Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cyclists Speak Out Against St. Pete Police Singling Out Bicyclists

I have lived all around the country and biked all around the country. And I found the places that embrace bicycling -- offering space on the roads for cyclists; trails for casual cyclists and convenient parking for bicycles -- are the places that are economically vibrant.

It's a good investment to create infrastructure for bicyclists and to be nice to bicyclists.

But some places single out bicyclists to give them tickets.

In Pasco County, sheriff's deputies specifically stalked bicyclists at rural intersections. And St. Pete Police handed out $166 tickets at stop signs a few days ago. Sixteen cyclists felt the pinch. And I hear from Sandy that 20 cyclists in San Antonio today got stung with parking tickets for parking on the grass off the road because the parking lot was packed.

I'm not condoning bicyclists who are lawless. But cyclists are already marginalized. We're on high alert to stay safe and alive from careless and distracted motorists. It just doesn't seem like a good use of public resources for police to single out bicyclists when cars roll through stops and rarely come to a full stop when making a right turn on a red light.

Other cyclists agree.

Two from the St. Pete area have written St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, who was quoted in a St. Pete Times story on the crackdown on bicyclists as saying cars and bicycles don't mix. That's s strange comment since St. Pete under previous Mayor Rick Baker developed a great bike program to do just that -- develop roads where bicycles and cars can safely mix.

Here are the letters from cyclists Mel Lucas and Garry Rosseter. First Mel -- her letter:

I do not wish for anymore of my tax payer dollars to be spent on frivolous things such as sting operations to ambush and ticket bicyclists when there are ...crimes still unsolved in this city such as home invasions, burglaries, murders, child abductions and pedophilia.

I would also like to see a balancing out of law enforcement in this city. In that, when a bicyclist makes a phone call to the police department to report a motorist having passed them too closely (3 ft. law), they should not be told by the police dispatcher that there is nothing they can do about it. They should not be discouraged from making a police report and when a complaint is made to the police department concerning a PSTA bus almost running them down inside the bicycle lane, they should not be told to hang up and call PSTA and that there is nothing that can be done about it. I call this passing the buck. Law enforcement is supposed to protect the rights of all of its citizens and not solely one particular group of people, regardless of the amount of phone calls or e-mails that are received concerning one party or the other.

If the city expects to be viewed as a sports venue, vibrant and full of health-minded people, then catering to solely the motoring public will have a very negative effect on this image.


Mel Lucas

And here's Garry's letter:

Dear Mayor Foster,

Recently it has become an issue of yours and the Police Department to start targeting bicyclists who so much as even roll through a stop sign, even if there are no other vehicles at the intersection..., or they make it there first ahead of a motorist. Certainly the law is at a STOP sign vehicles are to stop. You and I know this does not happen whether it's a car, truck, van or bicycle. Honestly, who among the population has stopped completely at every single stop sign every single time under every single circumstance, every single day? The citizens who ride and drive on our roadways do a pretty good job of policing themselves in situations like this. Without a doubt there are those from both sides of the equation who blow the practice of this theory right out the window.

The practicality of the law, as it pertains to bicyclists, is not the same as it is for an automobile. Many times a motorist will even wave the cyclist through ahead of them after making eye contact. This falls into the category of SHARE THE ROAD which is posted everywhere. Under your recent "crack down" this waving the cyclists through is an invitation for a ticket to the cyclist.

Absolutely there are those cyclists who believe they can do whatever they want whenever or wherever they are. (Motorists are no different.) This endangers themselves, the group of bicyclists that are following them, and the motorists, and understandably so should be singled out. St. Petersburg has made great advances in being one of the better cycle friendly cities, and that's not easy or done by simple chance.

There is also the case of the 3 FOOT LAW for motorists around bicycles. This law is not enforced, upheld, or even taken serious by our Police Department as a cyclist rolling through a STOP sign in a safe manner is. City buses buzz cyclists so close you would think your number is up. Yahoo's think it's funny to come up on cyclists and blare their horn to get a startled reaction from them just for kicks, while others literally run cyclists off the road or cut in front of them while texting and almost taking their life out, or in some cases, actually do kill the cyclist. But no protection or "task force" is put out to target this type of automobile behavior. Why is that Mr. Mayor? Not an easy enough target to investigate and cite for a traffic infraction that can often times be deadly? Or is it deemed bad cyclists are a nuisance and motorists are not, so they all need to be punished and put under a daring watchful eye? I challenge you to join in on a bicycle ride of even 10 miles through the city on a few occasions and see firsthand just where the lions share of the blame for dangerous encounters really is.

Why is it that cyclists try to keep upright and cruise, cautiously, through an intersection while being keenly aware of every automobile that is close enough to kill them with a flick of the ankle on the gas pedal? Convenience you might say. Okay, sometimes, yes that happens. But many times it's actually a fact of slowing or impeding traffic for the cyclist to make that complete stop, where if the cyclists had proceeded with caution and eye contact with the motorist traffic keeps flowing for all. Some motorists who complain think there should be NO BICYCLES ON THE ROAD period. It is legal in all 50 states for bicycles to use the roads as a vehicle, and yes, follow the same rules. Some of those rules work best with a little leeway for discretion.

Where there is a problem, and to only listen to one side, or target only one side of the equation does not correct the problem. It only unfairly targets one side while ignoring the other.

Equal rights under the law.

Oh by the way, there is a litter law in every city of the United States. From the looks of things - that isn't convenient to enforce either.


Garry Rosseter

1 comment:

Chip said...

Thumbs up to Mel and Gary! How can anyone justify targeting cyclists given how rampant reckless driving (tailgating, speeding, dangerous lane changing) is
throughout the Bay area.