Arizona Road Cyclist News
J
ack Quinn, Editor

 © April 7, 2010

Published every other Wednesday and sent out by E-mail free of charge. To modify or cancel your subscription, click here.

This issue does not contain a list of upcoming events. Instead of taking time to research cycling events, I have been busily watching the Tour of the Basque Country professional bicycling stage race over the Internet on universalsports.com/cycling. Expect further cuts in content as the professional bicycle racing season gets into full swing. We all have out priorities. :)

In this issue:
     Ahwatukee Cyclist Struck on March 25
     Update on Flagstaff Police Attitude
     Pima County Sheriff Acknowledges Right to Ride 2 Abreast
     Time to Wear a Helmet Cam?
     Feedback
     About Arizona Road Cyclist News

Ahwatukee Cyclist Struck on March 25

42-year old Ahwatukee cyclist Heidi Clayton was struck by a pickup truck while cycling southbound on 48th Street near Elliot Road in Ahwatukee while on a group ride on March 25. She suffered serious back injuries, which have required multiple surgeries in Maricopa Medical Center. She also suffered a broken thumb.

The teenage driver of the pickup truck, who was reportedly rushing to beat a changing traffic light was cited by Phoenix Police for making an unsafe turn.

Heidi Clayton is a category 2 masters racer. She will be missed in the peloton while her injuries heal.

Thanks to reader Randy Garmon for making me aware of this accident.

Update on Flagstaff Police Attitude

In a previous issue of Arizona Road Cyclist News, I wrote about cyclist Randy Mason, who was buzzed by a Flagstaff City bus while riding in a bike lane that was partially blocked by snow. Randy caught up with the bus, boarded it, and attempted to inform the driver in a calm manner that he had violated Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 28-735, which requires motor vehicles to give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing. The driver radioed his dispatcher, who in turn called the police. When the police arrived, instead of ticketing the bus driver, they arrested Randy and charged him with disorderly conduct on the bus driver's word with no supporting evidence.

A review of video recorded by the bus's system and at the bus stop, which you can view on YouTube by clicking here, shows how unjustly the Flagstaff Police Department acted in taking the side of the bus driver against the cyclist. The video not only seems to show that the bus passed Randy too closely, it also shows that the bus was exceeding the posted speed limit and that the bus driver lied when he claimed that traffic in the left lane prevented him from moving to the left to give the cyclist the legal three feet. There was no traffic in the left lane.

As can be seen in the video, the police who arrived were uninformed about of the laws that they are charged to enforce. The police first claimed ignorance of the three-foot law and then argued that it does not apply when the cyclist is in a bike lane. ARS 28-735 is written in plain English and makes no mention of bike lanes except to say that the monetary penalties set forth in the statute for a driver who strikes and injures or kills a cyclist do not apply if there is passable bike lane present and the cyclist is not in it. Any literate person should be able to read and understand the statute.

The situation dragged on for weeks with rumors circulating that the city attorney's office had sided with the police. Finally, under pressure from the news media and in the face of the video on YouTube, deputy city attorney Lisa Stankovich recommended in an E-mail that the bus driver be ticketed for speeding and for violating the three-foot law. She added in her opinion: "Since the bicyclist in this case was in a bike lane at the time of the alleged violation, and it is our opinion that a violation occurred, it is thus clear that we think the 3-foot rule applies in all situations when a vehicle overtakes a bicycle traveling in the same direction, whether in a bike lane or not."

Although I have been unable to independently confirm it, I read on the Tucson Bike Lawyer Blog that the bus driver has since been ticketed. I hope that this is the case. If it is true, it is the first time that I am aware of when a driver has been cited for violating the three-foot law when the motor vehicle did not strike the cyclist.

My thanks to Ed Beighe, who maintains the AZbikelaw blog, for pointing me to some new information on this story.

Pima County Sheriff Acknowledges Right to Ride 2 Abreast

I also wrote in a previous issue of Arizona Road Cyclist News about two cyclists who were ticketed under ARS 28-815 for riding two abreast in Pima County, were fined in traffic court, but who had the traffic court rulings overturned on appeal. In a memo dated March 5, Lieutenant K. Woolridge of the Pima County Sheriff's Department wrote that the statute does indeed permit cyclists to ride two abreast and also permits the cyclists to ride out in the lane on certain circumstances.

He also noted that motorists are required to give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing and asked sheriff's deputies to abide by the interpretation of the laws set forth in the memo. Missing from the memo is the fact that cyclist are only required to ride as far to the right as practicable when the cyclist is riding "at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing." This means that there is still the possibility that sheriff's deputies might falsely ticket cyclists who do not ride to the right when there is no motor traffic present.

It may be a bit difficult to grasp, but according to that wording if the traffic present at "the time and place and under the conditions then existing" consists entirely of bicycles, then the normal speed of that traffic is the speed of a bicycle, and there is no requirement to ride to the right of the lane. Maybe it will take another court case for Lieutenant Woolridge to ad that to the memo.

You can read the memo in PDF format by clicking here.

Again, my thanks to Ed Beighe for pointing me to the memo, which he is hosting on his Website.

Time to Wear a Helmet Cam?

For some time I have been considering wearing a helmet camera with a microphone while I ride. In one case, I would have been able to document a pickup truck passing me far too closely in Scottsdale and then having its driver assault me when I pulled up alongside the truck at the next traffic light and calmly [uncharacteristic for me, I know] tried to talk with the driver. The camera would have also documented the unprofessional conduct of the Scottsdale Police Officer who responded to my 911 call and promptly blamed the assault on me. According to the police officer, who didn't ask to speak to any of the three witnesses to the event, I had provoked the driver's anger by lightly tapping on the truck's window and motioning to the driver to lower the window so we could talk. I know that many cyclists can report similar incidents but have no way of proving them other than witnesses, whom the police can easily ignore.

In the past, I have been put off by the cost and bulk of video cameras, but those two problems have recently disappeared. High definition video cameras with mountings for bicycle handlebars or a helmet can be purchased for under $250. The video is recorded to a small flash memory card that plugs right into the tiny camera.

Although I am not promoting any specific brand and am still investigating myself, here is a link to a small camera listed on Amazon that you may want to look at. If you look at the enlarged image of the camera, notice the on/off switch on top, which could easily be operated while cycling. If more cyclists ride with cameras, aggressive motorists might think twice about buzzing us and police officers may be more willing to write tickets if confronted with conclusive evidence that a motorist violated the law. If police officers refuse to cite the motorist, the video of the traffic violation and of the police officer's reaction to the cyclist's complaint can be uploaded to the Internet for all to see.

Feedback

I received a number of E-mails in reply to my editorial of two weeks ago stating that the police departments and traffic magistrates in Arizona are badly in need of training on the traffic laws as they pertain to cyclists. Here is the saddest of those E-mails:

The indifference to cyclist risks and even deaths is not limited to police or magistrates; it also extends to states attorneys and prosecutors. Another Arizona cyclist was killed last June, my wife, Cynthia Pool who is still on your subscriber list. A tractor trailer was stopped at a stop sign in Lander, Wyoming. The driver waited until Cindy was right in front of him, traveling from his right to left, and then the driver pulled out from the intersection and killed her. The driver admitted his negligence in failing to yield the right of way at the scene and the police sent their report to the state attorney's office, commenting to me that they had enough evidence to convict the driver on a charge of negligent vehicular homicide. As it happens, the president of the trucking firm also is the speaker of the house in Wyoming's legislature. Guess what? the state's attorney decided not to prosecute the driver. He was not even issued a traffic ticket. What a surprise - who ever knew, in this country, that politics trumps justice. How long do you suppose I'd be in jail if I was a driver stopped in that intersection, waited until the prosecutor's wife rode past and then killed her?

Roy Pool

I received a number of E-mails from the officers of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists, the two messages that follow were especially positive. Out of an uncharacteristic (for me) sense of delicacy, I have omitted several other E-mails that portray their writers in a more negative light.
Jack,

FYI, the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists is doing the following:

  • With respect to the death of Cindie Holub in Scottsdale, we are connected with AZ Republic reporters who are following the case and we have been promised a police report. We are monitoring the City of Scottsdale’s handling of this, and have staff and an attorney following it. We will go “on the record” with the AZ Republic and will register our views with Scottsdale PD and other officials as appropriate.
  • As Gene replied to you [see next letter], we have been attempting to get a “wheel in the door” at an Arizona law enforcement agency (most recently, Mesa) via a training program that meets current budgetary limitations of most of these agencies. Due to a recent donation to the CAzB, I believe we are in a position to absorb the materials/training cost of the initial program(s) in order to “beta” this with a willing agency. Our idea would then be to get feedback from the initial agency, improve the program (if needed) and leverage a recommendation from them to replicate the program throughout the state.
  • We are also getting involved in the Flagstaff issue.
  • We have a number of legislative proposals in development targeting next year’s AZ legislative session. Both Sterling Baer (now on our Advisory Board) and Eric Post are working on both text and development of legislator support needed to get traction.

I, for one, appreciate your vigilance on these matters. We plan to pursue all that need to be addressed to the extent of our resources and talents. We appreciate your periodic “plugs” for the CAzB, as well, as we are continually on the hunt for additional volunteers and talent to help tackle these and other issues constructively.

Bob Beane
President, Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists

Here is another from Gene Holmerud, Education Vice President of the Coalition:

Jack, your points are well taken.  As for education of police and magistrates, as Ed [education] VP of CAzBike, it is directly at my feet (in the fire).  During the 9 months in this job, I have concentrated on cyclists (Traffic Skills 101) and have only marginally worked on the needs you speak of.

In October I had several e-conversations with Ms. Jean DeStores, the City of Mesa Transportation Safety Educator. CAzBike leadership was in favor of establishing a program for all of AZ, using the Mesa experience as a "loss leader." Although little materialized, I just reopened the e-conversation. About that same time, I contacted the Phoenix Police Bicycle Program and invited myself into the training class at the South Mountain facility. No luck, even though I had the endorsements of Bike Officers I have gotten to know while volunteering at Sky Harbor Airport (who have to take the course for that duty).

Having said that, please put me into contact with others that respond to your suggestion.

Gene Holmerud

And finally, this note from Sterling Baer:

I agree that we need to work together on improving awareness and skills for both Motorists and cyclists as well. The tone and tenor of Radar's note [this refers to one of the unhelpful E-mails that I chose not to publish -- Jack Q.] is not what we need to proliferate to our cycling community in Arizona or they will never consider attending a class. We need to put a different spin on this and market an approach for both officers and cyclists which appeal to our own sense of responsibilities out on the roads and encourage all to participate in a "Arizona Cycling" course which couples skills with strategic vision and strategy for our State, Correlation and Networking amongst Teams & Clubs, with Rules and Enforcement updates. If you ask a Cat 1-4 cyclist to come to a "Skills Course" you will get ZERO people to attend. Appeal to a broader range of subjects, which have meaning to all cyclists and you will get traction.

Police training is absolutely critical as well and Cycling Advocacy should be included or representatives of our Teams and Clubs at these trainings. One of my cyclists was cut off on our morning ride and t-boned by a mother 2 weeks ago making a right turn into the school parking lot. She passed him on the right and he was in the bike lane. He had several bones broken in his face and when the ambulance and officer arrived on the scene, the officer actually was telling our cyclist that he was going to be cited for riding on the wrong side of the road! This was a 7 year police officer and it was not dropped until another officer arrived and told him he was wrong and that it is illegal for cyclists to ride against traffic.

This is the kind of unbelievable ignorance that exists sometimes and yet we expect them to enforce the 3 ft law???? There is no enforcement of the 3 foot law in this State!!! I did an investigation and there are very few of these citations that have been given since the laws enactment over 6 years ago. Police, cyclists as well as motor vehicle training is imperative for us to change the attitudes about cycling on our Arizona roads...together we need to make this happen, we need far more than skills training. Let's work to make this happen....and I'll guarantee we'll many more lives in the process.

Sterling Baer
Red Mountain Brumbys
NotOneMore Foundation

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Arizona Road Cyclist News,  http://www.azroadcyclist.com
Jack Quinn, Editor