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  1. #1
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    Pulled over for giving cop the finger

    About a year ago I was coming home from a 30 mile ride and I was bicycling down Gorge Rd. which is a long hill that cuts down the palisades from Cliffside Park to Edgewater, NJ. I was going about 35 mph (5 mph over the speed limit) and there was a lot of debris on the side of the road and also some dangerous sewer grates so I took up the middle of the lane for the steep descent. I noticed a white car behind me in the Third Eye mirror I have attached to my helmet, but I was going fast enough that I did not think much of it and I was only about 8 car lengths behind a car in front of me. At the speed I was going I would have been to the bottom in another 15 or 20 seconds in any case, but the driver of the car behind me started beeping his horn and then started yelling on a loudspeaker for me to get to the side of the road. I assumed it was some rude kid and I instinctively gave him the finger. A siren and flashing red lights went on and I realized it was a cop in an unmarked car.

    I pulled over to a safe part of the road at the bottom of the hill and an Edgewater cop jumped out and started screaming at me. He pointed his finger at me and said, “how dare you give a cop the finger”. I had trouble calming him down. I apologized for giving him the finger and I told him that I wouldn’t have given him the finger had I known he was a cop. He said I should not give anyone the finger. I told him I agreed with that, but I told him I often get harassed by kids in cars, or truck drivers, and other rude drivers and that occasionally I stick out my finger (I really flip the bird often, but I lied). I apologized over and over. He then said that I had no right to be in the middle of the road, that I should be as far to the right as possible. I told him that I know my rights and that I have a right to be out in the road to avoid debris and sewer grates on the side of the road. I told him that I was going over the speed limit and was not hindering traffic, but this only made him angrier. He asked me for my identification and got angrier still when I told him I did not have any. I was absolutely shocked by his display of anger, but he finally calmed down enough to let me go on my way. I realized later that I had given the Edgewater cop the finger on the stretch of road that was in the town of Cliffside Park. He actually pulled me over in Edgewater, but I’m not sure he had any cause to pull me over any way.

    Is it illegal to give the finger? Can the police pull you over for an infraction that actually occurred in a town outside their jurisdiction?

  2. #2
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Stupid and disrespectful, yes; illegal, no. It's called freedom of speech. Also, police are authorized to enforce the law in the entire state, not just the local jurisdiction. Of course this cop was not enforcing the law. He was engaged in a private vendetta.

  3. #3
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    Whether he had cause to pull you over or not depends on local laws, but juristiction isn't what people think it is. Usually any peace officer in the same state can detain you. They may not be able to arrest you or cite you, but he can detain you and call the local juristiction to come and take over the scene.
    Tom

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    But some towns do have obsenity laws. Could I legally walk around town cursing at people in these towns? And wouldn't giving the finger fall into the same category?

  5. #5
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    A cop that gets angry that easily shouldn't be dealing with the public in any way. I'd be complaining to his superiors.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allister
    A cop that gets angry that easily shouldn't be dealing with the public in any way. I'd be complaining to his superiors.
    I was tempted to file a complaint, but I bicycle through this town frequently and I did not want to put myself in a situation in which I would be targeted.

  7. #7
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekets
    But some towns do have obsenity laws. Could I legally walk around town cursing at people in these towns? And wouldn't giving the finger fall into the same category?
    Yes, it very well could fall into the same catagory. It's not assault, since assault is defined as a threat, but obsenity or vulgarity laws are a different matter. And Freedom of Speech doesn't apply in all circumstances. My freedom stops when it infringes on yours. Do you have the right to not be verbally abused? Applying a freedom of speech arguement suggests that you have the freedom to say whatever you want, and the person that you are verbally abusing has no right to not hear it.
    Tom

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by twahl
    Yes, it very well could fall into the same catagory. It's not assault, since assault is defined as a threat, but obsenity or vulgarity laws are a different matter. And Freedom of Speech doesn't apply in all circumstances. My freedom stops when it infringes on yours. Do you have the right to not be verbally abused? Applying a freedom of speech arguement suggests that you have the freedom to say whatever you want, and the person that you are verbally abusing has no right to not hear it.

    But do I have the right to meet a perceived threat or aggressive behavior (i.e. someone beeping at me and yelling at me over a loudspeaker) with an obsenity?

  9. #9
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    Dude was wrong, no doubt about that, but he still could have made life a little miserable for it. Perceived threat? People honk their horns all the time expressing their displeasure over something. Not sure how that constitutes a perceived threat. Loudspeaker? I'd have checked the car out real carefully at that point, not many people have loudspeakers installed in their cars...except for cop cars.

    Situation was bad. Sometimes you only make it worse by escelating it. I had an 18-wheeler come up behind me a couple of weeks ago, and hit the horn well out (like 150 yards or more) behind me. 4 lane road, so first thought is "he can go around" but check of the mirror shows that he's in the front of a big bunch of traffic that's covering both lanes. I had the right to the lane, but it was also safe for me to move over and let the bunch of traffic go by, leaving me with clear road once they were gone. I could have held the lane, but it was reasonable for me to move over and let them go, making both my life and theirs easier.
    Tom

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by twahl
    Dude was wrong, no doubt about that, but he still could have made life a little miserable for it. Perceived threat? People honk their horns all the time expressing their displeasure over something. Not sure how that constitutes a perceived threat. Loudspeaker? I'd have checked the car out real carefully at that point, not many people have loudspeakers installed in their cars...except for cop cars.

    Situation was bad. Sometimes you only make it worse by escelating it. I had an 18-wheeler come up behind me a couple of weeks ago, and hit the horn well out (like 150 yards or more) behind me. 4 lane road, so first thought is "he can go around" but check of the mirror shows that he's in the front of a big bunch of traffic that's covering both lanes. I had the right to the lane, but it was also safe for me to move over and let the bunch of traffic go by, leaving me with clear road once they were gone. I could have held the lane, but it was reasonable for me to move over and let them go, making both my life and theirs easier.

    I probably would have done the same thing in the situation you describe, but what made the situation I was in different was that the road I was on was narrow, I was travelling at I high rate of speed down a fairly steep, curvy, dangerous hill and the side of this road was covered with debris from nearby construction. In the same time that I would have had to slow down and safely get to the side I would have made it to the bottom which is the course I chose to take. Shouldn't the cop have understood this?

  11. #11
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    He should have, but apparently didn't. I'm just suggesting that if he'd pulled you over for something, it wouldn't have held up, but your reaction might have given the judge an excuse to find otherwise.
    Tom

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    The cop doesn't ride a bike, so he would not know how dangerous it is to ride close to the edge at that speed on a descent. Even if the right side was smooth and clean, you should be taking up the lane at 40mph.

  13. #13
    Retired Member ultra-g's Avatar
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    Well, I don't know about NJ laws, but I picked up a NYC Bicycle Safety manual and the Police precinct in my neighborhood recently and it says clearly that Bicyclists must ride on the Right Side of the road.

    Those critical mass people should pick up that brochure next time they complain that they're rights were violated. The NYPD can ticket you for way too many things.





    Quote Originally Posted by trekets
    About a year ago I was coming home from a 30 mile ride and I was bicycling down Gorge Rd. which is a long hill that cuts down the palisades from Cliffside Park to Edgewater, NJ. I was going about 35 mph (5 mph over the speed limit) and there was a lot of debris on the side of the road and also some dangerous sewer grates so I took up the middle of the lane for the steep descent. I noticed a white car behind me in the Third Eye mirror I have attached to my helmet, but I was going fast enough that I did not think much of it and I was only about 8 car lengths behind a car in front of me. At the speed I was going I would have been to the bottom in another 15 or 20 seconds in any case, but the driver of the car behind me started beeping his horn and then started yelling on a loudspeaker for me to get to the side of the road. I assumed it was some rude kid and I instinctively gave him the finger. A siren and flashing red lights went on and I realized it was a cop in an unmarked car.

    I pulled over to a safe part of the road at the bottom of the hill and an Edgewater cop jumped out and started screaming at me. He pointed his finger at me and said, “how dare you give a cop the finger”. I had trouble calming him down. I apologized for giving him the finger and I told him that I wouldn’t have given him the finger had I known he was a cop. He said I should not give anyone the finger. I told him I agreed with that, but I told him I often get harassed by kids in cars, or truck drivers, and other rude drivers and that occasionally I stick out my finger (I really flip the bird often, but I lied). I apologized over and over. He then said that I had no right to be in the middle of the road, that I should be as far to the right as possible. I told him that I know my rights and that I have a right to be out in the road to avoid debris and sewer grates on the side of the road. I told him that I was going over the speed limit and was not hindering traffic, but this only made him angrier. He asked me for my identification and got angrier still when I told him I did not have any. I was absolutely shocked by his display of anger, but he finally calmed down enough to let me go on my way. I realized later that I had given the Edgewater cop the finger on the stretch of road that was in the town of Cliffside Park. He actually pulled me over in Edgewater, but I’m not sure he had any cause to pull me over any way.

    Is it illegal to give the finger? Can the police pull you over for an infraction that actually occurred in a town outside their jurisdiction?
    I Changed My User Name!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    On a fast descent, it's too dangerous to ride on the right side, and if there's no bike lane, he should be out in the lane at the speed limit.

  15. #15
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekets
    I was tempted to file a complaint, but I bicycle through this town frequently and I did not want to put myself in a situation in which I would be targeted.
    So make another complaint. Eventually someone in charge will get the message and put the guy behind a desk, or better yet, looking for a new job. You shouldn't have to put up with that from anyone, let alone a cop.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
    The cop doesn't ride a bike, so he would not know how dangerous it is to ride close to the edge at that speed on a descent. Even if the right side was smooth and clean, you should be taking up the lane at 40mph.
    I agree that I should be taking up the lane at that speed, but the law in this state (NJ) does not specifically allow for that. I believe it simply says something to the effect that bicyclists should stay as far to the right as possible. I know the law in some states says that you can take up the lane if you are traveling the same rate of speed as the traffic in the lane.

  17. #17
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    yelling cops, lecturing cops

    yawn....

    gimme a ticket or don't gimme a ticket, but please don't be an overbearing imbecile

  18. #18
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ultra-g
    Well, I don't know about NJ laws, but I picked up a NYC Bicycle Safety manual and the Police precinct in my neighborhood recently and it says clearly that Bicyclists must ride on the Right Side of the road.

    Check the actual legislation. I'd guess it says something more like 'as far right as practicable', which is exactly where he was riding.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  19. #19
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    Aye, but he stated that his speed was 5 over the speed limit. The argument could easily be made that it was unsafe for him to ride to the right because he was exceeding the speed limit, ie: too fast for conditions.
    Tom

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mooncricket
    yelling cops, lecturing cops

    yawn....

    gimme a ticket or don't gimme a ticket, but please don't be an overbearing imbecile

    That would have been a great reply to this cop, but I think he would have manufactured some excuse to take me in had I replied that way.

  21. #21
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    SHARE (not hog) the road!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allister
    Check the actual legislation. I'd guess it says something more like 'as far right as practicable', which is exactly where he was riding.

    You are right. I just checked the NJ Bicycle Law.

    39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 Operating Regulations. Every person riding a bicycle, skateboarding, roller or inline skating should keep as near to the right of the roadway as practicable and may move left under any of the following situations: 1. To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket; 2. To avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions on the right; 3. To pass a slower moving vehicle; 4. To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; 5. To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file. Every person riding a bicycle, skateboarding, roller or inline skating should stay in the same direction as vehicular traffic.

    And I was surprised by #4. To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic. But I wonder, does that mean I have to stay to the right of the lane I am travelling in or can I take up the lane if I am travelling at the same speed as other traffic?

  23. #23
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    You can take up the entire lane.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    SHARE (not hog) the road!

    What does that mean? Don't you have something more intelligent to add to the discussion?

    I always try to stay to the right when possible, but am I hogging the road if I am travelling the speed limit or over the speed limit and avoiding debris?

    If the speed limit is 30 mph and I am going 35 mph and car in front of me is only going 25 mph, should I consider him to be hogging the road?

    Can a car towing a trailer is going 20 mph in a 40 mph zone be ticketed by the cops? Why should a bicyclist travelling 20 mph be treated any differently?

  25. #25
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    Where I live there isn't a single road anywhere that is wide enough for a car and a bike to safely be in at the same time. I have no choice but to take the lane everywhere I go.

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