(UPDATE: Reed Bates’ bail was reduced from $5000 to $300 earlier today. Yes, that’s $5000 for a bicycling offense.)
(UPDATE, SUNDAY MORNING: Bates was released at 4:15PM yesterday. Trial date on July 29 in Waxahachie. Possibly on all pending charges.)
The story of Reed Bates and his struggles with the legal system in Ennis, Texas, has taken on a Kafkaesque quality. Several times in the last year, Bates was arrested and jailed for the ‘crime’ of riding his bicycle on the road. Police tried to cite him for not riding in the bike lane, but discovered the town doesn’t have any legal bike lanes, so they charged him with failure to ride in the right hand lane.
In the midst of all this, Bates was laid off from his job. With some assistance from other cyclists, he moved to Dallas and found work in a green energy company. He also obtained the services of an attorney to help fight the charges in Ennis. When his company applied for solicitor permits in Rockwall, Texas, local police told Bates there was a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear at an Ellis County court date. Neither Bates nor his attorney were informed of this appearance. Bates was taken into custody on June 8th.
As of Friday, June 25th, Reed Bates has been in the Ellis County jail for 17 days.
Thinking that perhaps the attorney had dropped the ball on this, Bates’ employer helped him get assistance from another attorney. She ran into the same brick wall.
Bates is not a flight risk. In fact, he is eager to have his day in court. Yet the authorities in Ellis County seem hellbent on using the justice system to punish this man for having the temerity to stand up for his rights. Even from a distance, this has the appearance of local government officials trying to impose their will on a lone citizen. The corrupt southern red neck stereotype is used to comic effect in numerous television shows and movies, but in real life it’s not at all funny. We pride ourselves on the rule of law, but apparently in the Ellis County judicial system, that law is whatever the authorities say it is.
And where are the Texas Bicycle Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists in all this? Why, they’re waiting for the perfect case to come along before they’ll get involved. Cue the crickets.