Pulled over in Bloomington for not being far enough right

This topic contains 35 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of SDHO SDHO 1 year, 7 months ago.

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  • #788954
    Avatar of SDHO
    SDHO
    Participant

    I was pulled over by an Officer Smith of Bloomington PD tonight, for failing to ride in a right-turn-only auxiliary lane near Lyndale and American (when, to be clear, I was not turning right).

    Has anyone had any trouble with Bloomington PD? I got a warning, no citation. This is what I’m sending in response:

    To whom it may concern:
    I am an experienced cyclist and a resident of Richfield. This evening, I was pulled over while cycling by an Officer Smith of Bloomington police and given a warning that was completely unfounded. Thankfully, the officer did not cite me, but I was deeply concerned that a Bloomington police officer would misrepresent both Minnesota law and safe cycling standards.

    I was pulled over on northbound Lyndale Ave S, just south of W American Boulevard, tonight, Nov 13 2012 at approx 10:30pm. My journey on Lyndale was from W 98th St in Bloomington to W 73rd St in Richfield. For this entire length, Lyndale Avenue has two lanes in either direction, with no bike lane or shoulder. At multiple points — including this portion, between 82nd and American — there are right-turn-only auxiliary lanes. At the time, I was riding in the center of the right-most through-lane, as I had been for over twenty blocks. The lane is not wide enough for a bicycle and car to lawfully share side-by-side, and, as such, I was riding in the center of the lane to prevent in-lane passing. According to Officer Smith, Minnesota law requires me to change lanes right into the auxiliary lane, and then “at the last minute” (the officer’s words) change back into the through lane. He claimed that I was “allowed” to be in the roadway, but only if I was in the “far right lane, not impeding traffic”. He further claimed that I was “impeding” his travel. When I attempted to explain why I was riding where I was, he accused me of riding in the left lane as well.

    I would like to break down Officer Smith’s claims individually:

    I was riding in the left lane of NB Lyndale Ave S
    This is not a question of statute, but there is simply no way the officer’s claim is correct. I entered the roadway from the right-most left-turn-only lane on W 98th St, and was planning to turn right in Richfield. Never was I in the left through lane of Lyndale Avenue.

    A cyclist is required to ride in a right-turn-only auxiliary lane
    Officer Smith is presumably thinking of 169.222, Subd. 4(a):

    Subd. 4.Riding rules. (a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations: [...]

    “roadway”, critically, is defined (169.011) as:

    Subd. 68.Roadway. “Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder.

    That is, the roadway is the main-traveled portion of the highway, not necessarily all portions of the asphalt. 169.222, Subd. 4 also specifically exempts the requirement to ride “as far right as practicable” when lanes are narrow — this not defined, but presumably when a lane is so narrow that it cannot be lawfully shared by a bicycle and motor vehicle side-by-side, such as the lanes on Lyndale Ave S. There is no definition or statement about whether a turn lane is part of the roadway or not. But mere common sense would show that a cyclist not intending to turn right should not be riding in a lane clearly signed “RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT”.

    A cyclist should “wait until the last minute” to change lanes
    169.222 gives particular permission for a cyclist to position him or herself in a left lane when necessary to prepare for a left turn, but it specifies no particular length of time or distance one should be in a given lane. However, the League of American Cyclists (and virtually any other safe cycling authority) would discourage a cycling from “waiting until the last minute”. Note how League Cycling Instructors ride in a left through lane for over a block to signal their intention to turn left in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU. This prevents sudden movements and expresses their intentions clearly to other users of the road.

    A cyclist may not impede traffic
    There is no law against a single cyclist impeding traffic. The only use of the word “impede” in 169.222 regards two cyclists riding abreast. Furthermore, there is no reasonable way that Office Smith was “impeded” in his travels, as he and I were the only vehicles on the roadway, and there was another completely empty through lane available to him.

    I am certain that the officer’s warning was with the best of intentions. He expressed concern that if I get “whacked at 30″, I would be seriously injured. As a matter of fact, I was “whacked at 30″ just this June — not from behind, which is an extremely rare crash type, but from a vehicle who ran a stop sign and “didn’t see me”. Since then, I have made a point of riding predictably, safely, and (as always) lawfully. That this riding style warrants harassment from Bloomington police is appalling. I would strongly encourage all your officers to review Minnesota statute regarding bicycling and to review some safe cycling resources. That video is a great start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU. Bicycling and the Law by Bob Mionske is also a great resource.

    I appreciate Bloomington’s concern for my safety on the road — but without proper understanding of safe cycling techniques or applicable statute, I believe this concern could intimidate other cyclists into unsafe behaviors (such as sidewalk cycling).

    Thank you for taking the time to review this matter.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)
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  • #792557
    Avatar of Ted-D
    Ted-D
    Participant

    shitty situation, but well worded response.

    #792558
    Avatar of SDHO
    SDHO
    Participant

    Thanks. I’ll be sure to post their reply if I hear anything back.

    #792559
    Avatar of Volsung
    Volsung
    Participant

    They don’t have to warn you, they can ticket you.

    Also, they don’t have to be right when they ticket you (sounds like he doesn’t know bike law very well). That’s what courts are for.

    #792560
    Avatar of joe
    joe
    Participant

    This kind of stuff bums me out.
    It sounds like you were clearly following the letter and spirit of the law but the cop just didn’t like the look of it.

    I had a similar incident a couple years ago.
    I got a ticket and was determined to take it to court.
    Once I read the official police report it was clear that the officer was lying to cover his ignorance of the law.
    I accepted a plea bargain.

    #792561
    Avatar of giddything
    giddything
    Participant

    Yay for no ticket!

    Nice letter.

    #792562
    Avatar of FreeRangeZombie
    FreeRangeZombie
    Participant

    Sucky for you to get a warning, but it’s good you’re level headed about the situation.

    I hope you get a response. At least the fact you’re writing to them in reference to warning they gave means there’s a chance you’ll see an official response.

    Good luck on your rides!

    #792563
    Avatar of MSPD
    MSPD
    Participant

    Great letter and I imagine it was tremendously frustrating when you’re just going from A to B.

    Can you satisfy my curiosity (and please don’t read anything into the question…I am truly just interested as I find Bloomington — especially this area — a challenging place to choose routes). With quiet Aldrich Ave parallel to Lyndale (one block west) for all but a couple blocks of this stretch, is there any particular reason for choosing Lyndale instead?

    I’d be totally OK with “because I feel like it” as an option. It’s no cyclist’s duty to explain themselves. I promise there is no judgment behind my question.

    #792564
    Avatar of Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Participant

    @MSPD wrote:

    Can you satisfy my curiosity (and please don’t read anything into the question…I am truly just interested as I find Bloomington — especially this area — a challenging place to choose routes). With quiet Aldrich Ave parallel to Lyndale (one block west) for all but a couple blocks of this stretch, is there any particular reason for choosing Lyndale instead?

    Well, I’m not the OP, but I’d choose Lyndale as well. It’s the only road for many blocks that goes from start to end. Aldrich does not. Lyndale has fewer stops. It has two lanes in each direction making it easier for other traffic to pass.

    #792565
    Avatar of SDHO
    SDHO
    Participant

    @joe wrote:

    I had a similar incident a couple years ago.
    I got a ticket and was determined to take it to court.
    Once I read the official police report it was clear that the officer was lying to cover his ignorance of the law.
    I accepted a plea bargain.

    That sucks hard. The most frustrating part of this was when he claimed I was riding in the left-hand lane. I can prove he was wrong about statute, but I can’t exactly prove he was wrong about what I was doing.

    @MSPD wrote:

    Can you satisfy my curiosity (and please don’t read anything into the question…I am truly just interested as I find Bloomington — especially this area — a challenging place to choose routes). With quiet Aldrich Ave parallel to Lyndale (one block west) for all but a couple blocks of this stretch, is there any particular reason for choosing Lyndale instead?

    Didn’t occur to me, I guess. Looks like it would get me from 92nd to 82nd. But that would require two additional left turns (one off Lyndale at 92nd, and one onto Lyndale at 82nd), and would still require me to negotiate Lyndale in this portion around American. One bonus to Lyndale at night is that it’s one of very few Bloomington streets that’s well-lighted. I otherwise ride down Nicollet, but that’s very dark — I assume a residential street like Aldrich would be the same way. (And yes, of course I had lights when I was pulled over, both front and year… but even high-end lights just aren’t as good as a consistently lighted street.)

    hokan’s got it right. I actually don’t mind these four-lane undivided roads. I mean, they’re ugly, obviously, but for riding, it’s good. It’s like I have a 12′-wide bike lane — 98% of cars make a complete lane change before passing.

    #792566
    Avatar of ChrisAdyNelson
    ChrisAdyNelson
    Participant

    That’s a tough area to bike (& no real options)! TOTH to a well written letter.

    I recommend a follow up call if you don’t hear back in a week. I had an incident earlier this year (near right-hook, caught on GoPro), emailed Eden Prairie PD, but it took a follow up call to get someone’s attention.

    I had a similar run-in with a Minnetonka city truck, long story short, he didn’t like me taking the through traffic lane when the bike-lane/shoulder became a right-turn only lane. City manager was very respectful, but I have not idea if there was any true consequence for the driver.

    #792567
    Avatar of MSPD
    MSPD
    Participant

    Thanks guys. Makes sense re: route choice.

    #792569
    Avatar of lsboogy
    lsboogy
    Participant

    The Bloomington PD has had a number of officers who are not friendly to riders for years. I have had two tickets issued to me (both waived) and several warnings. I ride in the center lane downtown most of the time, and never get hassled in Minneapolis (knock on wood). Find a riding partner and take the whole lane some night – 169.222, Subd 4, (c). Been to court on that one (several years ago – now I am old and they just let me go)

    #792572
    Avatar of aliensporebomb
    aliensporebomb
    Participant

    I’ve lived in Bloomington most of my life (except for a few years in south minneapolis) and never ran into any problems riding bikes there although I
    always made sure I was well lit up with taillights/headlights towards dusk.

    Bums me out, I’ll be careful when I’m riding near there from now on just in case.

    #792573
    Avatar of SDHO
    SDHO
    Participant

    @bat56 wrote:

    Is it a written warning? What does it say?

    Nope, just oral. I did a request for public data as a subject of the data, though, and I should be able to see whatever was recorded about the stop in a couple of days.

    #792568
    Avatar of SDHO
    SDHO
    Participant

    @bat56 wrote:

    At any point did you ask if you were free to go or if you were being detained?

    No, I did not, though clearly I was not detained. In fact, I did just about everything wrong: according to Bicycling and the Law, I shouldn’t have attempted to argue with the officer at all, and I should have recorded the incident.

    I am requesting further data from Bloomington to get a picture of their bicycle enforcement. But as a subject of the data, they already gave me the “CAD notes” from the traffic stop. I’ve posted them here.

    The officer, Michael A. Smith noted:

    WAS RIDING DOWN MIDDLE OF RODE [sic], IMPEDING TRAF. ADVISED ON STATE LAW FOR BIKES.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)

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