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.


  1. Welcome back. I've missed your posts and pray your absence had nothing to do with this story. You'll note that one of my bike school questions related to what you are being harassed about. Myself, there are too many that don't ride trying to make up rules for those that do.

  2. Hey, I've been getting a little worried about you too. Glad you're back, complete with a post so full of suspense I can barely stand it.

  3. A cliff-hanger! That's so cruel!

    I, too, am happy to see a post from you. I always worry when you're gone a long time.

  4. Y'all notice MY comment had no note of worry in it. I figured he was probably just keeping a low profile so I couldn't drag him off to bike school. BTW, the dog in the bike school book reminded me of Bella.

  5. Sounds like you've become quite the "public enemy" over there in Ellis County. If things get too hot you can ride over and hide out at my place in Henderson County. Most of our highways don't even have shoulders :)

  6. It looks like your blog post has been picked up by the Ellis County Observer, the cops are all saying your are a nut... I agree with them. Why do you want to get ran over?

  7. I can't wait any longer!! Please tell us!!

  8. Arguing with Texas cops is a sure way to get into DEEP trouble.
    The cop told you “...you have to drive on the shoulder.”
    Frankly it was quite dumb of you to fail to obey that order. Better to argue with the guy AFTER you finished the ride.

  9. Say rick, thanks for stopping by.

    If a Texas cop told me to drive on the wrong direction on the roadway, should I have obeyed that one too?

    While my example is extreme and improbable, it is really only a few more steps along a continuum you have set me on. No Texas law enforcement officer can just make up laws as he goes along.

    This officer was mistaken, and then made an ill considered ultimatum. He put himself into a position that was hard to back down from, and I was certain that my behavior is lawful. I see no reason to back down when I am in the right.

  10. Actually Chipseal, I don't find your example improbable at all when applied to bicycles, and would have to say you should seriously consider Principled Pragmatist's advice to present this case with appeal of possible/likely conviction in mind.

    In Delaware, I have met 1-2 other bicyclists who WERE instructed by local police to bicycle on the wrong side of the road. I was told by police I had to ride next to the curb, even when making a left turn on a 4 lane road.

    I suspect your example meant a case where the police told you to drive the car you don't own on the wrong side of the road. The whole point is that the police, juries, and judges see no connection between adults driving cars and bicyclists. They think all bicyclists should ride as they were taught by grade school teachers (stay out of the road) regardless of the wording of the law.

    In at least one Delaware case, the judges said motorists can't possibly be expected to wait to pass bicyclists in narrow lanes because most of the lanes on state roads are narrow (10'-12') and motorists might have to wait to pass safely on almost all roads. Therefore, cyclists have to let motorists pass regardless of lane width. The cyclists conviction was reversed on appeal, but the original judge convicted the cyclists because he thought the law made no sense and couldn't reasonably mean what was written.

    I haven't been to Texas, but I don't see why judges or juries would be likely to pay attention to the law as written if the police are arresting every time they see you. In this case, I'd be happy if the judge throws the case out, but I'd be prepared to appeal a conviction.