to yied the lane". He was riding his road bike down a small inclined road with moderate to low traffic and a stop sign at the bottom of the hill. He intended to make a right hand turn once at the stop. He, however, did not signal yet because he was interested in maintaining control of the bike. His was riding in the center of the lane becuase of hazards along the side of the road (mailboxes sticking out, sand, glass) The speed limit on this road is 25mph and he was keeping that speed if not very near. He hears a chirping noise from behind and then someone yelling at him to get out of the way. He yells back. ...not sure what....
It turns out that the chirp was from a police car and the yell was from a cop. My father rolls to the right at the stop sign, stops and then proceeds. The cop guns the engine, rolls around him and cuts him off to pull him over on a moderate to heavy traffic road.
He is given a ticket for failure to yield the lane.
..the crux of the post....
Does anyone have access to New Jersey law regarding cyclists?
The trial went as such, the cop said that he was riding down the center of the road (splitting the lanes). The cop said that my father was only going 10-15 miles an hour. The cop had no way of knowing if my dad was going to turn left or right and couldn't assume the right hand turn (making the right side of the road the more logical place to ride. The only way my dad was impedidng traffic is if the cop was speeding (there's a surprise!)
The only other court case for the day was another cyslcist accussed of almost causing an accident by traveling through an intersection on a green light (the car that was "almost involved" was 20ft away)
I guess this rant is to find out if anyone knows NJ law in order to appeal the ticket. Anyone out there have a similar experience? The fine is not that big....it is just the principle of the whole thing!
What is the general consensus; Are we vehicles on vehicles that abide by all of the rules of the road?
Thanks for the forum, appreciate the opinions!
re: Cyclists as targets for police?Spinchick
Aug 16, 2001 1:01 PM
I live in NJ and know that the law for cyclists is to follow the law for motor vehicles: signal when turning, stop at all lights and signs, yield when appropriate, obey speed limits, etc. I think if what he did was illegal (and I don't know if it was or not) for cars, then it is considered illegal for cyclists. I don't know any other law you would need to research other than those for motor vehicles.
I can't even get them to look at me ...Humma Hah
Aug 16, 2001 1:15 PM
... in Virginia, there's a requirement for us to stay as far right in the lane as possible, unless turning left. There is a requirement to signal, although some jurisdictions have clauses that permit skipping this if it would compromise control.

Talking back to any angry motorist behind you is inviting road rage. In this case, it sounds like legalized road rage. I'm not defending road rage, but make a point of trying to stay out of the way of vehicles carrying the kinetic energy of a 32-pound cannonball.
Here's what Michigan says...curtis
Aug 16, 2001 1:16 PM
"Sec. 660. (1) A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction."

As I see it, he was ticketed for not getting out of the way when John Law "chirped" at him. i.e. he continued to ride in the middle of the road (to avoid the hazards as he saw them). His possible argument might be that he was unable to ride further to the right because of the glass, sand and mailboxes.

On a related note, I have defended riding in the middle of the lane (on a four or five lane road; never on a two lane road) because it seems that the farther to the right I ride, the farther to the right the cars drive, brushing by too close and forcing me from the lane. I find that if I ride in the middle of the lane, cars will change lanes to get by, allowing plenty of room for both. I HAVE NOT had to use this defense in court yet; only on the side of the road to somewhat sympathetic officers.

Hopefully, Doug Sloan will be able to provide some insight, even though he is not from NJ either.
Wow. They give cyclists citations?kenyee
Aug 16, 2001 1:30 PM
That's a new one. They never do anything to pedestrians or bikers in Boston...just cars.

In this case, I think your father just aggravated a cop. And you know what they say about absolute power corrupting and adding to the big fat money box...
Wow. They give cyclists citations?Tom V
Aug 16, 2001 3:39 PM
I have recieved a ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign - ON MY BICYCLE. The officer said that I was to be an example to everyone. "I'm an example! I'm an example!" My riding buddy, who was ahead of me, and probably rolled thru the same stop sign, waited with me as I was written up, and requested that the cop make the ticket out for speeding, so I would have something to hang on the wall. I went to court, pled guilty, got court supervision, and had to pay $105. Cyclists have to follow the rules of the road. I just wish a cop could ride with us and give tickets to motorists that endanger us as they break every rule in the book along our Tuesday evening route.
Justice has to be evenkenyee
Aug 16, 2001 4:57 PM
If they just ticket one group, the others will take advantage of them. You should see what cyclists and pedestrians do here. Pedestrians jaywalk right in front of traffic and don't even look over; they just pretend the cars don't exist. Cyclists run red lights, go the wrong way, cut traffic off, etc.

Of course, now they're tagging cars for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. I read they gave out several thousand over a weekend. I could see the $$ signs light up in their eyes. They've started to do this again over the past few weeks. Predictably, the pedestrians are even more aggressive now about ignoring the 2 ton boxes that roam around.

I'm not saying drivers don't suck in Boston. They're only slightly better than NY and LA drivers :-(
Justice has to be eventkohn
Aug 16, 2001 7:02 PM
Alright I have lived in Boston for about 2 years now and people around here drive worse than anywhere else in the US hands down. I have seen people do things in cars that I can't believe. For example today alone I saw probably a half dozen cars run red lights, a car coming into Kenmore Square off Brookline Ave went around the median at the light to the left through a red ligth and cut off a large box truck, some jackass was sitting in his car parked in the middle of St. Paul St rigth past where it crosses Beacon going south and was blocking all incoming traffic and just didn't care, and to top it off as I was going down Comm. Ave towards Chestnut Hill Ave a cab comes flying up at me going the wrong direction on the divided lane. Just an average day in Boston...
re: Cyclists as targets for police?Steve R
Aug 16, 2001 2:04 PM
I'll try to get this url on here. It has most of the information you want. Most states are a lot alike.
re: Cyclists as targets for police?Steve R
Aug 16, 2001 2:08 PM
I'll try to get this url on here. It has most of the information you want. Most states are a lot alike. The url is

http:/www.massbike.org/lawlegis/bikelaw.htm

Probably a double post as the first time didn't seem to work. sorry.
re: Cyclists as targets for police?speedmaestro
Aug 16, 2001 8:28 PM
you only have one forward slash. Make it two and it would work, regarding the link.

Happy riding
What town in NJ???biknben
Aug 16, 2001 3:57 PM
Being from NJ myself, I'm very interested to hear where you were.

Sorry, I don't have much advice to offer. I would plead your case about the obstacles on the road and be sure to mention that you were traveling at the speed limit.

Good luck
Interestingmike mcmahon
Aug 16, 2001 8:39 PM
I don't know about N.J., but in CA, cyclists must ride as close to the right curb as practicable unless they're going the speed of traffic. Cyclists who can keep up with traffic can take the lane. I'd say your dad's got a tough row to hoe because it's going to be his word against the officer's. On appeal, findings of fact at trial are typically given a substantial amount of deference.

BTW, what is this part of N.J. like? I'm assuming it's not an urban area. Out here, LAPD doesn't spend much time dealing with cyclists because officers have bigger fish to fry. In 20 years of riding in Southern California, the only cyclists I know who've gotten tickets were part of large group rides that were regularly targeted by cops because of complaints by neighbors and motorists. Where your dad got ticketed must be a low-crime area.
re: Cyclists as targets for police?girodebirdman
Aug 17, 2001 1:25 AM
I live in a "cycling friendly community", as it says on the welcome signs, of Corvallis, OR. Anyways, there is a 3-way stop heading down the hill from the university. If you are in the bike lane, you have to stop by law, even though by going straight, you don't cross traffic (you can only turn left or go straight at this intersection, so there is no traffic crossing the bike lane). Needless to say, some people don't come to a complete stop. Next to the stop sign, there is a hedge: a bike cop hides there and tickets "dangerous cyclists" for not stopping at this stop sign, when there is no reason to at all (the requirement should be removed for cyclists). The other day I saw another bike cop giving a ticket to a guy on campus who neglected to use a hand signal: there was basically no-one about. And these aren't warnings: each of these tickets is well over $70. So yeah, cops target cyclists. Many even disdain them. It makes you wonder why we taxpayers put up with it. Throw the bums out!
re: Cyclists as targets for police?BlueHenCyclist
Aug 17, 2001 3:52 AM
Thanks to one and all for responding to my original post.
To address some of the questions: The area of NJ in question is Morris County, located centrally in northern NJ,a low crime area, a county owned but town patrolled 25 mph street. The area is considered suburban, but recent rail connections to NYC has created a population explosion!
I know that my dealings with police in DE have always been favorable. On more than one occasion the police have sped off to pull over "unsafe drivers" after seeing the bonehead moves made around cyclists. I have always found police officers to be approachable people. I am now very wary of riding in my home town because of the offhand chance that I might make a move to preserve my life on the road as a cyclist that might be misunderstood by an impatient (hope a minority) of police officers.
To Protect and Serve...All?
Thanks again for the replies!
re: Cyclists as targets for police?TiDie
Aug 17, 2001 5:20 AM
I have found that when dealing with traffic tickets the only thing you can do is try to try to plea bargain it down. Other than that it's your word against the cop's and the judge invariable will side with the cop. Obviously innocent till proven guilty and reasonable doubt don't apply to traffic tickets. They might as well just carry a wireless credit card processing machine and take your money right then and there. Court appearances for tickets are a joke.
Bicycle law in PACRM
Aug 17, 2001 7:52 AM
This post got me wondering what the law is in my home state of Pennsylvania regarding bicycles on public roads. Since I am a lawyer, I figured I really should know what the laws are so I looked them up. Here's a quick summary:

In Pennsylvania, every person riding a bicycle on the road is granted all the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the drivers of cars. In other words, we are a vehicle on the road just like cars are.

On the relevant question, Pennsylvania law states that a bicycle being operated at slower than prevailing speed must act in the same manner as a car which is going slower than the prevailing speed. That means that the law requires you to ride in the right-hand lane or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except for when preparing for a left turn.

None of this is too surprising, but if I were representing the guy in NJ (and assuming the law was the same), I would argue first that the rider was not travelling slower than the prevailing speed since he was in fact travelling at the speed limit. Alternatively, I would argue that the right-hand edge of the roadway was not rideable and that he was in fact riding as close as PRACTICABLE to the right side of the road. I would probably bring some photographs of the road section in question to support the case.

Anyway, that's a quick discussion based on a loose set of facts. Unfortunately, I'm leaving my computer now and won't be back to it for the rest of the weekend probably, so I won't be able to answer any follow-up questions in case there are any for at least a couple of days.
NODINOSAUR
Aug 17, 2001 8:06 AM
Cyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles.
If you commit a blatant violation in the presence of a police officer don't expect them to turn their heads. The most common violations I see are right-of-way and failure to ride to far as the right as possible violations (two cyclists riding abreast). I'm a tad biased as I am a retired CHP Officer. I preferred to stop and talk to the cyclists as opposed to issuing them citations. Most of the citations I issued to cyclist were the result of a traffic accident investigation, where in just about all the cases I can think of, the cyclist was at fault, and in all cases injured. I think your father got a ticket because he "chirped" at the wrong person. We used to call it "contempt of cop" (COC).

A lot of enforcement regarding cyclist are a result of citizen complaints. Where I reside, years ago, a local cycling club was notorious for blasting through a stop sign at the bottom of a hill in huge packs of 10 to 20. Finally the local law enforcement agency became tired of listening to the complaints and laid in wait for them and started issuing citations.

Unfortunately a member of this clubs racing team was killed, years later, while on a training ride as a result of losing control on a two lane road, crossing the center line and getting hit head-on by a vehicle.

Remember the laws are there for a reason and if you make a mistake it can have deathly consequences. Don't put the blame on the cops they are just doing their job.

Also the chances of getting a ticket are just as good as winning the lottery.
NOgmagee
Aug 17, 2001 9:55 AM
As a former CHP officer I would like your opinion on Ca. law.

The vehicle code says "bicycles have all the same rights and responsibilities as a moter vehicle does".

It also states in bold letters that "sharing a lane is not illegal in the state of California".

So my Question is; On a road with multiple lanes can bicycles ride two abreast in the right hand lane? This also assumes that the bicycles are traveling within the speed limit not necessarily the speed of traffic.
NODINOSAUR
Aug 17, 2001 2:13 PM
When they say "sharing a lane is not illegal" they mean sharing a lane with a motor vehicle. I ride as far to the right as possible within the traffic lane and there is ample room for traffic to pass me on the left within the same lane. When you have two cyclist riding abreast in the right lane, unless you are traveling the same speed as traffic, you would be impeding any traffic that is approaching from behind you. My feelings is it's ok to travel abreast, although it's technically illegal, but when you have a car coming up behind you, the rider riding abreast should move to the right and allow the vehicle to pass. Where I live some of the roads are barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other from opposite directions with ample cleanance. When you encounter two cyclists riding side by side it's dangerous as you have to pass them completely on the wrongside of the road and take the risk of getting taken out head-on by an approaching vehicle. Sometimes you have to follow the cyclists for awhile until you come across a safe place to pass.

Remember also that this is not a perfect world. Some cops have their pet peeves. Some have a hard-on for motorcyles and bicyclists. I hated drunk drivers, still do, I broke my right hand fighting one and it bothers me to this day. As a matter of fact I can't even stand the smell of alcohol after booking about a zillion drunks. I suspect that someday they will have a zero tolorance for alcohol and driving. That is the only way they will ever control it. Booze is ok within it's limits, just don't drink and drive. I apologize for the rant, too much sun today.

Hope this answers your question.

Ride Safe
Dino man
NOgmagee
Aug 17, 2001 9:07 PM
Im sorry you missed my point.

I said on a multiple lane road is it ok to ride two abreast in the right hand lane. Most certainly not on a two lane road.

As for sharing a lane the code makes no distinction between vehicles (car-car bicycle-bicycle car-truck). Learned this in traffic school.Have you ever driven in Beverly Hills with two cars in every lane. (stupid law).Don't see a distinction where bicycles are concerned in the eyes of the law.

Not looking for a perfect world, and I do try to ride safe, Thanks and you do the same.
what do the pa laws really meanishmael
Aug 17, 2001 1:40 PM
as i understand it we are concidered a vehicle and as such subject to the saw laws..there is no real min speed limit, it is up to the police if you are hindering traffic...so if a bike is going 5 under the speed limit that seems reasonable to me...or are we all really supposed to go 10 above the limit
what do the pa laws really meangmagee
Aug 17, 2001 2:02 PM
The law in Ca. for a car or truck is if 6 vehicles are behind you you need to pull over to let let them pass.

So as long as I only have 5 pi$$toff cars behind me Im legal in the eyes of the law.

Not that I would ride this way.
what do the pa laws really meanBlueHenCyclist
Aug 20, 2001 9:36 AM
I think that it is interesting that the general consensus is that riding in the lane as a cyclist is perfectly acceptable and legal in most states as long as you are not impeding traffic. In the original post I didn't state but would like to clarify that the only traffic was the cop in his car travelling faster than the posted speed limit.
Thanks for all of the opinions expressed!