The cyclist speeding ticket, the new cell phone law, and other matters of law enforcement

A while ago, we showed you a chart of traffic citations issued to cyclists in Eugene. Mixed in with the rolled stop signs and unlighted ninja cyclists, there was a speeding ticket. A couple of you wanted to know more about that one.

Well, we will offer our thanks to Eugene Police Department’s Jenna McCulley, who dug up that speeding citation for us — literally, as it sounds like they have go rifle through an old file cabinet somewhere to find this data, budgets for information technology being what they are at our public agencies.

“Yes, a bicyclist was cited for speeding,” McCulley tells us. “The officer was conducting traffic patrols and clocked the bicyclist going 38 in a 25 mph zone.”

This occurred on Feb. 4, 2011, on Hawkins Lane at West 25th Avenue. If you’ve never ridden Hawkins, it heads up into the hills of southwest Eugene. It’s a stiff climb, especially above 25th.

McCulley didn’t actually tell us so, but I think it’s safe to assume cyclist in question was headed down the hill.

Yeah, 38 is pretty fast, especially considering the cyclist had to negotiate the fun “S” turn right above 25th.

And we might say this cyclist earned a badge of honor. We might. But if we did, we would open ourselves up to accusations of hypocrisy — what with the way we bitch and moan about unsafe motorists. So we won’t say anything about the quiet pride swelling in our bosom for this unnamed cyclist. And we certainly won’t say how fast we went when we took a ride on Hawkins yesterday to check out the scene of the crime.

* * *

And speaking of the chart of bicyclist citations, McCulley also sent us updated data, which includes the final six months of 2011. So now we have a picture of citations over 20 months, from May 2010 through December 2011.

Yep, there’s our speeder, too, still in there. Of course, we are now curious about the “unlawful load,” but I’m not going to ask EPD to fetch that one. I’m sure they have better things to do.

But I wonder if it was this guy:

Is it legal to carry a propane tank on a bike?

But speaking of safety on the roads, let’s talk cell phones again.

As we know, there’s a new law on the books (effective this past Jan. 1) banning cell phone use while driving a “motor vehicle” (unless the motorist is using a hands-free device). The earlier law had that big loophole that it was OK to use your phone if you were making a call that was in the “scope of your employment.”

We asked EPD how enforcement of the new law was going, and McCulley fished up yet more data for us — this time we think it came from an actual computer.

According to McCulley, here are the number of tickets issued for using a phone while driving, comparing a month under the old law, with the first month under the new law:

  • January 2011: 0
  • January 2012: 50

We also had an e-mail exchange with EPD Lt. Jennifer Bills.

(Quick pop quiz: Is Lt. Bills the SWAT Commander, or does she oversee the traffic cops?

Answer: Both!)

Anyway I asked if she could say how officers are being advised to handle
enforcement of the new cell phone law:

Officers are being advised to address enforcement of cell phone laws as they would any traffic related law.

The goal of traffic enforcement is public safety through crash reduction. Speed, following too close and disobeying traffic control devices (red lights, stop signs) are major contributors to traffic crashes. A distracted driver (cell phone user) is certainly a contributing factor. …

EPD sent out a press release about the changes to the law to, hopefully, better inform the public … We do not plan on enforcing it any more or less than other traffic offenses at this time.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think I’ve seen less phone talking among drivers than I used to. Don’t get me wrong. I still see it a lot. Here’s a guy I spotted on Coburg Road the other day — not even worried about trying to be discreet:

And I think I have noticed more people pulled to the side of the road to chat, too. Not scientific, I know, but I’m curious if others have noticed a little less phoning and driving than we used to see?

9 thoughts on “The cyclist speeding ticket, the new cell phone law, and other matters of law enforcement

  1. I have to say that as a bicyclist i watch other bicyclists more when I am driving the car. I often see the running the stop sign and/or red light and always think, “This is why motorists don’t like them.” Not that I don’t see the same with cars, but it seems to single out bikes. Fair is fair and laws are laws.

  2. That’s hilarious that a cyclist was ticketed for speeding on Hawkins. I live on Hawkins… day in / day out I see / hear people blasting up and down the road easily going 40+ in their vehicles. Cops are a rarity in this neighborhood.

    If the EPD is really bummed about budget shortfalls, all they would have to do is post up a traffic enforcement officer here and nail the speeding 17 year olds in their parents’ BMWs for a day. Then they could afford 2 new police stations.

  3. I don’t know if I’m paying more attention because of the publicity surrounding the new law, but it seems like during the past year I also have seen more motorists pulled over to the side of the road to take phone calls. When I see this while cycling I always try to wave a thank you to them.

    I’ll let you know if I ever get a speeding ticket while cycling. It’s really easy to exceed the posted limit in the hills of south Eugene. Um, uh… at least that’s what I hear!

  4. Hey, what did you use to take that picture of the Gonzaga guy? I hope you weren’t using your cell phone! (or at least if you were, I hope it was done legally from a bike)

    1. Yeah, on my bike, it’s legal. Although, as I’ve said in the past, I’m not totally comfortable with that.

      But my taking photos while riding my bike is, of course, the safety issue we do not speak of here. I’m pretty sure that’s in my by-laws somewhere.

  5. Thanks for following up on the guy speeding on a bike! Can’t believe he made it around those curves!

    I think I’ve seen an increase in the number of people on phones too. It seems like some people think holding a speaker phone up to your face counts as a hands-free device.

    1. The law describes a hands-free device as something that could be used without the use of your hands. It doesn’t say you actually have to use it that way, just that it COULD be used that way.

      just sayin’

  6. It would be interesting to know if they’ve ever cited a motorist for passing a bicycle too closely.

    As for stop signs, I live in front of one and cars come to a complete stop almost exactly as often as bikes – only when there is cross traffic. That includes both school buses and police. The solution to the PR problem isn’t to attack people on bikes, the solution is to show that cars don’t stop either.

    1. It’s true. Nobody really “stops.” I think the cops generally use some discretion on this. Looking at the citation numbers is one thing. Knowing what happened in each case would be another. And I’d kind of like to know how many of the stopping citations for bikes were stop signs vs. red lights. Unfortunately, the data I’ve received lumps them all together.

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