Sunday, June 29, 2008

Police Encounter

While doing my Mud Hollow training loop today I encountered Church Traffic leaving Our Lady of the Lake at 12:35 pm. That alone was a surprise. First Baptist traffic was all gone and I always thought we Baptist were the worst for long sermons. Anyway, I slipped into the very polite stream of traffic easily enough and proceeded to the intersection of Stop 30 and Drakes Creek Rd where a policeman was directing traffic. He held everyone up for a few seconds to come over and tell me he could write me a ticket for holding up traffic by not riding far enough to the right. Then waved me on and said" Have a nice ride." Now I'm in a quandary.

I was riding just to right of the oil streak, on the place where most cars right tire goes, which is technically not as far right as possible. But then I was doing about 25 mph and it was only 200 yards from the church exit to the intersection and did not consider that anyone wanted to speed up fast enough to pass me in that distance anyway. Certainly the SUV behind me was keeping his distance. If I had gone way over to encourage a pass, I would have created a dangerous situation. Etc, etc, for my reasons but I was not about to attempt a discussion on the spot. I did note his particulars for later reference. I think he is a reasonable guy and was honestly giving me what he thought was good advice for my safety.

I'd like to discuss this with him and spread the word that on most of our roads we cannot possibly ride far enough to the right to allow cars to safely pass us when there is oncoming traffic or limited sight distance. However, given my perceived attitude toward cyclists by the Powers That Be, any pubic airing of this, including this blog, will likely get the guy into trouble for not giving me a ticket. Certainly more likely to create ill will than to help. Bummer.
Fortunately, the rest of the ride was great, legs strong, nice breeze, polite cars, no dogs so my immediate impulse to put my home up for sale and move out of this g*d**n city has passed.

What do you guys think? I'd sure like to chip away at the attitude that automobiles have the absolute right to proceed as fast as the road surface will allow, but also don't want to make things worse for us. I probably break five laws with every trip out of my drive, be it by car or by bike.



Tom_E said...

The fact that "he says" he could write you a ticket does not mean he knows the law, that you broke any laws, or that the ticket would hold up in a court challenge. When the law states bikes have equal rights to the road then you were not at fault. It would be helpful to all of us to learn the law. All reports that I have read state that the biker has the right to take possession of the lane if it increase his safety and that of motorists. Without further research into this matter, it appears to me that the cop was "out of line." Ask David Hardin if he knows were we can research the law on this incident.

However, in this case you certainly acted wisely and saved yourself legal expenses by not challenging his authority.

Gary, what does our FOGBEE attorney suggest? Can you direct us to where we can research the law?

Miley said...

I agree with you Tom. It;s frustrating when the authorities entrusted to enforce the law are misinformed. Here's the applicable code:
[Acts 1955, ch. 329, � 74; T.C.A., � 59-875; Acts 1985,
ch. 138, � 4; 1989, ch. 591, � 113.]
55-8-175. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths - Penalty.
Statute text

(a) (1) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway
at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time
and place and under the conditions then existing
shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand
curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of
the following situations:

(A) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding
in the same direction;
(B) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or
into a private road or driveway; or
(C) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including,
but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or
moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards,
or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to
continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For
purposes of this section, "substandard width lane"
means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and
another vehicle to travel safely side by side within
the lane.
(a standard width lane is elsewhere defined as 12')

(2) This subsection does not apply to a certified police
cyclist engaged in the lawful performance of duty
relating to traffic control.

(b) (1) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not
ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or
parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use
of bicycles. Persons riding two (2) abreast shall
not impede the normal and reasonable movement of
traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride
within a single lane.

(2) This subsection does not apply to a certified police
cyclist engaged in the lawful performance of duty
relating to traffic control or in pursuit of an
actual or suspected violator of the law.

(c) (1) This subsection (c) shall be known and may be cited as the
"Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007.�

(2)The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and
passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the
roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor
vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3')
and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the
overtaken bicycle.

(d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

I've read some articles by attorneys (not in TN)who stress the important disctinction that the law says to stay as far right as PRACTICABLE, not possible. These attorneys advise that practicable allows a cyclist an arms length from the edge to have room to avoid surface hazards without having to swerve suddenly towards traffic.

THe substandard / 12' standard lane width issue is confusing to me. If practicable allows up to 3' from the edge and vehicles have to stay clear by 3', the remaining 6" is not enough room be side by side in the lane.

Sorry for the long comment, but this is perhaps the most important issue for us on the road.

coastdownhills said...

Tom and Dave,
Thanks for the replies. It's good to have the actual verbage of the law. I think Stop 30 is about 18 feet wide total. I have measured Anderson Lane between Norman Farms and Autumn Creek and it varies from 16-17 feet in width.
My next off day I will take some measurements of the road widths and armed with the law and data write a letter to Hendersonville Police and Sumner Sheriff's office. It seems some education is appropriate before one of us actully gets a ticket for obstructing traffic.


Tom_E said...

I will be adding a page to the FOGBEE Web Site detailing the laws that relate to cycling. I have both the Municipal and State Law Statutes. I had most of them listed in the Greenways Newsletter in the section "Ride Safely - It's the Law."

I will add a link to that page on the Hendersonville Greenways Site which one can reach from the City's Web Site

We need to keep in mind not all FOGBEES are obeying the laws as they apply to cyclists. Our goal must be to obey all laws if we choose to complain about "mis-carriage of justice" relative to any particular statute.

coastdownhills said...

My comment about breaking laws was only partly facetious. I almost always ride against traffic for a few yeards when exiting my neighborhood and don't stop at intersections to the letter of the law. But I am usually creeping along with all systems on alert when doing so. The point about obeying the law is well taken. As John Forrester, the father of US cycling rights, says, "Cyclists fare best when they are treated as and behave like cars. Almost any provision made specifically for cyclists will ultimately be to their detriment." I don't agree totally but it is a good basis from which to start.

coastdownhills said...
I actually paraphrased Mr. Forester's words as well as mispelling his name.

Tom_E said...

I have added a Web Page detailing the H'ville Municipal Code and the Tennessee State Code as they pertain to bicycles. I have added a link to the Federal Uniform Vehicle Code from which most of these laws are based. I have provided links from FOGBEES and Hendersonville Greenways (a.k.a. H'ville Sub-committee for Pedestrian and Bicycles). Any other suggestions?

GARY said...

I have read the comments to Bruce's blog and would just say that Tenn Code Ann. 55-8-171 through 178 apply to bikes in Tennessee. With regard to TCA 55-8-175 there are virtually no reported cases interpreting this law except for RICHARDS V. DOMALIK, a 2001 Court of Appeals decision involving a bike/car collision. Amazingly the Court held this statute does not apply to a bike rider riding on the "shoulder" of the road. I will copy the case and bring to Big L's for review. Charge of $200.00 for research. Bruce bring your checkbook.

coastdownhills said...

Thanks for the coment.
This confirms a long ago learned lesson. Be very specific regarding the question you put to a lawyer or you will get a perfectly correct but imperfectly helpful answer. My original question ws whether or not I should confront the system.

But your answer is very helpful. After reading the case and if it still holds as the law of the land, I'm not breaking the law by going against traffic from my neighborhood to Stop 30. Doesn't make it any less dangerous but still good to know.

Can I pay in Fogbee Pesos?