An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Monday, August 13, 2007

All up in my face: One of those days

Late last week, after a meeting at the local watering hole, I was riding back to the office in a blissful sort of daze. Midway down a busy city block, a traffic cop steps out into my lane to begin directing traffic out of a parking ramp. No hand up, no signal, no warning. I started to swerve to avoid him, and I may as well have given the guy an adrenaline shot in the ass, because he was mad as hell, and he decided I was the main thing that was wrong with his day. He pulled me over and began, as they say, tearing me a new one. He was four shades of pissed: orange and blue and white and red all over. Anyway, after a lot of heated back-and-forth, he pointed out that there was a bike lane on the other side of the street and that

"Cyclists are required by law to use a bike path where one is provided."

I demurred. No, actually I said, "That's bullshit, and I want you to write me a ticket so that I can see the statute number." Officer Road Rage trundled off to get his citation book, steam coming out of his ears. After a lot more back-and-forth, and some conciliatory remarks by your humble correspondent, the ticket was torn up and the offense forgotten, with the final parting salutation being "Ride in the goddamn bike path!"

So anyway, I interviewed two more police officers since "the incident," and I have come to several startling conclusions.

  • Many cops are not actually aware of the law, especially regarding bikes. I still don't have a statute number, but much conflicting opinion.
  • The law can't possibly require bikes to ride in bike lanes for a very simple reason -- in this case I needed to turn right from a one way, and the bike path was on the left side. (In most cities, it is illegal to use crosswalks the way we all use them: to cross to the other side of the road at the intersection.)
  • Police have all kinds of "discretionary" citations like resisting arrest or failing to stop. You can't win, unless you have an angel on your shoulder and a song in your heart.

    Gunnar said...

    Just FYI, MN statute regarding bikes is generally in 169.222 though cities can have special rules that vary. Here's the MN Share the Road site with other helpfull advocacy info.

    Pinchie said...

    Cool, thanks Gunnar.

    Funny, one of the cops I talked to said that most downtown bike lanes violate state statute, since bikes are supposed to be within "three feet" of the curb.

    I pointed out that even this law is soft, because it's amended with the slippery clause "when safe to do so."

    Anonymous said...

    When is it ever safe to cycle within three feet of the curb?

    Anonymous said...

    There is no mandatory sidepath law in Minnesota. The cop was a ignorant of the law (in this case lack thereof) or a liar.

    States don't like mandatory sidepath laws because it raises all sorts of fun liability and maintenance issues for them.

    Ed W said...

    I had a motorist tell me that I was supposed to be no more than 3 feet from the curb here in OK. He pointed this out as I sat in a left turn lane waiting for the light to change. I offered to bet him $100 that he couldn't find that in the vehicle code. He buggered off.

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