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Thread: Arlington Traffic Enforcement

  1. #1
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    Post Arlington Traffic Enforcement

    I was given a traffic citation yesterday by an Arlington motorcycle policeman. I was coming up Veitch St. in the Courthouse area. The light on Clarendon was red and I stopped. It is an intersection where the bike lane is on the far right. Crossing with the light, to get to the bike lane on Wilson heading west, one has to make sure any car beside you turning right sees you, head out across the intersection, make sure the cars coming behind you that may be continuing straight onto Veitch St. or turning left onto Wilson see you, and make sure that cars coming from the other direction on Veitch St. either turning right onto Wilson or going straight across the intersection see you. It's a terrible intersection to navigate. I travel the route twice a day. To avoid getting caught in that mess, I will wait for the east bound traffic on Clarendon to clear, move out into the intersection between Clarendon and Wilson and stop, check to make sure that the west bound traffic on Wilson is clear, signal a turn, make eye contact with motorists on the other side of Wilson see me, and, if it safe and I have their attention, go on through and move into the bike lane on Wilson heading west. It has worked well for over two years now.

    The policeman never asked me why I did what I did - he just wrote up the ticket. In all fairness, he was polite and professional, but when I tried to explain the situation at the intersection and that what I did was well thought out and careful, he simply said "tell it to the judge." His explanation was that it was not fair to cite vehicles and not treat bicyclists the same.

    My question - is there any percentage in trying to explain to the judge that what I was doing in crossing against the red after stopping and checking for traffic and getting out ahead where I was visible was safer in this situation than crossing on the green with the traffic - or should I save myself the court costs and lost time from work and go on and pay the fine? Any one have any experience with the Arlington judges? Observation for the many riders in Arlington who regularly apply the "Idaho Rule" at lights and stop signs and who think the police will use judgment as to what is a safe versus reckless cycling practice, they may not. As my citing officer correctly observed, "We are not in Idaho."

  2. #2
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    I feel like @The Enabler would advise you to keep doing what makes you feel safe, but if you want to avoid tickets, don't run red lights in front of police officers within eyesight of police HQ?

  3. #3
    KLizotte's Avatar
    KLizotte is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    If you can, I would say you should go to court with a quickly digestible explanation for why this is such a dangerous intersection for cyclists and why you did what you did. If you convince the judge that riding through there as a cyclist is far more dangerous than it is for a driver then he or she may take your side. Also, I think the cop has to actually show up else the case gets thrown out of court. If you win, you can use it as evidence to the County/VDOT that the infrastructure needs to be improved.

    Also, if you travel thru there twice a day, are you going to continue with your old practice of navigating the intersection or follow the red lights from now on?
    Last edited by KLizotte; 07-27-2016 at 02:52 PM.

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    I think I passed you while you were receiving the ticket from the cop. Was wondering what happened. That intersection does suck for cyclists, as well as cars. Hopefully the judge is understanding and/or a frequent user of the intersection.

  5. #5
    Steve O's Avatar
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    I would go to court exactly like KLizotte suggests.

    A couple of ways to navigate this that may be better:

    - Take the lane instead of staying to the right. Just get out in the lane and put your arm out. Then you won't have to worry about right hooks or the straight running cars.

    - If the light is red at Clarendon, cross like a pedestrian to the SW corner of Veitch/Clarendon. On the walk signal, cross like a pedestrian to the SW corner of Veitch/Wilson. Go left on Wilson when you get a clear opening. This takes you out of conflict with vehicles entirely but may put you in conflict with some pedestrians. Treat them respectfully, of course.

    - You could also do a traditional pedestrian left: straight through to Wilson on the green; Turn your bike left in the Wilson bike lane and proceed westbound when the Wilson light turns green.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    Take the lane instead of staying to the right. Just get out in the lane and put your arm out. Then you won't have to worry about right hooks or the straight running cars.
    I would worry about being hit from behind here. My old commute used to take me up 7th NW to the left on PA Ave. There are three lanes, though one is usually parking. The middle lane is straight and the left lane is left turn only, with a left-turn-only arrow. I would take the lane and wait to make my turn in the left lane, and would frequently have angry drivers come up behind me who wanted to illegally go straight, or illegally turn left on red. I was often buzzed by drivers who realized very late that I was waiting to turn.

    If you can afford the time, I would go to court. Best case is the cop doesn't show and the ticket is dismissed. Likely case is you admit to breaking the law, explain why you do it, and the judge forgives the ticket. Worst likely case is you pay the ticket. Although remember the judge CAN increase the fine if he/she feels like it, so be very respectful and honest.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I would go to court exactly like KLizotte suggests.

    A couple of ways to navigate this that may be better:

    - Take the lane instead of staying to the right. Just get out in the lane and put your arm out. Then you won't have to worry about right hooks or the straight running cars.

    - If the light is red at Clarendon, cross like a pedestrian to the SW corner of Veitch/Clarendon. On the walk signal, cross like a pedestrian to the SW corner of Veitch/Wilson. Go left on Wilson when you get a clear opening. This takes you out of conflict with vehicles entirely but may put you in conflict with some pedestrians. Treat them respectfully, of course.

    - You could also do a traditional pedestrian left: straight through to Wilson on the green; Turn your bike left in the Wilson bike lane and proceed westbound when the Wilson light turns green.
    I'm a fan of options 1 & 2 here. I usually do #1 and take the lane.

    It's an odd intersection for cars too. Oncoming left turn and straight traffic from Veitch to Clarendon Blvd sometimes encroaches on your travel. When I do take the lane, you also have the issue of trying to turn all the way into the bike lane, or one of the car travel lanes.

    I've only done #2 once (not that constipated). It went okay, but I have seen other riders not go on the sidewalk, but salmon the bike lane.

    Conclusion - this intersection sucks for bikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jrenaut View Post
    If you can afford the time, I would go to court. Best case is the cop doesn't show and the ticket is dismissed. Likely case is you admit to breaking the law, explain why you do it, and the judge forgives the ticket. Worst likely case is you pay the ticket. Although remember the judge CAN increase the fine if he/she feels like it, so be very respectful and honest.
    At least in Fairfax County, you can be assessed court costs if you fight a ticket and lose. Fighting it might make more sense if you have a car and are worried what the ticket might do to your insurance rates. Your defense is basically "guilty with an explanation" - does anyone know any Arlington County attorneys who have an idea on how well this likely to fly?

  9. #9
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    Sorry this happened to you, Jam, although better than an accident.

    Is this Option 2? (That's what I do at that intersection but I'm not sure I follow.) The going left on Wilson does not require a light, correct? Or does it? I'm never sure about that.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by MFC View Post
    At least in Fairfax County, you can be assessed court costs if you fight a ticket and lose.
    Yes, but that's probably $25 or so, right? All my knowledge of traffic court is Maryland in the 1990's, so YMMV.

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