Police Cracking Down on Bikers, Too

Jaywalkers aren’t the only ones catching the eye of law enforcement recently.

A friend of mine acquired an impressive $220 fine for turning left on red the other day. She was turning from a bike lane into another bike lane. An undercover cop pulled her over – complete with sirens – and gave her a stern talking to.

He said he noticed that she had looked for cars and pedestrians before making the left, but slapped her with the fine anyway.

He asked to see her license (she’s from Alberta, Canada). To add insult to injury, he wrote “American” at the top of her ticket. She was not impressed.

Seems as though her fine was a bit punitive. She said his demeanour completely changed once she started talking, and reckons if she was Australian she would have gotten off with a warning.

But keep your wits about you lawbreaking bikers, the Man is watching.

Hey, so what do you guys think? Should bikers have to follow the exact same rules as drivers? Or are they given some leeway by virtue of the fact that they (generally) cause less accidents and less damage should they be involved in a collision?

And if we want to count bikes as vehicles just like cars, what about vehicles and pedestrians in bike lanes – should they get tickets for impeding other vehicles?

I ask this having spent most of my ride home last night clearing groups of drunk people from my bike lane. (Confidential to the guy who shouted inexpicably, ‘Only a fa**ot would drive that bike’ – your hair was unbelievably atrocious.)

7 Comments so far

  1. neil on March 11th, 2008 @ 12:46 am

    Bicycles should follow the same rules that apply to vehicles. That said, common sense should prevail, left hand turn from one bike lane to another lane (whist clear of traffic) is logically fine. Some police stick to the letter of the law and some see the spirit of the law.

    Your friend might have a case of discrimination if she decides to appeal the ticket. What suburb was this in that has undercover cops pulling over bicyclists?


  2. brie on March 11th, 2008 @ 8:50 am

    She works on Chapel Street, so it was near there.

    Yeah, I’ve told her she should definitely contest it – I’m not sure how the laws work here, but, in the States, the cop has to show up to argue against her. And if they don’t show up, you get off. I’d definitely be ruining his day for $220.

    As to legality, if we would expect cars to get nailed for a left turn, then shouldn’t bikers, too? It seems as though you might be willing to accept slightly different rules for bikers, which makes sense (after all, it’s a lot harder to get my old, steel-frame going again than someone’s Honda).


  3. adrock2xander (mel_john) on March 11th, 2008 @ 10:53 am

    I turn left on red ALL the time. However, common sense prevails and I do not cross a road when it’s red.

    As for discrimination, it’s a resounding yes. There’s a rather stark difference between the Canadian and American accent; I’ve had the joy of befriending a Canadian last year. And until I met him, I had no idea it sounded so rather different. Can’t say we could blame the copper, but it’s like if you’ve never met one or been there, you’d just generalise the accent and where the person is from.

    I wouldn’t contest it though. Common stereotypes exist due to ignorance and a lack of education. It’s like assuming I’m from China, like what many Aussies (of all colours) do just because I have Asian features. Clearly they don’t have any Asian friends.

    Personally, I’m still having trouble differentiating a Kiwi and an Aussie accent. Maybe I just haven’t spoken at length to a Kiwi. Yet.


  4. jono on March 11th, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    I also turn left on red when on my bike, and the rule shouldn’t be thought of as applying to bikes as much as it applies to cars.

    Firstly, bikes don’t turn left into the middle of the lane, they stick close to parked cars. Its 100 % legal for pedestrians to make that exact same move if they were walking to their parked cars.

    Secondly, bikes don’t need the threat of a fine to avoid accidents. They already know that a collision could result in them being obliterated or hospitalised, so of course they should be left to exercise caution and use their own judgement.

    So long as cyclist give way to pedestrians who are crossing, then why not ?


  5. brie on March 11th, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    Yeah, jono, that’s pretty much how I feel as well. Not that drivers make reckless decisions because they’re encased in steel, but I am dramatically aware that I am slower and more vulnerable than cars. I make decisions accordingly.

    They’re going to have to institute some ped laws if they want to apply these rules to all bikers. People don’t walk in front of cars (again, tons of steel), but they’ll routinely walk in front of my bike. It’s a pretty dangerous situation for me – and, frankly, for them.

    Whatever, I just look around for cops now.


  6. neil on March 11th, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

    Definitely agree with left turn logic but…

    @brie,
    I think you are stating that cars are bigger and encased in steel thus should have different rules than bikes. Well how about motorbikes..not encased in much or better yet mopeds/vespas which offer little speed or protection. So we have different rules depending on what you drive/ride?

    @john,
    Seriously, you can’t tell a Kiwi accent or should I say "you cun’t till a Kiwi accint?"

    The added attention to bikers might be due to the biker who hit and "seriously" injured a pedestrian last week. Lest we also forget James Gould who was killed after a bicyclist ran a stop sign (or was it a red light).


  7. adrock2xander (mel_john) on March 11th, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

    Hey what kind of bike do you ride, Brie?



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