I was riding southbound on San Tomas Expressway around 6PM when I got to the Winchester off ramp and found it was coned off and flares were set. I rode up to the cones but couldn't see anything going on, so I went down the ramp a ways. Just past the turn I saw a car stopped, a cyclist standing alongside the ramp, and a CHP officer. Once the officer saw me he signaled me over to him and asked for my driver’s license. The other cyclist told me we were being cited for crossing through the cones.
Hard to argue that one; there I was, standing on the wrong side of the cones.
The CHP Officer asked, "Did you see the cones?!"
"Well, yeah," I replied, "kinda hard to miss 'em. Especially with those flares going." I was totally on the admit side of this.
I then asked the officer, "What was I supposed to do when the last safe off ramp on the road is closed?" He told me I had 3 choices; to ride the wrong way on San Tomas Expressway back to Budd Avenue, to continue on over the Camden overpass, or to sit by the cones and wait for the off ramp to open again.
Well, I had run the first two options through my mind before I even crossed the cones and ruled them out as suicidal. The 3rd never occurred to me since there was no one in sight at the cones!
The officer then proceeded to tell me, and the growing group of cyclists with me, how he thought we were crazy to be riding on this road in the first place and that I shouldn't complain about riding the wrong way on San Tomas Expressway, since I chose to bring a bike out there in the first place.
"You should see the things I see on this job," the officer continued, "then you'd think twice about riding out here. Most of the bike accidents happen because cyclists aren’t following the rules of the road. Cars don't care what happens to you guys. Just look at what happened on Stevens Creek Canyon last year." This seemed a poor example to me, especially when used by a law enforcement professional.
I asked the officer, "What lesson were we supposed to take away from that one? The cyclists were obeying the law, as far as we know." I realized that right then (or possibly earlier) was a good time to stop talking.
This encounter shook me up a bit. I had always pictured myself as a law-abiding cyclist and here was clear evidence that I was not as pure as I thought. What I did (going down the ramp) made total sense to me, given my other choices. In addition, I had always thought that the CHP was on my side or at the very least, neutral; here was an officer blaming “most” bike accidents on the cyclists. I really did not enjoy the rest of the ride home.
I still had my bad commute in the back of my mind as I read the San Jose Mercury News before setting out the next morning (Friday, August 7) and there was a report of a 32-year-old cyclist being tasered near the intersection of San Tomas and Budd Ave. in Campbell. The brief report said someone in a Chrysler 300 pulled up next to the cyclist and zapped him. I shouldn’t have read the paper before riding off to work.
So what’s the point of all this? Just to remind everyone on two wheels to be careful and stay alert. I’m looking around a little more than I was before.
(Postscript: The CHP let us off with warning...)