City Police Cracking Down on Cyclists

City police are issuing a lot more tickets to cyclists lately, Maggie Ambrose reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. We’re talking about small numbers here—an increase from nine tickets in 2012 to seventeen tickets in 2013—with a plurality of the citations occurring along West Main / University Ave. (A map of every citation location is helpfully included in the article.) Bicyclists are obliged to follow the same transportation laws as motor vehicles, but some cyclists don’t seem to know or care that this is so, and ignore traffic lights, one-way signs, bike on sidewalks, etc.

Interestingly, cyclists who are cited by police are receiving points on their license, as if they had committed the same infraction while driving a car. Given that operating a bicycle doesn’t require a driver’s license, it’s hard to even see why a moving violation on a bicycle should have any impact on one’s driver’s license. (Should somebody who drives a car perfectly but a bicycle badly be punished by prohibiting them from driving a car, thus requiring them to travel by bicycle, which cannot be prohibited by the court?) That said, looking at § 46.2-492, it appears that this practice is required under the law, as there is no exception for non-motorized vehicles.

9 thoughts on “City Police Cracking Down on Cyclists”

  1. Quite frankly, GOOD. I lived here for 5 years before I ever saw a single cyclist stop for a red light or stop sign.

  2. All of this begs the simple biker thinking that the safest thing from them to do is often illegal. If you want to cross a road it is best to do when both lanes are clear around the halfway mark to stoplights. Bikes are just not seen often enough by cars who are looking at lights, other cars, turning etc at these intersections. In our little circle, with cars parked on both shoulders and fairly tight turns…sidewalk time. And again, approaching a busy car/empty sidewalk intersection I go up on the sidewalk rather than contend with cars getting into the turn lane.

    ON the whole, I suspect my average is 20 violations a trip, and just as clearly I need to drive my car more often the 1.2 miles to work. Too many distracted drivers checking their cell every stop light.

    MOntreal has a great system , that we use 100% of the time. The city even has shut down entire lanes of car roads and turned them into 2 way bike roads…the length and breadth of the city.

    Estes Park CO has it right. You can pretty much ride you bike through city hall, as long as you give your bike bell a little “ding” to let people ahead know your coming. The they just keep walking straight and let you bike around them.

    Opposite ends of the spectrum that both get it right.

  3. As a bicyclist, good! I think a lot of animosity towards cyclists stems from the red-light runners, salmon, etc. and maybe cracking down on these behaviors will improve relations over time.

  4. My reading of the applicable sections of the VA Code seem to indicate that the points system only applies to traffic offenses committed by motor vehicles. It’s a little convoluted as you need to sort through at least three sections of the code:

    § 46.2-492 says that the Commissioner [of the DMV] shall assign point values to convictions “…which are required to be reported to the Department[DMV] in accordance with § 46.2-383 for traffic offenses…”

    § 46.2-383 spells out six different scenarios where the local courts are required to report data to the Commissioner [of the DMV]. The first scenario specifically references conviction of a charge described under subdivision 1 or 2 of § 46.2-382 & § 46.2-382.1

    § 46.2-382 Mandates that the courts keep a full record of every case in which a person is charged with a violation pertaining to the operator or operation of a motor vehicle.

    § 46.2-382.1 Deals with commercial motor vehicles.

    Accordingly, as § 46.2-382 & § 46.2-382.1 both specifically reference motor vehicles, I contend that courts are only required to report to the DMV, as required under § 46.2-383, for convictions involving the operator or operation of a motor vehicle. As such, convictions involving the operator or operation of a bicycle would seem to be exempt from the Uniform Demerit Point System.

    My guess is that any traffic violations are automatically assumed to involve the operator/operation of a motor vehicle and, as such, get reported to the DMV and end up as points on the individual’s drivers license.

  5. As a commuting cyclist, I’m glad to see any police action that is intended to make cycling safer. I’ll be very happy to see this safety program move on to ticketing motorists who park blocking a bike lane or so far from the curb as to force cyclists to veer unexpectedly, and thence to my favorite motorists, those who turn right across a bike lane without signaling or looking first.

  6. I am a full time cyclists and certified cycling instructor. These numbers are a joke. One cop could sit at any stoplight around University Ave. and rack up that many tickets in an hour. I am all for better enforcement regarding all bicycle related infractions. I don’t think Charlottesville has ever issued a citation for passing too closely which happens to me pretty much daily or dooring or ….

    Of course, I noticed this morning that the City made a special arrangements to remove the snow on W. Main St. (east of the RR bridge) to clear the parking lanes of snow while completely ignoring the snow they piled up in the bike lane west of the RR bridge.

  7. @Chris G.

    In fair weather, the railroad-side of that section of W. Main is a prime example of bad parking, in which cars are left jutting into the bike lane. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this forces cyclists to veer into the main lane dangerously.

    Ridge Street was also subject to the same crummy plowing after the recent snow.

  8. As a cyclist who generally (although not always) obeys the traffic laws, I think on the whole this is good. Spot enforcement works to remind people to keep in line.

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