Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Real Jaw Dropper

Last evening, at around 6:00 PM, I was riding The Roadley near my place in Phoenix. I was eastbound, in the right-hand lane, waiting at a stop sign for traffic to clear so I could cross a busy Street and continue east.

I heard a beep behind me, and turned around to see a Phoenix police officer, in a marked police car, motioning me to get over to the side of the road. I dismounted my bike, carried it to the sidewalk on the southwest corner of the intersection, put down the kickstand and turned to face the police car. The officer rolled down the window on the passenger side of the police car, and surprised me by saying “You’re not supposed to be out there.”

I told him I was waiting to cross the street, and he said I was supposed to be “in the bike lane.” There was no east-west bike lane, but there was a bike lane going north and south on the busy street. I told the officer I wasn’t going south, but was going to cross the street and head east. He reiterated his statement that I wasn’t “supposed to be there in that lane” and then asked me “how am I supposed to make my turn?”

I looked, saw that he did not have his emergency lights on, and replied “you’re supposed to wait for me to cross, just like any other vehicle,” at which point he repeated “no, you’re not supposed to be there.” This went on for the next twenty seconds or so, the police officer shaking his head, telling me I wasn’t supposed to be there, and my replying that I had every right to be there. I even asked him if he wanted me to show him the law. (I carry a copy of the Arizona bicycle laws, because this is not the first time a motorist has attempted to tell me something inaccurate about them. It is, however, the first time a police officer has attempted to tell me something incorrect.)

Finally, the officer shook his head again and drove around me, headed south on the busy street. Directly behind him was another marked, Phoenix patrol car, one of those sport utility vehicles. I spread my arms in a questioning manner. The officer behind the wheel just gave me a wave, turned the corner and followed the other police car south. That SUV patrol vehicle did not have its emergency lights on either.

When I got home, I telephoned the non-emergency police number and explained to a dispatcher what had happened. To my amazement, she, too, said I was not supposed to be out there in the traffic lane. I said that was not my understanding of the law. She then said she “wasn’t a police officer” and offered to give me the regular number for the police.

I telephoned that number, and explained what had happened to a gentleman whose name I failed to catch. He said, yes, I was correct and then simply said goodbye.

I am deeply troubled by the fact that in space of just over an hour, I spoke with three representatives of the Phoenix Police Department who are evidently unaware of the provisions of Arizona Revised Statute §28-812. This statute states that “A person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”

I've sent an email to the Phoenix Police Department, it will be interesting to see what they have to say.

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