I missed our Sunday ride two weekends in a row while on vacation, and it turned out that the first weekend was much more eventful than usual.
The B ride took a loop route that included some moderately challenging hills. Everything was going well, until the group reached an intersection just two miles from the finish. It’s a stoplighted intersection, with a right turn to a southbound road with a bike lane at that point.
The light was red for the bikers. They rode up to the intersection, and turned right without coming to a complete stop at the light. Next thing you know, an Austin Police car was pulling them over.
Penny gets her ticket while two other club members stand by in disbelief.
The officer issued tickets to four riders for failing to come to a complete stop. Each ticket carries a fine of $217. Meanwhile, one of the riders saw three cars roll through the same red light while making a right turn onto the same street, and wondered why the officer wasn’t ticketing them, since a two-ton automobile is a greater hazard than a 20-pound bike.
The officer told the group he was issuing citations because of the grief the Austin Police Department has been getting over cyclists breaking traffic laws. Letters to the editor in the newspaper seem to be getting more vociferous lately over cyclists, but I don’t think it’s any different here than in any other city.
The recipients of the tickets agree that they did not follow the letter of the law — they did not come to a complete stop — but they also think that since no safety issue was involved, the officer should have let them off with warnings instead. Now, they’re faced with paying a large fine. Pippa, the ride leader for the week, said, “I shall go to Court just because I’m British and like a good argument.” The others are still debating whether to join her.
One benefit of the incident has been increased discussion within the club about obeying traffic laws more strictly. The B ride this past weekend was led by a club member who is a League Certified Instructor, and required stops at all lights and signs. He said there was not a single instance of a rider rolling through a stop sign, and called it an “impressive” sight.
In the end, I suppose the ticket episode will be beneficial (although those who got the tickets will have a bad taste in their mouths for some time to come) because of the new emphasis on obeying laws within the club. It seems like a tough way to learn the lesson, though. Have any readers run into similar police enforcement crackdowns in your areas?
Giles from NH says
Anything’s legal if you don’t get caught, I say!
For future reference:
As you approach the intersection, look around to make sure there are no cops around.
Take this advice, perhaps with a grain of salt:
In the event that a cop does try to pull over the group, scatter and run in different directions, all at max speed. It’s not like you have license plates or anything, so there’s nothing to worry about. Also, NEVER EVER carry ID with you, especially that RoadID thing. If the cop does manage to corner you, use an alias, and the ticket will magically disappear. You could even use a professional cyclist’s name. Not Lance though. That would be too obvious. If you have just enough nerve to run from the cops (or everyone else ran and left you there to deal with it) but not enough nerve to lie to a cop’s face, or if you couldn’t hide your RoadID in time, then you can make the rest of the pack split the ticket.
And tell those drivers it’s the 21st century, and sorry if my being environmentally conscientious and healthy is getting in the way of your mid-afternoon DUIing, but they can blow it out their ass.
That’s what I say about that.
But seriously though, fight the ticket in court. Talk to the prosecutor before the proceedings start, and ask if you can plea for a reduced fine. Who knows, maybe the DA rides too, and will totally throw it out. Tell him that the cop was a hick that just wanted to harass some cyclists.
Apparently whoever talked Rick Perry out of signing the 3 foot law is also writing letters to the Statesman, city council, mayor, and city manager. Jerk(s).
Mike Weiland says
Makes me want to move to Idaho.
Mike Weiland says
Actually red lights are different, I always stop at red lights. I stop at 99% of the stop signs, the only time I don’t come to a full stop is if I’m turning right. But I treat stop signs and stop lights the same in my car as on my bike. So sorry Idaho, you don’t get me as a resident yet…
Break the law…get caught…get a ticket. I’m not saying it’s right to target any one group but as cyclists we are expected to follow the same laws as other vehicles. I find the argument that a cyclist running a stop sign vs a vehicle to be a little fallacious.
Do I run stop signs? On occasion (more often than not). If a police officer was bored and saw it happen I’m sure I’d get a ticket. I also tend to speed when I drive and I’ve gotten a couple of tickets for that 🙁
Unfortunately for the cyclists, even if they had been in Idaho and ran the stoplight, they still could have gotten ticketed. Cyclists can treat stop signs as yield signs here in Idaho, but must come to a complete stop before proceeding through a red light.
That’s pretty much the case everywhere. Even in places that claim to be cyclist’s paradise. I don’t get it. If only cyclists breezed through red lights, why are traffic light cameras such big business for catching cars?
In fact, out here there’s a few cyclist turncoats who think that if cyclists would respect the red, everything will be pink fuzzy bunny slippers for the rest of eternity and some major blog flamewars on occasion.
Good! Club rides always end up blowing through at least one red light, which is one of the reasins I hate club rides. Maybe those ticketed will think of the fine as buying a clue: don’t blow through red lights!
I have never been on a club ride that has blown a red light. We always stop, if proceeding straight thru the intersection. In this case, it was a right turn with no cross traffic moving through. The light was treated as a yield sign. Yes, they broke the law, but pretty minor IMHO.
In response to the first comment by Giles from NH:
Not carrying an ID or RoadID on the chance you might get caught running a red light or stop sign is a very short-sighted suggestion, at least IMHO.
There are ‘hot zones’ for traffic law enforcements in any area, and they are usually related to complaints by local residents. Such an example is a one mile stretch on Hermosa Ave. in Hermosa Beach, just south of Manhatten Beach. The blocks are really short and every intersection has a 4 way stop sign. Every year the City of Hermosa Beach makes a fortune off fines collected from cyclists rolling through the stop signs. I once saw an entire club ride (30+ riders) pulled over by 4 motorcycle cops.
The bottom line is: If we want our rights respected as cyclists, we have to equally respect all traffic laws.
Giles from NH says
Ah, glad that you picked up that I was joking about the not-carrying-an-ID thing.
I 100% agree with you, and I always say, If you want the rights to the road, you need to accept the responsibilities.
Do I always practice what I preach? No, not always. But if I am riding like a jerk, I know that I am going to have to fend for myself, and I don’t expect motorists to show me any regard.
Sine Botchen says
I’ll stop at stop signs and red lights, for two reasons: it’s the law, and because I rarely ride in traffic so I tend to be overly cautious. Familiarity breeds contempt.
You know, I honestly think that more enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists is a good thing. Cyclists do have a bad rap and unfortunately, to a large extent, it’s deserved. Yes, there are individuals and groups who obey the law. Unfortunately, most don’t — and they never will, unless they have some impetus to change. Fear of getting a ticket could help.
However, $217 is way too much to stomach (and I’d say the same thing if they had been driving cars). It’s a minor traffic violation. The punishment is over the top.
Mike Weiland says
Austin traffic violations for bike infractions cost more than cars for the same offense! Running a stop sign on a bike will cost $217 running a stop sign in a car $167!
Actually, they’re the same. On the page you linked:
Bicycle – Ran Red Light $217
Ran Red Light $217
However, the car fee you quoted was:
Ran Stop Sign $167 (there’s no listed bicycle equivalent, so I’m not sure if this applies to bicycles as well)
Sounds picayune of police to me. Has there been any discussion of the club or the other riders in the group who were not ticketed, kicking in a few dollars to help cover the fines of the others? Or is it club policy that you’re on your own if ticketed on a group ride?
No club policy in that regard — it’s never come up before.
I’m fairly new to the cycling community, so I’m not really sure what the consensus is on this issue. About 95% of my riding is done at night, so when I’m approaching a stop sign or traffic signal, it’s usually fairly obvious if a car is approaching or not.
With that said, if I can see in every direction and there are no cars in sight (or no headlights, anyway), I usually don’t stop at stop signs (although I always slow down enough to be ABLE to stop quickly if needed). At red lights, I’ll stop but will immediately go on my way if it’s a deserted intersection. But I’m always a little extra cautious about this, because I live in a fairly quiet community where the police will send 3-4 squad cars to the scene of a minor fender-bender, they’re so desperate for ANYTHING to happen.
I’ve been hassled twice for not having my headlight on my bicycle… one time it was daytime, and the other I was arrested and spent 26 hours in jail.
I hope one of these days a cop starts hassling bikers all alone and he finds himself in a hard place… skulls crack without helmets.
I posted a link to this article in one of my recent blog entries, and one of the police sergeants I’m in contact with at the APD said y’all should plead not guilty and fight the ticket. More info here: http://www.atxbs.com/?q=node/2095
David Walker says
Policy the police use or suppose to use is “faster than a walk speed” for a stop sign. So I don’t know how fast the bikes rolled through or the cars that didn’t get a ticket did but that maybe the reason for the difference. I am not sure how long ago cops started ignoring bicycle riders, running stop signs or treating red lights like stop signs, but they did. It became OK for bicyclist to coast through stop signs or peddles through a red light after stopping, even in front of a police car. Unless you’re reckless, I would be surprised if you got stopped with the same frequency as you would in a car. AND I REALLY DON’T GET THE 3000 pound vs. 20 pound argument, one hits the other who cares who ran the sign.. the bike lost !!
Traffic Ticket Defense says
Nice. You have a couple of great points The problem with law is that it sometimes doesn’t work for you. It is a system failure and needs to be rectified.
Sane Adult Citizen of a Supposedly Free Society says
Unbelievable! I’ve been riding my bike in this city for 22 years and only recently have had to deal with this bullshit. There was the helmet law in the 90’s, but apart from that, not much.
There is the law and then there is common sense. You idiots who side with ridiculous laws such as this, “Just because it’s safe”, are part of the problem. That problem being a nanny police state that tries to dictate every action that could be possibly be taken by free adult citizens in this country and find a way to tax or fine you for taking those actions, regardless of what they are. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY.
More laws = more revenue.
To each of you. Wake up, man! You’re a grown up who knows right from wrong, and if you want to roll your fucking bike through a stop sign when it is perfectly safe to do so then you shouldn’t have some moron in a blue suit trying to make you pay out the nose for doing so.
You are still FREE, don’t give that up, please!
Grow some balls, you pussies.
Sane Adult Citizen of a Supposedly Free Society says
Rainycamp – Go ahead and keep focusing on the messenger, on the personal shortcomings of the messenger. Yes, I’m pissed and belligerent and have lost all manners. Congratulations on uncovering that.
However, the message remains the same my friend.
Do you know how many laws the Texas legislature creates in a single year? Find out.
These laws, that provide new means to fine or imprison you, for previously legal behavior, are not going away. New ones are simply being added. You are losing your freedom and cannot see this.
You cannot legislate personal responsibility no matter how hard you try. But only the naive (99%’ers) believe that is the end goal is safety and responsibility. This is about money and control, which are basically one in the same.
It’s simple. The fewer choices you have, the less free you are. Think long and hard about that.