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gothedistance
07-18-2010, 05:41 PM
Shame on me! I was ticketed about a week ago by an Arlington County police officer after he observed me: stopping at a red light, looking both ways, and then proceeding through the red light when I saw there was no traffic coming from either direction. The penalty for this violation is $161. It appears to be the same whether you're a motorist or a bicyclist.

I'm 56 years old and this is the first ticket for a moving violation (either as a cyclist or a motorist) that I have ever received. It's particularly ironic that this happened to me six months after I finally got rid of my car in favor or walking, bicycling, or taking the bus. I suppose that's beside the point, though.

My question is, has anyone had any experience going to Arlington traffic court to contest a ticket for a violation on a bicycle? I acknowledge that I am guilty as charged but I thought it might be worth my while to go to traffic court for one of the following reasons:

(a) the ticketing officer might not show up and the charges could be dismissed, or

(b) I could acknowledge my guilt to the judge but point out that this is my first offense and that I didn't realize that the Arlington police would [bother to] ticket bicyclists for violations not resulting in an accident or in harming anyone.

I'm hoping to at least get a reduction in the penalty or at best a dismissal of the charges. Has anyone been through this or do you have any thoughts/suggestions about pleading my case in the traffic court? I know I should obey the law but, for reasons most of you probably understand, I think there are times when it's o.k. for cyclists to bend the rules a little. I probably won't try to make that argument to the judge, though. Thanks.

edobson22207
07-19-2010, 07:54 AM
Congratulations on getting rid of your car. Fantastic.
I saw Arlington Police ticket a bicycle the other day for crossing a funeral procession on Fairfax Drive.
I have run my share of red lights on my bike in a fashion similar to what you describe. But as I've aged and as Arlington has become more heavily trafficked I realize that it isn't a good thing anymore.
Personally, I would pay the fine and consider yourself lucky you didn't get hit by a car when you ran the red light. If you didn't see the Police car, what else didn't you see. Your life is too important to risk.
On this note, I would like to see WABA or others take up the cause of safe bicycling. As we put more and more bikes on the road people have to obey the law.

kriscoronado
07-19-2010, 07:56 AM
Same thing happened to me. I went to court and the judge knocked off 60 bucks.

Tim Kelley
07-19-2010, 07:59 AM
I'd be curious to hear at which specific locations people have gotten tickets? Is it along more major roads with stop lights or in residential neighborhoods with stop signs?

gothedistance
07-19-2010, 11:16 AM
Thanks to everyone for their comments thus far. Here is some additional information.

The reason I didn't see the policeman (who was on a motorcycle) was because he was BEHIND me waiting at the traffic light as well.

The intersection was S. Glebe Rd. and Walter Reed Dr. It was a weekday and the time was the early afternoon (well before rush hour).

Tim Kelley
07-19-2010, 11:21 AM
So I'm curious what have you feel you've learned from the whole experience? In the future will you wait at red lights or will you take a quick glance behind you before heading through?

Arlingtonrider
07-19-2010, 08:37 PM
I don't know about gothedistance, but at the risk of being boring, I prefer to wait at red lights - partly for my own safety and to avoid tickets, but even more, to keep cars (and cops) more kindly disposed toward our biking community in general.

Joe Chapline
07-19-2010, 08:53 PM
For the reasons Arlingtonrider gave, plus it could be embarrassing for my employer (Arlington) if I got a ticket for breaking the law on a bike. I keep hoping for smarter lights that won't keep anyone -- cyclists or motorists -- waiting when there's no one coming. I did recently find out that it's legal to turn left on red from a one-way street to a one-way street, which helped me with my commute. However, motorists probably think I'm a scofflaw when they see that; and I'm not sure if the cops know about it.

gothedistance
07-23-2010, 03:08 PM
So I'm curious what have you feel you've learned from the whole experience? In the future will you wait at red lights or will you take a quick glance behind you before heading through?

I would like to think that I'm always open to discussion and am willing to change when reasons to change are persuasive. So I would like to ask you this question, Tim. Are there any circumstances under which you would go through a red light on your bicycle?

mamaonabike
07-24-2010, 11:57 AM
This is such a difficult topic, particularly for someone like me who bikes at all times of the day, frequently by myself, anywhere my work takes me. Typically, I'm pretty staunchly in favor of absolutely following the law for the purpose of safety and for modeling good behavior so that I'm part of the solution and not contributing to the problem of a negative perception of cyclists. However, there are absolutely times when I feel like my own personal safety would be enhanced if I didn't follow the law. One situation in particular: at night, biking alone (I'm female), stopped at a red light with no traffic. In this situation I will absolutely get moving again before the light changes. While standing still, straddling my bike, I'm completely vulnerable. If there is traffic, that's a different story. Also, when pulling my trailer behind me I'm way more likely to take the lane whether or not it's technically legally allowed. The reason: the bigger I am and the more space I take up, the less likely I am to get hit. I'm willing to trade off the frustration of the motorist who perceives that I have slowed them down in order to protect my own safety and that of my child. And finally, if the bike lane is too narrow and I'm biking by a long line of cabs or cars parked in front of busy sidewalk cafes and bars I'm way more likely to leave the bike lane to avoid the door zone completely. Having just moved here from out of state I'm not entirely certain of the laws here but where I came from, if a bike lane existed you're supposed to remain in the bike lane. Here, I'm going to go ahead and assume that more likely than not a bar customer or cab driver is not paying attention to their responsibility in following the law by looking to make sure it's safe before they open the door. I see this as doing us both a favor but like I said, I'm pretty sure that's also illegal. I'm curious to know how confident local police are in correctly interpreting and enforcing the nuances of these laws. I would love to hear from others.

edobson22207
07-29-2010, 08:51 AM
Walter Reed & Glebe Road? Seriously? I wouldn't run that light in my car, with its turbo engine. I suspect the policeman was equally surprised -- of all lights to run....

In terms of my behavior... growing up in Arlington I would run lights all the time, because there wasn't as much traffic. Lights for the cross streets on Fairfax Drive were a nuisance and I would run those. No way today.

The only lights I still run today are the ones on the Custis Trail at Scott Street, 22nd Street and Nash Street -- but only after making sure nothing is coming. These lights are all timed too long for the side streets.

Arlingtonrider
07-29-2010, 10:39 AM
There was a very good article about cyclists and cars at trail intersections in Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post today. Seemed to have a very common sense approach.

AJsinVA
07-29-2010, 11:42 AM
Why would you even stop for the cop if you were on a bike...lol. I would have just turned off and went the other way and said I did not think he was following me, I was on a bike.

Brendan von Buckingham
08-10-2010, 02:55 PM
Two years ago I received a ticket for "Failure to stay to the right." I was westbound on Wilson between 10th and Virginia Square Metro. I was taking the center of the righthand lane going between 20-25 MPH, and most importantly keeping up with the car in front of me. An Arlington police car pulled into my left shoulder blind spot, tweaked their horn (scaring the heck out of me) then proceeded to lecture me over her intercom that I had to travel against the curb. I ignored her very unsafe advice. Three block later she pulled me over. She said I had to stay to the right. I used my copy of the code to point out to her that that requirement has several exceptions, including the sub-standard width of the lane. She gave me a ticket anyway.

I went to court. I made my case to the judge. I pointed out the several exceptions to the regulation to "stay as far right as possible," AASHTO and Arlington's guidance to take the lane if the lane is not wide enough to accommodate bikes/cars riding abreast. I provided dimensions of the lane. The judge asked if there was a bike lane on the road (no) and flipped through his regulations (don't know what he was looking up).

Judge found in my favor and dismissed the ticket.

Brendan von Buckingham
08-10-2010, 03:00 PM
I practice Idaho Stops. I treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. Yet most of the red lights on my commute don't lend themselves to being Idahoed. Most go green before I get a break in the traffic.

elbows
08-11-2010, 03:27 PM
Sorry to hear about your ticket. I can think of plenty of better uses for that cop's time. Washcycle and others have posted compelling arguments for the adoption of the Idaho Stop. I know it isn't going to happen anytime soon, but I do think it makes sense.
http://www.thewashcycle.com/2009/07/idaho-stop-makes-cyclists-145-safer.html

When the power was out for days, I saw plently of people function just fine at intersections where the light was out. Intersections like the Quaker Lane 5-way were a mess, but those are poorly designed. I have almost been hit twice at that intersection (once on bike and once on foot) and was fully following the law.