Ticketed for Taking the Lane on Perrysville Ave.
As if riding home in the 32-degree rain wasn’t bad enough, I was cited for “not riding to the right” of the road this evening.
I’ve read every comment from this thread:
I’d love to get jonawebb’s (and others’) take on this.
Here are the details. This occurred on Perrysville Ave. between DeFoe St. and the 5-way lighted intersection at Perry Traditional Academy (Baytree St., East, St., Mairdale Ave., Perrysville Ave.).
As I was going around the left-hand curve that starts at DeFoe St., I took the lane. I’ve learned my lesson here as riding to the right of the road at this location has led to me getting buzzed by cars passing on a blind curve (on many occasions). No thanks.
I continued in the middle of the lane after that for three reasons:
1. It’s a bit downhill, and my speed is very close to the posted limit (25 mph). According to Strava, I was between 22 – 22.8 mph.
2. There were (and usually are) cars parked along the right of the road in this stretch. Being in the middle basically puts you out of the door path.
3. There was a red light ahead (which I could see clearly) with two cars already stopped at it.
Keep in mind, this is a section of Perrysville Ave. that is only about 1/5th of a mile long.
Anyway, about halfway along this section, I saw headlights in my mirror, and heard the quick, single “chirp” of a police siren. I looked behind and saw a police car. Since I was almost to the red light (and traveling at nearly the speed limit) I continued to the light and came to a stop.
The police officer pulled up beside me to the right, window down, and stated I should be riding to the right of the road. He wasn’t being a complete dick about it, but was borderline threatening to take my driver’s license and give me a ticket.
I responded (surprisingly calmly) that it was unsafe to ride to the right. He kept insisting (more and more angrily) that cyclist have to ride to the right of the road. I asked for his name, and he asked me to pull over and give him my license.
He then got out, I gave him my license, and he proceeded to (I think) write down my drivers license info. He never actually gave me a citation, but said I would receive one in the mail.
During this entire process, I continued to explain that it was unsafe to ride to the right, and that I was trying to abide by the law to the best of my knowledge. He kept arguing that the law clearly states that cyclists must ride to the right of the road.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have Title 75, Chapters 33 or 35 printed out, nor did I have the PA Bicycle Drivers Manual. However, I doubt that would have helped in this case.
Side note: he claimed I was holding him up from getting to a homicide. Given that I was going nearly the speed limit and approaching a red light, I get the sense he was just using that as an excuse to flex his power. There were no other cars behind him, and I was not impeding the flow of traffic.
Also, if it was an emergency, he could have turned on his sirens and lights and I would have immediately gotten over / off the bike to let him pass. But since he didn’t do that, and instead decided it would be more prudent to take 15 minutes to hassle a cyclist, I can only assume that he didn’t really need to be anywhere with great urgency.
I will absolutely contest this, but given Jonawebb’s experience with the district magistrate, I’m a little pessimistic. I’m just really bummed (and kind of shocked) that this actually happened.
I’d love to get everyone’s feedback here.
That’s amazing. You are absolutely in the right, and this cop does not understand the law.
3301c1 says you can take the lane.
3301a6 says a motorist (presumably including a cop who is not employing sirens and lights) may cross the center line to pass a cyclist.
More specifically, as far to the right as practicable. Riding where it is not safe, such as a door zone, means you take the lane.
And btw, props to you for even trying to bike in this weather.
And since I myself bike through here almost daily — taking the lane going uphill, too — I guess I’d better bone up on my own cop-handling skills.
I don’t think the law is quite as clearcut in this instance as Stu; Perrysville is a two lane road with wide lanes and I think that were you NOT riding at the speed limit you should have ridden to the right (of course given cars parked along the side this would have to be modified). But since you were not travelling at less than normal speed that doesn’t apply.
I would fight it but I would be prepared. Take the law with you, the Bicycle Drivers Manual, and have ready the page that shows exactly what you were doing. And I’d think about paying to have a lawyer accompany me; it costs about $500, which is far more than your fine will be, but it is worth it to have someone who knows how to deal with judges, who’s done it before. If you want us to kick in some money to help with this post your PayPal link.
Parts of Perrysville are wide, such as near Riverview Park, and just as you enter the city past Connie Drive. This spot is not. You take the lane. Both uphill and downhill.
My how-I-didn’t-get-doored video was taken along this exact bit of Perrysville, going uphill. Even there, my video shows that I do pull to the right for a tiny bit where the line of parked cars clears out, but then I get right back in the lane, and rightly so.
From your description of the interaction, he erroneously felt you were breaking a law, took your info, and said you would receive a citation in the mail. My hope is that he will find our his error and no citation will be forthcoming.
Not suggesting you not prepare otherwise, just my feeling.
Even taking the lane, what’s wrong with going 22 in a 25 zone?
What is the established legal precedence in PA for “slower than prevailing speed”? I can find a lot of references to 85th percentile. PA is an absolute speed limit state, so I assume that one can argue that traveling AT the speed limit does not constitute traveling below the prevailing speed, but how much slower can one go before it kicks in?
So what? That’s what 3301a6 is for. If the adjoining lane is clear, cross the yellow line and pass the cyclist. If it is not clear, get in line behind the cyclist, just like if it was a backhoe (rolling down the street at probably the same speed).
You have the legal right to cross the yellow line to pass a cyclist. You do not have the legal right to cross the yellow line to pass a backhoe.
If I were in your shoes, I would fight it. It sounds like the cop was trying to (illegally) “put cyclists in their place”.
In my view, this is only secondarily a “fight the ticket” issue. Mostly it’s a “poorly-trained-police-officer” issue.
I’d send an email about the latter problem to the Zone 1 commander, RaShall Brackney, and cc the city’s bike/ped coordinator and maybe your city council rep. I’d phrase it as something like “As I’m sure you know, according to Title 75 section … (see footnote). Unfortunately, it seems at least one of your officers is unfamiliar with this part of the law. On February 15, 2016, I was …. How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen to any more cyclists?”
Basically, why was this officer unaware of the law regarding bikes? Why did he behave so inappropriately here? How widespread is this training problem, and how can it be addressed?
Take it as fact that the officer was in the wrong and we all (should) know this; provide cites to Title 75 and maybe PennDOT’s Bicyclist’s Manual only for their “convenience”.
Did you film the interaction? He is completely wrong. You were holding him up from getting to a red light? And probably lying about the homicide. Like you said, why take the time to harass you? Maybe the cop should have been enforcing traffic laws that matter. Like ticketing people who speed.
I will definitely fight this.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my GoPro with me (lesson learned). I did, however, take video with my phone after the officer drove away. In the video I walked back along Perrysville Ave. showing the parked cars, ice, and snow on the right of the road, where I was told I should have been riding.
I think I could make my case a number of ways:
Slower than prevailing speeds.
–A pedalcycle operated at slower than prevailing speed shall be operated in accordance with the provisions of section 3301 (relating to driving on right side of roadway) unless it is unsafe to do so. (in bold is my emphasis).
(1) Upon all roadways, any pedalcycle operating in accordance with Chapter 35, proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway.
(2) This subsection does not apply to:
(i) A pedalcycle using any portion of an available roadway due to unsafe surface conditions.
(ii) A pedalcycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction.
First of all, I don’t believe 3301c even applies (unless the argument is made that 22mph in a 25mph zone is considered “less than the normal speed of traffic”). If it does apply, then I could argue that 2i dictates that 3301c does not apply due to the unsafe surface conditions (ice and snow). Unfortunately, 2ii is so nebulous that I don’t think I would even try to argue that point.
There’s nothing specific in either chapter 33 or 35 about how to consider roads where there are cars parked on the side, so I’m not sure how to make that point other than the line in 3305c (“…unless it is unsafe to do so.”). Also, I will reference the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual, which in several areas supports my case, although I don’t know if that will pass legal muster.
Thanks Jonawebb for your feedback and advice. Would you recommend hiring an attorney for the first hearing before the district magistrate? Or wait until an appeal (if necessary)?
Steven – thank you SO much for your recommendation (and verbiage) which I plan to do. I appreciate the level-headed nature and proactive approach to fixing the larger problem.
I’ll keep everyone updated here as I get more news.
Thanks to everyone for your advice and feedback!
Also, found an interesting part of the PA Driver’s Manual that is much less ambiguous (although still not sure if it would hold up in court):
2. Unless making a left turn, bicyclists traveling more slowly than passing vehicles must keep to the right side of the roadway and must travel in the same direction as the rest of traffic. However, this requirement is waived on roads with a single lane in each direction.
3. When there is only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid hazards on the roadway, including keeping a safe distance from stopped and parked cars.
6. Bicyclists are considered to be vehicle operators and are expected to obey all traffic laws; however, they may travel at less than the posted minimum speed and may not be cited for impeding traffic. Bicyclists may operate on a shoulder or berm, but are not required to do so.
This is on page 94, in chapter 5 – Laws and Related Issues, under the section titled “Safe Passing is the Law”.
I know of an expert witness who can help, if it comes to that.
@jim, a lot depends on what situation you get into with the cop and the magistrate and how even-tempered you are. It would help if you’d been in this situation before.
If you do it yourself, make sure you are prepared, with the law citation and the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual all ready. Point out how the manual is published by PennDOT for bicycle drivers to use. Keep calm. I think I was too excitable and missed the opportunity to persuade the judge, assuming he could have been persuaded to go against his friend the cop.
The value the lawyer brings is this experience and credibility. I think you’ll probably win if you take a lawyer; you might not if you don’t. OTOH you’re out $500 or so if you take the lawyer. So it’s really a question of how prepared you think you’ll be to deal with a hostile cop and potentially hostile judge.
I will be very surprised if you receive a ticket in the mail. If the cop knew what law you broke he would have given you the ticket while he was lecturing you. We know you didn’t break any law – and the cop probably has no clue and was either too lazy to look it up, or he looked it up and realized he was wrong.
It’s more likely that his feelings were hurt because you had the gull to question his knowledge of the law and so he had to flex his ‘I’m superior to you’ muscles. So he tells you that you will get a ticket in the mail in order to stroke his authority and you spend the next month in fear of the system.
So document everything about the encounter in as much detail as possible in case he does send you a citation, but I wouldn’t get too far out in front of this until the paperwork arrives.
@Marko – I feel the same way. I won’t be surprised if if I never get a citation in the mail. If I do, however, I’m ready.
1) if you get a citation and have the $$$, hire a lawyer. You will won, 99% guaranteed. The point will be made.
2) besides the people mentioned above, also add on the council person for that area of the city. Don’t know who it is.
3) cop was being a big dick. Could have told you to move over and then when you argued said, “have a nice day” and left. I bet you won’t get a citation, and if he’s ever asked about it it’ll be because he’s such a nice guy. And that homicide thing was totally made up. What homicide? Didn’t read about one. And I assume showing up 15 min late to a homicide with the excuse that you were writing up a biker for taking the lane wouldn’t be welcomed by the boss.
I agree with what was said before – please post if you get a citation and need the community to contribute towards hiring a lawyer. I will gladly donate towards police education.
What ticks me off big time, is that if you make a right at that intersection, on Baytree, or a left on Mairdale/Woods Run – you will see rows of cars parked on sidewalks completely blocking them and making them unusable for pedestrians. Presumably so the cars can drive up and down those hills doing 40 – 50 in the 25 MPH zone without knocking mirrors off the parked cars. I am sure one or two rounds of ticketing would spread the word and stop it from being the norm. Yet it seems police have more important issues to tackle like harassing cyclists.
Sorry, I went on a tangent here.
I agree with what was said before – please post if you get a citation and need the community to contribute towards hiring a lawyer. I will gladly donate towards police education.
Same. So frustrating.
I rode in on Perrysville just now. I encountered no problems, but tried to note where conflicts might arise.
Southbound, anyway, only about 1/8 of the distance is the lane wide enough that a car can pass a cyclist without a straddle pass. Northbound would be similar.
* A short section by the city line, before Vinceton
* From the Byzantine church by Riverview Park to Delaware St
Other than that, a parking lane exists. Sometimes there is a long space, most of the time not, and the faster you’re moving, the shorter those spaces effectively are. Just as you wouldn’t drive a car along a parking lane at 20 mph with parked cars a few spaces in front of you, you don’t bike down it, either.
As for the ticket in the mail, I got one from a Ross Twp cop. I was breaking the law (too fast for conditions and failure to signal a lane change. At least the second was true and could be proven) and he was being a Yinzer jag.
We agreed to disagree and he drove off in a huff saying that he was going to write me a fistful of tickets. Got the two mentioned above, totaled right around $100. Wasn’t worth my time to fight it plus I was guilty of speeding and failure to signal.
Ye without sin, cast the first stone…
Possibility dumb question: do these citations end up on driving records?
An avid bicyclist fought — and won — a $200 ticket he received from a Michigan State Police trooper who accused him of impeding traffic during a Sunday morning ride.
I wonder if you could get a copy of the cyclist’s attorney’s brief either directly or through FOIA. It would be nice to have on hand for your or future cases if necessary.
Here’s the attorney’s contact: http://sinasdramis.com/michigan-personal-injury-attorneys/lansing/joel-finnell
The firm also has a site they call ‘Bicycle Law Michigan’: http://sdbicyclelawyer.com/
I just received the citation in the mail today. I was starting to think I wasn’t going to get one (it’s been 2 weeks).
I was cited for Section 3505, subsection b:
(b) Operation on shoulder. — A pedalcycle may be operated on the shoulder of a highway and shall be operated in the same direction as required of vehicles operated on the roadway. All turns shall be made in accordance with section 3331 (relating to required position and method of turning).
My interpretation of this is that the phrase “A pedalcycle may be operated on the shoulder …” does not imply that a pedalcycle must be operated on the shoulder.
There is supporting evidence for this in the PennDot Drivers Manual, where it explicitly states on page 90 that “Bicyclists may operate on a shoulder or berm, but are not required to do so.”
And in the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual:
“A bicycle may be operated on either a shoulder or on the roadway (the travel
lanes). The locations will be based upon traffic volume, the physical condition of the travel lanes or the shoulder, traffic speed, the bicyclist’s intended direction, and other safety factors.”
But who knows whether these will hold any weight legally.
Either way, I’ll submit my plea of not guilty and have my day in the Magisterial District Court.
Thanks again to everyone for you helpful advice and feedback!
Perrysville Ave isn’t a highway and the parts that I know do not have a shoulder. Was there a shoulder where you were? It sounded like that he just wanted you to be to the right.
Is this the correct statute to apply in this situation?
It’s absolutely the wrong statute. “May” means, as you say, that you’re allowed to ride there. It also doesn’t have anything to do with Perrysville.
I think the officer either made a mistake, or is trying to fit the law with what he thinks it should be. The problem is the District Magistrate may agree, as he did in my case, in spite of the law. Or the charge may be changed to something closer to what actually happened (as it was in my case) — whether or not that is legal.
So I think you’re still in the same spot — either go without a lawyer and possibly get a DM who will rule against you and in favor of his buddy the cop, or go with a lawyer and have the issue decided in terms of the law.
*makes sure camera batteries are charged in preparation for a trip down Perrysville within the hour*
FWIW, “Highway” in the Vehicle Code refers to all parts of any publicly maintained, publicly accessible road:
“Highway.” The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. The term includes a roadway open to the use of the public for vehicular travel on grounds of a college or university or public or private school or public or historical park.
—75 PaCS 102. “Roadway” is explicitly defined in the same statute to exclude the shoulder, berm, and sidewalk, “even though such sidewalk, berm or shoulder is used by pedalcycles.”
So, Perrysville is a highway under the Vehicle Code, though not under the normal meaning of the word. However, combined with the use of “May” in subsection (b), 3505(a) is pretty clear that (b) provides an additional, alternative option, not a required exception from, the standard rules of operation:
General rule.–Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), every person operating a pedalcycle upon a highway shall obey the applicable rules of the road as contained in this title.
(Also, it’s interesting to note (at least to me) that §102 defines “shall” and “should”, but not “may”, and that Title 75 does not appear to contain an explicit prohibition of operating a vehicle on the shoulder, at least not in so many words. There are 22 occurrences of the word ‘shoulder’ in the entire Vehicle Code, most seemingly related to parking or pedestrians…)
I have never been pulled over by a cop for bicycling, but to be prepared for that eventuality, I want to print out and carry on my bicycle the most important bicycle laws. If you have it, can you share such a document?
I carry the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual, which has an out-of-date version of the laws and a lot of diagrams explaining how to ride, and a printout of the laws that have been updated since.
But I’m genuinely not expecting it to be useful even if I get stopped. My only goal is to get the ticket and roll on, to fight it in court. I can only see myself using it if I get in the odd situation I was on Greensburg Ave., where the cop genuinely seemed to want to discuss the law with me and convince me he was right (he had an old copy of the law with him; an up to date version might have made a difference).
BTW, if you are free this evening, you may wish to attend the Northside Bike/Ped Committee meeting, 6pm at Penn Brewery (in the basement dining room)…
Straight from the State of PA’s safety website:
“6. While bicyclists are vehicle operators and are expected to obey all traffic laws, they may travel at less than the posted minimum speed and may not be cited for impeding traffic. Bicyclists may operate on a shoulder or berm, but are not required to do so.”
“I want to print out and carry on my bicycle the most important bicycle laws.”
I usually carry a copy of Title 75 & the bike manual in my bag so I can reference them. But in several encounters I have yet to have a police officer willing to even let me pull them out of the bag let alone look at them.
The idea that I would be looking at $500 to $1,000 in fines, legal fees, and lost work time to fight every misinformed cop and magistrate in the area is just galling.
The transit activist in me says that when you have the same problem in multiple places, the problem is systemic, and needs a systemic solution.
I would really like to get to this North Side meeting tonight, but I’m already double booked.
Why exactly does the edict “ignorance of the law is no excuse” apply to the citizenry but not law enforcement or the judiciary??
The answer is to educate the cops about bicycle safety and traffic law. I know that @dannyabs did a course for the Pittsburgh police, and I think it may have helped. Suburban cops need this, too. Ideally, people living in the various suburbs would work with local advocacy organizations to get the police officers this course.
Last night I sent an email to Zone 1 Police Commander Lavonnie Bickerstaff, and CCd Pittsburgh’s Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Kristen Saunders, District 1 Councilwoman, Darlene Harris, and Mayor Peduto.
I took Steven’s advice above and structured the email to be more about how we can ensure that there is proper education about the law so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
To my surprise, Commander Bickerstafff called me this afternoon to discuss this situation. She reviewed Title 75, sections 3505 and 3301 and talked to the officer. She reassured me that from her perspective, I was abiding by the law. However, once a citation is issued, they can’t un-issue it.
She urged me to see this through to court so I could explain the situation. I realize she can’t affect the outcome in court, but just the reassurance of someone from the police department that my understanding of the law is correct was comforting.
We’ll see what happens in court. I’ll keep everyone posted.
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