Saturday, November 05, 2005

Impeding traffic: The Selz decision

Last summer, a county sheriff's deputy told me he could have charged me with impeding traffic here in Oklahoma. (See A First! - 11AUG05) As it turned out, the impeding traffic law applies specifically to motor vehicles. Bicycles are 'devices propelled by human power' or some similar language.

But this piece from Velonews is about Steven Selz. It was written by his attorney, Steve Magas. It is well worth reading in it's entirety if you have an interest in bicycling advocacy.

Excerpts follow:

Legally Speaking - with Bob Mionske: You gotta fight for your right to slooooow down

By Robert Mionske JD

This report filed January 30, 2004

Dear Readers,
In this weeks column I have chosen to highlight a critical bicycle rights case handled by fellow "bike attorney" Steve Magas. I am including Steve's personal account of this important case for cyclists throughout the U.S. in its entirety.

Dear Bob,
In the summer of 1999 I was asked to become involved in the case of a young man who had received a traffic ticket for "impeding traffic" in Trotwood, Ohio. Little did I know that the case would ultimately garner international intention, cause countless e-mails to be sent to the City of Trotwood, and generate an appellate court ruling that is extremely favorable to the nation's cyclists!

On May 14, 2001, the court of appeals decision in the case of Trotwood v. Selz was officially "published" in Ohio's law books. Virtually every lawyer in the State of Ohio had the decision on their desks with the other cases published on May 14. However, more importantly, publication of the case greatly increases its precedential value to future cyclists who wish to challenge traffic citations.

...The Prosecutor argued that, in essence, if you can't go 45mph on Salem Avenue, you should not ride on the road. The argument was that it was "absurd" for bicycle operators to be allowed to "impede traffic" because they can only go "...ten, fifteen, twenty, whatever, miles per hour and therefore become a danger to himself..." This concept of "protecting" the poor bicycle operator came through loud and clear from both the Prosecutor and the Court!

...I understand that the City of Trotwood was virtually inundated with e-mails about the case. There were various versions of "the facts" now floating around. The OBF paid for the trial transcript and we published that on the OBF website. I openly invited comments, criticism and ideas for the appeal and received dozens of emails, mostly friendly, about the case.

...On October 20, 2000, the Court of Appeals released its decision - a victory for Steven Selz. The court found a case in Georgia involving a slow moving farm combine. In that case, the Georgia court found that operator of a slow moving vehicle, which was traveling at or near its top speed, could not be convicted of "impeding traffic" under a similar law. The Court of Appeals compared the Georgia case to this one and stated:

In either case, holding the operator to have violated the slow speed statute would be tantamount to excluding operators of these vehicles from the public roadways, something that each legislative authority, respectively, has not clearly expressed an intention to do.
Publication of the court's decision on May 14, 2001 gives the opinion increased importance and precedential value. Virtually every lawyer in Ohio had the opportunity to take a look at it when it hit his or her desk.
Good riding,
Steve Magas

Our legal right to bicycle on the roadways should never be taken for granted or it may, one day, be taken away. Steve Magas should be commended for devoting his legal expertise on behalf of cyclists everywhere. Steve practices law in Ohio and can be reached at
Good luck,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mentioned (and linked to) the Selz case in a comment to your "A first" post, back in August!
Get with the program.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

You're right, Greg, you did link to that back in August. I just plain forgot. Welcome to middle age! There comes a time when we repeat ourselves.

I read about the Selz decision on the Chainguard list, but it was always people commenting about it, not the principals. I like the idea of getting information at the source whenever possible, so a interview with the attorney seemed to be good reading.

There comes a time when we repeat oursleves. Did I say that?

8:27 PM  

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