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Advice from cop - stay off the street

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Advice from cop - stay off the street

Old 06-22-11, 06:24 AM
  #1  
JaclynMcKewan
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Advice from cop - stay off the street

I try to practice vehicular cycling when feasible. If it doesn't look like it's safe for me to get into the left lane and make a turn, I will get off the bike and walk it across the crosswalk like a pedestrian. This morning, while I was riding, I felt it was safe to stay in the street. Although the streets were busy, there was a gap in the cars behind me, and few cars getting into the turn lane. So I signaled and got into the left lane. While waiting for the light to change, I stayed in the right side of the lane, and a cop car pulled up next to me.

The cop said that what I was doing was "very dangerous" and I should be riding in the sidewalk. I said, politely, that I had always heard one should bike in the street with the cars so that they can see you. He countered that because this was rush hour, the cars wouldn't be expecting me and I was more likely to get hit. I replied that I used to ride in the sidewalk, and I had twice almost gotten hit by cars turning onto crosswalks or driveways that didn't see me. He again said that this was dangerous during rush hour and I said nothing, and was glad when the light changed.

Thoughts? Do any of you avoid making left turns, or stay off the street entirely, when there is more traffic? Or did the cop just not know what he was talking about? I also wonder if I were a man, and wearing full Lance Armstrong gear (jersey, bicycling shorts, etc.) if he would have said anything. I wonder if because I'm a woman, and was just wearing regular clothes, he assumed that I couldn't possibly know what I was doing by being in the street with cars.
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Old 06-22-11, 06:38 AM
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The cop might have honestly had the best of intentions, but he was misinformed. Continue riding as you are, only you can asses the best way to make your left hand turn. Each intersection is different. In my commuting route, there is one left hand turn that I have to make on a particularly busy road. Rather than get in the left lane (which is a turn left or go straight), I hang a right then turn around so I can go straight through the intersection at the next light cycle.

I don't believe gender had any role in this.
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Old 06-22-11, 06:39 AM
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Rule #1: Don't argue with LEOs. Just nod, say "yes officer" and go about your business. Yes he was wrong, but that doesn't make correcting him right.
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Old 06-22-11, 06:48 AM
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Cop = wrong. He should've said it would be safer if you did not ride at all and stayed home all day.

I make left turns from the proper road lane all the time although often I will just sit in the middle of the turn lane and not move to the right side of the lane. Often if I'm first in line waiting to turn left, I will overhang the white line enough so that cars behind me turning left can still trigger the lights if need be.

I do self assess certain situations though, taking side streets where possible, and in some situations I'll even take the sidewalk - e.g. there's a three way stop on a crest (nightmarish even when driving) that has a fenced off wide sidewalk with great visibility and zero driveways. I also avoid rush hour as much as I can.

I wouldn't be surprised if bike gear and gender did have something to do with it. Perhaps not that significantly enough.
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Old 06-22-11, 06:57 AM
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Left turns in traffic are difficult on a bike.

Cop was trying to help you.

I would just say Yes sir, Thank you for your advice.
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Old 06-22-11, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
So I signaled and got into the left lane. While waiting for the light to change, I stayed in the right side of the lane, and a cop car pulled up next to me.
Take the lane on a left-hand turn.

I normally stay as far right as possible when riding, and rarely take the lane, but this is the one exception I make. It makes you more visible and your intent more clear.
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Old 06-22-11, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
So I signaled and got into the left lane. While waiting for the light to change, I stayed in the right side of the lane, and a cop car pulled up next to me.
Was the LEO in the same lane as you, or was he in the lane next to you?

I make left hand turns all the time, and I position myself in the middle of the lane when I do, in doing so I limit the number of motorists trying to squeeze in beside me.
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Old 06-22-11, 07:58 AM
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The cop probably really didn't know better and was just giving advice. The advice being right or wrong is a different matter. We had a post here where a LEO told the cyclist it was safer to be a Salmon rider. Honestly I don't think most cop has many hours riding on the road with a bicycle.

Just agreed with them and do what you feel comfortable with. Unless he is writing you up a ticket, his verbal advice without a specific violation code is just an advice.
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Old 06-22-11, 08:04 AM
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I wouldn't take this advice seriously unless the officer was also on a bicycle. Police are regular people, and are just as capable of giving bad advice as folks on internet forums

edit^colleen c beat me to the punch lol
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Old 06-22-11, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by philski View Post
Take the lane on a left-hand turn.

I normally stay as far right as possible when riding, and rarely take the lane, but this is the one exception I make. It makes you more visible and your intent more clear.
+1 on taking the lane. I agree with the slow traffic to the right principle but there are times where taking the lane is the safer alternative and a LH turn is one of them. If you don't take the lane on a LH turn, you're practically encouraging the potential knucklehead behind you to try overtaking while simultaneously executing the turn.

The cop was well intentioned but I suspect misinformed (I have no idea what your local ordinances are about bikes on sidewalks). In principle, unless it's got training wheels on it, a bike has no business being on a sidewalk. As far as your gender affecting the exchange, it probably caused the cop to be more of a gentleman and "give out advice" rather than a "reprimand."
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Old 06-22-11, 09:26 AM
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The cop was wrong, but good luck convincing him of that.

If you have any kind of local advocacy group willing to meet with the police and offer training that would be a good start.
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Old 06-22-11, 09:37 AM
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He's wrong, but I wouldn't argue. "Thanks, I appreciate the advice." and just keep on as you have been.
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Old 06-22-11, 09:51 AM
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Yeah, I had an officer here tell me "you can ride on the sidewalks, you know..." They mean well, but they are wrong.
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Old 06-22-11, 09:52 AM
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There are some intersections on my commute where I will use the pedwalk instead of trying to plow my way across an RTO lane and 2 go-straight lanes to try and get into the LTO lane during rush hour. It doesn't mean that I legally am not allowed to use the lanes, but "I had the right of way, dammit" isn't the epitaph I want, so sometimes I give in and take the pedestrian route.
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Old 06-22-11, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
Thoughts?
Opinions are like ********, in that everybody has one ... but that's not an appropriate thing to say to a cop. Remember that police have opinions as people, too. If this one didn't turn his lights on, he was sharing his with you as friendly advice, and not in an official capacity, so, treat it like any other bit of unsolicited advice, and take it or leave it. ( It's not an order or a command. )

How to ride is a pretty complex question. Occasionally I'll get on the sidewalk, but it's pretty rare, and only happens if there are no driveways crossing it. Climbing a steep hill on a busy road with no alternative routes is a good example of when I'd do this. Normally I turn left the same way I would in a car, but, again, there are times when it makes more sense to use a cross walk. The more you ride, the better you'll get at judging a situation, and finding the best way through it.
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Old 06-22-11, 10:24 AM
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If it's a straight/left lane combo I filter my way all the way to the front and stay to the left as I turn. Then when it's possible I move back to the far right. When it's a left turn lane or a double left turn lane combo I filter to the front/right and make the left turn on the outside/right of the lane. When faced w/a straight/right turn I filter to the front and try to allow room for a car to turn behind me. It's all in allowing respect for the car drivers while maintaining the highest level of visibility possible. Some may disagree w/my approach to riding in traffic w/t filtering technique, but I've been cycle-commuting for 24 years consistantly and have never had a close call. I can only attribute this to making eye to eye contact and always erring on the side of caution.

Btw, I agree w/t OP. The LEO wouldn't have said anything to her had she been male. Wouldn't say it's sexism more a modern societal manifestation of primordial instinct to protect a female. It's in the very fabric of our DNA. He meant well. He's just misinformed.
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Old 06-22-11, 11:12 AM
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As others have said, it sounds like the officer had good intentions, but he was wrong. Ironically, it's drivers not obeying traffic laws that makes cycling during rush hour so dangerous.
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Old 06-22-11, 11:47 AM
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Just tell them it wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many people running red lights.....
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Old 06-22-11, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Left turns in traffic are difficult on a bike.
No moreso than in a car. I check my mirror, make sure traffic is clear for my speed versus theirs, then change lanes across one at a time. I might annoy some drivers being in the road, but I make sure I've got a full execution plan for making it all the way to the left lane. I might be a block or half a block away when I get into it; it might take me half a block or less to get into it.

I do this down 35mph legal roads where the nominal speed is 60mph (I've blown past the speed-trapping cop at 60 and he's ignored me, right next to the 35mph speed limit sign). Because of traffic lights, that road has frequent, large breaks in traffic; sometimes I have to negotiate a few cars, but it's often fine.
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Old 06-22-11, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Left turns in traffic are difficult on a bike.

Cop was trying to help you.

I would just say Yes sir, Thank you for your advice.
As an ex-cop, it pains me to see all the fear and passive submissiveness some of you seem to display when interacting with cops. This guy didn't know his okole from a hole in the ground...and he'll never learn if people don't (politely) explain it to him.
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Old 06-22-11, 01:14 PM
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If you pretty sure that you're right and the cop is wrong, it's a time-saver to simply say, "thanks, officer" and move on. No reason to debate.

But, maybe the cop was right? For instance, here it is legal to ride sidewalks (they're considered MUPs, basically) so perhaps the advice was not bad after all.
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Old 06-22-11, 01:40 PM
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the cop was probably well intentioned, advising that it was very dangerous during rush hour. it could be from his experience that he has observed more accidents during those times than you would ever encounter (hopefully you would never encounter one). that said, if it wasn't rush hour, then can one presume that it's not dangerous to do the left turn?

anyways, it is well within your rights to do the turn from the lane, and as other posters have replied - maybe gender and gear made the LEO act the way he did.
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Old 06-22-11, 02:04 PM
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Here's a handy link you may want to check out. It links to Buffalo area bicycle maps, issued by the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council. It includes excerpts of NYS law, plus advice on riding a bike, including:

Turning Left-2 Options
1. As A VEHICLE: Signal your intentions in advance. Move to the left turning lane, and complete the turn when it is safe.
2. AS A PEDESTRIAN: Ride to the far crosswalk, dismount & walk across.
Obey All Traffic Signs and Signals*
Bicyclists must obey all local and state Traffic Rules. Bicyclists have the same rights, privileges and duties as other vehicles. Bicycles must be driven like other vehicles if they are to be taken seriously by motorists.
(asterisk indicates NYS law)
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 06-22-11, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
While waiting for the light to change, I stayed in the right side of the lane, and a cop car pulled up next to me.
There was your mistake: In a situation like that, control the lane so another vehicle cannot pull up alongside you.

One more link... a pretty thorough listing of all laws related to bicycles in NYS from the DOT website.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

Last edited by Doohickie; 06-22-11 at 02:10 PM.
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Old 06-22-11, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
There was your mistake: In a situation like that, control the lane so another vehicle cannot pull up alongside you.
Ha!
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