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Law and Order and Bikes

by Ted Johnson

Here’s an article I came across with some good information about the legal rights of cyclists, and some common misperceptions.

Regarding the perception that roads are for motor vehicles:

…roads are still for moving people and motor vehicles are but one type of conveyance by which people move.

And the perception that slow vehicles are unsafe:

 …speed kills; however, a perception has developed that vehicles that are slower than other traffic create a hazard; in truth, slower is still safer.

And the perception that speed limits are speed requirements:

If a heavily loaded truck is unable to accelerate from an intersection or up a hill, most motorists understand and merely tolerate it or pass it when they are able. Yet if the vehicle is a bicycle, intolerance and outrage develops in some drivers. As with all slow-moving vehicles, bikes must use the right lane unless they are preparing for a left turn, but despite common misconceptions, they still have a right to the roadway

Where did I find this bike-loving, anti-motorist crazy talk? Was it Carlton Reid‘s keynote address to the meeting of the John Forester Society?

Nope. It was Law and Order: The Magazine for Police Management — The leading publication for top and middle law enforcement management.

Law and Order Magazine

Click to read the full article.

And why should I expect this to surprise you like, Oh my God! Verbal is Keyser Söze!

Maybe it’s not a surprise to you at all. But too often I encounter the presumption that “cops are dicks” — not just on bike blogs.

Check out Google Autocomplete when you type “cops are” into the search field, as it anticipates what you might type next — based on the most common searches:

Google Autocomplete Cops Are

What the Google Driverless Car might say to a police officer.

Some people like to portray the “stupid cop” as the norm — the rule even — just as others like to paint all cyclists as red-light-running scofflaws. A few days ago I challenged a fellow bike blogger by the name of Dirty for indulging in this bit of cop bashing:

In my opinion, one of the greatest things to have come out of our recent evolution is the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” sharrows. How cool are those things! We always knew we could take the whole lane of traffic. Now there it is, clear as day, painted on the road. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pavement is hard, trees rarely move, tubulars ride better than clinchers, and cops are still dicks.

That blog post is accompanied by this video of a police officer, who is clearly uninformed about the rights of cyclists.

Dirty concludes, “We have come so far, but there is still a long way to go. Let’s keep this party moving forward.”

Here’s another quote from the article in Law and Order — which is written, I remind you, for the supervisors of cops like the one in the video:

The major violations, which cyclist should be stopped and ticketed for are: 1) riding against traffic; 2) failure to yield right of way at stop or yield signs; 3) running red lights; and 4) riding without required nighttime lighting. We need to stop cyclists for disobeying traffic controls. Many cyclists ride through red lights because they have no fear of being ticketed. This obvious lawlessness by some cyclists further increases the animosity felt by many motorists. If the police won’t enforce traffic laws for bicyclists, who will? Isn’t that part of the police role in enhancing traffic safety and promoting voluntary compliance with the law?

The major violations by motorists that endanger bicyclists are: 1) failure to yield right of way; 2) unsafe passing; 3) harassment or assault; and 4) inattentive or impaired driving.

By law, cyclists always have the right of first come, first served in the lane that they are occupying. Vehicles can’t legally intrude into their path, or pass them, unless it is safe to do so.

And on and on it goes. Spot on.

Isn’t it refreshing to know that the bathroom reading for law enforcement management is moving forward with us now? Huh, Dirty?

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

5 Responses to “Law and Order and Bikes”

  1. Jeff Gardner says:

    Presumptions are insidious because otherwise cogent arguments are often built upon them. If “cops are dicks” stands as an unchallenged presumption, many destructive but ‘reasonable’ deductions pile atop. So, Ted, good for having challenged. Its tough to do because people rarely desire to give up foundations that shape their worldview.

    Presumptions are the fodder of law. Most infamously, tax law. But traffic law isn’t far behind. Just in this article “motor vehicle”, “vehicle”, “traffic”, “motorist”, “driver”, “roadway”, “police officer” are terms-of-art misused, for each almost always mean something very different than the way we commonly use the words in daily speech. Terms which, once understood, lead to a far different set of conclusions. Terms which, once understood, re-shape the matter of bicyclists rights and responsibilities for anyone who tackles common presumptions that shape beliefs about bicycles and travel.

  2. Charlie Eck says:

    Cops can throw there weight around, I have met one or two who seemed to enjoy bullying the public. Most though are trying to do their job, and some really try to make a difference. The one thing that’s needed is education: the words in this article need to get into the heads of the officers on the street!

    Any thoughts?

  3. norm says:

    Is there a link to this article on line? If not, which issue of the magazine was this from? Our local law enforcement offices all need a copy.

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