Dear Officer Barron,
I am a respectful and law-abiding cyclist – I believe not only in cyclists rights, but also their responsibilities. I stop at stop signs. I ride to the right when it is safe and take the lane when it is not. I let drivers know my intentions and move in a predictable manner. I am an experienced, savvy road cyclist, having logged well over 40,000 miles in the past eight years. Many of those miles were traveled leading group rides done to teach and provide insight to less experienced cyclists, and on any ride, whether I was leading or not, I have advocated for safe, lawful riding by example or, if necessary, by words.
As a law-abiding cyclist, I am greeted by the vast majority of motorists with whom I share the road with the same amount of respect that I show towards them. They keep a safe distance behind me until it is safe to pass. When they do pass, they do so at a safe distance and move well ahead of me before moving back over into my lane. They grant me my turn at stop signs and wait for me to pass before turning into my lane. They recognize me as another human being, deserving of civility. Unfortunately, a small minority of motorists do not share that view. They are either unaware of or unwilling to accept the rights that I have as a cyclist under the law. Rejecting those rights, they believe it is acceptable to harrass or even threaten cyclists that they encounter on the road, simply because they do not agree with the law that allows them to be there. Whether malicious, arrogant, or just uninformed, the result is the same – they are dangerous.
I worry that you, sir, might be one of those people. I knew the “failure to yeild” citation you gave me was baseless – I was making a right turn on a green light while riding on the shoulder. It was the motorist who crossed over the white line and almost hit me that was at fault, and it is she to whom you should have given the citation. As a police officer, I have no doubt that you understand the law as it pertains to cyclists at least as well as I do. I must ride as far to the right as is safe. I must not unduly block traffic. I must obey all traffic signals. I must exercise care when passing standing vehicles on the right. And, I am allowed (though not required) to ride on the shoulder. When you gave me the citation, you must have known it was wrong. Why else would you state “failed to observe posted yield sign” when, in fact, no yield sign exists – my photographs easily proved it. Why else would you state that I was making a left turn when, in fact, I was making a right turn – my telephone call to point out that error was not challenged. If, Officer Barron, I had truly broken the law, why then did you get the citation so wrong?Maybe you did it because you were angry with me for reacting to the incident we had two blocks back. What made you decide to pass me on a downhill leading into a stop sign? Why did you sit at the stop sign in a dead stop, staring at me in your rearview mirror as I braked hard in the shortened stopping distance? It was shocking to me that an officer of the law would show such apparent disregard for my safety. Your actions, in my opinion, appeared hostile, and my “What the heck?” reaction as you sped away was reasonable and justified. How ironic it is that you would witness a careless motorist almost hitting me at the very next intersection, and that you would pull me over and yell at me for “cutting off traffic” rather than the motorist. Your first words as you got out of the car were, “I was willing to let it go when you yelled at me back there…” (presumably referring to my “What the heck?” reaction), and at that instant I knew I would have to fight you. What specific statutes did my “What the heck?” reaction violate? The unsafe manner in which you overtook me was, in my opinion, a clear violation of Missouri Statutes 300.411 and 304.678 regarding maintaining a safe distance when overtaking bicycles. Do these statutes not apply to you, simply because you are a police officer?
I am sure you know by now that the Frontenac city prosecutor has dismissed this case, recognizing that the citation was wrong. My photographs of the intersection, and my long, spotless record as a road cyclist further compelled the prosecutor that the case should not be prosecuted. This was not a plea bargain, not a reduced charge, no getting off on a technicality, but an outright dismissal! I was right, and you were wrong. I knew it, and I believe you knew it, too. Will this change your opinion of me? I doubt it – in fact, I suspect that I will be watched even more carefully now whenever I ride through the city of Frontenac. But I will continue to ride through Frontenac – my head held high and my chest puffed out. If I do get another citation, either from you or from one of your fellow officers, it will be as baseless as this one, because I am a respectful, law-abiding cyclist.
Ted C. MacRae
Avid road cyclist
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009