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  1. #1
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Law Enforcement issues when touring?

    Spawned from a thread in the Commuting forum where people discuss getting mistaken for homeless, or others asssume we're riding bikes due to DUI's and the like.

    Just wondering on longer tours if it's something you've run into. While my experience with LEO's is they're pretty professional, there are a few arrogant ones out there. God knows that I couldn't go a couple warm days without a shower or I'm pretty scruffy and ripe - and probably would get mistaken for homeless. Ever been an issue or get hassled?

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    My experiences with rural law enforcement has always been very positive. Several times I have been hailed from a passing cruiser to be asked if I needed water. I had a road opened for me and several other touring companions that had been closed for a drag race inconveniencing hundreds for about 20 minutes versus us for several hours. I have been offered tent space on sheriff station lawns and given access to normally closed public bathroom facilities because none were otherwise available. Oh, and the most impressive, we had a cop check on us every 30 minutes all night because the officer was concerned that locals would harrass us.

    Police officers are always good for a wave back when encountered on the road and will likely be your first contact with EMS if you run into any problems. You can read what you want into these examples of kindness, largess, and generosity, but I'm comforted and appreciate their presence.

  3. #3
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Never had any problems here in Europe either. We always smile, wave and say hello to all police officers wherever and whenever we see them. It's always a good idea to let them know you're in the area in case there is something wrong.
    I'm sure it's the same in the US.

  4. #4
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    my experiences have been very positive too.... ALL of them...
    2009 Custom TI Frame Road Bike, all 2007 Campy Record, Campy Euros Wheelset
    2009 Custom TI Frame touring Bike. S&S couplers, XTR Drivetrain. LOW granny.
    2009 Performance Bicycles TI (by Lynsky) road frame, 7900 DA, 7950 DA Compact Crank, Light Niobium Rim Wheels

  5. #5
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses..... Kept thinking of the Sheriff in "Rambo" LOL

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    I had a problem once in a small town on the Oregon coast. On our way out of a grocery store a cop stopped us said he heard a report of cyclists riding on the double yellow line. It wasn't us, and we politely told him so, but he kept fishing for anything else to catch us on. Eventually he gave up and we got out of town asap.

    I imagine this was a one-off case, but it does happen.

  7. #7
    dia por dia El Pelon's Avatar
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    I had a police officer wake me up in Ukiah (I was sleeping sitting up next to my bike in a public park b/c there were not campsites available) and tell me there had been some crime in the area. He directed me to the station, where they put my bike in the garage, and invited me to sack out there as well. Five hours later, I was greeted with a fresh cup of coffee and a bagel . . . an act of kindness and hospitality that I probably never will forget.
    Dia por dia.

  8. #8
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Since we stayed in state parks, we had no problem. But, in camp we talked to long distance tourers . Going across the west, they had to camp out in open spaces. We were told, the police constantly hassled open range campers.
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I've never had any trouble at all, during a tour, with the law enforcement community in Canada, Australia, or the parts of Europe I've visited.

  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    All the cops I met were either very nice or ignored us.

    We were once woken from a deep sleep while camped on the premises of a Baptist day camp. They had a history of break in problems, so it was reasonable to check on us. We had permission and the cops had been informed we were there, but at shift change the word wasn't passed. The officer was very professional and once he verified we had permission he bid us good night and drove off.

    We often called local law enforcement to ask about where we might camp and they were generally helpful.

  11. #11
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    Well, we did get stopped in Montana by the County sherrif for riding on the road. And in other places, it has been very positive. In Minnesota they were great when our daughter missed a turn and got seperated from us. And in South Dakota, they came over in the middle of the night to let us know that a severe storm was coming through and encouraged us to sleep inside.

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    I've been pulled over twice on my bike while commuting once was just because my light went dead and apparently there had been something going on in that neighborhood, but it was no big deal and he let me go, but the other time made me really really angry. I came to a four way stop sign and didn't stop completely but did slow down quite a bit and then started crossing the intersection and a car completely ran their stop sign and came within about 3 feet of hitting me. We both stopped for a minute and looked at each other and then I rode away. A minute later a cop pulled me over who apparently saw the whole thing happened and decided to follow me instead of the car. Needless to say I was a little bit shaken up as that was the only close call I've really ever had and I almost snapped at the cop. I still can't believe he went after me instead of that car.

  13. #13
    mev
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    Pretty well all positive in US, Canada, Australia, Russia and elsewhere. Most LEOs I've come across either ignore me or will catch a friendly eye contact and a smile.

    The closest I came to anything less than positive was camping one night along the road in one of the oil regions of Russia. I wasn't particularly trying to hide, but fairly late in the evening (but still light), I awoke to three folks with guns and a jeep. With my limited Russian vocabulary, we fairly quickly established that I was a tourist and that I'd be gone in the morning. I think they were security folks rather than police and they were mostly curious and surprised to find me there.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peaks View Post
    And in South Dakota, they came over in the middle of the night to let us know that a severe storm was coming through and encouraged us to sleep inside.

    A friend and I were on a long ride in Manitoba once, and got caught in a nasty storm (which spawned a tornado at the lake we'd visited that day). A trucker radioed in that there were cyclists on the road in the storm, and a police officer came out to check on us, and offer us a ride. By the time he caught up with us, we were right on the outskirts of the city, and almost back to our respective homes, so we turned him down. But I thought it was nice that he checked up on us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
    Thanks for the responses..... Kept thinking of the Sheriff in "Rambo" LOL
    "there wouldn't be no trouble except for that kingsh!t cop!" ahaha first blood was such a gem.

    there are good and bad cops everywhere. while i don't have any great love or trust for the police, i am usually glad to see them when i am on my bike. usually motorists are better-behaved when they are driving on a road with cops about. mostly positive experiences with the law during all my tours.

    even if i am just going to the store, i usually wear a polyester superhero cycling kit. bib, jersey, gloves, helmet, shades, warmers, etc. i am more likely to be mistaken for an actual cyclist than a vagrant. i do a quick sponge bath on most bathroom visits, especially when it's hot, to minimize my homeless peepee odors.

  16. #16
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Some Turkish police tried to sell me some cartons of cigarettes out of the back of there marked car. Had a goodlaugh over that one, we all posed for pictures too.

    A Ukranian border guard "got me" for 10Euros, a road tax...

    A Kazhakh policeman got me for 100$ US (Long story short, I hadn't registered within the alotted time frame, it was the end of the day, I was the only western foreigner, threats were made, the extortion seemd vy reasonable compared to the alternatives as a solo tourist).

    I've had a bunch of encounters that are not very noteable, but just showed the police/military were showing curiosity and concern for my well being.

    One Russian border guard/military officer stopped his jeep thing ran over to me and shoved a large bill in my hand.

    A couple Hungarian motorcycle police found me a nice reasonable rate hotel.

    A couple Thai police lighted the way to a hotel for me after dark, after about six miles or so they loaded up my bike on the roof of there truck (wouldn't take no for an answer). Extremely helpfull.
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

  17. #17
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    While on the RAGBRAI my friend and I walked a couple miles from the campground to a restaurant. On the way back, as it was getting dark, a policeman pulled over and said, "Want a ride?" He saw us walking and thought we might appreciate it. We did; we were pooped from the day's ride. Nice guy.

  18. #18
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We've had nothing but positive experiences with the police as well. In Baja, we had two different occasions when the police fell in behind us to escort us through particularly busy stretches. We've had police stop and make sure we are OK on long, remote stretches.

    There are two incidents that come to mind though - one time on our last trip we were in California - in the hills beyhond Bakersfield. As we pedaled along that day, John's tire on the triple went kaput - and we didn't have a spare. I left John and the boys on the side of the road and hitched a ride into Bakersfield (about a hundred miles away), bought a new tire, and hitched back out - I was gone a long time!

    Anyway, John and the boys had walked the bikes up to some houses a mile or so from where he flatted in hopes of finding someone to give them shelter while I was gone, but the house was empty. So, John took the wheel off the triple which entailed taking off the BOB, disconnecting the drum brake, and then taking off the wheel - he had parts of the bike scattered all over in front of the house. Then they all went across the street to take shelter from the sun behind some joshua trees and play cards for the afternoon.

    Hours later I finally got back with a new tire and we started putting the bike back together. Just then, a police car drove up. Apparently, so other old folks who live in the area had seen the bikes all day and started thinking we were inside the house stealing everything from the people who were on vacation. The policeman told us they NEVER go that far away from town - people in that area deal with things in their own way. We explained to him what had happened and he was on his way. We got a good laugh out of that one - I mean, what did those old folks think we were gonna do? Strap a piano on our bikes or something? And why on earth would we take our bike apart if we were stealing stuff - no way to make a fast getaway.

    The other time that comes to mind was years ago when John and I were cycling in Bangladesh. We pulled into a tiny village and tried to find a motel, but had no idea where to look. As we were stopped to ask directions, people starting pouring out of their homes and gathering around us. They weren't mean or anything - just lots and lots and lots of curious onlookers. We were getting worried about the sheer number of people crowded around.

    Finally a young kid came up on a bike and said, "Follow me!" We took off after him, thinking he was taking us to the hotel. He pulled in to the police station and we followed. The mob came rushing in after us.

    John and I got off our bikes in front of the station, and the police were driving the crowd back - with sticks! Seriously - they were beating people off with sticks!

    The crowd kept growing and growing, and finally the police ushered us into the station. They estimated that a thousand people were out there trying to look at us. So many people were crammed around the station, trying to get a glimpse into the window, that we were afraid the walls would collapse from the pressure!

    The police finally told us there was no way we could go to the hotel - they were afraid the crowd would be too much - and we had to sleep in the police station that night. They brought us dinner and provided a great little corner for us to bed down in.

    We got up really early the next day so we could get out of town before most people were up.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  19. #19
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    I got woke up by the police once on tour because a tornado warning had just been issued, and me and my bike and equipment got a ride to the jail for better shelter (camping in the city park, with local permission). The officer even helped me break camp and then pack up the tent at the jail. I got an unlocked cell for the night and a great breakfast the next morning.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


    . “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”- Fredrick Nietzsche

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  20. #20
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    I had a problem with a park ranger in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. I had biked up from Hilo, a 4,000+ foot (1200m) climb from the sea. I tried to rent a cabin because there were showers available there, but they were full with a school or scout group. Individuals were not allowed to reserve cabins in advance, but groups could. So I camped in the nearby campground which had no shower facilities and only had cold water sinks. It does get cool at 4,000 feet in Hawaii in the winter. Soon a couple of hikers showed up and told me that when they returned from a multi-day hike the previous day, some folks staying in a cabin had invited them to use the communal shower block and let them in with their key. The hikers suggested I walk over and ask someone if they'd let me use the showers. So I did that. I explained to a woman supervising the kids staying in the cabins that I had just climbed over 4,000 feet on a bike and was staying in the campground where there were no showers, and that I had tried to rent a cabin but none were available because of her group. The woman replied that she was told that the showers were for the cabin occupants only, and added "I'm sorry, it's not my decision". I told her that in fact, it was her decision, and her decision was "no". I said nothing else. She then got bent out of shape and I simply walked back to the campground and told the hikers what happened. They were amazed. A few minutes later, a park ranger came flying into the parking area in his car, jumped out, and walked over to us. He asked if one of us had tried to get inside the shower block by the cabins. I replied that I had asked one of the adults there if they'd permit me to take a shower, but that I was told by an unstable woman I couldn't use them. I never tried force myself inside the showers which required a key. I also explained to the ranger that I had biked all the way up from Hilo that afternoon, that I had tried to pay to stay in a cabin in order to take a shower, but that none were available because they had all been reserved by the group there. However I, as an individual, wasn't allowed to reserve one in advance. He was sympathetic and I thought that was the end of it. Then, after a few minutes of pleasant chit-chat unrelated to showers, he suddenly asked to see my drivers license. That incensed me. All of the sudden I was being treated like a criminal for asking to use the shower block. I told him that I was riding a bicycle, not driving a car, and that I was under no legal obligation to possess a drivers license. I never told him whether or not I even had a drivers license. He insisted he had a right to see my drivers license. I told him he did not, and I requested that he call whoever he reported to in order to verify what I was saying. I willingly showed him a student photo id I was carrying. He refused to call anyone, and it was clear that although he wouldn't admit it to me, he had some doubt about his claim. He finally left. The 2 hikers were astonished at what transpired and felt bad because it was their suggestion that made me walk over to the shower block in the first place.

    A week later on Kauai, I met another touring cyclist who was an attorney and she cited a specific case backing me up. When I got home, I sent a letter to the park superintendent complaining about the treatment I got from the ranger. I received an outrageous reply indicating that the park superintendent didn't have a clue about the purpose of a drivers license, claiming a drivers license "is merely a form which permits positive identification of a suspect", and that the ranger in question was disciplined for his "failure to obtain positive identification of a suspect". I wrote him back and said a drivers license is merely a form which allows someone to legally operate a motor vehicle, nothing more, and nothing less. Furthermore, I hadn't committed a crime, was not a "suspect", and the ranger never told me that I was a "suspect" or had committed any crime. Of course, he never replied to that letter.

  21. #21
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    I had 2 strange experiences with police in Vienna, Austria. The day I was leaving on my bike, there was a bit of light fog. Most cars were not using their headlights, as the fog simply was not very dense. As I pedaled, a cop yelled out to me "Wo ist dein licht?" ("where is your light?", using the familiar form of "your"). It struck me as absurd and I started to laugh and never even stopped pedaling.

    A day earlier, while biking around the city, a cop stopped me when I was walking my bike on the sidewalk adjacent to a one-way street with traffic going in the other direction. If I understood him correctly, I should not have been walking my bike against traffic, even though I was on the sidewalk. He wasn't unpleasant and didn't say anything else, but it made no sense to me.

  22. #22
    Senior Member MNBikeguy's Avatar
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    I could write pages of examples of helpful assistance and kind gestures by law enforcement.

    One of my favorites was a "police escort" through a busy section of Mission Gorge Calif. by Officer Jim Seal. He didn't use a patrol car; he rode a Smith and Wesson bicycle.

    Staehpj1's story reminds me of a time we crashed in the back yard of a church (with permission) and was awakened by security in the middle of the night. They had debated waking us to inform us the automatic sprinkler system was about to go off. I can't believe we never thought to look for a sprinkler system!
    "I thought of that while riding my bike."
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  23. #23
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNBikeguy View Post
    I could write pages of examples of helpful assistance and kind gestures by law enforcement.

    One of my favorites was a "police escort" through a busy section of Mission Gorge Calif. by Officer Jim Seal. He didn't use a patrol car; he rode a Smith and Wesson bicycle.
    Pretty cool but a motorcycle escort trumps it.



    I like to tell my friends we were thrown out of town and escorted to the border but actually the officer was very nice and lead us to a bike path north of town.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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