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Impeding Traffic?

Old 09-29-11, 09:59 PM
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storckm
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Impeding Traffic?

I was taking my daughter home from ballet class the other night, when a policeman told me that I was impeding traffic.

She was stoker on the back of the tandem, and we were going not especially fast on Main Street in Bexley. At this point, Main Street is a two lane road, but the lanes are narrow, and the right lane was pretty full of parked cars.

So we were riding towards the right side of the left lane, when I hear a police sort of "BRAWP." A minute later, the policeman pulls up on my left, and tells me I should be further to the right, since there's "plenty of room." I point out that there are parked cars, and that I don't want to ride too close to them. He tells me that I'm "impeding traffic," and subtly turns on his blue top lights for a minute (which may simply have been to let oncoming cars know he was there). At that point, I stopped arguing, and then moved over into a gap in the parked cars, but had to pull over into the left lane again pretty quickly. I turned into the first side street.

When there's another good choice, I usually don't ride on Main Street. There are some more pleasant parallel streets, but in that part of town, the side streets require a bit of winding back and forth, since none of them goes through all the way.

So was the policeman right? Should I not have been riding as I was? Or are bicycles simply a fact of city life that motorists have to deal with, even if it slows them down a little?
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Old 09-29-11, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by storckm View Post
...So was the policeman right? Should I not have been riding as I was? Or are bicycles simply a fact of city life that motorists have to deal with, even if it slows them down a little?
You don't say what traffic conditions were. Were any vehicles behind you because they couldn't get around? Most states have laws that require any vehicle, including bicycles, to pull over and allow those behind to pass if more than a specified number are vehicles are impeded. In my state that number is 5. The only exception in my state is if you are traveling at the legal speed limit.

You can answer your own question. Were vehicles being held up because they couldn't pass? If so the cop was correct. If not the cop was wrong. The follow up is about what you do now. If the cop was wrong, I'd probably just ignore it. No way you are going to educate all the cops. After all, no one knows all the rules, including you; witness your post. If the cop was right I'd learn the lesson and start following the rules.

Mind you I'm just writing about the rules. You have to make the judgement about safety which may, or may not, put you in that situation again.
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Old 09-29-11, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
You can answer your own question. Were vehicles being held up because they couldn't pass? If so the cop was correct.
this is not the standard for impeding traffic. Impeding traffic cannot be done by a vehicle that is going the normal speed for that type of vehicle.

Originally Posted by storckm View Post
So was the policeman right? Should I not have been riding as I was? Or are bicycles simply a fact of city life that motorists have to deal with, even if it slows them down a little?
policeman was wrong. It's not reasonable to ask a cyclist to ride in a manner that endangers themselves because it causes some sort of (generally imaginary) inconvenience to other road users.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:01 PM
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unterhausen is correct.

There is case law in Georgia and Ohio that makes it clear, if a cyclist is riding at a reasonable speed with consideration to safety, the cyclist is not impeding traffic. Additionally, many state impeding laws ONLY apply to MOTOR vehicles.

Your cop, being from Ohio, should know better.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:15 PM
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No one suggested the OP endanger either bike rider. I suggest that the case law you refer to is not applicable to a tandem bike riding down main street of a busy city; consideration of saftey to use your words.

We don't know traffic conditions because they weren't posted. But, assuming it was, in fact, a busy city street the cop did the OP a favor. Just sitting here and thinking of one mental image I can see several ways the cop could have handled the situation. What the cop did was the kindest and simplest and did not call into play any of the child protective laws or others that could have been used.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
No one suggested the OP endanger either bike rider. I suggest that the case law you refer to is not applicable to a tandem bike riding down main street of a busy city; consideration of saftey to use your words.

We don't know traffic conditions because they weren't posted. But, assuming it was, in fact, a busy city street the cop did the OP a favor. Just sitting here and thinking of one mental image I can see several ways the cop could have handled the situation. What the cop did was the kindest and simplest and did not call into play any of the child protective laws or others that could have been used.
So you are one of those kind of cycling advocates.

The cop was flat out wrong, as you are. Trying to change it to child protective arguments does not make you any less wrong.

PS - MORE children are killed in cars than on bicycles riding with parents. So if the cop and you care about kids, you should do motoring parents a favor and force the parents to stop transporting their kids in deadly cars.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:23 PM
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I reject the notion that simply riding down a busy city street is dangerous to a cyclist. From the OP, it appears that the LEO was asking the cyclist to ride in the door zone or weave in and out of parked cars, which is asking the cyclist to endanger themselves.

Safety trumps convenience every time
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Old 09-29-11, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
unterhausen is correct.

There is case law in Georgia and Ohio that makes it clear, if a cyclist is riding at a reasonable speed with consideration to safety, the cyclist is not impeding traffic. Additionally, many state impeding laws ONLY apply to MOTOR vehicles.

Your cop, being from Ohio, should know better.
Agreed, maybe the OP should printout Trotwood v Selz and carry it with him, or bookmark it on his phone. As you said, though being as the OP is from Ohio as presumably was the cop who stopped him the cop should have known about it already.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
No one suggested the OP endanger either bike rider. I suggest that the case law you refer to is not applicable to a tandem bike riding down main street of a busy city; consideration of saftey to use your words.

We don't know traffic conditions because they weren't posted. But, assuming it was, in fact, a busy city street the cop did the OP a favor. Just sitting here and thinking of one mental image I can see several ways the cop could have handled the situation. What the cop did was the kindest and simplest and did not call into play any of the child protective laws or others that could have been used.
Actually it does sound as if the cop was expecting the OP to place himself and his daughter in jeopardy by popping in and out from between parked cars. And given that they were riding a tandem bike I would think that the space between parked cars would be even less inviting to ride in.

How do you figure that either Trotwood v Selz, or the Ga case referenced in Trotwood v Selz doesn't apply to a tandem bicycle? As if I am not mistaken I think that CB HI is referring to the Trotwood v Selz case.

If as you are assuming that it was a "busy city street" then riding in a predictable manner is more important in maintaining everyone's safety. As if the OP is consistently riding along the right side of the leftmost lane because as he said "the right lane was pretty full of parked cars" he and his daughter were visible and motorists would be able to plan when and where it is safe to pass them.
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Old 09-29-11, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
So you are one of those kind of cycling advocates.

The cop was flat out wrong, as you are. Trying to change it to child protective arguments does not make you any less wrong.

PS - MORE children are killed in cars than on bicycles riding with parents. So if the cop and you care about kids, you should do motoring parents a favor and force the parents to stop transporting their kids in deadly cars.
Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I reject the notion that simply riding down a busy city street is dangerous to a cyclist. From the OP, it appears that the LEO was asking the cyclist to ride in the door zone or weave in and out of parked cars, which is asking the cyclist to endanger themselves.

Safety trumps convenience every time
I agree with both of you in this case. The safest place for the cyclist and his daughter was in the left lane well out of the door zone.

Cyclist safety trumps motorist convenience every time, if the motorist and LEO don't get this then neither need to be on the road. And in the case of the LEO he should consider a new line of work.
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Old 09-30-11, 01:48 AM
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LEO was wrong. If I didn't get the name of the LEO I would still file a complaint with the department quoting the applicable traffic laws. They will know who he is by the time and location.

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Old 09-30-11, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
No one suggested the OP endanger either bike rider. I suggest that the case law you refer to is not applicable to a tandem bike riding down main street of a busy city; consideration of saftey to use your words.

We don't know traffic conditions because they weren't posted. But, assuming it was, in fact, a busy city street the cop did the OP a favor. Just sitting here and thinking of one mental image I can see several ways the cop could have handled the situation. What the cop did was the kindest and simplest and did not call into play any of the child protective laws or others that could have been used.
Your suggestions are incorrect. The LEO was in the wrong. Thanks for playing.
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Old 09-30-11, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Impeding traffic cannot be done by a vehicle that is going the normal speed for that type of vehicle.
This isn't quite true.

Of course, it's possible for any vehicle to impeded (hold up) other vehicles (it's just a fact of physics).

What is true is that it might not be illegal. Impeding traffic is illegal when there's a reasonable and possible remedy available for fixing it.

Bicyclists can't speed up (it's not really possible), which means that isn't a an available remedy. Note that the "speed up" law is limited in many states to motor vehicles.

The standard remedy for bicyclists is to keep to the right but that is only required when it is practicable (that is, safe) to do so.

The "door zone" is a fairly well-known risk, which means one can argue that keeping to the right isn't practicable (which means that isn't a remedy in this situation either).

===============

Originally Posted by storckm View Post
I was taking my daughter home from ballet class the other night, when a policeman told me that I was impeding traffic.
What was the speed limit on this road? How fast were you going?

Most states do not require bicyclists to keep to the right if they are travelling at the speed of traffic (and that speed doesn't have to be exactly the same).

Originally Posted by storckm View Post
So was the policeman right? Should I not have been riding as I was? Or are bicycles simply a fact of city life that motorists have to deal with, even if it slows them down a little?
It's hard to tell for certain but it seems to me that it's likely you were riding legally.

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Old 09-30-11, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Of course, it's possible for any vehicle to impeded (hold up) other vehicles (it's just a fact of physics).
we all impede traffic almost every time we drive. However, that is not the legal meaning of impeding traffic, which is strictly defined to include intent.
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Old 09-30-11, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
You don't say what traffic conditions were. Were any vehicles behind you because they couldn't get around? Most states have laws that require any vehicle, including bicycles, to pull over and allow those behind to pass if more than a specified number are vehicles are impeded.
Often, the "pull out" laws are restricted to motor vehicles. It's also fairly-typical, that there be a designated/appropriate place to pull-out into. Anyway, the "pull out" law would rarely apply to bicyclists because riding FRAP (far right as practicable) is really all that is required.

Originally Posted by HawkOwl View Post
In my state that number is 5. The only exception in my state is if you are traveling at the legal speed limit.
Your state is a secret (apparently).
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Old 09-30-11, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
we all impede traffic almost every time we drive.
Yes, but the illegality of a particular instance of "impeding" has to be somewhat persistent.

The idea of the "impeding traffic" law is failing to fix it when it is reasonable and possible to do so.

The typical "impeding traffic" law implies or is understood to require that the vehicle needs to speed up (it's weird that the remedy is not explicit) . Since it's not really possible (generally) for bicyclists to do that that particular law does not apply to bicyclists. Basically, the only way bicyclists can illegally impede traffic is when they can move to the right and fail to do so. (It should be obvious that the FRAP law is an "impeding traffic" law for bicyclists).

The issue in this case is whether keeping to the right was practicable (safe). It seems quite likely that it was not.

If you are impeding traffic when stopped to make a left turn, it isn't reasonable to speed up. Thus, that instance of impeding isn't illegal.

Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
However, that is not the legal meaning of impeding traffic, which is strictly defined to include intent.
No, the law doesn't include "intent". The law doesn't care why you do anything!

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Old 09-30-11, 07:03 AM
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More details: The speed limit is 25 mph. I don't know how fast we were going, but it was a fair bit slower, as my daughter and I were tired, and the road very slightly uphill--not that we really have hills in this part of Ohio. We may have been going as slow as 10 mph. But with all the stop lights in that part of the road, we weren't going all that much slower, on average. It was 8 o'clock at night, and the traffic wasn't heavy (or we might have been able to keep up), but there was a fair bit. There were some cars behind me, probably more than 5, and I would have moved over as soon as we had come to the end of the parked cars: three or four blocks. We were using generator head and tail-lights. And yes, the policeman did want me to ride in the door zone, which is why, after weaving for half a block, I took to the (significantly less direct) side streets.

Do you really think it's worth my while calling the police department to complain?

As to whether the law considers intent: I don't know in the case of impeding traffic. But the law considers intent sometimes: isn't that the difference between homicide and the different kinds of murder.
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Old 09-30-11, 07:48 AM
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storckm,

The impeding traffic law is a speed law. No matter how slow you were going, you can't be cited for it in Ohio if that speed is reasonable for the type of vehicle you were operating under the existing conditions. In some other states, such as North Carolina, nonmotorized vehicles are completely exempt, in order to avoid trying to decide just how hard a human's or animal's muscles ought to be working at a given time.

The Ohio as-far-right-as-practicable law, which concerns lateral position on the roadway, is the only relevant traffic law in your case. It provides explicit exemptions for conditions where riding too far right is unsafe:

§ 4511.55. Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway.
(A) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(B) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or motorcycles.

(C) This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so. Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
In summary, yes, what you were doing was perfectly legal and appropriate; motorists need to be patient and just deal with it.
See also: https://www.ohiobike.org/bicycle-law-digest.html

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Old 09-30-11, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by storckm View Post
Do you really think it's worth my while calling the police department to complain?
I think it's worth calling.
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Old 09-30-11, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by benjdm View Post
I think it's worth calling.
I do too, but a few words of advice: Be super polite, and never challenge the police officer's professionalism or motives. Give the officer the benefit of the doubt that he cared about your safety but was unfamiliar with best bicycling practices; keep to a technical point about the law and request that clarification be provided to officers who might make this mistake in the future.
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Old 09-30-11, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
I do too, but a few words of advice: Be super polite, and never challenge the police officer's professionalism or motives. Give the officer the benefit of the doubt that he cared about your safety but was unfamiliar with best bicycling practices; keep to a technical point about the law and request that clarification be provided to officers who might make this mistake in the future.
Agreed. It might even be better via email, because then you can reference things.

Google leads me to this:
https://cycle-safety.com/OH-Law-Enforcement-booklet.pdf
OHIO LAW OFFICERS
GUIDE TO BICYCLING LAW
ENFORCEMENT


...

• Not all things that are legal are safe!
Riding on sidewalks, in the gutter or in the door zone of parked cars is
generally legal. Any collision that occurs to a cyclist riding in these places is
usually the fault of another driver. Nevertheless, these are not safe
practices and should be discouraged.

...

Common Cycling Hazards
...
“Dooring” (running into a suddenly-opened door from a parked car) causes
many crashes, including fatalities. A dooring crash is legally the fault of the
motorist who opened the door without looking. However, you should
strongly discourage riding in the “door zone”.

...

Where to ride [§ 4511.55]
...

When passing parked vehicles, cyclists should ride a predictable line outside the
“door zone” danger area. Some open doors extend 4 feet from the car.
I don't know how official it is, though.
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Old 09-30-11, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by storckm View Post
Do you really think it's worth my while calling the police department to complain?
In Columbus? You'd have better luck peeing in the wind.
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Old 09-30-11, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by benjdm View Post
Agreed. It might even be better via email, because then you can reference things.
I have had even better luck going old school, with snail mail on high quality letterhead, with my full contact information including phone number, and CCing multiple officials. This gets attention and creates a paper trail that seems to generate a more deliberate response than email, which government people get a lot of and are used to ignoring.

You can still provide references in your paper mail, but include full quotations and if there are any URLs, create aliased tinyurls for them.

-Steve
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Old 09-30-11, 09:06 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
Trying to change it to child protective arguments does not make you any less wrong.
Though it's comically stupid.
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Old 09-30-11, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by storckm View Post
More details: The speed limit is 25 mph. I don't know how fast we were going, but it was a fair bit slower, as my daughter and I were tired, and the road very slightly uphill--not that we really have hills in this part of Ohio. We may have been going as slow as 10 mph. But with all the stop lights in that part of the road, we weren't going all that much slower, on average. It was 8 o'clock at night, and the traffic wasn't heavy (or we might have been able to keep up), but there was a fair bit. There were some cars behind me, probably more than 5, and I would have moved over as soon as we had come to the end of the parked cars: three or four blocks. We were using generator head and tail-lights. And yes, the policeman did want me to ride in the door zone, which is why, after weaving for half a block, I took to the (significantly less direct) side streets.

Do you really think it's worth my while calling the police department to complain?

As to whether the law considers intent: I don't know in the case of impeding traffic. But the law considers intent sometimes: isn't that the difference between homicide and the different kinds of murder.
It might be worth it, if for no other reason then to remind them about the decision in the Trotwood v Selz case. As I suggested you might want to print out a copy of it and carry it with you, or link to it on your cell/smart phone.
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