Sunday, October 4, 2009

It Is More Important To Me Than to Them

SteveA says this is my advantage in getting my ticket resolved in my favor. Passion.

I stopped in at the Ennis Police Station see what the procedure is for getting clarification as to the Texas Transportation Code (TTC) statute that I have been accused of violating. It is hard to tell, because there is no "impeding traffic" section in the TTC.

I spoke with a Ennis Police Department (EPD) officer who was also exemplary in his demeanor. After he explained what steps I had to take next, he indulged me with a wide ranging conversation on police work, the law, some of the forces that affect an individual officers discretion in enforcing the law, police priorities and such.

He demonstrated good professionalism by being careful not to imply advice for my particular situation, and he and I avoided talking about Officer Watson's conduct, other than my making it clear that I was impressed by his low-key non-confrontational style. (I was complimentary about Officer Watson.)

I was disheartened by some comments made by this officer. I have had very few hassles from police in all of my Texas travels on two-wheels. I had thought this was due to the clear simplicity of Texas law. Texas has codified one of the least restrictive bicycle laws in the nation. It is something all Texas cyclists should be grateful for. (It would no doubt be better with the far-to-right language removed.) Cyclists enjoy unusual liberty in Texas.

When I tried to express how police priorities place traffic flow issues above safety, and it would be in EPD's best long term interests to crack down on scofflaw cycling, he told me that the community and officers feel that enforcing bicycle law was "harassment" and lead to many formal complaints. (Every formal complaint must be investigated, documented, and adjudicated, eating up a tremendous amount of resources and man hours.)

And then, when speaking about operating a bicycle on public streets, it became clear that none of them think a bicycle should be on any public street. He insisted that bicycles, for example, must ride on the shoulder of the road, "just like slow cars are required to" to avoid impeding traffic. Sigh.

As I will show below, this is an understanding from our speed dominant car-centric culture, not something derived from the TTC. The idea of public roads accommodating none-motorized traffic is crazy-talk. When they think of road use, they are thinking in terms of private automobiles equals public use. I guess they don't remember how "traffic" is defined in the TTC: "In this subtitle "traffic" means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, and conveyances, including vehicles and streetcars, singly or together while using a highway for the purposes of travel."

When someone is riding their bicycle on a public road, they are traffic. They are in fact "normal and reasonable" traffic.

So if his perspective is true, I would be hassled at every turn except for the the low priority placed on enforcing bicycle law! I thought it was because I work so hard at riding in a lawful manner.

The TTC has a lot to say about driving and riding on the shoulder, but it nowhere requires using it, and it most certainly discourages it's use.

First, some definitions.

"Highway or street" means the width between the boundary lines of a publicly maintained way any part of which is open to the public for vehicular travel. Sec. 541.302. (5)  
"Improved shoulder" means a paved shoulder. Sec. 541.302.(6)
"Laned roadway" means a roadway that is divided into at least two clearly marked lanes for vehicular travel. Sec.541.302.(7) 
"Roadway" means the portion of a highway, other than the berm or shoulder, that is improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel. If a highway includes at least two separate roadways, the term applies to each roadway separately. Sec. 541.302.(11) 
"Shoulder" means the portion of a highway that is:
(A)  adjacent to the roadway;
(B)  designed or ordinarily used for parking;
(C)  distinguished from the roadway by different design, construction, or marking; and not intended for normal vehicular travel. Sec. 541.302.(15) 

Naturally, because politicians wrote it, it is a little confusing. Their definition for "highway" appears to include the entire right-of-way from fence-line to fence-line. The definitions for "roadway" "laned roadway" and "shoulder" clearly state that shoulders are not intended to be used as travel lanes.


(a)  An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
(1)  to stop, stand, or park;
(2)  to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
(3)  to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4)  to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
(5)  to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6)  as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(7)  to avoid a collision.

(b)  An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the left of the main traveled portion of a divided or limited-access or controlled-access highway if that operation may be done safely, but only:
(1)  to slow or stop when the vehicle is disabled and traffic or other circumstances prohibit the safe movement of the vehicle to the shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of the roadway;
(2)  as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(3)  to avoid a collision.

(c)  A limitation in this section on driving on an improved shoulder does not apply to:
(1)  an authorized emergency vehicle responding to a call;
(2)  a police patrol; or
(3)  a bicycle.    

There are three portions to this law: What circumstances allow travel on the shoulder to the right, (7 of them) what circumstances allow driving on the left shoulder, (Two repeats and one new one) and the vehicles that are not bound by this law.

Now the statement made separately by two EPD officers was that "slow moving vehicles must use the shoulder" to allow faster traffic to overtake them in a more convenient way. Is that what the statute says?

It does no such thing! In fact, even beyond the obvious permissive word of "may" rather than the compulsory word of "shall", it sets up a host of conditions that, to my mind, would be unusual enough to make driving on the shoulder legally quite rare.

The twin pre-conditions of necessity and the ability to do the maneuver in a safe manner that have to be present will wipe out most scenarios for doing this that I can imagine. In fact, the necessity clause nullifies the permission to allow faster traffic to overtake you easier! After all, don't those who complain about cyclists riding centered in the lane object on the grounds that it is rude to inconvenience others? No one has ever argued with me that it is a necessity to overtake slower traffic.

So yes, Steve, it is more important to me than it is to them, for it is my liberty to use the public road in a lawful manner that is at stake.

This, as you say, is my advantage.


  1. It's your advantage, but it's a two-edged sword. Passion is good but the judge will not share it. Assuming the case goes to trial, the easier it is for the judge to see you're legal, the better. The judge will probably share the notion a cyclist should be on the shoulder like road lice rather than easy to see like real traffic. Remember, Texas judge and appeals courts upheld the Hunter's Creek Village Ordinance that totally bans cyclists from their streets.

  2. That prejudice is one reason I take special pains to wave to police as I pass by while riding IN the lane.

  3. "So if his perspective is true, I would be hassled at every turn except for the the low priority placed on enforcing bicycle law! I thought it was because I work so hard at riding in a lawful manner."

    This is a heartbreaking realization, Chipseal, but I'm afraid it's true of most PDs. They just don't care unless it looks to them like we're getting in the way. Someone on Chainguard once made reference to the Seinfeld Pigeon Deal.

  4. Does the Texas law on impeding traffic specifically refer to MOTOR vehicles? The Delaware traffic code mostly refers to vehicles, but the section on minimum speeds specifies that motor vehicles may not be driven so slowly as to impede traffic.

    (No, this has not stopped local police from pulling me over and telling I need to ride my bicycle next to the curb if I'm riding slower than the speed limit or I'll be cited for impeding traffic. Note this occurred trying to make a left turn from the left lane, and rush hour traffic is so congested the motor vehicles only average half of the 25 mph speed limit.)

  5. Steve asks a good question. The minimum speed statute does not directly mention "motor vehicle", but it uses the term "operator". In that chapter (545.002) it says that it means both the person driving and the characteristics of the vehicle he is using.

    With that definition, the meaning of "An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic" (TTC Sec. 545.363, minimum speed limit law) has a different meaning when the vehicle is a horse drawn wagon, a bicycle and a automobile.

    What could be plain and simple, is often obscure when specified definitions of words and concepts are widely dispersed around the TTC.

    The idea that traffic refers to more modes of travel than in automobiles has been forgotten in our society. The very idea of what "public" in the phrase public street means has been eroded.

    This is a pervasive error in how the public generally, and police officers specifically, understand how the world around them works. This has led to a discriminatory bias against bicycle operators.

    But the law still remains a refuge, but not because of the efforts of our "bicycle advocates", but rather in spite of them.

  6. Sec. 551.103. OPERATION ON ROADWAY. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
    (1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
    (2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
    (3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or
    (4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
    (A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
    (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.
    (b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.
    (c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles .
    (d) Repealed by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085, Sec. 13, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

    Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995. Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085, Sec. 10, 13, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

    SO QUIT CRYING AND JUST PAY YOUR FINE. This is rediculous that a "grown" man is spending this much time and effort crying about a ticket when he knows he is wrong. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. There isn't any "in-between" THE FACT IS YOU BROKE THE LAW. YOU GOT CAUGHT. YOU GOT A TICKET SO JUST PAY THE TICKET AND QUIT TRYING TO DEFAME THE ENNIS POLICE OFFICERS AND DEPARTMENT. I commend the actions of all of the officers involved in this situation. If they were wrong that would be one thing but THEY ARE NOT!!! The officer Watson cut you a break, he could, by the authority of his office and the State of Texas, have thrown you in jail and impounded your bike. SOOOOOO thank him and get off his back. By the way just so you will know, I am not an Ennis Police Officer. This site was referred to me as "Check this out, you aren't gonna believe this". tl

  7. Yes, you correctly cite the portion of the TTC that specifically regulates the operator of a bicycle on the public road. What you fail to point out is which particular portion I am in violation of, just as Sgt. Pillow has yet to do.

    Perhaps you suppose I violated 551.103(c), but that would be absurd because I was riding solo.

    Perhaps rather than just reading the first sentence of the statute, you should note some of the exceptions that void the necessity of "a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway".

    Or do you suppose that the Texas state legislators put in Sec.551.103(a)(1), Sec.551.103(a)(2), Sec.551.103(a)(3), Sec.551.103(a)(4)(A), and Sec.551.103(a)(4)(B) just to fill up the empty parts of the page?

    It is my expert opinion** that the exceptions to the far-to-right rule described in Sec.551.103(a)(3), Sec.551.103(a)(4)(A), and Sec.551.103(a)(B) all apply to any cyclist traveling on West Ennis Avenue in either direction.

    Therefore I am not in violation of this section of the TTC. This simply the fact of the matter. So my vague charge of "impeding traffic" must spring from some other part of the TTC.

    If you, with your vast cut and paste skills, (which do not make up for your poor reasoning skills!) could shed light on this crime I am accused of, please enlighten me.

    I am also curious why you think I was in danger of imprisonment? Since when do police powers extend to capriciously impounding property and arresting law abiding citizens going about their business on the public road?

    I also take umbrage to you assertion that that this is a trivial matter that isn't worth fussing about. My very liberty is at stake here.

    If you and Sgt. Pillow are correct in your understanding of the law, then it is illegal for me to operate my bicycle on the road that is attached to my driveway.

    Before you make a further public fool of yourself, I would suggest you look at two of my blog posts: "Far To The Right Rule and the Bicycle" and "How to Deal With Bullies". I also implore you, if you wish to overcome your ignorance, to follow the links in "Nice to Meet You, Officer Watson" near the end of my post.

    **I label myself an expert in Texas bicycle law in contrast of your obvious gross ignorance.

  8. @ "SO QUIT CRYING AND JUST PAY YOUR FINE ..." I don't sense any whiny, petulant tone. The police inability to charge someone brings the whole concept of "impeding traffic" into doubt. Questioning the citation is valid or paraphrasing Bob Mionske, "If you don't exercise your rights, do you really have them?"

  9. Wow, Anonymous, you're a doofus. You may be above name calling Chipseal, but apparently I'm not.

  10. Rod said...
    Anonymous, you're a little too bent over in posture. We do have rights and one of them is the right of appeal.

  11. With the high level of stupidity displayed on this website it is a wonder that Chipseal has accomplished anything in life. Other than being a cry baby and spending all this time whining about this citation why don't you spend your time healing Cancer or maybe AIDS because obviously with your vast knowledge of the traffic code you must surely be an expert in medicine as well. Or perhaps space travel or time travel. I don't know what problem you are having reading the English language. It is in black and white. You were wrong. SOOOO once again and I will type this REALLLLLLLL slow for you (wouldn't want to overload your brain) QQQQQUUUUIIIIITTTT CCCCRRRRYYYYIIIINNNNGGGG AAAANNNNDDDD AAAACCCCCCCCEEEEPPPPPTTTT RRRRREEEESSSSPPPPOOOONNNNSSSSIIIIBBBBIIIILLLLIIIITTTTYYYY FFFFOOOORRRR YYYYOOOOUUUURRRR AAAACCCCTTTTIIIIOOOONNNNSSSS. You do have a right to contest the citation and I encourage you to do that, but do you really have to attempt to defame an organization of PROFESSIONALS. Don't be jealous of them. Not everyone is able to wear a badge. Its okay CHIPSEAL AND RANTWICK, some are meant to play the game and others are meant to watch. So you 2 have fun in the stands.

  12. It seems like Anonymous has a reading comprehension problem. ChipSeal has shown no disrespect for the officers involved. He as not whined about this, nor do I detect any animosity.

    One thing ChipSeal is well know for is his integrity and respect for the law.

    I'm not quite sure what Anonymous hopes to accomplish by hiding behind anonymity and hurling insults. It's not likely to influence any of the readers of this blog. Perhaps he feels so insignificant and miserable in his life that his only outlet is to try to incite anger in strangers from the safety of his computer. Sad. Kinda makes me feel sorry for him.

  13. @Anonymous Just because a police officer writes a citation does the mean a person is guilty and must pay a fine.

    Let's hypothetically follow your admonishment "JUST PAY THE TICKET": How much will the fine be? Wait the EPD are trying to figure out which statue to charge Chippy with? That's easy, simple, innocent until proven guilty?

    I can not find any comment which directly or indirectly mock, slander or libel the police, law enforcement? Questioning decisions by public officials is not defaming.

    I will not get into the comments by ChipSeal or Rantwick vis-à-vis "Mr/Ms Anonymous."

  14. I agree it doesn't always mean a person is wrong. However, from what he wrote in the very first blog he stated that cars were able to pass "to the right". The traffic law that was posted states that a bicycle shall travel to the right side of the roadway closest to the edge. It doesn't say anywhere that they can travel in the inside lane unless turning left which he said he wasn't. I am glad that he and many of you ride bikes avidly but he was wrong in his actions and I believe he was even more wrong for writing his little blog trying to turn people against the EPD. It is my opinion that this was the EXACT purpose of his blog. The officer does have the option to handle situations differently. Do we know all the details of what was said? Do we truely know what other options the officer had. There are only 2 traffic offenses that a person can not be arrested for, speeding and open container. Therefore the officer could have arrested him and impounded his bike and be completely acting under the ability of his authority. I don't think Chip realizes that. When I have received citations I did not spend my time trying to turn the public against the officers that wrote me the citations. I (like I believe Chip now knows) was wrong and i paid the fines. Ignorance (lack of knowledge)of the law is no defense to the law. I have been reading the traffic law since this post game out and I am quite amazed at the offense that exist. I know of many habits that I need to change, not only when I am driving but when I am riding my bike. If there is a law that Chip or anybody else doesn;t like I suggest writing your legislature.

  15. Welcome back, Anonymous, and thank you for bringing substance.

    I agree it doesn't always mean a person is wrong. However, from what he wrote in the very first blog he stated that cars were able to pass "to the right".

    West Ennis Avenue from the one hundred block to the four hundred block is a single wide lane each direction. Automobile traffic was breaking the law by passing me on my right. I was in fact lawfully positioned in the lane, according to Sec.551.103(a)(3) as the patrol car video will show. A detailed discussion on the goofy infrastructure through there was published two days prior to my traffic stop. I even posted pictures. The post is titled "If the Roadway Were Designed Like a Bike Lane" should you wish to understand the ambiguity that the city of Ennis has wrought.

    The traffic law that was posted states that a bicycle shall travel to the right side of the roadway closest to the edge.

    A cut and paste would have better served you this time. You have mis-stated the language of the statute. Was that deliberate, or did not look at it carefully? To quote it word for word: "A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless..." and then it lists a host of exceptions to the rule.

    If there is no other traffic, the rule has no meaning. If the cyclist is traveling at a similar speed with the other traffic it has no meaning. If any of the exceptional situations exist it has no meaning.

    If you can figure out why the legislators used such a strange sounding word as "practicable" in the statute instead of practical or possible, you will be on your way to understanding this law.

    It doesn't say anywhere that they can travel in the inside lane unless turning left which he said he wasn't.

    There is no inside or outside lane on the three hundred block of West Ennis Avenue.

    As the video will show, the only time I was in the left lane when it returned to a multi-laned road was because impatient scofflaw motorists crowded around me on the right.

    See how easy that was to get cleared up?

  16. It seemed pretty clear to me in the post. ChipSeal was riding in the safest place in a single lane to avoid being hit by a car backing out of the diagonal parking. When the road became 4-lane again, the new lane developed on the right, but he couldn't get to it right away because impatient motorists were passing him illegally.

    There is a section of road in Orlando where I've had the same thing happen to me consistently. There is a single lane, but to the right of it is a gore area. It is illegal to operate a vehicle in a gore area (additionally, the pavement has hazardous longitudinal cracks). So I claim the single lane. impatient motorists who cannot wait the 3.5 seconds for that section to be over, pass on the right, then cutting me off from merging to the right when it dumps into a 3-lane section.

  17. A slow-moving vehicle does not impede traffic flow de facto. If faster vehicles can pass safely, then there is no impedance. having to slow momentarily is not impedance, but is rather the normal flow of traffic.

    The posted speed is always an upper end limit, not a speed to be maintained. Freeways often have "minimum" speeds posted, but local streets and state roads do not. If traveling at slow speeds was impeding traffic, then all farm equipment would be banned from the roadways.

    Remember, the speed limits were originally placed on the roadways to control motor vehicle speeds, not the speeds of other lawful traffic. That original rationale is still active.

  18. practicable or practical? These two adjectives have overlapping meanings. Both indicate that something can be done, but practical also implies that it is appropriate, sensible, or useful: It is practicable to do the calculation in the traditional way, but far more practical to use a computer. The difference between impracticable and impractical is rather more clear-cut: impracticable means "impossible" and impractical means "not workable when put into practice."

  19. Welcome back, Mr. Anonymous.

    I did not know there was a word "impracticable". Is it used in the TTC?

    By the way, does that definition you quote make sense to you? If your definition were correct, why didn't the legislators use a more common word that means "possible"? It may be possible to operate a bicycle millimeters from the side of a parked car. Is that what the statute demands?

    1. Capable of being effected, done, or put into practice; feasible.
    2. Usable for a specified purpose: a practicable way of entry

    Usage Note: It is easy to confuse practicable and practical because they look so much alike and overlap in meaning. Practicable means "feasible" as well as "usable," and it cannot be applied to persons. Practical has at least eight meanings, including the sense "capable of being put into effect, useful," wherein the confusion with practicable arises. But there is a subtle distinction between these words that is worth keeping. For the purpose of ordering coffee in a Parisian café, if would be practical (that is, useful) to learn some French, but it still might not be practicable for someone with a busy schedule and little time to learn.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

    So according to this dictionary, practicable has very narrow meaning, rather than the many different meanings of practical.

    It is not feasible nor usable (practicable) to operate a bicycle a quarter inch from a parked car for very long. Practicable encompasses all of the variables that need to considered as to how far to the side one may operate with acceptable safety. (You don't think the law intends a citizen to operate in an unsafe manner to comply with the law, do you?)

    Whom do you suppose ought to be best able to determine, after taking in all the variables of the given place, time, traffic, skill of the operate, experience of operating the vehicle in question- Who is best able to determine the safe way of proceeding, the cyclist or an observer in a car with little experience on bicycle in traffic?

    The statute itself lists ten examples of things that could be factors in legally moving further away from the edge of the road.

    "Practicable" in this context can only mean within the bounds of safety and prudence.