Friday, January 07, 2005

Cyclist tried for "pushing a bicycle".

(My thanks to Dr. Brent Hugh, President of the Missouri Bicycle Federation,
Martin Pion, LCI #625, and Ed Chasteen.)

Ed Chasteen, a cyclist with multiple sclerosis, was charged
with "pushing a bicycle" in Lawson, Missouri, population 2300, in
an area where bicycle travel is prohibited both on the street and
the adjacent sidewalks of the business district. Local law
forbids even pushing a bike. The area has several "No
Bicycles" signs, but Mr. Chasteen assumed they were to prevent riding a
bicycle on the sidewalk.

His trial was held January 4th. Lawson's mayor, chief of
police, and the officer who wrote Chasteen's ticket all testified.
Chasteen's attorney asked questions during the trial
indicating that Lawson's previous city prosecutor had refused to file the
case as unprosecutable. Although the judge refused to allow
the questions, a different prosecutor was handling the case.

Chasteen's attorney argued that the law is unconstitutionally
vague, includes an inappropriate penalty designed for parents
of children, and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Parents who permit violations by their children may be charged
with a misdemeanor.

Local media reports erroneously indicated that Lawson's mayor
is against any changes to the "no bicycle zone" law. Lawson City
Manager John Tracy indicates that an update to the law is in
fact on the agenda for this spring. Lawson is looking at bicycle
law in nearby cities as a model, and will work with local
bicyclists and bicycle groups, as well as local citizens. Note,
however, that at least some local citizens support the bicycle ban.

The judge will consider the case and issue a verdict within 10

Chasteen's group rides to Lawson about once every 5 weeks. In
July, he was entering a restaurant when he met Lawson's Police
Chief, who ordered him to remove his bicycle from the street.
Mr. Chasteen refused, and the Chief had a waiting officer
ticket him for the offense.

Mr. Chasteen first encountered the police in May of 2004, when
police told a group of cyclist volunteers supporting a local
MS ride that they could not ride in Lawson.

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