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Posted by on Oct 1, 2011 in Uncategorized | 20 comments

BWCF Works with UCF PD to keep Bike Bus rolling

Screen-shot from rear-facing video which documented that the group was riding legally and not impeding traffic.

It was a beautiful Friday morning in April. Sgt. Troy Williamson, Community Relations Officer with the University of Central Florida Police Department was on his way to work when he saw something unusual – a squad of bicyclists, traveling two-abreast, spinning their way up University Boulevard.

A veteran officer, Sgt. Williamson was absolutely certain that bicycles were to ride as far to the right as possible – to stay out of the path of cars. And riding two abreast? Well that was just looking for trouble. He bided his time, waiting for the group to cross into his jurisdiction, then hit the lights.

The leaders of the group – Kitzzy Aviles and Jason Buckner tried to explain that the group was part of a regularly scheduled “Bike Bus” that ran a route from Downtown Orlando to UCF twice a week. They tried to explain that they were operating safely and lawfully, but Sgt. Williamson held firm in his conviction that riding two-abreast during rush hour on University Boulevard was a dangerous activity that impeded the flow of traffic. He issued two citations, one each, to Jason and Kitzzy, for impeding traffic.

Florida Statutes are clear. Section 316.2065(5), the law governing cyclist position on the roadway, states:

A cyclist on a roadway who is not traveling as fast as the “normal speed of traffic” must ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except in the following situations:

  • When passing another vehicle;
  • When preparing for a left turn;
  • When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard;
  • When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
  • A cyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as close to the left-hand edge of theroadway as practicable.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards recommends an outside lane width of 14 feet as the “minimum width that will allow passenger cars to safely pass bicyclists within a single lane,” i.e., without the need for passing motorists to change lanes.

The lane in which the Bike Bus was traveling measures 11 feet, and is by law “unshareable.”

Section of 316.2065(6) of the Florida Statutes goes on to say that:

  • Cyclists may ride two abreast only within a single lane and when not impeding traffic.
  • Cyclists may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

In a lane “too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side,” the law requires drivers to cross over into the next lane. In this case, cyclists riding two abreast cause no additional impediment to traffic.

Jason and Kitzzy shared this information with the officer, but Sgt. Williamson was firm. The cyclists were polite, and didn’t argue. Instead, they got the officer’s information and called Bike/Walk Central Florida.

When we first contacted Sgt. Williamson he refused to rescind the tickets, even when we escalated the matter to the chief and deputy chief.  Officer Williamson was not an unreasonable man.  Law enforcement is a tough job and everybody has a ready excuse to justify their behavior. He was just doing his job.

Fortunately, Jason and Kitzzy not only knew the rules of the road, but also had rear-facing high-definition video to back their assertion that they were not impeding traffic.  Jason customarily runs front and back video on his bicycle. The Bike Bus had been pulled over before, by officers from other jurisdictions, and Jason and Kitzzy knew it was important to document their ride. The video clearly showed that, other than Sgt. Williamson, who chose to follow the group, other traffic routinely changed lanes and passed without even slowing down.

After reviewing the video, and the Florida Statutes, Sgt. Williamson contacted the Florida Department of Transportation to verify our claims. After several weeks of back and forth, he contacted Jason and Kitzzy to let them know he would be rescinding the tickets.

With all the laws officers need to enforce it’s only natural that they might miss or misinterpret some of the finer details, especially when it comes to rarely enforced laws, such as those governing bicycles operating in traffic.

Let’s be honest, most bicyclists don’t know the laws either.

Jason and Kitzzy did everything right: they knew the law, they documented their ride, and they were polite and respectful to the officer in the field. All of these factors ultimately contributed to the reversal of the tickets.

Bike/Walk Central Florida is happy to have helped keep the Bike Bus rolling and we wish Jason, Kitzzy and their “passengers” safe travels.

 

20 Comments

  1. This is a great write-up, Brad! Thank you for all of your help dealing with this situation.

    We now see Sgt. Williamson regularly on University Blvd and he gives us a wave and a smile when he sees us. It is encouraging to experience this change in attitude from law enforcement at UCF.

  2. Good work. Is that the UCF police vehicle in the screenshot on the right?

    • yes

  3. Great post! Well done, Jason and Kitzzy with keeping a positive attitude through a tough situation like this. I enjoyed riding with you two in July, hopefully, I’ll get to ride with you both again soon.

  4. Good job folks. Although the worrisome part is that this took place in April and there was no conclusion until late September!

    • My bad. This was resolved within a few weeks. I just got around to posting it.

  5. ” Although the worrisome part is that this took place in April and there was no conclusion until late September!” So in the time it took to educate one “law enforcement” officer, two or more have joined the force. The rate at which cops learn the law is slower than their turnover rate. Unacceptable!

    The hackneyed phrase “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is meant to be directed at common folk unwittingly breaking laws. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” should be the basis of a lawsuit against the local municipality that failed to train this cop to do his job, even if only a $1000 lawsuit in small claims court. A victory would at worst make page 2 news in the local paper, and at best make the city train their police about the law.

  6. i’m glad this situation ended well and a common sense interpretation of the statute prevailed, but i’m really biting my tongue on this one.

  7. Congratulations to everyone involved, including Sgt. Williamson. It’s not easy for someone in his position to admit he was wrong. By treating him with respect, you now have him on your side.

  8. One agency at a time. Isn’t there a newsletter that the police chiefs read? Can’t FDOT use the law enforcement media to get the word out?

    • there’s no incentive to do that. this is a rare case of well informed, well connected individuals going well over the citing officer’s head, so he had no other choice. i’m certain that most LEOs want bicyclists to disappear completely from the roadways, which i believe motivates their harassment and citing of bicyclists for nonsense violations that either didn’t happen or don’t exist. most of the time their strategy works to marginalize and discourage bicyclists. in this case it didn’t, but as i said, this is a rare case.

      • I disagree, a “well informed” [educated] person can challenge an order/citation if it is unreasonable. The amount of time to get a satisfactory resolution might take some effort.

        Please recall: Lane Use and Cyclist Safety for OPD | 14 April 2010
        http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2010/04/14/lane-use-and-cyclist-safety-for-opd/

        Other examples: “Bicycle Right to the Road Cases” – http://bikelaws.org/Rt2Road.htm

        Re: “i’m certain that most LEOs want bicyclists to disappear completely from the roadways”?

        How do you know that or why do you feel that? LEO’s of all stripes [State Highway, County Sheriff or City Police] pass me regularly on the way to work and I typically get or give a friendly wave.

        Florida Bicycle Law: Questions, answers and news about Florida bicycle laws and law enforcement is excellent effort to educate LEO but sometimes the question has be worked up the chain. http://flbikelaw.org/

        • i’m glad your experience with law enforcement differs from mine, but i regularly get harassed for riding in a safe and legal manner by Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies, mainly in the Conway area, specifically in the Conway Gardens/Gatlin area.

          • We haven’t had problems lately, but in the past our most frequent problems have been with Orange County Sheriffs and State Troopers. Our incidents with them have also been the most intense and uncomfortable.

            The UCF PD incident was handled quite professionally, but just so happened to be the only one to end in a citation.

          • If possible, please try to get the officer’s information – business card, name, whatever you can get. The more documentation you have of safe operation (video, etc) the better. We can work with law enforcement, but it sure helps to be able to set aside all the usual “he said/she said” stuff right up front.

            It can be a tedious process, but we create change by working hard for it. We can’t just accept hassles as the status quo, or take short-term satisfaction from confronting officers in the field. We have to think of the bigger picture — a la the Women’s Movement/Civil Rights.

  9. Happy ending, but you’re lucky the right lane isn’t 14 feet. This is still not wide enough for a maximum-width vehicle (8.5 feet *plus mirrors*) to pass within the lane (assuming 6 inches per mirror, the bike gets only 1.5 feet when passed with 3 feet clearance). I regularly ride on a 45 mph four-lane road with outside lanes apparently exactly 14 feet, and I feel like I’m tempting fate every time I ride defensively.

  10. After twenty-eight stops from uninformed uniformed law enforcement officers (with number 28 just last week), I’m certainly familiar with this situation, although I don’t have the pleasure of participating in a bike bus. Is there a link to the video, so we can enjoy the entire exchange?

  11. Changing the mindset of law enforcement is a tough challenge at times. Some officers are open-minded and approachable about the best practices for road cycling, but others are fiercely resistant. This incident was handled very well! Congratulations!

  12. Just passing through the google and found this website. I think that every law enforcement officer has seen so many traffic crashes, injuries and deaths, we are very concerned for bicyclist.I do, especially on University Blvd and Alafaya Trail. All we can ask is to be safe near UCF and other major highways. Again, be safe!

    • Amen! And thank you, again, Sgt. Williamson, for being willing to work with us in the end.

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  1. Central Florida Bike Bus » Blog Archive » BWCF Works with UCF PD to keep Bike Bus rolling - [...] at 3:06 pm and is filed under Traffic Law. You can follow any responses to this entry through the …
  2. Bike/Walk Central Florida Newsletter #40 — Oct. 6, 2011 - [...] Bike/Walk Central Florida helped out when the UCF Police and the Bike Bus disagreed: http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2011/10/01/bwcf-ucf-pd/ [...]