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.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nice Meeting You Again, Officer Watson!

On Thursday, January 14, at about 2:30, I again set out to travel home from Waxahachie. I was looking forward to a shower, calcium supplements, a balanced and adult sized meal, and coffee. (Mmm, coffee!)

A light rain began falling as I proceeded. I was concerned that I would be able to maintain my core body temperature if I got soaked. I was wearing an athletic breathable fabric undershirt and two cotton based sweaters, as well as tights, shorts and toe covers. Oh, and a neck gaiter. I wished I had my hat.

I wondered what an experienced all winter cyclist like Rantwick would do in my situation. (An hour long drive home with inadequate clothing.) I decided he would call Mrs. Rantwick! But alas, I couldn’t find anyone to loan me a cell phone with international access, so I abandoned the notion of calling her.

The wet conditions really concerned me. Texas automobile drivers seem to have no knowledge whatsoever about the maximum speed law. (Known as the Basic Speed Law everywhere outside of Texas.) But on the previous day, I had noticed that it had been a long time since the shoulders of Hwy 287 had been swept. Crossing that minefield, with my vision impaired because of my glasses and poor traction, it was an equally daunting prospect. Remember, the vast majority of my solo crashes have been in wet conditions.

I drove on the roadway.

The police pulled me over within a few yards of where they stopped me the previous day.
And who should step out of the Ennis Police unit? None other than Officer Watson!

“We have to stop meeting like this, Officer Watson.” I quipped.

“Mr. Bates, you are under arrest;” he said. “for impeding traffic.”

I asked if I could turn off my taillight. He gave his permission, and I flipped my front break release as well.

He asked me to remove my back pack, and I asked if I should take off my gloves and put them in as well, and that was OK with him too.

He took me around to the passenger side of the car and put me in the back. There was a little more room here than there was in the Ellis County cruiser, but not much. Before he put me in, I invited him to remove my front wheel when he stowed my bicycle to make it easier.

Sgt. Sifuentes showed up as backup as Officer Watson wheeled my bicycle to my door and opened it to ask me for directions on how to remove my front wheel. Thank you, sir!

Because of all the computer and radio equipment in the trunk space, my bicycle would not allow the trunk lid to close. Using his initiative, Officer Watson used a trash bag to keep the lid partially shut. Thank you, sir!

We had a friendly conversation on the way to the Ennis PD jail. Officer Watson was curious about me going to jail the night before, and he talked a little bit about a previous job he held, a point in common between us.

As I exited the vehicle, I warned Officer Watson of my concern about walking on hard surfaces in my cycling shoes. As we went down a flight of narrow cement stairs, his steadying hand was comforting, and perhaps even necessary. Thank you, sir!

I will jump over the part of being booked and my second night in jail until tomorrow, except for some comments about what happened when I was processed out:

There were some surprises! I discovered that they had examined the contents of my seat bag. Perhaps they expected to find a syringe and EPO in there!

But when I opened the plastic property bag, there was a strange small paper bag inside, tagged with my name. Looking inside, I found that my hat had been returned to me! How cool is that?

Someone had to go a substantial distance out of their way to return it to me. To a different department too. It was a small thing, just a simple cycling cap. But I reckon it as a big deal. That was really nice.

So free again, I proceeded to impede traffic all the way home.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Are Under Arrest!

Checking over my shoulder, I merge onto the roadway and head for home. Within seconds, Red lights are flashing and I am again pulled over, even though I have broken no laws.

As deputy Z* got out of his cruiser, I turned off my taillight and double checked that my water-bottle was closed. I should have thought to flip my brake release levers, but I missed that one.
“Turn around and place your hands behind your back.” With those words my liberty was suspended. I was now a prisoner of Ellis County Sheriff’s office.

Deputy Z put me in the back seat behind the drivers seat. There was no more than four inches between my seat and the back of the front seat. I had to twist sideways to find a somewhat comfortable position. The tight confines made finding a “safe” position for my ever-threatening-to-cramp legs. My cycling cap was dislodged and fell to the floor. I forgot about it when I got out of the car. This was the unit that would take my bicycle to impound, and when my bicycle was returned to me, my hat was not with it.

It was a small thing, that hat, but useful. It was the only adjustment I made with my clothes for the return trip. I went to Waxahachie bare headed, but because dusk was approaching, I wanted to retard some of the heat loss going home.

The thin and light hat is very flexible, especially when combined with skull caps and beanies, helping to keep things just right over a wide range of temperatures. There are too many pressing needs that are ahead of a new hat, so I won’t be replacing it very soon.

Deputy z began trying to fit my bicycle into the trunk. I tried not to think about it. I finally couldn’t stand it any more and I shouted at him to take the front wheel off. He came forward and opened my door to hear what I was fussing about. I calmly asked him to take the front wheel off.

He retreated to the back of the car again. I heard voices. Another unit had arrived.

The door on the passenger side was opened. A new deputy, who I regret that I failed to remember his name, asked me to get out on that side of the car. “It’s safer than on the traffic side.” He said.

I couldn’t just slide over, because there was a center post that left zero inches between the seats. My legs were still threatening to cramp, and now I had to twist and turn and worm my way across the seat. I asked him to grab my shoulder and help, and once this deputy got permission, it went much better.

This deputy had me stand on the side of the road, off the shoulder, and he patted me down. I didn’t have many places to secret contraband in my long tights! He was soon joined by another Ellis county police unit. That made ten police cruisers that contacted me that day- ten police units to suppress the Hwy 287 crime wave!

It was decided among the three that Deputy Z would take my bicycle to impound, and the deputy who helped me out of the car would take me to jail. He took charge of packing my bicycle into the car, and he wisely abandoned the idea of using the trunk. I was standing a few feet away from him, as he began to put it into the back seat. I suggested he put it in with the derailleur on the other side.

“What’s a derailleur?” he asked. “The drive train. Put it on the other side, it will go in easier.” I resigned myself to losing several available gears on the ride home due to a bent derailleur. Sigh. (My bike was undamaged in the end- Thank you, sir!)

(As I re-read this description, I can see that my dear reader could get the idea that I am being derisive of this deputy. I really think it is commendable of him. He didn’t understand, just as you and I once didn’t, and he has the self-confidence to ask a “stupid” question. Now he knows, and my instructions were clearer as I adapted them to better fit his bicycle knowledge.)

He turned the bike around, with the front wheel removed and began gingerly working it into the car. “Make the pedals parallel to the ground.” I suggested. “And turn the handlebars sideways.”
He responded magnificently and it was put away smoothly. Then he put me in front seat of his cruiser (My crampy legs were grateful!) and buckled me in.

Now as we are driving back to Waxahachie, he begins pumping me with questions, and I smelled a conspiracy to get me to say things to be used “in a court of law”. I got real careful in my answers, to only speak about the law, not motivations.

But I think he was genuinely curious, as he allowed he was crash investigation specialist. When I mentioned the legal basis for using the roadway by section address, he immediately pulled up chapter 551 on a internet connected laptop between us. With it displayed before us, we discussed the language of the bike specific laws. And we discussed some of the things that make shoulders hazardous to travel on for a cyclist. I don’t know if he was persuaded, but he listened intently and asked good questions.

I will set aside most of the interesting things that happened in the Ellis County Jail for a future post, but a couple need to mentioned now.

During processing, I was informed that the charges against me had been changed. (I don’t remember the original charges because the new charge is so astonishing.) I was arrested for: “Operating a bicycle on the roadway.” Wow. That is sort of like being arrested for walking on a sidewalk!

I also want to make clear that there were many courtesies extended towards me, most done without my requesting them. There is nothing that I can complain about over my treatment, and much that I have to be grateful for. I have a lot to say about this later as well.

So I have been ticketed twice for operating legally on a public road, and even arrested for it, having my liberty physically suspended for a period of nineteen hours. (Although I did sort of ask for it!) I am becoming anxious to present my case before a judge. I cannot guarantee that there won’t be more crime waves breaking out on Hwy 287.

* Sadly, I do not remember this deputy’s name, although I am sure it began with a “Z”. I normally have trouble remembering names, and this had been a busy day. In my defense, I expected his name to be on my paperwork, and it is not. But I have the right to confront my accuser, so I will see him again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Perilous Journey

Wednesday January 13, 2010

I rolled out of my driveway at about 2:30 on a trip to Waxahachie. It was warmer than it had been in days, even though it was cloudy. The weatherman had predicted a high of 55 degrees, but it was already warmer than that. Rain was scheduled to start the next evening. I had some extra pieces of warm clothing in a small back-pack, just in case I was caught out after dark.

Raining buckets

Turning right onto West Ennis Avenue, I found that traffic was unusually light. Up ahead, on the right side of the road is a Jiffy-Lube station setback from the road about two hundred feet.
Their parking lot/driveway has long unobstructed sight lines for my travel lanes. As I approached that driveway, a delivery truck, the size of a rental truck, speeds down the driveway and onto the roadway in front of me. (Yes this scofflaw driver failed to stop before crossing the sidewalk, tisk tisk!) There was never a chance of our colliding, and there was no traffic behind me at all. At least, no chance of the truck colliding with me. His cargo, however, that is a different matter!

He had turned away from me enough so that when he crossed the sidewalk I was able to observe his roll-up back door slide open! And out slides a plastic five gallon pail of some unknown liquid, and it slides directly at me! Yikes! I prefer dogs over pails, all things considered…

I successfully dodged that pail, and I watch as two more crash to the pavement up ahead. Astonishingly, none of them broke their seals. The pail behind me had rolled around onto the shoulder, but the ones up ahead came to rest in the suicide left turn lane and the passing lane, respectively.

I quickly do a shoulder check, and see that there is only one automobile approaching, and it is being steered in my lane. The operator seems to be slowing to maneuver around me, and I fear they may not observe the gray colored pails in front of me in time to avoid them and me both. I raise and lower my left arm as though I am attempting to fly with one wing to alert them. (It can in no way be described as a Keri wave.)

The communication has it’s desired effect, the automobile driver slows to about fifteen miles and hour and carefully maneuvers around all the obstacles. I stop and carry the pail out of the travel lane and onto the shoulder of the road. Jiffy-Lube employees are collecting the others. Traffic was so light, no other vehicle came by until after I had continued on my way.
Crime wave reported on Hwy 287

Traveling west on Hwy 287 is uneventful outside of the usual geese. As I approach Ennis city limits, two Ennis police cruisers pull around me and stop in a cross-over ahead of me. Both officers get out and I recognize Sgt. Sifuentes.

The other officer (Perhaps Officer Hudson? I am not sure, but I think so.) shouts something to me, perhaps imploring me to drive on the shoulder, but a platoon of traffic makes it impossible to hear them. I proceed on my way.

Nothing else unusual happens while on Hwy 287. But while I am transitioning from Hwy 287 to Business Route 287, State Trooper Jackson pulls me over.

In response to my question as to why he pulled me over, he tells me they had been receiving a lot of calls about me.

I ask him if he had observed any illegal behavior on my part, and he claimed he hadn’t. I complain that he was out of line in pulling over a law abiding citizen on the flimsy evidence of Texas drivers who know little about traffic law.

He agrees with me, and asks that I be careful and releases me. I counter that he should advise his dispatchers to tell those complaining about me that we have the right to travel on the roadway. I ask him if I could take his picture, and he agrees, noting that he is taking mine with his dash camera.

My experience with state troopers has shown that they, as a group, they are far more familiar with the slow moving vehicle statutes than any other police force I have had contact with.
Outside of his poor decision (In my opinion.) to pull me over, Trooper Jackson was exemplary in his professional demeanor. Other than the circumstances, I am glad to have met him.

Funny comment in town

I was the first in line at the red light at Business 287 (Main St.) and Hwy 77 in downtown Waxahachie. Ahead of me, at the business on the right corner, they are doing some construction project inside, and one of their work trucks is parked on the sidewalk- in order to be close to the side door.

A fella is holding the door open for the passage of the workers trooping to and from the truck. As I proceed through the intersection on the green light, I overhear him say to someone inside the building; “Hey, look at this cyclist riding in the middle of the street like a car!”
I wish I had managed to say; “Yeah, and look at the guy who parks his truck on the sidewalk!” I had a good chuckle over it anyway.

The perilous trip home

While traveling homeward along Business 287, within a mile or so of Hwy 287, a state trooper pulls up beside me on the shoulder, and paces me. We have a conversation that way, traveling abreast.

He suggests a different route for me, and at first I misunderstand his meaning. After a bit, I see that he is suggesting that the next time I ride this way, I go north on Hwy 77, follow the service road to where it ends, and then enter Hwy 287 about three miles before I would on my present route! He thought it would be better for me because the road surface would be a lot smoother. Finally, advice I can use!

It would be out of my way some, but the upside would be I would get to annoy many more motorists! Hwy 77 is nice but busy four-lane, compared with the light traffic and bad surface on Business 287’s two-lane.

Needless advice, but with emphasis

As it is past five o’clock, traffic is considerably heavier now on Hwy 287. Typically, many geese sound their annoyance as they overtake me in the open lane to my left, and occasionally on the shoulder to my right.

In the distance ahead, I see a pick-up pull onto the shoulder and stop. I don’t think much about it at the time.
As I eventually approach, the driver hops o

ut of the cab and steps up to the edge line of the right lane. He is middle aged wearing a hard hat and heavy boots.

He gestures wildly pointing to the shoulder. He is very animated and has an angry countenance on his face. I edge over to the left a bit, and eye him warily.

He shouts; “Get on the shoulder! Quick! The police have been called and they will be here any minute!” He hops up and down. As I think back on it, I can easily imagine him saying “Goll durn it!” and “Tar nation!”. If you imagine him as Yosemite Sam, you will have a good image of who he reminded me of.

I belatedly think that I should’ve said; “I can’t! There is a truck parked on the shoulder!”
If I have any wit at all, it is a slow wit!

Civilization saved: The police arrive at last!

Yes, another traffic stop.

Officer Hudson of the Ennis PD approaches me, but I am distracted, leaning over my handlebars in pain.

As I set my left foot down, all of my left quadricept muscles cramp, and I am trying not to scream.

Officer Hudson speaks to me and I ask him to support me as I fear I will topple over, and I tell him about my distress. My right quads, feeling left out, join in the fun and I am not really aware of all of the things going on around me for the next two hours or so. (It was only a minute or two, but you get my drift.)

The usual questions are asked; “Why don’t you drive on the shoulder? How could it be safer on the road? You’ll get run over out there!”

Back-up arrives to make sure the crime wave on Hwy 287 is properly dealt with. From his Ennis police car steps Officer Watson. He comes up as I finally dismount from my bike. He and I exchange pleasantries and have a short conversation.

Officer Hudson writes me a ticket for the crime of: “Park bicycle on sidewalk/impede traffic”. Evidence of progress in their electronic ticket program. They didn’t have a bicycle specific impeding traffic entry back on October first. You can see the wireless device in his hand in his photograph.

I ask Officer Hudson if I can take a photograph of him, and he agrees. I warn Officer Watson that he may wish to step aside if he wishes to be out of the frame.

I am again pleased by the professionalism and demeanor of our Ennis police officers. Their conduct as a whole is commendable. I have no reason to think that there is any personal animosity towards me.

I remove my back-pack to stow away the ticket I have just received, and Officer Hudson and Officer Watson leave the scene in the direction of Ennis.

As I zip up the back-pack, I look up to see an Ellis County Sheriff’s police cruiser pull up to me.
With the opportunity to double-down on yesterdays teaser, I will make you wait yet another day to find out what happened!

(Yes, ChipSeal has descended into blatant cheap tricks to boost traffic to his blog! He really IS an annoying cyclist, isn’t he?)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

While Minding My Own Business…

As I zip up my back-pack, I look up to see an Ellis County Sheriff’s Police cruiser pulls up to me.

I am on the shoulder of Hwy 287, and I am about to continue on my way home. It is dusk and I turn my rear light on as wait to see what this deputy wants to say to me.

“We’ve been receiving a lot of calls that you have been riding on the roadway.”

“Yes” I say; “In the middle of the lane, just like all the other vehicles.”

He says; “No, you have to ride on the shoulder.”

“Are you saying I can’t drive on the roadway?”

“I’m saying you have to drive on the shoulder.”

I tell him; “That would compromise my safety. I am going to drive home on the roadway.”

He says; “Your not listening to me, you have to ride on the shoulder, or I’m going to arrest you.”

I say, “Because that is an unlawful order, and it will compromise my safety, I am going to drive in the lane.”

With that, I check for traffic, mount my bicycle and merge onto the roadway.

Tomorrow, I will tell you what happened on that day.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Since I live about 170 miles north of the City of Manor, I can only fantasize about protesting in person their bicycle ban. But I have some ideas about how to make some noise about it if I lived in Austin.

I would drive my bicycle up to the edge where bicycle use is prohibited. I would dismount and take off my cleats and socks. I would then cross the road to walk to the end of manor’s jurisdiction facing traffic. I would use the roadway as a pedestrian for the length of the banned portion of the road, and then remount to continue on my way.

I would not walk on the shoulder, as that would be far too hazardous for me do in bare feet. (I define the word “tenderfoot”)

I would do it as often as I could. I would be especially keen to do this during rush hours. I would recruit my friends so we could do it in groups.

This would be a passive-aggressive gambit. I want to legally obstruct the traffic flow to the extent that the local travelers would rather I be riding my bicycle than walking it.

Because it is a public road, it is open to every form of traffic, except that of bicycles, which are banned. Pedestrians are traffic according to the Texas Transportation Code. (TTC) [1]

I would expect that the police would be called. If they did not show up by the time I traversed the banned section, I would call and complain about pedestrians on the road myself! (In an especially whiny tone of voice, by the way.)

Police Contact

If the good citizens of Manor have arranged to get bicycles off their precious road, they will no doubt feel wronged if a cyclist can walk upon it. Complaints to the local constable may ensue, and it will be good to establish the legality of pedestrian use of the road early with them.

On the road, as a lawful pedestrian, I would end any interaction with police as soon as possible. Outside of giving them my real name and address, [2] I would not give them any other information. I would ask a lot of questions, and write down the answers. I would write down their name. I would ask why they were stopping me. What law am I in violation of? Can I read the ordinance they are accusing me of breaking? Is our conversation being recorded? What is the procedure of obtaining a copy of this recording?

I would continually ask to be allowed to continue on my way. For example;

They might ask you where you are going. Answer: “That away.” Point up the road. “Can I be back on my way now?”

They might ask you where you are coming from. Answer: “From back there.” Point back down the road. “Can I be back on my way now?”

They may ask you what you are doing out there on this road. Answer: “Traveling on a public road. Can I be back on my way now?”

If they ask you why you didn’t use an alternative road, I would say something like “I chose to use this public road, as is my right, is it not? Are we done here?”

An alternative answer to any of those particular questions would be to answer with a question like this; “Did you stop me for that purpose? To ask where I work, where I am going, where I am coming from, to find out why I am here? May I continue on my way then, please?”

They may say that you are free to go, and then ask you if they could talk to you about it. Take the opportunity to leave. They simply want to tell you to stay out of the way, blah blah blah. A safety lecture. There is no upside for you, and you will be tempted to lower your guard and say things that are not in your best interest.

Provided they don’t make up a law, they will have no reason to give you a citation or a warning. They will settle for a stern safety lecture. I would promptly complain to the officer’s supervisor over this. Stopping a lawful pedestrian under the penalty of law (You have to stop or be subject to arrest.) to be given a safety lecture is an abuse of power.

If I lived a reasonable distance from Manor, (And I had an automobile) I would often drive through that section well below the speed limit. There is no minimum speed limit. [3] The Maximum Speed Limit law [4] should be employed to justify your slower speed through there. [5] Be familiar with the Slow Moving Vehicle laws of Texas and be in compliance with them. [6] Be sure your automobile is current with registration and insurance, and that all lights are in working order.

If you are subject to a traffic stop in your automobile, only answer questions that are pertinent to your stop. For example; “Why are you driving so slow?” (“They banned bicycles on this road due to its condition, so I am just being reasonable and prudent for a road that is in such bad shape.”)

“You have to keep up with other traffic!” (I am required by law to drive in a prudent manner and with due care. I am not responsible for the reckless behavior of other drivers. Why are you allowing them to operate in such cavalier manner at this time and place?)

“You are holding up traffic!” (I am traffic. I am traveling as fast as is safe for the current conditions and potential hazards. The other traffic is violating the maximum speed law of Texas. I would think that your beef would be with them!)

“You have to drive faster through here!” (Are you instructing me to operate my car at a faster speed than I am comfortable with?”) [7]

Not A Cause For Austin?

I hear Austin has a vibrant cycling community. Well connected and engaged in advocacy issues. Perhaps they are OK if a community near them bans bicycles from an otherwise public thoroughfare. They wouldn’t ride there anyway! After all, Manor has no three foot ordinance to protect cyclists, and there are no bike lanes that extend all the way to the City of Manor. It would be impossible to ride there on a bicycle!

What good is there in having a three-foot law when you are not allowed on the street in the first place? What’s the use of getting more butts on bikes when they can only ride to destinations connected with a MUP? Why is this not an issue with you? (Queue the sound of crickets)

Other Things To Do

The City of Manor has a website and a facebook page. Call, write and e-mail them asking when the “temporary” ban will be lifted. Ask them when the road repairs will be completed.

Request that the local news media follow the issue.

Show up at Manor town meetings and request time to petition the town officials about the issue.

Publish pictures of the signs and the “damaged and dangerous” road.

Cyclists and bicycle advocates of Austin; Don’t you think it is about time to make some noise over this? Or are you content to leave well enough alone, hoping they will ban bicycles on your street last?

[1] 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.

[2] In Texas, one must give to a police officer who requests it his real name and current address. You are not required to carry ID, and in this situation I would not. However, if you do not produce evidence that satisfies the officer that you are telling him who you are truthfully, he can detain you until your ID can be confirmed. When you are operating a motor vehicle on a public road, you must be able to produce a driver’s license at any time.

[3] Sec. 545.363 (c) If appropriate signs are erected giving notice of a minimum speed limit adopted under this section, an operator may not drive a vehicle more slowly than that limit except as necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

[4] Sec. 545.351. MAXIMUM SPEED REQUIREMENT. (a) An operator may not drive at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances then existing. (b) An operator: (1) may not drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for actual and potential hazards then existing; and (2) shall control the speed of the vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with another person or vehicle that is on or entering the highway in compliance with law and the duty of each person to use due care. (c) An operator shall, consistent with Subsections (a) and (b), drive at an appropriate reduced speed if: (1) the operator is approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing; (2) the operator is approaching and going around a curve; (3) the operator is approaching a hill crest; (4) the operator is traveling on a narrow or winding roadway; and (5) a special hazard exists with regard to traffic, including pedestrians, or weather or highway conditions.

[5] As you can see in the footnote above, (b)(1) one cannot drive faster than prudent for potential hazards that may exist. One hazard present is road surface conditions so treacherous as to necessitate the banning of bicycles. It is reasonable to expect that motorists could encounter pedestrians on the road as well, a condition (c)(5) in the statute above, in light that cyclists cannot ride their bicycles there.

[6] Sec. 545.051 (b) An operator of a vehicle on a roadway moving more slowly than the normal speed of other vehicles at the time and place under the existing conditions shall drive in the right-hand lane available for vehicles, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, unless the operator is: (1) passing another vehicle; or (2) preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

Note the word “or” in the above statute. If you are in a motor vehicle, and you are on a laned roadway, as the road in question is, you are in compliance with this statute if you are in the rightmost lane available. If the roadway is unlaned, then the “curb or edge of roadway” part applies.

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.

By driving slower than other traffic on the road, you are claiming that, in the first place, the road is too dangerous for bicycles according to the City of Manor and their posted highway signs. Prudence would dictate that automobile operators should use extra caution on a road whose surface is in such bad shape.

Secondly, it would not be unreasonable to expect to encounter a pedestrians on this road, as cyclists would be afoot and there is no sidewalk. A special hazard, a pedestrian, may exist.(See Sec.545.351 (c)(5))

[7] Traveling at the posted maximum speed limit is only allowed when conditions are perfect. Anything that would mar that perfection will demand a slower maximum speed limit than the posted speed limit. Perhaps the Officer could explain to a judge how a road who’s surface is too dangerous for bicycles to safely traverse is simultaneously the perfect road conditions for a car, thus allowing the posted maximum speed limit to prevail?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What To Do About Manor

The City of Manor (Near Austin) has seen fit to ban bicycles on a road through their city. There is no reasonable alternative road for the destinations provided by that road- hence it’s popularity by local motorists and cyclists alike.

They claim the ban is for the safety of cyclists due to surface hazards present on the road, and it is only a temporary situation. I believe that the excuses used to ban bicycles are being employed to camouflage the real purpose of the ban.

If the real reason were for the protection of cyclists, then motorcycles would also be banned, they would have petitioned to lower the posted speed limits, and they would have moved to fix the road. The City of Manor has done none of these things.

It seems to me that Manor residents are upset that they had to share that road with slow vehicles, most (If not all) of whom were from out of town. In short, the public roads in Manor have ceased to be public.

The hard questions that are put to city officials are stonewalled or given the run-around. When questioned about road repair timelines, it has become apparent that the term “temporary” can only be understood as being accurate in a way a geologist could use it.

If Texas cyclists had an advocacy organization that was interested in preserving the liberties of their constituents, it would have been engaged with resolving this encroachment on them by now. But since no advocacy group has seen fit to take up the cause, I must sadly conclude that such an organization has yet to be formed.