Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Police Contact

I was stopped on the way home last night at about 10:15.

I will hide the officer's identity to shield him from public ridicule. I will call him "Officer Fife".

Officer Fife works for the Richardson Police Department.

I was traveling south on Plano Road approaching Beltline when he pulled me over.

"You must have a blinking red rear light to operate on the roadway at night. Get off the road and onto the sidewalk."

"I am not required to have a rear light on my bicycle."

"Like all vehicles, you have to have a rear light. You must ride on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, you must ride on the other side of the road against traffic."

"There is no law requiring such."

"It is a City of Richardson law."

"Does city law supersede state law?"

"Our laws conform to state law."

"Could you show me the statute, please?"

"I'm not going to argue with you. Do I have to write you a ticket?"

"For what violation?"

"Very well, show me your ID."

"I have no ID on me."

"Take your bicycle onto the sidewalk and out of the street. I'll deal with you there."

So I walked my bicycle to the sidewalk and lay it down. I waited while he got his notebook out.

"Name?" I told him my name.

"Driver's licence number?" I told him I had no driver's licence.

"No driver's licence? Any ID issued by Texas?" "None" I said.

"Birthday? Address?" I gave them to him.

With that he retreated to his squad car. After a few minutes he returned.

"I don't have time to deal with stuff like this, so I'm letting you go with a verbal warning."

"We disagree on what the requires of me."

"I told you what the law says."

"What does Sec 551.104 say?"

"I'm not going to argue with you. Stay on the sidewalk!"

"Do you just make up laws?"

He stalked off in a angry huff.

I waited until he was out of sight, and then I continued on my way in a lawful manner, as I had before. I was delayed about 15 minutes.

Sec. 551.104. SAFETY EQUIPMENT. (a) A person may not operate a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) A person may not operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:
(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle; and
(2) on the rear of the bicycle:
(A) a red reflector that is:
(i) of a type approved by the department; and
(ii) visible when directly in front of lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle; or
(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

Posted by Picasa

Sadly, another VC hit from-behind wreck happened here in Dallas, this time to a middle-aged couple on a tandem.

The collision happened within 200 feet of the crash I reported last month, but this time in broad daylight.

The Stoker on the tandem suffered a sprained ankle and a deep two inch gash that required ten stitches to close. The Captain was bruised.

Surprisingly, both are expected to fully recover in spite the fact that neither were wearing a helmet. The tandem's rear wheel will be fine when the rim and spokes are replaced.

The driver of the car may have been distracted by one or more of the five children who were her passengers. She locked up the brakes on her car before hitting the tandem.

The tandem was traveling about ten miles per hour centered in the right travel lane on a road with a forty MPH speed limit. The motorist struck the bicycle on her license plate- perfectly centered in the middle of her bumper.

Because she had no car insurance, her car was impounded.

City assets involved in this incident was one EMT ambulance with three EMT personnel, one fire engine with three firemen, six police units and six police officers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

VC Overtake Crash in Dallas

Further investigation into the recent overtaking collision of a cyclist in Dallas reveals that, contrary to the opinion expressed by a "trained crash investigator", operating on the shoulder at the time in question would have most likely resulted in much more severe injuries to the cyclist.

The cyclist was traveling south on Buckner, centered in the right lane, having just crossed over I-30 and the highest point of the bridge. Due to gusty headwinds, he was traveling around 10 MPH. It was 11:15 at night, the cyclist was traveling home from work, a 22 mile commute.

The motorist A (who struck the cyclist) was traveling in the right lane. Motorist B, merged right into him from the center lane, cutting him off. Motorist A swerved right onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. Motorist B, upon seeing the cyclist directly in front of him, swerved left to pass him, avoiding a sideswipe by inches. His left tires were about two feet into the next lane as he passed the cyclist.

When asked, the cyclist allowed that the perceived high speed of motorist B may have been due to the close proximity of him when he went by and not empirically true.

Motorist A saw the cyclist after he began to re-enter the roadway, and he swerved right in a belated attempt to avoid him. The cyclist was struck in his right calf by the PT Cruiser's front bumper, and his right hip, arm and shoulder bounced against the left window post, breaking the mirror off of the car. The cyclist then landed on his right side, banging his head on the pavement. Motorist A stopped to render aid and call for help, as did many a passerby. Motorist B fled.

Motorist A was operating without insurance.

The Dallas Police Officer interviewed for this piece described himself as a "trained crash investigator". He cited many reasons why it was not prudent for a cyclist to operate on that roadway. "It is a high-speed road", (Signed MSL 40 MPH), "It was late at night on St. Patrick's Day", "Two out of three people in that area are intoxicated that time of night", "He was obscured by the crest of the bridge for following traffic", and a few others.

He insisted that a better route for a cyclist was to travel on the improved shoulder. He was unswayed when it was pointed out that it was debris strewn and still covered with sand from the winter storms. It has ceramic reflectors placed in diagonal lines every twenty feet to indicate it is not a travel lane. The chances of cyclist striking debris and crashing or damaging his tires is heightened by the darkness.

When asked; "What is the cyclist to do when the shoulder ends?" He had no answer. (The shoulder ends when the bridge ends. There are no signs to warn either cyclists of this or to warn motorists that cyclists must re-enter the roadway.)

He insisted for a while that a cyclist must operate to the right edge of the roadway at all times, until he read for himself the actual statute. He didn't notice that a further right position would have almost certainly resulted in graver injuries.

When he was asked how long a couch in the right lane would last before being hit, he said it would be hit "Within minutes." This reveals his low opinion of the driving skills of Texas drivers, despite the pervasive evidence to the contrary.

As for his objection that the cyclist was obscured by the crown in the bridge, this is entirely speculative on his part. The cyclist had a Planet Bike Superflash tail light about three feet above the pavement, and numerous reflectors both above and below it. Sight lines are more than ample for vehicles operating within the speed limit.

He then retreated to "It's just common sense" argumentation and insisted that the cyclist was a contributory cause of the accident. "He may have a right to the roadway, but he would still be dead."

It is not yet known if any citations will be issued.

Image courtesy of Keri Caffry

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dallas Cyclist Struck By Car

March 17, 2011, Dallas.

At about 11:30 PM a local man on a bicycle was struck by a car on Buckner Blvd. while crossing the I-30 freeway. Witnesses said he was traveling in the right lane rather than on the wide shoulder, and that he had blinking lights and reflectors.

A "trained crash investigator" from the Dallas Police Department said the blame for the accident rests with the cyclist. "It's just common sense; You are begging for trouble if you ride in the roadway when there is a good shoulder nearby."

The cyclist was taken to Baylor hospital and released. The motorist was shaken up but refused medical treatment at the scene.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Judge Calvert Sentences Mr. Bates

From the transcript, this is the sentencing comment made by Judge Calvert at my "Reckless Driving" trial last August.

I’m sympathetic to the defendant’s blight. In fact, what he was doing was in many ways very admirable, trying to get a job, exercising every means at his disposal to try to regain gainful employment, and utilizing the resources that he had available to him at the time to provide that he had available to him at the time to provide for his own needs without relying upon other people. And so in many respects his conduct’s admirable. And in many respects, it’s lawful. As the parties were arguing and even some of the evidence earlier, trying to think of an example that might apply and I don’t know that this is a good example, but this is the one that came to mind, is that it’s not unlawful for a boy to swing a bat. In fact, it’s good for them, it’s good exercise, it’s good for them to participate in athletics and be in team sports and things of that nature.

But there are times when swinging a bat can become more dangerous, get into a crowded room or you get into circumstances, the swinging of the bat circumstances can change in such a way that if you put other people at peril even if you’re not at risk of being hurt, they might be injured by the way that you’re doing something that otherwise is completely lawful.

And there are times when it can even go beyond that where it’s reckless to where it could even be construed as knowing that there’s a high likelihood that somebody would get hurt if you continue that type of behavior and at some point, some people can infer by your conduct that you’re intentionally putting other people at risk, so that you could be accused of assault and even at times aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with a piece of wood that otherwise completely lawful to be utilizing. So there’s a spectrum there that has to be taken into consideration. And there needs to be good judgement utilized by people not only with regard to their own safety but to the safety of others. And you may be right. It may have been safer for you under some circumstances to ride in the middle of the roadway, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t create a hazard for other people at times. And it may even jeopardize your own safety under certain circumstances. You have to take into consideration the safety of other persons and their property under those circumstances.

In this case, according to a note that was left by the clerk, the court costs, due to the subpoenas that were issued, are in the neighborhood of $512.10. It will be the judgement of the Court 13 days in jail, a $100 fine plus the court costs and give him credit for time served. Five extra days will be applied to the balance of the fines and court costs reducing the total by $500. Any remaining balance will be due to be paid.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Judge Makes His Ruling

This is the comments made by Judge Calvert at the conclusion of my trial.

A. GENE CALVERT, JR. : The defendant certainly has a right to operate a bicycle on a roadway. There are some restrictions upon the operation of a bicycle. There’s certainly roadways where it’s not permissible at all even if you’re operating on a permissible roadway, it has to be done in a safe manner.

The question in this case is whether or not your conduct on the date and time in question should be considered reckless. The fact that you were able to safely navigate the roadways on prior occasions, as your attorney pointed out, is not really relevant. Times and conditions and circumstances of the operation of a vehicle change. Circumstances change with patterns of traffic, visibility, numerous other conditions.

On the occasion in question, taken into account the totality of the circumstances that have been testified here today, there was a high degree of concern with regard to the way that you were operating the motor vehicle -- I’m sorry -- the bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles. And as such, officers were dispatched to your location to discuss their concerns with you and you disregarded their instructions and their request and commenced to return to operate your bicycle on the roadway.

It appeared to be at least in the center of the roadway and at times, maybe even be closer to the center stripe for a portion of that time. I’m sympathetic with the fact that there’s not designated biking lanes on enough of our roadways to accommodate a bicycle traveler. It would certainly do a lot to relieve a lot of the concerns we have regarding numerous issues including, physical health, obesity, and consumption of oil and petroleum products. However, that’s not really part of the decision I’m making today.

Even though it may have been permissible for you to be in the right lane of traffic, operating the motor vehicle or your bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles, at this particular occasion, you were presenting a hazard to other vehicles. And you may not have been aware of it up until that point, but once the officers made you aware of the concerns that have been reported and the numerous calls that had been made regarding the circumstances on that day, for to you disregard that warning and return back into that same state of operating your bicycle in the presence of motor vehicles on that roadway on that day it constituted willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

And so based on that, I am going to find you guilty of reckless driving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ms. Barnes Closing Rebuttal

This is Ms. Barnes’ rebuttal to Mr. Jones’s closing statement.

Thank you, Judge. I think we’ve established through testimony that he has the right to ride his bicycle on the roadway. I don’t think we’re contesting that. I’m certainly not contesting that the roadway is 12 feet as Mr. Bates, I guess, measured it, your honor. But we’re here today because a bicyclist on a roadway is not only afforded the same rights as any other vehicle, but he is also held accountable for the duties that he is responsible for. And he’s responsible for driving in a manner or riding a bicycle in a manner that is not reckless and that’s exactly why we’re here. Recklessness, according to caselaw, reckless driving means a deliberate and conscience indifference to the safety of others.

And the Court can infer based upon the testimony and the evidence presented that, that’s exactly what happened here. He’s been warned and he’s admitted on the stand when Officer Zapata said, for your own safety, sir, for the safety of other people, please don’t get back on the roadway. And he walked off and then before he could open up the door to get in his car, he sees that he goes right back on the roadway, right back on it.

His actions, his actions show nothing but a deliberate and conscience indifference. And we are here today because of that. Nobody says he doesn’t have a right to be on the roadway, but he got on the roadway at a time and manner in which his action of being on the roadway was reckless and he disregarded the safety of others and he disregarded the safety of himself and he continued to do it. And I ask that you hold him responsible, Judge. Hold him accountable.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mr. Jones Closing Argument

I am pleased to share with you the closing argument of my attorney, Mr. Jones.

May it please the Court. I know it’s a little outmoded. When I was in law school we had a saying, the law is the law. And that’s our case in a nutshell. Except as provided in subsection B, a person operating motor vehicle, the exceptions are plain, less than, a lane that’s less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bike lane adjacent to that lane.

Evidence is uncontradicted, 12 feet, not 14; therefore, he had the right. Actually he had the duty, legally, to be in that lane of traffic; or, too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side-by-side. Again the evidence is uncontradicted. It’s not safe if he stays over to the right hand side. His statement – really the police officers didn’t testify to the contrary. I doubt that they would if they had been asked. The base fact is 551.103 says he has to operate that in that lane of traffic. It is true that the statute, the shoulder statute says that he has an or option. But he explained to the Court why he does not do so.

Rumble strips are put there for a reason because cars drift off to that side when drivers lose their attention. He didn’t go out there with any intention to slow people down. And he certainly didn’t go out there with any intention to draw an accident. In fact, in all of this time riding on this highway, he’s never seen an accident occur. So it can hardly be called reckless indifference or some kind of wonton disregard when his common experience is that there is no such accident. I submit to the court that it is simply a matter of law.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ms. Barnes Closing Statement

I have in my hands the transcript of my "reckless driving" trial of August 17 last year. I hope to have the entire transcript digitized shortly.

Here is the closing argument made by Ms. Christin Barnes, Assistant County and District Attorney.

Thank you. Judge, like I stated in my opening statement, we were here we are here to hold Mr. Bates accountable for his actions and his choice. And as he stated in his own testimony, the limitations under the statute don’t apply to a bicycle in terms of riding or driving on an improved shoulder. He has access to that improved shoulder. And we’re talking about someone making a choice, a deliberate choice, when the improved shoulder is available, to instead, ride on the main road of traffic on a very heavy trafficked highway.

He has been asked, told, by officers on several occasions, do not ride in the middle of the roadway. And there’s a reason for that. And that reason is that it is dangerous. That is common sense. It is dangerous, not just for himself, but for the other motorists on the roadway. And because the officers repeatedly told him, Mr. Bates, don’t get back on the road, he made a very conscious and deliberate disregard or indifference for the safety of those around him.

It is common sense that when a bicyclist rides on a roadway in the middle of a very heavy lane of traffic at night time, it is common sense that harder to see a bicyclist. It is common sense that he is riding at a speed very well below the speed limit. It is common sense, as the video showed, so many vehicles traveling adjacent or aside to him at a speed that was high rate of 65 miles an hour or above, and yet he thinks it’s safe for him to just continue to do what he does.

We know from the testimony from Lonnie Creager, who’s an Ennis firefighter, that he witnessed, and the reason for his call to 911, is that he witnessed Mr. Bates riding on his bicycle. Before he saw that bicycle, he saw vehicles, including an eighteen-wheeler, make an abrupt stop. And his testimony was it was scary what he saw. And as he made his way around the eighteen-wheeler, he saw right in front of it, Mr. Bates in the middle of the roadway traveling and that eighteen-wheeler had to come to an abrupt stop to avoid colliding with him, to avoid swerving from him, to avoid having an accident.

His action, for the sake of principle to ride in the middle of this roadway when he could easily choose the improved shoulder to travel, is nothing but downright dangerous. And the warnings and the pleadings and the requests and the orders from police officers for his safety and for the safety of others have been disregarded by Mr. Bates, completely and totally disregarded.

So I ask that you find him guilty based upon the evidence that has been submitted to the court because he has, he has driven recklessly. And as I stated in the opening statement, Your Honor, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. And it is defined under the Transportation Code as a device in or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a public highway other than a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks. And it falls within that definition of a vehicle, Your Honor. And reckless driving statute does not say, specifically, it applies to a motor vehicle, but to a vehicle which includes a Bicycle.

And in this case, I think it’s imperative that we’re here today in front of this Court because we want to protect our citizens in our community. And whether Mr. Bates recognizes it or not or wants it or not, we’re going to try to protect him. The evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that he did drive in a reckless manner and he did show a conscious indifference and he did make a choice that was deliberate and I ask that you find him guilty.

Monday, February 7, 2011

More Ennis Peril

The city of Ennis has informed me that they are going to move ahead and prosecute me for the March 2010 arrest.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place on February 24. So far the charge remains "Failure to Keep Right". I anticipate the charge to be changed before too long.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From Waco to Eastland

I spoke to my attorney about my case last week.

My appeal has been moved from Waco to the Eleventh Court of Appeals in Eastland Texas. The reason is to balance the workload among the various courts.

This is a blessing for our cause. Eastland is 130 miles east of Dallas, which makes the journey to the courthouse less arduous for me. But more significantly, Eastland has a reputation for being more conservative than other appeals courts.

Neither our legal team nor the State have filed any briefs on this case, but that will change soon. There is no date set yet for the trial either, but it is expected to be put on the courts calendar somewhere between July and September.

Lastly, the transcript of the trial will be in our hands soon, and I will be able to share parts of it with you.