Who will speak up when they come for you?
Please read this post at CycleDallas:
Reed Bates’ trials (and travails) got some wider coverage this week (Streetsblog, among others). People began asking why the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) wasn’t helping. Trying to get ahead of the issue, LAB President Andy Clarke widely posted a response, which I reproduce below with factual corrections. Read more.
I want to add a few thoughts here.
First, I heard some of the same “justifications” almost verbatim from other LAB insiders. From people who don’t know Reed, never spoke with him and don’t know his friends, I heard that Reed was baiting the police, that he was being manipulated and that he and his “advisers” are extremists — insisting that everyone should ride the way he does (both publicly and as a legal defense). That’s pure fiction, and very easy to disprove simply by reading the many posts written by Reed and his friends (including me).
This slander looks like another shot in a decades-long campaign to discredit bicycle driving advocates. Admittedly, there are some “VC” advocates who make it easy for such specious arguments to stick, but don’t buy into it. We are not monolithic, and the majority of advocates for integrated cycling are motivated by concerns about safety and access for cyclists.
In Reed’s case, access was paramount. He had no other form of transportation in rural Texas. Necessity led Reed to choose that road to travel to his destination. Decades of cycling experience led him to choose his position on that road. He was riding in the manner safest, most practicable and most comfortable for him. He was riding in accordance with the law. He was causing harm to no one.
He was not baiting anyone, he was standing up for his right to drive defensively. As a result of a campaign of police harassment, he was essentially forced to leave that county. Without a car, he could no longer drive defensively without being thrown in jail. Thus, during this process, he moved to Dallas.
Second, both trials reek of small-town politics.
In the first trial, the judge—possibly not wanting to have to rule against his small-town PD—railroaded Reed into a jury trial. A jury of motorists, of course, convicted him.
The second, most-recent trial, demonstrates a chain of bad decisions made and protected by each level of a corrupt system. Here’s my take on it. The deputy screwed up by issuing Reed an ultimatum (that he would arrest him if he didn’t ride on the shoulder). Then he had to arrest Reed when he refused to give up his legal right to drive defensively in the manner he felt safest. Since Reed broke no laws, the Sheriffs Office had egg on their face. But rather than admit it and dismiss the charges, the prosecutor came up with a charge so outrageous she probably thought Reed (who had since moved to Dallas) would take a “generous” offer to plead guilty and be let go with time served (No harm no foul, right? Merely the inconvenience of having been incarcerated repeatedly for legal, defensive driving). But Reed would not plead guilty when he had broken no laws. Would you? So the judge, who has to live in this small town and work with the prosecutor and the police, decided to make a mockery of justice and issue an absurd guilty ruling while admitting that Reed broke no laws.
Reed’s civil rights have been trampled, with the added absurdity of a conviction for reckless driving. Do you know how hard it is to get a citation for reckless driving issued to a motor vehicle driver? Even when reckless drivers cause a crash, the system is stacked so hard against conviction that police go for careless driving instead. There are drivers who are a menace on the roads still driving legally and endangering us all because of this!
When one cyclist is beaten down by the culture of speed, we all are. You and I might never choose to ride on a road like HWY287, or we might choose to ride in the crappy shoulder. But if it is made clear to all that we have a legal right to use the road there, we will be that much closer to preserving the rights and access for cyclists on all roads. No matter how people feel about various types of infrastructure, those of us who rely on bicycles for transportation will always need to use roads to access our destinations.
As Dan Gutierrez posted on Facebook this morning:
“They came first for the state highway riders, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a state highway rider. Then they came for the arterial riders, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an arterial rider. Then they came for me (collector/residential street rider), and by that time, no one was left to speak up for my right to use the roadway.”
If you would like to support Reed’s appeal, you can do that
here. (link no longer active)