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#1 2008-09-27 11:37:47

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

http://www.kvue.com/news/top/stories/09 … 132f8.html

"Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

11:03 PM CDT on Friday, September 26, 2008

By NOELLE NEWTON / KVUE News

Navigating the streets of Downtown Austin can be a challenge on any weekend. After getting a lot of complaints -- police are now cracking down on bicyclists who break the law.

A cyclist paused to wave at our camera, but didn't bother to look both ways at a stop sign. We caught people ignoring traffic lights too. Police say some cyclists make walking and driving downtown dangerous.

"Usually, it's just because they're in a hurry and it just takes an extra minute or two to wait for the light to change," Corporal Michael Pollard said.

Pollard says in addition to running red lights and stop signs, some cyclists weave in and out of cars and ride on the sidewalks. Jessica Ruiz says she and a co-worker were nearly run over Friday morning.

"We were just standing out here talking, me and an attorney that I work with, and a bicyclist comes down on the sidewalk," Ruiz said.

To protect people like Jessica, police are now watching for violators and writing tickets.

One cyclist pulled over for riding on the sidewalk--said he did it to avoid reckless drivers.

"They don't see us you know, and that's one of the reasons I was riding on the sidewalk. I'm just worried about getting killed, but if that's the law; that's the law."

It's a continuous controversy between drivers and cyclists of who is at fault.

"It's hard to watch out for them and I'm afraid I'm going to hit them sometimes," Ruiz said.

Pollard says officers don't discriminate.

Police say it is $20 for the first bicycle violation. Every additional violation is $40. These do not go on your driving record.

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#2 2008-09-27 11:50:04

dougmc
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Posts: 553

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Police say it is $20 for the first bicycle violation. Every additional violation is $40. These do not go on your driving record.

Is that true?

I always assumed that since I couldn't find anywhere in the law that said otherwise, that the penalties for offenses on a bike were the same as for offenses done in a car ... which would make running a red light $217, no light at night?  $137, etc.  Here's a list of the CoA fines.  What's the cheapest, you may ask?  Defecating or urinating in a public place, a bargain at $102!

Last edited by dougmc (2008-09-27 11:52:18)

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#3 2008-09-27 12:55:20

Jason
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-31
Posts: 48
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Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

I was just thinking that Doug. When I was written a ticket for running a red light on my bicycle about two years ago it would have cost me the full amount and gone against my insurance if I hadn't beat it. It was no different than getting one in a car. Has this changed?

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#4 2008-09-28 09:27:47

cycling74
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Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

I had to take a defensive driving course (for cars) to keep a bicycle red light ticket off my record and away from my insurance company. This was 2 years ago and back then the fine was $205.

If this article is accurate than I say it's about time. $20 - $40 is punishment that actually fits the crime, and keeps silly bike violations off a driving record.
Can anyone "confirm" this?

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#5 2008-09-28 09:58:59

tomwald
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From: 78722
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Posts: 288

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

I can think of two possibilities for the lower fines, one or both may be true:
1) I've heard a rumor that even though APD will give a citation for the full motor vehicle amount, that bicyclists are actually subject to a smaller fine.  The officer can specify it on the ticket, but often they don't.  The fines may be listed online somewhere.
2) The fines listed in the story refer to that for riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in specified prohibition zones.  A sidewalk violation is a City of Austin violation, not a State of Texas violation, let alone a motor vehicle violation.

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#6 2008-09-29 14:14:30

dougmc
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Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Subject: RE: Court - bicycle related moving violation fines                                                                               
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 12:52:55 -0500                                                                                                     
From: Municipal Court <CourtDONTSPAM@THECOURTci.austin.tx.us>    { I changed the address a bit }                           

I am not familiar with any bicycle violation being $20.00 etc.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                           
You are correct with your impression. I cannot vouch for the " news story."

{ basically I emailed them and asked if what the story said is true, and that my impression was that cyclists paid the same fines as motorists }

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#7 2008-09-29 14:36:48

tomwald
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From: 78722
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Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

City of Austin Ordinances Specific to Bicycles:
http://www.amlegal.com/austin_nxt/gatew … :austin_tx

List of prohibited sidewalks:

§ 12-2-13  USE OF SIDEWALKS RESTRICTED.

     (A)     Except as provided in Subsection (B), a person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk.

     (B)     A person may not ride a bicycle on a sidewalk on the following streets:

          (1)     100 to 1100 blocks of Congress Avenue;

          (2)     1900 to 2500 blocks of Guadalupe Street;

          (3)     100 to 1100 blocks of Brazos Street;

          (4)     200 to 1100 blocks of Colorado Street;

          (5)     from the 200 block of Second Street (West) to the 300 block of Second Street (East);

          (6)     from the 900 block of Fifth Street (West) to the 800 block of Fifth Street (East);

          (7)     from the 700 block of Sixth Street (East) to the 1000 block of Sixth Street (West);

          (8)     from the 100 block of Eighth Street (West) to the 200 block of Eighth Street (East);

          (9)     from the 100 block of Ninth Street (West) to the 200 block of Ninth Street (East);

          (10)     from the 200 block of 11th Street (West) to the 200 block of 11th Street (East); and

          (11)     from the 200 block of 15th Street (West) to the 200 block of 15th Street (East).

Source:  1992 Code Section 16-8-22; Ord. 031204-13; Ord. 031211-11; Ord. 20060727-016.

Some fees are specified under the article regarding helmet use, though it is far from clear that these fines apply to the non-helmet laws:

§ 12-2-36  PENALTY; ENFORCEMENT.

     (A)     A person commits an offense if the person performs an act prohibited by this article or fails to perform an act required by this article.

     (B)     An offense under this article is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed:

          (1)     $20 on a first conviction; and

          (2)     $40 on a subsequent conviction.

     (C)     The municipal court may dismiss a charge against a person for an offense under Section 12-2-31 (Helmet Required) on receiving proof that the defendant acquired a helmet for the child who was operating or riding a bicycle in violation of Section 12-2-31 (Helmet Required) on or before the 30th day after the citation was issued.

     (D)     To promote the use of helmets, the city council encourages the municipal court to consider deferred dispositions under Article 45.051 (Suspension of Sentence and Deferral of Final Disposition) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure where appropriate.

Source:  1992 Code Sections 16-8-2 (A) and (B), and 16-8-42; Ord. 031204-13; Ord. 031211-11.

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#8 2008-09-29 19:47:16

dougmc
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Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Nice catch.  That must be what it was.

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#9 2008-09-29 23:57:54

treybiss
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Registered: 2008-09-29
Posts: 2

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Short story: Riding bicycle on sidewalk on the Drag = $147.00

Long story:
First, a caveat -I avoid riding on sidewalks as much as possible...

...but I got caught cutting from the dead-end pedestrian mall on 23rd and Guadalupe (aka "The Drag") over the sidewalk for about 40 feet to the large crosswalk leading into the UT mall. While I'm waiting at the crosswalk, a cop (on of two walking together down the sidewalk) walks up to me and says, "Hey you! You can't ride on the sidewalk here."

Surprised, I told him, "Really? I didn't know" and tried to explain that it was impossible to get from that 23rd (which is a pedestrian mall) to this crosswalk otherwise. The cop replied, "there's signs everywhere" and I should have walked my bike. This was a week before school started, so there weren't many people around, I didn't think twice about it, not even when I slowly passed the cops on my bike. I told him that I sincerely didn't know and asked if he could just give me a warning. He replied as if he had no control or judgment, "we're enforcing a zero tolerance policy. The businesses here a really cracking down." He proceeded to process my driver's license and give me a "misdemeanor" ticket (I wish I had given him my student ID instead). I've since cast a curse on those businesses, to no avail yet.

Meanwhile the other cop had just shouted at a J-walking pedestrian "use the crosswalk" ... I made a smart-ass comment about zero-tolerance for J-walking, which they didn't find funny. Meanwhile a small crowd had gathered around in disbelief, so I think the cops were trying to set an example. I'm glad I kept my cool and didn't say anything more and felt my only spiteful recourse was to just stare at him after he said "have a nice day."

Having no idea what the fine was, I called the city court several times before someone told me that I needed to process the ticket in person. Down at the courthouse, the clerks had never seen such a "silly" ticket and had no idea how to enter it in the record. Finally a supervisor came out and said it's actually a "traffic violation" and it would cost me $147 if I didn't want to fight it. This is when I lost my cool (inside my mind, not at the helpless clerks). Not so much for the extreme cost of $147, but for being recorded as a Traffic Violation?! I must have missed that part of the driving test. Furthermore, I have a Commercial Driver's License, so this is the last thing I need on my record.

I told them I'd like to contest the charge. Fortunately there was a cancellation the next week, otherwise I would have had to wait well into November for the next available slot.

I show up to the court the next week, all ready to plead my case and learn that it was just a "deposition:" an official venue to either plead guilty, defer, or go to trial. "Guilty" wasn't an option for me. The court prosecutor told me they didn't have any "deferment" option for bicyclists (i.e. driver's ed. for motorists), but offered me a deal at $110. So I told him "no way" and that I wanted a trial with a judge (though I had the option to request a jury, I thought enough time had been wasted on this case already).

My trial date is in a couple weeks. I've since gathered evidence and exhibits (photos of sicker-covered "no bicycling" signs on the drag and a map of my route. I'll take that article with $20-40 quoted as well). Maybe the cop won't show. But if he does, they'll have to explain why my "misdemeanor" changed to a "traffic violation."

But all this gray area interpretation of bicycle laws makes me feel pretty vulnerable, legally and physically. Something should be drafted to give bicyclists some rights (which would come with responsibilities too. Hell, I'd even take a cycling test if it gave me some more legal leverage against motorists). And I agree that cyclists should have to obey traffic laws, only if we're afforded the same traffic rights.

I've hit my forearm on plenty of side-view mirrors to know how close cars come to cyclists.

I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen on Austin's streets.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Last edited by treybiss (2008-09-30 00:11:19)

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#10 2008-09-30 01:03:52

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Riding upon a sidewalk is certainly not classified as a traffic violation in the state law.  The section in state law that specifies that a bicycle is subject to the traffic laws, doesn't specify that traffic law applies to bicyclists on sidewalks:
http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/do … 551.00.htm

§ 551.001 PERSONS AFFECTED
Except as provided by Subchapter C [electric], this chapter applies only to a person operating a bicycle on:
        (1)  a highway;  or
        (2)  a path set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.

The City of Austin law says that bicyclists have to follow the same laws as motor vehicles, with exceptions:
http://www.amlegal.com/austin_nxt/gatew … :austin_tx

§ 12-2-11  APPLICABILITY OF VEHICLE TRAFFIC RULES
A bicyclist shall comply with the requirements of this title imposed on a driver of a vehicle, to the extent that the requirements may be applied to operation of a bicycle.

(I will warn you that I've had an experience in a court where the judge was willing to forgo the written law in order to side with the police officer.  The point is that the written law isn't the final say -- the judge can make it up as desired.)

You can try this law group as well:
http://www.cyclistlaw.com/

I've talked twice recently with two officers on The Drag who are likely the same two you encountered.  (This was initiated by my witnessing what appeared to be two bicyclists indiscriminately ticketed for riding on the sidewalk.  I say "indiscriminately" because it was somewhat evident that the bicyclists were traveling at around jogging speed and that no collision had occurred.) I followed up on the officers' statement that they are getting their quasi-orders from the businesses on The Drag.  I met with the lead managers of Caffe Medici, CVS, and University Co-op.  All of them were sympathetic to bicyclists and did not think bicycling on the sidewalk there was a problem nor that it should be ticketed.  The Univ. Co-op manager said that he attended the business association meetings (University Partners) regularly enough to assume that there was no sentiment to ticket bicyclists riding on the sidewalk from the meeting attendees.

I suggested that the officers help make the street safer for bicyclists and in that way they would have fewer bicyclists on the sidewalk.  They said that because they were walking a beat that they were unable to ticket motorists in the street.  Furthermore, they said that they would not ticket motorists for driving in the bike lane because the striping there is not clear enough.  While I was speaking with them multiple motorists drove down the street in the bike lane, numerous pedestrians jaywalked, and so on.

I've done much of this research under the auspices of either the UT Orange Bike Project and the League of Bicycling Voters.  Austin bicyclists need unity.  Any regular bicyclist in Austin should be supporting local bicycle advocacy with their money and membership.  Period.  The only reason bicycling conditions have improved steadily in Austin is because there are people volunteering their time to make it happen.  This stuff doesn't happen without tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time.  Every so often we lose a great local bicycle advocate to burn out.  It costs next to nothing to be a paying member of LOBV, ACA, and TBC combined.  LOBV should have 10,000 members if bicyclists were to channel their frustration into organized action and solidarity.  From that would come numerous only-dreamed-about improvements to Austin's bicycling situation.  Each of us, as an Austinite bicyclist, needs to put down a few beers worth (or a few gasoline gallons worth) of money each year to support bicycle advocacy.

I'm pressing this last point to the readers here in general (not to treybiss specifically), because I think that most of us think good things happen by magic until we get more directly involved in the effort... and it makes me sad to think that most people writing and reading this forum are so interested in bicycling issues but then couldn't give a few moments and a several dollars to support organized local bicycle advocacy.

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#11 2008-10-02 13:31:20

bikinpolitico
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
Website

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Fox News Austin just had a really crappy story bout how cyclists are a menace. My co-author at AustinBikeBlog just wrote an article about it- http://austinbikeblog.org/?p=1006.

Where are the stories about the complete lack of cycling infrastructure in this town? I just visited Portland, and we are in the stone age.

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#12 2008-10-02 20:51:35

doughead
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Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 37

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

This is Texas it is a stone age culture, the next step in our cultural evolution will be to become Los Angeles.

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#13 2008-10-14 16:36:00

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Here's a hint: if you want better infrastructure, it doesn't hurt to obey the law - there were more than one occasion when a resolution died at the UTC because the chairman was able to complain about how cyclists would just do whatever they hell they wanted anyways, and, of course, he was right.

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#14 2008-10-14 18:12:23

Jason
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-31
Posts: 48
Website

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

m1ek wrote:

Here's a hint: if you want better infrastructure, it doesn't hurt to obey the law - there were more than one occasion when a resolution died at the UTC because the chairman was able to complain about how cyclists would just do whatever they hell they wanted anyways, and, of course, he was right.

May we stop building highways due to the overwhelming urge to speed (illegally) that nearly ALL automobile drivers seem to embrace headlong? These days if you're not going at least the speed limit, you're looked at as if something is wrong with you.

It seems that this urge to break the law in an effort to get to a destination faster is human nature, not just cyclist nature. Why does cyclist infrastructure suffer specifically because of it?

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#15 2008-10-15 13:09:09

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Because speed limits are far lower on the totem pole of reasonable than are stop signs and especially traffic lights. Most of us know, even when we succumb to neighborhood hysteria at times in our own neck of the woods, that many speed limits (ranging to MOST) are underposted, and most of us know that in most cases they're being set where they are for reasons other than safety.

Relatively few cases exist of municipalities adding street lights and stop signs to maximize revenue. They do, sometimes, do either to pander to neighborhood reactionaries, but even there, it's far less common than it is with underposted speed limits. City engineers are very good (sometimes too good) in resisting the urge to add extra lights and stop signs where they are not warranted.

Finally, on a decent road, as long as we're all practicing good driving/cycling, it doesn't make that much difference if the guy next to me speeds (up to a point). However, if you can't count on a green light really meaning that you have the right-of-way, the whole system eventually devolves.

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#16 2008-10-15 13:27:03

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

I disagree with m1ek about speed limits.

In nearly all areas of Austin where there is high pedestrian activity (often coinciding with high bicycle activity), the posted speed limits are too high.

Driving on Guadalupe St through campus or in North Campus by the general population during the day can only be done safely at speeds no higher than 25 mph.  The speed limits there vary from 30-35 mph, I believe.  In this case, APD has put a high priority on ticketing bicyclists riding on the sidewalk who are avoiding Guadalupe St because they perceive it as too dangerous.

I'd rather not debate this point any further here since there would be no significant impact on actually changing the speed limits, even if everyone here including m1ek were to agree with me on this.

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#17 2008-10-17 08:53:56

jmayson
Member
Registered: 2008-06-28
Posts: 46

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

tomwald wrote:

I disagree with m1ek about speed limits.

In nearly all areas of Austin where there is high pedestrian activity (often coinciding with high bicycle activity), the posted speed limits are too high.

We're 2-for-2 now, I agree with you again.  I don't care how high speed limits are on IH-35, Mopac, etc.  But on surface streets, particularly in residential areas, near schools, parks, or other areas where high pedestrian traffic can be expected I think speed limits are a little too high and very poorly enforced.  My son's schools (his old elementary and his current middle school) are on Anderson Mill Road.  Despite the fact people routinely speed through the school zone and there's at least one or two auto-ped incidents that I hear about (I don't know if I hear about all of them) per school year, they raised the school zone speed limit.  In my mind that's very counter intuitive. 

tomwald wrote:

Driving on Guadalupe St through campus or in North Campus by the general population during the day can only be done safely at speeds no higher than 25 mph.  The speed limits there vary from 30-35 mph, I believe.  In this case, APD has put a high priority on ticketing bicyclists riding on the sidewalk who are avoiding Guadalupe St because they perceive it as too dangerous.

I'd rather not debate this point any further here since there would be no significant impact on actually changing the speed limits, even if everyone here including m1ek were to agree with me on this.

I agree.  Speed limits appear to be set for the convenience and safety of drivers and no one else so arguing about it is like arguing the sky should be green.

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#18 2008-10-17 10:04:23

aliciab
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-10-17
Posts: 9
Website

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

treybiss - What has happened with your ticket? 

I think it's important that we get the City to impose only the $20-40 fine and not treat riding on the sidewalk as a traffic offense that goes on your driving record.  I'm a lawyer, bike commuter & triathlete:  On a pro-bono (no fee) basis, I would be willing to help someone challenge treating such a ticket as a traffic offense so we can get some helpful court precedent on the issue.  For info about me - http://www.txtort.com/about.html  (To be clear, my office is in Dallas, but I live & bike in Austin!).

Last edited by aliciab (2008-10-17 10:05:52)

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#19 2008-10-21 00:41:45

treybiss
Member
Registered: 2008-09-29
Posts: 2

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

AlicciaB, tanks for the follow up and the pro-bono offer. I hope someone can benefit.

Thanks also to TomWald for the advice and the guilt trip, I've taken you up on both.

And for those who need resolution after drudging through my lengthy diatribe (above), I survived my "trial," though I can hardly say it was all I hoped it would be. Bottom line: I ended up paying $60 dollars and now have "Bicycle Riding on Sidewalk" tattooed to my driving record.

I showed up to the trial wearing a tie, armed with notes, pictures and legal documents and had high hopes of shouting "you can't handle the truth!" at some point. But after the team of prosecutors broke from their huddle, one of them sought me out and asked if I would "speak with her outside the courtroom."

This unexpected tactic threw off my game and I never recovered. It didn't help that she was younger than me (I'm a twenty-something grad student) and was being forcefully cordial, saying things like: "I just spoke with both the police officers and they're ready to testify that they both saw you," and "I don't want you to have to pay the full amount because the judge will probably make you pay the full $147." So she offered me an even better deal than the previous $110 bargain offered by the previous prosecutor during my Deposition a few weeks prior:

"It's just $60--to cover the court costs," was her offer, which seemed like a reasonable justification in my mind: now I wasn't paying for the ticket anymore, I was simply paying for an administrative cost. 

So instead of proceeding with the trial, I bent over and paid the $60. I was just relieved to have that all behind me, though it was a bit humbling, in more ways than one. I can only imagine what people feel like when serious injustices occur!

Maybe one day someone can make a facial challenge to the actual law, which is certainly not being applied the way State Law "§ 12-2-36  PENALTY; ENFORCEMENT" defines it (also above). For now you're pretty much screwed, because there is no "traffic school" for bicycles. And pleading "ignorance" or saying "that's a stupid law" isn't going to go very far with a judge, so I am told ... such decisions would require actual "judgment" and I think that will cost more than $60.

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#20 2008-10-21 07:15:38

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 553

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Interesting.  Did you show the actual law to the prosecutor?  It looks like the total fine should have been $20.  (Since the law specifies a maximum fine, I wouldn't think they get to legally exceed that, even with `court fees' or anything else, though of course I'm not a lawyer and have only been to court a few times.)

I'm pretty sure you can take defensive driving (the car version) for a moving violation on a bicycle -- though riding on a sidewalk probably isn't considered a moving violation, and so there's probably no points.   And besides, when you add it all up, defensive driving tends to cost around $146 now ($111 court costs, $25 class, $10 copy of your driving record) -- the real benefit is to keep it off your record rather than to save money (though in some cases it'll save money too.)

$60 instead of $147, especially with the officers both there ready to testify (if that's true, though unless you saw them it's debatable) is a probably a good choice.  But since the law says the fine should be $20 rather than $147 ... I dunno.  You'd think with the fine schedule clearly (it seems) posted online, you'd have some clue of what the fine should be.  But obviously not.  $147 isn't on that fine schedule anywhere ... it sounds like they just make this stuff up as they go.

As for when serious injustices occur, people get lawyers.  Sure, it may cost a few thousand dollars, but when a serious injustice occurs, it's worth it.

Last edited by dougmc (2008-10-21 07:17:46)

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#21 2008-10-24 11:24:35

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: KVUE: "Police cracking down on bicyclists who break the law"

Setting speed limits any lower than the 30-35 they are on Guadalupe would be a laughingstock. And, yes, I rode on Guadalupe all the time with no issues at all. Take the lane north of 24th and you're fine, or if that's too scary, use the corridors just a few blocks west (1-way couplets with bike lanes) or east (Speedway).

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