Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Loudoun Police ticket Reston Century cyclists

We heard from a Reston Century cyclist yesterday who was ticketed by Loudoun Sheriff's deputies at the intersection of Harmony Church Rd and Route 7 in Hamilton. The police were basically conducting a sting operation. See the Washcyle report for details:
Reportedly, several cyclists were ticketed during last weekend's Reston Century by the Loudoun County sheriff’s office for failure to stop at a stop sign.

The officers positioned themselves such that they would maximize their opportunity to ticket cyclists and were ticketing as many as possible for minor infractions. One rider reports that as they wrote his ticket they made comments indicating that they were irritated that the ride organizers did not hire them to manage event safety. They reported having requested that the ride organizers route the entire event on the bike trail (which ride organizers deemed far too narrow and dangerous given the number of participants). Their ticket-writing campaign appeared to have been a vendetta against the ride organizers for utilizing the roads.

So, if all of this is accurate, then it appears that the Loudoun County’s sheriff’s office decided that keeping bikes off the road was more important than public safety; they were willing to bully cyclists as payback for the event organizers, and they would target cyclists for a technicality rather than watching for cyclists and drivers who are actually operating their vehicles unsafely.

Why does this sound so familiar.
Loudoun's finest
The police were heard repeatedly referred to the ride as a race, which could explain why they expected people to be running the stop sign. Obviously cyclists should obey traffic signals, but they shouldn't be held to a higher standard than motorists, most of whom roll through stop signs. I wonder if police ticketed those motorists.

Loudoun County benefits greatly from cyclists who visit the county. Ask the owners of Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville, the owners of Carolina Brothers Pit Barbecue (formerly Partlow's Store) in Ashburn, or the many shop owners in Leesburg if they benefit from cyclists. And yet some in the county seem to being doing what they can to discourage cyclists from visiting and spending money there. You might remember Suzanne Volpe, who incorrectly stated that thousands of dollars were being spent to promote cycling in the county, bad-mouthing cyclists during her campaign. Is it time for a boycott?

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What do the ride organizers say about the request to stay on the WOD?
The organizers realize that it is unsafe to have a large event like the Reston Century held on the W&OD Trail. The trail is already congested in many places and there is a great deal of bad behavior by cyclists, many of whom ride too fast for conditions, passing when other cyclists are approaching, passing too close, not giving proper warning, etc. Having this an other major rides on the road makes the most sense.
Sorry, I should have been clearer.

As an experienced cyclist, it's obvious to me that putting the entire century on the WOD is a terrible idea.

Did law enforcement request that the Reston Century organizers put the century on the WOD only?

If so, there needs to be more communication between cyclists and law enforcement regarding what is and is not safe, IMO.

I think Loudoun officials have made it difficult for organizers of rides in the county to hold the rides on the road. They require expensive electronic signs The police generally want bicyclists on the trail. One can only assume they think that's where bicyclists belong and conversely that bicyclists don't belong on the road. I'm just speculating.
Just wow...I remember this being an issue when I did the Tour de Cure a few years ago.

Contrast this to Arlington where we get a police escort for the start of the Freshbikes rides in order to keep things safe and controlled.
Contrast this with Arlington where the Freshbike's ride get a police escort for the 1st few miles so things are orderly and safe for both bikes and cars...
Also (according to what the police told my friend when he got his ticket that day), unless you put a foot on the ground, they don't consider a cyclist as having come to a complete stop. So track standing or inching along at .1mph doesn't cut it in their eyes.

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