Citation and Substandard-Width Lane

Question

Tom asked: So this is a multi stage issue/question. While I’m not particularly proud of how I handled the officer (He irritated me right off the bat) I think transparency would be best. The audio is horrible but there is a video of this incident here: https://youtu.be/9c33KWnAvrs

The things I would like to see accomplished are a reeducation of the Clearwater Police Dept on bicycle safety, and bicycle laws. I shouldn’t have been pulled over, much less given a ticket.

Some follow up from the police department as it is obvious from watching the video that after forcing me off the road while making it seem like he was pulling me over officer xxxx came dangerously close to my bicycle (within 3′)

Are there any options for people who can’t afford to go to traffic court when the ticket isn’t a legal ticket? Is there a way of getting this dismissed via correspondence or must I take a day off of work to show up and state such? Unfortunately a lawyer would likely cost more then a day off of work would cost me, so I’d be unable to afford that option as well.

Answer

Firstly, I suggest ignoring the “too close” pass by the officer.  No way to prove it and it just complicates the issue.  Keep it clean.

It does appear the lane is a substandard-width lane, which is one of the specific exceptions to the “keep right” law. It appears there was no impediment to other traffic since the other traffic passed you freely and easily. You can use the information in this post to respond in any manner you wish.

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

I suggest measuring the lane width to be sure.

Traffic court is always iffy in these cases. It is usually rushed and you never know the competency of the magistrate. As an alternative, you can file a motion to dismiss with the court, which requires the full attention and documentation by the judge before a traffic court appearance. That means someone has to actually read it carefully, review the applicable laws and respond to your motion in writing, thereby providing the necessary documentation for an appeal if necessary.

Separately, I will send you an example of a successful motion to dismiss for the same citation in another jurisdiction. I will also send this post to other interested parties for their consideration and comment.

You do not need an attorney to do that, but it would certainly help. I suggest calling the clerk of the court and asking the procedure to do so.

I recommend separately writing a letter to the police chief with the information in this post and asking that the department educate its officers in this and other laws about bicycling.

Please let us know the outcome of this case in comments below.

Posted in Ask Geo, Lane Width & Sharing
3 comments on “Citation and Substandard-Width Lane
  1. Jay says:

    Well, The generation of internet superheroes again. You argued with an officer of the law and during a heavy traffic pattern. I am 100% on the side of you for being out in that lane, however this was handled poorly, and my guess is the “bravado” came from the camera. Its amazing the “superpowers” people think they have by recording others. In Phoenix if you do not “own the lane” you could die trying to ride here. I constantly have to be out in traffic with cars and also I find myself in turning lanes going LEFT into intersections just to cross safely. That is all within the law as a bicycle is not lawfully allowed on a sidewalk in this area.

    The issue is that you knew you were right and you tried to prove it, it was obvious the cop had no intention of agreeing with you.

    I guess from the legal standpoint maybe the money you will make off your youtube video clicks might pay for your citation, because most likely it will not get dropped.

    Next time just sign the paper and show up in court instead of grandstanding on a busy highway during what I assume is after work commute home.

    Bike Safe everyone

  2. HarryB says:

    My armchair perspective is that the law enforcement officer abused his authority by illegally forcing bicyclist T. out of his way prior to passing him in a manner which, by FBA’s standards, is illegal and dangerous. Please consider the following:

    1) §§ 316.2397(3) and 316.271(6) Fla. Stat. specify when law enforcement officers may use their emergency lights and sirens. In the encounter at 4:22 in the first video the officer employed both, yet there is no evidence he was responding to an emergency or was in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law.

    2) At 4:31 the video shows that after forcing T. out of his way the officer overtook him while there was a vehicle in the adjacent lane, a passing maneuver which FBA has unequivocally stated is illegal and dangerous: “When passing a bicycle in a substandard-width lane, the motorist must at least partially change lanes to pass. That cannot be done legally and safely if there is traffic in the adjacent lane.” ( http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/ )

    Despite what appears to be illegal and dangerous actions by this officer, FBA advises T. to sweep all of this under the proverbial rug because there is “No way to prove it…” I believe the video evidence is crystal clear about what happened, and the actions of this officer should be investigated. Maybe there is a credible explanation for his actions, but we won’t know this if T. follows FBA’s advice and simply ignores his actions.

    I am very disappointed in FBA’s advice to excuse this officer’s behavior.

  3. Steve B says:

    I would contact CyclingSavvy.org to review, perhaps they can assist you in the court of law. The officer appeared agitated, your reaction was not the best but also not that abhorrent. To me this is simple, either the lane is substandard or it is not. Make that clear to the judge. Define the size of a substandard lane (14ft or less) for the judge and then reference the statute, 316.2605 (5)(a). I always read that not everyone is successful in winning these and I cannot understand how this is even remotely cloudy in the court of law, but apparently it is. Keep a cool head and keep your argument focused and simple.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Citation and Substandard-Width Lane"

Leave a Reply