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.
Sec. 545.058. DRIVING ON IMPROVED SHOULDER.
(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.
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