Friday, August 23, 2013

More Police Harassment

Thursday August 15, 2013

On this day I was traveling southbound on the I-820 service road in Fort Worth Texas at around 2:10 PM. I am wearing a ball cap and long pants.

This section transitions from a two lane (with a wide outside lane) to a single lane, and then back to a two lane (with a narrow outside lane) configuration. The single lane becomes the right lane of an on-ramp/off-ramp two lane merge.

I take a Mike Beck Disapproved* lane position throughout. I drive in the left lane in the first (two lane) section and in the right lane in the second (two lane) section. I travel this road often as it best serves my destination considering travel distance and terrain.

It is common for motorists to be annoyed with my presence and express it with their automobile horns. Often, the more impatient motorists will pass me on the shoulder. Even when the road divides into two lanes again I will often get free unsolicited advice from motorists or their passengers as the accelerate past me.

On this day, when I was about midway through the single lane section, I hear on a PA system; "YOU CAN'T RIDE ON A ON-RAMP. YOU MUST USE A SERVICE ROAD!"

I do a shoulder check and observe that it is a patrol car without its lights on.

I turn around and continue on my way as if the officer wasn't there.

The lane divides, and the officer pulls along side of me in the passing lane, pacing me. I see that it is a Ft. Worth Police officer. He wants to talk...

"Cars are piling up behind you", he says. "You are not allowed to ride here."

Defending myself, I say; "I am driving lawf..." He cuts my statement off.

"Hey, your supposed to be wearing a helmet!" He says, as he notices my cap.

"Stop making up laws!" I say. The cop gets a surprised look on his face.

"I'm not making up any laws!" he says.

I turn forward and return my attention to my driving. He moters off, much to the relief of the seven or eight motorists who were trapped behind us.

I continue on my way.

So dear reader, did this officer make up any laws? Is a cyclist allowed to operate on a freeway on-ramp in Texas? Is a cyclist allowed to impede traffic on this road? Is a cyclist required to wear a helmet when driving in Fort Worth Texas? Should I have obeyed the officer's rules when so directed, or the actual laws as passed by our legislators?

 *TM This would be the left tire track directly in front of a motorist. Mike Beck disapproves on the general grounds of it being "overly rude". Amusingly, he somehow believes this imperils him when he is cycling on the road in southern California!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Traffic Stop Ruminations

Why was I pulled over?

Do you think this officer was truly concerned with my safety, or was he just enforcing the Culture of Speed?

Is he the local safety patrol or is he a speed cop?

His first gambit, perhaps as a result of his confidence that I was breaking some sort of law, was that I "can't be blocking traffic that way". It is not clear precisely what he meant.

As there was a travel lane next to me (conveniently commonly called a passing lane) I wasn't blocking anyone. Was he objecting to my chosen route? (In the travel lane and not on the shoulder?) Was he objecting to my centered-left lane position?

Regardless, I responded to what he actually said by pointing out that everyone was free to avail themselves of the other lane if they wished.

So he made up a scenario that in his imagination was my imminent peril; "Well, a bunch of cars almost swerved into you back there."

As I noted, traffic was not heavy. The Airport Freeway parallels Hwy 183 siphoning off non-local traffic. I find it hard to believe, even on reflection, that I was a significant hindrance to anyone, nor do I think there was enough traffic to create the hazard he lied about.

No one passed me while straddling the lane, for instance. This would be something I would notice because it is such a rare event. All the overtaking drivers that day did so with due care and completely within their own lane.

Even if folks did dart into my lane without seeing me, it would be their reckless actions that were putting me at risk, not my lawful presence, as his statement implies. In that moment, and even now, it is this notion that particularly irks me: To make an unsafe lane change is illegal and a citable offence; But this officer pulled me over, not them!

These are the issues that I am hinting at with my questions to him, and so he retreats to the more tenable position of "safety".

What a joke! This officer hasn't a clue as to how to operate a bicycle on a roadway. He is immersed in the Culture of Speed, he has a windshield view of the world and he has likely never given any thought as to how fast vehicles behave around slow vehicles. Excuse me if I doubt that your safety tips will be useful to me.

Society has empowered this officer to enforce laws enacted by our duly elected legislative bodies. He has been given the power to detain people suspected of criminal behavior. He is therefor abusing such powers if he is detaining the law-abiding for breaking imaginary laws or by capriciously enforcing his own personal rules. As an agent of the state he has no lawful authority to compel others to listen to his safety lectures.

So what is he? A policeman? Is he a Culture of Speed cop? Is he the local safety patrol?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Again While Minding My Own Business

Tuesday August 13, 2013

I am enjoying a ride through Richland Hills (a suburb of Ft. Worth Texas) going south on Hwy 183 at around 3:30 pm. It is sunny, there is a mild south wind and traffic is mild and calm. There is a 45 MPH posted speed limit.

This is my first experience on this road, and I like it. A four lane with a median and nice 11 foot bicycle/automobile lanes. I am driving in my classic Mike Beck Disapproved lane position- Yes, I am in the left tire track! (GASP!) I am wearing long sleeves, long pants and no helmet.


At the sound of the electronic klaxon I do a shoulder check to see flashing red lights. I am being pulled over by one of Richland Hills finest.

I stop, and discover I am quite nervous. I work at calming myself. I remind myself to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. "Don't argue," I tell myself, "and don't make statements, try to couch everything as a question..."

The officer gets out and walks up to me and says; "Traffic was piling up behind you; You can't be blocking traffic that way."

"Was traffic having trouble passing me in the next lane?" I ask.  My jitters are going away and I am returning to a calmer state.

"Well, a bunch of cars almost swerved into you back there."

"Am I to be held responsible for the actions of others?" I speak in an even tone. He seems surprised at my question.

"Well, I'm concerned about your safety."

"I doubt that." I say in a disgusted tone. (I couldn't help myself.) He gives me a funny look.

"You from around here?"


"Do you have ID?"


"Can I see it?"

I reluctantly hand it over.

"Wait here, I'll be right back."

He retreats back to his patrol SUV to discover that there are no warrants out for my arrest.

After a short while he returns and says; "I have taken down your information just in case you get hit down the road." Handing me my ID he says; "You are free to go, but it would be safer if you used the shoulder."

"Actually it wouldn't." I say.

"I am not here to argue with you. You obviously dislike cops, and I just don't want you to be hurt."

This time I manage to keep my mouth shut. But it was hard.

I put away my ID, wait for a gap in traffic and proceed on my way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Police Contact

I was stopped on the way home last night at about 10:15.

I will hide the officer's identity to shield him from public ridicule. I will call him "Officer Fife".

Officer Fife works for the Richardson Police Department.

I was traveling south on Plano Road approaching Beltline when he pulled me over.

"You must have a blinking red rear light to operate on the roadway at night. Get off the road and onto the sidewalk."

"I am not required to have a rear light on my bicycle."

"Like all vehicles, you have to have a rear light. You must ride on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, you must ride on the other side of the road against traffic."

"There is no law requiring such."

"It is a City of Richardson law."

"Does city law supersede state law?"

"Our laws conform to state law."

"Could you show me the statute, please?"

"I'm not going to argue with you. Do I have to write you a ticket?"

"For what violation?"

"Very well, show me your ID."

"I have no ID on me."

"Take your bicycle onto the sidewalk and out of the street. I'll deal with you there."

So I walked my bicycle to the sidewalk and lay it down. I waited while he got his notebook out.

"Name?" I told him my name.

"Driver's licence number?" I told him I had no driver's licence.

"No driver's licence? Any ID issued by Texas?" "None" I said.

"Birthday? Address?" I gave them to him.

With that he retreated to his squad car. After a few minutes he returned.

"I don't have time to deal with stuff like this, so I'm letting you go with a verbal warning."

"We disagree on what the requires of me."

"I told you what the law says."

"What does Sec 551.104 say?"

"I'm not going to argue with you. Stay on the sidewalk!"

"Do you just make up laws?"

He stalked off in a angry huff.

I waited until he was out of sight, and then I continued on my way in a lawful manner, as I had before. I was delayed about 15 minutes.

Sec. 551.104. SAFETY EQUIPMENT. (a) A person may not operate a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) A person may not operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:
(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle; and
(2) on the rear of the bicycle:
(A) a red reflector that is:
(i) of a type approved by the department; and
(ii) visible when directly in front of lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle; or
(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

Posted by Picasa

Sadly, another VC hit from-behind wreck happened here in Dallas, this time to a middle-aged couple on a tandem.

The collision happened within 200 feet of the crash I reported last month, but this time in broad daylight.

The Stoker on the tandem suffered a sprained ankle and a deep two inch gash that required ten stitches to close. The Captain was bruised.

Surprisingly, both are expected to fully recover in spite the fact that neither were wearing a helmet. The tandem's rear wheel will be fine when the rim and spokes are replaced.

The driver of the car may have been distracted by one or more of the five children who were her passengers. She locked up the brakes on her car before hitting the tandem.

The tandem was traveling about ten miles per hour centered in the right travel lane on a road with a forty MPH speed limit. The motorist struck the bicycle on her license plate- perfectly centered in the middle of her bumper.

Because she had no car insurance, her car was impounded.

City assets involved in this incident was one EMT ambulance with three EMT personnel, one fire engine with three firemen, six police units and six police officers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

VC Overtake Crash in Dallas

Further investigation into the recent overtaking collision of a cyclist in Dallas reveals that, contrary to the opinion expressed by a "trained crash investigator", operating on the shoulder at the time in question would have most likely resulted in much more severe injuries to the cyclist.

The cyclist was traveling south on Buckner, centered in the right lane, having just crossed over I-30 and the highest point of the bridge. Due to gusty headwinds, he was traveling around 10 MPH. It was 11:15 at night, the cyclist was traveling home from work, a 22 mile commute.

The motorist A (who struck the cyclist) was traveling in the right lane. Motorist B, merged right into him from the center lane, cutting him off. Motorist A swerved right onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. Motorist B, upon seeing the cyclist directly in front of him, swerved left to pass him, avoiding a sideswipe by inches. His left tires were about two feet into the next lane as he passed the cyclist.

When asked, the cyclist allowed that the perceived high speed of motorist B may have been due to the close proximity of him when he went by and not empirically true.

Motorist A saw the cyclist after he began to re-enter the roadway, and he swerved right in a belated attempt to avoid him. The cyclist was struck in his right calf by the PT Cruiser's front bumper, and his right hip, arm and shoulder bounced against the left window post, breaking the mirror off of the car. The cyclist then landed on his right side, banging his head on the pavement. Motorist A stopped to render aid and call for help, as did many a passerby. Motorist B fled.

Motorist A was operating without insurance.

The Dallas Police Officer interviewed for this piece described himself as a "trained crash investigator". He cited many reasons why it was not prudent for a cyclist to operate on that roadway. "It is a high-speed road", (Signed MSL 40 MPH), "It was late at night on St. Patrick's Day", "Two out of three people in that area are intoxicated that time of night", "He was obscured by the crest of the bridge for following traffic", and a few others.

He insisted that a better route for a cyclist was to travel on the improved shoulder. He was unswayed when it was pointed out that it was debris strewn and still covered with sand from the winter storms. It has ceramic reflectors placed in diagonal lines every twenty feet to indicate it is not a travel lane. The chances of cyclist striking debris and crashing or damaging his tires is heightened by the darkness.

When asked; "What is the cyclist to do when the shoulder ends?" He had no answer. (The shoulder ends when the bridge ends. There are no signs to warn either cyclists of this or to warn motorists that cyclists must re-enter the roadway.)

He insisted for a while that a cyclist must operate to the right edge of the roadway at all times, until he read for himself the actual statute. He didn't notice that a further right position would have almost certainly resulted in graver injuries.

When he was asked how long a couch in the right lane would last before being hit, he said it would be hit "Within minutes." This reveals his low opinion of the driving skills of Texas drivers, despite the pervasive evidence to the contrary.

As for his objection that the cyclist was obscured by the crown in the bridge, this is entirely speculative on his part. The cyclist had a Planet Bike Superflash tail light about three feet above the pavement, and numerous reflectors both above and below it. Sight lines are more than ample for vehicles operating within the speed limit.

He then retreated to "It's just common sense" argumentation and insisted that the cyclist was a contributory cause of the accident. "He may have a right to the roadway, but he would still be dead."

It is not yet known if any citations will be issued.

Image courtesy of Keri Caffry

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dallas Cyclist Struck By Car

March 17, 2011, Dallas.

At about 11:30 PM a local man on a bicycle was struck by a car on Buckner Blvd. while crossing the I-30 freeway. Witnesses said he was traveling in the right lane rather than on the wide shoulder, and that he had blinking lights and reflectors.

A "trained crash investigator" from the Dallas Police Department said the blame for the accident rests with the cyclist. "It's just common sense; You are begging for trouble if you ride in the roadway when there is a good shoulder nearby."

The cyclist was taken to Baylor hospital and released. The motorist was shaken up but refused medical treatment at the scene.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Judge Calvert Sentences Mr. Bates

From the transcript, this is the sentencing comment made by Judge Calvert at my "Reckless Driving" trial last August.

I’m sympathetic to the defendant’s blight. In fact, what he was doing was in many ways very admirable, trying to get a job, exercising every means at his disposal to try to regain gainful employment, and utilizing the resources that he had available to him at the time to provide that he had available to him at the time to provide for his own needs without relying upon other people. And so in many respects his conduct’s admirable. And in many respects, it’s lawful. As the parties were arguing and even some of the evidence earlier, trying to think of an example that might apply and I don’t know that this is a good example, but this is the one that came to mind, is that it’s not unlawful for a boy to swing a bat. In fact, it’s good for them, it’s good exercise, it’s good for them to participate in athletics and be in team sports and things of that nature.

But there are times when swinging a bat can become more dangerous, get into a crowded room or you get into circumstances, the swinging of the bat circumstances can change in such a way that if you put other people at peril even if you’re not at risk of being hurt, they might be injured by the way that you’re doing something that otherwise is completely lawful.

And there are times when it can even go beyond that where it’s reckless to where it could even be construed as knowing that there’s a high likelihood that somebody would get hurt if you continue that type of behavior and at some point, some people can infer by your conduct that you’re intentionally putting other people at risk, so that you could be accused of assault and even at times aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with a piece of wood that otherwise completely lawful to be utilizing. So there’s a spectrum there that has to be taken into consideration. And there needs to be good judgement utilized by people not only with regard to their own safety but to the safety of others. And you may be right. It may have been safer for you under some circumstances to ride in the middle of the roadway, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t create a hazard for other people at times. And it may even jeopardize your own safety under certain circumstances. You have to take into consideration the safety of other persons and their property under those circumstances.

In this case, according to a note that was left by the clerk, the court costs, due to the subpoenas that were issued, are in the neighborhood of $512.10. It will be the judgement of the Court 13 days in jail, a $100 fine plus the court costs and give him credit for time served. Five extra days will be applied to the balance of the fines and court costs reducing the total by $500. Any remaining balance will be due to be paid.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Judge Makes His Ruling

This is the comments made by Judge Calvert at the conclusion of my trial.

A. GENE CALVERT, JR. : The defendant certainly has a right to operate a bicycle on a roadway. There are some restrictions upon the operation of a bicycle. There’s certainly roadways where it’s not permissible at all even if you’re operating on a permissible roadway, it has to be done in a safe manner.

The question in this case is whether or not your conduct on the date and time in question should be considered reckless. The fact that you were able to safely navigate the roadways on prior occasions, as your attorney pointed out, is not really relevant. Times and conditions and circumstances of the operation of a vehicle change. Circumstances change with patterns of traffic, visibility, numerous other conditions.

On the occasion in question, taken into account the totality of the circumstances that have been testified here today, there was a high degree of concern with regard to the way that you were operating the motor vehicle -- I’m sorry -- the bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles. And as such, officers were dispatched to your location to discuss their concerns with you and you disregarded their instructions and their request and commenced to return to operate your bicycle on the roadway.

It appeared to be at least in the center of the roadway and at times, maybe even be closer to the center stripe for a portion of that time. I’m sympathetic with the fact that there’s not designated biking lanes on enough of our roadways to accommodate a bicycle traveler. It would certainly do a lot to relieve a lot of the concerns we have regarding numerous issues including, physical health, obesity, and consumption of oil and petroleum products. However, that’s not really part of the decision I’m making today.

Even though it may have been permissible for you to be in the right lane of traffic, operating the motor vehicle or your bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles, at this particular occasion, you were presenting a hazard to other vehicles. And you may not have been aware of it up until that point, but once the officers made you aware of the concerns that have been reported and the numerous calls that had been made regarding the circumstances on that day, for to you disregard that warning and return back into that same state of operating your bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles on that roadway on that day it constituted willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

And so based on that, I am going to find you guilty of reckless driving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ms. Barnes Closing Rebuttal

This is Ms. Barnes’ rebuttal to Mr. Jones’s closing statement.

Thank you, Judge. I think we’ve established through testimony that he has the right to ride his bicycle on the roadway. I don’t think we’re contesting that. I’m certainly not contesting that the roadway is 12 feet as Mr. Bates, I guess, measured it, your honor. But we’re here today because a bicyclist on a roadway is not only afforded the same rights as any other vehicle, but he is also held accountable for the duties that he is responsible for. And he’s responsible for driving in a manner or riding a bicycle in a manner that is not reckless and that’s exactly why we’re here. Recklessness, according to caselaw, reckless driving means a deliberate and conscience indifference to the safety of others.

And the Court can infer based upon the testimony and the evidence presented that, that’s exactly what happened here. He’s been warned and he’s admitted on the stand when Officer Zapata said, for your own safety, sir, for the safety of other people, please don’t get back on the roadway. And he walked off and then before he could open up the door to get in his car, he sees that he goes right back on the roadway, right back on it.

His actions, his actions show nothing but a deliberate and conscience indifference. And we are here today because of that. Nobody says he doesn’t have a right to be on the roadway, but he got on the roadway at a time and manner in which his action of being on the roadway was reckless and he disregarded the safety of others and he disregarded the safety of himself and he continued to do it. And I ask that you hold him responsible, Judge. Hold him accountable.