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Tourist & the Law (Rant)(36 posts)

Tourist & the Law (Rant)Len J
Sep 17, 2001 3:06 AM
This is a Rant.
I live on the Eastern shore of Maryland, lots of water, lots of nice biking roads, lots of flats and lots of tourists.

Saturday, I'm out early for a ride. Beautiful day, feeling good for the first time all week. About 45 miles into the ride, on a road with a full lane shoulder, I see a cyclist on a mountain bike about 200 yds ahead of me, riding on the way inside of the shoulder. The odd thing about her is that she is wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up. I'm doing between 19 & 20mph and she's doing about 10 so I catch up to her pretty quickly. Since she's on the inside of the lane, I yell bike left and proceed to pass her. when I get to a point about where my headtube is even with her seattube, she decides to move out closer to traffic, and broadsides me suddenly. I have no choice but to cross the line into traffic as I fight for control of my bike.. At that moment a car is overtaking us at around 45 mph. Timing being perfect he hits me dead on my back wheel and propels me forward. Believe it or not (I guess because of the angle he hit me) I am still upright & fighting for control, the only difference is that now my speed has doubled. The road begins to bear left, & I shoot across the shoulder, & start to go down an embankment. I end up doing a Jan Ulrick endo as I go down the hill and end up flat on my back in a small creek.

After a few minutes of stunned assesment of my body, I discover that nothing is broken & I think I'm OK. I find my bike and it looks OK also (other than scratches). I start to climb back up the embankment. I hear this tirade from above. I look up to see this tourist, hood still on, no helmet & she has headphones on (no wonder she didn't hear me yell bike left), and she is screaming at me for being a "reckless maniac". She almost kills me & I'm the reckless maniac, go figure.

It turns out that the guy who hit me is a cyclist (thats the good news) and right behind him was a state cop (I think this is good news also) who saw the whole thing. The cyclist driver goes out of his way to let me know that he couldn't believe that I didn't go down in front of his car. The whole thing happened so fast that he never got to the brakes before he hit me.

After about 30 minutes of getting individual statements from each of us the cop comes back to me to tell me that he is giving me a ticket for what amounts to reckless driving. I'm ready to go nuts.
"What about her?"
"I didn't see her do anything wrong, I only saw you recklessly swerve into traffic."
"What about riding without a helmet & with headphones on?"
"None of that is illegal."

So now I have to go to court to fight this stupid ticket. I suppose that I should be grateful that I wasn't hurt (other than a few bruises, I am stiff this morning), but I can't believe that this idiot went home (with help from the local PD) thinking that she did nothing wrong.

Ah sweet justice. It is blind!

end of Rant

re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)Dougal
Sep 17, 2001 3:27 AM
Glad to hear you're OK.

I know you probably don't want to think about stuff like this right now, but just write it off to experiance and move on. Next time you'll know to give casual cyclists as much room as you can and not to overtake when there's a car about to pass you.

Basically don't overtake unless you've got an escape road if required.

Don't take any of this as critisism, as I'm completely on your side. Just learn from it and don't waste your energy getting irate about other people's idiocy.

I'm very surprised to hear you got a ticket seeing as it was only you who was hurt by the way. And equally surprised to hear that its not illegal to ride with headphones on. It is in the UK.

May the Gods of cycling smile on you next time!
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)Bike Fool
Sep 17, 2001 4:06 AM
If you're gonna fight the ticket, definitely look up the laws on headphones and operating a motor vehicle. In VA, it is illegal to operate any motor vehicle on the roadways while wearing headphones, IIRC. Good luck.
ps. Another thing to think about, as the overtaking vehicle (you) it is your responsibity to ensure that it is safe to pass a slower vehicle (the dingbat w/ the headphones).
You're obviously right...........Len J
Sep 17, 2001 4:19 AM
about giving her enough room. I thought I had, and frankly don't remember hearing the car, there was alot of wind. Next time I guess I'll look back before passing, but again it was an 8ft shoulder & shee was ver near the grass.

Thanks for the thoughts

You're obviously right...........Jay
Sep 17, 2001 12:13 PM
I almost always look back, even if it's not always done the best way all the time. Glad you're OK though. I saw somebody on the Alaska AIDS ride with a radio (no headphones) tied to his panniers, I know that the RideGuide book says it was illegal but I didn't mind one bit.

Reading your reply, you're saying that the shoulder was 8ft wide, and still she swerved enough to cause you to go into traffic? Sounds like really reckless riding on her part if you ask me. Just imagine doing that in a car without looking? But, I guess at least you're lucky... I'd really inspect your Lemond too to see if it's really OK or not, check for the slightest wrinkling in the stays and the frame...

Good luck,
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)Roy Zipris
Sep 17, 2001 4:35 AM
At the hearing, if the officer does not appear, plead not guilty. Unless the case is continued, there would be no evidence against you and you should be found not guilty.

If the officer appears and testifies, ask him questions on cross-examination to establish that he didn't see anything until he noticed you swerve. That is, he had no particular reason to have paid special attention to you up to that point because he was just driving along, looking at traffic in general; in addition, his opportunity to have seen everything may have been obscured by the car in front of him. Also question the officer to establish that there was another cyclist present, the woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Thus you establish that she was in fact present (and with the hoody, might not have heard your call) and that he did not see what precipitated your action. Then, when you testify as to why you swerved, there would be no rebuttal evidence.

The officer should testify first, as the state has the burden of proving its case; you have no burden to prove your innocence of the charge. After all the evidence is heard, argue that the officer didn't see what caused you to swerve, and your explanation makes sense, otherwise why would you have swerved into traffic, putting your life at risk? Your argument is that it's not reckless to pass another cyclist in an area where you are permitted to do so and she (in her headphone-induced indifference to other users of the road) swerves, recklessly, without regard for other traffic.

You might consider asking a local cycling guru (from a LBS or club) to come and testify as an "expert witness" on bicycling procedures, standards, etc. (That is, she was reckless for riding with earphones and hoody obscuring her vision, you did nothing wrong in passing when and as you did.)

Did you or the cop get the motorist's name? Would he be available to testify on your behalf? An objective, disinterested witness.... I also note, however, that a tough judge might find you guilty, believing that you were in fact reckless to pass under those circumstances, and by not taking into account the unexpected.

Good luck.
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)MikeC
Sep 17, 2001 4:50 AM
My family and I visited friends at Bozman, near Saint Michaels, for a few days this summer. We were amazed by the total lack of awareness most of the "tourist cyclists" had of anything other than scenery. On Rt 33 into Saint Michaels, we constantly came upon clusters of people who rode like they were on a closed course, swerving, heading the wrong way, stopping without warning, etc. Even my six and eight year old daughters (who regularly do 10+ mile road rides) kept commenting that people were "not very good bike riders."
I believe that many of the tourists were on rented bikes. The rental shops need to be more proactive in educating their customers about their responsibilities.
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)David Feldman
Sep 17, 2001 5:14 AM
I would not consider it unreasonable to judge a helmetless,headphone-wearing (illegal in many areas, besides) cyclist as incompetent and give them lots of room.
This happened on Rt 33(nm)Len J
Sep 17, 2001 5:54 AM
sue the other cyclistalex the engineer
Sep 17, 2001 4:59 AM
First, of course, you must go to court for the ticket. Hire a lawyer, and subpoena the cyclist. After you win the first case, charge the other cyclist with reckless endangerment. Also, start a malfeasance complaint against the trooper. Then sue the pants off her. Go for pain and suffering, too.
Once that is done, sue the state police. You may actually win.
Alex, I hope you're jokingMel Erickson
Sep 17, 2001 5:44 AM
What possible grounds for a complaint against the trooper would there be? Sue the state police? Wow, what an imaginative mind. You must be kidding, right?
Alex, I hope you're jokingspincity
Sep 17, 2001 6:19 AM
From your description it sounds like she made contact with you. Did she deny moving over into you? If that was the case I don't see how the cop can say your swerving as the result of being hit was reckless.
partly, at leastalex the engineer
Sep 18, 2001 4:02 AM
But I would seriously consider suing "little red riding hood". Maybe you will win, but maybe she doesn't have $hit. I would try to clear your name, regardless.
sue the other cyclistZyzbot
Sep 17, 2001 6:37 AM
Suing the other cyclist is an option but I see no real case against the Trooper. The Trooper is probably acting in good faith based upon what he saw. All he is required to have for the recklessness charge is probable cause. It does not have to reach the level of beyond reasonable doubt as is required for a convition. If you have evidence that calls the probable cause into question then your case might be dismissed.
Besides...suing just makes more profit for lawyers and they already have enough of it.
don't bother suingDog
Sep 17, 2001 6:34 AM
What did the driver say? Did he see her swerve?

Typically, the overtaking vehicle has the responsibility to do so safely. I'd like to know if she was forced left by something in her path, like a storm grate, glass, rocks, etc. If so, then she may have been justified to do so.

As far as the criminal charge is concerned, sounds like the officer saw enough to make a case. It's up to you to prove a defense, then. You'll need to prove a justification, that is, that you were forced into the road suddenly. It would be nice to have a witness to testify on your behalf, too.

Suing her probably won't get far. She'll either say she didn't swerve, or that she was forced to due to something in the road (the same thing you are saying, really). Plus, she'll argue that you, as the overtaking vehicle, had the responsibility to do so safely. In other words, you either should have slowed, warned her, looked behind you before pulling into the traffic lane, or even come to a stop if necessary. Of course, if she was wearing headphones, the could have prevented her from being warned. But, it's probably legal for her to wear them.

Additionally, most states have comparative fault. That means that ultimately the fault of you and her might be shared, for example, you 75% and her 25%. Take you damages and discount by that much.

Don't bother suing the cop. They are immune for writing tickets with probably cause.

I'd fight the ticket, but forget a civil suit. Sometimes you just don't get justice, but a lesson instead.

don't bother suingLen J
Sep 17, 2001 6:43 AM
1.) There was nothing on the roadway that would have made her swerve.

2.) Motorist supports my position completely. He was looking directly at us as he was trying to see what kind of bike I was riding. (Typical cyclist).

3.) I think everything will work out, I just couldn't believe that it's legal to ride without a helmet & with headphones. Talk about a safety hazard!

driver on your sideDog
Sep 17, 2001 6:54 AM
Having the driver on your side is everything. Make sure you subpoena him, and try to talk to him ahead of time to get his version of what happened. Get a copy of the police report, which may have his statement in it.

As far as I know, no state requires helmets for adult cyclists. Plus, not wearing a helmet really can't cause an accident. The headphones are something else. It's hard to believe that they are legal.

Why do you think she swerved? You know she'll come up with something. Can you revisit the scene and take pictures showing nothing in her way? That would help.

Not sure.....Len J
Sep 17, 2001 7:41 AM
why she swerved, (maybe she was swerving to the music). May have simply realized how far to the right she was.

Have asked for copy of PD report, should have tomorrow.

Driver gave me his phone number, he actually called yesterday to see how I was. I think he'll be a great witness.

Pictures are a great idea, will do today.

Thanks for the advice.

I'd be p#**** off to, but at least your alive.Largo
Sep 17, 2001 6:53 AM
Bikers in sweats, sketchy!
Give 'em a WIIIIIDE berth.Things could have gone way bad, if you know what i mean.
Glad you're ok.
Thanks. Me too. (nm)Len J
Sep 17, 2001 7:42 AM
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)jaybird
Sep 17, 2001 6:53 AM
Len, do you race? FWIW whenever I pass someone, for the most part, I treat it like I am cornering in a crit and I expect the other riders not to hold their line. This way if I bump or rub shoulders, it is not me that is startled.

The ticket probably won't hold but you will have to take time off work/riding to fight it. If you can talk to the DA handling the case and ask about a "diversion agreement" I got one a few years ago for something totaly unrelated but it was a way out... Any lawyers feel free to chime in.

way to keep the rubber side down...

Ride on..
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)Len J
Sep 17, 2001 7:43 AM
Don't race. but I thought I was giving her plenty of room and a warning that I was going to pass her. The wild card was the headphones. I just didn't anticipate that she couldn't hear me. I guess I have to assume that anyone I pass can't hear me.

If they call it tourist season....Atombomber
Sep 17, 2001 7:37 AM
Why can't we shoot them?
If they call it tourist season....jaybird
Sep 17, 2001 7:58 AM
They are too gamey tasting and the fat/bad cholesterol levels are too high, it wouldnt be worth the effort...
Glad to hear you're okay- you were very lucky that day (nm)js5280
Sep 17, 2001 8:09 AM
Yes I was............Len J
Sep 17, 2001 8:33 AM
thanks, another example of how fast you can react under stress.

Need to give tourists and amatueurs more roomChris Zeller
Sep 17, 2001 8:56 AM
I'm glad you are ok and that everything went alright. Fortunately you were wearing a helmet, I'm sure no small part in you surviving the incident unharmed.

It's clear that this tourist should not have been riding with headphones on. That said it is very important that we as advanced cyclists give beginners and amateur tourists lots of room. Rather than treating them with disdain for their slow speeds (as ws clear from your post) and blowing by them at high speed in conquest, we need to treat them with more respect. Move up behind such people and match their speed for a minute. Call out and after you are certain that they have aknowleged you, and the road is clear of traffic, then pass. In essence, we need to realize that we are the more experienced cylists and have a responsibility to ensure everyone's safety--because ultimately we are the only ones who are able to do so.
Better make sure about that witnessCRM
Sep 17, 2001 9:54 AM
That's an incredible story and from the sound of it you're very lucky not to have been hurt. From your description, it sounds as though you are in the right and that you should win the trial, especially considering the expected testimony of the driver/witness. However, it strikes me as odd that if the driver/witness told the police officer what you expect him to testify to at the trial, that the police officer cited you. I would carefully check the police report and statements provided by the driver/witness and talk to him again to be certain that what he is telling you is consistent with what he told the police officer.

Additionally, if the other cyclist is, in fact, a tourist, then it is unlikely that she will appear at the trial. To the extent that the prosecution cannot produce a witness to rebut your version of events leading up to the swerve, then your first theory of defense is that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Good luck. From the sounds of it, you've been the victim of a great injustice. I hope it turns out alright for you.
good example of need to ride with trafficDog
Sep 17, 2001 12:54 PM
Struck me that had you been riding against traffic, the outcome would have been - let's say - different. It's amazing you were not injured worse than you were.
Thanks for all the great feedback.......Len J
Sep 17, 2001 12:56 PM
and letting me know I'm not alone. It helps.

Thanks also for the genuine concern about me being OK, I do feel like I used one of my 9 lives. I was much more shook up later on Sat. than Shows in a reread of my post.

The admonishments I received about defensive biking hit the bulls eye. I can see now that I assumed she heard me, I assumed she wouldn't do something erratic, and I assumed that I was clear to swerve. While all of this happened in the blink of an eye, it is still my responsability to anticipate the worst. Thanks for being straight with me. It is good to be reminded of what can happen. I was lucky this time & frankly, without your feedback, I would not have relearned this lesson.

I'll keep you posted on wheather or not the send me to the big house or parole me!

Thanks again.


p.s. will you guys spring me if they send me away?
Thanks for all the great feedback.......Roy Zipris
Sep 17, 2001 4:44 PM
BTW, you probably don't want the woman at your hearing. If you don't know exactly what she would say, and she's not locked into her story, she would likely testify in a way to exculpate herself and incriminate you, In her absence, you do not have to contend with that problem, and the resulting lack of explanation why she swerved leaves your story unimpeached. When you testify that there was nothing in the road to have made her swerve, she's not there to say diiferent (the cop might say so, but cross-examination should be able to demonstrate that he just did his routine investigation, cited you, went on his way, and didn't really look).

As to the driver coming to testify, see my comment above about neutral witnesses.

Civil suits? Forget it: the cop has immunity; it sounds like the damages are negligible so not worth much (what lawyer would take the case for proverbial nickels?). And as someone (Dog, I think) pointed out, you might be found contributorially negligent; non-cyclists on a jury or arbitration panel might not appreciate your situation as we cyclists do.

Deal with the ticket first. Exonerate yourself. If you are found guilty, listen carefully to the judge just after the verdict: he/she will probably inform you of your right to appeal. Consider it.

Ah, the thrill of the courtroom!
re: Tourist & the Law (Rant)Live Steam
Sep 17, 2001 2:25 PM
Hi Len,
This has come up on many occasions on this board - cyclists apparently in the right getting the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the law. I just called The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) to see if they have a legal counsel that could help out with situations such as yours. The woman that answered the phone said that LAB does not have a legal staff so to speak, but does have representatives in each state familiar with each states laws. She is going to have someone call me later in the week - the person she thought could help the most is stuck in Anchorage, Alaska - to get more info on the subject. She felt that this person would at least be willing to write a letter on your behalf from the League, explaining the standard practices advocated for passing, safe cycling, helmet issues and riding with headphones, etc. This may be of help when presented to the court. LAB is cyclists voice in Washington as well as in each state. These are the people that bring to light cycling issues such as bike lanes, etc. to governments agencies at the federal as well as local level. If you want to follow through with this you can email me so I can put you in direct contact with the person from LAB when she calls. I guess it would help if you were a member of LAB, but I am sure it won't matter to them in this instance as they represent all cyclists. MY email is LABs we site is .
Sep 17, 2001 7:58 PM
In MN it is against the law for motorists to wear headphones while driving (I don't know about handsfree cell phone kits- but that is a different story)- so it would stand to reason that it would be illegal to wear headphones riding on a bike while on a public road... plus they recently enacted a "distracted motorist law" (a watered down cell phone law... but also applies to applying makeup, doing the crossword, etc... but I realize you are in a different state, and if she wasn't ticketed, regardless of the law, she wasn't ticketed.

Despite the apparent injustice, the real point is that you are alive to write about it. Frankly, it's an amazing story- no injuries, but a ticket?!

Nothing boils my blood that my being "wrongfully accused" of something (and than feeling of helplessness), and I would be having a fit if I were in your shoes.

If you show up for court, deny you did anything wrong- I've escaped numerous speeding tickets this way- each time I was told I would have to go a year without an identical offense or I would face both fines (after another ticket). I assume you don't have a history of "reckless bicycling." The fact that this second "cyclist" is even in the accident report should support your story (rather than a phantom rider that "only you" saw).

I'm at about 40% for announcing that I'm overtaking another cyclist- if I have the room and there is nothing adding risk to the situation (like a car) I'll just blow by- too many times the recreational riders veer left after they HEAR me- either they swerve left as they look over their left shoulder (how do they drive cars that way) or they hear the word left and assume they should go that way (?) or they just don't even know left from right- I don't know! I realize this doesn't change anything, since she couldn't even hear you, but recreational riders are about as hazardous as cars sometimes, and I try not to make assumptions that they even know what I'm talking about (or speak English for that matter).
-headphones-Rich Clark
Sep 18, 2001 6:09 AM
Yeah, in PA I actually got a ticket for wearing headphones while driving. My car radio had been stolen (gaping hole in the dashboard), and there were a lot of traffic problems in the area, so I plugged my acoustically transparent headphones into a portable AM radio so I could hear the traffic reports. I was trying to get to a cardiologist appointment. And I even drove with the car window open so I'd be able to hear traffic sounds, despite the fact that it was January. I'm sure I could hear better than most drivers with closed windows and loud music.

None of this mattered to the cop, who said simply "tell it to the judge," and none of it mattered to the judge, who simply asked "were you or were you not wearing the headphones?" End of story.

Yes, I'm still bitter. And if I'd kept the car window closed the cop wouldn't have even seen the headphones. Never mind that it would have been more dangerous.

overtaking other cyclistsDog
Sep 18, 2001 6:17 AM
Last night, after reading all this thread, I came upon a cyclist riding a mountain bike about 12 mph in a bike lane next to a busy 2 lane road. I was cruising about 23 mph down on the aerobars. I thought a minute, after reading this, "what is the best thing to do, not only to make the pass, but to avoid liability, too?"

I looked back, and then moved about 3 feet out into the road, about 5 feet from her, and then watched her closely. With that much buffer, plenty of room to maneuver. If a car had been closing from the rear, then I'd probably have gone to the hoods, slowed, and prepared to pass closely.

In any event, I think the wide berth approach is best.

While your in the "Big House" can i borrow your bike? :-) (nm)Dutchy
Sep 17, 2001 10:53 PM