Saturday, April 21, 2007


It's springtime here in Oklahoma, and our local Wednesday night ride is spooling up for the season. Right at the outset, I have to be fair and admit that this ride has had problems with traffic congestion and other complaints, chiefly of riders being more than two abreast and the near-universal complaint that they do not stop at signals and stop signs.

A reader I'll call "Bob" emailed the following, knowing that I'm hardly a fan of the Tulsa County Sheriff's office and their dubious approach to dealing with us pesky cyclists. Of all the area law enforcement agencies I've experienced, TCSO has the least professionalism. Trust me, I'm putting that as politely as possible. Maybe I've just encountered an unrepresentative sample of their officers, because it would be reasonable to assume that a police department has roughly the same percentage of dicks as the general population. Maybe that's an unrealistic assumption.

Bob is new to road cycling. He got lost somewhere on the Wednesday night ride, found the Katy Trail, and rode back into Tulsa. He needed to get across the downtown area and back over the river to his car.

I went south of the Jail and realized that I was going to have to find my own way back to River Parks West to my car. I spotted a bicycle route sign and headed south on Guthrie Ave. There was a stoplight at the on-ramp to the IDL and I noticed that the other direction had turned yellow so I started through the intersection a little early. It turned green as I was pedaling through at 5 mph or so. While driving on Heavy Traffic Way towards the SW BLVD bridge I noticed a car inching up alongside me. I look and it is a Tulsa County Sheriff. Uh-Oh.

"Is there a problem officer?" I politely asked.

"Did you see that stop sign back there or that red light that you ran?"

"I did see the stoplight and I apologize but not a stop sign, sorry about that."

"Why didn't you stop?"

"Well, I'm trying to find my way back to the River West parking lot and I wasn't paying enough attention, sorry sir, this is my first time out on this ride and I'm lost."

"Yeah, I get that a lot. I guess they don't have stop signs or stop lights where you live." Then he really got mad... "Do you know that you are considered a vehicle and I could write you $500-$600 worth of tickets for running a stop sign, three illegal lane changes and running a red light? Did you know that your insurance will drop you, it will look just as bad as if you had a DUI on your record? I suppose if you can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a bicycle you can afford to pay $700 in traffic fines."

His face was starting to turn red as he continued to lecture me ...

"Do you know what the people who live around here call you guys? Two Wheeled Terrorists! People are afraid to let their kids play on the streets because of the danger that you guys pose when you scream along at 35 mph in packs of 40 or 50 ignoring traffic laws..."

"I'm sorry sir, I apologize, I will try to be much more mindful of all traffic laws from now on." I was being sincere, I've never been one to talk back to an officer.

"Well, you just better think about it next time before you ride on the street."

I really wanted to ask if it would be better to ride on the sidewalk but I thought better of it.

Finally I was able to continue back to my car. Wow, what an introduction to cycling on the road! I'm still not sure how my meandering along at 5mph looking for a safe route was equated to dangers packs of renegade riders. It was all I could do to keep from laughing when he told me that families near downtown are scared of cyclists rather than the drugs, violence, gangs, homicides, etc. that seem to be dominating the news in the area.

In Oklahoma, cyclists have all the rights and all the responsibilities of any other road user, regardless of their transportation mode. Bob screwed up and admitted to it, yet the deputy decided to unload on him.

"Two-wheeled terrorists", indeed. I couldn't make up this stuff! Maybe I should tell Bob that all cyclists have secret Arab names, sort of like your Indian name back in Boy Scouts. My troop had Squats-To-Pee, Running Nose, and Screams-Like-A-Girl. These were the nice ones. And no, I won't tell you what mine was.

Cyclists have names like Sheik Yer Booti (with apologies to the late Frank Zappa) or Abdul Ali Ali Oxenfree. If the sheriff's deputies realized this, it would make enforcement actions against cyclists so much easier since pig-headed bigotry against Arabs or supposed Arabs is so much more fashionable these days. Next thing you know, black helicopters will be hovering over our houses and all the phones will be bugged. Cops can go quite a ways playing the 'terrorist' card.

If cyclists are 'terrorizing' the neighborhoods, why is this the first time I've heard of it? You'd think it would be a common topic on our local email lists, yet nothing has come up that I'm aware of. People would be writing letters to the editor and complaining on the forums. They'd call the local cops, too. It could simply be hyperbole coming from an exasperated sheriff's deputy (whose Indian name may have been Turds-Of-Truth). It's not reasonable for a cop to unload on a lone cyclist for the actions of a group, but then again, how many times have we been told that the actions of an individual reflect on the rest of us? How often have we heard that cyclists shouldn't expect equal rights to use the public way until all of them stop running red lights and act like responsible citizens? This is just as sensible as saying that motorists shouldn't expect to use the roads because some of them exceed the speed limit or ignore stop signs. Which is saying that it's not sensible at all.

Regardless, if there are 'packs of 40 or 50 cyclists screaming along at 35mph' through neighborhoods, the deputy is clearly expected to do his job and put an end to such lawless activity. But again, I haven't heard of any packs of riders doing this. It sounds as if our good deputy was dumping on Bob because he was a convenient target. We get enough of that from the some of the ignorant louts in the motoring public. It's completely unprofessional coming from a member of law enforcement.

I won't indulge in the tired 'why don't they catch REAL criminals' argument, because it's only a diversion. And I won't point out motorist's careless disregard of traffic law. It's merely another diversion. No, I'd prefer that all our local law enforcement professionals and even TCSO simply enforce the law. First, of course, they have to LEARN the traffic code that pertains to bicycles, rather than attempt to use their guns and badges to 'enforce' ignorance and prejudice. Surely there's a comic book version around for some of the sheriff's deputies.

But like I said, this is just the beginning of the season. I'm wondering if we can look forward to more encounters with our semi-pro TCSO deputies.

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Blogger Paul Tay said...

Cops are kinda like ice cream. They come in all different flavors. One exasperated deputy does NOT reflect on the whole TCSO.

Maybe if the whole WNR pack showed up impersonating Santa? If ya can't beat 'em, make 'em laugh. Naaaaaaaaaah.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Ok, a dozen exasperated deputies do NOT reflect on the whole TCSO.

Maybe the WNR gang meet with the kindly Sheriff over b-fast at Village Inn. At least, invite the Man and offer free pancakes. If he don't show, the gang can claim they TRIED.

12:18 PM  
Blogger A Midnight Rider said...

Local police are not usually the brightest of the community. Actually, if they didn't have connections they would probably be tring to add fries to our orders.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Ahem. ALL Tulsa Police Department officers REQUIRE college degrees. So, they are ALL geniuses in my book. Some just have MORE sense of humor than others.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I've said before that the county sheriff deputies probably couldn't pass the entrance exam to be mall cops. That may be unkind, but is it untrue?

5:55 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

TCSO and Santa don't normally go to the same parties. Why don't you ask the Sheriff yourself? Certainly, Santa would be happy look for an opportunity to arrange a meeting, if you wish.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Apertome said...

It's always frustrating when people are ignorant about bicycle traffic laws, but when those people are the police and are clearly just looking for someone to hassle, it's much worse. There's got to be some way of educating them ... not that I have any answers.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Certainly, Santa understands Mr. Apertome's frustration. Santa has no solutions either.

Perhaps, if you can't beat 'em, make 'em LAUGH?

7:36 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

A couple things:

1. Just having a degree doesn't mean that anyone has an education. There are plenty of "schools" that give credit and degrees for "life experience," if you give them enough money.

2. This cop was obviously taking his frustration with something out on your friend, Ed. This guy is a simple coward, using his position of authority to harass someone who (for all intents and purposes) wasn't doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, police work does attract many of this sort of element of the population.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Here's a recent story about a cyclist, terror alerts and the police.

6:54 PM  

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