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Old 05-04-09, 09:30 AM   #1
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Pulled Over By Police For Riding In The Road

Last friday I was riding back home from boardgame night at a friends. I had had 6 drinks over the past 4 hours so I was buzzed. (6'1" 175lb male) I was traveling down a 35mph divided road with two 11' lanes in either direction with a parking lane on the outside and a sidewalk beyond that. Lights are about every 3 blocks. Heading uptown on N. Rampart St in front of Louis Armstong Park for New Orleanians.

There's a wicked crack running along the right lane for a quarter mile, right at the edge of the door zone where I'd normally be riding so I was in the right wheel track of the right lane. I was going 20+-2mph and there was fairly heavy traffic. A red pickup had just buzzed me with <6" to spare when I head someone with a megaphone say "*unintelligible*road*unintelligible". Lo and behold its a squad car that pulls next to me and I say "what did you say?" He thought I was being a smart alec but I responded "No really, I didn't hear you" He wasn't happy and flashed the lights and siren. I found a clear spot in the parking lane and we had a chat. I'll try and recreate the conversation accurately.
Me:I couldn't hear you because of the wind, what did you say?
Cop:I said get outta the road. You're gonna get killed. You nearly got hit by that pick-up.
Me:Why didn't you go arrest him for an illegal pass instead of pulling me over? [gesturing angrily]
Cop:You shouldn't be riding in the road.
Me:It is illegal for me to ride to ride on the sidewalk within the city. I'm supposed to ride in the street.
Cop:Well...you should have a light.
Me:I have a light. [show him my still blinking SuperFlash]
Cop:Well I'm just worried about your safety.
Me:Where am I supposed to ride? [repeated three times]
Cop:I don't know! You know what, have a nice night. [drives off]

I was shocked that he was so reasonable but I was still pretty upset about it. A pedestrian who had seen the whole thing came up and asked if it was true that bikes aren't allowed on the sidewalk. He didn't believe it but he saw how vehement I was and how the cop hadn't been able to argue. I explained that bikes count as vehicles and aren't allowed on the sidewalk but are legally required to be ridden in the street as far right as possible. I said that bikes were like other slow moving vehicles like tractors, construction equipment or Mardi Gras floats in that respect. I was still upset so I went on about how the laws are never enforced because most people here ride their bikes very slowly as pedestrians so it's rare that someone actually follows the law. I said that it's understandable for someone going 5mph to be on the sidewalk for safety but I was going 20mph so it'd be really dangerous for me to ride there. I tried to make it seem reasonable that the cop wouldn't know the law since it's never followed.

Whew, I had to vent. Thanks for reading my rant.
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Old 05-04-09, 10:41 AM   #2
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I'm betting that the cop didn't know the law either and knew that he didn't, from his reaction. It'd have been nice if he'd pulled over the truck for the illegal pass, good job making that suggestion, maybe if he looks up the law, sees that you're right, and thinks about it a bit, he might just do that in the future. OK, unlikely, but there's a chance.
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Old 05-04-09, 10:50 AM   #3
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It's easier for him to catch up with you than the pickup.
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Old 05-04-09, 11:12 AM   #4
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I thought about it, and I think you should get a second LED tail light. Keep the one you have blinking, and put the second one on steady.
And get a reflective vest.
Do you have a rear view mirror?
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Old 05-04-09, 11:39 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
Last friday I was riding back home from boardgame night at a friends. I had had 6 drinks over the past 4 hours so I was buzzed. (6'1" 175lb male) I was traveling down a 35mph divided road with two 11' lanes in either direction with a parking lane on the outside and a sidewalk beyond that. Lights are about every 3 blocks. Heading uptown on N. Rampart St in front of Louis Armstong Park for New Orleanians.

There's a wicked crack running along the right lane for a quarter mile, right at the edge of the door zone where I'd normally be riding so I was in the right wheel track of the right lane. I was going 20+-2mph and there was fairly heavy traffic. A red pickup had just buzzed me with <6" to spare when I head someone with a megaphone say "*unintelligible*road*unintelligible". Lo and behold its a squad car that pulls next to me and I say "what did you say?" He thought I was being a smart alec but I responded "No really, I didn't hear you" He wasn't happy and flashed the lights and siren. I found a clear spot in the parking lane and we had a chat. I'll try and recreate the conversation accurately.
Me:I couldn't hear you because of the wind, what did you say?
Cop:I said get outta the road. You're gonna get killed. You nearly got hit by that pick-up.
Me:Why didn't you go arrest him for an illegal pass instead of pulling me over? [gesturing angrily]
Cop:You shouldn't be riding in the road.
Me:It is illegal for me to ride to ride on the sidewalk within the city. I'm supposed to ride in the street.
Cop:Well...you should have a light.
Me:I have a light. [show him my still blinking SuperFlash]
Cop:Well I'm just worried about your safety.
Me:Where am I supposed to ride? [repeated three times]
Cop:I don't know! You know what, have a nice night. [drives off]

I was shocked that he was so reasonable but I was still pretty upset about it. A pedestrian who had seen the whole thing came up and asked if it was true that bikes aren't allowed on the sidewalk. He didn't believe it but he saw how vehement I was and how the cop hadn't been able to argue. I explained that bikes count as vehicles and aren't allowed on the sidewalk but are legally required to be ridden in the street as far right as possible. I said that bikes were like other slow moving vehicles like tractors, construction equipment or Mardi Gras floats in that respect. I was still upset so I went on about how the laws are never enforced because most people here ride their bikes very slowly as pedestrians so it's rare that someone actually follows the law. I said that it's understandable for someone going 5mph to be on the sidewalk for safety but I was going 20mph so it'd be really dangerous for me to ride there. I tried to make it seem reasonable that the cop wouldn't know the law since it's never followed.

Whew, I had to vent. Thanks for reading my rant.
I hear ya!! Cops may be concerned about a cyclist's safety. But, Some of them don't know anything about the portion of the vehicle codes, pertaining to cyclists'.
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Old 05-04-09, 11:40 AM   #6
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I doubt if the cop would say "Get a light" if he had actually seen your light.

Check you light and make sure it's bright enough. Also, it's very easy to forget to turn on your rear light. I've done it...sober.
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Old 05-04-09, 11:43 AM   #7
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I thought about it, and I think you should get a second LED tail light. Keep the one you have blinking, and put the second one on steady.
And get a reflective vest.
Yep. That's how I roll...
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 05-04-09, 11:44 AM   #8
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I thought about it, and I think you should get a second LED tail light. Keep the one you have blinking, and put the second one on steady.
And get a reflective vest.
Do you have a rear view mirror?
I wear a reflective vest. I also have two tail lights and, two head lights.

I won't use a mirror. Because, For me, they are too distracting. It isn't great for, the muscles in my neck but, I use my peripheral vision, instead of mirror. By turning my head.
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Old 05-04-09, 08:26 PM   #9
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It's easier for him to catch up with you than the pickup.
That's probably pretty close to the truth.
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Old 05-04-09, 08:45 PM   #10
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Whew, I had to vent. Thanks for reading my rant.
HAHA! That's a great story. People here are going to think I paid you to write that!

1. Overtaking traffic "buzzed" you.

2. The cops are not only worthless on such matters (i.e., you are on your own) but a downright nuisance.

3. Everyone in the city, with the exception of a few cyclists, think you should be on the sidewalk (there was a message in that buzz) or at the very least, the hell out of their way.

RULE #1 FOR CYCLING IN NOLA: There ARE no rules!

Thanks for some vindication!

-Joey
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Old 05-04-09, 09:07 PM   #11
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Well I'm definitely glad you are ok, for sure, but your story really made me think of a question....is it not illegal to operate a bicycle on a public road while intoxicated in LA????? Again, this is totally out of curiosity....I kinda thought the story was going to go in a totally different direction when I started reading it...and then I thought...man, he's lucky he didn't drop a summons on you!! Sounds like you had "one of those nights".
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Old 05-04-09, 09:13 PM   #12
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Well I'm definitely glad you are ok, for sure, but your story really made me think of a question....is it not illegal to operate a bicycle on a public road while intoxicated in LA????? Again, this is totally out of curiosity....I kinda thought the story was going to go in a totally different direction when I started reading it...and then I thought...man, he's lucky he didn't drop a summons on you!! Sounds like you had "one of those nights".
I have never heard of a single incident of DUI on a bicycle unless they cyclist showed blatant disrespect to the cop during the encounter.

Keep in mind that a study done 20 years ago found that at any given moment - and we are talking about Easter Sunday as well as Mardi Gras - 50 precent of motorists on the streets of New Orleans were legally drunk behind the wheel. So EVERY OTHER CAR passing you is operated by a drunk. Maybe a little less these days but trust me - some huge percentage are loaded.
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Old 05-04-09, 09:38 PM   #13
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Me:Why didn't you go arrest him for an illegal pass instead of pulling me over?
Gonna have to agree with you there. It sounds like he just passively watched the pickup driver pass within an unsafe distance- that has to be a moving violation- and then he passively watched that vehicle drive away. No proactive law enforcement there.
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Old 05-05-09, 08:20 AM   #14
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I'll say one thing for this officer - while he may be misguided on bicycle rights/regulations, it is quite obvious that his intentions were not to harass; far from it. He meant no harm, unlike most incidents that get published here at A&S.

Call it safety nannyism, but the fellow did not seem rude in the first place - seems as if he is a decent enough fellow that needs to learn just a bit about the cycling laws in your area. Something tells me that the officer portrayed in the O/P's conversation transcript is an individual who would be willing to accept the existence of such laws if he were to look them up - he seems of a decent enough character.

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Old 05-05-09, 08:50 AM   #15
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Well I'm definitely glad you are ok, for sure, but your story really made me think of a question....is it not illegal to operate a bicycle on a public road while intoxicated in LA????? Again, this is totally out of curiosity....I kinda thought the story was going to go in a totally different direction when I started reading it...and then I thought...man, he's lucky he didn't drop a summons on you!! Sounds like you had "one of those nights".
6 drinks over 4 hours for a 175lb guy - I doubt his BAC was anywhere close to the legal limit.

Since the officer seemed genuinely trying to help, I might have said: "If you really want to help me, go give that truck driver a ticket."
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Old 05-05-09, 09:58 AM   #16
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I doubt if the cop would say "Get a light" if he had actually seen your light.

Check you light and make sure it's bright enough. Also, it's very easy to forget to turn on your rear light. I've done it...sober.
Because we know the cop isn't! BA Boom! Sorry I couldn't resist.
My city just hosted the police parade, the crime rate went up!
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Old 05-05-09, 12:10 PM   #17
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Thanks for the responses. I included the information about my drinking to be fair, but I highly doubt my BAC was over the limit. I was half expecting the conversation to go that way and am glad it didn't come up. When I do ride while intoxicated I'll take streets with less traffic where weaving a few feet won't be a death sentence. I once had to walk the bike home, using it as support...but then again, this is NOLA and partying is more required than brake tags.

The NOPD has had SOME education on cycling laws for police. I think when I quoted the law to him, the cop remembered some of what he was told. He saw that I had a helmet but couldn't see my light because he was right along side me when we were talking. If I hadn't had one it would have been some sort of violation and he would feel justified in pulling me over. The light was definitely on and even had fresh batteries.

I was happy when I upgraded to the SuperFlash over a 'regular' tail light-now I find out I need two! (I actually do have two but the second one is on the trailer.)

I have a reflective vest but I've only used it for running at night on country roads, I have no plans to use one while riding. I'm considering trying out a mirror on my upcoming cycle tour but will continue to ride normally without one. How would one have helped me in this situation? Made me shy to the right when I saw a red pickup barrelling toward me, sending my front wheel into that monster crack and me flying into traffic? IMHO, this is one of those cases where I'll fare better not knowing. I'll continue to use my speed, lane positioning, hearing, sight and judgement to keep me safe.

Cudak888, I agree with your assessment of the officer. I was upset at the unfair treatment, being pulled over for another's error because I "Don't Belong", and if he had had bad intentions I don't think I could have remained civil. The experience has actually left me with an improved opinion of the police here. I've heard one too many stories about friends being taken out into the bayou on the way to the station and getting beaten for backtalk.
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Old 05-05-09, 12:23 PM   #18
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...this is NOLA and partying is more required than brake tags.
For those of you NOT from New Orleans, a vehicle inspection sticker is referred to as a "brake tag" here.
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Old 05-05-09, 12:28 PM   #19
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could've been worse
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Old 05-07-09, 02:12 PM   #20
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Recently, I conducted 14 informal interviews with police officers I work with and was disappointed, disheartened and disbelieving by their reactions to certain questions. Virtually every one of them immediately went on the attack, but the oldest officer who claimed to be a former traffic and bicycle cop was the most surprising. He really made me question whether he was telling me the truth about being either. He asserted that sharing the road meant sharing a lane. I advised him that the HTA (Highway Traffic Act) expressly forbid that, reminding him that cyclists are advised to ride 1 metre out from the curb and that vehicles must give 1 metre on the cyclists left and may only pass if they are fully within the lane, not straddling. If they cannot, they are required by law to completely change lanes. He promptly asked 'then why does it say cyclists need to ride as far to the right as practicable?' I advised he was confusing his types of roads: on two lane divided roads, cyclists are ASKED to ride as far to the right as PRACTICABLE as a courtesy, but are allowed to take up as much of the lane as necessary for safety reasons. he pounced on that and claimed we would be impeding traffic, wherein I replied, no we're not as we ARE traffic and are travelling at an appropriate speed for our vehicle. I asked him where on the road signage does it state the MINIMUM speed and suggested that many vehicles travel at lower speeds: tractors, large trucks, road-cleaning and snow-removal equipment. I then asked why, if he believed cyclists were impeding traffic, did he not give himself and every cyclist he saw, including his fellow bike cops tickets for failing to share the road and impeding traffic?

Cops are often more ignorant or out of date with traffic laws and the cop that stopped you may have been as well, but he was right about one thing: if you were riding at night, you definitely need a light. More importantly, he should have ticketed the pick-up driver as, by your description, he purposely passed illegally and unsafely and made no attempt to respect your right to the road or the lane.
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Old 05-07-09, 03:25 PM   #21
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Me:Why didn't you go arrest him for an illegal pass instead of pulling me over? [gesturing angrily]

Whew, I had to vent. Thanks for reading my rant.
Lousiana doen't have a three-foot passing law yet, though the legislature is at least yapping about one...

Louisiana Revised Statutes, Sect. 32:197 also has some pretty severe restrictions on where cyclists can ride:
  1. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
  2. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
  3. Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.

Banning bikes from the sidewalk is either a city or parish decision rather than being covered under the state statutes, but New Orleans does have that one on the books...
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Old 05-07-09, 03:53 PM   #22
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6 drinks over 4 hours for a 175lb guy - I doubt his BAC was anywhere close to the legal limit.

Since the officer seemed genuinely trying to help, I might have said: "If you really want to help me, go give that truck driver a ticket."
Actually, depending on exactly what kind of drinks these were, he could have been well over the limit. Here's a BAC calculator that's kind of fun to play with. I don't even know what a Hairy Buffalo is but 6 of them will apparently get a 180 lb man to .20% in 4 hours!

http://www.ou.edu/oupd/bac.htm
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Old 05-07-09, 09:10 PM   #23
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wow man, lucky you didnt get a DUI, your cops must be big teddy bears!
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Old 05-08-09, 05:20 AM   #24
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Since you were drinking, I'd let this one slide. Count yourself lucky that the cop didn't run you through the roadside tests and cite you for drunk or impaired driving.

Once alcohol is in the mix (even below-the-limit-alcohol), you lose any ability to persuade authorities that you were right. If a cop does the same thing when you have had nothing to drink, then complain.
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Old 05-08-09, 06:47 AM   #25
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Enigmaniac, I did have a light.

Pscyclepath, it is a parish ordinace that bikes are not allowed on the sidewalk. Here is a summary of the bike laws in NOLA: http://bike.tulane.edu/Laws_no.pdf

rwp, when I say 6 drinks I mean a 6 drink equivalent. I actually had 3 drinks but they were as strong as 6. The website provided says my probably BAC was .06.

jgrant75, you are right that drinking and driving is mostly overlooked here. This isn't because the cops are teddy bears, but rather because most of their time is spent dealing with violence, theft and drug related crime. Also enforcing drinking laws would hurt tourism. We in fact have drive-thru daquiri shops where it's not an open container until you put the straw in!

Daily Commute, as I've explained above, even if I had been tested, I wouldn't have had a high enough BAC to have been cited for anything. You are right that any amount of alcohol in a person's system is likely to make a cop ignore their arguments. (though this cop basically did that anyway because I was a cyclist) That does not mean that I forfeit my right to operate a vehicle safely and legally on the roadway, or to expect that a police officer know and uphold the law. If I am being descriminated against because of my vehicle choice by law enforcement, I will most definitely not stand by.
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