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Old 08-21-07, 07:36 PM   #1
joejack951
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Pulled over (and ticketed!) for using the center of a narrow lane

Yesterday on my way to work I got the oppurtunity to discuss road cycling with a state police officer after the pack of vehicles that he was driving in had to slow down to change lanes and pass me. He was second in line in the left lane and turned on his lights soon as he got near me and I pulled over. The conversation started off with him telling me that I should be riding "on the bike path" to my right (to my right was a series of six long right hand turn lanes that interupted the shoulder). I pointed this out to him and let him know that I am supposed to be riding in the roadway. He got his traffic code book out and showed me the far right law which he was read as "as far right as practical in the shoulder." I corrected him about the shoulder part at which point he asked for some ID and went back to his car. He came back out and finally admitted that I was right and that I am supposed to ride in the roadway but that I should be riding just to the left of the solid stripe. He then went on to say that I had left him no choice but to ticket me because I was not cooperating. He stated the obvious, "I guess I'll be seeing you in court," to which I replied, "Sure will."

The rest of the details are as follows. I was travelling at about 20mph in the right hand lane of a 4 lane road (Naamans Road) and was pulled over at the intersection with Dartmouth Woods Road (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...wloc=addr&om=1). The speed limit on this road is 45mph and the lanes are approximately 11 feet wide (I still need to measure). No minimum speed limit and no prohibition on slow moving vehicles or cyclists. Cyclists regularly use this road but ride in the shoulder/right turn lanes.

The DE law that I was cited for disobeying ($25 fine) reads as follows:

§ 4196. Position on roadway.

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway except under any of the following circumstances:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand edge of roadway. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a 1-way highway with 2 or more marked traffic lanes and a posted speed limit of less than 30 miles per hour may ride as near the left-hand edge of such roadway as practicable.

(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than 2 abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding 2 abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane. (21 Del. C. 1953, § 4194; 54 Del. Laws, c. 160, § 1; 66 Del. Laws, c. 167, § 2.)


http://delcode.delaware.gov/title21/...html#TopOfPage

Just thought I'd share for the sake of conversation. It should be pretty easy to convince the judge that this cop has no clue. Comments?
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Old 08-21-07, 07:40 PM   #2
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I hope you win. Maybe in court that officer can state on the record whether, or not, a cyclist would be ticketed for going straight through an intersection from the right turn lane. It sounds like that is what he was telling you to do.
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Old 08-21-07, 08:22 PM   #3
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i noticed that at lewis area of de there is a gross amount of urban spraw. could this be included in thhe kind officer's apparant ignorance to set traffic laws?
good luck in court, enjoy observing our best eat crow!
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Old 08-21-07, 08:33 PM   #4
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You know, being a state cop myself, I don't have a lot of patience for people who try to justify breaking the law. But what I have EVEN LESS patience for is another cop who can't admit that they are either wrong or aren't really sure what the code is. And another thing...you make sure to tell that judge that the patrolman told you that he ticketed you "because you wouldn't cooperate"...that is straight up horsehockey. If you were breaking a law, get a ticket. If not, no ticket and you should not get an attitude for it.
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Old 08-21-07, 08:37 PM   #5
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I guess to methe problem is the idea that you should "cooperate" according to him means putting up with whatever he says, even if it is ignorant. Good luck in court
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Old 08-21-07, 08:40 PM   #6
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the end of three gives you a case, but it will come down to the judge. 11 feet sounds like it's not quite substandard, but i still think you don't deserve a ticket.
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Old 08-21-07, 08:55 PM   #7
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Good for you for not taking ****. I don't see any way the ticket can stand unless your court is really corrupt.
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Old 08-21-07, 10:19 PM   #8
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Scan the ticket and post it!
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Old 08-21-07, 10:23 PM   #9
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you'll beat the ticket, but har-de-har-har.

looks like Delaware bike advocacy has a ways to go getting widespread acceptance of bikes as traffic. and yet we bicyclists all know we are traffic.

maybe you'll become the poster boy, a kin to road-sy parks for taking the lane in Delaware, joe!!
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Old 08-21-07, 10:27 PM   #10
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Good for you for not taking ****. I don't see any way the ticket can stand unless your court is really corrupt.
That is not the only scenario for losing. He can lose his case if he doesn't present it properly. If it comes down to the judge having to decide between the officers word and joejack's word, joejack will lose.


Joejack, there's a section in this book that explains how to handle your own traffic ticket.
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Old 08-21-07, 10:27 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
Just thought I'd share for the sake of conversation. It should be pretty easy to convince the judge that this cop has no clue. Comments?
Looks like you get to hold the tenants of vehicular cycling up before lady justice and see who flinches.

You might want to see if there is a cycling attorney that will represent you pro bono... could be an interesting precedent.
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Old 08-21-07, 10:29 PM   #12
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wouldn't it bite if that lane actually is considered wide enough to be shared safely by a bike and a car, joe?

I personally don't like to share lanes that are less than 14 feet wide, myself. get them closer to 16-18 feet and I begin to feel comfortable sharing the lane with other traffic. I like to keep my lane position nice and buffered from the road edge, lanes that are under 14 feet I usually consider too narrow to share if I'm moving 22-24 MPH plus. I doubt my feelings would stand up in court though.
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Old 08-21-07, 10:47 PM   #13
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wouldn't it bite if that lane actually is considered wide enough to be shared safely by a bike and a car, joe?

I personally don't like to share lanes that are less than 14 feet wide, myself. get them closer to 16-18 feet and I begin to feel comfortable sharing the lane with other traffic. I like to keep my lane position nice and buffered from the road edge, lanes that are under 14 feet I usually consider too narrow to share if I'm moving 22-24 MPH plus. I doubt my feelings would stand up in court though.
"Too narrow to safely share" should be a simple matter of doing the maths, and then applying the "reasonable person" standard to the results. Subtract the width of the car from the width of the lane. Subtract the width of your bike as measured at the handlebars from the width of the lane. Allow yourself a "reasonable" distance from the right hand side of the road so that you're not striking the curb, and are not in danger of hitting any other obstacles (for example, the door zone).

The number that's left is the passing distance. If that passing distance is "safe" under Delaware law, then the lane is not too narrow to safely share. If that passing distance is not safe under Delaware law, then the lane is too narrow to safely share. A "reasonable" distance from the curb, and a "safe passing distance" will be determined by the "reasonable person" standard, which asks "What would a reasonable person do under the same circumstances?" Safe passing distance may also be determined by state law-- for example, state law may say that drivers shall pass with at least x number of feet. The question then remains as to whether the minimum passing distance-- x number of feet-- is a safe passing distance, as determined by what the fictitious reasonable person would do under the same circumstances, or if more than x number of feet is required.

Read the section in Bob Mionske's book describing how to fight a traffic ticket, and you'll get an idea of how it's done.
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Old 08-22-07, 03:53 AM   #14
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See if there's a local cyclist advocacy group that might back you up. Many of those groups have cyclists-attorneys who really know their bike law.

As to not sharing the lane, give the judge some math. Argue that you just want 3' at each side. That means 3' from shoulder to tire, and another 4.5' from safe passing area to your tire (your elbow sticks out about 1.5'). That means you need 7.5' of lane, leaving only 4.5' for cars to pass you safely in an 11' lane. That means they can't pass you safely. Even if the judge wants to knock a couple of feet off your figures, you'd leave only 6.5', and that's still not enough.

Good luck.
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Old 08-22-07, 06:08 AM   #15
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Take some pics of the area to show the judge.
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Old 08-22-07, 07:36 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
"Too narrow to safely share" should be a simple matter of doing the maths, and then applying the "reasonable person" standard to the results. Subtract the width of the car from the width of the lane. Subtract the width of your bike as measured at the handlebars from the width of the lane. Allow yourself a "reasonable" distance from the right hand side of the road so that you're not striking the curb, and are not in danger of hitting any other obstacles (for example, the door zone).
I agree with Daily's math - basically, 11 feet is really tight and is about the bare minimum that could be considered 'shareable'.

I'd say 11 feet is good enough *IF*...

1) The driver is fine hugging the lane divider, and
2) All 11 feet of that is driveable (doesn't include door zone, gutter, etc).

If that's the case, and he has 11 good feet, then it might be an uphill fight in court. The best argument, in my mind, would be that 11 feet would be OK if the drivers knew how to use it correctly, which they don't. As a result, the lane could be 15 feet wide and half of them would still pass within a foot or so of your elbow. That's why I often take the lane, and the actual width of the lane has relatively little to do with whether I do or not.

Have you ever ridden to the right in that area? If so, what was the result? (I'll go out on a limb and guess it involved some near-misses). If that's the case, tell the court you tried to share the lane but found it dangerous, so you took the lane. How crowded is it on that road - ie, would a driver have any significant problem passing you? If you can show that you've made an effort to find a less-trafficked route and you're riding on it, that might help your case too.
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Old 08-22-07, 07:48 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
"Too narrow to safely share" should be a simple matter of doing the maths, and then applying the "reasonable person" standard to the results. Subtract the width of the car from the width of the lane. Subtract the width of your bike as measured at the handlebars from the width of the lane. Allow yourself a "reasonable" distance from the right hand side of the road so that you're not striking the curb, and are not in danger of hitting any other obstacles (for example, the door zone).
You’re forgetting a reasonable safety bubble to the left of a car. There is no overlapping or lopping off of safety margins, there is always something to your right and left you don't want to hit. AASHTO has already workout out reasonable safety margin distance; for motorists the minimal width is 10 feet and for cyclists it is 4 feet so therefore 14 feet is the minimal lane width a car and motorists can safely share.

Joe; be sure to be in contact with your local bike club or advocacy group.
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Old 08-22-07, 07:49 AM   #18
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If 11 feet is enough to share safely, then would the police officer feel safe if he was standing in the lane where a cyclist would ride, and a car came by in the lane at the speed limit without moving over?
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Old 08-22-07, 08:14 AM   #19
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If 11 feet is enough to share safely, then would the police officer feel safe if he was standing in the lane where a cyclist would ride, and a car came by in the lane at the speed limit without moving over?
Good one, considering that it is a 45MPH road.
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Old 08-22-07, 08:16 AM   #20
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Although your state law clearly allows it, you'll want to present some documentation of precedent for cyclists using the center of the lane, including official government publications that represent this as a normal and reasonable thing to do where the lane is narrow.

Here are some examples:

Streetwise Cycling (NCDOT):
“On a very narrow road […] the best approach is to ride a straight line far enough
from the curb to discourage unsafe passing. [….] In vary narrow lanes, you may
have to ride far enough from the edge to discourage unsafe passing.”
http://www.ncdot.org/transit/bicycle...e_Cycling.html

Cary (NC) Bicycle Map (See also the Raleigh Bicycle Map):
“On a road with very narrow lanes, ride far enough from the edge to discourage
dangerously close passing.”
http://www.townofcary.org/depts/dsde...cleplanmap.htm

North Carolina Driver Handbook (NCDOT/DMV):
“Bicycles
Bicycle riding is an important means of transportation, particularly for traveling
to and from work and school. Because bicycles are vehicles, bicyclists must obey
the same traffic laws as other drivers. Bicyclists usually ride on the right side of
the lane, but are entitled to the use of a full lane.
“Pass With Care
“A bicyclist staying to the right in their lane is accommodating the following
drivers by making it easier to see when it is safe to pass, and easier to execute the
pass. Drivers wishing to pass a bicyclist may do so only when there is abundant
clearance and no oncoming traffic is in the opposing lane. When passing a
bicyclist, always remember the bicyclist is entitled to the use of the full lane.”
http://www.ncdot.org/dmv/driver_serv.../bicycles.html


Florida Bicycling Street Smarts (Florida DOT)
http://www.dot.state.fl.us/Safety/pe.../pdf/index.htm
and identical wording in the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver Manual:
http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/docs/pamanual.pdf
“On a multilane road with narrow lane, ride in the middle of the right lane. If you hug the edge, you
are likely to get squeezed out. [….] Understand that the law is on your side. The law gives you the
right to use the road, the same as a motorist, and to make other traffic slow down for you
sometimes. The driver approaching from the rear is always required to slow and follow if it’s not
possible to pass safely. [….] It may seem dangerous to make a motorist slow down for you, but it’s
not. [….] Remember, the drivers behind you don’t have room to pass you safely anyway. If you
ride all the way over at the right, you’re inviting them to pass you where the road is too narrow and,
too often, you will get squeezed off the road. If you show clearly that it’s not safe for drivers to
pass you, they’re unlikely to try. [….] On a road with two or more narrow lanes in your direction -
like many city streets - you should ride in the middle of the right lane at all times. You need to send
the message to drivers to move to the passing lane to pass you. If you ride all the way to the right,
two cars may pass you at the same time, side by side, and squeeze you off the road.”

Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Rules for riding bicycles on the road:
http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/...ycle/rules.htm
“Narrow lanes: Ride in the center of the lane.”

Biking in New Jersey, Touring Tips (New Jersey DOT):
http://www.state.nj.us/transportatio.../tourtips.shtm
“If the outside lane is too narrow for side-by-side sharing with motor vehicles, move toward the
middle of the lane (i.e., ‘take the lane’) to indicate that motor vehicle traffic must change lanes to
pass safely.”

City of Fort Collins, Colorado:
http://www.ci.fort-collins.co.us/bicycling/rules.php
“Be aware that when roads are too narrow for cyclists and motorists to ride side by side, cyclists are
encouraged to take the lane when appropriate. This is especially true for narrow City streets where
cyclists can be ‘pinched’ between vehicles.”

Maine Motorist Handbook and Study Guide:
http://www.dmv-department-of-motor-v...er_manual.html
“An experienced bicyclist will often “command the lane” by moving further into the roadway.
Motorists must yield. Slow down to avoid an accident. When it is safe to pass allow at least three
feet to your right side when passing.

Wisconsin Motorist's Handbook:
http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/drivers...e-handbook.pdf
“Do not share a lane with a pedestrian or bicyclist. Wait until it is safe to pass in the adjoining lane.
Bicycles are vehicles, and are entitled to a full traffic lane. Give a bicycle at least three feet of room
when you pass.
“Bicyclists are legal users of the road. As such, they are entitled to the full use of a travel lane,
although a bicyclist may choose to use the shoulder.”

Oregon Driver Manual:
http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/37.pdf
“Do not crowd bicyclists. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a bicyclist who is moving
slower than your motor vehicle in a lane too narrow to share. Remember, the bicycle is a slowmoving
vehicle and this may require you to slow down. The greater the speed difference between
you and a bicyclist, the more room you should allow when passing.


A number of states explicitly define 14' as the threshold width, below which is considered too narrow to require same-lane sharing. Others leave that judgement to the cyclist.
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Old 08-22-07, 08:20 AM   #21
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In rare moment I will side with the policeman.
That you were taking a whole lane of Naamans Rd.
in a high traffic period of time (always) is beyond
any scope of reasoning available to me, and I have a
pretty vivid imagination.
And really, I mean this with no disrespect or antagonism,
but this is an example of why there is such a great divide
amoungst cyclists and cyclist Vs. cars. The scenerio you
mention is not one I would do under any circumstance.
But, then again, I wouldnt ride Naamans Rd. Period.
From a policmans point of veiw, a situation is being created
where drivers are getting angry. Angry drivers do stupid
stuff.

..::EDIT::..
I DO NOT agree with a fine for this.
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Old 08-22-07, 08:28 AM   #22
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Here are some scale pictures from an online article I wrote about wide outside lane design:


Figure 3: Distribution of space required to accommodate parallel operation of a bicycle and a typical motor vehicle (e.g. an SUV).


Figure 5: Minimum space required for low-speed overtaking by a city bus with a mirror span of 10.8 feet. Greater passing distance is required if the bus is traveling at high speed.


http://www.humantransport.org/bicycl...sing/index.htm
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Old 08-22-07, 08:34 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=- View Post
The scenerio you
mention is not one I would do under any circumstance.
But, then again, I wouldnt ride Naamans Rd. Period.
From a policmans point of veiw, a situation is being created
where drivers are getting angry. Angry drivers do stupid
stuff.

The prudent course of action for the government, then, is to ticket those angry drivers who act in a dangerously unlawful manner, or to improve the roadway to improve convenience for motorists, not to require cyclists to either operate in a more hazardous manner or not travel the road at all.

That you don't feel comfortable using busy roads with narrow lanes is irrelevant to the importance of protecting travel rights of those cyclists who use such roads for their transportation.
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Old 08-22-07, 08:39 AM   #24
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If anything, I applaud JoeJacks tireless (and dangerous) efforts
to promote fairness. I guess what I left out is the 'reality' factor
of that situation.
Ideally we should be equal, cops would watch out for us
vis-a-vis car ticketing and all would be good, the reality is,
that will never happen. I am familiar with the area mentioned
here and from that reality and safety based perspective, would
have chosen not to ride it in that manner.
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Old 08-22-07, 08:51 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joe
Cyclists regularly use this road but ride in the shoulder/right turn lanes.
if other cyclists regularily ride this road further to the right, joe, why is that position not considered practicable by you?

and why not pull to the right to allow faster traffic to pass if the shoulder IS wide? versus making the traffic change lanes? i beleive jhon forestor suggests the shoulder as appropriate for VC riding at times when faster traffic is present.

I'm just playing the devils advocate, I regularily ride the lane of high speed roads, but I'm also able to recognize safe road position without getting all caught up in the 'I drive my bike, i need to be in the travel lane' VC radicalization of bicycling.
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