Thursday, December 23, 2010

What a Busy Year It Has Been For Me.

Here in Dallas, (The best city to get around on a bicycle.) I’ve had a lot of changes.

I have been working steadily which has kept me away from the keyboard most of the time.

And, to my surprise, I have developed a romantic interest in my old age. This too has distracted me from this forum.

Ms. Crystal Denise Trammel and I are engaged to be married this spring.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Trial Date Set

My new trial date is August 17 at 2 p.m.

It will be held at County Court at Law 2,

109 S. Jackson street, Waxahachie.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trial Date Changed From July 29

A new prosecutor is taking over Ellis County DA Finney's cases, and she has a jury trial already set in a different court on July 29th. I will post the new date as soon as I am notified by the court of when it is scheduled.

That said, my trial will be held before the honorable Judge A. Gene Calvert, Jr., At the County Court At Law Two, Ellis County, 109 S. Jackson St., Waxahachie, 75165

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Because Seeing is Believing

I have changed my position on using mirrors whilst cycling.

My position has been for years that unless you were astride a recumbent, or had impaired neck movement, mirrors were a silly distraction to the task at hand.

The reason for this is that the perils that face a cyclist are far and away predominantly ahead of him. We face hazards in the form of road surface impairments, obstructions and debris, and the turning movements of other traffic.

My feeling has been that until one is preparing for a movement that will potentially cross the path of following traffic, knowing what traffic behind you is doing is of no concern.
This not always true.

I now recommend the use of mirrors for cyclists

When one first takes to the roadway with a defensive position that uses body language to communicate his presence, he ought to use a mirror.

I can describe how traffic reacts to the presence of a slow moving vehicle, but few who are new to driving their bicycles in the traffic lane will really be confident of that until they observe it for themselves.

So when you grow weary of the close passes and the near misses of suddenly opened doors, right-hooks and left crosses and begin to assert your right to the roadway as an equal user of the public roadway, use a mirror.

Count the times you nearly get "runned over". (You might be surprised to see that it never happens!)

Observe how overtaking traffic yields to your presence. Take note of the delays you create. You will soon learn that any such expectation is simply a myth.

When you get tired of watching for such things that never happen, and have proved to yourself how even high speed traffic have no difficulties in overtaking you, you can put the mirrors away.

Because then you will have seen for yourself that the perils you face are in front of you, not behind you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bicycle Rules For Motorists TDH

1. A bicycle is a vehicle and any person riding a bicycle has all of the rights
and responsibilities as a driver of a vehicle.

2. Bicyclists are required to ride as far right in the lane as possible only
when the lane can be safely shared by a car and a bicycle, side by side.

Even then, there are certain conditions that allow a bicyclist to take the full
lane such as:

a. The person is overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in
the same direction.

b. The person is preparing for a left turn at an intersection or onto a private
road or driveway.

c. There are unsafe conditions in the roadway such as fixed or moving
objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, potholes, or

d. The lane is of substandard width making it unsafe for a car and a bicycle
to safely share the lane side by side. When this is the case, it is best
for the cyclist to take the full lane whether riding single file or two

3. Bicyclists are not restricted to the right lane of traffic. One-way, multi-
laned streets are one example. Another instance is when the bicyclist is
changing lanes to make a left turn.
The bicyclist should follow the same path
any other vehicle would take traveling the same direction.

4. Motorists should merge with bicycle traffic when preparing for a right
hand-turn. Avoid turning directly across the path of bicycle traffic.

Common Motorists Mistakes

1. The most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a motorist
turning left in the front of oncoming bicycle traffic. Oncoming bicycle traffic is
often overlooked or its speed misjudged.

2. The second most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a
motorist turning right across the path of the bicycle traffic. The motorist
should slow and merge with the bicycle traffic for a safe right-hand turn.

3. The third most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a
motorist pulling away from a stop sign and failing to yield right-of-way to bicycle
cross traffic. At intersections, right-of-way rules apply equally to motor
vehicles and bicycles.

Revised October 2008

Friday, April 23, 2010

Part of Chapter 13 of the Texas Driver Handbook


1. The most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a motorist
turning left in the face of oncoming bicycle traffic. Oncoming bicycle traffic is
often overlooked or its speed misjudged.

2. The second most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a
motorist turning right across the path of the bicycle traffic. The motorist
should slow down and merge with the bicycle traffic for a safe right-hand

3. The third most common motorist caused car-bicycle collision is a
motorist pulling away from a stop sign, failing to yield right-of-way to bicycle
cross traffic. At intersections, right-of-way rules apply equally to motor vehicles and bicycles.

Page 13-3

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Sec. 541.302. (15)  "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
(D) xxnot intended for normal vehicular travel.

Because an improved shoulder is defined the by the law this way, it has certain consequences that materially impact the safety of a cyclist who may wish to operate on the shoulder.

Because improved shoulders are "not intended for normal vehicular travel", warning signs that would inform highway users of a change in the disposition of the shoulder are not erected.

In the photo above, the roadway’s shape is changing from a median in the center to a "suicide" shared left turn lane. A warning sign has been erected to inform travelers of this change.

There are no signs informing travelers that the "Ennis City’s mandatory bike lane" is coming to an end and to be alert for cyclists entering the travel lane.

The posted speed limit for this section of the roadway is 45 MPH.     

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Close Call.

I was traveling home in unusual weather. I was fighting a headwind.

I had just turned north on FM 1722 away from our airport. I could hear that there was some traffic behind me waiting to clear the sharp turn in the road before overtaking me.

As usual, I paid them no mind. It is, after all, their responsibility to overtake slower traffic in a safe manner and with due care.

The engine pitch changed as they accelerated to overtake me.

I suddenly became alarmed at their behavior. They were passing me on the right!

There is no improved shoulder here, and it is a steep drop off into the ditch. He is overtaking me fast, his engine screaming as he floors it! I can only imagine him losing control and skidding into me!

I glance over my right shoulder to see which way to dodge.

There is no car in the ditch. Or behind me…

As I glanced behind me in alarm, I realize that the “traffic” I heard is a single engine airplane taking off from the airport and climbing over my head!
I had a good chuckle at how my hearing and traffic “bias” fooled me!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Local Road Work

For months it looked like this. Yikes!

Ennis City road department has completed their resurfacing project on Kaufman Avenue.

They have done a very good job!

There is a special delight in driving on smooth pavement.

It sports four 12 foot lanes and a center common turn lane in the 35 mph section. I am allowed to travel on this part of the roadway.

It has four 12 foot lanes with disappearing shoulders in the transition between 45 mph and 35 mph section.

It has not been established where along here I am allowed to leave the shoulder and begin operating on the roadway.

There is no indication of where along here I am required to abandon the roadway for the shoulder. (Or is that a “designated bike lane”?)

I am not allowed to travel on the roadway along these part according to local police, the local prosecutor and the local court, contrary to State law. Go figure!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nemo and Daisy

On one of my common routes, I have a pair of friends; Nemo and Daisy.

They would always bark at me, and I would bark back (In a friendly way!) as they ran down the road pacing me. The always “chased” me from their side of the fence. They had about a quarter mile of frontage to gallop across.

The only problem they ever caused me was that their friendly barking would alert one of the dogs down the way that I was coming. (Casey) I could usually sneak by him going east, but Nemo and Daisy would give me up every time I went west.

Casey, however, has learned to keep his distance with only one application of my squirt bottle. We get along fine now.

Encouraged by my friends on the internet, one day I stopped (Yes, stopped! Gasp!) to take a picture of Nemo and Daisy, but they wanted to make friends. I now stop in for an enthusiastic hello whenever I happen by.

I met their owner a while ago. While I was petting them he came out to see if they had been menacing me. I assured him it was most likely the other way around. Thus I finally learned their names!

Daisy is paranoid and shy of automobiles. She is uncomfortable on the road side of the fence when a car is coming by. Their owner said she had been hit once. From her behavior, I’d say she didn’t like the experience. For that reason I roll up the driveway to the gate to pet them.

Nemo is the dominant one, and they stick together. So I noticed when Daisy greeted me by herself a few weeks ago. And then, after a short absence, Nemo was back. But he was limping now. His back leg was mangled. Only he knows how. I was told it is a permanent injury.

Despite only three healthy legs, he is almost as fast as before now, but he abandons the chase sooner.

For these two, life on my side of the fence has been harsh to them. I enjoy stopping and showing them there is some kindness over here as well.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Codger Said

My road bike making nice with fixies.

“You believe that ChipSeal has a right to the road, but disagree with his decision to exercise that right? What good is a right, if the tyranny of others prevents us from exercising it?”


My single speed waiting for me to be done at the library

Monday, March 22, 2010

Impede Traffic, Pull Over a Cyclist!

Graphic courtesy of Keri Caffrey
Friday March 19, 2010. Approximately 13:30 hours. Ennis PD traffic stop.

Cause: The Patrol Officer preferred the cyclist use a different route.

Result: Cyclist allowed to proceed after a consultation with headquarters.


The cyclist was traveling west-bound on East Ennis Avenue having just crossed Kaufman Avenue, on his way home with groceries. He was pulled over in the 200 block in heavy traffic. Because there was no place to pull off the roadway, they blocked the right travel lane for the time of the stop.

The highway has four 12 foot travel lanes. The posted speed limit is 30 MPH.

The Officer initiated the traffic stop from the left lane. When he “whooped” his siren, the cyclist did a head check to see the patrol car in the left lane trailing the cyclist by less than a car length. There was another car, directly behind the cyclist, trapped by the patrol car. The cyclist signaled a right turn and pulled to a stop at the curb.

The officer approached the cyclist and greeted him by name. The cyclist was unfamiliar with this officer.

The officer asked the cyclist if he understood that he was not allowed to drive on the left side of the right travel lane.

“Not on this lane.” Said the cyclist.

“Why not?” Asked the Officer.

“It is less than 14 feet wide.” Replied the cyclist while producing his 12 foot tape measure.

The lane turned out to be 11 ½ feet wide.

The Officer excused himself to consult someone who had access to the law books.

The cyclist busied himself with taking photographs.

Shortly, the Officer again approached the cyclist and apologized for stopping him.
The cyclist accepted his apology, and continued his trip home.

Self-portrait in Officer McCurdy's glasses

Saturday, March 13, 2010

First, Stop Digging

I am concerned with the City of Ennis’s reputation. They seem to be garnering the mantel of a backward jurisdiction with a Barney Fife police force.

I resist that notion. I still want to believe that the men and women on our police force are sincerely serving our community with personal integrity and with honor. But it is hard.

To maintain that notion, I am clinging to the idea that they have inept leadership, and those who ought to know better are allowing otherwise fine officers to look foolish.

On Tuesday, March 9, Officer McCurdy arrested me. He did not tell me what law I had allegedly broken. After cooling my jets in the Ennis city jail for 26 hours, (10 AM Tuesday to just after 12:30 PM on Wednesday, according to my phone records.) I was keen to look at the citation to see what the particular charge was.

I was not given one.

What I did receive was a “personal recognizance” bond form with the charge “Impeding traffic/Bike Offence” in Municipal Judge Johnson’s handwriting and his signature. This was different than last time. I wonder: Was my previous arrest handled in an irregular manner, or was this latest time the irregular one?

I suspect, but I can’t be certain, so this is somewhat speculative: Why was I held for about three hours after the PR bond was signed? I think they would have held me longer but it was easier to release me than to make a run to McDonalds for another dollar value menu hamburger.

So Friday I stop at the court to file seven motions and plead not guilty to this charge. I ask the court clerk for my case number. She runs my case envelope through the copy machine. Here is what my case envelope says:

E0011786 01 100053359
Fin: 100.00 Cst: 94.00 Due: 194.00



Violation Date: 3/9/2010

Yeah, that charge has me scratching my head too. As absurd as it is, they avoided an even worse charge that the police were considering, and perhaps this is just a reflection of it.

I wonder who changed it to “Impeding Traffic/Bike Offense”. Was it Judge Johnson cleaning it up after closely questioning the circumstances surrounding my arrest by interviewing the four officers who were present? Did he interview any of the 911 callers who accuse me of impeding them?

Who else has the authority to change the charges? Toby Mash, our city attorney?

My recollection of how it went down

With unsubstantiated anonymous reports of death and mayhem pouring in to the Ennis 911 system, three patrol units and four Ennis city officers responded to suppress the latest crime wave on Hwy 287.

Now while I always strive to be polite, some of my friends have counseled me that my style of presenting my case can feel confrontational. Making declarative statements of what the law actually says to a police officer can get their backs up, apparently. “You may be right, Reed, but they think they know the law. You can’t appear to be schooling the teacher.”

So I am resolved to defend myself with Officer McCurdy by avoiding declarative statements by asking questions instead. (Y’all can see how well that worked out!)

So after I take his picture, I concentrate on presenting my case through questions.

Chip “Why did you stop me?”
OM “We have been getting a lot of 911 calls.”
Chip “Couldn’t the 911 operator inform them that bicycles are allowed to operate on the roadway in Texas?”
OM “We are concerned with your safety.”
Chip “Oh, you stopped me on a safety violation?”
OM “Yes. You were riding out there”; He pointed to the roadway. “Why weren’t…”
Chip, interrupting; “Now you are talking about traffic law, not a safety violation!”
OM “… you riding over here on the shoulder?”
Chip “So did you stop me for a traffic violation or a safety violation?”
OM “Traffic law is about safety.”
Chip “How wide is that travel lane?”
OM “I’m not here to argue about the law.”

Officer McCurdy seemed a little flustered, and unsure of himself. He tried a different tack.

OM “You know tractors, right? They have to have those slow moving vehicle signs on them.”
Chip, displaying the back of his messenger bag that has a 7” by 7” triangle on it; “You mean one of these?”
OM “Yes, but bigger, you need to have one of those to ride out there.”
Chip “So you stopped me because I have an equipment violation?”
OM, looking hopefully toward arriving backup officers; “No…” He seems sorry he brought it up.
Chip “So if I get a big triangle, I can drive on the roadway?”
OM “No, I’m not here to argue about the law.”

Enter Sgt. Pillow. She came toward the front of officer McCurdy’s unit, but would not advance closer to us than standing beside the front wheel. I suspect she was avoiding being viewed by the dash camera. She and I exchange greetings with each other by name.

SP “Mr. Bates, we have been through this before, you need to be riding over here.” She points to the shoulder.

(I want to say that I replied that shoulder use was optional, and I chose not to, but frankly I don’t remember what I said here. I will take the time to transcribe the dash-cam audio when it is made available to me. I hope what I write here will correspond to the audio. I will post it so you can see how well I did.)

SP “This is a designated bike lane here. You are required to ride on it.”
Chip, in astonishment “Where are the signs designating it? How is the public to know it’s a bike lane?”
SP “It is a designated bike lane”

She holds a quick roadside conference with the other two officers present.

OM distracts me “This is a wide shoulder. It’s in pretty good shape. It’s pretty clean. Why won’t you ride on it?
Chip “It is more dangerous than the roadway.”

Officer McCurdy dismisses all of my objections as inadequate, and I am irked that I am being required to justify opting “no” to what by state law is optional. I finally ask him what vehicles are required to use the shoulder. “I’m not here to argue the law.” He said, as he went to consult Sgt. Pillow.

He returns after a moment and places me under arrest. Outside of “OK” and “thank you”, I say not a word more. Officer McCurdy never tells me what I am being arrested for, and so for the next 26 hours I am hoping it will be a Sec.551.103 (a)(4)(A) violation of failure to use a designated bike lane. Wouldn’t that be a hoot!

Which behavior causes the most harm?

It is clear by their roadside behavior, the line officers are not getting guidance from their leadership other than “get him off the road!” These officers are casting about for any excuse to arrest me and make the 911 calls stop. But the way charges are changed after the fact, why do they even bother?

Clearly, what the law actually says, allows and prohibits has no importance at the street level. The Ennis police apparently are buffeted by forces beyond all that nitpicky legal stuff. Any excuse , no matter how ridiculous, is seized on to justify arrest.

And our judge and city attorney clean it up and back them up.

Logic and reason likewise are unable to deter this manic imperative to put the irksome uppity cyclist in his place. Could someone point to the harm that requires an arrest be made? With at least 20 hours of exposure on Hwy 287 and more than 300 miles expended crossing it, who has been harmed? Bring forth the victims!

If operating on that roadway were such a perilous activity, why am I still able to write this after all that exposure? Shouldn’t I be road kill by now?

But with the international attention being drawn to the City of Ennis, are continued arrests worth the damage they are causing to our reputation? It is easy to draw images of Barney Fife blundering about. Negative slander is carried along with popular notions of “southern small town corruption”. The behavior of our police can be easily cast as typical ignorant prejudice. [biking in heels, Rantwick, city cycle]

The lawfulness of my behavior is clear to any who can read. There plenty of helpful guides on-line if one needs help. [1] People outside of Texas have a better handle on the rights of cyclists in Texas than the Ennis PD does! Oh yes, let’s keep arresting the bicyclist!


Who should back down, the City of Ennis or ChipSeal?

Perhaps the City of Ennis should wait to see how the new appeal trial turns out. Such a claim would save face and allow further sport at our expense to cease. It would be just like those two years prior to October 2009 when I drove around just like do now, but without the drama. (How did Ennis get along all that time without arresting me? Can the City of Ennis point to chaos and mayhem during that period when I was “unregulated”?)

Or perhaps I should voluntarily abandon exerting my right to drive on the public roadway. Suck it up and drive where it is less safe. Expose myself to greater peril for the greater good. (Reducing the work-load of our 911 operator?) Take to gravel roads and take longer trips.

I should just stay home, or take the bus. (There is no bus.) I could walk the six miles to town for groceries. If I took a wheelbarrow, I would be a vehicle and thus traffic, and able to use the roadway! [2] I would no longer write critical phone numbers on my arm before leaving the house.

No, I think not. The more the City of Ennis strives to remove my right to the public road, the more dear that right seems to me. I won’t be backing down, Ennis. Perhaps you should weigh the costs and reconsider before proceeding.

I have.

[1] The Ennis PD should make haste to update their copies of the TTC. It is shameful that Officer Watson was made to look the fool because he was provided with an outdated copy of the TTC

[2] Sec. 541.201. (23) "Vehicle" means a device that can be used to transport or draw persons or property on a highway.

Sec. 541.301. TRAFFIC. 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.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Formal Reply To Larry

What are you hoping to accomplish with this "rank political activism"? Is pissing off the drivers your goal?

No, my goal is to travel about on the public road. I am often going someplace. But why I am on the public road is immaterial, isn’t it? The only purpose that is required in order to use the public road that one is using it for travel. (Sec. 541.301 TRAFFIC. 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.)

I don't know about you but making mad the people operating things that could easily kill me seems pretty foolish.

I am not responsible for the emotional state of other people. I am acting lawfully. If that upsets other travelers on the public road, rest assured I am on a very long list of other things that are making that person angry. It is not especially hard to overtake a bicycle on any road, let alone this one. It is not a maneuver that requires the lightning fast reflexes and the focused skill of a Formula 1 race car driver! Encounters with motorists on this road last less than a minute. It takes an expansive ego to assume that it will ruin the rest of the day for someone! If having to overtake me on Hwy 287 is the worst thing to happen to someone during their day, they have it rather good, don’t you think?

What is worse is they will be more likely to [not] be courteous to OTHER bikers they see. Thanks a lot!!

The vast majority of drivers I encounter on the public road are courteous and display due care around bicycles. Surrendering to bullies is not likely going to have an outcome you will like.How about adjusting your attitude and approach. I find that being courteous to drivers (and cops for that matter) gets the drivers more courteous to me on a bike.

I am the very picture of courtesy to those around me! I drive where they are most apt to notice me from a distance, thus allowing them plenty of time to negotiate a merge into the passing lane. (A maneuver that is so common, it is rarely even recalled at the end of a trip.) It is only the motorists that are not paying attention to the task at hand that end up having to slow because they don’t notice me in a timely manner. Is it courteous to other drivers to neglect your primary duty when operating on the public road?

Those who are paying attention never even have to let up on the gas. Projecting the hardships experienced by incompetent motorists onto me is a neat trick. My conscience is clear.

I violate no one’s right-of-way, nor does anyone violate mine. How am I discourteous?

I wave, smile, and try to not impede them as much as I want them to not impede me.

I am not impeding anyone who is driving competently. In order to do that, I would have to drive my bicycle simultaneously in two lanes. Do drivers have the right to drive at top speed at all times? Please take a moment to review “Texas Maximum Speed Law Explained”, it should clear up this misapprehension of yours.

THAT makes the world a better place for bicyclists, not your childish antics.

Capitulation and abandoning my express statutory right to operate on the roadway? (Travel lane) That would make it better for cycling how? I find it hard to call a roadway “public” when the only vehicles that are allowed on it are those that are first required to obtain a license from the state!

You seem to think I am doing some sort of stunt. I am not. I am lawfully traveling between Waxahachie and Ennis on a public road that is not a limited access highway, nor does it have a minimum speed limit.

I am not only doing it lawfully, I am doing it in the safest manner possible. I am sure that I have made the round trip on that highway twenty times. At my reasonable speed for a cyclist, that would be about an hour of exposure in the sixteen miles I travel on it round trip. So with twenty hours of exposure, across 320 miles, how many times do you think I have been hit? How many motorists crashed into each other within a mile of me?

Anonymous, you have no clue how high speed traffic behaves around slow moving vehicles. To think it is hazardous can only be the result of hysteria. If this is a stunt, or childish antics, it is as dangerous or controversial as taking a bath.

In the series of photographs below, they are taken from the side of HWY 287, near where I was arrested twice. This was taken on a Friday morning, a week ago.

Besides an official traffic control device warning of a pedestrian crossing ahead on a road with a 65 PSL, this series documents the heavy congestion in both directions one can find on this roadway.

second in series

third in series

fourth in series

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sometimes Motorists Do the Darndest Things

After writing my friends phone number on my left arm*, I had to deal with one of the complications that my bicycle set-up causes. With the unusually heavy snowfall in the local region, I had a little trouble getting onto the road that attaches to my driveway so I could resume impeding traffic.

I have chosen to equip both of my bicycles with a speedplay pedal and cleat system. One of the characteristic features of this system is that it is intolerant of mud, packed snow, ice, sand and gravel. These pedals are a particularly poor choice for the cyclocross crowd.

Now, when I chose them, I could think of no reason to have to walk in them- certainly not once I got underway! Ah, yes, those were the days!

With the wet season in full force, I normally have negotiate 200 feet across the lawn from the door to the driveway that is mud, muddy and swampy. I have an old set of sneakers that have the singular purpose of delivering me with dry feet onto my driveway. Whereupon I remove them and put on my cycling shoes, and they await my return.

Today, (Friday February 12) however, I faced a 50 yard walk in twelve inches of snow. This was the heavy wet kind you Yankees seem so familiar with, not the dry blowsy kind that passes before the residents up in Montana and Wyoming while on it’s way to Nebraska. If I wore those faithful sneakers, I would have to take a towel to dry my feet before donning socks and cycling shoes. All the while standing on one foot, perhaps on the roadway. Yes, it would’ve been ugly.

So I slogged out to the streets with these boots on. Switched shoes and I was on my way. Oh, and I put the boots in a plastic bag to protect them from automobile spray.

This is a trade-off for my style of cycling. I find it acceptable.

Why I want to town

Today I viewed the Ennis Police stop dash cam videos and some of the audio that was recorded on them. (today = Friday February 12)

I’m glad I did. I found that my demeanor was not nearly as combative as I had feared. My contemporaneous recollections of our conversations are more accurate than I thought they were. I was striving for accuracy in all of my descriptions of the events and so I am pleased.

When Officer Watson stopped me in town, on October first, I saw that I had forgotten part of it. While Officer Watson and Sgt. Pillow discussed the ins and outs on impeding traffic, I was looking for identifying marks on the police car to write down, pen and paper in hand. Suddenly you can see a light go on in my head as I remember that I have my camera with me! And even with me looking the police car over so carefully, I never did notice Sgt. Pillow!

Yosemite Sam

One aspect of the dash cam footage that interested me was how soon I could be observed from traffic coming up behind me.

So when Officer Hudson comes up on me, on the dash cam there is no me to be seen! There is this old pickup protectively trailing behind me with his hazards on! Yikes!

It’s the fella who was hopping up and down, warning me that the long arm of the law would soon put an end to my scofflaw ways, or something similar.

Now, in my opinion, he did something incredibly dangerous and stupid!

Part of what makes a bicycle driver safe from being “runned over” is our distinctive silhouette. Everyone who sees it knows instantaneously that the cyclist is moving at a “slow speed”. I operate in the most annoying lane position I can precisely so that I will be seen and identified as a slow moving driver at the earliest possible instant. I want to afford the motorist the maximum time to access his options, decide early to merge, and go around me. In the vast majority of the time, motorists flow around the slow vehicle without hesitation and without the slightest of delays.

But for a distracted driver, making a quick scan ahead every four or five seconds, they rarely notice that they are quickly closing the gap between them and a slow vehicle when the slow vehicle is an automobile. In a quick glance, our minds assume the automobile is proceeding down the road at approximately the same speed we are. We have been trained for that by endless repetition.

Thus, I believe this “good Samaritan” was in grave peril, just as he felt about me.

Keri Nailed It

“The culture of speed causes some police to enforce
traffic flow vs safety. Worse, they often don’t even realize that their concepts of protecting safety are stealthy manifestations of traffic flow management. (i.e. the notion that speed differentials and lane changes cause safety problems resulting from the presence of a slow vehicle rather than the incompetent or aggressive behavior of faster drivers)”

The language and concepts Officer Hudson spoke to me about precisely reflects this idea that the problem is my presence, not the competency of the motorists. I believe he was genuinely concerned about my safety. But while he had watched me drive by him earlier that day on Hwy 287, he failed to observe how traffic operated around me.

He said many 911 callers said there were many close calls and near wrecks. Did he observe any? It doesn’t matter, these reports validated his bias of how the situation would play out.

Perhaps he will watch how fast traffic behaves around an obviously slow moving driver tonight. Perhaps he will listen enough to hear why traffic behaves as it does.

*You can thank SteveA for the precise description.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ellis County Demands a Public Showdown

Hello, dear Reader.

I received a dispatch today here at my bunker.

The authorities at the Ellis county jail last month released me with instructions to contact Judge Polk in Waxahachie for a court date.

His long-suffering clerk will be glad that I will no longer be pestering her about it. It is now evident that my charges were forwarded to a different court. I’m glad they let me know!

My case has been forwarded to Ellis county’s precinct 1, in Ennis. It will be heard or overseen by Justice of the Peace Bill Woody. (ChipSeal wonders if he voted for him…)

The dispatch is notification that a pre-trial conference will be held February 25, and that all motions must be filed seven days prior to the conference. (No motion will be entertained beyond February 25th.)

They have again changed the charges leveled at me. I am now required to defend myself from the scurrilous charge of “obstructing traffic”. I am thinking of filing a motion for a pledge from the prosecution to not change the charge again!

I still do not know the name of my accuser. (Motion 1) I do not yet know what law they think I am in violation of. (Motion 2) Did the deputy actually see me obstruct traffic? I don’t think so. (Motion 3 for dash-cam footage) What exactly was said by both me and him? (Motion 4 for audio captured by the deputy.) What did my arrest file say? What did the Deputy claim in his arrest statement? (Motion 5 for my arrest report.)

Empty Threats

I have been sternly warned that if I fail to show up for the pre-trial conference, that my driver’s license could be denied when I try to get it renewed. I guess that will be after I get one in the first place.

Let’s work through how this works, shall we? They arrest me for using a bicycle rather than an automobile to get around. Now, to compel me to submit to the judicial process, they threaten to cause me to get around on a bicycle!

Alternately, I could have a warrant for my arrest issued against me. Huh. That seems rather formal to me, seeing how they will arrest me for simply traveling on the public road!

The judicial system in this county seems particularly ill prepared to deal with bicycle issues.

Unusual Plea-bargain Proposed

I look forward to the pre-trial conference. I think that I will consider a plea bargain. If the prosecutor apologizes for violating my right to travel on the roadway in writing, I won’t insist on a public trial. Yeah, something like that.

In another forum, a commenter who claims to be a lawman, made this statement regarding this arrest; “I feel this rider attempted to be excessive in his interpretation of his individual rights to the extent that it impeaded [sic] on the rights of others.” He therefore approves of my arrest.

I either have the right to travel on the roadway or I do not. It is a right expressly granted to operators of bicycles in Sec. 551.101. What statute removes it?

What right do motorists possess that I infringed? Do drivers have the right to proceed at the speed limit? Did I prevent any driver from proceeding down the road? No, it was me who was prevented from traveling home.

Which Will Prevail? Cultural Bias or the Law?

This is the perfect expression of the windshield view of the world. No slow moving traffic allowed! Traffic flow tramples everything in it’s way- even express statutory rights.
The letter from Justice Woody’s clerk reeks of it.

The ever changing charges betray a frantic search for a statute to justify their point of view, rather than seeking to find what the law actually says- which is their sworn duty to enforce.
No, this is far more important to me than it is for them. I want a public trial. The law is clear, and I was acting lawfully.

Their windshield view is also clear to all who wish to see it. Inconveniently, it is contrary to Texas law. Nonetheless, their view may prevail. The culture of speed is pervasive in our society.
It will be a public spectacle in either event.

The stakes are high for both sides of this issue. Do they decide the case based on the law, or do they substitute their notion of what the law ought to be “had the legislators thought about it” instead? Dare they display their willingness to override the law in favor of their prejudice in a public forum?

They need not worry that I won’t show up.

I want a public trial.

Sincerely, ChipSeal AKA The Menace of Ennis

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I was under the false impression that jury selection would take place on one evening, and the trial would be the next morning.

That is false.

The jury selection will commence at 5:30 PM Tuesday February 16, and the trial will be held immediately following.

The courtroom will be inside this building near the corner of Dallas Street and Brown Street in downtown Ennis. From I-45 go west from exit 251 on Ennis Avenue. Turn left at the second streetlight after you cross the railroad tracks. I have no idea where you would park a car. I never have to think about that sort of thing.

Perhaps you will be able to come down to witness the proceedings. I would like that! I won’t hold it against you if you can’t manage to make it- Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it turns out! (But the first report will likely be from the courthouse from Steve’s fantastic phone. Watch
this space for a Tuesday night dispatch!)

But if you do decide to come, could you go to Waxahachie first and then proceed to Ennis on Hwy 287? It will not be during the same time of day I was stopped or cited or arrested, either being a little earlier or a little later than when I was driving on it. But could you do this experiment for me? Could you travel as close as possible to the exact speed limit, and take note of how many vehicles you pass, and about how many pass you?

(I-35E to exit 404. Take Hwy 287 east to Ennis. Exit Business 287 which will become West Ennis Avenue. When you come across a sign warning that the “lane ends merge left”, go through the next two signal lights and turn right onto Dallas street.*)

To those who are seeking other ways to help me out, contact
SteveA, who has more timely communication with the world, and is heroically shouldering most of the things I have been able to off-load onto someone else. A full credit roll will be made after the trial, but help has been supplied from Florida, California, and all over Texas. It has been offered as well from Canada and Montana. Just knowing you are keeping tabs on all this is heartening. Thank you!

*e-mail me for directions that trace my crime spree. See if that shoulder is one you would drive on! My e-mail address is cleverly hidden from spam-bots over there -> under "about me".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Court Date

The mail has come.

The three violations have been combined, and jury selection will be done on the evening of February 16, 2010. A Tuesday.

The following day will be independence day.

I am submitting motions for the disclosure of dashcam video and some 911 information.

I have yet to secure a court date for my Ellis County arrest. The court where I have been ordered to appear has not yet found a record of my violation. That is a fact, anything else is speculation.

All the above will consume much of my attention, but as SteveA pointed out, it is more important to me than it is for them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A letter came in the mail.

It said: Re: State of Texas v. ChipSeal (Poetic license, don’t ya know!)

Hmm. It’s me against the entire state of Texas? I think I could be a contender to get the Nobel prize for being the most annoying cyclist, don’t you?

It went on: Dear Mr. ChipSeal, The offense of impeding traffic is defined at Section 545.363 of the Texas Transportation Code. Sincerely, Toby Mash, City Attorney for Ennis Texas.

Well, certainty! Now with a fixed charge, I can defend myself!*

How this came about

In my narrative A Tale of Two Jails, a judge (Who it turns out is Municipal Judge Johnson) released me with the promise that we would meet in the next week. He spent nearly a half-hour with me.

He said he was interested in hearing a defense for cyclist’s use of the highways.

He is very idealistic of juries, and spoke of them as being a forum of “equity” for the community. He encouraged me to choose a jury trial.

He said at this judicial level, it was reasonable for me to represent myself, and that a wider latitude of conduct would be extended to someone who did so.

He answered many of my process questions, including how to submit a motion to the court.

I was surprised when he suggested that I speak to Mr. Mash about it. So I did.

I went to Mr. Mash’s office and walked in unannounced. I expected that I would need to make an appointment. To my surprise, Mr. Mash dropped all that he was doing and immediately sat down with me for about twenty minutes.

He too was helpful with my process questions, and enlightened me on some of the bureaucratic details of how this whole thing goes down.

Jury trials

Should I choose a jury trial, 24 Ennis residents will be assembled on a Wednesday evening. Both Mr. Mash and I would be able to ask questions of them under the watchful eye of Judge Johnson, and both Mr. Mash and I would each be able to disallow six of them without reason. The goal will be to empanel six jurors before it becomes so late that we annoy them. (That part worries me. I seem to be extraordinarily annoying!)

I find this task daunting. Both judge Johnson and Mr. Mash advised me to bone up on Texas Jury Selection rules. I will also be required to pay a fee to cover some of the cost of empanelling the jury. (Mailings and the like.)

Separate trials?

Mr. Mash said I could file a motion to combine my charges into one trial. I am inclined to do so. The three Ennis City violations are essentially the same, and if I prevailed on one charge tried separately, the remaining two would be dropped.

If they are combined, I will have the opportunity to question all of the officers involved.

On filing motions

A motion is submitted in writing to the court clerk, and if granted by the Judge, is sent on to Mr. Mash’s desk. (What? No internet submissions?**)

Mr. Mash said that when the motions begin hitting his desk, he then proceeds to see if a case can be made, usually by interviewing the arresting officers.

I asked about getting information about what particular law I am accused of breaking, rather than the vague description of “impeding traffic”.

He said that the formal charge, including the section of the law, is normally sent to the accused ten days prior to his trial, but a motion could be submitted for an earlier release.

Since I had on my person a written out motion for that very purpose, I asked him to look at it to see if it was what the court expected in a motion presented to it.

Because Eli Damon was so good as to include his lawyers motion in his discussion of his case, I adapted it for my purpose. The paper Mr. Mash saw said this:

Motion for disclosure of statutory relevance.

Your Honor, I do not yet know what statute I am being accused of violating. My ticket only says “impeding traffic”. There is no reference to any chapter or section of the Texas Transportation Code, or any other law other than this vague description of violation.

I am certain I was operating my vehicle lawfully under the bicycle specific rules found in chapter 551. Operation Of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles. I am very familiar with those statutes. Therefore, my accuser must have some other, undisclosed and unknown to me portion of the law in mind to have so accused me.

Would the court order the prosecution to disclose the statute under which I am accused? Without such information I am unsure as to how to defend myself.

With that as an example before him, I asked about filing a motion to see relevant dashcam video. He told me to be as specific as possible in my request, and that generally I would be able to see the video but not have a copy. Because I found Eli Damon's motion so helpful, I intend, once this whole thing is done, to publish the motions I submit to the court, and any other helpful things I come across.

He then returned my motion to me. Thus this letter of disclosure to me was a happy suprise.

*Sec. 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

**Submitting a motion electronically is impossible, because by doing so it changes into an e-motion! Why am I the only one who laughs at my jokes?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


So many great comments, so little time!

I have had limited access to the internet, and while that will become better soon, it will be more restricted than I enjoyed before. I meant to have the six posts publish daily using a “delay” feature Blogspot offers, but after publishing part one, my internet connectivity was again suddenly interrupted- causing unintended aggravation to you, my dear reader. I am humbled that put up with it. Thank you for your patience.

I have a picture I intended to post with each of the series, but using “public” computers has compatibility issues. I am dismayed at the unpolished look my blog has descended to. Relying on my limited writing skills and content alone is a thin reed to lean on.

I have been writing the posts at home on my desktop, and transferring the files in a cut and paste manner with a flash drive on a public computer. As time allows, I have saved web pages to the flash drive and read them at leisure at home. E-mail correspondence has become more like snail mail. Sigh. It has caused a feeling of isolation, so I have been heartened by your many comments, reading them for the first time on Friday night.

I wish to answer some of the questions and offer a few more comments of my own.

CarFree Stupidity said...
Do they really have nothing better to do with their time than continuously harass you? Or is your riding on the roadway really seen as that subversive down in Texas?

“Continuously” is somewhat of a exaggeration. I have been car-free in Texas since 2007, and I have logged 12,000 miles of impeding traffic. The first citation I received was last October. I was not stopped by anyone on my one dozen or so prior traverses across Hwy 287 to Waxahachie, so this is a recent manifestation. Each stop has been described here.

I think Keri and Mighk are right that it is seen by local police as primarily a safety issue. The police (And many others!) think I am mad to travel on the roadway when the speed limit is 65 miles an hour with a “perfectly good paved shoulder” nearby.

SteveA said...
So, when these guys toss you in the hoosegow, do they offer you coffee? If so, is it any good? I'm thinking Chip may have some ulterior motives here and may be on to a good thing.
(They didn’t even let us smell coffee!) Seriously, it's hard to believe these guys haven't researched the statutes a bit better by now, considering there seems to be little real crime for them to pursue out in Ellis County. The level of courtesy they offer is a sign they're not really feeling real good about all this.And it's late January now, what about the first introduction to Officer's Watson & Pillow. That would seem to hold the key to all these later incidents and, perhaps, someone having a lot of explaining to do.

That would be Sgt. Pillow to you Mister! I will be making a motion to combine all three of the Ennis PD tickets into one trial. I will do progress and “process” blogs shortly.
danc said...
Well I kinda imagined this was next. Boo! Did you ever get the video/audio from the Oct ticket?

I intend to submit a motion for their disclosure. It is doubtful that I will be able to have copies, but I expect to be able to view them in the presence of the City Attorney.

Dear Rantwick said...
I am insulted. I would ride home miserable and cold and wet, get pneumonia and shiver for days before I would call Mrs. Rantwick. I'm stubborn like that.
Now if you had called her, she might have driven to Texas to help you out. She's nice like that.

I found this a delightfully charming comment. Well done, dear Rantwick!

Anonymous said...
I am trying to figure out sir, why would you continue doing this activity when you know you are going to be arrested or cited for it? What are you trying to prove?

PM Summer said...
@Anonymous: Why? Because A) He needs to get somewhere, B) He doesn't have a car and uses a bicycle for transportation, C) Under Texas law (the Transportation Code), a bicycle is a legal vehicle, and the operator of a bicycle shall be granted all rights, and be subject to all duties, applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle.

Thanks PM! That was what I would’ve said!

Dear Anonymous; Since when does a freeborn citizen need to justify acting in a lawful manner? I say this to show that I am magnanimous in entertaining your question.

I suppose I also have this quaint and romantic idea that the law will be respected. I therefore decline to be a road sneak. I will not retreat into the shadows as though I am unclean, but assert the simple dignity of my rightful place on the public road.

Can you say that you actually have a right if it is unexercised because of duress? I have the certainty that I have no practical right to freely travel on the public road on a bicycle for a time. But because this is a natural right that does not descend from the whims of men, nor from man’s government, I am certain this right will be restored to me.

I intend to KNOW when that happens. Therefore I continue this activity.

Anonymous said...
Wow! This has been a grand adventure indeed!On one hand, I'm glad that you were treated with care in your incarceration(s).On the other hand, I don't think I could be as rational being confronted for doing that which is completely legal AND being hauled off to jail.I hope the Judge(s) find you innocent (or would that be guilty?) of your legal actions.I have to shut up now as the semantics are starting to give me a headache.(This is JTGYK over at bike forums...for some reason Blogspot doesn't like me commenting under AIM)

Anonymous said...
jtgyk againNote that I was not the first Anonymous commenter nor do I share his views

Thank you JTGYK, I’m glad you stopped by. It is a little like a trip through the looking glass, isn’t it?

Rantwick said...
"operating a bicycle on the roadway"! Unbelievable. Here's hoping the judges hearing your case show the same sense as the first one you mentioned in this post.Carry on! You continue to impress me with your civil writing about being treated so unfairly.

I must admit, Dear Rantwick, after that charge was leveled at me, I am more inclined to believe your dwarf attack was not something you made up.

The Big Fella said...
This is quite the serial you have posted! If you have to establish the "ChipSeal Bicycling Legal Defense Fund," I'll be happy to contribute . . .As a fellow bicycling Texan, thank you for standing up for our legal right to be "granted all rights, and be subject to all duties, applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle." While I'm proud of your conviction (pun unintended), I'm saddened by the necessity of it.

Nice to “meet” you Big Fella! Thank you for the offer! (And Keri and Eliot too!) I may yet require some help, but if so, it will be reluctantly.

Anonymous said...
If you really think your rights were violated shouldn't you report that to a federal agency like the FBI?

Principled Pragmatist said...
Get a lawyer. Somebody's head has to roll for this kind of blatant abuse of police power.When you're told what the charge is, the reasonable expectation is that it be a violation of some law. If there is no legal violation, that's unlawful arrest!

Whoa! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

To Anonymous; I doubt suing for an abuse civil rights will get me to where I hope this can go- and besides, the Feds are not really needed to right this wrong. If I were to be convicted, and lost on appeal, perhaps. But even then it may not be the wisest course.

Principled Pragmatist; Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the enthusiastic support! But I am not sure this is deliberate abuse of power beyond my musings in my last post. I think that the Officers in question are sincerely doing their duty to advance what they believe is in the interest of public safety.

WonderBiker said...
PP, I do not think it was a blatant abuse of power. Rather, it seems more to have been a blatant display of stupidity.

Glad you stopped in, WonderBiker! These officers are merely reflecting the windshield view of most Texans. Because bicycles are never driven on the roadway in our area, it must be illegal…

Principled Pragmatist said...
Arresting someone and keeping him in jail for a charge of "riding a bicycle on a roadway", or even for "impeding traffic", is certainly stupid, but it's also abuse of power, and it seems blatant to me, especially the obviously trumped up first charge.Arresting someone must be taken very seriously - a free society cannot tolerate unlawful arrests, and the only recourse is to have serious repercussions (like getting fired) for anyone who abuses the extraordinary legal power of arrest.The ACLU might be interested in this case.

The hapless Ellis County Deputy Z gave me a poorly considered ultimatum, and so he painted himself into a corner. He pretty much had to follow through on his threat to arrest me, thus the contrived charge. Sadly, the die was cast when he ordered me to drive on the shoulder. I would’ve slept less in my own bed than I did in jail had I obeyed him.

Anonymous said...
Given your arrests and that tickets have been issued, I would suggest that an alternative avenue would to find a high-quality civil rights attorney who could weave what on the face seems to be a deliberative attempt to violate your civil rights. I do not live in Texas, but I assume that there is in fact specific state civil rights. Sounds to me that the local bike advocacy groups should investigate that angle not merely more legislation.

Folks, I understand your anger. Revenge sounds sweet. It may even be possible. (ChipSeal, in astonishment, considers arguing a case that sounds a lot like Doohickie’s rejoinders about courtesy! He has to breath into a paper bag for awhile.)

I could raise a holy stink, and make life miserable for some people, and maybe put some lawyer’s kid through college, but I will cut off any possibility of partnering with local police in a civility campaign. It would be great for me, but a tragedy for my community.

Consider the sage words of Keri Caffrey:

Ultimately, these incidents are a manifestation of the bigger problem — what
Steve Goodridge describes in
Taboo against Bicycle Driving
. The problem must be tackled from a number of
directions. We are
working very hard to
build a mutually-beneficial relationship with law enforcement and to create a
program that will give them knowledge of the laws and help them understand how
we protect ourselves on the road. But law enforcement officers are a part of our
general culture. They’re people. They’re just as influenced as anyone else by
the biases of the society in which they live.
The fundamental rule of the
road is First Come, First Served. The distorted rule of the
of speed
is All Life Yields to Faster Traffic. When the roads are governed
by FCFS, pedestrians and bicycle drivers are people using public roads. When
governed by the culture of speed, they are merely
objects in the
has been noted here before
, the culture of speed causes some police to
flow vs safety
. Worse, they often don’t even realize that their concepts of
protecting safety are stealthy manifestations of traffic flow management (i.e.
the notion that speed differentials and lane changes cause safety problems
resulting from the presence of a slow vehicle rather than the incompetent or
aggressive behavior of faster drivers).
… We have work to do. We need grace, understanding and cooperation. And we need those in law enforcement to be our allies.

Before this happened my local police had no need to listen to a local cyclist about Texas’s slow moving vehicle laws. Scofflaw cycling is the proper way of operating in their minds, and is universally ignored. They will now have to speak to me about SMV law while under oath! I will be able to present to them (and a jury!) a cyclist’s view of the roadway. I can show them why it is safer for a cyclist to operate following normal traffic rules. Right now they don’t understand, and convinced by our culture that bicycles are toys, they are not interested in seeing it differently.

This is an opportunity. I want to make the most of it.

Rantwick said...
"Are they twisting the law to enforce their opinion of what they think would be a wiser choice on my part?"Yep.I wrote a post about you... check it out if you can stay out of jail long enough; I'm eager to know what you think of it, or would correct in it.

I am mortified to reveal to you that I failed to load it onto my flash drive, and so I have not yet read it. But if you are reading this post, I am also reading yours! Expect an e-mail soon.

Anonymous said...
Bates and only rides a bicycle...did you ever work at a med lab in Dallas?

Him? No, not me. He’s the handsome Bates of Dallas. I’m the ugly one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Ennis police have given me a ticket for “impeding traffic”, and a ticket for “park bicycle on sidewalk/impede traffic”, and they have arrested me and thrown me in jail for “impeding traffic”.

A Ellis County deputy has arrested me and thrown me in jail for “Operating a bicycle on the roadway”.

All of these “violations” occurred on four lane highways. Besides being absurd on the face of it, what does that mean for operating a slow vehicle on a two lane road without shoulders?
I have seen the freeway at rush hour. It looked like a whole passel of impeding was going on then!

They have convinced themselves they are right

As I mentioned before, the Ennis police have a fancy electronic citation system. You can enter suspect data on a wireless hand-held device from at least 20 yards away from the patrol car. It has a menu of violation titles. It accepts an electronic signature with stylus on its screen. There is a printer to provide the suspect with a copy. Very high tech. You can see one in Officer Hudson’s hand in his picture.

When I was given a ticket last October, they had no bicycle specific entries on their menu, to their frustration. Other than the general description of my crime, (Impeding traffic) I do not actually know what particular statute I am supposedly in violation of.

But last Wednesday, they seem to have added the curious hybrid crime description of "park bicycle on sidewalk/impede traffic". [1] If this means that they think I am guilty of violating the law under TTC Sec. 551 then they are laughably misapplying the law.

But even more troubling is that this new entry on their menu may signal that this pernicious idea has been institutionalized across the Ennis police force. (That a bicycle may only operate on roads where they can keep up with powerful modern automobiles.)

A 911 plebiscite?

I also find it disturbing that anonymous complaints can result in the harassment of a law abiding citizen, even to the point of having him arrested. Again and again officers who have made a traffic stop on me have explained that they had been getting a lot of complaints. And this concerns me how? Dispatchers are getting annoyed, therefore my right to freely and lawfully travel on the public road is to be suspended? Really? (Is there a prize for being the most annoying cyclist?)

An opportunity to inform the general public of basic traffic law is being squandered. It may really be true that the most powerful force in the universe is apathy.

Why are 911 operators not telling complainers that in Texas, bicycles have as much right to be on the road as anyone else, and they have the obligation to be alert and to avoid them? How hard is that? They could write it out on a little card and just read it to them. Heck, if they ask me to do it, I’ll write out the cards for them.

They seem to have determined that I am the problem, and that if they can keep me from using the public road, they won’t have to field all the complaints from those with a windshield view of the world immersed in their culture of speed.

Considering all the resources deployed to make the phone calls stop, wouldn’t assigning a single police unit to escort a bicyclist be a better solution? I don’t think it is necessary, but my rights wouldn’t be violated and the phone calls would stop.

Using the law to enforce their opinion

Police officers may believe that I am exercising poor judgment, but what they are doing is accusing me of a crime.

Are they twisting the law to enforce their opinion of what they think would be a wiser choice on my part?They can’t understand why I won’t use, what to them from their view through a windshield, is a perfectly good place to drive: On the shoulder.

I do not have to justify my refusal to drive on the shoulder to anyone. Use of the shoulder is optional for bicycle drivers under Texas law. Use of the public roadway is an explicit right. It is none of their concern where I drive as long as my actions are lawful.

They implore me to drive on the shoulder, but during both of my arrests, officers commented that I ought to get in and out of police cars on the passenger side because it is “safer”. They don’t really think the shoulder is a haven either. But such absurdities are what we must put up with when we tolerate and enable incompetent motoring.

Was I really released from jail?

As it stands now, I am in under threat of arrest any time I travel, for slow vehicles like bicycles will, by their nature and in the strictest sense of the word, impede all other more powerful vehicles. How can I get to work? The grocer? Make appointments? Make any plans considering I could be jailed simply for using the public road? For leaving my driveway on a bicycle?Am I being subjected to a de-facto house arrest?

Don’t be alarmed

There is nothing for you to fear. Ennis is a long way from where you live. None of this trouble would befall you even here, if you were careful to keep off the roadway. You would only be relinquishing your right to operate your bicycle on a public road. You’ll probably never even miss it when it’s gone!

The City of Manor kicked bicycles off of their local road. It is best that you keep quiet about it, you wouldn’t want your local community to get a similar idea! You never ride in Manor anyway.The city of Anna Texas successfully met all legal challenges when they banned bicycles on a local road. The prospect of bicycles not being allowed on any road in Texas is not that far distant into the future anymore. That future is here now. What are we going to do about it?

Perhaps we ought to spend our energy on passing a three foot law! That sounds like a productive use of our time and resources! It hasn’t helped cyclists a lick in any state that has passed one to date, but we can do it better, right? If that dastardly governor hadn’t vetoed it, why none of this would’ve happened to me. Let’s spend the next six years trying to pass that worthless tripe.

A general education campaign would be a waste of time. There is no evidence that Texans are ignorant of basic traffic law. It is so much more productive to enlighten a Texas legislator than it is to enlighten a Texas driver lost in a culture of speed. I encounter the latter far more often in my travels than the former.

If your notion of what bicycle advocacy is cannot see opportunities outside of legislative offices in the state capitol, then tear down the laws that are so easily twisted by those with a windshield view of the road. Work to remove language that micro-manages lane position.

Clarify that impedance is a crime only if four conditions can be proved: The vehicle in question is reasonably capable of traveling faster. The operator has the skill necessary to operate the vehicle at a faster speed.Conditions are such at that time and place that it would safely permit a faster speed. Faster traffic was unable to overtake the slow vehicle safely.
If any one of those conditions cannot be proved, the impedance is legal.

Demand that the Texas Maximum Speed law (TTC Sec. 545.351) be vigorously enforced.

Demand that the Prima Facie Speed Limits (TTC Sec. 545.352) be enforced.

What I will do

I am going to continue to operate my bicycle in a legal manner.

I will write critical phone numbers on my arm with indelible ink.

Before I leave my home, I will alert the police to expect a load of 911 calls because I will be traveling in the area.

I will vigorously defend myself against the scurrilous charges in court.

I will continue to seek channels and lines of communication with the local authorities to improve their understanding of the rights that slow moving vehicles enjoy under Texas state law.

I will continue to impugn the best of intentions and motivations to my local police officers. I will not presume that it is a personal vendetta against me. I am committed to the belief that they are diligently performing their duties and doing what they sincerely believe is the right thing to do.

[1] I wasn’t aware that parking one’s bicycle on the sidewalk in Ennis was illegal. I suppose I’ll just have to take my bicycle inside with me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Jails

Click-clack click-clack click-clack: The sound of a prisoner walking…

in cycling cleats.

The unusual sound caught everyone’s attention. Bright clothes and black tights. There was going to be no blending in for me!

Waxahachie is the county seat, and this was a large facility in the midst of becoming bigger. Construction activity was evident everywhere. Booking was going slower because of it. Entry doors that could previously be operated electronically and remotely were having to be operated manually, tasking an officer to deal with it and reducing the personnel available for processing.

In-cell intercoms were likewise not working, and more officers had to be assigned to stand outside some “remote” cells for prisoners protection. Should there be a medical crisis, let’s say, the prisoner would be unable to communicate his distress. Fewer officers again for processing.

My handcuffs were immediately removed. “Sit on that bench;” the officer pointed down a passageway. I was determined to follow directions as closely as possible. I would just quietly blend into the background, that was my plan.

Click-clack click-clack click-clack, I noisily walk over to the bench.

I am in a good mood. I in no way feel I am in legal peril. As an adult, my clean living has never occasioned a trip to jail, and I was fortunate to avoid police contact in my youth. (When I may have deserved some jail time.) So it is in a spirit of adventure and discovery that I am approaching this.

If you, my dear reader, find my dreary blog interesting, you likewise must be living the healthy but mundane life of a law abiding citizen. No wild and reckless behavior from you! You don’t run with a shady crowd. As a pillar of your community, you are no doubt a stranger to your local constabulary, instead of a first name familiarity like a scofflaw like me! I am therefore confident that my jailhouse experience will be both of interest and foreign to you.

I soon discover that there are two classes of prisoners, and which class you fall into will determine to a great extent your treatment. The dividing line is 24 hours.

For those who are unable to arrange bail, or are charged with a more serious crime where they are likely to be held longer than 24 hours, and those who are doing time rather than paying fines- they are one class.

They are held in mysterious cells upstairs and they have been issued striped uniforms.
My cell mates are nearly all to be held for less than 24 hours. They have in some way come in contact with police and been found to have warrants issued for their failure to respond to some traffic ticket in their past.

We have our own clothes but our shoes are taken from us, and we are given Groks to wear. Perhaps now I can blend into the background! (Why do they call me twinkle toes? Haven’t they seen a man in tights before?)

In my cycling clothes, the halls are a wee bit cool for me, especially because of my crampy legs. The cells were comfortably warm for me, but for me alone. Other prisoners complained about it.
During booking I was told that my bicycle was at “station 2”. I was told this a few times. It turns out that my bicycle was not handled in a standard way. I was also told that the charges against me had been changed to “operating a bicycle on the roadway”. It is Saturday as I write this, and I still find that charge astonishing.

Booking is going slow. First priority is inventorying property. I suppose it needs to be done in the prisoners presence. Once that is done, I am taken to a drunk tank cell. It is clear later why. It is big and it has a phone available to use. Most cell phone numbers are accessible for free. I haven’t memorized a cell phone number, ever! If you expect to be thrown in jail later, try to remember to write critical phone numbers on your arm in indelible ink before you leave home. (This is really good advice. You may want to take a moment to write that down.)

Everything in the cell is cement. The walls, the benches. There is a stainless steel sink and free-standing toilet. I keep reminding myself that most jails other countries are far more harsh than this, and I am again glad to be an American. We have been given a “mattress” and a wool blanket. Both make the hard cell easy to tolerate. I’ve had worse when camping in the woods.

This is a cell that needs a jailer to keep a vigil on, but it is really temporary for all of us. We are brought out one at a time to get our fingerprints and photograph taken. I ask how I can get a copy for the blog. That was a first for that officer. Alas, they don’t want to share. Considering the charges leveled against me, I am sympathetic to their position. I was then returned to the cell.

I had overheard talk of a nurse coming in. There was one guy who had been injured earlier that day, and another guy was clearly not feeling well. I had assumed they were why a nurse would be needed.

Each of us had to be interviewed in turn by this nurse. I enjoyed that part. As I said, I was in a up mood. But one of my life philosophies is that I have a duty to my community to be cheerful. We all have troubles and difficulties, and being sour and complaining does nothing to brighten a space shared by others, whether it be at the office, during mass transit or in the county jail. If I am down and out of sorts, bringing others down won’t make it better, and I have a duty to act in ways I may not feel at the time.

So here is this nurse. Her interaction with prisoners is different than the jailers, and serving us is likely a an excursion away from a local hospital. She wasn’t used to happy prisoners and she didn’t have the automatic barrier the jailers must have to perform their duty. She asked a bunch of medical history questions and gave us a TB test injection. (ChipSeal carefully examines his arm. Nope, no reaction.)

“Do you have any sexually transmitted disease?”, She asks. “No”, I say; “Do you know where I can get one?”

“Have you hit your head recently?”

“No, but a lot of people have suggested that I have it examined!” That is sort of how it went.

I am returned to the large holding cell. There are seven of us in there. Three respond to me, three keep to themselves.

Was it Bella?

One guy is injured. His story remained consistent, but the size of the dog changed over time. Here is his story: He and his girlfriend decide to walk down to the park. On the way, walking in the roadway, they are attacked by a dog. His injuries are more severe because he was concerned about protecting his girlfriend.

The dog has bitten him severely on both hands. One bite has opened a vein and he is bleeding, but he is able to control it with direct pressure. He walks a half mile or so to a hospital for treatment.

Because it is a dog bite, the authorities are required to be notified. The police show up to write a report. They run his name and discover there is a traffic ticket warrant for his arrest!

He moans that taking a walk turned out to be a lousy idea. We decide he was actually “bitten” three times. And we nicknamed him “lucky”.

We are trooped out as a group, and are randomly put in smaller holding cells. (“First three in this cell.”) I am pleased to discover that none of the introverted guys are with me. It is a smaller cell, and quieter, warmer. Room for three on the floor. Our conversation winds down and I am left to my thoughts while they sleep.

I spend my time carefully going over all of the events of the day. I am determined to get some good blog posts out of this. Not realizing I would be spending time in the Ennis city jail, I am glad I did. I doubt I would’ve remembered the guy parked on the sidewalk or Trooper Jackson’s name and our conversation.

We are served breakfast at four in the morning. Good. I hadn’t eaten since noon the previous day. A single serving package of Frosted Flakes and a small carton of low fat milk! A total of 230 calories. I decide to count blessings rather than sheep as I drift to sleep.

Nothing notable happens until the judge arrives. Those of us arrested on something other than traffic ticket warrants are brought to the bench I was first instructed to sit on. Seven of us wait for the eighth prisoner to be brought to us. After a bit we proceed without him.

The Judge merandizes us as a group, then brings us forward one at a time to hear our plea, and the setting of a bond etc. Those of us waiting are close enough to hear most of what is said.

When I approach his raised dais, he opens a folder, and then looks up in surprise. He says; “Are they serious? Operating a bicycle on the roadway?”

“Yes sir”, I say, “It is akin to be charged for walking on a sidewalk.”

The other prisoners and two of the jailers standing by laugh and comment at this point. The judge leaves for a few minutes. When he returns he has more information.

“You were on Hwy 287?” “Yes sir” “How do you plead, son?” I say; “I am not sure how to plead. The charge is a description. I was operating on the roadway, but it is not illegal to do so. I intend to fight it though.” “Well son, I don’t blame you.”

He started the process for me to be released on my own recognizance.

Lunch too!

This was “served” at about 11 o’clock. It was more substantial, two sandwiches of baloney, cheese and mustard. It was food, and I suppose nutritious, but they wouldn’t be able to price it low enough to sell them at a profit in the real world, if you get my drift. There was an 8 ounce cup of punch. I give my oatmeal bar to Lucky.

Soon they come to process me out. I sign forms about receiving back my stuff . I sign a form releasing them from indemnity if the food makes me sick. (I’m kidding about that!) I am given a pink carbon copy of a form with instructions to call a particular court to get a trial scheduled.

I am told to get my shoes on. I am thinking of the “slippers” I have in my back-pack that I wear in stores and such, but they didn’t want me to do that. It will be back to clickity-clack for an exit.

I don’t have any pockets on my person. I set my pink paper down and get to putting my cycling shoes on. There are eight people who will be going out the door in a group, and they are waiting for me. I am feeling a bit rushed. I get it together, grab my bag, and I clatter off to freedom.

Where is Station 2?

We are led to an exit into a underground parking lot that is under construction. I spot a bench near the door and I head that way. I want to get out of my cycling shoes.

There is a distinguished guy there finishing a smoke. He is in his mid-fifties. I ask, “Is that a public bench?”

“Sit down”, he said heartily. As I dig my slippers out of my bag and put on my spare sweater, I ask him where Station 2 is. He gives me a funny look. I tell him they took my bicycle there.

“Why that’s over near Maypearl, you won’t be able to walk all that way! Hold on a minute.” He gives me instructions to walk around the building, go in the front door and to talk to a secretary there.

I put my gaiter neck scarf on and follow his directions. Maypearl! That’s eight miles in the wrong direction! Nuts.

There is a light mist falling, but it is around 55 degrees, so I am thankful for that. I open the front door to the sheriff’s office.

The guy who directed me here is standing in the middle of the lobby, talking on the phone. It turns out he is Sheriff Johnny Brown! The top dog in the organization! The elected lawman himself! He is stomping around the office, trying to find out about my bicycle, barking orders into a cell phone!

The Sheriff Brown tells me that they will be bringing my bicycle to me. “Be here in about twenty minutes!” he barks. I wonder whether I voted for him.

I begin to sort through my stuff more carefully, and I realize I left my pink paper inside the jail. Nuts. I reckon it would probably take twenty minutes just to get a unit to Station 2, and about the same just to load my bike into it. I decided I had about an hour to wait. I’ll go back and see if a jailer would get my pink paper for me now.

He did, and he even smiled when I thanked him. (It had been rumored that they were not allowed to do that.) This is another example of one of the many courtesies that were extended to me. I am thankful for all of them.

Safely secured in my backpack, I become concerned about it and the other documents (like my ticket) surviving a rain swept trip home. When I get back to the front office, I request a waste basket liner. It is Sheriff Brown himself who brings me one. I am astonished.

A uniformed deputy walks in. “Are you Mr. Bates?” I allow that I am. He explains that he was the lieutenant on duty the previous night, and that he intervened to have my bicycle taken to Station 2 rather than the vehicle impound lot. He thought it would be taken better care of in his men’s care at Station 2, and I was spared any impound fees. I am very grateful.

A pickup, with a bed cover, pulls up outside with my bicycle. This is some guy’s personal vehicle! They tried to put the front wheel back on, but the brake pads thwarted them. Flip that brake release when you are arrested! My bike is unharmed. I sign a property release form.

This narrative will now skip to my arrival at the Ennis city jail.

Inside the Ennis City Jail

Once down the stairs, Officer Watson removes one half of my handcuffs and secures me to a ring in the wall.

Sgt. Sifuentes brings my bicycle in and stows it in a small room off to the side. I sincerely thank him for being careful with my bicycle, but he is unresponsive. Did he think I was being sarcastic?

My property is inventoried, and no steroids were found.

My mug shot is taken. I hold a message board up to my chest. I again ask to have a copy for my blog. He takes away the message board and says he will take another picture. I turn to give my right profile, as was done in County lockup, and he tells me to face the camera. Huh? No profile shot? I teasingly accuse Officer Watson of taking an extra picture so he can display it on his blog!

Officer Watson carefully erased the information on the message board before turning to the task of taking my fingerprints.

With that it was time to remove all I was wearing save my base-layer shirt, tights and socks. Even my glasses. I worry some that I will be warm.

In the next room, they have a three cell jail. I am given a “mattress” and a wool blanket, and placed in the last cell. It was about eight feet wide, perhaps twelve feet deep and a high ceiling. There was a two and a half foot wide bench extending front to back on the left, and a free standing toilet. There was no sink or water in the cell, which is different than the county lock-up.

There was a phone in the back of the cell, but alas, the phone numbers I wanted to call were in the property room. And it was plenty warm, but not hot.

As their only prisoner, it was very quiet. I assume I was monitored, but without my glasses I had no way to scope out a camera.

I spend the hours thinking out my legal defense, going over the events to help remember them for my dear reader’s benefit. I also “write” the outlines of some blog posts. It is in that cell I decide to write that teaser post.

Between October and Christmas, I developed a list of questions to ask Officer Watson when given the opportunity to question my accuser. With those questions in mind, I consider how I would change them for my stops on Hwy 287. (The October ticket was on the 30 MPH four-lane in town.)

I am very familiar with not only chapter 551 Operation of Bicycles Mopeds and Play Vehicles, but also most of chapter 545 Operation and Movement of Vehicles and some of chapter 541 Definitions. I thought a lot about what they say. My confidence in my legal standing grows.


Lost in thought, I am startled when keys rattle in the lock on my cell door. I hadn’t heard the officer approach.

He hands me a Burger King double cheeseburger from their dollar menu, and asks if I would like some water. He brings me an 8 ounce cup of water, locks the door and retreats out of sight.
I like the food in Ennis’s jail better.

After thoroughly enjoying the hamburger, I return to my meditations and sleep lightly.

I am surprised again by an officer bringing me breakfast. A Burger King biscuit and sausage sandwich and a cup of water. I ate it slowly, savoring it as well. The officer told me a judge would see me in a few hours. I wondered what the weather was like outside.

The judge, when he came, came in a rush. He seemed agitated. I think he was rushed for time. Perhaps I managed to annoy yet one more person!

He releases me on my own recognizance, with my promise to see him in the coming week. I am eager to do so.

Processing out goes quickly, and I had the happy surprise of the return of my cycling cap as described earlier.

My bicycle and I are brought upstairs to sign release of property forms, and I am released. I take the opportunity to take Wednesday’s ticket to the court clerk and enter a plea of not guilty, as long as I am right there.

I then done my clothes and pack my stuff inside a plastic bag inside my back-pack. I belatedly notice that I don’t have my cycling shoes with me. I petition a passing Ennis police detective if he could retrieve them for me. He cheerfully did. Again I am thankful.

Never was I treated in any way by any officer in any capacity in a harsh manner. These officers are doing most things very well, and they are to be commended. Other than this little slow moving vehicle dispute, they have acted in an exemplary manner.