Cyclist Will Challenge Cops in Court Over "Taking the Lane"

The bus-stop ads popped up last summer. They showed an image of a cyclist riding -- ahead of a car -- in the center of the road. "Bikes May Use Full Lane," the posters read in thick black letters. They were part of a bike safety campaign, courtesy of the city of Miami, and it made cyclists feel empowered.

In low-visibility situations, it's often safer for bikers to take the lane, than risk getting car-doored or sideswiped on a road with no shoulder. It's completely legal. But tell that to the average Miami driver.

Or, maybe, the average Miami cop.

Last Friday, a 46-year-old cyclist whom we'll call Helen was headed downtown on her 7-mile morning commute. It was 7:15 a.m., when the 46-year-old government clerk noticed a cop car pull up behind her at the intersection of SW 1st Street and 8th Avenue. He took out a bull horn. "Move to the right or get on the sidewalk," he proclaimed, according to Helen. (She did not want to use her name because she works for the federal government.)

She didn't listen.

"It's not only dangerous, it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk in that area," she says. "It was absolutely a bad idea."

That's when she saw the red lights behind her. As he pulled her over, she  tried to explain -- in a heated tone -- that the officer was misinformed. It didn't matter: He still wrote her a ticket under statue 316.2065 (5) , which explains cyclists must ride as close as possible to the right. Maybe he didn't know about the following caveat:

"[Except] when reasonably necessary to avoid any condition, including....a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or substandard-width lane, that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb."

Helen plans to fight the case in court. We're betting the cop will be a no-show.

"It's ludicrous," she says.

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Natalie O'Neill
Contact: Natalie O'Neill