A defense fund and website has been set up for ChipSeal. Please visit Let-Him-Ride.com and pass it on!
In my post The Enforcement of Imaginary Laws, I shared the story of my friend ChipSeal’s arrest for riding in the road. ChipSeal has had one trial, for the citations and arrest in the City of Ennis, TX. They wanted to charge him with driving in the road where a shoulder is present, but TX statute does NOT require a cyclist to drive in the shoulder. When they finally decided what to charge him with, they chose “impeding traffic.” Unlike Florida, Texas code does not specifically exclude non-motorized vehicles from that statute. However, there is plenty of legal precedent in other states that human-powered vehicles are still, by definition, excluded. Nonetheless, the jury was given bogus and improper instructions which easily confirmed their own beliefs in the taboo against bicycle driving.
The bogus instructions:
An operator of a bicycle commits the offense of FAILURE TO OBEY MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS (IMPEDING TRAFFIC) if the operator of a bicycle drives so slowly on a public road as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
He was found guilty on all three counts, despite that there were multiple lanes in his direction of travel and motorists needed only to change lanes to pass. Please note, in the link to Steve’s post, the officers’ supervisor AND the chief of police attended the trial. This goes well beyond misguided or rogue officers. It is a departmental problem. No wonder the judge maneuvered ChipSeal into a jury trial, it might have been a political nightmare for him to uphold the law in the face of that.
At this point, an appeal victory is essential to protect the legal rights of cyclists in Ennis, TX (and, perhaps, beyond). In addition to the Ennis appeal, ChipSeal faces a trial in county court for his arrest (for operating a bicycle on the road) by an Ellis County deputy.
Prejudice substituted for law
Aside from the egregious misrepresentation of the statute, since when is changing lanes to pass slower vehicles not a normal and reasonable movement of traffic? Where exactly do you set the bar for that? Just before the first traffic stop (last October), the officer was impeded by a car in the left lane, stopped and waiting for a gap to turn left. The officer couldn’t change lanes immediately to pass the stopped, left-turning car because ChipSeal was driving past in the right lane. So, he pulled ChipSeal over and cited him for impeding traffic.
First and foremost, RANTWICK says it best:
I just ride the way I think best knowing that I have a legal right to do so and leave it at that. When I heard that my online friend ChipSeal was being denied that same right in Texas despite the fact that he is entitled to it under the law, it made me angry. For me, this isn’t about cycling advocacy. It is about a friend getting screwed over. My friend wants to fight for his legal rights by appealing recent court decisions. When I put myself in his place I would want to fight too, but I wouldn’t have the money to mount a good defense and neither does he.
ChipSeal broke no laws. He merely insisted on driving his bicycle (his only mode of transportation) in the manner he felt safest AND is granted to him by statute.
Here are the issues in order of importance to me. My friend’s rights have been trampled. A fellow cyclist’s rights have been trampled. An unemployed American with no car is being denied the right to travel by human power in a safe and legal manner. Vulgar, Culture of Speed bias has trumped both law and fairness.
United we stand
No matter how I might choose to ride as an individual, on a given road, in given conditions, I fully support another cyclist’s choice — whether that be in the shoulder, the right tire track or the left side of the right lane. What’s been somewhat disheartening (though, sadly, not surprising) in this saga, is the way the state and national advocacy organizations have so far refused to support ChipSeal. But cyclists across the US and Canada are coming together to support him.
News from across the pond
Last week Anthony Robson at CityCycling Magazine sent ChipSeal and me two articles about a cyclist who was wrongly cited, wrongly convicted and then won his appeal in the UK. Here is an excerpt from The Law According to Telford:
On mention of his story there was a degree of incredulity in its reception by the cycling community. Many espoused legal viewpoints with reference to the Highway Code, with legitimate concentration on the illogical application of the law to the cyclist. It seemed to most that it was only a matter of time before the case would be dropped.
But the case survived.
Backing for Daniel, and the strength of his argument, seemed, however, to be getting stronger as the matter rolled on. The Cyclists’ Defence Fund took up the baton and the might of John Franklin was enrolled as an expert witness.
You can read the follow-up article after the appeal here.
Anthony has featured ChipSeal’s plight in the current issue of CityCycling. Read Stateside Shenanigans… and the whole issue, it’s a classy publication!
What can you do?
Times are tough. Most of us don’t have a lot of spare cash. But if you have a buck or two, every drop in the bucket will help. ChipSeal has another court case in Ellis County and an appeal in Ennis. His right to travel depends on winning those cases. He has an attorney, but we (his friends and, hopefully, the cycling community at large) are covering the fees.
If you’d like to have a souvenir for your donation, you can visit the CycleDallas gift shop.
If you simply can’t spare any money, it’s OK. You can help by passing this site on to friends and helping raise awareness of this case.
A side note for Orlando. I am aware of some issues with OPD officers giving questionable citations, and an incident of seriously unbecoming conduct during the February CM. Those problems are being addressed and steps are being taken to increase understanding within the department. I’ll have more on that, soon. If you are stopped for what you feel is legal behavior, be polite, don’t argue, get a name and badge number. Try to avoid getting a citation!