Thoughts About Reed Bates
Reed Bates (aka ChipSeal) has been not only cited, but arrested, jailed and convicted for cycling in the center of the right lane on a four-lane highway. The highway has an intermittent 8-foot shoulder with rumble strips (and evidently some significant debris, too).
Many of Reed’s fellow cyclists are criticizing him for not using the paved shoulder, even though Texas law does not require it, and also permits cyclists full use of a lane that is too narrow to share.
If Reed was riding on a roadway with a shared use path next to it in a state that has a mandatory sidepath law, many, if not most of you would support him, even though some of you might prefer to ride on the path. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he wasn’t using the “bike path” because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
If he was riding on a roadway with a narrow paved shoulder or bike lane that was full of debris and was staying out of that shoulder or bike lane, once again, many or most of you would support him, even though you might use the shoulder or bike lane. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he wasn’t using the “bike path” because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
If he was riding on a roadway without a paved shoulder, bike lane or sidepath and controlling the lane, many or most of you would support him, even though you might hug the edge. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he was on the road at all, because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
From the sound of how the Ennis police and Ellis County sheriff’s departments are behaving, I think they could have just as easily cited, jailed and convicted Reed for any of those types of circumstances, because they believe — in spite of a complete lack of evidence — that roadway cycling is dangerous and causes delay and chaos on our roads.
When I was pulled over for controlling a narrow lane in the City of Orlando, I heard the same kind of absurd and ignorant arguments from the cop who pulled me over. Fortunately, there was no bike lane or paved shoulder present, and I was able to talk my way out of it. Last week an off-duty sheriff’s deputy told me to get on the sidewalk. Many will say, “Well that’s different,” but it’s really not; all of these police actions stem from the same bogus belief, not from their understanding of the law.
The real problem we face is not so much how our laws are written, but what people believe about cycling. When we cyclists criticize Reed for cycling in the way he does, we are reinforcing the belief that roadway cycling is dangerous, and therefor irresponsible.
A note about impeding traffic. I looked up the traffic counts for the road Reed’s been using at the Texas Department of Transportation website. It gets about 18,000 cars per day; rather low for a four-lane highway. Reed’s first arrest happened at about 2:30 p.m., which is well “off-peak.” Using standard traffic planning estimates, I’d guess the road was seeing roughly 3 to 4 cars per minute per lane, or one car passing ever 15 to 20 seconds. How can one possibly think changing lanes to pass a cyclist is any sort of problem in such a situation? By comparison, the street I ride to work during rush hour is a 3-lane one-way. Each lane sees about 12 to 13 cars per minute, or one every 5 seconds (of course they actually come in platoons). But even with much heavier traffic, motorists rarely have to wait more than a few seconds to pass me, and most don’t have to wait at all; they see me early and change lanes.Posted in Culture, Politics, Traffic Law, Transportation Cycling