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.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that you ran into this issue in my neck of the woods. I've always thought of Richardson as a bike savvy town. (I'm assuming you had a "type approved" reflector.)

    Either way, I'm shocked at his request that you ride against traffic!

  2. I'm pretty sure that when they ran your info, and saw all the bike legal stuff you've proceeded with, the dispatcher told him to run.
    I live in Richardson and this doesn't shock me at all.

  3. Chip, Chip, Chip, you need to read my blog more diligently. Specifically, you neglected to consider that an ignorant officer making a stop is NOT a "Teachable Moment." and you'd have been on your way much quicker and with more satisfaction had you heeded

    It is why I no longer bother with remembering all those code numbers. Ironically, I learned to discard the notion of roadside rights by YOUR example. The real lesson: if the objective is to set a precedent for cycling rights, then emulate Rosa Parks - pick your arrest time and place carefully and have your lawyers ready and waiting. THAT is how to win. It is also liberating, so I thank you.

  4. Years ago I had a Richardson cop tell me that if
    my tail light could be seen for more then 300
    feet he would stop me. He did not want cyclists
    blinding motorists with bright rear lights.
    The worst part is that he was the cop who went
    into the schools to teach the kids about bike

  5. Have you been to a city council meeting with a copy of the driver's handbook yet? If that cop doesn't even know the basic information in the DH, he has no business driving, much less enforcing his made-up version of the law.

  6. To be fair, a city law could very well supersede state law here -- except that supersede isn't the right word. Supplement is a better term.

    State law requires a blinker *or* a reflector, and local law could very well require a blinker, period. Local law can't remove the requirement for a blinker or a reflector, but it can add new requirements if it wants to.

    That said, such a law seems unlikely to exist.

  7. Sorry that you had an unpleasant run-in with an officer of the law. He should have approached the situation with more concern for your safety rather than trying to paint you as some sort of scofflaw. That being said, you really should get lights for the rear of the bike as a simple measure of safety. It drives me nuts when I see other cyclists with hundreds of dollars invested in their headlights and little or no investment in rear lighting. I use reflective tape and multiple rear flashing lights to make sure that motorists know of my presence on the road.

  8. Passive reflectors are more than adequate if you have good quality reflectors and a large reflector area. The latter factor being most important.