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#1 2009-06-20 18:43:42

slugger415
Member
Registered: 2009-06-19
Posts: 2

Tickets to ride: more citations

A couple of evenings ago while bicyling south on Guadalupe near 46th I was pulled over by an APD officer and given a moving violation ticket for not coming to a complete stop at the stop sign. I'm not sure how much the ticket is yet -- I called the court two days later and they said it takes a week for it to get into their system and I should call back.

A bicyclist friend of mine asked an APD friend of hers about this, and she was told that indeed "an email had gone out" instructing APD officers to step up citations for bicycle traffic violations, apparently in response to the recent bicycle deaths. He also told her that there was a separate, lower fine for bicyclists than for car drivers. (I'm relating this second- or third-hand so I don't know for sure about that.)

Was the ticket justified? Yes, I understand that bicyclists are subject to the same laws as motorists. In fact I believe bicyclists should obey traffic laws, not only for safety reasons but also because it helps earn respect from motorists.

Will this citation make me stop at every stop sign in the future? No. I don't know any bicyclist who professes to stop at every stop sign, especially on quiet side streets. In fact I often ride down streets that have lots of stop signs because the streets that have no stop signs, like Lamar, are too dangerous. I can't see myself coming to a complete stop and putting one foot on the pavement over and over going down quiet residential streets with little or no traffic.

Will this citation make me ride safer? Well, as I roll through stop signs in the future I'll be looking over my shoulder for police vehicles, probably paying less attention to what's in front of me, so the answer is No.

Scott

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#2 2009-06-20 20:59:55

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Here is the Austin Municipal Court schedule of fines.  Running a stop sign?  $167.

I've heard that people have been told that the fines are less on bicycles, but as far as I know this is not true.  When you finally do find out, let us know, OK?

One thing to note about the schedule -- it's been updated lately, and now has four bicycle-specific listings --

Bicycle - No Lights      $147      $170
Bicycle - Ran Red Light     $217     $275
Bicycle - Riding on Sidewalk     $146     $185
Bicycle - Wrong Way One Way     $201     $251

(first number is if you pay quickly, second is if you don't.)

Odd, the fine is higher for a bike without lights than it is for a car without lights --

Driving Without Lights      $137      $155
No Headlights      $137      $155
Equipment Violations -Light violation-flashing lights to front, signal device violations, brakes, muffler, defective tires, light violation-headlight, taillight.     $137     $155
Defective Lights - Headlights      $137      $155

And also for going the wrong way on a one way street --

Wrong Way on One Way Street      $167      $200

Actually, the entire schedule has been changed pretty radically -- they now list just about everything you'd ever want.

This one in particular makes me wonder --

Stereo Amplification - Vehicle     $134     $167

Last edited by dougmc (2009-06-20 21:04:25)

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#3 2009-06-21 13:56:52

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

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

...the Austin Municipal Court schedule of fines.

Does anyone here know who sets the fines?  I looked around for a while on the Municipal Court website, but couldn't find the answer there.

Perhaps City Council sets the fines based on recommendations by specific city staff?  If that's the case, who are those city staff?

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#4 2009-06-22 10:20:43

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Also, I suspect that the $146/$185 fine for sidewalk riding isn't legal.

That's a city law, found here.  But that same law also says this --

§ 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.

which seems to pretty clearly set an upper limit on what the fine can be.  I wouldn't expect that to apply to the other bicycle violations listed, as they're violations of state law, but it certainly seems that it should apply here.

Last edited by dougmc (2009-06-22 10:23:23)

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#5 2009-06-22 13:39:40

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

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

...which seems to pretty clearly set an upper limit on what the fine can be.

But those fines are listed under the "article" titled, "ARTICLE 3.  BICYCLE HELMETS."  From this it seems that the lower fine only applies to the bicycle helmet article of the law.

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#6 2009-06-22 14:16:22

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Good point.  I was thinking the whole thing was an `article', but it's a `chapter' and is broken up into `articles'.
So much for that.

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#7 2009-06-23 09:46:19

plarson
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 42

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

This morning at the 5-way stop on 51st street near i-35 I was in a line of cars waiting to get through the stop sign and this woman on a red single-speed (no helmet) blows through the stop sign, no looking or anything. At least do that when there are no cars and no obvious danger. I fear for her safety, and it makes us all look bad to other motorists. How did this woman know the person at the stop sign was not going to turn right and hook her? She's obviously never had that happen. I have, and got run over in the process. NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT!

I don't stop at stop signs unless there are other cars near. I do brake and look both ways though.  Seems reasonable. I'm not pissing off other drivers, and I'm safe too.

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#8 2009-06-23 10:45:05

eeas
Member
Registered: 2009-06-23
Posts: 1

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

dougmc wrote:

Bicycle - Riding on Sidewalk     $146     $185

I wanted to make a comment about the above violation. About six months ago I stopped one of the cops that patrol on bikes around the UT campus and asked him some general biking questions. During the conversation he said "if there isn't a bike lane on the street, my recommendation is to take to entire lane or ride on the sidewalk".  He then clarified unless it's the sidewalk in a few places in town like on Congress Ave. between 11th street  and the river where it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

So I just wanted to clarify that you can ride on the sidewalk legally in all but a few places. The cop did mention the other places but I don't remember where they are.

I asked if he had ever been hit by a car and he said in three years of patrolling he has been hit twice; while riding in full uniform with badge, gun and handcuffs. Unbelievable.

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#9 2009-06-24 22:49:18

chavela
Member
Registered: 2008-06-03
Posts: 41

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

You said: "I asked [the cop] if he had ever been hit by a car and he said in three years of patrolling he has been hit twice; while riding in full uniform with badge, gun and handcuffs. Unbelievable."

That is totally believable to me:  dark blue is hard to see.  The single most important thing that I believe I do for my safety when cycling is always wear bright yellow, white, or lime green.  If I have on a shirt of a different color, then I wear a safety vest.  When I am driving, I find bright colors much easier to see.   Dark colors make the cyclist invisible.

Elizabeth Gray
P.S.  I am not saying it is foolproof:  A couple of years ago, I was right hooked by a cellphone driver in full daylight, wearing a white helmet and my vest.  But that is the only time I've been hit in 8 years of commuting across town.

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#10 2010-02-09 12:51:50

amazingrace4u
Member
Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 4

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

plarson wrote:

This morning at the 5-way stop on 51st street near i-35 I was in a line of cars waiting to get through the stop sign and this woman on a red single-speed (no helmet) blows through the stop sign, no looking or anything. At least do that when there are no cars and no obvious danger. I fear for her safety, and it makes us all look bad to other motorists. How did this woman know the person at the stop sign was not going to turn right and hook her? She's obviously never had that happen. I have, and got run over in the process. NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT!

I don't stop at stop signs unless there are other cars near. I do brake and look both ways though.  Seems reasonable. I'm not pissing off other drivers, and I'm safe too.

I did this today: braked (not to a complete stop of course) and looked one way (one-way street), and I am 100% sure it was my turn to go. 2 other cars had started pulling up to the other stop sign, but this other car was driving in the parking lane on San Antonio St, so essentially he created his own late (ILLEGAL, SIR!!!). but the police officer across the street didn't see me come to a complete stop, and additionally assumed it was not my right of way and gave me a citation for not stopping. I definitely yielded and looked both ways and knew it was my turn to go though.

I know I have somewhat of a case but if the police officer shows up on the court date, will the judge believe me at all? Also, the citation only has a date with no time on it; does this mean I can show up at any time and the police officer will have to be there to dispute the claim or else I win?

Thanks in advance! I'm so upset!

-Grace

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#11 2010-02-09 13:01:49

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

If you didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign -- you're guilty of the offense.  The law requires a complete stop, every time.  It doesn't really have anything to do with you having right of way or not -- you're supposed to stop.

As for driving in the parking lane, especially when about to turn right, I'm not quite so sure that's actually illegal.  I could look up the law, but really, it's a moot point -- it's irrelevant to your ticket.

Ultimately, it doesn't sound like you have a case at all -- from what you described, you broke the law.  If you want the judge to find you not guilty, you'll have to tell a story that involves you coming to a complete stop somehow.   Only then will it matter if the judge believes your story or not.

Your appearance date means that you must pay the ticket (or make arrangements to do so) or go in to set up a court date by that date.  The cop will not be there.  If you contest the charges, they will set a specific court date and time in the future, and you need to be there at that time, and the cop is supposed to be there too.

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#12 2010-02-09 13:39:56

amazingrace4u
Member
Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 4

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

So by law, bikes MUST come to a complete stop to the point you would have to put one foot on the ground? From my research, it doesn't say specifically whether one foot must hit the ground. From what I've heard, it's really all up to the policeman's discretion, which he seemed to just want to give me a hard time even before I started arguing with him. And I know for a fact that San Antonio St is not suppose to have cars driving in the parking lane. It's not like on Guad when people go to the very left lane to turn left.

From anyone's experience, do you think it's worth it for me to set a court date?

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#13 2010-02-09 15:05:36

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Right, the law says nothing about foot on the ground.  What it does say --

544.010.  STOP SIGNS AND YIELD SIGNS.
Unless directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal,  the operator of a vehicle ... shall stop as provided by Subsection (c).
(Subsection c talks about where to stop)

The law doesn't say "complete stop", but "stop" is pretty unambiguous -- it means forward motion has stopped, at least for a moment.  A track-stand ought to qualify, but some police have been known to think it's impossible for a bicycle to stop and remain standing, so they assume that you didn't completely stop and ticket ...

As for what you "know for a fact" -- even assuming that to be true (which is not certain), it's irrelevant to your case.  The cop saw you roll through at a low rate of speed without ever completely stopping at the stop sign (I presume, based on what you've said) and gave you a ticket for it.  Yes, it's up to his discretion to ticket or not, but if my presumption is correct, you broke the law.

Arguing with a cop is never a good plan -- you will never win, even if you're right.  You can politely disagree, once, but beyond that, just say "yessir" and go on.  If the cop is wrong, that's what court is for.   Unfortunately, arguing with the cop reduces your chances of winning in court later.  If things went to court and he couldn't remember anything about you, that helps your chance of winning.  But if he remembers that you're the one who argued with him about it, then that 1) gives him additional motivation to actually show up, and 2) it helped to make sure he remembers you, and 3) you very well may have incriminated yourself during that argument, which he'll use against you.

As for if it would help in this case, dunno ...

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#14 2010-02-09 16:51:12

amazingrace4u
Member
Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 4

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Ah okay. Thanks a lot for the feedback. Yeah, I gave up after a very short time because I was late to class, but I think I will set a court date and just see what happens. If anything, I wouldn't mind making his life a little bit harder and just paying the standard fee anyways. Or possibly talking to the prosecutor to get the fine reduced (my friend said that's what he did).

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#15 2010-02-10 11:30:51

NadiaB
Member
Registered: 2009-06-11
Posts: 68

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

Just a reminder, when you go to court, tell them you were on your bicycle and that you want to take a Bicycle Safety Course instead of Defensive Driving.  Then sign up for TS101 on the ACA webpage (austincycling.org).  It is a GREAT class and you are bound to learn way more useful stuff about driving your bicycle in that class then you would learn in a car-based class :)

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#16 2010-02-10 17:04:53

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

That's a good plan, Nadia.  As I understand it, taking defensive driving isn't actually an option if you get a ticket on your bicycle (I've heard this, but confirmed it myself.)

Of course, the judge can offer any reasonable sentence he wants.  Are you aware of many cases where a cyclist got a ticket and asked the judge to assign the class and have it work like defensive driving and the judge did it?

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#17 2010-02-10 18:36:29

vattiat
Member
Registered: 2010-02-10
Posts: 8

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

I'm not sure why so many here are infatuated with the letter of "The Law".  Judging from Grace's story, she did not break the spirit of the law.  She didn't endanger herself, endanger others, interrupt the flow of traffic, cause damage to city or private property.

"The Laws" are strictly formulated to facilitate uniform enforcement of automotive traffic.  The letter of these laws do not translate well to safe and efficient bicycle riding.  I don't see a point in following laws which were designed for a 4000lb vehicle powered by gasoline when I'm a 200lb dude pedaling a 30lb bike.  If the city or state wants to come up with well-though-out laws specific to bicycles, then great.  Until then, I'm riding my way.  It's safe and fast and fun.

I received a ticket in November of 2008 for running a red light on my bike.

I had, just like I always have and always will, came to a track-standing stop at a light and proceeded when it was clear no other cars or pedestrians were nearby.

I went to court and the case was dropped due to "lack of evidence".  I think that meant the officer did not show up, but I really don't know.

I would recommend doing same.  Even if the judge hears your case and finds you guilty, you will be able to speak your piece and I think that is money well spent. (at least compared to just paying the fine and not going to court).  Good luck!

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#18 2010-02-11 01:00:12

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

I'm not "infatuated" with the letter of the law.  Especially not that law -- I have no qualms with breaking it when the time is right, bike or car, and I know there's some legal risk in doing so.   But she did break it, by her own admission.  As for the spirit of the law, that's debatable, though it's pretty clear that the lawmakers really did mean "full stop" and not "slow to a few mph".

As for coming to a trackstand -- that includes a complete stop, and therefore satisfies the law.  Forward motion stops every time you switch between going slightly forward and slightly backwards.  If that's not a full stop, then a car that stops but rocks back and forth a bit on it's shocks isn't fully stopped either.  Some police aren't clear on the concept, however, and so that's a good case to make to a judge (hopefully his mind is a bit more open to the idea that bikes *can* stop without falling over.)

Speaking your case about how you slowed rather than fully stopped is unlikely to convince a judge.  However, there is always the chance that the cop won't show up, and in that case you'll probably have the charges dropped.

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#19 2010-02-11 01:38:36

amazingrace4u
Member
Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 4

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

But isn't the point for bikes to stop like cars do? A braking bike can remain at an intersection as long as a car can w/o coming to a complete stop like a car. They're supposed to be treated the same, but nobody treats them the same except for police officers when they want to give out citations.

I'm all for following the law, and don't like looking for trouble, but I agree about laws changing for bicycles. The idea behind bicyles being treated like cars is great, but doesn't work!!! Nobody views a bike equivalent to a car. Therefore, I understand vattiat's point of view, and really don't feel that bad when in certain circumstances I do break the law on purpose as long as it's safe.

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#20 2010-02-12 13:21:32

cycling74
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

dougmc wrote:

That's a good plan, Nadia.  As I understand it, taking defensive driving isn't actually an option if you get a ticket on your bicycle (I've heard this, but confirmed it myself.)

For me, about 2 years ago, defensive driving was the only option if I didn't want the bike ticket to affect my car insurance. I'm happy to hear that today there's a Bicycle Safety Course available as an alternative.

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#21 2010-02-12 13:41:41

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

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

cycling74 wrote:

... defensive driving was the only option if I didn't want the bike ticket to affect my car insurance.

A bike ticket in Texas should not affect your driving record.  If it does, then the ticket was improperly processed by the city, state, police department, and/or court.  Moving violations by bike need to be properly processed each step of the way to reflect that the violation was on a bicycle.  I'm relaying this information here to you from a meeting with a municipal judge from last year.  If I remember correctly, it is the city that usually processes the bicycle violations improperly.  If it is filed improperly and appears on your driving record, you can still go back and have the ticket processed properly to get the violation removed from your (motor vehicle) driving record.

This may be different in states other than Texas.

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#22 2010-02-12 14:43:33

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

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

""The Laws" are strictly formulated to facilitate uniform enforcement of automotive traffic.  The letter of these laws do not translate well to safe and efficient bicycle riding.  I don't see a point in following laws which were designed for a 4000lb vehicle powered by gasoline when I'm a 200lb dude pedaling a 30lb bike."

*** The basic rules of the road, in fact, predate the wide adoption of the automobile.

Moderator edit: Insult removed.  Please don't insult fellow members.

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#23 2010-02-12 16:07:49

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

cycling74 wrote:

For me, about 2 years ago, defensive driving was the only option if I didn't want the bike ticket to affect my car insurance. I'm happy to hear that today there's a Bicycle Safety Course available as an alternative.

As I understand it, citations on a bicycle should not give you points on your license or increase your insurance rates.

HOWEVER, I've also heard that the city will not let you take defensive driving (car or bike) to get rid of these tickets like you could on a car.  I have not confirmed this myself, however.  (Considering how expensive defensive driving is when you've paid all the fees, this really isn't such a big deal, at least not until you get into the more expensive tickets.  The real benefit to DD is to keep that ticket off your record, which isn't such a big issue here.)

As for the Bicycle Safety Course, yes they're available, but they're not legally like defensive driving.  They do not qualify for the dismissal of a ticket.  However, a judge could order that you take such a class and then a ticket would be dismissed -- but it would have to come from a judge.

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#24 2010-02-16 15:18:51

NadiaB
Member
Registered: 2009-06-11
Posts: 68

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

I'm a bit embarrassed to share this, but I just got a ticket for passing the point of stop (i.e. the front wheel of my bicycle was in the cross walk) in December.  I went to court a couple of weeks ago and stated that I wanted to take a Bicycle Safety Course instead of Defensive Driving.  The prosecutor was familiar with this as part of the differed judification sentence and there was no problem with me using a TS101 course as a substitute for defensive driving.  All I have to do is show them a copy of my TS 101 certificate and pay the court fees.

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#25 2010-02-16 15:23:26

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

Re: Tickets to ride: more citations

"differed judification" ==> "deferred adjudication"

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