Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Riding Bikes Can Send You To Jail So Buy A Car"

Strange as it is to believe, there are other cities where bicycle riding is so common, so beloved by the populace, that government is obliged to take the activity and its practitioners into account, to create special committees to address their needs, and generally to make more than the most passing attempts at sensible, bike-friendly planning. No, I'm not talking about the distant wonderlands of Portland, Ore., or Berkeley, Cal. Friends, I'm referring to Connecticut's second largest city, New Haven. If you have ever been to New Haven, you may have noticed that a lot of people ride bikes there, to the point where it's sort of normal and you don't do like we do in the Beat and feel a little surprised if you see someone on a bike whom you haven't seen before.

New Haven's bike advocacy organization, Elm City Cycling, has apparently been pretty successful in getting the city's police department to respect bikes, ticket drivers who do wrong by bikes, etc. With this has come some more serious enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists. And with that has come the awesomest stupid craigslist post debate ever, which is reproduced below. Why is it awesome? Because some fool who got a ticket on his bike, failed to pay it, and is now facing a warrant, is angry at ECC for being so successful and bringing bikes to the cops' attention. Some other person's pithy response is also below. Take a look at the sorts of things people get to squabble over when their cities have achieved the luxury of some semblance of bicycle awareness (as always, click on the picture to see a bigger, legible version):


Mark said...

My heart doesn't bleed for that sod. He made his bed and now he has to lie in it.

What get's me, though, if you do get a ticket riding a bike, I think I heard it goes against your driving record? What if you didn't have a driver's license?

I got honked at last night riding home from work. Not your little toot warning that means I am on your six, don't swerve in front of me or I will turn you into a pancake, rather a blatant, long honk, from some old bag driving a car she can't afford and probably thinks she owns the road because of her big car. It was a bumpy section of the road and I was riding fixed so I couldn't salute her right away but I did.

Brendan said...

I don't think that I'm allowed to participate in this debate because of something rather stupid that I did yesterday on a bike. It can only be discussed in person because I don't want to commit it to print.

Rich said...

They misspelled "really" and "their." Also, the capitalization is atrocious.

Bike New Haven said...

El Presidente..,
Good job as always. You're absolutely right, folks don't know how good they have it here. I had to cover it b/c it's such a big issue right now, but I agree it's no fault of ECC or any other cycling advocate.

As for the guy who has the warrant for not paying his ticket, even he admits that,

"yes I'm an IDIOT for losing it and not paying on time....all I'm sayin is there's no friggin need to crusade about bicycle rights..."

Oh really. As I said, some people don't know how good they got it.

One point of contention though, ECC was started by a bunch of ordinary people and grew to the current membership of 600. Progress with any form of government is slow, but it is possible. A dedicated core of volunteers (not including me) have been responsible for this. You guys seem like you care enough to do it too.


Brendan said...

rich - he said he'd rearrange your face if you made fun of his grammar and spelling. careful!

Rich said...

The terms of the face-rearrangement threat is clearly spelled out to be for grammar and punctuation. Nowhere did he 'roid-rage about spelling and capitalization, despite the allusion to a non-existent threat later in the letter.

Snark aside, Bill makes the excellent point about not appreciating how good you have it. I would probably put New Haven in the top 3 bike-friendliest places (that I've been to) in the New England region along with Burlington, VT and Cambridge, MA. I can't claim to have visited many places in Maine or NH, though.

Brendan said...

well, I can't be bothered with capitalization either most of the time. as everyone knows, the only capitalization I care about is market capitalization!

El Presidente de China said...


When I lived in New York, I got a ticket for running a red light on my bike and ignored it for a while. First, they sent me a notice saying my driver's license would be revoked if I didn't pay. I figured that was great because I didn't have a license, so maybe they could revoke it, then I could pay, then I would get a license without having to learn how to drive. But they just skipped that and threatened to garnish my wages. So I paid.

Nick Bohnenkamp said...

Wow. There are just so many ways to tear his argument apart. I can't believe people are so prone to put responsibility for their own actions onto others. He is obviously too far gone to bring back to our side.

Anonymous said...

hey, I'm the person who made the original rant on the nh craigslist. You can bust my balls as much as you want for my lack of proper verboususagenessandsuchforth. All I am saying, is just ride your fuckin bike the way you want to... It's a fuckin bicycle. Use it at your own risk you hippy douche....and yes.... I agree that I dig my own grave if i break laws . And hopefully you see it sooner than I do. I hope one of your reflectors shoots off and hits you in the eye while you are riding.....


Anonymous said...

oops. I wroted the word to insted of too. My bad.

El Presidente de China said...

I will say this about you, original cl person: You have moxie.

Brendan said...

does the craigslist person continually google him to make sure to see who's picked up on his posting?

skullhead said...

There's a lot of back-story to this rant. The reason that a bunch of us are so pissed is because of a couple of falsely-entitled individuals who happen to be part of ECC have taken it upon themselves to go to the Police on a weekly basis and request that cyclists be ticketed for disobeying the "rules of the road". In my opinion, there are lots of other things the cops should be worrying about instead of a cyclist running a light or riding the wrong way down a one-way street. And aren't there better ways to promote cycling than going to the cops?

The reason Dan got a ticket is because he rolled up a curb-cut to lock his bike up. Rolling up a curb-cut for 2 seconds constitutes riding on the sidewalk? He wasn't running down old ladies, tipping over baby carriages or impeding pedestrians. It's bullshit. We all know it. Now I'm not defending his choice to not pay his ticket, or poor grammar. Seems like many of you are missing the point. That's a different rant all together.

The falsely-self-entitled folks are the same ones who've been trying to stir up issues (for no good reason) with the group of us who play bike polo in the SBC lot on Orange on the weekends. We always cleaned up the lot after we were done. The SBC guys actually left us cones to use during our games. Yet, we were accused of breaking bottles and leaving trash there (by the falsely-entitled pricks on the ECC message board who'd never even attended one of our events). Why give us shit? Because we're different. Some of us don't wear helmets, some of us are loud, we ride differently. Some like to smoke, some drink, some of us are straight-edge. We don't participate in Critical Mess, and we don't do the whole ECC bake-sale thing. It's all a stupid scene. We're the punk-rock, metal, young kids. We're a motley f*n crew. All pretty different but we love bikes. We look different to ECC so I guess we're an easy target.

Can't we just agree to disagree? To each his own? If someone is going to ride recklessly (which is completely relative), that's their style. You don't have to do it. The argument that it reflects badly on all cyclists is garbage. If some guy in a car on the highway cuts across 3 lanes and gets hit by a semi, does that make all motorists reckless by default? Of course not. So stop using the same argument for cyclists. If someone doesn't wear a helmet, stop wagging your finger. Who cares? If someone blows through a light and gets smoked by a car it's their own damn fault! Ride what you want, when you want, where you want and stop giving other cyclists such a hard time just because something about their bike/style/whatever is different. That's what's so cool about bikes! There are so many different options out there!


PS- I'm so tired of hearing all this fucking whiny "he honked at me" bullshit. If you ride on the road, you're going to get shit from motorists. Of course it's not right, and it totally sucks the big one, but it's eventually going to happen. So pull on your big-boy pants, suck it up and deal with it. "Saluting" them is just stooping to their level. You're lucky all they did was honk and not try to hit you.

Rich said...

skullhead: That's some ridiculously good ranting! In all seriousness, thanks to both you and Dan for finding our little discussion here and contributing. To be clear (and to save my face), I'll say that my comment about grammar was only meant to humorously point out Dan's sensitivity to such things when there's clearly a lot more meat to the issue. Just a snarky joke.

I can't claim to know anything about ECC issues or much that goes on in the New Haven scene, but if there's one thing that does rub me the wrong way is when non-cyclists try to paint us all with the same brush. This is most apparent in the Courant comments whenever there's a nasty letter to the editor about bikes.

It just sounds like there's a lot of politics involved in ECC, and that often sucks. It also seems like you're taking up the fight that has been fought by people in the punk movement for decades: being taken seriously while choosing to express yourselves. I get that, and generally take your side.

That said, there is a portion of CT traffic law that governs bicycle traffic. Some of the things you mention are covered in it, some aren't. So I personally can't completely buy into your "what/when/where you want" argument, especially if there's a wrong-way rider who could cause me bodily harm. Including bikes in the traffic code ultimately is there to provide legal protection FOR from any cars that rage it up and go after us, for example. (Remember this? Anarchy is great until some shit like that goes down.) The trade off is expecting us to follow the same rules of the road. I break some rules all the time, and assume the risks for it, absolutely. Yeah, the "pigs could be doing better things than hassling me" argument to the cops sounds great, but it's part of their job. If you get a BS ticket that your description claims Dan's is, you have ways of challenging it legally. To sit and whine about on the internet isn't going to change much of anything, I hate to tell you.

El Presidente de China said...

What Rich said. Skullhead, you're absolutely right that it's silly for cops to get their drawers in a bunch over minor bike violations, but hey, them's the rules and we all violate them at our own risk. I distrust cops as much and probably more than the next guy (I used to be a public defender, after all), but grousing about how the cops spend their time, provided they devote it to pursuing lawbreakers, is a hard sell, feel me? Also, unrelatedly, blogger makes me type in a word that it generates in wavy letters, to prove I'm a real human, and right now, that word is "ridemod." Curious.

ec scorcher said...

If one were to read the law in question regarding bicycles on sidewalks in New Haven, they would learn that *walking your bike is also illegal. You must mount and dismount in traffic if you are to follow the law. This "crusade" against bicycle indiscretion is a bit much.
Dan, as we know, was ticketed for riding up the sidewalk to lock his bike. We're talking less than 10 feet. Others ticketed have been similar stories.
In New Haven, you must now wait for a car to trigger a red-light-sensor for you, or you must dismount and walk to the side of the road to press the "walk signal" and then walk your bike across the intersection. You are expected to come to a complete stop at all intersections, even those four way stop signs with zero traffic. This has essentially made the bicycle a slower and more inconvenient form of transportation than the automobile.
Even better than that Craig's List post are the comments on in which bicycle commuters are saying they will no longer ride their bicycles. Seems New Haven's cycling advocates work backwards...

Brendan said...

So, after reading some more about this I finally have an opinion.

The cops are ticketing on sidewalks for revenue. It's not a safety thing. If they're ticketing people as they go to lock up bikes it has nothing to do with safety or complaints. It should stop. Why the ECC is encouraging is strange and since I'm not on that listserv, I don't know why their rationale is.

At the same time, I don't understand why those who consider themselves to more part of the "punk" element or this new stream of bike culture are having such a hard time getting along. Is it the police thing or is because the two groups like to maintain this wholly divergent concept of what it means to riding a bike, ie. milwaukee chainrain guards vs. those chain protectors that keep your pants from getting caught. Is it really that hard to get along with nerdy professor types?

So, what the fuck? Get along. Stop having bitching at meetings and on listservs and ride your bike. When you see each other stopped at lights, say hello. Don't encourage the police to ticket people on bikes. Let them write parking tickets for people parked in bike lanes. It's not very good bicycle advocacy to rat out your own.

I feel like my narrative got a little lost there. Sorry.

ec scorcher said...

$10 from each ticket goes to the city, so it is hardly about revenue. And nerdy professor types seem to be the ones getting the most tickets, not just "punks".
The revenue issue is actually at the heart of the problem. The NHPD is sorely understaffed, and for years, traffic enforcement has fallen to the wayside, largely because there is no real source of revenue there.
ECC had prodded and petitioned the NHPD to step up traffic enforcement, and what they got in return was enforcement of traffic laws as they pertain to bicycles.

Brendan said...

so, then does the issue really just boil down to people being upset that a bicycle advocacy group's lobbying effort are encouraging cops to give tickets to people on bikes?

the bicycle community is not that fractured down there?