Ticketed for taking the lane
On the way to the Ride of Silence yesterday I was ticketed for taking the right lane on Greensburg Pike. The citation is 3301(b), requiring vehicles traveling slower than normal speed to ride to the right (as the officer explained to me, as far right as possible. My understanding is different). I take the lane there because when vehicles in the left lane stop to make a left turn, vehicles will pull around them to the right, at speed, passing me with inches to spare unless I block the lane. I’ve had this happen there and started taking the lane in response.
I’ve contacted Marc Reisman to fight the ticket, after discussing it with people at the Ride of Silence yesterday. If you have other advice I’d be happy to hear it.
@jonawebb I’m sorry this has happened to you. It seems you and I are having similar problem. I don’t know if the police officers don’t understand the law or if I don’t. I take the lane for safety reasons and when I don’t I’m often almost right hooked. I’m hoping someone can post some clarification on the law for taking the lane.
On a road with two or more narrow lanes in your direction — like many city streets — you should ride in the middle of the right lane at all times. You need to send the message to drivers to move to the passing lane to pass you. If you ride all the way to the right, two cars may pass you at the same time, side by side, and squeeze you off the road.
If you don’t have one, stop by any Penn Dot Drivers Licensing facility and grab one of the Penndot – published “Pennsylvania Bicycle Drivers Manual” booklets.
Not only does this instructional booklet apply and advise cyclists to utilize your logic for the position you took in the lane, it also provides illustrations regarding where a cyclist should position him/her self to ensure optimal visibility and safety.
Closing the lane by a cyclist to avoid getting squeezed or brushed is the equivalent of a cyclist actively obligating (or forcing) a motorist to follow the safe passing law, rather than passively hoping they will do so out of their strong command of Pennsylvania laws pertaining to motorists and cyclists, their compassion for cyclists on the roads, and their incredible degree of patience, tolerance, compassion, and constant awareness that they are piloting 3000 pound machines that can kill or injure.
There is a piece of the law that refers to cyclists being required to stay to the right as much as is “reasonable safe or applicable or practical” or something to that effect. “Safe or…” regarding the road surface, or “safe or…..” regarding the traffic situation, I am not sure if it delineates.
You need to take pictures, get on Google Maps and print out the spot in question where you were taking the lane. Show that when cars are making a left turn other motorists will pass on the right making it VERY dangerous for your in that area and make it impossible for them to pass leaving 4′, so the safest way to handle it is to take the lane for that spot and then move back over. Some officers have a hard on for this crap I guess. Wanting to pound their tiny chests. A TICKET? How ridiculous!
Yeah, I should have been carrying one of those — it might, or might not, have made the difference. We ended up arguing about what the law was, and now I’ll have to see him in court. Maybe if I’d been able to whip out an official DOT publication he would have listened.
If you were really cited for 3301(b) you should be able to get it dismissed on a technicality Since 3301(b)(2)(ii) plainly says that section does not apply to “a pedalcycle…”
Regardless, it is bullshit that you got the ticket in the first place. “As close as practicable” is not “as close as possible”, although unfortunately it is ambiguous enough language that who knows what a judge will decide. I do the same thing all the time for the same reason.
salty wrote:If you were really cited for 3301(b) you should be able to get it dismissed on a technicality Since 3301(b)(2)(ii) plainly says that section does not apply to “a pedalcycle…”
If that is the case you already won, but after bringing in the evidence that clearly states “does not apply to pedal cycle”, I would still be prepared to show why you needed to be safe and take the lane.
Hope the judges rolls his eyes at the cop a little, but that kind of thing is hit or miss.
I agree with all above, but what jurisdiction is this? City? Other?
Thanks for the advice. I printed out the relevant section of the law for the ride this evening. Clearly, the ticket is invalid since the law says it doesn’t apply to me.
I was in Penn Hills. The magisterial district is 05-02-08, 2065 Ardmore Blvd 15221.
Playing lawyer for a minute, I disagree with salty’s conclusion that “If you were really cited for 3301(b) you should be able to get it dismissed on a technicality Since 3301(b)(2)(ii) plainly says that section does not apply to “a pedalcycle…””
Salty didn’t show what’s in the “…”.
3301(b) says “(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.”
From the portions of the law I’ve read, I think the most relevant is section 3505(c):
“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.”
The “unless it is unsafe to do so” clause is what most justifications for “I took the lane because …” hang on.
Paul, check the wording: “…shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, OR as close as practicable to the right-hand curb…” In other words, the right-hand lane is OK.
(Edit: I think you’re right about the technicality. 3301(b) doesn’t exclude bicycles.)
Prevailing speed of traffic is zero, since the car was stopped to make a turn. You were going faster than the prevailing speed of traffic, no?
Cute, but of course I was taking the lane all along. It doesn’t make sense to move and take the lane just when a car stops in the left lane, since it is just at that point that a driver will attempt to pull to the right around them. If I’m not already blocking the lane I’m very likely to get run into when they do that.
Disclaimer: (1) Yeah, I’m an attorney,(2) No, I’m not an expert on bicycling law or traffic law,(3) Jonawebb, do exactly what you have done and work with Mark Reisman on this.
I just want to try to parse 3301 for everybody that Paul put up. It’s less than a model of clarity.
Start with 3301(c)(2). The double negative makes this hard to decipher. Read it: “This section [3301(b)] does not apply to a pedacycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one traffic lane in each direction.” Translate as: This section does not apply to a bicycle using a roadway that has one traffic lane in each direction.” In other words, a two-lane road.
Now 3301(c)(1) makes sense. There is no other right hand lane available for traffic, so the statute contemplates a dual lane highway where you can have one. Second, since it doesn’t apply to a one lane in each direction highway, you don’t have to ride as close as practicable to the right edge of the highway. in other words you have the discretion to take the lane and do all the other things we normally do depending upon what we percieve as safe for us at the time and circumstances.
I assume Greensburg Pike is at least two lanes in each direction. If so, then yes, in theory he could cite you with that statute, whether he simply ignorant of how cyclists have to analyze and process a road and traffic flow or he just wants to be a jackass who gets his rocks off by giving you a ticket.
Now 3505(c) come into play at this point. You are are supposed to ride in conformity with 3301(c) unless it is not safe to do so. And that’s exactly what the argument is in your last post; it wan’t safe for you to do so. I think Paul’s interpretation in his second post is correct.
So talk it over with Mr. Reisman to decide how you want to proceed. And I would go through the PennDOT PUB 380 Bicycling Manual linked to earlier to find what would help you and take copy with you to the hearing. I suspect the magistrate will buy into it as authority to support your case. The manual talks mostly about the 3500 set of statutes, not 3301, so you want to get it out 3301 and into the 3500s to be able to use the manual, as well as defeat it by showing that the cop in effect cited you with the wrong statute.
3301(b) says “(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,
That’s not 3301(b). That’s 3301(c). I think you’re looking at an older version of the law, before HB 170 (the 4-foot law) changed that section and renumbered parts of it.
I’m okay with getting a ticket for doing something clearly against motorist law, like making a right turn on red where it is explicitly marked “no turn on red,” but this is just crazysauce and merely a safety issue.
I’ll take my chances right-turning-on-red, but I will not not take the lane when I need to.
My analysis (not a lawyer). The cop cited you under the wrong section, maybe because he didn’t know the law was updated a year ago. But let’s pretend he cited you under “somewhere in 3301”.
3301(b) doesn’t apply to bikes, as 3301(b)(2)(ii) says.
3301(c) is the section for bikes. It says when there are two lanes in your direction, you have to use the right lane, or be as close to the curb as practicable. You were doing the former, so you’re fine.
Yes, Paul quoted the earlier (pre “4 foot law”) version of 3301. IANAL but you cannot be cited under 3301(b) while riding a bike, and you should be able to get the citation dismissed based on that alone regardless of the other merits of the case.
BTW, everyone, it would be a good idea to print out that law and carry it and a PA bicycle handbook with you. If you get a cop who is willing to listen, your having it could make the difference between your educating someone and leaving versus having to wait half an hour for your ticket, then fighting it in court.
Incredible that a cyclist was ticketed for something like this. During the time period you were interacting with the officer, I feel confident that within a mile of that location, motorists wantonly broke numerous traffic laws.
The idea of carrying printed out sections of traffic laws is perhaps a good one.
Obviously we are all curious what the outcome will be in court.
I use to carry a copy of the bike laws in my bag. After two different interactions with (Pgh) police where their knowledge of the law was, ahem, questionable – neither one wanted to even look at my document let alone read it. YMMV but I find carrying it useless.
Yes, I must have been quoting an out-of-date version of the law. Sorry. It doesn’t change my conclusions, however, which are that taking the rightmost lane for safety reasons is legally justifiable.
Jon: if you let us know when you’ll be appearing in court, perhaps some of us could accompany you (in or out of spandex, but with helmets under our arms).
So would the best solution to this problem is for us to start carrying a copy of bike laws with us in the hopes the officer will read it. Even if Jonawebb wins in court we still need to solve the problem of being stopped for taking the lane.
I’m guessing that, in general, once he’s gone to the trouble of stopping you, he’s not going to want to walk away without you either agreeing with him and promising not to do it again, or giving you a ticket. The cop yesterday, however, really worked at convincing me I was wrong, and went so far as to look up section 3301(b) in an (out of date) book of laws he had. It’s just possible that if I had the up to date version of the law he would have been convinced. And the PA DOT publication might have helped.
On the other hand, if I had the up to date law, he might have cited me under the correct paragraph, so my getting out of this would be not quite as trivial.
In any case I like Stu’s approach in general — reason with people, marshaling the facts, even when people are being unreasonable. It can’t hurt, right?
paulheckbert wrote:Jon: if you let us know when you’ll be appearing in court, perhaps some of us could accompany you (in or out of spandex, but with helmets under our arms).
I’d be happy to join you. I had an incident with a driver in December, and we talked about doing this at his court hearing, but he wound up pleading guilty and paying the fine.
@jonawebb I agree, my only advice and something you most likely tried is be as polite and respectful as you possibly can while trying to prove your point. I have found kindness sometimes helps but arguing never helps. Not saying you were not respectful it’s just the only advice I can think of.
When did this occur? I am curious because of my interaction with a “concern troll” over lane-taking the past couple of days. I do know he contacted the Greensburg State Police and asked for clarification. Possibly coincidence; I want to think so, anyway. But this guy is intransigent. (See other thread, or maybe don’t see other thread.)
@jonawebb – Jon, Steven’s analysis above in his last post is correct. The officer cited you under the wrong section. That should be enough by itself to have the magistrate throw it out.
I once had that happen with a client years ago. We went to the magistrate, I explained that my guy was cited under the wrong statute and the magistrate threw it out on the spot. The cop was less than happy, but too bad.
This happens once in a while. You got lucky. So go get ‘im, dude!!
BTW I’ve been thinking about 3301(c) and I think the analysis above by @cdavey, with all respect, isn’t quite right. The part of the law that refers to “a roadway that has a width of not more than one traffic lane in each direction” is worded in that peculiar way for a reason — it’s excluding two lane roads with wide lanes. The idea is that if you’re on a two lane road with narrow lanes, or say a wider shared one lane road, you are allowed to take the lane. But on a two lane road with wide lanes you’re supposed to ride to the right (as far as is “practicable”, of course, which is a different issue.)
The rest of the law refers to multi-lane roads; you’re allowed to take the right lane, and can use other lanes when turning left. And this part of the law is not conditional on your need to take the lane for safety reasons. You are allowed to take the right lane, period.
So it’s actually quite a good law and if motorists and cops knew about it that would help quite a bit. Let’s keep educating them!
BTW, the link above to the PA Bicycle Riders Handbook makes this point explicitly, discussing different riding strategies on roads with narrow versus wide lanes.
There are people in the world who cannot handle shades of grey, whether it refers to statute law or Bible Scripture. “It says what it says and there is no possible way to misconstrue that meaning or stretch it to fit any other meaning.”
Problem is, some lanes are 12 feet wide, some are 20 feet wide, and so the law, while it does make sense in some places, does not account for these variations. Being in legalese, with double negatives, multiple cross-references, and easily found outdated text, all make for a confusing initial source, and then compound that with lots of differing interpretations of the text and applications to different pieces of road, and you have a mess.
To further complicate things, both cyclists and the police are human, and may bend even their own understanding to fit their mood at any given moment.
Ultimately, the bottom line is a judge’s ruling. Too many variables even to try to list, so I’ll stop here, and simply say,
Good Luck, Jon.
P.S. And let us know when any hearing is!
Just heard from Marc Reisman — he suggested I represent myself at the District Magistrate level, using the defense discussed above, and then contact him to appeal if the ticket isn’t thrown out. Which is what I’ll do. Now I have to return the ticket stub and ask for a trial. I’ll let you guys know what happens. Thanks for the support & info.
+1 on letting us know about the hearing. If I’m in town, I’ll plan to attend.
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