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Ticketed for taking the lane

This topic contains 149 replies, has 40 voices, and was last updated by  paulheckbert 3 mos.

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Mick

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Aug 14 2013 at 10:31am #

@ Edmonds59

… that information is passed back down to this “magistrate” so he is given the information that his ruling was wrong?

I’m also curious about this. It’s seems like an important step.

Particularly since appealing is not without cost.


jonawebb

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Aug 14 2013 at 10:35am #

Well, I would get my fine back, which would come from the magistrate’s office, so I would think they would have to be informed somehow.


RustyRed

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Aug 14 2013 at 10:51am #

edmonds59 wrote:For my own benefit, to all the legal eagles out there, when the case gets in front of an actual judge, and it is determined that jonawebb was acting within the law, is there some mechanism by which that information is passed back down to this “magistrate” so he is given the information that his ruling was wrong? That seems like that would be a thing.

I sure hope so, I know that even the State’s Unemployment Compensation Referees get their cases back for review when the higher ups overturn a decision that was appealed, I would think the Magistrates do as well.


Ahlir

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Aug 14 2013 at 9:07pm #

Many of these cases never get disposed of properly. The appellant has to pursue the action far up enough in the system so that a (hopefully) positive judgement is recorded at a high enough level to apply over a broad enough jurisdiction to affect decisions below it. It takes money and time. Somebody has to really care.

The real catch is the money. Only issues that people really care about, or have the money for, work their way up in the system. Concretely, if Jon wins his appeal it does not mean that those of us in unrelated jurisdictions will be able to benefit. It will somehow have to work its way up.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I have never played one on TV. And, no matter how many beers you buy me, I will never assert otherwise (thought I wouldn’t mind if you tried). I did look into this at some point in the past.


salty

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Aug 14 2013 at 9:46pm #

IANAL either but I don’t believe that’s entirely true. A ruling in any court sets a precedent, although it may not be mandatory for other courts to follow it unless it comes from a higher court. It can still be cited in other cases though.


HiddenVariable

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Aug 14 2013 at 11:28pm #

to both @Ahlir and @salty: the thing about appeals of this sort is, chances are the appropriate decision will never reach a high enough court to provide precedent to a sufficiently large area that a randomly picked district magistrate will know of the precedent.

there are many reasons for this. fortunately, the most obvious one is that cases such as this one tend to win on their first appeal, so that when an actual judge becomes involved, the magisterial ruling is overturned, and no one really cares. the magistrate got it wrong, the wrong is righted, let’s move on.

i am pretty fully confident that jon’s citation will be nullified upon appeal. at that point, the likelihood that the district contests the decision is basically nil. and this is as it should be: a point of law that is generally agreed upon shouldn’t make its way farther in the appeals process. it would require a disagreement on the point of law on the part of both parties to reach some significant level of precedent, and i believe that this won’t be the case here.


Mick

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Aug 15 2013 at 10:16am #

I think the important this is this: The community is providing some help to Jon in pursuing this.

It costs more to appeal than pay the fine, but each appeal will have a marginal effect on enforcement at the police and magistrate level.

If there gets to be a pattern of bad citations, maybe Bike-Pgh can do something about it.


StuInMcCandless

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Aug 17 2013 at 10:26am #

Is that where this issue is going? That we need more cyclists to press the envelope, so to speak? Not so much go out of our way to invoke getting ticketed, but at least to unabashedly take the lane wherever it is unsafe not to, and thus force the issue? And if a cop happens to be nearby to issue a ticket, then fine, bring it?!

Well, then, fine, bring it!

I will have the camera rolling, just in case.


jonawebb

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Aug 18 2013 at 12:49pm #

@Stu yeah, well I don’t see how I could have acted differently, except by meekly riding to the right after I was stopped (then worrying and looking over my shoulder every day when I rode home through Forest Hills). Every step in this feels forced to me, except for the support from folks here, which has been unexpected and awesome.
Filing the appeal is absurd. I must appear in person at the County Courthouse between 8:30 and 4:30. What do people do who can’t take time off work?


helen s

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Aug 18 2013 at 4:20pm #

“What do people do who can’t take time off work? ”

They get screwed by the system at every turn.


buffalo buffalo

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Aug 18 2013 at 5:47pm #

+1.


paulheckbert

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Aug 19 2013 at 7:26am #

jonawebb wrote:…I must appear in person at the County Courthouse between 8:30 and 4:30.

So you need to be prepared to be there all day; there’s no hint about what time they’ll actually hear your case?

PS: Jon, I think you missed an opportunity. You could have listed your hearing before the magistrate last week as a Bikefest event :-)


jonawebb

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Aug 19 2013 at 7:28am #

No, being at the courthouse is just to file the appeal. The actual trial happens whenever. Amazing, right?


Mikhail

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Aug 19 2013 at 9:05am #

Jon, I think what they meant is that you can file between 8:30 am and 4:30pm by appearing there in person. I went once (long time ago) with my friend to appeal his traffic ticket (succeeded) and it took around 40 minutes to go through lines and paper work. But again it was during “previous millennium”.


ieverhart

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Aug 19 2013 at 10:08am #

http://www.alleghenycounty.us/crim/summary.aspx

I’m not really familiar with this procedure, but you will almost certainly not have to be there all day long. Sometimes there is a line to do filings, but in my experience the Department of Court Records staff are helpful. You may have to go down during business hours to get the paperwork, work on it at home and go again to actually file it, but if you bring all your materials you may be able to do it all in one visit.


cburch

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Aug 19 2013 at 10:56am #

i think his point is that 8:30-4:30 tends to fall within the work day for most people, and if you’re boss won’t give you the time and you can’t afford a lawyer to do it for you, you’re out of luck on filing.


jonawebb

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Aug 28 2013 at 1:44pm #

Just heard from Marc — he’s filing the appeal this afternoon. Having an attorney is great. Thanks for your support.


jonawebb

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Aug 28 2013 at 3:46pm #

The hearing date is October 29 @ 8:15 a.m. in Room 21 of the City-County Building.


Drewbacca

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Aug 29 2013 at 11:32am #

jonawebb wrote:I got a chance to speak, and pointed out that I was following the plain wording of 3301(c) — ride in the right hand lane OR as far to the right as practicable. I said that I’d tried riding near the curb and cars would nearly sideswipe me there as they maneuvered around stopped traffic in the left lane.

I’ve been thinking about the legal wording and it seems to me that the “lane available for travel” is a reference to a construction situation when the far right of the roadway is unavailable (to anyone). In that case, the OR means that there is a temporary lane (so close to the right, wouldn’t work).

It seems like we are permitted to take the lane on a two lane road, but not a four lane? The wording of these laws is way too confusing.


jonawebb

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Aug 29 2013 at 11:50am #

The PA Bicycle Rider’s Handbook makes it pretty clear what they’re talking about. On multi-lane roads with lanes that are too narrow for a driver to pass safely you should take the lane:
“On a multilane road with narrow lane, a), ride in the middle of the right lane. You are likely to get squeezed out, b), if you hug the edge”
The riding to the right stuff applies to roads with a wide lane, and roads where traffic is going in one direction:
“In a wide lane, there’s room for cars to pass you. But in a narrow lane, cars have to move partway into the next lane to pass you. Narrow lanes are comon on city streets and on backroads in the country. On a narrow two-lane, two-way road stay alert to strings of cars from the front, in case one pulls into your lane to pass. You can ride near the edge of this type of road if cars are coming from only one direction at a time.”


wbt

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Sep 27 2013 at 8:12am #

There’s an interesting discussion on this going on in the comments of today’s Frazz comic: http://www.gocomics.com/frazz/2013/09/27


weatherdude724

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Sep 27 2013 at 12:05pm #

Greetings, everyone. First post in the forums here. I thought I would share a similar situation that I encountered in my municipality last year when I was stopped (but not cited) for taking the lane.

I was riding on Route 19 in Cranberry Township, Butler County going about 20-25 mph in a posted 45 and positioned about 1 foot to the left of the white edge line. My past experiences riding on this road (two lanes in each direction, center turn lane, poorly maintained hard shoulder) with people cutting me off on right turns and vehicles not moving over to provide enough space when passing forced me to choose to ride in the right hand lane of traffic instead of the shoulder.

A police officer pulled me over one afternoon in December 2012 and explained that I SHALL ride on the shoulder as required by section 3301(b) because I was proceeding “slower than prevailing traffic” and the shoulder was “as far right as practicable” on the roadway. I explained to him that bicycles were exempt from section 3301 entirely as of the new legislation passed in April 2012 and fall under a completely new section (3301(c)) stating that bicycles can ride in the right hand lane OR as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. Again, I was not cited but it was a very interesting conversation.

The keyword in this is “or.” This gives bicycles the option to choose either the right lane of traffic or the shoulder. This is equivalent to a tractor, amish buggy, or other slow moving vehicle using the roadway – these individuals have the right to choose either the shoulder OR the right hand lane, regardless of their speed. Studies conducted by the Federal Highway Administration indicate that general traffic flow and the safety and visibility of the cyclist actually IMPROVES when bicyclists choose to ride in the right hand lane instead of the shoulder.

I don’t know the exact thinking of why the General Assembly has that exemption for “a pedalcycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction.” However, some other states actually require bicyclists to use the shoulder on certain roads with higher speed limits. For example, Maryland law states that bicycles shall use the shoulder on roadways with speed limits of 50 mph or higher and can’t ride in the lane of traffic unless making a left turn or otherwise directed by an official traffic control device. Pennsylvania (except on signed Interstate highway sections permitting bicycles like the Neville Island Bridge) does NOT require bicycles to use the shoulder at any time for any reason. It seems as if that exemption was to clarify that bicycles may ride in the right hand lane at any time, regardless of the number of lanes present on the roadway.

Since this incident, I have completed a fourteen month high school senior project with Cranberry Township on pedestrian, bicycle, and school bus safety. I also created a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=perhcDjBi2E) on pedestrian and bicycle safety as part of a public education platform. I sat down with several Township officials to discuss and review the new legislation from last April as part of my project. All of us came to an understanding that it was acceptable for bicycles to ride in the right hand lane, even though the cyclist may not be traveling at prevailing speed and may require motorists to change lanes to pass. I am now a college student in Washington County and I still maintain regular contact with Cranberry Township providing some feedback on expanded bike/ped infrastructure enhancements and new development.

The last thing that I would want to see happen is something like this to a cyclist. Below is a video of a bicyclist involved in a hit and run crash in Bethlehem, PA last April. The actor was the first in the state to be cited under Pennsylvania’s four foot passing law which took effect that same day.

@jonawebb I wish you good luck at your hearing, and please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you in any way.

Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney.


jonawebb

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Sep 27 2013 at 12:14pm #

@weatherdude, I’m glad the officer listened to you. Maybe if I’d been carrying the printed law, the way I do now, he would’ve paid attention. Maybe not. But anyway, I’m pretty confident things will go well at the appeal. Thanks.
BTW if you look at the PA Bicycle Driver’s manual (from PennDOT), which I recommend, the thinking on the exception on road width is pretty clear. On a narrow road, where there isn’t space to pass, or where there is opposing traffic, you’re allowed to take the lane — even when there are not two lanes in your direction. The law’s odd wording is supposed to capture that situation.


edmonds59

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Sep 27 2013 at 12:47pm #

Wow, weatherdude, my compliments to you and your project. Impressive.
My mental image of the officer’s face as you concisely and factually reviewed the law with him is somewhat akin to that of a dog reading a dictionary.


czarofpittsburgh

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Sep 27 2013 at 1:08pm #

I am not a lawyer either, but here is my general thoughts on the issue:

I do not believe that exemption you refer to is actually an exemption. The law is spelled out here: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/vehicle_code/chapter33.pdf

The wording between 3301(b) and 3301(c) is identical except that 3301(c) specifies that the bike has to be in accordance with chapter 35, which, among other things, includes the ban on biking on freeways unless special permission is given. The exemption says that 3301(c) doesn’t apply to roads that are only one lane in each direction. I think the conclusion is supposed to be that if 3301(c) doesn’t apply, then the general 3301(b) that applies to all slow moving vehicles actually does apply.

Taken together the conclusion is supposed to be: On a road with only one lane, you are to behave like any other slow moving vehicle and stay to the right as much as is practical unless you’re turning or passing something moving even slower. Aka, try to stay to the right unless you need to take the lane. On a road with more than one lane in each direction, you have to stay in the right lane or on the shoulder, unless that 2 lane road is a freeway that you’re banned from using. That’s the most common-sense reading of the laws to me, at least. The PA cycling guide seems to agree with that reading.


RustyRed

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Sep 27 2013 at 1:21pm #

Kudos to that Bethlehem bus and the vehicle behind the hit and run driver for an awesome job of boxing him in when they tried to leave the scene!


jonawebb

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Sep 27 2013 at 1:44pm #

@czar, 3301(b) was amended in 2012 to explicitly exclude ‘pedalcycles’ (bicycles). It’s not an issue here. There’s nothing in chapter 35 about lane position.
Edit: obviously the law is confusing, but the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual, published by PennDOT, makes this clear:


On a multilane road with narrow lane, a), ride in the middle of the right lane. You are likely to get squeezed out, b), if you hug the edge.


Steven

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Sep 27 2013 at 2:36pm #

“I think the conclusion is supposed to be that if 3301(c) doesn’t apply, then the general 3301(b) that applies to all slow moving vehicles actually does apply.”

There are two problems with that.

1. 3301(b) specifically says it doesn’t apply to bikes. So even if 3301(c) doesn’t apply to bikes in certain cases, 3301(b) still wouldn’t apply.

2. Under your interpretation, there would be no point to having 3301(c), since you think it says, essentially, “do the same as 3301(b) under some circumstances, and otherwise, do the same as 3301(b).” Regulations are never interpreted in a way that makes part of them pointless, whenever there’s some alternative interpretation.


czarofpittsburgh

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Sep 27 2013 at 4:54pm #

@steven: You raise two good points. On your second point, read 3301(b) and 3301(c). The wording about keeping to the right is exactly the same except that (c) requires that the bike is being used in accordance with chapter 35 and notes that that subsection only applies to multi-lane roads. Chapter 35 doesn’t mention anything about where to ride on the road, but it does mention specifically that bikes aren’t allowed on freeways. I would say that those two statements in (c) imply that bikes can take the right lane on a multi-lane road as long as that multi-lane road is not a freeway. That subsection is necessary, because other slower vehicles are allowed on freeways, they just have to stay to the right.

As to your first point, that is the odd part of the regulations. If you read it exactly as written, it seems that the law implies that bikes have to stay to the right or in the rightmost lane on a multi-lane road that is not a freeway. If the road is one lane in each direction then there’s no keep to the right requirement at all.


jonawebb

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Sep 27 2013 at 6:09pm #

czarofpittsburgh wrote:If the road is one lane in each direction then there’s no keep to the right requirement at all.

That’s not quite right. The odd wording of the law is trying to get at the idea of lanes that are wide enough for a car to pass safely versus narrow lanes (which are actually the usual kind). If the lanes are wide, you are supposed to stay to the right, but if they’re narrow you can take the lane. Again, the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual contains a well-thought through explanation of this, based on the law. We don’t have to figure this stuff out by guessing at the law’s intent.


edmonds59

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Sep 28 2013 at 6:30am #

If the written law is that much lacking in clarity that the PA bike manual (btw not a legally binding document) needs to explain it, it’s no wonder that law enforcement officers, magistrates, and judges sometimes fail to interpret the law correctly.


jonawebb

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Oct 21 2013 at 3:54pm #

Bump, my appeal is coming up next week.
The hearing date is October 29 @ 8:15 a.m. in Room 21 of the City-County Building.


wbt

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Oct 23 2013 at 12:56pm #

Do you know which judge it’ll be in front of? Or is it in arbitration, or even jury hearing?


jonawebb

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Oct 23 2013 at 1:14pm #

I don’t know the judge. It’s in the court of common pleas.


Marko82

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Oct 23 2013 at 6:26pm #

jon, I’m going to try to show up. Bump this again on monday.


jonawebb

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Oct 28 2013 at 3:27pm #

Bump, ajbooth’s post reminded me. Tomorrow, 8:15 a.m. in Room 21 of the City-County Building.
My attorney, paid for with the help of many of you, sounds pretty confident. It would be totally awesome if we had two victories in two days.


ajbooth

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Oct 28 2013 at 4:40pm #

I’d love to attend, but taking time off this afternoon has put me behind at work, and another few hours would crush me.

Good luck, please update when done. I’m with you in spirit!


paulheckbert

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Oct 28 2013 at 5:15pm #

I’ll be there tomorrow morning at your hearing, Jon, business casual, helmet in hand (to subtly suggest that cyclists are ordinary people, too).


jonawebb

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Oct 29 2013 at 8:26am #

Officer didn’t show–case dismissed. Paul Heckbert, Marko, and wbt kindly came w/helmets.


Drewbacca

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Oct 29 2013 at 8:58am #

jonawebb wrote:Officer didn’t show–case dismissed. Paul Heckbert, Marko, and wbt kindly came w/helmets.

WTG helmet-bearers! I would have been there but I had to help out my sister this morning.

I know it’s a common occurrence, but the officer being a no-show says a lot to me.

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