Impeding Traffic

Yesterday, Fred_dot_u was pulled over for “impeding traffic.” Fred shoots video from his Velomobile everywhere he goes. Here’s the video from before the officer pulled him over. Enjoy a hearty laugh.

Fred, thanks for posting this link in the Urban Legends comments!

37 replies
  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    I noticed that the enforcement vehicle’s driver changed lanes in an intersection and failed to use a turn signal while/before doing so…..

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    I was disappointed when it stopped. I was hoping to hear the conversation. Maybe the FDOT has a camera in their cars, so we can get the whole thing?

    “Somebody” needs to send this one to FDOT. Shows an obvious deficiency in their training program.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    It’s a good idea to have a Law Enforcement Guide. Knowing the law (and being courteous and non-confrontational about it) should end the conversation. The last thing an officer wants to do on his day off is lose a court case to a cyclist.

    Here’s an explanation of impeding traffic. Basically, it only applies to motor vehicles and bicyclists riding 2-abreast.

  4. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Priceless. The only person impeding traffic in the clip is the cop.

    BTW Eric, FDOT doesn’t train law enforcement, though it has been attempting to do ped- and bike-oriented trainings since they get so little in the academy. but that has only reached a tiny number of officers.

    FBA is developing a comprehensive bicycle law enforcement curriculum. We have a number of LE agencies on board to help promote it when it’s completed.

    Fred: could FBA use this in its curriculum?

  5. Keri
    Keri says:

    Yeah. What’s frustrating is the institutional/cultural bias that compels an officer to go out of his way to stop a bicycle driver in the right lane of a nearly-empty road.

    I must add… I am regularly passed by officers in the Central Florida area and have not been bothered for my lane position or choice of roads. My interactions with them usually consist of a friendly wave. And a big thumbs-up for the ones on the side of the road checking speed 🙂

  6. Eric
    Eric says:

    Mighk, Fred said this was a FDOT car. Which I thought was only for commercial carrier law enforcement, but who knows, maybe this guy thinks he can be FHP when he wants to be.

  7. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Dan, he did use a turn signal, just a little hard to see in the video. I didn’t notice the lane change in the intersection, but I’ve been conditioned to not change lanes in an intersection from my teen years. I’m not sure people know that one.

    Eric, can you hear sound in the video? My editor is giving me fits, as I can’t hear a thing and only recently replaced the microphone attached to the camera. There is an entire conversation recorded, and I’ll try to transcript it for our viewing and listening enjoyment. It’s most a sad commentary on personal bias and lack of understanding. He asked me at one point if I was a laywer, so I knew I had to tread lightly.

    AndrewP, he used the reference of doing 17 mph in a 45 mph zone as the basis for impeding traffic, not that any vehicles were being slowed. I told him I didn’t think I was impeding traffic and then said “I don’t know what to tell you, it’s a multi-lane road.” He didn’t pursue it.

    Keri, I carry a bundle of the Law Enforcement Guides and kicked myself later for not giving him one. We parted amicably and it would have been a bonus for us commuting cyclists (both of us).

    Keri, as you noted, there is no legal definition of “impeding traffic” and that puts the officer in a position to interpret it as he likes. The Flagler cop that stopped me when I was riding to meet Kate and Kent used impeding traffic on me as well. I had the cameras mounted but turned off. When I took a few still shots by unmounting one, while he was in the cop car, he suddenly did not find a need to charge me. I think he didn’t notice the cameras at first. That road (A1A) is narrow, especially northbound and everybody was passing me easily.

    Mighk, I don’t have any copyrights to the video, so if it’s going to be used for promoting safe cycling, by all means! The video was recorded in a public location, with audio, so I suppose you could make use of other parts too?

    Keri, I have pretty decent interactions with most of the cops in this area, but there’s bound to be someone who hasn’t seen and interrogated me yet. I get frustrated too early if the cop doesn’t recognize the statute and goes Rambo on me.

    What isn’t mentioned in this blog entry, but is part of the original YouTube post (Curious Foundation) is that I was stopped for being in the lane. He read the statute to me and left out the portion about side-by-side occupation of the lane while he read. I pointed that out and he then switched to the impediment tactic.

    It’s almost fun, but some day it might not be.

    I want to thank you all for your positive and supportive comments. I’ve put all the YouTube comments on moderation/approval status because not everybody is capable of rational thought when it comes to road use, and the less-literate of that crowd tend to be abusive and profane.

    whew

  8. PM Summer
    PM Summer says:

    “I noticed that the enforcement vehicle’s driver changed lanes in an intersection…” commented Dan.

    In Tejas (Hi, Floridians!) that’s a $150 fine, signal or no. It’s also very dangerous.

  9. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    A potential argument direction: ask the officer if a motorist (not a transit bus) is permitted to stop (but not park) and discharge a passenger at the same place he pulled you over. If it is inside a municipality and there are no signs explicitly prohibiting it, the answer to that question is NO. See FS 316.1945

    Fred, your stories make me glad I live in the City of Orlando. I’ve never been pulled over for taking the lane. Officers routinely drive by me as I do on my way to work.

  10. Eric
    Eric says:

    Living in Orlando will not protect you from one of these FDOT Motor Carrier Compliance Officers. They have jurisdiction everywhere in the state.

    Here is a wiki entry about them if you don’t know what they are up to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Department_of_Transportation

    You will note that it says this:
    “Although their primary focus is on commercial vehicles, MCCO officers can (and will) stop non-commercial drivers when serious infractions are observed”

  11. Keri
    Keri says:

    Mighk said: “Fred, your stories make me glad I live in the City of Orlando. I’ve never been pulled over for taking the lane. Officers routinely drive by me as I do on my way to work.

    Ditto!

    OPD, SCSO and WPPD officers pass me regularly. Sometimes I forget how fortunate we are in the Orlando area.

  12. Pat D
    Pat D says:

    I’m not sure why the cyclist wasn’t closer to the curb. I know when I’m riding, I’m as close to the curb as possible. You can’t always tell when a car may come up on you. I’d be curious what the officer did? Did the cyclist get a ticket or a warning.

  13. Dan Gutierrez
    Dan Gutierrez says:

    Pat D wrote: “I’m not sure why the cyclist wasn’t closer to the curb.”

    When you figure it out, you’ll be ready to act as a driver!

    It is precisely because you can’t always tell when a car “comes up on you” that you need to be in the center or even left of center of the lane to be highly visible as Fred behaves in the video. The only protection the drivers of smaller vehicles have against much larger vehicles is their visibility. This is just as true for an SUV driver in front of an 18-wheeler, as it is for a bicyclist in front of the SUV driver.

    Though counterintuitive to cyclists who have not yet learned traffic cycling skills, trying to hide at the edge of the road like some kind of road rat actually decreases your visibility and increases your crash risk.

    You can observe lane control in action in all of the video links below that are hosted on the CyclistLorax channel on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yp32rEpecQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2RZMANlHls

  14. John Schubert
    John Schubert says:

    Pat D,

    I have an article you should read. Download the PDF from this page:

    The Bluesman and the Apprentice

    (I hope the URL doesn’t get mangled.)

    As Dan says, you’re better off claiming more road space. The farther to the left you ride, the more lateral clearance motorists will give you when they overtake you. This works far, far better than most novices could ever imagine. It works on the east coast and on the west coast. It works on two lane roads, four lane roads and eight lane roads.

    John Schubert

  15. Keri
    Keri says:

    John, Thank for that link! I had tried to find that story online last summer and couldn’t. (The link worked ok, but I cleaned it up.)

  16. velociped
    velociped says:

    A hearty laugh? More like irate contempt.

    Something similar happened to me in October 2007. The police officer followed me for nearly two kilometers, before pulling me over and reading me the impediment riot act. As in this situation, there were two adjacent lanes within which any overtaking traffic could pass and the number of other vehicles sharing that stretch with me was just under a dozen over the course of a two minute period.

    I argued my way out of a citation by showing that I was more familiar with the law than he was and demanding to speak to his supervisor – on the spot. That seemed to take him aback, though he did comply.

    The supervisor said he would ask the officer to return to the substation in order to review. He called me later that evening and tried to cite the FTR rule as justifying the officer’s actions. I retorted citing the “14 foot” and “safe sharing” rules (§551.103.a.4.[A|B]). He had no legitimate response and stated he would have a follow-up chat with the officer.

    While it ultimately worked to my benefit, the twenty minutes I was delayed, after dark, on a chilly Fall evening was not appreciated.

    In over fifteen years of vehicular cycling in North Texas, that has been my only encounter with an ignorant, prejudicial peace officer.

    Though Fred does not express his intent to do so, I hope he fights this flagrant example of official oppression. Having the video evidence – if deemed admissible – ought to win support of the judge.

    Good Luck!

    Herman

  17. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    velociped, since I was not given a traffic citation, I won’t be taking this to any court.

    I count on being polite and presenting my understanding of the laws in a rational manner to keep a citation from being considered in any case.

    I have been lucky so far in the dozen or so traffic stops I’ve experienced.

    Velomobiles are unusual in most of these United States, and one operating within the law must be confusing to some law enforcement officers. I keep the RodneyCams running whenever I’m out!

  18. Andrewp
    Andrewp says:

    Since I have access to court case information, I looked in the Florida courts to see if there was a “seminal” case relating to bicycles impeding traffic. Seminal meaning that other cases point back to this one as setting the president for all others to follow. There is nothing in Florida law where this issue has been ‘decided’, so I guess it still means it’s open to interpretation (by both law enforements and judges).

    There are some cases in other states (a particular case in Ohio is quoted often) but again, nothing exactingly specific to Florida.

  19. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Andrewp, you mentioned access to legal records. I’m not so worried about the impeding traffic statute, since it specifically states “motor vehicles” but I would like to have previous case law regarding 316.2065, 5(a) to carry with me.

    Two more law enforcement stops, yesterday (you are required to hug the curb) and today (you are required to stay as far to the right as possible) followed by “This is a standard lane, not a sub-standard lane” and the admission that it’s a 12′ lane has my dander up. To top it off, the first officer in today’s stop told me he would cite me if I returned to traffic and took the lane. The second officer (a motorcycle cop) was probably supposed to be moderating things, but that’s not how it worked out.

    My rodney-cams were running, but the camera itself took on a 45 degree tilt, making it virtually intolerable to watch. I will eventually transcribe all three stops in the last week, rather than post a video of a vehicle parked while people talk.

    These last two officers tried to tell me that it’s for my safety to be on the side of the lane, but both admitted to the unenforceable 3′ law. The first of the three, in this video, wasn’t even aware of the law.

    Since today’s stop happened right in front of the Port Orange PD, I went in to talk to a patrol supervisor and got instead the same motorcycle cop from the traffic stop.

    That conversation went in circles. He told me it was safer for me to be on the side and I said my 4000 miles experience holds otherwise. I pointed out the “side-by-side” exception in the statute and he told me that my protection is the 3 foot passing law, not recognizing that moments earlier, he acknowledged that motorists don’t know it and don’t follow it. I suggested that passing a law does not directly affect my safety and I am responsible for determining it.

    At the point where the traffic stop ended, he made the comment that the officer who stopped me rarely makes traffic stops, as he is the community relations and resource officer, somewhat advanced in years, as if that makes him more qualified to pull me over. This brings to mind another example of someone’s mistaken understanding of how bicycles should be operated safely impeding fair treatment.

    Is it practical to approach a traffic judge and ask for a document stating his legal opinion of operation on a 12′ lane, or am I asking for headaches? I would not know how to begin such an approach, but I don’t want it to be in a courtroom either.

  20. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    oh, yeah, the motorcycle cop mentioned that it probably was a cyclists’ advocacy group who got the three-foot law passed. Like that helps me in any way!

    I was also told by the motorcycle cop that I should get a flag to be more visible. Since I’m quite visible in the lane, that doesn’t fly with me at all.

    One of the absurd arguments in this discussion was that traffic behind me would have to make an abrupt lane change, and the vehicle following the first one would have to abruptly slam on the brakes to keep from hitting me. The cop didn’t take any consideration of the lack of skill of the operators in these scenarios he provided and refused to consider that the second vehicle was tailgating. He also did not properly consider that a second vehicle, not tailgating would not have to perform an abrupt stop, but I pretty much gave up by then and pedaled home frustrated, but in my lane. I was later passed by a Port Orange motorcycle officer, anonymous in his helmet.

  21. Keri
    Keri says:

    Unbelievable!

    The unenforceable 3 foot law and motorist incompetence used to justify enforcing edge-of-the-road riding.

    Can you extract the audio and make an MP3 file? I’ll post it along with your transcript.

  22. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    fred_dot_u, I am very interested in either a transcript or audio file. I am grateful for your efforts to include all of us in this drama.

    In your place, I would have responded to the cops threat of a citation if you didn’t cease, by demanding he write me a ticket- as I will not ride to the right.

    Where does the motorist’s mindset come from that would deny someone the lawful travel by one’s own power on the public way? This is a right that has existed from the dawn of civilization!

    I am angry at the bias in the law that seems to put the responsibility on me, the slower vehicle, to avoid collisions from overtaking traffic! The duty (both a moral duty and a legal one) is on the overtaking motorist to use due care and to pass in a safe manner in all other circumstances, why does a bicycle change the equation?

  23. Eric
    Eric says:

    May I advance another theory as to the policemen’s motive? I know that the reason I was being pestered years ago was because of misguided paternalism.

    A few of them even told me that they didn’t think it was safe to be riding a bicycle anywhere but on the sidewalk along city streets or in the safety of a subdivision. A common theme was, “Did my parents know where I was and what I was doing?” Enforcing the law really had nothing to do with why they stopped me.

    I don’t think they like Fred’s Velomobile. They don’t think it is safe. They may not come right out and say it the way they did to me because Fred isn’t a teen-ager, but they figure if they bother Fred enough, he’ll stop playing with his toy on their streets.

  24. Eric
    Eric says:

    Fred,
    I have turned on my FTP server so that you can upload the files there. You don’t need to edit, strip out or anything else. You do need a freeware FTP client: http://filezilla-project.org/

    It’s pretty simple. You will have to email me for a username, password and address.

    I’m pretty well equipped to deal with audio and video.

  25. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I’m pretty well equipped to do an audio rip and the rest, but it’s more psychological than technical. I don’t usually let these stops get to me and usually find them entertaining, but not these last two. Law enforcement officers should not be threatening law abiding citizens and it’s going to be a few days before I get my head in the right place.

    Usually, I would take a bike ride to get my head straight, but I gotta wonder if that’s a good idea as of late!

  26. Julius
    Julius says:

    So what now?

    Apparently knowing our rights isn’t enough. I’m concerned because it sounds like the best way to avoid getting pulled over is to not ride in the road at all. 🙁

  27. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    You may in fact be on to something there, Eric, but misguided paternalism amounts to the same thing.

    It goes like this: “Hey, that cyclist is in danger! We need to protect him.”

    At that point there are at least two possible ways of protecting him, make the cyclist cease lawful use of the road or enforce the laws that compel proper motorist driving around slower vehicles.

    But in our car-centric society, it never seems to occur to these do-gooders that it is motorist’s behavior that is out of line.

  28. Keri
    Keri says:

    ChipSeal is really nailing the issue here! It’s absolutely a car-centric/speed-dominant cultural attitude that slower, more exposed users should be gotten out of the way of faster, less-attentive, less-responsible users for their own safety. This is a sick perversion of public safety and it’s time for it to change.

    Julius,
    To try and put you at ease a bit, I have not seen a problem with this kind of police harassment in the Orlando Metro area. As Mighk and I have both noted, we ride in an assertive lane position and are passed by Central Florida officers on a regular basis.

    I’ve even had an officer stop a motorist who harassed and illegally passed myself and 2 other cyclists on 436 as we were commanding the right lane.

  29. Andrewp
    Andrewp says:

    Fred: Is there any chance you could go by the precinct and get with a bike-friendly and knowledgeable officer (preferably a more senior officer) and explain your problem? If you had one knowledgeable officer who knew and agreed that what you were doing was not only safe but completely legal, then perhaps you could short-circuit all of these conversations by simply saying “Please contact Officer XX — he is aware of my situation with my riding locations and actions — he will direct you.”

    Or something to that effect. Would it work?

  30. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Andrew, your idea is splendid. I have yet to find one who qualifies in that respect! I ask for a supervisor and get a motorman. I’ll be writing letters to the chiefs of police in the near future, once I can compose my thoughts.

  31. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Fred,
    If you had this sequence to do over again, what would you do differently? I got pulled over myself today and would prefer not to have to do the court part of your experience.

    The road I got pulled on is the only practical route I have, other than I-35, when leaving work. Narrow road, no shoulder, double yellow line down the middle.

  32. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    SteveA, I subscribe to your blog and saw that post too. In this particular incident, I was not violating any traffic laws and was not cited. I was polite to the officer and did not lose my cool. I don’t think there’s much I would have changed.

    Florida does have a no-headphones law, although my vehicle has speakers, so I’m still legal to listen to music. I can’t hear much else inside the cockpit, other than road noise anyway.

    You ask what I would have done differently and I have been stopped again, more recently, and the approach, execution and result was almost the same. Only the names were changed, because it was a different location, different cop, not to protect the innocent.

    http://www

    The two-lane roads on which I ride are usually so short as to be insignificant. I would not compromise my safety, regardless of traffic, to allow a vehicle to attempt to occupy the lane, so I believe that you are doing the best possible action.

  33. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Had I attempted a discussion similar to your vimeo video, traffic would have backed up behind the policeman’s SUV clear back to where I work!

    Unfortunately, unlike my old commute, this one has a lot of two-lane roads. And many of them are inappropriately striped.

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