Those of you who have been here awhile will recall back in April when a so-called law enforcement officer tried to bully me off the road. I stood my ground, complained to his superior, kept insisting on a proper response, received a back-dated ticket, got picked up in some papers and blogs, and beat the ticket in court.
But still, the officer is just as ignorant of the traffic laws and the rights of cyclists today as he was in April. Even more, he's suffered no adverse consequence, even to his pride, as a result of some abominable behavior. Anyone but a lawyer might have been too frightened of the system to do anything about it, and he'll doubtless keep on acting like an ass unless there is a price to be paid.
So, I have long intended to write the department and the officers involved another letter as a prelude to deciding whether to seek some type of sanction. But we had that whole "hurricane," natural disaster thingy, so I it seemed only sporting to let them deal with important stuff like that.
But now, just in time for the holidays, I got my final letter out. Set out on my law firm letterhead, it reads:
Constable Hill, Chief Deputy Constable Wood, and Deputy Constable Williams:
In the event you do not yet know, the District Attorney dismissed the traffic citation that Deputy Williams improperly backdated to April 19, as there was no legal basis for the citation nor for the manner in which Deputy Constable Williams acted on April 19.
On April 19, Deputy Williams executed an unsafe pass, intentionally tried to intimidate me with his vehicle, cut me off and then stopped in front of me, based upon his demand that I ride on the shoulder of FM149. Under Texas law, however, a cyclist is never required to ride on the shoulder, let alone the uneven two foot shoulder that exists on FM149. On the contrary, a cyclist is entitled to use the roadways, just like any other vehicle, unless some provision of the Transportation Code alters that right. Tex. Transp. Code § 551.101. Here there is no such provision.
The provision on which Deputy Constable Williams relied in his backdated citation requires cyclists to ride as near as practicable to the right edge of the roadway. Tex. Transp. Code. § 551.103(a). “Roadway,” however, is a defined term in the Transportation Code, and it does not include “the berm or shoulder.” Tex. Transp. Code § 541.302. Thus, cyclists are entitled to use the Roadway—the lane in which motorized vehicles travel. They may also use the shoulder, but are not required to do so.
The law also provides that a cyclist may take the lane when (as here) it is less than 14 feet wide, or it is not safe to share the lane with a car. Tex. Transp. Code § 551.103(a)(4). The lanes on FM149 are only 11 feet wide; thus, the law I was charged with violating does not even apply.
When a cyclist takes the lane as he or she is entitled to do, it is the responsibility of automobile traffic, including constables in pickup trucks, to wait for safe clearance to pass. Deputy Constable Williams clearly did not do so.
Even assuming I had violated the law, there is no set of facts that could have made Deputy Williams’ conduct on April 19 appropriate. He intentionally used his vehicle as a direct threat to my safety, and he fully intended and hoped that he would frighten me. That is not a traffic stop; that is a felony. His abusive and bullying attitude after I stood my ground is likewise not the type of conduct civilized societies tolerate. A bully with a badge is still only a bully. Indeed, a police officer in New York City has recently been indicted for assaulting a cyclist on the roadway.
This is your final opportunity to do the right thing. The Constable’s Office and Deputy Williams will apologize in writing, without equivocation and commit to enforcing the traffic laws as I have set them out. If so, I will excuse the whole affair. Absent that, I will pursue whatever remedies I feel are appropriate for Deputy Williams’ actions. You have 30 days.
Very Truly Yours,
Frankly, I'm not holding my breath.