At 9 am on Saturday morning, July 24, 2010, a clear sunny day, I was bicycling in downtown Ferguson, heading south on S. Florissant Rd. I was on my way to check out some bike racks installed as part of the Pilot B.I.K.E. Promotion Project I’d coordinated for the City of Ferguson in 2006 (see Dade Park and Forestwood Park racks).
This section of 4-lane S. Florissant Rd. is controlled by the City of Ferguson. The speed limit is 25 mph and I’m typically bicycling at 15 to 20 mph along this stretch, which is slightly downhill. The lanes are somewhat narrow, although with major reconstruction of the road and sidewalks in 2008 the outside (curb) lane has been slightly widened, but it remains safer for me to control the lane and let motorists pass me in the inside lane or wait behind until it’s safe for them to do so.
As I passed under the Norfolk-Southern railroad trestle at Carson Rd. (where the map below is labelled “Ferguson”) a pickup truck driver behind me honked his horn, evidently wanting me to get out of his way. I turned around and indicated he should change lanes if he wanted to pass. Shortly afterwards he swerved into the inside lane and then back in front of me, only to turn right almost immediately into the Ferguson Hardware parking lot, where I caught up with him. The locations are shown in the map below (please click the map to enlarge).
I took photos of the motorist, then of his truck’s rear license plate # 9YA 585, further photos as he gesticulated, and finally a photo as he and I waited in the Ferguson Police Station (please see composite below). He said I’d been in the middle of the road and asked me to show him my bicycle license! He also claimed I’d given him the finger, which wasn’t true: I’d been gesturing for him to use the inside lane to pass me.
I’ve created a montage of the photos I took and include it below as a pdf document. Please click the following, highlighted in blue, to open and view it:
I left the motorist to cycle over to the Ferguson Police Station nearby to report the incident. Subsequently, the motorist pulled into the parking lot and we were both interviewed by a police officer, Sergeant Michael Wood, who later wrote an incident report. The officer observed that my position in lane had been perfectly legal. I provided a copy of the Missouri State Statutes relating to bicyclists which I always carry with me in case of such situations, and the officer made a copy for the motorist.
While the relevant section 307.190 contains language which discriminates against cyclists and should be revised to correct it, it nonetheless has exceptions permitting lane control:
Missouri Revised Statutes
Vehicle Equipment Regulations
August 28, 2009
Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.
307.190. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.
(L. 1977 H.B. 79 § 5, A.L. 1980 H.B. 995 & 1051, A.L. 1995 S.B. 471)
I later received a call from Lt. Ray Nabzdyk, a veteran officer of the Ferguson Police Department, after e-mailing him a description of this event and requesting assistance (please see below for text). He advised me as follows:
To submit a moving violation you need yourself plus two independent witnesses and then you file a complaint with a police officer that is then forwarded to the court system that issues a citation, which is a summons for the person to appear in Ferguson Municipal Court on Church St. When that date arrives, if the person pleads guilty they are fined, and if they plead not guilty a trial date is set at which the witnesses need to appear.
After mentioning that I intended to contact the Missouri Bicycle Federation (MBF) and request a contact letter be sent to the motorist he added that he thought that was a good idea.
A description of the MBF program and how to use it can be found by clicking the link Report Unsafe Motorists.
The bottom line is:
1. Motorists need education on the rights and duties of cyclists, and that the road is a shared space for which we all pay, not exclusively intended for motorists.
2. The law should unequivocally state that cyclists may control the lane when they judge that is the safest position.
State law should be revised to reflect this. Sample language is appended below. This would bring Missouri into line with other more progressive states, such as the following, which don’t have discriminatory state laws directed at cyclists:
District of Columbia
Below is sample language I prepared and submitted to the Dr. Brent Hugh, MBF Executive Director, for revision of section 307.190 of Missouri state law to remove discriminatory language (additions in italics; deletions not shown). It’s time the MBF gave this priority in its legislative agenda.
Riding in lane, bike lane or on shoulder for bicycles and motorized bicycles.
307.190. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride two abreast. Where bicyclists have the option of a bicycle lane or shoulder, they may choose to use it instead of controlling or sharing the travel lane.
Text of e-mail to Lt. Ray Nabzdyk:
Lt. Ray Nabzdyk Tu July 27, 2010 @ 3:32 pm
Ferguson Police Department
(314) 522-3100 Extension 1
Dear Lt. Nabzdyk,
I had an unfortunate encounter with an older motorist as I was bicycling south down Florissant Rd. beyond the railroad bridge in the vicinity of the Victorian Plaza and I’m considering filing a police report but I’d like your advice on whether to do so. The motorist immediately following me honked for me to get out of his way and then moved into the inside lane only to move back into my lane immediately ahead of me and then turn into the True Value (Ferguson Hardware) parking lot, where I followed him.
I asked him why he’d behaved aggressively and he responded that I shouldn’t have been “in the middle of the road,” even though Florissant Rd. has a 25 mph speed limit in this area and I was controlling one lane of a four-lane road. He also asserted that I needed a license to operate a bicycle.
After taking some photos of him and his vehicle, I biked over to the Ferguson Police Station and described what had happened and was told an officer would meet me at True Value. When I returned there I met the gentleman again and he said he planned to go to the police station to file a complaint so I returned to the police station and subsequently we both talked to an officer on duty who backed up my position that I’d been cycling legally.
I plan to post this to my new thinkbicycling blog as an example of why we need to emphasize equality of access to roads for cyclists and motorists, some motorists believing that roads are provided exclusively for them. If I can talk to you first I’d appreciate it.
6 Manor Lane, Ferguson, Mo. 63135
314/524-8029 home office
(Photos appended, including one of license plate # 9YA585.)