Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ChipSeal update (2)

Earlier today, Blogger Joe K said...

Ed, If I read the Texas Bicycle Law I come away convinced that ChipSeal did violate the law and yes I'm a cyclist (grin). See 551.103 (b)

According to ChipSeal (if I remember right) he said he has a right to the roadway. Wish I could see a transcript of the court trial to see if he ever moved right of he was steadfast that he has a right to the lane and wouldn't move right. If he would not move to the right with cars behind him, then he is impeding traffic.

Either way it's sad that confrontation couldn't be avoided by common sense and common respect.

Ride Long and Prosper

Slo Joe Recumbo

(Joe provided the relevant law. I've edited it for brevity.)

Sec. 551.103. Operation on Roadway.
Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless....(a) surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway...the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or (is) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.

Bicycles may ride on the shoulder
Sec. 545.058. Driving on Improved Shoulder. [i.e., a paved shoulder outside the traffic lane]
(a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only (among other things) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass...

First, an aside about the court proceeding in Ennis. As I understand it, there is no written record of it. That's how they handle local cases like this, and some witnesses said the judge did not give the jury the full text of the law in his instructions. Anywhere else that alone would be grounds for appeal and possibly reversal, but then again, I'm not an attorney.

However, Bob Mionske is an attorney, and he wrote this about the Selz case and impeding traffic in his book, Bicycling and the Law:

...the problem for the court was that, contrary to what the police officer believed, the statute does not prohibit slow-moving vehicles from impeding traffic....the Ohio court explained that if the statute did prohibit slow-moving vehicles from impeding traffic, "it would be tantamount to excluding operators of those vehicles from the public roadways, something that each legislative authority, respectively, has not clearly expressed an intention to do."..."a bicyclist is not in violation of the ordinance when he is traveling as fast as he reasonably can."...Because it's clear that the Ohio court interpreted the impeding traffic statute correctly, it seems likely that other courts would agree with Ohio.

'Other courts' evidently does not include Ennis, Texas.

Let's define what 'roadway' means. In most states, Texas included, the roadway is that traveled portion of the road exclusive of the shoulder. That's not my interpretation. It's the law. Given that the lawmakers decided to address the presence of a bicyclist or other slow-moving traffic on a roadway, they obviously expected cyclists to be using those roadways, not the adjacent shoulder. Otherwise, they would have written the law to exclude them. Surface hazards, etc., may induce a cyclist using the shoulder to swerve left and right into the traveled part of the road, posing an obvious hazard to himself and others. It's safer to stay in the roadway. That's makes a bicyclist's movements more predictable, and as we all know, being predictable is the very foundation of traffic law.

Also, absent a "designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane" a bicyclist is not obligated to move to the right. The police tried to charge Bates with failure to use a bike lane - a charge that wouldn't stick because there are no designated bike lanes in Ennis.

Bicyclists may use the shoulder. Note it does not say that they must use the shoulder. This is a critical difference. But even when it says we may use the shoulder, it specifies that it's only if "it may be done safely." Who can better judge the condition and safety of a shoulder - a cyclist traveling at 15 mph, or a motorist driving at 50? What is 'safe' to a motorist surrounded by a ton or more of steel and glass may be something quite different to a bicyclist protected by a lycra jersey and a styrofoam hat.

Finally, one last thought, Joe. You're, well, um, you're a recumbent rider and as we all know, 'bent riders are the spawn of Satan. (Don't listen to Steve A when he says that I'm one of Satan's minions. Steve lies.)

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Blogger Steve A said...

Steve A tells the truth. What's more, he's got a copy of the jury instructions that he'll dig up tomorrow night when he gets home from work.

I mostly agree with Ed's post, though the police never (at least until his new stop AFTER the trial) attempted to claim the shoulder was a designated bike lane. They freely admitted it was an "improved shoulder."

In the first stop, the officer decided he needed to "make contact" when a shoulder appeared on the road and Chip did not veer over onto it.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Yokota Fritz said...

I wonder if Reed would've fared better if he didn't opt for jury trial. I think the guilty outcome was certain with a jury; a judge might actually think about it a little better. He certainly couldn't have fared worse.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I didn't think about the jury aspect until you brought it up, Fritz. But now that you have, I wonder if it would be easier to persuade one person - the judge - who presumably knows something about the law, rather than 12 relatively undereducated townsfolk.

9:54 PM  
Blogger ChipSeal said...

"Wish I could [know] if he ever moved right of [or] he was steadfast that he has a right to the lane and wouldn't move right. If he would not move to the right with cars behind him, then he is impeding traffic."


I did not “move right”, ever. I have a clear reason for this.

Driving in the center, or even in the left part of the lane is “cyclist body language”. From the greatest possible distance, a motorist is informed that a slow moving vehicle is in the lane in front of him. This gives him the fullest amount of time to consider the situation around him to decide the best way to avoid me. In practice, it generally means that he will change lanes without even lifting up on the gas.

Driving in the center of a narrow lane is the courteous thing for the cyclist to do, as it is the safest for all parties while being consistent with promoting traffic flow. On roads with such narrow travel lanes, there is no position that allows the safe sharing of the lane side-to-side with automobiles. I am somewhat mystified why you think “moving right” in any way changes the situation.

It is silly to say that I was impeding traffic. Traffic impedes traffic, and I am a part of traffic. It is silly because you are too vague. Was I impeding traffic in a legal manner, or in an illegal manner? That is the question.

You reference Texas Transportation Code 551.103. Did you read it?

“A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless”

And then it lists five more conditions that remove the applicability of these restrictions. What behavior does this law regulate, Joe? Hmmm?

It regulates the lateral position a cyclist can drive on a roadway when there is faster traffic around. If there is no other traffic on the roadway, he can drive where he pleases.

So here’s the tough question Joe; If a cyclist is in the presence of faster traffic, and one or more of the “unless” conditions are present, isn’t the restriction of where in the roadway he must drive removed? And isn’t the cyclist’s choice to travel in the middle of the lane lawful, even when faster traffic is on the roadway?

Because legislators were well aware of the common speed of bicycles when they crafted this statute, it is clear that driving a bicycle in traffic at a speed lower than the typical maximum posted speed limit is not prohibited, but instead anticipated, expected and allowed. All the impedance that results from following this law is legal. To say otherwise is to deny legislative intent.

I am glad that Texas traffic law allows me to operate on roads like Hwy 287 and rural two lanes in the safest possible manner.

"Either way it's sad that confrontation couldn't be avoided by common sense and common respect."

No need to evoke any standard other than common traffic law. I respect other operators right-of-way, and they observe mine. I travel lawfully, motorists nearly always pass me lawfully to the left.

It is certain police officers that have applied some ad-hoc and unannounced requirement of behavior that has produced confrontation.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo Chip..

SJR here and I agree with everything you said and understand the law fully. However, as a cyclist who does take the lane, there are also times where I move to the right when being approached from behind by cars.

There are also cases where I have a clear "right to the road", but will yield the road. Example. I've been on a narrow two lane road, no shoulder, when in my mirror I see a semi truck from the rear and there's also a semi coming towards me in the other lane. I judge them to meet at about the same time. I get off the road. Why? Because while I have a right to the lane, I'm not putting my faith in the driver of that semi. No thanks.

Another example of my Saturday ride. Narrow two lanes. Traffic both ways. Cars start to back up behind me. Takes me 10 seconds to go off the road and let the cars behind me go by. Why? If the car is in front of me, it can't hit me. Sure I have every right to that lane.

Now I've never seen you ride nor have I seen how cars approach you or what they do, so do I think you're right or wrong? Nope.. I don't have enough information. sounds like from what you've written, that in either of my examples, you'd stay the course.

Like me said: We can agree to disagree, eh? (g)

P.S. By the way, when I posted this "Either way it's sad that confrontation couldn't be avoided by common sense and common respect." that was also directed at the LEO's.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cycle Dog,

Ouch. I felt a recumbent sting at the end of your post. (g)

You might enjoy this:

1:50 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Joe - I hope you realize that was tongue-in-cheek. I generally don't try to be deliberately offensive. And I'll admit to having almost no experience of 'bents. A local rider offered to allow me a ride on his brand new one. He'd just purchased it that day and I didn't want to be the bozo who dumped his new bike, so I declined. Besides, if I tried one and liked it, there's that temptation to add another shiny object to the collection in the garage. She=Who-Must-Be-Obeyed would be very displeased. I only LOOK like a simpleton!

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All in fun. Me has very thick skin and "She Who Must Be Obeyed" has probably not learned the bike owner's equation:

Bikes Needed = Current Plus One

12:30 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I once made the mistake of saying, "If I had to have just one bike, it would be one like my Bianchi San Remo." She calmly looked at me and said, "So why do you have all those OTHER ones?"

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a minefield without any idea of how I got there.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Trotwood was certainly a major win for Ohio cyclists. But, it is NOT mandatory authority for all courts, ONLY Ohio courts.

ChipSeal can use Trotwood for persuasive authority in Texas appellate courts.

If anyone wants the appellant's brief pdf for Oklahoma's pending "impeding" case on appeal, email me at bikesoup at gmail dot com.

5:11 PM  

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