I thought you all might be interested in this Letter to the Editor I just submitted to my local newspaper, The Cape Breton Post:
From: John A. Ardelli
Subject: Misguided Law Enforcement
Date: November 11, 2007 1:35:33 PM AST
To: Cape Breton Post Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
“Bicyclists may occupy as much of a traffic lane as their safety warrants.” This is a direct quote from the Bicycle Safety brochure published by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. It means, if there’s no room to share, cyclists have the right to take as much lane space as they need. Unfortunately, this fact does not appear to be a part of the training given to officers of the Cape Breton Regional Police.
Several weeks ago, a police constable in an unmarked cruiser squeezed by me within centimeters as I traveled east on Kings Road just past Kenwood Drive. When I honked my horn and yelled after him, he pulled me over and accused me of “impeding traffic” (all the while his cruiser, stopped on the road, was doing just that) and that I should be riding at the extreme right.
This past Friday, a police officer honked at me as I traveled west towards Kenwood Drive. I pointed to the lane next to me to signal him to go around me; he did. However, when I got to work, he caught up with me and told me the same fallacy about “impeding traffic” (and accused me of making a “left hand turn signal” when I pointed to the adjacent lane) and said I need to move over more. This officer, unlike the other, was at least polite about it and didn’t impede traffic himself.
In both cases, the officers claimed they were doing this for my “safety.”
I’ve only ever had one collision on Kings Road, with a cyclist riding on the sidewalk at the Kimberly Drive intersection.
If these police officers truly want to increase the safety of cyclists, it’s the cyclists on the sidewalks, not the law-abiding ones on the road, that they need to address.
That was as much as I could say within the Post’s 300 word limit. Here, I’d like to add a few additional details to the above story.
That first officer had a serious “attitude.” Not only did he tell me I was impeding traffic but he tried to intimidate me, looking at the back of my bike and asking me why I don’t have a license for it. My answer to that was simple: there is no bicycle licensing program in Nova Scotia; my guess is he knew that but was hoping I didn’t. I don’t appreciate people trying to manipulate me like that, particularly a public service official like a police officer.
I have been trying to file a formal complaint against that officer for some time now. I know what form I have to get and where to get it but, unfortunately, the administrative section of the police station where I get it is not open when I’m off work and, due to computer problems, they have so far been unable to E-mail me the appropriate form. Fortunately, I have the American Thanksgiving off and the station is open; I should be able to get it then.
As for the other officer, I hold no malice against him. Although his advice was misguided, he was professional and polite in the way he gave it. Still, he seemed to have stereotypical “the roads are for cars” attitude and the mistaken belief that a cyclist, traveling slower than the prevailing traffic, puts him or herself into some kind of extraordinary danger by trying to mingle with motorists on “their” road.
My biggest concern is that this attitude about cyclists seems to pervade all levels of the Cape Breton Regional Police, good and bad officers alike. If this is the advice they’re giving cyclists, some day someone’s going to get hurt following it. I believe it’s imperative that these officers receive some formal training in traffic cycling.
Police officers, because they are supposed to be the model we follow, cannot afford to be misinformed about safety issues like these.