Some cyclists just won’t stay in the gutter

[Breaking news: there is an even newer victory over the city of Flagstaff’s harassment of cyclists legally using the roads: on Oct 29, the cyclist prevailed AGAIN in court… I will be writing up another article covering that in more detail soon. So at trial, the court dismissed 1 count 815A, TR-2010007979; and the 2 further 815A counts were dismissed on a motion from the prosecutor, TR-2010007976. Though i may have the case number mixed up because 2010004702, an 815A and 701E is also dismissed]

Flagstaff cyclist Justin Pryzby is at it again — not riding in the gutter.

Heading home from work on June 9, 2010, westbound on East Route 66 in the vicinity of Switzer Canyon Drive [google maps], he was pulled over by Flagstaff police officer. His offense? “RIDING HIS BICYCLE IN LANE NUMBER TWO OF THE ROAD WAY WHERE A BICYCLE LANE WAS PROVIDED”, according to the strangely detailed police report of the incident (the quotations from the report are for some reason in all caps, underlining added by me).

Is this a bike lane?

Officer is obviously fixated on the bike lane, and writes of it often “THE SUBJECT THEN WENT BACK INTO THE BICYCLE LANE AND I ACTIVATED MY EMERGENCY LIGHTS AND SIREN”….”THERE WAS A BICYCLE LANE THAT WAS PROVIDED”…”THERE WERE NONE OF THE EXCEPTIONS… THAT WOULD MAKE JUSTIN HAVE TO EXIT OR GET OUT OF THE BIKE LANE

a real bike lane
Here is a picture of a REAL bike lane

Officer charged the cyclist with two violations: §28-701E, and §28-815A.

The only trouble with Officer’s story is, there is no bike lane there. I confirmed this with City of Flagstaff multi-modal coordinator Martin Ince by telephone, and also with the State of Arizona (this happens to be a state highway) Department of Transportation Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Michael Sanders.  It is self-evident  that this is not a bicycle lane.  It is not marked with bike lane signage (e.g. R3-17), or ground markings. What about the lane, that is Lane number 2? It’s something under 11 feet — clearly narrow, see Take the lane. As far as I know, no one disputes the dimensions.

A real bike lane would have an R3-17 sign

I have written before on the problems and confusion these edge-stripes-that-are-not-bike-lane-stripes cause — and this is that in spades, see e.g. Is this a bike lane?

The other charge, 28-701E, is inapplicable to bicyclists because it applies specifically to motor vehicles. See in Bicycles are not motor vehicles, and why it matters

The Trial

The first sign that something was out of the ordinary was the city exercising its option to be represented by counsel, somewhat (how much?) unusual for a civil traffic matter.

In any event the trial was held in Flagstaff Municipal Court, docket #M-9341-TR-2919994702  before Charlotte Beyal, Magistrate Pro Tempore. The city was represented by Assistant City Prosecutor Consuelo “Celo” Brennan. The cyclist represented himself.

The trial apparently went well. That is to say the judge understood and accepted the defendant’s position both that the lane was narrow and was therefore not responsible for 28-815A because of exemption 4, and that the other charge could not apply to a bicycle. Not responsible on both counts.

The Trouble with Flagstaff PD

Is it poor training? Or is this officer just out to get bicyclists who dare to exercise their right to the road? Or is it something more — is it an institutional bias?

Flagstaff recently was rewarded by LAB with a Silver Bicycle Friendly Communities designation. Enforcement is supposed to figure into that, and they got a “star” in that category. Not from what I’ve been seeing over the past 8 months or so.

I started a new tag: flagstaff-anomolies as there seems to a pattern of law enforcement and justice system problems in Flagstaff. In the wake of the NAIPTA-bus-bike fiasco,  “…the police department issued a department-wide training bulletin requiring all officers to review all bicycle laws, (deputy chief) Treadway said”. Sounds impressive? But who knows what sort of training they actually did?

8 thoughts on “Some cyclists just won’t stay in the gutter”

  1. I am not a lawyer, but is it really sufficient for the state to provide its evidence “10-15 minutes prior” to the hearing? That hardly seems like sufficient time for the defense to prepare.

    Second, it looks like Justin was looking for a fight, which is too bad, but I have several observations:

    1. Is there a mandatory bike lane law in Flagstaff? I am not aware of one.
    2. Is there a legal bike lane on Rt 66 at this location? Not according to Google Street View, though it might be there has been one added.
    3. If there is a legal bike lane, is it properly part of the roadway, or not? The vehicle code states that a bicycle must be operated as near to the right edge of the roadway as practicable, but if the BL is not part of the roadway, then Justin was operating according to the law. Google Street View seems to indicate a narrow gutter pan, but that is not legally part of the roadway.

    I hope Justin has good counsel.

    hi Lyle — I’m not a lawyer either 🙂 and yes that 15 minutes seems like short notice!
    Your questions/concerns about a bike lanes are interesting, but as I wrote, and AFAIK there is no bike lane there.
    The trial already occurred, and Mr. Pryzby, who represented himself, was found “not responsible” (that means he won) on both violations.

  2. If you don’t live in Flagstaff you might not know the reasons why this is frustrating. Route 66 is a terribly dangerous road to ride your bike on. As an avid cyclist I never do. That’s because there is a great bike path that parallels 66 from downtown all the way past the mall. There is no reason to be riding a bike on 66 anyway. But the cops are still fools.

    Hi markus, thanks for the comment. The laws of Arizona allow cyclists to use the road (ANY road — unless specifically prohibited). Furthermore, they specifically allow the cyclist to use the road in the safest manner; which includes riding anywhere in the lane when the lane is too narrow to share safely. Many cyclists, perhaps yourself, mis-perceive danger — have you taken training, e.g. TS101?
    Arizona has no “mandatory sidepath” rule; and it’s really a good thing because that can severely limit cyclists’ freedom. Thus, you comment that a cyclist has “no reason” to ride on that road rubs me the wrong way.
    I am not familiar with the specifics of the bike path but I can tell you there are many general reasons why a cyclist might not prefer to use it; including safety concerns at crossings (is this path grade-separated?), engineering safety concerns (sharp bends, and risk of collisions with other cyclists, and other path users) and probably most of all is simple expediency.

  3. Thanks for sharing.

    Re: “There is no reason to be riding a bike on 66 anyway. But the cops are still fools.”

    Markus, Mr. Pryzby probably drives his bike on Rt 66 for the same reason as any motorist or other road user: convenience, speed and safety.

    Questioning his choice indicates, a lack of confidence with traffic. Riding on multi use path is fine for many avid recreational riders but they have limits, as noted above.

    There seems to be a problem with law enforcment (calling “cops fools” is foolish). Questioning, “why isn’t the cyclist using the parallel “multi use path” or road shoulder is actually more problematic.

    Check your state/local laws but don’t apply popular opinion or common fears.

  4. The standard BIKE LANE sign has changed – see here http://www.trafficsign.us/bikesign.html#r3-17
    for an example of the new sign.

    The area to the right of the edge line on Route 66 in Flagstaff is a shoulder, not a bike lane. However, Arizona does not have a state law requiring cyclists to use a bike lane if one is present (just as there’s no law requiring carpools to use HOV lanes).

    A crash study performed in 2006 along the Route 66 corridor in Flagstaff showed a very high number of crashes involving cyclists using the north sidewalk or the pathway on the south side, especially at intersections. Although the pathway is perceived to be safer, the high number of intersection-related crashes is an issue.

    This is similar to results from other studies, which showed that designs that insert cyclists into intersections from unexpected or hard-to-see locations typically have high crash numbers. Drivers are not conditioned to look for high-speed bicyclists entering the intersection from the side of other traffic.

    — Richard C. Moeur, P.E., L.C.I., WC7RCM

    here is b40flag.ppt that discusses the 2006 study, and here is a web viewable version.

  5. Below is an excerpt from the City of Flagstaff BAC Draft Meeting minutes from Feb 3, 2011 meeting (my emphasis):

    1. Enforcement of Traffic Laws for Bicyclists
    Mr. Pryzby reported that he has received six citations to date for violations of ARS 28-815(a), which requires bicyclists to ride to the right unless one of several exceptions are met. He said that some of the citations have been dismissed by the court. Several of the citations have been along the same stretch of road (Route 66 near Switzer Canyon Drive), and several have been issued by the same officer. He said there is a dichotomy between the law and how the law is enforced, and asked the Committee to consider an education program for law enforcement personnel.
    There was a brief discussion about ARS 28-815(a), including a discussion about court cases and federal guidelines for when taking the lane is warranted because it is too narrow to travel side-by-side with motor vehicles.
    The Committee asked Mr. Pryzby about whether he rode in the shoulder that was striped for bikes along both sides of Route 66, and whether he used the FUTS (a bi-directional, seperated sidepath, multi-use trail) trail along the south side. Mr. Pryzby responded that the shoulder appears to be too narrow to meet minimum standards, and that an ADOT report (that would be Richard Moeur, see prev comments in this thread) found numerous crashes with motor vehicles along the path.
    The Committee discussed circumstances when a cyclist might be better served not take the lane, including on high-speed, high-volume roadways, and when it serves to antagonize motorists.

    Members:
    Ken Lane, Chair
    Jan Blackman
    Dave Blanchard
    Richard Hall
    Kevin Parkes
    Jodi Norris (absent)
    The following City staff was present:
    Martin Ince, Multi-Modal Planner
    David Needham, Police Department

  6. From bikeforums.net, regarding the dangers of FUTS path riding

    I was about 20 feet from this exact kind of accident while riding my bike in Flagstaff recently, except I was behind the guy making the right turn and the crosswalk was part of a MUP that parallels Route 66. Right turning car pulls into the crosswalk, and is instantly T-boned by a cyclist riding at about 10mph on the MUP (who had the walk light). Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured and the driver of the car stopped at once. On a MUP such as that I ride slowly or walk the bike at crosswalks. Too many drivers aren’t paying attention. I gave a statement to the police as did several other witnesses.

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